In the beginning (way back in 2007), it was easy. I saw Barbara Bixby’s jewelry, was attracted to it, and started to buy it. It wasn’t long, however, before I wanted to know more about her designs and what she had created prior to my discovering her art. So in addition to collecting her beautiful pieces, when I was able, I also began to gather information about and pictures of her work.
This led me to her couture designs and I realized that what I had learned thus far was just a fraction of her total output. Frustratingly, though, there didn’t seem to be a central repository of information, so locating information on earlier work presented a real challenge. Sometimes I would see pictures on eBay — but they didn’t have item numbers. Sometimes I would find a description of a piece but not be able to find a picture or other means of identifying it. The “official” web site showed a certain cross-section of pieces (and had good descriptions for those), but it was a very small cross section.
People who know me are aware that when I decide to learn something I become kind of like a hyena with a bone: I latch on and don’t let go. So now, I’ve got a lot of information about Barbara Bixby’s work, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to share it here. Incidentally, I’ve done a number of Bixby pages, focusing on various aspects of her work. Barbara Bixby is the main page. From there, you can locate all the rest.
This page presents Bixby Rarities — pieces so scarce that even her most avid fans might not have encountered some of them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see and even to own some. For the rest, I’ll happily gloat over my photographic treasure!
Arguably the most regal of the Bixby designs, the Palace suite features substantial, ornately carved 18K gold combined with sparkling white diamonds and large oval cabochons of luscious rubellite — a very special variety of pink/red tourmaline.
According to the International Colored Gemstone Association, …only a few [pink tourmalines] are entitled to call themselves ‘rubellites’. The name comes from the Latin ‘rubellus’, which means reddish. Rubellites are not merely red or shocking pink tourmalines. There is an important criterion for this especially beautiful gemstone, and that is the way its colour behaves in daylight and artificial light. Many gemstones change their colour depending on the light source. A true rubellite does not. It shines just as intensely in artificial light as it does in daylight….
The pieces in this collection were produced in yellow gold and, some, in white gold as well. Among the items created: an enhancer, earrings, ring, bracelet, and — best known and coveted — the Palace Key. These designs are true treasures. I have seen the key and ring for sale once or twice; I have never encountered the earrings or enhancer outside of the stock photos. [Note: the key has been reissued as a special order piece.]
What Constitutes Rarity?
I spent a good bit of time trying to decide what pieces of Barbara Bixby’s jewelry to include in this Rarities page. I’ve been collecting her work for several years and I’ve been a collector for a lot longer, so I do have a few ideas about it. So many pieces were unknown to me (and many more are still out there) that for a while I felt that everything was rare. But as I go along, I’ve been able to establish some ground rules. To be included in this Rarities page, a piece must be unknown to the majority of the Bixby collector community. If known, it must be so difficult to locate or have been produced in such small quantities that the likelihood of anyone getting a glimpse of it is small. The goal of this page is to share information and Barbara’s work.
An item does not have to be especially valuable to qualify as rare. It just has to be something that most people won’t have heard of and even if they have, that they wouldn’t be likely to encounter. This is not to say that they won’t encounter something. For example, among the enhancers is a snake key. The full snake line was produced in 2006 and that included this key. Yet none of my resources or even the avid collectors I know were aware of its existence — until someone located one. That qualifies as rare, despite rumors that Barbara might reissue it at some point in silver and the fact that it can be special ordered on her site.
An otherwise standard item in an alternative colorway qualifies as rare in that scarcer coloration. This kind of thing can happen during product development. Multiple prototypes might be produced with slightly different details to allow the designer to decide which ones will become production pieces. I once encountered a vine and leaf enhancer that was done with citrine in place of the usual peridot, blue topaz, or rhodolite. The citrine version is rare; the others are not. The earrings section displays a pair of peacock earrings with garnets and another pair in 18K gold with peridot. Both rare.
Rare Bixby Pagoda
Barbara Bixby has designed numerous pagodas over the years: enhancers, charms, earrings, and even a ring. Especially sought after have been her couture pagodas that were made in either green amazonite or green chalcedony (and now, pink mother-of-pearl). They are rare. The exception is a small, couture pagoda charm in a different color combination than I’d previously encountered. Shown at left, this little charm has a pale blue translucent stone in the center and a sometimes pink/sometimes yellow baguette accent stone. I think the main stone might be blue lace agate or else a very pale blue chalcedony, but I’ve not been able to find out for sure. In place of the usual 18K yellow gold accents, these seem to be rose gold. (Photo: E. Prager)
The Paridiso Collection was introduced in 2010, I believe. In many ways, it’s a departure from her earlier looks: more angular, less symmetrical. In this collection, Barbara combined large, fancy-cut focal gems (briolettes and marquise cuts) with contrasting tiny gems in sparkling pavé. The leaf motif is a favorite Bixby element, but in this design, the leaf is in outline form and has a more modern aesthetic. The 18K group, shown above, featured blue topaz and diamonds. A couple of rings were done in SS/18K. One featured a central mint quartz gem bordered by pavé tsavorite that continued onto the shank; the other contained Rose de France amethyst as a focal stone, with pink sapphire pavé.
Rings, Rings, Rings
In Spanish, jacinda means hyacinth and that flower is the inspiration behind this collection. The design features faceted, spherical amethyst paired with diamonds and set in 18K gold.
Charms and Enhancers
Visit more Bixby pages:
- Barbara Bixby Jeweled Art
- Barbara Bixby Rarities
- Barbara Bixby Paisley Designs
- Barbara Bixby Vessels
- Bixby Locks
- Visual Guide
- Bixby Prototypes & Anomalies