Over the course of her design career, Barbara Bixby has created many, many jeweled wonders. Although the variety can be nearly overwhelming, it’s anything but random. In fact, a majority of the pieces were created as part of named collections. Each collection is characterized by a certain “look” and shares design elements with other members of the group. Of course, all of the collections emanate from a central creative source, so combining pieces across collections yields unique groupings that still unite under some shared elements, like her signature lotus flower and the stylized lotus-leaf or swirl carvings that crop up frequently.
In terms of inspiration, Barbara has often commented on how much she is influenced by her gardens, her travels to exotic and ancient places and their architecture, and her love of music. She has studied the characteristics and meanings of gemstones and the ones she incorporates into her work are combined to reflect their unique energies. Spirituality is evident in all of her pieces — faith-based and not — and the desire to tell a story. In fact, one of her collections is called Storyteller and its purpose is to allow people combine pieces that have personal meaning to create their own bejeweled stories.
This page is an attempt at a visual guide to the various groupings — collections — that Barbara Bixby created prior to 2011. It’s not an attempt to catalog every piece she ever made, but to help collectors understand the pieces they may encounter and how to identify related pieces. I only include a representative sample or two from most collections (sometimes not even complete pieces), since the purpose is to show characteristic details. Of course, some collections are more varied than others, Mahal being one example. Its breadth requires more pictures. I also have not included the Keys of Life, since those represent multiple design groups and because the Keys of Life will have its own page.
This page focuses on the pre-2011 couture collections. The new work might eventually get its own page, but it already has ample documentation on the current Barbara Bixby Designs site.
This is a work in progress, so I will be adding to it from time to time.
Saturated gems, cut into tapered baguettes, combine with luminous pearls in this elegant and slightly edgy collection. Precious metals (SS/18K and solid 18K) carved with Barbara Bixby’s signature motifs form a backdrop for pieces that also feature her cherished leaf motif. In the mixed metal pieces, the leaves are 18K gold, to contrast with the carved sterling. In the 18K gold pieces, the leaves gleam with pave diamonds. Pieces in the collection include charms, earrings, enhancers, rings, bracelets (both narrow and wide cuffs), and keys. The gems used are blue topaz, citrine, rhodolite garnet, and amethyst. Some pieces were also done in peridot and London blue topaz.
This collection is designed around a stylized, more modern interpretation of the classic fleur-de-lis design. The motif, done in 18K gold, appears on all pieces in the collection, which also features fancy-cut gems in mint quartz (or prasiolite), cognac quartz, or a lighter shade of blue topaz. Diamonds accent some of the pieces. Stone shapes for this collection include a fancy square (set on its point); round, slightly domed; and heart shapes and the pieces include charms, enhancers, rings, and earrings. The one all-metal piece is an unusual and beautifully carved ankh.
The defining motif of the Flower Dance collection is the clusters of lotus flowers — primarily in gold with diamond centers. The main suite — consisting of earrings, ring, enhancer with hidden bail, and cuff — features large, saturated pear-shaped center stones edged with diamonds in addition to the flower clusters. Main gem colors used were London blue topaz, amethyst, and prasiolite. A few rings were done in the amethyst with black diamond borders rather than white; I have never encountered this color combination in any of the other pieces. In addition to the pear suite, a pair of earrings set in all 18K gold featured large (around 25mm), iridescent black keishi pearls. A coordinating mostly-metal grouping also existed.
The Harrison’s Heart collection was created in honor of Harrison, a baby with a grave heart defect. I believe the initial purpose might have been to help raise money for his treatment, but I do not know for sure. Whatever the complete story, the combination of Barbara’s loving heart and talent as a designer combined to make a very special collection. A stylized, swirling “H” is the key design element in this collection, along with the heart shape, itself. These motifs (just the “H” in the case of the chubby little key-chain key) were used in keys, enhancers, and rings. The keys were created in 2 versions: 18K with pave diamonds and a pearl, and a SS/18K version with mother of pearl and pearl. The enhancers came in tiger eye, black onyx, and turquoise; the rings in tiger’s eye, turquoise, and mother of pearl. On the rings, the “H” design appears on the sides of the shank.
I don’t know much about this collection except that it is named for the hyacinth and clearly derives it design inspiration from that flower. These are the only pictures I’ve been able to locate so far: a necklace, ring, and earrings. The design comprises faceted amethyst beads in 18K gold, with diamonds.
The Jyoti collection features briolette-faceted, fancy cut stones accented with diamonds and gold. In the centerpiece designs, large, color-saturated stones are overlaid with ribbons of 18K gold with little diamonds. The rings, at least, were made in mint quartz, blue topaz, and citrine. A version with turquoise/faceted quartz doublets had a matching enhancer, cuff, and earrings. I’m not sure what (if any) additional pieces were made with the other gems. A version of the ring in solid 18K gold with diamond top ribbons came in London blue topaz and in citrine. Corollary pieces included charms with pointed flat briolettes (in amethyst, blue topaz, mint quartz, cognac quartz, or limon quartz). Several other designs fall into the Jyoti collection, including an ornate Om and several 18K pieces featuring east-west oval stones. The key design elements connecting a majority of these pieces is the wide-Vee motif that shows up in different ways, as well as the briolette faceting. Not all pieces feature both elements. The Om is one example. There will be a separate Jyoti page showcasing these various designs.
The primary elements of the Mahal collection are intricate metalwork combined with a rich gem presence: baguette stones (including some that are wedge-shaped), pearls, and clustered pears or rounds. Iolite/amethyst, blue topaz/peridot, rhodolite/citrine are the color combinations; the pieces are ornate and include a gem-encrusted tablet-link necklace and bracelet, narrow baguette cuffs, baguette link bracelets (some with pearls), baguette earrings, and rings in both shield shapes and styles that feature baguettes and pearls. Barbara Bixby’s Mahal collection is among her most varied in terms of design. In fact, there are so many variations, that I have created a separate page to showcase the range.
Inspired by the mythical Bodhi leaf, this collection features paisley and stylized leaf shapes, interpreted in a variety of gems and colorways. The paisley pieces have their own page, with lots of photos and details, so please head over there to read more.
This design features what I feel to be a more modern (perhaps, less romantic) aesthetic in Barbara Bixby’s designs. I think it is a later, rather than an earlier collection. The primary motif is of clustered, pointed leaf shapes inset with small stones, set atop drops that have a more geometric faceting style than most of her briolettes. The solid 18K versions, featuring blue topaz, included a ring, earrings, and 2 enhancers. The SS/18K versions were done in 2 colorways: mint quartz focal stone with pave tsavorite and rose-de-france amethyst with pink sapphire pave. Rings were made in both of these colorations; a rare pair of earrings in the green coloration has also surfaced, making me wonder if there are some in the pink as well.
In the Peacock collection, Barbara interprets the distinctive “eye” feathers in glowing, richly-hued gems and diamonds and a stylized marquise-shaped element that evokes the feather coverts. This marquise shape is one that Barbara often incorporates into her signature carving. The gems used in the Peacock collection include citrine, amethyst, London Blue topaz, pink tourmaline, and rhodolite garnet. A few pieces incorporated peridot; her exquisite wide peacock cuff in 18K gold uses rubellite and green tourmaline. Eventually, the peacock pieces will have their own detail page.
Queen’s Muse Collection
The Queen’s Muse collection is most notable for its large focal gems that have a distinctive fancy cut: rectangular with concave sides and a checkerboard-faceted top. The stones are held in place at the corners with 4 teardrop-shaped prongs set with diamonds. Elegant and regal, to say the least. The pieces (ring, enhancer, key, cuff) were made in London blue topaz, olive quartz, or deep purple amethyst. Matching earrings were done in a complimentary elongated triangle shape with concave sides.
The Skull collection is just that: lots of skulls. A current iteration of this earlier collection is the Roses Never Die grouping as well as the Skull Club pieces. The newer designs can be seen on Barbara’s current web site. A Skulls and Daggers page will be added that will showcase a broader selection of Barbara’s skull designs, but here are some especially lovely ones.
Signature Flower Collection
This foundational Bixby design was done in all metal (mostly the sterling/18K combination) and featured her signature 4-petaled lotus flower, the lotus leaf carving, and inlaid marquise shapes. It was made in a wide variety of basic pieces: chains, band rings, hoop earrings, cuff and link bracelets, and several styles of keys.
Signature Gem Collection
The Signature Gem collection featured large focal gems, with the signature lotus flower used as accents. Amethyst, blue topaz, and citrine were the main stones used, but some designs featured olive quartz, cognac quartz, or limon quartz. A few pieces came in pink topaz, chalcedony, or peridot.
Unlike the other collections, which are united by common design elements, the Storyteller collection has a different purpose — an opportunity for wearers to create their own “stories” or narratives by combining symbols and talismans that have personal meaning. Pieces in the Storyteller collection come from the other design groups; they are mostly charms and special necklaces and bracelets on which to combine them. There is a special “storyteller” link necklace and bracelet and many charms. More detail on the Storyteller collection will be presented on a detail page.
Treasure Chest Collection
The pieces in the Treasure Chest collection feature carved oval and bow-tie shapes interspersed with faceted, colored gems and yellow-gold flowers with diamond centers. the gathering together of these myriad shapes suggests the heaped jewels to be found in a treasure chest. Gems used were: pink tourmaline, blue topaz, amethyst, and peridot. Pieces included hinged bangles, stack rings, and two sizes of hoop earrings. No enhancers or charms were part of this collection.
One of Barbara’s most beloved motifs, the Vine collection features gracefully scrolling vines interspersed with leaves either in gold or diamond pavé. (More current versions also use colored gems on the leaves, at times.) The motif turns up as a secondary element in many other designs, and in that context is seen in pavé gems also. But the Vine collection refers specifically to the pieces that emphasize the vine and leaf design. Found in all-metal or ornamented with gems, pieces in this collection included a necklace, rings (modeled on Barbara’s own wedding band and also found in a QVC version as well as 18K special-order couture), and both cuff and link bracelets. Quite a few earring and pendant designs (including keys and a cross) also were designed with this theme.
Zen Garden Collection
One of the most ornate and detailed collections Barbara Bixby has created is the Zen Garden collection. Characterized by briolette-faceted, fancy-cut gems (the most notable being the onion shape) often combined with pavé, these pieces have vibrant coloration and are both feminine and regal. Significant gold presence enhances the richness of the designs. The central motif is a variation of the lotus flower.