Skip to main content

Adventures + Stories

I like to tell stories.

Ever Since I learned to hold a pencil and write I have enjoyed the process. First connecting lines together to form letters, later forming words into sentences to form connections.

Finding patterns, gaining knowledge, and living experiences provide plenty to muse about. Writing is a good practice whether anyone reads your words or not. It keeps language viable. The words on a page create a space for the reader to discover images in their mind and follow a story adding their own experiences and pace to the process. It is wholly collaborative when a writer writes for a reader.

I started my “blog” about 4 years ago, mostly as part of my work. I like to write informative bits about the gemstones I work with and the creative and technical process of designing and creating fine jewelry. I think people like having a reliable source of information and inspiration about the jewelry they enjoy. I hope it enhances the experience.

I’ve now written a bit about each of the gemstones I currently work with, and will add more stone features as I encounter new gems that inspire me. I’m currently taking a side journey into the history of cowboy artists and sapphire mining in Montana.

What would you like to know? Write to me, or comment in my blogs. Are you interested in being a guest blogger? Tell us your favorite gem or jewelry story, a grand journey you took, or an everyday adventure that brought you a laugh or a Pearl of wisdom! I’d love to hear your stories.

28 May 2024

Award-Winning Jewelry Designer Ellie Thompson Announces New Book

CHICAGO, IL, May 28, 2024– Ellie Thompson, the celebrated Chicago-based designer of fine jewelry, is pleased to announce the publication of Designing American Jewelry: From City Rhythms to Western Dreams. Both a personal memoir and a compelling retrospective of her life’s work, the book describes Thompson’s vision as a contemporary American designer, as well as her perspective on the meaning and potency of jewelry in the modern age.

Vintage black and white image of a young woman looking through a photo machine.
13 March 2024

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Why I’m Writing a Book

When you’re a child, a Saturday morning or a summer afternoon can stretch into eternity. On a Monday, the weekend seemed impossibly distant. At 2 PM, the clock looked like it would never reach 2:30 and the end of the school day.

Old blue farm truck in an open field with mountains in the background
19 September 2023

American Gem Stories: Montana Sapphires

Nothing evokes the spirit of the American West for me more than cowboy boots and Montana sapphires. As pioneers and gold prospectors journeyed west in the mid-1800s in search of wealth and adventure, they found not only gold sparkling in the spring runoffs, but rounded pebbles of pale blue, pink, yellow and green sapphires.

Ant Hill Garnet
16 August 2023

American Gem Stories: The Ant Hill Garnets of Arizona

Mining is hard work in any climate, but it would seem particularly grueling under the heat of the Arizona desert. There is, however, one group of miners who have been at it for millennia who don’t seem to mind the heat at all: ants. Specifically, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, the red harvester ant.

Watermelon Tourmaline Slice from the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
21 July 2023

American Gem Stories: Maine Tourmaline

When we think of tourmaline, we might think of far-flung places like Brazil or the Himalayas. But some of the world’s most beautiful (and largest) tourmalines can be found deep in the forests of Maine. The US state is probably known more for its rocky coastlines than for the shinier, more valuable rocks under its hills, more for the frights produced by Maine native Stephen King than for the beauty produced by nature.

silver floral earrings with large vibrant orange citrine gemstones in the center
28 June 2023

Here Comes the Sun: Gemstones for Summer

A few nights ago, I settled into bed before sunset, recalling childhood memories of coming in for the night at twilight while the older kids were still playing outside. I noticed the time, musing, “9:30, and it’s still light out!” Yes, it’s June, it happens every year, but it still takes me by surprise, just like daylight saving time. June 21 was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and the first day of summer. As we welcome the warmest, longest days of the year, let’s take a look at some sunny yellow and orange gemstones to complement your summer looks.

An oil painting in the Romantic style, featuring a western sky in vibrant blues and purples, and muted browns, yellows, and greens, depicting a Lakota group on horseback, drawing your eye to the vanishing point.
16 March 2023

All the Colors in the Palette

I have always had a box of gemstones. It is an ever-changing assortment of colorful stones, comprised of acquisitions I purchased, with only a vague idea of how I might use them, or a design I’ll create. Most of the time, I buy what I like and know the rest will work itself out later… sometimes much later.

A cushion cut gray spinel ring resting on a plant leaf.
09 February 2023

The Smoky, Mysterious Beauty of Gray Spinel

Who knew gray could be so colorful? Yes, gray. Boring? Neutral? Depressing as a heavy autumn sky? The uniform of dystopian conformity? None of the above! Those using gray as a symbol of everything dull have obviously never seen the confounding beauty of a gray spinel.

Ellie Thompson on her bike in the woods during a cross training competition
18 January 2023

Creative Cross-Training

The custom design process usually provides plenty of inspiration, constraint and collaborative exchange for me to produce thoughtful designs that delight my clients.  There are times, however, when this magical combination is lacking and the clarity to move a design-forward is absent.  When realistic ivy vines compete with hammered scrollwork or domed minimalism, I take a break and do some “creative cross-training.”

Gold Theorem ring by Ellie Thompson
14 July 2022

What is a Karat of Gold?

When shopping for gold, you’ll always see it spoken of in terms of karats: 24k, 18k, 12k, and so on. But what exactly is a karat? What does it measure, and how does it compare to the confusingly similar “carat”?

Vivid blue round tanzanite polished gemstone on white background
21 June 2022

Tanzanite: The Queen of Kilimanjaro

In my last blog, I talked a little about tsavorite, one of the rarest gemstones on Earth, mined in only a small corner of Kenya and Tanzania. Tanzanite is another rare beauty from East Africa, perhaps even rarer than tsavorite. If you’re looking for tanzanite, you’ll find it only in an eight-square-kilometer region that lies in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Vivid green oval shaped Tsavorite stone on a white background
22 April 2022

The Rare Beauty of Tsavorite

Few gems match the pure, rich green of emerald, but the tsavorite variety of garnet comes close. When we think of garnet, we probably think of a gemstone ranging in color from caramel brown to pomegranate red, but garnet appears in just about every color of the rainbow. Tsavorite, which ranges in color from olive to evergreen (the latter being the most valuable), is one of the rarest shades of all—and one of the rarest gemstones in the world.

large dark green Ethiopian emerald stone on a white background
19 April 2022

This May, Step into an Emerald Forest

As the snow melts and the trees sprout leaves in May, we start to see the soothing, rich green of emerald all around us. If you feel the same sense of relaxation looking at an emerald that you do sitting in a green field in the springtime, it’s not just your imagination. Emeralds are said to relieve exhaustion and bring a sense of tranquility to the wearer, and like many of the properties often attributed to gemstones, this idea has some scientific basis.

Custom three diamond ring engagement ring by Ellie Thompson
24 March 2022

A Shower of Diamonds for April

A rough diamond looks cold to the touch, like a tiny shard of ice. To a 5th century BCE alluvial miner sifting through the sand and gravel of the Krishna River in India, a sparkling diamond crystal must have seemed like something that fell all the way from the icy reaches of the Himalayas. But as we now know, they’re actually produced in the most fiery of conditions, deep in the churning mantle, where extreme pressure turns solid rock into very hot jelly.

A group of beryl gemstones of various shapes, sizes, and colors
28 February 2022

The Spectrum of Beryl

Even if you’ve never heard of beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate (Be3Al2Si6O18), you’ve definitely seen it before. It is the mineral form of emerald, aquamarine, and many other colorful gemstones.

Sky blue pear shape aquamarine
18 February 2022

Aquamarine: Bringing Calm Seas in Windy March

It’s only the beginning of March and summer still seems a long way away, but this month’s birthstone, aquamarine, will transport you to the deck of a ship on some tropical sea, surrounded by clear skies and clear waters, embraced by the warm sun and a gentle breeze.

A pair of vibrant purple hexagon shaped Amethyst
25 January 2022

Amethyst: The Queen of Quartz

The regal amethyst has been associated with royalty for centuries, and as one of my favorite gemstones, it has been a part of my company identity for decades. Many gems lay claim to the title Queen of Gemstones—emerald, opal, pearl—but amethyst is the undisputed Queen of Quartz. Let me share my love of February’s birthstone.

Swabs of 2022 Pantone color of the year, Very Peri
10 January 2022

Pantone Color of the Year: Very Pleased With Very Peri

It’s that time again: time to talk about the Pantone Color of the Year. The announcement of the new Color of the Year is always a fun time for artists and designers of all kinds as we begin thinking about and looking for inspiration for new projects for a new year.

Ellie Thompson + Co. rings
27 December 2021

Year End Reflections on Love, Connections, and Gratitude

Sometimes it felt like 2021 was just a long continuation of 2020 — 2020, the sequel, if you will. But there were good times, too, so we navigated the tough times and continued to grow with the help of you, our clients, family and friends.
December birthstones Turquoise, Tanzanite, and Blue Zircon
14 December 2021

The Winter Blues Have Nothing On December's Birthstones!

Traditionally, each of the twelve months was assigned one birthstone, but some months have multiples. December babies have the fortune of three separate birthstones - Turquoise, Tanzanite, and Blue Zircon - all of which take on a unique shade of blue.

orange sunset sky overlooking the Badlands
11 November 2021

American West Tour 2021 TRAVELOGUE

I love September in the Northern Rocky Mountains.  Every year I point my car West and head to Wyoming and Montana.

a ruby and a red spinel gemstone positioned side by side
11 October 2021

Ruby and Red Spinel: A Story About Sparkling Differently

Rubies and red spinel are some of the most scrumptious reds in the jewelry box. You may think they are the same (they can look really similar), but they're not. They have different properties that make them unique.

display or rings
05 October 2021

The Fierce and the Feminine

This article was originally published in "Explore Big Sky," on April 13, 2017.

Ellie Thompson's design table inside of her store
04 October 2021

INSTORE Magazine's Cool Store Winner!

This article was originally published in "INSTORE Magazine," on August 31, 2021.

a collection of colorful red, pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple garnets
17 September 2021

Garnet: The Classic Stone Enjoying a Colorful Renaissance

Since the Bronze Age, garnets have adorned the wealthy, from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs to the markets of Rome to the streets of Victorian London.

Green and Blue Bi-Color pear shape Tourmaline
07 September 2021

Tourmaline: A Rainbow of Brilliance

Many readers may be familiar with tourmaline from hair dryer ads that talk about “negative ionization” and “infra-red heat.”

pair of round blue sapphire gemsontes
01 September 2021

Sapphire: The Royal Gemstone

A favorite of generations of British monarchs and beloved by Queen Elizabeth II, no other gemstone is as synonymous with royalty as the sapphire.

Group of pearls
30 August 2021

Pearl Wisdom

Pearls. Idealized as perfectly round white orbs shimmering with a faint pink light, or black ones glistening with iridescent purple.

set of green peridot gemstone earrings resting on a pear
23 August 2021

Planet Peridot

Peridot has been found on Earth for millions of years, making it one of the oldest known minerals.

Colorful gemstone ring
07 June 2021

Celebrate LOVE all Pride Month long

Ellie Thompson + Co. celebrates LOVE all Pride Month long with special pricing on custom, made-to-order, engagement rings, and wedding bands for men and women. Enjoy the experience of expressing your love in a unique way with specially crafted rings. 

Loose round brilliant cut diamond
26 April 2021

Lab-Grown Diamonds

After opening my new shop in Chicago’s Roscoe Village in the fall of 2019, I have received many requests and lots of enthusiasm for lab-grown diamonds, especially for engagement rings and stud style earrings.

Photo of Montana wilderness in winter, with mountains in background and snow in foreground
22 February 2021


It is well known in Montana that wood will keep you warm twice, once when you cut and stack it and again when you burn it. 

Open Heart Pendant
01 February 2021

Language of Love

In my early 20s, when I first started out in the jewelry industry, I joined the Chicago Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association.

Flower Gemstone Earrings
31 January 2021

Designing the First Piece, PART V

A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, PART V And then the pandemic struck….

Winter in Chicago at the beach
29 January 2021

January Projects

I love winter in Chicago.

Gold Ginkgo Earrings
18 January 2021

The Gold Ginkgo Leaves from New Haven: What My Mother’s Gift Taught Me

I think often about the sentiment we attach to the jewelry we wear.

Images of beach glass pieces held in a hand at the beach
20 September 2020

Beach Glass: Picking Up the Pieces

I am lucky to live on one of Chicago's most beautiful beaches. It sits quietly just north of the hustle and bustle of the Lakefront Trail. It is a hidden gem.

Collection of Diamond Rings
15 February 2020

Finding Inspiration: The Custom Jewelry Design Process

I am often asked how I come up with my ideas. 

A CAD Design Drawing for a Pair of Flower Earrings
15 February 2020

A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, PART IV

So now, I am feeling the urgency to get The First Piece to Done!!!

Interior of jewelry designer Ellie Thompson's storefront in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago
13 February 2020

Ellie Thompson Brings Her Shop To Roscoe Village

This article was originally published in Park Bench on February 13, 2020

Jewelry Designer Sketchbook
05 February 2020

A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, Part III

After I decided to feature the beautiful oval spessartite garnet in the First Piece, I moved on to procuring gemstones for the first three pairs of earrings.

Sketches of a Flower Design Jewelry Collection
20 January 2020

A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, Part II

The "First Piece" is to be a large pendant, with a floral design in an architectural style made in 18K yellow gold, inlaid American walnut, with a spessartite garnet center, rubellite tourmalines radiating out to the perimeter, and a drop component comprised of peridot and diamonds.

New Flower Design Collection Sketches
12 January 2020

A New Collection: Designing the First Piece, Part I

Creating a new collection is not something I do on a timeline.

Pearl Jewelry
26 December 2018


Pearls are a symbol of love, success, and happiness, and are used as an emblem of chastity and purity. Pearls are thought to give wisdom, to quicken karma, and cement engagements and relationships.

Peridot Gemstone Jewelry
26 December 2018


When I was growing up, my friends who were born in August always lamented their birthstone, Peridot, and for good reason.

26 December 2018


While it is most commonly associated with Native American craftsmen working in sterling silver, I love the turquoise set in 18K gold. 
Blue Sapphire Ring
23 December 2018

Blue Sapphire

While Sapphires are available in a wide range of colors from yellow to pink, green to purple, violet to orange, the Blue Sapphire is the most popular. I am often called upon to design engagement rings using a blue sapphire instead of a diamond as the centerpiece. 

Garnet Earrings
20 December 2018


These earrings are set with trillion cut Rhodolite Garnets and Diamonds in 18K Yellow Gold

Blue Zircon Gemstone
19 December 2018

Blue Zircon

Blue Zircon has a lively, natural light to medium slightly greenish-blue color with brilliance that rivals a diamond. I love designing with blue zircon, look for blue zircons in my upcoming collections!