Below the sea, down a hot, dusty mine or into the depths of a gem cutter’s safe, there is nowhere in the world that Margot McKinney won’t go to unearth unusual and rare gems. And in Margot’s world of high jewelry, rare equates to mesmerizingly beautiful.
Luxury jeweler Margot McKinney is the fourth generation to run the family’s business in Brisbane, Australia. Margot’s distinctive designs make the most of two qualities she inherited: the first is being Australian, a country with a natural abundance of minerals, and the second is the deep family links to suppliers in the industry around the world that her family has nurtured over decades. Opal miners, pearl farmers, and gem cutters who have done business with the McKinneys over the past 140 years will come to her first, offering her the best specimens.
A look at the latest jewels to leave the workshop gives evidence of this privileged access to the finest that the earth has to offer. The new collection pairs vibrant clusters of gemstones in luscious colors sourced from the best European gem cutters with cool and creamy baroque pearls from under the waves of Australia’s remote Northern Territory. Native opals meet superior kunzite or unusual unheated green Paraiba tourmalines from Brazil.
A signature of Margot’s work is opals, and she is an expert in hunting down the most unusual variants. The triangular opal in the Athena cuff (above) has a story to tell, as do all the gems. “All the opals I use were mined in the last century,” explains Margot. “They are irreplaceable. The opal in the Athena cuff is a Boulder Opal from West Queensland offered to me by a 5th generation opal miner who knows where these amazing gems are kept. When they are released from an old safe on the minefield, he knows to offer it to me first.”
The magic is unleashed when Margot brings together these rare finds and creates a jewel of breathtaking beauty that breaks tradition with extravagant ease. In the same Athena cuff, she has used kunzite in a mauve color rarely seen – the norm is a delicate purple pastel hue. Margot explains: “This color is so special as it is ancient material. My gem cutter, Paul-Otto Caesar in Idar Oberstein, Germany, knew of its existence and offered me ten pieces of rough. Any luxury house would have snapped it up, but he offered it to me as we have a close family relationship, and he likes what I create from these special gems and that I treat them with the deference they deserve. We both agree that rare and unique gems must be in equally special settings.”
Pearls are another of Margot’s specialities, and she also has a firm link to the pearling family in Gove on the northern tip of Australia. Baroques are one of Margot’s favorites, as seen in the dazzling Diamond Bow necklace (above). The organic, puffy forms of the pearls are complemented by the flowing form of a white gold bow entirely covered in diamonds.
Close to her sources, Margot is aware of nuances and ripples in the entire gem-sourcing chain. “During COVID, the farmers could not tend to their oysters in the sea farms. Large baroque pearls take a long time to form, as they are created when the oyster is at its most mature, so we are still playing catch up. If I were granted a wish, it would be to have more large South Sea baroque pearls.”
An impressive and very large 81.27-carat morganite is the star of the Cosmic Girl collier (above). While most jewelers would showcase this super-gem in a formal and traditional setting, Margot has embedded it in a confectionary-colored crush of tumbled sapphires and tourmalines in pink, orange and light purple and gold gem-dusted pebbles in a composition that looks good enough to eat. The soft contours of the tumbled stones, devoid of facets, give off a different, diffused light.
Feminine and highly tactile, Margot creates jewels women want to wear: “I think of wearing that collier on Harbour Island with a silk kaftan sipping a Piña Colada at sunset. It’s not diamond intensive, so it is easy to wear and takes you from jeans and a white blouse on the ranch to the Caribbean.”
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