Amethyst is a beautiful purple-hued variation of the quartz gemstone. It ranks high on the Mohs scale used by mineralogists to determine the hardness of gems, which makes it one of the favored precious stones used in jewelry. Amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February, and is given in celebration of 4th, 6th, and 17th anniversaries.
Purple was once the favored color of royalty, as blue and purple hues - before the advent of synthetic dyes - were once rare and therefore quite coveted. In keeping with purple's allure, amethyst is a gem that has been treasured by many, from the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, to the 12th century German Benedictine abbess and saint, Hildegard von Bingen, who believed amethyst beautified the skin. It was even favored by the Catholic clergy, who held that amethyst symbolized trust and piety.
Roberta and Talley Starbird are a mother and daughter team designing jewelry out of their Austin, Texas, based studio. "When I was little," Talley says, "my mom and I would bond by taking crafting classes together." An avid crafter, Roberta has tried everything from knitting to quilting, but working with metal has been the most rewarding. Jewelry design grew naturally out of Roberta's interest in working with color and pattern to create wearable art.
After fifteen years working as a computer analyst for IBM, Roberta decided to focus on building her skills as a jeweler, making singular pieces for herself and for friends. "I think I became a jeweler because I like jewelry so much," Roberta says. "I liked focusing my creative ideas on that medium." After Talley graduated from college with a degree in math, the two started a business creating their fanciful jewelry together.
In her spare time, Talley loves to swing dance, and often travels to other cities for West Coast Swing conferences. She also plays soccer, and has two kittens, Walnut and Nugget, as well as two guinea pigs named Ansel and Flower Pot. Roberta reads mystery novels and often spends the evenings doing crossword puzzles with her husband. She has a corgi named Pip, "but Talley is hard at work trying to convince me to get another dog," says Roberta.
Roberta and Talley still enjoy taking metal smithing classes together, learning new techniques, honing their skills, and bonding.