Monday, 24 February 2014

Emeralds are this girl's best friends!

Topaz Eyes is the name of my ancestral-based mystery/ thriller novel. Is it all about topaz? Not really, it's only a tiny bit about topaz but you'd need to read the book to understand the connections. What feature a LOT are emeralds.

In Topaz Eyes, there’s a special and mysterious collection of antique jewels as the focus of an inheritance quest. The whereabouts of the collection is unknown at the beginning of the novel – apart from one piece which has recently come onto the market and has caused a furore. 

Wikimedia Commons
My first instinct when conceiving the idea of a treasure hunt mystery was to make it a diamond collection. Not knowing all that much about such jewels, since I have little interest in that kind of jewellery, I trawled internet jewellery shops to find really nice pieces to spark my imagination. 

There are thousands of white sparkly images out there of beautiful diamonds but they were, somehow, so predictable. Unfortunately, they were not capturing my imagination as I wanted to be caught. I quickly ditched the concept of diamonds when I saw some beautiful emerald jewellery. One particular necklace did the trick – a necklace that had been fashioned after an ancient Mughal design. I can't show that necklace for copyright reasons but suffice to say it was quite spectacular and very intricately inventive in design. The following image is a Mughal  'Nose Ring' of many different gems but it may give you the idea...

Wikimedia Commons:
Decision was made! My lost collection was going to be of original Indian design, but mostly of emeralds.

Green is my favourite colour and the contents of my wardrobe are pretty good proof of that. Real emeralds would be wonderful to wear so it was no hardship to base my novel on the concept of bringing together a large collection of antique emeralds. I can’t show the items I collected from internet jewellery stores on this blog but they were fantastic for giving me descriptive ideas.

Who would have which emeralds in my story was incredibly exciting to work out. The Empress above lived well before my Geertje Hoogeveen of the 1880s but I had a lot of fun dressing Geertje's Edwardian daughters in beautiful emeralds and pretty dresses of 1910.

This photo was taken by Mark Somma - Description 18kt yellow gold ring set with one pear shape emerald and 12 diamonds. (Wikimedia Commons)

Someone in my novel was going to have a ring something like that one! 
And another lighter, more blue-green emerald is named the Chalk Emerald” 37.8 carats, Colombia. The emerald is set within a cluster of 60 pear-shaped diamonds weighing a total of approximately 15 carats.

Wikimedia Commons
The royal rulers of Baroda, a state in India, once owned the emerald - though at that time it was set in a necklace. In the 20th century, the emerald was set in a ring designed by Harry Winston. It was donated to the National Gem and Mineral Collection by Mr. and Mrs. O. Roy Chalk, and may now be in the National Museum of Natural History — Gem Gallery (U.S.). The resetting of such stones was not uncommon in Victorian and Edwardian times and this practice lent me ideas of why my collection would be harder to find in contemporary times.

Perhaps these stones will give an idea of why my invented collection, originally belonging to an invented Mughal emperor I’ve called Tiru Salana, is the focus of the search in Topaz Eyes. The big question then is how my main characters, Keira Drummond and Teun Zeger, manage to find the collection? How do they manage to survive desperate attempts to prevent this from happening?  How is it eventually mounted as a fantastic exhibition? And what is the mystery item they do not expect to find but which turns out to have the most value? A reading of Topaz Eyes is the only answer! 

Topaz Eyes Blurb:
A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910.

Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife.

Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota?  Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger - a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery?

As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels?

Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love.

“Would you ditch the mystery, Jensen, and just enlighten me as to what you think I have that interests you? And tell me why you couldn’t have asked for it in the letter you sent to me? I came here of my own free will – granted – but I’m not hanging around any longer if you’re going to drag this out, for I’m damned sure I’ve no idea what you’re referring to.”
            Jensen’s reply lacked emotion, his face a blank screen, his gaze focused on Teun as Keira regarded the by-play.
            “Teun. It may come as a surprise to you, but you actually know more about this invitation than Keira. At least you knew from my letter I had something of family interest you might be glad to take back to the USA with you. Keira had no such suggestion made to her.”
            Tension rose in the room, which didn’t only radiate from Teun.
            Keira sat uneasy, also unwilling to be in the dark any longer. “Would you please explain why you think I may have something you want, Herr Amsel?” She found herself reluctant to use his first name, considering the antagonism now mounting.
            “All in good time, Keira. And please call me Jensen. I don’t set out to be anyone’s enemy. I believe each of you can provide access to items belonging to the collection. All the pieces are likely to vary in monetary value but, viewed as a complete entity, it will make an impressive display. It’s a historic set… and unique.”

The voting for TOPAZ EYES in THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE goes on till the 28th February- only 4 more days. If you'd like to help get me into the finals please click this link:

Thank you!


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