Taking Flight: The Story Behind My Iconic Zircon Butterfly Earring

If there’s one piece of jewellery in my collection that sparks conversation whenever I am travelling, it’s my solo butterfly earring set with a blue zircon. Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of me wearing it on social media or on this website. As zircon is one of the birthstones for the month of December, I want to share with you the story behind this piece, how it ended up in my possession, and how I nearly lost a piece of it in a Parisian taxi… more on that below!

You don’t choose jewellery; it chooses you. I’ve always believed in this mantra, but it wasn’t until some years ago, during a trip to Baselworld in Switzerland, that I knew it to be 100% true. In 2016, I visited the trade show and stopped by the stand of Filippo Gems to see owner Filippo Gay and his sister, Susie, who is a talented jewellery designer. The business specialises in large, multi-coloured tourmalines and other gems in an eye-catching range of juicy shades, while Susie channels her Italian heritage into statement titanium jewels, set with similarly colourful minerals.

Katerina Perez tries the solo butterfly earring with blue zircon and diamonds in titanium for the first time at Baselworld

On this particular occasion, I was browsing Susie’s latest creations, and my eyes were immediately drawn to a larger butterfly – a single earring crafted in lightweight titanium with diamond-set channels outlining the shape of the wings, leading the eye to a cushion-shaped zircon with an electric blue hue. Remember, this was a time when asymmetric, singular earrings were only just beginning to enter the market and attract attention. I felt strongly that this type of statement piece was part of a new wave of design maximalism and couldn’t resist the urge to try it on! Fortunately, as this was a new design, I was given the chance to wear the piece for the day, take it for a ‘test drive’, and gauge the reactions of Baselworld visitors whom I passed in its sprawling corridors.

Of course, another thing that pulled me to this design was its central gemstone – a rare gem-quality blue zircon. This December birthstone is an underrated and underappreciated stone, in my opinion, perhaps because of how similar it sounds to ‘cubic zirconia’ and the connotations of being artificial or manmade. Gem-quality zircon is a completely different material with some special properties, notably a bright lustre, good brilliance, and fantastic fire (the ability to split white light into rainbow colours) that mirrors diamond. It’s also a reasonably hard stone, similar to emerald, and can be found in almost any colour, although blue is generally the most popular and valuable.

Katerina Perez wearing her butterfly solo earring alongside New Delhi-based jewellery specialist Preeta Agarwal

All this was going through my head when I first tried on that butterfly earring, and I will admit, I fell in love instantly. I liked the reflective, electric blue of the centre stone, the lightweight feel of the titanium, and the skinny channels of melee diamonds that add a touch of extra sparkle to the blued metal. As I wandered around Baselworld, the idea of having to give the piece back at the end of the day was unbearable… the earring felt like something I had to own – a part of me – and a perfect expression of my personality. I’ve never shied away from wearing large, statement designs that others might deem too ostentatious. Plus, at the time, a single earring was still considered daring and unusual, and I loved how it could start conversations with people who I’d never met before (even London taxi drivers a bit later!).

Katerina Perez believes her statement butterfly earring is a talisman of confidence and positivity

There was a catch, though. The piece was out of my price range. After wearing it around Baselworld, I started to strategise about how I could get this jewel home with me. Fate stepped in. Or perhaps I should say my friend Sameer Lilani of Amrapali stepped in. At that time he had just arrived at Baselworld, called me and told mysef and my photographer Simon Martner to catch up. I was still debating whether or not I should purchase the butterfly, but Sameer’s cheerful, uplifting personality kicked in and after a glass of champagne to toast the exhibition, I was feeling a little bit tipsy. I don’t drink now, and I rarely drank then, so even just one glass was enough to embolden me to go back to my friends at Filippo Gems and say, ‘I don’t know how I can say bye to this earring, what can we do?’.

Katerina Perez wearing her blue zircon, diamond and titanium butterfly as both an earring and a pendant

The answer turned out to be quite simple: since we were friends, they understood how attached I became to the jewel, and they allowed me to make a part payment at Baselworld and pay the remaining balance later. I went home with my new ‘mascot’ and have been wearing it regularly ever since. Whenever I put it on, I feel like I am wearing a talisman of confidence, a symbol of asking for what I want and finding solutions. It always serves as a reminder that, as modern women, we can do so much more and have more if we put our minds and hearts to it. I very often hear people say, ‘I can never have that; it’s too out of my budget, and I will never be able to afford it’. However, I am one of those people who believe in ‘never say never’. Who knows what tomorrow has in store… you may win the lottery and live the life of your dreams! I live by the rule that you should try to live your life as much as you can the way you want it in an ideal scenario, and that ideal scenario will eventually materialise. If you imagine yourself living a certain way, try your best to exist as if you have already reached this level. Live as if you are already there, and then things will start to work out for you, I promise! At least, that has always been my experience.

And now, a silly story about a Parisian taxi and my zircon butterfly earring. I was having dinner with Simone Ng of Simone Jewels in Paris, and as we went to climb into the back of a taxi, my scarf caught on the earring and it flew off my ear like butterflies do. I quickly located the earring, but we searched high and low for the customised earring back. We were both kneeling on the floor of the taxi, then by the taxi, shining our phone torches in the dark on the pavement, trying to locate the back… The taxi driver felt sorry for us and joined in to help, but then became impatient to go, and so we admitted defeat and had to leave the earring back behind. By the time I arrived home, I began to fret about how I was going to wear the earring without its secure back and when I was going to see Susie again to buy a new one. Safe to say, I wasn’t happy. But when the time came to go to bed, I heard a ‘ping’ on the floor as I undressed… the earring back fell from its hiding place somewhere in my top and was finally rescued! I have a feeling this might have happened to you too, dear readers? My happiness at recovering this important element of my statement earring was only surpassed by my embarrassment at having crawled through a taxi and scoured the pavement just hours earlier, getting my friend involved in this too. Note to self: always check under your coat!

Katerina Perez wearing her butterfly earring to have dinner with Simone Ng of Simone Jewels in Paris

I hope you enjoyed this little tale about one of my most important jewels and what it means to me. If you’re a December baby, I hope it has also inspired you to seek out your lesser-known birthstone, zircon, for its fantastic qualities and vibrant colours. I promise you won’t regret it.

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