Danny Sanchez of @Mineralien

It's pretty obvious that we love jewelry. But, we also love peripheral stuff that has to do with jewelry. Like gemstone-shaped paperweights. Or paintings of jewelry. Or tattoos of diamonds. That sort of thing. So you can imagine that when we came across Danny Sanchez's photographs of the INSIDES of gemstones, we were all: GIVE ME THAT. But first, let's take a step back to where this love affair all began. We met Danny through his day job at Excalibur Jewelry, where he is one of the most charming and knowledgeable salespeople we've had the pleasure of coming across. [Ed. note: He has cost us many thousands of dollars. He's that good.] He's a GIA certified Gemologist who just really, really likes gemstones and wanted to explore further. So he self-taught himself the art of photomicrography and now uncovers the lost worlds inside of our favorite stones under the handle @mineralien. People have taken notice, and his work has been featured in magazines like Wired and at big-deal shows like Art Basel Miami. If you haven't yet seen his mineral masterpieces, we guarantee you'll be obsessed like us. Plus, you know, he's funny. Read on!

You guys...Tourmaline. It’s the mineral world’s trash can.
— Danny

Tell us the short version: How did you get into the world of gems and jewelry?

I was "raised" a musical type; performing arts school and all that. When I went away to college, I discovered it wasn't for me so I dropped out to play rock and roll. After 5 or 6 years of playing the circuit and scratching by, my girlfriend at the time (lovingly) suggested that I go back to school – and she was right, I wasn't happy anymore. I heard you could study gems and that sounded pretty great because I'd always loved anything "gemmy" and the way light can play in them. So I went to study at GIA when it had a campus in LA. It turned out I was good at it and GIA offered me a job right after I earned my GG. I took the job, moved the Carlsbad, and the rest just fell into place. 


When did @mineralien come about and why?

Mineralien is the German word for minerals but/and in English, it happens to be a rad portmanteau. As far as @mineralien being a feed goes, I try to keep it (mostly) on topic and (hopefully) interesting. 


What is the most challenging thing about photographing gems and minerals? 

Lighting. When shooting the insides of gems, there's never enough light and once it enters a gemstone it's nearly uncontrollable. I'll spend a whole day with one stone, trying to get it to sit still for the camera and when I'm finished there's no guarantee that I end up with a photo.


What's your favorite era of jewelry? 

It's a toss up between Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. The distinction between the two is so subtle sometimes but I think I'm letting my love for Nouveau architecture weigh my opinion. So I guess my answer is '70s coke dealer jewelry. 


Under-the-radar designer or style that we should know about? 

There is a friend of mine doing great stuff in LA, her name is Sarah Jane Wilde and her jewelry is a callback to when gold was much less expensive and people were wearing the hell out of it. (Ed Note: Also known as 'The good ole days.')


Gemstone you can’t get enough of?

You guys...Tourmaline. It's the mineral world's trash can. It can take in so many different elements into its crystal structure and you can have so many amazing colors because of it. 


What’s your favorite piece that you’ve recently sold? 

We had a mid-to-early-1800s poison ring with a carved ruby cameo, black enamel detailing and rose cut diamonds on the perimeter. But it wasn't the average poison ring with the top that opens and you dump out your goods. No. It had a hinged shank that allowed the back of the ring to open downward, revealing the compartment for the poison. If that was not enough, there was a hidden pull that exposed two holes on the underside of the ring and that's where the poison was dispensed. An incredibly concealed way to dispatch someone.
I feel like I had to use all my language skills just then.


What's your favorite piece in the store right now?

We have a late-1800s north/south ring in a nice, rich yellow and it's set with 5 unapologetic, chunky old miners. It's really a visceral thing when you put it on. I make everyone try it on whether or not they want to. (Randi and Meaghan both succumbed to its sorcery in Vegas.)


What is the most frequently asked for piece of jewelry? 

We're an estate jewelry store and we specialize in vintage engagement rings so people come to us without something ultra-specific in mind. That's a great place to be when looking for something one-of-a-kind, especially an engagement ring. That said, once a week, someone comes in asking for thin gold bangles. HA! We're an estate store and have all these great pieces with nuance and story but we get a person a week coming in asking for thin gold bangles that they could be buying downtown for 15% over melt or whatever.


What is the most sentimental piece of jewelry that you own and what's the backstory?

How do I not answer: my wife's engagement ring? It's true, of course. But how could I say anything else? It's a '30s engagement ring with good piercing work, set with an unheated periwinkle sapphire from Montana. I proposed to her on her birthday in front of a few friends and family in the backyard we'd eventually get married in. It was really great. (@gemnerd was present, for the record.) [Ed Note: her account is private. Don't get too excited. Why did we link that?]


Next time FFR is visiting your home base, where do we eat? 

Great India Cafe on Ventura and Laurelgrove in Studio City. I can't believe that place sometimes. Their menu is huge and really well thought-out. The shahi paneer is one of my favorite dishes of all time, anywhere.


What’s your preferred mode of transportation day-to-day? 

Coffee or Irish Breakfast tea. Milk and sugar. ALSO, I drive a Rav4EV which is all electric and an SUV so...I'm pretty cool.


Top 5 bands in your playlist?

Top 5 ever or currently? I am loathe to pick only 5 but I like you people.
Currently, as in right now it's: Other Lives: "Rituals", Susanne Sundfor: "Ten Love Songs", Alabama Shakes: "Sound & Color", Florence And The Machine: "How Big How Blue How Beautiful", & (after an inner battle to accept this guy's voice and now I love it) Hot Chip: "In Our Heads"
Ever - it's Prince, Queen, David Bowie, Beatles, and a tie between B-52s & Tori Amos 


Celebrity Crush?! 

Right now, the (eight) core cast members of the show Sense8 on Netflix. My wife and I inhaled that show and loved every existential, pansexual sci-fi minute of it.


Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?

Insta. I still don't get why I should be tweeting anything.


What's your dream vintage watch? 

A mid-'60s Rolex Explorer. It's not a bank buster, just sexy as hell. The problem working at a place that sells vintage watches is that whenever I decide to wear one (for pleasure), I end up selling it off my wrist.


If you could do anything else for a living, what would it be and why?

I'd love to be able to take photos of the insides of gems for a living. Going to Art Basel in Miami was pretty amazing and getting paid for something I created is deeply fulfilling.


Where’s the last destination you visited that inspired you? 

I find inspiration easily but I will say that, truly, the last and most breathtaking place I've been was El Calafate in Argentina. It's this high-altitude desert where, in most of the area, nothing grows taller than a shrub because the winds reach such a high speeds and there are mountains all around you. I'd never seen a landscape so foreign. Then there's a glacier slowly creaking down at you, emptying into a huge, perfectly bizarre, milky blue lake. It's truly amazing. 


Thanks, bro!

xx FFR