Category: diamond jewelry

Book Review: Stoned by Aja Raden

Stoned

Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and how Desire Shapes the World by Aja Raden was published in 2015.  A friend bought me the book, and it may well be one the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.  Gemology and history are two of my favorite subjects, and this book intertwines them into eight fascinating stories.  Each chapter is a stand-alone story, of places, events, and peoples as varied as the Spanish Armada and World War I or Marie Antoinette and Kokichi Mikimoto.

Aja Raden writes with a sense of humor and an irreverence for how humans can behave when they desire something.  Her stories are intriguing and revealing, and I love how she ties gems and jewelry into topics like economics and politics.  As the author states, jewelry isn’t just a set of objects, but symbols–“tangible stand-ins for intangible things.”

In a nutshell, the chapters discuss the following:

  1.  How glass beads bought Manhattan

  2.  History and rise in popularity of the diamond engagement ring

  3.  Emeralds and their significance to the Spanish Empire

  4. The necklace that “started” the French Revolution

  5. The pearl, Le Peregrina, that stirred the rivalry between two queens

  6. How Faberge’ eggs hurt Tsarist Russia and fueled Communism

  7. How Mikimoto’s cultured pearls saved the Japanese economy

  8. How wristwatches served in World War I

I enjoyed each chapter and feel that anyone who reads a jewelry blog would like this book.  If you read it, please share your thoughts through our website.

 

 

The Latest Trend: the Two-Stone Ring

Maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV.  A laughing couple in a car, sharing a private moment as they drive a country road.  They are in love.  But they’re also best friends.  And that’s the story of the two-stone engagement ring.  It represents the dual nature of their relationship.

two-stone ring

The two-stone ring is the latest in a fairly long line of styles promoted by De Beers, the diamond company that, for most of the last century, was the biggest supplier of uncut diamonds.  Their ability to create demand for diamonds started with the famous phrase from the 1940s–A Diamond is Forever.  And it worked so well that Ad Age, a magazine that analyzes and reports on the marketing world, named it the number one slogan of the 20th century.

A decade ago, it was all about the three-stone engagement ring, or, as it was sometimes called, the trinity ring.  The three stones signify your relationship’s past, present, and future.  Or the trio can be seen as signifying friendship, love, and fidelity.   The most common version of this ring had smaller stones on the left and right with a larger stone in the middle.

three stone ring1

Also around ten years ago, the journey necklace was advertised widely as a sentimental way to think about your journey together with the person you love.  Their were several styles, for example the ladder, circle, heart, or S, but most had five or seven diamonds.

journey necklace1journey necklace2

 

 

 

 

 

Other pieces De Beers promoted were the diamond tennis bracelet (1988), the bezel-set diamond solitaire necklace (1998), and the right-hand ring (2003).  I laughed when I saw the date on the bezel-set necklace.  My husband bought me my necklace in 1999.  It’s funny because I’ve never thought of advertising as being influential on my husband or myself.  We don’t watch much TV and we hardly ever pay attention to commercials, except for the Superbowl ads.  But good advertising does work, and the company that advertises for De Beers is very, very good at it.

And their goal is obvious.  They want you to buy more diamonds and especially smaller diamonds.  Why smaller?  Because there are many, many more small diamonds than large.  That’s also the reason why buying a carat’s worth of small diamonds is much less expensive than buying a single, one carat stone.  As a quick test, I looked at one diamond vendor’s pricing on one carat, one-half carat, and one-third carat stones.  The pricing follows a more exponential pattern.  Keeping the other variables of cut, color, and clarity stable, a 1/3-carat stone was about $1000, a 1/2- carat was $3000, and a 1-carat was around $9000.  A three-stone or two-stone ring, by carat weight, can be quite cost effective.

The point of my blog is this:  Buy a style of ring you love rather than the style that is being promoted at the moment.  Don’t get swayed by the sentimentality of the story.  Your ring should represent what you want it to represent–not some story made up by someone in advertising.

 

 

Why Knowing the 4Cs Isn’t Enough

Loose-Diamonds1

Customers sometimes ask, “Why do the diamonds sold on-line, on sites like Blue Nile and James Allen, seem to be less expensive than the diamonds sold in your store?”  It seems to be a rhetorical question because most people think they already know the answer.  They think there’s more of a mark-up on the diamonds we sell.  They may understand that the local retailer has different expenses than on-line retailers, but they don’t want to help pay for those expenses.

The accurate answer is not so simple, but anyone who has done as much research as it takes to ask the question ought to be invested enough to hear the truth.  For years, consumers have been coached about the 4Cs of a diamond–Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat Weight.  They’ve been told that these four features define the value of a diamond.  It made explaining and understanding diamonds easier–something that both sellers and buyers wanted.  Diamonds were a commodity that could be categorized.  All excellent cut, G, SI1, 0.80 carat diamonds would be in the same category.

But, if that’s true, then why does the same retailer charge different prices?  The other day I went on Blue Nile. (Yes, we check out the competition!)  and discovered that you can buy a 0.80 ct/G/SI1/Ideal cut diamond for $2789.  You can also buy one, a little further down the list, for $4006. Why would anyone choose to pay $1200 more for the same thing?  Why would a retailer who’s offering the same level of service on both diamonds, expect anyone to pay $1200 more?  The reality is, if you’re buying a D colored diamond or a diamond of flawless clarity, there’s very little variation with those rankings.  But most of us don’t choose to pay the premium that goes along with those rankings.  The more commonly chosen SI1 ranking covers a broad range, as does the G color.

The only conclusion is that all 0.80 ct/G/SI1/Ideal cut diamonds are NOT the same.  And, if that’s the truth, then who will show and explain the difference?  Will employees at Blue Nile help you distinguish a good representation of four specific C’s from a poor one?  Will they have you look at the diamond under a microscope and compare it to the plot provided by the grading laboratory?  How will you know that you are getting a good value for your money?

The truth is, as with most products, you get what you pay for.  If you buy a diamond in a local, reputable, A.G.S. member jewelry store, from a well-trained sales person who knows that his/her next sale may very well come from your recommendation, chances are excellent to ideal (pun intended) that you will get a quality diamond that accurately reflects the money you’ve spent.  Then there are the extra benefits you get when buying your diamond from a local, reputable jewelry store.  As long as that store is in business, you have a friend, an expert you can turn to should you have problems.  Then there’s  the story.  Finding your diamond with someone you can talk to, laugh with, and even develop a friendship with, is a much deeper, richer experience than checking a box on your computer monitor.  Finally, there’s the opportunity for legacy.  Most married couples have kids, and those kids grow up, fall in love, and want to exchange rings as a symbol of their union.  Generations of families come to our store, and it’s a wonderful tradition with deep meaning to those families.

In the end, you must decide where to buy that special diamond that signifies the most important relationship in your life.  Make sure you have the information you need to make the right decision.

 

 

Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II

Celebrating Queen Elizabeth's 90th Birthday

On the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, it seems like the perfect time to examine her taste in jewelry.  Since few women have been photographed as often as the Queen, it’s very easy to see her style.  She loves pearls, and often wears both the classic pearl stud earrings and three strand pearl necklace.  If she has a special event, she’ll wear a tiara–she has several to choose from– and a gemstone-studded necklace.  But what I found really interesting is how she accents her outfits with a brooch.

She’s received and worn brooches since she was a teenager.  Her brooches come from all over the world, and her collection numbers well over one hundred.   Many of them have names, like the Flame Lily and the Three Thistle.  One of her favorites is the diamond brooch, the Jardine Star, which she’s wearing in the picture above. Some of the brooches are actually badges, representing specific organizations and are worn by the Queen as a mark of her ties to the groups.  I found one blog that really gives a lot of detail and history about Queen Elizabeth’s brooches, and you can access it here.  And if you just want to see pictures of them, click on this link.

three thistle brooch

three thistle brooch

The Queen has been in her royal role for over 60 years.  She had her Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2012.  She has served her country and the commonwealth loyally.  So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! QUEEN ELIZABETH!!

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in their youth

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in their youth

Queen Elizabeth, youthful at heart!

Queen Elizabeth, youthful at heart!

The Anatomy of a Ring

Engagement Ring - Wedding Band - Michigan

The other day a customer came in to get her ring sized.  She was amazed and somewhat alarmed to learn that our bench jewelers would be cutting her ring with a saw blade in order to size it.  Her beautiful ring–a piece of art–subjected to the saw!  But jewelry is more than art and more than an expression of sentiment.  It’s also a piece of engineering.  It’s built with shanks and prongs, bails and bezels, and many other findings.  It’s adjusted or repaired with the use of tools like saws, hammers, and torches.  Using rings as our example, let’s explore the Anatomy of a piece of jewelry.

MOUNTING: This is the general name for the metal that holds the stone(s) in place and encircles your finger to keep the ring on your finger.

SHANK: This refers to just the curved part of the ring that goes around your finger.  Shanks can have profiles(or cross-sections) that can be quite flat to very round.  The width of the shank can also vary.  And the shape of the shank, while usually circular, could be oval or even rectangular.  A EURO-SHANK is curved on the sides but has a squared off bottom.  There are adjustable shanks, too, which operate with hinges, allowing more room for a ring to slide over the knuckle. 

SETTING: Sometimes a synonym for mounting, a setting probably refers more to how the stone(s) are held in place.  Setting techniques include prong or shared prong set, bead set, tension set, channel set, bar set, flush set, bezel set, pave set, and invisible set. 

PRONG: Tiny metal wires that suspend the stone, holding it in little “claws” (HEAD), so that light can enter the diamond from all sides. 

BEZEL: A frame of precious metal that surrounds the stone, bezels can be thin like a wire or wide so that the side of stone is unseen. 

FINISH: Whether the metal is shiny or more dull depends on the finish.  You can have a polished finish, which is shiny or a matte finish, which is smooth but less shiny.  Other finishes like satin, hammered, engraved or stone can give texture to the surface of the ring.

MILLGRAIN: This is a common embellishment on the shank of a ring.  It’s a border of tiny beads that acts as a boundary or edging.

I could go on–there seems to be about ten- thousand terms that bench jewelers use.  I learn a new one almost every day.  Instead, let’s re-cap with a picture and save Anatomy 102 for another day.  The important thing to glean from today is that jewelry is a designed and constructed piece of art.  It’s engineered to be art that you can wear.

Engagement Ring with an Engraved Finish

Engagement Ring with an Engraved Finish

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Little Black Dress” of Jewelry

| November 18, 2015 | Reply

Every well-dressed woman has certain “go-to” pieces in her wardrobe–a black dress, patent leather pumps, a cardigan sweater. . .These are the articles frequently pulled out of the closet.  They work in a variety of situations and always improve the ensemble.

When it comes to a jewelry wardrobe, what are those classic, “go-to” pieces?   What should every woman have in her jewelry box?  Based on the opinions of many, here are the top five.  They make wonderful holiday gifts because you know they’ll be worn over and over again.

5gifts2

  1. DIAMOND STUD EARRINGS are not only classic, but also a great investment.  Since the setting for the earrings is a minimal part of the cost, and diamonds rarely go anywhere but up in value, this “must” is the perfect gift.  At Dearborn Jewelers, we have a trade-up program for customers who’ve purchased their diamond stud earrings from us.  Fair market value for the earrings can be used towards the purchase of a larger pair of studs.
  2. GOLD HOOP EARRINGS, in white and/or yellow gold, are an important mainstay in a woman’s jewelry wardrobe.  They can be dressy or casual, and they coordinate with other pieces of jewelry.
  3. DIAMOND PENDANT NECKLACE just sparkles at the base of her neck.  It’s another great investment,  since, again, Dearborn Jewelers has a trade-up program.  And a diamond pendant and earrings together?  Stunning.
  4. A GOLD OR SILVER CHAIN that can be worn alone or with a pendant is an essential part of any jewelry wardrobe.  Small, simple chains are great for layering with other necklaces.  Probably the most versatile chain is a 16-18 inch adjustable wheat or box chain. (One hint for gift-givers, though, is to pair a pendant with that chain.  A chain by itself is probably not the most exciting gift.)
  5. A WRIST WATCH rounds out the top five.  At Dearborn Jewelers we carry the Tissot brand, which is a Swiss-made watch.  We have a wide selection in stock.

If you are looking for that perfect gift for the woman in your life, check to see if she has these classics.  If not, stop by Dearborn Jewelers of Plymouth.  We can help you round out her jewelry wardrobe.  If she has them all, maybe what she needs is a jewelry box.  We have those, too!

jewel box4

 

The Beauty of the Lazare Diamond

| November 10, 2015 | Reply

diamond

Perhaps you’ve seen the phrase, “Lazare. . .the World’s Most Beautiful Diamond.”  Your mind might question the assertion.  After all, aren’t all diamonds beautiful?  How can a company make this claim?

The answer lies in the cut.  In 1919, the cousin of founder, Lazare Kaplan, developed a mathematical thesis for cutting diamonds to precise angles and proportions to gain the optimum reflection and refraction of light.  When a diamond is ideally cut, light rays from all sides are bent towards the center of the diamond and are reflected back through the top.  If not ideally cut, light will “leak out” through the sides or bottom of the diamond.  The beauty of a colorless diamond is all about its brilliance, scintillation, and fire.  The Lazare Ideal cut maximizes all three.

diamond-cut-chart

A beautiful diamond is also tied to a company that does good work in its community.  Lazare Kaplan International, Inc. supports a number of important causes in Namibia, where most of its diamonds are mined.  LKI also supports policies that

  1. protect fundamental human rights and the dignity of the individual

  2. prohibit the trade in conflict diamonds (zero tolerance policy for conflict diamonds and strictly adheres to all protocols of the Kimberly Process)

  3. prevent money laundering and combat the financing of terrorism

  4. ensure business is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner

Finally, a beautiful diamond is one that can be yours forever.  Every Lazare diamond of 0.18 carats and higher has the Lazare logo and an individual identification number, laser inscribed on the diamond’s girdle.   This logo is your proof of authenticity as an ideal cut Lazare diamond, and the identification number is your proof of ownership.

Lazare Kaplan International, Inc. has been in business since 1903.  It plans to be around for a long time to come.  When it’s your turn to look for the world’s most beautiful diamond, be sure to remember Lazare.

Lazare Diamond Rings in Michigan

 

Why Start with D? A History of Diamond Grading

| September 24, 2015 | Reply

Round Brilliant diamonds of different sizes.

Most couples looking for a diamond engagement ring are already familiar with the color scale for diamonds.  They know that “D” is the “best” if you want a colorless diamond.  It’s just accepted.  But why start with D?  There are historical reasons why color grading doesn’t start at the beginning of the alphabet.  The story is interesting, but basically boils down to the struggle between metaphoric or geographic vs. scientific description.

In the late 1800s, when diamonds and diamond mines were being discovered and dug in Cape Province, South Africa, there was little consistency in the description of diamonds.  Diamond brokers came up with various ways to grade diamonds, using I, II, and III or A, B, and C to indicate quality.  Later, AA and AAA were used to indicate even higher quality than A.  There was a wide range of diamonds that fell into each quality designation, and the grade often depended on who was doing the grading.  There was no set grading system that everyone agreed to follow.   The goal was to sell diamonds, so grade inflation was common.

Some grading terms were even more vague than A, B, and C.  Old world terms for colorless diamonds included “River”, “Finest White”, and “Jager.”  Where do these terms come from?  River was meant to indicate the clear, as water, nature of a colorless diamond.  Jager was a nickname for the Jagersfontein Mine in South Africa, a mine known for the exceptional quality and clarity of its diamonds.  This mine was also known for producing two of the biggest diamonds ever found, the 972 carat Excelsior and the 637 carat Jubilee.

In the 1930s, when the Gemological Institute of America(GIA) was first established, it focused on the science of gemology and the importance of education.  Eager to bring more consistency to diamond grading, the GIA developed its international diamond grading scale in 1953.   It wanted to clearly separate its scale from existing scales.  The GIA started with D so as not to be confused with the A, B, and C grades that already existed in other, less consistent scales.  That’s why the scale starts with D and goes through Z for the normal color range of diamonds.  The GIA scale is much more scientific, with more grades and a set of master stones to represent each color grade.  Skilled graders compare stones to this master set under specific lighting conditions.

The American Gemological Society(AGS) has a numeric as well as letter grading system, with D equal to 0.0, E equal to 0.5, F equal to 1.0 and so on.  Both the GIA and AGS use descriptive words to go along with their grades so, for instance, grades of D, E, and F are described as colorless while grades of S through Z are described as light yellow.  If a diamond is more yellow than the Z master stone, it’s actually a fancy colored diamond and is graded using a different system.

So it was those diamond sellers back in the 1800s that shaped the system we have today.  Even with the unusual starting point, consumers should be grateful for the consistent grading that the GIA and AGS provide.

 

Pink Diamonds on a Pink Day

pink1

As walkers for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure passed by our store last weekend, and pink balloons lined the street, I thought of the perfect coordinating topic–pink diamonds.

Did you know that diamonds come in different colors?  Red is the rarest and most expensive color of diamond.  Yellow and brown are the most common.  Pink diamonds come mainly from a famous mine in Western Australia–the Argyle Mine.  It is the world’s largest supplier of naturally colored diamonds.

Diamonds are made of pure carbon and, with no structural anomalies or chemical impurities, they are colorless.  But trace elements like nitrogen can create a yellow or brown hue to diamonds.  Structural anomalies in the crystal structure can lead to a pink, red, green, or blue hue.  Diamonds exhibiting structural anomalies, however, are quite rare, accounting for about 2% of all diamonds.

Irradiation, whether natural or man-induced, will change the crystal structure.  Early in the 1900s, experiments were conducted with irradiating diamonds.  At first, the diamonds were radioactive and could not be worn.  Now we know how to irradiate diamonds safely.  Most blue and green diamonds on the market today have been irradiated by man.  Naturally irradiated diamonds, like the Hope Diamond, are incredibly rare and valuable.

Sometimes fancy colored diamonds are annealed, which is a heating process that can alter the crystal structure.  Many bright yellow, orange, or pink diamonds have been both irradiated and annealed.  So a natural pink diamond, like the ones from the Argyle Mine, are very expensive.  Recently, an Argyle Pink Diamond necklace( with 909 pink diamonds totaling 34.81 cts) and ring(with a 0.48ct fancy vivid pink diamond center) sold for $890,000.

Pink diamonds are a good complement to last weekend’s walk for the cure to breast cancer.  But, while pink diamonds are both beautiful and  valuable, finding the cure to breast cancer is priceless.

pink-diamonds