Out of this World Jewelry made of Meteorite

Jewelry is made of things from the earth–like metals and minerals.  Or it’s made of animals from the sea–like pearls and coral.  But meteorite is one material used in jewelry that doesn’t come from the earth or the sea.  Meteorite is extraterrestrial material, recovered after it hits Earth.  It’s used a lot in men’s wedding bands, and its use is starting to seep into women’s pendants and bracelets.

Lashbrook's Meteorite Men's Wedding Band

Lashbrook’s Meteorite Men’s Wedding Band

What is meteorite made of?   Well, it depends on which type you’re thinking about.  The three types are stony, iron, and stony-iron.  Only 5% of meteorites are classified as iron, but they are the ones that are used for jewelry.  These meteorites are primarily iron but contain trace elements like nickel, cobalt and gold.  The metal shows a distinctive crystalline pattern when cut, polished, and acid etched.  The pattern is the result of slow-cooling iron and nickel crystals.

One manufacturer of men’s wedding bands, Lashbrook, uses material from the Gibeon meteorite.  The Gibeon material is found near the town of Gibeon in Namibia.  Turns out that all meteorites are named for their location. It’s believed the tons of material that showered Gibeon 30,000 years ago is about 4 billion years old.

Suppose you want a piece of outer space in your ring.  After all, how cool is that?  But you should know a few things first.  Iron meteorites are magnetic so, if your job is working with magnets, you may want to reconsider.  If you have a nickel allergy, you shouldn’t wear meteorite.  Gibeon material is about 9% nickel.  And, even if none of the above holds true for you, you will want to treat your ring with care.  It’s important to never wear it in a pool or hot tub.   Because iron can rust, keep the ring dry as much as possible.  If you do notice rust, rid the meteorite of any moisture by soaking it in 90% rubbing alcohol and then air drying it.  You can clean it gently with a soft toothbrush, and then apply a small amount of gun metal oil, wiping away any excess.  Finally, the etch pattern that makes meteorite so distinctive can wear down and become fainter over time.  It is possible to re-etch the pattern, however.

A raw piece of Seymchan Meteorite

A raw piece of Seymchan Meteorite

One thing that surprised me was how many meteorites exist on Earth.  Over 40,000 have been found and cataloged.  Small pieces of meteorite fall to Earth everyday, but most of them are small and impossible to find because they fall into an ocean!  If you want to look for iron meteorite, here are a few tips.  Look in regions that are dry and have a barren expanse, like the Mohave Desert or the Great Plains.  The black to dark brown color of a meteorite’s exterior, due to the fact that it’s on fire when it enters our atmosphere, is easier to see when the land is tan-colored and without vegetation.  Also, the dryness of desert areas helps keep the meteorite from rusting.  Use a metal detector to find iron meteorites.  And check with the land owner before beginning your search.  It’s usually okay to search on public land, but you can’t take any specimens from a National Park.

I have only one tip if you want a meteorite ring.  Come to Dearborn Jewelers!!

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.

 

 

Comparing Gold, Titanium, Cobalt Chrome, & Tungsten

titaniumcoin

 

cobaltchrome

 

 

 

 

 

When men come in to the store to make their decision on a wedding band, most of them think that the decision will be an easy one.   They don’t know that men’s bands come in so many different metals.  Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular metals.

  • GOLD(14 or 18 karat)   PROS:  1) As a precious metal it has value and has a better chance of retaining its value: 2) Can be soldered, sized, and re-formed by jewelers, so you don’t have to replace your ring if you gain/lose 20 pounds;  3) Has a nice weight to it, not too heavy but not too light.  CONS: 1) More expensive than non-precious metals; 2) Softer metal, so it scratches. (At the same time, jewelers know how to buff gold and get it back to its former glory.)

  • TITANIUM PROS: 1) Very inexpensive (You can buy a wedding band for $100.);  2) Resists scratching better than gold; 3) Hypoallergenic, so it won’t react with sensitive skin; 4) Natural rather than a compound metal.  CONS: 1) Light weight, so it has kind of a “cheap” feel; 2) Cannot be soldered or sized.

  • COBALT CHROME PROS: 1) Looks and feels like white gold, because it has a similar weight and color; 2) Hypoallergenic; 3) Resists scratching even better than titanium. CONS: 1) More expensive than titanium, but less expensive than gold;   2) Cannot be sized or soldered.

  • TUNGSTEN CARBIDE (aka TUNGSTEN) PROS: 1) Extremely scratch resistant; 2) Comes in different colors–white, black, and gray; 3) Hypoallergenic; 4) Very inexpensive CONS: 1) Cannot be soldered or sized; 2) Cannot be cut off your finger in an emergency, but instead must be cracked using vise grips; 3) Can shatter if dropped; 4) Heavy weight, so can feel uncomfortable.

 

To give you an example of cost, I called a company we work with and asked for prices on a basic men’s ring, size 10.  The titanium version was $105, the cobalt chrome was $225, and the 14 karat white gold version was $850.  They didn’t make a tungsten carbide version, and there’s a very good reason for that.

The man who patented tungsten carbide is currently involved with many lawsuits because of what he calls “copy-cat” Chinese manufacturers.  Tungsten carbide rings are either made in China and exported to the U.S., or they are made by companies that pay royalties to the inventor.  It’s a complicated situation, and the company we work with doesn’t want to be involved.  However, the company makes rings out of tungsten ceramic, which is a different compound than tungsten carbide.

There’s a lot to know about men’s wedding bands, and picking the metal is one of the main decisions each couple must make.  My suggestion is to pick a precious metal like gold, or even platinum.   Your ring is a symbol of your union, which you plan to have for the rest of your life.  You’ll be happier with a timeless, classic ring that can also be with you through life.

goldring

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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