Padparadscha sapphires are more popular than ever, thanks to Princess Eugenie of York and her fiance, Jack Brooksbank. Her engagement ring, which the two designed together, holds an estimated 5 carat padparadscha, and is surrounded by 10 round and 2 pear-shaped diamonds. Because padparadscha sapphires are the most rare of all sapphires, and because they’re seldom cut above 2 carats, Princess Eugenie’s stone is a world class gem. The estimated value of her ring is $175,000.
Jack Brooksbank, Princess Eugenie, and her engagement ring
The two tie the knot on October 12, 2018 in beautiful St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Although the ceremony is rumored to be at least as grand as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, it’s uncertain whether those of us who live outside the U.K. will be able to watch the wedding ceremony. The BBC, the major broadcasting station in the U.K. declined to televise Princess Eugenie’s wedding, thinking that the number of viewers would not justify the cost of production. Another, more local British station, is planning to televise the full wedding, so we’ll have to see whether the ceremony airs here in the U.S.
Padparadscha is a variety of sapphire based on hue and saturation of color. And these traits can be subjective! Narrowly defined, a padparadscha is supposed to be from Sri Lanka and it’s supposed to be pinkish-orange or orangish-pink. It does not have to be highly saturated and, in fact, a delicate color is preferred. But where exactly is the line between an orange sapphire, a pink sapphire, and a padparadscha sapphire? Even gemologists have a hard time agreeing on a uniform standard for this gem. Because the premium for a padparadscha is so high, there is incentive to stretch the narrow definition.
While Sri Lanka is the traditional source for padparadscha sapphires, other countries such as Vietnam, Tanzania, and Madagascar also produce them. The name, “padparadscha”, comes from the native language of Sri Lanka and means lotus blossom. A lotus flower is a little more pink than peach, so some people talk about the hue of a padparadscha as being a “sunset color mixed with a lotus flower.” Well-known author and gemologist, Richard Hughes, calls it “a marriage between ruby and yellow sapphire.” However it’s defined, a padparadscha sapphire is a beautiful gem and well deserving of the extra attention it’s receiving!
Padparadschas showing the narrow range of hue
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
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
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 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
A ring has signified union and commitment for thousands of years. But when did a diamond become part of the equation? Prior to 1870, around the time diamonds were discovered in Africa, diamonds were too rare and expensive for most of us. They were seen as a symbol of status and wealth, not love and commitment. There is a well documented case of the Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioning a diamond engagement ring for his bride, Mary of Burgundy, back in 1477. But most brides of the time had a simple band.
It was not until the late 1920s that a diamond engagement ring first became popular. DeBeers, the company that monopolized the diamond market for decades, was eager to market its increasing supply of diamonds to the middle class. When the U.S. economy faltered in the 1930s, demand for diamond rings fell dramatically. DeBeers responded with tempting advertisements showing movie stars wearing diamonds. They tried to educate the public by introducing the 4 C’s. (Color, Cut, Clarity, Carat) Then, in 1947, their “A Diamond is Forever” campaign launched the idea that giving a diamond when you propose ensures a marriage that will last forever.
By 1965, eighty percent of all new brides had a diamond engagement ring. At first, most brides sported a solitaire ring, a style popularized by Tiffany and Co. But in the 1970s more engagement rings had accent diamonds along with a center stone. Now it’s common to see many diamonds in an engagement ring. Today’s rings average over 1 carat total weight in diamonds.
What’s next for the engagement ring? Some say that the trend is to substitute a sapphire (or other colored stone) for the center diamond. But I have a hard time believing diamonds will ever lose their stature. Diamonds really are forever.