Most of us know that not every red gemstone is a ruby. Garnets, tourmaline, and even diamonds can be red. But if you are in the market for a ruby, know that many substitutes exist. I recently put on a seminar about rubies, their imitations, and synthetics. Let me share three pieces of advice on buying a ruby.
1) Buy it from an A.G.S. member store. Only jewelry stores who adhere to the strict consumer protection standards of the American Gem Society will have the A.G.S. sign by the front door. These stores are required to be informed on ethical issues and questionable practices facing the gemstone and jewelry industry. At least one employee of the store must be a registered jeweler, which requires yearly testing to renew the designation.
2) Look at that beautiful stone under the microscope. All A.G.S. member stores are required to have a microscope at their store. Ask to look at the piece you’re considering. If the stone shows some inclusions under magnification, especially whitish or colorless rounded crystals or a lacy-looking fingerprint, that’s a good sign. Be suspicious of a stone that looks perfect under magnification. Natural rubies generally have inclusions. Remember to ask about treatments on the stone. Most rubies have been heat-treated to improve their color and sometimes their clarity. Heat treatment is permanent and does not affect the durability of the stone. If the stone has fractures that have been lead glass-filled to enhance the clarity, it is not as valuable as one that has not. In fact, most gemologists feel that these “composite rubies” shouldn’t even be called rubies because so much of their weight is due to the lead-glass. Be aware that a glass-filled stone is not durable and should never be subjected to heat or an ultrasonic cleaner.
3) Don’t assume that, because it’s old, it’s real. Synthetic rubies have been produced since the early 1900s. Rubies were also imitated using glass, assembled stones of garnet and glass, and other natural red stones like spinel. Even the “Black Prince’s Ruby” in the British Imperial Crown is actually a 170 carat red spinel!
It was 18 years ago this past August 31st that Princess Diana died at the young age of 37. I remember the day vividly, how shocked and saddened everyone felt. She was so beautiful, so deserving of happiness. Her tragic death was felt around the world.
I’d always been interested in Princess Diana because 1) I was the same age; and 2) I was in London the summer of 1981, when she married Prince Charles. I actually watched her carriage drive past on the way to her wedding. It was an exciting time to be a study abroad student in London. Everywhere you turned, pictures of Lady Di and Prince Charles were plastered on stamps, plates, and posters. My fellow students and I stayed up all night to guarantee a good spot from which to view the procession. It seemed like all of London showed up for the celebration.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring started a trend of having a colored center gemstone. The oval, approximately 12 carat sapphire from Ceylon, was surrounded by 14 colorless diamonds and set in 18 karat white gold. She chose the ring from a collection made by Garrard. In existence since 1735, when it received its first royal commission, Garrards is the jeweler of the royals. It has made crowns, brooches, and many other royal pieces. What’s interesting is that Lady Diana didn’t choose to have her ring custom-made. Her ring could have been purchased by anyone who had the approximately $50,000 purchase price.
Almost thirty years later, Princess Diana’s son, Prince William, presented the ring to his fiancé, Kate Middleton. She modified it slightly, adding two platinum studs to the shank, effectively increasing the size of the ring from an H(size 4) to an I(size 4.5). Kate’s ring has brought renewed interest in colored gemstones for the engagement ring. Sapphire is perhaps the most commonly used gemstone in engagement rings. Its hardness, 9 on the Mohs scale, makes it a good choice for a ring that is worn everyday. Rubies, fancy-colored sapphires, and colored diamonds are also durable colored stones.
Kate’s ring is valued today at approximately $500,000 (10 times its original purchase price). Hopefully, she will wear it a very, very long time before it is passed down. Maybe her daughter, little Princes Charlotte of Cambridge, will wear it someday.
Almost everyone has heard of Turquoise. It is one of the oldest, most popular gem stones of all time. Turquoise has a rich and colorful history, and it originates in a few places around the globe. Studying turquoise is like taking a journey around the world and back in time. Sounds fun, right?
HISTORY AND ORIGIN
Imagine yourself in the time of King Tut, in Egypt, around 1330BC. Thousands of laborers worked the mines in the Sinai Peninsula, finding turquoise for the pharaohs. When King Tut’s treasures were discovered, they included pieces of beautiful blue turquoise. Although the mines in the Sinai had long been forgotten and depleted, when they were re-discovered in the mid-1800s, people did try to work them.
In the 12th and 13th centuries AD, on the other side of the world, in the land of the Native Americans, turquoise was mined for the Aztec Kings. It was used for pendants, beads, and for trade. Proof exists that the prehistoric peoples of the Anasazi and Hohokam tribes mined turquoise in areas we call the Southwest, and traded it to people who carried it hundreds of miles from its origin.
The robin’s egg blue of “Persian turquoise” was treasured by the peoples of Persia (now Iran), Afghanistan, Siberia, and Turkistan (now Turkey). Turquoise was found in ancient graves dating from the first to third century AD. And it was from this area that turquoise first made its way to Europe in the late 1600s. Because it traveled through the land named by the French as Turquie, many believe that the stone got its name by Frenchmen who thought Turquie was its origin.
China’s love of turquoise dates back to the thirteenth century AD. There it was used mostly for carving and decorative items. In Tibet, the stone was used for currency and as an amulet. Although there were a few mines in China, most of their source came from Persia, Tibet, and Turkey.
Now that we’ve traveled around the world, let’s focus on our own backyard–the Southwestern states of Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. There are many mines in each of these states and turquoise lovers know the origins of their stones.
The Ajax Mine, a relatively new mine, yields stones ranging from light blue with dark blue veins to dark green with light blue areas. The Blue Diamond Mine, inaccessible in the winter months, produces light to deep blue turquoise exhibiting swirling or mottled patterns of light and dark blues. Carico Lake Mine resides on a dried up lake bed, and its turquoise is a clean spring green color with black spider web matrix.
Bisbee, Arizona is the site of the Bisbee Mine, closed since the early 1970s, but known for the intense blue color of its turquoise and the fine webbing of its dark matrix. The Kingman Mine is one of largest domestic turquoise mines. Its turquoise ranges from light to dark blue with some tints of green. Its matrix can range from white, light brown to black and it’s frequently flecked with pyrite or quartz. The Sleeping Beauty Mine produces a soft blue, like a robin’s egg blue, turquoise, with little or no matrix.
The Cerrillos Mine, 10 miles south of Santa Fe, is the oldest known source of turquoise in America. The huge deposit was originally exposed at the surface but has now been mined more than 200 feet deep. The turquoise that comes from Cerrillos varies in color from tan and khaki green to blue-green, blue, and even white.
My own story of turquoise starts in Tucson, Arizona at the 2015 Gem Show. Wanting to buy a piece of turquoise, I came upon Helen Shull, owner of Out of Our Mines, in Nevada. She told me that the piece of turquoise I selected came from a new mine called the Candelaria Pickhandle Mine. The interesting name comes from the fact that an old pickhandle, left by a miner decades ago, sent the signal that turquoise was present. Helen and her husband, out walking their land in Nevada, found this old, long forgotten pickhandle and began to mine the area. My piece is beautiful, blue with golden matrix.
My favorite story of turquoise came from the Native Americans who saw the blue stone as giving of life and good fortune. One of their legends says that people danced and rejoiced when the rains came, and their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth. That mixture became the “fallen sky stone”–Turquoise.
Much of my information for this blog came from http://www.traderoots.com/Turquoise_About.html, if you want to know more about this magical stone.
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.
STACKABLES are in fashion! People like to stack bracelets, necklaces, and even rings. This trend has led to thinner, smoother styles that stack easily. The picture above features “bamboo” bangles from Thistle and Bee. The agates and topaz stones can be easily offset so the bangles fit nicely together.
In reading articles from Huffington Post and Harper’s Bazaar, I learned that stacking is rather an art form. It strives for a carefree feeling, fun and not too heavy. If you are stacking necklaces, stick to thinner chains, smaller pendants or charms, and only a few small stones or beads. It’s best if you stagger the lengths and not wear anything too chunky. If it’s rings you want to stack, try mixing metals and textures. Again, it’s best if the rings have flat edges and small, single, or no stones. Keep your stacked rings to one finger per hand. It’s just as important to have fingers bare, so that the eye goes to the stack. Bracelets, on the other hand, can be wide and bold. The more, the merrier with these! You can dress up both arms and stack them to your elbows if you want. Mixing a couple of different metals is fun, and using different shapes and thicknesses is preferred. The main caution is to minimize other types of jewelry if you’re wearing a lot of bracelets.
ROSE GOLD is quite the rage! This alloy of gold and copper is not just for the strawberry blonde. Some people say it looks great on those with a warm skin tone–think peaches and autumn. But other people say it looks wonderful on those with a cool skin tone–think strawberries and summer. Obviously, rose gold is a lot more versatile than one might think. Rose (or pink) gold looks fabulous with the vintage ring styles that are popular right now. It has a delicate femininity that coordinates with the vintage look.
CIGAR BANDS are an up and coming trend, according to David Connolly. These are wider than the traditional wedding band, and they can be ornate or simple. Think of years back, when men proposed to the women they loved with an actual paper cigar band! Years ago we had a client who kept the paper her husband had used to propose and, decades later, had us custom make a gold version of it. She was ahead of her time! Or maybe it’s just that trends operate with the “what goes around, comes around” philosophy.
Trends are fun to observe, even if you don’t want to follow them. They are more obvious if you know what to look for. For instance, the Pantone Color of the Year is Marsala, so make sure to look for it this fall! If you pay attention to people’s jewelry, you’ll see more stackables and rose gold. Have fun and don’t forget to see our selection of rose gold and stackable jewelry!
In early April I had the good fortune to go to Italy with my husband, marking our 30th wedding anniversary. One of my favorite days in Rome was the day I went to Villa Guilia, a museum dedicated to the Etruscans. The Etruscan civilization was dominant in central Italy from about 800BC – 500BC. As artists, metal miners, architects, farmers, and seafaring traders, the Etruscans were able to generate a lot of wealth. Their wealthiest had a demand for beautiful jewelry to accompany them to the afterworld. So the Syro-Phoenicians came to Etruria and taught the art of granulation and filigree. Granulation is the soldering of tiny beads of metal to a metal base. Filigree is finely twisted threads of metal, soldered together onto the surface of an object to make an intricate “lacy” design. The Etruscans generally used 18 karat gold, an alloy of gold and copper, to make their jewelry.
When the Roman Republic was established, it was the beginning of the end of Etruscan power. By 200 BC, the city-states of Etruria were assimilated into the Roman Empire. But it was far from the end of Etruscan influence. They were the ones who introduced the growing of grapes and olives in the region. Their words appear in the roots of many Latin words. Renaissance artists like Michaelangelo admired their sculpture and painting. And the Castellani family from Italy was influenced by their jewelry.
Fortunato Pio Castellani was an Italian jeweler and art dealer during the 1800s, when Etruscan jewelry was being found in archeological excavations. Because of high society’s interest in this ancient art and because of a strong sense of nationalism, he began to search for ways to duplicate the delicate techniques of the Etruscans. The “lost” art of granulation was still practiced in the small municipality of Sant’Angelo in Vado, on the eastern edge of what was formerly Etruscan territory. He learned from its artisans and brought Etruscan jewelry back into the mainstream. He also collected original Etruscan pieces, displaying them at his shop in Rome. This shop passed from generation to generation until Castellani’s grandson died in 1930. Then the amazing collection was donated to the Italian state, and that’s what I saw at the National Museum of Villa Guilia.
If you are as interested as I am in historical jewelry, you may want to pursue the details of the Etruscans. I found www.mysteriousetruscans.com to be a helpful site. And, of course, if you get the chance to visit Rome, I highly suggest you take a couple of hours at the National Museum of Villa Guilia.
Ruby= R; Emerald = E; Garnet = G; Amethyst = A; Ruby = R; Diamond = D
What does it all spell? REGARD!
When it comes to creating jewelry that holds deep meaning and sentiment, the makers of the Victorian age were experts. They had to be, because the rules of behavior dictated discretion. Jewelry was a way to communicate love. Pendants containing locks of loved-ones’ hair were popular. Queen Victoria wore mourning jewelry for her late husband, Prince Albert, for over 30 years.
While I’m not advocating a revival of either of these sentimental declarations, I really like the idea of acrostic jewelry that was conceived in the early 1800s. Acrostic jewelry works a little bit like the game, Scrabble. The first letter of each gemstone can be used to form a word or name, and those gemstones can be placed in jewelry either in or out of order. For example, you could take the word “A D O R E” and make a beautiful pendant with an Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, and Emerald. The word “B E L O V E D” looks wonderful as a ring!
Sometimes the gemstones look better out of order because of their color. Personally, I like the letters out of order. It’s a little romantic secret between the giver and the receiver!
Giving an acrostic piece of jewelry takes some time and planning, which can be part of the fun and is definitely part of the meaning. You wouldn’t go to the trouble for someone you just sort of like. But the piece wouldn’t have to be extremely expensive. Some letters have many alternatives, so if “Ruby” doesn’t fit the budget, perhaps “Rose quartz” or “Rhodolite garnet” would. If you like opaque as well as transparent gems, you could even go with “Rhodocrosite.”
Once you start playing around with words, gemstones, and jewelry designs, it’s difficult to know when to stop. One of my favorites was “C H E R I S H” with Chalcedony, Heliodor, Emerald, Ruby, Indicolite, Spinel, and Hessonite garnet. It would make a pretty and affordable ring.
Some words are more difficult. If you really want to write “L O V E”, there is a way to get around the fact that no pretty gemstones start with “V.” Although it has a different meaning today, the word Vermeil, signified a hessonite garnet to the Victorians.
Spend the time when buying fine jewelry. These pieces should have a good story to journey with them. Take a trip out to Dearborn Jewelers and let our designers help you create a special piece for your loved one. Maybe the Victorians had it right with their sentimental, old-fashioned gooeyness. Old-fashioned doesn’t have to be out-of-fashion.