Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So let's start with a little history. Diamonds have been known almost since man became civilized (assuming you can say that man is actually civilized even today). But when diamonds were found in ancient times they were extremely hard for the people to cut or polish, what with their hardness and all and no modern technology to help. Some of the oldest known historical diamonds were simply polished with a few facets on the top and left flat on the bottom. It was about the best that could be done at the time.
However, over time, man, in his never ending quest for wealth finally figured out how to take such a rare (at that time) substance and actually cut it into something that sparkled a bit, particularly in candlelight. Most diamond crystals occur in the form of two inverted pyramids and early cutters figured out that they could lop off a piece on the top, and then add some facets around the still somewhat square stone to get some nice light reflection. These early cuts are known as "old mine cuts", almost always have a squared off outline, high crowns (tops) and either excessively shallow or deep pavilions (bottoms). Their facets were almost always lopsided, poorly placed and there were often naturals around the girdles (a natural is a part of the original diamond crystal skin that was never polished---you see this on some modern cuts as well because in a cutters' efforts to retain as much weight as possible they would often not even finish rounding up a diamond's girdle on the narrower spots on the crystal).
In the early 20th century, cutting techniques improved and they figured out how to actually round off the outlines of the crystals, achieving round stones. They also began to realize that if they didn't leave such a large crown on the stone they could actually cut a second stone from the same crystal. These early stones, which are still usually top heavy, have very small tables, are not very well cut either, but have rounded outlines are known as old European cuts.
Then in 1919, a diamond cutter/mathematician who's name was Tolkowsky worked out a formula for what angles to cut a diamond to in order to maximize the brilliance and light reflection from the crystal. This cut became known as the American Ideal Cut and was the standard against which all round cut diamonds were judged until just fairly recently. Tolkowsky had a cousin/apprentice who's name was Lazare Kaplan. Lazare Kaplan was the first person to adopt and popularize the American Ideal Cut and has continued to cut it ever since. The company Lazare Kaplan is now known as Lazare Diamond and they were the first in a number of other important advancements in the diamond industry, including developing the first lasers that could be used to imprint numbers (or words) on the girdle of a diamond (I believe they still own the patent) and a new high pressure high temperature treatment used to change the appearance of certain types of diamonds (not marketed under their own name).
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers has been selling Lazare Diamonds for close to twenty years. The best thing about them is that every stone they sell will absolutely be an ideal cut diamond. Unfortunately a lot of people today sell stones they claim are ideal but often they are just better cut than some other stones and they don't actually have the proper angling on the facets or the correct table size to actually be called ideal. In my book it's a little like being pregnant. You can't be almost pregnant and you can't be almost ideal. The stone either meets the criteria or it doesn't.
I don't want to overwhelm you all with information at one time so I'll leave this here. Next posting, I'll talk a little about quality and rarity of diamonds.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I always wanted to do one of my ads in the Boston Globe with a picture of a platinum ring and the headline: The Other White Meat...Metal (with Meat with a line through it). In fact it isn't the other white metal, as it really is a white metal as opposed to white gold that is actually yellow metal posing as something it isn't.
Platinum is normally worked as either a 900/100 platinum/iridium mix (platinum is almost always alloyed with a member of the platinum metals group) or a 950/50 platinum/ruthenium mix. The numbers refer to the parts of platinum relative to the parts of alloy. There are other alloys available and recently some companies have started to work with a 585 mix (14k yellow gold is 58.5% pure gold) although they aren't allowed to call it platinum as the metal quality laws don't allow anything less than 900/100 to be called platinum. Personally I like that platinum is used with such a high purity level (I only sell 18k gold or higher for the same reason) and it seems foolish to cheapen it so much. but there is always someone out there looking for a way to make a buck.
Platinum is a more expensive metal than gold for a variety of reasons. One is that it generally is more per ounce than gold is (although they are getting incredibly close in price at the moment as gold continues to rise due to the value of the dollar falling so much). It is also worked purer than gold (90/10 or 95/5 as opposed to 75/25 for 18k gold) normally. It is also a much denser metal so the exact same piece in platinum weighs far more than gold does. And to top it all off it is a much more difficult metal to work with. While hand constructing platinum is certainly possible, casting is a far easier option normally. Platinum is soldered or fused at such high temperatures that protective eye gear is necessary whenever working with it and it takes far longer to attain a suitable finish than gold.
There is some confusion about the durability of platinum. Depending on who you talk to you'll hear that platinum scratches much easier, that it is harder than gold, that it lasts longer, doesn't hold up as well, you name it. In fact all metals scratch, especially when used in rings. Platinum does, in some cases, seem to scratch a little easier but it builds up a nice patina as it does. However, the difference between platinum and gold is that when you scratch a gold ring you actually remove metal from it. When you scratch a platinum ring most (although not all) of the metal is simply moved from one point on the ring to another. Hence it is actually a more durable metal as it will wear away more slowly.
So the question becomes should you get platinum or should you get white gold? In my belief, you should get the one which has the color that pleases you the most. This is a little tricky when buying commercially made rhodium plated white gold as it starts out looking almost the same as platinum, but you do have to remember that it will change in time. My 18k palladium white gold has a different appearance altogether than platinum. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just different.
Personally I believe white metals were put on Earth only to accent yellow ones and anyone asking me would be told, get a yellow gold piece. But I'm not the one who's going to wear it. For those of you who love white metals, get the one who's color you like and enjoy!
Pictured above is one of my platinum rings with a color shift purple/blue sapphire and diamonds.