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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reusing Old Gemstones

I'm not really in the business of selling jewelry. I'm in the business of selling memories. There is so much associated with the purchase of most pieces of fine jewelry. Engagement rings. Wedding rings. Anniversary rings. Presents for special birthdays, Valentine's Day, etc. All of these events carry so much meaning behind them and as you age, the meanings can grow and expand. When members of your family die, often the most important things you have left from them is their jewelry. Something you saw them wear every day of their lives and that represented so much to them. Something that represented the relationship that may have led to your own existence. How can we not try to honor these things in some way?

I routinely get people in asking me to reuse their old stones. Some of these come from their parents or relatives who have passed away. Some of them are simply from earlier relationships or just pieces of jewelry that are no longer so fashionable or that don't fit in with a current lifestyle. As I explained in the last posting you retain the most amount of value by keeping these stones so I'm happy to reuse them, however there are some things you should understand about resetting your old stones in a piece of my jewelry.

When someone comes into my store and looks at my jewelry they are seeing it all with top quality, very fine gemstones. My diamonds are all ideal cut, top color, high clarity stones. My sapphires are all fine color, well cut, lively stones. I pick my merchandise very carefully, looking for goods that are going to be sparkly, with color evenly spread throughout the stones, without windows (I'll get to that in a moment), and as much as possible without any eye visible inclusions (although occasionally some fine stones will have some inclusions that a sharp eyed customer may see). When you put stones like this together with metal work of the quality that I do, the overall look is always fantastic.

Unfortunately what I sell is not what most people already own (unless, of course, they got it from me!). Many inherited diamonds are often so old that they are either old European cuts or old mine cuts (see this posting). While these stones can be pretty they will never look like the diamonds that I sell. Many colored stones will also be of varying quality. A lot of lower grade material is so poorly cut that it has what is called a "window" effect. This is when material is improperly cut and if you look in the center of the stone, the color (and sparkle) will appear to be extinguished in a particular area (usually the center but it can happen elsewhere). It looks like you can actually see through the stone (something you really don't want to happen), hence the name "window". Additionally there has been a huge amount of absolute junk sold over the years and often the colored stones simply are not a pretty color. This being said, it doesn't necessarily negate the emotions associated with the pieces.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because while I can still make a beautiful piece of jewelry to put your stones in, there is no guarantee that the overall effect will be like what you see in my cases. The metal work may look the same but I can't make stones look better than what they are. So if you are sentimentally attached to pieces then by all means, let me do something new with them. But if your goal is simply to save money the final look may not be quite what you see in my cases nor have quite the same impact. It's just something to think about.
Pictured above is a simple pendant I made with a customer's marquis diamond.


  1. I really do learn so much from you blog. Even better, I get to see such beautiful art! I didn't know about the "window" in stones, but there are a few pieces I've seen that have this. Just to clarify, the window effect can happen when viewing a stone closely from the back, thus signifying a poorly cut stone, correct? Again, such beautiful work!

    1. Hi Jessica, windowing is actually seen from the top of the stone as you look into it. It usually looks like there is a "dead" spot, or an area where you can see through the stone instead of the back of the stone. It is due to poor cutting. Thanks for reading!