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Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the end of the world, and I feel fine.

We all woke up alive this morning and apparently the world hadn't ended.  So let me tell you that no spouse is going to accept as an excuse for not finding a present under the tree: "But honey, I thought the world was going to end!  There didn't seem to be any reason for me to buy something if we weren't going to be here!"  Which means you have exactly four days left to get shopping for something beautiful.  And just in case you're thinking of doing it with me, I will be open all four of those days. 

I always like this time of year.  Not so much because people are buying Christmas presents as that it just seems to bring out the love in people.  And love is what my business is really all about.  How much better is it to give someone a piece of jewelry that they will wear and treasure for the rest of their lives, than another piece of electronic equipment that will be obsolete in two years (or even next year!).  Jewelry doesn't ever get obsolete (well some of the trendy stuff comes and goes but the timeless kind of work doesn't).  But a lot of what I sell this year isn't even Christmas gifts, but just statements of love; engagement rings, replacement wedding bands (people seem to lose them constantly!), and just gifts for being there. 

But if you're still stuck looking for Christmas goods, I'm still here and the earrings above, 18k yellow gold with black South Sea pearls and diamonds would make a great gift for someone.  Come by and say hi!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Store Dog and New Jewels

This is Ziggy.  Those of you who have been in my store know who he is.  He is a mini long haired dachshund and, as you can see, is quite the handsome fellow.  He likes to bark at everyone when they come in my store and when they leave the store.  I like to think he is desperately trying to say hello and goodbye but can't form the words, but in reality it's pretty hard to know what is going through his little pea brain.  So why am I posting a picture of my dog?  Well mainly because I want you all to know that this is a dog friendly store as Ziggy likes to have other dogs come by and visit.  But  also he's just really pretty cute. This photo was taken by FlashFlood Studios and there is a link to their website on the side of my page.

The season is upon us it seems and I have less time to write on the blog than normal so there will be somewhat shorter blurbs coming up.  But I did want to post some more pictures of the new pieces out in the cases.  The earrings here are 18k and 22k yellow gold with Maw Sit Sit.  For those of you unfamiliar with Maw Sit Sit, it's a gem material from Burma and is a conglomerate (it's a combination of minerals).   It almost always has a striking green color with random black splashes throughout and it's fun to say the name too!  By the way the Kuroit boulder opal pendant in my last posting has sold as well.  I have one more piece of it but it is a little more geometrically shaped and while I think I'm going to do a similar style for it, the whole piece may have a more geometric look.  I'm not sure if I will have time to get it made up before the holidays but you never know what might pop out at any time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More Opal Jewelry

It seems that as soon as I post a picture of something on here it sells, so I figured I would keep up the roll here with some new pieces I have just put out. The Tahitian black pearls pictured three posts ago sold yesterday. This piece is a Kuroit boulder opal in 18k yellow gold.  I really like the Kuroit opals as they often look like little pictures with the way the seams run through them.  I was not a rock collector as a child and my fascination with gems really didn't start until I got into the business as a teenager.  But ever since I started working with gems my interest has only grown. There is always something new out there and with stones like opals, almost every one of them is unique in its own way.  The picture below is a custom job I just made up for a customer who had her own boulder opal. We recut the opal slightly to take off a somewhat less lively end of it (now she has a nice stone to make a pendant out of) and did a takeoff on some of my other opal bracelets.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Your Jewelry Joke for the Day.

A couple was holiday shopping at the mall, and the place was
packed. As the wife walked through the mall, she was surprised
to look up and see her husband was nowhere around. She was quite
upset because they had a lot to do. Because she was so worried,
she called him on her cell phone to ask him where he was. In a
calm voice, the husband said, "Honey, you remember the jewelry
store we went into about 5 years ago where you fell in love with
that diamond necklace that we could not afford and I told you
that I would get it for you one day?" The wife choked up and
started to cry and said, "Yes, I remember that jewelry store."
He said, "Well, I'm in the bar right next to it."
So I don't have a bar next door to my jewelry store but I would still encourage you not to upset your significant other this way. 
By the way, the opal ring posted in my last article is sold already.  This time of year you have to be fast if you want to get some of my best pieces.  The necklace pictured above is 22k gold with Lazare Diamonds in it.  The center stone is a .75 ct. diamond.  This piece is not for sale but I have a similar necklace in 18k gold without the diamonds available.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Opal in Rings

I don't usually like to put opals in rings. Opals are incredibly fragile gem materials (hence some of the superstitions surrounding them) and are subject to damage in rings especially.  However every once in awhile when I see my opal dealer he has a new stone that not only screams out to me to buy it but to put it in a ring.  So, against my own better judgement, I do.  This stone has some incredibly strong orange and orange red flashes in it along with the strong greens and blues. Just remember if you buy this ring from me you're going to have to take much better care of it than your other rings. On the other hand, opals are so fascinating that it is always worth it to take a little extra care of them so that you can own one. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Not to Give an Engagement Ring

The Tahitian cultured baroque black pearls pictured above are a new strand that I just got in.  The luster on them is astounding. 

This is a rerun of one of my favorite blog articles and I always like to put it out there again at this time of year as it is somewhat time appropriate. 

Giving an Engagement Ring

I should really be working. I am completely inundated and it is three days before Christmas, but I want to get this post up while I am thinking about it. This is intended for all of you guys who intend to give your intended an engagement ring for Christmas (three intends in one sentence, not bad). And I have to say that I have had a quite a number of you this year.

I had one of my regular customers come in last week looking for his annual Christmas present. When he said he had no idea what he was looking for this year, I suggested (as I knew he had been with this one woman for awhile) that perhaps it was time to give her a ring. Immediately, of course, sweat began to pour out, hemming and hawing began, and I generally got him completely aflutter. However what then transpired (or tranSPIRERed in this case) was a conversation about whether or not it was appropriate to give an engagement ring (I had initially actually suggested a sort of "promise" ring) as a Christmas present. He related how he had actually had a discussion about this at work and that he worked with quite a few women. They had ALL said that an engagement ring was NOT a Christmas present. For that matter it isn't a present at all.

The fact of the matter is that they are right. An engagement ring is a statement of commitment, a declaration of your love for this ONE person, and something to be worn as an indication that this person is no longer available to the general male public (or female if you happen to be gay). It is NOT a present. That is just cheaping out and trying to kill two birds with one stone. Now if you want to give an engagement ring on Valentine's Day, that's fine as there is nothing more romantic in this world than asking, and being asked, to marry someone. But to give it as a Christmas present (or birthday present) and then pretend that you don't need to give them anything else is simply not the right thing to do. And who wants to be remembered as a betrothed who cheaped out at the very beginning of the new and exciting path you might be embarking on. So fellas, face up to it. Give an engagement ring as a sign of your commitment but DON'T give it as a substitute for some other present. (Ideally of course, if you are commited to giving it to them for one of these events, you should first give them a beautiful pair of earrings or a necklace and THEN surprise them with the ring.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

'Tis the Season

The holidays are upon us and I always like this time of year.  Not just because I'm a retailer and usually sales are higher but because it's always a good excuse for me to spend more money on new things for the store.  I enjoy spending money, especially when it's on beautiful things, and my sources always try to have some new merchandise ready for the season. But since I make everything I sell, I'm not talking about new lines of jewelry. I'm talking about new gems. My primary gemstone supplier has sent me the usual batch of goods I get to put out for the holidays including some magnificent tourmalines, tanzanites and sapphires.

But equally important are some of the strands of pearls and beads I get in this time of year.  I got two particularly striking strands of huge Chinese keshi freshwater pearls. The strand pictured above is one of them.  The center pearl on this strand measures an astounding 1.25" x .75".  Every year the Chinese freshwater pearl producers are able to make pearls that are larger and larger.  Not all of them have the luster and quality of the ones I have as I'm notoriously fussy about the quality of the product I buy.  But if you come in to see me, you can be pretty much assured that any of the pearls, or beads I carry will be the highest quality available in that range of goods. 

Another relatively new product on the market are Ethiopian opals (a strand is pictured below).  This is from a new find and the material is finally starting to be available a little more readily.  Pictures never do justice to opal material because it is so hard to get the lighting right to bring out all of the colors, but this material positively glows when you look at it.

So if you're in the area please stop by and take a look at some of the new goodies.  And have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gemstone Treatments 5

This will be my last article on gemstone treatments as I think most people will have a pretty good idea of what it is all about by the end of this one. I'm always happy to answer questions if any of you have some.

Most of the previous articles dealt with heat treatment although I did get into some other ones for diamonds.  Other types of treatments however are used in a lot of cases and should be noted.  Irradiation is used on a lot of gem materials today.  The most well known stone this is used on is blue topaz in which a combination of heat and irradiation is used to get a variety of blue colors. About 95% of the blue topaz on the market today has been treated.  Tourmalines are also irradiated sometimes and also occasionally it is used in conjunction with heating. Freshwater pearls have also been irradiated to change the colors on them. Oiling is a common treatment for emeralds.  This has been done for a long time as the oils used hide some of the inclusions in the materials.  Fracture fillings are substances that are applied under pressure to some gem materials.  Emeralds have been subject to more of this than most stones, again because of the nature of the material, but there are also fracture fillings used on diamonds. Bleaching is used often, especially on pearls. There are also a lot of gem materials subject to dying which can include materials like pearls, turquoise, lapis and I have even once seen sapphires that had been dyed. Opals can be dyed, treated with smoke, treated with a sugar and acid mix and impregnated with various substances.  Agates are often dyed.  The list goes on and on actually.  If you would like to spend some time looking at a full list of gemstones and treatments you can go to this link: This is a book put out by the American Gem Trade Association that lists every gem and possible treatments.

So the question, of course, becomes what is a layman to do about this when buying gems.  The first thing of course is to buy from someone you trust and where you have recourse if the goods don't turn out to be what you are told. In other words don't go spend a ton of money when you are overseas on a trip, since you can't exactly return it easily. The second thing to remember is that if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.  If someone is offering you a two carat ruby for $200, then that's exactly what it's worth. It's not going to be worth $20,000. 

Then there is the broader question of whether you want to buy treated gem materials or not.  With something like tanzanite, you really don't have any choice since it's all treated. Emeralds are the same although there are occasional pieces of untreated material.  My personal belief is that, with the exception of emerald, if a colored gemstone treatment is permanent and is not introducing a new material into the gems then it is acceptable.  My preference on things like diamonds is that since so many natural untreated stones are available there is absolutely no reason to sell ones that have been enhanced in any way.  Everyone however has to set their own boundaries and sometimes price enters into the consideration.  If you only have $100 to spend on something and you like a dyed agate piece, then go ahead and buy it.

You should all note that I have not dealt with synthetics or simulants in this series of articles but I will save that topic for a later date.

The earrings pictured above are 18k and 22k yellow gold with all natural sugilite in them. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gemstone Treatments 4

The piece pictured above is an 18k gold clasp with blue sheen moonstones hanging from blue sheen moonstone beads.  This is a new piece. I've been working on getting some new things out for the holidays and this is one of them.  I will soon have more pictures both on here and my website as we recently had another series of pictures taken by my photographer, Lorrie.  The moonstones in the clasp have had the background darkened to enhance the wonderful colors that come out in these stones.  Okay, back to gemstone treatments. 

Rubies are a form of corundum, which is the same material that sapphire is. The only difference is that it has to be red to be called a ruby.  There is a fine line sometimes between ruby and pink sapphire, but a lot of rubies, especially Burmese material, will have an element of pink in them.  Rubies are also one of the rarest forms of corundum, and as such, carry a much higher price tag then sapphires do, if the quality is equivalent (in other words there can be junky rubies much cheaper than fine sapphires).  Unfortunately because of this ruby treatments have become more of a problem than sapphire treatments in the trade.

Most major gem labs are now giving different treatment grades to ruby based on how aggressively rubies have been heated.  When rubies are heated, especially rubies with significant inclusions, flux from the heating process often enters the stone, and when the flux hardens it becomes glass.  This often means that there is glass inside the rubies. When rubies are aggressively heated--something being done particularly with very low quality material that is very heavily included, more flux gets into the cracks and forms glass.  A few years ago, the director of one of the leading gem labs at the time came out with a statement saying that it had become unclear in some of these aggressively treated rubies whether the proper description should be ruby with glass in it or glass with ruby in it as so much of the stones were made up of the flux material. 

The GIA currently uses a seven level grading system regarding heat treatment in rubies: NTE (no treatment) and then TE and TE1-5 with the increasing numbers indicating increases in flux residue.  Obviously when you hit TE5 you're in that zone where it's really pretty unclear what you are getting.  Personally I wouldn't sell anything higher than a TE3 as beyond this it's my belief that the level of treatment has been too aggressive.

There is also an argument running in the trade right now (I think I may be a lot of the cause of it) about disclosure on ruby treatments. The Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), a group formed to act as an industry policeman, currently claims that in most ruby treatments, disclosure is not necessary. They base this on what I perceive to be a flawed argument, that there is simply so little unheated ruby material available that it isn't necessary as no one could purchase unheated material (this IS a valid argument in the case of something like tanzanite, a material that wouldn't even be sold were it not for heat treatment and in which 100% of the material is heated).  However I am able to source unheated ruby material and feel that this is a specious argument, mainly based on their collusion with larger manufacturers in the industry who don't want to deal with the disclosure issues.  The AGTA, another industry self policing organization, of which I am a member, does mandate disclosure of all ruby treatments.  When the new superheated ruby material came into the market, the JVC suddenly found itself in the position of having to reverse its prior statements about nondisclosure because the superheated material has durability issues and also is so beyond the norm that they were forced to issue changes in their disclosure requirements.

So what is a customer supposed to do?  Well, as I always tell people, know your sources.  If you are buying online, you will never really know who you are dealing with so I always recommend purchasing things like this from somewhere that you will have recourse if something isn't what is is supposed to be.  Secondly, if you see someone selling a 1-3 ct. ruby for under a few thousand dollars you can be pretty much assured that this is some of the aggressively treated material and you should stay away from it, not just because of the fact that you aren't really getting ruby but also because there are durability issues with it. While with smaller goods, there is no way around getting heated material (no one even bothers to check most of the time as it simply isn't worth it), if you are investing in a reasonable sized stone (1 ct. or above), ask for a stone with a certificate so you can at least know how heavy the treatment is.  If you really want a natural, unheated stone it is absolutely mandatory the stone comes with a gem lab certificate.  The material is out there, but you should be prepared to pay a price for it. A few years ago, a collector was in looking for a 2 ct. natural, unheated ruby and I got 6 stones in for him.  They ranged in price from $8000 to $120,000.  The $8000 stone was ugly as all get out.  Once you got up into the $30,000 range they got much better looking. 

Remember if it seems to be too good to be true it probably is. But this is a caveat that you should take into consideration when buying any product that you don't know that much about. In my next article I will get into a variety of other colored stones and their treatments.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Custom Work and Gemstone Treatments 3

I always like doing custom pieces for people's anniversary presents because they always seem to carry more meaning than just someone having something custom made up for themselves.  I had a gentleman in recently who wanted a piece that was based on a design (picture above) that was used in their wedding announcements, so I made up the pendant shown above for him.  The design in this piece is all hand cut out and hand tooled.  If I had wanted to work with my CAD/CAM person I probably could have gotten a more accurate representation, but where is the fun in that?  It's just having a computer do all the work for you.  Plus it runs a bit more money usually.  This piece was made up in 18k palladium white gold with a sandblasted background.

Okay back to the gemstone treatment issue. Today's topic is sapphires.  First of all sapphires come in a wide variety of customers.  I know that my customers are all aware of this because I have so many fancy color sapphires out, but if you've never been in my store and only been to traditional jewelry stores then you might not be aware of this fact.  All of the colors of sapphires can be treated in some form or another.

The most common form of sapphire treatment on the market today is heat treatment. This is a process where the stones are put into ovens with controlled environments and baked for a period of time determined by the material being used and the desired results. Heat treatment is a process that changes the color of the sapphires, usually to a more "desirable" color (in blue sapphires this routinely means a darker color since that seems to be the most popular). This is a permanent color change and the stones never revert or change in color no matter what is done to them (recutting will not change the color).  The industry likes to say that we're doing what would have happened anyway to the stones if they had stayed in the earth a lot longer (oh say a couple hundred thousand years), which is sugar coating it a little but, as I stated in my first article on the subject, man has been trying to improve everything around him ever since the beginning of civilization.

There are now some companies that only sell untreated sapphires and I sell both heated and unheated stones.  With smaller goods it can be quite hard to know what you are getting because it simply isn't worth the time for anyone to check whether they've been heated, so normally I tell everyone that if the stone isn't certed natural, you have to assume it's been heated (which applies to virtually everything under 1 ct., as again, it's simply not worth it to check material in this price range). Occasionally, however, this isn't the case. I currently have a bunch of small orange sapphires that we know are natural because my dealers actually know the mine owner and this is his particular thing (not treating the gems that come out of his mine).

The more problematic sapphire treatment on the market today is called diffusion treatment. Diffusion treatment is a process in which they both heat the stone and diffuse a new element into the gems.  The problems with this is twofold. With some diffusion treatment, the treatment is only on the surface so if you were to damage the stone and have it recut it would be a different color. Not long ago, however, it was also found that some diffusion treatments (specifically in orange and orange/pink sapphires) were actually going all the way through the stone. The second problem with diffusion treatment, in my opinion, is that you are actually adding something to the stone that isn't found in it in its natural state. Because of these factors I do not sell diffusion treated gemstones.

The good news is that diffusion treatment in sapphires can be detected by gem labs (at the moment---the illegitimate treaters keep trying new things so it's always a battle to keep up with everything).  Most heat treatments are also detectable although the labs tend to err on the side of declaring stones heated even if there are only some minor hints at it (one of my dealers has had stones he knows to be natural come back with certs claiming heat treatment because the polishing process can create so much heat sometimes that it then appears that the stone has been heated).

These are the primary treatments for sapphires, although I once had a dealer try to sell me dyed material and I'm sure people are working on new ones currently.  I know that I said I would talk about rubies in this article too, but I think I'll leave that for my next article as there are some real problems these days with ruby treatments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gemstone Treatments 2

By now I hope you're all looking at your stones and wondering what the heck do I actually have in my jewelry.  As well you should, because gemstone treatment disclosure is a touchy issue for most jewelers.  Either because they don't think they can sell a stone they reveal to be treated, or because they simply don't know if the stone they are selling is treated, or because they don't even know about gemstone treatments at all (unfortunately this is far more common in the industry then you can imagine), many jewelers simply don't talk about the issue. This isn't to say none of them do but I believe treatment disclosure probably still runs well below the 50% rate based on the number of people who come in my store already wearing treated stones who have no idea about treatments. So the next question is what treatments are acceptable. 

In my shop I will sell stones that have been heated, irradiated, occasionally bleached (pearls), and with emeralds stones that have been oiled or fracture filled.  I will not sell diffusion treated stones, dyed stones, rubies heavily heated (more on this later) or any other types of treatments. Why do I draw this line? Heated, irradiated, and bleached gem materials will not ever revert or change in color.  All of the other treatments are not permanent, or if a stone was damaged and had to be recut would not have the same color, or take the treatment level to a point that makes the stone something it could truly never be. With emeralds there is so little untreated material available that it is simply impossible to purchase anything that hasn't been.  Oils, and some fracture fillers, do leach out over time and can change the appearance of the stone so extra care is necessary with emeralds.  This doesn't mean that stones that have been treated in other fashions shouldn't be sold anywhere. It just means that I won't sell something that is subject to change like that and that the stones should be priced accordingly.

So let's talk about individual gemstones and their treatments and we might as well start at the top of the pile with diamonds.  Diamonds have been subjected to treatments far longer than many people realize.  It started with attempts to change their color through irradiation. Unfortunately when they first started this they had no real idea what they were doing or dealing with and a number of diamonds were produced that became radioactive and stayed that way, leading to a number of finger disfigurements, back in the early days of our playing around with radioactivity. Watch dials were also a problem for people when they used radioactive materials to make them light up. Needless to say these issues put a quick end to that specific type of treatment.  However it was discovered later on how to irradiate stones without any residual radioactivity and diamonds have been irradiated to change their colors for quite a few years. 

The next treatment that came up with diamonds was laser drilling.  In playing around with lasers and diamonds it was discovered that a pinpoint sized hole could be drilled into the stone to dark inclusions inside the stone and then that a bleaching agent could be introduced to whiten the dark inclusions.  When I got my graduate gemologist degree in 1984 this had already been going on for quite a few years.  

Since then we have added fracture fillings (a substance is forced into inclusions in the diamonds to make the inclusions less apparent), and high pressure/high temperature treatments to raise the color grade of certain diamonds.  The interesting thing about this is that only certain types of diamonds (there are a number of different types of diamonds but this issue gets far too technical to discuss here) actually will take this treatment so there are a limited number of stones that could be subjected to it.

Please remember that all of the stones I am talking about here are natural gem materials that come out of the earth.  In my last posting on the subject I will get into synthetics and simulants.  In my next article I'll talk about sapphire and ruby treatments. 

The rings pictured above are my latest stacking set with pink, purple and blue sapphires.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gemstone Treatments

I'm going to revisit this topic as it routinely comes up in my daily conversations and it's important for people to know what they are actually getting when they buy a gemstone in today's marketplace. Let me start however with a little story from my shop.

About 10 years ago we had a customer come into our store who had purchased a ring she liked elsewhere but the jeweler couldn't get her any sapphires that she liked so she had him put in a CZ (cubic zirconia--a synthetic gemstone) until she could find something else.  The stone was a decent sized stone (about 2 ct.) so what she was asking for wasn't impossible to find.  What she wanted was a natural color, unheated sapphire, and preferably with a certificate only from certain gem labs that she had decided were more reliable (I'm not sure why).  So we went out and got her some stones to look at.  She didn't like them.  So we got her some more.  She didn't like those either. After about 5 attempts and using a number of different suppliers we looked at her and said, we've kind of run out of sources and aren't really sure we're going to be able to find something you like that is within your needs.  About 5 years later she came back into the shop and asked if we would try again to find a stone.  So I said to her, okay I will but I really pretty much only work with one company these days for this kind of material and I'm only going to ask them to send one batch of stones to look at (it gets expensive shipping these things back and forth).  She said fine so I arranged with my suppliers to send a batch of stones.

They sent me nine stones, all of them around 2 cts. and all of them beautiful.  All nine of them were certed and of the nine, seven were certed natural and two were certed heated. She came in repeatedly with her husband and a number of friends. She finally picked out a stone.  Which one?  One of the heated ones.  Why? BECAUSE IT WAS THE COLOR SHE WANTED!

And that kind of explains why most gems are treated today.  Because it gives you the most desirable color.  This is not to say that you can't find natural, untreated gemstones in pleasing colors, or even in the colors achieved through heating.  You can, but it's a lot harder given what is going on in the gem marketplace.

So what is gemstone treatment?  It can actually be any number of things including, but not limited to, heating, bleaching, irradiation, oiling, fracture filling, lasering, dyeing, high temperature/high pressure treatments, resin enhancements, diffusion treatments, and probably a few more things that haven't been discovered yet.  Trying to alter the natural is nothing new.  Man, as you know, likes to alter things found in our environment and has been doing it for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used to throw agates into hot oil baths to "quench crackle" the stones and that was 4000 years ago! Emeralds have been oiled for hundreds of years to hide their inclusions.  Stones have had foil backs placed behind them for hundreds of years to alter their color in a piece.  People have attempted to dye most material ever since they realized that certain stones would take the dyes.

Is gemstone treatment wrong?  Well as long as it's being disclosed properly absolutely not.  There are some stones we basically wouldn't have if it weren't for treatments, with tanzanite being the most notable.  Tanzanite is a wonderful blue/purple color and 100% of it is heat treated. If it isn't treated it's just an ugly brown.  There are others that most people simply would have no opportunity to own if not for treatments with sapphire high on this list.  There is a vast amount of sapphire material that comes out of the earth too light to be that attractive or that has virtually no color at all. Without heat treatments so few stones would be available in attractive colors that no one but the wealthy could afford to own them.  From a personal standpoint I have no problem with certain treatments, heating being among them.  My wife owns both heated and natural color sapphires.  I wear a ring with a pink sapphire (heated), a purple sapphire (natural) and a diamond (natural--and yes there are diamond treatments). 

However there is the little issue of disclosure that comes up.  As a member of a number of ethics based organizations, and simply because I have always believed in it, I disclose ALL treatments in gem materials that I sell.  The Federal Trade Commission says only that treatments have to be disclosed if it makes a significant difference in price (they refuse to define significant) and that there is enough of both natural and treated material available (in other words, tanzanite wouldn't have to be disclosed as treated because there is no natural tanzanite).  Personally though I don't agree with them. I believe ALL treatments need to be disclosed as the customer should always know exactly what they are purchasing.

This is a lengthy subject so I will continue it in my next blog. The ring pictured above is 18k gold with a heated blue sapphire.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

30 Years!

As of October 1 I have had a store open on the same block in Cambridge for 30 years.  That's 30 years of selling my handmade jewelry, 30 years of making custom wedding bands and engagement rings, 30 years of providing people the opportunity to note all of the special occasions in their lives.

So much has changed in that time period and yet so much is still the same.  When I opened (with a partner, under the name Spirer Somes Jewelers) in October 1982,  gold was selling for approximately $375/oz.
The Internet didn't exist yet and most small businesses didn't have any type of computer.  There were no cell phones.  There were no Starbucks on every corner. In 2004, the partnership broke up and I reopened under my own name. Today gold is selling for $1770/oz., all of my advertising is done on the Internet, computers are an absolute necessity, we use cell phones not just for talking, but texting, shopping, web surfing, reading, watching movies, and I'm sure someone must have proposed to someone else via the cell phone at some time. And then there is Starbucks.....

But in 1982 people did buy engagement rings, wedding bands, anniversary and birthday presents, just the same as they do today.  And I got just as much of a kick out of playing a role in so many important events for my customers as I do today.  Because, honestly, that's what has always brought me the greatest joy.  Yes it's nice that I can earn a living doing something creative, challenging and fun.  But that's not what really moves me.  What does move me is that I work every day of my life with individuals, who are going to purchase something that I actually designed and made, that they are going to wear and use every single day of their lives.  Not a day goes by that I won't, in some small way, be a part of such meaningful times of my customer's lives. How can you not love that feeling?

The woman who placed the very first custom order I ever took in is still a customer to this day.  And I have made her daughter's wedding bands.  I have always had dogs in my shop and customers still come in wanting to know where the (now long dead) dog is that they remember.  I have had customers who have come in and bought second and even third wedding bands from me (yes for different marriages) because they have liked what I do so much.  That's a kind of weird compliment, but hey, I'm located in Cambridge and anything goes here.

In those 30 years I have set in jewelry: human teeth, dog teeth, a piece of the Berlin wall, rocks from the top of Mt. Everest (I think the top is a little lower now on account of it), pieces of titanium removed after operations, tyrannosaurus rex teeth, beach rocks, shells, and just about every imaginable gem and mineral.  I can't say that I have ever been bored.   Every new challenge, whether in how business runs, or in the jewelry that I make, is always interesting to me.

I actually don't like dwelling on the past very much.  However, it is worth noting a large milestone in some fashion or another. So here I am writing a blog article (blogs???---the term didn't even exist 30 years ago) about this milestone for me. But I am truly looking forward to the next 25 years of helping my customers and continuing to be that small, meaningful, part of their lives.

Pictured above is a hand built, one of a kind, 18k gold wedding band.

Monday, October 1, 2012

More on Insurance

I recently had a customer come in for a repair on a ring of mine and when we got it cleaned up realized that she had whacked the stone at some point and pretty much ruined it as it cracked all the way through the stone.  Most likely there was a small inclusion there that when she hit it was extended throughout the stone.
This is not a common experience but it does happen.  When talking to her about it I suggested that she contact her insurance company as some of them will cover damage to jewelry, as well as loss or theft.  She did, and as it happens, the insurance company did agree to cover it (minus her deductible).  I always think it's nice when you can actually get an insurance company that will do this but from here on it the process got much more dicey.

The insurance company called me up and asked how much I thought it would cost to replace the stone.  I quoted them a price based on what I would normally charge my customers for an equivalent quality stone (in this case, roughly $1800).  Now  I know that insurance companies are loath to pay full retail prices. They routinely set up deals with retailers who offer them large discounts because the insurance company directs significant amounts of business in their direction. There are also now companies out there who are basically just an office space and all they do is insurance replacements.

Insurance companies will very, very rarely pay out actual money for what they have insured something for, so if you have a ring appraised at $20,000 and it gets stolen don't think you're going to get $20,000 in cash back from them.  Usually, they have only agreed (when you read the fine print) to "make you whole" which for them means finding the cheapest possible replacement for what you had.  This is a good reason to make sure that if you have designer made pieces you need to have a proper appraisal on them that clearly identifies who makes them and current replacement values and that you need proper descriptions of any gemstones (including diamonds) that you may own. Even if they agree to make you whole in cash, they will still base the payout on what they could purchase a similar piece for from one of their suppliers.

So in this case, the first thing the insurance company did was go to one of the companies they work with that is basically an office space doing insurance replacements. And within a week they called me back and said, we can get the same stone from them for $650.  Now as it happens, this was a blue/purple sapphire and I have been specializing in purple sapphires for over 30 years and I knew that there was no way that they could replace what I was looking at for $650 no matter how large of a discount they were getting.  So I told them I wanted to see the stone (since I'm the one putting it back in the ring I would need to anyway) first.  The company shipped it out to me and surprise, surprise, it wasn't quite what my customer had.  Actually it wasn't at all what the customer had.  It was a completely different color, it was so poorly cut that the stone wasn't even a true oval shape and it had eye visible inclusions and a nick on one side.  It went back to their supplier, along with the original stone so they could get a better idea of what they were actually trying to replace.  A couple of weeks later I got two new stones in.  I had talked to them about how poor the make (the cut) had been on the first one and that there was no way the customer should have to accept that.  These two stones were both much better cut, yet neither one of them was actually the same color.  One of them was quite nice and had a pleasing color change but it is still not the same color stone as she had.  Both of these stones are significantly more expensive than the first one they tried to use, albeit still a little less than what I would be charging.  But it still isn't the same color stone.  Unfortunately the insurance company is never going to pay my prices so the customer is going to have to pick one of the ones they sent (and the one I liked is a very pretty stone and I will probably recommend that one for her).  Now if they had agreed to work with me I would have found a stone that was a pretty exact replacement because, as I said before, I specialize in these stones.

So what are you, as a customer going to do?  Well, first of all, you should actually read your insurance policies so you know what they say about things like this. Or, ask your agent to clearly explain what they cover if you don't have the time or energy to try to decipher the cryptic language usually used. Secondly, you might consider insuring your jewelry with a company like Jeweler's Mutual Insurance Company.  This is my insurance company and the only product they cover is jewelry so they have a better grasp on this issue than any other company in the world. They sell individual policies, that are competitively priced and most importantly they will let you go to the jeweler of your choosing!  If you buy from someone like me this is immensely important as you really can't replace what I sell at a commercial jewelry store (no matter what the insurance companies tell you---and no matter how much they try to get other jewelers to violate copyright by having them copy another jeweler's designs). 

Remember that while insurance companies like to sell you on the idea that they are providing peace of mind, truly they are only providing it up to the dollar amount they are willing to pay out.  Ask questions!  Find out what your real coverage is!

For my regular readers, if you haven't been on my website recently, you should know that we have been going through an overhaul of it.  While the general format is the same there are a lot of new pictures up and we have been playing around with a lot of things on it.  Please check it out. If you have any feedback, please let me know.  We've been using a wonderful website person in Wisconsin and I have posted a link to her on the side of the page where I have my other links. 

The ring pictured above is 950 platinum with a purple sapphires and diamonds.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No, No, No Emeralds in Engagement Rings!

(01/20/2017  This is an addition to this blog article.  If you read the entire article and all of my responses to the comments you will see that no matter which gem material you want to know about, I won't recommend it for an engagement ring unless it's diamond, ruby or sapphire. It doesn't matter what the gemstone is, I will always say the same thing: Stick to diamond, ruby and sapphire if you want something that will last as long as your marriage does.  ALL other gemstones I will say no to whether they are natural, synthetic or simulants.)

I had a very nice young couple in looking for engagement rings the other day. I liked that both of them came in together because it ultimately means that the young woman will get exactly what she wants. Well almost.....She wanted an engagement ring with an emerald set in it. I get these requests a few times per year and it's always a bit disappointing for the purchaser when I have to tell them about the risks of emeralds in rings.

Gem materials are described by gemologists as gemstones when they have beauty, rarity, and durability. Some of these three descriptions are a little challenging today. I have seen quite a few gemstones that the word beauty is a bit of a challenge for. With modern mining techniques it seems like there is an endless supply of gem materials, especially diamonds, although this is not actually true (it takes mining one ton of rock to end up with 1 carat of diamond and some stones, with tanzanite as a prime example, being effectively mined out of existence in a generation or two). Durability is an even trickier issue because gems like opals are certainly beautiful and rare (well the finer ones are) but they are quite fragile as gemstones go. And this durability issue is the problem I want to discuss today.

When customers come to me and say they don't want a diamond in their engagement ring (and many do---let's not forget Princess Diana's large sapphire ring) I routinely tell them that I only recommend diamonds, rubies and sapphires for engagement rings because they are the most durable of the gem materials. This doesn't mean you can't scratch or break them at all, as anything worn every day of your life will tend to get banged around quite a bit, but it does mean that they have the highest hardness of the natural gem materials available to us. Fortunately sapphires come in a wide variety of colors including blue, pink, purple, orange, yellow, white, black (as in star sapphires) and a pretty ugly green (we'll get back to that in a minute). When corundum (which is what sapphire and ruby are) is red, it's a ruby; so it's the same gem material as sapphire but it's called a ruby when it's red.

Emeralds are actually a fairly hard gemstone when measured on the Mohs scale of hardness. Diamond is a 10, corundum is a 9 and beryl (the gem family that emerald is from) is approximately an 8. The scale, however, is not what it seems. The differences in numbers only reflect which next harder material will scratch the one below it. The relative hardness is quite different. Diamond is approximately 90 times harder than sapphire. There is also some variation within the same material. Aquamarine, another member of the beryl family is a true 8 on the scale but emerald comes in closer to 7 1/2.

So part of the problem with emerald as an engagement ring (or any every day wear ring) is that the hardness simply isn't high enough to take normal daily abuse. However there are two other problems with emeralds. Almost all emerald material is at least lightly included and much of it heavily included. This is called "jardin" (French for garden) sometimes, in an attempt to glorify what would be completely unacceptable in other gem materials. All of these inclusions in emeralds tend to mean the stone is much more fragile than other gem materials. However there is an additional problem. Emerald is routinely treated with either oil or various fracture filling substances in order to hide the inclusions. Oil, and some of the fracture fillers, can leach out over time simply due to normal wearing (washing hands, exposure to cleaning chemicals, etc.), or due to regular cleanings at your favorite jeweler. (For more on gemstone treatments please see this article and this one.) This will mean that the look of the stone can change over time as well, so one day you look down at your pretty stone and say that's not the beautiful gem I remember!

Okay, you say, I won't get an emerald so surely there is another green gemstone that is more durable! Well easier said then done. There really isn't any other gem stone that has a real emerald color. Tourmaline comes in a range of striking greens (although not the same green as emerald) and greenish blues but tourmaline has a scratch hardness lower than emerald. My wife has a tourmaline engagement ring. It started out at 10.50 ct. and we're down to 9.50 ct. after repeated repolishings to clean up the stone after she scratched it. She now only wears it occasionally (but fortunately, because she's MY wife, she has a multitude of other rings to wear on that finger). Another customer of mine who insisted on a tourmaline (despite an onslaught of warnings from me) just had to have her stone repolished after only a few years of wear. There was literally nothing left of the top facets on the stone. There are, as I mentioned above, green sapphires, but the color of the green leaves a little something to be desired as it tends towards a paler, lime like green with tinges of blue in it. More durable yes. As pretty, no.

So if you want an emerald in your engagement ring, just be prepared to replace it occasionally. Fine emeralds, however, can be very expensive stones so it can be quite a hit. Or you could get a ring with a number of smaller emeralds in it. That way at least, if you should have to replace some, it won't cost you quite as much.

The ring pictured above is a sapphire and diamond engagement ring with a natural color (unheated) blue sapphire.

 I have been writing this blog for a number of years and have covered quite a bit of information. The directory can help you get to the articles you might have the most interest in. All comments are appreciated but I do filter them for content so if you shouldn't see yours that may be the reason.

This is an addenda to the original article because I didn't seem to get this point across clearly enough when I wrote it (judging from the comments):  Diamonds, rubies and sapphires!!!  Those are the only natural stones I will ever recommend for every day wear.  Ever.  All other gem materials will wear much more quickly and they will not last a lifetime.  There is no guarantee you won't have to repolish sapphires and rubies (and diamonds too occasionally) after some years of wear but they will hold up better than any other gem material.  So again: Diamonds, rubies and sapphires.  You can ask me about the durability of any other gem material there is and I'm going to say the exact same thing: Diamonds, rubies and sapphires for every day wear rings.  As sapphires come in a wide range of colors (as do diamonds if you've got some money to spend)  you have a fair number of colors to choose from so you aren't limited to just red, white and blue but these are the only stones I'm going to recommend. Ever! (Okay if they find a new gem material on a comet and it's at least as hard as sapphires I would probably add that to the list.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Changes Are on the Way

I know I have some regular readers out there (because they tell me they read this when they come in the store) and I just wanted to give a little head's up to some changes going on. As of September 1 we are beginning a new advertising program with (the Boston Globe online site) in which they will be featuring us as one of a few retailers whose blogs will be featured (on a rotating basis) on their site. There will be some beginning lines from my blog and a link to the rest of the article.

I am hoping, of course, to expand my audience (and my customer base---I'm always honest here as you know) for my blog. However it is going to necessitate a few changes. We all know that everyone's attention span is short these days so I believe I am going to have to get new articles posted on a more regular basis. Due to the fact that I actually have to get a chance to make jewelery sometimes this isn't always possible so I may be pulling some of my older articles and simply rerunning them. I apologize to my regular readers ahead of time for this. I don't mean to bore you. I might also simply rewrite some of the articles or update them in some way. So if you start reading something that sounds familiar, you probably are. It may also mean that I have to curtail (at least for a little while) some of my more personal articles although I will probably just try to post two at a time with the personal stuff first and then a more formal article so that the Globe's feed pulls from the more formal article. I'm just not sure whether someone reading something that is ostensibly from a jeweler for the first time is going to care that I just got back from a wonderful vacation.

Speaking of vacations, I did just get back from one. We went to Orient, NY for a few days where my older son, the artist, is spending his summer. He set up a studio in the garage that came with the rental and the picture above is of him hard at work. There was a view from the wraparound porch every night of the sunset and it was quite nice to take a few days at least and enjoy a little nature. You never know when it might pop up in a piece of mine.

And once again I would love to get some feedback from some of you people who read. Given that I need to write more blogs what would you like to hear about???? Please send me some suggestions. I will be happy to get to them.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tax Free Day Sale is On.

The governor has signed the bill for a tax free weekend on August 11 and 12 so we have sent out our emails about this year's one day sale at Daniel Spirer Jewelers. If you get one you're invited to participate! If you don't get an email, it means you probably haven't bought anything from us previously and you aren't eligible for our sale (it's for existing customers only but if you didn't get an email and you wear a piece of mine in that you own, you'll be qualified) however you can still take advantage of the tax savings (and then next year you'll get to participate in the sale). So Saturday, August 11, 2012 is the day this will be happening. However if you want to come in ahead of time and pick something out and leave us a credit card number we will run it through for you on August 11. Just don't look for the hematite from magnesite piece in the cases as it went to a new home today. However I have been working on making sure that my cases are stocked and I have a new "Black Hole in the Center of a Spiral Galaxy" pin out. It is pictured above. It has a magnificent black pearl with very strong green overtones, emeralds and diamonds.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Okay so I've been known to be wrong....occasionally!

In this posting I have to apologize for my erroneous thinking in my last post. I said that the material I worked with in the pendant was sold to me as hematite after magnesite, but that I had decided it was hematite after magnetite. Well, go ahead and slap me upside the head! Yesterday I had one of my gem dealers in who is also a gemologist and I showed the piece to her and we got into a little discussion about it. Initially she also didn't recognize the material but when I told her about my online findings and my current thinking she looked a little closer at the piece and saw a perfect little cube sticking out of the bottom of the piece. Well magnetite won't form cubic crystals, but, surprise, surprise, magnesite does! So in fact my original dealer was right. The good news is that no matter which material it is, it still doesn't change the price!

Speaking of rare material some of you who have been customers for awhile may know about rainbow moonstone. It's been a material I've been quite fond of since it first came on the market. Technically speaking the material is actually a form of spectrolite (moonstone, sunstone, spectrolite, and labradorite are all members of the feldspar family). A few years ago the major sources of rainbow moonstone in Sri Lanka dried up and there has been very little new material coming into the marketplace. But my dealer who was in yesterday had a friend who, when the material was first found, was so taken by it that she invested in a large quantity of the material. Her friend had decided to sell it off so I got first pick on the material being offered. If I had enough money I probably would have bought the bulk of the collection but it was a substantial sized collection so I had to stick with picking out a few choice pieces. This material is similar to the early material I saw in that it is slightly cloudy and has more inclusions in it, but the colors are stronger and more distinctive than in a lot of the later material I got.

I tried to take a picture with my iPhone but I couldn't get one that truly showed off the material to its best advantage so I went on line and did an image search to see if there was something I could use there as a picture. However, while there were a lot of pictures of material that had a blue sheen across the top, none of them showed the oranges, pinks and purples that are so apparent on the pieces I got in. The piece pictured above had a freshwater pearl and a rainbow moonstone but you can't truly see the colors that were in this moonstone either. So really you should come by and look at the material I got in if you want to see how beautiful it is. This is one of those gem materials that we are, quite simply, running out of. If you want to own some, now is the time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Strange Gem Materials

Pictured above is a new pendant I made recently and it has a title ("A gold stream oozed out of hematatia"). For those of you who know me a bit, you are aware that I make up new imaginary planets for different gem materials (hence the title). So what is this material? Well apparently not even my gem dealer was aware of the proper name (I believe). It was sold to me as hematite after magnesite but after doing a little research I believe it is actually hematite after magnetite. The word "after" means that at some point there was magnetite there but it chemically morphed into hematite over a period of time. As a gemologist I am always intrigued by materials like these. I don't get as much opportunity these days to work with pieces like this (it wouldn't exactly make a good engagement ring stone!) but occasionally I see something I like and can see the possibilities for it. It's hard to see in this picture but the gold wire in the center does actually come out from a hole near the top of the stone. There is a .10 ct. ideal cut, "E" color, VS clarity diamond at the top as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On listening to your loved ones

So I had a young woman come back into my store for the third time today. She had on an engagement ring she had just gotten from her lady love. Unfortunately it wasn't one of mine! Truly unfortunately it wasn't one of mine because she had been lusting after this one of mine. Not only had she been lusting after it but she had brought her partner in to see it, she had used it as a screen saver, and she "thought" she had been pretty clear that it was the one she wanted. Alas and alack, not quite clear enough unfortunately. So in 5 or 10 years they will come back in and I will attempt to take the diamond she got and put it into a similar design.

So the question becomes how do you clearly express to your partner that THIS design is the one you want??? And it isn't an easy one to answer. I mean, this young woman had done everything she could think of to convey that, if someone was going to propose to her, that this particular ring was the one that she wanted. Now admittedly, it might have been that I was a bit more expensive than the one the partner chose.

But, I believe it was more that, for some reason, her partner may not have been listening closely enough. I'm somewhat used to this with guys because, let's face it, basically they're clueless when it comes to women, but I think that women should have a somewhat clearer idea of what they want for their partner in life. And when the partner pretty clearly points out what they want, I kind of think they should be listening.

Of course I think guys should be listening as well because it's always upsetting to hear someone express disappointment in what they receive as one of the most important pieces of jewelry they will ever get. I mean, if you get a 33rd birthday present you're not thrilled with that's okay (you can always exchange it!)---but an engagement ring is a piece that says: YOU ARE THE PERSON I WANT TO SPEND MY WHOLE LIFE WITH so this is what I want you to have to represent it! And if you're not listening to the person to begin with then....where are you going anyway???

Now I'm not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that these two young women are not meant to be life partners, anymore then the guys who don't get it either. Everyone has different things they value in a partner and understanding and appreciating what is most important to you is critical in a relationship. Someone may be perfect in so many other ways that it's easy to overlook certain things. And we shouldn't forget that we all have different tastes and, inevitably, our own tastes will influence what we buy.

What I am saying is that the most important part of our intimate relationships is that we should make an attempt (hey even after 25 years I don't always get it right either but I try) to LISTEN to our partners about what it is that will make them the happiest. Because after all, what we all really should want to do is make our intended, or our already committed partners, as happy as possible because that is what being in a relationship is all about: MAKING OUR PARTNERS HAPPY (well without completely losing ourselves!). Why bother being in love if that isn't the case?

My job as a jeweler is to make YOU happy. But if you aren't listening to your significant other, I might make you happy but not your significant other happy. And if they aren't happy, I can assure you that you aren't going to be happy. So let's try to listen up folks!!!

The picture above is of a custom piece I made for a customer using her design idea, coin, and spinels (personally I would have used a somewhat higher quality, more regularly sized and colored stones). She wanted me to do a Tudor rose on the bail to match the one on the coin . I cut out the base piece and then had my hand engraver do the details on the rose. Yes it's a very strange piece but I get asked to do all sorts of things and I just like people to see all the possibilities.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New Earrings

These are one of the new pair of earrings I put out recently. When I found these black pearls I was instantly taken by their intense luster and color. However they were a bit smaller than I usually use in my black pearl designs (especially the ones like this) and I wasn't sure how I was going to use them for quite awhile. But I knew I had to do something with them and this turned out to be it.

Apparently it's a good time to propose as my engagement ring business continues to be quite busy. So I sold a number of my diamonds this week and had to get some in to replace them. Fortunately I managed to grab two of the Lazare Diamonds that were slightly under a half carat before they could send them off to Asia where the customers tend to be much more interested in the top color, top clarity diamonds that I sell. But I was also able to get in a .58 ct. "E" color, Internally Flawless stone as well that is simply stunning. While I have occasionally gotten in larger flawless stones for specific customers, this is the largest one I've ever just put out in my stock. This is truly a special, exceptional stone.

Speaking of diamonds there was a new report in my gemological journal that just came out describing the new process being used to synthesize diamonds. They have been able to achieve with this process very high clarity and top color diamonds in larger sizes than ever before. It is still possible for gem labs to positively identify these stones but it does mean that there is even more of a reason for you to know who you are buying your diamonds from. Lazare Diamonds has been a DeBeers sightholder for a long time and they work directly with some mines as well. They know where their merchandise comes from and they know exactly what they are selling. However, while at the moment most of the synthetic diamonds are being laser inscribed identifying them as such, wherever there is a great deal of money to be made, people will do all kinds of illegal things. Laser inscriptions can be removed and attempts will be made to pass the stones off as naturals. Some of the larger diamond dealers may not want to bother paying to have all of their stones checked and some material may slip through. So again, it is more important than ever that you know who you are buying from.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm back from vacation and into the full swing of things again. I left with a huge pile of work in my folder so I'm going to be bogged down for a bit. I was working 7 day weeks up to the vacation and may have to go back to them now that I'm back. I'm never sure how much rest I actually get when I take time off because I have to work so hard on either end of it. We spent part of the week at home and went to Martha's Vineyard for four days as well. It is still early in their season there but I couldn't get much of a feeling from the merchants how things seemed to be going other than that it wasn't bad. It looked a little quieter on the streets of Edgartown to me than in past years but this time we were actually staying in Edgartown so it might have just been that I was there more of the time so it didn't contrast to the quiet on the ends of the island. Certainly the summer traffic jams were still there! I managed to eat lobster every day we were there and we brought some home too for our first night back! I'm finished I think for a month or two. That was about as much lobster as I need for awhile. If any of you should be heading to the island I can't recommend this place enough for eating and drinking: L'etoile.

I do have pictures of a couple of new pairs of earrings that I just put out but I wanted to post a custom pair of earrings I finished just before my break for Heidi, who is not only a great person but coincidentally has great taste in jewelry! They are pictured above and have diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds in them. I made them up to go with a ring I made for her recently (although the ring didn't have the emeralds as I view them as a no no in rings).

Marriage proposals seem to be in the air. I've had a number of young gents in, during the last two days that I have been back from vacation, looking at engagement rings. I always love selling engagement rings. It portends the start of something so wonderful in life: the uniting of two people to form a family, hopefully for life. I also love knowing that I've played a role in it.

If I keep writing I'm going to have some unhappy people waiting for their custom jobs so I have to keep this one short. In the next few days I'll post the newest earring pictures.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vacation Time Again

While I wasn't working quite as hard in the first six months of this year as last year I have been picking up steam again recently and have been back to seven day work weeks in the past month. For those of you wondering it's not a huge increase in work time since I seem to work at least 6 day weeks the rest of the time anyway. On the other hand for those of you who have somewhat normal five day per week jobs, it's something for you to consider before following that dream of starting your own business. I can assure you that you don't work less working for yourself. I do love my job. I enjoy meeting and talking to all of my customers. I really enjoy actually making jewelry and I enjoy that I can personally make something for so many people that is so meaningful in most cases (not that I mind making things for people to wear who just feel like buying a present for themselves too!).

But eventually I need to get a rest. So I will be closed the week of July 4. Anyone having an emergency present giving need will just have to wait until after July 9. I will also be closed for a portion of one week in August (not sure of the dates yet) as well. I do know it will be shortly after the tax free weekend this year. Speaking of which, we will be having our annual one day tax free weekend day sale (tax free day hasn't been formally approved by the state legislature yet but there have already been comments made by the powers that be that it will be taking place again). This sale is ONLY open to existing customers of ours (in other words you have to already own something of mine) and every year it's a little different so I don't know the details yet but it's a great time to pick something out of our cases that you've been admiring. (Think early Christmas present!). I do know that we will be discounting some of the pearls in our cases significantly so if you've always wanted one of my strands it will be a good time for it. And as always, if you can't make it in on the day itself, if you come in during the week ahead we will allow you to pick out something to hold until the day itself and we will run the charge through on the tax free day for you.

I hope everyone has a great Fourth of July! I will post again when I return from my vacation.

Pictured above is a custom necklace recently completed for a favorite customer of mine. This is, I believe, the third one of his custom jobs that I have posted on this blog. This was white gold with the Chinese character for a rabbit in the center and the horoscope Cancer sign on the sides with a handmade chain attached. It's always fun to step outside the box once in awhile and do something different.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Getting Engaged

I have had a number of people in looking for engagement rings recently and while I've written about the topic before, it seems to need a more recent recap. The biggest question is what is a gentleman or gentlewoman supposed to do about buying a ring for someone when that someone isn't right there with them saying: "No not that one but Yes that one" hopefully with a squeal of delight. It's not an easy topic. If you get your intended involved in the process you can't really surprise them with the whole thing. On the other hand if you don't get them involved you may end up with something that they really don't like. Then ten years later they come to me and say "I can finally tell him I hated the ring; can we put the diamond in a new one".

So what is there that you can do to try to mitigate this issue a bit? Well there are a few things that certainly help and it's a plus, gentlemen, if you can actually open your eyes a little bit about your intended.

1) What color metal do they want? This is usually not such a hard question to answer. Do they wear white metal? Do they wear yellow metal? Do they wear both colors? This is one of the most straightforward items to deal with, although sometimes people wear silver because they haven't been able to afford gold in the past. However normally people tend to prefer one color or the other and it's pretty obvious in what they wear already.

2) What is their ring size? Now this is a bit trickier for a number of reasons. If you are trying to surprise them, you can't just come out and ask what their ring size is. The other problem is that even if you can sneak one of their other rings away for a measuring, it is highly unlikely that they are wearing the ring on "that" finger because, traditionally "that" finger is left free for "that" ring. Additionally a person's dominant hand is usually larger than the other one so if you have a ring from their right hand ring finger (and they are right handed) it's probably larger than they need. So you have a number of things you can try to do that will at least get you in the range. The first is to grab one of the rings from the other hand and most jewelers can make an educated guess about the approximate size. The second is to recruit a friend of the intended to inquire although this usually takes away a lot of the surprise issue as well. Third is to LOOK at her hands. Are they big? Small? Are the fingers long? Short? It might be possible to guesstimate a size by telling the jeweler about them and comparing them to someone's hands in the store you are in. I always encourage people to err on the large size because it's always a bit more important to be able to get the ring on the finger at the time. If she has to wear a bandaid wrapped around it for a few days until it can be sized properly for her. Fourth is to work with a jeweler who will resize the ring for free regardless of the size (and preferably in a timely fashion). Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers offers free resizing on everything I make and when it is an engagement ring I always try to get it redone within 24 hours because I know how important it is that you get to show it off right away.

3) What kind of design do they want? This is by far one of the hardest questions to deal with. Again, spending some time looking at what is already being worn can provide some good hints. Do they always wear wide rings? Narrow rings? Rings that are simple? Rings that have design in them? Something in between? Also it doesn't hurt to occasionally go out shopping with them and try to get them to look in jewelry stores. What they look at can give you big clues to what they would like. The other issue with this for men is that (most of the time) men have simpler tastes in jewelry than women do. The thing is guys, you're not picking out something for YOU----you're picking out something for HER! You have to step outside of your own thinking and think about what THEY want. I do get gents in here who bring in helpers on and often---sisters, future sister-in-laws, and friends of the intended. This can help sometimes---but again you have to remember that what one person likes is not necessarily what your girlfriend will like. They may be BFF's but that doesn't mean they have the same taste in jewelry. It helps also to work with a jeweler who offers some type of exchange policy. I never give money back but I am always happy to exchange for things of equal or greater value as long as you have bought something that is in my normal range of designs. In other words if you have me custom make a ring with dancing unicorns and the words Lisa and David forever carved on the outside, it's yours no matter what, but if you say I love that design you have in the case but I want it with a different stone in it and can you throw a few more beads on it I am always happy to work with getting your bride to be into something that she is happy with, because after all it's all about making her happy.

4) These days there are some things that you are simply going to have to ask about like: Does she object to diamonds (some people do these days)? Does she only want a diamond? Is she looking for something so large that people will be blinded by it (in which case you'd better be saving for awhile)? If she doesn't want a diamond but would like a sapphire (the only other stone I recommend for daily wear) what color sapphire? Some of these may be easy questions to answer if you've been together for quite awhile. Some of them may not. Some people really want to be completely surprised so you may just have to fly by the seat of your pants.

I think this covers some of the more pressing issues on this topic but please feel free to email me with any others you might have when you get to considering these issues. And if you are reading this because you are going to get engaged then a big CONGRATULATIONS to you!

Pictured above are two 18k yellow gold rings with Lazare Diamonds in them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Earrings But You Can't Have Them

As I said in my last posting I have been busy trying to get some new earring stock out and I did.....but you can't have them because I've already sold them. The pair of earrings pictured above is composed of carved spectrolite moon faces. I can't get any more spectrolite carvings in this type of quality (although I have one left in the larger size) because the carver ran out of this quality of rough material and then retired anyway. Unfortunately you can't see quite how beautiful the larger face was in this picture. It had wonderful green and very light yellow light rolling across one side of the face. There is also a moonstone and a diamond on them. They sold within 24 hours of putting them out.

The picture below are some ruby and diamond earrings I made up recently that have also sold.

I have just put out a few other new things, a sapphire ring (pictured below with a magnificent 1.63 ct. natural color, unheated blue sapphire in the center), a pair of 22k gold dust capped black pearl earrings and an opal and emerald pendant with a stunning boulder opal in it (pictures to follow).

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's All About the Love

Periodically I am reminded of what I really sell, and honestly it isn't just jewelry. Yesterday I had a gentleman in getting a new wedding band from us about 20 years after getting his first one from us (his wife had also recently gotten a new one from us---someone had lost theirs). Then I had a gentleman in buying a ring for his wife for their 25th anniversary. Later I had a very nice young couple in who picked out a double strand of freshwater keshi pearls for their 10th wedding anniversary. And, in a new one for me, I got a call from an old customer who is getting remarried to her husband some years after they got divorced and is coming in for new rings today!! Now I've had people who have gotten second and third wedding bands from me with different people, and I've had couples renewing their vows with new wedding bands but I can't say that I've ever had someone who got divorced get remarried to the same person with rings from me.

But like I say it isn't really jewelry that I'm selling. I'm selling memories. Whether the memory is of someone you are with, someone who has passed (I recently made up an 18k gold ashes container for a young gentleman), or just a significant point in your life, I truly believe that selling you something that you can wear that reminds of you of a special time in your life is one of the best parts of my job. It may sometimes be a sad memory but the fact that my customers allow me to play a role in these memories is something I personally treasure.

I know that there are a bunch of you out there who are reading my posts because I keep getting people in who reference things I've written here. It would make me really happy if I could get a few comments from some of you about how I've helped some of you with your own memories. I'd love to be able to post a few of them.

The ring above is an 18k gold wedding ring with a sandblasted background with 950 platinum wires on top and a .03 ct. diamond. This was a custom job for a customer.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I am constantly confused by selling patterns these days. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for what is happening. After a four month period from January through April of selling virtually nothing out of my cases but taking in a lot of orders, in May I suddenly began selling only things out of the cases and taking in virtually no new orders. If only any of this made any sense.... But the good thing about selling stuff out of the cases is that it means I get to make some new designs up and I am currently working on a number of new pieces. Pictures of the new items will be posted as they come out but I am posting two pictures of some very old pieces in this posting. I tend to forget over time some of the things I have done so when a customer brought in these pieces one of them surprised me. I had no memory of making a pair of earring with one yellow and one blue sapphire but there they were. Apparently my penchant for making mismatched pairs of earrings started longer ago then I thought.

In the works I have a pair of mismatched earrings with a larger carved spectrolite face in one of them. I can no longer get carved spectrolite faces in this quality as the carver has retired and the stock he had of this wonderful, high quality material was depleted. I also have a beautiful boulder opal going into a pendant with emeralds. I just put out a somewhat older ring design that I haven't had out in quite awhile with a magnificent unheated, natural color blue sapphire in it and I have a new wedding band design out with diamonds around the band. Again, pictures will be forthcoming.

Please note I will be closing for a little over a week at the beginning of July and part of a week near the end of August. If you have plans to come and see me please call first to make sure what my hours are.

Top picture is 18k yellow gold with blue and yellow sapphire. Bottom picture is 18k gold with freshwater pearls and purple sapphires.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More on Selling Your Jewelry

Despite the improving economy I can't seem to get through a day without more inquiries about selling off jewelry. Mind you, a good deal of these discussions are happening now because the baby boomer group has reached the point where their parents are dying or simply beginning to pass on their estates so it's not all about the economy. In many cases estates are being passed down and the jewelry is simply too dated (read: ugly) to be worn today, too worn to be worn today (I like that phrasing) or doesn't fit into the recipients life style (remember I'm in Cambridge where ostentatious displays of wealth are not always looked upon in a kindly manner). So I'm going to revisit this topic in today's posting with a review of the information I've given before on this and some new information as well.

What is it that you have?

The first issue (especially in the case of inheriting jewelry) is figuring out what you have and, if you want to get rid of it, the best way to do so. In many cases, basically what you have in your hands is a pile of gold that really can only be disposed of by scrapping it. Because of how much stuff is being sold off today, small stones (diamonds included) are rarely going to add anything at all to what you are going to be paid unless they are exceptional. There are more loose, low quality, small gems flooding the marketplace today then ever before, so much so that to some extent jewelers just send the whole pieces they buy, stones included, into the refiners to be burned out (and usually ruined) without even removing the stones as it isn't worth their time to bother. So unless you know your parents were collectors of fine goods, or there was some significant wealth in the family history, or if you're selling something you bought and you know it was a very high quality piece, I generally just recommend that you scrap the metal you have. If you are looking for money I always recommend you take it to two or three jewelers and see what they offer and then take the best offer. Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers doesn't buy gold outright but I will take it in trade towards work being done or pieces bought out of my case and because gold has been so high it is a good time to do something like this. Gold, however, has been on a gradual downwards swing lately so I would say if you're thinking about doing something like this now is the time to do it.

When you have something good what do you do with it?

So now let's say that you actually have a really nice, larger diamond and you want to know what to do with it. In my opinion the most amount of value is always retained in these by keeping and using the stone in your own pieces. This is because when you go to sell a piece you are basically selling it to someone for below wholesale as they are going to need to resell it to a customer and they aren't going to pay what they would pay their regular supplier for it. (There is more information on this in earlier posts---check my blog directory.) However for some people it isn't an option to keep the stone---either they need the money from it, or an estate is being broken up and they need money to be able to do that (cutting diamonds into small pieces is not generally recommended as a way to break up the inheritance (-; ), or it simply doesn't fit into their lifestyle and they would rather have the money to invest (gemstones should NOT be considered an investment) or use.

In these cases you have a couple of options available to you. One is to simply do the same thing as I recommend with gold and show the piece(s) to a few jewelers and see what they offer. If you don't like what they offer you don't have to take it. The second option is to try to sell it on Ebay or a similar venue. I do NOT recommend you sell anything privately if it involves you meeting with people you do not know. This is an extremely dangerous idea. The third option is to see if a jeweler will sell it for you. Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers will do this for customers assuming that the piece has a high enough value. I work on a commission basis when I do this so if you come to me with a stone worth a couple of hundred dollars I won't help you but if you have something of significant value that it will be profitable for me to spend some time on trying to sell for you I am happy to try to help you. The fourth option is to give it to an auction house to sell.

Auction Houses

Auction houses can be a good option for you if you have a group of pieces that are true antiques, or that are by known designers or that have a number of significant gemstones in them. They may, or may not, be a good option for a single large stone. If you have something truly exceptional, either a very large diamond, or a very high quality, very large,diamond (where you may be looking in the over $50,000 range) it might be worthwhile to sell through an auction house. However the diamond market everywhere is fairly standard, and runs on relatively small margins, so you have to weigh the costs involved in selling through auction. An auction house charges a premium on the sale to the buyer and a commission on the sale to the seller. (I confess to having not realized this until just recently. I was always under the impression that only the buyer paid the premium but as it turns out they will take something from both ends.) So the question becomes a little more complex on a single stone. Many of the buyers are in the trade and looking to resell the stones (and are often looking for deals). Additionally everything they buy carries a premium of anywhere from 15-20% so they have to factor that into what they will pay. Then you will also pay a commission which will reduce your yield. So if it is a piece in the hundreds of thousands it might be a good bet as those types of pieces are hard to sell outside of the auction world but on lower value goods it may be a wash in terms of which approach would yield the most. With true antiques however I believe an auction house is always the way to go. You can usually set minimums that the pieces can sell for with an auction house so you aren't obligated to sell in this case either if they aren't met. However you should expect the auction house to guide you as to what is a reasonable minimum bid for a piece and you should listen to their advice. The better ones all have far more experience in this then you do. I had a customer who recently sold a piece through auction. It was a very unusual link bracelet with pale blue, very flat but very large sapphires in each link. The auction house thought she would get about $5000 for it but it ended up going for $14,000. She netted about $12,000. This piece however (I saw it and had recommended she take it to auction) was a very unusual piece. If the sapphires had been removed and someone attempted to sell them off as they were no one would have paid much of anything for them because of the color and the large number of inclusions in them. But as an antique, and somewhat unique piece as a whole, it had significantly more value than it might have otherwise.

As with most things, there are no easy answers when it comes to this, and what I have said here is only a general guide for what you might be able to do. It does all come down to what you have and whether it truly has enough value. A somewhat generic, mid quality range 1 ct. diamond will yield something but I would tend to encourage you to just show something like that to a couple of jewelers. A 2 ct. mid to high quality range diamond I would encourage you to check with jewelers or work with someone like me who works on commission. A 5 ct. high quality diamond should most likely go to auction. Hope this helps a bit!

The 22k gold ring at the top is my wife's and has a 1.77 ct. ideal cut diamond in it.