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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.