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Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays!

18k and 22k yellow gold ring with boulder opal
My lack of writing new articles here is because I have been so busy with custom work this season.  The pictures here are of a new boulder opal ring that I designed up for a customer.  The opal is an absolutely stunning stone.  This piece was made up for a woman with small hands and I spent quite some time pondering ideas for an approach.   I had started in one direction with it but wasn't pleased so I put it aside for a bit.  One morning I woke up at about 5 am and it came to me what I was going to do with it to both make it wearable and beautiful. 

One side view of opal ring
The other side!

I did however also want to bring up another topic this morning as it is that season when people tend to come in at the last minute looking for presents.  I often get people in who look at what I have out and ask if I have a lot more jewelry put away in the back.  Or I get someone in who saw something on the website, or previously saw something in the store and it's been sold and they want to know if I have a few more pieces just like it.

I do wish I could magically conjure up new pieces at the drop of a hat.  But the reality is that I hand make my own product here in my shop.  I don't have a shop in Asia somewhere producing hundreds or thousands of my designs daily that can just be shipped here and pulled out of the box in back to replace a piece when I sell it.  I don't have any machines that magically reproduce my designs by the hundreds. I do repeat my designs but I still have to actually physically make them up.  That is one of the things that make my product so unique.  I understand that it is contrary to the way people want to shop now where they just push a button on a computer and voila! a new toy is on the way to you.  However it is just the way I like to do things.  I may be a merchant but, more importantly, I am someone who believes in hand crafting a unique product meant to salve the soul.   I've written before about how much I like to actually make jewelry.  I like to make it because of the satisfaction it brings to me both in the process of creation, but also in the knowledge that someone will take a piece of me with them when they leave my shop with one of my creations.

So if you come into my shop, I'm always happy to make something up for you if I don't have quite what you are looking for.  But I do have many designs out at all times that all allow you to take a small piece of me home with you.   

I hope everyone has a great holiday this year.  If you didn't find something from me under the tree at Christmas (or under the candles at Chanukah), I think New Year's is a great time to gift yourself!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Design Process

A lot of my customers ask me where I get my ideas and how I go about designing pieces.  Everyone who is in this business, or any other creative field, has their own approach but I thought I would try to explain my own processes.  The best example of this is when I 'm working on pieces for my wife, Kathy, because she wants no part of the process, except to give me general guidelines (I need a new bracelet, I need a pair of earrings, etc.).  This is the kind of designing I prefer doing because it allows me to have the most fun doing what I love to do best.

So this year Kathy asked me for some blue sapphire earrings.  She has a pair of diamond earrings I made for her that are similar to these tourmaline earrings. She liked the size and the feel of them but wanted something with blue, and obviously I wasn't going to make up the same shape with different stones.

The first step is to find some stones.  So I called my primary gemstone suppliers and told them to send me some pairs of sapphires to look at.  I got in three pairs, all of which were beautiful, but after some time with them I selected the somewhat lighter toned pair.  I chose these because 1) lighter tones in sapphires tend to sparkle more, 2) they were going into earrings which meant that they wouldn't have as much light on them when worn on the ears so a lighter tone will show up better and 3) because they were the prettiest pair (of course).

So now I had a pair of stones in my hands that I liked but, honestly, I had absolutely no idea of what to do with them.  I couldn't do circles again.  So I kind of let the look of the stones and the feelings of what I wanted gestate for awhile (actually about a week).  This usually involves looking at the stones repeatedly and a lot of sighing when nothing actually occurs to me.  But if I wait long enough something usually comes along.  I often do rough sketches on the walls of my workshop and the
picture here is where I started, finally, in the process of a design for the stones.  So now I knew I wanted to do something that was somewhat triangular in shape.  But unlike my sketches I really didn't feel like just doing a triangle so I mucked around a bit and finally drew up a shape I liked a bit better. I'd show you that sketch but I have a bad habit of tossing out stuff like that once I get the shape cut out in metal.

Once I had the shape cut out and the bezel soldered in place I kind of reverted back to some of the usual design elements I use in much of my work. Some of the elements show up all the time, some I pull in from older pieces.  The wire looping in and out on the side of the earrings is something I've done a lot of for my wife but only occasionally shows up in my work.  The graduated stone and bead sizes actually came into the piece because of the work I had just done on her new pendant pictured above.  Stuff tends to float through my head as I'm working and often moves from piece to piece when I'm working on multiple things at one time.  This is what finally came out:

I try to put a little bit of me into all of the pieces I make up but those for my wife have a little bit more of me than the others.  But if you would like a little bit more of me in your pieces, just ask me to make up something I want to with stones I pick out and you can get it too!

Of course, if you have something specific in mind that you want me to make up, I do that all the time too. 

The pendant pictured above is another piece I made up for Kathy (I was a little behind on presents this  year so she got two for her birthday!).  It has a piece of carved walrus tusk that was carved by an extremely talented jeweler friend of mine who's name is Lisa Bialac-Jehle.  Lisa does extraordinary work, somewhat similar to mine actually, and is a great human being as well.  I have already talked to her about getting more of these carvings for some future pieces for the cases so if  you're interested in something like this, let me know and I'll reserve one for you.

Please make sure you look at my prior post as well as there are  new pictures up of some new pieces.  

Holiday Goodies!

small red beads with yellow gold discs hanging
Ruby beads with 22k gold accents.
I'm working on a blog article about my creative process that should be out today or tomorrow but I wanted to get some pictures of some new pieces I have just made up posted so you can see some of the new holiday stock. We are also open our holiday hours and are open every day between now and December 24: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-5, Sunday 12-5 and Thursday evenings by appointment only 6-8.  Hope to see some of you (or maybe your significant others) soon!

Hand made link chain bracelet with three danlgles
22k gold handmade bracelet with garnet and spinels

Half moon shaped multi color earrings with green stones
18k and 22k gold mokume gane earrings with emeralds

Drop earring with multi colored natural shaped tourmalines
18k gold and watermelon tourmalines

Triangular blue/purple stone earrings with twists and dangles
18k gold "Lorrie Earrings" with tanzanites and diamonds

Black sparkly gem stones with carved moon face in them and diamond earrings
Carved moonface black drusy earrings with diamonds

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lots of New Pearls and Gemstones

looping link yellow and white bracelet with green stones
18k yellow and white gold bracelet with chrome tourmalines
Thanksgiving is so late this year that it seems like the holidays are getting off to a slow start.  Well maybe not at Walmart where I think they started in July this year but for the rest of us it's hard to think about things like Christmas until after the turkey is consumed and allowed to digest.  But I'm hard at work again on the bench and my suppliers have been sending me some new merchandise which is why I'm writing this. 

My primary gemstone supplier and my opal/pearl supplier are always nice enough to send me some merchandise to put out for the holidays.  The goods all just came in this week and there are some outstanding things among them.  My opal/pearl dealer sent me five strands of stunning South Sea pearls.  One of the best strands is a silvery grey strand of full round pearls, graduated, measuring from 15 mm to 12 mm.  They are huge!  And delicious looking.  And as these pearls go very reasonably priced.  I also got in a strand of multicolor baroque pearls and some smaller rounds of assorted colors.  He is also letting me keep some beautiful boulder opals I had gotten in to show a customer (who bought a really spicy one) through the season. 

My primary gemstone supplier sent me an entire tray of sapphires in assorted colors, including a very gemmy cushion cut orange sapphire from Tanzania.  There are some beautiful purples and pinks as well and some of them are single stones and some are pairs.  They also sent me an assortment of other gem materials including tanzanites, zircons, orange garnets, aquamarines, Ethiopian opals and of course some of my favorite tourmalines in a variety of colors.

Even if you're not thinking of getting anything for Christmas this year, this is a great time to come in and see some more unusual gem materials than I normally have available.  That way you can get a head start on the next birthday present if nothing else! 

Anyone who comes in between now and Christmas and asks to see the cushion cut orange sapphire can get a $50 credit towards any custom work or case piece (and you can apply it immediately against a purchase).  So stop in and see what's new! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Please Don't Wait 20 Years

18k yellow gold ring with orange garnet and diamonds
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a customer who was interested in getting a diamond ring from me.  He used to live in the area but now lives in New York State.  We started talking and it turns out that almost 20 years ago he cut out an ad that we had run in the Boston Globe.  Not only had he cut it out but he still had it (he emailed a picture of it to me so I could see what ring he was interested in)!  20 years ago!  About 10 years ago he had called and talked to me about the project enough that I had sent him out one of the Lazare Diamond pamphlets that I use.   But at that time I never heard back from him.  We spent a good couple of hours on the phone together over the course of two days and he finally decided on getting the ring with a 3/4 ct. diamond I had in stock here.  It was a very sizable order and trust me, I was thrilled to get it.  But the thought that it took 20 years to get the order I found extremely amusing!  Plus the fact that he had carried around the ad for 20 years was pretty astounding. 

But here's the problem.  I'm getting a little older these days.  Quite frankly I'm not so sure I'll be alive in another twenty years so I'm begging the rest of you, please don't wait twenty years from now to buy something from me that you see today!

The ring in the picture has a beautiful spessartite garnet in the center.  These stones have climbed dramatically in price recently but this is one I purchased just before the prices climbed dramatically so it's a good deal.  But this is the last stone I have at the old prices so if you wait 20 years, not only won't I have this exact ring but if I have one with a similar stone in it, the ring will cost you way more!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Working Again, Parking is Available and What is With This Pricing Nonsense

18k pink toned metal ring with large and small diamonds alternating in bezel settings with milgraine
18k pink gold ring with diamonds
I'm happy to report that as of last Friday I was given permission to get back on the bench and I have jumped right back in.  I can't say that working is pain free but I'm just happy to be able to be back doing what I love to do.  I've gotten started on replacing my best selling ring (see it here) which I just sold again recently, working on a piece for my wife's upcoming birthday, and working on some tanzanite earrings for a customer who just ordered them.   The tanzanites are 7.5 mm round stones so they are big!  I'll get a picture of them up in a few weeks when they are finished.  And I'm mucking around with some of the new stones I got recently to see what else I can come up with.  So if for some reason you were waiting for my personal touch on a piece, you can now get it again.

For those of you who live in Cambridge, or those of you who regularly travel through Cambridge, you already know that virtually the entire city seems to be under road construction right now.  My area of Massachusetts Ave. is part of this and large parts of it seem to be under constant construction.  Besides the fact that the construction itself is both temporarily and permanently taking away parking spaces, it seems the construction crews only want to park and leave their supplies on Mass Ave. so we have even fewer parking spaces available than usual.  So I am coming to the rescue to my many customers who come in from out of town and don't have Cambridge parking permits.  We have one parking space behind the store that is only in use at certain times of the day.  Anyone who wants to come see me is welcome to call me when they get in the area and if the space is available, I will direct you to it.  This service will be permanent, regardless of whether or not they actually ever finish all the construction.

In two different articles I have posted (here and here)I have discussed pricing issues in America.  Both of these articles came to mind last week when we were once again booking some airline tickets for our winter vacation.  We had been checking fares regularly for about a week and finally made the decision to purchase the tickets because it appeared the prices were going up.  Kathy had looked at the prices and they were up significantly and we figured we had better make them before they went up any higher.  She was planning on doing it in the late afternoon but got busy and couldn't get to it.  That evening she went back on line and the prices had dropped by $300 (for the pair of tickets) for exactly the same seats.  In other words, simply by waiting approximately three hours we saved $300 (which works out to $100/hour).  How could this possibly make any sense?  What could have happened in three hours that would have lowered the price by that much? Three hours!  Not an entire day.  Not looking at 11 pm and then at 1 am.  Just three hours on the same day. 

The very next day there was an article in the Boston Globe that brought this subject home further.  It was about how online retailers (especially in the travel industry but also some retailers) are tailoring their pricing to the individual customer who is searching on line.  Apparently if in the past you stayed in high end hotels, the sites will offer you prices that are higher than if you stayed in dumps usually because they feel you will pay more for the exact same room.  Also some of the retail sites have started to do this as well; adjusting pricing based on your past spending patterns.  (You do all know that everything you do is watched on line these days, right?)  This is so patently unfair to the customers and I don't understand why people put up with it.  It would be a little like my quoting different prices depending on how you are dressed that day! 

So again, you can rest assured that I won't charge you more if you're dressed in a suit (or less if you're in jeans) and my prices don't go up and down by the hour.  And that's just
the way I think things should be!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Been Awhile.....

18k and 22k yellow gold with blue chalcedony and rubies.
Some of you may know that I recently had some shoulder surgery.  Hence the delay in the writing of any articles here.   I am, as of today, out of my sling and able to type once again.  I should be back on my bench in a few weeks, something I really want to get to.  Since I was 16 I haven't spent this long off my bench and, given how much I actually like making jewelry, I'm a little frustrated.  But it's more important that I get the shoulder fixed properly so I can get back to regular productivity. Fortunately I had some warning on the operation and I was able to get a fair amount of new stock out before I went under the knife, so there is no lack of wonderful things here for people to enjoy.

There are some changes happening in my world of jewelry right now that I would like to discuss. The first is that gold has continued to fall in price, albeit slowly.  However there are now a majority of pundits claiming that it will continue in this direction (it had been about 50/50 up/down until recently).  Because of this I am telling anyone who has been considering turning in gold scrap towards something new that now is definitely the time to do it.  It's looking less and less likely that by waiting you will get more for any scrap.  And given that the holidays are coming it would be a good time to turn some of that old metal into something new.  For those of you who don't know, I will take in scrap anytime and put a credit in your name in our accounts until you decide what you want (you don't have to use the credit immediately) so it's not too early to think about it if there is something new you would like for the holidays. 

The second issue is that my suppliers are recently back from the large Hong Kong gem and jewelry show.  They have all come back with reports of sharply rising prices on colored stones, especially the better, high end material.   Gemstone prices in the past had been somewhat stable (except for opals which have been going up rapidly for a number of years) however they now seem to be making up for lost time.  Sapphire, ruby, opal, tourmaline are all going to see price spikes as soon as the dealers old stocks are sold off.  Again, if you're looking at making a major purchase of one of these gem materials, sooner is probably better.  My opal dealer reported he could find only twenty stones that weren't priced so absurdly high that he actually bought them. 

My new German carved drusy moon face supplier was back in town recently and I made some new purchases from her.   I now have a matched pair of the faces for a pair of earrings that will go out shortly after I am back on the bench.  I also got some beautiful ruby beads, an amazing (unfortunately only .58 ct.) orange sapphire with an unusual cut that just makes it yummy, some carved blue chalcedony for a new pair of jellyfish earrings and a few other odds and ends.  If you're interested in seeing any of the new material please stop by and take a look.  I should be back on here a little more regularly from now on. 

Have a great Columbus Day weekend! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Labor Day

I hope most of you are enjoying a pleasant holiday.  I, as it happens, am working however.  I especially don't mind working on this one.  It is, after all, about celebrating the worker and working.  Because I have always worked with my hands, I have always felt a strong connection to all laborers.  And I happen to like to work, especially when I can actually sit down at my bench and get an extended period of time actually making the jewelry.  I truly enjoy my time on the bench.  Every time it provides me with a challenge (and mind numbing boring repetitive tasks---but that allows me to think at the same time) and new ideas.  As it happens I am in working today because I am swamped at the moment but that's okay too because it does give me an excuse to come in and get some happy time on the bench. 
Happy Labor Day everyone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No Wait a Minute What the Heck Is It?

Why don't you write?  Why don't you call?  I know, I know I sound like my Jewish mother.  But it is always amusing to me that so many of you tell me you read my blogs but no one ever leaves me any comments.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I have a couple of spammers who routinely leave comments on my blog.  Actually one of them does it over and over (at least it looks to be coming from the same guy's Google+ account).  Inevitably these spam comments consist of a mostly unintelligible sentence but always with a link to another site at the end of it.  And, also inevitably, these sites are mostly jewelry sites. 

Round red stone set in yellow gold ring with swirls of wire
18k Yellow Gold and 1.11 ct. Ruby Ring
I always try to track these guys down a bit because some of them seem to link to legitimate jewelry stores and I will usually email them to stop spamming me.  But a lot of them take you to a variety of on line sites, usually where there is no real way to contact anyone unless you're going to make an actual purchase.

The other day I spent a few minutes trying to follow another one and it led me to a website that was selling.....well I'm not entirely sure what they were selling.  But here is their description of what they are selling:

"Diamond NSCD Nano Carbon Simulate Diamond Diamond Weight 2 carat Metal 925 Silver with 18K Gold Plated Clarity VVS1 Cutting: 3 ex Antwerp Cut Fine Jewelry all made by Hands from Skillful Craftsman with over 20 Years Experience in Jewelry Production; Life Time Warranty: Free Replacement if Simulated Diamond Ever Fades!! We promise free maintenance & servicing for whole life Ring Replacement if there is any Damage How are NSCD lab-created diamonds produced? Lab-created diamonds are produced by utilizing two gem-quality diamond creation processes: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). In both processes, a small diamond seed is placed in an environment that contains carbon, the atomic component diamond. Under suitably controlled conditions, the diamond grows, atom-by-atom, layer-by-layer, recreating nature's process. How do NSCD lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds compare? Both have the same physical, chemical and optical properties and emerge as rough diamonds. Both have the same hardness, specific gravity, refractive index and dispersion factor; are polished using the same equipment and techniques; and have the same brilliance, sparkle, fire and scintillation. Both are, in fact, diamonds. How do NSCD lab-created diamonds and diamond-like materials compare? They don't. Cubic zirconium, moissanite, and diamond-coated materials, are not diamond. These are called "simulants" in the industry. These materials have completely different physical properties compared to diamond. ABOUT LAB CREATED DIAMONDS Since diamonds are mined from deep within the earth as carbon is pressurized to produce the miracle gem it takes centuries to create. As science would have it however, now it is possible to speed up the process creating a diamond in a fraction of the time. Hybrid diamonds are not fakes, but have a real diamond layer. NSCD DIAMONDS ARE NOT ZIRCONIA"

There is so much deception included in this description that it is mind boggling.  They have thrown in just enough legitimate information to seem real but then try to mask exactly what they are selling.  Many of my long term readers are aware of my descriptions about synthetic diamonds which you can read here.  Synthetic diamonds are man made diamonds that have exactly the same chemical and physical makeup as a natural diamond except that they are man made.  They are, while less expensive than natural diamonds, not cheap by any means as the processes used to produce them are fairly complex and expensive.  

First of all please understand they didn't have a product listed on their site that was more than $100.  Obviously that should be the first sign that you should be cautious.  But let's look a little more closely at what they are saying:

"How are NSCD lab-created diamonds produced? Lab-created diamonds are produced by utilizing two gem-quality diamond creation processes: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). In both processes, a small diamond seed is placed in an environment that contains carbon, the atomic component diamond. Under suitably controlled conditions, the diamond grows, atom-by-atom, layer-by-layer, recreating nature's process"

So they correctly tell you in this set of sentences how synthetic diamonds are created.  The only problem is they don't actually tell you how their NSCD diamonds are created.  They make it sound like they are using the same processes but never actually say that. Here is the next bit:

"How do NSCD lab-created diamonds and natural diamonds compare? Both have the same physical, chemical and optical properties and emerge as rough diamonds. Both have the same hardness, specific gravity, refractive index and dispersion factor; are polished using the same equipment and techniques; and have the same brilliance, sparkle, fire and scintillation. Both are, in fact, diamonds."

Without a lab test to determine most of these statements there is no way to confirm any of what they are saying.  They offer no proof on their site, no testing data, etc. The statement that both are in fact diamonds is completely disproved as we get further into their description so we'll get back to that. 

"How do NSCD lab-created diamonds and diamond-like materials compare? They don't. Cubic zirconium, moissanite, and diamond-coated materials, are not diamond. These are called "simulants" in the industry. These materials have completely different physical properties compared to diamond."

They have this part right too.  Materials such as cubic zirconia, and moissanite are simulants.  Note that they also include "diamond-coated materials" in this description as this also ties into the end of the piece.  So let's get to that end right now and see what is really going on here:

"ABOUT LAB CREATED DIAMONDS Since diamonds are mined from deep within the earth as carbon is pressurized to produce the miracle gem it takes centuries to create. As science would have it however, now it is possible to speed up the process creating a diamond in a fraction of the time. Hybrid diamonds are not fakes, but have a real diamond layer. NSCD DIAMONDS ARE NOT ZIRCONIA"

Another Photo of my Opal and Ruby Pendant
And herein lies the most important line in the entire piece: "Hybrid diamonds are not fakes, but have a real diamond layer."  So apparently what they are selling is a "hybrid diamond".  I'm not exactly sure what this is because I've never heard it used in gemological circles before.  Perhaps it's a diamond that runs on both gas and electricity! But note the second part in which they say they "have a real diamond layer".  Ok I got it.  Their product has some layer of diamond on it.  Okay so let's go back up to here: "Both are, in fact, diamonds".  Wait a minute!  If their product has a real diamond layer how is it in fact a diamond???? If it's some other material with a layer of diamond dust (which I am being generous by assuming this might actually be what it is) then it most assuredly is not a diamond.  "Cubic zirconium, moissanite, and diamond-coated materials, are not diamond."  Umm, that's right but they just said that their material has a diamond layer, which I'm pretty certain means that it is diamond coated so if it's not diamond in this statement how does the statement "both are, in fact, diamonds" fit into this? 

As a gemologist I'm able to look at this pile of misinformation, double speak, outright lies and phony sales hype and recognize it for exactly what it is.  Unfortunately most people aren't gemologists.  This gets me back to what I continually am talking about on this blog.  Buy only from people you trust implicitly.  For the most part online merchants in my industry are going to push the truth as far as they can.  And for goodness sake, if the product is priced at $50 and claims to have a half carat "diamond" use your heads.  It's not going to be any kind of a diamond!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Only Three More Days

There are only three more days until tax free day and our sale so I thought I might tempt you with a few new pieces that just came out:

 This first one is a boulder opal with an emerald and a sapphire.   I came upon the stone by accident.  (Long story).  
 These earrings have an orange spessartite garnet and a rhodolite garnet. The stones are two different colors and you can't quite see that in this picture but they're a fun pair of earrings.
 This is a beautiful aquamarine in a ring.  Unfortunately you can't have it as it's already been claimed. 
Since I sold the other super fine boulder opal the other day I decided to put out the second one.  Kady got the colors of the opal perfectly but the pendant itself is a little lost so as soon as I can I'm going to get another shot of it up here. So come on by!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tax Free Day is Coming

Triangular shaped earrings with oval multicolored opals and a swinging diamond
Ethiopian Opal, Diamond and 18k Gold Earrings
Tax free day is coming August 16!  Well technically it's going to be tax free weekend but, since I'm never open on Sundays, for me it's only tax free day.   As many of my regular customers know I also have a sale associated with the day and I'm having it again this year.  Unfortunately, if you don't already own a piece of my jewelry you can't take advantage of the sale as it's only for my existing customers.  But that doesn't stop you from taking advantage of the tax savings and if you don't yet own a piece of mine it's a great time to get added to the list for next year by taking something home with you. 

I have been busy turning out some new items for the case as well in preparation for the event so I do have some new things out in the cases.  Unfortunately some of them have already been claimed (as we allow you to come in early and put stuff aside with your credit card number to be rung up on the 16th).  The opal pendant in my recent posting with the super fine opal has already sold and I had a new pair of Ethiopian opal earrings (pictured above) made up as well that have already been claimed. This doesn't mean I don't have some other new things and I have a number of pieces in process. 

So come on by!!

Two circles dangling with green stones
18k Gold and Tsavorite Garnet Earrings

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rubies and the New Opal Pendant

Pear shaped multicolor opal with dangling red and green stones
Australian Boulder Opal, Ruby and Emerald Pendant in 22k and 18k Gold

In my last article I promised a picture of the new boulder opal piece I got in recently and here it is!  The stone, as you can see from the picture is really pretty outstanding.  It has a couple of rubies and an emerald on the bottom.  And the rubies bring me into today's topic.

This is something I've discussed before but because I have noticed a number of articles about the topic on social media of late it seems to be coming into the mainstream consciousness.  There were a couple of news exposes (these are what are being reprinted on the social media venues) about glass filled rubies being sold, undisclosed for the most part, in the major jewelry chains.  In my previous article on this topic I went into this issue here.  But it's worth revisiting.

Oval red ruby in a prong setting with a bezel set diamond in a ring
1.37 ct. Ruby and Diamond Ring
So the first thing you should know about ruby is that it is a form of corundum.  Sapphire is also corundum.  Ruby is simply the red variety of it.  Red is also the rarest color that it occurs in so rubies are consequently more expensive.  As with many of the other fine gem materials today the price of high quality goods has been skyrocketing.  This is happening with ruby for a number of reasons.  The first is simply that it is a relatively rare gem.  The second, as with opal, is that the Asian market has expanded so dramatically and they are always most interested in the highest quality of goods.  The third is that the United States banned importation of ruby and jade from Burma (Myanmar) a couple of years ago in a quixotic attempt to force regime change in the country (note that now that it has undergone some significant changes the law hasn't been changed back).  Burma is without a doubt the source for the finest ruby available.  The ban has meant that dealers here in the states have been unable to purchase new material and are either working off of old stock or buying pre ban stock from other dealers.  There are other factors as well impacting the price today:  better mining practices which inevitably mean higher retrieval costs and higher labor costs, higher transportation costs, third world nations are no longer letting their resources be removed from their country free of tariffs and taxes, etc.

As always, when the cost of something that a lot of people want rises dramatically, someone comes up with a way to make money on it, often through shady business practices.  In the case of ruby, since there was such a dearth of fine material, the process used to heat treat goods was used far more aggressively and on far lower quality material.  There is material that would in the past have been tossed into the garbage that they realized if they heated it aggressively enough could be made to look far better than it actually is.  The process used to over heat this material ends up infusing the flux into all of the cracks and fissures in this low grade material where it turns into glass.  Some of the material has so much of this glass in it that the head of one of the major gem labs said a few years ago that: "we don't know whether to call this ruby with glass in it or glass with ruby in it".

If you've been reading my blog long enough you know that many, if not most, gem materials are being treated in some form or another.  So you might then ask what is the problem with this particular treatment?  Well first of all, if the stone is more glass than ruby there is the primary question of whether or not it should be called ruby to begin with. The second issue is that the glass flux in the stones can be dissolved in anything mildly acidic such as lemon juice or vinegar so normal everyday wear is pretty much out of the question, even though ruby is normally considered a fairly durable gem material.  If you own one of these stones in a ring you will see distinctive changes in the look of it fairly quickly. 

The largest problem with this whole issue is, once again, disclosure.  The purchasers of these goods are not being told that the material they are buying has been so aggressively treated nor are they being told about the special care needed in wearing the stones.  Because this material is so cheap (and trust me, if you see a 1 ct. ruby these days being sold for less than $500 you can pretty much be assured it's one of these stones) and it LOOKS good, people are buying it.  Unfortunately most consumers simply don't know enough about high quality gems to even ask the questions about the material.

The jewelry industry is, in this case, more than deserving of a lot of the blame.  Not only do most chain stores seem completely disinterested in disclosing treatments (or educating most of their sales staff) but the industry's self policing organization itself is in part to blame.  There is an organization known as the Jeweler's Vigilance Committee that is supposed to help police the industry over a number of issues including disclosure.  Unfortunately the JVC and I parted ways a few years ago when they announced that they didn't believe heat treatment of rubies needed to be disclosed.  Their logic went like this: Since almost all rubies are heat treated it doesn't matter if disclosure is made.  In my discussion with them, I pointed out that not a month earlier than they announced this decision, I had sold a fine 2 ct. natural color (unheated) ruby to a customer and that I had had absolutely no problem acquiring a half dozen unheated stones for him to look at.  While smaller stones are routinely heated it is still possible to get natural color stones so, as with all gem materials, full disclosure is necessary.  I pointed out to them at the time that their stance was going to lead to problems with the new flux infused material but they claimed it wouldn't be a problem.  A number of months later when more and more of the glass infused material was coming into the marketplace they came out with a new statement saying that material that might have durability issues should be disclosed.  Unfortunately by then the general feeling was that if the JVC says heat treatment in rubies doesn't have to be disclosed then this is just another form of heat treatment so why should we disclose it.

So what is the poor customer to do?  Well there are a number of things.  First of all, if it sounds to good to be true, it is.  So if you see someone trying to sell you a 2 ct. ruby for $1000, there is going to be a problem with the material.  Secondly, as I have said so many times in the past, buy from someone you can trust and with whom you have recourse if something is wrong (so don't buy something when you are overseas).  If possible look for reputable retailers who are members of the American Gem Trade Association (I am) who insist that all treatments be disclosed.  And then ask a lot of questions.  If the sales people don't really seem knowledgeable about topics like treatments buy somewhere else.  And quite honestly I wouldn't buy any significant sized ruby on line anywhere these days.  You just can't tell what you're getting.

The ruby ring in the picture has a 1.37 ct. oval ruby in it.  It has been heated but not aggressively.  Although it has a similar color to most Burmese material I don't believe that it is a Burmese stone.

Coming up soon:  Tax free weekend is August 16 and 17 this year.  My regular existing customers will know what that means.  Look for an email from us Friday!  In the next day or two I will have some pictures of a few more new pieces that are out.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014


carved blue stone moon faces with a disc above them with wires, beads and diamonds
Carved spectrolite moon faces in 18k and 22k gold with diamonds
Happy summer everyone.  I hope many of you are getting some time off to refresh and rejuvenate.  We closed for the July 4th weekend and it was a nice break (although not nearly long enough).

I know it always sounds great to someone who doesn't have their own business to be self employed but, unfortunately it's not nearly as romantic or relaxing as it sometimes seems.  So even on my short four day break over July 4th I found myself doing business.  Not that it wasn't fun business, but it was still business.  My opal and pearl dealer was in town and when he is, he routinely stays with us.  I wasn't looking for much material but I always look at everything he has. 

What is becoming more and more apparent is that opal prices have skyrocketed in the last five years.  While the normal, commercial white opal hasn't seen this explosion in prices, the more unusual material like the boulder opal I use and black opal has just gone through some enormous changes.  This has happened across the board in these materials.  Low end material that I used to sell for $100 I would now have to sell for $3-400.  The problem with this is that it doesn't look any better than it did when I was selling it for $100.  The higher end material has also seen huge rises in cost.  Some of this rise is simply due to the burgeoning Asian market.  There is a vast amount of new wealth in Asia today and the Asian market has always appreciated fine gemstones.  Additionally there is a limited supply of fine material that can be mined and, unlike a diamond which is forever, a lot of opal material breaks down over time (usually a long period of time) so it isn't like a huge amount of old material will ever come back into the marketplace. 

So what's an opal lover (like myself) to do?  Well first of all I don't see prices going down ever.  Barring an extended world wide depression there is simply no reason for the prices to go down from where they are.  Mining costs in Australia will only continue to rise.  The market for fine material will continue to grow.  There will be less and less material being mined as sources are depleted.  So, personally I would buy it now before it gets even more costly. 

While we were going through my opal man's collection of better material (ranging in price from about $1500-$15,000) he was watching me as I would stop at certain pieces that attracted my attention more than others. When I finished he looked at me and told me that every piece I had stopped at was from his personal collection that he has begun to sell off slowly.  Leave it to me to appreciate only the best and most interesting ones.  Two of those pieces I bought because they were so unusual and wild looking (and affordable).  One should be out in a pendant within a week or so and I'll post a picture of it (although I'm not sure if we're going to be able to get the colors showing up properly).  The other one may go into my own personal collection. 

Please stop by if you'd like to see these two beauties!

The earrings above were a custom job for a customer late last year and were some of my few remaining carved spectrolite faces. 


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alexandrite Again

grey carved stones with yellow gold caps and 18k dangles in the shape of a jellyfish
Jellyfish Earrings
Four years ago I wrote a blog article about alexandrite.  It is still the most commented on blog I have written.  Unfortunately, although I have reread it a number of times to check for clarity it seems that a lot of the people who comment haven't been able to understand some of the things I said so I'm going to try again here and specifically deal with the issues that they are having a hard time understanding.

Natural alexandrite is one of the most expensive gem materials available (at least in fine qualities).  The stone is known as a "phenomenal" stone because it exhibits the phenomenon known as "color change".  This means that a gemstone, when exposed to different types of light sources (usually fluorescent vs. incandescent), will change colors.  Stones sold to you as alexandrite that do not display any color change are actually chyrsoberyl and not alexandrite.  The color change is from a greenish tone to a very slightly purplish red tone (red is the key word here).

Alexandrite can occur in large sizes but is extremely rare in large sizes.  High quality stones over 2 cts. will routinely run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  They have always been expensive.  There are basically only three major sources for them: Russia (which isn't a large producer anymore), Brazil (where the mine owners flooded the mine a number of years ago because of the number of deaths at the mine---due to the high value of the goods not due to the dangers of mining----this mine might have been reopened more recently but I'm not sure about that) and Sri Lanka.

So here's the deal:  If you have a large stone in your possession that changes color, unless you come from considerable wealth, you most likely do not have an alexandrite.

In the 1890's synthetic corundum first came on the market.  By the middle of the 20th century there was a vast amount of color change synthetic corundum coming into the marketplace that was often sold as alexandrite (both mistakenly and in an attempt to deceive).  This material was routinely 1) large, 2) cut in very regular sizes and 3) exhibits a bluish green to purple color change.  Let me repeat number 3:  It exhibits a bluish green to purple color change.  Alexandrite exhibits a greenish/red color change.

So if you have inherited a really large color change stone, and there is no red/green color change you don't have an alexandrite; you have a synthetic sapphire.  It doesn't matter if it came from your parents, grandparents or great grandmother.  They had these stones then too.  If you bought a really large color change stone and there is no red/green color change you don't have an alexandrite.

It is an incredibly easy test to determine the difference between corundum and alexandrite.  Any semi competent gemologist (and most competent jewelers) can tell you which it is in minutes, assuming they even need to test the material. 

As I explained in the original article on alexandrite there is synthetic alexandrite that exhibits all of the same phenomena as natural alexandrite (as it is actually alexandrite, just made by man) on the market today.  This was a much more recent development and the material is not nearly as inexpensive as the synthetic corundum.  This is harder to separate from natural alexandrite because it shows the same colors as natural material.  For this kind of distinction you may need a gem lab to look at the material.  But again, they don't generally produce it in large sizes.

If you are interested in color change gems but don't want to pay the price for alexandrite, I routinely have natural, color change sapphires that change from a bluish tone to a purplish tone.  There is also color change garnet available in the markteplace. 

I do really hope that someday someone will bring in a stone for me to look at that turns out to be a large alexandrite, but it hasn't happened in the past thirty-five years so I'm not holding my breath.

I have a new pair of my jellyfish earrings out.  The picture above is of the original pair but the new ones are similar. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Fun

Open wire work ring with a rectangular 1.30 ct. diamond and two side diamonds
950 platinum ring with a 1.30 ct. diamond
Despite the weather we've had the last few days summer is rapidly approaching and I thought I would give you some recommendations for proper enjoyment of the next few months, so here they are:

1) If there are sharks in the water don't go in!  This would seem kind of obvious to most people but some people really like to get close to wildlife.

2) Put on your sunscreen.  Jewelry doesn't look as good against bright red skin tones. 

3) Don't drink too much when you're at the beach.  You might not see the sharks and stumble into the water.

And last but not least:


And that's actually what I wanted to talk about in this post. 

Despite my constant reminders to my customers and a plethora of information on it available on the web, I find that a large number of people still aren't aware of this issue.  The chlorine found in most swimming pools (and hot tubs) can actually dissolve small amounts of gold on your jewelry if it is exposed often enough to it.  Now this may not be much of a problem for a plain gold band, and will probably be unnoticeable on something of that sort, but if you have stones in your ring, and especially if they are set in prongs, there is a good likelihood that you may lose one of your stones. 

When gemstones are set in prong settings the prongs are cut so that they can fold over the tops of the stones to hold them in place.  The area where they are cut can be extremely thin in some cases and it doesn't take much time for chlorine to eat away at an area like that.  Suddenly you've dropped a couple of prongs into the pool and the stone goes with it.  Trust me, once the diamond has fallen out, the chance that you'll actually find the stone in a full size swimming pool is just about nil.  For some reason white gold seems to be worse when it comes to this, probably related to the most common alloys used in the gold (at least in the nickle white gold most traditional jewelers use). 

Unfortunately I know that some of you are going to take this advice and then make another mistake.  You're going to take off the jewelry when you get to the pool and there is going to be no place safe to leave the stuff while you're in the water.  Lockers at pool clubs or gyms are notoriously unsafe.  People routinely troll through any locker they can get open looking for just this type of thing.  So think about this BEFORE you head off to the local pool and leave it in a secure place in your house. 
For more information on this you should read my articles on jewelry security starting with this one  For that matter given how often we tend to leave our houses open at this time of year it would probably be a good time to read all the articles in the security series again anyway. 

So have a really wonderful summer but remember: no jewelry in pools!

Platinum ring with three diamonds in an open wirey like design
950 Platinum Custom One of a Kind Diamond Engagement Ring

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New From Old

I often talk about how I am happy to take in old gold pieces you might own and give you a scrap credit towards new work I can do for you.  I have also often talked about how I am happy to work with your stones as I believe firmly you retain the most amount of value by keeping them.   So here are some pictures of what I can do for you.  One of my regular readers (Hi Helen!) brought in some old gold and stones she had:
gold scrap
If you look at the small pile in the lower center of the picture you'll see two pieces with diamonds in them and a jade pendant.  Helen wanted to reuse these stones and some of my fancy colored sapphires in a pendant design based on my black mobe pearl rings pendant:
black flat pearl surrounded by concentric rings, white, pink and green stones
18k and 22k gold  pendant with South Sea black mobe pearl, sapphires, diamonds and emerald.

I was able to give Helen a $900 credit towards the job and this is what I came up with for her:

green stone pendant with concentric rings around it and white and pink/orange stones
18k and 22k yellow gold pendant with jade, diamonds and fancy colored sapphires

I enjoyed working on this project because I happen to like the design to begin with, I was able to utilize a number of her stones in it, and we came up with something that was beautiful all at the same time. 

So if you have a bunch of old stuff lying around somewhere bring it in and let's see what we can work out together!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How To Make a Marriage Last

Handmade blackened pure silver chain with 18k gold caps and clasp
Handmade fine silver and 18k yellow gold chain
One of my long term regular customers, and a regular reader of my blog (hi David!) was in my shop the other day.  He had an inherited diamond we were talking about options for.  While we were chatting he told me that next year he and his wife were celebrating their 55th!!! wedding anniversary.  I was a bit in shock because it seemed like he must have gotten married when he was 5 given how young he looks. But what an amazing thing, to be able to celebrate 55 years with a person you love.  I thought I was going strong because Kathy and I celebrated our 25th late last year.  For us to make it to 55 we'll have to live to our 90's.  Of course I'm pretty sure I'm going to be working until I'm 90 so maybe we will get there too. 

So I have to wonder how did they make it last so long.  Obviously there is a great deal of love there.  But from my perspective I have to say that maybe it's the fact that at least once a year, every year, David comes in and buys something for his long time sweetheart.  Admittedly it's a small survey sample but I'm going with that as the main reason.  And given how long he's been buying from me, I have to think that it's really MY jewelry that's been responsible!  So if you want your marriage to last, you should consider making a purchase at least once a year from me.  It certainly couldn't hurt.....

I have been busy this last month, hence the limited number of postings.  I saw my new German supplier again and got some interesting new material including some wonderful new beads.  I got another strand of tumbled tanzanite beads similar to the ones I had at Christmas as well as some multicolor sapphire beads.  I also got another carved drusy moon face and have ordered a pair for earrings.  And I got a couple more pairs of carved moonstones for some more jellyfish earrings. 

I have also become acutely aware lately of how the price of gold has impacted people's ability to get some of my more interesting work so I have embarked on the first major change in metal usage I've had in ten years.  I will be producing a small line of mixed metal silver and gold necklaces and bracelets (no earrings, no rings) so that you don't have to spend $3-4000 to get into one of my pieces.  The chain pictured above is the first in this series.  It is blackened fine (pure) silver and 18k gold.  I will be adding slowly to this collection over the next 6 months.  A new bracelet is already in the works and I will be trying to add one piece every 5-6 weeks to this grouping.  I am still NOT taking custom orders in silver or silver and gold mixes but I will be offering some of my work in this more affordable manner for the foreseeable future. 

I'll be getting some new pictures up of the new beads soon.  Mother's Day is almost here.  There's no time like the present to begin a tradition of buying a present a year so you can be married for 55 years too!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Let Me Sell Your Giant Diamonds for You!

yellow gold rectangular pin with purplish garnets
14k and 22k yellow gold pin with garnets
Any of you who have been regular readers know that while I am happy to give gold scrap credits for old gold pieces that are broken or you no longer want towards new pieces, I won't buy gemstones or diamonds from anyone. The primary reason for this is that so few stones I see actually are in the quality range of goods that I sell.  Another reason is that anything that has been worn over a period of time inevitably needs work done on it to get it back into shape for resale and usually it's simply not worth my time or effort to deal with the piece.

However what many of you don't know is that occasionally I will work on a commission basis to resell significant stones for my customers.  What do I mean by significant?  In the case of diamonds they have to be over 2 cts, and, unless there is something else interesting about them, preferably of fairly high quality.  In the case of colored stones they have to be larger and high quality no matter what.  The reason for this is that I work on a commission basis on these items and I need to make enough to make it worth my while to take time out from making and selling my jewelry. 

I recently had a customer come in with just such a project.  When the customer first told me about the stone, I assumed when he told me that it was a 20 ct. diamond that he had no idea of what he was talking about in terms of the size.  However it sounded like a project I might be interested in (even if it was nowhere near 20 ct) so I told him that I was happy to look at the stone.  When they actually came in with the stone however, I was a little taken aback at the size of it.  It was a pear shape and the stone was so large that the Leveridge gauge I use to measure stones wouldn’t actually measure the length of it, making it difficult to estimate the size.  The customer claimed she had been told that it was 25 ct.---it was her mother’s originally—but there was no way for me to know for sure as long as it was in the setting.  Now mind you the quality of this stone is nowhere near my quality range.  It was an I1 clarity and it had strong fluorescence.  The color grade was good however and it was most assuredly big---so big that I had never held a diamond that large in my hands---which qualified it for the "interesting" part of my criteria.
17.68 ct. pear shaped diamond ring next to a .75 ct. (center stone) ring
17.68 ct. pear shaped diamond
The customer and his wife had gone downtown to a local, very high end and big name jewelry store where they had been made an offer on the stone but they complained they didn’t like the gentleman they were talking to (who I believe was the owner of the company) and refused his offer of $50,000.    I told them I had no idea what the stone might really generate because it was out of my normal range of goods (both in terms of the clarity grade and the size) and that because of the size there were no diamond price charts one could look at to get an idea of the value.  But I discussed with them what the minimum amount they might like was and the fee I would charge for my work on selling it. 

In working with one of the dealers I sell to occasionally the initial price he was talking about was far above the initial offers but we still didn’t know what the actual weight was and our measurements were yielding estimates much lower than the customer’s belief that it was 25 ct.  So while we were initially thinking it was at least 20 ct. we knew we had to find out the actual weight.  So we popped out the stone finally.  It weighed out at 17.68 ct.  Still the biggest stone I’ve ever held! 

Unfortunately the price came down a bit once we realized it wasn’t over 20 ct., but for this stone I was able to get $80,000 ($30,000 more than the other offer made) for my customers after my commission, which they have happily accepted. 

Now I won’t do this kind of thing for people for ordinary smaller diamonds because, quite frankly, it isn’t worth my time unless the piece is unusual and I can make a reasonable commission.  But if you happen to have a larger diamond you have inherited or an unusual colored gemstone, please come by and see me. Perhaps we can all make some money together.  

The picture of the piece of mine at the top of the page was a very old piece of mine which is why it was made with 14k gold instead of my usual 18k.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Long Does it Take?

Carved, satin finish onyx with gold and diamond pendant
18k yellow gold, onyx and diamond pendant

I routinely get people in who ask how long it takes me to make some of my pieces.  It's an interesting question but, in fact, not a simple one to answer.  So I think I'll try to dissect the question today to make you understand what goes into actually making a piece.  But first some background for it!

I've been making jewelry for more than 40 years.  This means that I have developed skill levels above and beyond what most jewelers have.  It also means that I'm faster than most jewelers.  (I'm also far humbler than most jewelers (-; ).  What might take my assistant Kady an hour or two to do can take me 15 minutes sometimes. Mind you,  I've always been fast.  When I started making jewelry the jeweler I apprenticed for routinely developed methods to consistently and quickly make up designs so the idea of working quickly was ingrained in me from the beginning.  Over the years I have also always had the attitude that it doesn't really matter how you get there, as long as it's finished right and you do get there.  Many traditional jewelers would never use some of the methods I employ to get a job done quickly because they weren't taught that way and they often don't think it's the "right" way to do something. I remember attending a seminar on platinum a number of years ago and the teacher, who is an internationally recognized expert in the field, repeatedly said that you should never use an oxy-acetylene torch when working with platinum.  I've only used an oxy-acetylene torch in the 30 years I've been working with platinum and I've never had any problems.  Go figure!

However what this all means in terms of how long it takes to make a piece is that I might be able to produce a ring in an hour (in actual bench time, more on that in a bit), but the very same ring might take someone else 3-4 hours.  It also might take an employee 3-4 hours so when I figure out the labor involved I have to plan on that and not my Flash (as in the comic book) like abilities. 

So can I make a piece in an hour?  Well certainly some of them, however there is never actually only an hour involved. Anything that gets soldered needs to sit in a pickle (acid bath) for extended periods of time after the soldering in order to be clean enough to work on again.  This is one reason why it gets tricky for me to even know exactly how long it takes me to make something.  Because there is always a lot of down time in the middle of my work, I routinely work on multiple pieces at once.  Sometimes I have a half dozen or more pieces in progress all at once.  So while I may actually work on a particular piece for an hour it's rare that anything can actually be done from start to finish in a short time period. 

But then there is another issue and that is why I have posted the picture of the onyx, gold and diamond pendant above that I just finished up last week.  I bought the carved onyx I used in this piece in 2008.  One of my regular suppliers was here on a selling trip and I fell in love with the piece.  I knew I wanted to do something with it. Over the years since then I would pull it out of my stone boxes and sit it on my bench and think about how I wanted to approach the piece.  Routinely it went back in the box after lying around on my bench for a month or so.  At the beginning of this year I was doing a more thorough cleaning of my workshop than usual and found it hanging out near my bench again.  This was in the middle of January.  I spent another month and a half thinking about what I wanted to do with the piece.  And then, out of the blue, it came to me.  The piece was completed over a period of two days.  But it took me six whole years to figure out what I was going to do with it.  So how much time did it take me to make it?  If I charged according to the number of years of my time I spent on it, I should be selling it for a couple of hundred thousand dollars.  However fortunately for you (and unfortunately for me) I don't charge for my work in that way (the piece is only $1075---a bargain when you consider the years of thought that actually went into it).

There are other factors that go into the time frame on my pieces.  A number of my pieces (mostly my wedding bands) are cast pieces. This means that I initially make up a model and then have a mold made so that the piece can be reproduced more easily.  Many times these are pieces that have fairly complex designs and the initial design and work time on the piece can be quite substantial.   Once that is accomplished however finishing up the castings is a much simpler process. So if it takes me 10 hours to get a proper model made up and then only a half hour to finish the casting later, how much time did it actually take me to make the piece?  And of course when something is hand built from scratch it will always take longer than a casting will.  Sometimes these pieces can go quickly too and then sometimes everything possible will go wrong with them on the way.  I've been known to remake a ring three or four times because I can't get it right the first time.  You, of course, don't see that as you only see the end result. 

So how long does it take me to make a piece?  Anywhere from an hour to 40 years!

Please feel free to share this article with my newly located Facebook buttons on the upper right.  And please feel free to leave a comment.  I know you read these things.  You're always coming in the store and telling me you do.  Even if you just want to say hi!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ideal Cut Diamonds

necklace composed of blue opal beads with gold spacers and a gold center piece.
22k yellow gold and boulder opal bead necklace
About a week ago one of the jewelers I know called me and asked if I could help her out with a customer she was working with.  She helps people trying to do a "do it yourself" project with jewelry sometimes (not something I recommend as inexperience in this field rarely leads to fine results but that's another story).  So she had a young gent who had managed to design a ring (nothing very original but that's also another story) on a computer using Cad-Cam and had a local casting company cast the piece up in platinum for him.  He had purchased three diamonds from an online company whose big thing is that they (supposedly---but that's yet another story) sell ethically sourced stones and jewelry.

The reason they came to me is because somewhere in the design to casting process some little beads had been added in on various parts of the ring that were not a design element and were not supposed to be there.  No one knew how they even got on there.  They weren't a mistake in the casting process as they were quite regularly placed.  Unfortunately they were regularly placed in areas where it was just about impossible to get them cleaned out of.  (Again, this is why I don't recommend do it yourself jewelry projects.)  He also needed to get the stones set into the four prong settings.  I don't believe in four prong settings because if you lose one prong you can lose the stone. If you have six prong settings you have to lose three prongs to lose a stone.  But when confronted with a design that only four prongs were going to work on (and this was one of them) I believe you need to make the prongs substantial enough that it is going to take quite a bit to knock one off or wear it down.  The prongs on this ring were nowhere near heavy enough, but again, this is why I don't recommend this kind of stuff (have I said that enough yet?).  So when no one else can do it, people like to bring it to me.  Sweet, huh?

But this isn't really about the ring itself. It's about ideal cut diamonds.  So what is an ideal cut diamond?

In 1919 a mathematician diamond cutter named Marcel Tolkowsky worked out a formula on what angles to cut a diamond to that would result in the maximum amount of brilliance, scintillation and fire in a diamond.  He figured out how the light would best travel through the stone and be reflected back out at the viewer by the facets below.  This involved a series of calculations, including the size of the table (the top flat area on a diamond) relative to the total size of the stone, the crown angle (the angle the top part of the diamond is cut to), the pavilion angle (the angle the bottom part of the diamond is cut to), and the crown and pavilion height percentage. An ideal cut diamond has to have the correct measurements in all of these categories in order to be considered ideal.

Tolkowsky had a cousin named Lazare Kaplan who was also in the diamond business and he went on to cut, promote and sell ideal cut diamonds and he was the first to do that.  The company he formed, originally Lazare Kaplan and now Lazare Diamond, has been in the forefront of many of the innovations in the diamond marketplace.  They developed the technology to laser inscribe the girdles of diamonds that is so prevalent today among other things.

Now when I started selling Lazare ideal cut diamonds about 25 years ago, hardly any diamonds (less than 1%) were actually being cut to ideal proportions. The primary reason for this was because when cutters cut a stone to ideal proportions they lose more weight from the rough than normal.  Most cutters, being paid by weight, just wanted to get the largest stone possible from the rough and since at certain sizes (.50 ct., .75 ct. 1 ct. etc.) there were significant price jumps just for hitting that weight, stones were often cut horribly just to hit the desired weight.

However about ten years ago, there was a subtle shift in the martketplace and the fourth "C"--cut--started to become more and more important as customers realized that the stone could be a "D" color, Flawless and still look bad if it was poorly cut.  However, as always seems to happen in business, as soon as people started to look for better cuts, the marketplace stepped in and began to "market" cut as well.  Unfortunately (and also as always seem to happen in business) this meant that once the term "ideal cut" was acknowledged as an important term, it began to be applied to any diamond that the companies thought they could get away with it.  They described stones as "near" ideal (a little like the idea of being a "little" pregnant) first.  Then as the Internet companies jumped into the fray they began to come up with more new terms like "super" ideal, "signature" ideal, or "insert company name here" ideal.

These are all completely bogus terms.  An ideal cut stone has to fall into the angles and sizes specified by Tolkowsky to be considered an ideal cut stone.  An excellent cut grade from the GIA or other gem labs is not necessarily an ideal cut stone.  It may be a well cut stone but it isn't an ideal cut. Actually some of the terms are slightly nuts.  One well known on line diamond site lists stones that are ideal cut and then others that are "signature" ideal cuts.  In looking over the angles on the stones it seems that what they sold as "ideal" cuts had no relation to a true ideal cut, but that the "signature" ideal cuts actually came in closer to what a true ideal cut should be. In other words the term "ideal cut" has been completely bastardized to fit whatever marketing gimmick the companies choose to use.

So back to my original story.  The young gent handed me the three stones he had purchased from the "ethically sourced" company and told me he had bought them as "super ideal" cuts.  The pricing on them seemed a little low for anything like that so I took a quick peek under the microscope at them.  It was immediately apparent that not one of them fit into the ideal category.  There is one thing you can look for on a diamond table that will almost instantly tell you if the stone is ideal.  A diamond's table that is in the 53%-57% range established by Tolkowsky as part of the ideal range will almost always have the lines that create the table bow inward surrounding it.  It took me less than 30 seconds to see this was not the case.  I confirmed it later using more advanced measuring devices but there was absolutely no way the stones would have been considered ideal cut by anyone who actually knew what an ideal cut is.

 So first of all how can the company call itself ethical if it's lying about what it's selling?  Secondly, while the stones seemed inexpensive for an ideal cut, they weren't actually ideal cut so there is no possible way the customer could have compared pricing to see if he was actually getting a good price.
The Internet is like the Wild West and there are very few controls on what is allowed.  I have personally seen more bogus information on metals, colored stones and diamonds then you could imagine.  My suggestion, as always, is to work with a local, well educated jeweler.  Work with someone you can talk to and who you trust.  It's always better to spend a little more but to know that you got what you paid for rather than just to look at a final price tag.

The ring, incidentally came out just fine when I was done with it.  You never would have known there had been some bizarre small bumps all over it.  I still wouldn't have made the prongs as thin as they were but there wasn't anything I could do about that.

If you are a regular reader you might notice that I have installed a like and share button for Facebook.  If you are on social media, please use the buttons.  Actually you can even go through now and post some of your favorite articles I've written on there if you'd like.  The more people who know about me, the better off I am.  Thanks so much.

The picture above is of my wife's 25th anniversary present.  It's 22k gold with boulder opal beads.  But I can make one for you too if you'd like!