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Friday, November 27, 2009

Lots of New Stuff

This is an interruption in my normal flow of topics here to let anyone who is reading know that I have a bunch of new stock out for the holidays; earrings, strands of pearls and opals, and even a new pin. Pictures will follow but if you want an early pick this holiday season, next week will be a great time to take a look (although the end of the week will be better as I have some more new things in process this week). A couple new William Henry knives in next week too!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Diamonds in Engagement Rings

Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds. There has been so much information and misinformation available over the years and it only seems to have grown exponentially with the growth of the Internet. There are so many different topics to discuss when talking about diamonds that it's hard to know even where to begin.

So let's start with a little history. Diamonds have been known almost since man became civilized (assuming you can say that man is actually civilized even today). But when diamonds were found in ancient times they were extremely hard for the people to cut or polish, what with their hardness and all and no modern technology to help. Some of the oldest known historical diamonds were simply polished with a few facets on the top and left flat on the bottom. It was about the best that could be done at the time.

However, over time, man, in his never ending quest for wealth finally figured out how to take such a rare (at that time) substance and actually cut it into something that sparkled a bit, particularly in candlelight. Most diamond crystals occur in the form of two inverted pyramids and early cutters figured out that they could lop off a piece on the top, and then add some facets around the still somewhat square stone to get some nice light reflection. These early cuts are known as "old mine cuts", almost always have a squared off outline, high crowns (tops) and either excessively shallow or deep pavilions (bottoms). Their facets were almost always lopsided, poorly placed and there were often naturals around the girdles (a natural is a part of the original diamond crystal skin that was never polished---you see this on some modern cuts as well because in a cutters' efforts to retain as much weight as possible they would often not even finish rounding up a diamond's girdle on the narrower spots on the crystal).

In the early 20th century, cutting techniques improved and they figured out how to actually round off the outlines of the crystals, achieving round stones. They also began to realize that if they didn't leave such a large crown on the stone they could actually cut a second stone from the same crystal. These early stones, which are still usually top heavy, have very small tables, are not very well cut either, but have rounded outlines are known as old European cuts.

Then in 1919, a diamond cutter/mathematician who's name was Tolkowsky worked out a formula for what angles to cut a diamond to in order to maximize the brilliance and light reflection from the crystal. This cut became known as the American Ideal Cut and was the standard against which all round cut diamonds were judged until just fairly recently. Tolkowsky had a cousin/apprentice who's name was Lazare Kaplan. Lazare Kaplan was the first person to adopt and popularize the American Ideal Cut and has continued to cut it ever since. The company Lazare Kaplan is now known as Lazare Diamond and they were the first in a number of other important advancements in the diamond industry, including developing the first lasers that could be used to imprint numbers (or words) on the girdle of a diamond (I believe they still own the patent) and a new high pressure high temperature treatment used to change the appearance of certain types of diamonds (not marketed under their own name).

Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers has been selling Lazare Diamonds for close to twenty years. The best thing about them is that every stone they sell will absolutely be an ideal cut diamond. Unfortunately a lot of people today sell stones they claim are ideal but often they are just better cut than some other stones and they don't actually have the proper angling on the facets or the correct table size to actually be called ideal. In my book it's a little like being pregnant. You can't be almost pregnant and you can't be almost ideal. The stone either meets the criteria or it doesn't.

I don't want to overwhelm you all with information at one time so I'll leave this here. Next posting, I'll talk a little about quality and rarity of diamonds.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Engagement Rings II

I just had another newly engaged couple in yesterday. He had picked out a band from me and she was thrilled with it. It was a completely nontraditional engagement ring as it didn't even have a center stone. In the picture to the left it's the bottom ring. But the young gentleman seemed to have a very good grasp of what his intended would like from the moment he walked in. Remember that it is the intent behind the ring that makes it what it is, not the actual piece.

So now you (the proposer) has figured out what kind of style your intended would like (well hopefully) and you have to deal with another issue. What kind of stone are you going to put in the ring? Diamonds, obviously, are the traditional choice but they are not the only option. Durability, however, is an issue that must be raised immediately. This is a ring that is going to be worn every day for a very long time and consequently it would be nice if it would hold up well. For this reason I usually recommend either diamonds, rubies or sapphires because these are the most durable of gem materials. Now mind you any stone can be broken (diamonds included---their hardness refers to scratch hardness not breakage) and, over time, most will show signs of wear and tear but usually these three will hold up better than most others. Stones like opals, tanzanite, pearls, etc. are extremely fragile and are definitely not good choices. Emeralds also tend to break fairly easily (although their scratch hardness isn't so bad) and are not a good choice.

The good news is that sapphires do come in a wide range of colors so the palette of colors available to you is fairly broad. For those of you concerned about the sourcing of diamonds (more on that in a future post) sapphires offer an excellent option. Personally I think they are far more interesting, but I think there is such a strong feeling about getting a diamond by many women that it shouldn't be ignored. My wife, who has a 10 ct. tourmaline in her engagement ring and numerous sapphire rings, still wanted a diamond for her 20th anniversary present and I was happy to oblige.

The question of diamond vs. sapphire however is something that should definitely be felt out beforehand. While I don't know many women who would refuse a diamond, some people, for a variety of reasons, just don't want one. On the other hand I routinely get women in who say that they don't want a diamond, until they actually start trying on rings. Maybe it's just my ideal cut Lazare Diamonds that sparkle so much that changes their minds or maybe it's just that tradition thing kicking in again. Or perhaps they realize that diamonds just can go with anything else they put on.

My next post will talk a bit about the diamonds I sell. The one after that will discuss the issue of diamond sourcing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Engagement Rings 1

Engagement rings. Oh my. What one other thing do you give to another person that is imbued with so much meaning and substance? All other purchases pale by comparison. Here you are saying I want to spend the rest of my life with just this one other individual. And you have to actually give them something that represents that, both to them and to you.

This is usually the time you start to figure out if you really know the person. You walk into the jewelry store and the jeweler (in my case) or the salesperson starts to ask you questions. PERSONAL questions. Does your intended like white or yellow metals? Do they want a diamond (how can you even know this if you haven't actually discussed what you're doing with them)? What colors do they wear. Do you know their ring size? Do they like simple things? More unusual items? How do you know they'll say yes? What's a guy (or gal) to do?

Unfortunately this confusion often leads to picking out something incredibly simple. Guys, in particular, tend to feel it's much safer to choose the simplest, most straightforward design that they've been told through advertising (and, because most of their friends aren't much more adept when they propose, what they see on their friends' girlfriends) is the right way to go. Hence the somewhat absurd popularity of what is commonly known as the "Tiffany setting". This straightforward design with a plain band and a four prong setting was originally popularized by Tiffany And Co. (although it is unlikely it was actually created by them as it is such a basic design) and a version of it is made, and sold, by just about every jewelry store in America---well except in Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers.

This is a fine way to go if you're pretty certain that is what your intended really wants. After all, the goal is to make them happy. However if the guys actually knew how many women I get in here on their 5th, 10th, 15th, or 20th anniversary who say to me: "I really wanted something more interesting, but I couldn't say anything to him at the time. He had just proposed to me!! NOW I want you to make me something I really like because we've been married long enough I can tell him what I really like."

It's also a fine way to go if you really understand your intended and their style and it fits into that. Unfortunately, most of the time, most guys pick out something they like (or think they like), as opposed to thinking about what their intended would like, and let's face it, most guys tend to be pretty conservative in what they themselves wear. There aren't many out there like me who actually wear clothes that aren't off the rack and that represent my own sense of style!

So what is a guy (or gal) to do??? Well one thing is to simply propose without a ring and say let's go ring shopping. Women today are not what they were 40 or 50 years ago and many of them want a real say in something they are going to wear every day for the rest of their lives. Another is to make sure that anytime you're passing by a jewelry store with your significant other, stop and look at the stuff. You can ask what a person actually likes without giving anything away. You can also always give them some jewelry for other occasions (oh you know, like birthdays, Christmas/Chanukkah, Valentine's Day or my personal favorite giving holiday July 4!) and you'll get a feel pretty quickly if they like what you're picking out. Actually looking at what they already wear is also a good starting point. If your intended tends to wear big, wide rings with a bunch of work on them, you can probably be pretty assured that a simple four prong setting isn't going to work.

My belief is that you shouldn't be restricted to what is "customary" unless the intended makes it quite clear to you that is what they want. People like to be different and express themselves in ways that are different from every other person out there. Additionally, our lifestyles today don't lend themselves as much to a ring where a big stone is sticking up all over the place. How many rock climbers want to have their engagement ring sticking up all over the place as they grab onto various sharp ledges? What is most important to remember is that it's okay to do the unexpected these days.
Pictured above is my idea of an interesting engagement ring. My next posting on engagement rings will be on stones for them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Platinum The Other White Metal

I always wanted to do one of my ads in the Boston Globe with a picture of a platinum ring and the headline: The Other White Meat...Metal (with Meat with a line through it). In fact it isn't the other white metal, as it really is a white metal as opposed to white gold that is actually yellow metal posing as something it isn't.

Platinum is normally worked as either a 900/100 platinum/iridium mix (platinum is almost always alloyed with a member of the platinum metals group) or a 950/50 platinum/ruthenium mix. The numbers refer to the parts of platinum relative to the parts of alloy. There are other alloys available and recently some companies have started to work with a 585 mix (14k yellow gold is 58.5% pure gold) although they aren't allowed to call it platinum as the metal quality laws don't allow anything less than 900/100 to be called platinum. Personally I like that platinum is used with such a high purity level (I only sell 18k gold or higher for the same reason) and it seems foolish to cheapen it so much. but there is always someone out there looking for a way to make a buck.

Platinum is a more expensive metal than gold for a variety of reasons. One is that it generally is more per ounce than gold is (although they are getting incredibly close in price at the moment as gold continues to rise due to the value of the dollar falling so much). It is also worked purer than gold (90/10 or 95/5 as opposed to 75/25 for 18k gold) normally. It is also a much denser metal so the exact same piece in platinum weighs far more than gold does. And to top it all off it is a much more difficult metal to work with. While hand constructing platinum is certainly possible, casting is a far easier option normally. Platinum is soldered or fused at such high temperatures that protective eye gear is necessary whenever working with it and it takes far longer to attain a suitable finish than gold.

There is some confusion about the durability of platinum. Depending on who you talk to you'll hear that platinum scratches much easier, that it is harder than gold, that it lasts longer, doesn't hold up as well, you name it. In fact all metals scratch, especially when used in rings. Platinum does, in some cases, seem to scratch a little easier but it builds up a nice patina as it does. However, the difference between platinum and gold is that when you scratch a gold ring you actually remove metal from it. When you scratch a platinum ring most (although not all) of the metal is simply moved from one point on the ring to another. Hence it is actually a more durable metal as it will wear away more slowly.

So the question becomes should you get platinum or should you get white gold? In my belief, you should get the one which has the color that pleases you the most. This is a little tricky when buying commercially made rhodium plated white gold as it starts out looking almost the same as platinum, but you do have to remember that it will change in time. My 18k palladium white gold has a different appearance altogether than platinum. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just different.

Personally I believe white metals were put on Earth only to accent yellow ones and anyone asking me would be told, get a yellow gold piece. But I'm not the one who's going to wear it. For those of you who love white metals, get the one who's color you like and enjoy!

Pictured above is one of my platinum rings with a color shift purple/blue sapphire and diamonds.