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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Different Kind of Recycled Gold Question

Of late, I have been getting a lot of questions about reusing customer's gold to make up my work. This in part seems to be because of the economy out there right now, but it also seems to be fueled by everyone's awareness of how high gold prices have gone. Unfortunately there are a number of problems for me with this concept.

First of all almost all jewelry is made up using solder in it. While some cast pieces may not need solder to finish them, some errors in the casting processes are often corrected with solder and pieces are often sized, or altered in some way that brings in the use of solder as well. There is often no easy way to determine this (finding a sizing seam is usually fairly easy but the rest isn't). Repouring gold with solder in it will yield a metal that has porosity (holes) in it and will never be of the quality that one should use in a fine piece of jewelry. Solder is not made only from gold so once it gets mixed into the batch it impacts the metal in a variety of negative ways.

Additionally, every manufacturer has different alloys they add into gold. Remember that almost all gold is an alloy: gold is mixed with copper and silver for yellow gold, nickel, copper and silver for white gold, palladium, copper, silver and some other metals I'm not at liberty to reveal (the alloy mixture that I use is patented by my gold supplier and although I know the mixture I'm not allowed to reveal it) for palladium white gold, etc. When you take two different alloys and mix them together you never quite know how they are going to work together. So if you try to combine different pieces to make something you just can't tell what it is exactly you're going to end up with nor can you tell how workable it will be.

Now I know that there are some jewelers out there who will, in fact, take your gold and create a new piece from it. Some of them are able to do this because they have more serious manufacturing (read: refining) setups than I do. If someone can take your gold, refine it to pure gold and then realloy it, they can get a decent result to work with. I occasionally alloy my own gold but I don't have refining capability here (nor do I want to since there are a lot of environmental issues involved). Some of them, however, just don't really care about the quality of what the end product is and will melt down anything handed to them and attempt to make something out of it.

At Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, I try to produce a high quality product at all times (one reason that I offer lifetime guarantees on everything I make) and I have found it simply isn't possible reusing a customer's gold. The only thing I can use is pure gold coins (like Krugerrands) that I can alloy down to the karat and color I want. However, there is not always a large savings on this. Because of the time and work involved, often you end up using so much more of my time that the cost will be virtually the same as if I use my gold. This is particularly true with a smaller piece like a ring, but less so with one of my handmade chains.

There are some other options if there is a strong sentimental attachment to the piece and you really want to use some of an original ring because of that. I have, in the past, made up pieces for customers in which I cut out parts of an existing piece and solder it onto something I have made up, or I can melt some small pieces down into gold beads that I use in my designs and that can be just soldered onto my own work. And I am always happy to use your diamonds or gemstones in my pieces. There are a couple of issues with that as well, but I'll talk about that in my next post. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sapphire Engagement Rings

So you've had a couple of vague discussions with the person you intend to propose to and you've found out that diamonds are not an option. Perhaps they don't like the way diamonds look, or they are uncomfortable with the conflict diamond issue or maybe they just want an engagement ring like Princess Diana had. What can you use instead? Unfortunately most other gem materials are not anywhere near as durable as diamonds are. That's just a fact of life. However sapphires are the next hardest gem material and they can make fine engagement ring stones. They will wear over time. Depending on how hard you are on your jewelry they may start to get scratched up in a few years or it may be more than 20. (This is true with any jewelry. I have customers who have worn pieces of mine for 20 years and when they come in for their cleaning the things look like they've never been worn. I have other customers who wear something for a few months and it looks like a truck ran over it.) And, of course, if you whack a stone hard enough you can break them, but sapphires are a much better option than an emerald, and far better than garnets or members of the quartz family (amethyst, etc.). Actually when you get down to the hardness of quartz, there is so much quartz in the Earth, that there are some particles of quartz in the dust around us and the stones can actually be damaged just from wearing them around.

The most fantastic thing about sapphires is that they come in this incredible range of colors. You can get them in blue, bluish purple, purplish blue, purple, pink (both pastel and hot pink), orange (brownish orange, pinkish orange, reddish orange), yellow, white (although they always tend to be bluish white---they aren't like diamonds), green (although it'a a really ugly green for the most part), black (usually only as star sapphires) and if they're red they are rubies. Additionally there is one very famous color of sapphire called padparascha which is an orangey pink and extremely rare. What a great range of choices this allows for!

The other nice thing is that you get a wider range of shapes than you would have for diamonds. Well actually you can get diamonds in just about any shape but the reality is that they always look best in rounds, and the only reason you will see diamonds cut to other shapes (for the most part) is because the crystals don't lend themselves to good weight retention if they were cut into a round stone. But sapphires can look just as nice in ovals, rounds, antique cushion cuts (squares with rounded corners), triangles, squares, etc. This opens up the possibilities in terms of ring design tremendously.

Personally I love fine sapphires. I would always rather have someone walk out of my store with a beautiful purple sapphire engagement ring than a diamond engagement ring. Why? Because they are truly unique. Almost no one else has one. You also can get more bang for your buck. A 1 ct. fine sapphire will always be less expensive than a 1 ct. top color/clarity diamond (although a fine sapphire might be more expensive than a lot of the junky diamonds that are sold out there). So if you have a budget you're trying to stick to, a sapphire can also be a fine choice.

Then there is also this: every colored stone is truly different. A diamond is a diamond. Unless you have a fancy color one, they all pretty much look the same (well a better cut stone will look more sparkly, and a high color stone will always look better too but they are all pretty much just white). Each sapphire will have slightly different hues and depth of color. Each one is truly unique. And after all, your intended is a unique person too. Wouldn't you like the engagement ring you give her to reflect that part of her?

So guys, let's think outside the box a little. Obviously if she really only wants a diamond then that's what you should get her, but it wouldn't be the end of the world to show them some other options as well!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'm Back

I have returned from my brief vacation, gotten most of my year end business issues taken care of, I'm starting to replace some stock (my cases, especially my ring trays, are looking very light), and get back to work on some of my inhouse orders. Honestly I could have used another week off but that will have to wait for the summer I'm afraid. I love to work, but the run from mid November to New Year's when I get no days off (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) is trying and it always takes me a bit to recover. But here I am. I want to talk a little about my vacation in this posting, then in the next one I'm going to talk about alternative stones for engagement rings.

My wife Kathy and I went to New York for our vacation. I like New York City. It's always wonderfully alive, there are so many great restaurants, nobody drives a car there (taxis are everywhere) so you can start the cocktail hour as early as you like, it's a wonderful walking city and there are always people and things to look at. People know how to dress there more than any other city I've ever been in. I think it's important that people do, first because people who are more conscious of their attire tend to be more aware of what jewelry can do for them, and secondly because I like to dress up myself a bit. I seem to have inherited this from my grandfather who always considered himself a snappy dresser and in his own strange way I suppose he was (he certainly had a way with the ladies) although I wouldn't wear anything he did.

There is also such an immense variety of places to shop in New York City. My wife likes to shop downtown in Soho and Nolita so we always make the rounds there and continue to find new shops to poke into each time we go. We also usually go uptown on Fifth Avenue (Bergdorf Goodman has a great bar and restaurant on their top floor that looks out on Central Park and I can go have a drink or two there while Kathy shops) although the stores are much bigger name shops up there.

On the latest trip we took a walk down Madison Avenue (from about 80th Street down to the mid 50's). There are quite a few high end boutiques up there, both big name and somewhat smaller places as well. This time I stumbled on an extremely interesting small shop that I had no idea existed.

I don't normally pay a lot of attention to other jewelry shops because I kind of do my own thing (although in New York you do get the opportunity to look at some truly huge gems---usually in boring settings, but boy, they can be big) but I happened to glance into a window and I saw some of the handmade double loop in loop chains that I make (pictured above or for some other handmade chains I make look here). They had some antique coin pendants hanging from them. When I looked a little closer at the other pieces in the window I realized that, with the exception of the chains and the coin holders which were obviously new, everything in the shop was old. I don't just mean old like the 1930's or 1920's. I mean REALLY old like the first century BC and AD. I had to go in. The salesman was a little snooty (especially when I told him I was a jeweler and that I wasn't going to buy anything) but I did manage to pry a little information out of him. Everything in the store was, in fact, ancient pieces of jewelry (well they had some other cool artifacts too but most of it was jewelry). It was almost all like the pieces you would see in a museum and yet here it was for sale to anyone (well anyone who had the money---most of the pieces I asked the price on were in the $20,000 range and I didn't ask about any of the larger items). I was truly flabbergasted. They had as much stuff as any single museum display I had ever seen. It was great to be able to look at so much of this kind of work. All of it was high karat gold, handmade, and as I said, like what you would find in a museum. If the salesman hadn't been quite so aloof, I would have asked to hold a few pieces but I got the feeling I was pushing my luck already. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the store but if I can find it online I'll post it sometime. It's worth looking at if you're in the city.
Next posting will be in a day or two and I promise to get back to that engagement ring thing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

I know I'm running way, way, way behind on my posting but it was the season and, fortunately, I was extremely busy. I didn't even finish my last Christmas order until 10 pm on the night before Christmas Eve and as it happens I had a fair amount of work as well in the week after. Not complaining, just explaining. Anyway, I'm off on vacation for a week as well now, so my next postings will have to wait until my return. I'm probably going to start up with some information on alternative engagement ring stones like sapphires and rubies. So look for something new in a week or two! Now I'll stop rhyming too.