Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Diamond Cutting VS. Great Diamond Cutting

As many of you know by now I like to sell ideal cut Lazare Diamonds for most of my diamonds.  I like them because they are always true ideal cuts with very little variations in the cuts.  A lot of what you see online and available elsewhere are diamonds that are called ideal cuts but really don't have the exact angles to qualify as ideal cuts.  The name has become abused and misused everywhere.  However a cutter's art can go far beyond just making sure the angles the stone is cut to are proper. 

I got in a pair of quarter caraters from Lazare the other day for a ring I was making up with an orange sapphire in the center.  I routinely do a Diamond Grading Report for stones that don't come in to me with a laboratory certificate so that when I do an appraisal for my customer on the piece I have proper documentation.  Now with many of the diamonds I sell today this is not always an easy task. Because the clarity grades I am working with are so high, it often takes me awhile to find any inclusions in the stones.  But Lazare is a strict grader and if they say something is a VVS stone, there is usually something there.  VVS clarity stones usually have extremely small pinpoints or other very difficult to locate inclusions in them.  A VVS1 stone is only a step down from a flawless diamond so there really is going to be very little inside the stone to identify it.  A VVS2 stone will have something a little bit larger but still something incredibly difficult to locate.  So my two stones were both VVS2 clarity stones.  It took me about 10 minutes to locate a small inclusion near the culet (the point at the bottom of the stone) on one of them.  But the other one I spent a vast amount of time  looking for anything.  Now if it had been a VVS1 stone I would have said that Lazare was erring on the side of caution and it might really have been a flawless stone, but this one was a VVS2 so I knew they had to have seen something in the stone. 

With stones like these I usually use extremely high magnification to find any inclusions and then back off to 10X to see if I can still see them (10X is the magnification all diamonds are graded at).  I looked at this stone, backwards, forwards in all different types of lighting and just kept getting more and more frustrated.  You should note that with stones in these clarity ranges, you really don't want to mistake a piece of dust for an inclusion, and diamonds are natural dust collectors, so nonstop trips to my steamer to continually clean the stones is part of the process.  Finally after close to a half an hour with the microscope I happened to catch a glimpse of something on the pavilion (bottom) of the stone again near the culet.  Looking at it more closely I finally realized that there was a tiny black needle like inclusion running right up one of the facet junctures. Because it was on the facet junction it was just about impossible to see.

Okay so what does this have to do with cutting a diamond?  Well pretty much everything.  Because of where the inclusion was placed, along a facet junction, it became virtually invisible.  Another cutting operation that pays less attention to this kind of perfection would have allowed the inclusion to end up wherever it was going to.  The stone probably still would have been a VVS2 clarity grade but the inclusion would have been much more visible.  This is one of the subtle differences between good diamond cutting and great diamond cutting.  Which would you rather have:  a VVS2 clarity diamond that has an inclusion right smack dab in the center of the table (albeit tiny) and immediately visible, or a VVS2 clarity diamond that it takes a trained gemologist a half an hour to find the one inclusion in the stone?

Diamonds are not all created equal and diamond cutters have vastly different skills.  Lazare Diamonds uses cutters with great skills and that will always make a difference in the final product. Please think about this when you go out to buy that next sparkly bauble!

The picture above is one of mine (apologies as always).  I made this version of my moonbeams necklace a number of years ago. It has an orange sapphire and diamonds in it.  Usually I do a lighter weight version of this but I had this one in the shop the other day and thought I'd grab a picture of it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Selling Your Jewelry (Again)

As I said yesterday, this entry is a rehash of a number of articles I have written about selling your jewelry.  Not a day goes by anymore that I don't get at least one person, and often as many as five or six, into my store trying to sell something.  This isn't just because the economy has been a little soft and some people need some money but also because the high gold prices have led to a larger than usual knowledge about how selling your scrap gold can generate money.  Now obviously I am a jeweler and my storefront clearly identifies me as such.  And today, many people think that as a jeweler, I must not only sell jewelry, but also buy it.  Unfortunately in my case, that simply isn't what I do. I have never had scrap, or jewelry, buying as a part of my business plan. I am a jewelry designer, and SELLER, and that is what I do.  This doesn't mean that there aren't a ton of "jewelers" who buy jewelry, just that I don't do it. 

The one thing I am happy to do for my customers is give them a scrap credit for old jewelry towards something new I am creating for them (or that is in the case).  I don't have a problem with this as it is simply another form of payment. And with today's somewhat high gold prices often a commercial chain purchased 10 years ago can lead to a credit well over what was originally paid for the piece at retail.  But I am not in the business of buying and scrapping gold, nor am I in the business of buying old jewelry and reselling it. 

So let's talk about this business of selling your jewelry once again. There are, as I see it, three separate issues to be dealt with in selling your jewelry.  The first is a straight gold (or platinum) issue.  Gold has been at all time highs recently and it is possible to actually sell some commercial jewelry for more than what was paid for it at retail. This is truly a first in terms of this business.  Unless you bought something years ago when gold was fixed at $35/ounce there was almost never a case where you could sell something you bought at retail to someone for scrap and get more out of it than you paid for it. The reason for this is because everyone in the chain has to make money on what they sell.  So a gold refiner has to make money on refining and producing gold for someone like a gold chain manufacturer who has to make money on their processes and machines when they sell the chain to a middle man who then sells it (at a profitable markup) to a retailer who than must resell it again at a profitable markup.  This routinely meant that if you tried to scrap a chain shortly after you bought it, you would get nowhere near the price you paid for it.  However, because of the extreme heights that gold has reached in price today, it has, in some cases reached the point where in fact you cannot only scrap your gold jewelry for what you paid for it but often for more than you paid for it.

The second issue has to do with selling the gemstones that may be in your jewelry, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, etc.  Unfortunately a vast quantity of jewelry produced and sold in this country has absolute garbage in it in the way of gemstones.  The vast majority of those tiny diamonds and other stones in pieces are pretty much junk.  This is so much the case that many scrap buyers don't even bothering removing stones from pieces---they just send the jewelry into the refiner and the stones are burned out and usually destroyed.  It isn't even worth the time often to remove the stones, no matter try to resell them.  So if you have a piece of jewelry you are going to scrap and there are small stones in it, don't expect to get paid a penny for them.

 The other problem is that even if you do have high quality stones in them, many of the people buying gold for scrap these days have no clue of what they are looking at unless the stone has some significant size to it.  Now if you do have a more significant sized stone in the ring it may be possible to get an offer made on it.  Diamonds of better qualities, 1/2 ct. and up should generate some money (although prices have not risen on gemstones the way they have on gold so it is unlikely that you will get back more than you paid for the stone originally---or even close to it).  There are a few things to remember when trying to sell your gemstones. The first is that, unlike with metal at the moment, this is not a seller's market.  People are dumping jewelry right and left these days so the normal midrange to lower quality goods that most people own in this country are in abundant supply.  The buyers must be able to make enough on something they buy from you so that they can 1) sit on the goods until they are actually able to sell it and 2) make a profit on it when they do sell it.  Often the buyers are reselling the stones to wholesalers as they have a better chance of selling the goods.  If this is the case the person who buys it from you has to take a price far lower than the wholesale price because the dealers are paying less than wholesale on their normal goods (so that they can sell it to a retailer and everyone makes money on it).

I always believe that you maintain the most amount of gemstone value by holding onto it and putting it into a new piece.  Admittedly, if you are in need of money, this isn't a solution but if you are simply scrapping things you aren't wearing anymore and feel like taking advantage of the high gold prices, hang onto your stones. 

The third issue is a little trickier when it comes to getting rid of your jewelry. This involves pieces that might be worthy of bringing to an auction house like Skinner's in Boston.  Generally speaking I would only encourage this if you have true antique pieces in good shape, or significant gemstones.  What do I mean by significant gemstones?  These would be diamonds of exceptional size, color, clarity and cut (probably over 2 carats and VS or better clarity grades) or larger emeralds, rubies or sapphires of exceptional quality.  Despite what most of you think about your pieces, you probably don't own one of these stones but that isn't always the case.

 The baby boomer generation is also just starting to see their parents passing on family heirlooms.  This does sometimes mean that pieces passed down through generations are becoming available to people who see no immediate or long term use for them.  Unique pieces of note or with historical significance should be looked at by a qualified appraiser who could direct you to the appropriate place to sell them.  When I see customers with large quantities of jewelry they have just inherited come in, I usually try to divide the stuff up into three piles: junk, stuff to scrap with a gold buyer, and stuff to go to an auction house.  Most of the time there is very little to go to an auction house.  The advantage of using an auction house is varied.  For one thing, if pieces have true historic value they will be able to tell you.  Secondly, the buyers pay the premiums to the auction house.  Thirdly you can set minimum sale prices for stuff (although I would always advise you to listen to the auction house on this---they know what stuff goes for and what it will yield and they don't base it on the fact that it was your grandmother's piece and that you remember her wearing it when you were a child).  Fouthly you have the chance of generating a return far higher than scrap value in some cases. 

What I haven't discussed again here is the issue of actual yield on gold scrap.  But the following is a posting that will help you with that:

The pin pictured above is an old piece I made that I recently came into a picture of.  It is a sunstone with orange sapphires in 18k and 22k yellow gold. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The pendant pictured here was made using a jewelry technique known as reticulation.  Reticulation is one of the more enjoyable, but random, things that can be done with metal.  Although certain gold alloys can be reticulated, the way I do it is to use a traditional 800/200 mix of fine silver and copper (sterling silver is 925/75 fine silver/copper) to actually make the pieces and then I have the ones (or parts of them) that I like cast in gold. Long ago when I first started doing reticulated pieces I had to make my own reticulating alloy to work with.  Now, since a lot of the oddball techniques that I have been doing for 40 years have become more mainstream, my refiner actually offers a reticulating silver to work with.  The process is time consuming in that you have to heat and pickle (throw the metal in an acid bath) repeatedly (10-20 times) so as to build up a layer of fine (pure) silver on the surface. This means that the melting point of the surface metal is higher than the metal underneath it.  After the heating/pickling process is finished, the piece of metal is then heated until the metal underneath begins to melt.  If you're lucky you can actually exercise some control over how the metal moves as the molten metal begins to fold up on itself but the top layer remains somewhat rigid.  If you're not lucky you can still get a lot of interesting results.  And if you're really unlucky it doesn't work at all and just rolls up into a molten mass of metal.  (Try this for a tongue twister: rolling molten mass of metal!) 

Once the silver piece is finished, I usually cut out the shape I want (sometimes the actual shape of the piece I want, sometimes a larger one that I can cut into smaller pieces).  Then it goes off to my casting company who make a mold of the piece and send me back some nice cast ones in 18k or 22k yellow gold.  The pendant above was made up because I had an old customer come in recently with some reticulated earrings I had made awhile ago and he wanted a matching pendant.  I made one for him and put the one above out into my cases.  I'm also currently in the process of trying to come up with some reticulated wedding bands for the cases.  I haven't gotten the metal doing quite what I want yet (I have a few of those rolling molten masses of metal lying around) for the rings but as soon as I do I'll get a picture posted. The picture above, incidentally is thanks to my new assistant, Kady, who it turns out is far more skilled than I am at photography (well just about everyone is more skilled than I am at it, but Kady is quite good and has a part time job actually doing some photography work as well). 

I haven't been writing for awhile because I have continued to be swamped with work.  However there is some end in sight and I am hoping to get a few new articles up soon. I plan on doing another one about selling/scrapping your jewelry as it seems to be a constant topic in the store these days, and I still hope to get an article on opals up.  Actually I have some new opal earrings that Kady took a picture of for me that would make a nice heading for it so let me see what I can do.  I also have some new South Sea pearl earrings made up that I have a nice picture of as well---they'll be headlining whatever the next article is about. 

The piece pictured above is 18k yellow gold with four .03 ct. ideal cut, "E" color, VS clarity diamonds.  Come by the shop if  you want to see it in person.