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Thursday, August 30, 2012

No, No, No Emeralds in Engagement Rings!

(01/20/2017  This is an addition to this blog article.  If you read the entire article and all of my responses to the comments you will see that no matter which gem material you want to know about, I won't recommend it for an engagement ring unless it's diamond, ruby or sapphire. It doesn't matter what the gemstone is, I will always say the same thing: Stick to diamond, ruby and sapphire if you want something that will last as long as your marriage does.  ALL other gemstones I will say no to whether they are natural, synthetic or simulants.)

I had a very nice young couple in looking for engagement rings the other day. I liked that both of them came in together because it ultimately means that the young woman will get exactly what she wants. Well almost.....She wanted an engagement ring with an emerald set in it. I get these requests a few times per year and it's always a bit disappointing for the purchaser when I have to tell them about the risks of emeralds in rings.

Gem materials are described by gemologists as gemstones when they have beauty, rarity, and durability. Some of these three descriptions are a little challenging today. I have seen quite a few gemstones that the word beauty is a bit of a challenge for. With modern mining techniques it seems like there is an endless supply of gem materials, especially diamonds, although this is not actually true (it takes mining one ton of rock to end up with 1 carat of diamond and some stones, with tanzanite as a prime example, being effectively mined out of existence in a generation or two). Durability is an even trickier issue because gems like opals are certainly beautiful and rare (well the finer ones are) but they are quite fragile as gemstones go. And this durability issue is the problem I want to discuss today.

When customers come to me and say they don't want a diamond in their engagement ring (and many do---let's not forget Princess Diana's large sapphire ring) I routinely tell them that I only recommend diamonds, rubies and sapphires for engagement rings because they are the most durable of the gem materials. This doesn't mean you can't scratch or break them at all, as anything worn every day of your life will tend to get banged around quite a bit, but it does mean that they have the highest hardness of the natural gem materials available to us. Fortunately sapphires come in a wide variety of colors including blue, pink, purple, orange, yellow, white, black (as in star sapphires) and a pretty ugly green (we'll get back to that in a minute). When corundum (which is what sapphire and ruby are) is red, it's a ruby; so it's the same gem material as sapphire but it's called a ruby when it's red.

Emeralds are actually a fairly hard gemstone when measured on the Mohs scale of hardness. Diamond is a 10, corundum is a 9 and beryl (the gem family that emerald is from) is approximately an 8. The scale, however, is not what it seems. The differences in numbers only reflect which next harder material will scratch the one below it. The relative hardness is quite different. Diamond is approximately 90 times harder than sapphire. There is also some variation within the same material. Aquamarine, another member of the beryl family is a true 8 on the scale but emerald comes in closer to 7 1/2.

So part of the problem with emerald as an engagement ring (or any every day wear ring) is that the hardness simply isn't high enough to take normal daily abuse. However there are two other problems with emeralds. Almost all emerald material is at least lightly included and much of it heavily included. This is called "jardin" (French for garden) sometimes, in an attempt to glorify what would be completely unacceptable in other gem materials. All of these inclusions in emeralds tend to mean the stone is much more fragile than other gem materials. However there is an additional problem. Emerald is routinely treated with either oil or various fracture filling substances in order to hide the inclusions. Oil, and some of the fracture fillers, can leach out over time simply due to normal wearing (washing hands, exposure to cleaning chemicals, etc.), or due to regular cleanings at your favorite jeweler. (For more on gemstone treatments please see this article and this one.) This will mean that the look of the stone can change over time as well, so one day you look down at your pretty stone and say that's not the beautiful gem I remember!

Okay, you say, I won't get an emerald so surely there is another green gemstone that is more durable! Well easier said then done. There really isn't any other gem stone that has a real emerald color. Tourmaline comes in a range of striking greens (although not the same green as emerald) and greenish blues but tourmaline has a scratch hardness lower than emerald. My wife has a tourmaline engagement ring. It started out at 10.50 ct. and we're down to 9.50 ct. after repeated repolishings to clean up the stone after she scratched it. She now only wears it occasionally (but fortunately, because she's MY wife, she has a multitude of other rings to wear on that finger). Another customer of mine who insisted on a tourmaline (despite an onslaught of warnings from me) just had to have her stone repolished after only a few years of wear. There was literally nothing left of the top facets on the stone. There are, as I mentioned above, green sapphires, but the color of the green leaves a little something to be desired as it tends towards a paler, lime like green with tinges of blue in it. More durable yes. As pretty, no.

So if you want an emerald in your engagement ring, just be prepared to replace it occasionally. Fine emeralds, however, can be very expensive stones so it can be quite a hit. Or you could get a ring with a number of smaller emeralds in it. That way at least, if you should have to replace some, it won't cost you quite as much.

The ring pictured above is a sapphire and diamond engagement ring with a natural color (unheated) blue sapphire.

 I have been writing this blog for a number of years and have covered quite a bit of information. The directory can help you get to the articles you might have the most interest in. All comments are appreciated but I do filter them for content so if you shouldn't see yours that may be the reason.

This is an addenda to the original article because I didn't seem to get this point across clearly enough when I wrote it (judging from the comments):  Diamonds, rubies and sapphires!!!  Those are the only natural stones I will ever recommend for every day wear.  Ever.  All other gem materials will wear much more quickly and they will not last a lifetime.  There is no guarantee you won't have to repolish sapphires and rubies (and diamonds too occasionally) after some years of wear but they will hold up better than any other gem material.  So again: Diamonds, rubies and sapphires.  You can ask me about the durability of any other gem material there is and I'm going to say the exact same thing: Diamonds, rubies and sapphires for every day wear rings.  As sapphires come in a wide range of colors (as do diamonds if you've got some money to spend)  you have a fair number of colors to choose from so you aren't limited to just red, white and blue but these are the only stones I'm going to recommend. Ever! (Okay if they find a new gem material on a comet and it's at least as hard as sapphires I would probably add that to the list.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Changes Are on the Way

I know I have some regular readers out there (because they tell me they read this when they come in the store) and I just wanted to give a little head's up to some changes going on. As of September 1 we are beginning a new advertising program with (the Boston Globe online site) in which they will be featuring us as one of a few retailers whose blogs will be featured (on a rotating basis) on their site. There will be some beginning lines from my blog and a link to the rest of the article.

I am hoping, of course, to expand my audience (and my customer base---I'm always honest here as you know) for my blog. However it is going to necessitate a few changes. We all know that everyone's attention span is short these days so I believe I am going to have to get new articles posted on a more regular basis. Due to the fact that I actually have to get a chance to make jewelery sometimes this isn't always possible so I may be pulling some of my older articles and simply rerunning them. I apologize to my regular readers ahead of time for this. I don't mean to bore you. I might also simply rewrite some of the articles or update them in some way. So if you start reading something that sounds familiar, you probably are. It may also mean that I have to curtail (at least for a little while) some of my more personal articles although I will probably just try to post two at a time with the personal stuff first and then a more formal article so that the Globe's feed pulls from the more formal article. I'm just not sure whether someone reading something that is ostensibly from a jeweler for the first time is going to care that I just got back from a wonderful vacation.

Speaking of vacations, I did just get back from one. We went to Orient, NY for a few days where my older son, the artist, is spending his summer. He set up a studio in the garage that came with the rental and the picture above is of him hard at work. There was a view from the wraparound porch every night of the sunset and it was quite nice to take a few days at least and enjoy a little nature. You never know when it might pop up in a piece of mine.

And once again I would love to get some feedback from some of you people who read. Given that I need to write more blogs what would you like to hear about???? Please send me some suggestions. I will be happy to get to them.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tax Free Day Sale is On.

The governor has signed the bill for a tax free weekend on August 11 and 12 so we have sent out our emails about this year's one day sale at Daniel Spirer Jewelers. If you get one you're invited to participate! If you don't get an email, it means you probably haven't bought anything from us previously and you aren't eligible for our sale (it's for existing customers only but if you didn't get an email and you wear a piece of mine in that you own, you'll be qualified) however you can still take advantage of the tax savings (and then next year you'll get to participate in the sale). So Saturday, August 11, 2012 is the day this will be happening. However if you want to come in ahead of time and pick something out and leave us a credit card number we will run it through for you on August 11. Just don't look for the hematite from magnesite piece in the cases as it went to a new home today. However I have been working on making sure that my cases are stocked and I have a new "Black Hole in the Center of a Spiral Galaxy" pin out. It is pictured above. It has a magnificent black pearl with very strong green overtones, emeralds and diamonds.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Okay so I've been known to be wrong....occasionally!

In this posting I have to apologize for my erroneous thinking in my last post. I said that the material I worked with in the pendant was sold to me as hematite after magnesite, but that I had decided it was hematite after magnetite. Well, go ahead and slap me upside the head! Yesterday I had one of my gem dealers in who is also a gemologist and I showed the piece to her and we got into a little discussion about it. Initially she also didn't recognize the material but when I told her about my online findings and my current thinking she looked a little closer at the piece and saw a perfect little cube sticking out of the bottom of the piece. Well magnetite won't form cubic crystals, but, surprise, surprise, magnesite does! So in fact my original dealer was right. The good news is that no matter which material it is, it still doesn't change the price!

Speaking of rare material some of you who have been customers for awhile may know about rainbow moonstone. It's been a material I've been quite fond of since it first came on the market. Technically speaking the material is actually a form of spectrolite (moonstone, sunstone, spectrolite, and labradorite are all members of the feldspar family). A few years ago the major sources of rainbow moonstone in Sri Lanka dried up and there has been very little new material coming into the marketplace. But my dealer who was in yesterday had a friend who, when the material was first found, was so taken by it that she invested in a large quantity of the material. Her friend had decided to sell it off so I got first pick on the material being offered. If I had enough money I probably would have bought the bulk of the collection but it was a substantial sized collection so I had to stick with picking out a few choice pieces. This material is similar to the early material I saw in that it is slightly cloudy and has more inclusions in it, but the colors are stronger and more distinctive than in a lot of the later material I got.

I tried to take a picture with my iPhone but I couldn't get one that truly showed off the material to its best advantage so I went on line and did an image search to see if there was something I could use there as a picture. However, while there were a lot of pictures of material that had a blue sheen across the top, none of them showed the oranges, pinks and purples that are so apparent on the pieces I got in. The piece pictured above had a freshwater pearl and a rainbow moonstone but you can't truly see the colors that were in this moonstone either. So really you should come by and look at the material I got in if you want to see how beautiful it is. This is one of those gem materials that we are, quite simply, running out of. If you want to own some, now is the time.