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Education

Diamonds

The Four C's

Color

color

Diamonds are valued by how closely they approach colorlessness; the less color, the higher their value.

The GIA Color Scale extends from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow, brown or grey). Although many people think of gem quality diamonds as colorless, truly colorless diamonds are actually very rare. Most diamonds used in jewelry are nearly colorless with tints of yellow or brown.

What is fluorescence? It is the visible light some diamonds emit when they are exposed to invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. On a GIA diamond grading report, fluorescence refers to the strength or intensity of the diamond’s reaction to long-wave UV, which is an essential component of daylight. The light emitted lasts as long as the diamond is exposed to the ultraviolet source.

Clarity

The GIA Clarity Scale includes eleven clarity grades ranging from Flawless to I3. Because diamonds form under tremendous heat and pressure, it is extremely rare to find a diamond that lacks any internal and external characteristics. These characteristics are a by-product of its formation and help gemologists separate natural diamonds from synthetics and simulants, and identify individual stones. Clarity is graded under 10X magnification.

clarity

Cut

Cut is a measure of a diamond’s appearance, the combination of brightness, fire and scintillation. Cut also encompasses the craftsmanship of polish and symmetry.

Polish is the quality of a diamond’s surface condition.

Symmetry refers to the exactness of the shape of a diamond and the symmetrical arrangement and placement of the facets.

GIA provides a cut quality grade for standard round brilliant diamonds that fall into the GIA D-to-Z color range.

A polished diamond’s beauty lies in its complex relationship with light: how light strikes the surface, how much enters the diamond, and how, and in what form, light returns to your eye.

The result is a magnificent display of three attributes:

  • Brightness is the combination of all white light reflecting from the surface and interior or a diamond.
  • Fire describes the “flares” of color emitted from a diamond.
  • Scintillation describes the flashes of light you see when the diamond, the light, or the observer moves.

Carat

One carat equals 200 milligrams, or 0.2 of a gram in weight. For diamonds under one carat, each carat is divided into 100 points; similar to pennies in a dollar.

Carat is a measurement of weight, not size.

Gemstones

Gemstone 4C’s

While there are no official 4 C’s for grading colored gemstones, like there are with diamonds, many of the same principals apply. Following are the 4 C’s as they apply to colored gemstones:

Clarity

Clarity in most gemstones does not influence its value or beauty unless it breaks the surface or affects the integrity of the gemstone. In lighter colored stones, clarity may be more important than in darker stones that can mask imperfections. However, flawlessness in colored gems is even more rare than in diamonds.

The four flaws that occur in gemstones are fault, fissure, fracture and gas bubbles.
It is the type and location of a flaw that is more important than the fact that there is a flaw, since some flaws can affect the stone’s durability. Some stones are typically eye-clean such as topaz, while others are expected to have inclusions, such as emerald.

Color

Color has the greatest impact on value. The color should be pure, vibrant, even and fully saturated without being too dark or too light.

Cut

Cut affects the amount of brilliance the gemstone returns to the eye, the depth of color seen and the size of the stone. Well-cut gemstones will enhance the color of a stone, while poorly cut gemstones can turn out looking dead and lifeless.

Carat

Carat weight determines value in two ways. First, the carat weight x price per carat = total price for the stone. Second, the rarity of the size of stone compared to the normal size found will affect price.

Enhancements

Many gemstones have historically and traditionally been enhanced before bringing them to the customer. Most enhancements have been around for a very long time, some for hundreds of years or longer. The result is an improvement on nature’s beauty. It makes gems available and affordable. Most of these enhancements are stable and no special care is required.

Gems that are not usually treated include alexandrite, black star sapphire, cat’s eye chrysoberyl, garnets, hematite, iolite, moonstone, peridot, spinel and chalcedonies such as bloodstone, fire agate, onyx and sardonyx.

Hardness vs. Toughness

Hardness describes a material’s resistance to scratching. Mineral hardness is measured using the Mohs’ scale. The higher the number, the harder the mineral is to scratch. The scale goes up incrementally from 1 until it reaches 9. The difference from 9 to 10 is greater than the difference from 1 to 9. For example, a diamond which is a 10, is 100 times harder than a sapphire or ruby which receive a 9 hardness.

Toughness refers to how easily a gemstone will chip, crack or cleave. Ratings range from poor to excellent. An emerald receives a poor toughness due to internal fractures which make emeralds prone to chipping and cracking. However, rubies and sapphires receive very good to excellent ratings.

Metals

Precious Metal Jewelry

Today jewelry is created using a wide range of materials. However, the number of precious metals that can be used is limited. There are only 86 known metals and of those, relatively few are commonly used in contemporary jewelry. The majority of jewelry crafted today tends to use only a handful of metals. Here we will look at the metals that are the most popular to create precious metal jewelry.

Platinum

Platinum is a silvery, white metal that’s extremely rare and considered more precious than gold. Priced significantly above gold, platinum is among the heavier metals used in jewelry. Despite this increase in cost, platinum jewelry has become increasingly popular especially in platinum engagement rings and wedding rings.

Like most other metals used in jewelry, platinum has an interesting history. Naturally occurring platinum and platinum-rich alloys were first used by ancient Egyptians. However, it was not identified as an element until the 18th century. Spanish silver miners first named the metal “platina” or “little silver” when they first encountered it in Colombia, South America. Eventually, the Spaniards dismissed platinum as an ‘undesirable impurity’ in their mined silver, and often discarded it as a worthless by-product. Needless to say, that has changed today.

As with other metals, platinum is commonly mixed with other metals. However, for a piece of jewelry to be labeled as “platinum” it must have a minimum level of purity of at least 95% pure platinum. A purity level of less than 95% would require the metal be identified as a platinum alloy. Normally, platinum jewelry pieces can be identified by a stamp with “PLAT”.

Gold

Perhaps no other substance on earth has captured the hearts and minds of man more than gold. Popular for its rarity and luster, gold quickly became a method of payment and a key component used in the manufacture of jewelry when it became fashionable during the times of Alexander the Great. After a temporary decrease in status, gold regained its popularity as a jewelry staple often seen used in gold rings during the 15th century and continues to be popular today. Gold is the most easily worked of all metals and ranges in softness based on its purity. Generally pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry, so it’s commonly mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of pure gold in each of the popular karat weights:

  • 24 Karat: 99.9% Pure
  • 22 Karat: 91.7% Pure
  • 18 Karat: 75% Pure
  • 14 Karat: 58.3% Pure
  • 12 Karat: 50% Pure
  • 10 Karat: 41.7% Pure

When selecting jewelry like gold necklaces or bracelets, it’s important to balance gold purity with the durability. Jewelry items like rings and bracelets often take more abuse and are much likely to become deformed if softer gold is used; as a result, 18k or 14k gold may be a better selection for those types of items.

The color of gold is determined by two factors: the type of metal alloys included and the percentage of each metal alloy.

Yellow Gold Natural gold and color-saturated alloys are what give yellow gold jewelry its rich shine. The alloys most commonly used, are copper with a red hue and silver featuring a green hue. An expert mixture of copper, silver and pure gold gives this precious metal its signature warmth.

White Gold A silvery white character is what makes white gold jewelry so appealing. In order to make the gold white, it is combined with metal alloys that are white in nature ad plated with am extremely hard element called rhodium. Although strong, rhodium, may wear away over time. Re-plating is a simple process that can be done to restore whiteness to your jewelry.

Rose Gold The beautiful pink hue of rose gold jewelry is created using a copper alloy. Again, the overall percentages of metal alloys is the same for rose gold as it is for yellow or white, there is just different mixture of what alloys are used.

Sterling Silver

Pure silver, also called fine silver, is a relatively soft, very malleable and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 silver and 7.5 percent copper. Any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion; improving the metal’s durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal’s value. Instead, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson and intricacy of the design.

Other Metals

Although the majority of jewelry is created using more popular and main-stream materials, there is still a diversity of metals that continue to be used to create some truly unique pieces of jewelry.

Palladium

is a rare silver-white metal of the platinum family.

Rhodium

is a rare silver-white metal of the platinum family. It is particularly hard and is the most expensive precious metal.

Titanium

is a natural element which has a silver-white color. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It’s three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum yet is very light weight. Pure titanium is also 100% hypo-allergenic which means that it is safe for anyone to wear.

Tungsten

is a steel-gray metal whose strength and high melting point makes it a favorite of the arms industry. Metallic tungsten is harder than gold alloys and is hypo-allergenic.

Pearls

A symbol of purity, virtue and modesty, pearls are a sought-after natural material which makes pearl jewelry exceptionally popular. Technically known as “organic gems”, pearls are harvested from shellfish just as they have been for over 4,000 years.

Pearls are clearly one of nature’s great treasures, but with a wide range of colors, shapes and sources it’s easy to get confused about what to look for in pearl jewelry. The creation of a pearl is remarkably simple to understand, but fairly complex to create. A pearl is formed when an irritant, such as a piece of sand, becomes lodged in the shell of an oyster. Sensing the object, the oyster deposits layers of a semi-translucent substance called “nacre” around the intruder, where it builds up over time. It commonly will take years to create a pearl of decent size and perfectly round shapes are rare. As a result, pearl bracelets and necklaces with perfectly round pearls are quite expensive forms of pearl jewelry.

Unknown to most wearers of pearl jewelry, the majority of pearls used today are farmed and not naturally grown. Generally speaking, natural pearls are not widely available due to years of over-fishing and the great demand for perfectly round pearls for use in jewelry. During the start of the 20th century, a new process for growing pearls was developed resulting in what is now known as cultured pearls. Essentially the process involves inserting an irritant into an oyster and then caring for that oyster until it has developed a pearl. Today, almost all pearl jewelry uses cultured pearls.

When searching for pearl jewelry, you’ll find that pearls differ in color, size and shape based on the variety of the mollusk, the growing conditions, harvesting techniques and many other factors. Akoya, Mabe, South Sea and Tahitian pearls are some of the most popular varieties, each of which has its own set of qualities. Akoya pearls are typically white or cream, but they can also be grey or black. Mabe pearls possess a very high luster, while South Sea pearls are among the largest cultured pearls and can be white, cream or gold. Tahitian pearls are naturally grey, silver or black. The most sought-after Tahitian pearl is black with peacock green overtones. As you can see, pearl jewelry choices can move well beyond the traditional white pearl necklace to include an array of choices that include different colors, sizes and finishes.

Understandably, pearls are popular with jewelry fans across the world, but no piece of pearl jewelry has captured the imagination of women more than the traditional pearl necklace. Having always possessed a reputation for elegance, pearl necklaces captured the world’s imagination with the release of 1961′s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In that movie, star Audrey Hepburn defined style with a stunning pearl necklace that would squarely place this piece of jewelry in American pop culture history. Ever since, the necklace has been the favorite piece of pearl jewelry.

Even though necklaces are the favored form of jewelry using pearls, there are still quite a few types. Here’s a quick description of each:

  • Bib:
    A Bib necklace consists of several strands of pearls of varying lengths.
  • Choker:
    Worn somewhat lower on the neck and is 14-16 inches long.
  • Princess:
    The classic length for a pearl necklace, it lies slightly below the neck: 17-19 inches long.
  • Matinee:
    This style is routinely seen in more formal and semi-formal situations: 20-24 inches long.
  • Opera:
    Falling below the bust line; worn at formal occasions. The necklace is 30-36 inches long.

Luster is the most important feature of a pearl and should be your primary concern. Luster is the sharpness and intensity of reflections on the pearl’s surface; to recognize a finer luster, look at the clarity of images that are reflected in the pearl’s surface. The closer to a mirror image you see, the better the luster. Pearls with fine luster also seem to glow warmly from within.
The size of the pearls used in any piece of jewelry is important for both aesthetic and financial reasons. Larger pearls are normally preferred for necklaces, however they may be considered less desirable for earrings. In addition, larger pearls integrated into pearl rings are attractive but are often bulky and difficult to wear. Finally, the larger the pearl the greater the cost, so the educated shopper should balance the size of the pearl with the expected cost.

When searching for pearl jewelry, one should look at how well matched pearls are when combined in jewelry. With many subtleties in color, shape and finish, even a slight difference can create an unbalanced appearance. Look for pearls that are similar, while keeping in mind that those that closely match will be more expensive.

Finally, having settled on a piece of pearl jewelry, it’s a good idea to consider the recipient’s taste in clothing to ensure that the jewelry selected will enhance that persons’ wardrobe. For example, a traditional choker of white pearls would go well with a more formal business outfit, while a pair of chocolate pearl earrings would be much more versatile. So consider how the jewelry will be worn.

Watches

Watches are commonly seen as a functional need in everyday life. However, they are appreciated as forms of jewelry and collectible works of art. As a result, there are many different types and prices of Swiss watches. Here is a guide to helping you select your dream watch!

Band: The strap, band or bracelet that holds your watch to your wrist. Watches are typically sized to fit wrists from 8 to 10 inches.

Bezel: The area outside the face, which secures the crystal to the watch. Many watches have a uni- or multi-directional bezel that can twist one or both ways around the watch face. This type of bezel can be used to twist around to the minute hand to measure elapsed time. For divers who need to measure elapsed time underwater, a unidirectional bezel is useful because it is less likely to be accidentally hit and moved.

Case: The metal encasing the bezel and face. Watch cases are usually made of stainless steel. For a durable, ultra-light case, choose a watch with a titanium case.

Chronograph: A watch with timing functions that are displayed in sub dials on the face of the watch. Most chronographs are comprised of three sub dials and measure fractions of seconds, minutes in increments other than 60, and hours in other than one-hour increments. Chronograph should not be confused with chronometer, which is a device which has accuracy so exact that it has met special time standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (C.O.S.C.).

Clasp: The latching mechanism that closes to secure the watch band to your wrist. There are different types of watch clasps: Buckle, Deployment Buckle, Bracelet Clasp, Folding Clasp, Hidden Watch Clasp to name a few.

Crown: A knob that is usually found on the middle right side of a watch. Pull the knob to set the watch time then push it back in for the watch to begin keeping time again. Some watch knobs allow you to control other special watch functions, too.

Date Window: A window on the watch face that displays the day of the month and sometimes the day of the week.

Face: This refers to the area within the watch bezel, usually underneath the watch hands.

Markers: Visual marks on the watch that indicates minutes or hours.

Second Hand: This is the thinnest hand anchored in the center of the watch face. On quartz watches, this hand moves every second. On an automatic watch, this hand moves smoothly, sweeping by each second marker in second increments.

Sub dial: A small dial on the watch face that displays elapsed durations of time. Sub dials usually display the functions of the chronograph. Chronographs usually have three sub dials on a watch face.

Tachymeter: A function of a watch chronograph similar to a stop watch feature that can measure the rate of speed traveled over a measured distance in a particular length of time. This is usually used to measure high rates of speed. For example, the user can start a timer, drive or fly a mile, and then stop the timer and the timer hand will point to the MPH traveled.

Automatic Movement: Type of watch movement that uses energy created by the action of the person’s arm who is wearing the watch. Arm movement makes a weight (rotor) oscillate and triggers the mainspring to “wind” the watch. No battery is needed. Many automatic watches will tell time for up to 36 hours off the wrist, after which time the watch will stop working and must be either wound by hand or rocked for a minute or two to begin keeping time again. Automatic movement is typically found only in fine watches.

Battery: Quartz watches use a battery that is powered using silver oxide, which provides 1.5 volts of energy for anywhere from one to five years. Lithium batteries can last as long as ten years and deliver three volts of energy. Always make sure that your replacement battery is the same type as the original.

Chronometer: A less common and more expensive form of timepiece. A chronometer achieves accuracy so exact that it has met special time standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (C.O.S.C.).

Complication: This defines any function besides hours, minutes and seconds. A Grand Complication is a timepiece with at least three complications from groups of specific functions: usually a chronograph, perpetual calendar (which usually includes a moon phase indicator) and a minute repeater or alarm.

Crystal: The protective clear cover that fits over the watch dial. It can be made of mineral, synthetic sapphire, plastic, or acrylic material. The sapphire crystal is the most durable, as only a diamond can scratch its surface.

Tourbillon: Invented in 1801 to regulate deviations in timekeeping in pocket watches due to the effects of gravity. There is no more coveted (or expensive) work of horology (the art or science of measuring time) and none more difficult to execute. The convention is to open a window on the dial to expose the beautiful escapement mechanism – consisting of the hairspring and pivoting balance wheel mounted inside a rotating carriage.

Perpetual Calendar: This is a watch with the day/date/year indicators and is called perpetual because it automatically adjusts to months with 30 days and to the 28 or 29 days in February. Unless it takes into account century years that are not leap years, it will need adjusting in 2100, 2200 and 2300 (because of a glitch in the Gregorian calendar), so when you bequeath the watch to your heirs be sure to leave instructions.

Water Resistance: This is the ability of a watch to resist penetration by water. On most watches, you can find the water resistance level on the back of the watch case listed in ATM (atmospheres), Meters or Bar. One ATM is equivalent to 33 feet. Most watches are water resistant; meaning that they resist but are not impenetrable by water when washing your hands. Some watches are resistant to higher pressures experienced at underwater depths. Meters, used by some companies to indicate water-resistance cannot be equated with the dive depth of a dive because of the test procedures that are frequently used. Meters also do not permit any conclusions to be drawn about the actual uses in the presence of moisture or wetness in or under the water.
Water resistant watches are usually tested for water-resistance on the basis of international standard ISO 2281 and diver’s watches (watches that are water-resistant to at least 10 bar) on the basis of international standard ISO 6425.

Please remember that even though a watch case may be water-resistant to an adequate depth, the watch strap may not be suitable for use underwater because of the materials used in its construction. Also bear in mind that, with the exception of diver’s watches, the external moving parts of a watch (crown, buttons, etc.) should not be operated under water. Before wearing the timepiece in or under water you should make sure that all of its external moving parts are in their rest position.

It’s also wise to note that water-resistance is not a permanent thing and that parts and seals can and do wear out with aging and wear. These should be inspected periodically by an authorized service center.

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