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Faberge, one of the world’s most recognized fine artist jewelers, have unveiled a new creation of their iconic Imperial Eggs. The lucky attendees of last week’s Doha Watch and Jewellery Exhibition in Qatar witnessed the first debut of the extraordinary masterpiece: the $2 million Pearl Egg.

Using a combination of white and yellow gold, the meticulously crafted egg features a total of 139 natural white pearls, gleams with a mother-of-pearl finish and adorned with over 3,300 diamonds and hand-carved rock quartz. The centerpiece is an incredibly rare, unique 12.17-carat natural grey pearl sourced from the Arabian Gulf. To reveal it, the outer egg shell is rotated on the base which allows the six sides to flower open simultaneously to reveal the treasure; reminiscent of how an oyster opens to reveal its’ cultured pearl.

The House of Faberge collaborated with the Al-Fardan family to create this egg in honor of the upcoming centenary marking the last Imperial Egg ever made. A renowned pearl collector and connouisseur, Hussain Ibrahim Al-Fardan personally hand-selected each pearl from his family’s collection to be used in making the Pearl Egg.

The Pearl Egg is the first imperial class egg made in almost a century – the last imperial class egg was created in 1917, under the supervision of Peter Carl Faberge himself. The Karelian Birch, also referred to as the “Birch Egg”, was commissioned by the last Tsar of Russia Nicholas II, intended as an Easter gift to his mother, the Empress Maria Feodorovna. The February Revolution began before the egg could be delivered, signalling the end of the imperial era of Russia and subsequently, Faberge’s eggs.

 

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The Letseng mine in the small Kingdom of Lesotho, South Africa has just uncovered another massive diamond rough: a 198-carat stone, roughly the size of a large letseng 198 caratstrawberry.

A diamond over 100 carats is rare enough – with only about 10 to 15 found each year worldwide – but a rough that is nearly 200 carats is an exceedingly rare find. A stone of this size is expected to yield a polished diamond around 100 carats, or half the weight of the rough it originated from.

Even though the stone’s size is impressive, it is not even close to being the largest ever uncovered from the Letseng mine. In fact, the Letseng mine is well-known for churning out large, quality rough over the years, and has the highest price per carat production of all the mines in the world. Some of the largest include the Letseng mineLesotho Promise, the 15th largest diamond in the world at 603 carats; the Letseng Legacy at 493 carats, and the Leseli La Letseng at 478 carats which are 18th and 20th largest respectively.

What makes this rough even more valuable is its’ designation of Type IIa, which constitutes less than 2% of all natural diamonds. Type IIa diamonds have no measurable nitrogen impurities, making them chemically pure. This not only gives them exceptional optical transparency, but also a high likelihood of achieving a colorless (D-E-F) grade and a high clarity grade. Officials from Gem Diamonds Ltd, which own the majority stake in the Letseng mine, confirmed this after inspection of the stone noting it as “an exceptional white, high-quality diamond that displays no fluorescence”.

Martin Potts, a London-based mining analyst has estimated the 198 carat stone to fetch somewhere between $12 to $15 million.

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dom pedroThe Dom Pedro is a stunning example of March’s official birthstone, and is also the largest faceted aquamarine specimen in the world.

At 1,363 carats and nearly 36cm tall, the fantasy-cut Dom Pedro aquamarine can certainly hold its own – even when on display at the Smithsonian’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, which houses other highly valuable gems like the Hope Diamond and the De Young Red Diamond.

The Dom Pedro was cut from part of a meter-long, 45kg aquamarine crystal that was discovered in the 1980’s in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. While in transportation, the crystal actually fractured into three separate pieces. The two smaller pieces were eventually cut into many smaller gemstones, but the largest was kept intact as it embodied an exquisite greenish-blue hue and amazing clarity. This largest piece was sold to none other than legendary gem-cutter Bernd Munsteiner, known as the “Father of the Fantasy Cut” and “the Picasso of Gems”.

According to the Smithsonian, the first time that he laid eyes on the gem he proclaimed that it was love at first sight!

Munsteiner spent over four months studying the rough and making hundreds of sketches before he settled on the aquamarine’s dom pedro munsteinerfinal pattern. It was to be his most famous “fantasy cut” gem, a cutting technique where negative cuts are faceted into the back of a gemstone to reflect the light within.

During the six months it took to hand cut the gem, he was never concerned about the final carat weight; he opted instead to cut for beauty and brilliance, rather than price. “When you focus on the carat weight, it’s only about the money,” said Munsteiner. “I cannot create when I’m worried about the money.”

The finished masterpiece was unveiled at the 1993 Baselworld Gem Fair, and later bought by private collector Jane Mitchell and her husband Jeffrey Bland. They gifted the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection in 2011, and by the end of 2012 Dom Pedro was added to the permanent exhibition and continues to be a top attraction.

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Faces“Faces of Eternity” is the new exhibition being displayed at the Gemological Institute of America’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California. The exhibition features a collection of 15 carved skulls by a Peruvian artist Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio. The skulls are made from various large gemstone crystals, ornamental rocks and silver and gold vermeil. It’s inspired by the contrast of human mortality and the timelessness of gemstones.

“From fossilized whale bone to rainforest jasper, and from pink opal to peanut wood agate, Aparicio chose materials from a gem lover’s dream. Each skull has a distinctive look and feel to it, making this collection fascinating on both a gemological and artistic level,” said Terri Ottaway, GIA museum curator.

One of the skulls called “Everlasting Youth” was carved from Mozambican aquamarine with rock crystal quartz and gold vermeil.  “Top Hat Gentle-skull” is made in rock crystal quartz from Madagascar with snowflake obsidian and gold vermeil. Another called “Chocolate with Peanut Butter” skull is made with petrified palm  wood agate from Australia with obsidian and gold vermeil.

“The skulls collection was one of my favorite to create. By carving natural gemstones with a combination of lapidary art and metal smith techniques, you can really see how the colors and textures in each stone brings each piece to life,” Aparicio said.Faces

His whole collection is comprised of 26 pieces all made within one year. The other 11 pieces not found in the exhibition are in private collections in the USA, the U.K, France and Russia. He works with his sister Sylvia at their family owned company called Neoart Peru established in 1975. The company specializes in ruby carvings with a focus on wildlife inspired themes using very rare and unusual gemstones.

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Lead-glass filled rubies have been creeping slowly into the jewelry market, and are now the most abundant ruby material used.  Even from the wholesale level they are sometimes undisclosed, making their way to retailers as loose stones or finished jewelry; which should be a widespread concern for jewelers and buyers alike.

What exactly are lead-glass filled rubies and why is this a big deal?

Lead-glass filled rubies, also known as composite rubies, typically start out as very included, dark ruby rough that would otherwise be unworkable. The rough or polished stone is then treated multiple times by being exposed to high heat while submerged in a lead-glass solution, which is a permanent fusion process of the ruby material with the lead-glass filler. The result is a gemstone far better in appearance of the rough it came from, but at a cost of the stability and durability of the stone. Due to a significant portion of the gem being composed of glass, these stones are sensitive to high temperatures, many cleaning solutions, and exposure to direct sunlight. A simple jewelry repair or maintenance process such as resizing or polishing can be detrimental to a lead-glass filled ruby.

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If the end result from this enhancement has a completely different chemical makeup, is considerably more vulnerable to damage, and contains more filler than corundum – how can you still call it a natural ruby? It is more accurate to describe these gems as composite, reconstituted, or even man-made rubies. The lead-glass serves as the “glue” that holds together the skeleton of the actual ruby.

Lead-glass rubies should not be confused with “treated” rubies.

As this type of treatment is relatively new to the industry, many market these rubies as being “treated” when it should be directly listed as lead-glass filled. Other traditional and widely accepted enhancement procedures (mainly heat-treatment and fillers) do not affect day-to-day handling of the stone.

ruby

Why use lead-glass?

The reason lead-glass is used is because it can be formulated so that its refractive index (R.I.) is the same as ruby’s. The refractive index of a stone relates to the way light moves through it. The greater the difference between the R.I. of each substance, the more easily you can see the different components; the closer the R.I., the more difficult it is to see them. If the R.I. is the same for both substances, you cannot distinguish where one ends and the other begins.

What is the difference between lead-glass in composite rubies and the silica glass fillers in “treated” rubies?

  1. Silica glass is more durable than lead-glass
  2. Rubies that are treated with silica glass use much less of it than composite rubies use lead-glass
  3. The lead-glass cannot be separated from a composite ruby without causing irreparable damage; silica glass filler can be safely removed from a treated ruby to return to its original state, and after it can be refilled
  4. Because lead-glass cannot be safely removed, composite rubies cannot be accurately graded for clarity or color. It is possible to grade for color and clarity with silica glass rubies (after removal of the filler)
  5. Carat weight – the representative carat weight of composite rubies is misleading because it accounts for the combined weight of the lead-glass and ruby material. What makes it even worse is that lead-glass is 50% heavier! Since traditionally glass-treated rubies use very little silica glass, it has very little, if any, impact on the carat weight.
  6. Value – all composite rubies are very inexpensive, at the wholesale level they only go for a few dollars per carat; treated/natural rubies start at 20 times the value and up, depending on quality
  7. Detectability – silica glass filled rubies is easier to spot with the naked eye, as there is an R.I. difference between materials. Most lead-glass filled rubies are difficult to identify by the naked eye because the R.I. of lead-glass and ruby is the same, but close up under a jeweler’s microscope the tell-tale air bubbles and flashes of blue are a dead giveaway.

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The bottom line for a buyer would be to find a retailer who has someone who can identify any treatments made to a stone, a Graduate Gemologist or similar who has undergone formal gemological training. At the very least, do not buy any rubies without an official gemological certification stating its treatments (if any). You pay for what you get. There are no discounts for quality rubies, they are very rare and in high demand. Use common sense, get a stone with a lab certificate or have it certified, and buy from a knowledgeable jeweler.

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Read Part 1: Can Diamonds be Chipped?  and Part 2: Tips to Prevent Damaging Diamonds

Accidents happen. It’s hard not to get upset when your diamond gets chipped, but understand that it’s not uncommon. It is part of the risk you take when wearing jewelry; although diamonds sustain less damage in everyday wear and tear than other gemstones, they are not indestructible.

First of all, you need to evaluate the chip(s) in your diamond. How big is it relative to your diamond? Is it instantly noticeable? Is it something you can live with? Keep these questions in mind when you bring your diamond ring to a specialist for an in-depth appraisal. A Graduate Gemologist and/or certified Appraiser will be able to assess the chip(s) effect on the diamond’s structural integrity, value, and can suggest viable options based on their evaluation.

If the chip is small and lies on the girdle edge, you may be able to reset the diamond with metal covering the area of the chip. The purpose of this is two –fold: the metal will act as a barrier to protect the chip from further stress which can lead to more extensive damage, and it will also hide the chip from view. Styles such as Bezel, Half-Bezel, Bypass, or even the addition of new prongs can achieve this effect.

Another option may be to recut the diamond. This option should be considered if your stone is of high monetary or sentimental value, as the process is quite costly. Not all diamonds are good candidates for a recut however. If the stone has chips in multiple places and/or the chip is large, it may not even be considered for a recut. Similarly, a stone would not be recut if its internal inclusions pose a significant damage risk during the process. This is a very specialized area of jewelry repair that needs to be done by a diamond cutter with great care. Talk with your jeweler to see if this would be possible for your stone.

If all else fails, you may consider replacing the diamond. Depending on your insurance policy or jeweler trade-up policy, this can also be a cost-effective option.

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Diamond BoxWe finished off with Part 1: Can Diamonds be Chipped?

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In taking care of your diamond jewelry, this is especially important. For something that can last you forever, it does require some amount of maintenance to keep it in its best shape.

Routine checkups at your jeweler (recommended is about every 6 months) is key. They have the tools and expertise to evaluate your jewelry for any compromise in the structure or integrity. Checking settings for loose stones, worn prongs or metal can prevent diamonds being exposed or even falling out.

After that, it’s all up to you. Be slightly more cautious when wearing rings, diamonds can chip when coming in contact with any hard surface such as doorknobs, kitchen countertops, or car windows. Ideally you would want to take your rings off when doing any manual work with your hands: lifting heavy objects, doing chores, cooking, gardening, and more. The more your diamond jewelry comes into contact with other objects, the more likely it is to damage. That’s why rings are the most susceptible and show signs of wear more easily; bracelets are a close second followed by necklaces and earrings, which are relatively safe.

As diamonds are most easily damaged by other diamonds, take care in storing your diamond jewelry separately when not wearing them. Every piece should have its own compartment and not be touching another diamond piece. For necklaces, lay them out carefully and store them in a spacious box, not a pouch where it can move against itself.

Another factor that contributes to the risk of damaging diamonds is present in the diamond’s structure: inclusions. Inclusions are the naturally occurring “imperfections” in the molecular crystal of the diamond, and come in many forms. Not all inclusions increase the risk of damage; it all depends on the size, location, and type of inclusion present. Inclusions to pay particular attention to are feathers, twinning wisps, or cavities that reach the surface close to the girdle, where impact is the likeliest to happen. It’s best to consult with your jeweler or someone with formal diamond training such as a GIA Gemologist to discuss the role inclusions play in your diamond’s integrity.

Read on to Part 3: What to Do With a Chipped Diamond

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Sapphire HeatSapphires come in every colour except a certain shade of red called a ruby. There are several different methods to enhance and improve the colour and clarity of a sapphire. Commonly practiced treatments are heating a natural sapphire to heighten the look of the stone. Heating a sapphire is done by placing it in a furnace at temperatures between 500 and 1800°C for several hours.  Another way is by heating it in a nitrogen-deficient atmosphere oven for seven days or more. With this process the stones become bluer and lose some of their inclusions like the silk kind. When higher temperatures are used the stone loses all silk inclusions and under magnification the stone is clear. Sapphire and other gemstones being heat treated goes back to Roman times. An untreated natural stone is somewhat rare and will be sold with a certificate from a gemology lab.

Another treatment is diffusion to add impurities to the sapphire and enhance the colour. A type of chemical element called beryllium is diffused into the sapphire with very high heat. Many colours of sapphires are being treated with beryllium. At first orange sapphires were created with this process but now the process has been advanced and many different colours can be produced.

Sapphire Heat

On the other hand a type of sapphire called “Yogo” sometimes does not need to be heat treated because of their natural cornflower blue colour. These sapphires have a deep blue uniform clarity and are generally free of any characteristics or inclusions. Intergem Limited started marketing the Yogos in the 1980’s as the world’s only untreated sapphire guaranteed. By 1982 heat treatment became a major issue at that time 95% of all the worlds sapphires were being heated to bring out their natural colour. The guarantee of Intergems marketing of Yogos set them apart of many in the gem industry. The issue ended up on front page of the Wall Street Journal in 1984 with the headline “Sapphire Marketer Upsets the Gem Industry.”

How to tell if your sapphire has been heat treated? Usually a small UV lamp can help check the gem quickly for any potential alterations. Any stones that have a chalky florescence are most likely heat treated. Taking it to a certified gem dealer with GIA industry standards is a good way to have them test it.

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DiamondThe most flawless, biggest briolette ever to surface at auction weighing at a stunning 75.36ct broke records! This diamond was sold for a world record at $11,145,734 from an anonymous buyer at Christie’s Hong Kong’s Magnificent Jewels sale. This pendant necklace was originally valued at a pre-sale low estimate of $8.5 million, which it easily surpassed.  It did fall short of its high pre-sale estimate of $12.5 million.

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The briolette is a traditional cut popular in the Victorian times but has recently become more popular in precious and semi-precious stones. It is a stone cut into a three-dimensional waterdrop shape.  Its elegant pear shape with cut facets dangles below a marquise-cut purplish-pink diamond. Adorned with stations of smaller briolettes with 18 karat white and rose gold adjustable neck chain, this piece is a classy stunner!

An auction spokesperson said the diamond was “perfect,” and had the proof of an assessment with the Gemological Institute of America. The GIA rated the stone Type IIa, which is the top quality grade.  The diamond is similar to the British Queen Elizabeth’s one she has set in her crown. Christie’s jewellery specialist, Chiang Shui-Fung, says the diamond is extremely rare.

The briolette is special because they have to find a piece rough and big enough to cut into that style. The diamond came to an American dealership named William Goldberg, as a 160.5- carat rough weight and had to be shaped into the now 75.51 carat diamond. To achieve this brilliant rare cut William Goldberg had to sacrifice more than half the stone’s weight in the meticulous cutting process. The diamond is now a stunning piece and will be remembered as a historical record breaking event.

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Red DiamondsThe Australian Argyle Diamond Mine will feature three ultra-rare red diamonds in the upcoming Pink Diamond Tender. This is the most it has featured in 30 years.  They began mining in 1983 and only six diamonds have come out of the mine as certified Fancy Red by the Gemological Institute of America. This is a very notable time for red diamonds.

Also for the first time in eight years it will feature a diamond bigger than 3 cts: a 3.02 ct. fancy pink radiant going by the name of “Argyle Imperial.” There is another weighing at 1.56-carat which is round fancy red called the “Argyle Phoenix.”

Josephine Johnson Argyle Pink Diamonds Manager had this to say about it. “Since mining began in 1983 only six diamonds certified as fancy red by the Gemological Institute of America have been presented for sale at the annual tender. To have three of these rare red diamonds in one tender is a very special moment in time.” They will be presented for sale at the annual tender. The diamonds will have their world debut first in Sydney. Then tender viewing will take place in Hong Kong, Perth, and previews in Tokyo and New York with bidding closing in October. All vividly naturally coloured diamonds are expensive but red diamonds are so rare that many think their price might double in the next couple of years.

The Argyle mine produces the world’s entire supply of pink diamonds with the red seen as the top pinnacle of the colour scale. Japan is the largest consumer of pink diamonds since the cherry blossom tree inhabits the land there the shade of pink is highly favorable to them.Argyle Pink

Fancy red diamonds are the rarest naturally coloured diamonds. Very few diamonds receive a grade of fancy red. This grade of fancy red means that the diamond is pure red and has no modifying colour.  No one really knows how the diamond gets to be this colour. It is thought that it gets its colour from a molecular structure distortion as the jewel journeys up from the crusts earth to the surface.  Another thought is that the diamond could get its colour from nitrogen atoms. Diamonds are made up of carbon atoms bonded together, sometimes there are gaps within these atoms and scientists think that the gaps and nitrogen cause the red colour. They are shaped by millions of years of crystallization. Either way the natural colour of a fancy red is unmistakable and breath taking. Diamonds come in different colours including, champagne, yellow, pink, red and purple.  Natural and treated colour diamonds are two completely different markets.

Check out a local jewellery boutique store for more information and to view some different coloured diamonds in a variety of shape and cut. If you are looking for that perfect custom diamond to add to an engagement ring its best to shop at a local jewellery store where they have trusted customer service and can help you find the exact unique coloured stone that’s right for you.

 

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