clarity

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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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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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DiamondsBuying a diamond for the first time is a scary thought to most. A venture into a world that you are aware of, but been happily oblivious to – until of course, you decided you want to propose. Naturally, many turn to the internet for research on the 4 C’s, until your head is exploding with all the information on clarity, color, proportions and carat weight.

Here’s the thing though – none of that matters until you set a budget. Just like a wedding, there should be a planning process that goes into buying a diamond and steps taken before you set foot into a jewelry store.

How do you set a budget? The old adage claims that it should be 2 months salary, but in reality whatever you are comfortable spending is the right amount. Then, you can focus your time to finding the nicest diamond possible for your money. If you do not set a budget before going into a jewelry store, you are likely to end up frustrated or disappointed. The sales associate may show you a beautiful ring you love, but find out that it is much more than you want to spend – then you will be disappointed. If you tell them your budget right off the bat, then they will show the ones that you can afford and be able to compare rings within that range, instead of with the unattainable.

One situation that is common: you know that your girlfriend wants a certain shape that is at least X amount of carats. You set out to find such a stone for the least amount of money possible. The truth is, many people have no real concept of diamond size. Try managing your girlfriend’s expectations by browsing a jewelry store to see diamonds in person, of different carat weights to compare. Say for instance, she has expressed that she wants a 2 carat round diamond, and your budget is around $10,000. You have a choice to buy a low quality, dull diamond that is 2 carats or a very nice quality, white sparkling diamond of around 1 carat. The choice is ultimately up to you. Be realistic with what you can buy with your budget, bigger is not necessarily better.

A trusted jeweler with solid credentials is your best ally in finding the perfect engagement ring. Try to find a jeweler who has formal gemology training, the best would be a Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) or Certified Gemologist from the GIA or AGS. They will have the knowledge base and tools to source suitable diamonds. The best ones will be able to work with your budget to find you the best stones.

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The internet has revolutionized the way that consumers can maximize their buying power. You can now compare prices from different vendors and have items delivered to you from across the globe. This has pushed retailers to lower their prices to compete with internet businesses, which is great for consumers. However, certain things cannot be bought sight unseen. While buying electronics or home tools are fine to buy over the internet, diamonds are not. Buying diamonds should be almost like buying a house – you wouldn’t buy a house without taking a tour first, and you shouldn’t buy diamonds without seeing them. Just as houses are more than their square footage and amenities, each diamond is unique, with many nuances in its characteristics that can’t be defined in a piece of paper.

1. You can’t sell a feeling on the Internet. A diamond is not all about its physical characteristics like symmetry and the grading of the 4 C’s, but also the feelings that it elicits when it is bought and gifted.

2. Additionally, diamonds are much more than their 4 C’s. A diamond is a work of nature. I could give you the dimensions of a woman and her picture, but you need to see her to truly experience her beauty. The same is true of diamonds. You can’t fully appreciate the sparkle, shine and depth until you see it in person.

3. “It’s too good to be true! – it probably is. Diamonds are all unique, so they are all priced accordingly. Diamonds of the same size can vary greatly in price; for example a one carat stone can be anywhere from $3000 to upwards of $30,000. Even diamonds of the same size, shape, color and clarity will vary in price. Why? When diamonds are evaluated the whole picture is taken into account: things like placement of inclusions, brightness of the stone, any negative effects of fluorescence, the list goes on.

4. Nothing beats an expert’s eye. It is recommended for you can do some basic research yourself beforehand to have something to go by. However, even if you are willing to invest countless hours of your free time reading up all about diamonds, you cannot see what a jeweler sees. Remember that they have spent years looking at many, many diamonds and if they are a gemologist they have gone through several years of intensive additional schooling.

5. Buying online involves shipping, and this comes with its own risks. It is possible for the courier to lose or misplace your package, and dealing with the insurance companies will be a long hassle. Also in the event that you wish to return it for any reason, you will have to pay additional costs for shipping and insuring – and the higher value the package is, the higher price for insurance. With so much money at stake, would you want to risk it?

The best thing to do is find a reputable jeweler you can trust. Someone that focuses on the quality of the items they sell and not the quantity, who will take the time to listen to your needs and educate you. More importantly, find one with formal education such a a GIA Graduate Gemologist who will have the knowledge and tools to point out all the details of the diamond with you.

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3: STONE:

Here we will only consider diamonds. If you are considering other stones, speak to a gemmologist to find out your options and get their recommendations. Remember: knowledge is power, know as much as you can about what you are spending your money on.

Diamonds are rocks that form naturally in the earth, so there is no ‘one size fits all’. It is like choosing between apples – size, sweetness, crispness, juiciness are categories you want to balance when picking an apple. It is similar for diamonds but with different criteria.

  • Carat: In gold this word refers to the purity, with diamonds it is the weight/size. Bear in mind that diamonds are priced per carat digitally. In other words 0.5-0.99 is one price bracket, and 1.00-1.49 is another. Therefore it is possible to buy a 0.98 for the price of a 0.5 and it will look like a 1 carat. The other factors are also critical, however, so bear in mind that a 1 carat diamond can vary in price dramatically depending on the other variables.
  • Clarity: Being an organic material, most diamonds have impurities known as inclusions. Inclusions are usually white or black and some can be seen with the naked eye. A stone without inclusions is called ‘flawless’ and carries a high price tag. Clarity is graded using letter-number combinations. For most rings the range to look for is either VS1 and VS2 which are very clear, then S1 and S2 have inclusions that can easily be seen with 10x magnification, but not so easily with the naked eye. Diamonds also possess blemishes such as tiny cracks which can make the diamond cloudy (see warnings below).
  • Colour: diamonds vary in colour from colourless to brown and even black. Unless you are after a diamond that is noticeably coloured, you want to aim for as white as possible. Colour is graded using letters. D is colourless, through to zyx (noticeably tinted). Aim for D-G range for a quality diamond.
  • Cut: this determines the overall shape of the stone (round, square, rectangle, oval, pear shaped etc) and sparkly (fire). The more facets the more the light is bounced around in the stone and is reflected back to you as sparkle. Round brilliant cut is the most popular and gives a lot of sparkle. Also more facets can hide impurities, for example, if you are in the market for a flawless diamond, this will be well seen in an emerald (rectangle) cut.

Speak to a jeweler who knows their stones. If your priority is high purity, then maybe you can go down on the carat size or colour etc.

WARNINGS:

Not enough emphasis can be made on the importance of buying from a reputable retailer. It is really important that you trust who you are buying from as not all jewelry is what it seems.

  • Castings of the ring mounts when machine made can be porous (tiny bubbles in the metal); the claws that set the stones can be loose, and these rings will not last.
  • There are imitation diamonds on the market, so be sure to get a certification so that you know you are not buying a cubic zirconia or moissanite when you want a diamond.
  • Especially when buying jewelry unseen, such as on the internet, be aware that even if the dealer is obliged to state colour, clarity and carat value, it is not obliged to state cloudiness or treatments that have been made to artificially enhance the stone. These include laser drilling where tiny pin holes are made into the inclusion to bleach it white or dissolve it. These can look like natural flaws and don’t necessarily impair the appearance or structure of the stone. Fillers, however are not considered permanent and the substance used (usually glass) has different properties to diamonds and can appear as colour flashes unusual to diamond. Also, heat and sunlight can effect this substance over time darkening or eroding it. Even though diamond is the hardest substance, cracks (especially unfilled) are weaknesses and make the stone vulnerable to cracking. There is nothing wrong with buying a treated stone (it can make a lesser quality stone appear better), but make sure that this is disclosed when you purchase so that you know you are paying the right price.

You are now armed and ready to browse those jewelry stores and know what you are looking at! This is all very technical information, as you browse you will find that some diamonds “speak” to you more than others. Don’t be held down by the numbers – find a stone you love and a setting that compliments the stone and your personality. And shop around for the jeweler you trust.

Happy shopping!

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A StoreShopping for engagement rings can be a highly emotional and daunting task. Jewelry stores can be intimidating. Don’t be put off by the seemingly endless styles and confusing prices. Let’s make it easier and break it down. Once you have an idea of what is important to you, find a reputable jeweler that you trust, preferably with gemmological qualifications, who can source stones and who works with a good goldsmith so that you can guarantee good product and service. It is well worth spending the time to find the right retailer as this ring is for life, not just for the proposal, and just as any other long wearing item, it will need upkeep – claws that hold the stone in place will need tightening, white gold will need rhodium plating, polishing, cleaning, resizing, insurance validations are all things you may need to follow up with.

So what variables do you need to consider to make your shopping experience easier? Take a note of your priority in each category and bring the list with you when browsing:

The fundamentals are Style and Material. Here we will focus on diamond engagement rings only.

1: STYLE:

  • 1 stone is called a solitaire, it is very popular – it says “you are the one and only”.
  • 3 stone rings stand for “I Love You” or “Then, Now, Always”.
  • Other designs are less conventional but always beautiful: the halo design is a single stone surrounded by a ring of smaller stones. This can look stunning if they are all diamonds as it makes the overall effect of a larger diamond, also if the centre stone is coloured, the halo frames that stone and makes it really stand out.
  • When diamonds are set in a line either part or all the way around the ring in a band, then this is called an eternity ring. This is popular when the knuckles are larger than the base of the finger and your rings tend to spin around, it is a more popular choice as the wedding band.

2: METAL:

Depending on skin tone and preference there are silver and golden coloured metals.

  • Silver is very soft and not very appropriate for setting precious stones.Ring Styles
  • White gold is a good alternative. The higher the carat value, the more gold content, and the higher the price. More gold usually means softer, except for 19K which has a different alloy and is extremely hard, and does not need rhodium plating as often. Gold will always want to revert to its original yellow, so over time a 14K gold ring will tarnish and need plating every 2 years or so to bring it back to the bright white, and of course when you do this the ring will look brand new again! Rhodium plating typically costs $60, so keep this in mind when purchasing.
  • Platinum is the hardest and whitest of the white metals. It does not scratch as easily as gold and will never need plating. However, over time, with constant wear, the ring will eventually collect scratches. As the metal is harder, normal jewelry polishing wheels at retail shops may not be able to polish off all marks.
  • Yellow and rose gold will have more colour with higher carat value, but will be softer.

 

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