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Paul WalkerAlmost ten years ago, in the holiday season of 2004, Paul Walker happened to be in a Santa Barbara jewelry store at the same time as another couple that was browsing. That couple was Kyle and Kristen Upham, who were looking for an engagement ring. They were already secretly married in a private ceremony before his deployment to Iraq, but now he was back and wanted to get her a proper ring.

While they were browsing, the “Fast and Furious” star struck up a conversation with them. Kristen recalls when Walker found out that Kyle had just come back from his first tour in Iraq: “I remember seeing the look in his face. He kind of transformed.”

Kristen was back at the store to look at a ring she really, really liked. It featured a round brilliant center diamond, accented with baguette diamonds in the band set in white gold. At $9,000 though, it was out of her husband’s budget. They left the store empty-handed, but received a call later on from Irene King, the sales associate who had helped them, asking them to return to the store. Waiting for them was her dream ring, wrapped up and paid for in full by a mysterious benefactor. The staff at the store refused to give out any details, as per his wishes. According to King, Walker had pulled aside the store manager in private and asked to put the ring on his tab, walking out shortly after.Paul Walker

The staff kept his secret for nearly a decade, until his recent untimely death sparked the wish to share his random act of kindness in tribute to his outstanding character. A great number of Walker’s colleagues and friends in Hollywood have since spoken out about his fantastic work ethic, talent, polite demeanor and passion for charitable projects. He will always be remembered in the people whose lives he touched, and for Kyle and Kristen Upham, they will always have a reminder and a story to tell when they pass down her ring for future generations.

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kimberly diamondThe New York Museum of Natural History is having an exhibition for the rare 19th century 55 carat diamond that was once part of the Russian Crown Jewels.

The stone is named “Kimberley Diamond” after the Kimberley Mine where it was discovered in South Africa in 1868. It had been cut from a 490 carat crystal. In 1921 it turned into a 70 carat gem and later in 1958 was re-cut and improved for brilliance and proportions.  In the re-cutting process the stone lost some weight 14.92 carats. Now weighing 55.09 carats it was valued at $500,000 but is probably worth considerably more now.

Kimberly Diamond has been perfected to a champagne coloured, emerald cut, rectangular flawless diamond. It is about 1.25 inches in length. It has been described as a “cape diamond” which is an Old World term meaning “deep colour.”

In order a diamond to survive the Earth’s surface it has to get there really fast this stone got a ride on magma. Magma starts very deep in the earth and moves towards the surface at 35-40 km/h. During a volcanic eruption the magma creates bubbles like champagne and can reach speeds up to Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).

Diamonds were first found along rivers where people would look for gold. In the 1870’s lots of diamonds were found at the bottom of rivers and streams in South Africa. They would follow the river upstream and find a grey blue rock which contained a diamond. Now days a gem the size of the Kimberley diamond wouldn’t survive in modern mining techniques it would be crushed in the process.

The diamond will be on display with “Patricia Emerald” and “The Star of India.” Patricia Emerald is a 632 carat 12 sided emerald crystal from Columbia. The Star of India is the world’s largest gem quality blue star sapphire it is 526 carats in weight and is 2 billion years old!

Kimberly Diamond is on loan from Bruce T. Stuart. The stones will be added to the Morgan Memorial hall of Gems and is on display in the NYC museum through to June 2014.

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cheapsidehoardfullA treasure that was uncovered 100 years ago by a workman is going to now be on display for the first time next fall in the Museum of London.  The entire chest called the Cheapside Hoard which includes hundreds of gold and gem studded Tudor and Jacobean jewellery.  There are many questions and possible murder mystery tales surrounding this jewellery which makes its value more than just its weight in gold. It also can tell us about the life during this time in London a period from between 1558 to 1625. Some questions that arise are whose jewels were these? Why was it hidden? Why hasn’t it ever been claimed?

It was first discovered in 1912 when it was buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London.  A workman’s pickaxe smashed through the brick floor more than a century ago and it was left forgotten. When an old house was being demolished on Cheapside the hoard was found and remains priceless.

Swan

“Nothing in the world comes close,” said Museum of London curator Hazel Forsyth. He has been studying the pieces for a long time now. Some of the jewelry includes necklaces, rings, brooches, chains, pearls, rubies, fan holders, scent bottles and two carved gems dating back 1,300 years ago. The most delicate of items are fine gold enamel chains with gems on them up to two meters long they were stitched on gowns and hung from collar to waist as a dazzling display. “This collection has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, dismissed as jewelry for the merchant classes,” Forsyth said. “But at this date the merchants were among the wealthiest people in the land; they had far more disposable wealth than the aristocracy.” Along with the massive rubies, and pearls the size of acorns there are sapphires, emeralds and some fake stones made of quartz crystal which have been dyed and carved to look like precious gems.

New research of a specific gem known as “The Stafford Intaglio”, an oval shaped piece of engraved cornelian, suggest the time it was buried between 1640 and 1666.  The engraved piece is a badge of Stafford with a swan and a wreath, there was only one Viscount Stafford by the name of William Howard in 1640.

broochTwo other pieces from the Cheapside Hoard is a salamander shaped brooch set with Colombian emeralds and table cut diamonds from India. The other is a gold enamel ring set with moonstone and engraved with a frog.

Another extremely rare piece is a hexagonal emerald watch, one of the most unusual and decadent pieces found, one of a kind no other in its era had ever been recorded.

All these jewels will be displayed together they are the single most important knowledge of early modern jewelry worldwide.

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EngagementWhat are engagement or wedding rings all about anyway? Who started this and why is it such a tradition? Since when did the ring become a symbol of love, romance, and marriage? Why is it the fourth finger on the left hand that is considered the lucky one to wear the ring? Here is some history of the engagement and wedding ring.

Starting all the way back in Egyptian times they were the first to use the circle shape as a symbol of eternity. The Egyptians also believed that the fourth finger on the left hand was connected to the vein of love and ran directly back to the heart. Although wearing a ring as a public pledge to honour marriage didn’t come about until the Roman times.  Some of the first rings were made from iron, but by medieval days gold rings set with gems were fashionable.  Popular gems were symbolic such as a blue sapphire to reflect the heavens or a red ruby as the colour of the heart, but the most powerful of all gems was the diamond.

Up until the 15th century only kings wore diamonds as a symbol of courage, strength, and invincibility. Over centuries the diamond has become a unique status of the ultimate gift for love. The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamas” which means “the unconquerable” suggesting the eternity of love. Ancient Greeks believed diamonds to be delicate splinters of fallen stars and adorned them for the powers of protection they believed it offered the wearer. India is where diamonds were first discovered and they were thought to be a shield from forces of evil like theft, snakes, and poison.  They have been associated to promote lasting love, ward off nightmares, symbol of innocence, power and protection. You can see why it has become such a precious gift of choice for couples.

RingsHow did an engagement ring come about? This first trend started way back in 1477 by Archduke Maxamilian of Austria who present his beloved Mary of Burgundy with a ring of engagement. The dual ring ceremonies were introduced by the Greek Orthodox Church in the 1300’s.  It wasn’t until the 1940’s in US when both men and woman would wear a band. Due to World War 2 the custom caught on because soldiers had to leave their beloveds behind and in the separation and loneliness they wanted to wear a band to remind them of their loved one far away. In the height of the war 85% of marriages had a dual ring ceremony, and it continues today.

The tradition is still long lasting and both men and woman are more attached to their bling today than ever before!

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The cherry blossoms are out and this beautiful city is coming alive as the clouds come and go revealing a bright blue sky dotted with pink and white flowers. April is Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival season with many events celebrating the beginning of spring from dance and biking events to Japanese poetry and guided walks.

These delicate beauties are a popular inspiration for jewelry and fashion designers. This year at the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Spectrum Awards, Vancouver born jewellery designer Gregore Joailliers (now based in Santa Barbara, CA) won the business/Day wear category with his 18K white gold earrings that elegantly feature pink opal Japanese plum blossoms accented with black and white diamonds. It is easy to believe that this piece was inspired from his upbringing in this city.

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Perhaps you have a design in mind that encaptures the beauty of this city? Why not find a local jeweler to make your vision a reality. Look for custom jewelry designers in your area.

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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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