inclusions

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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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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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