A Little Bit About Diamonds

 

You may have already heard about or researched the 4 C's regarding diamonds:

Carat, Cut, Color , and Clarity.

In this post I will try to give a general overview of all of the important pieces of information to consider when buying a diamond.

The cumulative and relativity of these characteristics is what gives each diamond it's value or price per carat.

We will take each "C" one at a time.

Carat: is the weight of a diamond and recalls the days when diamonds were weighed in Middle Eastern marketplaces in comparison to the weight of one carob seed. One hundred seeds was a carat.

One carat is notated 1.00 ct. A quarter carat diamond would be 0.25 ct. 

fullsizeoutput_37b.jpeg

A common misconception is that carat refers to the "size " of a diamond. Two different diamonds of the same carat weight could conceivable be different sizes when considering the diameter of the stone from a top up view. The two stones could have different proportions and therefore weigh the same but look different face up. Also, certain cuts are heavier than others because the pavilions, girdles, tables, and crowns are of different proportions. This ties into the second "C"..

Cut: refers to the proportions in which the stone is cut, the symmetry and the finish. The best diamonds receive as much light at possible and refract and reflect it back out through the top of the crown and table facets.

This is done most efficiently when a diamond is cut with certain angles and proportions. Without getting too technical, the cut is graded on the relationship between the proportions in this diagram.

diamond-cut-01.jpg

 

The cut also refers to the shape a diamond is cut in. 

DiamondShapes.jpg

Certain diamond manufacturers have trademarked specific cutting techniques and styles. Certain details are created by some of these manufacturers more for marketing purposes and to drive up the profit margin on the stones. Some are specific to origin and have less of a bearing on quality as much as it does how it was sourced.  Oval stones need to be purchased carefully, as often they are re-cut from less desirable stones that are originally larger stones of different shapes. For example, an oval could be cut from a larger round or marquise ( think pointy oval ) shape that has been damaged. If this re-cutting is not done properly, then the oval stone could have less desirable proportions. We want to search for a diamond that is a well cut oval that does not exhibit any of these signs. That is one of the reasons why it is wise to have a jeweler search for your stone rather than just a salesman.

In addition to proportions, the symmetry is also important. It is basically what it sounds like. The more even distribution of light comes from a stone that is symmetrical in cut. 

The finish refers to the surface of the diamond. The polish of the surface, the roughness of the edge of the stone ( girdle), and the existence of any scratches from the cutting process remaining on the stone are all part of the finish. 

The cumulative effects of the cut characteristics can be described in certain terms that identify the "sparkle" one hopes to find in a diamond. Diamonds with good to excellent cut can exhibit good brightness ( the amount of white light reflected out of the stone ), fire ( the amount of colored light reflected out of the stone) and scintillation ( the amount of contrast between lighter and darker facets of the diamond ).

Basically the overall cut of the stone is graded on the scale of : Poor , Fair , Good, Very Good, Excellent . Although a Fair stone may be useful in some jewelry designs, for the purposes of a quality piece of jewelry or engagement ring , we should be looking at  Good through Excellent.

Color: refers to the natural color of a diamond. Every diamond has trace elements that form naturally along with the diamond. These elements contribute to the overall color of a diamond.

 

GIA-Color-Grading-Scale-1.jpg

 

Color is quantified by alphabetic notation. The lower the letter of the alphabet, the more naturally white a diamond is. There is no A - C, the grading starts at "D " ( which would be a naturally white stone ) and continues through "K" as near colorless stones. After K-L stones begin to take on either brown or yellow tones. The more intense browns and yellows up the scale are graded as "fancy" and are more valuable than even colorless diamonds if also exhibiting unusual, intense colors. Some colored diamonds are enhanced by a process of high temperature and pressure        ( referred to as HTTP ) that stabilizes and brings the natural color of a diamond forward.

Diamonds are graded by color in reference to "master stones" by a gemologist that is basically done by eye. For this reason , some color grading can vary slightly from one laboratory to another. For this reason, I like to consider color as a range . For example D-F are essentially extremely white, while most stones G-H are very white, challenging even experienced jewelers from telling the difference between them without special grading equipment. Even a J diamond with the right cut could look very nice in the right setting. The pricing difference between stones of equal size and other qualities but different color grades can be quite dramatic. For example a D color diamond could be thousands of dollars per carat more than a diamond with similar qualities in the GHI range when considering stones over 0.50 ct. I usually reserve D-F stones for smaller diamond choices for this reason, with the exception of step cuts ( Emerald and Asscher Cuts ). A slightly smaller stone with excellent cut and color will be far more dramatic than a larger stone that looks yellowish. Any color difference will be more obvious with adjacent stones, so we usually diamonds close together to be color matched. The color will be more important than the cut or clarity in the smaller diamonds.Color can also be a strong consideration in conjunction with metal choice. Yellow settings will require diamonds that are more white, which is one reason why you see a lot of diamond designs in white gold or platinum. When a yellow gold ring is desired it is still worthwhile to consider the diamond settings in white.

Clarity: refers to the amount, type , and configuration of the natural inclusions that occur in a diamond when it is forming. There are over 30 different inclusions that can occur naturally in a diamond or be created during the cutting process. Each one is classified and determined by a gemologist to effect the clarity grade by comparing the size, location, and interaction with other inclusions. It can get pretty complicated, but can easily be broken down into clarity grades which go follows:

diamond_clarity_chart-with-diamond-clarity-and-color-chart.jpg

Included

I 1 and I 2: these stones have inclusions visible to the naked eye. They are best for smaller stones and are often seen in commercially made, mass produced jewelry. We typically don’t  consider this grade for our projects.

Slightly Included

SI 2: these stones have some inclusions that may be possible to see without magnification, but mostly a 10X loupe is needed to identify them.

SI 1: These inclusions are a little more difficult for a trained grader to see under 10X magnification

Very Slightly Included

VS2 - VS1: These inclusions are difficult for a trained grader to see under 10X magnification

Very Very Slightly Included

VVS1-VVS2: These inclusions are very difficult for a trained grader to discover and identify.  Significantly more  expensive than VS grade and very difficult to discern with even a trained eye. It can  be an easy trap to "overpay" for a diamond in this category. The other three "C"'s of the diamond should be considered carefully when purchasing a diamond graded over VVS in clarity.

Flawless or Internally Flawless

IF - F : These stones are very rare and typically the most difficult to find and are usually much more costly per carat than even the best VVS1.

 

Basically, between SI2 and VS 1 is a good place to be when considering a larger diamond in respect to your "bang for your buck".

That said, some of these clarity grades can cross over slightly depending on which laboratory has done the grading. 

The clarity grade is a cumulative assessment made by a gemologist considering the size, placement, and nature of the inclusions. There are several different types of inclusions and they are plotted or “mapped” on each diamond with very specific notations that are universally used by gemologists and jewelers. So as you can imagine, there is subjective humans involved , which means I like to inspect each diamond for it’s clarity grade vs. how it looks in the design myself. 

Sometimes a diamond with a lower clarity grade may still be perfect for a certain design. For example, if a diamond has a noticeable inclusion on the outside edge, but is being used in a bezel set design with metal going all the way around the edge, then it may be a good choice for that ring.

Laboratories:

There are basically a few different laboratories that grade diamonds. They all give the jeweler and consumer a certificate that makes the stone a Certified Diamond. 

The GIA ( Gemological Institute of America) is probably the laboratory with the highest standards. Sometimes these diamonds also include a laser inscribed serial number or bar code on the girdle of the stone.

The AGL ( American Gemological Lab) is more known for grading colored stones, but does grade diamonds usually in accordance with the GIA standards.

The EGL ( European Gemological Lab) is a lab with locations in the US and many locations internationally. Their standards have come under scrutiny in recent years and I typically look at these diamonds with a much more critical eye.

There is competition between the laboratories and many different interests tied to each one ( The diamond business is about 75 billion a year), so there is a lot of stuff on the internet slamming each lab from a lot of different directions, so make sure to take note of the source of these articles. 

Most insurance companies could care less where a stone is graded as long as it has a certificate. One also rarely hears anyone ask in conversation which lab graded their diamond. For these reasons I consider stones from various labs, and rely on my own experience in dealing with diamonds and education at the GIA to determine if the stones are accurate to the certificate. I've only had one noticeable discrepancy so far in years of looking at certified diamonds and it was a clerical error rather than grading mistake.

Also, all of dealers I buy from know that I insist on only natural diamonds that are not drilled, filled, coated, irradiated or otherwise treated ( You can occasionally find horror stories over these stones online). The diamonds I choose are also conflict-free, meeting United Nations Kimberly Process Specs. For more information on that:  Kimberley Process

Metal choice: White metal makes diamonds look more white and is a good choice for most designs. 14K White Gold is .585 % gold and is slightly stiff and hard. It usually contains silver and nickel to give it the whiter color. The nickel can make white gold brittle and unpredictable which can translate into replacing prongs more frequently over the lifetime of the ring. 18K White gold is .750 % gold but contains less of  the other trace metals and is therefore softer…which can also lead to bent prongs and wear over time. Platinum ( 95 % platinum / 5% iridium, ruthenium and other metals )  is very durable and hard, yet looks slightly more dull in appearance and is "colder" in look than white gold. It is also much more expensive.

My preferred white metal is 14K or 18K Palladium White gold. This metal has Palladium which is in the Platinum family of metals alloyed into the white gold to replace mostly the troublesome nickel. Palladium White Gold has a nice color, is easier to manipulate, wears very well, and is significantly less expensive than 950 Platinum. There are other nickel free alloys of white gold that have become more popular that I will use or suggest using for prong set designs.  Bezel set designs or plain metal bands usually have no ill-effects regarding nickel in the alloy. For these designs, it is all about the preferred metal color. 

If a Yellow or Rose gold ring design is preferred, then it may be worth considering a white gold or platinum setting for just the diamond depending on the natural color of the diamond and the overall design considerations. 

A Little Bit About Birthstones

 

The following is a general overview & history of the most common birthstones:

The concept of birthstones may have derived from the interpretation of a specific object in the Old Testament. Specifically, the Breastplate of Aaron in Exodus is described as a religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Between the First and Fifth Centuries in Europe, this concept was expanded to reflect the twelve signs of the zodiac and tied strongly to pagan and astrological beliefs. Empowered by the belief that certain gems aided us humans spiritually, mentally, and physically; many cultures have developed their own belief systems with gemstones serving as talismans of protection, health, and prosperity. For this reason, it is easy to go online and see birthstone charts associated with specific cultures, religions, and ideologies. 

You may see some differences in the traditional vs. modern birthstones when researching your birthstone. In 1912 the National Association of Jewelers             ( USA ) dictated a specific modern birthstone chart in order to  simplify and make birthstones universally consistent on a commercial level. Few changes have been made since then with the exception of Tanzanite being added to December on some lists and Alexandrite excluded for June on many. These changes are purely driven by the availability of the gems and the market.

Below is our list which runs quite parallel to the modern birthstone chart. All of the gems we sell at Duris Studios are natural gems that formed in the earth and not in a laboratory. There are no synthetic gems or imitation gems in our world. If a gem has been treated to enhance their color or stability, then we will disclose that information. Sapphires, rubies, and some other gems are commonly heat treated to saturate and stabilize color. Some emeralds are fracture-filled for structural stability. All of our diamonds are natural diamonds that have not been synthesized or treated with high temperature and pressure. For more about diamonds, check out our diamond information post.

Each gem variety has a specific density, hardness, and structural properties. The density ( specific gravity -SG ) along with the speed at which light travels through the gem ( refractive index - RI ) is how often a more accurate identifier of gem variety as color alone can be deceiving. 

Hardness is measured in the Mohs scale -  in which materials are measured by their ability to scratch the surface another material in a qualitative scale from 1 to 10. Talc being an example of the softest mineral and diamond the hardest. The Mohs Scale is an ordinal scale. For example, sapphire ( 9 ) is twice as hard as topaz ( 8 ), but diamond ( 10 ) is four times as hard as sapphire. Harder gems ( 7 + ) are better for rings and bracelets as they get more wear and impact with their environment.

As a result of the crystalline structure of certain gems and how they form underground, some gems are more suitable to being cut into different shapes. Most gems can be cut into a faceted round, but finer examples of certain materials may be found in other cuts. Natural inclusions also form inside gems, which can affect their durability. For this reason, you can have a relatively hard material like emerald ( Mohs: 8 ) but if it is included it can be a very fragile gem.

All of our gems are sourced from a variety of dealers with which we have a great deal of faith in and often times a strong personal and business connection with. We are always willing answer questions about any of our gemstones and fulfill special order requests. For a specific gemstone request, contact us!

 
garnet rough.png

January - Garnet

Garnets are found worldwide in several gemological varieties exhibited in lovely oranges, greens, violets; with reds being most commonly recognized. 

Hardness: 7 to 7.5 depending on variety

In Hinduism and Buddhism garnet is considered a holy stone that enlightens the should and bestows wisdom. 

Garnets are cut in many shapes and sizes and are generally a wonderful gem to consider for custom designs.

garnet.jpg
 
amethyst rough.png
 
 
 
 

February - Amethyst

Amethysts are commonly found throughout the western hemisphere, Africa, and Australia. Color varies from light violet to a deep purple with flashes of pink in exceptional specimens. 

Hardness: 7

Ancient Greeks looked to amethyst to ward off drunkenness while in Medieval Europe it was reserved for Royalty and high standing members of various Christian faiths. Tibetan monks use amethyst in meditation.

We currently have some very unique Amethyst gems recently mined from Morocco with exceptional color ready to be turned into custom designs.

amethyst.jpg
 
aquamarine rough.png

March - Aquamarine

Aquamarine is a Beryl that is typically a blue, cyan or green color. Many varieties form around the world with some lovely specimens from Africa and the USA.

Hardness: 7.5 to 8 depending on variety

Ancient Roman legend has this gem originating from a mermaids jewelry box,  thus it 's name originating from the  Latin aqua maris or " Sea Water".

We use aquamarines in our studio to adorn many sea themed designs and it is also lovely in cabochon form. 

aquamarine.jpg
 
diamond rough.png

April - Diamond

Diamonds have been mined on almost every continent of earth. Only a small percentage of diamonds are mined for jewelry when compared to its industrial applications. Diamonds possess unique reflective and refractive qualities when cut properly.

Hardness: 10

Popularized in the US after WWII as the preferred choice of gems for engagement rings, diamonds are still the most popular gem to say "Yes" to when proposing.

We have access to a wide variety of lovely diamonds from traditional bright, round brilliant cuts to more unusual cuts and colors. For a personal diamond consultation please contact us!

diamond.jpg
 
emerald rough.png

May - Emerald

Emeralds are another gem in the Beryl family that exhibit a natural green color. Associated with the "Emerald Isle " only for their color, as none are actually from Ireland.  The best specimens are usually found in Columbia and Zambia with many other varieties mined in other areas in Africa, Brazil, and pockets in Asia and the USA.

Hardness: 7 - 8 depending on specific formation

In the Ancient World, emeralds were associated with Mercury the Roman messenger and traveller and used as a talisman of protection for all travelers.

Emeralds need to be considered carefully when designing jewelry. Their increasing price in recent years has also contributed to the rise in popularity of vibrant green Tsavorite Garnets from Africa .

emerald.jpg
 
pearl.png
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
alexandrite rough.png

June - Pearl & Moonstone

Pearls are an organic gem formed from different bivalves in both salt and fresh water. The majority of pearls are cultured, some with proprietary processes that are unique to a region or manufacturer. For more about pearls click here.

Hardness: 3 to 4

Pearls have been adored and adorned by all cultures with a connection to the sea. 

We have a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater cultured pearls in natural color and whites available for many custom designs. Tahitians and South Sea Pearls are also favorite items for custom work in our studio. Visit our Pearl Bar and design your own custom strand.  

Moonstones are a feldspar mineral that forms in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Western Hemisphere in a variety of locations. Usually grey or white, it can also flash other colors. The most precious variety is sometimes referred to as Rainbow Moonstone or Adularia.

Hardness: 6 to 6.5

Moonstones are associated with lunar dieties in both Greek and Roman Mythology. The finest moonstones were used in the work of famous jewelry designers in the height of the Art Nouveau Period.

We love to use moonstones in many of our designs. The best pieces have a chatoyancy that split the light along one axis of the gem. 

Alexandrite is a gem that exhibits color change and is found in many birthstone charts. It is less common and can be very expensive and difficult to find in larger sizes.

We occasionally use alexandrites as small accent gems when called for.

pearl copy.png
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
alexandrite.jpg
 
ruby rough.png

July - Ruby

Ruby is  a sapphire with a higher concentration of chromium. Both rubies and sapphires are considered to be corundum family gems. The distinction between ruby and pink sapphire in the United States is defined by a specific saturation of color. In other parts of the world, most red sapphires are called rubies. The finest rubies originate in Asia with some exceptions in other areas. 

Hardness: 9

Rubies have been described by Ancient Greeks to combine Eros, sensual love, with Agape, spiritual love to create the most divine crystal on earth. 

As a result of fluctuating trade embargos and sanctions over the past few decades, the best "Burmese" rubies from  Myanmar have become more scarce, but can be found at the right price. We have recently been enjoying the color and quality of newly mined rubies from Mozambique.

ruby.jpg
 
peridot rough.png

August - Peridot

Peridot is one of the few gems that only exists in one color. This gem's hue and tone can vary with origin and the quality is dependent upon the clarity and cutting. It is common to find peridot rough in the USA, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and a few specific mines in Norway.

Hardness: 3 to 4

Peridot is referred to as Olivine in most historical references. It was re-named by English monks in St. Albany Abbey in 1705 to reduce it's confusion with emerald in trade. 

The difference in pricing between the commonly seen pale peridots and the rich, vibrant grades are often not too disparate. For this reason, we always try to use the best peridots when a design calls for it.

peridot.jpg
 
sapphire rough.png

September - Sapphire

Sapphires form in a variety of colors, the most well known being hues of blue. The finest sapphires can be found in Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Australia and Montana.

Hardness: 9

One of the most coveted gems throughout history, sapphires have been used in the royal and holy jewels of many nations and religions.

In our studio, we love working with sapphires for many reasons. Their durability and interesting color options allow for them to be useful in almost any design. Contact us today for a viewing of special sapphires in any color from pink, blue, green, yellow, or vibrant oranges and reds.

blue sapphire.jpg
 
tourmaline rough.png
 
 
 
 
opal rough.png

October -  Tourmaline & Opal

Tourmalines or schorl form naturally in beautiful pinks, greens, blues, and natural yellow and earthy browns with rare orange and reds. As a birthstone, it is usually in pink. Commonly found in a various forms across Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere, each formation of tourmaline has it's own particular composition as it is a complicated formation.

Hardness: 7 to 7.5

Tourmalines have often been mis- identified as other gems throughout history. Caesar’s Ruby, a 52-carat red tourmaline, was a gift of King Gustavus III of Sweden to Catherine the Great.

Opal is a hydrated silica, containing about 20% water. The finest opals originate in Australia, with Brazil and the US producing some interesting varieties. Fire Opal from Mexico and Blue Opal from Peru are also unique gemstones from the Western Hemisphere. 

Hardness: 5.5 to 6.5 depending on origin and composition

Opals are stunning and require certain consideration when designing jewelry. Being susceptible to damage from wear or improper care, they are best for low impact jewelry designs.

pink tourmaline.jpg
 
 
 
 
opal.jpg
 
topaz rough.png
 
 
 

November - Topaz & Citrine

Topaz exists in almost every color and hue, with some being pleochroic or exhibiting more than one color in the same formation. Not uncommon in areas of Asia, Africa, the USA, and South America.

Hardness: 8

Topaz forms some of the most largest crystals. The 22,982-carat American Golden is one of the world’s largest faceted gems. It's in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History.

Citrine is a much more golden gem which is in the quartz family. It sometimes forms in the same crystal as amethyst combining both purple and yellow to form ametrine. Citrine is found in many mines, but the best samples originate from the USA, Brazil, Russia, Madagascar, and areas of Spain and France.

Hardness: 7

Citrine's role in fashion reached it's height in Western Culture during the Victorian Era.

In our studio, we can gather samples of citrine that are a deep golden color, contrasting from the more commercially available pale yellows. Excluding very large gems, citrine is usually quite affordable.

topaz.jpg
 
 
 
 
zircon rough.png
 
 
 
 
 
 
tanzanite rough.png
 
 
 
 
 
turquoise rough.png

December - Zircon, Tanzanite, Turquoise

Zircon is in it's own gem family and not to be confused with cubic zirconia, which is a less durable and completely different mineral. It can form in many shades of a golden dark brown to red and green, but is commonly sought after in it's blue hues. The golden and red colors form in Africa, Australia, and Northern China with the Blues from Cambodia and Myanmar.

Hardness: 6 to 7.5

Zircon is some of the oldest gem material on earth. Carbon dating puts    some samples as old as 4.4 billion years old.

We love working with zircons when we can get them in our studio. Lovely matched blue pairs are more vibrant than aquamarines and lighter than most sapphires.

Tanzanite is a unique pleochroic gem that has three distinct shades of blue, violet and indigo exhibited in it's rough. It's color has more to do with how it is cut. It is only found in one place int the world, at the hills of Merelani in northern Tanzania.

Hardness: 6 to 7

It is a relatively new discovery and addition to the birthstone chart. Masai tribesman Ali Juuyawatu is credited with finding the first tanzanite crystal. The mine was closed for a period of time in and is now currently back open.

The supply and demand of this gem has consistently driven the price up to it's current more stable pricing. Large gems and specimens with high  color saturation can demand a premium price. Nothing looks quite like a tanzanite. We have a source for some very special tanzanites and can arrange a viewing with a few day's notice.

Turquoise is a color that everyone is familiar with. It forms in only one specific environment: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals. The finest specimens are found in the Southwest USA, Egypt, and Iran.

Hardness: 5 to 6

Turquoise has been used in jewelry for millennia. Chinese and Egyptian pieces of turquoise jewelry have been unearthed that are over 4,000 years old. Turquoise was a ceremonial gem and a medium of exchange for Native American tribes in the southwestern US. They also used it in their jewelry and amulets. The Apaches believed that turquoise attached to a bow or firearm increased a hunter’s or warrior’s accuracy.

We are fortunate enough to have close connections with a few sources of unique turquoise. Often we will have cabochons from specific mines in the southwest in our gallery. Some pieces currently are from the Campitos and Patagonia mines. 

blue zircon.jpg
 
 
 
 
 
 
tanzanite.jpg
 
 
 
 
 
turquoise.jpg
 

Valentine's Day 2017

With Valentine's Day about a week away, here at the shop we thought we would compile a few pieces that would make a fun surprise for another or a special treat for yourself!

As always, we have many more items from all of our artists in store, so please stop in or contact us with any questions.

The heart earrings, ring, and xoxo earrings are a delicate and easy to wear way to celebrate the solidarity of friendship, or a special someone. 

Round Diamond Stud Earrings
from 370.00
Diamond Details:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

Diamond studs are sure to wow and become a sparkly addition to her everyday wardrobe. 

Medium Single Waterdrop & Pearl Earring
from 120.00
Metal:
Earwire Type:
Stone:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

Our waterdrop collection is easy to wear and very versatile for many occasions.

 
BUILD YOUR OWN 5mm faceted stud earrings
from 80.00
Metal:
Gemstone:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

If something completely customized is what you're after, check out or stud builder or pearl bar for "just for you" items that will turn into classics.

Any piece by Petri Kymlander is truly a one of a kind work of art, like these ruby cabochon and diamond earrings - hand-constructed and set in 18K Yellow Gold. 

Artist Showcase : Janet Blake of Quiet Rebel Design!

We hope that you will be able to join us Saturday, November 12th for an Artist Showcase event featuring the lovely & talented Janet Blake! She will be at the shop from 2-6pm with her new jewelry collection Twist & Tangle with a sneak peek seen below!

Learn more about Janet's path to jewelry making {here


Also this weekend we celebrate the grand opening of Fatulli's Downtown Cafe, and Blink Gallery's 2nd Annual Mini Art Exhibition! Be sure to stop by the Courtyard on Thames and check out all the great things happening this weekend!