From Old to New Again: Jeweler Gives Heirloom Jewelry an Updated Look

By Donna Jolly, RJ

Laura Stanley is like many American Gem Society jewelers: her family has a rich history in the industry. In her case, she is a third generation jeweler. It started with her grandfather, Charles B. Stanley, a watchmaker in downtown North Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1936, he and his wife, Sally, opened a small jewelry store that throughout the years grew, and was passed down to their son, Loyd. Today, his daughter, Laura is a vital force in Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, a family business specializing in fine jewelry and fine service. With such a rich history, it is no wonder that they know a thing or two about heirloom jewelry—and how to give these cherished pieces a beautiful, updated look.

Customizing heirloom jewelry is a growing trend. We asked, Laura, a CGA with the American Gem Society, some questions to learn more about updating these precious family treasures.

Living in an area rich in history, do you see a lot of heirloom jewelry coming in?

I feel like there is interesting and worthy jewelry all around the country. People are very mobile these days.  Jewelry and heirlooms move around!  I have learned to never underestimate what is tucked away in safety deposit boxes in small town America. I’ve seen everything from worn out 150-year old pot metal jewelry to large, impressive diamonds (over 10 carats).

Are there any rules of etiquette a person should consider before they update a piece of heirloom jewelry? For example, if the person who gave them the jewelry is still alive, should they let them know their plan?

Many people are uncomfortable resetting diamonds or gemstones received from a relative who is still alive, even with their permission. However, there are no rules and you should do what is in your comfort zone and makes you happy. And know that once you take apart your vintage piece, there is no going back.

What is one of the most interesting piece you’ve revamped?

A ring we nick-named “Jaws.”  It was a 3-row antique platinum ring, about 1” wide, with two rows of marquise cut diamonds and one row of baguette cut diamonds. We made a wedding band from the baguettes and a bracelet from the marquise cut diamonds. Here’s a picture of the “after” pieces.

braceletringWhat is your top piece of advice for someone who has a piece of heirloom jewelry that they want updated?

Be sure you want to take apart your heirloom, then find an experienced jeweler to help you understand your options and the possibilities of what you have. Also keep your mind open to adding a few diamonds or gemstones to achieve the look you ultimately want. Conversely, be aware that you might not to be able to use every single diamond in grandmother’s brooch or ring. You may have some leftovers.

Does it cost more to update a piece of heirloom jewelry than it would be to buy a new piece of jewelry?

That totally depends upon what you have and what you want. Here’s an example of earrings we made from a beautiful platinum antique diamond watch. A young woman inherited the watch and knew she would never wear it. So for a modest labor fee, we cut these clusters out of the case and she used the leftover platinum and diamonds to help defray costs for the project.

earring

What is more fun for you as the jeweler: creating a new piece of custom jewelry or updating an heirloom piece?

I think they are both thrilling because working with a customer to get exactly what she wants is always fun. It’s one of the best parts of being a professional jeweler!

What are the challenges of working with heirloom jewelry?

Occasionally you have to work around diamonds and gems that have been damaged over the years. Sometimes you can’t tell the extent of the damage until after you take it apart. That’s no fun for anyone, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Do you find that there is a tug-of-war of emotions for the customer between wanting to keep the heirloom piece in-tact, versus the desire for a new look?

Well, people are funny. Sometimes a client will walk in the door and say, “ I will NEVER wear this. My great aunt was so gaudy! Help me!”

Other times it’s a long process to determine what the right decision is, and if we should even touch it. Sometimes the right answer is to do nothing, expecting that their next generation will want a piece intact.

What other advice do you have for someone looking to update their heirloom jewelry?

Find an AGS jeweler to help. That way, you’ll be in good hands regardless of your needs.

To learn more about Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, visit http://stanleyjewelers.com/. To find an AGS credentialed jeweler in your area who can help you customize and heirloom treasure, visit http://www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler.

 

 

It’s Okay to Get an “F” in Diamond Color

By John Carter, CGA, CEO & President of Jack Lewis Jewelers

Choosing the diamond that is right for you means that you need to become a Jedi Master with the answers to these two questions:

  1. What area(s) should I spend money on?
  2. And more importantly: In what area(s) should I save money without it being obvious that I did so?

Ok. So, there you go. I’ve summed up this whole frustrating process with two questions. Now, go out there and make the right choice!

Not really that simple, I know. If it was, I wouldn’t have a job. Understanding those questions is one thing. Now you need to see practical examples of what this means in person.

Let’s single out color as our starting point. A good thing to remember when we discuss color in a diamond is that we are generally speaking about the absence or presence of yellow. Not to be confused with the occasional yellow flash you may see when you turn a diamond because that is something else. We are talking about the overall body color of that diamond.

Think in terms of shades of yellow like various glasses of lemonade. Some batches will just look more yellow than others. Same here, only remember that in diamond terms, the less color a diamond has, the more expensive it will be.

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That brings us to two terms you should know: colorless and near colorless. The most colorless of all diamonds is D (don’t ask me why they don’t start at A…seems like that would be easier…but I digress) and then the color scale goes down through the letter Z. When we use the term colorless, we mean diamonds that would receive the grade of D-F. Near colorless means the diamond would fall into the color range of G-J.

So the question to ask yourself about colorless and near colorless would be, “How do they determine this? I mean, if F truly has no visible body color, then it should be a D…right?” Well, yes but the real buying tip is found in the determination of the grade. It’s all in how we actually grade the diamonds.

In order to see subtle differences in color from one diamond to another, we actually need to flip the diamond upside down and view it next to other diamonds we know are specific colors. We call these rather important comparison diamonds Master Diamonds or Master Stones.

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The term colorless is used because it means that in the face up position (or when you are looking down at the diamond from the top of it) no color differences can be seen even by a trained grader. Even by a trained grader! It is only from the side that one can see the difference between a D, E, and F.

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So I ask you, why would you spend your money on a D or an E when clearly an F looks awfully similar? Now I’ve sold (and currently own) plenty of D and E color diamonds, but I generally only buy them when the price makes sense in another area like clarity….which is what we’ll discuss in a future blog.

This takes us to the near colorless range…so called because in that same face-up position, there will be subtle differences in color from one diamond to the next.  In other words, to the naked eye, these will still appear to be mostly lacking in color but it starts to become noticeable, even if just a little.

The exercise I like to do with clients in person is to show them one color and how it compares to the others. You do not need to be an expert to see why a D is a D when you compare it to an I color, and by looking at them this way it allows you to ask yourself the very valuable question: Is it worth the extra money?

And that is always the million dollar question and why it is essential to find someone you can trust to show you the differences.  At the very least, know that you cannot be an expert in diamonds just by doing some research online.

Identifying what separates one diamond from another takes real world experience of viewing them in person, and the right jeweler will introduce you to that world and try to explain to you why they know what they do.  Understanding color is as simple as D-Z, and being a savvy consumer is just knowing that sometimes color can be a great place to save a little money.

Pearls of Wisdom for June 2015

By Amanda L Colborn

Happy birthday to all the June babies out there!

You’re all very lucky in that you have three very unique birthstones commemorating this special month! Unfortunately, I am not creative enough to also be able to work “Alexandrite” and “Moonstone” into this blog’s title.

But, let’s jump right into pearls!

PEARLS

Historically, pearls have been used as an adornment for centuries.  They were one of the favorite gems of the Roman Empire. Later, during the Tudor period in England, the 1500’s were known as the Pearl Age.

Pearls are unique as they are the only gems from living sea creatures and require no faceting or polishing to reveal their natural beauty. In the early 1900s, the first successful commercial culturing of round saltwater pearls began. Since the 1920s, cultured pearls have almost completely replaced natural pearls in the market though we are seeing a strong revival of natural pearls.

Natural Pearl Necklace from Matoloni Pearls

Natural Pearl Necklace from Matoloni Pearls

Pearl Necklace from Mastoloni Pearls

Pearl Necklace from Mastoloni Pearls

ALEXANDRITE

A relatively modern gem, Alexandrite, was first discovered in Russia in 1831 during the reign of its namesake, Czar Alexander II, and is an extremely rare Chrysoberyl, with chameleon-like qualities.

Its color is a lovely green in both daylight and fluorescent light; it changes color to a purplish red in incandescent light.  Due to its rarity, some jewelers stock synthetic versions of this enchanting gemstone.  (Synthetic gemstones are man-made alternatives to the natural material, possessing the same physical, optical, and chemical properties as the natural gemstone.)

Here we have a video featuring a rare 6 carat Alexandrite ring from AG Gems:

A close-up of an Alexandrite Ring from AG Gems

A close-up of an Alexandrite Ring from AG Gems

MOONSTONE

The third birthstone for June is the Moonstone.  It was given its name by the Roman natural historian Pliny, who wrote that moonstone’s appearance altered with the phases of the moon — a belief that held until well after the sixteenth century.

A phenomenal gemstone, moonstones show a floating play of light (called adularescence) and sometimes show either a multirayed star or a cat’s eye. Considered a sacred stone in India, moonstones often are displayed on a background of yellow (a sacred color) and are believed to encapsulate within the stone a spirit whose purpose is to bring good fortune.

Part of the family of minerals called feldspar, moonstone occurs in many igneous and metamorphic rocks and comes in a variety of colors such as green, blue, peach, and champagne. The most prized moonstones are from Sri Lanka; India, Australia, the United States, Mayanmar, and Madagascar are also sources.

Moonstone

Moonstone

On behalf of everyone at the American Gem Society — we wish you a very happy June, full of joy and jewels!