Cut to the Chase (Part 2)

Jewelry Tweezer And Diamonds

By John Carter, CGA, Jack Lewis Jewelers

Buying finished jewelry is so different than buying loose diamonds, mainly because our diamond buying is a year-long process. We are constantly searching for diamonds, whether it be something specific that a client has asked to see or just something that we need to meet our day-to-day inventory needs.

Because of this never-ending search for perfect diamonds, our ability to spot the good ones remains pretty sharp. I’ve always said that a really well-cut diamond has a sort of “it factor,” meaning after you’ve seen enough of them, you just know the special ones with a glance. When it takes your breath away—right away—that’s the one.

When I closed Part I of this blog, I promised you that we would discuss exactly what goes into making a diamond an AGS Ideal® cut. How do you tell the difference? And is it worth the extra money? I stressed out so much about living up to my promise that I reached out to my good friends at American Gem Society Laboratories to make sure I kept it all straight. So here we go:

What exactly is “cut” as it relates to diamonds? The American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories say, “The cut of a diamond refers to how well the facets of a diamond interact with light, the proportions of the diamond, and the overall finish of the diamond.” (Source: americangemsociety.org/diamond-cut)

Facets, light interaction, proportions, and finish may seem like small things, but their influence on the beauty of a diamond is enormous. AGS makes it really easy to understand with their 0 to 10 grading system, with zero (0) being the highest cut grade (ideal) a diamond can receive and 10 being the lowest. However, this apparent simplicity is deceptive because it requires very careful analysis of all things that make up that diamond.

It used to be that diamonds were “cut graded” primarily by their proportions, but AGS revolutionized diamond grading in 2005 when they released their long-awaited Light Performance Cut Grading System.

This method uses patented software technology to measure the attributes that are most important to the beauty of your diamond: Brightness, Fire (spectral color), and Contrast. The combined impact of these factors is what breathes life into your diamond and makes it sparkle!  In other words, they are the secret ingredients of the “it factor” that I mentioned above.

ags-scale

The AGS Grading Scale, based on a 0 to 10 scale, makes grades easier to understand;
0 means the cut grade is the best it can be.

Because every facet is considered, every cutting mistake and design flaw can impact the final Cut Grade. Consequently, the AGS Performance Cut Grade system is the most technologically advanced and scientifically rigorous system in the world and represents the highest standards in cut grading.

These ranges make it easier to understand, but I’ve seen more than my share of clients get caught up in these numbers, and they forget to ask themselves one thing: how does the diamond actually look? Is it bright and sparkly with a lot of life? Yes? Then don’t let one number encourage you to cast a pretty diamond onto the scrap pile.

What’s really cool from a gemologist’s point of view is that the same technology used to compute the Cut Grade also produces a color-coded image of the diamond which allows you to understand its light performance.

aset-pic-1

The above is called an ASET image. ASET stands for Angular Spectrum Evaluation Tool. (There will be a test later, haha.) For customers like you, this is a crucial piece of technology because it demonstrates the way light interacts with your diamond. It’s much easier to see and understand a diamond’s beauty through this image than to listen to a scientific explanation, right? We can show you your diamond’s ASET image right at Jack Lewis, and you can even snap a picture of it to carry around with you or share on social media.

Additionally, The ASET  shows the “optical symmetry” of your diamond. For example, in the image above, the eight symmetrical arrows prove that the diamond was cut with a high degree of craftsmanship and artistry.

The simple fact remains that while what we do isn’t the most complicated job on the planet, it really does take a scientific approach and an educated eye to do all of the above. A life spent in the diamond business can teach the right grader, gemologist, or diamond buyer the skills they need to be able to make proper decisions and assign the right grades which determines the right price.

The average consumer looking to find just the right diamond for the love of their life does not have the time to become an expert during their brief shopping experience. They can Google, research, and look at hundreds of diamonds, but they will still need to seek out a properly credentialed and trustworthy diamond professional to help them find what’s right for them. That’s the real dilemma when you’re looking for a jeweler isn’t it….trust?

I once had a client at the diamond counter who told me that Jack Lewis Jewelers was the 15th jewelry store he had visited! He was so confused and so frustrated with the process that he was almost in tears. I can understand why. One jewelry store will tell you one thing, and then another will explain it another way, and on top of it, they are all trying to sell you whatever is in front of them. Just about all of them mean well and are honest, but it can be a lot to process.

I asked if I could give him some advice and he reluctantly said, “Sure.”  I said, “Just stop. Stop looking. Pick the place that makes the most sense with as little sales talk as possible. Then trust that person to walk you through the process with an education along the way.” I went on to say that I hoped that was me, but if not, he needed to find the person he could most relate to and trust.

I could tell when I gave him that advice that I had lifted a great weight off of his shoulders. The process can be overwhelming and the diamond grading scale can be a large part of why. I understand that retailers don’t always do a good job of explaining the process, so it is really important to find one who takes the time to do just that. I’ve found it’s the best way to establish a relationship with my clients—and dare I say it—a friendship. I’m happy to say that client did choose me! This occurred over 10 years ago and over the course of a few years, he even sent me several of his friends.

You can see we’ve taken this from an explanation about Cut Grade to the importance of establishing a relationship with someone you can trust. My journey to this destination was no accident. So let’s cut to the chase: at some point, buying a diamond becomes a leap of faith, and Cut is the most complicated part of the buying process as well as being the most essential characteristic in determining beauty. I believe it’s an understatement to say that it pays off to have an expert help you with that part. And at Jack Lewis, we’re ready to walk you through it.


I want to thank my friends at the American Gem Society (AGS) and AGS Laboratories for helping me with this blog. In particular, Jason Quick, who is the Laboratory Director and a mad genius who understands diamonds in ways I can only imagine. Jason and the team at AGS are on the forefront in the jewelry industry because consumer protection is at the very heart of everything they do.

Like the young man in my story, I hope you also choose Jack Lewis Jewelers, but we realize we can’t sell everyone a diamond. If you’ve ever wondered how you can find a jeweler you can trust, start with us if you can…but if not, AGS has you covered. Visit Find a Jeweler at www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler, type in your zip code and visit a great store. Every retail member of the American Gem Society adheres to a strict code of ethics that help them remain dedicated to the education of their clients.

April is the Month of Brilliance

JeffreyDaniels

Jeffrey Daniels Unique Designs

The birthstone for April is a gem that’s near and dear to us. It’s the keystone of the American Gem Society logo, and they offer grading reports for this precious gem based on science and accuracy. We’re talking about diamonds.

Diamonds have been admired for centuries, and some historians estimate they were traded as early as four BC. One of the reasons it is so admired and valued is because of the process by which a diamond is formed well below the earth’s crust, then forced upward until it is uncovered. These natural forces are what make each and every diamond unique.

Part of the diamond grading process includes testing the diamond for clarity. This is when the lab determines the relative visibility of the inclusions in a diamond and their impact on the overall visual appearance. Inclusions are the internal or external flaws of the diamond which are a result of the tremendous heat and pressure a diamond is subjected to in its journey to the surface.

The gemologists in the AGS Laboratories have come across some very unusual and rare inclusions, which they call “Clarity Rarities.” Click here to see an example of their most recent find!

Diamonds come in several colors, including yellow, red, pink, blue, and green, and range in intensity from faint to vivid. Generally speaking, the more saturated the color, the higher the value.

AGS Laboratories only grades white diamonds and are the leaders in cut grade. Because of their proprietary light performance cut grade, diamond cutters understand how to cut a more beautiful diamond—which means you have more beautiful, sparkling options when shopping for diamonds!

This is why we love diamonds so much. Their beauty is endless and they never cease to amaze us. But enough talk about diamonds, let’s enjoy these gorgeous designs by some of our AGS members!

 

If you’re celebrating a birthday in April, a 60th anniversary (congratulations!), or love diamonds as much as we do, be sure to contact an AGS-certified jeweler near you. They’ll help you find the diamond of your dreams! And don’t forget to ask for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report. Accept no substitutes, and buy your diamond with confidence!

3 Stone and Jewelry Trends from the 2017 Tucson Gem Shows

By Jennifer Heebner, Guest Writer

Like tourists to the Grand Canyon, thousands of people routinely descend on Tucson, Arizona, in the first quarter of every year. The reason? Gemstones!

An annual gathering of miners and cutters that is loosely dubbed the “Tucson Gem Shows” is the draw, with 40-plus individual fairs targeting largely professional buyers of rough and loose stones and some finished jewelry.

While some venues permit entry to consumers, the bulk of the shows exist to serve the business-to-business audience. As a longtime member of the trade, the American Gem Society secures entry to the toniest destination in town—the American Gem Trade Association’s GemFair Tucson, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 5—to find out what AGS member artisans brought for your favorite stores to buy.To wit, here are three trends that you can shop by fall.

To wit, here are three trends that you can shop by fall.

Colored gemstone halo style engagement rings. You’re accustomed to seeing all-diamond halo-style rings in stores, but colored stone merchants are getting in on this style game with their own vivid versions. Think naturally color-changing alexandrite melee surrounding purple spinel at OMI Gems, or multiple hues of fancy color sapphires. These options are fresh in terms of look and can also help contain costs, depending on the gems. “Young couples are really interested in color for engagement rings—and not just blue!” observes Kambiz Sabouri, president of Gem 2000.

Omi Prive Alexandrite

Ring with a purple spinel center stone and a halo of diamonds and alexandrite from OMI Gems.

Unexpected color combinations. From rare pink Mahenge spinels with Mozambique ruby to opals with tsavorite or mandarin garnet, there are no rules for robust and beautifully colored gem pairings. In fact, Royal India isn’t creating anything that could be considered a basic look anymore; instead, it is making one-of-a-kinds. “People are tired of being ‘dull,’” remarks CEO Vishal Kotahwala. Helping to grow the numbers of sui generis? Rare stones like Paraiba tourmaline. “Paraiba with anything is wonderful,” notes Sabrina Bindra, director of sales and marketing for B & B Fine Gems.

RoyalIndia

Earrings with mixed colors of gemstones from Royal India.

Long necklaces for layering. Length remains a go-to for many fine jewelry-buying fashionistas. Versatility is one reason—heard of layering?—but so is a variety of materials. Long necklaces from pearl maker Mastoloni feature not just round or baroque shapes of South Sea pearls but also gemstone accents. And at Jye’s International, lightweight numbers, particularly 36-inch-long necklaces with rose-cut sapphires, are most in demand. “The younger generation loves to mix up their wardrobes with functional pieces,” says founder Jennifer Chang.

Jyes

Multi-strand necklace with rose-cut multi-color sapphires from Jye’s International.

Want to learn more about these gemstones and trends? Do you have your own designs in mind? Visit an AGS-certified jeweler near you and they’ll be happy to help you find the gems and look that’s right for you!

Could You Propose Without an Engagement Ring?

Man Making Proposal With Wedding Ring And Gift Box, Wedding ConcThe answer is, YES! It’s okay to think outside of the proverbial engagement ring box when it comes to popping the question. Picking the right engagement ring is a big decision and investment, putting a lot of pressure on the one proposing. They’re already feeling the stress of whether or not their heartfelt proposal will be jubilantly accepted.

But for those who don’t want to propose empty handed, AGS member, The Inspired Collection, has designed a creative and contemporary alternative: Wilshi – The Proposal Ring®. They have nine quality ring designs crafted from sterling silver and each comes in a hand-crafted wooden box.

“The idea came from chatting to lots of men and women who were wanting to plan a romantic surprise proposal but ended up proposing without a ring because they wanted their love to be a part of the selection process,” says Chris Benham, CEO of Inspired Jewellery Limited. “If he involved her in the selection process before the proposal then it would ruin the surprise. So we thought, let’s create a fun collection of rings that allowed him to make a surprise proposal and still drop down on one knee and surprise her.”

For your inspiration, here are a few of their beautifully designed rings:

Straight from the heart.
Wilshi® Heart Ring

Oceans of love.
Wilshi® Shell Ring

Shhh—it’s our little secret.
Wilshi® Secret Ring

Check out their website to see more designs, be inspired by the Wilshi® Epiphany story, and get some terrific proposal ideas!

Once the two of you are ready to shop for an engagement ring together, be sure to shop with a knowledgeable jeweler you can trust: an AGS credentialed jeweler. They will take the time to listen to your needs and help you pick out that perfect ring. Click here to find an AGS jeweler near you.

We wish you all the best this Valentine’s Day and may you and yours find the greatest happiness!

Chase Away the Winter Blues With December’s Birthstones

decemberbluesDecember’s birthstones offer three ways to fight the winter blues: tanzanite, zircon, and turquoise—all of them, appropriately, best known for beautiful shades of blue.

These gems range from the oldest on earth (zircon) to one of the first mined and used in jewelry (turquoise), to one of the most recently discovered (tanzanite).

Below is a collection of beautiful blues designed by our AGS members. Click on the images to see all the beautiful details!

Tanzanite

Tanzanite is the exquisite blue variety of the mineral zoisite that is only found in one part of the world. Named for its limited geographic origin in Tanzania, tanzanite has quickly risen to popularity since its relatively recent discovery.

Due to pleochroism, tanzanite can display different colors when viewed from different angles. Stones must be cut properly to highlight the more attractive blue and violet hues and deemphasize the undesirable brown tones.

The majority of tanzanite on the market today is heat treated to minimize the brown colors found naturally and to enhance the blue shades that can rival sapphire. Between its deep blue color and its limited supply, tanzanite is treasured by many—whether one is born in December or not!

 

Zircon

Zircon is an underrated gem that’s often confused with synthetic cubic zirconia due to similar names and shared use as diamond simulants. Few people realize that zircon is a spectacular natural gem available in a variety of colors.

Zircon commonly occurs brownish red, which can be popular for its earth tones. However, most gem-quality stones are heat treated until colorless, gold or blue (the most popular color). Blue zircon, in particular, is the alternative birthstone for December.

Whether you’re buying blue zircon to celebrate a December birthday, or selecting another shade just to own a gorgeous piece of earth’s oldest history, zircon offers many options.

Turquoise

Turquoise, the traditional birthstone of December, is also gifted on the 11th wedding anniversary. But buying turquoise doesn’t require special occasions; its namesake blue color has been internationally revered for centuries as a symbol of protection, friendship, and happiness.

Thanks to its historical and cultural significance in many Native American tribes, turquoise remains most popular throughout the southwestern U.S.—which supplies most of the world’s turquoise today.

Turquoise is one of few gems not judged by the 4Cs of diamond quality. Instead, the main factors that determine its value are color, matrix, hardness, and size. The most prized turquoise color is a bright, even sky blue. Greenish tones can lower the value of a stone, although some designers prefer it.

Because of its fragility, turquoise is often treated to enhance durability and color. Some treatments involving wax and oil are relatively harmless, while other methods—including dye, impregnation, and reconstitution—are more controversial. Seek out an AGS jeweler who can help you find the best quality turquoise.

 

Shopping for fine jewelry should never make you blue! Make sure you shop with a trusted jeweler and buy it with confidence. Click here to search for an AGS jeweler near you.

Shopping for an Engagement Ring? Give ‘em a Hint!

By Catherine Jessee, The Knot

November marks the first month of proposal season, the period between November and February when up to 38 percent of couples get engaged.* With so many to-be-weds on the market for an engagement ring, buying such an important piece of jewelry can seem daunting.

To lessen that stress, more couples are involving each other in ring research and shopping, but according to The Knot, some still struggle to describe the ring they’re looking for—though they might know what they like when they see it. Aiming to demystify the process of shopping for an engagement ring, the leading wedding brand has created a new service to make it easier for couples to navigate the process of buying a ring together.

knot-hint2The tool is called Hint, and it gives users a unique opportunity to learn more about the rings they prefer and—if they so choose—to drop a hint. “Eighty percent of grooms said they got a little input from their fiancées or one of her friends or family members before purchasing the ring,” said Kellie Gould, editor in chief of The Knot. “Hint takes the anxiety out of finding the right ring and makes it even easier to drop the perfect hint to your partner.”

Not only does the service help you identify your favorite styles—a must for all jewelry lovers—but it gives you the opportunity to collaborate with friends, family, and even your partner. Simply select six engagement rings you like and the service gives you personalized feedback that includes size, shape, and color that match your taste. The service also includes a list of specific ring designers to consider, which after dropping a “hint,” makes it easier for the proposer to connect with local jewelers.

* The Knot Real Wedding Study 2015