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!

Clarity Rarity: Crystal Blue Persuasion

Our AGS Laboratories’ gemologists love when they come across something as rare and beautiful as what they have dubbed a “clarity rarity.” Diamonds are always fascinating to examine and sometimes the incredible inclusions make our imaginations run wild! Check out the “rainbow trout” and the “smiley face!”

Here’s their latest finding. It’s a blue crystal in the table of a 2.23 ct diamond. It kind of looks like a sapphire ring embedded in the middle of the diamond. What do you think? Click on the images for a larger view.

Crown view at 25x magnification.
3 - 25x crown view

Crown view at 50x magnification.
2b - 50x crown view

To learn more about diamond grading, clarity, and AGS Laboratories, click here. To find a jeweler who carries AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Reports, click here. AGS Laboratories is a nonprofit diamond grading lab created with a mission of consumer protection.

Ask your jeweler for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report. Accept no substitutes, and buy your diamond with confidence!

‘Tis the Season for Stackables, Studs, and Solitaires

s-blog-trio

The holidays are only a few days away, so if you’re still looking for something super special for the season, the American Gem Society (AGS) suggests stackables, studs, or solitaires. These pieces are always on trend and are regular go-to items in any fine jewelry wardrobe.

Below are some dazzling designs by our AGS members that are sure to inspire. If you need more ideas, you can always count on an AGS jeweler to help. Every year, our AGS members are required to continue their gemological education, staying up-to-date on changes and trends in the jewelry industry. Search for an AGS jeweler near you by clicking here.

Stackables

The beauty of a stackable bracelet or ring is that you can wear them individually, mix and match to change the look or wear them all together. So many options!

Studs

These days, when it comes to studs, the possibilities are endless! You could sport a solitaire diamond or gemstone by day, and then dress it up with an earring jacket by night.

Solitaires

Often a solitaire is presumed to be a round diamond, simply set as a ring or pendant. But today you’ll find these singular stones come in all shapes, sizes, and species—like corundum (ruby and sapphire) and quartz (amethyst and citrine).

Always keep in mind, when purchasing a diamond—whether it’s a loose stone or mounted—to ask your jeweler for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report. That way you can be confident that your diamond has been consistently and accurately graded by the only nonprofit diamond grading laboratory with the mission of consumer protection. Accept no substitutes. Happy shopping!

Out of the Vault: Clarity Rarities Continued

The gemologists at AGS Laboratories came across some more clarity rarities to share. If you missed the first two installments of this series, be sure to read Out of the Vault: Clarity Rarities and Out of the Vault: More Clarity Rarities.

This first fun finding was taken at 50x magnification of a crystal shaped like a turtle, and the “turtle’s” reflection. Can you see it? (Look closely, you’ll see the body, head, and arm).

turtle-104057377001_5

This next image was taken at 20x magnification and exhibits iridescence in a feather. Some of our gemologists see the head of a rainbow trout, with the opaque crystal representing the eye. What do you see?

rainbow-trout-104057043024_2

When it comes to diamond grading, there are five factors that affect how clarity is determined in a diamond, and how inclusions are considered: size, nature, number, location, and relief.

  • Size: Generally, the larger the inclusion, the greater the impact on the clarity grade. If the inclusions are large enough, the can also impact the durability of the stone.
  • Nature: Refers to the type of inclusion it is and its relative superficiality or depth.
  • Number: For the most part, the greater the number of clarity characteristics, the lower the clarity grade. However, inclusions are not always judged on the number, but on how readily they are visible.
  • Location: The position of the inclusion/blemish in the diamond.
  • Relief: The distinctness of the inclusion in contrast to the host diamond. The greater the relief, the greater the effect on the overall clarity grade.

To learn more about diamond grading, clarity, and AGS Laboratories, click here. To find a jeweler who carries AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Reports, click here. AGS Laboratories is the only nonprofit diamond grading lab created with a mission of consumer protection.

Ask your jeweler for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report. Accept no substitutes, and buy your diamond with confidence!

Cut to the Chase

by John Carter, CGA, Jack Lewis Jewelers

So…I’m back! It’s been a while since I have regaled you with my gem nerd knowledge, so today I need to do a quick recap. We started off discussing color, then we went into clarity, followed up by my tales from Antwerp, Belgium. This time, we need to discuss the absolute most important aspect of any diamond: how it is cut! Because this is so important, we need to split it into a few parts just so I can hold your attention and give you the most important details.

My clarity blog ended by pointing out that the way a diamond sparkles generally has very little to do with its carat weight, its color, or its clarity. So what causes that dynamic little laser show you see in a perfectly cut diamond? I will do my best to explain.

For just over a hundred years, cutters have known how to properly proportion a diamond to maximize its sparkle. Yet without modern technology, they were forced to use nothing but mathematics to accurately decipher what angles would ensure the maximum beauty of a diamond.

Today, we can use computer programs and ray-tracing technologies to reinforce that those Belgian cutters from the previous century were almost spot-on with their equations. Think about how amazing that is! Using just mathematics, they were able to get the proportions of diamonds within fractions of a percentage point to their optimal standards. (And you never believed your teachers when they insisted math was useful.)

ray-tracing-pic-ags-credit

Over the years, I’ve had thousands of interactions with clients at our diamond counter, and while everyone is looking for something a little different, the constants that every buyer wants are the same: they want their diamond to be as big and as sparkly as possible for as little money as possible. Simple enough, but most people go about this process the wrong way (initially, at least). So it’s my job to help them see things from the proper angles (diamond cutting pun intended).

After some initial Internet research, the average diamond consumer becomes fixated on color and clarity and starts to focus most of their attention on those categories. This isn’t incorrect so much as it’s just incomplete, because it’s a little misguided to value those areas over the cut grade of the diamonds you are shopping.

Color and Clarity are important. They have to be since they’re based on rarity and because they affect the price so much. But here’s the truth that almost no diamond seller will tell you… Ready for this bombshell? Here it is: once you put that diamond on your finger, absolutely nobody will ever walk up to you and say, “Wow! That’s a really pretty 1.01ct G color VS2 clarity diamond!” Ridiculous right? Know why? Because unless the color and clarity are terrible, nobody notices those (not even your jeweler). What you, your friends, your family, and everyone else does notice about a diamond is its size and how much it sparkles. And what I’m telling you is that color and clarity have almost no influence on how much a diamond sparkles (again, unless they are lousy).

diamond-pic-ags-credit

So that brings us to the cut grade and the proportions of a diamond which, from an educational perspective, have always been the most difficult to explain because, frankly, there are so many numbers to focus on that it can be hard to know which ones to single out. Some people try. They look at the table percentage or the depth percentage and assume if they are in line, then the rest must be as well. But this is not always the case.

For generations, the diamond industry has known that the cut grade is the most important factor in describing a diamond’s beauty, but they struggled for decades to explain why. In fact, this is such a complicated topic that universally-accepted grading standards for Cut didn’t make it into the marketplace until nearly 40 years after the accepted nomenclature for color and clarity were instituted.

It was in 2005 that the AGS Laboratories from American Gem Society (AGS) became the first diamond grading laboratory to bring clear standards to an otherwise fuzzy conversation. They accomplished this by basing their cut grading on both 3-dimensional modeling and on the actual appearance of the diamond. While other laboratories have since followed suit with systems of their own, I have always been a believer that the AGS system is the most thorough and reliable.

American Gem Society Member Spotlight: Lisa Bridge, CG

By Randi Molofsky

Lisa BridgeGemologist and designer, Lisa Bridge, has been around fine jewelry and gemstones her entire life. As a fifth generation member of the Seattle-based Ben Bridge empire (70 stores and counting across the United States!), she knows a thing or two about what kind of accessories women want to wear, and luckily enough, she has the right connections (wink, wink) to design her version of statement jewelry at accessible price points. We spoke to Lisa about how her collection came to be, and what’s next for the brand.

Jewelry is definitely in your blood. What is it like to be a fifth generation jeweler?

It is a tremendous joy to have spent my life dreaming of jewelry! Growing up, it was what we talked about around the dinner table and our spring break trips were spent visiting stores. Being in business with my family is wonderful, I get to learn from them and share in the business that they have built.

moss agateLisa Bridge Angular Moss Agate Necklace in Sterling Silver

Why did you decide to earn your gemology degree and move into design?

I believe in professionalism and I knew that I needed the best knowledge to achieve it. I sought my gemological titles to gain a base of knowledge that I am constantly building upon.

Your collection uses gemstones in 14k gold and silver. What is your design process like and what stones and silhouettes are you loving right now?

Every piece of jewelry has a different journey. Sometimes I am inspired by a particular stone – for example, I found a wonderfully shaped piece of lapis in Tucson last year. It was almost a guitar-pick shape. I took that piece of lapis home and stared at it dreaming of what it could become. I designed a suite of jewelry using this unusual shape and customers have really responded to it!

The other way I find inspiration is in experiencing incredible places. I love gazing at a beautiful vista of mountains, trees, and water. I find ideas in the shapes and colors that I see. Traveling is one of my favorite things and now trying to capture the essence of amazing places is a delicious challenge!

malachite
Lisa Bridge Malachite Ring in Sterling Silver

What have the reactions from your customers been to your line?

I feel deeply gratified that customers have embraced the collection. I am encouraged by people who come back to purchase a second or third piece having loved what they already have. Having my creations become part of people’s lives is truly a wonderful gift.

chalcedony hoops

Lisa Bridge Chalcedony & Agate Hoop Earrings in Sterling Silver

What’s next for the LB collection?

I am excited to be introducing a new collection this fall full of new inspiration, colors, and gemstones!

Shop the Lisa Bridge for Ben Bridge collection right here.