Spinel: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

By Isabelle Corvin, CG, Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers

Three Spinel Crystals

Red Spinel

Spinel is an oxide mineral that crystallizes in the cubic structure and has quite the mixed-up history.

As of 2016, it is also the newest birthstone to be added to the birthstone list! August babies now have a choice between vivid peridot and alluring spinel.

The word “spinel” comes from the Latin word Spinella, which means “little thorn” or “arrow-shaped.” Spinel gems come in a wide range of colors and saturations, though perhaps the most famous (and mistakenly infamous) is the red variety.

In ancient cultures, red spinel was always grouped together with rubies, and sometimes garnets, since the rough (and even polished and cut) crystals look so similar. In the modern age, the gems can be separated, but much of spinel’s history is tied up in the lore of rubies.

Red spinel ring, by Omi Privé.

Spinel-Omi

The oldest known spinel dates back to 100 B.C. and was found in Kabul, Afghanistan, inside a Buddhist temple. Red and blue spinels were also being used in crafting by the Romans.

The most famous spinel is also the most famous example of mistaken identity in all of gemological history. A “ruby” known as the Black Prince’s Ruby is our culprit. It is a red gem set in the Imperial State Crown of the British crown jewels. The gemstone is uncut, but polished, and weighs approximately 170 carats. The gem has never been removed from its original setting, so the weight is only estimated.

This amazing gemstone, however, is no ruby. It is, in fact, a spinel.

The Imperial State Crown. Image courtesy of GIA.

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The Black Prince was the son of Edward III, and reportedly received the gem from Don Pedro the Cruel, King of Castille as a reward. Legend has it that the spinel was one of the gems worn by Henry V on his helmet and that it deflected a fatal blow, saving his life during the Battle of Agincourt.

Whether true or not, the gem was thought to be ruby for many years, until technology and the knowledge of gems improved enough to separate gems on more than mere color.

This royal stone is not the only spinel in disguise. Empress Catherine II of Russia had a crown that bore an estimated 400-carat spinel. Likewise, Queen Victoria had a very dark red spinel called the Timur Ruby.

It doesn’t help matters when spinel and ruby often form together in the earth! In 1783, mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle finally separated spinel from ruby, realizing that the two minerals were completely different.

Further confusion arises with spinel’s true nature even now.

Many pieces of inexpensive birthstone jewelry have an imitation of the true birthstone: something that looks like—but isn’t—the real thing. The majority of these are made with synthetic spinel, grown in a laboratory rather than the ground, but boasting the same chemical make-up.

The natural gem is lovely, but many only know of its synthetic counterparts.

Each color of spinel is thought to provide different benefits to the wearer, from protection to enhancing creativity and kindness, to better cognitive abilities. Colorless spinel is rare, and no current mines exist that produce it.

Spinel earrings set in 18k rose gold, by AG Gems.

Spinel-AGGems (2)

The most common colors seen in jewelry are red and blue, with the hues ranging from highly saturated to perfectly pastel.

Other popular colors are yellows, purples, and pinks, although the gem comes in every color. Black spinel is found in many pieces, and once again, is often confused for other black gems like hematite, black diamond, and black onyx.

Black spinel and white sapphire pendant, by Dilamani.

Spinel-Dilamani

Spinel is mined in many locations, including Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Bruma) Brazil, Sweden, Pakistan, and Russia, among others. It can even be found in the USA.

Additionally, small crystals have been found on meteorites, a trait spinel shares with the other August birthstone, peridot.

For a gemstone many have never heard of, it might be the most famous of all. It is the hidden star of the show, silently shining on as the world ignores it or mistakes it for another stone altogether.

Pink spinel and diamond drop earrings, by JB Star.

Spinel-JBstar

But spinel is worth a first, and second, glance. With spectacular colors, excellent durability and an amusing history, it’s the perfect addition to anyone’s gem and jewelry collection.

Spinel truly deserves the title: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of!

isabelle

Isabelle Corvin is an AGS Certified Gemologist (CG) who is the Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers. Since she was 14-years-old, she knew she wanted to be a gemologist. Ms. Corvin also writes for Panowicz Jewelers’ blog.

What’s That Bracelet (REALLY) Worth?

By David Craig Rotenberg, ECGA (AGS), GG (GIA), CSM (NAJA), CAPP (ISA)

 

Gold Jewelry  With Gems , Chains Close Up Macro Shot Isolated OnJewelry appraisals are important documents that are required for insurance valuations, the settling of an estate, determining the value for tax deductions for charitable contributions, for casualty loss evaluations, or perhaps the division of property in a divorce.

The appraisal is simply a means of factually communicating what a piece of jewelry is worth. It’s the item’s value assessed by quantitative and qualitative aspects as determined by a skilled professional appraiser. This individual should not only understand the science of valuation, but should be able to properly communicate the background on exactly how he or she arrived at that assessment.

Insurance Appraisals

Insurance appraisals are used by insurance companies to determine exactly what cost is required to replace an exact piece of jewelry in the current climate in the event of theft or loss. The appraiser provides a full evaluation of the item, including a detailed description of quality and special nuances of the item. While each insurance company may operate differently, most won’t simply accept purchase receipts since the determined “value” is the key when writing a policy or reimbursing a claim.

Appraisal

Settlement Appraisals

It is especially important to have an experienced appraiser when appraising for tax purposes. When someone dies, jewelry must be categorized to determine fair market value in regards to inheritance tax as applied by the IRS. Fair market value is a different determination than replacement value, which you obtain for insurance purposes. In terms of a divorce, an appraisal might be required to help determine equitable distribution of property. Jewelry is part of the “estate” and needs to be categorized for tax purposes.

The Process

After you contact a jewelry appraiser, they will sit down with you and review the items you want to be appraised. The condition of an item is extremely important; a broken watch from the 1960s, for instance, might be valued like a typical flea market item while a vintage Rolex in great condition from the same time period would be appraised at what it would bring on the second-hand market. Diamond rings normally have laboratory reports evaluating their quality. New jewelry that is being appraised for insurance purposes should be accompanied by receipts from the store where purchased so the appraiser can refer back to the original jeweler if there are questions.

 

Finding a Qualified Jewelry Appraiser

You can contact the American Gem Society (AGS) for a list of certified appraisers in your area. Certification by the AGS indicates that the individual is not only a certified appraiser, but also an expert gemologist. The AGS is one of the oldest nonprofits dedicated to consumer protection in the industry. A certification will usually be displayed in the appraiser’s workspace—this certificate required a lot of time and effort and the appraiser will want to show it off!

Other reputable organizations include the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) and the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). Some people ask if it’s necessary to obtain two appraisals; in most cases, this shouldn’t be necessary, especially if you’re confident you’ve gone to a qualified appraiser.

Over the Years

Before the 1980s, there wasn’t a lot of formal appraisal education and a jeweler might simply assess an item for what they might sell it for in their own showcase. The average jeweler didn’t have a lot of resources—an item might be sold based on what someone told them it was worth.

With the founding of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) in 1979, appraisal education became more of a studied science. As gemology education blossomed, jewelers were able to conduct research, compile pricing information and attend continuing education as they used their new-found gemological skills for buying and appraisal purposes. Transparency is critical—an appraiser must be able to thoroughly explain how they arrived at a value.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DRotenbergDavid Craig Rotenberg is an AGS-certified gemologist appraiser and one of a handful of CAPP (Certified Appraiser of Personal Property) appraisers in gemstones, contemporary jewelry and antique and period jewelry. He is a member of the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee Appraisal Bar, has studied with the American Arbitration Association, and is past president of the AGS’s Jewelers Education Foundation, founder and past president of the Delaware Valley Keystone Guild and founder and past president of the Delaware Valley chapter of the International Society of Appraisers. Recognized by the Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys (TASA) for his expertise, he is part of the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee’s appraisal organization and has conducted jewelry appraisals for the U.S. Treasury Department. Most recently, he completed a global leadership program at Harvard University School of Business.

In addition to offering his appraisal services to customers at David Craig Jewelers in Langhorne, PA, David has appraised multi-million dollar inventories for the federal government and many banks. He has conducted evaluations for a large variety of complex estate and bankruptcy matters and fraud investigations. He also operates an AGS-accredited gem lab at David Craig Jewelers.

Summer Jewelry Care: Steer Clear of Old Wives’ Tales

By Kristie Nicolosi, The Kingswood Company

Summer days are full of fun with days at the pool, barbecues with friends, and travel to beautiful beach locations. But all this fun can lead to your jewelry losing its sparkle as it becomes dulled by the oils in your sunblock, butter dripping off that cob of corn, or caked with sand from building a prize-winning sandcastle.

So, when you want to return your jewelry to full sparkle, you may be tempted to use one of your mother’s or grandmother’s tricks of the trade. But these “old wives’ tales” range from ineffective to dangerous. Here are the top eight jewelry cleaning tales to avoid.

CleaningSupplies

#1 – Toothbrush and Toothpaste

They are great for your pearly whites, but not your pearls or any other type of jewelry. The abrasives in toothpaste will scratch the surface of metals and softer gemstones, while a toothbrush’s long handle places to much pressure on the piece you are cleaning.

#2 – Ammonia, Windex®, and Mr. Clean®

Ammonia, Windex, denatured alcohol, acetone and other harsh cleaning agents can dull or pit the surface of softer gemstones. While ammonia or a cleaning agent like Mr. Clean can be safe on harder gemstones in small concentrations, it is difficult to determine the correct ratio, making them a risky choice.

#3 – Hydrogen Peroxide

While many of us know hydrogen peroxide to be an effective disinfectant, it is not really designed to be a cleaner. In some cases, it can actually react with sterling silver and through a chemical reaction, harm the finish. Professional products are a much better bet.

#4 – Bleach

Bleach is not safe for cleaning jewelry, as it damages metal alloys in gold, irreparably damaging the piece. In fact, this is why it is not a good idea to wear your jewelry while swimming or in a hot tub because both bleach and chlorine are often used to clean them.

#5 – Vinegar and Lemon Juice

The old wives are big fans of vinegar and lemon juice, and they are great cleaning agents for many things. Just not for jewelry. Both are too acidic and abrasive, which is damaging to metals and softer gemstones.

#6 – Coca-Cola®

Yes, some (Do it Yourself) DIY sites suggest using Coca-Cola for cleaning jewelry, but like vinegar, the acids in Coke can damage metals and softer stones. But to cool off on a hot summer day? There’s nothing like it.

#7 – Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda, is another popular DIY cleaning agent. However, it is too alkaline for cleaning jewelry safely. Just leave it in your fridge to soak up unpleasant odors.

#8 – Boiling Water

Although steam is an excellent way to clean jewelry (most jewelers use a steamer), placing your jewelry in a pot of boiling water is not a good idea. Your piece will come into contact with a hot metal surface, which can weaken or misshape the metal.

While the old wives’ tales are not the way to go, you can clean your jewelry at home. Visit your jeweler for professional jewelry care products formulated especially for cleaning jewelry. Be sure to ask what formulation is best for the jewelry you need to clean. For example, you will want a gentle jewelry cleaning formulation for pearl and other delicate gemstones.

KingswoodRing

About the Author

Kristie Nicolosi is the President and CEO of The Kingswood Company, the industry’s leading manufacturer of private-label jewelry care products. Since Nicolosi’s acquisition of the business in 2005, The Kingswood Company has earned a reputation for its advanced jewelry cleaning formulas, innovative and customer-centric design skills, and never-ending commitment to customer service. The Kingswood Company have been members of the American Gem Society for more than 25 years.

This is not a brown diamond

By Donna Jolly, RJ

You may think this big, beautiful diamond in the ring below is a brown diamond. It is, but it’s so much more. This is a fancy, deep rich diamond with moderate orange accents.

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Joshua J Fine Jewelry

Brown diamonds are beautiful, and they vary in their intensity of color and warmth. What adds to their beauty are the accents of different color. Brown diamonds—in fact, colored diamonds in general—usually have more flashes of colored light than colorless diamonds. Their accents can range from pink, red, orange to even green. It gives them depth and adds to their romantic allure.

They are also versatile, depending on the jewelry setting. The ring from Joshua J Fine Jewelry above is elegant and classic, while this gorgeous bangle from Dilamani is fun and modern:

Brown and white diamond bangle, by Dilamani.

Brown and white diamond bangle, by Dilamani.

Bryan Aderhold, CG, owner and president of Nash James Enterprises LLC, sells brown diamonds and is a fan of their warm beauty. “Brown is another one of nature’s wonderful hues,” says Bryan. “Brown diamonds prompt images of earthly matter such as trees, soil, falling leaves, and chocolate! When acting as a modifier for other colors such as pink, brown can help to produce some very interesting and desirable color combinations.”

To show how two brown diamonds can vary in look and in their appeal, check out these two stunning examples. The one on the left is a great example of a brown diamond with pinkish accents, and the one on the right is a fancy dark brown. Both are lovely; it boils down to a matter of preference. The one on the left would look terrific in a rose gold setting and the one on the right would rock a yellow gold setting.

To learn more about brown diamonds, and how they differ from their famous, colorless cousin, click this infographic created by AGS Laboratories. It’s filled with fun and exciting facts about diamonds, and further explains what makes them so rare and unique.

brown-diamond-infographic-1
To find an American Gem Society jeweler near you who can help you find a brown diamond to add to your jewelry collection, click here. Please also ask your AGS jeweler to show you a diamond with the Colored Diamond Document from AGS Laboratories!

A Record-Breaking Diamond with a Cause

20180703_Record-ring

Why have one diamond when you can have 6,690 diamonds?  For a cool $4,116,787, it may be possible. Jewelers Vishal Agarwal and Khushbu Agarwal of Surat, India, have broken the Guinness World Record for most diamonds set in one ring.

The jewelers placed the diamonds onto an 18 karat rose gold structure that is shaped like a lotus flower. The ring weighs just over 58 grams and is the size of a golf ball.

Vishal designed the ring which has 48 individual petals, while Khushbu funded the project. This was not just any record-breaking attempt: the lotus flower style was created in order to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation.

“As fame is so much attached to a Guinness World Records title, we can put it to good use by bringing together like-minded people to work towards a beautiful world,” the jewelers said in a statement.

Guinness World Records posted a video chronicling the creation of the ring, including the cutting and placing of the diamonds. Click here to see this beautiful flower come to life!

3 Gemstones That Sparkle for the 4th of July

By Robin Skibicki

Dilamani

Ruby, diamond, and sapphire brooch by Dilamani.

The American Independence Day—or the Fourth of July—is when we celebrate our country’s freedom and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It’s also considered the height of summer!

It’s a time for family reunions, barbeques, picnics, parades, and the much-anticipated fireworks displays. On this day, we proudly display our nation’s colors: red, white, and blue.

Fun Fact: More than 14,000 firework displays are put on across the country on the Fourth of July!

But don’t let those fireworks grab all the attention. Create your own sparkle-fest with three gemstones that will beautify your patriotic style. We’re talking about rubies, white diamonds, and blue sapphires!

In honor of the holiday, we’ve picked a few designs by our American Gem Society members that feature one of the three, aforementioned gemstones. Click on each image below to get a closer look.

Red Rubies

 

White Diamonds

 

Blue Sapphires

 

May your Fourth of July celebration be sensational, safe, and full of sparkle! To find an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you, visit http://www.ags.org/findajeweler.

8 Blogs for Jewelry Lovers

blogs

The American Gem Society Blog enjoys sharing the latest news, styles, and trends that are happening within the jewelry industry.

We also have the pleasure of introducing you to our members, in which many of them have great blogs of their own. We’ve come across eight jewelry blogs that we’d like to share. They all feature terrific info on jewelry trends, heartwarming (and some funny) stories about proposals, and of course, photos of beautiful jewelry!

If you love jewelry as much as we do, be sure to check these out!

When it comes to shopping for diamonds and fine jewelry, shop with a jeweler you can trust: an AGS-credentialed jeweler. Click here to find an AGS jeweler near you.