April Birthstone: Diamond

By Anna Samsonova, CGA, Ben Bridge Jewelers

“Diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend,” especially if you were born in April!

Since the beginning of time, diamonds have been associated with strength, love and purity. They are symbols of eternal love and great status. Many of us know of famous diamonds and their stories, from the infamous Hope Diamond to the Koh-i-Noor Diamond (both diamonds reputedly hold a curse to those who own or wear them).  Most people think of diamonds as clear gemstones, and they can indeed be quite clear, but diamonds can also be quite colorful. Diamond colors range from blue and green, to red and purple, and even black.  There is a diamond color to match any outfit a person wears.  Learn more about the April birthstone here!

The name diamond comes from the Greek “Adamas,” meaning “invincible” or “unconquerable” and it is one of the oldest substances on earth. Diamonds are the hardest mineral in existence and have many uses industrially, like cutting, polishing and sawing other substances.

No two diamonds are alike, just like fingerprints and snowflakes. What makes your diamond so unique is its different characteristics (also known as the 4Cs: Cut, Color, Clarity, Carat). Learn about all of the 4Cs here!

Clarity refers to the inclusions in a diamond, which is what makes some of them particularly unique and identifiable. The inclusions can form shapes, which your imagination may interpret as anything from a heart to a hummingbird. Diamond facets can act like mirrors in a fun house and can reflect inclusions like a kaleidoscope. My favorite diamond inclusions can even host other stones such as garnets. According to the zodiac, April babies are as unique as the birthstone which represents them!

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Extraordinary Diamond Split Shank and Gallery Engagement Ring
by Precision Set Fine Jewelry Works.

Tips from Jewelers Mutual: Popular Engagement Rings to Make Your Holiday Proposal Perfect

Are you planning to make one of your holiday gifts an engagement ring? With all the excitement and holiday hubbub, where do you begin?

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has compiled a wonderful list of what to look for, based on latest trends, hottest colors and alternative alloys. But keep in mind, it’s most important to be conscious of what your beloved most desires.

Learn more by reading their blog, Popular Engagement Rings to Make Your Holiday Proposal Perfect.

Tips from Jewelers Mutual: A Diamond Hunt Awaits You in Arkansas

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has this potentially valuable tip: Head to Murfreesboro, AR to search for and keep your own diamonds! Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Crater of Diamonds State Park we go! Before you start packing your bags and pick ax, read about the amazing discoveries these lucky visitors have made at the park. Will you have your own story to tell?

Learn more by reading their blog, A Diamond Hunt Awaits You in Arkansas.

Behind the Acronym: Jewelers Work Hard to Earn their Credentials

By Donna Jolly, RJ

We often urge you in this blog to locate a credentialed jeweler before you make a fine jewelry purchase. A skilled professional can help you find the right piece of jewelry so that you are not only satisfied with what you’ve bought, but confident that you made the best choice.

If their role is, therefore, crucial in the jewelry buying process, then what does it take for jewelers to stay on top of their game so that they can best help you? What is the level of skill that the initials after their name represent?

Every fall, members of the American Gem Society undergo a proud tradition: recertification of their credentials. In order to maintain their AGS titles, they are required to take an exam that tests their knowledge of gemology. The recertification exam comes with pages of articles and abstracts that AGS members must read before taking the challenging test.

The person in charge of creating the recertification exam is Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education of the American Gem Society.  Ms. Inns took time out of grading recertification exams to answer three questions that will help you better understand why professional credentials matter when buying jewelry.

Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education at AGS

Alethea Inns, CGA, Director of Gemology and Education at AGS

What exactly is a credentialed jeweler and why do you think it’s important to shop with one?

Shopping with a credentialed jeweler is like seeing any professional who is certified annually—like a CPA, for example.  It means they have committed to ongoing professional development, including staying up-to-date on developments that affect their customers. AGS credentialed jewelers are called “Titleholders” because they hold titles that differentiate them as committed professionals.

What is the importance of the recertification exam?

AGS requires each of our Titleholders to take an annual recertification exam to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest gemstone treatments, ethical disclosures, Federal Trade Commission guidelines, marketing, and appraisal principles.  This test ensures your jeweler has the most relevant knowledge to keep your best interests in mind when helping you shop for your special occasions.

Can you give us a sample question from the exam?

Which of the following is a key identifier of lead glass-filled ruby?

  1. Unaltered rutile needles
  2. Altered rutile needles
  3. Blue flash effect
  4. Fluorescence

How does a jeweler knowing this help them to better help their customer at the sales counter?

It’s important for jewelers to know what treatments or enhancements any gemstones have been subjected to so they can disclose them appropriately to you.  Treatments and enhancements to gemstones can affect their value, care, and cleaning requirements, and ultimately your purchasing decision.  Glass-filled rubies have become commonplace in the market, and it’s important that AGS jewelers know how to recognize them.  This knowledge is an important way AGS jewelers keep the customer’s best interests in mind.

Shop with a knowledgeable, credentialed jeweler. It’s the number one way you can ensure that you are making an informed decision at the sales counter. Find your local AGS jeweler here: https://www.americangemsociety.org/findajeweler

Tips from Jewelers Mutual: End-of-Summer Jewelry To-Do List

Sunscreen, chlorine, and travel are the quintessential elements of summer that put fine jewelry at risk. But now that the sun is setting on summer, it’s time to give your precious gems and metals some extra attention.

Learn more in this blog by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, 5 End-of-Summer Jewelry Care Tips to Keep Your Sparklers Shining.

Tips from Jewelers Mutual: When Not to Wear Your Wedding Ring This Summer

We love summer! The season tempts us to let those gorgeous gemstones sparkle in the sunshine, and it’s especially an attractive way to dress up bare skin. But don’t forget that the harsh chemicals in much-needed sunscreen, and the chlorine in the refreshing pool, are harmful to fine jewelry. While you’re having fun in the sun, you run the risk of ruining your jewelry—or even worse, losing it!

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company offers the following tips on how to keep your jewelry safe during this active season. Learn more by reading their blog, When Not to Wear Your Wedding Ring This Summer.

The Benefits of Jewelry Appraisals

By Phillip Bosen, CGA and Director of Business Development at Von Bargen’s Jewelry

A critical step in protecting and preserving the value of your jewelry is getting an updated appraisal on a regular basis. In fact, if the most recent appraisal of your jewelry took place five or more years ago, it’s time to get a new appraisal.

You may be asking what a jewelry appraisal does for you. The obvious answer is that an appraisal sets a value for your jewelry. And with today’s roller-coaster values for gold, platinum, silver and gemstones, knowing what your jewelry is worth can save you heartache later if your jewelry is lost or stolen.

The appraisal provides basic information most insurance carriers need to offer coverage for your jewelry. The updated value, along with the detailed description provided by an appraisal, will help smooth your settlement process if you were to suffer a loss.

Another appraisal benefit is having an updated assessment of your jewelry’s condition. Over time, prongs, clasps, settings and even stones can become loose or damaged. The review of your jewelry by a professional can help mitigate a possible loss by drawing to your attention any minor damage so an item can be repaired.

Now that I’ve convinced you to get an appraisal, who should you go to and what should it contain? The first choice for your appraisal should be a jeweler you trust. They should have the credentials necessary to do an appraisal, such as a Certified Gemologist Appraiser (CGA) from the American Gem Society, and/or be a member of one of the appraisal societies that dictate ethical appraisal practices. You may already have a grading report from AGS or another lab. These reports are used to verify the quality and authenticity of gemstones or diamonds, but do not establish value.

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Your jewelry appraisal should contain:

  • Your name and address
  • Type of jewelry
  • What is the jewelry item made of?
  • What type of gemstones are used?
  • How are the stones graded?
  • How is it designed or fashioned?
  • Condition of the item being appraised
  • Color photograph
  • Current precious metal values
  • Manufacturer, origin, or designer
  • Purpose of the appraisal (example: for insurance purposes)
  • Credentials of the appraiser
  • Signed and dated by the appraiser

Phillip Bosen is the Director of Business Development at Von Bargen’s Jewelry and the only Certified Gemologist Appraiser in Vermont.

To find a CGA or ICGA in your area, click here.

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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.

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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.

Your sneak peek into Jewelry Week!

By Amanda L Colborn

May 26 – June 1 is known as “Jewelry Week” this year in Las Vegas, NV. With major trade show events hosted at both Mandalay Bay and the Wynn, you could say that the jewelry industry has taken over the Las Vegas strip.  Many of the exhibitors that have flown to Vegas to showcase their jewelry pieces are none other than American Gem Society members, of course!

We are very excited to give you a behind-the-scenes peek into some of the amazing pieces these designers have brought with them!

SimonGThis first image showcases three stunning pieces from Simon G. Jewelry. Note the incredible sparkle on this bracelet which comes from the well-cut diamonds.

 

HOF_newLoreleiDropEarringsNext we have the NEW Lorelei drop earrings from Hearts On Fire. The design is unique and something new and uncommon to the standard diamond drop earring.

 

KaraRossNYKara Ross posted this image to her Instagram feed earlier this week. The lovely model is showcasing some designs from the new Kara Ross NY collection.

 

EricaCourtneyIf you like diamonds that sparkle, than you’ll love these rings from Erica Courtney Jewelry. WOW!

 

GumuchianGumuchian is proudly displaying pieces from their NEW Stitch collection! This gold pendant is perfect going from day-to-night.

 

sunabrosEverything is coming up roses for Suna Bros. They’re showcasing these stunning rings in addition to many more beautiful pieces!

 

SupremeJewelry_openspacedringsIf you’re feeling fun, you’ll likely love these free-form, open-space rings from Supreme Jewelry just as much as we do.

 

AGGemsAG Gems always has fantastic colored jewelry pieces for any taste or style. They definitely did not disappoint!

 

YaelDesignsYael Designs brought a variety of different pieces to showcase this year. The gorgeous rings were a big fan-favorite!

 

Mastoloni_FlexCuffsLast and certainly not least, the NEW Flex bracelets from the pearl masters, Mastoloni.

And there you have it! Your inside look into 2015 Jewelry Week here in the sunny Las Vegas! We made sure to link all our AGS members featured in this blog to their respective Facebook pages. Please like them on Facebook and follow their new designs. Please also like the American Gem Society on Facebook and continue following our blog for more behind-the-scenes looks into the world of the AGS and the fine jewelry industry!