How to Buy a Diamond Without Getting Ripped Off
Diamond buying can be a confusing and complicated process. We encourage you to educate yourself a bit before shopping for a diamond. There are two primary questions one must answer in order to get a quality diamond at the best price. The first is, "What shape, size and quality of diamond do I want and can I afford?" and the second is, "Who should I buy from?"
We would suggest you answer the first question in as much detail as possible, and THEN go shopping for the best deal.The quick answer for first-time diamond buyers:
What to buy:
For those with little time, I'll start with the specs of a diamond we feel is the "best bang for the buck." Armed with these specs, you can call local jewelry stores and get a feel for which stores have the more aggressive pricing -- with the understanding that some salespeople have been known to stretch the truth a bit, or a lot. Just like our mothers told us, "If it's too good to be true..."
Carat Weight: 1/2 carat (Feel free to change this parameter to suit your needs, but use a consistent size when shopping. Nonetheless, a 1/2 carat is pretty common for young couples and you can always upgrade later.)
Clarity: SI1 to SI2 (If the clarity is too high, you'll pay a huge premium for differences you can't even see.)Color: G, H or I ("D" is the highest, but only an expert can tell the difference between a "D" and a "G")
Cut: Good or Very Good (Excellent is better, if you don't have to pay too much extra for it.)
Shape: Round Brilliant or Princess Cut (Pick one or the other. We suggest you stick with the most popular shapes, which will make it easier to trade in down the road.)
So, you could ask something like this, "I'm looking for a 3/4 carat princess cut diamond SI1, G, with a very good or better cut. How much?" When you speak to a jewelry salesperson in his or her own language, they'll instantly know you're educated and price conscious. After you've acquired about a half dozen answers, and thrown out the ridiculously low or high quotes, you'll have a list of jewelers to go visit in person.
We'll delve into diamond characteristics and grading in more detail below, but this will give you enough data to go shopping. The important thing is to compare apples with apples and yet not get too caught up in the scientific details. In the final analysis, the real questions are, "Is the diamond pretty?" "Is it worth it?" and "Can I afford it?"
Where to buy: This issue relates primarily to trust. Although we can educate ourselves somewhat about diamond grades, it takes years of experience and training to actually be able to grade a diamond. So, in large part, we must rely on whomever we're buying from to tell us the truth about the diamond's quality and value.
Private Parties: Whether you find a piece of jewelry on Craigslist or any other form of classified ad, buying from a private party has some hazards. First, they likely won't have a return policy. Second, the seller won't be able to accept a credit card or offer financing. And third, unless you're a trained gemologist, you'll have no idea what you're actually getting, or whether it's worth the price you are paying. If you are an expert and willing to scour the classifieds for the rare deal, you can save some money. Otherwise, it's best to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with strangers and the possibility of buying stolen goods.Online Jewelers: I'll say this first: we at William's Custom Jewelers are expert diamond buyers, and we NEVER buy jewelry or diamonds online -- not even from companies we know. We hand pick every diamond and setting to ensure beauty, quality and value. We think you should do the same. The Internet is a wonderful research tool and a great place to learn about quality, features, and prices. Once you have a good feel for what you want and how much it should cost, we encourage you to take that information and go shop your local jewelry stores first. Because William's can create jewelry right in our store, you can even e-mail us a photo of what you're looking for, and we'll get you a price quote asap!Designer Jewelers: Probably the best known example of a designer jeweler is Tiffany & Co. The advantage here is you are pretty certain you're buying cutting-edge fashion and probably very high-quality workmanship. The downside is you'll pay 30% to 40% more just for the name brand. For many jewelry connoisseurs, the bragging rights are worth the extra cost, but, for most of us, there are smarter alternatives.
Chain Stores: The pluses and minuses here are numerous and vary dramatically depending on which chain we're talking about. Some are definitely better than others. In a nutshell, chain stores tend to specialize in low prices, which means lower-quality diamonds with visible flaws and mass-produced settings. If you're on a very tight budget, we've found most folks are happier in the long run with a smaller, prettier diamond, than with a larger, lower-quality diamond. You'll simply get much better sparkle for your money. Likewise, mass-produced settings can often cost you more in repairs down the road than they're worth, and it's hard for her to feel special knowing that 10,000 other women have the exact same ring.Local Custom Jeweler: We think this formula is the best of all worlds. You get the style and quality of a designer jeweler without the crazy prices. You can work face-to-face with the actual artisan, so your jewelry is perfect, rather than "good enough." You can see the diamond before you buy it and avoid the hassle of returning it to an online jeweler, who may take their time giving you a refund.
Also see our article on how to save a ton of money with clarity-enhanced diamond by clicking HERE:
Diamond Grading for Dummies
Introduction to Diamond Grading:
"How do I pick my diamond?"
This Is a great question and one commonly asked by the engagement ring/diamond shopper. Here, at William’s Custom Jewelers we always show our center diamonds loose so they can be carefully inspected once you know what to look for. Lets start with Shape and then discuss "The 4 C’s," shall we?
Diamonds come in many different shapes. You get to decide which one suits your eye and the ring design you choose. I will discuss the more popular shapes and some of their characteristics below:
- ROUND BRILLIANT: The most popular cut!! It has been scientifically designed and re-designed through the decades for maximum brilliance, scintillation, and dispersion. It is unmatched for its ability to evenly distribute light with no dark areas (extinction).
- PRINCESS CUT: Also very popular. This is essentially a square brilliant cut diamond. Although square is preferred, rectangular princess cuts work well with some designs. They tend to be a little deeper than round brilliant cut diamonds and therefore look a bit smaller.
- MARQUISE BRILLIANT CUT: Much less popular, but you decide if that’s good or not so good. Some folks like a shape that is more unique and less often seen. This is the diamond that has the outline of a football for lack of a better description. Proper depth is important her to create enough brilliance. They look bigger than the weight would indicate and special care needs to be taken by the diamond cutter to eliminate the bow-tie effect in the center.
- OVAL AND PEAR BRILLIANT CUT: I lumped these two together because of similarities. The oval has an oval outline (imagine that), and the pear has a tear drop outline. Less common but still beautiful, these shapes work well with curvy and v-shaped designs.
- HEART SHAPE BRILLIANT CUT: This one is shaped like a heart and is much less often seen, but can be exquisitely beautiful in the right design. Also a relative bargain as far as price goes.
- EMERALD CUT: This is where we depart from the “brilliant “ cutting style and go to a step cut. There are parallel facets and cut corners on this rectangular shaped diamond. They do have lots of light return or brilliance but very little scintillation or sparkle as they are moved about. This gives them quite a different overall appearance than the round brilliant and fancy brilliant cuts discussed above.
CHOICE: Obviously the shape of your diamond is your choice. Here at William’s Custom Jewelers we have a great selection of Rounds and fancies for your evaluation, and an unlimited supply of “available” diamonds from diamond centers around the world. We have worked very hard to have a great JBT (jeweler’s board of trade) credit rating, which means we can buy from virtually any diamond broker in the world. Something those with lower JBT ratings envy in a big way as you can imagine.
THE FOUR C’S:
The four c’s speak to diamond quality as described in the GIA diamond grading system, which has been used worldwide for several decades. The four c’s are CUT, COLOR, CLARITY, AND CARAT and I will attempt to briefly explain each.
- CUT: In this context cut refers to how well the diamond cutter did his job, not the shape and name of the diamond cut. A well cut diamond has tons of scintillation and dispersion (fancy words for sparkle and colors) and no extinction ( dark areas). Your eye is the best judge, but there are parameters that will put you in the right ballpark. Sparkle comes from the triangular and kite shaped facets on the crown of the diamond. The table is the flat, open, top of the diamond and doesn’t produce sparkle. If the table is too big it crowds out the crown facets and diminishes sparkle. A diamond that is very deep or shallow will allow light to escape from the sides ( pavilion) of the diamond which creates the dark areas, not good!. The girdle or edge of the diamond should be medium to slightly thick. A very thick girdle hides a lot of weight and you have a diamond that looks smaller than its weight would indicate. The GIA cut grading scale goes as follows; poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent. Obviously poor and fair should be avoided but anything good or above should be very pretty. If you want something literally a cut above go for very good or excellent.
- COLOR: The GIA diamond-color grading scale assigns letter grades to color ranges commonly found in diamonds. Yellow is the most common color in diamonds and its absence is a good thing. Diamonds are graded in a white tray, upside down, against master stones of known color. The scale goes from D to Z right down the alphabet and is broken into sections. DEF are considered colorless, GHIJ are near colorless, KLM are faint yellow, and NOPQR are very light yellow etc….. If you go yellower than Z you have a fancy yellow diamond and the prices go up considerably. What color do you want? I have some suggestions. In white gold or platinum mounting I recommend H color or higher so the diamond looks white against the white metal. In a yellow gold mounting even J or K can look beautiful as long as the cut is good.
- CLARITY: Clarity refers to the absence or presence of internal characteristics (inclusions, or flaws) in the diamond. The size, color, and number of these characteristics, as viewed under a ten power stereo microscope with dark field illumination, determines the clarity grade. The GIA clarity scale starts with F for flawless meaning no inclusions can be found with the grading microscope. The next grade is IF for internally flawless meaning no inclusions can be found but there are surface irregularities. Next is VVS for very very slightly imperfect and this and is further divided into VVS1 and VVS2 (one is slightly better than 2). These inclusions are difficult to find under the microscope with a trained eye. Next is VS for very slightly imperfect and this grade is also divided into 1 and 2 sub grades. Inclusions are easier to find but still quite insignificant. Then comes SI for slightly imperfect. This is the grade most often seen in retail jewelry establishments. Also subdivided into SI1 and SI2 but here is where the difference becomes more important. An SI1 clarity means the inclusion(s) are easily seen under the mic but completely invisible to the unaided eye. SI2 diamonds are considered eye clean, but in the right light a person with sharp vision may see something. The last grade is I for imperfect. By definition these diamonds have inclusions that are visible with the unaided eye. This grade has sub grades of 1,2,3,…… but I wouldn’t go below I1. Some I1 grades diamonds are quite beautiful and sometimes the inclusion is on the edge of the diamond and can be hidden by prongs or a bezel. I like SI1 and SI2 clarities because of their "bang for the buck," but if you want better consider the VS grade. VVS and IF are generally reserved for museum type pieces. But, to each his own.
- CARAT: Carat is a measure of weight. The metric carat weighs .20 grams. We tend to think of carat as a size measurement and if the cutting is good it works. If the cutting is sub par you end up with a diamond that looks too large or small. A too, large diamond is also too shallow and wont sparkle much. A too small diamond has problems but probably wont sparkle much either. You decide on the size of your diamond but consider this, the prices are not linear. Prices are based on rarity so a one carat diamond could cost twice what a three quarter carat diamond costs.
- CHOICE: Not one of the four c’s but I wanted to talk about it. A well cut (GIA good or better), reasonably white (H color or better in white metal), and reasonably clean (SI2 or better) diamond will look awesome and stand up to the critical direct comparison with her “friend’s diamond “.
- CERTIFICATE: Again, not one of the four c’s, but why stop now? Some diamonds come with certificates from a laboratory that have the cut, color and clarity grades as stated by a trained grader (like myself, I have a GIA gemologist diploma). The GIA reports are the most sought after and also the most expensive. Expect to pay a premium for a GIA certed diamond. The EGL (European Gemological Laboratory) is the most common as they are cheaper and just a little more lenient on grading. Make sure the EGL cert is from EGL USA (weird huh?) as the others can be rubbish. The certificate does not change what the diamond is, so if it looks great and has lots of life it could be the right one for you.
Come see us at William’s Custom Jewelers and we can look at all of the things discussed here and make you into a diamond expert so you can make the right CHOICE!
How to Save Money with Clarity Enhanced Diamonds
Clarity Enhanced Diamonds
What happens when "she" wants a one-carat diamond, but your budget can only handle a half carat? In the past, your only option was to either buy a much-less-pretty diamond, or opt for a CZ (cubic zirconia). With the advent of new technologies, a much better option has emerged within the diamond industry called, "clarity-enhanced diamonds."
Clarity enhancement is a form of gem treatment. Clarity-enhanced diamonds, like the name implies, are diamonds that had visible imperfections which have been "fixed" so they are no longer visible. Honestly, we feel this process is pure genius and provides a wonderful alternative for the budget-conscious diamond buyer.
Diamonds can vary dramatically in price and appearance due to carat (weight), color, cut and clarity. Clarity-enhanced diamonds are natural diamonds that have been mined and cut just like other natural diamonds. Diamonds that have certain imperfections become good candidates for clarity enhancement.
The main process of clarity enhancment first involves vacuuming out the air around an imperfection within the diamond. Then a substance with similar refractive qualities as diamond is injected into that space. The filler material imitates diamond in the way it interacts with light entering the diamond. The inclusion (flaw) is still in the diamond, but since it is filled it is no longer seen by the naked eye. Laser drilling is usually not necessary for clarity enhancing. However, there are two reasons that diamonds are sometimes also laser drilled. If the diamond has a carbon spot including a suitable inclusion or if the inclusion doesn’t have a suitable entryway then a laser may be used to create one.
Clarity enhancing affects the way the diamond is capturing light and can also improve the clarity grade. The highest grade achieved by enhancement is VS2. Under normal wear and tear the treatment will last for a lifetime. Exposure to a jeweler's torch used for re-tipping or repair can alter or remove the filler material. If this happens to a clarity enhanced diamond it can very easily be refilled and is completely guaranteed for life. It usually only takes 2 to 3 days to refill a diamond and the diamond will be fully restored to it’s original enhanced look.
It is not easy to identify a clarity-enhanced diamond from a diamond that has not been enhanced. Under 10x magnification a clarity-enhanced diamond will exhibit a “flash effect” in that when tilted under light the diamond will exhibit a small flash of color such as violet, pink or blue.
Why are clarity-enhanced diamonds so popular? The main reason is the 30% to 40% cost savings. They are also available in all size and shape options. Keep in mind that, even though they cost less, they are not worth less. They look just as good as a diamond that has not been treated and, with a full lifetime guarantee and trade-up guarantee, there is not much of a reason not to choose clarity-enhanced diamonds. With clarity-enhanced diamonds as an option a bigger, prettier, diamond is available at a more affordable price.
I highly recommend at least looking at and comparing clarity-enhanced diamonds to regular non-enhanced diamonds and decide if they are right for you.
Which is Better: Gold or Platinum? Two of jewelry's finest and most versatile metals.
Here's the one-sentence answer: Platinum is rarer, stronger and more durable (but at least twice as expensive) than gold.
There are four reasons for the extra cost of platinum over gold. First, precious metals are bought and sold based on weight and platinum is nearly twice as heavy as gold. Second, most gold jewelry in the United States is 58.5% pure (14 karat) and most platinum jewelry is 95% pure. Third, and perhaps most obvious, platinum is more expensive per ounce than gold. Finally, platinum is much more difficult to work with, so the labor cost to create a piece of jewelry is higher. Factor all four of those elements in, and the exact same piece of jewelry could easily cost twice as much, or more, in platinum over gold. Still, platinum is a stronger, more durable metal that never needs plating to retain its white color.
If this answers your question, have a look at our gold engagement rings (we can make any of them in platinum if you wish) or dig into the details on gold vs. platinum below.
Gold and platinum are the two most common metals used in diamond and gemstone jewelry.
Everyone knows what gold looks like: a beautiful, bright, shiny, yellow metal. The purity of gold is rated in karats. Pure gold is 24 karat, and is rarely used in fine jewelry, because it is too soft. 18-karat gold is simply 18/24ths, or 75%, gold and 25% other metals used to make it harder and stronger. 14 karat gold (the standard alloy for fine jewelry in the USA) is 14/24ths gold or 58.5%.
White gold uses the same karat rating and has the same gold content as its yellow counterpart. Certain alloys are added to gold to turn it white … well, nearly white. You see, most white-gold alloys also need to be plated with rhodium (a member of the platinum group of metals) to look bright white. With a ring, which gets more wear-and-tear than any other piece of jewelry, the plating begins to wear off after a year or so. So, replating needs to be done periodically to keep most white-gold jewelry looking like new. That process is quick, easy, and should be inexpensive (depending on the jeweler.) However, there are some very new, high-tech alloys that never require plating, and we use those special alloys for our created jewelry at William’s Custom Jewelers.
Platinum is the true white-colored precious metal used in jewelry. It is denser, stronger, but slightly softer on the surface than gold alloys. It will last longer than gold and never needs plating. Platinum is more expensive than gold, but right now the price per ounce of platinum is much closer to gold than normal making it a relative bargain. It is heavier and the alloy is purer (95%,) which explains why it costs so much. But, in the long run, it is the superior metal.
The wonderful thing about these precious metals is that they can, at any point, be polished, plated (if necessary), and returned to their original beauty.
Should I choose gold or platinum for my engagement ring?
One of the first questions that should come up when you start shopping for an engagement ring is, "What metal do I want my ring to be made in?" While the two main choices are certainly gold and platinum, it is important to note there are other options such as palladium, tungsten, titanium, and silver. These options are not used nearly as often in designing engagement rings, but are much more popular in men’s rings and other jewelry. This article will focus on the two more popular metals used in engagement rings today, gold and platinum.
First is gold, which is the most popular metal of choice when it comes to engagement rings as well as other jewelry. Gold is such a beautiful rich metal that really lends itself well to jewelry design and has been the main choice in most engagement rings in the last number of years. Even with the dramatic value increase in gold the last 3 years, gold is still the most popular choice for the engagement ring today. When you think of gold the first color that comes to mind is the rich yellow orange color that gold is known for, but the more popular color used today is white gold. The major question that first comes up when you debate these two metals are do I want yellow or white? This is not always easy to decide, but some things to consider would be, do I like the way the diamonds look in white or yellow? What color goes better with my skin tone? Usually this is a very personal decision and really is the first major choice you have to make in looking at engagement rings.
If you decide the yellow color is for you then you know that you want to go with gold. It is also important to understand that gold is distinguished in karats (this is different than carats that is a term used as a weight measurement for diamonds and other stones.) Karat refers to the content of pure gold in the gold mixture. Pure gold or 100% is 24 carat gold. This is not commonly used in jewelry because it is just too soft and would not be durable enough. Therefore most gold that is used in jewelry design, is less than 100% gold and is mixed with other metals or alloys to create a different color tone and strength better for jewelry. There are 3 major percentages of gold used in engagement rings. 18 karat which has 75% gold content, 14 karat which has 58.5% gold and 10karat that has 42% gold. These all look fairly similar, although the 18 karat yellow gold will look a little more orange and deeper. 14karat and 10karat look very much the same. 14karat is generally the most popular in the United States. It is also important to know that all 14 karat is not equal. There are many different ways to alloy gold. 14 karat only means that the ring has 58.5 % gold the other metals added to make up the rest of the percentage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. This isn’t an issue to worry about with yellow gold as the color and strength should all be very similar.
If your preference is for the white metal look then you do have a decision to make between white gold and platinum. White gold, like yellow gold also comes in 18 karat, 14 karat, and 10 karat. There are definitely some major differences between white gold and platinum. What are these differences? The major differences between white gold and platinum have to do with cost, weight, color, and how the metal wears from use. When it comes to cost platinum is definitely more expensive. Platinum is more expensive per ounce than gold as it is a more rare metal. Currently the cost of gold at time of this article is about $1435 an ounce, while platinum is currently $1850 an ounce. Prices fluctuate every day, but platinum is more expensive than gold. Also it is important to note that platinum for use in jewelry generally has 90 percent to 95 percent platinum used in the mixture, so there is more pure metal.
There are other options that use less platinum for example 585 platinum, that like 14 karat gold uses 58.5 % platinum, but this is not used as often as 95% or 90 % platinum. By having more precious metal use this also makes the platinum more expensive comparatively to white gold. The weight of platinum is also much heavier than gold. It is about 60% heavier, so this will also affect the price as same platinum engagement ring will weigh more than its white gold counterpart. Sometimes this weight difference is a factor in deciding between the two metals as some will find the weight desirable, while others will not like the heaviness of platinum.
Color is a very big issue between platinum and white gold. Platinum is very consistent in its color and is a very pretty shiny white color when polished and unscratched. White gold does not always have a consistent white color as there are many ways to alloy white gold and keep in mind a high percentage of white gold is gold which is a rich yellow color. Of course they are adding alloys to give it the whiter color, but some alloys still have a yellowish appearance. Because of this yellowish appearance most white gold is plated with rhodium, which is a metal in the platinum family of metals. This rhodium plating gives the white gold a very bright shiny white appearance very similar to platinum. The problem is the plating is not permanent so after time this plating wears off. It is very easy for jewelers to plate the ring again and the appearance can be maintained through regular cleaning and plating. The downside is the time and sometimes cost of maintaining the plating, although when you are taking the ring in periodically to plate it is an opportunity to keep the ring clean and give the jeweler an opportunity to check the wear on the ring. Some stores will not charge for plating if bought there or possibly they will charge a nominal fee for plating, but beware some stores will charge a lot, so shop around.
Another very important thing to know is that some companies have developed white gold alloys that have a very natural white color with no yellow in them. These alloys don’t have to be maintained with rhodium plating and have a very similar color to platinum. By using this type of alloy, one of the major negative aspects of white gold compared to platinum can be avoided. If you are interested in this type of white gold alloy you will have to check with your jeweler and find out if they use any manufacturer of engagement rings that utilize this alloy or if they use these types of alloys in their own custom designing.
Finally, one other difference to understand is the difference is between gold and platinum as you wear and use your engagement ring. Platinum is known for its strength and resistance to eroding. A platinum ring will wear for a long time and will take longer than gold to wear down. Platinum, although very strong in this sense does have issues with how it wears. Platinum doesn’t scratch like gold with light easy to polish out scrapes, rather it can get pitting. These pits can be very noticeable and can create a very uneven and not so shiny appearance called a patina. These pits can be polished out by a jeweler, but polishing platinum is much harder to do than gold due to its hardness and resistance to erosion. It requires polishing down past the pits and causing erosion to get back to a shiny clean surface. From my own and many of my customers experiences this pitting issue and the cost of platinum are the two major downsides to consider before choosing platinum over white gold. No matter what you chose either metal is great for use in an engagement ring or any other jewelry and should be able to last you a lifetime and beyond with some maintenance along the way.
William’s Custom Jewelers Guide to Custom Jewelry
A custom ring is like no other piece of jewelry in that it is designed specifically for you, and by you, with the help of our artisans and craftsmen. Although it might be similar to other existing designs, it is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece.
Many people have concerns about custom jewelry. The main concerns are usually some of the following: How do I know you will make what I want? Will I like what you make? Doesn’t custom jewelry take a long time to create? Isn’t custom a lot more expensive? These can be real concerns to someone who would consider a custom-designed ring.
"Is custom jewelry really more expensive than manufactured?" Well, yes … but only about 15% more! First, gold is gold and diamonds are diamonds, regardless of whether they are used in manufactured or custom jewelry. They are commodities and, for the most part, cost the same in New York City, NY or Salt Lake City, UT.
Second, manufactured jewelry has labor costs figured into the price just like any other product. The difference is in manufactured jewelry the designer’s costs are spread over hundred of copies of the same ring. This produces a little savings to you, but you (she) have to wear the same ring that hundreds, or even thousands, of other women are wearing. We think the extra cost is worth having a piece that is yours and yours alone, but we’ll let you decide. And that’s why we have over 1,000 manufactured rings in stock everyday. It’s all about options – your options.
"Will I like it?" First, and most important, William’s Custom Jewelers creates one-of-a-kind jewelry right here at our store, and you will team directly with the designer/goldsmith. We do not send out your designs to someone you haven’t met. Our jeweler is here on site and will meet with you and our knowledgeable salesperson. It’s truly a team effort, and you are the team leader.
Together, the initial concept of the design is discussed, planned, and sometimes drawn out in detail. The original design can come from many sources. You may have an idea you’ve drawn or considered, or a photograph you’ve have seen online or in a magazine. You may certainly consult with our jeweler/designer and sales staff for help in coming up with a design based on key elements to be achieved. It is in this key phase of communication directly to the designer that a custom ring begins to come to life. It is through this direct communication that we can make sure that we are going to create the right ring. We go into all details of the possible custom creation and can explain in detail how the piece will look in the finished phase. This portion of the process is critical in ensuring that we have a design our custom will love.
Moving to the second phase of how we create a custom piece of jewelry, would be the wax mold phase. William’s Custom Jewelers uses the techniques of lost wax casting, which means that we create our initial model in a wax phase and can then present that wax model rendering to our client for evaluation. Most of the design work and true artistry is accomplished in this phase. The wax model is created from two major types of techniques. First, it can be hand-carved or created by Cad-cam computer technology. Typically we use hand carving, unless the details need to be so precise or minute that using a cad-cam design can be preferred. After the wax has been created we then meet again with our client to determine how perfectly we have achieved their custom masterpiece. If the design at this point is not completely perfect, then we can make modifications or start a new wax model . Our goal is to make sure that the customer is totally in love with their new creation. It is by going through this process we can ensure that our client will love the finished product. Once the wax rendition is perfect and the design is perfect then the client can feel assured that we have created the right design for them.
Now we move to the third phase, which is to take our approved wax model /carving and cast it into a beautiful metal of our customer’s choice. Typically we will cast in 14k white and yellow gold, 18k white and yellow gold, Platinum 950, or Silver. The casting process is relatively quick, usually takes around a day or so. The model that was created is now in the metal choice of the customer and ready for the final phase of polishing, cleaning and setting of any stones that are included in the design. The complete process is done on site at William’s Custom Jewelers and can be done in as little as a week to two weeks. By doing everything on site and by not using third party sources we are able to maintain a very low cost and can then pass those savings onto our customer.
There are many advantages to having William’s Custom Jewelers design a custom ring for you. For example, we can also control the quality of metal we use when designing your ring. One major benefit to our custom design has been in our white gold casting, in that we use a really bright white alloy that does not need rhodium plating that most white gold needs to look white and shiny. We have been creating unique one of a kind jewelry for our customers for 28 years. How much more special is a piece of jewelry that you were involved with in the design? Now that you know how the custom designing process works at William’s Custom Jewelers, isn’t it worth considering having a completely unique piece of jewelry designed for you?
How to Buy Pearls
We like starting with the bottomline, so here it is: The "best bang for your buck" pearls are of the round, cultured, freshwater variety. Nowadays, they are wonderfully round, nearly indistinguishable from saltwater pearls and cost 1/3 to 1/2 the price. Here's why:
When it comes to buying pearls, just like buying any kind of jewelry, a little knowledge can go a long way. Pearls have been used as adornment for 6,000 years and have always been a jewelry classic. Full strands of pearls, single pearl pendants, pearl earring studs, pearl earring dangles, pearl rings and bracelets are just some of the many options in pearl jewelry. The main question in buying pearls should be, what are the characteristics of a good pearl, and how can I tell a high-quality pearl from a lower-quality pearl?
Pearls, like diamonds and other colored gemstones, have certain characteristics that can be evaluated to determine quality and in turn value. Just like diamonds have the "4 C's," pearls also have certain characteristics to focus on.
Before getting into those characteristics it is most important to understand there are different kinds of pearls. Note that there are synthetic pearls of many different types and varieties and they can easily confuse the less-educated buyer. This article’s focus is on buying genuine or cultured pearls, and, therefore, I won’t go into any further detail about synthetic pearls, except how to spot them.
One easy way to know if a pearl is genuine is by doing a tooth test; try this by rubbing the pearl on your tooth. If it feels rough or gritty then you know it is most likely a genuine or cultured pearl. Synthetic pearls almost always feel smooth on your tooth. The other important thing to consider is only buying pearls from a trusted source and preferably a source that has knowledge and expertise and can show you different pearl options.
Pearls also come in different varieties. Pearls are a product of mussels, mainly of the oyster type. They are built up of mother of pearl (nacre). The size of pearls vary from between the size of a pin head to a pigeon’s egg size. The color of the pearl will depend on the type of mollusk and the characteristics of the water in which the mollusk resides. On the market today there are also many colors of pearls other than the traditional white. Some of these colors are natural color and some colors are achieved through a method of dying the pearl. Natural color pearls will always be more expensive. Some of these natural colors include golden, black, and pink.
The first variety of pearl is the genuine, or natural, pearls. These are pearls that come into creation without the intervention of humans. They can occur in the ocean or in freshwater environments, and are generally harvested by divers. Natural pearls can form into all kinds of unusual shapes and aren’t used nearly as often in jewelry as cultured pearls.
About 90% of the pearls sold today are cultured pearls, or pearls that are naturally created with human assistance. This has been done as early as the 13th century in China. The principal is very simple. Pearl farmers insert a rounded mother-of-pearl bead from the shell of a freshwater mussel into the oyster. Once inserted, secretions of nacre then build up on top of the bead over time and eventually are ready to be harvested as a round cultured pearl. These cultured pearls make up most of the pearls that you will see used in jewelry today.
There are two distinct types of cultured pearls: saltwater and freshwater. In the past, freshwater pearls were known for their odd shapes and, therefore, were not as popular as saltwater pearls. A few years ago, this started to change and the freshwater pearls started to get a lot more round and have now become a much more prevalent source on the market. It is now very difficult to tell the difference between the two types, but freshwater pearls are a lot less expensive due to the way they are grown. Farmers can implant more than one bead in a freshwater mussel rather than only one bead in saltwater oyster. Thus, they can produce more pearls less expensively in freshwater growing. Now it is very popular to see freshwater strands competing with saltwater strands and they sell at much lower prices. There are always different qualities of either type of pearl whether it is freshwater or saltwater.
I would like to conclude by focusing on what to look for as you are comparing pearls:
First, make sure you know what type of pearl you are looking at so you will understand why one might be more expensive than another. For example, when comparing freshwater to saltwater pearls, you will definitely pay more for saltwater pearls even though they may look very close or even identical.
Second, if you are comparing colored pearls, you'll need to know if they are natural-color or dyed pearls. For example, when comparing natural black pearls vs. dyed black pearls, there will be a very big difference in price. Here, it is most important to make sure you are dealing with an honest, knowledgeable jeweler.
Once you know what type of pearl or pearls you are looking at then you want to focus on the features that will determine value. Those features are shape, color, size, imperfections, and luster. When it comes to shape the most valuable is the spherical or round. The more perfectly round the better. Many other interesting and fun shapes exist like button pearls, which are flat on one side and rounded on the other. Or irregular shaped or baroque pearls, just to name a few, but these will be less expensive.
Colors can also vary from rose to cream to very white. Color is generally just a preference and usually a person’s skin tone is considered to be a major reason to choose one color over another.
Size is very important. The larger the pearl the more valuable it will be. Pearls are generally measured in millimeters. Smaller pearls would be from 3 to 5mm, medium pearls from 5mm to 8mm and larger pearls 8mm and above.
Last, but not least, is luster. Luster is the brightness or sheen that the pearl has on the surface. Pearls with higher luster will be more valuable. Also the surface should be free from pits or irregularities. Finally, if you are looking at an item that should have matching pearls like a necklace strand, then how well the pearls match in size, color, luster, and surface cleanness will also factor in value.
Pearls are a fantastic option for jewelry. It is always fun to have something that was created for you by nature, even if some human intervention was involved. With knowledge gained from this article, hopefully you will find looking for pearls much more interesting and you can feel more confident in finding a good value regardless of what types of pearls you like.
William's Custom Jewelers
Improving Gem Quality with Heat, Radiation and Other Treatments
Gem treatments are human-made improvements to the appearance of gems after they are mined. Treatments generally seek to improve the color, clarity, or both of the gem. Gem dealers often use treatments to improve gems that would otherwise be unsallable, or to get more money for sellable material. Gemstone treatments have been common place for over one hundred years. This may surprise some of you, but it’s true. With today’s cutting-edge technology, treatments are more common than ever. Let’s have a brief discussion about treatments of some of the colored gemstones you will see in typical jewelry stores.
Diamonds can be treated to improve the clarity by filling fractures or by laser drilling and subsequent bleaching of dark inclusions. For more detail, please see our article "How to Save Money with Clarity-Enhanced Diamonds." Additionally, new high-tech, high-temperature and high-pressure treatments can also improve or create new colors.
Rubies and sapphires:
I group these gems together because they are the same mineral, corundum. The treatments are almost identical. Rubies and sapphires are almost always heat treated at high temperature which enhances the color and can also improve the clarity. This treatment is considered usual and customary and is therefore not typically disclosed to buyers. However, a fine-quality ruby or sapphire, with a lab report stating no heat treatment has been used, is sold at a premium. Another common treatment is diffusion, where a coloring agent (usually titanium in blue sapphires or beryllium in orange sapphires) is introduced during the heating process and diffuses into the gem, enhancing its color. This type of treatment should be disclosed by the dealer so the customer knows what they are getting.
Emeralds are typically filled with materials that improve clarity (hide flaws.) It used to be various oils, but now high-tech resins, similar to epoxy, are used. Once again, some treatment is expected, but, if it is extensive, that fact should be disclosed to a potential buyer. A fine emerald with a report stating no treatment is sold at a premium.
Aquamarine is the same mineral as emerald but has very different characteristics. Aquas are routinely heat treated to remove the green component from them.
Tanzanite is typically heated to change the color from greenish brown to violet or blue.
Amethyst and Citrine:
Once again, these are the same mineral. Heat treating changes amethyst to citrine, lightens the color in amethyst, or creates ametrine from amethyst.
There are many other gemstones that have treatments, so it’s a good idea to ask the gemologist at your jeweler which treatments have been done to the gems you are looking at.
Birthstones and Lore
Unlike zodiac signs, a birthstone applies to the entire month. People love to find out about their birthstone and feel it is special because it is theirs. I will list the birthstones through the calendar year and some of the lore associated with the particular gemstone. Let’s get started.
January’s birthstone is garnet, in particular the red garnet (garnets come in many colors). Garnet is an inexpensive gemstone and is mined all over the world including Idaho. Garnets were believed to stop bleeding and to symbolize Christ’s sacrifice.
February’s birthstone is amethyst (purple quartz). Top quality amethyst is a royal purple color with red flash. Most amethyst comes from South America. Amethyst was believed to prevent drunkenness and cure headaches, toothaches, and gout among other things.
March’s birthstone is aquamarine. (pale blue beryl, the same mineral as emerald). Most aquamarine is heat treated to remove the green component. Aquamarine was believed to give the wearer magical foresight and insight.
April’s birthstone is diamond. Diamonds were thought to be indestructible (they are not) and would render the owner indestructible as well. Also they were believed to bring good luck, freedom from evil spirits, and cure the plague (really??).
May’s birthstone is emerald (intense green beryl). Emeralds are the most valuable green gemstones and come mainly from Colombia and Brazil. Emeralds were believed to be an antidote for poisons, ward off epilepsy, and give people the ability to tell the future.
June has two birthstones, pearl and alexandrite (color change chrysoberyl). Pearls were thought to give one immortality if swallowed, and to cure fever, bleeding, and eye problems. Alexandrite actually changes color depending on the type of lighting. Alexandrite was believed to be discovered on the same day as the birth of prince Alexander, hence the name.
July’s birthstone is ruby (red corundum, the same mineral as sapphire). Most ruby comes from Burma which seems to always have some kind of political strife. Ruby was believed to stop bleeding, cure digestive disorders, and ensure a peaceful life (I want one!)
August’s birthstone is Peridot (olivine). Arizona is the source of some very fine Peridot. It was believed to protect the wearer from night terrors and fend off evil spirits.
September’s birthstone is sapphire, specifically blue sapphire. Sapphire is mined all over the world especially in Asia, but there are several mines in Montana. Sapphire was believed to be an antidote for poison, clear the mind, and cure fevers.
October has two birthstones, opal and pink tourmaline. Opal is formed when silica rich ground water circulates through cracks in the host rock. Opal was believed to have all magical powers because of all of the different colors. Pink tourmaline The Dutch noticed that sun warmed tourmalines attracted or repelled ashes from a fire. This is caused by pyro-electricity (electric charge caused by heating).
November’s birthstone is topaz (golden) or citrine (golden quartz). People in Utah often visit Topaz Mountain and dig for topaz crystals. Topaz was believed to cure dim vision and detect poisons.
December has three birthstones with the recent addition of Tanzanite. The other two are blue zircon and turquoise. Turquoise was believed protect horses from fatigue, ward off the evil eye, and give the owner good luck.
Come on down to William’s and check out some beautiful jewelry pieces created with your special birthstone!!
Jewelry Terms and Definitions
To help you understand what it is you are considering purchasin, we have defined some common jewelry terms for you. KARAT: Karat is a measure of the fineness, or purity, of gold. 24K is pure gold, 18K is 75% gold and 14K is 58%.
CARAT: Carat is a weight measurement for gemstones. 1 carat equals .2 grams (metric).
MINERAL: A mineral is a homogeneous substance formed in the earth’s crust by inorganic forces, whose chemical and physical properties are constant within narrow limits. Most gemstones are minerals, but most minerals are not gemstones.
FACET: A facet is a flat surface on a gemstone.
CABOCHON: A cabochon is a gemstone having a curved or domed surface, used mostly for opaque gems and those with phenomena such as chatoyancy or asterism.
ASTERISM: The effect that causes a star on the surface of a gemstone.
CHATOYANCY: The effect that creates a cat’s eye line of light across the surface of a gemstone.
FLUORESCENCE: A form of luminescence can be stimulated in some gemstones by the application of long or short wave ultraviolet light.
SYNTHETIC GEMSTONE: A synthetic gemstone is a man made gemstone that has the same physical and chemical properties as the naturally occurring gemstone.
SIMULANT: A stimulant is a simulated gemstone that can be natural or synthetic. It looks like the gemstone it simulates but does not have the same properties, and is not the same mineral.
INCLUSIONS: Inclusions are features contained within a gemstone -- often called "flaws." These can be formed before, during or after the crystal growth of the gemstone. The number, size, and location of inclusions sets the clarity grades in gemstones.
CLARITY; Clarity is a classification term in the grading of polished, transparent gemstones which denotes the degree of freedom from inclusions in the gemstone.
CLEAVAGE ; Cleavage is a property possessed by some crystalline minerals which enables them to divide along a plane of weaker molecular bonding.
REFRACTION; Refraction is the bending of light rays as they pass through the interface of media (in this case minerals) having different optical densities.
ENHANCEMENT; Enhancement is the improvement of either the color, the clarity, or both of a gemstone using technology and techniques.
If you have any specific gemstone questions please feel free to call me at William’s Custom Jewelers. I’d be happy to help clear things up any way I can.
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