Gemstones for Everyday Wear
J. Briggs & Co.
The saying “diamonds are forever” has its basis in fact. Among the sturdiest of gemstones, diamonds stand up to punishment better than many other stones. In fact, diamonds rate a score of 10 on the Mohs gemstone hardness scale, the highest rating of any gem. That’s one of the reasons that diamonds are the timeless, popular choice for all types of jewelry, from engagement rings to diamond studs.
But hardness is not the only measure of a gemstone. Toughness is also a factor to consider when deciding whether to wear your gemstone out to a certain occasion or during everyday activities. While hardness refers to a gem’s resistance to scratching, it doesn’t necessarily describe its durability. A gem’s toughness relates to its resistance to cleaving, chipping, or wearing. Some gems simply crack or wear down more easily than others.
In addition to hardness and toughness, it’s important to consider the piece of jewelry in which a gemstone is set. Rings see the most abuse of any jewelry because we use our hands so much and the gems end up being exposed to more bumps and bruises. Other pieces, like earrings and pendants, are less likely to come into contact with other surfaces, keeping the stones within them safer than those in a ring.
When considering gemstones that are most suitable for rings, a Mohs hardness rating of 7 or higher is generally deemed suitable for mounting in a ring setting, but toughness does come into play. For example, while emeralds rate an 8 on the Mohs scale, they are prone to fracturing easily. Certain types of settings can prove protective to vulnerable gems, so choosing the right setting in which to mount your gemstone is a conversation to have with your jeweler when designing a ring.
Gemstones that don’t rate high in hardness and toughness can still be mounted in rings, but should be worn occasionally and with greater care than a ring would normally see in everyday wear. After all, a ring sees very different action during a night out on the town than it does while cooking or cleaning at home.
It’s important to know the specifics of your gemstones. Some, like pearls, can be susceptible to chemicals because they are porous. Others, like peridot and aquamarine, shouldn’t be exposed to acids. Opals are very susceptible to damage being low on both hardness and toughness. To better understand your gemstones, their wearability, and how to care for them, consult your jeweler (or certified gemologist). If you’re designing a new piece, your jewelry designer can help you take into account the features of the gemstone you are mounting and work with its unique features to design a setting and piece that is the most protective.
Diamonds are both hard and tough (plus they go with just about everything!), making them ideal for wearing on most occasions. And you might not realize that diamonds come in more than one color, but that’s a topic for a future blog! Below is a short list for your reference. If you have questions about the suitability of your gemstones for everyday wear or if you’re looking to set a stone in the an appropriate setting to get the most use from it, contact designer and certified gemologist J.Briggs to set up a consultation.
What do you think of when you hear the word GOLD? A vault of ingots at Fort Knox? Lost treasures from forgotten empires? Or maybe you have the same thing on your mind that I do … fabulous jewelry! I thought we could expand on our last blog about White Gold vs Platinum, and explore metal alloys a little deeper. Did you know that when it comes to gold jewelry, there are more options than the traditional yellow and white gold familiar to most people?
Gold alloys come in a variety of stunning colors that can really make a piece of jewelry stand out from the crowd. In addition to yellow gold, most people have heard of white gold, but the options don’t stop there. Gold can also be rose, red, or pink, green, blue, purple, and even black.
What is the difference among these various hues? Let’s start with an explanation of “pure,” or 24K gold. Pure gold has no other metals mixed into it. Other gold classes, such as 10K (41.7% gold), 14k (58.5%) or 18K (75%) gold contain a smaller percentage of gold that is combined with other metals such as silver or copper. These types of gold are technically alloys because other metals are mixed into the pure gold. The higher the karat, the richer the gold tone. For people with sensitive skin, sometimes the other metals can cause skin irritation. Higher karat gold (18k & 22k) and Platinum (90-95%) are the most hypoallergenic metal for jewelry- but you already know all about Platinum from our last post!
So let’s start with our pure gold and mix in some different types of metal to make things more interesting.
White Gold: While some people prefer to have their gemstones set in platinum, white gold is a great alternative for those who prefer a silver hue to their gold jewelry. White gold can be mixed with manganese, nickel, or palladium to achieve its signature color. Standard white gold is a combination of 14K gold and a mix of copper, nickel, and zinc. White gold is often plated in rhodium to increase its shine. It is often necessary to re-plate after a year or two of wear to bring back the bright white color.
Green Gold: Also called electrum, green gold is a naturally-occurring alloy containing both gold and silver. Depending on the ratio of gold to silver, the hue can be subtle or deeper.
Red Golds: For gold to take on a pink, rose, or red hue, it is mixed with copper. The greater the amount of copper present in the alloy, the deeper the shade of red.
The following colors are less commonly seen than yellow, white, green, and red, but can still be used in jewelry.
Purple Gold: Purple gold is created by combining gold with aluminum. This alloy is too brittle to us in the traditional sense, but can be cut to look like a gemstone.
Blue Gold: A combination of gold and the metal indium or gallium gives gold a subtle, bluish tone. Indium or gallium is present in larger amounts than gold in this alloy.
Black Gold: Mixing gold with cobalt allows the surface to be oxidized resulting in black gold.
Purple, blue, and black golds can also be created using surface treatments to achieve the desired hue.
It’s important to note that not all gold alloys are appropriate for the same types of jewelry. Some are more malleable, some more brittle. Black, purple, and blue gold pose challenges while white, rose, green and yellow gold can certainly be crafted into traditional jewelry. It’s also worth mentioning that the color variations tend to be subtle.
It can be fun to play around with the different colors of gold when designing a piece of jewelry. Using more than one type of gold within a piece can create a visually arresting alternative to standard yellow or white gold. At J. Briggs, we are happy to explore the different gold varieties with you to achieve exactly the effect you desire.
Adopted from the Greek work “adamas,” meaning invincible, diamonds come in a wide range of colors such as black, blue, green, pink, red, purple, orange and yellow.
If you have a hard time remembering what different cuts of diamonds look like or are called, here’s your perfect cheat sheet for the Top 10 Cuts for the birthstones of our April babies:
ROUND: The most popular shape — owning nearly 75% of all diamonds sold — round cuts are considered superior to ornate shapes. At the proper reflection of light, their maximum potential brightness outshines the competition.
PRINCESS: The princess cut diamond is the most popular ornate diamond shape, especially for engagement rings. Like rounds, princess cuts are practical choices because of their flexibility in working in almost any style of ring.
OVAL: The oval diamond has an elongated shape often creating the illusion of being a larger diamond.
MARQUISE: This cut is football-shaped. Because the marquise diamond is long and narrow, it can also create the illusion of greater size. Carat for carat, the marquise diamond has one of the largest surface areas of any diamond shape.
PEAR-SHAPED: The pear-shaped diamond is a combination of a round and a marquise shape, with a tapered point on one end. In a perfect world, this type of diamond should have very good symmetry, with the point lining up with the apex of the rounded end, and the shoulders and wings (the upper and lower curves on the right and left side of the diamond) should be uniform.
CUSHION: The cushion cut diamond combines a square cut with rounded corners, much like a pillow (its namesake!). This classic cut has been around for almost 200 years. Refinements have led to a resurgence in popularity for this lovely cut.
EMERALD CUT: The emerald cut is quite unique. Although not designed to sparkle, by interchanging light and dark planes during refinement, a “hall-of-mirrors” effect is achieved — a beautiful illusion that creates extraordinary broad flashes of white light to contrast the dark planes. This “step cut” process varies from the more traditional “brilliant cut” method, which provides more sparkle. Emerald cut diamonds will make inclusions or body color easier to see.
ASSCHER CUT: First produced in 1902 by the Asscher Brothers of Holland, an asscher cut diamond is similar to the emerald cut, but in a square shape with larger step facets, a higher crown, and a smaller table (the uppermost, flat surface of a diamond). This combination often produces more brilliance (sparkle!) than the emerald cut.
RADIANT CUT: The radiant cut creates a vibrant and lively diamond with a modified square shape, a nice bridge between a cushion and a princess cut, making it look stunning when set with both rounded or square cornered diamonds.
HEART SHAPED: There’s no mistaking a heart-shaped diamond. Popular in solitaire pendants as well as rings, heart-shaped cuts are best utilized with diamonds more .50 carats in size, since the heart shape is more difficult to recognize in smaller stones, once set in prongs.
Aquamarine, the birthstone of March, comes from the Latin term “aqua,” meaning water and “marina” meaning of the sea. It’s easy to see why, as this popular member of the beryl family has a tranquilizing blue color reminiscent of the ocean.
Beryl is a single mineral that ranges in color from pale green, blue or yellow and consists of silicate beryllium and aluminum. Although not recommended for everyday jewelry such as a diamond engagement ring, it is fairly durable and easy to care for, suitable for use in pendants, earrings and rings.
Aquamarine can vary in different shade intensity, from faint blue to green. The point of where someone will have that “oooh” and “ahhh” moment when they fall in love with a gemstone is personal. The most notable aquamarine is a light blue color, however, a deeper, saturated color of blue-green is rare, but can also be found, and is stunning.
Aquamarine can be treated with heat to help coax out its radiant light blue hue and reduce the prominence of the green and yellow tones. But, many times, the stone is only heated till reaching a favorable color of blue, as heating too high can cause the stone to discolor.
For those lucky enough to be born in March, the birthstone aquamarine even has special meaning and protective qualities behind it. Many believe that the beryl mineral that is found inside the gemstone gives whoever is wearing it protection against enemies. It has been said that whoever possesses this ocean blue gemstone will be “unconquerable and strong.” Aquamarine is also known to sharpen and speed up intellect.
Myth and matter alike have made aquamarine a captivating gemstone indeed – and one of our favorites with which to create stunning fine jewelry!
Everyone approaches the world of jewelry in their own way. With so many wonderful options, it is the perfect medium to express your personal style, commemorate a life event, send a message or simply accessorize. But let’s face it; things change. Trends go in and out, families get larger or smaller, relationships fizzle, new ones ignite…what to do with the jewelry? I assure you, it does no one any good to leave it in a box unseen for years. And check this out: diamonds are between one and three BILLION years old! They do not expire. Let’s talk options.
The opportunities for re-designing older jewelry and giving it new life are endless. Taking a stone from a necklace and turning it into a ring, for example, can be an affordable option. Removing stones from several dated jewelry pieces and combining them into one modernized, custom pendant that fits your look and lifestyle, is another way to give your gems a new home. And as an added bonus, the metal from the old jewelry can be traded in as credit toward the new piece. Having a box of unworn jewelry is like having a box of cash just sitting there!
In other instances, you may receive gorgeous heirloom jewelry that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet you want to change a few aspects of it to make it your own and think, “How can I make this my own without losing Grandma along the way?” Preserving the integrity of the piece while customizing it to the current wearer takes a jewelry artist who can envision the bridge between the two.
Here are some tips on transforming your estate jewelry into works of art:
1. Don’t sell it! Make it your own…and work it. Selling your jewelry only yields 30-40% of its value, on average. Instead, turn it into something you’ll be excited to show off. This is especially true for diamonds, where the return can be even lower.
2. Gift it to your daughter. There is nothing more special than creating a custom design to give to your child. Engraving can add a special touch, as can adding birthstones.
3. When in doubt…remount! Remounting is a great way to preserve your jewelry. It gives you the opportunity to merge estate jewelry with your current pieces to create a new specialty design.
Taking your jewels from ho-hum to heavenly is worth the time and effort it takes. Mother earth has given us the gift of these beautiful treasures, and they are perfect for recycling, & reinventing. Seeking out a professional designer and certified gemologist who concentrates in this genre will ensure you end up with a stunning piece that represents you, the wearer.
The French word “Peridot” is originally derived from “faridat” in Arabic, meaning gem. Ancient peridot can be traced back to Egyptian jewelry in the 2nd millennium B.C. The stones came from a deposit on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, some 45 miles off the Egyptian coast, which was not rediscovered until about 1900 and has since been exhausted.
Peridot is gem-quality “olivine,” a common mineral in mafic and ultramafic rocks. Formed as a result of volcanic activity deep inside the earth’s surface, gem-quality peridot is a rarity in olivine.
The demand for this beautiful stone was reignited a few years ago when peridot deposits were found in the Kashmir region; and the stones were so incredible in color and transparency.
Although it’s one of the only gemstones found in just one color, the intensity and tint of the olive green hue depends on how much iron is within the crystal structure. Varying from yellow to olive to brownish-green, peridot is most valued as a dark, emerald-resembling gem.
If you were born in August, you may be fortunate enough to receive a peridot as a birthday gift. If received as a ring, wearing this birthstone carefully is important, as it isn’t as tough as it looks. Prone to breaking, peridot are better suited for bigger necklaces; a bonus being that larger stones carry a richer color.
Throughout history, peridot has been thought to possess great mystical powers to ward off anxiety and inspire happiness, strength and loyalty. It is also believed to promote success in relationships and marriage.
Once called the “gem of the sun” in ancient Egypt because of its dazzling appearance in the sun, the curiosity and enchantment that surrounds peridot has made this radiant gemstone timeless.
As someone in the field of gemology, I believe in the energy of metals and stones. The properties of these beautiful rocks made by Mother Nature come with the same purity and vulnerable qualities that we are all comprised of. This same energy plays an important role in the creative process as well as the overall client experience. What I have learned along the way is that my happiest customers and best pieces have been a result of relationships built on positivity and dynamic energy shared by all involved.
When a client comes to me with a project, it is most often a collaboration, I do my best to create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing with me their ideas and expectations. This helps avoid the introduction of angst- the artist’s nemesis! Bottom line: it is paramount that not only the jewelry be fabulous, but that the entire experience is positive from start to finish.
As an artist, I actively look to avoid stressful situations that may impact how the piece is achieved. Bottom line: when my customers are collaborative and upbeat, I feed off of that energy and it shows in the finished product.
Of course not every situation is ideal and there are ways we can overcome a little negativity together. Let’s say a client, “Kate,” has wanted to re-design her engagement ring for several years, but has put it off. She has a hard time envisioning her perfect ring and has convinced herself that she is not creative. Kate may ask, “How will I know what style I’m looking for without trying it on?”
Finding the answers are all part of the design process. It’s about sitting down with a customer, building a relationship, learning their taste, and discovering exactly who they are. Often, that also includes uncovering what someone may dislike as well.
Working together can really produce incredibly energy that leaves many of our “Kates” at J Briggs & Co wearing their gorgeous new rings, saying, “I definitely should have done this sooner.”
As your expert explorer at envisioning that perfect new piece, I love creating fine jewelry with good vibes. Come in and share yours with me.
Here is an example of the remounting process I did for a customer:
Various pieces were given by the customer to merge into a re-mount project.
After conversations and exploring their style, I draw sketches of that best capture what the customer is looking for.
A life-like rendering of different angles comes back to show customer what to expect. After any edits are made, a casting mold is then taken.
A gorgeous finished design is born!
With no shortage of stores and independent jewelers to purchase your precious gems and jewelry from, how can you know that who you are working with is truly the professional they say they are?
Here are four tips to tuck away when your jewels are on the table:
1. Pushiness: Have you ever felt the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you enter a jewelry store, like an antelope amongst cheetahs? Many larger stores are commission-driven, with inventory they need to sell right out of the case and quotas to fulfill. If you are leaning toward one-of-a-kind or custom, you may consider switching it up this time. An excellent alternative is to sit down with a trained designer & gemologist to help you bring your jewelry to life instead of settling with a mass-produced piece, often not made in the USA. A salesperson will certainly offer to make your jewelry, but most salespeople are not seasoned designers or certified gemologists!
2. Full disclosure: When you invest in jewelry, your questions should be answered honestly and accurately. Is your amethyst lab-created or treated? What is the quality of the diamond or gem? Are you leaving with assurance that your jewelry is of the quality that you paid for?
*This is where the gemologist in me has to insert a sidebar. I implore you to take extreme caution if you have your heart set on buying fine jewelry on a cruise or tourist destination outside the US. The standards and regulations that protect the buyer in the US do not apply in many other countries. Despite how fancy the place appears or what the nice salespeople in port will tell you, you most likely are not getting a deal. Even worse, you may be getting something completely different than what you think ~ and the salesperson is not worried because they are pretty sure they will never see you again! And that phone number they give you to (often a US number), is just another sales tactic.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
3. Stone-switching: When you take your beautiful diamond engagement ring to be cleaned — the one that your husband carefully chose for you and put on your finger on your wedding day — are you comfortable leaving it to chance that your stone will be the one returned to you? It happens. We want to assume the best in everyone, but when you hear the story of a disreputable jeweler, it gives the industry a bad rap. Take some time to get to know the character of the person you are working with.
4. Expertly Trained: What makes your jeweler an expert? Look for — and ask for — signs of certification of their industry experience to feel comfortable that this isn’t just another career stop. Working with a designer who is an artist over just a one-stop-shop can produce a truly exquisite piece that will become heirloom jewelry to enjoy for years to come.
Jennifer Briggs Jenkins
Bachelor of Fine Art, Metalsmithing & Jewelry Design
Certified Gemologist, Gemological Institute of America