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All That Shines ~ More on Alloys

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.

Filigree Band Wide Band Rose Gold

Filigree Wide Band Green Golsd

 

 

 

 

 

Filligree Wide Band White GoldFiligree Wide Band Yellow Gold

 

 

 

 

 

Filigree Two Tone Wide Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

White Gold vs. Platinum

Confused when deciding between white gold and platinum for your precious stones or diamonds? You aren’t alone. We’ve created a “cheat sheet” for helping you make the perfect decision for your jewels.

White Gold…

-is NOT a white metal – started its life as a yellowy, orangey, sometimes greenish gold and was coaxed into whiteness by alloying it with whiter metals.

-will require rhodium plating, then re-plating once a year on average. (Some alloys show more yellow than others.) The final step in finishing white gold jewelry is to “rhodium plate,” it, creating the white color. Ironically, rhodium is in the platinum family.

-can sometimes cause a skin reaction with its alloys, most commonly, due to nickel. A different alloy can be chosen, such as palladium or cobalt.

-will stay shiny for a long time before re-polishing.

-is able to scratch if wearer is hard on it, but overall maintains shine a lot longer than platinum.

Note: 24k gold (100% gold) is too soft to be used for jewelry. 14k/18K are the strongest choices for everyday wear.

Platinum…

-is 30 times more rare and 60% heavier than gold, giving it a luxurious feel to some.

-is strong, but can absolutely scratch when banged.

-will develop a dulled finish after time, due to small dents it takes.

-is hypoallergenic (unlike gold) because it is normally not alloyed with more than 10% other metals.

-will need more frequent polishing than white gold.

-is ideal for hand engraved detailing.

-will cost more than gold due to:

  1. High density – causes the extra weight and less thinning over time than gold
  2. Rarity – not as readily available as gold
  3. Purity – 90-95% pure platinum vs. 58% in 14k gold
  4. Tools – platinum demands separate tools, can be harder to work with and needs a higher temperature gas for soldering work
  5. Experience level the jeweler needs to have

What’s great about both?

-They are valuable and weighty metals – silver is not.

-Neither metal corrodes, rusts or tarnishes, and both are great for making jewelry.

-They are tried and true: 99.99% of all wedding rings are made from gold and platinum.

-Many alternative metals can’t be altered by more than 1-2 sizes and that work needs to be done in a machine shop vs. by a normal jeweler, because soldering can’t be done. Some metals aren’t able to be sized at all. Gold and platinum metals can be sized and worked on as many times as needed, as your fingers will likely change in size over the years.

-Both can withstand everyday wear, however intricate platinum jewelry has proven to endure the test of time much better than gold.

DWISBY-ETRG2-12-2010 with logo

What about prongs, settings & wedding bands?

-Both are often used, and both have considerations you should be aware of when selecting prongs.

-Because it is a malleable metal (due to its purity), platinum tends to be more bendable than white gold. Small platinum prongs may become flatter when hit, but are less likely to break or wear down.

-With a white gold prong, the stronger, stiffer metal alloys will remain firm if directly hit. But if the hit is severe, the metal cracks as opposed to bending. If the hit is hard enough, it completely breaks off. Or a base crack could cause problems down the road.A-BRIGGS-ENG-RS1-CROP12-03_reimaged with logo

How do I choose one over the other?

-The amount of detail in your design should be a factor.

-Work with an experienced jeweler who is knowledgeable in the slight differences between white gold and platinum.

-Is a long lasting, high shine important to you, or is your taste suited to accepting a more matte finish?

-Make sure to disclose your hobbies, recreational activities, lifestyle, etc. to your jeweler.

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10 Most Popular Cuts of Diamonds

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.

ALYSSARG-FRONT1b

Diamond Eternity Engagement Ring

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.

PR-HALO

Cushion Halo Princess Cut Center Diamond           Engagement Ring

 

OVAL: The oval diamond has an elongated shape often creating the illusion of being a larger diamond.

ovalfinal-new

Three Stone Oval Diamond Ring with Trillion Sapphires

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.

FINAL

Marquise Halo Diamond Ring

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.

Bezel Three Stone Diamond Halo Engagement Ring with Pear Side Stones

Bezel Three Stone Diamond Halo Engagement Ring with  Pear Side Stones

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.

Three Stone Cushion Woven Diamond Engagement Ring & Wedding Band Set

Three Stone Cushion Woven Diamond                     Engagement Ring & Wedding Band Set

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.

JPARRY-FINAL2_reimaged

Emerald Diamond Dome Ring

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.

Asscher-PD2

Asscher Diamond Pave Pendant

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.

Radiant Art Deco Halo Diamond Engagement Ring

Radiant Art Deco Halo Diamond Engagement Ring

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.

Wavey Heart Diamond Wide Band

Wavey Heart Diamond Wide Band

Gemstone of the Month: Aquamarine

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!

Diamonds & Gold Never Get Old

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.

 

Before and after remount

Good energy, fabulous jewelry

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.

Various pieces were given by the customer to J Briggs & Co 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.

Jewelry artist Jennifer Briggs Jenkins draws sketches of the piece that capture the conversations she has had with the customer.

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 life-like rendering of different angles comes back to show customer what to expect.

A gorgeous finished design is born!

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