Diamonds & Stones
How Can You Profit From My 45 Years as a Jeweller?
You can profit by carefully reading these pages. I am going to arm you with the most important commodity you can have while searching for a diamond or any other gem for that matter, KNOWLEDGE!
For forty fife years now I have been making heirloom quality jewellery for my clients, and I am about to share with you what I share with them, the knowledge that it takes to make an informed purchase and to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
Whether you're buying from a internet vendor, your local jeweler or you buy from me, there are things you need to know. This knowledge will make you the person with the power, as you will no longer be the neophyte hoping that you are dealing with an honest jeweller.
Knowledge Is Power!
With the knowledge I am going to share with you here, you will be able to separate the truth tellers from those, who themselves may not know the truth, or as sad as it is to say, those who might actually lie to you to take your money. More importantly, you will have the knowledge you need to negotiate with them from a position of strength.
Some of the things to look for in this site are:
* What are the FOURE C's and how do they affect the look of your diamond
Cut - The most important of all of the C's and the least understood. I will give you a complete breakdown on cut from the average "run of the mill" cuts to the so-called "super ideals" and how to understand what you are being told. I am going to share with you the newest technology including a daring look at something you will see much more of in the next few years, performance based cutting analysis. When a diamond is cut to precise proportions, light is reflected from one facet to another and dispersed through the crown of the stone. If the cut of the diamond is too deep, some light escapes through the opposite side of the gemstone. If the cut is too shallow, light again escapes before it can be reflected. Only the world's most skilled cutters can successfully unleash a diamond's rare fire.
color -Why it is the second most important of the C's and the one that is often sold for the wrong reasons. Why the D-E-F colors may or may not be the right color for you (I know this is considered hearsay, but wait until you read this for an understanding of color that could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Color is the presence of body color in a diamond. This is normally a yellowish body color that most often is not even seen unless compared against a truly colorless stone. This color is judged by grading a stone from the side against a stone of known quality.
The color grading scale runs from "D" or perfectly without color of any type on through Z, where the color is so bright that it is again considered to be desirable.
To make our lives as diamond graders easier, we are allowed to buy colour master stones and have them graded by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or AGS (If you are an AGS member, and be told what color grade that is compared to the master sets kept by GIA.) Then we keep these stones as our own master set to use when grading stones of unknown color.
This all sounds fairly easy but it isn't!
* First -Not all stones are varying shades of yellow. Sometimes the stones are colored by brown, or gray. Browns are considered less attractive than yellows, so the prices may tend to be slightly lower. Often the really cheap total carat weight rings and tennis bracelets that you see are set with what we call "Top light browns" that look very white from the table, but that are quite brown from the side.
* Second- When a stone gets far enough "down" the scale; it starts looking attractive again and is called a "fancy". A fancy red diamond might cost as much as $1,000,000 per carat, hardly what I would refer to as "down" the scale.
* Third -There is a common misconception that color is bad. It is NOT bad, it simply is. Many times it can be bad if the color is unattractive, but there are people who actually prefer a little color in their diamonds, since the warmer color of a J-K-L might actually look better against their skin that the hard perfect white of a D color diamond. There are simply more diamonds with color in them than without, usually a few atoms of nitrogen mixed in with the carbon.
Since color in light shades is more common, they cost less than those with no color at all. Plus with the advent of diamond grading certificates, many people want to buy the paper since that is easier to understand than the beauty. This increased both the desire for and the cost of the colorless stones.
* Fourth - The cut of the diamond greatly affects how the color will show. An Eight Star cut diamond for example, will often look one to three color grades higher than a traditionally cut diamond of the same color.
Let's discuss for a moment what it is that we are looking for in color. We are looking for a stone that has great light and beauty. If it is to be put into platinum, it is probably more important for you than the stone be of a high color, G or better, so that the color of the stone does not contract with the color of the metal.
If you are going to mount the stone in white gold, it is much less important to have a very high color, as white gold is itself a yellowish white rather than a true white color. That is because you have allowed nickel and silver with the yellow gold to give us the whitish color. With platinum, you have alloyed a white metal such as iridium with the white platinum.
If you are going to mount the stone in yellow metal and it is well made, then you can use a much lower color and it will still look white by comparison. However, many people like to use a D color in yellow metal. It is totally a personal preference !
I just want to go on the record stating that many people actually like the warmer tone or yellow in their stones, and especially the slightly warmer dispersion that comes out of a K-L-M colored stone that the harder colder dispersion than comes out of a colorless stone in the D-E-F color range. If you are not sure where you stand on this, be sure to ask to see stones of both the higher colors and the lower colors. If you find yourself liking the "lower" colors, you will also find yourself saving a LOT of money.
* Dispersion is the colored light that comes out of a diamond along with the brilliance or white light. One of the things that make a diamond beautiful is the way it breaks white light into its component parts.
Clarity - Actually one of the least important C's, yet quite often the one that you hear the most about. Clarity is another of that area that should be simple, but is not!
Clarity grades run from Flawless to Industrial crushing bort. In the jewellery that you will be buying, it is rare to see anything below I1 or I2, unless you like to shop at the mall and there you will occasionally see I3 grade goods and something that we in the trade often refer to as "frozen spit". If you have ever looked at a four carat tennis bracelet for $399.00, then you know what I am talking about, little lifeless lumps of whitish pebbles with a few facets thrown on that usually have less sparkle to them than the metal they are set in. We will not concern ourselves with this type of material, but will rather concentrate on the normal clarity grades of diamonds that you will find in the marketplace for fine jewellery.
Before we Begin
Clarity is the one area where you can save the most money without it becoming apparent to the eye. Until you get into the lower reaches of the clarity scale, you are spending more to appease your desire to own the very best, not to change the look of the diamond.
In larger stones, it is sometimes possible to see both SI1 and SI2 inclusions, you may have been told elsewhere that if it can be seen with the unaided eye that it is an I1. This simply is not true. I have had GIA graded stones with eye-visible inclusions that were graded as high as VS2 in a four carat stone.
There are some tremendous bargains out there in larger stones with inclusions near the side of the stone that may actually be as low as I1 and still not readily visible to the eye while an SI1 or SI2 may have readily visible inclusions near the center of the table. You simply can NOT always buy the best looking stone by reading the paper! You must talk with the dealer and look at the stones to be sure of what you are going to end up with.
In the Beginning...
There was confusion. It seemed that every jeweller had his own system for both color and clarity. There were terms such as Perfect, meaning eye clean, and imperfect, meaning not eye clean. But of course, those terms might have meant flawless and anything less to the guy up the street.
Sometime in the early Fifties, Richard Liddicoat, the President of the Gemological Institute of America, came up with a new scale. Other than changing the word Imperfect as in Slightly Imperfect to Included, there has been very little change in the system since the time that it was developed. Two changes that occurred back in the mid-to-late Seventies were the inclusion of the term internally flawless to describe stones that were internally flawless, but had surface imperfections such as polishing marks, and I3 to include garbage flooding onto the market that was below the bottom rank of I2 as it was originally described.
Let's go over the system as it was invented, with the early changes and then discuss the newer changes.
Â§ F L - Flawless - These are the stones with no inclusions and no surface blemishes visible at 10X magnification.
Â§ I F - Internally Flawless - These are the stones which are internally free of inclusions at 10X, but that have minor surface blemishes such as polishing marks.
Â§ V V S 1 - Very Very Slightly Included 1 - These stones have inclusions that are extremely hard to see under 10X magnification. It's a pretty safe bet that these inclusions were found at higher than 10X power and then watched as the power was turned down to see if they were still visible at 10X.
Â§ V V S 2 - Very Very Slightly Included 2 - These stones have inclusions that are very hard to see under 10X magnification, but may have a few more of them or slightly larger ones than a V V S 1.
Â§ V S 1 - Very Slightly Included - These stones have inclusions that are hard to see under 10X, but we are now looking at more than pinpoints. Small crystals, feathers, clouds and chips make up the types of inclusions now seen.
Â§ V S 2 - Very Slightly Included 2 - The inclusions are getting easier to see now and are usually readily seen with a 10X loupe.
Â§ S I 1 - Slightly Included 1 - The inclusions are now easily seen with the 10X loupe and are more numerous or larger than in the higher grades. You may well be seeing laser drill holes at these clarity grades. Although the laser drilling was not required to be disclosed for many years as it was considered a permanent change such as faceting the stone, American jewellers lead the charge in demanding that the diamond Bourses require the disclosure of laser drilling.
Â§ S I 2 - Slightly Included 2 - This is the largest grade that we have encountered so far, and it holds a multitude of possible inclusions, including some that might be eye visible depending on where they are located. This will be especially true in larger stones and in some of the fancy shapes (shapes other than round, such as emerald cuts, marquis cuts, etc.)
Â§ I 1 - Imperfect 1 - Add in the heavy-duty inclusions and those that are potentially damaging to the stone. Some of the stones will be cloudy and dull, some surprisingly beautiful with inclusions that are hard to impossible to see with the unaided eye. Expect to see either multitudinous inclusions or larger inclusions that are easily seen such as feathers (a nice word for cleavages).
Â§ I 2 - Included 2 - Pump up the volume and the ugliness! These stones are rarely pretty and often in imminent danger of becoming many small diamonds. These diamonds are very easy to see the inclusions in--often from across the room! They would be more suitable for making sandpaper than jewellery, but that is only my opinion.
Â§ I 3 - Included 3 - Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Why these are ever turned loose on the world as jewellery is a testament to the fact that some people will buy anything if it is cheap enough! These stones can be graded in seconds, without any magnification, but as Gary Roskin notes in his excellent book "Photo Masters for Diamond Grading", actually plotting the Inclusions would take enormous patience and lots of time.
There has been one significant change within the industry that occurred sometime in the Eighties. Tom Tashey at European Gem Lab Los Angeles (EGLLA) decided that there needed to be a grade between S I2 and I1. He was probably correct. At the time that Mr. Liddicoat created the system in the Fifties, no one much bothered with the lower quality grades for jewellery, so a lot of space was taken up with too few grades.
Now that there has been such a tremendous explosion in the price of diamonds and huge price differences between the SI grades and the I grades, it is more important that we not over penalize a stone by calling it an I1, nor under penalize a stone for calling it an Si2 when it really is not good enough to be one or those either.
Mr. Tashey started to issue EGLLA certificated with the term SI3, meaning stones that were on the bottom of the SI2 scale and not really deserving of the SI2 grade, but not quite bad enough to deserve the I1 grade either. This was eventually pretty well received by the trade and has recently been ratified by the major diamond Bourses as a legitimate grade. The GIA however, has not recognized this grade, nor does it have any plans to. Some people like it, some people hate it, but it is there and you should now about it, whether or not you even want to accept it.
Oh, and you should also know that until the price explosion in the late Seventies, the GIA issued split grades on borderline stones. When the difference in a grade could mean hundreds or even thousand of dollar difference in price, the diamond dealers prevailed on GIA to go to a one grade system, so all the grades issued now are a single grade, meaning than the stone you buy as a VS2 could be a high VS2 or a low VS2, and you will have to rely on your jeweller to tell you which it is. And just for the record, if he or she tells you a low VS2, don't try to beat him up on the price. He did not embarrass himself with his supplier, and you don't want to embarrass yourself with him either! If you are buying paper, buy the paper. If you are buying the beauty of the stone, all the paper in the world will not change it.
What to look for when buying colored stones? They are even more difficult to assess than diamonds.
o Clarity - What are the factors that must be considered about clarity grading colored stones, and how is this different from clarity grading a diamond? Why are some stones graded differently for clarity than others?
o Color - Color is everything in a colored stone. We will discuss how color is graded differently in colored stones than in diamonds, and we will discuss the three parts of color that must be considered in a colored stone:
o Cut - Our old friend cut is just as important in colored stones as it is in diamonds, but much less understood.
Why you should consider buying your jewellery from Gerald The Swiss Goldsmith? I bring forty fife years of experience to the table, and I will share the fruits of my learning with you whether or not you buy from me, but I hope to earn at least a chance at your business.
What Do YOU Look For When Buying Coloured Gems?
It is not nearly so easy as when looking to buy a diamond. There is no universally accepted grading standard for dealers to adhere to and the frustrations that come from finding the one dealer's "nearly flawless" looks like another dealer's "moderately included".
As if what you found in the clarity column were not confusing enough, how do you translate "daffodil yellow" or "sky blue" let alone "Rich royal purple with hints of velvety blue"?
Oh, and forget about cut grades! There is no standard for cutting, nor can there be. Each stone has its own refractive index, which determines how the light will play throughout the stone. This means that angles that will create an incredible looking tanzanite might create a lifeless looking amethyst.
The GIA in its efforts to at least give us some guidelines in colored stone grading and classification has gone to great length to provide us with a workable system that is at best a good beginning.
Personally, I feel that there will never be a totally accurate system for describing colored gems, even photography does not provide us with an accurate system to share the beauty of some colored stones, as the chemicals in the stone cause light to react unfavorably, creating an unattractive looking stone where there is great beauty in real life.
Here are some basic guidelines that you can use in your search, but remember to paraphrase Forrest Gump, "Beauty is as beauty does!" Look as all the certificates you want, but buy the stone because it is beautiful and makes your heart sing. If it does not, don't buy it!
Gems are basically divided into three categories by the GIA for purposes of clarity grading. Type I, Type II and Type III.
I will quote from the GIA Colored Stone Grading Workbook:
Type I Colored Stones - Often virtually inclusion free.
Type II Colored Stones - Usually included
Type III Colored Stones - Almost always included.
Type I colored stone is eye clean with inclusions that are difficult to see under 10X magnification and invisible to the unaided eye, while a TYPE III has inclusions that are easy to see under 10X magnification and may have eye visible inclusions.
What's a poor rookie to do?
Well, one thing to do is to understand the above scales and which stones are in which category. Do not be surprised if your local retailer does not know each stone in every category, or even what you are talking about!
Do understand that if your local retailer does not have at least a fair understanding of which stones should be normally eye clean, and which stones are still beautiful even with fair amounts of eye visible inclusions, that you should be probably looking for a different local retailer if you are in the market for a good buy on a colored stone.
Color is a specialistâ€™s game! Everyone knows diamonds. They are the lifeblood of our industry, but only a relatively few know and understand colored gemstones. Be sure you are working with one of the few if you want the best value for your money!
Now about color...
Again, quoting from the GIA workbook on Colored Gemstones:
"Color is interplay between a light source, an object, and the human eye and brain. Most light sources emit light that is a combination (or blend) of various wavelengths of visible electromagnet radiation. The object absorbs some wavelengths and transmits or reflects others to the eye. Receptors in the eye translate these wavelengths into an optical code which the optic nerve transmits to the brain, where they are interpreted as sensations of different colors."
Translation: Light hits the object that we are looking at and is absorbed or reflected and we see it as different colors.
This is important!
Some stones will look completely different depending on whether they are seen in fluorescent light or incandescent light. ALWAYS look at a stone you are thinking of buying in several light situations. Get your jeweller to walk with you into a room with fluorescent lights, incandescent lights and if possible, out of doors in shade and direct sun.
Back to "The Book"...
"We describe color in terms of three dimensions - hue, tone and saturation. These create a world of colours or color space. All colors perceived by the human eye can be placed within this world, and their position specified by their hue, tone and saturation.
The color that is most predominant in a gemstone is called the dominant color. Other evident colors are called additional colors."
I am going to paraphrase from here in the interest of not putting you all to sleep.
Hue is the basic impression of color that we notice immediately. Red, green, and blue are some of the basic hue names. Add in other descriptors and you get a better picture. For example, let us take the color wheel from the short journey between blue and green. Start with blue, then shift slightly too very slightly greenish blue, and on around the wheel to greenish blue, very strongly greenish blue, and finally ending at green.
You can take a similar journey from green to yellow, yellow to orange, orange to red, red to purple and finally from purple to blue, which is why we want a color wheel. The human eye can actually discern about 150 separate hues, but in gemology we use 31 on our hue chart which serves for the vast majority of stones that you will see in the jewellery world.
Tone is the lightness or darkness of a color sensation, from colorless to black. Tone is divided into eleven "Steps from 0" being colorless through ever increasing shades of gray to "10" being black. In grading colored stones, we use seven of those steps, from "2 - very light" through 8 - very dark". The terms describe the lightness or darkness of the color the eye perceives.
"Saturation is the strength, purity or intensity of the hue present in a color sensation."
What we attempt to describe with saturation is how bright or how dull the color is. For example, with a blue stone, here are terms we might use as we go up the scale from colorless to faint to strong, there are actually seven grades of saturation starting with neutral, but for practical purposes, we will use six modifiers for saturation.
Grayish blue, slightly grayish blue, very slightly grayish blue, moderately strong blue, strong blue, and vivid blue.
Blue is considered a cool color and cool colors are typically modified in shades of gray. Warm colors such as orange will be typically modified in shades of brown.
When you put it all together, you might get a color description of a really beautiful sapphire such as this...
This sapphire has a medium dark, strong, violet blue. Or if you are into scientific color notation, vB 6/5 (violetish blue, medium dark, strong.)
Wowsers! That is more than I need to know about describing a stone!
If you take the same courses that I have taken and practiced for years and years, you and I will most of the time be at least in the same neighborhood when describing a stone to one another, provided we both have the same equipment to recreate the color descriptions that we are giving to one another.
Oh, and let's not forget cutting! Cut right, the stone will SING! Cut poorly, it is just another window, perhaps with a little sparkle around the edges.
What's a poor rookie to do?
First, you look!
Get out there and look at LOTS of stones, then look some more. You will quickly see that the vast majority of what is being shown to you is garbage. Ask to see some well cut stones of high quality. Be prepared to go to several stores until you find one that can show you the goods! You can probably save yourself a lot of time if you just start at some of your better stores and skip the mall chain stones. I am more than happy to work with you!
For the most part, take all of the above scientific "stuff" and enjoy reading it and know a little of it, then throw it all out and VOTE WITH YOUR EYES!
Colored gems are about BEAUTY! Buy the stone that makes your heart sing! If you can't find one that makes your heart sing, spend your money on something else!