Definitions | The 5 C’s of Diamonds | Natural or Synthetic? | Pearl Evaluation | Pearl Care | Pearl FAQ
We consider antique jewelry any item that we can identify by style or craftsmanship to be at least 100 years old. We also use the U.S. Customs Service ruling as a standard on any duty free imported piece as being over 100 years old.
We consider jewelry handcrafted prior to 1949 as period items. They are not old enough to be considered antiques. Included in this category are Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco, and Retro jewelry.
By definition, estate jewelry has had one or more previous owners.
Items which are of a specific design of an authentic period or antique piece. Usually handmade labor-intensive craftsmanship emulates the original. These items often contain estate diamonds and gemstones.
Newly manufactured items that have characteristics of a period such as an Art Deco, Art Nouveau, or Antique piece.
The 5 C’s of Diamonds
Anyone who is shopping for a diamond will hear about the 4 C’s – color, clarity, carat weight, and cut – these four characteristics determine a diamond’s rarity and value. Understanding them can help explain why diamonds of equal size may not be of equal value. It’s the many different combinations of each of the 4 C’s that is the key to understanding what makes each diamond unique and valuable.
While most diamonds appear to be white, virtually all have slight traces of color. Evaluating a diamond’s color for grading purposes is done by measuring the degree to which a diamond approaches colorlessness. Gemologists and jewelers describe the color of diamonds on a letter scale beginning with D (colorless) and moving through the alphabet to Z. The degree of colorlessness is not easily discernible to the untrained eye. D, E and F color grades are more expensive because they are more rare. However, well cut diamonds with good clarity of all color grades can be equally dazzling as it is the interplay of the 4C’s which determines each individual stone’s unique beauty. Deeply colored diamonds in shades such as pink, blue, and yellow are known as “fancies” and are especially rare and valuable.
Practically all diamonds contain naturally occurring internal blemishes called inclusions, or a diamond’s natural birth marks (these can look like tiny crystals, feathers, or clouds). Many are microscopic in nature and can only be glimpsed under powerful magnification through a jeweler’s microscope. Diamonds with the fewest inclusions are graded as VVS1 or VVS2; those on the other end of the scale are graded I1 to I3. The fewer inclusions, the more rare the stone.
|FL, IF||Flawless: No internal or external flaws
Internally Flawless: No internal flaws
|VVS1, VVS2||Very Very Slightly Included: Very difficult to see inclusions with 10x magnification.|
|VS1, VS2||Very Slightly Included: Inclusions are not typically visible to the unaided eye.|
|SI1, SI2||Slightly Included: Inclusions are visible under 10x magnification and may be visible with the unaided eye.|
|I1, I2, I3||Included: Inclusions are visible with the unaided eye.|
Carat weight indicates the size of the diamond. One carat weighs 0.2 grams, or 1/142 of an ounce. Jewelers, however refer to stones using points: 100 points equal 1 carat; 50 points equal a half-carat; 25 points equals a quarter carat and so on.
Cut is perhaps the most important of the 4C’s because a quality cut is what helps to unleash a diamond’s fiery sparkle. A well cut diamond, regardless of shape, releases the fire and brilliance of a diamond through the proportion of its 58 facets ( tiny planes that create angles), allowing the maximum amount of light to be reflected through the diamond. In order to maximize this fire and brilliance, a diamond cutter must place each of the stone’s facets and angles, which act as light dispersing mirrors, in exact geometric relation to one another. Diamonds that are not cut to proper proportions (too deep or too shallow ) lose light that leaks through the side or bottom.
Cut is also quite different than shape. While cut is a technical quality, determined by the skill of the diamond cutter, the matter of shape is a personal choice. The round brilliant is often the most popular of all shapes, with the majority of brides receiving a round stone. Other popular traditional shapes include the princess cut, oval, emerald cut, radiant cut, marquise, pear, and heart shape.
Confidence – Our 5th C
The unspoken 5th C – Confidence in the person you are working with and the gemological report verifying your purchase. This may be the most important of all the C’s. Whoever you are working with should instill a feeling of trust and confidence in you. The gemological report should be valued in the marketplace (to protect your investment). We recommend the GIA or AGS laboratory grading reports whenever possible. The written reports should be verified for accuracy by a third party as soon as possible. Jewelers have sold the correct diamond but given the wrong gemological report (clerical error on part of seller). You should feel free to ask any and all questions you may have from the person you are buying from. If you do not trust the person with whom you are working, you should find another jeweler.
Natural or Synthetic? Is My Diamond a Diamond?
Today’s retail jeweler or Insurance Agent is faced with the challenge of protecting both his business and customers from the misidentification of synthetic diamonds.
In today’s mainstream retail market we have 2 different types of synthetic diamond that need to be identified. Both are of high quality and have made it into the jewelry store. Do you want a Natural diamond or a Synthetic diamond?
High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)
HPHT synthetic diamonds have observable characteristics that should raise suspicion of a trained gemologist. Because of their growth environment, HPHT synthetics will usually have inclusions unlike anything seen in a natural diamond visible at a 10X magnification. Observing any highly unusual inclusions should be a strong indicator that further testing is needed. HPHT diamonds commonly show characteristic strain patterns under polarized light not seen in natural diamonds as well as relatively consistent colors and strengths of fluorescence when subjected to different types of UV radiation that are atypical of natural diamonds.
Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
With CVD synthetics, characteristic strain patterns can also be observed in polarized light that are very different from those seen in natural diamonds. Additionally, CVD stones will usually exhibit an unusual fluorescence when exposed to UV light. This particular type of fluorescence, though not unheard of in natural diamonds, should raise sufficient suspicions to establish the need for further testing. CVD synthetics are often free from inclusions at 10X magnification. It is rare for a natural diamond to be inclusion-free. Based on laboratory testing, many CVD synthetics exhibit clouds of white particles along a single plane visible at extremely high magnification. This type of planar inclusion would be very unusual in a natural diamond. Common sense tells us that if we find any of the described indicators in a stone, further testing should be done.
Pearl Evaluation and Care
Pearls are classified by origin, then graded by…
- Lustre: Intensity of light reflected from pearl’s surface
- Surface clarity: Blemishes usually confined to the surface of the pearl
- Shape: Round, near Round, Oval, Button, Semi-baroque, Baroque
- Color: Ranges from white through various tints to black
- Size: Measured in millimeters
- Nacre thickness: Noted if the nucleus is visible or a dull, chalky surface
- Matching: uniformity of appearance in strands and multi-pearl pieces
These qualities are not considered equal. Some factors will be weighted to give them more influence in arriving at a final grade. A very thin nacre thickness, for example, could never yield a fine quality pearl.
Grading is relative to the best attainable quality for the type. For example, South Sea pearls, which grow in warmer water for longer periods of time, generally have a lower luster and more tiny blemishes than Japanese Akoya pearls that grow in colder water and for shorter periods of time. South Sea pearls are graded against each other, not by what would be expected for a similar quality Akoya pearl.
For cultured pearl experts, lustre is perhaps the most important indicator in evaluating cultured pearl quality. Lustre is what separates the inferior pearl from the superior and the ordinary from the extraordinary. Lustre is what many experts term the heart and soul of the sea-grown gem. Throughout history, this unique lustre has separated pearls from all other gems.
Surface quality refers specifically to the abundance or absence of physical blemishes or flaws. When evaluating surface (the trade uses such terms as blemish, spotting and cleanliness), remember that cultured pearls are grown by live oysters in nature. As such, there are many uncontrollable forces that affect the surface.
Shapes range in descending order of value from round to semi-round, from off-round to oval and from drop to baroque. It’s important to understand that in pearl industry lingo, generally the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or free-form. The aforementioned shapes usually occur in Japanese akoya cultured pearls as well as Tahitian, South Sea and freshwater pearls.
Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors from rosé to black. While the color of a pearl is really a matter of the wearer’s preference, usually rosé or silver/white pearls tend to look best on fair skins while cream and gold toned pearls are flattering to darker complexions.
Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter in the case of tiny seed pearls, or as large as twenty millimeters for a big South Sea pearl. The larger the pearl, other factors being equal, the more valuable it will be.
The Best Way to Care For Your Cultured Pearls
Treat them with care:
- They should be the last thing you put on and the first you take off
- Never store pearls with metal jewelry
- Store pearls separately (They can be scratched)
- Keep them in a chamois bag
- Store in a fabric-lined jewelry box
Don’t Expose Pearls to:
- hair sprays
- chemical cleaners (ammonia & bleach)
- ultrasonic cleaning machines
- Dip your pearls in water or wear them while bathing, as water can weaken the string
- Pearls should not be placed in an airtight container. They need to breathe or they will lose their natural moisture and crack.
Should any of these contaminants come in contact with your pearls they can eat away at the nacre of the pearl. Have them professionally cleaned as soon as possible.
- Bring your pearls for inspection and restringing once a year
- Have your pearls strung with a knot between each pearl
- If they are stored in a safe, place a container of water in the safe to keep the compartment humid.
How do I tell genuine pearls from imitation?
With the “tooth test” simply pass the pearls along the edges of your teeth, genuine cultured pearls will have a gritty feeling, imitations will be smooth.
Are “cultured” pearls real? Are they different from natural?
Cultured pearls are genuine as they are grown inside living mollusks in oceans and lakes, the same as natural pearls. The difference with cultured pearls is man assists the act of nature with the insertion of a bead and /or mollusk tissue referred to as “nucleation” which causes the mollusk to secrete nacre, the wondrous substance that creates a pearl.
How can you tell good quality from poor quality pearls?
Good quality pearls will have a glow and appear smooth whereas poor quality will have a dull appearance and have blemishes.
Do all cultured pearls come from the same location?
No, different varieties come from varied locations such as Japan, China, Tahiti, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Do cultured pearls come in different shapes and colors?
Yes, there is virtually a rainbow of colors available and numerous shapes such as baroque, pear, drop, ringed, keshi and round of course. There is a pearl in a color and shape for everyone.