The quality of the cut diamond is widely considered the most important aspect in determining the beauty of a diamond. It is commonly admitted that a well-cut diamond may appear to be of greater carat weight, and have clarity and color of a greater grade than they actually have. The skill with which a diamond is cut by the diamond cutter determines its ability to reflect and refract light thus exhibiting superior value.
The Cut is Tough to Judge
Besides carrying the most importance to a diamond’s quality as a gemstone, the cut of the diamond is also the most difficult to judge. Many factors — including proportion, polish, beauty and balance as well as the relative angles of various facets — are determined by the quality of the cut and can affect the performance of a diamond. A diamond with the 57 facets cut only a few degrees out of alignment can result in a poorly performing stone such as looking dull or off-color.
A round cut diamond with too much fire may appear as a cubic zirconium which gives off much more fire than a true diamond. An inferior cut diamond will appear dark in the center and in some cases there may be shadows when viewed from the table. The quality of the cut diamond brings forth different theories on the “ideal” proportions of a diamond and continue to be advocated by various owners of patents on machines to view how well a diamond is cut.
The science and skill required to shape a rough diamond into a beautiful polished gemstone is an art in itself. The choice of cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough stone, location of the inclusions and flaws to be eliminated, the preservation of the weight, popularity of certain shapes amongst consumers and many other considerations. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Odd-shaped crystals more than likely will be cut as fancy diamonds.
The quality of the cut diamond generally results in over 50% of the original weight being lost during the cutting and polishing process. Since such a premium price is awarded to the 1.00-carat stone the consumer would be well advised to consider buying a 1.10-carat or a 0.99-carat perfectly cut diamond rather than what could turn out to be an inferior cut 1.00-carat diamond.
Many Factors to Consider
The term light performance is used in the gem trade to describe the amount of light that will return to the viewer from within the diamond. There are three light properties which are taken into consideration in relation to light performance: brilliance, fire, and scintillation. Brilliance refers to the white light reflected from within the stone. Fire refers to the spectral colors as the diamond disperses the white light and scintillation refers to the small flashes of light from within the stone as the diamond is turned. All of course affect the quality of the cut diamond.
Most people do not have any idea what gold-filled jewelry is yet we all spend our hard-earned dollars on gifts for our loved ones not knowing whether the gift item we purchased is gold-plated, solid gold or plastic-covered with gold plating. With so many different scams on the go, perhaps it would be wise to take a refresher course in gold-filled jewelry: five things you may not know.
When gold is taken from the earth and separated from impurities by smelting in the furnace, it is very soft, pure gold called 24 karat. Miners of placer gold found in rivers and creeks are able to tell how far from the source the nuggets have traveled from the mother lode by the absence of sharp edges. As the nuggets bump along the creek bed the sharp edges are rounded off.
Solid gold 24k is never used to make jewelry. The gold must be blended with other minerals such as copper, nickel, silver or platinum to create durability. Without these hardeners, the items would wear down very quickly.
Another gold standard referred to as solid gold may be 18k or 14k. This means that the 18k gold consists of 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals; likewise for 14k. 10k gold products are simply called 10 karat gold, consisting of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals.
Gold-filled products are created from a plate of 10k, 14k or 18k gold being fused to another plate of precious metal such as copper, brass, silver or platinum. It may be in the shape of a tube with the inside consisting of the other metals and the outside, gold. The other metals help to harden the gold and should last for 20 to 30 years or more before it shows signs of wearing through.
Gold-plated products of different qualities may be manufactured by way of electroplating. This is done by attaching the pieces to be plated to one side of a battery and attaching the other side of the battery to a piece of gold and immersing both into an acid bath. This allows the gold from the anode to transfer to the goods to be plated. In the United States, the quality of gold-filled jewelry is defined by the Federal Trade Commission. If the gold layer is 10k, the minimum weight of the gold-plated layer on an item stamped GF must equal at least 1/10th of the total weight of the item. If the item is stamped GF with 12k or more, it must contain at least 1/20th of the total weight of the item.
So what then do we call an article that is stamped 10k or 14k? It is not gold-filled nor is it gold-plated. This is where things get confusing, 10k gold is made up of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal. The item is 10k gold all the way through. To make matters more confusing, 14k gold is sometimes referred to as solid gold.
Next time you visit your jeweler, try to remember some of these points so that you may make the right choice of that gold gift.
How is Gold Found?
Prospectors search for gold by traveling along streams and panning for gold at every little bend where sand and gravel pile up. They partially fill the pan with material and water and wash the gravel by swishing the pan back and forth and slowly allowing the large stones to fall away. As these stones are removed the pieces of gold, which are much heavier than the sand, will gather at the bottom of the pan. If there is no gold to be seen the prospector will move along. If he spots a few tiny flakes of gold, called colors, he may decide to work the area for more.
A rocker, also called a “cradle” or a “dolly”, is used when water is in short supply or when the depth of the stream or creek is too shallow to use a sluice box. The principle of the rocker is simple: As the cradle is rocked, water washes the finer material through the bottom of the hopper and gold collects on ridges or riffles. Rockers were used extensively for placer mining. With one man to load soil and water and a second to rock it, the rocker could process about 200 buckets per day.
The Sluice Box
The sluice box is a long, open wooden trough and when it was introduced it became very popular. The sluice is narrow and low at one end. Dirt and gravel is placed at the top and washed down the length of the sluice by a constant stream of water, usually from a flume. Gold would be caught either by “riffles” (ridges on the bottom of the sluice box) or by a false bottom with holes in it. Mud and the larger chunks of rock would wash out the lower end leaving the gold behind.
This was the method used back in the 1850s.
These old-timers would leave civilization and head for the hills, spending many months on the streams usually with very little to eat. If their search proved successful, they would need to travel to the nearest gold commissioner’s office where they would file a claim for the rights to dig for gold. They would be given tags to be put on the markers to be placed in the corners of their claims. Once the task was completed, they would get to work.
Over millions of years the gold erodes from the rock and quartz bit by bit. As it is heavy it washes out of the gravel and settles down to bedrock. Since bedrock is solid, the gold cannot go down any further so that is where it remains to be found sometime in the future. As the streams and rivers are continually moving back and forth across the valley floors, new flakes and nuggets are moved with the action of the water and glaciers along with the sand and gravel. Prospectors know this and will search for high banks where once upon a time the water flowed. Some of the gold will generally remain in the deposits of these banks.
The prospectors will be searching for what were old stream beds that have gone dry. Although panning for gold appears to be a long forgotten system it is still the best tool for prospecting for gold in the right hands.
Once a claim is set up, the hard work begins.
Way back when, the miner would begin to dig and either sluice or rocker the gravel he excavated. Today the owner will probably get some backers with the money and set up large sluice machines that are capable of sluicing many tons of gravel per day. The sluice will be fed by a large backhoe or loader that may be assisted by use of a bulldozer. The water supply will be pumped to the sluice and a series of riffles and metal mats will capture the gold as the water washes away the sand and gravel.
This method is employed to carry out placer mining. This method will be used to dig down until the bedrock is uncovered.
Generally the cleanup will be done every 20 or 30 hours of sluicing. The sluice machine will be shut down and the mats and riffles will be shoveled by hand into buckets or tubs. Every little speck must be captured. The gold will be taken to the refinery where it will be melted down and poured into a mold.
Some mining companies employ prospectors to tour the country on the lookout for promising mining sites. When something promising is located, a drill team will be sent in to do some diamond drilling. Cross-section cores will be examined by company geologists to determine the gold content of the site. When the gold content looks promising, plans may be drawn up to make the decision to set up a mine or not.
Not too long ago, argentium silver jewelry was not available to the public possibly because no one was producing it. Most people didn’t know the difference between fine sterling and argentium sterling. Chemists created argentium silver 935 by removing some of the copper from sterling silver and replacing it with a small amount of a metalloid called germanium.
There is not a clear definition of a metalloid nor is there a complete agreement on the elements appropriately classified as either a metal or a nonmetal. Germanium is a metalloid and is the additive to sterling silver.
Thanks to These Two
In 1990, two chemists at Middlesex University began to work with germanium and sterling silver. They discovered that when they replaced some of the copper with germanium, there was high resistance to tarnish and firescale was eliminated. One other benefit was that the product was much harder. Firescale is a layer of oxides that forms on the metal when heated while soldering and can be eliminated only by polishing or electroplating.
Easy to Work
Price-wise, argentium is not much more expensive than sterling silver. Argentium has high ductility — a solid material’s ability to be worked. Tensile stress is quite often denoted by the argentium material’s ability to be stretched into wire. Malleability, a similar property, is a material’s ability to be deformed under stress — often characterized by the material’s ability to be formed into a thin sheet by hammering or rolling. Both of these mechanical properties are aspects of plasticity, allowing for stretching into many shapes and thicknesses.
Plasticity, malleability, firescale and ductility properties significantly affect the traditional methods of working silver. For instance, the absence of firescale eliminates tedious, time-consuming steps required by the metal worker using traditional sterling silver. It also eliminates the need for electroplating the final product which is often done on manufactured items because of the problems introduced by firescale. Tarnish resistance is of significant importance to both silver workers and the wearer of silver jewelry.
A Craftsman/Woman Emerges
A few years ago one of our daughters Purchased a few beads while visiting a bead store and a very quick time began a nice little jewelry business selling bracelets, earrings and pendants to her friends and neighbors. She put in many long hours learning to create beautiful pieces with intricate wire works.
In time she found Argentium Silver that totally eliminated the tarnish problem. It was a great relief to not have her creations turn black while the jewelry pieces are sitting in a person’s jewelry case. Some of their creations may be seen here.
By electroplating silver, it is possible to eliminate the tarnishing problem created when chemists add other metals to pure silver to increase the durability of the sterling silver item. In order for the item to be protected from tarnish, the chemist will carry out a procedure called electroplating. Here is how it is carried out.
Why not simply put the silver item to use without electroplating the silver in the first place if the other metals create the problem? Silver that has been refined to 99.99% will retain the warm, silvery luster and will not tarnish. The problem is that it is one of the softest of the precious metals and will easily wear. To eliminate the problem, some hardening metals must be added during the smelting process.
Tarnish is caused by a thin layer of corrosion that can occur over copper, silver, brass, magnesium and aluminum as well as many other metals due to a chemical reaction. Silver needs hydrogen sulfide to create tarnish.
Frequently, electroplating sterling silver with a thin layer of rhodium is done to allow a piece of jewelry to remain tarnish free.
Before the plating can begin, the part to be plated must be thoroughly cleaned.
The part to be plated is called the cathode of the circuit. The second part of the circuit is the anode which consists of a pure piece of rhodium. The anode and cathode are placed into the electrolyte into which some metal salts have been added. A battery power supply is set up and the anode is connected to the positive side of the battery and the cathode is attached to the negative side. Both leads are immersed into the electrolyte. Once the power is flowing, the rhodium will begin to flow across to the silver. In a short time, the task is complete.
Rhodium is one of the platinum family of metals and gives a bright and shiny surface to the plated object. It is one of the hardest metals known to man. It is also the highest priced metals. Eighty percent of the world’s production is used to make automobile catalytic heaters. It is highly non-corrosive. In some cases, it is applied to white gold jewelry to make the metal even brighter.
When searching for information on engagement rings, the carat weight of a diamond will be an important category of the 4 Cs that determine the value of the gemstone. Carat weight is probably the least understood of the 4 Cs. Before someone sets out to purchase an engagement ring, it is wise to know what is meant by diamond carat weight – is size everything?
Karat is a unit of purity for gold alloys, rather than weight of the gold. The word “karat” is from the carob seed, which was used to balance scales to measure the weight of gold in ancient Asian trading emporiums. Many years ago, it was discovered that the tiny carob seeds were always identical in weight. Solid gold, as it came out of the earth, was classed as 24 karat. As gold is a very soft metal, it was prone to wear down when used in jewelry making. Craftsmen would make an alloy of gold and copper or other metals by blending in a percentage of pure gold to make the gold harder. Thus, 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals would be classified as 10 karat and 14-karat gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals.
Now For The Carat
A carat is a unit of weight for diamonds and gemstones and is equal in weight to 200 milligrams. Each portion of the 200 milligrams is known in the trade as a point. A ½-carat gemstone will weigh 100 points and a ¼ carat would weigh 50 points, etc.
Grading diamonds is a task for experts who must consider the carat weight and the other 3 Cs — color, cut and clarity. A diamond set into an engagement ring will be tested for color by a gemologist who will grade the stone and classify it on an international scale.
Most diamonds contain some inner flaws or imperfections called inclusions, that occur during the formation process deep within the earth. The visibility, number and size of these inclusions determine the clarity of the diamond. Diamonds that are clear will create more brilliance, are generally more treasured and pricier.
The cut of the diamond is very important in the grading process. Each of the 56 facets shaping the diamond must be cut to the exact angle to allow light to pass through into the diamond and reflect out again to bring out the perfect color and clarity. The skill to carry out this important process will take at least 15 years to master.
When you are considering the purchase of an engagement ring, the carat weight of a diamond, along with these other 3 Cs, will guide you to a successful purchase.
Mention engagement rings and the first thing that comes to mind is probably diamonds and gold rings. You may be surprised that other common metals used in engagement rings may be a little less traditional.
Centuries Old Tradition
Engagement rings have been with us for many centuries. The earliest engagement rings were made of iron and considered a symbol of love. The early Egyptians wore rings of gold and today rings may be made of gold, platinum, silver, nickel and titanium.
Diamonds were discovered in Africa in 1866.
During the next 5 years production increased to more than 1 million carats per year. However, diamond rings were for a long time seen as the domain of the nobility and aristocracy, and tradition often gave way to simpler engagement rings. De Beers created the slogan “Diamonds Are Forever” in 1930 and after a shaky few years and a world depression the rest is history.
The greater majority of engagement rings are made of yellow and white gold with diamonds being the main stone. Many rings will have a 14k yellow back or shank and the top will be 18k white gold. To make yellow gold harder a small fraction of nickel will be added. This will allow the top part of the mount to hold the diamonds solidly in place.
Thank You Grandma
Some people will elect to wear a ring that has been passed down through the family as an engagement ring from grandmother to mother to daughter. They may have other stones rather than diamonds. Many of these rings will be classed as antiques and will have what are called MINE CUT diamonds. These diamonds were from a day many years ago when the practice was to cut the diamonds with an eye out for salvaging as much of the diamond as possible. Today the diamonds are cut with the exact dimensions thus creating the brilliance of the stone rather than the most salvageable weight. Notice the heavy size of the table on this diamond.
Although sterling silver or argentium is soft, many artisans are asked to make special designs for engagement rings from this metal. Seldom will these rings incorporate gemstones.
Titanium is another white metal used to make mountings. It is a hard metal and maintains a good shine. White metal is used in diamond rings because the diamond will reflect the facets of the diamonds. If the mounting is entirely made of yellow gold the diamond will appear yellow.
Platinum is another white metal used in some mountings. It is more expensive but it maintains a nice warm shine better than most other metals.
Although diamonds are the dominant gem used in engagement rings, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, as well as colored diamonds find their way to the jewelers show-cases.
Diamonds are the hardest substance known to mankind and man has been able to capture their beauty for us to enjoy. From a small lump of rock in the hands of the diamond cutter, an expert will peel away bits and pieces that are not required and bring forth a perfectly cut and polished gemstone. When we speak of diamonds, here are four facts you should know about these mysterious elements.
Diamonds grow as crystals deep within the earth where the temperature and pressure combine creating the perfect conditions for growth of the future gemstone. These conditions must be present in the area of a volcano — the center is called a pipe. Most natural diamonds are formed at very high temperatures and pressures at depths of 130 to 200 kilometers in the earth’s mantle. Over a period of millions of years, the rock bearing the diamond will gradually move up towards the surface. Open-pit miners dig down deep to extract those rocks and, with the aid of huge crushers, the diamonds are then released. Once they are graded and sorted many times, those of gem quality are turned over to the diamond cutters. Finally, the jewelers will place the diamonds into their new home of the engagement ring and other settings for the public to purchase. Now, here is another of the four facts you should know.
Diamonds are the hardest mineral — only a diamond will cut a diamond. Most diamonds are used as abrasives. Cutting and polishing extremely hard minerals and metals is a major undertaking and would be almost impossible if it were not for diamonds. Some diamonds are crushed to a fine powder and impregnated within grinding wheels. Diamond saws are used to cut and polish the hard, granite slabs from which countertops are produced. Tungsten carbide is no match for the diamond grinding tool.
Another diamond fact you should know is that drills that are used to dig down deep within the earth have a drill head encrusted with diamonds. These are called industrial diamonds and are not of the rare gem quality. Nevertheless, they are still extremely hard and will grind through miles of solid rock to reach the oil or gas.
Of these four facts you should know about diamonds, the most interesting is the diamond knife. These knives are produced by selecting a very high-quality diamond and shaping it to resemble a knife blade such as a scalpel. The tool was invented by Humberto Moran in 1955 and costs thousands of dollars. In 1950, scientists figured out that glass knives could be used in delicate eye surgery, especially in radial keratotomy, a surgical procedure to correct myopia. Later, it was discovered that while glass knives could cut some ultra-thin sections, diamond knives could cut thousands without losing the edge. In 1974, a doctor Fyodorov removed some glass from the eye of a boy who had been in an accident. His glasses had smashed and pieces had lodged in his eyes. The doctor cut some radial lines into his cornea emanating outward from the center and after healing, the boy’s eyesight was better than ever.
Now you know four new facts about diamonds — from gemstones to abrasives to diamond knives to repairing damage to a young boy’s eyes.