Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Retailer’s Perspective: Facts and fictions...

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these so I thought I’d bring up one of my favorite topics... the wrong things people say about jewelry.
Diamonds can’t break because they’re so hard.
Wrong! Ask any jeweler who’s broken one - they’ll tell you different. Here’s the real story. There is a difference between Hardness and Toughness. Hardness is a stone’s resistance to scratching or abrasion. A diamond is the hardest natural material on the planet. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. On the other hand, Toughness is a stones resistance to breakage or cleavage. A diamond, because it is so hard, has a relatively poor toughness. You can bump a diamond (hardness 10) into the corner of a glass showcase just right (hardness 6) and break it clean in two. Let a pair of pliers slip just right while you’re setting a diamond and you’ll break a chunk off before you can say Uh oh! And for the record, every diamond substitute to date will scratch glass.
Now that brings up a touchy subject that I’d like everyone’s opinion on. If a professional in the jewelry industry (who knows full well that diamonds CAN BREAK) sells a diamond and then has a bench jeweler set it... and the diamond breaks in the process, who’s responsible? Now let’s assume the bench jeweler was not being careless, and didn’t do anything wrong and the diamond just breaks. If a store owner knows it can happen, the bench jeweler knows it can happen, and it happens, who pays? I’ve got my opinion, what’s yours? Write me or go to our FaceBook page ‘Fans of Southern Jewelry News’ and give us your opinion. I’m curious what everyone will say.
Platinum prongs are better than gold.
Wrong again. Platinum is a very poor choice for setting a diamond that is suspended up in prongs (like in a Tiffany style engagement ring). Here’s why. Platinum is a very malleable metal that has no memory. What that means is it will bend easily and not spring back into it’s original location. It’s very difficult to keep large diamonds tight in their settings. With white gold, if you hit your diamond and ‘flex’ your prongs, most of the time everything will bounce right back into place. With platinum, if you bump your diamond and bend your prong (which is very common), it will not spring back in place. It will stay right where it was bent. Do this about 6 or 7 times over the course of a year and you lose your diamond. In my 30+ years of working with and setting diamonds in platinum and gold, I prefer gold. Now if you are bead, pave’, or gypsy setting diamonds into a band I’m all about the platinum. But if you’re using a tall 4 or 6 prong setting, I’ll always opt for gold.
Genuine vs. Synthetic vs. Imitation
Here’s the differences between the three.
Genuine: fairly self explanatory. The crystal was grown in the ground over the course of millions of years before being dug up by humans, then cut and faceted into a gemstone. A genuine gemstone can be treated, heated, irradiated, color enhanced (or any number of technological advancements), and still be a genuine gemstone. The only thing is, you have to disclose any treatments that you are aware of when you sell it. A stone can be modified and still be genuine.
Synthetic: This is the one most people miss. By definition, a synthetic gemstone must match it’s natural counterpart chemically, physically, and optically, within narrow limits. The most important part of that definition is ‘natural counterpart’. In order for a gemstone to be a synthetic, there HAS to be a genuine counterpart. For example; A natural ruby is crystallized aluminum oxide AL2 O3. A synthetic ruby is crystallized aluminum oxide AL2 O3. A genuine ruby is 9 on the hardness scale. A synthetic ruby is 9 on the hardness scale. A genuine ruby has a specific gravity of 4.00. A synthetic ruby has a specific gravity of 4.00.
About the only difference between the two is a genuine ruby crystal was grown deep inside the earth over the course of a million years and a synthetic ruby crystal was grown deep inside a laboratory over the course of a million seconds... but the end product is basically the same... except for the money.
Imitation: basically any material that is meant to look like something else. Red glass that is faceted into the shape of a gemstone is an imitation ruby because it has virtually none of the same characteristics of a ruby. A cubic zirconia is an imitation diamond because cubic zirconia does not occur in nature. Although, I hear there is now a process to turn a deceased loved one into a synthetic diamond (pure crystallized carbon) but I don’t know how true that is. So, riddle me this Batman: What would you call a synthetic white sapphire that is in a ladies platinum engagement ring with tall prongs?