· FAQ - Common Questions
A collection of jewellery related questions and answers...

Why are diamonds being quoted in dollars?
-Diamonds are an internationally traded commodity similar to oil and gold, and as a result are priced in dollars. This doesn’t mean that only Americans buy diamonds, or that the price of diamonds is exactly the same around the world.

Why is my white gold ring changing colour?

- White gold is actually yellow gold that has been alloyed with different metals to make it whiter. 18k (18ct carat) gold is made up of 18 parts out of 24 parts gold. (24 carat being pure gold). The other 25% of the mixture is used to colour the metal or give it specific working properties. White gold is white, but with a hint of greyish yellow. Platinum on the other hand is purely white. White gold is plated with a white metal called rhodium (basically platinum), which makes a white gold and a platinum ring look identical at point-of-sale. But, the plating does rub away with wear. Depending on how rough the wearer is on the ring it normally takes 6 months to 18 months to be very noticeable. Some people don’t mind, but it definitely makes the ring look better and the diamond sparkle more when the ring is polished and rhodium plated. Platinum doesn’t have this problem.

How do I keep my jewellery clean?
-To keep jewellery looking like new is impossible if you plan on wearing it. You have to realise that the dulling of the jewellery is divided into different reasons and each reason has a different remedy
a)The metal scratches- You can use a polishing cloth with a small amount of success. The only real remedy is to have the ring professionally polished at a jeweller. Bear in mind that each time you polish a jewellery item a tiny layer of metal is removed. I would say that in normal conditions it isn’t necessary to polish an item more often than once a year.
b)The stone becomes duller with wear- This is the result of natural oils and hand-creams coating the back of the stone. All stones are influenced, especially paler coloured stones. Diamonds are least affected. Use an old tooth brush and diluted dishwashing liquid with luke-warm water. Make sure the plug is in the sink!
c)The metal discolours- This depends on the metal. If it is a white gold item then refer to the previous point regarding rhodium plating. If it is 9ct gold you have to realise that pure gold is chemically inert, but there is only 37.5% pure gold in 9ct. The atmosphere and specifically mineral rich liquids or household chemicals can react with the other metals in the alloy resulting in tarnishing. Silver naturally oxidises to form a black or brown layer on the surface of the silver. With both the 9ct and the silver problem you can either use a jewellery polishing cloth if the tarnishing is on the surface or you can use a jewellery cleaning liquid if the tarnish is in recessed areas. Make sure you read the directions on the liquid, most only require a few seconds of liquid and then rinsing with water. Using a brush with the cleaning liquid often helps.

What is the difference between carats in diamonds and in gold?
-Carats in diamonds refers to a weight measurement. It was based on the carob seed which has a very regular weight. The unit of carats to measure stones was officially introduced in 1907. There are 5 carats in 1 gram. i.e. 1ct = 0.2g. Confusingly gold is also referred to in carats. Americans us the ‘ct’ as a weight measurement and ‘k’ to indicate carats as a ratio in an alloy. In South Africa we generally use ‘ct’ to indicate both weight and a ratio of alloy. The typical ratios of gold used in South Africa are 9ct, 14ct and 18ct. 24ct is pure gold. When you refer to 9ct you refer to a ratio of 9/24ths (a minimum of 9 parts out of 24) are gold in the alloy. 9 divided by 24 as a percentage is 37.5%, which is the amount of gold in the mixture. Gold jewellery is hallmarked to show the amount of gold in the mixture. Either the carat or the amount of gold over 1000 is used as the hallmark. 9ct= 375, 14ct= 585, 18ct= 750.

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· Choosing an Engagement Ring
This can be a really intimidating event for most guys. Not only do you have to delve into an expensive world...

This can be a really intimidating event for most guys. Not only do you have to delve into an expensive world that you have previously had no interest in before, but your purchase is linked to THE QUESTION and you want to make sure you choose the perfect ring.

This section is set out to try fill you in on any jewellery info you feel you are lacking and give you a plan of action for making that decision a little easier.

First thing to realize is that every guy who finds himself in this situation feels a little unprepared.  You are not alone!

Some guys aren’t worried about keeping the whole thing a secret.  If you are one of those folks then the remainder of this section isn’t of much relevance to you. In my experience I would say that even if you are going the ‘full disclosure’ route try and add a small element of surprise. Every girl is a sucker for surprise. Ask the jeweller to fib about when the ring will be ready and surprise her a few days early. Or don’t let her know all the details about the design/ stone you are going to choose etc.

All the closet romantics can read on.

The first thing I always recommend my clients to resolve is,

1) What colour metal would she like?

To answer this all you have to do is look at most items of jewellery that she currently wears.  Currently the most common choice is white metals, i.e. white gold and platinum (my recommendation for engagement rings, check out the section on metals for more info).

If she has yellow gold rings/ pendants/ earrings in her collection. Ask her leading questions like, “why don’t you wear those earrings your aunt gave you?”

Be aware of jewellery she looks at in magazines or in shop windows. All you have to do is be slightly aware. She doesn’t need to know your new interest in jewellery is linked to a possible engagement ring. In fact, you can gauge most of your detective work on other items of jewellery. If she likes white metal for earrings/ pendants it’s generally a safe bet she will have the same thoughts about a prospective engagement ring.

While you are peering over her shoulder figuring out what metal colour she’s after, start looking into question 2,

2) What style does she like.

Again, this information could generally come from her interest in other items like earrings and pendants. But definitely worth paying a little more attention to what rings she wears most often or has bought for herself.  Ring preference can be a little different to the rest of her collection. Especially engagement rings, where often girls tend towards something a little more classical.

I would classify the styles broadly into:

2.a.) Classical (generally set with claws)

http://jewelhelper.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/princess-with-fleur-gallery-b1.jpg?w=300&h=280

2.b.) Modern (generally clean lines)

2.c.) Antique (a more extreme version of Classical)

http://jewelhelper.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/antique-style-broad-ring2.jpg?w=200&h=200

2.d.) Arty (the broadest and most difficult category to guess on)

2.e.) Broad (big and bold)

http://jewelhelper.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/princess-with-channel-of-princesses-in-broad-band2.jpg?w=284&h=260

3) Diamond or no diamond

Just raise the topic of diamonds and you’ll be sure to know the answer to this question pretty quickly.

I am a huge fan of the magic of coloured stones and generally come from a greener, more ethical background. I still recommend diamonds highly for the purpose of an engagement ring.

Women get attached to their engagement rings. Even if they decide to remodel them in the future (an act of boredom and changing styles, not an act against your initial choice) the stone will be reused and become the symbol of the initial engagement ring.

Sapphires (blue) and Rubies (red) are the next hardest stones and I would say that after being worn for 20 years the stone will already looked scuffed and scratched, whereas a diamond remains the same. Having said that, be warned that diamonds aren’t indestructible. They chip and can even shatter, but this is a very rare thing that happens as a result of a very hard blow. Most diamonds are passed down from family member to family member over many generations.

Another advantage of diamonds over other stones is that they are white and as a result colour-neutral. When choosing a coloured stone be aware that it is easier to tire of a colour. Also some ladies feel obliged to match all jewellery and dress colour, if this is the case she must have a huge affinity for that colour.

A third positive for diamonds is that most coloured stones, and specifically the lighter coloured stones like aquamarine and even a darker stone like tanzanite, generally looks quite dull when the stone is a little dirty. Hand-cream and natural oils always coat the bottom of the stone and diamonds seem to sparkle regardless.

4) She will be happy with whatever you get her.

Although this statement isn’t true for every girl in the world, chances are, if you have bothered to get information on this important decision, you have already passed the most important test of actually trying to make this event special. There will always be the girl who is ridiculously intent on exactly what ring she wants. Luckily that girl would have probably already told you exactly what she wants, probably twice a week. For the rest of us, the ring will be linked to a memory of one of the most important moments in your relationship and as a result she will invariably love it!

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· Choosing A Diamond
Price is influenced heavily by both size and quality. Many people don’t realise the extent that quality has in ...

Price is influenced heavily by both size and quality. Many people don’t realise the extent that quality has in influencing the price. A top quality stone is about 4 times the price of a stone that is on the last grades before either colour or clarity (cleanness) are noticeable to the layman. Price also goes up dramatically as the weight (carat) of the stone goes up. It is a lot harder to find one large stone than many small stones. For example a 1ct diamond is a lot more expensive than two half carat diamonds. Up to 3 times more expensive!

Below is a brief outline of the concepts of the 4Cs. (Carat, Cut, Colour, Clarity)

CARAT
Caratage is a weight measurement. 0.2grams= 1.00 carat= 100points. So if someone refers to a half carat stone they could also use the term a 50 pointer, written as 0.50ct.

CUT
Cut refers to the shape of the stone when viewed from above as well as the angles that the diamond cutter has used when the stone is viewed from the side. These angles influence the sparkle of the diamond. Instead of using the word sparkle, people often incorrectly use the word brilliant to describe sparkle. The word brilliant is reserved for a specific type of cut, for example most round diamonds are Round Brilliant Cut Diamonds. This describes that the shape of the stone is round and it is cut in a brilliant style. Brilliance is the percentage of light that is refracted back to the eye. The specific angles of the diamond will be on the diamond certificate that you should get with the diamond (normally if the stone is larger than 0.30ct). A poorly cut stone can leave dead areas in the stone where instead of sparkle you get dark sections. Round diamonds are the most popular. Rounds and marquise-cuts are sold at a premium to other cuts.

COLOUR
Colour measures how white the diamond is and is graded on the alphabet starting at D. For ease of understanding I have tried to categorise diamonds into groups with easy descriptions. (D,E)- Exceptionally white/ collector’s item (F,G,H)- My favourite. Nice and white without being ridiculously expensive (I,J)- Commercial white, hard to fault the colour, especially when the diamond is being worn, but the stones in the previous category just sparkle a bit more (K,L,M)- The first grades where your average person can pick up hints of yellow when the diamond is being worn on the finger The colour progressively becomes yellower until it is regarded as a fancy yellow and is bought at a premium for its intense colour.

CLARITY
(Flawless & Internally Flawless (FL, IF))- Collector’s item. You need a microscope to see inclusions. (VVS1, VVS2)- Inclusions are still really small, extremely hard to find with a jeweller’s 20x loop magnifier. (VS1, VS2, SI1)- My favourite group. Relatively affordable and definitely still eye-clean. (SI2, SI3)- An in between category. Important to see the stone because technically you shouldn’t be able to see an inclusion with your naked-eye, but occasionally you can. (I1, I2, I3)- Inclusions visible with the naked eye.

My approach is that first priority is to keep the stone eye-clean. The first category that is eye-dirty is I1 (i.e. Inclusion 1). Anything cleaner than this you need a magnifying glass to pick up the inclusions. I actually regard SI2 as the first ‘good’ level of clarity. A SI3 and to a lesser extent a SI2 have to be scrutinized before purchase. Then I turn my attention to the colour. I regard colour as more important than clarity just as long as the stone is eye clean.

The quality of a diamond is determined by colour and clarity and cut. When you look at stones I’d recommend you look at a range of qualities and sizes to see how those aspects affect price. I’d normally quote in the F VS1 range and the J SI2 range at different sizes, which gives you a good idea of how quality and size influence the price. You ultimately have to make a value decision between size and quality within the budget that you have chosen.

DIAMOND CERTIFICATES
One last word on buying a diamond is to explain the concept of diamond certificates. It wouldn’t make sense for diamond dealers to grade their own diamonds as they have a vested interest. Independent, non-profit bodies exist whose sole purpose is to grade diamonds in a neutral manner. These bodies gain respect within the industry for their consistency and impartiality. The process of grading a diamond costs money and as a result only stones larger than 0.25ct are typically regarded as candidates for being graded.

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· Different Metals To Choose From
Typically a goldsmith works in gold, platinum and silver. Occasionally in brass, bronze or copper....

Typically a goldsmith works in gold, platinum and silver. Occasionally in brass, bronze or copper. A lot of new metals have come onto the jewellery scene recently. Mostly because the traditional metals have become more expensive. The newer metals are titanium, stainless steel and palladium. All white to grey in colour. Steel and titanium are machined. They are often bought as shapes and then lathed or machined to a shape that is desired. This is restrictive as only certain designs can be made in these metals.

The big negative in my mind with these two metals is that you can’t size a ring. Once it is made to that size that is it. Which in my mind limits these 2 metals to gents dress rings. Wedding rings normally carry an element of sentimentality and you don’t want to have to buy a new ring just because your finger size changes.

Palladium is also a new metal, but can be manufactured by traditional goldsmith methods. It does become brittle when being soldered, which makes working with palladium tricky. Very few goldsmiths work in palladium. There are still goldsmiths who prefer not to work in platinum. Platinum requires special treatment and higher temperatures. There is also a higher loss factor when working in platinum.

18ct gold is in my mind the nicest metal to work with, it is very responsive and forgiving when being worked.

Below is a list of the metals discussed above with hardest at the top progressing to the softest.

Hardness
Stainless Steel (6.5 Mohs hardness)
Titanium (6.0 Mohs hardenss)
Palladium (4.75 Mohs hardness)
Platinum (4.25 Mohs hardness)
9ct Gold 18ct Gold Sterling Silver Fine Gold (24ct) (2.5 Mohs hardness)
Fine Silver (2.5 Mohs hardness)

Below is a list of metals from most expensive to least expensive.

Cost
Platinum (white)
18ct white gold (off-white)
18ct yellow gold (yellow)
Palladium (white)
9ct white gold (off-white)
9ct yellow gold (yellow)
Titanium (grey to white)
Stainless Steel (white)
Sterling Silver (white)

White gold is actually yellow gold that has been alloyed with different metals to make it whiter. 18ct (18ct carat) gold is made up of 18 parts out of 24 parts gold. (24 carat being pure gold). The other 25% of the mixture is used to colour the metal or give it specific working properties.

The better quality white gold used in hand manufacture is normally a mixture something as the follows: A minimum of 75% gold Around 16% palladium The remaining 9% is silver.

So in short, white gold is white, but with a hint of greyish yellow. The better quality alloys (mixtures) are whiter. Platinum on the other hand is purely white.

White gold is plated with a white metal called rhodium (basically platinum), which makes a white gold and a platinum ring look identical at point-of-sale.

But, the plating does rub away with wear. Depending on how rough the wearer is on the ring it normally takes 6 months to 18 months to be very noticeable. Some people don’t mind, but it definitely makes the ring look better and the diamond sparkle more when the ring is polished and rhodium plated. Platinum doesn’t have this problem.

Platinum is also harder than white gold. But it isn’t indestructible. So don’t spend more on platinum thinking it will never scratch. It will scratch a little less and more importantly will hold the diamond more securely.

On the down side platinum rings are normally about 60% to 75% more expensive to make (excluding the price of the stones).

If the diamond is larger than 0.50ct it is worth considering making the ring in platinum.

The information in this website is meant to be informative and although all reasonable care has been taken to be accurate and factual, neither this company nor any of its employees may be held responsible for any discrepancies or losses that may incur as a result of information within this website.

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· How To Take A Finger Size
My belief is that you should really only take a finger size with a proper jewellers sizing set. The differences in sizes...

My belief is that you should really only take a finger size with a proper jewellers sizing set. The differences in sizes are tiny, but can make a big difference to comfort.

There are many printable paper options on the internet. I can imagine they would give a close approximate. But you can’t get an accurate measurement unless the ring is rigid.

If you do go to a jeweller to get your finger measured. The jeweller may want to get through the process quickly because they may be of the opinion you will be getting the ring elsewhere. Don’t let them rush you. My advice is to keep trying on smaller ring sizes until the ring is uncomfortable and then use the size larger than the uncomfortable size.

Many people try all kinds of devious techniques for getting their prospective fiancé’s finger size without them knowing. These methods are generally a waste of time because the measuring system is extremely accurate. The measurement is a combination of how well the ring goes over the knuckle as well as how well it sits at the back of the finger. Wrapping cotton thread around her finger while she sleeps is not accurate at all. One of the best approximates is to take a ring that she normally wears on the same finger or on other hand, but it is important to make sure it fits on the same finger of the other hand. Be aware of how loose the ring is on that finger. This ring can then be taken to a jeweller to measure. If you have an accurate vernier gauge then you could use the table below, although make certain that the ring is round and hasn’t been bent out of shape.

People who haven’t worn rings before normally choose a size that is way too loose, and then have to deal with a ring that is uncomfortably loose when they wear it long term. A loose ring is problematic in that it can slide off too easily and get lost. A loose ring can also be uncomfortable between the fingers when making a fist. Loose rings also turn on the finger which is an issue if the ring has a stone or feature that you want to face upwards.

As you get used to wearing a ring you learn tricks of how to get the ring off easily. If the ring is wider it is worth making the ring slightly larger. For instance a 5 to 7mm wide ring will have more purchase on your finger and as a result needs to be a half size larger (South African & UK measurement system). If the ring is around 10mm wide then a full size extra may be necessary.

It is also worth noting that people’s fingers do swell on hot days and after sleeping, flying or exercising. As a result there is normally some fluctuation in finger size between seasons. Different people’s fingers swell and shrink to different extremes.

Below is a table used to convert the different measurement systems used in the world. I’ve included inner diameter in mm to link the 3 main finger sizing systems used.

The information in this website is meant to be informative and although all reasonable care has been taken to be accurate and factual, neither this company nor any of its employees may be held responsible for any discrepancies or losses that may incur as a result of information within this website.

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· Gemstones
I have written this as a brief overview of some of the more common gemstones, intended to educate ....

I have written this as a brief overview of some of the more common gemstones, intended to educate a novice gemstone lover.

I find gems one of the most exciting parts of jewellery. The colour and sparkle has intrigued everyone from royalty to pauper since the beginning of civilisation. These objects have been prized not only for their beauty, but for their physical, symbolic and mythical properties.

Colour is the first thing that strikes the casual observer, but once you spend a little more time with the various stones in front of you, you start to realise that there are many other aspects that distinguish one stone type from another. The way the stone shines, reflects light or how some stones seem oilier and others crisper. Some stones have distinctive ways of playing with the light. Noticeable examples would be the cat’s-eye effect that stones like moonstone, star-sapphire, star-rubies and tigers-eye exhibit.

There aren’t many exhibitions in nature that can rival gemstones complete spectrum display of colours. 

To illustrate the hues of some of the most commonly seen gemstones, I have made a colour-wheel. Although using opaque ‘computer’ colours is a poor substitute for the vibrant real article.

Each type of stone has a large variation in hue, the colours I have chosen to represent each stone are the most commonly found colours.

Other stones that don’t fit into the above chart would include- Tigers Eye, Labradorite, Moonstone, Opal, Pearl and Rainbow Tourmaline. In the black range you find onyx, black agate, black tourmaline and black diamonds to name only a few.

Tiger's Eye

Labradorite

 

Rainbow Moonstone

Moonstone

White Opal

Black Opal

Rainbow Tourmaline

 

Onyx

Black Tourmaline

 

A few handy technical terms used to differentiate physical properties of one stone as compared to another.

When a ray of light meets the surface of a stone, some of the light is reflected back to the observer and some passes into the stone. Due to the different densities light will slow down and bend (refract) at a specific angle determined by the specific physical properties of that type of stone which is ultimately determined by the chemicals that typically make up that kind of stone. For example a peridot is a peridot because of it’s specific chemical composition. 

Lustre is the quantity and quality of light that is reflected back to the observer.  Reflecting is the mirror-like bending of light on the surface of a stone. A stone like diamond has a high lustre, whereas stones like jade or peridot can have a greasy lustre.

Brilliance is the percentage of light that refracts back to the observer. Refraction is the bending of light within a stone. Each type of stone has a specific angle of refraction due to it’s specific physical properties.

Scintillation is the flashing of light off of the facets. 

Facets are the flat planes used to polish or cut a natural stone. When you think of a diamond you are thinking of a facetted stone, which is comprised of lots of flat areas. A cabochon cut stone on the other hand is a simpler cut that has a flat bottom and the rest of the stone is shaped into a dome.

 
Cabochon Cut Moonstone 

 
Facetted Diamond

 

Generally speaking, the more intense the colour of a gemstone the more valuable it is. Although there is often a lot of personal preference when choosing a coloured stone, sometimes people love the more washed out hues.

GEMSTONE DESCRIPTIONS

CITRINE ranges in colour from a very pale yellow to a warm orange colour. Citrine is one of many stones that falls under the umbrella name of Quartz. Others include amethyst, smoky quartz, rose quartz, rock crystal and even stones like tiger’s eye, onyx and agate. All of these stones have the same chemical composition and are only distinctive because of trace chemicals that change the colouring of the stone. Because all quartz stones are formed from the same dominant chemicals, they all have the same physical properties like hardness and lustre. They also all form or grow in nature in hexagonal crystals.  The above doesn’t apply to rose quartz because they are formed in a non-crystalline, ‘massive’ form and tigers eye.

Quartz watches use a chip of man-made quartz that vibrates at a precise frequency when a watch’s battery pushes a charge through it. This accurate frequency is then harnessed and converted to seconds to make sure the time-piece is accurate. That is why most modern watches have the words Quartz written on the dial. It means they are battery powered.

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust.

Citrine is the birthstone for November.

Three images of citrines to illustrate the different hues

YELLOW DIAMONDs range from a pale canary colour to an intense yellow. Intense fancy yellow diamonds are as valuable as top white coloured diamonds.

South Africa is regarded as the home of diamonds as it was home to the first major discovery of large amounts of diamonds in one kimberlite (rock type) pipe found in the town Kimberley, South Africa.

Diamond is renowned for being the hardest natural substance on earth, a result of its extremely strong chemical bond. The word diamond is derived from the ancient Greek adámas, which means unbreakable. Diamonds are not unbreakable but are very resilient. I have heard of people testing a diamond by hitting it with a hammer. This will crush the diamond. Not clever! Another inaccurate test if a stone is a diamond or not is to scratch a glass window with the stone in question. Many stones are harder than mineral glass and as a result a host of stones will be able to scratch glass, including many diamond simulants (stones that can be confused with diamonds).  The most common test for diamonds is a hand held machine that omits heat into the stone and measures the amount of heat that is conducted away, Diamonds have excellent thermal conductivity. This test is also not full-proof as certain man made stones are made to deceive certain aspects of diamonds and can fool this diamond testing instrument.

The term fancy diamond indicates that the amount of yellow in the diamond is sufficient to no longer penalise its price for being yellow, but instead creates interest because of its rarity and interesting colour. Other fancy diamond colours are pink, blue, green and the extremely rare red.

YELLOW SAPPHIRE. Sapphire is a term for all stones that are corundum except for ruby and an extremely rare corundum called padparadscha. Similar to quartz being an umbrella name for a few varieties of stones, corundum is a species of stone. All three variations of this species have an identical chemical composition and identical physical properties. If the corundum has enough chromium trace elements then the corundum is known as ruby and is red to pink in colour. A pinkish-orange variety of corundum is called padparadscha. Other than padparadscha and ruby all corundum is called sapphire. The most commonly known colour for sapphire is blue, but there are many other colours available, including yellow, pink, green and purple. Many of these sapphires have recently been discovered in East Africa.

Yellow sapphire has a pure, intense colour and has a good sparkle.

Sapphire (corundum) is second hardest of all gemstones, 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. This hardness leads to its use as a harder, tougher glass. Today most top-end watches are fitted with sapphire crystal glass and as a result are highly resistant to scratching.

Some of the colours sapphires exhibit.

IMPERIAL TOPAZ is the pinkish, orange form of topaz. Topaz is the 3rd hardest gem, after diamond and corundum (ruby & sapphire) and has a Mohs hardness reading of 8. Topaz is found in almost all colours, with imperial topaz being the most prized form of topaz.

The word ‘topaz’ is thought to come from the Sanskrit word ‘tapas’, meaning fire. Topaz was revered by Egyptians as a link to Ra, the sun god and the Roman’s linked it to their sun deity, Jupiter.

AMBER is an organic gem and is as such not really a stone. It is fossilized tree resin that has been exposed to pressure and high temperatures outside the earth’s crust, whereas gemstones are formed through pressure and temperature under the earth’s crust. Because amber is organic in nature it is softer and can burn at much lower temperatures. These constraints have to be taken into account when designing, making or repairing a piece of amber jewellery.

Amber is typically yellow, orange or brown, but can be red, green, blue and black.

The most famous deposits of amber are from the Baltic region.

Amber is typically around 100 million years old, but examples older than 300 million years have been found. As such they are an important link to previous eco-systems. Humankind has worn amber since the stone-ages.

HESSONITE and SPESSARTINE are orange to red garnets. Hessonite is sometimes called cinnamon stone and is a little softer than most other garnets.

Top quality, orange-yellow spessartine is called mandarin garnet.

The Garnet group of stones is one of the more complicated stones to explain because like corundum (sapphire & ruby) and quartz (amethyst, citrine etc) there are quite a few different variations of the garnet group, but in garnet’s situation each stone has a slightly different chemical make-up and as a result slightly different physical characteristics (e.g. hardness or natural crystal structure). 

FIRE OPAL has a warm orange colour and is transparent to translucent in appearance. Fire opal can be faceted, whereas conventional opal is cut en cabochon. Fire opals do not exhibit the play of colour that most people associate with opals. Mexico is the most common source for these unusual stones.

SMOKY QUARTZ is part of the quartz group of stones and is one of the cheaper stones available, often found as large crystals. It is most commonly found in a chocolate brown colour but can have undertones of clay or tend towards black (called Morion). Smoky quartz from Scotland is called Cairngorm and normally has a smoky, yellow-brown colour.

BROWN TOURMALINE is one of many colour variations of tourmaline. Being based in South Africa we normally get our tourmaline from Namibia (especially the brown and green colours) and newer colours like blue and red from the east of Africa (Mozambique and Madagascar). Brazil is famous as a supplier of tourmaline as well as many other valuable gemstones.

ALMANDINE and PYROPE garnets are typically wine red in colour and range from a blood-red colour (Pyrope) to a dark red to the point of being almost black (Almandine). This is the colour people normally think of as a garnet. The red colour is the source for the Greek influence on its name “fire eye”. Pyrope and diamonds are often found in the same kimberlite pipes.

RHODOLITE is the pink to red colouring of garnets with a similar make-up to Almandine & Pyrope. In Greek rhodolite loosely means "rose-like".

   

Tourmaline (RUBELITE) is the pink to red colouring of tourmaline. As with most tourmalines they were traditionally found in Brazil, but have recently been found in Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar. 

A range of different tourmalines.

RUBY ranges in colour from a so-called pigeon-blood red to a pinkish red.

Ruby is one of those stones that doesn’t form as large stones and as a result the price increases dramatically as rubies get larger.

As mentioned earlier ruby is the red variation of the species corundum. This red colour is due to the trace element chromium in its composition. This red colour is the root for its name ‘ruber’, or red in Latin.

Ruby is the second hardest commonly found natural stone.

Rubies are normally cut into facetted gemstones when transparent, but some opaque stones show a 3 or 6 point star effect, called asterism. This ‘star’ moves as a light source is refracted off of the many needle inclusions within the ruby.

Traditionally hand-wound watches were referred to as 17 jewels and automatic watches as 21 jewels, this was because natural rubies used to be used as an axis for moving parts in the mechanism. These ‘jewels’ have been replaced by synthetically manufactured rubies for many decades. The first laboratory manufactured rubies were made in 1837 and the first commercially viable corundum was made in 1903.

Red and pink examples of Ruby.

PINK TOUMALINE is another colour variation of tourmaline. As with most tourmalines it has a subtle brown undertone to the dominant colour. It is almost a more natural version of a pink stone, whereas pink sapphire has a very intense, vivid, pure pink colouring.

PINK SAPPHIRE Although blue is the most common colour associated with sapphires, pink is another example of the corundum species. Similar to other colours of sapphire, the pink colour is pure and vivid. Similar to ruby the colour comes from trace elements of chromium. There is an academic point of transition between pink sapphire and ruby, which is vital to its price. If the stone is deemed to have enough chromium in it’s make-up to be called a ruby, then its price increases.

Found in East Africa, Burma, Sri Lanka and India.

PINK DIAMONDs are also a pure pink in colour. Natural diamonds are often paler, while treated pink diamonds are normally more intense in colour.

Pink diamonds have recently increased in demand with celebrities wearing them.

Nearly all pink diamonds come from the Argyle mine, which is found in the Kimberley region in the far North Eastern corner of Western Australia. The Argyle mine is interesting in that it is a mine based on a different type of volcanic pipe than the conventional kimberlite pipe, called a lamproite pipe.

ROSE QUARTZ is a massive form of quartz and is normally translucent, rather than transparent. It is also often cut into en cabochon or into simple facet cuts. 

It has an elegant pale pink colour.

The word ‘massive’ implying that the mineral grows without a regular crystal structure as per most gem-quality stones. This massive aggregation means the stone will always have a milky appearance.

KUNZITE is another pale pink stone and has a very subtle blue undertone. Kunzite can fade in colour if overexposed to light. It is found in Brazil, Canada and USA and has a hardness of 7.  

MORGANITE is very similar to Kunzite in appearance. Morganite is the first stone discussed in this article from the Beryl Species. Other variations in the Beryl family are emeralds, aquamarine and a yellow stone called heliodor. Morganite was named after the banker J. Pierpoint Morgan.

The beryl species has a hardness of 7½ and is as such on the softer side for a valuable stone.  

I find that morganite has a subtle brown undertone, whereas kunzite has a hint of blue in the pink.

 

AMETHYST is another member of the quartz species. Amethyst ranges from the subtle pink ‘rose de France’ colour, similar to morganite, to a distinctive deep purple colour. The colour has been associated with the Roman Catholic Church traditionally being worn by bishops and other clergy as a symbol of piety & celibacy. The deep purple colour has also often been worn by royalty.

The root for the word amethyst comes from the ancient Greek belief that the stone protected against drunkenness. The fact that many of the traditional feasts occur in February may be the reason why this talisman against drunkenness would be the birthstone for February.

Amethyst is often patchy in colour, with an interesting anomaly called Ametrine which is a stone that is cut from a crystal that exhibits both the yellow, citrine colour and the purple, amethyst colour.

Amethyst is found worldwide.

TANZANITE is a relatively new stone to the gemmological world having only been discovered in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro in 1967.

Tanzanite has a beautiful sparkle that shows off its distinctive dichroism, the stone appears to be dominantly blue when viewed along one axis and violet when viewed on another axis.

With a Mohs hardness of 6.5, tanzanite is relatively soft for a valuable stone and as such should not be set into an everyday ring, unless the wearer is aware that it will lose its distinctive sparkle as soon as the crisp facets are sanded down with wear. As a pendant or earrings the stone should be exposed to very little wear and will retain its beauty.

In 2002 Tanzanite was entered into the list of birthstones as the birthstone for December.

Tanzanites have been the subject of extensive marketing campaigns that usually hinge on its roots as an African stone found only in one location, and as such will become a collector’s item in time.

Tanzanite’s name was changed by Tiffany & Co from Blue Zoisite to a name that refers to its country of origin.




IOLITE is the gem variety of the mineral cordierite and is a good example of a stone that has similar colours to another, in this case tanzanite or sapphire, but is still distinguishable in its lack of colour intensity and fire. Sometimes called water sapphire, it is found in colours that range from pale to extremely dark smoky-blue to bluish-violet. Like tanzanite, iolite also exhibits pleochroism. Iolite is normally found in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India and Burma and occasionally in Namibia and Tanzania.

BLUE SAPPHIRE is typically royal blue in colour, but can also have distinctive violet overtones that can lead to confusion between sapphires with tanzanites. As mentioned above, sapphire is the broad description of any corundum stone that is not a ruby or a padparadscha, although most people think of sapphire as being blue.

Sapphire is the second hardest natural mineral and is often synthetically manufactured for this industrial purpose, most commonly as scratch-resistant glasses for better quality watches.

Opaque to translucent stones can exhibit the star-like asterism.

Sapphire is the birthstone for September.

The best blue sapphires normally hail from India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Brazil and Thailand, with newer deposits being found along the east coast of Africa.

LAPIS LAZULI is a combination of several stones, typically lazurite, sodalite, pyrite (‘fool’s gold’) and calcite. Too much of the white calcite lowers the price of the lapis.  Lapis has been mined from the same area in Afghanistan for 6000 years. It is mined elsewhere, but Afghanistan still bears the best quality. Lapis lazuli means blue rock and has a distinctive opaque, rich, blue colouring with brassy pyrite inclusions. Along with sapphire, Lapis is a birthstone for September.

TURQUOISE is another opaque stone that smacks with ancient appeal. Both Lapis and Turquoise stones were used in the ancient Egyptian dynasties. Some of the more notable sources of turquoise are Iran, Sinai and USA. The name turquoise comes from the fact that turquoise reached Europe through Turkish trade routes. The colouring is sky blue to greenish. Typically turquoise still has portions of the rock matrix in it, which give turquoise its earthy look. Recently reconstituted (crushed turquoise powder that has been reformed) and stained howlite have confused the public about the validity of natural turquoise.

BLUE TOPAZ is the most common form of topaz, with other colours being pink, yellow, gold and occasionally green. Most blue topaz is treated colourless topaz. Typically blue topaz comes in 3 hues of blue: a pale, sky-like blue which is a close stimulant (imitator) of aquamarine; a bright pale-blue colour, often referred to as Swiss-blue topaz; and a darker blue that seems to have a shade of grey in it often referred to as London-blue topaz.

Topaz is the 3rd hardest natural stone after diamond and corundum and has a Mohs hardness rating of 8. 

 

AQUAMARINE is typically a pale blue variety of the mineral type called beryl, which also includes emerald.

Some aquamarine can have an undertone of pale green, which gives the stone its ocean like name.

Aquamarine is found in Brazil, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Urals, Nigeria and a darker variety from Madagascar.

EMERALD is the green variation of the Beryl family.

Emerald has always commanded a high price, especially very rare inclusion-free pieces.

Emeralds are synonymous with inclusions, to the extent where a stone’s inclusions can be used to identify from which mine the emerald originates.

Beryl has a Mohs hardness rating of 7.5, which is relatively hard, but because emerald is expensive and due to its tendency to crack, it is thought of as a delicate stone that needs to be treated with care. The brittleness of emerald has resulted in a special cut called the emerald cut, which is now used on most stones. The idea behind the emerald cut is to remove the corners of a rectangle as this is the most common place for a brittle stone to chip.

Emeralds were mined in Egypt up to 3500 years ago. Emeralds were also sacred to the ancient Aztec and Incan empires. Today some of the finest emeralds come from Colombia other sources are as varied as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagscar, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, India, Australia, Brazil, Russia & Austria and many more.

An emerald-cut emerald.

GREEN TOURMALINE is relatively common in South Africa because of the amount of tourmaline available in Namibia. The green stones from Namibia typically have a yellow or brown undertone. Recently Mozambique discovered a tourmaline that rivals the Brazilian Paraiba, which has a very intense blue-green colour and is by far the most valuable tourmaline. Emerald-green stones are typically found in Tanzania and Brazil. Tourmaline has a Mohs hardness of 7.5.

TSAVORITE was first discovered in 1967 near the Tanzanian and Kenyan border. It is now mined near the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. One other source of tsavorite has been discovered in Madagascar.

Tsavorite is a grossular form of garnet. There are other forms of grossular garnet but none are gem-quality, an example being the confusingly named Transvaal jade, which is not jade at all, but is rather a massive aggregation of green, grossular garnet. The word ‘massive’ implying that the mineral is grown without a regular crystal structure as per most gem-quality stones. This massive aggregation means the stone will always have a milky appearance.

The stone has a pure, leafy green colour to it.

 

JADE refers to two different minerals, NEPHRITE jade and JADEITE jade. They are completely separate minerals with different chemical combinations, but they look similar and have both been used as jade for many centuries.

The most expensive variety is emerald-coloured, translucent jadeite. Nephrite is typically paler in colour.

Jade was used as weapons or blades before the metal age. Jade has been closely linked to ancient societies such as the Chinese, Mayans and Maoris, with many examples of delicately carved statues and jewellery still in existence.

Sources of jadeite are Burma, Guatemala, Japan & USA.

Sources for nephrite include New Zealand, Burma, Siberia, Russia, China, Australia, USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Poland, Germany & Switzerland.

Jadeite is harder and tougher than nephrite. Jadeite ranks at 7, while nephrite ranks closer to 6 on Mohs hardness scale.

 

GREEN AMETHYST is a confusing name that refers to green quartz. Both amethysts (violet) and green amethyst come from the quartz species and have identical properties.

The colour is a pale, peppermint green and is very popular.

PERIDOT is the gem-quality of the mineral olivine and is one of the few stones that only occur in one colour, an olivey, green colour with brown undertones.

Most peridot is from Arizona, but is widely found with some of the best rough coming from Pakistan. Peridot has even been found on meteorites.

Peridot has a hardness of 6.5, but is brittle.

Peridot is another stone that has been mined from ancient times. Egyptians mined peridot from an island in the Red Sea over 3500 years ago. 

Peridot is today the birthstone for the month of August.

DIAMOND is the hardest mineral on earth with a hardness of 10 on the Mohs scale, which is four times harder than the next hardest mineral, corundum. The combination of its hardness with its sparkle has made it the most prized gemstone. Diamonds are famously a form of an extremely strong bond of pure carbon. Diamonds are formed under ultra high temperatures and pressure, which is recently being reconstructed to manufacture man-made (synthetic) diamonds. In nature diamonds are formed between 100 and 280 km below the earth’s surface at temperatures between 900 and 1300 °C and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years (25% to 75% of the age of the Earth). Diamonds are typically brought to the earth’s surface by volcanic eruption, although some diamonds have come to the earth’s surface by means of asteroids.

The name ‘diamond’ is derived from the ancient Greek ‘adámas’ for unbreakable. Diamonds are thought to have been first recognized and mined in India up to 6000 years ago. In western countries the wearing of diamonds was generally the prerogative of royalty. The French Revolution and resultant selling of royal jewellery and a century later the finding of constant supplies of diamonds in South Africa led to diamonds being used regularly in every-day jewellery.

Diamonds, along with other minerals and sought after resources, have been used to fuel civil wars and human rights violations, mostly in Africa. The atrocities linked to ‘blood diamonds’ were popularised in the late 90s with the Kimberley Process being initiated in May 2000 by South Africa. By 2004 the World Diamond Council reported that the percentage of illegal diamond trade as a proportion of the world's diamond production had fallen to approximately 1%.

Historically South Africa was the biggest source of quality diamonds, but they have now been overtaken by Botswana, with Russia, Canada, India, Brazil and Australia having significant reserves. Although just below half of all diamonds are found in central and southern Africa.

Diamond is unusual in that the colourless variation is the most sought after colour, although recently yellow and brown colours are becoming popular. Naturally coloured red, pink, blue and green diamonds are rare and as a result extremely expensive.  

 

 

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· Birthstones
A birthstone is a gift of a precious material that symbolizes the month of birth in the Gregorian calendar....

January- Garnet

February- Amethyst

March- Aquamarine, Bloodstone

April- Diamond

May- Emerald

June- Pearl, Moonstone

July- Ruby

August- Peridot

September- Sapphire

October- Opal, Tourmaline

November- Topaz, Citrine

December- Turquoise, Tanzanite, Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz

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