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What should I know about buying diamond jewelry?

Diamonds were formed millions of years ago inside the earth under intense heat and pressure. Their unique brilliance and hardness have put them in high demand around the world. Nature's imperfections are inclusions or flaws that appear in this process and affect the stone's clarity. The Gemological Institute of America rates color and clarity using the following terms:

Color

Colorless: D, E, F
Near colorless: G, H, I, J
Faint yellow: K, L, M
Very light yellow: N, O, P, Q, R
Light yellow: S through Z

Clarity
F: Flawless under 10x magnification
IF: Internally flawless under 10x magnification
VVS: Very very slightly included under 10x magnification
VS: Very slightly included under 10x magnification
SI: Slightly included under 10x magnification
I: Included and seen with the naked eye
Black diamonds are color-enhanced natural diamonds that have been subject to a process called irradiation, which produces the characteristic black color. Black diamonds are typically not as expensive as white diamonds, since the clarity of black diamonds is not a factor in evaluating the quality of the stone.

The prices for rough cut diamonds are regulated, in large part, by De Beers Consolidated Mines Corporation. Approximately eighty percent of the world's production of rough diamonds filters through the De Beers Central Selling Organization, which sells the rough diamonds approximately eight times a year to 160 worldwide members called "sightholders." All rough is sold at the same price to each sightholder, and as the diamonds filter down to cutters and wholesalers, the prices change and reflect various profit margins. Buying from a knowledgeable jewelry professional is your key to finding the best-quality diamond for the greatest value. Take the time to be educated about diamonds so you will understand where the best value is and why. For more information, visit the Gemological Institute of America's website.

What does "Pavé" mean?

Pavé is a term that refers to a jewelry mounting technique which involves setting small diamonds or other stones very close together so that no metal can be seen between them. Many pieces of jewelry are entirely pavé, and the effect is dazzling. Pavé is also used as an accent to a larger stone to maximize the brilliance of the piece.

Diamond Care

Diamonds are best cleaned in warm water and a little dishwashing detergent, or warm water and a small amount of ammonia (6 parts water to 1 part ammonia). Rinse and pat dry with a soft lint-free cloth. We do not recommend ultrasonic jewelry cleaners because the vibrations can enlarge any inclusions that are present in the diamond. These machines can also damage semi-precious stones.

Tell me about the different metals in jewelry

Gold

Since ancient times, gold has been used to create the finest objects of art, religious articles and fine jewelry. Because gold can be mixed with other metals to create different colors and karats, it is one of the most popular metals for jewelry today in the United States and Europe. To regulate the use of gold, the United States passed the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act, which states that if an item is marked with its quality, that mark should be accurate and within the tolerances provided by the Act.

The most common marks for gold jewelry are 18K or 750 (signifying 75% gold), 14K or 585 (58% gold), and 10K (42% gold). Ten karat gold is the lowest level allowed under U.S. law. Jewelry made of higher-karat gold is more yellow in color and slightly softer than gold jewelry made of lower-karat gold, which may include copper, silver, zinc, or other metals. You, the consumer, need to be concerned with the alloys if you are allergic to certain metals or have a high acid content in your body. Acid can turn the jewelry that you wear on your body to black and appear to be of poor quality when it actually is not.

Pure gold (which is always yellow) is too soft for jewelry use. The metals that are mixed with pure gold for strength can also modify the color of gold resulting in different shades of yellow, white, and pink gold. White gold was originally developed to imitate platinum, and is usually an alloy containing 25% nickel and zinc. If stamped 18 karat, it would be 75% pure gold.

Care of Gold

To keep gold gleaming, rub it with a soft chamois or clean it with a few drops of dishwashing detergent and gently brush away dirt with a soft toothbrush.

Platinum

Platinum is an extremely durable metal that has been used in making fine jewelry since the 1880s. Because of its density and strength, platinum is favored above all metals to hold diamonds and was often used in very intricate designs requiring great detail. In the early 1900s platinum became very popular, and its popularity grew until World War II, when it was temporarily banned from use in jewelry because platinum's military uses had higher priority. In the past 10 years, however, platinum jewelry has grown in popularity. The most common marks for platinum are "900 PT, 900 PLAT, PT900 and 900 Plat 100 Irid," which signifies the percentage of platinum and other metals used. Because of the small percentage of other metals alloyed with it, platinum is hypoallergenic and excellent for people who are allergic to other metals. When buying platinum jewelry, follow these tips:
• Be sure the item is stamped with its metal content.
• Be prepared to spend more initially because of the expert craftsmanship required to work in platinum.
Care of platinum is the same as for gold outlined above.

Silver

Silver has been used for jewelry since 3500 BC, when the Egyptians created ornaments out of silver. The word "sterling" is short for "Easterlings," a form of money used in 12th-century England. Silver jewelry was popular because of its large supply, affordable price and ease of manufacture. To be considered "sterling silver," an article must contain at least 92.5 percent silver; that is why sterling silver is marked "925." Although rich in luster, silver tarnishes when exposed to the elements, causing it to turn dark or black. The tarnish can be cleaned using a variety of products on the market. Sterling silver jewelry is somtimes plated with rhodium and/or nickel to preserve the metal. Plating imparts a satin-like finish to the piece, whereas highly polished silver jewelry is not plated.

What can you tell me about Cubic Zirconia (CZs)?

Cubic Zirconia stones are a man-made diamond simulant having optical characteristics that are very close to natural diamonds. On the mohs scale of 1-10 for hardness, a CZ is 8.5 - 8.9, while a diamond is 10. Sand or dirt will not scratch a CZ or a diamond, but CZs and diamonds will both scratch glass. A CZ weighs more than a diamond, and that is one of the principal ways to tell them apart. But once it is set in a piece of jewelry it is very difficult even for a jeweler to distinguish between a diamond and a CZ. For many years there were inferior diamond simulants that were introduced to the public, but current technology has changed that and today's CZ gems remain brilliantly clear just the way a diamond does. We use only the highest grade of hand cut and polished cubic zirconia stones.

No special care is required for a CZ to retain its brilliance; like all stones, keeping it clean using warm water and a drop or two of dishwashing detergent is all that is needed.

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