Monday, September 22, 2008

Wedding Sets

When looking at wedding rings, a gentleman recently asked me, "Why do some of the rings come with two pieces?"

It then dawned on me that most men do not realize that a wedding set usually consists of two pieces. I have found that most ladies already know this, but men only have to worry about a wedding band. Men engagement rings have not become popular (yet?). One ring for most men is already one more than normal for them, so adding another one would perhaps be pushing it.

For the ladies, however, the engagement ring traditionally has a diamond solitaire or single diamond as its center piece. I have been seeing a small but growing trend towards non-diamond engagement rings. The most popular so far have been blue sapphires or aquamarines with diamonds on the side. Shades of blue are much easier to wear daily than a pink or red gemstone, which requires more color/clothes coordination. Then again, if her favorite color is pink, perhaps most of her wardrobe would match a pink sapphire engagement ring?

Whatever it looks like, the engagement ring is given to the lady as a promise to get married. Here are some engagement rings:

Note: This simple solitaire diamond engagement ring has a 4mm band.

Note: The side diamonds consist of three tapered, baguette cut diamonds.

Note: This simple diamond engagement ring has five prong set, round diamonds.

The wedding band, however, usually does not have a single diamond. A wedding band could be plain metal (gold or platinum) OR it could have two or more diamonds. Here are some wedding bands:

Note: This 6mm 14 Karat white gold wedding band is "flat" inside.

Note: In this 2mm 14K white gold band is a comfort fit, which is slightly more rounded inside the band.
Note: These diamond wedding bands take it up a notch with more diamonds. The man's has seven princess cut diamonds while the lady's band has prong set, round diamonds. The lady's ring is comfort fit.
Note: These three wedding bands are called eternity bands because the diamonds go all the way around instead of only halfway. These eternity wedding bands are beautiful, and you do not have to worry about the band twisting to the non-diamond half of the band. Care, however, should be taken when wearing because the diamonds on the bottom could be damaged when the palm of the hand hits hard surfaces. One should also remember that eternity bands cannot be easily sized, and while we all do not want to gain or lose too much weight after marriage, sometimes it is hard to prevent (i.e. think about how great a cook your significant other is...)

And now when we put them together, we can call the two pieces a complete wedding set, like these:

Note: There are princess cut diamonds, channel set in these two pieces.

Note: The diamonds are pave set in three rows in this wedding set.

Comments or questions are always welcomed! After growing up in the jewelry industry (20+ years), we sometimes take for granted what is common knowledge.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The 4 C's

When buying diamonds, knowledge of the four C's will help you effectively compare diamonds. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the leading expert on diamond grading, and has a great interactive site here.

1. Carat Weight
Let's start with the easiest "C" - carat weight. Carat is often abbreviated as CT, and it is pronounced like a rabbit's favorite food, carrots. One of my customers made the remark, a 5.00 CT diamond would feed a lot more rabbits than a 0.50 CT (or 1/2 Carat). The most common Carat weight purchased is around 1.00 CT (around $3,000 and up, depending on the other C's).

The top of this diagram tells us the "points" or carat weight. There are 100 points in a 1.00 CT diamond. We often use "points" when referring to diamonds smaller than 0.20 CT (or 1/5 CT). The bottom of the diagram tells us the size of the diamonds diameter in millimeters (mm). These millimeter sizes are approximated for each carat weight.

Confusion sometimes occurs with gold karat, abbreviated as K or KT. Gold karat measures the purity of gold, 24K is pure. There are 5 standard purities, 24K, 22K, 18K, 14K, and 10K. There is 18K, 14K, and 10K white, yellow, and rose (pink) gold because adding different alloys or metals brings down the purity of gold and brings out different hues or colors.

2. Color
The next easiest "C" is color because we can usually tell with our eyes if a diamond has a yellow tint. The following figures are from Khulsey and Blue Nile.

Here we can see the far left diamond has a nice "white," and is therefore in the "colorless" range while the far right diamond has a light yellow or champagne/brown tint. Different colors or "warmness" levels complement different skin tones.

Now let's put some letters to these colors so we can go beyond "white" or "yellow":

Diamond Color Designations

  • D, E, F - colorless (white)
  • G, H, I, J - near colorless
  • K, L, M - faint yellow or brown
  • N, O, P, Q, R - very light yellow or brown
  • S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z - light yellow or brown

Now before you go and say, "Only the best for me or my gal, I want a D-color diamond," let's keep in mind that the GIA estimates only around 600 D-flawless roughs are cut into gems weighing between 1 and 2 carats during a given year. I usually recommend a G or H color because of its price and "whiteness." An untrained eye can usually begin seeing the differences with an I (dull) or J color (slight yellow). When choosing between color and clarity (see #3), we recommend going for a better color. This is especially true for earrings or necklaces where it is harder for others to see inclusions once worn.

Here is another diamond color chart, which shows colors K-Z in more detail. Some people prefer a fancy yellow diamond for its vibrant canary yellow hue.

3. Clarity
The next "C" is clarity, which tells us the relative number, size, and conspicuousness of natural flaws and inclusions. Once again, GIA are creators of the clarity scale and information can be found here. Although there are 11 clarity grades, we are usually working within four general categories. This grading system is universal and allows jewelers all over the world to communicate in the same "diamond language."

These two categories are not commonly found on the market:
  • Flawless (FL)
    No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF)
    No inclusions and only minor blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification

The four most common, general categories are as follows:

  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2)
    Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2)
    Inclusions are clearly visible under 10× magnification but can be characterized as minor
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2)
    Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Imperfect (I1, I2, and I3)
    Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance
At Handiwork, we are usually working within four grades, starting from the top: VS-1, VS-2, SI-1, and SI-2. I usually recommend no lower than a clarity of SI-1 since it is still clean to the eye without noticeable black carbon, feathers, internal "scratches", or inclusions. Having inclusions is not a "bad" thing, they are simply "birthmarks" as GIA describes them. Like every human, every diamond has its own characteristics, which developed as it was growing in the earth.

Take a look at the chart below for a further detailed clarity scale:

4. Cut
The last "C" is a diamond's cut. Cut can denote the shape of the diamond -- round, marquise, oval, pear, princess (square), radiant princess (rectangular princess), emerald (rectangular but reflects light differntly), heart, Asscher, or cushion (rounded princess).

Cut also refers to the resulting proportions of a diamond after it has been polished and cut. All diamonds are found "in the rough," and it is only with special tools and skills that the brilliance is brought out with facets.

Take a look at the "anatamony" of a diamond:

The "top" of the diamond is the table, while the "bottom" of the diamond is the culet. In old European cut diamonds, the culet is often ever so slightly cut off. A 1.00 CT round diamond could be cut in three different ways as shown below:
While a shallow cut diamond may look "larger" because of its larger table, this type of cut does not maximize the amount of light reflectected out of the diamond. Diamond is a material with one of the highest index of refractions at 2.4175 (source), which is why a diamond sparkles more than crystal (refraction index of 2.0).

A proper cut will maximize this refraction as follows:

5. Certification
While this is not an official "C," it is a useful once, especially for diamonds over 2.00 CT. A diamond certification report meticulously details every birthmark (or lack of) under the eye of a trained, technical expert.

There are four big players when it comes to diamond certification. Starting with the best:
1. Gemological Institute of America (GIA)
2. American Gem Society Laboratories (AGSL)
3. International Gemological Institute (IGI)
4. European Gemological Laboratory (EGL)

All of diamond certification reports details these specifications:
Depth Percentage
Table Percentage
Girdle Thickness
Culet Size
Clarity Grade
Color Grade
Comments about Diamond
Plot of Internal and External Inclusions

If they all detail the same information, why is GIA the best?
GIA has been established the longest (1931) compared to EGL (1974), and they trademarked the International Diamond Grading System. GIA diamond certification reports are renowned for their precision and accuracy, and therefore, there reports are also the most costly.

The cost of having a diamond certified is several hundred (depending on Carat weight), so at Handiwork we find it is more cost effective to carry GIA and IGI certifications for our larger pieces only.

If this more technical post is a bit confusing, feedback on how to make it easier to understand would be much appreciated!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Antique / Vintage Diamond Wedding Rings

Many of today's modern bridges are choosing antique or vintage wedding rings. It's the kind of ring you probably saw your grandmother wore, and if you were a girl, you probably admired it on her hands. At Handiwork we have a few that I would like to share with you:

This sapphire accented piece has a 1.01 Carat round brilliant diamond (SI-1, H) mounted in the center. There are 4 round diamonds bezel set around the prong set solitaire. A nice light antique filigree work is lightly etched into the mounting. This is a wonderful ring for a lady who loves blue or sapphires.
Cost: $2450

This wide band vintage diamond wedding ring has a 1.05 Carat princess cut diamond prong set. A total of 0.33 Carats in round and princess cut diamonds are pave set in the band. There are 3 princess cut diamonds channel set on each side, and one princess cut is oriented in a diamond shape on each side of the band. The ring is 18 Karat white gold.
Cost: $2350

This simple antique style ring has a 1.35 Carat diamond solitaire in the center, and two round diamonds accent each side, totaling 0.13 Carats. A unique scroll design can be seen on the side.
Cost: $2450

This 14 Karat white gold pave mounting has 0.40Carats of round cut diamonds. There is more of a beading texture down each side. This semi-mounting is available at Handiwork. If you have your own diamond or would like to purchase a loose stone, we are happy to assist in mounting.
Cost: $750

This split shank diamond wedding ring has 0.68 Carats in round pave diamonds. This 14 Karat white gold mounting is also available at Handiwork.
Cost: $875

This traditional 2 piece wedding set (engagement ring PLUS wedding band) has a 0.75 Carat round brilliant diamond solitaire as its center piece. A total of 0.50 Carats in round cut diamonds are mounted in the setting and band.
Cost: $1875

Here is another unique vintage wedding ring with colored stones. In this case, emeralds accent each side of the 0.81 Carat round brilliant cut diamond and 0.25 Carats in round diamonds are pave set in the mounting. There is a subtle scroll design on the side of the ring. This is a great wedding ring for someone who loves green or emeralds.
Cost: $1750

This antique style ring has the characteristic beading of vintage rings. A 0.46 Carat round brilliant cut diamond is mounted in a semi-bezel setting. A total of 0.20 Carats in round diamonds are prong set around the diamond solitaire. The band has a beautiful antique filigree design one each side.
Cost: $950

This dainty antique style ring has a 0.38 Carat round brilliant diamond mounted in 14 Karat white gold. Eight small round diamonds accent the ring in a low profile setting for carefree, everyday wear (minimal prongs means less snagging on clothes!).
Cost: $750

This platinum diamond ring is a dainty but beautiful vintage piece. A 0.40 Carat round brilliant diamond with an exceptional clarity of VS-1 and a color of H is prong set and surrounded by 10 round diamonds. The unique shape of this ring is sure to get many compliments.
Cost: $825

This diamond ring has a 0.72 Carat Old European Cut (OEC) diamond solitaire. A total of 0.40 Carats in round diamonds are prong set in this 14 Karat white gold ring. European cut diamonds are characterized by a smaller diamond table and a higher crown angle. The tip of the diamond on the bottom has also been slightly trimmed, allowing the light to reflect differently than a modern round brilliant cut diamond. You can read more about European cut diamonds and their more recent counterparts here.
Cost: $2450

This custom made vintage style ring has a 0.75 Carat round brilliant cut diamond bezel set as its centerpiece. The ring is 14 Karat yellow gold, but 14 Karat white gold accents the diamond solitaire. This is another great low profile, snag-free ring design.
Cost: $1650

This simple antique ring features a 1.0 Carat round brilliant cut diamond solitaire (SI-2, H/I). The antique filigree details in this 14 Karat yellow gold setting give it a delicate look.
$ 2765

A smaller version is also available at Handiwork. This ring has a 0.37 Carat round diamond and the filigree details on this piece are more floral in nature.
Cost: $475

This antique diamond ring has a total of 0.55 Carats in round cut diamonds. The 14 Karat yellow gold setting is accented by a rhodium white finish around the diamonds.
Cost: $450

This 14 Karat yellow gold ring features a 0.30 Carat round brilliant diamond. The six-sided shape of the ring and the details on the band give this ring a true antique feel.
Cost: $325

Please feel free to leave comments on what you think about these different rings, all of which are available for sale at Handiwork Jewelry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Remove Watch Links

After purchasing a new watch, many people find that the watch is either too big or too small for their wrists. A jeweler will be able to remove or add links for around $10, but for those who want to save a little money or learn a new trick, this post is for you. The following directions are for the most popular watch bracelet links, the split pin bracelet. Another good source for other type of watch bracelets are available here or here.

The first step is to determine how many links you need to add or remove to your watch bracelet. This is a bit of a guessing game, but you should factor in how snug or loose you like to wear your watch.

Once again, the fun begins at the back. You will notice the small arrow indicating the direction the pin should be removed. In this case, the pin will be pushed down and out.

You will start at the top of the arrow, and push the pin down and out with either a watch pin remover (pictured below) or a thumb tack and small hammer.

A watch pin remover like the one below costs $5 to $10 and can be found at sites like this one or even on

Place one side of the watch band on the remover, and align the pin to the hole and push in the direction of the arrow. With the watch pin remover, you need only screw it gently until the pin comes out. If you are removing links, you will need to take out another pin. If you are adding links, now is the time to connect the spare links often provided with your watch. NOTE: If you are removing a total of four (4) links, be sure to take two (2) from each side so the watch bracelet remains even.

Remove the pin, using your fingers, a pair of needle nosed pliers, or a pair of tweezers. Take care not to loose these small split pins. Notice how the split side of the pin is slightly larger. The larger, split side should NOT go in first when re-inserting the split pin.

When re-inserting the pin, be sure to go against the arrow. The non-split, smaller side of the pin will go in first. The split, larger side of the pin is touching the watch link remover.

You should be ready to wear your well fitted watch now.

It would be great to get feedback on other ways of doing this without a watch link remover. Also please let me know if you have questions about removing other types of watch bracelet links. The links above may answer some questions.