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Diamonds & Precious Metals

Being a savvy consumer is vital in your jewelry shopping experience

The Four C’s: Carat, Clarity, Color, and Cut

Carat
This is simply the weight of the stone.  A carat is made up of 100 points; therefore, a 75 point stone is ¾ carats.  The total carat weight of a piece encompasses the entire stone weight including the center stone and all surrounding stones.

Clarity
Diamonds form under the tremendous pressure and extreme heat deep in the Earth, most contain individual internal or external features even in their polished state.  These features are the stone’s clarity.  No two diamonds are alike, they have positive identifying characteristics that can be viewed (under 10 x magnifications) and graded on a clarity scale. A diamond’s clarity is determined by the number, type, size, position and color of the inclusions.  The fewer the inclusions, the higher the clarity grade and price.  GIA uses 11 clarity grades ranging from Flawless, VVS (Very, Very, Small), VS (Very Small), SI (Slightly Included), to I (Included).

Color
While diamonds often appear colorless, they may actually contain subtle yellow or brown tones that will affect their value. The closer a diamond is to colorless the more valuable it becomes. Diamonds with no hint of color are very rare. Diamond color grades start at D (colorless) and continue through Z (light yellow/brown).  However, until after the H-I range, the stone will appear colorless.

Cut
A diamond’s cut is the most important characteristic. While nature determines a diamond’s clarity and color, it’s the skill of the diamond cutter that releases the stone’s fire, sparkle and beauty.  How well a diamond is cut is where most of its intrinsic value lies.  A diamonds “make” is in reference to its cut and proportion, i.e. excellent, very good, good and fair.  A well-proportioned diamond refracts light from one facet to another, creating a shimmering brilliance.  Ideally, diamonds should be cut so that all of the light that enters the top of the stone is reflected back outwards toward the viewer.  Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow allow light to escape the stone at an incorrect angle or at the bottom, causing the diamond to lack brilliance.  Pay particular attention to cut because it can make a huge difference in the beauty of your diamond.

Certification
This could be considered the fifth C.  Certifications are quality reports that clearly define the characteristics of a stone.  They do not establish values but make it easier as a consumer to know what you are getting.  There are many reputable sources for certification with the GIA being the most well-known and respected.  The GIA is an unbiased, non-profit organization which established the world’s most recognized and accurate system for grading diamonds. While GIA is the most widely recognized laboratory, there are numerous other laboratories which are both reputable and accurate, including the American Gem Society (AGS), the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) and the International Gemological Institute (IGI).   A certified stone can sometimes cost a little more but can be worth the expense because you are getting the peace of mind that you are buying a stone that is properly graded and valued.

Of course the ideal diamond would have the best of all of the four C’s but that isn’t always in a consumer’s budget.  We recommend trying to get a good mix of each category but being aware of the characteristics of diamonds can help you decide where you want to put your emphasis.  For example, a large stone holds much less value if it lacks brilliance, purity and a good cut.  A little bit of education before the purchase will help to get the ideal stone for you.

Precious Metals

Gold is an extraordinary and rare precious metal.  It has unmatched chemical and physical properties.  Gold is the most non-reactive of all metals and does not oxidize under ordinary conditions.  Gold’s purity is measured in karats, not to be confused with the gemstone weight measurement, carat.  The purity of gold determines its value.  Pure gold, 24k, is very soft and pliable so it is usually mixed with alloys of different types to enhance its durability and strength as well as giving it color.  24K gold has a deep yellow color and a rich luster.  Lesser karats are alloyed with a combination of silver, copper, nickel and zinc.

24 karat gold – 24k – 100% purity
18 karat gold – 18k – 75% purity – also sometimes marked 750
14 karat gold – 14k – 58.5 % purity – also sometimes marked 585
10 karat gold – 10k – 41.7% purity – also sometimes marked 417

Yellow gold is pure gold alloyed with a mixture of metals to maintain the timeless color of gold.  Depending on the karat, the color of yellow gold may vary from a soft yellow to a bright rich yellow.

White gold is pure gold alloyed with a mixture of white metals like silver or nickel.  Due to the presence of nickel, white gold tends to be harder than yellow gold.

Pink or rose gold is pure gold alloyed primarily with copper.  Depending on the amount of copper blended with the pure gold, pink gold’s hue can range from a light pink to a deep rose color.

Gold can also be customized in a wide array of colors such as green, purple or black.  Pricing of gold is based on the karat ratio, gold weight and the ever fluctuating gold market.  Other factors in the price of finished jewelry include design and craftsmanship.  Gold is a versatile and valuable metal that has been used in jewelry for thousands of years.

Platinum is an extremely rare metal, due to its rarity it is a more expensive metal.  It is strong and dense, however despite its strength, platinum is a very flexible and workable metal making it an excellent metal for jewelry.  It is harder than gold and very durable and because of its density; a platinum ring will feel heavier than a gold ring.  It has a beautiful white luster and is the purest of all the precious metals used for fine jewelry.  Platinum requires very little alloy, it is 90% to 95% pure, largely hypoallergenic and tarnish resistant.  Its purity makes it a more expensive choice for jewelry; a platinum ring will be approximately twice the price of an identical 18k gold ring.  Platinum is an extremely long wearing metal that stays very white.  It is a great choice for a piece that you want to last a lifetime.

Silver has been used in jewelry for thousands of years; it is a soft metal with a lustrous white color.  It is harder than gold and much more plentiful but still too soft in its natural state to be used in jewelry without mixing with a harder metal.  Sterling silver is a mixture of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, it is one of the most familiar and used form of silver alloys.  It will tarnish but it is the brightest reflector of any metal (except liquid mercury) and can be polished to a sheen that even platinum cannot achieve.  Silver is an affordable metal that continues to be one of the best jewelry sellers especially in light of the rising precious metals market.