Custom Jewelry Diamonds Education Hearts & Arrows Diamonds Uncategorized

Custom Making Jewelry (Part 2 Diamond Guide)


The comments that Peter made in his last entry on the importance of research are well taken. This applies equally to both the mounting and to the center stone. I am still surprised that frequently during our initial meeting customers have little idea what they are hoping to create. This obviously throws the creative ball solidly into my court as far as design and although I am always game to move in what I feel is the appropriate direction, it is obviously helpful if there is some input at the outset. After all, our goal is to thrill the customer, not me. As Peter notes, a tour of the local jewelry stores really is a great place to start. Make it fun, commit a Saturday to inspiration and education (if you are lucky….). Include a stop for a special lunch – maybe a glass of wine….This exercise may also provide an opportunity to do some diamond research. If you do intend to look at diamonds here are a list of basic questions and recommendations that might help you elicit whatever information is available:
Ask if the diamond certified by an independent grading authority such as the Gemological Institute of America. If not by GIA then find out by which one. Bear in mind that not all grading authorities were created equal and that some companies even offer their own very convincingly packaged certificates claiming characteristics that have not been independently verified. .
Insist on getting the SPECIFIC color and clarity grades of the diamond? By this I mean do not settle for a range such as “GHI” or VS2 to SI2, or generalizations such as “all our diamonds are blue white”. If a range is offered and the stone is of interest then insist on specific grades for both color and clarity. Inform the store that it is your intention to have the diamond independently graded by a certified gemologist. Say that you will require written documentation detailing the specific color and clarity as a condition of purchase and check on their return policy if the diamond has been misrepresented in any way.
Ask if the diamond has fluorescence. Fluorescence is a fairly complex subject and it is a characteristic that is not always discussed (or visible) in jewelry stores. It may not be noticeable until seen under the correct fluorescent light. Generally speaking fluorescence in white stones is not considered desirable. In slightly off color stones, perhaps in the J/K color area, faint fluorescence may slightly minimize yellowness. Stronger fluorescence may make the diamond appear milky or cloudy in certain lighting conditions. Regardless, fluorescence should be reflected in the pricing of diamonds and should be disclosed.
Ask to see the diamond under a microscope. You do not have to know what you are looking for, but casually asking with confidence may change the demeanor and approach of a salesperson and make them more inclined to share important information. If the store does not offer a microscope for the use of clients that raises a red flag. To me that’s a little like asking someone to buy a house without going inside as all inclusions in diamonds that are given SI2 or better clarity grades by GIA require magnification to be visible.
If anywhere during their presentation the salesperson uses the expression “trust me” – RUN!

Custom Jewelry Education Metals

Platinum Vs. White Gold for Your Engagement Ring

We are frequently asked about the differences between platinum and white gold for the manufacture of engagement rings. Each have advantages and drawbacks and your choice will depend upon the style of the engagement ring, your interest in weight and feel, and inevitably your budget. Although platinum is actually more durable than gold it is also softer and more malleable. Because platinum does not have the metal “memory” of white gold it will more likely flex under pressure and not crack. It will also be less likely to spring back to its original shape or, in the case of tiny prongs, its position. Although the tiny prongs in these pieces may require fewer replacements, this flexibility may contribute to stone loss in shanks set with micro pave as the shank is more likely to torque under pressure.
Most white gold jewelry requires rhodium plating to hide the yellow overtone still present from the pure yellow gold after mixing with white alloy. I say most because there are now alloys that better mask the yellow overtone. These are not as yet used in the majority of commercially produced white gold castings and are felt by some jewelers to produce stiff and sometimes brittle castings. Conversely platinum pieces tend to lose their luster more quickly than their white gold counterparts and require skilled polishing. Regardless of whether the choice is platinum or white gold an engagement ring should be professionally serviced at least every six months to check the security of all stones including the center and to refinish or rhodium plate as necessary.
Platinum is denser than gold and therefore weighs more by volume. It also melts at a higher temperature, freezes more quickly and requires a higher level of skill on the part of the jeweler to work and set. Most shops that work on platinum are also equipped with laser welders which is an additional cost factor weighed by manufacturers.
Even when the cost per gram for gold and platinum is similar, a platinum casting will both weigh and therefore cost more. Additionally both 14 karat and 18 karat gold contain a higher percentage of alloy than platinum which is either 90% or 95% pure. This further affects cost.
For me platinum is equally at home when used in a simple, opulent sculptural mounting where its feel and weight are showcased and the open accessible surfaces are able to be easily polished to that inimitable luster as it is in a reproduction piece featuring the delicate filigree work of bygone years.
White gold really shines when used in micro pave or multistone pieces where durability and cost are priorities. As previously mentioned, while platinum is in itself extremely durable, its tendency to give under stress can lead to problems for those of us who are a little rough on our jewelry.

Custom Jewelry Education Uncategorized

Metal Fashion Trends

My how the “hot metal of choice” pendulum has swung over the last few decades. I recall when I first arrived in Texas in the late 70’s 14 karat yellow was definitely the “golden child” of the precious metals. It seemed that even the engagement business revolved largely around yellow gold and basked in the warmth and richness that it seemed to symbolize. Looking back I believe that most yellow gold jewelry designs still conjured up images of doubloons spilling from treasure chests, bullion in stacks in the treasury vaults or nuggets of gold found by panhandlers in the river beds of California. For some it seemed to hold the tacit stamp of approval of exotically named European designers who filled the cases of the fashionable boutiques with sumptuous creations in the 18 karat variety of this opulent material. In those days, for many bridal customers. Platinum was simply the metal that our Grandmothers had celebrated.
Little did we know that during the nineties we would be once again hoisting our flask temperatures by 150 degrees Fahrenheit for white gold casting and rolling out the “big torches” (or induction coils….) that are required to achieve the extreme temperatures necessary to melt platinum casting grain. The pendulum had once more swung in favor of the white metals not only for the production of engagement rings, but also for many of the basic staples of a fine jewelry wardrobe. This trend became particularly strong in the case of diamond ear studs, diamond eternity rings, classic straight line bracelets and Riviera necklaces in which yellow gold was correctly believed to adversely affect diamond color. The frequent questions about the differences between 14 and 18 karat yellow gold were soon replaced by discussions centered on the practical and visual differences between 14 and eighteen karat white gold and platinum (and occasionally even palladium). These were questions concerning durability, malleability and metal memory, rhodium plating and maintenance.
Concurrently gentlemen had become enamored of less conventional, more industrial and certainly less “precious” materials to make their personal jewelry statements. There seemed to be an emerging “inverted snobbery” surrounding the price and construction of men’s’ wedding bands. Gentleman who comfortably invested heavily in both time and money in a ladies engagement ring had become virtually dismissive when choosing their own ring, often demonstrating more concern about durability, scratch resistance and lighter materials than either style or value. Today we continue to receive as many enquiries about Tungsten, Titanium, cobalt and stainless steel as we do the more traditional “precious” metals for men’s’ bands.
“And then along came Rose”…………Although popular in Russia in the 19th. Century and here in the early 20th, only during the last fifteen years has rose gold really achieved universal acceptance as an alternative metal for use in both bridal and other jewelry. This was in part spurred on by the introduction of successful collections featuring rose gold from prominent houses such as Cartier and Tiffany & Co.
Here at Dickinson by Design the “hot metal pendulum” of 2015 currently hovers just slightly “white of center”. We have however definitely seen a resurgence of interest in both 14 and 18 karat yellow gold over the last decade. Popular fashion jewelry designers have created pieces in yellow with a more greenish overtone and some customers are intrigued by the higher ratios of gold to alloy that are the norm in other countries. It is normal to discuss hue and shade and we are more often called upon to blend alloys to achieve subtle differences in tone.
Has the ever shifting web based ocean of fashion alternatives that constantly washes over us diluted or reinforced the “power of the trend”?
The pendulum swings……..

Custom Jewelry Uncategorized

A Custom Perspective.

After many years working in traditional jewelry retail environments I have found that life in our custom jewelry studio is liberating. There is a sense of freedom that accompanies starting with a “blank slate” and creating exactly what a client describes. The focus is now on the creation and not simply the location of the piece. This does require a completely different approach to the interaction with a customer – less salesmanship and more craftsmanship, more interpretation less direction. The process requires heightened listening skills, an open mind and a certain humility. On occasion it may even require a thick skin…..
Success in the custom arena at any level demands not only a superior knowledge of jewelry manufacturing and materials, but also the intuition and the experience to bring only the most necessary technical considerations to the table. Ideally it is the combined imaginations of the participants that breathe life into the emerging creation……
Naturally In the real world the daily routine rarely culminates in explosive genesis. However, from simplest of shadow bands to the most creatively or technically challenging project, the exchange is as fresh and energized as the orchestrator wills it to be. It is never constrained by the familiar mantra of “sell only what is in the case”. Success in this fanciful world can truly be uniquely gratifying. It is a paradoxical world in which to the creative few only by beginning with nothing can you open the window to everything…….
Every custom jewelry shop is as individual and unique as the designs that pass through the hallways. Ultimately each reflects a combination of the drive, the skill and experience of all those contributing to the finished product, the equipment and resources available to accomplish the work, and the philosophy, goals and personalities of those at the helm.