Birthstones Education Gemstones Uncategorized

Tourmaline the Birthstone of October

Tourmaline are most known for displaying several colors within the same gemstone. Those of them with very clear color distinctions are highly prized stones. One more popular version of this is the watermelon tourmaline with bands of color resembling its name sake. As with other gemstones it is the impurities that give Tourmaline their color. Iron and Titanium cause green and blue coloring, manganese produces reds, pinks, and yellows.

Most Tourmaline are found in the Americas though there are deposits around the globe. The most notable mines are in Brazil, California, and Maine. Tourmaline were discovered in the 1500’s by Spanish conquistadors in the Americas but they were originally mistaken for emeralds. It was not until the 1800’s that Tourmaline were recognized as a distinct mineral species. Although tourmaline are touted as an America gemstone they were most popular in China until their economic collapse in 1912 which nearly whipped out the tourmaline market.

Tourmaline has some very interesting characteristics as a mineral, it is both Pyroelectric and Piezoelectric, meaning that it generates an electric current under heat and under pressure. Piezoelectric materials have been and are being experimented with as alternative energy sources to harness the energy of crowds of people moving about. One foot step can produce enough energy to power a pair of light bulbs for a couple seconds.

Here are a few beautiful Tourmaline for your enjoyment.

California Tourmaline. San Diego County's famed tourmaline mines - including the Tourmaline Queen, Tourmaline King, Stewart, Pala Chief and Himalaya - produced the 12 crystals and four cut gems on display. One of the earliest reports of tourmaline in California was in 1892 in association with lepidolite mining. Much of the pink and red tourmaline from California was shipped to China because the Chinese Dowager Empress Tz'u Hsi was especially fond of the color. There, craftsmen carved the tourmaline into snuff bottles and other pieces to be set in jewelry. One of the crystal specimens on display was a gift from tycoon, collector and morganite namesake J.P. Morgan to Andrew Carnegie.
California Tourmaline. San Diego County’s famed tourmaline mines – including the Tourmaline Queen, Tourmaline King, Stewart, Pala Chief and Himalaya – produced the 12 crystals and four cut gems on display. One of the earliest reports of tourmaline in California was in 1892 in association with lepidolite mining. Much of the pink and red tourmaline from California was shipped to China because the Chinese Dowager Empress Tz’u Hsi was especially fond of the color. There, craftsmen carved the tourmaline into snuff bottles and other pieces to be set in jewelry. One of the crystal specimens on display was a gift from tycoon, collector and morganite namesake J.P. Morgan to Andrew Carnegie.
Tourmaline, Maine (top left-7.01 cts, top right-7.57 cts, center-3.96 cts, bottom left-5.61 cts, bottom right-5.95 cts)
Tourmaline, Maine (top left-7.01 cts, top right-7.57 cts, center-3.96 cts, bottom left-5.61 cts, bottom right-5.95 cts)
GIA collection# 23771. Tourmaline group from Himalaya mine, Mesa Grande, CA, USA. Gift of William F. Larson.
GIA collection# 23771. Tourmaline group from Himalaya mine, Mesa Grande, CA, USA. Gift of William F. Larson.
This 376.85-carat tourmaline in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is carved by O. Hansen, using the colors of the tourmaline as part of the design.
This 376.85-carat tourmaline in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is carved by O. Hansen, using the colors of the tourmaline as part of the design.
Birthstones Education Gemstones

Sapphire the birthstone of September

Sapphires the birthstone of September. In ancient times sapphires represented the promise of honesty, loyalty, and trust, today they continue to do so as one of the most popular stones for engagement rings. In medieval times the clergy of the Holy Roman Empire would wear sapphires to symbolize a glimpse of heaven as well folklore spoke of it protecting your loved ones from envy and harm.

Sapphire is a part of the corundum gem species and it forms in every color of the rainbow. Red is the only variety of sapphire that has its own name the Ruby. They are found all over the world but a few countries stand out among the rest as places known for their extraordinary stones. They most prized sapphires typically come from Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The most sought after color of sapphire and one of the rarest of stones is the beautiful “Padparadscha”, a pink orange colored stone with a distinctive salmon color. All sapphires are formed by the Earth’s tectonic plates colliding and within these movements crystals and minerals are superheated and merged under extreme pressure. Most sapphires obtain their color due to miniscule impurities of iron or chromium in the case of rubies. Padparadschas however are colored with the presence of both.

Here are some Sapphires of note from around the world and across history:
Rockefeller Sapphire 62.02 carat

Rockefeller Sapphire 62.02 carat

The sapphire belonged to John D. Rockefeller Jr., the only heir of the Rockefeller family. He acquired the 62.02 carat internally flawless stone in 1934 from the Indian Maharaja Mir Osaman.

Stuart Sapphire 104 carat cabochon cut
Stuart Sapphire 104 carat cabochon cut

One of the most significant sapphires in history, the 104 carat cabochon cut stone was originally acquired by Robert the second of the House of Stuarts in the 14th century and now rest on the crown band of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Marie of Romania Sapphire 478.68 carat
Queen Marie of Romania Sapphire 478.68 carat

In 1919 this 478 carat blue sapphire was the prize jewel of Cartier’s exhibition in San Sebabstian. It was coveted by royalty everywhere and Price Ferdinand was the one to acquire it set in a pendant for his mother Queen Marie of Romania.

Birthstones Education Gemstones

Ruby the birthstone of July

Ruby, the Birthstone of July and the boldest of colored stones. Historically minded in Thailand and Burma, with the latter yielding the more desirable stones, the ruby is the most precious gemstone behind the illustrious Diamond. The deep reds of a Burmese ruby represent all of man’s most fiery emotions; love, anger, desire and power. But man’s desire for these beautiful stones goes much deeper than just their rarity and looks, Indian Folklore tells us the owner of a Ruby will live in peace and concord with all those around them and will live a life free from evil thoughts.

Rubies are composed of mineral corundum and are one of a few verities of gem quality corundum based stones. The differences in these stones comes from trace amounts of other minerals resulting a color change. In the case of rubies that mineral is chromium, the main factor in the color of the precious and beautiful gemstone. None red colored corundum gemstones are sapphires, which can come in many colors, though most often people think of blue.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is lucky enough to have one of the world’s largest and finest rubies, the 23.1 carat Carmen Lucia Ruby. It is a Burmese ruby set in a platinum ring with trillion cut diamond side stones. The ruby was donated by Peter Buck a businessman and philanthropist in memory of his wife who is also the name sake of the stone. It is on permanent display in the museum’s Gem Collection. As if Burmese rubies over 20 carats where not rare enough this ruby can also boast its exceptional quality. The Carmen Lucia Ruby has a very rich saturated homogeneous color and is exceptionally clean of internal imperfections. The stone was minded from the fabled Mogo region of Burma in the 1930s.

The Carmen Lucia Ruby Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is among a select few who has a large high quality ruby crystal mineral specimen. As desired and valuable as cut ruby gemstones are there is little chance for mineral specimens to make it to the market let alone make it to a museum. The Hixon Ruby is one of the collections most well-known pieces. At a 196.10 carats the Hixon ruby is a remarkable find. It was donated in 1978 by Colonel Frederick Hixon.

"The Hixon ruby", crystal, corundum ruby. From Mogok, Sagaing, Myanmar. Los Angeles Country Museum of Natural History catalog # 20331. (Hixon collection).
“The Hixon ruby” on display in the Natural History of Museum of Los Angeles County
Education Pearls

Cultured Pearls

Cultured Pearls are keeping the global pearl market alive having largely replaced natural pearls. There are too many people and too few oysters to keep up with demand worldwide, as it can take twenty years for a pearl to reach a marketable size on its own. With pearl cultivation we are able to create pearls in a three to five years as well as control the end shape and color. There are two ways to go about jump starting this process with varying control on the shape of the pearl and length of time required.

To start the culturing process skill technicians surgically implant a small bead, typically made from mother of pearl, with the desired final shape into the mantle tissue of the mollusk. This process requires great skill and care as the oyster cannot be opened more than two to three centimeters without the risk of killing the animal or having it reject the seed. Once the seed nucleus is placed the oysters quickly returned to the sea, where they are housed in individual mesh pockets amidst thousands of others suspended from floating structures in sheltered bays. The bays in which these oysters are housed are selected for their temperature and nutrient content to produce to the type of pearl desired. They feed and grow in these nutrient rich protected areas under constant vigilance by their care takers. As time passes layer after layer of lustrous nacre is secreted surrounding the implanted nucleus creating a pearl.

There, oysters are moved on a daily basis to various water depths to maintain the ideal growing conditions for the pearl. Water between twenty and twenty five degrees Celsius is ideal at a depth of around fifteen meters. In addition to these daily adjustments the oysters are moved to warmer waters during the winter months to prevent the stagnation of growth that would come with colder temperatures. Periodically the oysters are lifted from their waters so they can be cleaned of parasites and any other growths that could threaten their health. Even with all this tender care these oysters are given, the majority will not survive to bear pearls, and even fewer still will produce pearls of ideal shape, luster and color. Less than five percent of a crop of oysters will yield fine quality pearls each year.

After the pearls are brought back to shore and harvested the painstaking working of sorting gets under way. The acceptable pearls will be soaked for a week in a very mild cleaning solution under fluorescent light to remove any deposits and or odors they acquired growing inside the belly of an oyster for the past three years. They are soaked and gently polished in a pool of crushed nut shells and oils before they are ready for sorting. All of the quality pearls are then sorted by shape, size, color, overtones, and quality. These close matching pearls are then separated into groups for their end purpose: pairs for earrings, strands for necklaces, etc. It can take months to clean, polish, and sort a harvest of pearls. The quality pearls will then be taken and sold at auctions all across the world.

Cultured Pearls
Cultured Pearls Polished and ready for sorting.


Diamonds Education Gemstones Technical Uncategorized

Lab Created Gem Stones the Verneuil Process

Created deep in the earth under tremendous heat and pressure gemstones are a natural wonder serving as a reminder of natures beauty and power. They have always bee sought after and coveted by man kind all across the world for their beauty and rarity. But with today’s advances in technology and our understanding of chemistry allow man to do what took nature millions of years in just a tiny fraction of the time. There are several processes capable of creating precious gemstones that are chemically and optically identical to their natural counter parts. The Fusion or Verneuil process was the first to be developed.

The first viable process developed by Verneuil in 1902 is still the simplest and most cost effective process to date and is still widely in use. It requires 99.9995% pure powder of the stone you’re wishing to create as well as any additives required for the desired color or other desired characteristics. The powder is dropped slowly down a funnel where it falls through a flame that melts the powder as it falls through creating droplets of molten metal. The droplets fall on to a small rod below that is slowly lowered as the molten material builds up. This process is very similar to how icicles form, water running down and freezing as it reaches the tip slowly building up over time.

The resulting material is chemically identical to a natural ruby, sapphire or whichever stone you’re forming. The only way to differentiate a stone created in this process from a natural gemstone is the planes in the crystal formation. If the stone was formed in nature these planes would all run parallel to each other however a lab stone created in this fashion would have a slight curve to these planes most notably along the peripheries.

Lab created gemstones can be just a beautiful as their natural counter parts and are fraction of the cost to consumers. While the vast majority of them are used for industrial purposes they are becoming ever more present in the consumer jewelry market place. Strict regulations on the marketing and sale of manmade gemstones are in place to protect consumers from having these stones origins misrepresented. It may be considered a Faux Pas to use lab created gemstones but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and they are not going to know the difference anyway. Check out some of these images of the process below.

A lab created Ruby made using the fusion process.
Pure Alumina Powder used in the creation of Rubies and Sapphires.
Custom Jewelry Designer Spotlights Diamonds Education Uncategorized

Designer Spotlight: Rachel Boston

Rachel is a London born and based jewelry designer, educated at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design as well as the Gemological Institute of America. She is becoming more and more recognized for her work as she was nominated for New Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards, and chosen as only one of seven designers to exhibit in the “Made in London:Jewellery Now” exhibition in the Museum of London.

Rachel’s design signature is strong natural setting with often aggressive posturing and a nod to London punk rock. There is a sophisticated edge to her designs and a quality about it that keeps it off the shelves of hot topic and on those of luxury retailers. Boston has risen near the top of new designers all driving raw organic designs, with her attention to detail and direct response to the natural inclusions within stones. From the Cosmos Collection of stunning diamond slices with delicate ballet of inclusions rivaling a Cy Twombly painting, to the living forms of “The Ritual” Collection Boston has done the booming trend right.

Here are a few of our favorite pieces of Rachel’s. Explore her collections and find something that sparks a creative fire in you to make your own Boston inspired custom piece.

Lizard Skin Cuff - Rachel Boston
Lizard Skin Cuff – Rachel Boston


Custom Jewelry Education Technical

Modern Wax Making printing & milling

In our increasingly fast paced world traditional manufacturing methods are dying off to make room for automation, cost cutting and mass production. Art forms such as jewelry are quick to adopt new technologies though for slightly different reasons than our more industrial manufacturing counterparts. In any art form one is always pushing the envelope searching for a way to make their vision a reality and let’s be honest, to pay the rent. New methods to generate waxes suitable for lost wax casting are allowing jewelers the world over to create pieces never before possible, or in the least, prohibitively expensive.
First there was CNC milling, a tremendous breakthrough especially when considering its predecessor, hand carving waxes. CNC milling technology has allowed jewelers to produce three to four waxes a day up from one or less. Along with this increase in productivity came greater precision and accuracy to be expected from a mechanical process. Now 3D printing has raced to the forefront allowing for such large scale, precise, rapid prototyping that it has even replaced molds. Designers and customers have been liberated from many of the constraints formerly imposed. Long gone are the days of “how can I open this up so the mill can get in there?”. The pain staking process of creating a scaled master mold and shooting forty pieces is gone and replaced with printing them all at once with confidence they will all be accurate.
Modeling technology is opening new doors every day as the users grow in their understanding of its potential applications. These innovations are making custom jewelry more and more accessible to individuals and DBD plans to use this to make one of, if not the most personal purchases of anyone’s life unique, personal, and fun. Don’t settle for off the shelf jewelry and engagement rings, come enjoy the process of creating a custom piece with Dickinson by Design.

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 Uncategorized

Custom Making Jewelry (Part 1 Getting Started)

An educated customer is a custom jewelers best customer, as long as they come with a layer of humility still intact. There is nothing more difficult, albeit potentially great, than a customer who comes in not having any specific direction they would like to pursue. When a client comes in without a foundation the first meeting can either be a long and arduous task or brief “ah ha” moment. If you’re just beginning the process I always recommend starting online with a simple Google image search. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get your first glimpse at what’s out there and begin to narrow down your search. After you have exhausted the first hundred pages of images you’re probably ready to see what some of your favorites look like in the flesh. A quick search of some local jewelry retailers to confirm they have pieces of similar style and price available for you to take a look at should be your next step. Take a look around their entire show case, you never know what you might find. Most likely you’re not going to find a complete engagement ring that has all the qualities you’re looking for, but don’t fret, you’re still just getting a feel for it all. Take pictures of rings you like or just rings with parts you like, your custom jeweler can always combine the shank from one ring with the halo of another and it will be much easier to explain with a picture. Now that you seen the real thing you might want to make one more quick image search online with your new found ability to visualize the real thing and collect some finale samples for the designer. Congratulations you’re now ready to meet with a custom jewelry designer and start your project.

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.