Posts Tagged ‘custom jewelry’

Durability in Emeralds

As she removed the ring from her finger it slipped from her grasp and fell to the center of the glass display case.  Her face changed color and with a timid voice said, “I’m so sorry!”  “Not a problem,” I said, picking up the ring from the display case and showing her and her husband that nothing had happened to the ring or the emerald.  Then she said, “If the emerald didn’t break, maybe it’s not a real one.  They are very fragile.”

The lady thought that natural emeralds are so fragile that they couldn’t resist something like dropping them 12” onto a display case.  While I wouldn’t want to drop them on purpose, they can withstand a lot more abuse than most people think.  As I explained to the lady, there are a lot of factors that decide how fragile a stone will be, particularly after it is set.  Here are a few things I told her, and a few things you may find interesting about emerald durability.

Most of the information about durability in emeralds says how delicate and weak this gem is.  But in reality, emeralds are not all that fragile.  The Mohs scale of mineral hardness identifies how easily a gemstone is scratched.  Diamonds are at the top of the scale at 10.  After them come rubies and sapphires at 9, topaz at 8 and emeralds are from 7.5 to 8.  They are in the same range as aquamarines, most quartz and tourmalines, and above tanzanite (6.5 – 7), turquoise (5 – 6), onyx (6.5 – 7), zircon (6.5 – 7.5), opal (5.5 – 6.5) and pearls (2.5 -4.5).

Even though emeralds are relatively hard stones, the presence of fractures and inclusions that give each stone its personality and unique beauty can also affect their toughness. The liquids, gases and crystals inside these gems create challenges to those who work with the stones.  The gem cutter must avoid touching any inclusions with his cutting disk or he may break the stone.  The setter, the person in charge of putting the stone into a piece of jewelry, can break a stone  just by pushing the stone into the setting if there are fissures near a corner of the stone.

All this talk about breaking stones may sound like a bad thing, but the good news is that if you see an emerald that has inclusions only in its center far from any surface or corner, durability of the gem will not be a problem.  A good cutter will isolate the inclusions in the center of the stone and the setter will design a setting that will protect the stone where it is most likely to be bumped by the wearer under normal circumstances.  Yes, emeralds can be fragile but the cutter and setter have already taken most of the risks, much more than the wearer of a well designed piece of jewelry will ever have.

Here are some things I always tell my customers who are still concerned about an emerald’s durability.  You do have a choice where to wear your emerald.  Stones worn as pendants, earrings, or brooches are far less likely to be bumped or otherwise abused than stones set in rings and bracelets.  But more important than anything else is the setting.

Emerald in a bezel setting

A bezel setting goes all the way around the stone, covering its whole edge.  A V-Prong setting for cuts with corners, e.g. emerald cuts and pear shapes, is also a great option.  It encloses the most fragile parts, the corners, with metal. Any of these two give very good protection to any gem and will be the perfect choice for rings that you will like to wear every day.

V-Prong Setting

Because a setting is so important to the protection of an emerald, some jewelers don’t feel comfortable working with them.  They will have to be more careful when they work with these gems than when working with diamonds.  Just to make a small repair like resizing a ring or replacing a prong, they will have to take the emerald out of the setting, make the repair, and then put the gem back in the setting. It is a risk that some jewelers prefer not to take.

We at Queen Emerald always try to build all our jewelry pieces with the assumption that you will want to wear them every day and all the time.  That is why every single piece is made by hand, every single setting is made for an individual stone, and all the prongs are bigger and wider than traditional prongs.

The best advice I can give is to enjoy your emeralds.  If you have one of our pieces already you can wear it with confidence every day.  It was made with just for that purpose.  Just remember, ANYTHING can be broken and because you are wearing a unique and exclusive jewelry piece it needs to be treated with a little care.

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Which emerald is a good emerald? COLOR

COLOR

This is a question that many people have asked me for years, every day.  It’s the biggest concern for anyone shopping for emeralds or is simply curious about this exotic gem.  Sometimes the explanation is hard to understand because there are not many good examples in the marketplace you can refer to for comparison.  Not all jewelry stores have a nice variety of natural emeralds or have good information about them.

Blog 2If you are not a gemologist, the jargon and methods used to grade quality can be hard to understand.  From my side of the jewelry counter, I may look at as many as 7 different features of each stone.  From your side of the counter you need to know simple but important things to make your own decision. For someone looking for an engagement ring, for the ladies that love gems and want some idea of what to look for, or for someone looking for that special gift that shows how much you care, there are four very important qualities of natural emeralds that you can assess yourself, Color, Clarity, Brilliancy and Size.  We’ll discuss color first.

Color is the biggest factor in establishing the value and quality in natural emeralds.  Color is divided into: Hue, Tonal Grade, and Saturation.  Hue refers to the kind of green color the emerald has.  It gives a name to the color.  Most of the Colombian emeralds present a “bluish green”.

Tonal grade establishes the degree of darkness or lightness of the green color in the gem.  Natural emeralds present a wide variety of green tones:

Very Light,       Light,       Medium Light,       Medium,       Medium Dark,       Very Dark.

Many people consider that a good emerald is dark green.  Most of the literature about these gems will say that a good emerald will have a Tonal grade from Medium to Very Dark.  Be careful because this is only one part of the color feature.  Color is only one of the factors that make the value in these gems.

How vivid and how much power the green has is as important as how dark it is.  That is what we call Saturation in the color.  Saturation is the strength or intensity of the color, ranging from a dull hue (green) to a pure vivid hue.  That’s why you will find emeralds with a dark green color but at the same time they are dull or “flat”, having a dead look that is not exciting and doesn’t speak to you.

P1010535In the same way you will find a light green colored emerald that is full of life, one that catches your eye in the display case and you can not stop looking at it.   That mysterious power grabs your attention and you cannot explain why.  So…light green is not always a bad thing.

When you mix the Tonal grade and Saturation you will have the color in an emerald.  In the market the most expensive emeralds are the ones with high saturation and a Tonal Grade between Medium and Medium Dark.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy a Medium Light with nice saturation or vivid green emerald.  You can’t imagine how many customers I have had who were looking for a dark green emerald “because those are the good ones” –they say- and can’t help falling in love with a Medium Light Tonal Grade emerald with good saturation.

“I haven’t seen emeralds in this kind of green color.”   “I didn’t like emeralds because I though they came just in dark dull green…”  “I can’t tell what it is about this stone that I love.”  “I have seen emeralds but not like these.”  “My mom has an emerald but it doesn’t looks like yours.”

These are the phrases I’m very happy to hear and I hear them all the time. We have a nice selection of emeralds, a selection that you normally won’t see in traditional jewelry stores. Some of them are dark and some light, some with a high saturation some with low saturation…but all of them are beautiful.

Color is only one part of the quality in natural emeralds. I’ll talk about Clarity in my next blog.

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