A great question! The answer lies in the manufacturing and marketing. Let’s look at the type of jewelry in the shopping malls, stuff made for the mass market. These items are generally cheap but why?
Well, they are made for a specific market and to a price! Let’s say jewelry shops in the malls decide that an emerald ring in gold can be sold for a certain amount.
They contact the wholesalers and ask if it can be supplied. Firstly, they know that a real emerald might not even be able to be bought for Athat amount so they decide to use created emeralds. Next, they know that they must use the cheapest yellow gold for their market 10K.
They then make the design. This is done by a designer who works with pen and paper and computers. This is often not some person who just thinks they have great ideas. This is a professional designer most likely with many years experience and perhaps a university degree in design. When the designer comes up with a design which is suitable for the expected clientele then it goes to manufacturing.
However, when the ring is made it just isn’t right so it’s back to design. After a redesign it gets manufactured again.
When it comes back from manufacturer it still isn’t right as the weight is too much and that would make the cost of manufacturer over budget.
You get the picture. It goes back and forth until all aspects are just right. Sometimes this may take as many as fifteen times before it is right. So it is a long process and that’s a huge amount of money for all that work.
What they have now is a design with a tiny created emerald to be made in a thin ring with the least amount of the cheapest gold possible – Don’t get me wrong, it is still going to be good quality but every component is minimum - otherwise it is not possible to make it and sell it for AUD $200.00
Convert. These days you’ll find the back of the ring under the stone is hollowed out and this is solely to reduce the weight as gold is the big cost. A lot of people don’t like that but they like the look of the item and the cost.
Next, it is off to the cheapest manufacturing spot on the planet. These days that is probably China. The rings are made, not one at a time, but in batches of thousands at a time.
Now imagine that you walk into a manufacturing jeweler and tell him you want an emerald ring made. Here is the conversation:
You: “My name is Trudy and my grandmother always said that emeralds are the gemstones for me and so I want an emerald ring made.”
Jeweler: “That’s great Trudy! Do you have a design in mind?”
You: “Not really, but I like thick rings not those skinny bands that you see all the time. And I would like 18K white gold.” (This is the most expensive.)
Jeweler: Do you have the emerald yourself?
You: “No, I thought you could supply that.”
Jeweler: “Yes I can and the size and quality of the stone will play a big part. Do you have a budget in mind?
You: “Not really but I see them in the shops for AUD $200.00
Convert so around that figure somewhere…”
The jeweler is now thinking…well, that would nearly cover the cost price for the gold…and he is starting to lose interest big time!
Author: Gary Hocking
An imperial parure: the Louvre has achieved a remarkable coup by purchasing—for the highest price ever paid by a museum for items of jewellery—the necklace and earrings which formed part of the emerald parure commissioned by Napoleon for the Empress Marie Louise in 1810. Diana Scarisbrick explains their significance
The Amis du Louvre have recently acquired a necklace and pair of emerald and diamond earrings that were part of a parure given by Napoleon I to the Empress Marie Louise at the time of their marriage, in March 1810 (Fig. 1). Since the price--3.7 million euros--is the highest ever paid by an institution for items of jewellery, one might well ask what is so special about these two pieces, which were acquired from Humphrey Butler and S.J. Phillips of London, and from Thomas Faerber of Geneva. (1)
The answer is that the combination of the intrinsic value of the stones, the artistry of the setting and the imperial provenance justifies the kind of price which is more usually paid for paintings and sculpture. The magnificent quality illustrates how Napoleon, perhaps the last great patron of the arts, used jewellery to assert by peaceful means the absolute political authority he had won by his sword. To this end he insisted that the court ceremonies of the Empire take place in an atmosphere of the utmost splendour and brilliance, obtainable by grandiose displays of precious stones. This reached an apogee at the time of his marriage to the Habsburg Archduchess Marie Louise. Then, as Balzac describes in La Paix du Menage, 'Diamonds glittered everywhere, so much so that it seemed as if the wealth of the whole world was concentrated on Paris ... never had the diamond been so sought after, never had it cost so much.'
At the same time, Napoleon wished tore-establish the preeminence of Paris as the creative centre for luxury and fashion, a status it had lost in the period of anarchy which followed the Revolution. The scale of his patronage and that of the dignitaries of the Empire was such that by 1807, the Chambre de Commerce reported that there were 400 jewellers, employing 800 men and 2000 women in business in the city. (2) It was one of these, Marie Etienne Nitot, whom Napoleon, with his sure judgment, appointed as his court jeweller.
We need to understand two things before we can make a decision as to whether a piece of jewellery made by hand is better or worse than a casting: What is a casting? What is made by hand?
Hand made Jewellery.
Jewellery made by hand is jewellery which is made by the use of bending, twisting, hammering, filing sawing and soldering metal until it has the form of a piece of jewellery that the maker wants.
Let’s take a simple example: a plain wedding band or wedder as it is often referred to. The jeweller, called a manufacturing jeweller, as opposed to someone who owns a jewellery shop but doesn’t actually make anything starts off with a lump of gold which he melts down and pours into a steel mould. It comes out of this mould in the shape of something resembling a big nail. He takes this piece and puts it into a rolling mill and he turns a handle and rolls the metal through the mill until finally he get a long flat piece of metal. He cuts that piece to a length which will fit around the customer’s finger. Next he hammers it into the shape of a ring and he solders it to form a ring. After that he might file it into a nice rounded shape, polish it, and he now has a gold wedding band! The whole process probably takes about an hour or a bit more.
Now he wants another one for the customer’s spouse to be. So the whole process starts again and proceeds just like the last. Tomorrow a new customer comes in and wants a ring just like the one he made yesterday so wouldn’t it be better if he could have copied the first one some how?
The casting process.
He now makes one perfect wedding ring. Once finished this is called the model or master. From this master he is going to make tens or hundreds of copies all identical to the first one that he made by hand. In the jewellery trade the main casting method is called The Lost Wax Casting Method.
Advantages and disadvantages of the two methods:
A hand made piece takes hours and sometimes days to make while a casting takes minutes to cast a hundred identical pieces. Of course there is cleaning up to do but the time spent is nothing like making a piece by hand. So the labour cost is a fraction of the hand made piece.
A hand made piece is likely to be stronger and denser and as it is hammered and filed it becomes harder in the process. The jeweller is carefully making this single piece and is naturally conscious of its quality all the way.
Sometimes a casting can have bubbles inside which may be missed by the manufacturer causing the item to break years later for no apparent reason. Of course, in a modern, well equipped workshop things like this are under tight control, but it can happen.
Is a hand made piece unique? Not necessarily. The jeweller might have a cast piece which he is copying. I am often asked to copy a grandmother’s piece of jewellery so that it can be given to a second daughter.
So what’s the answer? Which is the better method? A casting will be cheaper and so more people can enjoy the same thing. Would I be happy for my daughter to wear a cast ring? Absolutley, in fact she does. But I have also made her many pieces by hand.
A one off engagement ring may be better if it is made by hand with all that attention to detail and quality, but it is going to cost you for the priviledge!
Silver is a soft metal compared to gold alloys. The downside of being soft is that your silver ring will get pushed out of shape whereas this rarely will happen with a gold ring. It also scratches very, very easily.
The other disadvantage of silver is that it tarnishes easily. Let’s look at these two problems one at a time.
1. Take care of your silver jewellery by taking it off when you are going to do anything where it is going to rub against virtually anything. So take it off when you do the gardening, washing the dishes etc.
2. Don’t wear it alongside another ring as it will rub and scratch.
3. Store your silver jewellery items individually in small boxes with soft material around them.
4. If your item gets light scratches you can polish the item as best you can but you are not likely to remove these but a good polish will disguise them. Heavy scratches will require a jeweller to sand them out and repolish your item. He won’t charge the earth for that so get it done.
Tarnish is produced by so many sources that you would have to avoid nearly everything in life to prevent it totally. Certain foods, salts such as body salts, oils, materials such as rubber, wool and felt will tarnish silver but so will the air we live in.
So what do we do about it? Just be sensible and avoid allowing hairsprays, foods and chemicals from coming in contact with it. The best prevention is early cleaning and proper storage. I have found that storage in a plastic airtight bad will keep silver very well and tarnish free.
Wash your silver jewellery with a very mild detergent and rub in smooth up and down lines after drying it with a soft cloth. Buy a silver polishing cloth from a jewellery shop. For a few dollars you will have the polishing cloth that is used by the experts. Forget about toothbrushes and all the rest of it if you wash it occasionally and polish with the proper cloth. If you have let it go and not cleaned it for a good while then you might need to use a soft brush and a stronger detergent and warm water, but remember these are clearing away the grime but they are abrasive too.
You can buy tarnish absorbing strips and cloths to place in the jewellery box and these work quite well.
Today a lot of jewellery is being made with a tarnish- resistant silver and this will overcome the tarnish problem almost entirely. Some jewellery is rhodium plated and this is also tarnish resistant. The less you pay the less chance that the item will be tarnish resistant.
You can use electrochemical methods which you will see in flea markets, and you can use pastes and solutions which you can buy from a hardware store and other silver polishes but just remember that there is a small downside to all of these. Over time pitting might develop, scratches might occur from polishing and pastes might build up in hard to get to places. So use all of these sparingly.
Appreciate that your silver jewellery is soft and will, without doubt, scratch and become a little dull. Care for it by proper washing, sensible wearing and proper storage. Take it to your jeweller for a buffing and polish occasionally to keep it at its peak. Jewellery is for wearing so enjoy it by wearing it.
One thing that most people know is that emeralds are a major gemstone and that they are expensive. That's largely because emeralds are a type of the mineral beryl and they are rare. They come in varying shades of green.
It is chromium, vanadium or iron elements in the stone which make that lovely green colour. On the Moh's scale of hardness where the hardest is diamond at 10, emerald comes in around 7.5. So it is reasonably hard but rubies and sapphires come in harder around 9.
Where are they found?
Emeralds are found in India, South Africa, Russia, Pakistan and some small deposits in the USA. The most important emeralds come from Columbia.
Just how expensive is emerald?
Well, if you get any other gemstone of the same weight as an emerald, chances are most likely that the emerald will be the most expensive. So in that sense it is the most expensive gemstone in the world.
What should I know about emeralds?
One thing you should know is that emeralds often have lots of inclusions or imperfections inside them and the outer surface is often not perfect like a diamond. In order to make enhance the stone most emeralds are oiled after they have been cut. Sometimes emeralds have cracks in them which are filled with resin. These treatments have been used for longer than you have been alive and they are accepted as standard practice in the jewellery industry. Generally, you will be told by the seller of the stones treatments. Certainly you should ask if this is the case.
Are there Synthetic Emeralds?
Yes most definitely. In fact most of the emeralds you will see in the lower end to moderate end of jewellery in shops will be created emerald. It is cheap and beautiful and the only reason you shouldn't buy it is if you love emeralds and you want and can afford real natural emerald gems.
How do I know which is a good emerald?
Think about all gemstones that you purchase in the same way:
Weight, colour, clarity and brilliance. When these qualities increase then the stone gets more expensive and its price will increase. So in simple terms a small, dull emerald with not much life to it is going to be cheap and not worth much. On the other hand, a large, vibrant, clear looking but beautiful green emerald that make you gasp is going to cost a lot and be worth it perhaps!
My advice is that if you a re looking to buy a natural emerald for that special piece of jewellery and are gong to pay well for it then buy from someone that you feel you can trust. Talk to the gemologist or jewellery and several would be better than one. Do some research by books and the internet about the stone. This will not only help you chose the right one for you but it will add some valuable interest to your purchase. Emerald is the birthstone for May
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How Jewellers Polish Silver and Gold Jewellery
You might wonder why you can never get your old jewellery to shine like new, or you might wonder why the $15 silver item in a market has nothing like the finish that you see on a $120 item in a jewellery shop.
Well let me take you quickly through the process that I do to finish of my pieces of jewellery.
Firstly, an item comes back from the casting process and it has some pieces of metal hanging off it and the finish is all crinkly or it looks like it has been sandblasted. Here are the steps I take:
1. I use a heavy file and remove all the dags or sharp bits of metal left over from casting.
2. I next use a light metal file and I file the item as smooth as I can. I also use round files and square files and triangular files to get into those hard to get places.
3. Next I use various grades of sandpaper starting with a medium grit and sanding all over the items. Then I use a finer grade to sand all over again.
4. Now I place the items in a tumbler of metal shot. It is a mixture of small ball bearings and pointy pieces of stainless steel. It is tumbled in this with a solution of water and polish. I leave it tumbling for several hours.
5. I now use string with polish on it to get into holes and crevices where my other tools cannot reach. I run the string through the holes and polish the inside of them. This takes a lot of time and I am not fond of doing it.
6. I now use a mechanical polisher with a grease called Tripoli which actually comes from Tripoli and I use this to polish the item.
7. Now I put this into an ultrasonic machine with a solution of hot water and detergent to clean the Tripoli polish from the item.
8. Now I use another polish on the machine called Rouge. It is a red polish and now this will give my item a high gleam.
9. Back into the ultrasonic for about twenty minutes and the rouge is removed. I then dry the item carefully with a soft cloth.
10. Finally I get a polish impregnated cloth and I hand polish the item for a magnificent sparkling finish.
That's all there is to it! I now slip the item into a jewellery box without touching it with my fingers. Sometimes I'll wear a glove for this as I do not want my finger marks on the item.
Now if you have been wearing your wedding ring 24/7 for ten years and you take it off and try to polish it by hand you'll know why you'll never
catch up to me.
Gary Hocking is a manufacturing jeweller from Australia. He has his own website http://www.jewelleryexpress.com.au You may copy and distribute this article as long as you keep the live link to his website.
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What is the Best Opal in the World
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"Potch" is what we call worthless opal. It is actually opal but is has dull and lifeless grey black , white or unappealing ranges of color.
These days people tend to think that opal is found in Australia. Well it certainly is and there are two predominant types: black opal and white opal. Black opal comes from the Lightning Ridge region in the state of NSW and white opal comes from the Coober Pedy region in the state of South Australia.
Australian black opal is recognized as being the best quality gemstone opal in the world. You really need to think about that for a while. Obviously there is beautiful opal found in not just Coober Pedy but in different parts of the world.
Opal is found in all corners of the earth and has been known for many hundreds of years before it was found in Australia. Louis Leakey, an anthropologist in Kenya, found opal which had been worked by early artisans as long ago as 6,000 years.
Today there are still deposits of opal found in Hungary, Germany, Russia and other European countries as well as North and South America and Africa.
Many African states are finding deposits of opal. There is opal found in most continents and many countries but the deposits are small and the quality of opal is not good. In Australia the quantity is huge and the quality is magnificent at the top end.
I guess what experts mean is that if you are looking for the very best gemstone opal then you will most likely be talking about the black opal.
I have seen a million dollars worth of gemstone black opal held in the palm of a miner's hand. But I have also seen truckloads of worthless opal.
Another thing that I like about opal is that you don't have to be rich to have a nice piece of opal jewelry. You can choose to purchase a lower quality solid opal and have it set into a lovely setting and it will still look great even though it might not have the stunning colors of more expensive opal. It often will have some exciting character about it.
Alternatively, you can choose a doublet or a triplet which will often need a little more care as it is made from two or three pieces but will be mostly bright and flashy at a very affordable price.
Sometimes you will find potch with lines of bright opal within it and this will be cheap and will make splendid opal jewelry, particularly opal pendants rather than opal earrings or rings for a small amount of money.
Gary Hocking makes custom jewellery specializing in Australian opals. He has his own website http://www.opaljewelryexpress.com Feel free to use this article as long as you keep the bio and the live link to his website.
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Synthetic Opals, Should I buy them
First of all what is a real opal? A real opal is a natural occurring stone. They vary like most gemstones from being dull and lifeless to brilliant and mystifying.
Well then, what is a synthetic opal? It is a man-made copy of nature.
Great looking opal is hard to find and expensive. Even the tiniest pieces can be made into something saleable. There are basically three type of opal pieces sold: Solids, which are one piece of natural opal stone, Doublets, which are two pieces and Triplets which are three pieces.
Doublets are usually one piece of real opal with a piece of black opal or some other stone glued to the back of it. So a doublet may no longer be 100% real natural opal. A triplet will be a doublet with a dome of clear substance on the top of it. This is often glass, quartz or something else. Triplets then, most likely only have one of their three parts as real opal.
Are doublets and triplets bad? Heavens no! They suit the lower budgets and that's a good thing. Solids are the real thing and are the best. Doublets are a thin layer of real opal and are not as valuable and triplets are less valuable again.
Now we have totally man made or synthetic opals. These are actually opals but the normal process of nature has been sped up so what occurs over millions of years now occurs in a laboratory in months or years. The result is stunning!
How can I tell if it is synthetic?
It is not easy but let me say that most retailers will wittingly not try to pass off synthetic opal as real. I have gone into shops in different parts of the world and told the owners that what they are calling opal is not real but synthetic opal. In all cases they were selling a lovely piece of jewellery with a small piece of synthetic stone and they were interested to learn, particularly when I showed them some real opal.
If you look at synthetic opal from the side it mostly has vertical striations which are quite uniform whereas natural opal is generally wobbly and layers go all over the place. These striations are too uniform and is a good sign that you are looking at synthetic, but I have seen and mined real opal that looks like this too.
Synthetic opal will be perfect in most cases whereas natural opal is flawed. If it looks too good then it probably isn't a natural stone.
But should you buy a synthetic opal? Why not! They look stunningly beautiful. I buy them and I cut them and make them into fantastic pieces of jewellery that my customers and my family are happy to wear. You just have to appreciate that they are synthetic.
Author: Gary Hocking is an opal miner and manufacturing jeweller who has his own website: http://www.opaljewelryexpress.com
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