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Gemstones for beginners February 22 2016, 0 Comments

There are a huge variety of natural gemstones regularly used in jewellery.

Most are minerals of some kind, the definition of a mineral being that it is solid and stable at room temperature, and that is has an ordered atomic structure (very scientific!)

There are a few exceptions to this, lapis lazuli is a rock, and there are other materials such as amber and pearls which are often used as gems.

Garnets from Mozambique, cut into baguettes

We tend to associate the names of gemstones with their colour, but in many cases the different colours of the same mineral have different names. 

As an example, rubies and sapphires are technically the same, all colours of corundum except for red are referred to as sapphires. Sapphires are most known for being blue, but come in all kinds of beautiful colours.

This is mostly historical, as it wasn't possible until more recently to see the difference in the mineral structure of gems. Many of the red stones in the crown jewels which were thought to be rubies are technically spinels, a different type of gemstone. 

Diamonds are generally expected to be clear, but also appear naturally in lots of different colours from pink and yellow to blues, browns and greens. Sapphires and topaz also have totally clear forms which before synthetic gems were developed were used as diamond substitutes.

The cost of stones is affected by their rarity and popularity. Traditionally stones were divided into precious and semi-precious, with diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald being precious stones. 

The most known stones and colours are the most expensive, but there are different grades. The deeper and richer the colour of an emerald, the more it will cost. A paler stone, possibly with inclusions will be less expensive. Buying a precious stone can be a complicated business, as there will be a variety of options depending on colour and clarity. 

More recently this division is less important, although these stones are probably still some of the most popular and well known. 

There are lots of lesser known beautiful stones, and more unusual colours of well known stones can be really lovely. If you were thinking of an emerald but your budget won't stretch to one, tourmaline, peridot and sapphire all come in gorgeous shades of green.  

Gemstones also vary in terms of how tough they are, this is measured on the 'Mohs' scale, with diamond at the top. Generally harder stones are more valuable as they are more suitable for everyday wear but there are exceptions such as opals which are very fragile but can be hugely valuable depending on the colour. 

Gemstones can have natural inclusions, other materials or flaws within the stone which are a different colour. In something like a perfectly clear diamond these make the stone less valuable, but with other types of stones they can create very interesting effects.

Cutting:

Stones are cut into shapes before being set into jewellery.

 

 Keep an eye on my gemstone series for more on the different cuts and settings. 


Gemstones for Beginners - Facets July 27 2015, 0 Comments

Following on from my introduction to gemstones a few weeks ago, here is a little history of the cutting process.

On a basic level stones are generally either cut with facets, or into cabochons, which have a flat back and normally a smooth surface.

Generally transparent gemstones are faceted, as those which are opaque don't reflect light internally in the same way. Harder stones are also generally used as scratches are more obvious on faceted stones.

Cuttings diamonds started in the middle ages, diamonds are naturally octagonal crystals, and until cutting was developed they were only used in their natural form. The first cut diamonds simply had their natural facets polished, then slowly the shape began to become more and more complex, with more facets added to increase the sparkle.

Computer design and mathematical advances have been used to study how light travels through the stones, and have led to huge developments in cutting. The modern brilliant round cut was developed around 1900, and normally has 58 facets. Symmetry is hugely important to this process, as the pattern of facets are designed to bounce the light around to provide maximum reflection.

Sterling silver Orbit ring with white sapphire

Faceted stones come in a variety of shapes, some standard and occasionally some which are more unusual. The different shapes and cuts are more or less complex, with a princess cut for example being a more complex way of cutting a square or rectangular stone. 

Basically it's all about sparkle, and that marvellous game of turning a ring under the light to watch the different surfaces reflect. With a transparent stone you are looking beyond the surface into the stone, but even with something more opaque stones facets will create more reflection on the surface.

Baguette ring in sterling silver with London blue topaz

When I first started making jewellery I didn't think I had much interest in faceted stones, I considered them really for use in very traditional pieces and not of much interest to me. Over time the sparkle has slowly pulled me in, and now I love thinking of new ways to incorporate faceted gems into my work.


Gemstones for Beginners July 06 2015, 0 Comments

There are a huge variety of natural gemstones regularly used in jewellery.

Most are minerals of some kind, the definition of a mineral being that it is solid and stable at room temperature, and that is has an ordered atomic structure (very scientific!)

There are a few exceptions to this, lapis lazuli is a rock, and there are organic materials such as amber and pearls which are often considered to be gems.

The different colours of the minerals come from differences in their structure, which affect which colours of light they reflect. Some stones can be heat treated to change their colour.

Green Tourmaline

We tend to associate the names of gemstones with their colour, but in many cases the different colours of the same mineral have different names. 

As an example, rubies and sapphires are technically the same type of mineral, all colours of corundum except for red are referred to as sapphires. Sapphires are most known for being blue, but come in all kinds of beautiful colours.

Diamonds are generally expected to be clear, but also appear naturally in lots of different colours from pink and yellow to blues, browns and greens. Sapphires and topaz also have totally clear forms which before synthetic gems were developed were used as diamond substitutes.

The cost of stones is affected by their rarity and popularity. Traditionally stones were divided into precious and semi-precious, with diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald being precious stones. 

More recently this division is less important, although these stones are probably still some of the most popular and well known.

Gemstones can have natural inclusions, other materials or flaws within the stone which are a different colour. In something like a perfectly clear diamond these make the stone less valuable, but with other types of stones they can create very interesting effects.

The most known stones and colours are generally the most expensive, but there are generally different grades. The deeper and richer the colour of an emerald, the more expensive it will be. A paler stone, possibly with inclusions will be less expensive.

  Garnet and smoky quartz

All my stone set rings are available with a variety of different stones, if you have something specific in mind send me an email for options. I could also source a special stone to be the centre of a bespoke piece.