Engaged: 3 Stone Spinel

Sometimes the best projects are the most terrifying. Warning – this post is picture heavy!

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A while back I had a new client come to me and she said, “I don’t know what I want, but really like the Accolade band, and a few other settings. Can you design my engagement ring?” To which I said yes.

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Looking back on it, I think it’s kind of funny because being given full creative control is so so scary, but her engagement ring turned out wonderfully and I couldn’t be happier.

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We had a lot of debate over stones, but once the actual setting idea came into fruition, it all seemed to fall into place.

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It was made using three precision cut spinels – the center is a lavender spinel, and the two side stones are gray spinels.

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Platinum ended up being the metal of choice due to it’s lack of maintenance.  The random polish to smooth out scratches, and it looks as good as new again!

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The angled shoulder view is often my favorite on any ring, but on this ring, it’s extra special – I love how the prongs and the curves just flow together!

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Last rays of summer sun…

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Once you see the profile, you can clearly see how it was inspired by the Accolade band!

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E, I am absolutely delighted for you and D, and I hope that this ring follows you through many great adventures on your life together!

Elle signature

Gemstone Vocabulary and Anatomy

I decided to put together a glossary of sorts of gemstone terms, or terms that I use relatively often and might not be familiar to those who aren’t well versed in gemstone and jewelry terminology. Something I wish I had when I was first learning!

This is an endlessly growing and changing document, and will need continuous updates to keep it useful. Please let me know if any suggestions for terms, or comments you might have!

Adularescence – milky glow that moves as the stone moves, originates from within a gemstone and is caused by inclusions, occurs in the presence of stronger light conditions.

bezel set – a way of setting a stone with solid metal completely surrounding the stone, pushed down over the stone’s girdle

brilliance – amount of light reflected back out of a gemstone, a direct result of a stone’s refractive index

brilliant cut – a facet design radiating from the culet of the stone, on a perpendicular plane from the girdle of the stone

cleavage – tendency for a mineral to break along distinct planes dependant on how the mineral grows

colorless – a stone that is not known for being without color, having zero saturation. Examples: sapphires, spinels, garnet, tourmaline, topaz

crown – the facets from the girdle up to the table, the height from the girdle to the table

culet – the pointed tip of a stone formed by pavilion facets. Antique diamonds may have “small” “medium” or “large”. Modern cut diamonds typically do not have a culet, the pavilion facets meet at a point.

dispersion – the ability for a gem to divide the light into spectral colors

facets – a flat plane cut onto a gemstone

fat belly – when a pavilion is cut to preserve weight, instead of forming a cone, it is more bulbous and round on the bottom

fire – see dispersion

fluorescence – reaction of trace minerals causing the stone to glow a specific color when exposed to UV light, typically blue, yellow and red

girdle – the circumference around the stone where the crown and the pavilion facets meet, it can range from very thin to very thick, and can be faceted or rough.

keel – an edge formed by pavilion facets. typically found in elongated cut stones

kozibe effect – culet reflected around the stone

luster – light reflected from a gem’s surface

meet – the edge in which is made when two facets line up in faceting

monochrome – varying tones of one color, white-gray-black

MRB – modern round brilliant

OEC – Old European Cut

OMC – Old Mine/Miner’s Cut

pavilion – the bottom part of the stone, typically cone shaped

pleochromism – the characteristic of having different colors visible from different angles

RI – refractive index

Rose cut – stone cut into a dome type shape with a flat bottom/no pavilion, and the crown is a hexagon shape with triangular facets, meeting in a low angled point on top, typically cut in a round shape, but may also be cushion, pear, oval or marquise.

saturation – how pure and intense a color appears. Low saturated tends to be gray, highly saturated is vividly colored.

silk – the appearance of a stone looking slightly cloudy, which bounces the  typically caused by inclusions referred to as silk,

spread – the size of a stone when looking top down, measured by the diameter of the girdle. Typically used to compare one stone to another.

step cut – a facet design on a parallel plane from the girdle of the stone, typically angular in shape. Emerald, baguette, carre, asscher are common types.

tilt window – when a stone is viewed at an angle that is not straight down into the stone, and you can see through the pavilion

table – the flat top facet of the stone

window – when a stone is cut at the wrong angles for it’s type, the see through portion in the middle is called a window

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Window illustration

Lapidaries

I have a few favorite lapidaries, but I’m always on the lookout for new ones. I do tend to go for precision cut stones over non-precision cut stones, but so long as a gem is cut well, and sparkly, that’s the most important part. But, if all else is equal, I’ll chose a perfectly cut stone over a non-perfectly stone. Which is where those lapidaries who slave over their laps come in!

For a little bit about some lapidaries I have had experience with….

Barry Bridgestock of Artistic Colored Stones
Barry is fantastic. Barry watches a lot of baseball while he’s cutting stones. He is one of the most personable cutters I have had the pleasure of working with, and an amazing lapidary on top of that. I would tell you to run, don’t walk over to ACS to see what he has in stock – if he cut it, it’s sure to be beautiful. His website is a bit…old fashioned, but his cutting is worth it!
Artistic Colored Stones

Dan Stair of Custom Gemstones
Dan and Cindi are a great pair. Dan used to be a graphic designer, and his photographs are typically more on the artistic side. However, he recently started using videos on his site, and I cannot commend him enough for doing something that so few vendors do. Video is really the best way to see how a gemstone performs. I adore Dan’s step cuts, and he does not cut highly treated material.
Custom Gemstones

Gene Flanigan of Precision Gem
Gene is an engineer by trade, and can be a bit gruff at times. However, his cutting is wonderful, and some people absolutely flock to him and won’t purchase from anyone else. I think his cutting is top-notch and can absolutely see why people are drawn to his stones.
Precision Gem

John Burleyson of GemRite
John has recently been upping his game on the rough, and has been producing some larger rare stones. His cutting is wonderful, he posts videos for some of his stones and he is incredibly nice.
GemRite

Peter Torraca of Torraca Gemcutting
I love Peter. He’s exceptionally kind and posts great blogs himself, plus has an excellent Facebook presence. I loved watching his gradual heating of a red zircon, and always point people to his post about how to open gem boxes. Not to mention his skill at the lap, which is awesome!
Torraca Gemcutting

Gary Braun of Finewater Gems
I have nothing but good things to say about Gary. He’s an absolute doll to work with, and usually has some amazing and rare stones that he found on gem buying trips overseas but refuses to recut for fear of loss of face up size or the risk isn’t worth it. His cutting is absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from him again.
Finewater Gems

Dana Reynolds of Master Cut Gems
I actually have not purchased directly from Dana, but the only reason is because he didn’t have what I wanted at the time, and I always seem to miss out on stuff when I see something I like on his site. He is incredibly knowledgeable, and pleasant to talk to.
Master Cut Gems

Jeff White of White’s Gems
I’ve bought only one stone directly from Jeff, but he is absolutely wonderful and a fantastic cutter. He will bend over backwards to get what you’re looking for, but if he custom cuts for you (and that’s a vast majority of his work) you will have to pay a non-refundable deposit.
White’s Gems

And because I do my best to put photos in every post, some samples of their work. Check out the crown height on this blue spinel from Barry!

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A rubellite tourmaline from Gene.

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Montana sapphire from Dan Stair and a Merelani Mint Garnet from Barry.

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A asscher spinel from Peter

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Special shout out to Stephanie for the idea for this post!

This will be my last post of 2014! See you all in 2015!

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Awards

A huge congratulations to all winners of the AGTA Spectrum Awards, but especially to Mr. John Dyer, of whom I currently have one of his gems in my gembox. Well done sir! And sweeping the entire “Innovative Faceting category at that!

To see the entire list of winners, please check out the full list:

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Winners pdf

Gem Blast: Considering Gemstone Recuts

I typically like to do Gem Blast posts as mostly pictures with little commentary, as it gives me a little break from writing, and I get to post pictures, which I love taking, but this one is a little bit different because it deals with a specific issue: Gemstone Recuts

This stone started out coming to me from ebay, and is a hot pink spinel from the Mahenge area of the Morogoro region of Tanzania. It was 1.8cts, and 7x6mm. It wasn’t until owning this stone for well over a year that I realized that it had a horrible crack in the pavilion, along the keel. I enlisted the help of  Jerry Newman of Gemart Services to see if it could be cut out and let me tell you, that man is a miracle worker.

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Amazing color! But if you look carefully at the above left image, you can see something funky going on on the keel from the face down view. But when you flip it over and look at the keel through a macro lens, it makes sense.

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So I sent my stone to Jerry. He had said that he thought he could get rid of that nastiness without it affecting the face up size. Once he was done, and he is very very fast – I got the “It’s done!” email less than a week after he got it – he said that he thought he could recut it again and make it more brilliant, but he wanted to know my opinion. After the recut:

 

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Obviously I liked the stone just as it is, and didn’t want to lose more material or risk the loss of more saturation. It is difficult to tell because the environmental situations are different from the “before” pictures, but the stone lost a little bit of saturation. However, Jerry managed to only recut the pavilion with no loss to the face up size. It went from 1.8cts to 1.55cts, and actually became more stable since the liability of the crack on the bottom was eliminated. The clarity was improved as well since the fuzziness that the crack created went away.

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Because of the overwhelming success of the above pink spinel, I have started considering recutting a few other stones of mine…

Silvery spinel, 5×7, considering a recut on it to improve performance. It currently has a small window, and a bowtie. Sometimes it even shows a bit of half and half shadowing. I think it’d be gorgeous if it had some improved cutting. It has a bulgy pavilion, so recutting it should be relatively simple and improve it significantly. I actually think the stone is nice to begin with, with a really cool light gray, but I think the risk is small enough and the payoff good enough that I think it should probably be done.

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Possible Emerald Tourmaline recut. This is a different case because this stone started out as a precision cut stone from Master Cut Gems. It has a gorgeous color, but it was very badly chipped (mangled?) when it was set in a setting. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until long after purchasing the original ring. Luckily I had a stone that would fit into the setting, so it wasn’t a total loss, but the stone is pretty much unable to be reset because it’s so badly damaged. Here is a picture of the stone from Dana at Master Cut Gems before it was set:

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Beautiful color, eh? It’s a great teal, not too dark. And here is the stone after being unset, under my macro lens, which makes everything look dark and shadowy, since it is black:

 

Teal

 

You can see in this image how smoothed out the chipping is, with no sharp edges, showing that it was done quite some time ago, and is not new damage:

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I have a macro picture of the stone in the setting, and you can just barely make out the mess under the one set of double prongs. This is the mess on the opposite end:

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Another view, giving an idea of the slight bicolor (green on one end, blue-green on the other) action going on with this stone, as well as showing the wear on the facet junction on the meet between the crown and the table facets.

 

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So, I’m kind of playing with the idea of seeing if it would be possible to cut all of the bad stuff away, and leave something that could be used. I have talked a little bit before about my love of all things step cut, so it really pains me to chop this up, but I think there might be potential to cut another step cut out of it, perhaps a shorter emerald, a carre or an asscher. Unfortunately, this stone is a smaller 1.07ct (the chip is probably big enough to decrease that!) so it’d probably end up being about 5×5 and maybe .60ct, so I don’t know that it’d make a lot of sense to do it, but I might do it anyway because it’s such a great color.

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Gemstone recutting, or cutting of rough is not a job to be taken lightly. It takes an immense amount of talent, intestinal fortitude, luck and knowledge to produce these small sparkly items. I have nothing but the utmost respect for lapidaries because it is not an easy job, and clients can be hypercritical of the results. I greatly admire those that do it, especially recutting damaged stones and cutting from customer’s rough because of all of the risk involved. Every time I have gone into a jewelry project with something I’m unsure about, I have a pit in my stomach until it is completed, and when the risk is the total ruining of a gemstone, the risk is really quite high, and not something to be attempted on a whim.