Engagement Ring Maintenance

The Do’s and Don’ts of Engagement Ring Maintenance

You’re recently engaged and it was the most romantic moment of your entire life. You are thrilled to make a lifetime commitment to the one you love and are filled with joy. And let’s not forget your new engagement ring! It’s so beautiful and sparkly that you just can’t take your eyes off it. You can’t believe you are lucky enough to get to wear a diamond ring like this every day of your life. But then you begin to wonder, how am I supposed to take care of this ring? Am I allowed to wear it swimming? Can I work out with it on? All these questions are running through your mind. At Kimberfire we are engagement ring specialists and we want to help answer all your questions about keeping your ring in tip top shape!

DO get your engagement ring insured.

Your engagement ring was most likely a large purchase and one in which you would be very upset if it became damaged or lost. Insurance will give you peace of mind that if something happens to your ring you will be able to replace it with something just as beautiful. Some people can add their engagement ring on to their homeowner’s insurance, and if you go this route please make sure the insurance covers the ring even when it is outside of the house, as it is not always covered otherwise. Another option is to use an insurance agency such as Jewelers Mutual, which offers specialized insurance for jewelry.

DON’T take off your ring when you are out in public.

Taking off your ring and leaving it somewhere by accident is one of the easiest ways to lose your jewelry. Always keep it on your finger until you are back home, and then try to keep it in the same place every time you take it off.

DO clean your ring at home.

One of the most common questions we get from our clients is how to keep their ring clean in between professional cleanings. Well the answer is simple! Buy yourself a brand new, soft-bristle, baby’s toothbrush, and brush the ring in warm water with a little drop of dish detergent and then rinse it clean. This will remove the built up dirt and grime and keep your diamond sparkling.

DON’T wear your ring when cleaning the house.

While household cleaners work wonders on the house, the harsh chemicals in bleach, chlorine and acetone can erode the metals in your ring, while powder cleaners contain abrasives which will scratch the metal.

DO get your ring checked if you notice a diamond has become loose.

You may notice your diamond makes a small clicking sound when you tap the ring near your ear, or you may be able to spin the diamond with your finger. In either case it’s best to stop wearing the ring and take it to your jeweler to get it tightened. Stones can become loose due to prolonged wear over the years, or they can become loose by the metal accidentally being hit or dinged. Your jeweler should be able to get the stone tight and secure for continued wear.

DON’T wear your ring to the gym.

While some physical activities like aerobics will probably not hurt your ring, there are some exercises that most definitely will. A common cause of ring damage is weight lifting. The steel of the weights is harder than both platinum and gold and can make hammer like dents in the metal. Heavy weight lifting can also distort the shape of the ring so that it is more of an oval instead of round. When the metal becomes distorted it may cause the prongs on the diamonds to become loose and a stone may fall out. Golf and tennis are two other sports which can cause a great deal of damage to your ring.

DO have your ring professionally serviced once a year.

Your jeweler should clean and examine your ring once a year to make sure the diamonds are secure. Every few years you may want to get your ring re-polished if it is quite scratched up. Those who have white gold rings may want their ring re-plated with rhodium to get it back to its bright white colour.

DON’T wear your ring swimming.

An easy way to lose your ring is in the water when it is more slippery on your finger, and you may not notice while you are playing in the waves. Pools and hot tubs are no better as prolonged exposure to chlorine can cause damage and discolouration to white gold.

DO show off your ring proudly.

Your engagement ring is a symbol of love and commitment and you should share that with the world!

Hopefully these tips will help you keep your ring looking as beautiful as the day it was received, as we know it is something very precious and special to you. If you have any other questions about ring or diamond care please contact us at Kimberfire and we will be glad to help.

Push Presents

Push Presents: The Divisive Trend of Post-Birth Gifts

The arrival of a newborn is one of the happiest moments in a couple’s life, a miraculous event that brings the gift of life into the world. And while the gift of life is certainly the most important gift of all, another type of gift has been steadily gaining popularity – the push present. What is a push present you may ask? A push present is a gift that is given to a new mother from her partner, to celebrate her “pushing” of a new life into the world. While the sentiment behind the push present is one of love, the subject brings up a lot of controversy. Like breastfeeding, co-sleeping and crying it out, the push present is a hotly debated topic among moms.

The Case Against Push Presents

The biggest complaint against the push present is that it is commodifying the natural act of birth. Critics ask, “Shouldn’t the baby be reward enough?”. We live in a capitalistic and materialistic society and some people prefer that the act of giving birth be unaffected by all that. Another negative aspect is that it can put undue pressure upon the partner’s shoulders, in having to spend money on a gift at a time when finances might be extra tight.

The Case for Push Presents

The idea of giving a gift to a new mother is to show appreciation for what she has gone through, both mentally and physically. Pregnancy is an emotional time for a woman as they endure months of hormonal changes and physical discomfort, which culminates in labour and birth. While a healthy baby is the best gift in the world, it is thoughtful to give recognition to what the mother has experienced. It is given by the partner to show love and gratitude.

Push Present Ideas

Jewelry is a popular push present, made fashionable by extravagant celebrity gifts. Headlines were made when Jay Z gave Beyoncé a giant blue tanzanite ring to celebrate the birth of their daughter, and when Mark Anthony gifted Jennifer Lopez custom made canary yellow diamond earrings with a matching ring for the birth of their twins. While most people cannot afford such pricey gifts, jewelry is still a great option for a wide range of budgets. Diamond stud earrings or diamond eternity bands are very popular choices, as are pendants of the baby’s first initial, or a charm of their birthstone. There are no rules which say you must give jewelry, and gifts like a spa package or a new piece of technology can be just as meaningful.

What Moms think

While I am not a mother, being in my thirties I have a lot of close friends who are so I thought I would ask their thoughts on the subject. Out of six of them, two had been given a push present. One received a rose gold necklace to match her wedding band, and one received a new iPad. The ones who didn’t receive presents said they didn’t expect to get anything, and weren’t disappointed. However, everyone said they would have been very happy had they received one and couldn’t see why anyone would be upset by the idea. One friend said perhaps it was just the name “push present” that felt tacky, and not the gesture itself.

To Give or Not to Give

I think it all comes down to whether the partner wants to give a gift, and if they have the finances available to do so. If you want to give your new baby’s mother a gift to celebrate all that she has gone through, then you absolutely should. Just do it because you want to, and not because of outside pressure. The “push present” should not be expected or bragged about, it should be a sentimental symbol of a special moment in life. In the end a push present isn’t going to make the new baby anymore of a blessing, but it might be a bit of icing on the cake!

Have you ever given or received a push present? Would you want to? Let us know where you stand in the comments below!

White Gold Engagement Rings

White Gold Jewelry and Rhodium Plating

One of the most popular ongoing trends for engagement rings is that of white diamonds set into bright white metal. This white jewelry look is very modern and clean and has maintained its popularity for quite some time now. To achieve this all-white effect, diamonds are set into either platinum or white gold. Platinum is naturally a very white metal, but is the heavier and more expensive option. White gold is less costly and a lighter metal, but isn’t naturally a bright white colour. Therefore, white gold jewelry is almost always plated with a rhodium coating as standard practise in the industry.

Gold Alloys

Pure 24K gold is only found in one colour, and that is yellow. However, 24K gold is extremely soft and unsuitable for jewelry purposes, so the pure gold is mixed with other metals to create better working properties. This process is called alloying, and it can also be used to change the colour of the gold. White gold is created when pure gold is mixed with at least one other white metal, such as palladium, manganese, nickel, silver or zinc. 14K white gold is 58.3% pure gold while 18K white gold is 75% pure, with the remainder being a white metal. Although white gold is much whiter than yellow gold, it still has a slight shade of yellow or gray. It gained its popularity for jewelry use in the 1920s as a less costly alternative to platinum.

Rhodium and Electroplating

In the 1930s silversmiths began rhodium plating sterling silverware as they found this reduced the tarnishing and therefore the constant need to polish. This was then applied to white gold as well, as it made the jewelry look much whiter and similar to platinum.

Rhodium is a member of the platinum group of metals and is quite rare and expensive. It is hypo-allergenic, highly resistant to wear, tarnish and corrosion and it has high light reflection. Solid rhodium is rarely used in jewelry as it is extremely expensive and is a very brittle metal. It is much more cost effective and practical to use it as a plating. The official name of this process is called electroplating, where the piece of jewelry is submerged in a heated bath of rhodium solution and then an electric current is run through the bath using the jewelry as a cathode. This causes the rhodium in the solution to bond onto the jewelry. The solution is a mix of sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid or a combination of both, mixed with rhodium and water. A relatively small amount of rhodium can be used to plate many jewelry pieces, keeping the cost of the process down.

Care of Rhodium Plated Jewelry

The one drawback of rhodium plating is that it will wear off over time. The length of time depends on a few factors, such as the amount of wear and roughness the ring receives, its exposure to environmental factors and the wearer’s own body chemistry. Some people can wear a rhodium plated ring for three years before needing a re-plating, while others will need it re-plated more frequently. It is not wise to re-plate more than once a year because, while the rhodium plating doesn’t affect the jewelry, the jewelry does needs to be thoroughly cleaned and re-polished to remove all the old plating and re-polishing removes trace amounts of metal. This won’t affect your jewelry, provided it is not done too frequently, although over-polishing will eventually impact durability. The plating does not affect any diamonds or gemstones which are set into the metal, although it could affect some natural materials such as pearls.

At Kimberfire we provide complimentary cleaning and re-plating up to once a year for any of our white gold jewelry pieces, to ensure they maintain their bright white colour. Whenever you are purchasing white gold jewelry you should ask the jeweller about rhodium plating and if they include re-plating in their care policy, as it is important to know all the costs to be incurred in properly maintaining your purchase. White gold jewelry is both beautiful and popular and it is essential to know how to keep it looking its best throughout the years.

Heart Shape Jewelry

Origins of the Heart

Ah love, sweet love. How wonderful it is to be in love with someone. You just want to tell everyone you know, and shout it from the rooftops. And you only need one symbol to express your love, the heart. The heart shape conveys love, romance, passion and care without ever saying a word. The heart is one of the most widely used motifs in jewellery design, from rings and pendants to diamond cuts. The heart is everywhere. But how did the heart shape come to define love? And why does the common heart shape look so very different from the anatomical heart? Let’s look through history and find out how the heart shape came to be.

Ancient Hearts

Like most things from long, long ago, we don’t know the exact origin of the heart as a romantic symbol. The Ancient Egyptians thought that the heart was the seed of life, and that the “heart soul” descended from the mother’s heart into her womb and would then take the shape of a child. The Ancient Greeks thought the heart supplied the whole body with heat and controlled reason and emotion.

In terms of the symbol, it was most likely derived from the botanical world. One line of thinking is that the now extinct Silphium seedpod was the original model for the heart shape. This seed originated in the Ancient North African city of Cyrene and was used as a seasoning, and more commonly, as a contraceptive. The seed was highly valuable and so crucial to Cyrene’s economy that its image was portrayed on their coins. The seed very closely resembles the heart shape and its link to sexuality may have led to its association with love.

The earliest heart shapes found in art were stylized depictions of fig leaves and ivy. These leaves were frequently found on Ancient Greek vase paintings of the god Dionysus, often in erotic scenes. Heart shaped ivy leaves were also a common symbol on Grecian and Roman grave stones, as the plant symbolized eternal love.

Middle Ages Romance

The first known depiction of the heart as a romantic symbol is in a 13th century manuscript entitled “Roman de la Poire” or Romance of the Pear, by Thibaut. In the image a kneeling lover offers his heart to a damsel, although the heart resembles more of a cone shape. The heart was probably depicted this way because human dissection was very rare during the middle ages, and artists were basing their drawings on writings from the ancient world.

In the early 14th century, the heart symbol began to be depicted with a “scalloped” shape, or dent in its base. And then in the latter part of the century it was then flipped so its point was facing downward.

In the 15th century, the modern heart shape became well known across Europe as it was printed on widely distributed French playing cards.

The Heart Shape in Jewellery

As the heart symbol gained popularity it started to be seen in European jewellery. It first appeared in heart shaped brooches used to hold clothing together, and which were inscribed with sayings of love.

A heart shaped diamond was first mentioned in a letter from the Duke of Milan in 1463, and then in 1562 Mary Queen of Scots sent a heart shaped diamond to Queen Elizabeth I.

In 17thth century England, rock crystal hearts were worn to memorialize King Charles I who had been executed. These were pendants or rings made of clear faceted rock crystal which often encased a token, hair or initials under the crystal. Although these type of pieces were initially created as memorial jewellery, they later became known more as love tokens or wedding gifts.

During this same period the heart shaped brooch was extremely popular. It was often referred to as a ‘Luckenbooth’ in Scotland, or witches’ brooch in the rest of Europe. The depicted heart was usually asymmetrical and twisted up at the bottom to one side. They were worn as a talisman against evil spirits, and were often worn by pregnant women or pinned onto babies’ blankets. Overtime these witches’ brooches also changed in meaning, to show you were “be-witched with love”. The brooches were often covered in red garnets and a single heart meant you had a sweetheart, while a double heart meant you were married.

Hearts in jewellery reached their height during the reign of Queen Victoria, and the Queen herself wore a charm bracelet with hearts representing each one of her children.

The Universal Heart

Today the heart is a symbol of love. It usually represents romantic love, but can also be between family or friends. It is universally known and one of the most popular symbols in the world. It is also one of the most popular symbols in jewellery design, as jewellery is often given as a token of love. From its mysterious beginnings in plants and sexuality, to its role in religion and memorials, the heart has had many different meanings along the way. But for me, its current significance as a symbol of love, is definitely my favourite.

Rough Diamonds

Diamonds: A Billion Year Journey

Many people own, wear and love diamonds, but few know the incredible story that brought them from the depths of the earth into their jewellery. They are not only the hardest natural substance on earth, but also one of the oldest. Forming deep in the earth’s mantle over 1 billion years ago, with some of the oldest diamonds dating back over 3.3 billion years, they have a story to tell.

Diamond Formation

Diamonds form in the earth’s mantle, the molten part of the planet deep beneath the crust, about 140 to 190 kilometres beneath the surface. Here, carbon atoms are subjected to extremely high pressure and temperature. The pressures can range from 45,000 to 60,000 times the regular atmospheric pressure at sea-level, with temperatures as high as 1300C. In these extreme conditions, the carbon atoms are forced into a crystalline arrangement, forming diamond. No one is sure where exactly the carbon comes from, but a possible theory is that the carbon may have originated on the surface of the earth in the form of prehistoric plant and animal material, and was subducted into the mantle through plate tectonics. If this theory is correct, the carbon in your diamond may have come from some of the earliest life on earth!

Diamond is the only gemstone made entirely out of one element (not considering inclusions and small amounts of trace impurities). Nature is not always perfect, so often many other minerals or defects will form in the diamond as it grows. These are the inclusions that affect clarity grading. Under heavy magnification, some inclusions can even be identified as other minerals, such as garnet, peridot, zircon and even other diamonds! Other elements may also make their way into the diamonds, causing changes in colour. Nitrogen, for example, causes the yellow colour, while boron causes diamonds to be blue. Eventually the diamonds cool in their host rock, and may wait millions or even billions of years for the right conditions to make their way to the surface.

An Explosive Ride to the Surface

When the right conditions arise, diamonds are brought to the surface during massive volcanic eruptions. These kinds of cataclysmic eruptions are extremely rare. The diamonds hurtle to the surface, carried by streams of magma, rock and gas. During this explosive transport of the stones, they can often be broken or cracked. Many inclusions also form during this stage as the diamonds are battered through crevices in the crust. The diamonds eventually get trapped in these crevices, or they explode onto the surface of the earth along with other rocks and magma. The majority of the best diamonds are trapped within a central core, forming a vertical, triangular area of new rock called a pipe. These pipes often reach the surface, but can extend hundreds or thousands of metres into the earth. The most common type of rock that forms these pipes is called kimberlite, named after the famous town of Kimberley, South Africa, where the first major commercial diamond mine opened.

Finding Diamond Deposits

Nearly all diamonds found today were deposited hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago. These diamonds are either found in the eroded remains of ancient, extinct volcanoes, still in their pipes, or in riverbeds and oceans where the diamonds had already been eroded out of the volcanic rock and deposited elsewhere by the forces of erosion. Diamonds that are deposited in riverbeds, called an alluvial deposit, can either be found in still-flowing rivers, or they can be found in ancient riverbeds that have now dried up.

Depending of the type of deposit, diamonds can be prospected in multiple different ways. In the case of diamonds still in their host rock, geologists will often find known volcanic pipes, and drill core samples. These samples are analyzed to search for microscopic diamonds, as it is extremely rare for larger diamonds to be deposited close to the surface. The core samples are also analyzed to detect other minerals that could indicate the presence of diamonds. A strong presence of garnet and peridot indicates a possible diamond deposit, as these minerals often form in the same environments as diamond. In the case of alluvial deposits where the diamonds are deposited in rivers, these stones were often found by accident by lucky farmers or swimmers, which led to the opening of mines. In more modern times, geologists analyze records of eroded diamond bearing pipes, and determine how it was eroded and where the diamonds could have been transported to.

Diamond Mining

Depending on the type of deposit, the mining process can look vastly different from mine to mine and from region to region. For diamonds still in their primary pipe deposit, this can look like an open pit mine or a subterranean mine. These two types of mining operations are the most common, and are what most people picture when they think of a mine. In either case, the mine blasts and drills directly into the rock. These rocks are then removed, crushed and bathed in acid. Since diamonds are relatively immune to acid, the rock dissolves away and leaves the diamonds behind. These diamonds are then sent to a sorting facility.

In the case of oceanic or alluvial deposits, the diamonds must be sifted and filtered out of the mud and silt. Since diamonds are quite heavy, they will sink. In smaller alluvial mines, diamonds are found very much in the same way that one pans for gold. Once filtered out, the diamonds are sent for sorting and cutting.

In most diamond producing countries, there are strict regulations on mining processes. Mines are monitored on a regular basis by regulatory committees and government agencies to ensure they abide to environmental, safety and human rights standards. Thanks to the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme that mandates a documented chain of custody for loose diamonds, consumers can be assured that their certified diamond is 100% conflict free. In many cases, mines are also required to abide to a reclamation program, wherein the mined area must be naturalized after the mine closes to ensure no long lasting negative effects on the environmental health of the area. Due to these regulations, diamonds are now one of the most ethical of all mined materials, even when compared to other gemstones like emeralds, rubies and sapphires.

Sorting and Cutting

Sorting takes place in a separate facility. Here, under high security, trained staff sort through the rough diamonds. They sort them into categories based on colour, size, shape and relative clarity. These rough diamonds are then packaged up into large collections of various types, and are sold and shipped to a small handful of diamond cutters. These diamond cutters will first examine the rough stone before cutting it. It is the goal of the diamond cutter to maximize the carat weight of the diamond without any significant sacrifices on quality. That being said, a cutter may decide to optimize carat weight at the expense of cut quality, colour or clarity, so long as it maximizes profit on the stone. Depending on the shape and placement of inclusions in the stone, the cutter may decide to cut the stone into multiple smaller diamonds of various shapes or sizes, or into one large stone. Usually the first scenario is the most common.

Thanks to modern technology, a scanning laser computer is now often used in the industry to map the rough diamond. The computer will then automatically determine the best way to cut the stone to maximize profit on the rough material. Even with this advanced technology, a skilled diamond cutter still has the last say on how to cut the stone.

Diamonds are cut and polished, usually by hand, on a device called a lapidary. A similar technique is used to cut and facet all gemstones. First, the rough diamond is cleaved or laser cut to form the basic shape. The diamond is then attached to the end of a rod called a dop. By placing this rod at certain precise angles and rotations, the diamond can be positioned to precise measurements for cutting and polishing. The diamond is ground against a rotating disc, called a lap, which is coated in water and diamond powder. Since only diamond can cut diamond, a diamond powder is used for this process. By rotating and angling the stones to precise measurements, and grinding the stone using finer and finer grits, the stone is eventually cut and polished.

The Final Steps

Once the stone is cut and polished, and it passes a quality control inspection, it is sent to a gemmological lab to be graded. Once graded, it is sold to distributors, who then sell the stone to manufacturers, who then set the diamond into finished jewellery. They then sell this to a retailer, who eventually sells it to you!

It can take billions of years before a diamond is even mined. Then the process from the mine to the finished piece of jewellery can take months or years to complete, and requires a lot of labour and skill. At Kimberfire, we cut out the middlemen and connect you directly with the diamond cutters and distributors. This way we can provide you with a beautiful diamond, and with the exceptional in-person service you would expect from a high end retailer, but at a fraction of the cost when compared to a traditional store.

Image credits: Lucara Diamond Corp., Rio Tinto’s Diavik Foxfire, Rio Tinto’s Argyle Pink Jubilee