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GIA Certified Round Diamond

Natural Diamonds, Diamond Simulants and Synthetic Diamonds

Diamonds are the most well-known and popular gemstone, desired for their colourless appearance, hardness and fiery brilliance. The diamond is often the first choice for an engagement ring, as its durability and strength symbolize a lasting union. People who are in the market to buy a diamond usually learn about the 4 Cs – a grading system which experts use to determine a diamond’s quality. By evaluating the Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat, a diamond can be given a grade and priced accordingly. These 4 Cs are very important for the diamond buyer to be aware of to ensure they get a fair price. There are some other terms which may be encountered when buying diamond jewellery that are also very important for the buyer to know. The terms “Diamond Simulant” or “Synthetic Diamond” are relevant in the jewellery business, but little known to the public. We are going to explore these terms, and what they mean, to better educate those who are interested in buying a diamond.

Natural Diamonds

Natural Diamonds are diamonds that were naturally created within the earth, with no human intervention. Diamonds need very specific conditions to form and there are two places in the earth where this is possible – the earth’s mantle below the continental plates and at the site of a meteor impact. Diamonds are composed of the element carbon that has been exposed to extremely high temperatures and extremely high pressure. Natural diamonds are between 1 to 3.3 billion years old. Diamonds are carried to the earth’s surface by deep volcanic eruptions which create pipes in the earth that are filled with magma. The magma carries the diamonds upwards as it flows and cools into igneous rocks called kimberlite. The diamonds are discovered through mining the earth to reach the kimberlite layer, or from this layer being naturally eroded over millions of years and depositing near water sources. Although rare, scientists have also found deposits of small diamonds at meteor impact sites where the diamonds were formed under the heat and pressure of the impact. Diamonds are the hardest natural material found on earth, and when they are cut into gem shapes they maintain their polish and facets better than any other gemstone.

Diamond Simulants

Diamond Simulants are materials which have gemological characteristics similar to a diamond, but they do not share the same chemical structure. A simulant may be artificial, natural, or a combination of the two. The most common diamond simulants used in jewellery are cubic zirconia, moissanite, and high-leaded glass, or rhinestones, which are usually only found in fashion jewellery.

Cubic zirconia (CZ) is a cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide that has been commercially produced since 1976. Cubic zirconia is optically flawless, usually colourless, and displays a nice brilliance. It is not as hard as a diamond, so it is less durable and more prone to scratching. It is very easy for a diamond expert to tell the difference between diamond and cubic zirconia using a magnifying loupe. CZs are inexpensive to create and therefore cost a fraction of what a real diamond costs. You may also encounter diamond-coated cubic zirconia being sold in jewellery. A chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process is used to deposit a thin film of polycrystalline diamond onto a cubic zirconia core. This increases the material’s hardness, loss of luster through wear, and imitates a diamonds dispersion. This process should not significantly increase the cost of the CZ.

Moissanite was discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan (where it got its name) in a meteor crater in Arizona. At first he thought he had discovered diamonds but later he identified them as silicon carbide. Naturally occurring silicon carbide is extremely rare and all forms of it found today are created in a laboratory. The company Charles and Colvard was the first to create and manufacture the moissanite gemstone, which entered the jewellery market in 1998. Classic moissanite has a slight gray, yellow or green hue which is especially noticeable in sunlight. Charles and Colvard have come out with newer lines of moissanite which come closer to the colourless look of diamond. Moissanite is quite strong and durable for everyday wear, however it is not as hard as diamond. Moissanite displays strong brilliance but it is different than that of diamond, in that it exhibits rainbow flashes that can have a “disco ball” effect. Moissanite costs significantly less than diamond of the same size and weight. A diamond expert is able to determine if a stone is moissanite or diamond.

Synthetic Diamonds

Synthetic diamonds are produced in an artificial process, such as a laboratory, rather than a geological process. A synthetic diamond is the same material as a natural diamond – pure crystallized carbon. Since the discovery that diamonds were made of pure carbon in 1797, scientists have been looking for a way to convert it into diamond. There are two ways that synthetic diamonds are created, by HPHT and CVD methods. HPHT stands for High Pressure High Temperature, which is mimicking the way a natural diamond would be formed in the earth. This process places a carbon source, a small diamond “seed” and a metallic solvent in a large press which is then placed under extreme pressure and high temperatures to produce a diamond. These machines are extremely expensive and the process must be very carefully controlled. The other process is by CVD, or chemical vapour deposition, in which a diamond seed is planted into a chamber which is then exposed to a gas, such as methane. The gas is then activated and broken down by microwaves which causes the carbon atoms to accumulate on the diamond seed. Traditionally these processes have had difficulty creating colourless diamonds. HPHT was more commonly used for creating synthetic fancy coloured diamonds, as doping the process with nitrogen or boron would create a coloured diamond. CVD often produces brown diamonds, which are then HPHT treated to remove the colour. However, the companies that create these diamonds are becoming more advanced all the time, and are frequently making large and colourless diamonds. These diamonds sell for 20-30% less than a natural diamond and should always be disclosed to the buyer. To determine whether a diamond is natural or synthetic a diamond expert would use various gemological equipment to determine its origin.

Decision Time

Knowing the difference between natural, simulant and synthetic diamonds helps the buyer make an educated decision. The main reasons people are interested in buying simulants or synthetics is that they cost less than a natural diamond, and the fact that they are created in a laboratory means less environmental impact and an absolute certainty that they are conflict free. People who are looking to buy natural diamonds also do so for different reasons. Some people are looking for something that will be an investment or hold its value over time. Other people are drawn to the traditional idea of the diamond as a symbol of love and strength. I am personally drawn to the natural diamond as a symbol of something that has endured over billions of years and is still strong and beautiful.

Diamond Shapes

Diamond Shapes to Wear and Love

When most people think of diamonds, they immediately picture the round brilliant cut diamond. While this is the most popular shape of diamond available, there are actually many more shapes to choose from. Each of these shapes has their own unique character, and also their own type of sparkle.

Round Brilliant Cut – The Classic

The most popular cut, the round brilliant diamond as it is known today was designed by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919. Tolkowsky was an engineer from a family of diamond cutters. He calculated the exact ideal proportions, number of facets, and angles of the cut, using the physical and optical properties of diamond. He is recognized as being the first person to accurately design the ideal cut for a diamond to display a maximum balance of sparkle, fire and brilliance. His cutting design is now regarded as the North American standard for round brilliant diamonds.

As the name suggests, round brilliant diamonds are circular and round in shape and display even and symmetrical brilliance across the stone. Since the round brilliant cut is standardized, there is a standard cut grading system used to evaluate the stone, with grades ranging from “excellent” to “poor”. For a beautiful diamond, we always recommend to have a cut grade of “very good” to “excellent”. Anything below this standard, and the diamond loses its sparkle. Since only the round cut is completely standardized, it is the only shape of diamond that will have a cut grading on a GIA report.

The round brilliant cut is ideal for those who are looking for a classic look that will really maximize the sparkle of their stone. This type of cut looks great in all sorts of engagement ring designs, from the classic solitaire, to the modern halo design. For the gentlemen out there looking for an engagement ring, you can never go wrong with a round cut. It is the most popular cut, the most brilliant, and will be the safest choice for your other half if they haven’t told you what they like.

Oval Cut

The oval cut dates back to the 1950’s. It is essentially a round brilliant cut, but stretched out into an oval shape. Like the round brilliant, it also shows great sparkle, fire, and brilliance. Some oval cut diamonds can show what is called a “bowtie” effect, which usually occurs when the diamond is cut too deep or shallow, or if the diamond is too narrow and long. This effect appears as a dull area in the middle of the stone, resembling a bowtie, where there is less reflection of light. With oval cut diamonds, as well as other shapes that commonly have this effect, it is always recommended to examine the stone to ensure it does not have a noticeable bowtie.

The oval cut is a great option for those who like the look of the round cut, but want a diamond with a longer profile. When set in a ring, oval cut diamonds accentuate the length of the finger and look great in many different designs. As an added bonus, an oval cut diamond can also appear larger than a round diamond of the same carat weight.

Pear Cut

Otherwise referred to as a “teardrop” shape, the pear cut is essentially a modified oval cut where one end has been “pinched” to create a point. Like the oval cut, the pear cut is prone to displaying a bowtie effect as well. Care must also be taken when inspecting the diamond to ensure that the point of the stone is centered and the stone is symmetrical and evenly rounded on both sides.

The pear shape, like the oval, also accentuates the length of a finger when set into a ring. Due to the asymmetrical shape of this cut, it may be more difficult to pair this diamond with other stones in a three stone ring. As such, this cut is best reserved for solitaires and halo rings. They also look great in a pair of drop style earrings, or on a pendant. The teardrop shape of this cut gives the stone a very elegant and graceful look.

Marquise Cut

The marquise cut is rumoured to date back all the way to 17th century France, when King Louis XIV requested to have a cut made to resemble the smile of his favourite mistress, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour. Since then the cut has been perfected to make it even more brilliant. Resembling a pear cut, but with points at each end, the marquise cut is the cut most prone to a bowtie effect. A visual inspection of the diamond can help you ensure you don’t receive a diamond with this effect.

This diamond will have a long, slender appearance, and will be the longest of any diamond cut within a certain carat weight. Often seen in vintage jewellery, the marquise cut is a good choice for someone who is looking for lots of sparkle but also wants a more bold, unique, yet vintage look.

Heart Cut

Probably the most romantic of all the diamond cuts, and the most feminine, this diamond shape is very seldom seen being worn. It takes a certain personality to pull this one off, but it can really make a statement. Similar to the pear cut, but with a cleft and two lobes at the top of the stone, the heart cut is also prone to showing a bowtie effect. Though, this is often not as prominent in the heart cut compared to some of the other fancy cuts. With this cut, it is all about symmetry. It is important to ensure that the cleft is indented enough, but not too far, and that it is properly centered. The two lobes must also be of equal height and width, and must have an even, rounded profile. A heart cut is one of the hardest diamond cuts to accomplish, and requires the skill of a master diamond cutter to produce. As such, it can be one of the most expensive cuts on the market.

While difficult to cut, and selling at a premium for this reason, the heart cut makes the ultimate statement in an engagement ring (or any other gifts for your significant other!). As the saying goes, a diamond is forever… so a heart cut diamond is the ultimate symbol of eternal love.

Princess Cut

The princess cut originated in the early 1980’s in London, England. With a square shape, sharp corners, and straight edges, this diamond shape is definitely striking. Princess cut diamonds are known to show a lot of sparkle. This cut also provides a few extra benefits when compared to other shapes. Due to its cutting style, the princess cut can hide inclusions more easily than some of the other shapes. Another great bonus is that princess cuts are one of the most economical cuts of diamond available as they minimize wastage of the rough diamond during cutting.

The princess cut is ideal for those who want a stone with a distinctly square shape, but still want to maximize the sparkle and brilliance of their diamond. It holds up very well in a solitaire setting, but can also look beautiful in a halo design.

Cushion Cut

The cushion shape is one of the oldest diamond shapes still in use today. Some of the world’s most famous historical diamonds are cut in the cushion shape, but not with the same brilliance that the modern cushion cut has. Thanks again to Marcel Tolkowsky, the cushion cut was modified to have more facets to rival the brilliance of the round cut. Many cushion cuts now on the market will be officially classified as a “modified brilliant cushion cut”. These stones have enough sparkle, fire and brilliance to rival the round brilliant diamond. While the cushion cut is usually more square in shape with rounded edges and corners, they can come in more rectangular shapes as well.

Cushions carry a lot of their weight in their pavilion (the bottom half of the diamond), and so will accentuate any colour in the stone. This is why they make a great choice for fancy coloured diamonds. For this very same reason, you may need to pick a stone with a slightly higher colour grading if you choose this cut for a colourless diamond. The cushion cut is a great choice for those who want the look of a square diamond, but don’t like the sharp edges and corners of the princess cut. Despite its long history, it is a modern cutting style, while still keeping to a more classic semi-rounded shape.

Emerald Cut

The ultimate vintage shape for a diamond. The emerald cut, as the name suggests, was originally created for emeralds in the 1920’s, and was soon adopted for diamonds as well. While this cut was created in the 1920’s and officially called an emerald cut, its basic elements have origins dating back to the older “table cut” from the 1500’s. The emerald cut was immensely popular during the Art Deco period, and has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past number of years. While not as brilliant as some of the other cuts in this list due to their larger and fewer facets, this cut is very popular for those looking for a diamond with a vintage look. Due to the large facets and large table (the largest facet, which is in the center of the diamond), inclusions are more visible in this cut of diamond than in other cuts. This cut is also fairly deep, so it will accentuate any colour in the stone. For these reasons, it is important to select a diamond with higher colour and clarity than what you would normally select in a round brilliant cut stone. This cut of diamond is also well suited for fancy coloured diamonds since the depth of the stone will really capture and show off the colour. When selecting the diamond, ensure that the keel of the stone (the bottom part of the stone resembling the keel of a ship) is straight and aligned properly. Also look for the “hall of mirrors” effect, wherein the bottom facets of the stone should resemble a hall of mirrors, reflecting light back to your eye.

This cut is the most popular choice for those seeking a vintage look. The long, rectangular shape of the diamond also accentuates the length of a finger when worn in a ring. It can look great in a solitaire, but can also be quite stunning in a three stone ring. In a halo design, the emerald cut shows great contrast with the rest of the ring and can create an interesting look.

Asscher Cut

The asscher cut was originally developed in 1902 by the Asscher Brothers of Holland, and closely resembles the emerald cut. The primary difference here is that the asscher cut does not have a keel like the emerald cut, and is more square in its shape (while still maintaining the cut-cornered octagonal look). This cut of diamond has all the same characteristics as the emerald cut when it comes to how the stone shows colour and clarity. The asscher cut is a great choice for those who want a vintage look, but prefer a square shape as opposed to the more rectangular shape of the emerald cut.

Radiant Cut

Probably one of the least-known and under-appreciated cuts, the radiant cut is usually seen in fancy coloured diamonds and rarely in colourless diamonds. It was originally invented in the 1970’s, yet many are still not familiar with this cut. The radiant, like the cushion and emerald cuts, also has a heavier pavilion. This means that the stone will show colour more than a round brilliant cut. What makes the radiant cut a great option is that it has the same cut-cornered, semi-octagonal shape as an emerald or asscher cut diamond, but has much more brilliance due to its larger number of facets. Like these cuts as well, the radiant cut can be found in both square and rectangular shapes, while still having the same brilliance.

The radiant cut is a great option for those who are looking for a unique shape, but do not want to compromise on the brilliance of the diamond. It is a versatile cut style that can be utilized in many different ring designs, both in colourless and fancy coloured diamonds.

A Shape for Everyone

There are diamond shapes for all different types of personalities and preferences. From the classic round cut, to the vintage emerald and asscher cuts, to the more unique marquise and heart cuts, there are many different options to choose from. What is your favourite diamond shape? Let us know in the comments!

fancy coloured diamonds

A Rainbow of Fancy Coloured Diamonds

We are all familiar with diamonds – that beautiful gemstone which is prized across the globe. Known for its sparkle and strength, and priced on its cut, carat, clarity and colour. Typical diamonds are valued based on their absence of colour, with the most valuable and rarest stones being completely colourless. However, there is another category of diamonds called fancy coloured diamonds and these diamonds can be worth much more than the colourless diamond. Coloured diamonds come in all different colours, and their price goes up the brighter and more intense the colour hue is. These fancy coloured diamonds are quite rare which is why they command such high prices.

How Diamonds Are Formed

Diamonds are composed of carbon and were formed at extremely high temperatures under extremely high pressure, deep within the earth’s mantle. Diamonds were brought close to the earth’s surface by deep volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The volcanic material carried the diamonds within it and cooled into a hard material called Kimberlite, which is where we find most of the earth’s diamonds. Pure carbon creates a diamond that is completely colourless, but these stones are very rare, as little impurities, inclusions and other minerals get trapped with the carbon during a diamond’s creation. This is what causes some diamonds to be lower quality, as they are more yellowish and aren’t clear to the naked eye. But for fancy coloured diamonds it is the impurities and “defects” in the carbon structure which give the diamond its specific colour.

There is a colour scale for fancy coloured diamonds, which starts at pale shades and continues to very bright and saturated ones. The categories are Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Deep, Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid. Fancy Vivid diamonds are the rarest.

All the Natural Colours of the Rainbow

Yellow: Yellow diamonds are the most commonly seen fancy coloured diamond. They are also one of the most common in nature, next to brown diamonds. They are less rare and correspondingly less expensive to purchase, but still cost as much and often more than a high quality white diamond. These diamonds are often referred to as canary diamonds. Yellow diamonds get their colour when nitrogen replaces some of the carbon atoms in the structure. The more nitrogen “impurities” in a stone, the more yellow the diamond appears.

Blue: Blue diamonds are very rare and because of this they are extremely expensive. Usually they will be a grey-blue colour and rarely will they be a strong blue colour like a sapphire. Only one out of 200,000 diamonds will have a hint of blue and it is usually very pale. The most famous blue diamond is the Hope Diamond, which weighs an impressive 45.52 carats. Blue diamonds get their colour from boron that has been trapped in the crystal structure as it was forming.

Pink and Red: Red is the absolute rarest of diamond colours and only a small number have been discovered. Because of their rarity they command huge prices and are mainly bought by gem collectors or investors. Pink diamonds are also very rare and are extremely coveted. A pink diamond is considered the ultimate luxury item. 90% of the world’s pink and red diamonds come from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Northwest Australia. Unlike other coloured diamonds, no mineral impurity has been found to create the pink or red colour. It is thought that during the diamond’s voyage to the earth’s surface it undergoes changes in its electron structure, called plastic deformation. This deformation traps electrons so that they interact with light to produce a pink or red colour.

Green: Natural green diamonds are extremely rare and are usually a light and muted hue. Green diamonds get their colour as they are exiting the earth’s last layer of crust. It is at this time that they absorb naturally occurring radiation in the soil. The radiation usually only colours the diamond’s outer surface – they are not usually green all the way through the stone. Even advanced gemologists have trouble determining if a green diamond was coloured naturally or enhanced by man. Because of this, green diamonds are always regarded with suspicion and heavily examined in labs before they are given a grading.

Orange: Orange diamonds are not as rare as some of the previous colours, but still aren’t too common. These diamonds are coloured by nitrogen, just like yellow diamonds. But the nitrogen atoms in the orange diamond are assembled in a very specific way. To produce the orange colour, the particles absorb blue light and some yellow light.

Purple: Purple diamonds usually have tints of purple and a secondary shade, such as pink, red, blue, grey or brown. It is very rare to find a pure purple coloured diamond. It is believed purple diamonds get their colour from a combination of crystal distortion (such as the pink diamond has from deformation) and a high presence of hydrogen as the stone is forming.

Grey: Grey diamonds are a good option for those who are looking for a lower priced coloured diamond. While they are still very rare, they are not priced as high as the other colours. They get their grey colour from high levels of hydrogen. The one big plus for the grey diamond is that it is easily found in the round brilliant cut. The round brilliant cut is definitely the most popular diamond cut and yet most coloured diamonds are usually cut into radiant or cushion cuts. That’s because the brilliant cut was created to produce the most reflection of light, and thus make the stone appear whiter. Gem cutters don’t want fancy coloured diamonds to appear whiter so they will usually cut coloured diamonds in shapes that will help the stone retain the most colour.

Brown: Brown diamonds are the most commonly found fancy coloured diamond and are the most affordable. Brown diamonds were likely the very first diamonds to be used in jewellery. These diamonds are found in numerous shades, like the pale browns which are usually referred to as Champagne Diamonds, to the deep browns which can be referred to as Cognac or Chocolate Diamonds. These diamonds get their colour from plastic deformation.

Black: Black diamonds are fairly new to the jewellery world as designers only started using them in the 1990s. Before that these diamonds were mainly used for industrial purposes. Natural true black diamonds are very rare and the ones seen in jewellery are usually treated to become blacker. Black diamonds get their colour (or lack thereof) by a large amount of dark inclusions spread throughout the stone. Black diamonds do not reflect light, but rather absorb light and have an opaque, glossy surface. They are older than any other diamonds on earth and some scientists believe that they came from meteorites. Black diamonds are so hard that they can only be cut by other black diamonds.

White: Typically when people hear white diamond they think of the traditional colourless diamond, but there is actually a Fancy White diamond, which is actually white. These diamonds have tiny microscopic inclusions, thought to be nitrogen, that diffract light off of the stone. This light diffraction gives the fancy white diamond a milky, opalescent appearance.

Colour-Treated Diamonds

All the colours above have been in reference to natural diamonds, ones that were created in the earth without human influence. However, a lot of the coloured diamonds that are found in jewellery are colour-treated, meaning that undesirable coloured diamonds have been treated to enhance their colour. This process can take a light brown coloured stone and turn it into a purple diamond, or change a yellowish stone into a colourless one. There are a few different treatments that make this happen. The most common is High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) where the stone is put under those conditions to change the colour. There is also a procedure called Irradiation, where the diamonds are exposed to high energy electron or neutron particles which move carbon atoms out of place and physically alter the crystal lattice. Another treatment is that of surface coating where a thin layer of coloured material is deposited on the diamond, and this treatment is not permanent. Lastly there are synthetic coloured diamonds which are lab grown diamonds that are created under the types of conditions that natural coloured diamonds would be exposed to. All these different treatments significantly decrease the value of the coloured diamond, which is why you only want to buy a coloured diamond from a seller who will provide a grading report from a trusted lab such as GIA.

A Rare Beauty

Coloured diamonds are so coveted and so special because they are so rare. For any given colour to be created there were thousands of variables that had to be present at the exact right time. All those factors coming together to create lemony yellows, cool blues and pretty pinks is really science at its most beautiful. While not everyone may be able to afford a coloured diamond of their own, I think we can all appreciate such a beautiful natural creation.

Birthstones

Birthstones: Sapphires, Diamonds and Rubies, Oh My!

It’s the month of April and winter has finally ended. The grass is growing, the sun is shining and April babies are celebrating their birthdays. And just what kind of gift should you get for an April birthday? A diamond of course! The diamond is April’s birthstone as well as being one of the most popular and desired gems throughout history. But where did the tradition of birthstones come from? Let’s take a look.

Ancient Beginnings of the Birthstone

Since the beginning of human history, people have been drawn to the beauty and mystery of gemstones. Ancient cultures believed that certain gems had special powers and healing qualities. There is evidence of Ancient Indian and Tibetan cultures wearing birthstones, although they were used in mythical or medicinal ways. A lot of scholars believe the origin of birthstones originated from a story in the Old Testament about the breastplate of Aaron. Aaron was the High Priest of Israel and brother of Moses and he wore a breastplate covered in 12 different jewels representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Titus Flavius Josephus wrote in the 1st century AD of the connection between the 12 stones of the Jewish breastplate and the 12 signs of the Zodiac, where each Zodiac sign had its own gemstone. In Astrology each gemstone was connected to a specific sign and when the sun was in that sign, that gem would hold special talismanic powers.

Birth of the Modern Day Birthstone

In 1752 the Gregorian calendar divided the year into 12 months. Soon after this time the idea of a specific stone being connected to a specific month began. The modern tradition of wearing birthstones has been traced to 18th century Poland, when Jewish gem traders moved to the region. Initially people wore the stone of the current month and rotated each month through the 12 stones. Eventually this changed to people only wearing the stone of their birth month.

The Birthstone We Know and Love

Throughout Europe birthstones had become popular and in 1870 Tiffany and Co. published a pamphlet all about birthstones. In 1912 an official birthstone list was created by the American Association of Jewelers. On this standardized list some months had multiple birthstones to add more affordable and available options. In 1952 the list was updated and more options were added or replaced. The most recent change was in 2002 when the gem tanzanite was added as an option as the December birthstone.

A New Month, A Different Stone (or Three!)

January Garnet

Garnets are actually a set of closely related minerals that form a group. The traditional colour associated with garnet is a deep red but it comes in almost every colour, and the green garnet called tsavorite is very rare and valuable. The word garnet is derived from the Latin word ‘granatum’ meaning seed, which was in reference to the pomegranate seeds of which it resembled. It has been used as a talisman for travellers as it was believed to protect and ensure safe journeys.

February Amethyst

The amethyst is a member of the quartz family and is a popular stone because of its wide range of purple colours. The Amethyst was associated with Greek mythology and the God of intoxication, Dionysius. Its name comes from the Greek word ‘Amethystos’ which means sober, as the ancients believed that the gem would protect the wearer from the effects of wine and drunkenness. The amethyst was said to assist in remembering and understanding dreams.

March Aquamarine and Bloodstone

Aquamarine is a variety of the mineral beryl and comes in a light blue-green colour. Its colour is where it gets its name, which means seawater in Latin. Its association with the sea made it a good luck charm for sailors who had it carved into the Roman Sea God Neptune. Aquamarine is also a symbol of happiness and youth. The stone gets its blue colour from iron and the more intense the blue the more valuable the stone.

The traditional birthstone for March was the bloodstone. The bloodstone is dark green jasper with flecks of red spots, which are deposits of iron oxide. It is named for a legend that said the red flecks came from Christ’s blood, which fell to the ground during crucifixion and solidified.

April Diamond

April’s birthstone is the diamond. Diamonds are priced for their 4 c’s, colour, clarity, carat, and cut. The closer to colourless a diamond is, the more valuable it is. The exception to this is when we are talking about fancy coloured diamonds, such as yellow, pink, green, blue and red. These fancy diamonds are very rare and therefore cost more. A diamond consists of only one element, carbon, which is formed deep in the earth under intense pressure and high temperatures. Most diamonds are over a billion years old. Diamonds traditionally stood for strength courage and invincibility as they are the hardest and most durable gemstone. In fact they are 58 times harder than anything else in nature. The name itself comes from the Greek word ‘adamas’ which means invincible. Ancient Hindus believed diamonds were the result of lightening striking rock, Ancient Greeks believed they were the tears of God and Romans believed they gave courage in battle. In modern times the diamond stands for everlasting love and is a symbol of engagements and marriage.

May Emerald

The emerald is a variety of Beryl and is prized for its vivid green colour which comes from chromium or vanadium. Most emeralds have little cracks, flaws, or veins in them called inclusions. These inclusions are routinely treated with oil, wax, or epoxy substances to hide cracks and improve transparency. This is an acceptable trade practise as long as it is disclosed. The emerald represents spring, fertility and rebirth. In the past it was believed to help with clarity of vision, and worn to relieve the pain of childbirth. Emeralds were first mined in Egypt and were said to be Cleopatra’s favorite gem.

June Pearl, Alexandrite and Moonstone

The pearl is the traditional birthstone for June and the only organic birthstone. A pearl is created when a microscopic particle, like a grain of sand, enters between the two shells of a mollusk. To protect itself the mollusk covers this irritant with layers of nacre, which we know as mother of pearl, until the pearl is formed. Cultured pearls are the result of someone deliberately inserting a bead into the mollusk to create the pearl. Pearls are most commonly white but can also be in various colours such as pink, peach, silver, purple, and black. The colours vary because of the types of mollusks as well as the type of water they come from. The pearl is a symbol of purity, which connects it to June, as June was the traditional month for weddings. Pearls are still commonly worn as wedding jewellery today. The ancient Greeks believed pearls were formed when tears of joy fell from the Goddess Aphrodite’s eyes and hardened.

Another birthstone option for June is Alexandrite, which is a colour-change variety of chrysoberyl. Alexandrite is a special gem because it changes colour. It is a blue-green in daylight and a red-purple in incandescent light. It is very rare and very expensive. Alexandrite was discovered in Russia in 1830 during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, and was named after him.

June also has a third option which is the moonstone. Moonstone is a variety of feldspar and has a moon effect of a blue white sheen which is called adularescence. Both Ancient Greeks and Romans associated it with Lunar Gods and Goddesses. Pliny, the Roman historian, said the stone changed colour with the phases of the moon, which is how it got its name.

July Ruby

Rubies are prized for their bright red colour and are one of the most expensive coloured stones. They are a type of corundum, which is second only to diamond in hardness. Rubies get their colour from chromium and the most desirable rubies are called ‘pigeon blood’. They are a symbol of royalty and in England are used for coronation rings. Ancient Hindus called it ‘the king of gems’ and believed if you gave a ruby to the God Krishna you would be reborn as an Emperor.

August Peridot

The peridot is a type of olivine that is prized for its bright yellow green colour. The Egyptians associated the gem with light, and called it the ‘gem of the sun’. It has been mined for over 3500 years; the oldest source is in Egypt. Peridot is often found in volcanic rock and has even been found in meteorites that have fallen to earth. The peridot has been associated with healing, and is said to end night terrors when it is set into gold and worn on the body.

September Sapphire

The sapphire is commonly recognized for its deep blue colour, but in fact sapphires come in almost every colour. The name sapphire applies to any colour of corundum, except red, which is a ruby. Sapphire rings were worn by Catholic Bishops and Cardinals because the blue colour symbolized heaven. Traditionally the sapphire was associated with truthfulness, sincerity and faithfulness. One of the most famous engagement rings in the world was a blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds, which belonged to Princess Diana.

October Opal and Tourmaline

The opal is a unique gemstone which is made of microscopic stacked silica spheres. These spheres show a ‘play of colour’, which are flashes of different colours in one stone. Opals can have a light or a dark background, and the brighter and more distinctive the different colours, the better quality the opal. Ancient people believed the opal brought good fortune because they possessed all the colours and powers of every gemstone. A belief that opals bring bad luck stems from of a novel titled ‘Anne of Gerstein’ written by Sir Walter Scott in 1829. In the book a main character wore an opal and when holy water was sprinkled on it she died. Because of this book, within a year of its release the opal market had crashed and prices were down 50%. Queen Victoria helped opals regain popularity by frequently wearing and gifting opal jewellery.

The second birthstone for October is tourmaline. This gem comes in a huge array of colours and can also be bi- or tri-coloured. In fact the stone’s name comes from the Sinhalese word ‘toramalli’ which means mixed-gems. It also has the unique quality of being charged with static electricity when warmed or rubbed.

November Topaz and Citrine

Generally Topaz is regarded as being a golden brown or blue colour, but it comes in a wide range of colours. Blue topaz is actually a colourless topaz that has been irradiated with electrons to turn it a sky blue colour. The name topaz comes from the Sanskrit word for fire. The golden gemstone was a symbol of the Egyptian sun god Ra, and a sacred stone of the Roman god Jupiter.

An alternative birthstone for November is the yellow type of quartz called citrine. It is named after the French word for lemon. Natural citrine is very rare and almost all citrine was amethyst which had been heat treated to turn it yellow. This gem is believed to bring good fortune and success.

December Turquoise, Zircon and Tanzanite

Turquoise is a vivid blue stone with an opaque, slightly waxy appearance. The ancient Egyptians have been mining it since 6000 BC and they called it ‘mefkat’ which meant joy and delight. The stone is highly prized by both Native American and Persian cultures. The name turquoise means ‘Turkish stone’ as the stone first came to Europe by Turkish sources.

Zircon is another birthstone for December and comes in many colours, but is best known for its blue stones. It has so much fire and brilliance that colourless zircon was often mistaken for diamonds in the past. The zircon is often confused with cubic-zirconia which is a synthetic man-made gem.

Tanzanite is the third option for December and is the newest addition to the birthstone list. It is a blue-purple stone that has become very popular for jewellery. The tanzanite was only discovered in 1967, in Tanzania, which is where it got its name.

What Does a Birthstone Mean to You?

The history of birthstones reveals how humans have always had a close relationship with gemstones. While we all know gems are used for adornment, it is interesting to see how in the past they were used as medicine, therapy, protection and worship. The meanings behind these gems bring another dimension to each stone, rather than being just another pretty colour. As an August baby myself, learning about the Ancient Egyptians’ love of the peridot made me appreciate the stone more. And if after everything you just aren’t a fan of your birthstone, well you can just pretend to be an April baby and get yourself a diamond!

Engagement Ring Upgrade and Redesign Ideas

Upgrading or Redesigning Your Engagement Ring

Longing for Something New

A friend of mine recently spoke to me about upgrading her engagement ring for her ten year wedding anniversary. She and her husband had married quite young and didn’t have the money to spend on an expensive ring, so they ended up using an engagement ring passed on from his family. While she loves and cherishes the ring and the sentimental story behind it, she longs for something that would be just for her.

She is far from alone. Upgrading or redesigning engagement and wedding rings has become a huge trend in the jewelry industry. These ring upgrades are usually done for an anniversary between the 10 and 15 year mark. People have many different reasons for wanting to change their ring. Some, like my friend, find themselves in a new financial situation from when they first got engaged. Others didn’t really like the style of the ring they were given. Some just want a ring which is a more current design, or more reflective of their personal style.

Upgrading your engagement ring is not for everyone though. Many people are very emotionally invested in their ring and could never imagine changing it. Some people find it tacky to want a larger diamond than the one they were given. I however think that as long as the decision to upgrade is ok with both people in the marriage, and there are no hurt feelings from the one who gave the ring, then people should go ahead and get their dream ring.

Everyone’s New is Different

There are many options for upgrading, starting with the diamonds. The center stone can be changed to a larger or better quality diamond, or side stones can be added to create a three stone ring. For extra sparkle, pave diamonds on the metal band can create a more modern look for the ring. However if a much larger center stone is being added the setting will have to be altered to fit the new stone.

Many people want to put their original diamonds into a new style of setting. The halo style of setting is an extremely popular choice and will make the center stone look much bigger. Some people choose to change their yellow gold rings to either platinum or white gold which is a more contemporary look. Unfortunately if the original diamonds have some yellow in them, setting them in a white metal will only bring the yellow out more and is not recommended.

For those who don’t want to change the original ring there is always the option of getting a new style of wedding band, or adding a third ring to the wedding set as an anniversary ring. Stacking multiple rings on one finger is an extremely popular option these days.

What Are You Waiting For?

Upgrading your engagement ring doesn’t have to mean getting rid of the old stones or jewellery. A coloured gemstone could be set into the old setting and worn as a right hand ring. The original diamond could be made into a pendant or earrings, or held onto to give to your children once they reach a certain age.

While there will always be those who passionately love their original engagement ring and would never want to change it, there are many people who love the idea of upgrading their ring.

Are you interested in upgrading your engagement ring? We here at Kimberfire would love to help you create the ring you’ve always dreamt of!