September - The Month of My Favorite Gemstone September 06 2018
Every time someone orders a piece of jewelry with a sapphire in it, we do a little happy dance in the studio. That's because sapphires are my favorite stone to work with. They come in an enormous range of colors, from pale peach to vibrant blue, and everything in between. And being a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale they are durable enough for everyday wear. Even better, the sapphires that we work with are mine to market Fair-trade. Fair trade stones are closely tracked from mine to market following strict protocols – including environmental protection, fair labor practices, and health and safety standards.
Here is a round-up of some recent sapphire rings that we created.
And we just got in this gorgeous mine to market fair-trade Australian sapphire, just waiting to be set in our Oval Solitaire Engagement Ring. Or to see some of the other sapphires available, jump over to our gemstones page.
We love black diamonds, raw diamonds, and salt and pepper diamonds as much as the next person looking for a unique, alternative engagement ring. But unfortunately, the majority of those diamonds aren’t truly conflict-free (because at Aide-mémoire Jewelry, we know that relying on the Kimberly Process alone does not actually mean that a diamond is conflict-free)—so what’s a person to do? Well, we’ve tracked down a few great ethical, eco-friendly and conflict-free alternatives.
Our 5mm Octagon Engagement Ring in matte 14k yellow gold, with a fair trade black spinel center stone.
We're excited to be able to offer black spinel as an ethical gemstone alternative to black diamonds! Black spinels look similar to a black diamonds, but are much less expensive. They are a deep, opaque black color, and are an 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. These black spinel are a fair trade level one, meaning that they can be traced back to the mine in Tasmania Australia, where our fair trade stone supplier have a significant impact on the mining itself. Black spinel is softer than a sapphire, but generally wears well and is more durable than topaz.
Our 5mm Rustic Solitaire Engagement Ring, pictured in matte 14k rose gold with a grey moissanite.
Looking for an ethical and eco-friendly option for salt & pepper diamonds? Grey moissanite has a similar speckled appearance, making them a great (and ethical) alternative. Moissanite is about a 9.25 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which makes them well suited for daily wear. These grey moissanites were part of a limited edition run by Charles & Colvard. We have several in stock in a range of sizes/shapes/colors. However, because they were limited edition, once they're gone, they’re gone.
Dark Blue Australian Sapphires
Our classic 5mm Crown Solitaire in matte 950 palladium, with a deep blue Australian sapphire center stone.
These deep blue/black Australian sapphires are a unique alternative to black diamonds. They have a fascinating depth to them, appearing mostly black, but flash with subtle hints of blue under direct light. Sapphires are a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, so are suited for daily wear, and we have a limited number of these beautiful stones in stock in 5mm round.
Send us a message to get started customizing your engagement ring with one of these gorgeous stones!
How to Care For & Clean Your Jewelry May 01 2017
Some of the questions we're asked most frequently, both via email and during in-person consultations, are how to take care of your new jewelry, be it wedding bands or an engagement ring. There are two ways you can go about doing this. You can try to keep the ring as pristine as possible, taking care not to scratch it, and having it regularly re-finished—or you can wear your ring and consider the scratches and dings as evidence of your years of marriage.
Because finishes are just a surface treatment, they will change with continued wear. A matte finish becomes shinier as the metal is burnished, and a shiny finish becomes more matte as larger scratches begin to show up. This happens faster with precious metals than it does with industrial metals, but all finishes on rings will change over time.
The matte finish on your ring can be touched up from time to time with the scrubby side of a (clean) sponge, or with a new, unused Scotch-Brite pad. Similarly, as a shiny finish becomes more matte with wear, it can be re-polished. However, this removes material from the surface of the ring and can make your ring thinner over time (becoming less durable), so we don't suggest doing so too often.
Many commercial white gold rings have been rhodium plated, or "dipped." Similar to the finish on your ring, plating is just a thin coating of another metal on the surface of the base metal, and it does wear away with time. If your ring has a rhodium plating, it will need to be re-plated once a year in order to maintain the look. Because rhodium plating is a very toxic process and bad for the environment, we do not plate any of our wedding bands. We also believe that white gold is a really lovely color that doesn't need to be covered up.
For additional information on ring finishes, check out this blog post.
Cleaning Your Ring
To clean your wedding band, simply soaking your ring in a solution of warm water and mild soap (a shallow bowl or glass works best), rinsing it and drying off with a soft cotton cloth is often enough to remove and oil and dirt that may have built up on the surface. If your band has a deeper texture with hard to reach areas, it may also benefit from a gentle cleaning with a new toothbrush.
Because toothpaste (and its residue) is fairly abrasive and can scratch both the surface of your ring and any stones, the toothbrush you use should be new and used solely for the purpose of cleaning your jewelry.
As you wear your engagement ring, you might notice the stone(s) becoming less sparkly—what gives? Through your daily activities, things like lotion, oil, and dirt become trapped on the underside of the stone and inside the stone setting, which can dull the appearance of the stone as they build up. The longer the build up remains on there the harder it is to remove, so regular cleaning is important.
From left to right: 6mm Stone Texture Hand-carved Classic Band in matte 950 Palladium with a flush set Australian sapphire, 5mm Classic Engagement Ring in shiny 14k White Gold with an Australian champagne diamond, 5mm Crown Solitaire in matte 950 Palladium with a Montana sapphire
The easiest way to remove the build up at home is by using a brand-new, clean toothbrush with mild dish soap (Dawn is great for this). Very gently clean the underside of the setting, rinse with water and use a soft cotton cloth to dry the ring. If the stone setting has prongs, be careful that none of the bristles become stuck. Always close the drain in your sink when rinsing your ring, as metal can become slippery when wet.
While doing so can often feel tedious, keeping your rings clean also ensures that you're aware if something is wrong.
While it's common to want to wear your new ring 24/7 after receiving it, we recommend taking it off while you sleep, as it allows your skin to breathe. Not doing so traps moisture underneath the ring (similar to wearing a band-aid) which can eventually lead to skin irritation. This is different than an allergic reaction to the metal, but can look similar.
Another reason to take your ring off every night is so that it doesn't become stuck on your finger. Because your fingers tend to swell quite a bit while you sleep, wearing a ring while you sleep can cut off circulation. Additionally, if you take your ring off every night, you will notice if your finger size is increasing. That way you can get your ring re-sized before it gets too tight.
When you do remove your ring, take care to store it somewhere that it won't bump into or be jostled by other jewelry items, as they can scratch and dent one another.
Ring storage idea: try one of our walnut ring boxes--they’re handmade from sustainable wood!
While there’s no need to remove your ring when you wash your hands, we do strongly suggest removing your ring before working with bleach-based cleaners and chemicals, or before swimming in chlorinated water (swimming pools, hot tubs, etc) or in the ocean. Both chlorine and salt water can damage gold jewelry and cause it to become brittle, which can lead to discoloration, cracking, and lost stones. Hot tubs are even worse, as the increased chlorine concentrations and the heat speed up the chemical reactions that damage your jewelry.
Additionally, never wear your ring during high-impact activities like rock-climbing, weight lifting, and moving furniture, as they pose a risk for damaging (denting, scratching, etc) your ring. In some cases, you also run the risk of seriously injuring your finger if your ring gets caught on something. The easiest way to prevent this is to use your best judgement, take your ring off, and keep it somewhere safe so that you don’t lose it while you're doing these things--the pouch or ring box you receive your ring in are both great options.
Last year, a customer reached out to us to let us know that his ring had gotten caught on a piece of equipment while at work and had been damaged. While he was fortunate that his hand hadn't been injured and that the damage to the ring was reparable, the outcome could have very easily been different. The takeaway: remove your ring before high impact activities.
With silver, palladium, platinum, and gold bands, it is important to remember that it is fine jewelry. If you do not want your ring to bend, scratch, or gouge, it should be treated with care for it to last. Anything (metal, stone, metal twist caps on bottles, etc.) harder than your ring can leave a mark.
However, oftentimes what people think are scratches on the surface of their new ring are actually scuff marks, similar to how a pair of shoes will show scuff marks when worn. Unlike scratches, scuff marks can be seen but not felt and they can be made by hard leather, wood, and plastic (such as purses, briefcases, dishes, steering wheels, etc), and are part of the burnishing process. This will be less evident with more textured bands, as the marks can "blend in" to the texture and make them less obvious.
That said, visible wear on your wedding band is inevitable. Some metals, regardless of how diligent your care for them, are softer and will begin to show wear more quickly than other, more durable metal alloys. Wide, flat, smooth surfaces will show wear more quickly than textured surfaces and narrow bands.
Looking for more information on metal durability? Check out this blog post!
Still have questions? Send us a message!
Fair Trade Montana and Australian Sapphires April 19 2017
While diamonds and moissanite remain popular choices for a more traditional engagement ring, a lot of customers are interested in the array of fair trade sapphires we have to offer. From light sky blues to deep blue greens (and just about everything in between—honestly!), we have the have the perfect stone with which to customize your engagement ring.
Sapphires are considered one of the most durable colored gemstones and are great for everyday wear, making them well-suited for engagement rings. Our fair trade sapphires are closely tracked from mine to market following strict protocols—including environmental protection, fair labor practices, and health and safety standards—which makes them the perfect choice for an ethical engagement ring.
Left to right: 5mm Classic Engagement Ring with Rustic Texture, 14k White Gold, Teal Blue Montana Sapphire; Square Solitaire Engagement Ring, 950 Palladium, Denim Blue Australian Sapphire; 5mm Crown Solitaire with diamond side stones, 14k White Gold, Light Denim Blue Montana Sapphire
Above: 5mm Crown Solitaire, 950 Palladium, Light Denim Blue Montana Sapphire
Left to right: 4mm Rustic Solitaire Engagement Ring, 14k White Gold, Pale Green Australian Sapphire; 6mm Stone Texture Hand-carved Classic Band, 950 Palladium, Australian Blue Sapphire; Three Stone Engagement Ring, 14k White Gold, Australian Sapphires
Not sure if our fair trade sapphires are right for you? Still interested in our customized rings? Have a look at some more of our customized items or check out our blog post on Chatham Padparadscha Sapphires and Grey Moissanite!
**Please note that stone coloring may vary depending on lighting conditions, your own monitor screen, and stone settings. If you'd like to see additional images of any particular stone, please send us a message.
Handmade & Sustainable Walnut Ring Boxes: Now Available! December 20 2016
Looking to make your ring gift extra special? We're very excited to offer these new handmade walnut ring boxes! These boxes are handmade in small batches in New Zealand with wood sourced from sustainable, managed forests, and they make a beautiful keepsake for both weddings and proposals.
Available for purchase here.
Customize Your Ring with Colored Gemstones July 29 2016
You know you want a unique ring and you're pretty sure that you're interested in a colored gemstone--but where do you go from there? What are your ethical options?
We have a wide range of ethical gemstones to select from, with two newly available options!
Chatham Padaradscha Sapphires
Pink stones have been increasing in popularity in recent years, but many available options aren't hard enough to hold up to daily or near daily wear in a ring setting. We have a wide range of Padparadscha sapphires available to us, ranging from light pinks and peachs to more vivid pinks and fiery orange reds, in a wide range of cuts and sizes to fit our Engagement Ring settings.
Can you tell the difference?
We get a lot questions asking about creating custom engagement rings with morganite, which has a tendency to chip over the course of its lifetime, making less than ideal for setting in a ring. That's why we had Chatham color match a Padparadscha sapphire for us! The stone on the right is Chatham Morganite and the left is our color-matched Chatham Padparadscha Sapphire! It has the same color and look as the Morganite option, but with a resistance to chip and scratching, so there's no need to worry about damaging your ring!
Don't see the color you're looking for? Our Chatham Sapphires are also available in a wide range of colors, shades, and cuts--send us a message or check out more of our available options here! Looking for a natural, ethical sapphire? Take a look at our Montana and Australia round cut options!
These limited edition stones have a very unique look and color! Because of the way that moissanite is grown, its inclusions present as needle-like, which give the grey moissanite a cloudiness similar to black and raw diamonds, making them a great (and ethical) alternative.
As these are a limited edition product, our supply is also limited. Please contact us for availability or for an estimate.
The Difference Between 14k White Gold and Palladium August 11 2015
So you know that you want a white metal band. But what metal alloy should you use? What is the difference between palladium and white gold, and which one is more durable?
14k white gold and 14k palladium white gold both contain 58.5% pure gold, but are alloyed with other metals to make them more white in color. 14k white gold contains gold, nickel, copper, and zinc. Whereas 14k palladium white gold contains gold, copper, silver, and palladium. 14k palladium white gold does not contain nickel, which is a metal allergen for a lot of people.
950 palladium (also referred to just as palladium) is 95% pure palladium, and is a “white metal” that is slightly more gray than platinum or sterling silver. Palladium is in the platinum family, and shares many characteristics with platinum – durability, tarnish resistance, and is hypo-allergenic. It is about 1/3 the weight of platinum (it is comparable to the weight of 14k white gold), and about 1/3 the price of platinum. It is a precious metal, and in addition to being used in jewelry, has often been used in catalytic converters. Its use in jewelry is a newer application for this metal, so not all jewelers and jewelry repair shops feel confident working with it yet, but that is quickly changing.
14k white gold is a hard and rigid metal that is more resistant to scratching than palladium or platinum. Even though palladium and platinum may show scratches and dings earlier than in gold, with palladium no metal is removed when scratched, just displaced. Whereas a gold band will become thinner over time because the metal is slowly rubbed away over time. By comparison, we would say that in the first year, a palladium band will show more signs of wear, due to the evidence of scratches and dings. But, in 20-30 years, the 14k gold band will be thinner than it was originally, whereas a palladium or platinum band would retain its original weight.
Customize Your Ring with Fair Trade Sapphires June 30 2015
We just got in a great selection of fair trade Australian and Montana round sapphires. These sapphires come in a beautiful range of blues, greens, teal, and aqua. They can be used in most of our current ring styles, and are a great custom option for your ring!
Fair trade stones are closely tracked from mine to market following strict protocols – including environmental protection, fair labor practices, and health and safety standards.
Wedding Ring Profiles / Cross Sections April 06 2015
What is a ring profile anyways? A ring profile is also known as a cross section. Here's one way to think about it – imagine that you put a ring on a cutting board, chopped it in half, then looked at the exposed edge. That would be the profile. Sometimes when you are looking at rings in person, the differences are hard to determine, so we've god these diagrams to help you out.
The Flat Band is flat on all sides, whereas the Comfort Fit Flat Band has a rounded inner edge. Flat bands are also sometimes referred to as pipe cut. The Edgeless Band is flat on the face but has all the corners rounded. The Hand-carved Classic Band is similar to a traditional wedding band, but has an oval cross section which makes it very comfortable. The Chunky Hand-carved Classic Band is the same as the regular Hand-carved Classic, but thicker.
A Classic Band has a rounded exterior and a flat interior. Classic Bands are also sometimes referred to as half-round and low-dome. The Comfort Fit Classic Band and the Light Weight Comfort Fit Classic Bands have a slightly domed exterior and and rounded inner edge.
And here is an illustration explaining the terms for the different dimensions of a band.
4 Ways to Choose an Ethical Diamond January 12 2015
You know that you want an ethically and environmentally conscious diamond. That’s great! But if you are like many people out there, knowing precisely what that means is an entirely different story. What exactly is a conflict-free diamond? How is a diamond gemstone related to environmental risk? Here is a guide designed to explain the separate characteristics and benefits of the four types of diamonds that we offer. We’ve very carefully chosen these diamonds to work with because they have minimal environmental impact and high labor standards – we only select sources where workers are treated well and paid fairly.
Octagon Ring with Recycled Diamonds
A “recycled” or second-hand diamond is our standard conflict-free diamond option. It is one that has already been previously mined. These classic beauties are meticulously graded, re-polished and buffed to their original sheen and luster to be placed in new settings. A recycled diamond is, on average, significantly less expensive than a new one. By choosing a recycled diamond, you are not contributing to the more than 150 million carats of new diamonds that are mined from the earth each year. Unlike lab-grown diamonds, second-hand diamonds also have greater availability. But, perhaps one of the best features of recycled diamonds is the allure of time; these gemstones have the aura of having seen different decades and periods in history. It is rare, but some recycled gemstones are so old that they were cut by hand directly at a mine more than a hundred years ago!
Lab-grown diamonds have several great features that make them another ideal choice for socially and environmentally conscious brides and grooms to be. They are typically twenty to thirty percent less expensive than newly mined diamonds, have extensive options for customization in size, cut, clarity, and color, while still maintaining the exact same chemical composition of a natural diamond. New diamonds from heavily sourced, conflict-zone locations further pollute the surrounding environment and often place mineworkers in danger for shockingly low wages. In contrast, the lab-grown diamonds we work with are created in the Netherlands. No water or air pollution result from their production and only a modest amount of energy is consumed. For this process, they primarily use renewable resources.
Three Stone Ring with Austrlian Champagne Diamonds
If a newly-mined natural diamond is your choice, then choosing a mine that ethically sources diamonds is key. We only work with two diamond dealers for newly-mined diamonds who have proven that they adhere to the highest labor and environmental standards with mine to market traceability. They go far beyond the requirements of the Kimberly Process, which aims to prevent any “conflict” diamonds from entering the marketplace, but relying on the Kimberly Process alone is not enough to insure that a diamond is conflict-free.
Newly-Mined Canadian Diamonds
Newly-mined diamonds from the Canadian Arctic must adhere to strict standards outlined by the Canadian Code of Conduct and other government authorities. They are all certified as conflict-free and must be cut and polished responsibly. Employees in the industry are paid fair wages, and efforts are made to reduce negative environmental impact as much as possible.
Newly-Mined Australian Diamonds
Similar to Canadian-mined diamonds, newly-mined Australian diamonds are also subject to closely monitored standards that value socially ethical and environmentally responsible practices. One of the more unique aspects of Australian-mined diamonds is the array of natural colors available. They range from translucent yellows, soft chocolate browns, and other earth-tone varieties.
Square Solitaire Engagement Ring with Recycled Diamond
In our efforts to provide the very best ethically and environmentally conscious diamond options to our customers, we adhere to the strictest standards of traceability that sometimes limit the availability of certain gemstone cuts. Raw diamonds and black diamonds are typically hard to secure as they very often can be traced back to conflict-zones. However, we are more than happy to work with you in your search for the perfect diamond regardless of your varied needs.
3mm Classic Engagement Ring with Recycled Diamond
Diamonds larger than .23 carats, which is approximately 4mm in diameter, typically come with a certificate outlining the stone’s grading for cut, color, clarity, carat weight, and origin. Diamonds smaller than this carat weight are considered “melee” and are traditionally loosely graded and will not be paired with an accompanying certificate.
If you would like a diamond other than our standard recycled diamond option, or have any questions regarding specific aspects concerning carat weight and other factors, please feel free to contact us! We will work one-on-one with you to determine your best available options. We can either work with information you supply us, or we can do all the hard “sleuthing” and come up with an ethically and socially responsible diamond we know you will love forever.
An Eco-Friendly Choice: Lab-Grown Gemstones October 02 2014
Here at Aide-Mémoire Jewelry, we meet a lot of new clients who are perfect examples of what makes the Pacific Northwest so special: they value the environment, and love living in an area where the ocean meets the mountains meets the forest meets the city. They are nature-lovers through and through! This is what makes us the perfect team.
Image courtesy Andie Powers. Photo by Jaquilyn Shumate Photography
Most couples who value nature and the environment want to wear a piece of nature: a natural stone. The term “lab-grown” makes them feel uncomfortable and as if they are choosing something unnatural. However, one of the best things that eco-friends can do for the environment is invest in a lab-grown, synthetic or cultured stone.
Does that mean that a lab-grown gemstone is not a real gemstone? No! The only thing that differentiates a lab-grown stone from a mined gemstone is its point of origin. Here are some benefits to a synthetic or cultured stone:
• They are REAL gemstones in every sense: chemically, physically, atomically and optically.
• Lab-grown gemstones have a significantly lower impact on the environment.
• They are typically created by skilled laborers that receive fair wages and benefits, unlike most foreign mining practices.
• Lab-grown diamonds are rated with the same rating system as mined diamonds--the Four C’s--which are Clarity, Cut, Color and Carat Weight, and are available in different colors.
• The primary lab-grown stones that Aide-mémoire offers are lab-grown diamonds (by request) and Chatham created gemstones (an option for many of our engagement rings).
Another type of gemstone is a simulant (not to be confused with a synthetic gemstone). Some common simulants are diamond simulants--stones that resemble diamonds--such as cubic zirconia, Moissanite, white sapphire, and lead crystal. These stones are usually much less expensive than mined or synthetic diamonds.
5mm Moissanite Rustic Cushion Cut Engagement Ring. Choose from Moissanite, Forever Brilliant Moissanite, or a Chatham Sapphire.
Moissanite is another type of gemstone to consider if you want to minimize your eco-footprint--and one of our favorites! This is a jewel created from silicon carbide (SiC), based on naturally-occuring Moissanite (very rare--and originally found in meteorite particles). These are very hard and durable gemstones, second only to diamonds, but are much more brilliant!
If you’ve really got your heart set on a non-synthetic or non-cultured stone, a recycled diamond may be another option for you. These are diamonds that are naturally occurring in nature and were previously set in jewelry which has since been removed, re-polished, then sold as loose diamonds.
Questions about lab-grown or synthetic gemstones? Send us an email! We'd be happy to talk you through your options.
Colored Gemstones April 01 2014
Diamond engagement rings have only been common practice for the last 75 years as a result of the diamond cartel De Beers' extremely successful marketing campaign to increase demand for diamonds. But what if you are interested in an engagement ring with a colored gemstone instead? Since rings experience more wear and tear than other types of jewelry, what are good options for colored gemstones on a ring that will be worn everyday? Well, to answer these questions is gemologist Roger Dery.
Something else to understand, when thinking about gemstones, is the Mohs scale of hardness. This characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. What is important to understand about the Mohs scale, is that it is a relative hardness scale, so a Diamond (which is a 10 on the scale) is about 4-5 times harder than Sapphires (Mohs 9), but a Sapphire is only about 2 times harder than Topaz (Mohs 8). So when someone says that a Sapphire or a Moissanite are second in hardness to diamond, there is a huge jump in hardness between the those stones and a Diamond, with the Diamond being much much harder.
Information from Roger Dery (For many of these stones he mentions "exposure", which means they will do better in a bezel setting, because less of the stone is exposed.):
Mohs 9 - Ruby and Sapphire: generally considered the most durable of the colored gems. If untreated in any way, will hold up very well in most all situations. Even those subjected to 'high-heat-only' still do very well.
Exception: Ruby that has been filled with substances such as glass have a much lower resistance to damage such as abrasion from wear.
Mohs 8-1/2 - Chrysoberyl including Alexandrite: in my experience Chrysoberyl holds up very well against wear. It does not exhibit severe brittleness seen in other gems - and would be a great stone for regular wear as a ring stone.
Mohs 8 - Spinel: is generally considered a gem that wears well. It is resistant to damage and not just damage from abrasion.
Mohs 8 - Topaz: can be worn in rings, but some caution should be exhibited. This is especially true with Topaz colored blue because it has been irradiated [and then subsequently heated]. This process has weakened the stone in some way that it does not hold up as well as Precious Topaz - which may, or may not have been treated at all.
Mohs 7-1/2-8 - the Beryl family including Aquamarine, Heliodore (golden Beryl), Morganite, Goshenite wear fairly well in a bezel setting, can be worn in rings though may not be suitable for 'everyday wear'. The heating of any of the Beryl's is done at a low temperature and it is not a factor regarding their durability. Beryl's do have an element of brittleness though not as severe as some other gems.
Mohs 7-1/2-8 - Emerald (of the Beryl family) is not well suited for everyday wear. A totally clean Emerald will hold up as well as an Aquamarine. But, finding an Emerald with that level of clarity is extremely rare. Roughly 99% of all Emeralds have been treated with a filler of some type to (usually) improve their clarity. The filler is likely to not hold up well over time. *Emerald's that have been treated should not be placed into an Ultrasonic cleaner, nor placed under a steam cleaner as this may affect the clarity enhancement substance. **Caveat: Emerald's treated with a specialized process known as "Excell" in the trade are known to have a higher level of durability over those treated with other methods.
Mohs 7-1/2 - Andalusite has reasonable wearability though it does have a slight brittleness. Facet junctions are likely to show wear after only a few years regular wear.
Mohs 7-1/2 - Iolite in my experience holds up fairly well for hardness 7-1/2. It does, however, have distinct cleavage and a sharp blow in one or more specific directions may cause it to separate into more than one piece. Though, when I have tried to do this in the rough, I have not been successful.
Mohs 7-7-1/2 - The Garnet group is generally thought of as reasonably durable. Facet junctions will show wear within the first few years of being worn. And, the facet junctions may not chip as much as 'crumble' for lack of a better way to describe this. Of the Garnets, the Andradite/Demantoid type is the least durable, and we have found the Pyrope/Almandine/Spessartite group seem to wear slightly better.
Mohs 7-7-1/2 - The Tourmaline group is suitable for rings, though not for everyday wear especially if the top of the stone is exposed. Tourmaline can be brittle, does not hold up well where temperature changes are radical. They are known to be 'chippy' as can be seen along facet junctions that are exposed.
Mohs 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 - Zircon is often thought of as brittle. Zircons heated to high temperatures (over 1,000*C) to convert them to blue are definitely more brittle and show the effects of wear easily. Blue Zircon worn high on a mounting will need refurbishing regularly. Unheated Zircons and those subjected to much lower temperatures (of various colors) are less prone to show wear - and appear less brittle.
Mohs 7 - The Quartz family (including citrine, rose quartz, amethyst, and smoky quartz) is well known due to being available and popular. Chipping along the crown facets is common, and abrasions from wear are as well.
*as a general rule, at least from me, I don't suggest wearing hardness less than 7 on a regular basis as the wear will become evident well before you expect it. I do suggest moving this type of gemstone into mountings offering great protection or off the fingers or wrist.
Mohs 6-1/2 to 7 - Kunzite is not a durable gemstone. It is brittle, does not resist scratching well, does not repair easily, and has perfect cleavage in two directions. In addition to all that, it has the unfortunate problem of being light sensitive - reducing its depth of color with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. I have repaired my fair share of Kunzite's and I don't relish the fact that they show up waiting for my handy work. But since they don't wear well over time, they will all eventually need reconditioning.
Mohs 6-1/2 to 7 - Peridot does not share the fate of Kunzite, though its wear pattern is predictable. Abrasions are readily seen on exposed gems that are frequently worn - and fortunately, a refurbishing is not usually problematic.
Mohs 6-1/2 to 7 - Tanzanite is very popular and goldsmiths have taken to mounting them in lavish and risky ways. Exposed surfaces will show wear in a relatively short time and the perfect cleavage can be a problem. Tanzanite is also heat sensitive - even though it is well known to have been heated to acquire the beautiful blue to purple hues. It is the shock of rapid temperature change that may cause damage.
Mohs lower than 6-1/2 - Apatite, Opal, Pearls, Orthoclase/Sunstone, Scapolite, Sphene and Sphalerite and other low hardness gems all need special care to be worn in rings. It is generally accepted that these gems are best suited for pendants, pins, brooches or earrings.
Finishes and Care December 02 2013
Metal finishes are a surface treatment. Satin, matte, and brushed finishes are different names often used to describe the same finish, or variations of a non-shiny finish. Since finishes are a surface treatment, they will change with any wear, and will eventually wear away entirely. But finishes can be re-applied from time to time.
During the course of wearing a wedding band it will acquire scuff marks. This can happen fairly early into wearing a ring, just like a pair of shoes will show scuff marks pretty quickly. Scuff marks (unlike scratches) are superficial – they can be seen but not felt. Scuff marks can be made by hard leather, wood and plastic (such as purses, briefcases, dishes, steering wheels). Scuff marks are a process called “burnishing”. Scuff marks on a matte band will be shiny, whereas scuff marks on a shiny band will be matte. Some people feel that they are not as obvious on a ring with a shiny finish than on a band with a matte finish. Scuff marks can be easily removed by re-finishing the ring.
Scuff marks do not effect the integrity of the ring. So if left, the finish will take on its own patina which is considered to be the normal look of a wedding band. Many people take pride in this as it signifies the passage of time.
Deeper marks on a wedding band (the kind that can be felt) are scratches, dings, and gouges. No metal is impervious to scratches, and wedding bands take a lot of abuse. Any metal can scratch, but how quickly that will happen depends on metal, care and lifestyle. Some rings (like silver) will change immediately, where as gold, platinum, and palladium rings will hold up much better. Industrial metals like stainless steel and titanium will resist scratching for much longer. Textured bands will hide scratches much better than a smooth wide band.
Palladium and platinum will scratch and ding faster than 14k gold, but on palladium and platinum no metal is removed when scratched. So over many years a platinum or palladium band will hold up better than gold. A gold band will become thinner over time because the metal is rubbed away.
When caring for your ring, there are two ways you can go. You can try to keep the ring as pristine as possible, taking care not to scratch it, and having it regularly re-finished. Or, you can wear your ring and consider the scratches and dings as evidence of your years of marriage.
With silver, palladium, platinum, and gold bands, it is important to remember that it is fine jewelry. So if you do not want your ring to bend, scratch or gouge, it should be treated with some care for it to last. Any metal or stone harder than it, can scratch or gouge it. Remove your ring before doing heavy work (like moving furniture or rock climbing), and always store it in a safe spot where you won't lose it. See this blog post about taking your ring off.
Additionally, be aware that chlorine, especially at high temperatures, can discolor gold jewelry. Do not wear gold jewelry while using chlorine bleach or while in a pool or hot tub.
Many commercial white gold rings have been rhodium plated, or "dipped". Plating is just a thin coating of another metal on the surface of the base metal, and like finishes they will wear away over time. If your ring has a rhodium plating, it will need to be re-plated once a year in order to maintain the look. Rhodium plating is a very toxic process and bad for the environment. I do not plate any of my wedding bands for these reasons.
Rings can be re-finished from time to time, which will remove many scratches, gouges, and scuff marks. However, every time it's re-finished it removes a little bit of metal making the ring thinner over time.
Metal Alloys November 07 2013
Most gold that is used in jewelry is a gold alloy. An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals. In the case of gold, in the US, it is denoted by karat. The karat refers to the amount of pure gold in it. 24k gold is pure gold, and is a extremely soft and malleable metal. For jewelry, gold is most commonly seen in 18k, 14k, and 10k alloys, where pure gold has been combined with other precious and non-precious metals (alloying). This alloying makes gold stronger, harder and more durable. It also is what gives gold its amazing range of colors. The carat denotes the amount of pure gold in the alloy. 10k gold contains 41.8% pure gold, 14k gold contains 58.5%, 18k contains 75.2%, and 22k contains 91.8% pure gold.
Pure gold is always a very rich yellow color. So when talking about colored gold, you are always talking about a gold alloy. It is the other metals that are mixed with the pure gold that give it it’s color.
14k rose, yellow and green gold are all made up of 58.5% pure gold, then the remainder of the alloy is silver, copper, and zinc. It is by varying the proportions of the silver and copper that you get the three different colors. Green gold contains more silver than yellow gold, and rose gold contains more copper than yellow gold.
Rose gold is a gold alloy that is similar in color to copper. This is due to its higher copper content. It is also referred to as red gold and pink gold. It is much more pink in color than 14k yellow gold, but a bit less pink than copper. Pure copper is not a good choice for a wedding band because it tarnishes very quickly, it is extremely soft, and will turn most people’s skin green. Which, is not harmful, just unsightly. 14k rose gold is a great option for someone wanting a copper colored wedding band.
The white metals that I typically work with are 10k, 14k and 18k white gold, 14k palladium white gold and 950 palladium. 14k white gold and 14k palladium white gold both contain 58.5% pure gold, but are alloyed with other metals to make them more white in color. 14k white gold contains gold, nickel, copper, and zinc. Whereas 14k palladium white gold contains gold, copper, silver, and palladium. 14k palladium white gold does not contain nickel, which is a metal allergen for a lot of people.
950 palladium is 95% pure palladium. Palladium is a metal in the platinum family, and shares many characteristics as platinum – durability, tarnish resistance, and is hypo-allergenic. It is a precious metal, and in addition to being used in jewelry, is has often been used in catalytic converters. It is a “white metal” that is slightly more gray than platinum or sterling silver. Palladium is much less expensive than platinum, but very as durable as platinum. But, like platinum is is more prone to scratching and dinging than white gold.
To find out more about the differences between white gold and palladium, check out this blog post: The Differences Between White Gold and Palladium
Men's Engagement Ring November 07 2013
What is a men’s engagement ring? That’s the beauty of it, since there isn’t a long tradition in the US to either follow or buck against, it’s pretty much whatever you want it to be. Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind would be a man or woman proposing to their boyfriend with an engagement ring. But, I have also made men’s engagement rings for couples who feel that if the woman is going to be wearing an engagement ring symbolizing that they are in a committed relationship, then the man should as well. Both parties wearing an engagement ring symbolizes that their relationship is that of an equal partnership.
There are a few ways to approach the men’s engagement ring. First would be to give an engagement ring that would later be replaced with a wedding band. Sterling silver is a perfect metal for this. It is the least expensive of the “precious metals” and is great for everyday wear. But, since it is also very soft, it would scratch, ding, and mis-shape faster than other metals. As a wedding band, that you plan on wearing for the rest of your life, it wouldn’t hold up as well as some other precious metals. But, it would be great for an engagement ring that you would wear for a year or two, then replace with the more precious wedding band in gold, palladium, or platinum.
Another approach is to get engagement rings, that would also be the wedding bands, then alter them for the wedding to make them even more special. Like, engrave a surprise message into each other’s rings right before the wedding, or have a stone flush set in them. If you plan on having a stone flush set in the band, make sure you start with a band that is thick enough to accommodate the stone.
Another idea is to wear a 4mm wide engagement ring, then stack it with a 4mm wide wedding band.
Taking Your Ring Off November 07 2013
I hear a lot of people say, when they pick up their rings, that they won’t be taking them off much. However, it is always a good idea to take your rings off at night. This is especially true of wider bands. The reason is that the skin under your ring needs air to stay healthy. If you don’t take your ring off regularly, the skin under the ring can start to turn white (like when wearing a bandaid), then eventually turn red and start to peel. A lot of people think this is an allergy to the metal, but is really caused by moisture being trapped under the ring.
Another reason to take your ring off every night, is so that it won’t get stuck. Fingers tend to swell quite a bit while you sleep, and wearing a ring can cut off circulation. Also, if you take your ring off every night you will notice if your finger size is changing so that you can get your ring re-sized before it gets stuck.
This said, I don’t recommend taking your ring off to wash your hands. That’s a sure way to lose your ring. If you want your ring to stay in a nice condition, it is a good idea to take your ring off if you know you are going to be doing something like moving furniture, rock climbing, lifting weights, and other things of that nature. But, always store it at home in a safe place.
The best thing to do is to get a nice little dish or box to store your rings in every night, or if you need to take it off for an activity. Like in one of these lovely dishes.
That way you always know that if it’s not on your finger, it’s in the ring dish.
Getting The Right Size November 07 2013
Ring sizing is very tricky since fingers can change a whole size depending on the temperature and time of day. It’s always best to get sized several times, by several different people, on different days before ordering a ring. That way you can come up with a sort of average.
Since ring sizes change quite a bit depending on the weather, if you get sized in the winter, then receive your ring in the summer, it will likely fit a bit more snug than you expected, and vice versa. It is common to have any wedding ring or engagement ring re-sized at least once until you get the fit dialed in.
It’s always best to get sized by professionals using metal ring sizers before ordering a ring. We use the "True Size" ring sizing system.
There are printable ring size charts, but those will not give you the correct size. Mostly because a piece of paper or string conforms to the shape of your finger (which isn’t round) in a way that a metal ring will not. Also, if you wrap a string around your finger, then measure it, you are likely to stretch it differently when wrapping it around your finger, or when measuring it on a ruler. And even a fraction of a millimeter off will make for ring that is too big or too small.
Some things to keep in mind and pay attention to when going to get sized:
- Fingers typically are bigger in the morning and when you are hot.
- They shrink quite a bit when you are cold.
- Bigger in the summer and smaller in the winter.
- They swell a lot when you sleep, and are bigger in the morning.
- Wider bands fit more snugly than narrow bands, so the width of the ring sizer bands that they used will affect the size. Generally you would go up 1/4 size for rings 5-6mm wide and 1/2 size for rings 7-8mm wide.
- A band without a comfort-fit is going to fit tighter than one with a comfort-fit.
- Ideally you want to be sized with bands that are the same width and fit as the ring that you are getting.
Right now I am working on a ring set for a woman in Australia, and she was sized twice and given dramatically different sizes. It is also tricky because of international ring size conversion. Then, there is the factor of if the size is off, it’s more expensive to send the rings back and forth for re-sizing. Given all of that she had the great idea of sending me a cheap ring that fit her perfectly. Once I received it I was able check the size on my ring mandrel, and now I can make her rings to the right size.
This ring is a hair smaller than a size 6. Ring size is measure by where the bottom of the ring lines up, or where the ring touches the wider part of the mandrel. So if it is a wide band, the top of the ring might be up around 5.5 or 5.25, but it is the bottom of the ring that you size from. If it is a comfort fit band, then it is sized from the narrowest part of the inside of the band.
Another way to size a ring is by using calipers and measuring the inside diameter of the ring. This is a more precise way to measure a comfort fit band, and in some European countries ring sizes are given as the inner mm diameter, which is really the most accurate way to size a finger and ring.
If you are fairly sure of your ring size, but want to double check before you order your ring, contact us about getting brass rings to try. For a small fee we will send you a brass ring in the ring size that you request plus one 1/2 size larger and one 1/2 smaller - in the approximate width of the ring you plan on ordering. This is especially useful if you are planning on ordering a wider band or a band with stones.
Diamond vs. Moissanite vs. White Sapphire: A Side by Side Comparison November 07 2013
You know you want a white gemstone for your ring, but aren’t sure which one is right for you. This side by side comparison guide can help you sort through some of the pros and cons of a diamond, moissanite and white sapphire. Each has their own special characteristics and we love each of these options for different reasons.
This comparison video features our 4mm Basket Solitaire. Watch it in full screen to really see how light reflects differently on the different stones.
Chatham White Sapphire - approximately $300 and up per carat.
Chatham sapphires are lab-grown, so they have a much lower environmental impact than natural mined stones. There are also natural white sapphires on the market, but we prefer the Chatham ones for their color and clarity. Sapphires are a corundum, and durable enough for everyday wear - 9 on Moh’s Hardness Scale, and also resistant to chipping. White sapphires are more transparent and don’t reflect light back as much as a diamond or moissanite. This makes them much less sparkly, so they are a great choice for someone who wants a more subtle and less flashy stone. Because they reflect less light they also show more of the color of the metal of the setting as seen in the ring below. However, dirt and build-up on a white sapphire will dramatically reduce its sparkle, causing it to look dull, so it needs to be cleaned more frequently. Find out how to clean your jewelry in this blog post.
Moissanite - approximately $500 and up per carat.
Made of silicon carbide and lab-grown, it has a much lower environmental impact than mined stones. Durable for everyday wear - 9.25 on Moh’s Hardness Scale. As sparkly as a diamond but with more fire (rainbow flashes). However it can have too much fire for some people’s taste. This is more noticeable (and can have a bit of a disco ball effect) in the larger sizes. Additionally, because of the crystal structure, facets can appear black/dark at certain angles to the light. But to the average person viewing a diamond and a moissanite with their naked eyes, they would probably not be able to distinguish the difference between the two. So, if you want something that looks like a diamond, but for less money, a moissanite is the best choice.
Here is a video by Charles & Colvard (manufacturers of moissanite) explaining what is a moissanite.
Diamonds - varies greatly, but can start around $1,000 per carat.
Made of carbon, they are the hardest gemstone, making it the most durable for everyday wear - 10 on Moh’s Hardness Scale, and 4x harder than a sapphire. Diamonds reflect light differently than moissanites, so while moissanites are sparkly, the sparkle is not as clear and vibrant as diamond’s. Diamonds are graded on the four C’s - cut, clarity, color and carat (moissanites and sapphires are not). Prices vary widely based on the four C’s, and lab-grown vs. natural. Natural diamonds have a greater environmental impact, and sourcing of truly conflict-free natural diamonds is harder. However, lab-grown diamonds give you all the wonderful benefits of a natural diamond, but with a lower cost to the environment, society and your wallet. Learn about how we source our conflict-free diamonds in this blog post.
Five Stone Bead-set Stacking Ring with Diamonds set in Yellow Gold.
You may have noticed that we are a fan of lab-grown gemstones and diamonds for their low environmental and societal impact. This blog post on lab-grown stones will fill you in on the details. And while this blog post is about white stone options, we also love colored sapphires. You can see some of the pieces we’ve created with colored gemstones on our custom items page.
Any questions? Send us a message!
Durability November 07 2013
I get a lot of questions about durability of rings, metal and finishes. There are some metals that are more durable (meaning they hold up better over time), but no wedding band is impervious to wear and tear. Rings take a lot of abuse. Much more so than any other jewelry. All finishes on rings will change over time. A shiny finish will become less shiny and a matte finish will become more shiny. All rings, regardless of the metal, over time, will have scratches and dings. Finishes on rings can be re-done, but at the sacrifice of losing material.
Traditionally wedding bands are made of precious metals (as opposed to industrial metals). The most durable precious metals for wedding bands are going to be platinum, palladium, 10k and 14k gold.
With palladium (platinum too), it has what is called a “fluid surface”. What that means is that unlike gold, when it gets scratched it actually just displaces the metal as opposed to removing it. A gold ring after years of wear will weigh less because metal has been removed through wear, a palladium band will not. However, this does not mean that it won’t scratch or ding. Platinum and palladium can scratch and ding faster than gold, but over many years the band will not become thinner due to wear the way that gold will.
With gold, 10k is going to be harder than 14k, which is harder than 18k. In general, the higher the gold content, the softer the alloy becomes. 14k is preferred over 18k for durability, and 22k is not recommended for a wedding band. Of the typical gold color alloys, traditional white gold will be the hardest, followed by yellow, then rose. If you are concerned about durability consider a 10k yellow gold, or a 14k white gold band, and steer clear of 18k rose gold.
Sterling silver is a very soft metal, and I don’t usually recommend it for a wedding band. However, there are a few reasons you might choose a sterling silver band:
- You like the idea of a ring that develop a patina from wear, with each mark demoting the passage of time.
- For a men’s engagement ring, or a less expensive "starter" wedding ring that will be replaced with a gold, palladium, or platinum wedding band.
- For someone that knows they are likely to lose it, and don't want the responsibility of something too valuable.
- To try out the fit and dimensions of a band before committing to a more expensive ring.
Because sterling bends easily, if you do choose a sterling silver ring, consider a thicker band (1.5-2mm thick), or a sterling palladium band. Sterling palladium is a 92.5% sterling silver alloy which contains 3.0% palladium. It is intrinsically harder than standard sterling silver and is more tarnish resistance. However, it is still a type of sterling silver, so it will not be as durable as some other metals.
I offer rings in 1mm thickness because it is often requested. Usually it’s for someone that is looking for a very slim fitting ring. However, if you are very active and do a lot with your hands, a 1mm band is fairly thin and is likely to bend or mis-shape over time. Even going from 1mm thick to 1.25mm thick will increase the durability. But if you do a lot of work with your hands, consider at least a 1.5mm thickness.
Metal Color Reference November 07 2013