Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

It’s Difficult to Know the Diamond You Buy Online, Especially the Color

Despite being considered ‘white,’ diamonds actually come in a range of color. Most fine jewelers offer diamonds from a ‘D’ grade (perfectly colorless) to typically a ‘K’ (some hint of yellow to brown), with ‘H’ and ‘I’ graded diamonds in the middle accounting for a majority of engagement ring purchases. Though color grades are evident on a diamond’s certification, there are other factors that can affect its appearance that aren’t disclosed on paper – and this can make it difficult to know what you’re purchasing online. Many professional diamond buyers also consider a gem’s shade (a super subtle underlying tone) to be an important distinction, yet it’s nearly impossible for the average customer to discover online.

D color diamonds

An ‘H’ versus ‘M’ graded diamond, where value varies greatly despite being of the same carat weight.

How Diamonds are Graded and Traded

If you don’t already know it, diamonds are a tightly controlled, global commodity. Their value is determined by a dizzying cluster of factors that can be a real headache to decipher. Any ‘how-to’ on selecting a good diamond is typically underpinned by the four C’s: Cut, color, clarity and carat weight. Together, these four C’s are each graded by a handful of laboratories who assert just how big and bright a particular diamond might be.

These grades get organized into official certifications that are listed on international diamond trading networks, where they’re picked up by wholesale buyers, get plugged into large online retail sites, and eventually earn spots in the safes of fine jewelers around the world. While global supply is strictly controlled, access to this supply is relatively equal; jewelers worldwide rely on the exact same trading networks.

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The largest of these networks is Rapnet, a proxy for the NYC-based standard for diamond pricing – Rapaport Diamond Report. On it, Green Lake recently stumbled upon something extraordinary, something other industry buyers too have begun to notice: There’s a lot of brown-shaded diamonds out there that may not be disclosed as such to engagement ring customers online. We sourced two diamonds that were nearly identical in the four C’s *(and in subsequent price) but upon seeing the two in person they appeared completely different: One was bright and white just as advertised while the other appeared significantly more brown in color .

According to their respective reports from the same reputable laboratory, these two diamond’s color grading are the exact same. Do they look the same to you?

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How Diamonds with the Same Certification Can Look Totally Different

There are a few subtle factors that are harder to gauge and quantify in diamonds that don’t even get mentioned on the certification at all; ‘shade’ is one of these. Not the color of a gem per se, shade refers to a faint underlying tone that affects the appearance of a diamond. Shades can be red to yellow or green (a rare color that can identify conflict regions in Africa as the gem’s origin) to the most common shade – brown.

It’s easy to see how the difference between these two diamonds is so subtle it might not be worth advertising, but despite identical color and other important factors on the official certification, they’re still quite different.

It’s so common that over 90% of searches in the world’s supply yield diamonds with a brown shade, something the average online buyer would never know. When we went looking for some really nice diamonds, we applied a range of 1.00-1.29ct round, triple excellent, VS1-VS2 & H-I color – all great criterea – and we found 4,891 available globally. In an advanced search, however, we selected ‘No Brown’ (information trustworthy sellers always disclose) and the result was staggering: There are only 657 in the world right now, a scant 7.5% of the excellent round cut 1.00-1.29ct diamonds for sale. There are only 1,544 1.35-1.59ct excellent round cut diamonds for sale in the world right now and similarly only 187 (or 8%) contain  no brown shade.

Using the Rapnet search, advanced options include ‘shade,’ a factor disclosed by sellers but not visible on many public sites.

Using the Rapnet search, advanced options include ‘shade,’ a factor disclosed by sellers but not visible on many public sites.

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Let’s be clear: Getting a diamond with a subtle brown shade is really not a big deal. You’d never even know unless you poured over it like we do. As with most diamonds of a high grade, they look great. What is a big deal, however, is not knowing what you’re buying, not knowing there’s something even better out there or not knowing if you’re getting your money’s worth. When all 4 C’s match up but the prices don’t, it might be a good idea to see them in person, work with someone to help verify their description and compare quality with your own eyes. Online clients at Green Lake Jewelry Works can access videos to compare diamonds as well as ask of their designer to show gems side by side, on the hand or under different light. It’s a bit more of an involved process than a simple click-and-buy, but it is after all an especially significant purchase.

Seeing certifications side by side and the actual diamonds side by side are simply not the same. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect diamond, do your research and be sure to compare before making the final call.

Learn more about how to select the perfect diamond HERE

Have questions about diamonds or would like help in finding the perfect one for you? Contact the Green Lake Lab at gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com today.

 

About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works

Categorized under: Holiday, Jewelry

Be Mine: Lovely ‘Roses’ for Valentine’s Day

Roses are a go-to gift for your sweetheart for sure, but on Valentine’s Day nothing says you mean business more than jewelry. So we thought we’d share a few of our favorite recent pieces that deliver on both – roses and jewelry.

-ROSE GOLD-

One popular noble metal used in many of our recently crafted engagement rings and wedding bands is rose gold. The delicate pinkish hue in rose gold comes from its blushing alloy, copper. Gold on its own is soft and malleable, so alloys like zinc, nickel, or brass are added to both harden the metals and imbue it with different colors – this is where we get terms like white, green, pink or rose gold. The more alloy added to gold to harden it, the lesser the carat weight (e.g., 10,14,18 or 22K).

Rose gold can be used to create a whole piece and many find its coloring to look better with their skin tone than yellow gold. Alternatively, rose gold offers an opportunity to accent whiter metals like platinum, adding pops of color to otherwise monochromatic pieces. Either way, many of the custom engagement rings and wedding bands made in the Green Lake workshop have featured more and more rose gold in recent years, making it a popular choice for modern bridal ware.

3 unique 14K rose gold engagement rings, from top to bottom: Rose gold ring with diamond center and channel-set halo in the side face (64200); rose gold diamond halo with French-side side stones (97839); rose gold wrap ring with diamond center(96390).

3 unique 14K rose gold engagement rings, from top to bottom: Rose gold ring with diamond center and channel-set halo in the side face (64200); rose gold diamond halo with French-side side stones (97839); rose gold wrap ring with diamond center(96390).

Custom made 18K Rose Gold Wrap Ring with Heart-Cut Center Diamond

Custom made 18K Rose Gold Wrap Ring with Heart-Cut Center Diamond

Secret Garden Ring - Palladium mounting embellished with hand-fabricated filigree and carved flowers in 14k rose gold. Gemstones include white and champagne diamonds, pink and peach sapphires, as well as tanzanite and rhodolite garnets. Available for sale HERE.

Secret Garden Ring – Palladium mounting embellished with hand-fabricated filigree and carved flowers in 14k rose gold. Gemstones include white and champagne diamonds, pink and peach sapphires, as well as tanzanite and rhodolite garnets. Available for sale HERE.

-ROSE CUT DIAMONDS & SAPPHIRES-  

Other popular ‘roses’ making a reprisal in fine jewelry are rose-cut diamonds and sapphires. New to most engagement ring shoppers, rose-cuts hearken back to a decadent renaissance era in Europe where gems were hand cut by skilled artisan craftsmen. Today the cut is back and many naturally colored diamonds are making their way into new and chic engagement rings. In fact, Green Lake recently began hand cutting our own gems, stylizing the traditional cuts and coming up with entirely custom ones too.

 Rose VS RoundRose cuts gemstones do not typically sparkle with as much ‘fire’ as a traditional round cut on account that it’s missing a deep pavilion beneath. Without the pavilion, rose cuts appear from the top to boast more carat weight than is really there, providing for a larger looking center stone for less.

Custom rose-cut champagne diamond center in yellow gold bezel with white gold and diamond shank

Custom rose-cut champagne diamond center in yellow gold bezel with white gold and diamond shank.

Natural Champagne colored diamonds can range from light and bubbly in appearance to deep and rich. Pictured above are three rose gold and rose-cut diamond engagement rings. See in stock pieces like these inn Green Lake’s ‘Ringhammer’ Collection.

Natural Champagne colored diamonds can range from light and bubbly in appearance to deep and rich. Pictured above are three rose gold and rose-cut diamond engagement rings. See more in-stock pieces like these in Green Lake’s ‘Ringhammer’ Collection.

One of our new favorite rings, a rose gold halo with Canadian diamond melee, showcasing a custom rose-cut aqua green sapphire mined in Montana (98498). See how this ring was handmade here at Green Lake in its own blog entry.

One of our new favorite rings, a rose gold halo with Canadian diamond melee, showcasing a custom rose-cut aqua green sapphire mined in Montana (98498). See how this ring was handmade here at Green Lake in its own blog entry.

Happy Valentine’s Day from all the artists at work here at Green Lake! To be in the business of supporting loving relationships is a great line of work to be in, indeed. Does the season have you thinking it’s time to pop the big question? Contact a Green Lake Designer today to have a ring like these created just for you.

A stack of dainty rose gold rings. From top to bottom: Stackable rose-cut Champagne diamond ring in rose gold bezel (98916);  Stackable channel-set diamond baguette in rose gold (97604); stackable rose gold and natural green sapphire ring (98219); bezel-set marquis-cut diamond ring in rose gold(98433); bezel set diamond baguette in rose gold (87528).

A stack of dainty rose gold rings. From top to bottom: Stackable rose-cut Champagne diamond ring in rose gold bezel (98916); Stackable channel-set diamond baguette in rose gold (97604); stackable rose gold and natural green sapphire ring (98219); bezel-set marquis-cut diamond ring in rose gold(98433); bezel set diamond baguette in rose gold (87528).

Categorized under: Education, Jewelry, Process Videos

NATURAL MONTANA SAPPHIRES: Mine to Market

 

In the great wide open, artisanal sapphire mining can feel a lot like a day of fishing. Picture from left to right: Green Lake Graduate Gemologist, Dan Cavinet; Miner and Master Lapidary Drew Barns; and Green Lake Diamond Buyer Brant Kane.

In the great wide open, artisanal sapphire mining can feel a lot like a day of fishing. Pictured from left to right: Green Lake Graduate Gemologist, Dan Canivet; Miner and Master Lapidary Drew Barns; and Green Lake Gem Buyer Brant Kane.

FROM the SOURCE

To spend a day sifting through rocks with Montana miner Drew Barns, you might come to believe sapphires are anything but rare. On his sprawling property along a bend in the Yellowstone River stands a hard-worn sluice, the go-to machine for a placer miner like Drew, who loads the hopper with earth from ancient river beds. An engine fires up and the sluice rattles melodically, slowly separating the mineral-rich gravel from sand and larger rocks, concentrating it into batches likely to host sapphires. The resulting bed of stones roll down a conveyor belt and are carefully picked over with sharp eyes, in search for what could be otherwise  mistaken for ordinary glass. Grinding to a halt and echoing off towering mountains that flank the valley, the sluice reveals a small handful of colorful gems. Drew calls it an especially fortuitous day, pointing to the many days where he’d have better luck trout fishing.

The day’s prospecting, Green Lake Diamond Buyer Brant Kane holds a handful of sapphire and garnet in the rough

After a day’s prospecting Green Lake Diamond Buyer Brant Kane holds a handful of sapphires and garnets.

This is more or less the day-to-day operation, and for those who think sourcing rare earth materials equates to environmental destruction or social exploitation, you’d find this place to be anything but. The site, design and performance of this mine adhere strictly to comprehensive State guidelines. All of the water used is recycled from an adjacent settling pond to keep sediment from entering active waterways. The material brought to the site comes only from alluvial deposits nearby (these are the shoals, deltas and tributaries from rivers that flowed eons ago). It seems the operation attracts more blue birds and white-tailed deer than it does hardhats or trucks. During the spring and summer months vacationing families and amateur rock hounds also pay the mine a visit, each trying their hand to find sapphires – and we’re proud to report it’s also where we find ours.

NATURAL MONTANA SAPPHIRES at GREEN LAKE JEWELRY WORKS

Prior to heading the Green Lake Gem Lab, Gem Buyer and self-proclaimed ‘rockaholicBrant Kane dreamed of sourcing sapphires direct from Montana. For years he lobbied designer lines and retailers focused on bridal to incorporate these unique gems into their rings. He discovered however that most companies still preferred to source sapphires from abroad. While in the U.S., Montana may boast the richest deposits of corundum (the mineral that makes up sapphires and rubies), an overwhelming majority of the gems that sell have traditionally come from South Asia (places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar). Because much of the mining taking place in Montana today is relatively small-scale, getting a regular supply of consistent, production-grade sapphires can prove to be a more trying (and pricier) endeavor than simply working with a larger consortium from afar. So if you were unaware that some of the rarest, most beautiful sapphires in the world are discovered right in your backyard, you’re not alone. For many large jewelry lines, there’s never been enough commercial appeal to promote them.

Enter Green Lake Jewelry Works. If you know anything about Green Lake, hopefully it’s that we don’t just sell rings; we make them. Each and every piece we design with our clients is handcrafted right here in an open workshop, where artists strive to create one-of-a-kind rings like no other. We don’t really care if we can get 200 of the same looking sapphire, because we’re never interested in making the same looking ring. In Green Lake Brant finally found a receptive audience just as interested in sourcing from Montana as he was. Now we’re pleased to present a collection of  sapphires like no other.

The Green Lake Gem Lab selects sapphires both finished and rough to provide custom jewelry clients with the opportunity to guide the perfect cut and color they’re after.

The Green Lake Gem Lab selects sapphires both finished and rough to provide custom jewelry clients with the opportunity to guide the perfect cut and color they’re after.

WHAT MAKES a MONTANA SAPPHIRE SO DIFFERENT?

The kind of sapphires Green Lake is sourcing from Montana are different in the way they’re mined. Unlike some sapphire deposits that lay deep underground in hard rock dikes (requiring more extensive tunneling and excavation), these sapphires are sourced from alluvial deposits. An alluvial sapphire deposit is where the mineral corundum was ejected from prehistoric volcanoes with trace elements of titanium and aluminum, left to roll over millennia down rivers that have long since dried up. This means their mining is more ecologically sustainable, free of the extensive tunneling or outright removal of mountaintops that can devastate the natural environment (a lesson Montana learned all too well from the Berkley Pitt Superfund Site).

Some rough sapphires from an alluvial deposit are easy to spot because they appears tumbled and almost polished from ages of the elements passing over it.

Sapphires from an alluvial deposit can be easy to spot because they appear tumbled and polished from ages of elements passing over it.

So close to the surface and seemingly easy to collect, it’s not uncommon for someone with pea-gravel from the area to stumble upon a rough sapphire in their driveway. Oblivious to what they found, even the first gold miners to Montana would discard these little blue pebbles in search of gold, which is significantly (and ironically) less valuable than sapphire. But don’t assume that because they’re easy to extract, they’re easy to find. There are lodes of sapphires yet to be discovered in Montana, a region that hides some of the rarest colors in the world.

When we think of sapphires, our minds wander to crown jewels, a rich hue of corn-flower blue and maybe even an iconic bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin. Montana is indeed endowed with this kind of blue (especially those from the Yogo gulch), but also offers a wild array of color scarcely found anywhere else in the world. From forest green to golden yellow and fiery orange gems, an era of volcanic and glacial movements has bound unique blends of minerals with corundum to provide sapphires like no other. There are bi-colored sapphires of yellow and blue, color-change sapphires that go blue to green to purple in different light, and one-of-a-kind hues that possess long, silky inclusions that spread like microscopic feathers. With hundreds of prime rough and cut specimens now in the lab, it’s blatantly obvious no two Montana sapphires are alike.

An oval-cut untreated Montana sapphire with an emblematic corn-flower blue coloring and flash of golden yellow in its center, viewed only from certain angles.

An oval-cut untreated Montana sapphire with an emblematic corn-flower blue coloring and flash of golden yellow in its center, viewed only from certain angles.

One of the rarest colors of sapphire is lavender. This round brilliant from Montana gleams with velvety iridescence.

One of the rarest colors of sapphire is lavender. This round brilliant from Montana gleams with velvety iridescence.

Though Montana provides for unique colors and combinations in its sapphires, the emblematic hues of blue are also abundant.

Though Montana provides for unique colors and combinations in its sapphires, the emblematic hues of blue are also abundant.

BACK in the LAB

Last year a couple came into the Seattle studio and asked if we could custom-cut a sapphire into the pattern of a water lily, and as a custom jeweler priding itself in the ability to create any type of ring, we simply couldn’t back down. Now as a newcomer to fine jewelry, it might seem like a pretty straight forward request, “you’re a jeweler who sets jewels, so can you cut some jewels just for me?” But being a lapidary (the person who cuts gems on a fast-moving grooved wheel) is totally different than being a jeweler. It’s almost like asking an architect to mill limber. While an architect understands the kind of wood needed to build a house, they’re unlikely to be trained in breaking down logs on a head saw by themselves.  Lucky for us, Green Lake actually does have a trained lapidary, a guy who was just waiting for the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and shape raw materials from the start.

Rough sapphires are faceted and polished by adhering them to a ‘quill’ and running them over a fast moving metal wheel that’s been treated with mineral oil and diamond grit.

Rough sapphires are faceted and polished by adhering them to a ‘quill’ and running them over a fast moving metal wheel that’s been treated with mineral oil and diamond grit.

Graduate gemologist, designer and up and coming lapidary Dan Cavinet came to Green Lake via the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to help clients create rings that simply can’t be purchased; they have to be made. He’d seen a few opportunities to cut center stones and accent baguettes for a handful of Seattle clients, working late into the night at his home faceting machine to make truly custom pieces. When Brant mentioned the potential of sourcing rough sapphire directly from mines in Montana, Dan jumped at the chance to join in on a site visit and bring back to the workshop a range of exceptional stones to be customized for rings and bands.

Whether these sapphires are cut per a client’s request or added to the Green Lake collection, each gem is cut for beauty over yield. What this means is if a 20 carat piece of rough sapphire is brought into the lab, we’ll not necessarily seek to parse out the stone and cut it for maximum carat weight or see if it can be divided into multiple stones for a better profit margin. Instead we’ll go for the most beautiful cut, clarity and color, regardless of yield  – not only because it looks better, but also because there’s more joy and pride in being able to produce something special.

Cutting gems for their inherent beauty and natural coloring over yield alone provides for a more distinguished and noteworthy sapphire.

Cutting gems for their inherent beauty and natural coloring over yield alone provides for a more distinguished and noteworthy sapphire.

MONTANA SAPPHIRES for WEDDING RINGS

In earlier years at Green Lake, anyone specifically interested in Montana sapphires were your typical gem and mineral enthusiast, who would oftentimes provide stones they found on their own to be set. Nowadays however it’s not uncommon for first-time fine jewelry buyers to ask for these sapphires by name. Perhaps with so much information at one’s fingertips it’s easy to get lost in all the unique and even obscure options available when it comes to tying the knot. For many, gone are the days of strictly traditional diamond solitaires. A ring is symbolic of the sacred bond between couples and uniquely representative of the people who wear them. Our clients increasingly seek out ways to showcase their story in a ring, incorporate styles that speak directly to them and hide little details only they’ll ever know. With a wide range of color, unique origin and a transparent sourcing process, Montana sapphires are becoming a popular gem to achieve these things.

Hidden Details: Setting gems on the inside of rings for the wearer’s eyes only is one way to make a pieces deeply personal. Featured here is a Montana sapphire set on the inside of a 14K gold ring.

Hidden Details: Setting gems on the inside for the wearer’s eyes only is one way to make a ring deeply personal. Featured here is a Montana sapphire set on the inside of a 14K gold ring.

There’s an implicitly rustic appeal to Montana sapphires. Maybe it’s because we can envision where  they come from. The steely blue mountains, swaying cottonwood trees and boundless sky inspire settings and ring designs more reflective of the natural world. So much so, some clients actually elect to keep their center stones rough and untouched, save for a flattened bottom to set. Others may have their sapphire cut, but with less facets than a contemporary gem, relying instead on rose or old—mine facet arrangements to capture a timeless elegance without being too fussy. But don’t rule Montana sapphires out from more traditional settings, as some of these gems were just meant to be set in an over-the-top princessy ring!

18kt yellow brushed gold ring featuring a rough un-cut Montana sapphire center. Available for sale HERE.

18kt yellow brushed gold ring featuring a rough un-cut Montana sapphire center.
Available for sale HERE.

2.97ct rose cut Montana sapphire with (25) .19ctw Canadian diamonds. Available for sale HERE.

2.97ct rose cut Montana sapphire with (25) .19ctw Canadian diamonds. Available for sale HERE.

 

WATCH HOW it’s MADE

Montana Sapphires: From Mine to Market from Green Lake Jewelry Works on Vimeo.

 

CONTACT US TODAY

Interested in having a Montana sapphire for your custom made engagement ring or wedding band? Contact us today at info@greenlakejewelry.com

Want to mine for your own sapphires? Visit Drew Barns at Gem Valley.

 All photos by Green Lake photographer Daniel Zetterstrom and Eric Robertson.

About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works

Categorized under: Jewelry

10 Unique Engagement Rings from 2014

It’s that time of year once again where we look back at the most daring designs, expert craftsmanship and dazzling sparkle to leave the workshop. We’re perfectionists here and so it can take weeks to ensure the absolute finest rings are delivered – Green Lake only makes but a few thousand each year (which is not a lot). Compared to big brands churning out the most profitable designs over and over, we have to approach each custom ring anew. It takes time to get it right but what lacks in quantity is made up for generously in quality.

Here are a few of our favorite new ring designs from 2014:

1 Estate Inspired 18K Gold Engagement Ring 

 

Estate Inspired 18K Gold Engagement Ring with Coffee Colored Rose Cut Diamond

Estate Inspired 18K Gold Engagement Ring with Coffee Colored Rose Cut Diamond

Back from a recent buying trip to NYC, the Green Lake gem lab returns with a most impressive collection of rose cuts. Seldom seen outside of true antique jewelry, rose cuts are flat on the bottom with a crown made up of triangular facets. We love seeing an array of naturally colored diamonds in this kind of cut, especially this ring’s oval center – it sparkles like a fresh pour of coffee from a French press!

For this ring, the center stone was set into a full bezel that’s crowned on both ends by bead set diamond melee and framed in finely milgrained boarders. On the shoulders a duo of pear-shaped rose-cut diamonds point inward and unfurl to hold more accent diamonds. Bands of milgrain and diamonds farther down the shank make for  hidden details seen only from other angles. Stunning.

KRISTA

2Six Sided Diamond Halo Ring in Platinum 

 

Six Sided Diamond Halo Ring in Platinum

Six Sided Diamond Halo Ring in Platinum

Completed in late spring 2014, this hexagonal diamond halo is unique in that it flourishes with finely engraved wheat and scroll patterning.  The geometric frame of bead-set diamonds surrounding a round brilliant center is embellished with milgrain to add even more sparkle on the finger. Under the halo, the side face splits and raises up like a cathedral, making the piece a bit grander overall. It’s the crisp detailing down the sides however that suggests it’s a ring made at Green Lake; this craftsmanship and attention to detail will only be found in a handful of serious shops in the country.

COLLIN

3

Contemporary Green and Yellow Diamond Wedding Set

 

Contemporary Green and Yellow Diamond Wedding Set

Contemporary Green and Yellow Diamond Wedding Set

These bands epitomize the custom process because you simply can’t just go out and buy them. They really have to be made. Both of these wide platinum bands feature a heavy brushed finish to capture a look we’d expect to see in men’s bands, but then they depart with vibrant color to become especially unique and deeply personal pieces. One features a green diamond with corresponding green gold inside and a stippled rectangle recessed below. On the other is all 22kt yellow gold inside and below, featuring an orange-yellow radiant cut diamond.

AMBER

4

Cushion-Cut Diamond Ring in Platinum

 

Cushion-Cut Diamond Ring in Platinum with Hand Fabricated Filigree

Cushion-Cut Diamond Ring in Platinum with Hand Fabricated Filigree

Filigree are those tiny little wires of gold or platinum formed into delicate curls. It’s one of Green Lake’s go-to specialties but the word itself is often confused for engraving, carving or other beautiful ways in which rings are ornately detailed. This platinum engagement ring showcases filigree at its finest and clearly demonstrates how bold this design element can be.

SOPHIA

See the original sketches for this ring in the Client Gallery.

5

Old European Cut Diamond in an Antique-Style Setting

 

Old European Cut Diamond in Antique-Style Platinum Setting with 18K Gold Inlay

Old European Cut Diamond in Antique-Style Platinum Setting with 18K Gold Inlay

Holding this ring in your hand, you really feel the density of the noble metals and the crispness of each delicate cut cascading down the shoulders. An almost stately ring, this piece boasts an old Euro-cut (with fewer facets than its round brilliant successor), traditional wheat engraving and a compass rose at the top. Its side face (which can be seen here) features a fleur-de-lis on either side of the gallery, rounding this ring out as perhaps the most regal in the bunch.

JOE

6

Platinum Wrap-Style Engagement Ring

 

Platinum Wrap-Style Engagement Ring with a Custom Water Lily-Cut Sapphire

Platinum Wrap-Style Engagement Ring with a Custom Water Lily-Cut Sapphire

The Green Lake workshop crafts custom made-to-order engagement rings and wedding bands day in and day out. In order to bring each client’s vision alive, designers and jewelers must often push the limits of metals and gemstones to the maximum. In the case of this ring, Graduate Gemologist and Gem Faceter Dan Cavinet took a rough chunk of sapphire to the cutting wheel and meticulously fashioned it into the pattern of a water lily. It’s safe to say there’s little that Green Lake won’t do to make the perfect ring!

DAN

7Art Deco Inspired Diamond Engagement Ring

 

7

Art Deco Inspired Diamond Engagement Ring in Platinum

Recognized for its use of bold symmetry and geometric patterning, Art Deco pieces draw on inspiration from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. This recreated vintage-style piece rises with widening columns and almost resembles a building of antiquity. At its center is a round brilliant cut diamond in a full bezel with 12 more diamonds bead set throughout. Set low on the finger, this ring’s grand appearance comes from its width rather than just height and appears as though it’s walked right out of the Champs-Élysées Theater, circa 1925.

KELSEY

TemplatePierced Curl Band in Platinum

 

Pierced Curl Band in Platinum with Fine Filigree and Diamond Pave

Pierced Curl Band in Platinum with Fine Filigree and Diamond Pave

There’s no one single center diamond for this piece; there’s 99 tiny little ones, each meticulously set into tight curls and narrow rails. Commissioning a custom band like this demands confidence and clear communication throughout the process, as so much of the detail is applied all by hand at the very end. Follow this ring from sketch to sparkle in its own gallery. The end result is truly magical, full of subtle movement and replete with milgrain, filigree and all other hallmarks of a handmade ring.

KYLE

90Elaborate White and Yellow Gold Ring

 

Elaborate White and Yellow Gold Award Winning Ring

Elaborate White and Yellow Gold Award Winning Ring

Let’s face it – this ring is smoking hot. It’s ornately pierced with complex over and under, undulating curves. It’s completely incorporated, form the stylized prongs and gallery at the top to the purpose-built Euro-shank at the bottom. With a delicately patterned inlay of 22K gold hiding out on the inside, you’d think for sure this piece would be handcrafted from the start… but it’s not. In fact the entire design was approached not just to achieve beauty but also to streamline its production, winning it the 1st place distinction at this year’s Gemvision Design Contest ( Gemvision is the jewelry industry’s leading computer aided design platform). Seemingly complex yet intuitive in its construction, this ring hits all the marks of smart design.

SHINYA

At Green Lake, each of us really are ‘artists at work’ and though it’s not his day-to-day role to be a ring designer, this piece came from our web master and tech guru, Shinya – it can be customized right here.

10

New Heirloom in Platinum 

 

9

New Heirloom in Platinum with Asscher-Cut Diamond Center

Whereas most jewelers will set gemstones only they sell, Green Lake recognizes our clients come to us with sentimental diamonds, terrific finds or especially unique stones they’d like to see finally set. With a workshop full of steady hands and confident mastery, we feel capable to happily offer this service. Such was the case with this stunning 3ct I VS1 GIA graded asscher-cut center diamond pictured above. Green Lake designer Krista was able to collaborate on a classic design made special with almost floral-like prongs. Meanwhile, the Green Lake Gem Lab was able to source rare trapezoidal cut side stones of equal quality and 70 side diamond melee to make the piece complete. See this ring from all angles in its own gallery.

ELAINE

Design your own engagement ring or wedding band by starting a Design Page 

Photos by Edwin Ross III, Margaret Page and Daniel Zetterstrom

About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

OPAL: Birthstone for October

Opal in the Rough

Opal in the Rough

Birthstones are always a tricky subject around here because the question of “who made up these rules anyway?” invariably comes up. Sure enough it’s a tough one to answer. Some say birthstones originated from ceremonial breast plates worn by high priests of the Ancient Israelites (called a ‘Hoshen’), which bore 12 different gemstones to represent the 12 distinct tribes of Isreal. We can take an inferential leap and see how 12 tribes could translate into 12 months over the ages, and it might be easy to stop here. But Greeks had birthstones too – not to mention Hindus, whose ayurvedic tradition is rich with astrological and therapeutic beliefs to this day. The truth is, much of what we think we know about birthstones in the Western world could all just be from a  pamphlet from Tiffany & Co published in 1870, which ostensibly leveraged the intrigue and facts about birthstones as more of an advertisement.

Nonetheless, the precious gemstone opal has been associated in one way or another with the month of October throughout references and literature for over 500 years. It was once thought the most valuable of all gems, as its flashes of color and iridescent hue had many believing it was actually a combination of all precious stones in one. Today opal is still an especially treasured gem, with top-quality black opal in particular fetching over $2000 per carat. So if you were born in the month of October, put loved ones on notice to get their pocket books ready; opal can be as pricy as it is beautiful.

OCTOBER BIRSTSTONE

A Wild Variety

Opal is found in a stunning array of shapes, sizes and colors from all over the world. Australia, however, claims opal more or less as its own. It’s the national gemstone, as the country produces over 90% of the world’s supply. Its black opal (especially those found on Lightning Ridge) holds the distinction as the most prized specimen on the planet. In a close second place for value and rarity is the bolder opal – cut from ironstone boulders that are its namesake. Bolder opals demonstrate an equally vibrant play of color, if only because portions of ironstone must be left on the gem to achieve it. White opal is more common but rarer still than other gems and offers a delicate sparkle of colors, not unlike that of a jellyfish.

From left to right, top to bottom: 1.62ct oval white opal, 1.66ct long oval boulder opal, 1.08ct round Lightning Ridge black opal, 1.38 pear white opal

From left to right, top to bottom: 1.62ct oval white opal, 1.66ct long oval boulder opal, 1.08ct round Lightning Ridge black opal, 1.38 pear white opal

A Gem of Water

If at first glance opal may seem almost fluid in nature, and you’d actually be correct: Unlike any other gemstone, opal is comprised of 3-20% water. The rest is microscopic spheres of silica, formed over eons of wet and dry spells in the ground. The dry, arid regions of the world where opals are found lend a clue as to their ideal environment. Opals are formed in cracks and fissures in the earth where traces of silica are pushed down with swelling rain water, left to slosh around atop the water table, and dry out over the predominately dry season. This cycle repeats over a million years until amorphous veins of minable opal are formed.

HOW OPAL IS FORMED

A Play of Color

Gaze at an opal from different angles and you’ll surely find it glimmers with changing color. How is that happening? It all has to do with diffraction, the phenomenon when light rays backscatter upon encountering obstacles or slits in matter. Those tiny spheres of silica that comprise opal all join together – but just like a jar of marbles – they leave tiny gaps in between them. Just as mist diffracts light to produce a rainbow in the sky, we perceive opal’s vibrant colors from its ‘play’ on the light bouncing back through little gaps in its make up.

Caption: The same opal viewed from different angles and in different light can appear vastly different.

Caption: The same opal viewed from different angles and in different light can appear vastly different.

Opal Jewelry

Much of the finished opal jewelry for sale in the world is in the form of pendants, not rings. Opal is an especially soft and brittle gem easily susceptible to breakage. A piece worn around the neck is far more protected from the kind of wear and tear endured by pieces worn on the hand. This doesn’t mean opal isn’t a great candidate to be incorporated as the center piece of a ring – it is (Green Lake crafts new opal rings every month) – but the setting for an opal must be chosen very carefully. Because soft opals are sure to be abraded if worn in a ring, it’s important the thinnest area (e.g. the edges) be incased in metal. This can be done by designing in a full or half bezel for gems to be set, employing a wider wrap style setting or even grinding and polishing the opal as an inlay. Here are a few recent examples:

Custom Made 14K White Gold Diamond Ring with White Opals

This wider ring is lightened by intricate pierced work and is low-set so as not to catch or snag. Full bezels are incorporated into the curls to better ensure opals aren’t cracked or chipped.

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

Platinum and Diamond Wrap Ring with Lightning Ridge Opal Cabochon Center

Not entirely a full bezel, this wide wrap setting protects its precious center from the majority of snafus typically encountered in wedding jewelry (e.g., falling off the bathroom sink, fishing for car keys, etc.).

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

 

White Gold Wedding Set with Marquis Diamond Center and Bolder Opal Inlay

By cutting opal in-house Green Lake has been able to do some pretty cool custom inlays. This ring, with its fluid wave-like contours really makes use of the opal’s shimmering iridescence.

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

 

Warm White Gold Halo Setting with Faceted Ethiopian Opal Center

Opal richer in crystal with minimal water content is able to be faceted like a diamond. The ideal setting is still a bezel (or for this ring, a halo with a hidden ring of diamonds along the side).

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

The Fire Opal

The vivacious and bright orange flare of a fire opal is not what we typically associate with this gem variety, yet they are indeed related. Found in dryer regions of the world the fire opal lacks the water found in its white opal cousins, making it a more durable gem with consistent clarity, seeming almost ‘jelly’ like. Much of fire opal is presently mined from Mexico, where it’s also the nation’s official gemstone.

1.69ct emerald cut fire opal

1.69ct emerald cut fire opal

Opal Art

When Italian gemologist and faceter Daniela L’Abbate moved to Australia in the early 90’s she developed entirely new carving techniques, freeing the gem from the rough while respecting its natural shape. The results of her approach are truly stunning, revealing in opal surrealistic forms with unrivaled play of color. Here are a few of our favorite works we wanted to mention:

Wraith

From a rough piece of Lightning Ridge opal, sand is removed and the gem is shaped to optimize its natural contours. After some 18 hours of polishing with a specialized diamond paste, an impressive 90 carats of gleaming opal appears almost like a wispy ghost.

Wraith Opal

Jasmine Coral Opal

Lightening Ridge rough transformed into the delicate representation of jasmine coral.

jasmine Coral

An American Opal Field

Did you know the virgin valley in Nevada has an amazing array of all these varieties, from precious black opal to crystal, white, fire and lemon opal? In fact, the black fire opal is the official gemstone of Nevada. The largest black opal in the Smithsonian institution known as the “Roeabling Opal” came out of the rainbow ridge mine in 1917 and weighs a whopping 2585 carats!

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Interested in seeing the Green Lake opal collection or having opal custom cut? Contact gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com

For inquires on creating a custom opal ring and pricing Start a Design Page and contact a designer today.

Written and illustrated by Eric Robertson / Photography for Green Lake Jewelry Works by Margaret Page & Edwin Lawrence III 
 
Additional photo credit: Opal Carvings by Daniela L’Abbate / ‘Fox Coral’ by R Tebben 
 
About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Categorized under: Jewelry

RESTORATION: Some of the Coolest Repairs Yet

An Engagement Ring for the Ages 

It’s a rare sight indeed to see an actual Victorian era estate piece show up in the Seattle studio, but when this 1890’s ring came in we knew it was going to be a fun restoration. Originally set with two identical old European mine cuts, one of the diamonds had at some point been pulled and re-purposed for another engagement ring. Decades later, the owner brought both pieces to Green Lake to have the the two diamonds reunited again at last. For it’s age, this 18K gold ring was in relatively amazing condition, still crisp with ornate detail and firm with strong settings. Bench jeweler with a specialty in Old World hand fabrication Joe Worley completed the restoration, start to finish:

Before and after - an old European mine cut diamond returned to a Victorian-era engagement ring.

Before and after – an old European mine cut diamond returned to a Victorian-era engagement ring.

 

Tableware Re-Imagined 

 The own of these antique silver napkin ring purchased in Asia years ago envisioned them being used more as a piece of jewelry. Working with Green Lake restoration specialist Gary Lamoureux, new silver plates we fashioned to match the rustic handmade appeal of these idols and each were reconstructed to fit a new necklace. Custom metalsmithing like this is an increasingly rare service offered and we’re happy to see fun – non bridal- project like this pop up in the workshop now and then!

 

From table setting to fashion piece, these silver napkin holders were reborn as a pretty hip necklace.

From table setting to fashion piece, these silver napkin holders were reborn as a pretty hip necklace.

 

Down the Drain

How many of us have lot our ring down the drain – or worse yet, into a rumbling garbage disposal? Well, that’s what happened to this gold ring. And gold – unlike platinum – losses material in scrapes like this pretty quickly. That’s what makes a jewelry repair like this that much more involved. More gold is needed, oftentimes in the form of thin wire, is carefully lasered into each scrape and gash. At Green Lake, thias is actually a prettty common restoration but the results are always so stunning we just have to share them:

Before and after - a wedding ring survives the garbage disposal and is restored to its original luster.

Before and after – a wedding ring survives the garbage disposal and is restored to its original luster.

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

RESTORATION: How to Save a Channel Band with Missing Diamonds

Many brides wear tiny, delicate diamond bands alongside their engagement ring to add sparkle to the hand and serve as a life-long reminder of the big day, but after years of wear they may discover something truly awful – There’s a diamond missing! This is actually a rather common occurrence, and here’s why: Firstly, these little bands keep a low profile and stay on the hand even when the engagement ring is shelved for safe keeping, putting more mileage on the piece as it were. Secondly, the gems are usually very small (only 1-2mm in diameter) and are easy to miss when they’re loose, resulting in worn settings and multiple diamonds gone before the wearer may even notice.

Channel settings are more low set and free of ‘sweater catcher’ prongs.

Channel settings are more low set and free of ‘sweater catcher’ prongs.

Why worn out channel settings are difficult to fix - Channel settings are more low set and free of prongs that can catch on clothing, purses, etc. This makes for an especially durable setting for the life of the ring, but should the material wear down and become thin, it can be a real challenge to restore. Typically, a jeweler will solder more gold or platinum to the top of the ring to build the setting back up. However, this quick fix can be relatively short-lived as the joining of metals via solder is ultimately more susceptible to future breakage when the surface area to bond is negligibly small.

A new approach to restoring worn channel settings – Green Lake Jewelry Works Repair and Restoration Specialist Gary Lamoureux has started approaching channel settings very differently. He realizing that resetting diamonds into a band by soldering up a new lip is really just a half-measure, so he developed a new way to return a piece to its original luster – and keep it that way almost indefinitely. The end result looks better too.

How to repair a wedding band

This is a pricier repair – Yet it’s dramatically less expensive than losing more diamonds down the line and having to pay for yet another visit to the jeweler. While the process involves more gold or platinum to execute, it’s actually the added labor that accounts for the cost; all excess metal is filed away in the end and used again for future pieces. To do it, a wax mold must be carved to fit the worn band, and then these customized fittings are cast, cleaned, adhered to both sides then filed and polished.

This is a restoration process that requires all work and casting to be done on site if the finished ring is to be returned promptly and at a reasonable cost.

This is a restoration process that requires all work and casting to be done on site if the finished ring is to be returned promptly and at a reasonable cost.

Good as new – If the veil on Gary’s process weren’t lifted, it might be difficult to see how a worn channel band like this – with missing gems – can be restored to its original, seamless state. His new approach has yielded stunning results with clients far and wide this year. If you have a piece in need of repair, contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

It’s possible to restore a setting and have it look seamless.

It’s possible to restore a setting and have it look seamless.

Looking to have your jewelry repaired locally or ship it out of state for more complex restoration? Here are a few important points to consider in selecting the right jeweler: The Top Five Jewelry Repair MUST HAVES

 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Proposals and Engagements

ERIC + IRENE: Our New Favorite Clients

Well, no one’s playing favorites, but Charlotte North Carolina’s Eric E. and Irene G. were especially delightful to design for – there we said it. It would seem they liked working with us too; after a year-and-a-half, a hundred correspondences, and two trips to Seattle to visit the workshop, Green Lake must have played its own small part in their wedding experience. Just back from a picturesque get away ceremony in British Colombia, Eric and Irene passed us a few photos to share. Here they are, as well as some details on their custom-made jewelry:

Eric & Irene

Eric & Irene

Many are surprised to hear upwards of a 1/3 of our Seattle studio’s custom rings are actually designed entirely online, with clients as far away as Sandusky to Singapore. This is a huge point of pride for us, after all it demands relatively more trust, creativity and patience to craft a ring from afar than it does to just walk into a store and simply pick something out of the case. What’s more is when out-of-state clients actually fly out to visit us, as did Eric and Irene. That’s just downright flattering.

Irene is a graphic designer who throws pottery on the weekends. Like every good potter she stamps her pieces with her own mark, stylized initials ‘I G.’ The mark served as the initial inspiration for the hand fabricated platinum wire filigree that borders her bezel-set diamond center. Working with Green Lake designer Krista, the motif evolved over time to include floral elements that juxtapose each other, lending balanced ornament and enough just flair to suit its creative owner.

Hers: Diamond and platinum bezel-set mounting with filigree, custom made platinum shadow band with milgrain borders  / His: Wide 18k palladium band in matte finish with 14k rose gold inlay, carved grooves and white gold rails.

Hers: Diamond and platinum bezel-set mounting with filigree, custom made platinum shadow band with milgrain borders / His: Wide 18k palladium band in matte finish with 14k rose gold inlay, carved grooves and white gold rails.

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Eric and Irene demonstrate just how fun it can be to get involved with each other’s wedding rings and collaborate on pieces truly reflective of individual personalities. For many of us, wedding jewelry is not just a significant purchase – it represents the most significant decision of our lives. At Green Lake, we understand all too well how lucky we are to make these pieces and be in the business of love. Thanks again to Eric and Irene – and every couple we get to work with – for reminding us of this fact!

COLLAGE

 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Artists, Jewelry

ARTISTS AT WORK: Custom-Cut Sapphire

The Green Lake workshop crafts custom made-to-order engagement rings and wedding bands day in and day out. In order to bring each client’s vision alive, designers and jewelers must often push the limits of noble metals and precious gemstones to the max. We’ll extrude impossibly thin wire for delicate filigree,  blaze and electrify metals to achieve wild colors, engineer tiny moving parts – or in the case of this ring – take a rough chunk of sapphire to the cutting wheel and meticulously facet it into the pattern of a water lily. It’s safe to say there’s little Green Lake won’t do to make the perfect ring!

Platinum wrap-style engagement ring with a custom water lily-cut sapphire center, blue diamond accent and matching diamond shadow band

Platinum wrap-style engagement ring with a custom water lily-cut sapphire center, blue diamond accent and matching diamond shadow band

 

HOW IT’S MADE

 

Custom jewelry clients John H and Jessica A came to Green Lake Jewelry Works this spring with some rather specific ambitions for her engagement ring and wedding band: For one, Jessica works with her hands and claimed to be rough on jewelry, so she wanted a low-set wrap style mounting – OK, that’s easy enough. They also envisioned their center stone to be the perfect shade of ice-blue, so as to be a rarer sight for an engagement ring and keep people guessing about the kind of gem it is – that takes some deeper digging from the Gem Lab, but again, no problem. Lastly they wanted this uniquely colored gem to be custom cut to resemble the petals of a water lily – (record scratch!) Wait, what??

 That’s right – John and Jessica discovered the ‘Nymphia’ cut, an original design by Marco Voltolini on this really useful open source site for any and all gemstone enthusiasts, gemologyproject.com, and unfolded their plans in our studio with the exactitude of a mechanical engineer. Initially surprised at the detailed attention this couple were paying toward their wedding jewelry, Green Lake jewelry designer Sam Laddin fast became enlivened at the prospect of seeing this relatively ambitious project come to life – plus they were a lot of fun to work with. She recruited the help of fellow designer, gemologist and aspiring gem cutter Daniel Canivet who quickly set to cutting the rough sapphire.

IN 1

Unlike typical round-cut sapphires, this custom gem’s upper girdle is left ‘frosted,’ softening the sapphire overall and playing on its icy hue. How the gem is cut can also affect its perceived color to great extent; Daniel Cavinet cut this sapphire with special attention to capture the perfect shade of blue for its owner.

Grinding the sapphire into shape with a diamond-charged copper lap, Dan’s work began to take form. With an aluminum nail, he carefully ensured a precise layout by highlighting each faceted edge. Finally, the gem was polished and the pavilion carefully inspected for any remaining scratches before the finished sapphire was revealed.

Once John and Jessica were pleased with their center stone, Sam looped back to create the perfect ring design. The couple decided to make a wrap mounting in platinum, a style and metal both celebrated for their lifelong durability. Like many custom ring clients, starting a design from scratch also allowed for an engagement ring to form and contour perfectly with the wedding band, or ‘shadow band.’ To play on the icy hue of their center sapphire, a deep blue side diamond counter balances a corresponding single-cut diamond on the wedding band, offering a cool spectrum of color.

SAMANTHA LADDIN QUOTE 2

ORDERING A CUSTOM CUT GEMSTONE

Artists and gemologists at Green Lake are happy to consult on cutting – or re-cutting – a precious gemstone. In fact, Green Lake will soon be offering a signature diamond with 88 facets (The Green Lake 88) as well as cutting local and responsibly sourced sapphire right here in the workshop. To inquire about starting a custom jewelry project of your own, contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

Special thanks to John H and Jessica A for bringing to us their creative passion and challenging us to learn and achieve more in crafting an heirloom piece. 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

Categorized under: Education

EMERALDS: A Family of Precious Beryl Revealed

Emeralds originated in ancient Egypt

We humans have considered emeralds particularly valuable for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians are credited with being the first to mine these jewels, out from the shadows of what Romans would later call Mons Smaragdus or ‘Emerald Mountain.’  Just a short thousand years later the Spanish returned from new world conquest, flaunting richly green emeralds from present day Colombia (a region which now accounts for an overwhelming majority of the world’s supply). By the early 20th century, Art Nouveau and Art Deco era designers made the gem their centerpiece, solidifying in our minds emerald as a thing of opulence and fortune.

An emerald’s distinct coloring is owed to trace ammounts of chromium, vanadium, and iron. The emerald cut – with its precise facets and steps used on a variety of other gems - is best suited for emerald’s long six-sided prisms (hence the cut’s name.)

An emerald’s distinct coloring is owed to trace amounts of chromium, vanadium, and iron. The emerald cut – with its precise facets and steps  is used for a variety of precious gems – but is best suited for emerald’s long six-sided prisms (hence the cut’s name).

Emeralds are Green (Right?)

Emerald’s lush hue speaks to the renewed promise of spring, when the world comes alive once more with vibrant, green life – the gem’s deep, almost blue-green coloring is why we designate it as the birthstone for May. Lately, however, a whole host of colored gems are being dubbed emerald too: Pink, yellow, and even red ‘emeralds’ have begun popping up in jewelry stores. Like emeralds, these gems are indeed of the same mineral (beryl), but are every beryl qualified to be emerald?

From left to right: Heliodore, green beryl, morganite, aquamarine, bixbite, goshenite, and emerald

From left to right: Heliodor, green beryl, morganite, aquamarine, bixbite, goshenite, and emerald

From late night TV to big box  gift guides, it’s as though ‘emerald’ is masked on to otherwise obscure gems just levitate their value (as was the case with toothfish before we knew it as Chilean Sea Bass, or when one young Carlos Estevez became Charlie Sheen). The thing is, emerald is defined almost exclusively by one very inescapable characteristic and it’s not simply being beryl: Emeralds are green. While it’s true that emerald has a big family of beryl cousins, they’re not emerald. And they don’t need to be, either. Each have their own story, their own character, and there’s even one beryl variety  far rarer than emerald – So here’s the line-up, emerald’s extended family:

Pictured above are a pair of 2ct, oval-cut heliore. The largest cut heliodore, on display at the American Museum of Natural History, is internally flawless and weighs 2054ct.

Pictured above are a pair of 2ct, oval-cut helior. The largest cut heliodor, on display at the American Museum of Natural History, is internally flawless and weighs 2054ct.

HELIODOR

Heliodor (which means“gift from the sun)” or golden beryl may sometimes be marketed as ‘yellow emerald,’ but as you can see it’s not green – and therefore not actually emerald. It’s heliodor, a popular export of Brazil which has also been mined here and there thought the United States. This gem bears subtle hues of pale yellow, but after it’s exposed to a little radiation (which it often is), the color becomes rich and golden. In addition to irradiation treatments, heliodor is generally free of internal inclusions, offering relatively more clarity and sparkle than emerald. Though these jewels may not be widely known to the public, heliodor is by no means a ‘new’ gem to the industry: In 1913, the New York Times reported that while heliodor was increasing in popularity, it was unlikely to oust other gems – and as you can tell, it didn’t.

Green beryl

Sometimes sold as emerald, green beryl lacks the cool hues and deep saturation of the real thing.

GREEN BERYL

Are you prepared to have your rockhound, gemstone enthusiast’s mind blown? Then check this out: Emerald is beryl that is green, but green beryl is not emerald…because green beryl, despite its namesake, just isn’t green enough. Though rich in iron, this gem lacks a deep saturation and is more yellow because it’s missing emerald’s secret ingredient: Chromium.

Remember, it’s traces of chromium, vanadium, and iron – all three- that are supposed to make beryl an emerald. Yet, in 1963 GIA widened its own classification (after a mine in Brazil began pulling up heaps of green beryl) and asserted that just the inclusion of vanadium and iron may be enough to warrant the emerald name. Disagreed with by many, some experts conversely maintain that even small amounts of chromium shouldn’t’ necessarily earn the emerald distinction.

Confused? Don’t be – if it’s beryl that’s deeply saturated with the cool, greenish-blue hue of an emerald, it’s likely an emerald. If a gem is being sold as emerald but is barely green, just creeping slightly into green under the right lighting, or is merely a fleeting whisper of a hint of green, it’s likely just a green beryl. 

Sometimes referred to as ‘pink emerald,’ morganite’s rosy hues are the result of trace manganese impurities. Like heliodore it’s generally free of significant inclusions, making it appear as a cleaner gem to the eye.

Sometimes referred to as ‘pink emerald,’ morganite’s rosy hues are the result of trace manganese impurities. Like heliodor it’s generally free of significant inclusions, making it appear as a cleaner gem to the eye.

MORGANITE

Morganite get’s it name from the American corporate finance tycoon/ gemstone buff of the early 20th century, John Pierpont “J. P.” Morgan – of whom we now know for his legacy, J.P. Morgan Chase. Morgan funded the New York Academy of Sciences, which named the gem in 1909 as homage to its primary benefactor. For a brief stint there was chatter of nicknaming the gem ‘pink emerald’ just to perk its appeal, but today morganite is largely known by its own name and has become a popular gem for fine fashion jewelry.

Designer Tip: It’s almost as though morganite and rose gold jewelry were made for each other! The warm hues are complementary and both materials are especially nontraditional for engagement rings and wedding bands, making for a truly unique piece. 

When beryl crosses from less green to more blue, it becomes aquamarine - and typically the more blue, the more valuable.

When beryl crosses from less green to more blue, it becomes aquamarine – and typically the more blue, the more valuable.

AQUAMARINE

A cousin to emerald, these gems are found in many similar regions of the world. While the difference in color is obvious, it’s actually hardness that really sets aquamarine and emerald apart. Whereas emerald is regarded as a relatively soft and easily chipped stone (on account hairline fractures or ‘inclusions’ that occur naturally in the growing crystal), aquamarine is more like it’s morganite and heliodor cousins and is generally free of significant inclusions. This makes aquamarine a beryl gem that appears cleaner to the eye and more durable for daily wear.

Maxixie Beryl

In a scant few areas of the world there exists a very unique variety of beryl that’s a far deeper shade blue than any aquamarine, making it appear at fist glance like sapphire. It’s called maxixie (mah-she-she) and it has a highly unstable color table that naturally irradiates when exposed to sunlight. Like a wildly colored tropical fish reeled in from the deep, a maxixie beryl can lose its color in only 8 hours of UV exposure, requiring synthetic gamma ray treatments and annealing to reclaim its original luster.

Aquamarine crystals are generally larger among it's beryl cousins, providing for large carat weights and big clarity.

Aquamarine crystals are generally larger among it’s beryl cousins, providing for large carat weights and big clarity.

Designer Tip: Though pricier and rarer than topaz, aquamarine can be found in a variety of larger cuts, making it a gem ideal for cocktail rings and statement pieces.  

Named for the forested lakeside town of Goshen, Massachusetts where its discovery is credited, Goshenite is a colorless alkaline rich variety of beryl that’s uniquely concentrated throughout North America and Russia.

Named for the forested lakeside town of Goshen, Massachusetts where its discovery is credited, Goshenite is a colorless alkaline rich variety of beryl that’s uniquely concentrated throughout North America and Russia.

GOSHENITE

Colored beryl achieves its vibrant hues from elemental impurities, so the absolutely clear and colorless goshenite is essentially the purest form of beryl. There’s something so mysterious about pure beryl, mined deep beneath chilly alpine foothills. It’s almost fitting the gem is clear as ice. Alas, there’s relatively little demand for goshenite jewelry; it seems a soft, easily craked ‘albino emerald’ is a tough sell. Diamonds rule the colorless gemstone world, with white sapphire in a distant second place. Perhaps in an effort to jazz up its appearance, some companies have begun blasting the crystal with enough heat and radiation to impart a tawdry array of tinted hues, appearing in the end more like a color-change paint job than a natural wonder – but as they say, that’s business.

Bixbite is very, very rare. How rare? It’s purported that just one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds

Bixbite is very, very rare. How rare? It’s purported that just one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds

BIXBITE

In 1904, 51-year-old rockhound and mineralogist Maynard Bixby unearthed the first recorded specimen of red beryl in the dusty Thomas Range of Juab County, Utah. He named this new gem ‘bixbite,’ though the nomenclature of late has been revised to just ‘red beryl,’ so as not to be confused with Bixby’s earlier discovery of a metallic black mineral he designated as ‘bixybite.’ Gifted from primordial rhyolite lava flows and rich with manganese, red beryl – or what’s now a buzz as ‘red emerald’ – is found  along this remote area of the American southwest, and it’s extremely rare. Though generally priced at six-figures per carat, most finished bixbite are quite small. Finding a cut red beryl for sale at 1ct or larger is possibly rarer an occurrence than the gem itself!

Sean Ryan

Designer Tip: Red beryl is so soft it seems almost foolish to set into a ring; setting a gem like this into a more protected pendent may be more fitting. Finding cut bixbite for a custom piece, however, may prove to be a real challenge. If you have a burning desire to make something with red beryl, contact the Green Lake gemstone laboratory at gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com

 

A Note on Emerald Jewelry

Senior Green Lake designer and graduate gemologist Sophia Shen asserts that while an emerald center stone is far less hard and durable than diamond, she understands the appeal for the gem as a center piece in engagement rings and wedding jewelry. There are a lot of creative options available to setting emeralds, as well as sourcing the right size and cut – done right, an emerald ring can be a stand-alone heirloom. If you’re interested in making an emerald engagement ring or wedding band contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

SUNGWOO QUOTE

Written and illustrated by Eric Robertson / Photography by Daniel Zetterstrom 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.