While most do not see a gem's long journey from discovery to customer, at Parker Jewelers we do our best to help put ALL aspects of the jewelry business in perspective for our customers. That's why we'd like to take a moment to share some facts and opinions this Earth Day in relation to jewelry, gems, and mining practices.
Since April is diamond month, we'll be focusing on diamonds as a primary example.
The history of diamonds and diamond mining is a long one, dating back to as early as the fourth century B.C. Diamonds were first discovered and traded in India, then a few were discovered in Brazil; however, the great turning point in history of diamonds and diamond trade as we know it today, occurred when diamonds were discovered in Africa. Since then and fairly recently the market has shifted again in subtle ways. You may have noticed it in a shift in marketing and focus- "A Diamond Is Forever" campaign for example. For many jewelers, the ethics and marketing have created "hot button" issues that really have not affected them before; a big example of that? A customer walks into your establishment and asks, "How do I know my diamond isn't a blood/conflict diamond?" or "What's the difference between a natural and a synthetic diamond and how can I tell the difference? I heard synthetic diamonds are more environmentally friendly." While customers (and jewelers) want easy answers, I'm afraid that when it comes to these issues there are NO EASY ANSWERS. These issues are multi-sided and complex! This article cannot possibly address all these issues, but we would like to give you a bit of an updated picture on the diamond market today (and if you'd like to stop by and ask about something not addressed in the article- please do! we'd love it!).
For many years, the diamond market had been largely controlled by one company- DeBeers. They set up a "pipeline" to get their diamonds from mine to consumer- doing much of the marketing, cutting, exploration, buying, etc etc themselves. However, after the Argyle mine in Australia, the market has changed. This shift is one that maybe a few customers are aware of? In a nutshell, the owners of the Argyle mine did not like what DeBeers had planned for their diamonds and broke their contract with them doing much of their own marketing and sending their rough to different cutters. This broke the perfect pipeline that DeBeers had going for many years. Mining companies in Canada have also chosen their own path, they contract their own cutters, marketers, etc (some Canadian diamonds are marked as such with a girdle inscription- as part of their marketing). A third challenge to DeBeers pipeline is/was the "conflict diamond" news that customers were receiving via the media. DeBeers has since put in place many successful policies to prevent those diamonds from entering their "pipeline," but as you can see, they've had quite a few challenges to their domination of the market.
These facts are why we say the market has shifted slowly in the past few decades. And personally, I don't think the shift has stopped.
As consumers become more aware of the changes in the market, they arrive at stores with more tough questions. Here are some things I can tell you that you should know.
There are MORE regulations in place today than ever in regards to ethical mining practices. In Canada, at the Diavik mine (the largest mine in Canada by output), the mining company maintains a socioeconomic monitoring agreement with the territorial government as well as environmental protection agreements with the native peoples, federal, and territorial governments. The company has consulted with the councils of the indigenous peoples on a regular basis regarding the mining operations since the discovery of diamonds in 1993. These discussions have prompted revisions to the mining operations and closure plans and will continue as long as the mine is in operation. At Diavik in Canada, all mine activies are designed to protect the environment, anticipate potential problems, as well as meeting and exceeding regulatory requirements. A network is in place to monitor water quality around the mine as well as check the effects of the mining on local wildlife such as Caribou, Wolverine, Bear, Fish, etc. checking their normal patterns as well as the vegetation in the area. Before any mining started at Diavik, plans were in place to return the site to its nearly original condition when operations stop in 2024, but progressive reclamation has already started and will continue.
The mine workers' safety is monitored by outside agencies to ensure that all workers are safe and protocols are being strictly enforced. Because the mine is so far north in Canada, the weather is monitored as well to warn workers of incoming threatening weather.
Times are changing. The market is changing. Mining practices are changing. Technology is changing. The media is changing. The world is better connected than ever. With new regulations and new technology comes new ethical mining practices. It is estimated that less than 1 % of diamonds on the market are conflict diamonds. The DeBeers "pipeline" has changed and thus the market has changed. Consumers are empowered by the information that the industry has been able to provide to them. Are there new issues to tackle due to these changes? YES.
If this article has prompted some questions for you, if any other article or news has prompted questions for you regarding diamonds/natural vs. synthetic vs. imitation/ethics and disclosure, please ask your local, reputable jeweler and/or visit gia.edu.
We strive to make the best quality jewelry for the best possible price. We use the same mindset when it comes to our stock; we want to stock fine quality jewelry and bring you great prices.
We wanted to take this time to thank you for your business!
We also wanted to give you insight into our diamond and diamond simulant jewelry. We have quite a selection in stock and Many MANY more we can order (in a wide variety of price ranges too!).
Can't afford a diamond- you're not alone. Here are some facts to consider!
There have been many diamond simulants in the past; and there are many diamond simulants in today's market. Diamond simulants are imitators- some are better than others- but they are designed to look like a diamond. Here is a brief breakdown of common simulants as well as some pros and cons of each.
Other Simulants (more common in past than present):
For reliable information and guidance to find the best similant for you, come into the store or visit www.gia.edu
Still have questions? Feel free to stop by the store, check out our other diamond blog posts, and/or visit www.gia.edu/diamond
Until March 19, 2017 visitors to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum have a rare opportunity. On display are 4 rarely seen fancy colored diamond pieces. Like celebrities, fancy diamonds can be well documented in photographs, but patrons will get to view them in person.
The Juliet Diamond is a fancy intense pink over 30 carats- 30.03 to be exact. It was cut from a 90ct rough diamond found in South Africa and it currently set in a necklace with 98.70cts of round brilliant, pear, and marquise cut colorless diamonds (E and F in color) with VVS clarity (only higher clarity grade is an IF). Together it comes to 0.91 ounces approximately in diamonds ALONE!
The Argyle Violet is the largest diamond of that color ever found in Australia's Argyle Mine- a whopping 9.17cts in the rough. That means it was over 1.83 grams in the rough! Now cut it weighs 2.83cts and is considered one of the best Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet diamonds.
The Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple is one of the very few diamonds of that color ever found. It is cut in the cushion shape and weighs 1.64cts.
The Rainbow Necklace is the last special item on display. It took 5 years to assemble! It is composed of 88 fancy colored diamonds set in 18k white gold; it weighs out to 35.93 carats.
For more information: https://www.nhm.org/site/
2015: A gem quality diamond larger than 1,000 carats was found in Botswana. The first of that size in more than 110 years! That's 200 grams or 0.44 lbs! A diamond almost half a pound- better use your other hand to hold up that ring!
Why did it take another 110 years to find one that large? Two reasons are thought to be the causes: economics and technology. Economics created the necessity- the 1990s brought an explosion in wealth which lead to the appetite of the wealthy for large diamonds. Technology made it possible with new advances in diamond recovery from mining to cutting.
It might sound ridiculous, but many of the larger diamonds could be easily crushed during the mining processes pre-1990s. Through much of the last century mining profits came from speedy recovery of as many diamonds as possible. This led to practices like blasting the hosting rock, using giant steel jaws to crush it into smaller pieces, and then crush it again into even smaller pieces for processing. There are stories of workers seeing flashes, hitting the emergency stop button on conveyor belts leading to the crushers to save the larger diamonds- a 968.9 carat stone was saved in this manner.
Increased competition over the larger carat stones (a nearly 4 fold increase in prices between 1995-2005) caused mining companies to re-think their processes. Many mines now tumble or grind rock pieces together as this takes away the intense pressure that crushing produces. X-ray processing has also improved recovery rate of the larger stones by identifying them before they hit the crushers.
Mining companies still have a ways to go. Lucara mining executives think a 374 carat diamond had been part of a larger stone, but that blasting broke it...
To learn more visit gia.edu
December is a popular engagement month. While engagement ring buying has changed over the years, the need for informed buyers has not- in fact, now more than ever, buyers need to be more aware of what they're getting and ask questions!
Here are some common settings with some pros and cons.
Solitaire (common prong set)
Pros: Your diamond is on a pedestal...but really. More light can bounce off each facet on your diamond, giving it amazing sparkle. It is simple, elegant, and classic.
Cons: Depending on what you do, you may be uncomfortable with the setting no matter how low the prongs set the diamond. If you work with your hands a lot (secretaries, nurses, stylists, artists, etc) you might be afraid those prongs might snag and you might lose your stone. It will need to be checked at least twice a year (maybe more) to ensure that the gem is tight and that the prongs are holding strong.
Pave (and Micro Pave)
Pros: It's a lot of flair and flash for a small buck. If you want something that will be an attention grabber, then this is a style for you to consider. It is also initially less expensive on the pocketbook.
Cons: Yes, above I said initially less expensive; this is where the con comes in. If you need your ring resized, or use your hands a lot, or have an accident where your ring was banged against something then you may have to replace some of the tiny diamonds; this type of setting has a higher risk of lost diamonds. While they are small and do not have a large replacement cost, those small costs can add up over time. And not all Pave settings are made equal- some are better when it comes to settings that will protect your stones and prevent stone loss. Overall, if you're rough on your jewelry, then this might not be a good option.
Pros: Invisible setting creates a big diamond center stone look. It is also less expensive compared to a single larger stone (common: 4 square stones create center - see picture right).
Cons: This type of setting is riskier because it is harder to keep the diamonds in place. Some jewelers aren't able to repair these, so you should consider having a plan in place should something go awry (insurance, reputable jeweler for repairs, etc).
Channel Setting (usually on the sides)
Pros: Each diamond is set flush side by side with the gold over the "sides" to hold them in place. This gives a lot of sparkle (multiple diamonds!) with a lot of security; this setting is wonderful for those of us who are active and use our hands a lot.
Cons: Channel setting can be more expensive. It uses more gold and has more stones. Some people don't like it because they feel the extra metal can take away from the look.
What's the Takeaway?
It is all about taste and lifestyle. Find a look you like. Take into account what fits with your lifestyle, and then consider price point. The styles shown above are just examples, there are many variations and many unique designs. If you need advice on anything from style points to insurance, find a reputable jeweler to help you.
An easy and safe way to do that is to soak it in a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap once every couple weeks. After you remove your diamond from the water, use a new soft toothbrush to remove any remaining dirt (check the back of the diamond close to the metal- this is where the bristles come in handy). Reserve this toothbrush only for your jewelry cleaning purposes. And be sure to be gentle. Older settings and more intricate settings won't take vigorous scrubbing; be gentle so as to not damage your ring. If you're working over a sink, be sure to close the drain! Even better, rinse your ring over the bowl you used to soak and scrub it over. Rinse it gently and dry it with a soft cloth.
Do not use bleach or toothpaste and other household strong/abraisive cleaners.
While your diamond might be fine, they can damage the metal.
You should also consult a jewelry professional regularly (at least twice a year) to make sure that your stones are tight and that the metal is not getting too worn; this will help prevent you from loosing diamonds and/or colored gemstones.
As a goldsmith, Mr. Parker can work with a moissanite like he would a diamond because of it's properties- especially thermal conductivity which is what causes the diamond tester to test positive with a moissanite like it would a diamond. This property means that Mr. Parker can use his torch without fear that the stone will crack from not being able to take heat. We have moissanites in the store if you'd like to see the fire (rainbow colors) and optical properties for yourself- and we can source them in a variety of shapes.
There are three properies to durability:
Cleaving is the splitting of a diamond crystal parallel to one of its triangular, octahedral planes. While not the perfect example, compare wood, which has a single grain typically split by an axe with ease. A natural diamond crystal can only be cleaved parallel to one of the triangular octahedral faces.
As you can see from the pictures above, if you accidentally hit your diamond along the outer edge, it could be along a cleavage plane and thus be more prone to chipping. If you're a person who does a lot of hard work with your hands, you may want to consider a bezel setting or a lower setting for your diamond. Talk to your jeweler for what might work better for you; everyone can enjoy a little sparkle without the worry of chipping.
Parker Jewelers believes in giving their customers the best! This includes information about what we can offer as well as what's new in jewelry!