All About Jewellery

Caring for Your Jewellery

Cleaning

In order to ensure that your jewellery looks its best, we advise that you clean it on a semi-regular basis. You may notice that over time your diamond may begin to look dull or “foggy.” This is due to residue build-up on the stone and setting, often on the underside of your diamond. This residue is usually caused by hand lotions, soaps, and everyday dust and dirt. The most effective way to clean this is to purchase some inexpensive jewellery cleaner that has a mild ammonia solution in it. Don’t use toothpaste or any other abrasive substance as this could damage the setting around the diamond.

Repair

Along with regular cleaning, we also suggest that you treat your diamond jewellery with care. If you are an especially active person, you should consider having your diamonds set in bezel or channel settings as they provide your diamond with the most protection, and will ensure that your stone does not become loose from the setting.

If you choose to have your diamonds set bead-style, in pave, or in a prong setting, you should have them checked on a semi-regular basis at any of our branches. Over time, the prong tips of settings will wear down, and your diamond may become loose in its setting. We can easily remedy this by tightening the setting and/or replacing the setting’s prong tips. It is for this reason that we also recommend having your jewelry carefully insured on your short term insurance policies. Just make sure that this policy also covers the loss of a diamond.

As styles and designs have changed, many rings these days have a number of small diamonds set in the bands and these settings are often very fine with very little metal holding the diamonds in place. It is these types of settings that need the most care.

Re-plating

White gold jewellery may need to be re-plated from time to time. Since all white gold is treated with palladium to appear white in colour, it also requires a rhodium plating process to finish it. Over time this finish can wear off and you may notice a slight colour difference in your ring. This usually starts at the bottom of the ring that is prone to the most wear. Any of our branches can give you more advice in this regard.

Take Care

If you have jewellery with precious gemstones, it is important that you know how to care for them. Some gemstones such as emeralds and tanzanite are significantly softer and more brittle than diamonds and activities such as gardening can easily damage them.

The most important thing to remember is that all jewellery is susceptible to every day wear and tear, especially the rings you wear on your hands as these are exposed to everything you do on a daily basis. If you have any questions about your jewelry, the staff in all our branches are well equipped to assist.

Pearls

Ever since pearls were discovered in ancient times, their beauty and magic have been a source of fascination and desire.  People have viewed pearls as magic charms, symbols of purity and love, or sources of wisdom and power.  They are one of the oldest known gems and have been revered by countless civilisations.

The mythology of pearls

Legend has it that Cleopatra dissolved a large pearl in a glass of wine and drank it to impress Marc Antony with her wealth and power – a ploy that worked all too well. Knights in the Middle Ages wore pearls onto the battlefield to protect themselves from harm. Queen Elizabeth I so loved the white gems that she had them sewn onto all her clothing and wore ropes of them around her neck. In addition to their fascinating beauty, the pearl occupies a unique spot in the world of precious gemstones. Instead of being found in a core of rock, a pearl is created over time by a living creature – the oyster.

How pearls are formed

The pearl begins its life as a piece of grit or dirt that find its way inside the shell of a live oyster. To protect itself, the oyster coats the intruding object or grain of sand with layers of nacre – a crystalline substance that builds up over time and results in a shimmering, iridescent creation.

Natural pearls are formed by deposits of nacre on an irritant that accidentally lodges within the body of an oyster. Today, it is so rare to find naturally matching pearls that if one were able to put a single strand together, it would be more valuable than some of the most prized diamonds known to man.

It is for this reason that the pearls on offer today are either “cultured” or “freshwater” pearls. The culturing process developed by man mimics the natural process where Pearl farmers implant fine beads into the oyster – which does the rest of the work creating its lustrous masterpiece.

Pearl quality and value

The value of a pearl comes from the unique ability of the crystalline nacre to absorb, refract and reflect light. These properties give the pearl its orient – the deep inner glow and shimmering iridescent characteristic of natural pearls.  The deeper the lustre and iridescence of the pearl, the more precious it is.  Size certainly determines the value of a pearl as it’s more difficult for oysters to grow large pearls, bigger are the more rare of pearls.  Two pearls of different sizes however, may be valued the same if the smaller pearl is superior in orient to the larger pearl.

  • Shape determines value, too. The more symmetrical the pearl’s shape, the higher its value. Examples of symmetrical pearls are: round, pear shape, tear shape, oval. Pearls of irregular and asymmetrical shape are termed baroque. Oysters grow pearls in many different shapes, from perfect spheres to long flat angel wing pearls.
  • Surface perfection also contributes to value. The surface of a perfect pearl appears satiny smooth. But when viewed closely, natural or cultured pearls may appear to have irregular surfaces. These do not detract from value in the way that disfiguring blemishes might. You need no magnifier to detect blemishes; when present, they are readily apparent to the naked eye.

Types of pearls

  • Akoya: This is the most familiar type of cultured pearl, grown in true pearl oysters off the coasts of Japan. Akoya pearls are known for their lovely orient and warm colour. These pearls very rarely grow more than 9mm in size.
  • South Sea: These are large cultured pearls (10mm and larger) grown in large oysters off the coasts of Australia. Usually silvery in appearance and sometimes not as lustrous as fine Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls are rare and costly and are found mostly in Australia.
  • Mabe: These large hemispherical cultured pearls are grown against the inside shells of oysters instead of within the body. These are less expensive than regular round cultured pearls and, because of their hemispherical shape, are often used mounted in such jewelry as earrings, rings and brooches.
  • Freshwater: These pearls are cultivated in mollusks other than oysters, found in freshwater lakes and rivers. Their wide range of interesting shapes and colours compensate in fashion appeal for their relatively low value. These days you are also able to find magnificent freshwater pearls in large sizes with extremely good surfaces.

Caring for your pearls

Cultured Pearls are precious jewels and require special care. The following are some important tips to help prolong the life of your pearls:

  • Don’t toss them carelessly into a purse or jewel box where they can become scratched by hard metal edges or harder stones
  • Don’t expose them to acid-based hair sprays, cosmetics, or perfumes
  • Don’t clean them with chemicals or abrasives
  • Treat pearls gently – place them in a chamois bag or wrap them in tissue when putting them away
  • Only put your pearls on after applying cosmetics, hair sprays and perfume
  • Wash your pearls with mild soap and water after taking them off – this will remove all traces of perfume, cosmetics or hair spray from the pearls
  • Bring your pearls back to your jeweller for restringing once a year – cosmetics and ordinary wear weaken and stretch the nylon threads on which the pearls are strung. Rather be safe than sorry
  • Have pearls strung with a knot between each pearl – this will prevent loss of pearls if the string should break

Precious Metals

There are two main types of precious metals: Gold and platinum.

Gold

Gold is a naturally occurring yellow metal that is relatively soft.  In order to make white gold – yellow gold is treated/mixed with other alloys such as palladium which gives it the white colour.  The alloys also provide gold jewellery with added strength and durability.

Purity
We use the term “karat” to describe the purity of gold. This can be confusing because we also use the term “carat” when talking about the weight of diamonds. Gold “Karat” simply refers to the purity of the gold in question: 24 karat gold is 100% pure. So if you are looking at a diamond ring that is 18kt white gold, the ring is in fact 18/24 parts gold, or 75% gold. The remaining 6/24 parts (or 25%) are the other alloys.  In South Africa, the most commonly used type of gold is 9 karat gold (37,5% gold). In America, it is more common to find 10kt gold.

Which is harder, 9kt or 18kt?
We often hear customers asking: ‘I’ve been told that 9kt gold is harder and more durable than 18kt gold. Is this true?’

Whilst 9 karat is not as soft as 18 karat, there are other factors that affect how it appears over time. 9 karat gold has half the gold content of 18 karat. (Remember, 9 karat is 37.5% gold whilst 18 karat is 75% gold.) As a result, 9 karat gold doesn’t hold its lustre as well as 18 karat does. An 18 karat yellow gold ring will always appear shinier and more golden-coloured than a 9kt. An 18 karat white gold ring will also always appear to have a cleaner, whiter colour. The nature of gold is that it does scratch more easily than the alloys with which it is mixed. An 18 karat gold ring may get scratched a little more easily than a 9 karat ring, but both will get scratched over time, as would any metallic surface.

Platinum

Platinum is a metal commonly found in jewellery. It is much rarer than gold and also far more dense. Its density means that if you put two identically sized rings side by side – one gold, one platinum – the platinum ring would be heavier. It also means that a greater weight of metal is required to make an item in platinum compared to making the same item in gold.

Platinum is almost 100% pure –  because of its purity, it needs little or no treatment on an ongoing basis. It will however scratch, just like any other metal. The significant difference is that a scratch on a platinum ring is merely a displacement of the metal and none of the volume is lost. The same cannot be said for gold. When you look at a ring in a jewellery store, it will be very difficult on first glance to tell if it is white gold or platinum and this is due to the rhodium plating that all rings have applied to them. (You can read more about this below.)  A platinum ring is naturally “white” and does not require plating. Platinum can lose its lustre over time and become grayer. A quick polish will rectify this.

Due to platinum being almost 100% pure, it is more resilient to everyday wear and tear. It is also extremely non-allergenic for sensitive skins and maintains its lustre a lot longer than gold.

Interestingly, platinum is 30 times more rare than gold. It is estimated that if all the platinum in the world were poured into an Olympic-sized swimming pool, it would be barely enough to cover your ankles!

Palladium

Palladium is another precious metal that is becoming increasingly popular for jewellery use.  It is part of the platinum family and is also almost 100% pure with a natural white lustre. However, it is not as rare as platinum, which makes it more economical to work with. It is also extremely durable and solid which lends itself extremely well to wedding bands. Palladium is a good choice if you are looking for a wedding band that will require very little maintenance.

Rhodium Plating

A white gold ring is always plated with a very hard, white metal known as rhodium. To maintain the full whiteness of a white gold engagement ring, the rhodium must be re-plated about every 18 months. As explained earlier, white gold is treated with other alloys to become white. As with all colours, white can have different shades, and in its raw form, white gold has a creamier colour than platinum, palladium and rhodium.

As such it is an internationally accepted practice to plate white gold with rhodium to make appear whiter. Over time, depending on how well you care for your rings, they will require re-plating as the plating will begin to wear off and you see the more creamy coloured white gold showing through.

Tanzanite

Tanzanite is a rare and precious blue/violet gemstone discovered in 1967, just below Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  The colour of tanzanite can appear differently depending on the type of light it is being viewed in.

The spectacular colour of this precious gemstone is due to a rare characteristic called “pleochrism” which causes the gemstone to portray magnificent differing shades of violet and blue.

The tanzanite stone is actually quite ‘soft’ and is not recommended for rough wear.  It also pairs beautifully with diamonds in jewellery.

The stone is graded in a similar manner to which diamonds:  colour, cut, clarity and carat weight of tanzanite all determine its value, and the deeper the blue/violet colour, the rarer and more valuable the tanzanite.

Even today, the only known source of tanzanite remains its original source – which could mean the stone becoming even more rare in years to come.

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