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Instant Loans Nassau County, Long Island, NY
  800-729-6746
2386 Hempstead Turnpike | East Meadow, NY 11554
 
 

Planning to entertain soon? Why not take your silver flatware set out of safekeeping and use it? Here are tips on how to clean it properly, as well as prepare to sell it.

Understanding tarnish

Sterling silver, and other metals, including copper, brass, and aluminum, require regular cleaning and tarnish removal. Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over time from the metal’s exposure to hydrogen sulfide, normally present in the air. Tarnish can also develop after contact with wool, felt or certain foods. That electrochemical process is called oxidation.

Tarnish usually forms as a dull grey or black coating over the silver. Interestingly, tarnish is self-limiting, which means it only affects the top few layers of the metal. The outer layers of tarnish actually seal and protect the underlying layers, which is why a good cleaning can restore silver to its shiny original state.

Proper cleaning and care

You want to clean your silver, not damage it. To avoid doing so, use a non-abrasive silver cleaner that requires rinsing after use. Silver cleaners that require rinsing are usually less abrasive. It is also best to look for brands that state the cleaner is “non-abrasive” on the label.

Do not use chemical dips for cleaning sterling silver flatware, as they contain corrosive acids. Also, do not put your sterling silver flatware in the dishwasher.

For supplies, you’ll need a plastic dishpan, soft cotton dish towel, cotton balls, non-lemon-scented, phosphate-free hand dishwashing liquid; white vinegar and/or non-abrasive silver cleaner, silver polishing rouge cloth, and a dry artist’s horsehair paintbrush.

  1. Place the flatware in the plastic dishpan. Add a teaspoon of non-lemon-scented, phosphate-free hand dishwashing liquid and fill the pan with warm water. Wash the flatware with a soft dish towel to remove oils, fingerprints, and debris.
  2. Rinse the flatware with warm water and dry with the soft cotton towel.
  3. Next, clean light tarnish by wiping the area lightly with a cotton ball moistened with white vinegar or non-abrasive cleaner. Dry the flatware with towel.
  4. To remove heavier tarnish, apply a small amount of non-abrasive silver cleaner to a soft cloth and rub the flatware gently from side to side, or up and down. Do not use circular motions, and do not apply an excess amount of cleaner to the silver—use only the amount needed to remove the tarnish.
  5. Rinse the cleaner off the flatware, and wipe off any dried cleaner with the towel. To remove residual cleaner from nooks or patterns, use a dry artist’s horsehair paintbrush.
  6. Rinse the cleaned flatware with warm water and dry with a soft cotton towel.
  7. Polish the sterling silver flatware with a silver polishing rouge cloth to restore the silver’s shine and luster.

Preparing to sell

If you’re planning on selling your silver flatware, the most important thing is to first determine if it’s actually real silver. Look for markings and words stamped on each piece that say “silver-plated” or “sterling,” the latter of which means that it’s comprised of sterling silver. Also check for maker marks, patterns, or monogramming on the pieces and note any extensive flaws. Make a note of all the details to use for reference later on.

Next, take inventory of all the pieces to determine if it’s an entire set or if there are pieces missing. A complete set usually has an even amount of utensils, such as four spoons and four forks. Count your pieces and make sure they’re complete. Also cross-check markings to find out if all the pieces are from the same set, or have been mixed and matched. Obviously, a complete set of the same make will be worth more when sold.

Planning on buying a diamond engagement ring? This can be an intimidating task if you don’t know how diamonds are rated and valued. Here’s a review of the 4Cs—cut, color, clarity and carat—as well as some other diamond buying tips to help you feel confident when you browse and buy.

The GIA Diamond Rating System, aka the 4Cs

In the 1940s, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) created a universal rating system to standardize the diamond rating process, and ultimately protect consumers from getting ripped off.

Known as “the 4Cs,” the GIA International Diamond Grading System™ is the jewelry industry standard to objectively evaluate, compare, and rate diamonds.

Carat—the standard unit of weight. The word carat derives from carob seeds because early gemstone appraisers used carob seeds as counterweights on their scales.

One carat weighs 0.2 grams, and one carat is equal to 100 points. Therefore, a quarter carat weighs 25 points, a half carat weighs 50 points and a three-quarter carat weighs 75 points. It takes about 142 carats to equal one ounce.

A fraction of a carat can mean a big difference in the value of a diamond, so precision in measuring is crucial. Carat weight is often measured to the hundred thousandths of a carat, and rounded to a hundredth of a carat.

Note: Diamond carat should not be confused with gold karat, which refers to gold purity.

Color—colorless is more valuable. Diamonds are valued by how closely they approach colorlessness: the less color a diamond has, the higher its value. The exception to this rule are the rare colored diamonds—known as “fancy” colored diamonds—which are growing in popularity. Most diamonds sold in retail stores are near colorless to faint or light brown or yellow.

The Gemological Institute of America’s universal color scale starts at D, representing colorless, and goes through Z and beyond to the fancy and vivid colors. The higher the letter, the more presence of color in the diamond.

Clarity—a diamond’s internal and external flaws. Blemishes are external flaws, and inclusions are internal flaws. Inclusions are created when the diamond is formed, or when the diamond is cut. Because 100 percent “perfect” diamonds are very rare in nature, those with fewer blemishes and inclusions are rarer and cost more.

The GIA International Diamond Grading System™ Clarity Scale is the standard clarity grade scale, and contains 11 grades. Diamonds are assigned a clarity grade ranging from flawless (FL) to diamonds with obvious inclusions (I3). Most diamonds are graded in the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories.

To determine a diamond’s clarity, appraisers using the GIA Clarity Scale consider different variables, including the diamond’s size, nature, position, color or relief, and quantity of clarity characteristics visible under 10X magnification.

Cut—rates characteristics of shape. The GIA system rates a diamond’s cut using five grades: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. The system considers factors such as brightness, fire and scintillation, weight ratio, durability, polish, and symmetry.

The cut of any diamond has three attributes: brilliance (the total light reflected from a diamond), fire (the dispersion of light into the colors of the spectrum), and scintillation (the flashes of light, or sparkle, when a diamond is moved).

Most diamond jewelry uses the standard round brilliant shape. All others are known as fancy shapes, and include the marquise, pear, oval, and emerald cuts. Diamond shapes such as hearts and triangles are also gaining in popularity.

Other Important Diamond Buying Tips

Understanding the cut, color, clarity, and carat of a diamond is important, but when it comes down to it, choosing the right diamond is also subjective: how you feel and what you like. Don’t just focus on the GIA rating—go with a diamond that looks beautiful to you—or better yet, your mate will appreciate—and is in your budget. Make sure you know the person’s taste and ring size, as well as the jewelry store’s return policy.

In celebration of April’s birthstone, the diamond, we’re sharing an interesting new discovery about diamonds, courtesy of Michelle Graff and nationaljeweler.com.

In February, the Lucapa Diamond Co. in Perth, Western Australia announced that it has discovered the largest recorded diamond ever found in Angola: a 404.2-carat stone that has tested as Type IIa and D color.

The diamond was recovered from Alluvial Mining Block 8 at Angola’s Lulo Mine,  which has produced more than 60 large, special diamonds since they started mining there just last August.

The company reported that the 404.2-carat stone is the 27th largest recorded diamond in the world, and the biggest diamond ever discovered by an Australian mining company. It also is the fourth 100-plus-carat diamond to be recovered from Lulo to date, as well as the 114th largest “special” diamond–meaning it weighs more than 10.8 carats–recovered from the mine.

Of further interest is the scientific work that geologists are doing on the unique properties of large Type IIa diamonds similar to the ones being found at Angola’s Lulo Mine.

Evan Smith, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America specializing in diamond geology, and his colleagues are trying to better understand Earth’s mantle, which is beneath tectonic plates and, as such, largely inaccessible for scientific observation.

As you may already know, Type IIa diamonds have very little to no nitrogen, which is what makes white diamonds so exceptionally colorless and fancy color diamonds so vibrant. Large Type IIa diamonds that make headlines also tend to be irregular in shape, rather than the nice, symmetrical octahedrons like so many smaller stones. They often have a surface that’s rounded and somewhat dissolved, “almost like a lollipop after someone’s been after it for a while,” says Smith.

The fact that these big, beautiful diamonds are different has not escaped the attention of earth scientists, who have wondered for years if they form in a different way, in a different part of Earth’s mantle, and thus tell us something different about our planet.

In order to conduct the study, though, Smith and the other researchers could not limit themselves to these kinds of large and exceedingly rare diamonds. Instead, they studied Type IIa diamonds of all sizes that came through the GIA lab, including some that were smaller than a carat.

After examining 52 Type IIa stones (and one Type Iab) of all sizes at the GIA lab, Smith and the other researchers found that in nearly three-quarters of the diamonds (38 out of 53), the inclusions weren’t graphite but metallic, a solidified mixture of iron, nickel, carbon, and sulfur.

This is significant because it changes the way scientists think about how different elements, like carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, are distributed. It also has broad implications for understanding the behavior of the deep Earth, including the recycling of surface rocks into the convecting mantle.

Smith said this discovery verifies what geologists have been theorizing for 10 or more years: that the Earth’s deeper mantle environment has a “light peppering” (up to 1 percent) of metallic iron.

To read more about this study, read Michelle Graff’s interview with Evan Smith at nationaljeweler.com.

Do you have a watch you inherited from a relative? Or perhaps purchased a used one from a thrift store? If you’re looking to find out how much it is worth, there are a number of factors that go into evaluating it. Here’s an overview of what makes a watch valuable.

Condition of the watch.

The condition of the watch is extremely important in appraising its value. A watch will be worth much more if all of the parts and movement are original. There should be no changes to the face of the watch. Any scratches, dents, chips, or rust will obviously lower its value.

Inside of the watch.

What a watch looks like on the outside is only part of the evaluation. The watch appraiser will look inside to see the internal movement of the watch and to make sure it’s working or can work, and if the mechanism parts are original.  Also important is the number of jewels used in the mechanism. Generally the greater the amount of jewels, the better the movement.

The manufacturer and brand.

If a watch is by a famous or rare name brand, or from a well-known manufacturer, it’ll usually command a higher price. Within the watch should also be serial or model numbers to confirm its authenticity.

Its design and composition.

Craftsmanship and design matters. Intricate designs, enameled or hand painted designs, and inlays of precious stones will make your watch extremely valuable. An antique or vintage watch in solid gold or platinum, especially with an original band in good condition, will greatly increase the worth of the watch. If the watch is truly gold, it will be stamped 14k, 18k or 750 (the European designation, meaning 75 percent gold).

Gizmos and gadgets.

Watches that have unusual displays such as moon phases, timers, stop mechanisms, and/or show month date and day are of interest to collectors and will raise the value of the watch.

The watch’s age.

Although the quality of the watch’s condition is usually more important, the age or historical value of the watch is also a consideration.

Consumer demand.

Finally, a less scientific factor influencing a watch’s value is whether or not it is in demand. If a watch is in demand, it will fetch a higher price.

Before you bring it in.

If you’re interested in selling or taking a loan out on your old watch, examine it first and get an idea of how much it may be worth based on the factors above. Write down any logo, markings, serial or model numbers as well as metal stamps indicated on the watch.

Then, do some research online to find a reputable jeweler with a specialty in fine watches in your area to get an accurate appraisal. It also helps to get more than one estimate before making a decision. An appraisal by a professional jeweler who specializes in watches will provide you with the most accurate estimate of what your watch is worth.

If you’re in the market for jewelry, it’s best to pick up some tips from the experts before you buy online. With faster Internet speeds and increased e-commerce security, buying jewelry online has steadily increased by the year. Falling diamond prices and high numbers of jewelry store closures have contributed to the trend.

But jewelry can be particularly tricky to buy sight unseen. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s some expert advice on how to buy jewelry online, courtesy of former jewelry store owner, Clancy Martin on vice.com.

Don’t buy jewelry as an investment.

Before buying any expensive piece of jewelry, know in advance that it is not likely to become an investment. The piece may increase in value if it’s a rare, excellent stone, but don’t go into buying hoping it will increase in value. Buy it because you want a luxury piece of jewelry to enjoy, like a luxury car.

All colored stones are treated.

According to Martin, there is simply no such thing as “natural”-colored gemstones, especially if it’s been set in a piece of finished jewelry—a piece that has been completely assembled.

He also suggests avoiding stones that have been irradiated or injected with colored glass or silicon, which is one of the most popular treatment techniques, especially for expensive rubies and sapphires.

The only way to guarantee that the stone you are buying has not been treated in this way is to be sure that you can return the stone after having it appraised by an independent expert.

Natural pearls are extremely rare, he explains, and buyers should insist on a certificate guaranteeing their authenticity and only buy from an established business that specializes in natural pearls.

When shopping for colored gems and diamonds, know that irradiated and synthetic stones are now the norm, so insist on full disclosure in writing from the seller about how the stone acquired its color. Once you receive the stone, have an independent appraiser test the stone to be sure that the disclosures are accurate. If they are not, return the stone. This may also give you leverage in price.

A hallmark can be forged.

Be warned that a hallmark, such as a stamp of karat weight, metal type, or of a designer’s signature, is easily faked. Anyone can make a stamp that says Pt (for platinum, stamped on white gold), 18k (stamped on 14-karat gold), or JAR (Joel A. Rosenthal). Martin advises that buyers always and only purchase 18-karat gold or platinum. Be on guard especially if you’re shopping for a one-of-a-kind piece, such as a Louis Comfort Tiffany, Fabergé, or Cartier.

The problem with buying online is that you can’t inspect the piece in person under a loupe. If you can’t see the physical piece, then be sure to shop and buy from the official manufacturer’s website. You’ll likely pay more, but at least you’ll know it’s an authentic piece. In any case, ask about “proof of provenance.” Do what you can to find out about the history of the piece, such as where it came from, how are they certain it’s original, etc.

Certificates can be faked.

Like a hallmark, keep in mind that any certificate of “authenticity” can also be faked, including the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS), as well as “Kimberly Process” papers and conflict-free papers—and any such warranty should always be checked with its issuing agency.

Buy significant diamonds loose or unmounted.

When it comes to buying a significant diamond, Martin advises only buying “loose” or unmounted stones—but be sure to educate yourself first. A sophisticated diamond buyer understands how important an excellent cut is to the value of a diamond, such as make and proportions. Take the time necessary to learn about and appreciate the nuances of diamond cutting. Online video tutorials can help.

Bargain, bargain, bargain.

Whether you’re buying online or in-store, try and get the best deal you can, especially on an expensive piece of jewelry. Martin says you must be shameless in bargaining. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying from Cartier or Neiman Marcus or De Beers or Barneys or Graff; or if you’re spending $1,000 or $100,000. Offer less then they’re asking; shop around; wait for sales. The more time you are willing to invest, the more money you will save.

Never buy a used Swiss watch.

Forgery has become rampant in the Swiss-watch business, and even the experts may be hard-pressed to tell the difference. So if you want to be sure, buy from a manufacturer’s official website and/or registered dealer. Again, bargain. Depending on the brand, you should demand a 40-percent discount from the sticker price; a 30–35-percent discount on most popular brands like TAG Heuer, Cartier, and IWC; and a 20–25-percent discount on the most desirable brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe.

In summary, do your due diligence. The more you plan on spending, the more time and effort a buyer should invest in the purchase. Martin suggests looking at the process like a game or hobby—the more you learn, the more fun it is to buy, and the better deal you will obtain.

Source: “How to Buy Jewelry Like a Jeweler” 

Whether you’re an owner of antique and vintage watches, or you’re in the market to buy, understanding the factors that determine a watch’s value is key to getting the best sale price. Here is a general overview of how antique and/or vintage watches are valued and estimated, based on the article “How to Understand the Value of Your Vintage or Antique Watch,” on PocketWatchRepair.com.

Know what you have.

The most important factor in understanding the value of a watch is knowing what it is. Before attempting to buy, sell, or pawn a watch, make sure you have a clear understanding of who the manufacturer is, its model, age, grade, condition, and any other details about the particular watch.

A watch made with precious metals adds to the value of the watch. Does yours have a gold or gold-plated case? Many watches contain gold in the movement itself, including gold-plated train wheels and gold jewel settings.

Precious gems in the setting also adds to the value of a watch, and its jewel count is sometimes marked in the movement, as in 20J. Most antique watches have a minimum of seven jewels. According to PocketWatchRepair.com, under 15 jewels is considered a lower-grade watch; 15-17 jewels is considered a mid-grade watch, and 19-24 jewel movements is considered high-grade.

Age, appearance, and authenticity

Age – To determine the age of a watch, find the serial number from the movement, aka the moving/working part of the watch, not the watch case. With certain European and Swiss watches, it is more difficult to find the serial number. If this is an issue, you may be able to find out the age based on the style of the movement, and/or the way the watch was made. This may be tricky, and you may need help from an expert watch appraiser.

Appearance – Like anything else, the appearance and condition of the watch will have a big impact on its estimated value. Is the watch clean and in working order? Is the glass face and case without scratches and cracks? Are the hands clean and movement smooth? Does the case align correctly? If the watch is in working order, listen to hear if the ticking is “clean and crisp.” These and other factors of appearance contribute to the overall value of a watch.

Authenticity – Like a classic car, a watch that is “authentic,” or in original condition is  more in demand than one that has been refurbished with “after market” parts. Make sure the hands are the same, and also look for extra screw marks on the case, which would indicate that the case has been replaced. Make sure a watch is not counterfeit, especially if you’re thinking about buying it.

One final thought…

Determining the value of a watch can be complex, but you can do some research ahead of time to get a good idea of what you have and its worth. Keep in mind that condition, uniqueness, and rarity all contribute to the value of a watch, but it really comes down to what someone is willing to pay for it.

s-l1600Online holiday shopping is big business. Last year in the U.S., Americans spent $56.43 billion shopping for the holidays via their desktop computers. And $2.3 billion was spent online on Cyber Monday alone, making it the biggest online shopping day ever, according to a statista.com survey.

If you plan on shopping online for jewelry this holiday, here are some important things to know and do so you can “Buy Now” with confidence, courtesy of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).

Benefits of buying online

Clearly, there are myriad reasons to shop at home on our computer, or on-the-go on our tablet or smartphone. Certainly, the convenience of being able to buy wherever and whenever we want is appealing. Also, shopping online eliminates the pain of driving in traffic, wading through crowded stores, and waiting on long lines for sale items that may or may not be sold out.

Another big benefit is the research aspect of online buying. Whatever type of jewelry you’re looking to buy, from vintage estate jewelry to high-end diamonds and luxury watches, you can research the online vendor via  third-party reviews and consumer feedback.

On many online jewelry shops and consumer review websites, you can find comments from customers who’ve bought products from that shop. This is a great way to find out what kind of experiences people had, and if there are any trends in either a positive or negative direction.

Also, like most websites, online jewelry shops have a “contact us” section, where you can ask questions about the products available, and specifics such as colors, sizes, grading, availability, shipping, payments and other purchase details.

Here’s some GIA advice on buying jewelry online.

Smart buyers do their research

As with any significant purchase, start by researching your specifics about the piece you want to buy, such as how the price is determined and variations in quality. With diamonds, for example, understanding the 4Cs—Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut will help you understand the variations in price and quality. The more you know about what you want, the better deal you’ll be able to find. Also make sure the website you are considering purchasing from is reputable—more on that below.

Beware of counterfeit jewelry

One downside to buying online is that you can’t see the piece you are buying up close, in your hands. Still, there are ways to confirm if a piece is authentic or not, starting with shopping at reputable websites.

Buying signed jewelry is one way to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality item — as long as it is the real thing. Genuine signed jewelry is any piece of jewelry stamped by the company that makes it, such as Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Cartier, Harry Winston, etc.

Signed jewelry pieces are almost always made from precious metals and genuine gemstones. That is the main reason they are more expensive than non-signed pieces — you’re paying for higher quality materials and craftsmanship.

Conversely, most replica jewelry pieces are made of non-precious metals and synthetic stones because it is much cheaper to produce and they are usually made in mass quantities. So, when looking to buy a signed piece — especially if it is pre-owned — make sure that it is made of the exact same metals and stones that the designer uses for that specific line or design.

Know who you’re buying from

Here are a few things to check regarding the seller, before you buy.

How long has the company been in business?

What kind of reviews has the company received?

Does it belong to any jewelry trade associations, such as the GIA?

Do they offer secure transactions?

Are the online representatives helpful?

What is the return policy?

Where is the seller located?

How will the jewelry be shipped?

Is the shipment insured?

Is a signature required for delivery?

In addition to the above, if you’re buying from online auction sites, you’ll also want to look into buyer feedback and ratings and determine if the seller is providing sufficient evidence of the quality of the jewelry offered for sale, such as photographs, a grading report, or report number that can be verified.

Consider the payment method

Each online retailer or auction site will specify how it will accept payment. If you paid with a credit card and if there is a problem with the purchase, most credit card companies provide recourse. Using a check or a money order for your purchase can reduce your options.

Proceed cautiously with out-of-country online sites

For example, U.S.-based consumers have options for recourse when buying from a U.S.-based company, such as filing complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Jewelers’ Vigilance Committee (JVC), Better Business Bureau (BBB), etc., or pursuing a legal case in civil court. Websites that do not have a physical presence in your home country may be insulated from recourse and attempts to recover funds can be frustrating.

If you like it and can afford it …

Finally, remember that choosing the right piece of jewelry for yourself or others is also subjective: Don’t just focus on the price or rating —go with what looks beautiful to you and is in your budget. If you’re buying for someone else, apply the same logic. Know his or her tastes. Does he or she prefer size over quality, or quality over size? If he or she prefers size and quality, you may need to do some real comparative shopping! Also, make sure you know the person’s ring size, as well as the jewelry store’s return policy.

Diamond engagement ring solitaire 14K w/ gold F color round brilliant .70CT IGI!

Diamond engagement ring solitaire 14K w/ gold F color round brilliant .70CT IGI!

You love diamonds, but don’t want to pay retail. Have you considered buying from an online auction site? Of the many online sellers of diamonds, whom can you trust? Empire Jewelers is proud of our long-standing relationship with eBay. Here’s why.

1. Average of 50% off retail. When buying a diamond, paying retail can be cost prohibitive, both in-store or online. Purchasing a comparable, pre-owned, diamond through an online auction on eBay is the smart way to get what you want without paying fullprice. Diamonds on Empire Jewelers’ eBay site, for example, typically average 50% less than retail.

2. Consumer protection policies. In addition to costsavings, a smart consumer also must know that their purchase is protected, should they be dissatisfied for some reason. eBay has a number of consumer-friendly safeguards in place. One of the most telling is the “positive feedback” rating. This numbered rating is based on various buyer’s feedback on the seller regarding their purchase transaction. Criteria include “item as described,” “communication,” shipping time,” and “shipping and handling charges.” Obviously, the more positive feedback a seller has, the better you should feel about buying from them. If a seller has a less than 98% positive feedback score you may want to avoid that seller. Empire Jewelers’ eBay store has a 100% positive approval rating in the last 12 months.

eBay also has a no-risk policy: If you do end up buying a diamond you are not pleased with due to the seller or quality of the diamond, or other reason, eBay has a 100% money-back guarantee. If your purchase was covered by eBay Buyer Protection, and you contacted the seller and they did not satisfy your request, eBay’s customer support specialists will work with the seller to resolve the issue on your behalf. If you still do not get satisfaction, eBay will refund your full purchase price plus original shipping.

3. You can refine searches. When searching on eBay for diamonds or other items, there are multiple ways to refine your search, which helps narrow down results and increases your chances of finding exactly what you want. In the “advanced search” option, use the “exclude these words” function. Enter words like “zircon, “enhanced,” and “lab” to make sure you’re only searching for real diamonds. You can also view results as a list or in gallery form. Be sure to use the “sort by” functions to narrow down auction time and price options.

Understand the 4 Cs

Before buying a diamond on eBay or anywhere else, make sure you buy only a “certified diamond” that has been appraised by a reputable GIA-trained or certified appraiser.

In the ‘40s and ’50s, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), an educational and research non-profit organization founded in 1931, developed the “4Cs” and the GIA International Diamond Grading System™ to objectively compare and evaluate diamonds. Today, even if you buy or sell a diamond in another part of the world, the jeweler will likely use the same GIA grading systems.

  • Color: Most diamonds run from colorless to near-colorless, with slight hints of yellow or brown. “Color” is not how much color a diamond has, but the degree to which it is colorless. The GIA set the industry standard with its D-Z scale (D is colorless while Z means the diamond has the most yellow.) The exception to this rule are fancy colored diamonds which aren’t included in the GIA’s D-Z scale. Colors beyond the Z color are considered fancy colored diamonds.
  • Clarity: Most diamonds have tiny crystals, feathers, or clouds within them, called “inclusions.” Surface imperfections are called “blemishes.” The rarest diamonds are flawless and have no internal inclusions or external blemishes. The GIA uses a Clarity Scale of 11 grades that are measured using 10X magnifications.
  • Carat: Signifies the weight—not the size—of the diamond. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams. Since heavier diamonds are rarer than smaller diamonds, the heavier the carat weight, the higher the value.
  • Cut: The cut of a diamond refers to its proportions, symmetry, and polish. When evaluating cut, two aspects are assessed: shape (round, marquise, square cut, etc.), and how well the cutting was executed. It must be geometrically precise, since it will affect a diamond’s fire (the flash of rainbow colors from within) and brilliance (its sparkle). The cut was historically the most subjective and difficult to standardize during appraisal, but due to advances in technology, the GIA introduced its cut grading system in 2005.

october birthstone opalOpals, the birthstone for the month of October, have a mystery and history as interesting as their iridescence. Whether you were born in October or not, test your knowledge of opals with the Empire Jewelers true or false quiz! Scroll down for the answers—but don’t cheat!

  1. The opal is an ancient mineral known as petrified silica gel that are found near the earth’s surface where geothermal hot springs once existed.
  2. Many opals contain a rainbow-like iridescence known as “opalocka,” which changes the colors that appear in the stone depending on the angle it is viewed.
  3. Opalescence is caused by a hydrous silicon dioxide material that causes the gemstone to flash iridescent colors when the opal is viewed from different angles.
  4. The subcategory of opals known as precious opals are the most common and in demand because of their “opulence.”
  5. The word opal is derived from the Latin word “opalus,” meaning precious jewel, as well as “upala,” the Sanskrit name for precious stone.
  6. Opals are given to celebrate a 13th wedding anniversary, and are a symbol faithfulness and confidence.
  7. The ancient Romans called the opal “Cupid Paederos,” which translates to “a child beautiful as a heart.”
  8. In ancient Rome, opals were ground up and consumed because they were believed to have healing properties and the power to ward off bad dreams.
  9. The Great Bard, Shakespeare, loved opals so much, he nicknamed them the “queen of the gems.”
  10. The opal is Australia’s national gemstone, and its indigenous people call opals “the water in the desert.”
  11. Goober Pedy, Australia is known as “The Opal Capital of the World” because 51 percent of the world’s supply of opals are mined there.
  12. In 2008, NASA discovered opal deposits on Mars! Since opal is made up of mostly water, Mars may have contained water for billions of years.

October Birthstone True or False Answers:


  1. True.
  2. False. The rainbow-like effect in opals is called opalescence.
  3. True.
  4. False. Precious opals are the most in demand because of their “opalescence” or “play of color.”
  5. True.
  6. False. Opals are given to celebrate a 14th wedding anniversary, and are a symbol of faithfulness and confidence.
  7. False. “Cupid Paederos” translates to “a child beautiful as love.”
  8. True.
  9. True.
  10. False. The indigenous people of Australia call the opal “the fire in the desert.”
  11. False. The name of the city is actually Coober Pedy, Australia.
  12. True.

September Birthstone Q&A: SapphireSeptember’s birthstone, the sapphire, has a rich history. Blue sapphires have been associated with royalty for centuries. One of the most recognizable pieces is the sapphire and diamond engagement ring given to the late Princess Diana by Prince Charles, now famously passed down a generation to Kate Middleton by Prince William.

Test your knowledge of sapphires, and learn some interesting facts about September’s royal birthstone.

  1. In addition to being the birthstone for September, what number wedding anniversary do sapphires celebrate?
  2. Blue sapphire is a variety of the mineral called corundum. What other gemstone comes from corundum?
  3. The blue sapphire is derived from the Greek word, sappheiros. What does the word mean?
  4. Sapphires come in many colors. What is the most valuable and in-demand color?
  5. The Star of India is the world’s largest gem-quality blue star sapphire, and is around two billion years old. In what famous museum is it displayed?
  6. On the Mohs scale of hardness, sapphires rate a 9.0. What gem is harder?
  7. What did the ancient Greeks believe sapphires were a symbol of?
  8. The ancient Persians believed the earth was supported by a giant sapphire and that it gave what its blue hue?
  9. According to Jewish midrash, Moses’ sapphire tablets were carved from where?
  10. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, famously chose a blue sapphire and diamond ring for her engagement to Prince Charles. Replicas of the ring became so popular with people, that it was given what nickname?

September Birthstone Quiz Answers:


  1. Sapphires celebrate the 45th wedding anniversary.
  2. Rubies also come from the mineral corundum.
  3. The Greek word sappheiros meaning blue stone.
  4. Blue sapphires are the most expensive and desirable of all sapphire colors.
  5. The Star of India is on exhibit in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
  6. Diamonds are the only gem to rank a 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
  7. The ancient Greeks believed sapphires were a symbol of wisdom and purity.
  8. The ancient Persians believed a giant sapphire gave the sky its blue hue.
  9. According to Jewish midrash, Moses’ sapphire tablets were carved from the throne of God, making them the most precious gemstone.
  10. Princess Diana’s ring became so popular with the public that it became known as “the commoner’s ring.”