Category: Bridal

Diamond Shapes 101

 

Whether you’re choosing a diamond shape for an engagement ring, earrings or a just for fun ring, much more goes into it than mere aesthetics.  To my horror, there are a host of issues that no one tells you.  For example, some diamond shapes hold more weight than others–meaning, for the same carat weight, certain shapes will look smaller because the bulk of the weight is in the lower part of the diamond that is hidden by the setting.  Similarly, certain shapes will reflect light better than others due to their shape and cut and as a result, certain shapes will be more brilliant than others or show more fire.  Here is everything you need to know:

Basic Diamond Shapes

Diamond Shapes 101

Round brilliant shaped diamonds are the industry standard–they have 57 or 58, mostly triangular, facets (depending on whether you count the culet as a facet).  Round brilliants are the most scintillating because of the way that light reflects off the facets.  Anything that is not a round brilliant shape is considered a fancy shape.  Many people confuse shape and cut.  In the industry, the term shape is used to denote the actual shape of the stone whereas the cut is a term used to describe how well the proportions, symmetry and polish of the stone are executed.  In other words, shape is a personal choice whereas the cut speaks to the quality of the stone and is thus, non-negotiable.

Emerald shapes are step cuts, made up of a series of rectangular facets parallel to the girdle.  In general, emerald shaped diamonds are not as brilliant and do not show as much fire (the flashes of color you see when you move a diamond under a light source) but they do highlight a diamond’s clarity, which could be positive or negative.  If purchasing an emerald shaped diamond, it is better to select one with a high clarity grade as any inclusions will be more visible in a step-cut stone.  Furthermore, with emerald cuts, it is important to have your jeweler make sure the proportions are ideal.  There is a tendency in emerald cuts for the stone to be too thin or too thick either in the crown height or the pavilion depth.  In the first instance, a stone that is thin will look larger face-on but in such situations you are sacrificing visual properties and durability.  If the diamond is too thick, then you are hiding weight in the pavilion and the result is that you are paying for a stone that looks smaller than its carat weight would suggest.

Marquise, princess, pear, radiant, Asscher and cushions all fall into the category of fancy shapes.  Some are considered modified brilliants and some mixed cuts (having a combination of brilliant and step cuts).  In general, cushion shapes look smaller than their carat weight lets on because the stone has to be cut slightly thicker so there is more weight in the depth of the stone than you see on the surface.

For the most part, your jeweler should have very strict standards about what stone she uses and should have inspected and vetted all the diamonds before you see them.  Obviously, when buying a stone we want to strive for perfection in cut (symmetry, proportions and polish).  However, here is a little list of common concerns and what to prioritize with respect to each shape:

Rounds– Proportions need to be bang-on.  The crown height vs. the pavilion depth should be such that you are maximizing the diamond’s fire, brilliance and scintillation.  If you are buying a certified stone, the cut grade will tell you all this.  Strive for very good to excellent cut grades (the scale: Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent).

Princess– Symmetry is key.  Make sure all sides of the stone are parallel.  From a face-on view, a princess cut has to look like a perfect square, if the sides are wonky and it looks more like a trapeze or rhomboid, walk away.  Princess cuts have very defined points on the corners, have your jeweler make sure they are pristine.  Sometimes the corners are chipped during setting and the chips are hidden by prongs.

Marquise– Symmetry is a big one here as well.  You’ll want to make sure that if you draw a line down the diamond both left and right sides match and if you draw a line across the diamond, the top and bottom halves match (ex: you don’t want the top two sides to bulge more than the bottom two and vice versa or the left side to bulge more than the right).  Keep an eye out for bowtie shadows.  All marquise and pear-shaped diamonds will have shadows in the middle of the stone that resemble a bowtie.  The better the cut of the stone, the smaller the bowtie shadow.  If there is a distracting gray bowtie in the center of your stone walk away.

Pear Shape- It has to be pretty.  With a pear shape symmetry matters but you have to decide whether you like a stone that looks like a chubbier drop or a thinner one.  I prefer chubbier drops but it has to be within reason.  Eye-appeal is crucial here, if the stone looks too heavy on the top or bottom it’s not cut well.  Don’t forget to check for the bowtie shadow!

Emerald and Asscher– Symmetry, look for parallel lines, make sure the keel is even down the diamond in an emerald shape.  There should be no glaring inclusions that you can see with the naked eye.  Have your jeweler check to make sure none of the edges are chipped.

Radiant and Cushion- Proportions and symmetry should be stressed.  Check to see that all sides are even and symmetrical, similar to the marquise, all 4 sides and 4 corners should have the same curve or bulge.  If you imagine folding the diamond into 4ths, each corner should match.  No wonky corners or sides.  Proportions are a big consideration here as well, as explained earlier, we don’t want a bottom-heavy stone–that just means you’re paying for a stone with hidden weight that you can’t see once its set.

That little cheat sheet should get you through your diamond buying but if you have any questions email me or leave me a comment.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

 

 

 

Designer Jewelry Collaborations Worth Noting

 

Designer collaborations in clothing is nothing new.  Target has Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs and Marchesa collaborations in the pipeline and H&M has paired with Lanvin in the past and is rumored to be collaborating with one of my all time faves, Maison Martin Margiela this year.  Fine jewelry retailers are also getting on the designer collaboration bandwagon in an effort to sync up fashion and fine jewelry.  Here are some of the most SWOON-worthy designer jewelry collaborations that have caught my eye:

Blue Nile and Monique L’huillier

Online jewelry retailer, Blue Nile, known for its well-priced, customizable jewelry is revamping its image to become more fashion-forward.  The online retail giant’s newly announced collaboration with Monique L’huillier, a high-end clothing designer with a strong bridal business is pure strategic genius.  The Monique L’huillier fine jewelry line will launch exclusively on Blue Nile in October and will consist of engagement rings and wedding bands that range in price from $2,000-$5,000 with additional earrings, pendants and necklaces to be unveiled in time for Valentine’s Day 2013.  The pieces that I’ve seen thus far reflect the designer’s eye for detail and romantic aesthetic beautifully.  Discerning brides take note!

Designer Jewelry Collaborations Worth Noting

Monique L’huillier Fine Jewelry, exclusively on Blue Nile.  Photo courtesy of WWD

Kenzo Takada for 10 Royale

Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, of his eponymous label, Kenzo, is collaborating with Parisian jewelry atelier 10 Royale on a line of 20 pieces of fine jewelry using white gold, diamonds and rubies.  The pieces will reference Takada’s trademark aesthetic of florals and patterns and be centered around the theme of “floral blooming.”  It is reported that 10 Royale intends to collaborate on jewelry lines with a different designer every year.

Designer Jewelry Collaborations Worth Noting

Kenzo Takada for 10Royale.  Photo courtesy of WWD.

Philip Treacy for Voltaire Diamonds

London-based milliner, Philip Treacy, famed for his avant-garde creations will collaborate with Voltaire Diamonds on a line of engagement rings and bridal jewelry to launch on Valentines Day, 2013.  If his jewelry is anything like his hats, the pieces will speak to a very adventurous demographic of women with a sophisticated eye for design and modern sensibilities.  Can you think of anything more divine than a Lanvin wedding gown paired with a Philip Treacy engagement ring?  See my full post on the collaboration here.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

The Skinny On Synthetic Diamonds

 

This one is going to have people up in arms so lets set down the basics.  There are natural diamonds (i.e. a specific crystalline structure made of carbon produced over billions of years as a result of immense temperature and pressure in the earth’s mantle), synthetic diamonds (a specific crystalline carbon structure, made by man in a lab that simulates the same temperature and pressure conditions as those under which natural diamonds are formed) and simulants (other materials such as glass, moissanite, cubic zirconia, etc. which are not made of carbon and do not have the same crystal structure–these are not diamonds).  So many people, even industry professionals, confuse synthetic diamonds from simulants but we know better now don’t we?

Natural vs. Synthetic (Man-Made) Diamonds

Both are diamonds.  They share the chemical properties, crystal structure, hardness (10 on the Mohs scale–the hardest amongst minerals) and refractive index (how light or radiation passes through a medium).  It used to be that synthetic diamonds were created and used only for industrial purposes because manufacturers could not reproduce the high color or clarity needed for use in jewelry.  Times have changed and a company called Gemesis is now leading the market in synthetic diamonds–producing colorless (and fancy yellow colored) diamonds with VS-quality or better.  Furthermore, Gemesis claims that their synthetic diamond is priced anywhere from 25-50% lower than natural diamonds.

Too good to be true?  Most likely.  No matter how sophisticated the technology is, a diamond professional will always be able to distinguish between a natural and a synthetic diamond.  The give-away is in the growth structures, types of inclusions and the diamond’s reaction to UV light.  Without getting into specifics, lets just say a diamond expert worth her weight in diamond dust will be able to tell it’s a synthetic diamond upon careful inspection.  No one else will know except you and your diamond guru.

What does this mean for my DMD darlings?  Now, you know that I am never one to impose my preferences on others–I simply state the facts, the pros and cons and you wrinkle up your pretty little noses and figure out what works for you.  Synthetics, for the most part, are under 1.5 carats (it is currently too cost-prohibitive to make larger ones for retail sales, although DeBeers once grew a 25 carat synthetic).  Within that range, they will be cheaper than natural diamonds by anywhere from 25-50%.  However, because they are lab-made, they will never be as valuable as a real diamond–this is largely due to the rarity of natural diamonds that is a culmination of the mind-boggling conditions under which they were formed billions of years ago, the process by which they travelled to the surface of the earth over millions of years, and the expense that was required to mine them.  I liken it to wearing a dinosaur.  Natural diamonds are a limited resource that will one day be depleted.  As a result, a natural diamond will always continue to appreciate in value whereas a synthetic diamond will continue to decrease in value as technology becomes more advanced and lab-made diamonds become larger and more prevalent.  Here is an easy peasy chart to help you decide:

The Skinny On Synthetic Diamonds

There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a synthetic diamond.  In fact, for those of you who are sensitive to conflict diamonds, this may be a good alternative (see my post about conflict-free diamonds here).  I personally enjoy the idea of curating pieces that will one day be heirlooms for my hypothetical teapot-humans and if my diamonds appreciate in the meantime, I’ll take that too!  However, for those instances when I’m really jones-ing for some bauble-induced arthritis, I reach for my costume jewelry–which is made of simulants such as rhinestone, Swarovski crystal, moissanite, paste, etc.  More on costume jewelry later.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

 

Antique Engagement Ring Pros and Cons

 

In our fast-paced mass-produced high-tech world it is easy to see why some people seek refuge in the romanticism of antique jewelry.  Cue images of Lady Mary floating down the stairs of Downton Abbey to be greeted by a liveried footman on her way to the dining room where she will exchange flirtatious glances with Cousin Matthew over Isle Flottante (quite possibly one of my favorite desserts, recipe here).  SWOON!  But before you all go running off to sweep up whatever antique jewelry you come across I want all my DMD darlings to be armed with sufficient knowledge to make an informed decision as to whether or not you indeed want a piece of antique jewelry.

Diamond cutting technique has improved vastly over the centuries.  Todays diamonds are for the most part brilliant cuts (58 facets) or fancy cuts.  The brilliant cut was invented in the mid 17th century and maximize a diamond’s brilliance, fire and scintillation (sparkle).  The older round diamonds were either old miners cuts or European cuts and while they were the hight of sophisticated cutting technique at their time, visually they don’t compare to the modern-day round brilliant cuts.  My pet peeve when it comes to old miners cuts is the ENORMOUS culet.  What is a culet?  It is the facet that is at the point of a diamond.  Who cares if its enormous, you say?  Its hidden by the setting, you say.  Oh my dears, the culet size and placement is all important for the look of a diamond.  A culet that is too large will look like a black hole right smack in the middle of your diamond and will affect the appearance of the stone making it less brilliant and give the whole stone a dark look.  If the proportions of the diamond (crown or pavilion angles) are too shallow or too deep your diamond will look dull and lifeless and this is another trait that is very typical of old mine and European cuts.  Proportions and symmetry matter when choosing a diamond.

Antique Engagement Ring Pros and Cons

Old mine cut diamond ring. Gorgeous but note the big hole smack in the middle of the center stone.

 

Antique Engagement Ring Pros and Cons

Note the dark center on this old mine cut diamond. Regardless of the clarity of your diamond, if the cut isn’t good the entire stone will take on a much darker appearance and not have much sparkle.

 

Antique Engagement Ring Pros and Cons

Example of a European cut with the same issues, large culet and proportion and symmetry issues which result in a dull looking stone with a dark center (called a “nailhead” in the trade).

 

Am I telling you not to buy antique jewelry?  Absolutely not.  By all means if that’s what strikes your fancy then indulge, collect and curate away.  However, my DMD darlings should know the difference between antique diamonds cuts and the newer cuts so that you can buy wisely and set your expectations accordingly.  Don’t expect an antique cut to look as brilliant as, well, the brilliant cuts.  If you want diamond-induced blindness from your rock then stick to modern brilliant cuts.  If you don’t mind less sparkle then go antique.  If you want the blindness AND a romantic antique-y look, then go bespoke. . .obviously.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

p.s. Have you seen my Pinterest board of Downton Abbey jewels?  By “Downton Abbey” I mean late-Belle Époque and Art Deco eras, I don’t mean these were actually worn at Downton Abbey or on the show.

Boy’s Guide to Engagement Rings: Its All About Priorities

 

Few boys (I will forever call men “boys”, even when I’m 80.  It’s a term of endearment in the “boy crazy” sense of the word) have good girlfriends who are willing to talk sense into them and help them select a diamond that is intended for someone else.  For those boys out there who do have that, appreciate the friendship!  Boys who don’t, allow me to assist. . .

A DMD girl, lets call her T, wrote to me over the weekend seeking some diamonds pearls of wisdom for her friend, a boy who is planning on proposing to his girlfriend:

Hi JZP,

I was hoping your brother would have inherited some of the Poh Dynasty diamond knowledge, but he let me know that you are much more qualified to answer my questions!  I would be grateful for any advice you have – I love reading your DMD posts and am a bit of an addict.
My friend is looking to buy an engagement ring and I was trying to figure out the marginal costs associated with each increment of colour, clarity and size.  He was looking for a one piece brilliant cut diamond of 1 carat or more, but that is all he knows.  He has a maximum budget of £20,000 (because I said so), so at today’s rate that would be circa $31,000.  However, he is also keen to find out what he can get for £10,000 ($15,000) because that is what most of his friends have spent (sheep).
I have three questions:
1.  What is the minimum colour and clarity he should go for for a 1 carat diamond and how much roughly would that cost?
 There is a 31K answer for that and a 15k answer my dear.  Your budget will dictate your prospects.  Wholesale prices on a 1 carat round brilliant cut as of June 8th range from $1,100 to $28,900 PER carat.  So I’m going to answer your questions based on the budgets below.
2.  (Cheeky question) If you had $15,000, what diamond would you get?
For $15k I would go for G or F color (G is considered near colorless and F is in the colorless range) and VS1 or VS2 clarity (Very Slightly Included).  A one carat in this color/clarity range should fall nicely in this budget if you are not planning on doing side stones.  Within this range I think color is more important so I would go with F color, VS1-VS2 clarity, and choose the best and biggest you can find.
The process would be like this: decide on F color, is there money left?  Then go up in clarity VS1 rather than VS2.  More money left? Then go bigger.  Always use budget as a benchmark, then set your color range and then max out size or clarity (which one you choose depends on the wearer, is she a “size matters” girl or does she care more about quality?).
Note: Cut will also factor into the pricing. A round brilliant with excellent cut will always be more expensive than the same diamond with a good cut.  There will be three cut factors: proportion, symmetry and polish and they will be assigned “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “fair” and “poor”.  In this price/color/clarity range don’t go below ONE GOOD (the others should be VG or Ex).  AND MAKE SURE THE DIAMOND COMES WITH A GIA CERTIFICATE!
3.  In your expert opinion, if you had $31,000, what size, colour and clarity of diamond would you get?
With $31k you can play a bit.  Here the considerations are different.  You can either go bigger to 1.5 carats or stick to the 1 carat but get a better color/clarity.  Personally, I would go up to a 1.5 carat E or F color (VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included) or VS1) and within that range I would prefer a 1.5 carat E VS1 and the reason for that is in the future if you upgrade your engagement ring to a bigger size you can find a mate for your 1.5 carat E color VS1 and make a pair of stellar studs (with studs the considerations should be (in my humble opinion) color, then size, then cut then clarity).  Always know your end game my dear.  In this situation you see the considerations are different from those in the 15k budget.  In this price range, once you determine your budget, then set a color range of E-F, then max out size, followed by cut then clarity.  For this diamond the cut should be ALL excellent with no more than ONE VERY GOOD (but try for triple Ex).  Again, GIA cert!
4.  If he takes that diamond as a base level of quality, what can he improve in terms of size, colour and clarity for each additional £2,000 ($3000) he spends? It is always difficult to know which of the three to spend your extra money on, size, colour or clarity and that is what I was hoping you could provide some guidance on.
I agree this is difficult, the considerations vary for each price-range and the individual.  A pretty safe rule is budget>color>cut>size/clarity (order of the last one depends on the priority of the wearer).  If he is spending $20-31k he would have the most options if he went bespoke as the pret-a-porter shops tend to have massive mark-ups and have much less flexibility.
I wish there was a nice little matrix for diamond geeks like me to figure out all the combinations of what we can get for our buck.
T
Adorable!  Thank you T for your lovely email.  I am a big fan of “because I said so” and its a line I drop like a ton of bricks.  However, if your friend decides to go with his original budget rather than the DMD tyrant budget your suggestion don’t despair my darling, just keep in mind two things: 1) even a sheep turns into prince charming if you love him enough and 2) when the time comes she can always upgrade!  Always feel free to email me directly with questions about engagement rings and jewelry (or better yet, leave them as comments directly on my blog, I’m very responsive).  As always. . .
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,
JZP