World’s Greatest Jewelers: Laurence Graff
Posted August 28, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Laurence Graff

(Taken from Society’s Choice Magazine)


Laurence Graff, Master Jeweler

Celebrity hairdresser Harold Leighton pinned the last curl to the crown of the models head as the photographer snapped the first image. The model batted her doe eyes, emphasized with heavy mascara on her lower lashes, as she posed for the next shot. In the wings of the shoot stood diamond cutter Laurence Graff, a pleased smile creeping across his lips. Graff imagined magazine readers flipping through their pages and pausing among the advertisements when they came to this image–his brainchild–of a young girl, hair pinned up in large curls, peeking out under the weight of $1 million worth of precious gem and diamond jewelry.

This iconic 1970’s image, called “Hair & Jewel,” was commissioned by Laurence Graff to promote his jewelry business. It was a daring move, as he was still building his business and diamonds were mainly worn by wealthier, older women as a status symbol–not by provocative sex-kittens, and certainly not worn as a decoration for the hair. Graff explains his concept as “groundbreaking” and “unconventional.” He liked that it broke the traditional, conservative style of modeling jewelry.

Sometimes called the “King of Diamonds” or “The New Harry Winston,” English jeweler Laurence Graff was born into a Jewish family near London in 1938. He left school at age 15 to become an apprentice at a jewelry store, and later partnered with another jeweler, Schindler, to repair rings and create jewelry. Due to the financial situation in England at the time, many people opted to have rings repaired rather than purchase a new one, so the pair had plenty of work. Since Schindler specialized in the repair work, Graff started to design his own jewelry pieces inspired by the “Victoriana” period. He started selling pieces for 2-3 pounds each, and eventually earned credit to buy some diamonds. He incorporated these diamonds into a ring, which he sold for 100 pounds. Each piece earned Graff more money, paving the way for his growing business.

England’s economy made it tough for Graff and Schindler to sustain their business, and eventually they went out of business. Graff said there wasn’t enough business in England, so he traveled the world and started making money by selling jewelry in the Far East. After several years on the road, Graff returned to England to set up shop. In 1960 he founded the Graff Diamonds Company, and by 1962, he had two jewelry shops–one of which was located in Hatton Garden, the center of London’s jewelry trade since medieval times. Graff set himself apart from other designers in 1970, when he released the “Hair & Jewel” advertisement photo. His modern take on jewelry drew the attention of Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz, who purchased everything in Graff’s shop (including a 14 carat diamond) in a single day! In 1973, Graff became the first jeweler to be presented with the Queens Award to Industry–an award renewed in 1977, 1994, and 2006. Today, Graff has over 40 stores worldwide.

Graff made a huge purchase in 2008 when he bought the Wittelsbach Diamond for 16.4 million pounds–much higher than its 9 million pounds guide price. In 2010, Graff revealed he had three diamond cutters repolish the stone to eliminate chips and improve the stone’s clarity, reducing the diamond’s size from 35.52 carats to 31 carats. The stone was also renamed after the polish, and is now known as the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond. Gemologist Richard W. Wise said the repolish raised the GIA grade of the stone from a “fancy deep grayish blue” to a “fancy deep blue” and raised the clarity from VS2 to IF. As of June 2014, the Wittelsbach-Graff is housed in Gstaad, Switzerland and is worth 4.8 billion dollars.

Graff celebrated his 60th year in the jewelry business in June 2013, and marked the event by starting his collection of vintage cars and opening 7 news stores in Asia. Additionally, he recreated the “Hair & Jewel” image with a modern twist–the jewels used in the 60th anniversary photograph are worth $500 million. Graff still holds the chairman title of Graff Diamonds International, and his son, Francois, serves as the CEO.

What Are HPHT Diamonds?
Posted August 11, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Sample GIA Report with HPHT Diamond

Designed in the 1950s to make the diamond industry more lucrative, the process of creating high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) diamonds is actually having a negative impact on today’s industry. HPHT diamonds are less expensive than their natural counterparts and develop a significantly better color after undergoing this process.

Companies purchase cheaper, less desirable diamonds, put them through the HPHT process, and sell the resulting (and better looking) gems at a much higher price. The HPHT process allows manufacturers to select flawed or discolored diamonds and alter them into more desirable colorless, pink, blue, or canary yellow diamonds.

Process:
To recreate the process that takes place deep inside the Earth’s crust, HPHT diamonds are subjected to extremely high temperature and pressure inside special machines in a lab. Temperatures soar as high as 2,600 degrees Celsius to imitate the naturally occurring heat in the earth necessary to create a natural diamond. The exorbitant cost of the energy and machinery required to perform such a task results in a very desirable (and lucrative) product—a colorless diamond.

Concerns:
With many consumers wanting to purchase the “biggest and best” diamond, the demand for HPHT diamonds grew. These enhanced stones allow consumers to get a larger stone with better color for less than what they would pay for a natural diamond of the same specifications—but at what cost? Purchasing HPHT diamonds is not recommended for several reasons. These enhanced stones can show hints of color that is visible from the side of the stone upon close inspection. They also tend to lose some of their original weight and clarity during the process. Even more concerning is that HPHT diamonds tend to be magnetic and some can even be picked up by magnetic force!

HPHT can only be used on high-clarity diamonds (VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, and flawless) because the extreme pressure and temperature can cause diamonds with inclusions or fractures to explode during the process.

Responses From the GIA:
It’s difficult to distinguish natural diamonds from HPHT stones, so some consumers inadvertently purchase enhanced diamonds thinking they are real. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) wanted to remedy this situation to help prospective buyers truly know whether they were looking at a natural or enhanced stone. A team, led by the GIA’s director of research, Dr. Wuyi Wang, put diamonds through a barrage of tests to indicate whether they were natural or not. They discovered that in order to differentiate the HPHT from the natural diamonds, advanced spectroscopic techniques needed to be used. An instrument called the DiamondView is used to detect synthetic diamonds by looking for unique spectroscopic telltale features like a lack of natural graining in the stone.

Conclusion:
Many companies around the globe are experimenting with HPHT treatments, and not all are marking these enhanced stones with proper identification. Therefore, it is becoming more and more difficult for industry professionals and GIA researchers to differentiate between HPHT and natural diamonds. Researchers at the GIA continue to develop new techniques to identify HPHT gems, but keeping up with the developing technology is challenging.

In a press release, GIA representatives said HPHT diamonds “can be detected only at knowledgeable, experienced, fully-equipped gemological laboratories. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to conclusively identify all HPHT-treated diamonds, although we believe that the vast majority are detectable by a well-equipped laboratory with qualified staff and extensive gemological data to reference.”

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Planning for a Wedding
Posted June 30, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

When you’re planning your own wedding, it’s easy to think that you can handle everything by yourself. That may be true, but mistakes are inevitable for even the most meticulous of human beings.

5 Common Mistakes Image

Photo from Terry Smith

We all want our wedding day to be the perfect, and while we can’t avoid unforeseen problems that may arise during the ceremony or reception, we can try to minimize the possibility of anything going wrong by avoiding these 5 common mistakes during wedding planning:

1. Not setting a budget.
A wedding will incur costs, whichever way you look at it. One of the most common mistakes that couples make is failing to establish a budget from the beginning, and then finding themselves at a loss on how to make ends meet. Starting your married life with a ton of debts isn’t exactly a great way to go about it, so determine what funds you do have from the get go, and then decide on how it’s going to be used. Set a budget first, draft a guest list second, and then think about everything else after.

2. Forgetting to take the weather into consideration.
Holding your wedding in the summer isn’t an assurance of good weather. The weather is the most fickle factor of nature, and should never be taken for granted. Protect yourself and your big day by preparing a plan B in case bad weather does decide to show up during the celebration.

3. Losing sight of what’s important.
Never forget that the wedding ceremony is the main point of the whole event – the celebration that comes after is a direct result of getting hitched in the first place. So pay attention to the details surrounding the ceremony and don’t leave it to be planned last. Instead of stressing about the minute details of the wedding reception, think back to the main reason that this is even happening in the first place, and that is to get married to the one you love.

4. Hiring amateurs.
Regardless if these people who you’ve tapped to take charge of the photography are your friends, if they don’t have any background in wedding photography, then you’re looking at a newbie. And sure, that amateur band from your neighborhood plays awesome music, but do they have the experience that a tried and tested wedding band has to get people to join in on the celebration at the reception?

True, you may be saving quite a bit by entrusting these services to friends and amateurs who’d do it for a fraction of the cost charged by professionals, but would you really want to take that risk for possibly the best day of your life? When tying the knot in Scotland, agencies such as Music for Scotland can help you find highly experienced music professionals to suit your taste.

5. Doing everything yourself.
Thinking that you can do everything yourself is a major ingredient in a recipe for disaster. It may be possible, but then you’d end up totally burned out by the time the wedding day comes. Don’t try to take on everything yourself – ask for help when you need it. And never forget that a wedding is between two people. Don’t exclude your husband-to-be from the planning: shop around for vendors together, engage him in deciding if a specific set of wedding jewelry looks good on you, and allow him to put in his two cents about the wedding music to be played during the ceremony. It’s as much his day as it is yours.

These won’t prevent you from making any mistakes during the course of planning for a wedding. But knowing what common mistakes there are will give you an idea of what to avoid, and make for better planning.

Melissa Page regularly contributes for Music For Scotland (http://musicforscotland.co.uk/ ), the premier live music agency in Scotland. For more of her musings, follow her on Twitter @Melissapage90

Greatest Myths Local Jewelers Tell You
Posted June 11, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Greatest Myths Header

Selecting the ideal diamond or piece of jewelry can be a daunting task, and a dishonest jeweler may take advantage of an unknowing customer. Over the years, many false facts and rumors have been shared by local jewelers in order to scare customers into making a purchase. Here are seven of the greatest myths suspicious jewelers are likely to tell their customers:

 
Certification is Not Necessary.

When purchasing any diamond above ½ carat, always ask for certification of the stone from a reputable lab such as the GIA or AGS. If you are working with a truly honest jeweler, he or she will not hesitate to provide one.

Unscrupulous jewelers may “grade” their own diamonds and, in doing so, may exaggerate the color, cut or clarity without marking them on the certification. Be firm when requesting the certification. If your jeweler is reluctant to provide you with a reputable certification, consider working with a different jewelry professional.

 
Buying Loose Diamonds Online is Unsafe.

Online jewelers offer a larger selection of loose diamonds than most “brick-and-mortar” jewelry stores because they are able to list their entire inventory of wholesale diamonds. Traditional stores usually have a small supply of loose stones to show a customer at any given time. To combat this shortcoming, a dishonest jeweler may tell you it’s unsafe to purchase a loose diamond online.

Simply because a company sells loose diamonds online does not make it unsafe. Like any other online purchase, you do need to investigate the seller and the company to ensure they have a good reputation. The best, and safest, way to determine the safety of an online seller is to check their online reviews and make sure they are part of accredited business organizations such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

 
Online Diamond Retailers Can’t Compete on Service.

Today’s technology allows you to shop and compare prices from the comfort of your own home, something underhanded jewelers may say is impersonal. You can certainly select any online jewelry site, visit it, and make a purchase without ever interacting with another human; however, many people like the ability to discuss their options with a store clerk or jeweler before buying anything.

Look for retailers offering live, online chat or a phone number if you want a jewelry-buying experience with a personal touch. Talking to someone live gives you immediate answers to any questions you may have, makes your buying experience more personal, and gives you peace of mind about the reliability of the online jeweler.

Another excellent way to choose a personable online retailer is to look for a jeweler who offers custom work. In order to customize any piece of jewelry, you will need to talk to your jeweler throughout the process. Any online company offering such a service is dedicated to meeting the needs of their clients and will make every effort to personally connect with you.

 
You Have to Set Aside at Least Three Months of Your Salary For a Good Diamond.

This is perhaps one of the most well-known myths told by untrustworthy jewelers. For some odd reason, many people–especially men saving up to buy engagement rings–believe that three months’ salary equates to an impressive diamond.

An honest jeweler will not encourage this myth, but rather will work to provide the client with the best piece of jewelry within his pre-determined budget.

 
White Gold is Stronger Than Platinum.

In a word, false. White gold is most often available in two purities: 14K and 18K. The higher the karat, the purer the gold content. For example, 14K white gold contains 58.3% pure gold, while 18K contains 75%. Gold is a very soft precious metal, so the higher the pure gold content in a piece of jewelry, the softer (and less durable) the piece.

Platinum, which is 90-95% pure, is a very dense precious metal, which makes it stronger, heavier, and more durable than gold. Because of its strength, Platinum protects stones better than white gold. Therefore, it is advisable to have your center stone set in platinum. White gold tends to change color with wear and time, so it needs to be replated with rhodium to keep its color and shine. Platinum does not require any plating and is the same color throughout, so jewelery made from this metal requires less maintenance.

 
Diamonds Are Indestructible.

Registering a 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, there’s no doubt that a diamond is one of the toughest stones on Earth. Despite this, if diamonds are improperly handled or placed in settings carelessly, they can still chip or crack.

Before you purchase or have work performed on a diamond, make sure the jeweler has insurance and that it covers all work done on the premises. Shifty jewelers may work in even the classiest shops, so it is always a good idea to ensure the jeweler is covered in case your diamond breaks during a repair; otherwise, you will be financially responsible for replacing it.

 
Different Diamond Certification Agencies Grade the Same Way.

As a general rule, you should purchase a diamond that comes with a certification from a reputable agency. Such institutions include the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the American Gemological Society (AGS), the European Gemological Laboratory (EGL), and the International Gemological Institute (IGI). All four agencies provide certifications, however, not all certifications contain the same information nor are they graded the same way.

The GIA is the most rigorous with their ratings of color and clarity, while the IGI and the EGL are not. Learn more about the differences between EGL vs. GIA.

Radiant Cut vs. Princess Cut Diamond
Posted May 28, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Radiant Vs. Princess

Both the Princess and the Radiant are beautiful diamond cuts, especially for engagement rings. Some would even say they are very much alike given their squarish shapes. If you’re trying to decide which of the two best suits your choice of diamond jewelry, there are a few basic questions you will need to ask.

How different are they?

One of the more noticeable differences between the two cuts can be seen in the diamond’s corners. The Princess, or “quadrillion” cut, has sharp, uncut edges, giving it a more geometric look. The true Radiant features corners that are cut, and is described by the GIA as a “cut-cornered square mixed cut”.

Another difference is the shape. While there are exceptions to both shapes, Radiant cuts tend to be rectangular while Princess cuts are mostly square. Although similar in shape, these two cuts are quite different in popularity. The Princess is a very popular diamond cut, second only to the Round Brilliant Cut. In comparison, there is less demand for the Radiant Cut, so it is not as readily available on the market.

How are they cut?

When you look closely at a Princess Cut diamond, you will notice an “X” in its center. This is the result of a vertically cut pavilion and chevron-shaped facets. The modern Princess Cut usually has 76 facets, while earlier versions only had 58.

The Radiant Cut has a slightly higher crown and a smaller table compared to that of the Princess Cut. There is a circular pattern on the Radiant Cut when you look at it from the top, a result of multiple facets on its crown, girdle, and pavilion.

Which one sparkles more?

Because of its brilliant facets, the Radiant Cut reflects light better than the Princess Cut and therefore has better sparkle. The Radiant Cut was invented by Henry Grossbard in 1977, who wanted to generate more interest for square and rectangular diamond shapes in jewelry pieces. He took the basic shape of the Emerald Cut and added more brilliant facets to develop the Radiant Cut.

Not long after Grossbard’s creation of the Radiant Cut, the Princess Cut was born. This new square cut was the result of the desire to retain more of the rough diamond’s weight by altering the Radiant Cut’s facets, thereby avoiding patent infringement. The Princess Cut gives off black and white reflections because of its contrasting linear facets.

Which one is best for my lifestyle?

The Radiant Cut is better suited for those with active lifestyles because it doesn’t feature sharp corners that can get caught or chipped off with rigorous activities. It is also the best cut for multiple-prong settings because of its cut corners. On the other hand, the Princess Cut features a geometric shape that makes it ideal for those who prefer channel settings.

The budget is also a consideration when choosing between the two diamond cuts. The Princess Cut is more affordable than the Radiant Cut because it retains up to 80-percent of its rough diamond weight. It is also cheaper to produce, since one rough diamond typically yields two Princess Cut diamonds.