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.

What is Argentium Silver
Posted May 22, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Argentium silver Logo

(Taken from Argentium Silver Company’s Twitter)

Marked with the “flying unicorn” logo, Argentium Silver is the brand name patented and trademarked by the Argentium Silver Company in the United Kingdom. This modern version of sterling silver contains more pure silver than its traditional counterpart, and its unique combination of metals gives it a natural brightness that makes it outshine gold, platinum and traditional sterling silver. With a tarnish-resistant, durable finish that is free of any plating, argentium won’t chip or crack. It’s these qualities that make argentium an appealing choice for your jewelry items.



In 1990, Peter Johns and his team of researchers at the Art and Design Research Institute (ADRI) in the School of Art and Design at Middlesex University, started to investigate the effects of adding various amounts of Germanium to silver alloys. Through their research, the team discovered that the resulting sterling silver was more resistant to tarnish, exhibited an increased ductility, had an increased thermal and electrical resistance, and eliminated the need for firestain removal, making this re-vamped metal “environmentally-friendly.”



Traditional sterling silver combines 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% other metals (usually copper). Pieces of jewelry made from sterling are usually stamped with “.925” to indicate their purity. Argentium silver uses more pure silver and is available in two grades–.932 and .960. The number associated with each grade indicates the percentage of pure silver contained in the piece.

Prior to the introduction of Argentium Silver, the most highly-revered silver was the United Kingdom’s Britannia Silver which required a minimum pure silver content of 95.8%. While both grades of Argentium contain more pure silver than traditional sterling, only the 96.0% Argentium contains more pure silver than the UK’s Britannia Silver.


Durability and Versatility

Some sterling silver jewelry pieces are prone to scratches, dents, and deformation, especially if you wear them daily. Argentium Silver is stronger and more durable than traditional sterling, making it more resistant to these types of damages.

Ideally, you want a metal that is soft and malleable to work with when forming a piece of jewelry, but also hardens in its finished state. Argentium Silver is known for its superior hardness and durability, and unlike traditional sterling silver, it can be hardened effectively by heat treatments without any negative side effects. Easily manipulated in its softened state, Argentium is an ideal material to use to create various shapes and settings for jewelry.

Argentium silver lends itself to modern technologies because it has a unique property that allows it to be welded and fused. Four Argentium Silver alloys are available–two for mill products and two for casting applications–ensuring you get the perfect alloy for any manufacturing project.


Color and Tarnish Resistance

Brighter than white gold, sterling silver, and platinum, Argentium Silver is the whitest metal with the longest-lasting shine. With no plating to chip away or tarnish, Argentium’s natural white-silver color is the same throughout the entire piece.

Tests conducted using a colorimeter and the CIELAB color measurement system showed Argentium displayed superior brightness and whiteness compared to other precious metals. In fact, Argentium is approximately 4.5 times brighter and twice as white as traditional sterling silver.

Metals are regularly tested for “tarnish resistance” in the jewelry industry. These tests are designed to replicate the effects of exposing the metal to environmental elements such as sulphur, perspiration, and ultraviolet rays. Designed to test corrosion on precious metals, the sulphur test reproduces the gases found in the atmosphere and in other substances often used daily. To determine the effects of perspiration and skin contact with metal, the perspiration test is performed. Finally, the ultraviolet (UV) test checks metals for susceptibility to UV rays and photosensitivity. Results indicate that Argentium 935 is about 7 times more tarnish resistant to sterling silver, while Argentium 960 is nearly 8 times more resistant.


Firestain Resistance

Firestain (or firescale) appears as a dark stain on the surface of sterling silver objects when heated. A result of oxygen in the flame attacking the copper alloy found in sterling silver, the firestain is actually a copper oxide that penetrates the surface of the silver object. Prolonged heating and hammering cause the firestain to affect deeper layers of the silver, making it more difficult to remove.

While it may not sound like a big problem initially, abrasives and acid may be required to remove a deeply penetrating firestain. This labor-intensive process leads to an increase in labor and manufacturing costs, as well as environmental and workplace health concerns due to the toxic nature of the chemicals used in firestain removal.

Test results on Argentium Silver show excellent firestain resistance during heating, while both traditional sterling and standard deox silver alloy both showed deep layers of firestain. Since heating does not result in firestain on Argentium, acid and abrasives are not required to remove the staining during production, saving time, cost, and exposure to hazardous chemicals.


Conservation and Environmentally-Friendly Practices

The Argentium Silver Company prides itself on using only recycled silver for production and guarantees traceability of its raw silver. Due to the firestain-resistant nature of Argentium, the use of toxic chemicals used to remove firestain is eliminated, helping to protect the environment. Many properties of Argentium allow it to be manufactured more quickly and efficiently, decreasing labor and resource costs and cutting back on manufacturing time. All Argentium alloys are nickel-free, resulting in jewelry pieces that can be worn by individuals with nickel allergies.

Argentium is a low-maintenance metal, making it very easy to care for and keep clean. At Brilliance, we strive to provide you with the highest quality metals and offer several Argentium wedding rings including the Mens Diamond Wedding Ring in Silver, Black Diamond Mens Wedding Ring in Silver, and the Black Diamond Mens Silver Wedding Ring.


World’s Greatest Diamond Cutters: Lazare Kaplan
Posted May 8, 2014 by Sharon 0 in Education

Lazare Kaplan Photo

Today, we’re unveiling the second article in Brilliance.com’s latest feature series, “World’s Greatest Diamond Cutters.” Our homage to the best diamond cleavers continues with an in-depth look into the life and creations of Antwerp’s Lazare Kaplan.

For months, he studied the giant stone. Some say he “lived, ate, and breathed” the diamond, spending every minute examining its features, determining the best way to perfectly cleave this beast. After a year of gazing through its frosty, challenging surface, creating many models of the stone, and reviewing many mathematical formulas to calculate the precise cleavage lines, master diamond cutter Lazare Kaplan scratched a wedge into the stone and placed his knife into the wedge. He raised his mallet and was about to strike the end of his knife when something caught his eye. A bend in the surface of the stone made Kaplan slowly lower his mallet and reinspect the diamond. Realizing he would’ve made a massive error by cleaving the diamond along the original line, he drew a second line, created another wedge, and cleaved the 726-carat Jonker diamond perfectly.

Descended from three generations of jewelers, Russian-born Lazare Kaplan grew up in Belgium. In 1896, at the young age of 13, Kaplan began his apprenticeship at his uncle’s diamond cutting factory. His manual dexterity and knack for cleaving flawed and irregular stones made Kaplan one of the most well-known diamond cutters of his time. At age 20, Kaplan started his own diamond business and became one of Antwerp’s leading diamond cleavers.

Kaplan started a family and, since his business was very successful, he decided to take his family to the U.S. to visit his mother in New York. While on vacation, World War I broke out. The Germans overran Belgium, destroying Kaplan’s business. He decided to start over and built a small shop in lower Manhattan. Again, Kaplan’s immaculate work and attention to detail made him very popular in the diamond-cutting industry. As his business grew, he needed more workers (which were in short supply due to the labor shortage in the U.S.), so he went to Puerto Rico where he found many highly capable men eager to learn the trade. Kaplan created an apprenticeship program, launching a new industry of diamond cutters and polishers trained in the “Lazare Kaplan tradition.” This training program provided the workers with skills said to exceed the highest standards in the international diamond industry.

In 1919, Kaplan’s cousin, Marcel Tolkowsky, developed the mathematical formula used to create “ideal cut diamonds.” This formula determined the precise angles and proportions necessary to give the diamond the ability to optimally reflect and refract light, giving the stone the maximum amount of sparkle, brilliance, and fire. To this day, Lazare Kaplan International still uses this formula to cut ideal diamonds.

Business was again booming for Kaplan until 1929 when the stock market crashed, ruining his business again. By this time, his son, Leo, was working for him and managed to save every penny his father paid him in the diamond company. Leo withdrew the $300 he saved and loaned it to his father to rebuild his business.

Kaplan’s claim to fame came in 1936 when Harry Winston commissioned him to cut the 726-carat Jonker diamond. While the stone was insured for one-million dollars, the insurance did not cover the cleaving operation, putting even more pressure on Kaplan to provide an expert cut. Prior to hiring Kaplan for the job, Winston consulted with the best European cutters on the best way to cleave the Jonker. The majority of the European cutters agreed on the best way to cut the stone, but Kaplan had a slightly different idea–one that would result in a slightly greater loss of carat weight, but obtain the maximum fire and brilliance in each of the cut gemstones. Kaplan later called the Jonker a “freak of nature” because what appeared to be a cleavage plane on the surface, was not the cleavage at all. In fact, had Kaplan split the stone at the false cleavage plane, he may have ruined the stone.

The 13 resulting gems ranged in size from a 3.53 carat Baguette to a 142.9 carat Emerald cut. The latter retained the name “Jonker,” and featured 66 facets. It was later re-cut to change the proportions and give the stone a more oblong shape with greater brilliance. Many experts have inspected the cut diamond, most of whom call it the “most perfectly cut gem in existence.”

While cutting the Jonker was Kaplan’s most notable achievement, he also created the “Oval Elegance” diamond cut. Not an easy cut to achieve, Kaplan lent his cutting talents to create an oval cut stone with 58-facets. He said this spectacular cut made the stone appear larger than its round counterpart of the same carat weight, and produced more brilliance than other fancy cuts.

Recognized by the Gemological Institute of America in 1964, Kaplan’s contributions to the jewelry industry earned him the title of “honorary vice president.” In 1979, Kaplan was presented with the first international Hall of Fame Award for Jewelry Leadership by the Retail Jewelers of America (RJA). Board chairman and executive director, Michael Roman, said, “[Kaplan’s] great imagination and extraordinary ability to visualize diamond shapes in three dimension in the original crystal are the reasons many consider him the world’s premier diamond cutter.”

Lazare Kaplan Logo

An amazing diamond cutter recognized for over 75 years of innovative diamond designs and cutting, Lazare Kaplan died at the age of 102 at his farm in Sullivan County, New York. His company still thrives today as Lazare Kaplan International–the only U.S. diamond cutting firm listed on AMEX, and the company owning the worldwide patent on the diamond laser inscription process.