Sunday, 11 June 2017

Is it real? A musing on gemstones and their simulants and knowing what you're buying.

All the above are types of synthetic ruby.   Photo GIA.
Putting my gemmologist hat on today! 
 
If you are buying jewellery described as containing some sort of gem (s) and pearls, don't be afraid to question the authenticity of the stones or pearls and even the metals. Please!
 
Although replacing gems with simulants has happened for centuries, I have recently seen a lot of people who make jewellery, describing the items they use as a particular gem when they are actually something else entirely.   What are they really?   Often they are a lower cost stone that has been treated to look like a valuable gem and that is usually a manmade / synthetic copy, glass or even plastic!
 
Natural amber (left), heated and clarified amber with its typical sun-spangle look (middle) and plastic (right).
 
Wouldn't you feel more comfortable knowing what you have really bought?   Whether its $30 or $3000, the customer has a right to know exactly what they are getting.    
 
Moonstone (left) and opalite (glass) (right)
The practice appears to becoming rife - in just one day, I saw these examples online:
 
"moonstone" that is really glass,
"pearls" made of shell coated with a lustrous 'paint', 
''lapis lazuli" that is sodalite (a less costly and more brittle stone that contains no pyrite) 
"lapis lazuli" that is a manmade simulant; 
"turquoise" that is dyed magnesite or howlite;
"turquoise" that is actually a very low grade turquoise that has been powdered, compressed and dyed;
"silver" and "gold" that is plated metal;
"chrysocolla" which is dyed jasper, agate or manmade;
"amber" which is really plastic;
and if I looked more the list would go on ... and on! 
(And the prices of the jewellery containing the misnamed stones were not just a few dollars but in the range from $30-$180!)

Cultured pearls (left, photo GIA), shell pearls (right)

Even some jewellery stores gloss over reality. Those "emerald" and 9ct gold rings for $250 with a lovely green colour you see in the jewellery brochures? Look at the fine print and you will find they are either synthetic, a manmade simulant or at the very least a composite stone.  A few months ago I was collecting a watch repair in a reputable jewellery store and heard and saw a sales assistant refer to a synthetic emerald as just "emerald" to a potential customer, without going into the detail of what it actually was made from!
 
Lapis lazuli (left) is often replaced with sodalite (right) (photo ivenchev.com)
 
Imitation Lapis Lazuli under magnification (photo GIA)
To add to the confusion, many manmade simulants have gem sounding names eg. opalite is actually manmade glass. "silver tone" is a way of saying base metal with a silver colour, "goldstone" is a manmade aventurine glass.  Cubic Zirconia has been around so long that it's almost accepted as a gem even though it is manmade and can come in virtually any colour you desire. 

Photo: Beadworks

Whilst not everyone selling jewellery is meaning to deceive you by misnaming the materials an item is made with - I'm sure many are really lovely people who just want to create - but their lack of knowledge (and sometimes experience) means they believe what the wholesaler is telling them.   
 
A couple of decades ago, the ability to buy gemstones or pearls was limited to a small number of jewellery professionals who had a relationship with cutters and gemstone dealers and occasionally dealt directly with the miners.   Alternately a visit by a tourist to an area that was known for a certain gem - eg. Tahiti for black pearls, Baltic countries for amber, etc. meant they could bring back jewellery or stones/pearls.     Synthetics and simulants were available but there was less intent by the dealer to deceive, although people did occasionally get caught out, usually by a 'bargain'.

These days, however, there are thousands of websites selling all variety of gemstones and pearls, some are long established and inherently honest but, unfortunately, some are not so truthful in their descriptions - many describing items as what they are simulating rather than what material they actually are.  
 
 
Chrysocolla (left),  and some of the simulants:- (2nd from left) beads described on Etsy as "azurite chrysocolla jasper"ould likely to test as treated jasper, (3rd in row) beads described as "azurite chrysocolla jasper are a composite bead of stone powder, polymers and dyes, (right) "azurite chrysocolla" on a Chinese site - these could be dyed jasper or more likely are similar to the beads in the 3rd photo iwh a polymer coating for shine.
 
Add to this small hobby shops that may purchase strands of beads and on-sell them as what they believe them to be, but without expert knowledge to properly identify them - and the misinformation continues.

Even I have bought gems online described as "genuine" or "natural" and when they arrived have found them to be a mix of ground stone powder, polymers and dye! Ebay for example, is a minefield of misinformation.  (Although I am sure there are some selling genuine product as well). 

Not everyone who makes jewellery can be a gemmologist, but the creators and sellers of jewellery do need to take responsibility to make sure they know what they are buying and that the information they pass on is accurate, so that their customer has full confidence in what they are purchasing.

Goldstone is a type of aventurine glass, some people believe it to be a natural gemstone and sometimes it can be used as a simulant for Sunstone.
So, what can you do as a consumer? If the piece is very inexpensive, it is likely not to contain genuine gems or precious metals, so if you love a pair of earrings around $10-15 that are described as "moonstone and silver" just know that it is highly likely they are glass and plated metal. If you love them anyway, then by all means buy them as there is not a large monetary investment by you and you buy them just because you like them - not because they are supposedly moonstone. 
 
If, however, those same earrings are $40, $80, $120 or even $250... then you DO need to question the seller. Ask where the stone is from? (If they bought the stone from China or their local "bead shop", definitely ask more questions and perhaps do some research). Is it genuine? Is the silver sterling silver or plated metal?   You may be happy to buy non-genuine gems, but you should at least know that is what you are purchasing.

If the person who is selling the item can't answer your questions fully, then perhaps you need to keep looking, or get someone in the field you know and trust to make something similar for you.

If you are buying online, do the same thing - have a look at the seller's experience and background and make sure the items are fully described.  If the information is scanty, then take into account the old saying "buyer beware". At the very least, send the seller a message and ask questions. 

Don't let this put you off buying jewellery, but if you love natural gems and cultured pearls and prefer to buy genuine gems and pearls, do question more :)
 
Till next,
Annette
 
P.S. I follow the CIBJO (the world jewellery confederation) standards for jewellery professionals and fully disclose materials and any known treatments.  I also examine gems and pearls that I use so that you know exactly what you are buying and can rest assured that your items are genuine and 'real'. :)  Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery
 
P.P.S.  If you are designer and/or maker of jewellery, do acquaint yourself with the Blue Books put out by the CIBJO, they are freely available to read and download on their website.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Jewellery from the 2017 Golden Globes - diamonds and more diamonds!









The 2017 Awards season kicked off with glittering diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds...  such as the stylish Drew Barrymore (above) who wore more than $2.5 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds on her ears and fingers! 

 Fortunately a few brave souls chose some colour and stood out for their choice.

There were more necklaces on view, almost exclusively diamonds.  Earrings were in the main a drop style, although a few studs were apparent.   Once again, those who chose something in between stood out for being a bit different from everyone else.    Bracelets were around although not as many as previous years.  Rings were there but only played a centre stage role for a few stars.  

So lets see who wore what!

Although they are diamonds, the fact that they are set in yellow gold made Reese Witherspoon's Tiffany necklace one of the most striking on the night.





Other necklaces included Jessica Chastain with her Piaget diamonds,






Priyanka Chopra in a huge 40carat diamond pendant necklace by Lorraine Schwarz,

Emma Stone in Tiffany diamonds

Nicole Kidman wore a  19th century double strand old mine diamond necklace totalling 48 carats, supplied by Fred Leighton.


Thandie Newton wore Harry Winston including earrings from 1962 and a long strand of diamonds worn as a back necklace





Gill Gadot also wore Tiffany diamonds

Also on the diamond train were Goldie Hawn,







Kendall Jenner (at an after party)




and two of the Miss Golden Globes - daughter of Mr. Sylvester Stallone, the youngest of which also wore diamonds in her hair.





The brave Sienna Miller bucked the diamond tradition (well, almost!) wearing pearls around her neck, wrist and on her fingers.   She still wore diamonds on her ears though, and they were by Tiffany.





Also on the non-diamond track was Monica Bellucci in her Cartier pendant


On the earring front....   Amy Adams chose Cartier diamonds for he ears, wrists and fingers








Claire Foy chose shorter teardrop earrings - 19th century diamond earrings supplied by Fred Leighton


Emily Ratajkowski went for starburst diamonds long drop earrings


Felicity Huffman chose Martin Katz diamonds in yellow gold for her ears and a daimond cuff bracelet for her wrist.


Issa Rae wore diamond earrings by Payal Shah



Kristen Bell wore 115 carats of Harry Winston diamonds in her 1963 3 row hoop earrings, bracelets and stacked rings




Lily Collins wore vintage Harry Winston


 Naomie Harris wore Tiffany diamonds that both climbed up her ears and dropped down.



Natalie Portman wore Tiffany diamonds - long chandelier earrings and her lovely bracelet was from Tiffany c.1910.



Sarah Jessica Parker wore Fred Leighton diamonds


Gina Rodriguez wore Chopard diamonds



Hopping off the totally diamond track were Carrie Underwood in pearl and diamond earrings by Yoko London


Chrissy Tiegen in Lorraine Schwartz


Felicity Jones in Chanel

Gwendoline Christie in big gold coloured drops



Jessica Biel in Neil Lane gold drop earrings


Mandy Moore in Neil Lane


Octavia Spencer in Lorraine Schwartz


Olivia Culpo also in Lorraine Schwartz


who also supplied Heidi Klum's unusual earrings - one ear donning 2 earrings one black and one white, and



Sophie Vergara's earrings - possibly champagne diamonds.



Sarah Paulson wore Neil Lane



And Zoe Saldana wore Bulgari


The award for the lady with the most rings goes to Tracee Ellis Ross for her 12 rings by Noudar,Payal Shah and Hueb.


And finally, two ladies wore noticeable cuffs as their main jewellery piece - Julia Louis-Dreyfus wore 50.34 carats of diamonds in her Chopard cuff


And Blake Lively wore a whopping $7 million worth of Lorraine Schwartz in these emerald and diamond cuffs.... wow!


So what was your favourite look of the night?

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