Expressions Jewelers | Blog
The Expressions Jewelers Blog will help you discover custom designs, jewelry trends, gift ideas, care tips, and more for your jewelry collection (or the collector in your life).
When a client walks into our store and asks where our engagement rings are I tend to hesitate. I know what he or she is asking, but a part of me wants to shout “Everywhere! All the rings can be engagement rings!” because it’s all about intent, right?
For centuries diamonds have been used to signify a marriage proposal. The trend began in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned what is believed to be the first diamond engagement ring recorded in history.
The trend, popular among royalty, became a movement. Then developed into a tradition.
Each era has its own interpretation of engagement ring design. The Victorian era mixed diamonds with other gemstones and enamels and often featured floral details. The Edwardian era popularized filigree settings.
Fast forward to the 20th century, 1947 specifically. De Beers, the most well-known diamond company in the world, launched its “A Diamond is Forever” campaign. Ever heard that before? Of course, you have. This marketing drive incited diamond sales, specifically for engagement rings, drawing parallels from a diamond’s durability and everlasting love. How sweet.
It’s mostly true, though. A diamond is forever. Diamonds in the market today formed 90 to 120 miles below the Earth’s surface at least 20 million years ago (and if you want to get into the nitty gritty of diamond formation and conditions, give me a call. Gem nerd here.). That multi-million-possibly-billion-year-old rock that took a hundred-mile journey is also one of the hardest materials on the planet, not to mention the undeniable sparkle appeal. So, yeah, pretty good option for professing your love for another.
But here’s the thing. This planet is filled with 7.4 billion people (I know, lots of large numbers here) and we are all unique. Some of us would rather wear a simple gold band with no stones than a large diamond. Some of use would rather run off to the mountains and elope than have a 300+ guest count wedding. Some of use would rather have a salad for dinner than tacos (you know who you are, and I don’t understand you). Why should we make our choice the same as the next person in the name of “tradition”?
And that is why I’m excited to share some unconventional, alternative engagement ring ideas.
Side note: I am keeping it to jewelry because, well, I’m a jeweler. I’m not including some of the new body-modification trends like engagement ring finger piercings or tattoos, but they are still a valid option!
Rough, Rustic, and Refined
This category of diamonds is all the bohemian rage. You get the benefits of a diamond engagement ring (tradition, durability) but with a totally unique look. The appeal of all these alternative diamonds comes from their natural state and organic shape.
Rough diamonds are exactly how they sound. When diamonds are mined from the belly of the Earth, they are not the faceted, glimmering stunners we see on that ring finger. Most gem-quality diamonds go through a long cutting and finishing process before finding their way to a piece of jewelry. There a several stops along the process where a cutter or designer might decide to divert from the traditional method.
Rough diamonds can take many forms. The most common and preferred shape of a rough diamond is an octahedron, which looks like two pyramids connected at the base. The shape’s geometric structure makes it easy to set in jewelry and offers a dimensional design element.
Polki diamonds are one of the oldest forms of cut diamonds. This cutting style originates from India, long before the Western word began cutting round faceted shapes. These diamonds are cut from the original rough and are most desirable when transparent or translucent to allow light into the stone. They are often set in a bezel style to protect the thin edges.
Rose cut diamonds are a more refined way to capitalize on this trend. Named for the flower which they are said to resemble, rose cuts feature a flat base and a faceted dome-shaped top providing exceptional brilliance. This antique cutting style first appeared in the early 16th and was popular until the 19th century. Today rose cuts are featured in all styles of diamond jewelry in unique shapes and varying sizes.
Give Me Color
The substitution of a colored gemstone for the traditional diamond is not new - just ask Kate Middleton. In 1795 Napoleon Bonaparte proposed to Josephine with a sapphire and diamond ring (which sold for nearly $1 million at auction in 2013). When John F. Kennedy proposed to his future bride, Jackie, he did so with an emerald and diamond ring designed by the famous Van Cleef & Arpels design house.
The colorful trend continues to transform with every new generation of betrothed. While the “big three” – ruby, emerald, and sapphire – are still the most desired gems, many other options are options are on the rise.
Morganite has become wildly popular in the last ten years. It’s warm peach-to-pale-pink color makes it a perfect gemstone for a rose gold setting (which has also been trending in bridal jewelry). Morganite is a variety of the beryl species which also includes emerald and aquamarine. The gemstone’s hardness (resistance to scratching) ranks 7.5-8 on the Moh’s scale, creating a good option for everyday wear.
The chrysoberyl species alexandrite is rare and much sought after. This gemstone is identified by it’s phenomenal color changing characteristic. Often called “emerald by day, ruby by night”, the gem exhibits bluish green color in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light. Alexandrite is very good for daily wear, ranking 8.5 in the Moh’s hardness scale.
The rarity and rising demand of alexandrite has driven the prices high, often more expensive per-carat than diamond. Synthetic (lab-created) alexandrite is an option for clients wanting the unique look of a color-changing gem that is more economical.
Another variety of beryl, aquamarine translates to “water of the sea,” and is sea-green to sky-blue in color. Some clients prefer the light blue hues while other look for the strong, more saturated color. Aquamarine is also known for its exceptional clarity and can pop in any metal color.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Colored diamonds are kind of in a category of their own, but still divert from the conventional in the same way as colored gemstones. Colored diamonds have become increasingly popular with celebrities, specifically in pale pinks and yellows. Colored diamonds, referred to as fancy-colored diamonds, include the most common yellow, brown, and gray diamonds that fall outside of the normal D-to-Z color range and diamonds that show color other than these like blue and pink.
One way to separate yourself from the masses is to ditch the center stone idea all together. Marilyn Monroe wore a platinum eternity band set with thirty-five baguette-cut diamonds gifted to her from Joe DiMaggio on their wedding day.
Elegant and understated, a single diamond band is a stunning alternative to the traditional engagement ring. And just because you’re opting for more, usually smaller, stones does not mean the ring needs to be wimpy. One of our favorite recent custom rings was this platinum eternity band set with thirteen emerald- cut diamonds weighing 4.06 carat total weight. That’s a ring.
Maybe one band doesn’t cut it for you. Try adding three to five different bands to create a unique look. Stacking rings are a big deal right now and have so much versatility! Mix-and-match stone shapes and metal colors. It’s fun and flexible.
These are just a few of the endless possible options for representing your love and commitment. Some folks don’t even wear rings – and that’s great too. However, if you are looking for a ring that is as extraordinary as your love story, get in touch.
The first image that comes to mind when a client begins talking about pearls is Holly Golightly enjoying her coffee and croissant in front of NYC’s Tiffany & Co. Audrey Hepburn’s character is wearing a ravishing black Givenchy gown with strands of pearl stacked around her neck, fastened with an extraordinary broach.
That iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene did for pearl what James Bond did for Martinis.
For centuries pearls have been prized for their mystifying powers and folklore. Legends surrounding the pearl come from around the world. In Ancient Greece pearls were held to be tears of the gods, while early Chinese civilizations believed that pearls were carried by dragons.
Regardless of mythology, pearls are truly a special creation. This gem is the only one made by an organism. Mollusks produce pearls where an irritant (parasite, seed, grain of sand) enters its body. As a form of protection, the mollusk deposits layers of nacre over the intruder, thus creating a pearl.
Natural pearls that are uniform in shape and color are extremely rare and very expensive. The majority of pearls in today’s market are cultured. They are cultivated by artificially implanting a bead or a grafted piece of shell into a pearl-producing mollusk.
The cultured pearl market includes a variety of types. Here’s a little info to help you sort through the options and learn what to look for.
Used in our best-selling pearl jewelry, akoya pearls refer to cultured saltwater pearls primarily coming from Japan and China. Sizes range from 2mm to 10mm, with the most popular sizes being between 5.5mm and 7.5mm. A white or cream body color is most common, although akoya pearls can be seen in natural yellow, gray, and blue as well.
South Sea pearls are admired for their large size. These cultured saltwater pearls hail from Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They range in size from 8mm to 15mm and are available in many colors, though most south sea pearls are white to golden in color.
Sometimes referred to as black pearls, Tahitian pearls occur in a wide range of colors. Black is the most familiar, but shimmering white, gray, purple, green hues are stunning. The typical size of these pearls ranges from 8mm to 14mm, and sometimes even larger.
Freshwater pearls are just that, pearls cultivated in freshwater. These pearls are plentiful and available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and are often dyed green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black. China is the top freshwater pearl producer in the world, though Japan and the United States have small production as well.
Mabé pearls are quite different from the other varieties listed. These blister pearls are formed on the inside of the mollusk shell rather than the body. This formation creates a flat side on the pearl allowing for a secure setting in jewelry.
Once you’ve decided the variety, size, shape, and color of your pearl jewelry, it’s time to start shopping!
As with any piece of jewelry there are value factors to consider. Pearl value factures are distinct from other gems stones because of their organic nature.
Size, shape, and color are always personal considerations and should be determined based on your preference. Your professions jeweler will be able to guide you in selecting pieces.
Luster is often the most important value facture when selecting cultured pearls. The term refers to the light reflected on the surface of the pearl described by its intensity and sharpness. Luster identifies the remarkable from the ordinary and bright from the dim. Look for sharp reflections of light on the pearl’s surface.
Like anything in nature, pearls (natural or cultured) have some blemishes. The presence or absence of these irregularities are considered the complexion of the pearl. Taking note of the pearl’s surface, observe any variations such as spots, pits, bumps, or abrasions.
If you are looking for a classic strand of pearls, matching is a very important value facture. Pearls that are perfectly matched in size, shape, and color and hard to come by and it is reflected in the price. Still, you want a strand that appears uniform in all these factors. Make sure to judge the consistency across the full strand.
Pearl Care & Cleaning
Perhaps the most important information to know about pearl jewelry is how to care for it, as pearls are much more delicate that most gems. They are very soft, ranging between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and require special attention.
Because of their nature, pearls are vulnerable to chemicals found in many toiletries and household cleaners. Make sure to remove your jewelry before applying cosmetics, perfume, and hairspray; additionally, do not wear your jewelry in chlorinated pools or hot tubs. To avoid damage or loss it is wise to remove jewelry before doing dishes, gardening, or exercising.
Cleaning should be done as-needed only and never with an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. Gently clean your pearls by wiping with a soft, lint-free cloth dipped in warm water using a non-detergent soap. Wipe each pearl individually. Then rinse the cloth and wipe the pearls with clean water. Be mindful not to submerge a strand in water as it can weaken the thread on which the pearls are strung.
Your strand may need to be restrung periodically. Even gently-worn pearls can loosen over time. Have your jeweler check the knots (they should be tight with no slack between the pearls) and clasp.
Store your pearls in a soft folder or pouch to keep them separated from other jewelry, as harder materials can abrade the pearl’s surface. Avoid tangled strands by clasping pieces and storing separately. Also, pearls can dehydrate if stored for too long, so get them out of your safety deposit box and enjoy them!
Traditionally pearl jewelry makes a brilliant gift for June birthdays and 30th wedding anniversary. The gemstone is known for its calming properties and represents purity and innocence which is why it is often worn by brides on their wedding day.
Whatever the occasion that puts you on your pearl journey, you now have some information to begin. As always, consult you trusted jeweler to help select a piece and contact us with any questions you have.