Whether it’s a simple pair of studs or flashy dangles, earrings come in a wide assortment of designs to complement any outfit, from a gorgeous evening gown to your favorite cashmere sweater. Below are some of the most popular options:
- Stud Earrings are a versatile choice and work well with almost any outfit. Pearl studs and diamond studs are popular examples, but many different gemstones are available. Most have a base of gold, sterling silver or plated metal. Because they are small, stud earrings are a great choice for professionals or anyone who prefers a minimal look.
- Hoop Earrings have been a popular style for years. Thickness and diameter vary widely. Oversized hoop earrings are generally best for more casual outfits. Small- to medium-sized hoops pair well with dressier attire.
- Dangle earrings, also called drop earrings, combine an anchor with a pendant or other ornament that hangs beneath the earlobe. The anchor itself may be an ornamented stud or a simple hook. Dangle earrings offer the most variety of any earring style. Drop earrings vary widely in size, shape and material, from a single, oval-shaped pearl to ornate pendants with multiple gemstones.
- Clip-on earrings are designed to be worn by people who don’t have pierced ears. Clip mechanisms vary depending on the manufacturer, but most simply slide over the bottom of the earlobe and tighten with a small hinge. The sensation of wearing clip-on earrings can take some getting used to, but most people will grow accustomed to it fairly quickly.
- Ear cuffs are another type of earring that can be worn without a piercing. Unlike clip-ons, ear cuffs are not worn on the lobe but rather higher up on the ear, usually on the upper auricle. Some people choose to wear a single cuff earring, and ear cuffs can also be worn along with clip-ons or regular earrings.
The necklace is most likely the oldest form of jewelry, and today there is a virtually endless array of beautiful necklaces, from the classic pearl necklace to opulent, multi-layered designs. Most necklaces fall into six categories:
- Chokers are the smallest and tightest of all necklaces, and usually range from about 14 to 16 inches in length.
- Princess necklaces are the next size up, ranging from about 16 to 20 inches in length.
- Matinee necklaces range from about 20 to 25 inches in length.
- Opera necklaces range from about 25 to 35 inches in length.
- Rope necklaces generally include anything beyond 35 inches in length.
- Lariat necklaces are very long and designed to be worn doubled or tripled, giving a similar appearance to a coiled lasso.
- The necklace length you choose is simply a matter of personal preference, although some lengths tend to look better with certain types of necklines. It’s usually a good idea to have several length options, allowing you to experiment with different looks.
Like necklaces, bracelets vary widely in material and style, from simple braided twine to ornate designs. Below are a few popular varieties:
- Tennis bracelets are segmented bracelets crafted of gold or silver that attach around the wrist with a clasp. Typically, each segment includes a single gemstone. Diamond tennis bracelets are the most popular variety, but other gems are available.
- Charm bracelets are a special type of chain bracelet with fairly wide links. These links allow for a variety of small charms to be attached. Charm bracelets and charms make thoughtful gifts, especially for young people. Over time, more charms can be added to commemorate life events or special memories. Some women even pass on their charm bracelets from mother to daughter, adding new charms with each generation.
- Bangles are rigid, circular bracelets that slide over the wrist, rather than attaching with a clasp. This design allows bangles to hang somewhat loosely around the lower arm and wrist. Many people like to wear multiple bangles at a time.
The ring is among the oldest and most important pieces of jewelry in human history. Rings can be worn as a symbol of commitment, engagement, matrimony, rank, achievement or simply as a stylish accent. Rings vary widely in size, shape and ornamentation, from very basic metallic bands to richly decorated pieces. Of course, not all rings are worn on the fingers. Toe rings are also very popular.
How to Size a Ring
Unlike other types of jewelry, you’ll need to know your ring size before you buy. If you don’t already know your ring size or you think it may have changed, we recommend visiting a jeweler to be sized. However, if you prefer to measure your ring size at home, you can. Just be aware that the results may not be quite as accurate.
To measure your ring size at home, use scissors to cut a narrow strip of paper about 4 inches long. Next, wrap the paper around your finger at the location you plan to wear the ring, usually about halfway between the bottom of your knuckle and the base of your finger. Tighten the paper until it’s fairly snug, but not tight. Carefully mark the overlap point with a pen. Using a ruler with centimeter marks, measure the length. Next, convert from centimeters to millimeters by multiplying your measurement by 10. Finally, compare your diameter measurement to the Official International Ring Size Conversion Chart. You may need to round up or down, depending on your measurement. Note: If you have wide knuckles, tape the piece of paper together around your finger and see if it will slide over your knuckle. If it won’t, you’ll need to increase the diameter slightly.
Number 79 on the periodic table of elements has remained one of the most valuable and prized materials on earth for thousands of years. Gold has caused rush migrations on nearly every major continent and is traded as a commodity on world stock markets. Did you know that only about 50 percent of the world’s mined gold is used to make jewelry? Aside from being crafted into coins and bars, gold is also used for industrial applications.
Not all gold is created equal, and the gold used to make jewelry is graded according to purity. Gold grades are typically represented in karats. For example, 24 karat gold is considered to be pure or very nearly pure. Gold that is less than 24 karats in quality is actually a mix of gold and other metals, called an alloy. The chart below shows gold purity as it applies to the most common gold grades.
Grade Purity 24 Karat Gold 99% 18 Karat Gold 75% 14 Karat Gold 58% 12 Karat Gold 50% 10 Karat Gold 42%
With all this in mind, a person might consider anything less than 24 karat gold to be inferior. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Pure gold is much more malleable and soft compared to metals like iron and steel. This means that a 24 karat gold ring is more likely to become scratched or bent compared to a 14 karat gold ring, which is less malleable and therefore more durable. Even though a higher gold grade does equate to greater monetary value, it’s not necessarily a better choice for making jewelry.
When gold is blended with other metals, it forms an alloy. White gold is a popular gold alloy made by blending gold with metals like palladium, nickel and manganese. Although it’s much more colorless than 24 karat gold, white gold still has a slight golden tint. If you’ve ever seen a white gold ring that looks almost chrome, chances are that ring was actually white gold plated in rhodium. Don’t worry; this isn’t a bad thing. By weight, rhodium is actually worth more than gold. When added to white gold, rhodium plating creates a chrome-like finish that usually can’t be achieved by white gold alone.
Although white gold is by far the most popular gold alloy, it’s not the only one. When gold is blended with copper, it creates an alloy with a reddish or rose color. Different combinations of metals can be added to gold in order to create several colors, including blue, green and even purple.
Very few people are actually allergic to gold. Most people who experience a skin reaction are actually allergic to gold alloys, particularly alloys containing nickel. According to WebMD, nickel allergy is one of the most common skin allergies, which can cause itching, redness, rash and possibly swelling. People who are allergic to nickel can probably wear 24 karat gold. Sterling silver is also an affordable alternative.
Unlike solid gold jewelry, gold-plated jewelry is crafted base metal that’s been plated in a very thin layer of gold, usually a gold alloy. This process creates a much more affordable finished product. The biggest drawback is that gold-plated jewelry isn’t very durable. Over time, the plating will eventually begin to wear off, depending on how often the jewelry is worn and other factors.
Gold-plating is ideal for creating costume jewelry, which is only intended to be worn for special occasions. If you want the beautiful look of real gold and don’t plan on wearing it on a regular basis, gold-plated jewelry can be a cost-effective alternative to solid gold jewelry.
According to blogger Lauren Rose of Ageless Heirlooms, gold-filled jewelry is manufactured differently than gold-plated jewelry. To create a piece of gold-filled jewelry, a craftsman begins with a base metal and applies a sheet of gold that is typically between 50 and 10,000 times thicker than typical gold plating. In order for an item to even be considered gold-filled, the gold content must be at least 1/20th the total weight of the jewelry. This process creates a much more durable and valuable product. According to Rose, gold-filled jewelry became very popular in the Victorian period. Today, antique gold-filled jewelry is still very popular.
Although gold is probably the most popular material used to create jewelry, some actually consider silver to be even more pleasing to the eye. Much like 24 karat gold, pure silver (commonly called fine silver) is quite malleable, allowing it to become scratched or bent easily. For this reason, nearly all jewelry is made of an alloy called sterling silver. Harder and more resistant to damage, sterling silver is created by combining silver with copper or another metal. Genuine sterling silver contains slightly more than 90% silver.
People with skin allergies to gold-nickel alloys can usually wear sterling silver. With proper care, sterling silver jewelry can last a lifetime. However, unlike gold, sterling silver needs to be polished more frequently to avoid tarnishing. Check out the jewelry care section at the end of this guide for more details.
Similar to gold-plated jewelry, silver-plated jewelry is created by coating a base metal in a thin layer of silver. Although silver-plated jewelry is much more affordable than pure sterling silver, the plating can eventually begin to wear off, depending on how often the jewelry is worn.
Interesting Facts About Silver
Did you know silver conducts heat and electricity better than any other metal? It’s also the most reflective of all the elements, which gives sterling silver its high luster. According to About Chemistry, polished silver reflects 95% of the visible light spectrum. Silver ions also have antimicrobial properties that can be used to treat infections. Some companies have even created silver-infused fabrics that can resist odor-causing bacteria.
Of all the minerals on Earth, few are more desirable or valuable than the iconic diamond. Born deep within the earth’s mantle under immense pressure, diamonds can take several billion years to form. Over time, flows of volcanic magma push diamonds and other minerals up into the earth’s crust. Both volcanic and tectonic activity can shift mineral deposits upward, allowing gemstones to be mined. Some can even be discovered just beneath the surface.
Did you know that Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas is the only diamond-producing site in the world that allows the public to hunt for diamonds? Admission will only run you $8. Among the gems found by visitors in the park is the Strawn-Wager Diamond. Discovered in 1990, it remains the only truly flawless diamond ever certified by the American Gem Society.
In addition to being rare and valuable, diamond is also the hardest known material on the planet. In fact, the Vickers hardness test, which is commonly used to test the hardness of various materials, uses a pyramid-shaped diamond indenter. Because of its incredible hardness, diamond is frequently used as a cutting and grinding material for various industrial applications. Diamond cutting blades can slice cleanly through glass and very hard stone, such as marble or granite. Diamonds are also used to cut and polish other diamonds.
In order for a diamond to be crafted into jewelry, it must first be cut from its rough form into one of several different shapes. This cutting process is what brings out the natural brilliance. However, the cut isn’t the only aspect that determines a diamond’s beauty and value.
There are four characteristics that suppliers and jewelers use to grade cut diamonds, and each has a universally accepted grading system.
Diamond cut actually describes two aspects of a finished diamond: the cut shape and the cut quality. The image below shows a few examples of common cut shapes. In addition to the shape, cut quality also varies. Cut diamonds are commonly divided into five quality grades: Ideal (or excellent), very good, good, fair and poor. Some jewelry brands may also add their own “signature” grade.
Cutting diamonds takes years to master, and the cut quality directly affects the brilliance. In other words, the dimensions of the cut stone will affect the way light is reflected within the finished diamond. If a stone is cut too shallow or deep, it will not reflect light as brilliantly as a stone with ideal dimensions.
Diamond clarity represents the small inclusions that are found within most natural diamonds, along with any surface blemishes. Fewer blemishes and inclusions results in a higher clarity grade. For consistency, all diamonds are graded under 10X magnification, and it takes a trained eye to accurately grade diamonds. According to Lumera Diamonds, clarity can be divided into six primary grades. Additionally, several of these clarity grades are split into two or more subgrades.
- Flawless (F): No inclusions or surface blemishes. A truly flawless diamond is very rare and extremely expensive.
- Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions, but some minor surface flaws. A diamond of this quality is very desirable and quite expensive, although not nearly as expensive as a flawless stone. These diamonds will appear flawless to the naked eye.
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1-VVS2): A diamond of this quality will have very small inclusions that can be challenging to locate under magnification, even for a skilled gemologist. Again, these diamonds will appear flawless to the naked eye.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1-VS2): This grade represents inclusions that are still very minute, but easier to locate under magnification. These diamonds will usually appear flawless to the untrained, naked eye.
- Slightly Included (SI1-SI2): A trained gemologist may be able to detect these small inclusions without magnification, but the untrained eye will most likely not notice them. Most people will still be quite pleased with a gem of this quality.
- Included (I1-I2-I3): At this level, inclusions will most likely be visible to a gemologist without magnification and may even be visible to an untrained eye. Diamonds of this quality are generally considered to be “bargain” stones and will not produce the brilliance of higher quality stones, regardless of the cut.
Diamond color varies widely from stone to stone and is another important factor in cost. Colored diamonds have a slight yellowish tinge. Completely colorless or nearly colorless stones are rarer and therefore more desirable. However, the untrained eye usually can’t tell the difference in color between closely graded stones without a side-by-side comparison. The cut and setting also affect how easily the naked eye can perceive a diamond’s color, so it’s usually not necessary to spend more money for a totally colorless stone. Check out The Diamond Pro for more tips and advice on diamond color grades. Below are the primary color grades for diamonds.
- Colorless: Graded D, E and F
- Near Colorless: Graded G, H, I and J
- Faint Color: Graded K, L and M
- Very Light Color: Graded N through R
- Light Color: Graded S through Z
Generally, most people prefer to stay within the first three color tiers, especially for engagement rings. Be aware that the above color scale is only used to rate diamonds with a yellowish tint, but diamonds can also come with other tints, including blue, green, orange, red, purple and pink. These diamonds are referred to as fancy diamonds, which are graded and priced differently.
Diamond size is measured in carats. One carat weighs exactly 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams. A higher carat weight equates to a larger diamond. Although the general public tends to place a lot of emphasis on the size of gemstones, many jewelers consider size to be the least important factor. As we mentioned, the cut and clarity will determine the brilliance and sparkle. For example, a 4 carat, fair-cut diamond of I1 clarity will be noticeably less brilliant compared to a 2 carat, ideal-cut diamond of VVS1 clarity.
Natural vs. Synthetic Diamonds
Although scientists have been “growing” man-made diamonds in laboratories for more than half a century, companies have only recently discovered how to create colorless, gem-quality synthetic diamonds that are virtually indistinguishable from natural gems. In light of this, some jewelers and consumers have grown concerned that synthetic diamonds could potentially enter the market disguised as the genuine article. Of course, the necessary equipment to create these gemstones in a lab is very expensive, and there are still relatively few companies able to produce gem-quality, cultured diamonds. The majority are reputable businesses that have no interest in misleading customers.
According to Bain and Company, most legitimate companies laser-inscribe their cultured diamonds with a unique identifying number to prevent fraud. However, there have been reports of unmarked synthetic diamonds being sold as the real deal. One such incident occurred in 2012 when the International Gemological Institute received a thousand diamonds for testing and discovered that more than half were actually synthetic.
In the past, certificates of origin have been the primary method for jewelers to ensure their diamonds are the genuine article. In order to further protect the diamond market, jewelry companies such as De Beers and several independent labs are actively developing new testing equipment that will allow jewelers to quickly and reliably identify synthetic diamonds.
Although some might consider man-made diamonds to be less appealing than natural ones, many people appreciate the innovation and technology behind cultured gemstones and actually prefer them. Also, by choosing a certified synthetic diamond, a customer can be certain they’re not purchasing a conflict diamond or “blood diamond.”
Although cubic zirconia is virtually indistinguishable from diamond to the untrained eye, this man-made crystal is significantly more affordable. In fact, a two-carat cubic zirconia will frequently cost anywhere from 100 to 200 times less than a quality diamond of the same size and cut. Some people choose to buy cubic zirconia jewelry rather than diamond jewelry because they can get much larger stones for their money, and most people cannot tell the difference by appearance alone. Aside from the affordable price, consumers can also feel confident that their cubic zirconia gemstones are conflict-free.
Of course, there are minor drawbacks to buying cubic zirconia. For one, zirconia is a slightly less durable than diamond, although still very hard. According to Man Made Diamond Info, zirconia is much heavier than diamond, weighing about 75% more. Also, most cubic zirconia stones can’t match the natural brilliance of high-quality cut diamonds, although zirconia still exhibits excellent “fire” or flashes of rainbow color.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but there’s something undeniably unique about pearls. Nothing pairs with a little black dress like a gorgeous string of pearls, and these delightful orbs can complement a multitude of other outfits, from vintage to ultra-modern. In many ways, this iconic natural gem has made a comeback in the last decade, and pearl jewelry is now available in more styles than ever before.
As many people already know, pearls are created naturally inside living mollusks (usually oysters or mussels) when a foreign object becomes lodged inside the soft interior tissue. Over time, the mollusk secretes a substance called nacre, which coats the object. Layer by layer, the nacre coatings solidify, turning the object into a pearl. Before we discuss the different varieties and qualities of pearls, it helps to understand how pearls are made.
Natural vs. Cultured Pearls
Prior to the 20th century, all pearls were cultivated by pearl divers. These divers, often called pearl hunters, would swim down to the ocean floor, harvest baskets full of oysters and bring them up to the surface to be opened. Pearls are a very rare occurrence in nature, so divers would frequently have to collect and open thousands of oysters in order to discover just a few pearls. Finding large, perfectly round pearls was extremely rare.
Since the invention of pearl farming in the 20th century, cultured pearls have almost completely replaced wild-harvested pearls on the modern market. According to Pearl Guide, farmers create cultured pearls by surgically inserting a small spherical object into mollusks during a process called nucleation. The farmers may also insert a small piece of mantle tissue from a donor shell during a process called grafting. The mollusks themselves are either harvested from the ocean or, more commonly, grown from larvae. It takes more than a year for many mollusks to grow large enough for nucleation. Once nucleated, pearls must be allowed to grow for several months or years before they can be harvested.
Types of Cultured Pearls
Freshwater pearls are produced primarily in China using freshwater mussels and are the most prevalent variety of cultured pearls. Unlike pearl oysters, freshwater pearl mussels are capable of producing upwards of two dozen pearls at a time. However, this production method generally produces fewer round and semi-round shapes. Semi-baroque and baroque shapes are common. Sizes also tend to be smaller. For these reasons, freshwater pearls are the most affordable and widely available option on the market. Most freshwater pearls are white or slightly off-white.
Akoya pearls are the most prevalent variety of saltwater pearls and are commonly produced in Japan. Because they are nucleated with a single bead, most Akoya oysters will only produce a single pearl, although multiple pearls can occur. By allowing the oyster to focus on creating a single pearl, there is a higher likelihood of achieving round or semi-round shapes, which are the most desirable. Typical Akoya pearls are white, off-white, light pink or light silver in color.
Tahitian pearls are a variety of pearls produced exclusively in the French Polynesian islands by the large Black-lipped oyster. Although they’re frequently called black pearls, these natural gems can display a range of beautiful colors, including dark blue, green, and reddish tones. Sale and export of Tahitian pearls is closely monitored by the French Polynesian government. Before they can be sold, all Tahitian pearls are inspected by government employees to ensure minimum surface quality standards and nacre thickness. Any pearls that don’t meet these minimum requirements are destroyed in order to maintain consistent quality standards and protect the Tahitian pearl market.
South Sea peals are among the largest and most valuable cultured pearls in the world. Produced along the northwestern coast of Australia and in parts of Indonesia and the Philippines, South Sea Pearls are prized for their large size and gorgeous luster. Colors range from creamy white and champagne to silver and gold tones. Cultivation of South Sea pearls takes longer than other saltwater and freshwater varieties, which is another reason why these pearls command such a high price.
Organic, Man-Made Pearls vs. Simulated Pearls
If cultured pearls seem a little out of your price range, you can always consider choosing man-made pearls instead. There are two primary types of man-made pearls: organic and simulated, and there are significant differences in how each is created.
Simulated pearls, also called synthetic pearls, are created by coating a sphere of glass or plastic with enamel or lacquer in order to simulate the appearance of nacre. Unfortunately, this process does not achieve the same luster and brilliance of genuine pearls. Synthetic pearls are fine for costume jewelry, but are not made to last.
Organic, man-made pearls are created by coating a glass sphere with a special substance created from organic components. For example, the coating used by JOIA De Majorca is created from marine and natural materials harvested from the Mediterranean Sea. This proprietary coating is carefully applied in many thin layers in order to mimic the natural luster and iridescence of genuine pearls. A final coating is also applied to protect the organic pearls from harmful agents. Although organic, man-made pearls are often more affordable than freshwater cultured pearls, the appearance and quality may be equal or better.
Large, perfectly round pearls with a smooth, unblemished surface and high luster are among the most valuable and desired in the world. Of course, not all pearls turn out perfectly round and unblemished. Unlike diamonds, there is no universally accepted grading system for pearls. However, most pearls are judged according to similar criteria, including size, shape, color, luster and surface quality.
Pearl size is measured in millimeters. Most fall between 6 and 16mm. Anything smaller is usually reserved for children’s jewelry. Round cultured pearls that are larger than 16mm are rare and very valuable. Nearly all pearls can be grouped into one of the following eight shapes:
- Round: Perfectly spherical
- Semi-Round: Nearly spherical; may look spherical at first glance
- Button: Nearly spherical, but also slightly flattened or compressed
- Oval: Oblong sphere
- Drop: Teardrop or egg-shaped
- Circle: Semi-round or oval-shaped, with circular grooves or rings
- Semi-Baroque: Slightly irregular shape
- Baroque: Very irregular shape
Judging the quality and luster of pearls is a little more subjective. Pearl quality typically describes any surface imperfections, such as colored spots, dull spots, small bumps, tiny fractures and other minor blemishes. The more blemish-free a pearl is, the higher the quality. Pearl luster is used to describe the sheen or iridescence. Keep in mind that grading methods vary between different regions, producers and dealers.
Mother of Pearl
As we already mentioned, nacre is the organic substance that certain types of mollusks secrete and use to create pearls. This iridescent substance is also found on the inside of certain mollusk shells, including pearl oysters, pearl mussels and abalone. When nacre is removed from the inside of a shell and used as a decorative material, it’s commonly called mother of pearl. In the early to mid-20th century, mother of pearl became a popular material for making buttons, jewelry and decorative items.
Agate is a variety of the silica-based mineral chalcedony, which can be found in many parts of the world. Rough agates typically have a coarse, dull exterior. When cut and polished, however, the interior displays a variety of layered colors. When cut into moderately thin sections, agates are usually translucent. According to the Agate Lady, these unique gems are created when an empty pocket inside a host rock becomes filled, molecule-by-molecule, forming many individual layers of microcrystals that bond together to form concentric bands and other interesting patterns.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz that displays a pale violet color but can also be found in deeper purple hues. Amethyst can be cut into finished gemstones but is also occasionally used in its original crystal form. Because quartz is so abundant, amethyst is more affordable than rarer gems. Amethyst is the February birthstone.
Aquamarine is a light blue, translucent gemstone and a specific variety of a mineral called beryl. The color of aquamarine is often described as sea blue or ocean blue. Gems range from very pale to rich in blue color. Aquamarine is the March birthstone.
Aventurine is an opaque or semi-translucent green mineral in the quartz family. Sometimes mistaken for jade, aventurine has small, included flecks of reflective minerals, which become more apparent after rough stones are cut and polished.
Carnelian is a semi-precious stone that ranges in color from reddish-orange to dark, brownish-red. Although carnelian is usually translucent, it can sometimes appear almost opaque. According to Crystal Vaults, the ancient Egyptians referred to Carnelian as “the setting sun,” and ancient warriors wore it to gain courage and physical power in battle.
Citrine is a variety of quartz with a yellowish orange, pale orange or amber color. Although very similar in appearance to yellow topaz, citrine is usually lighter in color and is not as hard.
Emerald is one of the most well-known precious gemstones and is easily recognized by its rich green color. Emeralds can also appear in yellowish-green and blue-green hues. The richness of color also varies from pale green to very dark. Emerald, like aquamarine, is actually a variety of the mineral beryl, according to Minerals.net. Emerald is the May birthstone.
Garnet refers to a group of crystalline minerals, each having a slightly different chemical composition and color. According to Geology.com, red garnet is the most well-known variety, but this gemstone also occurs in orange, yellow, pink, purple and green varieties. Once cut and polished, garnet exhibits a beautiful, translucent crystal structure similar to emerald or sapphire. Aside from jewelry, garnets are also used in industrial applications, such as waterjet cutting, abrasive blasting and water filtration. Garnet is the January birthstone.
Jade is a dense green gemstone primarily found in Canada and Asia. Transparency can vary from completely opaque to translucent. According to the International Colored Gemstone Association, there are actually two varieties of jade: Nephrite and Jadeite. Although both look very similar, each mineral can vary in color from pale green and almost white to very dark green. The rarer Jadeite has also been discovered with pink, red and even violet tones. Larger pieces of jade frequently have veins of included minerals, which some believe actually add to the beauty and value. Jade was a popular material used in ancient China to make jewelry, ceremonial items and decorative objects.
Jasper is an opaque, semi-precious stone that displays a variety of earthy colors, including tan, cream, yellow-orange, brown, reddish-brown, dark red and sometimes green. There are many different varieties and most jasper is brecciated, which means it contains an assortment of different mineral fragments, all bonded together into a single matrix.
Obsidian is jet-black volcanic glass that can form when molten lava cools very rapidly. Obsidian is extremely hard and brittle, and fractured pieces often have very sharp edges. During the Stone Age, obsidian was used in certain regions to create cutting blades and arrowheads. Snowflake obsidian is a unique variety that displays a pattern of white inclusions.
Onyx is a variety of black or dark red chalcedony that sometimes includes bands of white. Onyx may be opaque or translucent, and has a glassy finish when finely polished. Onyx is typically cut and polished into cabochons rather than faceted stones.
Opal is a mineral-like substance that can be cut and polished to create very beautiful cabochon gems. There are multiple variations of opal, including black opal, white opal and fire opal. Precious opal is the national gemstone of Australia, and more than 80% of the world’s supply comes from the Australian continent, according to the BBC. Opal is the October birthstone.
Peridot is a green, translucent gemstone. According to the International Colored Gemstone Association, peridot jewelry dates back as far as ancient Egypt, during the second millennium B.C. Many of the world’s finest peridot gemstones are mined in Pakistan. The green color of peridot differs from emerald and usually has a slightly golden hue. The intensity and quality of the color depends on the amount of iron present in the stone. Peridot is the August birthstone.
Quartz is an extremely abundant mineral that can form colorless crystals. Amethyst, citrine, rose quartz and smoky quarts are all colored variations of quartz. Other minerals in the quartz family include aventurine, agate, carnelian, jasper, onyx and tiger’s eye.
Ruby has remained one of the most prized rare gemstones in the world dating back into antiquity. Aside from diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, rubies are among the most well-known and valuable precious gems in the world. Ruby is the red variety of corundum, an extremely hard crystalline mineral. In its purest form, corundum is colorless. Small traces of chromium and other elements are what give ruby its rich red color. Ruby is also the July birthstone.
Sapphire is another variation of the rare mineral corundum. In its colored form, all corundum is called sapphire, except for the red variety, which is called ruby. Sapphires are exceptionally hard and rate nine on the Mohs scale, which makes diamond the only naturally occurring mineral that is harder. Sapphire is the September birth stone.
Tanzanite is a rare gemstone that varies from pale blue to blue-violet to deep royal blue. According to Tanzanite.com, this particular gem is trichroic, which causes stones to appear in a variety of hues when viewed from different angles. Because Tanzania is the only location where Tanzanite is currently found and because mining operations there are small, demand for this gemstone sometimes exceeds supply. However, jewelry with smaller tanzanite stones is still relatively affordable. Tanzanite is one of three December birthstones.
Tiger Eye is a unique gem that displays an optical effect called chatoyancy, which gives round, polished stones an appearance similar to a cat’s eye. This unique optical effect makes tiger’s eye a popular semi-precious stone for crafting jewelry.
Topaz is a crystalline mineral available in a variety of colors, including pale red, pink, amber, aqua blue and green. Some colors form naturally. Others are created using heat treatment and irradiation. Topaz is the November birthstone.
Turquois is an opaque, blue-green mineral and one of the oldest known gem materials, according to Trader Roots. For thousands of years, Persia was the primary source for mined turquois, which served as a popular trade material. Beginning in the late 19th century, turquois deposits have been discovered throughout the southwestern United States and many are still being mined today. This particular gem remains very popular in southwestern jewelry and Native American jewelry. Turquois is usually cut and polished into cabochons or flat inlays rather than faceted stones. Turquois is one of three December birthstones.
Zircon is a crystalline mineral that can be found in a range of colors, including blue, blue-green, orange and red. It may also be colorless. According to Minerals.net, no other naturally occurring gemstone more closely resembles diamond than zircon, which is why colorless zircon has been used as a diamond simulant in the past. Zircon is one of three December birthstones.
Simulated Gemstones and Synthetic Gemstones
Because pieces of jewelry with precious gems like diamonds, emeralds and rubies are so costly, many people simply cannot afford them. In recent years, modern advances have allowed many of these rare jewels to be created in a lab or simulated.
Synthetic gemstones are created in a laboratory or specialized production facility using sophisticated techniques. Creating synthetic gems typically requires immense heat, pressure and specialized equipment. The appearance and chemical composition of synthetic gemstones is identical or nearly identical to the real gems they are created to mimic. Lab-created gems also have less inclusions and flaws. Popular choices include emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamond. Although synthetic gems are less expensive than real gems, they are still more valuable than simulated gems.
Simulated gemstones, also called simulants, are also created using special equipment, but are not chemically identical to their genuine counterparts. The most well-known simulated gemstone is probably cubic zirconia, a popular variety of simulated diamond. The composition of cubic zirconia is very different from real diamond, and therefore not as hard. Rhinestones are another common simulated gem used to accent clothing and other items. To the untrained eye, simulated gems may or may not be indistinguishable from real gems, and they are more affordable than synthetic stones.
Created by a specific group of sea-dwelling mollusks, abalone shell is composed of nacre, the same material that forms pearls. The inside of an abalone shell has an iridescent coating that blends multiple colors together, including blue, purple and green. Similar to pearl oyster shells and freshwater pearl mussel shells, Abalone shell can be used to create mother of pearl jewelry, buttons and decorative inlays.
Formed from fossilized tree resin, amber is a hard, translucent material that is frequently used to make jewelry and decorative ornaments. Similar to other types of fossils, amber takes thousands of years to form, and some of the oldest amber dates back more than 300 million years. Most amber has a dark yellow, yellowish orange or honey color. However, other colors like blue and green amber also occur. Small insects such as flies and ants are sometimes preserved inside amber. The majority of the world’s amber originates in the Baltic region of Northern Europe and is much less common in other regions. Like other rough gems, amber can be cut and polished to create finished gemstones. The value of amber depends on the quality, size and color, but most amber jewelry is quite affordable.
Unlike most gemstones, coral is actually created by a colony of marine organisms composed of many individuals that bond together to form a larger structure. Stony coral comes in many shapes, colors and sizes. Red coral, also called precious coral, is one of the most popular types for crafting jewelry. The jewels themselves are actually made of the coral’s hardened skeleton, which can be cut and polished. Other types of coral, such as bamboo coral, can also be harvested and dyed to make jewelry, which is usually more affordable than true precious coral. Turquoise and coral are two popular materials used to create southwestern jewelry.
Over time, gold and silver jewelry can become dirty and dull, but there are several things you can do to keep your investment looking beautiful. Looking for information on how to clean jewelry? Not sure what types of cleaners might damage your jewelry? We’ll cover them here.
Gold Jewelry Care
Unlike other metals like steel and silver, gold is extremely resistant to corrosion and will not rust in normal conditions. However, gold can become coated in a dull, grimy substance over time. Although it’s not technically oxidation, this is sometimes called “gold tarnish.” To restore gold jewelry to its original splendor, soak it in a bowl of warm water with a small amount of dish soap for a few hours. (Avoid cleaners with bleach or abrasives). Next, gently scrub the jewelry with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Finally, rinse well with warm water and dry the jewelry thoroughly with a clean microfiber cloth. For an even better shine, gently buff with a jeweler’s cloth. If you notice any deep scratches in your gold jewelry, it’s best to seek out a professional jeweler to have the finish properly restored.
Sterling Silver Jewelry Care
Although more resistant to corrosion than iron or carbon steel, sterling silver can become tarnished over time and requires semi-regular cleaning and polishing to maintain a shiny finish. To minimize oxidation and damage, avoid exposing your silver jewelry to excessive perspiration (working out), lotions, cosmetics, harsh household cleaners, abrasives and chlorine. According to Allison Dial of Novica blog, if you notice a small amount of tarnishing, you can simply polish your jewelry with a lint-free, non-abrasive microfiber cloth. For more significant tarnishing, you can use dish soap and water, or a homemade polishing solution of baking soda and water. It’s usually best to avoid commercial silver polish designed for cleaning silverware, especially for jewelry with gemstones or pearls.
More Jewelry Care Tips
Below are a few more quick tips to help keep your jewelry looking beautiful longer:
- To prevent scratches, consider taking gold and silver jewelry off when working, especially for manual tasks like construction, gardening, etc.
- Avoid exposing jewelry to harsh cleaners, bleach, ammonia and abrasive products.
- Take jewelry off before getting into chlorinated swimming pools or hot tubs. You should also remove jewelry before bathing, since soap can cause residue buildup over time.
- Keep your jewelry in a soft, padded jewelry box or store pieces separately in soft microfiber bags. Keep jewelry separated to prevent pieces from rubbing against each other, which can cause scratches.
- If you have rings or pendants with expensive gemstones or diamonds, have them inspected once or twice a year to ensure the settings have not become loose, as this could eventually cause a stone to fall out of its setting. Loose settings can be tightened or replaced by a jeweler, and these minor repairs are much more affordable than replacing a lost stone.
- Consider looking into an insurance policy to cover expensive jewelry against loss or theft. These policies may require you to have your settings inspected regularly.