Saturday, August 10, 2019

8 Things You Need to Know About Buying Gemstones/Jewelry

1.         The Four Cs for buying diamonds are pretty well known by now, but just in case you missed the memo:
Carat    Size of the diamond by weight. Here’s a link to a great chart showing what different cuts and sizes look like: size chart. Just remember that size isn’t everything! Some people prefer a smaller, more sparkly (yeah, technical term) stone to a larger, duller one.
Color   Ideally, white diamonds are colorless. This is measured by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) on a scale of D to Z, D being colorless. Most people don’t detect faint amounts of color in a stone; the usual threshold of visibility is around K to L. Fancy Color diamonds are another matter.  The more color the better!
Cut       The amount of sparkle a cut stone has depends on the cut. Angles between facets and precise alignment of facet junctions can best be judged by a gemologist. Note that older/less modern cuts can be very charming, and really sparkly, especially in candlelight.
Clarity  Inclusions, cracks, feathers, the list goes on. If you can see stuff (another technical term) with your naked eye, you may want to move on to a better stone. Clarity is graded from Flawless (and really expensive) down to I3, which means not only can you see the problems, but they affect the integrity of the stone.

2.         Size matters. Some sizes are more popular and are priced accordingly, especially for diamonds.  For example, a one carat stone may cost more per carat than a stone that weighs 0.85 or 1.21 carats. (Numbers selected at random to illustrate smaller or larger.)

3.         These days, many—most?—stones on the market are treated in some way. It’s good to know what the treatment was, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy.  Reputable jewelers reveal treatments.

4.         To look more knowledgeable, hold a jeweler’s loupe, that funny little magnifier, close to your eye and move the stone closer until it’s in focus.

5.         ‘Peridot’ is pronounced ‘peridoh’. Chalcedony is pronounced ’kalsedony’.
6.         Identifying a stone by color is not reliable.

7.         The ‘big’ precious stones are diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Semiprecious stones are often gorgeous and much easier on the pocketbook. (Mostly.)

8.         Don’t try to fake knowledge you don’t have!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Blue Diamond and Murder

The book this month is Todd Borg’s mystery Tahoe Blue Fire. I read this book with great pleasure and a sneaking feeling that since I am a gemologist as well as a writer, I’m supposed to be familiar with the diamond about which the plot revolves.
I actually took to the internet to see if I could find the beautiful Hope-like stone originally known as The Blue Fire of Florence. No luck, so I’m forced to conclude that Mr. Borg did impeccable research and seamlessly wove his fictional diamond, The Tahoe Blue Fire, and its history into reality. And into his plot. I hate to sound all fan girl, but gosh. I really enjoyed this book.
The diamond comes into the story as a clue in a murder: the victim leaves a cryptic note that says ‘Medici    BFF’. Searching for the best friend forever proves fruitless. Then a story surfaces about the Medici family and a blue diamond that came from the same mine that produced the famous Hope Diamond. A trip to Florence reveals a possibility that the diamond was taken to Tahoe, so it’s back to Tahoe and the search begins in earnest.
Oh, and of course there’s a certain urgency in the search for the murderer. More than one person has died, and the killer has targeted hero Owen McKenna.
Tahoe Blue Fire is number thirteen in the Tahoe series, but it functions perfectly well as a stand alone read. It’s a tense thriller with wonderfully rich plot. If you like mysteries, suspense, diamonds, Italy, gangsters, football heroes, traumatic brain injury, and/or poetry, as well as brave and interesting characters and dogs, this is a good read. [And no, I do not know Mr. Borg nor was I compensated for this post.]

Borg, Todd. Tahoe Blue Fire (An Owen McKenna Mystery Thriller Book 13) (p. 190). Thriller Press. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Are Diamonds Really a Girl’s Best Friend?

Maybe not, but gems are a reliable trope in romance novels.  (Hey, I’ll read almost anything if it has jewels.  Or cowboys.)  And since I’m a gemologist, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some novels that focus on gems and jewelry.
Going straight to my keeper shelf, I found seven novels by Elizabeth Lowell/Ann Maxwell that fit the bill, so that’s where I’ll start.  She’s famous, she’s a good writer (a little over the top sometimes, but always excellent), and she does her homework.
Lover in the Rough was originally published in 1983 and reissued in 1994.  Yes, it’s a real oldie, originally Silhouette Intimate Moments #34!
Plot:  Reba Farrall, owner of half-interest in a California gem mine, is devastated at the death of her dearest friend and employer. When his disinherited grandson threatens her, she is saved by rogue gem hunter Chance Walker. After she decides to reopen the mine, she hires Chance to help her, not knowing his sister owns the other half.  They explore the mine together, discovering that it is unbelievably dangerous. Facing death in the smothering darkness of the mine is a potent aphrodisiac, but when Reba learns of his connection to the mine, she leaves him. Chance is devastated and returns to the mine in spite of its imminent collapse to bring Reba a treasure trove of tourmaline.
The critique: Lowell’s research is solid. She drops in lots of interesting facts about tourmaline, and she gets downright lyrical about the beauty of gemstones and geologic features. (Hey, gemologist and geologist here. Of course I like this stuff.)
The text: The story opens in Death Valley, where Reba is supervising the photographing of art and jewelry for an upcoming sale.  A white jade dish, a baroque pearl cluster, an ivory sculpture, green gemstones, and a carved tiger eye figure are displayed against the rocks of Mosaic Canyon. “…precious objets d’art resting on the ledge of natural marble. Pale marble walls rose on either side of the dry streambed, walls polished by water and time into flowing curve sand hollows.  Bands of cream and pale yellow, gold-grey and eggshell wove through the walls, giving depth and subtle texture to the satiny stone.  Above the marble rose steep, deeply eroded hills of vermilion and black and chocolate, volcanic rock so new that the sun hadn’t had time yet to bake out the intense colors.”
There is quite a bit of description of the geology here.  “Polished marble walls…jagged debris of past volcanic explosions.  bent broken, canted on edge, the banded marble strata were almost shocking in their smoothness…fierce, naked land…Minerals both common and rare were jumbled together, colors and textures juxtaposed in a haphazard way that told much about the violent geologic history of the valley.  Earthquakes, molten rock flowing thickly, seas and lakes alternating with grinding drought, floods eroding mountainsides, strata of rock sinking, rising bending, breaking; it was all here, written across the hard surface of the earth.”
This sets a perfect frame for the violence of the dangers of the mine and the fierce love story that unfolds.
After many travails, Chance brings to her the spectacular pink tourmaline he has found in her mine, and “For an instant Reba felt as though she were inside a gem, a place of shattering beauty and brilliance, a faceted world as complex as the man who had turned the room into a fantasy...”
So...happily ever after.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

All That Glitters

I ♥ gems. 
Gemstones and beautiful jewelry, especially Art Nouveau.  Like this Art Nouveau peridot lavalier.  Yum.
Diamonds and emeralds and sapphires and a myriad of so-called semiprecious stones.  Love, love, love.
 So what about diamonds?  I never really liked them much until I had a class in how to identify and describe them.  All that glitter.  All those subtle characteristics.  All that beauty!
 Are diamonds really forever?
 Diamonds are very, very hard.  Diamonds are nearly impervious to chemicals.  It’s almost impossible to scratch them in normal day-to-day life.  But they can be burned and they can be broken.  (Just one more reason to not have your house burn down.  It won’t do that engagement ring any favors.)
It's hard to scratch a diamond.  Only another diamond can do it, and only in certain directions on the stone.
It's hard to burn a diamond, but it can be done.  Even if your diamond doesn’t go up in flames (very unlikely), the stone will get ruined.  Trust me, a clear, sparkling diamond that has become opaque and white is not pretty.

It’s possible to crush a diamond, and it's easy to break a diamond...if it's hit just right.  Because of its atomic structure, diamond can be broken along certain planes in the stone.  In The Olden Days, before the power-driven diamond saw blade, diamonds were shaped by cleaving.  Diamond cutters, the grand poobahs of the industry, studied large stones for long periods of time before placing a chisel-like tool in the exactly right—they hoped—place and striking it with a small hammer.  If they had calculated correctly, the stone split smoothly.  Imagine the stress when, after a year of study, Joseph Asscher aimed his hammer at the world’s largest diamond, the 3,106 carat Cullinan.  Check
out the story here:
(Be sure to scroll down to see the picture of Asscher preparing to whack the stone.  )


P.S.  On the writing front, Western Heroes: Grey is still under construction but progressing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Getting Organized—the Current In Thing
Anyone here ever heard of Marie Kondo?
I thought so.
Yes, I’ve read her books.
Yes, I’ve been Marie Kondo-ing my house. [Sort of]
No, I didn’t gather all my clothes in one pile on the floor and check each item for sparks of joy.
No, I didn’t discard anything I hadn’t worn in a year.
No, I didn’t embrace her as a goddess.
At first.
When I first read The Life-Changing etc., I thought it was silly.  I was wrong.  [Note to DH: See? I can admit when I’m wrong.]
Critics point out that many of her ideas are not new.  True.  I know this because I have files containing years-old articles on how to declutter and organize.
Enthusiasts think she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  [And why is that a good metaphor anyway?  I prefer home-made bread and that doesn’t come pre-sliced.  Oh well.]  If she can get people to declutter their lives, this is good.
My take on this little tempest:
Piling clothes on the floor—not a great idea, especially for those who don’t bend well.  But I notice that idea has melted and oozed away.  If you have to pile, do it on the bed, okay?
Working on everything in one category at once [rather than going room by room]—excellent idea.
Working on categories with low emotional attachment first and progressing to the cherished [or uncherished] heirlooms—another excellent idea.
I think some of her ideas are culture-specific.  I don’t embrace some of her folding methods because they don’t work with my wardrobe or my drawers.  But as with any how-to program, I can take what works for me, right?
Whatever the size and shape of your drawers, this is one fad that isn’t bad.  Clearing clutter, organizing what’s left, making your belongings easy to live with—excellent!
What are you waiting for?


P.S.  Getting rid of books gives me a panic attack.  (I haven't shown you pictures of the other rooms--floor to ceiling books!)