IMAGES: Rachel Boston
Oh diamonds – oh engagement rings – oh so dreamy - but oh which one to pick?!
Thankfully for you, we have dug deep to bring to you a guide on everything you need to know about diamonds and gemstones. Where they come from, what you should look out for, lab grown versus mined, conflict free, grading, colour, durability and more.
Happy reading and happy day-dreaming!
IMAGE: Rachel Boston
Let’s start at the beginning – where do diamonds come from?
It has been said that the word diamond originates from the Greek word Adamas, meaning indestructible. According to Gia (the world’s authority on diamonds and gemstones) the diamond is the only gem known to man (apart from graphite) that is made up of only one element – Carbon. Naturally sourced diamonds are created under conditions of high temperature and pressure approximately 150 kilometres underground.
The tradition seems to originate from ancient Egypt and according to engagement ring specialist Harry Winston, the circular shape of an engagement ring was said to represent an eternal cycle. It was believed that when worn on the fourth finger of the left hand the ring would stay connected to the heart via a vein believed to have been there.
IMAGE: Bert Jewellery
What about natural over lab grown diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are a fairly new trend within the engagement ring circuit and one that was popularised when Leonardo DiCaprio invested into The Diamond Foundry. ‘No mining, no carbon footprint, no cartel pricing’ is the brand slogan used by The Diamond Foundry positioning lab grown diamonds as a strong sustainably led option for diamond sourcing. Lab grown diamonds are however said to be of lower value than naturally sourced diamonds, something reflected in the lower price tag.
The Observer describes lab grown diamonds as being ‘carbon synthesized under extreme heat and pressure using a process known as chemical vapor deposition that mimics the geological formation of diamonds deep down in the Earth’s mantle. They are, by any scientific measure, real diamonds’.
IMAGE: Taylor and Hart
Ethical and conflict free diamonds and gemstones
The Kimberley Process, an organisation dedicated to removing conflict diamonds from the global supply chain defines conflict diamonds (blood diamonds) as ‘rough diamonds used to finance wars against governments’. For diamonds to be ethically sourced and conflict free, the mining and origin of a diamond should not be compromised and the distribution and sales of diamonds must remain conflict free.
According to the organisation 99.8% of the worldwide trade within the diamond industry participate with the Kimberley Process. Whilst this is a great start reports suggest that this may not be enough.
As a consumer of diamonds the best thing you can do is to ask questions and be curious about where a diamond comes from. Can your jeweller tell you about the exact provenance of their diamonds? If not, perhaps you should go elsewhere. After all, if the diamond hasn’t been sourced and designed with love and respect, what’s the point?
IMAGE: Hattie Rickards
The four C’s – cut, colour, clarity, carat
Gia confirms that the 4Cs of diamond quality control is the universal method for assessing the quality and worth of diamonds:
Cut: The proportion, dimensions and positioning of a diamond on a ring are key in allowing a diamond to really shine. Something which will be reflected in price
Colour: Colour assessment is focused on the lack or presence of colour. Most natural diamonds will present natural hues of soft yellow. GIA's D-to-Z colour-grading scale is the industry's kitemark grading system. It begins with the letter D, representing colourless, and continues to the letter Z. After that, diamonds fall into the ‘fancy diamond’ category.
Clarity: An evaluation of clarity reviews the presence of inclusions and blemishes – natural characteristics found on naturally mined diamonds. The fewer inclusions and blemishes – the higher the value. The GIA Clarity Scale has 6 categories used to evaluate clarity
Carat: Diamond carat measurement refers to the weight of a diamond. Many believe that the higher the carat – the more valuable the diamond. However, it is the combined balance of all the 4C’s that structure the final value of a diamond ring
IMAGE: Taylor and Hart
What are fancy diamonds?
Fancy diamonds – something we could dream about all day and night. These coloured diamonds are usually the most rare and valuable. They are naturally coloured and can be pink, yellow, green, purple, orange or blue for example. The value of fancy diamonds is said to increase over time in comparison to their coloured gem counterparts. This is based on their extreme durability.
IMAGE: Fenton and Co
Valuable gems – emeralds and sapphires
Following diamonds, emeralds and sapphires are considered to be the most valued and durable gems and a popular choice for those looking for both a timelessly modern ring. For both, the purer and more vivid the colour, the higher the value. Gia explains that an emerald is a green to greenish blue variety of beryl, a mineral species formed when chromium, vanadium, and iron are present in the mineral beryl. Blue sapphires belong to the mineral species corundum with iron and titanium giving the gem it’s blue colour.
We are personally obsessed with Fenton and Co's Garland Cushioned Emerald featuring three emeralds sourced Zambia and Ethiopia, cushioned in beautiful white diamonds.
IMAGE: Bert Jewellery
Valuable gems versus diamonds
The main benefit of diamonds versus valuable gems is durability. On the globally recognised Mohs Scale of hardness, diamonds rank 10, sapphires 9 and emeralds 7.5. This makes the artistry and skill of working with sapphires and emeralds extremely important when looking to minimise the risk of damage during design and production.
A huge pro for sapphires and emeralds is that as they can usually be purchased at a lower cost to diamonds, making them are a popular choice for bigger rings. These designs will usually incorporate smaller, traditional diamonds through either a halo design, side diamonds or inclusion within the design of the band. Perfect for those seeking something a little bit different. OH SO DREAMY.
IMAGE: Bert Jewellery
Alternative gems and diamonds
Salt & pepper diamonds, spinel, morganite, tourmaline gems are fast becoming popular options for ‘alternative’ engagement ring deigns. They are perfect for those wanting to something untraditional and also ideal for modest budgets. On the flip side, not best for those wanting the ultimate shine, durability and timelessness from a ring.
Salt and Pepper diamonds can be graded in the same way as traditional diamonds and also rank 10 on the Mohs Scale however, their numerous inclusions could mean that they are more prone to fracture.
At the moment there does not seem to be an official grading system for gems with the Alpha grading system being the most commonly used. As with diamonds, the grading of gems includes an evaluation of colour, cut and clarity (graded from AAA – top score, to an A – acceptable).
IMAGE: Ken and Dana
Tips on picking an engagement ring
IMAGE: De Beers
The power house brands