While we were browsing the internet looking at beautiful rings we noticed that many people are using a few terms for metal-smithing techniques interchangeably. If you are finding this confusing, you are not alone. Never fear, we are here to set the record straight.
Filigree is the process of coiling and bending tiny threads and beads of metal into ornate patterns and soldering them together or onto another metal surface. The term comes from the Latin word filum - meaning thread, and granum - meaning grain.
Milgrain refers to the delicate edging of tiny indents and bumps that jewelers sometimes apply to the borders of a design using a "knurling" tool. It is a great way to add a bit of intimate detail to your ring. Sometimes milgrain is incredibly tiny and delicate, sometimes it is so large it can look like a row of beads along an edge. The word milgrain is a literal translation of a French word meaning 'a thousand grains.'
Engraving is when the jeweler cuts grooves into the surface of your ring to create images or patterns.
Relief is much like engraving but instead of simply carving a pattern into the surface, in a relief the background is deeply cut away to leave a raised surface which is then carefully engraved. The end result is a is much more three dimensional effect.
Don't worry, there isn't going to be a quiz. If you have any questions about the techniques or rings you see here please don't hesitate to get in touch with us!
Are you confused by diamond cut grades? How is a diamond graded for it's cut quality? What is an ideal cut diamond? Do you need some simple, clear, diamond buying advice?
Look no further. We are Little Bird - Diamond & Engagement Ring Consulting. It is our job to explain the basics of diamond grading in a way that makes sense to a non-gemologist.
Cut is one of the 4 C's of diamond grading, along with Clarity, Carat size, and Color. Cut evaluation is by no means everything you need to know about a diamond, but it will help you understand why some diamonds have more fire and brilliance than others. Here is a great article from GIA on how they grade a diamond's cut. (GIA stand for The Gemological Institute of America.)
GIA is the largest gem grading laboratory, operating facilities all over the world. They are certainly not the only lab, but their grading system is considered the standard in the in industry. In addition to grading diamonds, GIA also has an educational facility. Us Little Birds are very familiar with GIA's grading system. If you need help understanding a GIA diamond certificate or even help buying an uncertified diamond please get in touch, or leave us a question in the comments section. This is a lot of information to take in, and you are not expected to understand all the details immediately.
You may not know this, but the holidays are the peak season for engagement ring purchases. Maybe it’s the Christmas bonus, maybe it’s looking around at a table of loved ones over a festive dinner, maybe it’s the champagne. Whatever the reason, in the winter a young man’s fancy turns to diamonds.
So what does this mean for you, the wide-eyed chap clutching his credit card in front of the jewelry store? It means that you are buying a ring, a symbol of hope and love and commitment and romance… in the middle of the busiest time of frenzied consumerism all year. Great.
As you can imagine, the odds are pretty low that the jewelry store will put the emotional significance of your purchase above their need to beat last year’s sales numbers for that week. Educate yourself before you walk up to the diamond display case. That can be a tall order in this age of information overload, especially when you are navigating a field with far more advertising than fact, but start with the basics.
The best part of a proposal is that it marks a pivotal moment in life that neither person will forget. Plan your proposal moment as if you are painting a memory for you and your fiancée to look back on when you are retired and sitting together, hand-in-hand on your front porch.
Let's start with the background. Do you two feel drawn to glittering nighttime cityscapes? Many fancy downtown hotels have rooftop gardens with amazing views of the city at night. Or a stunning forested vista? Camping is always a great excuse to get away from it all and be alone together. Would you prefer a crowd of people cheering when she says yes or the quiet sweetness of a private moment?
You're lying in bed, but you're still flying high off that pour over you thought was a good idea at 3pm. You have a long car ride ahead of you and you've already listened to all of the recent The Moth podcasts. You're hanging in the park just kicking back and acro-yoga just isn't your thing. The next time you have some alone time with your partner and want to pick their brain re: engagement rings, we've got you covered.
1. How do you feel about your friends who have gotten engaged? What’s the gossip? Do any of your friends secretly not like their rings?
teaching new brides old tricks... everything you need to know about: OLD MINE & OLD EUROPEAN CUT DIAMONDS
This post was republished with permission from Corey Egan. Corey Egan is a San Francisco based Jeweler, Designer and Small Business Owner.
Holding a piece of jewelry that contains an antique diamond feels like you’re handling ancient treasure. And for good reason! While modern diamonds are mined and cut by the millions each year, a limited number of Old Mine and Old European Cut diamonds exist in the market today.
These precursors to our modern day round brilliant cuts offer a distinct visual experience from the way their hand cut facets play with light. The facets are wider and more geometric, resulting in pops of sparkle instead of the disco ball dazzle we see in modern diamonds. They’re perfectly imperfect, and that’s what gives them their charm.
Old Mine and Old European Cut diamonds are the most common of the antique diamond cuts. Today we’ll dive into each and to share their origins and point out their visual characteristics. With any luck, you’ll be able to spot the difference between the two in no time!
Old Mine Cut (Left) Old European Cut (Center) and Modern Round Brilliant Diamond (Right)
DIAMONDS FROM THE OLD MINES
The antique Old Mine and Old European cut diamonds are commonly found in jewelry from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco Eras which spanned from the 1700’s through the late 1800’s. Diamonds of this era were cut by hand. The bruting machines used to cut modern diamonds were not invented until the 1900’s.
The diamond rough for these gems originated in the literal “old mines” of Brazil and India. The African mines that supply the whitest rough were not yet discovered. So these diamonds tended to be of lower color and in more limited numbers than what we see today.
Diamond cutters of this time were inventive. They assessed each diamond individually and cut it to bring out the best color and sparkle for that stone. They were meant to dazzle under candles, gas lamps and lower light conditions. Since each one was hand cut to please the eye, no two would ever be identical.
Though they come from the same humble origins and reigned in overlapping eras, the Old Mine Cut and Old European Cut Diamonds have distinct visual differences. Let’s dive deeper into how you can distinguish between the two.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds
OLD MINE CUT
Old Mine cut diamonds were most commonly used during the Georgian and Victorian eras from the 1700’s through the 1800’s.
The first characteristics that will jump out when viewing an Old Mine Cut diamond are the open culet (the round facet on the very bottom of the stone) and its squared off “cushion” shape. Diamond cutters of the day would follow the gem’s natural octahedral shape as a guide. The girdle, the widest part of the diamond held in the tweezers above, was often the unpolished edge of the natural diamond crystal.
The very top facet, known as the table, is very small. Old Mine Cuts also feature a high crown and a large pavilion. Like our modern round brilliants, the Old Mine Cut has 58 facets, but they are chunkier and more geometric than the facets of modern gems.
Old European Cut Diamonds
OLD EUROPEAN CUT
Advances in diamond cutting technology led to the development of the Old European Cut diamond in the late 1800’s. This meant that the diamond shapes could be rounder, tables a bit larger, and the facets became more elongated.
Old European cut diamonds were a precursor to our modern brilliant diamonds and were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco eras.
Similar to the Old Mine Cut Diamond, the culet is still present in Old European Cut diamonds but it is often smaller. Old Europeans have a rounder shape, although many are still imperfect because they were cut by eye and not by machine. Like the Old Mine Cuts before them and Modern Brilliants after, Old European Cuts have 58 facets.
CHOOSING AN OLD MINE OR OLD EUROPEAN CUT DIAMOND
It’s worth remembering that the hand cut nature of antique diamonds is what gives them a palpable charm and beauty. However, this same character is what makes it near impossible to compare them to our modern day grading standards. I believe these antique gems are best observed and appreciated one by one. These antique diamonds are all about character.
The beauty standards we judge modern diamonds against were not defined for gem cutters of this era. The evolution of diamond cutting technology now allows for repeatable processes and standardized angles that were designed for maximum brilliance. As a result, modern diamond grading reports have a hard time reconciling these antique cuts. They should receive “poor” cutting grades because they don’t follow the cookie-cutter dimensions of today’s modern brilliants, yet they are still immensely beautiful gemstones.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds
The lower color of antique diamonds also is hard to judge against our present day scales. During their day, many of these lower color diamonds — the J, K, L, M’s that might scare off a modern shopper — were some of the best on the market. Diamond cutters in this period cut each diamond to enhance its color. So while the letter grade may rank low, remember that to the naked eye they will “face up” whiter.
Old European Cut Diamonds
Lighting conditions greatly affect the look of an antique diamond. Since these cuts were meant to dazzle under lower lighting conditions, they have a more interesting sparkle throughout our day-to-day. I encourage you to view them in as many lighting conditions as possible— daylight, fluorescent, incandescent, even candlelight— before you buy. The right gem for you is the one you have a visceral reaction to.
If a rare and unique diamond is truly what you seek, you can’t get much better than an Antique Diamond.
You can find the original post by Corey Egan here.
Engagement Ring = Diamond + Ring Setting
In order to offer the best possible support for the engagement ring shoppers, Little Bird maintains a wide network of experts and insiders in all parts of the diamond industry. One of our FAVORITE experts is Marilyn Weiss, a national estate and antique ring specialist. Marilyn buys and sells vintage, estate and antique diamond engagement rings. Some samples of her current collection are shown here. At any time, she will have close to 100 completely unique pieces. She doesn’t generally sell them directly to retail customers, but she’s always happy to meet privately with Little Bird clients. Her clients include some of the finest retailers in the US known for antique fine jewelry. Let’s just say it’s good to have a friend like Marilyn.
Little Bird: So you’ve specialized in all sorts of jewelry over your many years in the industry, from semi-precious to precious. When did you get into antique and estate fine jewelry?
Marilyn Weiss: About 13 years ago I walked into a used bookstore,,,
I need an engagement ring within 1 week from now!
Antique Engagement Rings - Super romantic. Antique pieces make for fantastic engagement rings. Art Deco, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Retro... the styles and options are practically endless and you're sure to find something that fits the style and budget you're aiming for.
Favorites: Erstwhile, Lang Antiques, Trumpet & Horn and Victor Barboné
Favorites: Catbird, Shibumi Studio & Gallery, Esqueleto and Trabert Goldsmiths
Pro tip: There's always the "temp setting" option. It's fabulous for nailing a tight timeline once you've found the perfect diamond. This is a blackbelt move, so feel free to buzz us for some free advice on how to tackle this option.
I need an engagement ring in 2 weeks from now!
There is a 1-2 weeks lead time for standard design engagement rings. What does that mean? Well, when a designer or a jeweler offers a standard design then they are able to produce that ring to your exact specifications within about 2 weeks. Think of it this way, if there's a style number or style name associated with the piece, then it's likely part of that jeweler's "standard collection" and therefore they have all the design parameters already laid out and ready. You just have to pick the center diamond or gemstone, a specific ring size and metal type (platinum, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, etc). There are fantastic in-store and online jewelers who offer fabulous, unique and well-made standard collections.
Pro tip: if you're going this route, be sure to confirm that you have a return and exchange policy. It's customary to offer this option for standard collection pieces.
I need an engagement ring in the next 1-3 months!
Need some personalized ring wisdom in regards to your timeline? We are happy to chat with you about the best strategies based on your schedule. And it's free!
The holiday season presents the annual family check-in time. For many folks, it goes something like this:
You might not be shocked to hear that 100% of people who reach out to Little Bird are, in fact, planning to get engaged (winky face). Yikes! Well, now it's crunch time. Believe it or not, it can take 4-6 weeks to educate yourself in the field, find the right jeweler, put together the perfect ring and then have it made. If you want to get engaged by New Year’s, you better find that perfect ring ASAP. The problem with this: EVERYONE else is also looking for the perfect ring AND it's the busiest shopping season of the year. Stores hire uninformed holiday help, the lines at the cash registers are almost as big as the bottom line sales goals. It's the most difficult time to receive impeccable service and in the meantime all the coveted inventory is being snatched up. If you're in the market for a specific type of ring, such as a Canadian diamond engagement ring, an oval sapphire halo ring, or maybe a custom opal engagement ring, the least you can do is be prepared.
We are offering our 30 minute Expert Engagement Ring Consultation to help get folks ready for what will be a huge purchasing decision. If future marriage has been on your mind as of late, as the leaves start to turn and the family events start stacking up on the calendar, contact us to schedule AND/OR refer a friend and you both get an early holiday present from Little Bird...check it out here.
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