If you think baguettes are just for sandwiches or that carats are only good with hummus, it’s time you took our crash course in jewellery knowledge
Words Beth Forsyth
Which girl hasn’t dreamt of the moment her boyfriend drops to one knee and produces a little velvet-lined box? In those dreams, the box usually contains a glittering chunk of bling – because the bigger the diamond the better, right? Wrong! According to Michael Laing OBE, boss of Laing Edinburgh,, “When it comes to diamonds, size does not matter.” Instead, he urges buyers to invest in high-quality smaller stones rather than quantity. “That way, you’ll ensure you make a lasting investment.”
It’s true your engagement and wedding rings will be around for a very long time (there’s a real chance they’ll be passed down the generations), so it pays to know what you’re buying before you splash the cash. We asked five leading Scottish jewellers to drop the gemstone jargon and give us some straight talking on the basics of ring shopping, covering precious metals, styles of cut, stone settings and ring profiles.
Sheila Fleet gives us a lesson in metalwork.
“White gold is actually created by mixing traditional yellow gold with either silver or palladium, to produce the white colour. Normally white gold is rhodium-plated to produce an even whiter finish. Applying a plating of rhodium gives rings a nice lustre, but the plating may need to be replaced during the lifetime of the ring.”
“Platinum, the rarest and most precious metal, is a beautiful white metal which polishes well. It will last a lifetime due to its durability and resistance to wear and tear. The platinum used in jewellery is usually about 95% pure, unlike gold, which needs to be strengthened.”
“While we don’t work with this non-precious metal at Sheila Fleet, it has become more popular in recent years, especially for gents’ wedding bands. It is light-weight, yet is resistant to scratches and corrosive fluids, making it ideal for people who work with their hands.”
“This blush-hued precious metal – also known as pink gold – is an alloy made from mixing yellow gold with copper. Out of fashion for many years, it has made a bit of a comeback thanks to its inherently ‘vintage’ look.”
“The ‘original’ gold, and the one many still feel is the best, is yellow gold. It is normally mixed with silver, copper and zinc to strengthen the metal and enhance the yellow sheen. It is the metal of choice for traditionalists, for people preferring the warmer colour with their skin tone, and for its contrast with precious stones and other metals.”
“As a member of the platinum family, palladium is durable and has a fantastic shine. It is used in an almost pure form (approximately 95%) for jewellery and is excellent for people with sensitive skin, as it is hypoallergenic with similar characteristics to platinum, but at a more affordable price.”
Cuts above the rest
Daniel Groundland of Mr Harold & Son talks us through some of the most popular diamond cuts
“This sophisticated cut has a very distinctive shape. It’s essentially an emerald cut (see right) in square form, with triangular patterns in its facets. It definitely stands out from the rest.”
“This geometric shape of diamond was created in the 1920s as a popular alternative to the emerald cut. The rectangular cut was often used in many Art Deco pieces and is still used today.”
“This soft-looking round shape has an antique feel which seems a million miles away from many modern designs. With its large facets, rectangular outline, rounded corners and curved sides, the cushion shape falls in between an oval and a round (see below) cut.”
“The emerald cut was hugely popular during the Art Deco era and is still in high demand today. It is truly unique due to its having very few facets, and its long rectangular shape is both elegant and simple.”
“With its smooth curves, the heart-cut diamond is a stunning alternative to the typical round and princess cuts. It’s hard not to fall in love with this shape.”
“With its slender curved sides and pointed ends, there is something quite magical about the marquise cut. It’s no surprise that this shape is a popular choice for engagement rings.”
“A perfectly symmetrical design. The elongated shape of the oval cut gives a flattering illusion of length to the hand.”
“The pear is a combination of the round brilliant and the marquise cut. This teardrop-like shape, with its rounded end and single point, can also give the impression of elongated fingers.”
“A square shape with an incredible amount of life, thanks to its many facets. It’s perfect for anyone who want the fire of a round brilliant in a less traditional form.”
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“This cut combines the elegance of the emerald-shape diamond with the brilliance of the round. Most square or rectangular cuts just don’t live up to the round brilliant for sparkle, but this one was designed for getting the maximum brilliance out of a stone.”
“This shape has set the standard for all other diamond shapes. Over the generations, diamond experts have evolved the round by enhancing and maximising the brilliance of the stone. It is by far the most popular cut because of its timeless look.”
“This modern three-pointed design has both curved and uncurved sides of equal length which makes it unlike anything else out there. The triangular brilliants are very bright and lively stones.”
Facets of life
Michael Laing OBE of Laing Edinburgh on finding the right diamond.
“To the untrained eye a diamond is just a sparkly stone, but there is much more to it than that. We’re talking, after all, about the hardest substance in the world, which was formed 21 billion years ago. Whoever it was that first said ‘diamonds are forever’ really hit the nail on the head.
Diamonds are also not the kind of thing you buy every day, so how do you choose the right one? You want to make a wise investment in a rare and vivacious stone that is cut in such a way that when the light hits it, it bursts with ‘sparkle’ and ‘fire’, and is the very best your money can buy.
It is easy to fall for a large stone with an affordable price tag, but chances are it will turn out to be exactly what you paid for: poorly cut, tainted in colour or riddled with critical imperfections – or possibly all three. If the price seems too good to be true, it almost certainly will be too good to be true.
There are four key factors, known as the four Cs (cut, clarity, colour and carat) to consider when thinking about diamonds. Even so, only the cut determines a stone’s ‘life’ and ‘brilliance’, so my advice would be simple: rather than spending money on poorly cut diamonds, it is a better investment to purchase a diamond of superior cut which is rarer and of better quality and will grow in value. Always go for quality over quantity as such as stone will catch the eye more easily. A well-cut diamond has so much more ‘power’ and ‘brilliance’ that it can look bigger than a diamond that is 20% larger.
Starting prices for a good-quality diamond can be anything from £750 for a ring, £500 for a pendant and £300 for a pair of earrings. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. We have sourced fabulous diamonds for up to £500,000 for top international buyers.”
Ready, set, go!
Francesca Flynn at The Ringmaker tells us all about stone settings.
“A claw setting gives a classic and timeless look. The stone is held in place by prongs of metal known as claws, which may vary in number from three to eight, often determined by the size and shape of stone and the overall design. This setting allows most of the stone to be visible from the side while being held securely.
Modern yet practical, the rubover setting stands proud of the ring and surrounds the full girdle of the stone with an edge of metal. This is a very smooth setting so is less prone to catching. Another option is to have a section of the setting cut away to reveal a small segment of the side of the stone – this is known as a partial rubover.
Channel setting allows the stones to be set very closely together in a row with no metal between each stone, only a border of metal either side. A mix of cuts of stone can be used in this style – such as round, princess and baguette – to give a unique look. To work, stones must be calibrated to exactly the same dimensions, which means hard stones such as diamonds, sapphires and rubies are the most suitable.
The pavé setting has a very decorative appearance. Its name comes from the French for ‘paved’, since it appears as if the surface has been covered with diamonds. These are set flush and held in place by beads of metal which are pushed over at four points. A line is often engraved around the overall area to enhance the effect. From a distance it is difficult to distinguish the metal from the diamonds!
When a stone is set deep into the metal flush with the surface, it is said to have an invisible setting. It is commonly used with small round or princess-cut stones and has a simple and minimalist look.
Tension setting is not the most practical choice for a ring you’d wear every day. The stone is liable to work its way loose over time, as it is only held in place by two points and the tension in the metal of the ring, and even a slight knock can make the space for the stone gradually bigger. We would always recommend a safety bezel beneath the stone for added security, while still giving the appearance of being held by tension.”
Lesley Elder of John McKay Jewellers chats ring profiles
The right ring is not just about the shine of precious metal and the glitter of stones, you know. That may be what’s on show to the outside world, but – as it’s going to be sitting on your finger for a very long time – it’s crucial that you get a comfortable ring that fits you well. “If you were to slice through the middle of a ring, the shape of the metal band you see is known as its profile,” explains Lesley Elder. “There are several different profiles and your jeweller will talk you through the options. Take the popular ‘D’ shape, for example: it’s flat on the inside and rounded on the outside. The rounded shape creates the appearance of being a substantial ring while still sitting comfortably close to the finger. ‘Court’ or ‘comfort’ shapes, however, are rounded on both the inner and outer faces, so there are no hard edges, while ‘flat’ profiles really give the look of a chunky ring.”