An introduction to the world of Gemstones
With their brilliant shine and enchanting sparkle, diamonds are probably one of the first stones to cross your mind when it comes to gems and jewelry. After all, diamond rings account for almost 90% of engagement jewelry, and the diamond industry is one of the most valuable markets in the US. The popularity of diamonds is easy to understand - as the hardest of all stones, they are nearly impossible to scratch or break, and they are among the most reflective, which gives diamonds their infamous bright shine. However, this iconic stone has not always been in such demand. Let’s explore the unique and rich history of what makes diamonds and other gemstones a one-of-a-kind treasure.
A Long Romance
The beauty and splendor of gemstones have been captivating humans for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations carved, shaped, and smoothed gems to serve a variety of functional and decorative purposes. Stones such as lapis lazuli, quartz, turquoise, and jade were used in some of the earliest gemstone jewelry across the world. Wearing these beautiful pieces of nature was a method of self-expression, of beautification, and of showing status. While our reasons for wearing jewelry today have largely stayed the same, the technology for making it has advanced drastically over time, and the fluctuations in gemstone availability and in cultural tastes have shaped which stones are most popular.
Diamonds, for example, had a very different appearance for much of history than they have today. The stone was often maintained in the natural shape of its crystal, a simple octahedron. This crystal was sometimes carried loose in a pocket or mounted onto a simple band and worn as a ring. By the 1400s, gemcutters knew that they could polish these crystals using diamond dust to increase their shine. (Because diamonds are so hard, the only thing that can smooth their surface is other diamonds!) This early shape was known as a point-cut. Soon, craftspeople began trying other cuts; thanks to this experimentation, as well as technological advancements in cutting and grinding tools, cuts were developed that not only safeguarded the integrity of the stone but also greatly improved the attractiveness. By the mid-1700s, gemcutters had developed early versions of the brilliant cut, which nowadays is the most popular way to facet a diamond due to its beautiful effects on the appearance of the stone.
However, despite these advancements, diamonds didn’t truly become popular until the mid-1900’s. During most of the millennium, diamonds were sourced in India (and later, Brazil), but the availability slowly declined. In the late 1800’s, diamonds were discovered in South Africa. Its presence in the industry was reinvigorated as the stone became more and more available. The decline of consumerism during the WWII era led to yet another decline in the diamond market. The true turning point came in the 1950’s when the diamond mining company De Beers launched an advertising campaign that forefronted the now-infamous phrase, “a diamond is forever.” This slogan cemented the association between diamonds and commitment, leading to a wild increase in the popularity of diamond engagement rings.
Grading a Gemstone's Value
The rise in popularity of diamonds, and engagement rings in general, led to a need for a consistent way to determine the value of a gemstone. A stone’s value is complex; it depends on a variety of factors and requires an experienced eye, although oftentimes questionable, ultimately due to the “eyes of the beholder”. The global standard used today for gemstone grading is the 4Cs, a system that enables consistent and objective diamond valuation across the world. How does one value a gemstone, you ask? Despite the fact that 4Cs are often used as a very cut & dry guidelines, this oftentimes can be a bit misleading - if all or most that you value is the originality and character in the stone. Those can not be graded or classified by anything but your own eyes and appreciation or therefore a lack of.
What are the 4Cs?
The 4C grading system was established by the Gemological Institute of America in the 1950s. It revolutionized the way diamonds are graded by providing a standard set of criteria that the entire jewelry industry could use. Prior to this system, there was no agreement as to how diamonds were valued, causing widespread discrepancies in pricing and valuation.
The 4Cs describe four different categories that contribute to a diamond’s value. These categories are color, cut, clarity, and carat. Each category is evaluated separately, with the results then examined holistically to determine the final value of the diamond.
The first of the four C’s is color, which in the case of diamonds, actually refers to the colorless of the stone. Color is evaluated on a scale. The most highly graded diamonds have no hue or saturation, whereas the stones at the lower end of the scale will have a distinct yellow or brown hue. However, diamonds demonstrating a particularly strong yellow or brown color, or any other color, are considered fancy-colored diamonds, which are graded as their own category distinct from colorless diamonds.
Other gemstones are also evaluated by color, but the standards vary by gemstone. For example, rubies are at their most valuable when the color is a vibrant red that is neither too dark nor too pale. Topaz, which comes in a wide range of colors, is most prized in its orange-red to red varieties. The rarity of the gemstone in that certain color also affects its value. Diamonds in a vivid pink hue or pale blue are very rare and therefore priced much higher - in fact, these colored diamonds command the highest price per carat of any gem. However, it’s important to note that color is perhaps the most subjective of the four C’s in the sense that color preferences vary widely from person to person. Here at Kasia Jewelry, we value color the most out of the 4C’s. It’s very important to find just the right tone in the world of many, unique to the wearer and appropriate for the design!!
The next of the four C’s, clarity, refers to the visible presence of inclusions or blemishes within the diamond. An inclusion is any internal imperfection to the stone. This could be a crack, air bubble, or trace amounts of another mineral. Blemishes are any mark on the surface of the stone. Diamonds with absolutely no blemishes or inclusions rank highest on the clarity scale are considered flawless. However, truly flawless diamonds are incredibly rare. The highest quality readily accessible to consumers are diamonds with no flaws visible under 10x magnification. Generally speaking, the more noticeable an inclusion or blemish, the lower the diamond will rank on the clarity scale.
However, inclusions are an important part about what makes a diamond, or any other natural stone, truly unique. Thanks to inclusions, no two stones will ever be exactly the same. The presence of inclusions can help laboratories determine whether a gem is natural or synthetic. And inclusions or blemishes don’t necessarily make a stone less attractive. Emerald, for example, almost always has visible inclusions, and yet it remains one of the most sought-after gemstones across the globe. Another stone that has unique beauty thanks to its inclusions is the salt and pepper diamond, which has a speckled black and white appearance, typically thanks to its black carbon inclusions. It’s an increasingly popular alternative stone for engagement rings and other bespoke jewelry we are certainly a huge fan of! Think individuality & character.
An important part of a stone’s value factor is the way it is cut. As mentioned earlier, stone-cutting techniques rapidly progressed beginning in the 1400s. Today, gemcutters are able to perfect the cut of a stone to achieve the perfect optical effects, or to shape it into unique and exciting shapes, known as fantasy cuts. When it comes to diamonds, every single cut contributes to the dazzling visual result. An expertly cut diamond will perfectly balance the brilliant reflection of white light, the contrast of the stone’s dark areas, and the scattered color that dances throughout. Importantly, the stone must be cut in a way that does not leave it vulnerable to breakage.
When considering the cuts of stones other than diamond, the effect of light is still an important consideration. The best cuts will reflect maximal light back to the viewer, creating that captivating shine. Other factors include the symmetry of the cut and how well it has been polished. Some stones are rounded into cabochons or beads instead of faceted; in this case, a well-shaped gem is evenly smooth with a consistent shine.
The round brilliant cut remains the most popular shape for diamonds, but other cuts have more recently come back to popularity in the past few years. At Kasia Jewelry, some of our favorite non-traditional cuts are ovals, pears, marquises, and emeralds.
The last of the 4Cs is the carat weight. The carat is a unit used to measure the weight of gemstones to great precision. It’s easy to understand that the larger the carat weight, the more expensive the stone, but the scaling is not consistent. For example, a 2-carat diamond costs considerably more than double a 1-carat diamond because the larger diamond is more scarce. And two diamonds of the same carat weight don’t necessarily cost the same; the other three C’s also come into play.
Other gemstones follow the same trend. Also, a carat is a measurement of weight, not size, so a one carat diamond might not be the same size as a different one carat stone of the same cut!
Finding Value in Uniqueness
The 4Cs all impact a stone’s value. Each category is considered separately, but it’s just as important to look at the factors all together. When you consider the whole picture, each stone tells its own story, with a set of characteristics as unique as a fingerprint. This is what inspires us at Kasia Jewelry to feature these beautiful, natural stones in our collections time and time again. When you select your own KJ gemstone piece, you are getting something as one-of-a-kind as yourself.
Hand-Selected, with Love
Selecting the beautiful stones that make up our collection is a process we take seriously. Each main stone is hand selected, whether from reputable jewelers with generations of experience, or from sourcing trips and trade expositions where Kasia examines stone after stone to find the perfect pieces for our collection. Ultimately, we select only those stones that demand to be seen, that demonstrate that utmost important attribute, individuality.
Designing Timeless Heirlooms
At Kasia Jewelry, our designs are unique, yet timeless. Pieces are designed around the beauty of the individual stone, elevating classic styles while highlighting the stone’s character. These designs are made to stand the test of time, both in their style and durability, while reflecting your individuality. Whether you select a diamond or a different gem, your Kasia Jewelry piece pays homage to these the stone’s’ natural beauty - and to yours.