Thursday, May 26, 2016

Eternity Band 101, Melee Gems and - YES - Las Vegas

Recently I'd been asked by customers to offer eternity bands for some of the melee gems I've been selling on my site.  The paraibas and hauynites especially lend themselves to those, and I hope to get more of both at the JCK and AGTA show in Vegas in early June.  I'm totally psyched already, this time I want to take a little more advantage of the glitz in between gem purchases - I bought new dresses and I want to see Circe de Soleil.

Of course I'm going to look for more of the holy grail stone - Paraiba - but also sapphires from Dudley, more pretty emeralds, and whatever else you guys wish for me to find.  I definitely want to get other melee options for multi-stone layouts, halos and the new eternity styles I am going to carry.

When I was in Tucson in February, I got a lot of questions like "how many stones do I need for a half eternity band with 1mm paraibas," and I couldn't answer them quickly enough because I was so busy doing other things.  This time, I am planning ahead by summarizing eternity band 101 for you to mull over.

Let's start with some basic math.  Below is a simple table that tells you how many gems you need for a full, half, or quarter eternity band.  I just listed three ring sizes, but I think you can infer down or up what you might need. I just wanted you to have an idea of how much ring coverage you get with how many stones.  For your own band, I can do any number you like.  For fewer stones, I recommend an uneven number of gems - it just looks better.

Ring Size
Full / Half /Quarter Eternity
2mm Stone Size

Full / Half /Quarter Eternity
1.5mm Stone Size
Full / Half /Quarter Eternity
1mm Stone Size
32/ 16 /9
42/ 21/ 11
63/ 32/ 17
34/ 17/ 9
42/ 22/ 11
63/ 33/ 17
34/ 17/ 9
42/ 23/ 11
63/ 34/ 17

What else do you need to know to construct eternity bands?

1. Ring with and depth.  For millgrain pave you need .5mm of band on each side, so a 2mm stone will require a 3mm ring.  For scoopdown or fishtail pave, you need the width of the gem only.  The band thickness should be 1.5-1.8mm.  The thinner the band, the more likely it is that it bends, and then stones fall out.  Both my setters can do any of these styles, pave work is their strong suit.

If you google the different setting styles and you'll get a lot of images for each.  Here are a few for you.

Photo Credit: 90210 Jewelry
2. Sizing: ring sizing is best done before the ring is made.  Eternity bands are hard to size - full eternity bands cannot be sized at all and partial eternity bands still carry the risk of gem breakage or gem loss when the band is bent in the sizing process.

3. Pricing: For 14 kt gold figure on $120-180 for a standard eternity band.  So that's not too bad.  But since I have all my gems set locally, the real hidden cost is setting.  With pave work, millgrain, and polishing and or rhodium, setting a stone comes to about $12-15.  So a full eternity band for a ring with 1mm stones is, at minimum, $750 just for setting.  I can get it done cheaper if I buy a pre-fabricated band for just standard prong setting and use cheaper setters, but then I can't do this kind of pave work.  For all these styles, every single bead is cut and shaped by hand.  That's why it costs so much (at least here in the US).

Hope this blog entry helps you in your decision making process, whether it is for my site or any other.

You'll hear from me next from Vegas, most likely through Facebook since I don't want to overwhelm you with mail.  Stay tuned.

Ruby and White Gold Fishtail Pave Ring Set by Ethan S.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What I Have Learned about Paraibas

This blog entry has been a long time coming - I should have written it over a year ago, when I first started buying Paraibas on my inaugural visit in Tucson.

I have seen and admired Paraiba tourmalines ever since I got into the gem business in 2009.  At that point, I knew little about buying and grading gems, but I was already attracted by their neon glow.  I bought one single piece to make a tie bar for my best friend in Germany - I think I paid only about $100/ct to a group of Brazilian guys at a New York Gem show.

Paraiba tourmaline is named after its location, Paraiba, a small town in Northern Brazil.  While tourmaline has been known as a gemstone variety for hundreds of years, this particular vibrant neon variety was only discovered in 1989.  The mine yielded Paraibas for five years, then production stopped and the mines closed.  

What makes Paraiba tourmaline so attractive is its strong blue to turquoise to green and also purple color, caused by the trace mineral copper (I've actually never seen a faceted purple one, not to my knowledge anyway, because I may not have identified it as Paraiba).  Hence the term 'copper bearing'.  Copper bearing tourmalines have since been found in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Mozambique.  But their color is not quite as intense (with Mozambique being the closest).  Often, these other copper bearing tourmalines are also termed "Paraiba" though this is technically false.  "Paraiba color tourmaline" would be more apt.  So when buying Paraibas, it is always worth asking where the gem is from.  Some labs, notably, AGL, can also identify the origin of these tourmalines, though usually pieces larger than 3mm are needed for an origin analysis.  When buying a Paraiba, you should request that the origin is written on the invoice or that it is on the back of the box.  I always have that done.  Also consider working with someone who has a good reputation and if you can, who is a member of the AGTA.  I exclusively buy Paraibas that way.

The single most important factor in pricing Paraiba tourmalines is their color.  The more blue, and the more vibrant, the more expensive they are.  So a vibrant green is less expensive than a vibrant windex blue, with a vibrant turqoise being in the middle.  Even more opaque blue Paraibas can cost more than much cleaner green ones - with much discretion being up to the seller of course.

The photo below shows you four different color grades of Paraiba.  The left two gems are copper bearing but from another location, they show, by comparison at least, a lot more extinction, despite their beautiful color.  The most vibrant gem is the small oval, which also had the highest price tag. The large oval should have cost more because it is also very blue, but it didn't - go figure.  The cheapest was the green pear shape, after that the emerald shape on the right.

Copper Bearing African and Paraiba Tourmaline
Clarity is next in the ranking, though for tourmaline the standards on clarity are pretty low.  Even emeralds are ranked by more stringent standards.

Paraiba tourmaline melee cost approximately 2x as much as diamonds, sometimes 3x as much, in the wholesale market.  Hence the high price tag you see on my blog.  Setting, meanwhile, of Paraiba melee, is difficult.  Pierre, my setter, says it's like setting soap. He's very good and still they crack often.  Softer metal are needed because the way gems are held down is by pushing metal over the gem with sharp tools.  A good eye and steady hands are also needed.  The fact that a lot of Paraiba are included is part of the trouble, inclusions make a gem more brittle and less able to withstand pressure.

Paraiba Tourmaline Cabochons, Including a Rare Cat'e Eye
In terms of Paraiba tourmaline care, avoid ultrasonic if you can.  Some ultrasonic machines contain chemicals that are like acid in their solution, other "shake" so hard that they shatter the gem from within.  So if need be, just a very short bath in ultrasonic is best, and you should always disclose that the gem is a valuable Paraiba.  Steam should be applied from further away - it is very hot (by definition) and high pressure.

And what about availability of the gem, now that the mines are closed?  Well, I do see Paraiba available with many high end dealers in New York (maybe 25% of them).  But there are few pieces, fewer every year, and prices appear to be unlimited toward the top.  Just last week I saw two pieces that were over 100K.  Pretty they were.  One was mostly big - a high domed cab with ridiculous color.  The other was a several carat windex blue faceted oval.  Maybe I can sneak some shots for you in Vegas in early June.

Here are some Paraiba Tourmaline Designs I've made in the last 2-3 months: