Amber Rings

There was a time when dinosaurs walked the earth, pterodactyls swooped through the air and resin flowed from the trees around them. The dinosaurs and pterodactyls are long gone, but the resin hardened and fossilized and today adorns our hands in amber rings.

At times when the resin was soft and flowing, it trapped insects in its path, which became preserved as the amber hardened. Today we call them inclusions in the amber. With their fascinating peek into prehistoric times, amber stones that have inclusions are highly coveted.

Amber Sources
Most of the amber you’ll find on the market today hails from the area of the Baltic Sea, although it is found in regions as widespread as Burma, North America, Romania and Italy. The Dominican Republic is a popular source for the stones since a large number of inclusions are found amongst amber mined on the island.

Amber Colors in Rings
Amber stones are so frequently discovered in shades of dark yellow that the name amber has become synonymous with that color. Nevertheless, amber can be found in an array of colors, including rust, brown, green, blue and black. When judging amber quality, clear, uniform stones are considered more desirable than cloudy stones or stones with bubbles.

Amber Hardness
As gemstones go, amber is on the soft end of the scale. The Mohs scale is used to rate gems for hardness on a scale from one to ten. Diamond, the hardest known natural substance, is a ten on the Mohs scale. Amber comes in at between 2 and 2.5, meaning it is one of the softest gems.

Caring for Amber Rings
Amber’s relative softness means that it is more prone to scratching and damage than other, harder stones and needs special scare. Amber rings in particular are likely to be jostled and bumped around in the course of normal wear, but take care to remove your ring before engaging in activities such as sports or housework to decrease that likelihood. It’s also a good idea to remove the ring before using household chemicals like cleaning supplies or hairspray, substances which can harm the stone. When not wearing the ring, do not toss it into a jewelry box drawer where it can be scratched by sharp prongs or other gemstones. First wrap it in a soft cloth, or use the box’s ring holders.

The Amber Room
One of history’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries is that of the disappearance of the famed amber room. The room consisted of wall panels fashioned from amber, mirrors and gold leaf and was created in the 18th century for the Prussian king, but was subsequently given as a gift to Russian tsar Peter the Great, who had it installed in the Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg. There it remained until World War II, when the invading Nazi army stole it and carried it to Konigsburg, from where it disappeared. While some experts suspect that it was destroyed in a fire at the end of the war, no one knows for sure what became of the Amber Room.

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Chocolate diamond rings

Sparkly, brown and beautiful, chocolate diamonds belong to the “fancy” family of diamonds, which includes colors like blue, pink, yellow, green, black and more. Here we aim to answer some of your questions about chocolate diamond rings.

Are they really diamonds?
Chocolate diamonds are, indeed, true diamonds.

Is the chocolate color natural?
Uhh… maybe. Brown diamonds occur in nature, but synthetic brown diamonds are also available on the jewelry market. The chocolate color can also be achieved through treating the diamond. Most of the chocolate diamonds currently on the market have been color-treated. As one might expect, naturally brown diamonds are worth more than treated or synthetic ones. A reputable jeweler should tell you whether the stone in the chocolate diamond ring you’re considering is natural, treated or synthetic.

How does the diamond get that color naturally?
There are a couple of ways that the diamond could become brown. Diamonds that have been irradiated, perhaps by uranium ore located with the diamond. However, when this occurs in nature the color is usually just on the surface of the diamond. Experts suspect that diamonds with a rich, natural brown color have lattice deformations that create the rich shade.

Where did the name come from?
The jewelry firm Le Vian coined the term chocolate diamonds to describe rich brown diamonds. The term is used in the company’s marketing.

Are brown diamond rings more valuable or less valuable than white?
Truth is, throughout most of history brown diamonds were considered inferior gems and were not used for jewelry. Many diamond mines produce a large amount of brown diamonds, however, and in the 1980s a public relations push sought to make good quality brown diamonds more desirable in the eyes of jewelry buyers. Color is not the sole determinant of value in a diamond, but if all other factors are the same, white diamonds are more expensive than chocolate. Generally speaking, you can get more diamond for your money if you go with a chocolate diamond.

Is clarity important in chocolate diamonds?
Clarity is an important determinant of value in any diamond. Buyers should be aware that some jewelers sell chocolate diamond rings with poor clarity, hoping buyers will admire the pretty chocolate shade and ignore the cloudiness.

What is the Golden Jubilee Diamond?
The world’s largest cut diamond is a chocolate diamond. The original stone, discovered in a South African mine in 1985, came in at 755.5 carats and was cut down to a 545 carat diamond. The stone was presented to the king of Thailand for the 50th anniversary of his crowning, and dubbed the Golden Jubilee Diamond.

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Pearl Engagement Rings

Simple, classic and lovely, the pearl is an excellent choice for an engagement ring. While today the pearl engagement ring is a rather unconventional choice, during the Victorian era they were the norm. A symbol of purity and harmony, the pearl is an apt and lovely choice for a betrothal ring.

Engagement Rings in Ancient Rome
Engagement ring history dates back thousands of years. The custom of giving a ring to signify an engagement dates from the time of ancient Rome. In the early days, rings were made from iron. Gold engagement rings came into fashion in Rome during the third century A.D., and were often fashioned with a lovers’ knot or clasped hands.

Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings
Early Christians continued the Roman tradition of the engagement ring, first making it a part of the wedding ceremony and the symbol of an unbreakable vow, thereby transforming it into a wedding ring. Over time, couples felt the need to give another ring as a symbol of the promise to wed, which eventually became the engagement ring that we know today.

Pearl Engagement Rings
By the 1850s pearl engagement rings were popular, so much so that an 1875 article in the Young Ladies’ Journal advised that while any fancy ring could be worn as an engagement ring “pearls or diamonds are considered the proper gems.” Antiques-loving couples may want to hunt down one of these authentic Victorian pearl engagement rings at antiques stores or antiques websites like Lang Antiques or Tia’s.

Types of Pearl Engagement Rings
If antique engagement rings aren’t what you had in mind, there are ample selections of contemporary pearl engagement rings available. You may opt for a ring with the pearl as the central stone, surrounded by small white or yellow diamonds or other gems, such as sapphires or rubies. You might prefer the traditional diamond as the center gem, surrounded by small pearls. Alternatively, you can consult a jeweler or jewelry artist and have her create a unique ring that you design.

About Pearls
Where most gems are mined from the earth, pearls are unique in that they are created by living creatures. Pearls form when an irritant, perhaps a grain of sand, finds its way inside the shell of a mollusk. The mollusk then coats the it with a smooth substance called nacre, making it less irritating. The creature continues to coat the irritant, and over time a pearl forms. Generally, larger pearls took longer to form and have more nacre. Nacre taken from the interior of the mollusk’s shell is known as “mother of pearl.”

Cultured Pearls
Until the early 20th century, the only way to obtain these gems was to find them naturally occurring. Pearl divers could search through thousands of oysters to find a single pearl. Because of this rarity, pearls were one of the most costly gems of the the time. In the early 1900s a method was discovered to manually introduce an irritant into the oyster so that it would create a pearl. Pearls produced using this method were called cultured pearls and made pearls more accessible to jewelry lovers.

Pearl Engagement Ring Qualities
When judging pearls, look at shape, size and luster. The rounder the pearl, the better. The larger the pearl, the better. Luster is difficult to describe – it’s the reflective quality of the pearl.

Freshwater Pearls
Back in the eighties, freshwater pearls tended to be lumpy and rice-shaped, but no longer. Advances in culturing techniques has resulted in pearls that mimic the shape, color and smoothness of their saltwater cousins. Nevertheless, saltwater pearls tend to be far more costly, so freshwater pearls can be had for bargain prices.

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Sunstone (Aventurine Feldspar)

I recently visited the Field Museum in Chicago and headed to the Hall of Gems. I’ve always thought I was pretty well-versed in precious gems, but there is a whole world of gemstones out there that I’d never heard of before. Think of the possibilities! I love finding gems that I’m not familiar with.

While browsing through a jewelry website recently I came across a gem called “sunstone.” I vowed to learn more about this stone.

What is Sunstone?
Sunstone is the common name for aventurine feldspar. The gem is usually orange-brown or reddish-brown, and goethite and hematite inclusions give it a metallic appearance. Most sunstone hails from Norway, though it is also found in the United States, Canada, Russia and India.

Sunstone Hardness
Sunstone gems come in at a 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. This scale rates minerals for hardness on a scale from 1 to 10, with talc coming in at 1 and diamond, the hardest natural substance known to man, measuring a 10. This means sunstone is somewhat hard, but a person wearing sunstone rings, earrings or other jewelry should take care to keep the gem from being knocked around to should be protected from scratching, chipping and other damage.

Types of Sunstone Jewelry
Sunstone is often faceted and mounted in rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants like other gemstones, but is also rounded into beads that can be used in necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Sunstone Folklore
Ancient people believed that sunstone could make the wearer feel more cheerful and less stressed, that it could increase vitality and encourage confidence and self-empowerment.

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Opal Rings

My husband surprised me on Mother’s Day with a beautiful antique, art nouveau opal ring with strong blue fire. It’s my first opal, and it’s lovely. I love it when he buys jewelry for me. I usually stick to my old faves – ruby, sapphire & garnet – but now I have a beautiful opal ring. I wanted to know more about opals.

Opal Ring Color
It is the play of colors within the opal that is so captivating. Unlike most gemstones, opals do not have a crystalline structure but are instead formed by a type of hardened jelly. As the stone cools fine films form with different refractive indices than the rest of the stone, so that light entering the stone is reflected in a array of color. While milky white opal is the most popular form, black opal is the valuable. Water opal is clear, and fire opal is red or yellow and does not always flash colors.

Opal Ring Cuts
Most opals are cut in the smooth, rounded cabochon style that best displays their iridescence. Fire opals are sometimes faceted.

Opal Ring Hardness
Opals measure a 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale of gem hardness in which talc is a 1 and diamond, the hardest known natural substance, is a 10. This means that opals are softer than many popular gemstones and special care must be taken to avoid damage like scratching and chipping.

Caring for Opal Rings
To avoid scratching or cracking opals, remove opal rings when doing housework, repairs or any other task that could cause your hands and ring to be knocked around. Also remove the ring when engaging in sports where the opal could be struck and damaged. When placing the opal ring in a jewelry organizer, use the ring slots provided so that the opal is not damaged by sharp metal prongs and clasps from other jewelry.

Because opal is porous, avoid immersing your opal ring in dirty or greasy liquid, such as dishwater. Exposure to heat can dry out the opal, and cold weather can cause it to shrink slightly, so make sure the opal is securely set in the ring.

Opal Ring Folklore
Ancient people believed that opals could free inhibitions, strengthen intuition and promote creativity in one who wore them.

Opal Sources
Opals have been mined in Czechoslovakia and Mexico, but most of today’s opals hail from Australia. In fact, a few months ago my son asked me to read one of his books from The 39 Clues series in which a couple of kids explored the opal mines in Coober Pedy. Sounded awesome.

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Lapis Lazuli Rings

What is Lapis Lazuli?
Lapis lazuli is an opaque stone and thus does not reflect light in the manner of transparent stones. Genuine lapis lazuli is mined in Russia, South and North America, but the finest, bluest stones are found in Afghanistan.

Lapis Lazuli Rings Color
Lapis lazuli rings are known for their attractive deep blue color. The finest examples are a uniform blue color, however most lapis lazuli has a bit of white veins mixed in or inclusions of pyrite that cause silver and gold or white speckles in the stones which add interest.

Lapis Lazuli Rings Imitations
Other gemstones are sometimes confused for lapis lazuli, with or without intention. Swiss and Italian “lapis” are deceptively named, as they are actually quartz that has been dyed blue. Sodalite is sometimes taken for lapis lazuli, but lacks the pyrite bits found in most lapis lazuli stones and sometimes transmits light at its edges, which the opaque lapis lazuli does not. Chalcedony is sometimes taken for lapis, when dyed. Plastic and glass are often substituted for lapis as well.

Lapis Lazuli Folklore
Ancient people believed that when a person wore a lapis lazuli ring it would be protected from evil and would have enhanced extra-sensory abilities.

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Coral Rings

What is Coral?
While most stones used in jewelry are mined from the earth, coral hails from the sea. Coral is formed by colonies of sea invertebrates. It is mostly skeletal calcium carbonate and is opaque to semi-translucent. Buyers should be aware that glass and plastic copies are sometimes substituted for coral, so take care to purchase only from reputable dealers.

Coral Ring Color
Coral’s hues work well year round, with the harvest colors of autumn styles as well as the dark clothes of winter and the cheerful shades of spring and summer. While most associate coral with orange, it can also be found in shades of pink, black, white and red. Angel-skin coral is whitish with hints of peach, while blood, or noble, coral, the most costly form, is deep red. Different shades of coral are found in different parts of the world. The black coral you see in the jewelry case probably came from Mexico or Hawaii, while the white forms grew in Japan and some of the best red coral originated in Italian waters.

Types of Coral Rings
Coral can be relatively inexpensive and is found in both fine and fun jewelry. Sterling silver coral rings are quite common and easily found in gift shops, department stores and online. Gold coral rings are less common, but also quite beautiful and easily found online. Coral is frequently paired with stones like turquoise, onyx or diamond.

Coral Cuts
Coral in rings is most often cabochon cut, or domed, but sometimes it is carved or left in its natural, uncut shape.

Coral Hardness
Coral comes in at a 3.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. The Mohs scale is a tool used to rate the hardness of different gems with diamond, the hardest known natural substance, given a 10. At 3.5, coral is one of the softer gems.

Care of Coral Rings
Because coral is one of the softer gems, coral ring wearers should remove the ring before cleaning or taking part in sports that might knock the coral around, causing scratching or other damage. Also remove the coral ring before cleaning and subjecting it to harsh chemicals that could damage it. Acids found in common household items like vinegar can damage coral, so be sure to remove the coral ring when mixing a vinaigrette or using vinegar to remove scale from the sink.

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Cat’s Eye Rings

With attractive shades ranging from caramel to grass green, cat’s eye rings are a great addition to any jewelry collection.

What is Cat’s Eye?
Cat’s eye is a member of the chrysoberyl family, which includes the gems chrysoberyl and alexandrite. The chrysoberyl family is interesting in that though the three gems are alike chemically, they look nothing like one another.

Cat’s Eye Rings Appearance
Cat’s eye is milky and translucent, is found in shades from honey to green, and , when properly cut displays a white line of light down the center of the stone, giving the appearance of an eye lit from inside – hence the name. This effect, known as chatoyancey, is best observed under one strong light, directly overhead. The “eye” effect is found only in cabochon, or rounded, stones, not in stones cut in facets.

Cat’s Eye Ring Texture
The cat’s eye gem is known for its smooth, velvety texture.

Cat’s Eye Hardness
Cat’s eye weighs in at an 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This is a tool used to rate gem hardness from 1 to 10, with diamond, the hardest known substance. The harder a gem, the more resistant it is to scratching and chipping. At 8.5 a cat’s eye is relatively hard, making it a good choice for use in cat’s eye rings, which tend to get knocked around quite a bit with regular wear.

Sri Lanka is the source of the finest cat’s eye gemstones, but they are also found in India, Burma, Brazil and Madagascar.

Cat’s Eye and Tiger’s Eye
Cat’s eye is sometimes confused with the gem tiger’s eye, however tiger’s eye is the mineral quartz, not chrysoberyl, is brown, and has a less dramatic eye effect.

Cat’s Eye Folklore
Ancient people believed the cat’s eye gem could see everything and could therefore protect its wearer. Ancient people also believed that the cat’s eye gem promoted happiness and serenity.

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Sapphire Earrings

A spot of brilliant blue is at each of your ears, sparkling in the light. They’re sapphire earrings and they’re lovely. People have adorned themselves with earrings for thousands of years, from the days of the ancient Persia and ancient Greece. Sapphire earrings have been charming jewelry lovers for generations.

Sapphire Color
The gem we know as sapphire is the blue form of the mineral corundum, while ruby is its red form. Generally speaking, the most desirable shades of blue sapphires are a pure blue, without green or yellow undertones. Corundum actually comes in many colors, but these are two of its best known forms. Pink, yellow and green sapphires are known as fancy sapphires and are being seen more and more in jewelry shops.

Sapphire Hardness
Sapphire is one of the harder gems, measuring a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness. The Mohs scales rates hardness on a scale from 1 to 10, with diamond, at 10, being the hardest. This makes it a good choice for jewelry you wish to wear often, like sapphire earrings, since it is less likely to be scratched and damaged than softer stones.

Sapphire Origins
Some of the sapphires in earrings with the richest blue color hail from Burma and Kashmir. Sapphires from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) also have a lovely blue shade, though less of a deep blue shade than that of the Burma and Kashmir stones. Burma, Kashmir and Ceylon stones tend to be more costly than sapphires from places like Australia, Brazil, Africa and Montana in the U.S.

Types of Sapphire Earrings
The most commonly found sapphire earrings are studs, where the gemstone is mounted on a post that fits through the ear, dangle earrings, where the gemstone dangles from a wire or post that fits through the ear, and hoops, where the stone is mounted on a hoop earring.

Types of Metals
Because sapphires are considered precious gemstones, sapphire earrings are most frequently made using precious metals like gold, white gold or sterling silver.

Where to Buy Sapphire Earrings
Sapphire earrings are popular and easy to find. Check fine jewelry stores, the jewelry counter at department stores and discount stores like TJ Maxx. Scour antique shops and malls for unique styles from decades ago. Shop online at reputable websites like

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Silver Rings

My favorite color is black, which is a trial to my children around Mother’s Day, when they pour their hearts into an art project at school as a gift to me, and the teacher asks them “What’s your mom’s favorite color?” as her hand hovers over ribbons in pink, purple, yellow and green to tie around the gift, and they have to say black, and the teacher gives them a strange look. Sometimes they lie.

But I love black and wearing black, and black looks fabulous with sterling silver jewelry, so I have a nice collection of silver rings with colorful gemstones to suit my mood. A garnet ring with a celtic trinity knot design is my favorite.

Benefits of Silver Rings
There are so many reasons to choose sterling silver rings.
As most fine jewelry lovers know, the price of gold has shot up over the past few years, so that even the type of small, simple pieces that were once relatively inexpensive can be quite costly. Silver rings allow us to own genuine precious and semi-precious gemstone rings without breaking the bank. Moreover, silver won’t crack within a few years of use like some metals used in costume jewelry. For someone who likes to wear her jewelry 24-hours a day, such as myself, silver is a wonderful metal because it can be worn in the shower. I tend to stay away from silver plate because it’s just not durable enough for me.

Where to Find Silver Rings
Because they are less costly than gold, sterling silver rings are usually found outside of fine jewelry stores. Try the jewelry counter at department stores like Target and Kohl’s, as well as accessory shops like Claire’s. Gift shops often carry silver rings and toe rings – especially in tourist towns – and jewelry artisans frequently display them at art fairs. A multitude of jewelry websites carry them, but as always, be certain that you are dealing with a reputable site before buying your sterling silver jewelry.

Tarnish and Silver Rings
One drawback to sterling silver is that it tarnishes fairly easily, although I think that a touch of tarnish gives the piece a nice old-fashioned look. Regular wear helps keep the tarnish away, as well as storing the ring in a tarnish-prevention bag made for that purpose. Humidity leads to more tarnish, so try to keep the ring in a dry, cool space. Polishing cloths or silver polish solution can be used to remove tarnish once it has set in.

Caring for Sterling Silver Rings
Because silver is a softer metal, it can be scratched when careless tossed into a jewelry box alongside sharp prongs and earring posts. The tarnish bags serve the dual purpose of protecting the ring from tarnish and from damage from other jewelry. Jewelry box ring grooves can also keep the silver from being scratched.

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