When one considers the estate and antique jewelry market, images of boundless varieties and displays of colored diamonds, vivid gemstones, and sparkling white diamonds come to mind. As one of the most active and ever-changing spectacles in the world, the jewelry world is in itself nothing short of a demonstration of not only the environment’s power to naturally produce such a dizzying array of beauty, but also the shopper’s desire, taste, and influence.
However, with the seemingly infinite selection of gemstones available for sale, one might feel distorted with how to navigate the jewelry market to find the ideally-suited stone. Whether you’re discussing the gemstones in antique necklaces or antique rings, numerous trade terms and names, used to tout and identify the importance and rarity of different gemstones, envelop each unique stone as a form of identification. With nomenclatures such as “no oil,” “Burma,” and “colorless,” it’s important to establish a foundation of knowledge to clearly understand what exactly these trade terms suggest. Read more to learn about the 20 jewelry terms to consider before purchasing a gemstone:
Oiling gemstones is a treatment practice used to fill internal fractures of a gemstone. Generally speaking, the practice of oiling is most often used for emeralds to improve color and hide flaws within the stone. If a gemstone is identified as “no oil,” then its appearance and color is exactly how it naturally occurred.
The concept of treated gemstones lies solely in the idea of improving upon a gemstone’s appearance. If a stone as denoted as having received “heat treatment,” it signifies that gemstone was artificially heated to enhance its color into a more vivid, saturated-looking appearance. This treatment is used most often in colored gemstones, such as sapphires and rubies. Importantly, gemstones that have never received heat treatment often command a higher premium than those that have.
If you have ever examined a diamond, you may have noticed tiny imperfection, or little spots, inside the stone. These are called inclusions and they make up internal clarity characteristics that exist inside the diamond or begin in the interior and can extend to the diamond’s surface. Like a fingerprint, the inclusions of a diamond are unique to itself. Specifics such as feathers, internal graining, crystals, and chips are all types of inclusions that can potentially comprise a diamond’s appearance, based on their size, quantity, and placement.
A blemish is an external clarity characteristic that is confined to the diamond’s surface. Just like an inclusion, no two patterns of a diamond’s blemishes are alike. Types of blemishes can include: an extra facet, a series of nicks, a small opening that looks like a tiny dot, thin, dull white lines across the surface, among others.
Fluorescence is the strength of intensity of a gemstone’s reaction to long-wave UV light. If a gemstone emits a soft glow when held in the sunlight or under a black light, then the gemstone has fluorescence. The degree to how much fluorescence a gemstone contains is graded on a scale from None to Very Strong.
The presence of fluorescence in a gemstone is determined by the stone’s inherent chemical composition, or the elements that the stone is comprised.
“Triple Excellent” is an official grade given to those white diamonds who received the highest rating (excellent) in polish, symmetry, and cut. Collectively, these three characteristics contribute to the diamond’s overall finish, from its face-up appearance. Polish refers to the condition of the diamond’s surface, its overall smoothness, and is largely a result of the diamond cutter’s efforts. The symmetry of a diamond refers to the exactness of the shape of the diamond, determined by the alignment and placement of the stone’s facets. These diamonds are considered the epitome of well-cut diamonds.
The term “colorless” is an official name given to those white diamonds whose chemical composition contains no proof of any type of trace elements. In other words, these white diamonds are those that are given a top color grade (D, E, or F) and command the highest value and scarcity.
An internally flawless grade is given to a gemstone is that which doesn’t have any inclusions, or internal clarity characteristics, present inside the gemstone. A flawless grade is given to a gemstone that doesn’t have any internal clarity characteristics, inclusions, or external clarity characteristics, blemishes.
Although diamonds are most known for being white, they in fact grow in a variety of different colors: blues, pinks, greens, greys, browns, among others. For colored diamonds, the highest contributing factor to value is the hue, or basic primary body color, of the stone. All the diamonds that make up colored diamonds are called “Fancy Colors.” In other words, “Fancy” is a name used to preface any diamond that is any color but white. For example, a yellow diamond would be formally referred to as “Fancy Yellow Diamond.”
In fancy colored diamonds, there can occasionally exist the presence of a second (and sometimes even third) color in the diamond’s primary, dominant color. The indication of a modifier, if present, is referenced at the beginning of the diamond’s color description and is followed by the dominant color. For example, if a purple modifier was present in a pink diamond, it would be properly referred to as “Fancy Purplish-Pink Diamond.” Importantly, a modifier does not denote a lack of potential strength or purity to the color of stone. It is instead, simply an added characteristic to the primary body color of the stone.
Often, in the jewelry trade, many gemstones that are offered for sale are accompanied by a certification. As a guarantee to the stone’s authenticity, the certification also lists other important details about the specific stone. Colored gemstone and diamond certifications are conducted by professional industries, such as the American Gemological Association or the Gemological Institute of America. When a stone is sent to be certified, a professional lab grader examines the stone and officially identifies and certifies its inherent characteristics.
An official certification can state a variety of different aspects, depending on the type of stone under examination. A diamond certification, for example, will state the stone’s specific grades such as color, clarity, cut, carat weight, among others. Other aspects noted on the certification can be the level of fluorescence present in the gemstone, it’s region, and if the stone is natural or artificially treated.
The 4 C’s
Until the mid-twentieth-century, a standard upon which white diamonds should be graded didn’t exist. In 1940, the Gemological Institute of America developed an international standard, now known as the 4 C’s, to examine, assess, and classify diamonds. The 4 C’s are comprised of four different quality factors: clarity, cut, color, and carat weight. Together, these four factors are graded separately to make up the diamond’s overall evaluation.
Gemstone Color Trade Terms
Because color is the most important factor for colored gemstones, the value of a pink sapphire is directly related to the body color that it is comprised. “Bubblegum Pink” is an informal name assigned to those pink sapphires with the most desirable purplish-pink hue.
As a reference to the bright yellow canary songbird, canary was once a colloquial term, an identification that will never formally show up on a certification, used to market any diamond that showed even the slightest yellow hue. Overtime, this trade name was converted into a synonym for Fancy Intense Yellow Diamonds. However, you still might hear any yellow diamond referenced as a "canary diamond," as there does not exist any real industry regulations pertaining to this term.
“Pigeon Blood” is a name officially donned to very few rubies whose basic body color is that of the richest and deepest red hue, without any brown or orange overtones. Coined by the Burmese, this red hue is the purest red available for the ruby variety. Not all rubies are officially certified as "pigeon blood" and the amount that are awarded this name is extremely small. Often, rubies will be informally labeled with a pigeon blood-like color, meaning that their hue is very close to that of the most desirable assigned name.
In the jewelry industry, it’s exceedingly significant when a gemstone hails from a specific region. Gemstones are mined all over the world, but there are particular, and often historical, mines and regions that have produced the best, top-quality gemstones.
Generally speaking, these gemstones from specific regions command a higher value, importance, and exemplify the highest level of rarity within their variety. The process of identifying which region a gemstone hails from can be quite tedious. However, if an origin is determined, it is graded and certified as such. Some origins can be so important that they, in fact, become part of the formal name of the gemstone and the origin name is then referenced at the beginning of the gemstone’s name. For example, a 4-carat Sapphire from the historic and legendary Kashmir region would be referenced as a “4.00-carat Kashmir Sapphire.”
Burma is a region, also known as Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia. Historically, it is these mines that have given rise to the world’s most important sapphires and rubies. Gemstones from this region are known to have the ideal dark blue color often described with hues as “royal blue" and rubies are known to embody vibrant and rich saturations.
India has long been synonymous with gemstones, with mines that produce some of the world’s top-quality gemstones. However, is it the Kashmir region tucked in the great Himalayan mountains in Northern India, whose name not only elicits perhaps the greatest importance but whose mines, now extinct, once produced the world’s greatest sapphires. Initially uncovered circa 1880, the mine was quickly depleted and the scarcity of Kashmir sapphires cannot be overexpressed. The hue of Kashmir sapphires is often described as “velvety” blue with a rich, lustrous character.
Perhaps the most familiar, the mines in Colombia are the most famous for the emerald variety. Geologically speaking, Colombian emeralds are so heralded because of the sedimentary host rock in which they are found – making them the purest emeralds available. Emeralds produced from these mines are the finest shade of green, often referred to as "old mine" green. Colombian emeralds are unanimously regarded as the finest in the world. Browse our collection of untreated emerald jewelry for sale.
Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
An outlying island tucked below the tip of Southeast India, Ceylon (also known as Sri Lanka) is one of the most important sources to some of the most significant Sapphires in the world. Ceylon Sapphires are known to be rich, vivid, and highly saturated. Notably, sapphire with this origin are known to have a "cornflower" cast associated with their body color. While Ceylon was the name of this region until 1972, when it was changed to Sri Lanka, Ceylon is the name still used today in the jewelry trade.
Since the 1880s, mines in Australia has dominated the world’s opal production. Specifically, it’s the Lightning Ridge region in the northwest area of the continent that is home to the most prized variety of all opals: the black opal. After production in the Lightning Ridge mine began in 1905, in what was once a dry and quiet region, the gemstone market erupted in satisfaction and excitement. Soon, lightning ridge became synonymous with the finest opals. Lightning Ridge opals can be distinguished by their dark body tone and extraordinary play-of-color that shows off the rainbow of spectral colors - both contrasting and vibrant that bend and break right on the opal’s surface.
The Golconda region located produced the finest and highest-quality white diamonds in the world. Today, the region is known as the Hyderabad region, but centuries it ago, it comprised a territory known as the “Kingdom of Golconda” and included approximately 20 white diamonds mines. While the last mines were depleted and closed in the 20th century, what was left were the industries very best diamonds. Diamonds from these mines have specific characteristics: they tend to be IIa, meaning they are colorless, and they do not contain any trace elements or impurities (nitrogen or boron). Diamonds of the type IIa variety are described to be so clear, that they resemble water.