CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Winter Whites: Pearls, Opals and Diamonds

French Diamond Bracelet

Alternating strands of diamonds totaling approximately 55.04 carats dazzle in this vintage French bracelet.

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, the winter season is the perfect time to put on your most eye-catching jewelry. The holidays and New Years are the perfect occasions to show off dazzling jewelry or to purchase new baubles for someone special. Capturing the spirit of the season, diamonds, opals and pearls are the perfect accessories to elevate your holiday wardrobe. Read on the learn more about these gems, from cleaning tips to their fascinating origins.

Emerald-Cut Diamond Ring, 15.95 Carats

A monumental 15.95-carat emerald-cut diamond is featured in this dazzling antique ring.

Diamonds

Often reserved for special occasions, diamonds are versatile enough to be worn at any holiday gathering during the winter months.Formed only under the most specific of conditions, requiring the perfect amount of heat and pressure, these gemstones have long been one of humankind’s greatest treasures. The diamond is one of the most sought-after stones due to its fire and brilliance, and their unparalleled hardness makes them ideal for daily wear. While diamonds can occur in a variety of hues — from pink to blue to green to yellow — we love the classic white diamond for the holiday season. However, the special occasions that mark this time of year mean that your diamonds may receive more wear and attention than usual. It is important to keep your diamonds shining their brightest during the winter months — keep these cleaning and care tips in mind!

Diamond Cluster Earrings

Weighing an impressive 22.99 carats, the 22 marquise and pear-cut stones in these earrings have been certified by the GIA as having D through G color.

Keeping your diamonds their most brilliant

During the winter months, hand lotions, hair sprays and perfumes can dull the appearance of your diamond by coating the facets and preventing light from entering the stone. The natural oils from your hands can also cause diamonds to appear cloudy and dull if they are not cleaned properly and regularly. The easiest way to remove grime from the surface of your diamond is to use a toothbrush to brush your jewelry with warm, soapy water. For even more cleaning power at home, mix the soap with seltzer water, as the carbonation helps to loosen packed on dirt.

White Diamond North-South Ring, 3.04 Carats

Three incredible, certified white diamonds totaling 3.04 carats take center stage in this North-South ring.

If your diamond needs a more intense cleaning, take it to your local jewelry. Most utilize ultrasonic cleaners that will first soak your jewelry in a special solution, and then use high frequency waves to loosen dirt. Ultrasonic cleaners are safe for most diamond jewelry; however, be wary of pieces that contain smaller stones, as the vibration can shake them out of their mountings. It is also important to pay attention to what you wear. During the winter months, sweaters and thicker fabrics have the potential to cause issues. The prongs that hold stones in place can get caught in the textured surfaces of winter clothing, causing them the bend and pull away from the stone. Though this is an issue that is an easy fix for a bench jeweler, it is important to keep an eye out for prongs that have lifted, compromising the integrity of the jewelry. You can check for loose prongs by holding the piece up to your ear and gently shaking it — if you hear a rattle, take it to your jeweler soon. Click here to shop our current collection of diamond jewelry.

South Sea Pearl Necklace

A white south sea pearl strand that includes a 21mm white south sea pearl

Pearls

Pearls

are a classic for a reason. The glossy, smooth surface of pearls makes them perfect for both casual and dressy occasions. Available in colors ranging from the bright white of South Sea pearls to the deep grey of Tahitian pearls, the wide range of sizes and hues means there are many options for even the most particular jewelry lovers. The color and shape of pearls are very dependent on the species of oyster they come from. Tahitian pearls are formed in the warm waters surrounding French Polynesia and Tahiti and are produced by the black lipped oyster. The most valuable of these pearls are a rich, grey color with green, pink or blue undertones. South Sea pearls are also highly sought after because of their size and durability.

South Sea Pearl Drop Earrings

Two exceptional South Sea pearls exhibit a lovely luster in these impressive earrings.

Pearls are unique in the realm of precious gemstones due to how they are created. Rather than deep within the earth’s surface, the pearl is almost entirely made within the shell of an oyster, and it has a much shorter lifespan than other gems. The creation of the pearl begins when some form of irritant — a small stone or grain of sand — gets stuck within the oyster. In order to gain relief from the irritant, the oyster emits a substance called nacre, which forms around it. Thus, the grain or stone becomes the nucleus of the pearl, while its creamy luminescent layers are created by the oyster itself. The size and shape of the pearl is a direct result of two things: the size of the irritant and the amount of time it spent forming inside the pearl. The largest of pearls can take up to three years to form — a far shorter lifespan than the process for making diamonds, which takes between 1 billion and 3.3 billion years! Because of their organic nature, pearls are the softest of all the precious gems, and thus they require proper care to retain their beautiful appearance. During the winter months they are especially susceptible to wear and tear that can diminish their lustrous outside. To keep your pearls looking their best, follow these tips.

Victorian Diamond and Pearl Bow Brooch

This Victorian diamond bow brooch features a stunning Baroque pearl.

Maintaining your pearls luster

The bright outer sheen of pearls can be dulled by lotions and body oils, which can be easily removed by a microfiber cloth. It is important not to clean your pearls with water that is too hot or too cold, or with harsh detergents, because pearls will absorb the water and cause damage to their inner structure. Showering with your pearls is also advised against, since the minerals in the water will damage the nacreous outer layer, causing them to lose their outer sheen. While some people swear by washing their pearls with salt water (they do, after all, come from the sea), we recommend a soft buffing with a microfiber cloth to keep your pearls shining. Unlike diamonds, pearls should never be placed in your jeweler’s ultrasonic cleaner, as the vibrations can cause a great deal of damage to the soft gem. The alcohol in perfume or hairspray will also dry out the outer layer of the pearl, causing them to deteriorate at a much faster rate. Always remember, it is best to make your pearls the last thing you put on before leaving the house. Click here to shop our current collection of antique pearls.

This necklace features thirty-one opal beads weighing approximately 493.0 total carats. These beads display incredible translucence and a stunning range of color

This necklace features thirty-one opal beads weighing approximately 493.0 total carats. These beads display incredible translucence and a stunning range of color.

Opals

Opals

are certainly one of the most fascinating gemstones. These distinctive gemstones captivate with flashes of color, and many of them come with interesting stories attached. Opal crystals are so highly prized because of their variety of beautiful hues. These rare specimens can range from blue to pink to an opaque white, making each gemstone uniquely its own and completely one of a kind. These impressive displays of colors are achieved thanks to the unique structure of the stone. Their structure is formed from silica spheres that are stacked in a grid-like pattern. When light passes through and reflects of this grid-like silica structure, the opal’s unique “play of color” is achieved. The most sought-after opals are those that are found in the Lighting Ridge mines in Australia; they possess a darker base color, which creates a stunning contrast against the opal’s flashes of color. Like pearls, some special cleaning rules apply to these coveted stones.

Art Nouveau Opal Flower Brooch

A stunning white opal is prominently featured in this Art Nouveau brooch.

Preserving your opals beauty

Opals are a relatively soft stone, so antique opal rings are often more prone to cracking or chipping while being worn. In the days before jewelers understood how to handle and work opals properly, the jewels would often dry out and break while being cut, polished or mounted. While jewelers are more adept today, it is important to remember the delicacy of this stone to maintain its beautiful “play of color” and sought after brilliance settings, wherein the stone is secured in a complete metal edging, are the safest way to wear an opal, but prongs are often a popular choice. Just like diamonds, it is important to make sure all prongs are tightly set against the stone. Many of the same rules for cleaning pearls apply to opals. In order to clean an opal, always avoid your jeweler’s ultrasonic cleaner. Opals will absorb the cleaning solution used in these cleaners, damaging their appearance. It’s best to clean them with a microfiber cloth or with soap and water if they become dirty. Opals are also more sensitive to light and heat than other gemstones, so always try to protect them from extreme changes in temperature. Click here to shop our current collection of opal gemstones. Curious to learn more about caring for your fine jewelry collection? Click here to read more about cleaning and caring for your gems.

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