Jewelry 101

Most people will do some research when buying their engagement ring and diamond; however, surprisingly, very few people know what they are buying when they purchase any other type of jewelry. We believe this should not be the case as it creates opportunities to deceive customers. Regardless of where you buy, we want you to have a clear understanding of what it is that you are buying so that you can compare apples to apples. In order to help you achieve this, we have added in this section some relevant information about jewelry and we strive to maintain full transparency within our site. If you are not looking to buy and simply want to educate yourself, you are welcomed to browse through this section and if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us at and we will be glad to assist you.

Jewelry is most commonly made in a variety of metals and with several combinations of stones and colors. The links below will supply additional information regarding the characteristics of different metals and stones so that you can make an educated purchase.


All fine jewelry is set on some type of metal; therefore, metals play an important role as they affect the appearance, durability and cost of a jewelry piece. The type of metals you need to understand when buy jewelry are gold, silver and platinum. These types of metals are called Noble metals; they are rare, possess a high surface luster and are resistant to corrosion. These three metals, which are rarer, higher in value and less reactive than most elements, are called Precious metals. Precious metals are high in luster and are easier to work with making them the most desirable for jewelry.


This is probably the most common precious metal as it not only used to be a form of payment and backing to global currencies, it has also been used in rings and other forms of jewelry for centuries. In general terms, pure gold is too soft for jewelry, so it is commonly mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc to harden the finished product.

Since gold is mixed with other metals, it is important to check the stamp of your items to understand the percentage of pure gold in the piece. Be aware if the item you are buying does not have a factory stamp with its karat value (Gold Percentage)

These are the most common stamps or Hallmarks and their meaning:

24KT 999 99.9% Pure
22KT 917 91.7% Pure
18KT 750 75.0% Pure
14KT 585 58.5% Pure
12KT 500 50.0% Pure
10KT 417 41.7% Pure

When selecting gold jewelry, try to balance purity and durability. Items like rings and bracelets receive a rougher treatment and can become deformed if softer gold is used; as a result, 18kt or 14kt may be a better selection for those types of items.

Gold vermeil, gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry pieces although they contain the gold word, the items actually are not made with gold and are fabricated with other types of metals.

Gold in its natural form is yellow and that is the color for most 22kt and 24kt jewelry. But at lower purity you can create White Gold, by combining pure gold with zinc, nickel, platinum and silver. On the other hand, if pure gold is combined 3:1 with copper you create rose gold.


Like gold, silver is very soft and easily damaged, so it is normally mixed with other metals to improve durability and use in jewelry.

The standard for silver jewelry also known as Sterling Silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% another metal (commonly copper) . A stamp on the item should read .925; however, silver can also be found in 958 or 999, which means 95.8% pure silver or 99.9 pure silver respectively.

At .999 level of purity it is considered Pure silver or Fine silver.

As with gold, jewelry pieces called Nickel silver and Silver plate are not made of actual silver they are simply made of different alloys.


This metal looks somewhat like silver, but it is extremely rare and considered more precious than gold. Platinum is also a heavier metal than gold and despite the higher price, it has become more popular. As with other metals, Platinum is commonly mixed with other metals. However, for a piece of jewelry to be labeled as platinum it must have a minimum level of purity of at least 95% pure platinum. Pieces can be identified by stamp with the word “PLAT”.


The following list comprises other non precious metals also used in the creation of jewelry:

  1. Palladium
  2. Rhodium
  3. Titanium
  4. Tungsten
  5. Copper
  6. Brass
  7. Nickel


A gemstone or gem is a piece of mineral crystal, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry. Also called a jewel, gems can be precious or semi-precious. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or aesthetic value. The more rare gemstones normally become more valuable.

The name Precious stones is used to describe diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Most other stones fall under the semi-precious category.

Diamond Ruby Sapphire Emerald
The hardest gem of all is made of one element: carbon. It's valued for its colorless, nature and purity. Most diamonds are over a billion years old. Among the most valued gemstones in the market, anciently called ratnaraj "king of precious stones". Depending on their trace element, this stone can be blue, yellow, green, orange, pink or purple. The most stunning of the green color gemstones, the emerald was once cherished by Spanish conquistadors, Inca Kings, Moguls and pharaohs.

It’s important to note the difference between synthetic gemstones and imitation or simulated gems. Simulated gems are identical to natural stones but are created in labs under controlled conditions, they just imitations.

Cubic Zirconia is an example of an imitation stone made out of zirconium oxide and simulated moissanite, which are both diamond simulants.

Synthetic, cultured or lab-created gemstones are not imitations. Precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, have been manufactured in labs to possess identical chemical and physical characteristics to the naturally occurring variety
These stones are common and cost much less than natural stones. Smaller synthetic diamonds have been manufactured in large quantities as industrial abrasives, although larger gem-quality synthetic diamonds are becoming available in multiple carats.
Whether a gemstone is a natural stone or lab-created (synthetic), the physical characteristics are the same. Lab-created stones tend to have a more vivid color to them, as impurities are not present in a lab and do not modify the clarity or color of the stone, unless added intentionally for a specific purpose.


Many factors such as size, clarity and color determine the way a diamond will be cut; the goal is to use as much of the raw diamond as possible and accentuate its qualities. A full cut diamond is a stone that is shaped into a round brilliant cut and has 57 or 58 facets. The round cut is considered the classic diamond shape; all other forms and shaper have varying number of facets and are called “fancy cuts”.

When a diamond has fewer than 57 facets, it is considered a single cut diamond also referred to as melee diamonds. As a rule, single-cut diamonds will have only 17 or 18 facets.

Usually, round brilliants are shaped into single cuts first, and the additional facets are added afterwards making the stone into a full-cut diamond.


A diamond’s price is directly related to the amount of work that it takes to create a saleable stone. Therefore, since fewer facets take less time and work they are less expensive than full cut stones. Stones of about 1/10 of carat and below are normally single cut, but some are also made into full cut stones and although their cost is higher and their difference minimally visible they are considered higher quality diamonds since cutting facets on small stones is much harder that on a large stone.

Many other characteristics of a diamond such as polish, symmetry and fluorescence will affect its price but we will focus on the more commonly know; the 4C’s.

*The following information has been directly obtained from the Gemological Institute Of America; the world’s foremost authority on diamonds, colored stones, and pearls. A public benefit, nonprofit institute, GIA is the leading source of knowledge, standards, and education in gems and jewelry.


Diamond color is all about what you can’t see. Diamonds are valued by how closely they approach colorlessness – the less color, the higher their value. (The exception to this is fancy color diamonds, such as pinks and blues, which lie outside this color range.) Most diamonds found in jewelry stores run from colorless to near-colorless, with slight hints of yellow or brown.

GIA’s color-grading scale for diamonds is the industry standard. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colorless, and continues with increasing presence of color to the letter Z, or light yellow or brown. Each letter grade has a clearly defined range of color appearance. Diamonds are color-graded by comparing them to stones of known color under controlled lighting and precise viewing conditions.

Many of these color distinctions are so subtle as to be invisible to the untrained eye. But these slight differences make a very big difference in diamond quality and price.


Because diamonds are formed deep within the earth, under extreme heat and pressure, they often contain unique birthmarks, either internal (inclusions) or external (blemishes).

Diamond clarity refers to the absence of these inclusions and blemishes. Diamonds without these birthmarks are rare, and rarity affects a diamond’s value. Using the GIA International Diamond Grading System™, diamonds are assigned a clarity grade that ranges from flawless (FL) to diamonds with obvious inclusions (I3).

Every diamond is unique. None is absolutely perfect under 10× magnification, though some come close. Known as Flawless diamonds, these are exceptionally rare. Most jewelers have never even seen one.

The GIA Clarity Scale contains 11 grades, with most diamonds falling into the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories. In determining a clarity grade, the GIA system considers the size, nature, position, color or relief, and quantity of clarity characteristics visible under 10× magnification.

  1. Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  2. Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  3. Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
  4. Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  5. Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
  6. Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance

Cut quality is the factor that fuels a diamond’s fire, sparkle and brilliance. The allure and beauty of a particular diamond depends more on cut quality than anything else.

The GIA Diamond Cut Grading System for standard round brilliants in the D-to-Z color range is based on the assessment of seven components. The first three — brightness (the total light reflected from a diamond), fire (the dispersion of light into the colors of the spectrum), and scintillation (the pattern of light and dark areas and the flashes of light, or sparkle, when a diamond is moved) — are appearance-based aspects. The remaining four — weight ratio, durability, polish, and symmetry — are related to a diamond's design and craftsmanship.

In GIA’s system, each component is assessed individually, taking into account the relative importance of that component in the overall cut quality of the diamond. Each cut grade, based on a relative scale from Excellent to Poor, represents a range of proportion sets and face-up appearances. There are many different proportion sets that produce attractive diamonds.


For example, look at a side view of the standard round brilliant. The major components, from top to bottom, are the crown, girdle and pavilion. A round brilliant cut diamond has 57 or 58 facets, the 58th being a tiny flat facet at the bottom of the pavilion that’s known as the culet. The large, flat facet on the top is the table. The proportions of a diamond refer to the relationships between table size, crown angle and pavilion depth. It is important to note that a wide range of proportion combinations are possible, and these ultimately affect the stone’s interaction with light and how attractive the diamond is to the person viewing it.

While it is important to consider many components when assessing the overall cut appearance and quality of round brilliant diamonds, an individual's preferences also play a role. Because each cut grade represents a wide range of proportion sets, individuals have the freedom to choose which particular appearance they prefer within the grade range.

The diamond industry as well as the public can use cut along with color, clarity, and carat weight to help them make more informed decisions when assessing and purchasing round brilliant diamonds.


Diamonds and other gemstones are weighed in metric carats: one carat is equal to 0.2 grams, about the same weight as a paperclip. (Don’t confuse carat with karat, as in “18K gold,” which refers to gold purity.)

Just as a dollar is divided into 100 pennies, a carat is divided into 100 points. For example, a 50-point diamond weighs 0.50 carats. But two diamonds of equal weight can have very different values depending on the other members of the Four C’s: clarity, color and cut. The majority of diamonds used in fine jewelry weigh one carat or less.

Because even a fraction of a carat can make a considerable difference in cost, precision is crucial. In the diamond industry, weight is often measured to the hundred thousandths of a carat, and rounded to a hundredth of a carat. Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. (For instance, a 1.08 ct. stone would be described as “one point oh eight carats,” or “one oh eight.”)


Moissanites were introduced to the jewelry market in 1998. Some people market them as an alternative to natural diamonds because their optical properties exceed those of diamonds. The lower price and lack of mining efforts to extract them make them a popular choice. However, these stones are created under lab conditions and are not substitutes of natural occurring diamonds, which have their own unique characteristics. Moissanites should be considered more of an alternative as opposed to a substitute.


An artificial diamond as they are also known is cultivated in a lab as opposed to being created by a geological process. Cultured diamonds are made of the same material as natural diamonds but lack the impurities of natural stones because they are grown a lab with a controlled environment. Synthetic diamonds can also be manufactured in yellow, blue, pink and green.


Swarovski crystals are man-made gems manufactured in Austria. In 1892, Daniel Swarovski invented a machine for making precision-cut, beautiful, high quality lead glass crystals using quartz, sand, and minerals. The exact proportions of these raw materials has remained a company secret. This specialized manufacturing process ensures the highest possible degree of precision that produces brilliant crystals. Superior production, materials, cutting, and polishing are some of the reasons why Swarovsky Crystals are more expensive than other types of crystals.


These are the cubic crystalline form of zirconium dioxide. The synthesized material is hard, optically flawless and usually colorless, but may be made in a variety of different colors.

Because of its low cost, durability, and close visual likeness to diamond, synthetic cubic zirconia has remained the most economically important competitor for diamonds. CZ’s as they are often called, are softer and denser than diamonds, they are colorless to the equivalent of a perfect D for a diamond and their edges can be rounded or smooth.


A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes (baroque pearls) occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Pearls are regarded by many as being rare, fine, admirable and valuable. The most valuable pearls occur spontaneously in the wild, but are extremely rare. These wild pearls are referred to as natural pearls. Cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the majority of those currently sold. Imitation pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewelry, but the quality of their iridescence is usually very poor and is easily distinguished from that of genuine pearls.

Freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. Most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China. Saltwater pearls grow within pearl oyster, which live in oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls. Both natural and cultured pearls can come from freshwater or salt water.


Formed in the ocean, they have never been tampered by men and are very unique and rare. About 1 in 15000 is a natural pearl. Natural pearls vary in size and luminosity, though most have a stunning iridescent quality. They are also found in a variety of shapes and sizes simply because they are wild. When they are found, they are harvested, cleaned and turned to jewelry.

Because natural pearls are rare and difficult to find, they are typically quite expensive. Perfect strands of natural pearls are even more uncommon and can be among the most expensive pieces of jewelry.


These pearls are grown in tightly controlled conditions by pearl farmers. Pearl farmers design cultured pearls from start to finish, ensuring they are perfectly shaped and luminous. Cultured pearls will most often be uniformly shaped and sized, and they can also be dyed or bleached to achieve different colors and luster. Once harvested, the pearls are cleaned, and made into jewelry.

Cultured pearls are made of the same material as natural pearls and take time to create, up to seven years depending on the type of pearl, don’t confuse this with imitation pearls. Well-known cultured pearls are the Akoya, the Keshi, the South Sea and the Tahitian pearls. Cultured pearls can also be expensive, depending on their luster, shape, and size, but they are available in a range of prices.


Imitation pearls are often made of plastic or glass and can be manufactured quite easily and quickly. Some imitation pearls (also called shell pearls) are simply made of mother-of-pearl, coral or conch shell, while others are made from glass and are coated with a solution containing fish scales. Although imitation pearls look the part, they do not have the same weight or smoothness as real pearls, and their luster will also dim greatly.


A birthstone is a gemstone that represents a person's month of birth. Birthstones are and can be worn as jewelry in pieces such as pendants, rings and earrings.

The following list is a standardized list of the birthstones in the United States since 2013 according to the American Gem Society.