At Canadian Estate Jewellers, we’re here to offer our clients education and guidance when selecting quality estate jewellery that suits your needs. Choose from one of our six categories for additional information:
Vintage jewellery allows the discerning shopper to add items that are unique and exclusive to their own jewellery wardrobe. Vintage jewellery is defined as jewellery that is over 20 years old, while antique jewellery is over 100 years old. To be labelled as proper vintage jewellery, the piece must not be altered in any way from its original state. Vintage jewellery is highly sought after due to the fact that they are unique pieces, and never come in ‘limited editions’ or ‘limited stock’.
Estate jewellery is a term used to describe highly collectable, previously owned jewellery, although not necessarily vintage. It will often provide the consumer with unique and unusual jewellery, at far superior prices than similar merchandise in a retail environment.
Vintage Periods and Styles:
- Pre 18th Century – exceptionally rare, always hand-made and usually a very bold design.
- Georgian (around 1714 to 1840) – very rare and always hand-made. Often depicts nature, and large gemstones were commonly used.
- Victorian (1840’s – 1901) – similar to Georgian in style. Common gemstones include cameos, bar brooches, micro mosaics (covered in tiny glass or stone tiles to create a pattern or picture) and mourning jewellery. Memento Mori (means ‘remember you will die’) and is highly collectable and specialized jewellery. Pieces often depict skulls, woven hair and lockets containing post mortem photos of deceased loved ones.
- Edwardian (1901 – 1910) – intricate, elegant and feminine.
- Art Nouveau (1890 – 1918) – mythical patterns, designs and magical creatures, colourful enamel work, opals, pearls.
- Art Deco (1920’s – 1937) – Famous for ‘moderne’ geometric and highly stylised designs ie; glass beads , geometric lines, contrasting bold colours.
- Retro (1940’s – 1950’s) – for most of the early 1940’s, jewellery production in Europe was suspended but was being made in North America in huge quantities. This time period saw lots of costume jewellery.
- Etruscan – Jewellery of the ancient Etruscan period (around 800BC) and was reproduced in the 19th century. Granulation was a popular technique of this era.
- Egyptian Revival – jewellery style based on archeological findings of the ancient Egyptians. Popular in the 19th and early 20th century.
Purchasing a diamond does not have to be an overwhelming experience. The characteristics of a diamond, also known as the Four C’s (Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat Weight), all contribute to the price and appearance of the stone. Understanding a diamond’s characteristics will help you determine your best possible diamond choice, while remaining within your budget.
In choosing a diamond, one can place a priority on the appearance of the diamond, or the overall carat weight. When selecting a diamond based on the appearance, select your cut, clarity and colour grades, and then you will be able to determine the carat weight that will fit into your budget. If the diamond size is your priority, you may have to adjust the cut, colour or clarity to accommodate your budget.
The Four C’s:
The cut grade is a measure of a diamond’s sparkle or ‘light performance’. It refers to the proportions and finish of a polished diamond and it has the greatest overall influence on a diamond’s beauty. Most diamonds start as an octahedron rough, an eight sided natural crystal that resembles two pyramids joined together. When a diamond is proportionally cut to exact or ideal specifications, light is reflected from the top of the diamond, providing the maximum brilliance, rather than leaking out of the bottom if it is cut too shallow or too deep.
A diamond’s cut is also measured by finish, brightness, fire and scintillation. Finish refers to the quality of polish and the symmetry of the diamond and all its facets. Brightness (or brilliance) is the effect of the internal and external reflection of white light. The proportions of the diamond play the main role in determining the brightness. Fire represents to the flashes of colour resulting from white light being dispersed into spectral colours throughout the stone, and scintillation refers to the areas of light and dark when viewing the top of the diamond.
Until the 19th century, diamonds were very rare and cut for maximum weight retention from the original rough shape. Old mine cut diamonds were chunky with a square outline and small table and culet (top and bottom facets) reflecting the crystal shape that they were cut from. By the early 20th century, cutters realized that diamonds were more beautiful and displayed more fire and brilliance when the proportions and angles between facets were of certain dimensions. Many of the diamonds found in antique or estate jewellery are pre 19th century and therefore exhibit older cuts.
Cut Grades for Modern Diamond Cuts:
- Ideal/Excellent Cut: Reflects nearly all light that enters the diamond. Represents approximately 3 % of diamond quality based on cut. Is brilliant and rare.
- Very Good Cut: Reflects nearly as much light as an Ideal Cut and represents approximately 15% of diamond quality based on cut.
- Good Cut: Reflects most of the light that enters. Represents approximately 25% of diamond quality based on cut.
- Fair Cut: Is less brilliant than a good cut but, is still a quality diamond. Represents approximately 35% of diamond quality based on cut.
- Poor Cut: Reflects most of the light that enters either through the bottom or through the sides and will be less brilliant than the majority of diamonds.
- European Cut: Has 58 facets, as does the modern round brilliant cut but, the round brilliant is technically more precise than its European predecessor. The European cut, however has a smaller table (flat top portion of the diamond) and larger crown area (the angled top area of the diamond) so that it breaks up the light and acts like a prism so that the diamond can scintillate with the fire of spectral colours when rotated. The round brilliant, conversely, has a larger table area and allows for more light to be returned to the eye without interference. This is referred to as brilliance.
Clarity refers to the purity of a diamond and the natural imperfections that occur within almost all diamonds. Diamonds are formed deep within the earth’s crust and are subject to tremendous heat and pressure which cause internal blemishes. Most often these imperfections are referred to as inclusions and those diamonds with the least number or smallest imperfections are considered to be higher grade. The size, nature and location of the imperfection will also help to determine the clarity grade assigned to an individual stone. For example, if the inclusion is situated off to the side of the diamond, it may not be as disruptive or apparent as an inclusion that is situated in the middle of the stone. Many inclusions tend to be microscopic and can only been seen with a microscope or 10x jeweller’s loupe. The term to describe these diamond’s is “eye clean” – a diamond that has no imperfections visible to the naked or unaided eye. These diamonds generally don’t affect a diamonds beauty in any palpable way. Those inclusions that are apparent to the unaided eye are considered less desirable and are therefore, less expensive.
The following chart will help to explain the terms assigned to the varying levels of clarity:
- FL – Flawless: Free from internal inclusions and external flaws. They are extremely rare and command higher prices.
- IF – Internally Flawless: No internal imperfections. Extremely rare and command higher prices.
- VVS1, VVS2 – Very Very Slightly Included: Very difficult to see imperfections under 10x magnification. Considered excellent clarity diamonds and are.
- VS1, VS2 – Very Slightly Included: Used for diamonds that have very small internal and external characteristics that are difficult to locate with 10x magnification and a skilled observer. Considered good clarity diamonds but, are less expensive than VVS Clarity Diamonds.
- SI1, SI2 – Slightly Included: Imperfections are visible under 10x magnification but usually not visible to the naked eye. Can represent a good diamond value.
- I1, I2, I3 – Included: Imperfections are visible to the naked eye.
Although diamonds occur in all colours of the rainbow, most diamonds range from colourless to light yellow or brown. Diamond colour grades are determined by lack of colour. The top color is D which is colourless. D, E and F are colourless to the human eye; G, H, I and J are near colourless; K,L and M are faint yellow, and the alphabet continues through to Z. Once diamonds have reached a certain intensity of colour, they can be considered fancy, as in a Canary Yellow Diamond.
Carat Weight refers to a diamond’s weight, but does not necessarily reflect the diamonds size. Both the size of the table (top of the diamond) and the diamond’s cut must be evaluated in order to correctly determine the diamond size. For example, a better cut diamond may appear larger because it has a better return of light, but a poorly cut diamond may appear smaller because it may hide girth at the base of the diamond (or culet) where it is not as evident. Therefore, it is possible to have a diamond of a lower carat weight, but higher cut grade that appears larger than a diamond with a larger carat weight, but poor cut.
The diamond weight is measured in terms of points and carats. One carat is the equivalent of 1/5th of a gram. Further, a 1-carat diamond is equivalent to 100 points. Therefore, a ½-carat is .50 points, a ¼- carat is .25 points, and so on. Substantially more small diamonds are mined than large diamonds resulting in the higher price per carat for successively larger diamonds due to their inherent rarity. Diamond prices jump at half and full carat weights. For example, a .99 carat diamond will be priced at significantly less than a diamond that is 1.00 carat, and there will be no detectable difference to the eye.
When deciding upon what carat weight diamond to purchase, you should consider the size of the hand and finger (the smaller the finger, the larger the diamond will appear), the style of setting and, of course, your budget. If the carat weight is most important to you and you are attempting to stay within a particular budget, you may decide to lower your expectations in terms of cut, clarity or colour. An average quality and very acceptable diamond would be one with good cut, SI clarity and J colour.
The highest quality coloured gemstones are determined by their colour saturation, hue and depth of tone. Colour saturation refers to colour purity, often referred to as ‘vivid’ or ‘strong’ and the most desirable gemstones display very little grey or brown. Hue refers to the display of pure colour and those stones that are most valuable show very little colour other than the primary colour. Finally, tone represents the depth of colour ranging from light (colourless) to dark (almost black). Tone qualities include light, medium-light, medium, medium dark and dark. Nearly all gemstones today have been treated to enhance their colour and or clarity. Different forms of enhancement include heating and irradiation, in the case of colour, and oil, wax or resin to improve clarity.
Almost all gemstones contain inclusions. The best quality gems are considered to be lightly or moderately included. In addition, some gemstones display fewer inclusions than others and often these inclusions will not detract from the beauty or desirability of the coloured gemstone. For example, emeralds are often highly included and have inherited a romantic term for their inclusions called ‘jardin’(garden), and unless the inclusions disrupt the brilliance of the stone, then they can be virtually ignored.
Coloured gemstones are generally cut to maximize the beauty of their colour. Ideally, all facets should be symmetrical and light should be reflected evenly across the surface of the stone and the gemstone should expose the fewest number of inclusions. Sometimes, stones are cut to display size rather than to display their best colour, especially with more rare stones.
Two gemstones that appear to be the same size may actually have two very different weights. This is because different gemstones have different densities.
Every gemstone has unique characteristics in terms of hardness and durability, and care will vary depending upon individual gemstones. Generally speaking, harsh chemicals, abrasive surfaces and sharp blows can damage even the hardest surfaces. Most gemstones can be cleaned in an ultrasonic or jewellery cleaner, but there are exceptions such as emeralds, pearls, and opals.
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was devised by Friedrich Mohs in 1812 and is based on the ability of one natural mineral to scratch another. Diamond has the hardness of 10 and is the hardest mineral substance, and is actually four times harder that both Ruby and Sapphire (corundum) which has a hardness of 9.
Stones that have a Mohs hardness of less than 8 are more subject to scratching; harder stones are less likely to be scratched but are still subject to chipping and fracture. When removing dust from soft stones, it’s usually best to rinse them with clean water and dry with a soft cloth. Jewellery should be stored in separate padded compartments or wrapped in soft lint free cloth to prevent scratching, chipping, and entanglement.
When cleaning nonporous gemstones, washing gently with a weak solution of ammonia, rinsing with clean lukewarm water, and drying with a soft lint free cloth is quite effective and safe. With stones harder 7 on the Moh’s scale, it’s safe to do a little gentle scrubbing with a soft toothbrush. A little soaking may be necessary to remove heavier deposits.
Remove your rings before applying lotions or creams.This will help prevent heavy buildup of dirt and oil around your gemstones.
If you plan to do heavy or dirty work with your hands, remove your rings so they will not be subjected to harsh blows, abrasives, or unnecessary dirt. Even diamonds, although they are the hardest substance known to man, can be chipped by a hard blow.
Pearls, coral, and porous stones such as opal, turquoise, or malachite should be kept away from dirty water and oils to avoid discoloration. Wipe them gently with a soft, damp cloth. Do not wear rings containing these stones while washing dishes or similar activities.
Be cautious about the use of ultrasonic cleaners. Some stones are subject to internal stress — tanzanite, opal, emerald, organic gems (such as pearl, coral, and amber), turquoise, lapis, and malachite, and any stone containing major inclusions.
Opal, pearls, coral, amber, turquoise, and many collector gems are quite heat sensitive (both to extremes and to sudden changes in temperature). Do not leave them sitting in hot sunlight, near radiators, or in hot cars.
Birthstone Chart (guideline only)
- January – garnet
- February – Amethyst
- March – Aquamarine
- April – Diamond
- May – Emerald
- June – Pearl, Alexandrite
- July – Ruby
- August – Peridot
- September – Sapphire
- October – Opal, Tourmaline
- November – Citrine, Topaz
- December – Blue Topaz, Turquoise, Tanzanite, Zircon
Most pearls today are cultured in both salt and freshwater. Pearl Culturing is the introduction of a foreign matter into the body of a mollusk or oyster. Generally, in salt water, a bead (nucleus) is implanted into the oyster and acts as an irritant. The oyster then secretes layer after layer of nacre (natural minerals and proteins) around this nucleus. In freshwater, the nucleus is often mantle tissue. It is the nacre that gives the pearls their beautiful lustre and colour.
Pearls are graded on five determinants:
Luster – A pearl’s lustre describes the iridescence that results when light strikes the nacre or surface of the pearl. It refers to the brightness that results from rays of light travelling through the numerous layers of nacre and being reflected back from within the pearl. To judge the lustre of a pearl, imagine the surface of a mirror – the sharper and clearer the images are, the higher the lustre. The rainbow light glow across the pearls surface is known as its orient.
Surface Purity – For maximum value, the surface of a pearl should be smooth and free of blemishes, spots, cracks and bumps. Tiny surface marks are the pearls natural texture or hallmarks of nature, and do not detract from its beauty.
Shape – The ideal pearl shape is round or spherical but there are many types of fancy pearls such as pear shaped or baroque.
Colour – The colour of a pearl has two constituents. The first is the basic body colour and the second is the overtone or blush of another hue.
Size – All things being equal, the larger the pearl, the greater its value.
Varieties of pearls can include:
- Akoya – Japanese classic round white pearls from an Akoya oyster.
- Mabe – ½ round pearls grown against the inside shell of the oyster and have a flat back.
- South Sea – Large in size (9 – 18mm) and come from the South Seas. Produced in large saltwater oysters.
- Tahitian – Usually over 8mm in size and come from the coral lagoons of French Polynesia. Tahitian pearls are naturally black, but come in a variety of shades from gray to black. They are both distinctive and rare, and extremely valuable.
- Seed Pearls – Very tiny round pearls under 2mm.
- Freshwater Pearls – Cultured in freshwater and can come in a variety of shapes from rice to near round.
When cared for properly, pearls can last forever. The body has natural oils that will keep the pearls lustrous, so wear them often. However, they should not come into contact with vinegar, ammonia, chlorine bleach, inks, hairspray, perfume, cosmetics as those household items that can spot or disintegrate the surface. The best rule of thumb is to put your pearls on last when getting ready to go out and take them off first when arriving home. Wipe them often with a soft cloth, store them separate from other jewellery items, and do not store them is an air tight plastic bag as they need to breathe. You may want to restring them every few years.
Pure gold is too soft to wear on its own, so it is alloyed with a mixture of metals such as silver, copper, nickel and zinc to give it strength and durability. Although gold is very strong, it is the most malleable of all precious metals and is resistant to the elements, rust, tarnish and corrosion. Gold is expressed by the term ‘Karat’ which indicates purity (how much gold is in a piece of jewellery) and karat is expressed in 24ths. Therefore, 24K is 100% or pure gold. In Canada, we recognize 10, 14 and 18K gold, while England recognizes 9K, and the Far East most frequently deals with 22K.
The colour of gold is determined by the type and percentage of metal alloys that it contains.Yellow gold most commonly uses copper, zinc or silver as alloys, while white gold most commonly uses white metals like nickel, silver or palladium and is then plated with rhodium for a whiter, bright finish. Rhodium may over time wear off, and is easily replaced with a process called replating.
Sterling Silver is considered to be 92.5% pure and usually contains 7.5% copper which renders the jewellery stronger without affecting its colour. As in the case of gold, the price for a piece of sterling silver jewellery is dependent upon the gram weight, labour and design involved in making a piece. Sterling silver jewellery is often trademarked .925, Ster or Sterling Silver.
Sometimes, sterling silver jewellery will tarnish. Many pieces are finished with a rhodium plating to prevent tarnishing, however, other pieces may require a silver polish, solution or polishing cloths to help remove the build- up of tarnish to maintain a clean and bright finish.
Platinum is extremely strong and durable. Over time, platinum can scratch and develop a worn look. For many, this is part of the appeal of platinum. For others, it is comforting to know that platinum can be polished and plated with rhodium to provide a more reflective finish.
Necklaces come in a variety of lengths. The following are the most common lengths:
- Collar: 12-13 inches
- Choker: 14-16 inches
- Princess: 17-19 inches
- Matinee: 20-24 inches
- Opera: 28-34 inches
- Rope: generally over 45 inches
When determining your ring size, keep in mind the following tips:
- Be sure to measure your finger at room temperature. Heat and cold can cause your fingers to expand or contract.
- Your ring size will be ablout half a size larger on your primary hand (i.e., the hand you write with).
- Rings that are wider tend to have a tighter fit.