Work in progress.

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Mould making; getting it just right.

Image courtesy of Narayan Jewellers.

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‘A chain is as strong as its weakest link’, fusing those links together. Solder on!

Image courtesy of Narayan Jewellers.

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It’s All about Precision.

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A GEMSET GOLD NAVRATNA BAZUBAND christies

(A gemset gold Navratna Bazuband(armlet); image courtesy of Christie’s.)

The order in which these nine gems are arranged is rather specific.

The Ruby, which represents the Sun, always takes centre stage. It is the nucleus in the jewellery piece, no matter what the pattern is. The sun is the core, the giver of life and around it do all of the celestial bodies revolve. Hence the ruby is in the centre, surrounded by the other gems, in an arrangement that is somewhat similar to the Nava (nine)-graha (celestial bodies) Yantra (diagram or object used in tantric worship). The ruby is never moved from its central position because to do so would be to go against natural alignment.

A LARGE NAVRATNA GEM-SET JADE PENDANT christies

(A large Navratna gem-set Jade Pendant; image courtesy of Christie’s.)

As per Hindu Astrology, a person can be influenced throughout the course of their life by the navagrahas and wearing a piece of ornamentation that contains all these nine gems helps bring about a semblance of equilibrium to the individual’s existence.

A NINE-GEM (NAVRATNA) ARMLET (BAZUBAND) christies

(A nine-gem Navratna armlet (Bazuband); image courtesy of Christie’s.)

However, there exists the belief that gems and metals can affect different people in different ways depending on the energies emitted and what does or does not suit them. Hence, it is advisable to don such jewellery only after consultation with someone who is an expert in this sort of gem related astrology.

Navratna: Faith in the power of nine.

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An enamelled and gem-set Navratna necklace, India, late 18th century

(An enamelled and gem-set Navratna necklace, India, late 18th century; image courtesy of Sotheby’s.)

Here is a combination of gems, 9 in number (to be specific), that has the same kind of religious significance and sanctity all across Asia, regardless of the country and the cultural differences that almost always tend to separate one country or culture from the other.

Some of those countries that believe in the sanctity of the nine gems are India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

(Illustrated maps of Southeast Asia and India; images courtesy of Pinterest.)

The nine gemstones in question are Ruby, Pearl, Red Coral, Emerald, Yellow Sapphire, Diamond, Blue Sapphire, Hessonite and Cat’s Eye. These are precious gems and according to Asian beliefs, only the purest of gems have the ability to protect an individual from disease, bad omens, demons, sins and any other sort of evil that may cause harm. Gems with impurities or flaws simply will not do.

Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism are religions that support this belief system that hails the Navratna gems as sacred.

The celestial bodies associated with each gem are as follows:

Ruby – the Sun

Pearl – the Moon

Red Coral – Mars

Emerald – Mercury

Yellow Sapphire – Jupiter

Diamond – Venus

Blue Sapphire – Saturn

Hessonite – the Ascending Lunar Node

Cat’s Eye – the Descending Lunar Node

 

More details in the next post.

On Cutting Diamonds and Spotting Them.

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Diamonds can have visible inclusions and flaws as is the case for most gems and it is the decision of the diamond cutter regarding which inclusions can be kept and which of those must go. The structure and arrangement of the crystal also decide whether or not the diamond will be able to hold itself together. Despite it being a stone known for its hardness, it can shatter from the impact of a single blow which makes it quite a task; figuring out the right spots to create facets on the stone.

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(Clockwise: The Koh-i-noor diamond, The crown of the British monarch, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, images courtesy of Pinterest and Getty Images.)

The cut of the diamond can also result in a significant reduction of the weight of the stone. An example of a diamond losing a significant amount of weight after being cut is the Koh-I-Noor. The Koh-I-Noor weighed 186 carats originally and after being re-cut, it weighed 108.93 carats which means it lost about 43% of its original weight.

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(Diamond cutting; image courtesy of GIA edu.)

The setting of the diamond is also taken into consideration, meaning, if it will be set in a piece of jewellery, whether or not it will be accompanied by other stones, the shape and size and colour of the other gems. Also taken into consideration is the faceting of the stone, how the light will reflect off of it. Shapes for the diamond are considered. Some of which are, oval, round, teardrop or pear-shaped, heart-shaped, cushion cut, to name a few.

Judging the hardness of a stone is a good way of figuring out if a stone is, in fact, a diamond, however, the downside is that a diamond can scratch another diamond so there is a possibility of inflicting damage on a perfectly good stone. In place of that scratch test, is a test on thermal conductivity that can be performed to judge the authenticity of a diamond. A pair of thermistors (a resistor that relies on temperature) is mounted on a copper tipped wire and one thermistor is used to create heat and the other to measure the temperature, if the stone conducts the energy in a matter of seconds, it proves its authenticity as a diamond.

After the faceting is done with, the diamond is polished; this is a rather long and tedious process and is taken on by technicians proficient in the procedure. The diamond is re-examined for flaws and inclusions which can then be removed if deemed necessary.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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(The Briolette of India; image courtesy of Famous Diamonds.)

We’ve established (in the previous post) what a task it really is for a diamond to form. The sheer time and pressure it takes simply to turn into a diamond in the rough is tremendous. After all of that time spent in very specific conditions the diamond takes shape.

It is the hardest mineral (to date) as per the Mohs scale.

For the sake of comparison let us turn our attention to the difference between Graphite and Diamonds for a minute; both of these happen to be allotropes (elements that are structurally different but come from the same element) of carbon. Graphite atoms are bonded in layers, which means there are weak covalent bonds holding it together, making it weak overall, whereas a diamond has a much larger structure and each atom is bonded with four other atoms and requires a whole lot of energy to be separated. This results in a hardness that proves to be an important characteristic of the gemstone.

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(Render of diamond and its lattice structure; image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

The hardness of a diamond makes it the gem to beat where longevity is concerned; it isn’t easily damaged because it will probably take another diamond to make a mark on it which also means maintenance isn’t going to be much of a headache. A diamond in most cases, isn’t as susceptible to breakage as other gems either which makes it useful to cut into other stones, very useful for diamond cutters who help morph the rough stone into a gemstone with facets. It is used to cut glass as well. Its use as a semiconductor is still being developed.

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( Sketches of the Kohinoor and Regent from circa 1860, courtesy of cnn.com)

Diamonds are colourless and the ones with colour are a result of imperfections (fractures) in the stone or owing to the effect of radiation. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies the gradation of colour in diamonds from D to Z; D being colourless and Z being light yellow. Blue diamonds, like the Hope Diamond falls under a different grading scale and are referred to as fancy diamonds.

( For information on some famous diamonds, follow this link : https://narayanjewellers.wordpress.com/category/iconic-jewels/ )

 

 

 

Diamonds : Earthen and Interstellar.

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Diamond. A clear octahedral stone protrudes from a black rock.

(Diamond. A clear octahedral stone protrudes from a black rock; image courtesy of Wikimedia)

Diamonds do much more than just sit pretty and shine and a part of the clue is in the name; for instance, it’s derived from a word in ancient Greek which translates to unbreakable. Another fact about the diamond is that it takes a whole lot of pressure and just the right temperature to form; this process takes ages. Experts say that the ones that do surface are somewhere between a billion to 3 billion years old.

As if that is trying enough, it can take volcanic eruptions to carry the rocks carrying diamonds to the crust (surface) of the earth, this makes the volcanic pipes the primary source of diamonds and the alluvial deposits that may have been shorelines at some point or at the time the diamonds were found are the areas known as the secondary sources.

inside the scheme

(Formation of Diamonds; image courtesy of Siberian Times)

All of that information is about the diamonds formed on Earth, some diamonds, experts say, were parts of meteorites that were interstellar in origin and crashed on Earth, not formed on impact but pre-existing within the rock they travelled as a part of. Such impact crater sites have been found containing diamonds and this is owed to the fact that the impact served as the perfect contributor to the right combination of pressure and temperature for the diamonds to form and Popigai crater in Russia is said to be one such site.

This was the origin story (so to speak). More in the next post!

Stars of the Show.

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Star of India

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(The Star of India; image courtesy of Smithsonian Mag.com)

Asterism is the star of the show, quite literally. The Star of India is a star sapphire; meaning it is a rather large cabochon (shaped and polished instead of cut) gem that presents a luminous star shape on the surface of the stone. This gem in particular weighs a hefty 563.35 carats (112.67 g) and exhibits the star on both sides. It hails from the mines of Sri Lanka and has made a rather adventurous journey from the moment it was discovered up to the day it was finally safe in the showcase of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, owing to the heist that the gem was a part of in 1964.

 

Star of Adam

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(The Star of Adam; image courtesy of Dailymail UK)

This oval beauty weighs a whopping 1,404.49 carats (280.898 g; 9.9084 oz.) and the estimated cost comes up to a figure between US$ 175 million and $300 million. This cabochon also has a star, six rayed and easily visible to the naked eye. The Star of Adam originated in the mines of Sri Lanka in a place called Ratnapur. It was named after Adam who the Muslims believe went to Sri Lanka and lived on Adam’s Peak after exiting the Garden of Eden and is currently in the possession of an anonymous buyer.

Star of Bombay

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(The Star of Bombay; image courtesy of Flickr)

A gift of love from one star to another, the Star of Bombay was purchased by Douglas Fairbanks, a silent movie actor from Trabert & Hoeffer Inc. in New York. The Star of Bombay was a stone that weighed 182 carats (36.4-g) and was set in a ring made of platinum that Mr. Fairbanks presented to Mary Pickford; also a silent film actress. It is a violet-blue in colour owing to the presence of titanium and iron and is apparently the namesake of Bombay Sapphire which is a British manufactured gin. On her death, the ring was donated to the Smithsonian as per Mary Pickford’s request where it has been on display ever since then.

 

 

Sapphires: Clarity, Cut and Carats.

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Silk inclusion that makes a star in sapphire

(Silk Inclusions in Sapphire; image courtesy of GIA edu)

Where clarity is concerned, inclusions occur in sapphires too but not to the extent that they occur in rubies. Some of these inclusions are needle thin and intersect each other are known as silk, while others can form colour bands or the shape similar to fingerprints.

Zircons, yellow 15.5 cts., and blue 23.75cts.

(Pleochroism; image courtesy of GIA edu)

These inclusions can cause the price of the gem to drop or soar depending on the effect they have on its clarity. The star effect, for instance, is called asterism and can hike up the price of the stone if the star is well-defined. Pleochroism is the phenomenon that occurs when the faceted stone shows off a different colour when looked at from a different direction. This is also quite an important characteristic of a sapphire.

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(Star Sapphire set in a ring; image courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Now, colour zoning refers to the areas of different colours in a stone which is characteristic of a sapphire. Cutters often cut the gem in accordance with a pattern that shows the colour in the best possible perspective. The star corundums are, of course, carved in a cabochon cut (not faceted) with the star visible in its centre, the rays equidistant from each other. The value of a star corundum is decided on the basis of the carats (weight), the colour, the visibility and intensity of the asterism (star effect).

The weight of these sapphires can range from a few to a hundred carats. The price can change according to the size of the gemstone depending on the quality of the stone which can be fine-quality or commercial quality (far more easily available).

(Clockwise: The Star of Adam, the Star of Bombay and the Star of India; images courtesy of Dailymail UK, Flickr and Smithsonian Mag.com respectively.)

The largest (famed) sapphire is the Star of Adam weighs 1404.49 carats, the Star of India weighs 563.4 carats and the Star of Bombay 182 carats and all of these stones were mined in Sri Lanka but more about these in the next post.

 

Sapphires in all their hues.

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When we think of sapphires, thanks to popular culture, what comes to mind is a gorgeous blue heart-shaped gemstone that the old lady threw into the ocean at the end of ‘Titanic’; the film (more about that necklace in another post).

File picture of a Christie's staff member wearing "The Blue Belle of Asia" in Geneva

(A Christie’s staff member wears “The Blue Belle of Asia”, a 392,52 carats sapphire, in this file picture taken during an auction preview in Geneva November 6, 2014; image courtesy of Reuters.)

Corundum is the oxide mineral that gives rise to the ruby and the sapphire, which is said to naturally occur in other colours as well; that is due to trace elements of other metals. The hardness of this precious stone measures 9 on the Mohs scale.

Where colour is concerned, sapphires are most popular as blue stones and colour plays a significantly large role when determining the value of the gem. Greater the intensity of the colour; all the more great is its value. Strongly saturated (vivid brightness) sapphires in medium tones that aren’t too dark command the highest prices in the gem market.

montana-sapphires

(Geologic Occurrence of Corundum; image courtesy of Geology.com)

Pink sapphires belong to the “fancy” sapphire coloured category and are known among the circles of gem traders as padparadscha, whose colour lies somewhere between salmon to orange. These fancy sapphires fetch a high price in the market especially in comparison to other fancy sapphires (sapphires of other colours).

Coloured sapphires range from hues of lemon, peach, orange and red to olive green and colourless (also known as white) sapphires.

Zircons, yellow 15.5 cts., and blue 23.75cts.

(This 15.6 ct zircon displays an obvious pleochroic “bow tie” effect. Photo courtesy of Gia.edu by Joel Arem.)

Where clarity is concerned, inclusions occur in sapphires too but not to the extent that they occur in rubies. Some of these inclusions are needle thin and intersect each other are known as silk, while others can form colour bands or the shape similar to fingerprints. These inclusions can cause the price of the gem to drop or soar depending on the effect they have on its clarity. The star effect, for instance, is called asterism and can hike up the price of the stone if the star is well-defined. Pleochroism is the phenomenon that occurs when the faceted stone shows off a different colour when looked at from a different direction. This is also quite an important characteristic of a sapphire.

More on sapphires in the next post!