Being Smarter About Diamond Color Can Save You Money

GEMOLOGY:  The Colorless Diamond

Buying a diamond is a lot like buying a car – and in some cases costs more.  But doing your homework in advance will prepare you and may ultimately save you money.  And as most of us prefer to not overspend on accessories, learning some tips about diamond buying will help you get the best value for your money.

loose rough diamonds

Loose rough diamonds via Smithsonian Natural History Museum

As a Graduate Gemologist, I will be sharing some facts and tips in a series of articles on diamond characteristics.   I’ll refer to the scientific methodology known as The 4 C’s which was established by the world renowned Gemological Institute of America for grading diamonds:

  • Clarity
  • Color
  • Cut
  • Carat Weight

I’ll leave the romancing of the stone to diamond retailers while I will deal with practicalities such as value for your money.

I chose to begin this series by focusing on color.  Why? Simply because I tend to think more about color in general in life and specifically when I look at diamonds.   And notice I did not state that color is the most important factor in selecting a diamond.  My opinion is that all four of the diamond grading factors are ultimately a matter of personal preference.

So let’s get right into color.  Diamonds are found naturally in a range of color from colorless to an assortment of colors such as yellow, brown, black, pink, purple, blue, green or red.

colored diamonds from Smithsonian

Colored Diamonds via Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; photo by Chip Clark

For the purpose of this article, however, I am focusing on the “colorless” diamond jewelry market.

Now, are all colorless diamonds really colorless?  No.  The term “colorless” really means a range of color – from truly no color at all to light yellow or brown.  GIA calls this range the “normal color range”.

The diamond gemstone color is determined from how close it is to colorless to how much yellow tint is visible.

The GIA color grading system is set on an alphabet scale, beginning with “D” and going up to “Z”.   D is defined as being completely colorless with each subsequent letter designating how much yellow tint is visible.

TIP:  Diamond gemstone color is one of the grading factors used in factoring quality into pricing.

Here is what you really need to know about color when selecting a diamond.   The color in a diamond comes from impurities and/or defects in its crystal structure.  This means that the fewer impurities or defects in a diamond, the more colorless it is.  Diamonds with none or few of these impurities or defects are rarer.  And the rarer the diamond, the more valuable it is.  And the more valuable it is, the higher the price.  So an absence of color in a “colorless” diamond has a higher price.  Got that?

rough diamond crystal

Rough Diamond Crystal from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

FACT:  In comparing diamonds, if all other characteristics are close in grade (clarity, cut and carat weight), it is very difficult for the untrained eye to see a difference in diamond color in grades D through G compared to an H or I grade.

Now, let’s do an exercise in diamond color selection.  In the link in the photo below, you can go right to the GIA website.  Once on the site, place the cursor in the graphic over an alpha character and see that color display right in the graphic.  Play with that a bit but come back here for more of my article.

GIA diamond color tool

Diamond Color Tool via Gemological Institute of America

Note:  GIA does not use this tool for grading diamonds; they use a set of master stones in each color for grading comparison.

TIP:  You can save significant money by selecting an H or I color graded diamond.

So really just how much difference can diamond color make in diamond pricing?  Well, here is a price comparison I did earlier today in real time from a popular online retail jewelry company.  I created the selection criteria with the only real variance being the color.  You can easily see that by selecting an H or I color, all other things being equal, the savings range from 22% to 29%.

diamond color price comp

Price Comparison of Diamonds Based on Color by Mary Loging, G.G.

Note:  I specifically set the color grade selection at no more than an “I”, as this is where color differences start to matter to overall appearance.

And from my own collection I offer a visual comparison of two diamonds.

diamond color pic comp

Set Diamonds for Color Comparison by Mary Loging, G.G.

The diamond on the left is graded as H-I while the diamond on the right is graded at K-M.  The faint yellow tint in the diamond on the right is visible.

So all this information about color actually translates into what is important to you as the buyer.  If color is more important to you but you cannot really tell the difference in a D-F grade from an H-I grade, then you may save money by choosing an H-I grade and spend the difference on cut, clarity or weight.

See – it is like buying a car.

Radiant Orchid in Full Bloom

COLOR: Report on Radiant Orchid Color of the Year 2014

In December, 2013, Pantone announced its Color of the Year: “Radiant Orchid”. Listen in as Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of Pantone, discusses this color choice:

leatrice eiseman

Leatrice Eiseman on Bloomberg TV

For over 50 years, Pantone, a company specializing in global color technology, has been providing color matching products and services to industries reliant on color.

In addition to industries such as printing, paint, textiles, architecture and plastics, Pantone releases color palettes in spring and fall to coincide with the spring and fall runway fashion shows.

While relied on heavily by fashion and clothing industries, these palettes also translate color forecasts to many other industries including décor, housewares, cosmetics, and packaging – just to name a few.

Beginning in 2000, Pantone added another forecasting resource when they created a designated “Color of the Year”. The selection is made by Pantone after analyzing surveys, sale trends and opinions of color experts.

So just who is interested in using “Radiant Orchid” in their home or wardrobe? You could create some tasty dishes on this kitchen range.

blue star cooking radiant orchid range colorformtexture blog

Radiant Orchid Range from Blue Star Cooking

Would this wake you up in the morning?

radiant orchid keurig mini at dillards colorformtexture blog

Radiant Orchid Keurig Mini Plus from Dillards

Or how about these great colors for a spring pedicure from Essie Polish?  I’ve actually purchased a couple of these and love them.

essie nail polish colorformtexture blog

Essie Nail Polish

And to provide a sense of perspective, here is a quick look at all the designated Color of the Year selections from 2000 through 2014.

pantone color of the year

Pantone Color of the Year from 2000 – 2014

So what do you think of “Radiant Orchid”?  I would love to hear from you.

A Gem of a Workbench

FORM:  Project – A Jewelers’ Workbench

I am fortunate to have a great home office/studio space located in the large room over the garage in our home.  The room is a longer rectangle about 27’ x 16’ with stairs on one end and a single window on the other end.

View of one area of studio

MLD Jewelry Studio (73)

Hidden storage along one wall

MLD Jewelry Studio (68)

In addition to having an office space, I have dedicated areas for sewing, painting and jewelry making along with book cases, hidden supply storage and a small sitting area with a sofa and a comfy reading chair and light.  It is basically my “lady tower” – you know – the opposite of a “man cave”.  Yep, I hang out here a lot!

The sitting area

MLD Jewelry Studio (48)

So recently, I decided to learn metalsmithing.

Off I went to some classes and it wasn’t long before I knew that some kind of workbench on which to hammer, saw and solder in my studio would be helpful.

As my office/studio is spacious, fitting in a dedicated workbench would not be an issue.  However, as I priced ready-made jewelers’ benches, it became quickly apparent that I could spend hundreds – even thousands of dollars – outfitting a functional workbench – which was not in my budget.

What to do?

Again, fortunately I am married to handy dandy Mr. L who can pretty much make anything he or I can dream up.  I shared with him what I wanted and he was up for the challenge.

I researched all manner of metalsmithing artists’ work spaces online.  I pored over catalogs offering “the best jewelers’ benches”.  I had lots of options but some common must haves included:

  • Close access to the window for venting any fumes from the micro torch. This would require shifting the room layout to a more conducive flow.  (If one day I progress to using bigger torches, I’ll move my soldering station to a space in the garage.)
  • An “L” shaped area to provide enough room for smithing tasks and a place for housing my microscope and other gemological tools, in addition to cutting, forming and shaping tools.
  • Ability to break down the unit should I ever decide to move it, meaning I didn’t want it permanently built into the space.

I put pencil to paper and designed a jewelers bench, complete with dimensions, a “belly hole”, spaces for soldering, beading, sawing, hammering and adjacent peg board space for hanging tools – and then I handed over the project to Mr. L.

He went shopping at local hardware stores and even raided his own stash for supplies.  And for less than $200 and a time investment of two solid weeks, I went from this…

MLD Jewelry Studio combined

To this

MLD Studio After

Before and After

before after

Mr.L did the major cutting and construction in the garage, numbering and assigning places to the parts when doing the pre-assembly.

MLD Jewelry Studio (6)

MLD Jewelry Studio (21)

MLD Jewelry Studio (22)

MLD Jewelry Studio (29)

The unit was re-assembled after we lugged all the components up the stairs and turned them upside down to re-attach the legs.

MLD Jewelry Studio (4)

The top of the unit, cut from a single sheet of 6’ x 8’ birch plywood, is really two separate pieces, fitted together during assembly, to form an L shape.

MLD Jewelry Studio (19)

5 ½” tongue and groove molding was tightly fitted to the sides and back, screwed in place.  With leftover lumber, he made me a crafty little corner shelving unit.  Using leftover pieces of pegboard he had on hand, he carefully hung my tools in the appropriate spaces.

MLD Jewelry Studio (7)

Power strips fastened at various junctions underneath the workbench along with fitted openings in the top of the workbench make it easy to thread power cords through to the outlets below. I can move my lamps to where they are needed without long cords draping from the ceiling or cluttering up the bench surface.

More studio pcis (2)

MLD Jewelry Studio (58)

MLD Jewelry Studio (57)

More studio pcis (5)

I’ll post updates in the future about my journey into metalsmithing.

Feast on This Book

CFT Book Review graphic

BOOK REVIEW:  “Bring Up The Bodies” by Hilary Mantel    

We know the story.  It has been told and re-told. Put to page and film, lectured to countless generations, dissected and reassembled, vilified and praised, yet like voyeurs, we still can’t seem to get enough of how Anne Boleyn lost her head.

Art photo by Hiroshi Sugimoto

Art photo by Hiroshi Sugimoto

In book two of her trilogy, Hilary Mantel releases Thomas Cromwell once again to the service of the King.  That king.  That Tudor king, massive in stature, set with a tiny English mouth but releasing a roar heard in Rome, crazy mad with power, fickle as Casanova.   Serving this king is perilous to one’s longevity, but Cromwell, rising so far from such a humble beginning, having the taste of power’s rarity, continues with the machinations of court life in late 1535 and early 1536.

Written from view of Cromwell at the height of his power, we walk a tightrope with him, while Thomas More’s execution lingers fresh on the air.  And what a tightrope that must have been, playing chess with lives, staying one step ahead of his enemies while always mindful of keeping his own head squarely about his shoulders.

Using the third person but present tense, Mantel creates an immediacy of being one step removed from Henry VIII’s person.  Thoughts, actions, and settings expressed in the vernacular of the day makes one feel alive to the time period. With such delightful verbal jousting, Shakespeare could have been schooled here.

Anne’s family pushes her forward as their prized lamb, prodding and probing her in their efforts to increase their own stature and fortune.  And at her fall down the slippery slope of demise, they are there at table with others, tucking in their bibs and brandishing their knives as the grisly feast begins.

Although nothing new is exposed, Mantel’s writing style makes this feel like a fresh, eye witness account to the goings on in 1535 and 1536 England.  Examples include:

  • On the execution of Thomas More:  “….he died with his hose wet, splashed to the knees, and his feet paddling like a duck’s”.
  • On a conversation the Lady Rochford, married to George, Anne’s Boleyn’s brother: “…if the time comes when you wish to disburdern your conscience, do not go to a priest, come to me.  The priest will give you a penance, but I will give you a reward.”
  • On the matter of each on his own, the mercurial rise and fall of fortune and favor, the endless plotting and double dealing:  “…The lambs have butchered and eaten themselves.  They have brought knives to the table, carved themselves, and picked their own bones clean.”
  • And on bringing about the demise of an enemy:  “…Before you even glance is his direction, you should have his name on a warrant, the ports blocked, his wife and friends bought, his heir under your protection, his money in your strong room and his dog running to your whistle.  Before he wakes in the morning, you should have the axe in your hand.”

A rich book worth every bite, “Bring Up the Bodies” is a feast indeed!

Why I Changed to Oil

BEAUTY:  Product Review – “One Love Organics”

For the first time in my adult life, I’ve been experiencing extreme dryness with my skin, particularly on my face.  Winter 2013 turned ugly here in the South when it stripped the moisture from my face and left cracking, peeling skin in its wake.

dry cracked skin

My face began to get dry flaky areas, particularly in the nasolabial folds on either side of my mouth. No amount of moisturizer, exfoliates, Retinol or using my Clarisonic alleviated this dry skin.

After ruling out specific medical issues such as eczema or psoriasis, I finally realized that the facial brands and products I’ve used for years with great success were no longer effective for my skin. Factoring in the two price increases in the last year from my long term, go-to cleanser, I felt justifiably nudged in the direction of a change.

I had been reading for some time about the use of oils as facial cleansers so I decided to dabble my toes in the water a bit and purchased a great smelling organic coconut oil.  Unfortunately, I had a reaction to coconut oil so I scratched that from one my list.  I’ve since learned that some people are indeed allergic to this oil.

generic oil fresh herbs

I broadened my research on facial oils and gleaned much from a great blog “No More Dirty Looks”.  I’ve read their blog for over two years during which I’ve made numerous notes regarding various products, pro and con.  Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, authors of NMDL, know their stuff and are well qualified to recommend great skincare products to their readers.  Their readers are serious about great skincare and I’ve mined a wealth of information, experience and feedback from the comments left on the blog.

After researching several of NMDL’s recommended brands, I decided to invest in the One Love Organics line.  I purchased these products:

Active Moisture Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil, 4 oz., $38

Active Moisture Vitamin D Moisture Mist, 2 oz, $39

Active Moisture Vitamin C Serum, .8 oz, $68

Active Moisture Vitamin C Eye Balm, .5 oz, $48

One Love Organics products 2

OLO offers a variety of different mixtures and purposes for their cleaning and treatment products.  So prior to placing my order, I reached out to them for clarification, outlining in an email my needs and skin issues (combined normal to dry, even, clear with minimal lines and wrinkles, what I always thought of as smooth, never sun bathed nor been a smoker). Within 24 hours, I received a reply that helped me with the selection of these four products.

I received my order from One Love Organics within two days of placing it online and began exclusively using them twice daily.  I also set aside my Clarisonic tool which I felt, even with the “delicate” brush head, was negatively contributing to my skin condition.

I maintained a journal of my usage from the start as I was interested to learn if oils would make a difference in my skin and if so, how long it would take, etc. My skin felt moisturized from the first application. It did take, however, a full week of consistent use to finally resolve the dry scaly patches.

I was delighted to find that after one month’s use, my skin consistently felt like velvet – all the time. And to think I thought it was smooth before!  My makeup went on so smoothly that I even discontinued use of a foundation primer.

So I am a convert to using only facial oils for cleaning and moisturizing.    Reasons I love the OLO skincare line include the fact that they use all natural ingredients, they are reasonably priced, they provide excellent customer service and most importantly, the results are wonderful.

Disclaimer: This product review is my own opinion. I did not receive these products or any incentive to review.

Will That Be Cotton or Wood for Your Face, Madam?

TOOLS & TIPS:  Kit No.2

Which of these do you use when cleaning your face?

cotton bolls ripe

or

pulp wood ready for market

It is hard to believe this but years ago, we got our beauty product information from magazines or our mommas.  Back in those dark ages, I read an article about facial cleaning.  The gist of the report stated that paper tissues, being made from wood, could abrade the skin when used for makeup removal or cleaning.  The reasoning made sense to me and I stopped using paper tissues on my face.

But before I did, I needed to find a suitable fabric replacement and it was not going to be my bath cloths.

I thought of what I reckoned was a good idea and headed off to my local Walmart in Jackson, MS where I was living at the time.  Sure enough, there in the infant section, I found exactly the product I needed:  Flat Fold Cotton Diapers.  Yes, plain old cotton diapers.  

100% Cotton Diapers

Some 20 years later, I am still using cotton cloth diapers to remove my eye makeup and clean my face.

I buy a new package about once a year, still from Walmart, and consign the old ones to house cleaning.  I wash and dry the new ones several times before using them and then store them in my bathroom, reserving them only for the purpose of facial cleaning.  At under $15 US, this is a very affordable luxury. 

Need any more convincing?   Paper tissues are not used on expensive camera lens or eye glasses due to micro scratching, so why use them on the face?  Consider switching to natural fabric for facial cleaning.

Disclaimer:  This product review is my own opinion. I did not receive these products or any incentive to review.

I Bet You’ll Want These Too!

TOOLS & TIPS: Kit No.1

swab 1

Recently, while browsing through Northern Tool Company with my husband, I spied this package of “industrial strength swabs”. I grabbed them and thought I had gone to heaven. For $10, I got 325 wooden tipped swabs in six different lengths and six different size tips. These will come in handy in my home, office and studio – for all kinds of art projects, for makeup application and/or removal, for cleaning, for lubricating tools – there seems to be no end to the uses I’ll find. I just had to share this great find with you.

Disclaimer: This product review is my own opinion. I did not receive these products nor any incentive to review.

Elegance in a Leather Bracelet

STYLE:  Accessories

m'ange-brown-black-leather-double-bracelet-by-mary-loging-designs-sweet-spot-jewlery

This versatile double wrap bracelet is certain to become your new favorite.  With its magnetic clasp, it is a snap to put around your wrist. Custom made to your fit specifications, this particular style wraps twice around the wrist, instantly creating a multi-layered look with four slender leather straps.  Combine it with other bracelets or a watch for more stylish expressions.  Created in eight colors by Mary Loging Designs.

elegant leather bracelet 3

Loving Emerald Green….Now

mary-loging-designs-emerald-green-crocodile

When it comes to color, I am a green lover from way back, with roots deep in childhood.

My mother was a green lover but she was limited to the greens available in the fashion & fabric of the day – which were either mint or lime. Ugh…she chose mint.

And not just any mint…but a polyester, leisure suit, spongy type green. Her greens were timid and safe in my eyes. I recall soft muted green pastels for the walls and some kind of grayish green carpet and even a pale green Oldsmobile – all with a blue “parent” in their dna.

mint-green-dress

photo from Lulaverse @ Etsy

Call it rebellion or whatever but I chose the lime green, the offspring of yellow. That started a love affair with greenish yellow that continues today. I certainly have more color choices than my mother did – colors now with descriptive names such as chartreuse, citron, pear and olive. A peek in my closet would confirm my obsession with this color.

 

emerald-blog-color-form-texture

 

Professionally, as an artist and gemologist, I frequently use a blue green with a yellow green to create visual interest and tension but when it comes to choosing a blue green as a personal accessory, I was just never tempted. Until now.

anne-klein-faux-croc-satchel-mary-loging-designs

When I recently saw this emerald green patent crocodile handbag, I found I couldn’t look away. It drew me in, bewitching me with its bluish intensity and depth of color. I was so inexplicably captivated, it ended up in my online shopping bag.

And when it arrived, I was even more astonished at my reaction….I loved it! This single purchase has added so much to my wardrobe as it works with just about everything I wear.

I styled this emerald bag with a couple of my new M’Ange bead bracelet colors and just love the comments I receive when I use all these together.

leopard and emerald green setSo while the only emerald I’d use near my face would be a gemstone, incorporating it as a new color choice in accessories has added a new richness to my overall color appreciation…. all because I stepped outside my personal color comfort range.

What new color have you experienced recently? Do you love it or hate it? I’d like to hear your thoughts!

Book Review: “Never Go Back” by Lee Child

Color Form Texture Book Review

“Never Go Back” is author Lee Child’s 18th “Jack Reacher” novel over a span of 16 years. We first met Reacher in “The Killing Floor” in 1997. As the main character, Reacher is an ex Army cop (MP) who could be defined as a drifter, somehow drifting into one injustice after another at every twist and turn of his journey. Unable to just go with the flow, Reacher is compelled to be judge, jury and jailer in every one of his predicaments. He is physically blessed with an extraordinary physique displaying components of strength, durability, flexibility and intellectually blessed with a head for complex mathematics and probability analysis. Reacher is mostly emotionally devoid of compassion and love but the reader doesn’t hold that against him…we really like him..even if the plots bomb. And most amazingly, while being the baddest of the good dudes around, Reacher manages to defeat evil without resorting to one curse word. How refreshing!

In this latest book, Reacher has made his way across the states from South Dakota to Virginia, right outside DC. His long-standing goal has been to meet Major Susan Turner in the 110th MP Special Unit Headquarters in DC because he had talked with her on the phone during a number of prior predicaments. He simply liked the way her voice sounded. But meeting her is not possible because she has just been arrested and jailed on charges of bribery. Reacher smells a rat and is off to right some wrongs in a most entertaining fashion.

Yea!!! Lee Child is back in top form after a couple of real stinkers, specifically “Worth Dying For” and “A Wanted Man”. From my view, “Worth Dying For” only exists to provide an explanation for the humdinger of a cliff hanger in “61 Hours” . “A Wanted Man” could be/should be skipped altogether; it was that painful to finish. But Child’s latest effort is highly readable; I devoured it in two sittings. If you like the genre of cop thrillers, “Never Go Back” is engaging and enjoyable.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars.