Frequently Asked Jewelry Buying Questions

Most of us, not being jewelry experts, are apt to ask our local jeweler what we want to know about gems and jewelry. The professional jeweler is, naturally, the best authority on everything from romantic lore to modern technical information and what to look for when purchasing fine jewelry. These questions, according to Jewelry Information Center, are often asked of jewelers by the public. If you have any questions you wish to be answered, please e-mail us!

1. What Does "Carat" Mean, and How Much Does One Actually Weigh? The word "Carat" comes from the Greek name of a seed, which was first used in ancient times as a measure of weight. A carat weighs seven-thousandths of an ounce, and about 142 of them are needed to make a single ounce. The carat is divided into 100 points, so that when a woman says her diamond is a quarter of a carat, for example, she means it is 25 points.

2. Which Came First - - The Engagement Ring or the Wedding Ring? Curiously enough, historians are unable to agree on this. The use of two rings, however, can be traced back to the time when it was the custom to give the prospective bride a ring at the time marriage was proposed and, to conform to religious requirements, the marriage was delayed until some later time. When the wedding took place, the bridegroom signified that his betrothal assurances were still valid by presenting another ring, a plain band of holy union.

3. Why is the Engagement Ring Worn on the Third Finger of the Left Hand? It was once believed that the vein of love (vena amoris) ran from this finger directly to the heart. Romantic as this may be, medical science does not support this view. Practically speaking, the third finger is more convenient as a matter of protection for the ring itself, since the first and second are too active. The left hand was chosen for the ring because it normally is less active than the right, hence safer. Approximately 75% of women receive diamond engagement rings before marriage.

4. What Does the Word "Jewelry" Really Mean? According to the Latin and French derivation of the word, it means joy or gladness. Historians say that even back in prehistoric times jewelry was known and regarded as a symbol of happiness.

5. How are Cultured Pearls Produced? Following the pattern set by nature herself, an irritant in the form of a mother-of-pearl bead is slipped within the folds of a live oyster. The oyster is then returned to the water and in time covers the bead with layers of nacre, the pearl substance. At the end of the prescribed period, the oysters are taken out and the pearls removed.

6. What is the Name of the Eyepiece Used by the Jeweler in Examining Gems, Jewelry and Watches? The Loupe (pronounced loop). This is a magnifying piece, normally ten-power, worn by the jeweler over one eye, enabling him to see the minute details necessary for careful and thorough examination.

7. What does it mean when a gemstone is "enhanced"? Since gemstones were first discovered, man has continuously sought ways to improve the beauty of stones. Cutting, or fashioning, is the most basic enhancement process used to more fully realize the beauty of a gemstone. Other methods used to maximize color, clarity and brilliance include heating, oiling, irradiation and dyeing. Most enhancements are permanent. However, ask your professional jeweler if your gemstone has been enhanced and if it requires special care or cleaning.

8. Where Did the Word "Watch" Come From? The word originated with the portable clocks that were carried by the town watchman as he made his rounds. They were first called "watchman's clocks," then "watch clocks," and finally just "watches."

9. How Should I Clean My Gold Jewelry? Gold is both versatile and very easy to keep looking beautiful for years to come. Its worst enemy, however, is chlorine. Repeated exposure can weaken gold's structure, eventually leading to breakage. Try to keep your gold jewelry away from chlorinated cleaning products, swimming pools and Jacuzzis. To clean, use your jeweler's recommended solution or lukewarm, soapy water. Rinse with clear water, then dry and polish with a soft chamois cloth. For harder-to-clean "gold-only" pieces, your local jeweler can steam-clean them. For more information on cleaning jewelry click here.

10. I heard there is a new synthetic stone that looks like a diamond and can really "fool the eye". What is its name and how can I tell the difference? In mid-1998, the newest in a long line of diamond simulants was brought to market. Called synthetic Moissanite, it is a lab-created version of silicon carbide, a natural mineral found rarely in nature. Because synthetic Moissanite passes a thermal probe tester as "diamond" it is very important to be able to distinguish diamond from this simulant based on distinct differences. Identifying these differences is easy given some gemological knowledge. Therefore, it is most important that you rely on your professional jeweler to identify, and show you, the differences. We have equipment to test diamonds and lab-created gemstones.

This information provided by: Jewelers of America.