Thursday, April 30, 2015

9 Things You May Not Have Known About Diamonds

There's no way we could have gone through the month of April without talking about diamonds at least once! Here's a condensed sampling of stuff that might make you look at your diamond a little differently:

1) This is what they look like as a rough crystal:

Photo courtesy of

2) Unlike most gems which form in the Earth's crust (which is from 5-40 km thick), diamonds are one of the few gem materials which form below this layer in the upper mantle.

3) There are space diamonds!! Some evidence suggests that certain meteorites have collided with the Earth with such force that the heat and pressure generated by the impact caused certain elements to crystallize into diamonds.

A piece of the Allende meteorite. Photo courtesy of

4) The Crater of Diamonds is a state park in Arkansas, U.S.A, which is the only diamond producing site in the world which boasts being open to the general public.
5) Historians estimate that diamonds were first discovered in India around the 4th century BC!

6) When cutting diamond rough, one can expect to lose up to 50% of it in the process.

7) The largest diamond ever found is the Cullinan Diamond. Weighing in at 3106.75 carats, it was subsequently cut into 9 pieces, some of which are found in the British Crown Jewels.

Royal Scepter with cross featuring the First Star of Africa (Cullinan Diamond). Photo courtesy

8) Colored diamonds, when natural, are often the result of either impurities or a structural defect. Talk about wonderfully beautiful freaks of nature!

9) The diamond was not always the ubiquitous symbol for an engagement. In fact, it seems that only in the 1600's do we begin to see evidence (in literature) of diamonds being associated with marriage.

There you have it, 9 sparkling facts!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Natural Pearl or (The Unexpected Gift of Nature)

Writing about natural pearls can sometimes feel like going down the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland.  In order to explain the rarity of natural pearls, one must first explain the distinction between these and cultured pearls; then there is the plethora of different varieties of natural pearls that exist to take into account. Though this may seem confusing to some, we will try to clarify it here. 

Pearls form in water-dwelling organisms known as molluscs; they form when a foreign substance, be it a parasite or dirt, infiltrates the shell (or shells depending on the variety of mollusc). As a defense mechanism against this intruder, the mollusc will secrete calcium carbonate (nacre) over it in order to protect itself. Oddly enough, what is purely a defense mechanism for this organism is considered by us humans as an eternally beautiful gem. This process can take numerous years to come to fruition, much like everything else that is produced in nature and unprovoked by humans. It is said by some that in order to find a single such pearl that one would need to sort through and open thousands of molluscs (generally oysters). Needless to say, when taking a second look at that Fabergé Pearl Egg from the last entry, it is truly awe-inspiring to think of the time and work that must have gone into recovering so many pearls of such fine quality. Cultured pearls form under the same conditions; only the intruding body that will be covered in nacre is a bead that was implanted by humans. But we’ll discuss the ins and outs of cultured pearls and their detection at a later date.

That being said, natural pearls come in all shapes and sizes. This is partly due to the water they were formed in, as well as the variety of mollusc hosting them. For instance, pearls forming in cold saltwater as opposed to warm saltwater will yield a generally smaller pearl. Similarly, the pearls made in larger molluscs such as the pinctada margharitifera will yield not only a larger pearl, but also different colors (black/grey undertones) than let’s say the pinctada maxima (which produces a gold or silver undertone). And because nature is wonderfully imperfect, all of the pearls produced are uniquely shaped and very rarely perfectly round. 

Natural Pearls from French Polynesia
Natural pearls from French Polynesia. Photo courtesy
There is a truly romantic quality to natural pearls; much like finding that special someone, finding that perfect pearl seems almost written in the stars.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Fabergé: The Ultimate Easter Eggs

Growing up with Roman Catholic Easter traditions left me greatly confused about the whole Easter egg thing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate! But as a kid, I failed to see the correlation between the brightly colored eggs and the resurrection of Christ. It would only be later in life that I would understand that other denominations of Christianity saw eggs as a symbol of rebirth and in turn the resurrection. Over the course of centuries, Orthodox Christians would offer eggs to their loved ones; evolving from humble painted wooden eggs, to glass and even porcelain. For those who would attend the courts of Eastern Europe, this tradition would develop into an increasingly bejeweled phenomenon and no offering was more intricate and astounding than that of the Russian Czars.

In keeping with Russian royal splendor, the Czar Alexander III originally commissioned Peter Carl Fabergé to create an jeweled egg for his wife the Empress Maria Feodorovna as a gift for Easter. Each year, she would be presented with a new creation. Upon the death of the Czar, his son Nicholas II would take up the tradition, offering an egg not only for the Dowager Empress Maria, but also for his own wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. In total, 50 eggs were created, though only 43 have survived.

Since we are enjoying our own Easter weekend, we wanted to share some of our personal favorites of this famed collection.

The Imperial Revolving Miniatures Egg. Photo courtesy of Katherine Wetzel/Virginia Museum of Fine Arts via
The Imperial Revolving Miniatures Egg made in 1896 for Empress Alexandra is an earlier example of Fabergé’s creations; it is nonetheless incredibly ornate. This egg is made of rock crystal (crystalline quartz) and is held together by a band of enamel that is encrusted with rose-cut diamonds. Atop this egg sits a 27 carat Siberian emerald cabochon. The base, though primarily enameled, also consists of numerous rows of rose-cut diamonds. The surprise, though not as secret as usual (given the transparency of the shell) is a set of 12 miniature paintings of all of the Empress’ favorite places.

The Imperial Winter Egg. Photo courtesy of
The Imperial Winter Egg, prepared for the Dowager Empress Maria in 1913 is a lovely and seemingly simple design, using a rock crystal base formed to look like ice on which a detachable egg sits. This egg is made of carved translucent rock crystal and platinum and is appropriately “frosted” with rose-cut diamonds and a moonstone. Within the egg, a basket of flowers representing the return of spring is made of quartz and gold and is bejeweled in rose-cut diamonds, demantoid garnets and nephrite.

The Imperial Mosaic Egg. Photo courtesy of

The Imperial Mosaic Egg, created for Easter 1914 as a gift to Empress Alexandra is very much a feast for the eyes for the gem enthusiast. Presently part of the private collection of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II, this egg is made of both gold and platinum. The inner and outer faces of the shell are completely incrusted with countless gems including diamonds, rubies, emeralds, topaz, sapphires and demantoid garnets. What is especially remarkable about this egg is that each gemstone was cut in accordance to the curvatures of the egg shell, creating an "invisible setting" so to speak.

The Fabergé Pearl Egg. Photo courtesy of
I’d like to finish off this post with the latest addition to the Fabergé Imperial Egg family which truly represents the spirit of rebirth. Fittingly, this egg made in collaboration with the Al-Fardan family will be the first of this caliber to be created since the last Romanov egg was delivered nearly a century ago. With an exterior made of mother of pearl and lavishly decorated with over 100 natural pearls and over 3000 diamonds (set in yellow and white gold), this egg aptly illustrates the intricacy that the Fabergé house is renowned for. Inside the egg, a 12.17 carat grey pearl from the Arabian Gulf is revealed, truly showcasing the “jewels of the sea” which have only recently experienced a revival.

Do you have a decorated egg? If so, send us a pic, we'd love to see it!