Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bergamot Gems at the Movies

With the Cannes Film Festival coming to a close on Sunday, I took a moment to reflect a bit about what I once heard Martin Scorsese say: "Cinema is a matter of what's within the frame and what's without". Though I'm sure he meant it in a cinematographic sense, I think he also meant that beyond the camera, cinema's most fundamental goal is to capture aspects of regular life as well as the greatest fancies of the imagination. Respectively, jewelry on the silver screen has been no different. So while Cannes busied itself on showcasing some of today's most magnificent jewelry and newest films, I reminisced about the items that remain part of our collective memory, thanks to cinema. So let's go to the movies, shall we?
The Gatsby Collection by Tiffany & Co displays every delight from the Jazz Era, Photo courtesy of
In the very beginning, jewelry for the movies restricted itself mainly to costume jewelry. It would only be as of the "Golden Era" of film that fine jewelry would be worn by Hollywood stars and in turn in the films themselves. That tradition is seen continuing in Baz Luhrmann's 2013 remake of the Great Gatsby. It was a stroke of mutually beneficial marketing genius that brought together he and Tiffany & Co in this common project. In order to authentically portray the era of absolute decadence that is described in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Tiffany & Co supplied not only the main cast's jewelry, but for the entire project. In turn, Luhrmann's highly seductive vision of opulence would popularize the store's line of "Jazz Age Glamour" including the head band seen in the picture.

Kate Winslet wearing the "Heart of the Ocean'',  actually made of Cubic Zirconium (CZ) for filming. Photo courtesy of
I think it's safe to say that people will never forget the "Heart of the Ocean" from James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic. Everything about that movie was big, even the "diamond". Though this particular necklace did not exist, the plot of the film is loosely based on a large sapphire necklace that survived the sinking and was tied to a story of thwarted lovers on their crossing to America. From the replica that Celine Dion would wear at the Academy Awards that year, to the vast collection of Edwardian jewelry that would be recovered from the belly of that ship by enthusiasts, it goes without saying that this piece inspired people to take their dream-chasing beyond the theater.

A still shot from Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003). Photo courtesy of
The eponymous Bill A.K.A. "Snake Charmer" from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, is the target of the Bride's vengeful and murdering rampage. A ruthless killer himself, we find out that Bill is also a thoughtful and deliberate character; one that understands that even evil has its standards and code of honor.  What's fantastic about this still shot is that all of Bill's character traits are understood in a single visual image. Man-rings are generally a very deliberate accessory choice for men and the one worn here by David Carradine encapsulates the spirit of Bill's very silent, but deadly power. Of course if that was not already obvious, the Hattori Hanzo sword is close at hand to confirm this.

Gollum in Peter Jackson's Return of the King (2003). Photo courtesy of
"One Ring to Rule Them All". For LOTR fans, there isn't anything more precious than this seemingly simple band of gold that reveals these words when placed in fire. Unlike the other rings given to the elves, men and dwarves alike, this one holds no stone. At the center of this story's plot, the One Ring represents a power too great for one lone person to have. Ultimately it would carry Gollum (pictured here) to his death.

Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai dancing to the song Dola re Dola in Devdas (2002), Photo Courtesy of
If you've ever been to a traditional Indian wedding,  you'll know that the importance of literally showering the bride in copious amounts of colorful and bold jewelry cannot be understated. In keeping with this custom, Bollywood films, who ooze bold and colorful song and dance numbers, hardly wait for wedding scenes to bring out the jewelry. As seen in this still from the epic 2002 film Devdas, women are completely adorned for Durga Puja.

Tell us about your favorite piece of movie jewelry! Feel free to send us a pic!
We'd love to hear about it!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Are You Seeing Red When Thinking About Composite Rubies?

Do you know what really grinds my gears? We in the gem and jewelry industry recognize that what makes our product rare and valuable is not always common knowledge. That's why it’s our responsibility not only to be transparent regarding what we sell, but to educate and to explain to our clients the factors that make some items more valuable than others. Yet despite these efforts to build trust between dealer and consumer, there is still a veil of confusion at the retail level which destroys all these initiatives. So when I recently read that a large department store was found to be selling composite rubies to unknowing clients (you can read the whole story here), I was fuming. How, after almost a decade of this material being on the market, is it still necessary to write and plead for more accountable salesmanship? Before we begin, let me be clear: though it is certainly not a crime to sell these stones, it is definitely unethical to make people believe that they are buying “the real deal”.
So what exactly is a composite ruby?

A composite ruby (lead-glass filled) set in 14K gold, Photo courtesy of
Composite ruby is the name given to extremely low-grade materials that have been so heavily treated with lead-glass filling that it ceases to be a simple treatment and becomes an integral part of the stone. Originally, lead-glass filling was strictly a method of improving clarity in materials with small surface reaching fissures and cracks. Progressively, the ratio of lead-glass to natural ruby became so slight that one could no longer in good conscience call it a ruby.
My problem with salespeople failing to do their due diligence towards their clients is many folds:
  • Salespeople, by the very nature of their position, stand as a liaison between the specialists in the field and the end consumer. Unfortunately, too few salespeople are adequately trained to explain these issues, or to even speak precisely about what they are selling. This is when communication breaks down. The use of vague words such as "real", "genuine", "fake", "ruby- colored" even, all contribute to dizzying sales pitches that leave people feeling like they've been had. This is something a customer should NEVER feel, especially when buying something so personal as jewelry. 

  • Materials such as these no longer have the same properties as natural ruby; therefore everyday wear and care must be different as well. If an unknowing client goes about their day or even has their jewelry cleaned, the simple exposure to anything from lemon juice to cleaning products is enough to ruin their item. In some cases, ultrasonic cleaners have even been known to completely disintegrate composite rubies.  

    Pictures of lead-glass filled rubies, before exposure to standard jeweler's cleaner (left) and after exposure (right). Photo courtesy of

  • Insurance for important items of jewelry is always recommended. However, if the material happens to be a composite ruby, the claim one can make does not at all reflect the cost for replacement of a natural ruby on the market. While a natural ruby (depending on the quality of course) can fetch up to thousands of dollars per carat, composite rubies can go for as little at 0.99$ per carat. An unknowing person will be sorely surprised to find that they will not receive the amount they expected. 

Thankfully, for those who read this blog faithfully, you'll know that there is a silver lining in all of this. Though not always obvious to the naked eye, glass-filled rubies can be detected; their glassy luster, noticeable gas bubbles and in some cases flashes of color are all tell-tale signs that it's time to walk away. As per my usual advice, be curious. Ask questions, because if retailers continue to hide behind the attitude of Buyer Beware, it should be seen as a warning.

Close up of gas bubbles typically seen in composite ruby. Photo courtesy of

Close up of blue color flashes typically seen in composite ruby. Photo courtesy of