Smith & Tailor

The Five Key Points For Men’s Wedding Bands

Kathryn Dieroff
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Most custom wedding band appointments begin with men settling in for a long conversation about what will be made for their fiancé, without having given much thought to what they want themselves. Truthfully, most women have done their research in advance, and we can sort out what she is looking for quickly. She typically knows what she wants. Quite often, a man has never worn a ring daily before, and has no real connection with what kind of wedding band would suit him. When men come in for custom wedding bands we can figure out the perfect style by answering five key questions.

  1. What colour metal do you want? At the most basic level, your choices are yellow or white. For yellow we go with gold. If you want white, then we can talk about whether white gold, platinum, silver, or one of the refractory metals are right for you. This will depend on budget, how you intend to wear your ring, and some other lifestyle considerations. For the more adventurous, we can talk about rose or green gold as options.
  2. How wide do you want it? The best way to answer this question is just to try things on. Try on 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, and 7mm. Most men’s rings fall within those sizes. Everyone’s finger and hand shape is different; see what works for you, and what feels comfortable.
  3. Do you like rounded or flat? This is a general question that can lead to more discussion on design. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with whether you prefer the look of a flat ring (a ring that has a rectangular cross-section, like cut pipe), or a rounded ring (one with a D-shaped or oval cross-section). In general, the rounded is more classic, the flat more modern.
  4. What surface treatment do you like? Do you like matte or shiny, hammered or beveled, engraved or plain? There are lots of directions we can go from here once we determine what works for you, and what definitely doesn’t.
  5. How can we make it personal? There are always ways to add something personal to your ring. Do you bike? Maybe we can add a bike tread pattern to your ring. Are you into climbing mountains? Perhaps we can carve or engrave the impression of a mountain range on your ring. Consider engraving a special message or your wedding date inside your ring, or add your partner’s birthstone. The little personal details is what custom made is all about.

Many men who don’t think they care about what they wear as a wedding band, will find they have definite preferences when they answer these questions. Once you get involved in the design and creation of your ring, it gets really exciting and feels really special. It is an object that you will wear every day for your lifetime that represents the special union between you and your partner.

I always love to talk about metallurgy, tools, and the process of creating a ring. Learning about how your ring is made and participating in it’s creation to make the perfect ring is the best start to having an heirloom piece that you love.

Conflicted About Diamonds?

Kathryn Dieroff

There is a lot of information out there about diamonds, and because you wish to make an informed decision, you are doing your research. People want to know that they can feel good about their purchase, especially when there has been such a complicated history surrounding the trade of diamonds. Here are some things that you should know to make an informed decision.

  • All diamonds we source are in accordance with the Kimberley Process. This is international law that tracks a diamond from rough to consumer to ensure that the stone is conflict free. Our diamond suppliers have a guarantee on every invoice that certifies that the diamond you are buying is in accordance with the Kimberley Process.
  • Natural Resources Canada has a Green Mining Initiative, so Canadian diamonds are a great choice. This initiative is to create greener mining practices, from using cleaner vehicles on mine sites, water protection, to flora and fauna restoration after mining has ceased. Canadian diamonds can be more expensive due to higher wages for miners, and market demand.
  • Diamonds are highly regulated. There are more regulatory bodies in place for diamonds than coloured stones. They may be a safer, more ethical choice.
  • Use Grandma’s stone. Re-using family gems is a great way to make an ethical stone choice. We can create a design that suits you and works for the size and shape of the stone. Stones could even be recut at a fairly low cost to create a new look.
  • Consider a lab grown stone. Lab grown sapphires and coloured stones are readily available, but are still variable in quality. Some ‘fakes’ look better than others. Lab grown diamonds are still not widely available in Canada. There are many retailers on the internet who sell direct to the public. Be mindful that not all ‘synthetic’ diamonds are actual diamond material. It may be a cubic zirconia, which would not hold up well for long term wear.
  • This is likely a once in a lifetime purchase. Keep and open mind and listen to your gut. Diamond is a great choice for everyday wear because it is so hard. It is unlikely to show any damage even after a lifetime of wear. Diamond also has brilliance and dispersion that is not found in other gems for engagement rings. This means that your ring will sparkle even if you don’t clean it as often as you would like. Whatever your choice we will help find the stone that is the perfect fit for you.
  • Most importantly ask questions! Find out what you need to know. This is a major purchase and there’s lots of information out there. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask.

The Stud Earring Dilemma

Kathryn Dieroff
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There is nothing more classic and versatile that a pair of diamond studs. Whether they are traditional four claw, elegant six claw, unique three claw design, or a modern bezel, there is a diamond stud earring to suit everyone. They go from office, to gym, to gala with ease. There is nothing that doesn’t go with a clean bright pair of diamond studs. So what’s the dilemma? Over the years working with clients sourcing stones for stud earrings, the dilemma is, what size do you choose, and do you choose quality over size? Most people who are ready to shop for their staple diamond stud earring have a size in mind. Perhaps they’ve tried something on that they like, maybe they have a pair that are deemed ‘too small’, maybe the size of the stone in an engagement ring is acting as a reference point. What can end up being the challenge is finding the right size within the budget. When you are buying a pair of studs, you are buying two stones, and therefore, they are twice the price. Well, not always, but they are often more expensive than people anticipate for their size goal. The best way to get stones in the right size is to start to lower the quality, but is this the right choice?

Here are five tips for buying stud earrings and being thrilled with the result and not shocked at the price. Use these tips to get the best value for your money.

  1. Consider second best. The highest quality stones may not always be necessary. When looking for an engagement ring diamond, you want to get the very best stone you can afford. Often clients are looking for the top grades in colour, clarity, and cut, which is a good choice for your ring. Earrings, on the other hand, can handle a bit of imperfection. Often I1 clarity stones are passed over for engagement rings because you can see the natural inclusions with the naked eye. In earrings, being able to see inclusions is much less important. Most people will not have such up close scrutiny of their ears, and more importantly, when they’re on, you won’t have a chance to be looking too closely either. It is often ok to even go to a good I2 stone in an earring. It is likely not noticeable on the ear and it will save a bunch on the price of the stones. The same goes for colour. Top colour is not necessary, and although you want a good match, close might be good enough since the stones are on either side of your head.
  2. Make it a halo. A great option for stud earrings is to do a cluster or halo setting. You can start out with smaller centre stones, which can help with the budget, but still achieve a nice large look on the earlobe. This definitely is not a cheapest option, but if you want to go big and showy, this is definitely the more budget conscious option than a large carat sized stone. The halo is a very contemporary look and translates well into stud earrings.
  3. Go for colour. Diamond isn’t the only option for studs. There are a wide variety of gems of any colour to choose from. If you chose colour, you may not get something that you can wear everyday, and it may not have the same sparkle as a diamond, however, there are some ways to make coloured stone studs your signature look. For example, if you have blue eyes, bring them out with sapphires, aquamarines, or blue topaz. If you are the kind of girl that has the perfect red heels that you wear with everything, perhaps you could use a ruby, red spinel, or pair of garnet studs to match. Resist the temptation to go with your birthstone, or the colour of the moment. It is less likely that these earrings will become your ‘go to’ pair for years to come. The key to getting studs with coloured stones that you will love day after to day is to pick a colour that matches you.
  4. Fake it ‘til you make it. Here’s a little secret – you don’t need to get diamonds at all. Swarovski cut crystals have the same sparkle and brilliance as diamonds and no one ever has to know except you. The reason you don’t see more of these kinds of stones in rings is that Swarovskis, though stunning beautiful, are a bit brittle, and not as hard as diamonds, so they can’t stand the wear and tear of being set into a ring. There is very little damage to stones on earrings, so the hardness is not a factor. The key is to get a pair of genuine Swarovski cut that is set in a good quality gold setting. This way they will not appear cheap, and the plating won’t wear off after a short time and cause your ears to go green. Because Swarovski crystals are very reasonably priced, you can choose a whopping size way beyond what you could afford in genuine stones. Alternately, you could get a more conservative size and keep people guessing!
  5. White settings make the stones appear larger. When clients view loose stones, they are often surprised by how much larger the stones look once they are in settings. Certain settings are designed to increase the appearance of size of a stone. As a general rule, any white setting will help to make the stone look larger. To maximize the effect, go with a full bezel around the stone. The only exception may be if you do decide to go with a lower colour grade on your stone to save money, for example in the K, L and below range, you will benefit from choosing a yellow setting instead. The white metal could show the slight tint of colour in your diamond that the yellow metal may not.

Some other small notes on stud earrings

Stud earrings are designed for everyday wear, so it’s easy to put them in and leave them in. Keep in mind to give them a good cleaning from time to time for them to look their best. You can clean your earrings the same way you clean your ring. Use some hot water, Mr. Clean, and an old toothbrush and give them a good scrub. Or you can take them to your local jeweler and have them pop your earrings into their ultrasonic cleaner. They should do this for you free of charge.

What about threaded posts? So you’ve invested a good amount of money in your earrings and you don’t want to lose them. You definitely want the most secure clasp. Many people choose a threaded post (the whole post is like a bolt and the backing is a nut) where you need to twist and twist and twist the nut on. A lot of people find the threaded post style earring very difficult to put on. The post is often a bit thicker, so can be uncomfortable to put in, and you need to turn a lot of times to close them. There is nothing preventing the nut from unthreading over time and falling off. You need to be mindful of the back and make sure they are threaded all the way on. The other potential drawback is that the thread can strip over time. Once the thread is gone, the backing provides no protection to keep the backing on. My recommendation is to go with a standard post and a butterfly style back. You can get larger butterflies that are easier to handle if you find the small ones tricky, and if they loosen over time, they can be manually tightened again.

Go as big as you can afford in your budget. Use these tips to find the stone and style to suit your life. Put them on, and you never have to take them off.

Seven ways to figure out her (or his) engagement ring style

Kathryn Dieroff
  1. Look at the kind of things they already wear. It’s likely your partner has some rings that they already wear. These are great clues to the style your partner would be comfortable wearing. Is the jewellery bold or dainty? Does it have big stones or small? A person who loves wide rings might prefer wearing a single ring with stones as engagement and wedding ring in one, rather than two rings. Someone who glams it up with big cocktail rings will likely love a showstopper engagement ring design. Never wearing any jewellery may also be a big clue. A person who never wears anything on their hand may not be comfortable in something big and blingy. Something smaller and understated is a better choice.
  2. Are there family jewels? You or your partner may already have a significant stone or ring that is part of family. This can be a great place to start. Often you can propose with this ring, and then work together to restyle it if it’s not quite the right look, or if it is suffering from a bit of wear and tear and needs some rebuilding. It can really add special significance and meaning even to add a small component of something that has been passed down from previous generations. Keep this in mind while you are choosing – the ring you select will become part of your family heritage.
  3. What is your lifestyle like? Do you climb mountains? Are you into the latest tech gadgets? Does your personal style define your look? Are you trendy or traditional, classic or contemporary? Occupation can also direct your design decisions. A person who wears rubber gloves for their job may be better with a smooth, low setting. Think about how a design would fit into your life – your partner will likely be wearing it every day for the rest of their life.
  4. How does your partner spend their money? Different people have different expectations of what should be budgeted for an engagement ring. A two or three month salary guideline would make some people uncomfortable. For others, this might make total sense. You want to present the ring that will match your lifestyle in the years to come and balances all the things you need for your life together right now. The important thing to consider here is that it’s better to knock their socks off than to disappoint. Be sure you exceed expectations!
  5. Does your partner follow fashion trends, or is he or she different? Do you need to present the latest trend or is vintage their thing? Think about what words describe your partner: classic; edgy; fancy; modern; over-the-top. Look to what your partner wears, and how they decorate for style cues.
  6. What is personal to both of you? Draw inspiration from your own story. Have you traveled together? Will you propose in a particular place? Is there something about how you met, or milestones that you’ve reached that can be incorporated into the design. Add a birthstone, a favourite colour, or a secret message.
  7. Has she or he told you what they want? Sometimes if you listen carefully, you find out exactly what to get. Ask some strategic questions when admiring someone else’s new engagement ring. Or go shopping together and try some things on. It’s likely your partner will not find your proposal completely out of the blue, so it’s not a bad thing to shop together first, even if you do make the final decision on your own. Check their computer to see if there is a Pinterest page called ‘Engagement Rings’. More often than not, you will be handed a catalogue, sent an email, texted an image, or dragged into a store and told ‘Here – I want this one’. That’s usually your best clue.

5 things you should know before trying to sell old jewellery

Kathryn Dieroff

There are a lot of ‘we turn your gold into cash’ places out there, and often we are led to believe that we are sitting on a virtual gold mine. Perhaps you have some pieces that you think are worth more than their scrap value. Before you decide to liquidate your assets, consider these tips.

Talk to an expert – Get your valuables appraised by a third party. You might want to consider having a certified appraiser who is not interested in buying your jewellery give you detailed information about your piece, including a valuation. Many who inherit the ‘family jewels’ know only vague information about the pieces. An expert will be able to inform you about your jewellery before you make the decision to sell. An appraisal will cost you money, but it’s better to be informed.

Insurance replacement value vs. fair market value – there are two types of appraisals, insurance replacement value appraisal and a fair market value appraisal. When you are getting your jewellery evaluated, be sure you are getting the right kind for what you intend to do with your jewellery. If you are going to keep your jewellery, get an insurance replacement appraisal, if you are going to sell, get a fair market value appraisal. An insurance replacement appraisal is for providing to your insurance company in case of loss or damage to the jewellery. This is the amount that would be required (often corrected for inflation) if you had to replace the piece that is lost or stolen by purchasing or remaking the jewellery. A fair market value appraisal is the kind of appraisal you get if you are looking to sell your jewellery. This valuation will tell you what you should expect to get (retail) for it on the open market.

Will someone buy it for resale? - Selling your jewellery is a lot like selling other things, its value is often determined by how desirable the piece is, and how many people want to buy it. You may think your piece is the greatest thing that has ever been made, but if no one else does, then it may be difficult to get the value you want for it. Take a look at how much similar items are being sold for.

They’re not paying for craftsmanship, only for materials. – One thing to keep in mind when someone is buying old jewellery is that you are paying for the value of the materials that are there, not for the craftsmanship of the piece. A piece that looks intricate and well made may have been expensive since it took a long time and a lot of work to make. However, if there is only a small amount of metal and small or no gems, then it may not be worth as much to the new buyer.

Here’s how things work – When a person is in the business of buying jewellery (to resell), they would like to buy the piece at 25% of the fair market value, so they can then mark it up 100% for resale (to 50% of the fair market value). That way, they can offer products that are below market value (they’re a good deal), and also make a living at what they do, and cover their overhead costs. If you are selling to a buyer who resells, the absolute most you can hope to get for the piece is 50% of the fair market value, which is lower than the insurance replacement value. If you want to get more for your piece, consider selling privately (Kijiji, etc.), but have your wits about you and be smart. Don’t get yourself in a dangerous situation by advertising that you have a lot of valuable things. Keep in mind, even in private sales, your buyer will likely want to get a ‘deal’. Simply because you can present a value with an appraisal, it doesn’t mean that your buyer will be willing to pay that amount for it.

There are some other options. Auction houses will sell jewellery for you on your behalf. Check to see what the ‘hammer price’ is (the commission the auction house will take for selling your piece on your behalf), and consider putting a reserve bid if there is a minimum you wish to get for your jewellery. If you love the piece, but it just doesn’t fit with your lifestyle, consider passing it down to someone else within the family. There may be someone close to you who loves it, and would wear it. If the materials are good, but it’s just not a design you would wear, perhaps making it into something else would be appropriate. Consult a jeweler who specializes in custom design and restyling of old jewellery to discuss your options. The final option is melting it down – the cash for gold option. Most likely your jewellery will simply be put on a scale and weighed. You would then be paid a percentage of market price of gold per gram. Any stones in the jewellery would be removed and returned to you. You would not get any money for the gems.

Get informed, do some thinking and make a choice that feels right for you. If you can’t decide what to do, put the piece away for a while. The good news about jewellery is that it never goes bad. You can always decide it’s fate another day. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to keep it, accept the value that your piece has and use the money for something you do want.

Carats vs. Karats

Kathryn Dieroff

What’s in a spelling? Well, there is a difference between ‘carats’ and ‘karats’. The main difference is that carats are a weight measurement used to indicate the mass of a gemstone and karats are used to indicate the purity of a metal, as in 18k gold.

One carat is equal to 0.2 grams or 200 milligrams. Since a carat measurement is a weight, gemstones weighing 1 carat can differ dramatically in size. Gemstones have varying specific gravity so a denser gem will be smaller in size than a 1 carat stone of a lower specific gravity. The cutting of a gem also greatly affects the size and appearance of a gem. Some ‘native’ cut gems aim to retain as much weight as possible (since stones are sold by weight) and have really fat ‘bellies’. The underside of the gem is left somewhat rounded and bulbous to retain the weight of the original rough crystal. As a result, the stone may weigh more, but be the same diameter as a lighter stone. Cutting is very important to a gem’s quality, and although a stone with a larger pavilion (the bottom part of the stone) may weigh more, they often have what is called a ‘window’ when you look in the stone. The window appears like a water drop, or a big open area in the middle of the stone, and reduces the sparkle and overall beauty of a stone. Similarly, some stones are cut very shallow. These stones appear larger from the top view than a heavier counterpart. This can be desirable if working with a budget, and with a particular design, but again, a shallow cut can compromise the beauty of the stone. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so always view your gemstones in person to ensure that your purchase will make you fall in love over and over again.

One final note about the carat weight of the stone, carat is the one “C” in the “Four C’s” of diamond grading that is not subjective. To get the carat weight, the stone is simply put on a scale. When getting jewellery appraised, if the stone is in a setting, an appraiser will not be able to get an accurate weight on a scale so will take measurements and make an estimate. If only the top view of the stone is visible in the setting, then it is possible that this weight measurement may be off due to variability in cutting. This may affect the appraisers valuation of the piece. In most cases, it is not in the best interest of the jewellery to remove the stone just to get an accurate weight.

Karat with a “k” is a scale to measure purity of metal, primarily gold. Pure gold is designated as 24k or 99.99% pure gold. Most makers are reluctant to work with 24k gold as pure gold is very soft, and does not have the most desirable qualities for everyday wear. To change the working properties of the metal, and the colour, other metals are added to the gold in varying proportions. So if gold is divided into 24 parts, 18 karat gold has 18 parts gold, and 6 parts other metal, 14 karat gold is 14 parts gold, 10 parts other metal, and 10 karat gold is 10 parts gold, and 14 parts other metal. Another way you see jewellery marked is with numbers – for example, a ring stamped 750 is 750 parts per 1000 of fine gold, or 75% fine gold, otherwise known as 18k (18 out of 24 is 75%). The other metals in your gold could be copper, silver, nickel, or palladium (part of the platinum group of metals), but each alloy, or mixture of metal has it’s own recipe. Most metal suppliers don’t reveal their mixture, but must guarantee the gold content is correct. Generally, if more copper is used, you get rose gold. Nickel or palladium create white gold. An relatively even mixture of copper and silver will give you yellow gold, and a little more silver than copper will create the cool green gold.

If you ever have questions regarding the carat of your gems, or the karat of your gold, visit a local jeweller and they should be able to give you some information after a visual inspection.

5 tips for cleaning your jewellery

Kathryn Dieroff

We wear our jewellery every day and rarely think about how to clean it. Many believe that you need special dips or cleaners to get the best results, but your can clean your jewellery with stuff you already have around the house. For the most part, your jewellery is tough and can tolerate a wide range of cleaners. You can get that ‘looks like new’ clean right in your own home using products you already have. Here are five tips to getting that sparkle back into your jewellery.

  1. Tarnished silver? Use baking soda, water, and an old toothbrush – The best way to freshen up your tarnished silver or gold jewellery is to get an old toothbrush, and some baking soda. Add some water to the baking soda just to make a paste and then brush your jewellery with the paste the same way you would brush your teeth. If you add a tiny drop of liquid dish soap, you will get a nice foam, and less splatter. The best part is that this method is safe for even your delicate gems like pearls, coral, turquoise, and opals.
  2. Want your diamonds and gems to sparkle like new? Use an old toothbrush with some warm water and Mr. Clean. Give your piece a good scrub. Don’t forget underneath! Mr. Clean, or any other cleaner that have a bit of degreasing properties will help to loosen up the moisturizers, body oils, and fragrances that might have built up on your jewellery. For tough jobs, let your jewellery soak in a jar of dilute cleaner for a short time to help loosen the dirt. There are certain gems that shouldn’t be cleaned this way – particularly emeralds, pearls, and stones that have been dyed.
  3. Take it to your local jeweler – If in doubt, take your piece to your local jeweler. Most should clean your jewellery free of charge. Jewellers likely have an ultrasonic cleaner on site used to clean jewellery. This machine uses ultrasonic vibrations to shake the stubborn dirt from all the little nooks and crannies quickly and thoroughly. It is a great deep cleaning of your piece. While doing the cleaning they will likely even have a quick look over your piece to make sure all claws are intact, stones are secure, and no repairs are needed. In fact, any time you’re nearby a jewellery store and have a few minutes to spare, drop in to have a quick cleaning. It’s a great pick-me-up!
  4. Wipe it with a soft cloth – Pearls, gem beads, and any pieces that contain fabric or leather elements can be wiped with a soft cloth. There are soft cloths for gems (much like the cloths used for camera lenses, or glasses) and there are also polishing cloths that have some polishing compounds in them. Be careful though, some polishing compounds have dyes in them or are abrasive and can damage fragile gems like pearls. One great way to clean your pearls is to have them restrung. The silk knots can become darkened over time. Fresh silk will make your pearl strand look brand new.
  5. Keep it clean – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to clean jewellery. Store silver jewellery in individual ziplock bags. This reduces the exposure to oxides and sulphides (the culprits for creating tarnish) and keeps your silver bright for longer. Remember to take your jewellery off during messy jobs, like making hamburgers by hand, painting, or changing the oil in your car. Have a designated spot for your jewellery for when you take it off (a little dish near the sink, or in your jewellery box) so you will always know where you put your ring down when you want to put it back on.

Create a little ‘jewellery cleaning kit’ to have around the house. All you need is an old toothbrush or two, some baking soda, a soft cloth, and a little jar of Mr. Clean and you will have everything you need to make yourself just a little bit more sparkly.