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In reference to gemstones, a unit of weight, abbreviated 'ct'. 1 carat is equal to 0.2 grams.
In reference to gold, a unit of purity or fineness of gold and gold alloy, expressed as a number out of 24 parts by weight, e.g. '24 carat' signifies pure gold, '18 carat' 18/24th gold in the alloy, et cetera. Also abbreviated as 'ct'.
Originally derived from the carob seed, called quirat in Arabic, a seed of naturally uniform weight.
CUSHION A square or rectangular stone with rounded corners and deep crown facets, found almost exclusively in antique jewellery.
GALLERY On a ring, the area below the setting, usually described as pierced, carved, swagged, scrolled, ornate etc.
MILLEGRAIN A type of setting for stones in which tiny beads of the metal are raised to grip the girdle and so enhance the sparkling effect.
OLD CUT Refers to a stone cut with a rounded outline and large culet, predominantly prior to 1910. This style was meant to maximise light return in low light conditions, namely candlelight.
Pearls are perhaps the most ancient of gems to be revered by humankind, as they need not be cut or polished as other gemstones do. They are symbolic of purity and wealth, as throughout history they have been prized above all other gems, a status only challeneged by the diamond, and even then only afrer the late nineteenth century when diamonds became more widely available.
A calcareous concretion of calcium carbonate and organic matter secreted by a mollusc in response to an irritation. Layers of nacre and conchiolin are secreted concentrically around a centre or core in response to an irritant. Natural pearls are formed when an object such as a grain of sand gets in between the inner layer of the shell and the mantle of the oyster. Cultured pearls are produced exactly the same way except that the irritant is introduced into the oyster by human means. The beauty of pearls comes from the nacre or irridescent outer layers. The value of pearls is based on colour, lustre, translucency, texture, shape and size. Natural pearls are nacre all the way through, this makes them more durable and more lustrous than a cultured pearl. They are also extremely rare and therefore highly prized.
PLATINUM Platinum is the hardest precious metal. It is lighter, harder and stronger than gold or silver which it superseded as a setting for diamonds making finer intricate settings possible. Platinum was first hallmarked in the UK in 1975.
SAPPHIRE Sapphire is said to be the gemstone of harmony, friendship and loyalty. Part of the corundum family, which also includes ruby, sapphire comes from the Persian "Saffir", or the Greek "Sapphiros". Blue is the best-known colour but it can be found in all colours of the spectrum. After diamond it is the hardest gemstone.
GALLERY The vertical part of a ring which supports the central settings of the bezel, which is often pierced or engraved.
SHANK The part of the ring that encircles the finger, not including the top piece or head.
A north western region of the Indian sub-content located in the Himalaya mountains, known historically for its high quality sapphires, renowned for their silky, intense cobalt and cornflower blue shades. Kashmir sapphires are rare for both these unique visual attributes as well as the scarcity of the stones themselves. Sapphires were only discovered relatively recently, in 1881, due to a landslide which exposed the stones, and even then this original source was exhausted by 1887. The gems have only been mined there intermittently, due to both harsh conditions--which allow for mining to take place only two to three months out of the year--and political upheaval.
Diamonds have been prized for their unique physical attributes for millennia. Formed of crystallized carbon, they are the hardest substance on earth. It is unsurprising then that diamonds have long been the symbol of strength, invincibility and eternal love.
The first significant source of diamonds was India, more specifically a region known as Golconda. These diamonds are particularly prized for their lack of impurities, resulting in colourless diamonds of supreme clarity and brilliance. Many of the world's most famous were found in the Golconda mines, including the Hope diamond and the Koh-i-noor.
From India diamonds were carried along the Silk Routes of Central Asia, through Turkey and thence on to Europe. It was during this time that Venice became a major diamond trading centre, with Bruges and, later, Antwerp at the northern end of the route. India remained the primary source of diamonds until the eighteenth century, by which time the mines there had been largely depleted. Rather fortuitously, around the same time diamonds were discovered in Brazil. This source, however, was short-lived, and ran out in the mid-nineteenth century.
But yet again, a new source immerged to replace it, this time one of much more significant supply. In 1866 a child in South Africa found an unusual looking stone, which turned out to be a twenty one carat rough diamond, now known as the ‘Eureka' diamond. Shortly thereafter, in 1869, the discovery of an 83.5 carat diamond-the ‘Star of South Africa'-confirmed the significance of the deposits.
The now famous DeBeers Company, founded by Englishman Cecil Rhodes, controlled all of the diamond deposits in South Africa from the time of its establishment in 1888. And so it came to pass that London became the world's rough diamond trading centre, as all stones passed through his London offices, while cutting carried on in Antwerp, and later Tel Aviv and New York. Today South Africa remains a major source of world diamonds, joined in the twentieth century by Canada, Australia and Russia, which helped to break down the DeBeers monopoly.
Though most people think of diamonds as colourless, diamonds can form in most any colour of the rainbow, including black.
PLATINUM A metallic element prized for its rarity, whiteness, high tensile strength and insusceptibility to corrosion. It first became widely used in jewellery in the late nineteenth century, when methods were found to make it more easily workable. It features heavily in the delicate Edwardian jewellery of the first decades of the twentieth century.
An eight cut diamond has 18 facets in total and is reserved for smaller diamonds. The more simplified number of facets allow light to reflect in a soft manner that complements its small size and does not bombard its appearance.
CLAW A claw setting is one in which the gemstone is secured via a number of metal 'claws' above the girdle of the stone, typically no less than four. This method was an innovation of the late nineteenth century, and most famously featured in the 'Tiffany setting' invented by the famed American jeweller Tiffany & Co in the 1880s. Prior to this gemstones were surrounded by a metal collet (or strip of metal formed around the girdle) which had the disadvantage of blocking light from passing through the gemstone.
BEAD SETTING A type of setting in which small beads of metal are placed at intervals around the perimeter of a gemstone in order to secure it to the mount.