Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Complete Guide to Buying Diamond Studs

Diamond studs make timeless gifts. They can mark a family occasion, such as school graduation, or they can be a gift of love for an anniversary or other remembrance. Whatever the reason for giving, purchasing diamond earrings requires a little advanced research.

The Complete Guide to Buying Diamond Studs

With the wide range of shapes and sizes available in diamond studs, there's something to complement every occasion. Whether worn to lunch with friends, to a dressy cocktail party, or to an elegant evening event, diamond studs match the moment.

The Four Cs of Diamonds


Most people have at least heard of the four Cs of cut, carat, clarity, and color of diamonds. However, since earrings are not as openly visible as a pendant, nor as scrutinized as an engagement ring, standards can be relaxed just a bit. Very good quality, as opposed to exceptional quality, can be a very good thing.

Cuts Used in Diamond Studs


Most stud earrings that are not custom-made stick to a few basic shapes. These are round, princess, and heart shapes, and they all have brilliant-cut facets. Square, princess-cut diamonds may use a mix of step and brilliant styles. Brilliant-cut diamonds sparkle with fire thanks to the precise placement of 57 or 58 angled facets over the upper crown of the diamond and the lower pavilion area.

Martini-Style Diamond Stud Earrings

The step style on a princess-cut stone creates straight facets over the crown while the pavilion is cut in the brilliant style; this allows the fire to shine up through the stone. Buyers can also find beautiful preset pear, emerald-cut, and oval-shaped stud earrings, and jewelers are happy to create custom orders in these and other shapes as well. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) issues ratings for facet symmetry and for surface appearance, or polish, in round, brilliant-cut diamonds as follows: Excellent (EX), Very Good (VG), Good (G), Fair (F), and Poor (P)

Carats in Diamond Studs


Carats refer to the actual weight of diamonds. One metric carat (ct) weighs 0.20 grams, but carats are more commonly measured in relation to 100 points; for instance, a half carat is 0.50 ct or 50 points. However, the carat weight doesn't necessarily refer to size.

Diamond Carat Weight

While carat weights do have estimated sizes, two different diamond cuts of equal weight may look very different in their settings. The number of carats in earrings typically represents the total weight (tw). For example, 1.00 ct tw equals a half carat in each earring.

If there are small, accent diamonds that enhance a larger one, those small stones are also part of the total. Small earrings of 0.50 ct tw or less make nice everyday earrings, and up to 1.00 ct tw can also suit somewhat casual wear. For formal wear, up to around 2.00 ct tw is a good guide for stud earrings. Too large, and the earrings could drag or flop over; drop or pendant earrings would feature larger stones better. Additionally, if the other Cs are lower in quality, bigger is not necessarily better.

Clarity in Diamond Studs


Clarity refers to the presence or absence of inclusions or blemishes, which are small flaws within the diamond or on the surface. These flaws can interrupt the play of light through a stone, or, if large enough, they can visibly mar the appearance. In stud earrings, the presence of small flaws may be acceptable because they are not generally visible to the naked eye. Accepting them can lower the cost overall or allow buyers to increase the quality of other characteristics. This table shows GIA clarity symbols and ratings by trained graders using 10x magnification:

FL

Flawless No visible inclusions or blemishes.

IF

Internally Flawless No visible inclusions; does have surface blemishes.

VVS1 and VVS2

Very, Very Slightly Included Inclusions are difficult to see.

VS1 and VS2

Very Slightly Included Minor inclusions that may be difficult to see or somewhat easy to see.

SI1 and SI2

Slightly Included Noticeable inclusions.

I1, I2, and I3

Included Obvious inclusions that could affect overall brilliance.

The size, number, and position of inclusions or blemishes are also important. Something very near the crown or in the middle of a stone would be more problematic than an inclusion near an edge that the setting might hide. Most diamonds fall somewhere in the VS to the SI range. The SI ratings should be perfectly fine for stud earrings, but the I ratings might require some caution as they could look cloudy even in earrings.

Color in Diamond Stud Earrings


The absence of color is usually the goal with white diamonds. The GIA rates stones with a letter grade from D, which is completely colorless, through Z, which is light yellow or brown. Most commercial diamonds are in the D through J category, which is considered colorless to near colorless. Unlike many inclusions and blemishes, color is at least somewhat visible to the naked eye. Stones around the H and I grades would be good for stud earrings; a J grade could work as well. Color is more visible in larger stones, and comparing different color grades side by side can show the difference. However, in a pair of moderately sized earrings, the very slight yellow of a J grade may not even be noticeable.

Colored Diamonds


Yellow, fancy diamonds go beyond the Z grade and become more valuable as color deepens. Other popular fancy colors include blue and pink. Color in a diamond indicates the presence of another element during the formation of the stone, such as boron in blue diamonds. Colored diamonds are very rare and very expensive, yet they are also quite popular. Meeting demand at reasonable prices involves the use of color enhancements. There are three main processes for coloring diamonds, all of which are safe for the wearer.

Black Diamond Stud Earrings

Diamonds colored in these ways retain their strength and brilliance but cost much less than natural colored diamonds. The HPHT method applies high pressure and high temperatures to diamonds, altering the natural chemistry to bring out different colors. It is a permanent change. Irradiation activates colors in diamonds with a stream of electrons. The atomic structure changes to form bonds that absorb the light spectrum differently. Irradiated diamonds may fade at high temperatures, and re-cutting or polishing may also affect the color. Coating is the third process. It involves overlaying a diamond's pavilion with a thin film that reflects color up into the stone. Settings for coated diamonds should cover the pavilion to protect the coating. Coated diamonds cannot be re-cut or polished; however, the coating can be removed and reapplied.

Settings for Diamond Studs


Yellow and white gold are the most popular metal settings for diamond earrings. Platinum is the strongest for holding stones, but it's much heavier, which could become noticeable with larger stones. An alternative is to use platinum only for the prongs. Diamond stud earrings typically have a basket setting with between three and six prongs holding a stone in place. The number of prongs generally relates to the size of a stone; six prongs would overwhelm a small stone while three might not be secure enough for a larger one. The cut of the stone also plays a part: A princess-cut stone has one prong at each of its four corners. A bezel setting is another choice for stud earrings. Metal surrounds the diamond with this setting, leaving just the crown facets visible.

Backs for Diamond Studs


One way to protect the investment of diamond stud earrings is to have secure backs to hold them in place. Butterfly or friction backs are the most common for all post earrings, but they are not the most secure. Two curved bits of metal hold the post in place, but these backs can slip. With notched earring posts, the friction back clicks into place and is slightly more secure. Screw backs screw onto threaded posts for a more secure fit. They're more difficult to put in place, but that's minor compared to losing an earring. Locking backs are also quite secure. The dome shape holds the post in place, and the back detaches only by pressing two little side tabs to release the lock.

Caring for Diamond Studs


Just like any other precious object, diamond jewelry should be well protected and cared for. Although diamonds are known to be the strongest natural substance, they still crack, dull, and even break. Different substances like grease, dust, soap, oils from your skin, and dirt can form a coating over diamond jewelry, making it lose its luster over time. Similarly, a small forceful impact can shatter beautiful diamond jewelry. To keep diamond stud earrings appealing for a long time, you have to learn how to protect and clean them periodically.
  • Cleaning your Diamond Stud Earrings
  • Don’t put on your Diamond Studs while cleaning the house or doing any other heavy work
  • Insure your Diamond Stud Earrings
  • Proper mounting of the Diamond Stud Earrings
  • Have your Diamond Studs regularly checked by a certified jeweler
  • Wearing the Diamond Earrings after you are done with everything else

Diamond studs are beautiful, and if they are taken care of and protected, they remain sparkling for a long time. Basically, all you need to do is to do regular cleaning and have them checked by a certified jeweler at least once per year. Regular inspection is a good way to prove the worth of your diamond stud earrings, especially when making claims to your insurance provider. When storing your earrings, make sure that you store them in their own compartment of the jewelry box to avoid scratching. The box should also be soft sided for maximum protection. Follow the above ridiculously simple steps to care for your diamond stud earrings and prolong their life.

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