More precious than Gold

June 14th, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Cloisonne Enameled Pendant, pure silver, 24K cloisonne wire, 14K bezel and setting, by Magick, a noted California artist/enamelist

Fine jewelry, made of precious metals and gems, can be very expensive. We often focus on the dollar value of the item rather than the real personal values conveyed by the jewel. Some things though, are more precious than gold.

We had a wonderful experience with a new client who purchased this fine cloisonne enameled 14K gold pendant. Vicky came into the store, began browsing thru our jewelry displays. She was admiring our collection of fine enamels by Magick, when she zeroed in on this Hummingbird pendant. She purchased it right away and then me told what it meant to her.

Her beloved sister, who died recently after battling cancer, had always loved hummingbirds. She fed them constantly with numerous feeders in her back yard. During the memorial service at the cemetery, while Vicky was eulogizing her lost sister, a hummingbird had flown down and hovered over the flowers on the casket. So now, Vicky wears a very special hummingbird next to her heart to remind her daily of her loved one. This hummingbird pendant can be passed down thru the generations of this family, beautiful in its own right, but completed by it’s intriguing story.

It requires high levels of skill, artistry and patience to create the heirloom quality you see in this pendant. Because they are made from precious metals and high quality enamels, enameled jewels like this will last as long as you take reasonable care of them.

Stop by to see our collection of fine enamels by Magick as well as the fine enameled pieced featured in our famous Riverside Raincross collection. We also have vintage enameled piece occasionally in our Estate Department.

Mardon is open 10 am to 5:30 pm, Tuesday thru Saturday. We’re located next to the Rite Aid drugstore in the Canyon Crest Shopping Centre. It’s easiest to find us by entering the centre thru the main entrance on Central Avenue. Our phone is 951 682-2325

Reader’s Choice 2019

May 2nd, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
A Luscious Sapphire Engagement Ring with a Surround of Sparkling Diamonds

Once again, Mardon Jewelers is asking for your vote as the Inland Empire’s favorite jeweler. The Reader’s Choice survey by the Riverside Press Enterprise is a fun way for you to be involved in the businesses of your community. Your votes single out the best businesses and services available where you live.

Your opinions matter! Small businesses like Mardon Jewelers need the support of their community to be able to compete in today’s complex economy.

Just click this poster to vote. You can vote every day through June 2 — Obviously, the more often you vote, the better chance you’ll have win the $100 weekly prize.

One of our specialties is custom jewelry. We make custom jewelry from scratch– the secret ingredient is you! We listen to your wants and desires, your ideas and goals, then build them into your own personal masterpiece. Whether it’s a ring, pendant, earrings or bracelet, it will always be yours exclusively. Here are a few of our most recent custom jewels.

A Beautiful 2 carat Marquise Diamond Engagement Ring
Indicolite Tourmaline to the Max!

A Marquise Diamond Ring, accented with Sapphires, restyled – She loved it!

Vote online at this URL- https://www.pe.com/2019/05/01/vote-for-best-of-inland-empire-2019/

Voting ends June 1, so let your voice be heard. We’re counting on you!

Consumer Alert- Lab-Grown Diamond Ads

April 6th, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Custom engagement ring by Mardon, with a lab-grown diamond center flanked by natural diamonds

We have nothing against lab-grown diamonds, lab-grown emeralds, or any of the lab-grown stones available today. Although the focus of our gem business is for naturally occurring gemstones mined from the Earth, we sell lab-grown stones occasionally. For some consumers, they are a great choice — for example, we made a ring with a lab-grown diamond for an engineering student who was fascinated by the technology that produces these stones. Where cost is an issue, a fine lab-grown emerald, while not cheap, is about 1/10 the cost of a fine natural emerald from the mines of Colombia. The crucial thing is that you, as a consumer, know and understand what you are buying.

According to the April 5 issue of National Jeweler, a respected jewelry trade journal, the Federal Trade Commission recently sent letters to eight companies warning them that their ads for lab-grown diamond jewelry or diamond simulants (CZ, moissanite) could be deceptive.

Last year, the FTC overhauled the Jewelry Guides, its rulebook for the jewelry industry that outlines the terms marketers should and shouldn’t use to describe and sell jewelry to consumers. These guide lines clearly state the following. (excerpted from National Jeweler 10X Blog by Michelle Graff, April 5, 2019)

1. Importantly, according to the 2018 Guidelines, “when ‘diamond’ appears by itself, it can only refer to a natural diamond mined from the Earth.”

The big differences in value make these names and descriptions very important for consumers, so that they are truly aware of what they are purchasing. Currently, lab-grown diamonds sell for about 1/2 the price of natural diamonds. If trends match what we’ve seen with natural emerald versus lab-grown emerald and other natural gems vs. their lab-grown counterparts, lab-grown diamonds will sell in the future for 1/10 the price of mined diamonds.

This just makes sense. Natural mined gems are rare gifts of nature, available only in limited supply, especially in larger sizes and finer qualities. These diamonds are valued based on their rarity, as well as their beauty and durability.

Lab-grown stones can be produced in large quantity, so rarity is not a factor. With prices for lab-grown diamonds at their current level, producers are scrambling to cash in. The supply of lab-grown diamonds will inevitably exceed demand, with consequent price drops.

Consumers who pay thousands of dollars per carat for lab-grown diamonds today may be dismayed to find the same product available in a few years for hundreds of dollars per carat.

2. If a product is a lab-grown diamond, the the fact that it is man-made must be clearly and conspicuously stated.

FTC recommends these man-made products be described as laboratory-grown, laboratory-created, or (manufacturer name)-created, and these terms must be “immediately accompanied, with equal conspicuousness” by one of these terms: it cannot stand alone. The term cultured must meet the same standard.

FTC staff found that “some businesses only put information on how a stone was really made on a ‘diamond education’ webpage, rather than in or near an ad where shoppers were more likely to see it.”

On some social media sites, using a hashtag for this disclosure isn’t adequate — e.g. #labgrown may not meet the “clear and conspicuous” guideline. FTC researchers also found instances on social media where hashtags such as #diamond might imply that a lab-grown diamond is the same as a mined diamond.

3. CZ and moissanite aren’t the same thing as diamond, and that must be clear too.

Ads for these products, properly referred to as simulated or imitation diamonds, must avoid describing the products in a way that “falsely implies” what they are selling has the same optical, physical and chemical properties as mined or lab-grown diamonds.

The physical hardness, transparency, and optics of natural and lab-grown diamonds are what make them so beautiful, sparkly and durable. CZ and moissanite don’t match these properties, so they can never look the same and won’t stand up to wear in the same way.

4. “Eco” claims, such as “eco-friendly, eco-conscious, or sustainable” shouldn’t be used without explaining exactly what they mean.

“Eco” consciousness and the related concepts of “sustainability and ethical sourcing” have become important considerations for many consumers about the things they purchase and consume. It’s too easy for marketers to cross the line with unsubstantiated claims to take advantage these legitimate concerns.

For example, if a company is claiming it’s product is “eco-friendly” because it’s recyclable or uses less resources, or that it’s “green” because it is “carbon neutral,” the FTC says ads should contain publicly available and/or scientific evidence backing up these claims.

While the FTC release did not name names, the April 3 edition of the New York Post singled out Leonardo DiCaprio-backed company, the Diamond Foundry as one of the recipients of the above mentioned letters. According to the Post, the FTC expressed concerns in it’s letter to the Diamond Foundry.

“ that some of [Diamond Foundry’s] advertising of jewelry made with laboratory-created diamonds likely falsely implies that the jewelry has mined diamonds, violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’

The FTC goes on to note that ‘several Instagram and Twitter advertisements depict or reference diamond jewelry without clearly and conspicuously disclosing that the diamonds are laboratory-created.’ The website also repeatedly refers to Diamond Foundry’s stones as ‘aboveground forged’ and ‘real diamonds created in America,’ further obfuscating their true origins. The letter also pointed out that the brand’s online advertising ‘touts the environmental benefits of your jewelry compared to mined diamonds. We note that marketers must have a reasonable basis for any environmental benefit claims they make for their products, and qualify any such claims adequately to avoid deception’ — something the company has not done, according to FTC claims.”

Truth in advertising is a foundation of good business. Informed choice is important. You deserve the facts before you spend your hard earned money.

As members of the American Gem Society (AGS) and the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), we think our customers are entitled to full and complete information about the gems and jewelry we sell. We promise to give you the facts and nothing but the facts about our jewelry!

 

Cardinal Point Setting

March 29th, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

 

Introducing the Cardinal Point Setting, a new concept in ring design. Rather than having prongs positioned at the traditional spots at the corners, we’ve set the stone with the prongs at cardinal points of the compass,  North, West, South and East. This has several benefits. The open design is clean and modern, yet with a flavor of the Art Deco period. It allows you to clean the back of the stone more easily. The cardinal point prongs will protect the stone from the wear and tear of everyday life. We think this design really shows off the stone because you see its color and shape more clearly.

This ring (stock # I-28817) features a beautiful 3.86 carat oval Aquamarine. This is a vintage gemstone acquired in a group of estate pieces we purchased. Its superb blue color is referred to in the gem trade as “Santa Maria.” The mine at Santa Maria de Itabira, a town in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, produced some of the best quality Aquamarine the world has seen. Natural inclusions give this Aquamarine a pleasantly soft look. Sadly, this mine isn’t producing any more.

We’ve cast this ring in 14K rose gold– the warm coppery color of this gold alloy is a perfect complement to the cool blue of the aqua. We’ve added a touch of hand engraving along the underbezel– a subtle touch just for you!

Look for more Cardinal Point Settings in the future. If you own a gemstone you’d like to be wearing or have a special gem you’ve been wishing for, consider this new style– it’s great for most shapes, especially oval, marquise, round, and emerald cuts. Our custom design department is ready, willing and able to help you find the perfect gem and design the ring of your dreams!

Arts and Crafts Repousse Brooch

January 5th, 2019 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Arts and Crafts Repousse Brooch of 14K gold, natural pearls, and black onyx.

This unusual antique Arts and Crafts gold brooch is now on display at Mardon Jewelers. Made circa 1900 or so, the piece shows the classic handcrafted elements of the Art and Crafts movement.

The craftsman began by drawing the design on paper, then either glued the design onto a sheet of 14K yellow gold or drew the design directly on the gold with india ink. The gold was then pierced with a jeweler’s saw to create the openings in the design and trimmed to the design outline.

The pierced sheet was then placed on a heavy pitch bowl. In the repousse method, the pitch in warmed just enough so that the work can be embedded firmly. The pitch is slightly pliable and supports the work while it’s being shaped with steel punches. The hemispheric shape of the bowl allows the work to move easily to follow the craftsman’s tools.

Pitch bowl, base, steel punches and chasing hammer. Photo courtesy Creatstudio.Co.UK

First, the piece was worked on the reverse side using steel punches and hammer to develop raised reliefs and the lovely three dimensional shape.

Warming the pitch again allowed the work to be turned over so the front could be tooled. The details of the front including the grape leaves and the over/under elements were hammered into the gold using various punches. The punch marks made a distinctive texture that enhances the hand wrought look. The finished gold item was bathed in chemicals several times to develop a bloomed gold surface. Bloomed gold is explained on this Mardon blog post, http://www.mardonjewelers.com/blog/the-bloom-is-on-the-gold/ ‎

The bezel set black onyx center, which is actually dyed black chalcedony, has holes that were drilled so the grape leaf and pearl cluster could be attached. The grape leaf, also made with the repousse technique, was fired with opalescent enamel.

Opalescent enamels, so very popular in the late 1800’s, were made by mixing a small amount of opaque enamel powders with transparent enamel powders which were then fired (melted) onto the surface of the gold. Opalescent enamels were usually etched slightly with acids to create a matte surface, creating a lovely velvety look.

The Arts and Crafts movement rejected the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution and espoused the virtues of the individual craftsman. Rather than any particular style, Arts and Crafts designers cared more about excellence of design and fine hand craftsmanship. The floral elements of grape leaves and grapes, the warm bloomed gold and matte finished enamel of this brooch are very typical of the jewelry of the Late Victorian and Art Nouveau era.

You can tell by the slightly irregular shapes and openings that the work was done using hand tools. The design, meant to be symmetrical, is very slightly skewed as you might expect from something done by the human eye.

This brooch may have been a graduation or bridal gift because the grapes were symbolic of prosperity, fruitful unions, and abundance. We certainly know this piece was well loved because some of the enamel has chipped, an indication of substantial wear.

The brooch is unusual for an Arts and Crafts jewel in that it’s made of gold– Arts and Crafts jewelers were more concerned with the craftsmanship and design of their work than the value. Most jewels of this style were made of silver or copper rather than gold, so that’s why we consider it to be quite rare.

This antique jewel and others are waiting to share their stories with you at our estate department at Mardon. Stop by during our regular business hours Tuesday thru Saturday, 10:00 to 5:30. We’re located at the Canyon Crest Shopping Centre, 5225 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside. Enter the central parking lot from the Central Avenue entrance and you’ll see us just left of the RiteAid drug store.

Please keep us in mind if you have jewelry to sell– we’re always interested in buying  antique and vintage jewelry. Call for an appointment if you have things you’d like to sell or have us appraise.

Vintage Pop-out Coin Pendant

December 9th, 2018 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Repousse Morgan Silver Dollar with Miss Liberty

Repousse coins, also known as pop-out coins, are a novelty item made from actual minted coins. The process to make these was first patented in the US in 1902. Coins as small as a dime have been “popped-out.” Various presidents and celebrities have been memorialized this way, but the most popular subject has always been “Miss Liberty”.

This particular one was made from a 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar. It is set in a 14K yellow gold bezel that’s encircled by 24 Akoya cultured pearls.

Repousse is a traditional jewelry making technique where flat metal is worked from the reverse side into relief (3D) designs. This piece was created with hub and die method.

Master Hub on the left, Master Die on the right

A hub has a positive or relief (raised) image of a design on the end of a steel rod. The hub begins as a plaster sculpture about 8 to 12 inches in diameter, from which a Master Hub is created in steel. A special process reduces the image to the actual size needed and carves it into the steel. The Master Hub, which bears the relief image of the design, is then copied onto a Master Die (which bears the negative or sunken image of the design).

This silver dollar was pressed into the Master Die with a steel tool pushing from the back, using a press that can generate over 10,000 pounds per square inch of pressure!

Reverse view, showing tool impression

You can see from this side view just how far the silver is “popped out”– in this case, almost 1/2 inch!

Side View

This particular piece is beautifully sculpted. Miss Liberty’s gaze seems to follow you as you view the piece from side to side. She’s truly a masterpiece of the tool and die maker’s art!

 

 

 

45 degree view from left

45 degree view from right

How many individuals has this serene face greeted? We should thank our friends in France again for this beautiful lady– she’s a shining symbol of our American way of life!

You’ll be able to see Miss Liberty in the estate department along with many other interesting and unusual vintage items at Mardon Jewelers, Canyon Crest Towne Centre, 5225 Canyon Crest Dr, Riverside, CA, 92507. Enter the main parking lot on Central–we’re the first shop to the left of the Rite Aid drugstore in the center parking lot. We’re open 7 days a week from now til Christmas, 10 – 5:30 Sunday thru Thursday, 10 – 8 Friday and Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Belle Memorial Trip

November 9th, 2018 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Dutch children at the Mission Bell memorial, along the River Lek, Holland

On a recent trip to Holland, we participated in the unveiling of a memorial to the Mission Belle, an American B17G that was shot down near Rotterdam on December 1, 1943 after a mission to bomb war materials factories in Germany.

The Mission Belle was part of the famous 8th Air Force. Half the U.S. Army Air Force’s casualties in WWII were suffered by the valiant 8th– 26,000 dead, 47,000 wounded. Eighth Air Force personnel were awarded 17 Medals of Honor, as well as 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, 442,000 Air Medals and of course, numerous Purple Hearts.

The people of the Netherlands suffered grievously during WWII. Many ferocious battles were fought over and on Dutch and Belgian soil. Toward the end of the war, the Nazis confiscated all the available food so that the Dutch were starving. Allied airlifts of food saved many lives. The Dutch have not forgotten.

The memorial to the Mission Belle was created by the people living near the crash site. The good folk of these small villages including Lekkerkerk and Neiw-Lekkerland banded together to pay for and build the monument.

We were invited to the unveiling because my father was the copilot who crash landed the badly shot up B-17 in the River Lek. Two drowned in the crash while Dad and six others survived. The tail gunner had been killed in the battle to shoot down the plane. All the surviving crew were then captured by the Nazis and became prisoners of war. My dad survived 18 months in Stalag Luft 1, near Barth, Germany. The other 6 Americans also spent the rest of the war in prison camp and lived to tell their stories.

The ceremonies leading up to and the actual unveiling of this monument to the crew of the Mission Belle were simply amazing. Needless to say, we and the other family members of the crew were treated like royalty– all 36 of us! Prior to the ceremony, a group of WWII re-enactors, dressed in period uniforms, recreated the actual briefing for the final flight of the Mission Belle. We were driven to the monument in WWII Jeeps and Trucks where we were greeted by a large cheering crowd!

Band of Brothers re-enactors

Army trucks leaving the memorial

The day after the unveiling, we visited the cemeteries where the 3 who died are buried, two at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands, the other at the Ardenne American Cemetery in Belgium.

Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Holland

Ardenne American Cemetery, Belgium

Our experience was an eye opener. What really struck home and warmed our hearts was how appreciative the Dutch still are of the thousands of Americans who fought and died liberating their country. Thanks to our guys, they have had 75 years of peace. The Dutch take their children to these monuments and teach them that there is a price to pay for freedom. In their words, freedom is not a given thing.

On this Veterans Day, Sunday, November 11, please take a moment to reflect on your life, how many good things you enjoy and especially, your own personal freedom – give all of our brave veterans, living and dead, a salute.

 

 

 

 

 

Gemstone Supply Chain

October 24th, 2018 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Tanzanite and Tsavorite

National Jeweler, a weekly trade publication, posted an article August 29 about “Gem Legacy”, a nonprofit trust set up by jewelry professionals to support education and vocational training in the local economies of East Africa. The countries of this region are major sources of colored gemstones and diamonds, yet many of those persons who mine these natural treasures live in poverty.

Roger Dery, his wife Ginger and daughter Rachel, of Roger Dery Gem Design, have established Gem Legacy to help the people in these communities develop the skills needed for a better life. Various programs include primary schools, gemological education and gem faceting training. Jobs that used to go to cutting centers in Europe and Asia are now becoming available to the people of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.

It’s a reminder that the beautiful Tanzanites, Tsavorites and Sapphires we love so much don’t just appear like magic. They come to us thru a complicated supply chain that involves the skills and efforts of many human beings. Their traditional value, based on their beauty, durability, and rarity, is also enhanced by the jobs they create.

There are many steps involved in the supply chain that brings gems from the mine to the final consumers. Each step means a job for someone. Here is what we might see with the Tanzanites and Tsavorites of East Africa.

  1. Miners tunnel into gem bearing ore. Methods range from pick and shovel to explosives and jack hammers.
  2. Sorters clean gem ore to find and prepare gem crystals for first sale.
  3. Rough buyers and miners sell sorted rough crystals to cutters.
  4. Cutters re-sort rough, then shape, cut and polish gems.
  5. Graders examine and sort finished gems.
  6. Gem dealers sell finished gems to large supplier firms as well as individual buyers.
  7. Suppliers sell to manufacturing jewelers, retail jewelers, and individuals.
  8. Manufacturing jewelers make the jewelry- big firms have specialists for each step in making jewelry.
    1. Casters or Fabricators
    2. Stone setters
    3. Finishers and polishers
  9. Retail jewelers sell the jewelry to consumers.

As members of the American Gem Society (AGS) and the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), Mardon Jewelers is committed to transparency about the gems and materials we use in our jewelry. We support efforts like Gem Legacy to improve the lives of the people in the countries of origin. The trust accepts contributions from concerned individuals and organizations. If you’re interested in learning more about the Derys’ nonprofit or would like to donate, visit GemLegacy.com.

Reader’s Choice 2018

September 1st, 2018 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Results are in for the 2018 Reader’s Choice Survey by the Riverside Press Enterprise. Thank you, our loyal fans and supporters — You’ve done it again! Mardon Jewelers has been voted the Best Jeweler of the Inland Empire for the Tenth Year in a Row!

This last year has been a time of growth and change at Mardon. We just celebrated our second year in the new shop at Canyon Crest Towne Centre. Our customers love the new location with it’s easy access and parking (enter from Central Ave), and beautiful spacious shopping environment. If you haven’t been to the new Mardon, please come by– you’ll find the same friendly and informative faces, comfortable no pressure atmosphere, and our unique blend of one of a kind and custom jewelry, estate jewelry, and of course, the famous Raincross Collection.

In May 2017, Stephanie Holcomb became a member of our Mardon team. She’s a local gal with lots of personality and great people skills. Stephanie is working with Jenny to manage our social media outreach, and she’s an avid student of gems and jewelry. Please stop by and say hello– Stephanie has a great eye for style and always seems to find just the right piece for her customers.

Diamonds are in the news. Recent scientific discoveries are giving us new insight into the origin of diamonds. One study indicates that the ultra rare natural color blue diamonds containing boron are found in oceanic rocks that have been carried by tectonic movement 400 miles deep into the heart of the earth. Most natural diamonds form at half that depth. In light of this research, Gems and Gemology, the scientific journal of GIA, published a major article, Summer 2018, explaining the causes of color in blue diamonds.

Advances in technology have it feasible to produce laboratory-grown diamonds that are large enough to be faceted. Laboratory-grown diamonds do have a lot to offer the consumer. Their physical characteristics are the same as natural diamonds, so they can be just as sparkly and durable. They are not inexpensive – prices are currently about one third to one half the price of natural diamonds. Traditional jewelry stores are carrying them. One of our biggest suppliers, Stuller, has announced that they will produce laboratory-grown diamonds, so you can order these diamonds at Mardon.

The caveat is that buyers should be aware that because this is a very new product, prices are still in flux. Rarity isn’t part of the value equation of laboratory grown diamonds. Since these laboratory-grown diamonds can be produced efficiently, there isn’t a limit on how many can be produced. More production could easily create an oversupply with resulting price drops, so we recommend that buyers educate themselves thoroughly before buying.

Also, consumers should be aware that these diamonds are being marketed as eco-friendly diamonds via the internet under many names and brands. Laboratory-grown diamonds are created in a factory setting using fossil fuels to produce the high levels of electricity needed to synthesize carbon into diamond. The process requires huge amounts of heat and high temperatures for several months. The Jewelers Vigilance Council, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, has called upon producers of laboratory-grown diamond to substantiate “eco-friendly” claims, but no evidence has been produced.

As always, Mardon strives to bring you the best values in fine jewelry and the most current and accurate information about jewelry and gems. Thanks again for your Reader’s Choice vote as the Best Jeweler in the Inland Empire– We’ll do our best in the coming year to live up to your expectations.

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Jades

August 21st, 2018 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Custom Ring by Mardon with fine Jadeite

Jade is unique in the world of gems because there are several different minerals that are correctly called jade. The history of jade begins as far back as the Stone Age. Jade minerals, including nephrite and jadeite, resist breakage but are soft enough to carve, so they were used to make stone tools by several neolithic cultures, both in Europe and Asia. As far back as ~3400 BC, nephrite was mined in China where it was used mainly as ceremonial carvings and utilitarian objects like cups and incense censers.

While the colors of nephrite are muted and soft, the best jadeite from Burma can be rich emerald green with a beautiful jelly like translucence.  The QianLong Emperor of China (1735 – 1796 ) fell so in love with the fabulous green jadeites from Burma that he went to war with the King of Burma. After the Chinese suffered a disastrous defeat, the two rulers settled their differences. Chinese lapidaries were allowed to locate in Mandalay so they could buy, process and trade in jadeite between the two countries.

To this day, many Chinese people prize bright green Burmese jadeite above all other gems, referring to the best qualities as “feicui” i.e kingfisher green, after the bright green feathers of the local bird. This quality of green jadeite, which looks like mint jelly, is referred to as “Imperial” jade and is one of the most expensive gems on the planet.

Fine Art Deco jadeite platinum ring

One of our customers purchased a group of jade jewelry items recently on a trip to mainland China. The stones were represented as jadeite. The color and overall appearance is similar to “Imperial” jadeite and the price seemed like a bargain, so he bought two bracelets and matching earrings. Soon after buying , he noticed one of the stones was missing and one was broken.

The customer wanted us to replace the two stones but something about the jades didn’t seem quite right. Their color was great but the overall appearance didn’t look like the jadeite we’ve seen. We sent the bracelet to Jeff at Mason Kaye in Denver, a well known jade vendor and expert, for testing to see if the material was dyed.

broken jade

The jade report came back as natural color jade but Jeff couldn’t put a value on the stones. Close examination of this broken piece on one of the bracelets gave us the reason. The jades were cut from very dark green material, shaped into cabochons and then hollowed from the back into a very thin dome– 0.3 mm in fact. That’s about as thick as a chicken’s egg shell! The stones were made to appear translucent by setting the stones over a mirror bright surface.

We think these stones may be omphacite jade, a mineral that is a cousin of jadeite. It’s impossible to separate the two using normal gemological tests. Omphacite is generally very dark green to almost black. Like jadeite, the color is derived from impurities of chromium. If this was very dark material to start, the hollowing out technique allows them to appear to be high quality jade. The obvious problem is durability.

In 2012*, the Gem Trade Laboratory of the GIA tested a stone that appeared to be fine quality green jadeite. The stone tested the same as jadeite with standard gemological tests– same refractive index of 1.66, chrome lines and 437 nanometer line in the visible light spectrum of the desk model spectroscope. One of their gemologists noticed the stone had different look and a somewhat different texture. He tested it with their Raman spectroscope to be omphacite . This was unexpected because the mineralogical description of omphacite showed higher optical properties compared to jadeite. Since this discovery, GIA tested numerous pieces previously thought to be jadeite to be omphacite! GIA has now classified omphacite as a type of jade, described as omphacite jade.

We don’t yet know whether fine omphacite jades will equal the value of fine Imperial jadeite jades. We’ve seen some bright green omphacite jades (not hollowed like the above) offered at auction that were similar in appearance to Imperial jadeite. The market will decide, based on availability and how well consumers will accept these type of jade.

Obviously, in light of situations like we described above and with issues of jade-like materials like maw sit sit, dyed jade and jade imitations, buyer beware! We recommend only buying jade from jade experts and gemologists you know and trust. As members of the American Gem Society, our mission is consumer protection through education, full disclosure and fair business practices– we promise you’ll know just what you are buying and that you’ll pay a fair price for your purchase.

*https://www.gia.edu/doc/omphacite-nomenclature-0521.pdf

 

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