A Soldier’s Ring

November 10th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Soldier 3:4

Brass Machine Gun Shell & Silver Ring

Recently, we had a gentleman stop by to purchase one of our Raincross pendants. He proudly showed us this ring he had made after his service as a soldier in a Special Forces unit in Afghanistan.

The ring is made from the brass casing of a machine gun shell. The jeweler cut the shell into strap that could be soldered onto a silver band. He finished it off with a rhinestone set into the primer opening. We think the design is very effective– simple, straighforward, gets the job done.

Soldier x_edited-1

Solder’s Ring construction detail

Soldier z

A High Caliber Ring!

Thank you to all the brave men and women serving and who’ve served in our Armed Forces. The difficult work, the sacrifices made in behalf of our great country are truly noble.



Hand Engraving– the Ultimate Jewelry Decoration

November 6th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Opal and Sapphire butterfly ring

Custom Ring, Opals and Sapphires in Platinum with Hand Engraving

In today’s world, some things change rapidly and some stay the same. Just in the last 20 years or so, jewelry making has changed radically. Previously we used labor intensive processes like carving wax models by hand to create our original designs and master models. We now use technological marvels like computer aided design and modeling (CAD/CAM) and 3d printing as a mainstay to make jewelry. Yet for all the efficiency of these new manufacturing methods, we still rely on centuries old technologies like hand engraving to add the final touch to our finest pieces.

Hand engraving is a decorative art form where designs are carved into the surfaces of jewelry, housewares, knives, guns and other objects. Hand engraving is also used to create the metal plates used to print paper currency and other legal documents.

Currency image

Hand Engraved portrait of Lincoln

Almost anything can be depicted by a skilled hand engraver. The finished product is a product of the engraver’s design sense, imagination and skill level. Hand engravers spend years perfecting their skills– some specialize in decorative engravings, some work mainly in lettering and inscriptions.

Hand Engraved Knife

Exquisite Hand Engraving on William Henry folding knife

The main tools the engraver uses are very sharp tiny steel chisels called gravers. For jewelry, the engraver uses different shaped gravers to create various designs and patterns of leaves, flowers, curls and swirls .

The beauty of hand engraving lies in its crisp detail and brightness. Unlike engraving for currency where ultra-fine lines make up the design, the jewelry engraver adds wide grooves and notches to reflect light and brighten the surface and the gems. His gravers are sharpened on a diamond hone and polished to a mirror brightness so that the cut surfaces are bright and shiny.

We recently created a custom ring for a client featuring the diamonds from her original wedding ring. She wanted a new look with white gold instead of yellow and she liked classic vintage styles. Engagement rings of the late 19th and early 20th century often featured lots of beautiful hand engraving. Here’s her ring, before engraving and after.

b4 & aftr

Custom Ring, Before and After Hand Engraving

We think the hand engraving really transformed the ring into something special

Hand engraved reverse

Hand Engraved Custom Ring

Some jewelry makers have tried to add a hand engraved look to their mass produced products. They use CAD/CAM to decorate the surface of their master model, then make a mold to make reproductions of the original. In our opinion, this look really doesn’t have the class and elegance of real hand engraving.

False engraving 1

Faux Engraving- Cast

At Mardon, you’ll find the real thing, on both our original creations and our custom designs. We use traditional surface decorations like hand engraving and jewelry enameling to enhance our one of a kind jewelry and our custom designing.

PigeonBlood Ruby Ring 3-4 view 1

Mardon Ruby & Diamond Ring with Hand Engraving

As full service jewelers, we work daily with the dedicated artisans who keep these timeless skills alive. Stop by the shop to see what a difference these traditional techniques can make in our hand crafted jewelry.



Mardon Wins Best Jeweler

September 5th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Opal and Sapphire butterfly ring

Fabulous Custom Butterfly Ring in Platinum with Opal & Sapphires

Mardon Jewelers has been voted Best Jeweler in the 20th Annual Best of the Inland Empire Reader’s Choice. This is the 7th year in a row and 10th of the last 12 years that we’ve earned this distinction. We’re very grateful for the votes and loyal support of all of our patrons. Thank You!

Look for the Reader’s Choice magazine in the Sunday Sept. 6 Press Enterprise.

For most folks, jewelry is a very personal item. Often, the value of jewelry is of less importance than what it means to it’s owner. At Mardon, we respect this and try to bring the same level of integrity and expertise to everything we do, whether it’s a simple sizing, a complex appraisal, or a wonderful new custom piece.

Speaking of custom jewelry, we’ve had a very busy summer creating some absolutely gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewels for our happy clients. Here are some fine examples-

Dragon Ring blog

Custom 18k Yellow Gold & Platinum Ring with Dragons Surrounding a Big Diamond

Marquise custom

Custom 14K White Gold Ring with Marquise Diamond Center

Benitoite Ring

Custom Platinum Solitaire with Benitoite

Thanks to your help, our estate jewelry department has grown steadily. Our reputation for fair dealing brings a steady stream of people who have jewelry they need to sell. While we recycle some items, we try to resell items intact whenever its feasible. We can pay the seller a bit more for resaleable items, and can offer them to our customers at bargain prices– a win win for everybody. Here are some new arrivals.

Aqua AD bracelet

Art Deco Bracelet in 18K White Gold with Fine Aquamarines & Diamonds

Navajo silver

Navajo Silver Bracelet, signed Douglas Cisitty

2 ct AD Ring

Vintage Platinum Ring with 2 ct Diamond and Natural Sapphires

Over the next year, we’re looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new customers. As always, we’ll try our best to find interesting jewelry, to make the finest custom and original pieces, and to offer the expertise and honesty you’ve come to expect. We hope to be your Best Jeweler for years to come.

Rolex Counterfeit- Fauxlex

July 15th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Fauxlex Face

One of most commonly counterfeited items on the planet is the Rolex sport watch– we call them “Fauxlex”. Here’s a counterfeit of the Rolex Ladies DateJust that we recently examined. Our first impression was that it was not genuine- the outer bezel is set with low quality diamonds and looks out of synch with the dial– Rolex would never use this grade. We’ll show you how we proved it was a fake.

First, looking at the watch case outside, we saw three things that set off the alarm bells.

Rolex sport watches have a model number engraved on the watch case between the lugs at the 12:00 position and a serial number indicating year of manufacture engraved between the lugs at the 6:00 position. As you can see from these photos, no model or serial number.

no serial#

No serial number at 6:00

No Model#

No model number at 12:00

Next, we saw the 18K mark on the backside of one of the lugs– didn’t look right– not stamped into the metal, just laser etched. We double checked- the case didn’t test to be karat gold with our AuRacle gold tester.

fake mark

Laser etched quality mark

We opened the watch case– the manufacturers name (not Rolex) and case content, stainless steel, is clearly marked on the inside. And the movement was obviously not a Rolex movement– no markings, no name.

Fauxles movement

Quality mark and case markings don’t match


Even though this watch is obviously a fake, it’s better than some we see. Fauxlex watches range widely in quality. We see ultra cheap ones that feel and look flimsy and have a plastic window on the back of the case so you can see the self winding movement. At the other end of the scale, high grade fakes manufactured in Italy are challenging and can be very difficult to distinguish from the real thing– we described one of these in a previous blog.

This one is in the middle– the case is solid stainless steel that has a similar weight to the genuine stainless model. The mother of pearl dial is well executed– the lettering is crisp compared to some we see, and the diamond settings are very similar to the real Rolex settings. The crown is made with a pretty good rendition of the Rolex logo– not as crude as some we have seen.

Fauxlex crown

Crown with Rolex logo

In our experience, the ultra cheap fakes aren’t meant to be taken as the real thing, just something a consumer can buy for a few dollars and show off to friends. On the other hand, the better quality counterfeits are meant to deceive and to sell for high dollars– they’ll often be presented as a distressed sale. The seller shows the price for the real thing, then tell a sad story why the watch is being sold for so much less.

The moral of the story- If you are looking to buy a Rolex, know your source. Rolex watches retain a good portion of their original price and are frequently sold used. Be sure your vendor has the skills and knowledge to know what they are selling and will guarantee the identity and quality of the piece..

Our mission as professionals and members of the American Gem Society is consumer protection through education and ethical business practices. Our appraisers maintain their skills by following trade publications and constant reading and practice, and are tested annually to maintain their AGS certifications. If you have items for sale or if you have items that need appraising or identification, stop by the shop or give us a call. Regular business hours are Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 – 5:30 pm.



Jewelry Auction Update

July 10th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Auction watch

Sotheby’s Catalg, Important Watches Sale, June 11

Great news for our client–this beautiful Art Deco watch, mentioned in our previous blog, did very well at Sotheby’s Important Watch Auction, June 11. The piece sold for a hammer price of $13,000, almost double the reserve price. Yay!

As you can see from this image from the auction catalog, Sotheby’s does a wonderful job promoting their jewelry auctions. The photography is world class, and the description and layout present the piece wonderfully.

They also researched the item carefully. By contacting Vacheron Constantin, they were able to determine that this particular watch movement was made only in 1928. Factors like rarity contribute significantly to the value of items, particularly at auctions where aficionados, collectors, and dealers compete for choice items.

If you have fine jewelry or high end watches to sell, you can see that the auction market can be an excellent way to realize the most value for your pieces. The problem for many is that the process of submitting items to an auction house can be intimidating. The auction house charges a commission to sell your pieces and fees for publication (for the catalog and other promotion), insurance, shipping and handling. It’s a complicated transaction because of the security required for handling high value items.

Mardon will prepare and submit your items for auction for about the same cost or less than if you did it yourself. We can do this because the auction houses charge jewelry professionals a lower selling fee than they do private individuals. Our expert gemologists know which auctions work best for your items.

We’ve been a trusted resource in the Inland Empire for evaluating and handling high value items since 1961. If you have inherited items you wish to sell, stop by our shop or give us a call. We’re open Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 – 5:30.

Antique Jewelry Gets TLC

July 3rd, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG


Vintage rings

We just acquired four wonderful antique and vintage rings which are, as they say, “Farm Fresh.”  It’s often the case that estate pieces need TLC before they can be resold– they’ve been worn and loved for years! They’ll need restoration, refurbishing and GIA certifications to meet our standards for resale to our clients. Here’s what we do to bring these lovely pieces up to snuff and ready for a new home.

5 ct. Cushion 3-4

Ring #1 is a beautiful halo style platinum ring from the early 20th Century, circa 1900-1920. The ring is in good condition and won’t need much more than cleaning and polishing to be ready for the market, but the center stone is another story. It’s is a gorgeous Antique Cushion cut diamond that weighs 4.22 cts. Because the stone is so large and of good quality, we’ll have the stone graded at the GIA Gemological Laboratory.

Before the stone goes to GIA, we’ll send it to our diamond cutter who specializes in repairing damage. Even though they’re hiding under the bezel, we’ve noticed some minor chips around the girdle (edge) of the stone. This type of damage is typical of vintage diamonds because they often have very thin girdles.

A key factor here will be weight retention– it’s very important that the stone weight stays above 4 cts. The fair market value of a 4 ct stone can be 15% more than a stone weighing 3.9 ct, all other factors being equal. Once our cutter has had a chance to evaluate the repair, we’ll have a good idea of the final weight and can make an informed decision whether to proceed.

Ring #2 has several issues. The center Old European cut diamond weighs ~ 3.33 cts and is of excellent quality, so it should have GIA documentation. Like the stone in the first ring, it has some small chips around the girdle that should be repaired before going to the lab. The diamond has an attractive light yellow color– the key factor here is whether the color is rich enough to be graded Fancy Light Yellow. Our cutter may have some ways to enhance the color  — we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

3 ct Yellow 3-4

The ring itself is an attractive platinum Edwardian style from the Turn of the Century, made by T.B. Starr. Theodore B. Starr was a prestigious jeweler in New York City who partnered with Herman Marcus from 1864 to 1877. Starr & Marcus made pieces for notable firms like Tiffany, and later became part of another famous jewelry firm, Black, Starr, and Frost. T.B. Starr died in 1907, so we know this was one of his later pieces– platinum items aren’t seen much before 1900.

3 ct Yellow w Burnt emeralds

Unfortunately, the ring has significant damage– somewhere, sometime, a jeweler decided to install yellow gold prongs around the center stone. In the process of soldering on the new prongs, the small channel set emeralds were burnt almost to a crisp. Because the piece has provenance to a famous maker, we’ll attempt to replace the damaged stones. The process will be expensive and painstaking. The tough part will be finding matching the tiny calibre-cut emeralds– they’ll have to match measurements of the originals within 1/10 of a mm!

2 ct 3-4

Ring #3 is a platinum ring in the Art Deco style. The center diamond weighs 2.00 cts, has good clarity and color, so it needs a GIA pedigree. It’s probably not the original stone– the cutting style is too modern for the ring setting, and the prongs don’t look original. We’ll have the stone graded by GIA and restore the prongs more to their original look.

Ring #4 has a natural sapphire center with an intense dark blue color. The problem is it’s so poorly cut that it has no excitement or pizzazz– the beautiful color just doesn’t show. We’ll probably lose a fair amount of weight recutting the stone but are hopeful that Marty Guptill, our genius gem-cutter, can breathe some life into stone.

With GIA grading at ~ $100 per carat and recutting at ~$200 per carat, you can see our work with these beautiful pieces has just begun. And it will take two to three months to complete everything.

Add these costs and the time involved, you can see that working with antique jewelry is not just about money — it’s truly a labor of love. At Mardon, we cherish antique and vintage pieces as much for their history and the stories they tell as for their value. We hope you’ll love these treasures from the past as much as we do– they should be ready in time for Christmas.



Alexandrite Impersonator

June 6th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Alex Ring

Natural Alexandrites & Diamonds in 18K white gold


Alexandrite is a very rare and valuable natural gemstone, famous because its color changes almost magically, from red to green. Alexandrite is a variety of Chrysoberyl, a mineral found in nature. Chrysoberyl is well suited for jewelry because it is very hard and durable, and because it’s rare, beautiful and unusual. The colors we see in a natural Alexandrite is usually a green to bluish-green when viewed in daylight, a red to reddish purple when viewed in incandescent light.

The mystique of Alexandrite begins with it’s name– as the popular but controversial story goes, Alexandrite was discovered on the tsarevitch Alexander’s sixteenth birthday, April 17, 1834 and named in his honor. The facts differ from this romantic tale, but the true story will probably be never known. Alexandrites quickly became a sensation because of their color changing property and their association with Russian royalty.

Around 1890 or so, using a method called the Verneuil process, chemists began producing a crystalline material that exhibited a strong color change like the Alexandrite, from reddish purple to blue green. This material is an oxide of aluminum known as Corundum. Pure corundum is colorless but can have different colors when impurities are present. Corundum is known as Ruby if red, Padparadscha if pink-orange, Sapphire for all other colors.

Syn. Sapp R-P small

Synthetic Sapphire in Incandescent Light

Syn. Sapp b-g small

Synthetic Sapphire in Daylight

Man-made Corundum is referred to as synthetic sapphire or synthetic ruby, depending on its color. Vanadium is added to the melt to create the color change sapphire. The manufactured material with color change is properly known as synthetic color change sapphire, synthetic alexandrite-like sapphire or synthetic sapphire with alexandrite-like color change.

The color change in both natural Alexandrites and synthetic color change sapphires depends on the color temperature (Kelvin) of the light in which you view the stone. The stones strongly absorb light in the yellow section of the color spectrum. Daylight is lower in the color spectrum, so blues and greens will come thru. Artificial light, like candlelight and other incandescent lights, will emphasize the warmer end of the visible light spectrum, so you’ll see the reds.

Synthetic color change sapphire became enormously popular because of it’s interesting colors, great wearing qualities, and very low price. Synthetic corundums are manufactured inexpensively to this day by the same Verneuil method used in the 1890’s. We still see this material used as in class rings, costume jewelry, and as an alternate June birthstone for the true natural alexandrite.

Sadly, many people who own these synthetic color change sapphires are under the impression they are valuable natural Alexandrites. Because they’re inexpensively mass produced, synthetic sapphires with alexandrite-like color change are very cheap– a 2 carat stone might retail for $30, while a 2 carat fine natural Alexandrite might sell for $30,000! You can see why a person might be very excited if they have a large stone, thinking it’s genuine Alexandrite.

A worse problem is that synthetic color change sapphires are often sold as Alexandrite. Sometimes, it’s because the seller doesn’t know the difference, sometimes it’s with intent to defraud. Either way, it shows how important it is to deal with someone who is knowledgeable and ethical.

Synthetic color change corundum is easy for a gemologist to identify. The Verneuil process leaves visual traces that prove how the stone was made. The material is grown in a carrot shaped mass known a boule. The rounded form leaves curved growth lines within the stone known as curved striae. These may appear as straight lines, but careful examination will prove them to be slightly curved. Once you see the curved striae in a doubly refractive material, you’ve proven it to be synthetic corundum.

Striae 2_edited-2

Curved growth lines in synthetic color change sapphire

At Mardon, four gemologists including a Certified Gemologist Appraiser are on staff to identify and value gemstones and jewelry you have questions about. We also buy estate jewelry. The fees for our gemological services are modest, and the knowledge you’ll gain can be quite valuable. Stop by our shop Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 to 5:30– we’re alway interested in seeing your jewelry and hearing the stories that go with your pieces.


A Good Jeweler is Hard to Find

June 2nd, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

We recently performed extensive repairs on a wedding ring that had been purchased in the LA Jewelry Mart. Thing is– the ring was brand new!

The client brought the ring to us for an insurance appraisal. We recognized this as a “jewelry mart special” because he had a “feel good appraisal” from the original seller that valued the ring at about 3 times what he had paid.

Two serious problems became apparent when we inspected the ring. First and foremost, the center diamond was ready to fall out! It was the worst job of setting a diamond this writer has seen in over 40 years in the jewelry business.

Poor Setting top_edited-1

When properly done, the prongs in a tiffany style head (the 6 prong setting) are fitted to the stone and tightly crimped over the edge of the diamond so they grip the stone securely. In this instance, three prongs on one side of the diamond weren’t gripping the edge of the stone at all, and the diamond was seriously tilted.

These two side views show how poorly the stone is set– it’s tilted, the seats don’t fit the stone and the prongs aren’t set onto the stone .

Poor Setting side 1 Poor Setting 2

The most likely explanation for the slipshod work is that the jeweler sold the stone separately from the ring, and the head in the ring was for a smaller diamond. Not wanting to  spend the money to replace it with a proper sized head, the seller made the decision to force the big diamond into the small head– and succeeded long enough to get the ring out the door.

After consulting with our diamond setter, it was obvious the best course would be to replace the original head with one that would fit the diamond and to set the stone properly. At $200, not an inexpensive repair, but considering the diamond was valued at ~$7000, cheap insurance.

We also noticed that most of the channel set diamonds were loose and the bars between the diamonds were uneven and poorly polished– the result of hurried work and/or poor technique. Our craftsmen were able to tighten the diamonds and correct the uneven look– but so many stones were loose, it took a lot of time, resulting in a repair that cost another $200. In the end we were able to deliver a properly set and properly finished ring.

Repaired ring

The moral of the story is simple– you get what you pay for. The main reason for poor jewelry work like this is simple economics– quality work takes longer and requires more skill, so it costs more! Shortcuts and cheap labor are how some firms compete in today’s tough economy.

At Mardon, we take pride in our work. We make sure all of our original jewelry, custom designs, jewelry repairs and appraisals are done the right way. Maybe that’s why we’ve been voted Best Jeweler in the Press Enterprise Reader’s Choice for five years in a row.

Reader’s Choice voting has been extended to June 7– Vote for your favorite shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues by clicking on the red “Best of Inland Empire 2015” on our home page, www.mardonjewelers.com. We’d appreciate your vote so we can keep up the good work!

Poor Setting side 2

Jewelry Auctions & 2015 Reader’s Choice Voting

May 22nd, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG


Mardon has placed a rare vintage watch for a client in this upcoming Important Watch Auction held at Sotheby’s New York venue. It’s Lot # 163, page 136 – you can browse the catalog at this URL, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2015/watches-n09368.html#

This last year, we’ve added Jewelry Auctions to the list of services available through our extensive network of experts and colleagues. Many of our clients have expensive jewelry items they wish to sell for various reasons– for example, they have an inheritance that needs to be divided, they have pieces no longer worn or they simple want to raise cash. While Mardon buys all types of fine jewelry for cash, sometimes a high end item can only be properly valued thru an active market like auctions.

Auctions can be intimidating, especially to a person with no experience selling thru an auction. Auction houses charge fees for shipping, insurance, publication and promotion, and a commission based on the hammer price. Mardon has connections with such fine auctioneers as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. We can sell your jewelry through the appropriate auction for fees similar to what you would pay if you did all the work of estimating, shipping and insuring yourself. We’ll help you decide if selling your pieces thru an auction is the appropriate choice. No worries, no trips out of town, and you’ll be dealing with a local business established in our community since 1961.

Just a friendly reminder – Voting in the 2015 Reader’s Choice survey ends soon. If you’d like to be counted, it’s easy to do– just click on the red banner on the Mardon Jewelers Home Page, http://www.mardonjewelers.com, — it will take you right to the Press Enterprise online ballot. You don’t have to complete all the categories, just the ones you want. It only takes a bit of time and you’ll enjoy giving recognition to the restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues that are important to your life.

So, please, check out the ballot in the Wednesday and Sunday Press Enterprise– look for Best of Inland Empire 2015. Better yet, vote on line at http://www.pe.com/sections/bestofinlandempire/

We hope you’ll send a little love our way –  We work hard to bring you the very best in jewelry and to provide the expert services you need. We depend on your support and patronage to sustain our very small business. Thank you

Emerald Show Going On Now

May 5th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Now showing- a Stellar Collection of Emerald Jewelry from our good friends at AG Gems. If you’ve ever wanted to see what an outstanding Natural Emerald looks like, this your chance. Stop by our shop – we’ll show you beautiful rings, earrings and a fabulous necklace, set with fine Emeralds from Colombia and  Zambia. These items have gemological certifications from GIA or AGL, so you’ll know for certain what the gemstone is.

Em Neck 2


Colombia is the most well known source of fine emeralds. The fabulous Muzo Mine of Colombia dates back to the time of the Spanish Conquistadores and before. At their best, Muzo Emeralds can show the classic slightly bluish soft green color for which emeralds are famous. Our 5.88 ct. gem is the perfect emerald color, and comes with an AGL certification.

I-23910 3:4

Magnificent 5.88 ct Muzo Emerald


3.47 Zambian Em, .81 d ring

3.47 ct. Zambian Emerald

This beautiful 3 stone ring centers on a stunning 3.47 ct. oval Emerald from Zambia, flanked by a matched pair of half moon shaped diamonds. The earrings feature 3 matched pairs of Zambian stones. Zambian emeralds are known for their deep color and excellent clarity.


7.19 ct em earrings

Zamibian Emeralds total 7.19 cts

Stop by and chat with our gemologists– we love show and tell, especially with extra fine gems. These items have gemological certifications from GIA or AGL– You’ll see the difference quality makes and we’ll explain the factors that make fine Emeralds one of the most sought after of all  gems.

We’re open Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 am to 5:30 pm.


    Member - American Gem Society Member - American Gem Trade Association Polygon - The Jewelers Information Highway Harmony Recycled Precious Metals Canada Goose Diamonds