Antique Marshall’s Badge

May 21st, 2016 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Badge front

This unusual estate jewelry item turned out to be are a real surprise. We purchased it along with a large group of vintage pieces– sort of an after-thought, thrown into the lot at the last minute. We don’t buy a lot of silver jewelry, but this was just funky enough to be of interest. It went into my “Later” box where it’s been languishing for several months. Last week, I was going thru the box, decided to give it a try and priced it for the estate case.

The handmade badge is set with a 12 x 10 mm cabochon turquoise center and 5 really nice dark red pyrope garnets, each about 5.5 mm, round brilliant cut with lots of sparkle.

The front has the hand engraved inscription “City Marshall” and “Gallup New Mexico”. The back is hand engraved “P. J. Dugan”

Badge reverse

It’s my habit to do a bit of research on interesting estate pieces, so I asked Mr. Google about P. J. Dugan. It turns out that P.J.Dugan was indeed  the City Marshall of Gallup from 1908 to 1911. Here’s his picture. Do you think he looks like a Wild West lawman?

Dugan less texture

Marshall Dugan

Read the oath he swore while New Mexico was still a territory. It attests to his duties on the election day when the new state constitution of New Mexico was on the ballot. I chuckled at his statement that the town was “exceedingly orderly”. Can’t you see Marshall Dugan walking around town in the bright New Mexico sun with the red garnets flashing on his silver star, checking to make sure all the saloons are  closed!

Dugan oath

Supporting the provenance, we think the garnets are the famous Anthill Pyrope Garnets found on Garnet Ridge, in the Four Corners region near Dinnehotso, Apache County, Arizona. Garnet Ridge is just a hundred miles or so north of Gallup.These pyrope garnets have a high concentration of chromium which accounts for their beautiful bright red color.

They are so named Anthill garnets because the ants of the area haul up pebbles of garnet as they make new tunnels. As a result, the margins around their ant hills are dotted with little bright red gems.

For those who love and collect jewelry, it’s rare that we’re able to connect a jewelry item to the actual period, use and person to whom it belonged. It’s also rare to have the materials match the provenance so well. You can see this unusual item in our famous Estate Department Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 – 5:30 pm. Probably won’t last long because it’s so unique.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, don’t forget to vote for Mardon as your favorite Inland Empire jeweler. We’re hoping to achieve 7 years in a row! You can vote online easily —  just go to

You can vote for your favorite jeweler (Mardon) and all your favorite shopping, services, entertainments, and eateries. It really helps family businesses like Mardon survive and prosper.  Your vote matters!



Diamond Hourglass 18 Karat Gold Necklace by Sydney Mobell

May 7th, 2016 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

blog I-25712 all

Now showing at Mardon, this charming necklace is from the celebrated American jeweler, Sydney Mobell. Mobell is considered a modern master of the jewelers art. His shop in the Fairmont Hotel of San Francisco was famous for transforming everyday items into irreverant jeweled art, producing such items as a diamond studded Frisbee, an jewel encrusted toilet seat, and a gold and diamond monopoly set.

blog I-25712 dime

Mobell pieces on display at the Smithsonian National Museum include a mouse trap, a baby pacifier, a sardine can, and a cell phone, all of solid gold and diamonds! The whimsical Hourglass in one of his signature pieces–You can buy a new necklace of the same Hourglass design shown here from the Smithsonian Store for $3800.

Mobell made several versions of the diamond filled Hourglass, starting with a larger 2 carat size with twisted rope standards, finally perfecting the design in the form you see here. The trick was to get the shape of the glass just right so it would look like an hourglass and the diamonds would flow easily from top to bottom (see photos).

blog I-25712 Diams Up blog I-25712 Diams mid blog I-25712 Diams down

We think ours is early because while Mobell’s signature is correct, it’s not marked with the copyright mark or 18K mark of later pieces. Key pieces of evidence support the provenance of the piece. First, the style of the signature is correct—it uses his signature font and was engraved using a pantograph type engraver. It’s unlikely that anyone but Mobell would have the custom font templates required for a pantograph engraver.

mobell sign

blog I-225712 mark

Second, the chain is by Herco, a well known long established high end chain supplier located in– you guessed it — San Francisco.

Finally, you’ll notice the top and bottom gold discs are not perfectly parallel to each other– this indicates the piece was handmade, probably before they had all the bugs worked out of the design.

blog Herco

You’ll find fabulous collectible American art jewelry by Mobell, Angela Cummings at Tiffany, Gucci and others featured in our Estate Department, along with filigree engagement rings, fine Emeralds, Rubies, and Sapphires, famous name vintage watches like Rolex, Omega, Waltham, and all sorts of unusual fun items.

And please remember, Mardon is always interested in buying fine jewelry of all types and conditions. If you have items you are looking to sell, our gemologists will examine your pieces, give our expert opinion as to value and make a fair offer. We also handle high value items for auction. Give us a call, we’ll set up an appointment for you.

We hope you’ll remember to vote in the Press Enterprise 2016 Reader’s Choice. Vote for your favorite jeweler (Mardon!) and other hard working small independent businesses here in the Inland Empire– it really helps us little guys!

Reader’s Choice voting is early the year, ends June 3, 2016.  Voting online is so easy– just go to  Your vote matters!

Reader’s Choice 2016

April 30th, 2016 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

Once again, we’re asking you to vote Mardon Jewelers as the Best Jeweler in the Inland Empire. Our customers have voted us Press Enterprise Reader’s Choice Best Jeweler for 7 years in a row- we thank you and truly appreciate your patronage and confidence in us.

Your votes matter– small family businesses like ours have to scramble to survive in today’s hyper-competitive world. The recognition your votes provide goes a long way- please vote Mardon!

Mardon has worked hard to build a brand known for quality, creativity and integrity. Over the next month, we’ll be posting articles that highlight some of the new jewelry we’re making and new arrivals in our estate department, as well as information about the expert services we offer– stay in touch.

Voting for the 2016 Press Enterprise Reader’s Choice survey starts Sunday, May 1 continuing thru the month, ending June 1. You’ll be able to vote via the website– we’ll post the address/URL shortly– and the Press will be publishing a mail-in ballot as well.


Prince’s iPod

April 30th, 2016 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

With the unfortunate passing of Prince, I’ve been watching some of the tributes and interviews with and about the Purple One. The Saturday Night Live tribute last week was a hoot, showing some of his past performances on SNL, as well as several hilarious sketches called “The Prince Show” featuring Fred Armisen as Prince and Maya Rudolf as Beyonce Knowles. The highlight of the SNL show was a never before shown clip of Prince improvising during the SNL 40th anniversary afterparty– be sure to see this if you missed it.

I’m a true fan of unusual and rare gemstones and remembered a very short blog about Prince’s purple diamonds that I posted April 16, 2009. Ultra-rare purple diamonds accented his “Love Symbol” on the cover of the artPod. I’m not sure how to find the original Luxist post, but here’s the essence of the blog.

“From Luxist


Musician Prince reinvents himself one more time with this latest “artPod”, an iPod Touch entitled “Prince Opus Number One” that features extremely rare purple diamonds.

While I’m more of the Beatles generation, I love good music of all genres. In all the tributes and clips of his performances, I was struck by how good a musician he really was and by the love and admiration people have for Prince– not only his fans, but also his peers.

One of the impressive things about Prince was his skill and integrity as an artist. While he probably could have made more money by signing with big record labels and companies that would promote him for the big bucks, he insisted on control of his brand and his music. This wasn’t the easy way to fame and fortune, but it was his way.

In our own way, we at Mardon have chosen the path less taken. We make much of what we sell and brand it with our maker’s trademark. Making jewelry on a professional level is much more difficult than simply buying and selling jewelry. It requires effort, discipline and creativity, but it’s also very fulfilling and satisfying when people buy your creations. We learn and grow with each item we create, and think our best pieces are yet to come.

Most of our pieces are made right here in our community using local craftsmen. Our clients really appreciate our unique hands-on approach to our business. We do lot’s of custom designs as well as superb one-of-a-kind designer pieces. Stop by our shop Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 am to 5:30 pm– you can see some of our fine original works and we’ll be happy to discuss the custom piece you’ve always wanted .



Gorgeous Paraiba-type Tourmaline in Rose Gold Ring

January 8th, 2016 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Cuprian Tourm ring 3:4

Paraiba-type Cuprian Tourmaline with rose gold and diamonds.

Our Paraiba-type Tourmaline & Diamond 14 Karat Rose & White Gold Ring is truly one-of-a-kind. The centerpiece of the design is a gorgeous oval brilliant cut Cuprian Tourmaline. It measures ~10.70 x 7.13 x 5.24 mm and weighs 2.56 carats. The gem is perfectly cut and exhibits a delicate light mint green.

Cuprian Tourm detail

Clarity is eye clean with very light inclusions

Cuprian Tourmalines are a rare variety of Tourmaline that was first discovered in the 1990’s in the Paraiba province of Brazil. The tourmaline crystals from the mine were attractive dark purple and magenta colors. It was common practice to heat red tourmalines in Brazil to intensify the color. When these crystals were heated, some were transformed into exquisite vivid blues and greens. The gems with intense bright blue and green colors electrified the gem world, evoking such descriptive names as “Windex Blue” and “Neon Green”.

It was quickly determined that the tourmalines from Paraiba had an unusual chemical makeup in that they had copper as one of their components.  The copper is responsible for the bright colors.

The original Paraiba source was a small deposit that was quickly mined out. Once people realized how rare these gems were, the values for Paraiba tourmalines skyrocketed, generating intense interest from collectors around the world. Soon after the original Brazilian discoveries, two new sources of copper bearing tourmalines were discovered in Africa, first in Nigeria and then in Mozambique.

Like the Paraiba Tourmalines, these African stones were various shades of purple and magenta when mined. Like the Paraiba material, some of these responded to gentle heating by turning into vivid blues and greens. Unlike the Paraiba source, these mines produced much more material and much larger crystals. The colors can be similar, but the rarity factor is not as important.

Because of their extreme rarity, copper bearing Tourmalines that can be documented to be the original Paraiba material can bring astronomical prices if their color and quality is Extra Fine. Two carat Extra Fine Tourmalines certified to be from the Paraiba source by qualified gemological laboratories can start around $30,000 per carat wholesale! A two carat Extra Fine Cuprian Tourmaline from Africa starts around $8000 per carat wholesale– still very valuable and rare, but not like the Paraiba stones.

Because of the extreme values of the Paraiba material, it’s been a controversy within the gem trade over the naming of the African material. The consensus is that the African stones can be called Cuprian Tourmalines (preferred) or Paraiba-type Tourmalines.

We have assumed that our gem is African and have not had it tested by a gemological laboratory. We purchased the stone along with three others from a person who bought a box at a storage unit auction. The cuts were very ordinary and somewhat heavy, so we had the stones recut for brilliance and beauty.

Cuprian recuts 4 blog_edited-1

4 Cuprian Tourmalines, after recut. Stone in ring at lower left

The stone in our ring has a light color that is not as vivid as some of the colors we’ve seen, but is unusual and lovely.  Even though the cut and clarity are excellent, we grade it at the low end of Good, 5 on a scale of 10, with a current wholesale value of $1500 per carat.

The ring is a new original work designed by Jim and Jenny Sweaney, handcrafted and finished by the Mardon team. The design has elements of the Art Deco style. We think you can compare our craftsmanship with any of the top designer.

The ring is cast from 14 karat Rose and White gold, and is marked 14K along with our makers mark. It weighs a substantial 7.3 grams.

The white gold center section is bead set with 42 round brilliant diamonds ranging from 1.5 to 1.0 mm. The diamonds are of VS clarity, F to G color, excellent cut .

The rose gold ring shank is our patented Mardon shank– the wide bottom adds comfort and wearability by counter balancing the top so the ring won’t spin, and the extra gold adds sturdiness and years of wear to the piece.

This ring is a fine example of the unique original one-of-a-kind jewelry Mardon is noted for. We use our design and jewelry making skills to make pieces for our showroom stock and for custom pieces. Stop by our shop and browse- we have a fine collection of gems ready for setting. We’ll be happy to show you how the magic happens!

Online Shopping, Free Giftwrap & Shipping at Mardon

November 27th, 2015 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

The holiday season is just a whirlwind of joy and stress — we’re all busy juggling our day to day life and getting ready for the Thanksgiving Feast, then Christmas with family, then New Year’s Eve. Into this mix of busy, we need to find gifts for loved ones, old friends, and business associates.

At Mardon, we’ll help you get through the season by offering not only our superb jewelry, but also online shopping, free giftwrap and free shipping on your Mardon purchases. Our famous Raincross Collection, our Mardon Exclusives and One-of-a-Kinds, and our fabulous Estate and Vintage Jewelry are available for simple one click purchasing through PayPal.

If you’re local to our area, avoid the crush that comes every year with the Festival of Lights. If you’re not local, but can’t resist our jewelry, famous for uniqueness and quality, shop Online at Just find your favorite item and click the Buy Now button- you’ll be guided to PayPal with it’s easy pay options and purchase protection.

Questions or comments, just give us a call– we’ll be happy to assist as your personal shopper.

Here are some of our newest Mardon Original creations and Estate acquisitions-

I-25368 on chain copy

Mardon Original by Jenny Sweaney, Holly Blue Agate in Sterling Silver, I-25368, $495

I-24808 set copy_edited-1

Mardon Original Amethyst Necklace & Earrings by Kaye Sweaney, I-24808 & I- 24815, $250 & $125

I-25351 3-4 copy

Mardon Original by Jenny Sweaney, Benitoite & Diamond Ring in White Gold, I-25351, $1995. Our State Gemstone!

I-25361 3-4 copy

Mardon Original, Cuprian Tourmaline & Diamond in Rose & White Gold, I-25361, $4995

I-25390 3:4. copy

Art Deco Enameled Ring, Carnelian in 14K White Gold, I-25390, $195

I-25395 front & omega copy

Modern Pendant, 2.68 ct Tanzanite & Diamonds in 14K Yellow Gold, I-25394, $1950 & 4MM Omega Necklace, 10K Yellow Gold, I-25389, $495

I-25127 3-4 copy_edited-1

Fabulous Turn of The Century Antique Platinum Ring, 3.63 ct Diamond, GIA Certified, I-25127 Inquire for Price

Shop online at










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.



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