Thursday, July 25, 2013

ASK A JEWELLER --- rolex?

This weeks instalment of Ask A Jeweller focuses on high end watches and their maintenance as answered by our Master Goldsmith Dino Giannetti.

I am considering purchasing my first Rolex watch but I have heard from some people with these and other high-end watches that their upkeep can be quite expensive - as much as $500 for a servicing. I'd hate to think that after spending this much on a new Rolex, I will have to keep pouring more money into it. Is it common for these types of watches to require expensive servicing?

- Monique R.

It is important to note that all watches - from the low end to the high end, from mechanical to perpetual motion to battery operated - are machines with moving parts that overtime are guaranteed to fail. The difference between a high end watch and a low end watch in this circumstance is that one is more likely to simply replace one and repair the other.

 (This Bulova watch, from 1945 continues to run - it's original mechanism intact. This is only possible because the watch was regularly cleaned by a professional watchmaker.)

A high end mechanical watch, such as a Rolex, will continue to function forever if there is a degree of maintenance and care invested into it. Overtime dust will infiltrate the mechanism and the grease that oils the gears will dry causing the watch to seize up and stop running. To prevent this, it is recommended that mechanical watches are serviced on a semi-regular basis - every 5 years or so if no problems arise. This servicing will include a complete cleaning or overhaul - in which the watch is disassembled piece by piece, cleaned, and the watch reassembled. It is an incredibly labour intensive procedure, especially considering the intricacy associated with mechanical mechanisms. 

(This photo shows the inner workings of a mechanical watch - this complicated movement would require the skill and expertise of a professional watchmaker, with significant knowledge of high-end mechanical watches. Since most watches sold are now electronic, finding a watchmaker skilled in these types of watches has become increasingly difficult.)

It should therefore come as no surprise that accounting for both the time and expertise required to perform a professional cleaning, such a service could cost anywhere between $300 - $400 and up. The consequences of not maintaining such a watch include the risk of corrosion accumulating within the mechanism, leading to a much more costly repair once the watch fails entirely. 

The best way to think about this Monique, is to compare the purchase of a Rolex to the purchase of a new car - a car will fall apart in no time without regular tune ups, be it a Ford or a Ferrari. The only difference is that a high end watch like a Rolex is made to last a lifetime if it is well taken care of - they become family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.

Have a question? Email them to us at service(at) with the subject line Ask a Jeweller. We will answer your questions here, every Thursday.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ASK A JEWELLER --- does gold rust?

This weeks instalment of Ask A Jeweller focuses on jewellery care and maintenance as answered by our Master Goldsmith Dino Giannetti.

I was given a gold necklace that has started to change colour after wearing it a couple of times. I was told that some people can cause gold to rust/corrode and I am worried that if I try to clean the necklace I will cause it to rust even more. If it is rusting, it must be losing metal and it must be getting weaker. How can I take care of this necklace if I am causing this to happen, just by wearing.

- Amanda L.

Please rest assured Amanda that gold does not corrode and you will not 'eat' away at your necklace through simple wear. Let's first define what rust is - it is the formation of iron oxide caused by a reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water - it is metal turning into dust. Gold in it's pure form is one of the most non-reactive metals on our planet, meaning whether in the presence of water, oxygen, or even acid - gold remains unchanged.

The majority of jewellery however, is not made from pure gold - it is created using various alloys depending on the karat and colour. In the example of 18k yellow gold, 75% of the alloy is made from pure gold whereas the other 25% is made up of silver and copper - both of which are susceptible to tarnishing in the presence of air as well as the various chemicals on the surface of our skin. The change in colour you are seeing is in actual fact the alloy metals (copper and silver) oxidizing on the surface - darkening the necklace to a orange-brown colour. The lower the karat of gold, the more alloy, and the more noticeable the colour change will be as the item tarnishes. Tarnishing differs from rusting because only the surface is effected - whereas rust or corrosion will penetrate into the metal itself. 

This is an example of surface discolouration on jewellery - tarnishing.

A polishing cloth or cleaning liquid will remove the tarnish by removing the oxidized layer from your necklace - a negligible and unmeasurable amount of material that would in no way jeopardize the strength and wearability of the piece. Having the piece professionally cleaned and polished by a jeweller will remove more materials than these processes, but not enough to jeopardize the piece if it was in good condition to begin with. 

After a quick clean and polish, the patina and dark tarnish on this bracelet had disappeared.

Chains are by their nature the most hard-wearing piece of jewellery - as the links move against each other and as a pendant slides along it, the metal will be begin to show signs of wear overtime. This is an unavoidable result of friction. Have your jewellery examined by a jeweller on a semi-annual basis - this is the best way for you to keep an eye on the condition of your pieces as a trained eye can tell you where your gem's vulnerabilities lie.

The bottom line - jewellery is meant to be worn and enjoyed, not to be kept in a jewellery box. If you have any concerns, as your jeweller. 

Have a question? Email them to us at service(at) with the subject line Ask a Jeweller. We will answer your questions here, every Thursday.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ASK A JEWELLER --- appraisals?

And we are back with  Ask a Jeweller the newest feature on our blog in which our readers submit gemstone or jewellery related questions that are answered by our Master Goldsmith, Dino Giannetti.

I recently inherited an assortment of jewellery from my grandmother who passed away earlier this year. I am not sure what most of these pieces are, or their value - but I also do not want to spend a small fortune having them appraised if they are not worth it. When is it a good idea to have something appraised?

- Ruth P.

Let's first approach this question by outlining what an appraisal, at least what a good appraisal is. The most important aspect of an appraisal is not the final value noted at the bottom, but a detailed description of what the item is from the size and quality of the stones, to the type of metal, and the style of setting. Relying on a picture is not enough.

Now to the question of when should an item be appraised - if you have any doubts about the quality of an item you have purchased or commissioned, an independent appraisal can offer you piece of mind that what you purchased in fact what you have received. We have unfortunately heard some horror stories of items being purchased, many times online, that have been sold as one thing but turn out to be 'not quite as described' - from fracture filled diamonds to plated jewellery. 

If you have any questions about a piece of jewellery, it's best not to speculate, have the item analysed by an expert - a highly trained gemmologist and appraiser, never the jeweller or sales person who sold you the piece. We offer an appraisal service, but it is one that is done through one of the top gemmological labs in the country - a third party vs. an in-house service. If we were to do our own appraisals, we would essentially be grading ourselves on the work we do. A appraisal by its very nature requires objectivity.  

If you want to have an item insured, an appraisal will be required by your insurance company. In the event that an item is lost or stolen, a quality appraisal is the best way to ensure your item is replaced for its full value. Without a full and detailed description, you may find yourself at a loss when it comes to replacing the item. We recommend having any item that costs over $1,500 insured.

If you are looking to sell an item of jewellery, it might be a good idea to have that item appraised. That is not to say that you will be able to sell an item for its appraised value - in many cases you may find yourself luck to be able to sell that item for half of its appraised value. But an appraisal is a useful selling tool for the reasons outlined above.

So, to answer your question Ruth, we would recommend having any items that you think should be insured, appraised. A qualified jeweller will be able to give you their opinion as to which items, if any, should be insured.

Have a question? Email them to us at service(at) with the subject line Ask a Jeweller. We will answer your questions here, every Thursday (or Friday!).

Saturday, July 6, 2013


 The past couple of weeks have certainly been busy for us - not just because it is engagement ring season, but because the spring/summer months seem to inspire rejuvenation. Many of our projects are redesigns - removing the gemstones from an old or antique jewellery piece (or pieces) and creating a new treasure. Some highlights include:


This pendant was created as an anniversary gift for a client after several decades of marriage. We were so excited to be there when he presented her with this diamond pendant that features a half-carat Canadian diamond and six accent diamonds in two-tone 18k gold. We love that jewellery means just as much to the people who give and receive it as it does to those who  make it.

We draw our best inspiration from the incredible colours and shapes created within nature - mostly in the brilliant gemstone formations that often seem other worldly. These slate deposites were mined in Germany and had natural pyrite veins running through them. It is almost impossible to imagine something so perfect forming over millions of years below the earths surface. Once we saw these pieces, we new they were ours for the taking - now the hard part, what to make with them!

The exchanging of wedding rings is one of the most meaningful symbols and important rituals in our culture. It is a symbol of a forever commitment and lifelong bond - it's not about the size of a diamond or the amount of money spent. That is why we love working with clients who design their engagement ring or wedding bands around a history, a story, or a personal sentiment - it reinforces for us the reason we do what we do. This wedding suite was created for a couple who were hoping to incorporate a well worn, well loved antique engagement ring inherited from the brides grandmother into a more modern ring that would last another lifetime. We set the diamond in a new setting but we also incorporated the original yellow gold band by soldering it inside the new white gold band. For our clients, it was the perfect way of blending the past, present, and future and we couldn't agree more. We added a yellow gold  inlay into the grooms band to match. I can't think of anything more romantic than that.

One of the perks of having a custom shop that has been in business for over 40 years is that we often get to see rare pieces from jewellery's past golden ages - pieces we have either built ourselves, or pieces in need of some repair or restoration. This bracelet was purchased by our clients father in the early 20th century as a means of smuggling currency out of wartime Europe. For many immigrants, gold jewellery was the only valuable commodity that consistently held a value - in many cases it helped to save lives. We have heard many stories of families arriving with only their jewellery to help them begin a new life in Canada. This 18k gold bracelet weighs over 130 grams and has a solid mesh style bracelet and buckle closure - not a practical piece of jewellery, more akin to armour! Holding something like this in your hand comes with a moment of realization that seeing something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

This pendant is another example of combining the old with the new to create a piece of jewellery that not only carries with is great sentiment but is a piece that can be enjoyed by the wearer everyday. Our client inherited her grandfathers wedding band, a simple wide band with a very large finger size - our client wanted to wear the ring but knew that the style of ring would not suite her small frame. After some discussion, we decided to modify the ring to create a bezel that would feature a specially cut piece of malachite, cut from a piece she had purchased while traveling in Africa. This pendant now serves as a memory of many people and places.

These earrings began their life as two fair sized old European cut diamonds that sat side by side in an antique ring, inherited by our client. The ring held incredible sentiment to  - her grandmother wore the ring on every special occasion. The only problem - the ring never quite fit her style and as a result they languished in a jewellery box for years. Finally deciding that there was no use having jewellery if one is not enjoying them, our client decided it was time to have the stones set in something that she could enjoy everyday - something that felt more like her. We created these classic, simple, yet very stylish diamond drops that she wore right out of the shop. Every gem has a story.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and we have several stunning pieces in various stages of design and construction that we will be completing and posting in the coming weeks. Remember, jewellery is not just an accessory - it can be personal and precious for the sentiment it carries.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

ASK A JEWELLER --- alternative metals?

And we are back with our second installment of  Ask a Jeweller the newest feature on our blog in which our readers submit gemstone or jewellery related questions that are answered by our Master Goldsmith, Dino Giannetti.

My fiance and I are in the market for wedding bands. He has never worn jewellery before and is not too thrilled about wearing gold or silver. Instead we have been looking at stainless steel or titanium wedding bands - he thinks the bands will stand up better to rough wear (he works in the construction industry) and we like the price points, under $100. I've found conflicting information online about the safety of these types of metals - your thoughts?

- Shannon W.

The growth of alternative metal wedding bands has exploded since gold prices began their speedy hike towards $2,000/ounce during the last five years, but the demand for something other than gold or silver has been a constant since technology made these alternatives possible.

The biggest players on the alternative metal field are currently tungsten, titanium, and stainless steel - as well as ceramic to a lesser degree - all of which offer a very hard wearing material at a significantly lower price than other traditional metals, including gold and platinum. 

As the demand for alternative metals increased, so too did the number of designs and styles available on the market - many online shops offer hundreds of alt-metal rings with countless combinations of inlays, colours, and even settings for gemstones or diamonds. But, it is important to always consider a few factors that are just as, if not more important, than how an item will look on your finger:

  • if this is an item you are expecting to wear every day, how does this item fit within your lifestyle?
  • how will this item hold up to a lifetime of wear - what kind of maintenance can you expect as the years go by?
In the case of Shannon's fiance, it seems like the concern is that traditional metals used in creating wedding bands will not hold up to the wear and tear that comes with a manual or labour intensive career and that stronger metals such as titanium would be a better choice. Our belief is that regardless of what metal a wedding band is made of, it is very dangerous to wear jewellery whenever there is a risk of swelling in the hand or finger. A bee sting, a broken or sprained finger, swelling from impact, an allergic reaction, and the list goes on can all pose serious health risks if a ring cannot be removed. At our shop, we regularly see clients who require their rings to be removed (this is often because they have worn their ring for years without ever removing, only to discover their knuckle has outgrown their original finger size) or to have their rings repaired following a trip to the hospital.

A manual ring cutter.

A silver, gold, or platinum ring is relatively easy to remove using a ring cutter - requiring only a few minutes and little to no discomfort and is often done in a way that repairing the ring once the swelling in the finger has receded is a simple task. Removing a tungsten, titanium, or steel ring is quite another thing. In the case of titanium and stainless steel, using a standard ring cutter is almost an impossible task. Recently we had a customer come in, experiencing unusual swelling on his left hand and he was worried that his wedding band would not come off. He was unsure of what the ring was made of, and after our first attempt with the ring cutter it was clear it was not silver, gold, or platinum. Removing the ring required over 30 minutes, damaged three blades, and was quite uncomfortable for our client. Luckily we were able to safely remove the ring - unfortunately, the ring was not salvageable and would have to be replaced. In the case of tungsten or ceramic, the ring would need to be put in a vice-like system with pressure applied until the ring shatters.

If this situation had been different - if our client had been in an accident that required immediate medical attention, not knowing the metal of the ring and factoring in the need for a quick and precise response certainly would have put the wearer at risk. Purchasing an alternative metal may mean you are assuming a lot when it comes to the question of whether a ring can be safely removed in an emergency situation - that a medical professional with be able to recognize the material, will have the knowledge and tools available to remove it, and lastly that they will have the luxury of time that can sometimes be required. This is not to say that all of these situations will result in an amputated finger, but there will certainly be a degree of pain and the ring will have to be scrapped. There is a significant difference between asking a titanium manufacturer how to remove a titanium ring and asking the same of medical professional in the midst of an emergency. For us, that is too much of a risk.

This leads to the second point, consider the maintenance required throughout the lifetime of a ring. As we age our knuckles continue to grow, often made worse by the presence of arthritis - the majority of rings will need to be made larger. When we lose or gain weight, it becomes evident as our finger size shrinks or expands. Also consider that many woman experience some degree of swelling from mild to extreme during pregnancy. Over the course of a lifetime, a wedding band will likely need to be resized - a very easy task where traditional metals are concerned. The rings can either be stretched, or a piece of metal is added or removed from the band, depending whether it is going up or down a size. 

This is not the process for alternative metals rings - not only can they not be stretched or soldered, but finding a jeweller willing to work on these metals is exceptionally difficult. The processes for creating alt-metal bands is vastly different than working with traditional metals and often involves industrial tools and techniques that are uncommon for most jewellers. You will often find that the cost to repair an alt-metal ring will come close to the cost of purchasing a new one. Many sites selling these types of rings will offer to replace the ring if it require resizing or any type of repair, but this means giving up the original band - a piece of jewellery that comes with an unmatched amount of sentimental value. 

This is an important consideration - if your expectations for a wedding band is that it is an item that will be worn everyday and last forever, something to be passed onto your future children, you will need to consider the level of flexibility it offers where maintenance is concerned. Every ring of any metal will require a certain level of maintenance as it is worn over the decades - in our opinion it is rare to find an alternative metal wedding band that is made for life.

Disclaimer: we work almost exclusively in gold and platinum because they are not only metals that we prefer to use from a hands-on manufacturing standpoint but also because we believe they offer optimum wearability and a life-long beauty. But we are also constantly researching new techniques and that includes new metals. We have only recently begun working with palladium, a precious metal that shares many of the characteristics of platinum, and we often offer this metal as a alternative to our customers who find traditional precious metals to be too flashy. Not only is it a strong metal with a bright white colour, it is also light in both it weight and it effect on your pocket book (compared to platinum) with the added bonus of being hypoallergenic. 

Our recommendation Shannon - if an alt-metal is what your fiance wants, make sure you are both aware of the risks and no matter what you decide make sure he takes it off when he is on the job site.

Have a question? Email them to us at service(at) with the subject line Ask a Jeweller. We will answer your questions here, every Thursday.