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Imitation Stones

Jul 31, 2017 9:52:33 AM

I have an antique ruby ring that was recently appraised as a synthetic doublet. What does that mean?

A doublet is an assembled gem.  This means that two different materials were adhered together to create one stone.  In the case of your antique ruby, the top of the stone (crown area) is a genuine piece of ruby that was glued to a synthetic ruby (pavilion area).  Sometimes the entire crown can be composed of natural ruby or it can just be a small portion of the crown area.

There are many kinds of assembled stones that are used to imitate many different natural gems.  Garnet and glass, sapphire and synthetic sapphire and synthetic spinel and strontium titanate are just a few.  There are also triplet assembled stones.

Triplets are usually two different stones adhered together with a colored layer of cement to imitate a natural stone. Opal triplets are very popular and consist of a black plastic bottom, a thin layer of natural or synthetic opal and a clear quartz top.


The production of assembled stones dates back as far as the 19th century.  Many of these are very difficult to detect and require an expert gemologist to do so.  These doublets and triplets are quite common and if you want to be positive of what you have, stop in and ask our expert gemologists.  We will be happy to run the appropriate tests to determine the real identity of your heirlooms. We offer while you wait appointments and drop off service.

*Photos courtesy of the GIA.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

Rhodium Plating

Jul 30, 2017 10:10:00 AM

There is nothing quite like the beautiful bright white finish that rhodium gives to a piece of jewelry. With its bright, glittering and reflective qualities (it is the most reflective of all precious metals) from a few feet away it’s hard to tell where the stones end and the metal begins. Because rhodium is so bright and makes stones look so stunning, almost all white gold jewelry, as well as some yellow, is rhodium plated. But what exactly is rhodium and how does the process work?

Rhodium is a very hard, silvery-white metal that was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston when he separated it from platinum. He named it after the Latin word “rhodon” which means rose. It is one of the world’s most expensive metals and fetches about 6 times more than gold by weight. It is never found in mineral form and is only found in trace amounts within platinum or nickel ores. 80% of the world’s rhodium is found in South Africa. Because the metal is so hard, it is not ideal to use for jewelry making. However, it is great to use as a thin, decorative and protective layer over gold and silver jewelry.

Silverware makers from the 1930’s first used the electro-plating process to produce flatware that didn’t need constant polishing. During this process, which is used today, the item to be plated is dipped in a liquid solution containing the rhodium. An electric current is added to the mix that forces the tiny particles of metal to bond with the surface of the immersed piece of jewelry.

Just like going to the hair salon to maintain your color, rhodium also needs maintenance. Since rhodium is a just a very thin plate covering your base metal, every so often it is going to need to be re-plated. Most jewelry can go for a few years without re-plating with the exception of rings. Because rings are worn most often and receive the most contact with everyday substances they may need to be re-plated more often. Once you start seeing the yellowish-white gold base starting to show through you’ll know it’s time to rhodium. We do rhodium plating in our on-site repair shop for $35 each piece.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

The Modern Calendar of Birthstones

Jul 29, 2017 10:12:19 AM

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This is a true story. This fracture filled diamond was in our store and the photos you see below have been taken with my iPhone and microscope. A gentleman decided to buy a diamond online instead of at a reputable brick and mortar jewelry store. Not once was he told that this diamond was clarity enhanced in any way. It was never disclosed on any of the webpages he looked at, never talked about during the electronic checkout process and never documented on the “certification” that came with it. What he was told was that it was worth about triple the amount he bought it for. It was brought to us to be reset into a different mounting. As our jeweler was getting ready to work on it she noticed that it looked a little different. She immediately showed it to both of our staff gemologists and we both agreed it was severely fracture filled. Upon calling the customer, we found out that he was never informed about the treatment of his diamond. We also found out it was bought online from overseas. There are several problems with this scenario: 1. he was never informed. 2. the durability of this diamond is now less. 3. It is now a “risk” to do any work to this diamond, even put it in the ultrasonic to clean it. Pictured below is the diamond. I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to “read” the pictures but sometimes internal diamond pictures look like x-rays to people who are not trained to read them 

You can see the pink and blue flashes of color throughout the diamond. This is under 10x magnification (not a lot). You can tell there is just something “off” about this diamond.

Circled here is one of the feathers that has been filled. The long tail on the bottom is the laser drill hole used to insert the filling.

This is a closeup of the first photo. You can really see the flashes of pink now. As well as right under the table where it kind of looks like broken glass.

Top arrow: rainbow effect (looks like gas on the pavement) from the glass filling. Middle arrow: Nice example of the pink flash that is not a distinct trait in untreated diamonds. Lower arrow: laser drill hole.

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Last week we had 3 five carat perfectly cut Hearts on Fire diamonds in our store. These diamonds were so special (and so expensive) that they had to be delivered by a Brinks armored truck! Talk about a gemologists dream come true. I was running around the store with my tweezers full of diamond talking to anyone that would listen to me about how rare it is to actually find a gem quality piece of rough big enough to fashion a 5-carat rock. Everyone, even the Fed-Ex guy, got a quick diamond lesson from me that day. And as I was gazing into the beautiful example of what our Earth can create over millions of years, I started thinking about some of the world famous diamonds that have been discovered over time. Here is the list I compiled of the 3 most expensive diamonds in the world.

1. The De Beers Centenary Diamond Weighing in at 273.85 carats this diamond is considered to be perfect in every way! No joke, it’s a D in color and flawless both inside and out – talk about a rarity. It was named the Centenary Diamond to mark the Centennial celebration of De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1988 when it was presented as an astonishing 599ct. piece of rough. It is valued at $100 million dollars and the people who were there for its discovery have been sworn to a life of secrecy. To learn more, click here.

 2. The Hope Diamond You can’t have a list of the most famous and expensive diamonds without this natural blue beauty making an appearance on the list. Weighing 45.52 carats this natural blue bombshell resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. (just one of the many reasons I want to visit that place!) and is estimated to be worth around $350 million! To learn more, click here.


3. The Cullinan Diamond Named after the mine it was discovered in, this amazing specimen of diamond weighed a whopping 3,106.75 carats or 1 1/3 pound when it was discovered in 1905 by Mr. Frederick Wells. This spectacular piece of rough produced 9 major gems, 96 smaller brilliants and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces.  It is valued to be worth $400 million dollars. To learn more, click here.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

The Legend of Pele

Jul 26, 2017 10:49:24 AM

The story of Pele is a Hawaiian legend about the Goddess of Fire. It is said that Pele’s father sent her away from her home in Tahiti because she had a hot temper. She was always getting into arguments with her sister, Na-mako-o-Kaha’I, who was the Goddess of the Sea. Pele left Tahiti in a canoe that she borrowed from her brother and went to Hawaii where she made many fiery volcanoes. She also shed pieces of Peridot as green, glassy tears.


Every time she made a volcano, however, her sister (who had followed her) flooded the fire and put it out. It finally came to the point where the two sisters had a huge fight and Pele met her demise as she was torn apart by her sister. This set Pele’s spirit free and she became a goddess. It is said that Pele’s spirit lives in the Kilauea volcano (one of the most active volcanoes on Earth).


Millions of tourists visit the sacred grounds of Hawaii’s volcanoes each year. Some like to pick up a piece of peridot (especially at Papakolea Beach with its peridot sand) or a lava rock and take it home with them as a souvenir. What these unsuspecting tourists don’t know is that Pele put a curse on anyone who disturbs or steals from her home. Each year, thousands of rocks are mailed back to Hawaii by guilty people all over the world who claim to have had horrible misfortune since taking the rocks from Pele’s home and ask for her forgiveness.

Gemstones have a deep history of folklore and superstition, from curing baldness to making the wearer invisible. This Hawaiian legend is one example of the thousands that have been focused on the creation of colored stones.


To read more about people returning rocks click here

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

Imagine you were given 3 different driver’s licenses with only the basic statistics listed on them and no picture. You are then told you have to choose your future husband/wife based on these stats alone without ever meeting them in person before you choose. Would you be daring enough to do it? Chances are the answer would be no. How about buying a car online? Say you found the car of your dreams for such a great deal and all of the features listed are too good to be true (probably the case) would you call the person immediately and buy it over the phone without ever looking at it or driving it first? Um, yeah that’s a definite no. The same idea applies to buying diamonds online without “meeting” them in person first. A diamond can “look” really good on paper or a computer screen but when you see it in person it could have a number of different flaws that you were not expecting it to have. And these things aren’t cheap, definitely not cheap enough to buy blindly without first seeing and touching it. So next time you think it’s a good idea to go shopping online, keep it to the zombie survival kits or some good old-fashioned books and keep the jewelry purchases at Steffan’s.

Hmmmm I wonder what she’s going to look like…


Olive Oyl I bet Popeye would be happy!

Posted By Steffans Jewelers


Jul 24, 2017 1:40:19 PM

Agates are some of the most common stones on the planet. There have been thousands of different agates that have been named and cataloged throughout the world. Some are named for how they form while others are named for their appearances and still others are named for where they are found. Today’s Gem Talk will focus on the geode agate.  A geode is like a tootsie roll pop, underneath the hard exterior is a surprise center!


A geode is a type of agate that starts its formation as a hollow bubble inside of a layer of rock. The outer “crust” of a geode will be older than the crystals that are found inside of it. During the rock formation, the hollow space begins to be filled. This can occur because the outer rock layer is actually porous, although the pores cannot be seen without the aid of a microscope. Which minerals end up inside the geode depends on the location and conditions in which it is formed. For example, quartz crystals are more likely to be found in igneous geodes whereas silica crystals are found in sedimentary-formed geodes.


How do you hunt for geodes? The first step is to start looking in the right location. You can go to visitor’s centers or ranger’s stations as they often have rock hunting guides specific to that area. If you aren’t in a place that has a station, I would consult the Internet to see if there are any places that are known for their geodes. The next step is to know what you are looking for. They are often round or egg-shaped. It is very rare for geodes to be a sharp, pointy rock. They have a tendency to look liked steamed cauliflower on the outside due to the weathering they have endured. They often weigh less than other rocks of comparable sizes due to the hollow centers.

When you do find a geode, you need to figure out a way to break it open. The best method is to use a saw, but since most people don’t have water saws that can cut through rock just lying around in their garage, the next best method is a chisel and hammer. You need to be patient when you chisel it open otherwise you will end up with a shattered mess of crystals and rock. While geodes can be found just about anywhere, a quick Google search suggests that the best place in Illinois is on the western border of Il. And IA in a town called Keokuk, IA. I’m a sucker for family trips that are out of the box, so there just may be a future Gem Talk about our visit to Keokuk, IA.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

July Birthstone – Ruby

Jul 23, 2017 1:43:00 PM

The July Birthstone: Ruby

The name ruby is derived from the Latin word “ruber” which means red. The ruby is ranked a 9 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale and comes from the mineral corundum. Ruby is red corundum, any other color corundum is considered to be a sapphire. Rubies range in color from orangey-red, purplish-red, pink to red but the most prized rubies are the true red ones.

It is believed that the ruby can bring happiness to a relationship, expand friendships, protect the wearer from bad or negative influences and prevent a heavy rain storm. it is also believed to strengthen the body’s immune system against infectious diseases, fortifies the heart and circulation and combats low blood pressure.

The ruby symbolizes everlasting love and passion. It is thought to encourage sensitivity in a relationship. The ruby is wedding anniversary stone for the 40th year of marriage.

It is important to have your ruby jewelry cleaned and inspected at least every six months. As with all gemstones, care should be taken to avoid scratches, sharp blows, and extreme temperature changes.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

June 29 Pop Quiz Answers

Jul 22, 2017 1:46:56 PM

How much do you remember from previous months Gem Talks?


Silver Hoof was a ____________ that had a magical silver hoof that would produce beautiful gemstones when he stomped it.

A. Horse   B. Goat   C. Cow   D. Zebra

Silver Hoof was a magical goat who stomped gemstones out of his hoof. His story was part of a collection that derived from the mines in the Ural Mountains from the 1800’s.


Tiffany & Co. released the poem by an unknown author all about birthstones in what year?

A. 1756    B. 1910    C. 1870    D. 2004

The poem was released in 1870 and really started shedding light on birthstones in the US.


How many gemstones were said to have been in Aaron’s breastplate when he went into battle?

A. 18    B. 6    C. 10    D. 12

Each gemstone represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel.


True or False: Diamonds and graphite are both made up of pure carbon atoms?

The difference between the two elements lies in the formation process. Diamond forms under tremendous heat and pressure.


Where was gold first discovered in the US?

A. North Carolina   B. California   C. Texas   D. Colorado

Gold was happened upon in 1799 in North Carolina. Tourists can visit the original site at the Reed Gold mine in N.C.


True or False: Softer stones like tanzanite, opal and pearl are the best choices to use for wedding rings?

Diamonds are the best stone to use for an engagement ring because they are durable and can take a beating. Softer stones can’t withstand the constant beating that our hands take on a daily basis.

Posted By Steffans Jewelers

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