FAQ's, Myths and Rumors

This section of my site, like most of the others, is a work in progess. I will update it as I get new information.

The webmaster, Ryan Thompson, G.G.

Frequently Asked Questions (and some not so frequent)
What do the terms 'champagne', 'cognac' and 'coffee' mean pertaining to diamond color?
These refer to different types of brown. In the diamond processing/dealing industry, the word 'brown' is considered a killer as far as diamond value goes. Outside the diamond processing/dealing industry, nobody seems to care. Even though champagne the drink is a light yellow color, champagne diamonds are light brown. Congac is usually used to describe a diamond that is orangy-brown or brownish-orange because cognac is a deep golden orange color. Coffee is usually used to describe a diamond that is a deep brown color. Those are dressed-up term the jewelry industry uses to describe brown diamonds. I tend to call them what they are, however. The GIA will call them something like Fancy Intense Brown or Fancy Yellowish-Brown or Fancy Light Brown, etc. I have not seen a diamond grading certificate for a brown diamond that didn't have secondary colors. Whenever I have seen a certificate mentioning brown, it has always been something like Fancy Brownish-Pink, Fancy Brownish-Yellow, Fancy Yellowish-Brown, Fancy Orangy-Brown, and so on. I've never seen a Fancy Brown or a Fancy Intense Brown. I think the reason is that most people with diamonds like this don't get them certified (unless they have a larger stone like 3 or 4 carats or more) because in the world of colored diamonds, brown diamonds tend to fall towards the bottom of the price scale. In other words, most people would not consider it worth the money to get the stone certified. Like I have said elsewhere on this site, the most common gem-quality diamonds in nature are light yellow or light brown. Black is even more common usually as industrial rough and only some black diamonds are faceted, even though they are opaque stones they must first show certain potential.

Do you know where I can buy replica(s) of famous diamond(s)? Up till recently Northwest Diamonds & Gems (now-defunct website www.nwdiamondsgems.com) was the only place I knew of where any replicas could be purchased. www.museumdiamonds.com is Scott Sucher's website and he has cut replicas of a number of different famous diamonds. He will also do work on commission, large or small.

What exactly are those Golden Fleece ornaments all about? The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by Philippe III the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1429 at Bruges in Flanders on the occasion of his marriage to Isabella of Portugal. He dedicated it to the greater glory of god and the defense of Christianity. When the line of the dukes of Burgundy expired, this order was awarded both in Austria and in Spain through the Hapsburgs. As the highest-ranking order, the Golden Fleece was the most coveted honor in Europe. The Austrian order was limited to fifty-one members. Many Crown Jewel collections in Europe contain Golden Fleece ornaments. The Dresden Green Diamond, the Hope Diamond and the Wittelsbach Diamond were all stones once set in Golden Fleece ornaments.

What makes rose gold pink, white gold white and green gold green? What goes into platinum jewelry metal? This is something I was not exactly sure about until I researched the question. Not only are gold jewelry styles possible that combine white and yellow (and even rose) gold, but exotic gold hues like blue, green, brown and purple have been created. Because it is harder than pure gold (24K), karat gold can take on a smoother polish. This makes its polished surface more reflective. This means that karat gold can have a brighter luster than pure gold, which is more likely to dent from everyday wear. Karat gold weight and cost both make a difference in the final cost of jewelry. For example, a 14K gold item weighs less than the same item cast in 18K gold. The 14K gold item will also cost less than the 18K gold, because it contains a smaller percentage of gold. These factors combine to lower the manufacturing cost and final price of karat gold jewelry. This makes karat gold jewelry more accessible to the public at large.

Ingredients of Typical Gold Alloy Colors
14K Yellow ... Gold, copper, silver, zinc
18K Yellow ... Gold, copper, silver, zinc (with a higher proportion of gold)
Green ........ Gold, copper, silver (amount of silver increased)
Rose ......... Gold, copper, silver (amount of copper increased)
White ........ Gold, nickel or palladium, copper, zinc

Platinum Alloys!
Compared to silver and gold, the element platinum is a fairly recent discovery. To some people, this makes platinum a symbol of progress and innovation. Europeans learned about platinum when the Spanish discovered it during their occupation of Ecuador in the late-1500s. But it took two more centuries before European scientists learned how to work with the odd metal. Platinum is one of the strongest and most durable of all metals (excluding titanium, of course). However, platinum's physical properties make it a challenge to use in jewelry manufacturing. One of the biggest problems the early scientists had was its very high melting point -- approximately 3224F (1773C). Use of the high-heat oxyhydrogen torch finally allowed jewelers to melt and solder platinum in the 1800s, and thus it began to be used in jewelry. Other platinum group metals are iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium. Presently, manufacturers alloy pure platinum with other platinum group metals, mainly ruthenium or iridium. Another alloy possibility for platinum is the addition of cobalt. Mixing platinum with different members of its group creates alloys that can be harder than pure platinum. Platinum alloys that are 950 parts out of 1000 platinum and 50 parts other platinum family group metals are typically referred to as "platinum" without reference to the alloy, and stamped with the letters "PLAT". Occasionally a stamp for platinum reads "PT950", which means the same thing. Plating platinum with rhodium gives it a whiter finish. This practice occurs in the US and in other parts of the world. Rhodium is also used to sterling silver and white gold.

...Silver Alloys
Pure silver (.999) is luminous and lovely, but too soft and easily damaged to be as versatile as its alloys. Even the silver used to plate tableware has been alloyed to improve its hardness and durability. In order to bear the name "silver" in the United States, silver alloys must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. The rest of the alloy is usually copper. Sterling by far is the most popular silver alloy in the world. It contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, so its harder and stronger than pure silver. This makes it excellent for jewelry. The 92.5% silver standard was started centuries ago in Great Britain, but Tiffany & Co. made it their official silver formula in 1851 -- the rest of the continent would follow. All standard sterling silver jewelry made in the United States (and most of the rest of the world, for that matter) receives a stamp '925' somewhere on it, representing that of that item, 925 parts of 1000 are silver. The Tiffany & Co. standard of platinum, 95%, became the United States standard in 1926. On another note, the term "nickel silver" has the word "silver" in it, but it doesn't describe pure silver or its alloys. In fact, nickel silver contains no silver at all: Its a combination of base metals -- copper, nickel and zinc -- that merely resembles sterling silver in color.

Cushion-shaped diamonds are not as bright as round brilliants. If you're talking about Old Mine Cuts, then yes, they are not as brilliant, but they have more fire (color play) than modern round brilliants. Modern cushion cut diamonds rival modern round brilliants in brightness. At least, that's been my experience, and I urge you the reader to view the two cutting styles for yourselves.

Diamond clarity doesn't matter as much when it comes to fancy colored diamonds, especially if they are irradiated.
This is false. Diamond clarity always matters, whether a diamond is irradiated or not. I think this myth originated from some jewelers who assumed irradiated diamonds were "less of a diamond", down at the level of semi-precious stones like the irradiated-and-heat-treated stone blue topaz. Diamonds, even irradiated ones, have significant value compared to most gemstones.

The Hope Diamond is the largest diamond in the world.
This makes me snicker every time I hear it. There's even a video on Youtube making this statement in its headline. The Hope Diamond is the most famous diamond in the world, but not anywhere near the largest. It's not even the largest blue diamond -- it is, however, the largest Fancy Dark Grayish-Blue. Its not Flawless, either. Several websites I've seen list the Hope as being a Flawless (FL) diamond. This is false - the stone was graded by GIA in 1988 as having VS1 clarity. The largest blue diamond is a 51.84-carat blue round brilliant once handled by Harry Winston Inc. and whose current whereabouts are unknown. The largest faceted diamond in the world, period, is the 545-carat Golden Jubilee.

Totally colorless (D-color) diamonds are the most valuable diamonds in the world.
This statement might have been true a few decades ago, but it is proving and over again to be false in the present. Most of the highest-priced diamonds in the world have been fancy color diamonds. The one that leaps to mind immediately is the Hancock Red -- a 0.95-carat Fancy Purplish Red round brilliant, which sold for $880,000 in the late-1980's. This stone held the world record for the highest price-per-carat ever paid for a diamond (about $926,000) for a number of years, and it wasn't even a very clean stone. It had some eye-visible flaws and there was a chip out of the girdle. Purple and red are the rarest colors diamonds occur in. The Moussaieff Red is the largest red diamond in the world. The most common gem-quality colors diamond occurs in naturally are light and medium shades of brown and yellow.

Diamonds are the most valuable gemstone in the world.
This seems like it should be true, but its not. Diamonds are very valuable in the world of gems, but a top-quality ruby is usually worth more than a diamond of the same size. There are far more large diamonds in this world than there are large rubies. The Mogok Ruby presently holds the world record for the most valuable ruby, in terms of the highest price fetched at an auction/sale. It is a 15.97-carat rectangular cushion cut sold by Sotheby's of New York in October 18th, 1988 for $3,630,000 ($227,301 per-carat). The stone is untreated, that is, it was not heated to improve its color. It was purchased by Laurence Graff of London, who reportedly sold it to the Sultan of Brunei as an engagement ring for one of his wives. The Mandalay Ruby is the largest faceted ruby I have ever heard of, but I do not know whether it is the world's largest. Garrard's of London own a top-quality unheated heart-shaoed Burmese ruby of 40 carats, but details of its history are lacking.

There really was a Heart of the Ocean necklace that sank with the Titanic.
This is false. Nor was the Hope Diamond (the gem the Heart of the Ocean was based on) ever on the Titanic. Evalyn Walsh McLean, however, owned the Hope Diamond from 1910 up til her death in 1947, and she had considered booking a trip on the Titanic's maiden--and only--voyage in 1912. Fortunately, she decided not to. Also, after the 1997 film "Titanic" was released, Garrard's of London created a copy of the Heart of the Ocean necklace prop used in the film, but using a genuine sapphire and diamonds, in platinum. The resulting necklace was valued at over $2 million.

Diamonds are very rare.
There is more of a man-made shortage than a natural shortage of diamonds. The distribution of of diamonds put on the market each year is highly regulated by De Beers. One figure has stated that there are enough diamonds to give each man, woman and child in the United States an entire cup full of them.

It is hard to tell the different between a diamond and a cubic zirconium.
Well-cut cubic zirconium can compete with diamond, but when held side-by-side with a diamond, there is a visual difference. A colorless cubic zirconium tends to cast more rainbow reflections within it, called 'fire'. A colorless or near-colorless diamond doesn't tend to -- most of the sparkle is shades of gray and white. Cubic zirconium is manufactured in numerous different colors including different shades of pink, yellow, purple, blue, green, orange, red, brown, colorless and even opaque black. CZ is an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, about the same as topaz. CZ is also much more dense than diamond with a specific gravity of 5.8 while diamond is just 3.5. (In other words, a piece of CZ is going to weigh about 75% more than a piece of diamond of identical mass. Some CZ is grown with different formulas, which means the 75% figure isn't always absolute.) Diamond has a refractive index of 2.42. CZ has a refractive index of about 2.15, making it brighter than quartz, topaz, corundum and other materials, but not quite as bright as diamond.

Diamonds are indestructable.
This is false. The fact that diamonds are a hard substance refers to their ability to withstand scratching, but that is different than toughness, which refers to the ability to withstand breaking or cleavage. Diamonds can chip, but only a diamond can scratch another diamond.

A fancy-shaped diamond is more difficult to cut than a round diamond.
First of all, the term 'fancy shape' refers to anything other than a round brilliant. All diamonds, to a certain degree, are difficult to cut, and some very large diamonds take more time and effort to cut than smaller diamonds do. But one diamond is not harder to cut than another just because of the shape. The more facets a diamond has, the more time it took to cut. The standard pear, oval, marquise, round and heart brilliant cuts all have 57 facets. When extra tiers of facets are cut on the stone, the stone will be graded as a "Modified" shape. For instance, GIA does not refer to princess cut diamonds as Princess Cut when they grade them. They are called "Rectangular Modified Brilliant" or "Square Modified Brilliant." Radiant cuts, which usually contain between 70 and 90 facets, thusly, are not called radiant cuts, they are refered to as "Cut-Cornered Modified Rectangular Brilliant" or "Cut-Cornered Modified Square Brilliant." The more facets a diamond has, the more expensive it tends to be, especially when that is coupled with a stone that has good clarity and color.

Citrine is the birthstone for November. False. Zircon and turquoise are the birthstones for December. While I do not know if there is a specific color of topaz for this month, I do know the quartz family (citrine, specifically) does NOT factor into it. I think the citrine subsitute started because jewelers were afraid of the prices for golden (also called imperial) topaz. Citrine is a semi-precious gemstone, while yellow topaz is not. Bottom line: The birthstone for November is topaz. I do not know whether a specific color was set for it or not. More recently, Jewelry Television has tried to claim tanzanite is a new birthstone for December. Its not. They are most likely basing this ad gimmick on the fact both tanzanite and heat-treated zircon are blue.

Emerald cut is the most expensive diamond shape.
It is true that a diamond crystal has to be particularly clean in order to be faceted into an emerald cut, that is, its clarity has to be exceptional, but emerald cuts are generally not the most expensive diamond shape. Heart and marquise-shaped diamonds tend to be the most expensive of the basic diamond shapes due to the fact they tend to waste a good deal of the crystal's rough form. Most gem-quality diamond crystals are found as octahedral crystals, like two pyramids stacked against each other. Many are worn and have only the general rounded appearance of an octahedron. Princess cut diamonds tend to be the least expensive of the basic diamond shapes because they conserve more of the crystal's natural rough shape.

The stone 'the Heart of the Ocean' in Titanic was based on the Hope Diamond.
This is true. James Cameron has admitted to basing the stone on the Hope. The Hope is a cushion shape surrounded by white diamonds on a necklace, and the Heart of the Ocean is a heart shape (and much much larger than the Hope) also surrounded by white diamonds, on a necklace. Sometime after the film was made, a large fine sapphire was discovered and cut into a heart shape and placed into a necklace identical to the prop used in the film - except with genuine stones. The necklace was worn by Celine Dion at several events, and was later sold for over $1 million. This is one of the rare cases in the history of fine jewelry where a genuine stone was cut based on a fake, rather than vice-versa.

The Centenary Diamond was recently sold for around $100 million.
This is a rumor I heard somewhere, and when I wrote my letter to Gabi Tolkowsky, his reply addressed the question. He said he had heard the same rumor but nobody had confirmed it to him.

The new birthstone for December is tanzanite. Not sure who originated this. I think it might have been Jewelrytelevision. Not that I dislike them -- I find myself tuning in frequently. Its just that I will not believe a month has been re-assigned a birthstone until a number of different gemological organizations confirm it. At this point, to me, turquoise and zircon are December's birthstones.

More to come!