Are you in the market to purchase a piece of fine jewelry with gems either for yourself or for that special someone? Aside from the considerations of: design or look; gems of choice; and type of jewelry (Engagement Ring, Necklace, Pendant, Earrings, etc.), the quality of the craftsmanship should also be looked at carefully. Some buyers prioritize on gem size and quality. For those who do, I encourage you to review this article just so that you can understand some elements that will surround your gem of choice. Some buyers prioritize the look of the jewelry: how blingy; how dainty; or how elegant, rather than the actual longevity of piece of jewelry. For that special group that can afford that priority (Must be nice), I guess you can skip this article. For all others who do want to prioritize quality but do not really know what to look for, this is the article to read. Here are the 6 features or considerations to look for when buying quality fine jewelry with gems.
This article is part 5 of a longer article that will be posted at the completion of the all the parts. For a summary, please see 6 Tips in What to Look For When Buying Quality Jewelry. Please sign-up to receive the more detailed future posts.
5. Check metal thickness in key areas
(Due to time constrains, images will be updated at a later time)
People should grant metal thickness a liberal judgment because there are many reasons that thickness is made the way it is. There are only a few exceptions where the long term quality of your piece is influenced heavily by the thickness of the metal.
We saw above that the thickness of the setting is important on the top of the gem/s. In this case, I want to address the thickness underneath the setting, especially in rings. When we look at the body of a gemstone/s the bottom portion of the gem, usually the conical area of the bottom of the gem is called the culet. Depending on the type of setting and design, some culets are hidden and some are showing. Whether it is covered or not, there has to be enough metal between the end of the culet and end of the metal so that as the metal wears, the culet of the gem/s does not stick out of the metal. For example, if the thickness of a gem is 1mm thick, there should be at least 1.5mm of metal from the top of the gem/s and the bottom/back of the metal. If there is less than 1.5mm of metal, the wear or a few maintenance polishes may reduce the metal in the bottom/back of the jewelry, exposing the culet from the bottom/back. As you evaluate jewelry for quality, imagine or physically measure the thickness of the gem/s and imagine or measure the thickness of the bottom/back of the metal.
On rings, make sure that the thickness of the bottom part of the shank—the base—of the ring is proportional to the top part of the sides of your ring. I would consider a 2.0-2.5mm base a healthy one. There are many exceptions that can contradict this rule so please do not hold me on this. The point is to carefully evaluate the base of the shank as that area is the area that will wear the most, especially if your karat metal is lower.
On earrings, look for metal thickness in the posts and backs. The heavier or thicker the posts and friction backs, the better quality the earrings. It is not cheap to place heavy weight posts and backs on earrings. In fact, not many jewelers place them. But the type of friction that posts go through require a solid heavyweight set of posts and backs. If you are considering leverbacks, omega backs, or any kind of clip earring, make sure that those levers are healthy and thick.
On pendants or necklaces, check the strength and integrity of the moveable parts. Some pieces of jewelry may look beautiful but because the seller may have had them for a long time, those moveable parts may be compromised. Evaluate especially the jumprings (the little o rings that connect components together). Jumprings should have a proportional thickness all the way around. The area with the most friction tends to be worn out more than others, so check that. Another area to check is the clasp area in the back of the chain. Lobster clasp or some well made custom clasps are preferable. Next to the clasps, there are a set of jumprings or the like that connect the chain to the clasp. This is area is often ignored as a priority. Check for a thick jumpring or connection that is not worn.
So this is the take-home point:
Check some key areas in the jewelry to make sure that metal thickness is proportional and sufficient for a long-term life.
I cannot do a quality article without mentioning gem quality. Stay tuned for the second to last installment.