Golden Globes: Contemporary Jewelry Design

Description: Jewelry designing has changed from the traditional gold and silver, to items that are more easily available. Fusion jewelry seems to be in demand and are attracting eyeballs.

Throughout the centuries, people used to wear jewelry to highlight their wealth, status and identity in the society. But now, there’s another reason. Contemporary jewelry, the kind that incites passionate collectors, focuses both on the intellectual query and telling of stories, as well as on the exploration of techniques and materials.

Contemporary jewelry design, to the cognoscenti, is a wearable sculpture. The wearability of a jewelry piece, and how it moves on the body, are very important to the designers who create it. Contemporary jewelry is a product of the heart, head and hand, with the head reigning supreme. They can be of anything: recycled junk, found objects, plastic, textiles, and even paper mesh. If the jewelry has precious gemstones or metals, they are rarely included in the conventional form. Most collectors are professionals and a big part of them are men.

Subversion and humor are two intrinsic elements in modern jewelry, which explains why the Netherlands has become a happy hunting ground for collectors. Jewelry curators and historians say that the Dutch have a fierce merchant mentality, but they usually don’t like to show off their wealth, and instead prefer to highlight their intellectual power. China, on the other hand, has come up with its unique designs on modern jewelry. The fad seems to be catching up all over the world.

A number of jewelry designers are exploring the concept of value, preciousness, and beauty by subverting the traditional materials and techniques. Otto Kunzil, a leading designer, famously made a rubber bracelet that had a concealed gold ball. Karl Fritsch, another contemporary designer, ground gemstones to powder and then reassembled them with glue. He is now experimenting by drilling holes in gems and knotting them back in various configurations. Ulrich Reithofer, meanwhile, has combined glass shards and gold in a necklace. Droog cofounder of Gijs Bakker-a contemporary jewelry design company, combines costume pieces with gemstones.

In fact, using conventional materials is another way of accentuating value. While some designers are using for creating huge neckpieces, others are covering animal bones with some flesh colored flock. Sebastian Buescher, for instance, is known for pinning together eclectic combinations of materials collected outdoors. Lisa Walker, on the other hand, assembles 3D collages on found plastic items and then turns them to wearable pieces.

Storytelling is another major element in contemporary jewelry design. The narratives often range from the very personal to collective. Individual memories are frequently incorporated to tap universal themes. For instance, costume jewelry pieces are now being made from discarded plates that are carefully configured into necklaces.

The traditional form of carving jewelry in precious stones have given way to innovative use of commonly available materials for transforming into jewelry. To many, contemporary jewelry offers a different expression of identity. The owners seem to challenge various set notions. The designs include a hint of intellectual snobbery because the buyer often believes to be buying a part of the designer’s brain as well. Design ideas are as varied as the designers themselves, as are the materials for production.

The Four Cs of Diamond Grading

The four seasons bring us sun, rain, wind and snow. The Four Tops loved us river deep and mountain high. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse promise us death, war, famine, and pestilence.

While not everything that comes in fours is desirable, it’s good to know what people have in store for us. Just in case.

Continuing the theme of useful information coming in an awesome foursome is the four Cs of diamond grading. Knowing this criteria will help you to make he best decision regarding the stone used in your custom jewelry. Of course, your custom jeweler will advise you on all things concerning your piece. But possessing the knowledge yourself beforehand can only help.

So without further ado, and with a promise that none of them are as frightening as those brought by the Horsemen, here are the four Cs of diamond grading.

Carat

When talking about diamonds, or any precious stones, the carat value denotes the size and weight.

As a starting point, a one carat round brilliant diamond will be approximately 6mm in diameter. Or about the size of an eraser at the end of a pencil. For other grades of diamond and other stones, the size of a one carat example will vary.

To make grading of any size stone possible, one carat is made up of one hundred points. For example, the diamond on your demure engagement ring may be half a carat while the large one on your statement ring may be a showy two and three quarter carat.

Incidentally, when concerned with gold, this particular C becomes a K: our most precious metal is measured by the karat.

Color

While many people’s idea of a diamond is of a clear stone, one of the four Cs of diamond grading is color.

Concerned with how white or how yellow the stone is, today’s diamond color scale runs from D-Z, with D being the most sought after. While this may sound like a D should be the ideal diamond for your custom jewelry, the status of owning the whitest stones available has pushed their prices perhaps higher than they should be.

In reality, a good balance between price and whiteness is struck at around the G level.

Most custom jewelers will advise against going below a J, as anything from a K to a Z will have too much undesirable yellowness. However, once a diamond’s color goes beyond a Z, it becomes a fancy yellow, and the value then begins to rise again.

Clarity

While the color of a diamond is visible to the naked eye, its clarity isn’t. By using a magnifying eyepiece known as a loupe though, a competent jeweler can easily value the clarity of any precious stone.

Diamond clarity is affected by impurities present when the stones are formed. This may be other crystal substances, or simply air.

While the elements that affect diamond clarity used to be called ‘imperfections’, they are now known as the more diplomatic ‘clarity characteristics’. It may be simple semantics, but it’s certainly a better description. After all, no matter the clarity, all diamonds are still beautiful and natural.

The diamond clarity scale goes from Flawless (FL), through Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and 2), Very Slightly Included (VS 1 and 2), Slightly Included (SI1 and 2) and down to Included (I1, 2 and 3).

A good balance between price and clarity can be found between VS and SI.

Cut

The last of the four Cs of diamond grading is the cut. Round cut diamonds have been popular for over a century now, and this particular style of diamond will probably be around forever.

Also a historical classic is the cushion cut. An oblong shape, with square edges and rounded corners, cushion cuts help to show off the color of a diamond as well as giving a Victorian look to the pieces they are used in.

Princess cuts and square diamonds are further options, and each offers as much potential for a unique look as the other. Speaking to your custom jeweler about the best cut for your piece and your style, along with the aesthetic benefits of each, is the best way to ensure your diamond is cut perfectly for you.

When having custom jewelry designed and made, understanding the four Cs of diamond grading can help the customer to know more about where their money is going, and if part of their budget can be saved and used elsewhere.

Far preferable to death, war, famine and pestilence, it’s also handy to know when showing off and talking about your new piece with your friends and family.

How the Smart Investors Buy Gold and Silver

Following are the core axioms, that if practiced and taken to heart, will result in your having NO REGRETS in your precious metals investments:

1. ALWAYS REMEMBER WHY YOU CHOSE TO BUY GOLD AND SILVER IN THE FIRST PLACE! This is actually the most important axiom on the list. This may seem so basic that it need never be mentioned in the first place, right? Well, too many precious metal investors have forgotten over time what led them to originally buy gold and silver.

Most buyers will initially cite issues such as monetary and fiscal policy, domestic politics, reserve currency status, debt and deficit levels, world affairs, reduced freedoms and other issues that concern many of us. These buyers assure me that while appreciation would be nice, they go on to state that they are aware the metals could decline in value, even substantially, but either a rise or fall in the price does not affect their purchase motivation.

They want to own metals in order to protect against inevitable defaults, inflation, emergency spending currency and to convert paper money into a private, tangible form not easily tracked.

Fast forward, and the metals prices have risen. Now they are very happy. Their investment has appreciated, their net worth has grown and all the factors cited above are covered. What a prudent and prosperous investment!

Fast forward again. Now prices have sold off significantly, and the metals buyer has either lost much of his or her gain, or the price is below their initial entry point. What was a prudent purchase has now become a “losing” investment in the buyer’s eyes. “Did I make a mistake?”, they ask themselves.

Metals are now at bargain prices, but instead of buying more at tremendous sale prices, there is hesitation or no interest. “Why would I want to compound a mistake?”, they ask themselves? When other products or items go “on sale” we get excited and are motivated to buy. Not the case with precious metals unless you are a seasoned buyer that has weathered prior market price corrections.

So, ask yourself, why did you buy in the first place? Are those reasons still valid? Concern yourself less with the cost of the metals and more with the peace of mind they provide. And when they go on sale, buy more if you are able!

2. GOLD AND SILVER ARE INSURANCE FIRST – PURE AND SIMPLE! In their purest form, precious metals are insurance, unless you are buying gold and silver purely for speculation or collecting purposes.

3. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BUY RARE COINS – BE AWARE! Direct marketers employ salespeople who are typically compensated on straight commission. Gross margins in the bullion business are very slim, typically 1 to 3%. Rare or graded coins on the other hand, can carry margins of 25% to 100% or more. Hence, there is a strong motivation for the commissioned salespeople to move buyers toward rare and graded coins (whether they meet their investment objectives or not!)

Don’t ever let a salesperson talk you in to buying numismatic/rare/antique coins for ANY reason other than serious collecting or speculating. They are not so much a precious metal item as they are a collectible in line with artwork, investment grade diamonds and other rarities. The profit margins are very large and commission driven. As a result, they should occupy a very small percentage of your metals portfolio if you are not a collector or speculator.

4. PERSPECTIVE AND BALANCE. For the foreseeable future, when other asset classes like stocks and real estate are doing well, the precious metals may languish. Historically, that’s what they are supposed to do. Remember, their primary role is that of insurance – insurance against any and everything that can/could go wrong. You buy insurance before you need it, not when you need it (think of a house fire). Presently, there is an abundance of easy money through overt monetary expansion as well as covert electronic, intra-government, inter-Central Bank agreements and trillions of new off balance sheet disbursements.

This is the list of simple “DON’TS” that seasoned investors have taken to heart:

1. Don’t ever buy gold and silver from a pawn shop – you are NOT getting a fair deal

2. Don’t let a salesperson talk you in to buying bullion that is not low premium and easily authenticated

3. Don’t ever buy gold or silver on leverage

4. Don’t buy gold and silver without first understanding the full cost (the “all in cost”) that includes product cost, insurance and shipping

5. Don’t ever buy from a dealer that won’t buy back any item they sell you at fair market value

Avoiding the risks above positions you to begin investing with the wisest investors.