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Jewelry Blog: Diamonds
Diamonds & Cubic Zirconia Jewelry
I was fascinated while watching the Oscars recently by the diamond jewelry, such as the 40-carat diamond necklace from The House of Winston worn by Gwyneth Paltrow. Many of the glitterati were festooned with pieces on loan from various jewelers hoping to curry favor with the beautiful people and their fans, enormously expensive pieces that set the cameras on fire every time they caught the light.

I've never had the nerve to borrow anyone's diamonds, but then again, the most formal event I attend these days is a basketball game. Even there, though, many in the stands (and some on the floor) glitter with diamond simulants.
Glitter, from diamonds and their simulants, I think, is a 20th century contribution to common man. In fact, the notion that the average person could even wear a diamond is recent. For thousands of years, the stone's primary role was to provide a currency for commerce between rulers, a way of paying favor to military victors, and a method of bartering for fertile daughters. In the 13th century, for example, France's King Louis IX restricted diamond jewelry to the aristocracy. The stone was worn only by men until 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgandy. DIAMOND

The word diamond derives from the Greek adamao, meaning, "I subdue". Since the diamond is the world's hardest known substance, it truly does subdue all others. Personally, I favor the Sanskrit name for diamond -- 'varja', meaning thunderbolt. I like the idea of wearing a thunderbolt on my finger.

In the last hundred years, though, many simulants have been developed that allow any of us, regardless of income, to shine like a movie star.

The first commonly used diamond substitute was glass. Jewelers found that adding lead oxide to the glass made it shine more brightly. Adding foil to the back of these glass gems gave us the popular rhinestone. They didn't match diamond's fire or durability, but were cheap enough to use in profusion.

Then, late in the 19th century, the French learned to grow clear spinel and sapphire crystals. These could be faceted like diamonds, wore better than glass, and soon found their place as substitutes in better-quality jewelry. Neither, however, had nearly the light-refracting properties of diamond.

6mm Diamond Comfort Fit BandIn the 20th century, more sophisticated substitutes were discovered. The most widely known is that star of cable television, the cubic zirconia. CZs are very inexpensive and wonderfully bright stones, used in profusion in faux- bling (the word gaudy no longer has any meaning). However, CZs are not very durable, especially in rings, and the least amount of dirt dulls them.

In the past ten years, an excellent diamond stimulant,the Moissanite, has come into common use. The gem, silicon carbide, was first discovered in the remnants of the meteor that formed Diablo Canyon in California. Over 100 years passed before man learned to grow the crystal commercially.

Diamond StudsMoissanite has a number of advantages over other diamond simulants. It is very hard (92% that of diamond), clear, colorless, and approximates diamond's sparkle. It is also a tenth the price.

So today there is glitter available at any price point, allowing us to indulge our urge to sparkle. That's a good thing.
In fact, my wife recently asked me, why, if she could get almost as much sparkle from diamond substitutes as diamonds, we should buy a diamond? As I thought about her question, a scenario kept replaying in my head. I saw a young girl opening her mother's jewelry box, picking up her mother's engagement ring, or her grandmother's. The thing about diamonds is, as the hardest substance on earth, they are as near eternal as anything we can ever hold. In the movie playing in my head, I couldn't envision the girl putting her mother's ring on her finger and saying to herself, 'this was my Mom's Moissanite."

A diamond is many things; currency, love, glamour, bling. But other stones can stand in for a diamond in those roles. To hold precious memories, though, a diamond is truly matchless.
So shine on, any way you wish. You deserve to sparkle.
Posted by Tom B at 5:37 PM - Link to this entry  Share this entry
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