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November Blog Challenge Day 22 - Blogs revisited.....

At this time of year, in the past anyway, I’ve found that it’s been fairly quiet work wise. I guess this is because most of my commissions are from engaged couples, and Christmas gets in the way of wedding planning during Nov/Dec. That hasn’t happened at all this year, and while I’m certainly not complaining, its not leaving me with much time for blog writing, so today’s blog is an edited version of one that I wrote a few years ago (well if Kevin McCloud and George Clarke can do it, so can i 😉)...............

Buying a piece of jewellery with a diamond in it can be a confusing business with prices varying massively. The main thing you should be aware of is where your diamond has come from. The Kimberley Process is an international government-led certification process that guarantees diamonds have not been used to fund armed conflict. Unfortunately the Kimberley Process doesn’t certify environmental and social standards and has recently been weakend by its acceptance of Zimbabwe as conflict free. Personally, I think the “greenest” type of diamond is one that’s being repurposed from a piece of jewellery that’s no longer worn. Obviously, a recycled diamond might not always be available, so then there’s lab grown. These are in every aspect, a real diamond, its just that a 100,000 tons of earth hasnt had to be dug up in order to get it! There are also other options if you want a white stone, such as lab grown moissanite or white sapphire.

If you’re buying an “officially certified” stone, it will be graded based on The Four C’s:

Cut

The cut of a diamond determines how it reflects light, this is responsible for its sparkle or brilliance and refers to the angles and proportions of the polished stone. A well-cut diamond is cut by a skilled professional to the best proportions possible so that light will be reflected from each of its facets and disperse through its top.

Because a diamond with perfect colour and clarity could nevertheless have poor brilliance if it is not well cut, many gemologists consider this to be the most important property to note when choosing a diamond. Diamonds can carry cut grades of Excellent, Ideal, Very Good, Good, or Fair.

Carat

Diamonds are measured in weight, not size. The heavier the diamond, the greater the carat weight. As diamonds increase in size, their cost tends to increase exponentially, meaning a one-carat diamond can cost significantly more than a half carat diamond of equal quality.  The weight of a diamond less than one carat in size may also be described in "points".  There are 100 "points" in 1 carat.

Colour 

While many diamonds appear to be colourless, or white, they may actually have subtle yellow or brown tones that can be detected when comparing diamonds side by side. Colourless diamonds are the rarest and most valuable of all.

These variations are a result of the natural forces (i.e., temperature, pressure, trace elements) at work during the formation of diamonds within the Earth. Because subtle colour variations dramatically affect the value of a diamond, a colour grading scale is used to categorize the shading differences from one diamond to the next.
Diamonds are graded according to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) colour chart.

Clarity

This is an indication of a diamond's purity. Clarity is determined by a diamond's naturally occurring internal characteristics. These characteristics are sometimes not visible to the naked eye and they are what make each diamond unique. The characteristics, or inclusions, may look like crystals, feathers, clouds or dark spots and the quantity, size, and location of these inclusions has an affect on a diamond's value. Diamonds with fewer and smaller inclusions are generally more expensive.

It all pretty confusing and in reality, unless you’re buying a very expensive diamond, you’ll probably find that there isn’t an official grading certificate to go with it, especially for the increasingly popular, unusual and rough cut stones. The main thing is that you trust whoever you are buying from, that they can tell you where it’s come from and assure you that its been created or mined by people who have been fairly paid and treated. 

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November Blog Challenge - Day 21 - Environmental thoughts....

This might be a bit controversial, but I’m going to write it anyway........

As environmental issues are once again currently mainstream and we are all being encouraged to reduce our plastic waste, I thought I’d throw something else into the climate ring - air travel! 

It’s something I made the decision to stop doing quite a few years ago now and the following couple of paragraphs more or less sum up why........

 

Air Travel’s Impact on Climate Change - Taken from the ETA website

Just one return flight from London to New York produces a greater carbon footprint than a whole year’s personal allowance needed to keep the climate safe.

Our carbon footprint is the estimated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) given out as we travel, buy food, heat our homes and enjoy our usual lifestyles.

The average personal footprint in Britain is 7.1t (2013). To get down to a fair share of the world’s total; this must be cut to 1.2t. On every flight to New York and back, each traveller emits about 1.2t of CO2. If we fly, air travel overshadows all our other impacts.

Air travel is really worse than this because it puts out more pollution than just CO2.  For example, water vapour at high levels forms thin clouds that have a warming effect. We can see trails visibly blanketing the earth. This and other effects mean that air travel has more than twice the warming effect of the carbon dioxide alone – the whole is referred to as radiative forcing. So each flight adds more to climate change than we should be emitting altogether.

 

OK, so we all want (and sometimes need) our holidays, but do they really need to involve flying? I do wonder if most people just don’t realise how their flight to Spain is essentially completely cancelling out anything else that they do. Things like recycling, reusing, planting trees, not eating meat, walking to work, doing yoga, buying local and healthy food etc etc. 

“But it’s only a one off” is so often said, but how many other people are also saying this, making your flight, one of 1000’s of other one offs.

Last summer, we went on holiday to Spain and France, but we didn’t fly, we walked out of our front door, with rucksacks on our backs and got on a train! Calculating the exact savings is a complicated process but the table below, taken from Seat61, is good enough to give you the general idea.

 I’m in the wedding business and I see and hear sooooo many tales about weddings abroad and tropical honeymoons, and I suppose I know that nothing will really change until there’s some sort of government intervention that makes flying super expensive. But if by writing this, I can make just one person “think” about the damage that their next flight is causing, then just maybe that thinking will one day turn into “doing” and who knows, NOT flying might even become the latest trend, just like not buying plastic has.

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November Blog Challenge - Day 20 - Silver and gold ring remodel.

I’d written today’s blog prompt down as “New Ideas”.......but........I’m so busy on commissions at the moment I haven’t had time to come up with any! So instead, here’s some photos to take you through the process of a recent ring remodel. 

It always starts with a drawing: 

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The finished ring started out its life as a very old and sentimental silver wedding band and a gold chain and brooch. The silver ring was staying as it was and being used for the main part of the ring, and the brooch and chain were melted down and rolled out to make wire for the detailing.

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The stone settings were then made and soldered onto the silver ring, before I started to carefully add on the gold spiral detail.

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This was then filed and given an initial polish. Then I just needed to set the amethyst and moissanite and give the ring it’s final finish. 

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I’m really pleased with the final result - I hope my client is too when she collects it tomorrow!!

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November Blog Challenge Day 19 - A History Lesson

My prompt for today is “something historical”, and as there are two words that are everywhere this week, today’s history lesson is all about Black Friday (and Cyber Monday).

Here’s what good old Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

“...Black Friday is an informal name for the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, the fourth Thursday of November, which has been regarded as the beginning of the country's Christmas shopping season since 1952, although the term "Black Friday" did not become widely recognised or used until the 1980s or later in some regions.

Most major retailers open very early, as early as overnight hours, and offer promotional sales. Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe "The Day After Thanksgiving" as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday, such as Columbus Day. Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, makes it a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers...”

Then after “Black Friday”, comes “Cyber Monday”. Again, this is taken from Wikipedia:

”...Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The term "Cyber Monday" was created by marketing companies to encourage people to shop online. It is on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and most of the time falls in November, but if Thanksgiving is on November 27 or 28, it will fall in December. The date range is November 26 to December 2, and is always four days after the holiday. ..”

As I’ve been selling on Etsy, which is an American website, for a number of years, I’d heard the terms Black Friday and Cyber Monday way before the UK seemed to have jumped on the bandwagon. They were associated with Thanksgiving though - an American holiday - which I dont celebrate, so I paid little interest. But over the last five years, it’s become a massive thing over here too, with stories of queues miles long and shoppers fighting over cheap TVs!! 

I don’t take part in either Black Friday or Cyber Monday, mainly due to the facts that I’ve just mentioned above, but also, as a small “one woman band” business, I simply can’t afford to offer massive discounts on the items that I make. I think it really exposes the amount of profit, and the amount that “someone” (the person who did make the TV, Laptop, shoes, fridge freezer etc etc) “hasn’t been paid in order for you to be able to buy it. There will be many other small business’ that think and operate in exactly the same way that I do, and if they happen to be American, and celebrating on Thursday, then I can see the justification in them offering a small discount this coming weekend. If they’re not, then why should they have to be paid less for their hard work?

There’s no Black Friday’s or Cyber Monday’s in my workshop, just a pricing structure that pays me a fair wage for the amount of time it’s taken to make a piece, plus the cost of everything I’ve had to buy in order to make it. Oh, and this Friday is also my birthday, so hopefully it’ll be “cake” Friday instead! 

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