Thursday, September 26, 2013

One For The Men: How To Buy an Engagement Ring...

Congratulations,  you've found the ONE!!!

Now it's time to ask that all important question, but first there is a matter of a Ring...

You may be asking yourself, "Where do I begin?"

For the record, I have never personally shopped for an engagement ring, and it's hard to imagine a more significant and meaningful purchase!  I have helped literally hundreds of men and couples find the perfect engagement ring!  So here are a few words of my advice:

1.)  Find a Jeweler you trust!

If you've read my previous posts you may notice a theme here.  Your mother, sister, friend may know someone who knows/recommends a Jeweler.  This is a great place to start!  However, make sure to do a little reconnaissance work of your own, and work with the Jeweler that gives you the best "feeling."   They should be extremely knowledgeable, able to explain the 4 C's in detail, as well as the intricacies of ring design, construction, and metal properties.  Your Jeweler should be a GIA Graduate Gemologist or the store should have at least one on site.

2.)  Educate Yourself.

 Do some research so you have a knowledge base to better communicate with your Jeweler.  Make sure to visit the websites for The Gemological Institute of America and American Gem Society.  There is a lot of information on the web, some good, some misleading.  Why not skip it and head straight to the experts?!  The #GIA is the World's foremost authority on Diamonds and Gemstones.  They are independent, not-for-profit and my Alma Mater.  They work in conjunction with The AGS.  I've posted their links at the bottom.

3.)  Set Your Budget

Everyone has a budget, whether it's $300 or $300,000, it's best to have a general idea of what you want to spend.  Be honest with yourself and your jeweler.  There is no rule that says you need to spend 2 months salary, although this was a very successful and cleaver ad campaign by DeBeers.  The amount you spend on an engagement ring should be what you feel comfortable with.

4.)  Narrow Down A Style She Likes

Does your girlfriend have a pinterest board?  I've found this to be a very helpful tool, and it's been a big help to me when men have brought in pictures of rings their significant others have "pinned."  Do couples shop together?  You bet they do!  This is another great way to get a feel for her individual style.  Mothers, sisters, friends can be of help as well, but beware!  They can also hinder by imposing their own wants, tastes and beliefs onto your very special purchase.  It's great to ask their opinion, but I find it's best to leave them at home.  This ring is a symbol of your love, no one else's.  And nobody knows her better then you!  There is a reason you've decided to marry her.

5.)  Be Realistic About Time Frame

Once you've picked a jeweler, educated yourself, narrowed down a budget and style, it's time for your jeweler to get to work.  Some clients might find their jeweler has the perfect ring ready to go right out of the case!  In my experience, more often then not, the ring and diamond are chosen separately.

Your jeweler will bring in a selection, usually around 3 stones, in the general size, shape and budget you've discussed.  Once you find the right stone, it's important to be ready to jump on it.  Jewelers typically have stones sent in for you to view, this is known as "memo."  The jeweler doesn't own the stones, but one of their dealers does.  The diamond dealer trusts the jeweler enough to loan them stones, and the dealer trusts the jeweler to return them ASAP if not sold.

Once the stone and it's mounting are chosen, it's time to set the diamond!  If setting the stone is a simple job, and the jeweler already has the mounting appropriate for the size and shape of your stone, you can expect everything to be ready within a couple of hours to a couple of days.  For more complex custom creations, or if the mounting needs to be special ordered, give your jeweler at least 6 weeks.  You should expect to put half down, and pay the balance at the time of pick-up. When the ring is ready to be picked up , your jeweler should provide you with an insurance replacement appraisal.  You will want to forward this to your insurance agent.  Or, have them fax your agent.  I'm always happy to do this for my clients!

A note about ring sizing:  Don't worry if you don't know your girlfriend's finger size!  Most rings come in an average size of 6 to 6.5.  Your jeweler can size the ring up or down after you present her with the ring.  If a couple shops together, I will make note of her size, but otherwise there is no point in guessing because it's almost always wrong.  Not only are our hands slightly different sizes, our fingers can fluctuate in size depending on the season and time of day.  It's best to have an experienced jeweler size her finger.

That was easy right?!  This process can take a few days to a few months, so make sure to give yourself some time.  Most importantly, have fun!!!

Hopefully this article has proven insightful and helpful!  As always, feel free to send any questions and comments my way!  Happy Fall!  ~Lisa

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lisa the Jeweler: Protecting and Insuring Your Jewelry

Lisa the Jeweler: Protecting and Insuring Your Jewelry: Thanks Lisa Martin for the great blog idea! If you've been following along, Lisa posted a comment in response to my last post, sta...

Protecting and Insuring Your Jewelry

Thanks Lisa Martin for the great blog idea!

If you've been following along, Lisa posted a comment in response to my last post, stating that a friend of hers had her "very" special diamond pendant ripped off her neck... can you even imagine!?!?

Sadly, this can happen anywhere, and as a person that likes to wear her jewelry, there are things that we can do to protect our jewelry, whether it is sentimental, of significant value, or both.

1.)  If it has a retail value of over $1000 have it insured, period. 
Upon purchase, ask your jeweler to provide you with an appraisal for you to give your insurance company.  I am personally always happy to provide this service to my customers!  There should be no charge.

If you don't know the value of a piece, say if it were a gift or inherited, have your jeweler do an appraisal.  The amount on the appraisal should be a retail replacement value based on the current market.  Submit the appraisal to your insurance company.  Don't have a jeweler?  Call around, or ask for a recommendation from a trusted friend, just make sure you go to a Graduate Gemologist, like myself.  You will need to leave the piece for them to calculate, grade, weigh and asses the value of the piece.

Don't trust them to leave your Grandma's ring with?  This goes back to previous posts... you need to trust your jeweler, otherwise, I can assure you, they'd rather not have you leave it.  That being said, this is how it should go:  When a client of mine drops off an item like their Grandma's ring, the first think I do is inspect the piece.  I will explain any issues with the ring, like worn prongs or chipped stones, and then show the customer using a loop or the microscope.  If the piece needs maintenance, I will recommend it at this time.  In the case of a diamond, I like to show the client any identifying characteristics (inclusions) that the stone has.  There are no two alike.  The jeweler will give you a receipt, with any of the above issues noted.  Don't be surprised if they write "white stone" instead of diamond, this is to protect themselves, because the stone has not yet been gemologically tested.  This is true of all gemstones, because there are many synthetic, simulated and assembled stones on the market.  With me so far?

2.)  Get a safe.
This was a great gift from an ex-boyfriend, who turned out to be far from great.  Mine is fire-proof, can be bolted down and has a keypad.

3.)  Be smart.  
Most jewelry thefts do not occur on the street resulting in your necklace being ripped off.  Most jewelry thefts happen in the house when people do not have their belongings securely locked up.  Even if , God forbid, your house is broken into in the middle of the day, if your belongings are in a bolted down safe, the only thing missing might be the TV.  Showing your house, cleaning person day, contractors remodeling?  Lock up your valuables.

4.) Have your jewelry checked.
Everyone has heard of someone who "lost their diamond."  Usually this can be prevented by having the piece cleaned and checked by their jeweler.  Diamonds typically don't just fall out.  But they do if the prongs have worn down or been bent.  I recommend going in once a year.  Also, avoid putting jewelry on, or taking it off, over the sink.

***As far as insurance goes, some companies handle these things way better then others.  Unfortunately, you never know how your homeowners or renters insurance is going to deal with a loss or theft until something bad happens.  In addition, if there is a loss, your insurance company could jack your rates.  I've started insuring my belongings through Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.
They insure most stores across the country, are WI based:) and have Graduate Gemologists on staff.  Most insurance companies know nothing about jewelry, so I prefer to go to other experts.  Also, if something bad happened, God forbid, the loss would not be a strike against your homeowners insurance.  Find more info at:

Thanks for the great topic Lisa!

Happy Wednesday!!!  ~Lisa

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The 5 Essentail Pieces of Jewelry Every Woman Should Own...

Whether you are waiting for someone special to present you with the perfect gift, or feel like treating yourself, these are 5 essential pieces every lady should have in her jewelry wardrobe!

1.)  Diamond Stud Earrings

Simply put, every woman should have a pair of diamond stud earrings because they go with everything, and can be worn with absolutely anything!  (or nothing;)  Whether headed to yoga or a black tie event, throwing on some studs elevates any outfit and requires almost no thought.  Another benefit?!  No matter what other jewelry you have on, they go perfectly!  It just doesn't get any easier, or more classic, then a pair of diamond studs.

2.)  A Diamond Pendant Necklace

A Diamond Pendant is the equivalent of diamond studs, you can wear it all the time and everywhere you go!  I used a picture of a solitaire style pendant, but it certainly doesn't have to be!  I have a few pieces that I like to rotate, a classic diamond heart that my Grandfather presented to my Grandmother many years ago, and a tiny diamond shoe... because next to jewelry I LOVE ME SOME SHOES!  Religious symbols are always in style and a great choice too.  Whatever it is, the more personal to the wearer the better!

3.)  The Pearl Necklace

All one has to do is to look at the characters of #Sex and The City for inspiration.  Oh the versatility of pearls, is there anything more feminine and lovely?!  I firmly believe there is a pearl for every girl and that a girl can never have too many pearls!  There is your classic white cultured akoya strand, most popular in 16 or 18inch.  I love an opera length (32inch) for the versatility of being able to wear it long or doubled.  For a lesser expensive option, Cultured Chinese Freshwater Pearls are a great alternative.  For those with larger pocket books, Black Tahitian, White and Golden South Sea, make excellent statement pieces that can easily go from day to night.  Because Pearls come in so many colors, hues, varieties and even shapes, they can nearly be customized to the wearer, depending on their skin tone and personal preference.  Pearls are a vast and interesting subject, definitely the subject of other blog posts, but send in any questions you have! 

4.)  A Fantastic Timepiece

Just like there is a pearl for every girl, every lady should have a fabulous timepiece.  Although there are many stylish and well made in-expensive watches on the market, why not invest in a fine timepiece that will withstand the test of time?  (Pun intended!)  I really like the #Tag_Heuer Ladies Formula One shown above.  The stainless steel and black ceramic with diamonds version  is sporty, versatile and durable enough for everyday wear, but elegant enough for evenings.  Hopefully I can add it to my collection soon!

5.)  A fabulous Cocktail Ring

Why?  Because they are FUN... just look at these beauties!  When heading out on the town, whether it be #Chicago, another fabulous city or Anytown, USA, there is nothing better then throwing on a cocktail ring and some amazing shoes before heading out the door!  This is where we can really express ourselves and our personal style... wear it on the ring finger, index or middle, and you're sure to grab some attention! 

#Rings and cuff style bracelets courtesy of Geneva Seal Jewelers

What is your essential piece of Jewelry?

Happy Summer!  ~Lisa

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let's talk about Cut; the MOST important of The 4 C's!

Lisa here, sorry it's been a while!  What can I say, Summer has finally arrived in the windy city, I've completed my second boot camp of the year, and there is still only 24 hours in a day?!  That being said, I've missed my writing adventure, so let us get right down to it, shall we?

I was recently interviewed by My boss's lovely 15 year old daughter Isabel, for a geometry paper regarding the cutting of a diamond.  She could not have picked a more difficult and expansive subject!  People have been studying diamond cutting for as long as the gems have been prized for their beauty!

Cut not only refers to the shape of the diamond but more specifically how well it is cut from the rough.  When diamonds come out of the ground, they have no inherent beauty, it is up to the diamond cutter to unlock there beauty!  Based on the size, shape and where the inclusions are located in the stone, the cutter will decide the best way to cut the stone while maximizing the diamond's weight.  Makes sense, right?

There are two basic cutting styles for a diamond... Brilliant Cut and Step Cut.  A brilliant cut refers to facets radiating out from a center point, i.e. round brilliant cut, princess cut, oval, pear, cushion, radiant etc.  A step cut refers to a faceting style where the facets are cut into concentric rows like in an emerald cut or asscher.  With me so far?

No matter what shape or style of cut, light should enter the stone and then be returned to the eye in the form of fire, sparkle and brilliance! 

What is fire?

Fire is the breaking up of white light into the spectral colors of the rainbow.

What is sparkle or scintillation?

The sparkle of a diamond is know as scintillation, which is the play of light and dark flashes as a diamond is moved around.  This is very personal, and helps explain why a person might like the way one diamond "sparkles" over another.

What is Brilliane?

Brilliance is the combination of both fire and scintillation.

If a diamond is improperly cut, there will be light seepage out of the pavillion, or bottom, yielding a less brilliant stone.

Generally speaking any shape brilliant cut is going to sparkle the most, with round brilliant leading the pack.  The shape and general proportions of a round brilliant cut diamond are the most optimal for maximum brilliance!  Step cut diamonds, although brilliant, produce more of a "flash" like sparkle due to their facets of concentric rows.  Shape and cutting style are very much a matter of personal preference, the important thing to remember is to choose a well cut stone! 

As a GIA Graduate Gemologist it is my job to help my clients navigate The 4 C's and choose the most well cut and beautiful diamond of their dreams!!!

Diamond cutting is a VERY complex subject, and I've kept this post quite simple.  Please send any and all questions, as it will help me determine which direction and additional information I should expand on.

By the way, Isabel got an A on her paper!

Happy Summer!!!  ~Lisa

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emeralds, Tourmalines, and Tsavorites, OH MY!

    I know I am not alone in the sentiment "I can't believe it's the middle of May!"  Time flies by so fast, and we are already well into Spring, whether it feels like it or not.  As a Jeweler, it's important to know the Birthstones for every month by heart, and in my career infancy, I would remember gorgeous Emerald as belonging to May, the month where everything turns green... hopefully:)

 What is Emerald?

    Emerald is a variety of the mineral Beryl, other varieties of Beryl include Aquamarine and Morganite.  By most regards, Emerald is considered to be one of the most rare and valuable of all the Gemstones.  They are prized for their vivid green color!  However, They are naturally included stones, and usually treated by "oiling" to improve appearance.  Large crystals with few inclusions are extremely rare, highly sought after and can "break the bank" so to speak.  Emeralds are a 7.5 to 8 on Moh's hardness scale, so I don't recommend them for everyday wear, and special care should be taken when wearing and cleaning them.  But like Dorothy to Oz, who can resist a gorgeous Emerald?!

Emeralds are not the only gorgeous green gemstone though....

What is a Tourmaline?

Tourmaline is a group of mineral species that comes in virtually all colors, including Chrome Tourmaline, which is a fine intense green!  The oval center stone above is a very good example.  This is one of October's Birthstones.  Whereas Tourmaline is considered a semi-precious gemstone, that is not a term this Gemologist likes to use.  Here's why; Chrome Tourmaline is highly rare and thus highly valuable!  There is nothing semi-precious about this stunner.  What creates this amazing rich green?  You can thank vanadium, as well as chromium, which also produces the green color of Emeralds.  With a hardness of 7 to 7.5, Tourmaline also requires the wearer to be gentle.  Most Chrome Tourmaline comes from Tanzania which transports us to our next exotic location on our journey of the gorgeous green gemstones...

What the heck is a Tsavorite?

Tsavorite is variety of the Garnet group species grossular.  That is right, it's a Garnet! (Also colored by vanadium or chromium.)  There is nothing semi-precious about this gemstone either.  Garnet is the Birthstone for January.  After it's discovery in Tanzania, the deposit was found to extend into Kenya, specifically into Tsavo National Park, which is where it gets it's name from.  Due to a hardness of 7 to 7.5, well, you know the rest.  Personally, Tsavorite is my favorite of the gorgeous greens.  Why?  Ohhhh, the life this gemstone possesses, so hard to put into words... They are just SO pretty!  See the stones flanking either side of the Tourmaline in the picture above.  To this Gemologist, Tsavorites are reminiscent of Spring grass, covered in morning dew, sparkling in the sunlight.

This leaves me with just one question... What is you favorite green gemstone???

Please send me any questions you may have!!!

HAPPY SPRING!!!  ~Lisa   


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Big City Style, and interview with Rachel Lynn Chicago!

As exciting as The Four C's are, I thought I'd take a little break to talk about what's HOT in Jewelry style right now.  Having lived in Chicago now for nearly 6 mo's it's amazing to me how distinctive Chicago fashion is, I admit I'd never really thought about it before.  Being a Milwaukee native, I always kinda thought, Chicago was more or less the same, but like a good wine, Chicago has it's own individual terroir. 

Everyday, I have the privilege of working with the most outstanding, professional and talented group of people, on gorgeous Oak Street, also know as, the epicenter of Chicago Fashion.  I also get to work with one of my favorite designers, Rachel Lynn Chicago!  Disclaimer:  Not only do I wear Rachel's designs, I also sell them;)  Today I had the opportunity to pick her brain...

Rachel, you're a Chicago native, how long have you been designing jewelry, and what inspires you?
Yes I am native! I love Chicago! I started making jewelry at a very young age. I was around seven years old when my mothers jewelry company started booming and she needed an extra set of hands to help her bead and knot the custom designs. More recently and after ten years in the fashion industry, I found myself back in the jewelry business and catching the design bug. I began trailing my mother and then finally started making pieces of my own. My esthetic is very different than my mothers but we have a blast inspiring one another. Before I knew it Rachel Lynn Chicago was a business, and for three years now it has been my avenue to make pieces for friends and clients that I love, as well as myself.

Living and working on the Gold Coast, how would describe the Chicago Women's sense of style?

There are all different types of women in Chicago each with a personal esthetic and lifestyle of their own. I think the few things that ring true across the board is that every women wants a piece of jewelry that makes them feel good and beautiful.  They want something easy, that is at a good value!  Jewelry is an accessory that tells a story of who that person is and gives the outside world a glimpse into their expression of themselves. I remind myself of this every time I design and handcraft a piece of jewelry.

We are patiently awaiting Spring here in the Mid-west, how do you incorporate a little "Spring" into your wardrobe when the weather isn't exactly cooperating?
I personally really enjoy my Mystic Labradorite Collections. The mystic gemstones, in this case natural labradorite; is heated.  The heat changes the gemstone and gives it a higher potency of iridescence and a bright shine that emanates from the stone like a bright white light. These gemstones shine no matter how cloudy it may be outside; the only thing they don't offer is vitamin D!

Rachel, what are your personal favorite pieces of Jewelry?
My favorite piece of jewelry right now is a diamond pave dog tag. It is on a extra long chain so it falls under my long necklace category. I love long necklaces because they look perfect with any outfit! All the long necklaces I create for Rachel Lynn Chicago are perfect for layering; which for me are a must!

You've done some International travel this year, what pieces always travel with you?

Yes we took a beautiful memorable ski trip to Cortina Italy! Being such an active trip there weren't many opportunities to wear jewelry - most jewelry pieces can get in the way, snagged or tangled during fitness activities. Although, I did enjoy wearing my diamond pendant. A simple pendant that is about 16" long is perfect even for fitness and sport centered vacations. You can always clean a pendant, and at that length they are out of the way of getting caught or broken. 

What is next on your Jewelry bucket list?

I am working on expanding my beaded necklace collections, they are the perfect match to the beaded bracelets and are extremely timeless!

Thank you for the interview! I can't wait to see what you write next Lisa the Jeweler!

Rachel Lynn Chicago is a Chicago based jewelry brand that includes jewelry for both men and women using only nature and hand selected gemstones. All pieces are one of a kind and created entirely by hand. 

Keep up with Rachel at:

Shop the collection at Geneva Seal Jewelers in Chicago or online at

Twitter: @RachLynnChicago
Instagram: rachellynnchicago