Custom Jewelry FAQs

Please note this is a “living page” and comments and questions will be added as we receive them.  New comments will have the word “New!” beside them for a month.  If you have any questions please let us know. Your question will be personally answered and could end up here!

What is Electro-forming? Electroforming is a close cousin to electroplating. Electroplating, as most people know is the deposition of a pure metal on a metallic surface using electrical current and the appropriate conductive electrolyte solution. Vermeil, for example is gold plated over silver: a fairly common solution to oxidation of silver in some Victorian pieces. Electroforming, on the other hand is the deposition of pure metal on a non-metallic object! In other words, you can have an acorn or a small pinecone plated in 24K gold and wear it around your neck as a piece of jewelry! How is that done? Click for rest of article.

What is LASER Welding and what can it do for me?

Answer:LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) technology is not new. By now just about everyone has heard of Laser Surgery or some other useof this precise and coherently focused light source... Click for rest of article.

I bought your ionic cleaner (as a gift) and extra Gem Sparkle in hopes that I could use it myself without the ionic machine. Possibly, to use it in a jar like other kinds of jewelry cleaners?

Answer: Gem Sparkle is an exceptional cleaning fluid even without the ionic cleaner. Mix the Gem Sparkle 1:5 or 1:6 with water (1 tablespoon solution to 5 or 6 tablespoon water). Warm (microwave is OK) it in a small sealable Tupperware kind of dish. Soak your jewelry in the solution (never microwave with the jewelry IN the solution). Scrub gently with a SOFT toothbrush after a few minutes. If the jewelry is heavily soiled, you may have to soak longer. The prepared solution is reusable, which is why suggested the Tupperware kind of dish.
By the way, Hematite is the ONLY Gemstone you cannot clean in an ionic cleaner. However, it can be cleaned with Gem Sparkle.

I enjoy your site, I like to learn. When I go shopping for a different piece I sometimes go looking at used shops & yard sales. I have found some chains that say 1/20 14k gf. Is that gold plated?
The marking 1/20 14k gf means "Gold Filled" (that's what the GF stands for). The process was invented quite a few years ago and used extensively in pocket watch cases. This brought the price down to where an ordinary person could afford one, and still look like they were carrying something expensive.
The process of creating a gold filled piece involves "hot rolling" thin
sheets of (in this case 14k gold) on to a substrate sheet (usually brass).
This is done under great pressure and heat - thereby bonding the gold very firmly on to the brass. The end result is a sheet of metal that looks like gold, but is only 1/20th gold (hence THAT number).
Gold filled "wears" better than gold plated. For example the original gold filled watches were guaranteed 20 years! Eventually however the government stopped companies from providing those guarantees as most cases did not stand up to wear that long after daily use.

How do you arrive at an appraisal?
The following information has been prepared for you to understand how we perform appraisals. Please feel free to ask us any other questions you might have - we are here to help!
Initial Evaluation: The item is examined thoroughly (using at least a 10 power loupe) to record all aspects of the piece. This includes number and type of gemstones, characteristics of the gemstones, any "attractors" (something that makes the stone unusual, rare, or positively affects price), or "detractors" (a flaw, surface scratch or anything that negatively affects price).
Identification: The gemstones (if any) are identified by our experts. This identification could include measurements like refractive index of the stone, or other necessary measurements.
Physical Dimensions: Most appraised pieces are finished pieces with gemstones already mounted. (Although we do appraise gemstones, of all types, by themselves as well). The gemstone dimensions are measured in millimeters. Depth of the stone, if accessible, is also measured. From these measurements, using the specific gravity of the identified stone, the carat weight (ct.) of the stone is calculated. This is an approximation, since the only accurate way to determine weight is to demount and actually weigh the stone on a carat scale.
Metal Evaluation: The inside or rear of the piece is carefully examined for makers marks and karat (K) marks. The piece is weighed, and the total carat weight of the stones is subtracted to get the metal weight. At this time, the style or period of the ring is also estimated. Often this is a guess from experience of styles of jewelry in particular periods. Agha Designs does not appraise antique jewelry for its "value as an antique" as this is a science and an art all its own. We can, however, recommend reputable auction houses that perform this service.
Evaluation of Execution: This is where we look at how well a piece was made. This is not a subjective evaluation of the beauty or style of the design, but a critical evaluation of how well the goldsmith or manufacturer performed their art.
Calculation of Appraised Price: This is where all of the above come together to calculate how much the piece would cost if it were built TODAY, in the US, using fair market rates. This does not mean that the item could be SOLD at that price, as the selling price of an item is defined solely by how much someone wants to pay for it. This is proven every day at auctions.

What is "A Deal too good to be true"?
This is exactly what the words say.  If the deal is too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true! 

What is Custom Jewelry?
Custom Jewelry is made essentially from scratch.  The Jeweler usually with the help of the customer or on their own defines and executes the design.  At Agha Designs we prefer to work WITH the customer to design their piece.  This way the creative energy of the customer becomes an integral part of the design.  Most of our customers prefer this.  The design can be “one of a kind,” a “limited series,” (either numbered or unnumbered), or a design that is still the copyright of the jeweler, but several pieces can be made for sale.  Often customers ask us to design “one of a kind” pieces for them.  When this is requested, NO other pieces are made, but the resulting piece costs more.  The piece can be created by Forging, Fabricating, Casting, or a combination of all three. 

What is Semi-Custom Jewelry?
Semi-Custom Jewelry is a piece of jewelry that starts out life as piece that belongs to the customer and is modified to suit their changing tastes, or finances.  It can also be a piece that is selected from our large supply of pre-existing mountings, and then modified with either additions or subtractions of metal or gemstones to suit the customers’ individual taste.  Often our customers will bring us a piece that has sentimental value but they don’t like the way the piece looks.  Often we can redesign the piece for them, and sometimes even use the existing metal in the “new” piece so that the “sentimental” value is retained. 

What is Forging?
No, this does not mean copying someone else’s work!  In the jewelry world forging means “moving metal” with a hammer or chisel or a similar tool.   Forging can be performed with the metal either hot or cold and requires frequent annealing (softening of the metal) to form the piece.  For an example of forging see “How was this made?”

What is Fabricating?
 Fabricating is when different pieces of metal are ”joined” together either with or without gemstones to form a cohesive whole that ends up being the piece of jewelry that you buy. 

Joining can be performed “cold” with something like rivets or hinges or links or “hot” by soldering the pieces together, or a combination of the two.  In jewelry the “hot” method is called soldering, but because of the temperatures involved the technically correct word is “brazing.”  This is done with gold that has been alloyed to have a lower melting temperature than the cast or forged gold that it is being used to join to another piece.  For example, a 14 K head being soldered on to a 14 K band would be joined using a 14 K gold solder.   Another “hot” connection is “fusing.”  This is when similar or dissimilar metals are joined together (with or without pressure) with the application of heat, where their contacting surfaces literally “fuse” together.  “Granulation,” an ancient technique, is an example of this. 

What is Casting?
Casting is when a piece is made from molten metal.  The metal in this state is poured into a mold (which can be made from many materials).  The mold is then parted, either by breaking (in the case of “one time” molds) or separated (in the case of metal molds).  Most custom jewelers use “one time” molds, whereas metal molds are used by large metal work shops that create hundreds or thousands of pieces.  The piece is then polished and “joined” to other pieces to create the completed piece. 

What is the Lost Wax Process?
The jeweler executes the design by carving or shaping a piece of wax in to the desired shape.  Wax sprues are attached to the piece (these will be the access channels for the molten metal) and then it is placed in a container and filled with the investment (a Plaster of Paris like substance).  After the investment has solidified, the whole piece is upended and steam-heated to allow the wax to melt out.  The residual wax is now burned off in a small furnace at very high temperatures, leaving an empty cavity that matches the original carving.  Molten metal is now poured in to this and, after cooling, the casting is broken free of the investment. 

What is Granulation?
Granulation is a very ancient process of taking TINY spheres of metal and attaching them to another metal WITHOUT soldering.  The pieces are attached so that the two metals fuse together at the point of contact.  Many methods for granulation are used, some of them considered proprietary or even secret.  Most jewelers who are practitioners of this art have their own method.  In the simplest terms:  The granules are “stuck” to the metal in a design or pattern using an organic “glue”.  An oxygen free, high temperature, environment is produced around the “granules” and the metal.  The metal at the point of contact surface melts BEFORE both pieces melt into a big blob.  The granules and the metal are thereby fused together.  For a picture , click here

What is Soldering?
Soldering is when two metals are joined together by a similar (or different) metal that has a lower melting point.  In the fabrication of jewelry, because of the temperatures and the materials used, soldering is actually a misnomer.  The correct term is brazing.  A solder of the same carat value as the pieces being joined is used. This solder is designed to melt at a lower temperature than the pieces being joined together.  As the temperature of the two peices is raised , the metal on both in the crystalline matrix at the JUNCTION of the two, pulls back.  This enables the solder, which is NOW applied, to flow into the microscopically open space between the two pieces.  The heat is removed, and the joined piece is allowed to cool.  The joint is polished, and the seam where the solder flowed, if everything is done EXACTLY right - is invisible. 

What is a Brilliant Cut Diamond?
The beauty of a diamond is based primarily on its ability to reflect light and refract it in to a myriad of rainbows.  The measurement of this ability is called the “refractive index” or “RI” of the stone. The angles of the facets to each other are critical to the amount of light being reflected and refracted.  These angles were calculated mathematically to optimize these prismatic properties so that all the light is reflected up-and-out of the stone.  The cut that has the most brilliance has a round outline when seen from the top that enables the prismatic properties to be fully exploited and hence, is called the brilliant cut.   Diamonds also come in many different cuts beside the brilliant.  They include oval, pear, marquise (or navette), princess, emerald or octagon step cut, trillion, triangle, baguette and tapered baguette,  In addition to the preceding more common cuts are kites, shields, rose cuts, half moons, radiants, stars, hexagons, fans, and briolettes. 

How are diamonds rated for Clarity?
The ratings are the following: Flawless, Internally Flawless, VVS1 & 2, VS1 & 2, SI1 & 2, and I1, I2, and I3.   This system is based on the visibility, color, size, and position of inclusions under a ten power magnifier for the higher grades, and by the unaided eye for the other grades.  The meaning of VVS1 is “very very slightly included” with the VVS1 being less included than a VVS2 rated stone. The “Included” grades:  I1, I2, and I3 have inclusions that are progressively more visible to the unaided eye, with the I3, the “promotional grade,” being very heavily peppered with inclusions and approaching “industrial grade” stones (i. e. stones used to make cutting , grinding and polishing wheels).  Inclusions can be whitish spots, carbon spots, crystal growth lines, air bubbles, or even “foreign” crystals that grew in to the matrix of the stone when it was forming. 

What is Eye Clean?
A stone that is rated “SI1 or SI 2” is said to be “eye clean.”  This term is usually applied to diamonds, but can also be applied to other precious or semi-precious stones as well.  When the stone is viewed with the unaided eye, the stone has no visible inclusions to detract from the stone’s beauty.  Inclusions might be visible when viewed under a magnifying loupe or microscope.  This is the most economical grade for diamonds that are going to be worn as jewelry. 

What is Moissanite©?
Moissanite© is a synthetic lab grown stone that has some physical properties very similar to diamonds.  An ordinary diamond tester can not differentiate between Moissanite© and diamond, and special testers have to be used.  There is an easy way, however, to differentiate Moissanite© from diamonds.  The jeweler will carefully view the stone with a magnifying loupe.  At the conjunction of the facets, instead of seeing one line, two are visible.  This is because Moissanite© is doubly refractive, and diamonds are not.  When in doubt, contact us, or any other reputable jeweler. 

What is a “precious stone?”
By modern definition, precious stones are diamond,  ruby, emerald, and sapphire. 

What is a “semi-precious stone?”
ANY stone that is NOT a diamond, ruby, emerald, or sapphire is considered a semi-precious stone.  This is actually a misnomer.  Often semi precious stones are MORE rare (and therefore more precious) than diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires.  As a result they are very often, carat-for-carat, much more expensive. 

What are Inclusions?
When gemstones  are formed in the earth’s crust (this can take thousands to millions of years), often some other element or “impurity” gets into the crystal as it “grows.”  Not all inclusions or impurities are bad as often these are what give gemstones their beautiful and myriad colors.  More often than not, in the case of a diamond which is essentially “elemental carbon,” a tiny (or sometimes large) piece of black carbon will be included.  Depending on the placement of this renegade piece of carbon, the diamond will either be of high quality (you can barely see the carbon piece).   OR What is sometimes called “promotional quality,” (which means it probably should be used to cut glass – but definitely NOT on a piece of custom jewelry!)


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