Cutest Shop Tool Nominations

    Our jewelry shop houses hundreds of tools that make jewelry repair and creation possible. There are countless devices that are made for one specific purpose. Since much of jewelry work is so small and microscopic, the instruments used are on the small and microscopic side.

Here is a list of the contenders running for cutest tool in the shop:


This is one of my favorites. This torch is connected to an oxygen and gas tank and is used to heat precious metals. The jobs that the torch specializes in are soldering repairs, chain repairs, and ring resizing. Jewelers use different types of solders with different melting points. We generally use a hard solder that has a higher melting temperature and a stronger hold.

There are many pieces of jewelry that cannot go near the torch, however. Organic materials such as pearls, enhanced stones with fillers, or non-precious metals can be damaged with the high 4temperatures. Untreated Diamonds, Sapphires, and Rubies are the only stones that can stand the heat from a torch. Pure 24 karat gold has a melting point of almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit!

Power hammer

This tool is powered by an air compressor and is used under magnification. With the press of a foot petal power is put behind the jewelers hand in very tight spaces. This mighty little tool is used when metal needs to be compressed such as tightening stones or channel set work. It is also useful for hand engraving.6

Dust Pan

This is a pretty straight forward member of the shop. It is the smallest dust pan I have ever worked with and makes sweeping very enjoyable. Like other tools in the shop it has a very specific task. After a time shaved metal flakes accumulate on the jeweler’s 3workspace and they need to be collected. Anything gathered is recycled and sent to a refinery.

Metal File

This is a classic file on a very small scale. It comes in many shapes and sizes and is used on prongs, rough castings, and any time metal needs to be cleaned up. There is no external power source, no speeding up the process, just good old fashioned elbow grease.



This petite mandrel is utilized when fabricating findings such as jump rings and heads. The more commonly known size is seen behind the scenes and at the counter when measuring ring sizes. While it is short in stature, it is solid, heavy, and can take a beating.


Every tool in the shop has a purpose and a place. The smallest tools have some very important jobs and are often responsible for the fine detail and security we are able to put into each piece that is on the bench. Next time you are admiring your ring, bracelet, or the like, look at the detail and craftsmanship that goes into each piece. Every corner of every item of jewelry is touched at some point with the devices we have in the shop. These cute tools let us make microscopic adjustments and add details to ensure the highest quality of craftsmanship.

Stay Tuned,



Jade, the Toughest Gemstone in the Store!

One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was my new Jade necklace. I am in love with the trendy choker lengths and the 70’s vibes. So this necklace is my everything…for now at least.



There are a lot of factors contributing to the quality of Jade. There are also a lot of factors contributing to its misconceptions.

Jade actually refers to two separate gems, Jadeite and Nephrite. While they are displayed in similar colors and shapes, their internal structure and chemistry is quite different. Nephrite is the tougher of the two because of its more interwoven body, whereas, Jadeite is made up of many gridlocked crystals. Jade is among the toughest of all gemstones and was used in ancient times for weapons and other tools.

If you are thinking diamonds are the toughest of gemstones, you are not alone. Thank goodness I am right next to a Certified Gemologist Appraiser with the American Gem Society who can explain to me the difference between “hard” and “tough” when it comes to describing stones. The Moh Hardness Scale describes a mineral’s scratch resistance when it comes in contact with another mineral. So, since a diamond has the highest rating of a 10, nothing can scratch it except for another diamond. Toughness refers to a mineral’s ability to fracture such as when it is dropped or hit and is described as one of the following: Exceptional, Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor.  Jade has a rating of “Exceptional” and a diamond is in the lower category of “Good”.

dia vs jade

Toughness v. Hardness: If Diamond and Jade collide, the Diamond would chip and the Jade would bruise

Since Nephrite and Jadeite are so resistant to fracture, they make for excellent mediums for carving. Jade is very closely tied to Chinese culture and the love for this gemstone can be traced in Chinese history for thousands of years. China, British Colombia, and Siberia are the most substantial players in the mining of Nephrite, but China is undoubtedly the largest consumer.

When valuing Jade there are three things considered: Color, transparency, and texture.


You can pick from a number of colors of Jade. In Chinese culture there are many positive beliefs about the gemstone including: clarity of mind and spirit, power, wealth, and a connection between the spiritual and material world.

Color is the most important factor when determining quality.

The commanding color in Jade marketplaces is the pure and vivid green. The finest quality of Jade is known as “Imperial” and has a vibrant emerald color that is almost transparent.


My necklace has orange, green, and lavender stones. While it is not going to be a prized piece at a Chinese marketplace auction, I still love the colors and look of them together. It is all about personal preference and taste.



Regarding transparency, it is said one can read blurred text through the best Jadeite. As with most all jewelry, light refraction is an important element. When Jade is more transparent, the light can go deeper into the stone and give it a more attractive glow. Opaque or cloudy pieces of Jade are not quite as valuable.


I think I saw a few letters…

Finely textured Jade is smooth, shiny and especially touchable. To avoid scratching, it is advisable to not wear one’s Jade pieces every day. It is an easy gemstone to take care of and has a great deal of versatility. My choker holds my first pieces of Jade and I look forward to finding more pieces to add to my collection!


Stay tuned, Kelsey.




Don’t forget to update your jewelry appraisals! (part 3 of 3)

You’ve found a policy, attained a Retail Replacement Appraisal from a Certified Gemologist Appraiser, submitted it to your insurance agent, and now your jewelry is properly insured and you are done, right?  Sorry, but no.

Gemstone and Metal markets change every day, even every hour, therefore the value of your jewelry changes as well, though on a day to day basis this is probably only pennies.  Over the years you jewelry can change significantly in value.  I advise checking with your appraiser about updates every 4-5 years, or if you hear of a major change in the metals market.

IMG_0238The value on you appraisal will probably go up, but it may go down as well.  There are times when markets are artificially inflated.  So when the trend or whatever caused the change is over, the value returns to its more stable numbers.  There was a period in the 80’s when diamonds were overvalued by today’s standard.  In the 90’s everyone had to have a marquise diamond, inflating the market and causing premiums on that shape to rise.  Today these diamonds are less popular; consequently the value has come down significantly from the peak.  I’m sure everyone is aware of what metal prices have done over the past few years, but if you aren’t check out the chart below.  Chances are if you have an appraisal on a heavy gold item from 2007, it’s undervalued and if you have an appraisal from 2012, it may be overvalued.

So why is it bad to have an item overvalued?  Premiums.  That appraised value establishes not only your coverage limit, but you insurance premiums, as well. Let’s face it; nobody wants to pay more than what they need to pay.

Some policies do have an automatic increase every year to cover these increases in markets, but if you ignore these too long you can end up with a value considerably higher than what the item is actually worth.  I’ve seen this quite often with these polices when they have been left for ten or more years.

To sum up a very long story, if you’re unsure about your appraisals or have jewelry that may or may not need an appraisal find a knowledgeable jeweler you trust.  In the Indianapolis area, come see me if you like.  I’m here at Pierce Jewelers in Carmel most days.

Insurance Jewelry Appraisals: All you need to know. (part 2 of 3)

July 2015 – Insurance Appraisals (Appraisals Part 2)

Insurance appraisals are the most common type that I write.  They are not quite as straight forward as I had wanted to believe when I first started in the industry.  Most policies are written to replace with “like kind and quality.”  Generally this is easy enough, but if it is a branded item it must be replaced with a branded item which means tracking down the company.  If it’s a style no longer in production or an antique hand fabricated piece it can be trickier.

When looking at an insurance appraisal (or any other type of appraisal) you want a detailed description.  I’ve seen too many over the years that say something along the lines of “yellow gold tennis bracelet 3ct total weight $4500.00.” My typical response to this description (in my head) is “WHAT?”  What type of metal, what type of setting, 3ct of what gemstones, how many of said gemstones are included and what are their shapes and grades?  These facts are important when determining the value on the initial appraisal.  They are also important if something should happen to the bracelet and you need to replace or identify the item there is no way to know what this bracelet looked like with that limited amount of information.

IMG_0242The appraised value establishes your coverage limit on your policy.  You should be aware that the coverage limit is not necessarily the value on the check you may receive from your insurance company unless you have a “cash out” policy.  Most policies are written so the insurance company is required to make you whole with a replacement of like kind and quality.  (This is why that description is so important.)  What this means is the insurance company either needs to supply you with the same item you lost or give you the funds to replace that item.  Most insurance companies buy in bulk so they recieve special pricing so they can replace the item for less money than you could in a retail situation. So the check they give you is only going to be what they would pay to replace the item.

It seems like every insurance policy is different.  A question I ask when someone says they need appraisal for insurance is, “What is your deductible?”  Many do not know.  The reason I ask this of a customer is because if someone has a deductible of $500, it is really not cost effective for them to pay for an appraisal and the insurance premiums on a piece that is valued $550.  Often it is as simple as a phone call to their agent or policy provider to attain this information.  Then I can go through their jewelry with them and advise what needs to be appraised.

I don’t want to advise on insurance policies too much, because every situation is has different needs, but I would encourage you to ask or research what your policy covers.  Sometimes “mysterious disappearance” is not covered, so if you lose your ring, you’re out of luck.  If you review your homeowner’s or renter’s policy and don’t like the jewelry side of things you can always take an additional policy out encompassing just your jewelry from Jewelers Mutual.  I’ve worked with them on replacements and the client’s that have used them in the past have been very happy.

If you just have too much stuff and you’re not sure about any of it, contact me.  I’m happy to walk you through things, give you some questions to ask your insurance people, and advise what items may need an appraisal.

Jewelry Appraisals in General (part 1 of 3)

July 2015 –Appraisals in General (Appraisals Part 1)

First of all, let me introduce myself.  My name is Tracy and I am the appraiser here at Pierce Jewelers.  I attended the Gemological Institute of America straight out of high school and learned how to identify and grade gemstones in their Graduate Gemologist program.  After that, I found a position as an appraisal assistant similar to an apprenticeship; I learned how to identify manufacturing techniques and how to value jewelry.  I then took the American Gem Society’s course for the title Certified Gemologist Appraiser.  Every year since, I have taken the recertification exam to maintain my credentials.

A good appraisal takes a bit of work and thought, so I typically don’t just say a value without doing the grading, and all the research on a piece of jewelry.  To determine the value many things are taken into account, including metal type and weight, manufacturing process, gemstones, and branding.

There are as many different kinds of appraisals as there are situations that require them.  When someone comes in and asks for an appraisal I always respond by asking them what they are looking to do with the appraisal.  There are appraisals for estate tax purposes, equitable distribution in divorce situations, appraisals to give a value for a second hand sale, insurance appraisals, etc…  And most of these will result in a different value for the item.  By far the most common request for appraisals are Retail Replacement Appraisals for Attaining Insurance.

tracy at scopeAnother question that I always ask is if there is any previous paperwork, and let me clarify, I am not doing this to be lazy.  I always measure, grade, and determine my own values; however, previous paperwork can provide important details that I cannot attain otherwise.  Because all gemstones are left in their mountings, I use a formula to determine an approximate weight, but obviously if a previous jeweler set the stone and was able to get an exact weight, and with appraisals, the more exact you can be, the better.  Pervious paperwork includes 3rd party lab reports, as well (AGS and GIA Certifications or Reports).  These reports can increase the value of the gemstone and have an effect on the appraisal.

Please use caution when choosing an appraiser, as well.  Legally there is no test, experience, or training for someone to go through before calling themselves a jewelry appraiser.  Someone who is not a Graduate Gemologist can call himself or herself an appraiser, and even if he or she has attended GIA, it does not automatically mean he or she understands gem and metal markets.  Also, the price you pay for the appraisals should never be based on the value of the appraisal.  Some appraisers will charge per piece while others will charge an hourly rate.  This is far more ethical.  Personally, I would recommend that you come see me at Pierce Jewelers, but if you don’t live in the area, I would advise you to find a Certified Gemologist Appraiser through the American Gem Society.  This society prides itself on ethics and education, and anyone who has earned the title CGA has proved he or she know his or her stuff.

All about the beautiful ruby and their treatments.

Rubies are rare and beautiful natural wonders, but most rubies will undergo some type of treatment before making it to your jewelry.

gabrielson togetherRoughly 99% of all rubies on the market today have been heat treated, and it is usually only the highest quality that have not undergone this treatment.  Heating is a permanent and stable treatment that has been applied to these gemstones for centuries.  The heat can melt inclusions inside the rubies called needles giving them a clearer appearance.  This process can also reduce unwanted undertones that may affect the color.  Usually it is only a trained gemologist that can detect whether or not a gem has been heat treated.  Even then they may recommend sending it to a third party laboratory such as GIA or AGS for a final call.

If you are in the market for one of these high grade, non-heated rubies I would advise caution.  Always request a third party certificate as proof that what you are looking at is, in fact, unheated.

Spark 18k 1.80ctw Rubies, .34ctw DiamondsNot all ruby treatments are as accepted and, dare I say, as ethical as heat treatment.  There is a practice of filling rubies with high lead content glass that produces what we call composite rubies.  The high lead content glass has a high refractive index which means it blends better with the ruby.  This practice allows, let’s call them manufactures instead of cutters, taking low grade rubies that are ugly and nearly opaque and applying heat and lead glass to fill in to nooks and cavities of those rubies to obtain a much better appearance.  Changing the appearance is not necessarily bad; it’s the fact that this treatment is so unstable making it unethical, unwanted, and unwise.  Any heat applied, even just a little steam can cause the glass to expand producing a crackled ruby.  They also cannot be clean in an ultrasonic nor are they very easy to work with.  Setting these rubies is a challenge since the glass can very easily crack, chip, or even come out.  Most jewelers will not even touch these stones if they have a choice.

Burmese RubyIf you are in the market for a new stunning red gem don’t let these treatments scare you away.  Like with anything, stay educated and find a jeweler whom you trust to inform you about what you are purchasing.  Pierce Jewelers in Carmel is an excellent choice.

Rubies: Gemstones of Kings

Rubies… Ah, rubies.  Not only are they the birthstone for July, but the gem of kings, and one of the rarest beauties on Earth.  As I sit down to write this blog I find myself overcoming some fear and hesitation.  They are so important and there are so many eloquent and/or scientific pieces written, I just hope this little blog gives you a feel for what these beauties really are, a little on their history, and what to look for when shopping for them in a fun, easily digested way.

White Gold Diamond .19tw and Ruby .60twIn Sanskrit ruby is called “Ratnaraj” which translates to “King of Precious Stones”.  I think this can give you a feel for how rubies have been valued for thousands of years.  One of the most interesting pieces of history comes from Burma (or Mynamar) where warriors believed rubies would make them invisible in battle.  But it wasn’t enough simply to wear ruby jewelry, they would have to have them implanted into their bodies.  (Personally, I’ll keep one around my neck or in my ears.) 

European royalty have also been big fans of this beauty.  However, not everything called a ruby with royalty is a ruby.  The Black Prince Ruby is actually red spinel, but that is a subject for another day.  In England and more recent history, Fergie, the Duchess of York, (when married to Prince Andrew) was presented and wore a ruby engagement ring.

Using rubies as center stones in engagement rings is not unheard of, nor is it unwise.  Rubies are a part of the Corundum family and their hardness is second only to diamond in the natural world.  (Though they can still be chipped and scratched so exercise a little caution.)  And the fiery red color symbolizes love, passion, and romance making the ruby rather appropriate for such a token of love.  So if you are in the market for something a little unusual and like red, I would definitely consider a ruby.  The first engagement ring I ever sold featured a beautiful ruby in the center.  Today, they still rave about it and smile wide when they come in to have it cleaned.

If you do select a ruby instead of diamond, you may or may not be saving money…

Rubies are rarer than diamonds.  I hesitate to say they are more valuable than diamonds because it depends on the quality you are considering, but I will say that top end rubies can be priced higher than diamonds. 

So what gives a ruby its value?  In a single word, rarity.  In a more complicated sense transparency, cut, clarity, and whether or not they have been heat treated (I will expand on heat treatment in later blogs) The most important attribute of the ruby is color.  Individual tastes can vary preferring purple or orange overtones, but typically the most sought after and most valuable ruby is a medium, vivid red with no undertones.  Obviously, those rubies that are transparent and free of eye visible inclusions are going to be of higher value than the more translucent or opaque stones.  Cut can also greatly impact rubies.  Excellent cuts will be even, without a large belly on the underside, and cause the ruby to sparkle with no window in the center.  (A window is a section of the gemstone that you can see directly through and is considered undesirable in any stone.)  Round rubies are going to carry a premium, as well, because there is more wasted rough when cutting.

Rubies have a vast history and a lot behind them in today’s world as well.  I hope that I have done them justice with this little bit and would be happy to answer further questions or go into more detail about something you are curious about.  As always if you would like to see some of these beauties, we would be happy to show you at Pierce Jewelers.

Pearl Care

As you can tell from our last few posts, there are a wide variety of pearls out there, but one thing is the same for all these gemstones, and that is they are organic.  Being organic, they are influenced by their environment.

It’s more than mere illusion that pearls that are worn frequently look more lustrous than those that have been sitting in a jewelry box.  Pearls absorb the oils from your skin and that can add to their beauty.  Unfortunately this means they also absorb the other things that can be on your skin or sprayed on them.  Hairspray and perfume can ruin pearls, so it is best for your favorite pearl necklace to be the last thing on in the morning and the first thing you take off at night.

Over time you may decide those pearls need to be cleaned.  No problem.  Just avoid harsh cleaners or anything abrasive as those pearls can scratch easily.  The best way to clean pearls either at home or in a jewelry store is with warm water (not hot), a very mild detergent, and a soft toothbrush.  If you are unsure or prefer to have a profession do it, just bring it to Pierce Jewelers and we can get you squared away.

Traditionally pearls are strung on either silk or nylon, and there is a lively debate on which of these materials work best.  It usually comes down to what the person stringing the pearls is most comfortable using, but both materials will start to decay over time and this will result in breaking or stretching so your pearls move between the knots.  If it’s been a number of years or when you start to see the gaps between the pearls and the knots, it’s time to take it to the jeweler.  A trained eye can easily spot and inform you if it’s time to have the piece restrung, and Pierce Jewelers just so happens to have a pearl restringer on staff ready to answer questions and work on your pearls when its time.

Pearls, Pearls, and more Pearls (Part 3)

Keshi Pearls

Keshi pearls are a happy accident.  These form as a byproduct in mollusks growing other cultured pearls.  They form spontaneously and are cause by an irritant in the mollusk.  These are 100% nacre and contain no bead or nucleus usually found in cultured pearls.  These pearls are very, very rarely round.  They usually come in fun and unusual baroque shapes, but can also be found in petal shapes or even rice shapes.

Mabe Pearls

Mabe Pearls are not traditional pearls and have a half sphere shape.  They are grown on the shell of the mollusk instead of inside the body of the mollusk like other pearls.  Typically the pearl farmers will glue a plastic half sphere to the inside of the shell and harvest the mabe (or blister pearl) once a sufficient layer of nacre has grown over the top.

Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl is not considered a pearl though it is made of the same material as pearls.  The inside of the shell of the pearl producing mollusk is lined with the same nacre as the pearls.  This material is often shaped or carved for jewelry and can result in very intricate and fine designs.

Still confused over what pearls are right for you?  Don’t worry.  Many times you have to hold and see these natural wonders for yourself before truly appreciating and understanding what you are drawn to.  Luckily, pearls are one of Jennie Pierce’s favorite gemstones, so we are well stocked in all varieties and will be happy to help you discover your perfect pearl.

Pearls, Pearls, and More Pearls (Part 2)

Tahitian Cultured Pearls

These pearls are grown in mollusks that thrive in the Polynesian waters and are called the “Black-lip Oysters”.  These spectacular pearls are grey or black in color and can have the most beautiful blue or green overtones.  Sometimes this is called an “oil slick” appearance.  The most sought after are often called “Peacock” colored.  These pearls are typically 8-10mm, but can be up to 16mm in diameter.  A 10mm Tahitian pearl can take 18-24 months to develop.

South Sea Cultured Pearls

Mostly grown in the water off Australia, these pearls can also come from the Philippines or Fiji.  These pearls are typically white or golden yellow in color, but can sometimes be found in pink.  These pearls can reach 20mm but are more often found 10-15mm in diameter.  A 15mm South Sea pearl typically takes 2-3 years to develop into the spectacular gem people know and love.

Fresh Water Cultured Pearls

These are by far the most common pearls out there and often the least expensive option.  They started culturing these in the 1900’s in Japan, and when they first started these pearls usually potato shaped and not extremely nice.  Luckily as the technology and technique developed, they have been able to increase the size and roundness of these pearls.  Today the round fresh water pearls can reach upwards of 12mm as well as being found in a variety of shapes such as coin or even cross shaped.