Tag Archive | princess cut

Through the Loupe with….Grant McSweeny

We’re really delighted to be able to bring you an interview with the brilliant and down to earth Grant McSweeny who very kindly spoke with us last year, and what with one thing or another it’s taken a while to get caught up and blogging again!

Grant is a gem setter and also makes his own jewellery, he comes from a family of gem setters so has a very good pedigree!

Tell us a bit about what you do and how you work

It all started in about 1985/86 my dad and uncle were both diamond setters and it just seemed like the natural thing to do.  Even before I left school I was always up in the workshop and would watch him work so when I left school I did a 5 year apprenticeship with my dad and that was how I found myself where I am today.  

[wow FIVE years!!!]

I started off with mundane tasks such as running errands to polishers and dealers.  I learned how to carry jewellery and gems and only then did I get to start practicing cutting, filing and using the tools.  I started out working with 9ct gold and then once I gained skills and confidence I moved onto more valuable metals.

Are there different processes depending on what you’re working with?

For some pieces it does make a difference what you’re working with, for example you would only set emeralds into softer metals, preferably yellow gold because it’s softer than white gold, because they are fragile and you try and reduce the risk of breaking the gemstone by working with the metal that will work better with the characteristics of any particular stone.  Similarly certain types of setting are better for certain stones.

[I had no idea there was any difference between yellow and white gold except for the colour!]

 

How involved do you get with the design process?

It varies, some people want an engagement ring and have no idea what they are looking for – I take them through books and put together a drawing of what I think they are after.  I also tend to send them away to look through jewellers windows so that they can get an idea of what sort of styles, shapes or colours they like.  Once they have an idea in their mind of what they like it makes it easier for me to incorporate that look into a design.

 

Unless the person has a gem they want setting I would then usually source the stones and show them to the customer before they’re set into jewellery because I think it’s more personal and you get to see what they really look like before they get set.

Do you have a favourite gemstone?

It would have to be diamond because of their natural beauty; I’ve seen some beautiful coloured stones but I just think diamonds are lovely whatever size they come in, but I had a 2.5 ct diamond recently and it was great to see because of it’s size.  I really like the fact that they’re just carbon and have been underground for years and years, then they get pulled out as a rough and suddenly after polishing you have a beautiful stone in front of you, and they look so amazing sat on someone’s finger.

I like lots of different cuts too, but my favourites are princess cut and trilliant, because you get so much light coming through them.  My favourite type of setting is a nice and simple calibre for princess cuts and squares because I like the look of it when it’s finished, you have to take your time and get it all level so that the light hits each stone as you turn it, it’s really satisfying when it’s finished.

Are there any gems you don’t like to work with?

Emeralds and fire opals are so fragile that they would probably did my least favourites!  You get taught not to break them and how to treat them but they can be difficult to work with and you have to explain to the owner the risks of working with them, fortunately it doesn’t tend to go wrong!  Tanzanite also marks very easily, so you do have to be more careful with them.

What’s your favourite piece of jewellery you ever made?

When I was working with my dad I did a suite of jewellery in emerald and diamond with tapered baguette cut and princess cut stones.  It was very art deco and the value at the time was around a quarter of a million pounds.  The centre emerald on the necklace was almost 8ct and that alone cost around £90,000!

[I am so jealous, that sounds like my idea of heaven]

It’s not just the joy of making great jewellery though I get real pleasure from seeing the person picking it up and seeing the finished item.  I made an engagement ring for a friend of a friend and when they saw it they said “wow” and when you have comments such as it looking nicer than the customer expected or once a customer burst into tears you just know they’re walking out of the door happy and that’s a great feeling.

 

Is it a long process to set a gem?

The large emerald and diamond suite I mentioned earlier took about 3 weeks, but that wasn’t working on it every day.  A straightforward six claw single stone can take as little as 10 minutes, but a pave set will take longer and depends upon the size of the stones.

In terms of time it does depend on the setting and the type of stone, so something more fragile or fiddly will take longer so they all have their own timescale really.  The process is very traditional, my workshop hasn’t changed much over the past 50 or so years and this sometime surprises people when they come to look.  I have some modern technology such as microscopes but the majority of handheld tools haven’t really changed.

How difficult was it to set up in business and do you have any tips?

I started out working with my dad which was helpful for my apprenticeship, but after that I moved out into my own business, my dad is still in the trade but does less setting now.  It is hard when you start, there are quite a few setters and getting your foot in the door with customers is hard because people have tried and tested setters that they work with and don’t want to risk giving their work to another person.  You have to keep trying to show them what you are capable of and persevere, it’s a lot of hard work and I think you just have to keep going…even up to the point where you start to irritate people so that they give you a chance!

Do you wear jewellery?

I do have a wedding ring and a bangle, I’ve noticed that more men now do go out and treat themselves, even down to cufflinks.

 

You can find out more about Grant’s work at his website http://www.mcsweeneyjewels.co.uk/our-work.php

 

If you would like to be featured on our regular “Through the Loupe” pieces do get in touch with us: adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com,

Advertisements

All the “C”s

So whilst it’s lovely to gaze over diamonds and dream, what happens when you want to purchase?  It’s pretty well known that the things to look for in a diamond are the C’s i.e. colour, clarity, carat weight and cut, but what does this mean in reality and is this really all there is to it? 

Diamond grading

 

Colour

Basically the less colour visible the higher the price (except for fancy coloured stones, but again more on coloured diamonds later).  You will mostly come across the GIA grading system which uses a letter system of colour grading. D being the highest grading of colourless, descending towards Z travelling through near colourless, faint yellow, light yellow and so on.  At the very basic level as the colour and grade increases the price of your stone decreases.

 

Black diamond

Clarity

Clarity is defined as the degree to which a stone is free from external marks (called blemishes) and internal features (called inclusions). Like with colour the freer the stone is from blemishes and inclusions the more expensive the price tends to be. These factors, like with colour, are given grades; the GIA clarity grades start at F1 “flawless, no blemishes or inclusions” which are very rare and expensive (essentially, “we wish”).  Diamonds are generally found in high street jewellery around lower grades such as SI1 & SI2 which are slightly included, ranging from easy to see under 10x magnification (i.e. using your loupe) and somewhat easy to see with your naked eye. Diamond grades end at I1-I3 (P1 -P3 is used in some countries) which are imperfect, characteristics and flaws which can be seen easily with the naked eye.

 

D grade diamond ring

Carat

The unit of weight used for diamonds is the carat, in most cases the higher the carat weight the higher the price, a carat is a unit of weight equalling 1/5 of a gram. The weight of small diamonds are often expressed in points, with one point equalling 0.01 ct (carat) Diamond jewellery in stores may often have the total diamond weight on display which for example 1ct for a 5 stone ring will not therefore be of an equivalent value as a 1ct single stone in a ring. Also take note if the quantity is expressed in points or carats, as 0.25 points is not equivalent to 0.25 ct which is a quarter of a carat.

Cut

This refers to the proportions and finish of the stone, two of the main considerations of cut are:

  • Do you see brilliance all across the stone when you look through the stone face up? You should not see large dark areas.
  • Are you paying for excess weight? is the stone too fat basically when you look at it sideways a poorly cut stone may have a very thick appearance from the side but look much smaller from the top this will also effect the brilliance that stones gives off. Symmetry is also a consideration as this also affects the level of brilliance emitted by the stone.

Cut can be judged by the naked eye and a 10-power magnifier, but it is not as simple as it sounds (naturally!)  Cut should be considered in more detail, looking at the cutting style and quality and the shape of the stone.  The finish is also important as how well the cut is finished can affect sparkle and brilliance.

Whilst cut is very much about personal taste trends affect prices so at the moment round stones tend to cost more than pear, marquise and emerald cuts but this hasn’t always been the case.

Normally square shapes cost less than round as there is less wastage when the stone is being cut from its rough state, and there is usually less demand for squares. However, depending on demand in different areas of the world princess cuts (squares) have occasionally sold for more than rounds.

 

Heart facet

Anything else…?

Well in short…yes!  (Sorry this is turning into a long post but we promise this is only scratching the surface, hard to do on a diamond!)  Transparency is another factor to consider, the degree to which the stone is clear, hazy or cloudy as again this will alter how the stone reacts to light and therefore how it looks when being worn.

The other thing to take care of when dealing with diamonds is the treatment status i.e. whether the stone has had any external treatment since being mined.  There are a number of techniques and treatments which have been developed to improve the look of white diamonds; some have been deliberate attempts to deceive buyers but with a reputable jeweller you should be able to ask about any treatments of the stone.  An example is the process of using a laser to vaporize black inclusions, this leaves a fine white thread that starts at the surface and travels into the stone.  This treatment is permitted but must be disclosed on any certificate obtained.  Fractures and cracks can be filled with a glasslike substance that is visible only under magnification.  Certain types of yellow-tinted diamonds are put through a high-temperature, high-pressure treatment (HPHT) process to make them colourless. This treatment is permanent and heat treated diamonds can only be identified in a lab.

Depending on what you’re after in a gem treatments are not necessarily something to shy away from, they can reduce the value of a stone but give you the look of a much better quality stone.  One of the things you should beware of though when it comes to treatments (not only in diamonds) is that not all treatments are permanent, the filler we have mentioned above is not a permanent treatment and bad care or handling can loosen the filler or change its colour.

 

IMG00502-20120419-1606