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Entries in graduate gemologist (7)

Vegas Prep: Interview with Hannah of Diamondoodles

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Today's Vegas Jewelry Week prep interview features Hannah of Diamondoodles, jewelry friend and creative genius.  You may not know that I first met Hannah back when she was attending GIA in Carlsbad--I was there taking my 20 stone exam and she reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in speaking to a small group of students about what I do. We kept in touch to say the least (as I'm covered in sparkly stickers and pins by Diamondoodles) and it has been great to see her Diamondoodles evolve. If you want to see what I mean, check out this ancient feature I did of Hannah when she first started doodling with gems. 

How many times have you attended Vegas jewelry week?

This will be my third year in Vegas for jewelry week. 

Biggest tip for Vegas jewelry week you’d give your rookie self on the eve of your first time going to Vegas?

My trade show advice is: ALWAYS wear comfortable shoes.  People tend to dress more formally at the Vegas jewelry shows, so there can be a temptation to put on stylish heels. I am telling you, it’s never worth it! I spend what feels like 32 hours each day on my feet in Vegas, so I would rather keep my feet happy than worry about sartorial critics.


Name five things you ALWAYS bring to Vegas Jewelry Week.

1. Big ol’ tote bag

2. External battery charger

Pro Tip: If you want the charger to actually make your life easier, recharge it every night. Otherwise, it’s just another piece of junk in your bag after day one.

3. Concealer - I don’t sleep a lot.

4Extra Lighting - Trade show lighting is notoriously difficult for photography, so I have taken to bringing my own extra lights to get crispy gemstone photos and make the jewelry pop.

Benjamin Guttery @ThirdCoastGems - I’ve literally never been to jewelry week without him <3

BONUS: During all my travels I carry a snack in my purse to ward off hanger.


One big difference from last year to this year?

I will be taking over the @AGTA_Gems social media during the AGTA show at Jewelry week this year. 

Don’t worry folks, I will still be posting goodies from the Couture Show and AGTA on my @Diamondoodles account.


Favorite things about Vegas Jewelry Week.

The jewelry industry really embraces the work/play lifestyle.  In Vegas that lifestyle gets exaggerated 10 fold.  I’m exhausted after Jewelry Week, but it’s a blissful exhaustion from all the productivity and fun that I had. 


Biggest pet peeve about Vegas Jewelry Week.

I never get to go to the pool!


Weirdest thing to happen to you during Vegas Jewelry Week in the past.

Isn’t there a quote about this… “What Hannah does in Vegas, stays in Vegas”




WANT MORE? Check out my coverage from last year 

You can follow Hannah --> @Diamondoodles

Five Important Things I Learned from Being a Jewelry Appraiser

Never in a million years did I ever think I would have a profession such as "jewelry appraiser." It was something that I fell into by chance and I'm grateful/thankful everyday for that--because although I never thought it would be something I would do, there wasn't a day that went by which I didn't learn something new during that time. My mind was like a sponge during the first few months of picking up the skills of jewelry appraising--from measuring, to formulating, comparing and researching--everything came almost naturally for me.  Market values and research were aspects I really enjoyed about the job. Things like checking out auctions results, following market trends, and so on--these are things I still do to this day although I don't appraise jewelry on a regular basis anymore. From the moment I picked up the profession and for five years straight, I appraised piles of 10-25 pieces on a weekly basis--that is, fully written up, documented appraisals for insurance purposes. I've worked with clients of all walks of life, even traveling to rural Illinois to appraise an entire estate of about 100 items.

Being a jewelry appraiser is a fun job and very rewarding, but also has its downfalls. For me, personally, I worked in an office with no windows.  The days were long when you had piles of jewelry to appraise--just you and a microscope. My eyesight has never been the same, but obviously aging will also do that to you. I enjoyed breaking stereotypes of a "typical appraiser." Young women usually aren't the ones getting pulled from the back of a jewelry store when someone has a question about their jewelry. I remember a customer telling me, "wait you're the appraiser?  I was expecting an older man!"

I've been putting together this list for awhile now and wanted to share my top insights/important things I've learned from my five years of being a jewelry appraiser--let's start from the top:

1. While most appraisals I've done were dealing with happy clients that were getting insurance on their items to hopefully prevent anything bad from happening so they could potentially be covered--I also dealt with the opposite. So many disgruntled clients who were stolen from or lost an item that they deemed "irreplaceable" only to have it vanish. It happens--jewelry gets stolen, jewelry gets lost. I couldn't recommend getting your jewelry appraised enough! I have never heard so many of the same stories of how things got stolen--the caregiver, the plumber, a son/daughter's friend that came over, the list goes on. Bottom line, if you frequently have people coming in/out of your house--your jewelry items need to be insured and hidden.

2. I've also appraised lots of items that were randomly found by people--whether it was on the ground, inside an old house that was being renovated, or at garage sales in a junk pile--dreams do come true and treasure is still out there!!  My favorite story comes from a lady who was renovating a house that was recently purchased. She was moving an old, tall grandfather clock that was left with the house, when she noticed something behind the pendulum part of the clock. It was a ring box with a solitaire ring inside. She thought for sure it was fake, but sure enough it was an Old European cut diamond that was 1.50 carats and worth $10k!

3. There are a lot of appraisers out there that aren't doing it right. They think putting a crazy high value on a retail replacement appraisal will make their customer happy because it is nowhere near what they paid for that same item. So, this in turn makes the customer incredibly satisfied, thinking they got a steal of a deal. It is crazy because I honestly can't even find comparables or a way to justify valuing some jewelry items so high. In the end, it doesn't really help anyone because the customer ends up paying higher deductibles on insurance and also when they go to sell their jewelry, they have this clouded value of what they think that item is worth. Find an appraiser that is putting reasonable values on things and not outlandish replacement values.

4. If there is any type of jewelry that I feel doesn't hold its value over time, it would have to be watches. I know so many people are going to hate me for saying this, including my husband who invests in Rolexes (not smart lol), but it is true. Resale values on watches are usually less than 1/3 of what you paid for it. That is relatively speaking though. And yes, there are some watches that age like fine wine and hold, if not increase, their value.

5. You're only slightly offending your appraiser when you ask to be present while appraising your jewelry. This was my number one request I would get asked when people would make an appraisal appointment. It was hard to make exceptions for people and allow them to come back into normally-closed-quarters for the public. But at the same time, I could relate and understand where they were coming from. I can't imagine leaving my engagement ring with someone for several days to get appraised. So while it may easily be taken offensively from an appraiser's point of view, looking at it from a concerned client's point of view helps. And yes, I would make exceptions--but no, not everyone does!



WANT MORE? Check out my Instagram Tips

*All above photos are pieces of jewelry I've appraised during my five years as a jewelry appraiser. None of them belong to me.

Gemstone Education: What You Need to Know About the BIG THREE!

FD Gallery FD Gallery FD Gallery



Species: Corundum

Refractive Index: 1.762 – 1.770

Pleochroism: orangey red, slightly purplish red

Specific Gravity: 4.00

Mohs Hardness: 9

Element: Earth

Chakra: Root

Commanding the highest per carat price of all colored stones, the finest rubies range from a vibrant red to a slightly purplish red with medium to medium-dark tones. They are a type of corundum (aluminum + oxygen + silicon), which is colorless in its purest form. Add chromium and you get the strong red hue we associate with rubies. Not to be confused with pink sapphires, which share the same species, the vibrant red of rubies separate it in variety. “Burmese” rubies are considered the finest due to their origins in the Mogok region of present day Myanmar where they form in metamorphic rocks like marble. These marble-hosted rubies fluoresce (the emission of visible light when exposed to external radiation), which adds to the intensity of its color and in turn increases its value. They are often called “pigeon’s blood” rubies.

These naturally occurring Burmese rubies stand out since almost all natural rubies today are heat-treated to improve color and/or clarity. There are also synthetic rubies on the market today, which are created using processes such as flame-fusion, flux-growth, the Czochralski/pulling method, and the hydrothermal method. Some rubies pass as such good fakes, it took months of gemology school to be able to tell the difference!

Throughout their known history, Rubies have been recognized as a gemstone of love and passion with the potential of stimulating sexual energy and desire. Additionally, rubies are known to motivate and balance while promoting courage and prosperity. A stone of royalty, it is said that the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan offered an entire city in return for a large ruby. According to Ancient Burmese legend, inserting a ruby under the skin would ensure safety and invincibility.



Species: Corundum

Refractive Index: 1.762 – 1.770

Pleochroism: violetish blue and greenish blue

Specific Gravity: 4.00

Mohs Hardness: 9

Element: Wind, Earth

Chakras: Third Eye, Throat

Like rubies, sapphires are a type of corundum. The ruby derives its color from chromium, while the sapphire achieves its blue to violish-blue color from a combination of iron and titanium. Sapphires originate in either basaltic or non-basaltic environments. Basaltic-hosted areas, such a Cambodia, Thailand, and Australia, produce darker colored sapphires, which tend to be less valuable. The finest sapphires came from a non-basaltic environment in the northwestern region of South Asia called Kashmir. Stones were only mined in Kashmir between 1881 and 1887 due to elevation, climate, and political factors. Their “cornflower blue” color and miniscule inclusions give the stones a velvety sheen, which commands very high prices. Statistically, 95% of blue sapphires are treated to improve color and clarity. The most common methods of treatment are heating and lattice diffusion. Sapphire imitations on the market today are comprised mostly of glass and synthetic spinel. Common processes for creating synthetic sapphires include flame fusion, flux, pulling, floating zone, and hydrothermal treatment. The United States accounts for half of the natural blue sapphire market, and according to GIA, in 2010 the US imported $214 million dollars worth of sapphires!

Known as the “stone of wisdom”, sapphires can be used to stimulate psychic visions and in this vein, evoke knowledge and understanding. They help the wearer seek spiritual and personal truths while calming and focusing the mind. As a talisman, sapphires were believed to protect an individual from poison and plague while instilling the power to resist black magic.



Species: Beryl

Refractive Index: 1.577 – 1.583

Pleochroism: green and bluish green

Specific Gravity: 2.72

Mohs Hardness: 7.5 – 8

Element: Water

Chakra: Heart

Emeralds are my favorite of the Big 3! According to some sources, Egyptians mined emeralds as early as 3500BC. Egypt remained a key source of emeralds until the sixteenth century when Spanish travelers started mining them in Colombia. With their slightly bluish green hue and vivid saturation, Colombian emeralds are the most coveted of their kind to this day. Other sources of modern day emerald mining/production include Zambia, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. The intense green color found in most emeralds is due to the presence of chromium and vanadium, while the bluish color is caused by a presence of iron. Emeralds are mined in metamorphic rock and their most common habit (a crystal’s external shape) is an elongated six-sided prism. They are often faceted into an “emerald cut” which is a type of step cut with a rectangular or square table and faceted corners. Because emeralds are softer and more fragile than corundum, they are more susceptible to damage during the cutting, polishing, and setting processes. Almost all emeralds have inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, most commonly fractures and liquid inclusions. A fracture that is filled with oil or resin can improve the stone’s color and overall appearance. Emerald inclusions are often called “jardin”, which is the French word for garden, due to their mossy appearance.

Emeralds are a stone of courage. They are said to eliminate negativity while safeguarding one’s physical, emotional, and mental balance. They are also known to aid in the healing of heartbreak, bringing vivacity to the emotional and physical heart.

Scientific sources:
Gem Identification Lab Manual. New York: The Gemological Institute of America. 2012.
Colored Stones: Ruby. Carlsbad, California: The Gemological Institute of America. 2012.
Colored Stones: Blue Sapphire. Carlsbad, California: The Gemological Institute of America. 2013.
Colored Stones: Emerald. Carlsbad, California: The Gemological Institute of America. 2012.


-- Post written by Graduate Gemologist Amelia Kaminsky

--Photos via FD Gallery

Six Gemstones You Might Not Know About But Should!


With the goal in mind to give you a bigger dose of gemstone knowledge, we've teamed up with Amelia, who is also a Graduate Gemologist like myself, to provide some blog posts featuring gems.  We are excited to have her on board and introduce her to all my readers.  A little bit about Amelia:


Raised in Los Angeles and Woodstock, Amelia Kaminsky studied Russian literature and collage art at Hampshire College. After working in the fine art and jewelry industries in New York City, she went back to school to become a gemologist.  A recent Nashville transplant, stay tuned for her Egyptian revival inspired jewelry line!


Red Beryl

Mohs Hardness: 7.5 - 8

Refractive Index: 1.566 – 1.572

Specific Gravity: 2.66 – 2.70

Element: Earth

Chakras: Root, Heart

Where you can find it: Utah

Bixbite, also known as red beryl, is the rarest form of beryl and is found only in the Wah Wah Mountains of southwestern Utah. It was discovered by Maynard Bixby in 1897, and is often referred to as “red emerald” (emeralds are also a species of beryl). It’s beautiful and highly saturated raspberry red color comes from manganese and other trace elements within its crystal structure. It aids in all kinds of healing work, especially harmony and cooperation with others because it protects against negativity. Red beryl is an excellent stone for wedding or engagement jewelry because it stimulates passion, and nurtures affectionate, lasting love.



Carnelian Chalcedony

Mohs Hardness: 6.5 – 7

Refractive Index: 1.535 – 1.539

Specific Gravity: 2.60

Element: Fire

Chakras: Root, Sexual/Creative, Solar Plexus

Where you can find it: Brazil, India, and Uruguay

Named after the cornel cherry, carnelian is a light orange to dark reddish orange chalcedony. Chalcedonies are made up of quartz crystals that are too small to see with the unaided eye; this is called a cryptocrystalline aggregate. They are plentiful, semitransparent to opaque stones that are commonly used for carving and engraving, and have been used in jewelry for almost 3,000 years! Carnelian is an extremely warm and energizing stone, revitalizing the mind and body while stimulating creativity. It helps foster inner confidence and courage, and is especially helpful in aiding those who are looking to overcome difficulties or make positive life changes.



Sunstone Oligoclase Feldspar

Mohs Hardness: 6.5 – 7

Refractive Index: 1.539 – 1.547

Specific Gravity: 2.65

Element: Fire

Chakras: Sexual/Creative, Solar Plexus

Where you can find it: Oregon

There are many sunstone varieties, but I find Oregon sunstone to be the most spectacular. It’s a transparent feldspar with glittery copper inclusions called aventurescence, which create a reddish or golden sheen. This type of sunstone belongs to the species Oligoclase and is in the monoclinic crystal system. It’s a stone of light and energy, bringing luck and good fortune, assisting in the manifestation of prosperity and expanded self-awareness. Sunstone bestows strength, helping the wearer feel optimistic and enthusiastic.



Parti-colored Tourmaline

Mohs Hardness: 7 – 7.5

Refractive Index: 1.624 – 1.644

Specific Gravity: 3.06

Element: Water

Chakras: Heart

Where you can find it: Africa, Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka, and United States

Tourmaline comes in just about every color, and while they all share the same basic crystal structure, each have somewhat different chemical and physical properties. They are allochromatic, which means trace amounts of various chemical elements cause its color. Generally, gem quality tourmalines are elbaites (comprised of sodium, lithium, aluminum, and on occasion copper) that form in pegmatites (an igneous rock where concentrated amounts of lithium of sodium are found). One of my personal favorites is watermelon tourmaline, also called parti-colored, which gets its name from its strong pink and green color zoning. Watermelon tourmaline is a stone of harmony, creativity, and love that assists in calming the mind and wild emotions. It works with the heart chakra to cleanse and remove blockages, as well as balance yin and yang energies. Watermelon tourmaline is also an excellent stone for connecting with nature and mother earth.



Tanzanite Zoisite

Mohs Hardness: 6.5 - 7

Refractive Index: 1.691 – 1.700

Specific Gravity: 3.35

Element: Wind

Chakras: Heart, Throat, Third Eye, Crown, Soul Star

Where you can find it: Tanzania

In 1967, a Masai tribesman came across transparent blue crystals in the Merelani Hills of Northern Tanzania and showed them to a local fortune hunter thinking they were sapphires. By 1969, they had been identified as a new variety of zoisite, a mineral consisting of silica, calcium and aluminum and shortly thereafter Tiffany & Co. named it “Tanzanite”. Known for its strong trichroism, appearing blue, violet, and purplish red or colorless when observed at different angles, Tanzanite is usually brown if left untreated. In fact, 95% of all tanzanite on the market today was heat treated to improve its color! Tanzanite aligns the heart and mind, creating balance and harmony. Particularly effective when worn as jewelry, it helps the wearer feel more grounded and centered, preventing them from dwelling on emotional stresses.



Mohs Hardness: 5 – 6

Refractive Index: 1.550 – 1.559

Specific Gravity: 2.68

Where you can find it: Russia

Element: Wind

Chakras: Root, Solar Plexus, Third Eye, Crown, Soul Star, Earthstar

Named after the Chara River in Siberia, Charoite is a rare silicate mineral discovered in 1940, but unknown to the outside world until 1978. Although a relatively new gemstone, it is often described as having an unnatural beauty; it’s distinct purple body color and swirling fibrous inclusions with sheen have led some to question whether it’s been enhanced or synthesized. Charoite is a stone of transformation, dispelling negative energy while summoning restorative energy. It promotes protection and healing, aiding in powerful dreams.   


>> Be sure to follow Amelia on Instagram: @the_egyptian_revival


Obsession: #Diamondoodles by Hannah Becker

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Whether you're working hard or hardly working, sometimes you stumble upon the coolest idea ever.  That's kind of how #Diamondoodles was born...Hannah Becker, a Graduate Gemologist and jewelry designer, was busy sorting diamonds one day and her creative brain couldn't help but go into overdrive with this tedious task.  It is now my favorite thing to check out on her Instagram feed, with all the doodles soon to be posted on her website (  

If you're loving this project just as much as myself, you can have Hannah feature a piece of jewelry (if you're a designer) in an original drawing!  You can reach out to her through email (

I'm thinking postcards...stationery...stickers! The possibilities are endless and can't wait to see more! The above first photo is Hannah's version of some Gem Gossip!  A #Diamondoodle she made just for me!