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High Quality? Part 7 – Gemstones

There is a huge variety of gemstones available in body piercing jewellery today. Whether it is the cheapest, low grade plastic, mid range Swarovski® or high clarity genuine gemstones there is a gem and colour to suit everyone’s tastes and budget. As well as the standard brilliant cut (the traditional shape of a diamond) there are many different cuts that can make a stone seem brighter, duller, more colourful or subtle. The combination of material, cut and setting together can make a big difference on the final look of the jewellery.

Swarovski® (Glass)

Laser Etched Swarovski® Logo on Gem

Swarovski® is a trademark of the Swarovski company based in Austria. Even though their gems are only glass they are made to impeccable standards. Swarovski® guarantee the colour, clarity, size and longevity of their crystals and they are a great alternative to natural gemstones. Sadly buying Swarovski® isn’t as simple as you would hope as there are several factories around the world that create Swarovski® Elements. The elements range are not made to the same high standard as the gems that are produced in the Austrian factory by Swarovski® themselves. Only Austrian made Swarovski® crystals will have the Swarovski® Text or Swan lasered into them. The lasered logo is small but can be seen using a macro lens (ask your piercer to show you). The elements range of gems tend to discolour and sometimes be foil backed so we recommend that they are avoided. A great example of Austrian Swarovski® Crystal Jewellery would be Neometal’s Clear CZ ends like here

Glass gems that aren’t made by Swarovski® are also used in body piercing jewellery and these will have to be judged individually as there is no standard for them.

At Rogue we inspect every piece of piercing jewellery to ensure the gems are high quality and will last a lifetime.

Plastic

An example of plastic gems with foil backing

Plastic gems are the lowest of the low in the body piercing world. They tend to be foil backed and glued into place. As well as their being a toxicity issue with the glue, plastic gems will also discolour over time. The discolouration is a combination of the gems being soft so they can be scratched and dulled, soaps and shampoos getting between the foil and the gem causing discolouration or the glue reacting with hygiene products. Nobody like green gems that should be clear! When you have spent so long making sure the material and polish of your jewellery is correct, it’s important to ensure the gems will last a lifetime too.

At Rogue we don’t offer plastic gemstones as the quality is so poor that customers will repeatedly come back with complaints. Low quality plastic gems tend to be set into low quality piercing jewellery that is unsafe for the body.

Genuine Gemstones

Genuine gemstones have the broadest selection of colour and finish options. Not all gemstones can be set into body piercing jewellery as they have varying hardnesses and some will crack or crumble when attempting to be set, but even when the unsettable stones are taken away there is still a huge range available. We will cover a selection of colours here but for more information we highly recommend taking a look at the gemstones section on the BVLA website here.

Colour Comparisons

The Star of Africa is the world’s largest cut diamond and resides in the crown jewels of Queen Elizabeth II

Diamonds, Topaz, White Sapphire are all examples of clear stones. Each has different optical properties which affects how much sparkle the jewellery gives. Diamonds are famous for their sparkle and when placed next to other clear stones it is obvious why they are so famous. Topaz and White Sapphire can be great options for cheaper genuine gemstones or for where the stone would be created with a matt or sand blasted finish. The price for diamond body jewellery generally isn’t as expensive as you might think and it is worth asking your piercer for a price comparison rather than just aiming for the lower options.

Opacity

Lace Agate with easily identifiable bands

Stones can have various levels of opacity. A completely Opaque will not sparkle but it will have more vivid colours. Mixing stones with different opacities can lead to very unique jewellery. An example of single stones with various opacity levels would be Agates. Agates are a huge range of stones that are formed slowly and have bands of colour through them. The light play on the different bands causes some colours to be brought out and others to be dulled. It is generally better to use more opaque stones for larger pieces of jewellery e.g. ear weights

Clarity

The clarity of a stone is the opposite end to opacity as it is all about how clear a piece of jewellery is. High clarity diamonds will be perfectly clear, lower grades would potentially have tiny flecks inside which cause the stone to reflect and refract less light. For large stones the it is important to get a higher clarity as the imperfections will be able to be seen but for smaller stones it isn’t as important so can be a good way to reduce the cost of a piece of jewellery rather than going to glass or plastic gems.

Inclusions

Rutilated Quartz with visible inclusions in a spherical cut

Inclusions are much larger imperfections that give the stone its character. Rutilated Quartz would be a prime example of this. The strands that run through it are from a titanium ore known as Rutile and it is these strands that are wanted for this stone. Inclusions can come in the form of specks, strands, bands and more. Inclusions can be a great way to add an extra colour to a piece of jewellery without adding extra stones.

Treated Stones

Mystic Topaz has otherworldly colours from radiation treatment

Treated stones are natural gems that have been through a process to change the colour. Some of the colours and finishes that are available can be surreal and very different to natural stones. the main downside to treated stones are that the treatment only affects the surface and so can be worn off over time. Examples of treated stones would be Mystic Topaz and Mercury Mist Topaz which both go through radiation to achieve their finish.

Synthetic Stones

A comparison of natural and synthetic Opal

Synthetic doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality when it comes to body piercing jewellery. The main example of a synthetic stone that is widely used is lab grown opals. Natural Opals cannot survive the sterilisation process of an autoclave as they have a tendency to crack or explode. Synthetic Opals look very similar but as they are made from more stable materials they can be sterilised and have really broadened the range of mid range priced body piercing jewellery. As with glass stones there aren’t any fixed standards for synthetic stones so it is worth checking voer each one carefully. Make to also check you know if the stone is genuine or synthetic before you purchase as a lot of piercers just combine genuine and synthetic into Opal rather than Faux-pal/Synthetic Opal and Genuine Opal.

Cuts

The cut of a stone can really affect the lightplay within the stone, its ability to be set and its longevity. We will list a few of the common gem cuts here but it would take much more than this blog to explain them all. For more info we recommend a look at the BVLA gemstone page here

Various Gem Cuts Shown on the BVLA website

Brilliant/Round

A brilliant or round cut stone is cut to make light reflect and refract inside the lower part of the stone and bounce out of the top where the stone is most commonly viewed. Clear and translucent stones tend to work well with this cut as it makes them sparkle.

Cabochon

Cabochon cuts are normally used on stones that are opaque and with inclusions. The half sphere shape gives the stone maximum visibility for its colour and reflects light from the surface rather than inside the gem. Synthetic Opals are a great example of cabochon jewellery.

Emerald

As well as being a stone, Emerald is also a stone cut. Emerald cuts tend to be larger than round cuts to make the most of the rectangular shape. Much like brilliant cuts these are best used with transparent stones as the cuts cause reflection and refraction inside the stone to give them sparkle.

Pear

Pear cuts work well for most stone types as long as the stone is a larger size. The cut can be used to reflect light from the surface or within the stone. Opaque stones will generally be larger as they don’t have the sparkle that transparent stones have. Pear cuts can be set in many ways so it is worth talking with your piercer about what you want to achieve before selecting a pear cut.

Well after that bumper issue of knowledge we will be back next week with an article all about Anodising. Have a good week everyone!

1 thought on “High Quality? Part 7 – Gemstones

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