Glow Up

When Andy and I were looking at diamonds for my engagement ring years ago, I fell in love with my current stone because it is sparkly, crisply white, and a well-proportioned oval. I remember our consultant mentioning in passing that the diamond had some fluorescence. When I pressed her on the implications of that, she explained that fluorescent diamonds can sometimes look “oily” in bright light (whatever that means). I didn’t think much of it at the time. But for years thereafter, when I would glance at my ring in full sun, I had a nagging feeling that its fluorescence was somehow a flaw–even though, had I not known, I never would have thought a thing of it.

Fast forward to this year. I was recently scrolling through Instagram and saw an ad for Luminous Diamonds, which are marketed as being extra fancy because they are fluorescent! Somewhere along the way, this unusual property has been elevated from a less-than-desirable characteristic to an actual selling point:


So what exactly is fluorescence? According to the Luminous Diamonds website:

When conditions are just right, the nitrogen atoms in natural diamonds form patterns of perfect triangles, or ‘N3 centers,’ which reflects light in a truly unique way. Rather than being transparent in UV light, diamonds with sufficiently high quantities of these ‘N3 centers’ absorb and transform invisible UV ‘black light’ into a beautiful blue glow.

The way to test fluorescence is to shine a black light on a diamond and see if it glows (side note: it’s interesting that so many things that are invisible to the naked eye magically appear under black light–I’m looking at you, gross hotel rooms!). Simple as that.

Here is a demonstration with my very own engagement ring that shows its medium fluorescence:

Naturally, I was curious to test my other diamond pieces, as well. I discovered that, of the 17 individual diamonds on my eternity band, 3 are fluorescent–one extremely so (see below)–and 14 are not at all:

The center stones in my diamond studs, featured in this post, are not fluorescent at all, but some of the supporting diamonds in the halo are:

If you’d like to test your own jewelry at home, you can purchase an inexpensive black light here (and when you’re done investigating your diamonds, you can look for bed bugs and dog urine around your home. How exciting!).

Photo showing the intensity of diamond fluorescence described as: None, Faint, Medium, Strong and Very Strong under UV lighting (top) and under normal lighting (bottom).

So, does fluorescence affect the value of a diamond? According to this source, it depends on the underlying color of the stone and the strength of the fluorescence. For diamonds with a hint of yellow, blue fluorescence can actually make the diamond appear white or colorless. So very strong fluorescence in a diamond with color I through M (where D is colorless and the closer you move to Z the stone becomes yellower) can increase the value of the stone up to 2%, whereas the same fluorescence in a colorless diamond can decrease the value by 3-15%. Read more here and here.


Who knows whether Luminous Diamonds will have real sticking power or be a (glowing) flash in the pan. In any case, I’ve come to appreciate my fluorescent diamonds as exemplars of a pretty cool and unique scientific phenomenon.

Marketplace

I used to joke that the parking lot at the end of my block was my “office” because I had closed so many deals there.

Since last winter, I have run a side hustle selling my stuff on Facebook Marketplace. And I’m hooked.

I can’t remember how the impetus to start listing stuff initially came about. Most likely I went down to my basement one day and saw the piles of unused baby gear and household goods and thought I might be able to earn a quick buck. Once I started making regular sales, I began to look at things around my home with a new eye: Do I still like this? How often do I actually use it? What could it be worth? Many things I’d been hanging on to for years suddenly looked like fresh merch for my virtual store.

Then the pandemic hit and, at the risk of sounding crass, it was GREAT for business. People were staying home, staring at their computers / online shopping all day, and redecorating the living spaces in which they were suddenly spending every waking moment. Being home all day myself, I could meet people at all hours between Zoom calls to sell my wares. Hence the dozens of trips I took to the parking lot at the end of my block, which served as a neutral public place for me to meet my customers.


Selling jewelry that I no longer wear has proven to be the most lucrative aspect of my side business. There’s something sad about jewelry that just sits collecting dust. It wants to be worn and admired! By selling it, I’m not just making a little extra money, but I’m also performing the humane service of liberating the jewels so they can be loved by others.

I’ve had some interesting experiences selling my jewelry this past year. To name just a few:

  • I sold this rose gold band featuring pave diamonds, which I purchased during my last year of a law school, to a man who eagerly shared with me that he was planning to send it as a gift to his newly discovered 16-year-old daughter living in Mexico! Apparently he reconnected with a woman he had been in love with many years earlier and learned she had secretly given birth to his child.
  • I’ve swindled only one customer to date, but totally by mistake. I listed this piece as a 14k rose gold ring featuring a morganite center stone and diamond halo. The woman who bought it messaged me the next day to say she had brought the ring to her jeweler for cleaning, and he informed her it was 14k rose gold plated silver. I was mortified. I (truthfully) assured her I had purchased the ring believing it was solid gold, and did not mean to mislead her. I refunded her half her payment, and all was well in the end.
  • I listed this 14k gold ring, naive to the fact that when it comes to trading in gold pieces, people seem to care mostly about the weight. I must have gotten 20 inquiries asking “how much does it weigh?” or “I’ll buy it if it weighs at least 4 grams.” At that point, I realized if I were serious about selling jewelry, I needed a gram scale. Now I have one and weigh everything. I finally sold this piece to a woman who thought it was just a pretty ring and seemed apathetic to its weight (which is good because, full disclosure, it didn’t weigh very much.)
  • As described in an earlier post, I once had a buyer use a “diamond detector” machine to test the stones in a ring I was selling. Thankfully they passed the test, but not without a few tense moments for me.

My experiences as a secondhand jewelry salesperson have taught me some unexpected lessons:

  • Certain jewelry seems to hold its value and popularity better than others. Predictably, people clamor for the recognizable brands like Tiffany and David Yurman. But less expensive, popular brands like Swarovski and even J. Crew sell quickly and consistently, as well.
  • Hallmarks are everything when it comes to reselling nicer jewelry. Prospective buyers want to see pictures of a designer’s mark and the stamp indicating the metal type. 925 is sterling silver; 750 is 18k gold; 583 is 14k gold; and 950 is platinum. You might be surprised to find a 925 hallmark on what you thought was a gold ring, which indicates it is, in fact, gold-plated silver, a.k.a. vermeil (see above — the woman I inadvertently mislead sent me a photo of the “925” stamp inside the ring I sold her to prove she wasn’t lying about its lesser value).
  • People are generally pretty bad negotiators. I can’t tell you how many prospective buyers have started negotiations by asking: “What’s your best price?” or just straight up saying “I like these but I can’t pay [your asking price].” I will never negotiate against myself as the opening move. If you want to offer something less than asking price, go right ahead, but don’t expect a seller to magically drop their price. My favorite failed negotiation was with a woman who messaged me about a ring I had listed for $100, writing, in rapid succession: “$50? $40? Hello?” Sorry lady, but no.
  • Apparently my taste in jewelry resonates with teenage girls.

I sell lots of things other than jewelry on Facebook Marketplace, primarily art and furniture. I’ve started selling things for other people on commission, as well. My parents, for example, have hired me to help empty out their storage unit, which is full of antiques and collectibles. One of my favorite Marketplace experiences to date happened this summer when I sold my mom’s antique bamboo easel to an enthusiastic buyer who, days later, sent me a photo of its final placement in her gorgeous home. That easel never looked better! It felt so good to know it ended up exactly where it belonged:

The listing photo for the easel

The easel in its new home

One of the worst (and most comical) experiences to date also happened this summer, when I listed a pair of new Birkenstocks for a family friend. Birkenstocks are a pretty divisive commodity as it is, because many people seem to aggressively despise them. I suspect my family friend tried the shoes on before handing them over to me to be sold, because there were faint toe marks on the footbed (though the soles clearly showed absolutely no wear). I made the mistake of listing the shoes as “brand new,” which—in light of the toe marks—provoked the ire of half the population of the Chicagoland metro area. In a barrage of fast-flowing comments on my listing, people said horrible things about my character, accused me of being a liar, told me the photos made them physically ill. (Hysterically, in the midst of all the negative comments, one oblivious woman offered me $50 for the shoes.) It was truly awful, and my first real taste of the horrible toll that online bullying can take. I edited the photos to make clear that the shoes were indeed new, and the attacks stopped. But I was reeling all day from the abuse. Now I can laugh about it, but it was traumatic at the time.

The replacement photo of the offending shoes

Selling on Facebook Marketplace has served not only as a recreational outlet for me during these Covid times, but has also allowed me some unexpected, albeit fleeting, human connections that make the world seem a little more…normal. It feels good to bring joy to strangers by imparting to them jewelry and other things that have served me well but are no longer “sparking joy.” (But note: I now have a strict “no Birkenstocks” policy.) The extra money I make that goes toward buying more jewelry as source material for this blog doesn’t hurt either.



PS: I was out for a walk one morning when I came across this amusing ad posted on a schoolyard fence. Not the most efficient way to sell a piece of furniture (caption reads: “FOR SALE (Please leave contact for inquiries inside of plastic sheet)”):

Ring Redesign Part III: The Final Reveal

(If you missed the earlier parts of this series, catch up here: Part I, Part II.)

I eagerly awaited the CAD renderings of my new rings. When the email with the drawings from Andre finally arrived, I could not contain my excitement. As I clicked open the files and laid eyes on the images for the first time, my immediate thought was: “Oh no, I don’t love them!”

The bands were too chunky and wholly disproportionate to the width of the diamond. I disliked that both bands were about the same width. The bezel setting was flat and uninteresting. All told, the virtual appearance of the rings did not at all match my vision of them:

(As an aside, how amazing are these renderings?!)

After relaying my concerns to Andre, he called so we could chat over the phone about how to improve things. Both Andre and the CAD drawer independently concluded that the proportions we initially mapped out were way off. Andre made further suggestions about altering where the band met the crown on the engagement ring, and adjusting the bezel setting to have angular instead of flat side walls, which would expose more of the diamond face. I felt relieved and hopeful that the next iteration of renderings would show more promise.

The revised drawings arrived a few days letter, and they were much improved! The rings looked balanced, harmonious with each other and the diamond, and elegant:

I gave the green light to move forward. Andre explained that the CAD drawings would be used to create wax molds with a 3D printer, and that the molds would then be used for pouring the gold into the shape of the rings. This process–called the “lost wax process“–has been used to make jewelry for thousands of years.


About two weeks later, I received a text from Andre with this image:

The rings were ready!

I visited Andre’s studio again the morning of Halloween to pick up my new beauties. They were gorgeous in person, and everything I’d hoped and dreamed!

The one thing I hadn’t considered was that my diamond eternity band would look too white and pristine next to the blackened crown of my new engagement ring. I asked Andre if he could blacken the eternity band, too, and much to my delight, he performed the rhodium plating process while I watched! It involved “painting” the platinum of my band with a charged electrode dipped in black rhodium solution. Andre politely humored my 700 or so questions as he worked:

The final stack is absolutely stunning:


I truly cannot say enough positive things about how easy and wonderful it was to work with Andre on this project. He understood my vision, included me at every step of the process, and was able to provide exactly what I wanted at a super reasonable price.

In addition to working with clients to redesign their existing jewelry, he also designs original jewelry. Here are some of his latest beautiful creations:

You can reach Andre directly at andrelukawski@gmail.com.


Thanks for joining me on this exciting journey!

Toi et Moi

“Toi et moi”–meaning “you and me” in French–describes a style of ring with two gemstones sitting near each other, symbolizing the union of two souls. Traditionally the stones were identical or at least of a similar size and shape, but more modern designs feature greater variation among the stones.

Napoleon Bonaparte proposed to his future wife Josephine in 1796 with the diamond and sapphire toi-et-moi ring shown below, which sold for almost $1 million at auction in Paris in 2013:

According to this source, the toi-et-moi style was very popular for engagement rings during the Belle Epoque and Edwardian periods in the late 19th / early 20th centuries. Beyond just the romantic symbolism of the side-by-side design, the stones themselves had special meaning: diamonds, which represented love and prosperity, were often paired with rubies, which symbolized passion and devotion.


I recently purchased my very own toi-et-moi ring featuring two pearls mounted in a bypass setting, flanked by fans of delicate blue topaz, on a yellow gold band:

There isn’t much romantic symbolism to this ring vis-a-vis my husband, Andy. Instead, I bought this ring as a gift to myself to commemorate the special bond I share with my daughter, Sloane (a.k.a. my angel baby from heaven), who–at 19 months old–is well on her way to becoming an independent child, though she still relies on me for most of her needs for the time being. It is quite bittersweet knowing that my second (and last) child won’t be my baby for much longer. I hope that the tight bond Sloane and I have now will translate into a lifelong relationship of trust and closeness. In the meantime, it warms my heart to look down at my toi-et-moi ring and think of the pearls as me and my best little gal :).


I found these other toi-et-moi rings that I absolutely adore–some quite traditional, others more edgy, but all beautiful:

Pearl and Blue Topaz Toi et Moi Ring, available on Etsy ($180)

Messika, My Twin Toi & Moi Ring ($4,870)

Swarovski, Attract Soul Ring ($89); similar here

Victorian Pearl & Sapphire Paste Toi et Moi Ring, available on Etsy ($300)

Danhov, Abbraccio Infinity Single Shank Engagement Ring ($4,560+)

Edwardian Style Emerald Toi et Moi Engagement Ring, available on Etsy ($2,000+)

MDC Diamonds, Toi et Moi Emerald Cut Diamond & Sapphire Engagement Ring ($2,150 excl. center diamond)

Antique Pearl and Diamond Toi et Moi Ring, available on Etsy ($695); similar here

Ruby and Moissanite Toi et Moi Statement Ring, available on Etsy ($2,700+)

Vintage Victorian Bypass Diamond Ring, available here ($30,000)

Two Heart Toi et Moi Ring,
available on Etsy ($145)

Vintage Black & White Pearl Toi et Moi Ring,
available on Etsy ($315)

Forevermark, Two-Stone Bypass Halo Ring ($7,620+)

Et toi? Do you like this style?