“This rang is real ‘cause it’s got them holes in it unnerneath the diamonds so the light can git through,” she said as she was handing me a very cheap, and very worn out, costume ring. You know the kind I’m talking about. The kind of ring that probably looked good the day you bought it at the department store to wear to a party that night. Then you lost it a day or so later and someone found it and thought it was real and has worn it every day for 2 years. Now, the glue that is holding in the ½ of the rhinestones that are left has turned green. The gold plating has worn off and it’s kind of brown in some places and green in others. But it’s got to be real ‘cause it’s got them ‘light holes’ in it.
So, I think it’s safe to say that you can’t definitively say a ring is ‘real’ because it has those holes. This one had holes and it’s as fake as they come. So, what the heck are those holes there for? To get to the bottom of this, you have to go way back to the early 1900s.
There was a large manufacturer that made thousands of rings a day that were shipped to jewelry stores all up and down the east coast. One day, one of their employees made an observation that if they drilled a hole all the way through the mounting, they could recover the gold shavings to the tune of something like one half of 1%. If you’re making a thousand rings a day, one half of 1% adds up to real money real quick. They could deliver a ring that was lighter in weight for the exact same price and no one noticed or complained. I wonder if that guy ever got a bonus, or a pat on the back for his brilliant observation?
Pretty soon though, other manufacturers in the jewelry industry saw the savings and everyone started doing it. Gold has always been expensive and anytime you can keep a little bit of it for yourself that’s a good thing.
There was no need to do this with costume jewelry though because there is no real savings on metal weight when you’re using non-precious metals. So back then, that was a pretty good way to tell the real from the fakes. And, this new technique of drilling all the way through the mountings brought an unknown advantage to the table. It gave us the ability to get behind the gemstones and clean the crud out which was a huge bonus.
But, let’s look at Diamond Gemology 101 for a second. If a diamond is properly cut, the light never needs to ‘get out the backside’ in order to enhance the scintillation of the stone. The light goes in the top, bounces around for a while on the inside, then pops right back out the top in a different spot, causing it to sparkle and shine. The hole in the bottom of the mounting doesn’t come into play in this equation. Also, if the ring is tight against your finger, how is any light supposed to get in or out of there anyway?
Fast forward to around now. The new trend is to ‘not drill’ holes all the way through the mounting any more. Why, you ask? Because if you have 135 diamonds in the thin shank of your micro pavé engagement ring, you have 135 holes drilled into the thin shank of your micro pavé engagement ring; 135 holes removes a whole lot of structural support and leaves you with practically nothing holding your ring together. Bump it on something, ever so slightly, and it’ll break in 5 places and you’ll lose 17 diamonds in an instant. So nowadays the trend is to not drill all the way through in order to keep the structural integrity intact. So, now you can’t tell if it’s real or fake ‘cause them real ones ain’t got no holes in the bottom neither.’
Let’s continue the confusion. Why is pennyweight abbreviated ‘dwts’, instead of ‘pwts’? It’s because of the English over there across the pond.
Back in the old days (the ‘real’ old days, not like ‘before the internet’ old days), the English measured their nails by the penny. Why, I don’t know? If you’d like to know more about that you’re gonna have to Google it and do your own homework. Anyway, the designation of an English penny is a ‘d’. If anyone does the above research and finds out how they came up with a ‘d’ for penny, let us all know please. But, the next time you’re at the hardware store, wander over to the nails section and you’ll see that nails are still, to this day, sold as pennies with a d. A 16 penny nail is sold as a 16d nail.
Although the troy ounce and pennyweight system was invented in France, it was brought to the states by merry old England, so it is abbreviated as ‘dwts’ since the British designation for a penny is a d.
Okay then, what the heck is the difference between a troy ounce and an avoirdupois ounce? What, you’ve never heard of an avoirdupois ounce? Without going into the amount of detail that probably only 3 of you out there want me to go into, I’ll make it brief. You other 3 can get on the internet and fill in the gaps for yourselves.
Here’s the basic difference; one is used to measure precious metals and pharmaceuticals, and one is used to measure everything else. And, for a change, those pesky English aren’t involved this time, it’s the French. Both of these systems were developed in France, back in the old, old days. Like back before cell phones even! I’ve heard people proclaim that the term ‘troy ounce’ was named after the ancient city of Troy in Greece, but that’s not true. It was actually invented in Troyes, France where it was used to measure out accurate amounts of gold, silver and medicinal drugs. That’s why troy weights are also called apothecary weights.
For the most part though, in today’s world, the only people that use troy weights are people like us that buy and sell precious metals, everyone else uses the other one that’s hard to spell and even harder to pronounce. The post office uses avoirdupois. FedEx and UPS use avoirdupois. Even your average drug dealer on the corner uses avoirdupois.
But the scale you’ve got sitting on your counter right there is a troy scale, or at least it better be because a pound of rice is actually heavier than a pound of silver coins. Okay, be honest, who just went and looked to see if your scale is troy or avoirdupois? Hah. I actually use both at my store. I use one to weigh metal, and one to weigh packages for shipping.
Oh, look at the time. Dang, and I was just about to get into a discussion about karats and carats? You three people out there that like to do research, do me a favor and check it out and shoot me an e-mail with the answer!
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to email@example.com.