Birthstone of the Month – February’s Amethyst

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day!

For some of us the color purple is the quickest way into our hearts. Often associated with royalty, luxury, magic and mystery it’s no wonder why some individuals are intensely drawn to the color. It might not be a semi-precious stone but we think those with February birthdays lucked out with his particular gem.

Amethyst is composed of the second most common mineral in the Earth’s crust, quartz. Although when one typically thinks of amethyst they picture purple, the stone can also be anywhere from a light pinkish violet to deep purple that can appear more blue or red depending on the light. The most valuable coloring of Amethyst is a strong reddish-purple shade. Colorization of the stone is due to irradiation, iron impurities and additional trace elements.

Historically, Amethyst was associated with Bacchus, the gold of wine, due to the stone’s color and was believed to grant clear-headedness and stave off drunkenness. The Greek word for the stone was “amethystos” meaning “not drunken”. First discovered in 3000 BC in the European area the popularity of the best amethysts have led to the stone been used in religious and royal jewelry.

Until sometime in the 1800’s Amethysts were as valuable and expensive as emeralds, sapphires and rubies. The monetary value decreased when a large deposit of Amethyst was discovered in Brazil. However with the drop in value it became a stone that’s more affordable and easily owned and is still considered the most valuable of the quartz crystals.

Besides rarely having inclusions visible to the naked eye, Amethyst is an easily maintained stone due to it’s level of hardness. Ranked a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, this makes Amethyst a great stone to set in rings and earrings. Cleaning is relatively simple – just remember to avoid coming into contact with household cleaners. Amethyst jewelry can be cleaned with soap and warm water. If you want your jewelry professionally cleaned, a ultrasonic machine is OK as long as your stone hasn’t had any fractures that were filled, however steam cleaning is not recommended (although once in awhile it should be fine.)

You may remember during November we talked about how Amethyst is often heat treated to change it’s color – usually to what is known as Citrine but can also become what is known as Ametrine (a combination of both purple and yellow) and occasionally Amethyst will turn green.

We are happy to help you design the perfect Amethyst jewelry, or stop by to see our current stock. We have several stud earrings, some dangle earrings in both silver and gold, as well as gorgeous pendants and a beaded pearl and amethyst necklace. If you’re out of state feel free email and request photos of our stock. Contact Us HERE.




Birthstone Of The Month – December’s Tanzanite & Turquoise

We’ve made it nearly a full year and the Holidays are just around the corner. Time has certainly flown. It feels like just yesterday we were discussing November’s Birthstones – Citrine and Topaz, and now we’re into December.

Tanzanite and Turquoise are the main December birthstones, although Zircon and Blue Topaz can be used as substitutes. For the purpose of conserving time and article length we’ll stick with the two most popular.

Custom heart shaped tanzanite halo ring by David Martin. Tanzanite is a stone that can appear to be different colors at different angles. This is called pleochroism and is an optical phenomenon.

Tanzanite is a relatively “new” gemstone whose discovery came about it 1967 by Maasai tribesmen/herders in the Merelani Hills near Arusha, Tanzania. Manuel d’Souza, a a Portuguese fortune hunter traveling in search of rare ruby and sapphire, was alerted by the Maasai and filed mining claims hoping the found stones were a sapphire deposit. Instead what he found was a never seen before color of the mineral zoisite and within a short time more than 90 more mining claims were filed within a 20-square-mile area.

Even though no one knew what they really found, it was Tiffany and Co. who recognized its international sell-ability and struck a deal to become the stone’s main distributor. In 1968 they named the gem after its country of origin and promoted it with a large publicity campaign launching the gem into popularity in a short amount of time.

Tanzanite is most valued for it’s deeply saturated blue with violet hues. If you’re wanting a Tanzanite but looking to save a little on the cost, one can opt for a paler shade. The cut of the stone will also determine the price. Displaying different colors from different angles, an optical phenomenon known as pleochroism, gem cutters will often try to emphasize the blue over the violet even if that means creating a smaller finished stone due to the blue being a more desirable and valuable color.

Custom gold and radial cut tanzanite ring by David Martin

When shopping for Tanzanite keep in mind that due to it’s limited and finite source, the price and availability can fluctuate drastically.

Moving to the opposite end of the age spectrum, Turquoise has been around for thousands of years and worn by ancient Egyptian rulers, carved by Chinese artisans, and utilized by the Native Americans.

Turquoise made its way from Turkey to Europe in the 13th century via the Silk Road, and received its name from French term for Turkish stone “pierre tourques”.  Today the United States is the world’s largest turquoise supplier with Arizona leading in both value and quality.

Reticulated silver and turquoise cuff bracelet.

In some Turquoise you might find pices of host rock or “matrix” appearing as webs or patches. In some Turquoise you might find pieces of host rock or “matrix” appearing as webs or patches and while this can reduce the value of the stone, the “spiderweb” patterned Turquoise from the Southwest is considered attractive.

When shopping for turquoise, color typically determines the value. The most sought after color is bright to nearly sky blue. The greener tones tend to lower the value depending on designer. Turquoise also has varying degrees of porosity, texture and hardness with a stone that’s too soft or chalky losing color over time. Some stones are treated to increase strength, color, and smoothness.

While we’re getting a little too close to the holidays for intricate custom orders, consider picking up a gift certificate for a loved one! We’re happy to help find the perfect stones and settings or design something specifically for you.

Happy Holidays!




Markings on Metal Jewelry – What They Mean

A couple of months ago we covered the difference in gold karats. The quick version is the different numbers represent the percentage of gold in the piece of jewelry. 24 karats being the highest amount of gold (99.9% gold), 10 karats being on the lower end (41.7%).

When a piece of jewelry is marked with 10K or KT, 14K, 24K, etc. it’s pretty easy to realize what you have. However, when a piece of jewelry is marked with 999 or (.999), 750, .585, or .417 it becomes a little more difficult to remember what the numbers represent especially when not used to seeing it.

Now that you know percentages correspond to karat numbers you can probably deduce what these different numbers stand for.  For example, because 24kt gold is 99.9% pure, then a .999 mark represents 24 karats. Because 18K gold is 75% gold, you might find the mark 750, for 14K at 58.5% gold you could see .585, and 10K at 41.7% gold you would see .471 for the karat marking.

Platinum jewelry can be marked in a couple of different ways. A straightforward “Platinum”, “Pt”, “Plat” or “950” means there are at least 950 parts per thousand (PPT) of pure platinum in the metal mix. Jewelry that contains less than that can be marked as “Plat” or “Pt” with a number before it denoting the PPT. Platinum gets a little more convoluted when 950 PPT are of the six acceptable platinum group metals with at least 500 PPT being pure platinum – you will start seeing multiple markings for the metals contained.

Gold Plated and Gold Filled jewelry can also have their own markings. HGE (heavy gold electroplate) is a little easier to recognize than Gold Filled markings. Gold Filled jewelry uses a thicker layer of gold than gold plate jewelry and the markings often include the karat of gold with a fraction detailing the level of gold by weight. For example a gold filled jewelry piece could have a marking resembling this: 18K 1/40 GF.

Finally, not all silver is sterling. In order to be considered sterling the silver must be 92.5% pure silver. And just like gold and platinum, silver markings are based on purity in a Parts Per Thousand measurement. Sterling silver can be marked as “sterling”, or 925/.925 and occasionally has these abbreviations SS, STG, or Stg. Sil.

We are happy to answer any of your jewelry questions. Stop by or give us a call!

Black Friday & Small Business Saturday + Prize Drawing 2017

It’s almost time for the Holiday shopping craze to begin. Black Friday (November 24th) and Small Business Saturday (November 25th) are less than two weeks away. Old Town and especially King Street are gearing up to make sure you have a fantastic shopping experience.

Gold Works will be offering 10%-40% off in-store merchandise (excluding consignment pieces), and 10% off jewelry repairs, and a gift with purchase both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. We’ll provide light refreshments, and all those who stop in will have the opportunity to win a Keisha Pearl with Sterling Silver Clasp 7.5″ bracelet valued at $150.

If you’re looking for other fun deals and offers around the Old Town area make sure you check out Visit Alexandria’s list of Small Business Saturday in Alexandria participants. We also have a few favorites of our own not to far from us on King Street.

Now at their new address located at 1129 King Street Pink & Brown Premier Organic Children’s Boutique on Black Friday will be offering 30% OFF from 6am-8am, 20% OFF 8am-10am, and 10% OFF from 10am-6pm excluding custom orders.

Our friends at Imagine Artwear at 1124 King Street will be offering 30% off all winter coats on Small Business Saturday.

Located at 1117 King Street Red Barn Mercantile has some extra exciting plans for Small Business Saturday beginning with a Bloody Mary tasting at 10am, and then a book signing of “A White House Christmas” from former White House florist; Laura Dowling at 2pm. And if you’re in need of a new rug they’re offering 20% off both in-stock and special orders.

The Spice & Tea Exchange closer toward the water front at 320 King Street is offering every customer who spends $50 or more a $10 gift certificate as a thank you. And all shoppers are welcome to participate in seasonal beverage and food tastings.

Because our very own David Martin is an artist in his jewelry craft, we wanted to also include the Torpedo Factory in our list of favorite Small Business Saturday destinations. The Torpedo Factory Art Center will extend their hours to 8pm on Small Business Saturday while art lovers enjoy live music and additional small business highlights.

A few more places that we thank for being good friends to Gold Works are The Lamplighter, Stage Door Deli (directly across the street from us), Tisara Photography & her son Steve Halperson, and Raul’s Menswear.

We hope you make Gold Works one of your must-do places to stop on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday! Check out our sales, enjoy some sips and nibbles, and have a conversation with us!





Pearl and Bead Stringing – Design and Repair

There comes a time when a strung bracelet or necklace just wears out. The clasp might break, the thread my fray, stretch or completely snap, perhaps a bead breaks off, and you think “Well that’s it. My jewelry is done for.”

Before you trash your broken piece of jewelry, or completely tuck it away in your “junk drawer” never to see the light of day again, bring it by the store. We offer an affordable restringing service provided by our store Manger, Regina Gillespie.

Depending on what stringing material is used, wire, elastic, or silk thread will determine the repair cost. Typically we charge $2.50-$4 per inch with pearl stringing $3 (unknotted)-$4 (knotted) per inch. If you’re replacing a new clasp that will also increase the repair cost. We have had customers who enjoy making jewelry at home ask us to help finish the piece for them.

When we restring your pearls (or string our own designs) we use silk thread and double string for security. You can choose to have knots placed in between your pearls. While the knots aren’t strictly necessary we typically recommend it. The knots will prevent the beads from becoming unstrung and lost in the case the strand breaks, and most importantly the knots keep the pearls from rubbing against each other and damaging the surface of the pearls.

We are also happy to help you design your perfect strand of pearls – from choosing the pearls – shape, size and color, to the clasp, finding the best length, deciding on knots or spacer beads, and stringing it for you. We’d be delighted to answer any questions you have including a very popular one, “Are Cultured Pearls Real?” You can click that link to read our short guide to pearl type and terminology.

Birthstone of the Month – November’s Topaz & Citrine

Happiest of Birthdays from Gold Works to all you November babies! Move over Opal and Tourmaline,  it’s time to give Topaz and Citrine the monthly spotlight. If you walk by our store front you’ll notice several blue topaz, and citrine pieces waiting for you to make them yours.

Although often confused, Topaz and Citrine are completely unrelated mineral species except for their similar coloring (although not all topaz stones are yellow/golden). Throughout much of history all yellow gems were thought to be Topaz, deriving it’s name from the word Topazios, the ancient Greek name for St. John’s Island, and all Topaz was believed to be yellow. Similarly, as early as 1385 when the term was first recorded in English, the word Citrine was used to refer to yellow gems in general and not just the yellow variety of quartz we know as today’s Citrine. Other cultures also used to call Citrine “Gold Topaz”, “Madeira” and “Spanish Topaz” perpetuating the confusion. Today “Madeira” Citrine has red flashes in the stone as a result of heat treatment.

This confusion even went so far as metaphysical beliefs. Cultures thought these two stones held the same powers including the ability to calm tempers and manifest desires.  Ancient Greek texts and the King James Bible reference topaz although due to the confusion of what stones were actually topaz the accuracy of the reference could be considered questionable. Additional beliefs throughout years and locations included spell breaking, a pendant giving long life and wisdom, and the stone was included in healing rituals by African shamans.

While topaz is primarily often though of being yellow in color it can come in every color ranging from blue, pink, green, white, brown, purple, orange, red and even grey. The most valuable topaz color is called “Imperial Topaz” and is very saturated reddish orange color. However sometimes the term is also applied to golden and pink, or pink-orange stones. Brazilian Imperial Topaz often has a bright yellow to deep gold brown hue and occasionally contains violet coloring. Brown topaz can also be treated to make them bright yellow, gold, pink, or violet.  Blue topaz does exist in nature but is very rarely found and is often light in color and saturation.

Nearly all blue Topaz stones available today have been irradiated or heat treated to artificially create its vibrant and rich color. This treatment does make the blue Topaz less valuable. Often citrine is also created by heat treating some types of purple amethyst or smoky quartz from certain locations. While the color of Citrine doesn’t vary as widely as Topaz, Citrine has been described as varrying  between yellow, medium gold yellow, greenish-yellow, broniwsh-yellow and even orange.

Most Citrine originates in Brazil however almost all of the Citrine they produce is heat-treated amethyst. Natural Citrine can also be found in Russia’s Ural Mountains, Dauphine, France and Madagascar. Topaz can be find all over the world in 15+ countries including the United States.

We hope you stop by to see our collection of Citrine and Topaz jewelry. Birthstone jewelry never goes out of style – so keep in mind Christmas and the holidays are coming up. If you don’t see something you like in our store, we’re happy to custom design just the perfect piece. (Make sure you read about planning ahead for gift giving custom pieces.) We carry several loose blue Topaz stones that we are happy to set into a brand new piece or one you already have.


Pearls – Short Guide to Type & Terminology

Pearl jewelry is timeless. Their popularity spans centuries beginning with royalty and are still sought after by both young and old. Pearls in every color are acceptable accessories for all occasions; from smart casual to business professional even accentuating and adorning bridal gowns. However these days there are unlimited options when purchasing pearls.

Natural, Cultured, Freshwater, Saltwater, Tahitian, Akoya – confused yet? We don’t blame you if you are. So we’ll try to simplify things a little bit.

One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Are Cultured pearls real?” The short answer is that yes, cultured pearls are real. The difference between natural and cultured pearls is human involvement. To guarantee a pearl, farmed pearls are inserted with a a piece of sand or shell. Just like in nature the foreign object irritates the mollusk so it secretes layers of nacre – the substance that gives pearls their natural colors ranging anywhere from pink, white, silver, gray, yellow, brown or gold. Nacre is also the substance that coats the inside of the shell creating what is commonly known as Mother of Pearl.

The differences between saltwater and freshwater cultured pearls extends beyond the obvious difference in their watery habitat. These differences are primarily cost/value, type of luster, and thickness of the nacre due to the different type of mollusks used (mussels for freshwater and oysters for saltwater). Because saltwater oysters can only produce one pearl at a time and are typically cultivated in parts of the world where labor costs are higher the price is typically higher than their freshwater counterparts that can produce up to 30 pearls at a time and are cultivated over shorter periods of time.

Popular varieties of saltwater pearls include Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea – grown in bays, inlets and atolls primarily in Thailand, Australia, Indonesia and Tahiti. Likewise freshwater pearls are grown primarily in man-made lakes and reservoirs in China.

When choosing your pearls a few things to keep in mind when making your selection is color, luster, surface perfection, and if purchasing a necklace, uniformity of the strand.

We look forward to you stopping by Gold Works to talk pearls. We have several strung pearl necklaces available in several colors in addition to some pendants designed by David. As always, if we don’t have what you’re looking for in the store we’re happy to order something or create it specifically for you.

Thinking of purchasing a strand of pearls or have a strand that broke? Read about our Pearl & Bead Stringing – Design & Repair services.

Planning Ahead for Gift Giving Holidays and Special Occasions

Matching custom sapphire and diamond ring and pendant.

Planning ahead is sometimes difficult, site especially when it comes to gift giving. Coming up with that perfect gift and then finding time to hunt it down can be tedious and mildly stressful, mind especially if you’re looking for something custom and unique.

Here at Gold Works we can help you eliminate some of that stress if you plan to visit us in advance of the holiday or special occasion you’re thinking of purchasing for.

A good rule of thumb is to give us 4-6 weeks for custom designs. This time frame can vary depending on how many custom orders are placed, the intricacy of design, how many times changes to the design need to be made, etc.

The design process begins when you bring/send us a sketch or other image of your concept, bring in a piece of jewelry to replicate or choose one of David’s already existing designs. Once the design has been agreed on, then it gets made into a wax model. We either ask that to come into the store, or if you’re not located locally we send .jpeg images via email. We want to make sure you are 100% satisfied and we will work to make sure the model comes out looking exactly how you pictured it. Then, when you’re satisfied with the way the model looks we begin crafting your custom piece.

If you’re looking to have something made for a Christmas gift this year, we suggest having your orders placed by the first week of November. After that we’ll take custom requests into consideration. If you’re REALLY good at planning ahead now is a great time to start thinking of Valentine’s Day too – pendant necklaces, rings (especially engagement rings), and diamond earrings are all perfect gifts.

As always we are also happy to order the exact item you’re looking for from one of our vendors.

Give us a call, email or stop by the store!

Know Your Gemstones – Lapis Lazuli

Think of the first blue gemstone that pops into your head. Which one did you think of first? Sapphire, tanzanite, blue topaz? Maybe even moonstone or the blue diamond in Titanic? Next time you’re shopping for a blue gemstone jewelry, why not check out Lapis Lazuli and what makes this stone so unique.

Lapis Lazuli’s name is derived from the Latin’s “lapis” meaning stone, and Arabic’s “azula” meaning blue. An opaque stone, it’s rimarily made of Lazurite, Lapis is also comprised of calcite (the white lines and speckles in the stone) and pyrite; a mineral that gives Lapis its golden flecks. Diopside, amphibole, feldspar and mica occasionally make up some of the stone’s composite. Depending on the stone’s mineral composition the color of Lapis can range from deep blues to light blue, to a greenish hued blue.

Ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and China were known to have used this stone as far back as 6,500 years ago. In addition to jewelry, Lapis has been used in everything from Tutankhamun’s funerary mask, jewelry, and wall panel inlays to being ground to make pigments for painters/cloth dying, and eye shadow for Cleopatra.

Today the majority of Lapis Lazuli is primarily mined in north east Afghanistan in the mountains. Chili often produces what is considered “denim lapis”, a lighter Lapis stone due to the even distribution of calcite turning the stone a denim color. Lapis can be found outside of these areas including in Lake Baikal, Siberia, Angola, Canada, Colorodo and Pakistan.

When shopping for the perfect Lapis stone for your jewelry you need to remember one thing. The highest quality and more prized form of the stone has no visible calcite (the white spots/streaks). Gold-colored pyrite flecks won’t necessarily reduce the value as long as they are small and aesthetically pleasing. If the stone is dull and green (too much pyrite) you’re looking at a less valuable stone. Irregardless of value, you should choose the Lapis that suits your preferences.

Lapis Lazuli, in a metaphysical sense is described as a stone of truth. It is thought to promote intellectual ability, creativity, enhance memory while also having the healing ability of helping overcome trauma, depression and grief. It is also thought to encourage positive friendships and relationships for the wearer.

We currently carry a few Lapis Lazuli pieces in the store: three ladies’ rings, 1 men’s ring, a pair of earrings, a pendant, and a beautifully strung (by our own store manager and pearl stringer) 19″ inch Lapis and 14ky beaded necklace.

As always, if we aren’t currently carrying what you are looking for we are happy to find it or create it for you! Give us a call, email, or stop by so we can help you find that perfect piece.

Ring Removal And Resizing – Tips and Tricks

David Martin cutting a section out of a ring beginning the process of resizing to a smaller size.

Inevitably the majority of us have needed or will need to have our rings resized. Rings may need to be sized up or down for several reasons including natural progression of age, injury, pregnancy, temperature and weight loss.

If your ring is too small and you’re struggling to get it off, here are a few tips before must resort to having your jewelry cut off. Try the home methods first because depending on how many sizes you need to go up, your ring may be able to be stretched instead of needing more gold added.

First we suggest you try some hand lotion. We recommend Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula hand cream – we keep it in the store for just these occasions. Just a dab on either side of the ring should allow the ring with some maneuvering to slip right off.

Another option is soap or Windex. Soap/Windex your finger down thoroughly and try to wiggle it over the knuckle. Sometimes you have to pull the skin of your knuckle back toward your hand to coax off the ring.

If neither of these work, we recommend trying the shoelace method. It sounds weird but it’ll work unless your ring absolutely needs to be cut off. First thread the shoelace front to back (so the tip of the shoelace is facing toward your wrist. Then tightly (it’s OK if it looks like the circulation is being cut off – this won’t take too long) wrap the longest part of the shoelace starting up by the right down past the knuckle. While keeping the shoelace tight against your finger, take the part of the shoelace threaded under the ring and begin to unwrap the shoelace. The shoelace compresses your finger, and pushes the ring down over the knuckle.

If none of these home-removal methods work then come visit us at Gold Works! David will painlessly cut your ring off and begin the process of resizing.

We request that you allow your finger time to adjust back to its normal size before sizing your finger so we can size your finger accurately. This typically takes 2-8 weeks depending on how tight your ring had been and how long you were wearing it. Once that time has passed we will happily size your finger and get to work.

Sizing up compared to sizing down does cost more. Price also depends on metal (white gold, yellow gold, platinum, silver), how thick the ring is, and how many stones are in your ring. For example a 14kt yellow gold ring less than 3mm wide with 0-4 stones will cost $65 to go up one size and $24 for each additional size. A white gold ring with the same description will cost $100 to increase one size. Sizing down will cost $42 (yellow gold) and $77 (white gold).

If your ring needs additional repairs we will be able to show you where, what and provide an estimated repair cost. We don’t want your jewelry breaking or losing any stones.

Please expect to leave your ring with us. It’s very rare we can resize immediately. Occasionally we can resize your ring same-day but we typically ask you to be prepared to leave your ring for a week.

If you have any questions please browse through our website, give us a call, stop by the store or send us an email. You can also reach is via Facebook.