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Signed Jewelry

The question of “signed jewelry” has come up on numerous occasions, so I thought I’d show you an example.

This is a signed ring by Tiffany.
signed Tiffany
tiffant signature

In this case the signature tell us all we need to know in order to identify this piece.

This ring is by Tiffany & Co.
The designer is Elsa Peretti. (76 years old and still working for Tiffany)
The 750 tells us it’s 18k Gold.
It was made in Spain.

This example includes a copy of the designer’s signature, but often times there will only be something like a small engraving of the name of the jewelry house (Cartier etc.) rather than an actual signature.

As a side note:
In the US we use karat(k) to indicate gold purity, but in Europe they tend to use numbers to indicate the amount of gold in an item.

European Gold marking

333 = 8K Gold
375 = 9K Gold
416 or 417 = 10K Gold
500 = 12K Gold
583 or 585 = 14K Gold
750 = 18K Gold
916 or 917 = 22K Gold
999 = 24K Gold

As you can see, except for the 8k and 9k, they are pretty much the same quantity as you would find in this country, they just use a different notation.

Photo Box — Redux

I’ve mentioned “the Box” before but thought it was worth repeating.

This was built by MK Digital Direct to simplify jewelry photography.
The Box
The Box Door

These are examples of fast and dirty shots taken then edited with Gimp. –Realistically it takes less than 15 minutes total time to produce an image that’s good enough for most websites.

This is the view through to open door:
watch in The Box

This ring took less than ten minutes from start to finish.
Elephant Ring with gold and diamonds

And this is another watch before the final crop and editing.
watch with diamond face

The Box has three light sources that are selected by switches.

The lights I use the most are the fluorescent daylight bulbs.

These LED sparkler lights give faceted stones, especially diamonds, that extra fire.

The tungsten side lights are used to enhance the color and fire of yellow/orange/red colored stones.
side light

It also comes with an L bracket that allows you to shoot straight down through the hole in the top. This is useful for rings and such, while the open door is best for hanging earrings or watches that are laid flat.

And a simple trick I use for shooting through the open door is to tape a couple of pieces of white printer paper to some cardboard and prop them up near the door facing in, these become reflectors that help fill those annoying shadows.

I don’t know about you, but when I need to photograph jewelry it’s never just one piece and it’s never all one style or type. –So anything that speeds up the process is a good thing.

Another Jewelry Photo Tip

I want to show you an easy way to get jewelry to stand up without using things like a ring finger.

We’ve all fought with jewelry that refuses to cooperate. In fact all of us have had days when the lighting makes us crazy, then when we finally get it right, we take the shot and feel pretty good about it. -Until we look at our perfect photo on our computer and see what we missed while we wrangled the lights.

All we can do is deal with it. Photoshop is great, but the more problems we have in the original shot, the more time we need to spend on each shot, which means we end up spending a lot more time of the project than we planned.

So here’s your basic finger shot, and, yes, you can see the display, but it’s not too bad. It did require additional time in Photoshop, but at the end of the day, I feel like it worked.
blue stone ring on finger

Unfortunately it still bugs me. I was annoyances like that, that led me to start using holding wax to get things to stand up or to just stay in place as I set up the shot.

holding wax
This wax holds well and I haven’t had it stain solid surfaces, but I’ve never used it on cloth so I don’t know how well it will work on things like velvet. If you want to try this, it shouldn’t cast more than six or seven bucks at the nearest hobby store. -It’s used to hold things like doll furniture and diorama pieces in place.

I was looking for an example to show how it’s used and this was the only photo I could find that showed the wax under the earrings.

By the way, this is more wax than I needed to use. In fact it bothered me so much that I re-shot the whole series and when I was finally finished the shots felt 100% better. –Or, maybe it was fine the way it was and I was just being anal.

Everything we shoot is a compromise, it will never be perfect. But sometimes good enough is good enough.

Photographing Jewelry Tip

This photograph is a smoky quartz –aka smoky topaz– ring I did a couple of years back.
Ring with smoky quartz gem

I think it turned out well, but that was only after a lot of work in Photoshop.

The problem with photographing jewelry, especially an older, dark reflective faceted stone, is dust. I don’t care how carefully you wipe it off, once you get the piece magnified to any degree you will see dozens of white specks.

The next problem is shipped edges. Almost all stones develop tiny chips along the edges of the facets. These are not generally visible while the jewelry is being worn, but when you look closely with a jewelers loupe or a camera lens they jump out at you.

All you can do is clean it well and then use your favorite software to doctor the final image.

Lint free gloves, a squeeze type air blower (canned air has too much pressure) and a soft, lint free brush help tremendously. In fact anything you can do to minimize dust will help save your sanity. But, at the end of the day, you need to look closely at your latest photographic masterpiece and decide just how much more time you feel you need to put in to the project to make it look right.

I would highly recommend buying a cleaning kit like this from B&H.

This kit will clean both the jewelry and your camera lens, just as long as you don’t touch the bristles with your fingers –the oil leaves traces on whatever you are trying to clean.

Synthetic Stones

The first synthetic flux-grown ruby, was produced in 1873. This was followed by the commercial introduction of the flux-grown Geneva synthetic ruby in 1885 and Verneuil flame-fusion synthetic ruby in 1902.
flame fusion corundum boule

Recently using high-quality flux techniques, Chatham introduced gem-quality ruby in 1959 and blue sapphire in 1975.

The Czochralski growth technique was first introduced in 1918 but wasn’t practical until the early ’60s. This process involves rotating and pulling a crystal out of a molten solution in a crucible. It can produce some of the highest-quality crystals in terms of both purity and defects, which makes it commercially important today.

Today the flux (solution) and Verneuil (flame-fusion) are still the most commonly used techniques for growing synthetic gems.

All these techniques make it possible to create beautiful jewelry at substantially lower prices than using mined minerals. Unfortunately, from a pawn broker’s perspective it can sometimes be very difficult to separate the lab grown from the natural gem, and as a result a colored stone is rarely taken in to account when valuing an item.

This is also why the pawn ticket or sales tag will often read “blue or red stone” rather than sapphire or ruby.

If you want more detail check out the GIA website.

Resin Heads

These are cool heads made out of a phenolic resin, that look like carved wood.

We have a grizzly bear.
Grizzly bear

A mountain man.
Mountain man

And three Indians.
Carved Indian squaw
Indian with bear headdress
Indian chief

They are very well done, and as long as you don’t get right up close they’ll easily pass for real carvings.

I have a house that’s mostly southwest but I don’t have any wall space left or I’d probably take them home with me.

The Price of Ivory has Fallen

Ivory is way down. The price of elephant tusks has fallen from $2100 a kiliogram in 2014 to $730 last month. This, according to Save the Elephants.

The drop in ivory prices is primarily due to China, the world’s largest ivory market, announcing that it is shutting down all ivory commerce by the end of 2017.
elephants photo
Ivory imports to the United States were initially banned in 1989. The result of that, and more recent regulation, is that now you can import ivory for museum but the import must comply with the endangered species act.

If you have heirloom ivory there’s nothing to worry about because the Fish and Wildlife service says you can keep it.

On July 6, 2016, a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States. The information on this webpage is intended to provide guidance for those who wish to buy, sell, or otherwise trade in elephant ivory. It’s important to note that the new regulations do not restrict personal possession of ivory. If you already own ivory – an heirloom carving that’s been passed down in your family, or a vintage musical instrument with ivory components, those pieces are yours. We know those items created long ago aren’t threatening today’s wild elephants.

You need to read the entire article to determine if you can legally engage in interstate commerce (selling across state lines) with your piece. It tends to be a little bit complicated.

Since the ivory market is down, rather than selling it, I’d suggest placing your family heirloom on display so any guests can enjoy the craftsmanship and the tale of how it was acquired.

If you don’t know how your great-grandfather acquired it, make something up, including hunting with Hemingway.
-It’s not like they’re going to fact check the story. 😉

(Photo from public domain

1931 Buick Model 57 -For Sale

In case you haven’t been into the shop, we have a bright red 1931 Buick parade car sitting in our showroom.
1931 Buick mod 57

As you can see from the plates it’s a 1931 model 57.
identification plates

This plate fastened under the right fender well. The number confirms the year it was made.
fnderwell plate

The gas tank and third spare tire.
third spare tire

Some mods have been made to get everything to work smoothly.
adapter plate for rumble seat

An interesting fact is that starting in 1931 and going until 1953 all Buicks had an overhead valve 8 cylinder engine.
272.6 cubic inch, 90hp with 200ft/lb torque @1600 rpm.
straight eight engine

Radiator / hood mismatch because they couldn’t find a decent factory radiator frame when they got to that point.

With the hood open you can see the original green color.
They left this strip so people could see what color it was when it rolled out of the factory.

This is my favorite part:
The frame and license plate read “It’s getting late, we’re too old, to party much.”were too old license plate

It took a bunch of us, with the car on four wheel dollies, after taking the doors off the building and moving all the showcases to get it in here.

Now the owner has decided to sell it. Well, at least she’s taking offers.

Phishing is Increasing

Phishing (pronounced fishing) is usually an email, often times from a known or trusted source like a bank, trying to get you to divulge personal information. –Like user names, passwords or banking information.

Spear phishing is the same thing but targeting a specific individual.

I’ve seen so much of it that I automatically delete it, but once in a while I see something that looks legit enough to make me pause.

I’m sure you see the same, but sometimes, people don’t recognize it and do something dumb.

For instance, my boss called me about an email apparently from Fedex wanting personal data. I told them to dump it, but I looked at it first and it looked almost real. Fortunately Fedex and UPS have procedures that they follow, so no matter well put together the email is, you can usually decide that it’s a scam because of what they request.

My rule of thumb is that my bank already knows who I am and will ask me to call them or login, In which case I don’t follow links, I go directly to the site to get the correct phone number or login. –Be aware that the email address or the phone number you see may not be the actual site or operator you think you’re calling. –When in doubt, contact the merchant or bank directly.

Also, if you get suckered into calling because of an email or even a phone call, you can expect a hard sell and scare tactics from the person on the other end.

If they ask for confidential information, it’s probably a scam.

If you need to fill out a form, the scammers can collect that data.

If it starts out with a generic dear sir/madam it’s probably not real. Every legit communications I receive lately uses my name as they try to act like they’re my friend.

Always type in any url rather than clicking a link. This way you have a better chance of getting to the real merchant.

If it comes from a bank you don’t recognize it is in all probability a scam.

If you are wondering where these people got your email, well some legitimate site probably sold it.

It comes down to this: If it feels wrong but you’re not sure, contact the merchant or bank directly.
If they want confidential information contact the company directly.

I don’t care if they offer you a bazillion dollars, there is no Nigerian prince.

A credit card company just offered me a phenomenal interest rate, but the price turned out to be my allowing them to sell my information, including name, address, and phone number, and use my name in their advertising.

Just remember that it’s not paranoia, they really are out to get you.

Johnson Sea-Horse Electric Model

We have a Johnson Sea-Horse all metal electric miniature outboard from the 1950’s or maybe the early 1960’s in the original box.
Johnson Sea-Horse

Here is a shot of what’s under the hood.

Until very recently outboard motors were a lot more common than inboard motors –and maybe they still are. So when the model boat builders who were building scale versions of the fifties or sixties ski boats, wanted to remain authentic, they bought something like this. -I believe the same company also made an Evinrude version.

In fact I have photos of the 1951 Doc Marston Grand Canyon run that show all of the boats using outboard motors.