Fine jewellery continues to have a mystical allure and as demand grows, so is the presence of international dealers like Amethyst and Elias Jewellery, which have set up shop in Kenya.
As dealers stretch their tentacles, more value is being attached to genuine and rare coloured gemstones jewellery.
Buying genuine and unique jewellery calls for research. When looking for jewellery, know your preferred metal and the accompanying precious or semi-precious gemstones to help the jeweller get you the appropriate piece or customise a piece to suits your fascination.
Gemstones come in different colours like blue (tanzanite), violet (amethyst), green (tsavorites/emerald) and red (ruby). They are distinct and each piece unique in its own natural form.
Gold comes in four colours; yellow, white, rose and green—with the difference in colour being defined by the type of metal it is boded with to form a stronger alloy. Pure gold can be mixed with zinc, copper, nickel or palladium.
“When choosing a jewellery consider the metal by settling on either white, yellow or rose gold or platinum, titanium or silver. Also look at the stone type, whether it is a diamond, sapphire, ruby or tsavorite,” said Diana Atieno of Porini Gems, a dealership that specialises in loose gemstones, adding that platinum and white gold are quite pricey.
If you want the purest form of silver, 99.9 per cent pure, ask for fine silver.
Ornaments made of gold or silver have a number engraved confirming their purity levels, with the highest purity form of gold being 24 carats.
Ornaments made of pure platinum tend to be more expensive. Sturdy titanium is another precious metal used to make jewellery. Because of its association with durability, it is mostly found in men jewellery.
Bronze, an alloy made of copper and tin has a beautiful warm golden tone. However, the copper content can react with skin oils, creating a greenish layer.
To avoid this, take off the bronze jewellery when sleeping and regularly wash it with soap and water.
Nickel, a versatile element blended with other precious metals can result in allergic reactions. Ask the dealer if the item you are buying contains the compound.
Having picked the metals to be used to make fine jewellery, now get gemstones.
Rubies, spinels, zoisites, garnets, sapphires, tsavorites and aquamarines are examples of the precious and semi-precious found in Kenya.
Tanzanite’s popularity grew but that it is now losing appeal due to oversupply.
Diamonds remain a lady’s best friend, however, there is a growing demand for rare and other colourful precious stones.
“Diamond is the most preferred precious stone for engagement and the bigger and more expensive it is, the better.
Coloured gemstones like sapphire, emeralds and rubies are always in trend. Tsavorite, a stone unique to Kenya has now become a new favourite as Tanzanite’s demand significantly goes down,” said a local gems dealer.
Joel-Noel Soni, a gem cutter said the rare the gemstone the higher its price.
“Sapphires, for instance, are rare and so the price is way higher. The colour and clarity also determines the cost,” said Joel-Noel in an earlier interview.
For gemstones to show their natural glare, a sculptor has to make perfect cuts of the rough stone and polish it to glow.
The lapidary creates a number of facets to bring out different shapes that include oval, octagon round, marquise, heart, pearl, radiant and trillion.
On average, a standard round cut stones can have about 50 to 70 facets that bring out the sharpness of the stone. But Joel-Noel said less is beautiful.
“On average, the stones I cut have 20 to 40 facets, I try to stay out of the way of the crystal so that it shows itself. You put too much facets there is too much sparkle— something they developed for the diamond market— there is nothing really attractive about it,” he said.
The purpose of the jewellery sometimes determines the choice of metal and/or gemstone.
Kenyan jewellery firm, Urban Artefacts infuses semi-precious stones such as amethyst, malachite, onyx, turquoise and tiger eye on bronze to make bracelets, necklaces, earrings and ring; a collection best suited for gifting.
Nicola Hankey-Onyango, the founder Urban Artefact, which exclusively deals in bronze jewellery said they aim at supplying “the fashion conscious shopper with high-end but affordable jewellery.”
“We have two lines—a more affordable line in horn and brass and a high-end line incorporating semi-precious stones,” she said.
For a more personal touch, jewellery buyers can choose to have names, initials or other messages inscribed onto the pieces, a service that either comes at an independent cost or whose price is bundled with cost of the item when making a custom order.
Demand for a receipt and a certificate of authenticity after purchasing expensive jewellery, as this will come in handy when disposing it of.
Further, some items like rings require regular cleaning and polishing to maintain their lustre and the two documents may be needed to claim warranty perks.
“Any proper jeweller should get you a certificate on demand,” said Diana.
Like with all other costly investments, it is advised for buyers to insure the jewellery to cushion themselves from the heartache that comes with loss or damage.
Insurance covers available in Kenya include jewellery in the domestic package that covers household items.
“We have insurance packages for luxury items in Kenya where most of them are under the domestic package where the rich are insuring their most valued possessions,” said Mwangi Githongo, an insurance agent.