The sparkly diamond rings you see glistening in big-name jewelry store windows have come a long way from their earthy roots. For many diamonds, the path from mine to “will you be mine?” is paved with human suffering, child labor and political unrest. Kerin Jacobs is doing her part to end the cycle of violence while bringing couples alternative wedding rings with her company The Raw Stone.
We sat down with Kerin to discuss raw stones, how to save money on an engagement ring and celebrity engagement rings that make her swoon.
1. Hi Kerin. What initially drew you to the world of diamonds/engagement rings? Did you always have a love for precious stones and jewelry?
I was drawn to the jewelry industry generally because I saw a need for an improvement - for the more sustainable and the more ethical - in an age-old supply chain. I decided to find a way to supply the industry with traceable, high quality, and fairly priced gemstones and diamonds direct from the mines. I started with gemstones from an organization called the Tanzania Association of Women Miners (TAWOMA) which provides women with training and job opportunities in mining and gemstone manufacturing while also overseeing its partner mines to assure that they are run in a safe and sustainable manner. Later, I added diamonds. And as for jewelry, my interest in gemstones and diamonds grew from being a part of the industry, plus I wanted to design some beautiful pieces of my own!
2. Can you describe your business to us?
The Raw Stone creates ethically-sourced alternative engagement rings. Customers can choose from our vast inventory of traceable and conflict-free rough diamonds, natural sapphires or cut
diamonds, then select a band from our collection - or design a band themselves - and we create a custom ring for them. We are also one of the largest suppliers of rough diamonds to the jewelry industry.
3. Your gemstones are traceable and conflict free. Can you explain to us what that means?
By traceable, we mean that we can trace them to either the exact mine that they were extracted from, or a series of mines within a particular country. As for conflict-free - this is a term that is specific to diamonds. It means that the proceeds of the sale of diamonds in their country of extraction was not used to fund violence by rebel groups. We actually think that this definition (which is universally accepted due to The Kimberley Process, is not enough to assure that a diamond is ethically sourced, and we go above and beyond the Kimberley Process in order to be assured that our stones come from a nonviolent, safe, child labor-free source.
4. Raw stones have gained popularity over the years. Why do you think that is?
I heard recently from one of my customers that going shopping for an engagement ring is like going to McDonalds versus Burger King. Different jewelry stores but almost identical products. There is only so much that designers can do with the exact shapes and cuts of typical diamonds, and people are becoming tired of the same look. This is a new generation that not only has a new aesthetic, but also takes a greater interest in where they are putting their money. They have access to so much information, and are using this information to make informed choices about their purchases - they want to know who made their jewelry, where it was made, what materials were used, where the materials came from and whether people were harmed in the process of their ring being created. These are all questions that we can happily answer for our customers. And, finally, a rough diamond is a little counter-culture just by the way it looks - it's a diamond, but it's not like someone's mother's diamond or grandmother's diamond. It's something new and different and cool.
Kerin at a diamond cutting facility in India.
5. Do rough-cut/raw stones tend to be more affordable than cut stones carat-for-carat?
Yes, rough diamonds are, by nature, cheaper than cut diamonds of the same quality because they are the raw material that is used to create a cut diamond. When a diamond is cut, at least half of the weight of the diamond is lost in the cutting process, so the price of a rough diamond of the same carat size as a cut and polished diamond of approximately the same quality is less than half. That said, there are lower quality polished diamonds and higher quality rough diamonds, so there are times where a rough diamond is more expensive than a cut diamond carat for carat.
They have access to so much information, and are using this information to make informed choices about their purchases - they want to know who made their jewelry, where it was made, what materials were used, where the materials came from and whether people were harmed in the process of their ring being created.
6. What trends are you seeing in the engagement ring industry?
I've noticed that people are interested in doing something different. They'll choose something like rose gold then have it scratched or hammered, and then match it with a brown or champagne rough diamond. And, as wild as it sounds, these pieces come out simply stunning. This year we had to increase the size of our diamonds because people were requesting much larger diamonds than in previous years. We've also noticed that people are looking for a wider range of colors - pinks, purples and greens are really popular. As for cut diamonds - there is a huge trend in imperfect diamonds, which we call stardust diamonds, because they contain bits of mineral that are visible to the eye and provide for beautiful patterning in the stones that can be black, grey or white. We've also noticed that people really like multicolored sapphires - lots of deep blues and greens. And as for metals, rose gold is really in this year. Price points average around $2500-$3500 per piece, and it seems like everyone is somewhere between a size 5 and size 7.
7. How can a customer save money on an engagement ring without sacrificing quality?
First, choose 14k gold instead of 18k or 24k gold. It is actually a stronger metal, it will hold up longer, and it looks almost exactly the same as the other types of golds. Gold is such a soft substance, if the quality is too high, the ring will easily break or scratch over time. Second, buy an alternative stone for the ring - a very high quality rough diamond or a valuable sapphire are beautiful choices that, though less expensive than a typical cut diamond, are smart investments. Finally, don't purchase from name-brand companies. The prices on their jewelry are raised simply because of the brand, and have little to do with quality of material or artistic work.
8. The Raw Stone also accepts custom orders, is there a custom project you're especially proud of?
Yes, we do! We have a few rings that we are especially proud of ...
First, this rough diamond engagement ring with conflict-free melee along the band.
And this rough diamond stacking ring.
Both were extremely creative projects in the design and how we cast and built the rings.
9. What is the most popular alternative stone for an engagement ring? Are there any semi-precious/precious stones you wouldn't recommend?
Rough diamonds and sapphires are the most popular, with stardust diamonds beginning to trend up as well. I would not recommend black diamonds because there is a problem in the market right now with black diamonds - many of them are created from very low quality diamond dust that is melded together. I also wouldn't recommend gemstones such as garnets that break easily.
10. Is there a celebrity engagement ring that took your breath away?
Yes. I love Meghan Markle's engagement ring. And I cannot wait to create the raw diamond version of it for someone someday. Three large, bright white and clean raw diamonds that are fairly proportional in shape, set just like her ring - it will look amazing.
Kerin Jacobs is a social entrepreneur and designer splitting her time between Israel and the US. You can find her company and work on instagram @therawstone and on her website www.therawstone.com.
Link to original article here.