Jewellery Information


The Design Process

The relationship between a designer and a goldsmith is much like that between an architect and a builder. Each must understand the other's work, so that the finished product is both functional and beautiful. The intuition and artistry of the designer, the skill of the goldsmith, and the vision of the client are the three pillars of custom design. These factors combined produce amazing results.

Where do we start?

The first step is to contact us to make a design appointment with Lesley. Some of our customers bring us pictures or drawings and have very specific ideas about what they want; others need a fair amount of expert guidance as to what the finished product should look like. We spend whatever time is necessary with you to make sure that when the goldsmiths go to the bench, what they create will be just what you imagined.

Even your sketches can help. Don't worry, we won’t laugh.

For a list of the questions you can expect us to ask, click here.

  • What’s your style? Bold and geometric or delicate and organic? Antique or sleek? Are you drawn to symmetry or do you like things that are more unstructured?
  • Do you prefer white metal, yellow gold, or a combination?
  • Should it be 14K or 18K? (See our "Questions" page, #3)
  • If you like white rather that yellow metal, should you choose platinum over white gold? (See our "Questions" page, #4)
  • Will the metal be highly polished or textured?
  • Is the band domed or flat?
  • How wide is your ring? Is it the same width all the way around, or does it taper?
  • Will there be diamonds? What shape? What size? What quality? How many?
  • How will the diamond(s) in your engagement ring be set?

Or if you are more of a "pen to paper" person, download our worksheet

Knowing the answers to some of these questions will help the process along, but we are happy to take you from concept to finished design with as much input as needed, depending on your interest, ability and desire to participate in the process.

How Much Will it Cost?

We always assume that cost is an important consideration, and no custom work is undertaken without an accepted quote and a deposit. In our experience, there are two ways to address the issue of cost:

1) You can give us a budget, and we will work within it; or
2) You can present your idea or vision and we’ll tell you how much it will cost to build.

In the case of engagement rings, we can work out your fixed cost (the price of building the ring you want) and your flexible cost (usually the price of the centre diamond, which can vary immensely depending on size, colour and clarity).

We ask for a deposit of 1/3 down before beginning custom work. We do not accept credit cards; cheque, cash or debit are fine. Final payment is due when you pick up the finished ring.



In order to arrive at the right place, we will need to know a few things about your love’s lifestyle: Is she active in sports? Does she dress up for work? Is she traditional or would she prefer something more avant-garde? Does she wear mostly yellow gold, or should you consider white gold or platinum?

Are you confident that you can pick out or design something she will love? If so, great. You can choose from our collection, or we can help you design the ring that resides in your imagination. If you’re not sure, you may decide to choose the diamond, present it to her, and have her come in for a design consultation. Some women want to be surprised and give you enough hints in advance about the style of ring they are hoping for; others love being part of the design process.

How Much Should an Engagement Ring Cost?

The diamond you select should match both your dreams and your wallet. Spend your money wisely. Comparison-shopping can be tricky because no two diamonds are exactly alike. Two stones that weigh the same and have the same colour and clarity grade may vary vastly in cut. And nowhere is the adage more appropriate than when buying a diamond: If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Two months' salary has been suggested as a guideline as to how much you should reasonably expect to pay for an engagement ring. Some people can afford more than that, but for many, it creates the impression that a beautiful diamond ring is beyond their financial reach. This is not necessarily so. Diamonds come in all sizes and qualities. We always stress colour and cut over size. There's nothing sadder than a really big rock with no sparkle, no life. A high-colour stone of exceptional cut is something you can be proud of for a lifetime, even if it's not the size of a dinner plate. Diamonds really are forever, so buy quality.

You should understand that the larger the diamond, the rarer, and consequently, the more expensive. A nearly flawless diamond that weighs one carat (100 points) will cost substantially more than ten diamonds each weighing 10 points, even if the colour, clarity and total weight are equal.


Our diamond suppliers subscribe to the Kimberly Process, and provide written assurances that their diamonds have not been part of any illicit trade in rough diamonds used to fund armed conflicts.

We guarantee that any new diamond purchased from Finlayson Goldsmiths has been acquired through legitimate sources not involved in the funding of conflict.

Our diamonds are accompanied by grading reports from some of the world’s most reputable diamond grading labs.

What Makes Diamonds so Special?

Diamonds really are forever. They were born in the heat and pressure of earth's molten core billions of years ago. No other natural substance is as hard as diamond. On a hardness scale of one to ten, diamonds rate a ten. The next- hardest gemstones, rubies and sapphires, measure nine, but a diamond is 2,000 times harder than either.

How to Buy a Diamond

Shopping for diamonds should be a pleasure, not a journey full of perils and perplexities. A good jeweller should be knowledgeable and generous with advice and help. We take time to educate our customers, leading them carefully through the four C's - cut, colour, clarity and carat weight - the guide to each diamond's quality and value. There is really nothing mysterious about it. Let's briefly look at each of these characteristics.


The way a diamond is cut and polished is, perhaps, the least understood of the 4C's, but it is the most critical to the look of the stone. The better the cut, the greater the brilliance, sparkle and fire. It's all about light - how it is internally reflected from one facet to another, and dispersed through the top of the stone. If the cut is too deep or too shallow, the diamond appears lifeless. A properly cut diamond is comprised of facets angled to perfectly reflect and refract light. There are 57 or 58 facets in a modern round brilliant-cut diamond.


In the extreme temperature and pressure that created diamonds, trace elements were incorporated into the atomic structure of most stones, giving them subtle hints of colour. The closer the diamond is to having no colour, the more valuable it becomes. Truly colourless diamonds ("D" colour) are extremely rare.


During the crystallization process, minute traces of other minerals can be trapped in the rough diamond, or structural anomalies create feathers or clouds. These natural characteristics are absolutely unique to each stone, like fingerprints. The number, colour, nature, size and position of inclusions determine the clarity grade of the diamond. The closer to flawless, the more valuable the stone.

Carat Weight

This is the easiest of the 4C's to measure. A carat is a standard metric unit of weight – 0.2 grams, divided into 100 points.

Canadian Diamonds

Some of the world’s best diamonds come from Canada’s frozen north.

With this county now being one of the premiere suppliers of high-quality diamonds to the world market, Finlayson's is proud to carry certified Canadian diamonds.

There are a number of companies cutting high quality Canadian diamonds. Each one over a quarter-carat bears a laser inscribed logo and serial number. The diamonds are graded to the strictest standards and come with a certificate guaranteeing grade and authenticity.

In a world troubled by the flow of diamonds used to finance civil wars, Canadian- mined diamonds are untainted by conflict. They are mined in Canada by Canadians.

For more information, visit these websites:
The Kimberley Process


If you bring us a diamond you have purchased elsewhere we will be happy to work with it, but before making such an important purchase on-line, please read the following information.

The great majority of diamond sites that list inventories of diamonds for sale do not own a single diamond. They simply download lists from dealers, change the price to include their profit, and present themselves as major players to the consumer. The operators of the site employ low-cost help with little in-depth knowledge of diamonds. In addition, they have not seen the listed diamonds, cannot attest to the accuracy of information you are given, and in most cases, the diamond is drop-shipped to you from a different company. This means that if a dispute arises, multiple companies will be passing the buck, blaming each other, and you.

So consider the following:

  • Do you know anything about the company you are dealing with?
  • Where is it located?
  • Will they still be in business six months from now?
  • How will you know it’s a genuine diamond, instead of a moissanite or synthetic (lab-grown) diamond?
  • Does the stone match the lab certificate? Is the certificate genuine?
  • How will you handle any disputes with the internet site?

If you find it necessary to mail the diamond back to the internet site and they claim the box received was empty, or they claim you shipped back an inferior diamond, how will you prove otherwise?

No two diamonds are exactly alike—even those with identical carat weight, colour and clarity. Every diamond reflects its brilliance and dispersion differently, and needs to be compared side-by-side with others, both with the naked eye and under magnification. Poorly proportioned or polished diamonds are not denoted on all certificates.

If your internet diamond has been laser-drilled or fracture-filled and these or other treatments have not been disclosed, it could be at risk during setting. The location of natural inclusions can also affect the durability of a diamond. Therefore—for our protection and yours—before working with your diamond, we may ask you to have the diamond verified by an independent gemologist.


1. What is the difference between casting and hand fabricating metal?

The vast majority of jewellery today is mass-produced. Molds are created of original designs, then they are reproduced endlessly. Much of the jewellery advertised as "handmade" is cast and then simply hand finished. Truly handmade jewellery starts as gold plate and various gauges of wire, which are forged and shaped, then polished.

We specialize in hand fabrication, but we also work with a gifted local carver, Brian Bosse, whose talents we employ if your design is sculptural and needs to be carved in wax, then cast in precious metal. We always explore the best techniques for bringing your ideas to life.

2. What's the difference between carat and karat?

Carat with a “C” is a unit of weight for measuring gemstones. Each carat is divided into 100 parts, often called "points." Carob seeds, which are remarkably consistent in weight, used to be used to measure diamond weight. "Carob" eventually became "carat," or so the story goes.

Karat with a “K” indicates the purity of gold. Pure gold is 24 karat. 18 karat is 18/24 or 75% pure gold.

3. How do 18 karat and 14 karat gold differ?

14K is about half gold content; 18K is about three-quarters pure gold. Both 14 karat gold and 18 karat gold are available in colors such as pink and white, although the colors vary slightly between the different karat golds. 18K gold is often chosen for its more malleable properties, such as surrounding a delicate gemstone. Pure gold (24K) is too soft for many practical applications, but is incredibly inert and resistant to chemical corrosion. We like 18K for its combination of malleability, colour and durability.

4. What's the difference between platinum and white gold?

As one of the most rare and precious of metals, platinum alloys are 90%-95% pure. Platinum is heavy! A six-inch cube would weigh about 165 pounds. It is hypoallergenic and compatible with the human body, so if there are any questions about metal sensitivities or allergies, platinum's your best choice.

White gold is a mixture of pure 24K gold with a whitening alloy added, such as nickel or palladium. Nickel makes white gold very hard. Because gold in its natural state is yellow, white gold may still be slightly yellow in appearance, whereas platinum is naturally white.

Platinum is softer than white gold, so it gets more scuffed up over time. But it's far more dense, and resists "sloughing," so it lasts a long time. To improve hardness, platinum is usually alloyed with iridium or ruthenium. Creating a piece of jewellery in platinum takes longer than in gold, and it is more expensive than white gold. There are not many goldsmiths around who can do hand fabrication in platinum. We do it all the time.

5. Why is chlorine bad for gold jewellery?

Chlorine is highly corrosive and will attack gold alloys. Chlorine is found in bleach, household cleaners, swimming pools and hot tubs. Pure gold is very inert, but it is mixed with other metals, called alloys. It is the alloys, particularly copper, that are susceptible to corrosion, which is why 10K jewellery—which contains more alloy than gold—is not necessarily a more durable choice than higher karat gold. It is more likely to become brittle and crack over time if exposed to chlorine.

6. How does a diamond’s cut influence its value?

We believe that a diamond’s cut is the single most important aspect affecting its beauty and quality. A finely cut diamond balances both a high level of brilliance (intensity of reflected white light) and dispersion (rainbow of colors). Many people have wondered why some large diamonds fail to sparkle. Chances are that the cutter focused on retaining weight, rather than on releasing the gem’s inner beauty. If a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow, light is not reflected back out through the top, causing it to look lifeless or dark.

7. What gemstones are the most durable?

Diamond is in a class by itself. It cannot be scratched in normal use, and is incredibly tough. This is one reason for the enduring choice of diamonds in wedding jewellery. But yes, even diamond, having a hardness of 10 on a scale of 10, can chip or shatter given the right amount and direction of force!.

The most durable coloured gemstones include ruby, sapphire, alexandrite and spinel. Of course, even the more durable gems can be broken, scratched or abraded if they are not worn carefully. Ruby and sapphire have a hardness of 9/10, but are softer than diamond, meaning they can be scratched or chipped and should be worn with care.

8. Can you restyle my ring or use my diamonds to design something new?

Yes! Redesigning jewellery is an important part of our business. This is a collaborative process, so the best way to proceed with restyling is to come to our studio to discuss your ideas and see our designs. Bring what you have. The beauty of the new piece takes precedence over trying to use every loose gemstone you’ve got.

9. Can you use my gold to make a new piece of jewellery?

Occasionally we will cast items from family gold, but rarely will we hand fabricate with it, as we can't count on it to behave. Sometimes it cracks or flakes. Using "old gold" to make a new piece of jewellery does not necessarily leads to savings. Also, it will not be karat-stamped, as we cannot be sure of its exact gold content. If we make a ring with your mixed gold and it needs to be sized in the future, the sizing block will show as the gold alloy mix will not match. Usually people choose to trade in their "old gold" and earn credit towards their new design, which will be stamped with our karat stamp and maker's mark.

10. Why does gold sometimes discolour skin?

The most common reason is metallic abrasion, caused by makeup or other abrasive powders. Cosmetics often contain mineral compounds harder than the jewellery itself. If they get between your skin and your ring, for example, they will scour off very tiny particles of gold, which appear black. When these particles come into contact with absorbent surfaces such as skin or clothing, they stick, forming a black smudge.

To prevent this, you could try switching cosmetics. If this is not possible, remove rings and other jewellery while applying your makeup, and clean skin areas in contact with jewellery with soap and water.

Another cause is actual corrosion of the metals. Gold itself does not corrode, but its primary alloys of silver or copper will do so, forming very dark chemical compounds under moist or wet conditions. Also, smog fumes gradually attack jewellery and are evident as a tarnish that rubs off on the skin.

Remove your rings before using abrasives or chemical cleaning products, and clean them frequently. As well as solving the problem, you will be amazed at how much better your rings look!

In addition to these corrective actions, we recommend that you switch to 18 karat gold or platinum. The lower alloy content of 18-karat gold--25%, versus almost 42%--significantly reduces the problem, and the use of platinum should eliminate it completely.