Silver Hits 19 Year High!

New York precious metals advanced on speculator and fund buying Monday, with silver hitting a 19-year high on excitement over a proposed U.S. silver-backed investment and gold also extending its rally.

Dealers said positive technical factors and an absence of speculative liquidation in the complex, despite a firmer U.S. dollar during the session, supported prices.

Platinum also was well-bid, hitting another 26-year high, up $7.00 mid-day to $1074/OZ.

“Precious metals are up across the board on commodity-index buying,” said a dealer at precious metals desk in New York.

“Silver’s up, and it is all on rumors about the ETF, and as technical breakouts are continuing,” he said. “The market looks great and it should hit $10 soon.”

COMEX March silver climbed 18.5 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $9.79 an ounce by 10:17 a.m. EST, in a session range from $9.575 to $9.81, which put prices at their loftiest level since at least April 1987.

The market has been abuzz over Barclays Global Investors’ plan to launch iShares Silver Trust, which on Wednesday appeared to move closer to approval after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a filing about its potential listing on the American Stock Exchange.

Each share would be worth 10 ounces of silver. The security would require the purchase of silver bullion to guarantee it.

UBS analyst John Reade also viewed silver as ripe for a trade above $10 an ounce in the near term, after it moved to the fore of the metals during the past week.

Reade said the odds of the SEC approving the ETF looked to have increased to 75 to 80 percent, from about 50 percent, and the silver markets — spot, forwards and options — were adjusting to that.

“But the timing on any further announcement is impossible to forecast, and there is a risk that the move higher (and tighter) in silver may run out of steam, if there is no fresh news on the ETF,” Reade said in a daily note.

Timing in life is everything, ain’t that right , Hunt Brothers?

Very Important Information When Considering a ‘Modified Square Diamond’

First an overview:

1. Princess Cut diamonds have always been the 2nd most popular diamond
after round diamonds.

2. Princess Cut Diamonds have traditionally been popular as a result of their elegant square shape.

3. Princess Cut Diamonds have traditionally leaked light like a sieve from its 4 points (corners)

4. It is very difficult to harness and refract maximum brilliance from a traditionally cut (4 cornered) princess cut diamond.

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In todays market place with consumers becoming more savvy and insisting on only the finest cut diamonds, some manufacturers have dealt with the aforementioned facts by producing new fangled modified square diamonds with tapered corners, all of which look almost identical to one another save for hype and marketing. These modified square diamonds have more brilliance than traditional princess cut diamonds as a result of the tapered corners.

Our company chose instead not to reinvent the wheel but rather to stay with the timeless (un-altered) 4 cornered princess cut diamond and just figure out a way to maximize its light performance.

Here is an article we published on our website to introduce our Signature Princess Cut Diamonds:

http://www.exceldiamonds.com/education/diamonds/superbcert-princess-cut.php

Over time we have been asked again and again by customers searching for that perfect square diamond while trying not to compromise on beauty and brilliance, why it is that we chose to go this route instead of offering some of these modified square diamonds.

We argued that these new fangled ‘princess cuts’ while achieveing better light performance than the traditional princess cut diamond did not look anything like its elegant predecessor. Moreover we argued that the timeless allure and appeal (even in the face of sometimes blatant light leakage) of the traditional princess diamond has everything to do with its shape and facet structure. This is mitigated the minute the corners are lopped off.

It was our opinion that all of these funky modified squares that were being introduced everyday by the dozens (and often by the same manufacturer with slightly different marketing and different romantic names..) would have very limited staying power and would be “here today & gone tomorrow”.

We wondered how a consumer would feel about buying into all the hype surrounding a certain modified square diamond being touted as the end all and be all in “square diamond look-alikes” only to see that “brand” become obsolete a short while later, replaced (perhaps even by the same Mfgr.) by a ‘new generation’ diamond…’better than the last’. Indeed history has proven us to be correct.

We pointed out that by definition, these diamond manufacturers would constantly be replacing these ‘brands’ with new modified squares and new marketing so as to stay fresh and current. To the consumer (and often even from a structural point of view) however, these diamonds would all look exactly the same. Again, history has proven this to be the case.

Finally, we questioned how it is that any authorized diamond seller for these brands could offer in good conscience a diamond lifetime upgrade on these stones given the fact that these diamonds would in all likelihood be replaced within a short period of time by a ‘new generation’ cut, or fade completely into oblivion. Certainly the manufacturer of these diamonds would not honor an upgrade policy created by any vendor for these diamonds???

For all of these reasons and more, we opted for a project of increasing light performance in traditional square diamonds. From this was born our SuperbCert Signature Princess Cut Diamonds.

Exactly 1 year ago we published an excellent case study that we conducted on this topic regarding the “Regent, Queen of Hearts, and Jubillee Diamonds manufactured by The Horowitz-Atlas Group in N.Y.C. This case study was published right here on our diamond blog. Here is the link:

http://www.diamondvues.com/archives/2005/01/ags_diamond_lab.html

These words were truly prophetic as just earlier today a thread was started on a different diamond forum entitled “NO MORE JUBILEE?” where a customer asks why it is that the Jubilee which was touted as the very best in modified square diamonds (and the best thing since sliced bread..), seems to have disappeared off the face of the diamond map with no way of purchasing one.

Here is the response by an authorized diamond vendor for this brand on that thread:

“Hi All,

Yea … during the past few months getting certain Jubilee’s has been akin to pulling teeth and to my knowledge the developer and manufacturer has not been cutting product. We temporarily pulled the shape from our stock until the developer finds a new source for cutting them. I am told he is seeking a new cutter for them. Once they are back in production we’ll announce it via our site. The Square H&A’s and Regents are the best alternatives at this time with no compromise in optics.”

So now the square H&A’s and the Regent Cut Diamond previously replaced by the Jubilee (The Regent Specifically) which was promoted as being better than… is “just as good” presumably because there are still some of these stones left in circulation.

This is why we have always advocated staying with traditional diamond shapes when it comes to purchasing a princess cut (square) diamond. You don’t want to purchase something of this magnitude that will not withstand the tests of time.

We feel this is a very important topic for anyone who is seriously considering the purchase of a princess and/or modified princess cut diamond.

Knowledge is the power to buy informed, and fore-armed is fore-warned.

Judah

Silver, Gold, Platinum continue Zooming UP!

Silver prices spiked to fresh 18-1/2-year highs in Europe on Wednesday as talk of setting up a new exchange-traded fund spurred fund buying, while platinum hit a new record high. Gold also picked up and moved closer to last week’s 25-year high after consolidating in previous trading sessions, with the market tone remaining bullish on worries about inflation and economic growth, dealers said.

“I think there has been buying ahead of any solid news on whether or not the exchange-traded funds will be approved,” said Yingxi Yu, precious metals analyst at Barclays Capital.

Spot silver rose as high as $9.39 an ounce but eased to $9.37/9.40 an ounce by 1108 GMT, compared with $9.17/$9.20 late in New York on Tuesday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a proposal to allow setting up of a silver exchange-traded fund (ETF), Barclays said in note.

Gold ETFs are already functioning and have generated good interest. These products, traded on some of the world’s major stock exchanges, give investors a share of a bar of gold. Analysts say the five gold ETFs now hold 400 tonnes of gold.

“Silver has lagged gold this year so some sort of catch up was inevitable,” said John Reade, analyst at UBS Investment Bank.

Base metals also raced higher during Wednesday London Metal Exchange (LME) pre-market trading, as relentless fund buying lifted the complex’s star performers to fresh cycle highs. [nL25707291]

PLATINUM AT RECORD HIGHS

Platinum surged to its highest ever level of $1,054/1,058 an ounce from $1,047/1,051 in New York as positive fundamentals lifted fund buying.

Demand for the metal, mainly used in autocatalysts to filter out carbon monoxide and harmful particles from exhausts, has been growing because of tighter emission standards worldwide, dealers said.

Supplies of platinum are expected to rise in South Africa, the biggest producer, but a strong local currency has raised operating cost and threatened new projects, analysts said.

“Whilst the market is so incredibly bullish towards metals and speculators and investors are basically buying anything which is shiny, then I think platinum can keep grinding higher,” Reade said.

Spot gold was at $561.80/$562.60 an ounce, compared with $558.20/$559.00 in New York and below Friday’s 25-year high of $567.60.

Gold has risen nearly 10 percent since the start of 2006. Palladium was up at $278/282 from $273/$277 an ounce.

We have already been hit with price increases on our Gold and Platinum purchases and have had no choice but to raise the prices on our Gold and Platinum Gold diamond rings, wedding, rings, and engagement rings.

Vatche, for whom we are an Authorized Dealer will be significantly increasing their prices as of February 1, 2006.

Those of you interested in placing an order should do so now before the price increase.

Can – ANYTHING – Slow Down Gold & Platinum?

Both metals are surging. Gold closed trading on Friday at $556.40. Platinum at $1036.00.

Gold rose as high as $558 an ounce before edging to $557.10 — still up $7.8 or 1.4 percent — by 11:20 a.m. EST on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s COMEX division. The high mark was the loftiest price for benchmark futures since January 1981.

Gold rallied as investors who are bullish on the market for 2006 increased their stakes before an early close on Friday and a market holiday on Monday.

“The funds are coming back to buy it to new highs on a weak dollar and strong euro,” said James Quinn, a market commentator at AG Edwards & Sons, at the floor of the COMEX.

With the strength of the buying, gold prices were able to break past chart resistance at $550.50 and surpass Tuesday’s quarter-century peak, at $553.10.

Money managers and investors have increased their exposure to gold and commodities as they diversify away from currencies, equities and bonds in hopes of boosting returns. Concerns about the economy, geopolitics and a weaker dollar in 2006 also have attracted investors to the precious metal.

“Spot metal also is very strong, and I think you have a very strong cash market with some physical activity,” added Quinn.

Inexpensive Jewlery High on Buy List.

Results from the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council (JCOC) survey indicated that consumers favored staple items over expensive jewelry this holiday season. Holiday sales in 2005 appear to have fared slight better than in 2004.

Only 30 percent of respondents purchased jewelry this year. In a study conducted earlier in the holiday season, 30 percent of those interviewed said that they would purchase jewelry in the months from September to December. The JCOC concluded that most of the people who bought jewelry intended to do so before going shopping.

The JCOC study also found that most of the Christmas buying took place at large retailers and at low price points. Nearly half of JCOC panel members (46.9 percent) who purchased fine jewelry or watches this year bought from a department store, national jewelry chain store, or a mass discount store. Only 11 percent bought at independent fine jewelers.

More than half (56.7 percent) of jewelry purchasers this holiday season spent less than $200 on jewelry and watch gifts, while 33.5 percent spent below $100. Consumer preferences this holiday season included yellow gold, diamond jewelry, precious metal jewelry with no gemstones, earrings, necklaces and watches. According to the survey, 32.5 percent chose diamond jewelry for their holiday purchases.

Of the panel members, 35.4 percent spent more on fine jewelry and watch gifts compared with previous years, while 32.4 percent spent less. Among those who spent less, 30.1 percent said that jewelry was not in their budget, while 16.6 percent said they wanted to buy something different.

The JCOC also found missed opportunities for the industry. Less than 20 percent of respondents said they purchased fine jewelry for themselves this holiday. However, back in September, more than 40 percent indicated that they would make a self-purchase. The JCOC concluded that sought for products were not available for self-purchasers and that retailers need to be sure to include self-purchases in their sales efforts during the holiday.

The New GIA Diamond Cut Grade Is Here.

GIA (Gemologocal Institute of America) the foremost diamond grading laboratory in the world has introduced as of January 3, 2006 their new Cut grade for round brilliant shape diamonds.

New GIA Lab Report.jpg

The New GIA Diamond Grading Report.

Based on fifteen years of meticulous research and over 70,000 human observations of diamonds of varying Cut qualities, GIA has been able to assess the 58 facets that comprise the most popular and most sold round brilliant shape diamond and define it’s Cut quality along the lines of “Excellent”, “Very Good”, “Good”, “Fair”, and “Poor.”

The graph below depicts the round diamond facets that GIA analyzed to arrive at their Cut Grade System.

diamond anatomy.gif

Critical facets that comprise the round brilliant shape diamond. Maximizing a diamond’s brilliance, dispersion, and scintillation depends on the correct facet size, facet angle, and facet alignment of all the 58 facets working in unison. GIA’s Cut Grade distills all of this into an easy to understand Cut Grade.

Below are the measurements of various facets that go into determining the Cut Grade.

new gia insert.jpg

Awesome Diamond Enagagement Ring Experience & Testimonial From Our Exceldiamonds Customer!

Here is a beautiful testimonial that a recent customer of ous sent us a link to. He originally posted this on his personal blog which you can see at www.russmann.com. I am taking the liberty of cutting and pasting this testimonial in it’s entirety here on diamond views. In addition to Russ’ positive experience with buying our Exceldiamonds-SuperbCert Super-Ideal Hearts and Arrows ideal cut diamond diamond engagement ring online, is his informative information regarding his overall diamond shopping experience. For you consumers first starting out on this journey, there is much to learn from Russ’ shopping experiences. Read on.
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Honeymoon.jpg
Russ & His Bride!!

January 11, 2006
Are You In the Market for A Diamond Ring?

My Story of Buying an Engagement Ring

Are you in the market for a diamond ring, an engagement ring, or jewelry? Do you care about acquiring the highest quality product for a fair price? Do you want to make the best impression possible with your gift? This is the story of my four month journey learning the ins and outs of the retail diamond market, the custom jewelry market, and the jewelry appraisal market! Perhaps a short read will help you accomplish your goals in your own purchase.

If you’re looking to buy diamonds for any occasion, or other jewelry, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into, and once you know, it’s easy to see who you can trust. Don’t just blindly hand over your two months salary, or whatever your budget is, to anyone and hope they give you something worth the money – get an education!

In May of 2005 I decided it was time to propose to the most beautiful woman on the planet, and started shopping for an engagement ring. See her picture to the left – I told you she is beautiful! I’m Italian, so before laying down the dough for something I like to know that I’m getting a good value, and not just being played like a schnook. What I found in the diamond retail market is a huge variance and not a lot of help for the little guy.

Diamond education is actually harder to come by than you might expect. If you go to the mall (affectionately known as the maul in the industry) I guarantee the salespeople will not educate you about diamonds. The few who appear to be educating you are very slanted toward pushing their products, so what you get for an “education” is nothing but a bluff. One maul store tried to sell very poor quality rocks with their “proprietary” cut that was really nothing special, but it gave them justification for inflating the price on very cheap rocks. There are four main factors to consider with a diamond: Carat Weight, Color, Clarity, and Cut. To that I personally add Commission, Commodity Value, and Cost, because as a man I want to get the best value for my commodity, while at the same time valuing the emotion involved.

Buying a diamond involves a lot of trade-offs, and each person wants something different when it comes to carat, color, clarity, cut, and cost. Taking those five “C’s,” pick 4 and we’ll talk.

Carat Weight

Carat weight is easy to understand – the bigger the diamond, the more carat weight it has. For an engagement ring, your woman will look at it several times a day for the rest of her life, some estimate a million views in her lifetime, and let’s face it, size matters. I personally decided to get a 1 carat stone. A one carat stone where I come from is basically ridiculously enormous, but the effect I was going for was to really pamper my lady and communicate that she’s ridiculously special to me.

Color

Color is easy to understand as well. The scale goes from D which is completely colorless and for normal jewelry ranges to about J, which has a noticeable yellow tint when you look at it carefully. I wanted to go with something in the GHI color category, because these are colorless to the naked eye, but some color can be seen under magnification. Since my lady wouldn’t be putting her ring under magnification or using special equipment most of the time, I thought that was a reasonable trade-off.

Clarity

Clarity has to do with inclusions. Inclusions is an industry word which simply means natural imperfections in the stone. A stone graded as IF is “Internally Flawless” and has no imperfections. VVS1 is Very Very Slightly Included Level 1, VVS2 is slightly more inclusions, VS1 has more, etc. VS2 is the lowest grade at which you definitely cannot see any inclusions with the naked eye. SI1 is the highest grade at which it is possible to see an inclusion, but it’s definitely visible under 10X magnification. I chose to shop between VS1 and SI1 for clarity. At the SI1 end of the scale I was a little nervous, and since that’s where I ended up buying, let me explain why.

Cut

The cut is the only human-regulated part of the diamond. A diamond cutter gets a raw diamond stone from the mines and has to figure out how to make a masterpiece out of a chunk of carbon atoms. The important factor in the cut is how the cut affects light return. When your lady looks at her ring, and when her mom looks at it, will they see something dull and un-amusing, or will it shock them with its brilliance and sparkle? Thankfully, there is science involved in the cut which helps in locating a well cut stone. You can find information about table percentage, pavilion depth, polish, and symmetry anywhere on the net, but I’d like to share some things which really made a difference to my decision. The crown and pavilion angles are not commonly reported on a diamond, but they have an important impact on the light return of a stone. A picture says 1000 words:

When a diamond cutter decides to go the extra mile, he can create an “Ideal Cut” diamond, with proportions within very exacting limits which should cause the maximum light return possible. When you start shopping for Ideal Cut diamonds, some things become apparent. The discount stores rarely deal in Ideal Cuts. The healthy wealthy stores like Tiffany’s and Co. do not deal in Ideal Cuts. Depending on where you live, local retailers are not dealing in Ideal Cut stones. This leaves the consumer to surf the net and try to find a needle in a haystack of options.

For the amount of money I was spending on an engagement ring, I didn’t want to be disappointed by the light return. It would seem little consolation to me to know my stone rates high in color, clarity, carat weight, and cost if when someone saw her left hand they didn’t see “WOW.” Incidentally, when they do see “WOW” people tend to want to know about the other factors. Even though there is a bit of a premium on Ideal Cut stones, because they take about twice as long for a diamond cutter to produce as a non-ideal stone, I chose to maximize on the cut.

Cost

Everyone is working with some type of budget. When you decide what you’re going to spend, and which parts of the other 4 “C’s” equation are important to you, it starts coming down to nickels and dimes. Should I buy a D color, VVS2 clarity, ½ carat stone, or for the same price should I buy an I color, SI1 full 1 carat stone? Each person must answer this question for himself, and that’s why you need the knowledge. There are a few sites on the web that sell diamonds from a list of available diamonds in the country. They don’t carry the stones in stock, and they’re all selling from the same list. These sites include bluenile.com and dirtcheapdiamonds.com. You can find some smokin’ deals on these sites, but there is a very important drawback to consider.

Service

There’s a world of difference in buying a stone that has all the mathematical proportions correct from a list, and buying from an experienced jeweler who has the rocks in stock and can provide extremely detailed information on light return, as well as the mathematical proportions. In my shopping experience, I did not find this service with list sellers, I did not find this service with Costco’s wholesale jewelry program, and I did not find it with Tiffany’s and Co. Where I found this level of personal service and support is ExcelDiamonds.com with Barry (Baruch) Gutwein.

Barry took the time to help me understand the parts of the diamond market that were more confusing to me and make recommendations based on my needs and desires. For each of his SuperbCert branded Super-Ideal Cut diamonds, he takes the time to provide all this information:

GIA grading report
MegaScope report
BrillianceScope report
Actual Hearts and Arrows photo
Actual ImageScope photo
Actual Inclusion photo
Additional diamond photos
Many sites will show photos of a “similar” stone, which isn’t what you’re buying! Don’t be fooled by this, be very careful as to what you’re looking at in the picture. Once you finally settle on a stone, make sure you put it into something beautiful. Take time to pay attention to the setting.

Setting

Tiffany’s and Co. invented the classic diamond solitaire setting that is the epitome of elegant style in engagement rings. The classic knife-edge ring in platinum is very beautiful and does an amazing job of setting the stone in a way to maximize the effect of all that light return. Unfortunately, Tiffany’s sells mandatory blue boxes with each ring, and those blue boxes apparently cost as much to produce as the diamond and setting put together. I found that a frugal shopper could spend about ½ the dollars to get a perfect stone and setting without the blue box. Not all replicas are created equally, however. For the setting that I like, cheap replicas are available everywhere, but they’re not custom created for the stone, the basket in which the diamond sits is sized to be approximately fitting, then it is molded to hold the stone. It’s also soldered to the shank in most cases, rather than the whole thing being one complete piece of metal. I chose to spend about three times as much as the cheap replicas in order to have one that looks perfectly like the original, and is made 100% custom from start to finish. That choice paid off very well. Barry at ExcelDiamonds.com happens to carry what I consider to be the absolute best in Tiffany-style settings.

Wrap-Up

To wrap it all up, with all that information and research, which took about 4 months of speaking to salespeople, visiting different locations including Tiffany’s in Portland, and several local shops, this is what I purchased for my beloved:

Carat : 1.03
Cut : Super Ideal, H&A
Clarity : SI1
Color : H
GIA Specifications
Measurements : 6.54 – 6.58 x 4
Depth : 61%
Table : 55%
Girdle : Thin to Medium, Faceted
Culet : None
Polish : Excellent
Symmetry : Excellent
Clarity Characteristics : Crystal, Cloud, Needle
Fluorescence : Medium blue
MegaScope Specifications
Crown Angle : 34.3
Crown Height : 14.6%
Pavil. Angle : 41%
Pavil. Depth : 43.3%

Pictures are included at the end of this article.

In the end, I purchased from Barry at Superb Cert, and didn’t go to either Tiffany’s or Costco. Here’s why:

Tiffany’s:

I found someone on diamondtalk.com who pointed out via PM that no one knows she’s wearing a Tiffany unless she tells them. When they see it, it’s pretty, but the ring should speak for itself. Since I could get a lot more brilliance and bang for my buck elsewhere…

And my (now wife) isn’t the type of gal to care about the brand name. She does care about the quality, and if she knows a certain brand is quality she likes that, but in the end, she’d rather have something awesome that isn’t a brand than something less awesome that is a brand.

Costco:

For the undereducated buyer, Costco is probably a good choice. However, once I settled on wanting a specific setting, Costco can’t help. The Tiffany classic e-ring setting is the classiest ring I’ve seen, and Costco’s version of it misses the boat. Their rocks are decent, but in the end I wanted the most brilliance for the buck and decided an ideal cut was necessary.


The Winner: SuperbCert – Barry and Judah Gutwein

Their Tiffany setting is 100% perfect. In fact, it’s more perfect than the original. The prongs that hold on the rock are chevron’d at the top, whereas the originals are just flat. It adds to the look and class. My wife and I visited Chicago for our honeymoon, and went to the Tiffany’s there. She compared her ring to what they have in the case and was honestly more impressed with hers than what Tiffany’s was selling. SuperbCert’s ideal cut stones are a little more expensive than the “diamond list” retailers like Blue Nile etc. However, I am comfortable paying that little extra to get full disclosure on the exact rock I’m purchasing online. With the others, you get specs but no light analysis, inclusion map, etc. Also, they’re hand picked by Barry and Judah specifically as excellent light performers. I understand it is possible to get a 0-0-0 that is still not actually looking good under light conditions.

They were able to work with me on price point and Barry was the absolute best pre-sales service to work with. No one else even came close.

I really recommend getting a thorough education on diamonds before buying. If you don’t have time for that, I believe you can trust Barry to shoot you straight.

The Proposal, and Why Light Return is Important

This is the part of the story I’m sure you’ve been waiting for. How did the proposal go? Did she like it? Did her mom like it? Is she the envy of all her friends, enemies, and coworkers?

To propose I decided to recreate our first date as closely as possible. I kept track of what I wore that day and dressed the same. I picked her up at the same time, and had the same music playing in the car. I wasn’t able to use the same car as our first date (I had borrowed a Porsche Boxter, but my friend has since sold it), but we did take a nice car. I took her to the same restaurant and on the same after dinner drive to a view spot for a romantic setting to sit and talk.

The restaurant is called The Wine Cellar and is a wine bar with live jazz and blues every night. We got an out of the way table and ordered two flights of port, and something to snack on. The Wine Cellar is very dimly lit, and a candle on your table provides most of the lighting. At the right time, I got on my knee and presented her with the ring and a question.

It was at this point that the light return of a Super-Ideal Cut stone became very important. In the low lit club it showed brilliance and fire that was unbelievable. The size was noticed second, as it just shone so clearly. We left and took a walk, and under some fluorescent lights it returned so much white light that it was a bit surreal. The next day, in the sunshine, it was a driving hazard as it did its best to knock out the eyes of anyone on the road. Bottom line, it’s a hit!

And, she said yes. She’s quite impressed, and her mom is impressed, and her women friend just can’t help but to gawk and giggle over the deal. An unintended consequence of this is her unmarried friends’ boyfriends now have a lot of work cut out for them. I hear that at least one of them wants my help when he gets ready to go shopping.

What Now?

If you’re looking for a quality diamond, a quality setting, and a reasonable price for diamond jewelry, I seriously recommend that you give Barry at ExcelDiamonds.com a chance to help you find the best deal for your money. Barry is the type of guy who doesn’t hoard all the good stuff to himself, so he created a referral program to bless those who send business his way. When you contact Barry, please go to this page:

Refer A Diamond

Click the radio button next to this:

a new customer; I have been referred by a friend who has purchased from Excel Diamonds previously: Below please find my information. I have been referred to SuperbCert/Exceldiamonds prior to my purchase by the individual below.

For my information, please use this:

First Name: Russell
Last Name: Mann
E-mail Address: russell.mann@gmail.com
Best Contact Phone #: 208-773-6310

If you do contact Barry about a diamond, let me know, I’m interested to see what others experiences are at this!

For more pictures, see the rest of this article.

Appraisal

Once you have your ring, make sure you get it independently appraised. If you pay more than 1 large for it, you’ll probably want some type of insurance for loss, theft, etc. 99% of the appraisers out there are connected with a jewlery retailer. It is not possible for these people to be truly objective about the value of any jewlery, as they have a stake in selling you something other than the appraisal. I found the only independent appraiser in Spokane, WA – Jan Jennings. Her company name is Master Jewelry Appraisal Services and she did a great job for us. Her phone is (509) 534-6555.

If you get an ideal-cut stone, make sure your appraiser includes this information on the appraisal, because that is what the insurance company will go off of if you need to make a claim. They will replace with like kind, so make sure the details of your cut and setting are well understood. Re-appraise every 5 years to make sure the value you’re insuring is proper to the actual stone.

Gold Keeps On Truckin’!

Gold futures finished Monday above $550 an ounce for the first time since early 1981, as weakness in the dollar helped spark investment demand for the metal.

“Gold continues to rally on continued U.S. dollar weakness, a trend I expect to continue over the next week,” said Matthew Parry, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

He added that he remains “reasonably bullish on gold over the medium term,” forecasting that gold is headed for the $575 mark on further expectations for a lower dollar.

Gold for February delivery climbed as high as $551.40 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an intraday level not see since March 1981. It closed at $550.50, up $9.30, or 1.6%, at its highest closing level since January 1981, according to weekly charts.

Prices have since pulled back slightly in after-hours electronic trading, falling as low as $548.60.

Overall, “gold bulls have been out in force across most of [Monday's] trade activity, driving the yellow metal to its highest level in a quarter century amid speculation of Asian Central Bank purchases, fund/investor portfolio diversification and concerns over the spread of bird flu,” said James Moore, an analyst at TheBullionDesk.com in London, in a Monday report.

Looking ahead, “the path of least resistance in gold is still pointing upward,” said Nell Sloane, an analyst at NSFutures.com, in daily commentary. “The gold market continues to climb as long as the global economy is positively positioned.”

But “certainly at some price point above the current market, gold will need some type of increased inflationary threat or a sharply lower dollar to extend to the upside,” she warned.

Gold futures racked up gains of more than $22 an ounce last week, finding support from a weaker dollar and China’s announcement that it will diversify its holdings of foreign reserves.

Although Chinese authorities didn’t provide a timetable for any change — nor specify that it would increase its emphasis on gold as a reserve — “it comes at a time when there appears to be a strong consensus for further gains in gold prices over a medium- to longer-term view,” said research firm Action Economics.

“Forecasts for rising demand in major emerging countries in 2006, coupled with constrained supply, underpin the longer-term outlook,” Action added.

Analysts at Dundee Securities also expects gold to benefit from a weaker dollar.

The dollar has come under pressure in the past week from expectations that the Federal Reserve is approaching the end of its rate-raising cycle. At the same time, high energy prices have stoked inflation fears, bolstering demand for gold. See Currencies.

“We expect continuing record U.S. budget and trade deficits to weigh on the greenback,” said P. Mark Smith, analyst with Dundee. “The greenback could weaken further and faster if Greenspan’s replacement takes the chair and eliminates rate hikes or reduces rates.”

Ben Bernanke is scheduled to take over as chairman of the Fed from Alan Greenspan at the end of January.

As gold prices rise, investment and jewelry demand is likely to grow, according to Smith. Meanwhile, the supply picture is weak with few discoveries despite record exploration spending.

“This implies future mine-supply declines, which could accelerate if producers take advantage of the price rise to process lower grades at constant throughput rates, thereby reducing gold production,” he said.

Dundee expects gold to breach the $600-an-ounce level next year. Along these lines, the research firm raised its 2006 price target to $540 an ounce from $500 an ounce.

The company also raised its target for silver to $9 an ounce in 2006 and said that it expects the metal to breach $10 an ounce next year.

March silver closed up 11 cents at $9.283 an ounce, well above the contract’s intraday low of $9.015. April platinum finished up $13.70 at $1,018.30 an ounce, its highest close since mid-December, and March palladium tacked on $7.20 to end at $280.60 an ounce.

Look for jewelers to significantly increase their prices for gold and platinum jewelry within the coming month.

Changing Landscape in Retail Jewelry

Investment fund Newcastle Partners LP has filed a lawsuit against Whitehall Jewellers Inc., claiming the jewelry chain is trying to stymie Newcastle’s takeover efforts.

In a lawsuit filed January 4, in the Southern District of New York, the Newcastle said Whitehall’s directors and Prentice Capital Management LP have conspired to rig a proxy fight over a proposed change in the company’s charter that would allow the board to issue more shares and transfer control of the company to Prentice.

In October, Whitehall announced it had reached an agreement with Prentice to restructure its debt and improve its financial condition. Under the agreement, it would receive a $30 million bridge loan and issue $50 million in secured convertible notes in exchange for giving Prentice control of 87 percent of its common stock.

Shareholders are set to vote on the changes in Whitehall’s corporate charter on Jan. 19.

Newcastle, which said it’s the second largest independent shareholder of Whitehall, has made several tender offers for the company since the financing package was announced. Its latest offer was $1.50 a share.

A Whitehall spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment late Thursday. Whitehall shares rose 1 cent, at $1.24 in morning trading Friday on the OTC Bulletin Board.

In its complaint, Newcastle alleges that Whitehall’s directors would remain in place under Prentice’s proposal and that they have implemented a variety of measures intended to stack the deck in favor of Prentice, including waiving “poison pill” protections for Prentice, but not Newcastle.

The lawsuit also claims that Prentice has contacted selected shareholders who own significant blocks of the company’s stock and offered to purchase their shares at a substantial premium to the market price on the condition they cast their proxy vote in favor of Whitehall’s management.

Earlier Thursday, Whitehall asked its shareholders to take no action on the Newcastle proposal. The company said the board would disclose its position on the revised offer at a later time after reviewing the offer’s terms.

The company said that its board has previously determined that it cannot consider any proposal without a firm commitment for refinancing the company’s outstanding debt and meeting its future financial needs. Newcastle has failed to demonstrate its ability to do so, the company said.