It seems obvious: precious metals and gemstones are what make jewelry so sparkly and attractive. But what makes these materials shine? If you want to know the ins and outs of outstanding-looking jewelry, you need to understand two things: the art of gem-cutting and the science of reflection.
Gems That Make the Cut
The shape of a gem plays a definite role in how brightly it will shine, through a process called refraction. When light passes into a gem, some amount of that light bends, which can reduce a gem’s brilliance. Even the best diamond cut will only preserve about 92% of the light it captures, but the effect is still more dazzling than less efficient cuts.
A gem’s brilliance also relies on the quality of the stone and the quality of the cut, so don’t treat all gems of one shape as equal. This list is a good guideline for the most brilliant gem cuts, all other factors being equal:
1. Most brilliant: Round brilliant
2. Extremely brilliant: Oval, marquise, pear
3. Very brilliant: Heart, princess
4. Brilliant: Cushion, emerald, Ascher, radiant
5. Less brilliant: Baguette
Spectacular Specular Reflection
When the glint of a diamond ring or a gold necklace catches your eye, that’s the power of specular reflection. When light hits a surface, it can be absorbed, pass through the material (if it’s transparent like glass) or reflect off the surface. For metals, most of the light reflects, and for gemstones, you get a combination of reflection and transparency. When light reflects, it bounces off the surface at the same angle it enters.
This is where cleaning comes in. As surfaces weather over time, they develop microdetails – little scratches and bumps – that cause the light to scatter at different angles, reducing the jewelry’s brilliance.
Polishing with a cloth may only remove surface debris and risks adding abrasions if the wrong cloth or cleaner is used. Fizz (or effervescence) provides an efficient cleaning solution that can get into every nook and cranny, yet it’s gentle on your most valuable jewelry.