Monday, September 26, 2011

Two for One? Turquoise Doublets

Remember this turquoise?

It has a little secret:  it's a doublet.

A what, you say?  Never heard of it?

A doublet is a combination of a precious or semi-precious stone and another, lesser material (such as rubber or glass) glued together. It doesn't happen naturally but is man-made, for any one or more of the following reasons:

- The gem material is too fragile / too expensive alone. This happens often with opals. The fragile opal often material needs a backing for stability before it can be set in metal.

- Alternatively, opals (for example - doublets do happen with other stones but opals are one of the most common examples) can be very expensive. Using less of the pricey gem material and more of a low-cost backing can help defray the end cost of the jewelry. And since, once set, the backs of most stones are not seen, a doublet usually doesn't detract from the finished item.

- To enhance the stone. Again, this happens fairly often with opals. Depending on the type of backing, an opal can become even more vibrant if it is doublet-ed.

Here's an example of an opal doublet (viewed from the side of the stone)

Getting back to my turquoise stones, I don't actually know *why* the turquoise was doublet-ed; but that's how it came to me. And for the ring setting, it didn't matter because no one would ever see the back. But it certainly can make a difference in other situations. For example:

source: Contrariwise Blog

This is not my own work, but that of another 'smith. I am using her photo to illustrate how sometimes you may want an open-back setting for your stone pendant - in this case it let in more light - and also can be a nice decorative feature. A doublet will *usually* not work for something like that. Here's why:

It's a style of stone-wrapping I used to do, years ago. With another piece of turquoise my Dad gave me.
Perfectly nice from the front, eh? But look at this:

Uh-huh. Not so pretty now. The back of this stone, just like the one in the bezel set ring, is doublet-ed. With what I can only guess is some sort of plastic. Why? I have no idea. Maybe the back wasn't polished, was rough, and that wouldn't have felt comfortable wearing in a piece of jewelry. Nor would it have been easy to bezel set with a lumpy and bumpy back. But I didn't know how to stone-set then. This piece was made for me, so I didn't worry about the back, but I would have never bought anything like this to sell to someone else, unless I could have covered the back up.

Doublets are a perfectly acceptable item to use in jewelry, as long as they are disclosed and they are used in an appropriate manner. But it wouldn't hurt to look as closely at the back of your jewelry purchases as you do at the front. A finished piece of jewelry should be just as well-finished on BOTH sides.   :)

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