How Long is a Rolex Made to Last?

To say that Rolex watches are not exactly cheap is an understatement. If you do decide to invest in a luxury timepiece, you probably want to know how long it will last.

While they’re definitely made to last, they still need some attention to stay in perfect shape over the years. If you already own one and need to have it serviced or want to know where to repair Rolex watches in San Diego, we have your answer!

With assistance from the knowledgeable in-house watchmakers at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, your Rolex watch is certain to last a lifetime. Visit us today!

How Long Will a Rolex Last?

When you think of Rolex, you think of superior quality and impressive durability. While such a reputation is surely a good thing for a brand, it sets the bar high and inevitably begs the question: do Rolex watches live up to their name?

One thing is certain, Rolex has been consistent in producing top-quality timepieces that keep their luster over long time periods. What’s more, the brand continues to perfect and improve their watches year after year, making sure they still look as pristine in half a century as they do immediately after production.

If you own or want to invest in a Rolex, you probably want to know how long it should last. Thanks to the master craftsmanship and exquisite attention to detail that Rolex is known for, it’s safe to say that your timepiece is likely to stay in good shape for generations with proper care and maintenance.

This is evident in the fact that vintage Rolex watches are a watch collector’s favorite. Vintage models like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner that are still in perfect working condition are quite common. Their appearance may show signs of aging, but with proper service from experienced watchmakers, they’ll look as good as new.

Rolex displayed in Rolex box with card.

Does Rolex Have A Lifetime Warranty?

While we’ve established that Rolex watches are highly durable, they don’t come with a lifetime warranty. Instead, all watches are covered by an international warranty for a period of 5 years after purchase. The warranty excludes:

  • Wear-and-tear (straps and non-metal bracelets)
  • Cases of theft and loss
  • Damage caused by misuse
  • Adding or substituting components with non-original parts
  • Repair or service done by a third-party

Some people may be disappointed with the duration of the Rolex warranty. However, it demonstrates just how confident the brand is in the quality of its products. In many cases, a Rolex timepiece can last a lifetime, especially if it’s serviced regularly. Rolex recommends service every 10 years, but every 5 to 7 years is good for ensuring optimal performance.

Where to Repair Rolex Watches in San Diego?

Rolex watches are undeniably high-quality and durable, but should still be regularly checked. Regular service and maintenance are a must if you want to make sure your watch is always in perfect condition. In the unlikely but not impossible scenario of your Rolex breaking down, you should have seasoned professionals who can fix the issue efficiently and expertly at your beck and call.

Fortunately, you won’t have to search for the finest experts in your area for too long. Simply visit Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers on your way to Downtown San Diego. Our factory-trained technicians can repair your watch with unmatched skill and expertise. What’s more, they can tell you everything you may want to know about Rolex timepieces, whether you want to know how to spot a counterfeit Rolex or need advice for cleaning your watch. Stop by our store today!

Perfect Spots for a Fall Proposal

Autumn is officially upon us, and we couldn’t be more eager for this spectacular season. The time has come to delight in the revelries of fall, like hot air balloon rides, tailgating parties, and scary movie marathons. There’s an awful lot to love about autumn, so it’s no wonder this time of year is popular for marriage proposals. Take in the beauty of the season with your sweetheart and pile on the fall fun while you still have time. And if you’re planning an engagement, check out these romantic outdoor proposal ideas for fall to get inspired!

Campfire Proposal

Fall is an excellent time of year for camping or a backyard bonfire, with just the right amount of chill in the air and spectacular scenery everywhere you look. And what makes a better backdrop for a romantic proposal than a cozy campfire? Snuggle up with your sweetheart, a warm blanket, and a bottle of champagne to set the mood just right. Once you’ve created the ideal ambiance, take this intimate opportunity to profess your love and pop the question.

Pumpkin Patch Proposal

Every autumn, families flock to the pumpkin patch for the quintessential fall experience. After all, who doesn’t love haunted hayrides, petting zoos, and pony rides? If you and your beloved enjoy the nostalgia of this timeless fall tradition, a pumpkin patch proposal may be perfect for you! Bundle up in your favorite fall sweaters, enjoy a cup of hot apple cider, and take in all the sights and sounds of your childhood. After partaking in all the fall festivities, find a quiet moment together to get down on one knee.

Pumpkin Carving Proposal

Once you and your true love have found the perfect pumpkins, it’s time to get carving! This presents yet another opportunity for a romantic outdoor proposal that’s sure to take her breath away. Plan an evening together to carve your masterpieces and tell her you’d like to wait until the end to unveil your handiwork. You can use a printable template to carve “Will you marry me?” into your pumpkin, or even multiple pumpkins if you have the time. Then, once your pumpkin(s) are lit up with a candle, it’s time for the big reveal. Your bride-to-be is sure to be swept away by this sentimental gesture. Plus, a pumpkin carving proposal makes for a great fall photo-op.

Couple embracing under an umbrella on a bridge in a park.

Orchard Proposal

Nothing says fall like an afternoon spent apple picking. Harvest some fresh fruit with your love while enjoying the crisp autumn air. Settle down in a quiet spot for a picnic in the grass and seize the moment to ask for her hand. Once she says “yes,” you can head home with your haul and bake a delicious dessert together to celebrate the occasion.

Park Proposal

The ultimate outdoor proposal ideas for fall include beautiful backdrops that make the moment even more memorable. Luckily, there are plenty of parks around the country that offer wondrous views of the changing fall foliage. Surprise her with a stroll through a picturesque park and when the moment feels just right, get down on one knee and present her with the glittering diamond ring she’s always dreamed of. Be sure to get some snapshots with the lovely autumn leaves to remember the moment for years to come.

Corn Maze Proposal

The festivities of fall just aren’t complete without a trip to a corn maze. You and your love can work together, navigating all the twists and turns. She’ll be so distracted trying to find the right route, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to catch her off guard. Kneel and pop the question in a corner secluded by towering corn stalks. Or, save your surprise for the end, when you’ve finally found your way.

Winery Proposal

Autumn is one of the best seasons to take a winery tour, as many types of wine grapes are harvested between August and October. Wineries are also a superb location for planning an epic outdoor proposal. Not only do wineries boast stunning scenery, but they also tend to offer an array of outdoor activities to enjoy. Sip on some flavorful reds and whites, indulge in some fresh local fare, tour the vineyard, and take advantage of a relaxing afternoon with your future bride-to-be. With the help of a little liquid courage, asking for her hand might feel a tad less frightening.

The first step to planning the perfect proposal is finding an engagement ring she’ll love. And what better place to find exceptional engagement rings than Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers? For over 40 years, Leo Hamel’s has helped countless happy couples seal the deal with engagement rings in every price range. Shop for new, antique, and vintage engagement rings to find the right ring to complement your sweetheart’s style. Or custom create an engagement ring that’s entirely unique. No matter your vision, the friendly folks at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers can help turn your idea into a reality. What’re you waiting for? Visit us today!

Classic & Timeless Jewelry That Will Round Out Your Wardrobe

There’s no better way to dress up an outfit than with the right accessories. Whether getting dolled up for a night out, a vacation, or even just the office – there are some classic jewelry staples every woman should have in her closet. Just like your favorite little black dress, the right accessory will make you feel confident and elegant. But how do you know which jewelry pieces are a must-have? Not to fear, we’ve compiled a list for you!

Diamond Studs

A simple diamond stud is one of the most versatile jewelry items a woman can own. For a more understated look, pair studs with a casual outfit such as a V-neck tee and jeans. Or wear them with a blouse and heels for something a little dressier. No matter the outfit, diamond studs make a great addition, providing the perfect touch of sparkle.

Long Chain Necklace

Whether you prefer white metals or gold, a long chain necklace should be a piece in every woman’s wardrobe. Long chains can be layered together or worn alone, depending on the look you wish to achieve. Tops with high necklines can be paired with a long chain for an added touch of sophistication.

Cartier Tank watch with leather strap on white display.

Cartier Tank Watch

This watch has been worn by the likes of Fred Astaire, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy, and many others since its release in 1917. Perfect for transitioning from day to evening, this timepiece can be worn with almost anything. Though there are various models of this watch, that which is most frequently photographed on celebrities is the Tank Française.

Hoop Earrings

Hoop earrings come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. If you’re looking for something to really sparkle, opt for diamond hoops for a perfectly polished ensemble. Whether you enjoy a pair of mini hoops for everyday wear, or you’re looking for a statement piece for a night out – hoops are a great option to have in your jewelry box.


Pearls are timeless and have been a symbol of elegance and luxury for decades. Pearl accessories are perfect to wear for job interviews, weddings, anniversaries, or any other occasion that requires you to be a little dressier. Invest in a strand of pearls or a pair of sophisticated pearl earrings. They’re sure to enhance any outfit.

Tennis Bracelet

Set with diamonds that encircle your wrist, tennis bracelets are great for adding a touch of bling to your wardrobe. These bracelets are flexible, making them comfortable and easy to wear every day. Because tennis bracelets fit more loosely than other styles, they can be worn casually or formally, depending on the occasion.

Pendant Necklace

Like diamond studs, a pendant necklace is essential for every woman to have in her classic jewelry collection. Nothing is more beautiful than a delicate pendant resting on a fine chain. Whether it’s a monogram, religious symbol, or even a simple shape – pendants come in a variety of styles that can be personalized to your tastes and interests.

Yellow gold crossover cocktail ring centered with a yellow diamond surrounded by white diamonds.

Cocktail Ring

Popularized in the 1920’s, cocktail rings are great for spicing up your wardrobe. They usually feature a large gemstone as their centerpiece, to immediately catch the eye. Though not practical for everyday wear, a cocktail ring will surely compliment your favorite dress and heels – any may even be a conversation piece. One thing to remember when choosing a cocktail ring: the flashier, the better!

Chandelier Earrings

Looking for the ideal accessory to wear with an elegant up-do? Then you’ll love a dazzling pair of chandelier earrings. Usually fashioned with gemstones or intricate metal designs, chandelier earrings are sure to make you stand out. Because of the variety of shapes and styles, the right chandelier earring can enhance the shape of your face. For example, those with round faces should opt for a long, slender pair that will elongate the face and make it appear thinner.

Stacking Rings

Stackable rings are one of the best accessories for personalization. There are no limits to how many rings you can wear at one time, nor are there rules about mixing metals. Depending on your outfit, you can easily adjust your ring stack to match by adding or removing items as necessary. The best part? Designing a ring stack gives you an excuse to shop for more one-of-a-kind items to expand your collection!

At Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, we offer a selection of these jewelry essentials and more! Whether you’re an avid collector, or are just beginning to invest in fine jewelry, there is something for you here at Leo Hamel’s. Find superb treasures such as a vintage pearl necklace, the perfect size diamond studs, or any of these other classic jewelry staples.

A Diamond’s Journey to Fine Jewelry

Have you ever wondered how diamonds are formed and what the mining process looks like? Diamonds have a long way to go, starting with their formation in the Earth, mining, and cutting to reaching diamond wholesale brokers and jewelry stores in San Diego or elsewhere. Read on to find out how diamonds travel from beneath the ground to your jewelry box.

How Diamonds Are Formed

For a diamond to form in the ground, extreme temperatures and pressure are necessary. More specifically, the temperature has to be between 1700 and 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, while the pressure has to be between 650k and 870k pounds per square inch. This critical environment is necessary not only for diamond formation but also diamond stability. According to geologists, commercial diamond deposits contain diamonds that are formed in the Earth’s mantle, 90-120 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Once formed, these diamonds are believed to be brought to the surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions. Diamond prospectors are on the lookout for kimberlite and lamproite pipes formed during these eruptions.

Main Diamond Miners and Producers

Originally, the majority of the world’s diamonds came from South Africa, India, Brazil, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Congo. Nowadays, the majority of mines are located in Russia and Botswana. The biggest diamond miners of today are De Beers, ALROSA, Rio Tinto Diamonds, Debswana Diamond Company Ltd., and Dominion Diamond Corporation. Around 50% of all diamonds are mined either directly from the ground, the mines or kimberlite and lamproite pipes, while around 48% is mined from riverbanks and other marine environments. Miners have to sift 200-250 tons of Earth on average to mine 1 carat of diamonds.

Rough uncut diamond on black rocks.

Sorting the Diamonds

When they are mined, diamonds are far from polished jewelry-grade gemstones; instead, they are still in their crystal form. Before they are sold, they have to be sorted. The majority of diamonds are sorted by DeBeers (around 45%), whereas the rest are sorted in Mumbai, Antwerp, and Johannesburg. There are three categories into which a rough diamond can be sorted.

Gem-Quality Diamonds

Around 20% of mined diamonds are sorted into the gem-quality category. These are composed of at least 99.95% carbon. As the name suggests, they are used for jewelry making. They are valued for their color and clarity, whereas shape is not so relevant at this point.

Industrial-Quality Diamonds

Around 80% of the world’s mined diamonds fall under this category. They are mostly yellow in color as yellow diamonds are the hardest diamonds. Industrial diamonds can be classified either according to their carat weight or the number of points. They are used in the automotive, aviation, and marine industries for making tools for drilling or as abrasives.

Other Diamonds

Diamonds that are not sorted into the gem or industrial categories appear in very small percentages. They are typically crushed and later used as diamond dust for diamonds polishing.

Tweezers holding loose round cut diamond.

Diamond Cutting and Grading

After they are sorted, gem-quality diamonds are cut into the desired shape. Cut is the most important feature of a diamond, so this process is extremely important. Most diamonds are cut in Belgium, Israel, India, South Africa, Russia, and Canada. The cutting process can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, with some large diamonds event taking years to cut. For example, the Pink Star diamond, the largest Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid pink diamond ever graded by GIA, took two years of cutting and polishing to be honed into the desired oval shape.

Reaching the Consumer

Once the diamonds are cut and polished, they are ready to be sold to the manufacturers, dealers, retailers, or collectors. At this stage, gem-quality diamonds are ready to be set into jewelry. On average, it takes around 5 months for a diamond to reach the consumer after it has been sorted.

Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers offers premier-quality diamond jewelry, most notably exquisite new and vintage diamond engagement rings. Stop by our luxurious showroom on San Diego Avenue and check out our collection of dazzling diamond jewelry!

What Makes Colored Diamond Jewelry So Unique?

Diamonds come in as many hues and intensities as nature can possibly create. The most common diamond is the white, or colorless, diamond. However, this “white” color ranges from completely colorless to actually showing a light tint throughout the body of the diamond. The light coloring is most commonly shades or yellow, and sometimes shades of brown.

These color distinctions are very subtle and are often indistinguishable to the untrained eye, but they can make a big difference in diamond quality and price. Diamond color is graded on a scale from D to Z, from absolutely no hint of color to a visible tint of color throughout the body of the stone. Diamonds graded from D to F are considered colorless; G to J is considered near colorless; K to M is faint color; N to R is very light color; and S to Z is light color. The less color in the diamond, the whiter the diamond appears.

The further down the scale (from N to Z), the more yellow or brown the diamond appears. Diamonds actually occur in all shades of the rainbow, not just white. Naturally colored diamonds include brown, red, pink, gray, blue, green, violet, purple, orange, yellow, and black. When yellow and brown diamonds are an intensely saturated color, they are referred to as “fancy” colored diamonds and are most valuable.

Colored diamonds are created in the same fashion as colorless diamonds, but more chemistry is involved. When foreign materials other than carbon are present during a diamond’s crystallization process, it alters the chemical development, thus changing the color of the diamond. The result is a beautiful, naturally colored diamond.

How Do Diamonds Get Their Natural Color?

When different trace minerals and elements are trapped during the crystallization process the result is the creation of different hues.

Rose gold engagement ring centered with a pink diamond surrounded by a white diamond halo and white diamonds in the band.

Brown, Red, and Pink Diamonds

While still buried deep within the Earth’s core, intense pressure and heat causes distortions in the crystal lattice during the diamond’s voyage to the surface. This change in the electron structure absorbs green light, which reflects a pinkish hue and produces brown, red, and pink diamonds.

Gray and Blue Diamonds

When boron is present during the chemical process it bonds to the carbon in the crystal structure. This bonding causes the absorption of red, yellow, and green areas of the color spectrum and reflects a bluish/grayish color.

Green Diamonds

Right before a diamond is about to burst through the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust, it absorbs naturally occurring radiation. This radiation absorbs red and yellow light, which creates a green reflection.

White gold engagement ring centered with a green diamond and white diamonds in the band.

Violet and Purple Diamonds

There are a few different theories about how these diamonds get their color. The cause of color is due to a type of crystal distortion; however, it is also believed the presence of hydrogen is a key factor.

Orange and Yellow Diamonds

Orange and yellow hues are attributed to one specific element – nitrogen. Nitrogen atoms will bond in such a way that blue light is absorbed, producing a yellow reflection. The absorption of both blue and yellow spectrums results in an orange reflection.

Black Diamonds

Contrary to all the above colors, a black diamond’s color is not related to trace elements. Small inclusions of graphite and iron clusters create this color, making the diamond appear opaque.

Here at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, we have a vast array of loose and mounted diamonds to choose from. Whether you’re looking for the traditional “white” diamond or a unique, natural color, stop by our jewelry store on San Diego Avenue to find your favorite diamond. Our expert salespeople will guide you to make the very best decision for your needs.

Features of a Rolex Datejust

Always the innovator, Rolex gained notoriety for their fashionable aesthetics and cutting-edge technology for wristwatches for both men and women. Considered the modern archetype of the classic watch, the Rolex Datejust masterfully combines visual appeal and high-end quality. Introduced the same year as their 40th anniversary (1945), the Rolex Datejust is the essence of the renowned brand.

The Datejust has spanned eras with numerous models. All of these include the unique features that make this specific Rolex so important to the company’s history. The Datejust was the first self-winding wristwatch to dsplay the date on the dial of the watch. The automatic calendar feature advances to the next date right at midnight – the moniker, “Datejust.”

The date is visible in a small window located at 3 o’clock on the dial. Originally, the Datejust had the venerable domed plastic watch crystal. In 1954, the versatile and high-quality watch was enhanced to include a magnifying cyclops eye on the watch crystal. This new element magnified the lens by 2.5 times to allow clearer visibility of the date. Eventually, a sapphire crystal replaced the entire plastic crystal, but that didn’t happen until 1988.

Rolex Datejust Bracelets

Another quality feature of this official chronometer is the waterproof Oyster case. The invention of the oyster case in 1926 was a major milestone for Rolex. Before this innovation, waterproofing watch cases involved an outer case being snapped over the watch itself. Since Rolex watches were made with wandering adventurers in mind, the Oyster case made exploring all parts of the world that much more convenient. The Oyster case gets its name from natural oysters, implying that the case closes as tight as an oyster’s shell. This ensures the watch’s safety during expeditions.

To honor the new model and the company’s 40th anniversary, Rolex created a new bracelet called the Jubilee. Initially, the Jubilee bracelet was only available with the 36mm Datejust, but due to its booming popularity, the bracelet was eventually made compatible with other Rolex models as well. Today, men and women watch enthusiasts can choose to equip their Datejust watches with the Jubilee bracelet, the Oyster bracelet, or a leather strap. All three options are suitable for every occasion and can be showcased with a variety of ensembles.

Rolex Datejust in stainless steel with a gray Roman numeral dial and green markers.

Rolex in San Diego

For over 50 years, the Datejust has remained one of the most recognizable and desirable Rolex models. The Rolex Datejust is available with an amazing variety of dials, bezels, bracelets, and sizes including both men’s and women’s styles. All Rolex watches in our showroom are pre-owned and can be anywhere from a few months to a few decades in age. All have been fully and expertly restored to their original, timeless splendor using only original Rolex parts, and come with a 2-year warranty. Don’t waste any time – visit our showroom on San Diego Avenue today to discover a dapper Datejust to fit your style.

How to Care for Your Antique Pearls

Having antique and vintage jewelry is like owning a piece of history. Holding and wearing pieces that are decades upon decades old can really make you think about their exquisiteness. Naturally, you want to preserve it for the future so that it gives you many years of enjoyment (and to your heir, should you pass it on). Whether it is an antique pearl ring that you cherish, a diamond necklace, or a gorgeous Tiffany bracelet, proper care and storage is the key to keeping its luster and glory.

Before Cleaning

Before you clean your jewelry, it’s advisable that you inspect it with a magnifying glass or loupe. This way you might notice loose gemstones before they fall out and are potentially lost. Loose stones are also more sensitive when it comes to cleaning – they could come off completely. While inspecting a piece, you can find any lodged debris and accumulated dust. To remove these, you can use a soft toothbrush or make up brush to dust the piece off. Note that you should use the softest brush you can find, because some jewelry will scratch from too much brushing. If you find any especially stubborn particles, use a cotton swab dipped in cleaner.

Cleaning with Care

Above all else, there are two pieces of advice you should take notice of. The first – never use abrasive products or cloths to clean jewelry. And the second – it’s best to ask your jeweler how to clean your precious jewelry, namely, how to hold the pieces during cleaning, what products to use and what techniques to use and avoid. Choose an appropriate product. There are many jewelry cleaning products available. Check what types of cleaner are safe for which types of jewelry and ask your jeweler if in doubt. Every alternative to dedicated jewelry cleaners should be carefully considered, including an ultrasonic cleaner (absolutely not intended for pearl jewelry).

For example, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies, which are top precious gemstones, can take stronger cleaners because of their natural hardness. Diluted ammonia is a safe cleaner for these stones. However, ammonia would ruin most other jewelry, particularly organic (pearls, coral, turquoise) and soft materials. A few drops of mild dish soap in a bowl of warm water and a soft cloth will do, but remember to rinse well, pat dry, and polish the jewelry afterwards to avoid dulling its shine.

When it comes to pearls, a drop of olive oil on a soft lint-free cloth should do the job. Or you can use a cloth moistened with warm water as well. Interesting point: although pearls are sensitive to perfumes, make up and most oils, plain body oil which they acquire while you wear them will actually keep their luster.

Pearl strand necklaces coming out of antique jewelry box next to antique framed photo.

Immersing and Storing Your Jewelry

Think well before you immerse the jewelry. In many cases, soaking jewelry in water is not recommended when it comes to antique and vintage jewelry. Some antique jewelry has gemstones with a foil backing, which should NEVER be immersed. Pearls also shouldn’t be immersed. If you have an antique pearl ring, the water could weaken the adhesive and compromise the mounting, and it’s a pearl strand, the string could stretch, kink, and weaken. Clean as often as necessary. There are no particular guidelines about the frequency. Adjust the frequency of cleaning with how often you wear the piece.

If you clean and store the piece properly, there’s no need to clean it too often. In other words, some antique and vintage jewelry requires caution and occasional wear, so no need to clean such jewelry on a schedule. Always dry the jewelry before you put it away. Moisture is the number one enemy of jewelry. Pat dry the pieces and leave them to air dry completely before storing them. If it’s a piece with intricate design and setting, you may leave it to dry upside down so that any water trapped in the setting would drain.

Proper Storage

There is no point in cleaning your jewelry if you don’t store it properly. Improper storage damages jewelry easily. Never let jewelry come in contact with other jewelry. Set necklaces and bracelets down carefully so that no parts are in contact with other parts. Gold is soft and easily scratched, and gemstones can scratch other gemstones. And let’s reiterate again, because it cannot be stressed enough – make sure your jewelry is dry before you put it away.

One moist piece in a jewelry box could also ruin many other pieces. You can use original boxes or pouches to store the pieces separately from each other. If you don’t like the fact that these aren’t see-through you can make small labels with photographs. You can also wrap your jewelry items in pieces of cloth. If you want to be able to see your collection instantly, you can use Ziploc bags or you can make glass boxes from top-loading floating frames, with some cotton batting and decorative fabric inside.

Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers is the go-to place to buy jewelry and watches for residents of San Diego and surrounding areas. Visit our website for a preview of what’s available in our luxurious showroom on San Diego Avenue. Sign up for our eblasts to get first dibs on special sales and discounts! And come visit us whenever you need new and like-new jewelry of the finest quality and white an enduring statement.

Celebrate October Birthdays with Opal!

There is arguably no gemstone more enchanting and alluring than opal. Teeming with color and mystery, opal is the perfect birthstone for October. Unlike other gemstones, opal reflects light so that it displays many vibrant colors at once. This light play creates a kaleidoscopic, rainbow effect that is simply mesmerizing. To kick off October, we’re delving into the mystery of opal birthstones with some fascinating facts.

Opal's Name Origin

Evidence of the first opal artifacts dates back to 4000 B.C. However, the origin of the name opal causes much debate. The ancient Greek word for opal is opallios, meaning to see a change of color. The Roman word is opalus, meaning precious stone. Many modern references suggest the word opal is adapted from the Sanskrit work upala, meaning jewel. Although it is not known for certain, the term we use today for this iridescent birthstone seems to be a combination foal l three languages.

How is Opal Formed?

There is some dispute about how exactly opal is formed, but many believe it is the result of rain. This theory is referred to as the weathering model, and specifically refers to desert regions with heavy rainfall with heavy rainfall and silica rich sediment. According to this model, rain carrying silica seeps down into the crevasses of rocks. Once the dry season arrives, the water evaporates, and the silica that is left behind dries out and hardens into precious opal.

This process is a slow one of course and is believed to take millions of years. Opal is amorphous, meaning it has no defined crystal system or structure. Instead, opal is comprised of many tiny silica spheres of varying sizes. This makes opal gems the most unpredictable, able to take on many shapes and display several colors at once. Boulder opal, for example, has been known to reveal the entire rainbow in just one stone.

Precious vs. Common

There are two distinct variations of opal – precious opal and common opal. Precious opals are more popular and display the phenomenon known as “play of color” or “opalescence.” Most precious opal flash a mixture of vivid colors. Although still beautiful, common opals do not exhibit “opalescence,” and are typically one solid, opaque color.

White gold open cuff bracelet set with pear cut opals surrounded by diamond haloes.

Where is Opal Found?

Common opal can be found pretty easily in many regions of the world. Precious opal, on the other hand, is primarily mine in Australia where the gemstone is particularly abundant. Australian mines, like Coober Pedy, Lightning Ridge, and Mintabie, produce about 90% of the world’s precious opal. Other countries where opal can be found include Brazil, Mexico, and Ethiopia.

Meaning & Symbolism

In addition to being the birthstone of October, opal is also the gemstone given to celebrate 14th wedding anniversaries. This exquisite gem is considered a symbol of hope, innocence, and purity. Opal also has strong implications of happiness, faithfulness, loyalty, and confidence. Unfortunately, opals have quite an arduous history. This is widely due to Sir Walter Scott’s 1829 novel, Anne of Geierstein, which emphasized opal’s relationship to bad luck and death. Within a year of the book’s publication, opal sales dropped by 50%. Despite this period of negative superstitions, opals have generally been symbols of goo luck. They are believed to possess the virtues of each gemstone whose colors are represented in their wide color spectrum.

Opal Durability

Opal scores a 5.5 to 6.5 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, meaning these beautiful gemstones are relatively fragile. Though opal can be used for jewelry, proper care is necessary to ensure lifelong durability. Be sure to avoid chemical cleaners and wearing opal jewelry in harsh environments. If your opal jewelry requires cleaning, warm, soapy water is best. Additionally, high heat or sudden changes in temperature can fracture an opal. Unlike most jewelry, opals should not be stored in a dry place, as insufficient moisture can be damaging.

The Queen of Gemstones

Due to their natural beauty and brilliance, opals have been deemed the “Queen of Gemstones.” They were a favorite of Queen Victoria, who gifted each of her daughters an opal on their wedding day. In fact, opals have been cherished by royalty for centuries. Queen Elizabeth II owned a whopping 203-carat opal that was given to her by the Australian government. Opals are also one of the rare gemstones to have extraterrestrial origins. In July of 2015, NASA reported the discovery of opals on Mars. Not only does this give opal a more magical and mysterious aura, but this also suggests a greater potential for life on Mars since opal consists of water.

Shop October's Birthstone in San Diego

If you’re looking to add more brilliance and exquisite color to your jewelry collection, then you must visit Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers in San Diego! Explore our assortment of new, vintage, and antique opal jewelry. Whether shopping for yourself, or someone celebrating an October birthday, we have the perfect opal gifts for you. Stop by our jewelry store on San Diego Avenue and experience the captivating visual effect of this stunning October birthstone for yourself!

History of the Omega Speedmaster

Anyone interested in history, space flight, or watch making will want to hear the story of the Omega Speedmaster. A little-known specialty watch in the 1950’s rose to fame as the watch of the astronauts. The Speedmaster sparked a top-secret development program with NASA. It is a symbol of the space race era that has endured and remains in use today. The watch has outlasted even the iconic Apollo rockets and space shuttles. This is a brief history of how it all began.

The Moon Watch

During the space program in the 1960’s, NASA sought a chronograph watch that could withstand space flight. It would have to be very accurate even when exposed to different extreme environments that don’t exist on Earth’s surface. NASA didn’t have its own development program for watches so it turned to the commercial sector to find a suitable piece.

The Omega Speedmaster seemed destined for fame. The first Speedmaster went into space on the arm of astronaut Wally Schirra in 1962. It was his personal model, and he wore it without any endorsement from NASA, as it was still several years before NASA had its own spaceflight certified watch. Between 1963 and 1964, NASA wanted to certify a watch for the Apollo missions and was open to many options. NASA directly reached out to several watch manufacturers to submit chronograph watches candidates for testing. Rolex, Hamilton, Lngines-Wittenauer and Omega submitted multiple models.

NASA Tests Omega, Rolex, & Hamilton Watches

Between October 1964 and March 1965 NASA subjected the candidate watches to these incredible tests:

  • High Temperature: 48 hours at 160°F followed by 30 minutes at 200°F
  • Low Temperature: 4 hours at 0°F
  • Temperature-Pressure: 15 cycles of heating to 160°F for 45 minutes, followed by cooling to 0°F for 45 minutes at 10-6 atmosphere
  • Relative Humidity: 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68°F and 160°F in a relative humidity of at least 95%
  • Oxygen Atmosphere: 48 hours in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 0.35 atmosphere
  • Shock: Six shocks of 40 G, each 11 milliseconds in duration, in six different directions.
  • Acceleration: From 1 G to 7.25 G within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis
  • Decompression: 90 minutes in a vacuum of 10-6 atmosphere at a temperature of 160°F and 30 minutes at 200°F
  • High Pressure: 1.6 atmosphere for a minimum period of one hour
  • Vibration: Three cycles of 30 minutes of vibration varying from 5 to 2000 Hz
  • Acoustic Noise: 130 DB over a frequency range of 40 to 10,000 Hz, duration 30 minutes

Omega Speedmaster's Moon Landing

In the end, only one watch passed the tests: Omega Speedmaster. With that, the Speedmaster became NASA’s official watch for space exploration. Each astronaut was equipped with one from that point on. Now here’s a curious piece of history: the Omega company in Switzerland was unaware that their watch had been selected! This was because NASA procured the watches from the Omega USA subsidiary, which did not inform Omega headquarters of the project.

Omega headquarters only found out by seeing a news photograph of the Speedmaster on the arm of astronaut Ed White, during America’s first space walk in June 1965 – almost a year after testing had begun! It was four years later that the Speedmaster cemented its fame. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin both wore an Omega Speedmaster as they walked on the moon. This was an unprecedented achievement for an off-the-shelf watch that had not at all been designed with space flight in mind. It remains part of the official gear issues to Nasa astronauts to this day, making it one of the longest continuous-use equipment items in the space program.

1967 Omega Speedmaster in stainless steel with a green Nato strap on museum display.

The Alaska Project

A few years after adopting the Speedmaster for space missions, NASA and Omega partnered to jointly develop a new version of the Speedmaster, designed from the ground up for space exploration. The project was undertaken in strict secrecy and code named The Alaska Project. The goal of the project was to make the perfect “space watch,” one resistant to extreme temperatures and solar radiation. Function dictated every design decision, leading to first-time innovations in watch making, as well as interesting aesthetic results. The Alaska Project Speedmaster result looked very different from the original. It was distinguished by the oversized, red, anodized, aluminum casing (removable).

The low thermal conductivity of aluminum protexted the watch against extreme temperature fluctuations, high and low, whilethe red color protected against some wavelengths of solar radiation. The watch case itself was made from titanium – a first-time innovation in watch making. The dial color was changed from black to white, because the white golod reflected the maximum amount of solar radiation awar from the watch. Omega produced five Alaska Project prototypes by 1969, but by that time, priorities were changing in the space program. NASA decided the original Speedmaster was fulfilling its role as mission watch sufficiently well, so no Alaska Project Speedmasters were ever ordered into production.

Omega Speedmaster's Unique History

No other watch on Earth has such a unique history, nor had any watch endured such rigorous, independent testing of quality as the Speedmaster. The irony of the Omega Speedmaster is the original, Earth-designed Speedmaster was adapted for the most important space exploration missions in history, and it still NASA’s official space flight watch, while the space-designed Speedmaster never left the ground.

Collector’s today can find many versions of the Omega Speedmaster, from modern models to the vintage “pre-moon” version of the 1950’s-1960’s, including a limited collector’s edition of the Alaska Project. Visit us today if you’re in search of an out-of-this-world luxury watch!

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