Celebrate Your Love at Leo’s!

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to cheer up your better half with a special gift. Whether their style is simple and elegant or bold and bright, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers has the perfect jewelry to make your significant other swoon. Follow along with our gift guide to find inspiration!

Birthstone Jewelry

If your Valentine’s Day date happens to be born in February, what better way to celebrate both holidays than by gifting them with jewelry set with their birthstone? The February birthstone, amethyst, is a stunning gemstone with a rich violet hue. Since ancient times, amethyst has signified a clear and sound mind. From rings to earrings, you can find a wide selection of jewelry that features this mesmerizing gemstone at Leo Hamel’s. You will find birthstone jewelry for every month of the year at Leo’s, and chances are that he or she will love receiving gemstone jewelry that is a celebration of their birth month.

Heart Jewelry

Nothing is quite as symbolic to Valentine’s Day as is the heart. We offer a plethora of options so you can find heart jewelry that fits your partner’s style. You can adorn her neck with a dainty heart pendant made up of diamonds or sterling silver. A heart charm bracelet is a great option if you are looking for a simple style with an elegant touch of diamonds.

Rose gold diamond stud earrings.
Yellow gold oval link bracelet with red enamel heart charm.
9 necklaces in rose, white, and yellow gold each set with several round cut gemstones of varying rainbow colors.


Timeless and classic, a watch is a perfect way to show your person how much they mean to you. At Leo Hamel, we offer a large selection of new and pre-owned watches, from Rolex to Patek Philippe. Show your loved one how well you know them by selecting a watch that fits their needs.

A pre-owned watch like the Rolex Day-Date is sleek, high quality, and full of interesting details. It would be the ideal gift to give anyone looking for a bold timepiece.

Looking for a timepiece that won’t break the bank but also won’t sacrifice quality? Consider surprising your Valentine with a new Tissot or Hamilton. The Tissot PRX and Hamilton Khaki Field are both functional yet stylish. For your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife who is always on the go, this would make a great gift. They will feel appreciated, and you will get to shop great prices on top-tier brands when purchasing from Leo’s.

Diamond Jewelry

You can never go wrong with diamonds. The glimmer and shine of a diamond is fashionable on every kind of jewelry. Give them a pair of dazzling stud earrings or a sparkling necklace, and you are sure to steal the show. And what better time than Valentine’s Day to surprise them with the most stunning diamond of all – an engagement ring! Pop the questions on February 14th with flowers and a beautiful vintage, new, or custom ring found at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers!

Find the Perfect Valentine's Day Gifts at Leo's!

Don’t wait until the last minute to find a Valentine’s Day gift for your special someone! Visit our showroom on San Diego Avenue and let one of our helpful salespeople steer you in the right direction. We’ll help you find a great gift that’ll fit your loved one’s style, and even better, that’ll fit your budget! What are you waiting for? Visit us today!

How Can You Personalize Your Wedding Bands?

Love of your life? Check. Engagement ring? Check. What’s next? Wedding Bands! Picking out your wedding bands offers the perfect opportunity to personalize the one ring you’ll wear for the rest of your life. One very popular way to do so is with an engraving. Engravings are an easy yet impactful way to personalize your wedding bands with a special message that is symbolic to you and your other half.

There are so many ways to engrave a ring. If you need engraving inspiration, check out some of our favorite wedding band engraving ideas below.

Fingerprints – your partner’s fingerprint can be engraved on the inside or outside of your wedding band, so you always carry a little piece of them with you.

Initials – engraving your initials is a sweet and simple representation of your commitment to each other.

Special Dates – any dates that have a special meaning to the two of you. The day you met, the day you got engaged, your wedding date, etc.

GPS Coordinates – if you first locked eyes in San Diego, you could have 7157 ° N, 117.1611 ° W engraved on your custom wedding band.

Meaningful Quote – whether it’s a line from your favorite poem, a romantic song lyric, or a symbolic bible verse, a quote is a beautiful and unique detail to add to your rings. If it’s too long, try using abbreviations or splitting it between both of your bands.

Infinity Symbol – pay tribute to your everlasting love by engraving a simple infinity symbol on your bands.

Nicknames – every couple has adorable, if slightly embarrassing pet names for each other. Engraving them on the inside of your wedding band is the perfect place to hide them.

Two yellow gold engraved wedding bands on a wooden table.
Two engraved weddings bands on a white fabric background.

Tips to Keep In Mind

Having your wedding bands engraved may seem like a simple task when it comes to wedding planning. But that doesn’t mean it should be put on the backburner! There are some things to keep in mind to ensure the engraving is everything you hoped for and more.

Since customization is involved, engraved wedding bands may take longer until they are ready to be picked up or delivered. Make sure you give your jeweler enough time to complete the engraving before your big day. The number of characters permitted is dependent on the ring size. Smaller rings allow fewer characters, whereas larger rings offer more space for an engraving.

Not every ring can be engraved. Some are too thin or high contoured, eliminating the possibility of engraving. If you know you want to engrave, opt for a style that will be easier to work with, like a thicker band with a smooth surface. If you’re not sure ask your jeweler for advice. Always, always double check the spelling of your engraving! The engraver won’t know exactly what you meant to say, so ensuring every character is correct is up to you.

Want to have your wedding band engraved in San Diego? Whether you already have your wedding bands or you’re looking to purchase them, contact Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers. Our expert jewelers are here to help make all your engraving dreams come true. Your one-of-a-kind love will be perfectly captured in your one-of-a-kind wedding bands!

How Does Gemstone Hardness Vary?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different diamond engagement rings, but most are set with diamonds? Our customers often ask us whether they can get a specific gemstone set in their engagement ring. There’s nothing stopping you from using an emerald or an amethyst. However, they are not the most recommended gemstones by jewelers for us in an engagement ring.

If you’ve looked for an answer to this question you’ve likely come across something called the Mohs Scale of Hardness. And among the many specs and diagrams, you may have missed how this scale impacts which gemstones are the most suitable for an engagement ring. Fortunately, our experts are here to provide an answer as to why you’ll see mostly sapphire, ruby, or diamond engagement rings, while others like amethyst and aquamarine are less often used for that purpose.

What is the Mohs Scale?

Gemstones exhibit different degrees of “hardness” that range from the more fragile ones like pearls to the harder ones like diamonds. To compare the level of hardness, jewelers refer to the Mohs Scale of Hardness. The scale was first conceived by a German geologist named Friedrich Mohs back in 1812. He referred to it as the “scratchability scale.” The more resistant a gem is to being scratched, the higher its number on the list.

The highest-ranking gemstone on the list is diamond, ranking at number 10. This means that nothing can scratch it – except another diamond. On the other hand, the lowest entry on the list is talc. As you might have guessed, any other mineral on the list is able to scratch it. Similarly, a topaz ranking at a number 8 can scratch a quartz ranked number 7, but not vice versa.

Now, pay close attention to this part. The Mohs scale is an ordinal one, which means that even though the gemstones are linearly listed according to their hardness, the differences between these levels vary widely. For example, the list-topping diamond at number 10 is four times harder than corundum (rubies, sapphires) ranking at number 9. However, corundum is only two times harder than topaz that is ranked number 8. It’s generally recommended that gemstones used in rings that will be worn daily are at least a 7 on the Mohs scale since our hands are more likely to suffer impacts as we go through our busy days.

Loose princess cut diamond held by tweezer.
Jeweler holding round cut green gemstone with tweezers.

Hardness vs. Toughness & Stability

The hardness is only one of the factors that jewelers consider when recommending the gemstone for your unique engagement ring. Every gemstone has different properties and varying tolerances to environmental factors. When choosing which gemstone to use in engagement rings, experts look at three factors: hardness, toughness, and durability. We’ve already covered what hardness means for gemstones used in rings, so let’s talk a bit about toughness.

Toughness is determined by the strength of the atomic bonds of a particular gemstone and the way these bonds are formed. The toughness scale measures how much work is required to separate two surfaces along a specific crystallographic plane. This means that there are certain angles along which the uber-hard diamond is more vulnerable to breaking, and a solid blow along these angles can fracture it.

That’s why diamonds with thin girdles or exposed culets may be vulnerable to chipping or breaking. Therefore, diamond is not rated as the toughest gemstone; actually, jadeite jade is by far the toughest gemstone, extremely difficult to crack or break. Finally, gem stability determines how resistant the mineral is to outside factors such as temperature, chemicals, light, and humidity. So again, even though diamonds top the Mohs scale, they can be vulnerable to sudden or extreme temperature changes.

Gems like iolite, opal, or kunzite are also vulnerable to this “thermal shock,” as jewelers refer to it. Other gemstones are prone to damage due to different levels of humidity. While opals can crack due to low humidity, other gemstones like azurite can be damaged if exposed to water. Similarly, some gems like amethyst or topaz can lose color if exposed to intense light for long periods of time. Finally, some common chemicals can damage other gems: pearls can get damaged if exposed to something as mild as perfume.

How Do You Pick the Perfect Ring?

Knowing all these facts you now realize why it’s recommended to choose a durable gemstone for your engagement ring. It’s generally suggested that gemstones used in rings that will be worn daily are at least a 7 on the Mohs scale, since our hands are more likely to suffer impacts as we go through our busy days. And the higher on the scale, the better the gemstone will hold up over time. Therefore, jewelers don’t recommend using gems like amethyst or emerald in engagement rings, as these minerals can be more vulnerable to damage.

But don’t despair – if you adore a less durable gemstone, you can still have it set in your engagement ring! The expert jewelers at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers can help you choose a setting that will offer your gemstone as much protection as possible. You’ll just want to be more careful when wearing it, take extra care when cleaning and storing it, as well as remove it for swimming or hot tubbing.

What Are Watch Jewels?

Many famous watch brands will point out that their watch movements are made with a number of “jewels,” anywhere from 17 to 27 (or even more). That sounds impressive, but have you ever wondered why they are there in the first place? Any why you can’t usually see them like you can gemstones that decorate the exterior of the watch?

The short answer is that they are a functional part of the watch movement, rather than a decoration. To delve into a bit more detail, read the following article. To find the best place for watch repair in San Diego, look no further than Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers.

Where Are All These Jewels?

As mentioned before, these jewels aren’t a decoration, so they can’t be seen on the dial of the watch. They are embedded into the mechanism itself. Some high-end watches have a transparent dial or case back so that the mechanism can be observed. In these kinds of watches, the movement’s jewels can be seen. In most cases, the bearings are made of gemstones, but it is quite common that other parts of the watch mechanism are crafted from gems as well.

Why Are They There?

In any mechanism, metal parts interact with each other to create friction. Depending on the material, over time this friction causes wear and eventually, breakage. In order to prevent this from happening, or at least to prolong the durability of the parts, watchmakers needed to design the meeting points of these parts out of something harder than the metal they are made of. Since certain gemstones are very hard, they were selected for the task. Their relative hardness also means that they are more resistant to heat and other external factors, adding to the accuracy of the watches themselves.

Close-up of inner watch jewels.
Inner movement, gears, and jewels of fine watch.

Which Gems Are Used?

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness indicates the relative hardness of various minerals/gemstones. Only gemstones with the hardness of 9+ on the scale are acceptable for use in watch mechanisms since they are harder and more durable than the metal parts. The gemstones that fit that bill are diamond and corundum (ruby and sapphire). Initially, in the early 18th century, natural gemstones were used. Nowadays, though, synthetic gemstones are commonly used, chiefly synthetic sapphire or rubies, and they are mass-produced specifically for the watch industry.

Why Does the Number of Jewels Vary?

Different types of watches require a different number of jewels. Typically, the simplest jeweled watch requires 17 jewels. As more complicated functions and parts are added, more jewels are needed, up to 27. In the early days, it was relatively complicated to shape the gemstones and fit them into the small and intricate watch mechanisms, so as few jewels as necessary were used to prolong the life of the movement.

And as the watches got more complicated, they required more gemstones to cushion the additional moving parts. This gave rise to the commonly held belief that more jewels meant a better watch. In response, some watch companies started adding jewels where no jewels were needed, just to increase the jewel count, and watch movements set with as many as 100 jewels were created.

Apart from high-end watches, many other sensitive measuring devices require jeweled bearings, as their resistance to heat, corrosion, and low friction is invaluable for the accuracy of measurement. Such devices include galvanometers, compasses, and gyroscopes.

San Diego Watch Repair

In our modern society, a jeweled watch can be a status symbol rather than a necessary tool. The right watch can speak louder than words about the style and status of the wearer. And even though jeweled watches are much more durable, they aren’t impervious to breakdowns. Fine automatic watches should be serviced every 3 to 5 years to avoid unnecessary wear and loss of accuracy.

If you are looking for watch repair in the San Diego area, look no further than Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers. The Master Watchmaker of Leo Hamel’s repair shop has over 35 years of experience repairing fine watches. You can be sure that your bejeweled timepiece is in safe hands.

Gold is Up – Sell Now!

With the uncertain economy, many families are looking to collect some extra money by selling their gold jewelry, coins, or bars. Because of increasing gold values, many new companies offering to buy gold jewelry have popped up in San Diego, and selling your gold has never been riskier. These buyers seem to pop up at every corner, making it difficult to know whom to trust.

However, with so many people eagerly looking to sell gold jewelry in San Diego, scammers began trying to take advantage of the unwary. This is why it is extremely important to do your research before selling your valuable to someone who might give you an unfair price.

You’ve probably seen “We Buy Gold” signs all around town. With the demand to sell gold so high, many such shops seem to have opened overnight. Some of them are completely legitimate gold buyers, but others might have a few stains on their resume.

Some of the less-reputable ones might even give you a quote that is up to 60% less than what you’d get from a legitimate gold dealer. Most of these shops work without a proper license and don’t follow the same legal procedures that other legitimate practices do. They will no doubt try to devalue your gold jewelry using all types of schemes.

For example, using scales for weighing that are not legally licensed by the Department of Weights and Measures can result in shorting the weight of your gold to reduce its value. That is why it’s important not to rush into selling your gold, no matter how anxious you are. Instead, take the time to research a gold buyer online and look for any red flags from customers who already got burned.

Pile of gold bars.

Selling Gold to Leo Hamel Jewelry & Gold Buyers

Your safest bet when selling gold is to turn to a reputable, local gold-buying business like Leo Hamel Jewelry & Gold Buyers. A legitimate gold buyer has both friendly and knowledgeable staff and all the right equipment to appraise your gold jewelry. A reputable dealer will offer you advice and will not rush you into selling valuables that may have an emotional value.

Leo Hamel’s is a family-owned business serving customers in San Diego since 1980. In these four decades, we have built a reputation for being a safe, secure, and confidential gold, jewelry, and watch buying business. You can sell your gold of any karat, even broken pieces, or single earrings. Or you can trade it for another treasure from our collection of fine jewelry! Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or visit us at a location near you.

What Makes a Black Diamond?

Be spooked by the intensity of a black diamond this year and enchant your jewelry collection with a gemstone rarity. Similar to white diamonds, black diamonds are crystallized carbon and are evaluated by the 4Cs: color, carat, cut, and clarity. Along with the appearance of a glossy surface, a black diamond is higher in density than a white diamond. This means that stones of the same carat weight have different relative measurements.

White gold drop earrings centered with black pear cut diamonds surrounded by white diamond haloes.
Yellow gold engagement ring centered with a pear cut black diamond and white diamonds in the band.
White gold pendant centered with a pear cut black diamond surrounded by a white diamond halo.

The mesmerizing dark color occurs from exposure to extremely high temperatures or dominating dark inclusions. Although shiny on the surface, black diamonds absorb light rather than refract it. They don’t exhibit the multi-colored sparkle for which white diamonds are known. Industry standard treatments ensure a uniformity of color in most black diamonds. Natural, untreated black diamonds are extremely rare and carry a remarkably hefty price tag. Looking for a truly rare gift to give in the new year?

Consider wrapping up this unique gemstone that is quickly rising in popularity. With artful conceptions from designers such as John Hardy, Sydney Evan and treasured vintage jewelry, the beauty of a black diamond can be found in a variety of pieces currently for sale in our San Diego showroom. Stop by our Old Town location soon and see what timeless pieces we have in store!

Garnet Jewelry for January

Start 2024 off with a symbol of commitment, friendship, and positive energy with the garnet gemstone.

The six families of garnets are silicate materials of different chemical composition, although they retain a similar physical appearance. Garnets range in hardness from a 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale (1 being softest and 10 being hardest). This makes them suitable for daily wear in rings and other jewelry pieces.

Jeweler inspecting loose garnet stones.
Yellow gold three-stone ring centered with a garnet and two diamond side-stones.

Traditionally associated with a deep red hue, garnets occur in almost every color including orange, purple, brown, and black, with the rarest being a brilliant green. These enchanting pigments are left untreated, and a garnet’s color is always natural.

Particularly favored back in the Roman Empire and used in Victorian jewelry, garnets were believed to stimulate business success and symbolize trust and friendship. The name derives from the Greek word “granatum,” meaning pomegranate seeds, because of its reflective shape and color.

Popularly identified as January’s birthstone, garnets are also gifted for the 2nd and 19th wedding anniversary. Show your January baby a commitment that will last the whole year ahead with a breathtaking piece of vintage garnet jewelry in our San Diego showroom!

How Does Vintage Jewelry Differ From New Jewelry?

The term “vintage” means different things to many people. For Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, it opens up an entirely different realm of choices for our customers. The way we use it, “vintage” simply means a piece of jewelry that was previously owned. Diamonds, gemstones, and precious metals are already millions of years old. Because of this, the distinction between “new” and “used” is more easily blurred in jewelry than other industries.

Vintage art deco earrings set with diamonds and purple and green gemstones.
Vintage open wide hinged bangle set with diamonds.

“Vintage” includes pieces ranging in age from those crafted centuries ago to those just born yesterday. Some pieces are from renowned designers such as Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, and Cartier, while others are irreplaceable treasures.

Drawing on decades of experience and technical knowledge, our expert jewelers scrutinize each piece. This ensures that it is authentic, made with genuine materials, and of top quality. Any pieces that do not pass their rigorous inspection are passed on to wholesaler. Those pieces that are deemed worthy of our standards and yours are reconditioned to look their absolute best. Our master jewelers skillfully retouch, refinish, and refurbish them so well that you’d swear they were just made yesterday!

There’s no difference in quality between our vintage and new jewelry – one of the best reasons to invest in vintage pieces! In fact, buying vintage gives you a much larger variety to choose from. You’re not limited to what manufacturers have decided to offer this season. Pre-owned jewelry is more distinctive than brand new pieces. And, when you wear something that people find fascinating or exceptional, it draws a lot of attention!

Vintage art deco engagement ring centered with a diamond.
Vintage art deco engagement ring centered with a diamond.

What Kind of Vintage Jewelry is There?

Antique jewelry from specific time periods – such as the Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Retro, Edwardian, and Victorian eras – frequently boasts extraordinary attention to detail and superb craftsmanship that mass-produced items will never have. Whether they are true antiques or more recently minted treasures, a skilled maker uses high-quality materials. They create vintage pieces that will very likely continue to appreciate over time.

When you buy vintage jewelry, you’re not only investing in unsurpassed quality and fantastic originality; you’re getting unbeatable value. Because our jewelers do all reconditioning in-house, we cut out the mark-up, so you get more for less. Our pieces have the same integrity and appearance as brand-new items without the daunting price tag. It’s even easier to afford the designer and luxurious style that you deserve. You get the same prestige at a different price!

Whether you like to splurge frequently on treats for celebratory events or a job well done, or periodically make more considered investments, buying vintage jewelry from Leo’s is a reliable, respected, eco-friendly way to make your dollars work harder. Let our vintage jewelry enrich your life with more style, sophistication, and a piece of history. And as always, we have a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re ever less than completely satisfied!

Symbolism of Right-Hand Rings

Diamonds were traditionally reserved for rings of the engagement variety, but times have changed and so have jewelry trends!

Today, you don’t have to wait around for Mr. Right in order to score the rock of your dreams. Just wear a right-hand ring – it’s the Little Black Dress of every jewelry box!

The right-hand ring is an accessory, usually with diamonds, that a woman buys for herself in celebration of her independence, accomplishments, and individuality. It symbolizes the successes she’s achieved, the obstacles she’s overcome, and the exciting places she hopes to go throughout life.

Woman in white shirt with yellow gold necklace and yellow gold rings on both hands.

Because the right-hand ring represents so much, you should carefully choose one that reflects your style and personality. Go the simpler route with a classic diamond band or spice it up with stacking bands that you can group in different combinations every day. Accent your right-hand ring with fancy (colored) diamonds or vibrant gemstones – consider incorporating your birthstone too! For a truly unique look, choose a vintage ring that captures the feeling of an earlier era. Antique engagement and cocktail rings make incredible right-hand rings because they flaunt unique stones and details that aren’t available in contemporary jewelry.

These days, diamonds wait for no man! The most important aspect of selecting one of these meaningful accessories is realizing that it’s about you. So go out and get yourself a “just because” right-hand ring that suits your personality…you deserve it! Our sales team at Leo Hamel’s is available to answer any of your questions and help you pick the perfect statement ring.