What Makes “Good” Good?

Ms. Diana Singer

Ms. Diana Singer

Ms. Diana Singer stimulated the DCGIA chapter on Tuesday evening, March 10, 2009, with her presentation “What Makes ‘Good’ Good?”-posing and answering the question what makes excellent jewelry.

For Ms. Singer, the question revolves about how an experienced jeweler knows “the good” when seen. Ms. Singer, a third-generation estate jewelry dealer, has over 30 years experience in the industry.

She has lectured extensively and taught courses in jewelry appraisal and history, her particular areas of expertise. She is a member of the New York Chapter of the Society of Jewelry Historians and a founder of the Women’s Jewelry Association, winning that association’s 1988 Retailer of the Year Award.

Ms. Singer broke her lecture into three parts: stones, workmanship, and design. Paraphrasing Mr. Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote on pornography, Ms. Singer began her presentation by telling us that she may not be able to define excellence in jewelry, but she knows it when she sees it. Her caveat may, however, have been too modest, for she proceeded to well define and illustrate with her slides those qualities that make up excellent jewelry.

She devoted a few minutes to stones (knowing that the audience already had a grasp of what makes a good gemstone), devoting most of her time to workmanship and design. She defined unfamiliar terms and illustrated them with her slides, just as she did with the points she made regarding the esthetics and philosophy of well-designed jewelry. She well defined what makes good jewelry and illustrated her words with slides.


Her remarks on color and how it contributes to the success or failure of a piece and her comments on how humans view objects showed her understanding of optical scientific theory. She also noted that over the last 30-40 years many techniques done by hand then had been converted to machine craft so that there is less of the personal in pieces made today.

She introduced mathematical ideas, noting that the “golden rectangle” (rectangular shapes in the ratio of 1:1.61) is the most pleasing to the human eye, a principle known from ancient times to the present. She also showed that the famous Fibonacci sequence (1,1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, . . .) has significance in jewelry because the curve swept out by graphing the sequence is so often used in making pieces.

She finished the lecture showing some slides and commenting on what qualities made the pieces pictured excellent, mediocre, or bad, usually noting that a combination of workmanship and design accounted for the quality of the piece, for usually the stones were excellent quality.

Ms. Singer’s presentation was given with grace and humor, much animation on the part of the speaker and the audience greatly appreciated what she had to say.

Meeting Summary by Tim Morgan

Photos by Bobby Mann

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