How to Understand AGS Diamond Grading System

Recently I traveled to learn and study how the diamond grading system works. It was fascinating as I learned how they determine a diamonds value, I learned what I always thought was just guessing, I was never so wrong. Some would say traveling to a St George jeweler to learn about things like this is foolish, but if you were to ask me where the best destinations to travel are, I would say where you’re learning.

AGS or the American Gem Society was founded by Robert M. Shipley in 1934. The mission of the society is to help consumers become aware about gem grading and to place a higher standard of professional practices and business ethics in the jewelry industry. The Gemological Laboratories of AGS was established to offer up to date diamond appraisal and grading services to the jewelry making industry.

Diamond AgePhoto Credit: Steve Jurvetson

People shopping for diamonds are often faced with AGS diamond grading report while browsing around. It can be a little confusing if you have no idea what that grading reports means.

To help you understand AGS diamond grading system, it can be defined simply as the grading report given by one of the two most respected diamond grading laboratories; the other one is the GIA or the Gemological Institute of America diamond grading report.

Jewelers request for such reports in order to have the capacity to provide the appropriate information pertinent to the diamond stones that they offer for sale.

What is contained in an AGS Diamond Grading Report?

People at AGS laboratories work by reviewing each and every piece of diamond that goes into their labs and they will set up detailed reports regarding the different characteristics of each stone. AGS presents charts that show the following:

  • shape
  • measurements
  • cut
  • style
  • color
  • clarity
  • dimension
  • carat

One section of the grading report is provided for additional comments to be reported in relation to the reviewed diamond. The report is the document that lays out the fundamental details of a diamond presented in a concise and straightforward manner.

Does AGS Present Better Reports?

Since AGS came into conception it has always been compared to GIA. Many people are actually always trying to compare reports from the two laboratories. The reality is it can be a tough job trying to decide which laboratory provides more concise and perfect reports, because both laboratories work by meticulously evaluating and scrutinizing the diamonds. They also both check for every possible factor that is important for the jeweler who requested the review and for the potential client who will buy the piece of stone in a set of jewelry.

Some people maybe specific with the laboratory that reviewed a certain diamond while some may not actually care as long as they have the certification that says their diamonds are real.

If you are going to base your choice of laboratory with experience then GIA is the sure winner since it has been into diamond grading business since 1931, whereas AGS was the new comer being only doing diamond evaluation since 1996.

If you are really confused as to which diamond grading laboratory is better, you can base your choice with the results they provide. A mere mortal will find it hard to understand a report full of jewelry jargons, so, go for a report that is easier to comprehend without the need to ask the jeweler every now and then.

Another thing you can do is to review each laboratory’s techniques and try to find out which one can produce a more thorough diamond review.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis to Curb Cancer

Preimplantation genetic testing is a relatively newer technique that is used to find and identify an embryo’s genetic defects, through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is used specifically when one or both parents are know to carry an abnormal gene, so testing is used and performed on an embryo to identify and screen those specific embryo before they are implanted into the uterus. The term pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) is used to denote procedures that do not look for a specific disease but use PGD techniques to identify embryos at risk.

PGD baby sleepingPhoto Credit: Kristin Kokkersvold

By using these techniques only unaffected embryos are implanted within the uterus. Many of the most frequently screened for abnormalities are autosomal recessive disorders like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, Beta-thalassemia and spinal muscular atrophy. But inroads are being made in other areas such as that of breast cancer.

This is particularly relevant as in the news this past week Angelina Jolie recently underwent a double mastectomy so as to reduce her risks of developing breast cancer. She is a carrier of a gene mutation known as BRCA 1. Unfortunately the lifetime chance of developing breast cancer from the carriers of this gene is 80%. And the only known procedure to reduce the risk or prevent it is a double mastectomy.

Recently Dr Jain of Santa Monica fertility has written about this subject, and in particular how PGD has the potential to screen for these types of genetic defects.

He further explains:

BRCA 1 and 2 genes are normal genes found in the body. The typical role of these genes is to keep DNA stable and prevent cells from growing out of control, or mutating. Mutations of either BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes can lead to loss of cell control and the development of various cancers, among which breast and ovarian cancers are most prevalent.

BRCA 1 and 2 mutations can be passed on to children leading to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in multiple generations. The chances of inheriting a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation are somewhat high. In order for an egg to be fertilized by sperm, it must discard half of its chromosomes. Since the BRCA mutation is typically found on one chromosome, there is a 50% chance that the mutation will be randomly discarded by the egg. If the gene is not discarded, it will pass to the child who will also be a BRCA mutation carrier. In other words, there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation to a child.

Dr. John Jain and his colleague, Dr. Dagan Wells of Oxford University, are currently conducting a study aimed at identifying eggs that have successfully discarded the BRCA mutation, and studying what makes those particular eggs more resilient. If experts can effectively identify the mutation-resistant eggs, then these healthy eggs can be used to create embryos, ultimately eliminating hereditary breast and ovarian cancer from future generations.

This is pretty exciting, to have the ability to screen out certain genes that have an 80% likelihood of developing breast cancer is something that can change the lives of so many people. PGD has great potential to help us further screen out other abnormalities as well that have caused a lot of suffering and needless loss of life for so many people. There are many who have begun to travel to get these techniques done at clinics who have the ability to accomplish them.

10 Tips for Planning a Big Group Trip

Planning a trip can get quite messy. You have to make arrangements for transportation, food, accommodations, and the activities that you may want to try while on vacation. Imagine organizing an itinerary, reserving accommodations, and trying to find a suitable mode of transportation–all while coordinating with your entire group. But if you are organized and work together, the planning stage that you so dread can go much smoother. That’s what we found out when planning a Grand Canyon photography trip this summer. Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:

Have three or four people present a range of destination options.

Don’t be surprised if only a handful of people in your group are active during the planning stages; many people enjoy simply tagging along. Get a few members of your group to do research and suggest the places your group may want to go. This shortlist makes it easier for everyone to cast in their vote and makes deciding where to go much faster.
Wine tasting on passport dayPhoto Credit: Simon Davison’s photostream

Designate one person to be the group organizer.

This person acts as a coordinator and mediator while the trip planning is going on. It helps if this person is decisive, so that if the group cannot decide on something, he/she can make a decision for the group.

Assign specific tasks to different members of the group.

Planning can go smoother when there is a go-to person for each task, so try to get everyone to give a hand and help out. Have someone in charge of finding accommodations for the group, another person to take care of making the transportation arrangements, and one or two others to help out with organizing the individual payments.

Have a rough idea of the kind of things you want to do.

Talk with your trip companions about the type of trip you want – do you want this to be a relaxing vacation where you can all hang out and chill, or are you looking for adventure? You don’t have to put together a detailed itinerary, but this can help you decide how long your getaway will be and narrow down your options of places to stay.

Look for accommodations that have rooms for big groups.

You and your trip companions will save more if you book a smaller number of rooms. For example, if there are ten people in your group, instead of booking five rooms that can accommodate two persons each, try to find a place that can accommodate four or five in a room, so that you’ll only need to book two rooms. Another option is to find a hotel or resort that allows an extra person to stay in the room for a small fee. Even though you have to pay extra, you’ll still spend less than if you had booked another room.

Finalize your headcount before booking accommodations and services.

Make sure that everyone has confirmed that they’ll be joining the trip before you make transportation arrangements or book a place to stay. Sometimes one or two people can make a big difference in the type of rooms you’ll reserve or even the modes of transportation, so be sure that everyone who says they’re coming along on the trip will be there. To make this easier, set a deadline for confirmation with your companions so that you can make reservations and organize transportation schemes accordingly.

Get everyone’s contact details, and make sure everyone else does, too.

This is as much a safety precaution as it is convenient. Having everyone’s cellphone numbers and other contact information can be very helpful in case of an emergency. It will help you coordinate with each other about arrival times, each other’s whereabouts when you’re not all together, and will help you look out for each other.

Set a time and place to meet on the day of trip.

Instead of picking everyone up individually, it’s more practical to meet at a specific time in a place that everyone can go to and then leave for your destination from there. This will help save time, fuel, and money.

Try to make meal arrangements before you set off to eat.

One way to do this is to call the hotel and inform them about the size of your group and to reserve a table during mealtimes. If you’ll be eating outside the hotel or resort, try to make reservations at the restaurant where you’ll be dining. This will help you avoid waiting long to get a table when you’re going to eat.

Allow yourselves a little time to break into smaller groups or go solo during the trip.

Even though you all know what you want to be doing together, some of you may want to try things that not everyone else is up for. Leave some time free for all of you to do your own thing. Not only will you get to do what you want, but it also gives you something new to talk about.

Going Solo: A Guide for Traveling Alone

Traveling alone is one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges you can choose to take on. It gives you the freedom of choice: where to go, how to get there and what to do will be up to you. Traveling alone allows you to be more introspective, so that you discover new insights regarding your own nature and that of others. As a lone traveler, you also become more curious and active in your new environment allowing you to see everything with new eyes. While risk is always a factor when traveling, oftentimes there is danger to a group of unprepared travelers rather than a single prepared one. With this in mind, here are some things to consider when going on a solo trip.

Mini WaterfallPhoto Credit: dmwSpyder

As You Plan Your Trip

The beauty of solo travel is that it offers you the chance to be spontaneous, but planning the trip beforehand can go a long way:

Choose a destination appropriate for your travel experience. If you have never traveled unaccompanied before, you can plan to visit a place you have previously been to with companions and see it with fresh eyes traveling alone. Solo travel newbies can also plan on visiting a destination where it is not unusual for locals to see new faces.

Do your research. Study the location and transportation maps of your destination ahead of time. Contact people that you know who have been to your planned destination. They might be able to provide you with personalized tips. Find out everything you can about where you’re going, particularly the cultural norms, values and rules of etiquette of its residents.

Learn some phrases in the local dialect. Even if you’re unable to master the pronunciation, locals will appreciate the effort.

Memorize key phrases such as:
“Leave me alone!”
“Help!”
“Police!”
“No!”
“Where is the bathroom?”

Get connected. Before your trip, let family and friends in on your plans such as where you’ll be headed, your contact information, and how often they should expect to hear from you. Don’t forget to call or text them. This is so that in case something does happen, there is a trail that they can follow.

Back up. Store your information such as credit card numbers and a scanned copy of your identification in a safe place that you can easily access in the event that your stuff is lost or stolen.

Pack light. Take stock of what you really need, such as toiletries, underwear, and climate appropriate clothing. Bring only the essentials to make it easier for you to manage your luggage.

Be prepared against possible threats. Prior to your trip, practice some self defense moves. Pack a can of mace or pepper spray, and at the very least bring a whistle or a foghorn. Take note of emergency numbers at your destination.

Time your trip. If possible, schedule your arrival early on in the day. This leaves you more time to explore your destination in daylight. If you are flying to your destination, the earliest flights tend to be cheaper, saving you some money too.

Consider alternative lodging. When traveling solo, the cost of staying at a hotel tends to be more expensive since you are not sharing the room with someone else. Hostels, homestays, transient houses, or even somebody else’s couch are cheaper alternatives. Do some research and ensure that your accommodation is in a safe part of town.

Driving to Get to Your Destination

Have your car checked. Before leaving for your trip, make sure that your car is in good shape: check your vehicle’s oil, brakes, transmission fluid, coolant, and tires. Have a mechanic check out your vehicle about a week before you leave. Make sure that your spare tire is in good condition, and that you have the necessary equipment to set it up.

Map it out. When you’ve figured out where you want to go, plan out a loose itinerary of not just the trip itself, but of the roads you’ll be taking, including where you plan on stopping for meals, breaks, and gas.
Tech out. If you can afford it, invest in a good GPS system and a car-phone charger.

Lock your door at all times.

Getting There via Public Transportation

Know your route. If you’re going to take a bus, find out which bus companies have trips to your destination and check for direct routes. For some locations, a transfer may be necessary, so call ahead and find out where the transfer points are. Depending on the destination, you may be required to make a reservation for a seat. This is often true for long-distance trips, or during peak season. Take note of available transit systems along the way, in case you need to find alternative transportation.

Lie low. Avoid attracting unnecessary attention to yourself. Do not wear flashy or skimpy clothes, and avoid displaying valuables.

Pick your seat carefully. Sit beside a family or couple, if possible. Try to sit near the front, since it is harder for the driver and the conductor/ tour operator to view anything that happens at the back of the vehicle and intervene if a problem does occur.

Be aware. Make sure to guard your belongings. If it’s a long trip and you plan to sleep, keep your bag close to your body. A good trick is to use it as a pillow.

During Your Trip

Keep in mind the following guidelines as you travel around in the destination of your choice:

Look confident. Empower yourself by moving with confidence. Walk with your shoulders squared, chin up and eyes straight ahead.
Ask and you shall receive. If you’re lost, ask discreetly. Local police officers are always ready and willing to help. At the absence of an officer in uniform, ask tricycle or jeepney drivers. They know their way around and are good sources of information.

Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and learn to anticipate potential problems. Avoid dark alleyways or seedy areas.
Be polite. A smile can work wonders, and a gracious guest is better received than a rude stranger.
Watch your health. If you’re feeling ill, delay whatever it is that you have planned for the day and alert your accommodations manager. If you feel queasy on the road, stop and seek help while you can.

Stay sober. Traveling solo and drinking until you’re wasted do not mix.

Sleep well. Get enough rest so you that you are in top shape as you travel.

Help others with others. Call the attention of other people if somebody seems to be in need of help.

Spread your valuables out. Don’t keep all your documents and money in one container. If your accommodation is equipped with a safety deposit box, use it. Keep a secret stash of cash in an unlikely place, such as in the inside of your shoe, as an emergency fund.

Speak out, be noisy. The best thing you can do if someone touches you inappropriately is to yell, shout and make a fuss. Don’t worry about what the locals will think, if anything they will help you ward off the aggressor. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re alone with an attacker, use every tool you have: scream, spray him with pepper spray, pretend to throw up on him, kick him in his privates, and run for help.

Above all, trust your instincts.

Though caution should always be taken during any travel excursion, the kindness of strangers and the ease of solo travel in the any place can surpass that of even the most popular international tourist destination. Traveling alone is a chance to step outside of one’s comfort zone, meet new friends, and gain new perspectives. Stay safe, travel smart and don’t let your fears prevent you from enjoying the voyage.

Airport Survival Guide : 10 Things Travellers Need to Keep in Mind

Airport LanternsPhoto Credit: Jim Epler

Have you ever been delayed because your hand-carry luggage was overweight, or because you forgot to pack your liquid essentials properly? Airport security has become much stricter than ever, so whether it’s to your fave local summer getaway or country-hopping around the world, you should prepare well for the trip, starting with airport ground rules. If we hadn’t followed these tips last spring when we went to the Grand Canyon dory, then things would have been a nightmare. These handy tips will help you make your comings and goings as stress-free as possible.

 1. Pack smart, travel light.

Sometimes international airport personnel will open your bags for further inspection, and when that happens, you don’t want your stuff spilling out for everyone to see! If you can barely zip up your luggage, you might want to reorganize its contents or take some items out. Check the weather forecast for your destination so you can plan your outfits better. Put your underwear in a discrete compartment and your loose items in one kit, then place your footwear–especially closed shoes–on top of everything. Gift-wrapped items may need to be opened for inspection, so it helps to wait before wrapping them.

 2. Hand-carry tips.

As a general rule, liquids, aerosols, and gels are only allowed in 100-ml, roughly 3 oz., containers each and should be placed in clear, resealable plastic bags measuring 20cm x 20cm. The bag must hold a maximum total of only 1 liter, or at most 10 100-ml containers. Just to be on the safe side, put your lip gloss, perfume, mascara, and other liquid makeup in one Ziploc bag as your temporary make-up kit.Take note that this rule only applies to carry-on bags; you can put all the rest in your check-in luggage. As for the rules regarding baggage dimensions and weight limits, they may vary from airline to airline, so it’s best to check with your particular aircraft carrier service for any specific policies. Keep in mind that sharp objects such as nail files and scissors are only allowed in check-in luggage, as are items like umbrellas.

 3. Declare all “questionable” items.

If you’re on prescription meds, always carry them in their labeled containers because many countries have strict laws against drug trafficking–and, yes, this includes medication. Also, if you really need to bring liquids in larger quantities in your hand-carry luggage, such as baby food or contact lens solutions, inform airport security. The United States Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)  has a very handy website that specifically lists the kinds of items that are allowed or not allowed.

 4. PROTECT YOUR GADGETS

Apart from one piece of carry-on luggage, you’re allowed to bring one more item on board. This includes any one of the following: laptop (plus bag), purse or small backpack, briefcase, or camera case. Laptops and other electronics may have to be removed from their cases and screened separately during inspection, so it’s best to put all of them in one compartment for easy reach. If you’re carrying undeveloped film, don’t put it in your check-in luggage because the X-ray machine will destroy it.

5. STOCK UP ON TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Aside from mini-toiletries, bring extra resealable bags for your hand-carry liquids, plastic or waterproof bags for dirty/wet clothes, an umbrella or jacket in case of bad weather, candy or dry snacks for hunger pangs during long flights, a foldable bag in case you have no more room for souvenirs, and a small wallet or coin purse for your airport fees and miscellaneous charges. If you’re bringing electronic gadgets with you, bring your own chargers plus a universal adapter plug. For international flights, activate your mobile provider’s GPS or roaming service before leaving, and make sure you have enough credits for emergency calls while you’re abroad.

6. DRESS COMFORTABLY

It’s not a crime to look good, but you might want to save the bling and the lace-up boots for when you get to your destination. Airport security may need you to remove your belt, watch, and anything that has a substantial metal content. You’re also required to remove your shoes, so it’s better to wear something you can easily slip off and put back on. You don’t want to be stuck re-tying your shoelaces when you’re already running late!

7. SET ASIDE MONEY FOR AIRPORT FEES

Including travel taxes and fees in your budget is a must, especially for international flights, because these can cost you a lot. Familiarize yourself with the fees of the respective airports you’ll be passing through, and prepare the exact amounts in advance so you won’t have to rummage through your bag for change.


 

8. BE AT THE AIRPORT EARLY

How many times have we narrowly (or worse, completely) missed our flights because we didn’t expect the heavy traffic or the long lines at the check-in counter? Now is not a good time to be late! Experts recommend arriving at least 2 hours before your flight. The day before your departure or at least a few hours prior, confirm your flight schedule and check if there are any last-minute changes or cancellations.

9. LOOK CONFIDENT

If you’re traveling alone, keep in mind that the security personnel in some international airports may be extra wary of lone female travelers. Dressing conservatively and maintaining an aura of poise and confidence will help you avoid awkward run-ins with airport security. Also, keep your passport, IDs, and boarding pass within easy reach.

10. STAY CALM

Sometimes, travel plans get messed up because of various unforeseen circumstances–flight delays or cancellations, travel alerts, even natural calamities. Never board a plane without informing at least one person of your flight itinerary and contact numbers. If you’re stuck in an airport, make sure you can easily contact someone who can help you. Have your travel agent’s contact number on hand in case something goes wrong with your flights. But most of all, don’t let your paranoia ruin your whole trip! Bon voyage!

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

Vacations don’t always go the way that you planned, and sometimes what was supposed to be your time to relax only stresses you out. Worry no more, for there are steps you can take to ensure that you’ll be able to make the most of your getaway and get the rest and relaxation you deserve.

Make checklists. With all the preparations you need to make, it’s easy to forget a thing or two in the midst of all the packing and planning. Have checklists for the tasks you need to accomplish before setting off, for the things you need to bring on your trip, and for the things you may need to check at the last minute before you leave.

{happy time change day}Photo Credit: vvaldzen

Check the weather and get clear directions. Get your weather worries and trip anxiety out of the way by taking a look at the weather forecast for the duration of your trip and making sure you have clear directions to your destination. That way, you’ll be more prepared for your trip.

Get work and other responsibilities done before leaving, but don’t wear yourself out. You’ll be on vacation, and who wants to be thinking about deadlines and payments while lounging on the beach? Get your immediate work and personal responsibilities out of the way, like submitting deliverables and paying your bills, before leaving for your trip, so that you won’t need to spend your hard-earned down time finishing up things for work. Pace yourself and adjust your workload also, so that you won’t be too tired from frontloading during your travels.

Ask a trusted friend/co-worker to take charge of any work-related concerns for when you’re gone. Even if you were able to finish your work before your trip, unexpected situations may arise that you won’t be able to handle while you’re away. By having someone you trust in charge of whatever issues may arise during your leave, you’ll be able to get the most out of your vacation without having to sacrifice your work.

Stop working when you get to your destination! Be sure to inform your co-workers and business contacts that you’ll be away on leave during a set time, so that they will be able to direct their concerns elsewhere, and you won’t need to constantly check up on how things are at your workplace. Part of “getting away from it all” is leaving it (i.e., the little everyday things that can contribute to stress) all behind. Besides, you’ll only worry more if you find out there’s no Internet connection where you’re going.

If you live alone, ask someone check in on your home/pets/plants while you’re away. A good vacation can be ruined by a bad homecoming, so if nobody will be left at home during your vacation, have a friend drop by your place every now and then to feed your cat, water your houseplants, and make sure that everything at home is generally okay.

Prepare for any emergencies you may encounter. Aside from your travel emergency kit (which should include first aid items and personal medicines), make sure to bring a set of extra clothes, items for drastic weather changes, like a small umbrella and a jacket, and enough extra cash to be able to sustain you should you have any emergency expenses during your trip.

Stay within your budget. You don’t have to scrimp on the things you want, but make sure you won’t find yourself without enough cash to get you safely back home. Make a mental note that you can only spend so much, and make sure not to touch your emergency cash unless absolutely necessary.

Be spontaneous and have fun! Maybe you prefer to have your activities all planned out, but don’t get upset if things don’t always go according to plan. Go with the flow and you’ll find that you’re having fun.

Give yourself time to rest before work starts again. Try to schedule your vacation so that you have a day or two to recover from the trip before going back to work. Having ample time to rest before returning to the daily grind will keep you fresh and energized for when work starts again.