Man-Made Diamonds; A Buyer's Guide

It seems almost impossible to watch TV or open a newspaper without seeing something about man-made diamonds. For centuries of years science has tested to create a perfect synthetic diamond. Finally, 21st-century technology has made that prospect a reality.

There are many reasons to purchase synthetic diamonds instead of the mined variety. The prices charged for mined diamonds are, in the very best verbiage, an illusion. To put it more bluntly, Cecil Adams, in his award-winning newspaper column "The Straight Dope" says: "Diamonds are a con, pure and simple." Diamond prices are largely controlled by the DeBeers diamond cartel, and they are not a fair reflection of diamond scarcity. Additionally, studies show that one out of three diamonds sold in the US today has been altered to artificially increase its value. Further studies have shown that on average a couple pays 40% too much for their diamond engagement ring.

Beyond deceiving pricing, there are the issues of "blood diamonds", forced child labor, and a myriad of other disturbing diamond facts.

Recently, socially conscious celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Minnie Driver, and Angelina Jolie have made a vocal issue of wearing only synthetic diamonds to the many gala events they attend.

Good synthetic diamonds are naturally indistinguishable from the mined variety, but without the baggage, and additionally, they cost thousands of dollars less. But, which synthetic diamond is the best choice?

There are many types of man-made or synthetic diamonds available. The choices are numerous, but unbiased information is scarce. Here is an overview and comparison of the synthetic diamonds currently unavailable on the market:

Cubic Zirconia

The grandfather of simulated diamonds, Zircons are available wide. In their best examples, CZ's are actually a fairly decent diamond replica. Unfortunately, the commodity-like availability and vast differences in quality have made the stone synonymous with low-cost fashion jewelry. Perhaps a good choice for cheap bling, but not for fine jewelry. Many sources are available, a decent one is: http://www.czfantasy.com

Russian Diamonds

Including Russian Brilliants, Russian Stars and others, they are in fact nothing but high quality cubic zirconias. This is not mentioned prominently on their web sites and they will only cop to it when pressed, but that is the fact. Russian diamond simulates are priced around $ 280 per carat.

Russian Diamonds are a fine jewelry selection and are usually mounted in quality precious metal settings.

Russian Brilliants are one of the best and oldest sellers of "Russian Diamonds" available at: http://www.russianbrilliants.net

Moissanite

Moissanite is a lab-created mineral that is a very good diamond simulant. Moissanite has been on the market as a fine jewelry choice since the early 90s and has picked up quite a few fans. Moissanite is a hard mineral that, like diamond, will cut glass. There are a couple of minor downsides to moissanite however. First, it is quite expensive, (though still cheaper compared to diamonds) usually priced about $ 500 per carat for good samples.

Secondly, moissanite does not have the same optical qualities as diamond and there are several indicators that make them easy to spot with the naked eye for an experienced practitioner. It is difficult to produce a pure white moissanite and they often appear slowly green when viewed in natural light. Also, moissanite has significantly higher radiance and brilliance factors then natural diamond, causing them to appear "too sparkly" to some. Overall though, moissanite is a beautiful synthetic diamond choice.

"Moissanite From the Sky" at http://www.fromthesky.com is a good source of fine moissanite jewelry.

Diamond Nexus

Diamond Nexus gemstones are the result of a fairly new scientific advancement in processing technique, and have only recently been available in the United States.

Diamond Nexus gemstones are excellent diamond simulants and come very close to matching the properties of mined diamonds at many different comparison points. They cut glass, being virtually identical to diamond on the Mohs (hardness) scale. They refract perfect "hearts and arrows" and have radiance and brilliance statements very close to flawless diamond.

Best of all, they are currently introductory pricing for the US market, and are a steal at $ 79 per caret. Diamond Nexus gemstones are only available in precious metal, solid-gold settings.

Diamond Nexus is only available from Diamond Nexus Labs at: http://www.DiamondNexusLabs.com

White Sapphire

Sapphire is the second hardest natural mineral on the Mohs scale, surpassed only by diamond. They are, unlike the others in this review, a natural stone. Their radiance and brilliance are not up to the standards of diamond however. Neverheless, quality white sapphires priced at around $ 220 per carat are a good diamond alternative.

A quality source is: http://www.TheNaturalSapphireCompany.com

Gemisis Cultured Diamond

Gemisis diamonds are beautiful and almost perfect diamond replicas. Unfortunately, they are not available in a clear, white color, so they are not a good choice for traditional diamond settings. However, if a yellow, orange or pink diamond is what you crave, Gemisis offers stunning choices in beautiful precious metal, fine-jewelry settings.

Gemisis Cultured Diamonds are only available at: http://www.gemisis.com

Recap:

Synthetic diamonds offer many advantages over the mined variety. You can buy with confidence, knowing that you are getting exactly what you paid for, and have not been the victim of diamond pricing chicanery. If you are concerned with the world around you, you can have a clear conscience, knowing that your money has not contributed to the support of an unethical and abusive industry.

However, there are many choices of synthetic diamonds, with varying degrees of quality. Take a little time to review the seller's information to get a clear idea of ​​what the science is behind the gemstones you are buying.

For my money, I believe the best choices are quality Moissanite stones or the new diamond simulant gemstones available from Diamond Nexus Labs.

Catering Business Profits, Earnings and Salaries – How Much Money Can You Really Make?

Many people have turned their love of cooking and entertaining into a good living by starting catering businesses.

Catering is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. and as one of the fastest growing segments of the food and beverage industry, the catering business offers great opportunities for those wanting to start a small business with a low start up cost.

In this article we will look at catering business profits, earnings and salaries and how much money it is really possible to make in this industry. Then we will examine some of the things that separate the really successful players from the amateurs.

Is a $100,000 Yearly Profit Possible in Catering?

Many people consider a $100,000 pre-tax salary or profit to be a benchmark for success and they wonder if they can reach this level of earnings in catering.

Most small catering business owners who put in the effort can expect to earn between $20,000 and $40,000 profit per year for the owner during the first couple of years. After a couple of years in the business, you can easily scale up to earning a ‘six figure’ annual income from catering.

Tips for Getting to the ‘Six Figure’ Level

1) Forget catering from your home kitchen if you want to get to this salary level. Business savvy caterers do volumes that require them to either rent commercial kitchen space by the hour, arrange access to restaurant kitchens during off-hours or focus on ‘on-premises’ jobs only and use the kitchens of their clients.

2) Successful players love spending time creating menus, following food trends and interacting with people without neglecting the business side of catering.

3) Start to create a powerful brand right from the start with your logo, company values and unique service that will grow into a valuable asset that allows you to command a premium price for your catering services in the market.

4) Develop systems for every part of your business to streamline day-to-day operations. Analyze the way that you and your staff work and strive to increase productivity.

5) Understand that there are ‘niche’ markets within the catering industry that you would never think of until you really start looking. Top caterers find these untapped opportunities, and carve out a business catering to the specific needs of these groups.

6) Perfect the process of consulting with new clients and learn how to politely up-sell them on some of your more expensive offerings.

7) Realize that you are leaving money on the table if you don’t also up-sell additional event related services to your customers.

8) Learn how to hire, train and organize a small team to assist you with food preparation, delivery, service, and even sales if you want a realistic chance of getting to an income level above $100,000.

9) Don’t neglect traditional advertising methods but also pursue other modern marketing methods such as networking, cross promotions and guerrilla marketing.

10) Successful caterers also recognize the importance of customer referrals. Customers may introduce friends to you because they like your food and services but there are also other ways to get them talking about your company.

To get started on the right track, do as much reading as you can about general small business management and the catering business specifically. Many highly successful caterers have published start up guides and you have a chance to learn from their mistakes instead of making your own and you can benefit from their expert advice and insider tips.

It is possible to make a lot of money in the catering business if you put in the effort. Reaching a level of earnings that will allow you to make a ‘six figure’ salary from your catering business is entirely possible within your first two years in business.

A Career As Restaurant Owner Vs Restaurant Manager

There is a big difference between a career as a restaurant owner and a career as a restaurant manager. Restaurant managers sometimes go on to own their own restaurants, restaurant owners often do a great deal of managerial work and both are heavily invested in the success of the restaurant and involved in its daily operations, but the general similarities end there. The specific roles and responsibilities of a restaurant owner vs. a restaurant manager will be explained in further detail below.

A Career as a Restaurant Owner

Restaurant owners are responsible for overseeing the entire operations of a restaurant, even when they hire someone else to manage it. They make an initial investment and either buys the restaurant from someone else or starts his or her own restaurant. Owners must make additional investments down the line when the restaurant needs new equipment and supplies, or when the business has outgrown its location and needs to move or expand, and they will also be responsible for cleaning up the mess if the business fails. The owner has a vested interest in the success of the restaurant, not just because it’s his or her job, but because it’s his or her investment, brainchild and often a dream come true. The owner takes the most financial risk, but he or she also gets the biggest payoff if the restaurant is a success.

They vary in their level of responsibility in the kitchen and on the floor. Some owners hire other people to do everything and trust they will make the right decisions, while others are there every day, interacting with customers and staff and taking on managerial duties. Many of them must work long hours every day of the week as they get their business off the ground, but if it becomes a success, they get the opportunity to sit back and relax a bit.

A Career as a Restaurant Manager

They work closely with restaurant owners to ensure that the business runs smoothly. They also have a vested interest in making sure the restaurant is operating at a profit; in fact, this is their primary concern. The manager has pay increases, bonuses and profit shares to entice him or her to succeed, and the fear of losing his or her job to entice him or her to avoid failure. This career requires skills in budgeting, leadership, communication, analysis and planning, as well as a knowledge and appreciation of the culinary arts and customer service.

Types of Restaurants and Their Characteristics

A restaurant is a place where food & beverages are sold & served to customers. There are different types of restaurants that have evolved to meet the dynamic demands of consumers. The following are some well-known types of restaurants & their special characteristics:

Bistro: it is a small restaurant that serves simple, moderately priced meals & wine. Braised meets are typical dishes that are provided in a bistro. It may not have printed menus.

Brasserie: formal restaurant which serves drinks, single dishes & other meals. The waiters are in traditional uniform of long apron & waistcoats.

Coffee shop: mainly serves snacks & beverages 24 hours a day; however it may serve all the three meals. This concept has come from the USA. A ‘cover’ is a term referring to a place setting with necessary cutlery, crockery & glassware required at the beginning of the service for one person. Though the main feature is 24-hour operation, some coffee shops may close early, depending on their location.

Specialty Restaurant: it serves specialty dishes which are its strength & contribute to the brand image. It operates during luncheon & dinner hours, between noon & 3 PM & between 7 PM & 11 PM. The ambience & décor of the restaurant reflect the theme of the specialty restaurant. The dishes of a particular region of a country or a particular set of people are also termed as ethnic cuisine.

Fine Dining Restaurant: this kind of restaurant primarily caters to the requirement of the affluent market segment which wants to experience fine dining. The restaurant may either offer dishes of one particular region or country or exotic dishes from various cuisines, wines, spirits & digestives. It opens mostly during dinner time. The ambience & décor of the restaurant will be elegant & rich. The wait staff employed is skilled & has a sound knowledge of the dishes served. The restaurant employs sommeliers to serve wines & other alcoholic beverages.

Popular Restaurant: this type of restaurant is informal, yet hygienically kept & it is located in a busy area such as bus stands, railway stations, shopping area & so on, catering to the requirements of the middle class & the customers who are in a hurry. The menu may either be displayed on a board at a prominent place or printed & laminated. It operates from 7 AM to 11 PM. The food is plated in the kitchen & carried to the table on a tray & served. The service standards are low & informal. Space is utilized to the maximum to accommodate more covers. The seat turnover is very high but the average revenue per cover is low.

During busy lunch hours, these restaurants serve business lunch, mini-lunch, & thali meals in a separate area to speed up service.

Dhaba: it is a roadside food stall found on national & state highways, mainly catering to the requirements of heavy vehicle crew. It specializes in ounjabi cuisine & tandoor cooking, serving very limited dishes, which are freshly prepared. The service is very informal & there is hardly any cutlery used. The dishes served here are inexpensive & taste like home-made food.

Fast food joint: the fast food concept was first introduced in the USA & now it has become popular around the world. It is characterized by the speed of service & the affordable price of the menu items. Changes in eating habits, non-availability of time to wait at the table & eat, increase in the number of working women, advancement in food processing technology, growth of teenage market, & so on, have contributed to the success of fast food operations. It is located in very busy area.

Rotisserie: this type of restaurant specializes in grilled or roast meat, poultry, & fish, which are prepared in front of the guests.

Barbeque restaurant: the marinated pieces of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, paneer, & so on, are inserted into skewers & cooked over live charcoal or electric griller. It is generally located near a swimming pool, roof top, lawn, sea side, & so on, & is open during evening hours.

Night club: it operates during the night & offers dinner, dance, & live entertainment. Cabarets or floor shows are the main attraction of the night club. Guests are required to wear formal wear.

Night clubs levy an entry fee.

Discotheque: it operates during night hours. It provides a dance floor for guest to dance on. Special sound & lightning effect is created for an appropriate ambience. Drinks, especially beer, & snacks are made available during the operations. The service is very informal. It is patronized mostly by the youth & couples. The entry is limited to a certain number of guests according to the floor/room capacity & an entry fee is levied.

Ice Cream parlor: it serves different kinds of ice creams-sundae, coupe, bombe, cassata, & so on. These ice creams are stored in ice cream containers & are kept in refrigerated displays with see through glass. The parlors may either be a franchisee or an independent one making its own varieties of ice creams. The seating arrangements & service are very informal. Guests may either eat in the premises or have it packed & carry.

Cafe: this is a restaurant of French origin, mainly serving coffee & snacks. The French colonies in India, but served Indian snacks such as vada, samosas, bonda, & so on, along with coffee & pastries. The customers are served at the table following the American style which increases the seat turnover, but the average revenue per cover is low due to the lower pricing of dishes.

Cafeteria: the traditional cafeteria system consists of a straight line of counters containing a variety of hot & cold dishes. The cashier who is at the end of the counter makes bills for the items selected & collects payment. This form is widely followed in institutional & industry catering establishments.

In modern ‘ free flow cafeteria’ system, the counters are segregated according to the type of dishes offered-hot or cold, appetizers, soups, breads, sandwiches, entrees, salads, pastas & so on. In most cafeteria-style operations in India, guests make payment at the counter beforehand for items they want to eat & collect them against the bill at the appropriate counters. Cafeterias are situated in railway stations, cinema halls, shopping complexes, college premises, office premises, & so on, where the guest expects quick service.

Food Court: it refers to a number of independent food stalls, each serving items of food. The customers order the food items they want to have & consume them at a common dining area. The types of dishes offered represent local cuisine & dishes that are popular globally. Food courts are found in big shopping complexes, entertainment complexes, amusement parks, airports, & so on where there is a heavy traffic of customers.

Kiosk: it is small permanent or temporary structure on a sidewalk from which items such as coffee, tea, chocolates, pastries, savories & so on, may be sold. Most kiosks do not have seating provision.

Drive-in: customers drive in, park their vehicles at a parking lot, & remain seated in their vehicles. The waiters go to the customers with menu cards, collect orders, & deliver the food items on specially designed trays & the customers remain parked while they eat.

Oyster Bar: it is a restaurant that specializes in the serving of fresh oysters. The oysters are opened or shelled behind the counter, within the sight of guests. Fresh oysters are served on a bed of crushed ice with oyster cruet, brown bread, & butter.

Pub: it mainly serves various kinds of beer, especially draught beer, & snacks.

Bars: it offers all kinds of spirits such as whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, brandy, tequila, wines, & beers. Hotels & restaurants have an additional bar in the food service area/restaurant to dispense wines, beers, & spirits during the service, called a dispense bar.

Carvery: it is restaurant serving roast meat & poultry, which are carved at the carving counter by a carver in the presence of guests. Table d’hôte menu of three or four courses with roast meat or poultry as the main course is offered.