To learn more about gemstones and their unique qualities, feel free to click on the images below. You will be able to read lots of interesting facts about the gemstones listed below.
Hindu poets tell of the Kalpa Tree, the ultimate gift to the gods, a glowing tree covered in gemstone fruit with leaves of Zircon. Zircon has long played a supporting role to more well-known gemstones, often stepping in as an understudy when they were unavailable.
In the middle ages, Zircon was said to aid sleep, bring prosperity, and promote honor and wisdom in its owner. The name probably comes from the Persian word ‘zargun’, which means ‘gold-colored’, which is the most common color of Zircon available.
Natural Zircon today suffers on account of the similarity of its name to cubic zirconia, the laboratory-grown Diamond imitation. Many people are unaware that there is a beautiful natural gemstone called Zircon.
Zircon occurs in a wide range of colors including blue, green, yellow, brown, reddish brown, colorless and everything in between. For many years the most popular was the colorless variety, which looks more like Diamond than any other natural stone because of its brilliance and dispersion.
Today the most popular color is Blue Zircon, which is considered an alternative birthstone for December. Most Blue Zircon is of a pastel blue, but some exceptional gems have a bright blue color.
Zircon has a hardness on the Mohs Hardness Scale of 6.5-7.5.
Zircon is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Australia, and other countries.
Zircon is one of the heaviest gemstones, which means that it will look smaller than other varieties of the same weight. Zircon jewelry should be stored carefully because although it is relatively hard, Zircon can suffer from abrasion and the facets can be chipped. Dealers often wrap Zircons in individual twists of paper so that they will not knock against each other in a parcel.
The wide variety of colors of Zircon, its rarity, and its relatively low cost make it a popular collector’s stone. Collectors enjoy the search for all possible colors and variations.
Tanzanite is a relative newcomer to the world of gems. It is named after the East African nation of Tanzania, the only place in the world where it has been found. A On its discovery in 1967, it was enthusiastically celebrated by the specialists as the ‘gemstone of the 20th century’. They held their breath in excitement as they caught sight of the first deep-blue crystals which had been found in the Merelani Hills near Arusha in the north of Tanzania. Millions of years ago, metamorphic schists, gneisses and quartzites formed impressive, flat-topped inselbergs on a vast plain in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. The precious crystals grew in deposits on the inside of these unusual elevations. For a long, long time they were hidden from the eye of Man, until one day some passing Masai shepherds noticed some sparkling crystals lying in the sun and took them along with them.. Generally Tanzanite is bluer in daylight and more violet in incandescent light. Its color ranges from soft pastel lilac through violet –blue. Tanzanite’s public recognition and popularity have grown steadily. Tanzanite typically shows strong pleochroism, which means it displays different colors from different directions. It usually looks violet blue from some directions, purplish from others. Tanzanite has been accepted as an alternate birthstone for the month of December.
Hardness is 6-7 on Mohs scale and Toughness fair to poor, due to cleavage and sensitivity to thermal shock. This can be created by simply taking the Tanzanite from the hot lights of the display case and placing it on the cool glass of the display case.
Tanzanite is only found in one location: Tanzania
Topaz has been known for at least 2000 years and is one of the gemstones which is described in, ‘The Book of Revelations’, forming the foundations of the twelve gates to the Holy City of the New Jerusalem. The name Topaz was used originally, to refer to any yellow gemstone, but in modern times it denotes only the true Topaz mineral.
The word Topaz is related to the Sanskrit word “tapas” meaning “heat” or “fire”, also to the Hebrew word for “orange” (the fruit): tapooz, both of which predate the Greek word.
The most common natural color of Topaz is a colorless to slightly yellowish brown. However, the most desirable natural color, for Topaz is yellow or more famously, the rich reddish golden color of the ‘Imperial Topaz’. For this color you have to go to Brazil. Even so the Brazilian deposits are virtually exhausted. Thus fine ‘Imperial Topaz’, is indeed both rare as well as expensive.
The most commonly known color of Topaz is ‘Blue Topaz’. While blue Topaz does occur in nature, it is extremely rare and almost always very pale in color. The prevalence of Blue Topaz in jewelry, is due to the fact that colorless Topaz can be Irradiated and then heated to produce the vibrant blues we are accustomed to see in Blue Topaz jewelry. There is Sky-Blue Topaz, Swiss Blue Topaz as well as the deep greenish blues of London Blue Topaz. In addition to these colors of Topaz, there are other common treatments such as, the coating of Topaz, to create other exciting and very affordable colors. One such is a surface coating of iridescent colors on top of colorless Topaz which results in ‘Mystic Topaz’, commonly sold in fashion jewelry.
Topaz is a hard and durable stone, 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Topaz comes from a variety of sources world wide including, Russia, Europe, Afghanistan, North America, Brazil, Sri Lanka and parts of Africa.
Spinel is a good candidate for the title of ‘History’s Most Underappreciated Gem.’ Some ancient mines that supplied gems for royal courts from Rome to China produced Spinel, but it was usually confused with better-known stones like Ruby and Sapphire.
Now treasured for its own sake, Spinel is a favorite of gem dealers and collectors on account of its brilliance, hardness and wide range of spectacular colors. In addition to beautiful rich reds, Spinel can be found in a range of gorgeous pastel shades of pink and purple. Of particular interest is a vivid hot pink with a tinge of orange mined in Burma. It is one of the most spectacular gemstone colors seen in any species at all. Spinel also comes in beautiful blue tones called ‘Cobalt Spinel’, but these are very, very rare.
In ancient times, the mines of central and southeast Asia yielded exceptionally large Spinel crystals. These fine stones became known as Balas rubies, and some of them were the treasured property of kings and emperors, often passing through many hands as spoils of war. As a result, some of the world’s most illustrious “Rubies” are actually Spinel.
One of the most famous examples is the so-called “Black Prince’s ruby.” This historic crimson-red gem is set in England’s Imperial State Crown and displayed in the Tower of London. Smoothly polished and roughly octagonal in shape, it was probably mined in the mountains of Afghanistan. It first appeared in the historical records of fourteenth-century Spain, and was owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish Kings before Edward, Prince of Wales—the “Black Prince”— received the stone in 1367 as payment for a battle victory.
Another large Spinel in the Crown Jewels, the ‘Timur ruby,’ weighs over 350 carats. It, too, has a checkered history. Several Persian inscriptions carved into the gem testify to its age.
Spinel is a durable gemstone measuring 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. That is perfect for all jewelry uses. It is most often faceted in oval, round, or cushion shapes and is not currently found in calibrated sizes due to its rarity.
Sources include: Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tanzania
The rare collector’s stone Sphene, is a brilliant, transparent ,yellowish-green or green with a high luster and pronounced fire. Sphene’s magnificent fire, unique color shades, strong pleochroism, adamantine (Diamond-like) luster, make it ideal for earrings and pendants that catch the light and show its sparkling qualities. Occasionally pink or brown, most Sphene is predominantly green or yellowish-green, with colorful flashes of the rainbow spectrum.
The name ‘Sphene’, comes from the word meaning wedge shaped, as it normally occurs in wedge shaped crystals. Several gemological characteristics make it beautiful and desirable as a collector’s stone or, with care, for jewelry use. Its dispersion (fire) is one of the highest of all gem materials, even higher than Diamond. The body color, degree of inclusions, cutting orientation and cutting style may enhance or obscure this feature. If well polished, the luster can approach or equal that of Diamond. The high birefringence usually makes some doubling of facet images visible within the stone giving it a degree of internal fuzziness similar to that often seen in Zircon or Peridot. A rare variety termed ‘Chrome Sphene’ is colored by chromium and is an intense green.
Why Buy Loose Gemstones Instead of Pre-Set Jewelry?
There are many reasons, but mainly it comes down to value and choice…
When buying your Sphene gemstone loose, instead of a pre-set stone, you can be sure that you are getting the best value for your money. Loose gemstones are often less expensive, a better value, and you can really see what you are paying for. The most important part of getting the best value, is to first see what you’re getting. A jewelry setting tends to hide the inclusions inside a gem, and can deepen or brighten its color. Jewelry settings also tend to hide poor faceting quality, masking poor craftsmanship through the overall ‘bling’ effect. With a loose gem, you can much more easily inspect and see it for what it really is.
The second advantage of buying a loose gemstone is choice. You are free to pick the exact color, cut, shape and variety of the stone for the setting of your dreams, be it yellow gold, white gold, platinum or silver; prong set or bezel set with Diamond accents. You can experience the joy of creating your very own, one-of-a-kind jewelry design. Choose from a variety of jewelry settings and styles to create a completely original presentation that will perfectly suit your individual gemstone and will be as unique as you are!
Hardness: Sphene is a very delicate gemstone with a hardness of about 5.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Sources include: Brazil, Pakistan, Madagascar and Namibia.
Sapphires and their close cousins, Rubies are members of the corundum mineral species. In gemology, a ‘species’ is a mineral that has a definite chemical formula and a specific three-dimensional structure. Corundum is an aluminum oxide (Al2O3), and has a regular crystalline structure formed by repeating patterns of arrangement at the atomic level. A “variety” is a sub-group of a mineral species and so Sapphire is a variety of Corundum just like Ruby.
While Ruby is always red, Sapphire can come in virtually every other color. Color in gemstones breaks down into three components: hue, tone and saturation. Hue is most commonly understood as the basic color of the gemstone. Saturation refers to the vividness or brightness of the hue, and tone is the lightness to darkness of the hue. Blue sapphire exists in various mixtures of its primary (blue) and secondary hues, various tonal levels (shades) and at various levels of saturation (vividness).
The color of fine Blue Sapphires may be described as a vivid medium dark violet to purplish blue where the primary blue hue is at least 85% and the secondary hue no more than 15%, without the least add mixture of a green secondary hue or a gray mask.
The most valued color is blue. Blue sapphires are evaluated based upon the purity of their primary hue. Purple, violet and green, are the most common secondary hues found in Blue Sapphires. Violet and purple can contribute to the overall beauty of the color, while green is considered to be distinctly negative. Blue sapphires with up to 15% violet or purple are generally said to be of fine quality. Blue sapphires with any amount of green as a secondary hue are not considered to be fine quality. Gray is the normal saturation modifier or mask found in Blue Sapphires. Gray reduces the saturation or brightness of the hue, and therefore has a distinctly negative effect.
Fancy Colored Sapphire (all other colors except blue)
While Blue Sapphire is the most well known variety of Sapphire, there are several other colors which are highly prized.
Padparadscha is a delicate light to medium toned pink-orange to orange-pink hue, originally found in Sri Lanka but also found in deposits in Vietnam and parts of East Africa. Padparadscha sapphires are rare; the rarest of all is the totally natural variety, with no sign of artificial treatment. The name is derived from the Sanskrit ‘padma ranga’ (padma = lotus; ranga = color), a color akin to the lotus flower.
Pink Sapphire is also highly prized. Pink sapphires deepen in color as the quantity of chromium increses. The deeper the pink color the higher their monetary value, as long as the color is tending toward the red of rubies. In the United States, a minimum color saturation must be met to be called a Ruby, otherwise the stone will be called a pink sapphire.
Yellow Sapphires in a vivid ‘Canary’ yellow are quite rare and beautiful, the finest of which generally comes from Sri Lanka.
Green Sapphire and multi colored green, yellow and blue Sapphire is also found, most famously from Chanthaburi Thailand.
Color Change Sapphire is one of the rareist and most sought after phenomenal gemstones. Color-Change Sapphire, exhibits different colors in different light. Color change Sapphires are blue in outdoor light and purple under incandescent, indoor light, or green to gray-green in daylight and pink to reddish-violet in incandescent light. Color Change Sapphires come from a variety of locations, including, Thailand, Vietnam, East Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. The color-change effect is caused by the interaction of the Sapphire, which absorbs specific wavelengths of light, and the light-source, whose spectral output varies depending upon the illuminant. Transition-metal impurities in the sapphire, such as chromium and vanadium, are responsible for the color change.
Star Sapphire is also a very famous and rare phenomenal variety of corundum. Natural, fine Star Sapphires can be very expensive, with Blue Star Sapphire leading the way. The star appears in a translucent Sapphire due to fine rutile needles alignging themselves along the crystal axis at 60 degree angles, thus giving the appearance of a 6 rayed star. In a natural Star Sapphire this star affect will be visible only under natural sunlight or an intense beam of light.
Sapphires also occur in shades of orange and brown. Colorless Sapphires are sometimes used as Diamond substitutes in jewelry. Natural Padparadscha (pinkish orange) Sapphires often draw higher prices than many of even the finest Blue Sapphires. Recently, more Sapphires of this color have appeared on the market as a result of a new artificial treatment method that is called “lattice diffusion”.
The cost of natural sapphires varies depending on their color, clarity, size, cut, and overall quality – as well as their geographic origin. Significant sapphire deposits are found in Eastern Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Madagascar, East Africa and North America. Sapphire and rubies are often found in the same geographic environment, but one of the gems is usually more abundant in any of the sites.
Sapphire as will all corundum is a very hard and durable gemstone. It is 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Sapphire is the Birthstone for September
For thousands of years, the Ruby has been considered one of the most valuable gemstones on Earth. It has everything a precious stone should have: magnificent color, outstanding hardness and terrific brilliance. In addition to that, it is an extremely rare gemstone, especially in finer quality. The most important thing about Ruby is its color. It was derived from the Latin word ‘rubens’, meaning ‘red’. The red of the Ruby is warm and fiery. The great associations of Ruby are the symbolism of this color: fire and blood, implying warmth and life for mankind. So Ruby-red is absolutely undiluted, it is hot, passionate and a power color. Instead of symbolizing a calm, controlled affection, a ring set with a precious Ruby bears witness to that passionate, unbridled love that people can feel for each other.
When the gemstone experts refer to a ‘Burmese ruby’, they are talking about the top luxury category. However, it does not necessarily follow that the stone is of Burmese origin. It is basically an indication of the fact that the color of the Ruby in question is that typically shown by stones from the famous deposits in Burma (now Myanmar), a rich, full-red with a slightly bluish undertone. The color is sometimes referred to as ‘pigeon-blood-red’, but the term ‘Burmese color’ is more fitting. A connoisseur will immediately associate this color with the legendary ‘Mogok Stone Tract’ and the gemstone centre of Mogok in the North of Myanmar. Here, the country’s famous ruby deposits lie in a mountain valley surrounded by high peaks.
Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, one of the hardest minerals on Earth. Pure corundum is colorless. Slight traces of elements such as chrome, iron, titanium or vanadium are responsible for the colors of corundum. These gemstones have excellent hardness of 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Only red corundum is entitled to be called Ruby. The element that colors Ruby is chromium and the amount of chromium present determines how intense the red is.
Ruby is the birthstone for July and the preferred gifts for both the 15th and the 40th anniversary.
Main Sources include, Afghanistan , Kenya , Malawi, Madagascar , Myanmar (Burma), India, Sri Lanka , Tanzania , Thailand and Vietnam.
Peridot is a very ancient gemstone, and one which has become very popular again today. The vivid green of Peridot, with just a slight hint of yellow, is the ideal gemstone color to go with that light summer wardrobe. No wonder – since the Peridot is the gemstone of the month of August.
It is so ancient that it can be found in Egyptian jewelry from the early 2nd millennium B.C. The stones used at that time came from a deposit on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, some 45 miles off the Egyptian coast at Aswan.
Peridot’s subtle and scintillating green tones range from pale yellowish green to ‘grass green’ to a pleasant ‘olive green’. The Romans called Peridot the ‘Evening Emerald’, since the green appears to be more intense in reduced light. Peridot was originally mined off the coast of Egypt. The most beautiful stones come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Myanmar.
Peridot is one of the few gemstones which come in one color only. The rich, green color with the slight tinge of yellow is caused by very fine traces of iron. From a chemical point of view, Peridot is an iron magnesium silicate. The intensity of the color depends on the amount of iron actually present. The color itself can vary over all shades of yellowish green and olive, and even to a brownish green. Peridot is not particularly hard – only 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale – but it is easy to look after and fairly durable. Peridot cat’s eyes and star Peridot are particularly rare and precious.
Peridot sources include, China, the USA, Africa and Australia. Peridot from Arizona, where it is popularly used in native American jewelry, often has somewhat yellowish or gold-brown nuances. Most Peridot formed deep in the earth and was brought to the surface by volcanoes.
Peridot is the birthstone for August.
Alongside Emerald and Aquamarine, Morganite is certainly the best known gemstone from the colorful family of Beryl. Women the world over, love Morganite for its fine pink and peach tones which radiate charm and tenderness.
Gemstones change their name too
Although this gemstone came into being millions of years ago, it has only been known by the name of Morganite for less than a hundred years. Before 1911, the gemological world simply viewed the ‘Pink Beryl’ as a variety of Beryl, not as a gemstone in its own right. And so it was that in 1911, on the suggestion of the New York gemologist G. F. Kunz, the pink variety of Beryl was ennobled to the status of a gemstone in its own right. In honor of the banker and mineral collector John Pierpont Morgan, it was given the name under which it is known today: Morganite.
Beryl’s are beryllium aluminum silicates rich in minerals. Pure Beryl is colorless. However, on account of its structure, it is in a position to intercalate foreign elements such as iron, manganese, chrome or vanadium. If manganese is intercalated in Beryl, the rather plain, colorless gemstone turns into an enchanting pink treasure Morganite. Today, this gemstone mainly comes from deposits in Brazil, Madagascar, Afghanistan and California. Its good hardness of 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale is the reason for its excellent wearing qualities.
There are Morganites in many fine pink hues. Some are decidedly pink, whilst others tend more to lilac or light violet. Or there may be a hint of orange. When all’s said and done, Mother Nature has provided the right gemstone color for each type and each skin color. The color of Morganite always emanates charm, esprit and a touch of tenderness. This gemstone has a wonderful gift: even in stressful times, it shows up the brighter aspects of life. Try it out yourself and you’ll see: the sight of a Morganite will put you in a good mood. A person who chooses this gemstone opts for ‘la vie en rose’ even in the greyness of everyday life. So it’s easy to see why Morganite is typically used in gemstone therapy for stress-related problems, radiating as it does a pleasant feeling of relaxation and calm.
The name Opal was probably derived from Sanskrit ‘upala’, meaning valuable stone. Pliny, the famous Roman author, called Opal a gemstone which combines the best possible characteristics of the most beautiful of gemstones: the fine sparkle of Almandine, the shining purple of Amethyst, the golden yellow of Topaz, and the deep blue of Sapphire, so that all colors shine and sparkle together in a beautiful combination.
Numerous legends and tales surround this colorful gemstone, which can be traced back in its origins to a time long before our memory, to the ancient dream time of the Australian Aborigines. It is reported in their legends that the creator came down to Earth on a rainbow, in order to bring the message of peace to all the humans. And at the very spot, where his foot touched the ground, the stones became alive and started sparkling in all the colors of the rainbow. That was the birth of the Opals. Another tale says that Opal was created when God completed painting the universe, scraping the palette and dumping all the colors into one gem!
The myth that the stone is unlucky for all but those born in October, resulted from the heroine’s death in a novel written by Sir Walter Scott.
Opal is renowned for its flashing phenomena known as, ‘play-of-color’. Body tones of Opal vary from crystalline to white to black, while its play-of-color, emphasizes the spectral colors of red, blue, green and yellow which form vivid patterns that dance in the light.
Opal is a relatively soft stone with a hardness is a 5-6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Toughness is very poor to fair. It is an alternate birthstone for the month of October and it is the preferred gift for the 14th wedding anniversary.
Main Sources include, Australia , Brazil , Ethiopia , Honduras , Japan , Mexico and the US.
What is the Difference between Australian and Ethiopian Opal? All Opal, whether it be Wello Opal (from Ethiopia) or Australian Opal, are made from the same molecular structure – Silica. Silica is basically glass made from nature with a unique formation of molecules to create color. Australian Opal is formed differently than Ethiopian Opal.
The formation of Australian opal was due to an extraordinary episode of acidic weathering, during the drying out of the central Australian landscape. This happened when a vast body of water covering 60 percent of Australia, started retreating. Between 100 and 97 million years ago this sea came to cover a much smaller area. This meant the previously inundated central Australian landscape started drying out and acidic weathering happened on a massive scale, when pyrite minerals released sulfuric acid. As a result of the leaching of minerals into the soil, Opal material formed in pockets and fissures where Opal was formed.
Ethiopian Opal on the other hand was formed high in the mountains as the result of Volcanic activity. As a result, is found, not in seams like Australian Opal, but in variously shaped spheres imbedded in volcanic ash. Many of the Ethiopian Opals actually are fossilized vegetation and will also contain fossilized plant life within the crystals as well. The main difference between Australian Opal and Wello Opal is the porous nature of many of the Ethiopia Opals. This Opal material can actually absorb water. It is also referred to as (hydrophane). It is interesting to note that if you soak one of these Opals in water, you can watch it absorb the water and in doing so it will often become crystal clear, while maintaining it’s play of color. As the gem dry’s out however, it will become milky white and temporarily loose its brilliance. This drying period can be from a few hours up to a few weeks depending on the amount of time it has to absorb water and what the drying conditions are like. After the Opal becomes completely dry, the original play of color will return. Because Wello Opal likes to absorb water, it should not be exposed to oils, dye or any other colored liquid. If this type of Opal absorbs a colored solution, it will change the body color permanently.
Should you choose Wello Opal or Australian Opal? It totally depends on you!
Both are beautiful creations of nature and come in various sizes and colors. Wello Opal is fairly new to the market and becoming very popular. The only misfortune surrounding Opal is the pleasure missed by not owning such a dazzling gem !
By the term ‘Garnet’, the specialist understands a group of more than ten different gemstones of similar chemical composition. It is true to say that red is the color most often encountered, but Garnet also exists in various shades of green, a light to intense yellow, a fiery orange and some fine earth-colored nuances. The only color it does not offer is blue. Which is now in debate due to the existence of Color Change Garnets, which can display a greenish blue color under natural light. Garnets are a highly sought after and prized gemstone. Especially due to all of the variety that it offers. Furthermore, the world of the garnets is also rich in rarities such as star garnets and stones whose color changes depending on whether they are seen in daylight or artificial light.
Almandite – is a fairly common red Garnet , with a color range from orangy red through red to reddish purple. Almandite occurs rather abundantly in the gem-gravels of Sri Lanka where it was sometimes called Ceylon-ruby. When the color inclines to a violet tint, the stone is often called Syriam garnet, a name said to be taken from Syriam, an ancient town of Pegu (now part of Myanmar) Large deposits of fine almandine-garnets were found, some years ago, in the Northern Territory of Australia, and were at first taken for rubies and thus they were known in trade for some time afterwards as Australian rubies.
Pyrope – Pyrope is the only member of the garnet family to always display red coloration in natural samples, and it is from this characteristic that it gets its name: from the Greek for fire and eye. Pyrope crystals are often found in association with Diamonds and are much smaller in size to Almandite.
Rhodolite – A further Garnet variety, also red, is the Rhodolite, a mixed crystal of Almandite and Pyrope. For a Pyrope /Almandite Garnet to be classified as Rhodolite, it must have at least a tint of violet. This popular garnet is of a magnificent velvety red with a fine violet or raspberry-red undertone. Originally found in the USA, it now comes mainly from the gemstone mines in East Africa, India and Sri Lanka.
Sources are numerous including Brazil, India, Myanmar, Madagascar, Pakistan , Sri Lanka, Australia and the US. Hardness is 7-7.5 and Toughness is Fair to Good.
Garnet is the birthstone for January.
Emeralds are fascinating gemstones. They can display the most beautiful, most intense and most radiant green imaginable. In fact everyone understands the description ‘Emerald Green’, which is often used to describe something that is a beautiful and intense green. Unlike most gemstones, in an Emerald, inclusions are often tolerated. In top quality, fine Emeralds are even more valuable than Diamonds.
Emerald is actually a member of the Beryl family and shares the same chemical and crystal structure of Aquamarine and Morganite. It is relatively hard at 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, however it is somewhat brittle, meaning that it must be worn with care.
The name Emerald comes from the Greek ‘smaragdos’ via the Old French ‘esmeralde’, and really just means ‘green gemstone’. Innumerable fantastic stories have grown up around this magnificent gem. The Incas and Aztecs of South America, regarded the Emerald as a holy gemstone. However, probably the oldest known finds were once made near the Red Sea in Egypt. Having said that, these gemstone mines, already exploited by Egyptian pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C. and later referred to as ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’, had already been exhausted by the time they were rediscovered in the early 19th century.
Written many centuries ago, the Vedas, the holy scriptures of the Indians, say of the precious green gems and their healing properties: ‘Emeralds promise good luck and ‘The Emerald enhances the well-being. So it was no wonder that the treasure chests of Indian maharajas and maharanis contained wonderful Emeralds. One of the world’s largest is the so-called ‘Mogul Emerald’. It dates from 1695, weighs 217.80 carats, and is some 10cm tall. One side of it is inscribed with prayer texts, and engraved on the other there are magnificent floral ornaments. This legendary Emerald was auctioned by Christie’s of London to an unidentified buyer for 2.2m US Dollars on September 28th 2001.
Emeralds have been held in high esteem since ancient times. For that reason, some of the most famous Emeralds are to be seen in museums and collections. The New York Museum of Natural History, for example, has an exhibit in which a cup made of pure emerald which belonged to the Emperor Jehangir. It is shown next to the ‘Patricia’, one of the largest Colombian Emerald crystals, which weighs 632 carats. The collection of the Bank of Bogota includes five valuable Emerald crystals with weights of between 220 and 1796 carats, and splendid Emeralds also form part of the Iranian National Treasury, adorning, for example, the diadem of the former Empress Farah.
The green of life and of love
The green of the Emerald is the color of life and of the springtime, which comes round again and again. But it has also, for centuries, been the color of beauty and of constant love. In ancient Rome, green was the color of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. Today, this color still occupies a special position in many cultures and religions. Green, for example, is the holy color of Islam. Many of the states of the Arab League have green in their flags as a symbol of the unity of their faith. Yet this color has a high status in the Catholic Church too, where green is regarded as the most natural and the most elemental of the liturgical colors.
The magnificent green of the Emerald is a color which conveys harmony, love of Nature and elemental joie de vivre. The human eye can never see enough of this unique color. Pliny commented that green gladdened the eye without tiring it. Green is perceived as fresh and vivid, never as monotonous. And in view of the fact that this color always changes somewhat between the bright light of day and the artificial light of a lamp, emerald green retains its lively vigor in all its nuances.
Emerald is mined from a number of sources, however the most famous are from Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia.
Emerald is the Birthstone for May.
The name Citrine, is derived from the color of the lemon. Citrine’s beautiful, soft warm tones have indeed captured the rich earthy glow of autumn.
There are not many yellow to yellow orange gemstones in the world of jewels. There are Yellow Diamonds, Yellow Sapphires, which are in comparison to Citrine, very expensive. There is also a golden-yellow Tourmaline or Chrysoberyl, which tends towards a greenish yellow. There is also a Golden Beryl or a Topaz. However, as the most affordable yellow-golden gemstone is Citrine, which fulfills everyone’s color wishes, from lemon yellow to reddish brown.
In Europe, the boom on these yellow to reddish-brown crystal quartzes didn’t begin until, in the 1930s. Expatriate agate cutters from Idar-Oberstein sent large quantities of Citrine back home, along with Amethyst and Agate, from Brazil and Uruguay. Thus the golden-yellow quartzes made a contribution to Idar-Oberstein’s becoming and remaining one of the world’s great gemstone centers.
The most sought-after Citrines have a clear, radiant yellowish to brownish red. Like all crystal quartzes, Citrine has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and is thus, to a large extent fairly resistant to scratching. It also doesn’t break easy either due to its lack of cleavage.
The true color of Citrine is actually somewhat rare in nature. Most Citrines on the market have been heat treated. Specimens of low grade, inexpensive Amethyst or Smokey Quartz, are often heated to produce the more profitable orange yellow Citrine. Citrines whose colors have been produced by heating, sometimes displays a much more of an orange or reddish caste than those found in nature, which is usually a pale yellow. Much of the natural Citrine may have started out as Amethyst but heat from nearby magmatic bodies may have caused the change to Citrine.
Unfortunately for Citrine it is often confused with the more expensive orange-yellow Topaz and is at times sold as Topaz by unscrupulous dealers. This practice has soured many potential Citrine fanciers who see Citrine as a fake Topaz and not as the, beautiful and legitimate gemstone that it really is.
Citrine comes from many sources and are often found in conjunction with Amethyst. These sources include, Brazil, Uruguay, parts of Africa.
Citrine is the Birthstone for November.
From the light blue of the sky to the deep blue of the sea, Aquamarines shine over an extraordinarily beautiful range of mainly light blue colors. Aquamarine is a fascinatingly beautiful gemstone. Women the world over love it for its fine, pastel blue shades, which can complement almost any skin or eye color. Gemstone cutters as well as jewelry artisans are inspired by it enabling them to create new artistic designs again and again.
Its light blue color is said to arouse feelings of sympathy, trust, harmony and friendship. The blue of Aquamarine is a rich and eternal, because it is the color of the sky. However, Aquamarine blue is also the color of water with its life-giving force. No wonder, when you consider that according to the saga, it originated in the treasure chest of mermaids, and has, since ancient times, been regarded as the sailors’ lucky stone. Its name is derived from the Latin ‘aqua’ (water) and ‘mare’ sea.
Aquamarine is one of our most popular and best-known gemstones. It is almost as popular as the classics: Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. In fact it is related to the Emerald, both belonging to the beryl family. The color of Aquamarine however, is usually more even than that of the Emerald and unlike Emerald, is often almost entirely free of inclusions. Aquamarine has good hardness, 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, and it takes a wonderfully bright polish. The hardness makes it very tough and protects it to a large extent from scratches. Iron is the substance which gives Aquamarine its color, a color which ranges from an almost indiscernible pale blue, to a strong sea-blue. The more intense the color of an Aquamarine, the more value is put on it. Some Aquamarines have a light, greenish undertone which again likens it to the crystal clear waters of a tropical paradise. However, it is a pure, clear blue that continues to epitomize the Aquamarine, because it brings out so well the immaculate transparency and magnificent shine of this gemstone.
Some of the most famous sources for Aquamarine include, Brazil, Mozambique and Zambia.
Aquamarine is the birthstone for March.
For many thousands of years, Amethyst, the most striking representative of the quartz family has been a jewel coveted by royalty. The Russian Empress Catherine the Great sent thousands of miners into the Urals to look for it.
In ancient times, Amethyst was carved and cut into sculptures such as, the bust of Trajan which Napoleon captured in Berlin. In earlier times, people liked to drink wine from amethyst cups, which brings us back to the stone’s protective function against alcoholism. The Greek word ‘amethystos’ means ‘not intoxicated.’ According to the ancient Greek saga, Diana turned a nymph whom Bacchus loved into an amethyst; hence the term Bacchus stone. Anyone wishing to protect a drunkard from his or her drunken stupor, mixed some pulverized Amethyst into the person’s drink.
The deposits with the greatest economic significance are in various parts of southern Brazil in neighboring Uruguay as well as in Zambia. Another major export country is Madagascar where some of the worlds finest Amethyst comes from. However, this gemstone is spread all over the world. Good specimens were found in Aztec graves, though the deposits from which they were extracted are no longer known today. On the Canadian side of Lake Superior in North America, there is a place named Amethyst Harbor. The violet quartz is found there in ample quantities, though rarely in gemstone quality. The fame of Idar-Oberstein, the German gemstone center, is based on domestic Amethyst finds. In earlier times, raw material was delivered there from the Zillertal Alps. Russian Amethysts, which were mainly mined in the Urals, were once famous for their particularly beautiful color, which shone magnificently even in artificial light. In Tibet there were Amethyst rosaries, for there the gemstone was dedicated to Buddha and was said to promote clarity of mind. In Sri Lanka, stones which have rolled down on their own accord are found in debris.
Amethyst has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and is suitable for most jewelry wear.
Amethyst is also known as the Birthstone for February!
If you love magic, especially the magic of science, you’ll love Alexandrite, the color-change gem. Outside in daylight, it is a cool bluish mossy green. Inside in lamplight, it is a red gem, with a warm raspberry tone. You can watch it flick back and forth by switching from fluorescent to incandescent light.
Alexandrite is a gem variety of the mineral Chrysoberyl. It was discovered in 1830 in Czarist Russia. Since the old Russian imperial colors are red and green, it was named after Czar Alexander II on the occasion of his coming of age.
Today, fine Alexandrite is most often found in period jewelry since newly-mined gems are extremely rare. You’ll see fine gems offered at auction with impressive estimates. The original source in Russia’s Ural Mountains has long since closed after producing for only a few decades and only a few gemstones can be found on the market today. Material with a certificate of Russian origin is still particularly valued by the trade. Some Alexandrite is found in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Madagascar and Brazil, but very little shows a dramatic color change. For many years, Alexandrite was almost impossible to find because there was so little available.
Then in 1987, a new find of Alexandrite was made in Brazil at a locality called Hematita. The Hematita Alexandrite shows a striking and attractive color change from raspberry red to bluish green. Although Alexandrite remains extremely rare and expensive, the production of a limited amount of new material means a new generation of jewelers and collectors have been exposed to this beautiful gemstone, creating an upsurge in popularity and demand.
Alexandrite is also known as the alternative Birthstone to Pearl for June.
Why does Alexandrite appear to change color in sunlight and artificial light?
Alexandrite is a trichroic gemstone which absorbs and reflects light differently in each of its three optical directions. Spectroscopic analysis reveals a different absorption spectrum for each of the three optical directions. The differences in absorptions cause different colors to be seen when viewed from different directions in relation to the crystal structure. However, it is not the trichroism that is responsible for the remarkable color change. The color change phenomena is a result of the presence of chromium +3 ions and the way they absorb and reflect light. In Rubies the chromium absorption band is around 550 nanometers and in Emeralds, the band is around 600nm. In Alexandrite, where the band is at 580nm and right between ruby red and green emerald, the stone is balanced between them. Daylight contains high proportions of blue and green light and incandescent lighting contains a higher balance of red light. When the light is balanced (daylight), the stone is green but when the light source is reddish (incandescent), the stone appears red.
Human vision is more sensitive to green light. Alexandrite reflects both green and red light. In daylight, a greater proportion of green light is reflected so we see green. Conversely, under incandescent light more red light is reflected so we see red.
So why is the stone called a Tsavorite when it is actually a green Grossularite Garnet? The nomenclature of gemstones follows certain rules. According to modern mineralogical methods, gemstones are given a name which ends in ‘ite’. In honor of the Tsavo National Park, with its abundance of game, and the Tsavo River which flows through it, the former president of Tiffany & Co. Henry Platt, who had followed the developments of the gemstone from the very beginning, proposed the name ‘Tsavorite’. Sometimes the term ‘Tsavolite’ is used. However, both names denote the same stone, the latter version simply having the Greek suffix ‘-lite’ (stone).
What makes Tsavorite so desirable is its vivid, radiant green. The color range of the Tsavorite includes a fresh grassy green, an intense blue-green and a deep forest green. These are all beautiful colors that invigorate the senses. However, this gemstone is also valuable on account of its great brilliance. It has, like all the other Garnets, a particularly high refractive index (1.734/44). In the old legends it was said that a garnet was a difficult thing to hide. Its sparkling light was said to remain visible even through clothing.
Unlike many other gemstones, the Tsavorite is not enhanced by heat or any other treatment. Like all the other Garnets, it is simply a piece of pure nature. Another positive characteristic is its hardness. It has almost the same hardness as the (considerably more expensive) Emerald, – approximately 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, but it is markedly more durable. A Tsavorite is not so likely to crack or splinter when it is knocked or banged. It is well suited to the popular ‘invisible setting’, in which the stones are set close by one another, a technique which ought not to be used with the more sensitive Emerald. Thanks to its great brilliance, the Tsavorite is, in this respect, a partner to match the classics: Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire.
Only in rare individual cases is a rough crystal, with clarity suitable for faceting, of over 5 carats found. So a cut Tsavorite of more than two carats is a rare and precious thing. But then, that is one of the special features of this gemstone: that it can display its great brilliance even in small sizes.
There’s something very special about this young gemstone with the very long history. With its fresh, vivid green, its good wearing qualities, great brilliance and relatively reasonable prices, it is surely one of the most convincing and honest gemstones that exist.
Tsavorite is found in only a very few locations namely, Kenya and Tanzania.
The Demantoid Garnet is one of the most brilliant, fiery, gemstones ever found. Demantoid is part of the Garnet group. After its discovery in 1868 in Russia’s Ural mountains, the Demantoid rapidly proceeded to become a much desired gemstone. Comet-like, it scintillated among the finest jeweler’s workshops in Paris, New York and St. Petersburg. First and foremost, Russia’s star jeweler Carl Fabergé adored it for its tremendous brilliance and loved to incorporate it in his precious objects. While Demantoid has been extremely rare, in the middle of the 1990s, a new seam bearing gemstones was discovered in Namibia. Demantoid was among them. The story of that discovery is fascinating. It is set in Namibia Africa. In this vast, steppe-like country baked in the African sun, there lay the ‘black mountains’ blurred in the bluish haze. It’s a dry, hard country. Yet for a long, time it had held an unknown treasure: gemstones! Millions of years before, liquid magma had shot up from the the Earth and solidified shortly before it reached the surface. In the course of time, the wind and the elements removed the surface strata until finally only the distinctive granite mountain, the Spitzkoppe, was left. No-one realized that in these mountains were hidden one of the most rare and sought after of all gemstones. It wasn’t until in December 1996 and quite by accident, a wandering goatherd found a number of crystal-like objects which seemed to him kind of interesting. After showing them around in the village, the attention of experts was drawn to the find, and they quickly realized what a treasure was being presented to them.
The reason that we refer to Garnet as a group is that all species of Garnets possess similar physical properties and crystal form, but differ in chemical composition. The different species are Pyrope, Almandine, Spessartine, Grossular – (varieties of which are Hessonite and Tsavorite), Uvarovite and Andradite. The last two, up until recently have been quite obscure, except among collectors and gemstone lovers. Strictly speaking it is a green Garnet, or rather the star of the green Garnets. Not without reason does it bear a name which means ‘Diamond-like’. The name comes from the Dutch and makes reference to the outstanding quality of this gem, its incomparable brilliance and fire. Some gemstone lovers claim that a Demantoid will continue to glow even in the shade.
The Demantoid Garnet is actually the green variety of the Garnet mineral Andradite. But it is more than that: it is the most expensive of Garnets and one of the most precious of all gemstones. It is highly esteemed on account of its rarity coupled with that incredible luminosity. The reason for this is that Demantoid has an extremely high refraction (refractive index 1.880 to 1.889). Yet its high dispersion is also remarkable, in other words its ability to split the light which comes in through the facets and break it down into all the colors of the rainbow. The Demantoid is a master of this in a similar way to that of a Diamond.
The spectrum of its colors includes many shades of green, from a slightly yellowish green to a brownish green with a golden glow. Particularly precious is a deep ‘Emerald Green’, though this only occurs very rarely indeed. It is not only fine and unusual, but the specimens are also mostly small, large ones being extremely rare. Once cut, only a few stones weigh more than two carats, and most of them hardly exceed one. And even if you come across one set in a piece of jewelry, it is often likely to be a small stone.
Sources for Demantoid Garnets include, Russia, Korea, Congo, Namibia and Madagascar.
Spessartite is a very rare and fiery member of the Garnet Group.
The reason that we refer to Garnet as a group is that all species of Garnets possess similar physical properties and crystal form, but differ in chemical composition. The different species are Pyrope, Almandine, Spessartine, Grossular – (varieties of which are Hessonite and Tsavorite), Uvarovite and Andradite.
The name Spessartite comes from Spessart, a district in the State of Bavaria Germany, that was once an important source. However, up until 1991 Spessartite was a little known, collectors gemstone. The most famous type of Spessartite is the color know as ‘Mandarin’. As you can imagine this beautiful gem is the color of a mandarin orange. Commercial quantities were first discovered in the Northwest corner of Namibia. At this remote spot, one of the last untouched places on Earth, the first Mandarin Garnets were discovered. Embedded in mica and mica schist, small crystals of an unusual orange color and high transparency were discovered, and they immediately attracted the attention of the specialists. Experts confirmed initial suppositions: it was a find involving the rare orange gemstone variety known as ‘Spessartite Garnet.’ Until then, Spessartite had been found in Sri Lanka, Upper Burma, Madagascar, Brazil, Australia, Kenya and Tanzania, and yet they were practically unknown in jewelry, catering mainly to the interests of gemstone lovers and collectors. The reason for this obscurity was due to the fact that specimens with really good color and quality were only found very rarely indeed. The fantastic crystals from Namibia, on the other hand, were of an unusually fine, intensely radiant orange. Some sparkled in the rich reddish-orange of the last light of evening, seen when the sun has already disappeared below the horizon. They were more beautiful and more radiant than anything that had gone before them.
Since that time other deposits have been found in Nigeria, however as was in the past, Spessartite has again become very rare and quite expensive.
Sources are Brazil , Madagascar, Myanmar (Burma) Namibia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and the US.
Hardness is 7 to 7.5 and Toughness is fair to good.
Tourmalines are gems with an incomparable variety of colors. The reason, according to an old Egyptian legend, is that the Tourmaline, on its long journey up from the center of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. That is why it is still referred to as the ‘gemstone of the rainbow’ today.
The name Tourmaline comes from the Singhalese words ‘tura mali’. This means ‘stone with mixed colors’ .There are Tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow. They often have two or more colors. There are even Tourmalines which show the ‘Cat’s Eye’ effect. No two Tourmalines are exactly alike. This gemstone has an endless number of faces, and for that reason it suits all skin tones and fashion trends.
Colors, names and nicknames
In order to understand why Tourmaline comes in so many colors, you have to know a little bit about gemology. Tourmalines are mixed crystals of aluminum boron silicate with a complex and changing composition. The mineral group is a fairly complex one. Even slight changes in the composition cause completely different colors. Crystals of only a single color are fairly rare; the same crystal will often display various colors and various shades of those colors. The trademark of this gemstone is not only its great wealth of color, but also its marked dichroism. Depending on the angle from which you look at it, the color may be different or more or less intense. It is always at its most intense when viewed looking toward the main axis, a fact to which the cutter must pay great attention when lining up the rough stone for cutting. Tourmaline has excellent wear ability and has a good hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
In the trade, many of the individual color variants have their own names.
Rubellite is a Tourmaline with intense red color.
Indicolite is in the language of the gemologists, a blue Tourmaline. This is a very rare and prized color.
Chrome Tourmaline is one particularly popular variety of green Tourmaline. For a Tourmaline to be a chrome, it must have chromium as one of the trace elements. This chromium content causes a rich, emerald or forest green.
Paraiba Tourmaline is the absolute highlight among the Tourmalines. Paraiba Tourmaline displays an intense blue to blue-green which was not discovered until 1987 in a mine in the Brazilian state of Paraiba. More recently limited deposits of a similar type of Tourmalines have been found in Mozambique.
Watermelon Tourmaline is one of the most interesting types of Tourmaline in that when sliced horizontally to its crystal shape, it resembles the color of a sliced watermelon, complete with its green rhind and red center.
Tourmaline is a relatively hard gemstone. It measures 7-7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Tourmalines are found in many countries of the world. There are major deposits in Brazil, Sri Lanka and South and south-west Africa. Other finds have been made in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, mainly in California and Maine. Although there are plenty of gemstone deposits which contain tourmalines, good qualities and fine colors are very rare. For this reason, the price spectrum of the tourmaline is almost as broad as that of its color.
Hessonite is a close relative to Tsavorite. They both belong to the Grossularite Garnet family. However its warm brownish yellows and oranges contrast the cool green of Tsavorite.
Main Sources: Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and US.
Hardness 7-7.5 Toughness fair to good.