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Jewelry and gems, The Buying Guide
Colorful choices in colored Gemstones
Please click the amethyst link for more information on amethyst. Lilac to purple
Citrine often called quartz topaz, citrine topaz, or topaz, all of which are misleading. The correct name for this gemstone is citrine. Citrine is yellow, amber to amber brown. This is the most commonly seen “topaz” in jewelry marketplace and is, unfortunately, too often confused with precious topaz because of the careless use of the name. While a pleasing stone in term of color and fairly durable, citrine is slightly softer and has less brilliance than precious topaz. It also lacks the subtle color shading, the pinker yellow or pinkish amber shades, which lend to precious topaz a distinctive color difference. Much citrine is made by heat treating purple amethyst.
Citrine is much less expensive than precious topaz. It should never be represented as topaz, which technically is “precious” or “imperial” topaz. Unfortunately, it often is. For example, “topaz” birthstone jewelry is almost always citrine (or a worthless synthetic). So the question to ask the seller is, “Is this citrine or precious topaz?” get the answer in writing if you are told, “precious topaz.”
Citrine is plentiful in all sizes, and can be made into striking jewelry, especially in very large sizes, for a relatively small investment, while precious topaz of fine quality is scarce in sizes over seven carats, and very expensive.
A pale green transparent variety produced by heating amethyst.
Rock crystal, water clear, used in old jewelry for rondelles, a type of small bead resembling a doughnut. faceted crystal beads were also common in older jewelry. Today, however, crystal usually refers to glass.
Rose Quartz, light to deep pink. This stone has been very popular for many years for use in carved pieces; beads, statues, ashtrays, fine lamps bases, and pins and brooches. Rarely clear, this stone is usually seen in cabochon cuts, rounded beads, or carvings rather than in faceted style. Once very inexpensive, it is becoming more costly, particularly in the finer deep pink shades. But the color of rose quartz is especially pleasing and offers an excellent choice for use in fashion accessory jewelry.
You must be somewhat cautious with rose quartz, however, because it tends to crack more easily than most other varieties of quartz if struck or exposed to a blow. The inclusions or internal fractures that are also responsible for the absence of clarity in this gemstone cause it to be slightly brittle.
Smoky quartz, a pale to rich smoky brown variety, sometimes mistaken for or misrepresented as smoky topaz or topaz. Also very plentiful and becoming popular for use in very large sizes for beautiful brooches, large dinner rings, and so forth.
Translucent to opaque varieties
Agate and chalcedony
All colors and varieties of markings are seen in this wonderful ornamental gem. Among them you’ll find, to mention a few: banded agate; moss agate, a fascinating white or milky agate that looks as though it actually has black, brown, or green moss growing within; eye agate, which has an eyeball effects; or plume agate, which looks like it’s filled with beautiful feather plumes. The colors and “scenes” in agate are infinite. While agate is usually an inexpensive stone, some varieties or special stones with very unusual scenes or markings can be quite expensive.
Carnelian. sard, and sardonyx
Carnelian. sard, and sardonyx are reddish, orange, apricot, and brown varieties of chalcedony and are often in cameo or other carving work. Black onyx is a dyed chalcedony; chrysoprase is green chalcedony. often dyed green.
The unusual colors and markings of agate made it very highly regarded by the ancients and revered throughout history, even to the present day. It was believed to make wearers “agreeable and persuasive and give them God’s favor.” Other virtues claimed for agate wearers include giving the wearer victory and strength and also protection from tempests and lightning, guarding its wearer from all dangers, enabling him to overcome all terrestrial obstacles, and imparting to him a bold heart.
Wearing agate ornaments was also seen as a cure for insomnia and could ensure good dreams. In middle of the 1800s and continuing to the present in some parts of the world, amulets made from eye agate (brown or black agate with white ring in the center) were so popular that agate cutters in Germany had time for cutting little else. The “eye” was believed to take on the watchfulness of one’s guardian spirit and protect the wearer from the evil eye by neutralizing its power. At one time these amulets commanded an incredible price.
Whatever their real power, these are fascinating gemstones, some quite mesmerizing in their unusual beauty. They are often seen in antique jewelry as well as in contemporary pieces. One must be careful, however, to exercise some caution in wear to protect from knocks, as some varieties are more fragile than others. Also, agate is frequently dyed, so it is important to ask whether the color is natural, and to be sure that it is not another less valuable stone, dyed to look like a special variety of agate.
Aventurine, a lovely pale to medium green semi-translucent stone tiny sparkling flecks of mica within. This gemstone make very lovely cabochon or bead jewelry at a very affordable price. It is occasionally misrepresented as jade; although the mica flecks are sometimes so small that they cannot be seen easily, they provide an immediate and reliable indicator that the material is aventurine quartz. Be aware, however, that there are some fairly good glass imitations in the marketplace.
Please click the link for more information on bloodstone. dark green with red spots.
Cat’s eye, a pale yellowish green gemstone that when cut in cabochon style produces a streak of light down the center that crates an eye effect. This phenomenon is a result of the presence of fiber-like inclusions. This stone’s center line is weaker, its color paler, and its cost much less than the true cat’s eye from chrysoberyl family. But it is nonetheless an attractive stone that makes attractive, affordable jewelry.
The true chrysocolla is a very soft copper mineral, too soft for jewelry use. However, quartz that has been naturally impregnated or stained with chrysocolla has good hardness and the same brilliant blue green, highly translucent, and its price is starting to reflect increased demand.
Please click the link for more information on chrysoprase. A bright light to dark green, highly translucent stone, often of very even color. Sometimes misrepresented or confused for jade.
Jasper, opaque red, yellow, green, and brown (or sometimes gray).Usually strong marked in terms of the contrast between the green and other colors in an almost blotch-like or vein-like patterns, although there are more than fifty types of jasper of various colors and patterns.
Jasper was believed in ancient cultures to bring rain and also to protect its wearer from the bites of poisonous creatures. It was believed to have as diverse a power as the colors and veins in which it came, so there were many uses and magical powers associated with it.
Jasper offers interesting color contrast and variety, and is being used increasingly in today’s fashion accessory jewelry.
Sections of trees or limbs that have been replaced by quartz type silica and transformed into mineral after centuries of immersion in silica-rich water under extreme pressure. Usually red, reddish brown, or brown. Not often seen in jewelry.
Tiger-eye, a golden, yellowish reddish, and sometimes bluish variety of quartz that produces a bright shimmering line (or lines) of light, which when cut in a cabochon will produce an eye. The eye will move when the stone is turned from side to side. It is inexpensive, but very popular for fashion accessory jewelry and men’s cuff links and rings.
Rhodochrosite is a new comer to the jewelry business. While sought by rock hounds for many years and a favorite of beginning lapidaries, rhodochrosite appeared only occasionally outside of rock and mineral shows frequented by hobbyists. A member of the carbonate mineral group, rhodochrosite is a relatively soft stone occurring in both a rare transparent and a more common non-translucent variety. For practical purposes, we will discuss the latter, more readily available form.
A lovely red to almost white color, often with agate like curved lines creating a design in contrasting shades of red or pink, rhodochrosite may occasionally occur in an orangy tone, but this is is poorer quality material. The finest color is a medium to deep rose, preferably with curved banding. It has long been popular for certain ornamental objects (spheres, boxes, eggs) but only recently for jewelry. Today, necklaces using rhodochrosite beads alternating with other gemstones or gold beads are becoming particularly popular. It is soft, however, and some caution should be used in wearing to avoid unnecessary abuse.
Scapplite is an interesting gem that is beginning to appear in more jewelry as it becomes more available. Rediscover in Brazil after a forty years hiatus and also recently discovered in Kenya, scapolite is a nice, transparent, fairly durable gemstone occurring in a range of colors from colorless to yellow, light red, orange to greenish to bluish gray, violet, and violet blue. The orange, light red, and whitish specimens may also occur as semitransparent stones, which may show a cat’s eye effect (chatoyancy) when cut into cabochons.
The most likely to appear in jewelry are the violets and yellows, and possibly orange cat’s eye. They might easily be mistaken for yellow beryl or certain quartz minerals like amethyst or citrine.
Consumers and sellers will have to wait and see what trends evolve around this gemstone, as its availability will determine future use and cost.
Serpentine derives its name from its similarity to the green, speckled skin of the serpent. Amulets of serpentine were worn for protection from serpent bites, stings of poisonous reptiles, and poison in general. A king was reputed to have insisted that his chalice be made of serpentine, as it was believed that a poisoned drink were put into a serpentine vessel, the vessel would sweat on the outside. The effectiveness of medicine was increased when drunk from a serpentine vessel.
Serpentine is often used as a jade substitute. It is a translucent to semi-translucent stone occurring in light to dark yellowish green to greenish yellow. One variety is used for decorative wall facings and table counter surfaces, but some of the more attractive green varieties so closely resemble jadeite or nephrite jade that they are used in carvings and jewelry, and are often misrepresented as jade. Common serpentine is also sometimes dyed a jade like color. One lovely green variety, williamsite, which is a very pleasing deep green, often with small black flecks within, is often sold as “Pennsylvania Jade.” It is pretty, but it is not jade. Another variety of serpentine, bowenite, is also sold today as “Korean jade” or “new jade.” Again, it is pretty but nit jade. Serpentine is softer than jade; less durable, and much more common, which its price should reflect.
It is a lovely gemstone in its own right, and makes a nice alternative to jade. While it has been around for a long time (too often, however, represented as jade), we are just beginning to see this stone used frequently in necklaces and other fine jewelry under its own name.
SodaliteThis gemstone has already been discussed under lapis. Sodalite is a dark blue semitransparent to semi-translucent stone used frequently as a substitute for the rarer, more expensive lapis. While it may have some white veining, it does not have the golden or silver flecks that are characteristics of lapis. If you do not see these shiny flecks, suspect that the stone is probably sodalite.
Spinel is one of the loveliest of the gems but hasn’t yet been given due credit and respect. It is usually compared to sapphire or ruby, rather than being recognized for its own intrinsic beauty and value. There is also a common belief that spinel (and similarly zircon) is synthetic rather than natural, when in fact it is one of the nature’s most beautiful products. This misconception probably arose because synthetic spinel is seen frequently on the market whereas genuine spinel is not often seen.
Spinel occurs in red orange (flame spinel), light to dark orangy red, light to dark slightly grayish blue, greenish blue, grayish green, and dark to light purple to violet. It also occurs in yellow and in an opaque variety; black. When compared to the blue of sapphire or red of ruby the color is usually considered less intense (although some red spinel can look very much like some ruby on the market), yet its brilliance can be greater. If you appreciate these spinel colors for themselves, they are quite pleasing. The most popular are red (usually a more orange red than ruby red) and blue (sometimes resembling a strong Bromo-Seltzer-bottle blue).
Spinel may be confused with or misrepresented as one of many gemstones; ruby, sapphire, zircon, amethyst, garnet, synthetic ruby and sapphire or synthetic spinel, as well as glass. The synthetic is often used to make composite stones such as doublets. Spinel is a fairly hard, fairly durable gemstone, possessing a nice brilliance, and still a good value.
This gemstone is becoming more and more popular, and may, therefore, become more expensive if current trends continue.
Spodumene (Kunzite and Hiddenite)
Spodumene is another gem relatively new to widespread jewelry use. The most popular varieties are kunzite and hiddenite.
Kunzite is a very lovely brilliant gemstone occurring in delicate lilac, pinkish, or violet shades. Its color can fade in strong light, and so it has become known as an “evening” gemstone. Also, while basically hard, it is nonetheless brittle and can break easily if it receives a sharp blow from certain directions. It is not recommended for rings for this reason unless set in a protective mounting. But it is a lovely gem, whose low cost makes it attractive in large sizes, and an excellent choice for lovely, dramatic jewelry design.
Hiddenite is rarer. Light green or yellow green varieties are available, but the emerald green varieties are scarce. As with kunzite, it is hard but brittle, so care must be exercised in wear.
Spodumene also occurs in many other shades of colors, all pale but very clear and brilliant. Only blue is currently missing but who knows what may yet be discovered in some part of the world? Spodumene is still fairly inexpensive and is an excellent choice for contemporary jewelry design. Be careful, however, as it can be confused with and sold for more expensive topaz, tourmaline, spinel, or beryl. Also, synthetic corundum or spinel can be mistaken for this gem.
Sugilite named for the Japanese petrologist who discovered it, Ken-ichi Sugi, sugilite first appeared on jewelry scene in the late 1970s, sold as Royal Azel and Royal Lavulite. Best known today as sugilite, its lovely, deep rich purple to purple red color is unique. An opaque gem, it is usually cut in cabochon or beads, although it is also popular for inlay work (intarsia) by top artisans. Sugilite belongs to the manganese family and most comes from Africa. The finest color is already becoming scarce, so it is difficult to predict the future for this interesting newcomer.
Titanite is another “new” gem that is beginning to appear and offers some interesting possibilities for jewelry market. While it has been highly regarded for many years, its relative scarcity prevented its wide scale use in jewelry. Today, however, new sources have been discovered and we are beginning to see greater availability.
This is a beautiful, brilliant gemstone, with a diamond like (adamantine) luster and fire that is even greater than in diamond. Unfortunately, it is soft. Its colors range from grass green to golden yellow to brown.
There is need for some caution because of this stone’s softness. We suggest that it is especially suitable for pendants, earrings, brooches, and protective ring settings.
True topaz, symbol of love and affection, aid to sweetness of disposition, and birthstone for November, is one of nature’s most wonderful and least known families. The true topaz is rarely seen in jewelry stores. Unfortunately, most people know only the quartz (citrine) topaz, or glass, and in the past almost any yellow gemstone was called topaz. A very beautiful and versatile gemstone, topaz is a hard brilliant stone with a fine color range, and it is much rarer and much more expensive than gemstones commonly sold as topaz. It is also heavier than its imitators.
Topaz occurs not only in the transparent yellow, yellow brown, orangy brown, and pinky brown colors most popularly associated with it, but also in a very light to medium red now found naturally in fair supply, although many are produced through heat treatment. It is also found in a very light to medium deep blue, also often the result of treatment, although it does occur naturally on a fairly wide scale. Other topaz shades include very light green, light greenish yellow, violet, and colorless.
Blue topaz has become very popular in recent years, most of it treated; unfortunately, there is no way yet to determine which have been treated and which are natural. The blue form closely resembles the finest aquamarine, which is very expensive today, and offers a very attractive, and much more affordable, alternative to it. Some of the fine, deeper blue treated topazes have been found to be radioactive and, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, may be injurious to the wearer. In the United States all blue topaz must be tested for radiation levels; the GIA now provides this service to the jewelry trade. However, be very careful when buying blue topaz outside the United States. If you do, you may be wise to have it tested when you get home.
There are many misleading names to suggest that a stone is topaz when it is not, for example, “Rio topaz,” “Madeira topaz,” “Spanish topaz,” and “Palmeira topaz.” They are types of citrine (quartz) and should be represented as such.
The true topaz family offers a variety of color options in lovely, clear, brilliant, and durable gemstones. This family should become more important in the years ahead.
Tourmaline is a gem of modern times, but nonetheless has found its way to the list of birthstones, becoming an “alternate birthstone” for October. Perhaps this honor result from tourmaline’s versatility and broad color range. Or perhaps from the fact that red and green tourmaline, in which red and green occur side by side in the same gemstone, is reminiscent of turning of October leaves.
Whatever the case, tourmaline is one of the most versatile of gem families. It is available in every color, in every tone, from deep to pastel and even with two or more colors appearing in the same stone, side by side. There are bicolor tourmaline (half red and the other half green, for example) and tricolor (one-third blue, one-third green, and one-third yet another color). The fascinating “watermelon” tourmaline looks like the inside of a watermelon; red in the center surrounded by green “rind.” Tourmaline can also be found in a cat’s eye variety.
One of the most exciting gemological discoveries of this century was the discovery of a unique variety of tourmaline in Paraiba, Brazil. These particular beauties, referred to as “Paraiba” or “Hetorita” after the man who discovered them, have colors so intense and come in such a wide range of green, blue, and lilac shades that they are referred to as neon tourmalines. Unfortunately, demand has been unprecedented for these particular tourmalines, and supply has dwindled. The result is that many of the finest Paraibas are very expensive and some rival the finest sapphires in price. For anyone who loves these colors, they are worth seeing just for their own sake. If jewelers in your area don’t have these gemstones, they can contact the American Gem Trade Association in Dallas, Texas, regarding where to obtain them.
It is indeed surprising that most people know of tourmaline simply as a common “green” gemstone. Nothing could be more misleading. Today, we are finally beginning to see other lovely varieties of this fascinating gem in the jewelry market. In addition to the exciting new “Paraiba,” other popular varieties include:
1) Chrome: A particularly rare green hue.
2) Indicolite: Deep indigo blue, usually with a green undertone.
3) Rubellite: Deep pink to red, as in ruby.
Tourmaline is a fairly hard, durable, brilliant, and very wearable gemstone with a wide choice of colors. It is also still available in large sizes. It is a gemstone without question will play a more and more important role in jewelry in the years ahead.
Turquoise birthstone for December, and ranking highest among all the opaque stones, turquoise; the “Turkish gemstone,” is highly prized throughout Asia Africa, not only for its particular hue of blue (a beautiful robin’s egg or sky blue) but more important for its supposed prophylactic and therapeutic qualities. The Arabs consider it a lucky stone and have great confidence in its benevolent action. Used in rings, earrings, necklaces, head ornaments, and amulets, it protects the wearer from poison, reptile bites, eye diseases, and the evil eye. It was also believed capable of warning of impending death by changing color. Also, the drinking of water in which turquoise has been dipped or washed was believed to cure bladder ailments. Buddhists revere the turquoise because it is associated with a legend in which a turquoise enabled Buddha to destroy a monster. Even today it is considered a symbol of courage, success, and love. It has also long been associated with American Indian jewelry and art.
Turquoise is an opaque, light to dark blue or blue green stone. The finest color is an intense blue, with poorer qualities tending toward yellowish green. The famous Persian turquoise, which can be very intense and pleasing blue, is considered a very rare and valuable gem.
All turquoises are susceptible to aging an may turn greenish or possibly darker with gem. Also, care must be taken when wearing, both to avoid contact with soap, grease, or other materials that might discolor it, and to protect it from abuse, since turquoise scratches easily.
But exercise caution when buying turquoise. This is a frequently simulated gem. Very fine glass imitations are produced that are difficult to distinguish from genuine. Very fine adulterated stones, and reconstructed stones (from turquoise powder bonded in plastic) saturate the marketplace, as does synthetic turquoise. There are techniques to quickly distinguish these imitations or simulations, so, if in doubt, check it out (and get a complete description on the bill of sale; “genuine, natural turquoise”).
Zircon is known to the ancients as “hyacinth,” this gem had many powers, especially for men. While it was known to assist women in childbirth, for men it kept evil spirits and drams away, gave protection against ”fascination” and lightning, strengthened their bodies, fortified their hearts, restored appetite, suppressed fat, produced sleep, and banished grief and sadness form the mind.
Zircons are very brilliant transparent gemstones available in several lovely colors. Unfortunately, many consumers suffer from a strange misconception that zircon is a synthetic or man-made gemstone rather than a lovely natural creation. Perhaps this belief is based on the fact that they are frequently color treated, as in the blue zircons so often seen. Zircons also occur naturally in yellow, brown, orange, and red.
Many might mistake the colorless zircon foe diamond because of its strong brilliance, which coupled with its very low cost, makes colorless zircon an interesting alternative to diamonds as a gemstone to offset or dress up colored gemstones. But care needs to be exercised because zircon is brittle and will chip or abrade easily. For this reason, zircon is recommended for earrings, pendants, brooches, or rings with protective setting.
Zoisite was not considered a gem material until 1967, when a beautiful rich, blue to purple blue, transparent variety was found in Tanzania (hence tanzanite). Tanzanite can possess a rich, sapphire blue color, possibly with some violet red or greenish yellow flashes. A gem green variety has recently been discovered, which is being called “green tanzanite”or “chrome tanzanite.” The green can be a very lovely shade, ranging from a slightly yellowish green to gray green to bluish green. Supply is limited, so time will tell whether or not this green variety will be readily available to the public.
But one must be cautious. It is relatively soft, so we do not recommend tanzanite for rings (unless it’s set in a very protected setting) or for every day wear in which it would be exposed to knocks and other abuse.
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