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Call it what you will

We’re all used to the majority of gems being called by their name:
Diamond is diamond;

Opal is opal;

Turquoise is turquoise;

Even in it’s many different colours Topaz is still Topaz.

Emerald is emerald…well actually it’s Beryl…as is Morganite, Aquamarine, Heliodore and Goshenite!  What distinguishes each of these is the colour that the gem comes in (green, pink, pale blue, yellow and colourless respectively).

Ruby, well that’s actually a form of Corundum, called Ruby only when it is red, when it is pinky orange it is called Padparadscha.  All other colours of Corundum are called sapphires so you can find all kinds of sapphires, such as the green one below.

 

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Green sapphire

 

Tourmaline comes in a variety of colours and several of these have particular names too.  When it is red/pink it is Rubellite, green is Verdelite, blue is the fabulous Indicolite and colourless is Achroite.

Tanzanite is a form of zoisite, Morganite is a Beryl and they were both named by Tiffany and Co.

Amazonite is a type of Feldspar, as is Labradorite.  Incidentally Feldspar is the most prolific mineral in the Earth’s continental crust and can be found on Mars!  This is a good example of two types of mineral which are chemically related but clearly very different.

Quartz (the second most abundant mineral behind Feldspar) has another wide variation in colour, and many names or nicknames to go with it.  From the yellow citrine, to stunning purple amethyst (and of course the incredible ametrine is therefore part of this family).

Another variation is green quartz, sometimes referred to as green amethyst although if we were going to be strict about it that’s not it’s real name!  So we are going to go with the official Prasiolite, and here’s an example:

 

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However the quartz pseudonyms don’t stop there, even more strangely Chalcedony (see ring below), Agate, Onyx, Jasper, Tigers Eye, Aventurine and Carnelian are all types of quartz that you might not guess from the name!

 

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Blue Chalcedony

 

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Smokey Quartz

 

Of course the feminine pink of rose quartz to the stunning brown hues of smokey quartz (ring above) and the fascinating Rutilated Quartz are also, more obviously part of the family.

Another slight confusion may arise when considering the names of gems in that often the gem quality variation of a type of mineral has a different name to the non-gem form, Csarite/Diaspore, Peridot/Olivine and Iolite/Cordierite by way of example.

 

Call them what you will, they’re all beautiful to us!

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Turkish Delight…Csarite

This is a gemstone you may not have heard of, whilst it’s use is increasing in popular jewellery and it has made many appearances on the red carpet, this is an incredibly rare gem and still unknown in many areas.

Csarite has some amazing features, in particular the ability to display different colours under different lights.  Under natural light this gem displays light green colours, but under candlelight it displays colours in the pink range, and a whole lot in between.  If colour change alone wasn’t enough, Csarite also displays chatoyancy or a “cat’s eye” effect which means it shoes a band of light in the middle of the gemstone – it’s caused by the reflection of light in parallel inclusions and this is the only colour change gemstone currently known to have this effect!

 

 

These amazing features are even more surprising when you know that there are currently no known treatments used in Csarite.  It’s actually a form of Turkish Diaspore, but don’t get confused between Csarite and Diaspore – they are very different.  Csarite is gem quality and Disapore is not.  Csarite is mined by hand, only in Mugla in Turkey and is difficult to cut in order to achieve the best emphasis on the colour change feature.  If you think you’re getting cheap Csarite, beware!

 

 

 

It has a hardness of around 7 on the Mohs scale and once set into metal the colours are intensified.  Whilst this is a pretty tough gem of course you need to be wary of mixing it with other harder gems such as sapphires or diamonds as they might scratch it.  Gentle cleaning is best with this gem, no chemicals or ultrasonic treatments, just a little gentle soap, water and a soft cloth.

In the UK the only stockist of Csarite is Gemporia aka Gems TV.  Whenever you’re thinking of buying this precious gem it’s definitely worth checking that you are buying from a reputable stockist to ensure that it’s the genuine article you are buying.

Turquoise, the friendship gem

The sun is out and we’ve been breaking out our summer jewellery, one of the most fabulous summer jewels is turquoise which might seem a strange choice, but it’s an excellent summer stone as the bright colour gives a great fresh look to nearly every outfit and faux turquoise jewellery is frequently found on the high street during the summer season (ok we admit it’s also a great choice in winter too – amazing contrast against black and in fairness it is December’s birthstone, so let’s agree that it’s an all round jewel).

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Turquoise is an opaque gem which has been valued by people for thousands of years due to its colouring.  It can be traced back as far as the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs and is thought to have been introduced to Europe through Turkey, and it’s believed that this is how it was given its name.  Given it’s age there’s no surprise that myths and beliefs surround this gem, in ancient times it was thought that it could have some prophylactic uses (!) and that it changed colour to reflect the health of the wearer.  Whilst it’s true that Turquoise does turn green with dehydration and chemical reactions or treatments can change the colour even more,  as far as we know this doesn’t actually link to the wearer’s health…  Turquoise has also at times been believed to protect the wearer, and  has been used as both a talisman and holy stone.

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

What is clear is wherever you go in the world you are likely to spot a fair amount of Turquoise in their museum pieces, turquoise was often inlaid into both jewellery as well as building decoration, bridles, swords to name but a few.  Turquoise was even found in Tutankhamun’s tomb in his burial mask amongst other items, and famously examples can be found in the British Museum such as Aztec death masks.

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Much admired, but often under appreciated in modern society, Turquoise has been much copied throughout the ages.  It’s fairly surprising that it has stuck around so long, particularly preserved ancient pieces, as it’s not one of the more durable gems.  Even the best turquoise is fracturable and on the Mohs scale it’s just under 6 at it’s hardest, similar to glass.  It’s also a porous gem and can be affected by reactions with other chemicals.

Turquoise is generally known as a fairly low value gem in today’s society, due to the prevalence of fakes or synthetics, and variety of available treatments means that it can be hard to tell what is real and what is not.  This uncertainty affects the price, as does the large influx to the market that synthetics bring.  However, this has not always been the case and it used to be held in high esteem by the Apaches of North America.  It was thought of as a particularly useful gem giving authority, protection and if given (rather than bought) can bring good luck (particularly on a Saturday…) and preserve friendship.

Examples of our own Turquoise are below, despite it’s structure and nature it can be faceted, it also takes a great polish and there are some simply stunning examples of cabochon cut Turquoise.  One of our favourite Turquoise pieces at the moment is this gorgeous Astley Clarke friendship bracelet.

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Turquoise has distinguishing inclusions caused by other minerals and metals being within the gem, but rarely it can be found without these, which is known as sleeping beauty turquoise.

Treatments

There are lots of treatments which can be applied to turquoise, and it is often treated to enhance its durability as in its natural state it is not particularly hard and suffers from being highly porous.  Other treatments are used to change the colour of the gem and there are some great examples particularly of purple turquoise.  Be warned if you are bothered about your turquoise being treated, whilst a gemmologist may be able to test to ascertain they type and occurrence of treatment, such tests are likely to damage your stone.

Some of the more basic treatments are waxing and oiling turquoise which enhances the colour and lustre of the gem, whilst these add to the appearance of the stone it can result in some discolouration over time if the stones are exposed to too much heat or sun.

Some turquoise is “stabilised” by having resin or plastic inserted into the stone under high pressure, this treatment is more stable than wax or oil so has better long-term results and can lead to otherwise unusable turquoise being brought up to gem quality.

Other treatments are more radical, such as reconstitution or “block” turquoise which is formed by bonding small fragments of turquoise with resin, or gluing thin turquoise onto another material to reinforce it which is known as “backing”.

Care

Whilst it’s important to take care of all your gems, the nature of turquoise, even when treated, means that chemicals such as oils, perfume or sun cream could lead to discolouration or damage of your stone.  The gem can dehydrate so try to keep away from strong sunlight for prolonged periods and store in a breathable material.  Due to it’s softer nature it’s also preferable to keep your turquoise away from items that could scratch it so a special section of your jewellery box or a pouch is a good idea to try and protect it.  Also bear in mind that it can’t be cleaned with the majority of jewellery cleaners, so when you take it off try giving it a gentle rub with a lint free cloth to keep it looking at its best.

The colour of love?

As it’s July we thought we should do a quick shout out for July’s birthstone today (particularly as one of us is a July baby!)

Ruby spray

Ruby is a gem quality variety of corundum, and is essentially a red variety of sapphire.  Fine rubies are actually rare as they are formed when a soft limestone rock was put under extreme heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust, but more than that the limestone then had to come into contact with just the right elements, including chromium, which makes them relatively rare.

Due to the way they are formed all natural rubies have imperfections which include colour differences or markings, and silk, although this silk is an imperfection it is important to enable natural rubies to be distinguished from synthetic rubies.

Rubies reach 9 on the Mohs scale, which

The majority of us will identify a ruby simply because it’s red, but there’s actually more to this gem’s colour than simply one word.  As they are part of the sapphire family different countries take a different approach to colour identification, for example in the United States a minimum colour saturation must be met before a “ruby” becomes a ruby rather than a pink sapphire.  The ICA takes a more liberal approach, but it’s something you should certainly turn your mind to the issue of colour.

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 True or false?

Synthetic rubies are relatively common and were first created in 1937, by 1910 the annual production of synthetic rubies had reached 1000kg.  The fewer imperfections in a ruby the more likely it is to be treated with suspicion and identified as synthetic.  In addition to its use in gemstone jewellery synthetic ruby has use in industry as they can be used to make lasers or other production where it’s hard nature is useful.

What is interesting is that in addition to having to detect synthetic rubies, a number of imitation rubies are often found in the form of glass, or the genuine gemstones such as garnet and spinel.  The confusion between ruby and other gems has been a long standing issue, sometimes not helped by the use of some trade names such as rubellite, but one of the most famous examples of this confusion can even be found in the Crown Jewels!  A stunningly large spinel can be found on the Imperial State Crown, known as the Black Prince’s Ruby.

Myth & Legend

Back in time, as with many precious stones, people used to believe that ruby had powers to preserve the health of the wearer.  Particularly ruby was seen to help the wearer by changing colour when danger was close at hand, protect from poison and plague and even make the wearer invulnerable to steel weapons.  Ruby is absolutely surrounded by acres of legend, particularly stemming from the reverence it was given in South East Asia. and it’s definitely worth a read as some of the stories are interesting.  Star rubies were even more highly prized, it was believed that the star was formed by three benign spirits which had been imprisoned in the stone for a misdemeanour, the spirits represent faith, hope and destiny and it is thought that this type of stone can bring good fortune to the wearer.

Treatments

Due to their nature and the naturally occurring imperfections the overwhelming majority of rubies are treated before coming to the jewellery market.  The most common treatment is heating, but other treatments include colour alteration, fracture filling or dissolving silk defects within the ruby.  Heating can improve both the colour and silk within the ruby.  Fracture filling does what it says on the tin, essentially using lead glass (or similar translucent) to fill the cracks within the ruby, which improves the translucency.

Unlike with some gems the treatment can be observed through a 10x loupe, and the majority of treatments are acceptable due to the nature of natural ruby.

Ruby pendant

If you do manage to find a natural, high quality, untreated ruby then snap it up as they are extremely rare!  However you should be warned that you will need deep pockets (far beyond our own means sadly) to keep hold of it!

 

Am I a Jewellery Maker?!

When we saw this opportunity we just couldn’t say no – Jewellery Maker are offering bloggers the opportunity to win a strand of gemstones by writing a post about our top 5 choices from the site under the hashtag #blog2win.

This is rather appropriate for us, as one of us has a small addiction to the Genuine Gemstone Company Ltd, the umbrella company who run Jewellery Maker and sister channel Gems TV, and a burning but unfulfilled desire to create her own pieces of jewellery (I’m not telling you which one of us it is….)  Having only recently discovered Jewellery Maker it was a good opportunity to explore the website, so here are my top 5 Jewellery Maker gemstone strands:

  1. 65 carats of Smokey Quartz graduated drops – anyone who knows me will know why I’ve picked this!  Aside from being one of my favourite gemstones (I have a fabulous smokey quartz ring which is one of my most prized possessions) the graduated sizes of this strand mean that it would make a very straightforward yet striking necklace.  I would probably team this with a brightly coloured wire such as this purple coloured copper wire – although I can’t tell from the website what thickness would be best for these drops…a quick call to the freephone number should resolve that though!
  2. 140 carats of multi-colour fluorite diamonds – I love the unusual shape of these and the mix of colour.  I feel I should probably pick something more expensive as this is a particularly cheap strand!  But I just couldn’t skip over this strand, I am a great one for crochet and I have been aiming to start my creative journey with some jewelled cuffs and these would be the perfect thing.
  3. 480 carats of red jasper puffy coins – these look amazingly tactile, I can imagine lots of them on a layered statement necklace (although I fear they would end up spending far too much time in my son’s mouth) or think what great earrings they would make.  I can imagine them really standing out against even the chunkiest of winter clothes.
  4. 140 carats of labradorite graduated plain drops – labradorite is such an amazing gem and often overlooked so I couldn’t resist these huge pieces.  The labradorescence given off by this gem means it looks fabulous in pretty much every light and is sure to attract attention.  I also think this strand is great value – you could get several pieces of jewellery from one strand.
  5. 75 carats of amethyst graduated plain marquise – I am a huge fan of amethyst and chose this particular strand to highlight the unusual cuts available.  It’s not a cut I would usually go for, so it’s a bit of a risk, but I think these would make amazing earrings.  If you, like me, enjoy amethyst do check out the cabochons and puffy coins which look good enough to eat.

Well, there you go, my top 5.  I wish it had been top 10 because I didn’t get to tell you about the larimar pearls, green aventurine, real blue sapphire, slabs of chalcedony and ruby nuggets to name but a few (moonstone, agate, turquoise coins, sunstone rondels and crackle quartz to name a few more…Jewellery Maker, you may have created a monster!)

I promise if I do #blog2win I will do a blog about creating my first piece of jewellery…although I may have to enlist the help of my favourite co-blogger/jeweller/gemologist!

Does it have to be a diamond…?

Whilst there are many different colours of diamonds (which we’ll come onto in a different post) we’re going to look specifically at alternatives to the colourless diamond.  Common replicas include Cubic Zirconia, Moissanite, Petalite, Zircon and Topaz.  For even cheaper prices clear glass or acrylic is often used in high street jewellery.  These can all be found in incredibly clear and brilliant examples, they’re cheaper, many look similar, so how can you tell what is real?  Take the well known crystal brand Swarovski, this beautiful necklace (below) is stunning in many different lights, can you really tell that it’s not diamond; Wedding necklace and if you can does it matter?  In the cases of white Zircon, Topaz and Petalite, among others, you’re still getting a real gemstone, similar mining processes and cutting, but paying nowhere near the price of a diamond.  In any event to be fair can anyone really tell whether the rock around your neck is actually synthetic crystal or diamond anyway. Disadvantages of the alternatives So the obvious disadvantage of anything that isn’t diamond or one of the other really desirable gems is that it is likely to lose value, a real diamond is more likely (but not guaranteed) to gain in value over time, particularly good quality gems which are well looked after.  However, turning this on its head of course you probably won’t have paid anywhere near as much for a moissanite or CZ so does it really matter, to each their own. The other obvious disadvantage is that unless you’re wearing a diamond you are not wearing one of the hardest gems known to man…this could make your item easier to scratch or damage…you might not be able to use it to carve your name onto furniture… On a serious note each gem (real or synthetic) has different refractive/fluorescence and brilliance or sparkle.  This is where the real trick lies in trying to distinguish real from fake but in reality without close examination it’s unlikely that even an accredited jewellery professional is going to argue if you tell them your CZ is a diamond. There are also advantages to none diamond pieces, unless you’re particularly precious about your precious gems, synthetic or less pricy gems means you can afford either bigger pieces, or more items than you might be able to with real diamonds.  They can look just as stunning (I wore CZ on my wedding day so no arguments please, but cue an opportunity to flash some wedding bling!) Wedding bracelet and chances are most people you pass in the street won’t be able to tell.  After all how many of us have spent our journey to work staring at someone’s engagement ring wondering whether that giant rock is real or not…?! Ooh more importantly this means it’s more difficult to tell if that rock he got for you is real…hmmm that’s when it’s good to know a gemologist 😉

Now for the science bit…

Diamond in tweezers

 

Diamond is a mineral that is a crystalline form of carbon, the element ‘C’. It shares its chemical formula with graphite ‘C’. However, the carbon atoms in graphite are arranged in layers, and have weak bonds between the layers, making it soft and slippery. The carbon atoms in diamonds are arranged in tight 3D patterns with strong bonds in all directions which gives diamond its characteristic hardness.

Diamonds form between 90 and 120 miles under the surface of the earth, far our of reach of mining and they may remain there below the earth for millions and even billions of years until conditions within the earth’s mantle lead to violent eruptions that blast the already-formed diamonds and magma rapidly to the surface of the earth.  Some of these diamonds will be erupted, but others get stuck in the track of the eruption leaving conduits called pipes. This is where they may stay, fully formed, for millions more years until they are discovered and mined.  It’s these pipes which form the seams which are mined for diamonds and are much closer to the surface, although still a staggering depth of up to around 2 miles into the earth.

Often erosion of the Earth containing these pipes occurs which can carry diamonds into neighbouring rivers and streams, and even the ocean.  As the diamonds are heavy they stick to the bottom and are caught in small whirlpools. Deposits in rivers and streams are called alluvial deposits and they often contain higher quality diamonds than primary deposits mined from pipes because only the better specimens survive the pressures forced upon it with the water’s crashing actions against the rocks. Such deposits for example along the Namibian coast, contain in their yield about 95% gem quality diamonds.

 

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