Black Arrow Jewelry & Art
124 W. Gurley Street
Prescott, AZ 86301
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Please enjoy browsing through our Gemstone, and Stone Guide which gives you the history of some of the worlds most fascinating stone varieties. You can also browse through the product we have for sale in each stone! Choose a stone from the list below and click on it to read all about it.
Select your stone for more info...
A very small sample of some of the many agates which are found all over the world. A hard stone, usually within the range of 7-9 on the Mohs scale agates are found in all colors of the rainbow, although green and blue are quite rare.
Agate is a variety of chalcedony formed from layers of quartz which usually show varicolored bands. It usually occurs as rounded nodules or veins.
Often tiny quartz crystals form within the stone and add to the beauty and uniqueness of individual stones. These crystals are called drusy (sometimes misspelled as druzy). Lapidaries often cut just the drusy from an agate and jewelers use these drusy cabochons as the main stone or as an accent stone in their jewelry designs.
Some named varieties are: moss agate, eye agate; and plume agate, which looks like it's filled with beautiful feather plumes.
Agate is a relatively inexpensive stone except for some varieties with unusual banded or scenic markings. In recent years, Montana agate has gained wide acceptance in jewelry and well cut stones with nicely defined patterns often exceed the price of some of the more well known gemstones. Plume agate is another that often brings high dollar.
Agate is found all over the world including: the Africa, Asia, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, and the USA.
The deposits of Amethyst with the greatest economic significance are in various states in southern Brazil and in neighboring Uruguay. The third major export country is Madagascar. 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.
One thing that has been known for a long time is the fact that the amethyst changes its color on being heated. Smoky stones are transformed at temperatures of as little as 250 degrees to a shining yellow to brownish-red, whilst clear ones, i.e. those with a high degree of transparency, become yellow or colorless at 400 degrees. Some amethysts are pale almost to colorlessness in daylight. The reason for this has not yet been discovered, but it is possible to re-color them by means of radium radiation. The fact that these stones can lose their color makes it obvious that amethyst jewelry should not be worn while sunbathing, in a solarium or in a black light. Sudden changes of temperature can also be harmful to the stone.
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 blue shades which can complement almost any skin or eye color.
The color of aquamarine, however, is usually more even than that of the emerald. Much more often than its famous green cousin, aquamarine is almost entirely free of inclusions. Aquamarine has good hardness (7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale) and a wonderful shine. That 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 shimmer; that too is a typical feature. However, it is a pure, clear blue that continues to epitomise the aquamarine, because it brings out so well the immaculate transparency and magnificent shine of this gemstone.
All of Natures splendor seems to be reflected in the manifold opulence of fine Opals: fire and lightnings, all the colors of the rainbow and the soft shine of far seas. Australia is the classical country of origin. Almost ninety-five per cent of all fine opals come from the dry and remote outback deserts. In 1849 the first Opal blocks were accidentally found on an Australian cattle station called Tarravilla . the first Opal prospectors started in 1890 at White Cliff mining the Opal rocks. And even today the eyes of Opal lovers light up when somebody mentions places like White Cliffs, Lightning Ridge, Andamooka or Coober Peddy: for these are the legendary sites of the Australian Opal fields.
Due to the differing percentage of water, Opals may easily become brittle. They always contain water – usually between 2 and 6 per cent, but sometimes even more. Thus if stored too dry or exposed to heat over a longer period of time, Opals will show fissures and the play of color will become paler. Therefore, Opal jewellery should be worn as often as possible, for then the gemstone will receive the needed humidity from the air and from the skin of its wearer.
Opals are not very hard: they only achieve 5.5 to 6 on the Mohs’ scale. Therefore they appreciate a protective setting. In earlier days Opal’s sensitive surface was often oiled, but today also sealing them with colorless artificial resin has become quite popular.
Azurite is an an intense deep blue color with a Mohs hardness between 3 and 4. Different sources claim the name is derived from the Persian word lazhward or from the Arabic word azul, both of which mean blue. It often occurs with malachite, chrysocolla or turquoise in areas with copper deposits. A rare form called "Bluebird", has dark red Cuprite mixed with azurite - notice the triangular shaped stone in the bottom left of the collage. Azurite is found in Australia, Chile, France, Mexico, Morocco, Nambia, the southwestern USA, and Zaire. For thousands of years this stone has been used in jewelry and ornamental objects. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was ground into pigment for use in paint and eye shadow .
The Mystery of Amber From Stone-Age man's first appreciation of Amber as a glowing icon of the sun's rays, to amber's current appeal as stunning contemporary jewelry, the illustrious title of "Golden Gem of the Ages" is well-deserved. Amber, a fossilized resin that seeped from conifer trees 40 to 60 million years ago, often contains plants, insects, minerals, atmosphere and water trapped in it when it was a sticky fluid. Whether it is the lightness and warmth of the lively glowing colors, or the organic inclusions, there is something about the fossil gem which longs to be handled, used and appreciated. Our Collection carefully hand-selects only the finest-quality Baltic Amber for an extensive selection of contemporary amber jewelry. Each piece was cut, polished and set in sterling silver, by artisans in North America and countries bordering the Baltic Sea: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and Russia.
Blue Diamond Turquoise
The Blue Diamond mine, located in central Nevada, opened in the late 1950's and was mined up to 1980. This mine is considered a hat mine of which there are very few. A hat mine is a small deposit of turquoise that, 'you can cover with your hat.' The stones that this mine produces, which are usually large pieces in plate form, looks a great deal like Stormy Mountain and Sunnyside turquoise because of its black smokey matrix. This stone features dark smoky swirls with brilliant blue windows with the characteristic black chert, which is ever-present in the stone. This mine is now closed and buried under thousands of tons of rock.
Boulder Turquoise is sometimes called Ribbon Turquoise. Boulder Turquoise is found in the original Royston Mines, near Tonapah, Nevada. Boulder Turquoise is comprised of the stone surrounding thin ribbons of Turquoise. Most of the stone that surrounds Turquoise is too brittle to cut and polish. It is unusual to find this dense hard stone. It has such great coloring on it’s own with shades of Teal running through rich brown boulders. This is part of natures own art! All of our Boulder Turquoise is hand crafted by Native Americans.
Carico Lake Turquoise
Carico Lake turquoise is named after the location of its mine on a dried up lake bed in a high, cool area of Lander County, Nevada. Its clear, iridescent, spring green color is due to its zinc content and is highly unique and collectible. Carico Lake turquoise is also found in a dark blue-green color with a black, spider web matrix. The Carico Lake mine is primarily a gold producing mine. However, from time to time, the mining company leases the turquoise producing part of the mine to individual miners who are permitted to work that part. The limited amount of Carico Lake turquoise and the limited amount of time allowed to mine it combine to make Carico Lake turquoise a valuable addition to one's collection.
Carnelian is a form of chalcedony, a member of the quartz family and most Carnelian is heat treated today to enhance the reddish brown color. Folklore suggests that carnelian was used protect the traveler after death and guard against evil. Carnelian's healing properties are thought to help purify the blood, relieve menstrual cramps and back pain. It is also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of infertility and is worn to enhance passion and desire. Carnelian is a 7 on the Mohs scale and has been used for centuries to carve beautiful cameos. It is found in Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, South Africa, and the USA.
The term chalcedony is derived from the name of the ancient Greek town Chalkedon in Asia Minor. Chalcedony, which is found worldwide, is the name for a group of stones made of a microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline variety of quartz, which means the quartz crystals are too small to be seen without high magnification. In jewelry usage, the name Chalcedony is usually applied only to the light blue translucent and waxy form. Other stones in this group are know as agate, jasper, petrified wood, bloodstone, petrified dinosaur bone, fire agate, tiger's eye, chrysocolla, chrysoprase, onyx, sardonyx, and carnelian. Chalcedony is found in almost every color including: white, gray, black, brown, brownish red, orange, yellow, light to dark green, blue, lavender or, in the case of agates and jaspers, combinations of those colors.
It is found to date in only one location: along the Chary River at Aldan in Russia. It formed from alteration of limestones by the close presences of an alkali-rich nephline syenite intrusion. The heat, pressure and more importantly, the infusion of unique chemicals into the rock are responsible for the transformations into new minerals such as charoite. Why charoite has not been found in other locations is not fully understood. But it is probably due to a combination of a chemically unique limestone reacting with a chemically unique intrusion and subjected to unique physical conditions. The colour of charoite is described as a stunning lavender, lilac, violet or purple. The white crystalline needles give charoite a very distinctive appearance and depth often forming a swirling pattern of interlocking crystals.
There is evidence of turquoise use in China dating at least as far back as 1700 BC as evidenced by a bronze plaque with turquoise overlay from the Erlitou culture site in Menan Province displayed at the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Although some turquoise was mined in China in ancient times, more commonly is was acquired in trade with Mongols, Persians, and Turks. Mostly the Chinese used turquoise for carvings and other art. Jade has been the preferred stone for jewelry in Chinese culture.
The Tibetans, on the other hand, have preferred turquoise to any other gemstone and virtually every Tibetan possesses some turquoise. Believed to bring good luck, it is worn set in rings and bracelets, as beads in necklaces, and as adornment directly on hats and other clothing. Domestic animals such as horses wear necklaces of felt with turquoise sewn on.
Today China has mines that produce a great deal of turquoise. Northwest of Shanghai is the Ma'ashan turquoise mine, and the Hubei Province produces turquoise in colors reminiscent of the now closed mines in Nevada. This turquoise ranges in color from sky blue to spring green as well. Today there are no known producing mines.
Chinese turquoise has usually been stabilized, meaning a clear epoxy has been applied to the surface to harden the stone before setting. A side effect of the process is that stabilized stone is less likely to absorb lotions and body oils, which may change the color of the stone over time.
Turquoise from mines in China accounts for about 80% of the stone on the U.S. market today, due to the scarcity of American turquoise. Only a handful of turquoise mines in the American southwest are commercially operating.
The gemstone Chrysocolla is often confused with turquoise. It is a copper bearing mineral found wherever copper deposits occur especially in areas of the southwestern USA, Chili, Zaire, Australia, France and England. Eliat Stone is a variegated blue and green mixture of chrysocolla and other copper minerals found in the Gulf of Aqaba, near the northwestern end of the Red Sea". Pure chrysocolla is too soft for jewelry purposes but it is often found in quartz deposits which makes it hard enough to polish for cabochons. It is often found mixed with malachite, turquoise and azurite. The drusy form of chrysocolla is a beautiful Robin's egg blue. Pure chrysocolla is between 2.0 and 4.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Citrine is a member of the large quartz family, a family which, with its multitude of colors and very various structures, offers gemstone lovers almost everything their hearts desire in terms of adornment and decoration, from absolutely clear rock crystal to black onyx. And it does so at prices which are by no means unaffordable.
The name is derived from the color - the yellow of the lemon - , although the most sought-after stones have a clear, radiant yellowish to brownish red. Like all crystal quartzes, the citrine has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and is thus, to a large extent, insensitive to scratches. It won't immediately take offence at being knocked about. Even if their refractive index is relatively low, the yellow stones have just that mellow, warm tone that seems to have captured the last glow of autumn.
There are not many yellow gemstones in the world of jewels. A diamond or a sapphire may be yellow - those will be expensive, or sometimes a tourmaline or chrysoberyl, though these tend toward green somewhat, a golden beryl or eben a pure topaz, which we will mention again later on. However, the citrine fulfils everyone's color wishes, from lemon yellow to reddish brown.
Crow Springs Turquoise
Crow Springs, also known as AnnJax or Bluebird, is located near Tonopah, Nevada and 27 miles, as the crow flies, from the Royston turquoise mine. The current owners of Crow Springs, Dennis and Lucy Cordova, are also co-owners of the Pilot Mountain mine. The Smith family previously owned the mine and had been mining turquoise in Nevada since the 1870's. In 1909, William Petry discovered a deposit one mile southwest of the Crow Springs claim. In 1939, Ann Cooper Hewitt, heiress to the Cooper Hewitt fortune, filed a claim to the mine and built a home there, which she called AnnJax. She did little work on the property and subsequently abandoned it. Crow Springs is known for its characteristic light green color contrasted with a bright red matrix which is made up of the host rock, rhyolite. The mine consists of several open pits. The largest pit measures about 50 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 15 feet deep. Materials that would yield gems of large size are scarce though the best stones have good color and are very hard. The mine includes a tunnel that digs 175 feet into the mountain; inside of which Dennis Cordova discovered a bountiful deposit of commercial grade gold and silver.
When ground water carrying dissolved silica is forced into a porous area of the rock, rapid cooling often occurs, causing the formation of tiny crystals on the surfaces or in cavities of the rock. The clear crystals often form on top of previously deposited minerals. This is called a drusy. Some minerals found in this form are chrysocolla, malachite, hematite, psilomelane, uvarovite, pyrite, carnelian and cobalto-calcite.
Titanium drusy is agate drusy that has been coated with titanium in a vacuum chamber. It produces a permanent metal coating in spectacular shades of bight, dark blue or an iridescent white.
Dry Creek Turquoise
When discovered in the Dry Creek Mine on the Shoshone Indian Reservation near Battle Mountain, Nevada in 1993, they were not sure what it was. Because of its hardness, they decided to send it to have it assayed and their suspicions proved correct; it was in fact turquoise. It was not until 1996, however, that it was finally made into jewelry. Turquoise gets its color from the heavy metals in the ground where it forms. Blue turquoise forms when there is copper present, which is the case with most Arizona turquoise. Green turquoise forms where iron is present, the case with most Nevada turquoise. Sacred Buffalo turquoise forms where there are no heavy metals present, which turns out to be a very rare occurrence. The lack of any specific color consistency makes this stone distinctive and unique from other turquoises. To date, no other vein of this turquoise has been discovered anywhere else and when this current vein runs out, that will be the last of it. Authentic Sacred Buffalo Turquoise is from the Dry Creek Mine. Sacred Buffalo Turquoise is known as white turquoise, but is not to be confused with white buffalo, aka howlite. They are not the same. Howlite (white buffalo) is a beautiful stone but it is not a turquoise. Do not be confused or misled into believing that howlite is white turquoise. Because this unique turquoise from the Dry Creek Mine is as rare as the sacred buffalo, the Indians call it "Sacred Buffalo" Turquoise. The Shoshone Indians are not known for jewelry work and as a consequence, the Shoshone sell or trade the Sacred Buffalo turquoise to the Navajos in Arizona and New Mexico, who then work it into jewelry. So many geologic chains of events must synchronize to create just one thin vein of turquoise that the mineral can rightly be envisioned as a fluke of nature. Turquoise is a rare and improbable product of an incalculable number of chemical and physical processes that must take place in the right combination and proper environment over a time span of hundreds of thousands- if not millions- of years.
Emeralds are fascinating gemstones. They have the most beautiful, most intense and most radiant green that can possibly be imagined: emerald green. Inclusions are tolerated. In top quality, fine emeralds are even more valuable than diamonds.
The name emerald comes from the Greek 'smaragdos' via the Old French 'esmeralde', and really just means 'green gemstone'. The lively luminosity of its color makes the emerald a unique gemstone. However, really good quality is fairly rare, with inclusions often marring the evenness of the color – signs of the turbulent genesis which has characterised this gemstone. Fine inclusions, however, do not by any means diminish the high regard in which it is held. On the contrary: even with inclusions, an emerald in a deep, lively green still has a much higher value than an almost flawless emerald whose color is paler. Affectionately, and rather poetically, the specialists call the numerous crystal inclusions, cracks or fissures which are typical of this gemstone 'jardin'. They regard the tender little green plants in the emerald garden as features of the identity of a gem which has grown naturally.
Colombia continues to be at the top of the list in terms of the countries in which fine emeralds are found. It has about 150 known deposits, though not all of these are currently being exploited. The best known names are Muzo and Chivor, where emeralds were mined by the Incas in pre-Columbian times. In economic terms, the most important mine is at Coscuez, where some 60 faces are being worked. According to estimates, approximately three quarters of Colombia's emerald production now comes from the Coscuez Mine. Colombian emeralds differ from emeralds from other deposits in that they have an especially fine, shining emerald green unimpaired by any kind of bluish tint. The color may vary slightly from find to find. This fascinatingly beautiful color is so highly esteemed in the international emerald trade that even obvious inclusions are regarded as acceptable.
Emerald Valley Turquoise
Emerald Valley is a Nevada Mine that produces a deep forest green Turquoise. It is very beautiful. Emerald Valley is an American
turquoise and I have seen it on the internet advertised as Chinese, This is false. It is still being mine by the owner.
Aren't garnets those wonderful deep-red gemstones you often find in antique jewelry? Well yes, to a certain extent, a deep, warm red indeed being the color most frequently found in garnets. Sadly, however, far too few people are aware that the world of the garnets is far more colorful than that. Spectacular finds, especially in Africa, have enhanced the traditional image of the garnet with a surprising number of hues - even if red does continue to be its principal color. Thanks to their rich color spectrum, garnets today can quite happily keep pace with changes of style and the color trends of fashion. And thanks to the new finds, there is a reliable supply of them too. So in fact this gemstone group in particular is one which gives new impetus to the world of jewelry today.
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 the garnet also exists in various shades of green garnet, a tender to intense yellow garnet, a fiery orange garnet and some fine earth-colored nuances. The only color it cannot offer is blue. Garnets are much sought-after and much worked gemstones - the more so because today it is not only the classical gemstone colors red and green which are so highly esteemed, but also the fine hues in between.
Today, garnets mostly come from African countries, but also from India, Russia and Central and South America. The skilled hands of cutters the world over work them into many classical shapes, but also increasingly into modern, imaginative designer cuts. Garnets remain convincing with their natural, unadulterated beauty, the variety of their colors and their tremendous brilliance. Anyone acquiring garnet jewelry can be assured that the joy he or she derives from this beautiful gemstone gift from Nature will be long-lasting and undimmed.
Gaspeite is a relatively rare mineral, found only in a few localities. Its light green, almost apple green color is quite unique and some varieties are almost a neon green. It may contain brownish patches which may give it a distinctive character. Gaspeite is found around nickel sulfide deposits and is named for the locality of Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada where it was originally found. Sources are Canada and Western Australia. Hardness is 4.5 - 5 on the Mohs scale.
Iolite is a popular and interesting gemstone, and is the gem variety of the mineral cordierite. It has a delicate and quite pretty violet blue color that is unlike other gemstones, although it has been compared to a light blue sapphire. It is this reason that it is sometimes known as "water sapphire". Although the color is attractive and popular, iolite is not extremely rare and is therefore affordable.
Pleochroism is very pronounced in iolite and is seen as three different color shades in the same stone. In the viewing an iolite stone, the colors violet blue, yellow gray and a light blue can be seen, all a result of pleochroism. Tanzanite is a blue-violet gemstone variety of the mineral zoisite, has strong pleochroism as well and can be easily confused with iolite. However, tanzanite is usually more strongly colored, its pleochroic colors vary from dark blue, green-yellow and red-purple and it has greater fire.
The major sources of gem grade iolite come from Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar and Burma.
Jade is the term applied to forms of jadeite and nephrite. These minerals are similar in appearance and a distinction between the two often was not made. But, because of its more intense color and translucency, jadeite now brings higher prices and is thought to be the true jade. The most valuable form of jade is known as imperial jade and comes from Myanmar, it is an emerald green color. Jades also appear in mottled green and white, and the rarer colors of yellow, pink, purple, and black. The range of greens are light to dark, creamy, grayish, and also white. A leek green variety called "Russian Jade" is found near Lake Baikal in Russia. Jade is also found in Mexico, and Central and South America. Because of its smooth even texture, jade has long been a preferred material for carving and is usually cut into cabochons for jewelry. The color of the stone is the most important factor but translucency and texture are important criteria determining price. Jade is a 6 1/2-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Jasper is an opaque and fine grained variety of Chalcedony. It is found in all colors including: red, brown, pink, yellow, green, grey/white and shades of blue and purple. It often contains organic material and mineral oxides which give it interesting patterns, bands and colors. Many of these patterns resemble landscapes with mountains and valleys, thus the name "picture" is part of the name of many well know jaspers. Jasper was a favorite gem in ancient times and is referenced in Greek, Hebrew, Assyrian and Latin literature. Found worldwide, a wide variety of named jaspers is found in the western areas of the Unites States; California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Washington. Picture jasper is a petrified or silicated mud that dripped into gas pockets in molten lava. It became superheated and then solidified forming the unusual banded patterns which are typical of this stone. A 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, Jasper is the state rock of Massachusetts, USA.
Jet is a geological material and is considered to be a minor gemstone. Jet is not considered a true mineral, but rather a mineraloid as it has an organic origin, being derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure. The English noun "jet" derives from the French word for the same material: jaiet. Jet is either black or dark brown, but may contain pyrite inclusions, which are of brassy color and metallic lustre. Jet is a product of high pressure decomposition of wood from millions of years ago, commonly the wood of trees of the Araucariaceae family. Jet is found in two forms, hard and soft. Hard jet is the result of the carbon compression and salt water; soft jet is the result of the carbon compression and fresh water
King Manassa Turquoise
The King's Manassa Turquoise Mine is one of the oldest in Colorado and one of the better known. First discovered by Southwestren Indians, turquoise was used by the Indians for personal adornment in religious ceremonies and in many of their rituals.
The Kin's Manassa turquoise mine is located in Manassa, Conejos County Colorado. The site was originally mined by ancestral pueblo people and was rediscovered in 1890 by gold prospector I.P.King.
In 1930 W.P. "Pete" King, grandson of the discoverer began to work the mine while living in a tent, he spent the winter looking for the blue stone. For many years Pete and his family worked the mine. In the late 1930's Pete discovered the largest vein of turquoise ever to be found. It was later named the "Harmon Day Streak". When World War II broke out Pete Left the mine to serve his country. When Pete returned he moved to Albuquerque, N.M. and spent the next 40 years with the Navajos making turquoise jewelry.
Pete's son Bill King acquired the mine in the 1960's but didn't mine it full time until 1980's. The King's mine produces some of the best blue green turquoise on the market today. The King's Manassa turquoise is best known for its rich, brilliant green and golden matrix.
The mine was closed for a number of years and had not been worked. Recently the mine changed hand's again and they have begun to work the claim. The King's Manassa mine is now producing what geologist and collectors have stated, is the Rolls Royce of Turquoise.
The Kingman mine in northwestern Arizona is one of the largest turquoise mines in the southwest. Kingman blue has become a color standard in the industry. The mine became famous for its rounded bright blue nuggets with black matrix. Few turquoise mines produced nuggets, especially of this high grade. Natural Kingman is highly collectible. Some of the finest specimens of Kingman were mined in the 1960’s. This was an intense blue with a black and silver matrix. This superb grade was found in an area called Ithaca Peak, which yielded the highest grade and hardest Kingman turquoise. This vein has long been exhausted. The Kingman mine re-opened in September 2004 after being closed since the 1970’s. The new owners of the copper mine have contracted to dump anything with turquoise veining or nuggets into trucks for Marty Colbaugh Processing. About 95% of Kingman is stabilized which makes it very affordable. Of that stabilized stone, 50% is then shipped to China for cutting; the other half is sold in the rough to American artists and those in the turquoise trade. The remaining 5% of the Kingman turquoise stays in its natural state. The Kingman mine currently yields about 1600 pounds of rough stone per month with 2000 pounds being the highest yield yet.
This type gemstones is created in controlled laboratory conditions. They have the same chemical composition and physical properties to that of the natural gemstones. Various methods are used to create synthetic gemstones. Some of these processes can be very expensive. Sometimes a Lab Created gemstone can even cost more than the natural stone. For the most part these processes provide us with excellent looking gems. At a more affordable price. Lab Opal is also a great alternative to Australian Opal in ring settings, because it is a much tougher stone and can with stand normal wear and tear than Australian Opal can. What is opal? Well, technically, opal is SIO2 and a minute trace of h20, bound together in a latticework that resembles marbles in a fish tank—all settled in nice, orderly little rows. Because the silica is generally spherical, each tiny particle adjoins its neighbors, but never flat surface to flat surface. Light passes amongst these particles, speeding up and slowing down as the size of the spheres and spaces between them changes with the angle of view. Thus, longer light waves produce RED color hues and the shorter waves produce the BLUE color hues. Remind you of the prism you saw in grade school? In fact in simple terms, opal may be thought of in this same way. These little silicon balls all lined up in their little rows. Touching side to side, have a kind of triangle shape between them. Which throws out light much the same as that prism did.
Lapis Lazuli is not, like most gemstones, a pure mineral, but rather a rock composed of varying proportions of lazurite, sodalite, hauyne, calcite, and pyrite. Primarily the result of contact metamorphism of certain limestones, it is found in rather large deposits, but at few locations. The primary historical mining site was in Northern Afghanistan, and remains so to this day. Secondary deposits in Siberia, Canada, and Chile supplement the supply, but with generally lower grade material. Although this gem's hardness of 5-6 on the Mohs Scale suggests that some degree of care is needed in setting and wearing, it is still widely used in rings and bracelets. It would be wise to choose a protective setting for these uses, or limit wear to less than 24/7. Even given protective care, a well worn ring or bracelet gem may need repolishing periodically. Pendants, earrings, brooches and tie or lapel pins can be worn daily with little worry. Steam, chemical solvents, and ultrasonics should be avoided for cleaning. The old standby of a soft brush and mild soap would be safest.
Malachite is a popular stone which has light and dark green banded areas. Many beautiful specimens of malachite contain special combinations with other minerals, such as azurite, cuprite, or chrysocolla. Malachite can be found in Zaire, USSR, Germany, France, Chile, Australia, Arizona and New Mexico/USA. It ranges between 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Maw Sit Sit
Maw Sit Sit was first identified by Swiss Gemologist Eduard Gubelin in 1963 in a town by the same name in Burma. This material is found where Imperial Jadeite is mined. Maw-sit-sit is an aggregate of numerous minerals found in the famous jade mining region of Tawmaw in the Himalayan foothills of northwestern Burma. The six main components are: Chromite, ureyite, chrome-jadeite, symplektite, chrome amphibole, and a matrix of lighter minerals. This material is opaque to translucent with flowing veins of green and black. The matrix is dark green to black in color. Veins that are emerald green to intense neon green have occurred. It is not recommended that Maw Sit Sit be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, or exposed to temperature extremes. It is also recommended that care be taken in wearing Maw Sit Sit because its hardness or durability is directly affected by the proportion and composition of the above minerals.
It is known well that the state of Querétaro is the pioneering opal cradle and mining area of Mexico. In this region the opal deposits are located mainly in the mountain ranges of three municipalities: Columbus, Tequisquiapan and Ezequiel Montes. Most of the gems you see here are from the mines of La Trinidad in Tequisquiapan. During 1965 through 1975 the Queretaro mines were heavily mined and if you ask opal miners from back then they will tell you it was much easier to find quality opals with alot of fire and play of color, where as today the gem quality opals are very hard to come by and command hundreds of US dollars or more.
Mohawkite occurs in only one area in the world--the Mohawk-Ameek area of Keweenaw County, Michigan. Mohawkite is not considered a mineral but is a combination of copper arsenates with Nickel and Cobalt.
Mother of Pearl
Mother of pearl, also called nacre, is an iridescent layer of material which forms the shell lining of many mollusks. Pearl oysters and abalone are both sources of mother of pearl, which is widely used as an inlay in jewelry, furniture, and musical instruments. Mother of pearl comes in several natural colors, and is often bleached and dyed for decorative use. The dye retains the shimmering layers which make mother of pearl so sought after.
Two substances actually combine to create mother of pearl. The first is plates of aragonite, a material which is secreted by the mollusk. Aragonite contains calcium carbonate and conchiolin, a natural protein. Alone, the plates are very hard, but also very brittle. As a result, the organism also secretes organic material similar to silk to layer between the plates. The result is a strong, flexible material which can withstand hard use.
Mollusks create mother of pearl to protect themselves. In addition to forming part of the shell, mother of pearl also insulates mollusks from bacterial infection, and reduces irritation from organic material which drifts into the shell. Irregularities often form in the mother of pearl as a result of irritation. If the irritation is extensive enough, the mollusk will form a large bump, prized in the human world as a pearl. Only the outer layer of the pearl is covered in mother of pearl, which is why it is important to care well for pearls so that they do not crack, revealing the source of irritation beneath.
The pearly lining of mollusk shells has long been noted by people living near the ocean. Many early cultures used mother of pearl extensively in jewelry, and it came to be highly prized. Although the popularity of mother of pearl has waned, many modern cultures can still appreciate the beauty of mother of pearl jewelry, and elaborate furniture inlays. Some homes integrate mother of pearl into tiles and other fixtures, although it is no longer used as extensively as it once was.
Like other substances found in nature, mother of pearl develops irregularities as it forms. As a result, every piece of mother of pearl jewelry or inlay is slightly different. Sometimes these differences are appreciated, and the artisan works with the unusual features of a specific piece to highlight them. These irregularities may also appear in cheaper jewelry which is not as meticulously constructed. Use mild soaps and water on mother of pearl to clean it, and avoid storing it with jewelry which may scratch it, wearing away the luminous layers of nacre.
Number 8 Turquoise
Number 8 Turquoise has character in its appearance and can easily be identified. Few gemstones have such variety in appearance as to have individual character and personality as the Number 8 Turquoise. With its golden brown to black distinctive spider web matrix and unique bright powder blue green background. It has been valued for its beauty and reputed spiritual and life giving qualities. The Number 8 Turquoise mine in Eureka County north of Carlin Nevada was discovered in 1925 and first mined in 1929. The mine was closed as a result of the discovery of gold in 1976 when the Newton Gold Company claimed the area. In its prime, the Number 8 mine produced some of the largest nuggets of turquoise ever found. In 1954 the largest nugget was excavated, measuring 31 inches long, 17 inches wide and 7 inches thick. Cleaned and polished it weighed 150 pounds. Since 1976 there has been no Number 8 Turquoise mined. There is however, an existing stock pile that Mr. Dowell Ward (last owner of the mine) had stocked away for later sorting. The turquoise is a collector’s item — because once the reserve is gone there will be no more material released onto the market. The Gold Mining Company owns the claims to the Number 8 mine and it has been swallowed up by the gold mining operations. This is some of the last Number 8 Turquoise to be has and will be a great addition to your collection.
Onyx is a chalcedony quartz that is mined in Brazil, India, California and Uruguay. It has a fine texture and black color; however some onyx also displays white bands or ribbons against a black or brown background and this variety is known as sardonyx. The name comes from the Greek word onyx which means nail of a finger or claw. Legend says that one day while Venus was sleeping Eros/Cupid cut her fingernails and left the clippings scattered on the ground. Because no part of a heavenly body can die, the gods turned them into stone which later became known as onyx. Originally, almost all colors of chalcedony from white to dark brown and black were called onyx. Today when we think of onyx we often preface the word with black to distinguish it from other varieties of onyx that come in white, reddish brown, brown and banded. A variety of onyx that is reddish brown with white and lighter reddish bands is known as sardonyx. A 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness., onyx is a very good stone for use in carving.
Pearls are organic gems, created when an oyster covers a foreign object with beautiful layers of nacre. Long ago, pearls were important financial assets, comparable in price to real estate, as thousands of oysters had to be searched for just one pearl. They were rare because they were created only by chance.
Today pearls are cultured by Man. Shell beads are placed inside an oyster and the oyster is returned to the water. When the pearls are later harvested, the oyster has covered the bead with layers of nacre. Most cultured pearls are produced in Japan. In the warmer waters of the South Pacific, larger oysters produce South Sea cultured pearls and Tahitian black cultured pearls, which are larger in size. Freshwater pearls are cultured in mussels, mostly in China.
The quality of pearls is judged by the orient, which is the soft iridescence caused by the refraction of light by the layers of nacre, and lustre, the reflectivity and shine of the surface. Fine pearls do not have any flaws or spots in the nacre: it has an even, smooth texture. Other factors which affect value are the regularity of the shape, size, and color: rose tints are the most favoured.
Cultured and natural pearls can be distinguished from imitation ones by a very simple test. Take the pearl and rub it (gently!) against the edge of a tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like fine sandpaper, because of the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel as smooth as glass because the surface is moulded or painted on a smooth bead.
The vivid green of the peridot, with just a slight hint of gold, is the ideal gemstone color to go with that light summer wardrobe. No wonder – since the peridot is the gemstone of the summer month of August.
The peridot is a very old gemstone, and one which has become very popular again today. 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, which was not rediscovered until about 1900 and has, meanwhile, been exhausted for quite some time. Having said that, the peridot is also a thoroughly modern gemstone, for it was not until a few years ago that peridot deposits were located in the Kashmir region; and the stones from those deposits, being of an incomparably beautiful color and transparency, have succeeded in giving a good polish to the image of this beautiful gemstone.
The peridot is one of the few gemstones which come in one color only. The rich, green color with the slight tinge of gold 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 scale – but it is easy to look after and fairly robust. Peridot cat’s eyes and star peridot are particularly rare and precious.
The most beautiful stones come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the peridot as a gemstone also exists in Myanmar, China, the USA, Africa and Australia. Stones from East Burma, now known as Myanmar, have a vivid light green and fine inclusions with a silky shine to them. Peridot from Arizona, where it is popularly used in Native American jewelry, often has somewhat yellowish or gold-brown nuances.
Picasso Marble is found in Utah, U.S. It is a relatively soft stone between 4-5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Identifiable by its striking and dramatic combination of browns, blacks, grays and white colors, each piece is different. When cut en cabochon the stones often have a scenic appearance and look like forest trees or hill sides in winter.
Pietersite Also known as Tempeststone in the Pagan community, was discovered by Sid Pieters in 1962 while he was prospecting some farmland in Namibia, Africa. After his discovery, he registered the find in the mineral records of Britain. His discovery was published in 1964, and the material was named pietersite. Currently there are only two known sources of pietersite; China and Africa. These two forms of pietersite are similar but still somewhat different from each other. The Chinese pietersite’s fibrous mineral is a magnesium-rich alkalic amphibole. The African (Namibian) variety is mainly crocidolite.
The China form of pietersite is said to have been discovered in 1993, but did not come to market until 1997. This China pietersite exhibits slightly different color variations from Mr. Pieter’s original mineral, but both are beautiful and are now universally recognized as pietersite.
The material found in China was formed from a mineral very similar to crocidolite, named torendrikite. Chinese pietersite has striking combinations of gold, red and blue color segments which sometimes also includes a deep golden brown color. Regardless of the source, pietersite will always have brecciated, fibrous bands of blue, gold and/or red tiger eye type fibers in quartz. The fibrous structure in pietersite has been folded, stressed, even fractured and/or broken apart via the earth’s geologic processes. The fibrous materials have then been reformed and naturally recemented together by quartz. Stones and crystals that go through this process are referred to as brecciated, creating a finished product with multiple colors, hues and superb chatoyancy.
While pietersite has the lovely chatoyancy of tiger eye, it is not found in continuously structured bands or fibers, more in swirls, swathes and fibrous (sometimes linear) segments. Thus the structure of the fibrous streaks in pietersite may appear rather chaotic, and can flow or exist in many directions side-by-side like bold paint strokes.
Colors include various blues, golds and reds, that may appear together or alone. Blue is the rarest color, followed by red. The blues range from a baby blue to dark midnight hue. Golds can be light to very deep and rich, sometimes having a reddish hue. All fibrous color variations will have a superb and striking chatoyancy, the bright and subtly changing shimmer of color that moves along the surface of a gemstone as it is viewed from varying angles.
Pilot Mountain Turquoise
The Pilot Mountain mine is located in western Nevada, east of the small town of Mina. As with most turquoise mines, this mine opened as a copper claim. Pilot Mountain turquoise was first mined around 1930 as a tunnel mine. Then it became an open pit mine when heavy equipment was available around 1970. The current owners of the claim have been mining the turquoise since 1989. While Pilot Mountain is considered an active mine, it is a very small operation. The miners go to the mine twice per year, bringing out only about 150 to 200 lbs. of rough stone each time. One of the current owners says one of the interesting parts of mining is “not knowing what you are going to hit next.”
Pilot Mountain turquoise forms in thin seams, with some nugget formations. According to the current owner, the turquoise that has formed in thin seams is high grade with better, deeper blue-green colors. Most Pilot Mountain turquoise is called “grass roots,” meaning the best deposits are found within ten feet of the surface. Pilot Mountain turquoise is highly admired for its deep blue-green color variations. This stone also has very interesting matrix patterns, which range from red to brown to black, most notably a rich tobacco brown. Some of the matrix in high grade Pilot Mountain is beautiful spider web. Pilot Mountain turquoise is a hard stone that takes a good polish. Because of this hardness, this stone does not change colors with prolonged exposure to skin oils, etc. All of these characteristics make Pilot Mountain turquoise very collectible.
Coral is an organic gemstone – like pearl, jet, and amber – composed of the external skeletal remains of the coral polyp, a tiny tube-shaped sea creature. Millions of polyps build their skeletons (made of calcium carbonate with a trace of carotene) on the abandoned remains of other polyps, creating massive coral reefs. Coral is much softer than other gem materials with a hardness of only 3.5 on the Mohs scale.
The market for coral in the United States is thriving. There is apparently still enough supply, either from new sources or stockpiled inventory, to meet demand. However, the coral industry is bracing for an eventual worldwide shortage. Coral trade has been regulated for decades. Coral reefs are one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet today. They are threatened by rapidly warming ocean waters, harmful bacteria, pollution, and destructive fishing methods. The availability of new coral is dwindling as underwater supplies are depleted. Japan has already imposed strict quotas. The United States, requires permits for importation of coral. Some species of coral may not be brought into the country for commercial use and Italian divers must dive deeper and deeper to get new red coral.
The pink color of rhodochrosite is caused by the element manganese and it is formed when manganese is dissolved by ground water and combines with a carbonate material and then drips off the ceiling of caves and crevices deep underground. It is found in Argentina, Peru, Colorado and Montana, U.S, and Quebec, Canada. It is commonly found in the form of stalactites and stalagmites in the caves of Argentina. Rhodochrosite (whose name means rose-colored) often forms pink and white bands. It is often carved into figurines or boxes while the tubular stalactite formations are often sliced for use in jewelry. Fine gem quality crystals are sometimes cut into gemstones for use in high end jewelry, but the more common grade is used extensively in silver and gold jewelry. Rhodonite, another pinkish stone, is often confused with rhodochrosite because the base color is similar, but most rhodonite used for jewelry purposes contains black manganese oxides while rhodochrosite is banded with white. Rhodochrosite became the official state mineral for Colorado in 2002 after the Platte Canyon High School in Bailey,Colorado made the proposal based on the fact that the Sweet Home Mine near Alma, Colorado produces the highly prized and rare red crystals which are found only in a few places on earth. Rhodochrosite is a relatively soft stone and ranges between 3.5 and 4.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Which color would you spontaneously associate with love and vivacity, passion and power? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Red. Red is the color of love. It radiates warmth and a strong sense of vitality. And red is also the color of the ruby, the king of the gemstones. In the fascinating world of gemstones, the ruby is the undisputed ruler.
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, excellent hardness and outstanding brilliance. In addition to that, it is an extremely rare gemstone, especially in its finer qualities.
For a long time India was regarded as the ruby’s classical country of origin. The term ‘corundum’, which we use today, is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘kuruvinda’. The Sanskrit word for ruby is ‘ratnaraj’, which means something like ‘king of the gemstones’.
Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, one of the hardest minerals on Earth, of which the sapphire is also a variety. Pure corundum is colorless. Slight traces of elements such as chrome, iron, titanium or vanadium are responsible for the color. These gemstones have excellent hardness. On the Mohs scale their score of 9 is second only to that of the diamond.
This magnificent gemstone comes in many other colors: not only in the transparent greyish-blue of a distant horizon but also in the gloriously colorful play of light in a sunset – in yellow, pink, orange and purple. Sapphires really are gems of the sky, although they are found in the hard ground of our ‘blue planet’.
Its beauty, its magnificent colors, its transparency, but also its constancy and durability are qualities associated with this gemstone by gemstone lovers and specialists alike. The sapphire belongs to the corundum group, the members of which are characterised by their excellent hardness (9 on the Mohs scale). Indeed their hardness is exceeded only by that of the diamond – and the diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth! Thanks to that hardness, sapphires are easy to look after, requiring no more than the usual care on the part of the wearer.
The gemstones in the corundum group consist of pure aluminium oxide which crystallised into wonderful gemstones a long time ago as a result of pressure and heat at a great depth. The presence of small amounts of other elements, especially iron and chrome, are responsible for the coloring, turning a crystal that was basically white into a blue, red, yellow, pink or greenish sapphire. However, this does not mean that every corundum is also a sapphire. For centuries there were differences of opinion among the specialists as to which stones deserved to be called sapphires. Finally, it was agreed that the ruby-red ones, colored by chrome, should be called ‘rubies’ and all those which were not ruby-red ‘sapphires’.
Sapphires are found in India, Burma, Ceylon, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Brazil and Africa. From the gemstone mines, the raw crystals are first taken to the cutting-centres where they are turned into sparkling gemstones by skilled hands. Top-quality sapphires, however, remain extremely rare in all the gemstone mines of the world.
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise
The Sleeping Beauty mine is seven miles outside of Globe, Arizona. It is noted for its solid, light blue color with no matrix. The host rock is usually granite. Sleeping Beauty turquoise is the favorite of the Zuni Pueblo silversmiths for use in petit point, needlepoint and inlay jewelry. This mine is one of the largest in North America. Monty Nichols, owner and miner of the Sleeping Beauty mine, says that the mine is producing about 1600 pounds a month. Of that, only 4% is natural. Most of the turquoise from the mine, 80-90%, is altered in some way. Most of that percentage is enhanced, which is more expensive than stabilization, and sold to large distributors in this country and Europe. Now, most of the turquoise that comes out of that mine comes from the tons of tailings piles that have been accumulating all these years.
Spiny Oyster, Orange, Red, Purple
Spondylus is a genus of bivalve mollusks, the only genus in the family Spondylidae. As well as being the systematic name, Spondylus is the most often used common name for these animals, though they are also known as thorny oysters or spiny oysters.
Thorny oyster from East Timor. The “eyes” on this individual can be seen on the fringe between mantle and shell.
There are many species of Spondylus, and they vary considerably in appearance and range. They are grouped in the same superfamily as the scallops, but like the true oysters (family Ostreidae) they cement themselves to rocks, rather than attaching themselves by a byssus. Their key characteristic is that the two parts of their shells are hinged together with a ball and socket type of hinge, rather than a toothed hinge as is more common in other bivalves.
Spondylus have multiple eyes around the edges of the shell, and they have a relatively well developed nervous system. Their nervous ganglia are concentrated in the visceral region, with recognisable optic lobes, connected to the eyes.
Sugilite (also known as luvulite) is a relatively rare pink to purple cyclosilicate mineral. Sugilite, a fairly recent discovery (1944) is found in Japan, Canada and India. The most important occurrence was found in 1975 in the Kalahari Desert, Northern South Africa. In 1979 a large deposit of gem grade sugilite was found 3200 feet below the original discovery.
Sugilite is named for the Japanese geologist who discovered the first specimens, Ken-ichi Sugi. It is opaque with a waxy luster and ranges from a pale grayish lavender to a deep dark purple.
Sugilite is also known under the trade names of “Royal Lavulite” and “Royal Azel”
Sugilite often contains black matrix, reddish brown or yellowish blotches and ranges between 6 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Bright purple stones with little matrixing or blotches are the most valued. Gem grade sugilite is beautifully translucent and because it is quite rare it brings a high price.
The Sunnyside mine is located near the town of Tuscarora in the Tuscarora mountain range in the northeast part of Nevada. The mine is no longer in operation as it has become a part of a gold mining operation and a privately owned ranch. The Sunnyside mine was mined mostly in the 70′s. You won’t find much of this great turquoise around anymore except for old stashes. Much of the turquoise found in the area was washed down gullies where Chinese mined for placer gold during the Tuscarora gold boom. A considerable quantity of Sunnyside Turquoise was shipped from the property fer several years in the 70′s to Arizona and New Mexico, where it has become a part of the well known turquoise and silver jewelry collection sold by the Indian tribes in these areas. A Spider web matrix of colors ranging from golden brown to black set off the unique color of the stone. Part of the turquoise is fairly dark blue and very hard. A little greenish blue color is also found in a dark jasperiod. The turquoise from this mine presents some peculiar features, the material has a good color and extreme hardness, great matrix marking in spider web patterns and wafers. The turquoise from this mine is equal to that produced in any mine for color and hardness in the best grades. The veins can run up to one inch thick. Turquoise from this mine is rarely seen today.
Swarovski is the luxury brand name for the range of precision-cut lead crystal glass and related products produced by Swarovski AG of Wattens, Austria. Swarovski crystal contains approximately 32% lead to maximize refraction.
Tanzanite is an extraordinary gemstone. It occurs in only one place worldwide. Its blue, surrounded by a fine hint of purple. Thanks to its unusual aura and the help of the New York Jewelry Tiffany’s, it has rapidly become one of the most coveted gemstones in the world.
It is named after the East African state of Tanzania, the only place in the world where it has been found. Africa? Does anyone think of gemstones when they hear that name? Well they should, because Africa is a continent which provides the world with a multitude of truly magnificent gemstones, like tanzanite for example. 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.
In Merelani today, the search is carried on for the coveted crystals in several, smallish mines, in some cases using modern methods. As a rule, only small grains are found, but now and again the mineworkers succeed in fetching out a larger crystal – to the joy of the mine owners and that of the large number of tanzanite fans.
Tanzanite is a blue variety of the gemstone zoisite. It consists of calcium aluminium silicate and is not particularly hard, having a value of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. For that reason, it should always be worn carefully and never placed in an ultrasonic bath for cleaning or brought into contact with acids.
Tiger’s eye (tigers eye, tiger eye, tiger iron) is a member of the quartz group of chalcedonies. It is one of the chatoyant gemstones. Chatoyancy exhibits a changeable silky luster as light is reflected within the thin parallel fibrous bands. This effect is due to the fibrous structure of the material. Tiger iron is composed of tiger’s eye, red jasper and black hematite. The rippled wavy bands of color often resemble a scenic view. Marra Mamba is a form of tiger iron found in one area of Australia near Mount Brockman. It is a very rare type of tiger iron that contains shades of red, green, yellow, and blue. This area has been mined out for many years so very little of the “true” marra mamba is available today. The exceptional looking piece of marra mamba tiger’s iron rough from Australia (seen in third image) looks like the evening sun setting behind a mountain range. It has a greenish cast with shades of brown, golden yellow, red and blue veining. Because the minerals in this stone are of varying hardness, it is difficult to polish without under cutting. Tiger’s eye is mined in Western Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, India, Namibia, and Burma.
It is a fluorine aluminum silicate and comes in yellow topaz, yellow-brown topaz, honey-yellow topaz, flax topaz, brown topaz, green topaz, blue topaz, light blue topaz, red topaz and pink topaz… and sometimes it has no color at all.
The topaz has been known for at least 2000 years and is one of the gemstones which form the foundations of the twelve gates to the Holy City of the New Jerusalem. These so-called apocalyptic stones are intended to serve in protection against enemies and as a symbol of beauty and splendour. It cannot be proved conclusively whether the name of the topaz comes from the Sanskrit or the Greek, though the Greek name ‘topazos’ means ‘green gemstone’.
The color in which the topaz is most commonly found is yellow, and that is the color in which it occurs in one of the major German gemstone rocks, the Schneckenstein (a topaz-bearing rock said to resemble a snail) in Saxony. In the 18th century, it was mined there during a period of over 60 years. However, most of the crystals were hardly a centimeter in diameter. You had to go to Siberia or Brazil to find crystals as large as your fist.
In mysticism, the topaz is attributed with a cooling, styptic and appetising effect. It is said to dispel sadness, anger and nocturnal fears, to warn its wearer of poisons and protect him or her from sudden death. It is the stone of the month November.
Tourmalines are gems with an incomparable variety of jewelry. The reason, according to an old Egyptian legend, is that the tourmaline, on its long journey up from the centre of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. And 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’. In translation, this means something like ‘stone with mixed colors’, referring to the color spectrum of this gemstone, which outdoes that of all other precious stones. There are tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow. They often have two or more colors. There are tourmalines which change their color when the light changes from daylight to artificial light, and some show the light effect of a cat’s eye. No two tourmalines are exactly alike. This gemstone has an endless number of faces, and for that reason it suits all moods. In particular, it is the gemstone of love and of friendship, and is said to render them firm and long-lasting.
Tourmalines are mixed crystals of aluminium boron silicate with a complex and changing composition. Even slight changes in the composition cause completely different colors. Crystals of only a single color are fairly rare; indeed the same crystal will often display various colors and various nuances of those colors. And 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. This gemstone has excellent wearing qualities and is easy to look after, for all tourmalines have a good hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. So the tourmaline is an interesting gemstone in many ways.
Turquoise Mountain and “Birdseye” turquoise come from the same mine in northwestern Arizona near the Kingman mine. The mine was closed in the 1980s. It is light to high blue, with both webbed and non-webbed matrix. “Birdseye” describes stones from this mine that show areas of light blue circled with dark blue matrix, resembling the eye of a bird. It is a beautiful addition to one’s collection.
First discovered in the United States in the Unakas mountains of North Carolina, unakite is an altered granite composed of pink orthoclase feldspar, green epidote, and generally colorless quartz. It exists in various shades of green and pink and is usually mottled in appearance. In good quality unakite is considered a semiprecious stone, will take a good polish and is often used in jewelry and other lapidary work such as eggs, spheres and other carvings like animals. It is also referred to as epidotized granite. In some of the Blue Ridge occurrences an epidotized augen gneiss is present exhibiting foliation structures.
Variscite is a hydrated aluminium phosphate mineral. It is a relatively rare phosphate mineral. It is sometimes confused with turquoise; however, variscite is
usuallygreener in color. Variscite is a secondary mineral formed by direct deposition from phosphate-bearing water that has reacted with aluminium-rich rocks in a near-surface environment. It occurs as fine-grained masses in nodules, cavity fillings, and crusts.
Variscite often contains white veins of the calcium aluminium phosphate mineral crandallite. Variscite is sometimes used as a semi-precious stone, and is popular for carvings and ornamental use. It was first described in 1837 and named for the type locality of Variscia, the historical name of Vogtland in Germany. At one time, variscite was called Utahlite. At times, materials which may be turquoise or may be variscite have been marketed as “variquoise”. Appreciation of the color ranges typically found in variscite have made it a popular gem in recent years.
Variscite from Nevada typically contains black spiderwebbing in the matrix and is often confused with green turquoise. Most of the Nevada variscite recovered in recent decades has come from mines located in Lander County.
Howlite, (nicknamed White Buffalo) which is named for its discoverer Henry How (a Nova Scotia geologist), is one of those minerals that is more famous for imitating another mineral. In this case the other mineral is turquoise, a phosphate gemstone. Although howlite is always white or gray, it can accept dyes fairly easily and be dyed a turquoise blue. The look of turquoise is so good that dishonest dealers have been unfortunately successful at this hoax.
In more honest circumstances, dyed howlite is an affordable substitute for turquoise carvings, beads, polished stones and cabochons. It accepts a nice polish and its porcelaneous luster is attractive and enhances even undyed beads and carvings. Unfortunately it has low hardness, but it still has a distinct toughness. California is the source for almost all of the howlite trade where nodules of up to one hundred pounds have been found.
Wild Horse Stone is also referred to as Crazy Horse stone. It’s a mixture of magnesite and hematite (an iron mineral) and is found in Gila Wilderness Area in Southern Arizona. Basically it got it’s name because it resembles a spotted brown and white pinto horse. Generally the stone is very white with purple hued browns or rosy browns running through the white magnesite.
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, but 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 is also available in green, dark red, yellow, brown, and orange.
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 jewellery should be stored carefully because although it is relatively hard, zircon can suffer from abrasion and the facets can be chipped. 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.