The Mistaken Identity of November’s Birthstones

novemberbirthstonesThe month of November is represented by two richly colored gemstones: topaz and citrine. The gemstones look similar, in fact, that they’ve often been mistaken for one another throughout history. But they are actually unrelated minerals, and topaz occurs in a wide variety of colors far beyond yellow.

The good news is that both of these gemstones are fairly abundant and affordably priced, which means anyone can find a topaz or citrine that will fit their budget.

Topaz

Once upon a time, all gems that were yellow were once considered topaz, and all topaz were presumed to be yellow. Alas, it’s been discovered that topaz is available in a wide variety of colors, with Imperial topaz—a vibrant orange hue with pink undertones— being the most prized. Blue topaz, although abundant in the market, rarely occurs naturally and is often caused by irradiation treatment.

Pure topaz is colorless, but it can become tinted by impurities to take on any color of the rainbow. Precious topaz, ranging in color from brownish orange to yellow, is often mistaken for “smoky quartz” or “citrine quartz,” respectively—although quartz and topaz are unrelated minerals.

Topaz is a traditional gift for those with November birthdays. It’s also given to celebrate 19th wedding anniversaries, and certain types (blue and Imperial, respectively) acknowledge 4th and 23rd wedding anniversaries, as well.

When buying topaz, realize that this gem is most often treated with irradiation to produce desirable colors—particularly blue. Because these processes so closely resemble how topaz forms in nature, there is practically no way to determine whether a stone has been treated.

Here are a few designs from AGS members featuring the terrific topaz. Click on the images for a larger view.

Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers

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Bi-color topaz set in platinum, 18k rose and yellow gold accented by a pear shaped garnet, tourmaline, and round brilliant cut diamonds.

Goshwara

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“Gossip” London Blue topaz emerald cut earrings on wire.

Corona Jewellery Company

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Sunrise topaz and diamond ring.

Yael Designs

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The Nero pendant is 18k black gold featuring Imperial topaz, accented with rubies and champagne diamonds.

Citrine

The second birthstone for November, citrine, is the variety of quartz that ranges from pale yellow to brownish orange in color. It takes its name from the citron fruit because of these lemon-inspired shades.

The name “citrine” was commonly used to refer to yellow gems as early as 1385 when the word was first recorded in English. However, since the gem’s color closely resembled topaz, the two November birthstones shared a history of mistaken identities.

Once citrine was distinguished from topaz, it quickly became popular in women’s jewelry as well as men’s cufflinks and rings. Today, it remains one of the most affordable and frequently purchased yellow gemstones.

Whether shopping for a November birthday, a 13th wedding anniversary, or just an affordable piece of jewelry to complement any style, citrine makes a perfect gift. These beautiful design from AGS members ought to spark some gift ideas. Be sure to click on the images to get a larger view.

Gumuchian

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These 18kt yellow gold Mosaic Tile earrings feature diamonds, honey citrine and yellow mother of pearl.

Gleim the Jeweler

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Long, graceful citrine briolettes drop from a tracery of diamonds set in 18K white gold.

United Color Gems

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This pendant is 18k white gold featuring a cushion shaped citrine with a fancy cut top and round diamonds.

Ricardo Basta Fine Jewelry

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The Citrine Swirl Brooch features round citrine surrounded by diamonds and rubies, set in platinum and 18k yellow gold.

When buying topaz or citrine, be sure to shop with a trusted jeweler who will inform you whether or not the stones have been treated. To find an AGS jeweler near you, visit our Find a Jeweler search. The American Gem Society wishes you a very happy birthday, and if you’re celebrating an anniversary, may your love continue to flourish for years to come!

Out of the Vault: Clarity Rarities Continued

The gemologists at AGS Laboratories came across some more clarity rarities to share. If you missed the first two installments of this series, be sure to read Out of the Vault: Clarity Rarities and Out of the Vault: More Clarity Rarities.

This first fun finding was taken at 50x magnification of a crystal shaped like a turtle, and the “turtle’s” reflection. Can you see it? (Look closely, you’ll see the body, head, and arm).

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This next image was taken at 20x magnification and exhibits iridescence in a feather. Some of our gemologists see the head of a rainbow trout, with the opaque crystal representing the eye. What do you see?

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When it comes to diamond grading, there are five factors that affect how clarity is determined in a diamond, and how inclusions are considered: size, nature, number, location, and relief.

  • Size: Generally, the larger the inclusion, the greater the impact on the clarity grade. If the inclusions are large enough, the can also impact the durability of the stone.
  • Nature: Refers to the type of inclusion it is and its relative superficiality or depth.
  • Number: For the most part, the greater the number of clarity characteristics, the lower the clarity grade. However, inclusions are not always judged on the number, but on how readily they are visible.
  • Location: The position of the inclusion/blemish in the diamond.
  • Relief: The distinctness of the inclusion in contrast to the host diamond. The greater the relief, the greater the effect on the overall clarity grade.

To learn more about diamond grading, clarity, and AGS Laboratories, click here. To find a jeweler who carries AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Reports, click here. AGS Laboratories is the only nonprofit diamond grading lab created with a mission of consumer protection.

Ask your jeweler for an AGS Laboratories Diamond Grading Report. Accept no substitutes, and buy your diamond with confidence!

Tips from Jewelers Mutual: Thieves Love These 3 Places You’re Putting Your Jewelry

jewelry-thief

The theft of any personal property leaves us with a horrible feeling of violation. Just when you think you or your valuables are safe, crafty thieves come along and burst that bubble of safety.

Although most inconvenient, many things can be replaced. But when it comes to fine jewelry—whether it’s your custom-designed engagement ring, a great-grandmother’s strand of pearls, or those new, yellow diamond studs—these one-of-a-kind items cannot be replaced.

The best way to avoid theft is to plan ahead and be conscious of your surroundings. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has compiled a list of three places NOT to hide your valuables. Learn more by reading their blog, Thieves Love These 3 Places You’re Putting Your Jewelry.

Cut to the Chase

by John Carter, CGA, Jack Lewis Jewelers

So…I’m back! It’s been a while since I have regaled you with my gem nerd knowledge, so today I need to do a quick recap. We started off discussing color, then we went into clarity, followed up by my tales from Antwerp, Belgium. This time, we need to discuss the absolute most important aspect of any diamond: how it is cut! Because this is so important, we need to split it into a few parts just so I can hold your attention and give you the most important details.

My clarity blog ended by pointing out that the way a diamond sparkles generally has very little to do with its carat weight, its color, or its clarity. So what causes that dynamic little laser show you see in a perfectly cut diamond? I will do my best to explain.

For just over a hundred years, cutters have known how to properly proportion a diamond to maximize its sparkle. Yet without modern technology, they were forced to use nothing but mathematics to accurately decipher what angles would ensure the maximum beauty of a diamond.

Today, we can use computer programs and ray-tracing technologies to reinforce that those Belgian cutters from the previous century were almost spot-on with their equations. Think about how amazing that is! Using just mathematics, they were able to get the proportions of diamonds within fractions of a percentage point to their optimal standards. (And you never believed your teachers when they insisted math was useful.)

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Over the years, I’ve had thousands of interactions with clients at our diamond counter, and while everyone is looking for something a little different, the constants that every buyer wants are the same: they want their diamond to be as big and as sparkly as possible for as little money as possible. Simple enough, but most people go about this process the wrong way (initially, at least). So it’s my job to help them see things from the proper angles (diamond cutting pun intended).

After some initial Internet research, the average diamond consumer becomes fixated on color and clarity and starts to focus most of their attention on those categories. This isn’t incorrect so much as it’s just incomplete, because it’s a little misguided to value those areas over the cut grade of the diamonds you are shopping.

Color and Clarity are important. They have to be since they’re based on rarity and because they affect the price so much. But here’s the truth that almost no diamond seller will tell you… Ready for this bombshell? Here it is: once you put that diamond on your finger, absolutely nobody will ever walk up to you and say, “Wow! That’s a really pretty 1.01ct G color VS2 clarity diamond!” Ridiculous right? Know why? Because unless the color and clarity are terrible, nobody notices those (not even your jeweler). What you, your friends, your family, and everyone else does notice about a diamond is its size and how much it sparkles. And what I’m telling you is that color and clarity have almost no influence on how much a diamond sparkles (again, unless they are lousy).

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So that brings us to the cut grade and the proportions of a diamond which, from an educational perspective, have always been the most difficult to explain because, frankly, there are so many numbers to focus on that it can be hard to know which ones to single out. Some people try. They look at the table percentage or the depth percentage and assume if they are in line, then the rest must be as well. But this is not always the case.

For generations, the diamond industry has known that the cut grade is the most important factor in describing a diamond’s beauty, but they struggled for decades to explain why. In fact, this is such a complicated topic that universally-accepted grading standards for Cut didn’t make it into the marketplace until nearly 40 years after the accepted nomenclature for color and clarity were instituted.

It was in 2005 that the AGS Laboratories from American Gem Society (AGS) became the first diamond grading laboratory to bring clear standards to an otherwise fuzzy conversation. They accomplished this by basing their cut grading on both 3-dimensional modeling and on the actual appearance of the diamond. While other laboratories have since followed suit with systems of their own, I have always been a believer that the AGS system is the most thorough and reliable.