It’s Only Natural

By Robin Skibicki

Not all gemstones are minerals with a crystalline structure. In fact, some were formed through biological processes of living organisms, such as plants and animals. These natural beauties are referred to as organic gemstones and include several varieties that are important to the gem trade. We’re talking about pearls, coral, amber, ammolite, and shell, just to name a few.

Pearls

Pearls are pretty much perfect for any occasion. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed in silks and satins or khakis and jeans, they go with everything! There are several types to choose from, like freshwater or saltwater, natural or cultured, with such varieties as Akoya, Keshi, South Sea, and Tahitian.

 

Coral

There are hundreds of species of coral throughout the world, but only a few are used for fine jewelry. Corallium japonicum and Corallium rubrum are two varieties of red coral commonly used to produce jewelry, and Antipatharia, a species of black coral prized for its lustrous, black appearance after polishing.

 

Amber

Amber had its moment in the spotlight when it appeared as a source for “Dino DNA” in the movie, Jurassic Park. This fossilized resin of ancient tree sap dates back 25 to 50 million years, with some of the oldest known material dating back 290 to 350 million years ago. Amber comes in over 300 different shades, with the most common colors being honey, green, cherry, cognac, citrine, and butterscotch.

 

Ammolite

Ammolite is an iridescent gemstone material that comes from the fossilized shell of extinct squid-like creatures called ammonites. They only come from one place: Alberta, Canada. Although they have been forming for millions of years, ammolite first appeared in jewelry in the 1960s and was recognized in 1981 as an organic gemstone.

 

Shell

Shell has been used for decorative purposes for centuries and was most likely the by-product of the search for food. It’s been used for everything from buttons to knife handles, from cameos to necklaces. In jewelry design, the two most familiar types of shell are abalone and mother-of-pearl.

Interesting facts: Abalone is composed of mother-of-pearl. Mother-of-pearl is called nacre, which makes the outer layer of pearls.

 

Visit an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you and ask them to show you some organic gemstones!

 

The World of Colored Gems

By Gleim the Jeweler

The jeweler allows me to wear the sapphire blue lake on my finger, emerald green leaves around my neck, and take the citrine sunset with me wherever I go. Jewelry has become my daytime link to nature in an office with no windows. And if I have to work late, there’s nothing like diamond stars and a pearl full moon against an onyx night sky.

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“Gossip” emerald cut three stone rings by Goshwara.

This wonderful quotation, by author Astrid Alauda, perfectly expresses the emotional connection that has been provided by colored gemstones for thousands of years.

Fine colored gemstones have been revered throughout history. Gemstones have been imbued with the power to foretell events, strengthen memory, quicken intelligence, ensure purity, avert lightning, prevent intoxication, ensure happiness and are often equated to the fountain of youth.

What Defines a Colored Gemstone?

Colored gemstones are described as all the various gemstones except for diamonds. Only a select few of the vast number of minerals known qualify as gemstones. In order to become a gemstone, the mineral must be rare and beautiful and be durable enough to be worn as jewelry.

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Blue sapphire ring by AG Gems.

Precious vs. Semi-Precious Gems?

In the past, the term “precious” was used to describe diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire. The term “semi-precious” referred to all other gemstones. Today, most jewelers and gemologists agree that these terms no longer accurately reflect the true value of these gems. In particular, some species of colored gems, such as alexandrite or demantoid garnet, are so rare that they have been known to command prices exceeding those of emerald, ruby, and even diamonds.

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Alexandrite and diamond pendant by Omi Privé.

Gemstones generally can be grouped into three major clarity categories:

  1. Gems that are flawless or have very minor inclusions (e.g. aquamarines and amethysts)
  2. Gems that are moderately included (e.g. rubies and sapphires)
  3. Gems that tend to be highly included (e.g. emeralds and red tourmalines)

Color is the single most important deciding factor in determining the value of a gemstone, followed by the cut. The cut of a gemstone is designed to bring out the best possible color or colors in the rough uncut material while retaining as much weight as possible. The color in a fine gem is saturated evenly throughout the stone and is of a brilliant deep, rich, and pleasing color—not too dark and not too light.

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Indicolite earrings by Erica Courtney.

Each variety of colored gemstone has a range of highly prized colors that have evolved over the years. Many of these colors are tied to historical sources such as “Burmese” rubies from Burma, “Kashmir” sapphires from India, and “Persian” turquoise. This is by no means a sure bet. Not all rubies from Burma have the “Burmese” signature color and furthermore, you may find a fine color from a ruby that was mined in Thailand.

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Cushion cut Mozambican Ruby ring by Real Gems Inc.

Ultimately the wearer decides what color speaks to them, keeping in mind that this may not be that color defined as being the most valuable. Since we all perceive color differently it’s ultimately a very personal choice.

Today, with the ever-increasing advances in gemstone enhancements and synthetic gemstone production, it is more important than ever to work with a reputable and properly trained jeweler.

About Gleim the Jeweler

We have been serving the Peninsula since 1931 and have been members of the American Gem Society (AGS) since 1954. Our membership with the AGS assures you that we earn and maintain the education necessary to provide you with the most up to date information about gems and their different markets.

We also have American Gem Society Accredited Gem Laboratories, assuring you that we have the proper instruments to identify and grade gems. And, what’s perhaps most important, we love colored gems!

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!