Setting our Sights on Sapphires

By Robin Skibicki

As we change our calendars to September, our sights are set on cooler weather, and on sapphires!

Sapphires are known for their beautiful blue hue, but they can also be found in a variety of pinks, yellows, and oranges, even peach, green, and violet colors. These colors are referred to as fancy sapphire.

One of the most sought-after fancy sapphires is the padparadscha. Its pink-orange coloration can be compared to that of a tropical sunset. Princess Eugenie, a cousin to Princes William and Harry, received an oval cut padparadscha sapphire ring for her engagement, bringing this rare gemstone into the limelight.

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Padparadscha sapphire and diamond ring by Omi Privé. This ring is the AGTA 2018 Spectrum Award Winner.

Sapphires can also display the celestial-like optical phenomena, asterism, adding the name “star” to this type of sapphire.

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Pink star sapphire cut en cabochon, by Suna Bros.

September babies are lucky to have a birthstone that comes in a variety of colors! Below are a few images from American Gem Society (AGS) members that showcase the chromatically-gifted sapphire. To find an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you, click here!

Spinel: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

By Isabelle Corvin, CG, Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers

Three Spinel Crystals

Red Spinel

Spinel is an oxide mineral that crystallizes in the cubic structure and has quite the mixed-up history.

As of 2016, it is also the newest birthstone to be added to the birthstone list! August babies now have a choice between vivid peridot and alluring spinel.

The word “spinel” comes from the Latin word Spinella, which means “little thorn” or “arrow-shaped.” Spinel gems come in a wide range of colors and saturations, though perhaps the most famous (and mistakenly infamous) is the red variety.

In ancient cultures, red spinel was always grouped together with rubies, and sometimes garnets, since the rough (and even polished and cut) crystals look so similar. In the modern age, the gems can be separated, but much of spinel’s history is tied up in the lore of rubies.

Red spinel ring, by Omi Privé.

Spinel-Omi

The oldest known spinel dates back to 100 B.C. and was found in Kabul, Afghanistan, inside a Buddhist temple. Red and blue spinels were also being used in crafting by the Romans.

The most famous spinel is also the most famous example of mistaken identity in all of gemological history. A “ruby” known as the Black Prince’s Ruby is our culprit. It is a red gem set in the Imperial State Crown of the British crown jewels. The gemstone is uncut, but polished, and weighs approximately 170 carats. The gem has never been removed from its original setting, so the weight is only estimated.

This amazing gemstone, however, is no ruby. It is, in fact, a spinel.

The Imperial State Crown. Image courtesy of GIA.

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The Black Prince was the son of Edward III, and reportedly received the gem from Don Pedro the Cruel, King of Castille as a reward. Legend has it that the spinel was one of the gems worn by Henry V on his helmet and that it deflected a fatal blow, saving his life during the Battle of Agincourt.

Whether true or not, the gem was thought to be ruby for many years, until technology and the knowledge of gems improved enough to separate gems on more than mere color.

This royal stone is not the only spinel in disguise. Empress Catherine II of Russia had a crown that bore an estimated 400-carat spinel. Likewise, Queen Victoria had a very dark red spinel called the Timur Ruby.

It doesn’t help matters when spinel and ruby often form together in the earth! In 1783, mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle finally separated spinel from ruby, realizing that the two minerals were completely different.

Further confusion arises with spinel’s true nature even now.

Many pieces of inexpensive birthstone jewelry have an imitation of the true birthstone: something that looks like—but isn’t—the real thing. The majority of these are made with synthetic spinel, grown in a laboratory rather than the ground, but boasting the same chemical make-up.

The natural gem is lovely, but many only know of its synthetic counterparts.

Each color of spinel is thought to provide different benefits to the wearer, from protection to enhancing creativity and kindness, to better cognitive abilities. Colorless spinel is rare, and no current mines exist that produce it.

Spinel earrings set in 18k rose gold, by AG Gems.

Spinel-AGGems (2)

The most common colors seen in jewelry are red and blue, with the hues ranging from highly saturated to perfectly pastel.

Other popular colors are yellows, purples, and pinks, although the gem comes in every color. Black spinel is found in many pieces, and once again, is often confused for other black gems like hematite, black diamond, and black onyx.

Black spinel and white sapphire pendant, by Dilamani.

Spinel-Dilamani

Spinel is mined in many locations, including Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Bruma) Brazil, Sweden, Pakistan, and Russia, among others. It can even be found in the USA.

Additionally, small crystals have been found on meteorites, a trait spinel shares with the other August birthstone, peridot.

For a gemstone many have never heard of, it might be the most famous of all. It is the hidden star of the show, silently shining on as the world ignores it or mistakes it for another stone altogether.

Pink spinel and diamond drop earrings, by JB Star.

Spinel-JBstar

But spinel is worth a first, and second, glance. With spectacular colors, excellent durability and an amusing history, it’s the perfect addition to anyone’s gem and jewelry collection.

Spinel truly deserves the title: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of!

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Isabelle Corvin is an AGS Certified Gemologist (CG) who is the Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers. Since she was 14-years-old, she knew she wanted to be a gemologist. Ms. Corvin also writes for Panowicz Jewelers’ blog.

American Gem Society Members Sparkle in Nashville

The American Gem Society (AGS) Suppliers’ Reception and Showcase occurs annually during the American Gem Society’s Conclave, the industry’s premier educational and networking event.

This year’s Conclave was held in Nashville, TN, and the AGS Suppliers’ Reception and Showcase featured 16 AGS members. Below are photos from the highly successful evening, featuring the incredible jewelry and the lovely ladies who modeled them.

Click on each photo to get a closer look.

 

If there’s a design you like and want to know more, contact an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you.

Bring on Spring: Be Inspired by the Colors of the Season

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” – William Shakespeare

Now that spring has arrived, we look forward to the signs of renewal. From fastidiously cleaning our homes and joyously changing out our wardrobe to reconnecting with family and friends for a spring holiday or wedding. It’s easy to love this time of year!

Even our jewelry is complementing the seasonal spectrums, with soft pastels and bright, happy colors. Here are some spring-inspired styles from a few of our American Gem Society (AGS) members.

 

We’ve all got that extra spring in our step thanks to the warmer weather and the chance to don the colors of the season in our homes, wardrobe, and fine jewelry! Search for an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you and they’ll help you find the perfect piece for any springtime occasion.

Seeing Green: The Perfect Jewelry for St. Patrick’s Day

Blog article courtesy of the American Gem Society (AGS) member, Malak Jewelers. Featured photos were contributed by members of the AGS.

Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet by Nash James.

Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet by Nash James.

Throughout the world on March 17th, the streets fill with laughter, dancing, and most of all, the color green.  St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast day observing the death of St. Patrick. But now it has turned into a variety of festivals across the globe, celebrating Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, and a whole lot of green.

If you are at a loss for what green to wear, or just want to add more green to your outfit, here are four of the most well-known green gemstones that will add sparkle and color to your St. Patrick’s Day.

EMERALDS

Emeralds were first found in Egypt in 330 B.C. The name “emerald” derives from the Greek word smaragdos, which was a term used to refer to the greenest of gems. Emeralds can come in varying shades of green and some feature blueish hints. The green color comes from trace amounts of chromium and vanadium in the mineral beryl. Its color symbolizes the rebirth and renewal of spring, and that is why it is the birthstone for the month of May. It’s also a popular gem for the 20th and 35th wedding anniversary.

Emeralds are typically formed in six-sided prisms, so they are naturally suited for the emerald cut for jewelry. They are mostly found in Colombia, Zambia, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. North Carolina is also a minor source for emeralds.

PERIDOT

Peridot’s name comes from the Arabic term faridat which means “gem.” Peridots were referred to as the gem of the sun by the Egyptians because of its bright color, which ranges from light to dark green and yellowish green. Most commonly it is seen in pale olive but can be bright golden lime. The mesmerizing color comes from trace amounts of iron within the mineral.

Peridot is the birthstone for August and the gem for the 16th wedding anniversary. The leading producer of peridots is in the San Carlos Indian reservation in Arizona.

ALEXANDRITE

The first alexandrites were discovered in Russia in the 1830s. The gemstone is named after Czar Alexander II. It is often described as “emeralds by day and rubies by night” because it is blueish, green in the daylight and purplish, red in incandescent light. Alexandrites change color because they are a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. This gem provides dramatic proof of how a light source can affect the color of gemstones.

If you know of any June babies or a happy couple celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary, then alexandrite makes a treasured gift!

JADE- JADEITE

The names “jade” and “jadeite” come from the Spanish phrase piedra de ijada meaning, “stone of the lions.” They may sound similar, but they have totally different chemical, optical, and physical properties, with jadeite being the more valuable of the two.

Most of the classic jade (nephrite jade) comes from China, whereas Myanmar is the main source for jadeite. Jadeites are held in high regard throughout the Asian culture. And in China, nephrite jade is a symbol for purity, good luck, and prosperity. Jadeites come in varying shades of green. The most valuable jadeites are pure “imperial” green, which equals the intensity of emeralds.

 

Malak Jewelers
Malak Jewelers is Charlotte, North Carolina’s premier direct diamond importer, supplier of loose diamonds, and custom design jewelry

Six Displays of Optical Phenomena in Gemstones

By Robin Skibicki

There are several varieties of gemstones that display optical phenomena, which describes the many ways light interacts with the structural features or inclusions (internal characteristics) in the gemstone. Often these gemstones will be fashioned in a particular way that best displays these effects.

The science of optical phenomena can be fascinating, although the mystery and allure of these effects are what initially attract us! In this article, we’ll discuss six of the most familiar (and magical) displays of optical phenomena in gemstones.

Adularescence

Adularescence is the phenomena typically seen in moonstone, which is a member of the feldspar family. It produces a billowy soft blue to milky white light that appears to move across the gemstone. This occurs when light hits the alternating layers of albite and orthoclase, which are two differing forms of feldspar within the gem.

The layers of feldspar interfere with the light rays causing them to scatter and the eye to observe adularescence. The effect is best seen when the gemstone is cut en cabochon [en CAB-ah-shawn]—that is, with a polished, domed top and a flat or slightly rounded base.

 

Asterism

Asterism, or stars, relates to the four- or six-rayed star pattern of light produced by the fibrous inclusions, elongated needles, or growth tubes in a gemstone. This singular, celestial-like phenomenon is best seen in a gemstone cut en cabochon.

 

Chatoyancy

Chatoyancy [sha-TOY-an-cee] is also known as “cat’s eye.” Fine needle-like or fibrous inclusions within the gemstone are what causes this effect. Again, stones fashioned as cabochons display this effect the best.

 

Color Change

A small number of gemstones display the color change optical phenomena. Depending on the lighting environment, the color change appearance can vary due to the shifting wavelengths. The technical term for this is photochromism or photochroism; “color-change” is a lot easier to say!

The best-known color changing gemstone is alexandrite. When viewed in sunlight, it appears greenish. When placed under incandescent light, it appears reddish. Other varieties of color-changing gemstones include sapphire, garnet, spinel, diaspore, and tourmaline.

 

Labradorescence

Labradorscence [lab-ra-dor-es-cence] is an optical characteristic often seen in labradorite. The effect is a spectacular play-of-color that is metallic or iridescent, displaying blue, green, red, orange, and yellow. This is an interference effect within the gemstone caused by internal structures that selectively reflect only certain colors.

 

Play-of-Color

Play-of-color is created by a combination of diffraction and interference and is the result of the microstructure of opal: the chameleon of a thousand colors!

Opals are made up of many layers of small, stacked spheres of silica. These spheres diffract light, splitting it into a spectrum of colors. The layers of these spheres create interference allowing certain colors to dominate, depending on the angle the opal is viewed.

 

Are you ready to see some of these displays in person? Visit a credentialed AGS jeweler near you and ask to see some gemstones that exhibit optical phenomena!

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.

Idolite earrings

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!