Tag Archives: gemstones

Topaz – November Birthstone

Pink champagne. Summer apricots. Salmon orange. Baby blue. Purely colorless. And all of them internally flawless. Topaz is one of a very few gemstones that grow to extravagant sizes without sacrificing internal clarity. Most are at least loupe-clean. And there are topaz crystals that have been cut down to faceted gems of better than 20,000…

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What’s My Name?

Way back in the day, before people knew anything about chemical composition, chromophores, and spectroscopy, gemstones got their names by fairly straightforward descriptions. A green gem was a green gem back then; the Greek word smaragdos, from which the English word “emerald” is derived, literally translates as “green gemstone.” One of the best examples of…

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Rubellite Tourmaline

Red tourmaline is something special. Its rich purplish-red with a pink undertone glistens like raspberry sorbet on a candlelit table. The color is deep and passionate; it stirs the emotions. You’ve probably seen red tourmaline listed under the unofficial trade name of “rubellite.” The vast majority of red-hued tourmaline is either pink, or it has…

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Opal – October Birthstone

“It displays at once the piercing fire of carbunculas, the purple brilliance of amethystos, and the sea-green of smaragdus, and all these glittering colors mixed together in an incredible way. Some opali carry such a play within them that they equal the deepest and richest colors of painters. Others again simulate the flaming fire of…

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Sapphire – September Birthstone

Many societies throughout history have elevated the color blue above almost any other. Royalty in the Ancient Near and Middle East wore blue. Hindu deities were often depicted in various shades of blue. Persians believed the Earth rested on a giant sapphire, the reflection of which colored the sky. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were…

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How Precious Am I?

What do Imperial jadeite, black opal, demantoid garnet, and alexandrite all have in common? First of all, they are all exceptionally rare gemstones. Second, they can command thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to even millions of dollars per carat. Third, they have all historically fallen under the unfortunate appellation “semi-precious” because they are…

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The Great Masquerade

The story of the Black Prince’s Ruby and the Timur Ruby of the Crown Jewels of England both being enormous spinels is not new. The great deception was merely a case of misidentification and misunderstanding. It was always known that the two gems were “balas rubies,” i.e. rubies from Balascia: the ancient Latin name of…

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Not All Things Are What They Seem

Ruby gets the lion’s share of attention when it comes to red gems. But there is one red gemstone that has made a career out of being mistaken for ruby. The finest specimens can stand up to just about any ruby that’s ever been mined in color and clarity. It’s actually considerably rarer than ruby…

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Chromium – The High End of Color

Since we’re in July, and I’ve been talking about rubies lately, I thought I’d cover a very important part of what makes ruby burn with such crimson glory: literally, what makes a ruby a ruby. There is some science involved; some parts of consumer education are more complex than others, but don’t be afraid. It’s…

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Corundum Conundrum – Ruby vs Pink Sapphire

There’s an old adage in the jewelry industry: “If you’re the seller, it’s a ruby; if you’re the buyer, it’s a pink sapphire.” The world of colored gemstones is by no means as highly organized or regulated as is the world of diamonds. By comparison, diamonds are fairly simple and straightforward. Colored gemstones comprise the…

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