When many people think of gemstones, they think of a transparent faceted jewel sparkling in a ring; often a diamond or some other gem of their favorite color, perhaps a ruby or an emerald. Some people may think of pearls, or gems that are typically cut en cabochon like jade or opals. But there is another variety of gemstones that often goes overlooked even within the jewelry industry.
Drusy is a type of gemstone growth. It is a thin crust of gem material that grows in cavities or the on the surfaces of some host material. That host material can be the massive, opaque form of the gem mineral, or it can be another mineral altogether. It can even be a basic rock, like sandstone. It looks for all the world like a dusting of sugar on the surface of the host material. The drusy crystals can be tiny – a few hundred micrometers; or there can be a couple individual crystals as large as a few millimeters.
The colors are quite spectacular. Some are spotted, some are striped, some are speckled, but all of them are beautiful. They can also be cut into exotic or even whimsical shapes, giving each piece a unique personality. I always look for remarkable drusies when I’m in Tucson.
Drusy gems are often underappreciated because of what may be perceived as an “unfinished look.” When poorly fashioned, this can certainly be the case because there are a few expert lapidaries out there who really know their stuff when it comes to drusy. But I always seek out drusies from cutters I’ve known for their quality workmanship.
Quartz drusies especially come in all of the vibrancy of their species. Pumpkin, snow leopard, black onyx, and ruby-red grapefruit are some of my favorites. Quartz agate drusies are the most diversified, affordable, and jewelry-ready drusy in the world, which is why I’m so fond of them.
Then there are some gemstones that are almost exclusively found in gem grade material as drusy. Uvarovite garnet is probably the best example. Pliny the Elder had probably never seen uvarovite when he said, “Nothing greens greener than emerald.” Uvarovite can and often does. Yet it is astronomically rare as a transparent, faceted gem.
Kämmererite and cobaltocalcite are two gemstone varieties you’ll likely never see faceted unless you hunt specifically for them in specialist circles. As finished gems, they are both far too fragile to be used in jewelry. However, they are more commonly found as drusies, which – if cared for properly – are quite suitable for pendants and earrings. They have some rich and unusual colors, as well. Fine kämmererite is the color of a young cabernet sauvignon. Cobaltocalcite is neon pink – quite unlike just about anything else in the gemstone world.
So drusies unlock a corner of colored gemstones that are otherwise unavailable in certain species. And they look really, really cool. You want a conversation piece? You want something unusual that few if any of your friends have? Start looking up drusy. Or better yet, come in and see some in person. My collection ranges from natural drusies of unusual minerals to ultra-contemporary artisan pieces coated in precious metal by cutting-edge technology. It’s a unique look, and something that can definitely set you and your jewelry or mineral collection apart.