Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Many Faces of Quartz

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the earth's crust. Pure quartz is colorless, but also occurs in many different colors, from clear to opaque A few examples of the many different kinds:
  • Purple quartz is called amethyst
  • Yellow quartz is called citrine
  • Black quartz is called onyx
  • Brown quartz is called smokey quartz
  • Agate
  • Tiger's Eye
  • Rose quartz
As quartz often occurs as crystals in nature, the ancients held it in high regard. The well-known crystal ball of the fortune teller of old was made from clear quartz. Ancient Romans thought the clear crystals were pieces of fossilized ice. The word crystal comes form the Greek word for ice.

No doubt because of its abundance and crystalline structure, quartz was known as having special properties in many cultures. Ancient Japanese thought that quartz was formed by the breath of a white dragon, and was a symbol of perfection. Indian culture believed quartz could detect food that had spoiled. Quartz played many roles in the rituals of Native Americans. It adorned the temples of the ancient Chinese. In the Middle Ages Christian relics were made from many different members of the quartz family, and like the ancient Greeks, they thought it was fossilized ice.

Rose quartz specifically has long been thought of as a love enhancer, and been highly prized for its mystical attributes. A stone that supposedly will give you improved self worth, and bring comfort to the broken hearted. It was even thought to help prevent wrinkles.

Quartz has also played a role in many scientific and technological advances. Crystals of quartz were used in the first radio transmitters and receivers. It has certain properties when an electrical current is passed through it and it is used in different kinds of meters and gauges. And quartz crystals played a major role in the development of the computer.

Most of the members of the quartz family are used to make jewelry of many types, and are in enough abundance that very nice, inexpensive jewelry is available. As well as higher priced items. No matter the color or type preferred, there is quartz jewelry to fit every taste and budget.

Amber - The Gemstone of Millennia

Gemstones of every color have attracted the eye of men (and women) since the dawn of time. Their attractiveness also made them items of great value. One of the oldest known of these 'pretty rocks' is also one of the few gemstones that have its origins as a substance from a plant. It began as resin that seeped from certain types of trees. A combination of pressure and chemical changes, the gemstone called amber was produced. Amber can be 45 million years old.

Pendants made from amber have been found that date back to 12,000 B.C.E. There have been quantities of amber found in the foundations of ancients buildings, leading to the speculation that it was placed there to ward off evil. Amber has been highly valued throughout history and was one of the first known commercial products. The demand  was so great that a trading route called The Amber Road developed that brought amber from the Baltic Sea all the way to Italy. This trading route lead to the possession of amber in many areas of the ancient world. Amber artifacts have been found in areas of ancient Greece, Egypt and England.

When the resin seeped from ancient trees so many million years go, sometimes it would trap various objects within it. These items are called inclusions, and can be a variety of insects, leaves, twigs, and other organic matter. These inclusions can contain insect and plant species that are no longer found on earth, and they add to the value of the stones.

Amber comes in many different colors such as orange, red, yellow, white, green, brown, blue and black (black is merely very dark shades of one of the other colors). It can also range in clarity from clear to cloudy. Seawater Amber, as its name implies, is found either floating in seawater or entangled in beds of seaweed.

The beaches and seaweed beds of the Baltic Sea was the greatest source of amber in the ancient world, and was the starting point for the original Amber Road. The stone is also mined on land, and is the greatest source of amber being used today, mined in this manner it is encrusted with other minerals and rocks, while sea amber has been polished smooth by water. Sea Amber is of greater value than the version found on land.

Much of the amber found today still comes from the Baltic Sea region of Eastern Europe and Russia, with many of the richest deposits found in Poland and Lithuania. Other major deposits are also found in The Dominican Republic and many different areas of Asia. Small localized areas of amber deposits have been found in The United States, with the largest U.S deposits being found in Arkansas.

The ancients credited amber with many magical properties. It gave the wearer strength, helped ward off evil, aided in healing, and enhanced the power of magicians, among others. The beauty of the stone still has the power to attract the human eye, and amber jewelry remains very popular. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, said the poet. In its many colors and forms, amber was a thing of beauty for the ancients. It remains a thing of beauty for us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cubic Zirconia - Too Perfect To Be A Diamond

The beginnings of cubic zirconia started when scientists were looking for less expensive material for use in lasers and optical equipment. Cubic zirconia appears in nature, but it is very rare and the crystals are too small to be of use. Scientists in France, and finally Soviet Russia found the breakthroughs that led to the methods of growing larger crystals in the laboratory. Production of the crystals began in 1976, and by 1980 world-wide production reached 50 million carats. It is used in the manufacture of optical components (prisms, lenses, etc.), insulators, medical instruments (scalpels) and jewelry.
  • The use of CZ (as it is usually abbreviated) in jewelry began almost immediately after it was being mass produced. It is similar to diamond, optically so close that only a trained eye can tell the difference. A comparison of the two substances:
  • On the Mohs scale of hardness, diamond is the hardest substance known with a rating of 10. CZ rates from 8.5 to 9.
  • CZ is virtually flawless, while even the best of diamonds have minor flaws.
  • Pure CZ is colorless. Only the most rare diamonds are colorless.
  • The facet shapes of CZ are different than diamond.
  • CZ is heavier than diamond. A CZ stone compared to the same size diamond weighs 1.7 times more.
  • CZ is one of the most efficient thermal insulators known, while diamond is one of the best thermal conductors. This difference is one of the tests to differentiate diamond from CZ.
Cubic zirconia is not only used as a simulated diamond but can be colored to match practically any gemstone in appearance A reputable seller of jewelry will always tell when CZ is used in jewelry and not try to pass it off as genuine diamond. It is a beautiful stone in its own right. It is less expensive than a diamond, and can give the wearer much pleasure, and at least a very good approximation of what an authentic diamond is. But the cubic zirconia's man-made perfect appearance tells the tale. In all things beautiful, there is nothing quite like the imperfect beauty created by nature. Beautiful and versatile it may be, but cubic zirconia is too perfect to be a diamond.

Marcasite - Pyrite in Disguise

Marcasite as the word is used in jewelry refers to small faceted stones that are inlaid in sterling silver. But the actual mineral marcasite cannot be used in jewelry as it tends to crumble into powder. Marcasite jewelry is actually jewelry using the mineral pyrite, sometimes referred to as iron pyrite.

Pyrite as it occurs in nature has a metallic luster, and can range from a very pale to a brassy yellow color according to the sulfur content. The yellow colored pyrite was mistaken for gold by inexperienced miners and earned the name fool's gold. These miners of years ago didn't realize it at the time, but pyrite can actually have very small amounts of gold in it. The sulfur content of the mineral has led pyrite to be used commercially for the production of sulfur dioxide used in the paper industry, and sulfuric acid for many industrial applications. Pyrite is found in many areas around the world

Pyrite used in jewelry is called marcasite. The name is derived from the Arabic word for pyrite, 'markaschatsa'. Evidence of this type of jewelry has been found in areas of ancient Greece and the burial grounds of the ancient Inca people of South America. It became very popular in the 18th century, reaching its zenith in the Victorian Era.

Marcasite is most often used with sterling silver. The darkness of it makes a good contrast to the brightness of silver. Gemstones are also used with it to good effect. Even when new, it has an antique look to it, and is used in Victorian Era jewelry reproductions. It is also used in many other kinds of jewelry. It can range in color from slightly brassy to pale green, but is mostly a dark metallic gray color.

From a simple marcasite and sterling silver ring, to ornate pendants with brightly colored gemstones, it is a very versatile material. This type of jewelry is found in very affordable jewelry right on up to very expensive. It has its own charm and beauty, this pyrite in disguise.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Black Hills Gold - America's Jewelry

In the 19th century, The Black Hills of South Dakota was an untamed area held sacred by The Sioux Native Americans. White men knew nothing about it when George Armstrong Custer led the first expeditionary force there in 1874. This expedition was a violation of a peace treaty with the Sioux, a violation that the Sioux never forgot. They exacted their revenge on Custer at The Battle Of Little Big Horn in Montana two years later.
A few months after the expedition had entered the area, a man name Horatio Ross discovered gold along French Creek. The lure of gold has the power to lure men to pursue it no matter where it may lead them. The gold found at French Creek had the same effect, and led to one of the last great gold rushes of the west. The town of Deadwood was a gold rush town, with all that goes with it. Prospectors, saloons, gambling, violence, and famous people. Wild Bill Hickok was shot to death in a saloon in Deadwood as he played poker. His card hand contained a pair of aces and a pair of eights, ever since known as the Dead Man's Hand.

The man that has been called the father of Black Hills Gold, S.T.Butler, also lived in Deadwood. His jewelry design of the colored leaf so often seen in this type of jewelry may have originated in San Francisco during the gold rush of 1849. Black Hills Gold designs also use grapes and grape stems as well as the leaves. The different colors used in the jewelry are alloys of gold. To obtain the green hue, silver is alloyed with yellow gold. Copper is alloyed with yellow gold in differing mixes to obtain red or pink gold.

While it is true that in the 1980's a federal judge ruled that any gold called Black Hills Gold must be manufactured in the Black Hills, this does not mean that the gold itself has to be from it. Makers purchase their gold from many sources, and as long as the jewelry is made, it is legal to use the name.

Black Hills gold begins with ingots of gold, silver and copper. These are melted and combined to make the different karat alloys used and different colors, then formed into gold bars. Some of these gold bars are then rolled to various thicknesses according to the needs of the jewelry being made, then they are stamped using patterns and dies. Other gold bars are used to cast the base of the piece of jewelry.

Cast pieces are polished, then the pressed gold items are hand soldered to the jewelry base. After further hand work, polishing and many inspections, a high quality piece of Black Hills Gold jewelry is the result. This type of jewelry is known for its high quality, beauty and value. It remains a popular type of jewelry that is not only very pleasing to the eye. It is a uniquely American form of the jeweler's art.

Mother Of Pearl - Opal Of The Sea

Mother of pearl is the iridescent substance called nacre, found on the inside of some mollusks. The word nacre comes from the Arab word naqqarah which means shell. It has been used for ornament, decoration and jewelry since 3000 B.C.E. Tombs have been discovered on the sites of ancient Mesopotamia in the Middle East that contained items made of mother of pearl. In some ancient cultures it was valued more than pearls. Before the 19th century, Japanese shell divers would discard any pearls found in the oysters they got, and keep the shell.

Ancient China also used mother of pearl for decorative inlay for various objects and jewelry. The Chinese powdered it and used it in medicines and prescribed it to lower blood pressure, as a cure for dizziness and as a heart medication. Native populations of South and North America also used mother of pearl for decoration and medicine.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, the main source of mother of pearl was the Persian Gulf. By the 16th century, this source had been depleted due to the huge demand. New sources were found in the Pacific. Areas in the Pacific such as The Solomon Islands and Tahiti were then plundered of their supply of nacre producing mollusks until the late 1880's when France gained control of Tahiti and restricted it. By the early 20th century the area was no longer a source of nacre.

In America, mother of pearl had been used mostly as an inlay for furniture until the 19th century saw it used for buttons. Muscatine, Iowa became the center of pearl button manufacture, and 'clammers' fished the Mississippi and other rivers for the nacre producing fresh water mussels. The buttons would be formed by punching out round pieces of the mussel shell. Billions of pearl buttons were manufactured, but they were very labor intensive to produce. By the beginning of World War II, the pearl button industry shifted to the production of plastic buttons as they were less expensive to make.

Mother of pearl continues to be used as decoration for many items such as furniture, musical instruments, and jewelry. Modern mother of pearl comes from fresh water and salt water sources in Europe, Asia, The United States, Japan and Asia. Mother of pearl that comes from abalone shell is some of the most valuable. With its iridescence and beauty, this opal of the sea is still in demand and highly valued.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthstones - The Modern List

There have been many different lists of stones that correspond with the months or signs of the zodiac. The most recent one is a list that was adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. This is the official list of birthstones used in the United States. Not only are certain stones associated with a given month, but each month has a color associated with it. These colors have been derived from the natural color of the individual birthstones. Following is the modern list of gemstones and corresponding colors:
  • January - Garnet gemstone, deep red color. Although garnet is most often thought of as being a red stone, garnet occurs in every color except blue. Each color of garnet technically has its own name.
  • February - Amethyst gemstone, purple color. Amethyst is one of the most popular gemstones and is worn by many regardless of their birth month. Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz.
  • March - Aquamarine gemstone, pale blue color. Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family of gems, along with emerald.
  • April - Diamond gemstone, white or clear color. There is nothing else like the sparkle and fire of a good quality diamond in the world of gems.
  • May - Emerald gemstone, green color. Emeralds are found in many countries, with Columbia and Brazil producing some of the finest stones.
  • June - Pearl or Moonstone, white color. Pearls are the only gems that come from living creatures.
  • July - Ruby gemstone, red color. Ruby and Sapphire are types of the mineral corundum. The only gemstone harder than a ruby or sapphire is a diamond.
  • August - Peridot gemstone, pale green color. Peridot occurs in many areas of the world, and is also occasionally found in meteorites.
  • September - Sapphire gemstone, deep blue color. Sapphire occurs in nature in many different colors besides blue, but the blue stone is associated with September.
  • October - Opal gemstone, multi-colors or pink. There are two types of opals, precious and common. Precious opals are the stones that display the 'fire' or play of colors the stone is famous for.
  • November - Yellow topaz or Citrine gemstones, yellow color. Yellow topaz of good quality is relatively rare and expensive. Citrine is often substituted.
  • December - Blue topaz or turquoise gemstones, blue color. Blue topaz is sometimes irradiated to improve and deepen the blue color. Tanzanite was added to the December birthstone selections by the American Gem Trade Association in 2002.

Sapphire - Not Only In Blue

Sapphire has been a stone that represented virtue, holiness and wisdom throughout the ages. There is a tradition that says that the tablets the 10 Commandments were written on were tablets of sapphire that were so strong that a hammer would shatter if struck against them. Blue Sapphire became the favorite of church authorities for rings, as the blue color represented the sky. The gem was worn by ancient kings as a defense from harm and especially as protection from poisoning. It was also a favored stone by those who practiced witchcraft.

Sapphire is the name given to any piece of the mineral corundum that is not red in color. All red corundum is ruby. It is usually thought of as being blue in color and that is the most popular color. But they are found in a range of colors such as green, purple, orange, pink, violet and colorless. It is the birthstone for the month of September. There are many areas of the world that produce the gem, but the most famous are Sri Lanka, Burma and Kashmir, which is located high in the Himalayan mountains.

Sapphire like ruby can be produced synthetically by growing in laboratories and is very difficult to differentiate from the authentic stone. Synthetic sapphire has industrial applications similar to ruby because of its hardness, and is also used in jewelry. The synthetic stone is available in many colors besides blue and are much more affordable than authentic stones, but they should always be designated as synthetic or lab grown.

The Star Sapphire is a stone in which a six-pointed star can be seen in the stone after it has been cut and faceted. This star moves with the source of light that passes through it. This type of stone was thought to protect the wearer from the 'evil eye' and witchcraft, and is also known as an asteria stone. Sir Richard Francis Burton, famed 19th century traveler obtained one of these stones on his world travels and considered it his good luck talisman. This stone is known as The Star Of India and now resides in the Morgan-Tiffany Collection in the American Museum Of Natural History. It weighs an astounding 563 carats!

The rarest and most valuable type of sapphire is the padparadscha. It is colored in light shades of pink and orange, and most of this type comes from Sri Lanka. According to size, color and quality of the stone, these types of stones can range in price from $4,000 to $20,000 a carat. The most famous padparadscha sapphire is also located in the Morgan-Tiffany Collection of the American Museum Of Natural History and weighs 100.18 carats.

Garnet - The Light Of Noah

The use of garnet, the birthstone for January, has been documented as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. They not only made talismans and jewelry from the stone, but buried it with their dead for protection and illumination on their journey after life. In the bible, Noah is said to have used garnet to guide his path and give light inside the ark.

Garnet is most often associated with the color red, but it is actually a gem that can occur in orange, yellow, purple, brown, black, pink and colorless. These other colors have specific names, but all of them are of the same family. The stone was thought to not occur in the color of blue, but in the 1990's a blue garnet was discovered in Madagascar. These blue garnets are very rare and the most expensive of all garnets. The name of the gemstone comes from the Latin granatum which means seed or grain, specifically the seed of the pomegranate which is also red in color. Garnet was occasionally mistaken for ruby throughout history, because of the similarity in appearance and the characteristic of some garnets to change colors when viewed in different light.

The ancient attributes for garnet include giving of strength, healing, relief for skin inflammation, regulating blood flow and curing depression. The stones were also in ancient times given as gifts. When friends exchanged garnets, it demonstrated their affection for one another.

The stone is primarily used in jewelry in modern times, but its hardness has also given it use in industrial applications. Although much more expensive than sand, garnet is sometimes used to blast clean items as it is much more efficient than sand. It can also be recovered and recycled in this process.

Garnet is found in many areas of the world, with some areas better known for colors of the stone besides red. Garnet is found in The United States in Idaho, New Mexico, Utah and Arkansas, in Russia, Africa Sri Lanka, Europe and South America.

Diamonds - History And Facts

Some history and facts about the world's most popular gemstone:
  • Diamonds are carbon, the same substance as charcoal, with the difference being in the way the carbon atoms are structured.
  • Diamond is the hardest substance known that occurs naturally. There are other substances that are harder that have been synthetically created. Ultra hard Fullerite and Aggregated Diamond Nanorods are 1.17-1.52 times harder than diamond.
  • Historians speculate that diamonds may have been known as far back in history as the 12th century B.C.E. Diamonds are mentioned in the Bible,
  • Practically all diamonds came from India before 1725, when they were discovered in Brazil.
  • India and Brazil supplied diamonds to the world until they were discovered in South Africa in 1866. South Africa remains one of the most important sources of diamond s today.
  • Diamonds at one time were extremely rare. Only the very wealthy could afford to own them.
  • A diamond mine in Murfeesborough, Arkansas operated until 1969. The mine is now part of a state park where for $5 visitors can dig for diamonds and keep all they find. The odds of finding a diamond there are very small.
  • There is only one currently operating diamond mine in The United States. It is the State Line Kimberlite District located near the Colorado-Wyoming border. There are a few diamond mines in Canada, mainly in the Northwest Territories that are operational.
  • Much of the popularity of diamonds can be attributed to the marketing strategy of the De Beers diamond company. This company is involved in the exploration and mining of diamonds, and accounts for approximately 40 percent of the diamonds on the market.
  • Today there are more synthetic diamonds being manufactured than mined. These diamonds are for industrial use. Gemstone quality synthetic diamonds have been made, but are more expensive to make than to mine for natural ones.
  • All diamonds that occur naturally are colored. Pure diamond is colorless, but pure diamond is not found in nature. Finer quality diamonds may appear colorless, but they too have color even if it is almost imperceptible.

Opal - The Queen Of Gems

The birthstone for October, opal was highly prized in ancient Rome and considered to be a gem of hope and healing. Ancient Arab cultures thought that opals fell from the sky during flashes of lightning. It can occur in many different colors, along with colorless. Seldom is a stone only one color. Shakespeare in one of his plays describes the stone as being 'the queen of gems'.

There are many theories as to how the stone got its name. The Sanskrit word upala, meaning valuable stone is one theory. Some scholars say it came from the Greek word opallios which means color change. Others say that the ancient Romans called it opalus, which means stone of many elements.

There are two different types of the stone. Precious opal which is a stone that has the play of light characteristic, and common opal which does not. Play of light means that reflected and refracted light in many colors can be seen in the stone when viewed from different angles, colors that are different from the main color of the stone. Most gemstones are precious opal but the common type can also on occasion be of gemstone quality. Up until the middle of the 19th century, precious opals were very rare and most were found in what is now Slovenia in Europe. It is now found in Australia and Czech Republic, Hungary, North, South and Central America, and Northern Africa as well as Slovenia.

Not all opals used in jewelry are solid gemstones. Doublets are thin pieces of opal that are fastened to a backing material, while triplets are thin pieces of stone that are attached to a backing material that have a clear quartz cap. There are also synthetic opals being manufactured that are indistinguishable from natural stones except by trained gemologists.

Compared to other gemstones, opal is fragile. Its softness makes it susceptible to damage if not worn with care. It is also a gem that is made up of 3 to 6 percent water. If the stone is exposed to conditions that would dehydrate it, cracks can occur as well as the loss of the play of light. An opal should be worn often to allow the stone to retain its moisture by contact with the air and human skin, and should be mounted in such a way as to give it protection.

There is a great price variation with opals, with the common variety usually much less expensive than the precious. The most expensive precious type of stone is the black opal, which refers to a stone that has a dark main color, and very brilliant flashes. Because precious opal can reflect so many different colors, it can be stylish and match many different types and colors of apparel. As long as care is taken when worn, opal can be worn and enjoyed every day.

Amethyst - Named By The Ancient Greeks

The purple gemstone amethyst has been treasured by mankind since its discovery, and has been highly desirable by people in positions of authority throughout the ages. Tradition has it that the stone was worn as part of the official robes of ancient Jewish priests and represented the spirit of God. This type of quartz was used in jewelry and crowns of kings and queens of ancient Egypt, royalty of the Middle Ages of Europe, all the way to the present day.

The color of the stone can range from deep violet to pastel purple. The stone is found in various amounts in many places of the world, with most of the amethyst mined in modern times coming from South America. It is the birthstone for the month of February.

Origins Of The Name
The name amethyst comes from the ancient Greek word amethystos that means 'not intoxicated'. In ancient times it was thought that if a person drank alcohol from a cup made from amethyst they would not get drunk. This also led to the sprinkling of ground amethyst into wine to make the drinker immune from alcohol's effects.
These attributes for amethyst in turn derive from ancient Greek stories. One of these stories tells that the Greek god Dionysus was in love with a Greek maiden named Amethystos. She did not return his love, and prayed to the Greek goddess Artemis to protect her and her chastity from the drunken god. The goddess answered the prayer and turned Amethystos into crystals of white quartz. When Dionysus discovered what had happened, he wept for his lost love and poured his goblet of wine over the crystals, thus they were dyed purple.

From ancient Greece to modern times the rich purple hues of amethyst have made it a very popular gemstone. Formerly reserved for the rich and powerful, modern discoveries of large deposits of the stone in South America have made the beautiful stone affordable for more people to own and enjoy.

Gold Plating - From Thin To Vermeil

Gold has been and continues to be a highly desirable metal. Whether for its beauty in jewelry, or value in coins and bullion, solid gold is very expensive and the price is climbing. The expense of gold naturally limits the number of people who can own it. But gold has been used in other ways that can utilize the beauty of it without the incredible expense of solid gold.

Gilding is used to cover large areas with a thin layer of gold. Gold hammered into very thin sheets called 'gold 'leaf' is attached with adhesives. Gilding is also done with gold dust mixed into a paste with other substances. Items are also covered with thicker sheets of gold by hammering and forming it around the item. This is called gold rolled. With the application of heat and pressure, gold sheets are fused to the object. This is known as gold filled. But the most used process, especially for intricate jewelry, is gold electroplating.

Commercial applications for the electroplating of gold and silver began in the early 19th century. Simply put, electroplating works by immersing a metal object into a solution that has microscopic particles of gold suspended within it. A small electric charge is run through the metal object, and the particles of gold are 'attracted' to the object and bond with it. This very thin layer of gold can vary in thickness, and is measured in millionths of an inch, or micro inches . Most common gold plated objects have a coating that is 7 to 20 micro inches, and can be 10 to 14k gold.

Vermeil (pronounced 'vermay') gold is a much thicker layer that is at least 100 micro inches thick. Vermeil gold jewelry is much more durable than regular gold plated jewelry, where the coating is so thin that it is easily worn off. Regular gold plated jewelry is usually done over lesser metals such as brass. Vermeil gold jewelry is always at least 14k gold and is done over sterling silver. It is very high quality, and has the beauty of gold without the high price of solid gold.

Bracelets - Fact And Folklore

Where did the name 'bracelet' come from? What is the most expensive bracelet worth? Facts and folklore about bracelets:
  • The first known bracelets were worn by Sumerians who lived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 2500 B.C.E. Jewelry of all kinds was a sign of a person's prosperity. Bracelets and other jewelry were found in the royal tombs in the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia. It was customary for jewelry to be buried with their owners, along with their servants. Servants probably prayed to their ancient gods for a long life for their masters because of this.
  • The charm bracelet was thought to have originated in ancient Egypt during the age of the pharaohs. Charms made of precious metals and gemstones would be worn on these bracelets to ward off evil spirits. These were known as Lucky Charms long before the breakfast cereal came into existence.
  • In ancient Greece, men and soldiers wore bands of leather on their forearms for protection. Sometimes these bands were decorated with precious metals and gemstones. They were known as Bracels, derived from the Latin word Brachium, which meant 'arm'. Ladies were not about to be outdone by men, and so they adopted the 'fashion' and wore smaller versions of them, called little bracels, or bracel-ets. At least that's the story I heard.
  • Bracelets made of copper are thought by some to aid in relieving the pain of arthritis. The body absorbs the copper and somehow relieves the pain. This has not been proven but people being people still wear copper bracelets, for fashion if not for pain relief. But don't copper bracelets turn some people's wrists green? Maybe it's all part of the fashion statement.
  • Unlike other forms of jewelry, they have always been in vogue throughout recorded history, and been worn by men and women. The concept of unisex jewelry is older than people think.
  • They are not only worn for decoration. Hospitals use them for positive patient identification, people with medical conditions wear Medical Alert bracelets. There are also bracelets made of silicone rubber that were originally used in sports, but are now also used as 'awareness' bracelets for many different causes.
  • The most expensive bracelet in the world? This is not only a bracelet, but a wrist watch too. A jewelry manufacturer in Switzerland named Chopard wins the most expensive category hands down with a bracelet/wrist watch with over 200 carats of white and colored diamonds. The price tag? A paltry $25 million.

Gold - Beauty, Value And Function

Gold has been treasured by humankind from the dawn of history to today. The beauties of the metal plus its relative scarcity have ensured that gold will most likely retain its value. But it is not only those factors that contribute to its value. Consider these other properties of pure gold:

- It will not rust, tarnish or corrode.
- Is the most malleable of any metal. It can be hammered so thin to be almost transparent. An ounce of pure gold can be hammered out to make a 300 square foot sheet.
- Can be drawn into wire finer than a human hair.
- Is very soft and easily workable.
- Has good bonding properties with other metals.
- Is biologically inactive, and has been used for dental work and other medical applications.
- Is highly reflective and is used for shielding for outer space equipment.

Gold's applications have touched every part of our lives. Telephones, televisions, computers, medical treatments are just a few examples of the uses of gold. But mention gold, and two things are usually thought of : coins and jewelry.

The value and beauty of the metal are the two attributes that make it a metal for coins. Jewelry also uses these attributes along with other characteristics of the metal. Malleability, ductility, non-tarnishing attributes and gold's ability to bond with other metals also make it one of the preferred metals for fine jewelry.
The fineness, or purity of gold is determined by the karat system. The karat system used for gold differs from the carat system used for diamonds in that diamond carats represents actual weight of the diamond, while gold karats represent the proportion of gold in the item by weight. The following gives karat designations and the percent of gold in each:

10k = 47.3%
12k = 50.00%
14k = 58.33%
18k = 75.00%
22k = 91.67%
24k = 99.99%

Some gold coins can be 24k, but because of the softness of the metal they are more likely to be 21k or 22k, or lower. For jewelry, 21k is the highest purity level for practical use, as anything more than that is too soft.

Alloys of gold used for jewelry contain other metals such as silver, copper, nickel, zinc, and others:

* Yellow Gold is an alloy of silver, copper or zinc and pure gold.
* White Gold is an alloy of white metals like silver, palladium and pure gold. It is usually plated with Rhodium to give it a more pure white color.
* Rose Gold is a gold alloy containing only copper and gold.
* Green Gold is an alloy containing only silver and gold.
* Black Hills Gold is an alloy combining copper, silver and gold.

10k gold is the least amount found in jewelry in the United States and most of the world. The higher the karat, the more expensive the jewelry. From the ancients to the moderns, gold still is the most beautiful and precious of metals.

Pearls - Legend And History

Pearls are one of the oldest types of gems, and continue to be popular today. Some legends and history about pearls:
  • The oldest surviving piece of pearl jewelry is a necklace that was found buried with a Persian Princess. It is estimated to be over 2000 years old.
  • Historians believe pearls were worn in ancient Middle East and Asian societies 3500 years ago.
  • They were highly regarded in ancient Rome and very valuable. A Roman general reportedly sold one pearl earring and financed an entire military campaign with the earnings.
  • Legend has it that Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love for the Roman Marc Antony.
  • The Bible refers to pearls several times.
  • The ancient Greeks valued them not only for their beauty, but for their associations with love and marriage.
  • The Medieval world valued them and they were worn not only by women but by knights going to battle. These knights believed that pearls could protect them from harm.
  • In Renaissance Europe, several countries passed laws forbidding anyone but the nobility to wear pearls or have them in their possession.
  • The ancient Inca and Aztec cultures valued them for their beauty and magical powers.
  • Native American men and women of the Atlantic coast and Mississippi river region wore freshwater pearl pendants and earrings.
  • The discovery of pearls in the waters off Central America brought great wealth to Europe during the years of expansion. The 'pearl rush ' was so great that practically all of the American pearl oyster population was gone by the end of the 17th century.
  • Famous French jeweler Jacques Cartier traded two pearl necklaces for valuable property on New York's famous Fifth Avenue, and built his famous jewelry store there in 1916.
  • Pearls remained very expensive and only the very wealthy could afford them until the early 20th century when pearl cultivation began.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rhinestones - The Great Diamond Imitators

What is usually thought of when the word 'rhinestone' is heard? A piece of cheap jewelry, a deceased piano player that wore clothes dripping with the glittering stones, or the song 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' Most of the common associations with the name imply cheapness, bad taste, gaudy, right on down the list of negatives. But rhinestones have a long and varied history that tells otherwise.

The name 'rhinestone' comes from the pebbles of rock crystal found centuries ago in and near the Rhine river of Europe. These natural crystals and other man-made pieces of highly refined glass were laboriously hand cut and ground., and were very expensive. About 1775 a French jeweler by the name of Stras had the idea of coating the back of these pieces of glass with metal powder to improve their luster. The result was a good imitation of a diamond, but these stones were still handcrafted and very expensive.

In 1892 a son of a Bohemian gem cutter by the name of Daniel Swarovski invented a mechanical gem cutting machine that was capable of very fine, precision work. Three years later Swarovski moved to Austria and began running his water-powered crystal stone cutting factory. The result was high quality stones produced at a fraction of the cost. Thus the rhinestone's role as a quality, low cost alternative to the diamond in the jewelry making industry increased.

Swarovski continued innovating the rhinestone industry by devising a vacuum method of fusing gold and silver on the back of rhinestones that created an even more brilliant luster. Swarovski crystal is still the highest quality rhinestone in the jewelry business today.

Modern rhinestones are not only made from glass, but from plastics and acrylics of various formulas. The inexpensiveness of some modern rhinestones has allowed them to be used in every kind of application, from dog collars to baseball caps. But the beauty of a well-made rhinestone can lend itself to fine pieces of jewelry that are much more affordable than jewelry made from genuine diamonds. The above-mentioned piano player with a love of rhinestones was of course Liberace. In 1982, Liberace was given a 51 pound, 115,000 carat clear rhinestone from the Swarovski Crystal Company of Austria in appreciation for his being their biggest customer. This rhinestone, worth $50,000 twenty years ago, now resides in the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Rhinestones are quite simply imitations of diamonds. Some are cheap imitations, some are high quality imitations. But the great diamond imitator has given something to many people that otherwise would never have had it, a glimpse of the sparkle and beauty of the most valued of gems, the diamond.

Citrine - The Lemon Gemstone

Citrine, a form of quartz similar to amethyst, was one of the most prized gemstones in antiquity because of its rare occurrence in nature. When intense heat is applied to the gemstone amethyst, it is transformed into citrine. This can happen in nature when deposits of amethyst are near a heat source in the earth's crust, but more often heat is applied industrially to create citrine. It can be transparent to translucent, and range in color from light yellow to golden brown. Naturally occurring citrine is usually a pale yellow, while citrine formed industrially is darker in color, with reddish tints.

Citrine gets its name from the old French word citrin, which means lemon. It is a relatively soft gemstone that is easily scratched. It is used in jewelry by itself, or is quite often combined with amethyst, peridot or garnet for contrast. It also compliments diamonds very well. Most natural citrine mined today comes from Brazil, with other deposits found in Russia, France and Madagascar.

This gemstone can be scratched rather easily, and its color will darken when exposed to too much sunlight. This darkening is permanent, so care is needed to keep the gemstone out of excessive amounts of sunlight. It is the birthstone for the month of November.

As most gemstones, Citrine has been attributed many healing and magical powers. Citrine was thought to stimulate the memory, influenced dreams, be a general talisman of protection, aid digestion, and enhance creativity. Also one of its main attributes was the power the stone had to protect against snake venom.

A stone that is readily available and relatively inexpensive, but as with all gemstones the better quality the stone (no matter what type) the higher the value and price. In the world of gemstones Citrine may have gotten its name from the old French word for lemon, but is far from being a 'lemon'. It is a versatile and beautiful stone.

The Necklace - Facts And Folklore

Some facts and folklore about the necklace.
  • During a cave excavation in South Africa in 2004, scientists found forty one shell fish that may have been strung together for use as a necklace. These shell fish were estimated to be 75,000 years old, thus making this possibly the oldest example of a necklace known.
  • Early necklaces were made from various items strung together, as is still done today. Shells, bones, rocks, beads, animal teeth, claws. You name it, someone probably made a necklace out of it.
  • The earliest examples of gold used in necklaces dates back to 2500 B.C.E. These were found in royal graves in what is now Iraq.
  • Both men and women in ancient Egypt wore necklaces. When Egyptian royalty died, their jewelry was buried with them to be used in the afterlife.
  • Some Christians wear a crucifix or cross as a pendant on a necklace, but this did not begin until the 4th century, when Christianity became legal in Rome (soon to become the state religion) and the practice of crucifying was stopped.
  • Like all forms of jewelry, the necklace lost its popularity for a time. After the fall of Rome, necklaces were seldom worn until the beginning of the 14th century.
  • The Affair Of The Diamond Necklace in France during the reign of King Louis XVI helped further foment opinion against the monarchy before the French Revolution. Queen Marie Antoinette was implicated in the scandal, but she actually had no part in it. It was an intrigue by people in the king's court to get possession of an expensive diamond necklace for their own profit.
  • The most expensive necklace is one that sports a 75 carat diamond with an approximate worth of $5 million.
  • In the 1860's the Navajo tribe of Native Americans began to fashion necklaces from turquoise and silver. These necklaces were not only sold, but used as barter with traders on the reservation. The Navajo would get supplies from these traders, and give them the necklaces for security. If payment for the goods was not made within a certain length of time, the trader kept the necklace.
  • Perhaps the most famous diamond in the world, The Hope Diamond, is part of a necklace. The blue diamond is mounted on a pendant that is surrounded by 16 clear diamonds. The pendant hangs from a chain of 45 white diamonds. The Hope Diamond was purchased as a rough cut diamond by a French merchant traveler named Tavernier in the 17th century, and passed through many hands until it ended up in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The Hope Diamond has been estimated at being worth $2-25 million.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gemstones - From Rough to Finished

Gemstones used in jewelry are stones that have been worked by a gem cutter, also known as a lapidarist. Most gemstones look markedly different in their naturally occurring rough state than when they are used in jewelry. The art, knowledge and skill of the gem cutter can turn a chunk of rock into a beautifully cut and formed gemstone.

The rough gemstone is assessed by the gem cutter to determine the best utilization of the individual stone's qualities. Some stones are skillfully broken apart along naturally occurring fracture lines. This is cleaving. Diamond and topaz are the two gems that are usually cleaved. This is done to not only create more rough stones from the main stone, but to strengthen the remaining stones. If they were not cleaved, the natural lines of cleavage could ruin the stone.

There are a variety of methods to work gemstones. Pieces of gemstones too small to be worked are sometimes tumbled. They are placed into a barrel with different grades of grinding mediums and slowly rotated. The grinding medium used is for rough polishing and shaping, with succeeding mediums of finer grit to produce more polish and luster. Stones from a matte finish to a high luster can be produced this way. After the stone has been tumbled, holes are drilled into it for stringing.
Stones may also be cut with saws impregnated with diamond, the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth. Stones can then be ground, sanded and polished into different shapes and finishes. Some of the more familiar shapes of finished gemstones:

Cabochon Stones - This shape is produced by grinding, sanding and polishing the stone so that it is rounded on top, and flat or slightly rounded on the bottom. The stone can be circular or oval in shape. Most often used for translucent or opaque stones. It is also used for transparent gems that have too many inclusions (internal cracks in the stone) to be faceted.

Faceted Stones - Most faceted stones are transparent stones. Flat faces (facets) are ground into the stone, usually in a consistent pattern. Most diamonds are faceted, but it is also done for other transparent gems like the ruby, sapphire, citrine, peridot, etc.

Beads - Stones are first cut into cubes or other symmetrical shapes and then ground between two concave rotary grinders. The stones are free to rotate during this procedure, and after successive grits a bead is formed. Beads can be faceted, but are most often drilled with a hole for stringing.

Inlays - A gem is cut to the same shape as a hollowed out place in another material such as wood, metal or other stones. Then the face of the piece is ground smooth thus making the gemstone flush with the surrounding material.

Mosaics - Different sizes of stones are used to create in random or in a pattern on a piece of metal, wood or stone, then ground smooth.

Intaglios and Cameos - These are carved portraits in seashell or stone. A cameo is a raised portrait. With an intaglio the portrait is carved down into the material.

Aquamarine - Water Of The Sea

The birthstone for March, aquamarine most often occurs in a range of light blue colors. It is in the same family of gems as emeralds. Its name is taken from the Latin words for seawater. Not only its name, but many myths about the stone have to do with the sea. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that sailors that wore the stone would be guaranteed a safe voyage over rough seas. Others considered it a preventive against sea sickness. It was thought to be the treasure of mermaids. In the Middle Ages it was thought to reduce the effect of poisoning. Aquamarine was also thought to have a soothing effect on new marriages, and helped the couple adjust to their lives together. The water in which an aquamarine soaked in was thought to heal eye disorders and cure hiccups.

Most highly valued aquamarines come from Brazil. It is also mined in many areas of Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Russia. The largest stone was found in Brazil in the early 20th century, and weighed 243 pounds. In The United States the gem is found in Colorado, and it is the official gemstone of that state. Some aquamarines are heat treated to enhance the color or clarity of the stone. The stone is relatively hard, and with reasonable care can be worn often. It has also been advised to keep it out of continuing direct sunlight, as the color may grow pale.

The ease of cutting the rough stone makes it highly desirable for jewelry designers. The gem responds very well to their imaginations and has resulted in some very unique shapes and cuts not found on other kinds of gemstones. But it is also still used for more traditional cuts and shapes. It is used alone, or combined with other gems to good effect. It is used with all the precious metals to make jewelry. But many prefer the 'white' metals white gold, platinum and sterling silver as being more complimentary with the stone's color.

Aquamarine can be worn formally or informally, and is available in a wide price range of jewelry. A nice stone in a sterling silver setting can be very affordable. This beautiful blue stone that reminded the ancients of the color of seawater can be enjoyed by all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Silver - Past, Present, and Future

Silver in its pure state is a very soft, malleable metal. It is only slightly harder than gold. It has been known since antiquity, is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and there is evidence that it was being separated from lead as early as 3,000 B.C.E. It has been historically second in value only to gold, although in modern times the metals platinum, rhodium and palladium are worth more.

With Europe's discovery of the New World came the discovery of rich sources of gold and silver. Tradition says that the Spanish conquistador Pizarro had his horse shod with silver horseshoes because of the abundance of the metal in Mexico and the scarcity of iron. There were not only gold rushes in The United States in the 19th century, there was also silver rushes. In Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, California and other areas of the western United States and Canada the mining of the metal contributed to the influx of settlers and became a vital part of the economy.

The metal has also played a part in folklore, from the Lone Ranger's 'calling card' of a silver bullet, to slaying a werewolf with a weapon or bullet made of silver. But the metal has mostly been used for coins, the decorative arts, flatware, and jewelry.

It has been used for coins since ancient Greece, but is seldom used to make coins for everyday commerce today. Commemorative coins are still struck from the metal for collectors and investment purposes. During the Renaissance the displaying objects in private homes and churches reflected the wealth ands prosperity of the owner. This eventually led to the popularity of silver dinner ware. In the middle 19th century silver flatware and other implements of the table made of the metal were in high fashion. Artisans have used the metal to create body adornments since ancient times, and along with gold it remains a popular metal for jewelry.

As the pure metal is far too soft to use to make tableware and jewelry, it is usually combined with another metal to create an alloy called sterling silver. The usual alloy of sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of copper. This alloy is more durable than pure silver, but still retains its workability and value.

Sterling silver has many qualities that make it the metal of choice for jewelry. It easy to work with, the metal itself has value that is enhanced by the craftsmanship and artistry used to create jewelry. Plain bands of sterling silver are used to make rings, earrings and bracelets. Fine sterling silver wire is used to make highly ornate brooches, pins and other jewelry. Sterling silver is used as settings for precious and semi-precious stones in rings, earrings, bracelets, and all types of jewelry. The beauty, durability and affordability of silver are the reasons for its current popularity, and these same reasons will no doubt keep it a very popular metal in the future.

Moonstone - Formed From Moonlight

Moonstone is a gemstone that was very popular in ancient Rome, and Romans thought it was actually formed by the rays of the moon. It is a sacred stone in India, and is the birthstone for June. It can range in color from blue, pink, green, peach, yellow, brown, gray or colorless. No matter the color, moonstone is known for its iridescence, and can be transparent to translucent in clarity. This beautiful stone belongs to the large mineral group known as feldspars. Two thirds of all minerals on earth are types of feldspars, and moonstone is the type known as adularia.

The stone is found in various areas of the world, including Sri Lanka, Germany, India, Brazil, Tanzania, Myanmar, Madagascar, Mexico, and The United States. The best quality stones, almost transparent with a blue sheen, usually come from Sri Lanka.

Moonstone was attributed many powers by the ancients. It was believed to bring good fortune, and protect women and children. Some believed that if the stone was held in the mouth during a full moon, the future could be predicted. Its curative properties included promotion of digestion, protection from epilepsy, curing of headaches, and protection against sunstroke.

Uncut moonstones reveal none of the shimmer of light, the iridescence they are known for. It is the skill of the gem cutter that brings forth the iridescence by shaping the stone with a domed top to enhance this quality. Due to the relative softness of the stone, care must be used when wearing it. The stone was very popular in the Art Nouveau movement roughly one hundred years ago.

Moonstone is a gem that varies widely in price. While there is no set standard, price is determined by many factors. The larger and more transparent the stone, the more its value. The finest blue specimens have a three dimensional depth of color that changes when the stone is viewed from different angles. These blue stones are extremely rare and very expensive. But other colors of moonstones are much more affordable, and still display the shimmer of light, iridescence and magic that caused the ancient Romans to think they were formed from moonlight itself. Used in jewelry of many types and price ranges, moonstone can be owned and enjoyed by anyone.

Finger Rings - Fact And Folklore

What are signet rings? Were there such things as rings that held poison? Why are engagement and wedding rings worn on the fourth finger of the left hand? Some facts and folklore about finger rings:
  • The wearing of finger rings of various materials goes back to ancient cultures. There have always been mystical qualities about them, from early cultures up to the present day traditions of engagement and wedding rings.
  • Signet rings had designs in them unique to the wearer, who was usually a member of the nobility or ruling class. Coats of arms, initials, facial profiles were some of the designs used on them. They would be used to verify documents such as treaties and decrees. To hold the ring impression, warm wax or ink would be used. Sometimes the design would be impressed into the material of the decree itself. Signet rings are mentioned in the bible, and are used right up to the present day.
  • Rings made with compartments for images of loved ones (and to hold poison!) are thought to have originated in India and the Far East. These became a fad in Europe during the Renaissance. They were introduced into Europe with the Holy Relic Trade routes. Pieces of the 'true cross' would be placed into the compartments of the jewelry and sold to the nobility. It didn't take long for the more nefarious members of society to realize these could hold other things besides images of loved ones and pieces of holy relics.
  • The engagement ring's history began in 1215 with the decree of Pope Innocent III that there should be a longer waiting period between betrothal and marriage. It is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand in The United States, but on the fourth finger of the right hand in other countries. Our traditional ring finger comes from the ancient Greeks who mistakenly thought that the vena amoris or vein of love ran from this finger directly to the heart.
  • The wedding ring has a much longer history than the engagement ring. Ancient Hebrews wore them, and they have been an official part of Christian weddings since the 7th century.
  • The modern tradition of diamond engagement rings and wedding rings is said to go back to the 15th century when marriages within noble families used them. But the diamond jewelry trade has had more to do with this modern use than anything historical or traditional.
  • What's the most expensive ring? One bought by Donald Trump for his engagement to Slovenian model Melania Knauss is sure in the running. It is reportedly worth $2 million, and would have been valued at even more if it wouldn't have been personally engraved.

Pewter- Poor Man's Silver

At the dawn of civilization, man discovered that characteristics of familiar base metals could be changed by combining them. In correct proportions, the metals compliment each other and form an alloy. Along with bronze, pewter was one of the first alloys known to humankind.

Pewter is an alloy of primarily tin and copper, with other metals such as antimony, bismuth and lead. Pewter was known in ancient China, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The oldest known pewter item has been dated to 1500 B.C.E. and was found in Egypt. In ancient times it was an alloy of 70% tin and 30% lead, and this high concentration of lead caused lead poisoning when the alloy was used to make eating and drinking utensils. The lead would leach out, especially if acidic food or drink came in contact with the alloy. Modern pewter alloys no longer use lead in them due to lead poisoning dangers, and consist of tin, copper, bismuth or antimony. Pewter is a shiny metal, and has been called 'poor man's silver'. As it is highly malleable with a relatively low melting point (approximately 460 degrees F) it has been used for many items. Plates, drinking mugs, steins, flatware, candlesticks, and for jewelry. Due to the softness of the metal, pewter is not suitable for making tools.

The use of pewter had its roots in Europe about the 11th century. Pewter crafting in England grew especially skilled in the Middle Ages, and the metal's popularity continued until the late 19th century. Pewter craftsmen in the Middle Ages developed many different grades of pewter, of which three were:
Fine Grade had between 95 and 99 percent tin and 5 to 1 percent copper. This grade of pewter was very shiny, and was used to make eating and drinking utensils for nobility and the upper classes. Trifle Grade was usually 92 percent tin, 1 to 6 percent copper and up to 4 percent lead. It was also used to make eating and drinking utensils, but was not as shiny.

Lay Grade could contain up to 15 percent lead and was not used for eating or drinking utensils. It was used for candlesticks, basins, and other items. There are relatively few existing examples of early pewter ware because the metal was so easy to melt down into new items.

There has been a modern resurgence in the use of pewter. By casting, spinning on a lathe, pounding into shape and other means, pewter is used for a variety of items. The relative softness and low melting point of the metal lends it well to highly detailed figurines. Drinking steins are still being made that use pewter for the decorative lids, and jewelry of all types are cast from it. Given time, pewter will eventually oxidize and develop a satiny gray patina that can either be polished off or left on. 'Poor Man's Silver' remains a very useful and attractive alloy over 4,500 years since it was first discovered.

Peridot - The 'Other' Green Gemstone

The gemstone peridot, the birthstone for August, was known to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, with examples of Egyptian jewelry made from peridot that date from the 2nd Millennium B.C.E. Tradition has it that Cleopatra was a great lover of the stone. It was used as ornamentation in medieval churches of Europe, and an example of this can still be seen in the Cathedral of Cologne. It is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color, although the shade of green can range from yellowish green to olive.

Like most gemstones, peridot had powers attributed to it by the ancients. It was once ground and taken internally for asthma. It can bring the wearer success and bring strength of body and mind. It can create calm and tranquility, bring peace of mind and spirit. Some of these were attributed to the stone because of its green color. The color green is the color of life, renewal, and health.

Much of the modern day peridot comes from mines in Pakistan and China, but there are also mines in South Africa, Australia, Mexico and other areas. In the United States peridot is mined in Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and Hawaii.

How Is Peridot Pronounced?

Peridot is a very popular gemstone, but how exactly is the name pronounced? Pare-a-doh, or pare-a-dot? The word itself is thought to come from possibly two different origins. The first is the Arabic word faridat which means 'gem'. The second is the French word peritot which means 'unclear'. So which pronunciation is correct? The choice is up to the individual to pronounce the final 't' or not.
The ancient Romans called the stone Evening Emerald because of the way it looked in artificial light. It has also been called the Poor Man's Emerald. No matter what it is called, peridot is the 'other' green gemstone that has its own unique beauty and history.

The Value of Gold - Today And Yesterday

Every culture throughout history has known of gold and treasured it. Unlike many other metals, gold can be found in its natural state as nuggets that can be very pure without further refining. Gold may have been the first type of metal ever known to humans, for archaeologists have found small nuggets of natural gold in caves that were inhabited by humans as long ago as 40,000 B.C.E. The oldest solid evidence of gold are pieces of jewelry from ancient Egypt around 3000 B.C.E. These items are also the oldest known examples of jewelry of any kind that have been found.

The discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in the 1920's revealed the extent and mastery of working in gold that ancient Egyptians possessed. Among some of the items found in this 2000 B.C.E. tomb were many pieces of gold jewelry and a sarcophagus that weighed over 3,000 pounds. Inside the sarcophagus were 3 coffins nested inside each other, with each coffin more elaborate than the other. The two other coffins were made from wood and were covered with sheets of gold. The inner coffin was pure gold, and weighed over 240 pounds. Inside this coffin the face of the mummified king was covered with a death mask that was made from pure gold and precious gems that weighed 220 pounds.

While gold was treasured by the ancient Egyptians, it wasn't used as money for trade and exchange. Barley was the favored material for use as a medium of exchange, while gold was given an even higher spiritual value in that the metal could help pay the departed's way into the next world. The first evidence of gold being used as a form of currency occurred in the 7th century B.C.E. in what is now western Turkey.

So why has gold always been and continues to be valued so highly? Gold has some very unique qualities:
  • Pure gold's luster does not tarnish or corrode.
  • One ounce of pure gold can be hammered into a sheet as thin as 5 millionths of an inch thick and cover over 100 square foot. That is so thin that 1,000 of these sheets piled on top each other would equal one thickness of a sheet of newspaper.
  • Gold is a very dense metal. One cubic foot of pure gold would weigh more than a half of a ton.
  • The visual beauty of the metal also plays a part in its value.
All of these attributes are part of the reason for gold's high value, but the main reason is its scarcity. Even with the estimation that 75 percent of all gold that has been produced has been extracted since 1910, gold remains one of the rarest metals found on earth. How rare? Imagine using a simple kitchen measuring cup, and measuring out 1 million cups of earth into a pile. How much gold would be contained in this pile of earth? 4 thousandths, or 0.004 of a cup! Compare that with the 56,000 cups of iron contained within the same pile of earth and you can get an idea of how rare gold is, and the reason for its value today and yesterday.

Ruby - The Red Sapphire

The ruby is a form of the mineral corundum, as is sapphire The only difference between sapphires and rubies are color. If a piece of corundum mineral is a shade of red, it is a ruby. If it is any other color it is a sapphire. Ruby is the birthstone for the month of July. Along with sapphire, emerald and diamond, it is one of the four precious stones.

The name ruby comes from the Latin word ruber, which means red. About 90 per cent of the world's rubies come from Myanmar, Burma. Myanmar's Valley of Rubies produces the most valuable and rare color of ruby called 'pigeon's blood'. The working conditions of the mines in this region are horrendous, and there are actions being taken to improve the working conditions there. Rubies are also minded in Vietnam, Thailand, Ceylon,. Northern Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan.

Rubies have been known and treasured since antiquity. They are mentioned in the bible. India especially has a long tradition of ruby appreciation. The gemstone is mentioned in ancient Indian literature. Even the name of the mineral corundum is a derivative of the Sanskrit word kuruvinda.

Rubies are among the hardest substances known. Only diamond is harder. This has led to the use of ruby-tipped blades for the cutting of other very hard materials, and other industrial applications. Most of these applications use synthetic rubies. Synthetic rubies are also used for jewelry, and make a more affordable choice. But they should always be disclosed as synthetic ruby.

Most natural rubies today are heat-treated in some way to improve clarity and color. With rubies, color is the determining factor of value. Next is clarity. There are authentic rubies used in less expensive forms of jewelry that are more opaque. High quality rubies are very rare, even more rare than diamonds, especially stones that are over 3 carats in weight. A 16 carat ruby was sold at auction for over $3.2 million.

There is also a gemstone virtually identical to ruby called spinel. It comes in many colors, but the most popular is red. These stones can be found in the same locations as authentic ruby, and one of the few ways to tell the difference between the stones is by testing its hardness. Ruby is much harder.

A ruby is the same type of mineral as sapphire except for trace amounts of chromium, which give it its red color. Ruby red is the color of passion, of blood, of life itself. And that makes all the difference.