Thursday, May 6, 2021

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.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

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.
14k Gold Jewelry

Sunday, April 11, 2021

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.

Monday, April 5, 2021

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.
Amethyst Jewelry

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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. In a combination of pressure and chemical changes, the gemstone amber was produced. Amber can be many millions of 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 ancient 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 millions of 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 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.

Amber Jewelry 


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Tanzanite - Gemstone Of The 20th Century

Most gemstones have been known about for centuries, some for  millenia, so there is rich folk lore and tradition surrounding most of them.  The exception is Tanzanite, which was first discovered in 1967 near mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is the only place where the gemstone is found, and it is named after the country in Africa where it is found.

It was first marketed by Tiffany and Company in New York City.  It was first given the name blue zoisite as it is a variety of the mineral zoisite, but Tiffany changed it to Tanzanite because they thought it would help it sell better.  For ten years Tiffany had the exclusive rights to the stone, but in the 1970's the Tanzania government nationalized the mines, and now the government restricts the export of rough Tanzanite stones.  There are other entities that own parts of the mines and the supply of the gemstone is strictly controlled, thus the price has rose steadily over the years.

The color of Tanzanite can range from purple to blue. The rough stone is usually a reddish brown, and the rough stones are heat-treated to bring out the blue color. Almost all Tanzanite is heat treated at more than 900 degrees Farenheit and heat treatment has no affect on the value of the stone. The best quality stones range in color from ultramarine blue to sapphire blue with the most popular color being saturated blue which shows a purplish tint to it. It is a relatively soft stone,  and scratches more easily than many other gemstones. Care in wearing it and cleaning it is required.  In 2002 The American Gem Trade Association announced the Tanzanite has joined Turquoise and Blue Topaz as their birth stones for December.

Tanzanite has a rare property not found in most gems. When looked at in different light and at different angles it can appear to change color. From blue to violet to purple, some stones even show the colors dark red and gray. Tanzanite is usually clear with few inclusions. Stones with cracks or bubbles should be avoided as these could break.

Tanzanite is a beautiful stone, and considering it is found in only one 5-mile square place on earth, it is by its nature a rare gem that will only get rarer.  But it continues to be a popular stone, and has made its mark in the world of gemstones in a very short time.
Tanzanite Jewelry