Large Rhodolite garnets are notable for their nice color despite their large size. Many gems have better color with more size but red garnets can be an exception. This beautiful specimen is over 40 carats and is just beautiful. Other red garnets such as pyrope and almandine tend to make beautiful stones in the one-carat size and get much too dark as they get bigger. Rhodolite was originally discovered in North Carolina and according to legend named after the rhododendron flower. Rhodolite is generally now found in Tanzania as its most prolific source. Through the years we’ve had a few spectacular large Rhodolite gems many from Tanzania and a few from Sri Lanka.
Alexandrite is known as the color-changing gem. In the case of the Alexandrite from Nova Era Brazil the change is most often the change from the color of an Indicolite tourmaline to the color of an amethyst. In both cases the colors are attractive. Other mining locations produce color changes that are different than Nova Era. For instance years ago when traveling to Sri Lanka we saw a few pieces of very expensive Alexandrite that went from muddy brown (with a little rusty orange) to muddy green (emphasis on muddy). The change was not startling but the colors were unattractive. About 16 years ago (or so) there was a discovery of Alexandrite in India. The colors in that case are nice to look at and resemble (to a certain degree) the colors of Morganite which are: kind of peachy to kind of pink (both phases are accompanied by a little, very little tan). The Indian stones are attractive and the color change is noticeable.
One interesting thing about the color change of Alexandrite is that most films and most cameras are partially color blind to the color-change. We ran across this issue when we wrote our first book. That was back before digital cameras and we had a devil of a time getting the color at all right. We went from Kodachrome to Ektachrome to Fuji and it was all a bust. Even now the digital cameras will tend to only see the blue or green phase and not see the other. Interesting to know how much more sensitive our eyes are in comparison to cameras and films.
Alexandrite is a color variety of the mineral Chrysoberyl. Chrysoberyl is the third hardest of the commonly known gems. Chrysoberyl is a crystalline form of Beryllium-Aluminate. As you may recall Sapphire and Ruby are collectively known as corundum. Corundum is the second hardest of the commonly known gems. Corundum is pure aluminum oxide. The second and third hardest gems both have aluminum as a major ingredient. Interesting!!!
Aquamarine is an elusive gem. On a worldwide basis there are people mining for aquamarine all the time. Much labor and capital is expended to find this elusive gem. If the public knew just how difficult it is to find aquamarine and bring it to market there would be a run on the aqua market and make it even more expensive and hard to obtain. There is an old saying that for there to be a market for strawberries everybody has to taste at least one berry. Aqua is in such short supply that even March babies only infrequently own their birthstone. We at Gems At Large have been successful in bringing lots of aqua to our USA customers at better prices than they have seen before. Enjoy the photo of this pair of 9mm aquas—unusual this large in round stones. All our best
The gem in the photo is pretty much the ultimate Santa Maria Aquamarine. A few years ago this stone came into our hands—literally—and amazed us all. A fellow I know in Brasil owns one of the mines in the mining district which produces the Santa Maria Aquamarine of fame. He made this stone available and WOW what a stone! It is about 11+ carats and about the most intense aquamarine blue we’ve seen to date. Now, that being said there is a pretty wide range of color produced from those mines down to some colors more normally found in the aquamarine range. Natural products are like that: unique gifts from Nature all according to what was happening in the Earth at the time. If that stone were available in today’s current market it would be for sale for many times the asking price of when it was produced. Why??? There was production back then and several mines and miners were active. Since then many have given up. Mines in that mining district seem to be a lot like slot machines. Put the money in and you may or may not get a reward. Many times we’ve heard about miners giving up after running out of capital and the next guy in at the mine hits a big pocket of gems right after he starts up. What a business….
As gems have become more widely known around the world spinel has become one of the beneficiaries. Always appreciated by gem connoisseurs, spinel has been gaining ground in popularity. If there had been large finds of spinel all through the years perhaps it would have been better known. But spinel is rare. How rare? That is always difficult to measure in a fragmented world market. One measure however is that large gems like our pictured stone cost thousands of dollars per-carat. This particular specimen is over 12 carats in weight. Other more widely available gems are still available for $20.00 per-carat or even less. That is probably the best measure of spinel’s rarity. It is difficult to find in the market—in large sizes, when you want it, in the cut you want and so forth—it is in better colors and larger sizes—unobtainium.
*The word “unobtainium” has been around for a few decades. One theory as to the origin of the term has it being invented by aerospace engineers as a material they would like to use but can’t find or afford in the creation of aero planes.
Kunzite was first discovered in the USA by George Kunz who, amongst other things, traveled around the USA examining mining sites and described minerals that had not been previously known. Kunzite was unique at the time based on its color. The mineral spodumene had previously been discovered but not the pink/lavender variety. Of course since that time good quantities have been found notably in Brazil and Afghanistan. As with most pegmatite minerals quantities of kunzite available in the market can vary wildly according to mining production. One of the best analogies to understand mining economics of minerals like kunzite, tourmaline and aquamarine exists in casinos. Mining these minerals is similar in many ways to putting money into a slot machine. Miners start with a certain amount of capital and keep putting money into the project. They may or may not hit a jackpot before their capital runs out. Sometimes a miner will give up and the next miner into the same mine will hit the jackpot. Note the gem in the photo. This gem is a wonderful example of cut and color in kunzite. The piece is 50.50 carats and is very nicely cut.
Last post everybody loved the picture of the rough-uncut Morganite crystal. We decided to add in another photo of rough Morganite. This time you can see the more normal orange color that a lot of Morganite displays coming out of the ground. From certain mines the color is intense enough that cut stones show a nice color as-is. Some people like the peachy color. If you take these stones and put them out in the sun—especially a hot Brazilian sun—they will turn pink. Many people like the pink color. The pink color is stable and will not turn a different color in the sun. If a person wants to accelerate the color change from Peach to Pink all you have to do is put the stones in a kiln. Run the kiln up to about 900` and turn it off. This simply accelerates a natural process and is accepted and well known in the gem trade.
For a gem dealer nothing takes the place of going to the mining areas. The two gems you see pictured are ones we found by going to the right place. The cut stone is one piece of a small lot of 3 pieces we bought many years ago in Brasil. The color is truly amazing and truly a collectible color. The stone is over 10 carats in weight. According to prices seen fairly recently for similar (but not quite as good) gems—it is worth several thousand dollars per-carat. This is a color and size and clarity in Imperial Topaz very seldom seen available for sale
A number of our established clients know about spinel. Spinel is a relatively unknown gem. It has been unknown at least partly because it is very rare. It is chemically related to corundum (ruby/sapphire) in that spinel and corundum both have aluminum as a major component. In corundum is largely aluminum while spinel has both magnesium and aluminum in it. Due to its rarity spinel can be quite expensive. Due to a lot of writing about spinel in the last 10 years people’s awareness of spinel is greater than ever driving up spinel prices even more. Even back in the 1980’s large red spinels could reach prices in the thousands of dollars per-carat. One example of that is the gem in the photo. The gem in the photo is a little over 12 carats. That gem came through our hands back in the mid-1980’s and at the time was worth about $3,000-per-carat. You can only imagine how much it is worth now!!!
Over the past years and especially over the past decade much has been written about spinel so there is at least some awareness of the gem. When we were first in the business spinel was only known to come from Sri-Lanka and Southeast Asia—found amongst the ruby and sapphire deposits. Since that time some wonderful gems have come from East Africa and the Pamir mountains in Central Asia—a mountain range in confluence with the Himalayas.
Just a glance at the accompanying photo and you understand why these relative newcomers became so popular so quickly. Tanzanite and Tsavorite were both “discovered” in 1967. In 1967 these gems from East Africa were brought to the attention of European and American gem buyers and quickly caught on. Why—the color of each has so much immediate eye-appeal.
Tsavorite is much more rare that Tanzanite and comes in smaller sizes. So, Tsavorite has never been quite as well known. Also, Tsavorite has always brought much higher prices—size for size in comparison. But think about it. Tsavorite is a green garnet. That is very exciting. At least 100 years earlier a green garnet was discovered in Russia. That gem is Demantoid Garnet. Demantoid is a different type of garnet with its own interesting properties.
Tanzanite hit the world with an almost sonic boom. The color and the comparatively larger sizes were an instant hit. At the time Tanzanite made it to Europe and the USA sapphire of good color was almost impossible to find. Tanzanite was initially promoted as a Sapphire substitute. However, the look of Tanzanite is distinctly different and unique. Having its own “look” has put Tanzanite in the position of being appreciated for its own sake. Sapphire in good colors and clarity and size is still an expensive proposition but does have the advantage of being 9 in hardness and suitable for daily wear.
Discussing the trade-offs between gems brings us to one issue of being a collector. Just like a mom loves all her kids a gem collector loves all the gems—differently but equally.