Giant 720+ carat kunzite cut by John Ramsey and featured in Gems and Gemology. Ramseygems.com
A long time ago we were offered the opportunity to purchase the large kunzite crystal shown in the photo at the very top of this post. It weighed in at about 1 kilo which equals about 5,000 carats. After days of thinking and figuring we sawed the gem as you can see in the second photo. In photo #2 the sawed pieces are sitting on the saw itself. It was a nervous time but we were lucky and the sawing came out just fine.
In the third photo you can see the sawed pieces, one finished piece, and one preformed piece attached to the “dop” which fits into the faceting machine. Finally in the fourth photo you will see the largest finished piece which came out at about 720+ carats.
The largest two pieces wound up being sold to a gem dealer one of which he told me would wind up in his personal collection.
The third largest piece wound up in the collection of a university on the East Coast. The 230 carat “baby” of the group wound up with a gem dealer.
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
What we call Pink Rubellite is simply a lighter color pink tourmaline that usually comes from a mine producing Rubellite. When a mine is actively producing there will be a number of shades of color the darker red stones are easily classified as Rubellite. The lighter color stone are usually called Rubellite in the country of origin but we get picky about labels here in the USA and believe that Rubellite should only be called such if the stone is red.
But this avoids some of the big issues. First of all Pink Rubellite tends to have the very best pink of all tourmalines—it is more pure—more of a Hot Pink color than any of the other pink tourmalines. Secondly, very few of these stones tend to come out of a Rubellite mine. Mostly when we have seen large lots of Rubellite in the rough they are all red. That is a good thing on the one hand but since the pink is so unusual it seems to me that it is a lot more rare. Thirdly, the red color being dark tends to hide a lot of the inclusions that are part of almost every Rubellite. So, when we find a Pink Rubellite that is fairly clean it is an amazingly rare find. The gem in the photo is perhaps one of only a handful of truly fine Pink Rubellite stones we have had while by comparison we have had thousands of the red ones—which are rare by comparison to other gems—but the fine quality Pink Rubellite—AMAZING!!!
In previous posts we have talked about the lighter orange color in Spessartite. The stone in the photo is another color variant of Spessartite. This other color is a nice red-orange. The red-orange color is more affordable but in large sizes as this example still quite unusual.
This stone, from a while ago in our lives, is about 36+ carats. From time to time we like to illustrate the fact that many times even the less expensive color in a gem can often be really quite beautiful. Gem collecting doesn’t have to be exclusively for the rich and famous. Delving in a little deeper, Spessartine is a variety of garnet. Garnet is a group of minerals. All garnets are silicates, crystalize in the isometric system and are singly refractive. People sometimes ask “why don’t you call it Spessartine garnet.” The question is best answered by an example. We don’t, for instance, call a Blue-Jay a “Blue-Jay bird” or an Eagle an “Eagle bird.” It is understood that a Blue-Jay and an Eagle are birds. The only difference is that most people are not familiar with Spessartine.
Indicolite is one of the two blue color tourmalines. The other color is Paraiba type tourmaline. We’ve mentioned in the past that Paraiba type tourmaline is the most expensive of the tourmaline colors. In recollection though Indicolite is probably rarer. We’ve seen only very few Indicolite gems over 5 carats of truly highest quality. We’ve seen and owned many more pieces of the Paraiba type by comparison.
The gem in the photo is a great 12+ carat example of Indicolite. Typically an Indicolite will tend to be a fairly dark color. The better examples will be a somewhat dark color but not too dark—like the one in the photo. The best Indicolite I’ve seen so far was a Brazilian stone of over 50 carats—and still not too dark. The fellow who owned the stone (back about 1985 or so) wanted what would amount to $1,500,000 in today’s dollars. It was exceptional.
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.
Sunstone from Oregon has been a fun item for us for many years. We worked directly with the miners back in the day and had great times out at the mines. The mines are located in a mis-named Plush, Oregon. The main living beings there are sagebrush, jack rabbits, kangaroo rats* and coyotes. But the Sunstone makes it all worthwhile. Like the one in the photo. We have a nice collection of those stones and love them a lot.
Sunstone is a Feldspar and a very special one at that. Most Feldspar stones are either opaque, translucent or industrial abrasive quality. Of the transparent Feldspar stones most are an unattractive straw yellow that nobody gets too excited about. Oregon Sunstones can produce marvelous gems of red, green, bi-color red/green, salmon and so forth. A good collection has them all. In addition to the colors some of the stones have hematite inclusions that appear gold in color and which line up in beautiful ways.
*Actually the kangaroo rats are quite cute and fun. If naturalists had given them a different name (minus “rats”) they would enjoy some popularity. They come out at night and will beg food at the campfire. Being nocturnal they have great big eyes and have a pretty fawn colored fur. As the kangaroo nickname implies their hind legs are quite large and they can jump amazingly high for their size. They move at times as if they are on a string and make movements that seem impossible and which make a person laugh out loud.
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.