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about gemstones

amethyst

Birthstone: February
Hardness: 7

Amethyst has long been a favorite gem of kings and queens for its royal purple hues. The gem, the most precious member of the quartz family, exhibits color ranging from pale lilac to deep purple.

Through the ages, various special properties have also been prescribed to amethyst. The Greeks and Romans considered it a strong antidote against drunkenness and drank wine from goblets carved out of the gem. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. The stone also is supposed to bring peace of mind to the wearer. In some legends the stone also represents piety, celibacy and dignity.

The stone is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, as well as in Zambia, Namibia and other African nations. Very dark amethyst in small sizes also is mined in Australia. Most of today's amethyst comes out of Brazil.

The finest and most valuable amethysts are very clear, with very deep color. Some stones are so oversaturated with color they have areas that are blacked out, which can negatively impact their value. Amethyst is available in a wide range of calibrated sizes and shapes, including many fancy cuts.

aquamarine

Birthstone: March

Hardness: 8

Aquamarine, derives it name from the Latin term for seawater because of its elegant blue hues.

According to legend, aquamarine was the treasure of mermaids and had the power to keep sailors safe at sea. It was also thought to possess a number of other mystical properties, including the ability to help couples smooth out their differences; protect against the wiles of the devil; cure headaches, insomnia and other ailments; quicken the intellect; and attract new friends. It is the symbol for youth, hope, health and fidelity.\

A variety of the mineral beryl, like the emerald, aquamarine is found in many exotic places around the world, including Afghanistan, Angola, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. But most of the gemstones available in the market today come from Brazil.

Aquamarine is found in a range of shades, from pale pastel to greenish-blue to deep blue. Deeper colors are unusual in smaller sizes; generally, it takes a larger stone to hold a darker shade. The most prized aquamarines are those displaying a deeper, pure blue, with no green tints.

Settings for aquamarine can also safely expose more of the gemstone than is possible with emerald. Aquamarine's tendency toward having few inclusions makes it less susceptible to nicks or cracks than many other gems. Its clear, pale brilliance makes it an appropriate stone for all types of jewelry - and it combines well with all jewelry metals and is flattering to most skin tones.

blue topaz

Birthstone: December

Hardness: 8

Blue topaz has become one of the most popular gemstones on the market today, due to its clarity, durability, availability and affordable cost. Yet it is a shade of topaz rarely found in nature.

Topaz is one of the well-known pegmatite minerals that also includes beryl and tourmaline. Blue topaz has a definite, uniform color ranging from sky blue to Swiss blue. It is sometimes confused with the more costly aquamarine - whereas aquamarine sometimes has a greenish-blue or bluish-green tint, blue topaz will always look blue or bluish gray.

Most blue topaz starts life as a colorless or slightly tinted topaz from places like Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and China. It is then irradiated (to incite the color change) and heated (to stabilize the change). The result is a permanent aqua shade.

In addition to blue, the stone comes in a variety of colors, including golden yellow, orange-yellow, reddish-orange, sherry red, deep pink, honey brown, light green, and many shades in between.

According to legend, the stone can dispel enchantment and improve the eyesight. The ancient Greeks believed that it had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. Topaz is also said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink. Throughout history, different cultures have believed that the stone could cure insomnia, asthma and hemorrhages; bring friendship; promote patience and a pleasant disposition, and ensure fidelity. To the ancients, it was also a symbol of love and affection and was even thought to ward off sudden death.

citrine

Birthstone: November

Hardness: 7

Citrine is the most affordable of all the earth-toned gemstones, thanks to its durability and availability.

Citrine, a form of quartz, derives its name from the French word for lemon, "citron." It is available in a range of golden hues from lemon to straw to sun yellow to gold, as well as oranges, browns, and deep madeira red.

In ancient times, citrine was carried as a protection against snake venom and evil thoughts. It was also thought to give calmness and mental balance to its wearer.

Most citrine is mined in Brazil. Supplies are most plentiful in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, particularly from the Serra mine.

These stones generally start life as either smoky quartz or amethyst geodes. Heat treatments first turn them clear and then give them a permanent color ranging from yellow to brownish red.

Occasionally, Mother Nature combines the colors of amethyst and citrine into a single gemstone called ametrine.

diamond

Birthstone: April

Hardness: 10

Diamonds are among the most prized substances on earth. Their brilliance, elegance, durability and mystery have captivated our imagination for thousands of years. It has come to symbolize the ultimate gift of love and romance.

Diamond is the overwhelming choice for prospective brides and grooms selecting an engagement ring.

Buying a major piece of diamond jewelry such as an engagement ring or anniversary band is one of the most expensive purchases many of us will ever make. That's why it's so important to understand the elements behind the quality and cost of a stone, so you can make an informed buying decision.

When shopping for a diamond, keep in mind that the value of a stone is determined by the "4 Cs" of cut, color, clarity and carat weight.

emerald

Birthstone: May

Hardness: 7.5-8

Emerald has been prized for thousands of years for its lush green hues and rare beauty. Throughout the ancient world, emerald symbolized eternal hope, rebirth and the arrival of spring - and some cultures believed the gem rewarded its owners with love, intelligence and eloquence as well.

In ancient Rome emeralds were believed to have a soothing effect on the soul. Modern scientists have since shown this myth to have some basis in fact: tests indicate that the human eye is more sensitive to green than any other color. Middle Age seers used emeralds to foretell the future, as well as to ward off evil spirits and cure ailments ranging from bad eyesight to infertility. The stone was also said to improve memory and bring great wealth to its wearer.

The finest emeralds have traditionally come from Colombia; both the Incas and Aztecs mined rich emerald deposits in the rugged Andes Mountains. But Russia's Ural Mountains also have produced top-quality gems. Brazil is by far the world's largest producer of emerald, with a wide range of quality. Other sources for the stone include Afghanistan, Australia, India, Pakistan, the United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Emeralds come in a variety of light and dark shades of green - and often with subtle background hues of other colors like yellow, blue, brown or gray. Generally, the purer and richer the green, the more valuable the emerald. While its relatively hard, emerald can still be scratched, chipped or split fairly easily. Most emeralds have numerous flaws, or "inclusions", which weaken their structure. Flawless emeralds are exceptionally rare, and therefore command great prices (in some instances, higher than diamonds).

Like most gemstones in the market today, emeralds are usually treated in some way to remove surface flaws and enhance color. The most common (and acceptable) technique is to oil the stone with a green-tinted oil to fill in surface cracks. The oil hardens and strengthens the stone, and improves its green color as well.

In caring for your emerald, avoid ultrasonic cleaners that can remove the oil, or harsh cleansers that can damage its relatively soft surface. Clean with a soft, damp cloth and warm water, and a soft bristle brush if needed.

garnet

Birthstone: January

Hardness: 6-7

Garnet is one of the most versatile stones on the market. It comes in a rainbow of colors, from deep red to tangerine orange to lime green to pale pink, as well as purple, gold and brown.

Garnet is found all over the world, including Africa, Australia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North America, South America and Southeast Asia. Even though this exciting gem has been mined for thousands of years, new deposits have been found in the last decade.

This stone is actually part of a family of gems with mineral and color differences that include rhodolite, malaya, demantoid, grossular, hessonite, spessartite, almandine, mandarin, and combinations of these varieties. Rhodolite, one of the most popular varieties, ranges from pink to purplish red and is mined in Africa, India and Sri Lanka.

Throughout history, garnets have been prized for their rich hues and supposed mystical properties. The stone was a favorite of ancient Egyptian jewelry artisans. Demantoid garnet was used lavishly by the Tsars of Russia. Travelers carried the gem to protect them against accidents. The gem was thought to protect its wearer from a range of ailments, ward off evil spirits, spark creativity and dispel anger. The stones are also said to light up the night and protect their owners from nightmares. Noah used a garnet lantern to navigate the Ark through 40 days and nights of torrential rain.

The stone is susceptible to nicks and cracks caused by impact. To clean garnet, use warm soapy water and a soft brush. Ultrasonic cleaning is safe for most types of garnet

opal

Birthstone: October

Hardness: 5.5

Opal is one of nature's most prized gems. The stone was mined by eastern Europeans, the Aztecs and the ancient tribes of Central Africa. Opals have been featured in the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor and the crown jewels of France. They were mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare and the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Napoleon gave an opal to Josephine. Queen Victoria gave them out as wedding gifts.

One of the reasons this gem has been so revered is because of its supposed mystical powers. Scandinavian women wore opals in their hair to prevent it from going gray. The Arabs thought opal would ward off lightning and grant invisibility to its wearer. Other powers ascribed to the gem include the ability to grant vigor, aid the heart and kidneys and protect against fainting and infection.

Worshipped by the Romans as a symbol of hope, fidelity, purity and good luck, opal is sometimes called the "queen of gems" because the stone can flash patterns of color representing every hue of the rainbow.

This "play of color" is one of opal's signature characteristics. The gem is found in a range of hues, including white opal (the most common); black opal; "boulder" opal (black opal with iron oxide); crystal or water opal, which is transparent; and fire opal, which has a yellow to orange to red body color.

The vast majority of the world's opal supply comes from Australia. Black opal is the rarest variety and therefore the most valuable. White opal is also mined in Brazil. Fire and crystal opal can be found in the United States (Nevada) and Mexico.

Brilliance of color and color pattern are critical in determining the value of opal. Opals with strong flashes of red fire are generally the most prized. Stones with blue or green flashes are more common and subsequently less valuable. Stone size also helps determine price, since the gem is very rare in larger sizes. Most stones are not faceted and usually cut into rounded cabochons to enhance color play.

Perfect natural opals are extremely rare and expensive. Many are treated to enhance their appearance. One common technique is to place the opal in a sugar solution and then in sulfuric acid, which blackens body color and makes the play of color more pronounced. Other treatments include applications of colorless oil, wax and resin, plastic, or synthetic resins and hardeners to fill cracks and improve durability.

Opal is relatively fragile, and care should be taken not to scratch, chip or crack it. To clean opal, wipe with a soft cloth. Do not use chemical or mechanical cleaners. Also, avoid heat and dry conditions that could dehydrate and crack the stone. Avoid impacts.

cultured pearl

Pearls. . . the oldest known gemstone, treasured by the ancients as the most precious of gems. Throughout the ages pearls were so rare and coveted that only the wealthiest royals could own them. Today, thanks to the success of the culturing process in the early part of the twentieth century, these most majestic of gems can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Birth of a Pearl

A pearl forms when an irritant is trapped within the body of a mollusk. Just as your eye produces tears to wash away a speck of dust, the mollusk produces a material to isolate the irritant. As time passes, this coating, called nacre, is deposited layer upon layer, enveloping the invading particle, and forms a pearl.

Cultured Pearls - a Twentieth Century Miracle

Historically, natural pearls were extremely rare. Today, sadly, pollution and over-harvesting have made them virtually extinct. However, because pearls have always been coveted, attempts have long been made to increase production. Finally, around the turn of the twentieth century, the process of "culturing" was perfected. Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls. They are also grown within live mollusks; however, in a cultured pearl, the initial irritant is inserted by man, then nature completes the process. During the culturing process, the mollusk may stay in the water for up to three or more years. Over the course of this growing time, it is carefully cleaned, checked and cared for. At harvesting time, less than 30% of the implanted mollusks will produce useable pearls. Very few of these will be truly beautiful and desirable. So, even with the modern culturing process, the production of a gem-quality pearl is a rare and lucky occurrence.

TYPES OF PEARLS

Saltwater Cultured Pearls: Akoya

When most people think of pearls, they imagine the fairly round, creamy to white pearls typically cultivated in saltwater lagoons and bays of Japan. These pearls, sometimes called Akoya pearls, were the first to be commercially cultured. In Akoya pearl cultivation, the irritant introduced into the oyster is a round shell bead, accompanied by a piece of oyster tissue which stimulates nacre production (this is sometimes called "nucleation"). Akoya pearls are most commonly available in sizes ranging from 4 to 9 millimeters in diameter, generally spherical or roundish in shape, and are well suited to all kinds of jewelry as well as strung necklaces and bracelets. In the last few years, cultivation of saltwater "Akoya"- type pearls has been accomplished in China as well.

Saltwater Cultured Pearls: South Sea and Tahitian

In the last twenty to thirty years, the culturing process has been adapted to the waters of the South Seas. Here, larger and more exotic species of saltwater oysters are now being cultivated to produce fabulous pearls of up to 20 millimeters in diameter. Shimmering naturally colored silver, white, golden, cream and grey cultured pearls are fished from the waters off Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, while the cultivated oysters from the lagoons of Tahiti and French Polynesia produce vivid natural shades of black, grey, copper, silver, pistachio and aubergine. These never-before-seen beauties have become highly prized, but are still far rarer than other types of pearls, and because of their rarity and the expense of harvesting in far-off places, they command higher prices.

Saltwater Cultured Pearls: Mabé

A mabé (or mobé) cultured pearl offers the look of a larger pearl at an affordable price. A half-round implant, with flattened back, is affixed to the inner shell of the oyster. Over time, the oyster coats the exposed surface with nacre. When the oyster is opened, the implant is removed, leaving a thin shell of nacre which is filled with liquid resin and usually backed with a thin slice of mother-of-pearl. The large surface of a mabé cultured pearl makes it especially well suited for use in earrings or a pendant.

Saltwater Cultured Pearls: Keshi

Occasionally, when a mollusk is opened at harvesting, an additional, non-nucleated pearl is found. This accidental "bonus," which is virtually pure nacre, is called a keshi pearl. Often irregular in shape but generally very lustrous and beautiful, the keshi pearl is very rare, and highly valued.

Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Freshwater pearls are cultured through an implantation process similar to that of the saltwater, except that no shell bead is needed. A tiny piece of tissue stimulates the freshwater mussel to produce nacre, coating the tiny implant and creating the freshwater cultured pearl. Freshwater culturing originated in the waters of Lake Biwa in Japan, and the first freshwater cultured pearls were sometimes called "Biwa" pearls. Today, due to heavy pollution, Lake Biwa is no longer a producer of commercial quantities of pearls. Fortunately, China has taken over this role, and recent harvests have yielded breathtaking sizes and qualities of cultured freshwater pearls, in natural pinks, mauves and peaches, as well as color-enhanced blacks, bronzes and greys. Smaller quantities of freshwater cultured pearls are also grown in the southeastern United States, as well as other locales around the world.

QUALITY AND VALUE IN CULTURED PEARLS

There is no universally recognized standard for grading cultured pearls, both because it is impossible to create a master comparison set, and because pearls come in an infinite variety of qualities. The criteria described below are most often used to judge pearls.

Size

The most obvious measure of a pearl is its size. A pearl is measured in millimeters, typically perpendicular to its drill hole. Because no pearl is perfectly round, the measurement generally reflects a range. For example, a pearl measuring 6.6 millimeters in one part and 6.8 millimeters in another would be referred to as 7 x 6.5 millimeters in size. Because it is more difficult for a mollusk to successfully accept larger irritants larger pearls are rarer and more costly.

Necklaces composed of very tiny pearls can also be highly valued because the oyster generally produces only one pearl and each tiny pearl must be hand-drilled and matched meticulously to the next.

Coating and Surface

The quality and thickness of the nacre coating is probably the single most important factor in determining the value and longevity of a pearl. Pearls with thick, healthy coatings of nacre will wear best, resist chipping or peeling, and retain their beauty over time. As with all organic materials, pearls become creamier in color as they age and interact with the air around them; however, a thickly-coated pearl will best maintain the purity of its color.

When choosing pearls, the relative thickness and quality of the coating can be seen by comparing a few strands. A well-coated pearl has even color, no striping or banding, and reflects light evenly in all directions. The surface of the pearl should be free of heavy pits and chips, though small "beauty marks" are subtle reminders of nature's hand.

Luster

Luster is the visual reflection of light from the pearl surface back to the observer's eye. Although a thick healthy nacre tends to produce a more lustrous pearl, this is not always the case. For example, pearls cultivated in the warmer waters of the South Seas have the thickest coatings of all pearls, and yet often have a silky rather than a shiny luster.

Shape

Perfectly round pearls are the rarest and hardest to find, and therefore the most valuable. Off-round and baroque pearls, with their unique, freeform shapes, can be very lustrous and beautiful, yet are much less costly due to their more common occurrence. Here, value need not dictate personal preference. Any shape pearl can be very beautiful.

Color

Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors, from shimmering silvery-white to deep midnight-black. There is no single "best" color, although some are rarer than others. To decide which color is best for you, try on a number of different strands and let your own taste guide you.

Matching

The artistry and value of a truly fine cultured pearl piece lies in the painstaking hand-matching of the pearls to each other. Except in the case of a graduated pearl necklace, the pearls used traditionally should be of similar size, color and shape. In some newer designs, the artist intentionally mixes these to create a one-of-a-kind look.

peridot

Birthstone: August

Hardness: 6.5

Peridot, the gem form of the mineral olivine, traces its jewelry roots back more than 3,500 years. It was first mined by the ancient Egyptians on the island of Zebargad in the Red Sea. Zebargad was known as the "serpent isle" because it was infested with snakes that interfered with mining activity until one Pharaoh finally had them all driven into the sea.

Found in various shades of green, peridot is most prized in lime hues. The Romans called peridot "evening emerald" because they thought it glowed at night. The gem was also used to decorate medieval churches and was most likely carried back to Europe by the Crusaders.

The ancients believed that peridot had the power to ward off evil spirits, nightmares and enchantments. It was also used as a medical remedy to treat asthma and other ailments. Peridot was also said to strengthen any medicine drunk from goblets carved from the stone.

Most of today's peridot is mined by Native Americans on the Carlos Reservation in Arizona. It is also mined in Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Hawaii, Italy, Norway, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

The finest stones are eye clean and have a deep, lime green color. Because inclusions are common, clarity is an extremely important factor when buying peridot.

When shopping for peridot, keep in mind that it is relatively soft (6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale) and should be spared rugged, regular wear if mounted in a ring. It is also highly sensitive to rapid temperature changes and can lose its polish if brought into contact with hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.

ruby

Birthstone: July

Hardness: 9

Perhaps no gemstone has been as prized throughout history as the ruby. Celebrated in the Bible and in ancient Sanskrit writings as the most precious of all gemstones, rubies have adorned emperors and kings and inspired countless legends and myths with their rich, fiery hues. As the ultimate red gemstone, rubies have symbolized passion and romance for centuries.

Also the color of blood, the stone is symbolic of courage and bravery. Warriors were said to have implanted rubies under their skin to bring them valor in battle and make them invincible. The stone has also been used as a talisman against danger, disaster, to stop bleeding, and a number of other ailments. Its intense color was thought to come from an undying flame inside the stone - or, as some legends would have it, a piece of the planet Mars.

Ruby is the red variety of corundum, a sister of sapphire. It is the second hardest material known after diamonds.

The most valuable rubies come from Myanmar (formerly Burma), but they are mined throughout Southeast Asia. Good quality stones come from Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Kenya and Tanzania also are becoming more important as mining sources for ruby.

The most important factor to consider when buying a ruby is its color. It comes in a variety of shades ranging from purplish- and bluish-red to orange-red. Like sapphire, there is also a translucent variety of ruby that can display a six-point star when cut in a smooth domed cabochon cut.

After color, the factors that influence value are clarity, cut and size. Rubies that are clear with no visible inclusions are more valuable than those with visible internal flaws.

Rubies are rarely found perfect in nature - which is why many are heat-treated to intensify or lighten their color or improve their clarity. Heat enhancement is a permanent, stable process. Some rubies also have surface fractures and cavities that are filled with glass-like materials to improve their appearance. This filler may break, fall out or wear out over time if exposed to heat, strong abrasives or constant impact. For both treated or untreated stones, the safest cleaning method is to just use soapy water or a mild commercial solvent and a brush.

sapphire

Birthstone: September

Hardness: 9

Sapphire has been sought after for thousands of years as the ultimate blue gemstone. The ancient Persians believed that the earth rested on a giant sapphire that gave its blue reflection to the sky, hence the Latin name "sapphiru", which means blue.

The gem symbolizes faith, remembrance, and enduring commitment. According to tradition, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred stone. This supposed "divine favor" is why sapphires often were the gem of choice for kings and high priests throughout history. In fact, the British Crown Jewels contain a number of notable sapphire.

Both sapphire and its sister stone, ruby, are part of the corundum family, one of the strongest minerals on earth. The stone is mined in many parts of the world, including Australia, Cambodia, China, Kashmir, Kenya, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The stone comes in a variety of colors that include colorless/white, pink, yellow, peach, orange, brown, violet, purple, green and many shades in between (except red, because a red sapphire would be called a ruby). Some sapphires that are cut into a cabochon (dome) shape even display a six-rayed white star. These are called star sapphires, and the ancients regarded them as powerful talismans that protected travelers.

Like other gemstones, color is the main determining factor when judging the value of a sapphire. As a rule, the most valuable sapphires have a medium intense, pure vivid blue color and hold the brightness of their color under any type of lighting. Any color undertones - usually black, gray or green - will reduce a stone's value. Although a pastel stone would be less valued than a deeper blue one, it would be more valuable than a stone considered too dark. In selecting your sapphire, keep in mind that the finest stones are "eye clean", with little or no inclusions (flaws) visible to the naked eye.

Sapphire is harder than any other gemstone except a diamond. This quality makes it extremely durable for everyday jewelry pieces subject to repeated impact, such as rings and bracelets. In general, sapphire can be cleaned with soapy water or commercial solvent and a brush.

It is estimated that about 90% of sapphires on the market today have been heated to maximize their color and clarity. This process is permanent and completely stable. Perfect natural, untreated gems are exceptionally rare and very expensive.

tanzanite

Hardness: 6.5

Although tanzanite is a relative newcomer to the gemstone market, it has made its mark on the jewelry world in a hurry. In fact, no recent gemstone discovery has had more of an impact.

This rare, exotic gem was first discovered by Portuguese prospector Manuel d'Souza in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania in 1967, in the shadow of majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. This breathtaking location is the only known mining site on earth for tanzanite. The stone was named after its country of origin by Tiffany & Co. in New York. The world-renowned jeweler first introduced tanzanite to the market in 1969 and began to aggressively market it to the public in the 1980s.

Tanzanite, a variety of the mineral zoisite, occurs in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors. Rarely pure blue, the gem almost always displays signature overtones of purple. In smaller sizes, it tends toward lighter tones, with lavender the most common. In larger sizes, the gem typically displays deeper, richer blues and purples.

In its natural form, tanzanite is typically brown with reddish, orange, yellow or bronze hues. Heat treatment releases the spectacular violet-blue colors the stone is known for.

The finest quality tanzanite is usually deep blue or violet, with few, if any, inclusions visible under magnification. Such stones are also exceptionally well-cut and polished. But color is the most important factor to consider when buying tanzanite.

Tanzanite is similar in hardness to an emerald but softer than a diamond. Clean your tanzanite with warm, soapy water and a soft bristle brush. Also, avoid ultrasonic or steam cleaning, because the high temperatures could damage the stone. Most nicks and scratches can be removed through polishing.

topaz

The mystery and allure of topaz goes back thousands of years. The Egyptians, for instance, believed the gem was colored with the golden glow of the mighty sun god Ra, which protected the wearer from harm. Meanwhile, the Romans associated topaz with Jupiter, the god of the sun. The name topaz is thought to come from the Greek word "topazos" meaning "to shine" which also implies "fire."

Topaz also holds the distinction of being the gemstone thought to have the widest range of curative powers. Legend has it that the gem can dispel enchantment and improve the eyesight. The ancient Greeks believed that it had the power to increase strength and make its wearer invisible in times of emergency. Topaz is also said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink. Throughout history, different cultures have believed that the stone could cure insomnia, asthma and hemorrhages; bring friendship; promote patience and a pleasant disposition; and ensure fidelity. To the ancients, it was also a symbol of love and affection and was even thought to ward off sudden death.

Although topaz is most often associated with its golden yellow hues, it also occurs colorless, as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown, light green, blue and pink. Imperial shades are the rarest and therefore, the most valuable.

Most brownish topaz is heated to produce a permanent pink color. Blue topaz is extremely popular today due to its clarity, durability, availability and durability; it has been in great demand as a less costly substitute to aquamarine. However, topaz is rarely found in blue shades in nature. This color is most often created through a combination of heat-treatment and irradiation.

Topaz is mined mainly in Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and China.

tourmaline

Tourmalines are gems with a wide array of colors. According to Egyption legend, this is because the tourmaline, on its long journey up from the centre of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. And that is why it is still referred to as the 'gemstone of the rainbow' today.

The name tourmaline comes from the Singhalese words 'tura mali'. In translation, this means something like 'stone with mixed colors', referring to the color spectrum of this gemstone, which outdoes that of all other precious stones. There are tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow. There are tourmalines which change their color when the light changes from daylight to artificial light, and some show the light effect of a cat's eye. No two tourmalines are exactly alike. No wonder that magical powers have been attributed to it since ancient times. In particular, it is the gemstone of love and of friendship, and is said to render them firm and long-lasting.

watermelon tourmaline

Watermelon tourmaline is known for its concentric bands of color featuring a reddish, pink, purple, or magenta center surrounded by a whitish zone enclosed in a olivine green "rind" area. Watermelon tourmaline is typically found in Brazil.

pink tourmaline

A principle source of Pink Tourmaline can be found in Afghanistan or Brazil. Afghan tourmaline can be found in the Panshir Valley, north-east of the capital city of Kabul.

green tourmaline

One particularly popular variety is the green Tourmaline, known as 'verdelite' in the trade. In good qualities, these gemstones are much sought-after treasures today.

Colors, names and nicknames

In the trade, the individual color variants have their own names. For example, a tourmaline of an intense red is known as a 'rubellite', but only if it continues to display the same fine ruby red in artificial light as it did in daylight. If the color changes when the light source does, the stone is called a pink or shocking pink tourmaline.

Tourmalines are found almost all over the world. There are major deposits in Brazil, Sri Lanka and South and south-west Africa. Other finds have been made in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, mainly in Maine and Utah.

maine tourmaline

Tourmaline was the first gemstone mined in the United States by miners other than prehistoric man or Native Americans. Tourmaline mining began at Mount Mica in Maine in 1822 and, with starts and stops, has continued to the present. In 1992, operations at Mount Mica produced both gem-quality and mineral specimen tourmaline.

Over the years, mining operations on Mount Mica produced hundreds of kilograms of tourmaline. Museums and private collections around the world contain outstanding examples of tourmaline from the deposit. The largest reported crystal from the site apparently is one that is 39.4 centimeters long, 17.8 centimeters wide, and weighs about 14.3 kilograms. Apparently, a flawless, blue-green 256-carat stone is the largest cut stone from Mount Mica.

Mount Mica may have been the first tourmaline producer in Maine, but it is by no means the largest. Newry Hill, a spur off Plumbago Mountain, or more specifically the Dunton Mine on Newry Hill, is the most prolific tourmaline producer in Maine. Since its discovery in 1898, production from the mine has exceeded thousands of kilograms of high-quality tourmaline. The mines ability to yield large quantities of quality tourmaline was clearly demonstrated by Plumbago Mining Corp. The company reported that from October 1972 until the Fall of 1974, it produced more than one metric ton of fine-quality tourmaline.

Maine tourmalines come in a wide variation of colors, deep grass green to light green to yellow-green to blue green. They are also found in all shades of red, from pink to deep red, and blue-green to light blue to deep blue, and as colorless crystals. The State's mines also produce bicolors and watermelon crystals.