Citrine and topaz

November has two birthstones: topaz and citrine
It’s extremely difficult  to differentiate between cut citrine and yellow topaz with the naked eye, but they differ in hardness. Both have a long and rich history, going back to before Roman times. Both are associated with mystical properties. And both are stunningly beautiful gemstones that have been adored by celebrities and royalty alike.
One other important quality they share is that they are both very affordable gem stones.  Although high quality topaz is more expensive than citrine.

Citrine has been loved throughout the ages
But although citrine tends to be less expensive than topaz it’s certainly no less desirable.
This stunning gemstone has enjoyed immense popularity throughout history. The Egyptians were among the first to discover this yellow stone and used the gems as talismans. The ancient Greeks loved its bright colours and they carved images into the stones, and Roman priests turned citrine into rings. And around 300 to 150 BC they were used on the handles of swords and daggers in Scotland.

Royally received
Jump forward to the 19th and 20th centuries and you’ll find that the British Royalty are among citrine’s biggest fans.  Queen Victoria loved this gemstone and made it popular. Cartier created a citrine and diamond tiara for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 with a 62.35 carat emerald-cut citrine centre stone. It’s not just British monarchy who adore citrine either. Royalty around the globe are enamoured by its charms: Queen Sirikit of Thailand owns a diamond and citrine tiara, Queen Sonja of Norway received a modern, metallic, citrine tiara for her 60th birthday and the Luxembourg Royal Family boasts a collection of citrine-adorned jewellery.

The celebs choice of jewellery
Of course it’s not just royalty who are fans of citrine. It was very popular in the early 20th century in the Art Deco era. Hollywood stars embraced it, and movie icons like Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford were frequently seen wearing large, elaborately designed citrine-adorned jewellery.
In the 1940’s Cartier were renowned for making some fabulous pieces with dark and light citrines – chic, iconic and still valued today.
Fast forward to the present and you’ll see modern celebrities like Emma Watson, Naomie Harris, Kate Winslet, and Tara Reid wearing beautiful citrine jewellery at red-carpet events. And Angelina Jolie donated a large citrine necklace to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gem Collection.

So what exactly is citrine? And where does it come from?
Citrine, made up of silicon and oxygen, is a type of quartz, one of the most abundant minerals to be found on the Earth’s crust. It normally forms in igneous rocks as magma cools – the slower the process the larger the crystals.
Its name comes from the word “citron”, French for yellow, the colour most frequently associated with this gemstone.
Chemically its very similar to amethyst (a violet colour of quartz, and the birthstone for February), with the only difference the rate of oxidization of their iron impurities.

Yellow is better than brown
The yellow colour of citrine is caused by ferric impurities that turn it anything from pale yellow to brown, with the most prized gemstones a warm yellow or fiery orange. It originates from countries like Brazil, Africa and Spain, although today we know it occurs all around the globe. However yellow citrine very rarely occurs naturally, and it is often heat treated.

What does citrine represent?
Citrine is associated with fortune and luck. It’s sometimes called the ‘Success Stone’ or the ‘Merchant’s Stone’ because of its supposed connections to success and prosperity. Citrine is also believed by many to enhance vitality and health – and some use it as a healing crystal. It’s claimed to improve the circulatory system, and cleanse the blood, kidneys and vital organs. In Feng Shui citrine is said to help generosity and wealth. Whether there’s any truth or not in these claims, one thing is beyond dispute – it’s a beautiful and affordable stone.

Hard but brittle
Citrine is a relatively hard with a Mohs rating of 7 – a scale of mineral hardness based on the ability of one mineral to visibly scratch another mineral, with diamond scoring a maximum 10, and talcum powder the minimum 1. Although it is relatively brittle and particularly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Similarly, prolonged exposure to light can cause its colour to fade.

Inclusions not included
Citrine is usually found with very few inclusions, and the best quality gemstones should have no inclusions to the naked eye. If it’s natural it will be the same colour all the way through, with only slight colour variations. On the other hand, if it’s been heat treated from amethyst there will often be an opaque white in it, usually at the base.

Is it a cut above the rest?
You’ve probably heard of the 4Cs (colour, cut, clarity and carat weight), used by jewellers to establish the value of a precious or semi-precious stone.

You might be less aware that the Cs have more relevance depending on which stone is being evaluated. For example, with a diamond or sapphire the carat weight is hugely important in determining the cost of the stone. Whereas with citrine, the cut becomes one of the more important indicators of value.  And with many of the more intricately carved gems most of the value is created by the quality of the cut.

The colour of money
Colour is an important indicator of value too. The most precious citrine stones are ones with the most saturated yellow, orange, and reddish tones. The less intense the colour, the less valuable the gem.

Size doesn’t matter as much
Unlike the precious stones such as sapphires and diamonds, there isn’t an exponential leap in value as citrine increases in carat size. In other words, the value per carat remains constant. Large citrine stones aren’t rare, so it won’t cost a phenomenal amount if you decide you want to purchase a big gem.

Topaz can look similar to citrine – but it’s a different price
It’s no surprise that topaz is November’s other gemstone, because it’s frequently confused with citrine. But if you’re buying topaz it’s important to make sure it isn’t citrine, because topaz tends to be the more valuable of the two stones.

What a gas!
Like citrine, topaz is created in igneous rock. However, it’s one of the last minerals to be formed as the rock cools and fluorine-bearing vapours become more concentrated. These gasses enrich fluids in the rock and over time – perhaps millions of years – topaz begins to form.

Topaz? Or not topaz?
Although there can’t be certainty, it’s thought that the gemstone which modern mineralogists label ‘topaz’ was unknown by the oldest civilisations.
Today it’s believed that a stone they referred to as “topaloz” was in fact a different mineral – perhaps chrysolite or peridot. But whether it was topaz or an imposter, the ancient Egyptians believed it was created by the sun god Ra because of its golden hues, and as a result it had magical healing properties. The Romans thought the stone could protect them from poison – the legend went that the gem would change colour if it was near poisoned food or drink.
There are references to “topaz” in the Old Testament too, but they too may have been referring to chrysolite, rather than modern day topaz.

Topaz hits the big time
The first yellow crystals that can confidently be recognised as modern-day topaz stones were discovered in Germany, in 1737.
Just three years later in 1740, a massive 1,680 carat topaz gem was found in Brazil. But even then it was mistaken for another gem, at the time it was believed to be the largest diamond ever found. And it was impressive enough to be given a prominent place on the Portuguese crown. Even when it was identified as a topaz it kept its place, proudly displayed there to this present day.

The heavyweight of gemstones
Many topaz stones are too large to be worn as jewellery, but instead you’ll find them exhibited in various museums around the world. In London’s National Museum of History of London, you can see the Ostra Topaz, a of 9,381 carat blue topaz, and in the Spanish, Programa Royal Collection there are many enormous gemstones, like the 8,225 carat Marbella Topaz. The “ElDorado” rough topaz discovered in Minas Gerais, Brazil in 1984, and was 36 kilo / 79 pounds when it was weighed. After cutting 6.2 kilos or nearly 14 pounds was left., making it the largest faceted topaz and gemstone in the world.

Topaz is well known for its abundant use in Georgian jeweller around the early 1800s. It was extremely popular for its use in the delicate, feminine gold jewellery in fashion at the time.

The colours of topaz
In nature, topaz is often colourless which causes it to be confused with diamonds.  It can come in other colours though, most often a golden brown to yellow that tends to be stable, and is generally unaffected by chemicals. A variety of impurities and treatments may also make topaz wine red, pale grey, reddish-orange, pale green, or pink (rare), and opaque to translucent or transparent. The pink and red varieties come from chromium replacing aluminium in its crystalline structure.

Everyone loves the blues
Nowadays it is perhaps most famous for its blue colour. And because blue topaz comes in large crystals, is extremely popular in cocktail rings and other large items of jewellery. Unlike many other gems, the colour in natural topaz isn’t caused by elements like iron or chromium but rather by defects in its crystal structure. But blue topaz is extremely rare in nature, nearly all blue topaz is created by first irradiation and then heat treatment, with the two favourite variations a lightly coloured ‘Swiss Blue’ and a much darker ‘London Blue’. As a rule of thumb, the darker the blue the higher the price. Pink topaz is also a colour change achieved by heating yellow topaz.

Topaz is found all over the world
What’s beyond dispute is that tourmaline displays the widest spectrum of colour of any gemstone, because of the presence of elements such as The finest British examples are in the Cairngorm Mountains in the Central Highlands. Germany boasts pale yellow topaz rock of the Schneckenstein. It’s also in several localities in the Urals and in Siberia. Brazil, renowned for fine topaz stones, is where most of modern-day mining occurs and it’s been discovered near Pikes Peak, Colorado, and in San Diego county, California.

Imperial topaz – rarest and most precious of all
The rarest topaz is a variety called Imperial topaz, occasionally referred to as Precious topaz.
Never treated and considered to be the colour of the setting sun, it’s the most sought-after, natural topaz. The name comes from the Russian tsars of the 17th century, because the tsars claimed exclusive rights to the pink topaz gemstones that were mined in Russia.

It’s all in the colour
However there is no official standard for Imperial topaz and the term is primarily chosen because of its colours which give this gemstone its value, reaching prices in excess of $1,000 a carat for large stones of over 10 carats or more, in contrast to some blue topaz at the bottom of the market which can cost just a couple of dollars per carat.

From Russia with love
Today the primary source of Imperial topaz is no longer Russia but the mines of Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Imperial topaz was traditionally considered to be orange with something called red dichroism (which means that when you tilt it the topaz appears red or orange) but nowadays is more widely defined as yellow, pink, red, lavender-pink or peach-pink.

Careful how you pick it up
Traditionally open pit mines are also used to extract topaz, but because it is very easy to crack, water cannons are used to clear out debris during the process. Topaz is then carefully extracted by hand-picked from the shattered rocks.

It’s hard, but it cracks very easily
Topaz crystals have something called “perfect cleavage”. That means it tends to break in a certain way, along a specific plain, and is why it is often found in sections rather than whole crystals. It’s also quite fragile, even though it is one of the hardest gems with a register of 8 on the Mohs scale. Because of this fragility jewellery designers avoid placing topaz in rings unless it’s in a protective mounting with lots of metal. Instead they prefer to place pieces that are less likely to avoid impact. Such as pedants and pins.

Citrine? Topaz? Or why not both?
If you now know a little more about citrine and topaz is it easier to decide which one is right for you or to give as a gift? They are both beautiful stones, but they are also both very affordable. So if you’re in a dilemma, why not consider a piece that is made from both gemstones? They work beautifully together in a pedant or a combination necklace.

Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in citrine, topaz, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.

Tourmalines and opals

 October’s gemstones are pink tourmaline and opal
October is one of the months that has not one, but two stones allocated to it. (June and December have three.)
So whether you’re thinking of choosing a gemstone for yourself or as a gift for someone else, that may leave you with a dilemma.
Which gemstone should you pick?

Why two gemstones for one month?
But before you decide whether to pick pink tourmaline or opal, you may be curious to know why some months have more than one gemstone. And to answer that question we need to know when the idea of allocating each month a stone began.

Where did the idea of gemstones originate?
The history of birthstones has its roots way back in the Bible. The King James Version references gemstones an extraordinarily 1,704 times!

But you’ll find a more detailed description of their possible origins in the Book of Exodus, that was written from stories passed on by word of mouth, sometime between 600 and 400BC.

However it wasn’t until the 1st century that Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (c.37-100 AD) carried out research that linked the twelve stones to Aaron’s breastplate – a sacred object worn by the High Priest of the Israelites to communicate with God. Attached by shoulder straps at the corners it contained twelve gemstones.

Twelve is the magic number
Flavius believed there was a connection between the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate (signifying the tribes of Israel as described in the book of the zodiac) the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac. And he compiled the first list of Birthstones based on his findings.

Sadly, even two thousand years ago when Flavius was writing, the names of the gemstones were hard to translate, and the Breastplate hasn’t survived until modern times. So the gemstone’s identity are open to debate.

Translations and interpretations of the passage in Exodus  the breastplate have varied widely, with Josephus himself giving two different lists for the twelve stones.

Gemstones become official
Fast forward to 1952 when the Jewellery Industry Council, the oldest international organization in jewellery sector, and established in 1926, decided to clear up the confusion and create a list of accepted birthstones.

So, for example, opal was originally the gem trade’s recognized birthstone for October. But the Council suggested that pink tourmaline should be an alternate stone – changes were accepted and approved by the American Gem Society and the National Retail Jewellers Council.

The question is still: opal or tourmaline?
But knowing why some months have two, or even three gemstones doesn’t make it any easier deciding which one to choose.

If it’s for a gift you could, of course, do a little research. You could be quite blunt and ask “what gemstone do you prefer – opal or tourmaline?”

But if you want your gift to be a surprise, there are subtler questions to ask. Have they a favourite colour? If it’s pink, then pink tourmaline is the logical gemstone to choose.

Opal is better known to most people of course, and opaque with flashes of colour. It’s also more fragile than tourmaline, and particularly suited to wearing as an earing or pendant.

How much do they cost? Or how little?
It’s possible that price might be the deciding factor in picking which October gemstone. However, like other precious stones, there’s an enormous difference in cost depending on the quality of the gem.

700,000, or 1.2 million dollars? That’s rich!
The world’s most expensive opal, is a 998-gram gem called the Fore of Australia. It’s the largest known high-grade opal on earth and valued at around 700,000 US dollars. However it’s not for sale even if you could afford it, as it’s been on permanent public display in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide for over 60 years.

You’ll find the world’s most expensive pink tourmaline in Brazil. This was discovered as recently as 2011 in a mine, called “the Great Divide” it’s for sale at around $1.2 million

The chances are either of these stones are beyond most people’s budgets. So if you need a little more help to choose which one is right for you, or as a present here’s a little more information about each.

“Semi-precious” stones. But priceless.
But first one thing that you might be interested to know is something that they have in common: both are semi-precious rather than precious stones. Although that’s perhaps a rather misleading description, as the difference between “precious” and “semi-precious” has no scientific explanation, and the categorization is mainly due to the perceived value and rarity of a stone (diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires are “precious”)

However when many “semi-precious” stones can be more valuable than a “precious” one, the name is even more arbitrary.

Let’s look at opals in more detail.
Opal isn’t just a gemstone for October – it’s the national gemstone for Australia too. Not surprising because vast deposits of it were discovered there in the 19th century. Before that its main source was in a place called  Červenica beyond the Roman frontier in Slovakia.

However, its history goes back a long way. Its name derives from the Latin “opalus” which means “precious stone”. And slightly misleading as these days it is labelled “semi-precious” – even though, as we explained before, that’s no reason to devalue it.

Opals for hope.
Both the Romans and the Orientals believed that the opal was a symbol of hope. While according to Indian folklore, a beautiful woman was turned by the gods into an opal that sparkled with all the colours of the rainbow.

Today the meaning of the opal birthstone has come to mean good fortune and luck.

A long time in the making.
Opal has also been around quite some time geologically speaking too.
Its formed as water runs through the earth and picks up silica from sandstone. Then it runs into natural cracks or voids caused by faults or even decomposing fossils, leaving behind a silica deposit.

It’s thought that this process began about around 30 million years ago, until some of the silica turned into opal. And it takes around 5 to 6 million years for a 1cm opal to mature.

Yes, tonight Josephine.
There have been famous opals in history. They were set in the Crown jewels of France and Napoleon presented Empress Josephine a brilliant red opal called “the Burning of Troy”.

Opals amused Queen Victoria.
After falling out of favour in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they were restored to popularity by Queen Victoria who wore opals throughout her reign. The Royal Court of Britain then regarded it as a model for fashion around the world.

You’ll be tickled in pink.

So what should you look for in a pink opal? Natural pink opal is typically found in Peru, not just Australia.
It’s less rare than black or white opal too, and can hence come at very affordable prices. But there’s a host of factors that determine its price.

So, for example, if it has a rare or unique pattern its value can be enhanced. Brightness enhances value too. Its shape should ideally be oval. But crack-lines in the stone lowers price.

Seek expert advice.
But altogether there’s so many different factors that affect the value of an opal, that if you’re considering spending a significant amount of money on one, you should seek the opinion of an expert.

Look for a jeweller with National Association of Jeweller accreditation to help you.

Now let’s take a look at tourmaline.
Tourmaline is typically formed in volcanic igneous rock. When magma cools it sometimes contains aqueous solutions rich in elements like silicon and iron. As this rich mix of elements gets colder and crystallises it forms pegmatite rock, containing several different mineral crystals including tourmaline.

Some of it was formed as far back as the Carboniferous age over 300 million years ago.

When are emeralds and sapphires not emeralds and sapphire?
Tourmaline is a relatively recently newly identified gemstone, not recognized as a distinct mineral until 1793.  But it’s confused traders and explorers for centuries.

So, for example, in the 1500s Portuguese explorers obtained green and blue tourmaline from indigenous Brazilian people and from panning streams in search of gold. They thought these stones were emeralds and sapphires and sent them back to Portugal to be cut into gems and used to make jewellery for royalty and wealthy citizens.

Similarly, Dutch traders in the late 1600s or early 1700s thought they had found emeralds off the west coast of Italy.

It’s not just the Portuguese and Dutch who thought that tourmaline was something else either.

The largest ruby in Europe? You could have fooled me.
Caesar’s Ruby’ is a 255.75ct gemstone that has been regarded for as a precious stone for centuries and traded between the French, Russia and Sweden since the late 16th century. Yet it wasn’t until 1922 that it was identified as not being a ruby at all, but a tourmaline.
The news caused disbelief in Sweden where the stone had been a part of the crown jewels between 1689 and 1777. Indeed, one of the major Swedish newspapers questioned whether it was the same stone once thought to have been the largest ruby in Europe.

The confusion about the tourmaline’s identity is even reflected in its name, which comes from toramalli, which means “mixed gems” in Sinhalese (a language of Sri Lanka).

A colourful background.
What’s beyond dispute is that tourmaline displays the widest spectrum of colour of any gemstone, because of the presence of elements such as aluminium iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. So the stone comes in every colour of the rainbow and can even be colourless.

A gem worn by gems.Today it is one of the more popular fashionable gem stones and is a favourite of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez and Scarlett Johansson.

Like all gems, tourmaline’s value is determined by size, weight, and colour. Small stones under 5 carats are very affordable. If you find pure blue, red, orange, yellow, or purple tourmaline stone it will command a higher price. And tourmaline crystals without cracks or flaws are worth more too.

Tourmaline or opal. Or tourmaline and opal?
We hope that you now know a little more about tourmaline and opal which means you’ll have a better idea which is right for you, or as a gift. They’re both beautiful, extraordinary stones and October gems. So if you’re still struggling on which to buy, how about buying both to be worn on alternate days?

Turn to a traditional jeweller.
Whether you’re interested in tourmaline, opals, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.

Romance and the Stone

September’s birthstone is sapphire.
It’s associated with romantic love and devotion. And is said to represent fidelity, honesty, purity and trust.  Small surprise then, that sapphires are not just worn as September’s birthstone but are also a perennially popular engagement gemstone.
Like rubies, fine quality sapphires are also one of the most sought-after precious gemstones on the planet, can fetch astonishing prices, and are far rarer than diamonds.

What exactly are sapphires though?
Sapphires are, of course, one of the better-known, precious gemstones that nearly everyone knows a bit about.  Most of us recognise of them as beautiful, very hard, sparkling, velvet-blue stones – and very expensive too.  But few of us know what substance they are created from. You might be surprised to discover it’s the same one that makes rubies.

Blue is – normally – the colour.
Sapphires come in many other colours, but we tend to think of them as blue. After all, the name “sapphire” is derived from the Greek word “sappheiros” or the Latin word “saphirus” used to describe blue gemstones. “Sapphire blue” even refers to a saturated shade of blue. And in the Persian empire rulers believed the sky was painted blue with the reflection of sapphires.

Blue sapphires are associated with the planet Venus. Which is why they represent Friday, the day dedicated to Venus. In zodiacal systems the gemstone covers both Taurus and Gemini.

 

SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND EARRINGS

Made from the same mineral as rubies
You’ll know sapphires as one of the world’s most famous gemstones, with a long and rich history. What you might not know however, is that it’s made from the same mineral as rubies – a crystalline form of aluminium oxide that’s called corundum, an incredibly hard substance that makes it an efficient cutting tool for industrial purposes.
It’s the impurities in corundum that change its colour to create valuable gemstones like rubies and sapphires.
Corundum is a fairly common mineral – and one of the hardest too. Only diamonds are harder.

Sapphires are not always as blue as you think.
Chromium makes corundum go red – that’s what makes a ruby.
But corundum has been coloured by any other impurity then it’s a sapphire. The intense blue most people associate with sapphires is caused by titanium and iron impurities in corundum. It’s also responsible for pink sapphires too.
As the saturation of chromium increases, pink sapphires deepen in colour from light to dark red. And once it goes beyond a certain point, it’s no longer considered a pink sapphire but becomes a red ruby.

Fancy sapphires can come at fancy prices
Sapphires come in other colours as well as pink and blue too.
Non-blue sapphires, known as “fancy” sapphires, can also be yellow, green, brown, purple or violet. But don’t be misled into thinking that because these gems aren’t blue, they are always a lesser gem.

Padparadscha – a very special sapphire
One very valued sapphire is the very scarce, orange-pink Padparadscha. Its name is derived a Sinhalese word for “aquatic lotus blossom” and gemstone collectors treasure these extraordinary stones. They tend to unevenly coloured, with pink and yellow variations around a salmon colour. Anything over 2 carats is astonishingly rare and valuable.

A legendary beautiful gem for a legendary beautiful woman
Sapphires have been valued by humans since the dawn of history. Legend says that in the 12th century BC, Helen of Troy kept a star sapphire believed to be the cause of her allure to males. A thousand years later in the 1st century BC, King Solomon wore a sapphire ring believing it gave him magical powers. The ancient Greeks also thought sapphires had a strong connection to the spiritual world which is why they wore them when consulting the Oracle at Apollo’s Shrine.  Ivan IV the Terrible of Russia, who lived from 1530 to 1584, wasn’t just famous for his ruthlessness, he was also well known as a lover of sapphires.

The British Crown features many sapphires too.
St Edward’s Sapphire is older than any other in the royal collection. It’s thought to have been in the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England who ascended the throne in 1042, twenty four years before the Norman conquest.

No spare change to give? Then a priceless gem will do.
Legend says that when Edward was asked for alms by a beggar he had no money with him so gave him the ring with the gem. The beggar was St John the Evangelist who assisted two English pilgrims in Syria in gratitude for the King’s help, and asked them to return the ring to St Edward. The king was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1066 with the ring, but it was taken out when he was re-interred in 1163. Queen Victoria added the jewel to her Imperial State Crown.

The Sapphire that escaped the French revolution
Visit the collection where the Crown Jewels are housed in the Tower of London and you’ll also find the Stuart Sapphire.
James II of England and Wales (also known as James VII of Scotland), and the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Wales, took the gem with him when he fled the glorious revolution in 1688 to be replaced by his own Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange.

James II passed the sapphire to his son, James Stuart (the ‘old pretender’ with thwarted ambitions of his own on the English crown). His son, Henry Benedict, the Cardinal York, grandson and last descendant of James II, wore it in his mitre. When he put it up for sale, it was purchased by George III in 1807, and like St Edward’s Sapphire, it eventually ended up in a pride of place on Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown.

A very special engagement ring from Prince William
In more recent times, Princess Diana wore a blue sapphire engagement ring. Her son Prince William gave it to Kate Middleton for her to wear as The Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince William said that giving the ring away made it feel like his mother hadn’t missed out on his wedding day.

So many cultures value this precious stone
As you’d expect of a gemstone with such a long and illustrious history, many civilisations and religions have attributed it with extraordinary values.
In ancient Greek and Roman societies, royal families wore sapphires to protect themselves from envy and harmful enemies.
The Persians used to ground them up as an all-purpose medicine. Amongst Buddhists it is believed to produce a desire for prayer, and is regarded as the Stone of Stones to give Spiritual Light, and to bring Peace and Happiness as long as the wearer of a sapphire leads a moral life.

Loved by Jews and Catholics, hated by witches
The Jews venerated sapphires, and the seal-stone in King Solomon’s ring is said to have been a sapphire.
Catholics held them in high worth too, and believed sapphires possessed virtues and qualities that made them worthy as the badge of the Pope.
In the middle ages they were used to ward off illness and also as a protection when travelling.  They were believed to be a protection against sorcery and black magic and to banish evil spirits and send negative thoughts back to whoever sent them.

Have you a spare 17 million dollars for a rather special gem?
Today sapphires are held in as high esteem as ever, with a value to match.
Their price per carat depends on the quality of the gem, ranging from about $25 to over $11,000 per carat – with the most expensive at the time of writing this, an extra-ordinary $135,000 per carat.
Currently the most expensive sapphire ever sold at auction is the Blue Belle of Asia, a 392.52 carat Ceylon sapphire which went for over $17 million at Christie’s Geneva in November 2014 to a private collector who remains unidentified to this day.

How to value a sapphire
We doubt you’ll be looking in this price range if you’re considering buying a sapphire for yourself or a gift. However you’ll probably be interested what attributes makes one sapphire more valuable than another.
Because they form under very specific conditions within the earth’s crust, with different inclusions and trace minerals, each and every sapphire is unique and no two have the exact same internal structure. Yet, like other gemstones, all are valued the same way, using the 4 Cs: colour, clarity, carat and cut.

Colour comes first
Colour is arguably the most important attribute of a sapphire.
Normally the closer a sapphire is to pure blue the better. This is often called a “Cornflower” blue.

Hue is the gemstone’s basic colour, although typically a sapphire colour is a combination of hues.  For example, a blue sapphire can have violet or green secondary colours components that affect their beauty and value.
Saturation describes how pure or intense a colour appears, and is also a key component in determining a sapphire’s value. 
Regardless of the sapphire’s hue, higher levels of saturation are preferred. The finest sapphires have “vivid” saturation, but sapphires with “strong” saturation are also prized
Tone, describes how light or dark a stone’s colour is, with the preferred tones for sapphires varying from hue to hue.
Most fine sapphires have a medium to medium-dark tone.
Other factors influence a sapphire’s colour too.
For example inclusions, which normally you might think undesirable, can actually improve the colour. That’s because these minute imperfections are highly reflective and scatter light within the stone.

Clarity is not as clear as you think
Clarity refers to the inclusions, or internal flaws within the sapphire.
Although perhaps “flaw” is a misnomer in this instance. Generally speaking it’s true that the more inclusions and the more visible they are, the less valuable the sapphire. And prices can drop substantially if inclusions threaten the stone’s durability.
However many small inclusions can enhance the look – and hence value – of the stone by creating a velvety appearance in blue sapphires. And large inclusions that intersect can form a beautiful and valuable star shape. What’s more, if there are no visible inclusions at all under the microscope, it lowers the value of the stone as it means the stone is almost definitely synthetic.

Does your stone make the cut?
How expertly (or not) a sapphire has been cut profoundly affects its value too. If it’s been done well it can hide inclusions, improve the colour, and maximise visual appeal.
It needs an expert hand to cut them though.
Sapphires are one of the toughest materials. On the Mohs hardness scale they rank 9 out of 10, just below diamonds, the hardest mineral of all.

How many Carats?
This is the weight of the stone, with a carat equivalent to one fifth of a gram. The bigger a sapphire is the more slowly the cooling of the magma it was created in occurs. And because the bigger stones are so much rarer, the price per carat increases exponentially with size.
Blue sapphires can range in size anywhere from fractions of a carat to hundreds of carats, and large blue sapphires are more readily available than large rubies.
However, to make it more complicated, the effect of carat weight upon sapphire also depends what colour the stone is. For example, yellow sapphires are quite common above five carats. In contrast, pinky-orange padparadscha sapphires are much rarer and correspondingly more valuable. 
Remember too, that sapphires have a higher specific gravity than diamonds, so a sapphire is smaller than a diamond that weighs the same.

Where was it mined – and has it been treated?
Most prized sapphires are from Myanmar (famous for the Cornflower blue colour – the best), or Kashmir and Sri Lanka (where paler blue and other coloured sapphires are mined). These are less likely to have had treatment such as heating them in various different atmospheres to enhance their colour – and untreated sapphires command significantly more value.
Sapphires can also be made synthetically, although these stones are far more likely to be made for industrial use. Unsurprisingly synthetic sapphire is worth considerably less than natural rock.
As with all precious gem stones, you are best asking an expert if you need any questions answered about a specific piece.

Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in a ruby, a spinel, or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.

The extreme stone

Peridot is the gemstone for August.

Sometimes referred to as “the extreme stone”, it’s not the most expensive gemstone. However it is certainly one of the most exciting.

Deep heat

Most gems form in the earth’s crust.
However peridot, just like diamonds, are created much deeper, in the mantle.
That means the only way it can be mined is when it’s been brought to the surface by natural forces, either from the earth’s continental plates pushing together or volcanic activity.

Outer space

But Peridot is also found in stony metal meteorites that were formed four and a half billion years ago when our solar system was born. So if your jeweller describes this glorious yellow-green stone as being out of this world, they could literally be telling the truth.

How to spot the difference

Size and composition helps tell peridot that’s formed on earth apart from a stone created in outer space.  A peridot formed as a result of volcanic activity contains higher concentrations of lithium, nickel and zinc than those found in meteorites,

A shining light for mankind

Peridot has been valued since the dawn of civilisation because of its association with the sun, and its perceived protective power to ward off evil and the forces of darkness.

In the ancient world, peridot was first called topazos, named after the island Topazios where it was discovered.  This geologically unique island was created as the African and Asiatic plates converged, and this pressure pushed up metamorphic rock rich in the gemstone, from the earth’s lower crust.

From Topazios – but not to be confused with topaz

However it was the Arabs who gave the stone its current name of peridot, derived from the word “faridat” meaning gem.

Hardly surprising, but peridot is sometimes mixed up with topaz, a different golden-brown or yellow mineral. But, oddly, the stone that modern gemology identifies as topaz doesn’t even occur on the island.

Prized by the Egyptians

When the Egyptians discovered the rocks, they mined the island exclusively for the benefit of the Egyptian kings and queens, and the island was so closely guarded that anyone trying to land without permission risked death. For over 3,500 years the Egyptians reigned over the island until it was abandoned and lost to the world for centuries.

Is it a peridot or an emerald?

Peridots of a greener hue are frequently mistaken for emeralds, one of the favourite gems of Queen Cleopatra. Some historians believe many of her jewels may have been peridot stones. The Romans named it “Evening Emerald” because its colour did not darken at night.

Hawaiians love peridot too

On the other side of the world peridot was also a valued gem for the Hawaiians. But rather than pushed upwards by tectonic force, in Hawaii Peridot and its base mineral Olivine, is created in magma and spewed to the surface by active volcanoes. The molten crystals fall to the earth in the shape of a tear drop.

The first Hawaiians believed they were the tears of a volcano goddess they named Pele.

Peridot also features in Christian history

The Archbishop of Mainz in the 8th century, Frankish Benedictine monk Rabanus Marcus, believed it to be one of the twelve gems of the Apocalypse.

And the early crusaders of around 1100 brought the stone back to Europe, where its beauty assured its prominence in some of the most important medieval treasures. Considered calming because of its tranquil green colour, peridot is also adorns many medieval and more recent churches

On display at the Shrine of the Three Kings

Around 1199, King Otto 1V of Germany gave three golden crowns made for the three wise men as a present to the church of Cologne. The elaborate shrine to hold them was completed circa 1525.

This is the famous Shrine of the Three Kings that today sits inside northern Europe’s largest Gothic church and is still visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Among the 1,000 gemstones that decorate it are three prominent, beautiful green jewels. For centuries it was believed that they were emeralds, however now we know that they are actually impressive 200-carat peridots.

Also on display at The Tower of London

But you don’t have to join a pilgrimage to Cologne to see prestigious examples of this stunning gem. You’ll find large peridot specimens on display in the Tower of London too.

This gem is magic

In the 15th century, German occult writer Agrippa said Peridot had magical powers. Held to the sun he believed it would shine forth a golden star to sooth the respiratory system and alleviate asthma.

Not always in demand

As the mines in Topazios (called St John’s or Zabargad Island today) depleted, and large, good quality stones became increasingly hard to find, peridot became less popular.

New sources of emeralds and diamonds were also being discovered. To further contribute to the demise of peridot. So much so that it came to be known at one time as the ‘poor man’s emerald’.

Yes, tonight Josephine

However, never entirely out of favour, it enjoyed a resurgence in Europe during the Baroque period from around 1600 to 1750.

And in more modern times it is believed that Napoleon III gave empress Josephine a peridot jewel as a symbol of his love for her. It probably did the trick, as the jewel he reputedly gave to her is a magnificent 37.5 carat peridot stone, enhanced by diamonds and set in silver on gold.

As popular as ever again

Peridot became popular in jewellery in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.

Then, again, in the mid-1990s a rich deposit in Pakistan unearthed some of the finest Peridot crystals ever discovered, and with a resurgence of interest in this stunning gem. Today the peridot is once again a highly valued gemstone, particularly one that is over 8 carats.

As found on Mars

Bringing us slap up to date, in 2003 NASA reported that peridot had been found on Mars making it the only gemstone known to occur on another planet.

Then in 2006 a NASA explorer spacecraft, the aptly named Stardust, returned to earth with mineral samples it had gathered from near the sun. Among its haul was discovered gem quality peridot – old enough to have been in existence at the birth of our solar system.

The 4Cs

Although not as expensive as many other gems like diamonds, peridot’s value is determined in the same way, by the 4Cs: cost, colour, clarity and carat weight.

Green for go – but don’t be browned off

Peridot is the gem form of olivine, a magnesium iron silicate mineral. Depending on the amount of iron present, peridots may appear lighter or darker, ranging from pale golden-green, to deep olive or brownish-green, and the most valued being a dark olive-green.

Most commercially mined peridot is yellow-green. If it appears brown, its value is considerably lower.

Beware the black spot

Most of the stones with the finest colour come from Myanmar or Pakistan. Higher quality gemstones will have no inclusions that are visible to the naked eye, although you may see some tiny black spots under a magnifying glass.

Another mark found fairly commonly in peridot, are disk-shaped inclusions resembling lily pods or fingerprints.  Visible dark spots dramatically lower the value of a gem.

A cut above the rest

Peridot is one of the softer gemstones and easily cut into a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles.

Shapes include everything from round, oval, pear, cushion, to triangle and marquise. Cutting styles vary from step cuts with concentric rows of parallel facets to mixed cuts of brilliant-cut crowns to step-cut pavilions.

Designer cuts fashioned by hand and machine are popular, as well as cabochons, beads and carvings.

Big is beautiful

As with any gemstone, the larger the stone the more you can expect to pay.

That said, you won’t find many peridots larger than 4 carats and, at that size, they are relatively inexpensive.  Once over this weight they begin to cost considerably more, with stones over 10 carats are exceedingly rare and expensive.

The largest cut peridot is a 310 carat weight specimen that currently resides in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

The hard facts

Although peridot is a gem of above-medium hardness, it’s nowhere near as hard as a diamond, and is softer than amethyst or emerald. That means you should avoid rugged wearing if mounted in rings.  The stone is sensitive to extreme heat and cold too, as well as changes in pressure. So consider bezel settings to protect the stone from knocks and bangs and avoid ultrasonic jewellery cleaners.

Peridots can also lose their shine if they come into contact with hydrochloric or sulphuric acid.

Adored by many civilisations

Peridot has been held in high esteem by numerous cultures throughout the ages, from the Sumerians and Romans, to ancient Greeks and Hawaiians, to Hindus and Christians.

And it is believed to hold all sorts of magical powers. From being a bringer of luck to healing the body and the mind, it’s been claimed to aid everything from better sleep to improving the digestive system.  Whether there’s any truth is these claims or not, there’s no denying that peridot is a stunning and relatively inexpensive gem that can add glamour to any outfit.

When combined with other gems, peridot looks beautiful with transparent or light pastel coloured stones like diamonds, pearls and different varieties of quartz.

Turn to a traditional jeweller

Whether you’re interested in a peridot or any kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s worthwhile seeking the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for advice.

So if you’re looking for necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or anything else, if you want something truly special John can help you find it.

Buying jewellery? Selling jewellery? Restoring jewellery? Let me help.

John Lloyd Morgan office

I’ve been in the business for many years, but everything about jewellery still excites me.

From sourcing antique jewellery, silver and stones, to re-designing old jewellery so they become more wearable pieces. Even supposedly mundane jobs like re-enamelling damaged jewellery and objects d’art, or cleaning and repairing jewellery, silver and watches gives me pleasure, as I help restore old pieces to their original splendour. And it’s always a thrill when I get a customer a better price selling their unwanted jewellery and silver than they were expecting.

But my greatest joy is when I surprise and delight a customer by finding them a jewellery piece that they fall in love with.

If you want something special consider a gemstone

I’m frequently asked by my customers to get them something individual.

That means more than finding or creating a stunning piece of jewellery. It also has to somehow be unique to them, or to someone special they want to give it to.

One idea I often suggest is to consider a birthstone.

These are precious stones that relate to a particular month or a sign of the zodiac are a tradition that go back thousands of years to the time of the bible. And the idea is that the stone has special properties that somehow links to the time of a person’s birth. So picking a stone to match a birthday, or an important date, is a great starting place.

Every gem comes in so many different shapes, sizes and colours that there are literally thousands to choose from.

But by talking to a customer and finding out what they like – and, just as important, what they don’t like – I can help find them a gemstone that they’ll treasure forever.

There’s one gem stone for every month. What’s yours?

Here below are gemstones matched against each month.

Normally there’s only one stone for each month however some months are associated with two or, in the case of December, even three stones.
As we are in June now, let’s take a closer look at pearls and rubies (July’s gemstone)

January Birthstone: Garnet.

February Birthstone: Amethyst
March Birthstone: Aquamarine
April Birthstone: Diamond
May Birthstone: Emerald
June Birthstone: Pearl or Alexandrite
July Birthstone: Ruby
August Birthstone: Peridot
September Birthstone: Sapphire
October Birthstone: Tourmaline or Opal
November Birthstone: Topaz or Citrine
December Birthstone: Tanzanite, Zircon or Turquoise

June’s birthstone is the pearl.

Of course, it’s also Alexandrite too. However I don’t want to focus on that here, because this comparatively recently discovered gemstone, first unearthed in the Ural mountains in 1834, is exceedingly rare and extremely expensive. If those features make it particularly desirable to you, then please message me privately, and I can help you more. But for most people, pearls are a more accessible choice.

The pearl. Unique in many different ways.

Pearls have been around so long that that they have become part of our language.

Someone who’s a pearl is a very precious person.

And the bible warns us not to cast them before swine.

Pearls are also unique among gems, as the only gems created by living creatures.

Molluscs, such as oysters or mussels produce pearls inside their soft tissue to wrap around and protect themselves against a foreign body.  They are also the world’s oldest gemstone, with the Romans and Egyptians prizing them as decorative items as far back as the 5th century BC – although Chinese records mention them even earlier.

Diving used to be the only way that pearls could be sourced, and hundreds of oysters had to be opened to find a single pearl.  However, since around the turn of the 20th century oysters have also been cultivated, by introducing a tissue implant inside shells that causes a pearl sac to form.

What to look for in a pearl?

Because of their rarity, pearls that occur spontaneously in the wild are more valuable than a cultured or farmed pearl from an oyster or mussel, although the pearl needs an X-ray examination to discern the difference.

Other ways to spot value are more obvious.

Ideally a pearl should be perfectly round and smooth. Plus the bigger the better.

The best pearls also have a metallic, mirror-like lustre created by the layers in the pearl.

The mollusc that produced the oyster is another factor.

For example, Black Pearls from the Pacific islands are valuable, but the larger South Sea pearl are the rarest of all.

Not just pearly whites

Pearl colours vary too, with for example white and silver pearls coming from Australia, and golden ones more prevalent in the Philippines and Indonesia. There are also natural pinks, blues, champagnes and even purple pearls. But be warned – if you want to create a string of mixed rare colours but similar size pearls, it could take you years.

Pearls range enormously in cost too, from the relatively inexpensive to fabulously dear.

Pierre Cartier bought the Fifth Avenue mansion that is now the New York Cartier store with a matching double strand of natural pearls valued at 1 million US dollars in 1917.

Don’t be fooled by imitation pearls

Some imitation pearls, or shell pearls, are made of the inner shell material found in some molluscs called nacre or mother of pearl.  Others are made of coral or conch shell, or from glass that’s been coated with a solution containing fish scales called essence d’Orient. Although they might fool an untrained eye, imitation pearls lack the weight, smoothness and lustre of a real pearl, and a jeweller can tell them apart easily.

Pearls have never been out of fashion

People have been wearing pearls as a fashion item since their first discovery.

In China in 2500 B.C. pearls were strung on chains together with beads of carnelian and pottery. The Romans pierced pearls and hung them by gold wire on earrings. Over a thousand years later Charles 1 and Walter Raleigh were wearing pearl earrings too. Audrey Hepburn immortalised them in Breakfast at Tiffanys. And today celebrities from Harry Styles and Scarlett Johansson to Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge wear them with style.

Just what you’ve been looking for

Whether you prefer pearls in a necklace, as earings, in a bracelet a brooch, a ring or tiara, or your own creation, if you seek something truly special, I can help you find it.

If you’d like to discuss your requirements with me, whether you have something precise in mind or you want to see a variety of options, please email me.