Amazing aquamarine

The gem stone for March is aquamarine

There are no prizes for guessing the colour of this month’s gemstone.
March’s gemstone is named after and defined by its colour so if you have a stone that’s not blue, it can’t be aquamarine. Not surprisingly, it has a long association with the sea.

An uncommon gem, created by a common mineral
Aquamarine forms deep inside the earth, and is a variety of beryl, a type of silicate mineral.
But although silicate is one of the largest classes of minerals that make up approximately 90 percent of the earth’s crust, beryl is much rarer. Unlike some minerals, it can form in a variety of rock, including both igneous made from molten lava, and metamorphic, which as the name suggests is rock that has changed from the original by immense pressure and heat over time.

Made from beryl
Beryl is typically found in structures high in granite deposits and combined of interlocking rocks and minerals, called granitic pegmatites that are formed by massive geological pressure over hundreds of thousands of years.

Hot stuff
As magma works its way to the surface or tectonic plates shift, many stones are forced together, with softer stones slowly squeezed and creating large deposits. If there are enough impurities present, eventually these deposits will create beryl gemstones, with those pushed to the surface earlier in the process more likely to contain pure, gem-quality aquamarine crystals. Natural geological processes push these deposits to the surface, where they can be mined.

Aquamarine is an allochromatic gemstone
In its pure form beryl is transparent. But aquamarine is an allochromatic gemstone, which means it’s coloured by natural impurities. Two iron compounds, ferrous and ferric iron gives aquamarine its colour. Ferrous iron provides the gemstone with the trademark blue colour that’s known and loved by gem enthusiast the world over. While ferric iron turns the gem slightly green.

Other allochromatic gemstones you might know and love
Aquamarine isn’t the only allochromatic beryl gemstone that you’ll recognise.
Emerald is a beryl that has been coloured by the presence of chromium, iron and vanadium. Morganite is beryl coloured by manganese. Golden beryl or heliodor is coloured by iron, and the extremely rare red beryl (once known as red emeralds) derives its colour from manganese. Maxine, another blue variety of beryl, owes its colour to natural radiation.

Revered by the earliest civilisations
Aquamarine was first documented in Greece, around 480 to 300 BC, and in ancient times was believed to instil courage into anyone who wore it.  Indians wore the stones in amulets, and the Egyptians carved them into talismans.

Popular in India, Egypt – and with Buddhists too
In India, Buddhists not only revered aquamarine as a stone of the sea. They also believed it represented love and mercy. They thought the stone had the power to renew or strengthen old love. And they began a tradition of giving a new bride an aquamarine stone the morning after her wedding.

And the Egyptians held it in such esteem that they began to import it in quantity from India in the second century BC. Although to them it represented a symbol of happiness and eternal youth.

Named aqua-marine by the Romans
However it was the Romans who gave aquamarine its name, which is derived from the Latin which loosely translates as “seawater”. The early Romans also referred to the stone as the sailor’s gem.

Poseidon and Neptune’s stone
In both Greek and Roman mythology aquamarine was also the sacred jewel of Poseidon and Neptune, their respective gods of fresh and seawater. They believed it had fallen from the treasure chest of a mermaid and had the power to calm stormy waters and protect travellers from peril at sea.

Other Roman tales about the magical properties of the stone included a belief that it could purify water. And enemies could become friends by drinking water together if it was poured from an aquamarine chalice with the subscription of a frog.

As recommended by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD) a Roman author, natural philosopher, creator of the Naturalis Historia encyclopedia and commander of the early Roman Empire was a fan.

He wrote, “The lovely Aquamarine, which seems to have come from some mermaid’s treasure house, in the depths of the summer sea, has charms not to be denied”.

An antidote to poison
In the Middle Ages aquamarine was used as a soothsayer’s tool, and many believed a full moon intensified its power. While a man called William Langland, author of Piers Plowman, an alliterative verse and allegory that popularised complex religious themes into layman’s terms, proclaimed in 1377 that the gem had powers to purify and protect people from poison. His reputation was such at the time, that his theory soon spread across Europe. Whether anyone was successful in its use to recover from a poisoning episode has never been documented.

Popular with nobility, kings and queens
Remember this was in a time when poisoning at the hands of their enemies was not an uncommon fate for royalty and nobility. And amulets of the blue-green jewel became a familiar article worn by noblemen and rulers. However, there are only two crowns of Europe that feature aquamarine: the Crown of Saint Stephen and the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.

The Crown of Saint Stephen
The earliest, the Crown of Saint Stephen is also known as the Holy Crown of Hungary.
This crown was sent to Hungary around 1001 AD by Pope Paul for Stephen 1
st coronation, who was the first king of Hungary and a devout Christian. However at the time, it had no aquamarine jewels – these were only added more than 600 years later in 1608 by King Mattias II of Hungary, who was also Archduke of Austria from 1608 to 1619, King of Croatia and Holy Roman Emperor from 1612 to 1619. A title as impressive as his headwear!

The Crown of Saint Wencelas
The other Royal European headpiece that features an aquamarine stone is the Crown of Saint Wenceslas or Czech Crown. This was commissioned in 1347 for the coronation of Charles IV, the first King of Bohemia to become Holy Roman Emperor. Encrusted with one hundred and sixteen precious jewels, including a single aquamarine mounted into a golden cross, this stunning gold headpiece is the fourth oldest surviving crown in Europe.

To be worn with care -especially if you’re a tyrant
There’s an interesting aside to this crown.
An old Czech legend says that any tyrant who places the property of Wenceslas on his head will die within a year. And jumping forward to the Second World War, Nazi chief of the Gestapo, Reinhard Heydrich, one
the darkest figures within the Nazi regime, whom even Hitler referred to as the man with the iron heart, is rumoured to have tried on the crown.
Whether it’s true or not no one knows, but what is beyond dispute is that in May 1942 he was assassinated by the Czech resistance
.

Featured in all the best collections
Aquamarine gems feature more often in tiaras, necklaces, brooches and earrings in royal collections than crowns. However, few equal the splendour of Queen Elizabeth’s Brazilian aquamarine set of jewels, presented to her in 1953 by the Brazilian president as a coronation gift on behalf of the people of Brazil. She later commissioned an aquamarine tiara to match that the dresser to The Queen described as “majestic in appearance but cool and calming”.

A gift from Brazil
Brazil also honoured First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with a large aquamarine sent from President Vargas of Brazil in 1936. It even had a mention in her memoirs where she wrote the gem serves “a good purpose by symbolising the kindness and generosity of Brazilian feeling toward our country.”

The perennially popular gemstone
Today aquamarines are a popular gemstone that many people use as an alternative to diamonds. Their sparkle and their colour are not dissimilar, but they are more affordable.
What’s more, aquamarine stones don’t increase exponentially in price as they get bigger, so it isn’t hard to find an impressive-sized gem that’s in your budget.

What a whopper!
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to spot anything remotely the size of the biggest ever aquamarine rough found in Brazil back in 1910. It weighed an astonishing 100kg (243 lbs) and when it was broken down into smaller faceted stones for use in jewellery, they weighed over 100,000 carats.

Cut to size
The world’s biggest faceted aquamarine called the ‘Dom Pedro’. Shaped like an obelisk and criss-crossed with diagonal detailing it weighs an extraordinary 10,363 carats and is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

How to spot a good aquamarine gemstone
So what should look for if you’re thinking of buying one of these exquisitely coloured gemstones?

Colour is obviously an essential factor
Typically it should be light blue with a greenish or turquoise colour. Although the darker it is the more valuable. Some aquamarines appear almost colourless in daylight, yet display a beautiful tone under the candlelight or a light bulb, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as an evening gemstone.

Whatever colour the aquamarine it’s preferable if it’s even throughout the gem. If there are different patches of lighter or darker colour within the gem it will diminish its value.

Big stones aren’t rare
Size, or carat weight, doesn’t increase exponentially with aquamarine, because large gems without imperfections are relatively common. In other words, an aquamarine gem that is five times larger than another aquamarine gem, will only cost roughly five times more. In contrast emeralds, another beryl stone, are usually small, so as they increase in size the cost rises dramatically.

Handle with care
Remember too, that aquamarine is less durable than a diamond or a sapphire. With a score of 8 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, compared to 10, it needs protection from knocks and scratches. So, if you’re going to wear it for regular use, make sure it’s well protected.
You’ll also want to consider where the aquamarine is mined, and try to choose ethical, conflict-free gems.

Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in aquamarine, diamonds 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.

Amorous amethysts

February’s gem stone is amethyst

The world’s most popular purple gemstone, it’s been used in personal adornment for over 2,000 years. It’s made of quartz, a hard crystalline mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms, with the purple colour deriving from traces of iron in its structure.

How amethyst is formed
As well as coming in a variety of beautiful different colours, garnets are also one of the more Normally it’s found in fractures and cavities of igneous rocks, made by the solidification of molten rock. As the magma cools, silicon dioxide in water begins to turn to crystals, with the slower the cooling the larger the crystal.

The composition of the water changes over time too, with varying amount of iron incorporated into the surface of the crystal. Radiation emitted by surrounding rocks cause the iron to change the colour of the crystal to purple, in varying degrees of intensity.

The ingredients for amethyst success
Amethysts can also be created in metamorphosed rocks (formed when rocks are subjected to high heat, high pressure, hot mineral-rich fluids or some combination of all these factors) hydrothermal veins, rocks deposited by hot springs and some sedimentary rocks. All that’s needed are the basic ingredients of pockets or cavities for deposits to form, silica-enriched water of around 50-250 °C, ferric iron impurities, and gamma radiation.

Natural radiation helps determine the colour
By the way, don’t be put off by the radiation. Depending on the type of rock, it emits varying amounts of natural gamma radiation with higher levels associated with igneous rocks.

Just wait a few million years. Or more
The quartz can take millions of years to form – typically between 40 to 400 million years.
It’s estimated that a two centimetre crystal will form in ten million years, with the growth rate determined by the conditions of heat and pressure, as well as the availability of silicon nutrients and water. Because of its stability, and resistance to weathering, billion-year-old quartz crystals can look just as recent as Alpine rock crystals formed a mere 10 million years ago.

The cure for alcoholics
The name amethyst comes from the rather unusual Greek word, that means “not intoxicated” – amethystos or amethustos. Alcohol and its consequences presumably played an important part in the life of ancients, and there’s several legends linked to the mineral, wine drinking and sobriety.

Tainted by the God of Wine
According to one, Amethyst was a young virgin who upset the ancient Greek God of wine, Dionysus (or Bacchus in the Roman version) when he became intoxicated with red wine. Fearing the anger of a God, Amethyst cried out to the Goddess of chastity Artemis (or Diana in Roman civilisation) for help, who came somewhat dubiously to her rescue by turning her into stone.  Dionysus seeing what had happened was full of drunken remorse, crying into his goblet which overturned and saturated the white stone, turning it purple.

Me? Drunk? (hic)
Perhaps it’s simply because the rock is a similar colour to red wine that the ancients decided it could help ward off drunkenness. Goblets carved from amethyst were meant to nullify the negative effects of drinking wine, although it’s more likely that the purple crystal was actually giving water the appearance of wine.

It wasn’t only the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed amethysts to have sobering properties. The ancient Egyptians used the stone as the representative of the zodiac sign of the goat – and enemy of vines and vineyards, and hence the antidote of wine.

Keep calm, don’t panic!
Whether it’s a clear head even after a few glasses of wine, the serenity of prayer, or the ability to focus in the face of battle, Amethysts are associated with calmness of mind, purity of spirit and soberness of thought in many different cultures. 

The Christian gemstone
The first mention of amethyst in literature is in the Bible. It’s one of the gemstones present in the High Priest Aaron’s breastplate in the Book of Exodus, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. It’s maintained a place in Christian culture ever since, featuring in the Episcopal rings of Bishops, once again for its supposed properties of sobriety, representing abstinence from alcohol at Pentecost.

Loved by St Valentine
Amethyst’s royal purple colour is also used to symbolize Christ, and Saint Valentine was said to wear a ring set with an antique Amethyst carved with an image of Cupid. The stone is a symbol of Saint Matthias the disciple who, according to the biblical Acts of the Apostles 1:21–26, was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas betrayed Jesus. And the twelfth foundation of the Holy City of Jerusalem was built of amethyst.

Buddha is a fan too
Buddhism is another faith that holds this gem in esteem. Tibetans consider amethyst sacred to the Buddha and Buddhist prayer beads are often carved in amethyst.

A sign of wealth and power
Amethyst’s appeal isn’t just to religious faiths. Its rich purple colour is connected to wealth and power.

Until the development of synthetic fibres, purple was the most expensive colour for clothing, and the dye was created from a species of marine snail. Its use was extremely restricted in ancient times and the amount of purple on a person’s toga was used as an indication of rank. It’s likely that amethyst was similarly worn as a symbol to display a person’s high status.

Cleopatra, Caesar and Mark Antony had a thing for amethyst
Cleopatra famously wore an amethyst ring throughout her relationship Julius Caesar.
Mark Antony is also said to have helped make amethyst gems a popular fashion item among Roman noblewomen.

Popular with royalty
Just like purple dye, amethyst was rare before the 18th century, and one of the most valuable gemstones alongside diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

Perhaps that’s why you’ll find it in many royal collections across the globe.
For example a large cabochon amethyst sits above the Cullinan diamond (incidentally the second largest cut diamond in the world) in the Imperial Sceptre of the British Crown Jewels.

Napoleonic amethysts, passed down from mother to daughter
The British and Swedish royal families boast amethyst suites in their jewellery collections The British pieces were owned originally by the Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria’s mother, and the Swedish pieces are known as ‘Napoleonic amethysts’. These were originally a gift by Empress Josephine to her daughter-in-law Augusta of Bavaria, who in turn gave them to her daughter when she married into the Swedish royal family.

Most precious in the Americas, until Brazilian stones flooded the market
It’s ironic that in the Old World, amethyst was considered one of the Cardinal gems, which meant that it was one of the five gemstones considered more precious than any other until massive deposits were found in Brazil during the early 19th century. Then prices plummeted.

Amethysts were popular among everyday folk as well as royalty
The Victorians loved large, impressive jewellery, and as the price fell with more and more of the semi-precious gems being unearthed, amethysts were the only affordable stone possible to create extravagant suites of jewels. But to a Victorian well-to-do, there was no better way to display one’s wealth and success than with amethysts.

More supply, less demand
The discovery of massive amethyst deposits in Brazil caused the first decline in the price of these beautiful purple stones, but it was a glut of another stone that cause the next decline in popularity.

Diamonds versus amethysts
The discovery of South African diamond mines in 1867 meant that a stone that once only the wealthiest could afford, was now within the price range of many more. Some believe electric lighting may have been a contributory factor in the rise of diamonds and decline of amethyst too, as it made colourful jewellery appear gaudy, and added to the fashion for ‘white’ jewels.

Amethysts take temporary back stage
Fast forward to the 20th century, and De Beer’s advertising slogan accelerates the process, with their famous line “diamonds are forever”. But while diamonds became the symbol for love and marriage, amethyst was no longer in the limelight.

The comeback of a beautiful stone
A retro revival in the mid-20th century created a return to popularity.
But although its fortunes – and its value – have ebbed and waned, there’s always been a strong following and interest in old mine amethysts, with the main attraction the deep and luxurious purple colour.

Big is beautiful
So what else determines the value of amethysts? Unlike diamonds and rubies they don’t increase exponentially in value the larger they are. That’s because unlike those other gemstones, amethyst is normally found as larger crystals, so the size of the raw material doesn’t constrain it. That means one of the most important factors in its price is the skill with which the stone has been cut.  

Turn to the dark side
Colour plays a significant role is determining the value of amethyst too. And the darker the better, with dark purple stones selling between 3 to 5 times more than lighter material. That’s why, for example, amethyst from Uruguay tends to be significantly more expensive that amethyst from Brazil – it’s also significantly darker.

No shade is a shade better
The colour should also ideally be uniform throughout, rather than, as is often the case with amethyst crystal, formed of lighter and darker purple areas.

Clarity needs to be taken into consideration too
You shouldn’t be able to see any inclusions or flaws with your naked eye.  And beware chipping or damage that may have been caused by extraction or preparation of the stone.  

Today amethysts are back in favour
They offer people the opportunity to buy larger and more dramatic stones at a price that won’t break the bank. And although its popularity wanes and ebbs, this stunning and beautiful purple gem will never go permanently out of fashion. 

Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whether you’re interested in amethysts, diamonds 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 cinnamon stone

January’s birthstone is garnet

Do you think of a rich, red gemstone when you think of a garnet? You’re not alone.
Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle the Greek Philosopher wrote “The garnet is a red gem, but not like the ruby, its red is much more like that of a flame
Indeed the name garnet comes from the 14
th century Middle English word “gernet” that means dark red.

But don’t be misled. It’s a misnomer, as garnet is actually a name used for a larger group of minerals that share similar physical properties and crystal form, but have a different chemical composition. And that different chemical mixture means garnets occur in multiple colours, including green, yellow orange, peach, green, purple, brown and pink.

Not rare, but beautiful
As well as coming in a variety of beautiful different colours, garnets are also one of the more numerous gem stones. However that doesn’t distract from their beauty, and people have been attracted and fascinated by them since the dawn of civilisation. Which is why you’ll find examples of garnets throughout human history, in everything from ancient gold rings to modern bijouterie.

Garnets features in folklore throughout the ages
Garnets are considered to be traveller’s stones, and Noah’s Ark is said to have a Garnet lantern to help navigate during the night. The Romans also believed the gem protected travellers, and if it sparkled it meant approaching danger.

The ancient Chinese said red garnet gems represented the soul of a tiger that had been transformed to the stone after death. And Navajo Indians in Utah, USA, believe the gems bring luck and protection to the wearer.

Garnet in ancient civilisations
Garnet has been valued as a beautiful and precious stone from the very beginnings of human civilisation. In Egypt, for example, garnet amulets have been unearthed by archaeologists in the tombs of the pharaohs.

While in ancient Persia, garnets were deemed so precious, that only kings were allowed to own or wear them. The patriarchs of Rome had carved signet rings made from garnet. With red garnets the most commonly used gemstones in the late antique Roman world and after them the “barbarian” peoples who took over the territory of the Western Roman Empire
.

A popular gem stone in the 16th and 17th century too
Because of its widespread availability in later times, it’s also often found set into medieval rings and ornaments. And by the late 16th and 17th century it was used throughout Europe in everything from rings and earrings to pendants, frequently accompanied by colourful, polychrome enamel and gold mounts.

Many of these Renaissance and later garnets were polished into large and irregular-shaped hollow-back shaped and polished gems known as ‘carbuncles’. If you’re interested, today you can see many of these garnets on display at the Museum of London.

Still in great demand today
The affordability and abundance of garnets has meant that they have never fallen out of fashion. And today they are still as popular as they have ever been.

For example, before she got engaged to Prince William, Catherine Middleton often wore a pearl and garnet gold ring. The press frequently speculated whether it was a gift from Prince William.  And a garnet cabochon set into a flower brooch from Jackie Onassis’s estate sold for over $100,000 at auction.

How garnets are formed
Garnet is a dense and hard silicate mineral which occurs in many rock types.
But like many other gems, it’s typically created by immense heat and high pressure within the earth’s crust that, over millions of years, transforms original igneous or sedimentary stone into denser, more compact metamorphic rocks.

Heat and pressure and aeons of time
Most garnet forms where the earth’s plates combine and shale is impacted by regional metamorphism. The heat and pressure of metamorphism breaks chemical bonds and causes minerals to recrystallize into new structures.

It creates gemstones made up of silica and oxygen with an assortment of elements and minerals creating numerous variations.

Many different varieties
These are broken into six different varieties, Almandine, Pyrope, Spessartite, Grossular, Andradite and Uvarovite. These are then divided further into group depending on factors like colours, sources or and blends of type. In other words, there’s a lot of choice of garnet

Hessonite garnet
However we’re going to focus on hessonite garnet, one of the most affordable and popular types. It was highly regarded in the 1960s and 70s, and a recent demand for earth tone jewellery has seen a resurgence in popularity.

The cinnamon stone
It’s also known as the “cinnamon stone” not only because of its colour, but because it originated in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, the land of spices. Typically, it’s a yellow-orange to reddish orange variety of grossular garnet, although it can also be found in other colours like pink and orange.

Softer but not lesser
It’s less transparent than other gemstones of the same colour like topaz and citrine, and it also has a lower manganese content and specific gravity than other varieties of garnet.
Hessonite has a lower density and hardness than other garnets too – indeed the name Hessonite comes from the Greek word ‘hesson’ which means inferior, although in this instance it does not imply that the stone itself is inferior to other garnet, merely that it is formed of softer material.

Look for the swirl
Hessonite is an easy stone to identify, because of a visual effect that resembles disturbed water within the stone. This roiled appearance has also been referred to as a “heat wave” or “swirl” effect with liquid currents. As a detail, they are visible only under the lens, but give the gem an overall treacly glowing character.

Close-up-images reveal swirls that can range from thick and heavy to delicate and barely perceptible.

Hessonite stones, perennially in fashion
Garnets made from hessonite have been popular for hundreds of years.
From the 16th to the 18th century hessonite (known in those days as ‘Jacinth’ or ‘Hyacinth’) was in great demand as a stone for fashioning into cameos or setting into bracelet clasps.
And it’s still as loved today as ever.

Which is why you’ll find celebrities like Cate Blanchett, Jessica Lowndes, Kelly Osbourne, Amy Adams, and Christie Brinkley all wearing hessonite jewellery.

Found all over the world
Today the best-known hessonite deposits are in Sri Lanka but hessonite is also mined in Brazil, India, Canada, Madagascar, Tanzania and the United States.
And hessonite garnet is valued the same way as many other gem stones – by the four Cs.

Hessonite colour
Traces of manganese are responsible for the colour of hessonite garnet can range from deep yellow or golden orange to cinnamon brown. It also often contains tiny honey-coloured inclusions, although these inclusions don’t detract from the value of the stone.
The most sought-after colour is bright golden orange and lighter stones tend to be more brilliant too.

The clarity
Inclusions won’t normally detract from the value of hessonite, but the stone should be transparent or translucent. If the garnet is opaque it will be worth less.

Does it make the cut?
Hessonite garnet should be cut to enhance the stone’s colour.
If it’s not well cut the colour will be too dark and decrease value. The most common shapes are oval and cushion, then pear and emerald.

Carats add to value too
Like all other gemstones, carat weight adds to price too.
Garnet crystals are usually small, from microscopic up to about 6 inches in the case of grossular. Many deposits are small grains of crystals in or on their host rock. A typical garnet crystal is about half an inch to an inch in diameter.

Turn to a traditional jeweller
January’s gemstone is beautiful and affordable, whether it’s in a bracelet, a ring, necklace, pendant or other jewellery.

If you’re interested in hessonite garnet or any other kind of gem or attractive stone, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.

Terrific Trio

December has three gemstones: zircon, tanzanite and turquoise
As well as sharing the same calendar month, these three gemstones are all predominantly recognised for their blue tone.

But there’s little else they have in common.

One was mined and valued by ancient civilisations in both the Middle East and the Americas.

Another is almost as old as the planet itself, and has been known by mankind since the earliest civilisations.

And the last is a relative newcomer at only several hundred million years old, and was only discover by men in 1967.

Let’s look at all of these beautiful gemstones in a little more detail.

Ancient turquoise
Turquoise is one of the oldest gemstones known to man, and one of the first gems to be mined. It’s believed to have been discovered in what was then north east Persia (today Iran, Turkistan and Turkmenistan) around 4,000 BC.

The Iranians initially called the mineral pērōzah which means victory. And used it in their architecture to cover the domes of palaces because of its intense blue colour. For the same reason, they thought it was a symbol of heaven on earth.

A stone for the Ancient World
Since, at least, 3,000 BC (at the time of the First Dynasty), the ancient Egyptians have been mining and using turquoise too.  It adorns the funeral mask of King Tut who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years ago
Many other ancient civilisations have been drawn to its beautiful colours. It was also worn and loved by the rulers of Persia, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and China.

And a stone for the New World
It’s been mined and used in the New World too, long before Columbus landed. Deposits have been found in California and New Mexico that have been mined by Native Americans, using stone tools. The Aztecs and Native Americans wore it as a decorative stone too.
The Apaches thought turquoise could be found at the end of a rainbow, as well as that attaching it to a bow made their aim more accurate

The Pope didn’t like turquoise though
However, despite being introduced into Europe via the Silk Road hundreds of years
previously, turquoise didn’t become popular in the West until the 14th century – probably as a result of the decline of the Roman Catholic Church’s influence which had forbidden the use of turquoise in secular jewellery.

The country named the stone that named the colour
It was when turquoise came into the west via Turkey, that it gained its name, derived from – the French who calling it “pierre turquois” (or Turkish stone). And it’s the only gem stone to have a colour named after it. Turquoise was first used as the name of a colour in English in 1573.

Mix and match
It’s frequently set with other gems or precious metals.

In the Georgian era, turquoise was set together with clusters of rubies and gems in sentimental gold padlocks, hearts and friendship rings. In the Victorian age its popularity soared higher as it became fashionable to mount it in gold. Then in the 20th century, it became known as an Arts and Crafts Jewel, widely used by designer craftsmen like Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co. Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom King Edward VIII gave up his throne, wore a famous amethyst and turquoise necklace made by Cartier.

How turquoise is created
Turquoise forms typically when rain or snow infiltrates the earth’s surface and filters through copper crystals, which then form into veins that later turn into turquoise. It’s a process that normally takes around 30 million years or so, and in arid environments such as Egypt or the southwest United States.

A host stone makes the difference
Turquoise is always formed on another, completely different material, such as limestone or sandstone, called a host rock.
This host rock gives the turquoise values of its own that can either increase or decrease the worth of the stone. It’s also the reason no two turquoise stones are alike, with the host rock leaving an imprint of unique colours and patterns.

Today turquoise is still mined in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Although the world’s largest producer is China.

Hard or soft
Turquoise is an opaque stone that’s found in shades of blue and green. It’s about as hard as glass, varying between 5 to 6 on the Mohs scale. It’s harder the closer it is to the earth’s surface, as it’s had longer to dry. Softer turquoise discovered lower down is like chalk, too soft and porous to be used without further treatment.

How much?
Its value varies enormously, from a few pennies to almost one thousand pound per carat, although the stones typically on sale are around £5 to £10 per carat.

The bigger the better
Because, as with many gemstones, bigger rocks are rarer, the price per carat increases with the size of the stone too. The composition of the stone will affect its price too.

The rarer the better
Generally speaking, the more grainy or powdery it is, the less it’s worth. Cut too, is important, but unusually for a gem stone so is the mine in which it was un-earthed.

Large mines such as those found in China produce a lot of turquoise, but smaller ones, for example those found in Nevada, produce just a handful of nuggets. So small, in fact, that they are called “hat mines” – the amount of turquoise that comes out the earth can only fit in a miner’s hat. But because this turquoise is so rare, it’s more valuable than mass produced turquoise gemstones.

Everyone has a favourite colour
The colour is the most controversial indicator of the stone’s value, because the best colour is subjective and goes in and out of fashion. The ancients said blue, moderns tend to prefer green. That’s why clarity trumps colour – so the colour’s purity and clearness is what to look out for.

Amethyst and turquoise earring

Tanzanite – old as the hills but only discovered recently
Colour brings us neatly onto December’s next gemstone: tanzanite.
Its vivid blue makes it popular with many.

It was formed around 585 million years ago, created by massive plate tectonic activity and intense heat. As pressure mounted, very hard granular rocked called quartzites, were pushed into isolated hills or inselbergs. And the pressure, together with the soaring temperatures caused crystals of tanzanite to grow. The longer the process took, the bigger the crystal.

Only available in one place
Unlike most precious stones that can be found all over the world, tanzanite only comes from one small area. It’s found exclusively in a place called Merelani, in Tanzania, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. And it’s only found here in a very small area, approximately 4.3 miles or 7km long and 1.2 miles or 2 km wide.

A new and different gemstone is discovered
As well as having exceptional geography, only being mined in one tiny part of the world, tanzanite also has a very brief history in comparison to other gemstones.  It was only discovered very recently – in July 1967 to be precise.

Tiffany & Company recognised the potential of the stone. When one of the newly discovered gemstones was taken to New York and shown to Henry Platt, Chairman of Tiffany and Company and grandson of the founder, he immediately fell in love with it.

He described it as “the loveliest blue gemstone discovered in over 2,000 years” and successfully bid to become its main distributor.

Tiffany’s named it
Tanzanite is named after the country it is found in, Tanzania, by the company Tiffany, who had exclusive marketing rights to it, for the first few years after its discovery. It was to rapidly become one of the world’s most popular coloured stones next to Blue Sapphire – some rise to ascendency for such a young gemstone.

Tiffany’s original marketing also had the memorable campaign line that tanzanite could only be found in two places “in Tanzania and in Tiffany’s”.

Rare but affordable
All tanzanite found on the market is natural, as the stone has not yet been successfully synthesized.  It’s all heat treated too, a process that produces a stronger violet-blue colour.

Because this heat treatment is universal, it won’t affect the price of the stone.
Called a “geological phenomenon”, because it can only be found in one small area of just one country, the gem is 1,000 times more rare than diamonds.

Yet its scarcity is not reflected in its price, and it remains one of the more affordable gemstones.

Three in one
It’s one of the only trichroism gemstones , where trichroism is an optical phenomenon in which a substance has three different colours when observed at different angles – in tanzanite’s case alternatively appearing blue, violet or reddish burgundy depending on crystal orientation.

But blue is best
It’s this property that makes the cutting of the stone so important, and much more complicated than for most other gemstones. A skilled cutter will always try to shape the gemstone in a way to accentuate the blue, as vivid-blue is tanzanite’s most sought-after colour.  Tanzanite has such a reputation for the depth and hue of its blue, that even the most stunning sapphires can look pale in comparison.

Size matters
Other factors affecting tanzanite’s value, include its carat weight.
And, like many other gemstones, the price of the stone increasing with how heavy it is.

Large tanzanite gems however are extremely rare, as larger crystals take millions of years longer to grow than less sizeable stones. The size also influences colour, over five carats they tend to be deep blue or violet, and over 100 carats dark black-blue. These latter stones are the rarest tanzanite crystal of all, and consequently most valuable, extremely popular with investors and collectors.

You might also be interested to know, that the largest tanzanite officially listed in the Guinness book of records and the world’s largest rough tanzanite was a 16,839 carat (3.38 kg, or 7.46 lb) stone mined in 2005.

Clearly better
Good clarity is essential if you want a quality coloured gemstone, and tanzanite is no exception.

Inclusions should not be visible to the naked eye, or the stone will decline in value.
The location of the inclusion plays an important part in tanzanite’s clarity grading.  If it’s in a relatively inconspicuous place such as the girdle of the stone, it will affect the stone’s quality less than somewhere more prominent.

Celebs who are feeling blue
Tanzanite’s deep blue hue makes this relatively recent addition to the gemstone family popular amongst celebrities.

Shaun Robinson, Kate Middleton and Penelope Cruz are regularly seen wearing tanzanite for special appearances.

When Beyonce was seen wearing a blue tanzanite, the rumour was that it was a gift from the husband Jay Z to celebrate the birth of her daughter. Sarah Jessica Parker, sported a round tanzanite and diamond pendant paired with a tanzanite ring at the 2013 Tiffany and Co Blue Book collection.

Anne Hathaway wore tanzanite and diamond earrings at an Oscar award ceremony, and Cate Blanchett was seen wearing a tanzanite and diamond necklace in the 2011 Oscars too.

Blue sapphires are not us
Tanzanite looks very similar to blue sapphires in appearance. Indeed, it’s hard to tell them apart, unless you are an expert. However, when you explore deeper the two stones are very different to one another.

The hard facts
And perhaps the main point of difference is their relative hardness.
Sapphires rank 9 on the Mohs scale, which shows a stone’s propensity to scratch.

It’s the third most durable gemstone used in jewellery after diamonds and moissanite. Which is why sapphires are excellent for everyday wear, and so often used in engagement rings.

Tanzanite, in contrast, is much softer, and ranks only 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. That means it’s easily damaged, and can break if hit. So it needs to be put into a secure setting if worn regularly, and carefully looked after.

A beautiful gemstone? Or an investment opportunity?
Price is the other main point of difference.

If all other things are equal, such as carat weight, colour, clarity and cut, sapphire is considerably more expensive than tanzanite.
Which is good news if you want the sapphire look without the high price tag.
Also, although it is impossible to predict how the cost of gemstones will change over time with certainty, consider this.

Hurry while stocks last
At the current rate of mining it’s estimated that the world’s known available supply of tanzanite will be exhausted within 25 or so years.  And when tanzanite has been mined out, who knows how high its price will rise?

So whether you’re buying for yourself, or a friend, tanzanite might not just be a beautiful gemstone, but also an investment opportunity.

Z is for zircon, the third of December’s gemstones
Zircon is the last of the three birthstones for December.

And also the oldest in terms of geology. Many gemstones first began forming hundreds of millions of years ago, but zircon is in a class of its own.

Much, much older than life on earth
Recently in 2014 a piece of zircon that was found in Australia dating back nearly 4.5 billion years, making it only (and we say only!) 1.5 billion years less than the planet itself. It’s formed over time by the weathering of carbonated and other types of rock due to the movement of heated water beneath the surface of the earth. The most likely reason being volcanic magma heating surrounding water.

Zircon features in ancient history too
Zircon has also featured in human history, since the beginning of civilisation. It’s mentioned in the bible under the name of hyacinth or jacinth and a variety of zircon was one of the 12 stones of Israel mentioned in the bible.

Not a diamond, but not man-made either
However, zircon’s image has suffered in recent years, firstly because in its clear form it as used as a cheap substitute for diamonds, and also because of confusion with a man-made diamond substitute, cubic zirconium.

Look what you’ve dredged up!
Zircons are a common constitute of most sands and more easily found in sedimentary deposits, so over 2000 years it was mined from stream gravels that extracted the beautiful gemstone. But now the gem is sourced by dredging.

Not rare, but still a stunner
Because of its ubiquity, zircon tends to be less precious than most other gem stones.
But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

It’s a stunning gem that comes in an array of colours from golden yellow to deep red, green, blue and black. The rarest and one of the most valuable is green, although vivid blue is very popular and commands a similarly higher price.

The 4 Cs are still relevant
Zircon’s price is still determined by the four Cs, colour, clarity, cut and carat and can cost anywhere around $50 to $400 per carat, depending on the quality factors of the stone.

But if you’re thinking of buying a piece bear in mind that large zircon stones are particularly valuable too. That’s because they nearly always naturally occur as small grains in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

And as with all precious stones, if you’re sensible you’ll want an expert to evaluate it to make sure that it’s worth the asking price.

Turn to a traditional jeweller
Whatever type of precious stone or gem you’re interested in, it’s always safer to seek the advice of a traditional jeweller like John Lloyd Morgan for guidance.

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.