Thursday, June 27, 2013

GEM ♡ LOVE ♡: Morganite!

Morganite is one of the MOST beautiful gemstones---so soft and feminine, and to me would make an ideal engagement ring.  Well, it's sometimes called "the love stone" because of its romantic, blush pink color!   It's a member of the Beryl family that includes my other two favorite gemstones:  Emerald and Aquamarine.   Whereas Emerald can be very included, Morganite is rarely included, so it's a clear and sparkling stone!

Morganite was first discovered in California in the early 20th Century!  It was originally called "pink beryl" but renamed to Morganite in 1911 after J. P. Morgan, an American banker and collector, in honor of his gemological and mineral contributions to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Morgan was an avid collector and a customer of Tiffany's, where much of the country's morganite was sold at that time.

Morganite can also be found in Madagascar, and a few small deposits have been found in Brazil, Russia, Mozambique, Namibia, and Afghanistan.

Morganite is often heat treated to achieve pinker colors, and its natural color is a soft peach color.  Heating removes the yellow or orange hues that are natural to the gem. It can be found in all color ranges (natural and heated) from peach to soft pink to salmon---always soft colors.  It is a 7.5 or 8 on the Mohs scale, so it's a nice, hard stone that is suitable for everyday wear.

The largest faceted morganite is a 598.70-carat cushion-shaped gem from Madagascar that can be found in the British Museum collection.   I've searched everywhere but I can't find a picture of this stone.  Darn!  I'd like to see it!!

Someone has recently bought up a large amount of Morganite and is trying to market it as a very expensive re-branded "Pink Emerald", and they have a 169-ct. faceted stone going for....brace yourself....$2.6 MILLION, touting it as "near flawless".  Well, good luck to them---Morganite is always near flawless, but a stone that large would be rare.  Pink Emerald is pretty much a stupid name, as emerald is synonymous with GREEN---what's next, " Sea Blue Emerald"?  (That would be Aquamarine...) 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BAKING Cubic Zirconia??

*** UPDATE:  See how my experiment worked out---pictures below!!! ***

I just read something I never heard of before----baking CZ jewelry, in a pan in the oven.  Say WHAT?  Apparently, people are taking their CZ rings and other jewelry, cleaning it, and putting it in an oven and baking it for a few hours.  Why?  Because they say this makes their CZ stones look MORE like diamonds.  They turn out "warmer" and "less white" I've read.

This seemed weird to me.  But maybe it's because everyone is so used to seeing diamonds that are NOT colorless (very rare and very expensive) and CZ are colorless, so this makes it look more "real".  A lady bought a gorgeous Tacori canary CZ ring from QVC in a cut I've never seen---a combination of emerald cut and cushion cut (!!!)---and baked that ring (which had to cost a LOT) and she feels it came out better, more diamond-like.  WHAT?  She posted pictures and somehow had two of these rings, one baked and one "raw", and HERE is a link to that QVC forum and her pictures.  Do you see any difference?  Here is one of her "after" pics.  The baked ring is on the bottom.   Here is her picture:



So, does the bottom ring look more like a diamond?  Does the top ring NOT look like a diamond?  If she baked the bottom ring, do the side stones look better?  She is very pleased with the baked ring.  And it is a really beautiful ring, either way!  This makes me want to buy it from QVC myself, but it's probably sold out or no longer available.

MELTING POINTS OF METALS

On various forums where baking jewelry is discussed, a lot of people wondered if the metals in the rings would be affected or melt or anything.  If you were wondering the same thing, I thought I'd post the melting point of various metals, so you can see that 400 degrees F will do nothing to your jewelry--even lead!
    • Sterling Silver     1,763° F
    • Gold                  1,948° F 
    • Rhodium            3,565° F
    • Platinum             3,215° F
    • Brass                 1,710° F
    • Copper              1,984° F
    • Nickel                2,651° F
    • Zinc                    787.2° F
    • Lead                   621.5° F

UPDATE:  My Experiment!
I have several sizes of a couple of different vintage vermeil CZ rings, such as a marquise-cut 9-stone band ring.  I decided to bake a few rings at 400 degrees for an hour or so, let them cool off (another hour or two) and then compare.

RESULTS:  To my SHOCK, the baked rings ALL look better somehow.  Is it my imagination?  Perhaps, but there is a DEFINITE change for the better in the marquise 9-stone band ring.  The stones do look more clear and are less "grey" than the unbaked ring, but that could be because...and this is the shocker...the gold vermeil looks better!  It's brighter, shinier and "more gold" looking!!  Now that is a surprise!!  So I can't be sure if the stones themselves look better in the baked ring, or if it's because the gold vermeil looks brighter.  Here are two pictures:

The baked ring is to the right on top of the unbaked ring on the left.  See how the gold is brighter?

Baked ring is on the bottom, unbaked on top.  The stones are clearer--or just the gold brighter?
I do think the ring that was baked looks a little prettier, brighter, shinier.  I don't have a genuine diamond ring to compare though---so I can't say for sure if a baked ring looks more "diamond like" but the baked rings definitely look beautiful, the stones clearer and warmer!!

I have now heat-treated several rings (about 10 rings!) and EVERY one has turned out looking more beautiful---some with a very subtle stone change, and some with dramatic results.  The CZ stones really do look warmer and clearer somehow, less "cold" stark white, and more like how a diamond or even a moissanite looks.  Since Moissanite is just a lab-created stone as well, but with ridiculous prices, I think the heat-treated CZ are a WAY better option!  Prettier too.







Sunday, June 23, 2013

Moissanite: Scam? Creative Marketing? Gem? or Just Spin?? (Well, 3 out of 4 are correct!)

Which is the real diamond? The CZ? Moissanite?  Find out below!

Moissanite is really being pushed online, including on etsy.  Etsy featured these as "the" choice for diamond-alternative engagement rings recently.   With various "diamond simulants" out there, including colorless white sapphire (which is a precious gemstone) and colorless white topaz, plus CZ which provides the closest "look" of a diamond, I can't understand why etsy would push Moissanite.  Maybe they just don't know what it is, and believe the hype?  Or the falsehoods about it being "natural"?   Maybe they (like a lot of consumers) believe that "expensive equals quality"??  There's no excuse in 2013 to NOT know what a stone like Moissanite is.   You can read about it here!

What IS Moissanite?

Actual Moissanite was a naturally occurring mineral, silicon carbide (SiC). In 1893, Henri Moissan discovered minute silicone carbide crystals in a 50,000-year-old meteor crater in Arizona, and the crystalline substance was named after him. However — there are almost no supplies of this mineral on earth.  In fact, if you gathered ALL the real moissanite, there wouldn't be enough to make a pair of stud earrings.  Moissanite didn't appear in jewelry for another one hundred years when labs were producing this (for industrial purposes).  Today, virtually  all moissanite used in today's jewelry is lab-grown.

But what is silicon carbide (SiC)?  Per Encyclopaedia Britannica:
silicon carbide,  exceedingly hard, synthetically produced crystalline compound of silicon and carbon. Its chemical formula is SiC. Since the late 19th century silicon carbide has been an important material for sandpapers, grinding wheels, and cutting tools. More recently, it has found application in refractory linings and heating elements for industrial furnaces, in wear-resistant parts for pumps and rocket engines, and in semiconducting substrates for light-emitting diodes (LED).
So, is it a gem or not?

Moissanite is a diamond simulant---it looks like a diamond, but isn't. It was cheap to produce and looked enough like diamond to attract customers who wanted diamond but couldn't afford it (or who were fooled because they couldn't tell the difference). It looked enough like diamond to fool even some jewelers.

Nothing about moissanite has changed over the past years.  It is still just a diamond simulant, meaning it looks like a diamond.  Just because a crystal is grown in a lab does not make it a "gem" like other actual gemstones that are lab grown, such as corundum (sapphires and rubies) which MUST be disclosed as lab created.  If you look at the list of recognized gems, Moissanite (just like CZ) is not on the list.   Because something is faceted and pretty, it's not a gem (such as glass or leaded crystal).  But it's the aggressive "creative marketing" that makes a material SEEM like a "gem." Moissanite labs and retailers are reshaping its image from diamond substitute to desirable, affordable "gem."   Charles & Colvard is the source and global distributor of created moissanite.  Colors of Moissanite vary widely and are graded in the I-J-K range on the diamond color grading scale (which are in the yellow range, not colorless).  Here is a link to the  diamond color grading scale.

In the jewelry marketplace, moissanite might be competing with diamond with some consumers, but a trained gemologist would never confuse them. Though visually similar to the casual observer (much like CZ), the gems react differently in various lab tests.

Offering this created stone as a "mineral" or "from meteorites" is false advertising---it's a man-made crystal, grown in a lab, just as CZ is grown in a lab---and not a "gem" at all.

What is its Value?

Moissanite is worth about one-tenth the price of a diamond.  This is according to insurance underwriters and adjusters.

Why Moissanite and Not CZ?

Clever and aggressive "creative" marketing of Moissanite pushes the idea of the "value" associated with this diamond simulant.  It's NOT a gemstone, it's NOT a "created diamond", it's not ANY kind of diamond at all, it doesn't "come from meteorites" but instead comes from a LAB, and the value is only a tenth of a diamond's value.  CZs have greatly improved in quality over the years---they no longer EVER cloud or turn yellow over time, and they do indeed look like a diamond.  CZ is considered to be the closest diamond simulant---meaning it looks the most like a flawless, colorless diamond and NOTHING else comes close.  CZs today are every bit as convincing as Moissanite (or actually are more convincing), and without the heavy marketing campaign, are more affordable alternatives to diamonds.  Both Moissanite and CZ are eco-friendly diamond alternatives, both sparkle and shine like diamonds, both are lab-created stones, and neither are gemstones.

Moissanite ring--from Wikipedia.  Does this look great to anyone?

Why would anyone choose Moissanite?  Especially if you do your homework and are intelligent enough to not be swayed by "creative marketing".

Some people insist that their Moissanite jewelry is "more sparkly" and "more beautiful" than diamonds, or believe their Moissanite stones are much better quality than a cz (or even a diamond!).  Perhaps it's because they (erroneously) equate quality with price.   If that's how anyone feels about their Moissanite jewelry, so be it!  Jewelry is just for fun and to enjoy!!  Just know what you're buying---a simulated diamond, not a gemstone, that is lab created to look like a diamond, and is priced very high in order to "convince" buyers that it's worth more.  It would not be a serious investment piece of jewelry!  It IS definitely eco friendly, since it's not mined but lab grown, so that's always a plus, to me.  However, the price of this man-made stone is WAY over-inflated and not at all worth it, in my opinion (and the opinion of insurance companies).

UPDATE 6/18/13:  I was searching the net trying to find info about "heating cz stones" (that's exactly what I googled), and the second result was THE MOST RIDICULOUS website I've ever seen!!!  It's  a moissanite company and they are obviously VERY concerned with justifying moissanite stones vs. CZ, because an entire page is devoted to making RIDICULOUS claims about CZ!!  SO stupid.  They claim that CZ is "too soft" to wear everyday; that CZ will "absorb water" (???!!!), that CZ "can't stand the heat of getting a ring resized so jewelers will refuse to resize CZ rings" (???!!!) and my favorite, CZ has "an affinity to dirt" like it attracts dirt and you have to clean it several times a day!!!??!!  HAHA, that's just pathetic!  The site goes on and on about "windowing" (like as if CZ has clear spots or something) and how much more "superior" a stone Moissanite is.   And don't EVEN get me started on how they came up with their "percentages" and mathematical computations... !!!

Why is moissanite so worried, if their product is so "fabulous"?  It should sell itself if that were true!  They also have a page that compares moissanite to diamonds, but I don't care enough to even click on that. 

Well, I'm not a CZ dealer, and I don't own stock in CZ creation, and I'm just a consumer, like everyone else.  Except that I happen to have a LOT of experience in the marketing (and advertising) industry and I know "creative marketing" when I see it...I worked at one of the largest marketing firms in the world as a VP and Project Manager, with MANY clients including two of  THE most major jewelry companies in the world---so I know what I am talking about when I laugh at these ridiculous claims.

I am SO turned off by Moissanite's phony claims and aggressive marketing... why would ANYONE buy this lab created fake diamond-wannabe stone, or be foolish enough to pay more than $50-$100 a carat for those stones if you absolutely must have one??  That's ALL their worth, and I'm being generous here.  Go ask a professional insurance underwriter! 

At least CZ isn't trying to pretend it's something that it's not.  Same with Swarovski crystals.  All of these, including Moissanite, are just diamond simulants.  Nothing more.

Oh, and here is the answer to "which is which" at the top:

From Left to Right:  Moissanite, Another Simulant, The $35,000 Diamond, and CZ!



The stone identified as "another simulant" is a very exciting new diamond simulant----a company has taken a lab grown CZ and infused GENUINE diamond crystals onto the outer surface, so it's basically like a CZ encased within a genuine diamond.  It tests as a diamond, jewelers can't tell the difference, it lasts like a diamond, and is really giving De Beers a run for their money!  And judging from De Beers' loss in the $135million class action suit about price manipulation, I would imagine a lot of consumers are looking at other stones for engagement rings, etc.

Aquamarine

Rough and Popular Cuts of Aquamarine
I absolutely love Aquamarine gemstones----faceted, rough crystals, cabochons---they are just the most beautiful, clear gem!  They are a gorgeous ocean-blue color, that range from very pale blue to slightly greenish-blue, like the various oceans around the world.  They are not like Blue Topaz in color, although both are blue, and Aquamarines are considerably more valuable and expensive.  Aquamarines are considered a precious gemstone, like it's counterpart, Emerald.   I've collected Aquamarines since I was 18 years old and saw a big, faceted Aquamarine at the "Hall of Gems" in the Field Museum in Chicago.  My first "real" piece of jewelry was an Aquamarine ring I received as a gift, and my first purchase of jewelry for myself was a pair of Aquamarine earrings set in white gold. 
Faceted Aquamarine

Facts about Aquamarine:

Aquamarine Crystal
  • It is the birthstone for the month of March
  • It is the gemstone for the 19th Wedding Anniversary
  • It is mined at 15,000 feet in the mountains of Pakistan
  • Aquamarine's name comes from the Latin for "seawater"
  • Wearing an Aquamarine is said to enhance happiness in marriage
  • It is a Beryl mineral, like emerald, and can grow in large crystals
  • The largest gem crystal found so far is 19 inches long -- over 242 POUNDS
  • It has a Mohs hardness of 7.5-8.0 which is perfect for daily wear in jewelry
  • Aquamarine can be found in Vietnam, Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique (very blue!), Madagascar, and Brazil as well as Pakistan
  • It grows in beautiful 6-sided crystals
  • Faceted Aquamarine is very transparent with vitreous luster (so it highly sparkles)
  • It is dichroic---highly transparent at some angles, and more blue in others
Assessing the following characteristics determines the value of the Aquamarine:
  • Color: Aquamarine’s preferred color is a moderately strong dark blue to slightly greenish blue
  • Clarity: Most cut gems are eye-clean. Large examples are available without visible inclusions. 
  • Cut: Because aquamarine’s color is light, cutting is important and well-cut gems show brilliance.
  • Carat weight: Aquamarine crystals range from tiny to very large—some even up to 100 lbs! 
  • The Dom Pedro aquamarine obelisk by gem sculptor Bernd Munsteiner is the largest cut aquamarine:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Buying Sapphires from Sellers in Thailand---Risky?

Thailand was always known for their beautiful sapphires and rubies.  Thailand was formerly known as Siam, and Siam rubies were known for their fabulous "pigeon's blood" red color.  Burmese and Siamese rubies are beyond beautiful and are found in the Crown Jewels of the UK and other countries.

Lately, I've seen some "sketchy" stones being sold by sellers in Thailand, who seem to always describe the gemstones' origins as "Africa".  They also describe the stones as being "heat treated".

Now, there are still MANY legitimate gemstone dealers in Thailand.  But these few "bad apples" have really spoiled the barrel, for me anyway, and apparently some other buyers as well.  Someone on ebay wrote about this, and it's very interesting, and it's exactly what I have seen as well.  Basically, this person's experience with 20 sellers in Thailand resulted in receiving 72 stones that were glass, 32 stones that were hydrothermal quartz, and 7 stones that were doublets---all advertised as sapphires or rubies.   And ALL of these sapphires were of "African" origin, they stated.  When this person (a gemologist who is also the CEO of a gem company in the US) confronted the seller(s), they told him, "Oh, we sent you the wrong package!"  WOW, that's bad.

"Gleaming Aquamarine" $12.99, 12.94ct
There is an auction site online that offers jewelry and loose gemstones.  This site is inThailand, and it seems that some of the stones are authentic but some are obviously not---"too good to be true" deals, with "Africa" as the country of origin on almost all of the gemstones.  Some stones are SO obviously fake, such as a "deep blue green amethyst" (no such stone!!) or an 18 carat "blue green aquamarine" for $17.99.

$12.99 for this "Aquamarine"?
I've also noticed that these fake stones are always described with "flowery" adjectives, such as "Ravishing Ruby" and "Scintillating Sapphire" and "Majestic Blue Tanzanite" and so forth.  Apparently, when you read further, "Ravishing" and "Extreme" and "Majestic" etc. are the words to describe the LUSTER!  Yeah.  Here's a picture of an "Extreme Green Aquamarine" (right) weighing in at 12.82 carats  for $12.99.  I'm sure you can SEE this is glass, and you know that Aquamarine isn't green...yikes.  It is of course described as  "African" (ALL of these fakes are all "African"---I wonder why).  Above is a "gleaming aquamarine", nearly 13 carats for $12.99, with vivid deep blue and kelly green.  It looks like one of those glass "ametrines", and certainly looks like glass to me! 



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Turquoise

Turquoise Pebble
Turquoise (my favorite color!) is a semi-precious stone, actually a mineral,  that is so well-known that it has a color named after it!  It is a soft stone, that ranges in color from green to bluish green to greenish blue!  The word "turquoise" is French, meaning "Turkish" because Turkey is where the stone was "found" in the 16th Century, although the stone has been treasured for thousands of years as a holy stone, a bringer of good luck, and a talisman!  Since the First Dynasty (3000 BC) and possibly before that,  turquoise was mined in the Sinai Peninsula and used by the Egyptians.

Turquoise is fragile, with a hardness of 6, which is slightly harder than window glass!  The blue is attributed to the presence of copper and the green is attributable to the presence of iron.  It may be peppered with flecks of iron pyrite (Fool's Gold) or containing dark veins of limonite. Turquoise is primarily found in arid regions and primarily forms in cavities in volcanic rock. 
Persian Turquoise and Topaz Pendant

Persia (now known as Iran) mined Turquoise for several thousand years and is still an important source of very high-quality turquoise.  Domes of Persian palaces were covered with the beautiful blue Persian Turquoise because the intense color symbolized heaven on earth!  I actually have a beautiful authentic Persian turquoise pendant (with blue topaz) in my etsy shop.  You can click on the picture (see right) which will take you to the lovely pendant in my shop.  This is REAL turquoise which I took to Rio Grande Jewelry Supply (a very reputable jewelers' supply company, which is nearby) who verified its authenticity. 


Treated Turquoise

First, it should be noted that turquoise has been treated for thousands of years!  Oiling and waxing turquoise were common in ancient times. to protect the stone and bring out the beautiful blues and greens.

Today, almost ALL of the turquoise on the market has been treated in some way to correct two problems with turquoise: it is soft, and it is porous, which means its susceptible to staining, fracturing, discoloring, crumbling, and fading.  No joke, about 97% (or more) of ALL genuine turquoise is treated in some way---and there is NOTHING wrong with that.  People will say, "Oh, I only buy natural turquoise..." and the thing is, natural turquoise must be treated since the stone is so soft it would crumble or break otherwise, or so porous that it will absorb skin oils and constantly comes in contact with other elements.  In addition, many mines are depleted and very low quality turquoise is left.  What can be done?

Enhanced Turquoise:  Also known as the Zachary or Foutz Method, this involves impregnating the turquoise with vaporized quartz.  This makes the stone harder and enhances the color.  This is difficult to detect because quartz is naturally found in some turquoise.

Stabilized Turquoise:  Stabilization is like a modern-day version of waxing or oiling, using better methods.  Stabilization not only protects the stone, but also reduces the chances of fracturing.  Turquoise might be soaked for an extended period of time in a solution, such as epoxy or plastic or resin.  Newer methods use high pressure systems to impregnate the minute cracks in the turquoise with a hardening solution very quickly.  The turquoise stones are then cut and polished, resulting in a shiny and smooth turquoise gem.  This is a common and practical solution in the turquoise jewelry industry.  Stabilized turquoise is real turquoise that has been treated to harden the stone so it's suitable for jewelry.  Stabilized does NOT necessarily mean dyed!  Over 97% of natural turquoise has been stabilized.  If you want undyed turquoise, you need to ask the seller! 

Wax Treated:  Most turquoise from China is wax treated, but on the surface only.  The paraffin treatment enhances the color.

Color Treatments:  Much of the stabilized turquoise is also dyed which brings it to the "Persian Blue" that everyone wants.  Another type of dying involves enhancing the matrix (the dark veining).  Much dyed turquoise is sold as "natural" in the marketplace, sadly.  Color enhancements should always be divulged to the consumer, but that isn't always done.

Reconstituted Turquoise:  Also known as "stovetop turquoise", this method involves taking powdered low-quality turquoise (smashing it into a powder), mixing it with a binding agent and dyes, pouring it into molds, and drying it.  The result is a block of turquoise which is cut into slabs and sold.  This is different than "block turquoise" (see below).

Block Turquoise (Fake)
Block Turquoise:  completed artificial, total imitation, no turquoise whatsoever (not even powdered turquoise), just simply plastic, fake turquoise which shouldn't even use the name "turquoise" at all.  Block turquoise is used heavily in inlay and heishi products.

Turquoise Doublets:  sometimes, very thin veins of turquoise are found that are too thin to be made into jewelry.  These slender pieces of turquoise are then glued to a base consisting of stone or another material for added strength, then cut, shaped and polished.  Sometimes a thin vein of turquoise can be cut with its host stone serving as the supportive base.  This allows for a beautiful, genuine piece of turquoise to be incorporated into jewelry----as long as the consumer is informed that this is a doublet and not a solid piece of turquoise.

Mosaic "Turquoise" firemountaingems.com
Mosaic Turquoise:  This is becoming popular lately, but what is it?  It is actually pieces of magnesite or chalk turquoise that is dyed and held together with plastics, cut and polished, with a result that looks interesting and colorful.  It's not turquoise at all--just pieces of simulated turquoise, glued together.

Dyed Magnesite 
Dyed Stones and Other Materials:  A lot of naturally occurring stones  look similar to turquoise when they are dyed blue. These include Howlite---a white rock with black or gray markings, and Magnite or Magnesite---a chalky white mineral that forms in rough nodules looking a bit like cauliflower. Other simulations include glass, plastic, faience ceramic and polymer clay.

What is White Turquoise? Purple Turquoise?  Turquoise is always blue-green, green-blue or green.  White turquoise is howlite, or magnesite.  Purple Turquoise is probably sugilite, or dyed howlite.  Turquoise is a stone AND a color for a reason--the color describes the stone, and the stone describes the color.  (Sort of like calling something a "green ruby", or "purple emerald", it makes no sense.)
White dyed magnesite, white quartzite, dyed mother of pearl

There are a couple of mines in Arizona and Nevada that are marketing some white material as "White Buffalo Turquoise".   Actually, they are calling it simply "White Buffalo" because it's really not turquoise, although very small veins of turquoise can be found running through the white rock.  There was some demand in the marketplace for this veined white material, so it is still found, marketed as "white buffalo turquoise" and sellers justify this name because it was "discovered" by "turquoise miners".  Again, this is just "creative marketing". 

As always, consumers need to protect themselves when purchasing turquoise, whether online or in person, by asking specific questions, getting a guarantee in writing, and learning as much about turquoise as possible.

Most of the information I used here in this post comes from a report written by Homer Millford, New Mexico Abandoned Mine Land Bureau.

A website that offers FANTASTIC information about genuine v. fake turquoise can be seen HERE.

UPDATE July 3, 2013:  I was looking for a company called "Thaigems" because I have a ring with that hallmark inside (I can't find that company...) and I found an ebay shop with ALMOST that name.  What a TERRIBLE scam shop that is!!!  Ebay is a MESS, with so many fraudulent sellers, and this seller from Thailand is really bad.  There are tons of phony "rubies" and other gemstones selling for HUNDREDS of dollars and worth only a couple of dollars.  SAD.  But their listings for turquoise are outrageously bad!!  Obvious FAKES (very bad ones) that they claim are authentic turquoise beads and cabochons.  And look at this terrible turquoise pendant for $300:

THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for that!  I love how they carefully hold it with tweezers.  I would laugh, except there might be some poor misguided buyer who thinks that because it's $300, it "must be real"!  Well, it's not---it's possibly dyed magnesite, but probably just a painted piece of plaster or something.  WOW, that's bad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Burmese gems and Paypal (and the US Government!)

Update: June 18:  I'm so very happy to hear that *finally* Paypal has reinstated the account of the lovely buyer of the "Burmese ruby" pendant!  Why on earth paypal had her jumping through hoops to "prove" she was "sorry" that she tried to buy "contraband" is beyond me.  SO RIDICULOUS!!!  (It's NOT illegal to sell vintage Burmese rubies anyway, and it's NOT illegal to call a ruby "Burmese" in color, and it's NOT illegal to sell any Burmese rubies, jade or sapphires that were imported to the USA prior to the 2008 JADE Act.  So the idea that paypal just decides to "ban" the sale of anything Burmese just shows how overreaching their tactics are (like, they can take it upon themselves to decide WHAT is okay to sell or buy).  Well, at least everything is back to normal, and I'm happy that this matter is cleared up for the buyer-----who bought the beautiful ruby skeleton key pendant from me anyway using Etsy's Direct Checkout, and received it yesterday and is very happy with it.    Etsy is fully aware of this, and is fine with it---as is evidenced by the 250 Burmese Rubies on etsy, 160 Burmese Sapphires and 372 Burmese Jade items RIGHT NOW on etsy.

Good luck using paypal to buy any of those things though!

You can read about this entire FIASCO if you wish...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Herkimer "Diamonds"

You know, it just seems like nowadays, with the internet and all, it's SO easy to find out about anything by simply googling it.  Doesn't everyone use google??

Herkimer in rock cavity
That's why I don't understand why people (sellers) try to get away with false claims about gemstones, or over-hyped manmade stones, like moissanite!  I've seen a lot about Herkimer Diamonds lately and it seems there are a lot of consumers who aren't informed... 

What is a Herkimer Diamond?
There are beautiful, naturally produced clear quartz crystals found in Herkimer County, NY that are referred to as "Herkimer Diamonds", hence the Herkimer part of the name.  They are about 500 million years old.  They're called "diamonds" because when they are found, they look like someone faceted them---but they are naturally clear and "faceted" with double termination points, and 18 total facets (six on each point, six around the center).  They do NOT "mimic diamonds in their sparkle and appearance" -- they are nothing like a real diamond, but they are exactly like a clear quart crystal because that is what they are.  They are ALWAYS double terminated quartz crystals with 18 facets.  Their overall shape looks like a "diamond" shape.  Quartz crystals are always hexagonal, but a Herkimer is double-terminated (on both ends) rather than on one end like other quartz.   This double termination is rare because Herkimers grow with little or no contact with the host rock--they form within cavities in the rock, specifically dolomite.  Quartz has a Mohs hardness rating of 7, and Herkimers that I personally had tested also have a Mohs of 7.  I've read online that Herkimers are "harder" than other quartz with a Mohs of 7.5, and perhaps that's true of some of the crystals, but it wasn't true with the verified Herkimers that I had tested (by the professionals at Rio Grande Jewelry).

Although Herkimer County, New York is the location for which these crystals are named, similar double terminated quartz crystals have been found elsewhere, including Arizona, Afghanistan, Norway, Ukraine and China. They have the same appearance but should not be called "Herkimers" when found elsewhere.  (I guess "China Diamond" doesn't quite have the same caché...)

People can go mining for these gems, which is a fun way to spend a day.  Herkimers were sought after by the Mohawk Indians and early settlers and became popular in jewelry around the mid-20th Century.

Are they brighter and clearer than other quartz crystals?  Are they special?
Herkimer Diamonds
Some Herkimers are incredibly clear (just like any quartz crystal).   The really do sparkle!  Many people believe that Herkimer "Diamonds" should rival genuine diamonds, because Herkimers are found already "faceted", whereas diamonds are found in the rough and need skilled cutters to bring out their beauty.   They are beautiful for sure, but are NOT more sparkling than any other type of clear quartz.

Herkimer Diamonds (which are actually Herkimer Quartz) have surged in popularity recently.  Lots of people like they idea of a natural gemstone that is easily mined (no "blood diamonds"!) right here in the U.S.

Afghan "Herkimers"
Unfortunately, with the popularity of this stone, come unscrupulous sellers  offer "Herkimer Diamonds" from Brazil, China, elsewhere in the world.  These are just clear quartz crystals that use the name "Herkimer" as a selling point.   I've seen a LOT of this online, which is very sad.  I guess these sellers figure something like, "Hey, it's the same stone, who cares?"  Worse, I've seen faceted clear quartz---faceted like a gemstone, in brilliant rounds, ovals, princess cuts or pears----sold as "Herkimer Diamonds"!  How ridiculous!! (see below)   The beauty of a Herkimer is its NATURAL shape! Any quartz that is clear and faceted is just that----faceted quartz! 


Someone is even fraudulently selling Herkimers online, describing them as follows:

   "Faceted Herkimer diamonds are conflict-free quartz crystals and possesses a remarkably similar composition to diamonds. Herkimer are known to activate the release of energy blockages, enhance intuition and dreams, and raise energy levels."

But a Herkimer is a clear QUARTZ crystal, a common mineral made of silicon dioxide.  A diamond is pure, crystalized carbon (the hardest mineral on earth).  Their composition is not similar at all.  They are certainly conflict-free, so at least they got that right.

Faceted Quartz, touted as "Herkimer Diamonds"
THE WORST:  online are sellers marketing machine-faceted clear quartz as "Herkimer diamonds".  Even entire websites and youtube videos are devoted to this.  Sellers online will set a faceted clear quartz into a ring setting, and then sell it as a "Herkimer Diamond" and charge a LOT.  This is yet another example of "creative marketing".   What sets a Herkimer apart from other quartz is the fact that it is FOUND "faceted" in its natural state.  The Herkimer quartz itself isn't different in composition than other quartz. 





Consumers really should take a few minutes online and do a little research before purchasing any "faceted broken Herkimer Diamonds" or Herkimers that originate from anywhere other than New York, if you have your heart set on buying a Herkimer.  Any faceted QUARTZ can be colorless and water clear and a beautiful substitute for a diamond!  Adding the Herkimer name to the stone doesn't make it better.  I'd be wary of any such "creative marketing".  Remember, what makes a Herkimer different from all the rest of the quartz is that it is NATURALLY "faceted" and sparkling---courtesy of Mother Nature.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prasiolite: "Green Amethyst"?

Prasiolite:  "Green Amethyst"??
I often see "green amethyst" jewelry (and loose stones) for sale on etsy, and elsewhere on the internet.  It seems popular, and is a little pricey.  I've wondered about the name "green amethyst" though---I mean, do we call citrine "yellow amethyst"?  Or clear quartz, "clear amethyst"?   It seems sort of weird... so I did a little research.

Untreated Amethyst
Since amethyst is, by definition, the violet to purple shade of quartz, there is really no such thing as green amethyst!  Some gemstone varieties are simply defined by their distinctive color, such as emerald, or ruby, or ametrine.

Why do people sell, and buy, something called "green amethyst"? What is it? Where does it come from? Does it have anything to do with amethyst?

What people are selling and buying is actually something known by gemologists as prasiolite. The name comes from the Greek word for "leek-green." Prasiolite is a golden green quartz, somewhat similar in color to peridot, or lemon quartz!

Here's the most interesting thing:  there is no such thing as "natural" or "untreated" prasiolite!  Prasiolite (or green quartz) starts as amethyst, or pale yellow quartz, and is heated until the green color is achieved.  However, not all amethyst or yellow quartz can be heated to produce prasiolite. According to gemological sources, only quartz from the Montezuma deposit in Minas Gerais, Brazil can be heated to produce prasiolite. The quartz is heated to about 500 degrees centigrade to produce the light golden-green color.

Unfortunately, the color is not stable and is known to fade when exposed to strong sunlight!

Synthetic Green Quartz
Some of the "prasiolite" on the market is actually synthetic quartz or glass!  Whenever you see a deep minty green or blue-green stone that is called "green amethyst" it is NOT prasiolite at all!  These stones in the artificial greens are actually synthetics.

Are there any naturally-occurring green quartz stones?

Yes.  There are members of the chalcedony family that are natural, translucent green stones:  chrysoprase and aventurine.  Chrysoprase is a natural stone that varies in color from apple green to deep green.  Aventurine is a natural green stone with glittery mica inside!

So then why is Prasiolite sold as "Green Amethyst"?

Sadly, the answer is perhaps greed, or what I like to call, "creative marketing".    
Since amethyst is the most valuable gem in the quartz family, calling this green heated quartz "amethyst" is just an attempt to "elevate" prasiolite and charge a premium for the stone. I guess that, if it's genuine prasiolite, it began as amethyst and then is heated to achieve the green color, it's not a complete fabrication, but it is a stretch!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rubies! Did you know...??


I love rubies!  Well, who doesn't?  They're so beautiful and the distinctive pink-red color of the stone can be seen from far away, so ruby jewelry is always noticed!

Queen Elizabeth's Burmese Ruby Tiara
A ruby is a "red sapphire".  Sapphires come in every color of the rainbow, but when it's red it's called a ruby!

Rubies are almost always heat treated to enhance the color and vibrancy.  In the jewelry industry, heat treatment is assumed (unless otherwise specified).   The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) accepts this treatment, as it is permanent and will never degrade over time.  It's like a continuation of the natural heating of the stone!  A ruby is heated to improve its clarity and color. At temperatures above 1700 degrees Celsius, the "silk" (rutile needles in the stone) dissolves and improves the color and clarity of the stone.   Jewelers can determine if a ruby has been heat treated by the lack of "silk" in the stone.

And there are other treatments available:
  • Fracture filling (with glass!) to fill in cavities or fractures in the stone (see below);
  • Surface diffusion (applying a coating on the stone to enhance color);
  • Dying the stone
  • Oiling the stone
  • Waxing the stone
Dying, oiling and waxing are not permanent and may require future treatment!

Sellers of treated rubies (whether loose stones or set in jewelry)  should ALWAYS tell the consumer about the treatments/enhancements done to the ruby.  Hiding this information is dishonest, to say the least.

Untreated, natural rubies are VERY rare and very expensive---they can demand prices at over $20,000 a carat!  

Lead Glass Filling:

Glass Fracture-Filled Ruby - $36.72, 1.36 ct
Filling the fractures inside the ruby with lead glass (or a similar material) dramatically improves the transparency of the stone.  This is done in four steps:
  1. The rough stones are pre-polished;
  2. The rough is cleaned with hydrogen fluoride;  
  3. The first heating process during which no fillers are added. The heating process eradicates impurities inside the fractures.
  4. The second heating process in an electrical oven with different chemical additives, including lead glass powder.  The ruby is dipped into oils, then covered with powder, embedded on a tile and placed in the oven where it is heated at around 900 °C (1600 °F) for one hour in an oxidizing atmosphere. The orange colored powder transforms upon heating into a transparent to yellow-colored paste, which fills all fractures. After cooling the color of the paste is fully transparent and dramatically improves the overall transparancy of the ruby.  This process can be repeated three or four times using different additives.
If a color needs to be added, the glass powder can be "enhanced" with copper or other metal oxides as well as elements such as sodium, calcium, potassium etc.

The treatment can easily be determined using a 10x loupe to see bubbles either in the cavities or in the fractures that were filled with glass.

Heated Treated Ruby - 2.1 Carats, $2,588--gemselect.com

A reputable seller will ALWAYS tell a customer if the ruby has been heat treated, fracture-filled, or been given another treatment.




Friday, June 7, 2013

Ametrine...

Ametrine is a name that describes a stone that is both Amethyst and Citrine, or purple and yellow, in one stone.  Obviously, the "Ame" is from Amethyst, and the "trine" is from Citrine. It is a very clear, clean bi-colored quartz stone that occurs naturally---but rarely.  It is formed naturally when quartz (with high iron impuries) is partially exposed to heat while parts remain cool.  In other words, a quartz crystal that is exposed to two extreme temperatures at the same time results in Ametrine.  Currently it can be found in one mine in the world---the Anahi Mine in Bolivia.  Prior to the Anahi find, there was Ametrine found in the Rio Grande de Azul Mine in Brazil, but the Anahi Ametrine is a much higher quality gem.
Genuine 6-ct. Anahi Ametrine

Hydro Quartz (NOT genuine)
Ametrine will display both a beautiful golden yellow and rich purple hues, with both colors complimenting each other nicely.  There are many variations in shades, but Ametrine is always yellow and purple.  Genuine Ametrine would exhibit a "blend" of the color tones, and not a distinct "line" of color (see the picture right) or not in an "ombre" effect (see left).  It can be faceted and cut into many shapes, but a rectangular (like emerald cut or radiant) cut really shows off the stone the best.  A seven-carat stone is considered the ideal size to showcase the clarity and colors of the Ametrine the best---lower than five carats is not recommended.  It is a hard gemstone and works well in jewelry worn on a daily basis.

Hydro Quarts--NOT Ametrine
Lately online, including on etsy, I've seen a number of jewelry items that feature "ametrine" in strange colors, such as orange and blue, blue and green, yellow and green, yellow and clear....and even some very vivid  orange and purple stones.  These are NOT Ametrines!!  Some sellers say these stones are "natural" from "Bolivia".  Some say they have been "irradiated" or treated in some way.  It is possible that it's quartz that has been treated.  It's possible (more likely, probable) that it's created in a lab, or really possibly glass.  Recently I've seen a LOT of new CZ from China and Thailand online---they seem to be working on creating a lot of gemstone simulants in new colors, such as "mystic" CZ (which is being sold as topaz), morganite, aquamarine, tsavorite, even simulated (CZ) rubies that have visible "inclusions" introduced to the crystal growing process.  The result is a fairly convincing stone that unsuspecting buyers are purchasing.  So sad!  As an example, here--direct from Thailand--is a "7.3 carat aquamarine" for only $6.99!  (Hint: it's fake)
Aquamarine? 7.3 carats for $6.99? 


In researching online, I came across this very subject on a forum, which is very interesting to read (especially when the all-caps RANT starts a few posts down:

http://gemaddicts.com/forums/index.php?topic=1505.0

The answers provide a LOT of great information about gemstones and is very educational!  Special thanks to "Shandroid" who was the victim of the crazy ranter, after bravely confronting the fraudulent seller!

**EDIT to add:  I just discovered that Shandroid is an etsy seller, who has GORGEOUS jewelry (love the aquamarines!!) using only genuine gemstones, and here is a link to her store:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShantasticJewelry

It's nice to see such beautiful, natural gemstones that are hand-set by a fabulous artisan!  AND it's so nice to find a very trustworthy seller!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Malachite - Real or Fake?

I love the color green, and Malachite is a mixture of deep, rich greens and bright, Springtime greens.  It's such a beautiful stone.  But what is it really?  Are there really fakes out there?  How can you tell?

Polished Slab of Malachite
I have a fabulous pendant that I'm thinking about putting in my shop.  It's from my Aunt, and actually there are two of these BIG artisan handcrafted pendants, one with Malachite and two colors of Mother of Pearl, and the second one has Malachite and a Biwa pearl, both with unique sterling settings.  I don't know which one I want to keep!  So I was trying to do some research on them, because they don't have any notes or tags with them about their origin, and I hoped I would see something similar.  (I did not!)

But I started reading about how a LOT of Malachite is fake!!  WHAT?  I didn't even know that.  I live in the desert southwest, and there are lots of Native American jewelry pieces with Malachite, so I see it often, but unlike turquoise (I know there are lots of fakes) it never occurred to me that there are fakes passed off as real.  And it's a little difficult to tell real from fake, but here is some info that might help.

First of all:  What is Malachite?

Malachite Stalagtite
Malachite is actually a mineral consisting of copper hydroxyl carbonate.  It forms near limestone, in stalagmites, in fractures, deep underground.  Individual crystals are rare but do occur.  Malachite results from the weathering of copper ores and is often found together with azurite, goethite, and calcite.  Malachite is similar to azurite except for color, and aggregates of the two minerals occur frequently. Malachite is typically associated with copper deposits around limestone, the source of the carbonate.

Large quantities of beautiful malachite have been mined in Russia, but it can be found worldwide in Africa, Morocco,New South Wales, France, and the Southwestern United States (Arizona and New Mexico).

 Are there Fakes?  How can you tell?

Like all popular stones, there are simulated Malachite pieces in the marketplace, especially over the internet.  Sometimes, a jewelry item will be described as "simulated" but sometimes that is in VERY small print, buried in a description somewhere.  Other words that may be used are "Faux", "Imitation", or "Man-Made". Sometimes sellers try to pass off the fakes as real.  And sometimes, a seller is misled or mistaken.  Here are some ways to tell if Malachite is real:
  •  It's cold to the touch.  
  •  It's heavy.
  •  It's hard.
      It is heavier than solid glass or plastic, and feels ‘dense’ and cold when held and touched.  The striped patterns, called "banding", is not uniform in its patterns and colors.   You’ll find circles and thin to thick parts in the patterns, and dark to mid-green hues.
  • Genuine Malachite is often hand-cut and hand-polished.  Beads aren't uniform in size and shape.  You can see the cutting and polishing marks on the Malachite sometimes.
  • Genuine malachite is not cheap!  If you see strands of malachite for a few dollars, it's not real. 
  • If you look closely at real Malachite, you may see tiny crystals visible in the stone.
  • Some genuine Malachite jewelry is treated with wax for higher durability, as it's a soft mineral.
Fake malachite comes in many forms:
Fake Malachite Beads
      There are fake Malachite "trade names" that are giveaways as phony.  These include blue malachite, emerald malachite, siliceous malachite and copper malachite.
      Plastic fake malachite is lightweight and warm to the touch.  It would melt if touched with a hot needle or you can smell the melting plastic.  Glass fake malachite tends is cold to the touch like genuine malachite, but because it’s glass it will warm up in your hand much quicker. Glass malachite is often made into beads. There are polymer clay fakes also, with how-to tutorials online---this really looks more blue and quite fake.  One time, for a guest bedroom, I even faux-painted a wooden desk (just the top) to look like malachite--it really did look like it!  Just with paint!!
Reconstituted Malachite


Re-processed or reconstituted malachite is made from crushed leftovers of the gemstone, mixed with dyes and resins, similar to reconstituted turquoise.  Reprocessed malachite can be identified by its exaggerated, often jagged banded patterns, uniform stripes and unrealistic green hues; it’s also usually feels lighter. Sometimes it's more of a blue-hue.





In what world is this Malachite??
UPDATE 7/15/13:  I just came across the WORST fake Malachite I could ever imagine (see picture)!!!  It's so terrible that it's funny and sad at the same time.  I mean, first of all, there is no such thing as "blue malachite".  And second, this looks like (badly) hand-painted river rocks or clay or something!  It's from China and you can see the listing HERE if you want (Aliexpress). In fact, I just looked at their other products and it's a MESS.  Lots of glass beads that they're calling such things as "Kunzite" (purple and green glass!), "watermelon tourmaline" which is the glass that others call "cherry quartz", cobalt glass that they call "sapphire", etc. etc.  YIKES.




How to take care of your Malachite jewelry:
  • Do not use a steam or ultrasonic cleaner
  • Because Malachite is very soft and easily scratched, I would advise against wearing a malachite ring but instead opt for a pendant or earring, they are less likely to come in contact with hard objects or a heat source.
  • Store it separately from other gemstones. Most likely every other gemstone you own, especially faceted gemstones, are able to scratch your malachite jewelry.
  • Clean it with lukewarm water, a mild soap and, only when needed, a soft brush. Use a soft cloth to dry.
I do have two genuine malachite items in my etsy shop that are GORGEOUS:  a beautiful Etruscan style gold vermeil bangle bracelet, and a fabulous (I mean FABULOUS!) Etruscan style ring with enamel in gold vermeil.  Genuine malachite, guaranteed:


Ring is HERE.



Bracelet is HERE.



UPDATE: I'm sorry but both of those malachite pieces are sold. But I do have some genuine malachite necklaces, so please check my Etsy or Amazon store. Thanks!
 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What are "Mystic" Gemstones and How Are They Made?

Gemstones are beautiful as they are---mined from the earth or made in a lab.  Many, many "natural" gemstones are enhanced by various methods, including heat treatments which makes varieties of Quartz including Amethyst turn to Citrine and Ametrine for example, or which makes all Blue Topaz (from naturally occuring clear white topaz).  Rubies, Sapphires, and Tanzanites are also routinely heat treated to enhance their colors.  This is acceptable in the marketplace and these stones are still considered "natural gemstones" despite being treated.

Lately, a new technology involving coating gemstones such as Topaz and Quartz results in beautiful "Mystic" stones, creating a new "designer" type of gemstone.  There are many color varieties of this "mystic" treatment, including ecstasy topaz, mercury mist topaz, Neptune garden topaz and twilight fire topaz---each with a different type of coloration.  There are also gold or other metallic films, oranges, pinks, opal
...endless choices with new "mystic" treatments coming out all the time.

How is it made?  A thin metallic film (titanium) is applied to the pavillion (the lower portion of the faceted gem) on clear quartz or topaz, so that the ever-changing colors are reflected through the crown (the top) of the gem.  This means that the coating will be basically protected from scratching at the top, which gets the most wear and tear.  Plus, this film is molecularly bonded, making it a part of the stone.

The coated stones are durable and beautiful, displaying a wide array of rainbow colors.  So this method enhances the Quartz or Topaz with a film, rather than heat treatment.

Swarovski's Aurora Borealis Crystals
I've recently seen a lot of CZ (cubic zirconia) which has been treated with the "Mystic" film, which results in gorgeous colors.  This would make a beautiful and very affordable piece of jewelry, and probably with even more fire and brilliance than Mystic Topaz.  Of course, the Aurora Borealis coating on crystals and CZ have been around for some time, and they're really beautiful.  It appears that the Aurora Borealis coating is on the top (crown) of the stones rather than the  pavillion, so they need to be treated more carefully.  It's very interesting to note that the Aurora Borealis coating was created in 1956 when Christian Dior partnered with Swarovski to create the shimmering finish to enhance cut crystal!