Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Are "Precious Metals" In Jewelry?

Today on etsy I saw a listing for a gold plated ring.  The seller said---right at the top of the listing--that this was a "Precious Metal" ring...except it said "24k Gold Plated".  There was no mention of the underlying metal, which could have been anything but was probably brass.

Is this really a "precious metal ring" in any way?

The short answer:  NO

What Are Precious Metals?

A precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economic value.  Precious metals have historically been used in currency (coins) and have a high value.

Precious metals are only Gold, Silver and the Platinum group of metals (such as Palladium and Rhodium).

What Are Precious Metals In Jewelry?

Pure 24k Gold and 99.9% Fine Silver are too soft to be used in jewelry, so other metals are alloyed with the gold or silver to make them hard enough to hold gemstones, hold their shape, and resist scratching and bending.  Karat Gold (10k, 14k, 18k, 22k, 24k) is considered precious in jewelry.  Sterling Silver and Fine Silver are also considered precious metals in jewelry. Platinum, being an extremely rare and expensive metal, is the ultimate precious metal.

What About Metals Plated With 24k Gold?

When base metals, including brass, are plated with gold or rhodium, they are NOT considered "precious metals".  They are simply base metals that have been flashed with a very thin layer of gold.

Often in jewelry, a ring or other piece of jewelry will be described simply as "gold plated" or "rhodium plated".  The underlying metal could be tin, aluminum, brass, copper, nickel, zinc...or could even be plastic.  Coating something with gold, whether it's 24k gold or 14k gold plated, does not make that item "precious".

What About Gold Vermeil?

Vermeil is gold plated Sterling Silver or Fine Silver----all precious metals.  It must have a certain amount of gold (14k or higher) plated on the silver, as mandated by the FTC. So yes, Vermeil is considered "precious".

What About Gold Filled Jewelry?

Gold Filled, or "rolled gold" or "rolled gold plate", is brass or copper that has a thin layer of karat gold that's mechanically bonded or heat-fused to one or both sides of the base metal, then rolled out into sheets to create jewelry.  The thickness of the gold layer can vary, but must be 5% (or 1/20th) of the total weight.  In other words, gold filled jewelry is 95% base metal with 5% karat gold (which itself is a percentage of pure gold), which is a considerably larger amount of gold than found on other plated brass.  This means it will provide the look of gold for a longer time than other gold plated brass pieces. Still, it's not considered a precious metal, since it is 95% brass or copper.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"London Blue Quartz" -- What is it? NOT a Gemstone!

Let me get straight to the point:  The ONLY "London Blue" gemstone is topaz.  That is IT.

I've written about Quartz gemstones before.  Specifically, I've written about the unbridled fraud and misinformation in the jewelry marketplace regarding hydroquartz, or quartz that is sold as "aquamarine quartz", "tanzanite quartz", "Swiss Blue quartz" and other supposed quartz which has familiar sounding gemstone names.

Today I noticed a LOT of so-called "London Blue Quartz" in jewelry.  Please know that there is NO SUCH GEMSTONE as a blue quartz that is crystal clear, no matter what it's called.   There are mystic coated clear quartz stones (aqua aura), but no synthetic (created) blue quartz. 

I've also noticed that most of this "quartz" is sold on Etsy, and some on Ebay.

What Forms of Quartz are Gemstones? 

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth (the first being feldspar).  It's a beautiful crystal clear mineral (known as Rock Crystal or Pure Quartz) that comes in a wide variety of colors which occur due to impurities.  When it's purple, we call it Amethyst; when golden yellow, it's Citrine; milky to nearly transparent pink is called Rose Quartz; deep brown is known as Smoky Quartz; Aventurine is a green semi-translucent stone that resembles jade.  Chalcedony and Agate are forms of Quartz.  In fact, there are more variety names given to Quartz than any other mineral.  There is also Rutilated Quartz (with golden needles or rutiles within the quartz) and Tourmalinated Quartz (with tourmaline rutiles).  There is even a form of cat's eye quartz that is usually greyish with a very week "cat's eye" effect. 

As a gemstone, Quartz is often enhanced.  Prasiolite, or "green amethyst", is produced when heating certain forms of Amethyst.  Amethyst itself is often heat treated to enhance the purple color.  Almost all forms of Citrine are produced by heat-treating amethyst.  Mystic quartz is synthetically colored by irradiating gold.

What About Blue Quartz?

Blue Quartz exists, but is never clear like topaz.  It is called Blue Chalcedony, and is an opaque stone.

What is the "Blue Quartz" that is clear, on Etsy?

It is most likely glass, or fused glass, fused silica, or fused quartz.  None of these is a gemstone, in that they aren't minerals.  Just glass.

Aside from blue Chalcedony (which is a milky stone), there is a very rare form of Blue Quartz called Dumortierite.  Other than that, there is "aqua aura quartz" which is clear quartz that has been irradiated with gold.

How About Hydro Quartz?

Actual Hydro Quartz is a synthetic crystal that is made in labs for the electronics industry.  It's not produced for jewelry.

What about all the Hydro Quartz Sold as Gemstones?

That is GLASS.  The briolettes and so-called "blue quartz gemstones" that you find ALL over Etsy, etc., are nothing more than manufactured GLASS.  They are not gemstones.  They are not quartz.  They are beautiful and sparkling clear manufactured glass stones that are produced all over the world, specifically in China and India, where they are known as "Hydroquartz Glass".  Somehow the word "glass" is dropped when marketing these pieces here in the U.S.  As I wrote in my previous post about this, gemologists and independent labs have analyzed many pieces of  "hydroquartz gems" and all of it turned out to be glass.

What About London Blue Quartz?  Tanzanite Quartz?

None of these are any variety of the gemstone Quartz.  These are glass.  NOT a gemstone.

What About Emerald Quartz? Sapphire Quartz?

This is interesting.  Because the green or blue dye used to color enhance gemstones isn't stable or results in uneven or unstable colors, a different method is used to produce "Emerald Quartz" and "Sapphire Quartz".  Aside from the glass "hydro" versions of this stone, these stones are made by cutting a piece of clear Rock Quartz in half, and then gluing the pieces back together with a thin layer of dyed glue.  So the color you are seeing is actually the tinted GLUE which is sandwiched between two pieces of clear quartz.

What's a Quartz Doublet?

Just like the Emerald Quartz and Sapphire Quartz above, a clear quartz gem is cut in half and then re-assembled with tinted glue.  The result is a beautiful quartz gemstone that looks vibrant and colorful and is only revealed to be a doublet when immersed in water. 

How Do I Know What I'm Buying?

If you are purchasing from an honest seller, whether on Etsy or Ebay or online, just ask.  I purchase my stones directly from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply, which is a jewelers' supply store and VERY reputable and trusted by jewelers all over the world.  If you visit their site (riogrande.com), they describe Emerald Quartz and Sapphire Quartz more clearly and in more detail---and they divulge that it's the colored glue that gives the clear blue or clear green color of quartz.  Rio Grande sells ALL kinds of natural gemstones, synthetic (created) gemstones, and diamond simulants such as CZ and Moissanite.  They do NOT sell any "hydro quartz".  In fact, if you search Rio Grande for "blue quartz", only druzy stones and "doublets" are found.  You can view this at http://www.riogrande.com/Search/blue-quartz

An educated consumer is a good thing!  Buyer beware.  Don't think that because someone has sold a lot of jewelry on Etsy or they charge a lot for a piece of hydroquartz jewelry that it's a gemstone.  Hydroquartz is NOT a gemstone.  If you love the look of a beautiful, crystal-clear blue stone, enjoy wearing it!  But understand that it's not a true gemstone, and has no intrinsic value.   Most of all, remember this:

There is no such thing as a clear (non-milky) type of Blue Quartz!  Aside from the adhesive-tinted doublets, there is NO BLUE QUARTZ that is crystal clear, or called London Blue or Sky Blue or Aquamarine or Tanzanite or Swiss Blue.  Those are manufacturer's names of glass products.  They are taking well-known names of Topaz or Beryl or other gemstones to FOOL consumers into believing they are buying a gemstone.  IT IS NOT.