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Stowe 802-253-3033

October - December 2023

From Our Gemologist


The first question we ask ourselves is why? Why have humans throughout millennia coveted diamonds and gemstones. Rarity. Beauty. They come from the earth – they mesmerize us.


You may not realize what the first thing that draws you to a gemstone is… but, the very first impression a gemstone makes on you is its color. How does the color affect you? Color is THE most important aspect of a gemstone. It is the lure.


So, in this vast and wondrous world of gems … We cherish the big three first and foremost; there is nothing more alluring than a Burmese Ruby, Kashmir Sapphire, or Colombian emerald. These are the most compelling triumvirate – and are Red, Green and Blue – the primary colors. They are the most valuable gems on earth.


We also appreciate the rich and varied hues of garnet, the dreamy,  watery blue of aquamarine, the depth of tourmaline… there are color tones within these stones that speak to each of us differently.


Gemologist's Picks

Opal: October Birthstone and 14th Wedding Anniversary; 5-6.5 on Moh’s scale of hardenss

The defining feature of black opal is its primary hue. It is either black or dark blue, or grey, it must have a dark primary color. The next feature to consider is the stone’s “Play-of-Color” which refers to the shifting rainbow colors as you rotate the stone.  A fiery, bright red is the most prized color when dominant but all of the colors should be considered in their pattern and brightness.

Lightning Ridge in New South Wales is the most esteemed location of origin for black opal. Secondary sources include Ethiopia, Mexico and Brazil with smaller deposits found in Madagascar.

Like a rainbow that appears after a rainfall, play-of-color is a result of torrential downpours in a desert-like environment. Water runs down through the earth and takes silica from sandstone and runs into the cracks and fissures of the earth and when it dries it leaves silicate microns which
create the color spheres.

The name opal is believed to have originated in India and was called ‘Upala’ meaning precious stone.

It has been said that wearing opals if it is not your birthstone is bad luck. This is absolutely false and the source of this lore came from an unfortunate demise of a main character in the novel by Sir Walter Scott called Anne of Geierstein written in Victorian times.

Opal rates 5-6.5 on the Moh’s scale so it is best to store opal jewelry by itself as it can be easily scratched by most other gemstones.

Tourmaline: October birthstone and 8th wedding anniversary, 7 to 7.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness

Tourmaline is a Sinhalese word meaning stone with mixed color - it is pleochroic, meaning it can show more than one color. It appeals to everyone as it exists in many hues and varying levels of saturation. Before it was identified as a gemstone, it was often confused with both ruby and emerald as the color saturation of tourmalines can be as vivid and similar to those gems, and it was even called Brazilian emerald at one time.  Tourmaline was not identified until the 1800’s when the mineral composition was determined.

Bi-color and tri-color stones are very popular and show off tourmaline’s color range, mostly pink and green. Watermelon tourmaline is green on the inside and pinkish-red on the outside and is often cut in slices to highlight this feature. 

Paraiba is a highly valued tourmaline because of its extraordinary color. It was found primarily in Paraiba, Brazil. It is an especially valuable stone (it can cost more than equivalent sized diamonds) that has an exceptional greenish-blue or violet-blue– much like the Caribbean Sea.  Chrome tourmaline is a deep, intense green that shows beautifully in jewelry.

Tourmaline is primarily found and mined in Brazil, but is also mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique. In the US, fine examples of tourmaline can be found in pegmatites in Maine and California.

Spinel:  August Birthstone; 8 on the Moh’s scale of hardness

Spinel occurs in many beautiful colors including orange, to intense red, vibrant pink and all shades of purple, blue and violet.  It shares the same crystal structure as diamond and garnet and is often well-formed when it is mined.

In ancient times large size rubies were mined in Southeast Asia and could be traded in spoils of war.  The Black Prince received a large spinel as a medal in war and it eventually made its way into the Imperial Crown and is on display in the Tower of London. When royal courts were designing jewels they often used spinel believing it was ruby. When later gem analysis was completed, it was found that many of the so-thought Rubies were actually Spinel.  They share the quality of exceptional color.

Under-appreciated until recently, Spinel is gaining in popularity as its attributes are much like Ruby, it is durable, beautiful and has intense color, is more affordable and is more readily available in larger sizes.

Zircon: December birthstone; 6 to 7.5 on Moh’s Scale of Hardness

Zircon is a beautiful, natural gem that is found in many colors and is actually the oldest identified gem on earth at 4.4 billion years. It can be heat-treated to become colorless or blue, but in nature it mostly has tones of yellow, strong greens, bright red and earthy brown. Zircon can be a misunderstood stone because consumers mistake it with Cubic Zirconia which is a diamond simulant.

Zircon is known for its fire, especially colorless zircon as it shows even more fire than a diamond does. You can see it in other color stones as well, though it can be masked in darker hues.

Blue Zircon is found in many estate pieces from the Victorian times as it was often used in English jewelry in the 1880’s. George Kunz, Tiffany’s gem buyer in the last century, strongly admired Zircon and tried to promote it by giving it the name ‘Starlite’ in recognition of the
stone’s brilliance.

It is primarily mined in Australia and Sri Lanka and to a lesser degree Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia.

It is a great gem for jewelry, but its facet junctions can abrade so it is best to take care while playing sports.

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