Paraíba Tourmalines

24.04.2012 § Leave a comment

Only discovered in 89, Paraíba Tourmalines are stars among gems. Extremely sought after for their unique electric-blue color also referred to as neon blue, Paraíba Tourmalines haven’t stopped fascinating precious gem collectors since their very first appearance in the Batalha Mines of the Paraíba state of Brazil.

A fine Paraíba Tourmaline from Mozambique weighing approximately 7.58 carats

If their common name “Paraíba” tells us their origins, their gemological name “Cuprian Elbaite” Tourmalines reveals the element responsible for their color, namely copper. Today Cuprian Elbaite is mined in Brazil: Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte ; but also in Mozambique and Nigeria. Cuprian Elbaite is found in several different colors depending on the presence of other chemical element. For example, high levels of manganese combined with low levels of copper will create an Intense Purple color. The reverse combination of high levels of copper and low levels of manganese is the reason for this beautiful and fascinating turquoise blue color known only to Paraíbas.

Lumina Earrings by Amsterdam Sauer in 18-kt white gold with Paraiba tourmalines and diamonds.

I find this set of earring by Amsterdam Sauer very beautiful because they show the range of hues in Paraíbas.  A fine Paraíba Tourmaline is referred to as “neon blue”, which means that its color must be deeply saturated with beautiful green-blue hues (the bluer the more valuable) and a strong “neon” glow. The most beautiful specimens of  Paraíba Tourmaline in color clarity and size are still found in the Batalha Mines where they were originally found.

Beware: It has been noted that imitations Paraíbas (non-copper-bearing blue and green tourmalines) are sometimes sold as genuine Paraíba Tourmalines. Also know that Cuprian Elbaite can be heated to reach turquoise blue colors. Therefore, make sure you buy Paraíbas in reputable places and as a general rule if you wish to purchase a gem of greater value, always let it certified in a serious gemological laboratory such as GIA. If the gem already has a certificate, verify its authenticity with the laboratory in question.

Images: Farlang and Amsterdam Sauer

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Trapiche Emeralds

07.12.2011 § 1 Comment

Mysterious and rather unknown, the peculiar beauty of Trapiche Emeralds lies in their accidental and rare occurrence. Only found occasionally in certain emerald mines in Chivor and Gachalá, Columbia, fine quality trapiche emeralds are very valued.

Trapiche emerald with a beautiful hexagonal shape core at its center and a fine yellowish green color.

The Spanish speakers may know this: the name Trapiche is the Spanish word attributed to the wheels used for milling sugarcane (see the picture below). In gemology, “trapiche” designates the appearance of certain gems resembling these wheels. A quality trapiche emerald presents little inclusions, a well formed hexagonal core and a fine yellowish green color typical for this region of Columbia. The most beautiful trapiche emeralds have been known to come from the Gachalá mine.

This unique trapiche appearance is caused by a very unusual interruption of the crystallization during the formation of an emerald, forcing the emerald to crystallize in two stages: the first where the central hexagonal core is formed, and after an interruption causing a crust to cover the crystal faces, the second stage where crystallization continues into a parallel growth of six prism shaped emerald crystals around the initial central crystal.

Ring from the collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A in 1869 by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend

Isn’t it a beautiful gem? Any worthwhile gem collection should have one! I don’t really know any emerald dealer I could recommend for trapiche emeralds but I will definitely be looking for one to set as an E in my acrostic bracelet, no matter how long it will take to find it, so I’ll probably get to write more about it.

Beware not to have trapiche emeralds confused with imitations (usually beryl sliced and polished to be assembled in a trapiche-like manner). Note that corundum (rubies and sapphires) as well as tourmaline can also be trapiche however, because of their trigonal crystal system, their core (if they have one) will have a triangular shape.

Images: Google, V&A Palabraria

Padparadscha Sapphires

27.05.2011 § 3 Comments

Padparadscha Sapphires are without a doubt the most exotic of all Sapphires. Wanted by all precious gem collectors and believed to be even rarer than Burma rubies, the beautiful pink orange colored Padparadscha Sapphires are found only in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Padparadscha Sapphire with particularly excellent color.

The well educated collectors will know this: the name Padparadscha is a Sinhalese word derived from Sanskrit padmaraga. Mostly translated in the terms: lotus flower, morning flower, protection stone for the kings, hidden light beam or hidden lotus. Padparadscha is used to described the very particular pink-orange color of the original lotus flower, see Varma’s painting below:

Hindu godess Lakshmi by the famous Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma

This unique pink-orange Padparadscha color is caused by a very slight amounts of Chromium, Iron and Vanadium inside the atomic structure of the Sapphire. Unlike the beautiful lotus flowers, a Pardparadscha Sapphire is extremely rare. Even though some Sapphire dealers try to pass off a pink or orange sapphire as a padparadscha, a true padparadscha is a harmonious blend of both colors.

Sunset by Harry Winston, Padparadscha and Diamond Necklace: 17 oval and cushion-cut padparadscha sapphires. 92.96 total carats; 71 baguette diamonds, 20.54 total carats; 18k yellow gold and platinum setting.

As you can see in the fabulous Harry Winston Necklace, a Padparadscha Sapphire can be slightly more pink or slightly more orange but spread in a light, an even tone shows throughout the entire stone and both colors are there. What a wonderful gem. I don’t know many natural Padparadscha dealers but I have seen amazing specimens in Idar-Oberstein when I visited Paul Wild, so maybe this will help those interested in adding a Padparadscha to their collection.

Pictures: The Collector ; Cool Magazine ; Harry Winston.

New Year Demantoïds

04.01.2011 § Leave a comment

As you may know, the January Birthstones are Garnets. The Garnets group includes incredibly many species and varieties. The most valued of Garnets are Demantoïds!

The inside of a Demantoïd looks like a magical New Year’s Eve fire work. These are actually called horsetail inclusions and are what influence the price of a Demantoïd. The nicer the inclusions are, the more valuable this gem is. The color of a Demantoïd can vary from yellowish green to intensive green to emerald green. They are usually small sized, the biggest reach 3 carats rarely more, and they are really pretty…

Peridot, Seed Pearl and Demantoïd garnet ring sold at Christie’s on the 18 – 19th of December 2008 in
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

When the very first Demantoïds were discovered, in 1853 in the Ural Mountains along the Bobrovka River, their particular green color and diamond-like luster (which inspired the name) became immediately treasured by gem lovers. Peter Carl Fabergé’s use of Demantoïds in his jewelry made it a particularly popular gem until the revolution.

The Fabergé Sadko Sea Horse brooch with “alexandrites, green demantoid garnets, Paraíba tourmalines, tsavorites, shaded with violet sapphires, yellow and violet diamonds wrapped in white diamond seaweed.

When communism has led Demantoïds just like other gems to be forgotten and mines in Russia were closed, the rest of the world had to start searching elsewhere for the “Ural Pearls”. Today Demantoïds are mined in Namibia, California, Italy, China, Korea among few others.

During my gemological studies in Idar Oberstein, I had the opportunity to visit Lind Granat. Among the hundreds of beautiful Rhodoliths, Pyrops, Almandines… so many species and varieties… I was shown some extremely pretty Demantoïds which made me dreamy for the rest of the day!

In Honor of this Month’s Birthstone: Opals

03.10.2010 § 1 Comment

Roman Senator Nonius, who had in his possession an Opal worth 20,000  Sesterces, represented a growing threat to Marc Anthony’s power in Rome. Marc Anthony accused him of being too rich and ordered the senator  to sell him the gem. Pliny in his writings, is surprised at the attachment Nonius showed for the gem through his choice to go in exilewith it rather than obey Marc-Anthony and getting rid of object of his misfortune.

The queens of gems, as Shakespeare called them, were believed to have many different powers through the ages. Among the funniest: Opals were supposed to help robbers in flight become invisible. Overall, the amazing colors of Opals were a sign of luck and despite all the superstitions, good or bad, Opals have known their apogee in jewelry during the Art Nouveau period.

The Opal group is very wide in varieties and is divided in three categories: Precious Opals, Fire Opals and Common Opals, all characterized by the opalescence and/or play of colors. The most valued opals are generally with red against black hues. For centuries, the best Opals came from Cervenica, Slovakia. This was before the Australian Opals were found. Today Australia accounts for 97% of the world’s Opal production. The worlds most famous Opals were discovered in New South Wales and South Australia. Fire Opals on the other hand are mostly found in Mexico.

Last year I visited an Opal dealer: Emil Weis Opals. In the polishing factory in Idar Oberstein, actually in Kirschweiler not far from Idar, one really felt this atmosphere of exploration and adventure. It was a live dream to see the amazing collection. There were all colors, qualities and sizes, the most amazing necklaces and engraved opals… I often think about all those magnificent Opals.  An Opal could also be a good O  for Charlotte in my acrostic bracelet. hmm…

Pictures: Google Images & http://www.jewellermagazine.com

Beware: Opals have no internal structure or crystallinity: they are amorphous and contain water (3% to 30%) which accounts for the opalescence. With time Opals can loose their water, crack and become less opalescent. Oil and water impregnation can remedy to opalescence loss, however the cracks will remain. Be careful when you handle Opals, they are rather fragile and suffer a lot from heat, pressure, shocks, salt, cosmetics, soap and other detergents.

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