Tuesday, September 24, 2013

October Birthstone: OPAL

Actually, October has two birthstones:  opal and tourmaline!  Both are so beautiful, but I want to share some info about Opals, one of my favorite gems.  My favorite interesting fact about Opal:  in 2008, NASA discovered Opal on Mars!

What Is Opal?

14k Opal Pendant
Opal is a hydrated amorphous (non-crystal) form of silica (sand or quartz).  "Hydrated" means with water, and Opals are usually 3% to 21% water, with most opals somewhere in the 6-10% range.  It is found in fissures of rock, and 97% of the world's supply comes from Australia---it's national gemstone.

There is "Precious Opal", which is opal (as pictured left) which displays a wide range of colors.  Precious opal ranges from clear through white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black.  These flashes of color are also known as "Opalescense"  or "play of color".  Because of this play of color, Opal was prized in the Middle Ages as a token of good luck, since it looks like it is made of all other gemstones.
Peruvian Opal
Mexican Fire Opal Rough
There is also "Common Opal" which is also referred to as "potch".  It doesn't display flashes of color.  Peruvian Opal, which comes in blues, pink, lavender, which, yellow, and mint, are examples of Common Opal.  Fire Opal is also technically "common opal".  It is an opal without flashes of color, and is orange to deep red, and sometimes yellow-orange.  Fire Opal is NOT a term to use when describing Precious Opal, even though Precious Opal displays colorful "fire".  Fire Opal is only a term used for the orange "common" opal from Mexico and the US.   Sometimes, more transparent Fire Opals are faceted.

Black Opals
Black Opal is a term used for opal that has a dark body color, often black or dark gray. The term is also used for opal that has a dark blue or dark green body color.

The dark body color often makes the fire of black opal more obvious. This contrast of fire color to body color makes black opals very desirable and expensive.

Boulder Opal--In My Etsy Shop!
Boulder Opal is a gemstone showing opal within its surrounding rock matrix. Opal often forms within voids or fractures in its host rock and specimens of boulder opal reveal this aspect of opal's origin. The contrast of color can be striking when a bright flash of opal is seen within a the surrounding rock material. Many people enjoy the natural appearance of boulder opal and find these gemstones to be beautiful, interesting and educational.

Opals can also be "assembled stones", such as Opal Doublets or Opal Triplets.  Whereas most opals are whole stones, some opal rough has very thin but brilliant fire layers. Artisans cut the stone down to the thin fire layer and glue it to a base of obsidian, potch (common opal) or basalt - then cut a finished stone. These two part stones are called "opal doublets".  To protect the soft opal from abrasion and impact facturing, a crystal clear top of quartz, spinel or other transparent material is sometimes glued onto the opal. This produces a three part stone, called an "opal triplet".  These assembled Opals offer beautiful and affordable Opals, that (when a triplet) provides stability to the otherwise fragile gem. 

Opal Mosaic
Recently, "Opal Mosaics" or mosaic Opals can be found in the marketplace.  These assembled gems consist of pieces of precious opal glued to a base (obsidian) and the covered with a "cap".  This is a very affordable assembled Opal, costing a fraction of what a genuine precious opal, or even an opal triplet, would cost.  Perfect for any Opal lover!

Man-Made Opals

Simulated Opal Ring in my EtsyShop
There are man-made simulated opals that have all the look of a real Precious Opal but are very affordable. Some of these simulated opals are spectacular and really hard to tell that they're not genuine opals. They have beautiful fire that moves with the light, in a rainbow of colors. It's very hard to tell if an opal is simulated, so be sure to deal with a reputable seller who will disclose the true nature of the opal!  Generally, simulated opals can have evenly distributed "sparkles" and have a "plastic" feel.

Synthetic Gilson Opal Rough
Some people are claiming to have created "synthetic Opals" or so-called Gilson or Gibson Opals.  This is controversial.  A true "synthetic" or "created" gemstone is a gem that is grown in a lab that has the exact chemical and physical properties as the natural gemstone.  It is, therefore, the gemstone---only created in a lab.  Opals that are created in a lab do NOT possess the same physical properties----they don't have the water content that natural opals have.  These so-called synthetic opals are made in labs in Japan, Russia, and other places I'm sure.   These Gilson Opals are pricey.

OPALITE - Finally, people are STILL trying to sell glass Opalite as "synthetic Opal" or "synthetic Moonstone" or "Opal Moonstone" or "Sea Opal".  Opalite is GLASS.  It is a man-made GLASS bead that may have the word "opal" in "opalite" but that is done only to deceive the unwary.  There is no opal in opalite.  It is just glass.  GLASS.  Not any gemstone.  Opalite glass has a sort of ghostly glow, not fire. These beads are about $3.99 for a strand at Michael's.  This is Opalite:
Opalite on black background - GLASS
Opalite on light background - GLASS

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gemstone ♥Love♥: SPINEL

Colors of Spinel
Spinel is a natural gemstone that has been mistaken for other gems---rubies in particular---for centuries.  It occurs naturally in many colors, and is sometimes called "the great imposter" since it looks like sapphire and black diamonds, tanzanite and other gems.  It can range in colors from bright orange to intense red, vibrant pink, and all shades of purple through violet and even greenish blue.  Spinel is a NATURAL gemstone; however, there are synthetic spinels that are used to imitate other gemstones.  Spinel has a Mohs hardness of 8, which makes it a great choice for jewelry.

Red Spinel:  Not a ruby!

The 14th Century "Black Prince's Ruby" that sits in the Tower of London the Imperial State Crown is actually a red spinel!

Another jewel in the Crown Jewels is the "Timur Ruby" which was thought be a ruby until the 1800s.  It weighs over 350 carats, and is actually a red Spinel.  It has a fabulous history, and the stone itself is inscribed:
This (is) the ruby from among the 25,000 genuine jewels of the King of Kings, the Sultan Sahib Qiran [Timur], which in the year 1153 [1740 AD] from the (collection of) jewels of Hindustan reached this place [Isfahan].
Timur "Ruby" - Red Spinel

Spinel occurs all over the world, but gem-quality spinel is mined in Vietnam, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
Natural Red Spinel Crystals

Black spinel is relatively rare.  They are mined in Sri Lanka, Africa, and Myanmar.  Black Spinel is often used as a substitute for black diamonds.  But black spinel hasn't been marketed to consumers very much---and I have no idea why, except it's just cheaper for companies to keep using onyx.  Black spinel is a gorgeous gemstone. Onyx is a much more fragile stone, and doesn't have the fire and sparkle of spinel.  Spinel is a natural black color---not dyed or even heated.  Black Spinel stones are a TRUE absolute black color, and once faceted and polished, display a lot of fire and brilliance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Is "Yellow Turquoise"? Real Stone or Fraud?? Plus More Info

Chinese "Yellow Turquoise" IS from China, IS NOT Turquoise
I've seen some jewelry lately on etsy and elsewhere online made with "Yellow Turquoise". There are different colors of this yellow material.  Some of it is more of a grey-green color with spots in it. Some is bright "crayon" yellow.  Some is bright green, some dark green.  There are over 30,000 results on etsy when you search for "yellow turquoise".   Sometimes it looks like other stones around (like chalcedony or agate) with strangely mottled colors of greens and yellows and brown, oranges and greys----and looks nothing like turquoise!  Some look like obvious pieces of plastic.  Some are calling it "peach" turquoise.  To me, the real gemstone "turquoise" is the most beautiful gem of all, and so whatever they call this,  it's not the beautiful turquoise color associated with the gemstone.   So, what is it really? Here are some examples of these items being sold as "turquoise":

Dyed Howlite and Gypsum Chunks and Slabs---NOT Turquoise
These four pictures show some of the types of dyed yellow (and red, purple, green--in a rainbow of colors) fake "turquoise" which are possibly dyed plastic, dyed chunks of gypsum and dyed Howlite or Magnesite minerals.  These are sold as nuggets or slabs, sometimes carved into hearts and other shapes.  None of these are turquoise, even though they are often marketed as "natural" turquoise, complete with info where it was mined.

A quick google search of "what is yellow turquoise" took me to several bead sellers, like Fire Mountain Gems, who call it Yellow "Turquoise" Beads  (with  quotes around the word "turquoise"!), which says it's not really turquoise.  They have inexpensive strands of this stone, which they say are "natural".  When you click on the item and read their description, it further describes this material as "a lively blend of quartz and jaspers" or sometimes that it's serpentine with quartz inclusions.  So they're not trying to push this as genuine turquoise, which is good.

Artbeads.com, who describe themselves as "one of the nation's top websites for beads",  has a really enthustastic header about it:
"Yellow turquoise, or Chinese turquoise as it is sometimes called, is sweeping the beading world! Its popularity is beginning to rival the more traditional blue turquoise. Add a splash of intense color to your designs with this beautiful stone. These stones are natural and will vary in color and pattern."
Rivaling blue turquoise?  Well, since it's so cheap and people are marketing this as a color variety of turquoise, that's the plan---to rival the real thing!  It's really too bad that they don't say what it really is---Jasper (which is a quartz stone), NOT any type of turquoise.

But google's first result, right at the top of the search results page, in big, bold black & white says this:

Sometimes referred to as Chinese turquoise or yellow Chinese turquoise. Most likely this stone is a form of jasper. It ranges in color from yellow to lime.

SO.... as anyone and everyone can see, there is no such thing as "yellow turquoise".  It is actually another stone, probably Jasper.  (Or else it's dyed howlite or magnesite or gypsum or some other thing that's NOT turquoise.)   If I can google it and see this in about 2 seconds, why are bead vendors still calling it "turquoise"?  Why are etsy sellers offering jewelry with this yellow "turquoise"?  Especially when----at best---it looks like Jasper, and sometimes looks like slices of dyed plastic.   So what's going on?
Rough Yellow Jasper

Supposed to be Yellow Turquoise Pendants.  Really? 

The answer is:  "Creative marketing" which is just a gentler term for not being forthright or honest, in order to make a sale.

And if confronted, I'd bet some sellers offering this stone would say, "Oh I bought it at (fill in the blank) and they said it was yellow turquoise, so that's what I'm going to say!"  Either they don't care what the stone is, or they knowingly are selling something that's advertised as something else--because that's what they've chosen to do already.  They're not interested in honesty.
Yellow Jasper Bead

Turquoise is a color as well as a semi-precious gemstone.  The stone itself is so historically popular, and has been desired and treasured for thousands of years, that the gemstone's name is the very description of the color.  Turquoise It is NOT yellow.  It is NOT white.  (NO such thing---white or "buffalo" turquoise is howlite, or another mineral or composite stone.)  It is NOT orange or peach or neon-lime or red or purple.   It is an opaque gem that is ONLY blue-green or green-blue, and varying shades of green.  Chemically, turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper---more copper, it's more blue. There is a picture below that shows the various colors, in ranges of blues to greens, of genuine turquoise.

BUYER BEWARE!!!  I'd avoid any seller who is offering this simulated "gemstone" without divulging what it really is (whether jasper, or howlite, etc.)  because they're deceiving you in order to make a quick buck.

Here is a great picture of a genuine piece of turquoise.  Remember:  it's called Turquoise because it's the color TURQUOISE.  This beautiful specimen displays a range of blues and blue-greens:

Genuine Turquoise

I've copied a page from https://www.mindat.org/min-4060.html regarding the chemical structure, etc., of genuine turquoise---including the color variations.  Note that yellow is not included:

And the link above to gemdat.org shows this:

That's a GREAT picture of green turquoise, and a chart showing the range of colors.  None are yellow, or white, or other neon colors, including red or orange,

Here is a picture of the various colors of genuine turquoise:


UPDATE:  4/17/14:  I received a comment from a reader, who directed me to a website, geology.com, insisting that she read that there IS such a stone as yellow turquoise, and it derives its color from the iron in the surrounding rock.   I looked at this website, and they are discussing the value of the beautiful turquoise colored stones, and it actually states:

"...After blue, blue-green stones are preferred, with yellowish green material being less desirable. Departure from a nice blue color is caused by small amounts of iron substituting for aluminum in the turquoise structure. The iron imparts a green tint to the turquoise in proportion to its abundance." 
 There are pictures of the yellowish green turquoise (left, from geology.com), which by no means are "yellow" or are EVER referred to as "yellow turquoise."  This picture shows the turquoise which are greenish or yellowish green turquoise stones----genuine turquoise (but less valuable and less desirable than the "true" turquoise color).

So, as I've said, there is NO such stone as yellow turquoise, which although marketed as yellow turquoise is either jasper or dyed howlite or plastic or gypsum, or some other such thing. 

In particular, be aware that "Chinese yellow turquoise" is actually jasper, not the gemstone turquoise.

==============>  UPDATE: October 12, 2015 and August 2016:  A reader submitted a response, which I thought of publishing just so I could respond, but I decided to delete it since the author's blog would be visible (and her identity) which would be unfair since I don't want to embarrass anyone,  so I'll just address it here.  (And AGAIN, in August of 2016, this same person sent another note to me regarding this fake yellow turquoise, this time in a completely unhinged and irrational tone so I reported and deleted it and won't post any of it----but here's the gist of the first email sent.)
Someone wrote (regarding so-called Yellow Turquoise) (emphasis mine):
"It is a Jasper but it's name really is yellow turquoise. I don't think you can called [sic] it a fraud when so many people know it by that name. I also bet if you ask the jewelers most of them will in fact know that it's a Jasper. This post is based on so little facts and you assumed so much. I think it's time for you to do a little more research."

WOW!!   If you KNOW it's actually Jasper and not really any type of turquoise (a gemstone), and yet you call it Turquoise (because "so many people" do), that is the very definition of fraud!!  And not MY definition-----Per the FTC, any gemstone that is a "simulant" (looks like a gem) or "lab created" (or treated or enhanced, etc.) MUST be identified as such.  This is to protect consumers from fraud.  So even though you believe that "everyone" knows that so-called yellow turquoise is actually Jasper, legally it cannot be called "yellow turquoise" without saying it's a simulant made of Jasper!
THOSE are the government's rules, Kyla---I didn't make them up.   (If you are not aware, the Federal Trade Commission has specific rules and guidelines for the jewelry industry that must be followed.  For starters, read the guidelines here:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0295-gemstones-diamonds-pearls#gemstones)
My post is 100% based on FACTS and research including legal research, so I think I have a lot more knowledge than you have suggested.   But now YOU know what the legal guidelines are regarding gemstone identification.  If you want to argue with that, take it up with the Federal Trade Commission---it's their rules.

I write this blog to be informative to people who may not be aware of certain things, so they're not defrauded and can make educated purchases.  
I think most people understand that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Star Sapphires: Natural or Synthetic?

The Star of India  is a 563.35 carat (112.67 g) Star Sapphire

Genuine Star Corundum (Sapphires and Rubies) are incredibly beautiful and interesting gemstones, and rare and expensive.  Synthetics are very inexpensive to produce and are very common!  How can you tell the difference?  For starters, synthetic stars will be "perfect", with very little or no irregularities and extremely sharp stars.  Natural Star gems are irregular and imperfect, and the stars will be "wavy" and uneven in length and brightness.  But some newer, better quality synthetic Star gems are now on the market---see pictures below!

Blue Star Sapphire displays a three-ray, six-point star.  These star sapphires are cut in a smooth domed cabochon to showcase the effect.  The star is most visible when illuminated with a single light source:, such as a flashlight or bright sunlight, and the star moves across the stone as the light moves. This effect, called asterism, is caused by light reflecting off tiny needle like rutile (called "silk") arranged in three sets of parallel needles that intersect one another at 60 degree angles.

Star Sapphire is usually found in blue colors, but there are also various shades of brown and green that are called Black Star Sapphire. Orange and Yellow Star Sapphires are almost unknown, and very rare.  Color Changing Star Sapphires are even more rare.
From Alibaba--fakes at $.10 a piece

The value of genuine star sapphires is influenced by at least these two things: 1) the intensity and attractiveness of the body color, and  2) the strength and sharpness of the star.  Of course all six legs should be fairly straight and equally prominent. Star sapphires rarely have the combination of a fine translucent or transparent color and a sharply defined star.

There are a LOT of fake Star Sapphires being produced in China and Thailand right now.  The same Etsy seller who sells huge "Kunzite" and "Paraiba Apatite" (what? Paraiba is a tourmaline, not Apatite) for about $100 (and the same glass stone jewelry on ebay for $20)  is now also offering  fake Star Sapphires. Watch out!!

There are synthetics called "Lindy" or "Linde" Star Sapphires and are marked with an "L" on the bottom of the stone, so that's a surefire giveaway that this is a synthetic stone!  Millions of these Lindy stones were manufactured in the mid-20th Century.  But there are also many fakes that aren't marked at all.  So how can you tell? 

  • If the star is too "perfect"  and the color is too blue, it's not genuine.  A natural sapphire's "legs" aren't all identical; some are brighter, longer or straighter than others.
  • Natural Star Sapphires have visible imperfections within the stone.
  • If the bottom of the cabochon is smooth and flat, it's fake.  A natural sapphire will be rough on the bottom, or even have missing "chunks".
  • A fake's star will stay stationary when shining a flashlight on it and moving it in a circle!  A genuine star sapphire's "star" will follow the light source!    This is the easiest test!
  • Best test:  take it to a gemologist who will do a thermal conductivity test.  Or, send the stone to a certified Gemologist and ask for a Gem Identification Report.
It's difficult to tell a genuine Star Sapphire from a synthetic stone online.  It can be very difficult in person!  Only a thermal conductivity test can tell you for sure.  There are some really nice synthetic stones from Thailand right now, but a reputable, honest seller will tell you that the stone is not natural.   I respect that!  There is a seller on ebay from Thailand that has some really, REALLY nice lab created Star Sapphires that are in all colors, including the very rarest color-changing stone.  This seller absolutely says they're lab stones, not natural.  They also say their lab stones have stars that follow the light!  So it's more important now to have the stone examined by a gemologist.  Here is an example of their lab stones:

Lab Created Star Sapphires:  Look Great from the Front, but Flat Backs Are GiveawaysPretty Though!

Here are examples of genuine and phony Star Sapphires.  Here is a genuine Star Sapphire:

You can see imperfections, and the star isn't perfect.
Here is another genuine Star Sapphire, price tag of about $1900---note the "imperfections" in the stone:

Natural Star Sapphire--Not Perfectly Round...

Same Natural Stone from Side

Lindy Star Synthetics:

Original Lindy Star, 1950s--Too Blue, Round, Smooth
Asian Produced Lindy Star--Fake Star, Too Smooth

Saturday, September 7, 2013

SILVER: Sterling? Plated? What the Heck is "Sterling Plated"??!

Sterling Silver - Casting Grain
Silver is a beautiful metal, one of the three precious metals (besides gold and platinum).  In its pure form, it's very soft and therefore doesn't work for jewelry---it would bend easily and stones would fall out of settings, for example.  So it is alloyed with other metals, primarily copper, to give it strength while retaining the beauty of the silver.

I was looking at jade on etsy this morning, as I have a jade necklace I want to list and I have no idea how to price it.  And I saw some things that are really NOT right, and I wanted to let you know!  It involves sterling silver, and plated items:

  • STERLING SILVER - marked 925 or .925 or sometimes "sterling".  This is pure silver that is mixed with an alloy to harden it, so it can be worn as jewelry.  The "925" means it is verified 92.5% pure silver, and 7.5% alloy.  It is almost always alloyed with copper.  Sometimes other metals are used, such as platinum and germanium (Argentium sterling silver) in an attempt to reduce tarnish. Sterling Silver, as a precious metal, is considered fine jewelry.
  • SILVER PLATE - is NOT "sterling silver" in any way, shape or form!  There is NO SUCH THING as "sterling silver plated" or, what I saw today, "925 Sterling Silver Plated"!  That is totally a lie, and used to make buyers think that the item is somehow as nice as actual sterling silver.  There is an ENORMOUS difference between silver plate and sterling silver.  Silver plate is any metal (mystery metals) that is plated with actual silver.  It could be plated nickel, brass, tin, plastic, anything---but it is not in any way related to Sterling Silver.  AVOID SELLERS who claim this, because if you can't trust them to be honest with this small thing, forget trusting them about anything!
    Simple Explanation via ChemWiki
  • Silver plated items are nothing more than any metal that has a VERY thin layer of silver applied via an electroplating process.   It's not "sterling silver" that is electroplated---that is impossible!  Sterling ONLY refers to something that is silver throughout---SOLID----and not any metal that is plated with silver.  Sterling ALWAYS is hallmarked as sterling to assure you that it is, in fact, pure precious sterling silver.  This silver plate is costume jewelry.
  • Silver Tone - this is just any silvery metal, could be lead or tin or anything.  Costume jewelry.
  • VERMEIL - Vermeil is sterling silver with real gold, usually 18k gold,  bonded to the sterling, and the gold layer is quite thick.  It is hallmarked 925 to indicate the underlying sterling silver metal.   It is not electroplated, but layered and bonded to the sterling. Good quality vermeil will last a lifetime, meaning the gold will not wear off.   You will usually pay a little more for vermeil than plain sterling because of the gold content, but you know you are getting real sterling, and not a thin, gold plated mystery metal item.  Vermeil jewelry is good quality fine jewelry and worth looking at for investment. In order to qualify as Vermeil, it has to have a minimum of 2.5 microns of  at least 10k gold.  Normal gold (or silver) plating has far less gold, at .175 microns.

Just to mention: Sterling Silver is always ALWAYS 92.5% pure silver.  It doesn't matter if you buy something from Tiffany's or something from Target, if it is marked "925" it is Sterling Silver---the SAME no matter where you get it.  The actual silver (the metal itself) from Tiffany's is not "better" or any different than from anywhere else!  Just something to keep in mind when shopping.

And please remember:  ALL STERLING SILVER WILL TARNISH.  It doesn't matter if it cost a fortune or not, is old or new, from Europe or Thailand, if it is sterling silver, it WILL tarnish!  Rhodium is applied to sterling to HELP PREVENT tarnishing, but it doesn't stop it.  So whenever you see claims that this item "will never tarnish" because of blah blah blah, that is FALSE.  It will tarnish!  It just depends on external factors, such as the environment, the air, air pollution, chemicals it touches, even a person's body chemistry which also changes from day to day.  BUT it's very easy to clean (just swipe with a silver polishing cloth, and polish with the polishing side to also HELP prevent future tarnishing) and it's like brand new!  EASY. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

What's the Difference Between Topaz and Quartz?

Topaz and Quartz are both common minerals, and both are used in jewelry.  They both come in a variety of colors, and both are beautiful.  But what's the difference between these two minerals?

First off, Topaz is harder than Quartz.  Topaz has a Mohs hardness rating of 8, and Quartz is a 7.  There are a variety of colors of quartz, known by their common gemstone names, as follows:

  • Rock Crystal - or clear crystal quartz; can have inclusions, such as rutile or tourmaline; the most common type of quartz
  • Smoky Quartz - dark brown to grey to black; frequently included with rutile needles
  • Amethyst - purple, deep to light, violet; the most valuable of all quartz gems.
  • Ametrine - contains both amethyst (purple) and citrine (golden yellow)
  • Citrine - light yellow to deep golden brown; most citrine is heated amethyst.  If heated, has a reddish tint.
  • Lemon Quartz - sparkling golden "margarita" color, natural.  One of the very few genuine "fruity" quartz stones.
  • Prasiolite - leek green; NOT natural, always heated amethyst or light yellow quartz
  • Rose Quartz - light pink to strong pink; cloudy
  • Aventurine - green; red-brown; golden-brown; sparkling inclusions. Green often sold as "jade"
  • Blue Quartz - turbid (cloudy) blue; never clear.  Caused by crocidolite fibers
  • Tigers Eye - brown with gold "ray of light" on surface
  • Hawk's Eye, Cat's Eye - White, gray, green, yellow, brown Cat's Eye; blue-grey to blue-green in Hawk's Eye; like Tiger's Eye, caused by reflection of light by parallel fibers, needles, or channels.
  • Chalcedony - translucent quartz in blue,white, grey; bloodstone (dark green with red spots)
  • Agate - many colors included banded, onyx
  • Carnelian - red to orange to brown translucent stone
  • Chrysoprase - rich green, very often used to misrepresent jade
  • Chrysocolla Chalcedony, marketed as "Gem Silica":  relatively rare, blue to blue-green, opaque to near transparent material; the most expensive type of chalcedony.
Topaz is found in a variety of transparent to translucent colors: clear (colorless), white, pale blue, light green, yellow, yellowish brown, pink, or red.  It is a very hard stone which makes it wonderful for all types of jewelry.  Blue topaz is always irradiated to achieve the beautiful Swiss, Sky, and London Blue colors that are coveted.

I read a handy tip to tell if a stone is Topaz or not:

  • Clean the stone and dry it.
  • Using a rod or something small, place a drop of water on the surface of the stone.
  • If it's Topaz, or a stone that is harder than an 8 on the Mohs scale, the drop will just sit there.
  • If it's Quartz, or anything softer than an 8, the drop of water will disperse over the stone.
  • The harder the stone, the more rounded the drop of water!

Smoky Quartz
Generally, a topaz gemstone is more valuable than quartz.  An example of this is Smoky Quartz---many times, a seller will call it Smoky Topaz, but it is not.  There is no such gemstone as "Smoky Topaz".  It's actually a dark brown variety of Quartz!

So-Called "Tanzanite Blue Quartz"
Another example is Blue Topaz v. Blue Quartz.  Blue Topaz is much more valuable, clear and beautiful.  It is one of the most popular colored gemstones in the marketplace.  It has a striking luster and a range of beautiful blues that rival the very expensive Aquamarine.  But Blue Topaz is not a naturally-occurring gemstone.  The process used to achieve the deep blues is controversial (I've written about this previously) because it involves radioactivity.  However, recent testing reveals that Blue Topaz gemstones are perfectly safe to handle.

Blue Quartz with Tourmaline
Blue Quartz is quartz that contains blue minerals such as tourmaline, is blue because of the "Rayleigh scattering effect" caused by tiny inclusions, or a coarse grained, massive, macrocrystalline form of blue quartz similar to aventurine quartz that is also colored by embedded blue minerals, like dumortierite.

Blue Quartz varies in color from grey to deep blue, like navy blue.  Natural blue quartz is always colored by inclusions of other minerals.  Here (above right) is a picture of a double terminated quartz from Brazil.  It is deeply colored blue by inclusions of fine needles of indigolite, a blue tourmaline. From the Jenipapo Mine, Itanga, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Chalcedony is a natural blue quartz.  Chalcedony blue quartz is milky, cloudy, not crystal clear.  

But what is the crystal clear "Blue Quartz" that is found in strands of faceted briolettes, or all kinds of jewelry?  Sometimes sellers call it "London Blue Quartz" or "Sky Blue Quartz" which are actually names of TOPAZ gemstones, not quartz.  Another example of "creative marketing" on the part of sellers, or vendors who supply sellers.  Actually, these are not gemstones at all----these are glass, sometimes called "Fused quartz".  The rough can be purchased with names such as "Blue Sapphire", "Cornflower Blue", "Electric Blue Topaz", "Cobalt", and more.  These can be seen HERE.  These have a Mohs rating of about 5 to 6.5, the same as window glass.

Hydrothermal quartz is synthetic quartz that is grown in a lab.  According to syntheticgems.org it has a Mohs rating of 7.  I have contacted some manufacturers of hydrothermal quartz, and I haven't found anyone who makes this for jewelry---it is strictly for industrial applications (grown for quartz watches, electronics, etc.).  So I'm not sure if I quite believe that so-called "hydrothermal quartz" exists in the jewelry world because I haven't found any proof of that.  I do know that "hydroquartz" is absolutely GLASS though, just like "fused Quartz" as I mentioned already.

"Mystic" Blue Quartz
Sometimes, clear "rock" quartz is coated with a blue "mystic" film to give it a blue tint with rainbow colors.  This is also not really "blue quartz" and the mystic coating will scratch off.  This is found often on etsy, and to me it looks weird up close---like the color has rubbed off on the facets or something.  It almost always looks like this.  And this picture is for a strand of new mystic quartz briolettes----imagine what they look like after wearing awhile!

Personally, I wouldn't buy any sort of "blue quartz" that is crystal clear.  I assume that it is glass.  I have no reason to think otherwise.  In the picture of the "Tanzanite Quartz" above, you can see tiny bubbles---a sure sign of glass.  One of the largest (if not THE largest) supplier of this "hydro blue quartz" is Alibaba in China, and we all know that they sell a lot of fakes and glass gems.  If I want a beautiful blue gem, I will buy Topaz or my favorite, Aquamarine.  These are real for sure!  And they have a value! 

So, buyer beware! 

Steampunk Engraved Keys

Incredible Key by Steamgadget!
I was reading the Breaking Bad subreddit this morning and clicked on an image link... and another picture caught my eye, which led me to this most AMAZING engraved key I've ever seen!  I don't know this etsy seller (steamgadget), and I hope he's okay with me posting his image of his work of ART, but I just had to say this.  This engraving work he does (by hand!  with chisels!!) on regular brass keys is breathtaking! AND the key is still fully functional!  He even shows the process to achieve this beautiful key.  It's amazing to scroll down and see that!

HERE is his etsy shop.  (He says more will be added---I hope so!)

HERE are some of his works on imgur. 

I love some Steampunk pieces and I'm not a fan of others (no more goggles or gas masks please!!).   But I've never seen anything quite like this hand-engraved key by steamgadget -- it's so fantastic!  The handmade (and engraved) bail is sterling silver, as are the two plaques on the sides of this particular key.  He hand-fabricated that rose in the center of the cross out of sterling as well. 

On imgur he shows another key with sterling silver on one side, like a swirling wave, that I covet!  Steamgadget, you are a true artist!  Bravo! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Herkimer Diamond Rings...a Reminder

Just a reminder to anyone who might be considering buying a "Herkimer Diamond" ring or ring set on etsy:

A "Herkimer Diamond" isn't a diamond at all.    It's just a quartz crystal, like any other quartz crystal except that it has "natural facets"----double points on the ends and 6 natural facets on each point and in the center section, so 18 total.  It never varies from that---always 18 facets, double terminated quartz crystal.  The fact that this is a NATURAL clear crystal that looks like it's faceted is why it was called a "diamond".  It does NOT "mimic diamonds in their sparkle and appearance"--- they were called "diamonds" because they are found faceted, as if they were faceted by hand.  They do not "sparkle" like a diamond---they sparkle like a piece of quartz, which is what it is.  The name "Herkimer Diamond"  is a misnomer.  It's NOT a diamond.  It is just a clear Quartz crystal.   They are VERY old crystals---formed about 500 MILLION years ago.   Herkimers always look like this:

Herkimer "Diamond" Quartz
Herkimer Quartz

Sometimes there are bubbles or inclusions inside, although usually they are crystal clear.  Here is another example of a Herkimer, but with inclusions inside (note the natural facets) ------------------->>>>

Here is a quote about the history of the crystals, courtesy of ericaweiner.com:

"Despite their diamond misnomer, Herkimers are are actually six-sided, double-terminated quartz crystals and are relatively valueless.  Nevertheless, unscrupulous jewelers during the Civil War often tried to pass off these stones as the more precious variety."
So this fraud is nothing new!

NOT a Herkimer!! 
There are some etsy sellers and others online who have placed the actual Herkimer crystal, unaltered, into a setting.  That's GREAT!  That is a true "eco friendly" ring.  And obviously the setting is hand-made to custom-fit the Herkimer Quartz.  I'm ALL for that!

A REAL Herkimer Quartz in Custom Setting---courtesy herkimerdiamondquartz.com, $59

HOWEVER,  I've seen an online seller (more than one) who is selling generic faceted stones (round, oval, pear, square, etc.)  that look just like CZ set into sterling silver settings, like I've seen many times all over the internet.  They are claiming these machine-faceted stones are "Herkimer Diamonds"!  NOT!!!!!
NOT a Herkimer!  Just Quartz maybe.

Fellow Etsians, please know this:  a human-faceted stone set into a ring is probably  NOT a Herkimer.  If it is not a CZ then it would be just a faceted clear quartz, if indeed it is quartz.  It could be glass...!

It doesn't matter what someone says on etsy or elsewhere:  if someone claims to "own the mine" where the stones are discovered; if someone claims to "set or facet the stones themselves"  or WHATEVER they are saying, why would you blindly believe that?  Especially if they are not being truthful when they are obviously selling some other stone (or crystal, glass, CZ, who knows what it is) that is faceted and saying it's a "Herkimer Diamond" when we ALL know that:
  1. A Herkimer Diamond is NOT a diamond.
  2. A Herkimer Diamond should be called what it is, a Herkimer Quartz crystal
  3. Herkimers are NOT faceted by anyone other than nature. 
  4. The beauty of a Herkimer is that natural "faceting" and double points, as seen above.
  5. Anything that is faceted into an oval or pear or round brilliant can be anything!  It is most likely something else, such as CZ, or just plain clear quartz perhaps.
  6. Herkimers are not rare.  They are found in great abundance and anyone can go "mining" for them; i.e., splitting open a rock. No actual "mining" involved. 
  7. These quartz stones would be appreciated for their natural beauty---NEVER altered or cut.
  8. Herkimers are always "faceted" by Mother Nature, 18 facets, double terminated. ALWAYS.
  9. Most of all, there is nothing particularly special about a Herkimer----it doesn't sparkle more than any other clear quartz.  Some sources say they're slightly harder (Mohs 7.5) than other Quartz (Mohs 7) but the ones I had tested are Mohs 7.
Herkimers in Dolostone
Etsy sellers are asking premium prices for their supposed "Herkimer Diamond" rings that they "faceted" into generic gemstone shapes and "set into ring settings" and the sad fact is this:  you, the buyer, are getting "taken."  But don't just take my word for it.  Do your homework!  Find out what a Herkimer Diamond actually is!!  Google is your friend.  Educate yourselves.  It's AWFUL to read the etsy seller's hundreds upon hundreds of feedback comments when I know the buyers have no clue what they received!  Is ignorance really bliss?  I don't think so.  A seller is profiting off the ignorance of people, and it's not right.