Monday, October 17, 2016

Coins (Currency) Used in Jewelry: Illegal to Stamp/Deface?

Ring made from 1912 U.S. Half Dollar
I just saw someone ask a question on Etsy's forum about stamping words or letters onto U.S. pennies. She said her father told her it was illegal to deface coins, so she asked others if they knew if it was in fact illegal.  So there were several answers, and several opinions: some think it's "illegal", some think it's fine, and someone actually told her to check with a judge!?  But some had the right idea:  check with the U.S. Mint website!
Here's what it says:
1. Is it illegal to damage or deface coins?

Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States. This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent. 

So what this is saying is that it's illegal to alter coins for the intention of defrauding someone; for example, making a quarter look like a dollar, or changing the date on an old coin to one that is more rare and valuable.  And there are no sanctions against coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage.

So, smashing a penny in a machine at Disneyland is perfectly legal.  Altering a quarter or silver dollar so it forms a ring (as pictured above) that you can wear is perfectly legal.  Stamping words or letters on a coin is also perfectly legal.

In fact, stamping words onto coins was commonly used for free advertising in the 1800's!  

What Are Counterstamped Coins?

This is an interesting bit of  "forgotten history":  in the 19th Century, as a form of free advertising, people would stamp slogans, names, products, etc. onto coins.  About 5% of all coins by 1850 were stamped.  All denominations were stamped, including some gold coins.   Here are a couple of examples:

Pears Soap advertisement stamped onto a French franc
U.S. Copper Large Cent Coin Used For Political Advertising

The Prolific Coin Advertiser, Dr. Wilkins

 Dr. G. G. Wilkins of New Hampshire used thousands of coins to advertise his many businesses:  a dental practice, a barber shop, saloons, and even products such as "Bear Oil" which was a cure-all!

These stamped coins used to sit in antique shop bins unnoticed, but the demand for these interesting coins has risen with numismatists and history buffs.

I will add just one thing: most coins contain metals, such as nickel, that cause a lot of skin irritation.  For example, U.S. quarters were made of silver until 1965.  Now they're made from copper and nickel--as are U.S. nickels and dimes---very irritating to wear!  So if you want to wear a coin as a ring or pendant, I'd suggest a pure silver coin, or a penny--it's copper plated zinc since 1982, and mostly pure copper before then.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mojave Turquoise, Composite Turquoise---What Is It?

Genuine Turquoise
Turquoise has been a treasured gemstone across many cultures for thousands of years---Egyptians, Persians, Maya, Aztec, Native North Americans, Chinese---due to its beautiful blue-green color and metaphysical properties.  It is still a very popular gemstone, but is difficult to work with because it is very soft and brittle.  So several treatments are done on natural turquoise to make it wearable.
Natural Turquoise

Turquoise Treatments:
  • Natural and untreated turquoise is VERY rare (about 1% of all turquoise in jewelry)
  • Stabilized turquoise is treated in various ways, and is considered to be genuine turquoise.  Even Sleeping Beauty turquoise is treated.  Methods include heat, apoxy, and dyes.  Nearly ALL of the genuine turquoise sold is stabilized, including turquoise jewelry on shopping channels, in stores, and in jewelry retailers.
  • Reconstituted turquoise is considered to be NOT genuine turquoise.  It's powdered turquoise mixed with chemicals and glues and dyes.  It is unethical to refer to this as "genuine turquoise" as it is mostly other materials.
  • Block turquoise is made entirely out of dyed plastics and chemicals, and contains no turquoise.
  • Dyed Howlite/Magnesite is NOT turquoise, but is a simulated turquoise.
  • Yellow Turquoise is NOT Turquoise, but is African yellow jasper.  African green jasper is also sold as "green turquoise" but there is NO TURQUOISE in this stone---it is jasper, a type of Quartz.
So basically, you want to find "Stablized Turquoise" and not "Reconsituted Turquoise" for jewelry.  There is a new form of "mosaic" turquoise that is a stabilized turquoise, called "Mojave" or "Mohave" or "Copper Turquoise".

Blue Mojave Turquoise
There is a fairly new type of composite turquoise (since 2008) or "mosaic" turquoise that consists of pieces of genuine turquoise that are bonded together, along with other minerals (such as pyrite), using polymers.  Colors are added to the polymer to produce "Purple Turquoise" and "Green Turquoise", and "Red" or "Orange Turquoise".

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) did a detailed exam of this turquoise in 2010 (you can read the pdf here) and it was found to be genuine turquoise.   Because small pieces of genuine turquoise are bonded into a larger piece, whether dyed or not, the end product is considered to be genuine turquoise.

The purple and green turquoise samples were dyed, and the blue composite turquoise was undyed.  The metallic "matrix" is found to be genuine ground pyrite or copper.  If you look closely, you can see the blue turquoise peeking through the colored polymers in both the green and purple examples below.  I assume they use yellow dyes to make the green, and reddish pink dyes to make the purple. 
Purple Mojave Turquoise

Green Mojave Turquoise

This is a BEAUTIFUL and affordable way to wear turquoise!  (These are genuine turquoise, so they aren't "cheap" but are well-priced.)   Although it's an assembled gemstone, it is made of all natural turquoise, and "blue Mojave turquoise" contains NO dyes.  The other colors are also extremely beautiful and interesting.  These are genuine turquoise gemstones, in a beautiful array of colors----much, MUCH more beautiful than dyed Howlite (which can be found in lots of weird neon greens and yellows, etc.) and made from all GENUINE turquoise pieces.

Turquoise, Spiny Oyster, MOP Composite Gemstones
I've seen some other beautiful assembled stones lately----turquoise and spiny oyster, "copper obsidian", some beautiful gems that look like they use pieces of mother-of-pearl plus black onyx, and more.  I am definitely going to buy some of these!  Here is one seller on Etsy, and there are many more, who have these beautiful new gemstones!  I'm not exactly sure what materials are used some of these assembled stones since they haven't been tested (the GIA's test was only for the Mojave Turquoise stones, and that was 6 years ago!) but there are new techniques in the jewelry industry every day.  If you search for "Mojave turquoise" (or spelled Mohave) or "Copper Turquoise", you will find a LOT of lovely choices!
"Copper Obsidian" Stones--plus Turquoise?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Genuine Obsidian v. Fake Blue, Green, Aqua, Yellow, Red Glass "Obsidian"

Obsidian Is Glass, But Not All Glass Is Obsidian!

Chunk of Blue Glass--NOT Obsidian

Recently, I wrote about Obsidian---which is natural volcanic or basalt rock that is made of natural glass, which forms when lava rapidly cools.  Genuine Obsidian is translucent and very dark---usually black or smoke grey, but can also be banded (Rainbow),  brown (Mohogany Obsidian), black with white inclusions (Snowflake Obsidian), and even tiny hair-like filaments caught in trees (Pele's Hair Obsidian).  There is also "Sheen Obsidian", which is black but has iridescent sheen in blues, greens, and golds, which is due to gas bubbles trapped inside.  Here are some pictures of varieties of genuine Obsidian, other than the common dark black or smoke grey obsidian:

Rainbow Obsidian and Fire Obsidian are colorful due to inclusions of Magnetite nanocrystals.  Sheen Obsidian has blue, green, or golden flashes of color that glows and moves with the light, due to inclusions of torpedo-shaped or needle-shaped gas bubbles.  Snowflake obsidian has white splotches due to cristobalite spherulites.  Mahogany Obsidian is brown or reddish brown due to iron impurities.  Apache Tears are naturally smooth nuggets of dark obsidian:
Apache Tears


There are a LOT of sellers on the internet, on Etsy, on Ebay, on all sorts of websites, who are selling colored man-made glass as Obsidian.  They claim that it's "natural", a "mineral" (which is false--obsidian OR glass are not minerals), "rare" in colors such as aqua and blue, and even give it names such as "Himalayan Blue" and "Siberian Blue" and "Andara Blue" and "Gaia Stone*" and many, many more.  Some "creative" sellers claim that "blue obsidian" forms when lava reaches the water!  WOW.

These transparent blue, green, aqua, red, purple, yellow,etc. stones are nothing more than man-made GLASS.  Some sellers are even selling faceted blue glass "gemstones" as "Obsidian", and none of these are anything other than man-made glass (or some sort of crystal or CZ perhaps).  I have written about this jewelry separately, below.  Many metaphysical shops on Etsy and elsewhere are offering tumbled GLASS as "obsidian" with all sorts of metaphysical properties, healing properties, etc.  Some are even selling "palm" stones or "thumb" stones, which are nothing more than flat glass "gems" that you can buy by the bag at Dollar Tree or Michael's!  I'm all for free enterprise, but buyers need to be careful not to overspend on glass!

This is often more than just "creative marketing" so please BEWARE!

Here are some examples of  glass being sold as "obsidian"----none of these are natural:
Sometimes, even though the title of these for sale says "obsidian", the description will divulge that it's man-made glass.  Does that seem right to you?  To me, it's totally disingenuous to even say "Obsidian" AT ALL if it's just glass.

Here are flat-backed glass "gems" that sell for $1 a bag at Dollar Tree and elsewhere:
Flat-backed Blue Glass "Gems" (R) and Colors (Back)

Here are more examples of  "natural obsidian" being sold online, all of which are glass or cz or crystal:

Here you can see a great variety of glass being sold as "natural obsidian".  Some are faceted spheres, some smooth spheres, LOTS of skulls and "eggs" which I didn't bother to picture, glass pieces in green (some shaped like a crystal!), red glass, and a LOT of jewelry or "gemstones" that are marketed as "obsidian" but definitely are NOT----they are cheap glass or CZ, but are being sold for top dollar.  There was SO MUCH of these fake gemstones all over the internet that I wrote about it separately!

There are SO many sellers on Etsy and Ebay (and elsewhere online) who are selling slag glass as a mysterious "Andara Crystal" with mystical and magical powers.  Slag glass is just a big chunk of leftover glass from manufacturing.  It's found in pretty much any color.  There is NOTHING mystical about glass---it's NOT a mineral and in fact doesn't even possess ANY crystal structure!  So sellers offering "Andara Crystal" with all sorts of names ("Pele's Fire" and "Merlin's Purple" and Divine Fire" and on and on....) are just selling you a chunk of manmade GLASS.
Please---Buyer Beware!

Volcanic ash from the Mount St. Helen's eruption is used to create a man-made glass along with coloring additives.  These glass stones can be found in transparent green, blue, and red, and are often found in jewelry marketed to tourists.  These are NOT natural obsidian, and are just another form of man-made glass.  The trademarked name "Helenite" has since been abandoned, but this glass is also known by other names such as Gaia Stone, Obsidianite, and Mount St. Helens Obsidian.  You can read all about its background and how it's made HERE.  As stated in that article, please note that this material:
  • was not produced during the Mount St. Helens eruption
  • is man-made
  • is not rare because it can be produced in great quantities
  • is easily scratched because of its low hardness
  • chips easily
  • its color is determined by adding colorants to the melt
When I googled images of "Helenite", I was surprised to see a lot of this glass being marketed as "gem rough".  It's really just glass, not a gem!

Here are some really fraudulent examples of jewelry that is made with glass, or CZ, or crystals---but NONE of these are natural Obsidian, despite their price (sometimes outrageous) or claims.  My guess is that since these are just glass,  if a gemologist were to examine these, they would see NO crystal structure (a giveaway for glass) and by saying it's "natural" obsidian, they are attempting to add a value to otherwise inexpensive glass or crystal:

(Ooops--I included the green halo ring twice!)
These are ridiculous!  Some of these blue CZ/glass/crystal rings are found at Kohl's under a "designer's" brand, the second ring is just "Blue Goldstone" which is Venetian glass that has copper crystals inside of it,  some jewelry is on high-end jewelry websites (the ring appears in all the pictures to NOT be "rare blue obsidian"---which would be blue sheen obsidian----but instead looks to be either chalcedony or just art glass, set in sterling with a gold bezel, and sold for almost $900!!  See picture below for a genuine sheen obsidian ring), 3 of the rings in the center are being sold for hundreds of dollars (!) and are just blue CZ or crystal, but marketed as "Himalayan Blue Obsidian" and next to it another "Himalayan Blue Obsidian" even though they are different colors of blue (same seller), and then a "unique" and "rare" "Neon Paraiba Obsidian" ring---very expensive, especially for glass or CZ!  The cobalt blue rings and pendant used to be called "lab sapphire" (which it wasn't) but are now being called "obsidian", maybe because they ARE glass, not sure.  The pendant at the bottom was given two very fancy-sounding names:  Bahia blue Obsidian and Tibetan Aqua Obsidian----and of course they are neither, just glass or cz.

For comparison here is a picture of a GENUINE obsidian (blue sheen or perhaps rainbow sheen) ring on etsy:

GENUINE Sheen Obsidian ring

You will note that it is dark (translucent black) obsidian with a natural "sheen" due to naturally-trapped gas bubbles within the obsidian.  Pretty!!

Here are some pictures of glass, being sold as GLASS, for use in fire pits or outdoor gardens.  These are tempered glass pieces, or sometimes just slag glass.  You will see that this glass is the SAME as the glass being sold as "obsidian", including the aqua glass, the purple glass, and the center "cubes" of iridescent glass:
Inexpensive GLASS, sold by the pound

Here is an example of something REALLY fake.  I saw this when I was searching for "blue obsidian" and just had to share this here.  Both of these are identical in size and shape, same silver setting, same split bail, same prongs, same faceted "flower" cut, everything, but different websites.  On the left is a pendant being sold online as "Siberian Blue Quartz" (there is NO such quartz---so that's a fraud) and on the right is the very same pendant sold on a website (Satya Center) as "Tibetan Blue Obsidian":

So you can see how sellers just make up names for things---quartz, obsidian, etc.!  And they fabricate where it's "found" (the Himalayas? AND Siberia?") when all it is, is actually a man-made blue sapphire simulant.  (Probably glass--the one on the right looks VERY glassy.)  The one on the right sells for almost $300 (!!) and the one on the left is about $140!!  Each is worth FAR FAR less than that. 
Buyer beware!!

Obsidian is a naturally-forming translucent, dark, natural glass rock.  It is formed due to volcanic activity.  It is translucent black, reddish brown ("mahogany"), with banding or white splotches (snowflake), or with iridescent sheen in blue or green or gold due to trapped gasses, or rainbow or fire obsidian (due to trapped Magnesite).   The faceted "gems" that are transparent blues and aquas are NOT Obsidian, but are man-made glass or something.  The tumbled or shards of transparent "obsidian" in all shades of blues, greens, reds, aquas, yellows, and other bright colors are just simply GLASS that you can buy anywhere, in any craft store, at roadside tables, or fireplace shops or home improvement stores.

Colored glass is certainly pretty (art glass!) but jewelry made with transparent "blue obsidian" is most definitely made with some sort of man-made glass and is NOT worth hundreds of dollars.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Black Tourmaline? Obsidian? How to Tell the Difference

Translucent (see the shadow?) Black Obsidian (L), Black Tourmaline Nugget (R)
Black Tourmaline and Black Obsidian are two of several gemstones that are shiny and black, and they can appear somewhat similar. So how can you tell the difference? I recently had an encounter with a customer who felt that the black tourmaline necklace she purchased was obsidian and not tourmaline (although it was definitely tourmaline!).  Well, in case other people are also confused regarding the difference between Black Tourmaline (a mineral) and Black Obsidian ("mineraloid" natural volcanic glass), here is some information I hope you find helpful!

Tourmaline is a beautiful gemstone that comes in many colors, and since it can't be created in a lab (so only natural Tourmaline is found), it can be very expensive.  Black Tourmaline, or "Schorl", is an inexpensive type of genuine Tourmaline---it's a rich black opaque color, and is found in abundance all over the world.  Sometimes in bright light you can see glints of red--that's due to iron in the gem. It grows within host rock, in large crystals, small crystals, and in various nugget and chunk forms.  Rough tourmaline can be left to look rough, or it can be polished, sliced, or faceted.  If you are looking for Tourmaline to wear for its metaphysical properties, Black Tourmaline is a great and affordable choice.

Here are some examples of Black Tourmaline----if you google that, you can see a very wide variety of  sizes and shapes of tourmaline nuggets, crystals, shards, etc.  Here are pictures of rough chunks of Black tourmaline, taken from various geologic and gemstone websites:

That last picture is from an Etsy seller---a very reputable, large-volume gemstone seller, who correctly describes these as "Tourmaline Gemstone Top-Drilled Large Raw Shards. Semi-Precious Gemstones."

And here is the actual strand of these types of "shards" of rough black Tourmaline that I purchased from another lovely seller on Etsy:

And it was one of those shards in that strand (right in the front!) that I sold to the one Amazon buyer who claims it's "obsidian".  As you can see, these shards look the SAME as the rough pictured above---especially in pictures 3 and 4!  These shards have been sliced and polished on the back, and the rough "lumpy" part is on the front.

Here is my favorite picture of tourmaline "in the rough".  It's a picture taken from the GIA website (Gemological Institute of America) in an article discussing Emeralds...but here is a large growth of Black Tormaline, plus Emerald, Mica, Pyrite and Quartz.  But look at the "lumpy" as well as "crystal" nature of this large Tourmaline find:

I love how this shows the wide variety of shapes and forms of Black Tourmaline.  It also shows the distinctive "lumpy" rough texture that the tourmaline shards that I purchased exhibit.  The upper right looks almost like burnt bark---and sort of like black lava rock! I would LOVE to have a piece of that beautiful emerald!!!

There are "crystals" of black Tourmaline as well.  These are found and sold in large nuggets, with more of a hexagonal crystal structure visible, and sometimes with crystal "tubes" than run along the length of the nugget. Often they look a lot like pieces of black licorice.  Some are very shiny and black.  Often they have very visible fractures and other surface cracks and flaws.  Here are some examples:

So you can see a wide variety of Black Tourmaline shapes---from crystals to nuggets to lumps and shards.

Black Obsidian is black volcanic glass.  It is translucent--not completely opaque.  It's considered to be a mineraloid gemstone despite the fact that there is no mineral crystal structure in glass.  But it is natural, very shiny and black (and can also be smokey grey, brown, rusty red, banded, with "snowflakes" and in other colors).  Obsidian has a smooth uniform texture, and breaks with "conchoidal fractures" or semi-circular patterns.  This is distinctive to obsidian and glass:

Now, both black tourmaline and obsidian are black and shiny.  But obsidian does NOT have the rough and lumpy texture that tourmaline has.  Plus, when obsidian is carved or split or broken, it fractures in distinctive round radiating circles---like when  you toss a rock into a lake.

Incidentally, the value for black tourmaline and black obsidian is about the same, although there are many instances where obsidian is far more valuable than black tourmaline.  Obsidian is often used in making black opal doublets and triplets.

Obsidian, being glass, is VERY sharp when broken, so there is no such thing as "shards" of obsidian that are drilled and sold as pendants.  (Haha---reminds me of the old SNL skit about a terrible kids' toy called "Bag O' Glass"!)   There are polished obsidian beads.  Most obsidian is sold in chunks for gem collectors.

So really, it's pretty easy to tell Black Tourmaline from Black Obsidian, just from the pictures!  And having it examined by a gemologist would tell you FOR SURE if it's glass or a mineral.  

Other gems that look very similar to these black gems are Black Onyx and Hematite, and even Black Spinel.  Chalcedony quartz is sometimes dyed black to look like Black Onyx.

Tourmaline is a beautiful gemstone and comes in many colors, including multi-hued gems such as Watermelon Tourmaline.   Here are some incredibly beautiful shards of genuine tourmaline, and the price for these on Etsy (they are about dime-sized) is just under $1,000:

Don't they look like stained glass shards?  They're so beautiful!  And definitely NOT glass!!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Prasiolite: A Natural Gemstone? Or Heated Amethyst?

A few months ago, someone sent me an email regarding a Prasiolite necklace I had in my shop.  It was brief: "Is this natural Prasiolite, or heated Amethyst?"  And before I could answer, she wrote back: "Never mind. I read your description."  And then I never heard from her again.

A classic case of the old Asimov question----did she want the answer that's true, or the one that satisfies?  Most people don't want the truth, which is strange!

I would have told her that there is NO "natural" Prasiolite available in the marketplace.  But she didn't want to hear that---she wanted to believe some sellers who claim to offer "natural, untreated Brazilian Prasiolite."  And that is definitely NOT the truth!

What Is Prasiolite?
Prasiolite is the name of the gemstone that is transparent celadon-green quartz.  Amethyst is transparent purple quartz.  Citrine is transparent yellow quartz.

Is it the same as Green Amethyst?
Yes.  Prasiolite is often referred to as "Green Amethyst".  It's also called Vermarine, Lime Citrine, and just Green Quartz.

Is it Natural?
Although there has been a VERY small amount of natural Prasiolite found in nature, ALL of the prasiolite that you see commercially is treated Amethyst, or perhaps treated Citrine.  In fact, I read that the Smithsonian Institution has a very small piece of a fractured crystal of Prasiolite green quartz dated from 1884. But I couldn't find a picture of it, or any information about it, on the Smithsonian website.  And a rare gems specialist, K and K International of Virginia, has some small .40-ct. faceted natural green Prasiolite gems which they've had in their collection for years.  So virtually all the Prasiolite you can find in jewelry is treated Amethyst (or Citrine) from Brazil.

It's interesting to note that there is NO WAY to determine if a Prasiolite specimen is naturally heated or heat-treated.

Also, the color can fade over time, and with exposure to sunlight.

How is it Treated?
Prasiolite occurs when amethyst or citrine undergoes a heat treatment while in the presence of iron, transforming the quartz into a beautiful pale celadon green. This heating mimics how nature produces this gem.  Even though quartz is, by nature, relatively inclusion-free, exceptionally clean crystal rough is selected for this heating process. This clean rough assures even color distribution.   Most prasiolite comes from the Montezuma mines at Minas Gerais, Brazil.   Colors can range from the very palest of green to a deeper more intense celery green.

Only 30% of quartz undergoing this treatment transforms into the cool green color. Without proper identification, some of it might be mistaken for green beryl or a light-toned green tourmaline!

Recently, some Prasiolite has been formed by heating Smoky quartz.  The result is a darker, dusky green color.

Unusual Cuts
Prasiolite is often cut into large carats with complex, intricate or unusual cuts to bring out the color of the stone.  Concave cuts, checkerboard cuts, triangular cuts,  and microfaceted briolettes are often seen.

Why Prasiolite?
Prasiolite is a great gemstone for gem collectors looking for distinct and attractive green color, availability in large carats, eye cleanliness and affordability.

I would like to just reiterate that ALL of the prasiolite found in the marketplace is heat-treated amethyst or citrine.  There is VERY LITTLE of the natural green quartz, and that would be found in very old jewelry or in old mineral collections.

Also, I want to add that sellers who offer "created" quartz----maybe called "not natural", or "lab grown" or "hydro quartz"---they're really offering colored glass.  FYI, just a few years ago, so-called "Hydro Quartz" was sold as "hydro quartz glass" usually from China or India.  Somehow, the word "glass" has dropped off and people are claiming this glass to be a gemstone.  I've written other posts about this, including pictures of huge slabs of this colored glass rough for sale in China and Thailand.  And it's clearly being sold as "fused glass" or "hydro quartz glass". HERE is a website that sells this glass.  And HERE they're offering "fused silica--jeweler's silica" which is glass being sold specifically as gem simulants.

Again, I've taken MANY samples of hydro quartz----now over 50 different samples----to be examined by a gemologist, who looks for crystal structures within the stone.  If there is no crystal structure, it's glass.  There are other tests as well.  And NONE of the samples I've ever seen were anything other than glass.

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth (second to feldspar).  It naturally grows in HUGE clear and beautiful crystals---amethyst (purple quartz) is the most expensive quartz.  SOMETIMES labs will grow Amethyst in a lab, which results in a very dark amethyst with bright red flash ("Siberian" is the color).  That is because that deep Siberian purple/red color is cost-effective to grow and then sell.  Also, dying clear quartz purple will result in a quickly-fading color (and so purple "doublets" can be found---utilizing a purple bonding agent between two clear quartz slices). Clear quartz is grown in labs, but mostly for the electronics industry and other commercial industries.  Hydrothermal process gems are definitely grown---expensive synthetic gems such as corundum (sapphires and rubies) and emeralds.  Synthetic gemstones are lab-grown but possess the same physical, chemical and optical properties as their natural counterpart.  So a synthetic sapphire IS a sapphire.   Tourmaline, FYI, is still not successfully lab-grown so only natural tourmaline is available.

So when you see such things as "ruby quartz" or "paraiba quartz" or "tanzanite quartz" or "emerald quartz" or "rubellite quartz" --- stones with vibrant colors and names of actual gemstones to describe the product---those are hydro quartz, which were always known as hydro quartz glass.  I have seen "prasiolite hydro quartz" for sale and now THAT can't even be possible! 

Reputable gemstone wholesalers, who sell gems to jewelers (such as Rio Grande Jewelry) do not sell "hydro quartz" at all.  They only deal with actual gemstones.

If you can't find something listed on the website, or the ICGA ( then you should question the validity of a "gemstone" offered.  Or send them an email---a certified gemologist will get back to you and would be glad to answer your question!

I was looking at Prasiolite (green amethyst) on Etsy today and I saw this pair of earrings being sold as "green amethyst" and they are over $200!!  Take a look:

Now, I don't know about you, but on MY monitor, those are blue.  They're like the color of Windex.  And the color isn't really saturated and....well, as you can see, these are NOT prasiolite, and I'm very sure they are glass.   Perhaps some wholesale seller told her they are "natural"! But there's NO EXCUSE for something like this, something this fraudulent.  Any jewelry seller needs to take responsibility and find out what they're offering!  The description further states that these "Green Amethyst" earrings are "UNTREATED"!!!  Well even if they were actual Prasiolite, they would absolutely BE treated---that's how prasioliate is made!!  Heat treating purple quartz!!!   Those are obviously glass and they look more like those Swarovski "column" crystals than they do any quartz.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Zambian Emeralds, and a Truly Fantastic Jewelry Designer!

Emeralds are my favorite gemstone, and for a very long time, the Columbian Emerald has been the most beautiful and valued emerald.  They're known for their beautiful green color, but they have lots of inclusions and fractures.

In the mid 1970s, emeralds began being mined in Zambia, a country in Southern Africa.  In 1989, Tiffany began marketing jewelry with these Zambian emeralds and their popularity and acceptance in high-end jewelry has since risen. Kagem is the largest emerald mine in Zambia and produce about 6.5 million carats of emeralds annually.

Zambian emeralds have a beautiful saturated green color, sometimes blue-green, and are extremely transparent.  Columbian emeralds are said to have a warmer, "truer" green color.  Both are incredibly beautiful!  And the price of any emerald increases dramatically as the size increases.  Zambian emeralds are green because of the trace mineral Iron.  Columbian emeralds are green because of Chromium.

So, recently I was speaking with an Etsy seller named Deanna of Etsy shop "NadeanDesigns"  about "hydro quartz" which is actually glass.  And somehow we got on the subject of emeralds, and she offered to sell me some beautiful Zambian faceted rondelles at a really reduced price.  She is just SO nice (and knowledgeable!)!! And when they arrived, I could NOT believe the beauty of these emeralds!  I immediately made myself a necklace which I wear every day!  These are SO green and clear, and beautiful. 
Genuine Zambian Emeralds - So Clear and Green!

Deanna is a fantastic jewelry designer.  What's even more impressive is that she has over 500 beautiful things listed--WOW!  I looked at her Etsy shop and she has such a wide variety of beautiful designs, at all price points.  She makes fine jewelry, with genuine gemstones and quality metals.  I can't wear chains (I have REALLY sensitive skin) but most people can.  And if I COULD, I would buy this fantastic necklace which is worth every penny (click here to see it on Etsy):
GORGEOUS! Zambian Emeralds, Solid Gold and White Diamonds!! NadeanDesigns

That picture shows the gorgeous emerald necklace with a second gold chain and emerald necklace.  Holy COW those emeralds are beautiful!  I love the gold rondelles with pave white diamonds!  That truly IS an heirloom piece of jewelry. And it's hand knotted onto silk!

Here's a matching bracelet, and other gemstone stack bracelets, which are very affordable and GORGEOUS (HERE is a link to the listing):
Who wouldn't want to wear any (or all!) of these?!  NadeanDesigns

Deanna also sent me a couple of sizes of "Silverite" which is a so-called gemstone that is sold online, mostly on Etsy and occasionally on Ebay. I took them to a gemologist and had them tested, and I'll write about that in my next post.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I Bought "Beryl" Gems---But What Did I Really Get??

I am a huge fan of Beryl gemstones, which are considered precious gems, especially Aquamarines and Emeralds. And I've had my eye on the beautiful soft pink Morganite lately.  So I saw some gems for sale online, and took and chance and bought them.  The pictures looked nice, and the seller is a popular one online.  I bought five heart briolettes and five briolettes in all the colors of Beryl----Aquamarine, Green Beryl (not emerald), Morganite, Heliodor (yellow Beryl) and Goshenite (colorless Beryl). 

I waited awhile to get the package (11 days---they waited 9 days to even mail it, for some reason).  It arrived Saturday, and I could barely wait to see them!  I ripped the package open, and took a look at the very tiny stones (I was expecting them to be small).  And...

...well, to say I'm disappointed is an understatement.  And the more I looked, the angrier I got!   I took pictures of the stones---these are very close-up to show the detail, but you can enlarge the pictures when you click on them: 


In  sunlight---which is which?
The five stones are SO faint in color that I could barely tell which was which.  The green stone was the most colorful, followed by the blue, then pink, and the other two I'm not quite sure what color they are.  OK, fine, I know Morganite is a very pale pink...

HOWEVER, I could see with the naked eye that the green and blue stones had DYE MARKS at the drill holes!  I got my loupe and could REALLY see the sloppy dye marks at the edges of the holes, and throughout the lengths of the drill holes.
Green and Blue Dye in Holes
Obvious Dye Marks, and THAT's supposed to be Aquamarine?!

SO Obvious in Green and Blue
Now, genuine Green Beryl is NOT treated.  It's not enhanced.  It is mined, faceted and sold as is.  I found a wonderful website from a gemologist and gemcutter named John J. Bradshaw, and he has all the information about gemstones that anyone could need, plus pictures.  Per his site, he says regarding Green Beryl:

Clarity:  Green beryl is of Type I clarity.  By definition, gems of this type grow extremely clean in nature and usually have no eye visible inclusions...
Treatments:  No treatment (N) would be the case for the green beryl colored by iron...

Here is his info on Aquamarine (blue beryl):
 Clarity: Aquamarine has Type I clarity.  By definition, gems of this type grow extremely clean in nature and usually have no eye visible inclusions.
-Heating (H) is done to convert any ferric iron that imparts a yellow color to ferrous iron which imparts the more commercially desirable blue color.  This treatment is routinely done and is stable.  The treatment is undetectable but assumed in all blue aquamarines.

So the ONLY treatment done to genuine Aquamarine blue Beryl stones is HEAT, which brings out the blue color.  NOT dye.  And there is NO treatment done to Green Beryl stones.  And they are eye clean.

Inclusions, chips and obvious DYE on these

There is very visible evidence of dye on the blue and green stones.  The other three---it's hard to say, but possibly on the pink.  But really, if two of them out of the five are obviously dyed stones of some sort, then I don't trust any of them.

The stones I bought also all have visible inclusions----like bubbles or little fractures or something like that. Chips at the drill holes.

Okay, on to the next five...


The 5 Colors of Briolettes
At first glance, the colors look somewhat more saturated.  Of course, these are thicker stones.  I looked at them in the light.  And the yellow stone, supposedly Heliodor, exhibited a bright rainbow effect---JUST LIKE some sort of mystic coating!  The bottom part of the stone had a lot of little inclusions, like it was shattered inside---at first I thought it was quench crackled (a method used to dye quartz).  I took it out of the bag and looked at it with the loupe and yes, it has a coating on it.
Hard to capture the coating - it was like a deep Sunset color in person

Heliodor should NOT have pink, orange and purple rainbows on the surface!
What enhancements are done on Golden Beryl (heliodor)?  Certainly not mystic coating!!  Here's gemologist John J. Bradshaw's description:
Golden Beryl:  yellow to golden beryl colored by ferric iron.  This color can be induced through irradiation of beryl containing iron or it can also happen naturally.  There is no test to separate treated from untreated material.  Alternate names for golden beryl are yellow beryl or heliodor.
And for morganite:
Morganite:  pink beryl colored by manganese.  It is typical of morganites when found in nature to be an orange-pink or peach color.  Allowing the stone to sit in daylight for a few days to a week will alter the color to a pure pink.  Heating will have the same result.

And Goshenite (Clear):
Goshenite:  colorless beryl.  This variety has no impurities to impart any noticeable color.

And the clear briolette stone also had some "rainbow" color effects in the sunlight, possibly from a coating. Looking at this picture, it appears to be green dye in the green stone's drill hole. I didn't notice that until looking at the picture:
Rainbow Effects on Clear Stone - Like a Prism "Suncatcher"

Rainbow on Clear--more obvious in person
 The green stone in this packet had a huge air bubble in it, and was very poorly faceted. VERY.

The blue stone looked exactly the same as some blue "hydroquartz" glass that I had.  It was very blue, not aquamarine blue at all.  Poorly faceted and lots of pits and tiny chips. It really looked nothing like aquamarine.


Well there was NO WAY that I would try to sell these gems in jewelry!  I'm not going to try to pass off obviously dyed stones of some sort as "green Beryl" or "aquamarine".  Only unscrupulous people would do that!  So I contacted the person I purchased these from, and was very polite, and said I wanted to return them because the blue and green hearts were dyed, and the golden beryl was coated.  That's all I said.  I expected the seller to be horrified (as I was!) or at least ask me for pictures or more information,  or be apologetic. NO, that didn't happen.  Instead I got a terse response that said "I'm sorry your beryl gemstones won't work for you."  OMG!  AS IF these are beryl gemstones! Wow.

I just want to let everyone know that you must BE CAREFUL when buying any gemstones from ANY seller online.  In person is really the best way to buy gems.  Obviously this well-known seller didn't care that they are selling fake gems, and were in fact defensive about it.   I certainly sent these back, but I'm certain that this seller will continue to sell these "Beryl gemstones" including the ones I returned!


I didn't bother to take them to Rio Grande Jewelry or to another gemologist to have them tested.  The dye marks are SO obvious as is the mystic coating.  NO WAY are these Beryl gemstones!  These are possibly quartz, very possibly glass, but certainly NOT Beryl.

Really, every jewelry designer on Etsy or elsewhere shouldn't have to have every gemstone they purchase from a dealer tested by a gemologist!  It is the responsibility of the dealer to KNOW what they're selling, to be SURE if their gemstones that they purchased wholesale are genuine!  THEY should have them tested.  THEY should stand behind their gemstones. THEY should have examined these obviously dyed fake stones when they received them from the wholesaler, and sent them back!  The buck SHOULD stop there.  But sadly, that's not the case. And even worse--some sellers just simply don't care!

Buyer Beware!!  
UPDATE:  I followed this seller's (ridiculous, almost draconian) return instructions to the letter---meaning I had to return the items IMMEDIATELY  and enclose a note with my name, address, the order information, order number, date of order, reason for return, do I want a refund or exchange, and MORE, even though I also enclosed the order info that was sent to me AND I contacted the seller before returning.  I mailed the package the next business day which was a Monday, and it was delivered TO HER RESIDENCE on Wednesday at 11am.  She supplied the return address and I could see it was a residential address, not a PO Box or business address.  So I waited all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and heard not one word of acknowledgement of receipt from the seller.
So I sent a "convo" and politely said the package was delivered and when will my refund be processed.  She responded that she "hasn't had time to check her mail" and would refund whenever she could "check the package".  Um WHAT??  So I googled her address and saw the "street view" of her house, complete with its own freestanding mailbox out front.  So she doesn't check her own mail each day??  Mail sits in her curbside mailbox for days??  Especially when she knows to expect a return?!  I am SURE that's not the case.  So I waited another 24 hours, heard nothing, and had to file a Paypal "not as described" case (thank God I used Paypal to buy this!).  In fact, I called Paypal and told them what was going on first, and THEY told me to open a case, and they escalated it immediately FOR me, giving her 10 days to respond or refund.
Incredibly, I never got any response from the seller until 8 days later, when she sent a convo to say that "she couldn't get Paypal to work" (???) and then two days after that, my refund was processed.  
WHAT A TERRIBLE SELLER!!  Disgraceful!  She is STILL selling these "beryl" stones.  She is a MESS. I haven't named the seller here, and no I did NOT leave any feedback, as I wrote about it fully here.  If you are wanting to know who to avoid, I'd be happy to share this info if you just ask me via email.  Otherwise, you could probably figure it out anyway.