Sunday, February 1, 2015
"How Much Did You Pay for That Rock?" by Shirley Martin
Gems! The word itself evokes images of beauty and mystery, and maybe even a bit of magic.
Let's first differentiate between a gem and a gemstone. According to Webster's dictionary, a gem is anything prized for its beauty and value, especially if it's small and perfect for its kind.
A gemstone is any mineral or petrified substance that can be cut and polished for setting into a piece of jewelry.
Among other classifications, gemologists rank minerals according to their hardness, using the Mohs scale. (Named for an Austrian mineralogist.) The diamond is the hardest mineral at 10, and talc the softest at 1. A gemstone ranked much below 4 in hardness wouldn't be suitable for a ring because it could chip so easily.
Let's begin with diamonds. A diamond may be a girl's best friend, but every friendship begins with getting acquainted. So here are four ways to determine the value of a diamond.
1. Body color
2. Degree of flawlessness
3. Cut and proportion
4. Carat weight
Body color refers to how much yellow or brown tint is observable in the stone. It doesn't refer to the various colors of diamonds, such as pink, yellow or blue.
Degree of flawlessness means just that: the flaws you may find in the diamond, whether observable to the naked eye or under magnification.
The cut and proportion of the diamond are both very important and can determine whether a diamond will have fire and brilliance or will appear as a dull stone. And the number of facets, of course, will affect the cut. The most popular cut is the brilliant, although there are others, such as marquise, oval, and emerald cut.
Carat refers to weight, not size. A carat is 1/5 of a gram. Carat shouldn't be confused with karat, which refers to gold quality. All other things being equal, the higher the carat weight, the more expensive the diamond. All gems are weighed in carats, except the pearl and the coral.
Besides the diamond, other gemstones considered precious are the emerald, ruby, and sapphire. But really, all gemstones are considered precious by their owners.
The finest emerald is a lovely grass green color. The May birthstone, it belongs to the beryl family, as does the aquamarine. The finest emeralds come from Columbia, although you'll find lovely emeralds from Brazil.
The ruby and sapphire both belong to the corundum family. If it's blue, it's a sapphire. If it's red, it's a ruby. Complicating the issue, however, are the pretty pink sapphires you'll find on the market.
The loveliest rubies come from Myanmar, formerly Burma and aptly called Burmese rubies. Because of the political situation in Myanmar, the U.S. government established an embargo against the Burmese ruby years ago. Today, no reputable jeweler will deal in the Burmese ruby, unless it's part of an estate sale. While the embargo is understandable, it's unfortunate because this ruby is a vivid, almost perfect spectral red, beautiful in its luster. It's the birthstone for July.
It would be impossible to name all the semi-precious gemstones; the list is virtually endless. Still, it's worthwhile to name a few, all beautiful stones any woman would be proud to own. I'll list them alphabetically.
Amethyst is the transparent purple variety of quartz, the most versatile of any of the gem families. The birthstone for February, it's relatively inexpensive.
The garnet is one of the most exciting of the gem families. Often quite brilliant, it's available in many colors--green, red, yellow, orange--in every color except blue.
Moonstone is another lovely gemstone, a member of the feldspar family. It's a transparent, milky white stone, and you can see an opalescent white or blue light within the stone's body. It's a popular stone for rings.
And speaking of opals, no other gemstone arouses images of mystery and magic as does this beautiful stone. No other stone matches the opal in its array of very brilliant rainbow effects, all mixed up together. It's usually cut flat or as a cabochon (no facets) since it's already brilliant as is. Color is everything in the opal. This stone tends to dry and crack easily, so take good care of it. Australia produces especially prized opals, and it's the birthstone for October.
The peridot is the birthstone for August. It's not especially brilliant, but its depth of green color appeals to many.
Rhodochrosite is a pretty stone and is inexpensive. The colors range from red to almost white.
The tourmaline is one of the most versatile of gem families.You can find it in every color. There's even a watermelon tourmaline,green on one side and red on the other. The red variety--the rubellite--is a deep pink and quite stunning.
Turquoise--the "Turkish stone"--is the birthstone for December. Its finest color is an intense blue. Since much of it is found in the American southwest, you often see it in Indian made jewelry. Much of this jewelry is rather expensive.
Most gemstones are mineral in origin. Organic gems come from plants and animals. One of these gems is amber. Prehistoric man prized this petrified tree sap, and today you can find beautiful jewelry ranging in color from yellow to deep brown. Its price won't break the bank.
A string of pearls enhances just about any outfit. A fine natural or Oriental pearl is extremely rare and prohibitively expensive. Today, the pearl business centers almost entirely around the cultured pearl market. Cultured pearls are still "real" pearls. There is nothing fake or artificial about cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls are attractive, too, and less expensive.
The list of semi-precious gems could go on and on, literally hundreds to choose from.
I'd like to end this discussion with a few caveats. Always buy your gems from a reputable jeweler. If the price of a gem seems too good to be true, most likely it is. Always get an appraisal when you buy your gemstone.
We all know how expensive costume jewelry can be. My own personal opinion is to stay with gems, unless the item of costume jewelry especially appeals to me. What you pay for, say, a necklace of fake tortoiseshell might buy you a pretty moonstone ring.
Always take good care of your jewelry. If you own a pearl necklace, wear it often. Don't store it away in a dark drawer. Don't expose any opal piece to extreme cold. Pearls and diamonds require periodic cleaning.
Your gems can be passed on from generation to generation. If necessary, be specific in your will, so that there's no question as to who gets Grandma's pearl necklace.
And just think of the pleasure you're giving to future generations.
Now, I'd be very happy if you'd check over my books at Books We Love. You can find me here:
You can order my books from the Books We Love site or from Amazon, here:
I write historical, paranormal and fantasy romance, so there are bound to be books that would appeal to you.
All of my books are available electronically, and two are also in print. "Night Secrets" is a fantasy romance, and "Dream Weaver" is a time travel romance. Ask for them at your local bookstore.
Happy reading, everyone!