While the colorful glory of the opal is undeniably striking. Opals range in color from white to black, with glints of yellow, orange, green, red and blue. They derive their name from the Greek word Opallos, which means “to see a change (of color).” Opals were formed by non-crystalline silica gel that seeped into crevices within sedimentary strata. Over time the gel hardened to form opals. They’re essentially composed of particles closely packed together in delicate arrangements. When these particles are packed together in a regular pattern, they create a three-dimensional array of spaces – which create the opal’s unique radiance.
For more info: http://www.gia.edu/opal
Sapphire is a popular gemstone – and comes in a rainbow of colors. It’s also been long prized, from Ancient Greek rulers to the clergy of the Middle Ages. But where does the September birthstone come from?
A Little Bit about Sapphire
Before we embark on our journey to find the September birthstone, let’s start with a little gemological background.
The September birthstone, sapphire, comes in a range of colors: blue, violet, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple and intermediate hues. The gem belongs to the mineral species corundum: corundum is colorless, but trace elements or color centers (small defects in the atomic structure of a mineral that can absorb light and impart color to the stone) can turn colorless corundum into colorful sapphire. Red corundum is the only color not called sapphire; corundum with this color is ruby.
Where Sapphires Come From: Kashmir
Blue Kashmir sapphire is legendary among gem collectors and jewelry connoisseurs. However, its reputation for gems of unsurpassed beauty rests on stones mined from 1881 to 1887; very little has been produced since then. Sapphire from the mines after this brief window in time varied greatly in quality.
Finding the September birthstone in Kashmir reads like a chapter from an adventure book: we go to northern India, past the picturesque Dal Lake and its famous houseboats, beyond fields of wildflowers and head up into the Himalayas. Our journey takes us on treacherous roads to, as 18th-century explorers described, a “region beyond the snows.” In these remote hillsides, some of the world’s most beautiful sapphires were unearthed.
Fine blue Kashmir sapphire is said to resemble the color of the feathers of a peacock’s neck. Tiny inclusions give gems a velvety appearance. This can look like an extremely fine haze.
A few last facts about Kashmir sapphire: perpetual snow cover makes mining extraordinarily difficult; the mines are exceedingly remote; the weather is severe; and the area is politically contested. Few stones sporadically emerge, and fewer gemologists have researched the mines. That means you’re highly unlikely to find Kashmir sapphire for sale, and if you do, you’ll want a GIA Colored Stone Identification & Origin Report to verify its country of origin. Fine pieces are occasionally sold by leading auction houses.
Where Sapphires Come From: Myanmar
The land north of Mogok, a city in Upper Myanmar. Blue sapphires mined in Mogok tend to have a rich, intense hue; the best of these September birthstones maintain their appearance under all lighting conditions: incandescent, daylight and fluorescent.
The sapphire mines of Mogok share some similarities with the ones from Kashmir: they are remote, hard to reach and are in a politically-charged land. Sapphires from this locale are also rare; they are found near many of the ruby deposits. Mogok is also famed for producing some of the finest pink sapphires in the world.
Where Sapphires Come From: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka can poetically be called “Treasure Island”. All colors of sapphire, ruby, cat’s-eye chrysoberyl, spinel, garnet, tourmaline, topaz, quartz and many other gems can be found in the Highland Complex, a wide band that runs roughly down the middle of the island. Some of the finest sapphire is also found here, and in riverbeds scattered across the country.
Sri Lanka is perhaps the most famous source for padparadscha sapphires; they are found in river gravel throughout the country. Padparadscha means “lotus flower,” in Sinhalese and this name has been given to the pinkish orange to orange-pink variety of corundum. This sapphire’s color has been likened to the color of salmon, sunset and ripe guava. The cause of color for padparadscha sapphire is due to either trace amounts of iron and chromium or color centers. Fine specimens can sell for as much as a ruby.
Sri Lanka is also a source of the September birthstone in many of its colors: green, yellow, pink, purple, and virtually any color in between. Many in the trade consider Sri Lanka to produce the best range of fancy color sapphires in the world.
Where Sapphires Come From: Thailand
Thailand is an important source of sapphire. Gem fields in Chantaburi, in southeastern Thailand, were mined from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Sapphire now mostly comes from Kanchanaburi (western Thailand), where it is found in rivers and streams. Most sapphire mined in Thailand is heat-treated to improve its color.
Thailand is one of the world’s major cutting and treatment centers: sapphire from Myanmar, Cambodia, Australia, Madagascar and Sri Lanka are sent here, and end up in jewelry stores in the United States, Japan and Europe.
Where Sapphires Come From: Cambodia
On the western side of Cambodia—in the Pailin Province, near the border with Thailand—sapphire rough lies in riverbeds. Miners sift through the gravel, looking for “Pailin sapphire,” which is understood to be fine-quality blue sapphire that is typically water-worn, rounded and hexagonal in shape. Stones are regularly heat-treated to lighten color and remove or reduce inclusions.
Mining for sapphire in Pailin is extremely demanding. Deadly malaria and a hot climate are working conditions that require muscle and grit. The Khmer Rouge, an oppressive regime that ruled Cambodia from the 1970s to the 1990s, left a legacy of poverty and landmines that still take lives and limbs. Still, in the midst of these most difficult circumstances, miners search for a piece of rough that can change their fortunes.
Where Sapphires Come From: Madagascar
Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa, is a rich source of gems: garnet, aquamarine, tsavorite, rubies and of course, the September birthstone. Rough sapphire was found in 1993 in the Andranondambo region of southern Madagascar; and in 1998 in IIakaka – a remote, arid land of plains broken by lonely mountains. A new source was found in January 2016 near Andranondambo in an extremely remote and dangerous location. The mine is accessible only by foot, and the area is rife with bandits.
Many people rank the color of Madagascar’s blue sapphires between Kashmir and Sri Lanka in quality. Rough is often heat-treated to improve color. Slight inclusions are common, as well as color zoning (bands of color).
Madagascar is another source for fancy color sapphire: it produces pinks, blue-violets, yellows, oranges and greens.
Where Sapphires Come From: Other Sources
The September birthstone can also be found in other areas of the world. Australia produces blue, yellow and green sapphires. It is primarily a source of commercial-grade sapphire, and occasionally produces high-quality rough suitable for use in fine jewelry. Commercial-grade sapphire is also found in Montana. Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya – countries in East Africa – are other sources of pink, blue-violet, yellow, orange and green sapphires.
Courtesy of GIA
This is the biggest violet diamond Rio Tinto has ever found
A rare violet diamond, the largest of its kind ever found at Australia’s remote Argyle mine, will be the centerpiece of Rio Tinto’s annual pink diamonds showcase, the company said Tuesday.
The rough gem, discovered in August 2015 at a mine where more than 90 percent of the world’s pink and red jewels are produced, originally weighed 9.17 carats and had etchings, pits and crevices.
After weeks of assessment, the Argyle Violet was polished down to a 2.83 carat, oval-shaped diamond.
“Impossibly rare and limited by nature, the Argyle Violet will be highly sought after for its beauty, size and provenance,” Rio Tinto Diamonds general manager of sales, Patrick Coppens, said in a statement.
Rio Tinto did not put a figure on its worth, but said it had been assessed by the Gemological Institute of America as a notable diamond with the color grade of Fancy Deep Greyish Bluish Violet.
It is not known how diamonds acquire their colored tinge but it is thought to come from a molecular structure distortion as the jewel forms in the earth’s crust or makes its way to the surface.
Diamonds for sale as part of the annual Argyle pink diamonds tender can fetch $1-2 million a carat. As a basic rule of thumb, pink and red diamonds are worth about 50 times more than white diamonds.
Rio Tinto said violet diamonds were extremely rare with only 12 carats of polished stone produced for the tender in 32 years.
“This stunning violet diamond will capture the imagination of the world’s leading collectors and connoisseurs,” Argyle pink diamonds manager Josephine Johnson said.
(Courtsey of GeologyIn)
Peridot colored dress
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Gem miners find peridot as irregular nodules (rounded rocks with peridot crystals inside) in some lava flows in the United States, China, and Vietnam and, very rarely, as large crystals lining veins or pockets in certain types of solidified molten rock. Sources for the latter include Finland, Pakistan, Myanmar, and the island of Zabargad.
Geologists believe both types of deposits relate to the spreading of the sea floor that occurs when the earth’s crust splits, and rocks from its mantle are pushed up to the surface. Sometimes—as in Myanmar— these rocks can be altered, deformed, and incorporated into mountain ranges by later earth movements.
Rarely, peridot can have an extraterrestrial source, being contained in meteorites that have fallen to earth.
The color range for peridot is narrow, from a brown-green color to yellowish green to pure green. Yellowish green is the most common peridot color seen in jewelry.
Peridot is the gem variety of the mineral olivine. Its chemical composition includes iron and magnesium, and iron is the cause of its attractive yellowish green colors. The gem often occurs in volcanic rocks called basalts, which are rich in these two elements.