The name apatite comes from the Greek work apate, meaning “deceit,” referring to its similarity to crystals of other minerals such as aquamarine, amethyst, and olivine. Apatite is commonly found as well-formed, transparent crystals, and in masses or nodules. It can be intensely colored, occurring in green, blue, violet-blue, purple, colorless, white, yellow, or red forms, the most popular being a rich blue.
Apatite can be found in many localities including the United States, Mexico, Namibia, Canada, and Russia.
Amethyst is a variety of quartz, with a range of color from purple to red-purple. Amethyst derives its name from the ancient Greek amethustos, meaning literally “not drunk.” It was believed to guard the wearer against drunkenness. Traditionally associated with purity and piety, amethyst has also always been favored by royalty, adorned in religious jewelry and royal crowns for ages, as purple is considered a regal hue.
Amethyst is found in Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Siberia and North America. Other sources also include Madagascar, Canada, India, Mexico, Burma, Namibia, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
Aquamarine is a marine-blue beryl, with its color ranging from pure blue to greenish-blue. Aquamarine owes its color to trace elements of iron.
Superb and abundant aquamarine comes from pegmatites (granite bearing gemstone) in Pakistan, Namibia, Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique and China.
The mineral species of beryl (beryllium aluminum silicate) includes several varieties of gemstones, with each distinguished by its color. Elements such as iron, chromium and manganese give these gemstones their brilliant colors. In addition to the most well-known beryl – emerald – the beryl family includes aquamarine, heliodor and morganite, among other stones.
Yellow to reddish orange quartz, called citrine, derives its color from trace elements of ferric iron.
Natural yellow quartz is somewhat rare with the finest quality material thought to be from Bolivia. Gem quality citrine is also found on the Isle of Arron, Scotland; in the Ural Mountains; in the Salamanca Province in Spain; and in Russia, India, France, Mexico, Madagascar, and Brazil.
Diamond is the hardest mineral on earth and the only gem composed of a single element, carbon. The highly uniform arrangement of carbon atoms gives diamonds their superior durability, hardness and brilliance.
Diamonds have long been associated with purity, fearlessness, and love. From Louis XVI to Napoleon to the Grand Duke of Russia, diamonds have been used in the crown jewels of numerous monarchies and the most legendary jewelry for centuries
Though the most well-known diamonds are colorless, diamonds occur in an array of hues, including pink, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, red, brown and black. Diamond slices are thin slices taken through a rough diamond. The inclusions create a beautiful display of interesting patterns against a highly lustrous background. Flashes against the shallow facets give the sparkle that is known and loved by every diamond collector.
Diamonds are mined in such diverse locales as Africa, Russia, Canada, and Australia.
Emerald is the most famous member of the beryl groups. The name emerald comes from the ancient Greek word for green, smaragdos. The highly included natural formation of the stone is known as the jardin, or garden, and inclusions are generally treated to lessen their visual effect. The extreme rarity of inclusion-free emeralds can make them more valuable than diamonds.
Emerald’s brilliant green hue comes from trace elements of chromium. However, newer sources such as Brazil have found vanadium to be the coloring agent within the gemstone. Columbia produces emeralds of the highest quality and excellent bluish-green color. Zambia is also a commercial source of emeralds with good clarity. Other sources include Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, and Zimbabwe.
Worn by Egyptian pharaohs, entombed as prized possessions for the afterlife and carved into rings by the Romans, garnets have been treasured since the Bronze Age. Red garnets were favored by the clergy and nobility in the middle ages with rarer green tsavorite and demantioid garnets and spessartite garnets now popular in modern times.
Garnet species include pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular, uvarovite, and andradite. Garnet occurs in all colors except for blue, with different varieties characterized by hue: spessartite (dark red to bright yellow-orange), rhodolite (light to dark purple-red to red-purple), demantoid (light to dark green to yellow-green), mandarin (vibrant orange), hessonite (orange to brownish orange) and tsavorite (green).
Garnets are found in numerous locations around the world.
Ivory is formed from dentine, a substance found in all mammalian teeth and tusks. Ivory for carvings and jewelry often comes from whales, walruses, hippos and wart hogs in addition to elephants. It has been used for thousands of years and like other organic materials, it is softer than many gemstones and more easily carved with primitive tools. The earliest known use of the material is from mammoths some 30,000 years ago.
Highly prized by the Greeks and Romans, as well as in China and Southeast Asia, ivory has been fashioned into sculpture, decorative art and jewelry. Today the use of elephant ivory is strictly regulated to protect the elephant population. Modern ivory is therefore banned in many countries, while prehistoric and antique ivory is legal and highly sought after.
Named from the Greek kyanos for its dark blue color, kyanite occurs principally as elongated, flattened mica-like blades and less often as radiating, columnar aggregates. While usually blue or blue-gray, it can also be green or colorless.
Gem occurrences include Bahia, Brazil; the St. Gotthard region in Switzerland and Yancy County, North Carolina.
Kunzite is a variety of the spodumene group. Discovered in 1877 in Brazil and named after the pioneering gemologist George Frederick Kunz, its soft pink color makes kunzite a highly sought after gemstone. Most commonly in pale pink, kunzite reaches fine quality in intense pink and violetish purple. Such high quality, saturated kunzite is extremely rare and often collected by top gemstone connoisseurs.
Kunzite can be found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, Madagascar and California.
Lapis lazuli is a richly colored royal blue stone that has been used as a gemstone for millennia. Lazurite, the main component of lapis lazuli, accounts for the stone’s intense blue color. Pyrite and calcite lend small flecks of white and yellow; sodalite, haüynite, and other minerals are occasionally present as well.
Lapis jewelry has adorned the Mesopotamians, Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and Romans. Eygptian and Sumerian tombs dating back as far as 3100 BC were laced with lapis lazuli. The stone has also been used by many cultures for utilitarian and decorative objects, decorating such masterpieces as the Standard of Ur and Tutankhamun’s gold funeral treasures.
Lapis lazuli forms in crystalline limestones, predominantly in Afghanistan, the oldest known commercial gemstone source. Other sources include Russia, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Pakistan, Canada and the United States.
Labradorite is part of a group of minerals that are referred to as feldspar. Labradorite crystals are most commonly characterized by their schiller effect: this rich play of iridescent colors, principally blue and green, is commonly known as labradorescence. Labradorite can also be plain gray, white or colorless and can exhibit yellow, orange, red or even multicolored hues.
Gemstone labradorite comes from Canada, Madagascar, Finland, Russia, Southern India, Mexico and the United States.
Meteorites are ancient pieces of celestial bodies from within our solar system. Most meteorites are fragments chipped away from their parent bodies, usually asteroids. These can orbit the sun for millions of years before colliding with Earth. Meteorites can be dated back some 4.6 billion years.
Meteorites are classified into three types based on properties; iron meteorites, stony-iron meteorites and stony meteorites. The distinctive lattice-like pattern that is sometimes visible in meteorites is called the Widmanstätten pattern.
Moonstone, a member of the feldspar group, is known for its mesmerizing interplay of light, known as adularescence or schiller. Its name comes from the silvery-white sheen that glides like veils of mist across the stone’s milky surface. Moonstones have been used in jewelry by cultures ranging from the Greeks and Romans in ancient times to the more recent Art Nouveau period.
Moonstones come in a broad variety of colors from blue to green, silver to yellow and orange to pink. The most sought-after moonstones have a washing blue sheen.
Sources of moonstone include Sri Lanka, Burma, the United States, India, Russia, Australia, Canada and Africa.
Opals form over millions of years. In Australia, where the vast majority of opals are found, they date back to when the land was under the sea. When the water receded, silica filled cavities in the sedimentary rock. Fine opal consists of a regular arrangement of transparent silica spheres. The formation and stacking of these spheres is what causes one of nature’s greatest phenomena, termed play of color: the diffraction of light around the silica. The color of the ‘fire,’ its brightness, and the pattern which it forms over the opal surface all help to categorize fine opal. Vivid red flashes of color are considered the most valuable followed by orange, green and blue.
The most common form of opal is white and the rarest is black opal. Black opal is derived from a natural solid opal which when viewed from the top has a play of color against a black or dark background. Opal that is naturally attached to the host rock in which it was formed is termed boulder opal. Other varieties of opal include fire opal, found in Mexico, the translucent blue Peruvian Opal, from Peru, and jelly, or water, opal.
Tourmalines are available in a great number of colors, but the rarest, most valuable and legendary are those known as paraiba. Paraiba tourmalines are characterized by their intense neon blue-green color. They are typically only seen in smaller carat sizes with most being highly included due to the nature of tourmaline formation. Their beauty explains the enthusiasm shown for the material which now ranks among the most coveted and valuable of all gemstones.
Named after the Brazilian state in which it was discovered in 1989, paraiba has become one of the most desirable gemstones of modern times. Paraiba tourmalines owe their spectacular color to copper, an element not previously seen in tourmalines. Since their original discovery, other copper manganese tourmalines have been found in Nigeria and most recently in Mozambique. These stones are also termed paraiba regardless of their geographic origin.
Prized for millennia for their rarity in nature, pearls began to be cultivated in the early twentieth century. An organic gem, they are formed by living organisms. The finest pearls are those produced by mollusks whose shells are lined with nacre, or mother-of-pearl.
Pearls are highly valued for their iridescence, which lends them a distinctive translucence, luster and play of color. Natural colors include cream, champagne, yellow, gold, peach, gray, blue, green, lavender, and pink. Tahitian pearls, famous for an intense dark greenish-black color, also are produced in gray, peacock, pistachio and, more recently silver, chocolate, bronze, and copper colors.
Saltwater pearls are found in the seas by Japan, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and the islands of the South Pacific such as Tahiti. Freshwater pearls are found in several regions, including China, North America and the United Kingdom.
Peridot, a gem-quality variety of the mineral olivine, is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one color. Its green color comes from iron and ranges from yellow to olive to brownish green in addition to bright green.
China mines large amounts of pale green peridot in small sizes of less than two carats. Traditionally, some of the largest, finest specimens of peridot have come from Burma, although Pakistan is now mining equally large and beautiful pieces.
The term ruby originates from the Latin ruber for red. In Sanskrit, ruby is called ratnaraj, “king of precious stones.” It is one of the most historically significant gemstones and has been highly prized for centuries.
Ruby is a variety of the mineral species corundum. It is distinguished from sapphire, to which it is structurally identical, by its rich red color. Small trace elements of chromium give rubies their vivid red color.
Ruby is found predominantly in Burma and Thailand. Other sources include Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Pakistan, Nepal the United States, and several African countries.
Sapphire, like ruby, is a species of the group corundum. Though blue is perhaps the most well-known color, sapphires come in any hue: green, pink, yellow, orange, purple, black or even colorless in its purest form. Trace elements of titanium, iron, chromium, vanadium, nickel, and cobalt give sapphires their color, and they are pleochroic, appearing to change colors or shades when viewed from different angles.
Star sapphires, cut en cabochon to highlight their asterism, are highly sought after. Fine rutile needles formed during the growth process over millions of years interfere with the reflection of light causing a star with four, or six legs.
Sapphire is most commonly found in Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Australia. It is also present in Cambodia, Kashmir, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Brazil, the United States, China, Vietnam and Laos.
Spinel is a commonly brilliant red gem that is found in some of the same locales as ruby. Spinel has often been mistaken for ruby, and indeed some of the famous “rubies” are actually spinels, including the 170-carat Black Prince’s Ruby set into the British Imperial State Crown and the Timur Ruby, a 352-carat spinel engraved with the names of mogul emperors who owned it.
Spinel forms in the same crystal structure as diamond. Its varied color palette, from the more well-known vivid red to blue, purple, pink, orange and green, makes spinel a highly prized gemstone. Trace elements such as chromium, iron and cobalt create such colors. Rarely present in gem formation, cobalt produces an exquisite, saturated blue. Both star and color change spinels are also found but are quite rare.
Sources of spinel past and present include Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Burma, Vietnam, and Madagascar.
Tanzanite is a transparent blue gem that was discovered in 1962 in northern Tanzania, and that country remains the gem’s sole source. Scientists have identified it as a variety of the mineral zoisite.
Most tanzanites are heat-treated to produce colors that include light to dark violet blue and bluish purple, as well as pure blue. Heating alters the state of the trace element, vanadium, the coloring element in tanzanite. Tanzanite typically shows strong pleochroism, changing color when viewed from different angles. Cutting therefore plays an important role in tanzanite’s color display and value. Tanzanite can often appear violet-blue from some directions, purple from others.
Tourmaline is the chameleon gemstone, found in the widest range of colors, including black, white and everything in between. The name is believed to come from the Sinhalese word turmali, which means “mixed.”
Magnificent tourmaline crystals can contain luminescent bands of several colors, from red to green to blue. It is often mistaken for other gems, as it comes in shades of blue that mimic sapphires and can also appear as green as emeralds. The rarest of all of these is paraiba, a neon bluish-green to greenish-blue tourmaline.
The beauty of tourmaline has won the stone a following among cutting-edge jewelry designers who have been inspired by the vivid colors and beautiful crystal shapes of the gem. Gem-quality tourmaline is found primarily in Brazil and Africa, but also in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States.
Turquoise was one of the first gemstones to be mined and indeed may be the first stone to be used in jewelry; examples have been found dating from 5000 BC. Prized by the ancient Egyptian and Persians, it was thought to bring luck and ward off danger and illness. Since 1000 AD, Native Americans have also mined turquoise and the American southwest remains a source of high-quality stones. Though many of the old mines have ceased operation, mines such as Sleeping Beauty still produce exquisite natural turquoise. Other sources include Iran, China, Egypt and Chile.
Turquoise’s bright sky-blue to green color derives from iron and copper elements present in the stone. The most highly prized turquoise is robin’s egg blue, an even, intense medium blue.