Category Archives: Gemstone Science

The science behind the rocks, the metals, and their journey from ground to gem.

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Gemstones, Precious Metals and Jewelry

That will blow your mind.

1. The average age of diamonds varies from one to three million years old.

Diamonds are as old as some dinosaurs!

Diamonds are as old as some dinosaurs!

2. In Asia, the people swallow pearls whole and powdered for medicinal purposes

To this day, pearls are eaten for medicinal reasons. Don't try this at home for obvious reasons.

To this day, pearls are ingested! Invest don’t ingest!

3. Pure gold is always yellow in color, but it is much too soft to wear.

Melts in your hand, not your mouth. Oops, that M&Ms.

You’ll be golden with a few of these nuggets.

4. Lapis Lazuli was used by the Ancient Egyptians in the form of powder as eye shadow.

Talk about expensive makeup!

Talk about expensive makeup!

5. The only black gemstone that exists is the jet, composed of carbonized wood and coal, and usually comes from fossilized trees.

Don't jet, have a jet!

Don’t fret, have a jet!

6. Garnet comes from the Latin word granatum, which also means pomegranate.

These look good enough to eat!

These look good enough to eat!

7. Blonde-haired women used to don opals to protect the blonde color of their hair.

Give an opal to your Opal, oppa!

Having an opal is probably better than sunbathing.

8. Sapphires and rubies are mined together; both are a type of corundum mineral. Rubies are red due to chromium impurities, while sapphires get their color from iron, titanium, and chromium impurities. They are virtually indistinguishable other than color.

They're basically twins with different dye jobs.

They’re basically twins with different dye jobs.

9. Men wore jewelry before women did; they even wore heels before women.

Rock those pearls, sir!

Rock those pearls, dude!

10. The ocean actually contains gold; it is assumed there is nearly 20 million tons of gold under the mysterious surface.

Grown on trees? Not quite.

Grown on trees? Not quite.

11. Emeralds were Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone.

Ours too, Cleo!

Ours too, Cleo!

Jewelry Vocabulary Guide

Here’s a brief jewelry vocabulary guide, I would like to eventually expand with the help of our awesome readers!

Bezel – The metal around a stone that keeps it in place, e.g. sterling silver bezel.
Bezel set – Stone kept in place by the use of prongs.
Cut – The type of shape the gem is ‘cut’ into. The cut is either faceted or non-faceted, e.g. cabochon cut. Here’s a brief guide to cuts, more to come later. Cut is graded into excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor cuts.

  • Brilliant Cut– It’s a facet cut that ensures that when light reflects, it gives a unique burst of brightness, almost like radiating fire.
  • Cabochon– A stone that is flat at the bottom, but round on top; smooth without facets like a pebble
  • Fancy Cut– Several possible shapes, such as kite-shaped, lozenge shaped, triangular.
  • Mixed Cut– Usually rounded in outline, cut as brilliants with pavilions step-cut. Rubies and sapphires are the easiest to shape into a mixed cut.
  • Step Cut – Step cuts come in a variation of shapes; oval, square, octagons, baguettes, and general table cuts. The step cut is also known at the ‘emerald cut’. This cut intensifies the hue of a color.

Carat – A measurement of gem weight.
Clarity – Gemstone grading; a lower amount of clarity signifies stones for of inclusions and less pleasing to look at.

Grade FL IF VVS1, VVS2 VS1, VS2 SI1, SI2 I1, I2, I3
Description Flawless Internally Flawless Very Very Slightly Included Very Slightly Included Slightly Included Included
Clarity Scale 0 0 1, 2 3, 4 5, 6 7, 8, 9, 10

Cavities –Formed during initial gem growth stages, inclusions filled with liquid, gasses, or solids.
Faceted – Jeweler cut sides, the polished planes of a gemstone.
Gauntlet – A bracelet that is oval and firmly set, with an opening in the back.
Gem – polished, cut precious stone used in jewelry.
Gem shape – Somewhat like a cut, but referring to the shape of the stone. E.g. pear cut, trillion cut, and cushion cut.
Gemstone – Semiprecious or precious stone polished and cut to use as a gem.
Inclusions – Internal flaws or blemishes; often associated with clarity. Inclusions are also used to identify types of stones. Inclusions are divided into three categories, cavities, solids, and growth phenomena.
Growth Phenomena – Hollow cavities fill by iron components; examples: solid crystals, naturally occurring glass.
Jewels – Polished and cut precious stone; gem.
Karats – Measurement of gold weight.
Marcasites –Crystalline pyrites cut/shaped to look like diamonds, popular kind of jewelry from the 1700s to the 1800s until in the 1900s marcasites were cut from class and metal.
Metal – Sterling silver, silver toned, silver plating, yellow gold, white gold
Ring Size – Ring gauge in circumference, varies by country.
Treatment – Done to change the shade, hue, or variance of a stone. Different treatments include oiling, heating, irradiation, dying, bleaching, coating, impregnation, filing, lasering, etc.

Mystic Fire Topaz – Blinded by the Light

Mystic fire topaz jewelry is in –  and we don’t just mean in stock – we mean on the hands of style mavens everywhere.

It’s become a popular choice for fashionable women everywhere because it’s unlike any other gemstone.  It has a personality; it changes with the light; it seems to speak.

Mystic fire begins life as a plain white topaz gemstone.  It is then treated with titanium atoms in a process created by Azotic Coating Technology in 1998.  The treatment creates a rainbow of colors that dance through the stone as light reflects off the multi-facted surface of the gemstone.  Though treated, all types of mystic fire topaz gemstones retain the exact same properties as a genuine normal topaz.  It is still an 8 (very, very hard) on the Mohs scale of hardness and still retains the same chemical makeup.  Just consider mystic fire pieces those with a style conscious who went in for an upgrade; one that paid off exponentially.

Since the treatment can be controlled, there are multiple variations of mystic fire topaz, so there’s a color palate perfect for your style.

Green Mystic Fire Topaz

The most popular style is green mystic fire topaz jewelry.  In fact, most people believe this is the only type of mystic fire topaz there is, but you’ll know better.  With this variety, green is the predominant color, but the luminescent beauty flashes  with rich purples, deep blues, magentas and golds.  This type is commonly used in cocktail rings for its impressive presentation or set as earrings, pendants and bracelets. Since the stone itself is so enigmatic, green mystic fire is perfect in almost any cut or any setting.

Twilight Mystic Fire Topaz

A second favorite, though no less beautiful than its cousin, is perfect for summer and fall.  Called twilight mystic fire topaz, this variation glows with bright oranges, pastel pinks and gold twinkles; the stone looks as though it’s captured the beauty of the world’s most captivating sunrise, which is fitting because topaz has been tied to the sun since ancient times.  This season, we’re seeing lots of twilight mystic rings in unique cuts, gold rimmed earrings and elegant twilight tennis bracelets for an unforgettable look.

Sea Mist Mystic Fire Topaz

More rare than the previous two types of mystic fire topaz is the sea mist topaz.  This beautiful creation features an alluring combination of light blues, turquoise, varying shades of aqua, subtle purples and a hint of pink definitely makes an impression.  The soft translucent stone seems alive with all the colors of the Caribbean.  Since it is more rare than the other varieties, look for this piece as a bold cocktail ring or a vibrant pendant.  If your heart belongs to the sea, this is definitely a stone you need to have in your collection; it’s simply stunning – there’s nothing else like it.

Ecstasy Mystic Fire Topaz

An iteration of twilight mystic fire topaz, ecstasy mystic fire topaz is similar in color, but trades some of the orange for more magenta and pink.  Often, the two are confused because the ecstasy version of mystic fire is not as recognized by name.  Many of the pieces are actually marketed as twilight mystic fire (this is common in the industry).  For example, smoky topaz isn’t a topaz at all, but actually a type of quartz. While our site doesn’t make the distinction between the two, you can tell by looking for those with more pink.  With more pink than orange, ecstasy mystic fire is perfect for those with a more playfully feminine style. If you have any questions, you can always reach a jewelry concierge through LiveSupport on the site or call us at 1-800-471-GEMS.

The stone of many disguises

The only problem with finding mystic fire jewelry is that there tend to be quite a few varieties and even more names for them.  Mystic fire topaz jewelry has also been called Alaskan topaz, Alaskan Ice topaz, Caribbean topaz (no doubt due to the sea mist variety),  titanium topaz after the way it’s created and, for obvious reasons, rainbow topaz.  Regardless of what you call it.  It’s beautiful.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?

Cleaning Mystic Fire Topaz Jewelry

Since all mystic fire topaz pieces are, at heart, a traditional topaz, they retain their tough exterior so they are difficult to chip or damage.  However, since they’ve undergone some plastic surgery, you may want to keep your stones away from high temperatures and steam.  This means no ultrasonic cleaners, no harsh chemicals (it might strip away the titanium treatment that makes mystic fire so vivacious), and no steam cleaners.  The easiest and most effective way to clean mystic fire is with warm water, a mild soap or detergent, a 100% cotton cloth or a child’s soft bristled toothbrush.  A quick cleaning like this will remove any buildup from wear and keep your mystic fire jewelry sparkling brightly.

Karat Cake – How Fine is Your Gold?

Fineness of Gold

Since gold is such a soft metal, it is generally combined with different alloys in order to increase strength. The higher the percentage of gold, the more malleable it will be. For this reason, 100% gold jewelry generally isn’t a good idea. It would bend, break and lose shape rather quickly with wear. So, a standard system of rating, called hallmarking, was created to show the percentage of gold in any given piece of jewelry.

A hallmark (also called an assay or standard marking) indicates the fineness or purity of the metal.

Fineness = the hallmark = which shows the percentage of gold used.

Rings, for instance, are traditionally created using 10 to 14 karat gold because they need to be stronger to hold up to daily wear and tear.  While it also tells you how much gold was used in the creation of the piece, the karat is also an important factor in deciphering whether or not a piece is right for you.

goldfashion1

Shopping for gold jewelry doesn’t have to overload your head, because hallmarking makes it easy to determine how to choose the perfect piece.

If you’re an active person, an 18 karat gold ring would be a bad idea.   Do you live in your jewelry and never take it off (tisk, tisk)? Well, start looking for 10 or 14 karat gold.  Need a piece for a special event? You can think less about the fineness and more about the style.  Go for whatever piques your interest.  Have a child who tugs on your necklaces?  You’ll need a heavy duty chain made stronger by alloys (aka, less gold and a lower karat number).

You can find out what type your jewelry is by looking for the hallmark generally found on the inside of a ring, the back of a pendant, the clasp of a chain or necklace and on a link or closure of a bracelet. But what do those numbers mean?

Gold is measured in parts per 24.  So 24 karat is 24/24 or 100%.  The chart below outlines the most common U.S. hallmarks in the karat system.

Karat Percentage of Gold
24 KT 100% (Winner for most malleable metal)
18 KT 75%
14 KT 58.3% (middle ground)
12 KT 50%
10 KT 41% (Strong like an ox)

Hallmarks and karats have long been scrutinized as a way to quickly determine the value of a piece of gold jewelry – the higher the number the higher the cost – and while this is true, there’s more to the hallmark.  It won’t simply help you determine a piece’s monetary worth, but wether it will work for you, which si the msot important part.  Choose the right gold for yourself and your lifestyle and start by using the hallmark to show you the way.  To remember which means which, just remember that a low number means it’s up to the labor.

Gold Digger

Gold has been one of the world’s most celebrated metals since the beginning of civilization.  It’s earliest recorded uses date back 5,500 years.  It’s lustrous rich color beckons us.  Gold is simply beautiful.

But more than just a pretty metal, gold is a part of human culture.

goldmetalMankind has used gold as a means of exchange through both coins and bullion.  Until recently, gold was at the foundation of the entire world’s monetary systems and remains one of the most widely tracked commercial commodities.

Gold has been used in artwork like sculptures or as adornment to architecture, interior decor, vessels and picture frames.

GoldnuggetGold is a tried and true choice for jewelry artisans because of its beauty, its resistance to oxidation and its malleability.

Gold is love hence the phrase, “A heart of gold.”  It has been and remains the standard metal chosen to represent the bond between two people.  We wear our wedding bands to symbolize a union.  A bond represented perfectly with mankind’s most cherished metal.

Gold is even in our mouths.

But there’s more to gold than what’s on the surface.  There’s science, there’s history and there’s quite a large variety of gold available.

The Science of Goldgoldauperiodictablering

In its purest form, gold is represented by the symbol Au on the periodic table, which comes from the Latin word “Aurum” meaning gold.  It is both the most ductile (easily drawn into wire) and malleable (easily extended or hammered) metal in existence.  In fact, a single ounce of gold can be hammered into 5 x 5 meter sheet.

One of the eight noble metals (silver, platinum, palladium, osmium, iridium, rhodium and ruthenium), gold is resistant to both corrosion and oxidation.  In addition, gold is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity making it perfect for use in electronics and medical procedures (think your teeth).  Nasa is even using gold’s impressive reflective properties to combat infrared radiation from the sun.

Types of Gold

Metallurgists have spent hundreds of years working with gold in order to get the alloy mixtures just right.  Without the proper proportions, the resulting mixture could be too brittle or too hard; the metals used may not react well with one another.  Metallurgists had to work until they had found just the right combination resulting in a rich color they desired, yet a metal alloy that was easy to work with.  The following are the most traditional forms of gold used in jewelry:

  • Yellow Gold – Natural gold mixed with a combination of 50% copper and 50% silver.  The actual amount of the other allows depends on the gold’s fineness.  Yellow Gold is one of the most popular types of gold used in jewelry.
  • White Gold – Natural gold combined with a combination of nickel, copper, manganese, zinc and tin which produces a lustrous silver gold.  Some mixtures use palladium instead of nickel, as nickel more often reacts with body chemistry causing allergic reactions.
  • Rose or Pink Gold – Natural gold combined with a mixture of 90% copper and 10% silver.  The result is a blush pink hue with undertones of yellow.  The more copper added, the richer the color.
  • Blue Gold – Iron mixed with natural gold.  The quantity varies depending on the color.  Too much iron will result in a grey gold mixture.
  • Green Gold – An alloy wherein natural gold is mixed with both silver (or cadmium) and copper, however, there is a higher percentage of silver in the mix.
  • Grey Gold – This alloy contains between 15 and 20 percent iron.

Eco Friendly Green Fashions

Recently, there has been a large movement towards purchasing more eco friendly products.  The same is true in the jewelry industry.  We want the best styles, but we also want to protect the planet.  You can go green while adding the glam.

While the world prizes the beautiful diamonds, precious metals and colorful gemstones produced naturally by the earth, many are concerned about the repercussions for mining these valuables.  Though practices remain much the way they have for hundreds of years, there has been progress towards less invasive ways to mine the glorious minerals.  In addition, organizations like Earth Works Action and the EPA are working to put new technologies in place to effectively reduce emissions, leaching and unfair work practices within the industry.

Today, mining with organizations like these ordaining their practices are much more envirmentally friendly than they were just several years ago.  But for those who still want to further protect the earth which has provided this beauty, there are other options.

Alexandrite & Diamond Ring

Alexandrite & Diamond Ring

In addition to purchasing natural gemstones, you can look for created gemstones.  Created gemstones are exactly the same as a natural gemstone in every way from color, hardness, composition and appearance but is formed in a lab able to reproduce the exact conditions needed in nature (heat and pressure) to create the real thing.  Since they’re made by man above the ground, there is no mining.  Another positive with created gemstones is the price.  Since there is much less labor involved, they’re priced much lower than their verified natural cousins.  And since there are no surprises when creating a gemstone in the lab, created gemstones don’t have inclusions the way real gems do.  They’re effectively a perfect representation of the original, free from defects yet they retain the stones’ core qualities in color, hardness and composition.  Some of the most common created gemstones on the market today are sapphires and rubies from the corundum family, alexandrite and aquamarine.

Pearl & Diamond Ring

Pearl & Diamond Ring

Another option, similar to created yet entirely different, is purchasing pearls.  Almost all of the pearls on the market today are cultured meaning they are effectively “planted” into an oyster and raised through aquaculture.  They still undergo the same process as natural pearls, but get a simple push at the start and are kept safe by their keepers.  Since the oysters that produce pearls are quite picky, the water is kept free of pollutants and is stringently monitored for cleanliness.  In addition, once a pearl reaches the intended size (often several years), the oyster shell that produced it is used for mother of pearl jewelry, buttons or art work.  Little goes to waste, the water is kept clean and a beautiful pearl results.  Whether you choose saltwater Akoya pearls or freshwater pearls, it’s a win-win.

Diamonds from the Dead

They’re turning musical genius, Beethoven, into a diamond.
Really.  It’s true.

A company called LifeGem has created a procedure for making diamonds from the dearly departed – be it man, mutt or musical prodigy.  They can also create a diamond from a lock of your hair.  The process is quite interesting though I’m not sure what Beethoven would think.

In 2006, John Reznikoff of the University Archives, supplied the company with a lock of Ludwig Von Beethoven’s hair with which to begin the process.  Since diamonds are made entirely of carbon and the human body is 18% carbon, they purify one’s remains or hair into graphite.   Once graphite, which is all entirely carbon and differs from a diamond only in its structure, the company both heats and pressurizes the element to replicate the way diamonds are created naturally.  Diamonds are carbon atoms that are bonded together in three dimensions as opposed to two in graphite.  With intense heat and 1 million p.s.i, they can transform graphite’s molecular structure into that of a diamond.  The longer the process is allowed to occur, the larger the diamond will be.

Beethoven’s journey began in 2006, so there is no telling how large of a diamond he will produce once the process, which will end soon, is over.  Where will the truly immortal beloved go?  Will he be on display?  Will he be fashioned into a piece of jewelry?  I’m not sure.

Those who have immortalized their loved ones, their beloved pets or themselves are consummate advocates of the procedure.  If cost weren’t an issue, would you consider LifeGems as an alternative to the hereafter for yourself or another? Would you wear Beethoven, Fido or Uncle Al? Comment and let us know.

There are also other interesting options to burial or cremation.  One can be turned into a coral reef, donated to the Body Farm for forensics research, preserved and put on display for the sake of education and art like the Bodies Exhibit,  shot out of a cannon like writer Hunter S. Thompson or even used for government testing.  I asked our staff their thoughts on this typically taboo topic and was impressed.

Michael, GEMaffair.com’s owner, said, ” A coral reef, so people can say ‘He’s swimming with the fishes!”

John, in the photography department, opted for the traditional , coral reefs or being shot out of cannon a la Hunter S. Thompson.

Matt, our graphic designer, said, “Bring on the immortality.  I can keep my wife company as a ring. She loves jewelry.”

Keith, our sales and shipping manager, said cremation.

and I’m not sure. The diamond from hair sounds neat, but I’m not sure about forcing myself on others as a beautiful bauble after I’m gone.  I love the ocean, but being cast into a brightly colored mold and dropped off the side of a boat seems lonely.  What if I’m below the photic zone and no fish want to take cover by me?  As for the body farm, I’m all for science, but it’s out.  Have you seen those shows?  I’m a huge fan of Thompson, so maybe the cannon.  He always did have inspiring ideas.