Every year, since 1984, the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) hosts competitions to bring out the best jewelry designers and stone cutters in the industry. Qualified judges are selected to narrow the many entries down to first, second, third, and, sometimes, fourth place finishers. The Spectrum Awards and the Cutting Edge Awards are considered the world’s preeminent competitions for design with colored gemstones and cultured pearls.
Here at Dearborn Jewelers, we design a lot of jewelry, both to sell in the store and for individual customers. We purchase colored gemstones to put into our designs, and the cutting of those gemstones is of ultimate importance. If a stone isn’t cut properly, it will not reflect light well and could look ‘sleepy’. A great stone cutter can add tremendous value to the gemstones he/she cuts.
This year saw an increase in the number of loose gemstones that were entered in the Cutting Edge competition. According to Douglas Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association, “diversity was evidenced in the absolute cornucopia of color and variety.” The entries were placed into one of four groups– 1) Classic Gemstones; 2) All Other Faceted; 3) Innovative Faceting; and 4) Carving. Five judges, well-known in the jewelry industry, were selected to select the winners. The competition was held in New York City on August 4-5, 2018. Our congratulations goes to the winners! And here they are:
Classic Gemstone-1st Place (PRNewsfoto/AGTA)
This 91.36 carat gem is an unheated yellow Ceylon Sapphire, cut by Kenneth Blount.
All Other Faceted-1st Place. (PRNewsfoto/AGTA)
Cut by Mikola Kukharuk, this oval tsavorite Garnet is 80.25 carats.
Innovative Faceting-1st Place (PRNewsfoto/AGTA)
Mark Gronlund took the honor for Innovative Faceting, with this 96.30 carat round spiral brilliant-cut Topaz.
Carving-1st Place (PRNews/AGTA)
This carving of a Frog Prince looking out over his lily pad pond features Sunstone, Sapphires, Diamonds, Opals, black and green Jade, Chalcedony, Calcite, and 14K yellow gold. Created by Dalan Hargrave.
Padparadscha sapphires are more popular than ever, thanks to Princess Eugenie of York and her fiance, Jack Brooksbank. Her engagement ring, which the two designed together, holds an estimated 5 carat padparadscha, and is surrounded by 10 round and 2 pear-shaped diamonds. Because padparadscha sapphires are the most rare of all sapphires, and because they’re seldom cut above 2 carats, Princess Eugenie’s stone is a world class gem. The estimated value of her ring is $175,000.
Jack Brooksbank, Princess Eugenie, and her engagement ring
The two tie the knot on October 12, 2018 in beautiful St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Although the ceremony is rumored to be at least as grand as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, it’s uncertain whether those of us who live outside the U.K. will be able to watch the wedding ceremony. The BBC, the major broadcasting station in the U.K. declined to televise Princess Eugenie’s wedding, thinking that the number of viewers would not justify the cost of production. Another, more local British station, is planning to televise the full wedding, so we’ll have to see whether the ceremony airs here in the U.S.
Padparadscha is a variety of sapphire based on hue and saturation of color. And these traits can be subjective! Narrowly defined, a padparadscha is supposed to be from Sri Lanka and it’s supposed to be pinkish-orange or orangish-pink. It does not have to be highly saturated and, in fact, a delicate color is preferred. But where exactly is the line between an orange sapphire, a pink sapphire, and a padparadscha sapphire? Even gemologists have a hard time agreeing on a uniform standard for this gem. Because the premium for a padparadscha is so high, there is incentive to stretch the narrow definition.
While Sri Lanka is the traditional source for padparadscha sapphires, other countries such as Vietnam, Tanzania, and Madagascar also produce them. The name, “padparadscha”, comes from the native language of Sri Lanka and means lotus blossom. A lotus flower is a little more pink than peach, so some people talk about the hue of a padparadscha as being a “sunset color mixed with a lotus flower.” Well-known author and gemologist, Richard Hughes, calls it “a marriage between ruby and yellow sapphire.” However it’s defined, a padparadscha sapphire is a beautiful gem and well deserving of the extra attention it’s receiving!
Padparadschas showing the narrow range of hue
Green has always been my favorite color. My first 10-speed bike was green. My high school class ring had a simulated emerald in it, and my favorite beach is the Green Sand Beach on the island of Hawaii. Turns out that green is the most soothing color. Scientific evidence points to green as the color that calms the ‘cones’ in your eyes. When I first heard of ‘rods and cones,’ I was in gemology school. Before a colored stone test, the teacher would tell us to go outside and “look at green.” She felt we’d do better on the test because our eyes would be rested. Optometrists will tell you that ‘rods’ sense dark and light, but ‘cones’ sense color. And their peaceful color is green.
It’s also true that more gemstones are green than any other color. Why is that? Well, one reason is because so many elements in the earth’s crust are green coloring agents. The most common ones are iron, chromium, copper, nickel, and vanadium. What’s confusing, but also interesting, is that these elements have different effects on different minerals. Chromium makes an emerald green, but it makes a ruby red! It’s a lot like cooking–different ingredients in different amounts have different flavors. But with so many possible recipes for minerals, the most likely result is green. We have Emerald, Peridot, Turquoise, Tourmaline, Jade, Variscite, Chrysoprase, Grossular Garnet, Chrysoberyl, Sphene, . . . and the list goes on. Let’s concentrate on the first four.
Emerald is a variety of beryl. It’s a mineral that’s colored by chromium or, in some cases, vanadium. The most common places to find emerald are Columbia, Zambia, and Egypt. Emeralds have always been treasured by royalty and those in power. Cleopatra’s love for them is well known. Elizabeth Taylor, who portrayed Cleopatra, also loved emeralds. And Napoleon gave his Josephine an emerald suite, famous for its disappearance. A side story on this is that the man who eventually found the jewelry was a known criminal who used undercover agents and deductive reasoning to find the culprits! Emeralds are intriguing. They always come with an interesting story.
Peridot is the gem quality of the mineral, olivine. The coloring agent is iron. Peridot is mined in Egypt, Pakistan, China, Brazil, and the southwestern United States. Olivine is one of the first mineral crystals formed when volcanic magma cools. Because it’s denser and heavier than volcanic ash and sand, it can collect and create magical places like the Green Sand Beach(aka Papakolea Beach) in Hawaii. According to legend, Pele, the Goddess of Volcanos, cried tears of peridot.
The tears of Pele, Peridot crystals
Turquoise is typically thought to be blue, but there is a lot of green turquoise, especially where the ground has less copper and more aluminum or iron. Common places to find green turquoise are China, Mongolia, India, the Sinai Peninsula, and the state of Nevada. Turquoise has always been prized. King Tut had turquoise in his treasures, and Queen Victoria had many pieces of turquoise jewelry. While both of them seemed to prefer the “robin’s egg blue” color, green turquoise is gaining popularity in current markets. Two mines in Nevada, the Carico Lake and the Blue Ridge, are famous for their supply of lime and apple green turquoise.
Tourmaline comes in many colors because of its complicated chemical make-up, but green is one of the most beautiful. Chrome tourmaline is colored by chromium but, normally, tourmaline’s coloring agent is iron. The mineral is found in many places, including Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and the United States. When the green color is combined with pink, the result is bi-colored or watermelon tourmaline.
Bi-colored tourmaline ring, custom made by Dearborn Jewelers
Watermelon tourmaline, carved into butterfly wings, made into a pendant by our benchjewelers
Kermit the Frog always sang, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” His song was one of sadness for being ordinary. It wasn’t until the end of the song that he recognized his own beauty. A green gem stone, though, never doubts its beauty, and it’s in lovely company. With so many to choose from, what is YOUR favorite green gem?
The accent stone(s) is an important part of some jewelry. It’s meant to enhance the beauty of the center stone and provide added interest to the jewelry. Diamonds are the most often used gem for accentuating a piece of jewelry. They “go” with every other gem, and they add sparkle and richness. But, what if you want something different for your accent stones? Are there rules or best practices that apply when choosing accent stones?
An important guideline to follow when creating jewelry is to make sure the accent stones don’t compete with the center stone for attention. Features such as size, cut, polish, and color should all be considered. The size of an accent stone should always be smaller than the center stone, but there are many acceptable proportions. Cut and polish of the accent stones can be similar or quite different from the center stone. For example, I love the look of this rough drusy quartz with the polished and faceted diamonds. But the smoothly polished chrysocolla and turquoise pendant is also pleasing to the eye.
Sleeping Drusy Quartz with Diamond Accents
Chrysocolla and Turquoise Cabochon Pendant
The study of color starts with the color wheel. There are terms for colors that look good together, such as complementary or analogous colors. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, and analogous colors are adjacent. Monochromatic colors are different tints or tones of the same color. For example, blue and orange are good colors together. And blue with green can be a vibrant combination. But dark blue can look great with light blue, too!
In the end, your eye is the best judge of what colors look good together. So much depends on the exact tint and hue of each gem. Some people prefer bold, saturated colors while other people prefer pastels. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the hues of accent stones. Here are some suggestions for accents to put with birthstone gems.
- January – Red Garnet paired with Yellow-Green Peridot
- February – Violet Amethyst paired with Yellow Citrine (Note: Ametrine is the natural pairing of these two.)
- March – Aquamarine paired with Pink Tourmaline
- April – Diamond pairs with anything, but consider Blue Zircon for its high dispersion of light (aka Sparkle!)
- May – vivid Emerald paired with another vivid gem, Blue Sapphire
- June – Pearl, often used as accent itself, would pair well with the pastel hues of Morganite
- July – Ruby, another vivid stone, would look great with Emerald as long as you’re okay with Christmas colors. If not, consider Pink Sapphire, with its less saturated,monochromatic hue, as an accent gem.
- August – Green Peridot paired with Ethiopian Opal
- September – Blue Sapphire paired with Orange Spessertine Garnet
- October – Precious Opal, if white, would pair well with Pink Spinel or Tourmaline. If the Precious Opal is black, it would pair better with Emerald or Sapphire.
- November – Yellow Citrine paired with Red Garnet
- December – Robin’s Egg Blue Turquoise paired with Black Spinel or Diamonds
I recently helped create a Lavender Star Sapphire ring. The sapphire had a very pale hue, as star sapphires often do. The goal was to enhance its color with effective accents. We chose faceted trillion amethysts, fairly light in color but more colorful than the sapphire. When the three were side by side, it really helped the Star Sapphire appear more lavender. This can be another great use of accent stones.
Star Sapphire with Light Amethysts
Choosing accent gems for your next jewelry project can be lots of fun. Diamonds are wonderful, and they’ll never lose their appeal as an accent stone, but there are lots of other possibilities. We’d be happy to help you figure out your options.
Boulder Opal from Australia
Opal can be a confusing gem stone. For one thing, it’s not a mineral like most gems. Minerals have an identifiable crystal structure. Opal has a non-crystalline, amorphous structure, and so it’s labeled a mineraloid. Another unusual quality of opal is all its different variations. Most people think of opal as the stone that flashes different colors. Gemologists call that quality “play of color.” But that only happens with precious opal, which represents about 5% of all opal. Most opal is called “common opal” or “potch opal”, and it shows no play of color. These are just two reasons why opal is, well, complicated.
If you are really serious about your gem stones, you’ve probably heard of Black Opal, White Opal, Crystal Opal, Peruvian Opal, and Fire Opal. You know that most of the precious opal comes from Australia or Ethiopia. You understand that an opal doublet is really a layer of precious opal too fragile to survive alone in jewelry, so it’s backed with a non-precious material. An opal triplet is an even finer layer of precious opal, with both a backing and a protective clear quartz dome over the top.
But what is Boulder Opal? I describe it as ribbons or veins of opal that are embedded in the host rock it formed within. Because the host rock is tougher and harder than opal, boulder opal is considered more durable. And because the host rock is less valuable, you can get a big piece of boulder opal for much less money than a small piece of crystal or black opal. Boulder opal is mined in Queensland, which is the northeastern part of Australia. Mine fields in places like Quilpie, Bulgaroo, Koroit, and Yowah are yielding a lot of product. As Boulder Opal has become more popular, these mines have kept up with demand.
Three pieces from our collection
For the month of May, 2018, we’ve brought several beautiful pieces of boulder opal into our store, courtesy of our distributor, DuftyWeis Opals. They’re only here for a limited time so, if you have the chance, come in to be personally introduced to boulder opal.
Gemstones are part of my life. I’m around them all day at work! But many people feel that their interaction with gems and jewels is minimal. Our language, however, is quite “loaded” with references to gems. This pervasiveness means that it’s literally impossible to live life without some knowledge of gems.
Many women, and some MEN!, are named after gemstones. Have you ever met an Amber, a Ruby, or a Jade? Other well-known names include Beryl, Pearl, Opal, Jett, and Jasper. Names like Gemma and Crystal aren’t gemstone names, per se, but they mimic the idea of gems. And there are plenty of less-common names like Jacinth, Sapphire, and Garnet.
Beryl Markham, Aviatrix, and character in the movie, Out of Africa
Pearl S Buck, author of The Good Earth
Amber Tamblyn, actress. Starred in Two and a Half Men
Companies like Crayola and Pantene have borrowed names from gemstones to describe their colors. Do you remember coloring with crayons labeled Aquamarine or Amethyst? What about Pantene’s Color of the Year last year–Rose Quartz! Names like Ruby, Emerald, or Turquoise bring colors vividly to mind. The gemstone names can be colorful adjectives, and the entertainment industry has used them for years. Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz with her RUBY red slippers? Or how about Dolly Parton singing about Jolene and her eyes of EMERALD green?
Even gemstones with little or no color get used a lot in our language. Diamond is the most popular gemstone used in songwriting. Pearl is the runner-up. Over 1200 songs were counted as having the word, Diamond. Rhianna has a recent song, “Diamonds”, which, I’m sure, is quite popular. My mind goes back to my 8th grade synchronized swimming program, when we swam to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” by Ethel Merman. (I guess that dates me, doesn’t it?)
There are sayings and quotations about gemstones. For example, “Diamond in the Rough” means that something or someone is valuable and good, but not polished or finished. “Pearls of Wisdom” means rare and worthy words of advice. Even the Bible contributes to the list with “Pearls before Swine” which talks about not giving out words or things of great value to those who won’t appreciate them. In general, gemstones are used as synonyms for something or someone rare, valuable, and special.
I love these funny quotations about gemstones and jewelry that I came across while researching for this blog.
Diamonds are only chunks of coal, that stuck to their jobs, you see. by Minnie Richard Smith
Jewelry takes people’s minds off your wrinkles. by Sonja Henie
I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry. by Rita Rudner
But I want to end with a reference to gemstones that we all learned from early in our youth. This is proof, in my opinion, that one can’t go through life without some knowledge of gems:
Twinkle, twinkle little star– How I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high–Like a diamond in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle little star–How I wonder what you are.
Most of us think of Michelangelo, Picasso, or Rodin when someone mentions sculptors. But here are three more names of skilled artists who sculpt and polish gem stones. Tom Munsteiner, Steve Walters, and John Dyer have all won multiple awards for their work. Here are some examples:
Tom Munsteiner is a fourth generation gem stone carver from Germany. His father, Bernd Munsteiner, is famous for the development of the fantasy cut, and he even has some of his work in the Smithsonian! Tom knew early on that he wanted to carve gems. At age 16 he began training with his dad. One thing I found very interesting is that his dad first taught him how to classically cut gems before attempting any fantasy cuts. By the time he was 22, he had been trained as a Gemologist and was beginning to win awards for his gemstone creations. His work is distinguished from his father’s for its softer, less angular designs.
Steve Walters grew up in California. He taught himself how to carve gemstones by reading books and practicing. For a short period, he produced gemstone sculptures for his parents’ company. In the mid-1980s he started to carve gems for jewelry. His work is very recognizable as many of the pieces are composites. He might put gems like onyx, citrine, and hematite together, backed with mother of pearl. He’s won several A.G.T.A. (American Gem Trade Association) Cutting Edge Awards, and his booth at the Tucson Gem Show is always one of the most popular.
John Dyer grew up in Brazil, the son of missionaries from the United States. When his parents saw his interest in gems, they bought him books and helped him obtain his first rough gem stone material. John tells the story of taking his rough to a cutter who overcharged him and did a terrible job. That’s when he decided to cut his own gems. With lots of practice and a few “disasters”, he’s become one of the most recognized gem stone cutters and has won over 50 cutting awards.
At Dearborn Jewelers of Plymouth, we’ve been fortunate to set gem stones cut by all three of these artists. It’s so gratifying to see these gems being worn and appreciated. Here are some of our designs. If you’re inspired to have your own creation by one of these well-known artists, come and talk to us. We’d love to help.
Blue Topaz by John Dyer
Composite with Watermelon Tourmaline by Steve Walters
Peridot by Tom Munsteiner
The history of lab-created or synthetic gemstones is much longer than you might think. Scientists began making synthetic ruby back in the late 1800’s. Initially, rubies were made for industrial rather than decorative purposes. Ruby is harder than steel, so it can hold up to moving metal parts. It actually helps reduce friction in devices like watches or compasses, allowing the metal pieces to move with a consistent pattern.
In the early 1900’s, a young boy named Carroll Chatham tried to grow diamonds in his garage. He was fascinated with the work of Henri Moissan, a French chemist who also tried to grow diamonds but ended up with Moissanite. Making diamonds requires more heat and pressure than Chatham could produce at the time, so he re-directed his focus to emeralds. Even then, the work wasn’t easy. In fact, his first emerald crystals were accidentally formed. By this time Chatham was in college, and it took him three years to figure out how to replicate the “accident.”
Lab-created Emerald Rough Crystals
Lab-created Cut and Polished Emerald
By 1938, Chatham had perfected the process of growing emeralds for jewelry, and he moved on to creating other valued gems like sapphire, ruby, opal, spinel, and alexandrite. Chatham began selling his lab-created gems under the Chatham label. The company is now 80 years old and is one of the leaders in the making of lab-created colored gem stones. Carroll never gave up on his dream of growing diamonds and, in the late 1980’s, the company was successful. Unfortunately, Carroll didn’t live to see this dream come true.
In 2018 there are many, many companies that produce diamonds–companies like Brilliant Earth, Clean Origin, and EcoStar. Years of refining the High Pressure, High Temperature technique has led to better quality diamonds. While diamonds have many industrial uses, today’s lab-created diamonds are beautiful and can also be used in jewelry. Anyone purchasing an engagement ring today has a decision to make that his/her parents and grandparents didn’t have to make–Should the center stone be natural or lab-grown?
Photo courtesy of Rogers & Holland
There are pros and cons to purchasing a synthetic diamond or colored gemstone. Some of the advantages are 1) synthetics are less expensive than their natural counterparts; 2) growing synthetics is kinder to the environment than mining for natural stones; and 3) gem cutters can sacrifice more synthetic material to create the perfectly cut gem because, well, you can always grow more! Partly because of these advantages, we’ve seen more customers move towards this option.
One big disadvantage of a synthetic stone is that it’s, well, synthetic. Fine jewelry symbolizes pure and natural feelings of love, gratitude, or friendship. How will it feel to wear or give jewelry that has a lab-created stone? Another disadvantage is that synthetic stones will only go down in value. They are a manufactured item and, as the technology improves in the making of them, the cost to produce will decrease. Fine natural gems are rare, and that rarity will keep values high.
It’s a decision every consumer has to make for him/herself. What’s imperative is that consumers are presented with clear options, and that they know what they are buying. Gemstones are not obviously natural or synthetic, so customers must rely on reputable jewelers to distinguish between the two. For an important jewelry purchase, go to an A.G.S. (American Gem Society) member store. There you will find associates dedicated to the highest integrity in the jewelry industry. Ask questions and do comparison shopping. And feel lucky to live in a time when there are so many gem stone options.
Ultra Violet, Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year
In December, Pantone came out with its Color of the Year. This year it’s Ultra Violet. My mind goes to the gemstones that exhibit this glorious hue. Many people will think of Amethyst and Tanzanite. I’d like to introduce some other options– two gems most people have never heard of and two gems most people have heard of but never in this hue.
SUGILITE was first identified in 1944 by Ken-ichi Sugi from Japan. But gem quality Sugilite wasn’t discovered until 1979 in South Africa, making it a very new gem in the jewelry industry. The color ranges from a pinkish purple to a deep bluish-purple. The hardness is between 5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale. Sugilite is generally cut as a cabochon because it’s opaque. It usually has veining and a mottled appearance.
CHAROITE is another “young” stone. Named after the Chara River in Eastern Siberia, the only place it’s ever been found, it was discovered in the 1940s but not really known until 1978. The stone ranges from lavender to purple in color, is usually opaque, and is readily identified by its swirling, fibrous appearance. Considered a rock rather than a mineral, its hardness on the Mohs scale is listed as 5 – 6.
JADEITE has been known and valued for centuries. It comes in many colors, not just green. Lavender jade is beautiful! It can be semitransparent to opaque and is usually cut into cabochons or beads. It comes from many different places–Myanmar, New Zealand, Russia, and Canada to name a few. Jade is a harder, tougher stone than either Sugilite or Charoite. But it also has the possibility of being dyed, which brings down the value. Neither Sugilite nor Charoite undergo treatments. Always ask if the jadeite has been treated or enhanced before you buy!
PURPLE SAPPHIRE is very rare, coming usually from Sri Lanka or Madagascar. Again, sapphire has been valued as a gemstone for centuries, but most people don’t know that it comes in so many different colors. Most sapphire is heat-treated, but purple, lavender, and violet sapphires usually don’t need to be. Purple sapphire has a Mohs hardness of 9, so it’s the most durable of the options presented here. Because it’s hard and transparent, this gem is usually faceted. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most expensive option listed.
Amethyst and Tanzanite are lovely purple gems, and they would work well with this year’s fashions. But now you have LOTS of options if you want to be “styling” with the Color of the Year!
Tanzanite, that beautiful violet-blue gemstone with the interesting history, doesn’t seem that rare. Most jewelry stores have at least a few pieces. Most consumers recognize the name, tanzanite, and can’t remember when it wasn’t available. But we are actually the lucky “generation” to have this precious gem. Going to the store and buying a new piece of tanzanite jewelry will probably not be an option for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The history begins back in the late 1960s, when the blue-purple variety of the mineral, zoisite, was first discovered. Found in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro, the gem quickly gained the attention of Tiffany’s president, Henry Platt. It was Tiffany & Co. that named the gem, Tanzanite, and began marketing it in 1968. The popularity of the gemstone grew over the next few decades and, in 2002, Tanzanite became an official birthstone for December. It also is the gemstone for the 24th wedding anniversary.
Most gemstones are found in various places on Earth. But the geological circumstances that allow tanzanite to form are very rare and have only been found in the Merelani Hills. All the mines are located within eight square miles! A big reason for this is that vanadium, the trace element responsible for the violet-blue color, is not a common element. And it was very rare during the formation time of tanzanite. Another reason for tanzanite’s rarity is that only in this one location has erosion of the Earth’s surface tipped the scales enough to allow the continental crust, where the gems were formed, to be pushed up by the oceanic crust. Bringing the gemstones closer to the Earth’s surface has allowed mining to be profitable.
For how much longer will mining be profitable? In the early 2000’s money was invested in understanding the conditions ripe for tanzanite. Mining became more efficient and production increased. Recent reports, however, point out that mines have to go deeper to find more tanzanite. At some point, the cost of mining will be prohibitive. When production slows and the jewelry industry can’t count on a steady supply, it will look to other, more available, gems. This may lead to a downward spiral of demand and supply for tanzanite.
You are part of the “generation” that can still go to your favorite jewelry store and buy this beautiful gem. Unless some other deposit is discovered, future generations will have to buy previously owned tanzanite. So, if you love tanzanite, don’t delay in getting your special piece of it.
Our pieces of tanzanite, currently in stock