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.
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.
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?