It’s So Lovely, Being Green

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 Crystals

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?

 

 

Born in December? Lucky You!

december birthstones

Birthdays in December often take a back seat to all the holiday celebrations.  Red and green seem to dominate the landscape.  More Christmas cookies are consumed than birthday cake.  But those of you born in December are very lucky to have some amazing blue birthstones to choose from–Blue Zircon, Turquoise, Tanzanite, and Blue Topaz.  With so many choices, there is no reason to feel deprived.

Zircon is a gem stone which comes in a wide range of colors.  The most popular color is blue.  Some zircons are so electric looking as to be almost neon.  They have this great ability to refract light, so the stone’s color just seems to jump out at you.  A lot of people get zircon confused with cubic zirconia, which is a manmade stone used as a substitute for diamonds.  Zircon is a completely natural stone.  It is often heat treated, as many gem stones are, to enhance the color and improve the clarity.  But it is not lab grown.  It’s mined in many places, including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

If you want a birthstone that is mined in the United States, turquoise is your choice.  A lot of turquoise is mined in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada.  Turquoise is often named for the mine it came from, so you’ll hear about Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, or Carico Lake turquoise.  Generally light to dark blue or green, with or without matrix, this opaque gem stone is sometimes dyed to improve its color.   Stabilizing material may be used, since turquoise is a relatively soft stone.  Ask your jeweler if you want to know about possible enhancements.

Tanzanite is the youngster of all gem stones.  Discovered near Mt. Kilimanjaro in the 1960s, Tanzanite is the fancy name Tiffany & Co. gave to the mineral, Zoisite.  I guess I can’t blame them.  Wouldn’t you rather buy something exotic-sounding  than scientific-sounding?  It’s a pleochroic gem, meaning that it shows more than one color at a time.  You can see blue, purple, and violet.  Almost all tanzanite is heat treated to improve its color, since most of it comes out of the ground brown.  There is only one known source for Tanzanite, and it’s in Tanzania.

Both Zircon and Tanzanite are fairly expensive gemstones, especially in large sizes.  A great alternative is Blue Topaz.  Topaz is mined on most continents, including South America, North America, Asia, and Europe.  The gem stone is generally heated after irradiation to produce the blue color.  Natural blue topaz is relatively rare.  Most topaz is pale yellow, gray, or colorless.  With enhancement, different shades of blue are possible–Sky, Swiss, and London.  Sky blue is the palest and London blue is the darkest.

So all you December “babies”, cheer up!!  Life is good.  Especially if you get one of these beautiful blue gemstones for your birthday.  We have examples of all four at Dearborn Jewelers.  Stop by and see them!

december birthstone2

 

The History and Origins and Stories of Turquoise

Turquoise_Cerillos_Smithsonian

Almost everyone has heard of Turquoise.  It is one of the oldest, most popular gem stones of all time.  Turquoise has a rich and colorful history, and it originates in a few places around the globe.  Studying turquoise is like taking a journey around the world and back in time.  Sounds fun, right?

HISTORY AND ORIGIN

Imagine yourself in the time of King Tut, in Egypt, around 1330BC.  Thousands of laborers worked the mines in the Sinai Peninsula, finding turquoise for the pharaohs.  When King Tut’s treasures were discovered, they included pieces of beautiful blue turquoise.  Although the mines in the Sinai had long been forgotten and depleted, when they were re-discovered in the mid-1800s, people did try to work them.

In the 12th and 13th centuries AD, on the other side of the world, in the land of the Native Americans, turquoise was mined for the Aztec Kings.  It was used for pendants, beads, and for trade.  Proof exists that the prehistoric peoples of the Anasazi and Hohokam tribes mined turquoise in areas we call the Southwest, and traded it to people who carried it hundreds of miles from its origin.

The robin’s egg blue of “Persian turquoise” was treasured by the peoples of Persia (now Iran), Afghanistan, Siberia, and Turkistan (now Turkey).   Turquoise was found in ancient graves dating from the first to third century AD.  And it was from this area that turquoise first made its way to Europe in the late 1600s.  Because it traveled through the land named by the French as Turquie, many believe that the stone got its name by Frenchmen who thought Turquie was its origin.

China’s love of turquoise dates back to the thirteenth century AD.  There it was used mostly for carving and decorative items.   In Tibet, the stone was used for currency and as an amulet.  Although there were a few mines in China, most of their source came from Persia, Tibet, and Turkey.

AMERICAN ORIGIN

Now that we’ve traveled around the world, let’s focus on our own backyard–the Southwestern states of Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.  There are many mines in each of these states and turquoise lovers know the origins of their stones.

NEVADA:

The Ajax Mine, a relatively new mine, yields stones ranging from light blue with dark blue veins to dark green with light blue areas. The Blue Diamond Mine, inaccessible in the winter months, produces light to deep blue turquoise exhibiting swirling or mottled patterns of light and dark blues.  Carico Lake Mine resides on a dried up lake bed, and its turquoise is a clean spring green color with black spider web matrix.

ARIZONA:

Bisbee, Arizona is the site of the Bisbee Mine, closed since the early 1970s, but known for the intense blue color of its turquoise and the fine webbing of its dark matrix.  The Kingman Mine is one of largest domestic turquoise mines.  Its turquoise ranges from light to dark blue with some tints of green.  Its matrix can range from white, light brown to black and it’s frequently flecked with pyrite or quartz.  The Sleeping Beauty Mine produces a soft blue, like a robin’s egg blue, turquoise, with little or no matrix.

NEW MEXICO:

The Cerrillos Mine, 10 miles south of Santa Fe, is the oldest known source of turquoise in America.  The huge deposit was originally exposed at the surface but has now been mined more than 200 feet deep. The turquoise that comes from Cerrillos varies in color from tan and khaki green to blue-green, blue, and even white.

STORIES

My own story of turquoise starts in Tucson, Arizona at the 2015 Gem Show.  Wanting to buy a piece of turquoise, I came upon Helen Shull, owner of Out of Our Mines, in Nevada.  She told me that the piece of turquoise I selected came from a new mine called the Candelaria Pickhandle Mine.  The interesting name comes from the fact that an old pickhandle, left by a miner decades ago, sent the signal that turquoise was present.  Helen and her husband, out walking their land in Nevada, found this old, long forgotten pickhandle and began to mine the area.  My piece is beautiful, blue with golden matrix.

turq1

My favorite story of turquoise came from the Native Americans who saw the blue stone as giving of life and good fortune.  One of their legends says that people danced and rejoiced when the rains came, and their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth.  That mixture became the “fallen sky stone”–Turquoise.

Much of my information for this blog came from http://www.traderoots.com/Turquoise_About.html, if you want to know more about this magical stone.