In our newsletter this month:
The Wide World of Gems
Back in 1875, when the young George Frederick Kunz first approached Tiffany & Co. with the idea of selling semi-precious stones, the only colored gems Tiffany offered were ruby, sapphire and emerald. Kunz convinced Tiffany to sell tourmaline as well, and that was the start of a slow but steady expansion of the colored gemstone trade. It's now possible to find two dozen different colored gemstone varieties in some jewelry stores, and specialized gem dealers will have many more.
When we started our online business 5 years ago we stocked about 40 different kinds of gemstones. At the last count we had nearly 90 varieties in stock. Recently we've been adding an even broader range of gems, with an additional 10 new gem types added in the last month alone.
What's behind the growing interest in rare and exotic gems? It is not just gemstone collectors who are looking for the rare and unusual. Jewelry designers are discovering new colors and textures to incorporate into their designs, and consumers are eager for information about the lesser-known stones. Miners now understand there is a market for these stones, and material that was once ignored is now carefully collected and graded.
Some of the new gem types are not exactly new. Some, like prehnite, apatite and sphene, have been known for years, but haven't been used much in jewelry because they were too soft. However, jewelry designers have now realized that these stones are actually more durable than perennial favorites like opal, and when properly set in earrings or pendants they will last for many years.
Other gems in the lesser-known category are actually very durable and are suitable even for rings. Many of them - such as chrysoprase, dendritic agate, rutilated quartz and fire agate - are members of the quartz family and have very good hardness and no cleavage.
Many of the lesser-known gems are relatively inexpensive. That makes them economically attractive for jewelry designers. But like so many gemstones, supplies are variable and uncertain. For example, natural carnelian and hessonite garnet are frequently requested by our customers but we don't usually find them. Yet, in the last month we've been fortunate to find quite a number of interesting and rare stones. We now have the largest and most varied inventory we've ever had.
Recently we've added new articles on topics including gemstone testers, chrysoprase, rhodochrosite and morganite. If you're interested in learning more about the history of the gemstone business, we've been adding short biographies of some of the most interesting figures. See our new pieces on Laurence Graff and the Moussaeiff family. Click the link to see all our gemstone articles.
Demantoid garnet is the rarest and most valuable of the garnets. In fact demantoid is regarded as one of the rarest of all colored gems. The name "demantoid" means "diamond-like," in reference to demantoid's impressive brilliance and luster. Demantoid garnets are difficult to find in any size, but clean specimens of good color weighing over 1 carat are extremely rare. This 1.94 carat demantoid is one of several large pieces we purchased recently.
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Happy gem hunting,
Your friends at GemSelect
- First Published: August-01-2008
- Last Updated: October-21-2014
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