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Lesser-Known Gemstones

Unique Ulexite
Unique Ulexite
Probably the most respected reference work in the gem trade is Walter Schumann's Gemstones of the World. One of the more intriguing chapters of his book for any gemstone collector is one entitled "Lesser-Known Gemstones." In that chapter Schumann lists the properties of 38 gemstone varieties which are, as he puts it, "not commonly known."

We're not sure who Schumann had in mind when he said these gems were not commonly known, but we suspect he was referring to people in the gemstone trade, not the general public. Quite a few of the gems in his list are ones we've never heard of, and many are gems we've never seen. But someday we hope to have samples of all of them in our inventory here at GemSelect.

Rare Sphalerite
Rare Sphalerite

At least some of the 38 lesser-known gems are ones we've already managed to find. They include andalusite, iolite, prehnite, diopside, apatite, sphene, kyanite and fluorite. You'll find a good selection of all these on our website. That leaves us 30 more varieties to find.

Some of the lesser-known varieties are extremely rare. They include benitoite, an attractive blue or purple colored barium titanium silicate, found only in San Benito County in California and only in very small crystals. Benitoite is now the official state gem of the state of California. But not many of the 36 million residents of California will ever own a benitoite.

Rare California Benitoite
Rare California Benitoite

Some of the gems on Schumann's list have very unique properties. For example, sphalerite, a zinc sulphide, has dispersion or fire three times as high as that of diamond. But don't get too excited -- sphalerite has a hardness of only 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale. Another remarkable mineral, ulexite, is found with closely-packed fibrous crystals whose fibers act as fiber optics, transmitting the image of whatever lies under the opaque stone. Ulexite is sometimes called television stone due to this unique property.

Many of the lesser-known gemstones have less than ideal gemstone characteristics for jewelry, with many being too soft. The harder gems include andalusite, iolite, phenakite, dumortierite, danburite and euclase at around 7.5 on the Mohs scale, though euclase has perfect cleavage. Several of the gems on Schumann's list have a rare adamantine or diamond-like luster. They include cerussite (a lead carbonate), sphalerite, and scheelite (a calcium tungstate). But despite their outstanding luster, all three of these varieties have a hardness less than 5 on the Mohs scale.

  • First Published: June-02-2008
  • Last Updated: October-06-2010
  • © 2005-2014 GemSelect.com all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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