GemSelect June 2015 Newsletter - The Sun and Gems
With the month of June comes a solstice. Solstice comes from the Latin word for sun, sol and sister, which means to stand still. This is because the sun appears to be still during this time. Depending on which part of the world you are in, June is the month for either Midsummer or Midwinter's Day. This is the time of the year when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer, causing the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere. The summer solstice weekend in Reykjavik, Iceland lasts for three whole days, since the sun does not set during this time in the land of the midnight sun. This must be a marathon of a party.
The sun has been celebrated and worshipped by ancient cultures all over the world. One of the ancient civilizations famous for this were the Incas, who worshipped Inti, the sun god. The greatest Inca temple was the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, Peru. This was decorated with sheets of gold and some say the walls were studded with emeralds. Within the temple was a gold, jeweled statue of Inti. Inside the temple complex, there was a field made from gold and silver corn, animals and other figures. To this day, a sun festival is held in Cuzco each June during the winter solstice. It is easy to see why ancient civilizations deified the sun, since without the sun emitting light and warmth, life on Earth would not be possible. Our modern calendar is a solar, rather than lunar one. But some events, especially religious ones are based on a lunar calendar.
Although June is the month of the solstice, sunstone is not the birthstone for June; the birthstones for June are moonstone, pearl and alexandrite. Moonstone gets its name from the magical sheen that can be seen on its surface. This is known as "adularescence" and appears similar to light reflecting off the surface of the moon. Due to this unusual trait, moonstone is quite unique, yet it is an affordable gemstone. Moonstone is available in a variety of colors and types. It is typically colorless, but can also be found in mocha, orange, yellow, gray, green, pink, blue and white. Other varieties of moonstone include gems that display asterism (the star effect), such as star moonstone and cat's eye moonstone. Moonstone is usually cut into cabochons, though rarely, it can be found faceted.
Pearls are organic gemstones that come from bivalve mollusks. Natural pearls are incredibly rare, but cultured pearls are widely available. Pearls can be white, silver, pink, cream, golden, lavender, blue, green or black. Therefore, there is a pearl to suit everyone. Indeed, there are various other types of pearls too, such as conch pearls and abalone pearls.
Alexandrite is a rare variety of color change chrysoberyl that was originally named after Czar Alexander II after being discovered in Russia in 1831. Alexandrite is typically green with a reddish color change. The color change can be seen under incandescent light (an electric light that has a heated wire filament). Alexandrite is usually found in small sized gems and is mostly sold as lots. However, we sometimes acquire larger gems weighing 0.50 carats or more. Although alexandrite was discovered in Russia, nowadays, alexandrite gems are sourced from other places such as Tanzania and Sri Lanka.
Apart from the traditional birthstones that are assigned to each month of the year, there are zodiac stones according to sun signs (astrological signs). Sun signs are set according to the position of the sun at birth. There are twelve sun signs. The sun signs for June are Gemini for the 1st to the 21st and then Cancer for the 22nd to the end of June. The zodiac stone for Gemini is agate and the stone assigned to Cancer is emerald.
Agate is an affordable type of cryptocrystalline quartz which has a wide range of colors and patterns and can be found transparent, translucent or opaque. Therefore, there is an agate to suit everybody, from subtle colors to bright, vivid hues.
The best emeralds are extremely valuable and have a deep emerald-green hue. However, more affordable options are still available in smaller-sized or lighter-colored stones. Emeralds have been treasured by gemstone and jewelry lovers for centuries and some of the most fantastic jewels have been made from these beautiful green stones, which have a timeless beauty.
There is a gemstone named after the sun, due to its spangled appearance and orange to reddish color. Sunstone is the state stone for Oregon. It is aventurine feldspar (not to be confused with aventurine quartz) that contains tiny platelets of hematite or goethite which cause the metallic schiller. It is thought that the Vikings wore sunstone as talismans, and also used it for navigational purposes, since it was associated with the sun. In ancient Greece, sunstone was a symbol of the sun god. Sunstone can be faceted or cut en cabochon and is an interesting and unique gem.
Some unique gemstones can fade when exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, such as azurite, amethyst, citrine, kunzite and smoky quartz. Other gemstones possess a rare optical phenomenon called tenebrescence, (also known as reversible photochromism) which causes them to change color when exposed to sunlight. One example of these amazing gems is hackmanite, a rare variety of sodalite. When hackmanite is mined, it is violet, but after being exposed to sunlight, the color fades to lilac, or greenish/grayish-white. Then, when the gem is placed in a dark place, the violet color slowly reappears. This property can be seen in photochromic eyeglasses, which darken under UV light and then lighten in darker environments. These are typically coated with two layers of photochromic molecules; one on the inside and one on the outside.
Those who believe in crystal healing place their gems in the sun to be 'cleansed' and/or 'energized'. Gems that fade in direct sunlight can be placed in moonlight.
Gems are from the earth, but in order for their beauty to be fully appreciated, they need sunlight. As the sun lights up our lives and enlivens us, it does the same for colored gemstones. Indeed, it is known that gemstones are best viewed in daylight, under the rays of the sun. This is why the gem market in Chantaburi only operates during the daytime. Sunlight show the true colors of a gemstone.
We recently acquired some mother-of-pearl gemstones. Pearl is one of the birthstones for June and mother-of-pearl is made from the same material as pearl; nacre. Therefore, it is also considered to be a June birthstone. Mother-of-pearl is the inner shell coating of pearl-producing mollusks and has been used as a decorative material for thousands of years. This beautiful organic substance can be various colors and is often used as inlay. However, we have been fortunate enough to find mother-of-pearl gemstones that are ready to be set into jewelry. The pearly luster and attractive iridescence of mother-of-pearl makes it a beautiful jewelry gemstone.
Kunzite is a variety of pink to light-violet spodumene. The name "kunzite" comes from its discoverer; George Frederick Kunz, who was an American mineralogist, and Vice President and buyer for Tiffany & Company. Kunzite can be found in large gemstones, but not usually as vividly colored as the one on the left. We have recently acquired some large, beautifully colored kunzite gems which would be perfect for statement jewelry, such as the large 18 karat gold kunzite ring that JFK bought for his wife, Jackie, before he died. This featured an oval kunzite gemstone surrounded by white diamonds.
Tiger's eye is an interesting fibrous quartz gem with a beautiful chatoyancy, and tiger's eye matrix is even more unique. Additionally, it is an extremely affordable gemstone. Tiger's eye matrix is a trade name for tiger's eye that has some of the matrix (host rock) included. Tiger's eye matrix is a perfect gem for men, with its deep colors. This makes it a great Father's Day gift. It can be dark-gray with yellow, brown, golden, bluish, orange, red or a mixture of all of those colors. The stripes and wavy patterns of tiger's eye matrix make each gemstone unique. Tiger's eye matrix cabochons make excellent tribal style necklace pendants or rings.
An extremely rare pigeon's blood Burmese ruby, called the "Sunrise Ruby" has become the most expensive ruby to be sold at auction. The 25.29-carat ruby achieved $30 million US at Sotheby's Geneva on May 12. The cushion-shaped red gem is set into a Cartier ring and flanked by shield-shaped white diamonds. The ruby also set a new Cartier jewel price record. The buyer was not named.
Nine men have been arrested and charged in connection with the Hatton Garden jewelry heist, which took place in April 2015 in the diamond district of London. During the burglary, the contents of over 50 safety deposit boxes, including gemstones and jewelry, were stolen by a group of thieves who drilled a hole through the concrete wall of Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd. The men are aged between 42 and 76, and have been charged with conspiracy to burgle. Eight of the nine men have been refused bail and will appear in court again on June 4.
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- First Published: May-22-2015
- Last Updated: June-20-2017
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