Saturday, January 25, 2014

Amethyst is the birthstone of February

Amethyst is the birthstone of February. 

In Greek mythology the Amethyst was thought to protect the owner from drunkenness.  Wine goblets were often carved from it in the belief it would prevent intoxication. The name for amethyst originates from the Greek word “amethystos” which means “not intoxicated.” 

Purple has been considered a royal color for centuries so Amethyst has always been in high demand. Fine Amethysts are featured on the British Crown Jewels and were a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian Royalty.  Leonardo da Vinci and other great thinkers believed that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken intelligence.  Amethyst is associated with stability, peace, balance, courage and inner strength. 

Amethyst is the most special and highly prized variety of quartz.  It is found in many geologic settings, but the most significant is as crystals lining cavities in volcanic rock, such as in southern Brazil and Uruguay.  This region is the major source of gem quality amethyst.  About 130 million years ago gas bubbles were trapped in cooling volcanic lava and formed cavities up to several meters in diameter.  In these large cavities, dripping water dissolved silica which formed linings of amethyst crystal. 

Designers view amethyst as the ideal choice for jewelry because of its regal color, variety of shapes and sizes and affordability. Amethyst is considered a relatively inexpensive stone; prices are range from $30-120 per carat depending on color and quality of cut. 

The stone ranges from dark to light purple, dark being the highest quality.  We carry only the finest quality Amethyst from Uruguay which are a deep rich purple color.  Stop in to see this historically famous stone. 

Pictured in bottom right corner is a 8.25 carat laser cut Uruguayan amethyst available for sale. 

By Vicky Gulko

Monday, December 23, 2013

Garnet is the birthstone of January

Garnet is the birthstone of January.

The name garnet comes from the latin granatum, meaning “seed like,” because of their resemblance to pomegranate seeds.  The uses of garnet date back to ancient times.  Garnets were popular in ancient Egyptian,  Sumerian and Greek and Roman civilizations.  It was worn to increase bodily strength and endurance, and strengthen survival instincts during crisis, making it an ideal stone to aid during battle.  This stone was held to stimulate blood circulation and keep the circulatory system healthy.  Garnet aids in mental ailments as well such as relieving depression and emotional disharmonies; providing protection from unwanted energies and negative behavior patterns.

The stone has a high refraction of light, and was thought to light up the darkness.  It is said that Noah used a garnet lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night.  This stone is also said to be one of the twelve stones in the breastplate of the High Priest.

Garnet is also regarded as the friendship stone.  In the past, garnets have been exchanged between parting friends to symbolize their affection and to ensure that they meet again. 

Although garnet’s most common color is red, it also comes in shades of orange, green and color change.  Prices listed below reflect the most common sizes of 2-4 carats in fine quality well cut stones.

Tsavorite (Figure #1) garnet come in either bright, rich or intense green colors.  This stone is the most similar to emerald and also one of the most valuable varieties of garnet. The other variety on the list of most valuable garnet variety is color change garnet.  The color of this stone can change from a blue or green in daylight , to a reddish or purplish pink color in incandescent light.  The only other stone which has such a dramatic color change is alexandrite, one of the most valuable stones.  Both tsavorite  and color change garnets are priced at $1,000 - $1500 per carat.  

Spessartite (Figure #2) garnet come in shades of bright orange to reddish orange.  This is a beautiful stone with exceptional brilliance that sometimes rivals in beauty the extremely valuable padparadscha sapphire (to learn more about the padparadscha sapphire, view our September birthstone article). Price of Spessartite ranges in $300-400 per carat. Stones 4 carats or larger, range $400-800 per carat.  The more intense the orange, the higher the value.  

Hessonite garnet is similar in color to spessartite, but has a brown overtone and costs a fraction.  These two stones can be mistaken so you must make sure you are acquiring the stone from a reputable jeweler or gem dealer. Hessonite ranges from $50-80 per carat.

Rhodolite (Figure #3) come in purplish and reddish pink hues.  This color is highly attractive to many, also what is attractive about this stone is the price at $80-200 per carat.  

Pyrope (Figure #4) is a deep blackish red color.  This variety of garnet rarely comes in large sizes; they are usually sold in smaller sizes under 2 carats which range from $80-150 per carat.  Larger sizes over 2 carat are up to $300 per carat.

Red garnet is the most common variety.  It is a rich red color priced at $30-50 per carat.

Demantoid (Figure #5) is the most valuable variety of garnet.  It is a light green color and one of the most brilliant gemstones that exists.  Its brilliance and fire is similar to that of a diamond, which is where it got its name.  Price of this stone is in the thousands per carat.

Garnet is a fairly durable stone, rating a 7 to 7.5 on the mohs scale, but just like with any other colored stone, should be protected from sharp blows or chemicals.

Pictured is a 6 carat pyrope garnet in 14k gold with diamonds.  Designed by Alex Gulko in 2013.

Stop by to view our finest quality garnets for your next design, or see our collection of garnet jewelry.

By Vicky Gulko

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tanzanite is the Secondary Birthstone of December

Tanzanite is a very rare stone which is only found in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  The fact it is mined in only one location in the world appeals to many.  Legend says that Masai cattle herders in Tanzania noticed that brown zoisite crystals had turned to a deep bluish purple color after being heated from a lightning strike.  This happened only a little over 40 years ago and its popularity has skyrocketed since.  Due to this stone being a such a recent discovery, there is no history or lore surrounding it.  This gem was originally called blue zoisite, but Tiffany & Co introduced it as tanzanite to honor its Tanzanian origin.  The famed company also declared it to be “the most beautiful blue stone to be discovered in 2000 years.”  This stone took its place as December's secondary birthstone, which is the first and only instance the American Gem Society made an addition to the list since its creation in 1912.

For a while, tanzanite was used as a blue sapphire substitute but it quickly developed a reputation of its own.  The best tanzanite comes in rich deep blue color with overtones of intense violet and sometimes burgundy.  This stone is highly pleochroic which means the color it appears changes depending on the direction of view and lighting.  It will show more blue in fluorescent light while displaying more purple in incandescent light.  The cut also plays a large role in the color it displays.  Cutting the stone on the shorter axis results in a bluer color, but produces a lower yield adding to its higher cost.  While a deep color is the most desired, this stone comes in lighter shades as well, that come with a lighter price tag.  Although rare, tanzanite also comes in greenish shades. 

Tanzanite will look much different in rough form, as all tanzanite must be heat treated to achieve its rich color.  The heat treatment process is very tricky.  More heat makes the color deeper, but it will lose its brilliance if too much heat is applied and in this case is “overcooked.”  On the contrary, if it is not heated enough, it will hold higher brilliance, but the color will be too light.  In the past, tanzanite has been sold on cruises for relatively low prices.  We have had clients that purchased some of these tanzanites and bring them in for appraisal.  While the color was dark, they were overcooked, making them very dull with little brilliance.

Unlike many other stones, prices of tanzanite don’t increase in price with higher carat.  Finest quality stones 2-6 carats cost $700-$1000 per carat, larger stones are still within this price range.  This price range depends on quality of cut.

Tanzanite rates a 6 to 7 on the mohs scale.  Precautions should be made against hard blows to the stone as it can crack or break.  It can be used in any jewelry, although gentle wear is advised when placed in rings and not recommended for everyday wear.

Pictured are fine tanzanites 4-6 carats set in 18k gold with diamonds.  Also pictured is a loose 9.8 carat tanzanite which is available for sale.

By Vicky Gulko

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blue Zircon is the Birthstone of December

Whose brilliance rivals them all? Yes you may be thinking yourself, but that isn’t the type of brilliance we are talking about here.  We are talking about blue zircon, whose brilliance rivals all other colored stones and is the only stone whose brilliance comes close to diamonds.  Blue zircon is the primary birthstone of December, with tanzanite (which will be featured in our next article) and turquoise being the secondary stones.

There is sometimes confusion between zircon and cubic zirconia, due to similar names.  They however are nothing close to the same.  Cubic zirconia is a cheap synthetic stone that is used in low end jewelry and as a diamond substitute.  Zircon is a natural and highly prized stone used in high end jewelry.  Due to this confusion, zircon has had a shaky reputation in early years; except among gem collectors that know their true value.  A Beverly Hills gem dealer said he knows that half the zircons he sells to jewelers never make it to their showcases; they’re buying the stones to keep for themselves.

George Kunz, who was Tiffany’s vice president and main gem buyer for years was a zircon enthusiast himself.  Around the turn of the century he proposed marketing zircon as “starlite” instead, due to its high brilliance.  Although the name was short-lived, this was the most notable attempt at putting the confusion and doubt around the stone to rest in gem trade history.

Gemologists aren’t the only ones so interested in zircon, geologists also have a strong eye for zircon, as it is the oldest stone, with specimens from Australia dating back over 4.4 billion years!

Zircon comes in many different colors, including pink, yellow, red, orange, green, brown and colorless, but blue zircon is the most highly prized and sought after.  Most blue zircon is heat treated to improve color.  Blue zircon comes in many pleasing shades of blue; it was no wonder it was used so frequently in Victorian jewelry, especially in the 1800s.

Zircon has many healing properties.  It has a calming effect on allergies and asthma, as well as relief from other respiratory problems.  It helps improve memory and intellectual abilities, promote common sense, provide aid in overcoming losses, and heal mental disturbances.  It can also put energy into sharp focus, bringing confidence and strength to its owner.  Zircon is said to be a highly energetic and spiritual stone, that will help you love yourself and others, and establish a more compassionate, peaceful and pure way of thinking.  It works within all the chakras to stimulate the movement of sluggish or blocked energy.  Zircon is a grounding stone, that helps with organization and working more effectively towards your goals.  They are known as a “stone of virtue” as they help balance the virtuous aspects within you.  Zircon also has other balancing properties, including emotional, physical and spiritual balance.

Despite its beauty and rarity, we believe this stone is under priced, even after it’s double in price over the last three years.  Fine 2-10 carat blue zircon range $200-$400 per carat,  10 or more carat stones are $400-$700 per carat.

The best zircon come from Cambodia, but there are also deposits in Australia, Brazil, Korea, Thailand, Madagascar and Sri Lanka.  Zircon is rated 6.5 to 7 on the mohs scale.  It can be worn in any jewelry, but care should be taken to avoid scratches or hard blows to the stone, as the facets may abrade.  This is a very challenging stone to cut properly.  With a poor cut, it wont display the amazing brilliance the stone is known for.

We are proud of our great collection of finest loose and set blue zircon stones that we have collected over the years.  Our sources for this stone are the best available today.

The pieces pictured contain fine quality blue zircon in 4-8 carats with white, black and blue diamond in white and yellow gold.  Made by Alex Gulko in 2012/2013.

By Vicky Gulko

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Topaz is the Birthstone of November

Precious topaz is the birthstone of November.

Topaz has been a significant gemstone throughout history.  Egyptians believed topaz got its color from the sun god, whom they called Ra, which made the stone highly prized among them.  The Romans believed topaz got its coloring from the sun as well, which comes as no surprise given fiery range of colors it is found in.  It is possible that this gem’s close association with the sun also stems from the belief that its mystical properties were stronger at different times of the month; particularly closer to a full moon.   

During the plague of 1348, a number of victims were cured after being visited by Pope Clement the Sixth while he was wearing a huge topaz ring.  Reporters from this time claim that it was the topaz that did the job, not Pope Clement.

The ancient Indian folk medicine, Ayurveda, recognizes topaz's curative powers; helpful in building heart tone, revitalizing circulation, preventing wrinkles and varicose veins, and keeping the skin young and fresh.  It has also been reported to eliminate fear and insomnia.  In China, topaz was hung on the doors of houses in the belief that the stone absorbed energy from the sun and transmitted health and serenity to all the members of the family.

There has been much confusion surrounding the name topaz for many years. The term “topaz” has loosely been used to describe a yellow gem, so at times citrine (see below), which is part of the quartz family, was described as topaz.  Due to this issue, the distinction of precious (Figure #1) and imperial (Figure #2) topaz was made.  Imperial topaz refers to stones with rich golden, deep pink, peach and reddish-orange colors.  The less intense but still beautiful yellow, orange and medium golden hues are referred to as precious topaz.

The term "imperial" stems from the discovery of pink topaz (Figure #3) in Russia during the 19th century.  The stone was instantly so coveted that ownership was restricted to the Czar, his family and those whom he gave it as a gift.  Pink topaz today is the most valuable variety.

Blue topaz (Figure #4) is created through irradiation and is one of the least expensive stones.  While there are natural blue topaz, they are extremely rare; the majority are irradiated.

While there are topaz deposits around the world including Russia, Sri Lanka, the United States, China and Pakistan, the best quality come from Brazil.  The increased worldwide demand for this stone, as well as Brazil’s recent economic boom had caused prices for this stone to more than double.  Prices for imperial topaz has increased 60-70% since 2007.

Given these increases, you may be wondering exactly what these prices are today.  Blue topaz is the least expensive, ranging from $20-40 per carat.  Following this is a large jump to precious topaz, which is around $200-$400 per carat.  The prized imperial topaz goes for $500-$1000 per carat, while the most valuable pink topaz falls in the $1000- $1500 per carat range.  If an imperial topaz is being sold for a very low price, you must be careful as it may have gone through special treatments which are reversible, causing it to lose its color very quickly.  

Citrine is the alternative birthstone of November.  Although it doesn't match the beauty of topaz, it costs much less; around $20- $60 per carat. 

Topaz has a mohs rating of 8, making it a very hard stone.  However, it should still be protected from hard knocks, as it may crack or split due to its perfect basal cleavage, which makes it vulnerable to breakage.

Pictured is a 6.9 carat imperial topaz pendant in white and yellow 18k gold with an emerald and diamonds, designed by Alex Gulko in 2011. 

By Vicky Gulko

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pink Tourmaline is the Alternative Birthstone of October

Tourmaline is the alternative birthstone of October, particularly pink tourmaline.

You can find this incredibly unique stone in almost any color, making it a prized stone in jewelry making throughout history.  The name tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese term "turmali" which means "mixed colors."  Tourmaline ranges from red to green and from blue to yellow, often with two or more colors in one stone called watermelon (Figure #1).  Some tourmalines even change color depending on the light source.

According to Brazilian lore, Tourmalines were brought to earth by extraterrestrial beings of higher intelligence.  This stone has been said to have many healing properties, including cell regeneration when there is a wound or scar tissue; even burns can be cured.  This stone has even been said to make products, such as wrinkle cream or moisturizer more effective if it is left in the preparation.  Rubelite (red variety) tourmalines hold special therapeutic qualities.  They supposedly help increase awareness of your body and free you from impulsive behavior.  Indicolite (blue) is believed to keep off lung diseases.  Yellow tourmaline will serve as an aid when you are sad or depressed,  while polychrome (multi-colored) stones will actually make you more extroverted and sociable.

Tourmaline was the preferred stone of Rene Lalique, master French jewelry designer and one of the finest and most important exponents of the Art Nouveau style in vogue around the turn of the century.

Now let's talk about specifics; different varieties and their prices. Prices of all tourmalines for the last four years have almost doubled due to increased demand from China and production cost in Brazil.

Verdilite (Figure #2):  These are regular green tourmalines that are the most common and range $100-300 per carat.  

Chrome tourmaline (Figure #3): These are a very vivid grass green color and range in price from $400-$700 per carat.  Chrome tourmaline is very similar in color to emerald, and can be used as an alternative to emerald while still achieving a similar look. 

Indicolite tourmaline (Figure #4): This variety is green with a bluish hue, and range from $400-$800 per carat.

There are also pink and red varieties of tourmaline.  

Rubelite tourmaline (Figure #5): This variety has a very hot intense pink color that contain a lot of red.  These are only called rubelite of it continues to display the same intense ruby red color as the light source changes.  Those that change in different light sources are called pink tourmalines.  Pink tourmalines (Figure #6) range from $150-$350 per carat, while rubelite ranges in price from $400-$800 per carat.

Paraiba tourmaline (Figure #7):  This is a very special, unique and extremely rare stone.  It is the most valuable, and comes in a very bright vivid sea blue (see picture).  This fairly new stone was discovered in 1987 in a mine in the village Paraiba, of Brazil.  Paraiba tourmalines from this area have since been depleted and cost anywhere from $20,000-$70,000 per carat making it not only the most valuable tourmaline, but one of the most valuable gems.  There is a new source in Africa, specifically Mozambique, that come in lighter colors and range $3,000-$15,000 in price per carat depending on intensity of color and clarity.  In 2002, Christie's Hong Kong sold a deep pure-blue 8.90 carat Paraiba tourmaline for $30,000 per carat ($270,100 total).  Today, this stone would be worth significantly more.

Tourmaline rates a 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale, making it a very durable stone for everyday wear. 

Today, primary sources for tourmaline are Brazil, various countries in Africa including Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Madagascar and parts of Asia including Russia.

Pictured is a 5.1 carat certified Paraiba tourmaline with diamonds in platinum; designed by Alex Gulko in 2010.

By Viktoriya Gulko

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Opal is the Birthstone of October

Opal is the birthstone of October. 

Opal is an incredibly unique stone that has been named the queen of gems by the ancient Romans because it contains all the colors of the other gems.  The name comes from the Sanskrit term "upala", which means "precious stone."  

Opals have historically been considered a very lucky and powerful stone.   It was said to contain the powers of all the other stones, due to its array of colors.  Opal is a stone of inspiration, it brings deep emotions to the forefront, releasing inhibitions and granting its wearer increased confidence and openness. It also helps to focus mental capabilities and provide motivation and energy.  This has been said to be a very spiritual stone, it wards off the evil eye and brings happy dreams while blocking bad dreams from your psyche.   

In 1872, a new source for opal was discovered in Australia.  These opals were much more beautiful than those discovered before and has since then dominated the world markets, and are what pushed an increasingly high demand for this stone.   The incredible display of colors has been a mystery until relatively recently.   With the use of an electron microscope, studies show that opals consist of transparent spheres of silica that are tightly packed.  The spaces between these silica spheres contain only air and water. In precious opal these spheres are uniform in size and precisely packed into an orderly three dimensional arrangement.   The diffraction of light and iridescence that creates the beautiful look of opal that we know today only occurs if the silica spheres are of the correct size and are precisely arranged.  In lesser quality opal the silica spheres are poorly shaped, of incorrect size, and/or not arranged in a regular pattern.  This stone can form only when an undisturbed space in a rock holds a clean solution of silica from which water is slowly removed over thousands of years.

Opals vary according to transparency and body color.   Prices are very subjective, as no two opals are exactly the same.  

White opal (Figure #1): Translucent stones with color play against a white body color, these are most common. Milky white stones with little color play are used in budget jewelry, while finer quality with higher color play can go for $200 to $300 dollars per carat.

Black opal (Figure #2): Stones with a very vivid play of color and iridescence against a black or dark body color.   These highly prized stones are a fairly new discovery and were unknown before the discovery of the legendary Lightning Ridge opal field in Australia in 1903.  This discovery has caused the demand of this stone to skyrocket.   Today top grade black opal can sell for $15,000 a carat.   Some exceptional stones have even sold for $20,000 a carat. 

Crystal opal (Figure #3): This stone is white and very transparent. It's more valuable than white opal and has a lot of bright colors and iridescence.  The difference between white and crystal opal is white opals have a milky look, where crystal opals are more transparent and have more vibrant color play.  Crystal opal is similar to black opal but is light and more transparent.   In its highest qualities, it is valued at more than $2,500 per carat. 

Fire opal (Figure #4): These stones are transparent or semitransparent, resembling gelatin, with orange, yellow, or red body color with or without play of color.  They are sometimes called Mexican opals because most of the best fire opals are found in volcanic rock in Mexico.  This stone is commonly faceted due to its transparency.  The most prized fire opals are reddish orange, transparent and have play of color within the stone; this quality can retail for as much as $300 per carat.  Lower quality stones that are translucent and yellowish or brownish in color may sell for around $5 per carat. 

Boulder opal (Figure #5): Found in rock formations, specifically ironstone.  The opal often forms in small layers within fractures on the surface of the rock.   Rare gem quality boulder opal can sell for $3,000 to $20,000 per piece, but you can get attractive stones for a few hundred dollars.  

Doublet opal (Figure #6): This is a manmade combination of a small layer of natural crystal opal glued on top of ironstone.  Against the dark surface, it looks like black opal.   Doublet opals are significantly less expensive than black opal, but achieves a similar look.  The main difference is doublets are almost always flat, but black opals are domed and smooth with no facets.  This cut is called cabochon; almost all natural opals are cut this way.  These range in price from $200 to $1,000 per piece.  

Opal has a mohs scale of 7, but you must be careful with this stone due to its chemical structure.  This stone is very sensitive to sudden change in temperature. Never clean your opal in an ultrasonic cleanser as it could crack the opal. It is recommended that your opal be worn frequently, the moisture from the wearers skin helps preserve the stone and prevent it from cracking. 

With its multiple benefits and unique beauty, It is no wonder opals have been prized for centuries. What do you find most interesting about this stone? Which variation of opal strikes you the most? 

Pictured is a 5.6 carat natural black opal from lightning ridge in platinum and diamonds.  Ring was designed by Alex Gulko in 2009. 

By Viktoriya Gulko