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Gemstones

Agate•Amber•Amethyst•Black Onyx•Bloodstone•Chalcedony•Carnelian•Citrine•Coral•Fluorite•Garnet•Green Aventurine•Hematite•Howlite•Malachite•Jet•Iolite•Jade•Lapis Lazulli•Moonstone•Moss Agate•Obsidian•Pearl•Picture Jasper•Quartz•Peridot•Rhodochrosite•Rhodonite•Rose Quartz•Smokey Quartz•Sodalite•Tanzanite•Tigerseye•Topaz•Tourmaline•Turquoise•

Agate
Agate is a form of chalcedony quartz colored primarily by bands or wispy inclusions. These patterns may be straight, concentric, or shaped in landscape-like patterns. In ancient times, agate was highly valued as a talisman or an amulet, said to miraculously quench the thirst of its owner and to protect him from fever. Agate was also said to cure insomnia, facilitate greater discretion, and bring its wearer strength and victory in battle. Agate bowls have been popular since the reign of the Byzantines, and collecting agate items became a pastime among European royalty during the Renaissance.

 

Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin, the material that flows beneath tree bark and protects the tree when its health is threatened by boring insects or heavy weather. Over several million years, the resin hardens, possibly trapping insect specimens inside, and becomes amber. Amber is typically a dark-brown to a pale-yellowish color, albeit interference of light with any bubbles trapped inside may result in green, blue, or violet overtones. Several ways of testing for genuine amber exist. First, amber will float in a saturated salt water solution, while plastic imitations will sink. Second, amber, when burned, emanates a sweet, piney smell, while plastic imitations emit a strong, penetrating, and distinctively unpleasant smell. Also, amber will not melt - it burns like incense, while plastic and poor quality amber, called copal, will melt. Finally, amber will chip and disintegrate into powder when cut, while plastic will form curled peelings or large chips. Amber has never been synthesized. Amber's clarity, however, may improve if it is boiled in rapeseed or linseed oil.

Amethyst

Amethyst is a fairly common purple-to-lilac-colored gemstone, ranging in translucence from the fairly opaque to the more highly valued and higher quality transparent stones. Amethyst is a purple variety of the quartz family, and the stone is generally regarded as the most valuable type of its kind. When left in the sun, amethyst tends to lose its color, which can only be restored by a fairly expensive radiation process. Heat-treated amethyst may change to other colors, such as yellow (citrine), red, brown, green, or clear, at which point it is no longer properly called amethyst. Amethyst is the state gemstone of South Carolina. It is also a symbol of sincerity, security, and peace of mind. Its name comes from the Greek word "amethustos" which means "without wine." According to legend, drinking from an amethyst chalice will prevent intoxication. Amethyst can be imitated by purple glass, albeit its low price makes imitation relatively infrequent and fairly unattractive. Amethyst is the anniversary stone for the 4th, 6th, and 17th years of marriage.

Black Onyx

An opaque, black member of the quartz family, black onyx is also known as chalcedony. Onyx tends to chip or crack rather easily. Take care to protect it from scratches and blows. Bloodstone Bloodstone is actually a green jasper dotted with bright red specks of iron oxides (rust). This stone, also known as heliotrope, was treasured in ancient times. Medieval Christians often used bloodstone to carve images of the crucifixion, a common practice that lent it its eventual moniker, the "martyrs' stone." A legend states that at the Crucifixion, the blood of Christ dripped onto and then stained some green jasper, forming the first bloodstone. Fine, powdered bloodstone is used as medication and as an aphrodisiac in India today. In general, the polished surface of this type of stone will dull and later wear away upon contact with water. As with other jewelry, avoid scratches, sharp blows, and contact with harsh chemicals.

Chalcedony

Chalcedony is a fine-grained member of the quartz family, similar in appearance to nephrite jade. It has no distinguishing characteristics, but it may be found in a wide variety of colors, among them the gemstone varieties known as jasper and agate. Two other ornamental varieties of chalcedony are carnelian, which has a deep reddish-brown color, and bloodstone, which is green with red flecks. Pale chalcedonies are often dyed, and usually appear unnatural. Carnelian A finely-grained form of quartz mineral, carnelian has a uniformly reddish-brown color that shifts to a deeper red when left in sunlight. It is a member of the chalcedony family, which derives any color from the presence of iron. Carnelian was a useful material in the making of seals, since wax would not adhere to its polished surface.

Citrine

Citrine is a yellow quartz, ranging in color from a lemony-yellow to a dark, smoky brown. In natural citrine, the color is a result of the presence of iron. More often, however, citrine is heat-treated amethyst that has merely turned a golden color. Albeit darker, more orange colors of citrine, sometimes called Madeira citrine after the color of the wine, were valued in past days, in modern times people seem to prefer a lighter, more lemony color. Natural citrine is actually quite rare. Citrine is sometimes referred to as "citrine topaz" or "quartz topaz", the misleading use of terms meant to fool unsuspecting buyers into mistaking the quartz into the much more precious topaz.

Coral

One of the few precious gemstones with an organic base, coral is actually calcium carbonate exuded by huge colonies of tiny marine animals called coral polyps. Coral comes in many colors and varieties, white coral being the most common. Other colors include pink, orange, orange-pink, blue, and black. Coral formations occur in reefs throughout Earth's oceans, most typically in shallow waters. Coral of gemstone quality must be of uniform color and dense enough to be polished. While color value varies by source location, deep red and pink corals tend to be the most expensive. Supposedly, red coral changes color depending on the state of its wearer's health, and that variety is further believed to hold curative powers. The coral's magical properties are supposed to be effective as long as it has not been carved by man.

Fluorite

Fluorite is a comparably soft, banded gemstone that comes in every color of the rainbow. It is a popular stone among jewelers and collectors alike. Fluorite is often found in conjunction with calcite, which can be removed using a diluted hydrochloric acid solution.

Garnet

Although garnet is actually a family of gemstones encompassing a wide range of colors, the classic jeweler's garnet, known as pyrope, generally has a deep red color. Other garnet species include the dark red Almandine, the reddish-orange Spessartine, the yellow-green Grossular, the brown-green Andradite, and the deep green Uvaroite. Recently, all five of these other garnets have found their way onto the gem market. A fairly hard mineral, Garnet is about 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is the state gemstone of Connecticut and New York. Garnet is given and received as a symbol of consistency, perseverance, and good health. It is a power stone, and, according to legend, it guides its wearer when he's traveling at night. The stone also supposedly protects its wearer from nightmares and depression. It is the anniversary stone for the 2nd and 6th years of marriage.

Green Aventurine

This is a largely green crystal that may have brown overtones due to inclusions of fuschite crystals. Aventurine may fade in the sun.

Hematite

Hematite is a shiny black mineral similar in appearance to polished black steel. Its name is derived from the Greek word "hema," meaning blood, because it will leave a red streak when handled and will dye water red when powdered. Rouge, a common facial powder, is actually powdered hematite. Hematite is a form of iron oxide and is somewhat subject to rusting over time. Specular hematite is relatively brittle and less durable than the jeweler's type, but it displays a spectacular range of rainbow colors. Originally, hematite was used as "mourning jewelery." Hematite was also supposed to stop bleeding, and it was said to bring good fortune to those addressing kings, judges, and entering litigation. Additionally, hematite was once used to bring invulnerability to warriors. Hematine is the best-known hematite imitator. It is a mixture of stainless steel and sulfides of chromium and nickel. Hematine will leave a red streak as does true hematite, but it is magnetic, whereas hematite is not.

Howlite

Howlite naturally occurs in a white or delicately black-veined state, often in masses weighing two kilograms or more. It is often stained blue to imitate turquoise. Howlite is usually used to fashion cabochons, carvings, and beads. Malachite A banded, onyx-like green mineral, malachite is semi-medium hard and was once fitted in tables, columns, and vase mosaics for czarist weddings in Russia. Due to its lovely appearance as a pale and dark green material, malachite has long been used as an ornamental stone. Polished malachite produces very attractive cabochons, trays, and beads. Hand-polishing malachite may be facilitated by using a small amount of vinegar and polishing cream.

Jet

Jet is actually a highly compressed, extremely hard form of coal, which is, in turn, a form of carbon. It is actually lignite, a form of brown coal derived from buried driftwood. Albeit not very hard, jet is tough and is well polished easily. Jet has a dull luster on its broken surfaces and is typically cut into beads, crosses, bracelets, cabochons, and other various decorative objects. Jet is typically inexpensive. During the Victorian era, jet was a popular mourning gemstone, used to express grief at the death of a loved one.

Iolite

Iolite is a very strongly pleochroic gemstone that ranges from blue to dark-violet depending on the angle at which it is viewed. Sometimes, the stone may even be trichroic, displaying such colors as gray, yellow, dark-blue-violet, and pale blue. Iolite's name is derived from a combination of the Greek words "ios" and "lithos" meaning "violet" and "stone", respectively. Iolite polarizes light, and it was once used by the Vikings to find the sun on a cloudy day. Iolite has also been said to improve eyesight; promote faith, charity, and helpfulness; and bring higher, purer thoughts.

Jade

Jade is a pale-green-to-orange stone once treasured in China as the imperial stone. Jade appears in two forms, jadeite and nephrite, with jadeite being the higher valued for its more vivid green colors and finer translucency than nephrite jade. Jadeite jade also comes in lavender, pink, yellow, and white. Nephrite is found in less intense dark spinach greens, white, browns, and black. Jadeite jade is often fashioned into dome-shaped cabochons and is a bit harder and more durable than nephrite jade due to its microcrystalline structure. Jade is sold by the piece rather than by the carat. The most important factor of jade is its color, though attention is also paid to its texture, translucency, and pattern. Certain patterns, like moss-in-snow, are highly valued. Jade was once thought to preserve the body after death, and for thousands of years, has prevailed as a symbol of love, purity, and status. It was also, for a time, viewed as a prevention and a cure for kidney problems.

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis lazuli, also known as lazurite, is actually a mixture of several minerals, including lazurite, calcite, and sodalite, with bright deposits of pyrite. Its name comes from the Arabic word "allazward", which means "sky"or "blue." Fine lapis often has violet overtones, the most valuable having a dark-blue, uniform color with no white spots. Lapis is relatively inexpensive, and even the finer materials don't usually sell for more than about $10 per carat. Lapis was a very precious commodity in the ancient world, and in some places was even equated in value with gold. Powdered lapis was used in making the intense blue pigment known as ultramarine by artists like Michaelangelo and Leonardo. Lapis has been imitated very well in recent years. Blue-dyed chalcedony is one of the more common simulators, albeit glass and spinel are also effective. The inclusion of pyrite usually signifies genuine lapis.

Moonstone

Moonstone is a variety of feldspar that gives off a shimmer, known as schiller or adularescence. Moonstones come in a variety of colors, ranging from clear to gray, brown, yellow, green, or pink, and it may be translucent or transparent. The highest quality moonstones have a bluish sheen, a truly colorless body, and perfect clarity. Moonstones are usually cut in a smooth-domed cabochon shape to maximize their shimmering effect, although they are sometimes carved to show a man-in-the-moon face. Moonstone tends to chip or crack rather easily. Take care to protect it from scratches and blows.

Moss Agate

Yet another member of the vast quartz family, moss agate has a colorless or creamy white color speckled with the green, brown, or red deposits that give it its name.

Obsidian

Natural glass, obsidian is a black-transparent-to-translucent mineral that is formed from quickly-cooling magma during volcanic eruptions. It was used by the Native Americans to shape arrow and spear-heads. Some beautiful forms of obsidian contain white inclusions that resemble snowflakes.

Pearl

Not a true gemstone, the pearl is actually formed in a shellfish as a reaction to irritants, like sand or other debris. Cultured pearls may be formed by artificially placing irritants inside mussels. Pearls are usually white, brown, silver, cream, black, or pink, depending on the type of shellfish that created them and the type/quality of the water in which the shellfish lives. Their prices vary widely as a result of luster, size, nurturing method, color, and type. Natural pearls are the most expensive, followed by cultured pearls, and finally by freshwater pearls. Pearls are relatively soft, having a hardness factor of 3, and they are state gemstone of Tennessee. Pearls are said to encourage sincere intospection and boost self-confidence. A gift of pearls is said to symbolize the love of the person who presents it. Pearls are also emblems of modesty and purity, symbolizing love, success, and happiness. They are said to foster a happy marriage and are often referred to as the "Queen Gem." The freshwater pearl is the anniversary gem for the first year of marriage. Natural pearl is the anniversary gem for the 3rd, 12th and 30th years of marriage

Picture Jasper

A fairly hard member of the chalcedony/quartz family, jasper is a fairly all-inclusive term for opaque, colored chalcedonies. Jasper displays patterns as often as not, but it usually has a rich body color in shades of red, brown, green, and yellow. A very fine-grained and dense material, jasper polishes easily and brightly.

Quartz

Quartz is one of the most common gemstones, and it is also one of the most variegated, often used as a surrogate for more valuable gemstones, ranging from the diamond to jade. Pure quartz is colorless, but inclusions of other minerals may provide color. Varieties of quartz include the rose quartz, a pinkish translucent quartz; smoky quartz, a brown transparent quartz; and the water-clear rock crystal used in crystal balls. Quartz is also found in forms valued for their inclusions, the rutilated and tourmalinated quartz, which contain hair-like filaments of golden rutile or tourmaline crystals.

Peridot

Peridot is a lime-green-to-olive gemstone often worn in the form of necklaces and earrings. It is created from volcanic eruptions and is sometimes even found on meteors that have fallen to earth. Its color is dependent on its body size, so the smaller stones cannot produce the intense greens for which the the larger ones are especially prized. It is the state gemstone of Nevada and has a hardness rating of 6.5 on the Mohs scale. Peridot is a fairly soft gem and is susceptible to attack by acids, which can quickly remove the polish from its surface. Peridot is a symbol of fame, dignity, and protection, and it is used to transform dreams into reality. When set in gold, it also protects its wearer from terrors of the night. Legend has it that pirates favored peridot to protect them against evil. Peridot is the anniversary gemstone for the 16th year of marriage. As with all gems, protect peridot from scratches, and sharp blows. Also, avoid large temperature changes (such as those that would result in leaving it near a heater vent or in a hot car). Do not clean peridot in a home ultrasonic cleaner.

Rhodochrosite

Ranging in hue from gray and brown to pink and deep red, rhodochrosite is usually found within medium-temperature ore veins and is sometimes of sufficient quality to cut. Because it is usually found in nodules, rhodochrosite is normally fashioned into beads and cabochons. Very rarely, however, will it occur in crystals clean and large enough to facet.

Rhodonite

A pink to rose-red mineral, often speckled or streaked by black spots or veins, rhodonite is often found in proximity to garnet and spinel. Most often, it occurs in a massive form and is used for cabochons, carvings, and beads. Rhodonite is very rarely found in pieces clean enough from which to fashion into gems. It was once used to make Russian service platters and was often given as a gift during royal czarist weddings. If found in the transparent form, rhodonite displays distinct pleochroism, meaning it appears to be of different colors when viewed from different angles.

Rose Quartz

Rose quartz is a much rarer, considerably more expensive form of the extremely common clear quartz (or rock crystal). It has a rosy-red hue that may be fairly cloudy as a result of straking by small fissures. Rose quartz is somewhat less common than the other color varieties, and it sometimes contains rutile inclusions dense enough to form a star.

Smoky Quartz

Smoky quartz is a rarer, considerably more expensive form of the extremely common clear quartz (or rock crystal). It has a fairly deep brown color that has only recently become more popular among collectors and the public. The reason for its dark color is unknown, but it is believed to spring from radioactive processes. Smoky quartz is sometimes found with golden rutile inclusions. Sodalite One of the components of lapis lazuli, sodalite occurs in gray, red, yellow, green, and blue varieties, albeit only the blue stones have any ornamental uses. It is a generally inexpensive mineral often used in small carvings. Occasionally, sodalite occurs in a form of sufficient quality to be faceted, though it generally has a somewhat hazy appearance.

Tanzanite

Tanzanite is a pleochroic stone, a transparent version of the mineral zoisite, and may range in color from blue to dark violet, albeit in recent years a transparent green tanzanite was also discovered. Tanzanite comes only from Tanzania. Tanzanite is fairly brittle and must be handled with extreme care. It is typically safer in earrings and pendants than in rings. Nearly all tanzanite is heat-treated to improve (or sometimes even create) the blue and dark violet colors and simultaneously to drive away the undesirable yellows and the browns.

Tigerseye

An opaque form of included quartz that, when beaded and polished, is streaked by spindle-like bands of light. These bands of light are a result of the presence of compact fibers of quartz that have replaced the original asbestos. Albeit typically of a brown or brownish-yellow to a blue or blue-green hue, heated yellow-brown tigerseyes may take on a reddish color due to oxidation of iron present inside the gemstone. Tigerseye may also be bleached in hydrochloric acid and then dyed in colors such as pure red, yellow, blue, gray, or green. These colors are relatively attractive, but do not occur in nature.

Topaz

Although the name most often conjures up images of a sun-like yellow, topaz also comes in blue, pink, brown, green, and clear varieties. "Imperial" topaz, which is a light pink-orange color, is the rarest variety, and therefore the most valuable. Clear topaz can be irradiated and heated and thus transformed into other colors like blue or yellow; or brown topaz may be by application of heat transformed into pink topaz. Natural pink topaz is relatively rare. Topaz has a hardness of 8 and is the state gemstone of Utah and Texas. The ability to artifically produce color in topaz has made the stone increasingly more common and affordable in recent years, and now blue topaz is one of the most widely sold gemstones on the jewelery market. Topaz, in ancient times, was a symbol of strength. When carved into the shape of a falcon, it was thought to be able to acquire the good will of kings and princes. Topaz is the anniversary gemstone for the 4th and 19th years of marriage. Imperial topaz is the anniversary gemstone for the 23rd year of marriage.

Tourmaline

The word "tourmaline" is derived from from the Sinhalese term "turamali", which means "mixed colored stones." It has likely one of the richest and widest color ranges of all gems, and, like garnet, it is actually a group of individual gems/minerals. Tourmaline is actually the general group name of several different minerals with similar atomic structures and chemical compositions. The gemstone family has perhaps the largest band of colors, ranging from colorless to black and every color in between. Reddish-purple tourmalines are the most valuable and may have brown, pink, and orange gradations. Greener tourmaline are modified by shades of blue, yellow, and brown, with particularly rich varieties selling for more than $100 per carat. Tourmaline is piezo-electric, which means it will generate a charge if put under pressure; and it is also pyro-electric, which means it will generate a charge if heated and then cooled. Tourmaline is associated with level-headedness, meditation, and compassion. It was also believed to enable alchemists change base metals into gold.

Turquoise

Turquoise is a vibrant light-blue-to-green-gemstone with a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. It is often fracture sealed, which means it is sealed with acrylic resin to enhance its color, texture, and hardness, not that it has fractures. Turquoise made in a laboratory has a very uniform color, and chalky varieties of turquoise are often coated with wax or oil to enhance its color. When thus treated, the color change is not permanent. Under heat (roughly about 500 degrees Celsius), blue turquoise will adopt a greenish hue. Turquoise is porous and will absorb oils (including skin oils) over time, gradually changing to a yellowish color. Turquoise supposedly prevents procrastination, and it has been thought to warn its wearer of danger or illness by changing color. Turquoise is the anniversary gemstone for the 5th year of marriage. Turquoise is somewhat soft, so avoid scratches and sharp blows. To be certain that no coatings are removed, also avoid hot water and household chemicals. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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