Colored gemstones are usually the most misunderstood area of jewelry and gemology. Most clients are familiar with the big three: ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Many do not know that sapphire and ruby are both the same gemstone, corundum, which comes in green, yellow, pink, orange, and many other forms. Colored gems are mostly transparent, but some are opaque, like the star sapphire or other cabochon cut gems. Emeralds are the same mineral as aquamarine, beryl, and both appear in a variety of forms and colors. I stress to our clients that color is the number one factor with cut and clarity following as the most important conditions to consider in a colored gem. Sapphires should be blue, not black. Rubies should be red, not pink.
Cutters are responsible for bringing out the beauty of the rough crystal. German cutters tend to cut precise, calibrated, with beautiful symmetry. Indian cutting is done in primitive conditions and weight retention is rated high for results. Cutting technology has advanced with new tools and creative cutting. American cutters produce one of a kind pieces of art with circles, hologram reflections, and curvaceous carving.
Just like diamonds, colored gems have beauty, rarity, and durability, which defines a gemstone. The supply of colored gems is considerably less stable than the structured diamond market. Third world countries and changing regimes can effect the supply of certain mining or export of gems. Burmese ruby is the current conflict stone and conditions there are allowing little to no supply. Markets determine what is in fashion and the “gem du jour”. This happened with Tanzanite, the marketing exclusive of Tiffany that owned the only mine. Zoisite is the correct name, but Tanzanite sounded so much better and that area of Africa was known as Tanzania. Political powers changed and opened the market to highest bidder. It became more mainstreamed and then the islands and cruise lines picked up on it. Limited quantities, by now, the only mine has collapsed, etc. People were duped on its rarity and not informed of their fragility. It’s a beautiful gem in its finest form, and supply of material seems to be available.
This is the tip of the iceberg on what colored gems are about and more of a reason, when considering a purchase of a fine gemstone, you need to deal with a trained professional gemologist. You don’t go to a fast food joint if you are wanting a steak and you should consider a knowledgable GIA or AGS graduate when shopping for that special gem.
Michael Myers, G.G., C.G.A.