When the shops fill up with pink, red and purple, you know that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. Instead of chocolates or flowers, why not pick a romantic gemstone as a Valentine’s Day gift? Here are Gemstone Detective’s top five:
It may be named ‘King of Gemstones’ in India, but according to the Christian Old Testament, the value of a rubies is far outweighed by that of a good wife!
This precious gemstone is the red variety of a mineral called corundum, which at 9 on the Mohs scale is second only to diamond in durability. Burmese rubies – also known as pigeon blood rubies – are the most prized thanks to their deep, blueish-red hue. In fact, the blood-red colour of ruby is possibly the reason it has come to be associated with the heat of intense love. It’s said to ignite feelings of love and passion in the wearer, which makes ruby jewellery an ideal romantic gemstone gift for Valentine’s day.
If a bunch of real roses doesn’t quite hit the mark, how about a piece of rose quartz jewellery to express how much you love that special someone? Rose quartz is the stone of relationships and is said to strengthen the bond between lovers.
And if you’ve been feeling the lack of love in the run up to Valentine’s day, it’s said that rose quartz is a powerful magnet for new relationships.
It’s not just its pretty, feminine colour that makes amethyst a romantic gemstone. Did you know that amethyst was said to have been a gemstone favoured by St Valentine, patron saint of love and marriage? Because amethyst is believed to bestow clarity of thought and emotion on its wearer, it is often used to promote honesty and self-knowledge – definitely qualities needed in any strong relationship!
The perfect way to tell your loved one that you love them to the Moon and back, moonstone even has a romantic name. The ethereal blue shimmer that makes this magical gem seem to glow from within, is due to an optical phenomenon called adularescence, which is caused by light bouncing off the internal structure of the stone.
A delicate and feminine gem, moonstone is believed to influence fertility, help women during childbirth and bring good fortune, love and affection to those who wear it.
How could I leave diamond out of a Valentine’s Day blog? Traditional gemstone of engagement rings since the 15th century, diamond’s unparalleled durability makes it the perfect stone to symbolise everlasting love. Diamond company DeBeers thought so too, coming up with one of the world’s most famous advertising straplines – A Diamond is Forever. If you’re thinking about popping the question though, don’t be unduly influenced by the notion that you should spend the equivalent of one, two or even three months’ salary on the ring. That was also a marketing strategy cooked up by DeBeers!
So, which of these five wins your vote for most romantic gemstone for Valentine’s day?
They’re probably some of the diamond world’s most famous and sought-after gemstones, but what’s so special about Argyle pink diamonds?
The Argyle Diamond Mine lies in the remote East Kimberly region of Western Australia, the part of the country in which most diamond mines are located. In its 37 years of operation, it has produced 385 million carats of diamonds, but production has dwindled over the past few years and the mine finally closed in November 2020.
Few things raise a gemstone’s value like rarity and the prospect of the Argyle Mine’s closure saw Argyle Pink Diamonds double over the five years preceding cease of operations. Pink diamonds are especially popular with the Asian market, where the kawaii (cute) culture originating in Japan has increased demand for gemstones in bubble-gum colours. Since this one mine produced over 90% of the world’s pink diamonds, we can expect the price of pink diamonds to stay, well, ‘in the pink’ for a long time yet!
Usually, fancy diamonds (i.e. coloured diamonds) occur due to the presence of different chemical elements. Nitrogen for example, usually gives rise to yellow diamonds. But pink diamonds are different—the pink colour we see is due to distortion in the crystal structure and the nature of this distortion can’t be reproduced in a lab. Scientists have proposed that this distortion is the caused by immense pressure resulting from some seismic event during the diamonds’ formation. Lab-created pink diamonds must rely on different methods of production to replicate the colour found in nature.
Not all diamonds from the Argyle mine are pink. In fact, the pink diamonds are very rare and 80% of the diamonds produced by the Argyle mine are brown—a more difficult colour to sell. Brown diamonds are often marketed as ‘champagne’ or ‘cognac’ to increase their appeal.
Argyle pink diamonds are valued according to the 4Cs, like any other diamond, but the mine has also developed its own colour chart and grading system. The colour categories are Purplish Pink, Pink, Pink Rose and Pink Champagne and the stones are then graded according to the intensity of colour, with 1 being the highest intensity and 9 the lowest.
The Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender is one of the most exclusive annual events in the gemstone industry. Around 100 jewellery houses, collectors and connoisseurs are invited to view and buy a collection of the mine’s best pink diamonds. Strictly invitation only, access is a true sign you’ve made it.
Now the mine has ceased production, 2021’s Argyle Pink Diamond Tender will be the very last. It’s the end of an era and I’ll be interested to see what happens to the price of Argyle stones in the coming years.
With Valentine’s Day only a few weeks away, loved-up couples everywhere are beginning their search for the perfect diamond engagement ring, whether that’s a natural or lab-grown diamond. If you’re in the market for a diamond ring this month, you may be wondering which of these is the right diamond for you. Here’s a brief guide to lab-grown v. natural diamonds to help you decide!
It may surprise you to learn that lab-grown diamonds (also known as ‘created diamonds’) are just as much real diamonds as those formed billions of years ago under the earth’s surface. They should not be confused with diamond simulants like cubic zirconia or Moissanite, which look like diamond but are not. Essentially, lab-grown and natural diamonds are chemically and optically identical—even an expert gemmologist cannot tell them apart without specialist equipment.
Natural diamonds occur when carbon is exposed to extreme pressure and high temperatures in the earth’s mantle, and are brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions. Though the mineral classed as diamond is pure carbon, most natural diamonds contain trace amounts of other elements, usually nitrogen or boron. These elements give a natural diamond colour, whether it’s a mere hint or something more intense. A natural diamond will usually also contain inclusions—tiny foreign objects that you may have heard called ‘flaws’. The more heavily included the diamond, the lower its price.
Lab-grown diamonds have been around since the 1950s, though it wasn’t until the late 1980s that they became commercially available. In the decades since then, lab-grown diamonds have increased in quality and size. A lab-grown diamond takes a matter of weeks to grow as opposed to billions of years!
Some, like their natural counterparts, are subjected to extreme pressure and high temperatures in carefully controlled lab conditions, during a process called HPHT, which stands for—you guessed it—High Pressure High Temperature. The carbon is heated and pressed between two pieces of metal, through which an intense electrical pulse is passed. Because of the presence of metal, diamonds created using HPHT do contain inclusions, though usually fewer than similarly priced natural diamonds.
HPHT isn’t the only way to create a diamond, though. CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition) breaks down a carbon-rich gas and deposits the carbon atoms on a diamond ‘seed’. This method tends to produce purer diamonds. Other methods of diamond manufacture exist, but are not yet able to create gem quality stones.
So, which one should you choose?
A lab-grown diamond is ideal if you:
Want more gemstone for your money—lab-grown diamonds can cost up to 40% less than natural diamonds.
Want a diamond with greater clarity and a better colour than you could afford from a natural diamond.
Want to make sure there’s zero chance of accidentally buying a conflict/blood diamond. According to the BBC, 70% of millennials would choose a lab-grown over a mined diamond. Meghan Markle wears lab-grown diamonds, so you’ll be in good company!
A natural diamond is ideal if you:
Feel that the origin and age of your diamond really matters to you. The romance and old-school glamour of a natural diamond can’t be surpassed. Many people are won over by the symbolism and thrill of owning a gemstone that has been around for billions of years.
Are willing to ensure your diamond is ethical by doing your research.
Want to support the livelihoods of ethical miners in developing countries.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t let anyone pressure you into buying either a lab-grown or natural diamond. Buying a diamond is a big decision—and one that must come from the heart!
As the year draws to a close, I think we could all use some gemstones for optimism! The year’s end is often a time to reflect on the past 12 months before making plans and resolutions for the start of the new. This year, however…. Well, I reckon we just need to move forward as soon as possible! With that in mind, here are 5 gemstones to stimulate optimism and start 2021 with a positive mind set.
Citrine is the go-to gemstone for cultivating a healthy, optimistic outlook on life. Its zingy yellow colour is reminiscent of citrus fruit and warm Mediterranean days, and is believed to promote happiness by chasing away negative thought cycles. Like a ray of spring sunshine, it will shine a light on the dark corners of your life, allowing you to sweep away the cobwebs. Are you starting a new enterprise in January? Citrine is known as the ‘Merchant’s Stone’ and is often used to bring luck to business ventures and financial matters.
How could a gem named ‘sunstone’ do anything other than radiate warmth and happiness? Just as sunlight is prescribed to chase away the dark winter blues, sunstone is sometimes called an ‘antidepressant in a gemstone’ for its ability to spark optimism and energy in your life. Sunstone, with its shades of peach, orange and copper is what to wear when the dull days of January and February are getting under your skin.
You can’t help but feel happy when looking at a refreshing green peridot! Its clarity and brightness is probably why peridot is referred to as the ‘stone of light’, and its yellowy green is reminiscent of the first buds of springtime. The Egyptians called it ‘the gem of the sun’ and millennia later, the Suffragettes used it as a symbol of hope (alongside amethyst and moonstone) in the colours of their flag.
Tourmaline is said to be a stone of joy thanks to its powerful energy. Did you know that rubbing a tourmaline produces an electric charge? Amp your positivity with tourmalines that are green or black. The colour green has connections to creativity, promoting flexible thinking and resilience. Black tourmaline is used for absorbing negative thoughts, leading to greater courage and the ability to look forward to the future.
Amethyst is probably the best-known gemstone for dispelling negative feelings and soothing anxiety. Because amethyst is said to balance the emotions, it helps us to experience stress differently and so take difficult situations in our stride. Amethyst won’t just benefit your mental outlook, though—the Chinese practice of Feng Shui teaches that if amethyst is placed in the wealth corner of a home, it will increase the household’s prosperity. Now there’s a cause for optimism!
Thinking about my 2020 Year in Review: It’s been a roller-coaster ride of mixed emotions. The first few months of lockdown felt like an eternity, but now 2020 is drawing to a close, it feels like the year has flown by too quickly. I had so many plans for this year, but very few of them were possible due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
On the other hand, being in lockdown made me slow down, take a step back from my usual jet-setting routine and appreciate what I had on my own doorstep. Because my July trip to Columbia was cancelled, I decided to research gemstones in Great Britain instead. Now there’s a Great Britain book coming out in the Spring!
2020 Year in Review: What was the best thing about 2020?
Because I have travelled so much in the last two years, the best gift that lockdown has given me is more time spent with my husband who has been quietly and safely working from home since March.
2020 Year in Review: What is your favourite memory of 2020?
I managed to host my first gemstone tour to Mogok in Myanmar (Burma), which was a brilliantly timed piece of luck. As soon as I arrived home from South East Asia in March, we went straight into lockdown.
So, my favourite memory of 2020 would have to be the moments I spent with my guests in Mogok. Seeing their eyes light up when looking at the jewel-studded thrones, watching them feast on the amazing food that had been so generously prepared by our host – I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.
2020 Year in Review: What was your proudest moment of 2020?
My proudest moment in 2020 was giving an online seminar for the GIA about Gemstone Tourism. Giving that seminar felt like an achievement and the climax of two years of travel and research. The seminar reached people from all over the world and I felt really honoured to be helping to educate others.
Are you excited for the New Year?
Hell yeah! I know that there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. But, all being well, I want to achieve three objectives for 2021:
As a gesture of goodwill (and a business strategy), I am offering a box of 40 books to every Gem Academy around the world to pass on to their students. So far, books have gone to the Asian Gemmological Institute & Laboratory Limited (AGIL) in Hong Kong, the Dutch Gem Academy in the Netherlands, a professional instructor teaching beginner’s gemmology in Mexico and the Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA). The teaching organisation is required to pay the shipping/courier. If there is any school, college or academy out there who teaches beginners gemmology, I would certainly welcome hearing from you. Contact us.
Provided we can safely travel overseas, I would like to host more gemstone tours. We have already organised the gemstone tours to Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Myanmar for 2021. We’ve just added Australia to the list of gemstone tours.
If you would like to hear about our gemstone tours, join our mailing list to be updated.
That was my 2020 Year in Review. How was 2020 for you?
If you think of Whitby jet as a sombre stone of grief, you’re not alone. Since the death of Prince Albert on this day in 1861, jet has been associated with the mourning jewellery worn by his devastated widow, Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria remained in mourning for the rest of her long life – which, in Victorian times, meant dressing only in black. Jet – especially Whitby jet – with its dark intensity and lustrous finish, was an appropriate gemstone for this sad, subdued and reflective time.
Jet is a gemstone with so much more potential than mourning jewellery, however. I think that it deserves to be as popular as it was in its Victorian heyday. Nicknamed ‘black diamond’ for its high lustre, jet is an organic gemstone created when decaying wood is subjected to extreme pressure over millions of years. It’s found in lots of countries, including China, Siberia, Germany and Spain, but the world’s finest quality jet comes from a group of rocks called the Mulgrave Shale Member of the Whitby Mudstone Formation in the quaint North Yorkshire town of Whitby in the North East of England.
Queen Victoria’s preference for jewellery made with Whitby jet sparked a rush to sink mines in the area. At the height of jet’s popularity, there were up to 300 jet mines in North Yorkshire. None remain as jet mining is now illegal. Traces of the old mines can still be seen, though it is illegal to remove jet from them and highly dangerous even to enter. Jet is still there for the finding on Whitby’s beaches, as long as you don’t go clambering for it on the treacherous cliffs.
For the final research stages of my book for Great Britain, due out in 2021, I have just visited the Ebor Jetworks and met up with Sarah Caldwell Steele, the UK’s foremost expert in Whitby jet and a huge fan of this intriguing gemstone. We talked about the best places to hunt for jet and how to tell it apart from other imposters that are often mistaken for Whitby’s ‘black diamond.’