All About Gemstones
Nicholas Wylde uses the world’s most beautiful hand selected gemstones, incorporating craftsmanship & imagination with impeccable design. We have built up a comprehensive range of contacts in the world of precious stones. We can source any precious or semi precious gems available on the world markets that suit all tastes and budgets
It is truly amazing what the earth has created for us in the world of gemstones. Below are some interesting and informative facts on the stones that fascinate Nicholas and inspire him to create stunning items.
CARNELIAN (Quartz) Looks like Redeye FOUND IN Brazil, India, Scotland, USA COLOUR Blood-red, Reddish-orange HARDNESS 7 ANNIVERSARY 10th The rich, deep red/orange colours that this variety of chalcedony exudes have made it prized in history. It’s written in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, that the gemstone should be placed in tombs as ‘magic armour’ for life after death. Carnelian was once thought to still the blood and calm the temper, but also said to give the owner courage in battle and help timid speakers be eloquent. The colour is due to iron-oxide being present. It can be uniformly coloured or banded, with the strongly banded known as carnelian agate.
DIAMOND Splinter of Stars FOUND IN Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia COLOUR Colourless, White, Black, Yellow, Pink, Red, Blue, Brown HARDNESS 10 BIRTHSTONE April ANNIVERSARY 60th Diamonds are graded by colour, cut, clarity and carat (weight) – known as the ‘four c’s’. One of the oldest minerals in the universe, diamond is pure carbon and is both the hardest mineral found on Earth and the most prized and desired of all gemstones throughout history. Diamonds are formed between 50-120 miles beneath the planet’s surface at temperatures above 1200 degrees Celsius but have also been found within the structures of meteorites. The ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were the splinters of stars fallen to earth, endowing the wearer with purity, joy and love. Its exceptional lustre and brilliant fire, together with its strong durability, has seen the coveted diamond long associated with fearlessness but more closely symbolic with love. Despite being the hardest natural substance known, diamond has a crystalline carbon similar in chemistry to graphite which is one of the softest minerals known. Only a diamond can polish another diamond. This duality has made diamond in historic folklore the choice of kings riding into battle, used as a “miracle stone” for its healing powers and in Eastern belief associated with the Crown Chakra and said to enhance all energies of the body and mind. In modern times diamonds are regarded as the perfect token of love and commitment with the tradition of an engagement ring worn on the third finger of the left hand traced back to ancient Egypt. They believed that the vein of love (vena amoris) ran directly from the heart to the top of the left hand’s third finger and placed the precious diamond in its path. The traditional brilliant cut uses the diamond’s naturally well-formed crystals to make the stone sparkle. The patented Wylde Flower Diamond, with its 81 precisely cut facets – 24 more than a brilliant cut – makes a diamond sparkle with an intensely passionate fire.
In antiquity, all yellow and brown gemstones and even some green ones, were called ‘topaz’. Topazes are available in a range of colours; a deep golden yellow, pink, green, blue and colourless. The most common colour is yellow, the most valuable colour is pink. Much colourless topaz is irradiated and heat-treated to a range of blues, some almost indistinguishable from the more valuable aquamarine. Topaz is a hard gemstone and the faceted stones are popular for use in rings, pendants and earrings. Topaz, in all its many colours is the birthstone for November.
TOURMALINE Rainbow pebbles FOUND IN Africa, Afghanistan, Brazil, Russia, USA COLOUR Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Red, Pink, Yellow HARDNESS 7.5 BIRTHSTONE October ANNIVERSARY 8th Tourmaline is a gemstone with a range of colours that surpasses all other gems and also one of the most scientifically interesting minerals, often accumulating in gravel deposits. Emerald-green is the rarest variety and was confused with emerald itself until the 18th Century. Its name derives from the Singhalese word turamali which means ‘gem pebbles’ and gemstone quality tourmaline include rubellite, indicolite, dravite, achroite schorl and watermelon, Watermelon provides some of the more dramatic examples which, when cut across the crystal, reveal a pink centre surrounded by green or pink. Desired and traded throughout history, a pink tourmaline cabochon dating from around 1000 AD was discovered in a gold ring of Nordic origin. Members of the tourmaline family of minerals have the same basic crystal structure, but occur in many rich colours including pink, green, red, brown, blue, violet, black, yellow, colourless and dramatic multicoloured variations. Uni-coloured tourmalines are rare. Most crystals display various shades of one or more colour. A tourmaline which is red and green is sometimes called a ‘watermelon’ tourmaline. Rubellite, which is the name given to a pinkish-red variety of tourmaline, is most prized when it has a deep red colour, similar to that of the more expensive ruby.
Turquiose was one of the first gemstones to be mined and has long been prized for its intense opaque colour, which varies from sky-blue to green. A pure blue colour is rare, most pieces contain matrix, i.e., veins which may be brown, grey or black. Reconstituted turquoise has an even blue colour but is made from powdered turquoise mixed with resins. The popular sky blue colour changes into a dull green when the stone is subjected to intense heat. Light, perspiration, oils, cosmetics and a loss of natural water content can also make a stone turn green, which explains why the turquoise in older pieces of jewellery is often green in colour. Turquoise has been enjoying a revival recently with Native American style turquoise jewellery featured in all the fashion magazines. Turquiose is the birthstone for December.
Zircon has been known since antiquity and the faceted stones display great brilliance and an intense fire. Zircon is most famous for its colourless stones, which closely resemble diamonds and have been used both intentionally and mistakenly in their place. Zircon can be distinguished from diamond because it is a softer stone and its facets will show wear and tear. Although zircon is colourless when it is pure, impurities in its composition will produce yellow, orange, blue, red, green and brown varieties. Brown varieties are usually heat treated to make the more popular colourless and blue stones for use in jewellery.
Labradorite is a member of the feldspar group of minerals, which includes moonstone. Labradorite shows a play of colour in lustrous metallic tints, often blue and green, although specimens with the complete spectrum are the most popular for use in jewellery. The name is derived from the Canadian peninsula of Labrador, where the stone was first found in 1770. In the 1940’s Labradorite deposits exhibiting the spectral colours particularly well were discovered in Finland. Stones from this area are known as Spectrolite. Labradorite and Spectrolite are inexpensive gemstones.
Lapis lazuli is an opaque blue rock made up of several different minerals, including lazurite, sodalite, hauyne, calcite and pyrite. An intense dark blue colour, with minor patches of white calcite and brassy yellow pyrite is considered to be the best quality. The best quality lapis lazuli is from Afghanistan. Lapis has been used in jewellery since antiquity. During the middle ages it was ground and used as a pigment in painting. Today it is used for ring stones and necklaces. It is a fairly soft stone and chemical contact should be avoided. The safest cleaning procedure for lapis is to wash it in warm soapy water, rinse it and leave it to dry naturally.
Malachite is an opaque green stone which, when cut, shows layers of lighter and darker concentric rings, parallel lines or other shapes caused by its shell like formation. Although it is not very hard and resistant, Malachite is popular for jewellery and ornaments. Care should be taken to avoid chemicals, acids and solvents when cleaning - washing in cool soapy water and leaving to dry naturally is the best method for cleaning malachite. Zaire is the most important producer of malachite. It is not an expensive stone.
MOONSTONE (Feldspar) Bathed in moon-glow FOUND IN Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA COLOUR Colourless, White, Cream, Peach, Yellow HARDNESS 6.5 BIRTHSTONE June ANNIVERSARY 2nd Obtaining its name due to its moon-like appearance this gem has long been associated throughout history with the Moon Goddess and said to enhance feminine strengths and qualities. The stone is also called adularia and this name derives from an early mining site in the Adula Mountains in Switzerland. The name also gives rise to the term ‘adularescence’ which describes the gem’s iridescent sheen, reminiscent of moon-glow. Sacred in ancient India, it was thought that if lovers placed it in their mouths during the full moon, their futures would be revealed to them. In 11th century Europe, moon stone was believed to bring about the reunion of lovers. Moonstone is named after the blue white sheen of the stone, which is colourless or a pale yellow. The sheen is caused by the reflection of light from the internal structure. Moonstones of a large size and fine quality are rare, consequently moonstones are traditionally used as ring stones. Moon-worshippers through the ages have used it in their jewellery. Moonstones are not expensive.
Onyx is an opaque black stone which is a member of the chalcedony quartz group. Onyx has long been in demand for use in signet rings and enjoyed its greatest vogue during the Art Deco period of the 1920’s and 1930’s because its black colour lent itself to geometrical arrangements and provided a bold contrast with diamonds and pearls. Some onyx is natural but much is permanently dyed brown onyx or agate.
OPAL Precious bringer of change FOUND IN Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa, USA COLOUR Colourless, White, Yellow, Orange, Rose-Red, Black, Blue HARDNESS 6 BIRTHSTONE October ANNIVERSARY 14th Opal is a hardened silica gel, containing up to 10 per cent water and formed in cavities within rocks. There are two varieties: precious opal – the most desirable, which shows flashes of colour (iridescence) – and the common or ‘potch’ opal. Until the 19th Century, Slovakia was the primary source of origin until large deposits were found in Australia, including the rare and prized black opal. Through historic folklore, opal was believed to bring the wearer the power of invisibility, to bring happy dreams and ease the process of change. Opal is a hardened silica gel, usually containing a small percentage of water. It is therefore non-crystalline, unlike most other gemstones. Precious opal may be transparent, translucent or opaque with patches or speckles of bright spectral colour which change or disappear as the stone is rotated. Opal colour ranges across the visible spectrum from deep red to violet. The colours present are an important factor in the value of a stone. For the highest value all colours should be present, especially red which is rarely seen. The pattern of the play of colour also affects the value. White opals are precious opals with a light coloured body colour (white, yellow, cream). The ‘black’ in black opals means the gem has a dark body tone. White opal is not as rare as the black opal variety, though fine qualities can bring very high prices. When opals are a glowing ember colour, bright and vibrant, they are almost always volcanically formed Mexican fire opals. True opals are solid opals, although they may only be colourful on one side. Doublets are made by cementing a layer of high-grade opal to a backing of low grade ‘potch’ opal, glass or onyx, which enhances the colour. Triplets are doublets with clear domed caps cemented to their faces. The domed cap protects the opal and magnifies the pattern, enhancing the overall appearance. More than 95% of the worlds supply of precious opal comes from Australia. Opals are softer and more fragile than most crystalline gems. You should be careful not to hit opals, especially those mounted in rings. Because opals are composed of 3-20% water, they should not be allowed to freeze or dry out. The use of any chemicals in cleaning should be avoided and opals should not be immersed in water for any length of time. Opal is the birthstone for October.
Birthstone for August, Peridot has an olive or bottle green colour due to the presence of iron in its chemical composition. The most important deposits of peridot are on the volcanic island of St John in the Red Sea where they have been mined for 3500 years. Peridot was brought to Europe in the middle ages and was often used for ecclesiastical purposes. Nowadays the stones are usually faceted and found in rings, necklaces and earrings. Peridot is not an expensive gemstone.
Ruby is the name given to red gem quality corundum. All corundum that is not red is called sapphire. Corundum is the second hardest gemstone after diamond, although it is only 1/140th as hard and scratches and chips can occur. Ruby is one of the most popular gemstones for use in jewellery and can be any shade of red, from pinkish or purplish to brownish. The most desirable colour is " pigeons blood" - pure red with a hint of blue. Ruby is one of the most expensive gems, large rubies being rarer than comparable diamonds. Since the beginning of this century synthetic rubies have been available; these have the same chemical, physical and optical properties of the natural stones. Synthetic rubies are used in watch mechanisms. Inclusions are common in natural rubies and can show the difference between a natural and synthetic stone. Ruby is birthstone for July.
SAPPHIRE (Corundum) Royal Blue FOUND IN Brazil, Burma, Columbia, India, Sri Lanka COLOUR All colours except Red HARDNESS 9 BIRTHSTONE September ANNIVERSARY 45th Sapphire is the name for all corundum and found in a great variety of colours, except ruby red, but usually associated with the colour blue. Next to diamond, sapphire is the hardest mineral on Earth and found in pegmatites or as water worn pebbles in alluvial deposits. The best Indian sapphire is found in Kashmir, distinctive for its cornflower blue colour, and the most famous sapphire of all is the 536 carat ‘Star of India’, the largest known star sapphire. Today, sapphire is a popular gemstone choice for an engagement ring, perhaps due to the most famous engagement ring of all – the 12 carat Ceylon sapphire originally owned by Diana, Princess of Wales. Sapphires were worn by royalty throughout history, considered a symbol of good fortune, virtue and wisdom. Since the Middle Ages, sapphire also symbolizes the tranquillity of the heavens, suppressing wicked and impure thoughts. All gem quality corundum that is not red is called sapphire. (Red corundum is called ruby). Therefore, sapphire can be blue, black, purple, orange, yellow, pink, green or colourless. If no additional descriptive colour is given it can be assumed that blue sapphire is meant. The most desirable colour in sapphire is pure cornflower blue. Good quality sapphire is found in Burma, Sri Lanka and India. Sapphire from Thailand, Australia and Nigeria is dark blue and may appear nearly black. There is a variety of orange-pink sapphire called Padparadschah, which is very rare and the only variety of corundum, other than ruby, that is given its own name. Large sapphires are rare and can be very valuable. Corundum is the second hardest gemstone after diamond, although it is only 1/140th as hard and scratches and chips can occur. Commercial quantities of synthetic sapphire became available in the early twentieth century but synthetic sapphire can be distinguished from natural sapphire by gem testing laboratories. Sapphire is the birthstone for September.
Tanzanite is a variety of sapphire-blue or purplish-blue coloured Zoisite. The stone was first discovered in Tanzania and was given the name tanzanite by the New York jewellers Tiffany and Co. Tanzanite is not as hard as sapphire or ruby, but its attractive purplish hue has made it very popular in recent years.
The name citrine is derived from the lemon-yellow-golden-brown colour of the stone. Natural citrine is rare and is a pale yellow colour. Most citrine on the market is amethyst, from the same quartz family as citrine, which has been heat treated to turn it yellow.
EMERALD (Beryl) Emerald, along with aquamarine and beryl, belongs to the beryl group of minerals and is the most precious. Emerald is always green in colour. Most emeralds have a ‘jardin’ which is the technical term for the inclusions which cloud an emerald. Because emeralds are rarely flawless, most are oiled to fill cracks, hide flaws and enhance the colour. A large, deep green, un-oiled transparent stone would be very valuable. Emeralds are brittle and sensitive to heat and pressure. They should not be placed in an ultrasonic jewellery cleaner and great care must be taken when applying heat to items of jewellery containing emeralds. Emerald is the birthstone for May. Cleopatra’s Passion FOUND IN Australia, Brazil, Columbia, Egypt, India, Norway, Sri Lanka, USA COLOUR Grass-Green HARDNESS 7.5 – 8 BIRTHSTONE May ANNIVERSARY 55th Emerald is the grass-green variety of the mineral beryl, its beautifully cool green colour deriving from the presence of chromium and vanadium and found in granites, pegmatites and schists. The ‘Emerald Cut’ is a step cut which is used for many gemstones, removing the corners while reducing the risk of damage during setting as emerald is a brittle stone, formed from a hexagonal crystal structure. Most emeralds used in historical jewellery can have their origins traced back to Cleopatra’s mines in ancient Egypt around 1300 BC, when the gem was revered as a symbol of fertility and life. They were the first recorded example of sunglasses, as Emperor Nero wore flat emerald crystals to watch the gladiator games in the Italian sunshine. Emeralds symbolize immortality and faith and are associated with the heart chakra, promoting loyalty and sensitivity in couples.
Garnet is the name for several different coloured minerals with a similar chemical composition. Red garnets, known as almandine and pyrope garnets, are the best known of the group. Red garnet jewellery was very popular in the 18ct and 19th centuries. Since the 1960’s a bright green garnet known as Tsavorite has been mined in Kenya. Garnet is the birthstone for January and stones are available from just a few pounds.
Haematite is an opaque, black grey stone with a shiny, metallic lustre. Haematite was popular for mourning jewellery, but today is mainly used as a stone in rings, as beads for necklaces, and engraved and set into signet rings. Haematite is not expensive.
Violet blue Iolite is sometimes called water sapphire because of its similarity to blue sapphire when it is cut. Iolite can be blue when the stone is viewed from one angle and almost colourless when viewed from another. Gem quality iolite is found as small, transparent, water worn pebbles in Sri Lanka, Burma, Madagascar and India. Iolite is not an expensive gemstone.
For centuries jade was thought to be a single gemstone, but in 1863 two different types were recognised: jadeite and nephrite, although differentiation between the two can be very difficult to the naked eye. Both stones are hard and tough and are suitable for use as ring stones, as beads and for intricate carvings. Jadeite occurs in a wide range of colours including lilac, white, pink, brown, red, blue, black, orange and yellow. The most prized variety, known as imperial jade is a rich emerald green. Nephrite ranges in colour from dark green to cream and has been carved by the Chinese for over 2000 years.
Amber is the fossilised resin of pine trees and was formed around 50 million years ago. Amber is the earliest used gem material of all - it has been used since prehistoric times for jewellery and religious objects. Most amber is golden yellow to golden orange but green, red, violet and black amber has been found. Amber is transparent to translucent and has been found to contain everything from pine needles to lizards, which were trapped millions of years ago when the resin was still sticky. Amber is a soft gemstone and should be cleaned only in warm soapy water. Amber is not particularly expensive and large pieces are available.
Coral can be red, pink white, black or blue and is made of the calcified skeletal remains of marine animals called coral polyps. Unpolished coral is dull but can be polished to a glass like finish. The most valuable coral is red. Coral is listed in CITES Appendix II, which means it is threatened by trade – it may become endangered if trade is not controlled and monitored. Some legal harvesting of coral is allowed, but its current status is something to bear in mind when purchasing non-antique jewellery.
Amethyst is the most highly prized stone in the quartz group and is available in shades of purple, lilac or mauve. Amethyst is said to have many supernatural powers and was traditionally worn to guard against drunkenness. Amethyst is not an expensive gemstone and is the birthstone for February.
Birthstone for March, aquamarine is part of the Beryl family which includes emeralds. The name aquamarine means ‘Water of the Sea’ and refers to its blue-green colour. The best gem quality aquamarine is from Brazil and a sky blue or dark blue colour is the most desirable.