A note about GEMSTONES

The colored stones in my work are of exceptional quality and are often rare. I am known to be quite particular about quality – with respect to both diamonds and colored stones. I myself hand pick and match every stone in every piece of jewelry I produce.

When I work with color, I consider nearly every piece of jewelry to be one-of-a-kind. Even if I choose to repeat a style, the stones will undoubtedly be different in a subsequent piece; both shade of color and weight of the stone will vary, so with few exceptions, each must be priced individually.


Apatite

Though found in a range of colors – from colorless to yellows to pinks to lavenders to greens and blues, my favorite nearly neon blue color is mined in Brazil.

Fun fact: The name “apatite” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to deceive.” It is relatively unknown in the world of gemstones and consequently often mistaken for something else – like (Paraiba) tourmaline or beryl -- hence, its tendency to “deceive.”

Apatite is fairly soft, so it’s rarely used in rings. More often in pendants and earrings, the spectacular blue color is so saturated that it’s impossible NOT to notice it in a jewelry case or on a woman’s body.

NOTE: Apatite is very sensitive to acids and should not be cleaned using typical jewelry cleaners nor placed in the ultrasonic.


Aquamarine

Appearing in a range of blue hues, from the color of the sky to the sea, this gem is no longer appreciated only by March babies.

Belonging to the same (beryl) family as the emerald, this ever popular stone is almost always cleaner, clearer, and freer of inclusions than its green cousin. The deeper the color, the rarer and more valuable the stone. My favorites are referred to as the “Santa Maria” stones – an homage to one particular mine in Brazil long since dry, though famous for the rich blue hue. A few particular aquamarines are the most prized gems of my collection.

Fun fact: The largest gem quality aquamarine ever mined was found in 1910 in Minas Gerais (the gem rich region of Brazil) and weighed over 240 pounds (according to Walter Schulmann’s Gemstones of the World). Just imagine the scale of that piece! The largest cut gem, however, now resides in Washington, DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.


BLUE ZIRCON

Mined primarily in Cambodia (and also in Sri Lanka and Brazil), this historically significant stone often gets a bad rap because it is easily confused with cheap, common, synthetic diamond.  People hear the word “zircon,” and immediately presume “fake.”  That’s because clear, colorless zircon was widely used in the early 1900’s as a simulated diamond.  That history has been tough to shake.  In reality, however, zircon is the real deal!

When well cut and polished, a zircon is considered second to the diamond with respect to its brilliance.  It is 7.5 on the hardness scale, has great luster and a high refractive index.  Though it is found in a range of colors, the electric blue material is spectacular, and the fire and sparkle within the stones is unparalleled.

High quality zircon has become rarer and rarer and consequently more desirable and expensive.  It is also a dense stone, often weighing 50%-100% more that another gemstone of the same physical measurements.  In other words, a 9x7 mm oval, for example, weighing approximately 2 carats in tourmaline, can weigh nearly 4 carats in zircon.  


BOULDER OPAL

This magnificent stone comes from a roughly 500 square mile section of inland Australia – Queensland – that was once an inland sea approximately 100 million years ago.  Ironically, though it is considered less valuable than Australia’s legendary black opal, it is far rarer, accounting for less than 2% of the entire continent’s opal yield.  A naturally occurring stone that forms within sandstone and ironstone boulders (and hence the name “boulder” opal), excavators must remove layers of rock to get to the opal layers.  Interestingly, miners can identify which location an opal came from because the characteristics of each are so distinct and thus produce material unique to that particular place.


CANARY BERYL

The bright yellow cousin of the more popular varieties of the beryl family, emerald and aquamarine, this often overlooked beauty bears the color of pure sunshine.  Alternatively called “golden” beryl and sometimes “Heliodor” (derived from Greek and meaning “gift from the sun”), this stone is hard, generally free of inclusions, and perfect for all types of jewelry.  Occasionally it can be found in unusually large sizes.  One piece in my collection features an 80-carat pear shape, virtually flawless, with which I made a large cuff bracelet and surrounded the center stone with yellow sapphires and diamonds.

The largest cut yellow beryl – weighing over 2,000 carats – is on display in the Hall of Gems in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian.


CHROME DIOPSIDE

A fairly recent addition to the colored stone market, this transparent, deep green beauty rivals the emerald in its color, yet distinguishes itself by being 100% natural -- never heated nor treated in any way.  A large deposit discovered in Siberia in 1988 offered enough material to make it readily available, and since then, discoveries in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Italy, Austria, and Finland and other places have helped to make the stone more popular.

Often billed as the inexpensive alternative to emerald, chrome diopside has earned respect in its own right given its exceptional clarity and saturation of color.  The color is attributed to the presence of chromium – the ingredient that gives ruby its red, emerald its green, and alexandrite both red and green.  Interestingly, the more beautiful stones are the smaller ones, as the larger pieces are most often so dark that they appear black.

Softer and more easily scratched than others stones of similar color (tsavorite garnet and green tourmaline), chrome diopside is much safer to use in necklaces and earrings rather than rings and bracelets that may expose the stones to potential damage.


CHRYSOBERYL

Often mistaken as a member of the beryl family of stones (which includes aquamarine and emerald), chrysoberyl, along with alexandrite, is in its own independent group of gemstones.  Despite the name, it is not related to the beryl at all.

A very rare and underappreciated stone with a 8.5 hardness and an unusual lemony greenish yellow, this Brazilian native (also found in Sri Lanka and East Africa) is said to have “secret” protective properties for its wearer! They are thought to have the natural ability to ward off disasters, turn negative thoughts into positive energy and inspire peace and harmony. 


CHRYSOPRASE

The rarest and most valuable gemstone in the family that includes agate, carnelian, onyx, and chalcedony, this minty green beauty is reminiscent of jade in both color and translucency, though it’s harder and more durable and thus a better bet for jewelry.  The finest material, vivid and intense in color and neither heated nor treated, comes from Central Queensland, Australia.

Jewelers of ancient times would mistake the stone for emerald; but unlike emeralds, which derive their green from the presence of chromium, chrysoprase owes its springy green hues to traces of nickel.  According to Greek legend, wearing chrysoprase ensures a happy marriage and good health as it opens and invigorates the heart.

Though not obvious to the naked eye, chrysoprase is naturally porous and can be stained by absorbing chemicals, so be mindful of contact with cleaning products, perfumes, and lotions, and personal hygiene items.  Take off your chrysoprase jewelry before exercising or household chores, and keep them out of prolonged exposure to direct sunlight that may alter the stones’ color.  Wipe the stones with a damp, soft cloth before storing them.


ETHIOPIAN OPAL

Until recently, Australia monopolized the global opal market and held that pre-eminent position because no alternative source existed with a supply of beautiful stones. When huge deposits of excellent quality material were discovered in Ethiopia in 2008, a renewed love of opals – quite different in look than their Australian counterparts –was born. Unlike the Australian stones that form from ancient sea beds, the Ethiopian material results from volcanic activity; the stones often look like molten lava, with a tremendously vivid play of color.

All opals, regardless of origin, are credited with bringing both good and bad luck, and the folklore surrounding them seems to get more colorful over time.


FIRE OPAL

Appropriately named transparent to translucent opals in a fire-like hue of orange to orangey-red.  The national stone of Mexico where the most significant deposits of fire opal lie, this unusual gem is not known for its play of color found in other varieties of opal, but rather for its overall body color – so vivid that it is in a league of its own; and neither heated nor treated to achieve that color intensity.  Also unlike other opals, these are most often faceted, so the sparkle mixed with the color makes these stones look almost unreal.

Gem lore enthusiasts believe that fire opals have magical powers that offers protection from harm, ease of pain and sorrow, and stimulation of personal power and confidence.  Some insist that fire opals attract money; that having a fire opal in your place of business helps to lure customers.  All I know for sure is that the spectacular color certainly attracts attention.  They’re hard to miss!


GREEN TOURMALINE

Tourmaline is found is a broad range of colors – some say 80 or more – but the greens are considered the most “classic.”  Among the green tourmalines, there exists an extensive range of greens, from the palest (almost colorless), to the greens so dark that they appear black.  The most beautiful to me are the blue-ish, sea foam shades and the grassy “bottle” greens.

Tourmaline mines exist all over the world, and each produces very distinct qualities and variations of colors of stones.  Those in my work most often come from Brazil, Nigeria, and Mozambique.

Fun Fact:  Many believers of “gem therapy” subscribe to the notion that tourmalines are a natural “performance enhancer.”  Professional athletes have worn green tourmaline in order to boost their physical and mental strength, endurance, and speed; and many attribute their successes to wearing it during workouts and competitive events.


LAPIS LAZULI

This opaque, dense deep blue semi-precious stone hails from the oldest known mines in the world which are still in use today.  Prized for centuries as a symbol of honor, loyalty, and wisdom, it has been used as far back as 4,000 B.C. in burial ornaments, most notably in the funeral mask of King Tutankhamen!  The finest lapis is rich royal blue peppered with gold flecks (pyrite).  Ancient Egyptians were drawn to this color that represented a contrast to the barren desert lands from which the stone came; and the gold flecks resembled starts in a beautiful night sky.  Lapis was thus considered “heavenly.”  I couldn’t agree more!   My favorite stones come from Afghanistan, and I especially like pairing it with transparent blue stones, like kyanite and blue sapphire.


MADEIRA CITRINE

Citrine, a popular member of the quartz family, presents itself in the spectrum of golden to yellow.  The “madeira” label refers to the much deeper orange variety that I obtain from a particular mine in southern Brazil.  These special citrines derive their beautiful color from the presence of iron impurities.  As a lover of all things orange, I am particularly fond of these madeira stones and in fact don’t use the yellowy citrines in my work at all.

Citrine has been used to adorn jewelry and tools for thousands of years: From citrine embellished tools in ancient Greece, to citrine handles on 17th Century Scottish weapons, to Queen Victoria’s court’s kilt pins, this stone has a long and beautiful history.  Gem folklore refers to citrine as the “success stone” – with energies to promote good fortune and abundance both professional and personal.


MORGANITE

Aquamarine’s peachy pink cousin in the beryl family, this beauty was (re)named in 1911 to honor J.P. Morgan, world famous American financier who was also a gem and mineral enthusiast (Who knew…?!).  

The finest morganite comes from Madagascar and Southeastern Brazil.  The stone’s clarity (It is generally free of inclusions.) and durability, plus its soft hues make it an excellent choice for non-traditional bridal rings.  My favorite looks are set in rose gold –  subtle, monochromatic, feminine.  Gem “healers” believe that morganite is a gentle cleanser of the heart, opening it up to unconditional love.


PERIDOT

One of the few gemstones that exists in one color only – a rich apple green perfect for sunny, summery climates (and no wonder, therefore, that it is the August birthstone).  Although peridots vary enormously in quality and in shade of green (from the more yellowy to olive to brownish) the most beautiful stones come from the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan; and East Burma (now knows as Myanmar).

Peridot is a very old stone that has been popular for centuries – millennia actually! It can be found in Egyptian jewelry dating back to the second millennium B.C. and adorning treasures in medieval churches and cathedrals in Europe.

A “happy” color, it is one of very few, in my opinion, which looks equally great on absolutely everyone: blondes, brunettes, salt-and-peppers, and redheads!


RUBELLITE

As a child, when other little girls declared pink as their favorite color, I adamantly refused to follow suit.  My favorite was “magenta,” a color that sounded and looked far more important, sophisticated and special.  My attachment to that deep, rich, gemmy color remained, and consequently, I have a particular fondness for rubellite – a pink tourmaline, yes, but the more distinctive magenta version!

Found primarily in Brazil, Mozambique and Madagascar and “shocking” pink in color, sometimes with a hint of violet, rubellites stand apart from their fellow tourmalines.  They are indeed regarded as special, rarer and considerably more valuable. The name comes from the Latin “rubellus” meaning “reddish” as they’re compared in color to the ruby, and in ancient times, were even mistaken as rubies.  While some in the gem community think that rubellite is merely a name used to describe a particular color of tourmaline, gemological trade organizations define rubellites by the way they behave in daylight and artificial light:  Whereas many stones alter their color (and appear brownish) depending on the light source, a rubellite retains its color and shines just as intensely regardless of lighting condition.


SPESSARTITE

Sometimes called “mandarin garnet,” this vibrant orange stone is one of my personal favorites.  The striking color plus its tremendous brilliance makes Spessartite unusually beautiful.  It is not treated, heated, nor enhanced in any way, so the bright, clear, delicious color you see is exactly the way Mother Nature intended it. 

Lesser known and rarer than other garnet varieties, spessartites, ranging from bright orange to brownish-orange to fiery red with orange highlights, are mined in various parts of Africa (Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya), as well as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Brazil.  The stone is hard, durable, and thus appropriate for all kinds of jewelry.

I have had a weakness for all things orange since childhood (and in fact, both the front door of my apartment and the main wall of my office are painted bright orange), and I have collected several exquisite matched pairs of spessartites in the last few years. 

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