Beauty. Rarity. Durability... These attributes attract us to colored gemstones for personal adornment and make gemstones valuable and precious. Colored gemstones provide us the opportunity for uniquely personal expression.
Most colored gemstones derive their beauty from their color. Purples, blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds - we choose colored gemstones with beautiful color in mind. In certain
colored gemstones color occurs naturally - satisfying hues are part and parcel of some garnets, for example. In other colored gemstones the final color occurs with assistance. For nearly as long as people have worn rubies, we have known how to treat a rough ruby with heat to obtain a desirable red color. Not all rubies are heat treated, but many are.
Gem cutters work to achieve a pleasing and affordable mix of
color, weight (measured in carats) and a safe shape for mounting.
During creation, a gemstone's size is constrained by nature. For
example, while large and beautiful amethysts are readily available,
an alexandrite of large size is extremely rare.
Sparkle adds to the beauty of a well-cut colored gemstone. The
cut of a colored gemstone describes how it is shaped and whether it
is formed well. Some gemstones, such as opal, are suited to a
smooth, rounded surface. Others, such as sapphire, are more
frequently shaped with a precise series of flat symmetrical planes, called
facets, which make the most pleasing illumination of the gem's color.
Some cutters today may also use convex or concave facets,
shaping colored gemstone like small sculptures.
The clarity of colored gemstones contributes to their beauty.
Unless a gemstone is opaque and blocks all light, how light moves
through the gemstone affects it beauty. Some gemstones have no
internal inclusions to interrupt the passage of light, as is the case with
most pieces of tanzanite. Others tend to have characteristic
inclusions, such as emerald, with a "jardine" (garden) which makes
each emerald truly unique.
Across time and cultures, people have adorned themselves with
rare gem materials. From pearls and corals plucked from the seas,
to bright colored pebbles found in the soils settling at the mouths
of rivers; from the collection of gemstones mounted in the
breastplate of Aaron as accounted in ancient scripture, to the historic
gemstones mounted in the crown jewels of European monarchs, we let
ourselves be known through the gemstones we choose to wear.
These gemstones are precious because they are rare.
Because of their rarity, gemstones in which color is
naturally occurring are generally the most valuable. Many gemstones
are treated or enhanced in some way, such as with heat or
safe irradiation, to achieve the beautiful colors or clarity we desire in
the sizes we desire. These gems, which are less rare, are also
valuable. Some jewelers make synthetic colored gemstones
available. Synthetic colored gemstones have all the optical, physical
and chemical properties of naturally occurring gemstones, but they
are created in a laboratory rather than occurring in nature. For
some budgets these synthetic materials are an acceptable choice.
A gemstone's ability to be fashioned, mounted and worn is
a function of how durable it is - a matter of both hardness
and toughness. Some gemstones, such as sapphire, ruby and garnet,
are well-suited to an active daily life and work well in rings, bracelets
or cufflinks. Others, such as emeralds, pearls and opals call for
earring or necklace mountings to keep them beautifully displayed but out
of harm's way.
When buying colored gemstone jewelry, select what you
consider beautiful. Because of the subtle differences in the tone and hue
of the colored gemstone you are considering, look at several to find
the one you prefer. Some jewelers offer loose colored gemstones and
are able to help you create a personalized mounting. You may prefer
to buy a finished jewelry item. Discuss how you see yourself
wearing the piece so that your jeweler can help you select
mountings consistent with your lifestyle. This will provide the best
safeguard for your purchase.
You have the right to know what you are buying, whether yours is
a natural gemstone, an enhanced or treated gemstone, or a
synthetic gemstone. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has
established guidelines for the jewelry industry stating that jewelers
must disclose any treatment that is not permanent or which
creates special care requirements. Likewise, that a material is
synthetic must be disclosed. Jewelers of America (JA) advises its members
to disclose all such information, in the belief that a
well-informed buyer is a satisfied buyer.
To give you the information you need, many jewelers provide
written notice at the time you buy a gemstone by way of a note or
code explaining your purchase. This information is written or stamped
on the invoice or on an information card enclosed with your
purchase. Be sure that the meaning of any code is clear to you. It is
important to obtain this information prior to leaving the store because
it affects your purchase price and will also affect future cleaning
and repair as well as replacement of an insured loss.
Caring For Your Colored Gemstone Jewelry
As is true of all precious items, care extends the life of the
jewelry and your pleasure in wearing it. A few pointers follow.
- Daily Handling -
Put on jewelry, especially cultured pearls, after you apply makeup, perfume or cologne.
- Daily Wear - Remove jewelry before heavy yard
work, home cleaning chores, working on heavy equipment or relaxing in
a pool or spa (especially if you are in chlorine regularly).
- Night Routine - After removing jewelry, wipe it
gently with a soft cloth to remove residues of the day. Store items in
a jewelry case or soft cloth so that they do not touch each other.
This avoids the potential of harder gemstones scratching softer ones.
- Insurance - Discuss your potential insurance needs
with your jeweler or home insurance agent.
Cleaning - Discuss how to clean your jewelry with your jeweler. Avoid home cleaning solutions,
including home ultrasonics, unless you are sure the item is suitable for
home cleaning. Some jewelry is suited to home cleaning with a mild
soap solution and a soft brush.
Cleaning - Ask your jeweler to clean your jewelry every six months. (Avoid December, the busiest time
of the jeweler's year, to have quick service.)
- Twelve-Month Security
Check - At least once a year, ask your jeweler to check the security of your
jewelry: are the prongs holding your gemstone secure, is the clasp secure,
do the pearls need to be restrung, does the ring still fit securely or
does it need to be resized? During this check your jeweler might
also recommend a repolishing of the gemstone itself in order to
restore the gem's original beauty.
Editors Note: This article is (c) 1997 - 2014 Jewelers of America, Inc.