Thursday, December 31, 2015


Hi everyone!

We wanted to send off 2015 with a recap of some of our favorite posts. Let's see if you agree with us! In the meantime, we at Bergamot Gems would like to wish all of our faithful followers a very happy and prosperous new year. See you all in 2016!!!

1) 3 Reasons Why Sapphires Is Queen Among Gemstones

2) Ode to Tsavorite

3) Bergamot At The Movies

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dare to Wear: The Neckline Issue

'Tis the season for festivities and merriment! But with all of these gatherings with family and friends comes the very pressing question of what to wear and how to perfectly accessorize for these many get-togethers. Fear not, Bergamot Gems has got you covered for every neckline! We'll show you how to maximize your jewelry!

Photo courtesy of
1) Turtlenecks: Because this neckline is high, pair a turtleneck with a bold statement necklace, whose color, design, or texture is very full. If you'd like to elongate the neck, a longer necklace with a bold pendant is also an option.

Photo courtesy of
2) Boat neck: The Boat neckline is by nature very wide across the collar bone. In order to counter this broad feature, an ideal pairing is the long chain or numerous long chains- look. This elongates the neck and gives a slimming appearance.

Photo courtesy of
3) V-necks  as well as sweetheart necklines can sometimes feel like they draw too much attention to what would otherwise be empty space in the chest. A good balance for this is to find a necklace that mimics the shape of the neckline, preferably something bold and symmetrical.

Photo courtesy of
4) Scoop: In keeping with this same logic, the scoop is best accessorized by jewelry that follows the natural curve of the fabric; giving it almost a built-in appearance.

Photo courtesy of

5) Strapless: The Strapless outfit gives a lot of room to work with, however it's best to run with a choker for this neckline; this draws attention up towards the face and allows for other pieces, such as dangle earrings, to accent the face.

Photo courtesy of
6) Buttoned shirts can sometimes feel restrictive when it comes to necklaces. That being said, feel free to throw that feeling out the window! Especially with buttoned up shirts, it's a perfect occasion to bust out the bright and bold "Bib" necklaces which give a little flair to an otherwise no-nonsense collar.
Photo courtesy of

 Photo courtesy of
7) On the opposite side of the spectrum there is the plunging neckline, which is not an easy neckline to pair. In order to accentuate this narrow space, an equally plunging thin chain would work best. Chunky necklaces would draw attention away from this eye-catching neckline.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

5 Standout British Jewelers You Should Know About Today!

Hi everyone! Sorry we've been scarce with the entries lately. The crew and I were away to attend conferences in London, England. But while we were gone, we went exploring and saw TONS of stuff which had us rather wishing we had more time in the country. So we thought we would share some of the gem-related stuff with you! Here are 5 jewelers that stood out in our minds:

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of
1) Ritz Fine Jewelers: On our first day we took a stroll about Piccadilly circus and took a turn in at the Ritz Fine Jewelers. Beyond the iconic arches of the Ritz Carlton London lies an off-to-the-side room which houses some exquisite jewelry. Open since 2000 and exclusive to the London location, this store is best known for its use of unusual colored stones and designs that are envisioned and made into reality right in this great city.

Fine Emerald Necklace. Photo Courtesy of
2) Boodles: Don't be fooled by the name, Boodles, once Boodles and Dunthorne, has a long history in England. Starting out in 1798 in Liverpool, this once family-run store took on greater dimensions when the Wainwright family took it over. With a reputation for distinguished jewelry, fine silverware and watches, this company would evolve primarily into a retailer of bespoke jewelry.
Various pieces from Garrards & Co. Photos courtesy of, & Pinterest.
3) Garrards: Speaking of long histories, one could not list British jewelers without listing Garrards, a jeweler whose illustriousness is second to none. In a nutshell, Garrards is an institution. While today it is best known for producing the Premier League Trophy as well as Princesses Diana and Kate's sapphire engagement ring, Garrards was and still is charged with the design, care and upkeep of most of the British Crown Jewels (which by the way, will make your jaw drop). Established in 1735, they have seen every modern jewelry era, spanning from Georgian to the more recent Retro and Art Deco of the 20th century. Needless to say, a visit in their store is nothing short of an experience.

Bespoke Hummingbird Bracelet and Bird Ring. Photo Courtesy of

4) Stephen Einhorn is incredibly proud to be British. A self-proclaimed born and raised Londoner, his work as a creative designer has been motivated by the desire to bring back authentic British craftsmanship. Perhaps first brought into the limelight in the mid 1990s due to collaborations with fashion designer Paul Smith, he is noted for producing edgy yet sensible men's jewelry (a market that is still seldom explored today). Even further, he was among the first to produce lines of jewelry designed as commitment pieces for the LGBT community. If you are in the area of Islington, it is definitely worth the visit.
From the Couture Voyage collection. Photo Courtesy of www,
From the Fly by Night collection. Photo courtesy of
From the Magnipheasant collection. Photo courtesy of
From the Seven Deadly Sins collection. Photo courtesy of

5) Stephen Webster is what I would call a story-teller. While described by most as a modern-classic designer, I'd like to think that his use of vibrant and visceral colored stones illustrate his work (may I call it art?) beautifully. With collections including the Seven Deadly Sins, Magnipheasant and the more recent Fly by Night, it is clear that he wishes to convey very powerful messages through jewelry.

Anyone want to catch a plane with us? Let us know if you know of British jewelers we didn't get to visit, we'll be happy to check them out!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Natural vs Synthetic Diamonds: Toe to Toe

There's a lot of buzz going on about synthetic diamonds and the potential threat they pose to the natural diamond industry; and depending on the person you speak with, you may wind up with more questions than answers regarding both. As with most things with polarized opinions, this subject is seldom presented evenly, hardly ever divulging both what is good and bad about each. So in an attempt to get real about diamonds, synthetic and natural, we've decided to address common selling points from each camp that might require some revision:

1. Synthetic Diamonds Are Not "Real"

People are often mislead to understand that a synthetic material is the same as a simulant. This could not be further from the truth. A simulant, without having the same composition or structure, looks to imitate the appearance of another. Such is the case with colorless cubic zirconium and synthetic moissanite. A synthetic material, however, is chemically, and in terms of its cristallinity, identical to its natural counterpart. 

Diamond and its various simulants or imitation materials. Photo courtesy of
What distinguishes the two is that one was produced in a lab environment and the other in nature. This has given synthetic diamonds an undue stigma. The only problem with synthetic diamonds is when they are not disclosed as such, causing the supply to flood the market and lose its value as a rare material.

2. Synthetic Diamonds Are Less Damaging To The Environment Than Natural Diamonds

Those who advocate synthetic diamonds are very vocal about the cost to the environment it is to mine diamonds. They say that the gas emissions released and energy consumed to supply the mining process are disastrous carbon footprints that ruin entire ecosystems. This is unfortunately the case with some less responsible prospectors. As with most things however, there are some who recognize this impact and are committed to restoring the ecosystems that have been disturbed in the process. 
Diavik Mine in Canada. Photo Courtesy of
That said, it  can be hardly be concluded that the production of synthetic diamonds does not come with its fair share of ''carbon foot-printing''. The methods of producing synthetic diamonds are various, but essentially the point is to simulate the temperatures and pressures that occur deep in the Earth and that are crucial in diamond crystallization. With temperatures hitting approx.1400 degrees Celsius and pressures leveling at approx 60kPa, you could imagine the energy needed to achieve this. In a recent study, it was determined that depending on the location of the mine, there were varying amounts of energy consumed, some less and some more than that used to produced lab-made diamonds.

3. Natural Diamond Mining Funds Conflict and Warfare

Alright. So most of the free world has seen the film Blood Diamond. If you haven't, then its very probable that something to that effect has been brought to your attention: Diamonds, like minerals used to produce the screens on phones and computers, are in some instances sold to finance insurgencies and conflict. 
Still of Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond (2006). Photo courtesy of
This is undeniably the ugliest face of our industry. Resolutely, it has been the continued work of many to ebb the flow of these conflict-sourced materials. Accords such as the Kimberley process taking effect in 2003 work towards this by imposing strict requirements on the transport of rough diamonds. Though it is far from being enough to reverse this failure of humanity, we have found that more than ever before, people are now insisting on ethically sourced materials and that this can be attained in the natural stone world.

I'm afraid I do not have the same celebrity as some well-known ambassadors for either schools of thought mentioned here today, but I do hope that this has given a fuller picture of what these stones really are about. While we are continually fascinated by science's newest advancements, we at Bergamot Gems have always believed in the truly rare beauty of naturally sources and un-enhanced materials. It is our consummate work to ensure transparency and social responsibility for our materials; with hopes that the world will follow suit and for science to outdo itself once more.

What do you prefer, natural or synthetic? We'd like to know! Be sure to drop us a line!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Delhi Purple Sapphire

Sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? Mr. Herron Allen would perhaps have agreed with you, had his experiences with this particular jewel not haunted him for the rest of his life. A man of science and learning, his life was devoted to many studies, spanning everything from botany and law, to the translation of ancient Persian and Sanskrit texts. Maybe it's in these parts of the world that he came across this entrancingly beautiful violet stone, reminiscent of royal robes from an ancient time. I'd imagine he was not aware of the damage it had done to its previous owners; but then again, he did not believe in such superstitious things either:
Colonel Ferris, a soldier fighting during the Great Mutiny in India, brought home the jewel with him to the UK and soon befell an illness from which he would never recover. His son would inherit the stone along his father's serious problems in wealth and health. Having left no heir, it would appear that this cursed jewel passed from place to place until falling into the hands of ill-fated Mr. Herron Allen.
When he first acquired this stone, he felt a great weight with it, but didn't take much notice of it. It was highly admired by all of his friends and acquaintances. But soon afterwards, he too would begin to feel the effects of this stone. Large and inexplicable welts would appear on his body. And he would be overcome by the worst fits of memory loss, further straining his work as a scholar. He thought he might relinquish this burden by giving it to one of these admiring acquaintances. One particular owner, a singer, blamed the jewel for having ruined her career as she could no longer sing. In fact, she would never sing again. One by one these people would return it to Herron Allen, insisting that they could not keep it.

Eager to be undone of his cursed stone, he threw it into the canal, believing that the current would sweep away his curse along with the tide. But curiously, he did not feel relief when the last purple glints disappeared in the distance. That familiar weight still burdened him. Months later he would understand why, when the stone would be mysteriously brought back to his doorstep; there to finish him off.

Resolving to ensure that this nefarious jewel could not harm anyone else, family or other, Mr. Herron Allen bore the burden of it silently for 14 years until his death and insisted that no other person would touch it. He stored it away in a series of boxes, seven altogether, each containing good luck charms meant to counteract its power. With it came strict instructions for the bank that under no circumstance should a worker come in contact with it. Even more adamant, was the instruction that no family member should handle it directly, even after his death and during the dealings of his succession. It was bequeathed to the Natural History Museum of London, along with the foreboding message above.

We, despite being people of science, still believe that the curse lives on. Why is that? Not long ago, the museum reorganized their stores of gems and minerals and thought to showcase some of their long forgotten specimens. A particular curator has been the only one to handle it; even these brief encounters have been enough to secure his fair share of bad luck. If a long standing illness and passing an especially large kidney stone were not enough, Mr. Whittaker recalls a moment when he truly felt the power of this curse. While transporting it to a conference, he and his wife were suddenly overcome by a most ominous and terrifying thunderstorm. Unlike any storm they had ever witnessed, they feared for their lives in that moment, even to the point of abandoning the car, with the stone in it. Had it resurfaced for one last victim?
The Delhi Purple Sapphire. Go ahead, touch it....if you dare! Photo courtesy of 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Black Prince Ruby

Things are not always as they seem. I should know; people have been mistaking me for a ruby for centuries. While I used to take offense to this blunder, now I relish in the remembrance of countless fools who have gone to their deaths in an attempt to have me as their own. Little did they know that I am in fact a spinel! These supposedly important and powerful people succumbing to their most basic and greedy instincts, stained me red forevermore with their blood.

Should I tell you about some of my conquests? How about Muhammed VI? Born into a long and illustrious line of Sultans, he lived in a time and place of change. While his kingdom in Muslim Spain was long lived until the mid 1300s, he was reduced to a pawn in a battle between two feuding Spanish houses. He thought that by allying with the house of Aragon that he might be able to retain a piece of his family's once immense kingdom. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Pedro of Castille had very different plans in mind. He proposed a peace talk near Seville one warm evening, supposedly in order convince the Sultan to bridge the divide between the houses. It is while discussing this that I first caught Pedro's eye. Hanging like a talisman around Muhammed's neck was a deep red mass glowing brightly in what remained of the day's light. All at once, Pedro was consumed by a desire to take the glow away from the Sultan throat and claim me for his own. He quickly took out his beautifully carved ivory-hilt dagger and stabbed him through the heart. While he cleaned the blood from his blade and tucked me safely in his pocket, he congratulated himself not only in removing his enemy's ally, but also in his most fortunate acquisition.

What about this Pedro? Some called him cruel. Some people even said he killed his wife. He wouldn't be the first royal to be accused of this, nor the last. I simply saw him as weak and opportunistic; going about like a peacock since that day near Seville, reveling in his triumph. But that cowardly little man soon got nervous again when he learned that his brother Henry was looking to overthrow him, aided by the house of Aragon. Desperate to quell this rising power, Pedro called upon a force so dark that even he would not wish it as his enemy. He called upon the Black Prince.

Now that was a character; he was my favorite, since I identified with him most of all. The Black Prince was like a force of nature. One that cannot be commanded or tempered. Stories of his savagery and prowess in war were as terrifying as the black stare he would give any living soul. Pedro could not manage to buy his allegiance with the promise of land, power or money as he could with other men. The Black Prince would only be swayed to join him if he also gave up the one thing he treasured almost as dearly as his worthless life: me. Pedro reluctantly agreed.

So they waged war fiercely against Henry, but when it became obvious that Pedro had no intention to honor his promises, the Black Prince left him at the mercy of his relentless brother. Henry would deal Pedro the final blow by spearing through his pathetic body but it was the Black Prince who took what was left of his soul. He cut me away from Pedro's throat at the edge of a blade, gathered his armies and left Spain forever.

"Pity" the Black Prince didn't live very long after that. Turns out that he would die of illness, rather than by the sword. From his hands, I was passed down from one king to the next; each one as unremarkable as the one before. And now...well...things have been quiet lately. Reduced to a mere trinket, I compete with other stones in this silly hat for awe and admiration. I like to console myself by thinking that people today are not much different to the ones from before. And someday soon, people will again bleed for me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Curse of The Black Orlov

In honor of Halloween, we've decided to tell spooky tales about dark and mysterious gems. So keep reading...if you dare!

A haggard and visibly anxious man, walks warily into the night wearing nothing but the remnants of his torn and burnt evening garment. He removes the tattered clerical collar hanging off to the side of his shirt and stuffs it carelessly into what remains of his pocket. His eyes grow increasingly frightened as he looks down at a mass of rupees, his last and only possession, as he realizes the distance between himself and the port of Pondicherry.

''I should never have come to this place'', he says. ''Up until now, things have be going well here in British India despite the locals' continued reluctance to convert. While visiting the shrines of their strange gods, I heard a whisper that drew me to a most peculiar sculpture: Four heads looking down serenely at the people below with jeweled eyes that shined so brightly that I was mesmerized by its hypnotic gaze. This whisper continued to follow me, imploring me to take one of the diamond eyes of the sculpture. It said that it longed to be held in my hands. I confess I could not resist it. But ever since that day nothing but horrible misgivings have occurred. The monastery was burnt down in which all of my fellow brothers have perished; since then, I have been walking these streets at the mercy of beggars and vagrants, desperately trying to get home. The only good that has come from that diamond as black as this night, is the fare I have received in exchange for it to return to France. I hope that this ill fortune will not follow me across the waters...".

But much to the priest's anguish, his fortunes did not turn. Shortly after his return home and still plagued by continued tragedy, he sought release from this torture by climbing to the top of the town's bell tower, and plunging to his death.

"Serves you well,  for taking that which does not belong to you, foolish impertinent creature'', says the god Brahma, who's eye the priest had so unceremoniously taken out. ''Your greed is all the more repulsive as you are meant to be a man of the cloth; one that sheds these worldly desires. I will punish your greed and that of your successors by cursing all those who claim it as their own to the same fate.

New York City, 1932. Mr. J.W. Paris, a well-known diamond dealer is expected at a meeting with fellow dealers to view the latest yield from the mines. Only, Mr. Paris has been quite unwell lately. He too had in his possession a large black diamond, as dark as that Indian night so long ago. But soon after selling it,  his business had taken a turn for the worst. With increasing pressures mounting and the fear of the depression's horrible reach taking hold of him, he took himself to the top floor of that 5th Avenue skyscraper and dove towards the busy streets below.

Rome, December 1947. Princess Nadia Vygin-Orlov was one of the few fortunate members of the royal family to escape the violence of the Russian Revolution. Rome had since become her home and she founded a life there with her husband, a well-known jeweler.  But on this particular night, she walked frantically through the weaving streets she thought she knew so well. Ever since she received "that" black diamond as a gift, a whisper would not leave her side. She thought that taking to the streets would quell this taunting voice. Much to her dismay, it did not. In an attempt to get away, she quickly turned the nearest corner and was stopped dead in her tracks; the usually angelic face of a familiar statue, had become distorted and terrifying. Growing evermore paranoid, she dashed away only to be met by more twisted, tortured faces on every column, steeple and street corner. Having lost her grasp on reality, she ran into the nearby theater, up the staircase towards the roof. And as Richard III yelled "If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell!" she extinguished the whisper by jumping to her death.

Monday, September 28, 2015

3 Reasons Why Sapphire is Queen Among Gemstones

As the last entry may have suggested, this author humbly admits to having a bias towards sapphire; one that is as flowery as it is scientific. However, it occurs to us that while focusing on the true beauty of blue sapphire, we have neglected to bring up crucial points, which in our opinion make sapphire arguably unbeatable among the rest of the world's gemstones. Here are three factors which plead this case:  

A collage of colored sapphire. Photos courtesy of Bergamot Gems, F. Barlocher,, &

While sapphire is best known and coveted for its blue variety, it is in fact a type of corundum that comes in a plethora of colors, each with their distinct beauty: tangy oranges, cool greens, bright yellows; every hue exists but red, which is reserved only for ruby. Simply put, regardless of personal preference for color, sapphire has got you covered. Just in case you thought that fancy-colored sapphires were common-place, consider Padparadsha: an orangey-pink variety of sapphire which is commonly described as a cross between a lotus flower and a sunset. Few people can properly distinguish a true Padparadsha and even fewer are found, making it arguably as rare as the blue variety.
A fantastic example of ''Padparadsha'' sapphire. Photo courtesy of

2) Durability
Bergamot Gems is often called on to provide guidance when buying stones meant for everyday wear (engagement rings for instance). We love recommending sapphire for this, since it's a highly durable material. What do we mean by this? For starters, it's incredibly hard, used for example as the crystal on watches and even industrially for the windows of aircrafts. Even further, this material has no cleavage; something that even diamond cannot boast. As mentioned in an earlier article, a diamond can easily break into two pieces if pressured on a cleavage plane, whereas sapphire does not. Therefore, it is much more likely to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life than most gemstones. 

An example of a color-change sapphire left (incandescent light) and right (daylight). Photo courtesy of
A diagram illustrating the reflection effect of rutile in sapphire. Photo courtesy of

A large blue star-sapphire. Photo courtesy of

3) Optical Phenomenon
Up until now, we've described tangible factors that make sapphire a very practical choice for a gemstone. But aside from that very responsible stuff, sapphire is also pretty cool because of the different optical phenomenons that it can display. For instance, sapphire has the capacity to display the color-change effect. As with alexandrite, sapphire can in certain cases display more than one color depending on the kind of light that is used to illuminate it. Though more subtle than with alexandrite, it is enough to distinguish it. Also, sapphire can also display asterisms, which are the result of reflections of the rutile needle inclusions inside the stone. As seen in the diagram above, the needles are long, numerous and fine; when intersecting with one another, their reflection appears to us as a star. Neat huh?

These are just a few simple reasons why we enjoy sapphire so much. Hold one in your hand and you'll see for yourself :-)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Romancing the Stone [Slideshare]

In keeping with the spirit of our last entry, we thought it would be fitting to speak about one of our authors' favorite stones. It also happens to be this month's birthstone. Yep, we're talking SAPPHIRE! But since sapphire could not possibly be encompassed in a single entry, we have decided to write things that will allow us to let the stone romance you, as it has for us. Stay tuned for more articles as we trail through the sapphire world.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Putting the Term ''Semi-Precious" to Bed. Once and For All!

Have you ever heard someone say that some colored gemstones are just ''semi-precious''? Because of our company's contact with various levels of the industry (retail and clients alike), I hear it all the time; but before I crawl out of my skin in annoyance when I hear this, I remind myself that it is hardly people's fault for thinking this way about stones outside of "the big 4". For instance, the marketing of diamonds (with slogans such as "diamonds are forever") has been so thorough that people are enticed to buy time and time again.

The four 'Cs's of diamond. Photo courtesy of
Furthermore, diamonds are categorized in an almost clinical fashion based on their weight, color, clarity and cut; which leaves very little room for interpretation. By comparison, colored stones have taken on a very mysterious quality (even with jewelers), which is why they are greatly misunderstood by many people today.

Our particular grievance with the term "semi-precious'' is quite simple; By virtue of its name, it has a connotation similar to the ''second-class citizen": one that is common, less valuable, less desired. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. It is for this reason that we've decided to debunk the myth of this commonly-used misnomer. So what do people mean when they are referring to "semi-precious" stones?

A fantastic example of amethyst at its best. Ghirlanda Violet designed by Pasquale Bruni. Photo courtesy of
Many people say that these so-called "semi-precious" stones are less expensive and therefore less desirable. While it is true that some stones fetch a lesser price than other stones (based on factors such as rarity, durability etc), it must be remembered that all gemstones come in a variety of prices, all based on their spectrum of quality. As we saw in a previous article regarding the treatment of rubies, some extremely poor quality ruby have come to market and fetched prices far beyond their actual worth, simply because they are (hardly) ruby. While some stones can be worth as much a 500,000$ a carat, others can fetch as little as 0.99$ a carat. Similarly, there can be very commercial quality amethysts, just as there are also very fine quality amethysts on the market. We'll discuss more thoroughly the factors to pay attention to in a later entry.

Pinnacle-quality Paraiba tourmaline designed by Martin Katz. Photo courtesy of
Even if we wanted to entertain the notion of expensive being necessarily synonymous to precious, allow me to shed light on a few things: chrysoberyl, a name that might otherwise be forgotten because it is not one of the big 4, is actually quite expensive when considering the finest quality alexandrite (a variety of chrysoberyl). Similarly, tourmaline might be considered commonplace by some until one feels the electricity of Paraiba with its fabulous color and equally fabulous price tag.
Clockwise: 1) Cat's eye Chrysoberyl, photo courtesy of; 2) Rubellite pendant, photo courtesy of; 3) Imperial Topaz designed by Katerina Perez, photo courtesy of; 4) Iolite and Diamond gimlet ring, photo courtesy of
There are some people who would have others believe  that certain colored stones are less important or less desirable. We at Bergamot Gems respectfully disagree due to a simple school of thought that we prescribe to wholeheartedly. It is one that appreciates stones simply for what they are. As many colored gemstones enthusiasts and experts will say, colored stones have a very visceral quality that are not easily quantified, but should simply be appreciated and admired because they are. Now, more than ever, we are seeing people embracing gemstones outside of the conventional options offered to them, particularly in the bridal faction of the industry. This resonates rather significantly for us; because frankly, if a "semi-precious" gemstone is what speaks to you or is significant to you in that special life milestone, then it is in our opinion the most precious gemstone of all.

It's a big world out there; even the gem world has vast and stretching horizons. We invite you to discover it!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Name's John. Blue John

Picture for a moment your country's most prized natural resource (besides James Bond of course ;). For us in Canada it's not too difficult, as we are blessed with many. Now imagine if that natural resource were to suddenly dry up, or at the very least, that the supply would be so scarce that only a half-ton is extracted annually. Furthermore, it would not be until 150 years later that a new deposit would be discovered. That's quite the dry spell! Perhaps only then can we begin to understand the surprise of English miners when, just a few days ago, they discovered new veins of Blue John in Derbyshire. While "Blue John" is certainly not England's most prized nor its most important resource, its popularity during the Regency-era and general scarcity certainly account for the high prices it covets at auction today. So what is Blue John and what's so special about it?

Wedge of  "Blue John", displaying beautiful banding. Photo courtesy of

A banded variety of fluorite (calcium fluoride), Blue John is supposedly named as such because French prospectors from the reign of Louis XVI imported the material and described it by its colors: blue and yellow (bleu, jaune). This story is not yet substantiated by records in France, but it does aptly illustrate the kind of distinct color zoning and banding that is seen in this stone, ranging anywhere from purplish blue, to yellowish cream. This particular variety of fluorite has only been found in Derbyshire, central England. Other fluorite can also be found mainly in China and the U.S.A.

A fluorite rough specimen. Photo courtesy of
While other well-known gemstones rank high on the Moh's scale, fluorite sits relatively low at 4. To give a point of reference, this is softer than man-made glass, but still harder than a human nail; coupled with perfect and very easy cleavage, fluorite is very ill-suited for faceting. This is why we generally see it fashioned into tumbled stones, cabochons; and in the case of Blue John, a significant amount of ornamental pieces were made, including vases, chess boards squares etc... It is especially the work of Matthew Boulton that would bring rise to the vases who would even grace the halls of royal homes in England.

Regency-era "Blue John" vases, circa 1810-1820. Photo courtesy of

Apart from its basic properties, fluorite is most interesting because of its ability to fluoresce when exposed to UV lighting. For those who have been to laser tag (the notoriously dark rooms that are lit with certain lights making certain items fluoresce) are actually similar to the effect seen in fluorite. This light excites the electrons within the material to a point where it must release energy in order to stabilize itself. It does so by emitting a luminescent "glow". While they are not the only gemstones that have this ability, fluorite generally has a very pronounced reaction to it. Some attribute this to the REE (Rare Earth Elements) within the material.

Tumbled fluorite before and during exposure to UV light. Excellent example of fluorescence. Photo courtesy of

I don't know about you, but when hearing about new discoveries like this, I have the urge to go out and explore. You never know what you'll find! 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Gleam

Though "gleam" is hardly a proper term used in gemology, it conveys the idea of optical phenomenons which is at the core of today's entry. In gemology, we are often called upon to document and correctly assess the optical phenomenons which some gems display and to explain why they occur. While many of them are pretty cool when you look at the actual science of it, none are quite as spectacular, nor as seemingly random as the play-of-color in opal. Even pictures fail to adequately illustrate how special play-of-color can really be, so we hope that these samples will give a sense for it. Let's dive into it shall we?

The "Virgin Rainbow" opal, soon to be displayed at the South Australia Museum. Photo courtesy of
Unlike most gemstones, that have a crystalline system which dictates the way that it will grow and take shape, opal does not grow from any set system. However, it is made up of microscopic silica spheres that are tightly pact together; so it can't be considered completely random. Opals in sedimentary deposits occur when mineral-rich waters are rushed into cavities and fissures of rocks; the low temperatures over long periods of time will allow it to take shape. They can also be the product of a volcanic environment (see the recent Gem-A article on hyalite for more info).

Ethiopian Welo opal. Photo courtesy of
Today, opal is found in numerous places (including Mexico and the U.S) though it is most abundantly found in Australia where they've been uncovering deposits since the late 1800's. It is from these deposits that we see some of the most beautiful and rare specimens, which display all of the colors of the rainbow. Recently, the emergence of Ethiopian opals has brought to light an altogether different looking opal, which is rapidly growing in popularity. We'll talk about their particular properties in a separate entry. Here are a few other varieties to consider:

Black opal. Photo courtesy of
  • Black opals are generally the most sought after opals, as they tend to best display the play-of-color in the stone. The term "black" does not refer to the actual body color of the opal, but rather of it's darker background. When looking at opal doublets (which we'll cover in a different entry) for instance, you'll notice that they are backed with a darker material in order to enhance the color.

White opal. Photo courtesy of
  • White opal, as with black opal, is named that way to describe the background of the stone. It is a much lighter looking stone; though the play-of-color is more subtle, it has a beautiful whimsical quality.
Water opal. Photo courtesy of
  • Water "Jelly" opal has always been pleasing to me. As a relatively colorless stone, the play-of- color looks like bits of color trapped in a chunk of jelly which is all too comical.

"Boulder" opal. Photo courtesy of
  • "Boulder" opal refers to the opal that is often too thin to be cut away from the host rock that it was formed on. In some cases, the boulder's contrast to the colorful opal is rather pleasing and makes for an interesting gem on its own.
"Opalized" wood. Photo courtesy of
  • "Opalized" materials are a really cool concept. As mentioned earlier, opal is made up of silica spheres. In the same way that petrified wood is the result of silica taking over the internal structure of the wood, opalized material is the result of silica invading its internal structure of those materials, giving them the appearance of opal. This can be seen in fossil and wood alike.

So where does the color come in, you may ask? Well that's also a cool bit of science:

 Illustrates the microscopic interaction between light and opal's silica spheres called diffraction. Photo courtesy of

As we've discussed in an earlier entry, light is not white at all, but rather a whole spectrum of colors. But when light reaches the microscopic spaces between the silica spheres in opal, light is made to diffract or "split" into all of the spectral colors. The diffraction of these colors on all of these spheres subsequently creates interference with one another as well. This is why the color is not static in the stone, but rather moves around when you move around the stone. The colors themselves are dictated by the size and compactness of the silica spheres, which is why we see such a range in colors.

Of the opals pictured in this entry, which do you like best? Let us know!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ode to Tsavorite!

Ok, so there's no actual "Ode to Tsavorite". For those who know me, they'll understand that this is for the best, as my rhyming schemes are generally atrocious. I'll leave the poetry to John Keats & Co. However, that is not to say that it is unworthy of an ode. In fact, tsavorite is deservingly becoming one of the most popular green stones out there today; proving that the market is not restricted to "the big three" as it once was.
The Nature Collection designed by Martin Katz; tsavorite and diamond earrings. Photo courtesy of

Tsavorite is the name given to grossular garnet, one of the isomorphic series (something we'll learn about in a later entry) of the larger garnet family. It was named after the national park it was found in: Tsavo, Kenya. Perhaps other gemologists will agree with me when I say that I strongly associate tsavorite and tanzanite for two reasons: Firstly, they are from neighboring localities. Also, because they are relatively new additions to the gemstone world. Though found in the late 1960s, its current boom on the market is as recent as the last decade.

Typical tsavorite rough. Photo courtesy of

Like all garnets, tsavorite belongs to the cubic system which is why we find it in these neat-looking rough shapes, typically taken from metamorphic rocks. But as the photograph illustrates, the rough is generally quite small, which is why cut stones that are over 3 carats covet such a higher price. Of course, tsavorite is beautiful enough as the primary stone in jewelry, but due to this size constraint, we see a lot of colorful pavé that utilizes this stone.

Beautiful trilliant tsavorite, 1.62 tcw. Photo courtesy of Bergamot Gems. For inquires please contact
For me, what makes tsavorite special is the unique color that it possesses. Although people describe it simply as a forest green, I find that the finest specimens are neither too dark or too lightly saturated. What you want to look for is the color that exudes a lively, vibrant appearance. The trilliant pair pictured above are a fine example of this kind of color (for pricing inquiries, please contact us). While some purists will say that there is nothing compared to the blue-green hue of a lovely emerald, I think tsavorite has its own merit and makes its own case in the color department.

Large emerald and diamond ring designed by Lorraine Schwartz. Photo courtesy of
Large tsavorite and diamond ring designed by Tiffany & Co. Photo courtesy of
Since we're on the subject of emerald, we can also compare the clarity and general stability of these two green stones. While emerald is most appreciated (after the color) for the inclusions which suggest the locality they came from, tsavorite is typically clear of almost any inclusions. Because of this, tsavorite does not generally need to be treated, unlike emerald which is routinely oil or resin-filled to improve color and clarity.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: As beautiful and as diverse as the world of gemstones is, we find numerous examples of stones that are exceptional, but high-maintenance. What is just fantastic about tsavorite is the fact that without any intervention by humans or concern about fragility, this stone is both wonderfully saturated in color, and more readily available and affordable than some other green stones. So the real question remains: When will you get your tsavorite?