When there are more than 5,000 minerals in the world and in the jewelry business there are 80% of the market is occupied by diamonds and the Big Three, a beautiful tourmaline is being sad somewhere. So, as you might guess, we would like to introduce you to little-known gems and rediscover them in this article.
Let's talk about the majestic beryl and its varieties, the noble spinel, which amazes with the complexity of its shades, tourmalines of a rainbow of colors, and two rising stars of the modern market: tanzanite and Paraíba tourmaline.
A bit of theory
Why can't all minerals be used as gems? We talked about this in the article: Mineral, crystal, gem. Introduction to terminology. Briefly, not all minerals are hard enough (approximately greater than 7 on the Mohs scale. Glass occupies position 5 on this scale) to be cut and durable to wear. Some minerals are limited to a few nanometers in size.
Let's talk about those that fulfill two stipulated conditions but are still supplanted by centuries of history and cultural preferences in favor of sapphire, ruby, emerald, and diamond. Let's start the journey through the incredible palette of colors.
Beryl and its varieties
Beryl is a group of minerals. All members of this group have the same chemical composition (aluminum and beryllium silicate). Still, impurities of different elements give rise to different colors of beryl's varieties. The emerald is the most famous variety of beryl (so renowned that even the name beryl is obscured). The emerald-green color is the result of an admixture of chromium. Usually, after the emerald, they stop talking about the varieties of beryl, but we want to present them mainly.
Aquamarine – a blue variety of beryl. Photo by O. Rybnikova
Gentle blue aquamarine is a mineral that resembles the purest cool water of high mountain lakes and tropical seas.
Powder-pink morganite is so rare that the author found it more challenging to purchase morganite than emerald at mineral shows.
From light yellow to a golden color variety of beryl is called heliodor. It resembles the sun's rays embedded in the transparent facets of a precious stone. We are proud to announce that Ukraine has one of the most famous heliodor deposits in the world. Volyn deposit is located in Khoroshiv city, Zhytomyr region. Ukrainian heliodors reach the size of half a meter and are priceless specimens in collections around the world.
Unique etched surfaces of Ukrainian heliodors. Photo by O. Rybnikova
Colorless transparent beryl is called goshenite. By itself, beryl has a unique apple-green color. There are rare varieties of beryl, such as the dark blue Maxixe beryl and red beryl. Both varieties are so rare that they become a centerpiece of private collections in their uncut form.
Spinel really deserves broader use in the jewelry industry. A variety of colors and complex shades can make any design truly unique. A significant plus is the hardness of spinel (8 on the Mohs scale) and the availability of high-quality transparent stones.
Historically, spinel went side by side with ruby until the 19th century, so it was impossible to tell the two faceted stones apart. We can see evidence of this at the highest levels. For example, the Black Prince ruby (the center stone of the crown of the British Empire) is actually spinel.
Spinel should be valued not for its similarity to ruby but for its unique shades. For example, for a deep sea green-blue color, electric cobalt blue color, bright pink and lavender hues, and for the gray-purple color of a June thunderstorm. The possibilities and combinations are endless.
Tourmaline. Bright and juicy
Tourmaline, like spinel, comes in all colors. Still, the fantastic thing about tourmalines is that if you can't get a color you like, you can have two in one faceted tourmaline stone! Such tourmalines are called bicolor. And pink and green shades in one crystal are called watermelon tourmaline.
Tourmalines rainbow of colors. Photo by O. Rybnikova
Another juicy and summery shade of tourmaline that is gaining popularity is peach-like color. A single crystal may exhibit a gradient from orange to crimson. Also, the cold shades of tourmaline are mint-green and indigo-blue, reminiscent of summer meadows and the sky after sunset.
Bicolor and green tourmaline. Photo by O. Rybnikova
A particular type of tourmaline that conquers the hearts of the whole world is the Paraíba tourmaline. Its color, created due to copper impurities, is described as neon blue. However, the stone really seems to glow from inside. It was found quite recently (compared to the centuries-old titans ruby and emerald) in 1989 in the state of Paraíba, Brazil. Currently, deposits have been found in two more countries – Nigeria and Mozambique.
The Paraíba tourmaline. Photo by O. Rybnikova
The price for a rare and popular tourmaline reaches several thousand dollars for one carat. For such a short time of the stone's popularity, it took the highest positions in demand. The unique neon color really deserves the highest praise.
Another headliner of all exhibitions and the object of the hunt for collectors is the violet-blue mineral tanzanite. Its history is somewhat similar to the history of Paraíba tourmaline in that the mineral was discovered only in the previous century. Still, the deposit where tanzanites are mined remains the only one in the world – in Tanzania (Merelani Hills), after which the mineral got its name. In fact, tanzanite is a vanadium-bearing variety of the mineral zoisite. Tanzanite is also notable for its incredibly successful marketing strategy. The name zoisite was considered unattractive to buyers, so the inky blue mineral from the foot of Kilimanjaro was given the name tanzanite.
Another unique property of the mineral is trichroism. You look at the stone from three different sides and observe different colors. On one side, the stone will be cold blue; on the other – warm purple with shades of red; and on the third, the dominant shade will be green.
Tanzanite. Photo by O. Rybnikova
The additional investment value of the stone is given by the fact that there is only one tanzanite deposit on the planet, and it is believed that it will be exhausted in the next 20-30 years.
At the end of our introduction to colored gemstones, we would like to note that this is only the tip of the gemstone iceberg. We can continue talking about brilliant topazes, densely colored garnets, and endless varieties of quartz, as well as opaque minerals such as malachite, turquoise, rhodochrosite, and azurite. The world of minerals is large and diverse. Everyone will find a one-of-a-kind mineral for themselves, which will reflect your uniqueness in its facets.
Clockwise from the left: aquamarine, kunzite, tourmaline, citrine. Photo by O. Rybnikova
Author: Rybnikova Olena – gemmologist, MSc in Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Petrography. Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv alumnus. Applied Jewelry Professional certified by Gemological Institute of America. Now she is doing PhD in Europe and is writing a dissertation on the beryllium minerals topic. Actively popularizes gemstones and gemmology.