THE SE­CRET LIFE OF GEM­STONES

WHILE GEM­STONES ARE CER­TAINLY FAS­CI­NAT­ING, THERE IS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR UNIQUE­NESS. HERE ARE SOME IN­TRIGU­ING THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THEM, BUT SHOULD. YANNI TAN BREAKS IT DOWN

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Contents -

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the unique­ness of gem­stones. Dis­cover their se­crets here

1 THERE IS A NEW CAT­E­GORY OF DI­A­MONDS: THE CHAMELEON

So you know all about coloured di­a­monds and colour-change gems. How about an ex­tremely rare type of colour-change di­a­monds, called chameleon di­a­monds? Ac­cord­ing to Tay Kun­ming, di­rec­tor of Far East Gems & Jew­ellery and a lo­cal di­a­mond spe­cial­ist, a chameleon was first dis­cov­ered at the Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica (GIA) in the early 1950s. These chameleon di­a­monds re­act to heat and light by chang­ing their colour from green to yel­low. This un­usual phe­nom­e­non still con­tin­ues to baf­fle sci­en­tists, re­ports Kun­ming.

2 THERE ARE ALIEN GEM­STONES

Mol­davite, a translu­cent green ex­tra-ter­res­trial gem­stone rarer than ru­bies or emer­alds, is thought to have been formed dur­ing a me­te­orite im­pact in south­ern Ger­many some 15 mil­lion years ago. Also very un­com­mon and sought-af­ter by col­lec­tors are me­te­oric ver­sions of peri­dot, an olive-green gem­stone found on earth, which comes em­bed­ded in stony-iron me­te­orites called pal­l­a­sites.

3 GEM­STONE COLOURS CAN FADE

Some gem­stones are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to light—not just sun­light but strong ar­ti­fi­cial light. Kun­zite is a pink to laven­der type of spo­dumene that can lose its colour even with a few hours’ ex­po­sure to di­rect sun­light. Other gem­stones whose colours could fade in­clude aqua­marines, aven­turines, chryso­prase, corals and brown topaz. In gen­eral, it is ad­vis­able to store any gem­stone in a dark place and min­imise its ex­po­sure to bright light.

4 SOME GEM­STONES ARE RA­DIOAC­TIVE

Ir­ra­di­a­tion is a com­mon treat­ment used to change or im­prove the colour of cer­tain gem­stones, but some lit­tle­known gem­stones are nat­u­rally ra­dioac­tive. Two at­trac­tive and com­mer­cially pop­u­lar ex­am­ples are the aqua-green ama­zonite and the bright pur­ple sug­ilite, which are only barely ra­dioac­tive and do not pose any health haz­ards.

5 THERE IS A PLANET MADE OF DI­A­MONDS

A “di­a­mond planet”, named 55 Can­cri e, has been dis­cov­ered. In 2010, astronomers had hy­poth­e­sised that the planet’s graphite sur­face was em­bed­ded with a thick layer of di­a­mond. Three years ago, an­other study sug­gested that the car­bon-to-oxy­gen ra­tio on the planet was not as high as pre­vi­ously thought, and the planet was more “a di­a­mond in the rough”.

6 THE BLACK PRINCE’S RUBY IS AC­TU­ALLY A SPINEL

The red spinel was known as the Balas Ruby dur­ing me­dieval times, with the name Balas de­riv­ing from a province in north­ern Afghanistan called Badakhshan. And be­cause the Badakhshan mines were the source of many of the finest early red spinels, they were thought to be one and the same. The 170-carat crim­son Black Prince’s Ruby on Eng­land’s Im­pe­rial State Crown was dis­cov­ered to be a spinel in mod­ern times.

7 EVEN THE VIK­INGS USED GEM­STONES

Like po­larised sun­glasses, the vi­o­let-blue io­lite has the same ca­pa­bil­ity to block the glare of sun­light re­flected off sur­faces such as wa­ter and ob­jects. The Vik­ings were known to carry the gem­stone with them and use it as a “look­ing glass” lens to find the sun on a cloudy day, which would have poor vis­i­bil­ity caused by dif­fused sun­light and glare from the sea sur­face.

8 THE STAR EF­FECT IS EX­HIB­ITED IN MORE THAN JUST SAP­PHIRES

Ev­ery­one knows how beau­ti­ful star sap­phires are, but the star ef­fect, also known as an as­ter­ism, can be seen on other gems such as ru­bies, gar­nets, diop­side, spinels and tour­ma­lines, too. It is an op­ti­cal phe­nom­e­non caused by fi­bre-like in­clu­sions, and can only be ob­served on the pol­ished, re­flec­tive sur­face of a cabo­chon-cut stone. Cha­toy­ancy is a sim­i­lar ef­fect caused by the par­al­lel fi­brous in­ter­nal struc­ture or in­clu­sions, which re­sult in the ap­pear­ance of a nar­row line across the gem sur­face. When this ef­fect is ob­served on a chrysoberyl, the gem­stone is called a cat’s eye, but it can also be seen on quartz, moon­stones, aqua­marines, tour­ma­lines and more.

9 SOME GEM­STONES HAVE SPLIT PER­SON­AL­I­TIES

Alexan­drite, a rare and ex­pen­sive type of chrysoberyl, can be red or pur­plishred un­der ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing in a build­ing, but by the time you walk to­wards the the sun­light, its colour will dra­mat­i­cally change into green or bluish-green. Colour change based on light source is a highly de­sired op­ti­cal ef­fect in gem­stones, and ex­hib­ited by sev­eral other kinds of gem­stones, in­clud­ing gar­nets, ap­atites, sap­phires, flu­o­rites and di­as­pores.

10 DI­A­MONDS ARE NO LONGER NA­TURE’S HARD­EST MA­TE­RIAL

In re­cent years, two new nat­u­ral min­er­als have been dis­cov­ered to be harder than di­a­monds. They are wurtzite boron ni­tride, which has a sim­i­lar struc­ture to di­a­monds but not made of car­bon atoms; and ions­daleite, a hexag­o­nal di­a­mond made of car­bon atoms that are ar­ranged in a dif­fer­ent shape from di­a­monds.

11 CHI­NESE EM­PRESS DOWA­GER CIXI WAS MAD FOR TOUR­MA­LINES

A tra­di­tional lucky stone to the Chi­nese thanks to its name “bi xi”, which sounds like “bi xie” (to ward off evil), the tour­ma­line was a favourite of Qing Dy­nasty’s Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi. She es­pe­cially adored the pink va­ri­ety, and some 120 tonnes of gem­grade tour­ma­line were mined be­tween 1902 and 1910 from the Pala mines of Cal­i­for­nia to be crafted into fine jewels, snuff bot­tles and other ob­jets d’art for her. The trade be­tween the two coun­tries was fa­cil­i­tated by Tif­fany & Co. Rubel­lites are out­stand­ing pink or red tour­ma­lines that dis­play lus­cious colours, which stay true in ar­ti­fi­cial light as well as day­light.

12 THE AR­GYLE MINE PRO­DUCES ONLY A PALMFUL OF PINK DI­A­MONDS AN­NU­ALLY

Ac­cord­ing to Far East Gems & Jew­ellery’s Tay, the amount of pink di­a­monds larger than half a carat mined an­nu­ally from the Ar­gyle Di­a­mond Mine is so minis­cule that they could all fit onto one palm. This fact is made even more as­tound­ing when you con­sider that 90 per cent of the world’s pink di­a­monds orig­i­nate from this mine.

Mediter­ranean Sea Hip­pocampe clip with ama­zonites on the breast of the sea­horse, along with a grey cul­tured pearl, sap­phires, tour­ma­lines and di­a­monds by Van Cleef & Arpels

Bow brooch with kun­zite and di­a­monds by Tif­fany & Co

Joy ring with peri­dot and di­a­monds by Boucheron

Visit Sg­tatler.com for more trivia. Set­ting a new world record for a stone of its type at a Sotheby’s Geneva auc­tion in mid-may was the sale of The Unique Pink, a 15.38-carat fancy vivid pink di­a­mond that sold for US$31.6M 2016/ JEWELS& TIME/ 57

Ear­rings with alexan­drite and di­a­monds by Tif­fany & Co

Se­crets + Lights ring with spinels and di­a­monds by Pi­aget

Niloti­cus ring with a pear-shaped io­lite and a baguette-cut beryl by Her­mès

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