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About Compressed Gemstones
Compressed gemstones are a unique take on the more traditional single nugget gems or cabochons. Made from a collection of smaller gemstone nuggets like turquoise, coral or amber, they are added to a resin and compressed into blocks. Some compressed gems are dyed to enhance their color. The blocks are then sawed into slices, shaped as if they were one stone and set into a piece of jewelry.
Stabilized turquoise is enhanced through a process of coating the genuine gemstone with colorless acrylics or resin to fill porous gaps, harden the stone and maintain the stone’s color.
All weights pertaining to gemstones, including diamonds, are minimum weights. Additionally, please note that many gemstones are treated to enhance their beauty. View Gemstone Enhancements and Special Care Requirements for important information.
Sterling silver, also called fine silver, is a beautifully lustrous cool-toned precious metal favored in fine jewelry among other products. The most reflective of all metals (excluding mercury), sterling silver looks stunning by itself and brings out the best hues in an array of colorful gemstones.
Sterling silver can be polished to a higher sheen than platinum. In fact, Ag, the chemical symbol for silver, comes from a word that means “white and shining.” The surface of silver can boast that shiny, polished appearance, or can be brushed, satin, matte, sandblasted, antiqued or oxidized (chemically blackened).
In order to be called sterling silver, a metal must be made up of a minimum of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy (meaning other metals), including but not limited to copper and nickel. The alloy is added to pure silver to make the metal more durable, tougher and harder. Sterling silver is designated a fineness of “925.” Pieces with sterling silver may be marked “sterling.”
Finishes on Sterling Silver
Finishing, or plating, is a common treatment with sterling silver. Popular types of plating are rhodium plating, gold plating and anti-tarnish plating. Plating is used to extend the life and sheen of the jewelry. After sizing or buffing a piece of jewelry with a machine, it must be re-plated to restore the finish.
Caring for Sterling Silver
Sterling silver becomes tarnished as the result of a natural chemical process that occurs when sterling silver is exposed to chemicals in the air, rubber, wool and latex. Humidity also plays a role in accelerating tarnishing. It's easy to keep your sterling silver sparkling, though, by taking a few steps to prevent tarnish and other wear and tear.
Amethyst, the most precious member of the quartz family, exhibits purple shades ranging from pale lilac to deep purple, sometimes exhibiting reddish or rose overtones. Very deep-colored amethysts are the finest and most highly valued . Some stones are so over-saturated with color they have areas that are blacked out, which can negatively impact their value. Paler shades, sometimes called "Rose of France," were common in Victorian jewelry. Banding—darker and lighter zones of color—is also a common occurrence. Occasionally, amethyst is even found combined with its sister quartz, citrine, into a single stone called ametrine.
The birthstone for February, amethyst is an extremely popular gem for jewelry because of its regal color, variety of sizes and shapes, affordability and wide range of hues. It also is the recommended gem for couples celebrating their 6 th and 17 th wedding anniversaries. With a hardness of 7.0 on the Mohs Scale , a methyst can occur as long prismatic crystals that have six-sided pyramids at either end, or can form as drusies that are crystalline crusts that only show the pointed terminations.
The ancient Greeks believed that amethyst made one immune to the effects of alcohol. In fact, the name even comes from the Greek word amethystos, which means “not drunken.” Legend has it that the amethyst originated from Bacchus, the god of wine. Bacchus became angry at the mortals and vowed that the next mortal to cross his path would be eaten by tigers. Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden, was on her way to worship the goddess, Diana. Diana turned her into colorless quartz to keep her from being eaten. Bacchus observed the miracle and repented his hasty decision. He poured wine over the young maiden, leaving her feet and legs colorless. This is the reason that amethyst crystals are usually uneven in color and have a colorless base at the bottom. Because amethyst was believed to prevent drunkenness, wine goblets were often carved from it in ancient Greece. Today, the gem still symbolizes sobriety.
Amethyst has been a part of history throughout the ages. Evidence suggests that prehistoric humans used amethysts for decoration as early as 25,000 B.C. Legends suggest that the Egyptian queen Cleopatra wore an amethyst signet ring, as did Saint Valentine, who bared an amethyst engraved with the figure of Cupid. During medieval times, people used the stone as medication to stay awake and alert. Leonardo Da Vinci claimed that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. In some legends, the stone represents piety, celibacy and dignity. In the Middle Ages, for instance, the gem was an important ornamentation for the Catholic Church and other religions. It was considered the stone of bishops, and they still often wear amethyst rings. In Tibet, amethyst is considered sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often made from it. Amethyst has also long been a favorite of kings and queens for its royal purple hues that symbolize wisdom, strength and confidence. Amethysts are even featured in the British Crown Jewels and were worn by Catherine the Great.
Amethyst’s availability and magical qualities make it the stone of preference in ancient lore and mysticism. As a meditation stone, it is said to quiet the mind, promote contemplation, sharpen psychic powers and uplift the spirit. It is a stone of deep wisdom. Folklore says it can quicken the wit, calm fears and ward off anger. It has a royal purple essence that is said to lend courage to travelers, scare off thieves and protect travelers from harm. Placed under the pillow or worn to bed, there are claims it promotes peaceful sleep and pleasant dreams. Amethyst can also be worn to supposedly make the wearer gentle, amiable and happy.
The stone is mined in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, as well as in Zambia, Namibia and other African nations. Very dark amethyst in small sizes also is mined in Australia. But the ideal for fine quality amethyst was set by a Siberian variety, often called Russian or Uralian amethyst, which is now considered a defunct source. Generally, South American amethyst tends to come in larger sizes than African amethyst, but the African variety has a reputation for having deeper color intensity and is therefore considered more valuable. The African version also is harder to come by than amethyst mined from South America. Most of today's amethyst comes out of Brazil.
Lune de France is a very special variety of amethyst that rarely comes to market. From the northwest state of Amazon in Brazil, this gemstone comes from the Maraba mine. This lovely lilac gemstone features a unique velvet-like quality that at first observation can be confused for an opal or moonstone. The gemstone's internal structure contains natural, cloud-like veils of microscopic inclusions that are extremely minute, even under high power magnification. These inclusions cause the incoming light to scatter and reflect, thus creating an opalescent effect. While a similar inclusion structure can be expected in rose quartz, it almost never occurs in an amethyst. Lune de France features a natural lilac color and retains excellent transparency allowing it to be faceted for maximum light play.
Onyx is a variety of chalcedony quartz that features a fine texture with a smooth black color. Some onyx can display white bands or ribbons against black or brown backgrounds. The bands that move through the stone run parallel and onyx is therefore sometimes known as zebra agate. Mined in Brazil, India, California and Uruguay, most onyx today is color-enhanced to increase its depth of color. It ranks a 6.5 on the Mohs Scale and is an ideal stone for carving. In fact, it is a favorite material of lapidary artists.
Onyx was very popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The name comes from the Greek word "onux" which means fingernail. Legend says that one day frisky Cupid cut the divine fingernails of Venus with an arrowhead while she was sleeping. He left the clippings scattered on the sand and the fates turned them into stone so that no part of her heavenly body would ever perish. In Greek times, almost all colors of chalcedony were called onyx. Later, the Romans narrowed the term to refer to only the black and dark brown colors, while the reddish brown and white onyx became known as sardonyx. Highly valued in Rome, sardonyx was especially used for seals because it was said to never stick to the wax. Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio was famous for wearing sardonyx.
Worn during mourning in the Victorian age, onyx is now traditionally given as a 7th wedding anniversary gift. It is thought to increase happiness, self-control, courage, intuition and instincts. The stone is also believed to cool the yearnings of love and decrease sexual desire.
One of the oldest known gems, turquoise has been prized for thousands of years. The Egyptians believed it had powerful mystical properties, and turquoise jewelry has been found interred with 7,500-year-old mummies. Ancient manuscripts from Persia, India, Afghanistan and Arabia say that the health of a person wearing turquoise could be assessed by variations in the color of the stone. Montezuma's treasure, now displayed in the British Museum, includes a carved serpent covered by a mosaic of turquoise.
Turquoise was especially revered by the Native American culture, an association that dates back to the Aztec empire more than 700 years ago. For the Aztecs, turquoise was reserved for the gods and mere mortals were forbidden to wear it. They believed it to be a gem of good fortune and a commodity more valuable than gold. Native Americans believed turquoise protected people from demons and they even placed turquoise in tombs to guard the dead. The stone's colors were thought to be symbolically blue for the heavens and green for the earth. Often warriors tied turquoise to their bows to ensure accurate shots.
Today, turquoise is still believed to provide protection and bring luck. It is said to also promote prosperity, love, healing, courage and friendship. The stone is thought to relax the mind and ease mental tension.
The gem's opaque turquoise color varies from shades of greenish blue to deep cobalt to sky blue. Some varieties display white or brown matrixes, which are streaks of the mother stone from which they came, while others have veins of black matrix running through them. Generally, the bluer the blue, the more highly valued the stone. A clear, even texture without mottling or veins is also preferred. The most rare and valuable color is an intense azure, but the most common is the mild to medium sky blue. Sometimes imitated by minerals such as chrysocolla, turquoise stones are often dyed or colored with coatings of various resins.
In the 13th century, turquoise was mistakenly believed to have come from the country of Turkey. Hence, its name came from the French word for Turkey, "Turquie". The stone was actually brought to Europe from Persia (now Iran), via Turkey. It is a mineral usually found in association with copper deposits and is sometimes mined as a by-product of copper mining.
Although turquoise is found in desert regions worldwide, especially in the southwestern United States, perhaps the finest and most valuable comes from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Globe, Arizona. It is named after the Sleeping Beauty Mountain which resembles a reclined woman in a slumbering state. Its turquoise is world renowned for its beauty that ranges from pure robin's egg blue to a darker royal blue.
While only ranking between 5.0 and 6.0 on the Mohs Scale of hardness, turquoise remains quite popular for jewelry. In Europe, turquoise rings are given as forget-me-not gifts, while in the United States, the stone is given as traditional 5th and 11th wedding anniversary gifts. It has even become a modern consideration for the December birthstone. When wearing turquoise over the years, the stone will absorb oil from a person's skin, causing a slight change to the color of turquoise.
Turquoise is commonly treated in various fashions to ensure its durability and visual appeal, especially when set in jewelry. If a stone has been treated, the type of process will be noted.
Turquoise is one of the oldest gemstones known in history going back 6,000 years BC and has been revered by almost every ancient culture. It is the alternate birthstone for December and has a Mohs rating of 5.0-6.0. Turquoise is a Hydrous Phosphate of Aluminum and Copper and may form as a chalky coating on rocks or finely disseminated crystals formed within small rock cavities. Rough such as this is not commercially viable, which has led to the development of reconstituted turquoise. Turquoise-bearing rock is pulverized and the turquoise is separated from the rock using a float process. The pulverized turquoise is then mixed with a colored resin, which is then injected into a mold to form a solid block. This is then cubed, preformed and fashioned into various shapes and sizes. It is an excellent method of using rough that would otherwise not be usable.
Amber is fossilized resin from ancient plants, especially coniferous trees. Tens of millions of years ago, if the conditions were right, this sticky resin would become encased in earth and gradually become fossilized. Resin that has not completely fossilized is called copal.
Sometimes leaves, bits of wood, and even the whole bodies of insects would be trapped along with the resin. Pieces of amber with the intact remains of ancient insects or other small organisms are rare and highly valued. More than 1,000 extinct species have been identified in amber.
Jewelry and History
Amber is translucent and range in color from dark brown to a light lemon yellow. It is very soft, with a hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs Scale, and it can be scratched easily. Jewelry with amber cabochons should be worn with care to prevent damage to the stones.
Amber has been used as jewelry for thousands of years. Homer mentions amber jewelry—earrings and a necklace of amber beads—as a princely gift in The Odyssey. Amber can be burned, and this produces a strong aroma the ancient Germans used as incense; they called it bernstein, or “burn stone.” Clear, colorless amber was considered the best material for rosary beads in the Middle Ages due to its smooth, silky feel.
Today, two main sources of amber are the Baltic Sea and the Dominican Republic. Amber from the Baltic states is older, but amber from the Dominican Republic is more likely to have insect inclusions.
Malachite is a stone that features light and dark green banded areas. Sleek and luxurious in texture, it contains natural black bands that vary from piece to piece, making it special and unique. Ancient Egyptians began mining it as early as 4000 BC! Malachite gems are found naturally combined with other minerals, such as chrysocolla. It's commonly found in Zaire, Russia, Germany, France, Chile, Australia and the southwestern United States. Considered the guardian stone of travelers, malachite is worn to detect danger and is believed to break into pieces when danger is near. Many believe malachite possesses the ability to calm the nerves. It is also known for creating peace, hope and success in business, as it can bring understanding and patience to those in its presence.