Gemstones and precious metals have been sought after, mined, extracted, and honed into fine jewelry for decades. Whether in the form of a ring, bracelet, necklace or earrings, gemstones provide both an outlet for creative personal expression and a sound investment, since precious stones and metals don’t lose value of time. Some gemstones stand the test of time with their beauty, durability and prolific nature. Others become more elusive and expensive by the day.
No matter the stone, quality is determined by the four C’s: Cut, Color, Carat weight and Clarity.
Cut refers to the angles and proportions of the stone. Stones considered “well cut” better refract the prism of light than poorly cut stones, ensuring the stone gives off greater sparkle and brilliance.
Color is how much or how little color there is in the stone. In diamonds, the less color, the better, as it refracts light better than its cloudy or more opaque counterparts. In stones like sapphires, rubies, etc. the deeper and more vibrant the color, the higher the quality.
Clarity refers to the amount of fractures or inclusions in the stone. Gemstones are formed under tremendous amounts of pressure within the earth, so when they’re extracted, they may have fractures or defects where it buckled under pressure. We see them as small lines or cracks within the stone, and how many there are and how visible they are determines the stone’s clarity. The fewer defects there are, the higher the clarity and the higher the quality.
Carat weight is how big the gemstone is in terms of mass. While bigger usually equals higher quality, one must take the other factors into consideration before determining the stone’s total value. A high carat stone with many inclusions and poor color will be less valuable than a smaller stone with no inclusions and vibrant color.
The following gemstones are considered rare and valuable, but not out of reach for the woman with a keen eye, discerning taste and the willingness to invest in herself to create an enviable gemstone and jewelry collection.
While diamonds may or may not be a girl’s best friend, they are nonetheless beautiful, synonymous with engagements, the hardest material on Earth, and serve a variety of purposes other than gracing our fingers, neck and wrists.
Thanks to extensive campaigning by the De Beers company, diamonds are often the first and last gemstone considered for engagement rings. Though diamonds can be made flawlessly in laboratories now, there is still a stigma attached to them, so natural diamonds are still considered more valuable and rare.
As the name suggests, Tanzanite was found (and has only been found) in Tanzania in the 1960s. Mined from a small area near the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, this blue gemstone is a variety of the mineral Zoisite, and gets its color from heat oxidizing the vanadium present in the stone.
Because it can only be sourced from one small area and there is only so much of it to find, Tanzanite is considered rare and valuable. Some jewelers heat treat Tanzanite to deepen its signature blue color. Treated stones are still Tanzanite, but they are considered less valuable than their untreated counterparts.
This rare gemstone is a member of the Pectolite family. While Pectolite itself is not rare, this blue version is, and has only been found in the Dominican Republic. Coloring ranges from white to light blue, sky blue to volcanic blue. Pectolite is a hydrated sodium calcium silicate, and Larimar’s blue color occurs when the calcium is replaced by copper. Because this variety of stone can only be found in the Dominican Republic and has a finite supply, it is considered rare and valuable.
The greater the intensity of blue in the stone, the higher the quality and the more rare it’s considered.
Presuming you can get your hands on this beautiful stone, keep it out of the light as often as possible. The blue coloring is photosensitive and fades over time when exposed to too much light and heat.
Ammolite is harvested from mineralized fossils of Ammolite cephalopod shells. It’s mined from the Bearpaw Formation, which was formed some 70 to 75 million years ago and runs from Alberta, Canada down to Montana, United States.
Iridescent, multi-layered and multi-colored, Ammolite was formally recognized as a gemstone in 1981, when enough was discovered to begin mining it for commercial reasons. Differing colors in the stone come from light reflecting from a differing layer in the stone.
When ammolite displays three or more vivid colors, the quality is considered AA, exquisite, and one of the best and most rare stones in the world. Ammolite with similar, but less brilliant coloring (or the opposite) to the AA version is deemed A+ quality or extra fine. These stones are still considered beautiful, valuable and command a premium to acquire, though not nearly so much as you’d pay for the AA version.
Ammolite displaying two or more bright colors and matrix lines are considered grade A quality, and the lowest quality is called standard. These stones display 1 to 2 good colors, but also display matrix lines. Though deemed to be of lower quality than their peers, they are still beautiful, rare gemstones, but they are the most affordable of the bunch.
Natural Alexandrite is quickly becoming one of the most scarce and valuable gemstones in the world. It is so rare that most alexandrite offered in jewelry stores is lab-created.
Alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family and gives off a different color depending on what light it’s viewed under. In sunlight, it appears green. Under incandescent light, it appears red. It was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in the 1930’s and was named after Russian Czar Alexander II.
Additional sources have been discovered in Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa, but there has not been consistency in quality and yields are low.
Inclusions typically decrease a stone’s value, but in alexandrite, when long, thin inclusions run parallel to each other, they may create a cat’s-eye effect (a.k.a chatoyancy), which increases the stone’s value.
Alexandrite that has deep, vibrant colors that both change in differing light and have the cat’s-eye effect are extremely rare.
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