Kunzite Tanzanite Spessartite Drops
Kunzite is a rare and expensive semi-precious gemstone that is most famous for its delicately pale, lilac pink color. It is known for its strong pleochroism, meaning it shows lighter and more intense coloring when viewed at different angles. For this reason, the pastel gem is always cut to show the deepest pink color through the top of the gem; the deeper the pink, the more valuable the stone. Because kunzite shows its best color in larger sizes, small sizes tend to be very pale. It needs a certain amount of mass to bring out its color, so stones should weigh at least 10.00ct to be really in the pink. The largest faceted kunzite is an 880.00ct stone that is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Kunzite is often called the “evening stone” because it should be protected from strong sunlight. Direct sunlight and heat can fade the gem’s color over time. It is an especially fragile stone due to its crystalline structure. In fact, kunzite’s perfect cleavage and splintery fracture make it one of the most difficult gems to cut. It is a relatively hard gemstone, however, with a hardness rating on the Mohs Scale of 6.0-7.0.
First significantly found in Pala, California in 1902, kunzite is named as a tribute to George F. Kunz. He was the legendary gemologist and chief gem buyer for Tiffany & Co at the turn of the century, and was a pioneer of the science now known as gemology. Kunz wrote The Curious Lore of Precious Stones and searched the world for old stories and legends about gems while seeking new varieties and new deposits. Today, most kunzite is mined in Brazil, Afghanistan and Madagascar, and generally found in larger sizes of 10.00ct or more.
Modern folklore says that kunzite promotes emotional support and balance by helping to keep the mind and emotions in sync. It is believed that the gem aids in giving confidence and connection to a higher self. Many believe it reduces depression, mood swings and stress, while easing tension of tight muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is also suggested that kunzite increases the ability to open the heart to love and trust. In fact, the gem is considered a major gemstone of love, good for improving self-love, unconditional love of others and communication in loving relationships. Also known as a communication stone, kunzite is believed to help people better understand and interact with others.
No other gemstone discovery has made a bigger impact on the jewelry market than the recent newcomer, tanzanite. In 1998 and 1999, it was proclaimed the number one colored stone sold worldwide. Its luscious color, and the fact that the stone is found in only one location throughout the world, makes tanzanite an exceptionally rare, valuable and highly sought-after gem.
Tanzanite’s mesmerizing saturation of color is what has made the stone so popular. It is the blue variety of the mineral zoisite and occurs in a beautiful range of colors. Rarely pure blue, the gem almost always displays signature overtones of purple. In smaller sizes, it tends toward light tones such as lavender, while in larger sizes, the gem typically displays deeper, richer blues and purples. The finest quality tanzanite is usually deep blue or violet, which is extremely spectacular in sizes above ten carats.
Tanzanite is pleochroic, meaning it shows the appearance of several colors in the same stone, depending on perspective. From different angles, the gem can appear blue, purple, yellow, grey or brown. Most rough crystals show a large proportion of brown shades, since tanzanite in its natural form is typically brown with red, orange, yellow or bronze hues.
Gem cutters may change this coloring by heating the stone to 500°C. This heat treatment releases the intense violet-blue colors for which the stone is famous. According to legend, the effect of heat on tanzanite was first discovered when brown zoisite crystals were caught on fire by a lightning strike. Local cattle herders noticed the beautiful blue crystals sparkling in the sun and picked them up, becoming the first tanzanite collectors.
The gem was first discovered near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in the Merelani Hills of east-African Tanzania in 1967. This breathtaking location is the only known mining site on Earth for tanzanite. Right after its discovery, New York jeweler Louis Comfort Tiffany was presented with the first stones. Knowing it was going to be a sensation, he recommended finding a new name for the gem, since the gemological denomination “blue zoisite” reminded him of the word “suicide.” Tiffany suggested the name tanzanite, derived from its place of occurrence, and the new name quickly became established on the market. Tiffany & Co introduced the stone to the public in a spectacular promotional campaign two years after it had been discovered. It was enthusiastically celebrated as the “Gemstone of the 20th Century.”
A noted 122.70ct faceted tanzanite dubbed the “Midnight Blue” is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1996, a 255.00ct tanzanite crystal was discovered near Arusha, but because of its many inclusions, it proved to be of little market value. Tanzanite ranks a hardness of 6.5-7.0 on the Mohs Scale and has become the traditional gift for couples celebrating their 24th anniversaries.
High-quality and larger-size tanzanites can be sold at extremely premium prices. Although demand for this beautiful gem continues to grow, supply shortages in recent years have hampered production and caused price fluctuations. In 1998, the weather phenomenon known as “El Nino” soaked Tanzania with heavy rains during what should have been the drought period. When the monsoons hit, the groundwater swells were high and caused devastating floods. Mines caved in and all hopes of finding additional tanzanite rough were swept away. As a result, shortages have created price hikes at retail throughout the world.
Because it is such a new gemstone, there is little folklore, superstitions or healing properties surrounding tanzanite. Some believe the stone helps people to be more practical, realistic and honest. It is thought to uplift and open the heart while helping one cope with change.
Spessartite garnet can be red or blackish brown, but is most commonly available in rich golds, fiery oranges and warmer browns. Originally named after its occurrence in the German Spessart Mountains, there was a surprising discovery of the bright orange-red stone in Nigeria and Namibia. Until then, spessartites had existed as mere collector’s items or rarities and were hardly ever used for jewelry because they were so rare. But the new location discovery changed the world of jewelry gemstones and spessartites made their way into jewelry fashion.
The most popular type of spessartite is the mandarin garnet, a gem that features a bright orange hue that ranges from that of ripe peaches to the deepest of red-orange sunsets. Signifying energy and joy of life, this stone represents the spirit of individuality and the vibrancy of life. The mandarin garnet has a remarkably high refraction of light, creating an exceptional brilliance that vividly sparkles even in unfavorable light. To bring out the best of the gem’s unique color and brilliance, most are faceted cut to allow for this tremendous sparkle of fire.
The fascinating orange color featured in mandarin garnets plays an important role in Asian arts. Yellow and red, the two colors constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia, but rather complements to each other. The color symbolizes the continual change of life throughout the ages. Asian gods and Buddhist monks are often dressed in orange robes and the sky in Asian art is often painted orange.
Mandarin garnets were first found along the Kunene River in Namibia in 1991, embedded in the mica slate where they had been formed millions of years ago. Gemologists discovered the orange-colored stones were in fact variations of the rare spessartite gems and members of the garnet family. At that time, spessartites were fairly rare stones, even for collectors, and had hardly been used for jewelry. Some gemologists called the brilliant orange gemstones "kunene spessartine” according to their occurrence. But quite soon the term “mandarin garnet” spread throughout the international market and the stone made its successful appearance around the world. Popularity increased dramatically and the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. Fortunately, in April of 1994, mandarin garnets were discovered in Nigeria. The stones are now available once again in reliable amounts, though top-quality stones are rare and it is difficult to predict how long quantity will remain reliable.
Earring Back Types
The backing is an important part of an earring, providing a secure closure and comfortable fit. Keep in mind, some earring styles work better with certain back types. Experiment with the different types to find the best fit for you!
Butterfly Back: A double looped piece resembling a butterfly that fits over a post. Variations on this design are called push back clasps. The basic post and butterfly back are usually used for stud earrings and lighter weight drop earrings.
Hinged Snap Backs: This clasp features a hinged post that snaps into a groove on the back of the earring. It is commonly found on hoops. Sometimes the hinged post is curved to provide more room to fit around the ear, sometimes called a saddleback.
Hook Backs: This earring backing is simply a long, bent post that fits through the piercing. Hooks have several variations, most notably the shepherd's hook and the French hook. While thin wire hooks reduce the weight of long earrings, making them more comfortable, they aren't as secure as other clasp styles.
Lever Back: A hinged lever snaps shut against the curved post to form a closed loop around the ear lobe. This clasp is very secure and good for large or medium sized styles that drop just below the ear.
Omega: Also called French clips, this clasp has a straight post and a looped lever. The hinged lever closes around the post and is held against the ear with pressure. The omega clasp is the most secure clasp, especially for the larger, heavier earrings.
Screw back: This backing is a slight variation of the standard post and butterfly nut back. Instead of pushing on the back, the nut twists onto the threaded post. A screw back post design is often preferred for expensive diamond stud earrings that require increased security.