The Scintillating Attraction of Gems

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Even otherwise sober, level headed people have been known to fall under the spell of the sparkle of some small cut mineral crystal. Any reference to feelings experienced while contemplating gems is likely to include words like fascinated, rapt, smitten or captivated. One gemstone lover admits that the whole gem-craze is pure madness ¿ but, says he, a bit of madness that permits some poetry in our otherwise drab lives is to be cherished.

Admittedly, the play of sparkles emanating from a gem has a joyous effect on the beholder. However, it is difficult to say whether that is due to the beauty of the gem or to the consciousness of its monetary value.

For as long as the collective memory of mankind exists, gems have been treasured for their beauty, durability and rarity - and for healing and spiritual powers that are sometimes attributed to them. Strictly speaking, only minerals qualify to be called gemstones. Some rocks and organic materials, though not minerals, are often grouped with gemstones. Thus bidorbuy includes not only minerals such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires or emeralds in its Gemstones & Rocks category, but also lapis lazuli (which is a rock) as well as "organic gems" like amber and pearls.

Traditionally, only diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire, the big four of the gem world, were considered to be true precious stones. These four posses all the qualities that our ancients looked for in a gem: beauty, hardness, durability, lustre and rarity. Transparency is also important, though the value of some stones, like rubies, primarily depends on the beauty and attractiveness of the colour. 

All other gemstones were grouped together under the label of ¿semi precious stones¿, because they could boast of only some ¿ but not all - of these qualities.

This classification is now outdated. The best samples of some recently discovered gemstones, like tanzanite or tsavorite, can be more than a match for the similarly coloured gems from the ¿precious stones¿ camp. Tanzanite, a blue to purplish-blue mineral, was found in the1960s in Tanzania. One of the youngest and rarest gemstones, tanzanite is among the most popular gems on bidorbuy.  Tsavorite is also well-known to the bidorbuy community. This gemstone, discovered in the 1960s along the border between Kenya and Tanzania, is a beautiful green variety of garnet.

It is especially important to note that the traditional distinction between ¿precious¿ and ¿semi-precious¿ does not necessarily reflect modern monetary values. Some hardy and translucent ¿semi-precious¿ in the sought-after colour can be far more valuable than a mid-quality ¿precious¿ stone. Thus, a ¿perfect¿ tsavorite can out-value a mid-category emerald.

In any case, evaluating gemstones is a very subjective art. There are universally accepted grading systems, but the value of gems (especially the coloured ones) is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. The sharper and the more trained that eye is, the closer it can estimate the monetary equivalent of a gemstone.

And whatever people who like to put down diamonds in favour of more colourful stones say, no other gem can match that distinct sparkle of a diamond. Even a half-carat diamond will radiate a ray that drills right to that part of the human brain responsible for generating the message known as ¿I want it¿. To achieve that level of seduction, other gems need to be much bigger; some of them must grow to full 10 karats in order to look their best.

Gems of note

  • The Hope Diamond (55.23 carats, shield shaped). A steel blue diamond that phosphoresces red colour when exposed to short wave ultra-violet light. Purported to bring bad luck to its owners.
  • The Steinmetz Pink Diamond (59.60 carats, oval mixed cut with a step-cut crown and a brilliant cut pavilion). One of the finest pink diamonds in the world. It took a team of eight people about 20 months to fashion it from the original 100-carat stone.
  • Cullinan I or The Star of Africa Diamond (530.2 carats, pear shaped). Originally 3106.75 carats (rough), this stone is one of the largest diamonds ever to be found.  The original was cut into nine large stones and about 100 smaller ones.
  • The Golden Jubilee Diamond (545.67 carats, fire rose cushion cut), discovered in 1985, is currently the largest faceted diamond in the world. That record was previously held by Cullinan I. Both stones were found in South Africa.
  • The Duke of Devonshire Emerald (1383.95 carats) is one of the most famous uncut emeralds. It cannot withstand cutting because it has many inclusions.
  • The Mackay Emerald (167.97 carat, oval cabochon cut) has a deep grass-green colour.
  • The Chalk Emerald (37.82 carats, square emerald cut) has superb clarity and deep green colour.
  • The Chaiyo Ruby (109,000 carats or 22 kg) is considered to be the biggest of the many large uncut rubies.
  • The Rajaratna Ruby (2,475 carats, cabochon cut) is a star ruby.
  • The Neelanjali Ruby (1,370 carats, cabochon cut) is a double-star ruby.
  • The Black Prince's Ruby (170 carats, bead-shaped) is really a spinel.
  • The Black Star of Queensland Sapphire (733 carats, cabochon cut) is a black star sapphire.
  • The Star of India Sapphire(563.35 carats, cabochon cut) is famous for its size, rich blue colour and involvement in an infamous robbery.
  • The Queen Marie of Romania Sapphire (478.68 carats, faceted, cushion-shaped) is a deep cornflower blue sapphire with high clarity.
  • The Logan Sapphire (423 carats, faceted) is a flawless clear sapphire of a rich blue color.

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