Displaying items by tag: Jewellery

The History of Diamonds in Engagement Rings

Jack Ogden FGA takes a look at the history of diamonds being used in engagement rings. You might be a little surprised at how far the custom dates back...

Here is a question for you. Read this sentence about engagement rings: “As for the engagement ring, modern fashion prescribes a diamond solitaire, which may range in price from two hundred and fifty to two thousand dollars.” When do you estimate that was written? Before or after World War II? 

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Diving into the World of New Zealand Paua Shells

Paua shells are the archetypal New Zealand gem - possibly even better known than its nephrite jade, known as 'greenstone', or Kauri copal, the fossilised resin or sap of the Kauri Tree. Here, Maggie Campbell Pedersen FGA looks to the ocean to learn more about paua shell, how it is farmed and how it is used in jewellery design. 

What are paua?

Paua belong to the large family of molluscs called Haliotidae, of which there are well over 100 species worldwide. Six are found in New Zealand, although only three are common. The most famous and exclusive to New Zealand is the Haliotis iris, known for the beautiful, vibrant colours of the inside surface of the shells. These colours range from striking blues through to aquamarines to greens, with tints of purple and gold. They are influenced by what the animal eats and therefore vary slightly from region to region.

Haliotis are marine gastropods. They carry one shell, and have one large, very muscular foot with which they attach themselves to rocky surfaces (in the case of H. iris the foot has a black outer skin). The name 'Haliotis' derives from the Greek, meaning 'sea ear', and along one side of the shells are small holes for expelling water in the aeration of the gills. The shell is made up of three layers: a very thin outer layer of conchiolin (a tough, insoluble protein secreted by molluscs, forming the organic matrix of the shell), under which is a chalky-looking rough material and beneath that is the coloured nacre (mother-of-pearl).

In common with other molluscs, the layers of calcium carbonate (in the form of calcite and aragonite) and conchiolin that form their shells, are laid down by the molluscs' soft bodies. Haliotis, however, lay down the inner layer of aragonite crystals and conchiolin in a slightly haphazard way, stopping altogether if the water temperature does not suit them. This results in areas where the conchiolin becomes very visible, giving an effect of wavy lines of organic material interspersed with beautifully coloured nacre.


A captive-bred, live mollusc ready to be harvested at a farm in Thailand

Where can paua be found?

Pauas live around the rocky coasts of New Zealand and are found at or below the level of the lowest spring tide, that is, at a depth of between one and 12 metres. Much of the paua used for gem purposes are wild-caught, under licence and to extremely strict quota. They can only be fished by free diving - no scuba is permitted - and only a certain number may be fished at any one time, all of which helps to keep the stocks of paua healthy. Furthermore, they may not be fished unless they measure a minimum of 125 mm at the longest part of the shell, which they usually reach at the age of about six years.

When did paua aquafarming start?

Paua aquaculture started in New Zealand in the 1980s. The captive-bred molluscs can be harvested when they are smaller - at about three years old. They are largely used for food, as the shells are not of quite such a vibrant colour. The outer, chalky surface of farmed paua is also pale blue (as opposed to the pale brown of wild paua), due to their feed. The soft bodies of farmed paua are slightly paler, which is considered more attractive as food - indeed the very black surface of the wild paua's flesh is usually removed before the meat is consumed.

The flesh of the paua is very rich in protein and has been a staple diet of the Maoris, who also used some of the shells in their carvings, almost always to depict eyes. In the large, wooden carvings that adorned Maori ceremonial houses and canoes whole shells were used, and were attached so that the inner, nacreous surface was visible (see below).

Paua shells used as eyes in a traditional Maori carving

How is paua used in jewellery?

The paua shell trade is unusual in that it is found at both ends of the market. It is well known in the form of colourful, whole polished shells, or inexpensive jewellery and trinkets, which are sold as souvenirs in museum shops and other such places. In jewellers' shops can be found the expensive paua shell items, set in precious metals and with gemstones (see below). At the inexpensive end of the market a little paua shell can go a long way when embedded in moulded clear plastic with a black backing, and is sold in great quantities to the tourist trade. It is made up into various designs, often depicting something specific to New Zealand such as a kiwi bird.


A paua shell necklace (left) and a 'Blue pearl', gold and diamond pendant by Catherine Best Ltd (right) 

When paua shells are sold whole, the outer, chalky-looking surface is removed to reveal the colourful, nacreous surface beneath, and it takes an expert only about 10 minutes to polish a raw shell on a diamond wheel (see main image). The typical pattern of the nacre with its dark, wavy lines of conchiolin is very attractive, and this is revealed when the outer layers of shell are removed. However, the inside surface of the nacre has a much smoother, almost liquid transition of colours, far fewer lines of conchiolin, and is subsequently considered the better material.

It is from there that the best pieces are taken to make jewellery, and is of course the area in which hemispheres of material are placed to produce blister pearls.

How are paua pearls cultured?

These blister pearls, also known as 'blue pearls', first came onto the market around the turn of the millennium.

These round blister pearls, usually referred to as mabés, are mostly produced from wild-caught paua, which are nucleated and treated in much the same way as the oysters in the culture of marine pearls, that is, by suspending them in baskets from lines in areas of clean water and tending them regularly.

The process of inserting the nucleus must be undertaken with utmost care as the smallest incision in the mantle can result in the death of the mollusc - they have no blood-clotting agent and therefore would bleed to death.

Natural paua pearls do exist, but they are always concretions produced by the animal outside the mantle and are inevitably very oddly shaped (see below). The success rate of the pearl production is not high. Only 10% will produce a marketable blister pearl covered with nacre, and only 2% will produce a smooth one of top quality and colour.


A natural paua pearl

Not only must the animals not be injured during the nucleation process, when the mantle is carefully lifted to insert the hemispherical bead underneath, they must then be kept in a stress-free environment for the two to three years it takes to cover the nucleus with nacre and produce a 'blue pearl'.

As with all organics, science alone cannot ensure success. We also have to rely on the assistance and co-operation of a living creature. ■

The full version of this article originally appeared in Gems&Jewellery July/August 2016 / Volume 25 / No. 4 pp. 10-12

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

All photos by Maggie Campbell Pedersen, except where otherwise stated


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


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Gem-A Student Celebrates Southend Success at Houses of Parliament

Second generation family business C J Vinten, was recently invited to exhibit its wares at the Houses of Parliament to celebrate a milestone for Southend. Angharad Kolator Baldwin reports…

Earlier this year, Southend-on-Sea was named as the Alternative City of Culture 2017. For family-run jewellery business C J Vinten, run by Gem-A student Lance Vinten and his sister Lily Vinten, this honour resulted in a unique opportunity to attend the Houses of Parliament.

Lily and Lance Vinten at Houses of Parliament
Lance and Lily Vinten in the Houses of Parliament with the C J Vinten Collection 

C J Vinten was chosen, alongside other local businesses, to represent the eclectic talents of Southend at a special gathering on 11 January. Gem-A was invited to witness this fantastic event, but also to learn more about the diverse talent that helped Southend earn the accolade.

Lance Vinten is the son of Christopher Vinten, who established C J Vinten Goldsmiths more than three decades ago. The jeweller, which can be found in Leigh-on-Sea Essex, includes a shop and workshop. When Christopher Vinten retired his children, Lance and Lily, took over the running of the business. 

Before studying at Gem-A, Lance attended the Birmingham School of Jewellery, completing the Jewellery and Silversmithing - HND course. Lily completed her Professional Jewellers’ Diploma with the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ).

Lance started his Gem-A journey with the Gemmology Foundation Online Distance Learning (ODL) course in 2015, swiftly followed by a Gemmology Diploma ODL course. Despite finding the course fascinating, the nature of distance learning made Lance crave conversation with other passionate gemmologists. To remedy this he attends as many of Gem-A’s Gem Central evenings as possible; noting that the “interaction with tutors, professional gemmologists and fellow students” is particularly enlightening.

Read more: Gem Central with Marcus McCallum FGA

When asked what he gained from the Foundation course, he commented that the program gave him a newfound interest in inclusions. He has also found being better at identifying stones, has given him new confidence when interacting with customers. 

This confidence was certainly on display at the Houses of Parliament, where C J Vinten Goldsmiths presented a wonderful collection of jewellery. This included an 18 kt white gold sapphire ring handmade by Lance himself.

Sapphire Ring C J Vinten
18 kt white gold sapphire ring. Image courtesy of C J Vinten

Also on display was a pair of silver dinosaur bone cuff-links and 18 kt white gold drop earrings, each rub-over set with a trillion cut pink sapphire and two brilliant cut diamonds. 

 

Dinosaur Cufflinks C J VintenSilver dinosaur bone cuff-links. Image courtesy of C J Vinten

 

Pink Sapphire Earrings C J Vinten18 kt white gold drop pink sapphire earrings. Image courtesy of C J Vinten

Lance commented: “We brought the pieces that Tom (the head craftsman), my sister Lily and I felt were the most impressive examples of our handmade work. We also wanted to show the range of jewellery that is made here [at CJ Vinten in Southend], to show that you don't need to spend thousands of pounds to get a nice one off piece. It was an honour to be involved in this event and to be invited as guests into the Houses of Parliament.”

For Lily Vinten, the highlight of CJ Vinten’s display was a red spinel and diamond ring, handmade in 18 kt white gold with an 18 kt yellow gold mille grain setting. The oval red spinel is surrounded by two steps of 62 brilliant cut diamonds. She told us: “After seeing many rings featuring vivid red stones in jewellery and fashion magazines and also the rise of Art Deco jewellery, we decided to create this stunning cocktail ring. The 1920s is famous for amazing dresses and jewellery, so with that in mind the craftsman came up with a design that would suit an evening gown.”


Spinel Ring C J VintenThe design process of making the red spinel ring. Image courtesy of C J Vinten

Lance believes continuing his gemmology education, and providing the opportunity for other staff members to continue theirs is “vitally important for the future of the company”. Recently CJ Vinten employed a workshop apprentice, who is already showing good potential, allowing Lance and Tom to pass some designs to her, as well as receive “copious amounts of tea”.

The Mayor of Southend, Cllr Judith McMahon gave a speech at the special event, hailing 2017 as “the Golden age”. She added in reference to Southend: “Art and culture is welcome, where it will flourish and find its natural home.” Looking at the wealth of talent in the room this certainly seems to be true. From folk dancing and confectionary to jewellery, the exhibition showcased it all. 

The Alternative City of Culture could not have come to fruition, without the dedication of Sir David Amess MP. A Member of Parliament for Southend West since 1997, he is determined to secure City Status for the town and propel Southend forwards. At the event he said it was a wonderful opportunity “to celebrate the rich culture and community of Southend”. ■  

The project has a 12-month programme of events arranged including art, sport and performance, making Southend the place to visit this year.

To view more of C J Vinten’s jewellery click here

Interested in attending a Gem Central event? For more information about our upcoming Gem Central events visit the Gem Central page or email events@gem-a.com.

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

Cover image 18 kt white gold cluster ring, claw set with Trillion cut morganite 1.52 ct, surrounded by Brilliant cut diamonds and further diamonds in split shank, 0.31 ct total, handmade by Lance. Image Courtesy of C J Vinten. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

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A Quick Guide to the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London

Andrew Fellows FGA DGA takes a look some of the myths and legends associated with one of the world’s most famous gem collections, the Crown Jewels.

Foundations were laid for the Tower of London - where the famous Crown Jewels are housed - as early as 1066 by William the Conqueror. Successive monarchs then added to and reinforced the Tower, until, by the late thirteenth century, the general layout seen today was established. The Crown Jewels, the only working collection in Europe, is comprised of over 141 objects, which have been stored securely within the Tower for hundreds of years. It is these that attract hordes of tourists each year.

However, whilst the collection is worth seeing simply for the sheer beauty of the pieces, it is also worth seeing to learn about the captivating stories and histories behind some of the gems.

The Imperial State Crown

The Imperial State Crown - possibly the most well-known individual piece of regalia in the collection - is worn by the monarch at the end of his or her coronation ceremony, and is also used for the State Opening of Parliament. The Crown is such an important piece that it even has its own coach for these important occasions - one that is every bit as ornate as the crown itself. Weighing in at an impressive 3.17 kg, it can only be worn for short periods.

One story says that when George IV was crowned in 1821, he developed a toothache that he blamed on the weight of the crown! The crown contains some of the most important jewels in the Royal Collection, many of which also have the most interesting stories attached to them.

The Black Prince's Ruby

One story that most gemmologists are familiar with is that of the Black Prince's Ruby. This is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and most sinister stones… and one which is also completely misnamed. Although referred to as ruby, this is actually a very large gem-quality red spinel, presented to Edward of Woodstock, a fourteenth century Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Prince of Aquitaine, referred to more often as ‘The Black Prince’.

The Imperial State Crown. Copyright Cyril Davenport. Tower of London
The Imperial State Crown. Copyright Cyril Davenport

The gem, which sits in the cross pattée above the Cullinan II at the front of the crown, has a very dark and bloody history. It was first recorded in the fourteenth century as being owned by a Moorish Prince, Abu Said, who attempted to surrender to the conquering forces of Pedro the Cruel. Abu Said was ambushed under a flag of truce and executed with this large spinel being taken from his corpse. This was just the start of the trail of blood, as Pedro himself broke several contracts, before presenting the stone to Prince Edward as a down payment for military assistance. The remainder of the payment was supposed to consist of treasure and jewels, but was never delivered, and eventually Pedro himself was ambushed and stabbed to death by his half-brother.

Read more: Last chance to see the record-breaking Foxfire Diamond at the Smithsonian

The stone was later worn in the battle helmet of Henry V when he went into the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and allegedly saved his life when he received a blow to the head from an axe - one which destroyed the helmet, but didn't kill Henry. The 'ruby' was recovered from the shattered helmet and remained with Henry V until his death. The same unfortunately cannot be said of Richard III, who also wore the 'ruby' in his battle helmet when he fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Presumably, Richard thought it would protect him and bring him luck, but sadly he was mistaken and died on the battlefield. This same ruby was later used in the crowns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Henry VIII (who wore it in a collar), before being sold by Charles I. It was returned to the monarchy for the crown of Charles II, and was subsequently used for the coronation of George IV.

St Edward's Sapphire

Also in the Imperial State Crown is a sapphire, set in the cross on top of the Crown. Legend has it that this sapphire once resided in the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor, and that one evening he was passing through Westminster when he happened upon a beggar. Having already given away all the money he had on him, he gave the ring to the beggar and thought nothing further of it.

Read more: The history of diamonds in engagement rings

Years later two Englishmen were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, in the middle of a violent storm, saw an old man approaching them. When the old man heard that the two men were English, and that Edward was still King, the old man offered them shelter for the night. When they departed the next morning, the old man revealed himself to be John the Evangelist, and told them that years ago King Edward had given him a ring, which he still had, and gave it to them to return to the King, with a message that he, John, would see the King in Paradise as a reward for his kindness in six months' time. When the two men returned to England, they gave both the ring and the message to King Edward, who immediately prepared for his death. The King died six months later, to be buried with the ring on his finger. Stranger still is the fact that when the tomb was reopened in the twelfth century, the ring was found on a perfectly preserved corpse.

Tower of London at night. Copyright Kjetil Bjørnsrud. Tower of London
Tower of London at night. Copyright Kjetil Bjørnsrud

Whilst some of these stories are merely legend and may or may not be true, what is known as fact is that the Crown Jewels contain some of the best known and largest diamonds in the world, the most famous of which are probably the Koh-i-Noor and the Cullinan.

The Cullinan Diamond

The Cullinan was found at the Premier Mine in South Africa, on the afternoon of 26 January 1905, by the mine superintendent, Captain Frederick Wells. Initially he doubted it was a diamond as it weighed 3106 ct and measured 3 7/8 × 2 1/4 × 2 5/8 inches, well over twice the size of any other diamond found to that date. This was sold to the Transvaal government for £150,000, and two years later the still uncut diamond was presented to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday. Cutting of the stone was a job given to I. J. Asscher and Company, of Amsterdam, who had some experience of cutting large diamonds, although nothing on this scale or value. After three months of consideration, the Cullinan was ready to be cut.

In those days the only way to divide a diamond was by cleaving it - effectively 'hitting' the stone in precise directions to cause the diamond to part along weaker directions, but this had to be done carefully, in order to avoid shattering it. Careful cleaving resulted in nine major 'pieces', and 96 offcuts. Once the whole cutting process was completed, a total of 1063 ct remained.

Read more: Harrods unearths 228.31 ct diamond from its vaults for private sale

The nine major stones, named Cullinan I to Cullinan IX, all reside in the Royal Collection. The majority are set in such a way as to be interchangeable into other pieces of jewellery. Cullinan I, also known as the Star of Africa, is in the Royal Sceptre, and weighs just over 503 ct, making it the largest colourless pearcut diamond in the world. The Cullinan II (the 'Lesser Star of Africa'), is the largest cushioncut diamond in the world, weighing 317 ct, and is set into the front of the Imperial State Crown. It also has two platinum loops on its setting, so that it can be removed and worn alone, as a brooch or pendant, or with the Cullinan I accompanying it.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

A second notable diamond exists in the Queen Mother's Crown, this being the Koh-i-Noor, which translates as 'Mountain of Light'. This impressive diamond currently weighs 105.6 ct, having been recut from its original 186 ct for Queen Victoria in 1852.

There is a legend that this stone will bring good luck to any woman who wears it, but a curse to any man! It is said that in 1739 Nadir Shah of Persia conquered the Mogul region, but could find no sign of this rare and fabled diamond, said to be held by the rulers, until one member of the royal court told him of the stone's location. Shah then threw a celebration, and offered to exchange turbans with the conquered leaders as a show of everlasting friendship, knowing that this was the hiding place of the Koh-i-Noor.

The diamond changed hands many times over the coming decades, until in 1850, the Koh-i-Noor finally found its way to England and to Queen Victoria, where it has remained ever since.

Whilst the Crown Jewels are a wonderful piece of English history, they are also shrouded in legend, and are more than just adornments. There are a multitude of stories and histories, all waiting for visitors to uncover. Whether you appreciate them from a gemmological or historical perspective, or simply want to see jewels that most of us will never afford, the Crown Jewels are the perfect way to spend a day in London. ■ 

This article originally appeared in Gems&Jewellery Sept/Oct 2016 / Volume 25 / No. 5 pp. 14-15

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image the nine major uncut stones split from the rough Cullinan diamond in order of size (largest to smallest).


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor with John Benjamin FGA DGA

John Benjamin FGA DGA,  jewellery consultant, contributor to BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, author and historian, presented the January Gem Central at Ely Place. Angharad Kolator Baldwin reports on his fascinating lecture…

Starting his career at Cameo Corner, a jewellers previously found in Bloomsbury, John Benjamin successfully passed the Gemmology Diploma and Diamond Diploma courses at Gem-A, before joining Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers as a cataloguer and valuer. After becoming the International Director of Jewellery at Philips, he left to establish his own company, John C Benjamin Limited, an independent jewellery consultancy.

Read more: Gem-A Student Celebrates Southend Success at Houses of Parliament

John’s mission is to "inculcate people with knowledge about antique jewellery" and his talk A History of Jewellery from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor presented at Gem Central on 17 January, was certainly a splendid opportunity to bask in his extensive knowledge.

John Benjamin FGA DGA and Charles Evans FGA DGA
Speaker John Benjamin FGA DGA (right) talks to Gem-A staff member Charles Evans FGA DGA (left)

The talk began in the sixteenth century and took the audience on a journey through the centuries, showcasing examples of beautiful jewellery in paintings and photographs, demonstrating the widespread fascination the public have with pearls, diamonds and other precious stones.

Gems in the sixteenth century were believed to have prophylactic properties. Evidence has been found that suggests pearls used to be powdered and drunk as a cordial to protect against disease, while garnets were worn against the skin and said to prevent the individual from having nightmares. Similarly smallpox scars were believed to be cleansed with sapphires and peridot was believed to promote love making. Although there have been a few changes in daily practices, gemmologists today still learn the birthstones for each month and gemstones remain associated with mystical and healing properties.

Social change is also reflected in jewellery trends. The obsession at the turn of the sixteenth century with death, when people were acutely aware they were unlikely to survive over 30, and wanted to immortalise their nearest and dearest saw the fashion for Memento Mori (remember you must die) jewels. The emergence of imitation gemstones in the nineteenth century when the rate of crime was rising and rather than risk losing precious jewellery in robberies, it was better to invest in paste and keep the real items in a safe deposit box.

17th Century Memento Mori Slide. Photo supplied by John Benjamin.
An English early to mid seventeenth century gold enamel and hair Memento Mori slide exhibiting the grim symbolism of death common at this time. Image courtesy of John Benjamin

The audience were show a seventeenth century Dutch painting detailing a women’s jewellery box. Containing a diamond necklace and a string of pearls, the jewellery was not dissimilar to what you would find in a jewellery box today. John made the point that nothing fundamentally changes in people’s jewellery choices. Although Antwerp may have revolutionised diamond cutting, and the location of the most prolific diamond mines may have changed, our hunger to adorn ourselves to symbolise wealth and power remains.

"Jewellery follows the money", said John, whether it is the Monarch or the most popular celebrity. For centuries we have ogled the gems adorning powerful and wealthy people and sought to copy the taste of the rich and powerful, in an attempt to emulate their success.

Rose Brooch. Image courtesy of John Benjamin
An elegant early Victorian pave diamond set rose brooch, the principal flowerhead mounted en tremblant to scintillate when worn. Image courtesy of John Benjamin

Despite two fascinating hours, it's clear that John's Gem Central discussion barely touched the surface of his extensive knowledge of antique jewellery. As he moved around the room, the audience holding on to his every word, it was apparent that we were privy to a rare insight into the antique world of jewellery. He told us the story behind pieces, the trends of the past, and what this can tell us about the future.

Read more: Gem Central with Marcus McCallum FGA

There is "a social backdrop to jewellery trends", he informed us. Through understanding what was happening at a particular point in history, we can better understand the fashion.

When asked what he thought the jewellery of tomorrow would be…he replied ethnic jewellery. As society becomes more informed and conscientious, the public are looking for materials from sustainable sources, with a story attached. But as much now as in the past, this choice is affected by those with high status.

The audience were taken on an insightful journey through the progression of jewellery design, from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor, and had a look at the evolution of jewellery in the twentieth century. John visited many themes including Renaissance pearls, enamel, The Cheapside Hoard, mourning jewellery, the age of the faceted stone, Neo Classicism, Victorian sentiment, naturalism, souvenir jewels and the age of mass production. The broad range of topics discussed meant there was something new for everyone present.

Robert Webster Gem Central with John Benjamin
The Robert Webster Room at Gem-A HQ was packed with an eager audience for John Benjamin's talk.

Hosted once a month at Gem-A headquarters at Ely Place London, Gem Central evenings are a unique opportunity to learn from experts and meet fellow gemmology enthusiasts. Free for Gem-A members and students, or just £10 for non-members. ■

Interested in finding out more? Visit Gemmological Instruments, where you can purchase John’s book, Starting to Collect Antique Jewellery instore or by contacting instruments@gem-a.com.

Interested in attending a Gem Central event? For more information about our upcoming Gem Central events visit the Gem Central page or email events@gem-a.com.

Cover image a sixteenth century Spanish enamelled gold devotional Reliquary Pendant fashioned as a Ram, the fleece studded with pearls. Image courtesy of John Benjamin. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Vivid Purple and Violet Diamonds Shine in 'Rare Brilliance' Showcase

A breath-taking array of rare, fancy colour diamonds is on display now at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA).

The 'Diamonds: Rare Brilliance' exhibit features diamonds never seen before in the United States, including the largest violet diamond ever discovered in Australia’s Argyle Mine. Anyone with a passion for diamonds is encouraged to view the full collection before it is taken out of public view on March 19, 2017.

Included in the collection are three exceptionally rare fancy coloured diamonds: a 30.3 ct Fancy Intense Pink, a 2.83 ct Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet and a 1.64 ct Fancy Vivid Purple diamond, all loaned by L. J. West - a New York-based diamond house.

The Juliet Diamond

'Diamonds: Rare Brilliance' is centred round a 30.03 ct Fancy Intense Pink, also known as The Juliet Diamond, which was cut from a 90 ct rough found in South Africa. The Juliet Diamond - romantically named after Romeo and Juliet - is similar to the 34.65 ct, cushion-cut Fancy Intense Pink Princie Diamond, which was discovered 300 years ago in the Golconda Mines. It was sold by Christie’s in April 2013 for $39.3 million.

Rather than being presented on its own, the Juliet is mounted in an impressive necklace set with 98.70 ct of round brilliant, pear and marquise-cut colourless diamonds of E and F colour and VVS clarity.

Juliet Pink Necklace. Image Courtesy of Brian Lazar. NHM LA
Juliet Pink Diamond - set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut shape white diamonds. Image Courtesy of Brian Lazar

 

The Argyle Violet Diamond

Named after its place of discovery - the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia - the Argyle Violet is a sensational and almost impossibly rare 2.83 ct Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet gem. Its hypnotic colour was the star attraction at the 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender, which offered an invite-only look at this magnificent diamond.

The Argyle Violet was expertly cut from a 9.17 ct rough, with incredible skill used to harness the colour to its maximum potential.

Argyle Violet Ring. Image courtesy of Aaron Celestian. NHM of LA
Argyle Violet Ring. Image courtesy of Aaron Celestian

 

The Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple

The 1.64 ct, cushion-cut, Fancy Vivid Purple 'Victorian Orchid' diamond is considered one of the rarest in the world thanks to its unique colourway and SI2 clarity. It is displayed mounted in the centre of a flower-like platinum ring.

Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple. Image Courtesy of Aaron Celestian. NHM LA
Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple. Image Courtesy of Aaron Celestian

 

The Rainbow Diamond Necklace

'Diamonds: Rare Brilliance' also features the showstopping Rainbow Necklace set with 88 fancy radiant-cut, coloured diamonds in a range of hues (shown in cover image). The total diamond weight is 35.93 ct. According to L. J. West, it took five years to source all of the necessary diamonds for the piece and then complete the assembly process. 

All of these incredible diamonds will be available to view in the NHMLA’s 6,000 sq ft Gem and Mineral Hall until March 19, 2017. To find out more please click here. ■

NHMLA Gem and Mineral Hall. Image Courtesy of NHMLA
NHMLA Gem and Mineral Hall. Image Courtesy of NHMLA

Interested in finding out more about diamonds? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's diamond courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image Rainbow Diamond Necklace. Image courtesy of Brian Lazar.


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Birthstones Guide: The Meaning Behind February Gemstone Amethyst

Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG, Gemmology and Diamond Tutor at Gem-A, introduces amethyst. Writing about the history of this beautiful stone and informing us about its gemmological properties...

 The February-born shall find

Sincerity and peace of mind,

Freedom from passion and from care,

If they, the amethyst will wear.

 

Let her an amethyst but cherish well,

And strife and care can never her dwell.

                                                  Anon. 

February's birthstone amethyst is one of the most recognised gemstones on the market. Many are familiar with the lore and appearance of this purple gemstone...more so than the hundreds of other gemstones that are offered within our trade. 

Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz and out of all of the quartz gemstones ranks at the top for desirability and value. Amethysts are pale pinkish-violet to deep reddish-purple in hue and are most often found as faceted gems, cabochons or carvings. Many rough forms are also used within jewellery including single crystals, clusters or slices of crystal-lined cavities known as geodes. The most prized amethysts are known as Russian or Siberian Amethyst, named after the fine specimens found in these localities. These have a good clarity and rich purple colouration with flashes of red.

Amethyst DreamscapeTM 53.37 ct cut by John Dyer & CO. Photo by Lydia Dyer
Amethyst DreamscapeTM 53.37 ct cut by John Dyer & CO. Photo by Lydia Dyer

Read more: An Exclusive Interview with Gem Cutter John Dyer

Historically, amethyst was kept as a talisman as it was believed to counteract the effects of alcohol. The word amethyst derives from the ancient Greek amethustos, which translates plainly to not drunk.  

This mystical belief in amethyst in keeping one sober extends back to 320 BC to the poet Asclepiades of Samos, likely inspired by the wine-like colours of this gem. People believed that wearing an amethyst would save them from inebriation. The more affluent indulgers would sip from carved amethyst goblets or add powdered amethyst into their wine to keep their sobriety. This mystical power was argued as false by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, however the belief continued for centuries to come.

Read more: From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor with John Benjamin FGA DGA

Inspired by the amethysts association to wine, the French poet Remy Belleau created a myth in the sixteenth century explaining how the stone came into existence.

The poem speaks of Bacchus, the Greek God of wine and beautiful maiden named Amethystos, who refused the advances of Bacchus and prayed to the Goddess Diana to keep her chaste. To protect her, Diana transformed Amethystos into white crystal quartz. In frustration, Bacchus poured his wine over the crystals, dyeing them purple forevermore. 

The belief that amethyst is one of the worlds more precious gems can be linked back to antiquity. Amethyst was one of the twelve gemstones that were mounted in the Priestly Breastplate, cited in the Book of Exodus. It is from these twelve gemstones that the birthstones have their roots. Christianity has used amethyst historically within the Episcopal rings of Bishops and other clergy to represent abstinence from alcohol. 

Within the middle ages, amethyst became a symbol of royalty and the rich purple of amethyst can be found within regal wardrobes and jewels across the world. A large domed amethyst can be found sitting atop the large Cullinan I diamond within the Imperial Sceptre with Cross in our British Crown Jewels. 

The amethyst was considered a cardinal, or most precious, gem and was historically acknowledged in high regard among the diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire. Cardinal gems held a value above all others due to their beauty and rarity. An abundant source of amethyst was found in Brazil in the eighteenth century and nowadays amethyst is widely accessible and ready to be enjoyed in all its regal beauty by gem and jewellery lovers worldwide. 

Bentley and Skinner Amethyst Bracelet
Bentley and Skinner Amethyst Bracelet. Image courtesy of Bentley and Skinner

This article was written by Gem-A for the January/ February 2017 issue of The Jeweller - The magazine of the National Association of Jewellers

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

Cover Image quartz amethyst rough crystal from the Gem-A archive. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Gem-A to Display Historic Instruments at 'Somewhere In The Rainbow' Tucson Exhibit

Gem-A has been invited to take part in a new exhibition of gemstones and gemmology in collaboration with Somewhere In The Rainbow and the University of Arizona Mineral Museum.

The 'Modern Gem and Jewelry Collection' exhibit will open at the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium in Tucson, on Wednesday 1 February. Visitors will encounter exceptional gemstones from the 'Somewhere In The Rainbow Modern Gem and Jewelry Collection' - a broad selection of gemstones and specimens used to promote education and enjoyment of fine coloured gems to museums, galleries and institutions.

Fluorescent Gems: Natural coloured diamonds laid out in UofA logo by Sean Milliner
Fluorescent Gems: Natural coloured diamonds laid out in U of A logo by Sean Milliner

Read more: Inside the World of Photomicrographer Danny Sanchez

As part of the exhibition, Gem-A will display historic tools used throughout the ages by practicing gemmologists, including a spectroscope, refractometer, microscope and a Chelsea Colour Filter. The archival items on display will range in date from the early 1900s (although many are thought to be much older) through to the present day.

Highlights include the personal spectroscope of one of Gem-A’s founding fathers, Basil W. Anderson, and a special QR link to download ‘The Herbert Smith Refractometer’ - a publication written in 1907 by British mineralogist George Frederick Herbert Smith.

The exhibit will feature the work of 20 lapidary artists and designers, all of whom have won the coveted Spectrum Award from the American Gem Trade Association.

Read more: An Exclusive Interview with Gem Cutter John Dyer

A particular highlight of the collection is the 'Buddha Blue' – a sapphire faceted in 1400-1500 AD. 

The Buddha Blue Ceylon Sapphire Somewhere In The Rainbow
The Buddha Blue Ceylon Sapphire featured in the 'Somewhere In The Rainbow Gem and Jewelry Collection'

It was this particular specimen that inspired Somewhere In The Rainbow curator, Shelly Sergent, to invite eleven of today’s most inspiring gem-cutters to take part in the exhibition and bring their own style of gem cutting and faceting to Tucson.

Read more: Gem Central With Gem Dealer Marcus McCallum

Sergent adds: "We are thrilled for this collaboration of educational forces in the mineral, gemstone and jewelry world to be experienced and enjoyed. This will be the first time that the Somewhere In The Rainbow Collection will be available to this extent as an educational exhibition and we are honored to share it with University of Arizona and all who visit."

Somewhere In The Rainbow curator Shelly Sergent
Somewhere In The Rainbow curator Shelly Sergent

'A Modern Gem and Jewelry Collection' will be available to view from 1 February through to 15 January 2018, with paid admission to the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium. ■

If you would like more information about this exhibit, please contact Shelly Sergent. shelly@somewhereintherainbow.com

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

All images courtesy of the Somewhere In The Rainbow Facebook page


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Whitby Jet: A Discussion of its Simulants

Sarah Steele FGA DGA discusses the many simulants of one of Britain’s most famous native gemstones, Whitby jet.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Whitby jet must be a very desirable material indeed. I can think of perhaps 20-30 different materials, both natural and synthetic, which, at one stage or another over the years, have been described as Whitby jet.

We think of a 40-year period during the mid to late nineteenth century as the heyday in Whitby jet manufacture, and from a jewellery output perspective that is unequivocally true. However, the desire for Whitby jet, and the quest to imitate it, has its roots much further back in time. 

Read more: Reconstructed Amber Broken Down

Following the Scottish Gemmological Association’s Conference this year, delegates had the opportunity to visit the 'Celts' exhibition at The National Museum of Scotland. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join them in having a closer look at the museum’s stunning collection of Bronze Age jet neckpieces whilst we were there.

Historically, many of these early pieces containing black beads with high organic carbon content were described as Whitby jet. Modern analytical techniques have shown, however, that these almost always contain a variety of materials - Whitby jet, certainly - but also oil shales, lignites and cannel coals, often within the one piece of jewellery. 

Inchmarnock Bronze Age necklace showing use of multiple black materials. Photo credit Alison Sheridan. Whitby jet
Inchmarnock Bronze Age necklace showing use of multiple black materials. Photo credit Alison Sheridan

Whitby jet is a material with which the demand for rough will always outstrip supply in periods of high production, and jet collection requires patience as it is reliant on coastal erosion. Are we then, in the Bronze Age some 4,500 years ago, seeing the first example of a Whitby jet simulant? It has to be noted that the prevalence of Whitby jet in the archaeological record during this period suggests that it is arguably one of the oldest economic resources in the British Isles.

Fast forward 2,670 years and the Whitby jet simulant market is a fascinating and booming industry. British society is participating in a national obsession with mourning. With the death of George IV in 1830, the Lord Chamberlain’s office dictates the dress code for the period, stating unequivocally that “the ornament shall be jet”. In 1830 the term ‘jet’ meant only one material: Whitby jet. The death of the Duke of Wellington in 1852 prompted the production of Whitby jet jewellery into overdrive - the 50 recorded workshops in 1850 swelled to 204 following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, as yet another wave of mourning swept the nation. 

Read more: From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor with John Benjamin FGA DGA

Demand for rough Whitby jet was beginning to outstrip supply and other options were needed. The main attraction of Whitby jet as a gem material was of course its deep black colour and liquid-like lustre, but more importantly its low specific gravity (SG) 1.2-1.3. It was fine to look ‘weighed down’ by the convictions of your expression of mourning, but it was practical if the seven strings of beads you wore to denote that you were the seventh daughter of a deceased father, didn’t weigh more than a few ounces.

Therefore, to be a convincing simulant of Whitby jet, the imitation material would need to be light in weight. Whitby jet is also a poor thermal conductor and so always feels warm, as heat is not quickly transferred away from the surface. Today we often describe jet as feeling ‘plasticky’, however, in the mid nineteenth century plastic was yet to be discovered. The simulant therefore needed to be light in weight, black in colour and a poor conductor of heat. 

Horn and tortoiseshell

In 1712 John O’Bisset discovered horn could with the application of heat, be moulded into various shapes. When cooled the shape was retained - O’Bisset had discovered the first natural thermoplastic material. Sheets of horn were put between hot metal plates in a press and pressure applied. Placing the warmed horn into moulds before applying pressure enabled the production of horn boxes, beakers and other items. With the application of black dye, pressed horn was a good candidate for a simulant of Whitby jet and many jewellery items were produced. 

Horn has a tendency to delaminate due to its layered structure, so loupe examination often reveals these layers, especially on the reverse of brooches. Any damage to the edges also gives a slight transparency to the damaged area, which is not seen in Whitby jet. The colour can often seem uneven and it is not possible to screw a brooch fitting into jet. Therefore a screw, often seen in horn, is always a sign of a simulant. 

Pressed horn jewellery items. Whitby jetThe reverse of a pressed horn brooch showing lamination and screw fittings. Whitby jet
Top: Pressed horn jewellery items. Below: The reverse of a pressed horn brooch showing lamination and screw fittings

It is also worth mentioning that tortoiseshell, like horn, is also a natural thermoplastic. Tortoiseshell, a much admired decorative material, derives not from a land tortoise but from certain species of marine turtle, principally the relatively small hawksbill. Tortoiseshell is unlikely to be mistaken for jet due to the mottled colour, but the SG and ‘plasticky’ feel are similar.

Bog oak

Whitby jet is a fossilised wood, so perhaps a wood product could also make a suitable simulant. Bog oak is not a specific species, rather a term that indicates wood that has been buried in a peat bog for thousands of years. The extremely low oxygen conditions of the bog protect the wood from normal decay. While the underlying peat provides acidic conditions where iron salts and other minerals react with the tannins in the wood, gradually giving it a distinct dark brown to almost black colour. 

Bog oak jewellery. Whitby jet
Bog oak jewellery

Bog oak occurs in many areas of the United Kingdom but jewellery usually originates from Ireland. It was produced from the early 1800s but became popular in the mid nineteenth century, reflecting the demand for Whitby jet, especially after 1852, when techniques to mass-mould and decorate the material (through the application of hydraulic or heated pressure to the dried wood) were invented. 

Although predominantly used for mourning jewellery as a cheap substitute for Whitby jet, bog oak was also worn to support Irish crafts, with pieces often carved or stamped with Gaelic motifs such as harps or shamrocks - symbols not normally found in mourning jewellery. Concentric rings are usually visible on the reverse of items as blanks were lathe-turned prior to carving. Loupe examination always show the ligneous nature of the wood and the lustre achieved is usually textured and dull.

Vulcanite

In 1839 Charles Goodyear discovered the method of mixing sulphur with rubber to form hardened or vulcanised rubber, called Vulcanite. The proportion of sulphur can be increased or decreased in order to vary the required amount of hardening accordingly. Between 25-50% sulphur gives a hard product with the familiar feel of plastic. There are many Victorian vulcanite objects, but the most common form is an imitation of Whitby jet used widely in the production of brooches, bracelets and necklaces. Vulcanite could be produced in almost any colour, although the predominant colours are black (ebonite) and brown. As a result, vulcanite was by far the most widely-produced Whitby jet simulant. Unlike pressed horn a thermoplastic materials which, if heated again can be re-moulded into a different shape. Vulcanite is a thermoset material which, after moulding becomes brittle and cannot be remoulded. 

Vulcanite can be distinguished from jet relatively easily. If the material has been exposed to light over time it loses its black colour and becomes khaki brown. When rubbed, vulcanite smells strongly of sulphur and brooch pins are usually screwed into position rather than glued. Chain links only show one or two splits depending on the link style as the link can be twisted open and then closed. In comparison in Whitby jet links, where every other link in the chain is cut and glued and will always show two or three cuts depending on the style of link. As vulcanite pieces were often moulded from jet originals the same design is seen regularly and, with experience, can be identified easily. (Please note: the ‘streak’ test on vulcanite will reveal a light brown streak similar to that of hard Whitby jet and so should not be relied on).

Examples of vulcanite jewellery. Items with little exposure to light remain black (left). Items that have been exposed to light show the typical khaki colour (right). Whitby jet
Examples of vulcanite jewellery. Items with little exposure to light remain black (left). Items that have been exposed to light show the typical khaki colour (right)


Bois durci

In 1855 Francois Charles Le Page secured a French patent for a method of combining blood albumen from slaughterhouses, with wood powder to form a plastic mouldable material he called bois durci. The wood dust (either ebony or rose wood), was mixed with blood, dried and then ground to a fine powder. The powder was placed in a steel mould and steam heated to 150-250°C in a powerful hydraulic press. After half an hour the mould was plunged into cold water. The resulting wood product was an extremely dense, highly polished and resistant thermoset material. 

Prince Albert plaque made from bois durci. Whitby jet
Prince Albert plaque made from bois durci

Le Page is reported to have used the marketing strapline “Anything Whitby Jet could do, bois durci could do cheaper and in brown”. The most common items available in bois durci today are circular plaques showing royalty or statesmen of the time. They are generally brown and often have bois durci stamped on the reverse.

French jet and Vauxhall glass

As far as Whitby jet imitations go French jet, along with vulcanite one of the most common. Glass items were also produced in large quantities during the Whitby jet heyday, primarily faceted black glass beads referred to as French jet. 

Its higher SG, vitreous lustre and glass moulding marks mean it is unlikely to confuse French jet with Whitby jet. However, because many of the designs were so innocuous, finding a nineteenth century piece of French jet and identifying it from a piece of black glass, used all the way through to the 1940s, can be difficult for collectors of the material. 

Vauxhall glass is often referred to as the English version of French jet, however all French jet was not of course produced in France! This thin highly reflective mirror glass was produced by a silvering process. The silvering is often seen on the reverse - either intact or in residual traces. 

The back of a Vauxhall glass earring: silvering visible on edges. Whitby jet
The back of a Vauxhall glass earring: silvering visible on edges

Spanish jet

Although all the above impacted the Whitby jet industry, it was a natural jet which was finally responsible for the industry decline. By 1870 the Whitby jet industry reached its peak, before catastrophically collapsing. There were undoubtedly a number of reasons. Some blamed the terrific demand, which had outstripped supply and lead to a fall in standards of workmanship, as many workers hadn’t had the basic training. The large number of simulants also cannot have helped, but the final death knell was heralded by the arrival from the continent of Spanish jet. It is hard to estimate how much of this material was imported from Asturias, but it is first documented in 1874 and many tonnes seem to have been available. 

The Spanish jet trade had flourished between seventh and sixteenth centuries, and whilst the Spanish supply undoubtedly had some very good quality rough material, it seems that Whitby imported a rather poor quality jet, often containing pyrite, making it unstable. Finished pieces degraded quickly, cracked and crumbled. As a result, consumer confidence in an already struggling product sector collapsed.

Three faceted bead necklaces, cracked and crazed beads, likely Spanish jet (left), Whitby jet, showing high lustre and sharp facet edges (centre), French jet with chips and abraded facet edges (right). Whitby jet
Three faceted bead necklaces, cracked and crazed beads, likely Spanish jet (left), Whitby jet, showing high lustre and sharp facet edges (centre), French jet with chips and abraded facet edges (right)


Decline of the industry

In 1889 the Whitby Gazette reported “It would have been better for the Whitby jet Industry, and better for art development, if the Spanish jet trade had never been known in Whitby”. Despite desperate measures to support the Whitby jet industry, such as a quality mark scheme, the industry didn’t recover. The mourning trend was well and truly over. 

In 1915 The Lady described the Whitby jet trade as “A somewhat funereal fetish of fickle fashion”. Poor recognition for the greatest lapidary trend our nation, and perhaps the world has ever seen. 

The beginning of the twentieth century may have heralded the end of the Whitby jet mourning jewellery trend, but it didn’t signal the end of the road for the use of plastics in jewellery. In 1899 we saw the introduction of casein formaldehye; milk curds hardened with formaldehyde giving us such famous trade names as Galilith, and of course in 1907 phenol formaldehye, with wood flour or other filler as powder gives us the trade name Bakerlite. Galilith and Bakerlite were never used to imitate Whitby jet jewellery - by this time (and forgive the pun) you wouldn’t have been seen dead in this outdated material.

It seemed like the end of the road for Whitby jet. The last apprenticed jet worker Joe Lyth died in 1958, and with him died the secrets of the Victorian era. However, the last 30 years or so we have seen a revival in fortunes within the Whitby jet trade. Today there are 11 manufacturers in Whitby town. As mentioned previously, demand for rough Whitby jet is high and patience is required for collection of beach material. This has allowed poor quality materials, primarily Siberian cannel coals and Georgian jet (both often referred to as Gagate) with its poor stability and high porosity to enter the supply chain. 

Georgian jet is becoming increasingly common as finished contemporary style jewellery made by Baltic amber manufacturers, and within the last 12 months as antique style beads from an undisclosed source. Attempts were even made to sell rough to unsuspecting workshops in Whitby. Experienced lapidaries however quickly identified the new foreign imposter. In Whitby we have no issue with Georgian manufactures producing items from their indigenous jet, but lack of disclosure of origin leads to the material being retailed as Whitby jet somewhere along the pipeline.

Nomenclature and appellation of origin is, as always, crucial to price. A good Whitby jet string of Victorian beads is worth £300 upwards, the Georgian imitation probably nearer £20, so caveat emptor!

As a lapidary in Whitby, I know that the Whitby jet trade will, as always fight back against the latest simulants. A true jet to rival the beauty or stability of Whitby jet has yet to be discovered, but it does make me proud to think that for the last 4,500 years Whitby jet has been held with such reverence that many have tried to emulate it. With the desire of the Victorians to find the perfect simulant, Whitby jet was in part perhaps responsible for the birth of the modern plastics industry, and therefore the modern world as we know it. ■

This article originally appeared in Gems&Jewellery May/June 2016 / Volume 25 / No. 3 pp. 16-20

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image fine Whitby jet cameos including King Oswy and his bride (centre) and Bejamin Disraeli (right). Photo Credits Sarah Steele, except where otherwise stated. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

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Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

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Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

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The Tale of the Mouawad-Tereschenko Blue Diamond

Jack Ogden FGA looks into the story of the world's second largest blue diamond, the Mouawad Blue Diamond, previously known as the Tereschenko Blue Diamond. 

In the summer of 1984 David Warren, now Senior International Jewellery Director at Christie’s, received a phone call from the auction house’s bank manager with a question: “Do Christie’s sell blue diamonds? Our client has one the size of a pigeon’s egg.”

Read more: The History of Diamonds in Engagement Rings 

The huge gem turned out to be the Tereschenko diamond, one of the least well known large blue diamonds, and at 42.92 ct, just a shade smaller than the 45.52 ct Hope. It sold at Christie’s in Geneva in November 1984 for a then-record price of $4.6 million to Robert Mouawad and is now called the Mouawad Blue. Unlike the Hope and many of the other famous diamonds, it has lacked a romantic history.

There has been no curse or celebrated Mughal emperor to add notoriety or spice. The Christie’s catalogue, and Lord Balfour in his standard work on the world’s great diamonds, simply notes that the first known appearance of the stone was in 1913 when the Ukrainian Mikhail Tereschenko left it with Cartier in Paris. 

Read more: Harrods Unearths 228.31 ct Diamond from its Vaults for Private Sale

In 1915 he instructed them to mount it in a necklace, which was returned to him in Russia before being spirited out of the country again in 1916, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. Then according to Christie’s and Balfour, it passed into anonymous private ownership until it came up at auction in 1984. 

Perhaps we can now add some spice, even a curse, to this story, by introducing a French dancer born in the final decade or so of the nineteenth century. She entered the entertainment world under the stage name of Mademoiselle Primrose and by 1911 was performing in Le Théâtre des Capucines in Paris. She was renowned for her attractiveness and, in a rather surreal article on the components of female beauty in Paris that appeared in various American newspapers in late 1911 and early 1912, she was noted as one of the most beautiful of reigning stage beauties in Paris with particular praise for her “most charming chin”.

Suzanne Marie Blanche Thuillier ca 1920. Tereschenko diamond
Suzanne Marie Blanche Thuillier ca 1920

If Mikhail Tereschenko left the 42.92 ct blue diamond with Cartier in Paris in 1913 he may have encountered Mlle Primrose in that city. This is not such a wild suggestion because in 1924 we hear of a former Parisian dancer named Mlle Primrose, real name Suzanne Marie Blanche Thuillier, who had resided for a time in St. Petersburg, Russia, and who moved in Court circles there. She had left Russia for France just before the Revolution and was the owner of what was described as a 43 ct blue diamond, called by some the ‘Russian Imperial Blue’, and by others (rather bizarrely) the ‘Blue Diamond of Ceylon’.

The newspapers at the time gave myriad origins for the stone, neither verified nor mutually exclusive. It came from the eye of an idol in India; reached Russia in the time of Peter the Great; had been set in the Russian Crown Jewels; had been secretly purchased in London “under romantic circumstances” and so on. 

Read more: Gem-A to Display Historic Instruments at 'Somewhere In The Rainbow' Tucson Exhibit

One newspaper even hedged its religious bets and said the gem had “ornamented the finger of Buddha in a Hindu Temple". Particularly intriguing is a report in a British newspaper that "In April 1912, there were rumours in Hatton Garden that a diamond merchant was walking about with a quarter of a million in his wallet. In fact he had received from his Dutch agents a stone [a large blue diamond] which had been sent from America with instructions to let it fetch what it would."

This merchant supposedly pieced together the history of gem, found out that it had once belonged to the Russian Imperial family and put out feelers, which reached the then-Czar who sent an emissary to obtain it. Perhaps more about this supposed transaction will come to light, but in the meantime we can observe that a presence on the market in London in 1912 would tie in nicely with Tereschenko depositing a large blue diamond with Cartier in Paris in 1913.

After Mlle Thuillier and her diamond reappeared in France, some newspapers reported that she had been given it by Czar Nicholas as a token of his regard for her; others that it was given to her by "a member of the Imperial Court of Nicholas". The latter view was supported by those in the know who vehemently denied, or expressed indignation, at the suggestion that the late Czar gave Thuillier the diamond. Indeed, according to Le Parisien newspaper in June 1924, when directly asked where it came from Thuillier explained “evasively” that strictly speaking she was not admitted to the imperial court, but “frequented assiduously with the gentlemen of the court who occupied the highest positions”. She never claimed that the diamond was presented to her by the Czar. So, if a gentleman other than the Czar gave her the gem, Mikhail Tereschenko is perhaps a potential contender. 

Read more: Vivid Purple and Violet Diamonds Shine in 'Rare Brilliance' Showcase

Was a gift of the blue diamond the ticket to a new life outside Russia on the eve of the Revolution? She reportedly arrived in Nice in the South of France in 1916 and pawned it there that same year. The diamond had travelled in a secret pocket of her sealskin coat. 

Following her arrival in the South of France, Mlle Thuillier’s beauty and attire "made her a spectacle among the many lovely women". However, she gambled excessively and this "most notoriously extravagant woman in Europe" inevitably got into debt and had to pawn the blue diamond more than once. In June 1924 the diamond was in pawn for 200,000 francs with creditors circling, but there was the expectation that it would be redeemed and available for purchase. Apparently a Parisian dealer had already offered £125,000 and an American woman £200,000. 

The Tereschenko or Mouawad Blue Diamond
The Tereschenko or Mouawad Blue Diamond

What then occurred is unclear. There are reports that a Joseph Paillaud of Cap d’Ail, near Nice, had put up collateral of 1,350,000 francs and would take ownership of the diamond if not repaid in full by 9 December 1924. Mlle Thuillier made a plea to the Court and in March 1925 the Civil Court in Nice removed it from Paillaud’s possession. Apparently Paillaud’s actions equated with acting as a pawnbroker, an activity for which he was not licensed. A police search of his house - named, ironically, Chalet Russe (Russian Chalet) - revealed numerous pieces of jewellery lacking the required hallmarks plus records of transactions that were not properly registered.

Mlle Thuillier might well have predicted Paillaud’s bad luck. A newspaper report in 1929 recounted that she had believed the diamond to be cursed. This may be typical press sensationalism, but some accounts say she was something of a mystic with an interest in the occult and in 1924 was even considering taking the gem back to India so it might be replaced on the statue of Buddha from which it had been robbed. It clearly never made it back to the statue and the last we hear of the large blue diamond is in March 1925, in the custody of the clerk of the civil court in Nice.

The last we hear of the celebrated Mlle Primrose - with her charming chin - is in jail in Nice in April 1929, after several years of dire poverty. Her desperate situation had driven her to forgery. What happened to the large blue diamond from 1925, until it resurfaced at Christie’s Geneva in 1984 is so far unknown, but a French newspaper in 1924 had already commented that the diamond had "undoubtedly not yet finished the cycle of events of its adventurous life". 

Note: The above was compiled from contemporary press accounts from Europe and America. Their lack of accuracy is demonstrated by their confusions and contradictions, so for now this is a tale of the Mouawad-Tereschenko diamond, not necessarily the tale of the Mouawad-Tereschenko diamond 

This article originally appeared in Gems&Jewellery March/April 2016 / Volume 25 / No. 2 pp. 32-33

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image an exact CZ replica of the Mouawad blue.


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


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Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

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Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

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Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

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Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

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28th International Jewellery Tokyo 2017

Gemmology and Diamond Tutor, Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG, and Gemmological Instruments Manager, Samantha Lloyd FGA EG, travelled to Tokyo to represent Gem-A at the 28th International Jewellery Tokyo (IJT) 2017 show, held 23-26 January 2017.

IJT is Japan's largest international trade show with over 1,300 exhibitors showcasing their wares at the Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Centre. The show offers an excellent opportunity to engage professional and amateur gemmologists with Gem-A courses and establish connections between Gem-A HQ in London and members based on the other side of the world.

Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Centre. Photo Credit Sam Lloyd. IJT blog post
Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Centre. Image courtesy of Samantha Lloyd

The Gem-A stand at IJT 2017 was quintessentially British and visitors to the stand could purchase gemmological books and equipment as well as sign up for membership or courses. The Gem-A stand was unique at the show, as most offered retail or grading services to visitors. The space was staffed by Julia, Samantha, Naito Ayako, Gemmology and Diamond Tutor and representative of Gem-A in Japan, and some much appreciated volunteers, who all offered a friendly face to those passing by. 

Gem-A Stand a IJT 2017
Gem-A stand a IJT 2017. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith

During the show on 25 January Julia gave a seminar on 'The Colours You Can’t See; Exploring Fluorescence', which Ayako translated into Japanese. This talk was well attended and received positive feedback. It was a practical hands-on seminar where attendees were encouraged to view multiple samples and had the opportunity to 'oooh' and 'ahhh over sensational slides curated by Julia.  

The Colours You Can't See; Exploring Fluorescence. Image Courtesy of Julia Griffith. IJT 2017
The Colours You Can't See; Exploring Fluorescence. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith

Participants were taught what fluorescence is, the science behind it, the history of it, how to test for it and shown some gemmological examples. The lecture mainly focused on diamonds and how fluorescence can be used to distinguish between natural and synthetic diamonds, as well as spotting simulants. 

Read more: Harrods unearths 228.31 ct diamond from its vaults for private sale

Participants learned of more artistic uses of fluorescence, such as Maria Kovadi who utilises the fluorescence of diamonds in her jewellery collection, YouVdiamonds

Example of Maria Kovadi's use of fluorescence in her work. Image courtesy of Maria Kovadi. IJT 2017
Example of Maria Kovadi's use of fluorescence in her work. Image courtesy of Maria Kovadi

Also shown was the aesthetically pleasing display of fluorescent minerals delightfully named the 'Magic Spheres', a collection put together by Rene Bossevain. These are suspended from the ceiling within the Crystal Caves Museum in Queensland, Australia.

Magic Spheres in daylight above, Magic Spheres in long wave UV light. Image Courtesy of Crystal Cave Museum. IJT
Magic Spheres in daylight above, Magic Spheres in long wave UV light below. Image Courtesy of Crystal Caves Museum

A Gem Central evening on composites also took place on 25 January. This hour and a half practical based session, which was also translated into Japanese by Ayako, allowed Gem-A members and students based in Japan to experience Julia's vast gemmological knowledge in person. This talk had an impressive turn out and was by all accounts a great success. 

Julia Griffith Presenting: The Colours You Can't See; Exploring Fluorescence. Image Courtesy of Ayako Naito. IJT 2017Julia Griffith Presenting The Colours You Can't See; Exploring Fluorescence. Image courtesy of Ayako Naito

Read more: Gem Central with Marcus McCallum FGA

Those that attended the evening discussed what a composite is, and why composites are made in the trade. They heard about common composite examples and what they are made of. One example described was soudé stones. Attendees learned ways to detect these composites and were shown examples of soudé stones, where the colourless crown and pavilion are attached together with coloured glue to imitate other gemstones and cause the colours shown below. 

Selection of Soudé Stones: photographs from the front and behind, which reveal the colourless pavilion in the larger stones. Image Courtesy of Julia Griffith. IJT 2017
Selection of Soudé Stones: photographs from the front and behind, which reveal the colourless pavilion in the larger stones. Image Courtesy of Julia Griffith
Selection of Soudé Stones: photographs from the front and behind, revealing the colourless pavilion in the larger stones. Images courtesy of Julia Griffith

Julia also described garnet-topped doublets (GTD), and how to identify them. This photograph (below), which was taken by Julia, shows the contrast in lustre between the almandine garnet top and the paste pavilion at the junction plane where they join on the crown facets. A feature only seen in this type of composite, excellently illustrated.

Garnet Topped Doublet (GTD): Almandine garnet top and paste pavilion. Image Courtesy of Julia Griffith. IJT 2017
Garnet Topped Doublet (GTD): Almandine garnet top and paste pavilion. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith

While in Japan, Samantha commented on the exciting opportunity to experience a different culture and meet Online Distance Learning (ODL) and ATC students. She particularly enjoyed meeting one Japanese Foundation ATC student who told her they had signed up to the practical course workshop in London, just for the opportunity to visit Gem-A HQ.

Samantha also had fun on the monorail journey to the Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Centre, which offers views of Mount Fuji. She also met Emi Okubo FGA, granddaughter of famous author Akira Chikayama who wrote The Dictionary of Gemstones. This useful reference guide for all keen gemmologists is available to purchase from Gem-A's Gemmological Instruments shop. 

The monorail journey to work. Image courtesy of Sam Lloyd. IJT 2017
The monorail journey to work. Image courtesy of Samantha Lloyd

IJT is an important event which allows Gem-A to share our extensive gemmological knowledge with other enthusiasts. Many visitors to the stand expected answers that would immediately enable them to identify specific stones, but what they left with was the understanding that the study of gemmology is very nuanced, and gem testing is a complex discipline. The more you learn about it, the more interesting it becomes. ■

Gem-A are already looking forward to the 29th IJT scheduled for February 2018.

If you are interested in attending this event click here

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

Interested in finding out more? Visit Gemmological Instruments where you can purchase Akira Chikayama's book or by contacting instruments@gem-a.com.

Cover image Gem-A Stand IJT 2017. L-R Sam Lloyd, Ayako Naito, Emi Okubo, Julia Griffith. Image courtesy of Sam Lloyd


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

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Additional Info

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Discovering Unique Cameos of the Rainforest

Helen Serras-Herman takes a look at work by Rainforest Design, carvers of beautifully unique cameos. 

Standing apart from all cameos carved today are the unique, one-of-a-kind shell cameos by Rainforest Design. Carved in high relief, they are exotic in style and subject matter, and find their roots deep in the rainforests of Panama. 

Cameo brooch featuring a frog on heliconia plant, set in 18 kt white gold, displaying delicate open lattice-work. Cameo blogpost
Cameo brooch featuring a frog on heliconia plant, set in 18 kt white gold, displaying delicate open lattice-work.

Frogs, lizards, orchids, birds of paradise, lilies, hibiscus flowers, hummingbirds, macaws and toucans are some of the fauna and flora rendered so life-like and realistic that they grab your attention and keep you captivated. These cameos are intricate miniature nature scenes of exceptional beauty. 

Read more: Exploring the Wonders of Myanmar

Cameos are a fascinating form of gem carving, which depict faces or scenes with figures. The design is ‘raised’ above the background material in a relief style by removing matter from the surrounding surface. Shell cameos are commonly carved on layered materials, with a result similar to hardstone cameos carved in banded sardonyx, taking advantage of the contrasting colours. 

Set of two unmounted geckos, measuring 25 mm and 26 mm. Cameo blogpost
Set of two unmounted geckos, measuring 25 mm and 26 mm.

Cameos carved on shells first appeared during the Renaissance, but they became very popular during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when French and Italian carvers began using shells widely. Most of these antique cameos are skillfully carved with individual designs. The archaeological discoveries of the nineteenth century of the ancient civilizations brought renewed interest to ancient Greek and Roman mythological subjects, along with beautiful floral patterns. 

The Sobralia decora (‘Beautiful Sobralia’) orchid - a white earth-dwelling orchid whose flower only lasts one day - featured on a 40 mm cameo brooch which takes advantage of the two distinct colours of the shell. Set in 18 kt white gold with 0.73 ct faceted pink sapphires. Cameo blogpost
The Sobralia decora (‘Beautiful Sobralia’) orchid - a white earth-dwelling orchid whose flower only lasts one day - featured on a 40 mm cameo brooch which takes advantage of the two distinct colours of the shell. Set in 18 kt white gold with 0.73 ct faceted pink sapphires.

The orange and white-coloured King Helmet shells (Cassis tuberosa) came into Europe in the mid-eighteenth century from the West Indies, and the pink Queen Conch shells (Eustrombus gigas), also known as the Emperor Helmet shell, from the Bahamas. Today, among the favourite shells for carving are the Cassis rufa (Bull Mouth Helmet) and the Cassis madagascariensis, known as the sardonyx shell. 

Carvers of the Rainforest 

The carvers of Rainforest Design are the Embera-Wounaan, a semi-nomadic indigenous people born in the Darien jungle of Panama, the dense area to the east that shares its borders with Colombia. Women in the tribe create beautiful tightly-woven baskets, which are considered to be among the best baskets in the world. 

Read more: Diving into the World of New Zealand Paua Shells

The cameo carvers, all of whom are male, were taught shell carving by North American entrepreneur Andy Ike, who lives in Panama. For years Ike exported Queen Helmet shells (Cassis madagascariensis spinella) to Italy for the carving trade. Then he set out to find and teach local artists. The first carver he taught was Lider Pena, who in turn taught his brother and cousins. 

Wounaan cameo carvers. Cameo blogpost
Wounaan cameo carvers.

The carvers’ previous knowledge of carving the local tropical tagua nuts was a great asset. Tagua nuts are the fruit seeds of the palm tree varieties native to Panama (Phytelephas, from the Greek meaning ‘plant elephant’, and often known as ivory palms or tagua palms). Once they are dried and the brown skin removed the nuts looks very much like ivory, in colour and texture. 

Also known as ‘vegetable ivory’, tagua nuts are mostly carved as miniature sculptures in the full round, a design attribute that the Wounaan carvers brought to carving the shell cameos, as most of them are carved in very high relief. Carving shell, however, is a more complex endeavor compared to carving the tagua nuts. Even though the hardness of the tagua nut and shell is similar (around 2.5-3.0 on the Mohs scale), the taguas are tougher and more compact, whereas the shells are more fragile. The Queen Helmet shells also have at least two colour layers, ‘knuckles’ (lumpy growths) and curvature that the carver must take into consideration. 

Read more: An Exclusive Interview with Gem Cutter John Dyer

The process begins with Andy Ike selecting the shells. He cuts the blanks (the preforms) in ovals or other shapes and provides the Wounaan carvers with a ready-to-carve material. The carvers use Dremel® power tools with diamond and tungsten carbide burrs for rough pre-forming and carving. Finishing is completed with hand gravers and fine sandpaper, until they achieve a wonderful gleaming lustre on their carved surfaces. 

The extraordinary talent of the carvers impels them to create these miniature masterpieces, inspired by the beauty of the tropical rainforest. Recent pieces show open lattice-work, small open areas that give the carving more depth and a three-dimensional look. This piercing method, though, can be very risky during the carving process, as the shell may fracture or break. 

Design and Jewellery 

Many endeavours come to fruition thanks to the perfect timing of people and minds coming together. In 2004, Roslyn Zelenka, another expat American living in Panama, came onto the scene. At the beginning she was purchasing the cameos from the carvers and supporting their efforts, and was responsible for promoting and selling the cameos, as well as setting them into jewellery. 

A Lilium cameo suite, which is an intricate miniature nature scene set in 18 kt gold with akoya pearls. Centre cameo is 40 mm. Cameo blogpost.
A Lilium cameo suite, which is an intricate miniature nature scene set in 18 kt gold with akoya pearls.

But with time, Zelenka developed new design ideas, pushing the limits of the carvers’ capabilities. The inspiration always comes from the limitless fauna and flora of the rainforest and the cultural heritage of Panama, making them absolutely unique in the world cameo scene. 

Several pieces are designed and carved as a suite - a centrepiece with two or more pieces for a necklace, or matching earrings, carved with amazing accuracy symmetrically in mirror-style. Matching sets cannot be created from every shell, to achieve a five-piece suite it may take examination of between 700–900 shells, making these exotic beauties very rare indeed. All Rainforest Design® cameos, whether loose or set, come with a serial-numbered certificate of authenticity. 

Zelenka explores innovative designs and Andy Ike relates this information to the carvers before each carving begins, finding the perfect shell for each design. Once the cameos are finished, Zelenka collaborates with local goldsmiths and coordinates the creation of astonishing jewellery pieces, all skilfully produced. Some pieces are simple pendant/pin settings framing the cameos in 18 kt white or yellow gold and 950 silver; others, especially some of the necklaces, are amazingly complex multi-piece cameo suites set with faceted gemstones and multi-strands of delicate pearls and gemstone beads. 

Starfish cameo pendant displaying extraordinary high relief and taking advantage of the shell ‘knuckle’, showing high curvature on the reverse side. Measuring 28 mm, set in 18 kt gold. Cameo blogpost.
Starfish cameo pendant displaying extraordinary high relief and taking advantage of the shell ‘knuckle’, showing high curvature on the reverse side. Measuring 28 mm, set in 18 kt gold.

The types of jewellery offered for sale include necklaces, pendants, earrings, brooches, bracelets, cufflinks and even tiaras. 

Zelenka is also in charge of marketing these exotic pieces, under the name Rainforest Design, and placing them with Panamanian and US galleries, jewellery stores and authorised retail representatives. One such representative is US-based Elaine Rohrbach - an old-time friend and phenomenal gemstones dealer - of Gem-Fare, a company that exhibits at the annual Tucson gem shows, where Zelenka brings her latest creations to show. 

Three-piece set of lattice-work octopuses, each measuring 31 mm. Cameo blogpost.
Three-piece set of lattice-work octopuses, each measuring 31 mm.

I met Roslyn Zelenka over a decade ago, when she came looking for me after reading Anna Miller’s book Cameos Old & New. When she showed me the Rainforest Design cameos, I was astounded by their beauty, quality, fine detail and high-relief carving and, of course, their unique subject matter. Every year, when we meet in Tucson, I marvel at the new designs: tropical angelfish, starfish, octopuses, snakes, seahorses, turtles, quetzal birds, butterflies, dragonflies and countless exotic orchid styles, all set in beautifully crafted jewellery pieces, or sold unmounted -a designer’s dream palette. 

For more information about the cameos of Rainforest Design®, please visit the visually rich website at www.rainforestdesign.com. ■ 

This article originally appeared in Gems&Jewellery Nov/Dec 2015 / Volume 24 / No. 7 pp. 28-31

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image a Cattleya Laeliinae orchid cameo necklace with intricate lattice work, set with rubellite tourmalines and raspberry pink garnets. All jewellery and cameos shown in the photographs by Rainforest Design®. All photos courtesy of Rainforest Design®. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

The Gems&Jewellery Spring Issue 2017 Has Arrived!

The Gems&Jewellery editorial team are excited to announce the release of Gems&Jewellery Spring 2017 Vol 26 / No. 1.


Spring Issue 2017 Front Cover Spring Issue 2017 

The magazine has been given a fresh look this year and will be published quarterly in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

The issue is packed full of content and has contributions from a wide range of authors: Joanna Angelett, Deborah Craig FGA DGA, Helen Serras-Herman FGA, Alan Bronstein, John Bradshaw GG, Olga González FGA DGA, Rosamond Clayton FGA DGA FIRV MAE, Anthony De Goutière GG, Carmen Garcia-Carballido FGA L. Geology Msc. EurGeol, Christa Van Eerde MA MLitt Cert. GA DGA and Belinda Morris.

Spring 2017 featured contributors. G&J spring issue.
Spring 2017 featured contributors page 4.

Gem-A staff have also added their thoughts to the publication with contributions from: Anne Carroll Marshall BA Hons BA Hons FGA DGA FGAHK AGA, Ayako Naito FGA DGA, Charles Evans FGA DGA, Claire Mitchell FGA DGA RJ DIP, Elaine Ruddie DGA, Eric Fritz FGA, Maggie Campbell Pedersen FGA ABIPP and Samantha Lloyd FGA EG.

For the first time Gems&Jewellery will feature a student project and Gem-A Online Distance Learning (ODL) student Carmen Garcia-Carballido FGA L. Geology MSc Eur Geol shares her 2016 Gemmology Diploma project. 

The Sights of Spain by Carmen Garcia-Carballido. DPS magazine extract. G&J issue announcement.
The Sights of Spain by Carmen Garcia-Carballido pags 32-33. 

The issue is richly packed with interesting articles and awe-inspiring images. Featuring articles about mining in Malawi, the story behind the Aurora Pyramid of Hope, and a summary of the recent Gem and Mineral shows in Tucson. 

Charles Gande at the jig concentrator. Photo by Deborah Craig. G&J spring issue.
Charles Gande at the jig concentrator. Image by Deborah Craig. Image featured on page 12 in an article by Deborah Craig.

New to Gems&Jewellery is the last impression page. In this issue readers have the chance to view an eye-catching specimen of a golden beryl also known as a heliodor. The image of this beautiful stone can be found in the new edition of Gemstones: Terra Connoisseur by Vladyslav Y. Yavorskyy. If you would like to pre-order a copy of this incredible book retailing at £75 please email instruments@gem-a.com or call 020 7404 3334. The previous books in the series - Terra Spinel and Terra Garnet, flew off the shelves, so do not miss your opportunity to pre-order a copy today.

Terra Gemstones. Book Cover. G&J issue
Gemstones - Terra Connoisseur by Vladyslav Y. Yavorskyy page 46.

The Gem-A publication team hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. Gem-A members look out for your copies of Gems&Jewellery, which are on their way to you now. Alternatively you can log in to access your online copy here. ■ 

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image the strongly pleochroitic dumortierite crystals, mag. 63x. Image by Michael Hügi. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

An Interview with GCDC Award Winner Julia Neill

Julia Neill was one of the 2017 winners of Gem-A’s contribution to the Goldsmiths' Craft & Design (GCDC) Awards, often referred to in the industry as the 'Jewellery Oscars'. Angharad Kolator Baldwin speaks to the designer about the inspiration behind her work.

Founded in 1908 the Goldsmith’s Craft & Design Council aims to encourage and stimulate excellence in design and craftsmanship in the UK across a range of disciplines including silversmithing, goldsmithing and jewellery. The annual awards have a range of patrons, sponsors and contributors. This year Gem-A awarded, two scholarships at the ceremony, with applications open to all entries that included gem materials in their work. 

Julia Neill was awarded the scholarship for her beautiful Clip Ring & Ear Cuff design. Tomasz Donocik won the Gem-A prize for his enchanting piece “The Dune Stellar” Detachable Earrings. The well-deserved winners have secured a place on a five day Diamond Grading and Identification Course taking place at Gem-A headquarters. 

Jewellery designer Julia Neill. GCDC awards.
Jewellery designer Julia Neill. 

London based Julia Neill is the founder of the jewellery brand AFFIYETTE. She started her career in fashion before moving to jewellery design. Every piece in the AFFIYETTE collection is hand crafted by Julia and here she reveals her decision to enter the awards and the inspiration behind her winning piece.  

 

Julia Neill's winning design Clip Ring & Ear Cuff. Image courtesy of Julia Neill. GCDC award.
Julia Neill's winning design Clip Ring & Ear Cuff. 

Q. When did you first become interested in jewellery design?

I have always had an affinity with jewellery. From a young age I would pile on necklaces and curate collections of objects to tell a story. After ten years in the fashion industry designing womenswear I decided to return to the Royal College of Art and retrain in Jewellery and Metal as a passion project.   

Q. Do you have a favourite piece in your collection?

The piece I entered for the Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council Awards is my most treasured piece. I love the juxtaposition of luxury with minimal design.  

Julia Neill's winning design Clip Ring & Ear Cuff. Image courtesy of Julia Neill. GCDC awards.
Julia Neill modelling her winning design Clip Ring & Ear Cuff. 

Q. What prompted you to enter the Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council Awards?

After being shortlisted for the Make Your Mark Awards and having my work exhibited in Goldsmith’s Hall it gave me the confidence to apply. It is such a prestigious event and known as the 'Jewellery Oscars', to be involved is a real honour. 

Q. What was the inspiration behind your winning piece?

My research at the Royal College of Art looks at how objects become iconic within subcultural groups. I am interested in elevating mundane objects into modern luxury and how an object’s meaning can be reinterpreted through time. This piece has 0.10 ct of diamonds set into it. I am particularly drawn to the light reflectivity of diamonds and the magical way they illuminate the body when worn. I like to play with proportion and the placement of stone setting, this piece has a 'dipped in' diamonds look as if it has been partially submerged in stones. 

Q. How did it feel to win the Gem-A Diamond Scholarship?

It is such a great opportunity, diamonds are integral to my work and to gain an in-depth knowledge of these precious stones is such an amazing privilege. 

Q. What do you hope to learn from the Diamond Course at Gem-A?

To meet and work with experts within this field and understand diamond identification will definitely influence my future decisions and reasoning behind choosing diamonds.

Q. What is next for you?

Designing and redefining modern fine jewellery collections for my brand AFFIYETTE and using diamonds to accentuate my designs in-between having a baby and continuing with my research. A very busy time ahead! ■ 

To view more of Julia Neill’s designs visit her Instagram @affiyette 

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image Julia Neill's Clip Ring & Ear Cuff. All images courtesy of Julia Neill. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Digital Gems and Instagram Stars: How the Internet Is Boosting Gemmology

Holly Mowle, a current Gem-A Diploma Student, discusses how the internet has become a treasure trove of lapidary and jewellery items, old and new. In this article she explores the use of web space platforms by lapidaries today to develop a virtual artistic presence. 

In the twenty-first century online communication has become commonplace and for many it is an essential part of daily life. In 2016 almost half of the world’s population has internet access and this number is set to increase. Websites and social media are important commercial tools, increasing the availability of information on technological advancements in the world of stone cutting.

There is something very unique about a trip to a museum, gallery or festival but for many people a visit might be impossible due to time, location or cost. In this way artists can use the virtual world to cross the divide between their work and their audience with sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr becoming twenty-first century electronic exhibitions accessible across the globe. Jewellers and lapidaries have embraced such online platforms in order to maintain an active profile in the artist world whilst bridging the gap between themselves and an international pool of potential customers.

Read more: An Interview with GCDC Award Winner Julia Neill

I first discovered the work of San Francisco based Jean Noel Soni on Facebook when I was doing research for my Gemmology Diploma project. Largely self taught, Soni became enamored with lapidary through a fascination with the technical cutting process. Under the name “Top Notch Faceting“ Soni regularly updated the page presenting visitors with a steady stream of his signature asymmetric cuts, tailor made to individual rough gems.

Soni’s edgy image, reflected in his stones, is transferred to his posts where his heavily tattooed hands are often pictured alongside his stones, both being instantly recognisable. Today Soni uses Instagram and has over 30,000 followers, posting to the account, which takes the same moniker as that previously used on Facebook. Soni’s popularity on Instagram is due to his regular, but varied, uploads which as well as his stones include art, jewellery and scenes from his daily life. 

Video upload from Jean Noel Soni
@topnotchfaceting Instagram post

John Dyer’s career as a stone cutter is littered with prizes, with over fifty awards to his name and gems garnering further prestige through the work of numerous jewellers. The Minnesota based lapidary entered the world of gems as a teenager, partnered with father David who helped develop the machines that would allow Dyer to develop and hone his cutting skills. Dyer’s gem designs, many of which are trademarked, are prized for their intensity and captivating ability to draw the eye. Dyer’s virtual presence is widespread, with active Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

John Dyer Gems Facebook Page
John Dyer Gems' Facebook page

Links to Dyer’s website with its extensive gem catalogue where his work can be purchased online are frequently part of his social media posts, increasing access to Dyer's gems whilst also expanding his international customer base.

Read more: An Exclusive Interview with Gem Cutter John Dyer

The website of Naomi Sarna award winning lapidary hosts an exquisite confection of her works but also boasts a regularly updated media section, which also acts as a blog. With a background in arts, New York based Sarna’s organic style originated from her love of flow and movement in different sculptural forms. Visitors can browse through articles on Sarna’s works, videos and posts from the artist herself. Users can subscribe to the blog, which provides email updates of new content posted onto this area of the website. This effectively keeps contact between the artist and audience without the need for a social media account or multiple website visitations, whilst also maintaining an artist presence in another facet of the online world. For those not wishing to subscribe, this content is usually uploaded to Sarna’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.

Post by @naomisarnadesigns on Instagram
@naomisarnadesigns Instagram post

Soni, Dyer and Sarna all use one or more forms of social media along with their websites. With so many online communication platforms available it is virtually impossible to be active on all of them, however with minimal online presence today’s lapidaries can benefit from secondary exposure through the re-posting of others. 

This is seen in the online presence of revolutionary lapidary Bernd Munsteiner; credited for a major role in the development of the fantasy cut in the 1960’s. Munsteiner who has spent over half a century as a pioneer of this art originates from near one of Europe’s cutting capitals, Idar Oberstein where he also received training. Information about Munsteiner can be found on munsteiner-cut.de though this site is largely dedicated to the work of second generation Munsteiner lapidary, Tom. A search through various social media platforms shows Munsteiner saturated throughout the virtual world.

Dom Pedro aquamarine search on Twitter
Dom Pedro aquamarine search on Twitter

At 35 cm tall and weighing more than ten thousand carats, the Dom Pedro aquamarine took Bernd Munsteiner over ten months to complete. The largest gem of this kind, the Dom Pedro (now residing in the collections of the Smithsonian) appears in various online articles as well as being frequently re-posted on social media such as twitter. Through cycling in this way Munsteiner’s work goes on to inspire and educate new generations whilst continuing his legacy as the supreme fantasy cutter.

Read more: An Interview with Dr Jeffrey Post of the Smithsonian Institution

Though Jeffrey Hunt's new website is still under development, Hunt still maintains an active online presence through various social media accounts, including Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. Hunt is most active on Facebook where in addition to his profile page he also operates a group One World Gemstone. Although many share their work here though their enthusiasm for the craft, the group also provides additional exposure for established artists including Hunt himself. This group has over five thousand members who can add content resulting in multiple daily posts ranging from rough stones, works-in-process to finished gems and jewellery; maintaining an active dialogue of information and ideas between users. 

Facebook post to One World Gemstone group 

Social media groups such as this are invaluable to both the established artist and amateur enthusiast; I have discovered multiple lapidaries and jewellers via this forum such as Montana based James Finkler. This artist’s work also frequently appears through the posts of Missouri River Sapphire Co. who diligently credit the lapidaries that cut their lovely stones. Primarily a Facebook user, I frequently browse through the ’similar pages’ function and look through artists and vendors liked by other lapidaries and jewellers. I have found that through this you very quickly find artists you had previously been unaware of, who’s pages can later be used in the same way. A few I have uncovered in this way include Torraca Gemcutting, Jeffrey Hapeman of Earth’s Treasury, Chris Lawrie Lapidary Art and Hashnu Stones with their inspired business name taken from the Japanese fable.

As someone still taking their first steps into the gemmological careers sphere, the internet plays a vital role in supplementing my education. Whether this be exploring the history of jewellery and gems through online museum collections or journeying through the new creations of a prestigious lapidary artist. This kind of education can also serve as career guidance through learning how others progressed within trade and how they maintain this success today.

One thing I have learnt is that maintaining an online presence is becoming more important to business as the world becomes more reliant on web-based communication. It seems to be that the key to success in the virtual world is a maintained, regular content between artist and audience, the trick being to keep your content as unique and intriguing as your art. ■

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image hand-carved ametrine by Naomi Sarna - 1st place winner of teh 2017 Spectrum Award for Carving.


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Birthstone Guide: Emeralds for Those Born in May

Emerald - the symbol of rebirth and bringer of good fortune and youth - is the birthstone for those born in May. 

A variety of green beryl, the name emerald is derived from the Greek word smaragdus (green in Greek). The green colour of emerald is caused by traces of chromium, but vanadium may also be present in some stones.

Read more: Aquamarine for Those Born in March

Emeralds can be found in Colombia. Brazil, India, Pakistan, Siberia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Emerald with quartz. From the Gem-A archive.
Emerald with quartz. From the Gem-A archive.

The inclusions contained in almost all natural emeralds are very useful in distinguishing natural emeralds from synthetic emeralds and other green stones. Some inclusions are common for particular localities. 

Locality Typical Inclusion and Features
Colombia Three-phase inclusions (liquid-filled cavity containing a crystal and a gas bubble)
India Two-phase inclusions (liquid-filled cavity containign a gas bubble)
Zimbabwe Tremolite (usually fibrous or neddle-like crystals)
Siberia Needle-like crystals of actinolite
Many Localities Mica flakes, pyrite and calcite, and also colour zoning

 

Three-phase inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Three-phase inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

 

Two-phase inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Two-phase inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

 

Needle-like inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Needle-like inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

 

Pyrite inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Pyrite inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

 

Mica inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Mica inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

 

Crystal inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.
Crystal inclusion. Image courtesy of Pat Daly.

Combining the typical inclusions found with an assessment of refractive index and specific gravity can give an indication of the country of origin. ■

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image needle-like inclusions in emerald. Image courtesy of Pat Daly. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth

C W Sellors recently announced the official launch of its House Style Jewellery Collection - an exclusive collection designed by C W Sellors Fine Jewellery to complement the magnificent House Style exhibition, which opened at Chatsworth House in March. 

The exhibition has been six years in the planning and is the biggest and most ambitious to date. It draws upon the exquisite jewellery owned and worn by the Cavendish family over the generations; from exotic headdresses to glittering diamond tiaras and renowned insect brooches, which belonged to Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the celebrated Mitford sisters.

Silver Marcasite Chatelaine Pendants
Silver Marcasite Chatelaine Pendants

The new House Style Collection is divided into distinct design styles - the Diamond Palmette collection, the Chatelaine collection, the Chatsworth Heritage collection and an insect-inspired selection -  reflecting the glamour, elegance and history of Chatsworth. 

Marcasite, Garnet and Pearl Spider Brooch. Image courtesy of C W Sellors.
Marcasite, Garnet and Pearl Spider Brooch. 

The exhibition House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth explores the history of fashion and adornment to date, giving an unprecedented insight into the depth of the Devonshire Collection.

Read more: From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Taylor with John Benjamin FGA DGA

As well as being a major sponsor, C W Sellors’ workshop at Ashbourne in Derbyshire recreated three statement pieces to go on public display.

"Being able to show the Devonshire tiaras with the clothes that they were worn with considerably adds to the spectacle of the show," said Lady Burlington, a member of the Cavendish family.

The exhibition runs until 22 October, so make sure you don't miss the opportunity to see these fabulous gems. ■

Silver Marcasite and Derbyshire Blue John 4-Stone Dragonfly Brooch. Image courtesy of C W Sellors.
Silver Marcasite and Derbyshire Blue John 4-Stone Dragonfly Brooch. 

To find out more about this collection visit C W Sellors Fine Jewellery.

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image 18 kt Yellow Gold Blue Plique-a-jour Pendant and Brooch with Diamonds and Monnstone. All images courtesy of C W Sellors.


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


Additional Info

Read more...

Birthstone Guide: Alexandrite for Those Born in June

Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG  describes the phenomenal appearances of Alexandrite, the June birthstone - 'Emerald by day, ruby by night'.

This extraordinary gemstone appears green or red dependent on the light that it is observed under – a colour change effect also known as the ‘alexandrite effect’.  The rarity of this material and its chameleon-like qualities makes alexandrite one of the world’s most desirable gemstones.

Chrysoberyl Alexandrite demonstrating colour change. Image from Gem-A archive.
Chrysoberyl Alexandrite demonstrating colour change. Image from Gem-A archive.

In 1834, alexandrite was first discovered alongside beryls within the prestigious emerald mines in the Russian Ural Mountains. It is part of the chrysoberyl family, which is separate to the beryls, being a beryllium aluminium oxide as opposed to a silicate. Chrysoberyls have good durability and a hardness of 8.5 making them perfect for use in jewellery… that is, if you can find one.

Alexandrite is so rare that it has never truly been the main aim of commercial mining but instead a ‘by product’ as the likelihood of uncovering one is very slim. In Russia, just one crystal of alexandrite was found for every hundred-or-so emeralds.

Read more: Emeralds for Those Born in May

In the majority of alexandrites the clarity is poor – they are commonly riddled with fractures and appear translucent to opaque. Such specimens have little value and are often unusable as gems.

Rough specimens over 5 ct in weight are also a scarcity and most alexandrites found on the market are under 1 ct. Prices for fine specimens above 1 ct will rival or surpass fine quality rubies, emeralds and diamonds making them the one of the most expensive and rare gemstones in the world. 

The most important factor for alexandrite is the quality of its colour change. The most prized colour change is a strong raspberry red in incandescent light and a bright green in daylight - however such a perfect specimen is not known to exist.  

The colours seen in alexandrite are caused by chromium – the same colouring element which causes the red of ruby and the green of emerald. The amount of colour change seen is often given as a percentage - with a 100% colour change from one hue to the other being the most valuable. 

Alexandrite in tungsten alpha ray. Image from Gem-A archive.
Alexandrite in tungsten, alpha ray. Image from Gem-A archive.
Alexandrite in daylight, gamma ray. Image from Gem-A archive.
Alexandrite in daylight, gamma ray. Image from Gem-A archive.

The hues seen can also vary - if they stray too far from the expected colours of alexandrite or if the amount of colour change seen is minor, the value will be significantly affected and it is debatable to whether it can be classified as an alexandrite at all. 

Read more: The Myths, Legends and Controversy Behind Ancient Preseli Bluestone

The colour change effect is due to alexandrite transmitting green and red light equally. Incandescent and daylight light sources are richer in different wavelengths (red or blue/green respectively) and this has a direct effect on what colour the gemstone appears to the human eye. 

Alexandrites are also noted for their strong pleochroism. This is an independent optical effect from colour change, in which the gem will appear different colours from different directions. In alexandrite the pleochroic colours are green, orange and purple-red.

The finest quality alexandrites are said to be from the original deposits in Russia, which were mined out in the nineteenth century. ‘Alexandrite’ was named for the Russian Tsar, Alexander II. Legend states that this rare and beautiful stone was found on the day the heir became of age on his sixteenth birthday. 

The vibrant red and green colours observed also mirror the colours of the national military of Imperial Russia and alexandrite became the official stone of the Tsardom of Russia. 

Read more: Aquamarine for Those Born in March

According to Russian legend, wearers of alexandrite reap many benefits including good luck, fortune and love. A popular belief is that alexandrite helps the wearer strive to excellence bringing concentration, discipline and self-control.

Nowadays alexandrites are mined from Brazil, Myanmar, Tanzania, India and Madagascar. Sri Lanka has also produced some fine specimens - the world’s largest faceted alexandrite hailed from this locality and is a whopping 65.7 ct! A further rarity is chatoyant or ‘cats-eye’ alexandrites, which are cut in cabochon to reveal this optical effect.

Chrysoberyl alexandrite crystal, cyclic twinning. Image from Gem-A archive.
Chrysoberyl alexandrite crystal, cyclic twinning. Image from Gem-A archive.

Alexandrite has such extreme rarity that those seen on the market might not be quite what they seem. Alexandrite has been successfully synthesised in laboratories since the 1960’s and these synthetics have the same chemical, physical and optical properties of natural alexandrite and show a strong colour change - but lack rarity. 

The most common simulant is synthetic colour change sapphire, which shows a greyish blue to pink colour change. At just a dollar or two per carat - it is extremely common on the market. This material has been made since 1909 so is often found in antique pieces of jewellery.

Alexandrite synthetic flux. Image from Gem-A archive.
Alexandrite synthetic flux. Image from Gem-A archive.

A good colour change, good quality, transparent natural alexandrite could easily cost the consumer a five figure sum per carat and beyond in regards to price. A fine price to pay for such a spectacular and exceptional gem. ■

This article was written by Gem-A for the May/June 2017 issue of The Jeweller - The magazine of the National Association of Jewellers

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image red square Moscow, Russia. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

Gem Careers: A Lifetime of Expertise

Rosamond Clayton FGA DGA FIRV MAE, a gemstone specialist and jewellery valuer, is often called upon as an expert witness in trials to identify and value precious stones. 

When did you get started in gemmology?

I had been working in Hong Kong on a contract posting when I married in the 1970s and I needed to find a new and interesting career. Fortunately, my search for a fulfilling subject to study coincided with the arrival of Marcia Lanyon FGA in Hong Kong, whom I met at a friend’s house one evening. 

I was soon enrolled on a foundation gemmology course and quickly became a fanatic. Many in our trade will recognise this ‘disease’. When I visited China in 1973 for a business trip with my husband, we were each only allowed 15 pounds of luggage, including handbag and camera; Webster’s Gems formed part of this allowance! 

I took my foundation exams in Hong Kong in 1974 and passed, but it was diamonds that interested me and therefore I needed to study for the Diamond Diploma. I was helped by Noel Deeks FGA DGA who taught the practical diamond grading at Sir John Cass College in London, but there was nowhere to study in Hong Kong, so I partly commuted to London (subject to load on British Airways). Noel Deeks introduced me to a Mr Shun Wai Woo FGA DGA, the only DGA in Hong Kong at the time, who worked in a senior capacity with his cousin, who had started the only diamond manufacturing company there. 

In addition, through a friend, I was introduced to Bill and Joan Hsu who had studied the residential GIA diamond course in Santa Monica and returned to Hong Kong to run a diamond wholesale business. I went to their office at least once a week and graded all their stock; they taught me how to survive in business in Hong Kong. 

How did you transition to the world of valuations?

When Marcia Lanyon left Hong Kong she passed her consultancy work with the Hong Kong tourist association on to me, so by this time I knew most of the retailers. My boss at the time, a shrewd Chinese business woman, saw an opportunity to open up new accounts with these retailers. After three years I moved to a retailer in Kowloon on the mainland, called Tse Lee Yuen. 

Rosamond Clayton in Hong Kong, 1981. Image courtesy of Rosamond Clayton.
Rosamond Clayton in Hong Kong, 1981. 

One Monday I was instructed by my employer that I would become the valuer! I was to value all the customers’ diamonds and jadeite. My protests fell on ‘dead ears’ as I was told my English was better than my Chinese colleagues’ and the valuations had to be written in English – there were no typewriters with Chinese characters – therefore there was no argument. 

How did your own business evolve?

In 1985 I set up my own valuation business in Hong Kong, which I sold when I returned to the UK in 1987. Initially, on return to the UK, I rented space with jewellery designer John Donald at 120 Cheapside who I knew through Marcia Lanyon. It was a matter of going back to the start on the Monopoly board, only saved by the fact that the NAG and Gem-A were housed together in Carey Lane (in close proximity to Cheapside), and I was soon taken under the wing of Philip Stocker FGA the NAG in-house valuer. He introduced me to the Academy of Experts, who provide training for those taking instruction as expert witnesses. 

Have there been any memorable moments that really stand out?

I have always enjoyed travelling abroad for work and my most memorable business trip was for a Chinese friend, who was chairman of a marine diamond mining company in Namaqualand, looking at the possibility of cutting diamonds mined there in Hong Kong or New York, where he lived. 

My cousin was working as a commercial pilot in South West Africa (now Namibia), so I flew to Windhoek with a commercial airline and she flew me from Windhoek to the mine in a Beechcraft Bonanza. We stayed the night at Okiep near Springbok, about 500 miles from Windhoek and the next day to De Punt, North of the Oliphants River. 

Loughborough 2002 Valuer of the Year. Image by Vicky Morrison.
Loughborough 2002 Valuer of the Year. Image by Vicky Morrison.

In earlier times this river was much larger and brought the diamonds down, it is thought from Lesotho, exiting into the Atlantic and carrying the diamonds north with the current, in the same process as the Orange River at a later stage. Due to the rough sea conditions, the members of the mining franchises were only able to dive on average four times a year and I was fortunate to be there on one of these occasions. Apart from a substantial yield of fine quality diamonds they brought up crayfish for our evening barbecues. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about your profession and what makes it unique? 

I had been instructed as an expert in jewellery cases in Hong Kong and this work in the field of gemstones and jewellery had always held the greatest interest for me. Importantly, it is necessary to train to supply reports as an expert witness in court proceedings and it is now becoming a requirement by the courts, not merely a wise precaution. The cases are varied but the civil cases frequently involve post loss assessment, divorce or some aspect of alleged unethical trading. 

A case set down for a High Court hearing can last a number of years from the preliminary report to additional reports in light of new evidence, experts meetings and finally the hearing which can frequently last a week or a number of weeks. A great deal of research is required, sometimes many months just for one item. No other type of valuation work provides this opportunity. 

What would your advice be for anyone who wants to get into what you do? 

For aspiring valuers today it takes time to obtain the required qualifications and experience and the process may seem costly. However, it would be hard to find another field of interest with so many enthusiastic and generous people willing to give their time and knowledge. As a valuer, even once the initial qualifications are obtained, without the wealth of knowledge available and help from those in specialist fields, it would not be possible to operate. In addition there is not a moment to lose in grasping every opportunity for further knowledge and training in every aspect of our rich world. 

My own career in the field of gemstones and jewellery has been a long and challenging path and, at the outset, I had not entertained the idea of being a valuer but I believe that there has been a revolution in the methodology of jewellery valuing in the UK and I am proud to be a part of it.

Rosamond Clayton at the London Diamond Bourse in 2016. Image courtesy of Rosamond Clayton.
Rosamond Clayton at the London Diamond Bourse in 2016. 

Top Tips: Becoming a Valuer

Essential qualifications:

Gemmology, diamond grading, Certificate of Appraisal Theory (CAT - the NAJ’s self-learning programme on valuation methodology). Join the National Association of Jewellers Institute of Registered Valuers (NAJ IRV). 

Concurrently with obtaining qualifications:

Try to obtain experience with a diamond wholesaler, coloured stone wholesaler or manufacturer. 

Network:

It is impossible to operate even as an experienced valuer without contacts. Visit auction houses, museums, attend lectures and most importantly attend The NAJ Loughborough Conference where workshops and lectures are provided on every imaginable valuation topic. ■  

Gem-A members can log in to read the full article Gems&Jewellery Spring 2017 / Volume 26 / No. 1

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image Rosamond Clayton and her colleagues from the Institute of Registered Valuers. All images courtesy of Rosamond Clayton. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

Read more


 

Additional Info

Read more...

How to Assess the Value of an Opal: A Beginner's Guide to Pricing

Although once known as 'bad luck', opals are fast becoming one of the most sought after gemstones in jewellery collections. But what makes one opal worth thousands and others mere pounds and pence? Here, Gem-A Instruments manager, Samatha Lloyd FGA EG, offers a quick but essential guide to opal value factors and what distinguishes a fantastic specimen from an average one. 

COLOURS IN OPAL

Opal is composed of uniform spheres of silica, which form a grid-like structure. The spaces between these spheres contain a silica solution. When light passes through the spheres and hits the silica solution, it is diffracted, producing differing rainbow hues.

Colour play depends on the size of the spheres, for example, smaller spheres result in blue colours, but orange and red will be present when they are larger. The more uniform the grid-like structure, the more intense the colours will appear.

Australian Opal. 

TYPES OF OPAL 

Customers may be most familiar with light opal, which makes up the majority of mined opal. It has base colours that range from white, to milky white and light grey, with varying degrees of colour play dancing on top.

If the body of the opal is transparent – also known as light crystal opal - the colour patches can be seen below the surface. It is these specimens that command exceptionally high prices. Your customers may also be familiar with black, or dark, opal, which has a dark body colour - sometimes enhancing the brilliance of the colours. This is the rarest and most valuable opal variety. 

VALUE FACTORS 

There are a number of factors that alter the value of opals. As mentioned, black opal can command higher price points than light opal (especially with an inky black body tone), although this is not to say that a fantastic light opal cannot be more expensive than a mediocre black opal. 

The brightness and brilliance of an opal is particularly important for its value, even if it is average in other areas. Therefore, lots of colours flashing on a dull stone may not command the same value as a gem with a higher degree of brilliance. 

Australian opal.
Australian opal.

We have already hinted at transparency, but this is also an important value factor. Light opal is much more desirable if it is transparent, with crystal opals with vibrant colours being particularly prized. 

A secondary and more complex layer of value arises when considering colours. The ‘dominant colour’ in an opal can affect its value, with red commanding the highest cost, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. However, do not forget, a blue-green brilliant stone will be more valuable than a dull red. 

OPAL PATTERNS 

In some rare cases, the diffraction of light within an opal can cause interesting patterns to arise. These patterns can increase the value of a stone. ‘Pinfire’ and small dot-like patterns are less desirable than bold ones, such as stripes, peacock feather shapes and broad brushstroke-like flashes of colour. 

Australian opal.
Australian opal.

ETHIOPIAN VS AUSTRALIAN 

Customers may ask why one opal costs thousands of pounds, while another is mere hundreds or less. The answer could lie in its origin. Australia is a phenomenal source of opals and produces some of the world’s most incredible specimens.

Crucially, opals from this region have a lower water content, which means they are less susceptible to drying-out and less likely to exhibit ‘crazing’ - hairline fractures that impact the durability of the stone.

In contrast, Ethiopia is a newer source of opals, but some material has been found to have a much higher water content, making it unreliable and potentially unsuitable for jewellery. 

Ethiopian opal.
Ethiopian opal.

With thanks to Hatton Garden-based gemstone supplier, Marcus McCallum FGA, for taking these striking photos of Ethiopian and Australian opals.

Read more facts in The Opal Story by Andrew and Damien Cody, available in the Gem-A library. ■  

Gem-A members can log in to read the full article Gems&Jewellery Spring 2017 / Volume 26 / No. 1

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image example of Australian opal. All images courtesy of Marcus McCallum. 


Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

Speaker in the Spotlight: Peter Lyckberg

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, Gem-A chats to mineral expert Peter Lyckberg ahead of his talk on gem deposits of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Speaker in the Spotlight: Victor Tuzlukov

Ahead of his talk on the 'Precious' and 'Artistic' cuts, Gem-A chats to 2018 Conference Speaker Victor Tuzlukov.

Read more


Investigating Fake Rough

Investigating Fake Rough

From the Summer 2018 issue of Gems&Jewellery, Gagan Choudhary FGA, deputy director of Gem Testing Laboratory Jaipur, describes the various types of fake gem rough that has passed his desk in recent months.

Read more


Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Heritage Series: Let's Bragg about it!

Our Heritage Series returns to celebrate two of Gem-A's most distinguished Presidents, father and son duo Sir William Henry Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for their research in X-ray Crystallography. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

Speaker in the Spotlight: Monica Stephenson

As we get closer to the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month, we chat to ANZA Gems founder Monica Stephenson. 

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Speaker in the Spotlight: Justin Hunter

Gem-A speaks to founder of J.Hunter Pearls, Justin Hunter, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference.

Read more


Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Speaker in the Spotlight: Wallace Chan

Gem-A chats to jewellery artist and innovator, Wallace Chan, ahead of this talk at the 2018 Gem-A Conference next month. 

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Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Birthstone Guide: Opal for Those Born in October

Prized since antiquity, opal is the birthstone for October. Here, Gemmology Tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores this beautiful gemstone as we enter autumn. 

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Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Speaker in the Spotlight: Federico Barlocher

Gem-A Conference 2018 Speaker, Federico Barlocher, chats to us ahead of his talk on the legendary ruby Mogok mines in Myanmar.

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