Everyone knows that lucky April-born souls have been blessed with one of the most prestigious birthstones: diamond. However, there is an alternative birthstone for the month and it's a 'hidden gem'... so to speak! Gem-A Member, Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG explains why rock crystal is worth your time and attention.
Rock crystal is the purest variety of quartz and is transparent and completely colourless. Its name derives from the Greek term krustallos meaning 'ice' and it is the sister gemstone to colourful varieties of quartz, such as amethyst and citrine.
So, what makes rock crystal special? Well, from across the spectrum of gemstones, only rock crystal offers such a wide variety of attractive inclusions. For this reason, rock crystal has the potential to be one of the most characterful and artistic gemstones for collectors and jewellery lovers alike.
Many may think of 'inclusions' as flaws, however, when viewing the array of possible features that can be available within this gemstone one may change this opinion.
There is rutilated quartz, tourmalinated quartz, fluorite in quartz, hematite in quartz, gilalite in quartz, pyrite in quartz… the list goes on! These different mineral inclusions add further variety to the rock crystal family whilst offering dozens of different looks.
Rutile in quartz. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith.
Considering its place in the quartz family of gemstones, rock crystal has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Scale. It is reasonably durable and stable, which makes it suitable for all kinds of jewellery pieces. It can be fashioned as carvings, cabochons or faceted gems.
An additional bonus with quartz is that it is readily available in larger sizes and at wallet-friendly prices. If you are searching for a statement pendant, beautifully-included rock crystal could be a fantastic option.
Fluorite in quartz. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith.
Transparent rock crystal has been used as an imitation of diamond for centuries, due to the fact they are both colourless. Rock crystal will not be as 'firey' as diamond as it does not disperse light to the same degree, however, a well-cut rock crystal can be very brilliant with excellent return of white light.
Faceted rock crystals are still used as diamond imitations today, particularly as 'accent stones' in jewellery. Designers may choose to surround a coloured stone with melee-sized rock crystals rather than diamonds, offering affordable price-points to the consumer whilst giving a similar look.
Quartz is a silica (SiO2) and is the most abundant mineral on Earth and therefore it is mined in many localities throughout the world. Quartz grows as long prismatic crystals with pyramidal points that can occur as single crystals, clusters and geodes - all of which can be very attractive and are commonly used as display pieces or set within jewellery. The largest single crystal recorded was from Itapore, Brazil and measured over 20 feet in length and weighed over 44 tonnes.
The industrial uses for rock crystal quartz outweigh its use in jewellery. It is used within the manufacture of glass, sand, ceramics, brick and abrasives (to name a few) and it is considered one of the world’s most useful natural materials.
Since its successful synthesis in the 1950s, synthetic lab-grown quartz is used extensively for the majority of industrial processes and may also be found within the gem trade as fashioned stones.
Notably, quartz is used in the mechanism of quartz watches (hence the name) and anyone who sells watches will know that quartz movements keep exceptionally accurate time losing only seconds over the life-time of the battery. This is thanks to quartz’s ability to release regular electronic impulses at precise frequencies.
This rare property, known as piezoelectricity, is utilised within our GPS equipment, telephones and radios as well as in the mechanism, which triggers the airbags in our cars.
It is this property, which is thought to be exploited during crystal healing as the energy held within rock crystal is thought to amplify and channel universal energy.
Hopefully, we have managed to change your mind about rock crystal! Why not celebrate April births and special occasions with this underappreciated gemstone instead of the diamond? You may just fall in love with something new. ■
Get started on your gemstone journey with gemmology courses and qualifications from Gem-A. Find out about the Gemmology Foundation and Gemmology Diploma here.
Do you have a passion for diamonds? Discover the Gem-A Diamond Diploma and Short Courses hereand Short Courses here.
Cover image Tourmaline in quartz. Image courtesy of Julia Griffith.
In his third Gemstone Conversations column for Gems&Jewellery, Jewellery Historian and Valuer John Benjamin FGA DGA FIRV explores the fascinating history of turquoise and its use in jewellery design from the Shahs of Persia to the Art Deco design movement.
If you're lucky enough to be born in January, vibrant garnet is your birthstone. A rainbow jewel of the gem world, garnet displays the greatest variety of colour of any mineral and is very often untreated, making it a rarity in the gem world.
Iridescence has to be one of the most mesmerising and magical optical effects seen in gemstones. But have you ever wondered how it occurs? Gem-A's Collection Curator Barbara Kolator FGA DGA shines a light on this fascinating optical effect and tells us about the gems that are most likely to display it.
Gem-A Gemmology Tutor Pat Daly FGA DGA offers us a glimpse at some of the more unusual items in Gem-A's Gemstones and Minerals Collection.
Are you looking for the perfect festive gift for a December baby? Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG considers tanzanite – one of three birthstones for December – and shares how this relatively new gemstone compares to its purple and blue-hued rivals.
Beautiful blue turquoise is one of three birthstones for the month of December (in addition to zircon and tanzanite). It is enriched with real cultural significance that can be traced back thousands of years. Here, we explore the blue shades of turquoise and explain what makes this gemstone so special...
Chatoyancy is the gemmological name given to the curious optical effect in which a band of light is reflected in cabochon-cut gemstones, creating an appearance similar to light bouncing off a cat's eye. Gem-A's Collection Curator, Barbara Kolator FGA DGA explains chatoyancy and highlights some of the many gems in which it can occur.
Jade has long been revered by gem lovers internationally, but nowhere more so than in China. But what is it that makes this gemstone so special? Gem-A's Assistant Gemmology Tutor Dr Juliette Hibou FGA gives us an overview of jade, how to identify it and its significance in Chinese culture.
The Gem-A Conference is always the highlight of our gemmological calendar! If you didn’t manage to make it, we’ve put together a few of the highlights from this year’s event to fill you in on what you missed, and whet your appetite for Gem-A Conference 2020!