Someone asked me today how a purple sapphire is made. What was implied in the question is that purple sapphires don't occur naturally. Actually, they do...
Two analogies: As a robin is a bird, so a purple sapphire is a sapphire. As a human is homo sapiens, so a sapphire is corundum.
Now put it all together. Corundum comes is all the colors of the rainbow. Every color of corundum is commonly known by it's color and "sapphire." So, yellow corundum is yellow sapphire. All the different kinds of sapphires, the different "varieties", are the "family" of sapphire.
And, the other amazing thing about sapphire is they are one of the only five families of gems that can exhibit "asterism" - a star!
There's one exception. Red corundum is commonly known as ruby.
Now you know...
Africa. Actually, Zambia to be specific. There's an area in Africa that's considered the candy store of the gem world, the Umba Valley located in Tanzania, Zambia's neighbor. Amethyst from Zambia is some of the best in the world.
Looking at an amethyst it's not that easy for professionals to determine location but there can be clues, like the deep rich color saturation that is usually found in Zambian amethyst.
Saturation is sometimes referred to as "Look how much color is packed into that stone!" And now you know!
The difference between good and not so good gemstone beads are the same criteria as with traditional gemstone shapes...the cut and the qualities of the color.
The cut is something to be careful of, really careful. Take a look at the drill hole, how smooth is it? If it's ragged it's going to chew up your silk and you'll be restringing your strand frequently. That, or have it strung on wire. If the beads are pear shape, how well do the shapes match, are the tips in one piece or broken off? How uniform are the beads? Hold them up to the light...do they sparkle? Hold them down without much light, can you still see that they're definitely purple?
Color. First, the intensity of the color depends upon you...would you like them like or dark or somewhere in between? As far as quality (and value), what's true for amethyst is true for all gems: the darker the color MAINTAINING CLARITY AND BRILLIANCE the better. It's no use if the beads are dark and you can't see that they're purple. How about inclusions...unless it's a less expensive strand, amethyst shouldn't have much if any inclusions. Hold them up to the light...how uniform is the color and clarity?
Last...ask if the beads have been treated. If they have, there's a good chance the color will fade over time.
So many January babies say "UGH!" I hate my birthstone but January's birthstone, garnet, is truly amazing! There are so many varieties of garnet and one of them is more rare and valuable than diamond. WHAT?!?!?! It's true. OK, let's back up and start from the beginning....
Garnet is a family name. Think of birds... birds come in many visual color patterns but they're all birds. Any gemstone is what it is because of it's chemistry, but they don't necessarily LOOK alike. It took the advance of science to be able to accurately identify gemstones. Before that, gem dealers relied on the scratch test. I digress....back to garnets more about the scratch test in another blog.
So, garnets are found around the world and depending on "secondary modifying" agents the colors will vary. There's the typical brick brown red that isn't particularly well liked but there's also a beautiful vibrant red with purple undertones named rhodolite garnet. There's an equally beautiful yellow, an orange, and three different green garnets. One of the green garnets is demantoid garnet...a gem quality large specimen is more rare and valuable than diamond. Because demantoid has the same sparkle factor (refractive index) as diamond, for many decades it was mistakenly identified as green diamond.