All posts by RareSource

Opal & Tourmaline

Opals & Tourmalines, Ranging from 1 – 26ct

Celebrating October’s Birthstones

Opal and Tourmaline give jewelers the opportunity to play with color in countless and unique ways. What makes them both truly remarkable is that Tourmaline and Opal are found in almost every color of our visible spectrum, from colorless to yellow, orange, pink, red, green, teal, blue, purple, violet, brown, gray, black and many more vivid and phenomenal colors

7ct Opal

Black opal in Lightning Ridge, Australia, formed millions of years ago after a shallow inland sea evaporated, leaving behind a compact structure of silica-rich spheres in small voids and crevices, and often replacing other organic substances that, over time, hardened into opals. Opal’s play-of-color is a result of light being split into the various spectral colors as it is forced to reflect and refract within the spaces between the spheres. Red colors are the result of smaller and more compact spheres, while the blue end is a result of larger silica spheres

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Image of Silica Spheres in Opal

Opal has been discovered in martian meteorites and mineral deposits which appear to be opal have been found on the red planet by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Because the formation of opal is so closely tied to water, these and other discoveries suggest that frozen water could be found on Mars

Edward holding Martian Rock containing miniature Diamond Crystals and evidence of H2O – Smithsonian Institute, Meteorite Division

95% of opals are mined in Australia, though it can also be found in locales such as Brazil, Mexico and Ethiopia. Highly sought-after black opal, containing trace elements of iron oxide and carbon, is mined in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia 

The presence of opals in Australia is so great that Aboriginal people from across the continent tell many legends of its origin. One such tale describes the Creator traveling to Earth along the path of a rainbow to bring a message of peace. The moment His foot reaches the ground, His footsteps are hardened into a rainbow stone, and opal is born

24ct Opal

The origin of the word Opal is uncertain, but it likely comes from either the Sanskrit word Upala, meaning “valuable stone”, the Greek word Opallios, meaning “to see a change of color” or the Roman word Opalus, meaning “precious stone”

32ct Liddicoatite Tourmaline 
Named in honor of Mr. Richard T. Liddicoat, former president of GIA
Photo by R. Weldon, RareSource Private Collection

Although it was introduced to Europeans in the 1700’s, Tourmaline was mistaken for other stones for centuries before finally being recognized as a separate gem. In ancient Egyptian lore, tourmaline voyaged from the center of the Earth towards the sun, absorbing the colors of the rainbow along which it traveled

Tourmaline is known as the Muse’s stone, and is said to assist in the creative flow of artists across many mediums

Liddicoatite Slice from Finaratsoa, Madagascar- 11.8cm x 10.4cm
Photo by J. Scovil, RareSource Private Collection
5ct Chrome Tourmaline from Landanai Mine, Tanzania

Tourmaline contains pyro-electric properties. The Dutch discovered tourmaline’s ability to attract dust and ash when heated (causing polarization). The long, slender crystals were used to clean their meerschaum pipes by drawing out the ashes

Today this property, creating strong polarity, is used in hair styling tools

Tourmalines also have a piezoelectric effect that was first applied in underwater sonar systems and ultrasound technology
during the second world war

Edward standing in a Tourmaline pegmatite pocket at the Cruzeiro Mine with renowned Brazilian geologist/miner Odulio Moura

The Cruzeiro Mine has been commercially operational since the 1940’s when the US mined mica there during WWII for electronic components. Since the 1950’s, it has produced fine quality rubellite, indicolite, bi-color and emerald green tourmalines 

Edward standing next to the “Rocket” Rubellite Crystal which, at more than 3.5 feet is believed to be the largest rubellite crystal ever found – Tucson International Gem & Mineral Show, 2018
61ct Cuprian “Paraiba-type” Tourmaline

This 61ct Cuprian “Paraiba-type” Tourmaline is one of the largest to have ever been cut. It’s country of origin is known by those who mined, cut, and brokered its first transaction to an international gem merchant. However, determining its geographic origin can be difficult if that information doesn’t pass on to the next gem merchant, new cutter, jewelry designer, jewelry manufacturer, or retailer.

This particular gem has two laboratory reports with differing opinions about its country-of-origin; one stating that it is from Mozambique and the other stating that it is from Nigeria and a “Classic” example of that locality

Gemological Laboratories that issue country-of-origin reports are at a disadvantage because they do not have first-hand reliable knowledge of where the original gem crystal or rough was found. They are, however, with the aid of extremely well-trained gemologists coupled with specialized and advanced testing equipment, able to provide a relatively accurate opinion of where or at least within what type of geological formation a particular gem may have originated. Adding to the complexity of this challenge is that many gems, as well as diamonds, are often found in secondary eluvial deposits, meaning that they were deposited close to where they formed but in heavily altered host rock or in alluvial deposits where they have been transported by ancient rivers and streams to placers up to hundreds of miles away from where they originally formed. In the case of diamonds, all are formed within the Earth’s upper mantle at a depth of 100km or more below the surface of the earth and transported by kimberlitic magmatic intrusives through the Earth’s crust where we can discover them for our adornment and technological use

Tourmaline ranges dramatically in demand and value, and the most desired are Paraiba tourmalines from Batalha, Rio Grande do Norte and Minas Gerais in Brazil.  A relative newcomer in the gemstone world, these brilliant blue and green elbaite tourmalines were discovered in the late 1980’s.  Because of their scarcity and electric colors, caused by trace amounts of copper and manganese, they are now one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. Digital Ledgers like blockchain would provide a much more accurate and reliable method of passing vital information about a particular gem downstream, which would also make it easier for Gemological laboratories to provide more confident and consistent origin determinations 

SAPPHIRE

10ct Blue Sapphire from Madagascar

Celebrating September’s Birthstone

Sapphire has held an unwavering place at the top of gemstone hierarchy since ancient times. Considered a “royal gem”, sapphire was historically reserved for royalty and high priests, who wore them to protect themselves against harm and envy or attract favor. According to Persian legend, the Earth rested atop a great sapphire, the reflection of which gave the sky its  blue color

4ct Pink Sapphire

The word sapphire was derived from the latin “saphirus” and the greek “sapheiros”, both meaning blue, and usually conjures an image of a blue gemstone. However, in its pure form, corundum is colorless, and trace elements of iron, titanium and chromium produce colors across the color spectrum

6ct Sapphire from Kashmir

The finest sapphires from Burma, Sri Lanka and Madagascar formed through metamorphic processes in altered shales, gneisses and limestones, while those from Kashmir formed in pegmatites. Kashmir sapphires are praised for their velvety blue color which is caused by minute inclusions that disperse light throughout the stone

Most sapphires are found in secondary gem-bearing river gravels, known in Sri Lanka as “illam” and in Burma as “byon”. Above is a typical wicker basket used to sift these gravels, allowing for the denser gem material to remain in the basket

Sapphire forms in hexagonal dipyramidal crystals, as seen above

Sapphire and ruby are varieties of corundum, which is derived from the Sanskrit word kurivinda, and the Tamil-Dravidian kurundum, meaning ruby. The Sanskrit word for sapphire is shanipriya, meaning “dear to Saturn”. Many believe that wearing sapphires brings healing and positive energy

Sapphires exhibit two distinct colors, known as pleochroism, thereby requiring highly-skilled cutters to blend the colors and minimize color-zoning. Gem padparadscha sapphires are skillfully faceted to blend the pink and orange hues associated with the lotus flower, a sunrise or sunset

Gem Cutters in Sri Lanka
9ct Blue Sapphire from Madagascar

Famous blue sapphire engagement rings have sparked trends in similar styles for years. Notable examples are Napoleon Bonaparte’s Toi et Moi diamond and sapphirering upon his engagement to Josephine, Lady Diana Spencer’s (and later Kate Middleton’s) 12ct sapphire ring, and Carole Lombard’s 150ct star sapphire ring from William Powell in 1931 

18ct Star Sapphire from Burma 
Photo by R. Weldon

Star sapphires were very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s among Hollywood starlets. Bombay Sapphire gin was actually named for the “Star of Bombay”, a 60ct star sapphire belonging to Mary Pickford before she donated it to the Smithsonian Institute upon her death. Other leading ladies known for their star sapphires include Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy

SPINEL & PERIDOT

Spinel & Peridot (5-21ct)

Celebrating August’s Birthstones

August’s birthstones, spinel and peridot, have both been famously misidentified throughout history. Many well-known and coveted rubies, like the Black Prince’s Ruby and the Timur Ruby, are now known to be spinel. It is likely that, without spinel, rubies would not have reached the popularity or prestige that they enjoy today. In the same way, many of the “emeralds” in Cleopatra’s collection, as well as “emeralds” decorating the shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, are, in fact, peridot

14ct & 7ct Peridot Gems with Peridot Rough 

Peridot symbolizes strength, and was worn by the Egyptians to ward off evil. In ancient times, peridot was known as chrysolite, the “gem of the sun”, and in more recent years has been referred to as the “evening emerald” because it’s electric green color remains strong in dim lighting

Throughout history, the island of Topázios, now Zabargad, has been a primary source of peridot. The name topaz was originally applied to all yellow to greenish-yellow gems. Topaz and peridot are both members of the orthorhombic crystal system, adding to the early confusion. The name peridot likely stems from the Arabic word “faridat”, meaning gem

Burmese Peridot Crystal
Photo courtesy of Federico Barlocher

Along with diamond, peridot is one of only two gems that can form in the Earth’s mantle rather than the crust. It is often transported
to the surface within volcanic basalts

Edward in a Peridot Mine in Bernardmyo, Mogok Township, Burma

Peridot is the magnesium-rich gemstone variety of the olivine group, and its color can be influenced by trace amounts of iron. It has been found on all continents, including Antarctica (in volcanic basalts, from Ross Island), and it is also occasionally found in meteorites (pallasite), although rarely gem-quality. The primary sources for gem-quality peridot are Burma, Pakistan, United States and China 

5ct Red Spinel & Pink Spinel Octahedrons from Burma

Spinel forms in octahedrons, and is a member of the cubic crystal system. The Latin word “spina”, meaning thorn, is likely to be the origin of the name spinel, referring to the shape of the crystals. In Burma, transparent and well-formed spinel octahedrons are referred to as Nat Thwe, meaning “angel cut”, because their nearly perfect shape and glassy surface hints that celestial beings must have played a part in their formation  

4-6ct Purple Spinel from Afghanistan
Spinel, Mahenge 10.81

Spinel has been mistaken for corundum throughout history because it is found in similar colors and many of the same localities. Its lore is connected to that of ruby and other red gems, which symbolize passion, strength, nobility, loyalty and spiritual wisdom. In Marco Polo’s 13th century travel log, known as The Travels of Marco Polo, Marvels of the World, he refers to “Balas Rubies”, coming from the region of Badakhshan along the Silk Road, connecting China with the west. Today, we know that these ruby-red gems were actually spinels

Edward with Werner Spaltenstein en route to Mahenge, Tanzania
Ipanko Spinel Mines near Mahenge, Tanzania

Because of spinel’s cubic structure, 4-ray star spinels are much more common than 6-ray stars like those featured above

6ct Color-Change Cobalt Spinel from Vietnam

Color-change spinel is more rare than color-change sapphire, making it a highly sought-after gem amongst collectors and connoisseurs

Watch this short overview of Rough and Cut spinel by Edward at GIA

RUBY

6ct Unheated Sri Lankan Ruby

Celebrating July’s Birthstone

Ruby has long been associated with the Sanskrit word Ratnarāj, meaning “king of gems”, and has been admired and sought after by royalty, celebrities and collectors throughout history

When Queen Elizabeth II was married in 1947, she was gifted a ruby necklace by the people of Burma. In 1973, Garrard & Co. set 96 fine rubies from the necklace into an iconic tiara. She named this diadem the Burmese Ruby Tiara to honor the generosity of the people of Burma (now Myanmar)

In the 1920’s and 30’s, star rubies and sapphires were very popular amongst the Hollywood elite. The “Star of Burma”, an 83ct cabochon cut star ruby, had a starring role in three 1937 films: Hollywood HotelManhattan Merry-Go-Round and Vogues of 1938, where it was set in a deco bracelet by Trabert & Hoeffer (Mauboussin). These appearances played their part in making it as famous as the actresses it adorned
 Elizabeth Taylor’s vast jewelry collection is known throughout the world, and ruby was one of her favorite gemstones. While on vacation in the Côte d’Azur in 1957, her husband Mike Todd gifted her with a breathtaking ruby and diamond necklace, earring and bracelet set from Cartier. Todd died tragically in a plane crash just one year later. In 1968, her then-husband Richard Burton gave her an 8.25ct ruby and diamond ring by Van Cleef & Arpels for Christmas. Her jewelry collection was sent to auction at Christie’s in 2011, where the 8.25ct ruby and diamond ring sold for $4.22 million, and the ruby and diamond necklace sold for $3.7 million

This short video captures Elizabeth Taylor’s excitement the moment she received
 the Cartier ruby and diamond suite from her husband, Mike Todd, in 1957
6ct Unheated Burmese Ruby

Notable Ruby Auction Results:

  • 2012 – 32.08ct “Hope Ruby” sold for $6.74 million
  • 2012 – 173.09ct total weight, JAR Ruby Flower Brooch sold for $4.5 million
  • 2014 – 8.62ct “Graff Ruby” sold for $8.6 million
  • 2015 – 25.59ct “Sunrise Ruby” sold for $30.3 million
  • 2015 – 15.04ct “Crimson Flame Ruby” sold for $18.3 million
  • 2015 – 48=120ct Etcetera Ruby & Diamond Necklace (rubies ranging from 1-7ct) sold for $13 million
  • 2016 – 15.99ct “Jubilee Ruby” sold for $14.1 million
  • 2016 – 10.05ct “Ratnaraj Ruby” sold for $10.2 million
  • 2017 – 15.03ct Unnamed Ruby sold for $13 million
  • 2019 – 11.20ct “Dupont Ruby” sold for $8.95 million
7ct Unheated Burmese Ruby with Crystals on Matrix

Photo by J. Scovil

The mines in Mogok are still officially closed, so production continues to be minimal, and therefore, prices have remained strong. In contrast, production at the Monte Puez ruby deposit in Mozambique is still producing considerable supply, meeting much of the global demand. Smaller deposits in Vietnam, Tanzania, Madagascar and Afghanistan have had limited production, particularly in recent months, due to health concerns 

179ct Burmese Ruby Crystal

Mineral collectors and museums value crystals like this specimen from Burma, making it worth more as a mineral specimen than the faceted gems it would yield
5ct Unheated Ruby with Crystal on Matrix

Featured in Gems & Gemology: Special Geographic Origin Issue
Winter 2019, Page 461
Photo by R. Weldon

TRAVEL YEARNINGS

This has been the longest stretch of time I’ve spent without setting foot on an airplane in the last 30 years of my life… This period has had me reminiscing and cleaning out the office a bit.  As we were editing files and purging our cabinets, I came across these early travel photos of my first trip to Tanzania in 1991. The world was a different place and travel was easier in many ways. This was pre 9/11, pre SARS, pre H1N1, pre CORONA, it felt free… like the world was mine to navigate. 

As a 25 year-old man on a mission to collect gem samples for the Gübelin Gemological Laboratory, I was filled with energy and excitement for the opportunity to visit several different mining locales. In Landanai, on our way to see the chrome tourmaline mine, we came across two young miners who persuaded me to follow them to their rhodolite garnet mine. We entered the mine using only the light from the flame of their homemade oil lamp. Entering the mine, I quickly became aware that we would be climbing about 30 feet down a set of alternating rock ledges, or shelves. As we continued, we came to the end of a short tunnel, where we were only able to dig for 10 minutes or so before the lack of oxygen extinguished our lamp. Luckily, I had a battery operated flashlight and we were able to climb our way back out. We found only very poor quality rhodolite nodules in the mine, but were able to buy a few nicer pieces from the miners. As we journeyed to the main Landanai mine, a tower of giraffes greeted us along the dusty path, providing a perfect photo opportunity with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background competing for stardom.

The next duo of photos is of the terrain and earthly findings of the Landanai mine, showing the weathered pegmatite on the left and rich green chrome tourmaline crystals in matrix on the right.

The camp was crafted of several typical mud-walled bush houses, surrounded by sparse vegetation and free range chickens, one of which was masterfully prepared by the cook and camp mother sitting to my right in the kitchen hut. 

A few days later, we visited what were then called Blocks A, B and D of the tanzanite mine in Merelani. These areas were not officially open to visitors, but we managed to gain access since we were there as gemologists collecting samples and documenting the mining process.

In the above photo, you can see the numerous tin roofs covering independent mine shafts in Block D. In the background is Block C, which is where mining giant, Tanzanite One, had its concession for many years. Following in the next two photos are typical independent small-scale mine shafts in Block D with a motorized lift for transporting miners, tailings and gem material.

Meeting the people was a true highlight of the trip, and learning about their days, their mining methods and sharing experiences enriched my soul. The knowledge I gained helped me understand some of the challenges they face; from something as simple as the mine foreman using a flashlight strapped to his head as his mining light, which prompted me, on my next trip there, to bring mining lights to give to the miners. Our ease of life and access to supplies kept me from realizing that the miniature batteries required to operate the small, lightweight lamps weren’t readily available near most mining areas. Now I bring replacement batteries, which are probably more valuable than the lights themselves. The miners are an incredibly resourceful crew and can make many of the items they need, as evidenced by the photo of an enterprising miner using a modified bicycle to power a tool sharpener. 

During my visit, several miners and dealers showed me rough samples of a newly discovered, unknown green gem. Due to its trichroic colors, readily visible using a dichroscope, I suspected that it might be zoisite. This was further supported when I visited renowned gem dealer and author, Dr. N.R. Barot, in Nairobi, who had collected and cut various colors of zoisite, including some greenish colors that strongly resembled the material I had seen at the mines in Merelani and with dealers in Arusha. When I returned to the Gübelin Lab with the rough and cut stones I had collected, advanced testing confirmed our suspicions that this new green variety of zoisite was indeed tanzanite. Dr. Barot and I then co-authored an article on the new, gem quality green zoisite that was published in the Spring, 1992 edition of Gems and Gemology.

I have savored my moments at home, in my office and with my family, but I look forward to traveling again soon and feeling that same anticipation of the unknown, the fresh find, and new adventures. 

– Edward 

GARNET

23ct Rhodolite, 20ct Tsavorite and 32ct Spessartite Garnets
Photo by: Mark Mauthner

The name “garnet” is derived from the Latin “granatus”, referring to the resemblance garnet crystals share with pomegranate seeds

Garnet has a history of appreciation dating back thousands of years, from the time of the Egyptian pharaohs to the Greco-Roman period and through the Middle Ages. It was one of the most favored gems of religious, political and social leaders to signify status

The garnet group of gems is made up of the end-members pyrope, almandite, spessartite, grossular and andradite

Deep red Bohemian pyrope garnets, discovered in the early 16th century, helped increase availability of garnet for the middle class, and thus made it a more mainstream gem until the late 1800’s

Fun Fact: the word “pyrope” stems from the Greek words meaning “fire eye”

40.66ct Rhodolite from Tanzania
Photo by: Robert Weldon

Rhodolite garnets are a pyrope-almandine mixture that range in color from purple to purplish-red. This 40.66ct purple rhodolite from Tanga, Tanzania, is an extremely large example of this material

Grossular Garnet Rough and Cut
Photo by: Jeff Scovil

Garnet has a high to very high refractive index range, from pyrope and grossular at approx ~1.74 to rhodolite at ~1.76 to spessartite at ~1.80 and andradite at ~1.88. Gemologists use refractive index, specific gravity, absorption spectra and inclusions to differentiate garnet’s end-members and varieties

8ct Tsavorite
Photo by: Robert Weldon

Tsavorite is the rich green variety of grossular garnet discovered by Campbell Bridges in 1967 in Tanzania, and again 3 years later in Kenya

Demantoid Garnets from Ural Mountains in Russia
Photo by: Robert Weldon

Andradite garnets range in color from brown to the vivid green of highly sought after Russian demantoids. The cause of this vivid green color is due to trace amounts of chromium, while iron gives it a more yellowish appearance. The discovery of Russian demantoid garnet in 1854 added an exciting new color variety to the garnet family, which designers eagerly embraced. The initial source was quickly depleted but left a lasting mark on the industry that allowed for its resurgence when material reentered the market after the Cold War. Today, commercial quantities of demantoid are available from Russia, Namibia and Madagascar

Fun Fact: Andradite’s dispersion is 0.057, which is higher than that of a diamond at 0.044

Demantoid Crystal in Matrix
Photo by: Jeff Scovil

Garnets typically form under metamorphic or metasomatic conditions in which preexisting igneous or sedimentary rocks are altered by heat and pressure due to tectonic forces or contact with an igneous intrusion

Red hessonites (above right), a variety of grossular, enjoyed increased production in recent years from Southern Sri Lanka, providing a more affordable alternative to red spessartite

Spessartite Garnet Crystals and Gems from Tanzania & Nigeria
Photo by: Jeff Scovil

Gem quality spessartite crystals are found within metamorphosed schists. These crystals occur as euhedral or subhedral rhombic dodecahedrons (24 faces) which can sometimes look almost spherical

Namibian “Mandarin” Spessartites ranging from 0.92ct to 10.25ct

These vivid orange spessartites are extremely rare, usually occurring in sizes less than one carat. They were discovered by a farmer in 1992 along the Namibian border with Angola. The cause of this remarkable color is Manganese

12.18ct Malaia Garnet

Malaia garnets are a pyrope-spessartine mixture that often exhibit a color shift or even a color change, like the gem above. Recent increase in supply from Tanzania and Madagascar has helped make this a popular garnet in contemporary jewelry design

33.63ct Rainbow Garnet

Rainbow garnet from Alamos Mexico, New Mexico and Japan exhibits a play of color due to an outer layer of growth that creates diffraction grating-like interference colors

A new variety of garnet was discovered in Mali, West Africa, in 1994. Grossular-andradite, known in the trade as “Grandite Garnet” or “Mali Garnet”, has a chemical composition of (Ca,Fe)3Al2(Si04)3 and a refractive index range of 1.752 – 1.782. The color of most of the material ranges from yellowish-green to rich green to brown

Click below to see the Gems & Gemology, Fall 1995, article co-authored by Edward Boehm

Gem-Quality Grossular Andradite: A New Garnet From Mali

TANZANITE

Violetish-Blue and Green Tanzanite (11 – 23ct)
Photo by Robert Weldon

Celebrating December’s Birthstone

Maasai traditions associate the color blue with new life, so it is only fitting that tanzanite, a stone discovered by Maasai herders in 1967, is the traditional gift for new mothers. It is, truly, the ultimate Birthstone.

A relative newcomer to the gem world, tanzanite has made a lasting mark on the jewelry industry. Mined only in one small area of a few kilometers in the Merelani hills, approximately 70 km Southeast of Arusha and Northwest of Mount Kilimanjaro, this rare stone is coveted by collectors and jewelers alike.

The rarest color of tanzanite is green, colored by trace amounts of chromium. Discovered in 1991, the local miners called it “combat”
because of its yellowish-green to bluish-green color. It is still considered one of the most collectable gems from Tanzania.

Read more about green tanzanite in this article by Edward Boehm and Dr. Barot – Gems and Gemology, Spring 1992

Maasai Warriors

Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 when wildfires engulfed the Merelani hills at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, naturally heat treating the material and exposing their striking blue-violet color.  A group of Maasai herders saw the exquisite stones and reported their findings to Portuguese geologist, Manuel D’Souza, who introduced this new discovery to the western world.

Tanzanite and Tsavorite Crystals
6ct Blue Tanzanite

Tanzanite’s strong pleochroism causes it to display a multitude of colors, primarily blue and violet. Depending on the lighting, a single gem can present as blue, violet and burgundy. This is due to the trace amounts of vanadium and/or chromium present during its formation. As with many gems, larger stones tend to appear in a deeper color than their small counterparts.

Independent artisanal miners in Block D 

Most tanzanite has to be heated to improve its color, which reduces or removes its reddish brown properties or improves color saturation.  Recently, natural color material has gained favor because of the strong pleochroic colors that can be manifested through skillful cutting.

8ct Pink Tanzanite

TOPAZ

9.30ct Red Topaz

Like ruby, precious topaz gets its color from trace amounts of chromium (Cr+3). There are two theories as to how topaz derived its name. Some say it is named for the island of Topazios in the Red Sea, which historically produced peridot, while others believe it comes from the Sanskrit word tapaz or topas, meaning “fire”

Ancient Egyptians believed that topaz was colored by the golden glow of the sun god Ra.  Ancient Romans associated the stone with Jupiter, also god of the sun.  These myths were likely fueled by the gem’s array of fiery hues

8.24ct Pink Topaz from Brazil
RareSource selection of pink to red topaz ranging from 9.06ct – 24.04ct

The color most often associated with topaz is yellow, but it is actually found in orange, brown, red, blue, pink, violet, and colorless as well. Until geologists started identifying differences in mineral specimens about 200 years ago, all yellow and golden gemstones were labeled as topaz

Imperial topaz was named after nineteenth century Imperial Russia, and was so rare and beautiful that ownership of the gem was only granted to the royal family and those fortunate enough to receive it as a gift from the Czar

Washing for gem topaz at the Bela Vista Mine, Ouro Preto, Brazil
Photo Credit: Sergio Castro

Topaz formed in hydrothermal veins and is found in heavily altered schist that has turned into lateritic clay.

Waterworn Red Topaz Crystal Rough
Photo Credit: Sergio Castro

The Capão do Lana Mine, just outside of the village of Rodrigo Silva in Minas Gerais, Brazil, once produced the largest amount of imperial topaz worldwide. Mineral deposits were first recorded by the Portuguese in this location in 1751, and in 1768, they were discovered to contain topaz. The Capão Mine recently stopped operating but the Vermelhão, Dom Bosco, Boa Vista and Bela Vista are still producing. Read more about Brazilian Topaz in this article by Edward

See the amazing 48.86ct “Whitney Flame” red topaz in the Gem Hall of the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC

TOURMALINE

32.44ct Liddicoatite Tourmaline named in honor of Mr. Richard T. Liddicoat, former president of GIA
Photo by R. Weldon

Introduced to Europeans in the 1700’s, Tourmaline became known as the Muse’s stone and is said to assist in the creative flow of artists across many mediums

44.39ct Bi-Color Tourmaline

Fun Facts
Tourmaline contains pyro-electric properties. The Dutch discovered tourmaline’s ability to attract dust and ash when heated, and used the long, slender crystals to clean their meerschaum pipes by drawing out the ashes

Today this property, creating strong polarity, is used in hair styling tools

Tourmalines also have a piezoelectric effect that was first applied in underwater sonar systems and ultrasound technology
during the second world war

Teal Tourmaline 2.39ct – 9.44ct

Colors
 Tourmaline’s strong pleochroism, which means that the color appears differently based on the direction in which it is viewed, requires great skill in cutting to optimize the face-up color

Renewed artisanal mining activity in the Araçuai-Salinas district (made famous in the 1970’s and 1980’s) is producing unique colors as seen above

Rubellite Tourmalines from the Cruzeiro Mine 2.82ct – 14.14ct

Mining
The Cruzeiro Mine has been commercially operational since the 1940’s when the US mined mica there during WWII for electronic components.  Since the 1950’s, it has produced fine quality rubellite, indicolite, bi-color and emerald green tourmalines 

Edward standing in a Tourmaline pegmatite pocket at the Cruzeiro Mine with renowned Brazilian geologist/miner Odulio Moura
4.49ct and 3.29ct Paraiba Tourmalines
Photo by R. Weldon

Paraiba
Tourmaline ranges dramatically in demand and value, and the most desired is the Paraiba tourmaline from Paraiba, Brazil.  A relative newcomer in the gemstone world, these brilliant blue and green elbaite tourmalines were discovered in the late 1980’s.  Because of their scarcity and electric colors, caused by trace amounts of copper and manganese, they are now one of the most coveted gemstones in the world