Beauty. Rarity. Durability. These attributes attract us to coloured gemstones for personal adornment and make gemstones valuable and precious. coloured gemstones provide the opportunity for uniquely personal expression.
Most coloured gemstones derive their beauty from their colour – purples, blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds. In certain coloured gemstones colour occurs naturally. Satisfying hues are intrinsic in some garnets, for example. In other coloured gemstones, the final colour occurs with assistance. For nearly as long as people have worn rubies, we have known how to treat a rough ruby with heat to obtain a desirable red colour. Not all rubies are heat treated, but the vast majority are.
Gem cutters work to achieve a pleasing and affordable mix of colour, weight (measured in carats), and a safe shape for mounting. During creation, a gemstone’s size is constrained by nature. For example, while large and beautiful amethysts are readily available, an alexandrite of large size is extremely rare.
Sparkle adds to the beauty of a well-cut coloured gemstone. The cut of a coloured gemstone describes its shape and how it is fashioned.
Some gemstones, such as opal, are suited to a smooth, rounded surface. Others, such as sapphire, are more frequently shaped with a precise series of flat, symmetrical planes, called facets, which make the most pleasing illumination of the gem’s colour. Some cutters today may also use convex or concave facets, shaping coloured gemstone like small sculptures.
The clarity of coloured gemstones contributes to their beauty. Unless a gemstone is opaque and blocks all light, how light moves through the gemstone affects its beauty. Some gemstones have few internal inclusions to interrupt the passage of light. Others have characteristic inclusions. For example, some emerald has a ‘Jardine’ (garden), which makes each gem truly unique.
Across time and cultures, people have adorned themselves with rare gem materials. From pearls and corals plucked from the seas, to bright coloured pebbles found in the soils settling at the mouths of rivers; from the collection of gemstones mounted in the breastplate of Aaron as accounted in ancient scripture, to the historic gemstones mounted in the crown jewels of European monarchs, we let ourselves be known through the gemstones we choose to wear. These gemstones are precious because they are rare.
Because of their rarity, gemstones in which colour is naturally occurring are generally more valuable. Many gemstones are treated or enhanced in some way, such as with heat or safe irradiation, to achieve the beautiful colours or clarity we desire in the sizes we desire. These gems, which are less rare, can also be very valuable.
Some jewellers make synthetic coloured gemstones available. Synthetic coloured gemstones have all the optical, physical and chemical properties of naturally occurring gemstones, but they are created in a laboratory rather than occurring in nature. For some budgets, these synthetic materials are an acceptable choice.
A gemstone’s ability to be fashioned, mounted and worn is a function of how durable it is – a matter of both hardness and toughness. Some gemstones, such as sapphire, ruby and garnet, are well-suited to an active daily life and work well in rings, bracelets or cufflinks.
Others, such as emeralds, pearls and opals call for earring or necklace mountings to keep them beautifully displayed but out of harm’s way.
Buying Coloured Gemstone jewellery
When buying coloured gemstone jewellery, select what you consider beautiful. Because of the subtle differences in the tone and hue of the coloured gemstone you are considering, look at several to find the one you prefer. Some jewellers offer loose coloured gemstones and are able to help you create a personalized mounting. You may prefer to buy a finished jewellery item. Discuss how you see yourself wearing the piece so that your jeweller can help you select mountings consistent with your lifestyle. This will provide the best safeguard for your purchase.
You have the right to know what you are buying, whether yours is a natural gemstone, an enhanced or treated gemstone, or a synthetic gemstone.
To give you the information you need, many jewellers provide written notice at the time you buy a gemstone by way of a note or code explaining your purchase. This information is written or stamped on the invoice or on an information card enclosed with your purchase. Be sure that the meaning of any code is clear to you. It is important to obtain this information prior to leaving the store, because it affects your purchase price and will also affect future cleaning and repair as well as replacement of an insured loss.
Caring for Your Coloured Gemstone jewellery
As is true of all precious items, care extends the life of the jewellery and your pleasure in wearing it. A few pointers follow:
Put on jewellery, especially cultured pearls, after you apply makeup, perfume or cologne.
Remove jewellery before heavy yard work, home cleaning chores, working on heavy equipment or relaxing in a pool or spa (especially if you are in chlorine regularly).
After removing jewellery, wipe it gently with a soft cloth to remove residues of the day. Store items in a jewellery case or soft cloth so that they do not touch each other. This avoids the potential of harder gemstones scratching softer ones.
Discuss your potential insurance needs with your jeweller or home insurance agent.
Discuss how to clean your jewellery with your jeweller. Avoid home cleaning solutions, including home ultrasonics, unless you are sure the item is suitable for home cleaning. Some jewellery is suited to home cleaning with a mild soap solution and a soft brush. Always rinse and dry your jewellery thoroughly after cleaning and before storage.
Ask your jeweller to clean your jewellery every six months.
Twelve-Month Security Check
At least once a year, ask your jeweller to check the security of your jewellery. Are the prongs holding your gemstone secure? Is the clasp secure? Do the cultured pearls need to be restrung? Does the ring still fit securely or does it need to be resized? During this check, your jeweller might also recommend a re-polishing of the gemstone itself in order to restore the gem’s original beauty.
Where to Buy Coloured Gemstone jewellery
To make sure you have jewellery that you will be happy with now and for years to come, follow this simple rule: buy from a professional jeweller, someone you can trust. Choose a retailer who has been serving the community for a number of years and has an established reputation.
Ask if the jeweller is a member of Association of Fine Jewellers, the national association for retail jewellers. Or look for the Association of Fine Jewellers logo on the door. Association of Fine Jewellers jewellers are knowledgeable and they have a wide selection that will make selecting your coloured gemstone jewellery a pleasure. Your Association of Fine Jewellers jeweller will not only help you with this purchase, but will also help with all your future jewellery needs, including repairs, custom design or answering questions which you may have about jewellery. Association of Fine Jewellers members have signed and abide by a Code of Ethics, so you can buy with confidence from your Association of Fine Jewellers member jeweller.