Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Spring 2014, Vol. 50, No. 1

More of the Interesting and Unusual – Tucson 2014

Emerald crystal with multi-phase inclusion
Figure 1. This emerald crystal, reportedly from Muzo, Colombia, is approximately 35 mm long and contains an eye-visible multi-phase inclusion. The gas bubble within the inclusion moves a few millimeters as the crystal is tilted. Photo by Duncan Pay, courtesy of William Johnson, Natural Formations.

Some of the most captivating Tucson exhibits were among the hardest to categorize, although many could be described as phenomenal. From asterism and opalescence to bold and bright patterns, Tucson attendees encountered an abundance of fascinating and unique finds this year.

Gary Sommer
Consilio Designs, LLC
The array of bright colors seen in Taiwanese “seven-color jade” comes from serpentine and actinolite within the stone.

Gary Sommer of Consilio Designs, purveyor of “seven-color jade” out of Taiwan, says that each of his decorative pieces is different, and customers tend to get overwhelmed because they like every one they see. The tough and glossy pieces, from vases to tables, are splashed with bright color, a look Sommer says is caused by serpentine and actinolite in the mix. The one-of-a-kind items are manufactured in Taipei.

Dmitriy Belakovskiy
Exotic Minerals of Russia
Key concepts of synthetic quartz growth include an understanding of crystallography and the use of seed crystals in an autoclave.

Trace elements like iron and cobalt, combined with high pressure and high temperature in an autoclave, produce brand-new crystals in vivid colors from Dmitriy Belakovskiy’s Exotic Minerals of Russia. The New Jersey company grows synthetic crystals from natural rough that are both beautiful and useful.

Belakovskiy is curator of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow; Exotic Minerals of Russia, his side business, sells Russia-grown synthetic quartz, synthetic diamonds, and synthetic moissanite. His most interesting specimens show the result of synthetic quartz growth on natural quartzite: The regeneration of broken natural quartz crystals with synthetic tips produces a result that bears a strong resemblance to natural quartz.

However, Belakovskiy emphasizes that synthetic quartz can be distinguished from natural by its lack of horizontal striations perpendicular to the c-axis. These striations are always present in natural quartz.

In addition to sharing his unique creations and their genesis, Belakovskiy sheds light on the relationship of the seed plate used to initiate and control growth and the finished synthetic crystal. According to Belakovskiy, natural quartz seeds produce clear synthetic crystals with fewer defects.

Jim Bushnell
Pyramid Peaks Gems
A lapidary reveals how to spot star and cat’s-eye effects in rose quartz rough and orient the material to best display these phenomena.

Colorado Springs company Pyramid Peaks Gems brings asteriated rose quartz to market, which conceals its winking stars and eyes within cloudy rough. Cutting to reveal the hidden phenomenon to its best advantage takes a lot of practice, according to owner Jim Bushnell.

Artur F. Silva Jr.
AFS Gems
Through a combination of heat and irradiation, a Brazilian company is producing treated quartz with “kunzite” or “strawberry” colors that are completely stable.

Out of Minas Gerais, Brazil, come two types of treated quartz offered by Artur F. Silva Jr. of AFS Gems. A heated, irradiated quartz in a lilac hue reminiscent of kunzite holds its color well and shows either a milky quality or an opalescent effect when polished. Silva’s “strawberry” quartz of mottled pink and white is heat treated only, and at first blush looks nothing like the plain brownish-gray material it once was.

Paul Cory
An initiative to raise market awareness of certified untreated U.S. gemstones such as turquoise from a mine near Kingman, Arizona, and benitoite from a single source in California.

Paul Cory of Iteco has the blues—from rare sky-blue turquoise specimens to all shades of blue benitoite, faceted and sparkling with dispersion. Find out how his Mountain Certified program informs consumers and learn more about a unique, rare gem whose supply is fast waning.

Benitoite is the true California gem; the mineral occurs only in the Golden State in only one mine in the world. According to Cory, benitoite’s high dispersion and refractive index make its lively blues more akin to diamond than to sapphire. Cory’s connection with benitoite began in 2001, when an associate of his asked him to find a use for the broken crystals associated with mining benitoite; over five years, Cory accumulated a considerable amount of rough benitoite suitable for cutting faceted stones, which he now offers for sale.

According to Cory, because the only commercial benitoite mine is now shuttered, except to collectors, the unique gem is becoming scarce indeed: “When it’s gone, it’s gone!” he asserts.

Cory’s enthusiasm for the blues extends to rare turquoise for collectors, in colors ranging from green to light blue to dark blue, from the Kingman mine in Arizona. The specimens, produced from botryoidal growth around a small quartz nucleus, have received no stabilization treatment.

Cory plays a central role in developing a stronger market awareness for gemstones originating in the United States, as well as for the value of untreated gemstones. To that end, he has initiated a program, “Mountain Certified,” for designating gems from the United States that are untreated and in whose mining he has been personally involved.

Large turquoise nugget
Figure 2. This spectacular 7,043 ct turquoise nugget was recovered from the Lavender Pit mine of Arizona in 1934. Lavender Pit was adjacent to the much larger Bisbee copper mine. Much of the turquoise from Arizona’s mines was reputedly smuggled out by copper miners, and thus referred to as “lunch bucket” turquoise. Photo by Eric Welch, courtesy of Studio GL.
Crazy quartz crystal cluster
Figure 3. These curious examples of “crazy quartz” are reportedly from basalt cavities in the Gobobos Mountains of Namibia. These well-formed colorless quartz crystals are capped by smaller amethyst-colored tips in a “reverse scepter” formation. The crystal cluster is approximately 6 cm wide. Photo by Eric Welch, courtesy of Stefan Reif, Reif Collection.
Liddicoatite tourmaline slices with colorful growth zoning
Figure 4. These slices of liddicoatite tourmaline display colorful growth zoning. The largest slice measures approximately 30 cm. Photo by Duncan Pay; courtesy of Frederic Gautier, Little Big Stone.

Among the other fascinating materials seen in Tucson were a Colombian emerald crystal with an eye-visible multi-phase inclusion (figure 1), a large nugget of turquoise (figure 2), some interesting quartz from Namibia (figure 3), and large colorful slices of liddicoatite tourmaline (figure 4).

Duncan Pay is editor-in-chief of Gems & Gemology.