Do you have someone you’re gift-shopping for? Here’s what you need to know before you buy.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend…but colored gems are for courting. Every man knows that women love to be frosted, so it’s important to have a solid knowledge of the gemstones you are buying. Emerald, ruby and sapphire make up the classic trifecta of colored gems. They are often the first three to be referenced, particularly when looking for a special occasion gift that will sweep her off her feet. Go into buying confidently with some gemstone 101. Here’s a breakdown on handy things to know about emerald, ruby and sapphire for your next big purchase and impressing your girl.
For those who love the color green, few gemstones are as special as an emerald, which looks stunning on just about everyone. May’s birthstone, it is the perfect gift for your Gemini babe (or for Mom, if you haven’t thought about Mother’s Day yet!). Worn in earrings, pendants, rings and more, Emerald has fascinated since Ancient Egyptian days…donned by Cleopatra herself.
Interesting Lore: In The Book of Talismans, written in 1914, it states, “If worn in a ring, emerald strengthens the memory and protects from giddiness.” It’s a fun story for after having a drink, but there are other interpretations that will work better for making her swoon. With many meanings devoted to it, emerald covers everything from faith and romance to representing a general emotional and spiritual balance.
About: A variety of the mineral, Beryl, the green color of emerald is usually caused by chromium. It is cut in many styles, with the most common being the emerald cut. This is essentially a rectangular step cut with truncated corners to protect the stone from chipping on the corners. Emerald’s stunning green color can vary in darkness and saturation, with a bright transparent green color being the most desirable shade. As a brittle stone, it is common for emerald to have fissures, inclusions and chip or fracture easily. Therefore, it requires a little extra tender love and care.
Localities: Columbia, India, Zimbabwe, Siberia and others.
Treatments: Nearly all emerald is oiled or polymer resin treated to strengthen the gem, by filling surface-reaching fractures. It also improves that color and clarity of the stone. This is considered a standard treatment in the trade, and it can be assumed oiling/polymer resin treatment has been done with nearly any commercial emerald you may encounter. Emeralds are also often dyed to improve color, and if so, dying should be disclosed on the colored stone grading report, which can be issued by a reputable laboratory, such as the GIA.
General Care: Never put emerald in an ultrasonic cleaner, due to its brittle nature, but rather clean using a toothbrush and brush it with mild, soapy water. Also, avoid activity that could cause any knocking to the emerald. Be sure to remove an emerald ring before exercising, cooking, or physically building things, in general. Also, it is important to avoid solvents, which can negatively affect fillers in an emerald.
Imitation: Many green colored materials have been used to imitate emerald, including: dyed green quartz, green tourmaline, glass, YAG, and aventurine quartz.
Symbolic of passion and fire, Ruby is the obvious choice for a gift of jewelry that symbolizes your love for her. Colored to entice, it has been used for centuries in ring, earrings and necklaces, with its desire and popularity spawning use of imitations to encompass the look at an affordable price. If you want to say, “I want you” this is your stone.
Interesting Lore: My manfriends found it interesting that in Myanmar (formerly called Burma), ruby was used by warriors to protect them in battle, with rubies being inserted in flesh. But for impressing the ladies, tell them it was believed that ruby had an “inner fire”, which led to lots of interesting myths—including that which it will extinguish the clothes of the wearer by burning, due to this inner fire. Note, this is a great story to tell your woman when you give her a ruby. She’ll feel sexy and be even more into you, guaranteed.
About: A red variety of the mineral, Corundum, Ruby is usually colored by chromium. If the color is pink, it is technically referred to as a pink sapphire, since sapphires make up the other colors of gemstones in the corundum mineral species. The second hardest mineral after diamond, ruby (and sapphires) are incredibly durable, with a beautiful adamantine to vitreous lustre on the surface. They are cut in an endless variety of ways—from round brilliant and cushion to cabochon. The type of cut, as with all gemstones, is determined with several factors in mind, including keeping the weight of the stone, and incorporating the best angles for color and clarity.
Localities: Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Vietnam.
Treatments: Ruby is usually heat treated to improve the color. For example undesirable blue and brown tones can be removed during heating, bringing out more of the red color. As the result of heat treatment, fractures and cavities may be filled during the heating process from the powdered flux where rubies are placed for heat treatment. Glass filling can also be done intentionally to improve the appearance of the stone—hiding fissures and cracks with lead glass. On the extreme end this can be extremely unstable—imagine a patched up Frankenstein ruby situation. This latter treatment should always be disclosed, but when buying ruby I recommend asking about glass filling specifically. In addition, red oil is sometimes used to improve color. Diffusion is also sometimes introduced to produce a “star” effect in a stone, known as asterism.
General Care: If filled, it is extremely important that you avoid heat, as well as any acids, near your ruby. If heavily fractured, ultrasonic and steam cleaners should also be avoided, and stones that have been coated should avoid polishing.
Imitation: Red glass, garnet, spinel, doublets or red tourmaline (rubellite).
Perhaps the most commercially popular of the three, Sapphires come in an array of stunning colors, and are wonderfully durable, with an exquisite lustre and sparkle off the surface. A stone for any occasion, it is used in jewelry to mark special occasions, and is the most popular colored stone used in engagement rings, after diamond.
Interesting Lore: In the Middle Ages, sapphire had a less exciting reputation that it has now. Then, it was for preserving chastity, protecting from poison, fever plague and other diseases. Yet throughout history, it was also the symbol for royalty, believed to provide wisdom. The birthstone for September, sapphire is now generally likened to traits akin to a healthy relationship, such as faithfulness, truth, loyalty and sincerity. The symbolism makes it a great choice for promise rings.
About: Sapphire, also a variety of the mineral corundum, is the color blue when referred to singularly. Its color sets the standard for how other blue gemstones are compared, although blue is just one of the many stunning colors it comes in. Yellow sapphire, pink sapphire, green sapphire, white sapphire (colorless), and black sapphire are some of the other colors. Sapphire can also exhibit some interesting light effects. For example, asterism is a star-like effect due to a particular alignment of rutile inclusions within the stone, causing the stone itself to then be called a “star sapphire.” Also, there are sapphires with a color-change effect, changing colors between daylight and incandescent light.
Localities: Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Australia and the USA.
Treatments: As with Ruby, heat and diffusion treatments are common in blue stones. Fancy colored sapphire is sometimes irradiated to change the color as well (from colorless to yellow, for example).
General Care: Same as ruby (see above).
Imitation: For blue sapphires, blue glass, spinel (synthetic or natural), tanzanite, tourmaline, iolite and doublets all are simulants of the stone.
A Note on Synthetics
There are several companies that create very nice synthetic gemstones, which offer an affordable option to buying the natural stone, such as Chatham. Unlike an imitation, which is essentially something trying to imitate a particular gemstone, synthetic gemstones are man-made gemstones that are chemically equivalent to the natural gemstone. In my opinion, they are a great option and the primary difference is the origin of the gem (i.e. coming directly from nature or made in a lab). Many consider synthetics a more “green” and humanitarian option, as opposed to mining. That said, it should also be noted that many mines are ethical and contribute to best practices in the trade as outlined by The World Jewelry Confederation. As long you love your gemstone, and whether it is natural or synthetic is correctly disclosed on a grading certificate, that is all that matters, since all gems are beautiful.
Now, armed with romantic stories to woo your woman, alongside lots of knowledge on the science of emerald, ruby and sapphire, enjoy the fruits of your labor when buying jewelry. Alongside this article I included some stunning images of emerald, ruby and sapphire jewelry provided by Omi Gems, one of my favorite companies with a wide selection of colored gemstone jewelry.
Happy shopping, and impressing.
Images courtesy of Omi Gems via author. Used with permission.