Stunning Brazilian emeralds are gaining in popularity + care tips

Tip for emerald owners: clean your emeralds with a soft chamois or other cloth, using warm soapy water if needed. Do NOT use steam or an ultrasonic cleaner. Most emeralds are oiled and/or fracture filled and steam and ultrasonic cleaners can cause damage.

Brazilian emeralds are in demand for their stunning color and exceptional quality.

A Variety of Quartz, Part 2: Is It or Isn’t It?

There are a lot of varieties of quartz on the market but there are also varieties of so-called quartz that are not actually quartz or are altered quartz.  Your seller SHOULD be up front and tell you what you’re buying.

Typical quartz varieties include:

Herkimer diamonds mined in Herkimer, NY by Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC (quarter for size reference)
  • quartz (clear, colorless)
  • milky quartz (translucent white)
  • rose quartz (pink/milky pink)
  • amethyst (purple quartz)
  • citrine (yellow/yellow green/yellow brown quartz – often heat treated to get golden/orange colors; natural is dichroic)
  • ametrine (bi-color yellow/purple quartz – amethyst & citrine)
  • aventurine (dark green quartz)
  • prasiolite (also green amethyst; pale green quartz – often heat treated, sometimes irradiated)
  • smoky quartz (gray/gray brown quartz)
  • cairngorm (brown smoky quartz)
  • morion (black smoky quartz)
  • Herkimer diamond (clear quartz, usually double terminated; from the area around Herkimer, NY)
  • for more details and a very thorough discussion of quartz and quartz varieties (including agate, jasper, chalcedony, tiger eye, and others) see

Quartz that is usually treated:

  • citrine (heat treated amethyst or smoky quartz is more common than natural citrine)
  • prasiolite (heat treated amethyst is more common than natural prasiolite)
  • carnelian (often dyed/heat treated)
  • onyx (colored onyx is almost always dyed

Quartz that is definitely treated

  • “aura” quartz is coated/bonded with a mineral to alter the color, like these:
    • aqua aura (gold coated quartz)
    • angel aura (platinum and/or silver coated quartz, sometimes with gold or other minerals)
    • flame aura (titanium coated quartz)
    • opal aura (platinum coated quartz)
    • rainbow aura (titanium and gold coated quartz)
    • cobalt aura (cobalt coated quartz)
    • rose aura (platinum coated quartz)
    • copper or tangerine or sun aura (copper coated quartz)
    • apple or emerald aura (nickle coated quartz)
  • mystic quartz (coated with titanium via thin film disposition)
  • azotic quartz (coated with thin metallic film disposition, similar to mystic)

Quartz that has been altered:

  • smelt quartz (melted down and reformed, may be colored in the process)

“Quartz” that is actually colored glass:

  • cherry quartz
  • volcano cherry quartz

What does a carat weigh?

Carats have been the standard for weighing gems since ancient times.  “The name is derived from the see kuara of the African Coraltree or from the kernel (Greek keratiton) of the Carob bean.” [1]  One carat is a unit of mass equivalent to 200 micrograms, 0.2 grams, 0.007 ounces, or about the same as a standard paper clip.

Both cut and stone density affect the total carat weight of a stone.  For example, I sampled five 5mm round sapphires and the carat weight varied from 0.615cts to 0.835cts as a result of differences in how each stone was cut.  To compare to other gemstones, I found a 5mm round andalusite weighing in at 0.45cts, kyanite at 0.6cts, and a brilliant cut diamond at 0.5cts.

One thing to note as you are looking at gemstones is that larger stones are more rare and will likely cost more per carat than the more easily obtainable, small stones.

[1] Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p30

How hard is it? A simple guide to Mohs’ Scale

Gemstones and mineral specimens have many properties.  One that is particularly important for jewelry is hardness.  Why? A stone that is soft should not be used in an unprotected setting or in a piece that is likely to be bumped.

For example, I had a lovely opal ring with four opal cabochons in prong settings.  Not realizing at first how fragile opal can be, I wore the ring regularly.  It didn’t take long before I’d chipped one of the stones.  I was slightly more careful with it but still managed to chip a second stone and lose that first one (as it was loose in its setting).  Fortunately, we were able to match up the opal, cut and polish new cabochons and restore the ring completely.

For stones that are below 7 on the Mohs’ hardness scale, dust can do some damage if rubbed into the stone as quartz particles are fairly common in dust.  To help identify how hard a stone is, there is a “simple hardness tester” that can be used as a guide and to provide an idea of what the various scale values mean along with an example in parenthesis[1]:

  • 1 (talc) and 2 (gypsum): can be scratched with a fingernail
  • 3 (calcite): can be scratched with copper coin
  • 4 (fluorite): easily scratched with knife
  • 5 (apatite): can be scratched with knife
  • 6 (orthoclase): can be scratched with steel file
  • 7 (quartz): scratches window glass
  • 8 (topaz), 9 (corundum), 10 (diamond) : no simple test 

I would not recommend actually trying any of the scratch tests on finished stones but rather use the information to help understand what the various Mohs values represent.  Note that the scale is relative, so that the difference between a 4 and 5 on the scale is not the same as the difference between 9 and 10.

[1] Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p20 (based on the table “Relative and Absolute Hardness Scale”)

Historical perspectives on amethyst

Because amethyst is one of the more popular stones, it seemed worth learning a bit more of how it was used throughout history. As the excerpts below highlight, amethyst was used for more than preventing drunkenness.

From A Lapidary of Sacred Stones by Claude Lecouteux, p47-48

“In the thirteenth century, it was said the amethyst prevented the devil from causing harm and preventd a person from seeing ‘ghosts’ (fantasme). It also provided protection from the entity known as a nightmare and from fevers, it granted riches, and made one humble, courteous, and gracious.”

“Etched with the moon and sun and hung around the neck with hairs from a cynocephalus* and feathers from a swallow, it protects one from evil spells. Its magical properties are increased if set in gold or silver and if a man on horseback holding a scepter is carved on it.”

* cynocephalus likely refers to some type of baboon

“If one finds an image of an amethyst of a man with a sword in hand seated on a dragon, and this stone is then set in a ring of lead or iron, the wearer will obtain the obedience of all the spirits, tnd they will revela where treasures are hidden and answer whatever questions he may ask.”

Amethyst with checkerboard cut
A beautiful checkerboard cut amethyst from our collection at Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC

Man-made curiosities: fordite and rainbow calsilica

Fordite (also called Detroit agate or motor agate) is made up of layers of hardened automobile paint from the oversprayed paint when people used to hand spray paint onto cars as part of the manufacturing process. When the paint got hard enough, this enamel material could be cut and polished. These “stones” have a variety of colorful designs and are often cut into cabochons to be used in jewelry.

Rainbow calsilica’s history and origin is less clear. Like fordite, rainbow calsilica is known for having a variety of colors and patterns. One supplier claims the material comes from mines in Mexico. The Gemological Institute of America lab tested the material and states it is man-made. Another lab, SSEF in Basel, Switzerland came to the same concluion. While lovely, rainbow calsilica “[c]onsists of dyed sand that has been firmed with artificial resin.” [1]

[1] Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p282

Light play with feldspar

Feldspar comes in a lovely variety of stones: moonstone, labradorite, orthoclase, amazonite, sunstone, and spectrolite.

Moonstone displays adularescence, a blue-white opalescence which is a result of light interference with the layered structure of the stone.  The most striking example of this is in rainbow moonstone.

Similar yet different, labradorite  and spectrolite display labradorescence, “iridescence in metallic hues, called schiller” [1] with blue and green colors commonly seen, although this effect occurs in all colors.

Pink moonstone and sunstone can also display asterism, typically with four rayed stars.

With all the varieties and colors, feldspar is one of my favorite minerals!

Oregon schiller sunstone
Oregon schiller sunstone. Gorgeous copper hues!

[1]  Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p.53

Stars in stones – asterism

Asterism is a term which describes “the effect of light rays forming a star (Latin aster, star)…It is usually created through reflection of light by thin fibrous or needle-like inclusions that lie in various directions.” [1]

Stars in gemstones may have four, six, or (less frequently) twelve rays.  With these stones, the angle of the stone to a light source is important to be able to see the star.  Natural gemstones known to exhibit asterism include:

Star ruby with six-rayed star
Star ruby with six-rayed star. One of the lovely stones in our collection at Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC.
  • star sapphire
  • star ruby
  • star diopside
  • star rose quartz
  • star blue quartz
  • star garnet
  • star spinel

[1]  Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p.52

Featured stone: opal

The origin of the term “opal” is unclear – it may be from the Roman word opalus, the Sanskrit  úpala, the Greek opallios, or any of many other possibilities.  In this way, the opal extends its mystery beyond the well known color play into the name of the stone itself.

Natural opal has a lot of variety, including: white opal, black opal, jelly opal, boulder opal, opal matrix, fire opal, harlequin opal, crustal opal, Andean opal, Ethiopian opal, and common opal.  White and black opal are most commonly found and these typically display the gorgeous color play which from “the diffraction of light off tiny, closely packed silica spheres inside the stone.” [1]  The silica gel inside the stone is 5-30% water.  Most of the world’s natural opals today come from Australia – particularly Lightning Ridge (black opal) and Cooper Pedy (white opal).

Because opal is soft (5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale), it is often sold as doublets or triplets, which provide color enhancement as well as some protection for the stone. There are also synthetic man-made opals, like Gilson opal and opalite.  Be sure to ask your seller for information about any stone you purchase.

Opal can be easily damaged by pressure and impact.  Opal is also sensitive to acids and alkalis because of its porous nature, which also makes it vulnerable to perfumes, soaps and detergents.  Jewelry should always be removed before washing or applying lotions and other similar products.

If an opal is allowed to dry, it will crack and craze. In most cases, opals do not need any special care while stored. However, if you live in a very dry climate, or keep opals in a dehumidified room, some precautions are necessary. Keeping them in a tight plastic bag, with a damp piece of cotton or fabric will prevent dehydration.

Opals do not mind being hot or cold, it is the rate of change that damages them. You need to avoid exposing the stone to a sudden change in temperature, like from a warm house to the winter’s cold. Simply wearing an opal under clothing will protect it.

Clean your opal with warm or room temperature soap and water. Avoid wearing the stone where it will get rough treatment.

According to lore, opal helps relieve issues with eyesight and was believed to obscure its wearer with a thick fog. [2]

There are other metaphysical properties ascribed to this multi-colored gem:

  • Makes it easier to handle changes in life
  • Protects the wearer from harm
  • Supports renewal and fidelity in love
  • Intensifies emotions and intuition
  • Helps to express your true self

Chakras: links the root and crown

opal ring
Coober Pedy opal sterling silver ring by Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.92

[2] A Lapidary of Sacred Stones by Claude Lecouteux, p.244

Featured stone: tourmalinated (tourmaline included) quartz

Tourmalinated (tourmaline included) quartz is a type of quartz that has black or green tourmaline needle-like inclusions within it.   The stone looks best when the quartz is clear but more common specimens are found where the quartz is whitish-grey.  This uniquely patterned stone has a Mohs hardness of 7, so it is moderately hard but can scratch and get chipped.

Clean your tourmalinated quartz jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.  I have a sterling silver and tourmalinated quartz bracelet that I’ve been wearing for 3 or 4 years – the round stones have been unaffected by bathing soaps or shampoo, still looking as lovely as the day I made the bracelet.

Tourmalinated quartz has multiple metaphysical associations with it, including:

  • excellent protective stone
  • brings balance and inner strength
  • deflects and grounds negativity
  • reduces anxiety and depression

Chakra: crown

Below is a photo of a tourmalinated quartz trillion.  We have a variety of loose gemstones as well as lovely completed pieces at

tourmalinated quartz trillion