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.
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.”  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. 
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
 The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.92
 A Lapidary of Sacred Stones by Claude Lecouteux, p.244
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
Below is a photo of a tourmalinated quartz trillion. We have a variety of loose gemstones as well as lovely completed pieces at www.dragondreamsjewelry.com.
Out shopping for prom dresses with my daughter today, I noticed there was a lot of rhinestone and Swarovski crystal jewelry for sale. Faceted like gemstones, these faux gems sparkled from necklaces, tiaras, and other settings to tempt passers by. It made me curious about the composition of these prolific pretties.
Swarovski crystal is a brand name of Swarovski AG, a company based in Austria. Daniel Swarovski, one of the original founders, patented a machine to precision cut crystal stones in 1892. “The characteristics of Swarovski crystals are unparalleled in both style and substance. Not only are their cuts distinct, but the assorted colors and shapes cover a broad spectrum. The brilliant sparkle of each crystal is actually resulted from a glass composition containing 32 percent lead.” The faceted glass Swarovski crystals are even sold in fine jewelry stores alongside diamonds, sapphires, and other gemstones. These glass gems have a Mohs hardness of 6-7, which is harder than typical glass but still somewhat susceptible to chipping and scratches.
Rhinestones, used to simulate diamonds, can be made of paste, glass, or acrylic. “Rhinestones were so named because they were first made along the Rhine River of a composition known as strass, which was a vitreous or glasslike paste invented by and named after Joseph Strasser, a German jeweler. The- original rhinestones consisted of a. silicate of potassium and lead, combined with borax, alumina and white arsenic.”
Cleaning rhinestone or Swarovski crystals is best done with a soft, dry cloth (like a chamois cloth). As some of the crystals may have a coating, you will want to rub gently so the coating is not damaged during the cleaning process.
This topic may sound dry and dull but it is relevant to anyone shopping for jewelry, gemstones or precious metals. We have seen recent listings (on a variety of auction sites) which misrepresent metals and gemstones. For example:
925 silver: then the listing states “no Sterling Silver content” in fine print
Peridot quartz: this was describing green colored stones but what exactly, one would have to guess since peridot and quartz are distinct gemstones
What’s a consumer to do? First, educate yourself. Do some research about the item you are buying – or seek assistance from someone who does. Know the characteristics of the gemstone or metal as well as market prices. If an item is selling for well below market price, that may be a warning sign. Second, work with a reputable seller you can trust. Positive feedback on an auction site or other website is no guarantee that a seller is trustworthy – far too many people purchase items from unscrupulous individuals without verifying their purchase. If you cannot trust the seller, be sure you can get a full refund should the item not be as claimed. Third, verify items you purchase. Inspect the item or possibly have an expert evaluate it.
If you find a disreputable seller, know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is out there to help consumers. It is required by FTC rules that sellers disclose any and all treatments to gemstones, that is, the seller is responsible for informing the consumer. The FTC also outlines rules for clearly identifying metals and metal content so that the consumer is able to understand exactly what is being purchased. Details of the rules are on the FTC site here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.shtm
Some sellers make mistakes and will correct the mistake once it has been brought to their attention. However, sellers who repeatedly and intentionally misrepresent their products should be reported to the FTC.
The Latin ruber, meaning red, is the likely origin of the name ruby.
Prior to the 1800s, there was not a distinction made between red spinel, red garnet, and ruby. As a result, some of the most famous rubies of the world are not actually rubies. For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby is actually red spinel. There are also a number of misnomers for ruby:
almandine ruby (red garnet)
Australian ruby (red garnet)
balas ruby (red spinel)
Bohemian ruby (red garnet)
cape ruby (red garnet)
Chatham ruby, Ramaura ruby, Linde star ruby are all names describing synthetic, flux grown ruby.
Ruby is a variety of corundum which has a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red color (sapphire is used to describe corundum of any other color). Ruby has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it quite durable and strong.
Clean your ruby 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. You may want to use a toothbrush to clean under the stone. While rubies are not particularly light sensitive, all colored stones can fade with prolonged intense exposure to sunlight, so be sure to store your ruby jewelry out of direct light. As ruby jewelry can last many years, periodically check the prongs and/or settings to be sure the metal is still holding the stone securely in place.
Rubies can have fractures filled with oil, wax, paraffin, glass, or epoxy resin as fillers, reducing the visibility of flaws and cracks within the stone. When this has been done, the ruby is considered to be composite, reducing the value of the stone although the it will look better to the naked eye as the fractures will be nonreflective. Rubies, like sapphires, can also be heat treated to improve the color. Most of the rubies we have seen recently in chain jewelry stores have been lab created rather than natural stones. Sellers are responsible for disclosing all treatments and whether the stone is natural or lab created.
Some of the metaphysical properties associated with ruby include:
shields against negative intentions
guards against psychic or physical attack
helps to be warm, caring toward others
reinvigorates and restores energy
encourages love, passion, joy, spontaneity, laughter, and courage
balances the heart
Chakras: root, heart
 The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.50
Sapphire is believed to derive its name from the Greek σάπφειρος; sappheiros, meaning ‘blue stone’. However, there are a variety of possible word origins from Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and other languages.
A 12th century writing by Abbess Hildegard von Bingen includes this use for a sapphire: “Who is dull and would like to be clever, should, in a sober state, frequently lick with the tongue on a sapphire, because the gemstone’s warmth and power, combined with the saliva’s moisture, will expel the harmful juices that affect the intellect. Thus the man will attain a good intellect.”
Sapphire is a variety of corundum which comes in a variety of colors, including pink, yellow, green, purple, blue, colorless (virtually any color except ruby, another variety of corundum which has a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red color.) Sapphire has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it quite durable and strong.
Clean your sapphire 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. You may want to use a toothbrush to clean under the stone. While sapphires are not particularly light sensitive, all colored stones can fade with prolonged intense exposure to sunlight, so be sure to store your sapphire jewelry out of direct light. As sapphire jewelry can last many years, periodically check the prongs and/or settings to be sure the metal is still holding the stone securely in place.
Because these beautiful stones are durable and colorful, there are many synthetics and imitations on the market. Heat treatment of sapphire has been a common practice since the 1960s . Most of the sapphires we have seen recently in chain jewelry stores have been lab created rather than natural stones. As always, be sure to ask your seller.
Some of the metaphysical properties associated with sapphire include:
bring clarity and clear perception
assist communication, including with the spirit realms
release mental tension
enhance creative expression and intuition
promote fairness and loyalty
protection during astral travel
Chakras (by color):
White, purple – Crown chakra
Blue – Third Eye and throat chakra
Padparadscha, Yellow – Solar plexus chakra
Green – Heart chakra
 The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.48