A quick look at the quintessential stones
By: Colton Bartel
What is the most abundant mineral on earth that is found both on every beach in the world and also in some of the finest jewelry ever crafted? Quartz! Each grain of sand is a microscopic jewel. Obviously, there is nothing special about sand, but the big brothers in this family of minerals are very special and come in many different varieties many distinguished simply by color.
Quartz has one of the widest ranges of variety in the world. Some of the more common types are:
• Rock crystal
These three make up the vast majority of quartzes used in fine jewelry, although many more varieties can be found set in precious metal ready to be worn.
Rock crystal is the colorless variety of quartz. Many times, these stones are very large and clean, perfect for large impressive pieces of jewelry. Because rock crystal occurs in very large crystals and there is a huge supply, it lends itself very well to awesome and outrageous designs.
There have been crystals found that are bigger than the people mining them! If you are looking for chunky natural gems that look similar to huge diamonds, this is the stone for you. Not only can you get big stones, but you can get very unusual cuts and shapes that you wouldn’t normally find in other types of gems. Like all quartz varieties, rock crystal has good hardness and is very durable, making it perfect for everyday wear and tear.
Citrine is the exact same stone as rock crystal, but it is the reddish-orange to yellow version of quartz. Citrine is not found nearly as often as the other varieties, with natural stones only coming from Bolivia in South America.
Since there is very little supply of natural-color citrine and high demand, the vast majority of what is on the market is actually heat-treated pale amethyst. By using a special heat treatment, pale and otherwise undesirable amethyst can have its color changed to the more saleable orange hues of citrine. Just like most of the single crystal quartz varieties, citrine is usually very clean and free of inclusions, so all you have to worry about is picking out the color and shape that you like best.
Now for everyone’s favorite quartz, amethyst! The deep-purple hues of this captivating stone just scream “royalty.” For centuries, the color has been associated with wealth, kings and queens. With its obvious color, it’s no surprise it has always been a favorite stone used to adorn those of high ranks. Amethyst continues to be highly sought-after to this day, and luckily enough, it has plenty of production to meet demand and keep prices low.
Due to large supplies of the beautiful purple stones, unusual cuts and shapes are easy to locate and can even be custom-cut in some instances. Almost all stones seen in stores today are a light to medium-dark purple and can range in sizes from fractions of a carat to many hundreds of carats. The most prized and expensive amethysts have a noticeable red hue to them mixed in with the purple; however, these stones are difficult to find and are rarely seen for sale in stores.
Amethyst truly is one of the best stones you can purchase. It is usually very consistent in clarity, a wide range of sizes and shapes are readily available and, best of all, they are normally very inexpensive.
This wasn’t mentioned before, but I wanted there be a little surprise twist to the story here. There are times when citrine and amethyst meet in one stone! What you get with this combination is ametrine. Part orangy-yellow and part purple, ametrine is one of the more unusual quartzes you will find. Like citrine, it is only found in Bolivia; however, it is always natural because any treatment will erase one of the colors.
Ametrine is a fun stone to work with and design around because it is so unusual. It also makes for a very fascinating conversation piece with most people not believing it to be possible to have a bi-colored stone. Though it is only found in one place, there is still a great deal of production compared to the relatively low demand. Most people don’t know it exists, and for that reason, demand has stayed low compared to other quartzes.
These are just a few of the stones that make up the large category of quartz. Many others, too many to name, are common in jewelry, including different types of agate, chalcedony, onyx and several others. Because of the wide range of stones that make up this family, the only way to tell them apart is to see the different quirks of each type of quartz.
For more information about quartzes or any other types of stones, please contact Colton Bartel, G.G., AJP, at Susann’s Diamond Jewelers, located at 4254 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas. You may also call 361-991-7565 or visit www.susanns-jewelers.com.
Photos courtesy of Susann’s Diamond Jewelers