All-American Gem

With its unique cuts and color combinations, sunstone has become a favorite gem for conversation pieces.

By: Colton Bartel

What’s as “all-American” as eating apple pie while watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, but can be seen in a jewelry store? Sunstone! This little-known gem has started to make its way into the jewelry industry in a bigger way due to its origin and its unique look. Though sunstone has been used in jewelry for many years, it was only done so on a very limited basis due to few resources.

A huge find in Southern Oregon made the once unheard-of stone become more accessible, and made several other varieties available. Although sunstone can be found in other places around the world, the Oregon mines, Plush and Ponderosa, have really ramped up the commercial production and now account for the majority of stones in the trade. The two mines have also uncovered and started offering other varieties of sunstones that have a relatively wide range of colors. Some of these contain multiple colors or are even color-change!

At the top of the price range, the Oregon mines have been producing some deep-green and deep-red stones that are especially appealing to gemstone aficionados. Oregon production is not treated in any way, and because it is such a big source, sunstones have become known as the all-natural, all-American gem.

Sunstone is typically an orange, orangy-brown, orangy-red, yellow or red stone that can sometimes have aventurescence, a shimmering or glittery effect cast over the stone. Aventurescence is usually caused by small reflective inclusions and can be found in other types of stones.

In sunstone, the aventurescence is caused by hematite, copper or some other type of mineral, but most commonly copper. When the stones are cut, the glitter effect is really shown off and resembles sunlight bouncing off water at sunset! Not all varieties of sunstone display this phenomenon, but it’s always a treat to find a stone that does have that little extra shine to it.

In recent years, sunstone has become an important stone for jewelry design and stone-cutting competitions. The unique cuts, color combinations and phenomenal characteristics make it very appealing to designers looking to produce eye-catching pieces that garner lots of attention. In-store, sunstones tend to be great conversation starters because few people know what they are looking at or are sometimes confused with other stones like ruby and tourmalines.

If you are looking to buy, it’s best to go to a jeweler who is a gemologist and features more unique and unusual colored stones. Chances are, they will have a wider range of sources and, in turn, will have a better chance of finding the exact stone you want, and at the best price. Not only that, some simulants in the trade are actually glass and have copper platelets called goldstone that is meant to resemble sunstone. A trusted gemologist will be able to confirm that the stone you are purchasing is natural and not a simulant.


Colton Bartel is a GIA graduate gemologist and designer for Susann’s Custom Jewelers. For more information or to set up an appointment, please contact Bartel at 361-991-7565,, online at or on Facebook. You can also visit our store, located at 4226 S. Alameda in Corpus Christi, Texas, in the Town and Country Shopping Center.

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