Friday, May 29, 2009

Merelani Mint Garnets

Many people don't realize that garnets are not just red gemstones. They come in a great variety of colors. Some of the most sought after have always been in the green family. Demantoid garnets are usually light green and have a diamond-like brilliance. They also can have a diamond-like price. Large specimens are very rare. Another favorite has been Tsavorite. They are a beautiful, rich, emerald green. A new comer among the green garnets is the "Merelani Mint" Garnet.

Merelani Mint garnets are named for the Merelani Hills of Tanzania where they are usually found. They are a close relative of Tsavorites. Both are categorized as grossular garnets. The only real difference is the color saturation. Tsavorites are colored deep green by chromium or vanadium. Merelani Mint garnets are just paler cousins. A few years ago they were often dismissed as lower quality tsavorites, but many people prefer their more delicate, somewhat subtler shade and they have been quickly gaining an avid following. As their popularity has grown, of couse, so has their value. Prices of several hundred dollars per carat are common and I have seen them as high as a thousand dollars per carat for top grade specimens. Like tsavorites, large pieces, over 3 carats are very rare.

Visit my website to see more Merelani Mint Garnets as well as other garnets.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Opals on a Budget

Opals have been one of the world’s favorite gemstones for centuries. Nothing compares to opals for their fantastic displays of brilliant colors that move and change as the stone moves in the light. The finest opals can rival diamonds in price. Large specimens with bright colors, in sought after patterns can sell for thousands of dollars per carat. Fortunately though, there are beautiful opals available even for those of us on a budget.

One option of course is to sacrifice quality somewhat. You can find opals for under $20 per carat that are still beautiful. The colors won’t be as vivid as the higher priced opals and there may be areas of the stone that show no flashes of “opalescence” but they will still be very attractive stones.

But what if you want a really bright, flashy opal? Another option is to look for an opal “doublet” or “triplet. One reason that precious opal is so expensive is that it often occurs in thin layers that just aren’t thick enough to cut into a gemstone. But these thin pieces of material can still be used to make doublets and triplets! The layer of precious opal is first bonded to a layer of a cheaper stone. Usually ironstone is used. It is readily available in the Australian opal mining regions, it is very hard and it is a dark color. It does several things. It makes the stone thick enough of course plus it makes it. Plus, it gives the opal a dark background which makes its natural colors stand out more vividly! If it is going to be a doublet, it is then cut and polished as would any other opal. If it is going to be a triplet, another layer is first glued to the top of the stone.

This other layer is usually quartz. Quartz is very clear and very durable. So now when it is cut, you have a layer of fiery opal sandwiched between a layer of ironstone and a layer of quartz. The dark backing makes the stone appear more brilliant and the quartz top make it more durable and scratch resistant than a solid opal. But best of all, the prices for doublets and triplets are much lower. You will usually only pay about 10% of the price you would pay for a comparable looking solid opal. So for $20 you can get an opal that looks like a $200 opal. For $200 you can get one that looks like its worth thousands!

There are some cases where the layers may separate over time if not cared for properly. But if handled and cleaned with care, as you should with any opal, they can last a lifetime and you can own the opal of your dreams without spending a fortune.