Semi-Precious Stones, by G.F. Kunz-- on semi-precious stones and jewelry, from the March 22, 1896 LA Times

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The Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1896, p. 11:

SEMI-PRECIOUS STONES.

THEY ARE MUCH MORE POPULAR NOW THAN FORMERLY.

Spinel the Most Valuable--
Its Range of Color Greater Than that of Any Other Known Stone--
Many Mineralogical Gems Found in the United States.


(CONTRIBUTED TO THE TIMES.)

    Public interest in the fancy, or semi-precious stones, has increased greatly in America since the Centennial Exposition of 1876.
    Formerly jewelers sold only diamonds, rubies, garnets, and agates, but now it is not unusual for the mineralogical gems, such as zircon, star sapphire, star ruby, tourmaline, spinel or titanite, to be called for, not only by collectors, but by the public whose taste has advanced as much in the matter of precious stones as it has in art.

    Spinel is the most valuable of the semi-precious stones, and is one of the few materials that are ornamental and beautiful enough for gems in their natural state. No other stone has so wide a range of color, and each color in turn is represented by many distinct shades. The flame-red and crimson stones have been mistaken and sold for rubies, but although the hue may be vivid, yet it lacks the richness of the ruby.
    The orange-red spinels are called rubicelle, the pink ones balas ruby, and a charming variety of blues, blue-greens, inky-blues, purples and violets, terminating in the black spinel, called pleonaste, give this stone a range of color almost unequalled.

Ad from the May 11, 1925 NY Times

    One would little expect to find the jewels of the Queen of the Ruby Mines any other than true rubies, but the English officer who, in 1886, took the hairpin from the private chamber of Soup-Y-La, the Queen of Burma, in the palace at Mandalay, was surprised to find the red jewel in it was not a true ruby, but a spinel.

    Beryl is one of the most lustrous and brilliant of gems, and occurs in a variety of shades of yellow, golden yellow, yellow brown, brown, green, sage, and grass green. Aquamarine, so-called, comprises the white, light green, light blue and yellow green beryls, so called from their resemblence to the color of sea water. The yellow ones have been called golden beryls. All these varieties are often exceedingly beautiful and brilliant. The finest aquamarines are found in Russia, Brazil, Ceylon, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Mount Antero, Colorado, at the latter locality at an elevation of 14,000 feet, almost on the line of perpetual snow.

    The large aquamarine now at the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago, the finest ever found in the United States, is from Stoneham, Me. It is brilliant-cut and weighs 133 carats. The color is light bluish-green, and, with the exception of a few hair-like internal striations, it is perfectly clear. Others worthy special attention are the one in the sword hilt of Prince Murat, sold in the Hope collection, and the frog of sea-blue aquamarine on a jade leaf, shown at the Paris Exposition of 1878, and now in the James Garland collection in New York City.

    The name topaz generally suggests only a yellow stone, yet there are light blue and green varieties which have frequently been sold as aquamarine, though the topazes are heavier than aquamarines, and I have frequently detected the difference without opening the paper containing them.

    Topaz admits of a very high polish, and is very slippery to the touch. Strange to say, the yellow topaz, when slightly heated, becomes pink; heated futher, the pink grows paler, and by long heating is entirely expelled, leaving the gem colorless.
    The sherry-colored or brown topaz is bleached in a very short time by the rays of the sun, or strong daylight, and all the white topazes found in nature have been decolorized in this way.
    The topaz is found in granite rocks in Siberia, Japan, Peru, Ceylon, Australia, Brazil and Maine, and in volcanic rocks in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

    One of the most beautiful of all gems, and one not known two decades ago, is the green garnet called demantold, or "Uralian emerald," or "Bobrowska garnet," found at Poldnewaja, near Sysserk, in the government of Orenberg, Russia. It varies from yellowish green to an intense emerald color, and has such a power of refracting light that it shows a distinct fire like the diamond or zircon, and in the evening has almost the appearance of a green diamond.

    Pyrope, or Bohemian garnet, has been long and extensively sought and worked in the region near Meronitz, Bohemia, where it is gathered from the surface deposits and conglomerate rocks, coming from a decomposed peridotite.
    The gathering and cutting form a great industry in that country. Pyrope occurs under similar conditions in the diamond bearing rocks of South Africa, and also in Arizona and New Mexico; and from both these regions gems of rich color are obtained and sold under the name of Cape Rubies and Arizona rubies.
    The African stones are larger than the American, and perhaps equal to them in color by daylight, but the latter are much richer by artificial light. Only the clear, blood-red color then remains visible; while the Cape rubies retain a dark tint inclining to brown. About $5000 worth of cut stones from Arizona are sold annually, and some peculiarly fine ones have brought from $50 to $100 each.

    The turquoises of commerce are from these localities: Nishapur, Persia, the Desert of Sinai (Egyptian turquoise,) and several localities in New Mexico. Those from Persia are of a softer blue and opaque; those from Egypt a darker blue and translucent, frequently changing to green; those from New Mexico are a fine blue, and fully half a million dollars worth has been sold in the past five years. The best specimens come from Nishapur, where they occur in a clay slate.
    There is in the color of the best turquoises a peculiar quality, partly arising from the fact that the delicate blue tint is mingled with a slight infusion of green, and partly from a faint translucency of the stone. Turquoise is not opaque, thin splinters transmitting light easily, and cutting and scraping like ivory with a polished cut.
    The true turquoise, which shows various hues and tones of blue, greenish-blue, bluish-green, is not to be confounded with the blue fossil turquoise, or odontolite, which is a fossil ivory, or, rather, fossil bone colored by phosphate or iron.

    Turquoise often becomes green with age, as may frequently be seen in turquoise cameos of the Italian cinquecento. When green spots appear on turquoise, the color can often be restored by allowing them to remain in a solution of equal parts of alcohol and ammonia, or imbedding them for a time in fuller's earth wet with alcohol or water.
    These spots are often due to absorption of grease or other fatty compounds, which separate from the soap when the hands are washed, or the the action of perfumes which leave oily essences upon evaporation. Sometimes, however, they result from a natural change, and hence this beautiful gem cannot be guaranteed, although the owners of the American mines replace any stone that changes color within six months.

    In a coronation chair in the Kremlin are several old turquoises, some of which are beautifully blue, while others in the same chair have changed to green. Turquoise has been found all the way from Colorado to Peru.
GEORGE F. KUNZ

    Note: Largely self-educated mineralolgist and numismatist Dr. George F. Kunz (1856-1932; his degrees were honorary) was employed by Tiffany & Company for 53 years, and became Vice-President of Tiffany's in the early 1900's. After his death, his books and papers became part of the US Geological Survey Library.

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Classic Gem Articles:
Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds 1895
Semi-Precious Stones 1896
Gem Cutting & Polishing 1896
Where Gems are Found 1904

Classic Diamond Articles:
On Diamond Cutting 1867
De Beers Diamond Mine 1888
Diamond Cutting Industry-Art 1895
Cutting the Cullinan Diamond 1908

Classic Pearl Articles:
Bahrein Pearl Trade 1914

Classic Watch Articles:
Making Watches in Waltham 1867

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