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912 Live Oak Park Rd South
Fallbrook, CA, 92028
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+1 (760) 728-9121

Pala International has consistently earned its reputation as the direct source for the finest colored stones.

Articles

Articles


Newest Additions

The following have not been categorized:


Basic Training

American Travels of a Gem Collector
One of the best introductions to gem collecting that we know of.

Part 1 — Reminiscences of George F. Kunz of Tiffany’s. Incredible stories from an incredible man. Complete with period photos.

Part 2 — Kunz travels through Mexico and also discusses jade. Complete with period photos.

Birthstones
Birthstones are derived from early beliefs regarding the one’s time of birth and its relationship to the planets. Wearing a certain stone as protection against illness and misfortune, or another gem for good luck, eventually developed into the birthstone systems of today.  Also see: 

Birthstone Cards – Images from the collection of Pala International’s Bill Larson.

Birthstones & Cards – "Know Your Gems," by Sardha Ratnavira, that appeared in the August 4, 1956 edition of the Mirror, and a look at gemstone collecting cards from Butter-Krust Bread.

Natal Stones: Sentiments and Superstitions Associated with Precious Stones – An essay by George Frederick Kunz.

Buying and Selling Gems: What Light is Best?

Part 1 — An excellent analysis of how lighting affects the color and appearance of gems. By William Sersen and Corrine Hopkins. Fully illustrated.

Part 2 — Artificial light options are discussed. By William Sersen. Fully illustrated.

Collecting and Investing in World Class Colored Gemstones
Pala’s Jason Stephenson provides a primer on this subject for people who are considering taking the plunge.

Gemstone Enhancements

A Historical Study of Precious Stone Valuations & Prices
Scholarly analysis of gem prices is as rare as a fine gem itself. Here we present probably the best ever written. By Sydney H. Ball. Illustrated. Reprinted from Economic Geology, 1935.

Is Your Jewelry At Risk? A Guide to Choosing a Professional Jewelry Appraiser
By Charles Ellias

Judging Quality: The Four C’s
Determining the quality of a gemstone, involving color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.
Written by Richard W. Hughes.


Buying Guides

Alexandrite
Alexandrite is the variety of chrysoberyl that displays a change-of-color from green to red. A distinct color change is the primary qualification for a chrysoberyl to be considered alexandrite. 

Demantoid
Demantoid is the name given to the rich green variety of andradite garnet. The gem was first discovered in Russia and the name is derived from its diamond-like adamantine luster.

Jadeite
The term jade is used for two different minerals, jadeite and nephrite. Only jadeite has value as a gem material in and of itself.

Lapis Lazuli
Lapis lazuli is one of the oldest of all gems, with a history stretching back some 7000 years or more. This mineral is important not just as a gem, but also as a pigment, for ultramarine is produced from crushed lapis lazuli (this is why old paintings using ultramarine for their blue pigments never fade).

Padparadscha
Padparadscha sapphire is a special variety of gem corundum, featuring a delicate color that is a mixture of pink and orange – a marriage between ruby and yellow sapphire. The question of just what qualifies for the princely kiss of “padparadscha” is a matter of hot debate, even among experts.

Peridot
Peridot is one of the prettiest of all green gems, occurring in a color that is the epitome of grass green. Interestingly enough, the name topaz may have initially been applied to peridot, for it is found on the island of Topazos (Zabargad) in the Red Sea.

Ruby
The term ruby is reserved for corundums of a red color, with other colors called sapphire. In Asia, pink corundums are also considered rubies. Outside of Asia, such gems are generally termed pink sapphires.

Sapphire
The term sapphire alone describes the blue variety of gem corundum. Other colors have a color prefix, i.e., yellow sapphire, green sapphire, etc. The term ruby is reserved for corundums of a red color. In Asia, pink corundums are also considered rubies. Outside of Asia, such gems are generally termed pink sapphires.

Spessartite
Garnet is the name for a group of related mineral species that includes spessarite, also termed spessartine in Europe.

Spinel
Throughout history, spinel has been confused with ruby. In part, this is because spinel is often found in the same deposits. 

Tanzanite
Tanzanite is the name given to the rich blue-violet variety of the epidote-group mineral, zoisite. The gem was first discovered in Tanzania in 1967 and was named after its country of its origin, Tanzania, by the famous New York jeweler, Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Topaz
Topaz is the name for the mineral species that is number 8 on Mohs’ scale of hardness. There is some uncertainty regarding the name. Some say it comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “fire.” Others link it to the Red Sea Island of Topazios (Zabargad or St. John’s Island), where peridot has been found.

Tourmaline
Tourmaline is the name for a group of related mineral species. In gemological practice, individual species names are not used. Instead all are simply termed “tourmaline.” The name is derived from the Sinhalese word “tourmali,” which means “mixed parcel.”

Tsavorite
Tsavorite is the name given to the rich green variety of grossular garnet. The gem was first discovered in Tanzania in 1967 by Campbell Bridges. In 1970, Bridges also discovered gem tsavorite in Kenya’s Taita/Taveta district. The name “tsavorite” was coined in 1974 by Campbell Bridges and Tiffany’s Henry Platt and is derived from Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, which lies adjacent to rich deposits of the gem.


Collecting

The Harris Gemstone Collection: Educational and Priceless
Pala offered this collection for sale in the summer of 2009.

Private Eyes
Gabrièl Mattice celebrates her 20th year with Pala International by allowing us to peek behind the scenes of world-class gemstone and mineral specimen acquisition.

Remembering John Sinkankas

World’s Foremost Buys the World’s Finest: GIA Acquires Gübelin Collection
Bill Larson recalls his own work with this important collection, recently acquired by the Gemological Institute of America. Fully illustrated.


Cutting

Gem Cutter Romances the Stone
A 1992 profile of master carver Meg Berry.

The Jardin of Subterranean Delights: Atocha Emerald
Meg Berry demonstrates the faceting process on a rare emerald.


Gemstones

Avarice and Alienation: The Jewels of the Romanoffs – A look at the wiggly world of a world-class collection, from the 1917 Revolution forward.

Chocolate and Chicory: French Gemstone Collecting Cards – An article about C. Beriot Poulain, Compagnie Coloniale, producers of Poulain Chocolate.

The Connoisseurship of Crystals: A Collector's Guide – An essay written by Pala International president Bill Larson for the book, Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector’s Guide, authored by Richard W. Hughes with photos by Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes.

Demantoid Disclosure – The ins and outs of laboratory reporting of treatment and locality.

Do bi-coloured, green and blue beryls exist, which are composed of emerald and aquamarine zones? – By George Bosshart.

In Search of the Precious Stone – A reprint of the book by Albert Ramsay, published privately in 1925.

The Internal World of Gemstones – A pictorial guide to a microscopic world that lets us further appreciate gemstones’ external beauty.

Kunzite the Precious – A reprint from Sunset magazine, by William R. Gross, October 1905.

Mexican Opal  – We are pleased to reprint this article on Mexican opal, by David Gibson, a British collector. It comes from his website, Mexican Amber. The article is © David Gibson, and is used by permission.

On a New Lilac-Colored Transparent Spodumene – A 1903 reprint. By George Frederick Kunz, whose name would be applied to this new material.

On Kunz and Kunzite – An excellent historical look at the discovery and naming of kunzite, by Lawrence Conklin.

Painite Comes to Pala – Pala International President Bill Larson recounts a thirty-year quest for a mysterious stone, finally concluding, “no painite, no gainite.”

Pala International Obtains One of the World’s Most Historic Tanzanite Crystals.

Paraiba at Pala – Pala brings you up to date regarding the “name game” for copper-bearing tourmaline. Fully illustrated.

Passion Fruit: A Lover’s Guide to Sapphire – Pala’s resident ruby and sapphire expert discusses sapphire connoisseurship. By Richard W. Hughes.

Sapphire, The Royal Gem  – This is a reprint of a pamphlet published in 1924 by the New Mine Sapphire Syndicate, London, describing the mining and production of what eventually would be known as Yogo Gulch sapphire.

Seeing Red: A Guide to Ruby – Richard Hughes examines the elements of quality in ruby. Fully illustrated.

Spinel: A Description of Two Large Spinel Rubies… – Discussion of engraved spinels. By Valentine Ball. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Spinel by Richard W. Hughes.

Venus In Bling: Bryan Ferry Allures, Offends, Endures – An essay by David Hughes, News Editor, Pala International.

A Votive Babylonian Axe Head – Articles on an artifact in the collection of Pala International's Bill Larson.

Walking the Line in Ruby & Sapphire – A connoisseur’s search for meaning with padparadscha and pink sapphire. By Richard Hughes. Fully illustrated. This article includes a Buyer’s Guide to Padparadscha by Richard Hughes.


Localities

Add Value to East Africa Gems and People Will Shine, Too – By Robert Weldon, GIA Manager of Photography & Visual Communications.

The Importance of African Colored Gemstones in Today's Market – A slide show by Pala's Bill Larson, presented at the 2012 Arusha International Gem, Jewelry and Mineral Fair.

Alexandrite from Russia – By Peter Bancroft. Description of the Russian alexandrite mines. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Alexandrite – By Richard W. Hughes.

Bill Larson in Burma and Vietnam, 2005 – A pictorial.

Bill Larson in Hong Kong and Burma, 2012 – A pictorial.

Bill Larson and Friends in Burma, 2013 – A pictorial.

Burma Gem Sales and Statistics – A Gem News item that collects the most recent stats and links in one place.

Burma, The Mineral Utopia – A three-part series an account of Burma and its gem mines by Martin L. Ehrmann, one of America’s leading gem authorities, internationally known for his work in the coloring of diamonds by cyclotronic bombardment.

Part 1 – Overview of Burma's mines.

Part 2 – The author's extensive gem buying trip in Burma.

Part 3 – Amber mines and gem trading.

Burma Ruby: A History of Mogok’s Rubies from Antiquity to the Present – A book review by Pala International's Bill Larson

Burmese Jade: The Inscrutable Gem
A groundbreaking article on the second-most valuable gem in the world – Burmese jade. By Richard Hughes, Olivier Galibert, George Bosshart, Fred Ward, Thet Oo, Mark Smith, Tay Thye Sun and George Harlow. Fully illustrated.

Part 1 – Burma's Jade Mines

Part 2 – The cutting, grading, trading and faking of Burmese jadeite is detailed. Fully illustrated.

California as a Gem State – A 1902 reprint. By Gilbert E. Bailey, E.M., Ph.D.

California Gem Mining: Chronicle of a Comeback – One of the finest articles ever written about gem mining in San Diego County, California. Fully illustrated. By David Federman.

California Gemstones – Three articles, from 1893 to 1948, that look at California gemstones in general and rubellite/lepidolite in particular:

Notes on the Occurrence of Rubellite and Lepidolite in Southern California” by Harold W. Fairbanks, Berkeley, Cal., from Science

Precious and Semi-Precious Stones of California” by Alice M. Keatinge, from Overland Monthly

The Gem Deposits of Southern California” by Richard H. Jahns, from Engineering and Science Monthly

Ceylon’s Gem Mines – Ceylon’s storied gem mines are detailed in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures.

Color-Change Garnet from Kenya – A new discovery (early 2009) from the Taita-Taveta are, best known for tsavorite production.

Egypt's Evening Emeralds – James Harrell and Elizabeth Bloxam investigate the Hellenistic-Roman peridot mine on Zabargad Island in the Red Sea.

The Emerald Deposits of Muzo, Colombia – Scholarly examination of these famous emerald mines. By Joseph E. Pogue. Illustrated. Reprinted from Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, 1917.

Fire-hearted Pebbles from Burma – A wonderful look at mining rubies in Mogok, ca. 1930, by C.M. Enriquez. Complete with period photos.

First Voyage to Tanzania – Tanzanite – A Stone of Beauty – A video visit to the mines by Pala's Will Larson, shot in conjunction with the 2012 Arusha show.

From Russia with Jade – Richard Hughes together with Nickolai Kuznetsov, make an epic journey to Russia’s jadeite mines in the Polar Urals and Khakassia. Fully illustrated.

Gem Mining in Burma – By Martin Ehrmann. Reprinted by kind permission of Gems & Gemology, in which the original appeared, Spring 1957.

Gemstone and Mineral Mining in Pakistan’s Mountains – An article by Jim Clanin reprinted from InColor.

Gemstones in Vietnam – Pala International is pleased to reprint this substantial article fromThe Australian Gemmologist. Written by Vietnamese and French researchers, the article covers corundum as well as aquamarine, tourmaline, peridot, and pearl.

History of Pala Mining – Pala International has been active in mining development since 1969, and is known for its work in the Pala mining district, in north San Diego County, California. The company is internationally famous for its many mining projects, specifically those involving tourmaline, an important precious stone. Pala’s tourmaline mines have become the cornerstone of other mining ventures.

Imperial Topaz from Brazil– Brazilian topaz mines are covered in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Topaz by Richard W. Hughes.

Kashmir Sapphires – The first eyewitness account of the fabled Kashmir sapphire mines in northern India, 1889, by T.D. LaTouche. Complete with period and modern photos.

Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan – These storied mines are detailed in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Lapis Lazuli by Richard W. Hughes.

Larsons in China – Pala’s Bill Larson and son Will Larson made presentations on tourmaline and collecting at a first-ever China mineral and gem crystal conference in Beijing.

Letter from Pakistan – True adventure from Pala International’s daring suppliers.

Lloviznando Opal: A Look Above the Surface – An extended look at this rare material from Mexico.

Longido Ruby – We are proud to present this article courtesy of Edward Swoboda, on the ruby mines of Longido, Tanzania.

Melo Pearls from Myanmar – Poster session delivered at the 2006 GIA Symposium. Co-authored by Pala International President Bill Larson, Han Htun (Yangon), and Jo Ellen Cole (Carlsbad, CA). Fully illustrated.

Melo Pearls from South Vietnam – Photographs from Pala’s supplier.

On the Corundum Stone from Asia – A reprint of the study by the Right Hon. Charles Greville, F.R.S.; read June 7, 1798.

Pakistan: A Year in Review – A look at select developments in 2006: A follow-up on the 2005 earthquake, progress on a new initiative for gems and jewelry, a gemology school partnership, and a visit to the mines.

Pakistan’s Gemstones: An Overview – The past, present, and future of the challenges that face Pakistan in its development of a gemstone industry.

Pala District Pegmatite Opens Wider – New discoveries at the 49er pocket.

Paraiba at Pala – Pala brings you up to date regarding the “name game” for copper-bearing tourmaline. Fully illustrated.

The Path to Paraiba Winds Through Mozambique – Pala’s Jason Stephenson recounts the history of gems in southern Africa and traces the steps of Moussa Konate, who discovered paraiba-type tourmaline in Mozambique.

Pearls – An overview of Burma's pearl industry.

Pegmatites of Laghman, Nuristan, Afghanistan – By Pierre Bariand and J.F. Poullen.

The Queen Reigns Again – A great description of mining the Tourmaline Queen mine near Pala, California.

Red Sea Peridot – Zabargad’s peridot mines are detailed in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Peridot by Richard W. Hughes.

Reds Turn to Green: Russia’s Stunning Demantoid Discovery – Russia’s new demantoid strike is detailed in this segment from Pala’s President, Bill Larson. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Demantoid by Richard W. Hughes.

The Ruby Mines of Mogok – A mid-20th century manuscript by Martin Ehrmann.

See also Ruby Mines of Mogok – Slide Show, from Ehrmann’s personal collection.

The Ruby & Sapphire Deposits of Moung Klung, Siam – 1894 account of mining ruby and sapphire in Thailand by Henry Louis.

The Sickler Family: Historic San Diego County Gemstone Miners – By Peter Bancroft, reprinted from The Wrangler, quarterly published by the San Diego Corral of The Westerners, 1995.

Southern California Gemstones – Five articles about gemstones and mining in Southern California, published between 1903 and 1911, in a variety of publications:

The Value of Radium, Roentgen Rays and Ultra-Violet Radiations in Mineralogical Determinations” from Electrical World and Engineer, Vol. XLII, No. 12 (19 Sep. 1903), pp. 481–482

Gems and Rare Minerals of Southern California” by L. Douglas Sovereign, from the Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, Vol. IV, No. 5 (May 1905), pp. 85–90

Gem Mining in California” from The Pacific Monthly, Vol. XIV, No. 5 (Nov. 1905), pp. 495–496

San Diego’s Gem Casket” by Richard Keene, from The Pacific Monthly, Vol. XV, No. 3 (Mar. 1906), pp. 328–334

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine” by John Cowan, from Mines and Minerals, Vol. XXXII, No. 3 (Oct. 1911), pp. 181–182

    Spodumene from San Diego Co., California – A reprint by Waldemar T. Schaller published by the University of California in the Bulletin of the Department of Geology, 1903.

    Tanzanite from Tanzania – Tanzania’s tanzanite mines are detailed in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Tanzanite by Richard W. Hughes.

    Tourmalines: California's Most Beautiful Gem – A booklet from the Pala Chief Gem Mines of San Diego County featuring miners and cutters of tourmalines, plus articles for home and personal adornment.

    Treasures from the Palace Museum – Photos taken in 2006 by Bill and Will Larson, from the Forbidden City’s famous museum.

    Tsavorite from Kenya – Kenya’s tsavorite garnet mines are detailed in this segment from Dr. Peter Bancroft’s Gem & Crystal Treasures. Also includes a Buyer’s Guide to Tsavorite by Richard W. Hughes.

    Uncle Sam’s Oversight – A reprint from Technical World Magaziney Edna Rowell Schley, regarding Baja California.

    A Visit to the Gem Emporium (Burma) – A reprint from Lotus: Inflight Magazine of Air Bagan by Emily Jane Chang.

    Where Nature Stores Her Jewels – A reprint from Sunset magazine, by Edna Rowell Schley, October 1905, regarding San Diego, California.

    Wyoming Jades Revisited – An article by the late Roger Merk.


    Museums & Exhibitions

    American Girls in Paris
    A visit to the French National Museum of Natural History.

    Flashes of Colour: Legendary Wines and Gemstone
    In late June 2007, Pala International supplied over $1 million worth of gemstones and mineral specimens to a remarkable exhibition of fine wines and gemstones in Dijon, France.

    Pala’s Gabrièl Mattice Consults for Houston Museum Gem Vault 

    Perot Museum of Nature and Science – A report by Pala's Bill Larson about the opening of the musuem.


    Pala International


    Photographers

    In the occasional series FotogFocus, we focus on the artists behind the camera:

    Issue #1
    French photographer Bruno Cupillard

    Issue #2
    American photographer Jeffrey Scovil

    Issue #3
    Thai photographer Wimon Manorotkul

    Issue #4
    Dutch photographer Fred Kruijen

    Issue #5
    American photographer Sarah Oros 


    Special Reports

    Burma Gem Sales & Statistics 
    Burma gem sales figures aren’t always easy to come by, so we’ve compiled some, from the following sources:

    • Agence France-Presse
    • Irrawaddy
    • Myanmar Times
    • New Light of Myanmar
    • People’s Daily, China
    • Yangon City Development
    • Xinhua

    Trade Shows

    Chowing Down in Changsha
    Pala International’s Will Larson reflects on the inaugural Changsha Mineral and Gem Show, held in Changsha, Hunan, China, May 16–20, 2013.

    Munich Mineral Show 2012
    The Munich Mineral Show is Europe’s finest. See also the reports from 201120092007, and 2001. From Pala International’s Bill Larson and Will Larson. [Most articles from Palaminerals.com]

    Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2010
    See also the reports from 200920082007, and 2006. From Pala International’s Bill Larson and Will Larson. [Articles from Palaminerals.com]

    A Trip to Japan
    Pala International at the 2005 Tokyo Mineral Show. By Will H. Larson.


    Treatments & Testing

    Fluxed Up: The fracture healing of ruby
    Pala’s ex-webmaster, Richard Hughes, takes a look at a little-known, but common treatment. Illustrated, with an Appendix by John Emmett.

    Gods, Graves & Sapphires
    Pala’s President, William Larson, waxes philosophic on the impact of treatments on the ruby and sapphire market. Illustrated.

    LIBS: A New Beryllium Testing Method
    The SSEF adds a powerful new weapon to the gemological arsenal. Illustrated.

    Questions About Treated Sapphires from Thailand
    Answers to questions regarding the outside-in diffusion of coloring agents used in these treatments.

    Red Hot and Blue: Irradiated Topaz
    Blue topaz is achieved by a combination of irradiation and (often) heat treatment. But what happens when “hot” material isn’t allowed to cool?

    The Skin Game
    Richard Hughes covers all the latest developments on the new treated orange sapphires in a comprehensive article. Fully illustrated.

    Suspect Blues: Coming in from the Cold?
    In 2003, certain blue sapphires in Sri Lanka were the cause of great debate. Read about them here.

    Topaz Blue & Déjà Vu
    by Robert Weldon. Reprinted by permission of GIA, 2007.

    Understanding the New Treated Pink-Orange Sapphires
    Experiments reproduced the Thai gem treatment. By John Emmett and Troy Douthit.