Concerning Precious Stones
Concerning Precious Stones and Jewels
Issued by Theodore A. Kohn & Son
Jewellers, New York
The text that follows was issued in about 1925 as noted in its catalog entry by the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library at GIA. This edition consists of 45 pages; another consists of 43 pages.
A precious stone, a gem, a jewel—to-day as in the earliest times the words suggest at once beauty and color, something rare and greatly to be desired. Perhaps we no longer delight, as Aladdin did, in marble basins filled to overflowing with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds; we recognize now that great quantities of gems are not of artistic importance, but that it is the individual stone, carefully selected, and appropriately mounted, which we rightly prize.
Since the dawn of history personal adornment has been an object of interest to all races of mankind. No tribe of savages, however rude, has failed to show a liking for some kind of decoration. When more attractive materials were not obtainable, the common objects of the wayside—shells or pebbles, berries or feathers—were put to service; but whenever jewels could be secured they surpassed in favor all other articles of ornamentation. The very word jewel, derived from the French "joie," means "joy" and "gladness," and jewels have played an important part not only in the pleasure but in the art and history of mankind. To-day, as in past ages, they are still the favorite tokens of love and esteem.
It has been well said that a gift should be as genuine as the sentiment it expresses. A fine jewel is the gift par excellence, and moreover it endures to serve as a constant reminder of the giver. Too much care and consideration cannot be bestowed on the selection of a jewel.
As the charm of flowers is increased by artistic arrangement in vases of appropriate shape and color and material, so a precious stone should be set with due regard to design, material, and workmanship. The beauty of a stone is truly revealed by an appropriate setting.
The mounting of gems and the creation of handsome pieces of jewelry require expert knowledge. The determination of the most harmonious combinations of form and color bring into play the artistic instinct and talent of the jeweller. It is in his role as designer that the great jeweller is indeed an artist who carries on the traditions of a craft which has enlisted men with the finest sense of beauty—in the days of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks; in the Sixteenth Century with its masterpieces by Dürer, Holbein, and Cellini; and again in our own day, when the artistic attitude toward jewelry is once more in the ascendant.
For many years the so-called commercial attitude towards jewelry prevailed. This view regarded the monetary or intrinsic value of the stones as most important. The newer attitude, while not disregarding value, nevertheless emphasizes the artistic quality of the jewel as paramount.
The purchaser of an ornament now seeks artistic excellence of design, fine handiwork in the mounting, and suitability of the jewel to the character of the wearer. The owner, moreover, recognizes that many jewels when worn at one time diminish each other's beauty, and that the appeal of each is increased when it is chosen and worn with careful consideration of its suitability for the occasion, and its appropriateness in color and design for the particular gown.
Although stones and materials are subordinated to design, nevertheless a charming design developed with inferior material has about it an air of false pretense. Even if the imitation is difficult of detection, the pretense deprives the owner of the satisfaction which is derived from the knowledge that a jewel is genuine.
The layman is hardly qualified to judge genuineness. He must therefore rely very largely upon the knowledge and integrity of the jeweller. This at once suggests a relation of confidence and indicates the true role of the jeweller as a trustworthy adviser. Accurate and complete information regarding the value, genuineness, and history of individual gems is due the customer, and will be gladly offered by the dependable jeweller.
In the mounting of diamonds, the most interesting development in recent years has been the introduction and general use of platinum. Platinum not only harmonizes in color with diamonds but it does not change or tarnish under any circumstances.
One of the most striking evidences of good taste in jewelry is the recognition, particularly in America, of the beauty of pearls. The unobtrusiveness, the refinement, the soft lustre of the pearl is becoming to women; pearls harmonize readily with the wearer's complexion; they introduce no elements of contrast or vulgar display.
In estimating the value of a diamond, pearl, or other gem, three principal qualities must be considered: color, brilliancy, and perfection. In the case of each gem there is a true color which is rare. Brilliancy depends upon certain structural qualities and correct cutting. Perfection is freedom from flaws or defects; but it is important to recognize that minor and especially invisible defects do not detract appreciably from the beauty of a stone which has the essential virtues of good color and brilliancy. To be sure, commercial value is directly influenced by the perfection of the stones, but stones may be genuine and of great artistic value and still contain very slight imperfections. Size and weight are less important characteristics bearing upon value. The purchaser who is unfamiliar with the technique by which value is determined must entrust the selection of gems to a jeweller of unquestioned integrity and unfailing accuracy of judgment.
Strictly speaking the precious stones are only seven in number—the diamond, the pearl, the ruby, the sapphire, the emerald, the oriental catseye, and the alexandrite; but to these are often added the so-called semi-precious stones—such as the amethyst, the topaz, the tourmaline, the aquamarine, the chrysoprase, the peridot, the opal, the zircon, and the jade.
The charm of precious stones lies mainly in their beauty—in brilliancy, clearness, and above all, richness of color—"the blazing red of the ruby, the angry green of the emerald, the cold blue of the sapphire, and the white hot glory of the diamond," so vividly described by Kipling in his story of the Naulahka.
Two other qualities of precious stones, hardness and scarcity, add to their worth. To their hardness they owe their power of taking a high polish, as well as their durability; while their rarity, although a variable quality, is one of the chief elements of their value.
Jewels have always been associated with the pomp and splendor of royalty. Magnificent collections of precious stones are the pride of great museums. Famous diamonds such as the Great Mogul and the Kohinur have won a place for themselves in history.
Poets have always delighted in sentences studded with gems. We read in Proverbs, "A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it." Shakespeare's Juliet "hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear." Milton, describing the approach of evening, says, "Now glowed the firmament with living sapphires." Browning's hillside at morning is "dew-pearled."
And yet long association with pageantry and poetic imagination has not robbed jewels of their intimate personal character. A gem as a gift is the symbol of highest admiration. As a possession and ornament a jewel which combines the elements of beauty, genuineness, and appropriateness will be a continual satisfaction, a lasting source of pleasure.
A List of Precious and
Semi-Precious Stones and their
A Scale for Hardness
The following list of stones comprises those generally used by jewellers. Their color, hardness, and sources of supply are stated. The scale for hardness which has been in use for a century or more, was devised by Professor Friedrich Mohs (1773–1839), a German mineralogist.
Scale for Hardness
- TALC—very soft
- CALCITE—low degree of hardness
- FLUOR-SPAR—fairly hard
- APATITE—medium hardness
- FELDSPAR—scratches glass
- QUARTZ—quite hard
- PRECIOUS TOPAZ—very hard
- CORUNDUM—hardest mineral except diamond
- DIAMOND—hardest mineral
Precious and Semi-Precious Stones and Their Characteristics
|Name of Gem||Color||Hardness||Source of Supply|
|Alexandrite||Olive Green||8.5||Russia, India|
|Amethyst||Purple||7.||Siberia, Brazil, Uruguay, U.S.A.|
|Aquamarine||Sea-Green||7.5 to 8||Brazil, North Carolina|
|Catseye||Yellow, Brown, Sage Green||8.5||Ceylon, Brazil|
|Chrysoberyl||Sage Green||8.5||Ceylon, Brazil|
|Chrysolite||Yelowish Green||6.5 to 7||Egypt, U.S.A., Brazil|
|Chrysoprase||Green||6.||Silesia, India, U.S.A.|
|Coral||Red, Pink, White||3.75||Sicily, Japan, Sardinia|
|Diamond||Colorless||10.||South Africa, India, Belgian Congo, British Guiana, Angola|
|Emerald||Green||7.5 to 8||Columbia [sic], India, Egypt, North Carolina|
|Garnet||Red||6.5 to 7.5||Bohemia, Brazil, U.S.A.|
|Jade||Green||6.5||China, New Zealand, Turkestan, Burma|
|Lapis-Lazuli||Blue||5 to 5.5||Afghanistan, Siberia|
|Opal||Iridescent||5.5 to 6.5||Queensland, New South Wales, Mexico, Hungary|
|Pearl||White||2.5 to 3.5||Ceylon, Panama, Australia, U.S.A.|
|Peridot||Green||6.5 to 7||Egypt, Burma, Queensland, U.S.A.|
|Ruby||Red||9.||Ceylon, Burma, Siam|
|Sapphire||Blue||9.||Burma, New South Wales, Ceylon, Montana|
|Spinel||Yellowish Red||8.||Ceylon, Burma, Siam|
|Topaz||Yellow||7. to 8.||Brazil, Scotland, Spain, North Carolina|
|Tourmaline||Pink, Green, Yellow, Blue||7. to 7.5||North Carolina, India, Brazil, Maine|
|Turquoise||Blue||6.||Persia, Egypt, New Mexico, Arizona|
|Zircon||Brown||7.5||Ceylon, Bohemia, Germany|
Precious and Semi-Precious Stones arranged according to their color.
|Black||Hematite, jet, onyx, pearl, quartz, tourmaline, opal.|
|Blue||Aquamarine, chalcedony, lapis-lazuli, opal, sapphire, tourmaline, turquoise.|
|Brown||Amber, agate, diamond, sardonyx, topaz, zircon.|
|Colorless||Beryl, crystal, corundum, diamond, moonstone, quartz, tourmaline, topaz.|
|Green||Alexandrite, amazonite, aquamarine, bloodstone, chalcedony, chrysolite, chrysoprase, corundum, chrysoberyl, emerald, jade, malachite, obsidian, opal, olivine, peridot, tourmaline.|
|Pink||Beryl, coral, corundum, kunzite, quartz, pearl, spinel, tourmaline.|
|Purple||Almandine, amethyst, corundum, tourmaline.|
|Red||Agate, alexandrite, avanturine, coral, garnet, ruby, sardonyx, spinel, hyacinth, tourmaline.|
|White||Chalcedony, coral, opal, onyx, quartz, pearl.|
|Yellow||Amber, chrysoberyl, corundum, diamond, pearl, spinel, topaz, fire opal, zircon, chrysolite.|
The Symbolic Significance of Precious Stones
|Agate||Health; longevity; wealth.|
|Amethyst||Deep and pure love; prevents intoxication.|
|Beryl||Happiness; everlasting youth.|
|Catseye||Warns of danger and trouble.|
|Chrysolite||Gladdens the heart.|
|Emerald||Immortality; incorruptibility; conquers sin and trial.|
|Garnet||Insures power and victory; fidelity.|
|Hyacinth||Gives second sight.|
|Opal||Hope; innocence; purity.|
|Ruby||Charity; dignity; divine power.|
|Sapphire||Constancy; truth; virtue.|
|Turquoise||Prosperity; soul cheer.|
Natal Stones and Flowers
|March||Bloodstone or Aquamarine||Violet|
|August||Sardonyx or Peridot||Poppy|
|December||Turquoise or Lapis-Lazuli||Holly|
|12th||Silk and Fine Linen|
|Polar Star||40 carats|
|Pasha of Egypt||40 carats|
|Shah of Persia||71 carats|
|Great Mogul||280 carats|
|Star of the South||125 carats|