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

February 2014

February 2014 Newsletter

Safaa Yu from The Collector's Edge on setup day at the 60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Safaa Yu from The Collector's Edge on setup day at the 60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Table of Contents

Islamabad Gem Exhibition: Feb. 21–23, 2014

The 4th Islamabad Gem Exhibition is scheduled for February 21–23, 2014, but you wouldn't know it from the Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development website, which makes no mention. Details are available in the poster below.

See also this 13-minute documentary about the gems and jewelry industry of Pakistan, filled with eye candy.


Bill Larson to Address SDMG 80th Annual Banquet

It's been a year of milestones, with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show celebrating 60 years, and the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society marking its 80th birthday. Pala International's Bill Larson will be the featured speaker for the latter bash, to be held on Saturday, March 8, 2014, 11:30 a.m., at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 8885 Balboa Ave., San Diego.

Bill will show highlights from various mines in San Diego County—exceptional specimens that include morganite, kunzite, garnet, and rare gem species. He noted, "I was the speaker at the 70th anniversary, so I guess my goal is to speak at the 100th!"

The "Candelabra" Tourmaline was mined in 1972 by Bill Larson at the Tourmaline Queen mine in San Diego County's Pala District. "What a sight," he recalled years later, "over a foot long." (It actually is about a foot and a half.) It now is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

The "Candelabra" Tourmaline was mined in 1972 by Bill Larson at the Tourmaline Queen mine in San Diego County's Pala District. "What a sight," he recalled years later, "over a foot long." (It actually is about a foot and a half.) It now is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

Ticket info and more details for the banquet available here.


Twelfth Annual Sinkankas Symposium – Peridot and Uncommon Green-colored Gem Minerals

April 5, 2014, GIA World Headquarters and
The Robert Mouawad Campus, Carlsbad

The annual Sinkankas Symposium has been described by John Koivula as the "best gem mineral symposium in North America" and has a reputation for achieving sold-out enrollment.

This year's theme focuses on green-colored gems that have lower public recognition than their more illustrious counterparts such as emerald, jade, etc., with peridot perhaps the most well-known. For instance, Pala International’s Bill Larson will offer "Green with Envy," a photographic odyssey of fine crystals and cut gems from worldwide localities featuring peridot and a panoply of uncommon green gems of beguiling beauty ranging from A (actinolite) to Z (zircon). Lisbet Thoresen, whose study of ancient garnet we reviewed last month, will discuss the disappearing act of the "poor man's emerald" in her presentation, "Chromian Chalcedony: A Gem from History's Lost and Found."

Visit the Sinkankas Symposium website for speaker bios and abstracts of presentation topics.

  • Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez – Peridot from Sapat, Pakistan
  • Dr. James A. Harrell – Archaeogemology of Peridot
  • William Larson – Green with Envy
  • Shane McClure
  • Nathan Renfro – Cutting Peridot and the Exploration of Its Inclusions
  • Dr. George Rossman will discuss the causes of color in green gem minerals
  • Dr. James Shigley
  • Dr. Skip Simmons – Mineralogy and Crystallography of Peridot
  • Lisbet Thoresen – Chromian Chalcedony: A Gem from History's Lost and Found
  • Robert Weldon

The Sinkankas Symposium is organized by Roger Merk, and co-sponsored by the Gemological Society of San Diego and the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). It will be held Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the GIA World Headquarters and The Robert Mouawad Campus, 5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008.

Registration

The registration form is posted on the Symposium website after past attendees are sent their invitations. Join the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society mailing list to be kept informed; after submitting your email address, be sure to select the Sinkankas Symposium checkbox.

Envious? Zircon comes to us in a rainbow of hues, often colorless, golden, or ruddy. This natural green variety is more rare. Inv. #20069. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Envious? Zircon comes to us in a rainbow of hues, often colorless, golden, or ruddy. This natural green variety is more rare. Inv. #20069. (Photo: Mia Dixon)


European Gem & Mineral Experience

Pala International's Bill Larson poses in Tucson with Eloïse Gaillou, curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Eloïse has her Alsace guidebook in preparation for the "European Gem & Mineral Experience: a trip organized by the curatorial staff of NHMLAC," June 27th – July 7th, 2014, with stops in Idar-Oberstein, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, mines & vines & wines, and more. (Note: This tour has been cancelled.) Bill holds the revised edition of the proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Sinkankas Symposium – Ruby. This lovely, 130-page volume, co-published by Pala International, will be available for online purchase soon; check the Symposium website for news. The cover star of the proceedings is the Hixon ruby, which happens to be owned by Eloïse's institution. It's a pristine natural crystal, from the Mogok Stone Tract; at 196 carats, it is one of the finest Burmese rubies on display in a public museum. The ruby was photographed by Harold and Erica Van Pelt. (Photo: Will Larson)

Pala International's Bill Larson poses in Tucson with Eloïse Gaillou, curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Eloïse has her Alsace guidebook in preparation for the "European Gem & Mineral Experience: a trip organized by the curatorial staff of NHMLAC," June 27th – July 7th, 2014, with stops in Idar-Oberstein, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, mines & vines & wines, and more. (Note: This tour has been cancelled.) Bill holds the revised edition of the proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Sinkankas Symposium – Ruby. This lovely, 130-page volume, co-published by Pala International, will be available for online purchase soon; check the Symposium website for news. The cover star of the proceedings is the Hixon ruby, which happens to be owned by Eloïse's institution. It's a pristine natural crystal, from the Mogok Stone Tract; at 196 carats, it is one of the finest Burmese rubies on display in a public museum. The ruby was photographed by Harold and Erica Van Pelt. (Photo: Will Larson)


2nd China (Changsha) Mineral & Gem Show:
May 15–20, 2014

The theme of this year's show is "Mines."

The theme of this year's show is "Mines."

Take a breather after Tucson, buy a new pair of sensible shoes, and take off for the 2nd China (Changsha) Mineral & Gem Show, May 15–20, 2014. With two floors and hundreds of exhibitors, you'll want to be light on your feet. Trade-only days are May 15 and 16; public days are May 17–20, at the Hunan International Conference & Exhibition Center.

Reports on last year's show by Pala International's Will Larson as well as by Dr. Peter Megaw and Allison Megaw noted room for improvement, mainly in timely delivery of international dealers' shipments through customs. (And the wine list could have been ramped up a notch.)

Last year's show theme was "Mineral Museums," and the Megaws wrote that the Chinese government was working on the development of more than a thousand new natural science museums. Four hundred were opened in 2011 alone, according to a show statement. "Not only have the newly opened museums had great procurement demand in mineral and gem collections," reads the statement, "but also the public."


Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed
Now thru August 24, 2014 at DMNS

On Valentine's Day, Denver residents and visitors were treated to chocolate and more—Mayan style—at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. With the opening of a new wing and a new exhibition, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, attendees could purchase Mayan-spice truffles, chocolate-covered cacao nibs and sipping chocolate (from Boulder's Piece, Love and Chocolate) in the museum shop and sneak a nibble or three as they browsed.

This mask was found in the tomb of Great Scrolled Skull, a ruler of Santa Rita Corozal in Belize during the Early Classic period (250–900 C.E.). A symbol of power, Great Scrolled Skull probably wore it as an ornament on his belt or on a necklace. The mask's jade, shell, and obsidian were attached to an organic backing that had decomposed, so when it was found, it was a pile of chips that had to be reconstructed. For more on Maya jadeite, see this profile of work by George E. Harlow, curator of the American Museum of Natural History. (Image courtesy of the National Institute of Culture and History and Science Museum of Minnesota)

This mask was found in the tomb of Great Scrolled Skull, a ruler of Santa Rita Corozal in Belize during the Early Classic period (250–900 C.E.). A symbol of power, Great Scrolled Skull probably wore it as an ornament on his belt or on a necklace. The mask's jade, shell, and obsidian were attached to an organic backing that had decomposed, so when it was found, it was a pile of chips that had to be reconstructed. For more on Maya jadeite, see this profile of work by George E. Harlow, curator of the American Museum of Natural History. (Image courtesy of the National Institute of Culture and History and Science Museum of Minnesota)

Mosaic ear flares, also known as spools, have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. The Maya believed that the ears—like the eyes, mouth and nostrils—were pathways to the mind, soul and other spiritual dimensions. (Photo courtesy National Institute of Culture and History)

Mosaic ear flares, also known as spools, have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. The Maya believed that the ears—like the eyes, mouth and nostrils—were pathways to the mind, soul and other spiritual dimensions. (Photo courtesy National Institute of Culture and History)

The exhibition is the largest concerning the Ancient Maya ever to be displayed in the United States. (Having left Minneapolis, it will travel to Boston's Museum of Science Oct. 10, 2014 thru May 3, 2015, and the San Diego Natural History Museum June 12, 2015 thru January 3, 2016.) On display are more than 250 Mayan artifacts, including jewelry, stonework, astronomical and calendrical devices, burial objects, tools, and more. One hands-on exhibit explains the method of dental modification, i.e., use of a bow drill to allow placement of decorative stones in incisors.

Incisors decorated with stones. Note that the teeth also are filed—as well as filled. (Photo courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota) 

Incisors decorated with stones. Note that the teeth also are filed—as well as filled. (Photo courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota) 

Gold mask ornament, hammered and delicately embossed. Made from imported gold, this eye piece once decorated the ceremonial mask of a priest or ruler. Writhing feathered serpents formed "brows" above the eye holes. (Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 10-71-20/C7679, 98600128)

Gold mask ornament, hammered and delicately embossed. Made from imported gold, this eye piece once decorated the ceremonial mask of a priest or ruler. Writhing feathered serpents formed "brows" above the eye holes. (Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 10-71-20/C7679, 98600128)

The exhibition planning began in 2008, followed by the exhibit team's first stop at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and a tour of the museum's Maya collection. Also visited were the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard, the National Institute of Culture and History, and the San Diego Museum of Man. In addition to contributions by these institutions were textiles from Maya villages in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, as well as artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

This halved conch shell makes an elegant ink pot for mixing and storing paints. Although often depicted in Maya artwork, few of these have survived. (Image © Science Museum of Minnesota) Currently on display at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts is Shells: Magic and Science, which includes a beautiful 17th-century goblet (pictured here) fashioned from a Nautilus shell, decorated with a piscine ornament on the coil top and stem in the likeness of Neptune astride a seahorse. Such objects would be found in Renaissance-era Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities.

This halved conch shell makes an elegant ink pot for mixing and storing paints. Although often depicted in Maya artwork, few of these have survived. (Image © Science Museum of Minnesota)

Currently on display at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts is Shells: Magic and Science, which includes a beautiful 17th-century goblet (pictured here) fashioned from a Nautilus shell, decorated with a piscine ornament on the coil top and stem in the likeness of Neptune astride a seahorse. Such objects would be found in Renaissance-era Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities.

Maya is the inaugural exhibition for the Denver museum's Anschutz Gallery, part of the 126,000 square foot, five-level, $56.5 million Morgridge Family Exploration Center. In addition to galleries and classrooms, two underground floors—63,000 square feet—are devoted to the Rocky Mountain Science Collections Center, providing consolidated housing for the first time of nearly 1.5 million artifacts and specimens.

  From ancient to modern. Iridescent Cloud, by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, graces the new wing's Nature Plaza, which fronts the entrance. The faceted "crystals" are suspended between three stainless steel columns. Above, a worker cleans from a hydraulic crane last Thursday, as a section in the foreground awaits installation. "The artists' concept was inspired by the Museum's gems and minerals collection, exhibits about the physical properties of light, and Colorado's dramatic sun and sky," according to a press release. (Photo: David Hughes, above; Reed Roles, below)

 

From ancient to modern. Iridescent Cloud, by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan, graces the new wing's Nature Plaza, which fronts the entrance. The faceted "crystals" are suspended between three stainless steel columns. Above, a worker cleans from a hydraulic crane last Thursday, as a section in the foreground awaits installation. "The artists' concept was inspired by the Museum's gems and minerals collection, exhibits about the physical properties of light, and Colorado's dramatic sun and sky," according to a press release. (Photo: David Hughes, above; Reed Roles, below)

Denver also is home to a massive, 3,000-piece collection of pre-Columbian objects, including ornaments made from jadeite, gold, turquoise, shell, obsidian, and more. This collection is housed at the Denver Museum of Art, and you won't have to obtain permission to view it in the basement. Nearly the entire collection is open for permanent viewing on level 4 of the museum's North Building, and made inventively accessible via cruciform display cases that make for efficient use of space.

For even more on pre-Columbian jadeite, Dr. Harlow points us to the following.

  • Precolumbian Jade, a Proceedings Volume from a Conference on Middle American Jade, F.W. Lange, ed., Salt Lake City, UT, University of Utah Press, 1993; includes Dr. Harlow's contribution
  • Harlow, G.E., Sisson, V.B., and Sorensen, S.S. Jadeitite from Guatemala: New observations and distinctions among multiple occurrences. Geologica Acta, 9(3–4), Sep–Dec 2011, 363–387; available here

Cocoa Puffs

And this just in: a Valentine's Day warning from Jezebel.com (billed as "a general-interest women's website) regarding the marketing of Chocolate Diamonds®. Weighing in is Dr. George Harlow. Call it "cognac," call it "champagne," call it "caramel," it still starts with a "B."


Black Hats: Tucson in Pictures

On Sunday, Pala people wrapped another Tucson show. We leave you with a few candid shots.

Howdy, partenaire. The always raffish Brice Gobin visits the Pala International booth at the 60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Howdy, partenaireThe always raffish Brice Gobin visits the Pala International booth at the 60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Sochi strays? Misha Anosov (Russkie Mineraly: Russian Minerals), Prof. Dr. Viktor Garanin (Russian Academy of Sciences), Pala International's Bill Larson, Maria Alferova, Victor Nekrasov. Dr. Garanin is the director of the A.E. Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow and Alferova is a senior researcher there. Originally founded in 1716 in St. Petersburg, the museum is one of the world's largest, housing more than 135,000 items. Bill Larson was a guest of the Fersman Museum in 1989. He was flown from Moscow by Aeroflot to evaluate tourmaline in the Lake Bikal district. (Photo: Carl Larson)

Sochi strays? Misha Anosov (Russkie Mineraly: Russian Minerals), Prof. Dr. Viktor Garanin (Russian Academy of Sciences), Pala International's Bill Larson, Maria Alferova, Victor Nekrasov. Dr. Garanin is the director of the A.E. Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow and Alferova is a senior researcher there. Originally founded in 1716 in St. Petersburg, the museum is one of the world's largest, housing more than 135,000 items. Bill Larson was a guest of the Fersman Museum in 1989. He was flown from Moscow by Aeroflot to evaluate tourmaline in the Lake Bikal district. (Photo: Carl Larson)

You missed a spot. Pala boothmates Wayne A. Thompson (of Ikons fame) and Alain Martaud tidy up the place a bit. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it—and to supervise—and document. (Photo: Will Larson)

You missed a spot. Pala boothmates Wayne A. Thompson (of Ikons fame) and Alain Martaud tidy up the place a bit. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it—and to supervise—and document. (Photo: Will Larson)

Who's minding the museums? At the party hosted by Gail Spann and Jordi Fabre, enjoying a little R&R after a hard day's shopping on behalf of world-class collections, left to right: Dr. George Harlow (curator, American Museum of Natural History, who features in a story above), Mike Rumsey (curator of minerals, Natural History Museum, London), Katherine Dunnell (technician, Royal Ontario Museum), Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez (curator, Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard, wearing Carl Larson's hat!), Alan Hart (head of mineral collections, Natural History Museum), Kristina Bode (Mineralien Welt magazine), and Bill Larson. (Photo: Patsy Declines-to-State)

Who's minding the museums? At the party hosted by Gail Spann and Jordi Fabre, enjoying a little R&R after a hard day's shopping on behalf of world-class collections, left to right: Dr. George Harlow (curator, American Museum of Natural History, who features in a story above), Mike Rumsey (curator of minerals, Natural History Museum, London), Katherine Dunnell (technician, Royal Ontario Museum), Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez (curator, Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard, wearing Carl Larson's hat!), Alan Hart (head of mineral collections, Natural History Museum), Kristina Bode (Mineralien Welt magazine), and Bill Larson. (Photo: Patsy Declines-to-State)

Warming up the crowd. Paul S. Harter, right, prominent mineral collector and chair of the 60th Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, introduces Bill Larson before Bill's Valentine's Day presentation on "The Gem and Crystal treasures of the mythical Valley of Mogok." (Photo: Will Larson)

Warming up the crowd. Paul S. Harter, right, prominent mineral collector and chair of the 60th Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, introduces Bill Larson before Bill's Valentine's Day presentation on "The Gem and Crystal treasures of the mythical Valley of Mogok." (Photo: Will Larson)

Safety first. David P. Wilber, of What's Hot In Tucson fame, takes no chances, situating himself near a fire extinguisher. Missed last year's show? Check out the 2013 trailer, which is available on DVD or streaming HD. Friends of Pala International get a 10% discount on any BlueCap order. Just enter the code palaintl when you're asked for it while ordering. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Safety first. David P. Wilber, of What's Hot In Tucson fame, takes no chances, situating himself near a fire extinguisher. Missed last year's show? Check out the 2013 trailer, which is available on DVD or streaming HD. Friends of Pala International get a 10% discount on any BlueCap order. Just enter the code palaintl when you're asked for it while ordering. (Photo: Bill Larson)

Pala International News

This month we feature a pair of stunning aquamarines from Madagascar. This gem-riddled island off the coast of southeast Africa is known for producing a wide variety of gem minerals from its extensive network of pegmatites. Beryls grow large in these parts and a new discovery of natural blue aquamarine just hit the market at this year's Tucson show. These aquamarines have strong natural blues hues with flawless interiors. This pair exhibits the quintessential color for aquamarine and each is precision cut into 14-mm round brilliants.

Tucson treasure. Natural aquamarine from Madagascar, 14.12 x 14.12 x 9.83 mm, Inventory #21660. These are brand new, acquired at the Tucson show. Price available upon request. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Tucson treasure. Natural aquamarine from Madagascar, 14.12 x 14.12 x 9.83 mm, Inventory #21660. These are brand new, acquired at the Tucson show. Price available upon request. (Photo: Mia Dixon)


Pulse Pick

Gem Market Pulse is an occasional freebie offered by the publishers of The GemGuide, the preeminent trade publication for gemstone wholesalers. This month, the Pulse included fluorite as its featured gem, accompanied by a fluorite trio captured by Pala International's in-house photographer Mia Dixon. We thought we'd share it with our readers.

Triple Play. Green, 9.25 ct, 14.7 x 11.7 x 7.5 mm from the UK; orange, 5.30 ct, 10 x 10 x 7 mm from Switzerland; yellow, 14.22 ct, 14.6 x 11.2 x 9.9 mm from France. As explained in the Pulse, fluorite can be quite affordable, yet it's often overlooked. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Triple Play. Green, 9.25 ct, 14.7 x 11.7 x 7.5 mm from the UK; orange, 5.30 ct, 10 x 10 x 7 mm from Switzerland; yellow, 14.22 ct, 14.6 x 11.2 x 9.9 mm from France. As explained in the Pulse, fluorite can be quite affordable, yet it's often overlooked. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

To sign up for the free subscription, visit The GemGuide website and select Subscriber Login > Register.


Beautiful Blues

Pala International has opened up a new relationship with a supplier overseas who is directly involved with zircon coming out of Cambodia. Our new supplier is one of the biggest buyers of rough material produced by the mines and they are heating and cutting in their facilities as well.

Pala has been buying these beautiful blue zircons for years, but we have hit the mother lode this time. These stones feature stunning electric blue colors in big sizes, matched pairs—just about every shape and size you could imagine in the top color.

Photo showing the crude yet productive devices build for heating the zircon. Precise temperature, timing and cooling are required to hit the prime color. In the oven a little too long or the wrong temperature and you could end up with an off color.

Photo showing the crude yet productive devices build for heating the zircon. Precise temperature, timing and cooling are required to hit the prime color. In the oven a little too long or the wrong temperature and you could end up with an off color.

Excellent example of the brown material before heat, left, and the blue material after heat on the right.

Excellent example of the brown material before heat, left, and the blue material after heat on the right.

A view of the faceting operation that produces beautiful blue zircons.

A view of the faceting operation that produces beautiful blue zircons.

Interested? Browse the inventory of blue zircons, or contact us to inquire.

Gems and Gemology News

Natural and synthetic vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl

A study by Dr. Karl Schmetzer, Dr. Michael S. Krzemnicki, Thomas Hainschwang and Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Bernhardt

The subject of a new study, led by Dr. Karl Schmetzer on natural and synthetic vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl, would fit nicely in the upcoming Sinkankas Symposium, which will look at "peridot and uncommon green-colored gem minerals." The natural material in this study comes from four localities, one of which was examined last summer by Dr. Schmetzer, Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Bernhardt and Christopher Cavey (see "Vanadium- and chromium-bearing chrysoberyl from Mogok, Myanmar" on Palagems.com). Writing in Gems & Gemology's "Lab Notes" column ten years ago (2003, 39[2], 144) about a 4.29-carat bright beauty, Wendi M. Mayerson stated, "It is always a pleasure to see a large natural stone with such vivid color and high clarity." Indeed, mint-green chrysoberyl isn't something you see every day.

A natural vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl, from the inventory of Pala International, illustrates the allure of this rare gemstone material. From Tanzania, 3.05 ct, 9.67 x 8 x 8 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

A natural vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl, from the inventory of Pala International, illustrates the allure of this rare gemstone material. From Tanzania, 3.05 ct, 9.67 x 8 x 8 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

The present study was undertaken by Drs. Schmetzer and Bernhardt along with Dr. Michael Krzemnicki and Thomas Hainschwang. It is featured in the current edition of The Journal of Gemmology (2013, 33[7–8], 223–238) under the title, "Natural and synthetic vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl." Readers of the previous article will be interested to compare the Mogok material against that of the three other sources, Sri Lanka, Tunduru (Tanzania) and Ilakaka (Madagascar). This study should provide the data that is lacking on coloration and other properties of vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl, both natural and synthetic.

The study begins with an overview of bright green chrysoberyl that entered the market in the mid 1990s—faceted stones so clean that they were suspected to be synthetic. Trace-element analysis detected natural samples that hailed from Tunduru, in southern Tanzania, and which obtained their coloration from vanadium (V) rather than chromium (Cr). Unlike Cr-bearing chrysoberyl (alexandrite), this material displayed no color change between daylight and incandescent light. Had it equal amounts of Cr and V, like some Indian chrysoberyl, a slight color change, from green in daylight to pale grayish green in incandescent light, could have been observed. The discussion then turns to characteristics of synthetic alexandrite as well as synthetic, nearly Cr-free chrysoberyl.

The authors note the paucity of published data on V-bearing, non-phenomenal chrysoberyl from sources other than Tunduru. And to the authors' knowledge, only one study containing the polarized spectrum of synthetic V-bearing chrysoberyl—produced by what's known as the Czochralski method—has been published (in 1980 in a Russian journal that is not easily accessible). So there is much room for filling in the holes.

The synthetic material consisted of three pieces of rough and 12 faceted samples from the Kyoto Ceramic Corporation, or Kyocera, comparable to the Czochralski method. Twenty-seven natural rough and faceted samples, all with V greater than Cr, were obtained. The samples were examined using standard instrumentation for gemological and microscopic properties (inclusions and growth structures). Inclusions were identified in six of the mostly very clean natural samples by Raman microspectrometry. Chemical data were obtained for all the samples by electron microprobe or X-ray fluorescence analysis. Absorption spectra were recorded, both non-polarized and polarized, and colorimetric data were also obtained for part of the chrysoberyls.

Rough and cut V-bearing synthetic chrysoberyl grown by Kyocera Corporation. The top-right piece weighs 10.5 g and measures 15.5 × 15.5 × 14.4 mm; the faceted samples weigh 0.49–1.33 ct. (Photo: Karl Schmetzer)

Rough and cut V-bearing synthetic chrysoberyl grown by Kyocera Corporation. The top-right piece weighs 10.5 g and measures 15.5 × 15.5 × 14.4 mm; the faceted samples weigh 0.49–1.33 ct. (Photo: Karl Schmetzer)

In the synthetic samples, the color was bright green in both incandescent light and daylight; pleochroism was weak in the faceted material, but quite clear in the rough. The dominant color-causing trace element in the synthetic group was vanadium; only tiny traces of chromium and iron were detected occasionally.

Color comparison of faceted V-bearing chrysoberyl from various localities and synthetic chrysoberyl grown by Kyocera Corp. The chrysoberyl from Ilakaka weighs 2.09 ct and measures 9.1 × 7.2 mm. Click to enlarge. (Photos: Karl Schmetzer)

Color comparison of faceted V-bearing chrysoberyl from various localities and synthetic chrysoberyl grown by Kyocera Corp. The chrysoberyl from Ilakaka weighs 2.09 ct and measures 9.1 × 7.2 mm. Click to enlarge. (Photos: Karl Schmetzer)

The color variation of the natural samples corresponded with the pleochroism that was observed, regardless of origin. Thus all intense and very intense green stones displayed X = yellowish green, Y = green and Z = bluish green, about the same as in the synthetics. Dominant color-causing trace elements are either vanadium (Tunduru and Ilakaka) or a combination of vanadium and chromium (Sri Lanka and Myanmar). The greater the vanadium and chromium concentration, the more intense the green; the yellowish green samples from Sri Lanka had the highest concentration of iron, and in samples from Mogok, the highest vanadium and chromium concentration was detected. UV-Vis spectra show superimposed vanadium and chromium absorptions, as well as minor iron-related absorption bands.

Colorimetric parameters for two V- and Cr-bearing, Fe-rich chrysoberyls from Sri Lanka (with V>Cr), and V-bearing, Fe- and Cr-free synthetic chrysoberyl from Kyocera are plotted for daylight and incandescent light in the CIELAB color circle. The neutral point (white point) is in the center of the a*b* coordinate system and the outer circle represents a chroma of 40. The black circles plot the color coordinates in daylight D65 and the other ends of the differently colored bars represent the coordinates of the same samples in tungsten light A. The V-, Cr- and Fe-bearing chrysoberyls from Sri Lanka show a small color variation from yellow green to greenish yellow, whilst the V-bearing, Fe- and Cr-free synthetic chrysoberyls from Kyocera shift slightly from green to bluish green.

Colorimetric parameters for two V- and Cr-bearing, Fe-rich chrysoberyls from Sri Lanka (with V>Cr), and V-bearing, Fe- and Cr-free synthetic chrysoberyl from Kyocera are plotted for daylight and incandescent light in the CIELAB color circle. The neutral point (white point) is in the center of the a*b* coordinate system and the outer circle represents a chroma of 40. The black circles plot the color coordinates in daylight D65 and the other ends of the differently colored bars represent the coordinates of the same samples in tungsten light A. The V-, Cr- and Fe-bearing chrysoberyls from Sri Lanka show a small color variation from yellow green to greenish yellow, whilst the V-bearing, Fe- and Cr-free synthetic chrysoberyls from Kyocera shift slightly from green to bluish green.

Growth structures and crystal morphology of chrysoberyl and alexandrite already had been documented by Dr. Schmetzer (Journal of Gemmology, 2011, 32[5–8], 129–144; see abstract). Interestingly, growth structures were not observed in the Kyocera material, whereas they have been seen in material grown by the horizontally oriented crystallization method (alexandrites grown by this technique have already been studied by Schmetzer et al. in Journal of Gemmology, (2013, 33[5–6], 113–129; see abstract). Morphology of the rough samples from Tunduru, Ilakaka and Sri Lanka provided a challenge due to their origin from secondary deposits, rendering them waterworn and broken. Using goniometric measurements and observation of internal growth structures, some samples allowed for a complete morphology, which is illustrated in the article via idealized drawings.

Just as growth structures were not observed in the Kyocera synthetics in this study, inclusions were almost entirely absent, save for the rare gas bubble. The natural material, on the other hand, contained a variety of inclusions, e.g. apatite, feldspar or calcite, with the exception of the Sri Lanka samples.

As the authors point out, the facetable vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl gemstones included in their study should pique the interest of the discriminating collector. Should more of this material become available, especially the attractive Burma bluish green stones (which came to the researchers from collections where they had been housed since the 1970s), gemologists and jewelers will have the information, via the present study, that they need to separate synthetic from natural material, at the very least. The study also demonstrates the value of more rigorous laboratory testing.


Also in the current edition of The Journal of Gemmology is a report on another green gemstone, not quite as obscure as vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl. "Peñas Blancas: An historic Colombian emerald mine," by Ron Ringsrud and Edward Boehm, takes readers into a mine that had been closed to outsiders for more than twenty years. This mine, in the famous Muzo region of Colombia, may be less renowned than the Muzo, Coscuez and La Pita mines, but as can be seen in the image above, it produces gorgeous gems. These nine emeralds, faceted from a 22-gram Peñas Blancas crystal also pictured in the article, weigh 32.90 carats in total. The large heart shape weighs ~9 ct. (Photo: Ron Ringsrud) Pearl lovers will want to peruse "Tracing cultured pearls from farm to consumer: A review of potential methods and solutions" by Dr. Henry A. Hänni and Laurent E. Cartier, in the same edition of Journal of Gemmology. It's a fascinating overview of locality fingerprinting methods facilitated by pearls' porosity, the isotopes that reflect pearls' farm waters, and even DNA.

Also in the current edition of The Journal of Gemmology is a report on another green gemstone, not quite as obscure as vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl. "Peñas Blancas: An historic Colombian emerald mine," by Ron Ringsrud and Edward Boehm, takes readers into a mine that had been closed to outsiders for more than twenty years. This mine, in the famous Muzo region of Colombia, may be less renowned than the Muzo, Coscuez and La Pita mines, but as can be seen in the image above, it produces gorgeous gems. These nine emeralds, faceted from a 22-gram Peñas Blancas crystal also pictured in the article, weigh 32.90 carats in total. The large heart shape weighs ~9 ct. (Photo: Ron Ringsrud)

Pearl lovers will want to peruse "Tracing cultured pearls from farm to consumer: A review of potential methods and solutions" by Dr. Henry A. Hänni and Laurent E. Cartier, in the same edition of Journal of Gemmology. It's a fascinating overview of locality fingerprinting methods facilitated by pearls' porosity, the isotopes that reflect pearls' farm waters, and even DNA.

Industry News

Burma Bits

Jade jottings…

A single jade boulder weighing 15 tons was found Hpakant, Kachin State, on February 9, according to the February 13 edition of the official New Light of Myanmar daily. The football-shaped boulder is 20 feet square. It was found far from the established jade operations, in a vacant plot. It was being guarded by three parties: the local military battalion, police and staff of the Hpakant Township Jade Office.

Looking Westward. Pala International's Bill Larson, left, stands with U Kyaw Thaung, at the Westward Look show in Tucson last week. "U Kyaw is one of our Mogok suppliers; I met him back in 1995," Bill told us. "He loved Tucson!"

Looking Westward. Pala International's Bill Larson, left, stands with U Kyaw Thaung, at the Westward Look show in Tucson last week. "U Kyaw is one of our Mogok suppliers; I met him back in 1995," Bill told us. "He loved Tucson!"

In other news from Hpakant, Kachin News Group (KNG) reported on January 23 that Burma's military troops in the area "routinely extort money from civilian miners, [according to] jade traders and miners." The story states that "thousands" of miners are working the area, using artisanal methods, whereas mechanized mining has been scaled back or suspended. The post-mechanization state of affairs in Hpakant is the centerpiece of Saturday's editorial by Aung Zaw, founder/editor of the The Irrawaddy, focusing on past and future development in Burma. U.S. assistance to Burma was restricted by legislation signed by President Obama on January 17, as reported the next day by Democratic Voice of Burma. Aid is tied to many issues, including release of political prisoners, fair elections, civil rights barriers still in effect, and prosecution of human rights violators. See also an Irrawaddy interview with Gavin McGillivray, head of the Burma office for the UK Department for International Development, who laments the fact that Burma's extractive industries, including jade, currently are not employing domestic workers, since the material is exported "without being worked."

In January, officials from a "people's voice committee" met with leaders of four Kachin political parties to discuss consolidating their efforts ahead of the 2015 national election, according to a January 27 KNG story.

Hpakant's jade miners were profiled in a Yangon photo exhibition, as reported by The Irrawaddy on January 20. The exhibition, at Witness Yangon Documentary Arts Space, has closed, but the article does include one wide-angle image of a man hand-picking through rubble at the edge of a mine dump in Hpakant.

Gem entrepreneurs meet

The Myanmar Gems and Jewelry Entrepreneurs Association (MGJEA) met a week ago, as reported by Myanma Freedom Daily (MFD) on February 11. At the meeting, the association's chair, Tay Za, complained about U.S. sanctions that still are in place. Burma cannot trade rubies in Belgium, Tay Za said. Chinese trade is open, of course, but he noted that when currency is exchanged, the chain is euro to U.S. dollar to Chinese yuan, a losing proposition.

On the 10th, MFD reported that MGJEA officials would complain to the chief minister of Kachin State about a 1% levy assessed on sales, with the proceeds going towards construction of a road between Hpakant and Moe Kaung.

Jade sales

In the February 11 MFD article, trade statistics were mentioned. Jade exports for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, already have surpassed those of the 2012–13 fiscal year. So far, 95,000 tons, worth $980 million, have been traded, compared with 97,000 tons, worth $310 million, last year. (Yes, there may be a typo in these stats, which come via the Ministry of Commerce.)

Eleven Media Group reported on Saturday that Burma is $3.7 billion from its FY 2013–14 trade volume goal of $25 billion.

The plot thickens. Small-scale miners may receive plots in Mogok, according to this Democratic Voice of Burma story and video.

The plot thickens. Small-scale miners may receive plots in Mogok, according to this Democratic Voice of Burma story and video.

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB): Daylight robbery in Mogok unusual
  • DVB: More on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which we discussed in December
  • Myanmar Times: A February 2015 vintage car rally, the Myanmar-Burma Road Classic, to visit Mogok ruby land

Pala Presents

With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the collection of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who will share with us some of the wealth of information in the realm of gems and gemology. And, as with this edition, gemstone-related collectibles.


The Joys of Love: Birthstone Collecting Cards

Amethyst, the birthstone for February, is the second in our series of collecting cards that we'll supply over the next twelve months. For more information on birthstones, see Palagems.com.

Other collecting cards for February are available here.

Other collecting cards for February are available here.

— End February Newsletter • Published 2/17/14 —


Note: Palagems.com selects much of its material in the interest of fostering a stimulating discourse on the topics of gems, gemology, and the gemstone industry. Therefore the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those held by the proprietors of Palagems.com. We welcome your feedback.