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912 Live Oak Park Rd South
Fallbrook, CA, 92028
United States

+1 (760) 728-9121

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

January 1996

Gem Spectrum title image

The Gem Spectrum is Pala International’s free newsletter. Edited by Pala’s own Gabrièl Mattice, it is filled with interesting articles on various aspects of gems and minerals.
    We distribute The Gem Spectrum free within the United States to members of the gem and jewelry trades. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact us.

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens


128 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
January 1, 1898

Dear Sir:
The gems, precious stones and ornamental stones named in the following list have been found at various times in the United States. If you know of the finding of any of these within the last year, will you, if possible, kindly fill in the amount and estimated value opposite the name of the species or variety, with a description of the locality and occurrence, and return the list in the enclosed envelope, which requires no postage. If you know of any other precious or ornamental stones found, in addition to those on the list, kindly include a description of them also.PLEASE FORWARD YOUR RESPONSE AS SOON AS YOU CONVENIENTLY CAN.

Very truly yours,
George F. Kunz
Special Agent
Division of Mineral Resources
US Geological Survey

From Lawrence Conklin’s Letters to George F. Kunz

The letter above is only one of a beautifully compiled collection of correspondence from a book titled Letters to George F. Kunz by Lawrence Conklin. Like the music of the great composers, poignant notes and comments can posthumously capture one’s complete attention and transport the imagination to another place and time. Whether receiving or sending these letters, such respect and kinship was conveyed that one is impressed and humbled by the unpretentious knowledge freely shared by Dr. Kunz and his peers. Accompanying this letter was a list of 118 gems occurring in the USA! It is interesting to note that at that time (1898), red beryl, benitoite, morganite and kunzite among others, had yet to be disclosed. Historically, all 50 states have produced some gem materials but commercial production is limited to only a few areas. By far the largest number of finds, both currently and historically, have been made by amateur collectors, mineralogists and geologists. Here is a brief overview of current (1996) important American deposits in alphabetical order.

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
The “Candelabra,” a rubellite tourmaline, was mined by Pala International at the Tourmaline Queen, San Diego County, California, in 1972.
(Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

ARIZONA for many years has produced a large variety of gemstones including amethyst, azurite, chrysocolla, fire agate, garnet, malachite, obsidian, peridot, petrified wood, and of course turquoise. The Arizona peridot source is located on the San Carlos Indian Reservation and is considered the largest production in the entire world and turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty Mine is considered some of the finest.

ARKANSAS is famous for being the only location in the United States that has ever produced diamonds from a pipe (there are many rumors that new pipes are about to be worked commercially in Wyoming and other areas of the Midwest and West, however, these projects are not yet being implemented). Arkansas also produces wonderful quartz crystals popularly known as Herkimer diamonds because of their crystal habit and clarity. One little known fact is that fresh water pearls are also cultivated here in large numbers.

CALIFORNIA has a long history of gem production starting with tourmaline. This Pacific coast state has produced tourmaline, benitoite (exclusively), spessartine garnet, abalone pearls, morganite, and some natural blue topaz, California also boasts the distinction of being where the original find of gem kunzite was discovered in 1901. The Himalaya mine has produced Pink and flawless bicolor tourmaline from the late 1800s to the present. In 1972, approximately 30 of the now highly prized and extremely rare “blue caps” from the Queen mine were unearthed. Like the one at right, only 15 found their way into some of the country’s most respected private and museum collections, such as the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History and the Houston Museum of Natural History to name a few. As of this printing [1996], future exploration is being discussed to see if benitoite can be mined and distributed on a larger scale. We will keep you informed.

COLORADO is known among mineral collectors as an important locality. It has produced smoky quartz, topaz, amazonite, and aquamarines from Mt. Antero. More recently, the famous Alma mine was reopened and produced the finest rhodochrosite in the history of the United States including some which were faceted into gems over 40 carats. This material is too soft for most jewelry wearing but stones of this size are spectacular collector items.

IDAHO’S state stone is the star garnet. It is produced in large quantities and sold all over the world. A small find several years ago produced exceptional aquamarine from the Saw Tooth Mountain District. Limited opal mining is producing some fine material.

MAINE was long famous as the original discovery for United States tourmaline and is still producing sporadically. In 1972, over one ton of tourmaline was produced at the Denton Mine. However, despite continued mining, little else was recovered. More recently, Mt. Mica has been re-mined and produced some high quality blue-green tourmaline in small sizes. In addition to tourmaline, Maine has produced aquamarine, heliodor, morganite and recently, excellent amethyst.

MONTANA is world famous for it’s sapphires from several localities. The most well known are the beautiful blues from the Yogo Gulch. Other varied colors are known from the Rock Creek area and other alluvial deposits. The potential production of large quantities of small size sapphire from Montana is most promising.

NEVADA has been a major producer of turquoise for decades and is a strong competitor with Arizona for the finest. Another important deposit is the Virgin Valley area for fine opal. If the opal could be stabilized, it would be among the world’s finest, however, most of this material has a large water content and often crazes.

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens

NORTH CAROLINA is historically known for producing diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald, as well as being the unique locality for hiddenite which is a rare emerald-green chromium-colored spodumene. Over the last several decades there have been sporadic discoveries of ruby and emerald, including one fine emerald weighing approximately four carats which is on display at Tiffany & Company in New York. More recently new finds of hiddenite have been found.

OREGON is one of the largest producers of agates of all sorts, including the famous Thunder Eggs. More exciting for jewelers has been the gem feldspar (sunstone) which has been found in numerous colors over the last several decades, including red and green. A recent find of opal has been interesting; however, it is also subject to crazing. Several large stones have been cut from the material, and to date they have remained stable.

TENNESSEE exports the largest quantity of freshwater mussels from North America for use as nuclei for cultured pearls around the world. American Pearl Company is the originator and largest producer of cultured freshwater fancy-shaped pearls. It must be mentioned that 50% of that cultured pearl production is exported to Asian and European wholesalers, who in turn sell them to their customers. The other 50% stays right here in the US, where designers and manufacturers incorporate the beauty of these fancy-shaped pearls (as well as others) into jewelry. Although collectors are the main purchasers of natural pearls (which command a much higher price than cultured), their numbers are much smaller in comparison to cultured pearl buyers. This is because mainly due to a lesser informed public in regards to natural pearls, as well as the strong market saturation and lower price of cultured pearls.

UTAH has long produced topaz crystals which are beautiful in color despite fading upon exposure to sunlight. More recently, a very important find of a unique gemstone, red beryl, has been found in the Wah Wah Mountains. The original discovery in the Thomas Mountains (near the topaz) was unimportant, however this new find is producing much larger gem quality crystals. A few cut stones are known for being over four carats, and are a very clean fine quality red. Exploration is going on currently, making this the largest potential commercial gemstone deposit in North America. Today more then ever large global exploration companies, which once specialized primarily in precious metal and ores, are recognizing North America’s gem production as yet another valuable resource to be tapped... but then; isn’t that what Dr. Kunz always said? Many thanks to Lawrence Conklin, New York, for his meticulous and painstaking research. What a great book!

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
Harry Winston – An American Legend
Without a doubt, one of the most highly respected names in the industry is Harry Winston. The phenomenal success he achieved didn’t come without years of study and persistent concern for quality. His perceptiveness in cutting, buying and selling precious gems elevated him to heights few jewelers will ever see. In Laurence Krashes’ book, Harry Winston: The Ultimate Jeweler, it is stated that Winston instinctively knew gemstones. A California-born son of jewelers, he says, “...ever since I was quite young, jewels have fascinated me. I think I must have been born with some knowledge of them.”

Harry Winston led an exemplary life, rich in legend, lore, and mystery. It was a life fantastic that he enjoyed to its fullest extent, weaving a fable of his own world, one filled with stories of kings and maharajas and great jewels and fortunes made and lost. He lived out the dream of being famous and successful in a place and time where it was all possible and in a field which had never before and probably never again will witness such a creative genius. Sometimes when the burden of being personality and fabulist one and the same seemed too great, and the weight of the world became too much, he would bemoan to himself with a sense of humor and self-mockery so characteristic of him, “Oh, Harry, Harry darling,” he would say with a sigh.

– Ronald Winston

These loving words are the echo of what many jewelers feel about a man who has reached a level of success and respect that goes with the name Harry Winston – an American success.
American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
The Spanish Inquisition necklace, now in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, was once owned by Harry Winston. (Photo: Dane Penland/Smithsonian)


American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
If necessity breeds ingenuity then Richard Drucker is on the right track. The Publisher/Editor of The Guide is a third generation jeweler/appraiser who found that although diamond prices have long been published, information on color was more difficult to come by.
In 1982, Rich and his father determined that they needed published information in regards to pricing on colored stones to improve their business. Luckily a lot of other people felt the same way.
    Today with the input of an expert team from all over the US (including Pala’s own Vice President, Josh Hall), pricing information is now available on about 75 varieties of colored stones, plus pearls, opal, jade, beads and even synthetics. A full diamond section covers pricing for all shapes, including baguettes, triangles, old European cuts, in sizes ranging from melee up to five carats.
    The Guide has grown into a trusted, reliable reference which comes quarterly with full color comparison photos of each variety and quality grade being discussed. All prices refer to actual wholesale memorandum, as well as what a jeweler can expect to pay the supplier.
    The Guide does not list gems for sale, nor does it accept advertising. Your subscription fee purchases only unbiased, fully researched up to date pricing information and circulation is worldwide.
    A note from Richard Drucker, Graduate Gemologist (GG):

“I hope you will take this opportunity to become a part of the thousands of subscribers that have used The Guide. There is not a better or more complete pricing publication in the industry. I’m sure you can understand by the size of my publication that sample books are not possible. However, if you do decide to order The Guide, your satisfaction is guaranteed. If not satisfied, you may return it for a full refund.”

    We at Pala International endorse The Guide. In these days of selling to a more informed public, you owe yourself and your staff every advantage. For info contact: Gemworld International, 630 Dundee Rd #235, Northbrook, IL 60062. Phone: 708-564-0555 or Fax: 708-564-0557.

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens

American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
Everyone goes through life striving for self-improvement. Even without being consciously aware of it, we are continually familiarizing ourselves with different subject matter. Some topics will mildly hold our interest while others grab on and don’t let go. This, I suppose, is how we’ve arrived at our chosen professions. In my eight years with Pala, I have had the sincere pleasure in meeting some of the brightest minds (and most colorful characters) in the business.
    During my travels, I always make a point of visiting the local museums, especially the natural history departments. Because mineral specimens are one of Pala’s specialties, we (along with the support of mother nature) have had a hand in building mineral collections in some the world’s most prestigious museums.
    Although I take great pleasure in seeing the collections in all their perfectly orchestrated displays (and recognizing particular specimens is always fun), my greatest pleasure is spending time with the curators. They are always so cooperative and willing to spend as long as it takes to show me the latest in what has occurred since my last visit.
    When I was a small child, just stepping into a great museum was almost frightening. The size of everything was so overwhelming that I could hardly contain my excitement. Even though my pulse still quickens, the enjoyment of walking around with the curator lends a kind familiarity and reduces the intimidation factor.
    A museum is more than a collection of things. It gives a broad view of the human race – our ways of life, our artistry and ingenuity. In displaying the beauty of art and nature, it ignites the imagination and restores the soul. It can stimulate thought, and inspire new ideas.
    Museum curators are unique specimens in themselves. These are people who have made the job of collecting a priority. These are people whom I have grown to truly like and respect, because they and their institutions care and have deemed it “important.” In future issues, I shall be proud to introduce our readers to some of these characters. Once you read about these special individuals, you’ll agree that anyone who would dedicate such a great deal of their time to ensuring posterity (whether it be through words, music, minerals, or art) is someone you want to know better. They have taken on the responsibility of furthering the education of our youth by ensuring the preservation of articles that would otherwise be at the mercy of time. And we all know that, if great care is taken, nothing good disintegrates with time.

Pakistan peridot, pala international, peridot, gems, mineral specimens, tourmaline, ruby, sapphire
Gabrièl Mattice


American gems, Harry Winston, Pala International, tourmaline, ruby, precious stones, gems, mineral specimens
Many thanks to the following people for their most helpful input:

  • Bill Metropolis – Harvard University “You’re a real pal!”
  • Gina Letendresse – American Pearl Co.