Blue Sapphire – AKA Liar Bane

The truth is revealed in this episode of Gem Junkies. Where are Blue Sapphires mined? What makes them blue? Wait, isn’t that the same stuff that makes Ruby, red? The answer to all this and more can be found in the episode! We wouldn’t lie to you, we have our Sapphires on.

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Jonathan: [00:00:00] We’re always live. From the minute, we walk in the room and she plugs it in. We’re live.

Brecken: Copy. Copy. Copy. Ready?

Jonathan: Sure.

Brecken: Welcome back to Gem Junkies, episode 6.

Jonathan: Six.

Brecken: Sapphire.

Jonathan: Sapphire.

Brecken: Yep. So, great week last week. Talked about, what did we talk about? Columbia. Emeralds. And, getting ready to do sapphires this week. Got a big trip planned this weekend for Father’s Day.

Jonathan: Headed to Utah,

Brecken: Headed down to Utah to visit my Daddy

Jonathan: Big two hours.

Brecken: Big trip And my brother’s coming into town. So I’m super excited to see Benny. Hi Ben. He’s the only one in my family that listens. . . He listens on his drive to work in the morning. So, [00:01:00] hello Benny. Shout out to my baby bro.

Jonathan: Should probably mention though that this is a two part series ’cause we’re only doing blue sapphire this week and then we’ll do Fancy Sapphire another week.

Brecken: It was, yeah. So when I was thinking about Sapphire, there’s a lot of stuff there.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s the most popular gemstone.

Brecken: Yeah, there’s a lot going on in sapphire. Between all the colors and the different phenomena it can have. So we’ll deal with that next week.

Jonathan: You seem very organized today.

Brecken: I’m hyped on coffee.

Jonathan: I think, I think Savannah got you, gave you the IV of coffee.

Brecken: Yeah, she gave me a coffee drug. So I was sitting in my chair just like amped about sapphire.

Jonathan: Sweet. Yes. Well, you should be amped, since both of us wear sapphires for our wedding rings. Yes. I can see why you would, see this as one of our favorites.

Brecken: Yes, Jonathan and I have blue sapphires, or sapphires as they’re known. Any other color is not as fancy sapphire, in our [00:02:00] wedding rings, engagement rings. They symbolize faithfulness. And truthfulness. And what else? Nobility. Because every gemstone symbolizes nobility for some reason.

Jonathan: Well, if you go back to, uh, to the there was the Justinian code that actually made it illegal for anyone outside of royalty to have colored gemstones.

Brecken: Really? I forgot that. That’s true.

Jonathan: You forgot about the Justinian Code, huh?

Brecken: When did that end?

Jonathan: It’s part of the Roman Empire, so whenever the Roman Empire went away, I guess the Justinian Code went away as well.

Brecken: Okay. So, us meager mortals.

Jonathan: Peasants.

Brecken: Peasants.

Jonathan: I think they call us peasants because they’re mortal as well. They can die. They’re not gods.

Brecken: Well, they were all descended from gods, right? That’s what they thought. Anyway.

Jonathan: Anyway, yeah. Peasants.

Brecken: Well, ancient Greek and Roman queens thought that sapphires protected their owners from harm, [00:03:00] so no one could do anything naughty to them.

Did it save Caesar? No. In the Middle Ages, the clergy wore them to symbolize heaven. The blue symbolizes heaven. And in other times and places, sapphire was thought to guard your chastity, make peace, influence spirits, and reveal the secrets of the oracles.

Jonathan: Wow.

Brecken: Yep.

Jonathan: So it sounds like if for the chastity thing, it sounds like that really 16 year old girls, instead of getting class rings, they should be getting Sapphire rings.

Brecken: There you go. Chastity rings. Let’s not go there.

All right. The name comes from the Greek word, which means blue gemstone, which is Sefiros, but they actually think it should, they were actually talking about lapis lazuli, which is another blue gemstone, but we just have equated it to the sapphire. [00:04:00] The corundum variety of the blue gemstones.

Jonathan: Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum. So we talked about corundum a little bit when we talked about ruby. But it’s an aluminum oxide. Yeah.

Brecken: Mm hmm. It is. Aluminum oxide. So the three most abundant minerals on earth are aluminum, oxygen, and silicon. So it is extremely rare to get an environment where you just have aluminum and oxygen, which is why sapphire is so important.

Now, in its purest form, Sapphire is colorless. Corundum is colorless, excuse me. Corundum is colorless, and it’s with the trace elements of…

Jonathan: Titanium and iron.

Brecken: That give it its blue color. Darn you, iron. It’s in everything. Yeah. More iron equals a darker blue.

Jonathan: Right.

Brecken: And it’s just like ruby, obviously, [00:05:00] because they’re both corundum.

Jonathan: Corundum.

Brecken: That… Stones found in a basalt deposit, more iron, equal darker stones. So examples of that are sapphires from Thailand, Cambodia, Australia. Yep. And then there’s also non-basalt that are formed in marble, low iron bearing minerals.

Jonathan: Like cashmere.

Brecken: Cashmere. And straight from the USA, Yogo Gulch sapphires in Montana.

Jonathan: Right. What about Rock Creek?

Brecken: Rock Creek, too.

Jonathan: Rock Creek would also be non basalt?

Brecken: Yep.

Jonathan: Color?

Brecken: Color…

My hand shaking. So sapphires are blue. Obviously, when you’re valuing a colored gemstone, the most important trait is Color. Color.

Jonathan: And color can be described in three ways. You have hue, saturation, and tone.

Brecken: Right. [00:06:00] So the hue is the actual color. Color.

Jonathan: So that’s blue.

Brecken: So like a violet blue to a blue blue. That’s kind of what we consider sapphire.

Jonathan: Right.

Brecken: And then saturation is how intense that color is.

Jonathan: Yeah, the vividness or brightness of the hue.

Brecken: Right, so if it’s not saturated enough, the stone can tend to look gray.

Jonathan: Right. Right. You need plenty of saturation, but if it’s over saturated, then it tends to look black.

Brecken: Yeah, too dark.

Jonathan: Too dark.

Brecken: And then hue, wait, tone, hue, saturation. No.

Jonathan: Yeah, we went the other way. Saturation, hue, saturation, now tone. Right.

So then the tone is the lightness to darkness, whether it’s a light… Or dark, so if it’s too light, you get all the way to clear and if it’s too dark, you go all the way to black. So you need,

Brecken: you want everything in [00:07:00] the middle.

Jonathan: Middle is, middle is best.

Brecken: Yeah, just right down the middle of that. Yeah. Colors. scheme.

Jonathan: Chacal is more of a medium blue.

Brecken: Yes. Now, an ancient myth about sapphires is that they needed to ripen in the sun. Ooh. Yeah.

Jonathan: Ripen?

Brecken: Ripen. And the longer they absorbed those sun’s rays, the more intense the color was.

Jonathan: Or else they become like a raisin.

Brecken: Yeah, like a raisin, but they don’t shrivel.

Jonathan: No, obviously not.

Brecken: But, so they’ve now equated that to a heating of sapphires. Right. So they think that myth kind of talks about heating sapphires. And it’s a very common treatment for sapphires, heat treatment.

Jonathan: Right. What percentage would you say of sapphires are heated?

Brecken: 90%.

Jonathan: It’s got to be, yeah, at least 90, maybe even higher. 99, definitely [00:08:00] 90s, high 90s.

Brecken: High 90s. So heat treatment goes back centuries. Okay. Where they would, just, like, put it in a little pot over the wood burning fire in the middle of the house and sit there and blow on it.

They would! They’d just sit there with a long pipe and kind of stoke the fire. And it was used, actually, not to change the color, which it is now, but to enhance… The appearance.

Jonathan: So to make the clarity better.

Brecken: Yeah, to make the clarity better. We are bumble bum in this.

Jonathan: So now it’s done more to improve or enhance the color, but also can enhance the clarity as well.

Brecken: Right. And it’s crazy. It can enhance the clarity by making the stone more transparent to remove silk or it can be used to add silk.

Jonathan: You can add silk?

Brecken: Yeah, you can add silk.

How do you add silk?

So silk is [00:09:00] an inclusion in sapphires that is rutile needles that kind of all go together to give it a velvety appearance when it’s in its most beautiful form. Otherwise, it can give it just the appearance of being cloudy and included. And they, usually heat treat to remove those rutile needles when they do not enhance the color quality of the gemstone.

Jonathan: Okay, so how do they add silk? How do you add a rutile needle into a gemstone

Brecken: They add an element to it which adds the rutile needles. It’s done at extremely high heat and we can talk about that more when we talk about star sapphires.

Jonathan: Okay.

Brecken: Which is next week. Okay.


Jonathan: You’re bossy today.

Brecken: I guess so. One thing that I really think is cool with heat treatment is they’ve been able to take [00:10:00] gems or sapphire rough that was used for garden gravel in Sri Lanka and make it into beautiful fine sapphire crystals with just heat. So, there’s two types of this rough. Do you know their names, Jonathan?

Geuda and Duhn.

Jonathan: That’s right, Geuda and Duhn.

Brecken: Geuda liked the cheese, but not spelled like the cheese. Right. Geuda comes from Sri Lanka, Duhn comes from Madagascar. They’re both kind of a milky, grayish, smoky color. And until about 1970, it was basically used for gardens. Yeah, it was trash stuff. And then the 1970s, the Thais really started experimenting with what you can do with heat.

Jonathan: Was that before or after their fire?

Brecken: It was after the fire. Do you want to tell the story of the fire?

Jonathan: Well, there’s not much.

Brecken: There’s not much of a [00:11:00] story.

Jonathan: So in Canterbury, which is one of the main Sapphire centers.

Brecken: Gem centers.

Jonathan: For trading and that kind of stuff.

Brecken: Cutting, trading, everything.

Jonathan: The market. Yeah, so the market burned down. So the gem market burned down and they weren’t able to get all their sapphires out, and some of them turned better colors.

Brecken: Yeah, and it was a really, really, really hot fire that burned for like two or three days. And they were like, hmm, let’s try this. And so they started just experimenting. And I think the thing that’s really interesting now, I’ve, they call them burners, people that heat gemstones. And they send their kids to Harvard. To get PhDs in engineering to figure out better ways to heat gemstones, and it is like family secret. It’s like the bush beans recipe. [00:12:00] You don’t talk about it. It is just not talked about. I went to a burner And everything was shut down. They had nothing running, nothing going. So you couldn’t see how they were doing anything.

Jonathan: So when we talk about heat, how hot are we talking?

Brecken: So to heat Geuda from Sri Lanka, you have to heat it to 2, 912 degrees Fahrenheit, about 1, 600 degrees Celsius to get it to change color.

Jonathan: Right. So heating is usually anywhere from 500 to 1800 degrees Celsius, which is 932 to 3270 degrees Fahrenheit. So we’re talking hot, real, real hot.

Brecken: The interesting thing that I remember is that Geuda from Sri Lanka is harder to get. It’s more difficult to get it to turn blue than the Duhn that comes from Madagascar.

That takes a lot. Lower time, lower temperature to [00:13:00] make it into a fine quality sapphire. Right. So the three things that you really need to take into consideration when we’re talking about heat treatment of gemstones is one, the time and temperature. Two, oxidation or reduction condition.

So, either they’re adding oxygen in,

Jonathan: which makes it a lighter blue,

Brecken: or they’re reducing oxygen,

Jonathan: which makes it darker.

Brecken: So, it’s very technical. That’s why they all go to Harvard to study this. Then, number three, during the heat process, they can also add chemicals which interact with the gemstone and enhance its color as well.

Jonathan: Like beryllium.

Brecken: Like beryllium and rubies. So we call that, we take that one step outside of heat treatment and we call that diffusion. Where they’re actually adding chemicals to the gemstone. The next place to go I think would be sources.

Jonathan: Sources or mining.

Brecken: Or [00:14:00] mining. Let’s talk about sources, and then we’ll talk about mining.

Or we’ll kind of talk about mining with the sources, because different sources have different mining techniques, depending on where they’re located in the world.

You are bossy today

I’m, dude, I’m on it. I’m type A personality today. Let’s get this going. So do you know what is the premier source for Sapphire?

Jonathan: The premier source was, historically, was Kashmir.

Brecken: Which I find interesting because it was only mined for six years.

Jonathan: That’s not very long.

Brecken: No, from 1881 to 1887.

Jonathan: Hmm, interesting. And we should probably mention, if you don’t know where Kashmir is, it’s on the border of Pakistan and India, right in that highly contested area. So not only is there… Is there, supposedly it was mined out, but, you know, with new technology and stuff, you never know.

Brecken: I mean, in the 1880s, what did they know?

Jonathan: Yeah, so, I mean, just like [00:15:00] they’ve gone back to Montana and mined a lot more now, because they have new technology.

Brecken: Right, so a landslide first exposed the sapphires in Kashmir, and then they mined it all up. And the problems today with going back and mining is that it’s in that politically unstable area. And it’s constantly covered by snow because it’s the top of the Himalayas.

Jonathan: Yeah, so the only good thing about global warming is maybe we’ll get some new gemstones.

Brecken: Oh, no. Too soon. It’s, no, too soon. The polar bears, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Oh, I forgot about the polar bears.

Brecken: They’re so cute.

Jonathan: Sapphires, polar bears, sapphires.

Brecken: Polar bears all day. Yeah, I think you’re right. Polar bears.


Jonathan: There is plenty of sapphires.

Brecken: So, I think we should talk about two. They’re, Jonathan, I’m trying to keep us on track and you’re talking about polar bears.

Jonathan: Oh, you brought up polar bears.

Brecken: They’re so cute.

Jonathan: I did my homework.

Brecken: Okay, Kashmir sapphires, why are they so highly regarded? Why are [00:16:00] they the best?

Jonathan: Due to the silk.

Brecken: Yes. It’s due to the inclusions.

Jonathan: No heat treatment necessary.

Brecken: They’re these brilliant blue colors that have a velvety look. And I didn’t understand that until I saw one. And it looks like velvet. It diffracts the light inside the stone, so it just… Shimmers everywhere and it’s a soft color.

Jonathan: Beautiful.

Brecken: Beautiful.

Jonathan: Beautiful.

Brecken: And that’s why we all want a Kashmir sapphire. Now you can get sapphires from other places that have the same look, but they’re not Kashmir and that’s why those Kashmir sapphires go for hundreds of thousands of dollars at Christie’s Auction House or Sotheby’s or wherever they’re auctioned now.

Jonathan: Or even millions.

Brecken: Or millions, yeah.

Jonathan: Depending on the size.

Brecken: Depending on the stone. Another source is, uh, Myanmar, or Burma, but their fine blue sapphires are rare there. They’re more known for their spinels and their rubies.

Jonathan: Right, but they do produce some [00:17:00] beautiful…

Brecken: Yeah, sporadic and rare. They’re recovered in, alluvial deposits, so on riverbeds.

Jonathan: Yep.

Brecken: Next would probably be the most important or significant source of… Sapphires ever,

Jonathan: Well probably ever, but and today, which is Sri Lanka,

Brecken: or Ceylon,

Jonathan: Ceylon sapphires, which Ceylon could also, does kind of include part of Madagascar too.

Brecken: I mean if you’re talking Pangaea wise.

Jonathan: Yeah, and color and sourcing and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between some of the Madagascar material.

Brecken: Yes, but speaking of Ceylon, we’ll get to Madagascar. It is considered the first source of sapphires ever discovered in the world. It’s been supplying sapphires for over 2, 000 years.

Jonathan: That’s a long time.

Brecken: It is. It’s actually one of the Earth’s [00:18:00] largest concentration of gemstones. On the little island of Sri Lanka, there are over 40 different gemstone species found there.

Jonathan: That’s a lot.

Brecken: It is. Most of it is found in river gravel or alluvial deposits. And you have to think about it they have a ton of rain there with typhoon season and everything. So they have really high erosion rates. So it erodes everything down to riverbeds, modern riverbeds, or ancient riverbeds that are now covered up. So they have to go in there. One thing that I found super interesting about Sri Lanka is that by law, they must use non mechanized equipment.

Jonathan: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Brecken: So, no motors, they’re sitting there, sifting stuff by hand, and, yeah.

Jonathan: But they do some primary source mining in Sri Lanka as well, right? How [00:19:00] do they dig those holes, all by hand?

Brecken: All by hand, non mechanized. It’s law.

Jonathan: Wow.

Brecken: Baby. It’s law. That’s why there have been no big mining conglomerates or anything like that that have gone into Sri Lanka. They’ve really managed to keep foreigners out of their gem mining business.

Hmm. Interesting.

It is. That’s where my sapphire is from. Ceylon.

Jonathan: Mine is not.

Brecken: Yours is not. Yours is Thai. Which is another source.

Jonathan: It’s a, also a source, but it tends to have a lot more iron and be a little bit darker in color.

Brecken: Yeah. So the salt. Deposit. And the two main mining areas in

Jonathan: Thailand were… Kanchanaburi and Chanthaburi.

Brecken: Yes. That’s always confused me. Yeah. Kanchanaburi.

Jonathan: Chanthaburi.

Brecken: Darn it. Okay.

Jonathan: So, the interesting thing when we’re in Chanthaburi is, is that we, it’s, it’s volcanic. [00:20:00] And so you hike up this volcano and you ring the bell.

Brecken: Khao Ploi Waen. It just means mountain, gemstone, gemstone mountain or something, gem mountain volcano.

Jonathan: And then it’s pretty cool, you can look out and you see, it’s a big farming area. So when you look out, it’s not like you see holes everywhere, mines everywhere. You see farms everywhere. And then it’s kind of interesting that the farmers basically are farming on top of sapphires, but obviously you don’t go that deep when you’re farming. And so when the farmers are ready to retire, they want a new house or something like that.

They mine.

They would suddenly be switched from farmers to miners. And so it’s very interesting. You’d see, you could look out and see, and if you saw a really nice house on a plot of land, you’d know, Oh, that one’s already been mined.

And if you see a little straw hut, and a farmer is still farming it, you know, oh, that one hasn’t been done yet. And so [00:21:00] you can kind of look out, and then once they’re done mining the whole area, then they turn it back into a farm again. So it’s kind of interesting how they’re just naturally…

Brecken: I thought it was cool. Jonathan and I had the opportunity over five years to go and visit the same mine in Chanthaburi and it was this little farmer and his wife. And they strategically mined different areas of their farm, and the last spot they mined was where their house was. And so they kind of mined all around, and then they tore down their house and mined there and built a new house when they were done.

Jonathan: Yeah. We haven’t been back though to see the new house.

Brecken: We haven’t seen the new house. But hopefully, it was good for them.

Jonathan: Yeah, hopefully, it turned out well. They were, they were nice.

Brecken: It really, Thailand’s major role in the Sapphire industry is cutting and trade.

Jonathan: Yeah, cutting, heating.

Brecken: Heating, that’s true.

That’s where all the burning is done, the cooking.

Jonathan: The cooking.

Brecken: Yeah, that’s where all the, and Chanthaburi, Chanthaburi was the leader in [00:22:00] commercial quality goods from the 80s to the 90s until Australia came to be. But a close neighbor to Thailand, Cambodia, where Jonathan and I also had a chance to visit the mines there, produces some beautiful sapphires as well.

Pailin, which means… Otter’s play. And so when we went there, we were told the story of how they discovered gemstones in the area. And there was someone kind of, I don’t know, on a self-exploration mission, just walking through the area. And he saw an otter playing with one big red stone and one big blue stone. And he said, there must be rubies and sapphires in this area. So they came back, started mining, and found rubies and sapphires. So the name of Pailin is inspired by that story of the otter playing in the river.[00:23:00] The hard thing about gemstone mining in Cambodia is that in the 1970s, it was…

Jonathan: With the Khmer Rouge.

Brecken: With the Khmer Rouge, the oppressive Khmer Rouge regime, they controlled the mines in Pailin until… late 1990s, and so they’re just now beginning to re-establish and when Jonathan and I were there it was

Jonathan: you do not leave the trail because there are active mines still.

Brecken: There are active landmines still so you didn’t go off the path. Cambodia is doing a huge cleanup job trying to locate and find all these unexploded land mines, but still it’s a huge problem and obviously when you’re talking about mining, it affects their ability to go in and mine, when they don’t know if there’s an undetonated explosive device.

Jonathan: It’s scary.

Brecken: It is.

Jonathan: So then after Thailand, Cambodia.

Brecken: And then Australia. Which really ticked off the Thais [00:24:00] and the Sri Lankans.

Jonathan: And they were the largest producer of sapphires back in the late 80s.

Brecken: Yeah, Thailand and Sri Lanka until Australia came into the market in the 80s, 90s and started mechanized mining of sapphire. Now their sapphires are a dark inky blue. And so they’re more what we would call commercial quality, not your fine sapphires.

Jonathan: Right, almost black.

Brecken: But today about 90% of your commercial sapphires come from Australia.

Jonathan: Yeah, and which are all dark blue to black.

Brecken: Dark blue to black.

Now there are some nice sapphires that do come from Australia. There’s a competition between Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Australia. And a lot of your Thai cutters or Sri Lankan cutters would buy Australian gemstones, the finer stones, and call them [00:25:00] Thai or Sri Lankan because they would, one, get more money for them, and two, they wanted to make sure that the Australian gemstones had the connotation of being just Dark and inky, that nothing nice, nothing fine came out of there. So sometimes Australia does get a bad rap. Not all their stones are dark and inky blue.

Jonathan: Thank you. The Australians thank you.

Brecken: I do love Australians. We do love our opal, but I will say that virtually every gemstone that comes out of Australia has to be heat treated because it is so dark.

Jonathan: Right. They need to add some oxygen to lighten it up.

Brecken: Probably the, one of the most major sources today in sapphires is Madagascar. Right. For your fine quality. I think for fine quality sapphires you have Sri Lanka and Madagascar really at the top.

Right, yeah.[00:26:00]

And Ilakaka is a city. It was a field until they discovered sapphire and then there was like a gold rush, a mine rush, gold rush. I’m doing air quotes here. You can’t see me, but there was a mine rush. The interesting thing about Madagascar is that it has some basalt. And some non-basalt, so that’s where you can get the really fine, high quality, and then non-basalt, and then also you get the duhn, and they’re saying that Madagascar is going to be a great source for sapphire for decades to come, because of the amount of material there.

Jonathan: Lots. Speaking of another country that is extremely gem rich.

Brecken: Pangea!

Jonathan: Yeah.

Brecken: Back to that. They used to be at the same place.

Jonathan: Amazing.

Brecken: And then, I think, last for your major, I would call it a major source, or significant source of sapphire, [00:27:00] is Montana.

Jonathan: Yeah, and so, Yogo is not producing that much, and never really produced that much, but Rock Creek just got reopened two, three years ago, and it’s producing quite a lot of sapphires and a really…

Some really cool tealy blues, so a lot of those blue green sapphires that you see, most of that material is coming out of, Montana.

Brecken: Yeah, so Rock Creek is all an alluvial deposit, so they’re, they’re mining riverbeds. Yogo… is directly from the host.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s source mining.

Brecken: And it’s an extremely difficult recovery. It all has to basically be blasted out with dynamite.

Jonathan: Underground.

Brecken: Underground.

Jonathan: Super safe.

Brecken: It’s not safe. So, only about 10% of the stones recovered are over 1 carat from the Yogo mine.

Jonathan: Yeah, very small.

Brecken: Very small recovery. They’re typically pretty flat crystals. So when we get them, we do sell Yogo Sapphire and [00:28:00] what is called Montana Sapphire, but a lot of the Yogo material is really flat. You have to do ovals or rose cut, very thin cut gemstones. They have also reopened the Yogo mines.

The Baides.

The Baides? Is that who bought it?

Don Baide.

Don Baide. And, they’re actively mining it?

Jonathan: Yes. Yeah, they got it all reopened.

Brecken: It’s, it’s difficult to mine in the U. S.

Jonathan: Yes.

Brecken: Let’s be honest. Lots of regulations. There’s huge mining costs. Labor in the U. S. is much more expensive than it is elsewhere in the world. And that’s why they command the premium that they do. It’s probably one of the premier American gemstones, Montana Sapphire.

Jonathan: Yeah. Especially more material than anything else.

Brecken: More material? I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying.

Jonathan: Well, there’s like, where else in [00:29:00] the U. S. is there that much material? Like, that there’s that much, like, gemstone material. Like, total number of, total number of gemstones, carats wise.

Brecken: Oh, okay. Now I know what you mean,

Jonathan: Maine produces quite a bit of tourmaline, but still, like, more sapphire came out of Montana than…

Brecken: Yeah, but what’s tourmaline?

Jonathan: Tourmaline.

Brecken: Sapphire. So I think that wraps up the basics of sapphire sources.

Jonathan: Blue sapphire.

Brecken: Yes. So next week we’re gonna cover fancy sapphire and phenomenal sapphires.

Jonathan: And synthetic sapphires.

Brecken: And synthetic sapphires.

Jonathan: Well, thank you for listening to another episode of Gem Junkies. If you have any, questions or comments. Feel free to email us at [email protected]

Brecken: and make sure you subscribe to our podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes, or Google Play. And if you like us, rate us and leave us a message. We’d love to, hear from our listeners. Also, if you want to know more about what we do at Parlé Gems, you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook[00:30:00] @parlegems.

Thank you so much for listening, and next week is Fancy Sapphires.

Jonathan: Alright, thank you.

Brecken: Bye bye guys.

Are we boring?

This is good.

Are we too boring?

Jonathan: No, we talked about fires. We talked about chastity.

Brecken: Okay.

Savannah: I think once a week she asks that. Yeah.

Jonathan: Are

Brecken: we boring?

Jonathan: Okay.

Way To Go Idaho

In this long-awaited comeback episode of our podcast, “Is Anyone Listening?”, we enthusiastically announce our return from a brief hiatus! We’re thrilled to be back on air, ready to dive into the fascinating world of gemstones once again. This episode is particularly special as we cover two distinct regions: the tropical paradise of Hawaii and our very own home state, Idaho.

First up, Hawaii! We’ll explore the island’s unique geological features and the captivating gemstones they produce. Expect to hear about Hawaii’s vibrant and rare minerals that reflect its rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes.

Then, we turn to Idaho, the Gem State. We discuss why Idaho earned this nickname, delving into the state’s diverse and plentiful gemstone deposits. From the famous Idaho star garnets to opals and more, we uncover the hidden treasures beneath our feet.

As always, we share personal anecdotes, fun facts, and our adventures during the hiatus. Whether you’re a gemstone enthusiast, a curious listener, or just happy to have us back, this episode promises to be a gem-packed journey across two of America’s most intriguing states.

Stay tuned, and let’s sparkle together in this exciting new chapter of our podcast!


[00:00:00] Stephanie: Okay. Welcome.

[00:00:03] That’s how it starts off. We typically say hello and then you do the introduction and then I think it’s important for us to explain what we’ve been up to.

[00:00:26] Jonathan: Welcome to another episode of Gem Junkies. I’m Jonathan.

[00:00:29] Brecken: And I’m Brecken!

[00:00:31] Jonathan: Welcome back!

[00:00:32] Brecken: We’re back.

[00:00:34] Stephanie: Are we excited about this?

[00:00:35] Brecken: I guess so!

[00:00:37] I haven’t had my coffee yet, but we’re good. I guess I’ve had one cup today, so I’m ready for it. But we decided that we were gonna revive this little thing of ours, because, one, Oh, we miss doing it. Yeah. I miss sitting in a little room with you. Yeah. And talking into a microphone. We’re in a whole new room now.

[00:00:58] We are. We’re in my office. [00:01:00]

[00:01:00] Stephanie: Which is Frank’s old office.

[00:01:01] Brecken: Which is Frank’s old office. I’ve moved up in the world.

[00:01:05] Jonathan: If you call it that. But we had a little, we had a little flood.

[00:01:09] Brecken: Yes. Our office is flooded. So that happened.

[00:01:12] Jonathan: Is, was.

[00:01:13] Brecken: Office. I, okay.

[00:01:14] Stephanie: I think we have a little PTSD.

[00:01:15] Brecken: The office flooded. Yes. Yes, we do have PTSD. So what happened was, May of 2021, I remember the day like it was yesterday, Jonathan was at the first Centurion show after COVID, after all the closures. And my in laws were somewhere, where were they? They were gallivanting somewhere were They were out of some country. No.

[00:01:39] Stephanie: Yeah, they were out of the country.

[00:01:39] Brecken: They were out of town. And so I get a message from Frank, just a text message that said Paul called, there’s some water at the office. It’s no big deal, no need to run over. And so I was dropping the girls off for school, Jonathan wasn’t there, and I said, you know what, this doesn’t feel right, there’s some water in the office, no need to rush over.

[00:01:59] I need to [00:02:00] get some, I need to get some eyeballs on this. No. There was a literal waterfall into the basement. The ceiling had collapsed in the basement. The production floor was covered in probably Two inches of water. By the time I got here, they had luckily suctioned most of that out. But when our production manager, Paul, and his wife walked in the morning, they were standing in water.

[00:02:23] It was awful. It was awful and it was a two year process, really, to get it all sewed up. We just finally, but we are finished now. The case is closed and we’re back. And so during that kind of process, Frank Frank had already moved out of his office really. But we were using it as a break room.

[00:02:42] Stephanie: It was a good holding room, yeah.

[00:02:43] Brecken: Yeah, because the basement was There was no break room.

[00:02:46] Jonathan: There was no basement.

[00:02:48] Brecken: But also, what belonged in that basement was our recording studio. So we would record in the basement. Yeah. And when the ceiling collapsed and the water and we went down to the studs and everything like that, we [00:03:00] really had no good place to record.

[00:03:03] So we had to pause that and on top of that Jonathan and I have taken over the business now and when things started really picking up

[00:03:12] Jonathan: For the last couple years.

[00:03:12] Brecken: For the last couple years. It’s been like we don’t where the time goes. I don’t know.

[00:03:16] Stephanie: It’s been a whirlwind.

[00:03:17] Brecken: Yeah, it has but we’re thinking now we’re on top of it and we can do this.

[00:03:23] In air quotes.

[00:03:27] But it’s something that we really enjoy doing. It’s something we really enjoy, bringing to everybody. And we’ve also gotten tons of feedback that people want us to come back, and that makes me happy, too.

[00:03:37] Jonathan: Yeah, and we left off on the states.

[00:03:39] Brecken: I know!

[00:03:41] Stephanie: We debated about how we were going to say that.

[00:03:42] Jonathan: How to come back, or What to do coming back and but we didn’t do our own state. No, I know. So it’s like we stopped at Georgia. And so it’s like we got to at least do Idaho.

[00:03:53] Brecken: It got really bad because I was talking about hummingbird cakes. That’s the thing with the states is like some states are [00:04:00] super cool.

[00:04:00] Jonathan: Like Idaho.

[00:04:02] Brecken: And other states are like Georgia. I think it was Alabama, the first state we did, and their state gemstone, I think, was like blue quartz or something like that.

[00:04:12] Stephanie: Star quartz. Blue star quartz.

[00:04:14] Brecken: And they don’t even have a, they don’t even have a specimen of it. That I could even locate. So it was like, does this even exist?

[00:04:19] So it got I’ve Weird. So I think what we’re going to do with this is we’re going to continue with states that actually maybe have some significance in the gem and jewelry industry and that have had, that have had actual production, I would say, of gemstones.

[00:04:37] Jonathan: So you’re saying you’re just going to skip the other ones completely?

[00:04:40] Brecken: Yes.

[00:04:41] Jonathan: You’re not even going to mention them

[00:04:42] Stephanie: Maybe a little love.

[00:04:43] Jonathan: We at least have to say, here’s the state in this, because every state has at least a mineral.

[00:04:48] Brecken: We were going in alphabetical. There’s minerals and there’s also gemstones.

[00:04:52] So

[00:04:52] Jonathan: Some states don’t have a state gem, though. They only have a mineral.

[00:04:56] Brecken: But we can go in alphabetical order like we are [00:05:00] continuing to do with Hawaii and then Idaho today. But just maybe Keep it brief, unless it’s like super cool, like Maine and that kind of stuff, like we’re going to get into some cool states, but we’re going to keep it simple.

[00:05:13] I’m not going to bore people talking about hummingbird cake. Sorry, that’s our dog in the background, Gemma, who’s being a cutt. Yeah.

[00:05:19] Stephanie: Oh, she’s got something to say.

[00:05:21] Jonathan: She has, she wants to be on the podcast too.

[00:05:24] Brecken: All right. On to Hawaii. Hawaii. So if there was a bet going about what gemstone. The state of Idaho, or, sorry, Hawaii was.

[00:05:35] I would not have picked the gemstone that it actually is.

[00:05:39] Jonathan: No? No. I think it makes sense.

[00:05:41] Brecken: It makes sense? Now.

[00:05:43] Stephanie: Culturally it makes sense.

[00:05:43] Brecken: Yes, absolutely. It totally makes sense, but I would have put money that it was peridot.

[00:05:48] Jonathan: Peridot.

[00:05:49] Brecken: Yeah. Because all of our Hawaii accounts are obsessed with peridot. Yeah. Like they want peridot because it’s their thing.

[00:05:55] But actually, it’s black coral. Black coral is the state gemstone of [00:06:00] Hawaii.

[00:06:00] Jonathan: So why?

[00:06:01] Brecken: So why? It makes sense because it is found in the seas surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.

[00:06:06] Jonathan: And so therefore it also has a lot of cultural significance to the Hawaiians and they’ve recognized it for a long time as being important and wearing it for adornment as a protective talisman.

[00:06:21] So I think it makes a lot of sense. For those two

[00:06:24] reasons

[00:06:25] Brecken: And I think I actually do have a piece of black coral jewelry Thank you do I do and we used to sell it I mean, we still have some in our safe. But we don’t. And in order to sell black coral you have to have a special permit So in order to, I guess it’s not really importing it, but you do have to have a permit to sell, I guess they consider it like biological, like it’s an organic,

[00:06:48] Jonathan: It’s an organic gem. It is important of where you get your black coral because Hawaii did recognize that it was being over farmed and over harvested for a while. Set into some strict [00:07:00] guidelines to make sure that it doesn’t get over harvested.

[00:07:04] Brecken: And that’s always something you want to really. lOok for when you’re procuring your black coral from Hawaii and other things that it might be from Hawaii It might not be from Hawaii It’s a question that you can ask too because black coral does come from quite a few other places in the world Why I thought that Peridot would have been the gemstone of the state of Hawaii.

[00:07:27] Why do I keep going back to Idaho? But is because they have the green sand beach. Which is made up of peridot. Olivine, which is the mineral name for peridot. But I was looking around and I was like, okay do they mine it anywhere? No, there’s like really no mining of peridot in Hawaii.

[00:07:47] The reason they have it is because of all of the volcanic eruptions, right? So it comes up with The vault with the magma and that’s how it gets deposited on the beaches and that kind of stuff. So [00:08:00] it’s really not a gemstone that has been fashioned into any jewelry or anything like that In hawaii or that has any cultural significance to hawaii, right?

[00:08:09] But that’s why it makes more sense that black coral would be the gemstone. Now I did go down a rabbit hole because I like those. Yeah, and I was like, oh, couldn’t you sell? Jewelry made with the peridot sand, right? $100, 000 fine.

[00:08:24] Jonathan: To pick it up. If you pick it up.

[00:08:26] Brecken: If you take sand from the beach. 100, 000 fine.

[00:08:30] Because, obviously people would be like me Hey, I’m gonna go pick up some of that peridot sand. But I can guarantee that 100, 000 fine is gonna be worth well more than what the dang peridot sand is.

[00:08:41] Jonathan: Very true.

[00:08:42] Brecken: Yeah.

[00:08:42] Stephanie: Is it on all beaches? Or just certain

[00:08:44] Brecken: No, it’s No, there’s a certain No, so there are four beaches in the world that have, that are green sand beaches. One is in Hawaii and it is called the Mahana Beach at Papakolehi, on Papakolehi Coast. Did you like how I did that? [00:09:00] It’s because I’ve been to Hawaii a couple times. Please don’t pick up the sand. Please don’t pick up the green sand in Hawaii and be careful where you buy your black coral from. Yeah.

[00:09:10] So that would be Hawaii.

[00:09:11] Jonathan: Yeah. And I thought the interesting thing that I didn’t realize is that black coral comes from depths of a hundred to a thousand feet. So a lot of times you think of seeing coral and stuff when you’re scuba diving or even snorkeling, but not black coral.

[00:09:26] Black coral is at much dark, deeper depths.

[00:09:30] Brecken: Yeah. I have only gone down to 60 feet when scuba diving cause I’m not certified. Have you gone lower than that?

[00:09:35] Jonathan: I’ve gone to a hundred. Yeah.

[00:09:36] Brecken: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I know.

[00:09:38] Jonathan: But that barely is deep enough to even reach black coral. So it must take

[00:09:42] some super

[00:09:43] Brecken: How do I get it?

[00:09:44] Jonathan: I don’t know.

[00:09:44] Brecken: We’ll have to investigate that. Yeah.

[00:09:47] Stephanie: I bet it’s because of the pressure. Maybe. Maybe.

[00:09:50] Jonathan: And maybe that’s why it’s black and not colorful. Yeah. Because like most coral is fairly colorful or white. But I wonder if it has something to do with the depth.

[00:09:58] Brecken: Things to learn. Yep. [00:10:00] Alright, I have to say it’s time to move on to Idaho now.

[00:10:02] Jonathan: Yep.

[00:10:03] Brecken: Should we?

[00:10:04] Jonathan: Idaho! . Idaho! Idaho! Idaho! Idaho!

[00:10:06] Brecken: We are partial to Idaho because that is our state. The gem state. I think that’s the funniest thing. People are always like why are you guys based in Idaho? And I just look at them and I throw back because it’s the gem state like that it makes total sense why we would be here and it’s actually how our company got started

[00:10:27] Jonathan: Correct.

[00:10:27] Brecken: Yeah. Jonathan’s dad started mining opal in Idaho in 1973. So this is our 50th year of business.

[00:10:36] Jonathan: Another reason to bring back the podcast. Another reason. Before the year is over. Yes. We snuck on, snuck it on in there. \

[00:10:44] Brecken: But I have a question for you, Jonathan, because I am not an Idaho native.

[00:10:49] Jonathan: You’re not. No. Whereas, I’m 3rd generation. 3rd generation Idahoan.

[00:10:53] Idahoan.

[00:10:54] Brecken: What year did Idaho become known as the Gem [00:11:00] State?

[00:11:00] Jonathan: That I have no idea.

[00:11:02] Brecken: It is not too much earlier than our company started. It was 1967 that Idaho became known as the Gem State.

[00:11:09] Jonathan: That’s also the year that the state gem was assigned.

[00:11:15] Brecken: We just, boom. We were just like, we’re the gem state. This is our gem.

[00:11:20] Jonathan: All at the same time.

[00:11:21] Brecken: Way to go, Idaho.

[00:11:23] Jonathan: Way to go, Idaho.

[00:11:24] Brecken: Okay, so what is the state gem of Idaho?

[00:11:26] Jonathan: It is the star garnet.

[00:11:30] Brecken: I think it should be opal, but that’s just because I think, right.

[00:11:36] Jonathan: Wow. You are really excited about both of today’s gems (sound effect) on both of

[00:11:40] them.

[00:11:41] Brecken: No, it’s not that I’m not excited at, and I’m sure there’s a beautiful star garnet out there from Idaho, somewhere.

[00:11:48] Jonathan: You just haven’t seen it.

[00:11:49] Brecken: I just haven’t seen it yet, but it, so what makes it so cool is the asterism, right? So you’ve got those rutile needles that are all intersecting at the perfect angle, [00:12:00] so you get that star when you do the cabochon.

[00:12:02] Jonathan: Typically a four.

[00:12:03] Brecken: Yeah, typically a four raised star, but sometimes

[00:12:06] Jonathan: You can get a special one.

[00:12:07] Brecken: A special one?

[00:12:08] Jonathan: That’s a six raised star.

[00:12:10] Brecken: Yeah, so the thing that I’ve noticed mostly with the Idaho Star Garnet is they’re not very translucent.

[00:12:16] Jonathan: No, they tend to be quite dark.

[00:12:17] Yeah, they do. So they are red in quotation marks. So it’s almost more like of a root beer. Yeah. I would almost call it a brown, like a reddish brown. Yeah. That’s more of a root beer color. But it’s, it is important in the fact that it’s only, there’s only two places on earth that you find star garnets.

[00:12:33] Brecken: Truth. Okay, fine. I’ll give you that, Idaho.

[00:12:35] Jonathan: One of two is a pretty big deal. The other place is India, which has some Star Garnets, but Idaho’s Star Garnets are supposed to be more famous and they’ve been mine for over a hundred years.

[00:12:47] Brecken: Yeah, so I guess that’s different than Opal. I guess it was first.

[00:12:51] Jonathan: Yeah, Opal was found later. I’m not sure what year Opal was found, but Star Garnets are found up in the Panhandle closer to [00:13:00] Moscow or, Coeur d’Alene.

[00:13:02] Brecken: Yeah, Canada.

[00:13:04] Jonathan: Not quite as far as, you’re still a ways from Canada at that point.

[00:13:08] Brecken: Sure, but up there in the hinterlands.

[00:13:12] Jonathan: A long way from us, About eight, eight, not quite eight, seven hours from us.

[00:13:17] Brecken: I think that’s one of the things that most people don’t really think about is how big Idaho is. But like how long it is, like how much.

[00:13:24] Jonathan: That we go from Utah and Nevada.

[00:13:27] Brecken: All the way to Canada.

[00:13:28] Jonathan: All the way to Canada.

[00:13:29] Brecken: So it, and you’ve got Oregon and Washington.

[00:13:32] Stephanie: I always give people the little L. Yeah. Everybody thinks we’re up here at the tip, but we’re actually here at the southeast corner of it.

[00:13:41] Brecken: Yeah, we’re located in the southeast corner, closer to we’re closer to Utah, Wyoming, Montana, down in that area. We’re not just the gem state because of Star Garnet and Idaho Opal.

[00:13:54] We have a plethora of other . . .

[00:13:58] Jonathan: Tourmaline?

[00:13:58] Brecken: Gems and minerals down [00:14:00] here. You have I have I literally went on to the Idaho.

[00:14:04] Jonathan: You got the full list of everything that’s ever been found?

[00:14:07] Brecken: And the counties that they were found in.

[00:14:09] Jonathan: That might be going a little too far.

[00:14:10] Brecken: It might be, but I wanted to know where they were. So there’s Agates. Actually, funny story about Agates is we were in Victor, Idaho, and our girls were playing in a crick, a creek? A creek there, not a crick.

[00:14:23] Jonathan: You’re gonna call it a crick?

[00:14:24] Brecken: A crick!

[00:14:26] Jonathan: Are you from, I thought you weren’t from Idaho.

[00:14:28] Stephanie: Idaho has gotten to her.

[00:14:31] Brecken: We were, they were playing in a creek and Olivia pulls out this massive rock and she’s look at it. It’s got blue and pinks in it. And it is a huge chunk of agate, which was fun. And we’ve gone back to that creek every summer and we’ve never found another piece, but that

[00:14:50] Jonathan: especially not like that. Cause it was what about. A little bit bigger than a grapefruit? Came from the creek.

[00:14:55] Brecken: Came from the creek. Teton County.

[00:14:59] Jonathan: Teton [00:15:00] County.

[00:15:00] Brecken: But so there’s agates, there’s amethysts, there’s apatite, there’s aquamarine, which we have some pieces of the aquamarine. There’s azurite, there’s different beryls, like green beryls. Apparently there is a dark blue beryls in Elmore County.

[00:15:16] Jonathan: Isn’t that aquamarine? Dark blue? Blue beryls is aqua.

[00:15:22] Brecken: They don’t call it, cause I guess the aqua also comes from Elmore. Maybe it’s just somebody that thinks it’s really dark blue. There’s calcite there’s spinel, chalcedony I’m going through the whole list, guys. Chrysocolla, quartz, there are diamonds, and I have seen a diamond from Idaho.

[00:15:38] Jonathan: We have, and the Smithsonian, in the back room, they have diamonds from Idaho.

[00:15:43] Brecken: Which I was pretty cool, I had no idea. Yeah. There’s felt sparse fluorites, garnets, obviously which I guess I shouldn’t say that because there are some really pretty Idaho garnets that aren’t star garnets, right? Yeah. Jade, kyanite, malachite, [00:16:00] marcusite, like literally I’m just like the list keeps going on. Opal, obviously. Opalized wood ,which is super cool. Petrified wood, pyrite, big quartz crystals. We’ve got geodes. We’ve got rhodochrosite, rhodonite. There’s rubies and sapphires. Let’s see. I’m going on topaz, which is a big one. So you’ve got blue topaz and you’ve got yellow topaz. And then you also have tourmaline, which really surprised me because I don’t remember hearing about tourmaline in Idaho, but.

[00:16:31] It’s there, it’s in Blaine County, Boise, Clearwater, No. Sun Valley. Oh, look at that go. I mean it truly is the gem state. But I think also to understand the history of Idaho, you have to go back to silver and gold.

[00:16:48] Jonathan: A lot of silver and gold mining.

[00:16:50] Brecken: A lot.

[00:16:50] Jonathan: Back in the day.

[00:16:51] Brecken: And so there were, there was an Idaho gold rush. Did you know this?

[00:16:55] Jonathan: There, I did.

[00:16:56] Brecken: I did not. Because, I’m from California and that’s all that matters. [00:17:00] The California Gold Rush. But, no, there was an Idaho Gold Rush in the 1860s. And do you know where it was discovered? I don’t, actually. In the Boise Basin.

[00:17:11] Okay. Do you notice how I said it? Boise. Not Boise. Boise. Boise. Which is the appropriate way to say it. Sure. We know you’re not native when you say Boise. It’s Boise. Everybody’s looking at me, this is a thing! I’m not native either

[00:17:28] Stephanie: But you just like, looked at me like I was supposed to say it. And now I’m like,

[00:17:31] Brecken: How do you say it? There was also another silver and gold rush in the 1860s, 70s in Silver City, which is Southwestern Idaho. And then Jonathan and I got to visit. Wallace, Idaho last summer and we the silver valley. We went to Mine with the girls. They absolutely hated it. It was cold.

[00:17:52] Jonathan: They were freezing cold because it was the middle of summer So we went in

[00:17:55] Brecken: but we knew it was going to be cold because we’ve been in mine. Yeah, he looked [00:18:00] like Santa Claus.

[00:18:00] Jonathan: He did.

[00:18:01] Brecken: He really was our tour guide, but he was a miner his whole life which I thought was super interesting and Wallace is a it’s a cute little mountain town. There’s tall evergreen trees everywhere and It has this rich history of silver mining that goes back all the way to the 1880s The thing that I found super interesting when we were there was they’re still actively mining silver there, right?

[00:18:26] But they are not processing it there. No, and that’s because it’s now a Superfund site since the 1983 It has become a superfund site, which basically means that it has been contaminated by all the heavy metals that they used in processing the silver ore. So they are not processing silver ore there anymore.

[00:18:48] It’s being shipped to a different location and the EPA is actively trying to clean up the area. Cleanup’s good. Cleanup is fantastic. Because it is a beautiful area. Because it is so beautiful. And it was [00:19:00] really funny. When we were talking to the local people there about it, and I said, oh I want to buy a piece of silver from here. And they’re like, oh no all the silver here gets shipped out now because we don’t refine it here. Right. And so I that was like that blew my mind and so then I went down the rabbit hole of The EPA and heavy metal, pollution and all that other kind of stuff. But it is part of our history and it’s I’m glad that we’re cleaning it up now, right?

[00:19:23] Jonathan: Yep.

[00:19:25] Brecken: Okay. So I think one of the important things to cover is why Idaho is so mineral rich, right? Why does this state have such a huge deposit of different kinds of minerals? That is a great question. And we have only we had a geologist If only we had a geologist. I’m not a geologist.

[00:19:41] Stephanie: Don’t we have two?

[00:19:42] Brecken: Yes. Yeah, there are two geologists here on staff. But we have a lot of stuff going on here. Yes. There’s a lot of tectonic activity, magma processes, hydrothermal activity, sedimentary processes, and metamorphism. So if you’ve ever heard of this little place called Yellowstone. A [00:20:00] little bit of hydrothermal there.

[00:20:02] Jonathan: A little bit of hydrothermal

[00:20:03] Brecken: and also volcanic activity. So that is actually what formed the opal in Idaho. Was that because so plate shift, right? And so that super volcano used to be like where we are now, you can tell because when you go out in Pocatello, lava. Everywhere. Yeah,

[00:20:21] Jonathan: There’s big ol there’s craters of the moon.

[00:20:23] Brecken: You’ve got craters of the moon.

[00:20:24] Jonathan: And you’ve, just in Pocatello alone, you’ve got those big lava walls. So it’s really, you can definitely tell this was geologically, some geological formation by volcanic activity.

[00:20:36] Brecken: And so that’s actually what formed the Idaho opal, but then you have all your hydrothermal activity, which is what’s going to form your beryls and your tourmalines and your garnets and all these different things.

[00:20:48] And then you’ve got your plates crashing together, which is pushing up things that are bringing minerals up to the surface. So there is, this is a hotspot of activity for sure. Of tectonic [00:21:00] and geological activity. So that’s what makes Idaho so special and why

[00:21:05] Jonathan: We have so many different. Gems. Yeah. Now, did you do the deep dive? Does Idaho have the most? Is it truly, did we just name ourselves the gem state? Or do we really have more species of gemstones than any other state?

[00:21:17] Brecken: I didn’t do the deep dive because I don’t want it. I’m just gonna say we are.

[00:21:24] Jonathan: We are. We’re just claiming. We’re just, we win.

[00:21:27] Brecken: We win. I think though it depends on how you define gemstone because you know you got your A class, your B class, your C class minerals.

[00:21:35] Stephanie: Is there a county or a region that is more prolific in gemstones because of that kind of geological condition? I mean I’m assuming that’s like moving more towards like Victor and that part of it.

[00:21:50] Brecken: No, I would say it literally spreads the whole state. Oh, interesting. Literally the whole state. You got Nez Perce. You got Shoshone. You’ve got Owyhee. You’ve got Washington. You’ve got Adams. You’ve got [00:22:00] Lemhi. Is that how you say that county? Fremont. Boise. Camas. It’s everywhere. It is literally everywhere.

[00:22:07] Although you don’t see Bannock County on here meh, for us. Oh, no, Bannock County’s on here.

[00:22:12] Stephanie: What do we have?

[00:22:13] Brecken: We have hematite pebbles.

[00:22:15] Jonathan: Hematite pebbles.

[00:22:17] Brecken: Yeah, whatever that means. I know what that means, but, okay, so let’s talk prospecting. Okay, in Idaho. I also went on a deep dives with the

[00:22:29] Jonathan: like recreational prospect.

[00:22:31] Brecken: Yes. Yeah. Recreational prospecting because I used to think it was naughty to just go because we have a lot of state land and federal land here. We don’t have. We don’t have any national parks in Idaho with the exception of a blip of Yellowstone, which I find to be a travesty because there are some really beautiful places in Idaho.

[00:22:52] We need to have a national park here, but we have a lot of state parks. And so I thought, okay is it illegal to prospect on [00:23:00] state land?

[00:23:01] Jonathan: It depends on the protection level, right?

[00:23:04] Brecken: I was surprised if you just want to go out and like pan for gold or, prospect like that on public lands, you don’t need a permit for that.

[00:23:13] Jonathan: As long as you’re not using. . .

[00:23:15] Brecken: As long as you’re not using machinery. So like they have this whole list, which is will it cause little or no surface disturbance, like panning, fossil hunting or rock handing? You don’t need a permit, but you do need to check with the ranger. In that area before you go out and do it.

[00:23:31] And they’ll give you guidelines and guidance on how to do it and that kind of stuff. Other times you can, sometimes you can even pick up a mine claim on public lands. Do you know how much a mine claim costs? Are you going to read my notes?

[00:23:45] Jonathan: $165.

[00:23:48] Brecken: It is. It’s $165 and you get 20 acres with that to mine, which I was like, wow.

[00:23:54] Jonathan: That’s a pretty big deal. That is a good deal, but you don’t own the land.

[00:23:57] Brecken: You don’t own the land, you just own, or you just [00:24:00] No. You’re just, it’s a mining claim. You’re leasing the mineral rights to that land for that, for a set amount of time. But there are a ton of regulations and guidelines that go along with that.

[00:24:08] So if that is of interest to you, you can look it up. But I was amazed that you were able to just go out there and prospect. So Jonathan, say you want to go out and pan for gold recreationally. What is the most gold rich river in Idaho? Don’t look at my notes. I have no idea. Okay. It’s close by. Is it really?

[00:24:33] Your dad likes fly fish on it.

[00:24:35] Jonathan: The Portneuf.

[00:24:35] Brecken: Oh no, not the Portneuf.

[00:24:37] Jonathan: The Snake.

[00:24:38] Brecken: The Snake.

[00:24:39] Jonathan: The Snake River.

[00:24:40] Brecken: Yes.

[00:24:41] Has the most gold.

[00:24:42] Yes. So it’s 800 miles long. The Snake River starts in Yellowstone.

[00:24:46] Jonathan: So I guess that would be probably the largest river in Idaho too, isn’t it? Perhaps

[00:24:52] Brecken: And probably the most famous river in all of Idaho too, but that is the river in Idaho that has the most gold if you decide you want to go out and pan for [00:25:00] gold.

[00:25:00] Jonathan: Any specific area of the snake? Because the snake, like you said . . .

[00:25:04] Brecken: I’m not giving away the secrets. I learned, I’m not giving away everybody in their cousin. We’re gonna make the girls come pay for gold next summer. gotta pay for your college.

[00:25:15] Jonathan: Child labor.

[00:25:18] Stephanie: No, it’s fa it’s family. It’s fun. Okay. No, they actually, so we did take the girls.

[00:25:25] The girls are like super into finding every kid’s into finding rocks and stuff like that. So I think they’d be totally down for it. Yeah, probably. But panning is not easy. Panning is not easy. All right. I guess that concludes our another episode of Gym Junkies. I mean our first one back, but definitely not our first episode.

[00:25:44] Jonathan: Yeah.

[00:25:44] Brecken: But I feel like maybe next time we’ll get the training wheels off. There you go.

[00:25:49] Jonathan: Thanks for listening, and if you want to see what we do every day, you can check us

[00:25:53] Brecken: out on Instagram at Parlé Gems.[00:26:00]

[00:26:04] Jonathan: Maybe we should try that again. You always used to say Instagram, Facebook, or on our website at parlegems. com. But you were like, Instagram? Okay. The Gram? Okay. Go for it. If you want to see what we do every day, you can check us out at

[00:26:23] Brecken: Our Instagram page or our Facebook page at Parlé Gems, or you can even come to our website,

[00:26:31] Did you like that?

[00:26:32] Jonathan: I did.

[00:26:32] Brecken: Oh yeah. .

[00:26:34] Bye. Thanks for listening.

Opal Part Two- White Man In A Hole

We are ready for part two on Opals. In this episode, we head to the south, the southeast of South- Australia! We talk about opal types, miners, markets, and kangaroos. So, grab your breaky (as any Aussie would say) and join us!

Listen to the episode

Brecken: That was hilarious Livy. I called him boo. I said, “You got it boo.” And Livy, our little two year old, goes, “You got it boo!”

Do you need to sneeze? You’re freaking me out with your face. What do you need to do?

Jonathan: So… I hate saying so.

Brecken: I got this, boo.

Hi, it’s Brecken

Jonathan: and Jonathan

Brecken: from Gem Junkies and we’re back!

Jonathan: Welcome to episode three.

Brecken: Australian opal.

Jonathan: Part two of opal

Brecken: part two of the opal series. Last week, we talked about the world of opal. This week we’re gonna delve a little bit further into Australian opal.

We did have a question that came up about opal care.

Jonathan: Yes. opal care, which is a very common question that we didn’t talk about as a durability. And so opal care and durability go hand in hand. And so opal care, one of the first questions that we always get asked is, “Should you oil your opals?” And

Brecken: Please don’t oil your opal.

Jonathan: Do not oil your opals, all oil does is it attaches to the surface of opal. And then it attracts dust and dust is the same hardness as quartz, which is harder than the opal.

Brecken: It’s a seven. Opal’s five and a half to six and a half. You can see where this is going.

Jonathan: It scratches and abrades the surface of your opal and will make it look ugly. So the only time you’d ever store opal in oil as if you were to store it like in a safety deposit box, Loose.

So anytime it’s a finished piece, you shouldn’t store it in anything, but just in air. And then also care of an opal the best way to clean an opal, a piece of opal jewelry is with,

Brecken: Warm, soapy water

Jonathan: and a toothbrush.

Brecken: Yep. Soft, soft bristle toothbrush,

Jonathan: soft bristled toothbrush.

This week has been very busy for us.

Brecken: We are getting ready for the JCK luxury show. It starts next week. So we’ve been busy bees.

Jonathan: Yep. Busy bees, getting everything organized, all of our beautiful pieces finished. And so it’s been very, very busy.

Brecken: Ready for what? Eight hot days in the desert sun.

Jonathan: Something like that.

Brecken: Except we never leave the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Jonathan: That’s very true. We never get to see the light of day.

Brecken: No, it’s through the big windows.

Jonathan: Okay. Through windows.

Brecken: Yeah. There you go.

Jonathan: We do have one correction. I said last time that there were only two places that black opal was found,

Brecken: Jonathan misspoke,

Jonathan: which was Nevada and Australia. But there are some black opals from Ethiopia that are not died.

Brecken: Thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan: So let’s talk first about the different types of opal that come out of Australia. And along with each of those, we can talk about where they come from. So where do you wanna start? You wanna start with your traditional light opal or do you wanna start with black opal?

Where do you wanna start?

Brecken: I wanna start with, black opal.

Jonathan: Okay. The most expensive of all. Black opal is called black opal, not because it’s black, but because the base color is dark versus the base color being light.

Brecken: And why is the base color black?

Jonathan: The base color is dark due to an addition of iron as a trace element. And that’s what gives black opal it’s dark base color. But black opal isn’t just black. It’s a continuum from light opal all the way to black with all the different grays in between.

Brecken: So doesn’t iron also color Mexican? It gives it the orange and red color.

Jonathan: Correct.

Brecken: And it also colors the black, correct? Oh, Iron is a tricky thing.

Jonathan: Iron is a tricky thing. It’s a lot more iron, which is why it’s black. Maybe if it was less iron, it would be more like Mexican maybe, but it’s also a different formation. Australia is all sedimentary, whereas we talked about Mexican being volcanic. So I think it also has a little bit to do with that.

Brecken: So where does black opal come from?

Jonathan: Black opal comes from Lightning Ridge, Australia.

Brecken: I knew that answer.

Jonathan: Of course you did. And where is Lightning Ridge in Australia?

Brecken: New South Wales.

Jonathan: That’s correct. New South Wales.

Brecken: It is a short airplane ride from Sydney, Australia. What about an eight hour car drive from Sydney?

Jonathan: Yeah, probably something like that.

Brecken: Jonathan and I flew a plane there. I flew a plane there with the assist of a pilot, but

Jonathan: So you rode in a plane to Lightning Ridge?

Brecken: No, he let me fly in the air. I got to kind of tilt the wings and turn the plane. And when we were landing in lightning Ridge, it was the most beautiful epic scene landing a plane in the Outback. There was the cutest little kangaroo that jumped in front of the plane on the landing strip. And I thought this was just the most magical thing. And the pilot, like almost crapped himself, because it could have been really bad if we hit the kangaroo.

Jonathan: Yeah, there was a bunch of kangaroos and wallabies that jump alongside the airplanes as they land and take off. So it’s kind of very picturesque.

Brecken: It is, but also very dangerous. Don’t hit, don’t hit a kangaroo with an airplane.

Jonathan: Or a car.

Brecken: Or a car, both dude. They’re dumb animals.

Jonathan: Yeah. They’re not bright. They’re a lot like deer here.

Brecken: No, but they’re worse than deer because I don’t think deer run towards headlights. I feel like kangaroos do. They just- remember when we were on that island? Phillips Island, they just came out of nowhere. Yeah. And we’re like, “Cars coming. Let’s let’s check it out.”

Jonathan: They’re more curious I think.

Brecken: But they’re so cute.

Jonathan: Very cute. And they are kinda like dogs. Like we went to an animal park there and they would lay down, they’d be laying down sunning themselves and you’d come and scratch their bellies, just like a dog. And they’d, it was they’re pretty cute.

Brecken: Happiest day of my life.

Jonathan: It was pretty, pretty fun.

Brecken: Cuddling with kangaroos and koalas.

Jonathan: Koalas are also quite cuddly.

Brecken: All right. We digress go back to black opal. Jonathan,

Jonathan: What else is there to talk about? So it was first discovered the field in Lightning Ridge was first discovered in 1905 by kangaroo shooters.

Brecken: Ooh.

Jonathan: So we link right back.

Brecken: So the Ridge full circle.

Jonathan: Yeah. So that’s where the best black opals come from. There are a few black opals that come from other places in Australia, but it’s the primary source.

Brecken: What, Mintabie has blacks or is it Winton?

Jonathan: Yeah. So Mintabie definitely has some black opal as well. And there’s a little bit that comes out of Coober Pedy once in a while as well, but mostly from Lightning Ridge.

Brecken: Okay. One thing I thought was super interesting about Lightning Ridge in general was it’s just full of crazy people.

Jonathan: I mean, you have to be crazy to live in the middle of the desert eight hours from the next major city.

Brecken: But there was this miner who made himself teeth out of opal. Do you remember that? That was insane.

Jonathan: That was pretty cool. He had dentures that were opal dentures. Yeah. I don’t think they’d be very good for eating.

Brecken: No, probably not.

Jonathan: They would break pretty teeth.

Brecken: I don’t know how hard are teeth?

Jonathan: Teeth are pretty hard.

Brecken: Are they?

Jonathan: Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll have to look up. “On the Mohs scale what are teeth?”

Next let’s talk about the more traditional light opal, which is a large, there’s a large area in Australia that you can find light opal everywhere from Andamooka and Coober Pedy, Mintabie, Lambina, which are all in South Australia, north of Adelaide. And then you also get over to like White Cliffs and that way more into New South Wales. It also has light opal.

The bulk of light opal is found in Coober Pedy. And Coober Pedy in Aborigini means,

Brecken: “white man in a hole.”

Jonathan: Right. And that’s what it is. There’s a bunch of holes and the miners actually live underground because the summer temperatures can get so crazy, crazy hot there that nobody wants to live out there.

Brecken: Oddly enough, I have watched a house Hunter’s international, where they were looking. At homes underground in Coober Pedy. It was crazy. He was a miner. There you go. He moved his whole family there. Yeah.

Jonathan: So there’s quite a region that covers light opal, which is the more traditional.

Brecken: And we kind of talked about it last week, but Australia is an ancient seabed. So that’s how a lot of the opal in Australia formed. The silica, rich water percolating down and forming those bands of opal.

Jonathan: So you get a lot of, especially outta Coober Pedy, you get a lot of shell opal as we call it. Which is where the organic material of the shell disintegrates and the opal replaces it. So you get actual sea shells and opal fossils. So that’s something that’s kind of cool.

Brecken: We have belamite tubes, which are the internal structure of a squid that have been opalized that we’ve made little bar necklaces out of.

Jonathan: The Belamites are really cool and very popular right now.

Brecken: We also had the most amazing fivefold clam specimen that Jonathan sold.

Jonathan: I’m good at selling.

Brecken: Broke my heart. It was so beautiful. Did they make that into a piece of jewelry or keep it as a specimen?

Jonathan: Made it into a piece of jewelry. She made it into a beautiful pendant, beautiful.

Brecken: Talking about light opal. We really got heavy in Australian light opal in what, the 70’s or 80’s. Frank went over to Hong Kong to purchase it.

Jonathan: He just didn’t know anyone in Hong Kong, had never been to China. He flew over to Hong Kong, opened up the yellow pages and started going through opal cutters. And that’s how he got into the Australian opal business.

Brecken: I think it’s an interesting story. Why most of the Australian opal was being cut in Hong Kong at the time. They were extremely good at cutting Jade.

Jonathan: Yeah. They were great Jade cutters and had a lot of practice.

Brecken: Jade is mostly cut into cabochons just like opal is. So it made sense that the material would be cut there with the skilled labor that was there.

We talked a lot last week about kind of the Roman views on opal, but we didn’t talk about the Aboriginal Australian views on opal and their stories about it because the English were not the first people to discover opal in Australia. Correct?

Jonathan: Right. The Aboriginals also discovered opal and they have their own stories about opal and how it came about is they believe that the Maker came down to Earth. And where he landed,

Brecken: where he walked, everywhere he walked it turned to opal. There’s also a story that what opals are rainbows trapped in the soil, the Maker threw rainbows down and trapped them in the soil. And, and that’s what opals are.

Jonathan: So one of the, one of the Australian Aboriginal dream time stories as told by June Barker of lightning Ridge,

voice over: In the Aurelia country, the dream time creator came down to earth in a giant rainbow. He gathered together all the tribes and said he would return when he thought they were wise enough to carry out his plan to have peace on earth. On the Stony ridges, where the rainbow had rested, there was a great area of rocks and pebbles. Next morning, when the sun rose and shine his light on that spot, the rocks and pebbles flashed and glittered in the sun, all the color of the rainbow that had given them birth. Red, orange, green, yellow, blue, violet. These were the first opals.

Brecken: So beautiful Jonathan. The Australians love their opal. They’re opal crazy over there.

Jonathan: Opal crazy.

Brecken: So we have talked about black opal where it’s mined, light or white opal and where that is mined. And also there is boulder opal.

Jonathan: Yeah. Boulder opal, which is my favorite. And boulder opal is found in Queensland in quite a large area right in the center of the Great Artesian Basin.

Brecken: And boulder opal is opal that is still connected with its host rock. Its host rock is an ironstone. So it’s a really hard material, and it’s really hard to remove that opal to get a solid band of opal. So you’re left with opal and ironstone.

Jonathan: Right. You have very thin seams of opal and they’re still attached to ironstone, which is like a petrified sandstone. It’s usually brown in color, brown to light brown. And it really helps just like, black opal the color really stand out. So boulder opal has great play of color and really strong, vibrant colors.

Brecken: Yeah. I remember the first time I saw boulder opal, I thought, “What the heck is this stuff?” I don’t even know what this is. And you, when you see, sometimes it’s more of an opal matrix. Which is just very little opal material and mostly a brown stone.

Jonathan: And which also can be interesting. It’s small veins of opal all throughout the ironstone. And so it looks like little lightning bolts, or you could sometimes see pictures in it. So those are much less expensive than with the full opal face, but they make really fun jewelry.

Brecken: Yeah. When that comes from Yowah

Jonathan: and that’s where you have

Brecken: A little like pocket yeah of silica.

Jonathan: A little pocket of opal. And so when it comes out, it comes out looking almost like an egg, or a nut. And then when you crack it, when you cut it apart, it’s got a, just a perfect little round pocket of opal in the center of the brown ironstone. So you call it a Yowah nut.

Brecken: A Yowah nut looks like a little nut that you cracked open, almost like a geode, right? Kinda same idea, but full of opal instead of amethyst or quarts.

My favorite boulder opal material is Koroit as the, Aussie’s say “cr-oye-t.” yeah. It comes from a place called Koroit or “Cuh-row-it” is how we would say it in American English. You see pictures and patterns in the stone. It’s almost like a painting, like an artist took it and painted a picture. It’s really beautiful.

Jonathan: Yeah. It’s awesome.

Brecken: The only word I can say in Aussie English is “bolduh.” “Boulduh” for boulder opal. Oh, I can’t even say opal it’s like,

Jonathan: Yeah, we’re definitely not Aussies.

Brecken: We’re not Aussies. And I practice every time we meet with our suppliers, I always say, “Okay, say boulder for me.” And they’ll say “bolduh.” and so I’ll have to repeat it like 15 times so I can say it until the next time I meet them. “Throw some shrimp on the barbie.” No, I didn’t get it.

Jonathan: Just stop. You’re you’re

Brecken: “I’ll have a tinny.”

Jonathan: I think you’re too California girl for an Aussie accent.

Brecken: Maybe I just can’t get it. I don’t know what it is. They shorten everything though. So my name’s Brecken as most of you know, and growing up, my siblings would call me Brecky and that is the exact word the Australians use for breakfast. “Let’s have some Brecky.”

Jonathan: So the first time we went everywhere, she thought the signs were all,

Brecken: they were all for me!

Jonathan: They were all for you.

Brecken: “Brecky served here.”

Jonathan: She was welcomed in Australia every morning. and the interesting thing about Australia is they set up opal mining to be artisanal forever. And so there isn’t these huge, large mines like there is for like diamonds or for tanzanite, or anything like that is that you only get a small plot.

Brecken: You only get a small claim.

Jonathan: That, that small claim. And so the only times that you really get a whole lot more then that is like, if a bunch of miners get together and work a plot together, but that’s pretty much it. And so they’re all pretty artisanal and small mines. And that’s why you don’t find a lot of opal miners anymore.

Brecken: It’s hard work.

Jonathan: It’s hard work. And corporations can’t go in there and mine the opal. And so it’s kind of a dying breed.

Brecken: Yeah. We, we can’t buy opal from just one person. We don’t have one source of opal. We probably buy our opal from over a hundred different miners.

Jonathan: Probably off and on and over the years, definitely around a hundred. And the majority of it from the Chinese because the Chinese do more buying of opal rough than anyone else, and cutting and all that kind of stuff. So we buy a lot in Hong Kong and China of opal.

Brecken: Most of our boulder is not being cut in Hong Kong. Most of that’s being cut in Australia.

Jonathan: Yeah. That’s the exception is the boulder, which

Brecken: They actually keep a lot of the nicer stones in Australia and cut them in Australia. Especially in boulder. And also I think some of your bigger light and your bigger blacks, and then they send more calibrated, maybe more commercial pieces to be cut in China.

The opal market has changed drastically, I would say in the last 30 years. It used to be extremely profitable to mine, opal, and then it got much harder to do. There was more and more prospecting and not as much material available. And I think in the early two thousand’s, when gold prices went like through the roof, remember during the recession and so did oil. A lot of your opal miners retired or moved to mining gold and oil.

Jonathan: And their kids saw how hard work it was or they didn’t have kids. And so you don’t have really that second and third generation doesn’t exist so much. And so you’re left with not only of it being more difficult to find, because they’re having to go deeper. And most of the easy stuff I think has already been found. But you also just don’t have as many people mining.

Brecken: When we were in Lightning Ridge, there was an opal mine that I, I would not go in. I stayed up with the kangaroos.

Jonathan: It wasn’t scary.

Brecken: It was! So I am one: extremely afraid of Heights and it is just like a pit. How many yards or feet would you say Jonathan, down to the bottom of that pit?

Jonathan: I think it was like 20 to 30 meters, which is three feet, three inches per meter.

Brecken: So 60, 70. I’m gonna round up and say a hundred feet down into this hole.

Jonathan: Yeah. And there’s no ocean in Australia. So it’s like, you’ve got like this metal culvert. So like a metal pipe that is at the top of the thing. And then they had these sections, like six foot sections of swinging ladders. So they weren’t like strapped together.

Brecken: No, they were all joint. And just like, hang like. Picture metal clothes hangers just dangling off of each other. And that’s what you’re climbing down.

Jonathan: And no ropes, no gear.

Brecken: No. You had a hard hat though.

Jonathan: Yeah. Hard hat. So if you fell,

Brecken: I wasn’t going down the hole. So I just stayed up there all by myself. It was really peaceful. I had a moment in the Outback.

Jonathan: It was, it was pretty cool though. Underneath us they showed us around and showed us where, you know, they had taken this much out of this part of the mine and that much out of that. And this was a major find. And then showed us how they worked the mine with, you know, small equipment underground. And then they have like a bucket that pulls it back up to the surface.

Brecken: They had all these timber logs right. Holding up the ceiling. I didn’t go down, but I saw amazing pictures.

Jonathan: So they have all these just big timbers that were, that hold up the ceiling and keep the mine from collapsing in.

Brecken: Good thing. And they prospect by drilling holes everywhere. So they’ll just kind of go in to an area that they think might have opal and they’ll just drill down and take a core sample out, look at the core sample and see how much material is actually there. And if it’s worth digging a hole and actually mining that material out.

That was almost as bad as the drunk Brazilian guy.

Jonathan: No, the drunk Brazilian guy was way worse. Drunker. I didn’t even go down that line because they told me I could rip my feet off. So the emerald mines in Brazil are much scarier than the Australian opal mines.

And we did talk a little bit about opal triplets from Idaho, but there’s also a lot of opal doublets and triplets out of Australia. Sometimes the seams of opal are too thin to make solids. And so that’s when you take the thin piece of opal and you glue it together with ironstone and that makes your opal doublets. Or when you add a glass, or quartz, or a Sapphire top, that’s when you get a triplet.

Brecken: We do a lot in opal doublet. It’s become a really popular stone for designers to work with.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s a great, it’s definitely the best bang for your buck in opal is opal doublet, you get so much more color and so much more vibrancy.

Brecken: It gives you almost the, it gives you the color of a black opal, really. That’s because it gives you that really dark base behind the light opal and it really makes the stones pop and you can get a pretty large size of it for not very much money. A few hundred dollars a carat where your finest black would be. Thousands and thousands of dollars a carat. I think the most expensive black opal I saw was $200,000 for the stone. Yeah, there was, and it was red pattern with Harlequin, like your picture-perfect black opal.

Jonathan: But there’s definitely even more expensive ones than that.

Brecken: I’m sure. Yeah. stones with a little more provenance. Bigger stones.

Jonathan: Bigger. Yeah. And that’s the thing about opal is that, you know, you can, they come from tiny, tiny to very, very large. I mean, we’ve seen ones as, you know, as big as my arm, especially in Boulder opal, and then, you know, in light opal, I’ve seen as big as my fist. And so all solid light opals, that’s kind of a cool thing about opal is you do get some very large pieces.

Brecken: A little bit showier than your other gemstones. Cause you can’t, I mean, what’s the biggest Sapphire you could get. I mean, you can get like 20, 30, 40 carat stones, but they’re not as big as like a hundred carat opal and you can find a hundred carat opals out there fairly easily compared to a 40 carat Sapphire.

Jonathan: Correct.

Brecken: All right. I think this wraps up our opal series.

Jonathan: Yep. Our two part opal series.

Brecken: If you have any more questions on opal, give us a shout out at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Jonathan: So, what are we gonna talk about next week?

Brecken: Ruby.

Jonathan: Ruby the King of all gemstones.

Brecken: The King of gemstones! We’re leaving the queen and going to the king.

Jonathan: Yeah, go to the king first. And so we’ll be talking about Ruby. So if you have any questions about Ruby, feel free to leave a comment or shoot us an email. And let us know your questions ahead of time, or if there’s any other topics that you want to hear, definitely let us know so that we can put those on plan.

Brecken: We can plan into the future. I think we’re also planning on doing one in Vegas.

Jonathan: Yeah. We’ll definitely do a recording in Vegas. And so that will be not next week, but the week after we’ll be releasing the one that we do in Vegas.

Brecken: It’s just a party.

Jonathan: It’s just a party.

Brecken: It’s just a bunch of jewelers getting together, having a laugh.

Jonathan: Thank you for listening to our third episode of Gem Junkies.

Brecken: Gem-Gem-Gem Junkies!

I’ve gotta give some content!

If you like what you heard today or any of the other episodes, make sure you subscribe to Gem Junkies on SoundCloud, iTunes, or Google play and make sure you rate us if you like us.

Jonathan: Anything you put on there, she records. It has a chance of getting on the air. It does after last week, anything can be on there.

Brecken: Anything goes.

Opals, Queen Victoria, & A Sassy Shoulder

What do Opals, Queen Victoria, and a sassy shoulder have in common? Find out as we introduce Part One of our Opal series. In this episode, we discuss the origination of Opals, the science behind their creation, stories and fables from this ancient gemstone, and a brief look at all of the regions producing this fabulous rainbow gem.


Jonathan: I think everybody loves opal. It’s the queen of all gems.

Brecken: Ah, yep. So say the Romans… and they’re dead.

I didn’t have my coffee, so I’m a little off my game.

New Speaker: All right. You guys are ready.

Jonathan: This is the hardest part. Starting. Starting is hard.

Brecken: It’s me.

Jonathan: Wewe

Brecken: Hi, this is Brecken

Jonathan: and Jonathan

Brecken: of Gem Junkies. Are you ready?

Jonathan: I am ready

Brecken: podcast number two,

Jonathan: podcast, number two.

Brecken: We’re like big kids now.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Brecken: We’ve had our first podcast.

Jonathan: Yeah. That now it’s training wheels off. So we got gymnastics tonight, right?

Brecken: Yes. We, Jonathan and I, have twin two-year-olds, girls, and they are just the most precious, loving, amazing little girls. Right, Jonathan?

Jonathan: Yeah. Or they can be wild, crazy two-year-olds, because they are two.

Brecken: And so we go to gymnastics every Tuesday night. And yeah, they enjoy it. They get their wiggles out.

Jonathan: Get your wiggles out.

Brecken: So this week we’re doing opal, which we’re gonna do a whole series on, but first we wanted to touch back on last week. Our Lotus garnet episode.

Jonathan: Yeah. Thank you for all the very nice comments. And we got some emails with some questions, some we will answer directly, but one of the ones that came up that I thought was really good is where does Lotus Garnet come from in Tanzania?

Brecken: Right! It is from the Mahenge region in Tanzania

Jonathan: and the Mahenge region is in central Tanzania. Kind of south central versus like Tanzanite

Brecken: and mint garnet

Jonathan: Mint garnet, tsavorite that all comes from Northern Tanzania, right near the Kenya border, near Sabo National Park, which is how tsavorite got its name. So thanks for writing in and feel free to ask any questions that you have about this week’s topic of opal.

And you can write us at [email protected].

Brecken: Perfect. And so let’s talk about opal.

Jonathan: So opal is very special to me. It’s how my dad started the company in 1973 as a longhaired hippie college student, just as a summer job. He went up to Spencer, Idaho, and mined opals and then brought them home and cut them in the back room of a single wide trailer and boom there’s how Idaho Opal and Gem got founded.

Brecken: Yeah. So our name, our original company name, was Idaho Opal and Gem Corporation. And about mid-nineties, we switched it to Parlé, which is how you know us now. Our original name traces us back to our roots, our origin. Yes, our blood,

Jonathan: our blood roots.

Brecken: Jonathan was sorting opals in diapers. Right?

Jonathan: Definitely not.

Brecken: Yeah. At least diapers. Maybe you were potty trained early. I don’t know.

I think the best place to start with opal is probably its formation, like how it’s made. So do you wanna take that away, Jonathan?

Jonathan: No.

Brecken: You want me to be the scientist this week?

Jonathan: Yep.

Brecken: Okay. So opal is formed when silica-rich water percolates down through the soil and ends up against a hard surface that it can no longer percolate through. And then it forms bands of silica, which is your opal. Oh, go ahead, Jonathan.

Jonathan: And so the silica spheres stack on top of each other. If you looked under really high magnification, you’d see a bunch of like marbles all stacked up in a pan. And if you shook them and got ’em arranged all evenly, that would form precious opal. If they were all mixed all up and all different sizes and all over the place that would give you common opal, which has no play of color.

Brecken: Right. So the difference between common opal, which is extremely common, and precious opal is the fact that it has the phenomenon of play of color. And it’s actually where the light enters the gemstone and kind of wraps around the silica sphere and comes back to your eye with pretty color.

Jonathan: Yeah. So it’s one step past a prism. So most of your gemstones are like a prism. The light enters the gemstone, it bounces around inside, and it comes back to your eye.

With opal, it’s one step past that and it actually breaks it down to its spectral colors. And so that’s where you get all the different colors based on the size of the micron’s spheres, which you end up at 0.2 of a micron for blue, 0.25 for green, and 0.32 for red.

Brecken: Right. And red is considered the most prized color in an opal. It’s the rarest color.

Jonathan: And therefore the most expensive.

Brecken: And therefore the most expensive. We love those reds.

Jonathan: Yeah, reds are definitely the best.

Brecken: So the major sources for opal nowadays are obviously Australia, which has been probably the major source for the past few hundred years, I would say. Then Mexico for fire opal, and then Ethiopia, and also a little bit from Brazil too. The US has opal. It’s how our company started. My father-in-law Frank started mining opal in the 70s in Spencer, Idaho. But it’s in really thin veins of opal and it’s in the really hard host material.

Jonathan: Yeah. So it’s in rhyolite and it’s right up by Yellowstone National Park. And it was formed by the same formation that formed Yellowstone. And so because of the rhyolite, they have to blast out all the opal. And we all know with a gemstone that’s the same hardness as glass, blasting anything doesn’t do very well on that kind of material.

Brecken: So you end up with really thin seams and you have to make triplets out of them, which is where they glue either ironstone or an onyx backing to it, and then cap it with quartz or a sapphire crystal or glass. Depending on the caliber of the triplet.

There’s also opal in Nevada.

Jonathan: There is opal in Nevada. There’s black opal in Nevada, which is the only other place where there’s really black opal other than Australia.

Brecken: So it comes from a petrified forest, right? So the opal, the silica actually went in and replaced the trees. Kind of filled in that fossil.

Jonathan: Yeah. The organic material fell apart and the silica replaced it.

Brecken: Right. And that happens in Australia too, because it was an ancient seabed. So I got to visit Nessie when we went to Sydney, Australia, she’s a dinosaur that’s all opal.

Jonathan: Yeah. So it’s like mostly common opal with just small amounts of play of color. But I think you’re jumping ahead a little that’s actually,

Brecken: I know. I like Nessie.

Jonathan: Oh, you love Australia cuz that’s where it has the most opal.

Brecken: That’s true.

Jonathan: So we should probably talk about where was opal first found. Was it A- China, B- Slovakia, or C- Idaho?

Brecken: I’m gonna say B. Slovakia.

Jonathan: That’s right. It was first found in Slovakia.

Brecken: What did I win?

Jonathan: The pleasure of being right.

Brecken: I do like that. So opal gets its name from an ancient Roman word “opalus.”

Jonathan: Yes. Which means “a change in color.”

Brecken: All right. So they probably saw the play of color that we all see in opal. We don’t need much, I guess, human intervention to make it beautiful. Really, most of your opal is just polished. It’s not cut like a diamond or a Sapphire to bring sparkling liveliness to the stone. So if you think in ancient days, they didn’t have the cutting equipment that we have now. So. Your diamonds, your rubies, your sapphires, your emeralds were either mostly cabochons or the facets were really poorly done, which is why opal, I think was such a special stone to them. They kind of glow from within, so you don’t, you don’t need a lot to make them beautiful.

A lot of people think that opal is unlucky, right Jonathan?

Jonathan: Yep. That’s a common thing, but I think they’re very wrong.

Brecken: They are wrong. Opal used to be considered an incredibly lucky stone. A lot of the ancients believed that it was incredibly good luck that it gave the wearer the gift of prophecy, that it could heal you. And that it, in some terms had like these mystical powers. It wasn’t until. Sir Walter Scott, is that who it was?

Jonathan: Yep, Sir Walter Scott wrote Anne of Geierstein. And Anne of Geierstein was a super popular book at the time as popular as Harry Potter, which is kind of interesting since the main character was

Brecken: Hermione!

Jonathan: Yes. Hermione,

Brecken: just like in Harry Potter.

Jonathan: And what was so special about Hermione?

Brecken: Well, Hermione was beautiful and the villagers did not like it, they just didn’t think this woman could possibly be this beautiful. And she was poised and had grace and she always wore. “She always wore.” She always wore this amazing opal and happened to catch the eye of the King.

And the villagers didn’t really like this very much. They thought there was something odd about this beautiful woman that just happened to come into town. And she wore an amazing opal that just seemed to glow and give the woman magical powers.

Jonathan: Yeah. She was an outsider and they all thought she was a witch.

Brecken: Of course, if you don’t like something a woman does, she’s a witch.

Anyway, she ends up having a baby with a king, and the king and she get married. They have a baby and the villagers were like, “We’ve never seen her in church. Why doesn’t she go to church?” So they go to church to have the baby baptized and one clever villager decides they’re gonna throw some water, holy water, on the opal. And she just drops down. Right. She doesn’t die, she just collapses.

Jonathan: She collapses and then they take her back to her room and they close the door. And then when they open the door again, she’s gone.

Brecken: She’s gone, she’s disappeared and never heard from again.

Jonathan: Yeah. And what’s what I, think’s funny about this is that everyone latched onto this when this was like less than one-tenth of the book, the whole rest of the book as you can tell, it’s called Anne of Geierstein. So it’s really about Anne of Geierstein.

Brecken: Not Hermione and her opal.

Jonathan: Not Hermione and her opal, which is only one little tiny part of the book. And so, you know, it’s a wonderful tale and really contains nothing to indicate that Scott meant to represent opal as unlucky.

Brecken: About the time that Sir Walter Scott wrote this book, the Australians were discovering opal. And Queen Victoria happened to have a vested interest in Australia. And as they did in most of the world, at that time, she wanted opal to be the prized gemstone that it should be. This is why she made it acceptable to hand out or give opals as gifts. Right. So you can receive opal as a gift.

Jonathan: Yeah. So, that’s where it came from that you can’t buy opal for yourself, but it’s okay if it comes as a gift.

Brecken: Right. But she even had a little slip-up with an opal broach, right?

Jonathan: She did.

Brecken: During her coronation, she was wearing an opal broach. That was, I don’t know, clasping something together. And the broach broke.

Jonathan: Shoddy craftsmanship on the broach. I don’t know what this has to do with opal.

Brecken: It has nothing to do with the opal, but it revealed a little too much skin than was acceptable at the time. So I think it was just her shoulder, but anyway, it didn’t help opal’s luck.

Jonathan: Nope. That didn’t help either.

Brecken: All right. So we all agree that opal is an extremely, extremely lucky stone and a beautiful stone. Who doesn’t like opal?

Jonathan: So throughout history, there’s been a lot more about opal being lucky than unlucky, but there’s definitely some more recent history about it being unlucky, which is why I think that has tended to stick in the general population today.

Brecken: So I think it’s important to kind of delve into the sources of opal that we’re seeing on the market right now.

Jonathan: We have the primary sources of where opal is actually coming from right now would be Australia, number one, Ethiopia, number two, Mexico, number three, and a little bit from Brazil, number four.

So those are probably your top four sources that are in current production.

Brecken: I think the Brazilian material is really cool. It’s got a pattern that’s called rain fire.

Jonathan: Yeah. It’s like little confetti all throughout the opal.

Brecken: You can pick up a piece of Brazilian opal and know it like right off the bat, just because of its pattern.

Jonathan: When it has that pattern.

Brecken: Yeah. When it has that pattern and it’s also incredibly stable.

Jonathan: Very stable material. Very little of it ever crazes or dehydrates or anything like that.

Brecken: It kind of almost has that jelly, that jelly opal look.

Jonathan: Yeah. It kind of has that look. So that’s the fourth. So next would probably be talking about Mexico.

In Mexico, about 70% of all opal out of Mexico is just common opal. So they call it fire opal because it’s colored by iron. So most of it has an orange, a red, or a yellow tint to the base color. So rather than white or light in color, like most opal it has that fiery look that orange and yellow, and most of it has no play of color. And it was formed by volcanoes. It’s volcanic rather than sedimentary.

Brecken: Yeah. It comes out in these really cool, like nodules that are what, sandstone surrounds them. And you can kind of like chip away at the sandstone because it’s really light. I mean, it’s really soft.

Jonathan: It’s really soft and you can kind of scrape it away.

Brecken: And you get these really cool amorphous shapes that lend themselves well really creative jewelry.

Jonathan: And so we find that much more interesting. And it’s also one of the only opals that are faceted. So they do a lot of faceting of the orange and red material.

Brecken: You’ll hardly ever see an Australian faceted opal. No, it’s not gonna happen.

Jonathan: You just don’t see it. It’s mostly from your Mexican.

Brecken: Well, it wastes a lot of material too.

Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. But that’s not a problem with Mexican, because most of it’s just common anyway.

Brecken: And then the next is Ethiopia.

Jonathan: Which has really been producing a lot in the last 10 years.

Brecken: Yeah. We saw it come to market 9-10 years ago really strong when we were in Tucson.

Jonathan: Yeah. So we were at the Tucson Gem Fair and that’s where 10, about 10 years ago it really came on strong. And so the Ethiopian material is very interesting. Most of it is hydrophane. So hydrophane means it’s porous kind of like a pumice stone and not such big holes, but uh, little tiny holes and so if you drop it in a glass of water, most of the color disappears. You take it outta the water sometimes it dries out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Brecken: Right. And it’s not so much a problem for durability, like cracking and crazing.

Jonathan: No cracking and crazing it’s fairly stable.

Brecken: But the problem is like daily wear.

Jonathan: So if you think about all the things ladies and even men wear on a daily basis, you know, your perfume, cologne,

Brecken: body lotion, even body oil. Even red wine.

Jonathan: Yeah, if you’re dunking your opals in… ,

Brecken: but it can actually take the color of, for instance, red wine and it can dye the stone.

Jonathan: Yeah. So that’s one of the interesting things is a lot of them, a lot of the Ethiopian material has dyed all kinds of crazy blues and purples and greens and oranges.

Brecken: Frank, my father-in-law Frank, had an opal lecture at Conclave a couple of years ago, and my mission was to go around Tucson and find dyed Ethiopian opal, and the color, all different colors. I had hot pink, lime green, and purple. And it, I mean, it’s kind of interesting.

Jonathan: It still has a play of color.

Brecken: But it’s dyed hot pink. Yeah. So it’s different.

Jonathan: It looks fake.

Brecken: Well, it is. Yeah. Well, it’s dyed hot pink opal. Like it doesn’t happen in nature.

Jonathan: It’s kind of crazy. So that’s kind of the strange thing about Ethiopian opal is that hydrophane and not all of it is hydrophane, but it’s, you know, all the parcels and everything get mixed. So you never know what is and what isn’t, cuz there’s no way of telling just from looking at it that, you know, this absorbs this much water and that absorbs that much water. You just can’t tell. So we’ve chosen to stay away from Ethiopian opal and focused primarily on Australian and Mexican

And the other thing that I think we should talk about is how you value an opal. What makes an opal valuable?

Brecken: Red!

Jonathan: Red definitely does.

Brecken: The more red, the more valuable. Also the brightness too.

Jonathan: Yeah. And so that’s what I always say is the most important part after what kind of opal is it? Is it a black, a boulder, a light, a doublet?

What is it after that? The most important part, saying that the type is all the same is the brilliance. How bright is it? And I like to compare it to, you know, a 10 wat light bulb versus a hundred wat light bulb. The a hundred wat light bulb is obviously much more valuable than the 10.

Brecken: Does it glow?

Jonathan: Yeah. Does it have that just absolute glow? And then the next thing that would be important, but mostly in black opal is its body color, base color. Base color becomes very important. Is the base color, does it add value to the play of color or does it take away from the play of color?

Brecken: Yes, the black color. So when you have that really, really black base color, it can make the play of color just pop, just scream. Sometimes though, when you get kind of in that gray middle tone, I think it detracts from it. Some it kind of weakens.

Jonathan: Same with, I think, in the Mexican or Ethiopian material, that stuff it’s kind of yellowish. Is that it’s hard to see the play of color. And the play of color just doesn’t really, it’s not as striking. And then I think transparency is really important. Is it a see through or is it opaque? And the more opaque the opal is, the more that play of color really jumps out at you. Where if it’s see through you know, it’s kind of cool, cuz it looks different on everything that you wear it, which is why some people like it transparent. But from a market standpoint, the more opaque, the more valuable.

Brecken: Yeah. The thing I like about opal is beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. I mean, whatever you like.

Jonathan: If you love blues and greens, it’s even better because they’re much less expensive than reds and oranges. So that’s one of the things is it

Brecken: If you like gray base that are kind of transparent. Perfect! There’s an opal for you. Like there’s an opal for everybody and yeah.

Jonathan: And that’s the other thing, is that opal comes in every price point. You can get an opal for $10 and you can get an opal for a million dollars and everything in between.

Brecken: And no two opals are the same.

Jonathan: So every one is unique and unique to the person, unique to the design. And that’s the great thing is people, a lot of times will ask us about our designs, “is that a one of a kind?”

And I said, “well, the opal’s one of a kind, so yeah.” You can’t ever repeat an opal.

Brecken: No. And a lot of times we actually make opal pairs for earrings by cutting stones in half.

Jonathan: So we call those a split.

Brecken: You can’t, I mean, matching opal is, it’s an art and my mother-in-law is extremely good at it.

Jonathan: Yeah, she does all our bracelets. If you wanna talk about matching. Matching 10-12 opals in a row, all to go together, it gets tricky.

Brecken: It’s time consuming and tricky and you, it takes a special person.

Jonathan: So one of the other cool things that also comes into value is about pattern is that. More pinfire or more broad flash. Your pinfire, like your little tiny dots of color, whereas your broad flash is like one single flash of color across the whole gemstone. Or the very most valuable is called Harlequin. If you think of like flagstones all put together in a garden, all blocked together, kind of and that’s, that would be the most valuable pattern.

Brecken: Yeah. We actually had. Pattern that we bought a couple years ago. Do you? I called it pixie dust. Cause it had like all the green little sparkles through it.

Jonathan: That’s like a pinfire, but like a really, really fine and very bright pin fire that was some cool material.

Brecken: I know, it made me think of tinker bell.

Jonathan: And then we’ve gotten some really interesting new doublets that have our tiger stripe pattern.

Brecken: Tiger. Zebra. Depends who you are, who you ask. We haven’t named that one yet. I’d probably lose too.

Jonathan: Uh, so that’s something that’s kind of cool is that you can even get with pattern, you can even get a cat’s eye opal.

Brecken: Actually your dad has that really cool star opal.

Jonathan: But those are much more rare and you can’t find. Don’t tell people about things they can’t have.

Brecken: Yeah, actually this is a, it’s a cool stone. That was actually mined in Idaho. And it’s got a three ray red star.

Jonathan: Very cool. We’ll try to get a picture of it and put it on the blog. That one’s really cool. And we’ll also post some pictures of the zebra or tiger stripe and to kind of give you guys some different ideas of what different patterns look like. And if there’s a pattern that we mentioned that you really wanna see that we don’t put up, just shoot us an email.

Brecken: I think the only thing we really didn’t get a chance to cover today. Well, opal is such a broad category. Like there’s so much we didn’t talk about. So I, we’re gonna do this in kind of a series.

New Speaker: The opal series.

Brecken: The opal series. And so, yeah, so we’re gonna have an opal series and I think next week, we’ll talk about Australian opal.

Jonathan: So the number one source for opal, and there’s so many different types of opal as well that come out of Australia. So we’ll definitely talk about all the different types and what makes Australia.

Brecken: So I didn’t grow up in the business and growing up, I thought that opal was only that really milky, white. Well, let’s not say ugly because I don’t wanna use that word, but you know, boring stone. And so when I met Jonathan and he showed me all of the amazing colors and the range of opals that you find in Australia from blacks to lights to boulder, it’s pretty amazing. So we’re excited about next week.

And if you have any questions or comments about this week, or have any topics that you would like us to cover next week, just email us at

Jonathan: [email protected].

Brecken: And we would be happy to answer your questions. That’s gonna do it for today. Thanks for listening.

Jonathan: Thanks for listening. Bye.

Brecken: Bye Felicia.

Jonathan: I got my groove back. I was hurting at the beginning. I was like, “I don’t want to do this!”

Brecken: Okay.

The Finest American Gemstone – Montana Sapphire

Back to talking about gemstones!! Explore the wonders of Montana Sapphire. Jonathan and Brecken discuss the early beginnings and the lore behind America’s finest gemstone.

Transcription of the podcast.

Listen Here!

[00:00:00] Brecken: I don’t know, like what I do for Parlé, did I answer that okay?

[00:00:04] Jonathan: Yeah. I thought that was one of the best answers.

[00:00:06] Brecken: Oh, I just made up my title.

[00:00:11] Jonathan: Yeah, but you make fun of me and my title. You totally called me out. “I think on your business card, it says Vice President, I guess when you’re the owner, you can make up your own.” I was like, all right.

[00:00:40] Brecken: Welcome back to another episode of Gem Junkies. I’m Brecken,

[00:00:44] Jonathan: and I’m Jonathan,

[00:00:45] Brecken: and we are in the throngs of Tucson right now.

[00:00:48] Jonathan: Yeah.

[00:00:49] Brecken: So it’s super exciting. So we are at a AGTA right now. Super excited. If you are in Tucson, come on down to booth 417 in the AGTA gem hall, and you can come meet us.

[00:01:04] Jonathan: And we’ve got pins.

[00:01:05] Brecken: We’ve got swag! Yeah.

[00:01:08] So today we thought it would be super fun to talk about

[00:01:12] Jonathan: Montana Sapphire.

[00:01:14] Brecken: Montana Sapphire, which I’m crazy about it.

[00:01:16] Jonathan: Yeah, it’s awesome, and it’s very close to us. It’s only a four, four and a half hour drive.

[00:01:21] Brecken: It is, and it’s something that last year we decided to start carrying again.

[00:01:27] Jonathan: Right.

[00:01:28] Brecken: We used to carry it way back when. Mostly Yogo.

[00:01:31] Jonathan: Mostly Yogo, but now we’re more towards Rock Creek. So, 1865, that’s the original finding of sapphires in Montana by gold prospectors.

[00:01:44] Brecken: Right, they were going up the rivers trying to find gold and discovered gold and sapphires. A lot of the gold miners hated Sapphire because it would clog their sleuth box when they were trying to reclaim the gold. Out of the rivers. Yeah. And they just would throw it, they would just chuck it, chuck it, chuck it, chuck it. They didn’t know what it was. Yeah. And they thought, and then once they did discover what it was. They thought it wasn’t very valuable because it was pale color, right.

[00:02:16] Like pale in color. And so they just would chuck it away, throw it away and they’d get angry, it would clog all their equipment. And who knew.

[00:02:26] Jonathan: Those darn sapphires.

[00:02:28] Brecken: But it really, so the gold rush in Missouri happened 19 or 1870s to about 1890s is when a ton of gold was pulled out of the Missouri river in Montana.

[00:02:43] Jonathan: Yeah. Um, and then in the 1890s, there was a discovery in the Rock Creek area.

[00:02:52] Brecken: Mm-hmm .

[00:02:53] And so the funny thing is the gold rush sent, miners up every little river in Montana, trying to find gold and the Rock Creek find, they found absolutely no gold, but they found Sapphire and they found sapphires in all spectrum of colors.

[00:03:15] So yellows, greens, oranges, purples, blues, even red.

[00:03:21] Jonathan: Yeah, and the mining was really prevalent from about 1890 to the 1930s and they estimate there were 65 tons of Sapphire were recovered and it supplied the Swiss watchmakers until synthetics came about in the 1930s.

[00:03:41] Brecken: So it was sent by the ton to Switzerland. Used as for watch bearings.

[00:03:47] Jonathan: The first mention about Rock Creek and literature was mentioned in 1901 by George Kunz. And he had seen the gemstones in jewelry at the Paris expo that was made by Tiffany and Company in 1900. And he said, quote, “that it was of unusual brilliancy and at no other known locality has so great a variety of rich colors in corundum gems as in Rock Creek Sapphire.” And that’s the great thing about Rock Creek compared to the other sources in Montana is, it has a huge variety of colors. It has pinks and greens and yellows and oranges and blues.

[00:04:26] Brecken: Most start out their life pale in color

[00:04:29] Jonathan: pale or green

[00:04:29] Brecken: Or green. And that is why heat treatment is so important for the Rock Creek sapphires. It intensifies the colors and it removes the cloudiness and silk in the gemstones.

[00:04:40] Jonathan: Yeah. So about 30% can stay in their natural color of pink, blue, blue-green, and green. And about 70% of it needs is green or slightly brownish and that’s what gets heat treated. So the great thing about Rock Creek is it has quite a bit larger Sapphire crystals and they range [00:05:00] from two millimeters in size up to about one inch, which would be around 30 carats. So they produce some quite large pieces. And that’s kind of up to about, I think about 20 carats.

[00:05:15] All right. Okay. So Rock Creek was mined by. It was mine since the 19 hundreds, early 19 hundreds. All the way up till the 1930s and then in the 1930s. And it was all done by hydraulics. And so they didn’t have equipment. So the hydraulics, they basically get a big pond of water going. And then they’d flush that water down and through a big hose until it had enough pressure. And so they were only able to mine the very narrow bottom of each of these gullies. And so they missed tons of sapphires.

[00:05:51] Brecken: As evident by the large supply, we’re seeing come out of Rock Creek right now.

[00:05:55] Jonathan: So in 2014, Potentate bought 90% of the Rock Creek area

[00:06:01] about

[00:06:01] Brecken: 3000 acres.

[00:06:04] Jonathan: It’s a huge, huge amount. So not only Rock Creek, but also Eureka Gulch. And so now Potentate is mining that and that’s where all this new material is coming from.

[00:06:14] Brecken: And I think this is the first time in the history of the Rock Creek mining area, that one company has owned so much land and been able to make it really commercially viable.

[00:06:27] Jonathan: Yeah. And their goal is to be the largest gem producer in all of America, of the United States.

[00:06:36] Brecken: I was reading a little bit about it and their whole thing is that mining in Rock Creek, the sapphires occur near the surface. So it’s not like a deep underground mine. So it makes mining costs much lower. So they’re able to go in there and I mean, mining in the US is not an easy thing to do. There’s tons of rules and regulations that are put in place in the US to keep people safe. Everything like that, which adds to the cost of mining. So to be able to viably mine, Sapphire in the US is exciting. And it’s because they’re close to the surface of the ground. They don’t have to tunnel.

[00:07:19] Jonathan: And Potentate also is working really hard to be environmentally friendly. So they do, they use all recycled water. So they don’t use any of the creeks or streams in Montana.

[00:07:29] They actually use, they have their own ponds.

[00:07:32] Brecken: Keep the waterways clean,

[00:07:34] Jonathan: keep the waterways clean and then any ground that they disturb. They’re fully reestablishing it. And then also old disturbed ground, like back from the 1890s clear through the 1930s, all that disturbed ground. They’re actually reestablishing that as well.

[00:07:51] Brecken: Oh, so they’re going back and cleaning up.

[00:07:53] Jonathan: So they’re cleaning everything up. So it’s a really, it’s a really great company to be associated with.

[00:07:57] Brecken: That’s cool. And they’re a Canadian company.

[00:07:59] Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. Potentate’s owned by a Canadian company that also has mine, diamonds and gold and

[00:08:06] Brecken: wow. Now Montana Sapphire, and there is very little waste of the gemstones that they find. Most of them are marketable. So 12 about 12% they leave as fancy colors as they’re found. And then, after heating about 80% of the sapphires become a what you would call a “market desirable” color.

[00:08:28] So something someone desires to own. Color that’s not, you know,

[00:08:33] Jonathan: and it’s all a documented chain of custody. So they’re using a selected group of Sapphire cutters and polishers with reputable jewelry manufacturers like us. So there’s just a small, they’re trying to keep a small group because they don’t want any funny business being done to the Sapphire.

[00:08:51] Just natural and light heat treatment and they do all the heat treating themselves. So they’re doing all of that and then selling the rough after it’s heat treated.

[00:09:00] Brecken: I am super obsessed with it. I’m wearing some right now.

[00:09:02] Jonathan: Yeah. It’s beautiful.

[00:09:03] Brecken: We just finished a group of jewelry. And when I saw the set, I was like, “Hmm, I need that. I have to have that.”

[00:09:12] So the twins like it, I was talking to Olivia this morning and she said, “Mom, what’s in your necklace.”

[00:09:18] And I said, “Well, that’s a Montana Sapphire” and she said “Is that different than Sapphire?”

[00:09:23] I said, “No, it’s the same thing as Sapphire. It just comes from Montana.”

[00:09:28] And she said, “Oh, where’s Montana.”

[00:09:30] And I said, “Well, it comes from about four hours away.” And she’s not following any of this, but she likes it too.

[00:09:37] Jonathan: And then there is another mining area in the Rock Creek area. And it’s the Gem Mountain Mine.

[00:09:46] Brecken: It’s the 10% that Potentate doesn’t own

[00:09:49] Jonathan: but it’s really cool. You can actually go there as just a consumer and you can even make a reservation on their website. I believe. And you can make a reservation for you and your family to go up there and they bring down sapphire rich gravel in buckets, and you can buy the buckets and then they teach you how to actually sort.

[00:10:10] Brecken: So you’re not really digging it out of the ground, which no would be totally unsafe.

[00:10:14] Jonathan: but you still have to do all of the sorting and safety. And people have found some really, really big sapphires. And if you go on either GIA’s website or Gem Mountain’s website, you can see a couple of videos that talk-

[00:10:26] Brecken: We’re taking a field trip this summer.

[00:10:28] Jonathan: We have to, when it’s warm, for sure.

[00:10:30] Brecken: Cause it’s not warm right now, but, and I mean, they don’t mine in the winter, do they?

[00:10:35] Jonathan: No, no. It’s open from labor day through Memorial day.

[00:10:41] Brecken: Okay. Yeah. So we’ll hit it up this summer. Take a little road trip with the twinies. They can go find their own Montana sapphires.

[00:10:48] Jonathan: So then probably the most well known

[00:10:52] Brecken: Sapphire from Montana would have to be Yogo. Yeah.

[00:10:55] Jonathan: Which was first discovered in 1895 by,

[00:10:59] Brecken: by another gold prospector,

[00:11:00] Jonathan: Jake Hoover.

[00:11:03] Brecken: He and two other gentlemen formed a mining company. They were going to mine gold and raised about $40,000 to get this up and running.

[00:11:14] And in three years, with this mining company, they found $700 in gold. So I’m gonna guess they weren’t that successful gold miners, but what they also found were some blue pebbles and a lot of other miners in the area just discarded them. Just kind of threw them off to the side.

[00:11:33] Jonathan: And so of Hoover’s partners, Hoover was the only one that collected them, and he kept collecting them and putting them in a cigar box. And eventually he took that cigar box and didn’t know what these bluestones were and he sent it to Tiffany and Company. And that’s when George F Kunz figured out that it was sapphire.

[00:11:49] Brecken: Yeah. And George Kunz said that it was one of the finest precious gemstone ever found in the United States. And that’s because Yogo, Sapphire is pretty free of inclusions.

[00:12:02] Jonathan: It’s very clean

[00:12:03] Brecken: and a beautiful blue color. Without any need of heat treatment

[00:12:07] Jonathan: and it ranges from a beautiful cornflower blue, which is what it’s most well known for, but it does range in color from cornflower blue, all the way to a deep violet.

[00:12:16] Brecken: Yeah. So do you know how much he sold that box of Sapphire that he collected that little cigar box?

[00:12:22] Jonathan: Oh, I’ve heard the number before

[00:12:23] Brecken: he sold it for $3,750, which is. Five times what he made from gold mining.

[00:12:30] Jonathan: But still doesn’t recoup the $40,000 that he,

[00:12:34] Brecken: No, so he, of course they scrap the gold mine and they start just mining Sapphire and Hoover in a few years, decided Sapphire mining wasn’t for him. He sold it to his partners. He sold his share to his partners for about $5,000. And then two months later they were sold again, the partners sold out to a British company for a hundred thousand dollars.

[00:13:01] This guy didn’t have good luck. $40,000 in a mining investment. And he made $700 from gold. And then, so it just wasn’t his day, but he did discover it. So yeah.

[00:13:12] Jonathan: Yeah. So, and so they owned eight of the 14 stakes in the Yogo Gulch area. And so it sold to a British company, Johnson Walker and Tolhurst, and that became known as the English Mine, and then six other stakes that were bought out that were claimed.

[00:13:29] Brecken: Hoover actually deemed them unfit for mining, right?

[00:13:33] Jonathan: Yeah. because they were steep and Cliffy. And so that became the American mine and so millions of carats were mined out of the British mine and very little out of the American mine.

[00:13:44] Brecken: Yeah. So the british were actually very successful in mining the Yogo sapphires.

[00:13:49] Jonathan: Millions of carats.

[00:13:50] Brecken: Millions and millions of carats. And it is actually considered the most successful endeavor ever in Yogo Sapphire mining. Unfortunately for Americans, it was all shipped to London. And then sold in Europe, but it wasn’t sold as American Sapphire. It was sold as “Orient Sapphire.”

[00:14:10] Jonathan: Right. Because it was worth more.

[00:14:12] Brecken: That’s because that name made it worth more, even though it wasn’t true. The Americans were not so successful because like Jonathan said rugged cliffs…

[00:14:23] Jonathan: Well, and they didn’t really know what they were doing because eventually the mines combined in 1913 and they sold the American mine

[00:14:29] Brecken: well, the american mine went bankrupt.

[00:14:31] Jonathan: Well, but then they sold it for $80,000. And then the English mine found over $80,000 in sapphires in the first year. Just cleaning up their old tailings. Not even mining. Just cleaning up tailings. So they obviously didn’t know what they were doing.

[00:14:46] Brecken: No, they recouped the cost of purchase in one year, just going through the tailings before they even actually had to invest in mining

[00:14:54] Jonathan: And then 13 million carats were mined in the early 1900s with the [00:15:00] two mines combined that was used for jewelry, watches, and then the ones that weren’t good for jewelry or watches were sold for abrasives for steel. And it’s kind of interesting that this was one of the few mines that was allowed to keep operating during World War II during shortages of fuel and steel because of the fact that the,

[00:15:20] Brecken: it was deemed necessary for the War effort, for the abrasives.

[00:15:24] Jonathan: So it’s kind of cool.

[00:15:25] Brecken: They used all that to cut through metal and then,

[00:15:28] Jonathan: No, actually that was World War I not II.

[00:15:30] Brecken: Yeah World War I

[00:15:31] Jonathan: Sorry, World War I, and then a flash flood destroyed the whole mining area 1923.

[00:15:36] Brecken: Yeah. It’s kinda sad story in 1922, you really see the expansion of synthetic sapphires into the market. And that’s when they start using synthetics for watch bearings and abrasives. They don’t need natural stones anymore. And the cost of the natural stones is so much higher. So that means now all of the Yogo Sapphire its only value is as a gemstone.

[00:16:02] And then in 1923, like Jonathan was saying, there was a flash flood that came through and it destroyed all of the above ground mining structures. So it washed everything away. And the British company that owned it just. Said, you know,

[00:16:17] Jonathan: “we’re done.”

[00:16:18] Brecken: “We’re done.” there’s, it’s, you know, not gonna be profitable anymore because it’s only for gemstones and jewelry and there’s really no use.

[00:16:26] Jonathan: And then it sold and sold and sold and sold and sold

[00:16:30] Brecken: and sold.

[00:16:31] Jonathan: And, and so a bunch of people have tried and nobody really has ever been able to reestablish that Yogo mine.

[00:16:38] Brecken: It’s almost sad that all of the stones went over to Europe and weren’t sold as Yogos. I mean, they are, they are truly beautiful. They’re, they’re free of zoning. So you don’t see a lot of color zoning in them.

[00:16:55] Jonathan: They’re just beautiful blue.

[00:16:56] Brecken: They are. The one thing is they’re pretty shallow.

[00:17:00] Jonathan: And small.

[00:17:02] Brecken: And they’re, they’re usually so small most of them they say are

[00:17:05] Jonathan: under a carat

[00:17:06] Brecken: Yeah, a 10th of a carat, generally. We have it and we sell it, but mostly as clusters, melee, as little pieces of melee.

[00:17:14] Jonathan: Beautiful, beautiful clusters.

[00:17:16] Brecken: But they’re saying that in the early days in Yogo, the veins, the Sapphire veins were 20 feet wide.

[00:17:27] Jonathan: Wow.

[00:17:27] Brecken: Yeah. And now they’re eight inches to 10 inches wide.

[00:17:32] Jonathan: Geez.

[00:17:32] Brecken: Yeah. So you can see how and they’re very deep in the ground. So this is tunnel mining. This is very deep in the ground now. And it’s really not like I was saying earlier. What makes the Rock Creek so successful is that it’s shallow. It’s close to the surface, which makes it more economically viable. Where Yogo really isn’t.

[00:17:56] Jonathan: Pit mining versus tunnel mining. There’s a huge difference in cost.

[00:18:00] Brecken: Yeah. And there are, I mean, there are a few people that own claims at Yogo now, and that are mining it, but it’s really just a it’s few and far between very few and far between, and you don’t get much material out of it. It’s not something that not everyone can have a Yogo Sapphire.

[00:18:18] You know? And so most of it is sold exclusively in Montana.

[00:18:23] Jonathan: So, uh, there’s been some really cool studies and videos done both by Potentate and by GIA. So we’ll post some links to those on our blog. So you can check those out so that you can kind of see what this country looks like. It’s really beautiful country up in Montana.

[00:18:39] Um, it’s kind of halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. So it’s kind of halfway in the middle and it’s just, it’s really beautiful and it’s really interesting videos and they’re well done. So, uh, we’ll, we’ll post some links to that so that you can check those out.

[00:18:53] Brecken: And I’m just excited about, you know, the opportunity to sell gemstones American gemstones from four hours away.

[00:19:01] Jonathan: Yeah, it’s really cool.

[00:19:03] Brecken: And the color’s cool. I think I can say my favorite color in the Montana is probably the most prevalent, which is like a blue-green,

[00:19:14] Jonathan: the teal.

[00:19:14] Brecken: Yeah, kind of bi-color almost look where you see some blue, some green loving it. Obsessed. I need a 20 ct one. It’s not gonna happen. Jonathan’s telling me never. Maybe I’ll mine it this summer,

[00:19:32] Jonathan: Maybe

[00:19:33] Brecken: All right. Well, I wanna thank you guys so much for tuning into another episode of gem junkies. I’m Brecken

[00:19:39] Jonathan: and I’m Jonathan.

[00:19:40] Brecken: And if you are in Tucson, come see us

[00:19:42] Jonathan: Booth 417.

[00:19:43] Brecken: Yep. Booth 417 at the, a AGTA gem fair. And, if not, well, we’ll see around somewhere else and you can see what we do in our real life.

[00:19:55] Jonathan: On Facebook or Instagram at Parlé Gems

[00:19:59] Brecken: at Parlé Gems. All right guys. See you later.

[00:20:01] Jonathan: Bye.

The Lore and Legends of Zircon

The month of December brings a range of blue birthstones — Turquoise, Tanzanite, Blue Topaz and our subject for today Zircon.  Zircon is commonly seen in its colorless and blue state yet, this stone offers a wide range of colors and folklore behind its history.


Zircon gets its name from the Persian word zargon meaning gold-hued.  Gold-hued you ask? Zircon can be found in an assortment of earth tones of gold/yellow, browns, green, orange, and red.

5 unique qualities about Zircon:

  1. HIGH REFRACTIVE INDEX:  Zircon is classified as an “over the limit stone” based upon it’s high refractive index.  Other stones that have a high refractive index are garnet and diamond.
  2. HIGH BIREFRINGENCE: All that sparkle you see if due to the gemstone’s high birefringence.  As light hits the stone, the light splits and creates a doubling effect hence, MORE SPARKLE.  Who doesn’t love a little more sparkle?  Often people confuse Zircon in its colorless form for diamonds due to is sparkly appearance.
  3. HIGH SPECIFIC GRAVITY: Zircon is really dense and heavy for its size.
  4. RADIOACTIVE:  Zircon contains trace amounts of uranium. (Don’t worry it’s not harmful.) Over time the crystal structure begins to break down. Minerals that break down are metamict. Zircon is partly amorphous from the radioactive impurities. Gemologist categorized Zircon into three different categories based upon how much radioactivity has occurred. 
    • HIGH: Full crystal structure, no breakdown, and exhibit high/normal properties.  
    • MEDIUM: Mid-range physical properties and some crystal damage to the crystal structure, 
    • LOW: Extensive damage, low SR, low RI and often the double refraction isn’t evident.  The stones are usually green.
  5. BRITTLE:  Zircon is a brittle stone due to the heating process.  It’s hardness rates at a 6.5 to a 7.5.  It can easily be chipped so jewelry made with Zircon should be worn with caution. These pieces are recommended for special occasions and not everyday wear.
Assortment of Zircon stones


Heating is commonly used to add more brilliance to gemstones but heating Zircon can restore the crystalline structure to the stone.  This can return the physical properties to a normal/high quality.

The heating method is what transforms Zircon from its natural, earth-toned hues to either its colorless or blue color.  There are two forms of heating:

  1. CHARCOAL:  The stones would be surrounded with charcoal for a few hours for the color process to take place.  
  2. AIR: The stones aren’t packed as they are in the charcoal process.  The process produces strong yellow, oranges, and red stones.

Stones that didn’t respond to the heating were subject to additional round(s) of processing until the desired color is achieved. 

Excalibur the Sword by Howard Pyle 


  • It is said the Zircon was used in the hilt of Excalibur
  • A recommended amulet for travelers as protection against the plague and injuries.
    • When the stone begins to lose its brilliance and grow pale/dull that the plague was near.
  • Helped with lightning strikes
  • Sleep aide
  • Assures cordial reception upon hotel check-in if wearing zircon

Head over to the podcast and hear more in-depth details about Zircon! 

Holiday Buying Guide


We’re back with a NEW Gem Junkies!!  Jonathan was out in Pennsylvania while Brecken trekked overseas to Hong Kong.  We thought we’d give you a look into the day-in-the-life of purchasing and some consumer shopping tips for the Holidays!


Image Source 



  • Bring a shopping list.

    • Help stay on track on what to purchase with the number of stones you’re viewing
  • Bring grading samples of what you plan to purchase.

    • Lighting plays a huge roll on the overall appearance on the stone.  You’re able to easily to compare the stone you’re viewing based upon the grading samples that you’ve brought along.
  • Buying Power

    • Of course, you want to purchase the most beautiful stone from the lot.  Let’s be real, everyone wants that too.  Increase your buying power by purchasing a variety of stone grades.  The cutter is able to move stock to one customer versus finding buyers for lower grade stones.  Negotiating becomes a more open conversation when buying in larger quantities of varying grades.






Jewelry is a popular item to purchase during the holidays.  But where should you start when it comes to buying jewelry for a gift?

Here are  TIPS to making your shopping experience more enjoyable


  • Ask a lot of questions

    • Buying jewelry is an investment but should be a FUN experience! Ask your sales consultant any and every question you may have.  There are great stories to hear which can ease the process and make purchasing more enjoyable.  (This tip is helpful for wholesalers as well.)


  • Buy local

    • Nothing beats the experience from purchasing from your local jewelers.   The sale isn’t just a number to them as they want to build a long-term relationship.
    • Often jeweler insurance providers will request a periodic appraisal on your jewelers and your local provider can easily provide this information when needed


  • Share your budget

    • There is amazing jewelry in every price range, especially in COLOR!!  Sharing your budget with your sales consultant allows them to better understand your needs and makes for a smoother buying experience.
    • The jewelry design also affects the price.  For instance, earrings will cost more than a pendant as there are two items associated to the jewelry piece.


  • Appearance

    • There are a couple factors when it comes to the appearance of colored gemstones– color, cut and clarity
      • Color is going to be the most important factor when it comes to buying colored gemstones.  Color is a personal preference so select a color that is pleasing to you.
      • The cut of the gemstone optimizes the overall appearance of the stone.
      • Clarity is going to vary between stones. Many color gemstones inclusions are okay and expected.  This can be expected in a stone like Emerald.
  • Care/Durability

    • Keep in mind the type of jewelry that you’re purchasing as a gift.  Each piece is going to require a different level of maintenance.  For example, purchasing an opal as an engagement ring isn’t encouraged.  Down the road, the opal will need to be replaced every few years.
    • Questions to ask:
      • How often should I get this back to get checked?
      • How should I clean it?
      • How do I take care of it?
      • How should I store the piece of jewelry?


  • Insurance

    • Protect your investment!!  There’s value in every purchase that is made.  We recommend holding a separate policy outside of your homeowner insurance.  This is helpful in a case that you’re at a loss that it doesn’t impact your home insurance and vice-versa.
    •  Many jewelers will have a company they partner with but you can also purchase it independently. Jewelers Mutual is a great resource to insure your jewelry.

To hear the full podcast






Green & Hairy Grossular Garnet Gooseberry

This week on Gem Junkies

“Grossular Garnet”

Known to the jewelry market as Tsavorite or Mint Garnet

One of many siblings in the Garnet family- Grossular is famous for its green variety


This is a parcel of Mint Garnet as found in Tanzania. This photo was taken by Brecken while her and Jonathan were visiting the mines where we receive gemstones from as featured in our collection, “Sharing the Rough”

                              A look down one of the mine shafts in Tanzania. Finding Grossular Garnet is often an indicator of Tanzanite,                                               which “Tanzania” is well-known for. Another photo courtesy of J&B’s trip to Africa.


Since the color is reliant on the amount of trace minerals found, the color of each individual gem can fall somewhere on a spectrum of yellowish-to dark green-to a blueish green. This graphic is courtesy of

Featured next to each other for comparison is one of our “Mint” and “Tsavorite” varieties (also pictured is our “purple” garnet). Our Mint takes on the lighter shade with more of a blueish hue, whereas our Tsavorite contains a very rich green.


Two pieces from our line “Sharing the Rough” in their finished form, where the color difference is even more prevalent. You can find these pieces in our collection at

Cinnamon Garnet- otherwise known as “Hessanite” Image is courtesy of



That’s all for this week. But if you want more content, and access to some never before seen content, then join our Facebook Group “Gem Junkies” and stay connected with us!

Turquoise- If it’s good enough for Marie..

Thanks for tuning into the latest installment of Gem Junkies.

Thanks to popular demand we covered a very special gemstone this week- and a new one for Brecken’s shopping list!

Turquoise has a long and exotic history spanning world-wide. Different cultures and societies discovered and utilized this treasure for different purposes- creating some insane stories and lore to go along with it, too.

The Aztecs would use them as entire face masks to represent the Gods they worshiped.

Photo courtesy of

In ancient China, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere without your Turquoise crown (own stone for the less royal) since Turquoise was believed to counteract evil forces and make the wearer brave and invulnerable.

Photo courtesy of


A gift to Napolean’ second wife, Empress Marie-Louise and became known as ” Empress Marie-Louise’s Diadem” a diadem being a structure that encircles the head, usually three quarters of the way around with an opening in the back.

Photo courtesy of

Turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona- known for the Robin’s Egg blue color.

Photo Courtesy of

A variety of Turquoise with the webbing (and without) and in Jonathan’s favorite Avocado color!

Photo courtesy of,_rocks,_stones_and_gemstones


Some Parle turquoise designs in the making. We have been re-inspired to add this vibrant blue beauty to the mix, and with our fav Opal!!

You can find out more about Turquoise by going to

The Very Cultured Pearl

Well we have added another layer of Nacre to the Pearl story.

This week’s story included a very cultured Pearl, the largest Pearl, treatments, fashion, and the market for this beautiful organic gem.


First up- The world’s largest Pearl. Jonathan took us to where this beauty was found, HIDDEN UNDER A BED! Obviously very different from the Princess and the Pea to have one of these hiding somewhere under a mattress.

Photo Courtesy of


Next stop- “Bloody Mary” dawns her beloved Pearl in a necklace worn in this painting.

This piece was given to her by her soon-to-be-husband Phillip II of Spain as a wedding gift.


This is a famous painting of her done by  Antonis Mor dawning her beloved jewel


At the time of her death it was returned to the Spanish crown and worn again by Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain, married to Phillip III of Spain.

This famous painting of Margaret of Austria wearing the Pearl necklace was done by  Diego Velázquez


After generations in European royalty, who’s neck would later adorn this beautiful Pearl. Well none other than Elizabeth Taylor!

This photo mashup is courtesy of


You can find this design