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.

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.

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! 

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

Seduce him with those big Pearls, girl

Welcome Gem Junkies!

Have you listened to this week’s podcast?

We left off with the world as our Oysters, and came right back to that Oyster to uncover the wonderful world of Pearls.

This imagery follows our first part of this two part series. Check out the links below the images to learn more!

        An interpretation of Cleopatra seducing Marc Antony by slipping her Pearl earring into a cup of “Vinegar” before drinking it. Pearl was thought of as an aphrodisiac, and this is how our girl Cleopatra shoots her shot to protect her empire from being overthrown.

This image was taken from website, but was originally created  Jacob Jordaens in 1653, and appropriately named “The Banquet of Cleopatra”

A breakdown of the anatomy of an Oyster. Here you can see where the bead will be implanted for cultured Pearl formation.

Here you can see how the bead is surgically implanted into the Oysters for nucleation.

The Oysters are then placed on lines, or in nets while the Pearl is being formed. This process varies for the different species, and is monitored by the Oyster farmers.

The moment of truth for this Tahitian Pearl- a black Pearl emerges from the Gonads of an Oyster.

A non exhaustive list of Pearl shapes- not all Pearls are created round!

Photo courtesy of

One of our Freshwater Cultured Pearl ring designs

Shop our Pearl Jewelry

History, Death, Destruction, & Spinel

This week’s episode has been long anticipated. I mean, we had been teasing it for two weeks now…

So to go along with this riveting Pod are some visual representations of what the heck we are talking about!


That insane crystal structure of Spinel is evident here. Like two pyramids stacked on eachother.


Spinel color ranges- you can probably see why it might have been seen as quite the “impostor”


The black Prince’s Ruby is front and center on what must be the lighter version of the crown. Try nodding off during a coronation wearing this


A true queen! But really, between the hat and her neck dazzle she must really have a strong spine!


Cobalt Blue Spinel- drool worthy color


Some Spinel displays asterisim, but isn’t know as “Phenomenal Gem”

Photo courtesy of:

Here is a sneak preview of the Parlé Spinel line coming to you 2019!

This ring will be available to purchase on our website!


Perido or Peridon’t

Hey Junkies, here for your weekly dose? Well we have something that’s subtle, yet special. You probably know by now we mean Peridot! Lets go on a little journey to a time long, long ago, and to a place far, far away from Idaho.

1st Stop:

Zagarbad, the mysterious, “disappearing” island where Peridot can be found.

Photo courtesy of 

Next we visit a time in history where there was enough space in the world to “cast away” our enemies, and literally never hear from them again, (I mean could you imagine?!)

Pharaoh casting away all of the snakes


Next we take you on a ‘wild’ color wheel ride where you can see this particular type of gem is limited in color variation. Everyone has a crazy green lady in their family, right?

Photo courtesy of


Color range of Peridot

This next one is for Brecken, who insisted i include the lily pads, and well, they are pretty.

Photo courtesy of


Brecken’s fav Lily Pad inclusions.

Photo courtesy of


This is what they mean by “nodules”- pockets per say where you can find smaller amounts of Peridot all nestled up.

You can find Peridot in small amounts in the nodules of Basalt rocks

Photo courtesy of


Alright, this is pretty metal. Looks like something they would right ANOTHER super hero movie about. Can we ever get enough super hero movies? (yes)

Jonathan’s fav peridot in a meteorite

Photo courtesy of


Last stop but not least, Parle’s vault where I found a more than worthy piece of Peridot jewelry to photograph. They really are beautiful.