I’ve always been interested in gemstone and mineral ‘rough’ (basically how it comes out of the ground with only a bath to make it look better). Since being disabled, I’ve needed to come up with ways to keep my mind occupied, and give myself something to do that isn’t physically taxing. I stumbled across Jewelry Television by accident in 2009 when I was holed up even more after mildly tearing my left ACL and medial meniscus (pain wasn’t mild by a long shot). I couldn’t have surgery because I’d gotten injections into the joint and diabetics evidently have a greater risk of infections if they’ve had the injections within three months of surgery. So I couldn’t even walk around my apartment without my walker. I watched a lot of TV.
Late one night, I channel surfed my way to the JTV gemstone show. Wowza ! They had a pile of gemstones on a turntable, and were selling the whole pile of them in one assorted mixed faceted parcel. Basically I’d get a random ‘scoop’ of gemstones (amount depended on the carat weight they’d decided to sell for whatever price). Could be anything. I was mesmerized. I’d seen this show many, many years earlier, and didn’t have a debit card at that time. I was in luck in 2009 . I was ‘in’ ! I ordered that random pile of gems !
I got my mixed parcel, and was astounded at the gemstones in it. Over the next few months, and the past 3 years, I collected several of the mixed parcels, single stone parcels, and then ‘progressed’ to specific stones. To me they are little pieces of real estate from around the world. I’ve got chrome diopside from Siberia, Manchurian peridot, Bolivian ametrine, vesuvianite from Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, tanzanite, Nigerian spessartite garnet, and on and on… It’s been a great way to learn about different countries, and have a collection that makes me happy.
I’ve become very fond of the natural, untreated gemstones (most gemstones are either heated or irradiated to speed up the process that takes the earth thousands of years to achieve; it’s a ‘normal’ part of the gemstone industry- but there are some stones that come out of the earth in gorgeous colors). Some stones are colored by ‘chemical vapor deposition’. Those aren’t my favorites- but the stones themselves are pretty. I just get the mental image that they are gassed into submission to change color 😀
Garnets are one family of gems that I’ve really grown to love (they’re bigger than a ‘group’). Prior to discovering loose gemstones, I sort of poo-pooed garnets. I had no idea they come in so many colors, and the ‘sparkle factor’ is incredible. And garnets are not treated. They won’t take treatments. Three even change or shift colors depending on the light source (florescent vs. incandescent)- pink-salmon to champagne = TM ‘ Masasi Bordeaux’, champagney pink to a darker champagney salmon, and blue to violet = TM ‘Masasi Blue’. I’ve got brownish red (Mozambique), Tanzanian (spectral red), demantoid (light to medium green; mine are from Madagascar), Tsavorite (spectral green – Tsavos National Park in Kenya), yellow (Tanzania), blue (color change- Tanzania), ‘mint’ (green with a hint of yellow- Tanzania), rhodolite purple-red (Umba River in Tanzania) and rhodolite from India (same mine where alexandrite is found), spessartite (mandarine orange- Nigeria), hessonite (brownish-orange, from Sri Lanka), and Golden Imperial Hessonite (I forget where they’re from, but they’re a light golden-champagne). Amazing stuff ! And who knew that one type of garnets is pushed out of the earth by ants in Arizona ! They are a wonderful spectral red color. Bugs mining gems !
I also collect realistic baby dolls- but they take up a whole room. My gemstone collection is contained in ‘trays’ (boxes full of ‘jars’ with foam padding to keep everything secure). It all fits on a book shelf. The basic tools I have (loupe- magnifying lens, refractometer- shows how much sparkle or ‘bling’ is there (how light bounces), which then identifies the stone, assorted tweezers, and sorting tray) and my books on gems don’t take up much additional room. It’s great for small spaces.
I’ve also purchased jewelry and sterling silver earring settings that let me make my own stud earrings from the gemstone parcels I get. I can’t fit into my rings (weight gain from leukemia chemo), but I can wear my earrings ! The beauty of the stones is awesome…as I’m in awe of what comes out of this earth. It’s one of the ways I connect to God.
The mineral composition of the host gem determines the color. To me, that’s pretty incredible. For instance, beryl is the ‘group’ that emeralds, aquamarine, morganite, bixbite, and heliodor come from. When a mineral is added to the beryl (comes from the surrounding earth), it determines the color. Bixbite comes from the WahWah Mountains in Utah…and is way expensive. I’ve got a ‘rough’ crumb (not faceted and not polished) still on the host rock, and I’m happy to have that. It’s about one sixteenth of an inch – or roughly 1.5 mm cube. It’s tiny- but I’ve got some !
These little gems have opened up the world to me. I’ve become more aware of the social, political, and natural resource facets of the countries these gems come from. I’m not in a position to get many large stones, but I try to get at least a small example of most stones I see on the gemstone shows. It becomes one more country that I’ve learned more about. That’s one of the things I enjoy the most- learning more about the gems, and the places where they’re found. Now and then, when a stone is on special, or they have larger stones, I will get those, and that’s always fun. I got an 11.25 ct morganite (18mm x 13mm cushion cut) in one mixed parcel of larger stones. I never could have purchased that on its own. But the parcel was random, and comprised of ‘leftover’ parts of stock, or limited quantity items that were more expensive to keep in stock on their own than if they were put in a bin and sold them by the ‘scoop’, so to speak. I think about Mozambique whenever I look at it 🙂
Each stone came from somewhere, and people in those countries have often had to put themselves in danger to mine them. (You should see the working conditions to get Ethiopian opal !!) The gems are little pieces of somewhere, and someone dug them out so I could enjoy them. I hadn’t thought much about collecting gemstones until I saw the mound of them on that turntable on TV late one night. They were pretty- that was the initial draw. Now, they give me a lot of joy when I can’t really do much physically.
My mind and appreciation for what God put in this earth grows every time I look at them.