Inclusions contain important information about the gemstone and the natural history of our earth! Of course, most people that are familiar with diamonds would say, the more inclusions the diamond has the lower the quality. In grading gemstones, we are more forgiving in terms of clarity grading (here a brief article to explain it, https://www.gemsociety.org/article/colored-stone-grading-system/).
In this video, we would find out more about emeralds from Colombia! Those so called “flaws” that some people refer to are actually precious inclusions that tell so much about the gemstone! In the 4th stage of the mine to market story, a gemologist would examine the gemstone, test the physical properties and try to give the gemstone an identity (what gem it is), whether it has been treated and if possible where exactly or generally the gemstone is from (origin determination, one important mine for colombian emeralds is the Muzo mine http://www.muzo.co/en/millennial-legacy/muzo).
From an identification perspective, inclusions give you alot of information, from a valuation perspective it can add tremendous value if it does not affect the physical beauty of the gemstone, especially if the gemstone is from a renowned mine like Muzo for Colombian emeralds.
The moment you look at gemstones through a microscope, you will suddenly realise that there is a world of its own in the gemstone. Sometimes, these internal characteristics look to me like a snap shot of time, a snap shot of how the gemstone formed, a work of art and wonder.
You can watch this video to see some inclusions that are characteristic to Colombian Emeralds.
Featured in this video is the book called Photo Atlas by Dr E J Gubelin and Dr J I Koivula (you can get it at https://rubin-and-son.com/products_list.php?category_id=713). It contains photographs and explanation of many different inclusions in gemstones such as ruby, sapphire, emerald, alexandrite, fluorite, the list goes on.
Igneous rock is formed when magma from the mantle rises up through the Earth’s crust, and cools and solidifies; or when lava on the Earth’s surface cools and solidifies. Igneous rocks are primarily created with heat.
Found in igneous rock: The quartzes (including amethyst, citrine and ametrine), the garnets, moonstone, apatite, diamond, spinel, tanzanite, tourmaline, topaz and zircon.
Metamorphic rock is formed when intense underground heat or pressure alters the existing atomic structures of minerals within rocks, and transforms them into other minerals. In essence, metamorphic rocks are created when heat and pressure change existing minerals into something new.
Found in Metamorphic rock: The beryls (emerald, morganite and aquamarine), jade, lapis lazuli, turquoise, spinel, ruby, sapphire, alexandrite, chrysoberyl and zircon.
Sedimentary rock is formed when rock is worn down and the fragments are carried by water or the wind, and these sediments are finally compressed together over time.
Found in Sedimentary rock: Jasper, malachite, opal and zircon
The Gem Museum presents The Rock Cycle
The Gem Museum is set up to educate visitors on the story of “Mine to Market”. The very beginning of understanding gemstones is to learn about the rock cycle that is a very essential part of the formation of gemstones.
Come and visit us if you are in Singapore! We are opened Monday to Friday, 12pm to 5pm. Admission is free!
Coco Chanel wanted to “cover women with constellations”. Like stars that pattern the night with light, jewels adorn the woman. But before being fashioned into jewellery, a gemstone is usually first a mineral (a naturally-occurring, inorganic solid with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic arrangement) formed by geological processes in the Earth’s crust.
Emeralds, for instance, are formed of the mineral Beryl, a chemical compound containing beryllium, aluminium, silicon and oxygen. Its colour comes from additional traces of chromium and vanadium, but different trace elements will produce different colours, allowing the mineral Beryl to form semi-precious stones such as Aquamarine.
Rubies are formed of the mineral Corundum, and its red colour comes from traces of chromium. Sapphires are also formed of Corundum, and can come in different colours depending on its trace mixtures of iron, titanium, and chromium.
A single rock can be composed of different minerals. From rocks, mineral crystals are mined, cut and polished into precious or semiprecious gems.
How do minerals form in the Earth?
The International Gem Society has a very comprehensive article on how minerals form. In summary, minerals crystallise when conditions of temperature (heat), pressure and time to grow are right, and when there is space to grow.
Heat and Pressure determine the type of mineral formed.
Some minerals (such as Quartz – below left) require very little heat and pressure to form, and will melt or break down under great heat and pressure.
Other minerals (such as Pyrite– below right) need a lot of heat and pressure to form, because at low temperatures, its raw materials can stay mixed up with other minerals’ raw materials.
The more time there is for the crystal to grow, the larger it will be, because minerals have an ordered atomic arrangement and it takes time for atoms to be ordered. Since ions are more mobile in water, the presence of water can help accelerate the mineral growing process.
The earth is like a beautiful bride who needs no manmade jewels to heighten her loveliness. – Kahlil Gibran
Most minerals found in the rocks around us are formed when molten rock (or magma) rises up through the Earth’s crust due to volcanic eruptions or by heat currents that keep the magma in constant motion.
As the hot magma cools, minerals crystallise.
If the cooling process is extremely rapid (seconds), no crystals will form, resulting in volcanic glass (not composed of minerals). However, over millions of years, the volcanic glass may crystallise.
If the cooling process is rapid (minutes, hours, days, or years), the components of the minerals will not have time to be ordered, and the crystals formed will be small (less than 1mm), resulting in a fine-grained rock.
If the cooling process is slow (decades to millions of years), the crystals formed will be large.
During a volcanic eruption, when there is a rapid drop in pressure, gas bubbles can form in the rising magma (Imagine popping a cork from a champagne bottle.) Sometimes these gas bubbles contain a high concentration of certain elements. If the right conditions of heat, pressure and time exist, minerals will crystallise.
When water (e.g. Rain) seeps down through the soil and meets with rising magma, hydrothermal fluids are formed. Such hydrothermal fluids continue flowing through fractures in the Earth’s crust, dissolving minerals along the way. When these mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids cool in “veins” and the right conditions of heat, pressure and time exist, minerals will crystallise.
When volatile-rich magma cools in cavities and the right conditions of heat, pressure and time exist, minerals will crystallise.
Metamorphism – when minerals form from other minerals
The Andes mountains, formed when the Nazca plate subducted under the South American plate
When magma forces its way into an existing rock formation, the intense heat breaks down existing rocks and causes minerals to re-crystallise into more stable forms.
Intense heat and pressure arises when tectonic plates below the Earth are shoved toward each other, forcing one on top of the other (This is how mountains form). As the temperature approaches the melting point of the rock, the minerals become unstable. Over millions of years, they change into new varieties.
When rainwater flows through the Earth, it deposits the minerals that are dissolved in it along the way into cracks in the existing rocks. Such deposits then lead to the formation of petrified wood, fossils and new minerals.
Gems formed in the Earth’s mantle
Further underground below the Earth’s crust is the Earth’s mantle. While most gemstones form in the Earth’s crust, some gems do form in the mantle, amongst which are diamonds and peridots. Read more about how they form here.
Colourful mineral deposits in the Earth’s landscape
Natural Gems and minerals (and jewellery of course!) are beautiful, intriguing and rare. We all know they hold a certain value and is something that everyone would like to own a piece.
So how do we know what value and how to value a beautiful piece of gem?
First of all, assessing value of gems requires a lot of experience. Experience can come in the form of buying and selling, or learning from the books and history of previous transactions, for example in auctions.
In this 3-part series of assessing value of gems, we will not be showing exactly HOW to assess value. But we will give you an insight on the factors to understand and consider, before you begin to assess the value of the gems.
What gives gems a value? What makes gems valuable?
Gems are valuable because of the following factors:
To begin, beauty is the first attribute that we can see with our naked eyes. For most part, the 4Cs have been a big contributor for understanding the beauty of a gem. These are: Carat weight, Clarity, Colour and Cut. However, the 4Cs probably applies more to transparent, faceted gems. Other gem materials like jadeite-jade and nephrite-jade has its own unique grading system. Therefore, the beauty of a gem may also be described as the ‘quality’ of a gem.
Rarity means uncommon, or unusual. Diamonds are rare because the yield of mining production is very low. For every 5carat total weight of diamonds mined, approximately 300 tons of ore needs to be processed. Similarly for rubies and sapphires, in many mining countries, the mining technique is still quite manual, although some are semi-automatic. Kashmir sapphires for example, are mined from very harsh conditions. Hence, explaining its rarity.
There are also some gemstones which are rare because of its phenomenal optical effects. In order to achieve perfect chatoyancy (cat’s-eye) or asterism (star), it depends on the rough material as well as the lapidary. When the best of the two comes together, the fashioned gemstone becomes very rare.
Gemstones are valuable because of its durability. It doesn’t get damaged easily and therefore keeps its quality the same for a very very long time. Therefore, some pieces of gems and jewellery can be kept and passed down from one generation to another. Family heirlooms have very intrinsic value that is very hard to quantify. When assessing value of gemstones, we also will look at how well it has kept its durability, i.e. how well it has been maintain at its highest quality.
Durability involves a few factors: hardness, toughness and stability (to light, heat and chemicals). We will discuss these in the future blog posts.
Meanwhile, we do not want to see chips and scratches on our gems!
Assessing value of gemstones to be continued…
We have discussed three reasons why gemstones are valuable. In fact, these factors applies also to diamonds and minerals, except for some variations in the details.
In the second part of this topic, we will continue to discuss on why gemstones are valuable.
Let’s recap the first three categories of gemstones in Part I:
Organic Gem Materials
The next three categories of gem materials are as below:
Perhaps this can be better described as unusual or uncommon gems. Some examples are like kornerupine and sillimanite. These gems are often not as popular because they either come in small quantities, or they are not as attractive as the others like rubies and sapphires. Nevertheless they are still very beautiful nature’s creations. Other examples shown in the pictures below are some collections we have in The Gem Museum.
Technically, these should not be described as “gems”. These materials are mainly man-made and artificial materials. The term ‘imitation’ means to ‘simulate’. It could be using a natural material to simulate another natural material of a higher value. An example is using serpentine to imitate a more valuable jadeite. Most of the time, due to the low cost and high consistency in production, glass is the most common material used to imitate many other gemstones. Green glass to imitate jade or emerald, red glass to imitate ruby and blue glass to imitate sapphire.
Many companies out there are selling synthetic materials, but not explaining clearly to consumers what synthetic really means. The emphasis is always on the fact that synthetic materials have exactly the same physical and chemical properties as the natural counterpart. These materials are considered artificial as they are “lab-grown” and sold in the market for less than half the price most of the time. Synthetic materials can be produced in large quantities at any one time. This includes diamonds. As such, the rarity factor of a ‘gem’ is hardly applicable for these materials. Although they are also beautiful, the value of these materials can never match up to a natural gemstone of the same quality.
The Gem Museum’s mission is to help people appreciate the value of gems through understanding quality and learning about authenticity. Therefore in this two part series, we would like to introduce to you 6 categories of gems and gem materials.
1) Crystal Systems
First of all, here is a need to first understand crystals, in order to understand the structural and optical properties of gemstones. It is from here that you can identify the gemstones. Most miners, for example, in Thailand, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, they do not have formal education. They grow up in mines and start mining for gems at a very young age. However, they could probably identify the rough gem materials, simply based on their observations of structural and optical properties of gems.
2) Organic Gem Materials
Most people do not realise that these are considered gems too. One of the classification of gem materials is ‘organic’ gems. Organic gems mean that the gem materials was formed through process involving life organisms and some examples are amber, pearls, and even petrified wood.
3) Phenomenal Gems
Finally, in this post, we will talk about some gemstones with special optical effects. Phenomenal Gems have very unusual optical properties. Not all gem materials exhibit optical phenomenal. The optical phenomenal of a gem material could be due to internal reflection of the inclusions, such as cat’s-eye. Another possibility is the structural arrangement of the material, such as moonstones that give the moonlight sheen, described as “Adularescence”. Most of all, our gem museum has a unique collection of double stars and we are still in the midst of searching for more double stars too!
In conclusion, there are many ways to categorise and classify gem materials. Hence, look out for the next part of this blog, so that you can understand more about gems and gemstone materials!
On 1 June 2017, we celebrated The Gem Museum’s 2nd Anniversary. We are grateful to everyone who has been supporting us in various ways since we opened in 2015.
For the purpose of our 2nd anniversary, we have invited the press and media from various publishers in Singapore and around the region to grace a special event on 10 unique diamonds.
Before the 10 unique diamonds were presented, we brought our guests through a journey from “Mine to Market”. Special thanks to Mr. Tay Thye Sun for contributing many of the gems and rock samples to educate about geology and gem formation, the first section of the museum. Here, we have a “Rock Garden”, featuring some of our collections from different countries such as Australia, China, Indonesia and Madagascar.
Of the 10 unique diamonds, the most special diamond is a 1.5ct heart-shaped Chameleon Diamond. We also want to give a special shoutout to our friends from Hong Kong, who are avid diamond collectors, Mr. Si and family. Without which we would not have such great fun showing a beautiful piece of diamond to our guests.
At the end of the event, there was good interaction with questions and answers. Some of the questions include “How does one become a gemmologist?”, “Which is the most valuable gemstone or diamonds we have seen?” etc. It was a great time of sharing knowledge and experiences.
Once again, we sincerely thank everyone who had helped us and supported us in one way or another throughout the last two years.
The next exciting event coming up would be the “Moons & Stars” exhibition that we will be setting up during the Singapore’s Night Festival along the Bras Basah and Bugis (BBB) district. Do look out for updates in the next few months!
Crystals are solid material in which the atoms are arranged in regular geometrical patterns. The crystal shape is the external expression of the mineral’s regular internal atomic structure. Temperature, pressure, chemical conditions and the amount of space available are some of the things that affect their growth. Many crystallise from watery solutions, some from molten rock as during volcanic eruptions when lava cools rapidly.
Each mineral will always form in a range of crystal shapes. Although there are literally thousands of minerals, their crystal shape can be grouped on the basis of their symmetry into seven systems of three dimensional patterns, namely: octagonal, tetragonal, trigonal, hexagonal, orthorhombic, monoclinic and triclinic. (source: gemrock.net)
What are minerals?
Minerals are made of elements. Elements are simple substances that cannot be broken down into any other substance. The name of an element is written down as a combination of letters called a symbol, e.g: sodium is Na; chlorine is Cl. Salt, a combination of sodium and chlorine is thus written as a formula symbol NaCl. Many minerals are made up of large numbers of elements, so their formulas are complex. The most common minerals are those based on silicon and oxygen, Si04.
People value and search for minerals for many different reasons. Most are useful as they are the raw materials of the metals we manufacture into goods. The lead in a pencil is the mineral graphite mixed with clay. Precious metals are used in commerce and other minerals are valued as gems.
Minerals are either found in shapeless lumps which we call ‘massive’ or they can form into the special shapes we recognise as crystals. Most minerals form within the spaces between other minerals and grow into rough shapeless masses. However, if they are able to form freely in a hole or cavity in the surrounding rock the mineral takes the form of a crystal and these crystal lined cavities are called geodes, vugs or pockets. (source: gemrock.net)
What are rocks?
Rocks are combinations of one or more minerals that we find in nature. They can be big or small. There are three types of rocks: igneous (where you find quartz), metamorphic (where you find jadeite), sedimentary (where you find sandstones). Only a few minerals are rock forming and most rock is made from a combination of the commonest of these such as feldspars, quartz, mica, olivine, calcite, pyroxene and amphiboles. Most other minerals, of which there are over 3,000 different types, are rarely present in quantities large enough to be considered rock forming. (source: gemrock.net)
If you would like to know more about crystals, minerals and rocks, come and visit The Gem Museum where you will find a whole array of these samples. We look forward to welcoming you!
With a myriad of courses available out there in the marketplace, selecting a course that’s both financially rewarding and beneficial to the local arts and culture scene can be a challenge. Why not learn jewellery design?
As a jewellery designer and craftsman, I’ve noticed that there’s one type of people who are willing to spend on gemstones: the ultra-wealthy foreigners, including the Chinese and Burmese, whose population exceeds one billion and 55 million, respectively. And with more than one million Chinese with assets worth over $1.5 million, the number of rich Chinese is increasing rapidly, according to China Business Review’s report ‘Understanding Chinese Consumers’.
Furthermore, Singapore’s positioning as a world-class tourist hub helps to boost tourist spending, hence learning and practicing jewellery design is ideal.
This year, I was invited to be part of the judging panel for The Singapore Jewellery Design Awards. Looking at the certificate of appreciation that was awarded to me by the design council, I am reminded that as a craftsman, I have to do my part to create more opportunities for the next generation, so they’ll have the right exposure. And as I was speaking to a group of 17 students from Raffles Design Institute the museum partnered to launch an up and coming project titled ‘Gems for Generation’ on 10 November, I am certain that I ought to do more to create a conducive environment for learning and sharing for our next generation.
But for now, here are a handful of practical tips I have to guide jewellery designers and aspiring jewellery designers.
Build good relationships with your craftsmen. Without skilled workmanship, your impressive design is nothing; it’d would be very difficult to create a good design – unless you are able to design and craft gems.
Cultivate your presentation skills. As a jewellery designer, you will need good presentation skills and great ideas so you can sell them to your clients. Unlike a classroom setting where you are required to stand in front of your class to present your concept, you are likely to be sitting next to a prospective buyer, surrounded by gemstones and, possibly, coffee, explaining your design while selecting stones to place on his/her hand. Again, without these skills, your gemstones will be left sitting on your shelves collecting dust.
Open your mind to greater opportunities. In my personal opinion, Singapore is a relatively small market, so don’t be discouraged if your designs are not appreciated by your own people. Instead, open yourself to global opportunities. For instance, selling your designs to the Burmese. With a burgeoning 55 million population, it isn’t hard to find a window of opportunity. Start by researching on a market that you think (and know) will appreciate your works and find all means and ways to penetrate.
Here’s something I’d like to share and to encourage all readers (above)!
As part of the 2016 Singapore Night Festival showcase, The Gem Museum and Far East Gems and Jewellery put together a special exhibition of gemstones and minerals that come to live in the dark!
Here’s what we did: We turned off all the lights in the museum, turning the entire space into a wonderland of glowing gemstones.
So nice, they are glowing gems!
An Amber fluoresces blue under long wave UV light.
Petroleum in Quartz from Pakistan. The petroleum flouresces yellow!
A beautiful pieces of spinel in marble matrix. The spinel fluoresces red under long wave UV light.
For visitors to the museum, it was a sight to behold. And I was delighted to see more than a hundred people attended the event – many are at the museum for their first time! On display were over 200 gemstones and mineral samples from Far East Gem Institute’s collection that showcases the natural fluorescent and properties of the gems, crystals and minerals. Additionally, we have put together a special presentation explaining how and why certain types of gemstones and minerals react under specific lighting conditions that dramatically transform the way they look.
Some interesting facts about glowing gemstones
Only about 15% of minerals have a fluorescence that is visible to people and some specimens of those minerals will not fluoresce.
Fluorescence usually occurs when specific impurities known as “activators” are present within the mineral.
These activators are typically cations of metals such as: tungsten, molybdenum, lead, boron, titanium, manganese, uranium and chromium.
Rare earth elements such as europium, terbium, dysprosium, and yttrium are also known to contribute to the fluorescence phenomenon.
Fluorescence can also be caused by crystal structural defects or organic impurities.
In addition to “activator” impurities, some impurities have a dampening effect on fluorescence.
If iron or copper are present as impurities, they can reduce or eliminate fluorescence.
Furthermore, if the activator mineral is present in large amounts, that can reduce the fluorescence effect.
Most minerals fluoresce a single colour. Other minerals have multiple colours of fluorescence.
Calcite has been known to fluoresce red, blue, white, pink, green and orange.
Pic: Calcite fluorescing in different colours.
Some minerals are known to exhibit multiple colours of fluorescence in a single specimen.
These can be banded minerals that exhibit several stages of growth from parent solutions with changing compositions.
Pic: Banded rock materials that fluoresces different colours under UV.
An important aspect…
In the early 1900s, many diamond merchants would seek out stones with a strong blue fluorescence.
They believed that these stones would appear more colourless (less yellow) when viewed in light with a high ultraviolet content.
This eventually resulted in controlled lighting conditions for colour grading diamonds.
Getting ready for next year!
This year, we had a successful exhibition on a Galaxy of Glowing Gemstones. Coming up next year, Singapore 10th Night Festival 2017, we are going to exhibit the theme of Galaxy of Moons and Stars! Do keep a lookout!