Diamond Alternatives: The Top 5 Gems We Are Coveting Right Now

August 11, 2017

Diamond Alternatives: The Top 5 Gems We Are Coveting Right Now

I LOVE gemstones. Any variety, any colour, any shape, any size. I also love being  jeweller in a time when coloured stones seem to finally be getting the recognition they deserve. The trends are changing and coloured stones are getting their chance to shine, or is that sparkle, as an alternative to the traditional diamond. 

Why are people opting for that pop of colour over the blinding whiteness of the diamond?  I think there are too many reasons to list but there is no doubt you can get far more bling for your buck when choosing a coloured gem. They look fabulous paired with small white diamonds as an accent which helps keep the price in check.Small diamonds are quite affordable as opposed to their knuckle dusting, larger counterparts. Coloured gems often hold some symbolic or sentimental meaning such as birthstones or anniversary stones and the like.

As a self-confessed gemstone hoarder there is no shortage of amazing specimens in my safe and I know this is a "problem" that I share with quite a few of the artists we represent here in the gallery. I want to share some of my favourites with all of you and I promise to avoid getting too caught up in gemmology terminology. Here are the top 5 coloured, precious & semi-precious gems that I am obsessing over right now:

Spinel:

 

Spin-what now? That is what I hear when I mention Spinel to a lot of my clients. It has been used in jewellery for a long time, commonly seen in antique pieces, so definitely not a newcomer but for some unfortunate reason it has never received the marketing hype like Sapphires and Rubies. Until now! Spinel is becoming increasingly more popular as rumours of its beauty, durability and versatility transport this formerly little known gem into the mainstream. A word of warning though, with popularity comes great price increases so this is a bandwagon you are going to want to jump on relatively quickly.

Spinel is quite hard, sitting at 8 on the Mohs scale and comes in a virtual rainbow of hues. Red and blue are commonly confused for Ruby and Sapphire. In fact some of the famous "Rubies" in the crown jewels turned out upon further inspection to be red Spinel. But the range of colour doesn't stop there. Grey, black, purple, lavender are all very sought after right now. The other thing about Spinel that grabs people is the lively, vibrant nature of the stone. They are so full of light they almost come to life in the sunlight, even the black variety sparkles and throws off light like nobody's business. 

 

Tourmaline:


 
 

"Hello, my name is Amber and I am addicted to Tourmaline" If there were a support group for those of us that just cannot stop buying Tourmaline I am sure we could fill a hall a few times over. Tourmaline is super popular with jewellers and gemmologists with the public getting on board the Tourmaline train more and more. And it is no wonder why. The colours! Oh my, the colours. Forest green, vivid chrome green, rich rubellite red, varying shades of pink, neon blue and my personal favourite, watermelon.

Watermelon Tourmaline or bi-colour Tourmaline get me every time. The sweet, vibrant pink transitioning to the deep green does indeed look reminiscent of a slice of watermelon. Next in line on my list of coveted Tourmaline is the ultra rare and extremely beautiful Paraiba blue. Very hard to come by and if you are lucky enough to find one then you had better be in the good books with your bank manager as they are prohibitively expensive. A bit more affordable is the Indicolite. A  different shade of blue but no less breathtaking.

Tourmaline is the birthstone for October. Clocking in at 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale it is a softer stone so should be worn with care. Tourmaline will chip, scratch or break a darn sight easier than a Sapphire, Ruby or Diamond so is perhaps not the best choice for an every day wear ring although pendants and earrings will fair better as they are not knocked around nearly as much.

 

 

Ametrine:

 

The gorgeous tones of Amethyst combined with the golden yellow Citrine. Ametrine is a quartz marriage made in heaven. Another bi-colour stone option that makes for some amazingly striking pieces of jewellery. 

Ametrine is usually cut quite large so as to get the nice, obvious differentiation of the two colours. Smaller cuts will tend to have the two colours blend almost completely and the striking effect of the two colours side by side is lost. Don't let a large stone put you off though. Cocktail ring anyone?

Ametrine is quartz so it is a relatively soft stone which can damage quite easily. Similar to Tourmaline, it sits at a 7 on the Mohs scale. Price wise it is very affordable even in it's larger sizes and well within most peoples reach. Definitley worth adding one to the collection. Or two or three, if you are a hoarder like me.

 

Beryl Alternatives:

Beryl is the name of the mineral family that brings us a multitude of different coloured beauties. Emerald is probably one of the most well-known coloured gemstones in history but I bet you didn't know that Emerald has siblings! Aquamarine, Morganite and Heliodor are three of the alternative types of beryl that we are adding to our hoard, umm, collection, more and more.

Aquamarine is the blue variety of beryl and the best specimens should have that tinge of ocean green added to the mix. My favourite specimens of Aquamarine are mined from the famous Santa Maria mine in Brazil. These particular Aquas have a deeper colour and often have black needle like inclusions that create a wonderful interesting character. Beautiful, bright blue stones free from visible inclusions are getting pricey nowadays. Aqua in white gold with white Diamond accents? Oh yes, it looks as good as it sounds.

Morganite has hit the big time recently. This variety of Beryl comes in both peach tones and pastel pink tones. A very reasonably priced Beryl, it has become very popular set with white Diamonds in rose gold as a Diamond alternative for engagement rings. I have my concerns about the durability of Morganite in engagement rings which I will address in a moment but for now, I can absolutely see why they have peaked in popularity.

Heliodor is the yellow variety of beryl and a much more affordable alternative to a canary yellow diamond. Heliodor is yet to have it's fifteen minutes of fame with Aqua and Morganite still very much hogging the spotlight. The time to collect Heliodor is now, before it hits the big time and the prices go through the roof.

Beryl is moderately hard according to the Mohs scale, sitting at 8 however it is important to note that it is a very brittle stone. There is a lot beryl doesn't like and thermal shock ( going from very hot to very cold temperatures,very quickly) is something to be avoided. The brittle nature of Beryl stones has me concerned about their durability in rings that are intended to be worn everyday, such as engagement rings. This is where education is key and jewellers should be giving their Beryl choosing clients as much information as they can to ensure many years of damage free wear.

 

Labradorite:

 

Ok, this last one is not a diamond alternative, it's super cheap to buy and is only really considered semi-precious at best but boy, oh, boy, it does make for some striking jewellery.

Labradorite is one of my absolute favourite semi-precious gems to work with when making sterling silver jewellery. Closely related to moonstone, it is a variety of Feldspar. Sitting at a very modest 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, it is usually cut into a cabochon shape due to its structural makeup. It has a tendency to flake when faceted and more often than not the facets mess up the gorgeous flashes of colour that you get from a nicely polished cabochon. I have seen some nice faceted specimens from time to time but it usually takes a very experienced cutter to pull it off. 

Primarily a blue/green/gray colour, the stone will flash beautiful yellow, orange and even sometimes purple colours when moved around. It is almost holographic and this is due to the structural make up of the Feldspar. Moonstone has always been a particularly popular stone but I like to think of Labradorite as Moonstones more interesting cousin. Once you see a good quality piece of Labradorite in action you will want to add one to your hoard too!

I will leave you with these gorgeous stones to dream about although this is a subject I could talk about for days. If you like to learn about gemstones and would like to see more blogs of this nature, feel free to leave us a comment or a like on Facebook. 




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