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The Power of the Sun!

Photo of the Sun by NASA
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

How Powerful is the Sun?

Ah, the Sun. We stay warm under it, tan in it and it gives life to every living thing on this planet. But it is 93,000,000 miles away. It is so far that if you were flying there at 550 MPH, it would take you 17 years to get there. If the Space Shuttle, traveling at 27,000 MPH would go there, it would reach the sun in about 156 days.

When you look at the sun, you are actually seeing the way it looked about nine minutes ago. In the photo above, we see a large solar flare extending out from the Sun’s surface, but if you looked at the sun right now, you wouldn’t see the flare. You would have to wait another nine minutes before it would appear.

A more dramatic scenario is that if the Sun blew up right now, we wouldn’t know about it until about nine minutes later. Actually, the sun won’t leave us for another four or five billion years, so you have a little time to prepare.

These examples boil down to the fact that it takes the light from the Sun that long to reach us, but even at that distance, don’t let your curiosity get to you by starring at the sun, or you will go blind.

The fact that an object is 93 million miles away and can still cause this kind of permanent damage to us gives you a good idea of how powerful the gas giant is.

How Big is the Sun When Compared to Other Stars?

For a comparison of the size of our Sun relative to other stars in our galaxy, take a look at this video and get ready for a mind-boggle!

Brief Overview of the Sun’s Lifecycle

In about five billion years, the star will have lost all its hydrogen fuel, which is the element that allows the fusion process to proceed. The result is that it will turn into what astronomers call a red giant.

When a star starts turning into a red giant, it begins to expand to an enormous size. So big that its size could engulf virtually all the inner planets in its solar system. For our solar system, that includes Mercury, Venus, and you got it – Earth. 

As mentioned, we won’t see the Sun’s demise for another 4.5 billion years, so when it begins its red giant cycle, you might want to pack some beers and enjoy watching the Sun blow up while sitting on a beach and having your beer before you say goodbye! 

Energy

The energy of this sun is mind-boggling. It produces energy that is the equivalent of one-trillion megaton bombs per second. Yes, you heard right. That’s 67,000 times as powerful as the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and this occurs every second! 

So what is it about this medium-sized star that can be the difference between life and death on Earth? Why is it so powerful? What is it made of? 

Let’s Start with Fusion

Fusion is the process of atoms merging into another atom. In the case of our Sun (and most other stars) four hydrogen atoms fuse into one helium atom, which is the result of gravity that causes these atoms to merge together.  

Not all the mass of the four hydrogen atoms is converted into one helium atom, as the total amount of the mass of the four hydrogen atoms does not equal the total mass of the assimilated helium atom, so something must give. And what gives is energy. A lot of it. About four million times more energy than the burning of coal. 

More precisely, only 71% of the total mass of the four atoms is fused with the hydrogen atom. This is the foundation of Einstein’s formula E=MC2. The more mass that is released, the more energy that is created. So for fusion reactions to occur, Briticana.com sums it up pretty clearly: The total mass of the resultant particles is less than the mass of the initial reactants”. Basically, it is saying that mass and energy are different forms of the same thing, so if the mass of an object gives, the result is energy. 

As we mentioned, these fusion reactions occur every second. No wonder we can go blind if we look at the Sun. 

More about how this entire fusion process works can be found here.

The Sun’s Structure

Illustration of he Sun's components
Wikipedia Creative Commons

Imagine a ball of gas that is 865,370 miles in diameter. That’s our Sun. There are no solid materials in this star (or in any star in the universe). Just hot gasses, very hot. 9,900 degrees Fahrenheit hot! 

With that said, the Sun is divided into four layers: the photosphere, chromosphere, corona, and heliosphere. Let’s take a look.

    • Core – The core is where the fusion process occurs. As the hydrogen atoms merge into the helium atoms, energy in the form of light is generated.
    • Radiative Zone – This zone radiates (transfers light and heat).
    • Tachocline – The atoms are radiated through this thin boundary region and then move to the convective zones.
    • Convective Zone – Convection is the process by which less dense material rises. This part of the Sun is much cooler than its inner layers, but the result of this process is where we see the light and feel the heat of the Sun.

There are much brighter stars than the Sun. Some are called “supergiants” or “hypergiants.” These giants can be over 100 times more luminous than our own ball of gas! Now, just imagine how powerful their fusion reactions are! 

Types of Stars

There are many different types of stars in our galaxy. The types of stars are classified by the following criteria:

    • Temperature – Hot stars are blue or white, while cooler stars are orange or red
    • Mass – Massive stars burn out quickly, while less massive ones can last millions of years
    • Spectral Type – Stars can be identified through their colors and temperatures

Conclusion

The Sun is nothing but a huge hot ball of gas, but show some respect for it, because this great gas ball is what keeps us alive. Amazingly, it supplies life to this planet even though it is 93,000,000 miles away.

The center of the Sun is the core, where the temperatures are millions of degrees. The core’s pressure from gravity causes hydrogen to fuse together to form helium, which is the fusion process. 

The Sun doesn’t have an electrical charge, so it doesn’t produce light on its own. The heat of the core makes the gas around it become extremely hot, and this is what makes it glow.

Our Sun is a type of star called a yellow dwarf. There are many different types of stars that are of different sizes and temperatures. 

So there are many different stars in the universe and our Sun is one of them. They are all so powerful that staring at them for more than a second can make you blind. So accept the fact that this star is powerful, but don’t look up to find out!

Phobos and Deimos – An Introduction to the Properties of Mar’s Moons

Planet Mars
Planet Mars. 4h Planet from the Sun. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having craters, volcanoes, valleys, deserts. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

A Brief Explanation of Mars

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. It is commonly known as the Red Planet due to its rusty-colored soil. It is the only rocky planet (rocky planets are those that are not made up of gasses, which includes all the inner planets), and it is the only one of these planets that have more than one moon.

Mars being the next planet to Earth takes about 30 Earth hours to orbit around the sun. We already have landed several rovers on Mars, gaining a lot of information about the red planet and its moons. Six rovers have landed on Mars so far (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance), and unbeknown to many, there is one from China, which landed on the planet on  May 15th, 2021. 

Mars’ Moons Overview

Renowned astronomer Asaph Hall discovered two moons on Mars in 1877. They are called Phobos and Deimos. These names have been given after the names of the twin sons of Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology. Mars was the Roman counterpart of Ares. 

Phobos and Deimos are different from Earth’s moon and are among the smallest known moons of the solar system. They are more like captured asteroids by the planet’s gravity.

Mras moons as seen from Mars
The relative sizes of Deimos and Phobos as seen from the surface of Mars, compared to the relative size in the sky of the Moon as seen from Earth. Deimos and Phobos photo taken by Mars Rover Curiosity on Aug. 1, 2013. (Wikipedia-NASA Public Domain)

What are Mars’ Moons Made of?

Astromenors believe that Phobos and Deimos are made of carbon-rich rocks mixed with ice. It is also believed that they materialized from asteroids.

Phobos

Phobos, meaning panic or fear, is the larger moon of Mars and orbits very close to the planet, i.e. at 3,728 miles. This makes it the only moon in the Solar System that orbits that close to its planet. Phobos completes its orbit in around seven hours and completes three orbits in one Martian day. In its longest dimension, Phobos is only 17 miles long and has a gravitational pull of only 1/1,000th that of Earth. 

Scientists have discovered that Phobos is gradually moving closer to its home planet, and every 100 years it moves around 5.9 feet closer to Mars’ surface. Additionally, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have found that the gravitational pull of Mars, which is pulling Phobos towards it, has been opening grooves, as wide as 328–656 feet and as long as 33–98 feet, on the moon’s surface.

It is expected that Phobos will either collide with Mars or break up to form a ring around the planet in about 50 million years, so if you are planning on spending time on a Martian colony, plan to leave before the 50 million years are up. That’s just a heads-up! With that said, Phobos, being one of the darkest objects in our solar system and labeled ‘fear’, it would make for a good sci-fi movie!

Neptune’s moon Triton is also said to be in a similar situation, but we’ll discuss this moon at another time.

Deimos

Deimos, meaning terror, is the smallest of Mars’ moons measuring only about 9.3/7.8 miles across. However, it orbits farther away than the Phobos, i.e. at a distance of about 14.577 miles. It takes about 30 Earth hours for Deimos to complete one orbit. Deimos is also less irregular in shape than Phobos.

Both Phobos and Deimos are dark, reddish in color, cratered, lumpy, covered with dust, loose rocks, and elongated in shape rather than round. According to scientists, both of Mars’ moons seem to be captured asteroids or may be made up of carbon-rich rock and ice.

Although scientists have not yet confirmed how these moons were formed, some, like Julien Salmon from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his associate Robin Canup claim that they were formed when a larger object was broken as a result of a collision. Mars’ moons have at least one thing common to the earth’s moon, and that is they both always present the same face to Mars, as does our moon to Earth.

Scientists have been thinking of using one of the moons as the astronauts’ base to observe the planet and to launch robots to the surface of Mars. NASA is continuing its ongoing mission of exploring and eventually landing a person on Mars. 

Additionally, SpaceX is planning on landing people on Mars by 2024. Whether that is realistic or not, the fact remains that in 2022 and beyond, we have a lot to look forward to when it comes to space exploration! 

 

What Are Moon Rocks Made of?

The Man in the Moon or Is It the Earth in the Moon?

What would Dwayne Johnson become if he landed on the moon?
A Moon Rock. OK, a little bit corny but this puts us right where we want to be. A discussion about moon rocks. 

The Apollo 11 crew: Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.
The Apollo 11 crew: Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. Wikipedia/Nasa

We’ve long wanted to know what the moon is made of and Thanks to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and the 10 additional heroes that followed them, we now know not only the material composition of the moon but the history of this satellite which in turn gives us a better idea of how the earth and moon were born.

So What is the Moon Made of?

When scientists investigated the moon’s composition, they found that it is made up of minerals that originally came from the Earth.  This means that the rocks on the moon are just like any other rocks on Earth.

Moon Rock
Goodwill Moon Rock

Above is a Good Will moon rock. Just one of the pieces that were distributed by President Richard Nixon to all the countries of the world. Let’s take a closer look at what elements actually exist on the moon.

    • Iron, which ranges from 5% to 40%. Earth has an abundance of this element as well.
    • Oxygen is another common element found in both lunar and terrestrial rocks. It ranges from 2% to 20%.
    • Silicon is also present in both types of rocks, but it only makes up about 0.2% to 1% of them each.

These elements are separated into different layers in the moon’s crust. The lighter materials, like silicon and aluminum, are near the surface because they are less dense than other elements. Iron is located at a greater depth because it is heavier than any other material on or around the moon.

What Were the Thoughts Before the Moon Landings?

The reason it took so long for us to figure out what the moon is made of is that no one was able to analyze it closely before humans landed on its surface for observation.

What Did Previous Research Say About the Composition of the Moon?

Previously, scientists believed that the moon had some similarities to the Earth’s mantle. They thought that it contained mostly potassium and some iron-nickel, which is common in Earth materials like the crust. But this new research found that the moon is actually made up of rocks like granite and basalt (molten rock).

Additionally, the lunar crust was primarily made up of feldspar minerals. This theory has since been disproved by new research methods that show that these minerals don’t exist in enough quantities to account for all of the moon’s composition.

These theories came from data collected by Apollo missions in 1968 and 1969. This new data comes from an analysis of lunar samples that were gathered by NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission in 1998.

The researchers think that this difference in findings can be explained by how scientists analyzed these samples. The Apollo missions were looking for a type of radiation called K-Ar, which releases a lot of potassium when a rock gets heated to a certain temperature.

To find this radiation, they used a process called “wet chemistry”, which involves putting gases into molten rock until they bubble out. The Lunar Prospector mission used a more precise technique called “multicollector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry” to measure all sorts of elements to get an idea about it’s composition.

1986 to 1992 Moon Analysis

NASAs Lunar Prospector
Lunar Prospector. Wikipedia-NASA

In 1986, NASA launched the unmanned probe Lunar Prospector. Over its two-year mission it made detailed measurements of the lunar surface. The probe was able to collect data that would help scientists understand more about our Earth’s neighboring planet.

Lunar Prospector had three main objectives:

    • Search for water and other minerals on the lunar surface;
    • Determine whether or not there is water in ice form at or near the lunar poles; and 
    • Investigate if there was any evidence that meteorites from Mars may have come from another location besides Mars.

For two years, this probe collected data and sent information back to Earth, which helped scientists understand what materials make up our moon. However, in 1998, US lawmakers canceled funding for the project due to budget limitations.

At the Beginning

The moon was formed when a planet-sized object hit the Earth, sending fragments into orbit. These fragments eventually assembled to create the moon via gravity.

It took scientists a long time to figure out what materials make up the moon because it’s difficult to analyze such a small and far away object. Scientists found that the minerals on the lunar surface are younger than we previously thought, and they came from Earth itself.

Scientists analyzed samples of lunar rocks and looked at their chemical composition. They found that these rocks were much like those in Earth’s mantle and oceanic crust: they had the same chemical composition as materials found in Earth’s crust and mantle.

In other words, scientists figured out that all of the material for this celestial body came from Earth itself. This answer is surprising because until now people assumed that everything on earth had come from outer space!

Conclusion

There may still be some mysteries about the moon that scientists haven’t yet solved, but when it comes to its composition, there’s not too much left up in the air or vacuum to be more precise. 

We’re always striving to answer our questions about space and with this information, we can now say with certainty what the materials are that make up our nearest neighbor.

Plans are now being made for additional manned trips to the moon along with the building of lunar camps for humans to live in. This is only the beginning. Stay tuned!

A Detailed Guide to Amazonite to Amazonite’s Spiritual Benefits

Amazonite mineral stone
Amazonite  Stone

We are back to another discussion about the potential healing properties of minerals. This one is amazonite. 

Found in soothing cool green and turquoise colors, the amazonite stone features grey swirls and pale cream stripes. This particular stone gets its name from the Amazon River and it reflects the lushness and fertility of the jungle surrounding it, but years before the Amazon River came into being, ancient Egyptians would collect this stone from the mines in the mountains near the Red Sea to adorn the tombs and palaces of the Pharaohs. 

In this article, we will take a detailed look at the myriad uses and benefits of this evergreen stone. 

Amazonite Virtues

Amazonite holds some amazing virtues that set it apart from other stones, giving you the desire to want it more. The stone’s stunning appearance and soothing aura emanate compassion, and stress and anxiety relief. Amazonite is believed to be great for throat and heart chakras and for balancing Ying and Yang. Moreover, this stone is also believed to improve communication. 

Amazonite is typically found in light green color with hues ranging from pistachio to blue and turquoise. A green color amazonite stone represents renewal, growth, and balance while the blue hues of amazonite reflect calmness, creativity, clear thinking, inspiration, and self-sufficiency. 

Physical Benefits of Amazonite

Since amazonite is believed to be directly linked to the heart and throat chakra, it has a direct physical relationship with this area of the body. It is said that wearing the stone helps people with heart and lung issues and boosts the metabolism and aids with digestion. Since amazonite has an extremely calming and soothing feel, it also can help one get a good night’s sleep. 

This calming stone has a direct impact on anything related to calcium in the body. So, it is believed to help with tooth decay, osteoporosis, and other calcium deficiencies. Stress is another factor that can lead to multiple health-related issues. Since amazonite is a soothing stone, it can help relieve anxiety and improve a person’s overall wellbeing. 

Emotional and Spiritual Benefits of Amazonite

Besides having various physical benefits, this gemstone can also help improve your overall emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Amazonite is perceived to be a highly encouraging gemstone that helps improve one’s self-esteem and confidence and pushes away negative thoughts. 

This stone also balances your masculine and feminine sides, allowing you to appreciate the feelings and opinions of both. Even though quite underrated, this ability can help you make waves in your personal life. Wearing amazonite can help you realize and account for all your emotions, leading to improved communication with your loved ones. 

This soothing stone provides your mind with clarity and guides your focus towards achieving your goals and dreams. Amazonite contributes to one’s creative and imaginative side, serving those with artistic ambitions quite well. 

Also considered as the stone of success and abundance, this powerful gemstone can deliver a ton on the money front. Not only is it believed that amazonite can help you to attract good fortune and money, but it also allows people to gain more control over their finances. 

How to Cleanse Amazonite

Amazonite is very easy to care for. You must clean it every other week to ensure its luster. You can clean amazonite by simply running it under lukewarm water and leaving it in the sun to dry. If you’re looking to recharge your amazonite, keep some mint near or on your gemstone. 

How to Use Amazonite

Now that you know that amazonite is a brilliant stone for you, you’re probably wondering how you can use this stone to reap the maximum spiritual and health benefits. Here’s how:

As a Piece of Jewelry

Perhaps, the easiest way to use this gemstone is as a piece of jewelry. Whether you get an amazonite bracelet, pendant, necklace, broche, or earrings, any piece of jewelry will maximize the impact of the crystal on your body. 

In Your Bag

If you don’t want to wear jewelry, you can simply keep your amazonite in your purse or pocket and use it as a touchstone throughout the day. 

In Your Lap or on Your Body

Placing amazonite in your lap or holding it in your hand while meditating can give you a feeling of calmness. Also, the easiest way to reap the stone’s benefits is by placing it on the different chakra points of your body while laying down. 

In the Bath 

Place your amazonite in your bathtub and have a nice, relaxing bath. Since this stone is impervious, you don’t have to worry about it getting spoilt. 

Amazonite Jewelry

Amazonite is a strong and powerful stone that is durable enough to be worn regularly. The gemstone is typically crafted and fixed into bracelets, earrings, pendants, and brooches. However, you need to be extremely careful if you decide to wear your amazonite in a ring. The reason for this is that a ring exposes the gemstone more, placing it at a higher risk of chipping, scratching, or fracturing. Even if you decide to place your amazonite in a ring, a halo or bezel setting will provide the safety your gemstone needs. 

Even though amazonite is a rare stone, it isn’t as expensive. However, when placed in a high quality setting made of superior materials, such as gold or high-grade silver, amazonite jewelry can easily sell at extremely high prices. Amazonite is also found in some antique pieces that are very valuable. 

The Bottom Line

If you are spiritually enthused, you may try to allow amazonite to bring about a drastic change in your life. To reap maximum benefits, remember to always check the stone to ensure that it isn’t a cheap or synthetic version. 

 

What are Bridge Bearings?

The Coefficients of Steel and Concrete

A concrete column
Concrete column supporting the highway above. Photo by SS

In our previous articles, we discussed the mineral components of steel and concrete. In this article, we will dwell further into the element’s composition and how they are affected when there are changes in temperature. 

All elements on our planet change in size when the temperature increases or decreases; although very minimally, but when dealing with the engineering of buildings and bridges, this change, however slight, could become catastrophic if not properly addressed and compensated for.

Such is the case for iron, steel, and concrete. They expand and compress as the temperatures increase and decrease, respectively. A good way to remember which direction they are moving is: increase = expansion and decrease = compression.

Each element has a specific temperature coefficient. Even if it is just a tiny amount, if there is not enough room for the material to ‘stretch’ (expand) or decrease (compress), it will show signs of wear, and after a time, it could break and everything above it will collapse. In this table, we can see how much materials expand or contract per degree.

For the mathematically inclined:

If 1 mile = 5280 feet, then 1 mile equates to (12 5280’) = 63360”.
1 inch of steel expands 0.00000645” for every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature; therefore, 63360” 0.00000645” = 0.408672 inches per degree.

Thus, as the weather gets warmer, steel will expand 0.408672 inches for every one degree in temperature.

Material Expansion and Compression MUST be Compensated for in Construction!

In this Pipes and Tubes Temperature Expansion table, you can see the minimal effect of stresses that are placed on certain metals; however, if not compensated for, the integrity of the elements will be compromised.

The question then is, what happens to bridges that have steel columns? If they expand and compress without freedom of movement from temperature differentials, the steel will eventually crack and can lead to a defective bridge.

Enter Bridge Bearings

The answer is bridge bearings (previously called rollers) that allow for the stresses of the steel to move in either direction.

In the photo below, a cylindrical bearing is placed between the vertical supports, called piers, that would otherwise be permanently fastened to each other. The bearings in between them allows for the bridge to expand and compress freely.

A bridge bearing
Photo by SS

In summary, the function of a bridge bearing is to transmit and distribute superstructure loads to the substructure (bridge) and permit the superstructure to undergo the necessary movements of stress, which can consist of compression, shear, and rotation, consequently preventing overstress, which would otherwise compromise the structural integrity of the bridge. 

Bridge Bearing Types

There are several types of bridge bearings utilized and are dependent upon a number of different factors, including the length of the bridge span. The oldest bridge bearing involves just two plates resting on top of each other. 

Here is a good illustration of bridge-bearing plates. It depicts quite well how the plates are stacked on top of each other, as well as the limitations placed on it, such as the guide block, which prevents the plates from sliding off. This plate scheme can be seen on many bridges, especially those that span highways and parkways.

A common form of a modern bridge bearing is the elastomeric bridge bearing, which is more common today. Besides freedom of material stress, they also extend the life of the bridges by reducing continuous wear and tear on the bridge materials. 

The Bay Bridge collapse after the 1989 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake is a perfect example when using inadequate bearings for a structure, especially within an earthquake zone. The use of elastomeric bridge bearing should help to alleviate the engineering errors that caused this part of the road to collapse.

As you travel, you might want to locate the bearings on the bridges you drive on, and now, have a better idea of what those things are that are attached to your bridge.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Amber

Amber Crystal If you’re looking for a gemstone that truly showcases the uniqueness of nature, an amber gem is a perfect choice for you. With a history of tens of thousands of years, amber is one of the oldest minerals that have been used for jewelry. Popular for its golden hues and simplicity, this gemstone is a must-have for collectors.

That said, let us walk you through a complete guide to amber.

What is Amber?

Amber is actually tree resin that has been fossilized. Resin is a fluid that flows from certain trees, primarily conifers like pine trees. This resin often contains insects that have been fossilized in it with time. The reality is that most of the inclusions in amber are actually ants, mosquitoes, and other living organisms, some of which are long gone. As a result, scientists use amber to learn more about ancient living organisms.

Amber may be burned since it is such a soft stone, and it also emits a pine-scented perfume. Additionally, when heated under the right conditions, this gemstone can potentially produce oil.

Amber, unlike most other gemstones, has a wide range of applications. It’s been used to create tobacco pipes and remove lint from clothes (owing to its abrasive properties). It’s also used to produce perfume and in traditional medicine. Even today, in the Western world, amber necklaces and bracelets are popular among mothers who feel it is a natural pain reliever for their children (there is no scientific evidence to prove this, though).

How to Evaluate Amber Gemstone

Like all other gemstones, amber is also evaluated on the basis of the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity, and carats.

Color

Amber is available in many colors. The most popular and widely recognized shades are yellow and cognac. However, you can also find this gem in black, green, white, and butterscotch.

Yellow amber is, of course, the most popular variety due to the rarity of the other colors. The yellow hues of amber can range from orange to brown, depending on the bubbles in it.

Green amber is one of the rarest varieties that are extremely rare and valuable. Also known as cherry ambers, red ambers are a slightly rusty color and can be found in golden red to dark brown shades. Black amber is a very dark brown or red color that is formed due to the mixture of tree resin with soil or other dark inclusions.

Clarity

Unlike most other gemstones, the beauty of the amber gem lies in its imperfections, especially the inclusions it features within. This gemstone is almost always found with inclusions. However, interestingly, although eye-clean amber is valuable, amber featuring interesting inclusion patterns is typically more expensive.

Cut

Amber is most cut into cabochons, with oval and round shapes being the top choice. However, this gem is also available in many other cuts, including hexagon, pentagon, hearts, triangles, and stars. Amber is pretty easy to cut due to its softness, but many jewelers choose to heat the stone to shape it instead of cutting the gem. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t change the gem’s natural properties.

Carat Weight

Amber is an extremely lightweight stone that can even float on saltwater. Even the larger size ambers are very light to hold. So, even if you buy a big amber, it will weigh less than a diamond or emerald of the same size.

Amber Jewelry

Amber is used in many jewelry pieces, including rings, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, earrings, pendants, and cufflinks. Amber’s inclusions can be eye-catching, and it’s generally beautiful from a scientific and historical standpoint.

There are two main perceptions when it comes to metals to mount amber in. Some people prefer silver-colored metals, such as white gold, as settings for their amber gemstone. The main reason behind this is the wonderful contrast of the warmness of amber and the cool tones of silver metal. Either way, silver-colored metals are believed to accentuate the charm of an amber gemstone.

On the other hand, some people choose to utilize yellow gold or rose gold settings for their amber jewelry. While these metals don’t provide as much contrast as silver, they tend to soften the color of the amber and blend well into the stone. The bottom line is that there isn’t any right or wrong choice; it’s all a matter of what you prefer.

Enhanced Amber

One very important factor you need to know about amber is that jewelers often enhance it. Almost every gemstone undergoes various treatments to help enhance its color, clarity or to improve its durability.

Here are a few ways in which an amber gemstone may be enhanced:

To Improve Clarity

Amber gemstones that seem cloudy due to the prominent appearance of tiny bubbles aren’t quite as valuable as other varieties. Therefore, jewelry makes efforts to improve the stone’s clarity by boiling it in rapeseed or linseed oil. An amber stone is slowly heated up in this oil to a boiling point, filling up the tiny bubbles with oil, which removes traces of any bubbly inclusions.

To Improve Color

Since red and green ambers are extremely rare and expensive varieties, some jewelers attempt to change the more commonly found yellow-amber color. For this purpose, they apply a black paste to the gemstone’s surface, then heat the gem to improve its clarity while allowing it to bond with the paste. Some jewelry makers also modify an amber gemstone through dyeing and other heat treatments to change or enhance their color to imitate the color of the more expensive varieties.

Where Can You Buy Amber?

Amber is a pretty popular gemstone with relatively high demand, so it should be very easy to find amber jewelry at your local jewelry store. However, if you’re looking for more options, you can always explore the web to find amber jewelry that suits your taste.

The bottom line is that although soft, amber is a beautiful-looking gem with a stunning color that requires considerable care and attention. We hope that this guide to amber helps you make the right choice when it comes to buying amber jewelry.

 

The Best and Worst Gemstones for Daily Wear

Engagement ring with blue crystal in center
Photo by axecop from Pexels

Love is in the eye of the beholder and so it is with gemstones. There is no “one size fits all” and with so many gemstones out there, you’re probably wondering what your preference would be as the best stone would be for your daily wear.

Well, same as our individual tastes differ, so do gems, as they are unique in their own way, but they aren’t all created equal. Some minerals, although jaw-droppingly mesmerizing, are more fragile than others, and hence, require additional care. Jewelry featuring such gems is excellent for certain occasions, but it can be pretty risky for daily wear items, such as engagement rings.

Additionally, they all follow the 4Cs standards which must be included in the mix as far as what you would like to wear and/or show, and their associated costs.

So, here we go with our list of the best and worst gemstones for daily wear. 

Gem Hardness is a Primary Consideration

If you’re rough with your jewelry and don’t pay enough attention to their wellbeing, you should consider avoiding these stones, especially rings that contain the following minerals.

Amber 

With a 2 to 2.5 rating on the Mohs scale of hardness, this organic material is pretty soft in comparison to its counterparts. Ambers feature stunning colors and are wonderful representatives of nature’s beauty. However, due to their low hardness, these gems are, unfortunately, non-durable and more prone to scratching. 

Pearl

Woman wearing pearlsWith a hardness rating of 2.5 to 4.5, pearls are other incredibly vulnerable gems that are prone to damage. Not only do they scratch easily, but they also require a considerable amount of care to maintain their luster.

Those who own pearl jewelry have to constantly wipe their jewelry after every use to get rid of the dirt and oils on the surface of the stone. Although pearl engagement rings look elegant and romantic, it can be a huge hassle to help the stone maintain its integrity. Some of the most common damages you’ll notice on a pearl ring include dull spots, chipping, or loss of the pearl due to a loose setting. 

Amethyst

Amethyst is a stunning gemstone that is widely recognized for its brilliant purple color. Those looking for a cheaper alternative to a purple sapphire ring often lead towards amethyst. Unfortunately, the bad news is that despite their beauty, these beauties have a significantly low hardness level. With a rating of 7, amethyst gems have the same hardness as dust. 

As a result of their poor hardness, amethysts are highly prone to scratching and wear quite poorly over time until their luster completely wears off. So, if you’re looking for a purple gemstone engagement ring, a better option would be to bump up your budget and opt for a purple sapphire. 

Opal 

Opal Necklass
Opal sterling silver bracelet hand made in Belize. Photo: SS

Opal is a silica-based stone that rates only 6 to 7 on the Mohs scale. This gem comes in various forms based on the location of its source. Since some opals react oddly to water and heat changes, they are deemed unsuitable for wearers who keep their rings on while cooking or washing their hands. 

Although gorgeous with a shimmery glow, the soft nature of opals makes them highly unreliable when it comes to daily wear. So, you must proceed with extreme caution as there’s a chance that your stone may even crack while wearing.

Morganite 

As one of the most popular peachy-pink minerals, morganites symbolize love and innocence. While this may make them seem like the ideal pick for engagement rings, they might not be the best choice. Since morganites have a very light color and low sparkle levels, they show dirt and oil almost immediately. Even those who take significant care of their ring face this problem. So the best choice is to opt for pink spinel, pink sapphire, or pink topaz instead. 

Gems for Everyday Wear

Ruby Necklass
Ruby Necklass. Photo: pixabay.com

If you’re in search of the best gems that you can wear every day without fretting about them, we have some great options for you. 

Tourmaline 

Tourmaline is a truly wonderful gemstone that you should have as part of your jewelry pieces. This beautiful crystal comes in various colors, including blue, black, green, and pink. With a rating of 7 to 7.5, it is considered pretty durable compared to many other gemstone counterparts. Moreover, this gemstone was largely popular amongst royalty during the 1800s, making it a fantastic choice for engagement rings. 

Aquamarine 

Aquamarine stone on a ring
Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Known for its cooling watery blue color, aquamarine belongs to the same family as emeralds (both gems are variations of the beryl mineral). However, unlike emeralds, aquamarines don’t feature multiple includes. 

With a rating of 7.5 to 8 on the MOHS hardness scale, this gemstone is a pretty good choice for those searching for a durable gem that represents calmness and tranquility. Available in light, medium, and darker blue tones, this good-looking rock is truly a treat for the eyes. 

Rubies and Sapphires

Not many people are aware of this, but sapphires and rubies are just different colors of the same mineral. With a rating of 9 on the MOHS scale, they are one of the most precious and durable gems in the world. 

Sapphires come in rich colors, while rubies are typically known for their vivid red color that is incredibly mesmerizing. Although both these stones have some type of inclusions, it’s best to seek eye-clean gems. Also, remember to choose gems with rich medium tones that aren’t too light or too dark. All in all, their vivid colors, incredible luster, and superior hardness make them a fantastic choice for everyday jewelry, especially engagement rings. 

Diamonds 

Sparkling Diamond
Diamond gem with reflection on blue background

You can’t ever miss out on diamonds when making a list of the most durable minerals. After all, with a rating of 10 on the MOHS scale, diamonds are the hardest of the gemstones. Moreover, as the most precious and popular stone in the world, diamonds are also pretty expensive. With their amazing brilliance and resistance to chipping, scratching, and wear and tear, diamonds truly are worth the investment. 

Emeralds

Known for their luscious and mystical green color, emeralds have a rating of 7.5, making them a durable choice. Although emeralds have extensive visible inclusions, they are still very beautiful. So, if you’re looking for a beautiful green stone for your engagement ring, then emeralds are your best bet. However, you must remember to care for them to avoid chipping. 

Conclusion

We hope that our lists of the best and worst gemstones for daily wear help you find the perfect gemstone that suits your lifestyle! 

 

A Complete Guide to Peridot

Peridot Mineral in square form
Wikimedia Public Domain

The unique green beach of Papakolea rests on the land of volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. This beach has a rather interesting past as it sparkles with stunning gem sand made of tiny particles of a mineral called peridot. 

As a gem variety of the olivine family, peridot is a popular yellow-green gemstone because it’s always born in fire. It is formed deep inside the earth due to the tremendous pressure and heat that exists below the earth’s surface. 

The story of Peridot extends all the way back to the formation of our solar system, which means that this gem existed even before the existence of the earth itself. Intriguing, isn’t it? 

Well, if you’re mesmerized by this beautiful, fresh-looking lime green gem and are looking to learn more about it, you’ve come to the right place. 

This guide covers almost everything you need to know about peridot gems and jewelry.  

Tips for Buying Peridot Jewelry

Like other gemstones, peridots are also evaluated based on 4C’s (cut, clarity, color, and carats). Here are some tips to help you get your hands on the best peridot jewelry. 

Consider the Quality of the Cut

The cut of a gemstone enhances its visible feature even more and also brings out its hidden beauty. A high-quality peridot cut will also make your stone sparkle evenly throughout with no dull, lifeless, or washed-out areas. If you’re searching for a peridot gem, it is essential that you opt for a well-cut, brilliant stone. When cut to a high standard, this gemstone looks impeccable. Since there isn’t any ‘best’ shape for this gem, you should opt for the shape you like most. 

Consider the Clarity

Like all other gemstones, peridots also generally feature inclusions. Since you can find a perfect gem that is free of all inclusions, it is in your best interest to search for a gem that is eye-clean, which means that its blemishes and inclusions shouldn’t be visible to the naked eye. 

Consider the Color

Most gemstones are recognized for their unique color. Peridots are also often known for their lime green color, but some peridots can have different tints and hues. The most desirable peridot is the one with a beautiful and pure lime green color and is free of any brown or yellow hints. It’s best to avoid brownish peridot gems since they are typically considered low quality and are very less appealing. 

Choose the Metals Wisely

If you’re buying peridot jewelry, you’ll want to ensure that you choose a metal that brings out the best in your gem. Generally, yellow gold helps highlight the stunning features of peridot over other white metals. Rose gold also brings out the color of a peridot gem, making it a unique choice for rings and other jewelry. Also, white gold and other rhodium-coated metals often cause pits in peridot gems.

How to Determine if a Peridot is Real

As with other gems, peridot can also be occasionally faked. A fake or imitated peridot is typically made from glass, making it easier to determine its imperfections and set it apart from real ones. 

Here are a few ways you can use to authenticate peridot. 

Perform an Eye Test

One of the best ways to detect whether peridot is fake or real is to have a close look at its color. Genuine peridots have a pure green color with brown or yellow tints. If you notice any other tints besides these two colors, the chances are that your gem is an imitation. 

Check for Imperfections

According to the Mohs scale, peridots have a 6.5-7 hardness rating, which means that it is possible to scratch this gem easily. Take a good look at the gem to look for any scratches or cracks. If the stone looks too perfect, it’s probably unreal. 

Check for Double Refraction

Peridots have a high level of double refraction, which means that you can see two of each pavilion’s facets when examining the gemstone closely. To check for double refraction, hold up the gem against a light. 

Look for Inclusions

Natural peridots almost always have some type of inclusions. While some inclusions are visible to the naked eye, others can be spotted under magnification. However, if you don’t see any inclusions but notice bubbles instead, then there are chances that the peridot is fake.

Check Its Color Under Different Lhigting

Peridots are unique gemstones that don’t change color under light. Genuine peridots will remain the same color despite being exposed to natural or artificial light. Fake peridot, however, will display a different color. 

Caring for Peridot

Peridot ranks only 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, deeming it softer than many other gems. Due to its low hardness, this gemstone requires a considerable amount of proper care and maintenance. 

Firstly, it is recommended to store your peridot jewelry in a separate box or pouch when traveling to keep the gemstone and the metal from scratching each other. 

Secondly, the peridot is incredibly vulnerable and sensitive to rapid temperature changes. So, you must never have it steam cleaned. 

Lastly, like all other gemstones, it is recommended to avoid wearing peridot jewelry when applying cream or lotions. When it comes to cleaning the gem, it is best to use mild dish wash soap and a soft brush to get rid of accumulated dust.

Why We Love This Gem

Peridot has long been associated with sunlight. A major reason behind this is the way this beauty shines green-gold under the sun. In fact, many Egyptians would refer to peridot as the “gem of the sun.” The yellow-green color of peridot is especially unique and looks amazing when paired with yellow gold. Simply put, peridot is like the last squeeze of lime in a cocktail that brings and binds everything together. 

To conclude, peridot is a great gemstone that requires you to be mindful before making any purchase decisions. 

 

An Insight into Smoky Quartz

Smoky Quartz – Overview 

Smoky Quartz
Image by 7924748 from Pixabay

You may be aware of the white, yellowish, rose, and purple amethyst varieties of quartz. But did you know that there is brownish-grey crystalline quartz which is known as smoky quartz?

Smoky quartz is a colored variety of quartz crystal that ranges from yellowish-brown to greyish-brown colors. Some of the specimens may appear so dark that they look black. 

Similar to other quartz crystals, smoky quartz is a silicon dioxide crystal, but it gets its color from the additional silicone that’s formed by the dioxide (a dioxide is the result of two atoms of oxygen in its molecule) due to the natural radiation process taking place from the surrounding rocks underneath the Earth’s surface. 

Smoky quartz is an abundant gem material found in several locations around the world, and hence, it is a relatively inexpensive gemstone. You can find large amounts of these crystals with excellent transparency due to very few inclusions. Moreover, another reason for its relatively low price is the color which does not have a high demand. The greyish brown specimens are considered less desirable; however, when the stone is cut, quartz crystals with a reddish-brown or orange hue are the usually preferred gemstones. 

Where is it Found?

Smoky quartz is an abundantly found gem material that you can find in several parts of the world, but if you look at the geological occurrence of the stone, it is mainly found in quartz veins and extreme igneous rocks that are formed during the later stages of magma’s crystallization. Because of this extremity, you can find the formation of exceptionally large crystals.  

With that said, smoky quartz is the national gem of Scotland. There, it goes by the name “cairngorm” after the Cairngorm Mountains, located in Scotland’s eastern Highlands. Also, this mineral has been found near Pike’s Peak, Colorado.

You can also find smoky quartz that is formed at lower temperatures in the fractures of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. The radioactive mineral found in the surrounding rocks plays an integral role in how the gemstone gets its color. The irradiation leads to the very dark shades of smoky quartz; hence, the darker specimens of smoky quartz come from locations with higher radioactive mineral content. 

Currently, the smoky quartz crystal comes from several sources around the world. Brazil is considered the largest supplier of gemstone material that is used in jewelry making. Another major supplier of smoky quartz is Madagascar which it produces in commercial quantities. 

Smoky quartz can also be found at several other locations, including Switzerland, Scotland, Russia, and Ukraine. You can also find it in some parts of the U.S., including Colorado, North Carolina, and Maine. It is the national gemstone of Scotland where it is known as “cairngorm.” Additionally, the darker variety of this mineral is known as “morion” in Scotland. 

Physical Properties of Smoky Quartz

Smoky Quartz pear shaped
Smoky Quartz pear shaped. Wipimedia, photo: Doronenko

This mineral has very similar physical properties as other color variants of quartz crystals. Like its cousins, the chemical classification is silicate, and it ranges from yellowish-brown to orange-brown and greyish brown in color. With a vitreous luster, the crystal has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs’ scale of hardness and a specific gravity ranging between 2.6 and 2.7.  

The color is heat sensitive, and the crystal is likely to change its color when exposed to temperatures between 200 and 300 oC. Moreover, prolonged exposure to UV light can result in a loss of color. However, the color can be relapsed by irradiation of the crystals. 

The Uses of Smoky Quartz

Perhaps the most common use of this particular type of quartz is the gemstone industry. The minerals are refined and cut as gems and are then used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of rings, earrings, necklaces, and brooches. Given that smoky quartz can range from yellowish-brown to orange-brown and a less desirable greyish brown, it can cater to the demands of various individuals. 

The gemstone is used in jewelry making for women and can also be used by men to enhance the appeal of their rings and cufflinks. While the trend is not quite common today, the use of smoky quartz to enhance the appeal of men’s jewelry was quite common during the Victorian Era, where the dark brownstones extracted from the Mourne Mountains of Ireland were often used in jewelry, especially mourning jewelry.

During the early days of the 12th century, the gemstone was used in several parts of the world, including China, to make eyeglasses. These glasses were also used as a shield against UV sunlight and other sources of bright light. Some of the glasses and shields were worn during court proceedings as the darker-toned material was used to hide the facial expressions of the judges.

Apart from jewelry and glasses, smoky quartz is also used as a carving material. Since the gemstone has a relatively lower price and one can easily find large pieces of smoky quartz, it is one of the best choices of gem material that can be used for carving.

Treatments 

As mentioned earlier, the color of these quartz crystals can range from yellowish-brown to orange-brown and even darker shades of greyish brown. However, the gem material may lose its color when exposed to UV light and higher temperatures. 

The color of the smoky quartz may be changed in a lab setting by exposure to higher temperatures. It is a particularly common treatment for dark-colored smokey quartz crystals. However, the stone is seldom treated to revert its color once it loses its darker shade. In addition, it is not synthetically produced in the lab because the mineral is readily available and has a relatively lower demand and price. 

Final Words 

Smoky quartz is a color variant of the quartz family that shares similar physical properties. However, it has a unique color range that makes it appropriate for use as a gemstone. Moreover, its physical properties, such as hardness and specific gravity, make it suitable for carving. 

 

Top 8 Diamond Myths Debunked

Sparkling Diamond
Diamond gem with reflection on blue background (Bigstock)

Most people have a general idea about and how diamonds and how they are made are. After all, as the most popular gemstone on the planet, their appearance and value are common knowledge. Those who have purchased diamond jewelry, especially engagement rings, are also quite acquainted with its 4 Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat. However, despite its popularity, much of the information about this precious gemstone is often misunderstood.

So, if you think you know everything about diamonds, read on for some fascinating new insights into the world of the diamond!

Today, we’re going to debunk some of the most common diamond myths.

Myth #1: All Diamonds are from Natural Resources

Not all diamonds are natural! Lab-made diamonds aren’t synthetic diamonds but are very real.

You may have seen the Superman series where he crushes a piece of coal to form a diamond. These tales of natural diamonds being made through pressurized coal are one of the most common myths surrounding this gem.

The fact is that diamonds are not made of coal. Natural diamonds undergo a system of exceptionally higher pressures and temperatures from coal which are only found deep inside the earth’s mantle). Coal is found much higher up.

Diamond Labs

The issue of finding diamonds is rectified by having them created in a lab. Many companies started making diamonds by creating a high-temperature and high-pressure lab environment. This practice goes back to the 1950s. These labs mimic the conditions of the earth’s mantle, where natural diamond deposits are present, to create similar human-made gems.

Today, almost 800 tons of man-made diamonds are produced yearly, which is about 150 times more than natural diamonds. 

Myth #2: Diamonds are the Most Valuable Gemstone

Ruby Ring in a BoxA common misconception is that diamonds are the priciest, most valuable gems on the planet. While it’s true that they are one of the four most precious minerals that command high prices, it isn’t possible to judge specific gem species as the most valuable. There are various factors that come into play to evaluate their value, including its size, quality, color, and rarity. For example, pure red rubies are one of the rarest stones, and so they command much higher prices than diamonds. 

Myth #3: The Bigger, the Better!

pollo_synthetic_diamond
Wikipedia

Carats are a unit measure of the weight of a diamond, not its size. A diamond’s size is as your eye sees it, which is largely impacted by the depth of the table-to-pavilion ratio and cut proportions. More importantly, a diamond’s perceived size is impacted by its light performance, which means that the better a diamond catches and reflects light (called fire), the bigger and more attractive it will be perceived to look.

Besides this, compromising on other factors just to buy a huge diamond isn’t going to get you the appearance you’re looking for. The large size of a diamond cannot compensate for its visible inclusions, distorted proportions, and/or poor light performance. So, although size does matter, so does the cut, clarity, color, and rarity of a crystal. Always remember that a huge diamond won’t be more valuable if it has poor clarity and color. 

Interesting Note: The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second but it is slowed down when it hits a diamond (or glass) and the more it hits the diamond on an angle, the more it will reflect the light. So the more angels the diamond has, the more light that will be reflected back. This is where the cut of a diamond determines the amount of brilliance and fire the gemstone has. ‘Cut’ is one of the 4Cs that determine a diamond’s value. So the next time you hear how much fire does a diamond have?, you’ll know they are talking about how well the diamond cuts are!

Myth #4: Diamonds Are Indestructible

There’s no doubt about the fact that diamonds are the strongest, most durable gemstone with a rating of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. However, this doesn’t mean that these gems are indestructible. Diamonds are tough, but rough usage and inappropriate handling can chip and break these gems. For instance, a diamond with a particularly shallow crown is susceptible to damage. This also applies to diamonds with a thin girdle.

Myth #5: All Diamonds are Flawless

There’s no such thing as a flawless natural gemstone. All gemstones, including diamonds, have some type of flaws, which is another factor in the 4Cs – color. The more the flaws, the more the mineral will shy away from a colorless diamond. Natural diamonds usually contain impurities in their carbon crystal, which gives them a yellowish hue as their crystal absorbs light of a specific frequency. You may come across some colorless natural diamonds that have negligible impurities, but they are usually very rare and hence, quite expensive.

Myth #6: Diamond Engagement Rings are an Ancient Marriage Tradition

Diamond Engagement Ring
Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

This may be hard to believe, but diamond engagement rings became popular in the 20th century. In fact, rubies and sapphires were the most precious and popular ring gems back in the day. Diamonds became popular due to the magnificent ad campaign run in the 1940s by a mining conglomerate known as DeBeers. Their attention-grabbing advertisements created a place for diamonds in the public’s heart and paved the way for the present diamond engagement ring phenomenon.

Myth #7: Diamonds are Unusually Rare

There is no doubt that diamonds are incredibly attractive and a highly valuable gem. But, compared to other colored stones, diamonds are quite common. Millions of people own diamond jewelry around the world, which means that diamonds are more prevalent and easy to find in the market. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t desirable or luxurious; it rather means that, unlike other gemstones, diamonds don’t derive their worth from scarcity.

Myth #8: The 4Cs are the Only Way to Determine a Diamond’s Value

The 4Cs are a globally accepted standard to determine the value of a diamond by evaluating its features. This guide was developed mainly to make diamond shopping easier for consumers by allowing them to assess the stone’s quality and choose the ideal piece. However, the 4Cs aren’t the sole determinants of a diamond’s value. Age, history, and rarity are also contributors to a diamond’s appraisal.

Wrapping Up

By now, you’re aware that most of the things you learned about diamonds from grade school and hearsays are myths. One thing we can say for sure is that diamonds are one of the most precious stones that are generally stunning and can command exceptionally high prices. 

However, it is always good to uncover the facts so that you know what you’re getting into. Don’t let the most common diamond myths listed above deter you from purchasing one. Instead, we hope that learning about these myths helps you make a more informed decision.