Category Archives: Minerals

Salt Domes – An Economically Significant Geological Formation

Enlarged view of salt crystals

What is a Salt Dome?

A salt dome is a geological formation deep under the surface of the Earth. It is a vertical column of salt which protrudes upwards into the layer of sediments called the caprock. Salt formations are typically horizontal, but when in a sedimentary basin where a thick layer of salt is covered by a layer of sediments of heavy mineral, salt formations can rise vertically. 

How is Salt Domes Formed?

A phenomenon known as diapirism takes place beneath the surface of the Earth. It allows lighter material to force its way upwards through denser material. In the case of a salt dome, salt has a lower density compared to the rocks above it. When a gravitational force, tectonic force, and a combination of various other forces act upon salt, this results in the deformation of salt. As a result, the salt flows upwards like a viscous liquid. 

For the formation of a salt dome, the pressure on the salt must be high enough to allow the salt to penetrate through the layer of sediment above it. Once the salt begins to flow, the process will continue as long as the pressure on the salt is more than the forces acting against it, but once the forces are in equilibrium, the flow of salt will stop. 

When conditions are favorable, salt domes can grow thousands of feet above their core. They can also reach the surface of the Earth and result in the formation of salt glaciers. The formation of salt domes does not occur overnight. It is a long process which can take centuries. The process begins in an isolated marine inlet. When the water evaporates, it leaves concentrated salt. Geologists believe that the evaporation process should occur multiple times. This will help achieve the required concentration of salt essential for creating a salt dome

Once the large deposits of salt are created, wind and other external forces will come into play. Over time, sediments are deposited on the salt. Once the sediments have completely covered the salt formation, the forces acting on the salt will become stronger. Since salt is a mineral with lighter density, it will find its way upwards through the sediments. 

Size of the Salt Domes 

Salt domes are often very large structures. The diameter of the salt dome can range from ½ a mile to over five miles. The origin or the parent rock from which the salt dome rises is typically found thousands of feet below the surface. A typical salt dome rises at least a mile from its origin and some are known to be higher than six miles.

Economic Significance of Salt Domes 

Salt domes are important due to various reasons. They serve as a reservoir for oil and gas. They are also a critical source for sulfur and salt. Once the salt is extracted, the remaining salt dome holes can be used as an effective underground storage and waste disposal site for hazardous waste. 

Oil and Gas Reservoirs 

Salt domes have a unique significance in the oil and gas industry. As the salt is rising vertically, it exerts pressure on the rocks above it. The caprock, which is the layer of sediment above the salt, is arched upwards. This upward arch serves as a structural trap and can reserve oil and gas. As the caprock is arched upwards, oil and gas migrate towards the salt dome. Salt is an effective trap rock as oil can come to rest up along the salt. 

This upward arching of the rock and collection of oil and gas in the arch allows better flow rates of hydrocarbons. This helps in the extraction and recovery of fossil fuels trapped along the salt dunes. The extraction of hydrocarbons along the salt dunes is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to conventional drilling. A single salt dome can have numerous reservoirs of oil and gas at various depths and locations around the salt dome. 

A Source of Salt and Sulfur 

Since salt domes are salt formations, they can be exploited through mining. Salt is used as an essential raw material in numerous industries. It is widely used in the chemical industry and for treating snow-covered highways. Apart from commercial use, salt also has domestic applications as well. 

Another important mineral that can be recovered from salt domes is sulfur. Sulfur is not a part of the salt dome but an important component of the caprock. It occurs as a crystalline material and is known to be formed as a result of bacterial activity. The caprock of certain salt domes contains enough sulfur that can be recovered economically. 

The process of recovering sulfur from salt dome involving drilling a well and treating the rock with superheated water and air. However, as of now, this method of recovering sulfur is not cost-effective. Therefore most of the sulfur which is produced today is a byproduct of refining hydrocarbons. 

Underground Storage and Waste Disposal 

When the salt, sulfur and hydrocarbons are extracted, this leaves large holes which can be used for underground storage. Some of the mines which are developed into salt domes are sealed and can be used for the storage of oil and gas. In the US and Russia, salt domes also serve as state reservoirs of helium gas. This is because salt is the only type of rock that has very low permeability. As a result, it can hold the tiny atoms of helium gas. 

Since salt has low levels of permeability, it also restricts the flow of any type of liquid into the soil. These properties make salt domes very effective for the disposal of hazardous radioactive waste.

Conclusion 

Salt domes are a distinct geological formation with great economic value. Though it takes centuries to form, once formed, humans can continue to benefit from them for years.  

Clear Quartz Crystal: The Master Healer

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

Clear Quartz, part of the biggest and most diverse family in the mineral kingdom is the most iconic crystal of the quartz family. Clear quartz is abundantly found all over the world, as it can develop under different climatic conditions.

Also commonly known as the Rock Crystal or Ice Crystal, this gemstone is valued by not only healers and spiritual leaders, but by scientists as well. As this beautiful clear rock has extraordinary characteristics, it has long been considered the source of light for humanity.

History

Various cultures all over the world have included clear quartz crystals in their traditions and ceremonies. The crystal gets its name from the Greek word krystallos, which means ‘ice.’ It was named as such because the ancient Greek philosophers thought that it was a permanent form of ice, frozen so hard, preventing it from thawing.

Clear quartz has been held in high regard by each culture with a unique meaning. The Japanese thought of it as a symbol of purity, patience, and space, calling it the ‘prefect’ jewel.’ Native North Americans believed the rock to be animate, breathing once every hundred years. 

Some cultures used it as a religious talisman and included it in funeral rites, considering it as an urn for the spirits of their ancestors, and used to carve out the crystals shaped like human skulls. Some people also used the rock for its metaphysical power to heal illnesses.

Types of Quartz Crystals

There is a wide variety of quartz crystals other than the clear crystal found on the Earth. Some of the most popular types are listed below:

Amethyst

Also referred to as the Bishop’s Stone, the stone’s color ranges from soft lavender to deep purple. Representing royalty and spirituality, the stone is thought to promote creativity.

Citrine

The Lucky Merchant’s Stone ranging from shades of transparent and pale to golden yellow, is believed to attract joy, success, and all the good things in life.

Rose Quartz

Also called the Stone of Unconditional Love, its pale pink to deep reddish-pink hues symbolize love. It is said to promote loving feelings for oneself and others.

Smoky Quartz

The Stone of Power displays different shades of black and brown. A powerful grounding stone, it has the alleged ability to absorb negative vibes from the surrounding.

Tiger’s Eye

Popular for its chatoyancy and layers in rich gold, red and brown colors, this stone is a symbol of courage and the right use of power.

Carnelian

The orange and red warm and fiery tones of the stone helps boost confidence and motivates the person. It is believed to attract warmth and bliss in life.

Physical Properties of Clear Quartz Crystal

  • Chemical Formula: SiO2
  • Color: Clear, Multicolored, All spectrum colors, Black, Brown
  • Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 7
  • Cleavage: Indiscernible
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to Translucent

Appearance

The clear quartz crystal looks just as beautiful as ice. The ordinary-looking gemstone tends to hold within its pure light the entire color spectrum. Although it has the term ‘clear’ in its name, it can be transparent, milky or striped.

The smooth hexagonal prism has a cluster formation. It occurs in various shapes and sizes, with naturally faceted terminations at either one or each end of the crystal. Its shape and size depending on the rate at which the crystals are formed.

Clear quartz crystal forms in compact masses and druses, and often times as dense, fibrous, or grainy formations without visible crystals.

Properties

Believed to carry the traits of the master healer, clear quartz is used by healers to open the heart and mind and balance and guide one’s inner soul. This stone is quite adaptable as it can be programmed with any intention. It gives an energy boost and aids in healing and can help to achieve any purpose. However, spiritualists believe that it’s important to cleanse this magnificent crystal.

Clear Quartz is quite useful as it has piezo- and pyroelectric properties that can transform mechanical or heat energy to electromagnetic energy. Due to its ability to direct, intensify, store, and modify energy, it is used in various technological devices.

The multifaceted and versatile rock is used to encourage self-awareness, and attract love and success. Once you feel in sync with it, the stone can help to lift the mood. It protects the aura by creating a force field of healing negative ions. 

It also improves one’s intellect, strengthens and clears the mind, helps to concentrate better and improve memory. This stone helps to sleep better and is useful to understand the meaning behind dreams. The clear quartz crystal can also be used to amplify the energy of other stones.

Physical Healing Properties

Considered the master healer crystal, it can be employed to cure several conditions. It sets the body in balance and energizes it, by stimulating the immune and circulatory system. It can prove to be useful to relieve headaches, migraines, and also stabilize dizziness.

The rock is great for providing support with exhaustion, metabolism, and reducing weight. It can be quite helpful to treat digestive issues, treat diarrhea, and infections in the kidney and bladder.

Clear quartz crystal also helps to soothe sore and wounded areas. It works wonders in treating skin problems and burns in particular.

Emotional Healing Properties

Acting as a deep soul purifier, using the stone clears the soul and mind. The crystal helps to remove the negative energy within a person and replaces it with positive vibes. It makes the user self-conscious, patient, focused and gives an energy boost.

Everything You Need to Know About Morganite

”Morganite

Photo by stellaryayimages.com

The Morganite gemstone is something you might be hearing about a lot nowadays. It has fast become a trend and for the people that have seen one in person, it is easy for them to understand why that’s the case. The Morganite is an exquisite violet-pink to light pink gemstone that has been a favorite among gemstone lovers for a few decades. It is an affordable yet resilient gem.

Morganite belongs to a family of minerals called the beryl and is often also referred to as Pink Beryl, Cesian Beryl and Pink Emerald. Morganite is one of the rarer variations of the beryl mineral and is considered second in rarity only to the red bixbite. The gemstone is a mesmerizing stone that has a pinkish and almost salmon colored hue, which sets it apart from the rest. This characteristic color for Morganite is because of the presence of manganese within the gem. Most Morganite gems are treated with heat that enhances the pinkish salmon hue even more.   

Here is a look at everything that you need to know about Morganite.

Morganite Color

The color of Morganite varies within a range of pinkish colors. They can be found in colors ranging from pink, rose, salmon to beach. The popularity of the Morganite gemstone in the market is for the rose and pink tints that the stone has. While there is still a demand for salmon and peach hues, they are not as popular as their pinkish counterparts.

The gemstone is almost always put through treatment that enhances the pink color. The treatment isn’t something you can detect. Heat treatment effectively drives out the orange and yellow tinge that Morganite has, leaving a purer pink color. The resulting color is stable and does not fade.

Clarity

Much like other variations of the beryl mineral, Morganite usually is a very clear gem. It does not have a lot of visible inclusions. The lesser clear varieties of Morganite are often cut or carved out as cabochons.   

Cuts

The Morganite gemstone has a very distinct color tone. The stronger color tones in Morganite are rare. Even if there are strong hues in the mineral, it has to be cut out from a fairly large stone in order to get the finest color from it. The orientation of the rough has to be considered carefully because of the pleochroism of this gemstone. It can be cut into all the standard shapes and sizes including unique designer cuts – this is one of the reasons why it is a popular gemstone for jewelry.  

Origin of Morganite Gemstones

Morganite can be found in different parts of the world. The two most prominent producers of the Morganite are Madagascar and Brazil. There are also sources of the gemstone that can be found in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, China, Mozambique, Russia, Namibia, China and even the United States.

Gemological Properties of Morganite

  • Chemical Formula: Al2(Be3[Si6O18])
  • Color: Pale Pink to Violet Pink, Salmon, Peach
  • Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 7.5 to 8
  • Cleavage: Indistinct
  • Fluorescence: Weak: Violet
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to opaque

Properties of Morganite Gemstone

For those who believe in the minerals’ emotional effects, Morganite is considered to be a stone that brings empathy, compassion, tolerance, self control and balance to the wearer. Through wearing the Morganite stone, a person can become capable of bringing stability to their life and control their emotions a lot better than before. The stone is also associated with easing up the pain of people who have gone through separation from someone significant in their life.

Morganite is a Heart Stone, which is also called the Stone of Divine Love. This stone brings love to the life of the wearer. The stone also has the potential to light the fire from an old flame and ignite the passion that one has in his or her love life.

One of the most wonderful things about the Morganite gemstone is that it is an aphrodisiac, which does not just allow the wearer to attract love but also to maintain it for the long term. It works by bringing in the caring and loving thoughts that help the two become more loving towards each other. It instills a greater feeling of wellbeing in both partners that wear the gemstone.

The beryl mineral is known to be a stone that physically heals people by relieving them of several conditions affecting the liver, their glands and eyes. Since Morganite is one of the variations of the Beryl mineral, it does not only have the aphrodisiac properties, it also enhances the properties shown by other beryl gem. Morganite also helps to reorganize the cells, oxygenating them and helps with breathing issues. It clears out lung blockages and asthma. It also has the power to cure emphysema.

Reasons Why You Can Use Morganite

Because there are so many properties that Morganite has, there are several uses that this stone can have for people. Some of these uses include:

  • Wearing it in order to relax the mind and reduce stress in your life.
  • It challenges the wearer to become the best in everything that they do.
  • It enhances a person’s level of confidence and instills a calming and peaceful feel in them, allowing for better handling of tough situations.
  • It increases a sense of gratitude in the person wearing it.
  • Wearing Morganite also makes a person grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
  • It increases the wearer’s wisdom.
  • It transforms a person’s bad experiences into challenges that they would want to take on and overcome.
  • It brings about a positive change in the wearer.

Uses of Silicon in Everyday Life

The 14th element in the periodic table, silicon is a grey, shiny metalloid with multiple uses. Besides oxygen, silicon is the second most readily available element on Earth and the 8th most common element found in the universe. Naturally, silicon occurs as a compound, bound up with other elements. 

Silicon is one of the seven elements that are known as metalloids, which refers to elements that possess the properties of both metals and nonmetals. This makes it ideal for uses in many different industries and is the main component in making alloys (mixing metals with non-metals). Silicon is not only used in the construction industry, but high tech equipment like computer chips, solar panels, and transistors are all made up of silicon. 

The fact that silicon can act as a semiconductor, by allowing control of electrical current, makes it ideal for virtually all electronic equipment. 

Facts About Silicon

Silicon is one of the most interesting elements in the periodic table. Some facts about this element are as follows:

  • Naturally, silicon is not found in its pure state and is always combined with other elements. 
  • Over 90% of the Earth’s crust is made up of silicon-containing compounds. 
  • Most meteorites contain large amounts of silicon. 
  • On the Mohs scale of hardness, silicon carbide scores an impressive 9-9.5, which is slightly less than a diamond. 
  • The hardness of silicon compounds makes them an ideal abrasive for industrial use. 
  • Silicon was first isolated to develop silicon-only crystals in 1854. 
  • Silicon has a higher density in liquid form as compared to when it is solid. 
  • Unlike most metals, the conductivity of silicon improves when the temperature increases.

Properties of Silicon 

Due to its metalloid nature, silicon does not behave like a typical metal or non-metal but shares the properties of both. Certain factors like temperature and combination with other elements affect its behavior and properties. Some properties of silicon are: 

Silicon is a Semiconductor 

Silicon does not behave like a typical metal or nonmetal. This is the reason why silicon is considered as a semiconductor. It can act as a conductor of electrical current or an insulator depending upon the temperature. As the temperature increases, silicon’s conductivity gets better.  

Melting and Boiling Points 

Though silicon is not a pure metal, it is has a very high melting and boiling point. The melting point of silicon is 1410 degrees Celsius, whereas the boiling point is 2355 degrees Celsius. 

Reaction with Other Elements 

Pure silicon is highly reactive. Since there are four valence electrons available, silicon can form an ionic or covalent bond by sharing or giving away its electrons. This is the reason why it is not available in its pure form naturally. In its solid form, silicon remains an inert element and does not react with oxygen or water.

Uses of Silicon 

The structure and properties of silicon make it a suitable element for a number of industries. Though silicon is hardly used in its pure form, silicon compounds are more commonly used for industrial applications. 

Alloy Making 

This metal is widely used in making alloys. It is produced at very high temperatures and when heated, it  can easily react with other elements like iron. Ferrosilicon is one of the most commonly used silicon alloys and is used in the manufacturing of steel. This alloy of iron and silicon gives hardness and strength to steel. It is also used as the prime deoxidizer in steel manufacturing and helps in removing impurities from the steel. 

The aluminum industry also heavily relies on the use of silicon alloys. These alloys are used in welding and manufacturing of molds.  

An electronic mother board for a computer

“Resistors and Transistors”by Andrew Mason is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Electronics 

One of the most important properties of silicon is that it works as a semiconductor. Its high melting point and ability to conduct electricity makes it ideal for its use in the electronics industry. 

Prior to its use for electronic devices, silicon is refined in two stages. First, oxygen is removed from the compound, and then it is further refined to produce hyper pure silicon, which is a semiconductor grade element. Hyperpure silicon is used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices, including transistors, circuit boards, and microchips which have multiple uses. 

A recent milestone in computer technology using silicon-based chips is the invention of quantum computers. These computers can outperform normal computers. Using silicon, these computers can replace normal computers in the near future. 

A recent development in medicine is the use of silicon nanoneedles. These are tiny needles which are used for intracellular drug delivery. 

Solar panels on the roof of a house

“Solar Panel”by Marufish is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Solar Panels 

With climatic changes and a high concentration of greenhouse gases, there is much emphasis on the use of renewable sources of energy. Solar energy is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of energy. Using solar panels, we can easily convert the energy of the sun into electricity without damaging the environment. 

Most solar cells and solar panels are created using silicon because of its physical and chemical properties. Silicon’s ability to work as a semiconductor makes it the most suitable element for solar panels. However, pure silicon is not used as it is a poor conductor. Silicon is mixed with impurities (also known as doping) so that it can absorb the energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. 

Initially, using silicon in the manufacturing of solar panels was an expensive technology. With recent developments in research and technology, silicon solar panels are now affordable for most people. 

Nature has provided mankind with all the resources it needs for survival. It’s up to us how we harness and utilize the bounties of nature without damaging the environment. 

Summary

The discovery of silicon has had a major impact on how we live our lives everyday. Although it is not apparant, it would be hard to imagine how we would live today without the use of silicon.

Ten Gorgeous Diamond Cuts for Engagement Rings

Groom and bride holding hands with ring showing on her fingerDiamonds are eternal – just like your bond with your life partner. That’s why these sparkling rocks are the one and only choice for an engagement ring. Proposals can leave you in a bundle of nerves but what’s even more stressful is getting the right ring for her. Diamonds come in a variety of clarities, sizes, shapes and cuts, and you can pay an arm and a leg for them. Since you are probably going to invest a huge part of your savings on an engagement ring, you should know about some stunning diamond cuts which would surely make her say ‘yes!’

Walking into a jewelers shop can be a bit intimidating. One can easily get confused when surrounded by all the different cuts and designs. Before delving into the cuts, it’s important to distinguish between the cut and the shape. The shape is the geometric appearance of the gemstone, whereas a cut is what makes a diamond bright and shiny. A gemstone sparkles when light reflects from it.

The facets (flat surfaces that allow more light to be reflected; hence, more brilliance) and angles (how the facets are placed on the gem to bring in the most light), their quantity, symmetry, and proportions are all responsible for the reflection of light. A diamond is intricately cut to maximize this reflection, but not all diamonds are equal. Some have less quality cuts then others and hence the price difference you will see as you shop, but the better the cut, the more brillance, the more she will like it, but the more you will pay for it.

Cutting a diamond too shallow would allow most of the light to pass through the bottom, making this an extremely poor cut. If cut too deep, a diamond would reflect light from its sides and would fail to produce the required gleam and glitter. A perfectly cut diamond would reflect all its light from its top face and would shine brilliantly. The more radiant a diamond appears, the more expensive it will be. 

Now, let’s look at the ten most popular diamond cuts that would be perfect for an engagement ring:

Round Cut

Top face and side view of a round cut diamond
Brilliant Round Cut Diamonds

This cut is one of the most popular and most famous type of cut for engagement rings. About 50% of engagement rings have a round cut diamond. This particular cut gives maximum shine to the diamond, partially do to the large amounts of facts (58) and the ideal position at which they are set. You’ll find a range of grades, styles, and settings for a round cut diamond. A simple gold or platinum ring with an isolated round-cut diamond looks like a personification of “beauty lies in simplicity”. You can also try a solitaire setting to add glamour to this cut. 

Round cut diamonds are considered the most expensive of the cut variations, but they display the most brilliance. You can’t go wrong with a round cut diamond. 

Princess Cut

Diamonds with Princess Cuts
Princess Cut Diamonds

Also known as a square modified brilliant cut, the princess cut is  a popular choice for engagement rings. First created by Betazel Ambar and Israel Itzkowitz in 1980, princess cuts appears like a square or rectangle from the top.

It has four beveled sides and a bottom that resembles an inverted pyramid. You’ll find this cut in 30% of the rings. It looks a bit familiar to the Asscher or Emerald cut but it has more facets at the top as opposed to the flat top face of Asscher.

Emerald Cut

Top face and side view of a princess cut diamond
Emerald Cut Diamond

This cut derives its name from the famous gemstone emerald because these stones are usually cut in this manner. However, this cut looks equally classy for diamonds. It is a stepped cut that seems to have an aura of enduring beauty. Its top face is a narrow rectangle with trimmed corners. Since this cut is not used as frequently as a round or princess cut, it is relatively inexpensive and so a ring with a high-grade emerald cut diamond will cost you less or if you were going to sell one, you won’t get what you would get if you had a round cut stone; however, those with smaller hands prefer the emerald cut because it makes their fingers look longer.   

Oval Cut

Top face and side view of a princess cut diamond
Oval Cut Diamond

Oval cut exhibits a classic and traditional impression. This cut has gained popularity in recent years. It beautifies the hand as it has a lengthening effect. The oval cut is a great choice for East-West trendy rings. It is about 25% more affordable than a round cut diamond ring. Its greater surface area makes the diamond appear bigger. However, an oval cut has one undesirable feature called ‘the bow-tie effect’ which means the cut will show a darker area in the middle if one looked down upon it. The greater the bow tie effect, the poorer the stone quality. Excellent quality diamonds will have a very subtle darker region.

Asscher Cut

Ascher Cut Diamond
Ascher Cut Diamond

Created in the early 1900s, it came into light in the 1920s. It was named after its creators the Asscher Brothers who ran Holland’s Asscher Diamond Company which later became the Royal Asscher Diamond Company. It was an attractive cut with a vintage feel about it. Similar to an emerald cut, it has a square or rectangular appearance with cropped corners. It has 74 large step facets and a high crown which makes yields more brilliance than the emerald cut. It is set in a four-prong setting and reflects light like a never-ending corridor lined with mirrors on all sides. 

Cushion Cut

Cushion Cut Diamond
Cushion Cut Diamond

A cushion-cut, also known as a pillow cut, is made to emphasize clarity. This cut is almost 200 years old which gives it a vintage flair. On the other hand, it looks extremely stylish and modern with a square top face with rounded corners. To further elevate this symbol of understated love, you can mount it in a halo setting for a perfect engagement ring.

Marquise Cut

Marquise Cut Diamonds
Marquise Cut Diamonds

Considered bold and beautiful, Marquise cut is also known as the football-shaped cut, the eye-shaped cut, and the boat-cut. It exudes a dramatic persona with an elliptical shape with pointed ends and 58 facets. Its French history is as interesting as the cut itself. Back in the 18th century King Louis XV of France ordered a jeweler to design a cut inspired by his mistress’ lips. A diamond ring in this cut would require multiple prongs and a setting which can act as a stable base for the stone.

Radiant Cut

Radiant Cut Diamonds
Radiant Cut Diamonds

A radiant cut gets its name from its matchless radiance. Since a radiant cut diamond has numerous facets, it reflects light in all directions and appears luminous. This cut also has a square or rectangle shape with trimmed corners. Looking directly into the top face of the stone would reveal a circular pattern in the center. 

Pear Cut

Pear Cut Diamonds
Pear Cut Diamonds

This would be an ideal cut for those looking for something elegant and sophisticated. The pear cut has the best features of marquise and round cut diamonds. It is so beautifully proportioned that it looks like an angel’s teardrop. It makes the hand appear slender due to its pointed corner. The cut makes the diamond look bigger than it actually is.   

Heart Cut

Diamonds in heart shape cutA heart cut diamond looks very exquisite and lovely. When buying a ring with a heart-cut diamond, make sure you check its proportions closely. Give enough attention to the body and the cleft of the heart shape. This cut would require a setting with more prongs.

A Guide on How to Buy Ethical Diamonds

Diamond lying on a red clothThis universal symbol of love and commitment does, unfortunately have a dark side. A side we as consumers are never exposed to with the exception of possible seeing it being addressed in the movies or on the news. 

The illegal diamond trade, especially in conflict zones is filled problems rangings from exploitation of labor (in some cases, children) to using the money for war funds. 

Problems Related to Purchasing Ethical Diamonds 

With the spread of information, people are now more aware of purchasing a diamond that has been sourced ethically and in an environmentally friendly way. The most prevalent problems associated with purchasing ethically sourced diamonds are as follows. 

The Misleading Nature of Conflict Free Diamonds 

You may have heard the term conflict diamonds also known as blood diamonds. This phrase was first coined in the 1990s when rebel groups were taking over mines in western and central Africa. Once the mines were in their control, the rebels would illegally trade diamonds for money and weapons to stage bloody wars against governments and civilians. 

To tackle this problem the Kimberly Process Certification System was established in 2003 to stop the flow of blood diamonds. But the problem with this process is that it only ensures that the diamonds aren’t fuelling any rebel wars. It doesn’t take into account diamonds tainted by violence, environmental harm or child labor.

The Kimberley Process has duped buyers in regards to ethically sourced diamonds. Diamonds certified under this process does not take into consideration those who have mined or the environment and surrounding communities. Conflict-free diamonds are only regulated to ensure that they don’t fund rebels without giving other aspects any regards. 

Most Diamonds are not Traceable to Their Origins

As much as most people would like to believe it, most diamonds are not traceable to their origins like other products such as organic produce. The reason for this is that a diamond changes many hands from mining to retail and not all of them are honest. 

Thought most of the diamonds mined today are done so industrially, there is still no reliable method to distinguish a corrupt diamond from an ethically sourced one. The reason being that despite the technical advancements, there is still no way to trace a diamond back to its original source. 

What Should an Ethically Conscious Buyer Do 

Canadian Diamonds

Canada isn’t the country that comes to mind when you think about diamonds. The main reason is that it is a relatively new source for diamond production. Diamonds were first discovered in the 1990s and Canada has now emerged as a major supplier of high-quality diamonds, many of which are able to be traced back to the source. 

Though they may be more expensive, Canadian diamonds are mined in accordance with strict adherence to fair labor laws and environmental standards. 

Diamond Details 

Do not settle on a diamond simply because it has been verified through the Kimberly Process or because the retailer gives vague assurances about the supplier. 

Consumers need to ask questions about their diamonds and not settle for an easy answer. You can also ask for a guarantee of the diamond origin by asking for a credible certificate of origin such as CanadaMark for Canadian diamonds. Even independent bodies such as the Jeweltree Foundation are promoting ethical business practices in the diamond and are also able to issue a credible certificate of origin. 

Knowing Your Supplier 

Buy from suppliers that make a commitment to ethical sourcing and have a sound reputation in the market for giving back to the communities living around the mines. For instance, De Beers Forevermark diamonds are guaranteed by the company to be ethically mined following stringent criteria throughout the entire supply chain. Though these diamonds cannot be traced to the exact mines where the stones were extracted from but De Beers invests in local schools and hospitals around mining communities, especially in Botswana. Other companies that are known to engage in ethical sourcing and investing back in mining communities include Tiffany, Cartier, and Signet. 

Recycled Diamonds 

Thought it might seem like a strange option, recycled diamonds are the world’s largest diamond resource according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). 

Recycled diamonds are gaining a lot of popularity nowadays, especially amongst buyers looking to avoid the environmental and ethical issues associated with tainted stones. They have no stark differences when compared to a freshly mined diamond. Recycled diamonds are often re-polished and re-cut after being separated from their original mount. 

Other Alternatives 

Synthetic diamonds or lab created diamonds are great options for buyers seeking environmentally friendly and ethically sourced rocks. These stones are completely man-made and free of risk to miners or the environment while looking like real diamonds. 

Countries to Avoid 

You should avoid purchasing diamonds from countries like Angola and Zimbabwe where there are numerous instances of abuses in and around mines, verified by credible institutions such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. 

African nations such as Botswana and Namibia are good options for ethically sourced stones. These countries have a good reputation of ensuring that the income generated from diamond mining created jobs and promotes development. Laws that give rights to miners are also strictly enforced by these countries. 

Final Thoughts 

Buying diamonds is much like buying any other commodity or investment; you conduct your research and make a decision based on what feels right.

The 4C’s of Emeralds

An emerald gemstone in organic conditionEmerald, a deep green rare gemstone that symbolizes peace and tranquility. Emeralds are loved for their color as it beautifies your jewelry and according to legend, gives you calmness and relaxes your nerves. 

Buying an emerald is not as tricky as buying a diamond. Knowing the physical attributes of a gemstone can help you make the right choice. The 4C’s which are used to evaluate a diamond can also be used to choose the right emerald. However, a different significance is assigned to each C when assessing emeralds. By using the information about the 4C’s of emeralds, you can find a gemstone which is the right value for your money. 

Color 

Color is by far the most important C when evaluating an emerald. The best emeralds range from bluish green to pure green with bright tone and color saturation and which is not too dark, in contrast to diamonds where a colorless diamond is what brings in the most value. When you look at an emerald, it is either a bright vibrant green or a dull, limp color or possibly something in between. 

Trace elements like chromium, vanadium, and iron give color to an emerald. The presence or absence of each of these trace elements determines the exact color of the crystal. 

Color can be broken up into three categories – hue, tone, and saturation

Hue 

Hue means the type of green color an emerald has. Most emeralds sold in the market today range from bluish green to dark green. If the color is too yellowish or bluish, it is not an emerald and the value will be lower compared to the original emerald.  

The emerald market is saturated with Columbian emeralds and most Columbian emeralds have a more intense pure green color. Whereas Zambian emeralds are said to have a cooler, more bluish green color.  

Tone 

The tone of an emerald stone determines its value. It classifies the stone in terms of light and dark. A good quality, naturally occurring emerald falls somewhere between very light and very dark. 

It is believed that the darker the tone, better is the emerald. However, this is not true. An emerald with a medium tone is ideal for purchase, but it is important to look at the hue and saturation of the crystal as well. 

Saturation 

Saturation of an emerald refers to the intensity and strength of the green color of the crystal. Saturation can vary on a scale of dull to vivid. An emerald with dull saturation is likely to have more grey. Grey will reduce the saturation and give a dull look to the stone. Therefore, emeralds with visible grey should be avoided. 

When you are evaluating the color of an emerald for your jewelry, make sure you go for a crystal that is greenish in color, has a medium tone and vivid saturation. You can fall in love with the green color of emeralds with the right saturation and tone.    

Clarity 

Unlike diamonds where the value diminishes when there are inclusions, emeralds contain them and are visible to the eye without the aid of any equipment. In fact, 99% of the naturally occurring emeralds have inclusions. The GIA organizes emeralds as Type 3 which means that there are always inclusions. If you don’t see any inclusion, you need to check if the emerald is real or not. 

Inclusions are not necessarily bad for emeralds. Emeralds belong to the beryl mineral family and the inclusions are a result of liquids, gases and minerals like chromium and vanadium. As with diamonds, emeralds with better clarity are sold at a higher price in the market. When the inclusion affects the transparency and clarity of the stone, it can dramatically reduce its value.  

However, you need to be careful about the type of inclusions you see in an emerald crystal. Typical emerald inclusions resemble branches and roots. So if you see inclusions that look like bubbles and big blotches, the emerald is not for you.  

Cut

Just like with diamonds, the cutter of an emerald must consider the depth of color, durability and inclusions when making the decisions about cutting the stone. Mistakes in cutting can seriously affect the value of this precious gem and can result in considerable weight loss.

Ideally, an emerald should be cut in a symmetrical manner so that the appropriate amount of light can pass through the stone. If cut too deeply, the light will escape on the side and the emerald will look dark. Similarly, if the cut is too shallow, the emerald will not appear brilliance. Since color is a very important consideration when choosing an emerald, the cut must maximize the hue, tone and saturation of the stone.  

The best cut for an emerald is the “emerald cut”. It is a rectangular or square cut which maximizes the shape of the rough and allows maximum light to flow in giving the right brilliance and tone to the stone. Apart from the emerald cuts, there are round and oval cuts but they are expensive and result in a lot of wastage.

One important factor when cutting is an emerald is that all emeralds have natural occurring inclusions and fissures. A cutter must design the cut in a way that the finished stone has minimal impact on the clarity of the stone. 

Carat Weight  

The weight of emeralds is measured in Carats where each carat is equal to 0.02 grams. The emeralds with the Royal family and in the museums weigh hundreds of carats and are extremely valuable. In comparison, the popular size of emeralds used in jewelry is between 0.25 and 1.5 carats. 

An emerald with more carat weight will be more expensive compared to a smaller emerald keeping all other factors the same.

Choosing a rare gemstone can be tricky for an untrained person. With more information about the 4C’s of emeralds, you can surely make a more informed decision when choosing emeralds for your jewelry. 

Treated vs. Untreated Gemstones – Why Should You Opt for Natural Untreated Gems


Assorted Green GemsMore than 80% of the gemstones currently being traded in the market are either enhanced or treated in one form or another.  To understand the difference between untreated and treated gemstones, we will first need to understand the implications between the two.

Untreated gemstones are those that are not altered or enhanced in any way. They remain in the same form as when they were extracted from the earth. These gemstones remain in their original form and only get polished and cut to be used as jewelry accessories.  

Types of Treatment

Listed below are just some examples of the various treatments a gemstone is made to undergo.

Heating

The stone is exposed to high temperatures to enhance its clarity and alter the color. The most common gemstones that undergo this treatment are Zircon, Topaz, Sapphire, Ruby, Tanzanite, Aquamarine, and some others. Heating is a practice that is widely accepted in the gem market.

Oiling

Rubies and emerald are one of the most commonly oiled gemstones. Other gemstones that undergo oiling are Demantoid Garnet and Alexandrite. Oiling makes the surface more smooth and reduces any visible incisions.

Irradiation

Stones are exposed to varying degrees of controlled radiation to alter their color. Diamond, topaz, pearl, and quartz are common examples of gemstones that undergo radiation.

Dyeing

The fractures of a precious stone are exposed to colored dyes. To check whether a stone is dyed or not, you can perform a simple test at home using acetone. Pearl, Lapis Lazuli, Jade, and Quartz are some examples of commonly dyed gemstones.

Bleaching

A stone is bleached when it’s exposed to a certain chemical to change i.e. reduce or slightly alter the color of a precious gem. Tiger’s Eyes, Pearl, and Jade are some examples of stones that are bleached to reduce their color.

Large MineralWhy Gemstones are Treated

  • Treated gemstones are cheaper. This is one of the biggest advantages of a treated gemstone. Most people want to buy or wear an emerald but since an emerald costs $50K per carat (untreated), most people cannot afford it. The solution is a treated emerald that starts at $10 per carat and can go up to $10K per carat.
  • Treated gemstones are more available than natural gemstones. Untreated gemstones, especially of a larger size, are a very rare find. For example, an untreated diamond that is above 5 carats would cost millions of dollars and extremely hard to find as no one would be willing to sell that on the open market. Treated diamonds are available everywhere in most sizes.
  • Rapid changes in fashion and general trends. A new outfit calls for a new piece of jewelry to go with it.

Advantages of an Untreated Gemstone

  • Treated gemstones are less durable. The heat treatment, which is a widely accepted and practiced process, leaves the surface of the stone more brittle. After a certain amount of time, the straightened edges of the stone become chipped and fall in value.
  • Irradiated gemstones might be harmful to some. Irradiated stones are exposed to radioactive materials such as beryllium which is harmful to health.
  • Treated gemstones do not have a rigid price. New ways of treatment are being introduced to the market every day. As new methods come out, gemstones treated using old methods fall in value quite drastically. One of the best examples is the case of the Yellow Sapphire, whose price crashed in the 90s when newly treated gemstones were introduced which had superior qualities.
  • Treated gemstones are unnatural. Mother Nature has a fixed supply of gemstones in her crust. This limited supply is what contributes to the high prices that natural gems can fetch. The market is flooded with treated gems; hence, they are valued as such.

The Global Market

Now that most of the world has been mapped and explored precious minerals, gem dealers and gemologists alike have a grasp on what stones to classify as rare.

Although new mines are discovered, the overall supply remains unaffected. This was not always the case as diamonds were extremely rare a few centuries ago, and could only be afforded by royalty and the very wealthy individuals.

When the large deposits in Africa were discovered to be overflowing with diamonds, the major companies dealing in these stones knew it spelled doom. They realized that if these stones were sold in unrestrained quantities in the open market, the price would plunge. At the time, diamonds were still not common in the open market and a cartel was formed to restrict the flow of diamonds. The flow is still controlled by the same cartel to this day.

In contrast to diamonds, other precious stones in their natural state are extremely uncommon. The natural stones keep getting more expensive with the passage of time as more people realize their true worth.

Final Thoughts

Whether they shine, luster or sparkle, gemstones have been held in high regards ever since they were first discovered. When the first gemstones were discovered there were no treatments available and hence natural stones had no substitute.  

Natural stones have a value that goes far beyond what the eye can see. If, however, appearance is your only concern, then you might opt for a cheaper treated stone. Keep in mind that synthetic jewelry and treated stones will never have the same allure and uniqueness that is found in real gemstones.

Most Expensive Diamonds Ever Sold at an Auction

”A  Photo by Grafvisionyayimages.com

“A diamond is forever”— this is the marketing tagline introduced by the famous gem company De Beers some six decades ago to promote the sales of its diamonds. However, it’s safe to say that this is not just a regular promotional overstatement. The never-ending fad and infatuation associated with diamonds bear out the hyperbole of this statement.  

To shed some more light on the human’s fixation with this colorless brilliant gemstone, we are going to discuss the most expensive diamonds that have ever been sold in auctions around the world.

1) Magnificent Oval Diamond

This absolutely colorless diamond is more expensive than any variant of the same cut and carat with slight color undertones. Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies the color of diamonds on a scale which starts from the D and ends at Z. D grading signifies a pure colorless diamond.

The Magnificent Oval Diamond sold in an auction held in Hong Kong in October 2013 was a D-graded specimen with an enormous weight of over 118 carats. It is important to mention that the original uncut Magnificent Oval was around 300 carats and there are very few above-100-carat colorless diamonds in the market.  Magnificent Oval succeeded in fetching a great price because it was the first such stone from Asia. It was sold at $31 million.

2) Sweet Josephine

On November 11, 2015, in an auction center in Geneva, Switzerland, a father brought a fancy colored diamond for his daughter for just $28.69 million dollars. The father was Joseph Lau, one of the richest men of Hong Kong with the track record of buying expensive fancy diamonds for his children. Lau made the highest bid for this diamond so he could gift it to his seven-year-old daughter Josephine.

This diamond’s weight is slightly more than 16-carat. The diamond has a strong undertone of vivid pink, giving its luminosity a unique characteristic. After winning the bid, Lou named the diamond ‘Sweet Josephine’.  Needless to say, seven-year-old Josephine was probably more thrilled to have a Bobby Doll than and $28.69 million dollar diamond, but if she gives it to Bobby, that would be the most expensive doll in the world. Either way, it is a win-win for them!

Luxury Diamond Jewel Gemstone Round Brilliant Cut
Perfectly cut diamonds like this one are of great value

3) The Zoe Diamond

Bunny Mellon was a famous American horticulturist, gardener, philanthropist, and art collector. In the auction of some of her belongings after her death in 2014, a 9.75-carat diamond was sold at the double price of its initial estimates. The vivid blue diamond was purchased by a private collector for a whopping $32.6 million who named it ‘The Zoe Diamond’.

4) The Orange

In yet another auction held in Geneva, a diamond with heavy orange tones set the record for having the highest per carat price tag for any colored stone. This fancy vivid orange diamond weighed 14.2 carats and fetched the price of $32 million.

This colored diamond also succeeded in getting that huge bid due to its provenance. The stone originally belonged to the early 20th century Bolivians industrialist Simon Iturri Patino. He was one of the wealthiest men of the time and also known as ‘the Andean Rockefeller’.

5) The Princie Diamond

The Princie Diamond is one of the largest known intense pink diamonds in the entire world. It’s named ‘Princie’ because of its princely origin. This 34.65-carat heavy diamond originally belonged to Hyderabad, the princely state of pre-Partition India. It is believed that this precious gemstone was mined from an ancient mine in India.

The Princie Diamond was sold at $39.3 million in 2013 in New York, making it one of the most expensive pink diamonds. It is interesting to note that the Princie Diamond couldn’t fetch the estimated bid of $45 million.

6) Blue Moon of Josephine

This is another colored diamond that was auctioned on November 11, 2015, and also bought by Joseph Lau for his daughter. This stone was a magnificent piece of the fancy vivid blue exhibition with a weight of 12.03 carat. Lau made the bid of $48.6 million for the stone to outdo all the collectors in the auction.

Like Sweet Josephine, this diamond was also named by Lau after his daughter. As per some reports, Blue Moon of Josephine was actually a 29.62 carat uncut stone that was faceted in the long and exhaustive process spanning six months. Maybe Josephine should get a second Barbie doll?

7) Winston Pink Legacy

This pink beauty was sold at auction in Geneva in November last year. This 18.89 diamond with an intense pink color exhibition got the successful bid of $50 million. This diamond succeeded in getting that incredible bid because it had become an obsession of Nayla Hayek, the newly appointed CEO of Harry Winston.

Harry Winston Inc. is an elite jewel company based out of Switzerland that only deals in luxury gemstones and Hayek plans on acquiring all the famous and large gemstone from around the world.  Winston Legacy Diamond was originally owned by the family that was once at the helm of De Beers Group of Companies.

8) Oppenheimer Blue

This fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 14.62-carat was also once the property of Oppenheimer, the family that managed De Beers.  So, the diamond was aptly named after its owner Sir Philip Oppenheimer. Besides having an alluring origin, this diamond is also rare due to its unique emerald-like cut and chromatic exhibition. Oppenheimer Blue was sold at $56.8 million during an auction in Geneva in May 2016.

9) CTF Pink Star

This is the most expensive diamond ever sold in any auction in modern times. Weighing at tremendous 132.5-carat, this vivid pink blue diamond was the largest flawless color diamond specimen graded by GIA.  The stone was originally called Steinmetz Pink. Steinmetz was the firm that acquires the rough cut of this pink diamond from South Africa and faceted into its current shape.

In April 2017, the stone was bought by the famous Hong Kong conglomerate Choi Tai Fook that deals in real estate, hotels, and departmental stores as well as jewelry. After making a successful bid, the stone was named after the acronym of the company.

These whopping auction bids clearly indicate that the human fascination with diamonds hasn’t waned a bit and nor is it going to come down any time soon.

Importance of Gemstones

A Colorful GemstoneGemstones carry different meanings for different people. For folks from an older generation, gemstones hold sentimental value while for the average Joe, it’s more like a safety net during hard times. A gemstone is considered something that is durable, precious, and rare. It is a tiny piece of earth that excited the senses of men and women alike throughout history and continues to do so.

Not only do they enjoy an association with love and loyalty, but they also have complex, sometimes bloodied histories. Gems have acted as a savior during financially troubled times, standing as a guarantee in difficult situations. The movie buffs among us would even recall that gemstones have even been the MacGuffin in great classical movies, setting the plot in motion!

Minerals have great value by themselves and can increase the worth of any other item they are paired with, uplifting it into a class of luxury. It is of no surprise that items classified as super luxurious like watches, phones, and cuff links incorporate gemstones to attract the super wealthy. It is the gemstone as a centerpiece of these everyday items that make them a class apart.

Associating a strong brand with a particular item can undoubtedly elevate it to higher levels. However, adding a couple of Burmese rubies or top quality emeralds from Africa can take the value even higher.

The industrial applications of gemstones would fill several textbooks. Diamonds are commonly associated with the feeling of being in love but it is also the hardest natural substance found on earth. A diamond set in a ring will never be tarnished even after going through rough conditions. On the other hand, a gold item will deteriorate in a shorter span of time. The scratch-resistant property of diamonds makes them suitable as a cutting tool for all other substances. Garnet is another gem that is used to make sandpaper.

Another important factor of minerals lies in their classification as birthstones.

    • Those born in January have one of the most colorful birthstones that depict a vibrant personality i.e. garnet.
    • Those born in February are lucky enough to have amethyst as their birthstone which represents courage and a calm disposition.
    • Bloodstone is the official gem for March and symbolizes intense healing powers.
    • People born in April have the most sought-after gemstone – the diamond.
    • Faithfulness and loyalty are attached to the birthstone of May—emerald.
    • Being the birthstone for June, Pearl symbolizes love and happiness.
    • Known as the king of gems, ruby is the birthstone for the month of July.
    • The intense green peridot is the official birthstone for August.
    • One of the rarest gemstones in the world, sapphire is the official birthstone for September.
    • Opal is the official birthstone for the month of October. It takes its name from the Greek word for change as it changes color in different lights.
    • Topaz which is the official birthstone of November is used to promote a harmonious lifestyle.
    • Tanzanite is set as the official birthstone for the month of December.

Love and reverence for gemstones can be witnessed in any part of the globe. 12 gemstones adorn the breastplate of the High Priest of the Israelites. Jade enjoys great popularity in the East. There is a strong fascination with top-quality emeralds among people in the Middle East.

In ancient Vedic culture, wellness and peace of the mind were associated with the balance of energy within the body. This is attributed to how the planets are positioned at the time of the birth of an individual. Planetary gemology, in this regard, is a very strong branch of study that sheds further light on the importance of gemstones beyond the limits of earth’s stratosphere.

There are nine basic planetary gems that are used to harness the energy of the planets. They are:

    • Ruby for the sun
    • Natural pear for the moon
    • Yellow sapphire for Jupiter
    • Blue sapphire for Saturn
    • Emerald for Mercury
    • Diamonds for Venus
    • Red coral for Mars

When worn at the right time, in a balanced form, these gems are known to provide their wearers with energy that is taken from the planets. Different heavenly bodies in our solar system exhibit certain energies:

    • Sun. Self-confidence and a sense of power.
    • Moon. Calmness and peacefulness.
    • Jupiter. Innate wisdom and the ability to find the right path.
    • Mars. Courage, strength, and stamina
    • Mercury. Presence of mind, power of speech, and ability to persuade.
    • Venus. Beauty and luxury.
    • Saturn. Discipline and hard work.

The cultures that promote and delve into the planetary study of gemstones warn about the dangers of over peaking on energy gained from the planets via the special stones. These cultures constantly lay emphasis on the importance of balancing different energies for peak performance. After all, an excess of an ingredient leaves the dish overpowered.

Gemstones have been held in high regard since ancient times. Mankind’s fascination with gemstones is etched deep into the pages of history and it is unlikely that we will be getting rid of this love and affection anytime soon.