Everything You Need to Know About December Birthstones

Being that this is the month of December, we’d thought you’d like to know about your birthstone – that is, those of you who have been born during this month. You have something that others don’t—a luxury of choosing between three birthstones.  All these three stones are best known for their beautiful shades of blue. A fitting nutrient to keep you happier during these winter months.

Another thing that makes December folks lucky is that all three of these stones are moderately priced. That said; don’t ever mistake as less precious or valuable.

December birthstones have their own rich history and have the same appearance as some of the most priced gems. You can easily substitute a colorless zircon for a diamond and tanzanite for sapphire. The third birthstone of December, turquoise, cannot be used as an alternative to any other stone because it is very unique.

Let’s learn some more about the three December stones.

  • Zircon
”Fantastic
Photo by viledevil-yayimages.com

The honor of being the oldest mineral on earth goes to Zircon. It was discovered more than 4.4 billion years ago. It’s widely believed that the name of the stone was derived from an Arabic word, zarkun or zargun, with zar meaning gold and gun meaning like, literally translating to gold-like.

However, many people misjudge zircon as just an imitation gem, because of its wide popularity in the 1990s as a replacement for diamonds.

History

In truth, zircon has a rich traditional history and its own share of legends and folklore.  During the middle ages, zircon was believed to bring wisdom and induce sleep. It was also believed to ward off evil. Zircon has been rumored to have the power to relieve pain, protect travelers from injury, disease and misfortune, and increase appetite.  

It was especially famous in the Victorian era when gemstones were popularly featured in English estate jewelry.  One zircon enthusiast even tried to name this gemstone starlite, but the Arabic name had already become famous.

Appearance and Makeup

The chemical makeup of zircon is very unique and hardwearing, which is why zircon has survived for billions of years. Zircon contains traces of the radioactive element uranium. It is because of uranium that zircon changes its chemical structure and its color over a long period of time.

Zircon looks like a hard silver metal and it is extremely resistant to corrosion.

  • Turquoise

The turquoise mineral is best known and distinguished for its unique color that ranges from sea-blue to gray-green. It is because of its atypical appearance that it became known as an antique ornamental stone. Turquoise is also a very rare mineral and is only found in certain localities. That is the reason why it is so commonly imitated by using howlite and dying it blue.

History

Turquoise, which is also known as robin’s egg blue gemstone, used to be quite famous among the pharaohs and Aztec kings. Like zircon, turquoise is also one of the oldest known minerals.  

This unique colored mineral gemstone has been popular amongst the U.S Native Americans as well as among the Indian tribes in Mexico.

It was believed that the gemstone might have originally come from Turkey; hence, it was named after the country. It was later discovered that it most probably came from ancient Persia or Egypt.

Other sources believe that it might be named after the French description of the stone pierre turquin meaning dark blue stone.

For more than a century, the richest, most intense blue turquoise was found in Persia.

Appearance and Makeup

Turquoise is porous and naturally contains a waxy luster; it is often artificially impregnated with a plastic lubricant to enhance its luster.  

This blue-green mineral is composed of hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.

  • Tanzanite
blue-gemstone-and-diamond-pendant-necklace

History

Tanzanite is a transparent gem, and it ranges in color from blue to violet. It gained instant popularity after its discovery because of its vivid color and high clarity. It is now the second most popular gemstone, with the first one being sapphire.

Tanzanite is not as old as its counterparts. In fact, it was discovered in 1967 in northern Tanzania by a Masai tribesman. It is said that this precious stone was found on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Its place of origin also became its namesake.

The local miner who was informed of the discovery quickly registered mining claims in hopes that he had hit a sapphire deposit. That is how similar this mineral is to sapphire in appearance. Within a short period after the discovery, more mining claims were registered around the area. Looking at the stones, everyone knew just one thing, it was precious. Even Tiffany and Co. stepped in and became its official distributors.

This is how the world came to know of one the newest gemstones.

Chemical Makeup

Tanzanite is pleochroism in nature and appears in different colors under different lights and crystallographic directions. The stone is made of mineral zoisite. It has a perfect cleavage and could chip right away on a sharp impact.

As Birthstones

Today, people still believe that Zircon has healing effects. It is said to be good for traveling and helps prevent nightmares. Furthermore, it is also known for providing relief from pain and helping people with low appetite.

Turquoise is usually worn by people as part of their traditional attire. It is believed to have special healing properties and can bring good fortune and good wealth to its wearer. Like most stones do for their wearers, turquoise also wards off evil and brings luck.

Tanzanite is said to bring peace and calm over its wearer, must like its deep blue color that easily rivals blue sapphires. It triggers deeper thoughts and allows the wearer to become aware of some profound feelings.

The Baffling Strange Waves That Rippled Across the World


Something very odd happened a little before 9:30 on November 11, 2018. A seismic wave was picked up by instruments around the world. The ground zero point originated near the shores of the French island of Mayotte, off the coast of Southeast Africa.

This bizarre wave began rolling off of Mayotte and continued to travel for nearly 11,000 miles. It flew over vast oceans, hovered past Chile, New Zealand, and Canada and even made its way  to Hawaii.

Seismic waves are often detected by the instruments and these vibrations are not really strange.  They are often unexpected, but completely normal.

What really made this seismic wave bizarre is the fact that no one saw or felt it and only one person was able to observe the signal on the US Geological Survey’s real-time seismogram displays. And as the world was busy doing other things, this one earthquake buff was paying attention to the real-time readings and happened to take pictures of the zigzags. When the picture of the waves was posted on Twitter with the caption, “This is a most odd and unusual seismic signal. Recorded at Kilima Mbogo, Kenya …” it gained national and international attention. Subsequently, seismologists from all over the world began to analyze this strange phenomenon.

To make sense of what happened on this day, we first need to understand how seismograms function.

How Does a Seismogram Work?

Seismogram at Weston ObservatorySeismograms were drawn on a piece of paper through drum recorders 30 years ago. The roll of paper was wrapped around these drums and just when the drum revolved, the pen changed its position and left traces across the paper.

Seismograms were drawn on a piece of paper through drum recorders 30 years ago. The roll of paper was wrapped around these drums and just when the drum revolved, the pen changed its position and left traces across the paper.

Today, the display is digital and records about 100 samples per seconds.

As soon as an earthquake occurs, a seismograph will display its motions as well as its time. They typically last from seconds to minutes. The height of the seismogram shows the actual ground motion. As a result, the kind of waves that would develop will also show on the seismogram. It could be a P or S. P indicates fastest travelling waves, whereas S indicates shear waves.

That said, earthquake vibrations aren’t the only thing that are caught on the seismogram. If a seismogram is placed too close to the road, it will detect the vibrations caused by all the upcoming cars.  

The only way seismologists are able to tell which waves are an indication of an earthquake is through the fluctuating patterns. Ones that show an earthquake are usually spiky and sudden.  

Theories

  • Earthquake

Anthony Lomax, an independent seismologist, shared his theory, “the event is almost certainly volcanic-related, since Mayotte and the region around are volcanic. The seismic waves may be from earthquake-like, faulting rock movement responding to inflation/deflation or collapse of a volcanic edifice, or directly related to movement or vibration of magma.” 

Again, comes the question, why was it so weird then?  

The signals were noted to be very strange with their long and monochromatic lines, according to Lomax Goran Ekstorm, a seismologist at Columbia University, while explaining the situation to National Geographic said that it was pretty straightforward.  

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it [but] it doesn’t mean that, in the end, the cause of them is that exotic,” Ekstorm said.

According to him, these waves began as a result of an earthquake, yet it passed by stealthily without anyone noticing it because it was a very slow earthquake.  

This theory is also supported by the fact that the French island Mayotte is actually part of an archipelago called Comoro, and the islands belonging to this group are identified as volcanic.

Additionally, Mayotte itself is home to two volcanoes that have stayed dormant for more than 4000 years.

National Geographic did some more digging and stated that this island has already experienced hundreds of tremors since May last year.  

The tremor has certainly caught the attention of the experts and the authorities.  The French Geological Survey has become highly active in the area to monitor the zone for any new volcanic activity.

Based on their examination, The French Geological Survey put forward the theory that these waves might be an indication of a mass movement of magma underneath the earth’s crust, referred to as chamber collapse.

The collapse is mostly triggered when the magma chamber beneath the volcano empties because of a large volcanic eruption. This eruption could be a singular event, or it could be a series of eruptions.  

  • Nuclear Tests

There were many online theorists who did not share Ekstorm and Lomax’s views. Their theory is based on the probability that traditional earthquakes send a jolt of high frequency waves, and that is how it is seen on the seismogram. On the other hand, this reading from November 11 picked up low yet consistent waves that lasted for more than 20 minutes.

If the effects of these were really felt, it almost would have felt like as if the earth rang like a bell.

Not yet ready to cast this off as earthquake related waves, online theorists suggested that these waves might be a result of covert nuclear tests.

  • Other Theories

Since the pictures went public, netizens began to come up with their own theories.

Some suggested sea monsters, humongous ones. Others also suggested a meteorite that could have caused this rumbling tremor seen on the seismogram.

Helen Robinson, a PhD candidate in applied volcanology at the University of Glasgow, also agrees with the first theory, believing that it could be a result of the complex geology of Mayotte that caused these strange waves.

However, talking to National Geographic, she also said. “It is very difficult, really, to say what the cause is and whether anyone’s theories are correct—whether even what I’m saying has any relevance to the outcome of what’s going on.”

The Beginner’s Guide to Jade

Xian Jade Multicolor Reclining Buddha, China 

China is well known for using Jade’s ‘healing properties’. Believed to possess qualities that will prevent decay, Jade was often placed in the tombs of ancient Chinese emperors in an attempt to preserve their bodies after death.

While it is generally known for its characteristic soothing green color, the gemstone naturally occurs in a variety of colors and shades including yellow, lavender, white, red, green and even black! The gemstone comes from one of two minerals namely nephrite which is a silicate of magnesium and calcium, or jadeite, which is a silicate of aluminum and sodium.

An important part of Asian art, Jade has slowly and gradually made its way into a multitude of cultures, enjoying the status of royalty and revered to this day. Interested in learning more about this valuable gemstone? Read on to find out as we let you in on everything you need to know about Jade from its physical and chemical properties, to its origins and healing nature.

Physical Properties of Jade

While the fact that Jade comes from two different naturally occurring minerals is interesting enough for most people, its physical, chemical, and healing properties contribute immensely to its popularity. While Jade is naturally available in a number of different colors due to impurities, a soothing green remains the most popular and sought after variation of the gemstone.

Jade in Jewelry
Beautiful Jade in Jewelry

Origins of Jade

Since Jade comes from two major minerals, the gemstone can be extracted from a number of different areas or regions. While Nephrite, the mineral that gives us lighter green shades of Jade, is generally found in areas such as China, the Swiss Alps, Russia, and New Zealand, the Jadeite mineral which is responsible for the darker and more vibrant variations of Jade is found in Western Canada and other areas in North America.

While Jade and the minerals from which it can easily be extracted are generally found in the mountains, there are known reserves lighter variations of the gemstone in countries like Guatemala. Since it is typically found in mountainous regions, a process that is similar to rock quarrying is used for extracting and mining Jade and using it for a variety of purposes.

Chemical Properties of Jade

Since Jade mainly occurs naturally in two major forms, there are two chemical formulas that can be associated with the gemstone. While the Nephrite variation – a calcium and magnesium silicate – is Ca2(Mg,Fe)5Si8O22(OH)2, the Jadeite variation has the chemical formula NaAlSi2O6 which is a sodium and aluminum silicate.

The gemstone has a splintery fracture with no distinct cleavage quality. The gemstone, like most others, has a brittle tenacity, and has a refractive index that’s between 1.600 and 1.688. The specific gravity of the gemstone ranges between 2.90 and 3.38 depending on the variation and where it has been extracted from, making Jade a very diverse mineral in a number of ways.

Importance of Jade in Alternative Healing

Possessing a very light and nourishing energy, Jade has been an important part of alternative healing, and offers a number of different benefits. Owing to the purity of the gemstone which almost feels soothing, Jade can help create a positive vibe and energy by means of purification.

Symbolizing nourishment and gentleness, it is said that this gemstone does not only support heart energy, but also protects it, allowing people to feel a lot lighter, relaxed and elevated in its presence. Unlike the strong and overpowering rush of energy that emerges from a variety of other pyrite stones, the energy emanating from Jade primarily focuses on helping you feel more grounded, balanced, and harmonious. With a message that could best be described as one that promotes and encourages loving and accepting oneself, it is known for its slow and steady healing powers. Owing to its positive and relaxed energy and vibe, Jade has also become an important part of Feng Shui – a Chinese pseudoscience system that is used extensively to help people remain connected to their roots, and find balance in everything that they do.

Jade carvings and polished or treated ornaments made from the gemstone are used in Feng Shui in order to help you make better life choices. It is also believed that different Jade ornaments can help with a variety of areas in your life from love to wealth.

Procedures and Enhancements

In most cases, the Jade gemstone is either treated or enhanced with the help of industrial processes to make it more aligned with the needs and requirements of consumers. While merchants and entities refer to these enhancements in different ways, the procedures that are applied essentially affect the quality, texture, and color of the gemstone.

Here are the categories in which Jade is commercially available:

Type A Jade refers to jadeite that has not been treated in any way. In some cases, the surface of the gemstone may be waxed for enhanced luster or shine.

Type B Jade refers to jadeite that has been treated with chemicals or polymer resins.

Type C Jade refers to gemstones that have been colored or dyed artificially.

Type D Jade is the lowest quality of the gemstone and refers to a composite stone or doublet.

Whether you are a believer in the healing of gemstones or love to wear jewelry, Jade would make a nice addition to your lifestyle.


The Topaz Mineral

”Detail of topaz minerals"
Photo by carlosfredericopinheiro – yayimages.com

A gemstone that occurs in a wide variety of colors in both natural and treated form, topaz is a rare silicate mineral. Often confused with other gemstones, the very popular treated versions of topaz with a blue color are shrugged off as cheap apatite and aquamarine gemstones. The more neutral colored topaz are confused with citrine and smoky quartz but there are several specimens of the topaz mineral that rival the likes of sapphire and diamond. Here is what you need to know about the topaz gemstone.

What is Topaz?

Topaz has a chemical composition of Al2SiO4(F,OH)2. Occurring usually in igneous rocks like rhyolite and pegmatite, they form as they cool down over the years. They are also naturally occurring in water-worn pebbles from streams that flow down from these rocks.

A well-known gemstone, it comes in a large variety of colors. Some of the colors are naturally occurring, while others are achieved through treatments of the colorless or pale topaz specimens. Different processes like heat treatment, radiation, and metallic coatings are used to give topaz its different colors.

The most popular form of topaz is in the blue color. Blue topaz does not occur commonly in its natural form and most of the blue topaz in the market is actually treated to achieve that color. This attractive color that makes it popular all over the world.

The Physical Properties of Topaz

As with any other gemstone, its hardness is considered to be one of the foremost qualities for topaz. This particular gemstone is a very hard mineral found in nature. The hardness index on the Mohs Hardness Scale puts topaz crystal at an 8 from a scale of 10.

The most common and naturally occurring colors in topaz crystals are colorless to milky, yellow to brownish hues. It also exists in blue, red, purple, pink and red but they are very rare and not often found as gem quality in nature.

If the topaz crystal is able to grow unrestricted, it forms orthorhombic crystalline structures, which typically have striations running parallel to the long axis of the crystal.

It also happens to have a basal cleavage that is quite distinctive. The cleavage breaks along the long axis of the crystal. This distinctive cleavage is the reason why topaz is a very fragile crystal, despite ranking among the hardest gemstones out there. The Mohs Scale Hardness index is nothing more than an indicator of how scratch-resistant a particular crystal is. The actual resistance to breakage is known as tenacity for crystals and topaz crystal is not that tenacious.

Considering the fact that the mineral composes silicone, aluminum and gaseous elements, the specific gravity of topaz being 3.4 to 3.6 is considered unusually high.  

Use as a Gemstone

For the longest time in history, yellowish gemstones were called topaz in many parts across the world. The earliest of gemstone traders did not even realize that the yellow gemstones were actually all different materials.

It was only around two centuries ago that people began to realize these yellow gemstones might be an assortment of different minerals. Around that time that it was also discovered that topaz can exist in different colors. Before the 1970s, if you went into a jewelry store asking for topaz, jewelers would show you gemstones that were yellowish or brownish in color. But the 70s and the 80s saw blue topaz become increasingly popular. Blue topaz is an incredibly beautiful form of the crystal and is very popular because it’s aesthetically pleasing look has made it even more marketable.

Treated Blue Topaz

”Radiation on topaz causing this blue colorAmong the various treatments used for changing the color of the topaz gemstone, radiation is the most common because it gives the gemstone its iconic blue color. The type of radiation used to treat the crystal in order to achieve this color can also result in the topaz becoming radioactive. That is not at all a reason for worry though. The radioactive nature of blue topaz actually wears off quite fast. The radiation starts to wear off from the moment that the treatment is completed. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not allow topaz crystals to be handled in any way until all of the radiation wears off.

This is why companies using radiation treatment store them safely until their radioactivity decay comes down to a level that is safe for handling, manufacturing, and selling on the market.

Occurrence of Topaz

Fluorine in the Al2SiO4(F,OH)2 structure of topaz is the limiting factor in the formation of this mineral. This is also the reason why the topaz is so rare. A high enough concentration of fluorine gas to form topaz is not very common and happens in a few geological regions.

Topaz usually grows in the form of veins within igneous rocks, formed during the later stages of magma cooling down. There have been occurrences where topaz precipitating in the cavities of these rocks developed proper crystals. These crystals can have good clarity levels and can be used as gemstones.   

The rarest form of topaz is Imperial Topaz. It is a naturally red form of the topaz crystal, which is so rare that only 1% of all the topaz gemstones that exist have this color. Imperial Topaz has a unique reddish-orange tone. Occurring mostly in Brazil and in the Ural Mountains of Russia, it was first used in imperial jewels for Russian Royalty in the 18th century. That is why it receives its name as the Imperial Topaz.

Topaz is found in several places around the world including India, Russia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Australia. The leading producer of the topaz crystal is Brazil, which has a large number of gems. Sri Lanka is another important exporter of the topaz crystal.

The Process of Crafting Jewelry Explained

jewerly in gold and diamonds
Photo antpkr – yayimages.com

If you’ve ever visited a jewelry outlet, then the thought of how they create these embellishments and adornments may have crossed your mind at one point or another. The entire process can be quite fascinating when considering how a raw product from Earth’s top layers is transformed into a stunning masterpiece of shiny, sometimes colorful and many times expensive works of art.   

Our aim is to detail the various steps that are involved in the process of creating jewelry from these vast amounts of minerals, especially diamonds. First and foremost, we will inspect the most commonly used method, which is called the lost wax procedure. The reason it is called lost wax is that the object that will be created is sculpted out of wax to the exact specifications that the finished product will look like.  

Primary Steps 

Assorted Jewelry

The art of creating jewelry involves the amalgam of the most innovative techniques and sophisticated research. The procedure is defined as a composite process which includes a meticulous and lengthy step. Each and every phase from start to finish is detailed and the end result is a treasured piece of fine jewelry.

The components of most jewelry are stones, metals, and its accessories. Every article is set apart through an investment of time and craftsmanship. With the notable exception of personalized jewelry, which is generally handcrafted, the vast majority of jewelry manufacturing is executed using cast machines.  

The primary concern is to concoct a design that is unique in terms of aesthetics and appearance. Expert designers first make a sketch, which acts as a blueprint and marks the beginning of the process.

Each article created on paper is merely just a concept at the start. It is essentially a rough draft that is established through a collaboration between the designer and the craftsman. This concept is used by the model maker in order to create the piece that will eventually end up on a woman’s finger or used as a bracelet or maybe even on a mantlepiece.

This brings us to the actual process where the artisan assumes control and oversees every step until the article reaches fruition.

Wax Carving

It begins with a simple block of wax. The metamorphosis begins in earnest with craftsmen heating the wax model until it turns into liquid form. Once this is done, it is molded around the gemstone.

The artisan uses the tools at their disposal which include hand tools such as blades. The wax model may be shaved or carved to create the proper impression and the process continues until the craftsman is content with the form of the wax model.

The next step involves embedding the wax carving in a metal mold that is supposed to be filled with plaster. Once the plaster is added, the blend is left to harden. The mold that contains the hardened plaster is heated in an oven at a considerable temperature.   

This results in the termination of any wax traces. Depending on the artist, the plaster model may then be altered into gold or another mineral during the jewelry casting process.

Gold Casting

Victorian Hair Mourning Jewelry
Victorian Hair Mourning Jewelry
This part of the process is where the wax model is turned into gold. Since time immemorial, jewelry makers have exercised the option of pouring gold into molds shaped in stone and plaster. The process varies depending on the gold components involved in the process as well as the purity of the model.

Each model is made at different temperature cycles and processes that are unique to the metal component alloy as well. Also, the casted gold model is soldered and welded later and then set with a gemstone.  

Welding

The next stage in the crafting process is welding. In this phase, metal is fused to each other through exposure to an extreme temperature that is applied to the specific area in a bid to create a commodity that is both durable and wearable.

Welding is typically done by torch. Once the pieces are assembled together, the craftsman cleans any telltale indications of the welding by using hand-held tools and then bathing the article in acid in order to remove signs of any scale on the metal.

Furthermore, the next step involves soldering if it is required. Stone setting and jewelry polishing to gives the jewelry its glistening touch. An excellent video below describes the jewelry making process in more detail.


Soldering

The vast majority of pieces of jewelry that are crafted are soldered because of their complexity and unique designs. Soldering may be done using a small and thin torch. It enables the artisan to tenderly attach smaller segments of jewelry to create a beautiful work of art.

Moreover, when using a pair of tweezers, surgical precision and accuracy are required. Heating the item to the molten point without melting it or damaging the parts to which it is bonded.

Gemstone Setting   

Setting gemstones on the item represents one of the final stages of the jewelry making process. This is where makers ensure that the jewelry that stays firmly in its position. Stone setters are faced with the challenge of securing diamonds and gemstones in a manner that is least invasive. They have to use the least amount of materials in a bid to fasten the gem in its rightful place but offering maximum durability.

Polishing

The final step is polishing the item before it is complete. After this step, the item is given to the quality control experts. Polishing is done using rotary wheels and soft muslin tools that allow the craftsman to augment is luster.

Once the desired polish is accomplished, textures and other finishes may be applied to enhance the design aspect of the finished article and distinguish it from other pieces.

Carats: A Unit Used to Weigh and Value Gemstones

Luxury Diamond Jewel Gemstone Round Brilliant CutGemstones and other rare earth metals are primarily made of solid particles. For that matter, their amounts are scientifically measured through units of weight. These units, such as kilograms, grams, pounds and metric tons are extensively used and therefore, people have a fair idea about them.

However, when it comes to measuring the weight of a gemstone, all these prevailing units prove to be way bigger. For instance, barring exceptions, you can’t find gemstones in grams, let alone other larger units. Therefore, the gem industry has standardized a different weight unit to quantify gemstones to assess their value. This unit is called ‘carat’.

Since the carat is exclusively used in the gem industry, many people don’t know what this unit entails. In this article, we are going to discuss it in detail so that you are better aware when dealing with gems.

The Connection between Carat and Carob Seed

Like many existing systems with their roots in interesting historical anecdotes, the story of carat coming into existence is also an intriguing one. It is said that some gem traders somewhere in the 16th and 17th century decided to set the value of precious stones in proportion to their exact weight. During that time, businesses were run without any established unit system for any type of measurement.

Carob Seed
Carob Seeds. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceratonia_seeds.jpg

Traders who used to work in the African marketplace are aware of carob seeds. The interesting bit regarding these seeds is that all of them are identical in their shape, size, and mass. Carob seeds were once part of a staple diet of many African nations because of its rich sugar content.

The uniformity of carob seeds sparked the idea to use them as counterweights for precious and small items i.e. gemstones. There use in a balance scale as a counterweight became quickly popular because of the reliability provided by the consistent shape and weight of carob seeds. Soon after this experiment, it became a norm in the gem industry to weigh gemstones against carob seeds.

After the advent of sensitive weighing machines, it was found that a single carob seed approximately weighs 200 milligrams. Meanwhile, the pronunciation of ‘carob’ had also been distorted with its use as a weighing unit in different parts of the world. After some years of this standardization, people had started calling it ‘carat’. So, when it was formally reorganized as a weight unit at the beginning of the 20th century, it was given the name ‘carat’, the distorted term which had become more popular than the original term.

Carat or Karat

It is really important to discuss the confusion surrounding these two words with the same phonetics. The term ‘karat’ is mostly associated with gold, which is not a gemstone but revered and valued as one.

To put in simple words, karat is an arbitrary unit used to measure the purity of gold. Pure gold is considered 24-karats. Since pure gold is extremely soft and malleable, it is mixed with other minerals (copper, nickel etc) for stabilization. Coins, jewelry and other gold items that we usually see are not made of a pure specimen. Let’s try to understand karat and its distinction from carat through numbers.  

An 18-karat gold item is made of a 75% pure mineral. This means 18 parts of gold is mixed with six parts of other minerals to stabilize the contrived object. In a similar manner, every object made of gold is divided into 24 parts to measure its purity. A 12-karat gold specimen would include 12 parts of pure gold and 12 parts of stabilizing minerals.    

Therefore, karat and carat are not one and the same. Karat is not a weighing unit and neither is it used for any material except gold. But carat is a standardized metric unit of mass and the entire worldwide gem trade uses it to weigh and value precious stones.   

Subdivisions of Carat

Not all gemstone are equal in their exhibition and value. A carat of opal can’t be equal to the same weight of an emerald or ruby. And then there is a gem of all gems i.e. diamond.  People who have brought this king gemstone in the form of jewelry would be well aware of the value of a carat of diamond.

In most of the diamond rings, the stones used are way less than one-carat. For that matter, jewelers have subdivided one carat into 100 pointers. A single pointer is equal to two milligrams. If a diamond cut weighs 0.25 carat, it can be referred to as a ‘twenty-five pointer’ stone.

Diamonds and Carats

Diamond cut history diagram
Diagram of different diamond cuts
As mentioned earlier, carat measurements are very essential when it comes to measuring diamond cuts. The price of a diamond is actually derived by the shape of the cut, color of the specimen, clarity of the stone and its weight in carats.

The Craze of Magic Sizes

In terms of their carat weight, diamonds also come in some ‘magical sizes’. Diamond cuts with the definite carat measurements are usually referred by this term. For instance, one-carat, half-carat, and even three-quarter carat diamonds are called magic sizes and have a price higher than the regular specimens with arbitrary carat or pointer measurements. Diamonds can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions. Their price all depends upon their cuts, color, clarity and their weight in carats. 

The craze among gem lovers with respect to magic sizes can be understood by the fact that a one-carat diamond specimen can be 20 percent more expensive than a 0.99-carat cut. It is important to mention here that both these specimens look exactly the same in ornamental objects and even an expert can’t tell them apart without measuring their weight.

Researchers Stunned by the Deepest Manhole Ever Created

”Cross section diagram of the earth's crust
Photo by antkevyv – yayimages.com

s a human species, we like to say we that we are able to explain just about everything that happens or has happened on our planet, whether it be from pride or just plain arrogance, but whatever the reason, something new come to bust our bubble.

Besides trying to find out everything about what’s on the surface of our planet, we’ve also tried to find out more about what’s below the surface. Russia and the United States both took on projects which saw them digging deep into the surface in order to unearth what lies below. What was found was more than what we expected. Here’s a little bit on what we’ve been able to find under the surface.

Inner Core

A few decades ago, we started becoming more and more adventurous in our endeavors to find out what lies under our feet. 1936 saw Inge Lehmann – a renowned seismologist of the time – discovered a distinctive inner core of the planet, which was different from the outer core. This distinction between the  solid inner core and the molten outer core was discovered by her when she was studying the seismograms during earthquakes, which took place in New Zealand. Her findings were the first major step in discovering what goes on deep within our planet.

Outer Core

Compressional waves were passed through the Earth to further understand the molten outer core. The manner in which the waves were deflected showed that there was clearly a molten outer core in the planet. Discovering the solid inner core was not as easy as it was to find out about the outer core. It wasn’t until 2005 that the compressional waves properly passed through the outer core to the inner core that we found out there is a solid inner core beyond the molten outer core.

Competing Superpowers

For the longest time, there were two superpowers in the world – The United States and the Soviet Union. Both of them were vying for dominance in every respect there was and this competition with each other became an immense motivation factor to learn more about the happenings below the surface.

Diagram of Earth's Inner Layers
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth%27s_Inner_Layers_denoting_the_LAB.png

Researchers from all over the world wanted to be the first to discover and share findings of our planet. Both sides were watching each other make more attempts to learn about the Earth’s composition and tried out-doing one another.

The Race For Space

While both of the superpowers were competing to find out what was below the surface, the main point of conflict was being able to go beyond the planet’s atmosphere and into space. This “Space Race” was not just specific to reaching beyond the atmosphere of the planet. It was a race to discover more than the other in multiple avenues.

The Soviets were the first to launch a satellite into space but the US took the cake by landing the first man on the moon in ’69. Fast forward a few years and the US and USSR worked together to orbit the Earth in ’75 with a combined crew of American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. The dissolution of the USSR saw greater cooperation levels between Russia and the US.

Super Drills

While both parties still wanted to become the first to know more about the planet’s composition, neither was in a hurry to just drill a hole and send scientists into it. There was a lot of caution being taken as the scientific communities of both countries were funded to find out more.

With a lot of work still left, the prospect of giant drills was finally being considered as a realistic option to find out more about the inner core of the planet. There was already a consensus that the planet would be much warmer on the inside so they designed these super drills that were capable of digging through without burning up or melting. This took an extensive amount of time to put together.

The Mohole

Refraction of P-waveThe assignment that the US took on for discovering more information was known as “Project Mohole”.  In 1909, a scientist named Mohorovicic discovered the boundary which separates the crust from the mantle (the layer just below the crust and before the inner core) and this boundary was called the Mohorovicic Discontinuity or Moho for short.

Both the US and the Russians wanted to reach the Mohole through their digging expeditions, which was 10 kilometers below the ocean floor and around 90 kilometers below the continental crust. It was clear to both of them that reaching the Moho would be the ideal manner to assert dominance over the other.

More Than What Was Expected

With plenty of digging and drilling being done to reach the Mohole, both parties managed to discover a lot more on their way, from the fossils deep below the surface of the earth to the organisms living in the previously unknown depths of the ocean.

At 49,000 feet, the Russians discovered the Mohorovicic discontinuity. At this point, things started to get a little too hot in a literal manner. The expected temperatures were far below what they actually turned out to be. The unprecedented temperatures of above 350 degrees Fahrenheit were seen and this borehole eventually became known as the Hole to Hell.

The Hole to Hell

The Kola Borehole stumped the scientific community at large because of how big an obstacle it became but it was not an endeavor without success. It led to massive geological studies and even more amazing discoveries such as the findings of 24 living organisms so deep below the surface.

The ‘Hell hole’ was labeled that because there were rumors of screams coming from the borehole and the people working on the project felt that they’d reach the depths of hell before they finished the project.

Amazing Event

While the prospect of actually discovering a Hole to Hell was dismissed, there have been more projects that focus on interesting findings based on these previous endeavors. The Borehole at Kola and the Mohole Project were put aside but led the way to the sharing of information by both scientific communities.

The more we know, the more we realize how clueless we are about our planet and as long as we keep asking the right questions, our curiosity will help us to learn more about the planet that we live on.  

Spinel: A Gemstone Long Known as Ruby and Sapphire

Spinal Minerals in a black backgroundYou would certainly not like it if your identity is taken by someone else even by mistake. Spinel would feel the same way if it was a living being. Spinel is a gemstone that has been around for centuries and also has a great demand as a precious stone but under other identities. Gemologists have noted that spinel has been used in many historic and prized ornamental items but wrongly attributed as a ruby or sapphire.

Color: The Primary Reason behind Incorrect Identification for Spinel

Hundreds of years ago, when people were not able to identify gems on the basis of their physical and chemical properties, color was the only feature that would help people in differentiating various gemstones. Among gem traders, all sparkling red stones were rubies and all deep and pure blue gemstones were sapphires.

It is important to mention that spinel is a gemstone that exists in both colors. For that matter, red and blue specimens of spinel were treated and used as rubies and sapphires, respectively. Both of these infamous gemstones actually belong to corundum family, an aluminum oxide mineral found in nearly every type of rock formation.

Geological Sites of Spinel Deposits

Like corundum, spinel is an oxide mineral, formed through the same process. However, this gemstone is found in slightly different geological sites as compared to corundum. Geologists have identified three common sites from where spinel is usually excavated or obtained.

  • Spinels are found in alluvial deposits, which look like pebbles. They actually end up down the stream from the water coming out of spring sources and other water reservoirs. These spinels actually break away from rock formations because of the pressure of water torrent exerted on the large stones. Many of the spinel specimens used as a ruby were actually found in alluvial deposits.
  • Some of the spinel deposits are also found in igneous rocks in the form of randomly-shaped grains.
  • Spinels are also formed as crystals in dolomite and limestone deposits after they have undergone contact metamorphism.

Difference between Spinel and Corundum

With technological progressions leading to better tools and techniques in the field of geology and gemology, it has now been firmly verified that spinel is fairly different from ruby and sapphire. Let’s have a look at the characteristics through which one can tell spinel apart from corundum minerals.

Chemical Composition

Assortment of Crystals_of_spinel_and_chondrodite
Crystals of spinel and chondrodite
Spinel and corundum both are aluminum oxides. However, the former also contains magnesium. The presence of an entire metal element in every molecule of the mineral changes many of its properties.

Crystal Lattice

The microscopic crystal lattice of both minerals is different. The addition of magnesium converts spinel’s crystal plane into an isometric form. On the other hand, sapphire and ruby remain hexagonal at their molecular crystallization.

Geometrical Shape

Gemologists have also found out that spinel and corundum gemstones are dissimilar to each other by their geometrical shapes. When faceted and treated, corundum specimens usually come out in the shape of a prism or hexagon, whereas spinel specimens transform into dodecahedrons or octahedrons.

Hardness

Sapphire and ruby are slightly harder than spinel. The Mohs hardness of spinel usually lingers between 7.5 and 8 while corundums are 9 on the scale.

Historically Famous Spinels with Mistaken Identity

As mentioned earlier, spinels have been treated as other precious gemstones throughout history. Here, we are going to discuss a couple of famous ones.

The Timur Ruby

Timur Ruby is one of the most famous spinels with a mistaken identity. It was found from Afghanistan during British rule in India during the 17th century. It is believed that it originally belonged to the collection of Timur the lame, the famous Turco-Mongol emperor of the 12th century. In 1849, the stone was presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company with many other precious stones. It was later appended in the necklace of the Queen. Right now, this spinel known as ruby is a part of British Royal Collection.

The Black Prince’s Ruby

This is another famous spinel being mistaken as ruby. As historians cite, the first known owner of this 170-carat sparkling red spinel was the Moorish Prince of Granada during the 14th century. From then on, the stone saw many owners and eventually ended up as the crown jewel of the United Kingdom. Currently, it is affixed on Imperial State Crown of the Kingdom sharing the space with infamous Cullinan II, a diamond weighing more than 3,000 carats.

Spinel as Gemstone

Now when identifying gemstones has become rather easy, spinels of different colors are popular among gem lovers. Yes, spinels also have colors other than red and blue. Pink, purple, orange and colorless spinel variants also exist. Nevertheless, red and blue spinels are still more popular because of their resemblance with ruby and sapphire.

Red and Blue Spinels are Rare

Red and blue spinels are rare, so much so that they are even less abundant than the real rubies and sapphires. But this rarity doesn’t translate into a hefty price tag. This shows that the rarity of gemstone doesn’t always dictate its price. Apart from blue and red variants, spinels with red and orange shades also get some traction in the gem industry. In general, gem-grade spinels are not extensively prospected and mined. For that matter, jewelry trade doesn’t promote the stone like other popular gemstones.

Birthstone for the Month of August

In order to spread the awareness regarding the frequently overlooked stone of spinel, the groups Jewelers in America and the American Gem Trade Association declared spinel as the gemstone for the month of August two years ago. Now peridot and spinel share the status of August Birthstone. Inclusion in the list of birthstones will definitely provide spinel with the much needed continuous promotion.  

Before we wind up the article, it is worth mentioning that spinel is also produced synthetically. It has a similar chemical composition as the real specimen but not produced for the gem and jewelry industry. It is majorly produced to be used as refractory on metallic tools.   

The Intriguing Contrasts Between Diamonds and Coal

Lump of CoalsHumans have been intrigued by diamonds since time ancient times. These stones have always been in demand and will continue to be until the culmination of life on the planet. Interestingly, we have made the enigma of the diamond more interesting and inviting by adding coal to the equation, all thanks to scientific evolution and many misconceptions.

We all have heard diamonds and coal in the same sentence because of the falsified association that has been developed in the last few decades. In this article, we are going to discuss the interesting dichotomy of diamonds and coal—why they are linked to each other—how they are different and are diamonds really made out of coal?

Carbon: The Common Substrate of Both Geological Elements

During the 20th century when studies and research on the microscopic structural arrangement of the elements and materials were initiated, the world came to know about this interesting trivia that both coal and diamonds are made of carbon. This is the primary reason behind its widespread misconception that diamonds are actually the refined, enhanced and extravagant form of coal.

Popular Culture Strengthens this Misconception Further

The fact that carbon is the common substrate of both these elements also made its way into popular culture and inspirational quotes. “A diamond is just a lump of coal that did well under pressure”, “Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond” and other similar paraphrased quotes have become popular among the masses. These adages might inspire some people to handle their stress in a better manner and to wait for the right time. But there is no truth in the assertion that with more time and under extreme pressure, coal is converted into diamonds, not at least according to what geologists and scientific studies tell us.

Similarly, the most iconic superhero of our time has also helped in peddling this misconception. Superman, the Kryptonian visitor on Earth, has been shown in many comic strips and cartoon films to convert a lump of coal into diamonds by just crushing them in between his palms.

Of course, this continuous yet unintended spread of false information has also led many into believing that coals and diamonds are distant brothers from the same father. Or coal is just a premature form of the diamond.

Why do People Love to Discuss Coal and Diamonds Together?

Innate human tendencies are also responsible for this unsubstantiated association. There is a huge disparity between the worth, uses and general social discernment regarding coal and diamonds. Coal is an industrial mineral majorly used to produce energy with no aesthetic value whatsoever. In contrast, the diamond is an elite gemstone and we think it has now become redundant to go into the details of the diamond’s aesthetical features.  

Regarding the worth of both these geological specimens, let’s illustrate an interesting scenario: Without any permission and authorization, you can easily pick a carat or even more of a coal sample without anyone even batting an eye. On the other hand, one may have to plan an entire heist to get the same amount of diamonds in a similar manner. So, amid all these stark different realities of the two specimens, the thought that diamonds and coal are actually the same feeds the human fascination.

How Diamonds and Coals are not Related?

Diamond MineralNow, let’s have a look at the scientific and geological reasons how these minerals are not related to each other.

 

 

The Site of Formation

Diamonds and coal are formed at pretty different locations beneath the ground. The diamonds are formed from carbon and its derivatives, some 200 miles and more beneath the surface. On the other hand, coal formation usually takes place way closer to the surface of the earth. Even a distant coal mining site is only deep as Two miles into the ground.

Secondly, their excavations also suggest that they are different geological specimens. The majority of coal mining is done at the same location where this sediment rock is naturally formed. However, that’s not the case with diamond mining.  Miners don’t dig 200 mile long trenches (it’s not even possible) to excavate diamond deposits. The mined diamonds are actually the ones that come close to the surface of the earth from their original site of the formation during volcanic eruptions.  

The Form of Carbon

Diamonds and coal are derived from carbon. But that doesn’t mean the similar carbon composition is used in the formation of both. Diamonds are made from the purest carbon deposits. This is one of the reasons behind the exceptional clarity of the diamond specimen. Meanwhile, carbon used in the formation of coal is decked with impurities such as nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and selenium. These impurities are also the reason why coal-burning leads to greenhouse emissions.

The carbon used in the formation of the diamond sometimes contains minor traces of these impurities, but that doesn’t change the basic structure and appearance of the gem. In fact, different natural shades and color tinges in some diamond specimens are present because of them.

In addition, the sources of carbons are also pretty dissimilar for both specimens. Diamonds are made from carbon deposits that are inherently present in the earth’s crust. In contrast, the majority of coal deposits are actually formed from the carbon present in decomposed ancient plants.   

Temperature and Pressure Treatment

The components of the process of their formation also differentiate these two geological specimens. Carbon gets into a particular form to become a diamond under extreme temperature and pressure conditions that are only found within the mantle of the planet. Similarly, the heat and pressure treatment is followed by a long cooling process that develops the characteristic hardness of the diamond. The formation of coal also involves temperature and pressure changes. However, they are nowhere near the process of a diamond is formed.

All the above discussion has made it quite clear that diamonds and coals are not related to each other. Apart from the difference of color and hardness, there are many other divergences between these two carbon specimens that we have thoroughly covered in this article.

Meteorites: The Celestial Objects Existing on Earth

The human fascination for what lies beyond earth has always been intriguing, even in the primitive times. By the virtue of this unrelenting fascination and general curiosity, we have succeeded in traversing the space that exists further than our planet.

Our excursions to space only started during the later years of the 20th century. On the other hand, Earth has been welcoming foreign bodies from in the form of meteorites thousands of years before our missions to space in the 20th century.

Meteorites are the infinitesimal debris originating from a variety of celestial bodies within our solar system. They are mostly the fragments of comets, meteoroids, and asteroids, which withstand the atmospheric entry to our planet and fall on Earth. In this article, we will discuss some basic aspects of these minor spatial bodies that end up on our planet and deemed valuable specimens by many stone collectors, hobbyists, and professionals, such as geologists, astro scientists and natural history museums curators.

Meteor, Meteoroid or Meteorite?

There is a general confusion regarding the terms meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites. Many people wrongly interchange these terms. So, before we move to discuss meteorites in detail, it will be fitting to lay this confusion to rest once and for all.

  • Meteor: The term is actually used to describe the streak of light blazing through the atmosphere due to burning celestial debris.
  • Meteoroid: It is that interplanetary object that burns up in outer space to produce a ‘meteor’.
  • Meteorites: They are those few meteoroids and their remnants that don’t get vaporized upon entering the atmosphere of earth.

Micrometeorites

Whenever we talk or think about spatial and interplanetary things, it is usually underlined with the assumptions of colossal masses and gargantuan planetary balls. But it is interesting to note that most of the interplanetary stuff that ends up on earth is really small in size, even by the non-astronomical size and dimension standards.

For instance, most of the celestial mass that ends up on earth has a size smaller than 100 micrometers per specimen and hence called micrometeorites. All these micrometeorites don’t survive the atmospheric entry and transform into dust. But this dust from far off planets and stars collectively add somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 tons to the mass of earth every year.

Classification of meteorites

Classification of meteorites is usually carried out on two criteria i.e. how they are found on the ground and which elements they are made of. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

Finds and Falls

Meteorites that are discovered way too long after their fall on earth are called Finds. On the other hand, meteorites falling that is witnessed by observers and later collected through planned quests by collectors are called Falls. The latter type of meteorites is more sought-after among the collectors. However, some exceptional Finds specimens also get good money to its discoverers.

Iron meteorites

These meteorites have the prefix of iron because they are primarily (90-95%) made of the metal. According to astronomical studies, iron meteorites are believed to be part of the inner mantle of planets that perished hundreds and thousands of years ago. It is also said that iron meteorites found on earth are mostly the fractions of asteroids present in the belt of interplanetary objects between Jupiter and Mars.http://streaming.yayimages.com/images/photographer/brandonhot/343eec9eb3ce52ab66bbadf4b2c2b649/iron-meteorite.jpg

Unlike normal geological stones, iron meteorites are way heavier. This exceeding weight is due to the densely packed iron molecules. If you have ever lifted a cannonball with your bare hands then you can get an idea of how heavy an iron meteorite is. Besides iron, traces of nickel and other metals are also present in this type of meteorite.

Kamacite: An Alloy Found in Iron Meteorites

Some iron meteorites also contain a naturally developed alloy of iron and nickel called Kamacite. The formation of this alloy introduces crystallization changes in the meteorite that can be seen through aesthetical patterns and color combinations when the specimens are cut, polished and treated by a mild nitric acid solution.

Stone Meteorites

These are the most abundant meteorites found on the earth surface. Stone meteorites are made of the external crust of interplanetary bodies and hence look pretty similar to any earthly rock specimen. People with no meteorite hunting expertise can’t tell them apart.

However, stone meteorites that have recently fallen on earth get a peculiar black crust because of their smoldering upon entering the earth’s orbit. Stones meteorites have lesser demand in the collector’s industry in comparison to iron meteorites. However, there are some special specimen stone meteorites that are sought-after because of their visual appeal and history.

Chondrule-laden Stone Meteorites

There are some stone meteorites that contain unusual, grainy and vibrant inclusions called ‘chondrules’. This ‘impurity’ makes meteorite specimens more attractive. Apart from that, collectors are also intrigued by these specimens because of the history of chondrules.

It is believed that chondrules were once part of the solar nebula. This means these tiny grains are the most ancient item present on the earth surface even predating the formation of our planet and the life that has ever existed here.

Miscellaneous Types of Meteorites

Besides these two mostly occurring meteorites, some other rare specimens are found.

Stone-Iron Meteorites

They make up two percent of all the meteorites found on earth surface. Because of this extraordinary arrangement of two different materials, these meteorites are popular among collectors, which also make them relatively expensive. They are often framed or showcased after receiving some treatment (polishing and acid treatment).

Lunar and Martian Meteorites

Some really rare meteorites have also been discovered that originated with the impact of other celestial bodies on the surface of the Moon and Mars. Lunar and Martian meteorites are extremely rare and therefore can be sold with a hefty price tag. They are often priced as per their weight like any precious gemstone or rare earth metal.

You can learn more about observing and finding meteorites on the Astronomical League website.

Howard Fensterman Minerals