September Birthstone: the Sapphire

       A maiden born when autumn leaves
       Are rustling in September‘s breeze,
       A Sapphire on her brow should bind;
       To bring her joy and peace of mind.
               - Gregorian Birthstone Poem
                    ***
Cut Sapphires

The History of the Sapphire

The sapphire, has been popular since the Middle Ages. Traditionally, the sapphire symbolises nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness. It has decorated the robes of royalty and clergy members for centuries.

The Wilton Diptych, ca 1395-99

In the middle ages, people believed wearing a sapphire suppressed negative thoughts. It also has been long believed to have a curing power for natural ailments. In ancient Persia it was used as an all-purpose medicine, ground up into a powder. Ivan the Terrible of Russia stated that the sapphire strengthened the heart and muscles and endowed a person with courage.

Ivan the Terrible
Sapphire Powder

Where are sapphires found?

Sapphires are found in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Australia, Brazil, Africa and North America (mainly Montana). Their origin can affect their value as much as colour, cut, clarity and carat size.

Australia was a significant source of sapphires until deposits were discovered in Madagascar during the 1990s. Madagascar now leads the world in sapphire production.

Saphire Mine in Madagscar
Rough Sapphires

Sapphire Properties

Although sapphires typically refer to the rich blue gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, this royal gem actually occurs in a rainbow of hues. Sapphires come in every colour except red, which earn the classification of rubies instead. Sapphires get their colours from trace elements in the mineral corundum. It is turned to blue sapphire when it contains iron and titanium, and trace elements of chromium can turn corundum pink, while more chromium turns it into a ruby.

Sapphire Colour Ranges

Due to the remarkable hardness of sapphires—which measure 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamond - they aren’t just valuable in jewellery, but also in various industrial applications.

Things you might not have known

  • The name “sapphire” comes from the Latin sapphirus and Greek sappheiros meaning “blue stone,” though those words may have originally referred to lapis lazuli.

  • In 1902, French chemist Auguste Verneuil developed a process to make synthetic sapphire. The abundance of synthetic sapphire unlocked industrial applications spanning integrated circuits, satellite communication systems, high-durability windows and scientific instruments.

Auguste Verneuil
Verneuil's Synthetic Sapphire Invention

  • This gem became a symbol of royal love in 1981 when Britain’s Prince Charles gave Lady Diana a 12-carat blue sapphire engagement ring. Prince William later gave this ring to Catherine Middleton when he proposed in 2010.
Lady Diana's Sapphire Engagement Ring
  • Star sapphire is rare variety of sapphire that exhibits a asterism under specific lighting. When viewing star sapphire, a six-rayed star will appear to float across the surface of the stone. The effect is best viewed under a direct light source and while tilting and rotating the stone from different angles. Star sapphires contain unusual tiny needle-like inclusions of rutile.

  • Famous star sapphires like the 1404.49-carat Star of Adam, the 563.4-carat Star of India and the 182-carat Star of Bombay came from Sri Lankan mines.

Star of Adam Sapphire
  • The rarest type of sapphire is a pinkish orange variety called Padparadscha, a name that comes from the Sanskrit word for lotus flower.
Padparadscha Sapphire

Below are some of the beautiful sapphire pieces by Studio Loubser and Tinsel Gallery. Contact Studio Loubser for a quote, or visit our website for more information on having a custom piece made.











August Birthstone: Peridot, Sardonyx & Spinel

               "Wear a Peridot or for thee,
                No conjugal fidelity,
                The August born without this stone,
               `Tis said, must live unloved; alone."
                    – Gregorian birthstone poem
                          ***

The original birthstone for August was sardonyx, and then peridot was added – becoming August’s primary gem. Recently the American Gem Society added spinel. This means August is one of only three months represented by three gems (along with June and December).

Peridot
Sardonyx
Spinel

The History of the Peridot
Peridot jewellery dates back as far as the second millennium BC. These ancient Egyptian gems came from deposits on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, called Topazios (today known as St. John’s Island or Zabargad). The stones were only mined at night because it was believed they were not easily seen in daylight – although it was more likely a result of the island being infested with snakes.

Map of Zabargad

Some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famed emerald collection may have actually been peridot. Through medieval times, people continued to confuse these two green gems.

Where is Peridot found?
Peridot is the rare gem-quality variety of the common mineral olivine, which forms deep inside the earth’s mantle and is brought to the surface by volcanoes. In Hawaii, peridot symbolizes the tears of Pele, the volcano goddess of fire who controls the flow of lava. Rarely, peridot is also found inside meteorites.

Peridot Mine in Arizona
Rough Peridot

*
Most of the world’s peridot supply today comes from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Other sources are China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Hawaii, South Africa, Egypt and Tanzania, etc.

Peridot Properties
Peridot’s signature green colour comes from the composition of the mineral itself, rather than from trace impurities, as is the case with many gems. That’s why this is one of few stones that only comes in one colour, though shades may vary from yellowish-green to olive to brownish-green, depending how much iron is present.

Cushion cut Peridot
Step cut Peridot

Peridot is difficult to polish and easy to scratch. It is often step-cut or cut in a variety of ways to improve its colour and reduce the risk of the stone cracking. Peridot measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, so while the raw crystal is prone to cracking during cutting, the finished gemstones are fairly robust and easy to wear.

Things you might not have known

  • Though peridot is widely recognized by its brilliant lime green glow, the origin of this gem’s name is unclear. Most scholars agree that the word “peridot” is derived from the Arabic faridat which means “gem,” but some believe it’s rooted in the Greek word peridona, meaning “giving plenty.” Perhaps that’s why peridot is associated with prosperity and good fortune.

  • One of the most famous peridots is a 46.16 carat stone that was extracted in Pakistan and can be seen today in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

46.16 Carat Peridot fro Pakistan
  • The most famous peridot jewellery collection comes in the form of a tiara, necklace and earrings owned by the Austrian Grand Duchess Isabella.
Duchess Isabella's Peridot Tiara, Necklace and Earrings
                                  ***

Now for a look at the other August birthstones, Sardonyx and Spinel.

Interesting facts about Sardonyx

  • Sardonyx combines alternating layers of sard and onyx—two types of the layered mineral chalcedony — to create a reddish zebra-striped stone with white bands.

Rough Sardonyx

  • Sard ranges in colour from yellowish red to reddish brown, depending on how much iron oxide is present. Sard is easily confused with carnelian, another type of chalcedony that is slightly softer and lighter in colour.

  • Sardonyx has been popular for centuries, dating back to the Second Dynasty of Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans went to battle wearing sardonyx talismans engraved with images of heroes and gods like Hercules and Mars. They believed the stone could harness the bravery of those figures, granting them courage, victory and protection on the battlefield.

Engraved Talisman

  • The finest examples of sardonyx, which display sharp contrasts between layers, are found in India. Other sources include Brazil, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Uruguay and the United States.

  • Measuring 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, sardonyx is widely available and relatively inexpensive as gems, beads, and jewellery. It is often carved into cameos, intaglios and brooches to show the colour contrast between layers.

Cameo Brooch

Interesting facts about Spinel

  • Spinel is often assumed to be other gemstones because it tends to resemble either a ruby or sapphire. In fact, some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel.

  • Significant deposits of spinel have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It has also been found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tajikistan, Tanzania and the U.S.

Rough Spinel

  • Vivid red is the most desirable colour of spinel gemstones, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink and bright orange. The more affordable stones are often those with paler colours, like lavender. You may also find spinel in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. So many choices!

  • Mines of central and Southeast Asia yielded large spinel crystals known as Balas rubies, which became valuable property of emperors and kings, and often passed along as the spoils of war.

Balas Ruby Spinel

Here are some beautiful pieces of Peridot, Sardonyx and Spinel Jewellery – some of which are available at Tinsel gallery. For a custom made piece, contact Studio Loubser or visit the website for more information.








Sardonyx Cameo Ring

Black Spinel and Topaz Ring




July Birthstone: the Ruby

                "The gleaming Ruby should adorn,
                 All those who in July are born,
                 For thus they'll be exempt and free,
                 From lover's doubts and anxiety."
                          – Gregorian birthstone poem
                            ***

The History of the Ruby
Symbolic of passion, protection and prosperity, the ruby has been revered since ancient times. Rubies have been particularly prized in Asian countries. Records suggest that rubies were traded along China’s North Silk Road as early as 200 B.C. Chinese noblemen adorned their armour with rubies because they believed the gem would grant protection. They also buried rubies beneath building foundations to secure good fortune.

Chinese Nobleman in Traditional Armour
Adorned Chinese Helmet

Where are Rubies found?
The Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar (Burma) historically produced the finest ruby material, famous for its deep blood-red colour with purplish hues. Myanmar was the world’s main source for rubies for centuries. Other ruby deposits exist in Vietnam, Thailand, India, parts of the Middle East, East Africa and even the United States.

Mogok Valley, Upper Myanmar
Historical Myanmar Ruby Mine

Ruby Properties

Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, coloured by the element chromium. All other colours of gem-quality corundum are called sapphire, which means colour is key for this royal stone.

Tough and durable, ruby measures 9 on the Mohs scale. Diamond is the only natural gemstone harder than ruby.

The chromium also causes fluorescence, which makes rubies glow like a fire from within. Paradoxically, chromium is also what makes this gem scarce because it can cause cracks and fissures. Few rubies actually grow large enough to crystallize into fine quality gems, and these can reach even higher prices than diamonds.

Natural Ruby Crystals
Ruby Fluorescence

Ruby Colour Grading

The colour of a Ruby is the most important feature of the gemstone. Rubies are available in a range of red hues from purplish and bluish red to orange-red. The brightest and most valuable colour of Ruby is often “a Burmese Ruby” – an indication that it is a rich, passionate, hot, full red colour with a slight blue hue. This colour is often referred to as “pigeon blood” red.

Things you might not have known

  • The name “ruby” comes from rubeus, the Latin word for red. In ancient Sanskrit, ruby translated to ratnaraj, which meant “king of precious stones.”

  • These days, almost all rubies are treated in some form, with heat treatment being the most common practice

  • Some rubies show a three-point or six-point asterism or “star”. These rubies are cut into cabochons to display the effect properly.

Star Ruby
  • Ruby’s strength and red fluorescence make it valuable for applications beyond jewellery. Both natural and synthetic rubies are used in watchmaking, medical instruments and lasers.

Rubies used in Watchmaking
Ruby Lazer

>
Here are some beautiful ruby jewellery available at Tinsel Gallery. For a custom made piece contact Studio Loubser for a quote, or visit our website for more information.

June Birthstone: Pearl, Moonstone & Alexandrite

June is one of only two months that has three birthstones associated with it: Pearl, Moonstone and Alexandrite. We will focus mainly on the Pearl in this post, as it is the most commonly used in jewellery out of the three.

    Who comes with summer to this earth
    And owes to June her hour of birth
    A pearl should wear against her skin
    Who's innocence many a heart shall win.
        – Gregorian birthstone poem
                    ***

The History of the Pearl
Pearls have been used as adornment for centuries. In ancient Greece they believed pearls were tears of the gods. The oldest known pearl jewellery was discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian Princess who died in 520 B.C. Because natural pearls have been so rare throughout history, it was something only the richest in society could afford. Pearls became more accessible in the early 1900s, when the first commercial culturing of saltwater pearls began in Asia.

Queen Elizabeth I
Kokichi Mikimoto, aged 70

He created the world’s first cultured pearl in 1893 by manually introducing an irritant into an oyster to stimulate it to form a pearl.

Where are Pearls found?
Pearls are the only gemstones made by living creatures. Molluscs produce pearls by depositing layers of calcium carbonate around microscopic irritants that get lodged in their shells (usually not a grain of sand, as is commonly believed).

Pearls used to be found in many parts of the world, but natural pearling is now confined to the Persian Gulf waters near Bahrain. Australia owns one of the world’s last remaining pearl diving fleets, and still harvests natural pearls from the Indian Ocean.

Oyster Farm, South Australia
Pearl Diver in Japan

Pearl Properties
Pearls are very soft, ranging between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale. This means they could get damaged fairly easily, making them less ideal for rings. In spite of this, pearl rings are still fairly common.

They are sensitive to extreme heat and acidity; in fact, calcium carbonate is so susceptible to acid that pearls will dissolve in vinegar.
The finest pearls have a reflective lustre, making them appear creamy white with an iridescent sheen that casts many colourful hues.

Things you might not have known

  • In many cultures, pearls symbolize purity and innocence, which is why it’s tradition for a bride to wear pearls on her wedding day.

Pearl Earrings created by Studio Loubser

  • Naturally, pearls can range from white to yellow, pink, grey and black, depending on where they come from and what kind of mollusc created them. Cultured freshwater pearls can also be dyed a wide range of colours: yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black.

  • Appropriately, the name “pearl” comes from the Old French perle, from the Latin perna meaning “leg,” referencing the leg-of-mutton shape of an open mollusc shell.

  • Coco Chanel was very fond of pearls and is credited for making them an everyday wearable fashion item. She said, “A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.”

Coco Chanel

Now for a look at the other June birthstones, Moonstone and Alexandrite.

Interesting facts about Moonstone

  • Moonstone was named by the Roman natural historian Pliny who wrote that their shimmery appearance shifted with the phases of the moon.

  • Moonstone is composed of microscopic layers of feldspar that scatter light to cause the effect of adularescence (a milky glow, like moonlight floating on water). Thinner layers produce a bluish sheen and thicker layers look white. Moonstone comes in a range of colours spanning yellow, grey, green, blue, peach and pink—sometimes displaying a star or cat’s eye.

  • This gemstone’s weakness is its relatively low hardness of 6 on the Mohs scale, making it prone to stress cracking and cleaving. Care is required with moonstone jewellery like rings or bracelets; brooches and pendants are preferred.

Interesting facts about Alexandrite

  • A relatively modern gem, alexandrite was discovered in Russian emerald mines. It was named for Alexander II because it was discovered on the future czar’s birthday in 1834. Because this unique gemstone changed colours from green to red—the national colours of Russia—alexandrite became Imperial Russia’s official gemstone.

Czar Alexander II
Historic Russian Emerald Mine

  • Often described as “emerald by day, ruby by night,” alexandrite is a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl, which changes colour from bluish green in daylight to purplish red under incandescent light.

Under daylight - left, under incandescent light - right.

  • This chameleon-like behaviour is the result of its uncommon chemical composition, which includes traces of chromium, the same colouring agent found in emerald. The unlikelihood of these elements combining under the right conditions makes alexandrite one of the rarest, most expensive gems.

  • George Frederick Kunz, the master gemmologist at Tiffany & Co., was very fond of it, and produced a series of alexandrite rings between the late 19th and early 20th century.

George Frederick Kunz
  • With a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, alexandrite is softer than sapphire and harder than garnet – the other gemstones that can change colour. However, due to its scarcity, alexandrite is more valuable than most gems, even rubies and diamonds. This rarity means that the majority of stones available are actually synthetic (grown in a laboratory) rather than natural.

Here are some beautiful pieces of Pearl Jewellery – some of which are available at Tinsel gallery. For a custom made Pearl piece, contact us or visit our website for more information.











Tips on How to Clean Jewellery

Cleaning your jewellery can be a headache if you don’t have professional jewellery equipment, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve compiled a list of tips on what works and what doesn’t.

*Disclaimer: We’re not affiliated in any way to products or providers mentioned in this blog. It’s not our intention to promote anything, we are just giving our personal opinion based on what works for us.

What is silver tarnish:

Silver tarnishes because of hydrogen sulphide in different things that come into contact with the silver. The copper (present in sterling silver) and silver oxidize and this chemical reaction leaves jewellery with a blackened appearance. Sometimes this appearance is desired as it can give an aged or antique look.

Things to keep in mind:

Before you attempt any of the following cleaning methods, please check for the following:

  • Is the jewellery you want to clean costume jewellery? In other words, not made of any of the precious metals (silver, gold, platinum) and containing fake stones or glass. Some costume jewellery might look like precious metal as it has been plated, try to look for a stamp to indicate the metal (925 – silver, 325 – 9ct gold, 750 – 18ct gold, plat – platinum) Our tips don’t apply to costume jewellery and we’re not sure how to clean it (a polishing cloth is the safest). In our opinion, don’t buy it ;)
  • Are there any stones/pearls that have been glued in the piece you want to clean? This is not always evident to the naked eye, but often stones like marcasites, pearls or glass gems are glued in a piece (especially in costume jewellery). In this case avoid hot water or chemicals that might dissolve the glue. Again the best option is a good polishing cloth.

What works?

  • Sunlight liquid and ammonia. The best and easiest do-it-yourself cleaning method is a mixture of these two common household items and warm water. Use 1 Tbsp. Sunlight liquid and 1 tsp. Jeyes scrubs cloudy ammonia and mix it with warm water; leave your jewellery in the mixture for 5 - 10min (depending on how tarnished and dirty it is); scrub the piece with a soft toothbrush to reach all the nooks and crannies. This method is safe for nearly all jewellery (except costume or glued). The mixture can be used again and again, so leave it in a glass jar with a lid and just heat it in the microwave the next time you want to use it.

  • Anti-tarnish silver foam – we use Excellent Anti-Tarnish Silver Foam by Town Talk Polish Co. Ltd. This product consists of a pinky/reddish substance that is applied to the jewellery piece by rubbing it with a sponge (included with product). The liquid creates a type of foam that works well to remove tarnish.
  • Polishing cloth. We suggest the one’s sold at Spilhaus. This is a very safe way to clean jewellery – even costume or glued pieces.

  • Shammy leather for Pearls. Pearls are quite delicate and porous, therefore harsh chemicals should be avoided. A shammy leather, used to clean cars, are ideal to clean them.

  • Professional jeweller. If you’re unsure or worried you might damage your jewellery, most professional jewellers offer jewellery-cleaning services at a small fee. It’s a good idea to get your prised possessions, like engagement rings or family heirlooms, cleaned professionally.
  • Jewellery storage. Ideally, you should store your silver jewellery in a low-humidity environment. Try placing a container of activated charcoal or a piece of chalk in the storage area to minimise tarnish.

Experiment

We did some further research and came across a few websites stating that aluminium foil and baking soda works well to clean tarnished silver, so we did a little experiment to test the theory.

The recipe:
Aluminium foil
Baking Soda
Hot water
Salt (optional)
Tarnished jewellery

The method:
Step 1: Fold the aluminium foil into a bowl shape or mould it around an actual bowl to hold water.
Step 2: Place the jewellery on the foil and sprinkle with baking soda so that each piece is mildly coated. (You can also add salt to help the cleaning process, but we used only baking soda.)

Step 3: Boil a few cups of water and gently pour this onto the jewellery with baking soda on them.
Step 4: Leave heavily tarnished silver pieces in the solution for about 5-10 min. Otherwise remove the pieces when they appear clean.
Step 5: Rinse the silver in water and gently buff it dry with a soft towel.

Results:
As you can see in the pictures below it worked surprisingly well to remove tarnish. The piece isn’t completely clean or polished, but it definitely removed most of the black, tarnished layer.

Why does it work:
The baking soda/aluminium combo pulls sulphur off the silver by a small electrolytic current set up by the water (and salt, if added). Both silver and aluminium likes to accept sulphur, but aluminium does so faster and will pull atoms of sulphur off the tarnished item as long as the electrolytic current remains. The heat of the water is just a catalyst and makes the reaction occur faster.

What to avoid?

  • Silver dips. Silver dips, although they tend to have the desired effect and leave your jewellery looking good, contain corrosive chemicals harmful to your jewellery. The liquid eats away at soldier joints and can result in your piece falling apart. These products should definitely be avoided.

  • Toothpaste. Easy to come by as everyone has some in their house, but toothpaste contain abrasive elements harmful to jewellery.

Please let us know what you think in the comment section below or feel free to email us with any questions or custom made jewellery at info@studioloubser.com.