The range of gemstones is large—too large for diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and pearls to absorb all the attention. There are many more gemstones that exude great visual appeal. Some have gone in and out of fashion over the centuries. Some are simply too rare to generate considerable fanfare. This article explores some lesser known gemstones that are alternatively beautiful in their way and make for stunningly unusual jewels.
Watermelon tourmaline is one of seven varieties of tourmaline and is one of the rarest. The aptly-named watermelon variety blushes with a fruity pink center that is encased in a layer of green signifying the rind. Often icy crystal forms a layer between the pink and green too. While other tourmalines can be comprised of two or more colors, this unique coloring is quite prized by gem enthusiasts as it is completely natural—a most unusual occurrence in nature. Scoring a 7.5 on the hardness scale, watermelon tourmaline is typically cut in a table or baguette shape that shows off the coloring most advantageously.
Citrine, the yellow or golden variety of quartz, does not often make for gem-quality stones, but when it does it is truly a dazzling vision. Gemstone quality citrine is found mainly in Brazil, Spain, and parts of Russia. Scoring 7 on the hardness scale, this golden stone is often faceted for brilliant, mixed, or pendeloque cuts and is sometimes used for cabochons. It is sometimes confused with topaz, but when it demonstrates its extremely rare pale yellow coloring, it is unlike anything else—a most unusual gemstone with extraordinary appeal.
Often mistaken for jadeite, chrysoprase is another rare gemstone of the chalcedony family. A popular stone for ancient Greeks and Romans, chrysoprase was said to offer spiritual protection and even increase fertility. Chrysoprase is an apple-green stone that has a translucent quality; hence, it’s confusion with jade. Today the best chrysoprase hails from Australia, but it is also found in the Urals of Russia, Brazil, Austria, and California. Carved cameos of chrysoprase often depict classical designs, but simple beads of chrysoprase are extraordinarily lovely.
Carnelian is another ancient gemstone of the chalcedony group. As hot wax did not stick to the stone, the Romans employed red carnelian in their seal and signet rings to stamp their important papers or letters. Lacking the brilliance of red stones like rubies, carnelian’s red is dull, but its translucent quality gives it great beauty nonetheless. Used in rings, cameos, intaglios, and fashioned into beads, carnelian is beloved for its subdued elegance. Historically, people believed it could calm the blood and sooth a temper.
Resembling but far more fragile than emeralds, dioptase ranges in color from intensely bright green to a remarkable (and rare) blue-green. Treasured by collectors, dioptase crystals are found in copper deposits in Chile, Russia, Zaire, and Arizona. Because the stone is fragile, it is seldom faceted, but the polished stone makes for fascinating jewelry. Its vivid sea-colored shading is surprising given that is most frequently found in desert regions.
Rarely faceted, apatite makes for a gorgeous jewel stone nonetheless. Sometimes found opaque or without color apatite can be seen in yellow, green, blue, and even violet examples. Blue-gray fibrous apatite is particularly beautiful, but the more brilliant varieties of green, yellow, and blue rival more popular gemstones in beauty. Found in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Sweden, and East Africa, apatite scores a 5 on the hardness scale and its best examples sometimes display a cat’s eye effect.
Moonstone is a lustrous variety of orthoclase that has been revered for ages for its moonlike glowing effect. The blue or white sheen of the stone is reflective of moonlight and the best stones are quite rare. Found in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Tanzania, and the U.S., moonstone is a fascinating conversation piece when employed in jewelry. Sometimes given a cushion form of cut, moonstones are frequently carved for cameos.
Tugtupite, meaning reindeer stone occurs in Greenland and parts of Russia. Its colors include shades or orange, deep red, and pink. It is not a very well stone as it was discovered by geologists in 1957, although it was well known by Inuits for centuries. Scoring a 6 on the hardness scale, tugtupite is carved for jewelry. This stone is most prized for its florescent qualities and the best examples of this material can be quite expensive as they are rare.
Before settling on the expected diamond or other popular stone, consider a more unusual gemstone for your next jewelry purchase. Jewelry crafters may also want to employ these lesser known stones to add variety to their repertoire. Prized by gemologists, these unusual gemstones and others like them are all the more captivating for their ability to stand out from the more oft-chosen gems. Faceted or polished as cabochons, these materials make stunning visual displays.