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Adventures of the Red Emerald

As the Summer of 2017 came to a close, the portfolio of work from my cousin David (who manages all the photography for the Red Emerald) had grown to a point where the full comparison between red and green Emerald crystal structures could be made. I laid out a book with photographic documentation for many of the modifications I have long observed, all of which conclusively demonstrate the geometric equivalence between these two gem varieties.

The Red Emerald Pink Portfolio

The Red Emerald Pink Portfolio

The Pink Portfolio is a companion publication to the Red Emerald Black Album, which defined many red beryl mineral forms for the first time and showcased the finest Red Emerald jewelry suite ever assembled. Although the Black Album was limited to thirty copies, we redoubled our efforts in the sequel, and sixty copies were printed for limited distribution.

The passion of being a fan myself motivated me to pursue all the information I could find on the Red Emerald, and I am self-educated on the subject of minerals. The work of others has inspired and instructed me along the way, and I wanted to repay as many of those as I could with an advanced release of my observations. My "gemstone heroes" appear regularly on the show circuit, so we spent a month travelling to Dallas, Denver and Delta, oh my!

Dr. George Rossman lectures at the 2017 Dallas Mineral Symposium

They even covered one of my favorite subjects.

In terms of consuming concentrated knowledge about gemstones and minerals, there is perhaps no better event in the world to attend than the Dallas Mineral Symposium. On August 26th, 2017 attendees were treated to nine lectures from some of the most accomplished members in the gem trade. I found the Crocoite story told by John Cornish mesmerizing, the travels of Richard Hughes captivating and the explanation of color in minerals by Dr. George Rossman quite interesting.

While checking in at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show two weeks later, I was waiting on a small boy to finish his transaction with the elderly woman exchanging tickets at the counter. After the child had paid, she advised him to visit an interactive booth with geodes.

"Geodes are like bubbles that form in lava," she explained. "The bubble hardens into a round rock, and when you split the geode open, you get to be the first person in history to see all the crystals that formed inside millions of years ago! Isn't that amazing?"

I am amazed only by the rarest and most unique of items and experiences. Considering quartz is usually "What's Inside" a geode, and the fact quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth, geodes typically fail to amaze me much. That way of thinking pretty much ensured these bubbles would go out of their way to convince me otherwise!

At the Denver Coliseum, I met Gloria Rivas from Marquez Mining. She introduced me to the world's most interesting geode deposit, located near the city of Tabasco in state of Zacatecas in Mexico. "Tabasco Geodes [are] also known as Mini or Baby Geodes. They are the world's smallest geode formation ranging anywhere from 3 to 45 millimeter!" These miniaturized or micro-geodes form abundantly in a very limited area, creating a diverse mix of specimens in a huge range of colors and characteristics.

Tabasco Geode 14 millimeter Green Twin Specimen with Red Crystallization

I purchased an incredible, rare twin specimen --

two bubbles joined to create a 14mm green tower with red crystals inside

There is spectacular, intricate detail even in incomprehensibly small specimens …three millimeters is as tiny as a melee diamond, and these geodes cast just as much sparkle from innumerable crystal faces! This opens the door to an entirely new world for geode collectors, because their favorite mineral occurrence are now appropriately-sized to be fashionably used in jewelry!

Our generation gets to see this for the first time in history…Isn't that amazing?!

The next natural wonder I stumbled across was a two carat Emerald trapiche. This cabochon was shaped in a unique way, with a single trapiche line oriented along the middle of the dome. The black center thins out to become a slim stripe on the reverse, which matches the tapering nature of lines noted in Red Emerald trapiche specimens. As the layer of black inclusions narrows, the green glow is allowed to pass from one side of the gem body to the other, giving this jewel the unique appearance of a stationary "catseye" around which light moves.

The cold, reptilian eye of the emerald blends well with my dragon hide.

A dealer for many decades and longtime friend recently informed me, "You have a big problem. You're not a gemologist!"

While the accusation is true, I assess gemstones I purchase using information I am aware of and by my own experience. One rarely needs to be a gemologist in life, but my birthstone is sapphire…I have always wanted to own an unheated star sapphire and assumed I would need a gemologist's expertise to purchase one with my specific tastes.

There are three primary reasons to choose natural untreated sapphires:

they are beautiful, rare, and valuable.

~ The Natural Sapphire Company

Of these three qualities, only rarity can be proven. Beauty is subjective, and the determination of relative value versus other goods is also dependent upon each buyer. Rarity, however, can be clearly demonstrated.

The oldest and most common sapphire enhancement is heat treatment [thermal enhancement]…used to improve a sapphire’s color, remove color zoning, and improve clarity. Some heat treatment procedures are relatively mild [while high temperatures] applied to sapphires…improve their clarity by dissolving silk as it improves color. The results can be dramatic, transforming pale stones into ones with lively, saturated colors. Knowledgeable gemologists will be able to discern whether a sapphire has been subjected to this kind of extreme heating. Natural untreated stones will usually have more inclusions, which should not always be seen as negative attributes…[because] they are undisputed evidence that the sapphire has never been treated.

~ The Natural Sapphire Company

A star sapphire is a very unusual example of corundum that exhibits Asterism -- an optical effect where tiny rutile inclusions transmit light along their needle-like fibrous bodies in such a manner that a single beam of light is split into six rays which move as a unit over the rounded surface of a stone, creating the shimmering appearance of a star. An unheated star sapphire has inclusions arranged in an order so highly-symmetrical the gem may cast asterism naturally, without thermal assistance or enhancement.

Heating is an accepted treatment for sapphire, but for fine quality sapphire, confirmation from an independent laboratory like GIA that there is no evidence of heat adds to a sapphire’s rarity and value.

~ The Gemological Institute of America

The GIA report is not what increases the value of the unheated sapphire, but rather confirming microscopically that the lattice is unaltered by heat proves a stone possesses rarity -- less than one percent of sapphires are unheated. This rarity is correlated to a higher value, and I wanted my star to be this exceedingly rare.

The light at the end of this long, blue tunnel…

In Emerald, beryllium atoms gather six oxygen each to form a molecule, locking them together in a meta-stable hexagonal ring. In Sapphire, aluminum atoms gather six oxygen each to form a molecule, locking them together in a meta-stable hexagonal ring.

If one looks down the C-Axis of a Red Emerald, angular growth features can occasionally be noted as hexagonal lines of varying saturation. These "growth lines" mark the passage of time like rings on a tree, cataloging availability of component minerals at continuing points throughout the growth period. Because the molecular structures of sapphire and emerald are geometrically similar, the same effect can be observed in both precious gems!

Then, I discovered an amazing gemstone I never thought to imagine...a 3.45 carat star sapphire with hexagonal zoning! The orientation for both was centered well on the cabochon, and the presence of a color zone was evidence the stone had not been heated enough to alter the titanium dioxide rutile. Finding an uncertified but demonstrably unheated star sapphire with the same color zoning I love in Red Emerald was like a dream come true!

Stars are most easily observed under a single strong bulb at a moderate distance, so I visited Anne and Patrick Kelley, who sell some of the best lighting systems in the business. As traders and enthusiasts themselves, I have been regularly amazed at the display of local specimens this pair has been able to assemble from their home state of North Carolina.

Hexagonal outline of the intruding inclusion,

marking the boundaries of the Hourglass Zone

They always seem to have interesting examples of Hiddenite, as well as the North Carolina Emerald. I cannot love American Emeralds without caring for both the red AND the green! Rewarding my interest, Patrick treated me to the sight of the only large green beryl prism he ever found with a mud inclusion.

To my surprise, the affected area was the same shape as the hexagonal hourglass color-zoning noted in Red Emeralds from Utah! What a fascinating specimen! Hourglass zoning in the core of green emeralds from Muzo has been well-documented, but the tapering brown hexagonal field in this green emerald from North Carolina with the same pattern is uncharted territory!

Having lived in many states, every gem from my country still feels like something beloved from home, so I always excited to meet those who take great pride in the natural resources of the areas which raised them.

I met another individual cut from this cloth at a social event during the show. Derek Katzenbach is a Maine native working diligently to improve awareness of Tourmaline from his home state, using his lapidary skills combined with his own jewelry designs. While not as well-known as the west coast localities, Tourmaline deposits in the continental northeast produce some of the finest examples ever discovered in America.

The Colors of Maine Kaleidoscope by Derek Katzenbach (AGTA Photo)

The Colors of Maine

Inspire me with…a kaleidoscope!

Derek took first place in this year's Objects of Art category of the American Gem Trade Association's Spectrum Awards this year with his Kaleidoscope. All the colors of the Maine Tourmaline rainbow, hidden inside an 18 karat yellow gold housing, trimmed with 18K white gold set with examples in red and green. 71.74 carats of tourmaline and 24.92 carats of quartz lenses, all sourced from Maine, were used in the construction of this stunning work of modern art.

I immediately identified with Derek's efforts to build National Treasures. While the Red Emerald has never been recognized as a state gem, I recognize it as the most valuable gemstone produced in the United States. The bracelet from the Red Emerald Suite Treasure was brought to Denver for display, and our two unique collections of American gemstones were able to meet face-to-face!

As Seen In Denver -- The Red Emerald Suite Treasure Bracelet

Over 14 carat in 28 Emerald-Cut Scarlet Stones

While it is my deepest honor to have assembled this suite, my greatest passion is pulling new red beryl specimens from the ground myself.

There is only one place in the world to do that, so following the Denver show, my father, cousin and I drove to Delta, Utah. The Topaz Mountain Rockhounding Area nearby allows any member of the public to try their luck at finding red beryl specimens, and hunting for them is one of my favorite pastimes.

Unlike a Geode, a "Vug" is a lava "bubble" which formed without a hardened exterior, and instead, crystallization occurred in hollow "pockets". A miner can brush, chip or hammer away the surface of the mountain to expose a pocket, becoming the first person in history to see all the crystals that formed inside millions of years ago.

Aren't these topaz, bixbyite and red beryl specimens amazing?

Sound like a busy month? That's our standard operating procedure!

Stay tuned for updates as we continue to work just as hard on projects coming in the weeks and months ahead!

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