Thankful Hand Gems


Quality is very important in our field of gems and jewelry. In other areas of life, quality is frequently heard, as well. We speak of quality of lifestyle, quality of environment, and we even use quality as an adjective, as in the phrase quality time.

Our work in the gemstone field requires that we back up our impressions of quality with a basis in specific description.  Some years ago the artist made several visits to North Carolina, researching old gem-mining sites for two articles which appeared in Lapidary Journal.  Along the way, he noticed certificates posted at restaurants.  Besides giving a rating for each establishment, the certificates bore a state seal with the motto “Esse Quam Videre”.  A later hunt though a Latin dictionary yielded the English translation “To be, rather than to seem”

“To be, rather than to seem.”  Verifying a gem’s proper identity using gemological equipment is our first step toward assessing quality.  We even test gemstones acquired from dealers of renown, or from friends we have known for years.  During testing, factors such as inclusions or possible treatments are noticed.  Overall factors such as attractiveness of color, rarity, or excellence of cutting are observed.

Quality is not the same as value.  A gem purchased for six hundred dollars may be very good, but it might not compare with the quality of one sold at a major auction house for fifty thousand dollars per carat.  Quality can be expressed in terms of price range.  Correct identity is constant.

Quality need not be confined to worth of materials.  The piece I call “Bauhaus Cicada” came from jadeite rough which would have been of average value in a ringstone.  Long library research and longer carving with dental-type machine tools yielded my take on the ancient Chinese theme of the tomb cicada.  My work increased the value of the jadeite.  Value added is another element of quality.

Answers to the Puzzle

The vivid pink color (really a pale value of lilac or purple) of the sapphire on the left is rarer than the lovely medium blue of the gem at right.  Also, the crystals and secondary healed fractures in the pink gem would have deformed under heat treatment, so this stone could possibly be certified as natural by an industry gem lab.  The disc-like inclusion in the blue sapphire, though transparent, is an indicator of heat treatment.  Perhaps 90% plus of new rubies and sapphires (the mineral corundum) on the market today have been heat-treated.  Therefore, the pink gem, although smaller by weight, is worth more.
A Brief Digression

Which of these two sapphires is more valuable?  The oval gem at left weighs 1.35 carats.  It is mostly clean, with two microscopic intact crystal inclusions in the pavillion (the bottom of the stone).  The inclusions are each ringed by tight, ribbon-like, secondary healed fractures.  The square cushion at right weighs 1.93 carats and is mostly clean, with a microscopic, transparent, disc-like, elliptical inclusion in the pavilion.

Answers at the end of this page!

Tim Hicks found his first mineral specimen in the family garden at age seven.  His career has seen him providing art and information services for a diamond jewelry chain, a group of colored gemstone jewelry stores, a wholesaler selling diamonds to military exchanges worldwide, fine craft galleries, and shops featuring estate and antique jewelry.  His finished jewelry was featured in a museum show in Honolulu in the 1980’s, and he taught a course on gemstones at Syracuse University College in the 1990’s.  He never took time for a gemological degree, but completed GIA courses in gem identification, detecting synthetic diamonds, and detecting treated gems.  In addition to cutting and carving gemstones and handcrafting jewelry in precious metals, he maintains a home laboratory with microscope, polariscope, refractometer, spectroscope, and many other tools for gem identification.

Some jadeite gems cut by Tim Hicks


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