Sunday, January 23, 2022

What kind of gemstone is this?




Richard Alan

Another steamy off season day on the rock, and while I’m still trying to recover from six months of a busy season, I’m counting the days until I have returned to the Balearic Island in Mallorca, Spain, a small coastal village called Cala Fornells. My idea of paradise is being perched on a Mediterranean seaside cliff overlooking the beach with my derrière parked in a lounge chair complete with a good book, a (legal) Cuban cigar and an ice cold pitcher of freshly made sangria…. Excuse me, now where were we?

Back to reality… A usual summer day involves a flurry of watch battery replacements the moment I unlock the front door. As the morning progresses, I swear you could film a TV reality show at what can go on any given day in my store. “Yes, I’m sorry you sat on your eyeglasses last night, I understand you are on vacation, I will try to do my best to weld them back together. Please understand I am not an optometrist, some can be fixed, some cannot, especially when they are made entirely out of plastic. Yes I’m sorry, you could glue them but they won’t hold. I’m sorry, I’m a goldsmith not a plastic smith. (I’m getting tired of saying I’m sorry!)

The next person is also a non-jewelry orientated customer. “I’m sorry, Madame, I have no idea why your garage door opener has malfunctioned. I suggest calling whoever installed your garage door.” She grabbed the now electronic paper weight and gave me the “I’m a total incompetent look.” So now I’m an electrical engineer?

The morning involved dismantling an antique hearing aid, and being asked to remove fine scratches from a chrome plated kitchen faucet, and believe it or not, a malfunctioning remote car key. It gets better. So now I’m politely explaining that regardless who recommended me I do not silver plate buckles on ladies’ stylish high end shoes. Never have and never will.

I would tear the hair out of my head if I could afford to lose any.

Good gaud! I can smell the cigar and taste the sangria in my head!

The best so far today, is a resume I received from a person who, from what I gather, has been in the landscaping business his whole life and wants me to hire him as a goldsmith? Judging by the past few hours I need to hire a handyman with a degree in electrical engineering, not another goldsmith.

So my question is this? When a person is lying in bed at night lamenting about a faulty garage door opener, what possesses her, at the break of dawn, to begin her day waiting for hours for Island Goldsmith to open and rectify the problem? There has to be something in the island water system!

Oh look, a customer with a jewelry question! “Can you tell me if this is a real gemstone or not? On any given day I may be required to be a gem identification wizard.

They know darn well what kind of gem it is, it’s a test to see if I’m a moron or not. So on close examination it can be a genuine sapphire or manmade, lab created cheap cubic zirconia, glass or an antique glass fused doublet among other things. Once I identified a so called Columbian emerald as a shattered plastic green lens from a South American traffic light. Yeah, for real! Dumb a%# tourist.

I have never claimed to be a certified gemologist, but working with and selling gemstones my whole life you tend to learn a thing or two. I once identified a worthless imitation when so called “registered gemologists” misidentified a presumed large expensive sapphire for an estate settlement. Yeah, one for me!

The wonderful world of home TV shopping never ceases to amaze me with new fantasy names for old gemstones. For example chocolate diamonds are nothing new; the industry for years had another name for them, a four letter word I cannot mention here. Chocolate, (dark brown) Midnight diamonds, (black) Champagne, (light brown to light yellow) are all inexpensive diamonds. However, once you add a fancy name to them, you can get a fancy price.

I was stumped the other day when I was asked if I carried blue sea foam gem stones. Huh?

Inexpensive natural white quartz can now be irritated by man to almost every color of the rainbow. A new color can get a new, exotic TV name that most jewelers never heard of. Except those insomniacs who are brainwashed by late night drivel, the ramblings of coiffured and manicured salespersons who wouldn’t know onyx from coal.

I deal with armchair gemologists every day who wish to enlighten me on the rarity of mystic topaz and pink ice C.Z. Pleease! “Only 1,000 rings left! Order yours now for $299.95 or be disappointed later!”

Sure there are many gems that are hard to identify. Sometimes there is a fine line between a gemstone and a mineral that can be cut and polished and set into a piece of jewelry, in fact most precious gems found in rough crystals can look like worthless rocks until they are professionally finished and polished. There are thousands of them.

Some gemstones have only been discovered in the past 100 years or so, as in the case of the popular gemstone tanzanite.

There are many cases of gem misidentification throughout the centuries. Just because a gem is green does not always mean it is an emerald. Certain green garnets can easily be mistaken for emeralds. I read somewhere that the famous gold and gemstone encrusted mask of King Tut actually contained imitation gems, in fact, worthless glass. The ancient Egyptians made glass “gemstones” from melting sand and copper minerals, something they certainly had in abundance.

Garnet, once known as the poor man’s ruby, comes in many shades of red. There are also many minerals that have been mistaken for diamonds such as natural zircon.

I have been wondering if someone has been salting the island with loose, one carat cubic zirconia, because folks have been coming in regularly who have found them lying around the beach and elsewhere thinking they hit it rich by finding a loose diamond. I can assure you there are no diamond mines producing fully cut diamonds in southwest Florida.




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