A Text-Book of Precious Stones for Jewelers and the Gem-Loving Public
by Frank Bertram Wade
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By Frank B. Wade

Diamonds A Text-Book of Precious Stones




Head of the Department of Chemistry, Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Ind. Author of "Diamonds: A Study of the Factors That Govern Their Value"


G. P. Putnam's Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1918 by Frank B. Wade

First printing, January, 1918 Second " March, 1924


Made in the United States of America


In this little text-book the author has tried to combine the trade information which he has gained in his avocation, the study of precious stones, with the scientific knowledge bearing thereon, which his vocation, the teaching of chemistry, has compelled him to master.

In planning and in writing the book, every effort has been made to teach the fundamental principles and methods in use for identifying precious stones, in as natural an order as possible. This has been done in the belief that the necessary information will thus be much more readily acquired by the busy gem merchant or jeweler than would have been the case had the material been arranged in the usual systematic order. The latter is of advantage for quick reference after the fundamentals of the subject have been mastered. It is hoped, however, that the method of presentation used in this book will make easy the acquisition of a knowledge of gemology and that many who have been deterred from studying the subject by a feeling that the difficulties due to their lack of scientific training were insurmountable, will find that they can learn all the science that is really necessary, as they proceed. To that end the discussions have been given in as untechnical language as possible and homely illustrations have in many cases been provided.

Nearly every portion of the subject that a gem merchant needs to know has been considered and there is provided for the interested public much material which will enable them to be more intelligent purchasers of gem-set jewelry, as well as more appreciative lovers of Nature's wonderful mineral masterpieces.

F. B. W.

INDIANAPOLIS, December 26, 1916


Because of the rapid increase in knowledge about precious stones on the part of the buying public, it has become necessary for the gem merchant and his clerks and salesmen to know at least as much about the subject of gemology as their better informed customers are likely to know.

In many recent articles in trade papers, attention has been called to this need, and to the provision which Columbia University has made for a course in the study of gems. The action of the National Association of Goldsmiths of Great Britain in providing annual examinations in gemology, and in granting certificates and diplomas to those who successfully pass the examinations, has also been reported, and it has been suggested that some such course should be pursued by jewelers' associations in this country. The greatest difficulty in the way of such formal study among our jewelers and gem merchants is the lack of time for attendance on formal courses, which must necessarily be given at definite times and in definite places.

As a diamond salesman was heard to say recently: "The boss said he wanted me to take in that course at Columbia, but he didn't tell me how I was going to do it. Here I am a thousand miles from Columbia, and it was only six weeks ago that he was telling me I ought to take that course. I can't stay around New York all the time." Similarly those whose work keeps them in New York might object that their hours of employment prevented attendance on day courses, and that distance from the university and fatigue prevent attendance on night courses. The great mass of gem dealers in other cities must also be considered.

It will therefore be the endeavor of this book to provide guidance for those who really want to make themselves more efficient in the gem business, but who have felt that they needed something in the way of suggestion regarding what to attempt, and how to go about it.

Study of the sort that will be suggested can be pursued in spare moments, on street cars or elevated trains, in waiting rooms, or in one's room at night. It will astonish many to find how much can be accomplished by consistently utilizing spare moments. Booker T. Washington is said to have written in such spare time practically all that he has published.

For the practical study of the gems themselves, which is an absolutely essential part of the work, those actually engaged in the trade have better opportunities than any school could give and, except during rush seasons, there is plenty of time during business hours for such study. No intelligent employer will begrudge such use of time for which he is paying, if the thing be done in reason and with a serious view to improvement. The frequent application of what is acquired, as opportunity offers, in connection with ordinary salesmanship, will help fix the subject and at the same time increase sales.

Many gem dealers have been deterred from beginning a study of gems because of the seeming difficulties in connection with the scientific determination of the different varieties of stones. Now science is nothing but boiled-down common sense, and a bold front will soon convince one that most of the difficulties are more apparent than real. Such minor difficulties as exist will be approached in such a manner that a little effort will overcome them. For those who are willing to do more work, this book will suggest definite portions of particular books, which are easily available, for reference reading and study—but the lessons themselves will attempt to teach the essential things in as simple a manner as is possible.

Perhaps the first essential for the gem merchant is to be able surely to distinguish the various stones from one another and from synthetic and imitation stones.

That such ability is much needed will be clear to anyone who in casting a backward glance over his experience recalls the many serious mistakes that have come to his knowledge. Many more have doubtless occurred without detection. Several times recently the author has come across cases where large dealers have been mistaken in their determination of colored stones, particularly emeralds. Only the other day a ring was brought to me that had been bought for a genuine emerald ring after the buyer had taken it to one of the dealers in his city and had paid for an examination of it, which had resulted in its being declared genuine. On examining the stone with a lens of only moderate power, several round air bubbles were noted in it, and on barely touching it with a file it was easily scratched. The material was green glass. Now, what was said about the dealer who sold it and the one who appraised it may be imagined. The long chain of adverse influence which will be put in action against those dealers, even though the one who sold the stone makes good the loss, is something that can be ill afforded by any dealer, and all this might have been avoided by even a rudimentary knowledge of the means of distinguishing precious stones. The dealer was doubtless honest, but, through carelessness or ignorance, was himself deceived.

Our first few lessons will therefore be concerned chiefly with learning the best means of telling the different stones from one another.











IX.—HARDNESS (Continued) 55



XII.—COLOR (Continued) 75

XIII.—COLOR (Continued) 87

XIV.—COLOR (Concluded) 93



















A Text-Book of Precious Stones



PRECIOUS STONES DISTINGUISHED BY THEIR PROPERTIES. One precious stone is best distinguished from another just as substances of other types are distinguished, that is to say, by their properties. For example, salt and sugar are both white, both are soluble in water, and both are odorless. So far the italicized properties would not serve to distinguish the two substances. But sugar is sweet while salt is salty in taste. Here we have a distinguishing property. Now, just as salt and sugar have properties, so have all precious stones, and while, as was the case with salt and sugar, many precious stones have properties in common, yet each has also some properties which are distinctive, and which can be relied upon as differentiating the particular stone from other stones. In selecting properties for use in distinguishing precious stones, such properties as can be determined by quantity, and set down in numbers, are probably more trustworthy than those that can be observed by mere inspection. Those also which have to do with the behavior of light in passing through the stone are extremely valuable.

IMPORTANCE OF NUMERICAL PROPERTIES. It is because gem dealers so often rely upon the more obvious sort of property, such as color, that they so frequently make mistakes. There may be several different types of stones of a given color, but each will be found to have its own numerical properties such as density, hardness, refractive power, dispersive power, etc., and it is only by an accurate determination of two or three of these that one can be sure what stone he has in hand. It must next be our task to find exactly what is meant by each of these numerical properties, and how one may determine each with ease and exactness.



EXPLANATION OF REFRACTION. Perhaps the surest single method of distinguishing precious stones is to find out the refractive index of the material. To one not acquainted with the science of physics this calls for some explanation. The term refraction is used to describe the bending which light undergoes when it passes (at any angle but a right angle) from one transparent medium to another. For example, when light passes from air into water, its path is bent at the surface of the water and it takes a new direction within the water. (See Fig. 1.)

AB represents the path of light in the air and BC its path in the water.

While every gem stone refracts light which enters it from the air, each stone has its own definite ability to do this, and each differs from every other in the amount of bending which it can bring about under given conditions. The accurate determination of the amount of bending in a given case requires very finely constructed optical instruments and also a knowledge of how to apply a certain amount of mathematics. However, all this part of the work has already been done by competent scientists, and tables have been prepared by them, in which the values for each material are put down.

THE HERBERT-SMITH REFRACTOMETER. There is on the market an instrument called the Herbert-Smith refractometer, by means of which anyone with a little practice can read at once on the scale within the instrument the refractive index, as it is called, of any precious stone that is not too highly refractive. (Its upper limit is 1.80. This would exclude very few stones of importance, i. e., zircon, diamond, sphene, and demantoid garnet.)

Those readers who wish to make a more intensive study of the construction and use of the refractometer will find a very full and complete account of the subject in Gem-Stones and their Distinctive Characters, by G. F. Herbert-Smith, New York; James Pott & Co., 1912. Chapter IV., pp. 21-36. The Herbert-Smith refractometer is there described fully, its principle is explained and directions for using it are given. The price of the refractometer is necessarily so high (duty included) that its purchase might not be justified in the case of the smaller retailer. Every large dealer in colored stones, whether importer, wholesaler, or retailer, should have one, as by its use very rapid and very accurate determinations of stones may be made, and its use is not confined to unmounted stones, for any stone whose table facet can be applied to the surface of the lens in the instrument can be determined.



EXPLANATION OF DOUBLE REFRACTION. In Lesson II. we learned what is meant by refraction of light. While glass and a small number of precious stones (diamond, garnet, and spinel) bend light as was illustrated in Fig. 1, practically all the other stones cause a beam of light on entering them to separate, and the path of the light in the stone becomes double, as shown in Fig. 2.

This behavior is called double refraction. It may be used to distinguish those stones which are doubly refracting from those which are not. For example, in the case of a stone which is doubly refracting to a strong degree, such as a peridot (the lighter yellowish-green chrysolite is the same material and behaves similarly toward light), the separation of the light is so marked that the edges of the rear facets, as seen through the table, appear double when viewed through a lens. A zircon will also similarly separate light and its rear facets also appear double-lined as seen with a lens from the table of the stone. The rarer stones, sphene and epidote, likewise exhibit this property markedly. Some colorless zircons, when well cut, so closely resemble diamonds that even an expert might be deceived, if caught off his guard, but this simple test of looking for the doubled lines at the back of the stone would alone serve to distinguish the two stones.

A SIMPLE BUT VERY VALUABLE TEST FOR THE KIND OF REFRACTION OF A CUT STONE. In the case of most of the other doubly refracting stones the degree of separation is much less than in peridot and zircon, and it takes a well-trained and careful eye to detect the doubling of the lines. Here a very simple device will serve to assist the eye in determining whether a cut stone is singly or doubly refracting. Expose the stone to direct sunlight and hold an opaque white card a few inches from the stone, in the direction of the sun, so as to get the bright reflections from within the stone reflected onto the card.

If the material is singly refractive (as in the case of diamond, garnet, spinel, and glass), single images of each of the reflecting facets will appear on the card, but if doubly refracting—even if slightly so—double images will appear. When the stone is slightly moved, these pairs of reflections will travel together as pairs and not tend to separate. The space between the two members of each pair of reflections serves to give a rough idea of the degree of the double refraction of the material if compared with the space between members in the case of some other kind of stone held at the same distance from the card. Thus zircon separates the reflections widely. Aquamarine, which is feebly doubly refracting, separates them but slightly.

It will be seen at once that we have here a very easily applied test and one that requires no costly apparatus. It is, furthermore, a sure test, after a little practice. For example, if one has something that looks like a fine emerald, but that may be glass, all one need to do is to expose it in the sun, as above indicated. If real emerald, double images will be had (very close together, because emerald is but feebly doubly refracting). If glass, the images on the card will be single.

Similarly, ruby can at once be distinguished from even the finest garnet or ruby spinel, as the last two are singly refracting. So, too, are glass imitations of ruby and ruby doublets (which consist of glass and garnet). This test cannot injure the stone, it may be applied to mounted stones, and it is reliable. For stones of very deep color this test may fail for lack of sufficiently brilliant reflections. In such a case hold the card beyond the stone and let the sunlight shine through the stone onto the card, observing whether the spots of light are single or double.

The table below gives the necessary information as to which stones show double and which single refraction.


Refraction Single: Diamond Garnet (all types) Spinel Opal Glass Difference between highest and lowest refractive indices Refraction Double: Sphene .084 Zircon .053 Benitoite .047 Peridot or chrysolite .038 Epidote .031 Tourmaline .020 Kunzite .015 Ruby and sapphire .009 Topaz (precious) .009 Amethyst and quartz topaz .009 Emerald and aquamarine .007 Chrysoberyl .007

The student should now put into practice the methods suggested in this lesson. Look first for the visible doubling of the lines of the back facets in peridot (or chrysolite); then in zircon; then in some of the less strongly doubly refracting stones; then try the sunlight-card method with genuine stones and with doublets and imitations until you can tell every time whether you are dealing with singly or doubly refracting material. When a stone of unknown identity comes along, try the method on it and thus assign it as a first step to one or the other class. Other tests will then be necessary to definitely place it.

DIFFERENCES IN REFRACTION DUE TO CRYSTAL FORM. The difference in behavior toward light of the singly and doubly refracting minerals depends upon the crystal structure of the mineral. All gems whose crystals belong in the cubic system are singly refracting in all directions: In the case of some other systems of crystals the material may be singly refracting in one or in two directions, but doubly refracting in other directions. No attention need be paid to these complications, however, when using the sunlight-card method with a cut stone, for in such a case the light in its course within the stone will have crossed the material in two or more directions, and the separation and consequent doubling of image will be sure to result. For those who wish to study double refraction more in detail, Chapter VI., pages 40-52, of G. F. Herbert-Smith's Gem-Stones will serve admirably as a text. As an alternative any text-book on physics will answer.



CAUSE OF COLOR IN MINERALS. In Lesson III. we saw that many gem materials cause light that enters them to divide and take two paths within the material. Now all transparent materials absorb light more or less; that is, they stop part of it, perhaps converting it into heat, and less light emerges than entered the stone. If light of all the rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet) is equally absorbed, so that there is the same relative amount of each in the light that comes out as in the light that went into a stone, we say that the stone is a white stone; that is, it is not a colored stone. If, however, only blue light succeeds in getting through, the rest of the white light that entered being absorbed within, we say that we have a blue stone.

Similarly, the color of any transparent material depends upon its relative degree of absorption of each of the colors in white light. That color which emerges most successfully gives its name to the color of the stone. Thus a ruby is red because red light succeeds in passing through the material much better than light of any other color.

UNEQUAL ABSORPTION CAUSES DICHROISM. All that has been said so far applies equally well to both singly and doubly refracting materials, but in the latter sort it is frequently the case, in those directions in which light always divides, that the absorption is not equal in the two beams of light (one is called the ordinary ray and the other the extraordinary ray).

For example, in the case of a crystal of ruby, if white light starts to cross the crystal, it not only divides into an ordinary ray and an extraordinary ray, but the absorption is different in the two cases, and the two rays emerge of different shades of red. With most rubies one ray emerges purplish red, the other yellowish red.

It will at once be seen that if the human eye could distinguish between the two rays, we would have here a splendid method of determining many precious stones. Unfortunately, the eye does not analyze light, but rather blends the effect so that the unaided eye gives but a poor means of telling whether or not a stone exhibits twin colors, or dichroism, as it is called. (The term signifies two colors.) A well-trained eye can, however, by viewing a stone in several different positions, note the difference in shade of color caused by the differential absorption.

THE DICHROSCOPE. Now, thanks to the scientific workers, there has been devised a relatively simple and comparatively inexpensive instrument called the dichroscope, which enables one to tell almost at a glance whether a stone is or is not dichroic. The construction is indicated in the accompanying drawing and description.

If the observer looks through the lens (A) toward a bright light, as, for example, the sky, he apparently sees two square holes, Fig. 4.

What has happened is that the light passing through the square hole (C of Fig. 3) has divided in passing through the strongly doubly refracting Iceland spar (B of Fig. 3) and two images of the square hole are thus produced.

If now a stone that exhibits dichroism is held in front of the square hole and viewed toward the light, two images of the stone are seen, one due to its ordinary ray (which, as was said above, will have one color), and the other due to its extraordinary ray (which will have a different color or shade of color), thus the color of the two squares will be different.

With a singly refracting mineral, or with glass, or with a doubly refracting mineral when viewed in certain directions of the crystal (which do not yield double refraction) the colors will be alike in the two squares. Thus to determine whether a red stone is or is not a ruby (it might be a garnet or glass or a doublet, all of which are singly refracting and hence can show no dichroism), hold the stone before the hole in the dichroscope and note whether or not it produces twin colors. If there seems to be no difference of shade turn the stone about, as it may have accidentally been placed so that it was viewed along its direction of single refraction. If there is still no dichroism it is not a ruby. (Note.—Scientific rubies exhibit dichroism as well as natural ones, so this test will not distinguish them.)

A dichroscope may be had for from seven to ten dollars, according to the make, and everyone who deals in colored stones should own and use one.

Not all stones that are doubly refracting exhibit dichroism. White stones of course cannot exhibit it even though doubly refracting, and some colored stones, though strongly doubly refracting, do not exhibit any noticeable dichroism. The zircon, for example, is strongly doubly refracting, but shows hardly any dichroism.

The test is most useful for emerald, ruby, sapphire, tourmaline, kunzite and alexandrite, all of which show marked dichroism.

It is of little use to give here the twin colors in each case as the shades differ with different specimens, according to their depth and type of color. The deeper tinted stones of any species show the effect more markedly than the lighter ones.

The method is rapid and easy—it can be applied to mounted stones as well as to loose ones, and it cannot injure a stone. The student should, if possible, obtain the use of a dichroscope and practice with it on all sorts of stones. He should especially become expert in distinguishing between rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, and their imitations. The only imitation (scientific rubies and sapphires are not here classed as imitations), which is at all likely to deceive one who knows how to use the dichroscope is the emerald triplet, made with real (but pale) beryl above and below, with a thin strip of green glass between. As beryl is doubly refracting to a small degree, and dichroic, one might perhaps be deceived by such an imitation if not careful. However, the amount of dichroism would be less in such a case than in a true emerald of as deep a color.

Those who wish to study further the subject of dichroism should see Gem-Stones, by G. F. Herbert-Smith, Chapter VII., pp. 53-59, or see A Handbook of Precious Stones, by M. D. Rothschild, Putnam's, pp. 14-16.



The properties so far considered as serving to distinguish precious stones have all depended upon the behavior of the material toward light.

These properties were considered first because they afford, to those acquainted with their use, very rapid and sure means of classifying precious stones.

DENSITY OF MINERALS. We will next consider an equally certain test, which, however, requires rather more time, apparatus, and skill to apply.

Each kind of precious stone has its own density. That is, if pieces of different stones were taken all of the same size, the weights would differ, but like-sized pieces of one and the same material always have the same weight. It is the custom among scientists to compare the densities of substances with the density of water. The number which expresses the relation between the density of any substance and the density of water is called the specific gravity number of the substance. For example, if, size for size, a material, say diamond, is 3.51 times as heavy as water, its specific gravity is 3.51. It will be seen that since each substance always has, when pure, the same specific gravity, we have here a means of distinguishing precious stones. It is very seldom, if ever, the case that we find any two precious stones of the same specific gravity. A few stones have nearly the same specific gravities, and in such cases it is well to apply other tests also. In fact one should always make sure of a stone by seeing that two or three different tests point to the same species.

We must next find out how to determine the specific gravity of a precious stone. If the shape of a stone were such that the volume could be readily calculated, then one could easily compare the weight with the volume or with the weight of the same volume of water, and thus get the specific gravity (for a specific gravity number really tells how much heavier a piece of material is than the same volume of water).

Unfortunately the form of most precious stones is such that it would be very difficult to calculate the volume from the measurements, and the latter would be hard to make accurately with small stones. To avoid these difficulties the following ingenious method has been devised:

If a stone is dropped into water it pushes aside, or displaces, a body of water exactly equal in volume to itself. If the water thus displaced were caught and weighed, and the weight of the stone then divided by the weight of the water displaced, we would have the specific gravity number of the stone.

This is precisely what is done in getting the specific gravity of small stones. To make sure of getting an accurate result for the weight of water displaced the following apparatus is used.

THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY BOTTLE. A small flask-like bottle (see Fig. 5) is obtained. This has a tightly fitting ground glass stopper (B). The stopper has a small hole (C) drilled through it lengthwise. If the bottle is filled with water, and the stopper dropped in and tightened, water will squirt out through the small hole in the stopper. On wiping off stopper and bottle we have the bottle exactly full of water. If now the stopper is removed, the stone to be tested (which must of course be smaller than the neck of the bottle) dropped in, and the stopper replaced, exactly as much water will squirt out as is equal in volume to the stone that was dropped in.

If we had weighed the full bottle with the stone on the pan beside it, and then weighed the bottle with the stone inside it we could now, by subtracting the last weight from the first, find out how much the water, that was displaced, weighed. This is precisely the thing to do. The weight of the stone being known we now have merely to divide the weight of the stone by the weight of the displaced water, and we have the specific gravity number. Reference to a table of specific gravities of precious stones will enable us to name our stone. Such a table follows this lesson.

A SAMPLE CALCULATION. The actual performance of the operation, if one is skilled in weighing, takes less time than it would to read this description. At first one will be slow, and perhaps one should read and re-read this lesson, making sure that all the ideas are clear before trying to put them in practice.

A sample calculation may help make the matter clearer, so one is appended:

Weight of bottle + stone (outside) = 53.51 carats Weight of bottle + stone (inside) = 52.51 carats —————— Weight of water displaced = 1.00 carat —————— Weight of stone = 3.51 carats

Weight of stone 3.51 Specific gravity = ———————- = —— = 3.51 Sp. g. Weight of water 1.00

In this case the specific gravity being 3.51, the stone is probably diamond (see table), but might be precious topaz, which has nearly the same specific gravity.

It is assumed that the jeweler will weigh in carats, and that his balance is sensitive to .01 carat. With such a balance, and a specific gravity bottle (which any scientific supply house will furnish for less than $1) results sufficiently accurate for the determination of precious stones may be had if one is careful to exclude air bubbles from the bottle, and to wipe the outside of the bottle perfectly dry before each weighing. The bottle should never be held in the warm hands, or it will act like a thermometer and expand the water up the narrow tube in the stopper, thus leading to error. A handkerchief may be used to grasp the bottle.


Beryl (Emerald) 2.74 Chrysoberyl (Alexandrite) 3.73 Corundum (Ruby, sapphire, "Oriental topaz") 4.03 Diamond 3.52 Garnet (Pyrope) 3.78 " (Hessonite) 3.61 " (Demantoid, known in the trade as "Olivine") 3.84 " (Almandite) 4.05 Opal 2.15 Peridot 3.40 Quartz (Amethyst, common topaz) 2.66 Spinel (Rubicelle, Balas ruby) 3.60 Spodumene (Kunzite) 3.18 Topaz (precious) 3.53 Tourmaline 3.10 Turquoise 2.82 Zircon, lighter variety 4.20 " heavier variety 4.69

For a more complete and scientific discussion of specific gravity determination see Gem-Stones, by G. F. Herbert-Smith, Chapter VIII., pp. 63-77; or see, A Handbook of Precious Stones, by M. D. Rothschild, pp. 21-27, for an excellent account with illustrations; or see any physics text-book.



WEIGHING A GEM IN WATER. In the previous lesson it was seen that the identity of a precious stone may be found by determining its specific gravity, which is a number that tells how much heavier the material is than a like volume of water. It was not explained, however, how one would proceed to get the specific gravity of a stone too large to go in the neck of a specific gravity bottle. In the latter case we resort to another method of finding how much a like volume of water weighs. If the stone, instead of being dropped into a perfectly full bottle of water (which then overflows), be dropped into a partly filled glass or small beaker of water, just as much water will be displaced as though the vessel were full, and it will be displaced upward as before, for lack of any other place to go. Consequently its weight will tend to buoy up or float the stone by trying to get back under it, and the stone when in water will weigh less than when in air. Anyone who has ever pulled up a small anchor when out fishing from a boat will recognize at once that this is the case, and that as the anchor emerges from the water it seems to suddenly grow heavier. Not only does the stone weigh less when in the water, but it weighs exactly as much less as the weight of the water that was displaced by the stone (which has a volume equal to the volume of the stone). If we weigh a stone first in the air, as usual, and then in water (where it weighs less), and then subtract the weight in water from the weight in air we will have the loss of weight in water, and this equals the weight of an equal volume of water, which is precisely what we got by our bottle method.

We now need only divide the weight in air by the loss of weight in water, and we shall have the specific gravity of the stone.

To actually weigh the stone in water we must use a fine wire to support the stone. We must first find how much this wire itself weighs (when attached by a small loop to the hook that supports the balance pan and trailing partly in the water, as will be the case when weighing the stone in water). This weight of the wire must of course be deducted to get the true weight of the stone in water. The beaker of water is best supported by a small table that stands over the balance pan. One can easily be made out of the pieces of a cigar box. (See Fig. 6.)

The wire that is to support the stone should have a spiral at the bottom in which to lay the gem, and this should be so placed that the latter will be completely submerged at all times, but not touching bottom or sides of the beaker.

Example of data, and calculation, when getting specific gravity by the method of weighing in water:

Weight of stone = 4.02 carats —————- Weight of stone (plus wire) in water = 3.32 carats Weight of wire = .30 carat —————- True weight of stone in water = 3.02 carats —————- Loss of weight in water = 1.00 carat

Weight of stone 4.02 Specific gravity = ———————- = —— = 4.02 Loss in water 1.00

Here the specific gravity, 4.02 would indicate some corundum gem (ruby or sapphire), and the other characters would indicate at once which it was.

The student who means to master the use of the two methods given in Lessons V. and VI. should proceed to practice them with stones of known specific gravities until he can at least get the correct result to the first decimal place. It is not to be expected that accurate results can be had in the second decimal place, with the balances usually available to jewelers. When the learner can determine specific gravities with some certainty he should then try unknown gems.

The specific gravity method is of especial value in distinguishing between the various colorless stones, as, for example, quartz crystal, true white topaz, white sapphire, white or colorless beryl, etc. These are all doubly refractive, have no color, and hence no dichroism, and unless one has a refractometer to get the refractive index, they are difficult to distinguish. The specific gravities are very different, however, and readily serve to distinguish them. It should be added that the synthetic stones show the same specific gravities as their natural counterparts, so that this test does not serve to detect them.

Where many gems are to be handled and separated by specific gravity determinations, perhaps the best way to do so is to have several liquids of known specific gravity and to see what stones will float and what ones will sink in the liquids. Methylene iodide is a heavy liquid (sp. g. 3.32), on which a "quartz-topaz," for example, sp. g. 2.66, would float, but a true topaz, sp. g. 3.53, would sink in it. By diluting methylene iodide with benzol (sp. g. 0.88) any specific gravity that is desired may be had (between the two limits 0.88 and 3.32). Specimens of known specific gravity are used with such liquids and their behavior (as to whether they sink or float, or remain suspended in the liquid,) indicates the specific gravity of the liquid. An unknown stone may then be used and its behavior noted and compared with that of a known specimen, whereby one can easily find out whether the unknown is heavier or lighter than the known sample.

An excellent account of the detail of this method is given in G. F. Herbert-Smith's Gem-Stones, pages 64-71, of Chapter VIII., and various liquids are there recommended. It is doubtful if the practical gem dealer would find these methods necessary in most cases. Where large numbers of many different unknown gems have to be determined it would pay to prepare, and standardize, and use such solutions.



By the term luster we refer to the manner and degree in which light is reflected from the surface of a material. Surfaces of the same material, but of varying degrees of smoothness would, of course, vary in the vividness of their luster, but the type of variation that may be made use of to help distinguish gems, depends upon the character of the material more than upon the degree of smoothness of its surface. Just as silk has so typical a luster that we speak of it as silky luster, and just as pearl has a pearly luster, so certain gems have peculiar and characteristic luster. The diamond gives us a good example. Most diamond dealers distinguish between real and imitation diamonds at a glance by the character of the luster. That is the chief, and perhaps the only property, that they rely upon for deciding the genuineness of a diamond, and they are fairly safe in so doing, for, with the exception of certain artificially decolorized zircons, no gem stone is likely to deceive one who is familiar with the luster of the diamond. It is not to be denied that a fine white zircon, when finely cut, may deceive even one who is familiar with diamonds. The author has fooled many diamond experts with an especially fine zircon, for the luster of zircon does approach, though it hardly equals, that of the diamond. Rough zircons are frequently mistaken for diamonds by diamond prospectors, and even by pickers in the mines, so that some care should be exercised in any suspicious case, and one should not then rely solely on the luster. However, in most cases in the trade there is almost no chance of the unexpected presence of a zircon and the luster test is usually sufficient to distinguish the diamond. (Zircons are strongly doubly refractive, as was said in Lesson III. on Double Refraction, and with a lens the doubling of the back lines may be seen.)

ADAMANTINE LUSTER. The luster of a diamond is called adamantine (the adjective uses the Greek name for the stone itself). It is keen and cold and glittering, having a metallic suggestion. A very large per cent. of the light that falls upon the surface of a diamond at any low angle is reflected, hence the keenness of its luster. If a diamond and some other white stone, say a white sapphire, are held so as to reflect at the same time images of an incandescent light into the eye of the observer, such a direct comparison will serve to show that much more light comes to the eye from the diamond surface than from the sapphire surface. The image of the light filament, as seen from the diamond, is much keener than as seen from the sapphire. The same disparity would exist between the diamond and almost any other stone. Zircon comes nearest to having adamantine luster of any of the other gems. The green garnet that is called "olivine" in the trade also approaches diamond in luster, hence the name "demantoid," or diamond like, sometimes applied to it.

VITREOUS LUSTER. The other stones nearly all have what is called vitreous luster (literally, glass like), yet owing to difference of hardness, and consequent minute differences in fineness of surface finish, the keenness of this vitreous luster varies slightly in different stones, and a trained eye can obtain clues to the identity of certain stones by means of a consideration of the luster. Garnets, for example, being harder than glass, take a keener polish, and a glance at a doublet (of which the hard top is usually garnet and the base of glass) will show that the light is better reflected from the garnet part of the top slope than from the glass part. This use of luster affords the quickest and surest means of detecting a doublet. One can even tell a doublet inside a show window, although the observer be outside on the sidewalk, by moving to a position such that a reflection from the top slope of the stone is to be had. When a doublet has a complete garnet top no such direct comparison can be had, but by viewing first the top luster, and then the back luster, in rapid succession, one can tell whether or not the stone is a doublet.

OILY LUSTER. Certain stones, notably the peridot (or chrysolite) and the hessonite (or cinnamon stone), have an oily luster. This is possibly due to reflection of light that has penetrated the surface slightly and then been reflected from disturbed layers beneath the surface. At any rate, the difference in luster may be made use of by those who have trained their eyes to appreciate it. Much practice will be needed before one can expect to tell at a glance when he has a peridot (or chrysolite) by the luster alone, but it will pay to spend some spare time in studying the luster of the various stones.

A true, or "precious" topaz, for example, may be compared with a yellow quartz-topaz, and owing to the greater hardness of the true topaz, it will be noted that it has a slightly keener luster than the other stone, although both have vitreous luster. Similarly the corundum gems (ruby and sapphire), being even harder than true topaz, take a splendid surface finish and have a very keen vitreous luster.

Turquoise has a dull waxy luster, due to its slight hardness. Malachite, although soft, has, perhaps because of its opacity, a keen and sometimes almost metallic luster.

One may note the luster rapidly, without apparatus and without damage to the stone. We thus have a test which, while it is not conclusive except in a very few cases, will supplement and serve to confirm other tests, or perhaps, if used at first, will suggest what other tests to apply.

Another optical effect that serves to distinguish some stones depends upon the reflection of light from within the material due to a certain lack of homogeneity in the substance.

CAUSE OF COLOR IN THE OPAL. Thus the opal is distinguished by the prismatic colors that emerge from it owing to the effect of thin layers of material of slightly different density, and hence of different refractive index from the rest of the material. These thin films act much as do soap-bubble films, to interfere with light of certain wave lengths, but to reflect certain other wave lengths and hence certain colors.

Again, in some sapphires and rubies are found minute, probably hollow, tube-like cavities, arranged in three sets in the same positions as the transverse axes of the hexagonal crystal. The surfaces of these tubes reflect light so as to produce a six-pointed star effect, especially when the stone is properly cut to a high, round cabochon form, whose base is parallel to the successive layers of tubes.

STARSTONES, MOONSTONES, CAT'S-EYES. In the moonstone we have another sort of effect, this time due to the presence of hosts of small twin crystal layers that reflect light so as to produce a sort of moonlight-on-the-water appearance within the stone when the latter is properly cut, with the layers of twin crystals parallel to its base. Ceylon-cut moonstones are frequently cut to save weight, and may have to be recut to properly place the layers so that the effect may be seen equally over all parts of the stone, as set.

Cat's-eye and tiger's-eye owe their peculiar appearance to the presence, within them, of many fine, parallel, silky fibers. The quartz cat's-eye was probably once an asbestos-like mineral, whose soft fibers were replaced by quartz in solution, and the latter, while giving its hardness to the new mineral, also took up the fibrous arrangement of the original material. The true chrysoberyl cat's-eye also has a somewhat similar fibrous or perhaps tubular structure. Such stones, when cut en cabochon, show a thin sharp line of light running across the center of the stone (when properly cut with the base parallel to the fibers). This is due to reflection of light from the surfaces of the parallel fibers. The line of light runs perpendicularly to the fibers.

In these cases (opals, starstones, moonstones, and cat's-eyes) the individual stone is usually easily distinguished from other kinds of stones by its peculiar behavior towards light. However, it must be remembered that other species than corundum furnish starstones (amethyst and other varieties of quartz, for example), so that it does not follow that any starstone is a corundum gem. Also the more valuable chrysoberyl cat's-eye may be confused with the cheaper quartz cat's-eye unless one is well acquainted with the respective appearances of the two varieties. Whenever there is any doubt other tests should be applied.

For further account of luster and other types of reflection effects see Gem-Stones, by G. F. Herbert-Smith, Chapter V., pp. 37-39, or A Handbook of Precious Stones, M. D. Rothschild, pp. 17, 18.



Another property by means of which one may distinguish the various gems from each other is hardness. By hardness is meant the ability to resist scratching. The term "hardness" should not be taken to include toughness, yet it is frequently so understood by the public. Most hard stones are more or less brittle and would shatter if struck a sharp blow. Other hard stones have a pronounced cleavage and split easily in certain directions. True hardness, then, implies merely the ability to resist abrasion (i. e., scratching).

Now, not only is hardness very necessary in a precious stone in order that it may receive and keep a fine polish, but the degree in which it possesses hardness as compared with other materials of known hardness may be made use of in identifying it.

No scale of absolute hardness has ever come into general use, but the mineralogist Mohs many years ago proposed the following relative scale, which has been used very largely:

MOHS'S SCALE OF HARDNESS. Diamond, the hardest of all gems, was rated as 10 by Mohs. This rating was purely arbitrary. Mohs might have called it 100 or 1 with equal reason. It was merely in order to represent the different degrees of hardness by numbers, that he picked out the number 10 to assign to diamonds. Sapphire (and ruby) Mohs called 9, as being next to diamond in hardness. True topaz (precious topaz) he called 8. Quartz (amethyst and quartz "topaz") was given the number 7. Feldspar (moonstone) was rated 6, the mineral apatite 5, fluorspar 4, calcite 3, gypsum 2, and talc 1.

It may be said here that any mineral in this series, that is of higher number than any other, will scratch the other. Thus diamond (10) will scratch all the others, sapphire (9) will scratch any but diamond, topaz (8) will scratch any but diamond and sapphire, and so on.

It must not be thought that there is any regularity in the degrees of hardness as expressed by these numbers. The intervals in hardness are by no means equal to the differences in number. Thus the interval between diamond and sapphire, although given but one number of difference, is probably greater than that between sapphire (9) and talc (1). The numbers thus merely give us an order of hardness. Many gem minerals are, of course, missing from this list, and most of the minerals from 5 down to 1 are not gem minerals at all. Few gem materials are of less hardness than 7, for any mineral less hard than quartz (7) will inevitably be worn and dulled in time by the ordinary road dust, which contains much powdered quartz.

In testing a gem for hardness the problem consists in finding out which of the above minerals is most nearly equal in hardness to the unknown stone. Any gem that was approximately equal in hardness to a true topaz (8) would also be said to be of hardness 8. Thus spinel is of about the same hardness as topaz and hence is usually rated as 8 in hardness. Similarly opal, moonstone, and turquoise are of about the same hardness as feldspar and are all rated 6.

Frequently stones will be found that in hardness are between some two of Mohs's minerals. In that case we add one half to the number of the softer mineral; thus, peridot, benitoite, and jade (nephrite) are all softer than quartz (7) but harder than feldspar (6); hence we say they are 6-1/2 in hardness. Beryl (aquamarine and emerald), garnet (almandine), and zircon are rated 7-1/2 in hardness, being softer than true topaz but harder than quartz. A table of the hardness of most of the commonly known gem-stones follows this lesson.

Having now an idea of what hardness means and how it is expressed, we must next inquire how one may make use of it in identifying unknown gems.

HOW TO APPLY THE HARDNESS TEST. In the first place, it is necessary to caution the beginner against damaging a fine gem by attempting to test its hardness in any but the most careful manner. The time-honored file test is really a hardness test and serves nicely to distinguish genuine gems, of hardness 7 or above, from glass imitations. A well-hardened steel file is of not quite hardness 7, and glass of various types while varying somewhat averages between 5 and 6. Hence, glass imitations are easily attacked by a file. To make the file test use only a very fine file and apply it with a light but firm pressure lengthwise along the girdle (edge) of the unset stone. If damage results it will then be almost unnoticeable. Learn to know the feel of the file as it takes hold of a substance softer than itself. Also learn the sound. If applied to a hard stone a file will slip on it, as a skate slips on ice. It will not take hold as upon a softer substance.

If the stone is set, press a sharp corner of a broken-ended file gently against a back facet, preferably high up toward the girdle, where any damage will not be visible from the front, and move the file very slightly along the surface, noting by the feel whether or not it takes hold and also looking with a lens to see if a scratch has been made. Do not mistake a line of steel, left on a slightly rough surface, for a true scratch. Frequently on an unpolished girdle of real gem material the file will leave a streak of steel. Similarly when using test minerals in accordance with what follows do not mistake a streak of powder from the yielding test material, for a true scratch in the material being tested. The safe way is to wipe the spot thus removing any powder. A true scratch will, of course, persist.

A doublet, being usually constructed of a garnet top and a glass back, may resist a file at the girdle if the garnet top covers the stone to the girdle, as is sometimes the case, especially in the smaller sizes. In this case the back must be tested.

One should never pass a file rudely across the corners or edges of the facets on any stone that may be genuine, as such treatment really amounts to a series of light hammer blows, and the brittleness of most gem stones would cause them to yield, irrespective of their hardness. It should be remembered that some genuine stones are softer than a file, so that it will not do to reject as worthless any material that is attacked by a file. Lapis lazuli (5), sphene (5), opal (6), moonstone (6), amazonite (6), turquoise (6), peridot (6-1/2), demantoid garnet (6-1/2) (the "olivine" of the trade), and jade (nephrite) (6-1/2), are all more or less attacked by a file.


10. Diamond. 9-1/2. (Carborundum.) 9. Sapphire and ruby (also all the color varieties of sapphire). 8-1/2. Chrysoberyl (alexandrite). 8. True topaz and spinel (rubicelle, balas ruby). 7-1/2. Emerald, aquamarine, beryl, Morganite, zircon (jacinth and true hyacinth and jargoon), almandine garnet. 7-1/4. Pyrope garnet (Arizona ruby, cape ruby), hessonite garnet (cinnamon stone), tourmaline (various colors vary from 7 to 7-1/2), kunzite (7+). 7. Amethyst, various quartz gems, quartz "topaz," jade (jadeite). 6-1/2. Peridot (chrysolite), demantoid garnet ("olivine"), jade (nephrite). 6. Opal, moonstone, turquoise. 5. Lapis lazuli.



MINERALS USED IN TESTING HARDNESS. For testing stones that are harder than a file the student should provide himself with the following set of materials:

1. A small crystal of carborundum. (Most hardware stores have specimen crystals as attractive advertisements of carborundum as an abrasive material, or the Carborundum Co., Niagara Falls, N. Y., will supply one.)

2. A small crystal of sapphire (not of gem quality, but it should be transparent and compact. A pale or colorless Montana sapphire can be had for a few cents of any mineral dealer).

3. A small true topaz crystal. (The pure white topaz of Thomas Mountain, Utah, is excellent; or white topaz from Brazil or Japan or Mexico or Colorado will do. Any mineral house can furnish small crystals for a few cents when not of specially fine crystallization.)

4. A small quartz crystal. (This may be either amethyst or quartz-topaz or the common colorless variety. The fine, sharp, colorless crystals from Herkimer County, N. Y., are excellent. These are very inexpensive.)

5. A fragment of a crystal of feldspar. (Common orthoclase feldspar, which is frequently of a brownish pink or flesh color, will do.)

These five test stones represent the following degrees of hardness:

1. Carborundum is harder than any gem material but diamond. It will scratch sapphire and ruby, which are rated 9 in hardness, hence we may call carborundum 9-1/2 if we wish. It is, however, very much softer than diamond, and the latter will scratch it upon the slightest pressure.

2. Sapphire, of hardness 9, scratching any gem material except diamond.

3. True topaz, of hardness 8. It is scratched by sapphire (and, of course, ruby), also by chrysoberyl (which is hence rated 8-1/2), but scratches most other stones. Spinel (which is also rated as 8 in hardness) is really a bit harder than topaz.

4. Quartz, of hardness 7, and scratched by all the previous stones but scratching those that were listed above as of less hardness than a file.

5. Feldspar, of hardness 6, hence slightly softer than a file and yielding to it, but scratching the stones likewise rated as 6 when applied forcibly to them. Also scratching stones rated as less than 6 on slight pressure.

We must next consider how these minerals may be safely used upon gem material. Obviously it would be far safer to use them upon rough gem material than upon cut stones. However, with care and some little skill, one may make hardness tests without particular danger to fine cut material.

The way to proceed is to apply the cut stone (preferably its girdle, or if that is so set as not to be available, a corner where several facets meet) gently to the flat surface of one of the softer test stones, drawing it lightly along the surface and noting the feel and looking to see if a scratch results. If the test stone is scratched try the next harder test stone similarly. Do not attempt to use the test stone upon any valuable cut stone. Proceed as above until the gem meets a test stone that it does not attack. Its hardness is then probably equal to the latter and perhaps if pressed forcibly against it a slight scratch would result, but it is not advisable to resort to heavy pressure. A light touch should be cultivated in this work. Having now an indication as to the hardness of the unknown gem look up in the table of the previous lesson those gems of similar hardness and then by the use of some of the tests already given decide which of the stones of that degree of hardness you have. Never rely upon a single test in identifying a gem.

For further study of hardness and its use in testing gems see Gem-Stones, G. F. Herbert-Smith, Chap. IX., pp. 78-81, and table on p. 305; or see A Handbook of Precious Stones, Rothschild, pp. 19, 20, 21.



Another property which may be made use of in deciding the identity of certain gems is that called dispersion. We have seen in Lesson II. that light in entering a stone from the air changes its path (refraction), and in Lesson III. it was explained that many minerals cause light that enters them, to divide and proceed along two different paths (double refraction). Now it is further true that light of the various colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) is refracted variously—the violet being bent most sharply, the red least, and the other colors to intermediate degrees. The cut (Fig. 7) represents roughly and in an exaggerated manner the effect we are discussing.

Now in a cut stone this separation of light of different colors, or dispersion of light, as it is called, results in the reflection of each of the colors separately from the steep sloping back facets of the stone. If almost any clear, colorless facetted stone is placed in the sunlight and a card held before it to receive the reflections, it will be seen that rainbow-like reflections appear on the card. These spectra, as they are called, are caused by the dispersion of light. With a diamond the spectra will be very brilliant and of vivid coloring, and the red will be widely separated from the blue. With white sapphire or white topaz, or with rock crystal (quartz), the spectra will be less vivid—they will appear in pairs (due to the double refraction of these minerals), and the red and blue will be near together (i. e., the spectra will be short). This shortness in the latter cases is due to the small dispersive power of the three minerals mentioned. Paste (lead glass) gives fairly vivid spectra, and they are single like those from diamond, as glass is singly refracting. The dispersion of the heavy lead glass approaches that of diamond. The decolorized zircon (jargoon) has a dispersion well up toward that of diamond and gives fairly vivid spectra on a card, but they are double, as zircon is doubly refracting. Sphene (a gem rarely seen in the trade) and the demantoid garnet (a green gem often called "olivine" in the trade) both have very high dispersive power, exceeding the diamond in this respect. As they are both colored stones (sphene is usually yellowish, sometimes greenish or brown), the vividness of their color-play is much diminished by absorption of light within them. So also the color-play of a deeply colored fancy diamond is diminished by absorption.

DISPERSION AS A TEST OF THE IDENTITY OF A GEM. We may now consider how an acquaintance with the dispersive powers of the various stones can be used in distinguishing them. If a stone has high dispersive power it will exhibit "fire," as it is called—i. e., the various colors will be so widely separated within the stone, and hence reflected out so widely separated, that they will fall on the eye (as on the card above) in separate layers, and vivid flashes of red or yellow or other colors will be seen. Such stones as the white sapphire (and others of small dispersion), however, while separating the various colors appreciably as seen reflected on a card, do not sufficiently separate them to produce the "fire" effect when the light falls on the eye. This is because the various colors, being very near together in this case, cross the eye so rapidly, when the stone is moved, that they blend their effect and the eye regards the light that thus falls upon it as white. We have here a ready means of distinguishing the diamond from most other colorless gems. The trained diamond expert relies (probably unconsciously) upon the dispersive effect (or "fire") nearly as much as upon the adamantine luster, in telling at a glance whether a stone is or is not a diamond. Of all colorless stones, the only one likely to mislead the expert in this respect is the whitened zircon (jargoon), which has almost adamantine luster and in addition nearly as high dispersive power as diamond. However, zircon is doubly refracting (strongly so), and the division of the spectra which results (each facet producing two instead of only one) weakens the "fire" so that even the best zircon is a bit "sleepy" as compared with even an ordinary diamond.

In addition to providing a ready means of identifying the diamond, a high degree of dispersion in a stone of pronounced color would lead one to consider sphene, demantoid garnet (if green), and zircon (which might be reddish, yellowish, brown, or of other colors), and if the stone did not agree with these in its other properties one should suspect glass.

A good way to note the degree of dispersion, aside from the sunlight-card method, is to look at the stone from the back while holding it up to the light (daylight). Stones of high dispersive power will display vivid color play in this position. Glass imitations of rubies, emeralds, amethysts, etc., will display altogether too much dispersion for the natural gems.

In Chap. III., p. 20, of G. F. Herbert-Smith's Gem-Stones, a brief account of dispersion is given. College text-books on physics also treat of it, and the latter give an account of how dispersion is measured and what is meant by a coefficient of dispersion. Most gem books say little about it, but as we have seen above, a knowledge of the matter can, when supplemented by other tests, be applied practically in distinguishing gems.



In reserving to the last the property of color, which many dealers in gems use first when attempting to identify a precious stone, I have sought to point out the fact that a determination based solely upon color is very likely to be wrong. So many mineral species are found in so many different colors that to attempt to identify any mineral species by color alone is usually to invite disaster. The emerald, alone among gems, has, when of fine color, a hue that is not approached by any other species. The color of the grass in the springtime fitly describes it. Yet even here the art of man has so closely counterfeited in glass the green of the emerald that one cannot be sure of his stone by color alone. As was suggested earlier in these lessons, the writer has several times recently had occasion to condemn as glass imitations stones for which high prices had been paid as genuine emeralds, those who sold them having relied solely upon a trained eye for color.

CONFUSION OF GEMS DUE TO SIMILARITY OF COLOR. The same tendency to rely upon color causes many in the trade to call all yellow stones "topaz" whether the species be corundum (oriental topaz), true topaz (precious topaz), citrine quartz (quartz topaz), heliodor (yellow beryl), jacinth (yellow zircon), or what not.

Similarly the public calls all red stones ruby. Thus we have "cape ruby" and "Arizona ruby" (pyrope garnet), "spinel ruby" (more properly ruby spinel), "Siam ruby" (very dark red corundum), "Ceylon ruby" (pale pinkish corundum), rubellite (pink tourmaline), and lastly Burmah ruby (the fine blood-red corundum).

While it is true that color, unless skillfully estimated and wisely used in conjunction with other properties, is a most unreliable guide, yet when thus used, it becomes a great help and serves sometimes to narrow down the chase, at the start, to a very few species. To thus make use of it requires an actual acquaintance with the various gem materials, in their usual colors and shades and an eye trained to note and to remember minute differences of tint and shade. The suggestions which follow as to usual colors of mineral species must then be used only with discretion and after much faithful study of many specimens of each of the species.

Let us begin with the beginning color of the visible spectrum, red, and consider how a close study of shades of red can help in distinguishing the various red stones from each other. In the first place we will inquire what mineral species are likely to furnish us with red stones. Omitting a number of rare minerals, we have (1) corundum ruby, (2) garnet of various types, (3) zircon, (4) spinel, (5) tourmaline. These five minerals are about the only common species which give us an out-and-out red stone. Let us now consider the distinctions between the reds of these different species. The red of the ruby, whether dark (Siam type), blood red (Burmah type), or pale (Ceylon), is more pleasing usually than the red of any of the other species. Viewed from the back of the stone (by transmitted light) it is still pleasing. It may be purplish, but is seldom orange red. Also, owing to the dichroism of the ruby the red is variable according to the changing position of the stone. It therefore has a certain life and variety not seen in any of the others except perhaps in red tourmaline, which, however, does not approach ruby in fineness of red color.

RED STONES OF SIMILAR SHADES. The garnet, on the other hand, when of fire-red hue, is darker than any but the Siam ruby. It is also more inclined to orange red or brownish red—and the latter is especially true when the stone is seen against the light (by transmitted light). Its color then resembles that of a solution of "iron" such as is given as medicine. The so-called "almandine" garnets (those of purplish-red tint) do not equal the true ruby in brightness of color and when held up to the light show more prismatic colors than the true ruby, owing to the greater dispersion of garnet. The color also lacks variety (owing to lack of dichroism). While a fine garnet may make a fair-looking "ruby" when by itself, it looks inferior and dark when beside a fine ruby. By artificial light, too, the garnet is dark as compared with the true ruby, and the latter shows its color at a distance much more strongly than the garnet.

The red zircon, or true hyacinth, is rare. (Many hessonite garnets are sold as hyacinths in the trade. These are usually of a brownish red.) The red of the hyacinth is never equal to that of the ruby. It is usually more somber, and a bit inclined to a brownish cast. The dispersion of zircon, too, is so large (about 87 per cent. of that of diamond) that some little "color-play" is likely to appear along with the intrinsic color. The luster too is almost adamantine while that of ruby is softer and vitreous. Although strongly doubly refracting, the hyacinth shows scarcely any dichroism and thus lacks variety of color. Hence a trained eye will at once note these differences and not confound the stone with ruby.

Spinels, when red, are almost always more yellowish or more purplish than fine corundum rubies. They are also singly refracting and hence exhibit no dichroism and therefore lack variety of color as compared with true ruby. Some especially fine ones, however, are of a good enough red to deceive even jewelers of experience, and one in particular that I have in mind has been the rounds of the stores and has never been pronounced a spinel, although several "experts" have insisted that it was a scientific ruby. The use of a dichroscope would have saved them that error, for the stone is singly refracting. Spinels are usually clearer and more transparent than garnets and show their color better at a distance or when in a poor light.

Tourmaline of the reddish variety (rubellite) is seldom of a deep red. It is more inclined to be pinkish. The dichroism of tourmaline is stronger than that of ruby and more obvious to the unaided eye. The red of the rubellite should not deceive anyone who has ever seen a fine corundum ruby.


Considering next the stones of yellow color, we have the following species to deal with: (1) diamond, (2) corundum, (3) precious topaz, (4) quartz, (5) beryl, (6) zircon, (7) tourmaline.

YELLOW ZIRCON RESEMBLES YELLOW DIAMOND. Here we have less opportunity to judge of the species by the color than was the case with the red stones. The diamond, of course, is easy to tell, not by the kind of yellow that it displays, for it varies greatly in that respect, but rather by its prismatic play blended with the intrinsic color. Its luster also gives an immediate clue to its identity. It is necessary, however, to be sure that we are not being deceived by a yellow zircon, for the latter has considerable "fire" and a keen luster. Its strong double refraction and its relative softness, as well as its great density will serve to distinguish it. Of the other yellow stones, the true or precious topaz is frequently inclined to a pinkish or wine yellow and many such stones lose all their yellow (retaining their pink) when gently heated. The so-called "pinked" topazes are thus produced.

The yellow corundum rarely has a color that is at all distinctive. As far as color goes the material might be yellow quartz, or yellow beryl, or yellow zircon, or yellow tourmaline (Ceylon type). Many of the yellowish tourmalines have a decidedly greenish cast (greenish-yellow chrysoberyl might resemble these also). However, in general if one has a yellow stone to determine it will be safer to make specific gravity or hardness tests, or both, before deciding, rather than to rely upon color.




Let us first consider what mineral species are most likely to give us green stones. Omitting the semi-precious opaque or translucent stones we have:

1. Grass-green beryl (the emerald) which is, of course, first in value among the green stones and first in the fine quality of its color.

2. Tourmaline (some specimens of which perhaps more nearly approach the emerald than any other green stones).

3. The demantoid garnet (sometimes called "olivine" in the trade).

4. True olivine (the peridot and the chrysolite of the trade).

5. Bluish-green beryl (aquamarine).

6. Green sapphire (Oriental emerald or Oriental aquamarine).

7. Chrysoberyl (alexandrite and also the greenish-yellow chrysoberyl).

1. Considering first the emerald, we have as legitimate a use of color in distinguishing a stone as could be selected, for emerald of fine grass-green color is not equaled by any other precious stone in the rich velvety character of its color. We have to beware here, however, of the fine glass imitations, which, while lacking the variety of true emerald, because of lack of dichroism, are nevertheless of a color so nearly like that of the emerald that no one should attempt to decide by color alone as to whether a stone is genuine or imitation emerald. If a hardness test shows that the material is a genuine hard stone and not a paste, then one who is well accustomed to the color of fine emerald can say at once whether a stone is a fine emerald or some other hard green stone. Where the color is less fine, however, one might well refuse to decide by the color, even when sure that the material is not glass, for some fine tourmalines approach some of the poorer emeralds in richness of color.

THE "SCIENTIFIC EMERALD" FRAUD. No "scientific" emeralds of marketable size have ever been produced as far as can be learned. Many attempts to reproduce emerald by melting beryl or emerald of inferior color have resulted only in the production of a beryl glass, which, while its color might be of desirable shade, was softer and lighter in weight than true emerald. It was also a true glass and hence singly refracting and without dichroism, whereas emerald is crystalline (not glassy or amorphous), is doubly refracting, and shows dichroism.

Do not be misled, then, into buying or selling an imitation of emerald under the terms "synthetic," "scientific," or "reconstructed," as such terms, when so used, are used to deceive one into thinking that the product offered bears the same relation to the true emerald that scientific rubies and sapphires bear to the natural stones. Such is not the case.

About the most dangerous imitation of the emerald that is ever seen in the trade is the triplet that has a top and a back made of true but pale beryl (the same mineral as emerald, but not of the right color) and a thin slice of deep emerald green glass laid between. This slice of glass is usually placed behind the girdle so that a file will not find any point of attack. The specific gravity of the triplet is practically that of emerald, its color is often very good, and it is doubly refracting. It is thus a dangerous imitation. (See Fig. 8.)

EMERALD TRIPLETS. A careful examination of one of these triplets, in the unset condition, with a good lens, will reveal the thin line of junction of the beryl with the glass. (The surface lusters of the two materials are enough different for the trained eye to detect the margin at once.) Such a triplet, if held in the sun, will reflect onto a card two images in pale or white light, one coming from the top surface of the table and the other from the top surface of the glass slice within. In other words, it acts in this respect like a doublet. A true emerald would give only one such reflection, which would come from the top surface of the table.

2. Tourmalines, when green, are usually darker than emeralds and of a more pronounced yellow green, or they may be of too bluish a green, as is the case with some of the finest of the green tourmalines from Maine. Connecticut green tourmaline tends more to the dark yellowish green, and Ceylon tourmaline to the olive green. The stronger dichroism of the tourmaline frequently reveals itself to the naked eye, and there is usually one direction or position in which the color of the stone is very inferior to its color in the opposite direction or position. Most tourmalines (except the very lightest shades) must be cut so that the table of the finished stone lies on the side of the crystal, as, when cut with the table lying across the crystal (perpendicular to the principal optical axis) the stones are much too dark to be pretty. Hence when one turns the cut stone so that he is looking in the direction which was originally up and down the crystal (the direction of single refraction and of no dichroism) he gets a glimpse of a less lovely color than is furnished by the stone in other positions. With a true emerald no such disparity in the color would appear. There might be a slight change of shade (as seen by the naked eye), but no trace of an ugly shade would appear.

By studying many tourmalines and a few emeralds one may acquire an eye for the differences of color that characterize the two stones, but it is still necessary to beware of the fine glass imitation and to use the file and also to look with a high-power glass for any rounding bubbles. The emerald will never have the latter. The glass imitation frequently does have them. The sharp jagged flaws and cracks that so often appear in emerald are likely to appear also in tourmaline as both are brittle materials. The glass imitations frequently have such flaws put into them either by pinching or by striking the material. Frequently, too, wisps of tiny air bubbles are left in the glass imitations in such fashion that unless one scrutinizes them carefully with a good lens they strongly resemble the flaws in natural emerald.

I have thus gone into detail as to how one may distinguish true emerald from tourmaline and from glass imitations because, on account of the high value of fine emerald and its infrequent occurrence, there is perhaps more need for the ability to discriminate between it and its imitations and substitutes than there is in almost any other case. Where values are high the temptation to devise and to sell imitations or substitutes is great and the need for skill in distinguishing between the real and the false is proportionally great.

3. The demantoid garnet (often unfortunately and incorrectly called "olivine" in the trade) is usually of an olive or pistachio shade. It may, however, approach a pale emerald. The refraction being single in this, as in all garnets, there is little variety to the color. The dispersion being very high, however, there is a strong tendency, in spite of the depth of the body color, for this stone to display "fire," that is, rainbow color effects. The luster, too, is diamond-like as the name "demantoid" signifies. With this account of the stone and a few chances to see the real demantoid garnet beside an emerald no one would be likely to mistake one for the other. The demantoid garnet is also very soft as compared with emerald (6-1/2 as against nearly 8).

4. True olivine (the peridot or the chrysolite of the trade) is of a fine leaf-green or bottle-green shade in the peridot. The chrysolite of the jeweler is usually of a yellower green. Frequently an olive-green shade is seen. The luster of olivine (whether of the peridot shade or not) is oily, and this may serve to distinguish it from tourmaline (which it may resemble in color). Its double refraction is very large also, so that the doubling of the edges of the rear facets may easily be seen through the table with a lens. The dichroism is feeble too, whereas that of tourmaline is strong. No one would be likely to confuse the stone with true emerald after studying what has preceded.

5. Bluish-green beryl (aquamarine) is usually of a pale transparent green or blue green (almost a pure pale blue is also found).

Having all the properties of its more valuable variety, emerald, the pale beryl may, by the use of these properties, be distinguished from the pale blue-green topaz which so strongly resembles it in color.

6. Green sapphire seldom even approaches emerald in fineness of color. When it remotely suggests emerald it is called "Oriental" emerald to denote that it is a corundum gem. Most green sapphires are of too blue a green to resemble emerald. Some are really "Oriental" aquamarines. In some cases the green of the green sapphire is due to the presence, within the cut stone, of both blue and yellow portions, the light from which, being blended by its reflection within the stone, emerges as green as seen by the unaided eye, which cannot analyze colors. The dark sapphires of Australia are frequently green when cut in one direction and deep blue when cut in the opposite direction. The green, however, is seldom pleasing.

7. Chrysoberyl as usually seen is of a yellowish green. The fine gem chrysoberyls known as alexandrites, however, have a pleasing bluish green or deep olive green color by daylight and change in a most surprising fashion by artificial light under which they show raspberry red tints. This change, according to G. F. Herbert-Smith, is due principally to the fact that the balance in the spectrum of light transmitted by the stone is so delicate that when a light, rich in short wave lengths, falls upon it the blue green effect is evident, whereas when the light is rich in long wave lengths (red end of the spectrum), the whole stone appears red. The strong dichroism of the species also aids this contrast. The chrysoberyls of the cat's-eye type (of fibrous or tubular internal structure) are usually of olive green or brownish-green shades.

Those who wish to further study color distinctions in green stones are recommended to see the chapters on beryl (pp. 184-196), peridot (pp. 225-227), corundum (pp. 172-183), tourmaline (pp. 219-224), chrysoberyl (pp. 233-237), and garnet (demantoid, pp. 216-218) in G. F. Herbert-Smith's Gem-Stones.




The species that furnish blue stones in sufficient number to deserve consideration are, aside from opaque stones:

1. Corundum (sapphire).

2. Spinel.

3. Tourmaline.

4. Topaz.

5. Diamond.

6. Zircon.

1. Of these minerals the only species that furnishes a fine, deep velvety blue stone is the corundum, and fine specimens of the cornflower blue variety are very much in demand and command high prices. The color in sapphires ranges from a pale watery blue through deeper shades (often tinged with green) to the rich velvety cornflower blue that is so much in demand, and on to dark inky blues that seem almost black by artificial light. Most sapphires are better daylight stones than evening stones. Some of the sapphires from Montana, however, are of a bright electric blue that is very striking and brilliant by artificial light.

HOW SAPPHIRES SHOULD BE CUT. The direction in which the stone is cut helps determine the quality of the blue color, as the "ordinary" ray (sapphire exhibits dichroism) is yellowish and ugly in color, and if allowed to be conspicuous in the cut stone, its presence, blending with the blue, may give it an undesirable greenish cast. Sapphires should usually be cut so that the table of the finished stone is perpendicular to the principal optical axis of the crystal. Another way of expressing this fact is that the table should cross the long axis of the usual hexagonal crystal of sapphire, at right angles. This scheme of cutting puts the direction of single refraction up and down the finished stone, and leaves the ugly ordinary rays in poor position to emerge as the light that falls upon the girdle edges cannot enter and cross the stone to any extent.

To find out with a finished stone whether or not the lapidary has cut it properly as regards its optical properties one may use the dichroscope, and if there is little or no dichroism in evidence when looking through the table of the stone it is properly cut.

Where a sapphire shows a poor color and the dichroscope shows that the table was laid improperly, there is some possibility of improving the color by recutting to the above indicated position. However, one must use much judgment in such a case, as sapphires, like other corundum gems, frequently have their color irregularly distributed, and the skillful lapidary will place the culet of the stone in a bit of good color, and thus make the whole stone appear to better advantage. It would not do to alter such an arrangement, as one would get poorer rather than better color by recutting in such a case.

While some of the blue stones about to be described may resemble inferior sapphires, none of them approaches the better grades of sapphire in fineness of blue coloration. The scientific sapphire, of course, does approach and even equals the natural sapphire so that one must know how to distinguish between them. This distinction is not one of color, however, and it will be separately considered a little later.

2. Blue spinels are infrequently seen in commerce. They never equal the fine sapphire in their color, being more steely. They, of course, lack dichroism and are softer than sapphire as well as lighter.

3. Blue tourmalines are never of fine sapphire blue. The name indicolite which mineralogists give to these blue stones suggests the indigo-blue color which they afford. The marked dichroism of tourmaline will also help detect it. Some tourmalines from Brazil are of a lighter shade of blue and are sometimes called "Brazilian sapphires."

4. Blue topaz is usually of a pale sky blue or greenish blue and is likely to be confused with beryl of similar color. The high density of topaz (3.53) as compared with beryl (2.74) serves best to distinguish it.

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