ABRACADABRA… Who was the first to make goldstone? You will find out in this blog!
You have gemstones, that are made of minerals. And you have also gemstones that are made by animals, like coral, amber, and ivory. But did you know that there is a man-made gemstone, called goldstone? There are a few stories about the origin of goldstone. So let me tell you about the nicest and most exciting ones.
After the stories, we go a little bit deeper, because you might have some questions about the combination ‘man-made’ and ‘ gemstone’. Don’t worry the explanation is in this blog too.
Columbus and goldstone?
At the beginning of the 15th century, Columbus gets the assignment of the queen of Spain to find the way to India and bring back spices and gold. Columbus takes the wrong way and ends up in America and calls the inhabitants Indians (he thinks this was India). But he brings a lot of gold to the queen and she is so happy and pays so well, that a lot of adventurous men start to get the gold of the Americas and bring it to Spain.
Spain became very very rich. When one country or one queen is very rich there are always jealous people who want that wealth too. Only they do not have the opportunity to send a whole fleet to get the gold.
Which monk did it?
At that time the only educated people are the monks: they are the only ones who read and write. One day a few monks get the request of a mighty man from the clergy to try to make gold. And those monks know a lot about chemistry, alchemy, medicine, and other things. So the mighty man thinks they have the ability to make gold. And he sees in his dream that he is as rich as the queen of Spain.
The monks tried and tried, but all tests fail. And then one day they make (by accident) a stone with golden spots in it: actually, it is glass and by accident, copper shavings fell into the barrel of glass. They call it goldstone. It was no gold, but it was the closest to the gold they can work out.
It is me, not him!
Another story tells about an Italian monk who also invents the gemstone by accident. While he is making glass and spills some copper in the glass: goldstone was born. Initially, the recipe is kept secret and passed on from one monk to another monk. When the secret is revealed to the Doge of Venice (the boss of the city-state) he gives the license to make goldstone to the Miotti family. But there is no proof or documentation that this story is true. Neither is there any documentation that the first story is true? It is also possible that the Miotti family invent this gemstone in the 17th century themselves.
Or is it Christoforo Briani?
There is a suggestion that in the 13th century one of the early glassmakers of the island of Murano (near Venice), Christoforo Briani, tries to make simulations of agate and chalcedony in glass and comes up with goldstone. Also, this is a nice story but not necessarily true.
Then the French do not stay behind and in France, there is a story that French monks invent goldstone, but the secret of making it is lost in times. It is rediscovered in modern times, and goldstone is now a popular material because of its beauty.
Your recipe for making goldstone!
It’s a type of glittering (because of the copper particles) man-made glass, that is made in a low-oxygen reducing atmosphere. Here is the recipe if you want to try to make goldstone yourself! An initial batch is melted together from silica, copper oxide, and other metal oxides to chemically reduce the copper ions to elemental copper. The vat is then sealed off from the air and maintained within a narrow temperature range, keeping the glass hot enough to remain liquid, while allowing metallic crystals to precipitate from the solution without melting or oxidizing.
maybe not a DIY recipe?
After a crystallization period, the entire batch is cooled to a single solid mass, which is then broken out of the vat for selection and shaping. You will see that the final appearance of each batch is highly variable and heterogeneous. The best material is near the center or “heart” of the mass, ideally with large, bright metal crystals suspended in a semitransparent glass matrix.
What alchemy gives the color?
The common color of goldstone is reddish-brown, due to the copper in the material. It also exists in other color variants based on other elements. Cobalt or manganese can be substituted for copper; the resulting crystals have a more silvery appearance, resulting in blue goldstone or purple goldstone respectively. Green goldstone forms its reflective particles from chromium oxides.
Aventurine is goldstone?
Another name for goldstone is aventurine (glass). The name comes from the Italian name avventurina (from avventura, ‘adventure’ ). It is sometimes called ‘sang-e setareh’ or ‘sang-e khorshid‘ (sang means ‘stone’, ‘khorshid’ means ‘sun’ and setareh means ‘star’ in Farsi) for its starry internal reflections, or ‘monk’s gold’ from folkloric associations with an unnamed monastic order.
01. It is said that goldstone is thé stone for the ambitious people. It reduces stomach pain (getting from all the stress coning with the ambition), it is great for your vitality and gives release when you have arthritis, painful joints and it improves the circulation of the blood.
02. The cleaning part is something you have to know for every gemstone or stone in general, just to prevent your precious jewelry from getting ‘ugly’. If you believe that goldstone has something to do with good energy, you have to clean it with running tepid water, to discharge the build-up energy. Use to dry soft cloth. When a better clean is necessary, use a soft brush.
03. You can get goldstone in different colors; blue, orange, and transparent are the most common. You find them also in reddish-brown, darker green, dark blue, dark purple. Since it is a manmade stone, you don’t mind it, but the production can be found in Venice (Italy).
The reddish brownish and orangish goldstone contain copper to get that color. For the blue color, they use cobalt, for purple they add manganese, and the green color is made with chromium.
At the beginning of this blog, I promised to give more information about the fact that a gemstone, can be a man-made stone. Well, here we go!
To start with the term ‘man-made’ does not express the essence of these types of gemstones. There are three types of man-made gemstones:
All synthetic gemstones are made in a laboratory by a person (or two) and a lot of machines. The same ingredients as the natural stone are used. And the machines copy the natural processes and the result is that you get a synthetic gemstone, that is chemical and optically identical to the real natural gem. Including the same inclusions and flaws.
For example, synthetic diamonds are made with the same ingredients as the real diamond (carbon), under a lot of pressure (not underground or by a volcano), and you cannot see the difference without using a lot of instruments and meters. And even then it is difficult to distinguish the real from the synthetic diamond.
Of course, you have different qualities in synthetic gemstones. Sometimes the costs of making them are very high, and you get a good quality, sometimes even you can see the difference. For instance when the color looks very artificial. And there are even synthetic gemstones that look like gemstones but don’t have a natural version.
The gemstones that are made in a lab and look exactly like the real ones are synthetic gemstones. But when they are only copied to look like the real gemstone, without having the same ingredients, are called simulated gemstones or simulants.
Besides the goldstone, the synthetic gemstone, we discussed at the beginning of this blog, a famous synthetic gemstone is the cubic Zirconia. Don’t confuse this gem with the natural gemstone Zircon.
The hardness of cubic Zirconia is 8 to 8.5 on the scale of Moh, and that is harder than most of the natural gemstones. The production of this gem is complex, but producers get it done to keep the price down and cubic Zirconia is the basis of a lot of cheap jewelry with high quality. A well-known producer is Swarovski.
Simulated gemstones are look-alikes from the original natural and real gemstones, but not necessarily made in a lab. For instance, Hydra quartz is a very high-quality glass, that looks like the original gemstone. Since this glass looks so beautiful and is less expensive than the real stuff, FlorenceJewelshop sells some earrings made, with this Hydra quartz.
Another way is using assembled stones to make look-alikes. For this, you can use doublets or triplets, which are two or three pieces of another (cheaper) gemstone, glued on one another and this assembled stone looks like a real natural gem. A garnet doublet with the right cut looks like a ruby. Natural and synthetic spinels are frequently used to look (and sold as) other gemstones.
With the right equipment, you can recognize a simulated gemstone, since the ingredients might be different, just like the inclusions, flaws, or even the hardness of the stone. These types of gemstones are fakes, or imitations, although real gemstones are used to look like another more expensive gem. These types of gems have often very misleading names. like Geneva Ruby
Vendors don’t use the terms ‘synthetic’ or ‘simulated’ gemstones. Those terms don’t sell. So they use ‘created gems’. Although a synthetic gemstone may be created from a real gem, it is still synthetically made, which a lot of buyers don’t want.
You will find the reason why synthetic or simulated gemstones started to overflow the market in the early 1900s a little further in this blog.
Treated but natural gemstones
Some natural gemstones don’t have the right quality, regarding color or inclusions. Heating those gemstones solves that problem. Some natural gems are always heated in order to sell them.
You might say that all treated gemstones are synthetic or simulated gems, regardless of the origin. But I do think that is skipping the problem to the wrong side.
For instance, if you have a diamond with inclusion you can treat it with a kind of acid, which bleaches the inclusion. If you tell the buyer and explain what has happened, I don’t think you can call it a synthetic diamond. The same goes for sapphires that need to improve the color or remove the silk inclusions with heat. In my view, it stays a natural gemstone, but you need to tell the buyer.
If you heat an amethyst or citrine, to make it look like a green amethyst or topaz then you are frauding. But when the client agrees and buys the stone anyway, then it is all right.
Why use synthetic gemstones in the first place?
You may ask yourself ‘why use synthetic gemstones when there are such beautiful natural gemstones available’. For nearly everything in the world, people find an imitation or a substitute. Through the ages, there are always people that try to get profits from imitations. And it gets really problematic when the imitations or the synthetic gemstones have the quality they have today. So that you hardly see which one is the real one, without testing.
And those synthetic gemstones are rather cheap and available in large quantities.
What are the reasons to produce the synthetic gemstones and the other fake stones available:
- Money or profit: taking cheap material or cheap gemstones, cut them like an real gem and selling them as an natural gemstone is very profitable. And since the world turns, there are always people that try to get money with cheating others. Especially when it is so hard (and expensive, due to the high price of the tests) to find out whether you are getting cheated or not.
- A lot of synthetic gems available: natural gemstones have to be mined, mines can get exhausted and other reasons why the natural gemstones can get scarse. While the synthetic gemstones come out of the lab by the ton. They produce a standard high quality, without any inclusions and flaws. And there are always gemstone dealers and cutters that want to earn a quick buck and just sell the fake ones without any hesitation.
- Hard to get caught: since the tests are about $60 per bead or stone, the quality of the fake ones are so high and people pay and want to have the cheap gems, there is no way that the dealers of these gemstones are getting caught.
The cheating starts for instance in Bangkok or India, and the gemstones are sold and re-sold and re-sold again and the last dealer does not know that the gems he or she bought are fake. Then it is difficult to find the first crook in the line. And trying to solve the matter with lawyers and courts costs more than the value of the synthetic gemstone.
What gemstones can be synthetic?
Some gemstones are more copied or replaced by synthetic gemstones than others. You must be a little more careful where you buy your piece of jewelry, made of the following gemstones:
- Alexandrite, Chrysoberyl, Diamond, Emerald, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Sapphire, Spinel, Ruby, Turquoise and the Quartzes Ametrine, Amethyst and Citrine.
These synthetic gemstones have very fancy names, like:
- Geneva Ruby or Chatham created ruby
- Biron Emeralds, Gilson Emeralds, or African Emerald (actually is Fluorite)
- Chatham Sapphire
- Fabulite Diamond, Chatham Diamond, or Moissanite (synthetic diamond)
- Czochralski Crystals
- Fosterite (a Tanzanite stimulant)
The pro’s and con’s buying synthetic gemstones
The people who buy synthetic gemstones fall for a good price, which is cheaper than the price of a natural gemstone. Cheaper, while you don’t see that is not a natural gem and even better, someone else does not see that either. Producing synthetic gemstones is more eco-friendly, than mining the natural ones, especially when the miners use chemical fluids or methods to get the raw gems.
The buyers who only want to buy natural gemstones want to buy a gem that keeps its value. And even better, will get more valuable over the years. And they see those gemstones as an investment. Important features may get lost, like the hardness or (when you are a believer) the healing and spiritual features. Those buyers are not interested in buying synthetic gemstones.
Remember, that items that are hard to get, or getting scarce are more valuable and gain value than items that are produced by the ton and lose value because they are easily available.
The effects on the gemstone market
The effects of all these synthetic gemstones overflooding the market are dramatic. I will give you two examples:
It was in the 1970s and my father, who was a jeweler got a visitor. He presented himself as a diamond seller. My father did not know him and in this jewelry business, you have to be very careful with whom you are dealing with. My father asked me to join him. I was interested in the jeweler’s business but still attended high school.
The seller opened his suitcase and showed us different little parcels of stones. You have to know that in those days as a jeweler designer you did not buy one stone, but always a little parcel of a certain weight. And you never knew whether there was a 1-carat diamond in the parcel or several smaller ones, but you know the weight. the color and the quality.
This guy opened a little parcel with several gemstones and they seem to be the same weight, color, etc. My father and I looked at each other and we both got a bad feeling about it. The seller offered us 10 gems of exactly the same weight: 1 carat. And he told us that they were mined in Russia. Not a large diamond mining region.
My father took one diamond and went upstairs to his equipment (refractometer), with which he could see whether there are inclusions in the stone, check the color and the refraction of the stone. That means you can see how the light bends or refracts.
The result of that check was that the color was right, there were no inclusions in the stone, but there was something funny with the refraction. The diamond was a synthetic diamond and so a fake one!
My father came down and told the seller that he was not interested. After he left he explained to me what he discovered and warned all his colleagues. Since that time I never trusted a 1-carat diamond anymore, and I never bought or sold one.
The Emerald market
More or less the same happened to the Emerald market. When the stories about the synthetic 1-carat diamond are not widespread, the stories about the synthetic Emeralds are. The buyers did not trust this gemstone anymore and avoided purchasing them. The market of Emeralds collapsed and has not recovered yet.
Buying gemstones is a matter of trust and when you don’t trust a product you don’t buy it. The dealers of the synthetic gemstones get richer and the trustworthy jewelers are the victims, together with the buyers.
Thank you for reading this blog. Don’t you think that besides being very beautiful the gemstones are also very interesting? There is so much more to tell you about them. FlorenceJewelshop published a PDF where you can find all the interesting and fun facts about birthstones and well-known gemstones. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
Florence for FlorenceJewelshop