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Q: A few days ago I saw a beautiful new gemstone that I’ve never heard of, on a national T.V. shopping network. It was a transparent, “light celery green” gem they called Prasiolite. I talked to a jeweler who told me it is man made. Is it real or not? What can you tell me about it?
I love your newsletter. It’s easy to understand and I’ve learned a lot. Thanks, J.D.

A: J.D, Actually both are right. It is a real stone, but this color does not exist in nature. PRASIOLITE (Greek for Leek green stones), also called “GREEN AMETHYST”, “GREEN QUARTZ”, “VERMARINE”, can be anywhere from a pale yellow-green to the deeper shades of green. It is produced by heating violet amethyst and yellow quartz, from the Montezuma mines in Brazil, to approximately 500 degrees C. Recently, a new source of this special amethyst has been found in Arizona (USA). From everything I have read about PRASIOLITE, the color seems to be unstable, and usually fades in sunlight. Because of this instability House Of Gems will not be carrying this stone.

Q: I’m having a problem, and I hope you can help. A few of the ladies I sold necklaces to are complaining that they can’t remove the tarnish on the silver beads in the necklaces I sold them. The silver beads are located between pearls and gem beads in these necklaces. A friend suggested we use an ultrasonic cleaner, but I read somewhere that it might damage the pearls and gem beads. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks for your newsletter. Keep it up. E.G

A: You’re right about the ultrasonic cleaner damaging pearls and gemstones. I would suggest you try an Ionic Cleaner. These cleaners work by electrolysis. Ions are attached to dirt and grease, and surface tension is reduced. This permits dirt, tarnish and oxidation to be lifted away from jewelry or other metal pieces with gentle bubbles-without abrasion. No metal is lost. Stones and pearls are safely cleaned without potentially damaging vibration, friction, heat or abrasion. Rinsing and drying after immersion naturally enhances renewed luster.
Have you guessed the common thread in these questions? It is the “toughness” of the gems. Toughness, here, pertains to the durability of the gems. Toughness involves: hardness; cleavage; brittleness; porosity; heat resistance; impact resistance; chemical & acid resistance; flammability; shock resistance; light resistance; etc. Even though a gem is very hard, it could have a lower toughness scale because it can cleave, fade, or be attacked by chemicals. The following chart will try to give you information on the intrinsic weakness in the gemstones.

Virtually all gem beads, and glass beads, too, have some kind of weakness. Knowing these weaknesses helps you to plan their usage in your jewelry. For example, a bead with a toughness rating, in the following chart, of “poor” & “fair” tend to be more delicate and should be used in a more protected environment. Necklaces, earrings, and pins get little impact, where as, rings and bracelets can get a lot of impact. Weaker beads can be protected between metal or stronger beads. This isn’t something to be paranoid about. Diamonds, emeralds, opals, & tanzanite (all can shatter), plus pearls & amber (very soft), are among the most popular gems that are used in rings.