All-American Beauties


July 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News

All-American Beauties

The U.S. produces a bevy of natural gems that quicken the heartbeat. Here are two

Raise the flag, light the sparklers and strike up the band to celebrate the nation's independence this month. And while you and your customers are in an all-American mood, why not promote gemstones of U.S. origin.

The U.S. produces some of the finest and most unusual gemtones in the world, including the rediscovered Four Peaks amethyst with its royal velvety purples and coveted flashes of red, and the copper-included sunstone, which is unique to North America.

U.S. gem sources have always been enormously popular with jewelers who recognize the "Made in America" cachet. Now some new developments warrant a closer look at how these gems can enhance sales.

The Four Peaks deposit of amethyst near Phoenix, AZ, is legendary. It once yielded large amethyst with red flashes said to rival fabled Siberian material. Producers say such gems soon will be available again.

The mine, 7,200 feet above sea level in the Mazatzal Mountains, has reopened under the auspices of the Four Peaks Mining Co. after a 20-year lull. The faceted amythests will be distributed by Commercial Mineral Co. of Scottsdale, AZ.

Prices will be competitive with world market prices for amethyst, say producers, particularly Zambian and Brazilian goods. The material will sell for $35-$38 wholesale per carat for top qualities, $15-$25 for commercial qualities and less for lower grades. Commercial Mineral Co. will issue a certificate of guarantee of natural, U.S. origin with every stone.

Sunstone is about to go mainstream thanks to interest from major jewelers such as H. Stern and Tiffany & Co., as well as from television shopping networks.

Sunstone is mined in several locations by several producers in Oregon. One attraction of sunstone is the "schiller effect," which gives each gem a unique appearance because of the random arrangement of copper platelet inclusions. American sunstone, a gem from the feldspar group, also varies widely in color: ranges of orange, red, green and colorless are seen most often. Clever cutters can combine these to show a multicolored gemstone.

While some sunstones are faceted if they have good body color or clarity, most are calibrated, cabochon goods. Some exceptional pieces are used in glyptic carving.

Pricing is difficult to pin down because each gem is unique. However, small commercial goods can sell for $6 to $20 per carat wholesale; more saturated, unique gems range from $20 to $90 per carat. Much larger, fine gems are negotiated individually. American sunstone is not treated or enhanced in any way.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

These two amethysts from the Four Peaks Mine in Arizona show the highly coveted royal purple and red flash. Gems courtesy of Commercial Mineral Co., Scottsdale, AZ; (800) 545-GEMS or (602) 944-4185.

This 44.07-ct carved tricolor sunstone from Oregon shows the copper-inclusion "schiller" effect that makes this American gem special. The carving is by Bart Curren; the gem is courtesy of The Mines Group, Boise, ID; (208) 377-9428.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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