Professional Jeweler Archive: In Brief

January 2004

Gemstones & Pearls/Gemology

In Brief

Miners discover a new blue gem and open a new field for opals.

New Gem Discovered in Canada

True North Gems, a Canadian mining company, confirmed that a gemstone discovered in Canada’s Yukon Territory in August is unique in the world of known gems. Described as a deep blue beryl, this new material most closely resembles aquamarine, also a variety of beryl. Company officials also liken its deep blue to the rare beryl called maxixe.

The new material, first found as an item of “curiosity” in 1976, was rediscovered on True North’s True Blue property in the Lake Finlayson District of the Yukon Territory.

“Powder X-ray diffraction confirmed it to be a member of the beryl species,” says Lee Groat, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Earth and Sciences. Groat performed a series of tests to better understand the gem. A scanning electron microscope determined its trace analysis to contain unusual amounts of sodium, aluminum and iron, which he says might partly explain the saturated color.

“It has a unique very high iron content,” says William Rohtert, consulting gemologist for True North. “In many respects the color resembles that of blue sapphire. This material has a slightly higher refractive index and specific gravity than aquamarine. It’s also dichroic in two directions, much like the rare maxixe beryl.” (Tests draw a distinction from maxixe beryl. The deep blue of maxixe fades in sunlight, so it must be irradiated and stored in a dark place for the color to endure. The True Blue beryl does not fade, says Rohtert. “Material has been lying on the surface for thousands of years and the color has remained strong,” he says. “For that and other reasons, it is a very different kind of beryl.”)

For now samples of the new material yield small but marketable sizes ranging up to nearly 1.0 carat. Rohtert says it will make excellent calibrated melee for use in pavé settings. Exploration is in its infancy. Company scientists and mining engineers expect to start mapping, trenching and bulk-sampling next year.

True North Gems is a pioneer in Canadian colored gem mining, having discovered and developed a mine for emeralds (also a variety of beryl) in the Regal Ridge property near Lake Finlayson. It’s also developing a second mine for emeralds in Ontario’s Ghost Lake district.

  • True North Gems, West Vancouver, BC, Canada; (800) 399-8055.

New Australian Opal Fields Open

Some new mining areas for boulder opal have opened in Queensland, Australia, with new material expected to reach the market in the next 12 months, reports International Colored Gemstone Association ambassador Damien Cody, based in Australia. This is welcome news for jewelers who sell the gem because fine single opals from Australia have been in short supply in the U.S. for several years.

Cody says opal production in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia (where many of the best boulder opals have been found in the past) is low, mostly because of a decline in new finds.

The dearth of larger single opals led to more manufacturing of opal doublets, where thin slices of opal are glued onto a base (usually dyed black chalcedony). Opal triplets are made by gluing clear quartz cabochons onto an opal slice.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications