April's birthstone is really diamond, but as we do not stock that, we wanted to explore the best alternative: crystal quartz! Quartz can come in a variety of shades and colours - in fact some classic gemstones such as amethyst and citrine are in fact varieties of quartz. However, crystal quartz, the colourless variety, is the purest.
Crystal Quartz in its raw form
Sometimes, varieties or quartz are treated with everything from heat to metal vapours to gamma radiation in order to produce the qualities desired - this is certainly not the kind of crystal quartz we deal in at Gemstones Brazil! Our crystal quartz is mined and cut at our own mines in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Most of our stones are loupe clean, meaning that they are internally flawless, and free of any inclusions.
Some of Gemstones Brazil's extensive crystal quartz collection
So where does this most versatile of gemstones come from? Well, quartz is usually found in deposits containing other stones, or gold deposits (as is the case in Minas). The American state of Arkansas is virtually the only place in the world it is mined alone.
The origins of its name are more European: 'quarz' means 'hard' in German, while 'crystal' is derived from the Ancient Greek word for ice - Pliny the Elder believe that crystal quartz was just ice that had been frozen for a very long time.
In terms of cultural association, it is very important in Australian aboriginal cultures, and had significance in funerals in Ireland, centuries ago. Other Europeans also used it as a hard tip for tools, as well as for decorative items such as vases, extravagant vessels and jewellery.
This jug was carved from crystal quartz and topped with a gold lid, around 1000 AD. It now resides in the Louvre in Paris.
Nowadays, crystal quartz is loved for its versatility, and the rustic, almost Celtic edge it can add to a jewellery design. Here are some of our favourite examples:
So if you're looking to buy some crystal quartz and craft your own design, what do you need to know?
Crystal Habitat: six-sided prism, with six-sided prisms on each extremity
Crystal System: hexagonal
Hardness: 7 (on the Mohs scale)
Refractive Index: 1.543-1.554
Transparency: transparent to opaque
The value of a crystal quartz gemstone is defined in accordance with the so-called "Four 'C's":
- Clarity refers to the transparency of the quartz; the general rule of thumb that the more light is refracted through the gem, the higher its value. Most of our stones are loupe clean, meaning that they are completely transparent - or 'crystal clear'!
- Quartz comes in many shades, and colourless crystal quartz often includes traces of other colours within the stones owing to the presence of other minerals. This lowers the value usually, unless it is a rare occurrence which renders the stone more aesthetically-pleasing.
- Carat refers to size, and of course, the bigger the stone is, the more expensive it will be!
- Lastly, the cut affects the value, as different cuts require different levels of skill; we have 35 different varieties in our store.