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Glossary A : 1 - 50

American Ruby

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The term American ruby" is actually a pyrope garnet (and not a ruby at all). There are real rubies found in the US, but they are not referred to as "American rubies".

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Aqua Regia

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Aqua regia is a 3:1 mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.  Aqua regia is used to test gold and platinum; it is one of the few substances that can dissolve gold and platinum.

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Aqua Aura

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Aqua aura is a beautiful iridescent bluish to clear stone that is made by coating clear quartz that with a fine layer of gold (or aluminium or copper).  In a process called called vapor deposition, the quartz is put into a vacuum chamber and attached to very hot electrodes.  A thin layer of the metal (only a micron or two thick) coats the quartz as the metal evaporates.

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Apatite

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Apatite (calcium phosphate) is a clear to opaque stone that comes in many colors, including green, yellow, blue, violet, and yellow-green (called asparagus stone).  Some apatite stones show a cat's eye asterism.  This stone is rarely used in jewelry because it is brittle and soft.  Apatite comes from the Greek word for "deceit," because it was easily confused with other minerals.  Apatite has a hardness of 5 and a specific gravity of 3.15-3.22.

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Apache Tears

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Apache tears (a type of obsidian) is a volcanic glass that is usually black, but is occasionally red, brown, gray, green (rare), dark with "snowflakes," or even clear.  This glassy, lustrous form of obsidian is found in lava flows in the southwest USA.  Obsidian is formed when viscous lava (from volcanos) cools rapidly.  Most obsidian is 70 percent silica.  Obsidian has a hardness of 5 and a specific gravity of 2.35.

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Antique Jewelry

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Jewelry that is generally at least 100 years old.

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Amorphous

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Amorphous means without form.  An amorphous gem, like jet, amber, or ivory, does not have a regular internal structure, like those gems that fall within the seven crystal systems.

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Ammolite

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Ammolite (also known as korite, calcentine, or Buffalo Stone. ) is a fossilized, opalized ammonite shell used as a gemstone (it is the shell of the ammonite, a fossilized marine animal, a cephalopod).  It is a gray, iridescent stone with flashes of green, red, yellow, blue or purple (blues and purples are rare); the color changes as the stone is turned.  Ammolite has a hardness of about 4 (it is very brittle before it is treated) and a specific gravity of 2.8.  Ammolite is usually treated with a colorless, hard material to increase the strength of the stone and is...

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Ametrine

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Ametrine is a variety of quartz, a mixture of amethyst and citrine.  Ametrine is partially purple and partially orange-yellow.

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Amethyst

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Amethyst (Greek for not drunken") is a form of the mineral quartz, and is a relatively common gemstone.  Amethyst is usually purple, but can range in color from pale lavender to a very deep, reddish purple to a milky color to green.  Deeper-colored amethysts are more highly valued.  The ancient Greeks believed that amethyst made one immune to the effects of alcohol.  Synthetic amethysts are hard to distinguish from the real stone.

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Amber

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Amber is translucent fossilized tree resin (from conifers), a natural hydrocarbon that comes in many colors, including yellow, reddish, whitish, black, and blue. Amber is flammable. Rubbing amber produces static electricity. The word electricity comes from the Greek word for amber, "elektron. It used to be thought that amber possessed magical powers that protected the wearer from evil. Pressed amber consists of small pieces of amber that have been fused together to form a larger piece. Fake amber is easily made from plastics, and buyers must beware of cheap imitations sold as natural amber. Amber has a hardness of 2.5...

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Amazonite

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Amazonite is an iridescent stone that ranges in color from green to blue-green.  Its composition is potassium aluminosilicate (KAlSi3O8), and is a type of feldspar (a green variety of microcline).  Amazonite is usually set as a cabochon (since it breaks easily if faceted).  This mineral was named for the Amazon River, where it was first thought to be found in the middle 1800s (the mineral found in the Amazon was actually a form of jadeite).  Amazonite is also found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, in Colorado and Virginia, USA, Russia, Australia, and Africa.  Amazonite has a hardness of 6...

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Almandine

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Almandine is a type of violet-tinged variety of garnet that ranges in color from deep red to reddish-brown.  Almandine is the most common kind of garnet.  Star garnets are almandines that exhibit an asterism.  Almandine has a hardness of 7. 5 and a specific gravity of 3.85-4.20.

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Alexandrite Effect

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The "Alexandrite Effect" is a phenomenon in which a stone appears to be different colors depending upon the type of light it is viewed in.  For example, the stone alexandrite appears to be red when seen in candle light and blue to green when seen in fluorescent light.  Many other stones exhibit the "Alexandrite Effect," including garnet and sapphire.

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Alexandrite

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Alexandrite is a mineral (a type of chrysoberyl) that appears to be different colors depending on whether it is viewed in natural or artificial light.  Alexandrite appears to be red when seen in candle light and blue to green when seen in fluorescent light.  Alexandrite was discovered on the birthday of the Russian Czar Alexander II, and it was named in his honor.  Alexandrite is mined in Russia, Brazil, Burma, Ceylon, and Rhodesia.  Laboratory-produced alexandrite is common, and it is often sold as natural alexandrite.  Alexandrite has a hardness of 8. 5 and a specific gravity of 3.64-3.74.

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Aigrette

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An aigrette (meaning "egret" in French) is a feather-shaped piece of jewelry that is worn in the hair or on a hat.

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Agate

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Agate is a variety of chalcedony (a family of microcrystalline quartz).  Agate is a very common stone that is often used in jewelry.  It is found in a wide range of colors, including black, gray, brown, reddish, green, pink, blue, and yellow.  Agate can be flecked with color and is often banded, exhibiting layers of quartz.  Agate is porous and takes dye easily; it is frequently dyed to enhance the coloration and the banding.  White agate was used often in Victorian jewelry, mostly as a background.  Moss agate has green, red or black dendritic inclusions.  Onyx is agate whose bands...

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African Jade

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African jade (also called Transvaal jade) is a misnomer for massive green grossular garnet that is mined in South Africa; it is not jade, but does look like jade.  It can be light green, white, or pink.

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African Emerald

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African emerald is a misnomer for green fluorspar that is mined in South Africa; it is not an emerald at all.

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Adventurine

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Adventurine is a misspelling of aventurine (and sometimes known as goldstone) is a shimmering quartz stone that ranges in color from yellow to red to light green to light brown.  The shimmer is caused by tiny metallic particles (mica) within the stone.

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Adularia

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Adularia is a common type of moonstone, a whitish-bluish semi-translucent stone.  Adularia is usually set as a cabochon.  Adularia was very popular early in the 20th century and was extensively used in Art Nouveau jewelry.  Adularia has a hardness of 6 and a specific gravity of 2.57.

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Adamantine

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Adamantine means having a luster like that of a diamond.

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Acroite

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Acroite is a rare, colorless variety of tourmaline.

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ABALONE

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Abalone is a mollusk whose shell is iridescent on the inside; abalone is a source of mother of pearl, which is used in jewelry making.

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AB

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AB stands for Aurora borealis (which means "northern lights").  Aurora borealis rhinestones have a special iridescent finish that shines with many colors.  The iridescent surface is a result of a very thin layer of metallic atoms that have been deposited on the lower surface of the stone.  This process was invented in 1955 by the Swarovski company together with Christian Dior.

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Alloys

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Alloys are formed when two or more elements are combined to form a different type of metal with special attributes. The new metal is typically stronger, more durable, and may be a different color.

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Anniversary Band

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An Anniversary Band is a ring in which gemstones have been set one-third to one-half of the way around the perimeter. Anniversary bands can be the same width all the way around or they can be tapered. Typically anniversary bands are set with diamonds and symbolize romance.

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