Spruce Pine Gem Mine Gemstone Identification Information
Emerald is the most expensive gem you can find at most North Carolina Gem Mines. There have only been two deposits of Emeralds found in North America and our local Emerald mine was operated by Tiffany’s of New York….yes….the famed Tiffany’s of New York! Emerald is a member of the Beryl family. It derives it’s color from Chromium and is usually a light to medium grass green in color. The darker the better, but any Emerald is a good Emerald. Emeralds are prone to having lots of inclusions and fractures. This makes getting a finished gem of more than a carat or two extremely difficult. They have a hardness of 7 to 7.5 which is good for hardness but they must be treated carefully and cut with care. It usually costs between $85 and $100 to cut an Emerald, but the return in value is worth the cost. Most Emeralds will fetch from $300 to $1000 per carat! Emerald is the birthstone for May and is found in North Carolina, Columbia, Brazil and Africa.
Aquamarine is the blue variety of Beryl. It is increasingly difficult to find in gem quality and will be one of the most expensive stones in any jewelry store. It is found in North Carolina, Brazil and Africa. It’s name is derived from the latin words “aqua” and “marine” meaning “sea water” and will most commonly have a light blue to blue-green color. The darker the gem the more valuable it will be, but most dark Aquamarine comes from Brazil and is often heat-treated to darken it’s color. This gem is used as the birthstone for March and will fetch prices of $80 per carat for near colorless stones to $400 per carat for darker colors. The average cost to cut an Aquamarine is $65 for normal size stones as it has a hardness of 7.5.
There are about 151 colors and shades of Tourmaline. Most Tourmaline found in North Carolina is black called “Schorl” Tourmaline. If it is quality, it can be cut in cabochon to resemble a Black Onyx stone. Rarely will you find another color but black, but if you do luck upon a color it will more than likely be a deep green. Now you have a stone that is worth taking a close look at! It is very common for Tourmalines to be riddled with fractures and inclusions so finding a clear enough area with a nice green color is rare. Stones above two or three carats are hard to come by but worth $75 to $150 per carat. Tourmaline is found in Maine, California, Brazil, and Africa in many shades of pink, blue, green, and even in multi-colored crystals termed “Watermelon Tourmaline”. The stone has a hardness of 7.5 so will usually cost $65 to $75 to facet a gem. Pink Tourmaline is a birthstone for October along with Opal.
Ruby is the red member of the family Corundum. It can be bright blood red and it can be dark plum to burgundy red. It can be transparent and cut with facets and it can also be non-transparent and cut into cabochon. It can display a “star” effect. Regardless of what type of Ruby you find, it is a valuable gemstone. It has been called the “King of Gems” for centuries and commands some of the highest prices in the gemstone world. Ruby is found in North Carolina, Thailand, and India. Our native Ruby tends to be deeper red and not have as much transparency as the stones from elsewhere. It can still fetch prices into the hundreds of dollars per carat. Ruby has a hardness of 9 making it the hardest gemstone next to Diamond. This increases the cost to cut and polish these stones and you will typically pay $75 for normal size stones. Having larger stones cut can cost much more. Ruby will have an average value of $75 to $300 per carat. It is the birthstone for July.
On occasion a Ruby will have microscopic inclusions that are almost invisible to the eye. When these Ruby stones are cut in cabochon the light reflecting from the surface of the Ruby will display a “star”. The star will have six rays as a Ruby crystal naturally forms with six sides. The stone must be cut properly in order to show the star. Most Rubies that will star will be darker red to burgundy red in color and this dark color best shows the star. The cost to cut a Star Ruby will average $75 for normal size gems and a good Star Ruby will have a value of $100 to $300 per carat.
Sapphire is best known as the blue birthstone for September. It is found in North Carolina but is usually very dark blue to black in color. This color is usually termed “midnight blue”. Sapphire comes in a large variety of colors, not just blue. It can be found in Thailand and other sources worldwide in green, yellow, pink, orange, violet, and even clear like a Diamond. Sapphire has a hardness of 9 and is a member of the Corundum family along with Ruby. It is classed as a precious gem along with Ruby and Emerald. Our Sapphires will usually have a value of between $60 and $200 per carat. Having a hardness of 9, like Ruby, makes this stone cost usually about $75 to cut a normal size stone and large stones can run into the hundreds to cut and polish.
Amethyst is a member of the Quartz family and is one of few naturally purple gemstones. Most common in pale lilac to medium purple color, however dark purple stones with flashes of red are the most valuable. It is found in North Carolina as well as Brazil, Bolivia, Africa, Georgia, and more. It is used as the birthstone for February. With a hardness of 7, it is an excellent stone for everyday wear. Average cost to cut an Amethyst is $55 for a normal size stone. Once cut, most Amethyst will vary in value from $15 to $75 per carat. Some of the darkest stones can reach $100 per carat but this is rare.
The gemstone Ametrine is a natural combination of Amethyst and Citrine. It is found in the mountains of Bolivia and is increasingly hard to obtain. The small available quantity of this stone will continue to drive prices higher and higher. Ametrine will have an average price of $25 to $75 per carat with large deeper color stones selling for even more. If you are fortunate to find one of these stones it makes a beautiful and unique gemstone. The cost to cut an Ametrine is usually around $55.
Citrine is another member of the Quartz family. It is found in all shades of yellow and orange. It is found in small quantities in North Carolina but much Citrine is found in Brazil. Named from the word “citrus”, most Citrine will be light to medium yellow in color and is used as a birthstone for November. The darker red-orange color is called Madeira Citrine and fetches the highest price, but typically this stone will have a value between $15 and $40 per carat. The average cost to cut a Citrine is $55 for normal size stones.
Smoky Quartz is another member of the Quartz family. It is one of the more common colors of Quartz and can be very light to very dark brown. It cuts a beautiful stone and is an excellent stone for everyday wear. It is abundant in North Carolina. Commonly referred to as “Smoky Topaz”, the stone has no relation to the actual gem Topaz. Value is not greatly determined by lighter or darker color, but darker colors do tend to fetch a slightly higher price. You can expect a value of $10 to $20 per carat with an average cost to cut at about $55 for normal size stones
Topaz comes in a wide variety of colors. Most stones are clear to light brown. Because Topaz has a hardness of 8, most are found as weather worn “pebbles”, but an experienced cutter can transform this stone into an incredible sparkling diamond-like gem. It is used as an alternative April birthstone replacing Diamond. It is commonly treated using heat and irradiation to produce blue, pink, and other colors. Imperial Topaz is the most recognizable Topaz and is the original November birthstone. It is mainly found in Brazil and Nigeria. Topaz has a hardness of 8 and will typically cost $55 to $65 to facet and have a value of between $15 and $30 per carat.
Walk into any jewelry store in the mall and you will see a display of Blue Topaz rings, pendants, and earrings. The darker color of Blue Topaz is used as a birthstone for December and it sells like “hotcakes” as the saying goes. Every piece of that Blue Topaz was treated with heat and irradiation. Natural Blue Topaz is not common and so before it hits the market, clear or light brown topaz is made all shade of blue. Names like Swiss, London and Top Sky are given to the different shades. Natural Blue Topaz will have uually have a value of $15 to $40 per carat. Expect to pay around $55 to have a stone beautifully faceted.
Garnet is another abundant gemstone found in North Carolina. It is most common in a deep red color but can be found in a few other colors including pink-red and cinnamon brown. A great percentage of Garnets are not gem quality and are used as an abrasive on sandpaper. Gem quality Garnets are found in Spruce Pine and a few other locations in North Carolina as well as Brazil and Africa. The dark red is used as a January birthstone. It is a good stone for everyday wear and can be valued from $15 to $80 per carat depending on the color. The average cost to cut a Garnet is $55 for normal size stones and $75 to $90 for larger gems.
Peridot is the birthstone for August. It is found in light lime green to dark olive green in color. Unfortunately most Peridot from North Carolina is found in small grains that seldom yield more than a carat. The only two locations worldwide where Peridot is found in larger sizes are Arizona and Burma and even then stones of 8 or 10 carats are rare. They still make beautiful earring stones or accent stones with gems like Amethyst, Garnet and Iolite. Peridot has a hardness of 6.5 and will usually cost $55 to facet a pretty gem.
Rose Quartz is another of the Quartz family. It is found in light to medium shades of pink. Most Rose Quartz is cabochon grade and contains too many inclusions to be facet cut, but facet cut stones can be found and turn out beautiful. It can be used as a birthstone for October. If the stone is cabochon grade, it will usually cost $25 to $40 to cut. If the stone is clear enough to facet, you can expect to pay $55 to facet cut a normal size stone. Faceted Rose Quartz will have a value of between $15 and $30 per carat depending on depth of color. Cabochon stones will be from $25 to $50 for a stone.
Sodalite is related to the prized gem Lapis Lazuli. It is a royal to navy blue color with white streaks of the mineral Calcite. It is non-transparent and cut into cabochon. It looks spectacular set in silver as the white metal complements the white Calcite. Sodalite has a hardness of 5.5 to 6 and is found in Brazil. The cost to cut a Sodalite is usually $25 to $40 and will have a value of between $35 and $75 for a nice gemstone.
Unakite was once the State Stone of North Carolina. It is named after the Unaka Indians and the Unaka Mountain that borders North Carolina and Tennessee. It is made up of green Epidote and orange Feldspar creating an unusual color combination but a very pretty gemstone. It is not transparent and therefore not cut with facets, but cut into cabochon instead. It is an affordable stone with an average value of $30 to $50 for a stone. The cost to cut a Unakite will usually be $25 to $40 depending on size.