Here Comes the Sun: Gemstones for Summer
A few nights ago, I settled into bed before sunset, recalling childhood memories of coming in for the night at twilight while the older kids were still playing outside. I noticed the time, musing, “9:30, and it’s still light out!” Yes, it’s June, it happens every year, but it still takes me by surprise, just like daylight saving time. June 21 was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and the first day of summer. As we welcome the warmest, longest days of the year, let’s take a look at some sunny yellow and orange gemstones to complement your summer looks.
From the Time + Space Collection, circa 2010,
18K gold brooch with pink tourmalines, yellow heliodors, and orange vitrines.
One of the most popular orange gemstones, citrine is a relatively form of quartz, the cousin to purple amethyst. Its beauty, durability and affordability all contribute to its popularity. You’ll find it in various shades of yellow and orange, from a pale lemony hue to a rich burnt orange of fine cognac and all the floral and pumpkin shade in between. The darker, red-orange shades, like a sunset over the ocean, are some of the most popular.
Ring, custom commission, circa 2011, 18K gold for Citrine and diamonds
Garnets come in a wide range of color from the most recognizable reds and purples, to the greens of tsavoriate and demantoid varieties. The more rare spessartite garnet is orange in its pure state. However, it is rarely found in its pure state, and the presence of iron in its crystal matrix gives it various red-orange to muted honey tones. The most valuable spessartite garnets have a deep sunset orange to pumpkin hue. Often appearing in the same color range as quartz, it can sometimes be confused with citrine, but its higher refractive index provides a more lively faceted gem.
Mexican Fire Opal
What appears as a drop of hot lava won’t burn you if you touch it—it’s a Mexican fire opal, one of the most stunning varieties of opal you’ll ever see. Cut as a cabochon, a fire opal can look like the dome of a blazing sky in miniature. As a faceted gemstone, the vibrant color comes through with a subtle, sleepy appearance augmented by flashes of light reflecting off the surface. Like black or white base precious opals, in its finest, more complex quality, a fire opal will exhibit play-of-color from within the stone showing a rainbow of tiny lights, that roll across the stone as its viewed from different angles.
Called “Madiera Citrines” named after the rare wine of the same hue
Topaz occurs naturally in just about every color. Whether you’re looking for a gem as white as the moon, a classic sunny yellow, a deeper marigold orange, or the rarer, pink-infused peach variety, there’s a topaz for you.
Yellow sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum. Corundum occurs in the full spectrum of colors. We call red corundum rubies and all the others by their hue names. In addition to the most familiar, classic deep blue sapphire, you can find yellow sapphires, ranging from the pale color of lemonade to the intense colors of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Sapphires have a higher refractive index and a hardness of 9, making it both durable and beautiful.
Tassel Necklace for Heliodors and Diamonds in 18K gold,
created for the Grainger Hall of Gems at The Field Museum, Chicago, 2009.
Golden Beryl (Heliodor)
Finally, we end with a truly heroic gem, golden beryl. Take one look at its golden yellow hue and you’ll understand why it’s called heliodor, or “sun’s gift”. It gets its name from the Greek: hēlios meaning "sun" and dōron meaning "gift". As a member of the beryl family, heliodor is the variety name, a cousin to emerald, aquamarine, and morganite. As with other yellow gemstones, it is the presence of iron that gives it its color. Beryl is often readily available in the market and comparable in price to citrines.