Temple St. Clair is known for a discerning use of color in both semi-precious and precious gemstones. Any gem that is not a diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire is a semi-precious gemstone. Calling a gem semi-precious does not mean it is any less valuable or rare. In fact, there are many semi-precious gems that are rarer than most diamonds or sapphires. It is endlessly fascinating to explore the world of gemstones. In fact, one of the best parts of “the job” at Temple St. Clair is collecting and working with these earthly treasures.
At this moment of our human history, we use gemstones mostly for ornamental purposes but ancient civilizations from all points of the globe attributed metaphysical properties and great significance to gems. It’s important and fun to understand the properties, histories and beliefs surrounding gemstones along with how to care for them so they can be enjoyed for generations.
Please enjoy this narrative to learn about the gems we use. You will find general information on cut, care, typical gem treatments, origins, birthstones, and metaphysical beliefs for each respective species. Since provenance is not always readily available for colored gemstones, origins below are only indications of sources and are not necessarily specific to each and every gem.
CARE OF GEMSTONES & JEWELS
We love to wear our gems and they deserve our knowledge and care. Your Temple jewels are delivered to you in pouches and boxes. Please keep these to use as a safe place to store your jewels when you are traveling, exercising, gardening or handling heavy machinery! We also make beautiful travel cases in different sizes that can accommodate daily needs or more.
As for basic maintenance, most jewels can be freshened up at home with a light solution of delicate dish soap and a clear cool rinse. Leave any more advanced cleaning to the professionals. Please be in touch with us if you need more serious repair or refurbishment. For any particular care of certain gems, details are noted below where applicable.
THE CUT - CABOCHON OR FACETED
At Temple St. Clair we love both cuts. Cabochon is a smooth cut that goes far back to antiquity when the means to fully facet a gem had yet to be developed. Faceted cuts came later on as tools became more refined. Both types of cuts can be executed across all types of precious and semi-precious gems according to preference. Some gems lend themselves to being faceted such as diamonds while others like blue moonstone show their best as cabochons. For most colored gemstones, brilliantly beautiful examples can be presented in either cut.
GEMSTONE TREATMENTS & ENHANCEMENTS
Today many gemstones are treated or enhanced in some way, while others are never treated. There are a few treatments that are accepted industry-wide. At Temple St. Clair, we are also discerning about gem enhancements and reject any treatments considered invasive such as radiation, or application of resins, fillers or chemicals. We seek out natural, i.e., untreated, stones whenever possible. Blue moonstone, one of our most iconic gems, for example is not treated in any way. Other of our gems such as garnet and peridot are never treated. We accept minimal heat treatment only for gems that may benefit from it, and specifically the Zachery treatment for our turquoise.
THE A TO Z OF TSC GEMS
Alexandrite is a color-change gem in the chrysoberyl family. Its color changes according to different light conditions: in daylight, it is greenish blue to dark green; by incandescent or candle light, it is dark pink to red. Fine quality of alexandrite is considered to be rare and valuable.
Alexandrite does not have an ancient history as it was only discovered in the 19th century. It was originally found in the Ural Mountains of Russia, but has since been sourced in Sri Lanka, Brazil and East Africa. It is a birthstone for the month of June and is associated with the zodiac sign of Gemini probably due to its dual nature.
AQUAMARINE & BERYL
Mimicking the color of the sea, aquamarine (Latin: aqua marina = sea water) is a highly prized and remarkable stone that touches on tones from across the blue spectrum. Aquamarine is part of the beryl family that includes green beryl, yellow beryl, morganite (pink beryl), and its precious sibling, emerald. The deepest natural blues, known as Santa Maria, were originally discovered in Brazil. While the Santa Maria mine has been exhausted, similar material has been found in Mozambique and is now referred to as Santa Maria Africana. Temple St. Clair utilizes various exquisite shades of aquamarine from both Brazil and Africa including Santa Maria gemstones. Aquamarine and other colors of beryl are typically heated to even out color.
Aquamarine is naturally associated with the aquatic sign of Pisces, and is the birthstone for those born in the month of March. These watery gems are said to be the treasures of mermaids, and a symbol of hope.
Blue Moonstone, a precious form of moonstone is a signature gemstone for Temple St. Clair and central to our Royal Blue Moonstone Collection.
Moonstone’s mineral name is feldspar; it is natural and never treated. Our blue moonstone gems are responsibly sourced in small family- and state-owned mines in the Bihar region of India. Each gem is cut and polished to reveal its unique blue flash and glow called adularescence; this is a particular moonstone term for the optical phenomena exhibited as the stone moves. Blue moonstone was popular in Art Nouveau jewelry and particularly in the work of one of Temple’s heroes, Louis Comfort Tiffany.
For those lucky ones to be born in the month of June, moonstone is your birthstone. This magical stone is thought to be captured moonlight, a protector of travelers and swimmers! (Please learn to swim well though. We cannot guarantee blue moonstone’s protective characteristics while submerged.)
Diamonds are the most famous and most successfully marketed gems in the world. Diamond is a solid form of carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal. It is prized for its brilliance. Although it is the hardest of gemstones, it is not indestructible. Diamonds can be scratched by other diamonds and can be worn down over time. Small diamonds are quite plentiful while large gems that meet the highest standards of the “Four C’s” (color, clarity, cut, carat weight) are rare and valuable. At Temple St. Clair, we use diamonds in different setting styles to bring light and focus to our colored gemstones and to accentuate our gold work. Our minimum quality requirement is G-H for Color and VS1 for Clarity. We use full brilliant cut diamonds in a variety of shapes, and sometimes, mogul cut gems that have fewer facets. All of our diamonds are natural, untreated and Kimberley Process certified.
Diamond is associated with the fiery first sign of the zodiac, Aries and is the birthstone for those born in April. This brilliant gem is a symbol of strength and invincibility. Historically they are found in the scepters and crowns of monarchs around the world.
Emerald is the bright green member of the beryl family. Today emeralds are primarily mined in Zambia and Colombia. We seek out the most beautiful stones available with vivid, green color and minimal inclusions. We do accept emeralds with minor inclusions; the appearance of inclusions in emeralds is referred to as “le jardin". This “emerald garden” gives individuality and identity to the gem. For centuries emeralds have been treated with oil to minimize inclusions and brighten color thus further beautifying the stone. This treatment is a recognized and accepted practice throughout the industry. At Temple St. Clair we allow a minimal use of natural oils where appropriate. We use both cabochon and faceted cut emeralds. Our master setters are skilled at setting emeralds even in bezel settings, rarely attempted by most jewelers.
Emerald is the jewel of luxury loving Taurus, and is the birthstone for those born in the month of May. These brilliant gems were considered to bear a gift of wisdom and intuition.
Garnet is part of its own mineral family. This gem is natural and untreated and is found in every color from the most familiar brownish reds to rich oranges, velvety purples, bright greens, and rare blue and color-change garnet.
At Temple St. Clair, we love the rich orange shade of spessartite referred to as Mandarin garnet. Vivid green Tsavorite is often our first choice when designing with green. In fact, Tsavorite often completes our spectrum when creating a rainbow of gems. Demantoid is another unusual green form of garnet known for its diamond-like brilliance and dispersion. Unusual garnets are chosen for our Limited Edition and Haute Couture pieces.
Garnets are mined in many far-flung locales from the Ural Mountains of Russia to the Tsavo area of Kenya to Namibia and the United States.
Those born in January or under the sign of Aquarius have an array of colors to choose from as their garnet birthstone. Garnets are said to balance energy and bring serenity.
Iolite gems come in a deep blue with a slight violet tint. It is the gem form of the mineral, cordierite and is natural and never treated.
Iolite is widely found around the world in Australia, Africa, South America and Sri Lanka. Gems with rich blue tonality are not available in abundance. Larger cabochon pieces in velvety blues appear in some of our Limited Edition jewels when possible.
Iolite has the nickname, “water sapphire” but is in no way related to sapphire. Iolite is associated with the zodiac signs of Libra, Sagittarius and Taurus and said to strengthen intuition.
Australian Black Opal
Black opal is the most precious and valuable variety of opal, and one of the more valuable gemstones on earth. These gems formed over millions of years in sedimentary rock when a solution of silicone dioxide and water evaporated from cracks of sandstone. Black opal originates exclusively from the mines of Lightning Ridge, in a remote outback region of Australia. Lightning Ridge black opals are distinctive for their high luster and full display of spectral colors from blues to greens to yellows to oranges and rare reds. The finest opals display a multitude of dancing colors, diverse patterns, and brilliant depth of field. Black Opals are always untreated and are judged on spread of color, clarity, pattern and blackness of undertone.
At Temple St. Clair, we specialize in uniquely patterned solid Black Opal variants such as Harlequin, Rolling Flash and Vivid Reds. (We do not work with doublets). Because of their unique nature, black opals show up in our Limited Edition and Haute Couture collections. We have created settings for some rare named gems such as the Crimson Rosella and the Butterfly Wing. Unique Black Opals appear in our Celestial Collection and in some creatures from The Golden Menagerie.
Opal is the birthstone for those born in the month of October, and is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra. There is much lore around opals but what resonates with us is that it is thought to be one of the luckiest gems since it contains the full spectrum of the rainbow.
Black Opals are considered to be quite resistant but just as with any valuable jewel, care should be taken to avoid contact with abrasives or any undue impact. Black opals can be washed with mild soapy water and rinsed in cool water. As with most gemstones, they should not be put in an ultrasonic cleaner or chemical cleaner.
If you keep your opals in a safe, it is recommended that you store your gem in a sealed container or plastic bag with a small amount of water on a dampened cloth as an extremely dry environment for an extended period is not good opals in particular.
Fire Opal is a bright translucent gem that typically ranges in color from yellow to orange to red. It is natural and never treated. The most typical source for fire opal is Mexico but the gem is also sourced in Australia, and even in Oregon, and British Columbia.
At Temple St. Clair, we occasionally feature brilliant fire opals among our Limited Edition jewels. We love the rich orangey-red cabochon-cut fire opals that display an inner array of color including greens, yellows and blues.
A fire opal is another great choice for someone with an October birthday or for anyone that would enjoy this magical gem.
Fire opals can be washed with gentle dish soap and rinsed with cool water. Like black opals, if kept in a safe, it is recommended to store fire opals in a closed container or plastic bag with a damp cloth.
The distinctive vibrant green color of peridot has long been prized. Ancient Egyptians believed that peridot was sent to the earth by the explosion of a star. Peridot is the only other gem besides diamond that is born not in the upper crust of the Earth but in the mantle, brought to the surface by tremendous seismic activity. Some of today’s sources for this gemstone are Burma, Brazil, Pakistan, China and the United States. Peridot can also be found in meteorites. This gem is natural and never treated.
Peridot is August’s birthstone and is associated with the zodiac sign of Leo. Ancient civilizations believed that peridot had protective powers, and gave a gift of inner radiance.
Rock Crystal is the name given to the clear, colorless, purest form of quartz. It is a hard crystalline mineral composed of silicone and oxygen atoms, natural and never treated. Rock crystal occurs in many different forms of rock from igneous to sedimentary and is found in far-flung locales from North Carolina to Madagascar with some of the finest being sourced in Brazil.
Rock Crystal is one of Temple St. Clair’s most iconic gems and is central to our signature collection of amulets. Ours is chosen for its clarity and lack of inclusions. We love color but with rock crystal, there is something magical about the way this colorless gem holds and reflects the color and light surrounding it. It’s as if it captures the essence of the wearer.
The word crystal comes from the ancient Greek meaning “icy cold”. The Greeks believed the mineral to be a form of supercooled ice. The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder also believed this theory and said that quartz was found near glaciers in the Alps, and that large crystals were formed in to spheres to cool the hands. In metaphysics, rock crystal is called the “master healer”. Of all gemstones, it is said to be the one that brings the greatest balance and clarity. Maybe that’s why some of us can never be without our rock crystal amulets!
When a sapphire moves in to the deep red spectrum, it qualifies as ruby. Ruby, like all sapphire, belongs to the corundum mineral family, very hard gems of great depth and brilliance. Ruby can range in color from a pinkish red to a bluish red, with so-called “pigeon blood” red being the most sought after.
Some of the most prized rubies have come from Burma and Kashmir, though today very fine gems are also found in Thailand, Afghanistan, Australia, Namibia and Mozambique.
Just like the rest of the corundum family, some rubies are natural but most are heated to even out their color. At Temple St. Clair, we use natural and lightly heated rubies.
Ruby is the traditional birthstone for July, and is associated with the zodiac sign of cancer and with the sun. Ruby is said to improve energy and creativity and has been held in high esteem for thousands of years by many cultures.
Sapphire and ruby are part of the corundum mineral family. Sapphires are available in a full spectrum of colors from blue, green, yellow, to orange, pink and white. Red sapphires are known as ruby. Sapphires are hard durable stones, good for any type of jewel and great for everyday wear.
At Temple St. Clair, we use a rainbow of sapphires in many of our multi-colored jewels such as the Tolomeo and the Rainbow Moonface and the Eternity Bracelet. We also use a range of blue sapphires from deep rich blue known as Kancha from Thailand to the bright cornflower blue known as Ceylon from Sri Lanka. We use both natural and heated gems. Heat is the only form of treatment that we allow for our sapphires; it is used when necessary to even out color and to improve the clarity and brilliance of the gems.
For Limited Edition jewels, we have used natural Burmese and Kashmiri blue sapphires as center stones. Such collectible gems can be sourced upon special request.
For those born in the month of September, there is a rainbow of sapphires to choose from as your birthstone. Sapphire is associated with the zodiac sign, Virgo. This gem is said to be the wisdom stone, and is believed to calm the mind and enhance creativity. Throughout history, blue sapphires have often been chosen for engagement rings. Famously Napoleon gave his Empress Josephine a blue sapphire engagement ring.
Star sapphires fall under the category of “phenomenal gemstones”. These are gems that possess striking optical effects such as stars and cat’s eyes.
Star Sapphire gets its name from the rare display of asterism, single or multiple stars that appear to float across the dome of the stone. Like traditional sapphires, star sapphires come in a multitude of colors blue, blue-gray, pink, yellow and red (Star Ruby). Star Sapphires are natural and never treated.
We love to use star sapphires in our Limited Edition and Haute Couture jewels. To us, these “phenomenal gems” like stars and cat’s eyes are just plain magic!
While mining for rubies, another beautiful red gem occasionally emerges and that is spinel. Sometimes mistaken for ruby and often just as valuable, spinel is in its own family of gemstones. Before the arrival of modern science spinels and red sapphires were all considered ruby.
Spinel forms in igneous rock in the uppermost Earth’s mantle. Spinel has long been found in Sri Lanka, but also in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Tanzania and other locales. Recently blue spinels were found in the Baffin Islands of Canada. Spinel comes in bright red, pink, and blues. The most vibrant reds are compared to the bright fire-y red end of a burning cigarette. Spinels are typically natural and not treated.
In yoga lore, spinel is associated with the root chakra and is said to promote longevity and endurance.
TANZANITE & ZOISITE
Tanzanite, named after Tanzania is only found in that East African country. Though geologically formed over 500 million years ago, it was Tiffany & Co. that named and first marketed Tanzanite in 1968. This gem is always heated to bring out its rich blue-violet shade. At Temple St. Clair, we love the richer blue hue of tanzanite and are always on the look out for special pieces.
Zoisite is the natural, unheated mineral before being heated to become Tanzanite. Zoisite is generally a muted brown or yellow color but sometimes is found in attractive subtle blues, greens, pinks and peaches. Zoisite is not as colorfully intense as in its heated tanzanite form but it can be very beautiful. When we can find beautiful zoisite we use it in Limited Edition and Haute Couture one-of-a-kind jewels.
In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association added Tanzanite as a December birthstone! Yogis say this gem affects the third chakra so facilitates communication and self-knowledge.
At Temple St. Clair, we love tourmalines and utilize the full spectrum of this gem. In the blues and greens, we seek out forest greens, mint greens, blue green indicolite and “windex-blue” Paraiba tourmaline. The pinks we use range from pale pink to hot pink to red rubellite pink. Each gem is unique and is selected according to our strict criteria for clarity, color saturation, and individuality. Within our selections no two gems - unless a perfectly matched pair - will ever be identical so don’t hesitate when you find just the gem that “speaks to you”. Our tourmalines are mostly natural or lightly heated.
Tourmaline is sourced in Brazil and in many parts of Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and Madagascar.
Tourmaline is associated with the heart and is said to be a calming stone and good for meditation.
Turquoise is a brilliant blue green mineral that has been prized since antiquity. Temple St. Clair turquoise is a high-quality material sourced from the Sleeping Beauty and Kingsman mines in Arizona. Natural turquoise is a very porous and delicate gem. 99% of turquoise currently used in jewelry is treated to improve durability. The turquoise that we source at Temple St. Clair is either enhanced through a natural method known as the Zachery Process or is coated with a colorless polymer. We do not allow the use of dye or other substances. This is considered “natural stabilized turquoise”. We love the richness of our turquoise set in our classic yellow gold.
Turquoise has been thought to be a lucky gemstone and is traditionally associated with the month of December. It was a central gemstone to the Persian Empire and to the Ancient Egyptians, and sacred to many indigenous peoples of the American Southwest and the pre-Colombian Aztec and Maya. The ancient Egyptians stabilized their turquoise by applying beeswax. Turquoise is said to create inner calm.
Since our turquoise is stabilized material and polished to a high sheen, its porosity is greatly decreased so it is safe to lightly wash your gems in the usual delicate soap and cool rinse.