Birthstone Friday – Emeralds’ Bloody History

In 1558, the Spanish began drawing on the vast emerald mines at Muzo, Colombia, which produced high-quality emeralds. This style of cross, with large cut stones, was favored by wealthy aristocratic women of the Spanish court including Archduchess Isabella. Photo: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Birthstones often have swashbuckling histories, but for me, one of the swashbuckling-est is emerald.

I always think of Spanish conquistadores, those blood-thirsty, gold-hungry invaders of South America when I think of emeralds. They terrorized the native populations, tortured, enslaved and slaughtered them, and once they had their booty on heavily loaded ships, they were hunted by pirates themselves. Often those overloaded ships went down in hurricanes in the Caribbean. Some truly amazing emeralds have come up with divers to those galleons. Continue reading

Getting to the (Diamond) Point

Rough diamond octahedral. Photo Bjorn Wylezich via Dreamstime.

Rough diamond octahedral. Photo Bjorn Wylezich via Dreamstime.

Diamonds are best known today in their colorless cut form seen in countless jewelry stores. However, they look considerably different when they come out of the ground. They’re not always lovely in that state. But one interesting and common shape of diamond rough is the octahedron. It looks like two pyramids stacked base to base. (Well, actually, as you can see in the photo, they’re often kind of plump and rounded pyramids.)

But those points can be handy. Continue reading