Not every gem mineral was found thousands of years ago like shimmering opal or vibrant ruby. Dioptase was first found serendipitously in the 18th century by copper miners who thought they had struck the lotto with a new emerald site in far away Kazakhstan. Keep in mind that gem mineral separation did not become an iron-clad science until the early part of the 20th century.
Found in quartz, in a vein rich with limestone, this silica mineral was eventually separated from emerald when it was determined to exhibit a lower (5) Mohs scale reading. Later discoveries of this richly hued verdant mineral appeared in Arizona, Namibia, and mineral rich Congo-Brazzaville. Mineralogists tell us the Namibian material is exciting for its ultra transparency.
The intensely colored dioptase has also been finely ground into a powder (much like Lapis Lazuli) and used as paint. Given its hardness ranking of 5, previous collectors mostly enjoyed smaller emerald shaped cut pieces in their specimen collection.
But with a growing preference for rough diamonds and gems set in designer jewelry, artists are inspired to place exotic colored stone crystals in their one – offs. Besides being intrinsically beautiful, dioptase’ rough crystals set au naturel in fine jewelry offers admirers a chance for a momentary peek inside the mine, and to view the treasure as nature created it.
Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).