Amazing ‘new’ gemstone is colour chameleon & sparkles like diamond: meet Zultanite

Zultanite

I was looking for a new TV show to binge-watch and stumbled upon Game of Stones. It’s a show about ‘the world’s most extreme gem hunters’; a band of guys from Texas who travel the world sourcing rare stones and sometimes getting into dangerous situations (carrying a hundred grand in cash in a backpack will do that).

One of the episodes focused on the discovery of the world’s largest Zultanite stone, which got me wondering, what the heck is Zultanite?

I’m a hobby silversmith and jewelry maker, and I love technology and science — geology in particular– so I was keen to learn more about this very strange stone that changes colours vibrantly.

Found in only one small place on the planet

Only found in one place in the world, Zultanite is mined in Turkey’s Anatolian Mountains at a remote location 4,000 feet above sea level. There’s just one mine that’s producing this rare and beautiful gemstone. Back in the 1980’s, the crystal was hand-hewn from the rock by individual miners.  Zultanite has only been in commercial production since 2006, and it requires pulling literally tonnes of Bauxite ore just to reach these colour-morphing crystals.

The  nearest village, Selimiye, is more than seven miles away, and there is no electricity or running water at the mine, making getting at the ore at this remote location extremely challenging. Even so, there’s an organization that now markets this unique gemstone, and they say production is growing.

zultanite2

Photo via Evelyn H.

Zultanite production may double

“Through increased mechanization Zultanite production will double this year, which will provide a consistent supply of quality gems in the quantities required by a wide range of jewelry retailers.”

What exactly is Zultanite? It’s a naturally colour-changing gemstone with colours that range from “kiwi green with flashes of yellow in sunlight conditions to raspberry hues in candlelight,” according to the Gemological Institute of America.

GIA says Zultanite is a “7/10 on the Mohs’ Hardness Scale (a system devised in the 18th century by a Viennese mineralogist Friedrich Mohs to measure the ability of a gem to resist surface scratching), has a refractive index of 1.75 and specific gravity of 3.39. These characteristics make zultanite an excellent jewelry gemstone. As 100% natural gemstone, zultanite is one of the few gems that has no known enhancements or treatments.”
There are other colour-changing gems in the jewelry world. Garnets can colour-shift, as can alexandrite, color-change fluorite, and some sapphires.

 What makes this stone so rare above the others? Its single-source mine, for one.  The Zultanite marketing group notes “only 50 percent of all Zultanite mined is suitable for faceting and up to 98 percent of the raw crystals are lost during the cutting, or lapidary, process.”  As a result, Zultanite can sell for $475 per carat.

 

 The largest Zultanite is the ‘Sultan’s Shield’

The ‘Sultan’s Shield’ is the name given to the world’s largest Zultanite which has been set in a necklace by Stephen Webster. It weighs an astonishing 96.20 carats.
The Sultan’s Shield

Zultanite is already becoming popular with celebrities and big name jewelry designers. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re shopping for something special.

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