Not to speak ill of the dead, but Marilyn Monroe was most definitely lying when she sang that, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. They aren’t, and neither are rubies, emeralds nor sapphires – the other three gems that were traditionally designated as ‘precious stones’. This narrow classification, which relegated all gems that were not the big four to the inferior-sounding category of ‘semi-precious stones’, is now considered outdated by the jewellery trade.
Today’s designers have a much better appreciation of the artistic possibilities that open up when they don’t limit themselves to just four types of gems, and consumers are gradually catching on. Much to the delight of serious collectors, some of these gems are even rarer, and thus, more expensive and investment-worthy than the diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire. We get five local jewellers to tell us about their favourite, lesser-known gems.
Zircon, The Underrated Gem
“The greatest misconception about zircons is that they are not natural gems. This is because people often mistake zircon for cubic zirconia. The two are very different gems; the latter is usually synthetic and created under controlled conditions in a lab. Naturally, zircons come in many colours, with the most popular being the bright blue ones from Brazil. However, these have usually been heat-treated to enhance their colour.
“I love working with unheated zircons. These usually come in pastel pink or blue. They can also be lavender, but those are extremely rare. When buying a zircon, always request for a certificate to ensure that it has not been submitted to heat treatments. This gem has a high refractive index, which means it has as much fire as a diamond. It’s hard to resist falling in love with a zircon when you see one in real life, which is probably why our zircons are very limited in supply and usually snapped up when displayed.” – Simone Ng, executive creative director, Simone Jewels
Robb Tip: Zircon was a favourite of renowned gemmologist, George Kunz, who worked at Tiffany & Co. as a gem buyer during the late 1800s. Inspired by the gem’s fire, he once suggested renaming it Starlite.
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