November Blues

Topaz is one of the November birthstones…or is it? The GIA rather confusingly states that Imperial Topaz is a birthstone for November, whilst blue topaz is a December birthstone. Other sources say that tanzanite, zircon and turquoise are December birthstones, which in my view is quite enough blue for one month. Added to that, I’m quite sure that lots of people don’t know the difference between Imperial and other forms of topaz. So I’m just going to treat all topaz as a November birthstone and be done with it. So let’s clear up the topaz issue, and you can do that quite easily by dividing it into treated and untreated. Untreated topaz comes in a broad colour range: yellow, brown, orange, pink, purple, red, as well as blue and colourless. Yellow is the most common and red is the most valuable. The name Imperial Topaz came into being in 19th century Russia, when the Ural mountains were the leading source for topaz and the deep pink colour mined there named for – and restricted to – the Russian royal family. Currently, many in the trade will define the paler oranges and yellows as Imperial topaz: as with the boundary between pink sapphire and ruby, there is no standardised definition or colour cross-over point. Actually, although you don’t see alot of it about, deep red, orange and pink topaz is absolutely stunning.

And that brings me to the issue of price. For years the price of darker coloured blue topaz, especially London Blue topaz has steadily increased. There aren’t many places that do the treatment and this, combined with the fact that it has to sit for so long – and so therefore treaters have to tie up their money for so long with no return – added to the steady increase in popularity of this gem has made it rather scarce and expensive. It is no longer so easy to find large, flawless gems and sometimes the colour can be rather more greyish than desirable. It is a shame as it is a popular stone and the colour is unusual; I can’t think of many other stones like it, except maybe some of the darker blue tourmaline…and that is also not very plentiful and correspondingly pricey. Sky blue topaz has long been used as an alternative to aquamarine. This makes sense especially for smaller sizes as it is just a little more saturated than aquamarine generally is. Swiss Blue has a saturated and vibrant cornflower blue hue whilst London Blue is a sophisticated greyish-greenish blue.

Below from top, I love the elegant, flowing lines of Laura Stasa’s Calla Lily Pendant in silver and gold; although the icy blue topaz tones look great with white metals, I think that London Blue in particular is also sensational in gold. This pendant has an Art Deco quality to me, whilst at the same time being utterly contemporary. I really love jewellery with clean and definite lines like Kate Phipp’s tapered silver pendant set with a trillion sky blue topaz. This does illustrate how well the pale blue of this stone is set off by silver; icy perfection. The Swiss blue topaz ring by Mountain Spirit Jewels demonstrates the vibrant, saturated colour of this stone, for so long the best known and favourite colour of blue topaz, and bottom left, Kira Ferrer’s stacking rings sets all three colours in juxtaposition from light to dark in beautiful, clean settings.

There is one issue that is common to all topaz, however, and that is a property of the stone itself; cleavage. Topaz has what you call basal cleavage, which means that the cleavage plane is parallel to the base of the crystal. Cutters try to mitigate this by cutting the stones so that the cleavage direction is at a 15 degree angle to the table; however topaz can be rather brittle for this reason and does need a certain amount of careful handling.

Currently I sell blue and white topaz. I’d like to start offering other colours of untreated topaz – it is on my list of desired gems for next year.

To shop all of my topaz, click here.

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Offer 3: Frozen Fire

Offer number 3 is a 20% discount on all labradorite and white topaz. What could be more seasonally appropriate than glowing, glittering, frosty white topaz and labradorite, like sparkling frost on a winter’s night? The inuit used to believe that labradorite was the frozen fire from the aurora borealis, so this is an offer full of romance and lore! You can shop the offer here, just use code ADVENT3 at checkout

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Sunshine & Blue Skies (or maybe IKEA…)

My November newsletter is out and it’s full of news, views and gemstone goodness. There’s a free ship offer for November as well as the last gasp of my bead sale and de-stash open for a limited stint. You can read it here. Newsletter readers are always the first to hear about offers, some of which are exclusive; why not sign up at joopygems.com?

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like London Blue?

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When I first started selling gemstones 10 years ago (blimey) one of the first stones that I focussed on was London Blue. It was reasonably priced, plentiful and the colour was like no other. Before I started my journey into gems, blue topaz to me meant swiss blue; bright, vivid cornflower blue. I’m not really a bright and vivid kind of girl (!), or at least, the colours don’t look good on me, so it wasn’t a stone I was interested in selling. London Blue, however was a different story. Prussian blue, petrol blue, I had so many names for this distinctive and elegant shade of greenish blue. No other stone could touch it, except perhaps blue tourmaline (indicolite) but you needed deep pockets for that. And my customers appeared to agree! They couldn’t get enough so I started cutting it in all shapes and sizes. However, around 2015 something unpleasant started to happen; the price started jumping up, the quality began to waver. What could be happening? Well, there two main drivers of this price increase. First of all, let’s be clear. When we are talking about blue topaz we are talking about treated topaz. Blue topaz is irradiated white topaz. It has to be irradiated, and then it has to be cooled – that is, allowed to sit whilst the radiation disperses. The darker the topaz, the longer it has to sit. So whilst sky blue topaz has a 3-month cooling period, London Blue has something like 18 months. There are not many places that treat London Blue, and so that in itself puts a pinch on demand. Added to that you have the increasing popularity of the stone, the unwillingness of suppliers to treat more rough – since it effectively ties up millions of dollars for a year and a half with no return during that time. There is also a natural caution amongst suppliers around the popularity of London Blue. Is the increase just a blip, or is it here to stay? Because it’s one heck of an expensive gamble to treat more rough because it is popular now, only to find that in a year and a half it’s gone out of fashion and they have a whole lot of treated rough that they cannot shift. In my view this wont happen; I think the colour is unique and it has enduring appeal, but I’m not the one having to stump up the cash.

However, this is only half the story, and the woes of London Blue go further back, as so many things do, to the recession of 2008. What happened is very simple; topaz is sourced largely from Brazil, and during this time many mines were forced to close. They have never re-opened and now topaz supply is down by around 60% from pre-2008 levels. For a while there was enough rough in circulation to not have too much of an impact, but this corner was turned in around 2015, when demand began to seriously outstrip supply. So there is now a serious problem in that there are two major pinch-points in the supply chain; a lack of good quality untreated rough coming out of the mines resulting in an increase in price at this point. This has then led to suppliers taking a very conservative attitude towards treating the rough, not wanting to tie up increasing amounts of money in a stone that they fear may be something of a bubble. In reality this seems unlikely. Demand for the stone is still high; it is still a unique colour, and it still is available in clean quality. Although the colour has much more variation than it has in the past, with more greyer, less saturated material on the market some people prefer this, feeling that it looks more natural, more gemmy.

So in short, the outlook for London Blue is that prices aren’t coming down anytime soon. This makes it more expensive to buy, but it also means that it’s unlikely to be a wasted investment. And you could do worse than start here, from top, Ananda Khalsa’s London Blue Topaz ring is set in warm 22 carat gold and sterling silver and highlighted with sparkling diamond dots. I love blue topaz in silver, but putting it in gold takes it to a completely new dimension. I’ve always loved the solid, crafted simplicity of William White’s ring settings; in fact I have a number of stones in my collection I’d love him to set for me. The ring below is a 10mm cabochon in a satin-finished sterling silver band.  I do like the angular lines of Eva Dorneys London Blue topaz rings in 9kt gold and sterling silver and I also love the cool stacking system of Barbara S Jewellery. That’s 2 rings, not one; an aquamarine and a London Blue

Ananda Khalsa London Blue Topaz Ring with Diamond Dots, $1,190
Ananda Khalsa London Blue Topaz Ring with Diamond Dots, $1,190

William White Blue Topaz Cabochon Ring, $594
William White Blue Topaz Cabochon Ring, $594

Eva Dorney London Blue Topaz Rings, $305
Eva Dorney London Blue Topaz Rings, $305

Barbara S Jewellery Aqumarine and Topaz Contemporary Stacking Ring, $485
Barbara S Jewellery Aqumarine and Topaz Contemporary Stacking Ring, $485

 

I do have new stocks of 6mm London Blue topaz cabochons; they are more expensive than I would like them to be but trust me when I say I have shaved the price as low as possible! You can find all of my London Blue here.

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Extra 15% Off Destash!

Joopy Gems August 2018 newsletter

This is the last month of my destash sale, and there is an extra 15% off for the entire month! You can use the code: FINALSALE at checkout, or click this link to have the order automatically applied to your order! Plus I also have new sapphire, chevron amethyst pendants, and topaz restocks. I always announce offers via newsletters, and some are newsletter exclusives. I won’t bother you often and if you’re comfortable to give me your birthday, I always hand out a special offer! You can read this months newsletter here and sign up here.

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Deep dive

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I wrote about these in my newsletter, but I just thought I’d do a bit of an extra post on the large amount of blue topaz I have this month. The rose cut pears and ovals I’ve been offering for a while have been really popular so this month we have expanded the range to include swiss blue and sky blue topaz in a variety of sizes from 6x4mm, 7x5mm to 8x6mm. Sky blue is good value as ever, with prices starting at $2.00 for a 6x4mm pear; swiss blue still experiencing some price rises along with London Blue. Blue topaz is such a good option for adding vibrancy and brilliance without breaking the bank. It takes a superb polish, so high it can feel almost slippery to the touch. The pale sky blue makes a nice aquamarine substitute, and the swiss blue is a lovely serene colour. London blue is in a class of its own; a deep greenish-blue stone that at its best can rival blue tourmaline. It was very reasonably priced and not that well known when I first started out, but quickly became very popular indeed and supply has still not caught up with the sudden up-tick in popularity and it remains pricey. Demand is not abating and suppliers are not treating any more rough, so I think this will remain the case for the forseeable future. To shop sky blue topaz click here; for swiss blue click here and for London blue click here.

Below is the wonderful Nicole Scheetz’s yellow gold ring set with a rose cut London blue topaz pear. I love the perfect simplicity of this; the deep blue of the topaz against the gold metal. You can choose a variety of finishes for the shank.

Luxuring London Blue Topaz Ring, $205
Luxuring London Blue Topaz and yellow gold ring, $205

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It’s all a little bit topaz…

Imperial topaz 2Aren’t these beautiful? They aren’t actually for sale, but I thought I would share them with you as I am rather pleased with them! These are imperial topaz brilliant cuts in a variety of shapes and sizes, and I have them because my eldest daughter’s birthstone is topaz and I thought it would be nice to get her some imperial topaz. They are not top colour, although a couple of them are pinkish and all of them seem to have a pleochroic reddish tint which you can pick up from the picture. They’re not calibrated either; I picked them out of a bag of pre-forms and so I got what I got! What do you think? I could get more of these, if I get some interest…

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