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Optical Effects in Colored Gemstones

April 25, 2020

Optical Effects in Colored Gemstones

Some times colored gemstones present some very striking optical effects. This is due to characteristic structures, defects or even inclusions, gems can show different effects such as:

    10. ORIENT

    Versión española 


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    ASTERISM is a crossing of lines or bands shaped as a star, and we can find the shape with four and six arms. It is typical of sapphires or rubies, although it can also appear in other gems (diopside – 4 arms). These are caused by really small inclusions that are orientated following the gem's crystal structure, and they form those nice stars or asterisms on the cabochon gems. 


    Gems that can show asterism: Ruby, Sapphire, Quartz, Garnet, Diopside, etc.

    Burmese Trapiche Ruby 1.50 ct.

    This rare gemstone comes from Mong Hsu and exhibits a fixed six-legged star (crystallographic growth sector separated by inclusions, that resembles a wheel with their radii)



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    ADULARESCENCE is an optical phenomenon that is produced on moonstones. It produces a bluish or milky-white colour due to the lamellar structure. The moonstones present some very beautiful inclusions that look like centipedes. 

    Adularescence in a moonstone.



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    Imagine a stone with a lot of inclusions, really small layers of mica or hematites - the effect that the reflection of light produces on it is what is called AVENTURESCENCE : when you move the stone some beautiful reflections can be observed. 

    Gems that can show aventurescence: Sunstone, Aventurine, Golden Obsidian.

     Inclusions in a sunstone

    Sizzling Sunstone Cabochon Cats Eye. Rich Golden Orange natural color with aventurescence (metallic spangled effect caused by the reflection).



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    When the inclusions are like small needles orientated in parallel, and the gem is cut in cabochon, we can notice the CHATOYANCY – CAT'S EYE EFFECT. A very similar effect can be seen in the eyes of felines. Chrysoberyl can present a beautiful chatotancy, which can also be seen in Tourmalines, Aquamarines, Apatite, Beryl, Diopside, Quartz, etc.

    Inclusion in Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone 14.41 ct.

    Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone 14.41 ct. Oval This rare variety of tourmaline exhibits a unique reflection of light that resembles the slit eye of a cat. 


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    There are occasions where the gems are made up of very fine layers or where they feature many fissures or delaminations, which means that when light is reflected on them there are interferences and we see something like a  “rainbow”. This effect is called IRIDISCENCE of which the Ammolite is a beautiful example.

     Big rainbow excellent colors Ammolite Stone 36.26 ct from Canada. This Gemstone displays iridiscent colors (green and red).

    Big rainbow excellent colors Ammolite Stone 36.26 ct from Canada. This Gemstone displays iridiscent colors (green and red).



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    The effect that looks like a bluish-greenish metallic reflection in the labradorites (felspar) is known as  LABRADORESCENCE. It is also due to the interaction of light with the thin layers of felspar.

    Labradorescence in labradorite 


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    Who hasn't heard of opals? PLAY OF COLORS: The play of colors appears in noble-opals due to their structure- if you get an opal and move it around, you will see a really beautiful play of colors. The more colors of the spectrum they show the more valuable opals are considered to be.

    Australian Solid Matrix Boulder Opal 3.06 ct

    Australian Solid Matrix Boulder Opal 3.06 ct. This beautiful stone is like a coffee bean with vibrant colored veins between it. This opal display a magnificent play of color (red, orange, yellow, green, violet).

    There are certain colors that are valued more (as they are more infrequent), also if the opal stone is dark (black opal – that's why they are dyed), as well as when the part of the gem where the colored reflections appear occupies the highest proportion of the gem. OPALS are a whole world of their own! 

     Welo Opal Stone 7.19 ct.



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    And then we should talk about the CHANGE OF COLOUR. The alexandrite is said to be an “emerald” during the day and a “ruby” at night- depending on the type of light that falls on it, we will see one colour or the other. 

    Rare Color Change Diaspore Gemstone 12 03 ct


    Sapphires can also present changes in colour, as can Garnets, Change Color Diaspore, etc. It is a strange phenomenon, so the more dramatic the change of colour is and the faster it happens on the gem, the more valuable it will be.

    Rare Change Color Garnet Oval Cut 0.63 ct



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    OPALESCENCE is caused by scattered particles that cause turbidity or a milky appearance. Gems that have this effect are: Opal, Quartz, etc.

    Charismatic Mexican Fire Opal. Oval cut. 2.04 ct.


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    The ORIENT is the combined effects that can be seen in pearls, and is due to the structure of the pearls, the reflection of light on their surface and the iridescence that occurs, causing all those typical iridescent reflections so characteristic and so beautiful of Pearls.


    Optical effects in colored gemstones are beautiful!.

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