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Collector or Specialty

Each year hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of collector or specialty gems are purchased in the United States. Many of these gems are cut from gemstones produced from foreign deposits, but tens of thousands of dollars worth of these gems are cut from gemstones from U.S. deposits. Not finding a definition of collector or specialty gems in the literature, the author contacted several dealers recognized by the gemstone industry as experts in the cutting and marketing of these gems. Based on these discussions it appears that a good working definition of collector/specialty stones would be: "Collector or specialty gems are rare, unusual, or unique gems that are not normally seen by the gem buying public. These stones may be gem materials that are common to the market place, but are unusual or unique because of their large size or unusual color."

Some of the collector/specialty stones are suited for use in jewelry or limited use in jewelry, but most are not durable enough for use in jewelry. The stones suited for limited use can be used in earrings, pins, and pendants, but not for rings or bracelets. The nondurable stones are too soft, therefore subject to scratching and abrasion, are brittle or contain cleavages, therefore are fragile and subject to breaking, or are both soft and fragile. Some of the rare collector/specialty stones from U. S. deposits are rare because of production practices at the mines. Production from these deposits could be significantly increased in the future. If this were to occur, then these stones might no longer be as valuable as collector/specialty stones. Collector/specialty stones vary in value from a few tens of dollars per carat to more than $1,000 per carat. Production of collector/specialty stones by State is discussed below.

Red beryl from Wah Wah Mountains of Utah
Figure 2.--Red beryl from Wah Wah Mountains of Utah.
(Photo is courtesy of Smithsonian.)

Alaska.--Small dark green to dark brown to black colored stones have been cut from material from the epidote deposit on Prince of Wales Island.

Arizona.--Large, fine-quality brownish to yellow colored stones have been cut from scheelite crystals from a deposit in the Hualapai Mountains in Mohave County. Some of the finest-quality, bright red facet grade wulfenite in the world comes from the Red Cloud Mine in Yuma County.

California.--Deposits in the State are blessed with a variety of collector/specialty stones. Stones have been cut from fine-quality, pink apatite from San Diego County. Some small colorless stones have been cut from analcine, but the location from which the material was recovered is unknown. Fine-quality, brown colored stones have been cut from axinite from deposits in Calaveras, Madera, Riverside, and San Diego Counties. Benitoite, the State gemstone, is the collector/specialty stone for which the State is best known. San Benito County is the only source of this fine, blue colored gem. Large, fine-quality, light to medium green colored stones can be cut from fluorite found in Los Angeles County. Large, colorless stones are cut from scheelite from deposits in Kern and Inyo Counties. Nearly flawless, colorless stones have been cut from natrolite from San Benito County. The author also has seen natrolite stones that were labeled as being from Los Angeles County. Deposits in the State also yield fine-quality, brown epidote, colorless calcite and colemanite, and augelite.

Colorado.--Light yellow colored stones are cut from apatite recovered from a deposit in Eagle County. Large fine-quality colorless stones are cut from barite from nodules found in Mesa County and fine-quality, blue colored stones are cut from barite found in Weld County. Some colorless stones have been cut from phenakite from White Mountain and Mount Antero in Chaffee County. The finest-quality, bright red colored facet-grade rhodochrosite is found in Park County. Deposits in the State also produce fine-quality, facet-grade sphalerite.

Illinois.--The fluorite mines in Hardin and Pope Counties produce a variety of different colors of facet-grade fluorite. A mine in the State furnished the material from which the world's largest, faceted yellow fluorite was cut.

Idaho.--Yellow and blue colored facet-grade opal is recovered from deposits in Custer County.

Maine.--John Sinkankas, in Gemstones of North America Vol. 1, reported that the finest, gem-quality purple apatite in the world was from Mount Apatite in Androscoggin County. Oxford County is the only known location for gem-quality beryllonite, and this location has produced only very small colorless or light yellow stones. Pegmatites in the State have produced colorless and pale yellow herderite crystals from which small gems have been cut. Oxford County deposits have produced colorless, facet-grade phenakite from which small to medium stones have been cut. Small to medium sized, colorless to slightly pinkish stones have been cut from pollucite recovered in Oxford County.

Massachusetts.--Blue or violet colored diaspore crystals of gem-quality large enough to cut small stones have been recovered from the emery mines and mine dumps in Hampden County. Hampden County deposits also produce fine, facet-quality faintly greenish colored datolite.

Montana.--Facet-quality calcite and sphalerite are recovered from deposits in the State.

New Hampshire.--Large pieces of facet-grade, green transparent fluorite, as fine as any found anywhere in the United States is mined from deposits in Cheshire County. Gem-quality herderite and phenakite also are recovered from deposits in the State.

New Jersey.--Although the State is not often thought of as a gem producing State, deposits in New Jersey do furnish a number of collector/specialty stones. Facet-grade, colorless analcine is recovered from the Watchung basalt flows, facet-grade datolite is recovered from basalt flows in Passaic and Bergen Counties as is gem-quality natrolite, and deposits in the State also produce gem-quality epidote. The world famous zinc deposits near Franklin and Ogdensburg in Sussex County produced gem-quality sphalerite, willemite, and zincite.

New Mexico.--The only facet-quality dolomite in the United States is colorless material recovered from a deposit in New Mexico. Gem-quality fluorite is produced from deposits in Bernalillo, Catron, Dona Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Luna, Rio Arriba, Socorro, Sierra, and Taos Counties. Facet-quality linardite is recovered in Socorro County. The finest, facet-quality moonstone in the United States comes from a deposit in Grant County.

New York.--A few nice-quality stones of actinolite have been marketed from an undisclosed deposit in New York. It is not clear whether the actinolites are from the deposits in St. Lawrence County that produce the fine-quality, purple tremolite. Deposits in the State also produce facet-quality calcite, celestite, chondrodite, diopside, dravite, fluorites, and sphalerites.

North Carolina.--Deposits in Yancy County produce fine-quality, bright blue facet-grade kyanite. These beautiful stones are some of the finest in the world. Deposits in Alexander County produce some of the finest-quality hiddenite in the world. The same deposits produce small amounts of bright red, facet-grade rutile.

Ohio.--Deposits in the State produce fine-quality, facet-grade fluorites, celestites, and sphalerites.

Utah.--Deposits in the Wah Wah Mountains and the Thomas Range Mountains are the only known deposits in the world to produce fine-quality, bright red facet-grade beryl. Deposits in the State also produce facet-grade fluorite, scheelite, and sphalerites.

Other.--Other States are known for the production of certain collector/specialty stones. They include brown barite from Meade County, South Dakota; yellow calcite from Elmwood, Tennessee; actinolite from Vermont; celestite from Maybee, Michigan; and diaspore from Pennsylvania.

Firms that cut and market collector/specialty stones include the following:

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