Should you rub pearls against your teeth?

It’s difficult to get through June without thinking of pearls. Pearls are one of June’s birthstones, together with moonstone and Alexandrite (a form of colour change chrysoberyl). This is an adaptation of a post I made during my Gem-A Gemmology Foundation course in 2022 on pearls. Last on, first off Things I remember being discussed… Continue reading Should you rub pearls against your teeth?

Magic gems in St Edward’s Crown

A year ago, during the build up to King Charles III’s coronation on 6 May 2023, there was intense coverage of the Crown Jewels and how they would be used in the liturgy of the Coronation itself. I became fascinated with St Edward’s Crown–the diamond-less crown that is only used once in a monarch’s reign–and… Continue reading Magic gems in St Edward’s Crown

Emerald month of May

Have you noticed the emergence of all things green of late? We move from the crystalline kaleidoscope filled month of April to the bright yellow-green gild of new oak, hazel and beech leaves at the start of May. From spark, fire and light we float back to earth and emeralds begin to loom large in… Continue reading Emerald month of May

Rock crystal: April’s other birthstone

Rock crystal is beautiful, powerful and has been used in adornment for thousands of years. It is April’s less famous, but no less beguiling, birthstone. My birthstone for April is diamond or rock crystal. I remember finding this out when a child and being quite pleased, thinking diamonds are expensive! Somehow I thought that caché… Continue reading Rock crystal: April’s other birthstone

Heamatite in quartz

Haematite streak inside quartz boulder

I love haematite (also spelled hematite). This iron oxide mineral is the original mirror, having a highly polishable metallic lustre (while also dull and earthy in rough form), usually greyish-brown to silverish-grey to nearly black, and an inner core of blood red, hence the name. Haematite crystallises in the trigonal crystal system, the same as… Continue reading Heamatite in quartz

Colour in gemstones: quick notes

Some useful hand notes to distinguish terminology used to describe the optical effects that cause colour and colour phenomena in gemstones. It’s important to know your spectral colour effects like fire and iridescence and distinguish between pleochroism, iridescence and colour change. The cover image shows the two body colours (dichroism) that combine in a ruby:… Continue reading Colour in gemstones: quick notes

Spinel: quick notes

The lesser-sung cousins of corundum like sapphires and rubies, spinels are resilient gemstones that come in a variety of colours from greys and purples to ‘Jedi’ red. Here are some quick geological facts to get you started with this beautiful gem material. Note: Don’t get confused with synthetic (lab grown) spinel, commonly coloured blue with… Continue reading Spinel: quick notes

Where am I in the gemstone pipeline?

This is a reproduction of a reflective piece of writing I completed for my Gem-A Foundation in Gemmology in February 2022. Image above: Examining the strong dichroic (two-colour) pleochroism of a green tourmaline crystal using Gem-A’s London dichroscope with a flatlight (credit: Tehmina Goskar). What is the gemstone pipeline? The gemstone pipeline considers all of… Continue reading Where am I in the gemstone pipeline?

Why gems?

Cornish sunshine quartz

I have studied and enjoyed material culture all of my professional life, both as a curator and historian. One of my biggest pleasures is to research materials from their earthly origins to their use and appreciation in society today. During my doctoral research I was fortunate to have studied and written about the significance of… Continue reading Why gems?

Curatorial Research Centre a year on

I just wanted to mark the anniversary of founding the Curatorial Research Centre. Technically that happened on 22 October. I created the idea out of a desire to take action on a set of broad but related systemic issues I had experienced and observed during my career so far–hierarchy, reputation, diversity, anti-intellectualism, shifts in values… Continue reading Curatorial Research Centre a year on