ABCs of gemstones and the British Crown Jewels

ABCs of gemstones and the British Crown Jewels

The Koh-iNoor diamond? The Black Prince's Ruby? Don't know them yet? Learn also how to choose gemstones.

five cardinal gems

The British Crown Jewels and a glimpse at how to identify and grade gemstones are part of this guided tour by a noted gemologist.

The photo above is of the five cardinal gems considered the most valuable: diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire, amethyst. Can you identify them?

The photo on the lower right is of the British Imperial State Crown.

Read the full version of this article here.

Click button to listen to Gemstones and rightclick to download

A cut above the rest: Meet a man with a passion for precious stones by Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Imperial State CrownAs a young man, Kenneth Scarratt served in one of the regiments traditionally responsible for the protection of the British Royal Family - the Grenadier Guards. The regiment also had responsibility for the protection of the Crown Jewels, so he spent many days and nights guarding the crowns and other regalia.

Later in life, as a passionate gemologist, Kenneth was asked to join a small team of experts whose task would be, for the first time, to examine the regalia in fine detail and record the results for posterity in a mammoth written work. Besides co-authoring The Crown Jewels and The Pearl & The Dragon, he has written articles in many gemological journals worldwide

Kenneth brought his expertise to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok, which specialises in diamond grading, pearl identification, gemstone identification and origin determination, as well as conducting research. Thailand is the world's "warehouse" of gems of all shapes, sizes, colours and types, he said, and of course "variety is the spice of life" that makes his work here as the laboratory's director very exciting.

Bangkok is now his home, and his wonderful Thai wife brought him to understand and live a good life - Thai style. The British gemologist used to love the beaches, but as he came to know the country better, he prefers the contrasts of a weekly existence in the hubbub of the big city and weekends in the very lush, green Khao Yai.

What is so amazing about the Crown Jewels?

For me, it is the fascinating gemstones. Virtually, all the gems are "old"; thousands of diamonds fashioned as rose-cuts, creating spectacular light dispersion as you hold and turn crown after crown. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds of incredible qualities hailing from faraway places - Colombia, India, Burma and Sri Lanka - are abundant.

The Black Prince's Ruby [actually a spinel] sitting in the front of the Imperial State Crown is a fascinating stone with a tremendous history, but may not be as well known or as historically significant as the incredible Koh-i-Noor diamond that sits in the front of the Queen Mother's Crown...

What particular
skills are needed to become a gemologist?

The most important thing is passion for the subject. I do not know of any millionaires that are pure and focused gemologists, that is, those that work in laboratories or teach the subject. If you want to make money, while you can still be an interested and indeed enthusiastic gemologist, then your future may be in the business side, that is to say, buying and selling these fascinating gems.

Passion carries you forward and across the many hurdles you undoubtedly will encounter throughout a gemological career. Beyond the passion, today, a gemologist that works in a laboratory needs to develop a deep understanding of physics and chemistry, of geology and mineralogy, and also organic material.

Almost every stone that a gemologist picks up and scrutinises reveals something new; every day the gemologist's data bank changes and grows - there is no boredom, only excitement and a growing appreciation of nature and man.

Do you have any concerns about the jewellery industry?

I worry about buyers and end-users. Today there are many treatments applied to stones, and the most common involves various forms of heating to produce a better - yet unnatural - colour. For example, through the application of high pressures and temperatures you can change a brown diamond into a colourless diamond. As there maybe significantly lower value for such treated stones, there is a need for the treatments to be declared to the buyer, whether this is a trader or an end-user, and this is too often not the case.

Through our detailed and ongoing research application we can identify whether a stone has been treated this way, and tests to establish if any treatment has taken place are an essential part of the procedures in examining all gems.

What should consumers look for when buying diamonds?

Diamond pricing is governed by the international grading system. Particularly when purchasing high-value items, in order to make true comparisons consumers should seek certified diamonds that describe the quality of the given stones. GIA devised a worldwide standard to grade diamonds by evaluating the 4Cs: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight. At GIA labs, we provide the assessments of a diamond's 4Cs, and issue a full report or our smaller dossier report...

Is there a standard grading system for gemstones?

For coloured stones, including rubies, sapphires and emeralds, there is no international standard. It is a far more difficult area because each mine produces slightly different material even though the variety is the same. Most mines are small, yielding ordinary stones, and it's pure luck when miners come across an exceptional gem.

GIA has field gemologists who go to the mine sites around the world and collect samples. Today, we have hundreds of thousands of specimens that make for the largest reference collection in any laboratory in the world. So we know exactly where the gemstones come from.

What is the current jewellery trend?

There is an increasing trend for natural rather than treated stones. Likewise, natural pearls are making a comeback, and there's fishing for natural pearls in Australian and other regional waters.

Before cultured pearls became available in the 1920s, the market was entirely natural pearls. Chinese freshwater cultured pearls have recently dominated the pearl industry and these form a dynamic part of the market, particularly in the lower value costume jewellery end

South Sea cultured pearls form another and much higher value level in the marketplace and seem to be gaining some of the momentum lost during the recent financial crisis.

Rare natural pearls from a different and often much higher value end to the marketplace, for instance, a single melo pearl recently achieved an auction price in excess of US$700,000 (20.95 million baht).

GIA's pearl grading system describes the important quality factors for pearls, and people looking for something different are in general willing to pay for quality pearls.

What would be your first choice of gemstone to give to a loved one?

This choice may change as time goes by, but today, I would choose spinel. There are a variety of beautiful colours; they are durable stones which are often free of inclusions and therefore quite transparent, but also spinel is usually entirely natural and only rarely treated.

(Source: Bangkok Post, A cut above the rest: Meet a man with a passion for precious stones, 2/05/2011, Kanokporn Chanasongkram, link)

Gemstone Vocabulary

gem - a valuable stone such as a diamond or ruby, especially when cut into a regular shape and used to decorate jewellry อัญมณี, เพชรพลอย (See Wikipedia)
gemstone - same as "gem"

five cardinal gems - the five cardinal gems that have traditionally been considered more valuable than all the others: diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire, amethyst (See Wikipedia)

diamond -
the most famous and valued of all gemstones, "has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Those properties determine the major industrial application of diamond in cutting and polishing tools. Diamond has remarkable optical characteristics. Because of its extremely rigid lattice, it can be contaminated by very few types of impurities, such as boron and nitrogen. Combined with wide transparency, this results in the clear, colorless appearance of most natural diamonds. Small amounts of defects or impurities (about one per million of lattice atoms) color diamond blue (boron), yellow (nitrogen), brown (lattice defects), green (radiation exposure), purple, pink, orange or red. Diamond also has relatively high optical dispersion (ability to disperse light of different colors), which results in its characteristic luster. Excellent optical and mechanical properties, combined with efficient marketing, make diamond the most popular gemstone"  เพชร (See Wikipedia)

emerald -  a green gemstone มรกต (See Wikipedia)
ruby - a red gemstone ทับทิม (See Wikipedia)
sapphire - a gemstone coming in many colours,  the most famous being deep blue หินมีค่าสีน้ำเงินหรือฟ้าเข้ม, หินแซฟไฟร์ (See Wikipedia)
amethyst -
"a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry. The name comes from the Ancient Greek ἀ a- ("not") and μέθυστος methustos ("intoxicated"), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness; the ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication" (See Wikipedia)

spinel - a popular gemstone, the red version looks like a ruby and is called a "balas ruby", comes in many colours: "a favourite of gem dealers and collectors on account of its brilliance, hardness and wide range of spectacular colours. In addition to beautiful rich reds, spinel can be found in a range of gorgeous pastel shades of pink and purple. Of particular interest is a vivid hot pink with a tinge of orange mined in Burma. It is one of the most spectacular gemstone colours seen in any species at all. Spinel also comes in beautiful blue tones called cobalt spinel, but these are very, very rare" (See Wikipedia and International Coloured Gemstone Association)

precious - of great value because of being rare, expensive or important มีค่า, ล้ำค่า
precious stone  - same as "gem"

jewel -
same as "gem"
jewellry - ornaments that people wear on their body such as rings, necklaces, bracelets made of valuable metals such as gold and silver and often decorated with precious stones (See Wikipedia)

crown - headgear worn by the King of a country wears on his head decorated with gems such as diamonds and precious metals such as gold (See Wikipedia)
crown jewels - "jewels or artifacts of the reigning royal family of their respective country. They belong to monarchs and are passed to the next sovereign to symbolize the right to rule. They may include crowns, sceptres, orbs, swords, rings, and other objects" (See Wikipedia)

Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom -
a famous and ancient set of jewels kept in the Tower of London, "the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign of the United Kingdom during the coronation ceremony and at other state functions," many have a religious meaning, "the vestures donned by the sovereign following the unction, for instance, closely resemble the alb and dalmatic worn by bishops, although the contention that they are meant to confer upon the sovereign an ecclesiastical character is in disrepute among Christian scholars" (See Wikipedia)

Imperial State Crown -
the crown worn by the British King or Queen during coronations and at the opening of parliament, several precious gems, including: 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies (See Wikipedia)

Queen Mother's Crown - the former crown of the Queen Mother who died in 2002, includes the Koh-iNoor diamond (See Wikipedia)

regalia -
all the traditional items such as a crown and special clothes that a king or prince wears at formal occassions and are a symbol of their power (See Wikipedia)

Koh-i-Noor diamond - meaning "mountain of light" in Persian, this 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond was found in India and was once the largest known diamond in world (See Wikipedia)
Black Prince's Ruby - "a bead-shaped spinel weighing roughly 170 carats (34 g), approximately the size of a chicken egg...currently set in...the front of the Imperial State Crown" (See Wikipedia)

expertise - a high level of knowledge or skill ทักษะความรู้, ความคิดเห็นของผู้เชี่ยวชาญ

mineral - a natural substance in the earth, for example coal, salt, gold, or diamonds แร่ (See Wikipedia)
mineralogy - the study of minerals ผู้ศึกษาเกี่ยวกับแร่ (See Wikipedia)

gemology (noun) - the study of gemstones  
gemological (adjective) - related to the study of gemstones  
gemologist -
an expert in the subject of gemstones
field gemologist - a gemologist who works outside the laboratory (searching for gemstones in the places where they are found)

GIA (Gemological Institute of America) -
a school founded in 1931 in the US that teaches gemology with a branch in Bangkok, "well known for its gem identification and grading services, and developed the famous "four Cs" (Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight) methodology of grading diamonds. Although GIA is best known for its activities in relation to diamonds, the institute is also involved with colored gemstones and pearls. The educational arm of GIA confers the Graduate Gemologist diploma upon its graduates" (See Wikipedia and website)

grade (noun) - the level of quality of something
grade (verb) -
sorting a group of things into groups of different quality
grade gemstones -
sorting gemstones into groups of different quality
diamond grading - the sorting of diamonds into different quality groups
international grading system - a system for grading gemstones used in all countries

4Cs: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight - a system of criteria used to grade gemstones by quality developed by GIA (See explanation: #1 #2)
carat - 0.2 grams, a unit for measuring the weight of gemstones such as diamonds (See Wikipedia)

diamond cut - "a style or design guide used when shaping a diamond for polishing ...Cut ...[refers to]...the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond. The cut of a diamond greatly impacts a diamond brilliance; this means if it is cut poorly, it will be less luminous. In order to best utilize a diamond gemstone's material properties, a number of different diamond cuts have been developed. A diamond cut constitutes a more or less symmetrical arrangement of facets which together modify the shape and appearance of a diamond crystal. Diamond cutters must consider several factors, such as the shape and size of the crystal, when choosing a cut. The practical history of diamond cuts can be traced back to the Middle Ages, while their theoretical basis was not developed until the turn of the 20th century. Design creation and innovation continue to the present day: new technology—notably laser cutting and computer-aided design—has enabled the development of cuts whose complexity, optical performance, and waste reduction were hitherto unthinkable" (See Wikipedia and also on craft of cutting)

rose-cut - a cut in use since the mid 16th century, "the basic rose cut has a flat base (no pavilion) and a crown composed of triangular facets (usually 12 or 24) in symmetrical arrangement, which rise to form a point. They are usually circular in outline; variations include: the briolette (oval); Antwerp rose (hexagonal); and double Dutch rose (resembling two rose cuts united back-to-back)" (See Wikipedia)

inclusion - any material that is trapped inside a mineral during its formation, reduce the clarity of the gemstone thus reducing its value (See Wikipedia)

diamond clarity -
when a diamond has few inclusions and surface defects (blemishes) which increases the diamond's value, "inclusions may be crystals of a foreign material or another diamond crystal, or structural imperfections such as tiny cracks that can appear whitish or cloudy. The number, size, color, relative location, orientation, and visibility of inclusions can all affect the relative clarity of a diamond. A clarity grade is assigned based on the overall appearance of the stone under 10x magnification. Most inclusions present in gem-quality diamonds do not affect the diamonds' performance or structural integrity. However, large clouds can affect a diamond's ability to transmit and scatter light. Large cracks close to or breaking the surface may reduce a diamond's resistance to fracture. Diamonds with higher clarity grades are more valued, with the exceedingly rare Flawless graded diamond fetching the highest price. Minor inclusions or blemishes are useful, as they can be used as unique identifying marks analogous to fingerprints. In addition, as synthetic diamond technology improves and distinguishing between natural and synthetic diamonds becomes more difficult, inclusions or blemishes can be used as proof of natural origin" (See Wikipedia)

pearl -
a hard round white and very beautiful object growing in shell fish and prized as a jewel (See Wikipedia)
South Sea - the south sea islands of Polynesia, including most famously Tahiti (See Wikipedia)
cultured pearls - a pearl created by pearl farming, not found in the wild (See Wikipedia)
melo pearl -
a non-nacreous pearl produced by a conch-like shellfish (See Wikipedia)
nacreous -
exhibiting lustrous or rainbow-like colors like the nacre (mother of pearl) (See Wiktionary)
nacre - mother of pearl, a pearly coloured substance which lines the interior of many shells, and is most perfect in the mother-of-pearl (See Wikipedia and Wiktionary)

transparent - can see through
dispersion - the spreading of things over a wide area การแพร่กระจาย
light dispersion - the special and often beautiful way that light comes out of an object (such as a crystal or gemstone) after entering it

spectacular - very impressive and dramatic, surprising to watch and look at น่าตื่นเต้น ที่ตระการตา
durable - able to stay in good condition for a long time ทนทาน

identification (noun) - the process of finding out what something is or who someone is การชี้ตัว การหาตัวผู้กระทำผิด
identify (verb)
gemstone identification - finding out the type of gemstone, its quality and where it came from
origin determination -
figuring out (through research) where the gemstone came from (which mine)
conducting research -
doing research (finding out the facts about something)
certified - inspected officially and verified that the company follows the rules ผ่านการรับรองคุณภาพ

sample - a small amount of something to show people (or customers) what it is like
specimen - one item used to show what the whole group is like (example: the museum displayed insect specimens arranged in increasing size for comparison)
reference collection -
a collection of gemstones used for comparison with a new gemstone to identify it
data - facts or information used for making calculations or decisions ข้อมูล
data bank - a collection of facts on a subject

assessment (noun) - looking closely at something in order to make a judgement about that thing
assess (verb) 
evaluating - thinking carefully about something before making a judgment about its value, importance or quality
evaluate (verb)

scrutinise - look closely at the details of something
issue - to officially announce or give out ออก, ออกประกาศ, ออกคำสั่ง แจกจ่าย
issue a report - when an organization officially makes a report on some subject available to the public

consumers - people who buy things (individuals and families)
auction - a public sale of things by competitive bids, selling to the person who offers that best price (See Wikipedia) การขายโดยการประมูล, การขายทอดตลาด

exceptional - much greater than usual, especially in skill, intelligence, quality, etc; unusually good ยอดเยี่ยม, ดีเป็นพิเศษ, ดีเด่น

trend - a new development in clothing, make-up, etc แนวโน้ม
natural - found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
comeback - a period when someone or something becomes successful or popular again กลับคืนสู่สนาม กลับมามีชื่อเสีัยงอีกครั้ง
make a comeback - becoming popular again, after being not popular

General Vocabulary

a cut above the rest -
something that has a higher quality or standard than the rest 
passion (noun) - having a strong enthusiasm or interest in some activity or subject ความชื่นชม หลงใหล
passionate (adjective) 

- a large group of soldiers กรมทหาร, กองทหาร
Grenadier Guards - an infantry regiment of the British Army tracing its origin back to 1656, "the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry"(See Wikipedia)
responsibility - having to take care of some task as part of your job
spent - used ใช้ไป

task - a piece of work that someone does หน้าที่
in fine detail - with more detail, greater (very precise and accurate descriptions, with very small details)
record - the best or most ever achieved สถิติ
results - what is produced in the end by an activity or task
posterity - the people who will exist in the future คนรุ่นลูกรุ่นหลาน
record the results for posterity - write down some facts (or history) for people living in the future (interested in them)

warehouse - a large building for storing things โกดังสินค้า, คลังสินค้า, โรงพัสดุ
variety - many different types of things or people ความหลากหลาย
variety is the spice of life - variety in life is what makes life exciting 

prefer - like this more than other things
contrast - when things are very different
weekly existence - meaning: weekdays
weekdays -
Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
weekends -
Saturday, Sunday
hubbub - great noise and activity
lush - green and healthy (of plants) เขียวชอุ่ม

fascinating - extremely interesting น่าหลงใหล, มีเสน่ห์
Virtually, all the gems are "old" - almost all the gemstones are old

incredible - surprising and difficult to believe อย่างไม่น่าเชื่อ
hailing from - coming from
abundant - large amounts exist, more than enough มากมาย

tremendous - very good; very much ที่ดี ที่มากมหาศาล
significant - important สำคัญ

skills - a type of work or task requiring special training and knowledge ทักษะ ความสามารถเฉพาะทาง
pure - having nothing in something to spoil its quality or effect บริสุทธิ์
focused - working on a very narrow and specialized area or problem (not doing too many different kinds of things)
enthusiastic - very interested in something or excited about it อย่า่งสนใจ กระตือรือร้น

hurdles - problems
undoubtedly - certainly อย่างไม่น่าสงสัย
encounter - to meet; to experience or deal with something, especially a problem เผชิญกับ (ปัญหา)
career - the series of related jobs that you spend your work life doing (especially if the job is a profession) (See Wikipedia) (See glossary)
appreciation - understand something (and liking it more because you understand it)
nature - ธรรมชาติของสิ่งต่างๆ

concerns - worries ความกังวล

significantly - in an important way อย่างสำคัญ
end user - the final person to buy and "use" a gemstone by wearing it, the final customer (may be sold along the way to many middlemen who resell the gem)
ongoing - currently happening at the present moment; continuing ไม่หยุดยั้ง, ต่อเนื่อง
identify - find, locate, specify ระบุ
establish - establish a fact, prove that a fact is true
treatment -putting some substance onto or into a thing in order to clean it, protect it or give it some special properties
essential - necessary, important, must haveที่จำเป็น ที่สำคัญ
not the case - not true, not the situation

dossier - a file on something or someone, a collection of papers providing information on something or someone

current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน
dominated - controlled ถูกควบคุม ถูกชักใย บงการ
dynamic - moving and changing fast, having a lot of ideas and enthusiasm; energetic and forceful จรวิสัย

acceleration - increasing speed, going faster at a faster and faster rate
gain momentum - moving faster and faster at a speed that is more and more difficult to stop
lose momentum  - moving faster at a slower rate
gaining some of the momentum lost - speed increasing after a period when speed was decreasing
financial crisis - the economic problems in Asia and Thailand in 1997
crisis - an urgent, difficult or dangerous situation วิกฤต
- greater than is usual; too much of something มากเกินปริมาณที่พอดี
factors - one of the things that effects a situation or event ปัจจัย
a loved one - a person who you love (in your family or your girlfriend or boyfriend)
rarely - not happening often นานๆ ครั้ง, ไม่บ่อย

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