"So blinded are we by the diamond’s sparkle, that we have completely overlooked these underrated gems"
Not to speak ill of the dead, but Marilyn Monroe was most definitely lying when she sang that, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. They aren’t, and neither are rubies, emeralds nor sapphires – the other three gems that were traditionally designated as ‘precious stones’. This narrow classification, which relegated all gems that were not the big four to the inferior-sounding category of ‘semi-precious stones’, is now considered outdated by the jewellery trade.
Today’s designers have a much better appreciation of the artistic possibilities that open up when they don’t limit themselves to just four types of gems, and consumers are gradually catching on. Much to the delight of serious collectors, some of these gems are even rarer, and thus, more expensive and investment-worthy than the diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire. We get five local jewellers to tell us about their favourite, lesser-known gems.
Bixbite, The Elusive One
“This stone first caught my attention during my university days when the professor of my gemology class mentioned it as one of the rarest gems in the world. It is found only in Utah, the US, at the Violet Claims mine, which ceased operations in 2001. It would take me 20 years of searching before I finally saw the gem. During my hunt, I was surprised to meet many people who have been in the trade for 30 years, who knew about bixbite, but had never seen one with their own eyes. This only made me more determined to find one.
“My effort finally paid off when I met the owner of the mine. When I first saw it, I was captivated by the colour – bixbites can be as red as rubies.
“Of course, knowing that only one crystal of bixbite is found for every 150,000 diamonds that are mined made it all the more special.” – Michael Koh, founder and designer, Caratell
Robb Tip: Bixbites are a type of beryl – the same family of minerals to which emeralds belong. They get their red colour from manganese impurities in the beryl, which would otherwise be colourless. For this reason, bixbites are often marketed as red emeralds.