Living Coral has been named as the colour for 2019 by Pantone Color Institute. Naturally, this is causing trends to rush and follow suit. Last year’s colour, ‘Ultra Violet’, allowed gemstones such as amethyst to take centre stage.
Will the gold undertone pink coral be dominant in 2019’s gemstones? Or will we see other headline- grabbers influencing what graces our jewellery collections? Join us as we predict the gemstones that will be featuring heavily in every jeweller’s window display this year, as well as looking at how these exquisite stones gain their tantalising hues.
For a long time, opals have been a popular choice due to their unique blend of colours. They really hit a popular spike in the latter half of 2017 and through 2018, and this looks set to continue into 2019. The rare stone is in high demand thanks to the renewed popularity it has been enjoying in the west, as well as the popularity of the stone in Asia. With ‘Living Coral’ being this year’s go-to hue, pink opals i particular may find themselves in the spotlight.
Its variegated colour display comes from its internal structure. This differs heavily from cubic crystal structures found in the likes of diamonds. The structure of an opal contains lots of little spheres, which each split the light as it hits the stone into all the different colours we see. This colour display varies depending on the opal; precious opals show a wide array of colours, where common opals tend to be more milky in appearance with blueish or greenish hues. Its rarest form, black opal, has the perfect dark background to fully display all the different facets of colour an opal produces. This colour display often led the opal to be considered magical in the past, which is why it’s a favourite in antique jewellery pieces.
Journey of an opal
Australia produces 95% of the world’s opals — the country’s national gemstone. Though the exact chemical conditions required to produce an opal are still under research, the basic journey can be mapped as:
Water runs through silica-rich earth, collecting up silicon from sandstone as it goes. This results in a solution of silicon dioxide and water, perfect for forming opals.
This silicon dioxide-water fills up cracks in the earth as it goes.
Over time, the water evaporates, leaving the silicon behind as a silica deposit.
As more time passes and more water carries more silicon down on top of these deposits, opals are formed.
At a depth of 40 meters, it is estimated it takes five million years for 1cm thick silica deposits to form.
Even with the process above, there’s no guarantee that the resulting opal will show the colours that are highly sought after in precious opals. Without a colour display, the result is a common opal called ‘potch’ by miners. The mined opals are then bought from the miners as ‘parcels’, and the buyer will estimate the value of the stones and separate which pieces should be cut into a general shape to start with, called ‘rubs’.
As with any gemstone, the end aim is to ensure that you keep as much of the stone as possible while getting rid of any cracks or unwanted excess material from it. The opal cutter also decides which side of the opal is the ‘face’ that should point upwards. This is, of course, the side with the best colour and shape. Further cutting is done to remove imperfections, before its face is shaped, and then it is polished. Next, the back of the stone is cut flat and a ‘girdle’ shaped where the top and bottom of the stone meet. This is to help with securing the stone when the jeweller sets it.
Meghan Markle propelled aquamarine’s popularity in 2018. The gemstone featured prominently as Meghan’s ‘something blue’ element of her wedding, adorning a cocktail ring. The aquamarine ring in question was designed by Asprey and belonged to the late Princess Diana.
After the Royal Wedding back in May 2018, aquamarine rings were displayed all over social media — Instagram in particular saw jewellers being quick to comment about their favourite aspects of the stone and the designs they had in stock. With the seal of royal approval on it, this stone is set to be a big trend in 2019.
Journey of an aquamarine
Aquamarine is a variety of the mineral called beryl. It is also the national gemstone of Colorado, though most aquamarines are found in Brazil. Other popular beryl gemstones include emeralds and morganite.
The basic journey of an aquamarine is:
Magma under the Earth’s crust reaches rocks that are rich with minerals.
The magma gets into the crevasses and gaps within rocks called pegamites.
The magma cools as a result of this movement.
In turn, the heat from the magma warms up the pegamites.
Gemstones, like aquamarine, form as a result of the heated minerals within the rock. The intensity of the green-blue hue of an aquamarine increases its value. Lighter coloured aquamarines often crop up in less-expensive pieces of jewellery. As its colour can be improved by heat, aquamarines are frequently heated before reaching the jewellery market. Unlike most gemstones, aquamarines rarely have any inclusions — in other words, they are usually very clear, which helps their colour really shine once set in a piece of jewellery.
If you are impressed by Pantone’s Colour of the Year, then you’ll more than likely be vying for the rarity that is padparadscha sapphires. It takes its name from the Singhalese word for ‘lotus blossom’, and with its gorgeous pinkish-orange tone it’s easy to see why.
These sapphires are extremely rare as a natural gemstone, but an artificial method can create a similar colour within other pink sapphires. Still, naturally-occurring, untreated padparadscha sapphires are the most expensive, most sought-after sapphire form.
Journey of a padparadscha sapphire
Sapphires must go on a long journey from the earth to a jewellery setting:
The first stage of a sapphire (and indeed, a ruby) is a mineral deposit of corundum in igneous (magmatic) rocks.
As the magma that forms igneous rocks cools, mineral crystals such as corundum form. The longer it takes to cool, the bigger the crystal.
Other minerals may seep into corundum during its formation, which impacts the colour.
Iron causes it to take a yellow hue.
Vandium causes a purple colour to form.
Titanium brings the classic blue colour to a forming sapphire.
A mix of iron and chromium cause the sunset pink/yellow of padparadscha sapphires.