Even if current jewelry design is quite modern, the materials are very ancient: most precious gems were discovered and used long ago in the age-old ritual of human adornment. So when a new gem is discovered, it tends to generate some amount of excitement.
Zultanite the “Sultan of Gems” is a remarkable—and recent—gem discovery. It is found in only ONE deposit in the remote and jaw-droppingly beautiful Anatolia Mountains of Turkey. Zultanite has a color-change phenomenon–the most rare of gem effects–with colors for one gem ranging from sage green and canary yellow, to vivid kiwi green, raspberry pink, with warm ginger and cognac. The colors change as the light source changes. The gem is never enhanced, which is remarkable if you understand that most colored gemstones in the market are enhanced or treated in some way to improve their color or durability.
I had a chance to view several Zultanites in person (I returned the gems, I did not receive jewelry or compensation in exchange for this review). This gem is quite unlike any I have seen before. In very bright sunlight, the Zultanites I saw sparkled with bright, crisp facets in a sage green with sunny yellow highlights. I then took it into incandescent light indoors, and the gem turned deeper, richer: caramel-y cognac with khaki green flashes. Once the sun went down, I checked the colors again in incandescent light, and now they were pale raspberry, with some apricot thrown in. I tried viewing them in candlelight, and though it was hard to get enough light to really appreciate the color, the raspberry pink was really intensified. Amazing that one stone can have so many personalities!
It is mined responsibly, both in its impact on the environment, and its positive impact on the lives on the mine workers. The mining process does not use chemicals for extraction, and trucks are used to transport kitchen and bathroom waste water out of the site. Miners are paid above-average wages and are fully insured, and supplies are purchased from surrounding villages whenever possible. Additionally, the mine contributes to local charities and food banks, and employs local residents when possible, to create symbiotic relationships with the surrounding people and environment.
Amazing Zultanite Designer Jewelry
It is no wonder then that Zultanite has captured the imagination of some major jewelry designers who have created one-of-a-kind pieces around these one-of-a-kind gems. Designers such as Erica Courtney, Rhonda Faber Green, Daniel Gibbings, Christian Tse, Sevan and Evelyn H to name a few.
I had the opportunity to ask a few of these designers about their experiences working with Zultanite.
idazzle: What was your first thought when you saw the gem in person?
Erica Courtney: When I saw the gem for the first time, I gasped and couldn’t help but to think “WOW.” I didn’t expect what I was going to see.
Daniel Gibbings: Wow, what is this!!! I have never seen any stone like this before.
Rhonda Faber Green: I was intrigued by the color change in the stone. I am constantly amazed by “Mother Nature’s” ability to surprise us with yet another beautiful gemstone.
evelyn H. Jewelry: My first impression when I saw Zultanite was wow! What a refreshing new color stone! Zultanite is very unique and different. The colors from lime green to a strawberry orange comes out in different lighting environments and it was interesting to see the many tones as well as blends occurring when the stone was placed in different lighting environments.
idazzle: Did you immediately have an idea about how to design around it? Or did it take some time and discovery to create just the right foil for the Zultanite?
Erica Courtney: It took me a little bit of time to pick what accent stones to use with Zultanite because this gemstone is so unique. I was on an extensive search to find the exact shade of pink sapphire that would complement the various shades that Zultanite exposes. Currently, I’m looking for the perfect shade of Demantoids to design with Zultanite.
Daniel Gibbings: I had a vision instantly, because of its color-changing attribute, but it took some time to perfect the vision I had into actual pieces.
Rhonda Faber Green: Many ideas immediately came to mind on how to use this versatile stone. One of the first rings that I designed was an ancient temple. I used a beautiful Zultanite gem as the roof. I knew it would enhance the beauty of the stone; it drew light from all angles. I was amazed to later learn that there is an ancient ruin near the mine in Turkey where Zultanite was discovered.
evelyn H. Jewelry: Zultanite has such great color change properties that makes it appealing to both sexes; however, I immediately knew that I wanted to do something more masculine. A lot of times men feel there are not as much color stone options found in men’s jewelry, and I thought it would be a lot of fun and something different to do. I knew I wanted something structural but it did take a few weeks to solidify the design.
idazzle: Were there any challenges working with this gem, in terms of durability or characteristics that are unique to it versus other gems you work with?
evelyn H. Jewelry: Zultanite is an interesting stone to work with. We were given the guidelines beforehand on how to set it because of it’s cleavage and other structural properties, however we created a design that wouldn’t utilize much force in the setting process. We discovered that as long as everybody working on the piece is aware of the sensitiveness in regards to the stone, it was not difficult to work with. Let’s just say it’s a tourmaline, tanzanite, and emerald rolled into one, however if you understand these stones and are comfortable working with them, you won’t have a problem with Zultanite.
idazzle: Can you describe the gem for people who can’t see it directly and capture its essence?
Rhonda Faber Green: The instant beauty of Zultanite is revealed under different kinds of lighting where the variety of colors really show up. Other color-change gemstones I’ve seen have just two basic colors. With Zultanite, I’ve seen an array of colors – canary yellow, ginger, green, champagne, raspberry pink, light brown and sage green. This variety of colors compliments both yellow and white gold and even platinum designs. I love that the saturation of color in each piece of Zultanite varies from stone to stone. This allows each Zultanite piece to have its unique personality.
evelyn H. Jewelry: Imagine a tranquil green meadow right when the sun is setting. You have the beautiful yellowy green as the last rays of the sun touches the meadow, and then you have the reds, oranges, and tans as the sun sinks over the hill and reflects in the sky. That’s what I see when I look at the stone. It really is mesmerizing.
A Trip to Turkey
Erica Courtney had the opportunity to travel to Turkey to visit the Zultanite mine. I asked her a couple of questions about her experience there.
idazzle: How did going to Turkey and visiting the source for the gem, with all its culture and history, influence your ultimate designs?
Erica Courtney: Turkey is a very romantic place. You can’t help but fall in love with Zultanite completely. This best explains my love for Turkey and Zultanite…..”Before I experienced Turkey, it was lust, but after Turkey, it was love.” After meeting the staff and owner at the mine, I was able to see how well they treated the land, their employees and gemstones—you can’t help but see how precious the gems and people are and it’s hard not to fall in love with everything and everyone involved.
idazzle: What made the biggest impact on you from your visit to the mine: the people involved, the effort it takes to extract even one stone, the rarity of this gem in particular? What stands out for you?
Erica Courtney: The biggest impact for me was the attitude of the staff members at the mine. They were all so happy and friendly. I felt like they were a huge family and they were welcoming me in as a new member. I could tell that everyone who worked at the mine were generally concerned with each other and the environment. They were really passionate about their work and the gems.
Look for more press and interest in this gem as its beauty, rarity, and other intangible qualities become more well known. For instance, just this week Carrie Ann Inaba was spotted wearing amazing Rhonda Faber Green Zultanite earrings on Dancing with the Stars! Ask your local jeweler to see a Zultanite, and visit the websites of the designers seen here for more information. As always, drop me a line here and let me know if you need a referral to a designer or retailer who has access to this remarkable gem.