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A Guide to Scottish Gemstones

A Guide to Scottish Gemstones from County Argyle

When most of our customers think Scottish jewelry, they think of silver set with bloodstone and a wide variety of agates. The stones represent the signature flourish of color found in the best of Victorian Era accessories from Caledonia. Last month we looked at each of these native treasures in detail. This month let’s kick it up a notch.

While not as plentiful as agates, semi-precious gemstones do make rare appearances for the most dedicated Scottish rockhounds. The first thing to remember about semi-precious Scottish stones is that all the following varieties are closely related. All fall under the quartz family, each with a slightly different combination of trace minerals, heat, and radiation. When looking for top-drawer antique jewelry, be sure to know the amethyst, citrine, ametrine, smoky quartz, and the official stone of Scotland, Cairngorm quartz.

The Scottish Amethyst from County Argyle

The Amethyst

Most jewelry lovers know the amethyst. The purple hues — a result of radiation and iron impurities — range from soft lavenders to deep violets, depending on the country of origin. Rare Scottish amethysts tend to the paler end of the spectrum with a distinct clarity and softness of color. The regions of Dumfries and Galloway produce the best stones, and jewelry set with authentic Scottish amethysts are typically of high quality. A softer color suggests a natural stone while a rich, vivid purple indicates the stone may be artificial or enhanced with heat and radiation.

The Scottish Citrine from County Argyle

The Citrine

The term citrine covers a wide variety of quartz stones. Jewelers prize the natural yellows — which range from pastel to deep lemon. The exact cause of the color remains under debate, but gemologists suggest the combination of radiation and iron oxide give the stone its unique hue. Natural citrine can be found on nearly every continent. In modern times, Brazil has begun to produce a rich yellow variety by heating commonly occurring amethysts. Antique accessories, however, will nearly always feature natural stones exclusively. In mid-century pieces by companies like Mizpah, Miracle and even Ward Brothers, a bright yellow citrine suggests an artificial stone or glass.

The Ametrine from County Argyle

The Ametrine

While nearly unheard of in Scotland, the ametrine represents the perfect marriage of the amethyst and citrine. Today, Bolivia holds on the only commercially viable deposits of ametrine. In fact, history suggests that ametrine first arrived in Europe as a conquistador’s gifts to the Spanish queen in the 17th century. A naturally occurring blend of the two quartz families, this beautiful stone has found a place in modern Scottish jewelry design. We occasionally set single ametrines in classic sterling silver settings —a rare combination that our customers love.

The Scottish Smoky Quartz from County Argyle

The Smoky Quartz

Legend suggests that the ancient Caledonian Druids considered the smoky quartz a stone of unrivaled power. The deep, dusky brown tones represented the nurturing power of the earth gods. A close relative of the citrine, the smoky quartz tends to contain more trace aluminum in place of the citrine’s iron oxide. The resulting stone appears in countless shades and intensities, from light grey to deep, rich browns. Not as common in antique Scottish jewelry, the smoky quartz gained popularity in the early 20th century. It can now be found in use by many major Scottish jewelers.

The Scottish Cairngorm Quartz from County Argyle

The Cairngorm Quartz

The official stone of Scotland, Cairngorm quartz features prominently in the finest antique Caledonian jewelry. A specific variety of the citrine found only in the Cairngorm Mountains of the Highlands, this beautiful quartz appears in deep hues of yellow, orange, and brown. Prized by Victorian Era jewelers, the stone rarely appears in new specimens. A national park encloses the Cairngorm area, further limiting any attempts at mining. Most antique Scottish pieces that incorporate gemstones will include at least one Cairngorm quartz. Don’t be put off by the unnaturally rich color. In the best Scottish jewelry, the rich color is most certainly a true Cairngorm chosen for its unrivaled depth and hue.

Want to see these varieties in person? Check out our calendar and find us at a Highland Games near you. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, you can browse our online gallery for easy shopping.

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