There’s no telling what will inspire my next article, and this week I was surprised that it was the curtains in my conservatory that did the job! For no particular reason they made me wonder about stars in jewellery, and most particularly the significance of them. In this context the first one that sprang into my mind is the Star of David, the six pointed star and symbol of the Jewish faith, easily recongnizable and often worn as a pendant. But that is the only really significant star I have found; I’ve found lots of jewellery that includes stars in the design from all different eras, but rather than being inspired by a deep-rooted symbolism and significance, I think the star represents two main things in jewellery. First, excellence – star of the show, you’re a star, music star etc, and secondly celestial reference; the moon and stars are often together in pendants and brooches and rings which fashion blossomed in the Victorian era as more attention was paid to celestial discoveries and knowledge. A shooting star for a wish, ‘I love you to the stars and back’ etc. all got translated into jewellery. And then of course there’s the simple fact that it’s a great shape and just an all round symbol of positivity.
But then my train of thought got interruped by me seeing an image, quite by chance, and my direction changed immediately. Now I needed to know about stars in stones. I’d heard of a star sapphire, and I’ve seen a star ruby, but didn’t know either how that happened or whether sapphires and rubies the only gems that have this phenomanon.
Stars in gems is called asterism – interestingly from both the Greek and the Latin word aster, meaning star. Seen predominently in en cabochon cut stones, the star is the result of light hitting rutile crystals in the stone, known as silk. Generally stars have four or six points but occasionally there’s an an amazing event where as many as twelve points show, as in this quite rare and beautiful black sapphire.
One of the most famous, and certainly one of the largest star gems is the Star of India which is a huge sapphire, 560+ carats which was mined in Sri Lanks in the 1900s.
Beating even this monster at over 700 carats is the Black Star of Queensland which is a black sapphire. It is privately owned, though, and can’t be seen.
Rubies are the other precious gem most likely to display asterism and one of the most wonderful of these is the DeLong Ruby; at over 100 carats, its star is bright and even in a perfectly clear gem.
These gems are breathtaking but I was happy to discover that there are some less precious but much more rare star gems which I would love to see. Take, for instance, The Star Of Heavenly Dreams – the name alone makes me want to see it! – which is a star tourmaline of just over 8 carats and is apparently unique. Also rare is star spinel – the stone that can easily be mistaken for ruby – and peridot very occasionally produces a beautiful star too. Garnet, quartz, moonstone and diopside can all produce stars, and running through the list like that makes them sound less than the extraordinary phenomanon that they are, so what makes one star gem more valuable than another? Well, in general, the clarity of the stone is reduced and it can be quite milky when the star is present – like the Star of India which is not clear and is full of inclusions (but is so enormous and rare it commands its own price). So it stands to reason that the clearer the stone while still showing a star, the more valuable it will be – like the DeLong ruby.
I wonder whether this magpie eye would be able to detect a natural star from a manufactured one though? I hope so but am not confident because the manufacturers are clever forgers, so beware!