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Great Balls of Fire  -  Orange Gems!

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

Several gemstones have distinctive fiery colors that are reminiscent of a summer sunset.  Coral,  opal,  amber,  sapphire,  tourmaline and jasper do not sound very exotic,  but each of these gems has a variety which displays a magnificent shade of red, orange or yellow.

Most people only think of opal as a white gem from Australia that sparkles with a rainbow-like potpourri of colors.  However,  fine Mexican opal often possess a translucent cherry-like red or flaming orange color.  Opals are best worn as earrings or pendants,  because of the gem's softness.  Although,  opals can also be worn in rings,  if set to protect the gemstone.

Ox-blood coral offers a magnificent flaming red hue that was prized in ancient Rome,  India and Persia.  Legends claim that coral was widely recognized as the most potent gemstone for averting the infamous "Evil Eye".  Coral generally grows in warm seas.  Historically, the most important source for fine specimens were the near-tropical waters of the Mediterranean Sea along the coasts of Italy and northern Africa.  Today,  the primary source of fine ox-blood coral is the Sea of Japan.  Unfortunately,  coral has become an endangered species,  and fine ox-blood corals are rare and can be quite costly.

Padparadscha sapphire,  an orange variety of sapphire,  derives its name from a word in ancient Sanskrit meaning lotus flower.  This beauty,  found in Sri Lanka and Africa,  boasts a brilliant orange color with flashes of pink and has the high durability and luster characteristic of sapphire.  Rarity and increasingly high demand for this gem have caused prices to rise dramatically in the past decade,  yet gemstone connoisseurs agree that this stone offers beauty,  brilliance and durability that can not be matched.

Tourmaline is another versatile gemstone that occurs in a range of colors.  Orange tourmaline resembles Padparadscha sapphire,  while offering a more affordable price tag.  The major sources for tourmaline are Southern California,  Brazil,  Maine and East Africa.  This stone offers excellent potential for increasing in value over the years.

Radiant yellow amber was sought by ancient sun worshippers,  who believed that it offered protection from evil spells and illnesses.  Amber is an organic gem which originated from the sticky resin of prehistoric trees.  The Baltic Sea has long been recognized as the main source for this unusual gem which varies in hue from vivid yellows to orange and brownish reds.  Since Amber is the lightest gemstone it is the perfect stone for a choker of large,  carved beads.  It looks especially stunning when combined with black onyx beads.

Red jasper and carnelian are both cryptocrystalline quartz crystals (How's that for a mouthful!) with a brownish-orange or rust color.  The opaqueness and depth of color in jasper makes it an excellent choice for women with Autumn coloring,  while also being the most affordable of the orange gemstones.  Most red jasper is worn in strands of beads,  often combined with gold and cloisonne enamels.  Carnelian is a translucent brownish-orange gem,  which is also inexpensive,  and is usually worn in beaded necklaces and rings.

All these fiery gems complement summer and fall wardrobes.  Each has its own merits:  sapphire is the most brilliant and durable transparent orange stone,  tourmaline and opal are softer but less expensive choices.  Ox-blood coral is the most dramatic reddish opaque gem,  while jasper offers a very beautiful and affordable alternative.

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