March 2021 Newsletter: Gem Silica from Arizona and Peru

The rarest gem in the quartz family is a vivid blue or blue-green microcrystalline quartz known in the trade as Gem Silica. Sometime referred to as gem silica chrysocolla or chrysocolla chalcedony, it forms in copper-rich areas where the copper silicate known as chrysocolla combines with chalcedony quartz.

The main attraction of this gemstone is its remarkable color. The intense color is due to the presence of copper salts that penetrate the crystal lattice of colorless chalecedony. Though there are other copper-bearing gems that can display a similar color saturation, such as turquoise and chrysocolla, these are much softer stones and are not durable enough for everyday rings. The term gem in Gem Silica indicates that this material is gem quality, since ithas a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and is suitable for all kinds of jewelry, including rings.

But the finest Gem Silica has more than a vivid color. It also has significant translucency that gives it a special glow. Clean specimens with excellent translucency are sought after by collectors. In the Asian market, Gem Silica is in demand for its resemblance to the highest grades of jade. In the west, the paraiba-like color and rarity are the main selling points.

The chief sources for this rare gem are in Arizona, USA and Peru in South America. These locations are among the main copper mining locations in the world.

Gem Silica, Inspiration Mine, Arizona
Gem Silica
Inspiration Mine, Arizona

Arizona is the leading copper producing state in the US, with 60% of the US production. Copper mining is a multibillion dollar business with many industrial applications. Unfortunately with the advent of modern mechanized mining, it is no longer possible to interrupt copper mining to extract the Gem Silica when a new pocket is discovered. So the only locations yielding new material are those where mining is still carried out with pick and shovel.

The main sources of Gem Silica in Arizona are the Inspiration Mine in the Globe-Miami area, and the Ray Mine in the southern part of the state, about 65 miles east of Phoenix. Due to copper mining practices, neither mine has yielded new material in the last 20 years, and all the material in the market was discovered years ago and put aside or held in family collections. The scarcity of fine material has driven up prices on top grade Gem Silica as demand from collectors continues to grow. The Inspiration Mine is noted for very fine translucent material which has the distinctive glow prized by collectors. Material from the Ray Mine tends to be opaque, but with a vivid blue color.

More recently, we have seen new gem silica from Peru enter the market. The first Peruvian material was quite opaque and olive to forest green in color. But more recently we have seen some fine blue-green stones from Peru, with good translucency. The main source is the Lily mine in Pisco Umay, about 200 km south of  Lima. Some of the Peruvian material has dendrite inclusions which form interesting patterns.

We have recently added a number of new pieces to our extensive collection of Gem Silica, now more than 150 items.

See our collection of Fine Gem Silica


Notable Gems from the AJS Collection

This month we feature rare Gem Silica from 3 locations. Click on any gem photo for details.

1156.25 ct Gem Silica Specimen from Ray Mine, Arizona
An impressively large Gem Silica specimen from the Ray Mine in Arizona. At over 1,150 carats and about 8 x 8 cm, this fine specimen will make an important addition to any collection. This Gem Silica displays a saturated blue-green color, with veins of white quartz. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

6.86 ct Gem Silica from Inspiration Mine, Arizona

The finest Gem Silica comes from the Inspiration mine in Arizona. The best of this material is an intense turquoise color with very good translucency. This square cabochon is a fine example, with excellent color consistency and translucency. Guaranteed natural and untreated.
15.91 ct Gem Silica from Ray Mine, Arizona

A unique multicolor Gem Silica from the Ray Mine in Arizona. Ray Mine material is typically opaque, but this unusual blue and green cabochon has significant translucency that shows off the fascinating patterns of the dendritic inclusions. At 26 x 10 mm, this rare gem will make a stunning pendant. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

See the video

55.15 ct Gem Silica from Peru

An impressive size -- over 55 carats -- in a lovely bluish-green, with some translucency. This fine Peruvian stone is perfect for a pendant or for a Gem Silica collection. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

See the video

17.75 ct Gem Silica Suite from Ray Mine, Arizona

A fine suite of saturated blue Gem Silica from the Ray Mine in Arizona. At 17.75 carats, this is an impressive suite for a set of drop earrings. The largest pears are about 15 x 10 mm, with the smaller pears about 12 x 8 mm. The small rounds are about 4.7 mm. Guaranteed natural and untreated.

See the video

6.93 ct Gem Silica from Peru

A top example of the high quality translucent Gem Silica from Peru. Lovely blue-green color with a warm glow. Certified as natural and untreated by GemResearch Swisslab (GRS).

See the video


News from AJS and the Gems World

Coup in Myanmar, Sanctions Expected

After 10 years of democratically elected governments, the military in Myanmar refused to recognize the results of the November 2020 election which was swept by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party with 83% of the vote. In early morning raids on February 1st, just hours before the first session of the new parliament was set to open, the military arrested Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders and declared a state of emergency. Internet and communications were blocked and the military-owned news channel announced that power had been handed to army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

The coup was widely condemned internationally with the United States calling on Myanmar's military leaders to "immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence against civilians."

U.S. President Joe Biden threatened to review sanctions on Myanmar and issued this statment: "The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action."

It is quite possible that western nations may once again institute a ban on the importation of gemstones from Myanmar, especially valuable Ruby and Jadeite. If you have been contemplating a purchase of Burma Ruby or Jadeite, it would be advisable to make your purchase before import restrictions take effect.

For a history of sanctions on Burmese gemstones see our article The Ban on Burma Ruby and Jade: Latest News


Ask the Gem Experts

Each month we answer questions from our customers. We welcome your questions and you can submit a question from our contact page.

I love the colour of padparadscha sapphire, but I only see small gems and they are very expensive. Is it possible to find this color in other varieties in larger stones?  RL, Canada

The term padparadscha refers specifically to the natural pink-orange color of some Sapphires.The term comes from the Sanskrit padma raga ("lotus color") since the distinctive color of these rare Sapphires is thought to resemble the color of the lotus flower.
Similar colors can sometimes be found in Spinel, Tourmaline and Morganite. So if you love the delicate pink-orange color, it is possible to find it in other gem varieties. If you are looking for a larger gem in this color at an affordable price, Tourmaline and Morganite would be your best choices.
Spinel Morganite 6.47 ct Fancy Tourmaline
1.43 ct Spinel
15.95 ct Morganite
6.47 ct Fancy Tourmaline


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All the best in gems,

Ron, May & and Rung