The Rodney Dangerfield of Gemstones?
If the GIA won’t grade it, and high-end jewelers won’t carry it, why do I love rose quartz so much? Like amethyst and citrines, rose quartz is a macrocrystalline quartz. Until recently geologists thought its tint came from traces of titanium, manganese, or iron, but recent information suggests rose quart’s color actually comes from tiny inclusions of a dumortierite-like mineral. Rose quartz is found all over the world, including my brother’s-in-law ranch in Montana. To harvest his rose quartz, which is heavily intermixed with white quartz, one must first hike up a mountain over rocky, unbroken ground for a good half-day, then hand-carry back the rough. The hike’s lack of amenities is more than made up for by rattlesnakes hanging out, waiting to nip one’s ankles, which probably explains why no one in his family has brought rough down for, oh say, 80 years. That, and it’s heavy stuff.
Rattlesnake-free rose quartz is mined in Brazil, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Mozambique, with Brazil leading production. Rose quartz is also mined in small amounts in South Dakota, where it is that state’s official mineral, and in other small operations throughout North America. Rose quartz crystals are actually quite rare and are sometimes called “pink quartz” to distinguish it from massive material. Pink quartz crystals get their color from trace amounts of phosphate or aluminum, and unlike massive material, the color can fade with sun exposure.
Most typically, rose quartz occurs in “massive material.” This simply means that it has no visible crystalline structure. The quality of massive material varies substantially, with most commercially available material falling in the decidedly humdrum range, as in this picture, right, of a pendant in my own personal collection.
However, rose quartz also comes in the gem-quality range, and *this* is the stuff that gets me excited. Even though the GIA doesn’t grade it, most vendors either use the GIA’s diamond clarity grading system or an “ABC” method to describe their specimens. Fl (Flawless, which I’ve never seen), IF (Internally Flawless), VVSI (Very, Very Slightly Included), and VSI (Very Slightly Included) grades tend to be used interchangeably with the “AAA” grade. Strangely, I have yet to encounter any vendor describing his or her rose quartz as “B” quality, even when the gem is completely opaque! That said, even completely opaque rose quartz can be incredibly beautiful and lustrous, as in this example, below.
Luster and Sheen
“Luster,” by the way, refers to the way light reflects off a gemstone’s surface, whereas “sheen” refers to the way it behaves below the surface. Gem-quality rose quartz is typically described as having a vitreous, or glass-like luster, but it also gives off a beautiful (to me at least) adularescent sheen. As light travels through the gemstone, it reflects off the gem’s two mineral layers (the quartz and the dumortierite), setting up a diffuse, hazy pattern of scatter and interference. Rose quartz usually carries a white, milky sheen, but rarely the sheen may be pale blue. In other gemstones, this light effect may be less diffuse, resulting in a uniform color shift as light moves through the gem. This is known as a Schiller effect, as is seen in moonstones or labradorite (see the photo to the right).
Asterism is a special case of adularescence, where the dumortierite fibrils align with the gem’s a-axes. Cut the gem en cabachon, and a six-point star will appear to float just above the gem’s surface when it is submitted to strong, pin-point light. The star will not display under diffuse light. Although rose quartz is the most abundant gem to display asterism, star rose quartz is still found in only a few locations in the world. Faceting destroys the effect and, unfortunately, it is not possible to identify beforehand which rough holds a star rose quartz and which does not.
Massive rose quartz, sometimes confused for “pink jade," was frequently incorporated into Asian jewelry, particularly the Chinese export jewelry made for Western consumption in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In recent years, popular designers such as Stephen Dweck, Judith Ripka, and Elizabeth Locke have incorporated rose quartz into jewelry with beautiful effect. Marylin Tan, whose ring is shown in the opening credits also uses rose quartz. Because it comes in massive material, even exceptionally large and ornate gems are surprisingly affordable.
Photographing Rose Quartz
Rose quartz is exceptionally difficult to photograph well, and this too could lead to its under appreciation. Bright lights tend to bleach it out, but photographing it against darker colors can make it appear dull. Most photographers recommend using natural, indirect light; adjusting the white-balance of one's camera to reduce the bleaching effect; and adjusting the picture's color saturation after the fact. Also, be prepared to take many, many photos.
Would Rose Quartz, by Any Other Name, Seem Sweeter?
In an interview with David Federman, emerald dealer Ray Zajicek once quipped that rose quartz’s only true “drawback [was] its surname.” Outfitted with a different name, Federman speculated that faceted rose quartz could be to pink gemstones what amethyst was to purple, and topaz was to blue gemstones. Alas! As with Romeo, a name change probably isn't in rose quartz's future.
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield became famous for his "no respect" schtick and lovable, loser persona. People in the know, however, knew him as a complex, sophisticated comic. The parallels between rose quartz and Rodney Dangerfield may therefore be particularly apt. In the right hands, gem quality rose quartz produces stunning, sophisticated, fashion-forward jewelry. It's time to love the "love gemstone" and show it some respect!
Finding Gem Quality Rose Quartz on Line
Since most jewelers don't carry it, where does one find it? As of this writing, a search for "rose quartz jewelry" returned 11.2 million results on Google; 46,619 results on e-bay; and 33,544 on Etsy. That’s a lot of results to sift through!
To get to the good stuff, try searching on the following:
- Gem grade rose quartz
- Gem quality rose quartz
- Faceted rose quartz
- Eye clean rose quartz
- Star rose quartz
- Translucent rose quartz
- Designer rose quartz jewelry
Sorting results by price might also help, as the better gemstones are usually also higher priced.
Please also visit the Pinterest companion board I created for this article. It shows many more examples of stunning jewelry than this article could accommodate, and the "pins" link to several sources for high end rose quartz jewelry. I have no affiliations with any of these sources.
As always, thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it or learned something new, please leave a comment or rating.