JTV Kids Gemstone Fun Facts

Published: June 1, 2020

by Claire Scragg, FGA, DGA 

Do your children love to learn and discover new things about the world around them? JTV is making it easy for you to help your kids uncover gemstones from their surroundings and find out about a gem's history and many other unique stories. You and your children can experience the excitement and thrill of discovering gorgeous gemstones long buried in the earth, all while staying at home.

The JTV Kids Sifting Excavation Kit is an educational, do-it-yourself “dig” in your own backyard for your whole family. The kit includes a sifter and a wide variety of gemstones with the following fun and interesting facts about each one:

 

Pair of hands holding a magnifying glass above a gemstone

Gemstone Facts for the JTV Kids Sifting Excavation Kit

Amazonite:

  • Amazonite is one of the oldest mined gemstones on earth, with studies from one Egyptian mine dating as far back as 1800 BC.
  • Amazonite’s more scientific name is Microcline, but the name "Microcline" didn't sound very exciting so this gemstone was given the name Amazonite which is much more exotic sounding. The name is said to come from the Amazon River or jungle in South America, although there are no known sources of this gem there.
  • Amazonite is the blue variety of microcline and was used alongside another gemstone, Lapis Lazuli, by the ancient Egyptians for beads, amulets, adornments and decorative objects.

Emerald:

  • Emerald is perhaps the oldest mined gemstone on earth and the ancient Egyptians mined emeralds as far back as 3000BC. The age of the oldest emeralds in the world have been estimated to be around three billion years old.
  • Some of today’s most famous emerald mines are found in Columbia, South America.
  • The name Emerald comes from the ancient Greek word Smaragdos meaning "green gemstone".
  • Practically all emeralds will contain inclusions, other minerals and features present within the gem. These inclusions can make the inside of the emerald look similar to a garden. Gemologists sometimes refer to an ‘Emeralds Jardin ', which means French for garden.
  • The Roman Emperor Nero was said to have had a pair of sunglasses with the lenses made from emerald.
  • Emeralds were once used as currency for trade. In the 1500’s Spanish conquistadors invaded the Americas and brought emeralds back to Europe and Asia, keeping the best and trading the rest.

Labradorite:

  • Labradorite is named after Labrador, Newfoundland in North East Canada, the area where it was first found in the 1770s.
  • According to legend, the Northern lights were once captured and imprisoned in rocks on the Canadian coast. A brave warrior was summoned to release the Northern lights by using a blow of his spear. Some of these lights remained within the rocks and are the cause of the beautiful iridescence in Labradorite.
  • This light effect is so special that gemologists call it ‘labradorescence’, which is caused by the light reflecting within and from different layers inside the gemstone.
  • Polishing the gemstone brings out its inner beauty and more of the light effect.

Lapis Lazuli:

  • The name Lapis Lazuli comes from Lapis (Latin), which means stone.  Lazuli (from the Latin Lazulum) means blue or heaven.
  • Items made from Lapis Lazuli were found in the tomb of the famous Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen around 1300 BC.
  • Throughout history, Lapis Lazuli has had many uses other than as a gemstone. The Ancient Egyptians used powered Lapis as eye shadow. 
  • Powdered lapis mixed with oil was also the source for the blue pigment known as ultramarine, meaning beyond the sea, and was used by painters from the Medieval period through the Renaissance.
  • Lapis Lazuli is also classified as a rock because it is made up of a mixture of three different minerals: lazurite, calcite and pyrite.

Rainbow Moonstone:

  • Rainbow moonstone belongs to the feldspar family.
  • The Romans believed it came from the rays of the moon made solid.

Sodalite:

  • Sodalite gets its name from having a high sodium content.
  • Blue Sodalite can look very much like Lapis Lazuli and is found in Lapis as a trace element.
  • Some forms of sodalite glow bright orange in longwave ultraviolet light (blacklight).
  • There is a pink/purple variety of Sodalite called Hackmanite, which changes colour when exposed to sunlight.

Strawberry Quartz:

  • The bright red needlelike inclusions in strawberry quartz are hematite.
  • This stone was originally known as Scarlet Quartz.

Tigers Eye:

  • Roman soldiers used to wear tigers eye to protect them in battle. 
  • The chatoyant "cats eye" effect is caused by the reflection of light off minute fibers in the gemstone.