If you live in the Pacific West, or are traveling there to take in some sun and culture, be on the lookout for local gems. If you're in the market to fill your jewelry box, this US region offers some of the more unique gems available. Buying close to the source is one way to save money and discover a larger variety of beautiful jewelry.
Jade is considered an ornamental stone, and can be applied to two different types: Nephrite and Jadeite. What makes Jade green is its iron content. The higher it is, the greener the color of the stone will appear. Jadeite originates in China and is made up of different minerals from Alaskan (or Nephrite) jade. Nephrite is also a softer gem, which allows it to be more easily sculpted.
Benitoite is a rare blue mineral, which becomes even more beautiful under ultraviolet light, turning the stone from blue to a radiant white. The stone got its name due to being discovered next to the San Benito River in California. One of the best things about Benitoite is that it is gorgeous whether in its raw form or cut and polished.
Opals can literally be any color of the spectrum due to the internal structure and how that diffracts light. The opal is not a mineral, but a mineraloid. They generally contain from 5%-21% water, making them very unique stones. In 1987, the Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal was named the official state precious gemstone. Nevada is the only place in North America where substantial quantities of fire opals can be found.
The Oregon Sunstone is only found in Harney County, Oregon. What makes it so distinct is the inclusion of copper crystals in the sunstones. The more crystals present, the darker the hue of the stone. Sunstones work very well as both accents and centerpieces for all types of jewelry. They also pair well with both silver and gold.
Petrified wood is technically a stone, and is the remains of fossilized terrestrial vegetation. There are many types and varieties, as any type of wood can become petrified. The wood can be polished and cut, which in the end will resemble any other stone. While Washington state has an abundance of many different gems, the petrified wood found on Saddle Mountain and surrounding areas is known worldwide. You can try your hand at collecting your own, or purchase stunning pieces from local shops.
The next time you're planning a trip to go out west, budget in a little extra for those special jewelry finds...and make sure you have a great travel jewelry box to bring your treasures home safely. The last thing that you want is to arrive with your prize pieces in a jumble!