Jewels from the heart: My love is like a red, red...helenite?

Reading over all the Valentine's day posts got me thinking about precious stones. In a previous post, I pointed out a few reasonably-priced gems that were incredibly beautiful. However, Valentine's brings to mind the red end of the spectrum, so it occurred to me that a red-themed jewel post was definitely called for. With that in mind, I picked out a few red gems that are reasonably cheap, extremely eye-catching, and sure to melt the heart of your beloved.

(This assumes, of course, that your beloved likes gemstones and is a fan of red. Otherwise, all bets are off.)


It seems odd to say this about a jewel, but helenite is really awesomely cool. Basically, it is a synthetic red or green gem that is made from volcanic dust that was kicked up by the Mount St. Helen's eruption in 1980. It is an insanely rich red color that is clearly unnatural. That having been said, there's a time and a place for insanely bright Kool-aid red, and Valentine's day is most certainly it. After all, we're not buying tomatoes here; we're expressing our hunka-hunka burning love.

And speaking of burning...just think of the fantastically cheesy lines that you can attach to a slab of volcanic glass. I'll leave you to your own devices, but words like "explosion," "eruption," and "lava" are clearly called for!


Because of its wide range of chemical varieties, garnets also have a wide range of names, including "spessartite," "almandine," "rhodolite," "pyrope," "grossular," and "andradite." Garnets are available in a wide range of colors, the most valuable of which are blue-green. However, red garnets are extremely strong, stunningly beautiful, and can often be a real steal. Although it is possible to synthesize them, most garnets are naturally occurring.

Unlike the cherry red color of most helenites, garnets have a richer, more sophisticated tone. Because of the wide array of cuts available, it shouldn't be hard to find a unique one for your beloved. One thing to watch out for, however, is clarity. Many garnets have impurities, which can make them appear smoky. This rich, mysterious coloration can be intriguing, and may not be a problem for you, but you should definitely keep your eyes open.


You heard me: rubies can be a reasonably inexpensive choice for a gem, if you're willing to look into synthetics. Chemically the same as natural rubies, synthetic (or lab-created) rubies are made through a variety of techniques. Of these, the flux-growth process, which takes a great deal of time, produces the most natural-appearing gems. Chatham is probably the best-known flux-growth ruby company, but its gems are very reasonably priced.

The best part of synthetic rubies is their size. Unlike natural rubies, which are a limited resource, and must be cut from inconveniently-shaped deposits, synthetic rubies are potentially unlimited, and can be surprisingly huge. A brief search of eBay reveals a large number of synthetic rubies in the 13-15 carat range for not much more than the price of a pizza!

Besides, given the environmental impact of mining, lab-created rubies are, basically, a blow for the green lifestyle!

Caveat Emptor

I want to make one thing clear here: I am not, under any circumstances, suggesting that you attempt to fool your beloved. Chances are that she (or he) has a pretty good idea about how much money you make, and will know that something's up if you try to pass off a ridiculously extravagant synthetic gem as a naturally-occurring one. Even if you initially fool him or her, it's pretty likely that your charade will come crashing to the ground at a later point, which will definitely ruin your day.

However, if your significant other is into bright things and has a sense of humor, a synthetic gem might be just the thing. Besides, imagine the joy you'll get when you see your beloved's hand bending under the weight of a gargantuan, incredibly tacky jewel!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.

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