Rapaport Magazine
Colored Gemstone

Pink Pleasures

By Brooke Showell

19.36-carat morganite Starbrite™ cut by John Dyer & Co.
Photo by Lydia Dyer.
Discovered in Southern California in the early twentieth century, morganite was named by world-famous gemologist George Kunz of Tiffany & Co. after his client, J.P. Morgan, banking tycoon and art collector. Known for its appealing pink hue, the gemstone is classified as a beryl — along with aquamarine and emerald. Sometimes referred to as pink beryl, the stone is gaining popularity for its pretty color.


Morganite’s rosy hue, which it gets from the element manganese, is a fashionable choice, and “there just aren’t a lot of other things that are bright, pink, attractive and affordable,” notes gemstone cutter John Dyer of John Dyer & Co. in Edina, Minnesota. While pink sapphire is considerably more costly and rose quartz is typically too opaque to be popular in the U.S. market, morganite’s subtle pink shades offer a more neutral choice that pairs well with other stones, even for those who wouldn’t normally think pink.

“You can wear it with almost any color,” says Cynthia Renée Zava of Cynthia Renée, Inc., a gemstone dealer and designer based in Carrboro, North Carolina. “It looks icier with white metals like palladium, and softer and sweeter with rose gold — both popular metals in jewelry right now,” Zava adds. “It’s very wearable all year, all day.” Sheryl Jones, managing director of Ozuro Fine Jewelry in New York City, cites its delicate tone as a big draw: “It’s different than working with pink sapphire because it’s softer. It’s just a soft, pretty pink that’s hard to replicate in other stones.”

Typically, larger-size morganite stones are more desirable because they hold more color for greater impact. The overall saturation of color is low in morganite. For the pleasant hue to be really visible and not wash out, larger stones of at least 2 carats best showcase the vibrancy of the pink color, Jones says. In the high-end market, Simon Watt of Mayer & Watt, a gemstone dealer in Maysville, Kentucky, says he sells morganite in the 5-carat to 25-carat range, especially in designs like elongated drops for earrings, a shape that suits beryl because it maximizes its color impact. 

“It’s a beautiful gem because of its large size and clarity — it’s often very clean and can have great brilliance,” Dyer notes. Zava adds, “Even in large sizes, morganite gemstones don’t take a lot of visual space because it’s a delicate color.” With that in mind, designers are using the gem’s distinctive qualities in innovative creations. Almost every year, a morganite piece wins an American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Cutting Edge Award because the stone lends itself to unique cuts.

Dyer, for example, has won the award several times for morganite, as well as other gemstones, including in 2011, when he won Second Place in the Combination Category for a 50.92-carat Starbrite™ cut morganite that featured special grooving techniques on the pavilion. “Combined with the clarity of morganite, the Starbrite cut really gave it some pop,” he explains. At Ozuro, morganite fits seamlessly in a necklace with aquamarine and yellow beryl because of its soft quality that looks pretty against the skin.


“There is a lot more morganite on the market now than I’ve seen in 30 years,” says Watt. Deposits in Madagascar, Brazil and Mozambique currently supply the majority of the gemstone. Although production in Mozambique dried up after the closing of a large metal mine that also mined morganite — falling prices for the metal material made the operation less economically feasible — it produced large quantities before the closure, yielding enough supply to sustain demand into the following years.

Still, rough prices have risen slightly because of demand in emerging markets like China and India. Meanwhile, changing environmental regulations for mining in Brazil — including such costly requirements as environmental impact studies and setting aside funds for recovering the land — have made it difficult for smaller operations to be profitable unless they’re dealing with a high-priced gem or especially low production costs. “Only serious operators who are well funded are able to play,” Dyer notes. While Brazil was once a much larger supplier, the amount of morganite coming from the country is still significant.


But the bigger issue is not of supply but the lack of disclosure about whether morganite stones in the marketplace are treated. The most desirable shade is an intense pink, Watt says, but he notes that the scarcity of that intense deeper pink shade makes it pricier than the gem’s more readily available lighter peach hues. Deep pink stones can sell for up to $600 or $800 per carat. Treatment of the stone — which is permanent — can produce a more desirable color, approximately 20 percent deeper, but there is no laboratory test to determine whether a stone has been treated and there is no labeling requirement to disclose that it has been treated.

Dyer estimates the “vast majority of morganite on the market is treated,” mostly through irradiation followed by heat treatment to deepen the pink color and add to the stone’s desirability — and price. However, Watt suggests that “I think there are people selling it as natural and not disclosing. There is a lot of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I think people are scared of irradiation — it sounds bad.” Dyer notes it’s safest to presume morganite has been treated; in fact, Watt guesses that about 90 percent of the peachier morganite is, indeed, irradiated. He bases that suspicion on the fact that “There is so much of that peachy material on the market these days — and clean — in almost any size you want.” 

While untreated stones do exist, they are rare. Jim Mann, of Mt. Mann Jewelers in Bethel, Maine, has an inventory of untreated stones, sourced from a crystal called the Rose of Maine, which was mined in 1989 at the Bennett Mine in Buckfield, Maine. The crystal ranks as the largest morganite crystal ever found in North America. Roughly the size of a large pumpkin, it weighed about 50 pounds upon discovery, yielding stones that Mann says are slightly lighter in color than most and are selling for about $100 a carat.

“In my inventory, I currently have one piece of untreated morganite. There’s just not much available,” Watt says. Dyer says an untreated stone may sell for about 20 percent more than a treated one, but the majority of customers would rather pay less for the treated stone. “The fact that you’ve got intense pink morganite and it is selling for $600 to $800 a carat and it’s irradiated is obscene — but there’s no test for it,” Watt says. “If it was beautiful material from Madagascar and it was slightly included, that would be fine and that price would be justified. That’s the beauty of natural stones.”

Perhaps as a nod to its aristocratic nomenclature, this pink beryl is both a collector’s gem for connoisseurs enticed by its soft shade, and a wearable stone for jewelry mavens looking for an outside-the-box accessory. If supply can meet growing international demand, it will find its way into more jewelry designs and “be used in ways it’s never been used before,” Watt says.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2012. To subscribe click here.

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