You might not think that there are any colorless gemstones, but you would be wrong. The term “colorless” does not mean that the stone is without color. It just means that the hue of the stone is so close to white and lacks saturation. The colorless gemstones are an interesting group of minerals. Most gems are colorful because they contain impurities that cause the colors. The colorless gems have very few impurities and so do not show many colors in natural light. Below are the nine colorless gemstones you should know.
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9 Colorless Gemstones
1. White Topaz
The most famous near-colorless gemstone, White Topaz, is white enough to be mistaken for diamonds. It is trendy for jewelry, with its very high dispersion, making it shine brighter than any other gem.
Topaz forms beautiful crystals, often in complex shapes that collectors prize. Topaz is usually formed at high temperatures and pressures in pegmatite intrusions or contact metamorphic rocks.
It is found in India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and South Africa. Its name comes from the Greek word Τοπαζ which means ‘to seek,’ as the gemstone was believed to help seekers find their true path in life.
Topaz is a relatively soft gem, only eight on the Mohs scale of hardness, and should be protected from scratches and blows. The most common treatment is heating to enhance the color of the stone.
Zircon (or Zirkon as it is called in its native Slovenia) is the oldest gemstone, and at 8.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, can be easily scratched. Zirconia is made from zirconium oxide (ZrO2), which naturally exists in various colors depending on its chemical composition.
The addition of certain elements (like yttrium, calcium, barium, cerium, and thorium) gives the ZrO2 its colorless quality. It is primarily found in Sri Lanka and Cambodia. The ancients used natural zircons to concentrate sunlight and start fires, and for centuries, so-called ‘firestones’ were used in battlegrounds to bring victory to an army.
Zircon was believed to protect the person wearing it from negative energy, and people mostly wore it in amulets or lockets as it is tough to produce gems of enormous size. The most famous zircon belongs to Elizabeth Taylor, the pink diamond originally a 182-carat zircon.
White Quartz or Rock Crystal is clear, but its pale color makes it look like white gemstone. The largest cut rock crystal in the world can be seen at an obelisk of the Piazza Della Signoria in Florence. White quartz is formed when pure quartz accumulates in certain parts of lava ridges and becomes exposed to the elements.
Eventually, these small pieces of crystal accumulate into large opaque white chunks used in ornamental carvings and stones. Quartz was extremely popular during the Art Deco era because its pure appearance complimented modernist design very well.
It is found around the world and can be cut into gems of almost any size. Today, quartz is primarily found in Brazil, Mexico, and Madagascar. It is not uncommon for quartz to have inclusions of other minerals, which can sometimes give it exciting properties.
The body of certain mollusks secretes pearls. Pearl is formed when a tiny stone or particle gets inside the shell of these mollusk species. To protect their bodies from this intrusion, they secrete several layers of nacre around it.
Nacre is made up of thousands and thousands of tiny crystals. These crystals are arranged to scatter light in many directions, creating the iridescent quality of the pearl that we all know and love. Pearls come from pearl oysters and mussels.
The largest natural pearls belong to the Black Sea, produced by a species of river mussel known as Margaritifera Pontica. The Pearls have been critical in different cultures all around the world for many centuries. In China, entire ‘pearl cities’ (called ‘Zhuji’) were built to produce the perfect marble for the Chinese emperors.
Moonstone is composed of two feldspar minerals–orthoclase and albite. Due to the presence of manganese, it forms a colorless stone. However, trace amounts of iron and titanium present turn its color from white to blue or gray.
With the presence of K-feldspar, the stone becomes yellowish-brown in color due to inter-growth. Moonstone is one of the pseudomorphs, stones that take different shapes but still have the same chemical makeup as their original mineral.
Originally hailing from Sri Lanka and India, it is also found in Madagascar, France, Greenland, and the United States. It is usually milky white with a shimmering surface.
The famous gem belongs to Lord Shiva, who gave his wife, Parvati, as an engagement gift. The myth says that the two love-gods were playing by the river when Shiva gifted her this lovely gem.
6. White Sapphire
White sapphire is the most expensive of all white gems, as it is very rare. It can be easily confused with diamonds as they look very similar to each other. Most of the white sapphires come from Thailand and Sri Lanka, but they can also be found in Cambodia, Australia, Kenya, and Madagascar.
White sapphires can be heated and treated to produce colorless sapphires. They are tough and scratch-resistant, but they should be protected from blows as they can easily shatter. White sapphire is probably the most popular gemstone in Europe, with around 60% of all sapphires sold being white sapphire.
Diamond is the best known and most studied gemstone, second only to quartz (crystalline silicon dioxide). The price of diamonds depends on color (its absence), clarity (the fewer inclusions, the better), carat (weight), cut, and several other factors.
Many diamonds contain impurities, such as nitrogen and boron that cause a distinct yellow or brown cast. The purest diamonds are colorless. They were formed deep in the Earth, possibly hundreds of miles down, where very high temperature and pressure exist. Diamonds are the only gemstones that are not affected by heat.
8. White Agate
White agates are very popular because they resemble milk and snow. They can be found all over the world, but some of the best specimens come from Australia. Agates are naturally formed stones with concentric bands or patterns, known as ‘bands.’ White agates have white bands that give them their unique look.
White agate forms when natural impurities like clay minerals, carbonates, and sulfates get trapped inside the cavity of certain rocks. Over time, these inclusions accumulate to form matte white bands or spots in the center of an otherwise colorful agate.
However, sometimes they can also develop cracks in agate, creating a white “bleeding” effect. White agate is considered a protective stone, and it is supposed to bring hope and healing. It is often used in jewelry for this reason.
9. White Opal
White opal is a precious stone that comes from the South Australian deserts. The majority of white opal comes from fields near Lightning Ridge. Most people have seen opals in all sorts of colors, but it is scarce to find one in a pure white shade. Their play of color is almost unbelievable, and they can change different shades of white to yellow, orange, and pink.
The color is caused by minute impurities within the silica gel structure of common opal, while pure forms of silica gel have a transparent appearance. White opal is a soft stone that needs a protective setting if it’s worn every day. It can quickly lose its surface luster if it is not treated right.
Uses of Colorless gemstones:
- Diamonds are used in jewelry, watches, and glasses.
- White Opals are also very popular for engagement rings.
- White Topaz is very popular in jewelry and watches.
- Pearls are often used to make necklaces. They have been used in this way for over 6,000 years.
- Moonstones are associated with the moon and were believed to protect sailors at sea by emitting a bluish light from the surface called ‘Adamas.
- White Sapphires are usually found set in rings and pendants.
- Zirconia is a very popular diamond simulant, and you can find it in practically anything that requires a diamond.
- White Agate is often used to create healing necklaces or crystal pendants.
- White Quartz is also known as rock crystal, and it has been associated with the divine since ancient times. Medieval Christians used it to make religious jewelry.