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Madagascar Morganite
Gem Profile


Morganite could very well be the most frustrating pink gem in the world. If you see it on display at a museum, usually weighing in hulking excess of 75 carats, you'd think this beryl, when pink, is the equal of kunzite or, when apricot, the equal of spessartite garnet.

But just try ordering it in sizes under 5 carats. A hundred to one, the pink will seem more a cast than a color and the peach will seem more a tinge than a tone. Either shade, the color will be mostly a matter of wishful thinking. Rarely in the less than 100-year-old history of this gem have there been more than a handful of full-bodied small morganites.

So you can imagine the shock and awe dealer Simon Watt of Mayer & Watt, Maysville, Kentucky, felt when a Bangkok dealer showed him a large parcel of morganites from a new deposit in Madagascar whose colors were so far from faint as to make him remember that the gem had once been known as rose beryl. "I bought the whole lot on the spot," he says, "and would have purchased any other lot of comparable quality."

At the Tucson gem show in February, Watt predicted a new era of availability for small morganite. Swept up in his fervor, I agreed to write a "Gem Profile" trumpeting the arrival of true pink beryl plentitude. You can guess what happened next. Watt was unable to find sequel stocks of material to match the promising goods he had on hand in Tucson. "Maybe you should postpone your story until I can confirm that there is enough fine morganite for you to arouse your readers' hopes," he says.

But just the fact that some true-pink small morganites made it to market is, as far as I'm concerned, big news. Over the past decade, Madagascar has been a land of gemological miracles. The country with deep pockets of exceptional ruby and sapphire may come through for beryl, also. Indeed, Madagascar is to pink beryl what Burma is to ruby.

NAMED AFTER A BANKER

Although California produced beautiful pink beryl around the turn of the 20th century, it was Madagascar that put this gem on the map when marvelous stones were found there in 1910. Until this African find, pink received little or no recognition as a distinct color variety of beryl. You'll thumb in vain through Max Bauer's 1905 master tome, Precious Stones, looking for a mention of this hue-specific variety. Even beryl maven John Sinkankas is pretty parsimonious with his mentions of this species in his book, Emerald and Other Beryls. He's even sparser still with praise for the gemóbecoming genuinely effusive for one paragraph devoted to behemoth-sized Madagascar material. Interestingly, he calls it only pink beryl, not morganite.

Morganite is a 1910 name given by gemologist and Tiffany's vice president George Frederick Kunz to honor financier, J.P. Morgan, who was an avid gem collector and a generous donor to New York's American Museum of Natural History. Originally nominated as the namesake for a deep pink spodumene discovered in California around 1901, Morgan was nixed in favor of Kunz. So the gem now known as kunzite was supposed to have been called morganite. One can see Kunz half-heartedly protesting this christening. Knowing the politics of gem nomenclature at work in this situation, Sinkankas probably chose to protest it by using the name morganite as sparingly as possible.

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