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Gem Profile

Sometimes, when I'm at a loss for words, I turn to my wife for insight or inspiration—something, anything that might jump start the creative process. Honey, take a look at this picture, I say. See the gem in that ring? What do you think of it? Usually, I get a kind of wary answer, as if I had asked her to take a polygraph test. It's pretty, she might say meekly, or it looks nice.

But early in July, I showed her a picture of a gem that elicited an immediate, hair-trigger response of genuinely strong opinion. "Now that's a gem I like," she said with clear, unguarded enthusiasm. Why? I asked her, startled. "Because it can go with anything," she answered in a manner that suggested I didn't know who was buried in Grant's tomb. "Look at the outfit I'm wearing," she continued, by way of explanation, then went on to describe a series of other work outfits she regularly wore.

Guess what the gem was that wrecked her reserve? No, that's cruel on my part, especially since it's a gem most of you probably don't carry. I didn't even take notice of it until early this year. My wife was looking at prehnite, a green gem that many consider the standard bearer for a new soft-focus, soft-color aesthetic that is sweeping the jewelry industry. As a copywriter friend summarizes this trend, "Pale wails."

Prehnite occupies a color niche all its own. This pale sea-foam green hydrated calcium aluminum silicate is the ultimate poster child for every anti-vivid, sweet and subtle shade of green. Since 2004, prehnite has been spreading a kind of gemological spring fever among designers and manufacturers. And who can blame them? Its smoky apple, pear and tomato greens are hard to resist. And the affordable price, rarely cracking two digits per carat, doesn't hurt either. Just ask designer Ron Rosen of Rosen Block in New York.

While in Bangkok in 2004, Rosen chanced to see suites of milky cabochons with a soft celadon color that he thought at first were moonstones. They weren't. They were a rare gem called prehnite, which had recently been found in abundance in Mali. As so often happens with designers, the newcomer gem captured his fancy and he decided to make immediate use of it in his line.

Since then, Rosen has used hundreds, if not thousands, of prehnite cabochons in 18k white gold and diamond sets composed of a necklace, bracelet, earrings, and ring, typically priced at retail between $5,000 and $6,000. "That's a lot of money for semiprecious stone jewelry," Rosen acknowledges. But with at least 60 sets sold since Las Vegas 2005, Rosen's retailer customers are obviously not encountering too much price resistance.

"The scenario is usually this: a woman will buy part of the set, then have her husband give her the rest," Rosen says. "So it's a sort of an ideal combination of impulse and gift purchase."

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