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Catís-Eye Chrysoberyl

Visit a fine Japanese jewelry store today and you will very likely see a selection of cat’s-eye chrysoberyls sitting in the showcase reserved for men’s merchandise. Demand is so great for this phenomenon gem in sizes up to five carats that nearly all the supply of better small cat’s-eyes is sold there. “Japan has a lock on the market,” says one West Coast gem dealer.

Why the Japanese are so in love with cat’s-eye is a bit of a mystery. It could be the translucent honey color. Or it could be the mysterious slit of reflected white light that intersects the stone lengthwise when cut in cabochon form.

Also a mystery: the gem’s almost exclusive identification with men. As a result, cat’s eye is used mostly in rings, plus men’s accessories such as cuff links or tie tacks. Dealers aren’t really sure why this gem has such masculine appeal. They simply assume that cat’s-eye chrysoberyl’s “milk-and-honey” appearance lends itself more to men.

In this case, affluent men.

“There’s just good and bad in cat’s-eye,” explains a San Diego gem cutter, “and nothing in between. What’s more, the good is expensive, at least, in those five-carat-plus sizes men in this country prefer.”

Once above three carats, prices for fine to gem-grade cat’s-eye climb rapidly due to increasing rarity in larger sizes. For instance, a truly exceptional three-carat stone might cost several thousand dollars per carat in a jewelry store. Its ten-carat counterpart might cost three times more per carat.

That leaves American men pretty much confined to the four- to six-carat size range where increasing rarity and strong demand keep prices high for fine material. Most collectors don’t want to settle for less when it comes to this gem.

The “Eyes” Have It

Fine cat’s-eye must have a combination of elements -- color, chatoyancy, clarity, translucency and proper cutting -- to make it truly distinctive. Because so many factors come into play when judging cat’s eye, and so few stones measure up in the final run, the gem is for connoisseurs only.

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Catís-Eye Chrysoberyl