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Lemon Citrine: Hot Rock

In the flavor-of-the-month world of home-shopping television, the line between new and old is pencil-thin. What sizzles one season can fizzle the next. Since gems are a major product category for the networks and the TV life spans of jewelry trends can be short, dealers must be on a constant lookout for replacements. That way, they have backups when items show even the slightest sign of peaking.

Put yourself in the shoes of these gem scouts for a moment. For a stone to be eligible for what might be called the home-shopping gem draft, it has to pass four important tests. It must be: 1) plentiful in large sizes, 2) non-problematic to cut or set, 3) durable enough to be worn daily; and 4) as rigidly color-controlled as a shade of nail polish or lipstick. Oh, by the way, did we mention that the gem-draft candidate should preferably wholesale for below $5 per carat?

As you can probably guess, such requirements leave you with a fairly small pool of prospects. For years, various shades of irradiated blue topaz filled the bill. But, recently, one gem family in particular has excelled in producing top draft picks: quartz.

Mind you, we’re not talking here about family legends such as amethyst and citrine that only added to their fame with TV appearances. We’re talking about fresh faces that became overnight sensations. Unlike long-overlooked golden and pink sapphire that had to battle against ruby and blue sapphire for attention, these quartz newcomers didn’t languish in the shadows of more famous siblings. To the contrary, they found fame and fortune almost immediately after their discovery. Just the fact that they met network criteria for marketability earned them a shot at the big time.

That’s because the voracious appetite of home-shopping television for new gems has created a shortcut to popularity for gems that might otherwise have stood no chance of public awareness. The new generation of low-priced quartzes are following a made-for-television formula for success. The first of them, sporting light pistachio to chartreuse colors and sold variously as lemon, lemon-lime, and Oro Verde quartz, still remains in a craze phase two years after a smash-success network debut. Now this celery-green quartz has become the darling of marquee designers such as Steven Lagos and David Yurman. The latter reports that an astonishing 90 percent of his accounts currently buy jewelry featuring what he calls “lemon citrine.” As amazing, most of his pieces with this bargain beauty retail for between $400 to $2,000.

Nevertheless, as well as things are going for lemon quartz, U.S. suppliers have begun to note signs of market saturation and are searching for a standby. Their sources in Brazil are already hunting for substitutes. But you won’t find them searching at any of the country’s many quartz mines. Look for them instead at a university or government lab that is equipped with a linear accelerator or other source of radiation. Lemon quartz is the first of a new generation of made-for-television gems that are rocking the entire jewelry industry.

Delayed Reaction

The new prime-time quartzes were white-as-ice rock crystal before they were permanently custom-colored using irradiation and heat. “We’re witnessing the creation of a new rainbow of affordable colored stones,” says Larry Pereg of Vardi Stonehouse, New York, a major market-maker for lemon quartz and several new brownish irradiated quartzes named after alcoholic beverages such as beer, cognac, and whiskey.

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Lemon Citrine