Strange Beauties

David Sawyer

A new breed of exotic stones—from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to the chilly slopes of Labrador—casts a spell.


In 1770, somewhere in the rocky hills of Labrador, one lucky Canadian spotted a gray stone with a flash of blue. Centuries later jeweler Mish Tworkowski was lured by the same natural iridescence (known in this particular gem’s case as labradorescence) at the annual gem show in Tucson, Arizona. “I’ve been gathering stones for this piece for two years,” says Tworkowski. “I love a white pearl or a diamond, but jewels like this seem somehow more connected to the earth.” Labradorite and sapphire bracelet from Mish New York, price upon request.


It may have been discovered by a California miner back in 1902, but New York gemologist George Frederick Kunz was the one who identified this gem as something more than a just pretty pink stone. And so the newly classified variety of the mineral spodumene was named in his honor. Kunzite necklace from Dean Harris, $5,650. Kunzite and diamond pendant from Cellini, $96,000. Kunzite, peridot, and rubellite earrings from Cartier, price upon request.


Some 580 million years ago, deep in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, a plot of land was set ablaze by a bolt of magic fire and white crystals turned a deep, glittering blue. Or so the legend goes. The actual recorded history of tanzanite began only 40 years ago, when a Masai tribesman stumbled over gems he thought were sapphires. Tiffany & Co. arrived soon after, bringing what it called “the most beautiful blue stone to be discovered in two thousand years” to the rest of the world. Tanzanite and titanium earrings from Francis Mertens, $65,000. Tanzanite pendant from Tiffany & Co., $54,000. Pear-shaped tanzanite ring from Di Modolo, $56,250. Sugar Loaf tanzanite ring from Gilan, price upon request.

Conch Pearl

When is a pearl not really a pearl? When it is, in fact, the exceedingly rare fruit of the queen conch mollusk. (The coral-colored jewels are devoid of nacre, the calcium carbonate and conchiolin mixture found in true pearls.) Conch pearls are a completely natural phenomenon; they cannot be cultured. One such beauty might be found—if you’re lucky—in every 10,000 queen conchs. And only one in 100 is gem quality. Conch pearl ring with diamonds from Mikimoto, $82,000