The Chocolate Lover’s Jewelry Box: Quartz, Tourmaline, Garnets, and More

This fifth and final post in my Chocolate Lover’s Jewelry Box series will take a look at some of the most and least common ‘chocolate-gems’ goodies.

Chocolate Quartz®

Let’s begin with the most common ‘chocolate’ stone and yes, it’s another descriptive that has been trademarked by LeVian: Chocolate Quartz®

In reality, it’s the same stone we’ve known for ages as ‘smoky quartz’ but thanks to LeVian’s lawyers, sellers of this stone can call it “chocolate-brown quartz” but not “chocolate quartz” unless it’s a LeVian item. An upside to smoky quartz is that it really is truly brown, without the orange or russet tones often found in chocolate sapphire or chocolate diamonds. This is because the base color of smoky quartz is grey rather than red. The chemistry of all quartz is silicon dioxide; the smoky/brown tones are a result of free silicon that escaped from the dioxide bond via natural irradiation in the ground. (Amethyst is formed in a similar way.)

These cut smoky brown quartz crystals from Brazil certainly do look chocolate-y. The pear shaped one on the left is 5.28 carats, the round one in the center is 7.4 carats, and the cushion cut is 7.6 carats.

This photo shows some natural chocolate-brown quartz crystals nestled inside a bed of feldspar that is studded with small garnets – rather like bits of orange rind sprinkled over whipped cream!

Rock crystal can be turned into “smoky quartz” by irradiation, but honestly: Why would you mess with a lovely clear rock crystal by deliberately turning it brown?

Quartz is found in abundance almost everywhere and various types of rock; it is typically transparent and with few inclusions. In fact, stones with golden rutile inclusions are favored by devotees of rutilated quartz because those are less common. Most of the world’s large supply of commercial smoky quartz comes from Brazil but there are also mines in Madagascar, Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland. Quartz is the least expensive ‘chocolate’ jewelry stone, but when combined with pricier gems (as LeVian regularly does) those do elevate the cost of the finished product.

(Nerd Note: LeVian has rather a mania for trademarking things with “food” names. In addition to their brown Chocolate Diamonds® and Chocolate Quartz®, they market Vanilla Topaz™, pale lilac Cotton Candy Amethyst® and dark purple Grape Amethyst™, Cinnamon Citrine®, Blueberry Sapphire™, Peach Morganite™, Raspberry Rhodolite®, and pale green Mint Julep Quartz™ which is created by heat-treating an amethyst. And of course, their Honey Gold®, Vanilla Gold®, and Strawberry Gold®! Reading a LeVian catalog is enough to make anyone want to ditch their diet…)

A cushion-shape Chocolate Quartz® with bands of white and Chocolate Diamonds®, in a 14k Strawberry Gold® setting.

LeVian 14kt rose gold earrings combining a 1-carat (per earring) marquise Chocolate Quartz® with an 8mm cultured brown Tahitian pearl and diamond accents. The earrings are 7/8” long. (read about Chocolate Pearls here)

Another LeVian ring design, using an oval 9x7mm Chocolate Quartz® with white and Chocolate Diamond® bands, although those seem rather pale – more like champagne than chocolate, in this photo anyway. The 14k gold surrounding those diamonds has been rhodium-plated to give a black appearance (which IMHO only makes the diamonds look paler, not darker.) The total gemstone weight of this ring is 3 carats.

Googling “chocolate quartz” will usually bring up a plethora of LeVian jewelry items. These, or any good quality smoky quartz, are an easily accessible addition to a chocolate lover’s jewelry collection.

Chocolate ‘Topaz’

I have put topaz in quotes because there is so much confusion in the marketplace between topaz and quartz. Topaz and quartz are different stones; they are made of differing chemicals.

Actual topaz is made of aluminum silicate [chemical composition Al2SiO4 (F, OH)2] and has a Mohs hardness of 8. All varieties of quartz are made of silicon dioxide [SiO2] and are 7 on the Mohs scale. Therefore, a real topaz will scratch a quartz, but a quartz will not scratch a real topaz. Topaz is also about 25% heavier than quartz. Real topaz is slightly fluorescent but quartz is not at all. Lastly, if you were to look at the crystal structure of a quartz versus a topaz, you would see that the crystals are of different shapes.

The most common natural color for true topaz is actually no color at all, which surprises people who think of topaz as being sort of a pumpkin color. Brown topaz does occur and because it’s not as striking as some of the other rare natural-topaz colors (such as red-orange, pink, or non-irradiated blue) it’s also less expensive. Despite this, most stones advertised as “chocolate topaz” are actually smoky quartz. So are most stones described as “smoky topaz”, which are often smoky quartz. And you can replace “chocolate citrine” advertising blurbs with “smoky quartz” as well!

This is an actual, natural brown topaz crystal from Mogok, a mountainous region in Myanmar. Notice how many parts of it are clear, with the inclusions toward the bottom almost making it look like a garden in bloom! This would hardly be called chocolate, but it is very pretty. It somehow reminds me of ginger ale, in fact.

If you go ahead and assume that anything described as “chocolate topaz” (as this ring on Poshmark was) is actually smoky quartz, you’ll probably be correct 99.7% of the time. So, now let’s move on to a few more interesting chocolate color gems.

Chocolate Tourmaline (Dravite)

The mineral Dravite is named after where it was first found: Dravograd, a small town in northern Slovenia. There are also dravite deposits in Australia, and this is where the largest crystals typically come from. It’s also found in smaller quantities in Italy, Switzerland, and even in the northeastern states in the USA.

The natural color of dravite crystals is dark brown, sometimes almost black and sometimes with a lighter orangey-brown and/or shades of green. The crystal above is typical, as is its opaqueness, but the transparent forms can be very interesting. It falls between 7 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale, making it the same hardness as quartz or just a bit more.

Because “Dravite” doesn’t lend itself to easy marketing, jewelry using this stone is often described instead as brown tourmaline; more people are familiar with the word tourmaline than Dravite, for sure. Cut stones with orangey-brown tones are more likely to be sold as “sunset tourmaline”, a more evocative naming.

This chocolate-brown dravite stone, set in a simple 14k gold mounting, is just as rich looking as many quartz counterparts of similar color. Nevertheless, dravite is rarely marketed as “chocolate”, so if you are looking for that color you’re better off searching for ‘brown dravite’ or ‘brown tourmaline’ instead. Watch out for those subtle green tones too, unless you want some mint in your chocolate!

Chocolate Garnets

Yes, there really is a brown(ish) form of garnet and it’s only found within two specific types of that stone: Mali garnet and Andradite.

Mali garnet is only found in, you guessed it, the Mali province of Africa and in only one deposit, at that. These garnets can occur in shades of green (the rarest), chartreuse, yellow, and brown. The deposits were discovered in 1994 and the brown is the least expensive color. It almost always has an orange tone to it, much more like a cognac color than chocolate. Mali garnet is i7 on the Mohs scale.

Andradite, which is not so geographically restricted, has several color forms. The green version, which is the most valuable, is known as Demantoid Garnet; the color comes from chromium within the crystal structure. Demantoid garnet has a lot of ‘fire’ when cut, often as much as diamond.

A brown Andradite rough, mined in California. Brown or red-brown Andradite used to be called Colophanite, but that name has fallen out of general use in most cases.

When many tiny crystals form close together, often encrusting a rock, it is called druse. Andradite garnet crystals can often be found in this way, and can be literally sliced off to form jewelry pieces such as this ring. The matrix can be seen in the second photo.

Despite being described as ‘brown’, it’s difficult to find any Andradite or Mali garnets that can actually be considered ‘chocolate’, though.

The Brown ‘Eye’ Stones: Cymophane, Scapolite, Sillimanite

Gemstones that display a “cat’s eye” effect are said to be chatoyant, which is easy to remember because the first four syllables are the same as the French word for cat (chat.) Several such stones are found in shades of brown, and so with a little – okay, maybe a lot! – of imagination they could be described as “chocolate cat’s-eye”.

Cymophane is another name for cats-eye chrysoberyl, which is most often seen as a golden honey brown and hardly ever as dark as even a decent root beer. So, we can pretty much cross Cymophane off our chocolate-box menu.

Scapolite, however, is another story. Here we do find the occasional chocolate brown, as in this cabochon. Scapolite is found in Tanzania in a wide range of colors, from white to gray, pink, purple, yellow, and various shades of orange to brown. The amounts of calcium and sodium in a given deposit is what determines the color. Unfortunately, this is a fairly soft stone (5.5 to 6 on the Mohs scale) and so isn’t the best choice for jewelry unless perhaps as a pendant. It’s common for scapolite to be heat-treated in order to deepen whatever color the natural stone has.

Scapolite can also be faceted, as this nice dark brown trillion-cut stone shows. I’d say this was chocolate, with perhaps a hint of cherry.

I almost didn’t put Sillimanite into this category, because there aren’t many brown examples and those that are, always have enough red in them to make them ‘non-chocolate’ in my estimation. But then I saw the photo above, which immediately made me thing “Chocolate and vanilla Dixie Cup” – even though the vanilla half isn’t really white – so here it is. This is a 3.5 carat untreated stone from Madagascar. Sillimanite was originally named Fibrolite by its discoverer, who changed the name to honor geologist Benjamin Silliman. It is made primarily of aluminum silicate and is harder than Scapolite, being 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale and so it’s in the quartz category of durability. Although it was first discovered in Connecticut, most material today comes from India. Most dark-colored Sillimanite tends toward being a dark grey or almost black, rather than a true brown, and the “eye” is not as bright or defined as the other chatoyant stones in most cases, although supposedly the stones from Sri Lanka are sharper than most.

Cassiterite

I’ve saved the stone that I think is the most interesting (and oddest) for last: Cassiterite. The name, translated from the Greek kassiteros, means “tin” and that’s exactly what Cassiterite is: Tin oxide. So, what does tin have to do with chocolate, or brown for that matter?

First, it and and Dravite are the only ‘weird’ stones or minerals in which most of them are either brown or almost black. There are a few other possible colors (red, yellowish, or clear) of Cassiterite but they are scarce. It has a hardness of 6 to 7, which nudges it into the quartz class of “suitable for jewelry.”

The most fascinating thing about Cassiterite, in my opinion, is its dispersion factor which is a whopping 0.071 . This sounds like a nothingburger until you realize that the same factor for diamond is only 0.044, meaning that a light-colored cut Cassiterite will make the “fire” of most diamonds look like a wimpy, almost apologetic ember. So if you want blinding flash, Cassiterite’s your man, er, stone. A faceted black transparent Cassiterite will also make most people think that what you’ve got there is one heck on an amazing black diamond.

Another difference from diamond is that Cassiterite is heavy; tin is one of the densest materials on Earth. As far as surface luster goes, it can hold its own with diamond. There’s even a banded form, called “wood tin”, and nobody ever bothers to artificially enhance or treat Cassiterite – which is a refreshing change nowadays.

This group of Cassiterite crystals clearly displays this mineral’s very high surface luster.

A brown Cassiterite rough next to a cut gem; the rough cut weighs 13.5 carats and came from the Viloco mine in Bolivia. The cut gem is from Sri Lanka and is described as a Step Cushion cut “with internal flashes of amber, root beer, and cognac and superb clarity for the size.” Yep, I would definitely say so!

I mean, seriously: Is this a big hunk of ‘chocolate’, or what? Weighing in at 247 carats from the Czech Republic.

Of course, there’s a catch: although it’s one of the most abundant minerals on the planet, facet-able transparent gem quality Cassiterite is rare. As in really, really rare. You won’t find it in your local Zales or Jared, that’s for sure. Even your third-generation-family jewelry-shop owner will give you a blank look when you ask about it. I’ve been lusting after a particular dark brown cut stone for sale online but the price has put it way out of reach.

Cassiterite is the only stone that I’d relax my “it has to be chocolate-brown” stance for, if it was a nice clear stone like this 3.5 carat emerald-cut from Bolivia. Yes, it’s reddish brown but look at that depth of color!

This spectacular shield-cut Cassiterite weighs almost 8 carats; wowsers.

What a fantastic, almost-9-carat, round Cassiterite! Who needs chocolate when you can wear champagne? Cassiterite is so brilliant that it can be a challenge to photograph.

A beautifully-photographed 9-carat square/emerald cut in a clean yellow (lemonade, perhaps?) color. This stone was mined in China, which has produced some surprisingly fine gem quality Cassiterite.

Photography can make or break the sale of a stone. This dark reddish brown (“mocha?”) Cassiterite might actually be more transparent than it looks here…or maybe not. It’s from Bolivia and weighs 2.74 carats. It’s hard to tell whether those lighter dots and streaks are dust, reflections, inclusions within the stone, or a combination of all three; having more than just the one photo would have been helpful too. This stone has been on the market for quite a while, which is a shame because it might be nicer than it looks here; perhaps more chocolate-y?

Well, this post fills up our Chocolate Lover’s Jewelry Box even though I snuck in a few non-chocolate items in at the very end with the Cassiterites! At least we have the comfort of knowing that none of them are fattening… 😊

More goodies from the Chocolate Lover’s Jewelry Box

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