Rare Chrysoberyl Cat's Eye
The most famous and valuable cat's eye gemstone is chrysoberyl cat's eye. In fact when the term cat's eye is used alone in the gem trade, it always refers to chrysoberyl cat's eye. All other types of cat's eye gems require an additional varietal designation, such as cat's eye apatite.
Why is chrysoberyl cat's eye so highly esteemed? One reason is that chrysoberyl has superb gemstone characteristics, with a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale. This places chrysoberyl right behind ruby and sapphire as an especially hard-wearing gem, suitable for all kinds of jewelry. Because of its excellent hardness, chrysoberyl takes a good polish and displays superb luster.
Another reason is that chrysoberyl cat's eye tends to display a very sharp cat's eye that can be seen in any kind of light. Some other gem varieties that exhibit phenomena such as the cat's eye or star effect do so only when strong light is focused on the stone. Some chrysoberyl cat's eyes also have a considerable degree of translucency, rarely found in gems cut as cabochons.
Chrysoberyl was discovered in 1789 and described and named by Abraham Gottlob Werner, in 1790. Werner worked at the Freiberg School of Mining from 1790-1793 and was well known as one of the most outstanding geologists of his time. The cat's eye variety of chrysoberyl is sometimes known as cymphopane. Cymphopane has its derivation from the Greek words meaning 'wave' and 'appearance,' in reference to the cat's eye effect.
Chrysoberyl is usually found in golden-yellow, green-yellow, brownish or red tones. The main deposits are in Brazil, Sri Lanka, Burma, Madagascar, Russia, Zimbabwe and the USA.
Like alexandrite, another variety of chrysoberyl, chrysoberyl cat's eye is classified by gemologists as rare and exotic. Prices in the market reflect that judgement, and chrysoberyl cat's eye will usually be found at prices rivaling high quality sapphire. Pieces with an especially vivid cat's eye effect command a premium in the market.
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