Zultanite: Turkish Color Changer
Zultanite is a color change gemstone that is similar to alexandrite. Zultanite is the trade name for a gem quality variety of diaspore.
Zultanite is an extremely rare gemstone and is quite expensive, especially the larger stones.
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What is Zultanite?
Zultanite is a trade name for gem quality diaspore. The term was introduced by the owner of the only known deposit of zultanite.
It is also known under the name csarite, gem diaspore and Turkish diaspore. It is best known under the name zultanite so that is the name used in this guide.
Diaspore was discovered in 1801, but no gem quality material was found until the 1970s. From the 1970s to 2006 cut gemstones were mostly sold to collectors. In 2006 this changed, the only known deposit of zultanite was now being mined solely for gem production.
This deposit is located deep in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey. Zultanite is one of the few natural color-change gemstones in the world.
Under natural light it will display greenish colors, but under artificial light it will show pinkish to red colors. Under mixed light the colors will also be mixed.
In addition zultanite is pleochroic, this means that it will change color depending on the viewing angle.
Zultanite has a fairly high hardness of 6.5 to 7, falling short of the other well-known color change gemstone alexandrite. It also has perfect cleavage, this means that it can more easily split when you are not careful while wearing it. Despite this it is suitable for jewelry, but you will have to be careful with it.
Zultanite usually has great clarity and crystals are usually eye clean.
A cat’s eye effect (chatoyancy) is sometimes visible in zultanite, though this is quite rare. Crystals that show this effect are usually cut into cabochons to maximize the effect.
The color of zultanite is hard to describe as it changes color under different light sources and when viewing from a different angle. Most zultanite however displays earthy hues that change from yellow-green or greenish colors in sunlight to pinkish-purple or reddish colors under artificial light.
Where alexandrite usually only displays two colors: greenish and purple or reddish, zultanite can display a far wider range of colors. During the day zultanite will slowly change color and different artificial light sources will produce slightly different hues. The viewing angle will also effect the color.
All in all, the color change effect of zultanite is one of a kind and can be breathtaking.
Zultanite has only a single known source in Mugla, Turkey deep in the Anatolian Mountains. Diaspore crystals have been found in other countries, but so far no other gem quality deposit has been found.
Zultanite is not a traditional or modern birthstone as it is simply too new to be included.
The only use of zultanite is as a faceted gemstone or cabochon.
Zultanite Buying Guide
Zultanite is quite an expensive gemstone, especially if you are looking for a larger stone. Zultanite is not known to be enhanced, but there are still simulants on the market.
This makes it important to educate yourself before buying zultanite jewelry or loose zultanite for your gemstone collection.
The most important factors for the value of zultanite is its color change and the size of the stone. The stronger the color change the higher the value of the stone.
Zultanite is notoriously difficult to cut and the only producer claims the average yield of a crystal is only 2%. This makes large stones extremely rare and the prices reflect this.
Clarity is extremely important for a color change gemstone. Unlike most other gemstones virtually all zultanite on the market is at least eye clean. This is because the only producer of zultanite only markets eye clean stones.
So you do not have to pay much attention to clarity. You can use it however to spot stones that were not sold by the current producer. These are either older gemstones sold to collectors or diaspore from other localities that are not nearly as valuable.
Because of the small production of zultanite, its low yield and a fairly high demand the price per carat is quite high. High quality zultanite up to 1 carat that is eye clean and has an excellent cut will sell for roughly $200 per carat.
Larger stones are very rare and the prices reflect this. A 3 carat stone will sell for over $400 per carat, while a 10 carat stone will easily cost over $1,000 per carat (source: Gemval).
The price per carat of any stone over 30 carats will likely be far higher, as only a few of these exist. The current record holder is a 121.65 carat stone with an estimated retail value of $1 million, close to $10,000 per carat (source: Rapaport)!
Though zultanite is quite expensive it is much cheaper than alexandrite, the other famous color change gemstone. It is also far cheaper than high quality diamonds and far more rare at the same time.
Synthetic Zultanite and Simulants
Synthetic zultanite does not exist as color-change gemstones are very difficult to synthesize.
Simulants on the other hand always exist for any expensive gemstone and zultanite is no exception.
The most common simulant is not really a simulant at all: diaspore. Zultanite is diaspore, just very high quality diaspore with a brand name.
To avoid paying zultanite prices for the lower quality diaspore you should only deal with an official seller. That way you are guaranteed to buy an eye clean stone with an excellent cut that will translate in beautiful colors and color change.
Any official retailer will provide an in-house certificate of the producer with your purchase. This is no substitute for a certificate from a reputable lab, but will suffice for smaller stones.
The other main simulant is color change glass. This glass was actually developed to mimic the color change of alexandrite, rather than zultanite. It can look quite convincing and unless you have experience with real zultanite you can be fooled by the color change it shows.
The easiest way to spot this color change glass is its vivid colors. The glass will be vivid green in daylight and a deep orange-red color under artificial light. The colors of zultanite are far softer than this (source: Zultgems)
There are no known treatments performed on zultanite as the only producer only sells natural stones. Keep in mind though that this is no guarantee that a stone remains 100% natural when other people get involved.
Always insist on certification from an reputable lab when purchasing an expensive gemstone. An in-house certificate is no guarantee!
While virtually all zultanite is used in jewelry it does not have the durability or toughness of diamonds or sapphires.
Its hardness is decent at 6.5 to 7, similar to amethyst for example, but it also has perfect cleavage. This means that zultanite is prone to chipping and can even split. This does require some force, but accidents happen.
If you are careful with your zultanite jewelry you should not have any problems. Still we advise you to opt for earrings or a pendant, rather than a ring. As the first two options better protect your stone.
Be careful when you buy a zultanite engagement ring. They are certainly beautiful, but engagement rings need to last a lifetime. Unfortunately it is not likely that your zultanite engagement ring will last that long without scratching or chipping.
If you have set your sights on a color change gemstone you should take a look at alexandrite. While more expensive it is also a lot more suitable for jewelry.
How to Clean and Store Zultanite
- Cleaning zultanite has to be done carefully. Only use warm water, mild soap and a soft cloth (or a soft brush if needed). Do not use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner or a steam cleaner. We also advise against using jewelry cleaner or any harsh chemical cleaners.
- Store zultanite in a soft pouch or padded jewelry box. Zultanite can be scratched by gemstones like sapphires and diamonds. While zultanite itself can scratch softer gemstones like lapis lazuli. If you own a large stone you should think about storing it in a safe.
- Be careful with zultanite. It is fairly tough, but can still chip. Do not wear it during physical labor and make sure you do not bump into hard or sharp objects. It might be possible to get a scratch fixed, but getting a chip fixed could very well be impossible due to the difficulty of cutting zultanite. At best you will need to pay to get it re-cut and you would end up with a significantly smaller stone.
This video shows the beautiful colors and color change of zultanite under optimal lighting.
There are no similar gemstones. The closest you can get is alexandrite or color change garnet. Both change from greenish to purple or reddish. The colors of these gemstones usually are more vivid and do not have the earthy tones of zultanite however.
- Minerals.net – This site has more scientific information on zultanite.
- Gemval – Here you can view the retail price of zultanite for various sizes and clarity.
- Zultanite.com – The official site of the trademarked zultanite gemstone. Note: they have a vested interest in selling this gemstone. Be sure to do your due diligence before any purchase.