Inside the Csarite Mine of Turkey
August 20, 2014
A behind the scenes photograph of the Csarite mining sorting belts. Only women from the nearby villages are allowed to work the sorting belts and handle rough gems. This provides an opportunity for these women to contribute to their household income.
High in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey is a mine that is the sole source for a gemstone trending among jewelry designers in search of something different. That gem is CSARITE®, and it is not just the mysterious lure of it’s source that is attracting the attention. CSARITE®, it turns out, has several features that are turning the heads of gem lovers across the globe.
Its most striking and obvious aspect is its ability to change color depending on the light in which it is viewed. But unlike most gems with this property, CSARITE®'s color change extends beyond the usual two colors; its color spectrum ranges over three hues. Under sunny skies it shows olive green shades with flashes of canary yellow. Traditional incandescent lighting reveals rich champagne colors, and candlelight brings out pink and raspberry hues.
Beyond its color change, though, CSARITE® has another unusual characteristic called chatoyancy, or as it is more commonly known, the cats eye effect. Depending on how it is faceted, one or another of these traits is more prominent. It is also a durable stone, ranking 6.5 -7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale. Best of all, these characteristics are inherent in the raw material as no treatments are necessary or permitted to bring out its natural beauty.
Originally known as diaspore, CSARITE® has been mined sporadically for over a hundred years, but it is only fairly recently that gem-quality material of substantial size has come to market. In 2014, Murat Akgun, the president of Milenyum Mining Limited (MML) which operates the only mine that produces this unique material, branded it with the name CSARITE®. The reason for the change was to help differentiate the beautiful material his mine was capable of producing from the low quality diaspore that had been illegally dug from the ground and smuggled out of Turkey prior to the start of commercial mining in 2006.
“CSARITE® is a very special gem that affords instant peace of mind,” states Akgun. “There are so few colored gemstones in the market today that are truly natural and unenhanced. CSARITE®, sold through our highly controlled supply chain, is never treated or enhanced; the purchaser is getting a naturally beautiful gemstone, just as nature intended it to be.”
Provenance and transparency are important to Akgun. MML regulates every step in the mine-to-market process and is proud to point out that it is one of the most ethically and environmentally run companies in the industry. The company houses and feeds it's miners on site and pays them wages that are above average. It donates food supplies to the surrounding community. It ensures that the water used in processing does not pollute the environment. And it plants at least ten trees for every one that it cuts down on the rare occasion that it is necessary to do so.
“Ethics and fair trade are hot topics in the trade, but for me, this is not merely lip service, but rather a sustainable business model,” said Akgun. “Given the gems’ past, it is important that we not only position the gemstone as uniquely Turkish, but that it is always extracted in a manner that benefits my country as a whole, as well as the local communities surrounding the mine.”
Once extracted, the rough is screened at the mine but almost 60 per cent is not suitable for cutting. The larger pieces that make the grade are sent to MML's cutting facility in Canada where they are cut by third generation master cutters Rudi and Ralph Wobito. The smaller high quality rough is sent to a cutting facility in India.
All of this has garnered the attention of prominent designers like Erica Courtney who decided to be more than just a passionate customer who uses CSARITE® in her award-winning creations. She is now the American distributor of this fascinating gem through her Courtney Collection division.
"What I've found," remarked Courtney, "is that it has wonderful showcase appeal. People immediately recognize the beauty of the stone because it often shows two colors right in the case when on display. You don't even have to take it out to bring attention to it."
"We've sold lots of it," she continued, "and designers are really excited about it, even more so when they find out that it's natural!"
"Another thing worth mentioning," she said, "is that this generation is going to be the first generation to own it."
She is clearly not the only top-flight artisan working with it. An 88-carat pear-shaped CSARITE® took second place in the AGTA Cutting Edge Awards' Phenomenal Gemstones category in 2014, a fact that is a great source of pride for Mr. Akgun and MML. To help promote awareness, MML routinely provides free samples to educational institutions, laboratories, museums and universities. Most recently at the February 2014 AGTA Tucson GemFair, MML donated two sizable gems -- a 159.33 ct. cat's-eye cabochon and a 44.48 ct. faceted oval -- to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gem Collection.
“CSARITE® gemstones in such a large size and quality are rare indeed,” Akgun explained. “The National Gem Collection is a fitting home for such rare and beautiful gemstones, and the gift was greatly appreciated by the curator who stated that the gems were significant ‘upgrades’ to the collection.”
In addition to the rare, larger stones, CSARITE® is also available in large quantities in smaller sizes, which is particularly appealing to bigger manufacturers and television shopping channels.
The launch of a new CSARITE® collection of jewelry by an internationally recognized jewelry manufacturer will be taking place this September at the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair/Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). Loose CSARITE® gemstones will be available at booth AWE 10U31 from September 15 – 19, 2014. For pricing and appointments call 323-938-2373 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.