Updated: May 19
St Andrews Day, a day celebrating the patron saint of Scotland, falls on the 30th of November and is the perfect time to have a closer look at Scottish Gemstones. I wonder how many UK gemstone enthusiasts, jewellers and collectors know just what treasures can be found in Scotland’s beautiful landscape!
In honour of St Andrew’s Day, here are 7 Scottish gemstones for your collection.
Scottish Gemstones #1 Jasper
Scottish Jasper is mostly commonly found in the Campsie Fells, a range of volcanic hills lying north of Glasgow. You can also find it in the Scottish Borders, north of the Cheviot Hills. Here, the high iron content makes the jasper red or yellow. Queen Victoria popularised it and ‘Scottish pebble jewellery’ became very fashionable in the 19th century.
Scottish Gemstones #2 Garnet
Elie Bay, on the East Coast between Edinburgh and St Andrews is, tantalisingly, also known as ‘Ruby Bay’, for it is here that you can find garnets nestling in the shingle on the beach. Hunting for garnets here isn’t for the easily discouraged, though – I spent 4 hours on my hands and knees searching in the shingle for a small handful of Elie Bay garnets! I’d advise warm clothes and waterproof trousers if you’re searching on anything but the warmest of summer days.
Scottish Gemstones: Garnet
Scottish Gemstones #3 Quartz
Scottish quartz is most famously associated with the Cairngorm mountains, site of Balmoral, home to Queen Victoria and her successors. This is where the famous ‘Cairngorm quartz’ is found, in colours of smoky amber, grey and, occasionally, black in colour. A great gemstone for patriots, Scottish quartz is often used to adorn traditional highlands dress.
Scottish Gemstones #4 Agate
Scotland has a great variety of agates. This Scottish gegmstone is formed in volcanic rocks in central and western Scotland and has a long history—examples of worked agates from Neolithic times have been unearthed in Scotland. The most famous site for Scottish agates is the Blue Hole near Montrose, where the deep blue and white agates were particularly popular in the 19th century.
Scottish gemstones: Agate
Scottish Gemstones #5 Sapphire
The Isle of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides, is where sapphires were discovered back in the 1980s, during the construction of a farm path. Though a whopping 242-carat sapphire was unearthed in 1995, the vast majority of Scottish sapphires tend to be small. Light blue and often heavily occluded, they’re also not of the same quality as you’d expect to find in places like South East Asia. However, their rarity makes them a valuable and highly desirable gem.
Gem hunters should be aware that several of the Isle of Harris’s beaches are now protected as Sites of Specific Scientific Interest and you’re not allowed to remove anything from them. The exact location of the sapphire producing area is a closely guarded secret.
Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Stunning beach around the corner from Luskentyre beach, South Harris, Scotland
Scottish Gemstones #6 Portsoy marble (serpentinite)
Portsoy lies on the north east coast of Scotland and is famous for its serpentinite or ‘Portsoy marble’, the name by which it is better known. It’s a beautiful red and green stone that entranced Louis the XIV, who had pillars of Portsoy marble installed in the palace of Versailles. It’s a soft stone, and easy to work with, so is good for jewellers starting out. The softness makes it susceptible to damage, though, so you’ll need to think about the type of jewellery and setting you use.
Portsoy Marble aka Serpentine
Scottish Gemstones #7 Amethyst
My birthstone is Amethyst. Scottish amethyst is found in many locations but especially Dumfries and Galloway. For the Scots the colour has a particular meaning, as it’s similar to that of the national flower, the thistle. Jewellers have made the most of this association, using amethyst to represent the flower.
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Kim Rix GG GIA
aka the Gemstone Detective
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence