News from East Asia: Tashmarine

“Tashmarine” sounds much more appealing than “yellowish-green diopside.”

Discovered last year and brought to the United States by Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House/Trigem Designs, Vancouver, Wash., tashmarine is a natural, unenhanced, slightly grayish-green to slightly yellowish-green diopside. It’s on Braunwart’s list of branded gems, which includes Grape Garnet and Spice Pearls.

The name tashmarine has several origins, says Braunwart. “Tash-” means “stone” in a number of Farsi-based central Asian languages, and tashmarine is also named after the city of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

Tashkent has always been important to international trade, a stop on the old Silk Road that linked the Far East with Europe. The road traversed the continent from China to the Mediterranean Sea, bringing silk, iron, porcelain, and gems to Europe. A major portion of the Silk Road went through Tashkent, and tashmarine is reportedly found in the region. Finally, “Tash” is the nickname of Braunwart’s second daughter, Natasha.

“Marine,” of course, means ocean or sea, but more significantly, says Braunwart, the word is European in origin. The old Silk Road linked Europe with Asia, East meeting West, and “-marine” represents the end of the Silk Road.

The gem itself is a beautiful and durable material and is relatively free of inclusions. Diopside rates a 5.5 on the Mohs scale, about as hard as tanzanite. It can be cleaned ultrasonically with no adverse effects. Mined in fairly large crystals, tashmarine is available in half-carat to 50-ct. sizes.

Braunwart is having tashmarine cut into ovals and cushion shapes with either standard or checkerboard crowns. Rounds and trilliants are faceted with Portuguese cuts, and 5-ct. and larger stones are being cut with concave facets (“radial cuts”).

Tashmarine made its television debut on ShopNBC “for about one minute,” says Braunwart. It sold so quickly from ShopNBC’s Internet site that it was sold out almost as soon as the television spot had introduced it. In fact, it over-sold by three times, says Braunwart.

Generally, prices for loose goods range from $20/ct. to $85/ct. for calibrated sizes up to about 6 cts. For larger individual stones—up to 40 cts.—expect to see prices around $75/ct. to $125/ct., with top-color goods going for $150/ct.