Colored Stones / Industry

Synthetic Alexandrite Pioneer David Patterson Dies


David Patterson (pictured), the founder of Creative Crystal, considered the first company to produce synthetic alexandrite, died on April 8, according to a notice from the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). He was 89.

Patterson attended Colorado State University and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. But he couldn’t resist “the call of gemstones,” according to ICA, so he designed and built his own faceting machine and taught himself about the world of gems.

In 1970, he founded Creative Crystal after developing the process to grow alexandrite. In 1975, he opened Geminex Corp. and began working full-time to manufacture and sell gemstones to the trade.

But finding a market for the product wasn’t as easy as he had hoped, he admitted in a 2012 interview with the Journal of Gemmology, produced by Gem-A, the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.

“My stone dealer friends were very enthusiastic about [the product],” he said. “I thought we had an easy market. This was certainly not so.

“After a few years of selling synthetic alexandrite, we still found some resistance to the product by the retail jeweler,” he continued. “They wanted a reference stone, but didn’t want to stock it. This was before Chatham and other products of flux-grown origin had developed the market.

“Therefore, we were unable to ride piggyback on what they had done. Emeralds and rubies were well known, but at that time alexandrites were rare and appealed to fewer people than the more well-known gems.”

In addition, the cost of producing the alexandrites was high and sometimes topped the prices of flux-grown emerald and rubies. He ended up selling the business to a limited partnership in 1979.

“His greatest accomplishment was the many worldwide relationships he developed over a great career,” said the ICA statement. “He shared his knowledge and love of gemstones with all. He loved his alexandrite with a passion.”

Photo courtesy of the International Colored Gemstone Association

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By: Rob Bates

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