By Jennifer Heebner
Included stones can elicit a wide range of reactions, from “No, thank you” to “Yes, please, I’ll take them all!” For sure, included gemstones are an acquired taste, with high-end shoppers eschewing them for their “faults” in favor of more valuable inclusion-free stones. And while Ann Barker of Barker & Co. sells mainly top-end (clear) material, she has a funny little collection with appeal to a niche crowd: included Arizona Peridot.
The collection started about 13 years ago during the AGTA GemFairTM Tucson (shocker!). Now-deceased Jewelry Television cofounder Jerry Sisk Jr. told Barker that he loved inclusions and wanted her to save any cool stones she might find.
“He told me he wanted to create a category for included gems,” she recollects. “I knew that Arizona Peridot had cool inclusions and was affordable to set aside, so I started the collection for him.”
When Sisk died in 2013, Barker still had the gems and decided to keep on collecting. “I thought I might donate them one day to the Smithsonian Institute,” she says. To date, she has 32 individual pieces (135 ctw.). As new and better examples arrive at the office, she puts previous ones back in the mix for sale. “I keep upgrading,” she says.
“A supplier who buys from the people who mine it in the San Carlos Apache community, outside of Globe, Ariz., brings parcels into the office for us,” she continues. “He cleans and sorts the rough. We only cut about 10% of it ourselves because most of it is smaller than we want to cut. When the material is small, we tell our cutters to ‘cut clean,’ but they don’t often see what’s in there until the cutting is complete.”
Barker’s favorite day is when a package arrives from the cutting factory. All the included Peridot is faceted in round, oval, trillion, radiant, and princess cuts, though for some reason (nobody knows why) most inclusions appear in the oval shapes.
When those inclusions become apparent, they’re always a surprise but can resemble bugs, oil, or water spots. Some inclusions look like lily pads, some are fibrous, some are black spots, and others pack a lot of different colors—“Pink, orange, and blue when you turn them,” she says—in one punch. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
Barker’s brother Richard, who works with her in the business, reveals more specifics about the quirky inclusions. Black spots that look like coffee grounds are chromian Spinel, and sometimes you see negative crystal inclusions—cavities within crystals. His favorites, though, are the lily pads, perhaps for their persistent and unexpected appearances. “Those damn things are everywhere and can be very hard to see in the rough,” he says.
For more information about Arizona Peridot, check out “San Carlos Peridot” by John I. Koivula in Winter 1981 Gems & Gemology.
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