By Peter Rosewarne

My wife and I recently visited Istanbul for a few days on our way to Venice and beyond. An 11-hour non-stop flight on Turkish Airways from Cape Town International Airport got us there. Impressions of Istanbul were favourable; interesting, friendly, good food, clean and safe. We stayed in the Old City and did a lot of walking and had an obligatory tourist boat ride along the Bosphorus (East meets West). We visited the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered bazaar in the World with over 4000 shops apparently, selling jewellery, food, clothes and antiques.

The Grand Bazaar – exterior and inside

My eye was caught by an unusual looking gemstone in many of the jewellers in the bazaar which was labelled zultanite. I’d never heard of it and did some investigation on the internet. This may be old hat to many of you but was news to me. It’s the gem form of a common mineral diaspore [(AlO(OH), orthorhombic and hardness of 6,5–7] and is only found and mined high up in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey. It is pleiochroic and changes colour in sunlight (kiwi green) and artificial light (pink-violet-raspberry hues). Seems like a sort of Turkish version of alexandrite. Fake stones are very common apparently, consisting of glass with trace elements but apparently the shops in the old part of the bazaar are a fairly reliable source of genuine stones (you get an authenticity certificate from genuine dealers apparently but I didn’t know this at the time). I don’t normally or rather never buy gemstones but for some reason felt the urge to buy a couple of examples of this zultanite. So I went back to the Grand Bazaar and eventually bought a couple of relatively cheap and small stones. However, they show the colour change in reverse to what genuine stones apparently should, i.e. kiwi green in artificial light and violet-pink in sunlight, so I’ve probably been scammed (see photo [stone is 1 cm × 1 cm]; although I saw an article that gives colour ranges for different lighting that matches my stones, perhaps for fakes). But what the hell, I leant something and had some fun in the process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any rough samples for sale. Anyone else have any experience of this gemstone?

Photo of zultanite taken in sunlight

 Mosques in Istanbul