I need to go back to Istanbul and buy this beautiful gemstone: Sultanite. I think I have a fake one, and failed to buy a real one. I am going back to Istanbul.
Natural color changing gemstones are very rare. There are only five types in the world. These gemstones include Alexandria, Color Change Fluorite, Color Change Garnet, Color Change Sapphire, and Turkish Sultanite (or Zultanite).
I first learn about the Sultanite when I am on a tour in Cappadocia. You know some tours make you go into these shops so that the tour guides make some money from the sales. I know most of them are overpriced so I go along just to look at the stuff but not buy it. That is what I did in Cappadocia.
Although I rarely wear jewelry, I am a woman and I love interesting stuff. At the store, this sales girl picks up this beautiful stone and tells us that this is one of the rarest gems in the world. She asks another employee on the floor to dim the lights. And it changes color! Beautiful! Breathtaking! That gets me. It is intriguing. This gemstone is called Sultanite to honor the 36 sultans of the Ottoman Emperium (some may need honoring, but not all) and its only source is in Turkey. Its gemological name is diaspore. It contains traces of chromium, iron, manganese and titanium. It is mined in the Ibir Mountains of Milas in the southwest of Turkey. The mine is depleted now and that is making it a really a rare gem. I really want it. After my skillful negotiations and bringing down the price to half, I bought one pendant for my sister and one for myself. It was not hugely expensive, but it was not a negligible amount – a slight dent in the budget. These are going to be birthday presents for both of us since our birthdays are one day apart and many times we celebrate our birthdays together.
After the fact (that means I already bought these pendants), I check on the Internet. It has great stories about Sultanite. But, it also talks about the fake versions available in the market. It says the fake version’s colors are much stronger than the real ones. And mine matches the images on the internet. They make the fake Sultanites in India. They are called Alexites, a synthetic color changing glass where color change is induced by the addition of chromium, manganese, iron, and vanadium. I also read that Zandrite, another color changing glass mimicking Alexandrite can also simulate Sultanite. Now, I think I own a very interesting glass piece from India and it is beautiful to see how it changes color.
My quest for chasing this rare gem does not stop after this major faux pas.
Unfortunately, I get more upset when I read that this giant gem corporation called Zultgems, located in Bangkok, is the official distributor of this gem under its commercial name “Zultanite”. They even provide Authenticity Guarantee. Actually they do a great job of making this rare gem a popular exotic gemstone in the red carpets and TV shows around the world. I will give them a credit for it. But, I am upset that they take it all out of Turkey and make a big hoopla that if you do not buy from them, then it is not authentic.
So, I check with my friends who make jewelry. Again, Aysun, who makes beautiful jewelry, told me that there is one store in Istanbul selling the real thing. And I go to meet with the owner, Burhanettin Bey.
The store is across the old Cicek Pasaji (Flower Market) in Beyoglu, Istanbul where people used to hang out at restaurants and drink and sing until morning. The store’s name is T-Design (if you go there before I do, he told me that you need to mention my name so he will give you a discount). Burhanettin Bey tells me that the Sultanite mine closed in 2012. There will be no more Sultanites added to the market. He tells me that this is a great investment.
He says he has been in this family business since he can say his name. Their great grandparents opened the store in Istanbul in 1888. And he is the 4th generation. But their family jewelry business goes back to the year 1200 CE and starts in the city of Maras. He tells me that this rare gem is covered on a Discovery Channel show. Since then people are seeking him out to buy one from his collection. He says he has one of the largest Sultanite stones in the world, about 750 carats. I do not even ask him how much since he tells me that this is his retirement money. I tell him that I write a blog and I am very interested in writing about this stone and about his store. Then, he starts showing me his collection. I am dying to buy one. However, I have limited travel money and I say to him that I will come later.
And I never went back. But, everyday, when I was on the metro in Istanbul, I dreamt about getting off at the Sishane metro station in Beyoglu and walking up to his store with my credit card. Next time I am in Istanbul, that is what I will do the first day.
Then I will marvel at the color change of my own Sultanite every time I am in a different light.