Understanding Drusy Gemstones: Color, Cut, Setting, and Buying Tips
Drusy gemstones were once ignored by jewelry makers. These crystal-encrusted sections of rock taken from the wall of a geode or vug were deemed lovely curiosities. But as the crystals were too small to cut “gemstones” from, they had little value. However, dealers, jewelers, and buyers have discovered that, for a unique gemstone with lots of star power at a reasonable cost, you can’t do better than drusies. Today, you’ll find them everywhere, from local gem shows to Etsy.
ABOVE: This is another selection of drusy. The shapes with the metallic glittery look are coated with titanium. Photo by Jim Lawson.
Drusies are layered with hundreds or thousands of small crystals. Depending on the size of the crystals, the drusy layer can look soft and velvety, granular and sugary, or it can be obvious they are masses of small crystals. They can be elegant and subtle or sparkle with all the “bling” you could possibly want.
Colors of Common and Rare Drusy Gemstones
The most common drusies are made up of transparent quartz crystals on a gray to blue-gray substrate of agate—the stuff you find in most geodes. However, quartz drusies may also be yellow, orange, red, brown, and even spotted (sometimes called Dalmatian drusy). Uvarovite (a type of green garnet), azurite (brilliant blue), cobaltocalcite (hot pink), or psilomelane (dark gray to black) are all more unusual types and colors of drusies occasionally found in the marketplace.
Most drusy material is an unexciting dull gray. For that reason, some manufacturers coat quartz drusies through vapor deposition—a process that layers a microscopic film of metal onto the crystal surfaces. Titanium coating, one of the most popular, transforms drusies into brilliant purple, cobalt blue, teal, or a rainbow of colors. Drusies are also coated with rose or yellow gold or even platinum. Dyeing can also transform plain agate/quartz drusies into a variety of colors. Fine quality, untreated, uncoated drusies are the rarest to find and the most subtle.
Drusy Gemstone Cuts
Drusies are often cut freeform to incorporate the greatest surface area of the crystal coating and to accommodate the shape of the substrate. But they are also available in standard shapes and sizes. Some stones are cut so that only the drusy material is shown. Others incorporate the surrounding gem material which is highly polished in contrast to the drusy surface.
Like any stone, a drusy should be well cut and have a pleasing shape, and the distribution of crystals should cover the surface. Those coated with the finest crystals are also the best to cut, says Greg Genovese, who specializes in these crowd-pleasing stones. Larger crystals in a drusy can splinter off when cutting.
How to Set Drusy Gemstones
Setting drusies takes excellent setting skills. Because they are cut from the side walls of the host rock, the surfaces may curve or undulate. Shapes are irregular. The seat must conform to the shape of the stone and its back surface. If it doesn’t, uneven pressure during setting can cause it to break, or it may rock during wear, eventually coming loose. Prongs are sometimes used, but for the best edge protection, bezels are best.
Because drusies are formed by numerous small crystals, they can be damaged with rough wear. They are safest in necklaces, brooches, and earrings. If you use them in a ring or bracelet, be sure your customer understands they must be treated gently. They should never be put into an ultrasonic cleaner but cleaned gently with a soft brush and warm, soapy water.
Tips for Buying Drusy Gemstones
If you look for drusy material at the next local show, look around before buying.
- Selecting a drusy is an esthetic choice, made based on how the stone appeals to you.
- You might like larger or smaller crystals, a variety of sizes, or a texture like velvet.
- Choose a stone that is evenly coated with crystals of the same color or at least an interesting pattern of color.
- There shouldn’t be any “dead” or bald spots.
- Look for stones that are well cut. While edges shouldn’t be so thick as to make setting difficult, neither should they be so thin that they are at risk of breaking during setting or wear.
- Expect to pay $15 to more than $600 per stone, depending on size, color, coating type, quality of cut, and the surface coverage.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.