If you visit Montana’s Glacier National Park this summer and look for the perfect souvenir of your stay, jeweler Lisa Poler has a suggestion: a pair of her custom-design earrings, in either silver or gold, featuring diffusion-colored cobalt blue topazes.
Cobalt blue, it seems, is the local color all year round out Poler’s way. “You sit on a ski lift and the sky looks lake-blue against the snow. You take a boat ride out on Flathead Lake and those waters are the deepest, most inviting blue,” she rhapsodizes. “What better way to remember our parcel of paradise than Glacier Blue topaz?”
“Glacier Blue,” in case you didn’t know, is a brand name for treated colorless topaz owned by Signity Gems, the subsidiary of Swarovski AG in Austria. Poler has been selling it for nearly four years, ever since she saw it on display at the Tucson gem show in 2003. At the time, she was contemplating a repositioning of her store, Wheeler Jewelry in Kalispell, Montana, to a showplace for colored stones. But first she needed a product that could serve as a very affordable “gateway purchase” to more valuable stones and also give her revenue to build a sizable colored stone inventory.
The new topaz proved the ideal pilot purchase of colored gemstones for Poler’s customers—many of whom are tourists drawn to her area for its multitudinous recreational opportunities. “It’s the perfect memento for a stay in our Eden,” she says. “One look conjures a thousand beautiful memories.”
Now Poler is on a campaign to make Glacier Blue topaz available outside her store, which is 30 miles away from the river entrance to Glacier Park. Recently, she persuaded the owner of a rafting and sporting goods store right outside that entrance to carry her line of sterling silver and karat gold Glacier Blue topaz jewelry. With prices ranging from $100 to $250 retail, Poser is convinced tourists will see her pieces as perfect self-purchase and gift items. After all, that’s what they have been in her store for the last three Christmas seasons. “There were times when I just couldn’t keep enough Glacier Blue topaz in stock,” she says.
Pause here to get adjusted to what is essentially sapphire-blue topaz. If you’re like me, the first thought of such topaz produces mild cognitive dissonance. Isn’t treated topaz aqua-colored? Well, yes, it is—that is, if you’re talking about the standard variety colored by electron or neutron irradiation to turn anywhere from mint to Windex blue. But Poler is talking about a new variety of treated topaz, surface colored by the interaction of cobalt oxide with heat in a furnace. Glacier Blue takes topaz into a new realm of corundum colors with shades that remind some of fine Kashmir and Burma sapphire. (By the way, Poler also reports budding sales of champagne and pink colored diffusion topaz.)
Don’t get the wrong idea. Poler still stocks conventional irradiated blue topaz. But Glacier Blue has been a far bigger seller ever since she introduced it as “an ideal price point item to get customers started buying gems.”