Dan circled around the periphery of the group that had sprung up about Sandy. They were discussing her outfit for the evening–specifically the large, blue stone danging from a silver chain encircling her neck.

“It’s just so unique!” An onlooker said, ogling the jewel. “Is it a blue diamond?”

“It’s not just about uniqueness, but also value and perception,” Sandy said airily. “The price of diamonds has been kept artificially high for almost a century by the great southern African cartels. That, combined with a PR campaign worthy of any great commodity, has served to make them the Wal-Mart of gemstones: commercialized, callous, overpriced, even ruinous to some.”

The questioner, who sparked with several diamonds of her own, faded into the crowd. Dan tried to line himself up for a good, casual snapshot as Sandy moved under a good light source.

“This is benitoite, one of the rarest gemstones in the world,” Sandy said. “It’s only found in one place, and most of it is used for research. Only a tiny amount is gemstone quality; few are cut, and fewer still sold.”

She was lined up perfectly; what’s more, the stone glowed with an almost unholy light. Its blue overpowered the red tones in Sandy’s skin, giving her an elegant, icy quality through the viewfinder.

“This may just be the only gem-quality benitoite being worn anywhere right now,” Sandy said. “That’s what attracted me.” Dan’s camera snapped as she spoke, fixing the moment in amber. He should have been thinking about his editor, or the freelancer contacts he still had from the old days, and how much the snap could sell for.

Instead, he was entranced by the stone and its wearer, such that he all but joined the crowd of hollow worshippers thronging around her.