In the last Gemstone Forecaster, we stated the agreement in principle reached between DeBeers and the Russians. The Russians are ignoring this agreement and selling their diamonds for cash in Israel, Antwerp, and India. Dealers are saying these Russian sales have decreased high quality diamond prices about 3%. Russia needs the cash it receives from selling diamonds and they are treating DeBeers as an important but nonexclusive buyer. Australia has already left the Cartel and the prices of melee (small diamonds) have already decreased 10-20%. Many analysts believe that if DeBeers cannot control Russia, the cartel will crumble.
DeBeers Sales Hits Record
DeBeers sales hit a record $2.75 billion for the first half of 1996. 1995 sales were $4.53 billion. The market is strong in quality diamonds and easily absorbed the November price increase. The market is buoyant in the US, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The US and Japan account for 60% of the diamond market.
White Diamond Market
DeBeers recently reached a deal with Botswana. Supplies of rough, better quality, large diamonds have been tight this year. At the August site, DeBeers released over $600 million worth of diamonds These goods should reach the polished markets in October. Goods remain difficult to find. The major increases are in the .70-3.00 diamonds. The most sought after diamonds are E-H colors and VS clarity. Certs are hot and unavailable. The U.S. investment market for better 1.00 stones continues to heat up. There is a severe 4 to 5 week backlog at GIA. We expect very strong holiday season market for large stones as buyers confront severe shortages.
This year, Argyle Diamonds will sell 47 pink diamonds weighing 47 carats. The largest polished pink diamond is a 3.66 carat fancy pink cushion cut diamond. This is the largest ever offered by the company. They will also offer a 3.06 carat fancy purplish pink emerald cut diamond. These diamonds will be highly sought after by a range of international diamond dealers. As fancy colored diamond connoisseurs appreciate, pink diamonds above three carats in weight are extremely rare and difficult to locate on the international market. In 11 years, Argyle's has only sold six pink diamonds in this three carat plus size. Argyle diamonds are renowned as the world's premier source of pink diamonds, yet these rare, intensely colored gems form less than 0.1 per cent of Argyle's annual output of some 35 million carats. What that means is for every 1 million diamonds found at the mine, only one is pink. Half of Argyle's diamonds are industrial grade, 45% are "near gem", and the remainder are gem quality. Last year Argyle offered 46 pink diamonds which sold for $4.6 million.
Fancy pink diamonds tend to sell for 20-25 times the price of a white diamond. Light pink diamonds sell for 5-10 times the cost of a white diamond. Many colored gemstone collectors, who are used to buying intensely colored Burma pink ruby, pink sapphire, and pink Burma spinel, sometimes expect these pink diamonds to look similar in color intensity. This is not the case. If you look at a pink diamond and the first color you see is pink, and it is obviously pink, then that is classified as fancy pink. If you have to use your imagination, then the stone is probably light pink. The same is true for most colored diamonds. Fancy blue diamonds do not look like 3.5 color Kashmir sapphires, but rather are closer to the color of superb aquamarine. Probably the only colored diamonds that are as intensely saturated as colored gemstones are vivid yellows.
Argyle Thief Jailed
Lindsay Roddan, the mastermind who sole millions from the Argyle Diamond Mine, was recently convicted of conspiracy. He received a six-year prison sentence. He has already served three years in prison while awaiting trial. Between 1988 and 1991, approximately 1,000 diamonds were stolen from the mine. Roddan's wife and a former security chief at Argyle were also arrested.
At the trial, the prosecution proved Roddan recruited the former security chief when they heard about the red diamond that was sold for nearly $1 million in 1987. The security chief took advantage of Argyle's security system. They stole the diamonds by not entering the diamonds into the computer system. Argyle became suspicious when several pink diamonds showed up in Antwerp and Geneva. Other prosecution witnesses said Roddan paid others to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds out of Australia.
The big break came in the case when Lynette, Roddan's wife, blew the whistle. She received three years probation. Roddan also paid the police $40,000 to derail the investigation and gave a senior police official a $200,000 bribe to avoid legal charges.
There was a daring robbery in Cannes, France. Robbers stole $2 million worth of diamonds from a gem dealer on the French Riviera. The robbers broke into the dealer's hotel room, and unscrewed the safe from the wall.
A 28.3 yellow diamond was recently found at the Kelsey mine in Colorado. It is the size of a thumbnail. The mine is at 8,000 feet, about 45 miles from Fort Collins. This is the fifth largest diamond ever found in America. The largest is the "Uncle Sam", a 40.23 gem discovered in Arkansas in 1924. The owners, Redaurum Ltd. of Toronto, expect to market the stone for $10,000 per carat.
In September, 100 people were killed in a series of rebel attacks. Rebels stormed towns and military installations with guns and dynamite, killing soldiers, police, and civilians. This incident was the worst guerrilla offense in decades.
The raids were in retaliation for a US sponsored campaign to eradicate coca fields. In past weeks, thousands of peasants have gathered in southern Colombia to protest the government's efforts to destroy coca crops. Security forces have killed many protesters. The Colombian government says the guerrillas are starting demonstrations to protect their interests in the cocaine business. The government said these raids really were in retaliation for a number of labs and crops that were recently destroyed. President Samper said, "Those behind these attacks are wrong if they think they can distract the government's attention from eradication operations in the south of the country." The protesters contend growing coca is the only way to make a living.
In the assault, hundreds of guerrillas overran a 110 man military base near the border with Ecuador. Between 34-50 Colombian soldiers were killed. This was the first time a military base had been overrun in decades. Raids elsewhere killed at least 33 police and soldiers. The mayor of Susa, 95 miles northeast of Bogota, was gunned down at a rebel roadblock. Guerrillas also dynamited highway toll booths and stormed about a dozen small towns.
Authorities blamed the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. This is the oldest guerrilla group in Colombia with thousands of fighters. The rebel ranks are growing, and their attacks are becoming bolder. Another group, the National Liberation Army, also took part in the offensive. In recent months, attacks have come as close as 25 miles to Bogota, the capitol.
Following the offense that killed 100 people, leftist rebels killed 16 more soldiers and police and blew up a section of Colombia's largest oil pipeline. The Revolutionary Armed Forces attacked another military base in Guaviare state, killing 12 soldiers. Rebels and police fought in another clash 30 miles north of Bogota.
Most experts believe the Colombian government lacks the ability to defeat the guerrillas. The Colombian military, with 125,000 soldiers, has only 32 helicopters. Therefore the military is very slow to respond. The military has a $2.5. billion budget, but the guerrillas are financed by millions in cocaine protection profits. Look for this civil war to escalate. The guerrillas now control 1/3 of Colombia.
The US government is threatening to impose economic sanctions on Colombia because of Colombia's lack of progress in stopping the flow of cocaine to the US. When the Colombian Congress cleared President Ernesto Samper to all ties with drug dealers, the US State Department revoked the visa of the Colombian president. Colombia responded by refusing to extradite jailed Colombian drug dealers to the US. The US ambassador to Colombia has recently been accused of writing a memo asking the US government to find a way to isolate and undermine President Samper. Some experts believe Mr. Samper will be taken prisoner and put on trial in the US, like Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. Colombia's vice president, Huberto Calle, said he will resign over the drug scandal. The vice president has called on President Samper to resign, citing Samper's inability to govern due to the scandal.
In some good news for Colombia's war on drugs, the last remaining member of the Cali cartel, Helmer "Pancho" Herrera, turned himself into the government. President Samper boasted, "The Cali cartel is over."
World Bank Study
The World Bank stated that Colombia is the world's most dangerous place. A new study said Colombia had a rate of violence two to three times a higher than the rest of South America. Colombia averages 30 murders per 100,000 people.
If the US places a total economic embargo on Colombia, look for Colombian emerald prices to skyrocket in value. The civil war in Colombia may eventually spill over into the emerald areas. These events are bullish for high-quality emeralds.
The world's largest uncut Burma ruby, discovered in Mogok in March, 1996, will be displayed at the Myanmar Gems Museum. The 21,450-carat rough ruby measures 7 inches long by 4.5 inches by 4 inches. Other exhibits in the museum include a sapphire weighing 63,000 carats mined in Mogok in 1972 and a 7,507 carat ruby mined in Mogok in 1987.
Sales at the 33rd Myanmar Gems, Jade and Pearl Emporium, held in March, 1996, were down 20 percent compared to 1995 levels, to US$5.7 million. Sales of jadeite, the most important category of sales at the Emporium, were down 22 percent to US$4.2 million. Sales of other colored gemstones were down 30 percent to US$0.5 million. Sales of cultured pearls were up 17 percent to US$0.6 million.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991, denounced the Burmese government in a recent press conference. Sixty one members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) have been arrested since June. A personal friend of Aung San Suu Kyi, James Nichols, recently died in prison for having an unregistered fax. In 1990, NLD won the election with 82% of the vote, but the ruling generals refused to honor the result. The final showdown may be coming.
There is presently an excellent supply of Mong Hsu Burma ruby on the market and a limited supply of Mogok Burma ruby and sapphire. We believe there is a small window of opportunity (1 1/2-2 years) in purchasing these goods. Every serious portfolio should contain these goods. In order of priority, we suggest collecting:
The Thai ruby market remains extremely quiet. Dealers in Bangkok report Thai ruby is not even being shown, due to the present supply of Mong Hsu, Burma goods. The only demand occurring in the collector market is for large Thai ruby (2.00+) and 3.5 colors. The balance of Thai stones are trading at deep discounts.
Vietnam is going to offer a 2,165 carat gem-quality rough ruby for sale. The ruby is 3.5 inches long, 2.75 inches wide, and 1.75 inches thick. The gem is reddish-pink in color and translucent. The bulk of the stone is remarkably clean. Although big stones could probably be cut from the stone, it will most likely be bought by a collector.
Singapore is now becoming an alternative to Thailand as a gem source. Many believe Singapore is replacing Hong Kong due to the unstable political situation there. Imports to Singapore from Thailand rose 82% in 1995.
Mining and supply of light colored tanzanite is still very good. Deep blue, saturated tanzanites are in short supply. Prices should continue to increase. Tanzania exports of gemstones resumed under a new mining policy. Only Tanzanian companies will be granted master dealer's licenses that allow them to export rough and cut stones. Companies with partial foreign ownership will only be given lapidary licenses that allow them to only export polished stones. These companies with foreign ownership must be joint ventures with Tanzanian nationals to receive the lapidary licenses. A bond of $50,000 must be posted for the joint venture and each licensed company must export at least $1 million in polished goods each year.
Sapphire is being mined in Tunduru in southern Tanzania. The blue sapphire is often compared to Sri Lankan sapphire. The area is also producing pinks, oranges, and purples similar to Sri Lankan sapphire. The area is producing cat's-eye alexandrite, pink and orange spinel, faceted chrysoberyl, and a range of garnets.
Tanzania/Sri Lanka Cartel
The governments of Tanzania and Sri Lanka have plans to work together to support their respective gem markets. A delegation from Tanzania plans to travel soon to Sri Lanka to work out the details of the plan.
The hot gems at the Basel show this year were: Tanzanite, mandarin orange garnet, chrome tanzanite, demantoid garnet (from the new Russian Ural mine), and a new small deposit of Russian emerald.
Platinum Card Holder Survey
What women really want is jewelry, according to American Express, with over 38 percent of women Platinum Card holders saying that jewelry was the gift they liked best. Travel was second at 8.7 percent. Overall, all Platinum holders, both male and female, said they would like to receive jewelry (9.4 percent), electronics (7.4 percent) and clothing (6.2 percent). Jewelry also ranked at the top of the list of which gifts to give, with 17.6 percent of all Platinum Card holders saying that it was their favorite.
Favorite Gemstone Survey
According to a new survey by Jewelers of America, emeralds are the favorite colored gemstone of most Americans. The survey found that 10 percent of those surveyed picked emerald as their favorite gemstone, 9 percent chose sapphire, and 7 percent chose ruby. About 61 percent chose diamond, primarily due to the the massive annual advertising budget of De Beers.
A new champagne garnet was recently discovered in Madagascar. It is a almandite-spessartite garnet. The mine is producing 5 kilos per month. Expect prices to range from $10-40 per carat. A 40 pound (90,000 carat) sapphire was recently discovered in Madagascar. It is reportedly to be gem-grade.
Chrome Tourmaline: What's the Big Deal?
Over the past few months we have received requests for information about chrome tourmalines. Many people asked us, "What's the big deal about these new green tourmalines; I thought tourmalines were cheap, semi-precious stones?" Not so for chrome tourmalines, which can command prices well into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars per carat. Chrome tourmalines, as their name suggests, are colored by chromium, the same metal that gives emeralds and rubies their bright colors. These tourmalines have a green color that is often an even finer shade than the best Colombian emeralds. However, Chrome Tourmalines usually occur in stones smaller than one carat. Those that are larger than a carat will command a very high price. Many are undecided as to whether or not such stones are fully valued, but there seems to be a consensus that chrome tourmalines will not get any less rare, giving their value some upward potential.
New Popularity for Spinel
If you have ever read a Gem Identification Book that is more than ten or fifteen years old, you will often see that the author usually regards spinel as being slightly more valuable than glass or pastes (imitation gemstones made from special glasses). This really should not be the case. Spinels, especially the bright, Burmese reds, pinks, oranges and blues are much rarer than fine quality rubies and sapphires. Collectors seem to finally appreciate this stone and its price may begin to reflect this.
Country Description: Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, experienced major political unrest in 1988. Conditions are stable under a military government except in remote border areas where longstanding insurgences persist.
Areas of Instability: Travel to parts of Burma is possible, although transportation is difficult. Visiting some destinations may require advance permission from authorities, which takes several days to arrange in Rangoon. Those destinations requiring permission are subject to change without advance notice. Unauthorized travelers may be stopped and harassed by security personnel and turned around. Some persons traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays, including temporary detention by local security personnel. Obtaining advance permission to certain destinations does not guarantee ability to travel, which is ultimately at the discretion of Burmese military intelligence. There is no consular convention in force between the U.S. and Burma securing the rights of citizens to consular protection. It is possible that, if a U.S. citizen were to be arrested, the U.S. Embassy might not be informed and might not be able to provide assistance. Nevertheless, arrested or detained U.S. citizens are encouraged to request that the Embassy be informed and that they be allowed to meet with a U.S. consular officer without delay. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data with them at all times so that, if questioned by Burmese officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available. There has been one reported guerrilla attack near Kanbauk (Tenasserim) in the vicinity of a planned gas pipeline. Southern Shan State is the scene of occasional fighting between the government forces and Shan United Army (MTA). There has also been recent fighting by other groups in the Thai-Burma border region. The Tachilek border area, at which border crossings are sometimes permitted, is a potential site for fighting. Even inadvertently crossing the border elsewhere may result in danger.
Country Description: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. It is a popular travel destination, and tourist facilities and services are available throughout the country.
Information on Crime and Safety: Petty crimes are common in areas where tourists gather. Many tourists fall victim to gem scams, in which a friendly stranger offers to serve as an informal tour guide. The "guide" offers to show the tourist where to buy gems for resale in the U.S. at a huge profit. The gems turn out to be overpriced and money back guarantees are not honored. Some travelers report being robbed after they were drugged in night clubs or in their hotel rooms by bar girls. Trekking is a popular activity for tourists in Thailand's mountainous areas. The use of licensed, reliable tour guides will enhance security for trekkers. Credit card fraud has also been increasing.
Border Problems: In December, 1994, fighting broke out between Karen factions in Burma across from Thailand's Mae Hong Son and Tax provinces. As a result of the fighting, travel by boat along the Salween and Moei Rivers, which form the border in this area, is considered dangerous. Fighting between the Burmese army and Karen insurgent groups spilled into areas of Tax and Mae Hong Son provinces adjacent to the Thai/Burma border in the spring of 1995. By late May, the incursions had halted; nevertheless, tourists who wish to travel along the border road from Mar Sot, Tax province, to Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son province, should travel with a licensed, reputable tour company. Prospective travelers may also wish to check with local the American Consulate General in Chiang Mai.
For comments, questions or price quotes E-mail NGC, Attn: R. Genis
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