The emerald market is suffering from schizophrenia. On one hand, consumers love emerald for its romance, history and the passion it creates. They crave its fiery green color. On the other hand, it is the only stone that can sell for thousands of dollars per carat even though it is filled with inclusions deemed unacceptable in most other gems. The Colombians' marketing of included emeralds for decades has been masterful, however, many jewelers and dealers have become spooked about selling them. Many decided it is too much of a headache and guide their clients into diamonds, rubies, or sapphires. Others promote tsavorite, chrome tourmaline and demantoid as green alternatives. The recent deluge in the trade press with arguments about television exposés and lawsuits scares people in the gemstone business.
Treatments and Pricing
Historically, gemstone treatments have an eventual affect on the pricing of the treated stones. A good analogy to the conflict over emerald pricing today is Mong Hsu, Burma (Myanmar) ruby. When the Mong Hsu material hit the market in the early 1990's, dealers wanted to charge the same price as for Mogoks. Few knew Mong Hsu, Burma ruby looked like bad garnet when found in the rough. It usually enters the US market after heating and possibly fracture-filling, however, the treatment is permanent. It was only through time the trade began to understand Mong Hsu should sell at a discount to Mogok goods because of the treatments it endured. It is relatively easy today to price the stone against unheated Mogok, Burma rubies. All things being equal, heated Mong Hsu rubies are worth about 50-60% less than Mogoks.
Emeralds prices are down between 30%-50% in the last few years. Some say it is from a lack of demand, but it is really a war between buyers and sellers/treaters. The crux of the matter is sellers want to value emeralds based upon their appearance in their final state and buyers want to buy them based upon how they appeared when first discovered. Although emeralds are 7 1/2 in hardness, they are fragile because of their clarity problems. The real issue of treatment is permanence and durability. This is what is occurring in the emerald market today and the process takes time for the market to sort out. The tug-of-war between the factions will eventually be settled.
Arthur Groom introduced his Gematrat emerald treatment process in 1997. It is probably a combination of vacuum, pressure, and powerful chemicals. Groom contends, "The cleaning process is the most critical aspect of the treatment." He may clean a stone for days or months to make sure it is "totally naked "before refilling the emerald with Gematrat.
He claims Gematrat is virtually permanent and will not leak or discolor. According to Groom, "It is colorless and stable. You can put treated gems in an ultrasonic cleaner, a steamer, and even recut the stone without damage." This an attempt to put treated emeralds in the same position as heated ruby and sapphire - stable and permanent. Groom is so confident he offers a life-time warranty for any emerald treated with his process.
New AGL Emerald Grading Report
Gematrated emeralds are now available with the new American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) Emerald Grading Report. The document comes with a double image. The first image is the Gematrat emerald after treatment. The second image is the stone shot under ultraviolet showing the tracer. Place the stone under long wave ultraviolet and the treatment glows blue!
A new section is the Clarity Enhancement Information. The type signifies the treatment. The most common fillers are Oil - common for Colombian emeralds, Paraffin (Wax) - common for African emeralds, and Polymers such as Opticon, Colombian "Palma", and Gematrat. The AGL sample document below specifically names the treatment: Arthur Groom Gematrat Process. An emerald can fall into 9 different categories of degree of filler. Its ranges are; none, no significant, faint, faint to moderate, moderate, moderate to strong, strong, strong to prominent, and prominent. The treatment is also categorized according to an Estimated Stability Index (ESI) Consumer Reference on a numerical scale from 1-10, with 10 the best. Gematrat is an 7-8 with excellent to very good stability. Cedarwood oil is 6-7 with very good stability and Opticon is 4-5 with good stability. This numerical scale gives consumers a guideline to understand how the treatment will apply to the gemstone for everyday use. The Gematrat process has the highest rated stability of any emerald treatment used today.
As a general guideline, of the overall emerald population, 15% of emeralds are "no significant - faint to moderate" enhanced, 60% of emeralds are "moderate - moderate to strong" enhanced and 25% of emeralds are "strong - prominent" enhanced. Groom speculates less than 1% of emeralds are not enhanced. He contends fine emeralds with no enhancement, "are rarer than pink diamond". The market is still attempting to reach a consensus on the percentages of premiums or discounts applicable to each category. In all likelihood, non treated emeralds will sell for a premium and all other treated emeralds will command a discount. The bottom line with Gematrat treated emeralds and the new AGL Emerald Grading Report is that sellers will be able to totally disclose the amount and type of filler in the emerald to the client.
This branding process may restore confidence to the battered emerald market. Sellers will fully disclose the treatment to their clients. In addition, they will be able to market a gemstone with a virtually permanent treatment compared to opticoned or oiled emeralds. Buyers will be fully aware of the treatments and can make an educated decision regarding the material. This is a positive step in the right direction that could revolutionize the emerald business. It may be a time for collectors to re-enter this market. You can purchase goods deeply discounted from a few years ago.
The main focus of this book is the education of consumers on the subject of buying colored gemstones from jewelers. Considering the frequent lack of technical training given to salespeople in the industry and the scarcity of neutral gemstone information, this book fills a much-needed void. Newman does an excellent job teaching privates how to judge the color of a gemstone, about the affect of lighting on a gemstone's appearance, and how to care for gemstones and jewelry.
The most interesting chapters dissect gemstone color. The book attempts to compare the AGL Color/Scan, GIA Gemset, and Gem Dialogue systems. Although this is a difficult task, Newman does analyze the hue, tone and saturation of the three systems. What impresses me most about Newman is she presents both sides of the disagreements in the trade concerning what constitutes a fine gemstone. We all agree the redder the ruby the better. Is the preferred secondary color orange, pink, or slightly purplish? Same with emeralds. Is the best secondary blue or yellow? Dealers agree the bluer the sapphire the better, however, some prefer a violetish blue. The disagreements regarding tone are also illuminated. It is important for privates to know that since even dealers argue about these fine points, they should buy gems with the secondary colors they prefer, not what someone says is best. Newman emphasizes buying gemstones is a subjective science at best.
Another top chapter covers clarity and transparency. Not all inclusions are negative, they can be vital in determining treatments and country of origin. Many people will discover the beauty of microscopic photography and gemstone inclusions in this book. The photographs showing how gemstones' clarities change according to different light sources are also well done. In addition, Newman compares the GIA and the AGL clarity grading systems. Some might find this section too technical, but the new breed of informed internet consumers will probably relish the information.
Newman also explains the value of cut in regards to a gemstone's price. Poorly cut colored stones can sell from a 50% discount and a well cut stone can command a 25% premium. She describes brilliancy, extinction, ideal depths, and symmetry. Cut is less important in top quality rubies, sapphires, and emeralds due to the rarity and value of the material.
The author lists general characteristics of different mine sources of gemstones and promotes the concept that a premium must be paid for unheated Mogok Burma ruby or sapphire and Kashmir sapphire. These gemstones must be accompanied with a report from an independent lab. Fine emeralds also need a report to determine the amount of treatment. She argues a report may not be necessary for less expensive gemstones.
The treatment section draws an analogy to the food industry - the world would starve without food treatments. Few would own gemstones if only natural stones were available on the market. Of course, there is a small percentage of the market that only buys untreated food. In the gem market, there is a percentage of collectors that buy only non-treated gemstones. She explains heat treatment in a simple manner that the average person can understand and shows superb "before and after" blue sapphire photos. She also discusses how emeralds are oiled, filled with epoxy resin, and dyed, and the possible negative consequences of wearing treated emeralds. Newman is a proponent for full disclosure.
Gem photography reproduction is never a simple task. It is a technical nightmare from photographing the stones to the color separations to the final printing. However, the vast majority of gem photographs presented in this book, especially the inclusion photographs, are worth its price many times over. There are some ruby and emerald photographs that may confuse consumers as the contrasts they are meant to illustrate are not apparent in the reproduction.
Towards the end of the book, Newman describes numerous gemological tests consumers can perform. I find this overkill for the average person wanting to buy a gemstone as it requires the purchase of gemological equipment and learning how to use it. However, in the author's favor, the book is designed to be a reference publication. It does have some minor gemological errors, however, they are insignificant given the totality of the project. Finally, we also disagree with the author's statement you should never buy gemstones over the internet. :) However, she was specifically trying to protect consumers from the Canadian boiler room scam artists that "cold call" Americans via the telephone. The telemarketers sell overpriced gemstones with fraudulent grading reports. Of course, the Gemstone Forecasterhas been warning against these practices for decades.
I recommend this book as an excellent primer for jewelers who want to educate their clients or new collectors wanting an informative starting point.
You can purchase the book on-line at Amazon.com
Christie's sold $29.1 million worth of goods at the May auction. It could have been substantially more, but many important colored diamonds were curiously withdrawn at the last moment. An unusually large 9.98, cushion, Mogok, Burma ruby sold for $1,238,852 or $124,000 per carat. A lower quality, oval, 4.01, Burma ruby sold for $511,972 or over $36,500 per carat. An 11.62, AGL graded, cushion, Burma sapphire sold for $122,572 or over $10,500 per carat. A Burma ruby and diamond suite sold for over $5.3 million. A 4.46, Kashmir sapphire went for $14,300 per carat. The highest price fetched by a Colombian emerald was for an 11.58, which sold for almost $14,000 per carat. A 7.34, oval, fancy intense, pink diamond, VS2 clarity sold for almost $1.5 million or over $200,000 per carat. A 5.29, oval, fancy vivid, blue, SI2 clarity fetched about $1.2 million to a New York dealer over the telephone.
Sotheby's sold $32.2 million worth of goods at the May auction. Sotheby's sold a 25.76, Burma sapphire for over $30,000 per carat. A 14.12, Burma ruby went for about $25,000 per carat. A 13.32, step cut, fancy intense, orangey pink, IF clarity diamond sold for approximately $1.6 million.
The results from the recent auctions were mixed. Many speculate the declining US stock market was responsible for the weak auctions. Others contend many of the goods were dealer's stones and the reserves were too high.
ColoredStonemagazine reports the best Burma material is being smuggled out via commercial airlines. Gems fly out of the country in luggage of dealers who have paid officials to look the other way. The county is stratified into a small upper class of military rulers. The ruling elite take a piece of the smuggling action. It is estimated the Burmese government officially receives only 10% of the taxes due on goods taken out of the country. The remaining 90% is unofficially smuggled out. Most are small, top quality gems that are easy to conceal. The goods end up in Singapore or Hong Kong, therefore bypassing the Thai dealers. The less expensive, bulkier gems still travel the land routes to Thailand.
In June, 2000, the US Government put Chang Chi-Fu, also known as Khun Sa, of Burma, on a new US government blacklist aimed at financially isolating drug traffickers and their associates. They utilized a new law, the Foreign Drug Kingpin Designation Act, to go after international drug kingpins. The law has been criticized by civil libertarians and some business groups concerned that innocent people could be named and would have little opportunity to clear their reputations and free up their assets. Khun Sa will have his US assets frozen.
Unlike most other Asian countries, the internet is banned in Burma. The government fears the net will allow dissent to flourish. Of the 48 million people inside Burma, only 50,000 have computers. If you have a modem, you could get 7-15 years in jail. Only wealthy foreigners and Burmese officials have email access. The Burmese government recently installed a $1.5 million server.
The Karens remain in a stalemate with the Burmese government. Approximately 100,000 Karen refugees remain inside Thailand in about 12 camps. Another 300,000 are internally displaced within Burma. The Karens want a self-ruled Karen state within Burma. Fighting in April sent thousands of Karens into Thailand and negotiations between Burma and the Karens have been halted.
The twin 12-year-old boys from Burma who command the rebel group, God's Army, have temporarily laid down their arms and are devoting themselves full time to Christianity. Johnny and Luther Htoo are now living in a Christian ethnic Karen village in Burma about 20 miles from the Thai border. They have been on the run since late January and have shaved their heads to try to avoid being recognized.
US Steps Closer to Drug War
The White House and Congress are close to funding a $1 billion package to Colombia over two years that would beef up anti-drug training for the Colombian police and military and provide them with better equipment, including more than five dozen helicopters. Critics in the United States and in the region say American military advisers will be drawn into the broader war between the guerrillas and the government and it will become another Viet Nam.
According to US satellite imaging, cocaine production in Colombia has more than doubled in the past five years. It is estimated Colombia now grows or processes more than 500 tons of cocaine a year, or some 90 percent of the world's supply.
In many parts of Colombia, the army and the police fear sending in spray planes and helicopters to eradicate the fields because the aircrafts draw ground fire from the Marxist guerrilla forces that thrive on the drug trade. The principal rebel group, the 15,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has been fighting the government since the mid-1960's, financing their war for most of that time with kidnappings and extortions. The Colombian government believes FARC makes more than $1 million a day from the drug business. The guerrilla war is turning into a drug war over cocaine and heroin.
The three groups fighting include the elected government of President Andrés Pastrana and the government's poorly trained forces, the well armed and wealthy leftist guerrillas, and the right-wing death squads. The self-sustaining insurgency has no foreign power backing the guerrillas. It is a merger of criminals, narco-traffickers and insurgents.
Peace Talks Suspended
President Andrés Pastrana suspended the latest round in Colombia's peace process, set for May, a day after Marxist rebels killed a woman by rigging a bomb around her neck in an extortion attempt. It was the first time in the 18-month-old peace process that the government has called off talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), aimed at ending the long-running war that has cost 35,000 lives in just 10 years. The talks were to start on May 29 with ambassadors and delegates from 21 countries, including the United States and Europe. No resumption date was announced.
The move followed the murder of Elvira Cortes, a 53-year-old dairy farm owner, which sparked outrage from the Roman Catholic Church bishop and senior justice officials. Cortes and a police bomb disposal expert died and three soldiers were maimed when the "necklace bomb" exploded after nearly nine hours of efforts to defuse it. FARC rebels rigged the device around the woman's neck to force her husband to pay $7,500, which the guerrillas traditionally refer to as a "war tax". In April, 2000, FARC leaders issued "Tax Law 002", saying they would step up their campaign of kidnappings and extortion against the rich.
"Some gems aren't treated because treatments don't work on them. Garnet and Peridot are examples. If consumers begin to demand unheated gemstones, their popularity may jump, a situation sure to affect pricing. Spinel is another gemstone that so far has escaped treatment. Many gem dealers agree that it isn't well understood by jewelers or consumers. Confusion between natural and synthetic spinel may have contributed to its underpricing today, but, like garnet, it could be a gem of the future."
When Customers Want Untreated Gems
by Richard Drucker
About 75% of the usable production is clear or pastel yellow. About 25% of what they mine has some color, with the majority being a light pink to peach. About 1% of the total production occurs in red or green colors. The greens go from a "light to kelly green". Everyone, including the collectors, is searching for reds that look like Burma spinel or ruby. The reds are similar to top, flame orange, Burma spinel. Ideally, these stones are clean and bright with no brown. The rarest color is a blue-green that is described as having an "iridescent glow". Oregon Sunstone also occurs in bi-colors and tri-colors. Finally, Sunstone sometimes occurs with a color change or a color shift. A desirable color shift is from green to red or red-green to red. An internet search found one dealer asking $5000 per carat for a five carat gem red, pear shape.
The key advantage to Oregon Sunstones may be that they are an all natural, American gemstone. These gemstones are not heated, oiled, or irradiated. This may assist in marketing the gem to a treatment-weary public. This stone may be an interesting speculation for the collector who has everything already.
Marla Maples' 7.45 carat, emerald cut, engagement diamond was sold for $110,000 in June in Detroit. It was the rock given to her by Donald Trump. The buyer was a New Jersey woman who won the ring after a telephone duel between five other potential buyers from around the world. Maples and Trump married in 1993 after their daughter was born, but divorced in 1997. Trump denounced the decision to sell the ring as "tacky".
Eleven-year-old Steven Muldrew, Jr., a student at the Clinton Primary School, recently found a .47, yellow diamond at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The diamond has been appraised for $700.
Marshall Rieff, who is a regular digger at the mine, also found a 5.50 carat, jelly bean shaped diamond. Approximately 75% of the diamond is flawless, and it should cut into a 3 carat stone. This is the largest diamond found at the site since a 7.28, pale yellow was discovered in 1998. The only diamond mine in America has yielded almost 23,000 stones since it opened in 1972.
The world's most expensive perfume was launched recently in England. It costs £47,500 (about US $70,000). The fragrance, called Parfum VI, is in a bottle made with platinum, 24-carat gold, rubies and diamonds. The box is locked with a gold and jewel-studded key. Michael Jackson has already ordered two and Mike Tyson three.
The Dresden Green is slightly smaller than the blue, 45-carat Hope. The two stones have intense color, became known in Europe at about the same time, and share similar histories. Both are believed to originate from India's Golconda Mines.
Russian Faberge Eggs|
The Russian show, "Kremlin Gold: 1,000 Years of Russian Gems and Jewels", will be on display the next 11 months in Houston and Chicago. Many of the pieces will have precious metals, inlaid gemstones and Byzantine religious icons. The collection also includes two Faberge eggs. Both were commissioned by Czar Nicholas II as gifts for his wife. One egg was built to commemorate the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1900. The railroad egg contains a working miniature model of the very first train to ride the route. It is cut in gold and platinum and made to be folded to the size of a matchbook. The small train's windows are made of quartz crystal, clear for most cars and dark for the smoking sections. The second egg is a 1909 tribute to the Romanovs' royal yacht, The Standart. This egg has 1,786 diamonds of varying size adorning a platform of gold, platinum and lapis lazuli. A precise model of the 350-foot yacht rides on an ocean of quartz carved with waves breaking off the tiny vessel's bow.
Some of the most unique diamonds and gemstones in the world reside within the walls of the Crown Jewels Museum, recently reopened in Teheran, Iran. The most impressive diamond is one of the world's largest light pink diamonds, the matchbox-sized Darya-e-Nur, or Sea of Light, estimated to weigh 182-185 carats. The "Samarian Spinel", a red spinel weighing 500 carats, is the largest known spinel in the world. Legend holds the spinel adorned the neck of the biblical golden calf, which the Israelites are said to have made while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. The museum also has a globe made in 1869 using 51,366 loose stones of the treasury and 75 pounds of gold. The oceans and the seas are set in emeralds. Asia, Iran, England and France are diamond-studded, India is made of rubies and Central and South America are in sapphires. Iranian monarchs began collecting rare and beautiful gems in 1502. The treasury was looted by Afghan invaders in 1735 and rebuilt by later kings. The treasures were utilized for collateral for government liabilities to the National Bank in 1937. The goods were later transferred from the Central Bank to the present vault in 1960. The museum also has a serious collection of locally mined turquoise, plus other diamonds, spinels, emeralds, and pearls.
Ohio Jewel Thief Swallows Bracelet
A 64-year-old man entered Leo Alfred Jewelers on April 18 and asked to see a selection of women's diamond tennis bracelets. Saleswoman Molly Pearce began showing him the choices. Finally, he said he would bring in his wife and let her choose. She was concerned that he might have palmed one. After he walked out the door, he started running. The saleswomen took the number of the license plate on his new red Lincoln Continental. The store owner realized a nine and a half carat, $17,000 diamond tennis bracelet was missing and called the police. The man was arrested less than a mile from the store. He was patted down and his car was searched, but nothing was found. Police diligently searched the side of the road. Still nothing! Dublin Detective Tom O'Malley noticed the suspect seemed to have a persistent cough and decided he must have swallowed it. An X-ray revealed the bracelet lodged in the man's throat. Police gave him ipecac to induce vomiting and up came the bracelet. The accused bandit was soon wearing a new bracelet - one that worked with a key.
Fed Ex Thief
A 34-year-old Federal Express worker was recently arrested near Seattle. The thief saw right through an attempt to disguise the package's destination. The phony mailing label read to "The Law Offices of Babbit and Albright". He recognized the address of a jeweler. He took extreme care to open the layers of packaging, dump out the goods and reseal the parcel. He was caught selling diamonds to a pawn shop. They paid him $600 for 50 diamonds worth about $25,000 wholesale. The Federal Express worker was believed to have stolen gems and precious metals from packages many times. Federal Express declined to comment on the case.
The stolen identities:
DeBeers Abandons Gem Price Controls
Sydney Morning Herald,May 31, 2000
"London: Diamond producer De Beers is to abandon its 60-year policy of attempting to stabilise supply and demand in the world gemstone trade and concentrate instead on mining and marketing. The move, sure to send shock waves through the industry, is to be announced on July 12. There will be fears of a re-run of the early 1930s, when gems flooded the market and prices collapsed, the event that led to the creation of the De Beers cartel. But it believes aggressive marketing by the industry as a whole is a better way to boost demand and soak up supply than the operation of what effectively has been a private monopoly.
The company's London-based Central Selling Organisation will cease mopping up spare diamond supplies around the world in order to hold up prices, and De Beers generally will abandon its role as international policeman for the industry. In years gone by, this has involved secret agents, freelance spies and an intelligence network spanning Europe and Africa. Now De Beers - shaken by the colossal expense of trying to stabilise the market during the 1990s - is to put its own shareholders first and aim instead to be the industry's "preferred supplier" rather than buyer and seller of last resort.
Research by Bain, the management consultancy, has shown that the advertising-to-sales ratio in the diamond business is just 1 per cent, against 10 per cent for most luxury products. The CSO will continue to function, but primarily as the marketing arm of De Beers, whose own mines produce about half the world's diamonds. In 1996, Australia's Argyle mine, the world's largest in terms of quantity, walked out of the De Beers cartel and by the end of the decade De Beers had effectively abandoned price support for the lowest-quality stones."
Look for increasing volatility and downward pressure in the white diamond markets. Editor
For comments, questions or price quotes E-mail NGC, Attn: R. Genis
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