John and Laura Ramsey are two of the most well-known and respected names in the field of gemstones and jewelry.
They began their career in the wholesale gem and jewelry trade, visiting some of the world’s leading gem mining districts in Thailand, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and East Africa, and working one on one with private collectors who wanted dramatic and important gemstone jewelry and extensive loose gemstone portfolios.
From there, their journey expanded to television home shopping audiences in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, through which they gained millions of loyal “Gems at Large” viewers and other clients. To this day, they continue to hear from friends and customers about how grateful they are for their enviable and timeless collections.
As a team, John and Laura have created countless high-quality, custom jewelry pieces—a blending of John’s expertise in rare and exotic gemstones coupled with Laura’s exquisite talent for design.
They likewise co-wrote three books on the world of gemstones and travel, including The Collector/Investor Handbook of Gems, The Gem Collector’s Handbook, and Gem Chronicles: The Early Years, all of which continue to be sought after and consulted by gem enthusiasts worldwide.
In previous posts we have talked about the lighter orange color in Spessartite. The stone in the photo is another color variant of Spessartite. This other color is a nice red-orange. The red-orange color is more affordable but in large sizes as this example still quite unusual.
This stone, from a while ago in our lives, is about 36+ carats. From time to time we like to illustrate the fact that many times even the less expensive color in a gem can often be really quite beautiful. Gem collecting doesn’t have to be exclusively for the rich and famous. Delving in a little deeper, Spessartine is a variety of garnet. Garnet is a group of minerals. All garnets are silicates, crystalize in the isometric system and are singly refractive. People sometimes ask “why don’t you call it Spessartine garnet.” The question is best answered by an example. We don’t, for instance, call a Blue-Jay a “Blue-Jay bird” or an Eagle an “Eagle bird.” It is understood that a Blue-Jay and an Eagle are birds. The only difference is that most people are not familiar with Spessartine.
Indicolite is one of the two blue color tourmalines. The other color is Paraiba type tourmaline. We’ve mentioned in the past that Paraiba type tourmaline is the most expensive of the tourmaline colors. In recollection though Indicolite is probably rarer. We’ve seen only very few Indicolite gems over 5 carats of truly highest quality. We’ve seen and owned many more pieces of the Paraiba type by comparison.
The gem in the photo is a great 12+ carat example of Indicolite. Typically an Indicolite will tend to be a fairly dark color. The better examples will be a somewhat dark color but not too dark—like the one in the photo. The best Indicolite I’ve seen so far was a Brazilian stone of over 50 carats—and still not too dark. The fellow who owned the stone (back about 1985 or so) wanted what would amount to $1,500,000 in today’s dollars. It was exceptional.
For a gem dealer nothing takes the place of going to the mining areas. The two gems you see pictured are ones we found by going to the right place. The cut stone is one piece of a small lot of 3 pieces we bought many years ago in Brasil. The color is truly amazing and truly a collectible color. The stone is over 10 carats in weight. According to prices seen fairly recently for similar (but not quite as good) gems—it is worth several thousand dollars per-carat. This is a color and size and clarity in Imperial Topaz very seldom seen available for sale
A number of our established clients know about spinel. Spinel is a relatively unknown gem. It has been unknown at least partly because it is very rare. It is chemically related to corundum (ruby/sapphire) in that spinel and corundum both have aluminum as a major component. In corundum is largely aluminum while spinel has both magnesium and aluminum in it. Due to its rarity spinel can be quite expensive. Due to a lot of writing about spinel in the last 10 years people’s awareness of spinel is greater than ever driving up spinel prices even more. Even back in the 1980’s large red spinels could reach prices in the thousands of dollars per-carat. One example of that is the gem in the photo. The gem in the photo is a little over 12 carats. That gem came through our hands back in the mid-1980’s and at the time was worth about $3,000-per-carat. You can only imagine how much it is worth now!!!
Over the past years and especially over the past decade much has been written about spinel so there is at least some awareness of the gem. When we were first in the business spinel was only known to come from Sri-Lanka and Southeast Asia—found amongst the ruby and sapphire deposits. Since that time some wonderful gems have come from East Africa and the Pamir mountains in Central Asia—a mountain range in confluence with the Himalayas.
June is always a great month—sunshine, flowers, school is out, and Alexandrite is its birthstone (shared with Pearl that is).
Rarity is one of the hallmarks of gems. All gems are rare. For instance and by comparison gold is about 30+ dollars per gram. The most affordable gems match and surpass that easily (Amethyst, Citrine, and Red Garnet). Gold owes its price to its rarity. If gold were as available as iron or aluminum its price would also be per-ton and not per-ounce.
If rarity is a big deal in this world then Alexandrite (natural Alexandrite) is way underpriced even at prices I’ve seen listed. The prices I’ve seen large fine Alexandrite listed at wholesale would extrapolate to between $50,000 and $100,000 PER-CARAT retail—or more.
For our first 15 years in the business there was almost no quantity of good Alexandrite in the market. There were a number of stones from time to time mined in Sri Lanka that might be OK for size and clarity but their color ranged from dark muddy brown to dark muddy green. Not exciting. However, in 1987 there was a miraculous discovery of Alex (we’re friends now) in Nova Era, Brasil. Luckily we were in Brasil several times that year and got to see and buy large amazing Alexandrite gems in quantity. It was the proverbial kid in a candy store experience.
At the turn of this century there was a discovery of Alexandrite in India. This was welcome since the material from Brasil was largely out of the general market by then. The gem in the photo is from the Indian find.
Sunstone from Oregon has been a fun item for us for many years. We worked directly with the miners back in the day and had great times out at the mines. The mines are located in a mis-named Plush, Oregon. The main living beings there are sagebrush, jack rabbits, kangaroo rats* and coyotes. But the Sunstone makes it all worthwhile. Like the one in the photo. We have a nice collection of those stones and love them a lot.
Sunstone is a Feldspar and a very special one at that. Most Feldspar stones are either opaque, translucent or industrial abrasive quality. Of the transparent Feldspar stones most are an unattractive straw yellow that nobody gets too excited about. Oregon Sunstones can produce marvelous gems of red, green, bi-color red/green, salmon and so forth. A good collection has them all. In addition to the colors some of the stones have hematite inclusions that appear gold in color and which line up in beautiful ways.
*Actually the kangaroo rats are quite cute and fun. If naturalists had given them a different name (minus “rats”) they would enjoy some popularity. They come out at night and will beg food at the campfire. Being nocturnal they have great big eyes and have a pretty fawn colored fur. As the kangaroo nickname implies their hind legs are quite large and they can jump amazingly high for their size. They move at times as if they are on a string and make movements that seem impossible and which make a person laugh out loud.
Just a glance at the accompanying photo and you understand why these relative newcomers became so popular so quickly. Tanzanite and Tsavorite were both “discovered” in 1967. In 1967 these gems from East Africa were brought to the attention of European and American gem buyers and quickly caught on. Why—the color of each has so much immediate eye-appeal.
Tsavorite is much more rare that Tanzanite and comes in smaller sizes. So, Tsavorite has never been quite as well known. Also, Tsavorite has always brought much higher prices—size for size in comparison. But think about it. Tsavorite is a green garnet. That is very exciting. At least 100 years earlier a green garnet was discovered in Russia. That gem is Demantoid Garnet. Demantoid is a different type of garnet with its own interesting properties.
Tanzanite hit the world with an almost sonic boom. The color and the comparatively larger sizes were an instant hit. At the time Tanzanite made it to Europe and the USA sapphire of good color was almost impossible to find. Tanzanite was initially promoted as a Sapphire substitute. However, the look of Tanzanite is distinctly different and unique. Having its own “look” has put Tanzanite in the position of being appreciated for its own sake. Sapphire in good colors and clarity and size is still an expensive proposition but does have the advantage of being 9 in hardness and suitable for daily wear.
Discussing the trade-offs between gems brings us to one issue of being a collector. Just like a mom loves all her kids a gem collector loves all the gems—differently but equally.
In our recent post on Rubellite there were some follow up questions about the color of Rubellite. First of all different countries seem to have different understandings on the subject. The round stone pictured in this post may help us towards clarity. In almost any country other than the USA this stone, despite being pink, would be called Rubellite. There are country-specific perceptions regarding desirable color in gems and the names attached to them as well. Why some people would name this very pink gem a Rubellite is due to the type of tourmaline crystal that would produce this stone. Rubellite crystals tend to look different from other types of tourmaline crystals. In addition to a lighter color gem, as in this picture, a Rubellite mine will also produce darker Rubellite crystals–when a mine happens to be producing. A pink Rubellite will generally be a more pure pink than other pink tourmaline gems. Almost all other types of pink tourmaline will have at least ever so slight to significant brownish overtones and have the possibility of being very clean to flawless. So it’s a choice of color vs. clarity. So far color has won—Rubellite has always been more expensive than pink Tourmaline.
As we mentioned in the last post the darker color of Rubellite as compared with Emerald tends to obscure the inclusions so that many Rubellite gems do really show a lot of inclusions to the naked eye. As you can see in this post’s photo the lighter color does not cover the inclusions and they are quite readily visible.
Writing just recently about emerald it made me think about Rubellite. Rubellite just like Emerald is considered to be a Type 3 gemstone. Type 3 gemstones are known for their having eye visible inclusions. The fact of Rubellite and Emerald is this: if a person wants the beautiful color of these 2 gemstones they have to put up with the inclusions. We think it is worth it!!! One of the differences between Rubellite and Emerald is that many Rubellite gemstones are dark enough that the inclusions are not readily seen. What is seen is the amazing red color and some nice reflectivity from the bottom facets—beauty, all beauty.
Some people might wonder why I did not use the term Rubellite Tourmaline. That is due to the fact that Rubellite is a color of tourmaline. “Rubellite Tourmaline” is a redundant term. In any case Rubellite is a favorite gem of mine. Rubellite was my first important color in tourmaline. Early on in my career I was able to cut some Rubellite from one of the tourmaline mines in Southern California shortly after a nice pocket of it was found. This coincided with my entry into the gem business. This was in the early 70’s. Much of this material was heavily flawed as is much of the Rubellite ever found in the world. This is true of Rubellite and certain colors of Pink tourmaline.
I was lucky enough to participate in most of the big Rubellite finds throughout the world, one way or another, since the early 70’s. Southern California, Newry Maine, Jonas Limas (Minas Gerais, Brazil, late 70’s), Goais Brazil (early 80’s), Afghanistan (early 80’s), Nigeria (2000-2001), Mozambique 2010, and Undisclosed find happening right now. While each of these finds was Rubellite, each of them was a slightly different color. California material was quite pink, Jonas Limas was a little purple, Goais Brazil was very red but a little too dark in all but a few gems, Afghanistan was a little light and a little pink, Nigeria was perhaps the biggest quantity and best color overall—quite red, Mozambique was a little purple and Undisclosed is quite nice.
About 2 ½ months ago we wrote about an upcoming sale of a 100 ct. D/Flawless diamond at auction. Just last week the sale happened at Sotheby’s in New York. Reports are that the stone sold for a little over $22 million USD. The auction estimate was between $19 and $25 million. So, the stone’s final sale price exceeded the $19 million low end. In the last few years a number of high flying diamond sales have gone over the high estimate but not this time. Our only guess as to why is that 2 of the reputed 3 sources of ultra-high customers have their wealth based on oil which has had a price drop over the past few months. Compared with some other great gems it seems in some sense that the buyer got a bargain. A bargain few people can afford—that’s true—but a bargain nonetheless.
The good news is that the lower oil prices may very well help out the already strong U.S. economy. That is news more important to most of us who live here in the USA. Every time oil has climbed in the past 40 years economists have likened the price hike to a tax increase. Well then, it must be that lower oil prices can be likened to a tax cut for Americans. How great that is.
During the past 7 years colored diamonds have sold for much more per-carat at the major auctions than have white diamonds. The Pink Star “sold” at Sotheby’s for over $83 million. True, the sale fell through but the stone is now valued at $72 million. The Wittlesbach-Graff blue diamond sold for $31 million in 2008 when the financial sky was falling. The stone known prior to that sale was known simply as the Wittlesbach diamond. The famous jeweler Graff bought it in 2008, had the stone re-cut which improved its shape and color and then added a hyphen and his last name to the stone. Reports are that Graff resold the stone in 2011 for $80 million to the then ruler of Qatar.
Continuing with the adventures in colored diamonds the Graff Pink sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 for $46 million and the Christie’s Perfect Pink sold in 2010 for $23+ million.
It seems that the fancy colored diamonds have finally found their true place in the gemstone hierarchy.
The gem in our photo is an emerald cut diamond similar in many aspects of its appearance to the one in the story.