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.
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.
We’ve all heard from time to time the term Price Point. Mostly this is a trade term used in business to business talk. People in many businesses try to “hit a price point.” It is a fact that it is possible to crank the cash register more frequently with more affordable items. Unfortunately in many cases this means cheapening a product until it really is not as good as we all might want. How many products have we all bought that seem like a great deal due to an attractive price only to regret the lack of quality—clothing that lasts only a wearing or two, a water faucet that lasts only a year or two, and on and on. I’ll bet that we could generate thousands of examples amongst ourselves. Our goal with Gems At Large® has always been to put quality ahead of price. Look at the difference between the two rings in the photos. The light weight flimsy looking ring is a stock photo of what we would call a “price-point” ring. The shank is so flimsy it is what we refer to as a dental floss shank—so light weight and flimsy that a good firm hand shake would seemingly bend it into a different shape. The nice looking other ring is a Gems At Large® ring. In the Gems At Large® ring quality was the first consideration. Of course in the Gems At Large® ring cost more—it didn’t hit a price point. It achieved what we, here at Gems At Large® have come to call a Quality Point™.
There are plenty of places to buy price point merchandise. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to find and enjoy Quality Point™ gems and jewelry. Our goal is to make quality available–as affordably as we can–with our years traveling the world seeking and finding world quality gems and jewelry.
Another word important here is “value.” Value is actually irrespective of price. An item of good value is one that is priced fairly for what it is. An item may have a low price and still be a poor value if it is not even worth the low price. On the other hand an item may be quite expensive and still be a good value—if it is worth the price paid.
Andalusite is strange and beautiful and really quite hard to find in larger sizes. Andalusite is notable for a very strong pleochroism with a different color associated with each of 3 different crystal axes. Note the different colors in the gems in the photo. Also note the rough, uncut gems in the background.
For a number of years, years ago, we had a wholesale client who was anxious to buy all the larger sizes of Andalusite we could supply. His demand lasted quite a while. What a wild around the world chase he started. That first year on a trip to Sri Lanka we found one very beautiful Andalusite cut gem that was very large at over ten carats. And then—no more Andalusite in Sri Lanka on subsequent trips.
Later that year on a trip to Brazil we encountered a fellow that had some rough Andalusite. He wasn’t officially in the gem business but his main business took him by some Andalusite mines in the state of Espiritu Santo. These mines were worked as side businesses by coffee growers. Their coffee plantations were very remote and nobody visited the growers and the growers didn’t visit anybody—except for Valdomir. Valdomir sold chemical fertilizer to the coffee growers and had to visit them regularly. He was their access to the world and the man who could bring their Andalusite to the market. For a few years back then Valdomir dominated the Andalusite business and we had an exclusive with Valdomir.
One of the best things about that quest for Andalusite was getting to know the state of Espiritu Santo. The capital of that state is Vitória. Vitória is one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine. The setting is a lot like Rio de Janeiro but without the city sprawl. There are the large inselbergs similar to Sugar Loaf and Mount Corcovado, a beautiful bay and relatively fewer people.
There are some things which are too exciting to sit around and wait to talk about. Aqua for March is one such item. If you’re one of the millions of people who saw James Cameron’s Avatar you might recall that what the bad guys are after is called “unobtanium.” Unobtainium (note the different spelling)* has been used in literature as “any fictional, extremely rare, costly, or impossible material.” This last definition according to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Hmmm, seems to me that we’ve been dealing for years, in the gem business, in unobtainium—for millennia. Take for example the aquamarine in the photo. At over 70 carats and top color please just try to find its equal. Eventually over a few years of looking it might be possible.
A few years ago we were looking for a similar gem for a client while attending the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. We, of course, know the biggest and best aqua dealers in the world. There was nothing that year in top color available over about 10-12 carats. The mines had simply not been producing.
Of course, the truly fun thing about the gem business is that an item impossible to find today might pop up in a mine somewhere tomorrow. Lots of adventure!!!
The aqua in the pendant at a high end retailer who would carry such a piece would easily charge over $350,000 for the stone or more. But really, based on its rarity it should be more.
*The movie used one spelling and general fiction has used the other