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.
We traveled to an Emerald mine in Brazil with a group of people we were leading on a gem and mineral tour. The scene was straight out of a western in the 1850’s USA. A temporary “town” was set up along a rugged dirt road complete with bars, restaurants and general stores. Moto-cross motorcycles and 4 wheel-drive pickups had replaced horses and dark visqueen plastic replaced canvas to create tents but the people and their activities remained the same. Claims for miners were right next to each other. Many claims were in the little canyon we visited. With Emeralds being so valuable guns were everywhere and a bad accompaniment to the liquor sold in the bars. The day after our visit there was a shooting. No wonder that in Colombia there is a saying that the color of Emerald is red.
Where in the world is Emerald?
Emerald is a rare stone, especially in a good quality. However the following list is a list of places emerald has been found at one time or another. The extent of this list may qualify emerald as the rarest stone found in the most places. A good conundrum!
*Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
*Asia: Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Russia
*Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland
*South America: Brazil, Colombia
*North America: United States and Canada
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.
One of the most fun things I can imagine is buying gems in the rough uncut form. In the picture you can see a fabulous rough aquamarine crystal. In this case we’re talking about a piece almost 5 kilos in weight (11 pounds), about 20 inches tall and its worth (?)—priceless as a work of nature’s art. Not all rough aqua is this large, fabulous and crystal clear but when it is what a treasure to behold! Not all that long ago I was offered a parcel of rough (known in the trade as a “lot”) —also aquamarine—but even darker blue with wonderful crystal shapes. Some of the pieces in this lot were acid etched by acidified water in the surrounding soil. Acid etched crystals are often very shiny and can have curious shapes as compared with the more classic crystal form of aquamarine. It is unimaginably exciting to find a lot of rough gem material offered that I know, as a gem cutter, will cut into large, clean, top color gems—what a thrill that is. The best way to share this is to be able to pass them on to collector clients as the finished piece—either as a loose gem or in a piece of Laura designed jewelry.
This coming April yet another spectacular diamond will be at auction. This time the gem is a colorless stone of “D” color and is internally flawless. The auction this time will be held in New York at Sotheby’s. The gem is reported to weigh just over 100 carats and has been fashioned into an emerald cut (similar to the stone featured in the photo). Estimates of the price it will fetch are from $19 million USD to $25 million USD. If any of the recent auction results are predictive the price could well exceed the estimates. We will know soon.
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
A Netherlands architectural firm has designed a hotel to look like an Amethyst Geode—very much like the one in the picture. More so than we would have believed. When we found out about this we were incredulous. How would it function, how would it look (really)?
Below we have a link to a picture of the proposed hotel. We find that it looks like a true Amethyst Geode. Further investigation into this proposal is that the hotel will function quite well as a hotel and be remarkably beautiful.
The initial proposed site for the first hotel to look like this is in China. Given the building boom in China it is not surprising that the first Amethyst Geode like hotel will be there.
Gems are very inspiring to many people all over the world.
We have been singing the praises of cushion cut gems for many years. Now is appears that the world agrees as a record price for a Sri-Lankan sapphire was set on November 11 just past.
The sale was at auction held at Christie’s Geneva jewelry auction and the stone is known as the Blue Belle of Asia. The gem in question is reported to weigh in at 392.52 carats. The sale price was in excess of $17.7 million USD.
The sapphire in the photo is a cushion cut stone and looks remarkably similar in many ways to the Blue Belle. Of note about the Blue Belle is that its origin is Sri Lanka. So far in our experience truly large sapphires that are beautiful tend to come from Sri Lanka. Why? Many other sources of sapphire can tend to make great looking stones in more normal sizes but would be much too dark in giant sizes like the Blue Belle. Many large famous sapphires in museums and crown jewel collections that are notable for their size are from Sri Lanka. One such gem is the Star of India (mined in Sri Lanka) which is part of the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
During our trips to Sri Lanka many of the dealers would rhapsodize about fabulous outrageously large sapphires being sold from time to time and being slipped away and never seen again. I for one believe it. Not that these occurrences are common but certainly they have happened. Just imagine!!!