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.
Hi Again, a lot of people were asking about the color of Emeralds from different locations. The following was from an earlier blog post and covers a lot of that territory. I would like to add as a preface to what follows that many great stones have come from locations that are not well thought of in general. Good stones can come from many mines. This is true of Emerald but also of Tourmaline, Sapphire, Ruby and so forth. While generalizations are possible, specific stones can go against the generalizations and be truly wonderful or simply different. Hope you enjoy the additional discussion…..JR
Gems At Large® Blog May 2012 John and Laura Ramsey
Emerald— the May birthstone
by John Ramsey for Gems At Large®
What is emerald—emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl. Emerald is vibrant green variety of beryl usually colored by Chromium. In other colors beryl has other names. The blue color for beryl is aquamarine. Pink and peach beryl is Morganite. Yellow and golden beryl is heliodor. Red beryl is Bixbite and so far has only been found in Utah. Colorless beryl is called Goshenite. Chemically, beryl is a Beryllium-Aluminum Silicate. As mentioned emerald gets its green color from Chromium. There has been an addition to “emerald” of green gems colored by Vanadium but the classic emerald look comes from Chromium rich beryl. Interestingly, the red in ruby is caused by Chromium as well. Emerald is a type 3 gemstone according to GIA terminology and therefore can be expected to have eye visible inclusions.
Where emerald comes from—a fair question that people ask is “where do emeralds come from.” In a later paragraph we will show you a lot of the countries of the world where emeralds have been found from time to time. However, the real question people have has to do with current production in commercial quantities. Right now South America seems to be the production king of emeralds. Colombia is now known as the source for the most coveted emeralds. The color of the best Colombian emeralds and the fine transparency of the crystals from Colombia make them the quality king. What is it about the color of Colombian emeralds that people love? Well, first we have to talk about the color green. Green is a secondary color. Secondary colors are made from primary colors. In the case of green the primary colors are blue and yellow. Green can tip towards more blue or more yellow. Grass green, for instance, has more yellow in it when compared with the more bluish green of a fir tree. In the case of Colombian emeralds, the slightly bluish green tends to be very pure and not complicated by any over-tones of other colors—blue + yellow + no additional overtones = a very beautiful Colombian emerald green. That being said even within the production of Colombian emeralds there are color and quality differences. From Chivor the emeralds are slightly more bluish green and from Muzo the emeralds are slightly more yellowish green. But taken as a whole Colombian emerald is slightly more bluish than emerald from Russia. Prior to the ascendency of Colombian emeralds to the pinnacle of desirability Russian stones were considered the best. There may be some debate over this issue still. That debate would occur primarily in Europe.
For the first 15 years or so of my career in gems Brazil was known for producing emeralds in the state of Bahia—generally very poor quality emeralds. Then in the 1980’s there were two discoveries of emerald in Brazil: Santa Terezinha, Goais and Nova Era, Minas Gerais. Interestingly both of these discoveries produced emeralds of startling beauty. Some of the best stones of Nova Era rivaled gems from Colombia—maybe not the finest from Colombia—but Nova Era gems can be beautiful. Santa Terezinha emeralds have distinctly more yellow than Colombian stones but have a uniquely undeniable beauty.
But let’s not leave out African gems. Zambia has produced lots and lots of large attractive gems. Usually in my experience though the Zambian stones have a color that is marred by overtones of gray. But the Zambian stones can be large and relatively clean and truly lovely in the better quality.
Well–Sapphire is not alone in having a cushion cut gem set records. On January 27th we wrote about the record setting cushion cut Ceylon Sapphire of just under 300 carats. This past November 12th a cushion cut ruby set a record price for a ruby. The ruby in question is known as the Graff Ruby. It sold for over $8.6 million USD. It was sold by the jeweler Graff to a collector who later put it up for sale. Graff bought the stone back again at auction saying more or less that it is the best ruby on the planet. So buying it made sense. This story brings up a great point. Truly great gems are rare and from the standpoint of fine colored gems this is abundantly clear. There is a truly magnificent star ruby in the collection at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. Years ago a Southern California person of wealth put out a call to find one that fit the same description. From what I know she was got skunked. Hmmm. Fine color is indeed hard to find. At times impossible. What I know after all these years is that I’ve really only regretted two things with regards to merchandise: 1. Selling items that are irreplaceable and 2. Not buying items that later proved to be irreplaceable. Were there ever real regrets on purchases—not really. It is always the elusive nature of fine gems that makes a person say “I wish I’d kept that piece” or “I should have bought that darn piece”—“doggone it, I let it get away!!!”
Back to the Graff Ruby—the stone by comparison to the earlier mentioned Sapphire is quite small. Rubies are smaller. At 8.62 carats the Graff Ruby is in fact mounted in a ring and quite wearable—hope those prongs hold!!! The gems in the picture are cushion cut ruby to give you an idea of what a cushion cut ruby looks like. The actual Graff stone has sides that do not bow quite as much.
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
Amethyst is different than many other gems. Why? Because amethyst is beautiful in many of its colors—high grade and lesser grade. Many gems in their less expensive colors are not very attractive—beer bottle green tourmaline, straw yellow diamonds, overly dark greenish blue sapphire, grayish-purple rubies. And the list goes on.
Amethyst is different in that many of the more affordable colors are quite attractive.
The darker more expensive color of amethyst is wonderful as you can see in the photo but the lighter more affordable color is quite attractive as well—it’s all good!
The difference in price can be quite astounding. Based just on color (not counting size, clarity, or cut) the price difference can be as much as 2,000%. I am speaking of the at the source price—not retail which can vary for other reasons.
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!!!
We’ve shown a lot of garnet photos over the past few weeks. One of our favorite garnets is Tsavorite which many Gems At Large aficionados know is named after Tsavo National Park in Kenya. We’ve been in Kenya buying rough Tsavorite as early as 1977—directly from the mine owners. I remember cutting some of my first experiences cutting Tsavorite go back even further to as early as 1974—not that long after its original discovery. Commercial mining of Tsavorite is reported to have begun only in 1971.
What a beautiful color of green we get to see in Tsavorite. Tsavorite is a color variety of grossular garnet—which is a calcium rich garnet. Initially gemologists assumed that the green color was caused by chromium as is the green color in Emerald and Demantoid garnet. Oops. It turned out that it is vanadium that gives Tsavorite its color.
There are still a lot of people who are surprised that garnets might come in color other than red. We’ve done our best to spread the word and have developed a lot of fans who love the varied colors available in the garnet family. The piece in the photo is a priceless mineral specimen of a Demantoid garnet. Demantoid garnet was discovered originally in Russia where some of the gems are still found. The Russian stones tend to be a very nice green similar to the color of certain Tsavorite garnets found in East Africa. Tsavorite is a color variety of grossularite garnet and the name is somewhat a marketing name.
The photo of the mineral specimen shows very nicely what a garnet crystal looks like if well-formed and not damaged while waiting in the ground for a lucky miner. The mineral specimen shown is from the Ala Valley in Italy and was the premier piece found there, The entire specimen is about 2.5 inches high and remarkable for the fact that the crystals are so perfect and nicely polished by nature. As well the piece is amazing for the fact that the garnets sit on their original matrix in which they were formed.