Last post everybody loved the picture of the rough-uncut Morganite crystal. We decided to add in another photo of rough Morganite. This time you can see the more normal orange color that a lot of Morganite displays coming out of the ground. From certain mines the color is intense enough that cut stones show a nice color as-is. Some people like the peachy color. If you take these stones and put them out in the sun—especially a hot Brazilian sun—they will turn pink. Many people like the pink color. The pink color is stable and will not turn a different color in the sun. If a person wants to accelerate the color change from Peach to Pink all you have to do is put the stones in a kiln. Run the kiln up to about 900` and turn it off. This simply accelerates a natural process and is accepted and well known in the gem trade.
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.
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 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.
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!!!
To see a photo of the Blue Belle here is a link: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/jewelry/a-spectacular-sapphire-and-diamond-necklace-5844924-details.aspx
By the way— the Blue Belle is about the size of a normal door-knob!!!
All our best—J&L
The best Rhodolite garnets are truly amazing to see. Especially in the bigger sizes. The stone in the photo is a 44+ carat amazing gem. This particular stone was mined in Sri Lanka which produces some unexpected gem varieties in its gem gravels. “Gem gravels” you say? Yes, lots of the gems found in Sri Lanka are in alluvial deposits where the stones are truly in gravel form and all rounded and stream worn.
From Sri Lanka we’ve obtained many different types of gems: Star Sapphires (both blue and pink), Rhodolite garnets, Cat’s-eye chrysoberyl, Alexandrite, Blue sapphire, Pink sapphire, “Common” chrysoberyl, Cat’s-eye alexandrite, Andalusite, Yellow sapphire, and Spessartite (garnet). Not bad for a little Island down at the tip of India.
One more thing. A couple of the meals we’ve experienced in Sri Lanka were some of the best anywhere in a long lifetime of world travel. Our first Chai tea experience was in Sri Lanka in 1981. They are ahead of their time!
Some years ago, maybe 10 or 15, a movement began to make Tanzanite a birthstone option for December babies. The other two older options while perfectly great gems had not quite captured the desire quotient of other months’ birthstones. Tanzanite has been a big hit with the public almost from the beginning. Take a look at the Tanzanite in the photo—big, great color, clean and well cut. What could be lovelier?
Note that the gem in the picture has a nicely and fully saturated color. That is a sign of a higher quality gem. It also is a stone of decent size at over 12 carats. Mmmm!
Tanzanite is a one-location gemstone being found, so far, only in one mining area in Tanzania (hence the name). As a gem, Tanzanite was discovered in 1967. I was lucky to be cutting Tanzanite early on in 1973. As of 1973 word was getting out about Tanzanite but still back in the day information was slow making its way around the world—no TV home shopping, no internet, no digital photography.