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.
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.