The gem in the photo is pretty much the ultimate Santa Maria Aquamarine. A few years ago this stone came into our hands—literally—and amazed us all. A fellow I know in Brasil owns one of the mines in the mining district which produces the Santa Maria Aquamarine of fame. He made this stone available and WOW what a stone! It is about 11+ carats and about the most intense aquamarine blue we’ve seen to date. Now, that being said there is a pretty wide range of color produced from those mines down to some colors more normally found in the aquamarine range. Natural products are like that: unique gifts from Nature all according to what was happening in the Earth at the time. If that stone were available in today’s current market it would be for sale for many times the asking price of when it was produced. Why??? There was production back then and several mines and miners were active. Since then many have given up. Mines in that mining district seem to be a lot like slot machines. Put the money in and you may or may not get a reward. Many times we’ve heard about miners giving up after running out of capital and the next guy in at the mine hits a big pocket of gems right after he starts up. What a business….
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.
In previous posts we have talked about the lighter orange color in Spessartite. The stone in the photo is another color variant of Spessartite. This other color is a nice red-orange. The red-orange color is more affordable but in large sizes as this example still quite unusual.
This stone, from a while ago in our lives, is about 36+ carats. From time to time we like to illustrate the fact that many times even the less expensive color in a gem can often be really quite beautiful. Gem collecting doesn’t have to be exclusively for the rich and famous. Delving in a little deeper, Spessartine is a variety of garnet. Garnet is a group of minerals. All garnets are silicates, crystalize in the isometric system and are singly refractive. People sometimes ask “why don’t you call it Spessartine garnet.” The question is best answered by an example. We don’t, for instance, call a Blue-Jay a “Blue-Jay bird” or an Eagle an “Eagle bird.” It is understood that a Blue-Jay and an Eagle are birds. The only difference is that most people are not familiar with Spessartine.
For a gem dealer nothing takes the place of going to the mining areas. The two gems you see pictured are ones we found by going to the right place. The cut stone is one piece of a small lot of 3 pieces we bought many years ago in Brasil. The color is truly amazing and truly a collectible color. The stone is over 10 carats in weight. According to prices seen fairly recently for similar (but not quite as good) gems—it is worth several thousand dollars per-carat. This is a color and size and clarity in Imperial Topaz very seldom seen available for sale
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.
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.
One of the most elusive gems listed as a birthstone is aquamarine. March babies are lucky to have such a wonderful gem as their birthstone on the one hand yet true aquamarine can be difficult and many times very expensive to acquire. You will find in the accompanying picture one lot of cut aquamarine in the manner often used by dealers to show to other dealers in loose gems. Note the distance between gems—to keep chipping from happening. Note the different cuts in the lot. Gem rough is so rare and expensive that gems have to be cut according to the piece of rough the cutter is fashioning from rough to cut. The color of this lot is exceptional. Years ago this was a fairly normal (never common) sight in the great aqua mining regions of Brazil. Not so much anymore.
The size of the pieces is also, always a big issue. Smaller aqua gems like smaller diamonds are always much more in supply than larger stones. Smaller aqua gems are currently available enough that they can be cut into calibrated stones which will fit into standard mountings or in mountings produced in quantity. Calibration is done in millimeters (the gem business being international uses the metric system). Smaller and popular calibrated sizes include 6x4mm, 7x5mm and 8x6mm.
We, at Gems At Large, have been amongst the few who have produced calibrated aquamarine in larger sizes. For many of our larger more exotic rings and pendants we have produced calibrated aqua up to 20x15mm (about ¾ of an inch by just over ½ of an inch). During the past few years however the rough to produce the larger calibrated sizes has just not been coming out of the Brazilian mines. Buying colored stones teaches a person about seizing an opportunity. What we can buy and sell this year may not be available next year. Aquamarine is truly an example of this phenomenon. When great aqua is available and at a fair price—we know to jump all over it!!!