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.
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 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!!!
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.
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!
Amongst other items on display is the most expensive piece of jewelry ever made specifically for a movie: the “Satine” necklace worn by Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.
Other pieces include a stunning diamond brooch worn by Cate Blanchett to the Oscars, and a star-studded ring worn by world-renowned fashion designer Catherine Martin.
Having gems and jewelry on display at museums is a worldwide phenomenon. Of course if you’re visiting down under be on the lookout for displays of opal–the gem that made Australia famous. The last statement my opinion solely. But what else would a gem aficionado say?
Close-up photos of jewelry: Andrew Murray, Daily Mail Australia
The photo we’ve included in this posting is a good example of a really great sapphire. What makes is so beautiful and appreciated the world around? First of all there is what it is not. It is not so pale a color that we would say “who cares?” Secondly, the photo shows a stone that is not so dark that we would say “who cares?” What we are showing in the photo is a “Goldilocks” sapphire that is “just right” when it comes to depth of color. Not too dark, not to light. Next we have a stone that is not hampered by a lot of eye visible inclusions. The gem in the photo is relatively “clean” and flaw free. The combination of a just right color and good clarity give us the opportunity of seeing nice reflections off of the back facets while we are looking down into the stone from the top. The gem in the photo is relatively well cut and that is another reason we’re getting some nice reflections off the back facets. Color, clarity and cut…3 out of the 4 “C’s”. The only thing left is the size (weight in carats). Well, we’ll leave that to the imagination this time….Is it 1 carat, 5 carats, 50 carats? Might as well dream………