VOL. 13, #3, Fall, 1995

New Mandarin Orange Garnet, International Market Updates: Diamond, Colombia, Burma, Kashmir, Import Stats, Privacy Section, GemNET Newsletter, GIA Colored Stone System

  Sep 29, 1995   admin


TABLE OF CONTENTS


NEW MANDARIN ORANGE GARNET: AN EXCELLENT SPECULATION?

By Robert Genis

In 1993, a new spessartine orange garnet was discovered in Namibia, Africa. Although the first mine is still operating, a second mine was recently discovered 18 miles south.

Let's analyze this new gem:

GEOLOGY
Garnet is not really a single mineral, but a group of similar minerals known as the garnet group. All garnets are silicates that differ in chemical compositions, but have similar atomic structures. Red garnet is the birthstone for January and it can be purchased very inexpensively. Garnets are discovered in numerous colors, including green to purple, brown to red, and numerous varieties including color-change. They are 61/2 to 7 in hardness, with no cleavage. Occasionally, cabachons are found which produce a 4-rayed or 6-rayed star.

Many garnets cross species lines. However, there are six major types of garnets:

  1. Pyrope- The finest resembles ruby and most are usually blood red in color. Relatively common. These gems are usually carried by jewelers in the $5.00 to $10.00 per carat range.
  2. Almandine- This inexpensive red garnet is usually the most common red gem seen in jewelry. It ranges from dark red to brownish red. The finer grades are indistinguishable from pyrope. These stones are often found in inexpensive jewelry from $20 to $50 per carat.
  3. Spessartine- An uncommon garnet. Usually ranges from reddish brown to yellow-orange. This is the species of the new mandarin.
  4. Grossular- As most readers of The Gemstone Forecaster already know, this is the species that includes tsavorite. This species is known for its high dispersion which results in gems (if properly cut) that possess tremendous color and brilliance.
  5. Andradite- This is the species of the most rare and expensive of all garnets, the demantoid. Demantoid is scarce and in constant demand by all collectors.
  6. Uvarovite- This garnet comes deep green in color, is extremely rare, and only small gems exist.

HISTORY
Garnet is an ancient gem, known thousand of years before Christ. It was originally known as "carbuncle". Garnets are supposed to have curative powers, especially against fevers. The wearer of garnets is supposed to be protected during traveling and kept in good health. Garnet comes from the Latin word "granatus", which means "like seeds", because garnets in rock look like seeds in a pomegranate. The Victorian Era used reddish garnets in low-cost jewelry, thus popularizing the gem but giving it its cheap image.

MINING
The mining of the new mandarin garnet is extremely difficult. The nearest water supply is four hours away by truck. The gem occurs in strata that curves into a mountain. The surface stones are weathered, dull, and included. As miners follow the strata down the mountain, they get involved in hard rock mining. This is where the gems are brighter, cleaner, and purer in color.

THE MARKET TODAY
Typically, smaller stones tend to be much lighter orange than the larger gems. The hottest demand is for gems in the one to three carat ranges, which sell between $250-750 per carat. The smaller calibrated gems sell from $100-200 per carat. The owners predict these new gems will soon be marketed on home shopping networks, which will should raise its visibility and demand.

The original mine is now producing small gems, about 500-1000 carats per month. These stones offer the greatest profit to the mine. However, one Japanese buyer is presently purchasing all of this material. Japanese consumers have always preferred orange and yellow gems. Gems over one carat are harder and more expensive to discover. In a nutshell, any clean mandarin over one carat is rare. There probably will not be enough production to allow this stone to be a jewelry store staple. Since there is not enough large, clean gems, it will probably only be prized as a collector's gem.

Presently, it is custom jewelers or artisans that are buying these stones. The prices of the goods are too high for the orange garnet to be used in mass production jewelry. One advantage of this gem is that typically it is being cut to reflect its maximum beauty, rather than its maximum yield. Since the gem is expensive to mine and cut, look for prices to remain stable or increase. Finally, these gems are not heated or irradiated. There is no stone that precedes this orange gem in brilliance. This is a true pure orange stone, and can best be described as what every orange diamond wished it look like. Mandarin garnet should have a vivid electric orange color. Mandarin should not have noticeable brown. It looks similar to a top quality flame orange Burma spinel, but the tone is lighter. It also looks like a top quality orange sapphire.

For new collectors, this is an excellent way to begin your portfolio without investing large sums of money. What other serious collector gem can you buy for under $1000? For those of you with complete gem portfolios, you might want to speculate and purchase at least one of these gems. There is little downside to owning this beautiful mandarin orange garnet. This stone may become the next tsavorite, tanzanite, chrome tourmaline, or Burma spinel. If you are looking to diversify your portfolio, feel free to contact National Gemstone at 1-800-458-6453. The mandarin orange is one of the hottest new stones in the market.


INTERNATIONAL MARKET UPDATES

DIAMONDS
This is the year DeBeers must renegotiate with Russia (9 million carats), Australia (40 million carats), and Botswana (16 million carats). The following is a country by country report:

RUSSIA
According to a recent shareholder meeting in Russia, the Russian diamond distribution company Almazy-Rossii-Sakha (ARS) disclosed it made $800 million in profits in 1994. Total sales were $2 billion, a 22% increase. About $1 billion was sold to DeBeers and the balance outside the Cartel. Most of the $2 billion was supposed to be sold through DeBeers.

DeBeers believes they can reach an agreement with Russia before the end of the year. The Cartel wants an end to "outside sales", Russian diamond cutters to get their goods from DeBeers in London rather than from Russia, and an end to joint polishing operations with western companies. Russia wants to sell more goods outside the Cartel, to sell more goods to its diamond cutters, and seats on the DeBeers board. A major hurdle is DeBeers must negotiate with three Russian entities- ARS, which oversees mining and new production and an organization that likes to cooperate with DeBeers, Komdragmet, which maintains the Russian stockpile and openly sells outside DeBeers and is proud of its independence from DeBeers, and the Sakha Province, site of the diamonds, which has its own agencies. Komdragmet has two problems. First, the Russian government is investigating a missing $88 million worth of diamonds. Also, Russia's diamond mines are aging and in need of repair and upgrading. New production has declined 40% since 1986. Unless drastic action is taken, production may decrease dramatically in the next two years, and remain depressed for the next 10 years. Many believe if it was not for the Russian stockpile, DeBeers would rehabilitate Russia's mines for long-term control. The problem of not renewing the contract has caused tremendous uncertainty in the diamond/financial markets.

AUSTRALIA
More than half of Australia's 40 million carats of diamonds are industrial quality. They are sitting in the DeBeers vaults in London with no end of production in sight.

BOTSWANA
This country has a 50/50 partnership with DeBeers. They produce 16 million carats per year worth $1.5 billion. They presently have a $500 million stockpile of fine goods.

NAMIBIA
In 1994, DeBeers gave the country 1/2 interest in the diamond mines for a 25 year mining rights, including offshore. When Namibia gained independence in 1990, most analysts figured the government would nationalize the diamond mines. Analysts criticized the deal because Namibia put up no money. Many speculate the reason DeBeers agreed to the deal was for the offshore rights. Geologists contend there are a half-billion carats in the sea.

SOUTH AFRICA
Due to the new Venetia mine, South Africa is a resurging diamond producer. South Africa now represents 20% of DeBeers' assets. Nelson Mandella and the ANC have ruled out nationalizing the mines.

ZAIRE
Zaire is practically shut down due to the Civil War. Official production has fallen to half of 1990 levels, or 4.8 million carats. DeBeers is having a tough time supplying the 500 miners and their families in the remote diamond fields. Local militia hijack the convoys.

ANGOLA
Angola's production is totally shut down. During the lull of the decades-long civil war in 1992, thousands of ex-soldiers invaded the diamond districts. They mined about $1 billion of diamonds, which DeBeers was forced to buy. UNITA, a rebel group, now controls the diamond area, but it is too dangerous to mine.

CANADA
One proven mine has been discovered below the Arctic circle. It is projecting 2 million carats per year of small, high quality diamonds in about three years. This company, BHP/Diamet wants nothing to do with DeBeers. If more mines come on-line, Canada could be a problem.

LIKELY OUTCOME
Are the days of DeBeers Cartel coming to an end? DeBeers will undoubtedly be the major force, but new power sharing arrangements will probably be the result of the new realities. DeBeers will be more like a producer's cooperative, rather than a marketing cartel. Large mining blocs like Russia, Australia, and Canada are already forming. Large companies like BHP and Kennecott could easily buy large controlling interest in DeBeers stock and demand concessions. These deep pocket companies are sophisticated financially. The days of DeBeers maintaining total control over small third-world African countries are probably over.


MORE DIAMOND NEWS

UNITED STATES
A five carat plus synthetic yellow diamond was recently graded in the GIA lab. Recent reports on Dateline NBC have discussed these new synthetics. Tom Chatham says he will market white synthetics within the next year. The GIA has proposed to the diamond industry a special synthetic diamond fund. The purpose of the fund will be to create an instrument to easily detect the difference between synthetics and naturals.

PRICE INCREASES
The U.S. market is finally picking up. Demand for carat and larger stones is strong with continued buying by retailers and increasing dealer demand in reaction to shortages created by DeBeers' cutback in allocation of 3 carat and larger rough. DeBeers is doing everything they can to increase prices for larger rough later this year. Prices have increased for round diamonds in the .70-2.00 carat sizes, F-H colors and VS clarities. They are are in strong demand and supplies are tight. Fancy shaped .75-1.50 marquises, pears, and ovals in F-H colors and VS-SI clarities are in strong demand and very hard to locate.

DIAMOND AUCTION RESULTS
A new world record auction price is made for a 100.10 carat, D-IF, pear shape. Sotheby's sold the magnificent diamond for $16,548,750 or $165,322 per carat to Saudi Sheik Ahmed H. Fitahi, who named it "The Star of the Season". At Christi's, he bought a 13.49 rectangular blue for $7.5 million, or a record breaking $550,000 per carat.

Further, a 4.92 pink diamond sold for $2.1 million, or $425,305 per carat. An 18 carat yellow went for $630,000, a 7.78 blue sold for $2.47 million, a 9.05 yellow fetched $772,000, a 5.65 pink for $1.98 million, a 4.92 blue went for $2.1 million, a 3.53 blue sold for $992,500, and a 2.75 green for $1.1 million. A 21 carat pink and a 22.46 chameleon failed to sell.

 

EMERALDS

COLOMBIA
The Cali Cartel
Recently, six of the seven of the top bosses of the Cali Cartel have turned themselves into the Colombian government. According to General Rosso Jose Serrano, head of Colombia's police, "The Cali Cartel is dead."

Many political experts on the scene are calling this situation Colombia's Watergate. In the successful strikes against the Cali Cartel, the Colombian police are discovering records that seem to implicate the year old administration of President Ernesto Samper. On July 25, police arrested Santigo Medina, Mr. Samper's campaign treasurer, after Mr. Medina was unable to explain why he endorsed a $50,000 campaign contribution from the Cali cartel. During the campaign, Samper was accused of accepting a $3.6 million contribution from the Cali bosses in a conversation which was purportedly taped. Mr. Samper has admitted the money was offered, but he has denied accepting any money from the Cartel. In August, Defense Minister Fernando Botero resigned. He was President Samper's campaign manager. He kept the money in a secret account in New York.

In August, Colombian police arrested Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, considered the No. 2 man in the organization. He told General Serano, "I have not given five cents to any campaign." However, according to the government inquiry from a Catholic priest, Mr. Orejula showed the priest numerous checks the Cali boss had written to high political figures. The Conservative Party is asking President Samper to resign. In a televised address to the nation, President Samper said if any money found its way into his campaign, it entered through the back door without his knowledge. He is asking for a Congressional investigation. He contends these actions are part of a Cali Cartel blackmail campaign due to the fact his administration is so hard on the drug dealers. So far, an ex-Senator is in jail and 16 other political figures have been implicated.

In July, Vice-President Gore stated, "We can applaud the work of those like President Samper and Defense Minister Botero of Colombia who are standing up to traffickers often at tremendous personal risk." Paradoxically, the allegations have allowed the US Government to put extreme pressure on the Colombian government to eliminate the Colombian drug operations. The Colombian government now contends there will be more than a dozen mini syndicates fighting for control of the cocaine trade. No one organization will control more than 10% of the illegal trade. The DEA believes it will take another 5 to 10 years to eradicate the Cali Cartel.

The Colombian government also plans to eradicate 217,000 acres of coca plants. This is expected to lead to clashes with the Marxist guerrillas, who finance their rebellion with drug profits. Drug trafficking is the primary occupation of 2700 of the 7000 guerrillas. This year, so far, guerrillas have shot down four helicopters, killed 13 pilots, and wounded 152 law enforcement officers.

State of Emergency Imposed
In August, President Samper imposed a state of emergency, saying it was necessary to stem a wave of violence. Opposition leaders said it was an attempt to silence them amid Colombia's political scandal. Former Presidential candidate Parejo said, "Samper is trying to create a smoke screen to hide all the information about whether his campaign took money from the Cali cartel. I think he should resign." During the state of emergency, the government can restrict the publication of news it deems a threat to public order. To justify the emergency, Interior Minister Serpa said so far this year 19,662 people have been slain and 704 kidnapped.

Conclusion
Last year exports of Colombian emeralds decreased for the first time in decades. Expect more declines in production, and higher prices due to the political turmoil and the state of emergency in Colombia.

RUBY, SAPPHIRE, AND SPINEL

BURMA
Beyond Rangoon
Although the movie was shot in Maylasia and critically reviewed, The Gemstone Forecaster recommends everyone with an interest in Burma go and see the new movie Beyond Rangoon. John Boorman's powerful film depicts some of the bloody events of 1988, including the flight from Rangoon by thousands of democracy activists. It offers a graphic picture of a country living in the grip of terror. The bravery, loyalty and sacrifice of the students and other democrats is both uplifting and tragic. What the film's 99 minutes cannot fully relate is the depth of horror still being suffered by the Burmese. If anything, the film plays down the horrors.

Recent News
On July 10, 1995, after six long years, Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was released. However, Burma remains a nation of 45 million people hostage to a military dictatorship. Thousands of political prisoners remain jailed under desperate conditions. The government rules by fear and by the gun. For most Burmese, life has grown worse since the army crushed the pro-democracy People's Power uprising of 1988.

Excerpt From the Report, Burma: Entrenchment or Reform?, Published by Human Rights Watch/Asia, July, 1995
The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on July 10, 1995, a day before the end of her period of detention under Burmese law, was a welcome move on the part of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Her release comes after years of international pressure on the SLORC, including four resolutions by the U.N.General Assembly and appeals from numerous governments, including the U.S., Japan and members of the European Union (EU). These governments, and the U.N. Secretary-General, were quick to send messages applauding the release, though there were distinct differences in the response of Western countries, all of whom reacted in a spirit of "cautious optimism" as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself put it and Asian governments, including Japan and Thailand, who welcomed the move as "substantive progress." At the same time, diplomats in Rangoon were quick to point out that the release was a measure of SLORC's confidence in its strength in the country and its ability to hold down the lid on dissent. Indeed, it is difficult at this early stage to know whether the release of Daw Suu will lead to an improvement in the human rights situation in Burma, or whether it may only lead to further entrenchment as the SLORC achieves its main aim of increased international investment and economic aid and, as a result, finds less and less need to heed the calls from the international community for fundamental reform.

Human Rights Watch/Asia estimates that at least 1,000 political prisoners remain in Burmese jails, including sixteen members of parliament elected in 1990. Even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, the overall human rights situation in Burma is worsening. On June 16, 1995, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it will close its office in Rangoon later in July after the failure of negotiations to allow the organization access to Burma's detention centers. Offensives have been renewed against ethnic minority groups, including the Karen National Progressive Party, which had signed a cease-fire with the SLORC as recently as March 1995. In areas where fighting has resumed, tens of thousands of villagers have been forcibly taken from their homes and fields to work for the army. Many have died from beatings and exhaustion After the fall of the Karen National Union headquarters in January 1995, a breakaway group of ethnic Karen Buddhists, called the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization (DKBO), which has an informal alliance with the Burmese army, attacked refugee camps in Thailand, killing several refugees and Thai villagers and abducting scores of others. In a further sign of regression on the human rights front, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities across Burma has increased during 1995. These communities have been forcibly relocated into government-controlled villages, while religious buildings and land have been confiscated. In Arakan State, from which 270,000 Muslims fled during 1991 and 1992, reports of forced labor and forced relocations of Muslims have continued. As the SLORC has moved to attract international investment, at least two million people have been forced to work for no pay under brutal conditions to rebuild Burma's long neglected infrastructure.

But there has also been an apparent softening in bilateral relations, with Western countries becoming the largest investors in Burma. The foreign minister of Japan announced on July 11 that he was willing to start talks with the Burmese government on the resumption of official loans and that he would visit Rangoon as early as August. Japan had already renewed aid to Burma and provided insurance credit for its companies investing there. China has continued its massive financial and diplomatic support to the SLORC, and Burma's other neighbors, anxious about China's dominance, have also sought closer relationships with the SLORC under a policy of "constructive engagement." This policy is aimed at increasing economic ties while occasionally calling for further economic and political reform.

Conclusion
The political events in Burma simply means you can expect higher prices for Burma spinel and Mogok ruby and sapphire for the foreseeable future. There is presently an adequate supply of Mong Hsu in the gem pipeline.

Burma on the Internet
For more info on Burma visit the following site on internet:
Free Burma WWW

SAPPHIRES

KASHMIR
In July, four westerners on a trek were kidnapped by a previously unknown group, the Al Faran. Norwegian hiker Hans Ostro was beheaded by the group. They are demanding the release of Muslim Kashmir insurgents being held in Indian prisons. India does not want to agree to prisoner swaps for fear of encouraging more terrorism. India must mount a commando raid or continue to negotiate.

India and Pakistan went to war in 1947 over Kashmir, leaving the bulk of the Muslims on India's side. India is blaming Pakistan for arming the rebels, and Pakistan is blaming India for orchestrating the hostage takings to discredit the Muslim seperatarist insurgency. Meanwhile, both states are closer to deploying ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

Originally, the Kashmir freedom fighters had a list of legitimate grieviences against the central government in Delhi. There are now 32 known groups who use insurgency to extort food and cash from the locals. The people of Kashmir are trapped between the Indians and the rebels. India has offered the Kashmir people the right to vote to become semi-autonomous. Most rebels believe the vote will be fixed.


IMPORT STATS

The colored gem market in Japan is on the upswing. The imports of colored stones increased from $462 million to to $516 million. This is a 12% increase. In the US market sales of colored stones rose 5% to $522 million. Imports of sapphire rose 27% to $101 million. There was also a big surge in ruby imports. Emeralds remain the number one colored stone in America, even with a 7% drop in supply due to reduced Colombian production. The US imported almost $5 billion worth of diamonds, or almost 10 times the amount of colored stones.


PRIVACY SECTION

SPYING ON AMERICANS?
The new Clinton Omnibus Counterterrorism Act plans to combat terrorists by 1) the hiring of 1000 new federal agents 2) allowing the government to trace materials used in explosive devices, and 3) expand the role of the military in fighting terrorism. The White House also wants to expand the government's role in electronic surveillance. Electronic surveillance evidence could not be surpressed, unless it was acquired in bad faith. The plan also authorizes "roving wiretaps". The US government also wants to give federal agencies access to consumer financial and credit reports. Hotels, motels, bus companies and airlines would be required to provide records to the FBI. The plan also requests funding for a counterintelligence fund and the creation of an interagency domestic counterterrorism center.

Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says, "This will violate the privacy of a lot of innocent people with very little result. It's an end run around the Fourth Amendment." According to a recent AP poll, 54% of Americans believe the government must stop terrorism, even if it invades some people's rights and privacy.

THE MONEY CHANGE?
The US Treasury is getting ready to change our currency to purportedly defer counterfeiters. The US Treasury said it would release new notes in 1996 with better security features. The plan is to make over $100 notes, the supposed most favorite denomination of counterfeiters. An enlarged portrait of Ben Franklin will be moved to the left on the $100 bill, making room for a new watermark engraving. The borders will be simplified with geometric designs. A color-shifting ink will be used so money will take on a different hue when viewed from an angle. All denominations will be new by 2001. About $367 billion is now in circulation, with 60% of it overseas.


GEMNET NEWSLETTER, AUGUST, 1995

Recently, The Gemstone Forecaster has come across a new gemstone web page on Internet. We are reprinting their August newsletter with permission. Thank you! To visit the site go to GemNET.

For three months, GemNET has been surveying gem and jewelry dealers, lapidaries and collectors in order to compile a report of the "hottest" gems on today's market and to try to predict what stones will become popular in the future. This information is designed for the jeweler, collector, or investor who wants to know what stones he should be trying to procure before the prices rise. Keep in mind that this forecast is only speculation based on the information that we collected. Investing in gems is a risk, just as investing in precious metals is a risk.

Three Stones with a Good Outlook
According to a good deal of the people we surveyed, several stones look like they may soon gain much more popularity than they already have among the general public: tanzanite, tsavorite (green grossular garnet), and chrome tourmaline. All three of these stones were once much rarer, but foreign investment in the East African countries where these stones are mined has allowed these countries to produce enough stones to produce a market while maintaining a strong degree of rarity. Please note that the rarity of good quality tanzanite and tsavorite is down played by the large quantities of pale, poor quality stones that cheap jewelers and shop-at-home channels sell to the public.

Stones That Will Lose Popularity
Burmese rubies are a great investment stone and for that reason, few clean, unheated Burmese stones of any size hit the commercial jewelry market. Instead, many jewelers are selling bright red, but totally opaque Burmese material as Burmese ruby. While these stones are well colored, they really are not gem quality, and the few stones that are should really have been cut en cabochon. Unfortunately the general public has not learned that the stones they are buying as Burmese really aren't that valuable or exceptional as far as rubies go. Within the next year or two, consumer groups will catch onto this misleading practice of selling opaque Burmese material at a premium and the clearer Thai and Sri Lankan material will become the standard ruby that the gemologically ignorant public will want.

A Stone That May Be Regaining Popularity
Ever since the Cleopatra emerald mines were discovered in Ancient Egypt, peridot has been exiled into use in poor quality birthstone jewelry. Now, however, a find of gemmy crystals and rough in Pakistan has produced a few large, clean, and surprisingly richly colored stones (unlike material from Arizona). Peridot has been surrounded by years of unpopularity, but this new discovery may usher this stone into the limelight - Which happens to be its color.

Any questions or comments should be addressed to edwards@intac.com.


THE GIA COLORED STONE SYSTEM

The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from Peter Rowe, a graduate gemologist in Detroit. Thank you Peter! It is an excellent description of GIA's new colored grading system. Unlike the AGL Colored Stone Grading Report, the GIA does not issue a certificate. The basic system is based on the Gem Set colored grading system. Although National Gemstone has serious problems with Gem Set compared to AGL's Color Scan, the following is important educational information. Let us know what you think.

Color
Color is divided into three basic properties: Hue, Tone, and Saturation. Hue is the basic color, such as red, blue, slightly greenish blue, etc. The color wheel is divided into 3 basic hues and 28 derivatives, plus allowing the terms pink and brown as exceptions to the basic terms.

Tone
Tone is the scale from light to dark, regardless of color. It's rated from 1 to 10, with the following descriptions:

0 colorless or white
1 extremely light
2 very light
3 light
4 medium light
5 medium
6 medium dark
7 dark
8 very dark
9 extremely dark
10 black

Saturation
Saturation is the intensity of color, like the color control on your TV which changes it from black and white to garishly more colorful than reality. Low saturations are described as a degree of grayishness for cool colors (like blues and greens), and brownishness for warm colors, yellow, red etc. The saturation terms are:

1 grayish (brownish)
2 slightly grayish (brownish)
3 very slightly grayish (brownish)
4 moderately strong
5 strong
6 vivid

Using these terms it is possible to write simple color descriptions that make a certain intuitive sense, as well as being a repeatable standard. You describe a color as hue, tone, and saturation. If the person writing the description and the one reading it have access to either the gem set samples or a colormaster (for which settings for each sample are defined), then quite precise color communication is possible. But it's important to note that even so, there's a bit of room for slop or play in each color description. The eye can discriminate between exceedingly fine differences in color. So it's possible to have several slight variations of color that all fit pretty much into one description.

In a few cases, notably the finest rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, those faint differences can equal substantial differences in price, so this system isn't quite up to completely perfect accuracy, much less a really precise pricing structure based solely on stated color descriptions or grades. It will remain necessary for gem dealers and consumers to actually look at the stones, and visually evaluate what they see.

Grading Color
Now that you've got a way to communicate what a given color is, a way is needed to suggest which ones are better than others. It's no longer as simple as a linear scale like diamond grading uses. For the GIA colored stone grading system, what's been done is to create a long series of grid charts, listing colors for each gem variety. For each gem, and for each hue that that gem commonly occurs in, a chart is drawn with tone values from 2 to 8 vertically and saturation values from 1 to 6 horizontally. Then a numerical grade from 1 to 10 is assigned in each space where the gem commonly occurs in that hue/tone/saturation combination. The grade isn't linear, or absolute. It is only meant to suggest relative desirability from one stone to another.

In Blue Sapphires (Violetish/blue), for example, one of the charts looks like this:

 

SATURATION 1 2 3 4 5 6
TONE
2 1 1.5 2
3 1.5 2 3 4 5
4 2 2.5 4 5 6.5 8
5 2 3 4.5 6 7.5 9
6 2 3.5 5 6.5 8.5 10
7 1 2 3 4 5.5
8 1 1.5 2 2.5

For example, a stone that would receive a 10 (the theoretical best or finest) would be a blue sapphire (violetish/blue) with 6 (medium dark) tone and 6 (vivid) saturation.

Clarity
The first difference between colored stones and diamond is that clarity has different meanings for different types of stones. Thus in an emerald, a stone that appears to the naked eye to be reasonably clear with only a few minor inclusions visible to eye is considered a pretty good emerald, clarity wise, yet if it's an aquamarine those same inclusions probably make it a not very desirable stone, as aqua is usually desired completely free of inclusions to the eye, and even under 10x. Therefore, the GIA colored stone grading system divided stones into three basic clarity types, and then assigns different meanings to the grades within each type.

Type I are stones which often grow flawless, or nearly so, such as aquamarine, citrine quartz, or green tourmaline. Visible Inclusions are usually quite detrimental to the value.

Type II stones are those which generally grow with moderate inclusions, such as ruby and sapphire, amethyst, garnets, etc. Some inclusions are expected, and unless obvious, are not as detrimental to the desirability and value.

Type III stones are those such as emerald and red tourmaline, which virtually always have inclusions, and those inclusions are well tolerated. In these stones, unless the inclusions become extreme, they often have relatively less effect on a stone's desirability.

Within these general classes, the GIA system then assigns grades which look similar to the diamond grades, but are modified to fit the expectations in colored stones. There is no flawless or IF grade in the colored stone system, as it was felt that no colored stone could attain and maintain in wear the standards for that term that are so well defined in diamonds. There are eight clarity grades. The highest is VVS, then VS. These two are not subdivided as in diamonds. The SI grade is divided into SI1 and SI2, and the I grade is divided into I1, I2, and I3. I won't go into the fine details but the general reasoning behind the definitions is pretty much what you'd expect.

Cutting
Cutting is graded upon shape, symmetry, brilliance, polish, the degree of extinction (black dark areas) and windowing.

Conclusion
Supposing you now have a complete GIA system grading report on a given stone. Or perhaps the AGL grading report, which uses different terms, but does about the same thing in the end. What do you actually have? What you've got is merely a description. Hopefully a fairly accurate one. As yet these grading terms are only in sporadic use among the professionals talking among themselves. It may well be that this is for the best, as in most cases it still takes a practiced eye to evaluate what all that data means. Once, diamond grading too was only a professionals only practice, and diamonds were sold by stores according to the stores' own beliefs as to what was desirable or not, with little mention made of the exact terminology used by GIA. Some day, the colored stone industry may take for granted the practice of describing color and quality in universal language, so we can all understand what we are all saying to each other.

You can e-mail Peter at PeterWRowe@aol.com.


The information provided in this newsletter has been derived from research and sources believed to be reliable. However, no guarantee is expressed or implied as to their validity. Opinions included herein are subject to change without notice. Potential investors or collectors should understand past performance is not a guarantee of future performance. This is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, nor is it intended to be investment advice.