VOL. 16, #3, Fall, 1998

AGL Country of Origin Interview, The Russian Diamond Scam, Book Reviews: Gem Buyer's Guide: Investment Book, Gemstones Of the World, World's Oldest Emerald?, International Market Updates: Diamonds, Colombia, Burma, Tanzania, Thailand, Japan, Collectors Corner, In the News, Gem Tidbits

  Sep 29, 1998   admin



By Robert Genis

At one time colored gemstones were marketed with very loose definitions. If a ruby looked Burma to a dealer or jeweler, it was sold as a Burma or Burma look-alike. About 20 years ago, a new trend emerged; auction houses, certain dealers and consumers wanted definitive information regarding country of origin. The gem trade divided into two camps; those who stated a fine stone is a fine stone irrespective of country of origin vs. those who wanted proof of country of origin. Although the battle rages, a majority in the trade now want country of origin reports. Many consumers and large collectors now demand independent verification for important colored gemstones. Dealers and retailers receive a premium for their top goods with independent grading reports. This does not mean that all colored gemstones must come with origin reports. Most inexpensive and low quality stones are still traded at all levels without paper.

The first to enter this arena in 1976 was C. R. "Cap" Beesley of the American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) of New York. We asked the AGL a few important questions regarding country of origin.

Gemstone Forecaster: For which specific gemstones does the AGL give country of origin designations?

Beesley: "The majority of the work we do at the lab regarding country of origin is in ruby, sapphire, and emerald. There is a growing population interested in alexandrite and a few isolated cases, such as pink topaz. We do the countries that are relevant to value issues, so you have to stay current to the total population of gemstones. We specialize in Burma goods and make a distinction between Classical Mogok and Mong Hsu material. (Note: Mong Hsu is a new source of Burma ruby and tends to sell for a discount to Mogok material.) We also identify Thai and African ruby. Sapphire is primarily Kashmir, Burma, Ceylon and the new material from Madagascar, some which looks like Ceylon or Burma. We also provide country of origin reports on emeralds. The main issues are primarily Colombian vs. African or Brazilian."

GF: How does the AGL determine county of origin?

Beesley: "Similar to studying the distinctive qualities of human DNA, the process of origin determination requires the interpretation of the unique signatures encapsulated in the chemistry of gemstone structures formed during their developmental growth. In many cases, the entrapped evidence results in distinctive optical, physical, chemical and inclusion characteristics that provide highly reliable conclusions which can be drawn by skilled observers utilizing standard gemological instruments. However, the chemistry altering impact of high temperature enhancements and an increasing number of new locations has complicated origin analysis. As a result, AGL has found greater application for UV, visible and infrared spectroscopy, X-Ray fluorescence and microprobe analysis to meet these challenges. In 1981, AGL supplemented these basic techniques with more sophisticated analytical tools like Raman analysis and PAS (photoacoustic spectroscopy).

Over the past twenty years, AGL has explored the pivotal elements of origin science through foundational research utilizing high level techniques such as laser ablation to understand the building blocks of gemstone chemistry. Central to all AGL's origin determinations is a comprehensive collection of reliable reference materials, currently in excess of ten thousand samples, which are used to characterize numerous locations. Collaboration is an essential element in our pursuit of origin science. For over ten years AGL has functioned as the gem science consultants to the United Nation's Mineral Development Branch. This association has given us access to many primary gem producing deposits worldwide reinforcing the validity and importance of AGL's sample collection and analytical procedures."

GF: What percentage of gemstones submitted for country of origin designations to AGL can be absolutely determined?

Beesley: "I would estimate 80% of all gemstones submitted to the lab receive a positive identification comment (based upon available gemological information, it is the opinion of the laboratory that the origin of this material would be classified as, for example, Classical Mogok Burma)."

GF: How to you keep current with country of origin issues?

Beesley: "The first major problem is getting a reliable population of sample stones that stay current. Assume you had the best sample population of Ceylon sapphires in the world 20 years ago. Today, the sample may well not be valid. You must track changes that occur as properties go deeper and wider because of the structure of the actual deposit. The chemistry of the deposit gets altered or depleted or changed as the material develops.

Secondly, all labs are vulnerable during transition periods when new material is coming into the market. With sapphire, for example, today you have numerous new sources such as Laos and China and a whole host of African locations. Each time a new location comes on stream, it throws some of the other population into turmoil. Another example is Viet Nam stars. I bought some so I can differentiate between Burma and Viet Nam stars. Now I understand there is a new source in India that produces material that is very similar. Keeping on top of this is a full time task and a constant battle."

NGC wishes to thank the AGL for this interview.

The Laboratory
American Gemological Laboratories
580 Fifth Avenue, Suite 706
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 1-212-704-0727
Fax: 1-212-764-7614
Email: gemcore@idt.net


The Players
Russian Andrei Kozlenok started Golden ADA in San Francisco in 1994 with Armenian brothers Ashot and David Shagirins. ADA were the first name initials of the three partners. The brothers got 20% each of the company and Kozlenok 60%.

Seeking political influence, Kozlenok gave a Russian Kamov Ka-32 helicopter to the San Francisco Police Department as a gift. Golden ADA had ties with San Francisco Mayor Frank Jorden and posed for photographs with Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.

The business apparently was part of an effort to circumvent Russia's contract with the DeBeers Cartel. Australia has already left the cartel and this new firm terrified the diamond cartel. Instead, the enterprise became the way for a handful of well-connected Russians to enrich themselves.

"The Closet" is where Russia stores her national treasures. Rumors say it is in a location deep under the Ural Mountains, or that the stockpile lies 30 feet below the streets of Moscow. These deposits hold diamonds, emeralds, silver, platinum and 140 tons of gold in rare coins and jewelry. The key to opening "The Closet" was Yevgeny M. Bychkov, head of the Russian Committee on Precious Metals and Gems, and Kozlenok's mentor. Bychkov was a powerful Russian politician despite being investigated in 1990 due to a loss of $22 million worth of secret diamonds sales.

The Scam
Bychkov's plan was to ship $500 million worth of goods to Golden ADA. Soon, 26,000 carats of diamonds reached Golden ADA and fetched $20 million. Besides diamonds, crates arrived with gold rare coins: francs from pre-revolutionary France, hundred year old English pounds and American dollars, and Czarist Russian coins. Gold arrived by the ton. A California wholesaler melted down and sold 5.5 tons for $50 million. Massive crates contained silver tableware and antique plates. Other boxes arrived with emerald, amethyst, and topaz. Some crates contained faberge-like eggs studded with gems, ivory elephants, an angel with diamonds and assorted jewelry.

What did Golden ADA do with the money? Kozlenok and his associates paid $10.6 million for a building near downtown San Francisco valued at $6 million. They built a state-of-the-art, high-security diamond cutting facility. In a three-day period in the fall of 1993, they bought three luxury yachts for more than $1.2 million. Soon after, they paid $3.8 million for three homes in San Francisco. Then they bought more boats, five Lake Tahoe condos, a helicopter for $1.7 million, a Rolls Royce and two Aston Martins for more than $1 million, some 15 other vehicles and a Gulfstream jet for $20 million. All in all, they bought 18 pieces of property for $4.4 million, including 12 gas stations.

Millions were wired back to Bychkov where they disappeared into real estate-including a new dacha for Bychkov. Golden ADA also wired funds to Belgium, Liechtenstein and Israel.

The next shipment literally filled the new Gulfstream corporate jet. The plan was for diamonds to be cut and polished at Golden ADA's headquarters. Instead, the diamonds were hauled to Antwerp and sold to companies controlled by DeBeers! These sales brought $77 million which were wired to Switzerland.

At this point the partnership dissolved. Kozlenok offered the brothers $5 million to leave or else accept a "bullet to the head". The Shagirins flew to Moscow and begged Bychkov to fire Kozlenok. A Bychkov aide flew to Golden ADA and stated Golden ADA was looting the Russian treasury. Finally, Andrei Chernukhin, "the cleaner" was sent in to fix the situation. Kozlenok claims he was kidnapped and taken to Mexico and forced to sign over control of Golden ADA. Some believe he was paid off and sent packing. In 1995, he went to Belgium because Russia and Belgium have no extradition treaty.

US Intervention
Meanwhile, the FBI was learning a great deal about Golden ADA through wiretaps and informants. The FBI amassed evidence of theft, racketeering, and money laundering. Golden ADA was also involved with other groups in stealing timber, oil, and precious metals from Russia. The various scams were approaching $1 billion. Wires of $40 million were traced and some led to Boris Yeltsin. Some believed this situation could become a major political scandal. Washington feared it could throw the re-election of Yeltsin to the communists. The FBI feared political interference since the staff of Vice-President Gore had been briefed on the situation. At this point, the IRS raided Golden ADA and the criminal investigation was halted. The IRS placed a $63 million lien on the company for unpaid taxes. This forced Golden ADA into bankruptcy and the IRS seized about $40 million in assets. Russia will receive $25 million and the IRS $10.5 million, with the balance going to creditors.

The End
Kozlenok decided to fly to Greece from Belgium when he discovered he was not on Interpol's wanted list and there was no international warrant for his arrest. While he was in the air, Moscow asked that he be arrested, and he was seized at the Athens airport.

Kozlenok was recently charged with stealing $180 million in gold and gems from the Russian government and four counts of fraud, illegal currency transactions, arms possession and forgery. Kozlenok has stated he will be killed in prison because of what he knows about high-ranking Russian officials. Kozlenok, 38, has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. "I am being charged with something that I have practically never ever done," he said in a jailhouse interview published in Izvestiya.

Kozlenok recently explained in a written statement to the Moscow Times that the extravagant purchases were needed to project a "solid financial image". They also were to be used to provide vacations for miners working in the difficult conditions of Russia's Far North. In 1996, the Russian government settled a lawsuit with Golden ADA giving it control of the company's remaining assets.

Some speculate that the diamond deal could not have taken place without the approval of high-level government officials. The scandal forced President Boris N. Yeltsin to fire his old friend, Yevgeny M. Bychkov, in February, 1996. Bychkov was later charged with abusing his official position and violating hard currency laws, but was pardoned under a general amnesty. Today, he is the head of one of Russia's largest banks and still remains a power in the diamond industry.

Chernukhin, "the cleaner", is said to be hiding in Switzerland or Cyprus. Ashot Shagirins was extradited from the Caribbean and recently pleaded guilty to tax evasion. His brother, David, is believed to be hiding in Europe.



By Andrew S. Hubbard
132 Pages-1998
Review by Robert Genis


This is the first gemstone investment book to be published since David Marcum's "1986 Dow Jones-Irwin Guide to Gems and Jewelry". These books are not similar in any manner. Marcum's book was analytical and included important information, such as how to read grading reports, price charts, and in depth information on gemstones. Although the credentials of the author of this book were never given, I assume he is a gem dealer who specializes in lower quality gemstones. We strongly disagree with many of the opinions and statements in this book, but the author also makes some good points.

Let's discuss some of the points in the book:
The author properly advises people to stay away from buying overseas. Since gems represent portable and hard to trace wealth, you should store your gems in a safe deposit box, a good safe, or in detergent boxes, toilet paper rolls, planters or Bibles at home. You should not insure your gemstones due to the 2 1/2% annual premiums on their value, but safely store your goods from prying eyes.

Ruby and Sapphire
Hubbard accurately states the best rubies come from Burma and sapphires from Kashmir. He discusses how rare, expensive, and valuable "pigeon blood" Burma rubies are and that they can cost more than diamonds over one or two carats. He then writes only a dozen pigeon blood rubies of any quality hit the world market yearly! (How could anyone in the gem business make this ludicrous statement? ed.)

Here are his tips for buying corundum:

  1. Make sure the gem is natural.
  2. Make sure the stone is cut properly.
  3. Color is the single most important consideration in gemstones. He states with blue sapphire, the darker the color the better, up to where the stone begins to show extinction (blackness). (Perhaps "the bluer the color the better" would be a more accurate description. ed.) He accurately states rubies are prized with deep color saturation.
  4. The author states rubies under one carat can be considered as having investment potential. We strongly disagree with that statement!

The author mentions how diamond grading and pricing are better organized than colored gemstones and premiums are paid for diamonds with GIA grading reports. He briefly discusses the 4 Cs of diamonds. He recommends investing in F and G colors and VVS and VS clarities over one carat.

Fancy Diamonds
Hubbard seems uncomfortable with colored diamonds and maybe the prices scare him. He states deep canary yellow, one carat diamonds of average clarity can cost $15,000 per carat. Blue, pink, and green diamonds are so rare they only fit the budget of the most affluent connoisseurs and prices are documented at $500,000.

Hubbard believes you should only invest in really fine emeralds with an independent lab report. You should look for a pure green and inclusions are to be expected.

How to Buy a Colored Gemstone
Here are Hubbard's tips:

  1. Clean the stone.
  2. Look at it in a white parcel paper, if it "talks to you", you should probably buy it.
  3. Examine the cut and symmetry.
  4. View the stone in different lights with the stone between your fingers.
  5. Look for a window or extinction.
  6. Examine the stone with a loupe.
  7. Compare the stone to master gemstones you own.

Gem Treatment
A natural stone is more valuable and preferable to a gemstone that is treated. About 75% of all gems are treated and this issue is the largest ethical skeleton in the jewelry industry's closet. Hubbard contends you should always ask if a stone has been treated and only pay more for a stone if it has been documented as unheated by an independent gemological laboratory. Excellent advice from a gem dealer!

Inexpensive Stones
If you are on a tight budget, according to Hubbard, you can collect; smoky quartz, citrine, amethyst, garnets, and blue topaz. He also likes chrome diopside, tourmaline, rhodolite garnet, and yellow sapphires.

Investing in Gems
Hubbard believes gems are an excellent investment if bought shrewdly and held for a considerable time. Gems are a buy-and-hold investment, not a get rich quick scheme. He believes you should only buy good to better goods and leave the top qualities alone. (Interesting theory! ed.) He recommends you privately and quietly buy gemstones. He considers gems a long term investment because they are relatively illiquid. Your money should go into savings and the stock market before considering buying gems. His ideal portfolio is: 33% "blue chip" diamonds, 33% expensive "growth" gems like emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, and 33% "speculative" gemstones.

If you are already a serious collector, you will find little in this publication to assist you. However, if you have never collected gemstones, you might find this primer an interesting place to begin. The book has very large print and appears designed to be read in an hour and a half.

Click here for more information on ordering this selection from Amazon.com.



Revised and Expanded Edition
by Walter Schumann
Review by C. Chang, a long time subscriber to the Gemstone Forecaster.


Gemstone books have come a long way since the standards were drawn in the 1960s. But then again, so has the industry. This revised edition has helped me as a collector and investor expand my views on the most vital issues facing both buyers, collectors, and sales people today. This book answered many of my questions about the gem market.

The table of contents references the best known gemstones as well as the lesser known gemstones. It also deals with cutting, properties, production, and descriptions of gemstones. The best part is "Gemstones for Collectors".

The introduction starts with gemstones and their historical influence. It features the picture of the English Imperial State Crown. The introduction leads into the "Terminology of Gemstones" and the "Nomenclature of Gems". These sections are well stated and clear.

The next section is on the origin and structure of gemstones and overviews crystal formations and crystal systems. I was not aware there were 7 different crystal systems until I read this book. This section is informative for the beginning to advanced collector.

"Properties of Gemstones" reviews specific knowledge about gemstones to the cutter, the setter, the jewelry wearer and the collector. It explains hardness on a relative and absolute scale. Selected gemstones are ordered by Moh's Hardness. The next part of "Properties of Gemstones" relates to cleavage and fracture, density and specific gravity, and gemstone density.

As I read the book, I gained knowledge in the sections on weight used in the gem trade, optical properties, color streak, and refraction of light. I discovered the importance of absorption spectra and pleochroism as well as luminescence. The part about inclusions was most interesting and discussed how it relates to the value of gemstones.

The next section discusses the types of deposits and mining methods. This is an interesting part to all newcomers in the trade. "Cutting and Polishing of Gems" explains the engraving on stones, cutting and polishing of agate and colored stones, ball and cylinder cutting, and the drilling of gemstones and diamonds. Types of cuts are pictured in this chapter.

The "Description of Gemstones" uses scientific classifications and mineral classes. It starts with the best known gemstones and ends with the lesser known gemstones. Other sections in the later part of the book reference organic gemstones, what's new on the market, gemstone imitations, and ends with the symbolism of stones.

I found this book to be an outstanding volume. While this is probably not the last book to appear on the subject, this is one of the best in current memory. It may set a new standard for future reference books and deserves congratulations on a job well done. It reflects the author's devotion to gemstones as a collector/investor.

Click here for more information on ordering this selection from Amazon.com.


The Hudson Museum at the University of Maine may have the oldest known emerald and the only known Pre-columbian carved emerald. The emerald green gem was carved into the shape of a standing figure. It is 2.2 inches tall and weighs 118.5 carats.

The stone was given to the university by alumnus William P. Palmer, III in 1982. An index card which came with the artifact states:
"Emerald figure of a man. To the best of my knowledge the only Emerald carved in the round piece in existence [sic] of Pre-columbian origin. Area unknown, 500 B.C. to 250 A.D."

The piece was purchased or delivered March 30, 1968 from a New York City dealer. The University performed a battery of nondestructive tests to determine whether or not the stone was an emerald or a synthetic.

The overall appearance and color of the stone are consistent with a natural emerald rather than an epoxy fake. The stone's refractive index, the ratio between the velocity of light passing through a vacuum and light passing through emerald, is within the range of natural emerald. When the stone is viewed through a Chelsea filter, which absorbs most visible light but transmits the long red wavelengths and a band in the yellow-green portion of the spectrum, a definite reddish area appears, consistent with natural emerald from Colombia.

The stone's spectrum, determined with energy-dispersive X-rays in a scanning electron, is consistent with emerald. X-ray fluorescence shows the figurine shares trace elements, including copper, barium, zinc, rubidium, and titanium that are consistent with Muzo, Colombia. The figurine gave off a red glow under long-wave ultraviolet light. This glow is typical of synthetic emeralds, but also characterizes emeralds from Chivor, Colombia. Under short-wave ultraviolet light, 98 percent of the surface gave off a purplish-red glow, which is characteristic of true emeralds.

How the emerald was cut is unknown. According to the University, the figurine's appearance is similar to some small, stone figures made by the Olmec of the Gulf Coast of Mexico during the period from 900 to 600 B.C., but it lacks certain characteristics to make identification certain. The piece has stronger similarities to stone figures carved in Guerrero, Mexico. Mesoamericanists have not agreed about the relationship between Guerrero and the Olmec. The University suggests the soil remaining on the figurine could be chemically matched to a particular site.

Colombia was the only known source of emeralds in the Western Hemisphere during this time period. Emeralds were traded as far south as Bolivia and as far north as Mexico. Possibly a trader carried the emerald from Colombia to Mexico on foot or by boat along the Pacific coast, or it could have been passed from hand to hand. Colombian sources were being mined earlier than 1000 A.D. and polished emeralds found in graves in Panama were dated between 700-900 A.D. It is believed the Muzo source was being mined nearly two millennia earlier. Emeralds occasionally come from secondary deposits, produced by weathering or other decomposition of the emerald-bearing matrix, rather than from mines, but such deposits are rare. One is located at Ganchalá, Colombia, but its trace elements are not as close a match as Muzo's.

There is only one other historical description of a Pre-columbian emerald which could have been carved. During the Conquest, Cortés sent emeralds from Mexico to the Spanish court, including one from the Hall of Justice in Texcoco, which was reported to be shaped like a pyramid and as broad as the palm of the hand. The object disappeared en route to Spain.


DeBeers Sales Down
Sales of DeBeers rough diamonds declined 42% in the first half of 1998 compared to 1997. They sold $1.7 billion, a sharp decline from $2.9 billion in 1997. The reason for the cutback is the Asian crisis. DeBeers states diamond prices would have fallen if not for their action. The Russian economic crisis may cause the dumping of diamonds for hard currency into the international markets. The United States and Europe remain the prime diamond markets today. Look for weakness in these markets unless the Christmas season is strong.

New Mine Owners?

AZCO Mining, Inc. is considering purchasing the Chivor Emerald Corporation. The present Canadian owners have been losing money at the mine since they started searching for emeralds in 1996. They modernized Chivor with computer modeling and modern mining methods, but found very few goods and continue to lose money. AZCO is the Canadian company that recently purchased the benitoite mine in California.

According to a new 1997 World Bank study, Colombia is one of several top ranked countries for corruption. The survey asked 4000 entrepreneurs in 69 countries to rate 15 areas as to how seriously they obstruct business. The list included taxes, corruption, inadequate supply of infrastructure, policy instability, labor regulations, crime and theft, price controls, foreign currency regulations, financing, foreign trade regulations, regulations for starting a new business, general uncertainty on costs of regulations, terrorism, safety or environmental regulations, and inflation.

Heroin Problem
Colombia has had more than 40,000 people killed this decade because of the narco-financed guerrilla conflict. Colombia is a killing zone and the growing heroin problem is claiming more lives every day on the streets of the United States. In July, the DEA reported that more than 75 percent of heroin seized here originates in Colombia.

The legendary General Rosso Jose Serrano of the Colombian National Police has requested increased law enforcement assistance from the Clinton administration. Presently, none has been delivered. In the last ten years, more than 4,000 policemen were killed and more than 10,000 fired for corruption in Colombia. Gen. Serrano was responsible for hunting down Pablo Escobar and locking up or killing all the kingpins of the Cali Cartel. He is under constant threat of assassination.

Many of the mines in Mogok were closed this summer due to the rainy season. The summer's production came from the washing of byon, or gem-bearing gravel, that was mined during the dry season. Quality production remains down and Mogok's best years are unfortunately over.

Many rubies now are coming from the Dat Thaw and Gadoothat areas of the valley, both of which are uncovered from associated limestone. The shading tends to be a bit light and purplish, and the Gadoothat stones contain a good deal of lamination. You can find beautiful stones, but pure red is extremely rare.

A few open pit mines are producing both rubies and sapphires, but these are not common. InnGaung might now have the best rubies. Kaday-Kadar, site of a major government mine in Western Mogok, is still yielding the best sapphires, and finding stones of size is far more common than in rubies. As has always been the case, a lot of big stones, when found, are smuggled out so as to avoid the immediate 20% assessment tax levied by the government. The new site at Ohn Dan, about fifty km west of the Mogok Valley, is still only yielding souvenir quality sapphire crystal, and is unlikely to ever amount to much.

There is a lot of talk about new government rules which are supposed to take effect next year. It is all still a bit unclear, but it seems that the government will not be renewing any private mining licenses, and will take over all operations in the valley. I am not really sure what this will do to pricing. On the one hand, the government tends to price stones (at auction) far above what one can pay from a private miner. At the same time, any sort of clampdown undoubtedly will lead to an increase in smuggling. If I were to make a guess, however, I would say prices are going to rise, especially when considered together with the overall decline in production. Incidentally, I spoke with a few miners who are not unhappy with the non-renewal of their licenses, as the yield from their mines (in various parts of the valley) is not paying for the costs of production. Yet another reason to look for rising prices.

Many thanks to Andrew McGrath, a Hong Kong gem dealer, for this exclusive report.

The mines are reopening after the flood. Prices in the United States remain stable while prices in Tanzania are up. You can presently buy tanzanite at the old prices, but expect higher prices when the new goods arrive.

Dealers returning from Bangkok report prices are firm for all qualities, but deals can be had with tough negotiations. The lower the quality of goods, the more room for discounts. Fine collector quality colored gemstones remain in strong hands.

Reports indicate an American dealer is in Bangkok buying $10 million worth of diamonds due to the baht devaluation. Is this a case of smart buying in a down market or bottom fishing?

Value of Japan/US Colored Gemstone Imports

importchart.gif Colored gemstone imports reflect a society's wealth. Japan and the United States have been fighting for the title of number one importer for years, with Japan winning in 1995. In 1997, Japan's imports fell to less than 50% of the United States imports. Expect this trend to continue.

Source: Ministry of Finance
Japan & US Census Bureau


Electric Raspberry Spinel

230sp-rasp.gif We have recently seen some samples of a new color of spinel. Dealers claim it is from a new mine in Burma. It can best be described as electric raspberry. Technically, it is probably red/pink/purple. It is a very pleasing color and we believe this color may be an excellent speculation.


Color Change Gems Increase

363sp-purple.gif According to the "Guide", a pricing publication, prices are increasing for alexandrite and color change sapphire. Alexandrite has increased 25% because of lack of supply from Russia and Brazil. High end color change sapphires increased 25% from three to five carats because of increased demand. We also have seen price increases for color change spinel (blue to purple as shown at left).

Merelani Mint Green Garnet

174mint.gif A new colored gemstone has recently been introduced into the marketplace from the Merelani Hills of Africa. It is termed mint garnet, and technically, it is a light tsavorite garnet. It kind of looks like a green diamond or a demantoid garnet. Another inexpensive and interesting speculation.


Mandarin Orange Garnets
The supply of gem quality Mandarins remains dismal and upward pressure continues on prices.

Madagascar Ruby
Madagascar, the island off of Africa, is now producing ruby. The colors tend to be more red-purple than the red-pink from Burma. The tones are also darker in the Madagascar goods. Although many of the inclusions are similar to Burma, the African goods only fluoresce moderately under long wave UV. A rare, fine, bright, light toned gem may be worth collecting.

Alternatives to Emeralds
With so much "bad press" regarding the treatment of emeralds, consumers are searching for green alternatives. Here are the top choices:

  • Demantoid Garnet
    A pure collector gemstone. There is some production from Russia and Namibia, Africa. Ideally, you are looking for a vivid, tsavorite green, but most of the African production is yellowish green.
  • Tsavorite
    This is a gemstone we have promoted since the early 1980s. Many people believe tsavorite is more beautiful than emerald. It cannot be heated or irradiated. This is an excellent alternative to emerald and it trades for about 1/4 of the price of similar quality emeralds.
  • Chrome Tourmaline
    This stone is often mistaken for tsavorite. I remember buying a parcel of chrome tourmalines and luckily discovering one of the stones was a tsavorite! This stone trades for about 1/4 the price of tsavorite and is very difficult to obtain.
  • Burma Peridot
    The best greens come from Burma and are never enhanced. Some collectors buy these stones in large sizes because of their inexpensive price and true rarity.
  • Chrome Diopside
    This Russian gemstone is very similar to tsavorite and chrome tourmaline. These stones tend to be green/black. The only reason this gemstone never took off was the fact it is soft; 5 1/2 to 6. However, many believe these vivid green chromes will increase in price.
  • Apatite
    Apatite is a great stone to own if you want a Paraiba neon color without the price. Although the stone is a soft 5 to 5 1/2, the best of these goods from Burma are a true electric, neon, blue-green.

Arkansas Diamonds
Eight years ago Shirley Strawn found a three carat rough diamond at the Crater Diamond State Park. She had been searching the park every day for a year. She recently had it recut into a 1.09 D-Flawless.


BBC: Thursday, June 18, 1998
Pigeon in the Sky With Diamonds
Pigeons have become the preferred mode of transport for South African diamond smugglers. Police in South Africa have shot dead a homing pigeon which was carrying more than £6,000 worth of uncut diamonds taped around its chest. The pigeon was spotted sitting exhausted on the main street of Alexander Bay, a diamond mining centre in the desert on South Africa's west coast. Residents of the town, who had seen the bird several times since Sunday, called the local police, who sent out a search party. An officer shot the bird, and discovered six small bags containing more than 50 uncut diamonds taped around its chest. A BBC correspondent in Johannesburg says diamond smuggling using carrier pigeons is a huge problem for multi-national mining companies in South Africa. Criminals working inside the mining compounds tape the diamonds to the pigeon's legs or body and then release it. When the bird flies back home to its roost, the owner recovers the illegal cargo and sells it on the black market. Last year dozens of people were arrested for using pigeons to smuggle diamonds out of mining compounds in the Alexander Bay area. The mining companies have struggled to contain the problem. Some have even threatened to cull all pigeons discovered within range of some of the bigger diamond mines - a move that has brought strong protests from pigeon fanciers in gem mining areas.


Florida Cat Burglar Arrested
Police in Miami arrested the cat burglar dubbed "Spiderman" in June for speeding and found recently stolen jewels. He was known for scaling high-rise buildings with his bare hands, wearing sandals, and knowing the difference between costume and real jewelry. The police believe he committed 133 burglaries over the past 4 1/2 years. Derrick James, a 33-year-old former Army paratrooper, was arrested and jailed without bail for breaking into the Bristol Towers in Miami. Spiderman was known for his superhuman upper-body strength. He would climb quickly from one balcony to another without hooks or ropes on high rise buildings. Then he would break into the upscale condos through the terrace glass. A Miami jeweler claimed to have paid him $800,000 for jewels worth $8 million.

Big Rocks On A Roll
Big, large and loud jewelry is back in style, according to an article in the "Wall Street Journal", August 21, 1998. People are collecting earrings as big as grapes, bracelets as large as bar coasters, and elaborate chokers dripping with stunning jewels. The international style today is to wear the biggest rocks you can afford to buy.

The driving force behind this is the booming stock market, high fashion, and the Hollywood factor. The trend started when Kate Winslet, the star of "Titanic", wore a 17 carat pear shaped diamond to the Academy Awards. Sharon Stone wore a jeweled dragonfly, Linda Hamilton wore diamonds in her hair, and Cher wore diamonds in her tear ducts. Also, as women age, they want larger gemstones. According to author Antoinette Matlins, over age 30, "a carat seems small".

Cartier jewelers previewed their new fall line with models in a New York restaurant. They wore unique pieces such as a diamond and platinum parrot ring with a 10 carat blue sapphire for $198,000 and a watch encircled with two diamond encrusted dolphins for $380,000. Many high end jewelers are seeing their average sales increase.

The auction houses may have started this trend in 1987 with the $50.3 million Duchess of Windsor sale. The wealthy have always been able to afford the finest gems, but now they are buying bigger and rarer pieces than ever before. According to John Block of Sotheby's, "It's not just `I want pearls' anymore. It's `I want black Tahitian pearls' or `I want blue-colored diamonds'." Some contend this trend will last for another 5 or ten years.

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. The gem market is speculative and unregulated. Certification does not eliminate all risks associated with the grading of gems. Recommendations are meant for those who are financially suited for the risks involved. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance. Neither NGC nor The Gemstone Forecaster guarantee a profit or that losses may not be incurred as a result of following its recommendations. They may also hold positions in areas they recommend. Subscribers should not view this publication as investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security.