VOL. 24, #4, Winter, 2006

An Interview with AGL's Cap Beesley, Collecting Moonstone, The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation vs. the Gem Weight Wizard, Auction Report, In The News: Collecting Crystals

  Dec 28, 2006   admin


An Interview with AGL's Cap Beesley
by Robert Genis

In August, Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT) , a leading provider of authentication and grading services to dealers and collectors of high-value collectibles, bought the American Gemological Laboratories (AGL). We thought it would be pertinent to discover what this means for the plans and directions of AGL. We had the following discussion with Cap Beesley, President and Founder of AGL.

Gemstone Forecaster: How long has this deal been in progress? How did it happen?

Cap Beesley: Collectors Universe had a game plan. They are already in the coin, currency, stamps, trading cards and autograph/memorabilia markets. They felt they had reached a plateau in those markets and were looking for new markets to expand. They raised $60-$65 million to aggressively pursue the gemstone and jewelry market.

At the same time they narrowed the intent of the corporation. Collectors Universe does not profit in any way from the selling of any products. Their sole mission is the authentication of high value products.

First, to enter the diamond grading markets, they purchased Gem Certification and Assurance Lab (GCAL), which is operated by Donald Palmeri. Next, they decided to move into colored gemstone grading. I was consulting with Donald Palmeri about another project when the idea of Collectors Universe and AGL first occurred. We had a general discussion 9 or 10 months ago but it really went nowhere. We went back and forth for a long time. Finally, in August, Collectors Universe was really determined to get the deal done. Everything just fell into place.

GF: What were the financial terms of the deal?
CB: I got $3.5 million up front. In three and one half years, if we reach certain benchmarks, I get another $1.5 million. In five years, if we reach certain benchmarks, I get another $2 million. I am providing 5,000 colored gem samples from various countries to create a collection of specimens demonstrating the various enhancements and treatments. These stones will provide a standard against which other stones may be compared.

GF: How long will you remain the President of AGL?
CB: I have a contract for 3 1/2 years, with an option to renew the contract for another two years at that time.

GF: Have your responsibilities changed since AGL was purchased?
CB: Well, they have definitely increased and we have many projects going at once. For example, we have entirely new security with new cameras and safes. Also, we are redesigning the AGL office for 10-15 workstations for new graders. We now have PR, marketing, HR and IT departments. In other words, I interact with numerous people these days. Things happen very quickly when you deal with another corporate entity.

GF: We have heard Collectors Universe rented an entire floor in your building that has room for 60 graders. Is that accurate?
CB: No, the floor they rented was for the GCAL or the new diamond graders. We had the choice of moving to that floor but felt we had too much money invested in this space. However, the new space on the 27th floor has video conferencing abilities with Collectors Universe in California so we all communicate.

GF: Is it true that Collectors Universe is going to commit $100 million in marketing the diamond and jewelry business to the public?
CB: No. The important number is $60-65 million. That includes the amount of money they will use to buy important players in the industry. For example, they just bought Gemprint for $7 million. I have heard if it takes $100 million to position the company in this market, they will spend it.

GF: Let's talk about the AGL cert. What changes can we expect?
CB: Let's start at the top and work down. The top AGL document will be platinum. This will cost $2500. It will include a full AGL grading report with country of origin, a letter about the material, the gemstones' spectra, and an 8x11 image of the stone. It will contain more detail than what is usually seen and will be a 7-8 page document. Of course, it will be presented in an upscale binding.

The next level is Gold. That is the document everyone is used to already. Of course, it includes color/tone, clarity, cutting/finish grades, brilliancy, country of origin and treatment. The price varies on the size and type of material.

The brand new levels will be Fast Track One and Two. These grades will be guaranteed.

Fast Track Two will be a verbal description of the Gold grading report. For example, the new report might say good for finish instead of the numbers 5-6. The color grade would say very good instead of 3.5. Treatment issues will be a simple yes or no with a standard comment. There will be no county of origin on this document. This report will cost $75 and the gemstones can also be laser inscribed for a small fee.

Fast Track One is the size of a credit card. Imagine a two-sided tent. Each side will have information about the stone. It is designed to sit upright in a jewelers display case. The front side will have the image of the stone and information about the stone. It will also contain enhancement information that is compliant with the FTC/State requirements. The back side will contain general supporting information about the material. These cards are also color coordinated to the species. For example, rubies will be in red cards and aquamarine in light blue, etc. This product is available for $25 each when 25 stones are submitted.

GF: How are you going to market these new products?
CB: Although it is going to take a great deal of planting and watering, we are going to market to the consumers and the retail jewelers. We are using the push/pull technique. We want the consumer to go into a jewelry store and ask for an AGL document. They should have confidence this is a publicly traded company. Everything is transparent.

We are going to do seminars, trade shows, the internet, and other media. I just saw the new print campaign. It is a $200,000-$300,000 buy. We also have the Lobby at the Las Vegas Show.

GF: Any final words?
CB: This vehicle has given me an opportunity to do on a grand scale what I was never able to do myself. Collectors Universe is stepping up to the plate with resources and funding. For the first time in 40 years, we have something brand new on the landscape. A publicly traded company is a new dimension in this business. The main goal is to make it easier for consumers to buy with confidence and help retail jewelers sell more colored gemstones.

If this doesn't work, I don't know what will.

GF: Thank you.

Collecting Moonstone
by Robert Genis

Back in the 60's every hippy wanted a moonstone. It was like wearing the moon on your finger. To a psychedelic generation, it was mesmerizing to watch the cats-eye rotate in the light. Moonstone was beautiful and still inexpensive.

Nothing could be further from the truth in the moonstone market these days. The prices for these goods have escalated and certain colors are even sought after by collectors.

The amount of folklore surrounding moonstone is extensive. In ancient times, Romans believed moonstone was the magical crystallization of actual moonlight. Greeks called moonstone Aphroselene, a combination of the Love and Moon Goddesses, Aphrodite and Selene. In India, moonstone is a sacred stone. It was believed if you kept it in your mouth on a full moon, you would receive prophetic powers. Europeans believed by owning a moonstone, you could tell the future during the waning moon. Moonstone was also a favorite of Victorian and Art Nouveau jewelers. Moonstone was highly prized as a gift for lovers as it was believed to arouse passion.

Moonstone has been known for having almost unbelievable powers. For example, it was used to treat cancer, ulcers and emotional problems. Some believe it will balance a persons yin and yang. It is said to protect the owner against bad temperament, erratic behavior, insomnia and marital problems.

While these claims are probably not true, they make moonstone an even more intriguing gemstone.

Brief Gemology
Moonstone is the most famous member of the feldspar group. Technically, moonstone belongs to the orthoclase branch of the feldspar family and rainbow moonstone is in the labradorite branch. Moonstone's floating light that appears to come from below is also known as adularescence. It is caused by structural anomalies within the stone which refract or scatter incoming light. The size or thickness of these anomalies determines the color of the floating light. To depict this effect, moonstone is usually cut cabochon, and the height of the cabochon must be correct to maximize the effect. Conversely, rainbow moonstone labradorescence is a play of colors on the surface of the stone caused by microscopically thin twinning. These phenomena are usually only seen when the the stone is in a certain position relative to the source of light and the observer.

Moonstone is only 6 on the Mohs scale. However, it is soft but it is not brittle. Moonstone is easily repolished if broken.

Country of Origin
Moonstone is found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Madagascar, Brazil, Australia and India. The various colors only come from India and the other sources are white. In India, rainbow moonstone is mined in the southwest and blue is mined at Bihar in the center of the country.

Mining Problems
The problem with mining moonstone is the weather and the mining methods employed. The monsoon rains occur in India from June through August. These mines are simple pits that seasonally flood. Therefore, you cannot begin to find moonstone until September or October. Plus, the miners cannot use dynamite because moonstone is so soft.

Moonstone is discovered by shining flashlights on feldspar veins 20-30 feet below the earth Once found, these veins are followed in whatever direction they go causing many cave-in problems. These are essentially basic pick and ax operations.

Rainbow and Blue Moonstone
Rainbow and blue varieties are the crown jewels of moonstone.

Rainbows are the most expensive. The rainbows come in a myriad of colors, with red, orange and blue being predominant. The most desired rainbows are either red/orange/blue or lavender. These 5 carat stones sell for $150 per carat and 10 carat stone can fetch over $500 per carat.

In blue moonstones, you are looking for a deep sapphire blue. These 5 carat stones sell for $100 per carat and 10 carat stones can reach $150-250 per carat.

Green Moonstone
Green moonstone has suddenly become the darling of the designer world. The last few months everyone wants the new mango green. These stones are named by the miners in India because the color looks like the rich leaf green of an unripened mango. These stones sell for $20-$30 per carat. Large greens can reach $40-$50 per carat.

Red/Orange/Peach Moonstone
These stones were hot this summer but have appeared to be tapering off. These colors are available and the supply is good. They wholesale in the $10-$15 per carat range.

White Cats Eyes Moonstone
White cats-eye moonstones are the commonly seen moonstones by the general public. They sell for around $15-$20 per carat.

Brown/Grey Moonstone
By far, these colors are the most common. Prices are around $10 per carat.

Moonstone are also carved with the "man in the moon" the preferred design. You never see carvings in rainbow and only in low qualities in blue because of the potential for these to break while being cut. However, in the other colors you get top quality and nice carvings. It is rumored the remaining Beatles have moonstone carved cufflinks for their tuxedos.

Pricing and Rarity
Moonstone is priced based upon color, adularescence and clarity. You want the strongest color. The largest demand for moonstone is in the large, clean stones over 10 carats. These stones can wholesale for $300 per carat or more. Collectors search for rainbows over 10 carats, blues over 20-30 carats and other colors from 50-over 100 carats.

The moonstone market is varied and multidimensional. The largest buyers are designers in New York and Europe. Retail jewelers also buy these stones when they have calls. Of course, certain collectors hunt for these stones.

Although obviously a niche market, moonstone continues to remain a stone popular in many circles. Moonstone remains a very affordable phenomenal stone, compared with other stones displaying optical phenomena, such as cat's-eye chrysoberyl. Although the popularity of this gemstone may wax and wane, anticipate this unique gemstone to remain popular for generations to come.

The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation vs. the Gem Weight Wizard
How to Estimate Diamond and Colored Gemstone Size

by Robert G. Genis

Someone walks into your jewelry store and wants to sell you a mounted diamond. You are sitting in a bank vault and the heirs ask you to bid on a large emerald ring. The owner of an antique store shows you a ruby in an old mounting, and you are interested in buying. You are an appraiser and a client with numerous mounted pieces wants to know their value. In any of these common scenarios, it would be helpful to be able to quickly and easily estimate the carat weight of a gemstone that is not loose and has no grading report.

Two Systems
The tried and true method has always been the hardback book, The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation by Charles Carmona. Recently, David Marcum, President, Gem Weight Wizard, Cape Coral, Florida, created a new computer program named Gem Weight Wizard. It will be downloadable to your pda, computer, laptop and some phones. We thought it would be interesting to test both methods.

The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation
The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation is jammed packed with tables and charts to help you simply estimate the weights of stones. The tables include 24 common and 48 uncommon shapes. There are also sections for pearls and diamonds. In order to use this book, Carmona placed more then 100 different gemstones into 8 groups based upon their specific gravity. Since gem materials vary greatly in density, this is why two different gemstones may have the same size but different weights and vice versa.

Knowledge of a gemstone's shape, length, width, and specific gravity group allows you to discover an approximate weight range of the stone in the bookˆ¢s tables. Each table is for a specific shape, and gives weight ranges for various sizes for each of the specific gravity groups. All of these measurements are standard calibrated sizes, and therefore one may not find the exact millimeter measurements of any individual stone. Of course, all the tables are based upon the depth percentage (depth divided by width) of well cut stones. If a stone is deeper or shallower, a correction is made. Adjustments are also made for high crowns, shallow or deep pavilions, and any bulge factors. After making adjustments you come up with a weight range, except for round diamonds, for which the table gives you an exact weight.

Gem Weight Wizard
I used the Gem Weight Wizard on a HP iPAQ. Once the program opens, you get to choose diamond, corundum, or emerald. You can also use a pull down menu to weigh 29 other less common gemstones. Then you select the shape of the gemstone from a menu with the most common shapes. The next step is measure exactly the gem's length, width and depth and input the measurements into the program. You can also select an outline for hearts, ovals, pears and marquise shapes. Then you select a girdle thickness from thin to extremely thick. The last component of this program is selecting a pavilion bulge. Click the results and you will see a summary of the previous results and the gem's probable exact weight.

We decided to evaluate both tools on a series of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds with known weights. These are all independently graded stones, and calculations were made with the dimensions given on their grading reports.

Diamond Table

Actual Weight 1.03 2.03 3.05 5.46 13.04
Gem Weight Wizard 1.11 2.16 3.33 5.62 13.78
Gem Weight Estim.
5.30 13.21

Diamond Observations
The Gem Weight Wizard was consistently higher than the actual diamond weights. When you are buying a mounted diamond, this can be a real problem. The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation tended to be within the projected ranges. If you error on the low to middle side of the The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation, you would be safer and the purchase would be more accurate. The only time the book was higher was the 13.04.

Ruby Table 
Actual Weight  1.01 1.41 1.53 2.36 3.02
Gem Weight Wizard  .98 1.36 1.51 2.28 3.12
Weight Estim.
.99-1.07 1.38-1.48 1.45-
2.20-2.36 2.92-

Sapphire Table
Oval  Cab
Actual Weight 2.09 2.37 3.05 11.16 38.71
Gem Weight Wizard 2.09 2.55 2.94 11.12 37.43
Weight Estim.
2.39-2.75 2.99-
10.50-11.37 34.89-37.57

Ruby and Sapphire Observations
Both systems did fine jobs with these stones. The Gem Weight Wizard was within acceptable tolerances and The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation was usually within the general ranges.

Emerald Table
Actual Weight 2.05 2.10 2.41 3.07 5.38
Gem Weight Wizard 2.21 2.06 2.13 3.41 5.84
Weight Estim.
1.91-2.05 2.37-
2.73-3.23 5.53-

Emerald Observations
The emerald weights using the Gem Weight Wizard were sometimes high and sometimes low. The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation did an excellent job with the exception of being high on the 5.38 emerald.

General Observations
The Gem Weight Wizard should be more accurate because it calculates its weight estimate based on the exact millimeter dimensions. However, often I had to adjust the variables, such as bulge or girdle thickness, to make the estimation closer to the actual weight. One disadvantage of using the book is that the tables strictly use calibrated sizes, and the gemstones I used were not cut to calibrated sizes. However, through practice and error, I found it was almost always better to round up to the next closest calibrated size. This often resulted in spot-on estimations. The bottom line is you need to practice with either system to get a feel for the adjustment factors. Neither is perfect without some corrections. The more stones you weigh, the better you become at estimating the weight of diamonds and gemstones.

These tools are excellent references for jewelers, gem dealers, estate jewelry dealers, pawnshops or jewelry appraisers. But this is a subjective process and if you need to have a precise weight, the stone should be removed and weighed. Surely each of these tools is better than simply "eyeballing" the stone and guessing the weights of diamonds and gemstones.

According to Marcum, "You have received one of five beta testers. We will be refining the product based upon feedback and expect to have the finished program in 60 days." The expected retail is $99 at gemweightwizard.com. Your other option is to purchase the The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation for $60 and keep it with you in situations where you might need it. Since both systems are reasonably accurate within tolerances, possibly the decision should be based upon your computer literacy or preference. If you like toys and gadgets, buy the Gem Weight Wizard. If not, buy The Complete Handbook for Gemstone Estimation at any major bookstore or amazon.com.

Auction Report

The November auctions were strong. Observers believe the auctions are becoming more international with new Russian and Indian buyers.

Here are the top colored gemstones and colored diamonds that sold:

* A 6.92 Pear Intense Orangy Pink Diamond sold for over $119,000 per carat at Christie's
* A 9.24 Cushion Burma Ruby sold for over $147,000 per carat at Sotheby's.
* An 18.28 Cushion Burma Ruby sold for over $91,000 per carat at Sotheby's.
* A 30.11 Cushion Blue Grey Diamond sold for over $51,000 per carat at Christie's.
* A 6.84 Rectangular Colombian Emerald sold for over $22,000 per carat at Christie's.
* An 18.53 Octagonal Burma Sapphire sold for over $21,000 per carat at Christie's.
* An 8.87 Step Cut Kashmir sapphire sold for over $17,000 per carat at Sotheby's.
* An 8.02 Oval Kashmir sapphire sold for over $16,000 per carat at Sotheby's.
* A 7.20 Cushion Kashmir Sapphire sold for over $16,000 per carat at Christie's.
* A 3.65 Step Cut Kashmir sapphire sold for over $13,000 per carat at Sotheby's.
* A 7.03 Cushion Kashmir Sapphire sold for over $12,500 per carat at Christie's.
* A 23.70 Cushion Burma Sapphire sold for over $10,000 per carat at Christie's.

In The News
Connoisseur's Guide
The Hunt For Six-Figure Rocks

Missy Sullivan, 11/20/06
Highlights Of Marc Weill's Mineral Collection

This is a fascinating article inside the world of high dollar crystal collecting-ED

What's not to like about mineral specimens? They sparkle. They come in deep, beautiful colors and strange, fabulous crystalline formations--many so perfectly formed you'd swear they'd been cut by a jeweler. Top examples have appreciated nearly tenfold in five years. Some even swear they have healing powers.

So I was intrigued when I heard that Marc Weill, founder and chief executive of City Light Capital, a New York-based venture investment firm, and the son of former Citigroup (nyse: C - news - people ) Chairman and CEO Sanford Weill, had amassed a world-class collection of more than 400 dazzling, one-of-a-kind specimens in fewer than five years.

Sure, deep pockets don't hurt. But his aren't the only ones in the game, with big-money rock hounds like Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) billionaire Paul Allen and Intel's (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) Karl Kempf in the chase for the choicest specimens. Weill, 50, learned early that spiriting masterpieces from existing collections is a slow and fiercely competitive endeavor. So he decided to snatch new finds at the source, with the help of partner Daniel Trinchillo, a mineral expert with Indiana Jones tendencies, who regularly jets off to remote corners of Brazil or China to do just that. I visited Weill at his Greenwich, Conn., estate to check out his spectacular rocks and speak with him, his adviser, Dennis Tanjeloff, and his partner about their quest for the best.

Forbes.com: How did you get started?
Weill: I've been intrigued by minerals since I was young. I still have a piece of tourmaline that I found on a Boy Scout field trip. I worked summers to buy my own lapidary equipment so I could cut and polish rocks. I eventually drifted away from the hobby. Then five or six years ago, we were building a pool and my son wanted to pick out some cool-looking rocks for the waterfall. That got me interested again. I started reading everything I could get my hands on, and subscribing to magazines like The Mineralogical Record and Rocks and Minerals. And I started buying entry-level specimens in the $500 to $5,000 range on the Web. One day I went to Astro Gallery of Gems in New York and met Dennis Tanjeloff, a third-generation dealer. I invited him over and asked him what he thought of my rocks. He said, "Let me show you some really top rocks." He has since become a primary adviser and introduced me to Danny, a high-end dealer and sourcer.

Forbes: Why minerals? What's the attraction?
Weill: First is their incredible beauty, being privileged to live with what I think of as "nature's art." Second, I've learned so much about how the earth works and what minerals are produced in what countries; through my hobby, I've gotten to know people all over the world. And lastly, I can't deny that the competitive aspect of it--that battle over the very best examples--really gets my juices flowing.

Forbes: How many minerals are known?
Weill: There are 4,000 mineral species--and counting--with a core of about 500 that are aesthetically beautiful, colorful and collectible. For serious collectors, the best examples usually fall under eight inches.

Forbes: How is this stuff found?
Trichillo: Since they're formed in the earth, they're primarily extracted through mining. The fact that crystals survive the mining process at all is something of a miracle, given that we're talking about barely educated people working with hand tools and explosives. More than 75% of what is yielded ends up being destroyed. In the old days, a big commercial mine producing a thousand tons of ore every two months wouldn't stop if it found a pocket of mineral specimens. It would just grind right through them. Now, they're worth enough that the company will stop and extract them more carefully.

Forbes: What's more valuable? Mineral specimens or cut gemstones?
Trichillo: Semi-precious minerals (garnet, tourmaline, amethyst, aquamarine) and precious ones (diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire) are all highly sought after based on their cutting value, which is measured by their size, clarity and color. But when that mineral crystal exhibits the same properties in its natural state, the value can rise ten- or 20-fold--or more--over its cutting value.

Forbes: How do you decide what to buy and what not to?
Weill: After I met Dennis and Danny, I began to focus on one-of-a-kind, best-of-breed specimens. They helped me to see the nuances of quality. A lot of what you look for in a mineral is the same as in a gem: size, intensity of color, transparency, luster and perfection. But then there are other considerations that are specific to the mineral collecting world, like the aesthetics of the crystal grouping. (Crystals almost always grow in association with other minerals, the "base" one or ones being called its matrix.) What don't I buy? Things I think are overpriced. Things I already have a great example of or think I can find a better example of. And really big things. They're usually decorator pieces.

Forbes: How do you know something is worth chasing to the remote corners of the earth?
Trinchillo: You don't. And frankly, for every ten calls I get--where I get on a plane to a remote locale, then travel by car or donkey over rugged roads, then by foot up into the mountains--only one find in ten is as represented and worthwhile. The Internet has improved the process, because we used to have to go on a verbal description alone, which often suffered from poor translations or inadequate details. But the nature of the game is this: You have to go because you never know and because there's always someone else chasing the source. When you don't go, that's when you find out that it was something unbelievable.

Forbes: Running around third-world countries buying valuable minerals must lead to some scary moments?
Trichillo: When you're hot on the trail of a mineral, you sometimes put yourself at risk. I've been to interior provinces in China, back in 1997, when foreigners were not allowed. I found myself running through the streets at night, trying to dodge the police, relying on a translator I'd known for only two weeks. Some of the finest mines are in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but I haven't been back since Sept. 11. When I was there, everyone was walking around with guns. My scariest moment happened in Russia, before I met Marc. The mafia had been tipped off that I had brought $25,000 cash to buy minerals, and they stormed the apartment where I was staying with my Russian partner and his pregnant wife and four-year-old son, robbing us. I ended up jumping out the window in my pajama bottoms in 20-below weather and breaking my front teeth. But I got back on the horse and went back six weeks later. It was actually a good learning experience to have early on. Now I don't carry cash; I wire. When appropriate, I use bodyguards. And I've become much more aware of my surroundings.

Forbes: What, if any, of this material gets faked?
Tanjeloff: The most common fakery is to take a single crystal and put it in a dramatic form on a matrix, because that amps up the value a hundredfold. There's a single aquamarine in Marc's collection that, as a single crystal, is worth about $150,000; on a matrix, it would be worth over a million. When a crystal grows out of a matrix, it meets the matrix in a way that is seamless. So if you see gaps around the base of a crystal, that's usually a clue. Sometimes fakers will crush rock and try and fill in the gaps. You need to make sure that the matrix is flush. It often takes a trained eye. Glues used in a lot of these countries aren't great. Usually they can be detected with a black light or by soaking the minerals in acetone, which dissolves the glue.

Forbes: How has the market for minerals changed since you began?
Weill: It's a fragmented, mom-and-pop market. I was lucky to get in during the post-Sept. 11, post-crash lull. But the high end has since risen close to tenfold. There haven't been too many great finds recently, so what sustains the market is older collections.

Over the last 20 or 30 years, appreciation at the top end has been dramatic. The lower and middle markets appreciate much more slowly. A $30,000 specimen back then would be a half-million dollar one today. But the fact is, at the highest end, it's quite frankly whatever someone is willing to pay and who gets the phone call first.

Forbes: Tell me about a great chase.
Trinchillo: When the Brazilian mine Pederneira produced an amazing pocket of tourmaline in 2002, I happened to hear about it from a visiting dealer friend who had just been down there. He showed me a photo of a specimen the likes of which I had never seen. I'd never been to Brazil, didn't speak Portuguese and wasn't familiar with their ways of doing business, but I didn't waste any time. I called the mine and asked if I could buy it. But the guy I spoke with said it had been sold. I asked if it had been paid for, and when he said "no," I said, "I'm flying down."

Two days later, I arrived in Bella Horizonte and was picked up by a driver who took me on a six-hour trip to Valadares. I told the owners, "In case the other buyer doesn't meet his obligation, I am standing here with money in hand." They were asking $225,000 for the lot. I offered $275,000, with the stipulation that I'd get first right of refusal on the best future material. Well, the other guy's money arrived. So I spent five or six days and bought a few pieces of quartz from them and forged a relationship so that I'd get first shot on the next production.

Three months later, they called. They had sold most of their new pocket, but had saved the top piece for me. Historically most of the value is in the top 1%. I went to look at it, and my eyes fell out of my head. It was the one we call the " sailboat." We bought it for close to $450,000. I recognized that this mine would be very important for an indefinite amount of time, so I formed an exclusive partnership with the owners. I knew if I didn't, the whole world would descend, and there would be a messy dealer war. If you're not Johnny on the Spot, if you don't drop everything on a dime to see what's coming out of the ground immediately, you miss out.

Forbes: What are you chasing now?
Weill: I'd love a great silver specimen from Kongsberg, Norway. Or a fantastic Ouro Preto topaz from Brazil. You never know. Tomorrow might bring a spectacular new find. Or an unknown historic cache from someone's attic. That's the fun of this field.