VOL. 25, #2, Summer, 2007

AGL's New Gemstone Brief, Book Critique: Gemstones by Wallis, Auction Reports, Grading Information, In The News

  Jun 27, 2007   admin


AGL's New Gemstone Brief
by Robert G. Genis

When Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT) purchased American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), we expected changes in the grading reports. One of the major complaints of AGL was their grading reports were too expensive. It appears the new Gemstone Briefs is an attempt to solve that problem. If you submit 25 stones, the price of these briefs are $25 each. This is almost unheard of in the gemstone business.

The great thing about these reports is they make the seller FTC compliant with treatment disclosure guidelines. Now you can market stones as natural with full enhancement disclosure. Of course, this also allows collectors or jewelry buyers to purchase gemstones with a great deal of confidence.

Let's look at the document. Because we submitted a gem red spinel, the card is color coded red. If the stone was a tanzanite the card would be blue or if the stone was an emerald it would be green. On the left hand-side of the document is a photo of the gemstone. Right below the photo is the Gem Brief's lab number. In the middle and right hand side of the document is the date the gemstone was submitted to the lab, the identification, the MM size of the gemstone, the shape of the stone, the primary color of the stone and whether the stone is enhanced.

On the reverse side are comments about spinel and where they are mined. On the bottom of the document, is a statement saying the grading is guaranteed.

mini-cert150dpi.jpg mini-cert224.jpg
Originally planned as a tent-like document that would stand up in a jewelry case, the Gem Brief ended up looking just like a credit card. Although the document does not grade the stone for country of origin, color/tone, clarity, brilliancy, cutting and finish, it really gives a great deal of information for the price. The gem's photograph allows instant confirmation the stone matches the document. For dealers who say grading their stones is too expensive, this document offers and inexpensive alternative. Clients are demanding this information and it probably makes sense to stay ahead of the curve. Although most collectors will stay with the full AGL document they already know, this Gem Brief gives basic information helpful for certain gemstone transactions.

A Book Critique - Gemstones
by Keith Wallis
Antique Collectors' Club Ltd.
127 pages, 2006

"Rubies are the investment stone"

Keith Wallis received his FGA degree in 1978. It appears he spent most of his life traveling the world as an export manager for an air conditioning company. The book has beautiful photographs and is filled with information. However, I have mixed feelings about the book. Let's discuss what is good about the book and what is bad about the book.

Good Parts
The author states investment gemstones are increasing in price because the worldwide economic situation has given a boost to hard assets. He warns that investing in gems is only for the very rich. He also states you should only buy untreated gemstones. You should buy them for their beauty and enjoyment and if they appreciate, it is a bonus. He warns against gem investment scams and that gem shows are no guarantee of reputation.

Country of Origin
The author discusses how many dealers call gemstones Burmese Ruby or Kashmir sapphire when they are not actually from these locations. Some dealers use these descriptions to signify color rather then true country of origin. Beware.

Buying Gemstones-Treatments
The author states the most common treatments must be declared on the sales receipt or certificate and that all treated stones will sell for less than untreated stones. Then he states that many dealers who sell run-of-the-mill gemstones believe that declaring treatment is irrelevant.

Ruby Treatment
The author discusses glass treatment and the filling of fractures in ruby in this book. He recommends you get a gemological laboratory grading report if you want to buy a ruby for investment. Of course, he is talking about the Mong Hsu material from Burma but we are happy he points this fact out.

The Gemstones
A large section of this book includes great information on gemstones found in jewelry stores, television shopping and the internet. This is an excellent section if you want to learn about lesser known gems. A few examples are benitoite, danburite, jade, peridot, spinel, topaz and tourmaline.

Organic Gems
Another well done section includes gems such as pearls, jet, ivory, amber and others.

Jade Warning
The author correctly warns people not to buy jade overseas. You cannot detect treatments with simple gemological instruments. He states you should not buy from street traders but only reliable sources. I cannot tell you how many people get ripped off in the Orient.

Comparative Sizes of Gems Chart
This fascinating chart compares popular gemstones to the size of a one carat round diamond. This chart shows a one carat spinel is 2.56% smaller than a diamond and ruby and sapphire are 13.35% smaller, due to their varying specific gravity. Many stones appear larger than a one carat diamond, such as tanzanite, tourmaline, emerald and others.

Comparative Gem Value Chart
This is one of the best charts I have ever seen. It places all commonly traded gemstones into comparative values. Gemstones range from modest, for example, blue topaz to affordable, special occasion, expensive and the sky's the limit. For those interested, the gems that fall under the sky's the limit are black opal, star ruby, blue sapphire, alexandrite, emerald, Paraiba tourmaline and ruby.

Errors and Omissions
Buying Gemstones Overseas
The author has an entire section on buying gemstones overseas. This is probably because he spent his entire life traveling overseas. He gives intricate detail about the various gemstones you can try to buy overseas. Thankfully, he also discusses the scams many try to pull on overseas buyers such as in Thailand. The problem I have with this section is it is practically impossible for privates to get a good deal overseas. More times than not, the overseas sellers know you know nothing about gemstones and sell you gemstones at inflated prices, often many times what you could have paid in the United States. Gem dealers are routinely fooled by synthetics and new treatments. What chance does a novice have? Discussing this in a gem book probably sends the wrong message.

Diamond Grading
The author is unclear why the GIA starts its grading system with D color being the best. In the old days before independent diamond grading was universally accepted, jewelers used to grade their stones from A to C. Rather than further confuse the consumers of the time, the GIA threw out these letters and started with D.

Emerald Treatments
The author states fractures in emeralds are common and fillings/oils have been used for years to improve the appearance of emeralds. He states this is controversial in the gem trade and enhancements should probably only be disclosed if they change the color of emeralds. Of course, we disagree and believe clients have the right to know exactly what was done to every gemstone.

Garnet Information Out-of-Date
The garnet section is unbelievably out-of-date. Spessartine garnet is stated by the publication to come from Sri Lanka, Brazil and the US. Somehow, two major finds in the last the last 20 years escaped the author. How can the 1993 find of true mandarin garnets in Namibia have been left out? Also, the Nigerian find of orange garnet is not discussed in the book. Finally, the recent find of Russian demantoid garnet is not even mentioned, perhaps this omission can be excused due to publishing deadlines.

Paraiba Tourmaline
The author forgot the the 2002 Nigerian find of Paraiba-like tourmaline. We can understand why he did not mention the brand new find of Mozambique Paraiba-like tourmaline.


The author properly states the grading systems used to sell tanzanite on tv shopping channels carry no validity. In the Appendix of the book, he reproduces the colored grading system of the Tanzanite Foundation. He states the higher degree of violet saturation, the greater the price. Actually, the Tanzanite Foundation grading scale makes the highest degree of violitish blue and the highest degree of bluish violet as equal. The bottom line is the blue the better in tanzanite. You want the violet to be the secondary color. This is one problem with the sellers creating a grading system.

Would I recommend this book? The answer is a qualified yes. I think the Comparative Gem Value and Comparative Sizes of Gems Charts makes the book worth every cent. A great deal of expense was incurred with the photographs of this book. You can have a interesting evening simply looking at the pictures.

Although I can think of better colored gemstone publications, this book has some interesting ideas and is written from an English perspective. Simply keep in mind, some of the information is outdated, but the thrust of the information is valid.

Many of you have extensive gemological libraries and buy every book about gemstones that comes out. You should add this one to your collection. You can purchase this book on-line in the bookstore.

Auction Reports

New Sapphire Auction Record
A 22.66 carat Kashmir sapphire was sold by Christie's for $3.06 million on April 25, 2007, topping the previous record for a sapphire of $135,000 per carat or $3.038 million for a 62-carat Rockefeller sapphire in 2001. The stone was bought by an unknown buyer.

Minnesota industrialist James J. Hill gave his wife Mary the stone on Dec. 24, 1886. The Kashmir sapphire was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in 2006, following the death of Hill's last surviving grandchild. Hill died in 1916 and gave the piece to his six daughters.

After commissions and fees, the Historical Society's will receive about $2.6 million. which will be placed in an endowment to maintain the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue. The Historical Society thought the stone might bring $80,000 at auction and Christie's placed its value between $250,000 and $350,000. Many knew it is standard operating procedure to low-ball the estimates to create action.

Many who have seen the stone in person have stated the stone was not top quality Kashmir. When you say Kashmir sapphire, it conjures up a mental photo of a soft robin's egg blue color. Reportedly, the tone and color of the Kashmir are a little light and not equal to many of the smaller killer Kashmirs sometimes available on the market. Since the stone did not have an AGL Colored Stone Grading Report, we will never know for sure. The bottom line is large ruby and sapphire gemstones continue to shatter previous records at auction.

Sotheby's Geneva
On May 17, Sotheby's concluded its Magnificent and Noble Jewels sale and sold more than $40 million worth of gemstones and jewelry.  Two large fancy intense yellow diamonds known as The Donnersmarck diamonds were bought by the same client. The 82.48 carat pear sold for over $4.6 million and the 102.54 carat cushion sold for over $3.2 million. The diamonds were set originally in 1878.  In this sale, a cushion Burmese ruby weighing 11.64 carats, set into a ring surrounded by diamonds, was sold for $735,609. It was not a top red gem.

Christie's Geneva
The Christie's sale on May 16, breached over $25 million. An interesting colored diamond that sold was a 100.60 carat briolette cut fancy orange-brown VS2 diamond. It sold for $1,020,000.

Sotheby's Hong Kong
April 10 at Sotheby's, a Hong Kong buyer bought a 39-bead jadeite necklace for over $3.3 million. A 5.02 carat radiant, fancy intense blue VS2 diamond sold for $2.4 million. A radiant cotton candy pink diamond weighing 11.03 carats sold for over $2 million

Grading Information
Country of Origin
JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone,

EDITOR: After 25 years of promoting independent grading reports and knowledge of country of origin, we are happy to see these issues have finally entered the mainstream jewelry market. Of course, the AGL is still the gold standard because they tell the buyer about the quality of the gemstone. Due to space limitations, this article was edited for length.

"Country-of-origin lab reporting is the number one issue of the "Top Five Hot Color Topics" presented by Gary Roskin, gemstone editor for JCK magazine. "The value of the gem and your reputation are at stake every time you sell a color gemstone," said Roskin, who suggested selling gems with professional lab origin reports. "Having a laboratory identification report, and a country of origin report, can reinforce your professionalism, protect you from making uninformed buying and selling decisions, and be an excellent continuing education tool" More labs than ever are offering country of origin reports, including the Gemological Institute of America, American Gemological Laboratories, American Gem Trade Association's Gem Testing Center, International Gemological Institute, European Gemological Laboratory, Gubelin Gem Lab, the Gemological Institute. While all have some type of gem identification and country-of-origin reports to offer the retail jeweler, Roskin reminded retailers to check their services and fee schedules, to note how long it will take to have a stone identified, and to note the ease of understanding the report. "Obviously your client will be asking you, and not the lab, to explain what is on the report" Roskin agreed that it's important to know from what country a gem comes but added that "dealers, retailers, and consumers want to know where a gemstone comes from because of the reputation of the locality-the quality of stones that have previously come from that locality." Roskin asked, "Do you pay more for an emerald because it's from Colombia? Just because the report says itˆ¢s from Colombia doesn't mean that the gem is high quality."

Roskin showed five red stones, two from Burma, the others from Tajikistan, Vietnam, and East Africa. The two from Burma were from Mogok and Mong Hsu. "The Mogok stone has not been heated, but the Mong Hsu stone has been heated," Roskin explained. "They all look very similar. Will you pay the same amount for the two Burma stones? Or do you want to know the quality?"Roskin advised jewelers to look for reports that tell not only where a gem comes from but also something about the quality of the stone. He also noted that only one laboratory, AGL, quality grades colored stones."

In The News

Skipping the Solitaire
For Some People's Engagement Rings,
Anything But a Diamond Will Do

Wall Street Journal Free Edition
May 18,2007
By Jennifer Howze

EDITOR: We continue to see more and more people buying fine colored gemstones for engagement rings. Here is an article which discusses this trend in detail.

Amelia Troubridge doesn't like what she calls "the big-diamond thing." "It's a bit cheesy in my opinion," says the 32-year-old English photographer. So when she and her fiance went shopping for her engagement ring, they didn't opt for a conventional diamond solitaire. Instead she visited Stephen Webster, a luxury jewelry designer in London who has made rings for Christina Aguilera and Madonna. There she picked out a ring with a rose quartz stone surrounded by smaller diamonds.

"I wanted something really beautiful and special instead of going for what is seen as an engagement ring," she says.

Diamonds have lately lost their luster in some quarters. Public awareness is growing about conflict diamonds -- stones used to finance wars and violence in Africa, highlighted in the recent Oscar-nominated movie "Blood Diamond" -- and other environmental and ethical issues involved in diamond mining. Celebrities such as the model Lily Cole and Julie Christie have spoken out against DeBeers for the eviction of the Bushmen tribe of the central Kalahari from their land for mining.

But for some women, the diamond engagement ring is simply the victim of its own success. "It was just too not-creative, not-individual," says Jenny Leigh Thompson, 35, design director at Marie Claire magazine in New York, whose fiance designed an antique-style ring with a sapphire and two smaller diamonds for her when they got engaged two years ago. "Everybody has a diamond."

Her colleague, deputy editor Julia Savacool, 31, echoes the desire to take oneself out of the diamond race. "People look at your diamond engagement ring and are making assumptions about you," she says. "It's insane the amount of finger gawking that goes on." Her ring features a ruby set in platinum with two smaller diamonds on either side.

The fashion for diamond engagement rings dates back only to the early 20th century, driven by an advertising campaign by DeBeers. In ancient times, a plain metal ring was often used to mark an engagement. Today, however, about 93% of all engagement rings bought annually in the U.S. are diamond-only rings, according to DeBeers, and in the U.K., only 3% of engagement rings don't contain diamonds.

What to do if you're among the group that wants an engagement ring featuring something other than diamonds?

The easiest way to find a ring that looks like an engagement ring, says Faith Shah, co-owner of Shah & Shah jewelers in Washington, is to pick one that features a main stone flanked by small diamonds or other gems that highlight its color.

Here are a few tips from jewelers:

Design a bespoke ring
You don't have to buy a rock as big as the Ritz to work with jewelers at creating a ring from scratch.

"It's not about sourcing the best stones. It's about making jewels," says Geoffroy Medinger, U.K. retail manager of French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels.

The price can be as low or as high as you want -- leaving diamonds out doesn't necessarily lower the cost. Emeralds, rubies and sapphires are the most costly of the colored gemstones. Large rubies, for example, are very rare and valuable and, according to the Gemological Institute of America, can outprice an emerald or a colorless diamond of comparable size.

Bring the jeweler pictures of rings you like, browse available styles and sit down with a store's designer to talk about the stones and look you want.

Think about tradition
Even when buying a ring straight from a display cabinet, you can make a highly personal choice. "I didn't want to have something made," says Ms. Troubridge. "I didn't want it to be a big fuss." Instead, she and her fiance picked her ring because it looked like something she would have found in her grandmother's jewelry box. "It had an old-world feel," she says.

Choose a durable stone
Diamonds are the hardest substance found in nature -- cue that "diamonds are forever" slogan -- so if you're choosing a different gem, make sure it can withstand day-to-day wear.

A soft, fragile stone like tanzanite or emerald can chip or scratch, says Melvyn Kirtley, president of Tiffany & Co. in the U.K. And their crystalline structure even makes it possible to shatter them if they are knocked at just the right spot, says Ms. Shah, the Washington jeweler. "It's like cleaving wood," she says.

Durable alternatives to diamonds include sapphires, which come in a range of colors including yellow and pink, as well as traditional blue; rubies; aquamarines; garnets; and tourmalines, which can range in color from black to reddish purple.

Get in shape
More-delicate gemstones benefit from a shape such as round or cushion cut, rather than something like a marquis, which creates a point where the gem is more vulnerable. "Usually oval or cushion cut is the norm for most colored gemstones," says Ms. Shah. She recommends brilliant cuts, which start from a center point and radiate outward. Brilliant cuts can come in oval, marquis, pear and round shapes.

Consider the setting
Many jewelers say platinum is the most protective material to use for settings, because of its hardness and its ability to maintain its color and to complement the color of most gemstones. Gold, however, remains a favorite to use with emeralds and other green stones. White gold is less desirable, but is a more affordable alternative. "White gold has a bad reputation because of the plating, which can wear off," says Mr. Medinger. "It is a little more gray than platinum, and it will age differently."

Make a fashion statement
If you go for a colored stone, you needn't worry about being matchy-matchy with fashion. "I couldn't say there's a wrong way to wear a ruby or a sapphire or an emerald," says Mr. Medinger. "If (you) want to wear an emerald with a color that doesn't match, why not? It's (your) creativity that's expressed."

Shopping Ashore
Cruise passengers rocked by unscrupulous jeweler

The Miami Herald
by Anita Dunham-Potter
June 3, 2007

EDITOR: The Gemstone Forecaster is hearing more and more horror stories about people buying diamonds,gemstones and jewelry on these cruises. Our recommendation remains caveat emptor when buying overseas on cruises. Due to space limitations, this article was edited for length.

Last summer, while cruise passengers Courtney Thompson and his wife were shopping during a port stop in Santorini, Greece, they came upon a store that had some beautiful jewelry items. It also displayed a sign stating that the shop was a member of Celebrity's ``Guaranteed Shopping Program.''

The Thompsons -- Coral Gables residents who were sailing aboard Celebrity's Millennium -- purchased a necklace, bracelet, ring and several sets of earrings at a total cost of $24,000.

When the Thompsons reboarded the Millennium, the ship's shopping director, Jennifer Faust, noticed their shopping bag and informed them that the store was no longer part of Celebrity's shopping program because of complaints from past Celebrity guests. Indeed, the store was not listed on the shopping flier that Celebrity had distributed to its passengers.

''I had a shopping map of Santorini, but I left it on the tour bus,'' says Courtney Thompson. ``I saw the recommended shopping sign in (the) store window. I didn't think I needed it.''

Faust took the Thompsons to the ship's jeweler, who confirmed the Thompsons' growing fear: The jewelry wasn't worth nearly what they had paid for it.

Since the ship was in port for a few more hours, Thompson says they decided to run back to the store. But when he reached the store, it was closed.

Thompson made phone calls and sent e-mails from the ship to the store, Celebrity's customer service department and Onboard Media, the company in charge of Celebrity's shopping program.

The Bad News
When the Thompsons returned home to Florida, they had the jewelry appraised. The certified appraisal value was $8,800, a far cry from the $24,000 the Thompsons had paid. The appraiser said the jewelry store misrepresented the carat weights and clarity of most of the stones. For the diamond necklace, the store documented the weight to be 4.5 carats; the appraiser said it was 2.25 carats. Moreover, the quality of the gemstones was sub-par.

After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issue with the store, the Thompsons contacted their credit card company, American Express. American Express said the incident was ''out of their jurisdiction'' since it was considered a ''fraudulent occurrence'' outside the United States. Furthermore, additional protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act could not apply to the Thompson's case since the items were charged outside the United States.

The Thompsons then sent letters to Celebrity executives and filed a claim with Onboard Media. Celebrity denied responsibility and referred the complaint to Onboard Media. Onboard Media also denied responsibility, on the grounds that the jewelry store was not a member of its recommended shopping program.

Celebrity's Position
I tried to contact the store but my calls were never answered. Celebrity and Onboard Media did get back to me.

Celebrity spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro said, 'It's unfortunate that the guest purchased the jewelry from a store that was not part of our Guaranteed Shopping Program. It was unfortunate that the store owner misrepresented himself, but that is why we tell all our guests to visit stores that our `Discovery Shopping' guides discuss in their port lectures or in-stateroom video, and that are listed in our shopping maps distributed on board.''

Most cruise lines contract with outside companies to handle landside shopping programs that vet and then recommend specific merchants. Since 1992, Celebrity has worked with Onboard Media, a division of LVMH (Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessy).

Sarah Beth Reno, vice president of operations for Onboard Media, told me that because the store where the Thompsons bought the jewelry isn't part of the current Port Shopping Program, the 60-day guarantee doesn't apply.

When I inquired about the company's former relationship with the store, Reno said, the store was part of the program during the 2003 to 2005 Europe sailing seasons. 'During the 2005 season, there was some difficulty in getting the store to adhere to the customer service procedures on specific purchases. Even though all claims with (the store) were ultimately closed to the guests' satisfaction, it was decided to discontinue the relationship with this retailer.''

I asked whether there wasn't an attempt to have the Celebrity Guaranteed Shopping sign in the shop window removed and why the passengers were not warned about the merchant. While Reno didn't answer those questions specifically, she did say: ``We do not interfere with a retailer's business practices if they are not part of the program. If guests wish to shop in stores that participate in the program, we advise them to carefully review each shopping map to ensure a store is part of the program.''

Onboard Media's retail partners advertise their products on board Celebrity's ships through television and magazine ads and in the shipboard shopping lectures. According to Reno, all advertisers pay an advertising fee to participate in the program and are required to offer a 60-day guarantee to buyers for any merchandise problems (the guarantee does not cover buyer's remorse or customer negligence). In the event of a problem, Onboard Media's customer service department assists guests and works with the retailer to resolve it.

Onboard Media also checks up on its current members. ''There is continual quality control once a retailer is accepted in the program, which consists of secret shopping, tracking customer service claims, and meetings with the retailer,'' Reno says.

Miners dream of fortune in emerald mountains in Afghanistan
Gulf Times
May 4, 2007

An explosion booms across the Afghan mountains, bouncing off jagged ridges and setting a clatter of stones off down a slope. But this is not a Taliban bomb or a Nato strike.

Miners in the peaks above the Panjshir Valley are blowing their way into the rocks, hunting for emeralds that could make them a fortune in one of the world's poorest countries.

"If you're lucky, you could find something that would set you up for the rest of your life," Mohamed Noor, a lean miner with a whispy beard, said at his camp on a ledge above a snowfield in the Hindu Kush mountains.

Hundreds of men like Noor are searching for the green stones locked in seams of rock in the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul, the old stronghold of the anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban hero Ahmed Shah Masood, a man still widely revered.

Discovered by Russian geologists in the 1970s, the emeralds are found at high elevations above the valley but only on its east side. No one seems to know why.

With four brothers and only a small piece of land to share, Noor began mining 18 years ago. He went off to fight in the war and to work in Kabul but now he's back, dreaming of striking it rich: "That's what all the fuss is about."

Independent operators have hunted the green stones through years of war, first against the Soviets and later the Taliban.

Soviet aircraft prowled the skies hunting Masood and his men in the 1980s. A rusting bomb casing lies half buried in rocks on a path down the mountain.

"Back then it was more difficult, the Russian jets bombed a lot," said miner Karam as he rested over a cup of tea in a hut at the Kamar Safaid mines, a three-hour walk above the nearest village and road.

That was when Karam made his biggest find, a stone that brought many thousands of dollars, a car and house. Times became hard during Taliban rule, when the Islamists besieged the valley but never captured it. Karam had to sell the house and car.

"It all depends on your luck," he says before trudging off to work higher up the mountain.

Afghanistan has rich deposits of gems including lapiz lazuli, rubies and emeralds, but little exploration has been done for decades and war has kept investors away.

The government is trying to control the industry but many rough stones are smuggled to Pakistan and most mining is being done by independent villagers with crude tools.

Trader Mohamed Gull, sitting at a desk laden with stones at his newly opened Kabul gem centre, said Afghan emeralds were top quality. He estimated the business was worth up to $60mn a year.

But Gull said Afghan emeralds were often damaged, especially by the blasting. "They are much better than Colombian emeralds if they're clean and clear," Gull said. "But 99% are damaged," he said, holding up a clear stone laced with tiny flaws.

The miners reject that. They say they know how to place their blasting charges-they call them bombs-so the emeralds are not damaged. Miners usually work in a team of six. A syndicate of 30 or so people supplies them with food, fuel and explosives.

The proceeds are split. A miner might only get a small fraction of the profits but on a big stone, that can be many thousands of dollars. "I dream about finding the big one," said Mohamed Bakar, a hat pulled down over his ears and scarf wrapped under his chin, as he rested on a rock under a blue sky.

Rows of holes big enough for two or three men to crawl into pockmark the face of an opposite ridge. A tents clings to a mountain-side in the distance where another team is working. Boys shout as they try to coax braying donkeys laden with supplies ever higher up a crumbing slope.

Sabzuddin, at 15 the youngest member of Noor's team, started out as a donkey driver five years ago. He's not interested in eking out a living as a farmer. "If you find an emerald it would be better than any job in America," he says.The work is dangerous. One of Noor's brothers was injured in a blast and later died.

In a cave in the rocks where telltale signs of green have been found, Noor and his men prepare their bombs. One man uses a pneumatic drill to bore two holes. They pack in dynamite, light a fuse and get clear.

Two blasts shake the mountain and Noor and his men crowd back, bringing down fractured slabs of stone with crowbars. One man wields a sledgehammer, breaking stones apart. He checks them and tosses them aside. They find nothing. "I'm a little disappointed but this has happened before," Noor said. "We have to keep going."

Treating illness with gemstones
By Girish Kumar Dubey
June 11, 2007

Varansi, a place known for its religious fervour, is emerging as a haven for many gemstone traders who style themselves as 'Astrology Doctors'.

Many claim that they can cure diseases like cancer, anaemia, piles, kidney-related problems and others, with their 'gemstone-therapy'. It is done by influencing the planetary conditions through gemstones.

They prefix 'Dr.' with their names.

Different gemstones are prescribed for patients' after studying their horoscopes. It is after a brief analysis of the horoscope that a patient is suggested what planet is actually affecting his/her health.

Sidhartha Singh, one of such astrologer-therapists, said: 'In astrological therapy, ailment is treated on the basis of positions of planets and twelve zodiacs. Like Aries and Scorpio are controlled by Mars. If Mars is creating problem then the person could suffer from blood related ailments and injuries. In such cases we suggest people to use coral gem.'

The gemstones are expensive and often bought by the well-off families. Dozens of such 'clinics' have come up in various parts of Varanasi.

It is claimed wearing a right stone matching one's horoscope can cure a person of all ailments.

Some of these 'astrology doctors' admit that astrological permutations and combinations can only treat the problems indirectly and it is the allopathic doctors that can give direct treatment.

Lakshman Das, an astrologer-therapist, said: 'Astrologers can only tell when the disease rooted as well as the planet responsible for the ailment. An astrologer cannot do the direct treatment. He only pacifies the planetary conditions of the concerned person.'

It takes various gem stones for a 'treatment' of any disease as per these 'astrological practitioners'. Though many people visiting some of the genuine astrologers say they have benefited through gem therapy.

Vivek, a visitor to one such astrologer, said: 'He (astrologer) told me to wear pearl for various purposes; it could give me a peace of mind and success in my career. I followed the advice and now I am happy in my life.'

Manish, another visitor to such astrological clinic, said: 'When I came here astrologer searched my entire horoscope and advised me to use coral. From the time I am using it, I have been benefited a lot.'

In astrology, there are twelve zodiacs and three planets i.e. Mars, Venus and Saturn which have a direct and indirect bearing on human life and health.

Burma to hold special gem auction
June 12, 2007

Burma is to hold a special gem sale in Rangoon starting on July 4 to boost foreign exchange earnings, the Central Committee for Sponsoring the Special Sale of Gems, Jade and Pearls announced.

Domestic gem traders are being urged to display their quality gems, jade and pearls at the special show scheduled for July 4. The foreign exchange proceeds from the sale will be designated as legal export earning, the sponsor said. The country's special gem sale for both foreign and local gem merchants is the third of its kind introduced four years ago in addition to the annual and mid-year ones. During the last special gem sale held in June, 2006, nearly 1,500 foreign and local gem traders bid on the available jade, gemstones and pearls. At the 13-day, 44th annual gems emporium held last March, 3,652 lots of jade, gems and pearl were sold out of nearly 6,000 such lots displayed. They gained a record high 148 million euros ($185 million). That emporium was attended by 3,421 merchants, 2,000 of them foreign. The foreigners came mostly from China, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Thailand.

Burma, a well-known world producer, is the source of nine gems - ruby, diamond, cat's eye, emerald, topaz, pearl, sapphire, coral and a variety of garnet tinged with yellow.

To develop the gem mining industry, Burma enacted the New Gemstone Law in 1995, allowing national entrepreneurs to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gemstone and manufactured jewellery at home and abroad.

Since 2000, the Burmese government has become involved in the mining of gems and jade in joint ventures with 10 private companies under a profit-sharing basis. Of the top 10 exporters for 2006-07, dominated by the state sector, the Myanmar Gems Enterprise was third with sales of $296.9 million. The production in the first half of 2006-07 (April-March) went to 10,388 tons from jade, 10.042 million carats for various gems and 56,607 mommis for pearl. Burma also is working to establish the first ever gem merchants' association as part of its bid to enhance the development of the country's gem mining industry.