VOL. 25, #4, Winter 2007

Total Ban on Burmese Gemstones?, Auction Reports, Gemstone Tidbits, Gemstone Robberies, In The News

  Dec 28, 2007   admin


Total Ban on Burmese Gemstones?
by Robert Genis

The recent uprising in Burma was horrific. How could the military government attack the revered Buddhist monks? Unfortunately, the uprising was put down and we hear very little regarding the issue today in the mass media. In 2003, President Bush signed the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act closing the U.S. market to imports from Burma (Myanmar). At that time, the Gemstone Forecaster postulated, "The million dollar question is will gemstones be banned from legal importation, or will creative dealers find a way to circumvent the law? Whatever the case, you can expect these goods to rise in price if any enter at all." Both events happened. These stones have risen in price and dealers "changed" the country of origin by stopping off in Thailand or Hong Kong. Some gemstone trade organizations are now calling for a total ban of all gemstones originating from Burma. They want to close the loophole by not allowing Burmese gemstones to change their country of origin by visiting secondary countries. The theory being this will punish the Burmese Government into giving up its power. Sounds great and would make us all feel warm and fuzzy, right? Let's take a brief look at the history of boycotts. Many are simply silly. Remember the Muslim boycott of Denmark over a political cartoon? How about the American boycott of France, even calling French fries Freedom fries. Probably the boycott closest to every American is Cuba. This boycott has been going on for over 50 years. Is Fidel still in power? Absolutely. The boycott has been a total failure and the price of Cuban cigars is astronomical. A total ban on Burma gems could have the same effect on Burma gemstone prices. Probably the longest ongoing economic boycott has been against Israel. it has been under a boycott since the 1948. Has the Israeli government changed its policies one iota? Hardly. We also know the US economic boycott of Iraq didn't work. If it was successful, America wouldn't have had to invade the country. As video of Sadam's palaces proved, the leaders of Iraq still lived like royalty under the boycott. Only the people suffered. Some scholars put the world boycott of South Africa as a shining example of a boycott that changed a government. However, many argue the sanctions actually undermined the reform forces and were not effective in ending apartheid. The problem with boycotting Burma is it is surrounded by China, India and Thailand. There is no way these counties would abide by a boycott. They are not bothered by the military government nor human right abuses. They are more than happy to conduct more business with Burma if the Americans disengage from Burma. Unless a country is totally hermetically sealed, a boycott has no chance. Maybe the people espousing boycotts don’t know this but there is already a total boycott on opium poppies from Burma. How successful is that? Burma is responsible for 90% of the heroin of SouthEast Asia. If the world cannot stop drug production, how can it stop gemstones, where you can put a gem worth $1 million in the palm of your hand? The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act closed the U.S. market to imports from Burma. What effect did this have on Burma? All of the 350,000 textile workers lost their jobs in Burma. Many women are now in the "hospitality" business. Can we consider this a successful boycott that changed the Burmese government? No. Do we really want to put the 100,000 people who survive off the gem market in Mogok out of business? If you really want to change the government of Burma, we believe you should financially support the pro democracy forces in Burma. You can google them.

Editor: Here is an excellent letter written by David Federman, Editor-In-Chief of Colored Stone magazine on why we shouldn't ban Burma ruby, sapphire or spinel. If we are going to boycott gemstones, he argues, we should boycott jade, a gemstone primarily controlled by the government. He also contends we should boycott large international corporations doing business in Burma. It is followed by the Jewelers of America press release calling for a total ban on all Burma gemstones.


Dear Industry Friends,

I am writing you to express my own personal misgivings and ambivalence about the growing Burma gem boycott. These doubts and questions arise after having discussed the gem boycott with European gem dealers who spend the majority of their time in Burma, then investigating the facts they give in support of far different resistance tactics than the ones we are using. Talking to men who know Burma intimately and checking out for myself the realities of Burmese life as they describe it has made me wonder if our attempt to do good might not actually do more harm. Please hear me out.

If I understand Burmese internal affairs, the only gem from which the generals profit handsomely - at least $100 million per annum - is jade. That gem is definitely the general's cash crop (or should I say outcropping?). The reason is simple: It's hard to smuggle boulders out of a country; it's easy to smuggle out gem chips and slivers. So, in the case of jade, which is an easily controlled commodity, I can see the logic of a global boycott. However, since America is the epicenter of the gem boycott, and jade is principally an Asian delight, the boycott is, I'm afraid, all bark and no bite.

Of course, miracles could happen. Trade pressure on China could "persuade" that country's numerous jade fetishists to stop buying this coveted gem. But let's get serious. Jade is the gemological equivalent of crack cocaine in the Far East. That's why China has long been accepting this gem in lieu of cash for repayment of Burma's enormous debt to its treasury. Anybody want to prod China into an embargo on jade? And shouldn't such a campaign have preceded calls for an embargo? If the trade had threatened China with real sanctions such as shifting manufacturing to other countries, then, it strikes me, China would already be a boycott participant. And Chinese participation would do terrifically tangible good by starving the beast rather than its victims. Foregoing ruby, sapphire, spinel, peridot and moonstone purchases will do far less direct damage to the real enemy, the junta - other than increasing the misery of those it already has made miserable.

According to U.S. Customs and Irrawaddy, an influential on-line publication that focuses on Burma, America imports around $300 million worth of ruby annually. Most of it comes from Thailand, which is the main conduit for Burmese ruby. Keep in mind that at least 70% of all Burmese ruby is low-grade material gathered at Mongshu and sold for very little money to Thai dealers who then send it for gemological reclamation. This consists of putting borax-coated stones in furnaces which melt this powder and fill numerous cracks in the material with a hybrid substance that is part-glass and part-corundum. Voila, opaque and translucent stones become transparent stones. At the same time, oven cooking bakes out the stones' blue color core and leaves them a lovely purplish-red.

In short, it is rehabilitation in Thailand that gives Burmese ruby most of its value. Burmese gem smugglers, who would have to pay a 20% duty on stones if declared in their own country, know the only buyers for their goods are those with access to the alchemy that converts it from junk to gem. Of course, they are not paid based on the potential of stones to be transformed from ugly ducklings into swans. They are paid far less than they deserve - but far more than they would make in Burma. Now if the purpose of a boycott is to punish exploitative Thai dealers, then I'm all for it. But if the purpose is to hurt the military government of Burma, ceasing to buy ruby will only hurt those that the government subjugates - not the subjugators. To me, the idea that refusing to buy smuggled ruby strikes a blow against the generals shows just how misguided our understanding of Burma is. I think I could make a very persuasive case that buying from the smugglers, who risk life and limb to sell in Thailand, represents a significant show of support for one of the few successful forms of economic resistance in Burma. We certainly thought that way about buying lapis lazuli from Afghani smugglers during the Russian siege of that country. As a colleague with whom I discussed this letter put it, "The Burmese black market is sticking it to the Man."

Okay, so how does the gem trade strike a meaningful blow to the generals? It's simple. Pledge zero attendance at the Burma Gem Emporium jade auctions and other government-sponsored sales. A massive no-show will deprive the generals of at least $100 million a year. (This, I am told, is way too conservative a figure, especially since the Burmese government is upping the number of annual jade auctions.) If no one comes to the auctions, the figure could plunge to zero. But it will take planning and coordination on an international scale. So far, that has not happened. Until it does, the gem boycott cannot succeed. Here's what I'd like to see happen.

If, as I hope, most Asian dealers belong to regional trade organizations, why not petition those organizations to encourage members to cease buying jade from Burma - at least for the time being. That would cause pain to people - mostly fat-cat generals in the jade business - who deserve to feel it. Depriving Burma's military regime of the hundreds of millions of jade dollars it has long counted on for subsidy, if not survival, would deal a resounding blow while ruby abstinence at best would deal a slight pinch. One thing for sure, without undermining jade sales, the boycott is doomed.

But trade sanctions against jade are only the beginning of a campaign that could bring the Burmese generals to their knees. Let's go one big, bold step farther with our boycott planning - and link up with other industries to create a cross-corporate web of resistance and solidarity.

Although $100 million is a hefty sum, it is far less than the estimated $200 to $450 million that Total, the French oil company which is the world's fourth largest, pays the generals in annual royalty and concession costs to pump oil and gas out of Burma. After the partnership deal was signed in 1992, the generals used their first payment to buy 10 MIG fighters from Russia. In return, the generals supplied the French with slave labor to build a pipeline, conscripting local villagers for this work, and, ever since, have provided ongoing pipeline security. If you think Blackwater "Pinkertons" in Iraq are brutal, check the record of the Burmese Army thugs who have been acting as Total's private goon squad. It is precisely this kind of corporate behavior that encourages complacency among the Burmese generals - and indignation among France's EU neighbors. Yet each time the EU tries to bring sanctions against Burma, the French government vetoed them.

In 2005, a massive corporate and consumer campaign against Total began in Europe. Dozens of banks and pension funds sold their stock in Total. Thousands of consumers refuse to gas up at Total stations. Slowly but surely, this campaign is meeting with success. Indeed, Unocal, Total's U.S. Burma pipeline partner, has already settled out of court in a case brought against it for human rights violations in Burma. It is this kind of action that should be the model for a gem boycott. As things stand, I fear a gem boycott will have no other effect than to make us feel good. But is feeling good the same as doing good? Curiously, I see very little publicity given to this campaign against Total here in America.

Look, I feel as helpless and angry as every other person with a conscience about massive, unrelenting repression of human rights. I especially don't like shooting into crowds of chanting, unarmed Buddhist monks. Do you know that the military surrounded several major monasteries, raided them and beat hundreds of monks bloody, senseless and, in some cases, unconscious? Did you also know that when soldiers refused to take part in the beatings, they themselves were beaten by their commanders? It took acts like this to finally incense large masses of other Asians. There is talk in Thailand of making serious protests. Now comes the big question: What forms do those protests take?

Here in America, we have been asked to protest by not buying Burmese gems - primarily rubies. The symbolism of refraining from the purchase of blood-red rubies is delicious, no? But ruby, report dealers who regularly buy in Burma, is one of the most uncontrolled commodities in that country. That means the generals don't get anywhere near the normal share of the proceeds from commerce in this item. So not buying rubies seems to me counterproductive. We are asking working class people to starve for the goal of attaining freedom. Wouldn't it be better to say no to jade, which is under near-total government control? Unfortunately, that means organizing gem boycotts in places like Hong Kong and Singapore. Will the jewelry industry there join such actions? Don't hold your breath.

As a strong believer in the teaching power of history, let me tell you a cautionary tale about what happened when the U.S. government set the stage for the current ruby ban in 2003. As you'll remember, Congress passed a ban on imports of Burmese products, which Customs later weakened by allowing gems cut elsewhere to be regarded as exports from the processing country. Do you know what happened? The Thai dealers to whom the Burmese sell their gems told them they would have to give them less money for their stones because the Americans had banned Burmese gems and that would make it a lot harder to sell them. So all our ban did was to squeeze the peasant a little harder than before. That, I fear, is what the current ban will do--just provide the Thai, Chinese and Indian dealers who will rush to take the place of Americans a new excuse to pay less.

Can you understand now why I am rethinking my personal support of the Burma gem ban? Ordinarily, editors are not supposed to become advocates. But since there has been no real informed debate on a movement as momentous as the Burma Gem Boycott, I feel I have to start that process. Let me assure you that as Editor-in-Chief of Colored Stone it will remain my duty to report on the ban from BOTH sides. I'll continue to do my level-headed best to present the full reality and complexity of this situation. But new nuances of understanding, based on deeper inspection of the Burmese political and economic situation, lead me to suspect that the gem ban asks the wrong people—at both ends of the distribution chain, to make needless sacrifices: miners and consumers.

I think it would be far better to identify the corporations and companies who most benefit from dealings with the generals and force every pension fund, brokerage house and equity seller to stop trading in their stock; in conjunction with this, we could get consumer groups to blacklist their products and services. That would humble and hobble the military regime. Each time someone divests themselves of Total stock, the Burma regime takes a big kidney punch. And each time a car with its gas gauge on empty passes a Total gas pump, Total feels a tightening hammer lock. Now that's a boycott.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's elected president under house arrest since the early 1990s, supports gem boycotts. She sees them as part of a rightful moral remonstrance. So do I. But I think we must be more selective about the gems we decide not to buy. Start with jade. In fact, stigmatize the gem for its important role in sustaining Burma's military junta. Next, get the auction houses to stop offering it in Hong Kong and elsewhere (even if stones predate the junta). Once the auction houses join the boycott, it has a real chance of succeeding. But boycotting rubies no longer makes sense to me.

In talking with Burma travelers and traders, I have reached new conclusions about ruby supply. Yes, the lion's share of material comes from Mongshu in Burma. But the recent influx of lead glass-filled ruby suggests that East Africa and Madagascar are playing major roles in supplying the market. And since pinpointing origin is costly and time-consuming, and the results often questionable, I don't think we can effectively segregate Burmese from African goods. That means a ruby boycott would have to be comprehensive. So Africans as well as Burmese get hurt. They're already hurting enough. They don't need the final straw of a right-hearted but wrong-minded boycott to add to their pain.

If we want to stand up for Burma, we need to stand up to the corporations which make deals with the government to control Burmese commodities. This has as much to do with capitalism as conscience. You don't fight fire-breathing dragons with blankets or even swords. You fight them with fire hoses. We can put this fire out once and for all. The best weapon is sanctions voluntarily imposed by financial markets.

Well, I've had my say. Now it's your turn. Comments and rebuttals are welcome. If nothing else, let constructive and informed dialogue begin. Colored Stone will facilitate any kind of truly comprehensive and representative forum.

David Federman,
Editor-in-Chief, Colored Stone

Jewelers of America press release
October 9, 2007
Jewelers of America Takes Action on Burmese Gemstones
JA appeals to Congress and issues advice to members concerning purchases of Burmese gemstones

New York - Jewelers of America (JA), representing 11,000 member stores in the United States, has sent letters to Congress and issued an advisory to its members, detailing its deep concern about the current unrest in Burma and its military government's longstanding human rights violations.

In light of the continuing lack of democratic freedoms in Burma, as evidenced by recent events in the country, JA has asked Congress to amend the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003, which bans the importation of products from Burma, so that it includes gemstones mined in that country. JA also has asked that this amendment remain effective until such time as Burma agrees to the democratic reforms articulated in a proposed January 2007 resolution put before the United Nations Security Council.

The proposed January 2007 U.N. resolution, which did not pass, called for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma, the release of all political prisoners, an end to human-rights abuses in the country, and the inclusion of opposition and ethnic minorities in dialogue leading to a genuine democratic transition. While the majority of the Security Council (including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Italy) supported the resolution, others, including China, exercised their veto powers to reject it.

"Jewelers of America has also taken immediate steps to inform its members about the situation in Burma and to advise them to source their gemstones in a manner that respects human rights," says JA President and CEO Matthew A. Runci. "JA members believe it is their responsibility to support and respect the protection of international human rights within their sphere of influence and to make sure the sourcing of gemstones is not complicit in human rights abuses, in line with the commitments they assume as members of Jewelers of America. These commitments include adherence to the principles of U.N. Global Compact, which JA has agreed to support."

JA members agree to the association's Statement of Principles, which articulates their support of the U.N. Global Compact. To see the complete Statement of Principles go to: http://www.jewelers.org/aboutJA/responsibility.html

Some of the steps JA has asked its members to take include contacting their suppliers to ascertain whether any of the gems they supply are from Burma. Members should also seek, on all future orders placed, written assurances from their suppliers that they will not knowingly supply any gems mined in Burma, until the process of democratic reform has started in that country. Jewelers of America is committed to the action plan outlined above and believes this is the quickest way possible to make certain our members can assure themselves, and their customers, that they are doing their part to help end the human rights abuses ongoing in Burma.

Auction Reports
Purplish-Red Diamond Sets Record
On November 15, 2007, a rare purplish-red diamond, the largest of its type ever to appear at auction, sold for a record at a Christie's International sale in Geneva. The 2.26 carat fancy purplish-red diamond, fetched $2.7 million. That's $1,180,340 per carat, the highest ever for a red diamond at an auction. The red stone probably was mined in Australia, given the depth of its color. The record was previously held by a 0.95 carat gem called the Hancock Red, bought in 1987 for the equivalent of $926,316 per carat. Jeweler Laurence Graff was the buyer. The results underscore a bull market in art and jewelry sales that has been boosted by newly rich collectors from Russia, Asia and the Middle East.

Rare Blue Diamond Breaks World Record

In October, a flawless 6.04 fancy vivid blue diamond sold for US$7.98 million at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong. This is a new record making it the most expensive colored diamond in the world at US$1.32 million per carat. The price smashed a 20-year-old record held by the "Hancock Red" -of US$926,000 per carat and broke the record of the 2.26 purplish-red, which sold a month earlier.

The buyer was "Moussaieff Jewellers" in London which has a reputation for acquiring extremely rare and costly gemstones. The seller was a private Asian collector.

White Diamond Sells for $16.2 Million
In November, a rare D-color flawless diamond, the largest of its kind to come up for auction, sold for $16.2 million at a Sotheby's sale in Geneva, Switzerland. The white, brilliant-cut diamond, weighing 84.37 carats, was the second-most expensive white diamond ever auctioned and at $191,980 a carat. It sold for the the highest price per carat ever paid for a white diamond at auction. The buyer was Georges Marciano, the founder of clothing company Guess? Inc., who named the stone the Chloe Diamond after his 12-year-old daughter. The auction record for any jewel was set in 1995 when Sotheby's sold a 100.1 carat stone called the Star of the Season for $16.5 million. Prices of large, gem quality diamonds have doubled during the past three years. A recent discovery from Africa, the stone has never come up at auction before. A fancy vivid blue diamond, weighing 4.16 carats, also sold for $4.7 million at the same auction.

Christie's NY Magnificent Jewels
Sales totaled over $24 million against a presale estimate of $15 million. A pear shaped 53.71 carat D- flawless diamond sold for $5,753,000, or $107,000 per carat, to Dubai-based Radwan Diamond Corporation. They named the gem the Dubai Magnificence. A 12.43 carat cushion ruby sold for $2,001,000 to an Asian private. An oval 3.86 carat fancy intense pink diamond sold to a European dealer for $1,497,000.

Marie Antoinette's Pearls Don't Sell
A set of pearls supposedly belonging to Marie Antoinette failed to sell at the "Magnificent Jewels" sale at Christie's in December. Christie's had hoped the pearls would fetch up to $815,000. The pearls were given to Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, wife of the British ambassador to France. They were intended to help Marie Antoinette if she managed to flee the country. Of course, the former queen never saw the jewels again and was executed by the guillotine in 1793. The pearls were made into a necklace when Lady Elizabeth's grandson married in 1849 and have remained in the Leveson-Gower family for more than 200 years.

French Auction House Sells 6.5 Carat Blue Diamond For $3.5M
In December, French auction house, Guizzetti-Collet, sold a 6.5 carat blue diamond for $3.56 million dollars. The stone fetched more than three times its estimated value. The auctioneer said an unnamed international company, which specializes in buying precious stones, placed the winning offer by telephone during bidding. The "blue intense homogenous" colored diamond, with "extraordinary" coloration, came from a ring bought in 1962 by the owners of a champagne house, on the occasion of promoting a special vintage.

Faberge Egg Sells for $18.5 Million at Christie's

In November, an enamel-and-gold Faberge egg that the Rothschild banking family possessed for more than a century sold for record $18.5 million at Christie's auction. The sale of the translucent pink egg topped with a diamond-studded cockerel was the highest for a Faberge work of art. The price easily beat the $9.6 million paid for a Faberge egg in New York in 2002.

Russian Czar Alexander III commissioned the first of the elaborate eggs from craftsman Peter Carl Faberge as an Easter gift for his wife, Empress Maria Fedorovna. The empress was so enamored of that 1885 piece, that the czar commissioned a new egg every Easter. After the czar died in 1894, his son Nicholas continued the tradition until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Nicholas and his family were executed in 1918. Faberge created more than 50 eggs for Russia's imperial family, though not all survive. The Rothschild Faberge Egg is one of no more than 12 such pieces known to have been made to imperial standards for private clients. The Rothschild family did not say why they put the egg for sale. It was sold to a Russian buyer after 10 minutes of bidding.

Gemstone Tidbits

World's Largest Diamond Update
In the last Gemstone Forecaster, Vol. 24, No. 3, Fall, 2007, the Gemstone Forecaster discussed the purported find of a 7,000 carat greenish diamond in the North West province, Africa.

After months of speculation, the material was denounced as a "piece of plastic." Brett Jolly, the controversial man who started this fiasco by bragging the stone was real now claims he was a victim of fraud. According to Jolly, the miners showed him the 7000 carat diamond by the side of the road. The miners then produced a diamond tester. Jolly says they had seemingly fixed it beforehand to give a positive reading, but forgot to take the cap off while they did the test, making nonsense of the claim that the instrument showed it was a genuine diamond. Jolly had a marketing agreement with the two miners by which he had an option to buy the piece of land where the stone was said to have been found and was entitled to 10% of any diamonds found there.

Jolly now contends the stone was salted on the property to dupe him into buying the land. The most honest man in the entire soap opera is Ernest Blom, the president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. He never got to examine so called diamond and has withdrawn from the process.

'Cursed' Delhi Purple Sapphire on Display
The 'Delhi Purple Sapphire', a gemstone that is believed by many to be "cursed", went on public display at the Vault in the Natural History Museum in England in late November. It is actually not a sapphire but an amethyst. The stone was brought to the UK by a Bengal cavalryman Colonel Ferris after being looted from the Temple of Indra in Kanpur during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. The soldier thereafter lost money and health and the same problems happened to his son after inheriting it. A family friend who possessed it for a short time committed suicide. Edward Heron-Allen, a scientist and friend of writer Oscar Wilde was the last owner. He was given the stone in 1890 and was immediately beset by trouble. He twice gave the stone to friends who had asked for it. One friend "was thereupon overwhelmed by every possible disaster", and the other, a singer, found "her voice was dead and gone and she has never sung since." Heron-Allen claimed to have thrown the amethyst into Regent's Canal only for it to be returned to him three months later by a dealer who had bought it from a dredger. In 1904, he had had enough. He declared: "I feel that it is exerting a baleful influence over my newborn daughter", had it shipped to his bankers with instructions that it will be locked away till after his death. In the note written by Heron-Allen said, "This stone is trebly accursed and is stained with the blood, and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it." The stone was mounted in a silver ring decorated with astrological symbols and mystical words with two scarab-carved gems.

Gemstone Robberies

'Dinnertime Bandit' Arraigned
In November, after nine years on the run in Europe, Alan W. Golder, was brought before a judge for arraignment. Golder, 52, did not enter a plea and was ordered held on a $3 million bond. He had been living in Belgium and Paris and has had seven aliases. He was extradited from Belgium to Greenwich, Connecticut. Police charged him with 40 felony counts, including burglary, larceny, kidnapping, and break-ins in the 1990s. He is a suspect in 50 burglaries in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, totaling about $5 million in stolen jewelry. Authorities estimate nearly $1 million in goods were taken in the Greenwich thefts. The homes were broken into at sundown or early evening when many residents were home and alarm systems were off. Most of the break-ins occurred through second-story windows. The suspect moved about quietly and left little trace of anyone being there. Golder could get into an upstairs window by shimmying up support columns or scaling gutters, wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and donned a black "ninja" type suit with a black hood with slits for eye holes. But he left some evidence behind, including a distinctive tread pattern from a Reebok Exo-Fit sneaker.

Golder was also acrobatic. During one burglary, he dove out a bathroom window onto a flat roof when an 8-year-old girl saw him and screamed. "This maneuver required a marked degree of dexterity as the window or frame was not damaged during the flight," the arrest affidavit states.

During another robbery, Golder physically restrained a woman when she came into the master bedroom. "You had to come in the bedroom," he told her. The homeowner was "manipulated in a strong arm fashion" through the house as the robber asked for fine jewelry. After she objected to being put in a closet, he tied her to a bed with her husband's neckties and stole her Jaguar. His brother told police that Golder "gets a rush" out of burglarizing homes while the owners are home.

Golder would test the gems and sell the stolen jewelry in the New York diamond district and sometimes traded gems for fake identification, including a false international driver's license. After fleeing one of his homes, Golder left behind a copy of a story proposal about his life, titled "Precious Metal: Confessions of a Rock 'n' Roll Jewel Thief." Police have said that they do not know how much of the story was true and that it did not contain any information that helped in the current investigation.

South African Robbery
Security guards arrived at work to find their night shift colleagues tied up. On the second floor, the robbers used angle grinders to cut through the safes. The only safe armed with an alarm system was left untouched. The dust from the safes covered "every inch of open space" in the office. Papers were strewn across the floor and desks lay broken. Some of the cameras were torn from the walls. Many of the ceiling boards had been ripped open and the alarm wires were cut. At the entrance to the business park, a video camera lay broken in the grass. Unity Diamond Distributors had been robbed. The owners estimate at least US $300,000 worth of cut and polished diamonds were taken. A reward has now been offered for information leading to the recovery of the diamonds by Lloyds of London underwriters on a pro rata basis. Investigations are under way to determine whether the robbery was an inside job.

Jewelry Thief Caught in His PJs

Condo Joe, a Miami fugitive with a long history of lock-pick robberies, has been arrested at least once each decade since the 1980s for stealing gemstones. Joseph Carbone, 60, aka Condo Joe, a longtime Miami-Dade police nemesis and old-school lock-pick thief specializes in expensive jewelry in pricey condos. He was recently arrested in his pajamas in Palm Bay, Florida, where he was living. He was wanted on theft charges. Condo Joe allegedly sifted through a couple's night stand in their condo and sped away in a black Ford Crown Victoria. The couple wrote down his license plate and called police. About six officers, including the crime suppression unit, arrested Carbone without incident. He was taken to Brevard County jail but later transported to Collier County. Carbone has vowed that his days of jewelry theft won't end anytime soon. "I'm a lock-pick until the day I die," he told police. "They'll have to pry the lock-picks from my cold, dead fingers."

Japanese Robbery Linked to Pink Panther Crime Ring
Two robbers who netted jewelry worth US$2 million in Ginza, Tokyo, this summer are believed to be members of a group that committed a series of robberies in the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and Britain. The information was relayed to the Japanese authorities through Interpol. The members of a Europe-based crime ring known as the Pink Panther, which uses similar methods to those employed in the Ginza heist.

Last spring, two stolen cars rammed into a jewelry shop inside a shopping mall in Dubai. Several men emerged from the cars and stole from some showcases. The entire operation took under two minutes. DNA obtained from the car left at the scene matched records on Interpol's wanted list. Three European men, who had been hiding in the country, were arrested two weeks later.

Similar robberies occurred in late June in Copenhagen and in early July in London, when a group of several men escaped with a large amount of jewelry.

Each theft had something in common, such as the tools used--including tear gas spray--as well as specific professional methods. The three men arrested in the UAE had fake passports that originally belonged to men who had died in wars. One man had 14 such fake passports. One of the three men allegedly was responsible for logistics, arranging accommodation for the other men and providing tools for the crimes. Their statements revealed there are more than 30 members of the group. The UAE police informed Interpol that the Ginza theft probably was committed by the same group.

In The News

School of Rocks: All You Need to Know About Coloured Diamonds
By Julia Robson
November 26, 2007
Dail Mail, England
Plain white diamonds no longer cut any ice. Today it's all about ultra-rare coloured stones.

"It sets them apart. Women love them because they are beautiful. Men love them because they make a sound investment." In the past two years their value has rocketed by 300 per cent, which justifies why they are now top of the shopping list for the super-affluent in pursuit of the exceptionally rare.

As a response to this coloured diamond fever, Cartier recently launched an eyepopping jewellery range inspired by the brand's Indian gemstone heritage. The Inde Mysterieuse collection features 34 whoppers, and the smallest piece - a pair of earrings featuring two rose-cut yellow diamonds with brown diamond beads and drops - costs £169,000. Despite the astronomical prices, it has already almost sold out.

"Coloured diamonds are about for ever fashion," says Lucy Willis from Selfridges, who are now selling coloured diamonds by Tiffany and Cartier for the first time in their newly-opened Wonder Room in its Oxford Street store. But the best place to see the latest rockson- the-block is The Vault, a new gallery that will open at The Natural History Museum this Wednesday.

The piece de resistance of the exhibition is the Aurora Collection, which features 296 naturally-coloured diamonds, some the size of golf balls. "Most stones half as interesting are locked in a vault and never see the light of day," explains curator Alan Hart. "This is without a doubt the best coloured diamond collection you are ever likely to see" But, thankfully, you don't have to be a film star or a millionaire if you want to do more than just look.

As coloured diamonds become increasingly popular, more and more jewellers are sourcing small stones in all colours of the rainbow, with prices starting from around £800.

"Historically, diamonds are all about power," believes Carmen Busquets of Couturelab, a fashion shop selling coloured diamond jewellery. "White diamonds have connotations with engagement. Coloured diamonds give a show of individuality and independence. "Before, if you wanted coloured diamonds you went to Cartier or Van Cleef and spent £1million. "But recently, contemporary designers who work with the same quality coloured diamonds are offering personalised designs on a much smaller budget. "Something to wear all day - not just at night." Prices for her coloured diamond jewellery start at £8,000. Just in time for your Christmas wish-list, we've compiled the Lifestyle guide to buying coloured diamonds.

What are they?
Out of 80,000 carats of rough diamonds mined every year, only 0.001 per cent have a colour (that's one in 10,000). Their colour is the result of naturally occurring chemicals and processes in formation. Yellow diamonds are the result of the presence of nitrogen. Blue is an excess of boron. Pink and red are thought to be the result of manganese. Green diamonds are caused by exposure to naturally occurring radiation from radioactive elements such as uranium.

Stones are graded by their vivacity of colour. No two are the same, and often there is a secondary as well as a predominant colour. The secondary modifying colour is described using the suffix "-ish". So a "vivid greenish yellow" is a yellow diamond with green overtones. When a diamond has two colours equally present, then both are named. All diamonds are graded on a scale from D to Z. With white diamonds, D is colourless and Z is bright yellow. As colour becomes saturated they become known as "fancy" diamonds and graded from fancy intense to faint.

Least unusual (so least expensive) are pale grey, brown and black. Yellow and orange are quite rare, while pink is rare. Rarer still are violet, green, blue and red.

"A fancy stone is about colour and consistency," says Tony Cox, designer at Cox & Power.

  •  PINK was put on the global map after Jennifer Lopez was given a 6.1 carat pink diamond engagement ring, costing around £1 million, by Ben Affleck. Victoria and David Beckham own his and hers pink diamond rings.
  • PURPLE made headlines when American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant gave his wife an 8 carat purple diamond costing $4 million.
  • GREEN commands astronomical prices. Mined in Brazil, South Africa, Ghana and Siberia.
  • BLUE. The most famous stone is the Hope Diamond, a staggering 45.52 carats, housed at The Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington. The diamond is legendary for the curse it supposedly puts on whoever possesses it.
  • RED is by far the rarest of all coloured diamonds and almost priceless. The largest fancy red ever graded is the Moussaieff Red, which is 5.11 carats and was discovered in the 1990s by a now not-so-poor farmer tending his crops in Brazil.
  • BROWN: The most widely available and most affordable coloured diamonds, they range from cognac to chocolate.
  • BLACK: These stones are usually opaque, yet they still display the sparkle and lustre unique to diamonds.

What to Look out for: The Four C's
Cut, colour, clarity and carat dictate cost. "We show customers the biggest stone they can get for their money and work backwards from here," says Ben Marriott of Wint & Kidd, who advises people always to buy from a specialist. "Buy the colour you love and the best you can afford," says Tony Cox, who specialise in one-off pieces featuring coloured diamonds from around £800 (for a pair of cognac stone earrings). "We look at 100 stones and only select five. Not all are lovely."