VOL. 28, #1, Spring 2010
Tucson Gem Shows 2010, New Nigerian Red Tourmaline Find, GIA Gubelin Collection Now Online, Collector Gems, Apple Collectors, In The News, Retail Gemstone Price Trends (1975-2009), Notable Quotes
Tucson Gem Shows 2010
by Robert Genis
Many dealers approached the Tucson Gem Shows with trepidation. Would they sell enough to meet their costs? After one of the worst Xmas seasons in memory, who could blame them? This is the second show in a row where you could get a hotel room, rent a car, or get a restaurant reservation during the months of January and February: impossible feats previously. Nothing had changed as far as the collector gem market goes. Unheated Mogok Burma rubies, Burma and Kashmir sapphires and untreated Colombian emeralds were as rare as ever.
The main show for colored gemstone dealers is the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) show. Although the quality of high end gem dealers has declined over the years and now includes many lower end dealers, AGTA reported that the trade show had an increase in buyer traffic compared to 2009. A total of 8,176 registered buyers attended the event, making for a 7% increase. The problem is many Tucson privates have learned how to get into the show by knowing a friend of a friend. Generally, these buyers take an inordinate amount of time and usually buy small quantities of inexpensive stones. This drives the wholesalers crazy. AGTA needs to tighten up requirements to get into the show because the dealer backlash against these buyers is strong and irate.
All of the major collector/investor gem prices are firm You would think in these economic times, prices would be negotiable. They are not! The amount of top quality goods at the shows was dismal. Most dealers have such a hard time buying these stones, they do not want to lose money when they sell. They cannot easily replace these stones. Low production and the Burma Ruby ban has made these gems ultra rare. Please note this market is very quiet because of the economy. Goods over $5000 were rarely sold. Commercial quality goods were down another 10%, Retail jewelers’ colored stone inventories are declining but many business lines of credit have been cut or eliminated, which has resulted in little buying. We are keeping most of our Retail Gemstone Price Trends the same for most gemstones from last year even though some other price guides show increases. The weakest stone we monitor is Tanzanite. We have eliminated the tsavorite price chart and included one for Fancy Intense Pink diamonds instead. When the 5 carat Vivid Pink sold for $10.8 million last December, it caused an increase in all pink diamond prices.
Importation of Burmese gemstones into the US has been illegal since 2008. We heard rumors that unethical gem dealers were bypassing the new law. We doubt this accusation because we did not see any large quantities of Burma ruby or jade. Production is way down in Burma with many miners turning to other mining projects. The few remaining gems found in Burma often end up in Asia. People are free to trade in old "pre-embargo" stones without problems.
Fine high end collector gemstones are stable. Some large stones or special cases are rising. Collectors can now cherry pick the very best stones. As always, gemstones are not for everyone. They make sense only if you have the liquidity to hold these assets.
New Nigerian Red Tourmaline Find
By Robert Genis
I have been in the business long enough to remember Ouro Fino, Brazilian red tourmaline. It was originally found in 1981. It was a killer red color that looked like a ruby, but the goods were included to a degree similar to Colombian emeralds. Even with the inclusions, collectors coveted the gemstone. The mine was played years ago and the best stones are now sitting in collections. Many new gem dealers have never seen this stone. Red tourmaline was recently discovered in Nigeria in 1998. It came in purple, cranberry, orange/pink and multi colors. This material is long gone and most are sitting in collections or mounted in jewelry. Regretfully, none of this material was ever really red. Since the 1998 find, most of the Nigerian tourmaline material has been very low quality. The yield was low and most of the stones were cabochon quality. Last year, some very large pieces of the new red tourmaline were found in the Oyo Valley of Western Nigeria. Crystals weighing 15 and 48 pounds were found. This is unbelievable! Usually a few pieces are found here and there. The material was so large, the owners needed a tile saw to cut them. The new material is yielding about 15-20% from the rough. The great thing about it is some of the best material is bright red and at the same time clean. Until now, most red and pink tourmaline crystals were horribly included.
Tourmaline's name comes from the Sinhalese word "turmali," which probably means "mixed precious stones." Bright, rainbow collections of gemstone varieties were called "turmali" parcels. Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tourmaline was introduced to the European society in the late 1600s or early 1700s by Dutch traders. Similar to rubies which were later discovered to be spinels, numerous red gemstones in the Russian Crown jewels from the 17th century, once thought to be rubies, are actually tourmalines. The Empress Tzu Hsi, the last Empress of China, loved tourmaline and bought large quantities from the Himalaya Mine located near San Diego, California in the early 1900s.
Tourmaline is 7-71/2 in hardness and does not tend to chip or break. Its luster is glassy and it has a high degree of transparency. Tourmaline is a group that applies to several minerals with similar chemical compositions and atomic structures. Tourmalines belong to the hexagonal crystal systems. Tourmaline crystals begin as colorless and the red is created by trace elements.
Corundum collectors and dealers argue over where to delineate a red ruby vs. a pink sapphire. With tourmaline, the argument is "what is rubellite vs. what is pink tourmaline?" Although the argument will continue, the new find has colors that can be broken down into four groups. The reddest colors have very dark 85-90 tones. Isn’t this always the case with many gemstones? It is almost nature’s trick. These stones are red but black out. Ideally, if you want pure red, choose the reddest stones that black out the least. Approximately 10% of the production is this color. Generally, the best stones are red/pink with light tones. This open color is highly desirable. Some say it is reminiscent of Burma ruby. This color represents the majority of the material. The third color is fuschia. This is the point in Burma rubies where the stones transition to pink sapphires. These stones have a balance of red and pink and look like pink sapphires. Finally, the last color is a hot bubblegum pink like hot pink spinel. The last two colors represent 40%, or the balance of the material.
The new material is available from 3mm rounds to stones of 15-20 carats. The largest stone cut so far is about 55 carats. Gemstone collection suites can presently be purchased in this new material. Relatively speaking, the new material is inexpensive. Top one carat sized stones start at $100 per carat. Prices for gem quality red tourmaline can escalate to over $500 per carat for serious large stones.
We know today the original crystals were not irradiated or treated. The crystals are so large, they would never fit into a nuclear reactor, a particle accelerator a gamma ray facility. Ditto for heating the material. It doesn’t mean the material might not be heated in the future. However, the new Nigerian material is flying so fast out the door of the owner, they do not have time to monkey with the product.
Some predict the new material may be the next Ouro Fino rubellite. When those stones first hit the market, people immediately recognized the gems would be rare. The same can be said for the new red tourmaline. What makes this find interesting from a collecting standpoint is the goods are an inexpensive red stone compared to ruby and spinel. It might make sense to buy a suite of the various colors or specialize in one color. If you always wanted to start a gemstone collection and were short on funds, this might be an excellent opportunity. Given the tight economic times, this just may be the right stone at the right time for the right price. Collectors who purchase these goods at the beginning of the market cycle might soon be sitting pretty.
GIA's Gübelin Collection Now Online
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) launched a project comprised of data collected from gemstones in the Edward J. Gübelin collection, which the institute acquired in 2005. The GIA Gem Project is free to the trade and available online for the general public. The Gübelin collection consists of more than 2,800 samples representing 225 minerals and gem materials, which come from 48 different countries. Dr. Gübelin, one of the world’s preeminent gemologists, collected colored gemstones from major localities worldwide from approximately 1940 to the year 2000. His lifelong study of gemstone inclusions revolutionized the science of gemology and helped lay the foundation for microscopic gem identification. "Many of the gemstones in this collection are extraordinary examples in terms of color, weight and geographic origin," said Dr. James Shigley, GIA’s distinguished research fellow. "I’m not aware of any other online resource with this type of gemological information. It significantly enhances the educational and display potential of GIA’s gem collection and supports the colored stone trade." The information includes photomicrographs of interesting features, graphical plots of visible, infrared, Raman and photoluminescence spectra and qualitative chemical composition information are also available, depending on the particular gemstone. To date, GIA has collected data on approximately 1,000 of the gemstones, focusing on the corundums, spinels, garnets, beryls and tourmalines. Information on a select group of 50 stones is also available and additional groups of gemstones will be added over time. Check it out at http://www.gia.edu/GIA-Gem-
Diamonds Aren’t an Investors Best Friend
Sotheby’s will hold an April sale of Magnificent Jewels and a single owner auction, "Always in Style: 150 Years of Artistic Jewels," in New York on April 20, 2010. A majority of the white diamonds that will be featured there are the highly sought, wearable sizes weighing 10 carats and less. One such example is a platinum and diamond ring set with a 9.25 carat, D, internally flawless, type IIa stone, graded triple-EX and assigned a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. A highlight of the colored diamonds on offer is provided by a rare fancy intense, pinkish-orange diamond ring set with a 7.67 carat, type IIa, cut-cornered rectangular modified, brilliant-cut stone that is the largest flawless or internally flawless diamond of this hue to be graded by the GIA to date. Its presales estimate ranges from $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Another superb example is a magnificent, fancy vivid yellow diamond necklace which features 42 GIA-certified, fancy vivid yellow diamonds weighing a total of 100.17 carats and set in a graduated riviere style. This necklace boasts a presale estimate of $2 million to $3 million and Sotheby's has contended that it will be the first of its kind — set entirely with fancy vivid yellow diamonds — to appear in auction. An 8.66 carat ruby and diamond ring, which Sotheby's described as "one of the finest ‘pigeon blood red’ rubies to be offered on the market," carries a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. This historical stone is the property of the Gardner family and was formerly included in the collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the philanthropist and visionary patron of the arts whose art collection is housed in the Boston museum that bears her name. "Gardner loved jewelry and was depicted by painters John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn theatrically wearing her rubies on ropes of pearls. According to a letter found in the Gardner family archives, the ruby on offer was acquired from a rajah who sent the stone to Mrs. Gardner in Paris, as she was known to be seeking a ruby in memory of her brother, Charles Stewart," Sotheby's stated. There will also be a collection of seven unmounted Kashmir sapphires up for bid that are well matched and offered as three pairs of cushion-shaped stones and one square-emerald cut stone. The Collection of Kashmir Sapphires weigh from 4.29 to 8.73 carats and its total presale estimate ranges from $1.1 million to $1.5 million. The April sale will include the Marlene Rose platinum and diamond brooch, circa 1930, that was formerly a part of Marlene Dietrich's collection, as well as a collection of jewels from the estate of Nancy M. Daly. Sotheby’s will also present magnificent jewels from the collection of Patricia Kluge as a major highlight of its April sale. The core of Kluge's collection is comprised of a multitude of white diamonds, including an impressive pair of platinum and diamond pendant earclips set with almost 64 carats of pear-shaped diamonds, with its presale estimate. standing at $600,000 to $800,000, and a sapphire and diamond panthère wristwatch from Cartier with a presale estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. Sotheby's will offer an emerald and diamond Art Deco bracelet from Tiffany & Co., circa 1925, featuring a row of 14 beautifully matched Colombian emeralds weighing approximately 39.60 carats. This piece has a presale estimate of $350,000 to $550,000
"The key to appreciating a gemstone is to hold it in your hands, turn it to see the light dance as it refracts through the complex internal chemistry, and – if you want to wax esoteric about it – feel its energy."
The Journey of a Gemstone
February 20, 2010
"Spinel could be the hot trend of 2010 and beyond, and retail jewellers should be looking to stock more pieces using the gemstone,. Spinels are rarely treated. Heating experiments on spinels show no or only limited enhancement, apart from clarifying some of its turbidity. For me it is a very great pleasure that this stone is a very natural product."
Dr Michael Krzemnicki, director of the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF)
Mar 16 2010