SSEF issues alert on keshis described as natural

The following brief appears courtesy of National Jeweler

Basel, Switzerland–The Swiss Gemmological Insititute (SSEF) in Basel, Switzerland, says that large quantities of saltwater pearls it has received for certification in recent weeks turned out to be cultured keshi pearls, despite being described as natural keshi pearls.

In a press release issued Monday, SSEF director Michael Krzemnicki described the pearls as being generally characterized “by an almost perfect appearance and are often accompanied by reports describing them as natural pearls.”

However, the appearance of the keshi pearls has raised doubt amongst many natural pearl dealers (because of their rarity, natural pearls command higher prices than cultured pearls), and those concerns were warranted, according to the lab tests performed by SSEF, the release said.

The lab tested the pearls using the most advanced forms of technology, including X-ray radiography, X-ray luminescence, X-ray micro tomography and radiocarbon age dating, and many were actually identified as bead-less cultured pearls. Although the pearls do not show one distinct feature that explicitly characterizes them as cultured, a combination of internal and external structures enabled the lab’s team of gemologists to conclusively identify the material, according to the lab release.

“The arrival of large quantities of these new saltwater pearls, whose quality is far better than that of many natural pearls, represents a great danger to the natural pearl market,” the lab stated in its release.  “Following the sudden increase of this material on the market, the SSEF has taken a number of measures to protect the natural pearl trade. The SSEF has adapted its pearl certification policy and is collaboratively promoting transparent standards at an international level.”

An important step is the use of more rigorous and specified definitions for natural and cultured pearls, the release stated. A natural pearl is a pearl that formed in a wild oyster (mussel) and is living in its natural habitat. It formed without any human intervention. By contrast, any pearl stemming from a pearl cultivation farm is a cultured pearl.

Find the full article on the SSEF website by clicking here. Further information and details regarding these new pearls and SSEF’s adapted pearl certification policy can be found under SSEF.ch or by contacting gemlab@ssef.ch

Abu Dhabi Hotel’s Vending Machine Spits Out Gold

The following article is published courtesy of Israeli Diamond Industry Blog

Author: Roe Kalb

 

  The Abu Dhabi five-star Emirates Palace Hotel has decided to place an innovative vending machine in its lobby. But this vending machine isn’t you’re average soft drink or snack dispenser – this machine gives out gold. Real, 24-karat gold bars.

The Emirates Palace Hotel bullion ATM is the first gold vending machine in the world.

The gold vending machine’s prices are updated every hour via a link to the manufacturer, which tracks gold prices. The company says the prices are competitive because there are no staffing costs for the machine.

Users can navigate menu choices on the (naturally) gold covered ATM via a 19-inch touch screen, and can pay for their gold with cash or credit card.

Gold To Go’s security features include a camera and an ID scanner, meant to prevent money laundering. According to Ex Oriente Lux, the manufacturer, the machine is “largely burglar-proof and tamper-resistant.”

This tempting Gold To Go machine sells 24-carat gold bars weighing 1, 5, and 10 grams, as well as gold coins from Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Each in its own gift box.

 

Sinkankas Symposium Showcases Feldspar, from Ordinary to Extraordinary

The following article appears courtesy of Gems & Gemology‘s eBrief

All rights and Intellectual Property belong to Gemological Institute of America

A group of four labradorite feldspars from GIA’s Edward J. Gübelin Collection: a 30.82 ct cabochon from Finland; a 3.53 ct bicolored green and orange oval cut from Oregon; a 2.60 ct deep orange oval cut from Oregon; and a 4.18 ct light orange oval cut from Oregon. Photos by Robert Weldon.

What do false teeth and moonstones have in common? Or dinner plates and sunstone? How about roofing materials and labradorite? Scouring powder and amazonite?
 
They’re all made from the most abundant mineral group on Earth: feldspar. We walk on it, eat off it, clean with it and, yes, wear it as jewelry.
 
“Feldspars are absolutely everywhere,” said GIA photojournalist Robert Weldon as he introduced the featured gemstone at the eighth annual John Sinkankas Symposium in April. “The Earth’s crust is comprised of between 50 to 60 percent feldspar.”
 
The Sinkankas Symposium, co-hosted by the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society and GIA, was created by Roger Merk to honor the memory of legendary gemologist John Sinkankas, who called feldspar “one of the most fascinating gems known to man.”
 
A silicate mineral made up of silicon, oxygen and aluminum and influenced by other elements, feldspar displays the most gem phenomena of any group, including schiller, labradorescence, peristerescence, cat’s eye and adularescence. That’s what makes them so interesting, Weldon said.
 
“True gem feldspars are few and far between – most of it is just rock,” said GIA researcher John Koivula during his presentation on the microworld of gem feldspars. Most of the time feldspar is merely the matrix holding the gem specimen, which might seem unimportant. “But it can tell you something about the geology and chemistry of the environment that produced the stone,” Koivula said.
 
Also, Dr. Skip Simmons, a researcher at the University of New Orleans, reviewed feldspar’s mineralogy, chemistry and crystallography and talked about his visit to a gem orthoclase deposit in Madagascar. 
 
Lisbet Thorenson, an author and consultant from Beverly Hills who studies ancient gems, described the archaeogemology of amazonite and recent surveys of ancient Libyan and Egyptian mining sites by co-author and geologist Dr. James A. Harrell (University of Toledo).
 
Si Frazier, an author and collector of minerals and gems from Cerritos, California, recounted his trip to Finland in search of spectrolite, which he called “the most beautiful laboradite feldspar type I’ve seen.”
 
Meg Barry, a gem cutter from Fallbrook, California, described feldspar as the “Volkswagen of gemstones – there’s a lot of it, it’s affordable and everyone can have one.” While it may not at first appear to be an exciting stone, she said, it can be cut to be exciting. Berry showed examples of pieces she had recently cut, documenting each step from the beginning rough to the final cut and polished stones.
 
Noted mineral collector Rock Currier, owner of Jewel Tunnel Imports in Baldwin Park, California, related his travels seeking amazonite in Colorado and Ethiopia.
 
Bill Larson, a collector from Pala, California, who travels the world in search of the finest gemstone specimens, shared images of world-class feldspars from Myanmar to Madagascar.
 
Shane McClure, director of identification at GIA’s Carlsbad laboratory, and Dr. George Rossman of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena addressed the controversy surrounding natural versus treated andesine.
 
“Treatment of feldspar never used to be a serious problem,” McClure said. “But, as has happened with so many gem materials over the past couple of decades, that changed several years ago when gem-quality andesine entered the market.”
 
Researchers began to investigate red and green andesine from China to determine if its color was natural or had been treated, comparing its geologic, chemical and gemological characteristics to known natural labradorite from Oregon and Mexico and untreated yellow andesine from Mongolia.
 
They found that the composition of Tibetan andesine, particularly its anorthite content, overlaps with Mongolian material, but not Mexican or Oregon labradorite. There are no obvious differences in the internal features of Mongolian, Mexican and Oregon material, except for larger copper platelets and potential differences in color zoning seen in some untreated Oregon stones. Material from all three locations has overlapping UV fluorescence. 
 
“Gemologically speaking, the material is very interesting,” McClure said, but GIA knows of no way to reliably separate Tibetan from treated Mongolian stones.  Oregon and Mexican stones can easily be separated from the Chinese using chemistry or sometimes refractive index.
 

Rossman concluded the presentations with evidence that feldspar’s color can be changed through the diffusion of copper. All the samples of red and green feldspar he had analyzed, said to be from Asia and the Congo, were treated by copper diffusion.

 
To learn more about red feldspar, see News from Research.

Vegas to welcome Italian designers

The following article appears courtesy of National Jeweler

Image courtesy of Stefan Hafner

New York–Buyers for U.S. jewelry retailers won’t have to go very far this year to check out the latest in Italian design.

The upcoming Couture show, taking place June 3-7 at the Wynn Las Vegas, will host a who’s who of Italian jewelry brands, representing a showcase of Italy’s renowned craftsmanship and design innovation.

Among the 39 Italian brands exhibiting at the show are mega-brands such as Roberto Coin and Marco Bicego as well as smaller Italian designers known for their unique product, including Lucifer Vir Honestus, Raffaella Mannelli and Federica Rettore.

Among additional returning brands this year are Nouvelle Bague, Stefan Hafner, Rosato and Damiani. The latter is also set to present a number of new brands it is distributing worldwide, including Ferrari, Ducati, Gianfranco Ferré and Jill Sander.

Together, the offerings from the show’s Italian designers will reveal a diversity of technique and creativity, from Franco Pianegonda’s masterful use of silver to Nicolis Cola’s work in gold, Utopia’s assemblages of pearls and Mattia Cielo’s experimentation with high-tech jewels.

According to Couture show organizers, a number of the Italian designers present their lines in the United States exclusively at Couture, including Gianmaria Buccellati and Bizzotto, among others named above.

To register for Couture, visit TheCoutureShow.com.

Couture, along with National Jeweler magazine and NationalJeweler.com, is part of the Nielsen Jewelry Group, which also produces the JA New York shows in New York City. The Nielsen Jewelry Group is part of Nielsen Expositions, whose parent company is The Nielsen Co., a global information and media company.

From Gems & Gemology: CVD-Grown Diamonds that Change Color with Heat or UV Exposure

The following article appears courtesy of GIA’s Gems & Gemology eBrief

All rights and intellectual property belong to GIA

Synthetic diamonds grown by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) have seen significant advances over the last decade, reaching the mainstream jewelry market in larger sizes and better qualities. Meanwhile, new processes have dramatically improved the color of these products.
 
But an article in the new Spring 2010 issue of Gems & Gemology shows that some CVD synthetics undergo temporary color changes in response to UV radiation or heat. In the study, De Beers DTC researcher Dr. Rizwan Khan and coauthors examined a group of untreated Element Six lab-grown diamonds. The samples became darker (from Fancy to Fancy Deep brown in one case) when exposed to UV radiation, a routine part of gemological testing. Heating them to 450°C, a temperature exceeded in some jewelry repair procedures, lightened the color (from J to E in another case).
 
“Although the CVD-grown diamonds did revert to their stable color over time when exposed to light, the color alterations could have important implications for grading if the gems were placed in the dark immediately after the exposure,” said Alice Keller, editor-in-chief of G&G. 
 
In another major article from the Spring issue, Dr. Wuyi Wang and coauthors look at a new generation of strongly colored pink CVD synthetics from Boston-based Apollo Diamond Inc. The study describes the characteristics of these Fancy Intense to Fancy Deep pink lab-grown stones, as well as the gemological and spectroscopic criteria for identifying them.
 
The Spring issue also includes articles on the possible existence of “sister” stones of the Hope diamond, the use of confocal micro-Raman spectroscopy to identify natural and synthetic emeralds (and emeralds from specific localities), and rare brownish orange bastnäsite-(Ce) and parisite-(Ce) from Malawi.
 
The G&G Lab Notes section features the latest discoveries from the GIA Laboratory, including natural pink diamonds colored by multiple treatment processes, a large HPHT-treated type IIb blue diamond, and unusually transparent treated jadeite. The Gem News International section covers the 2010 Tucson gem shows, including “soufflé” freshwater cultured pearls, and reports on tsavorite mining in northern Tanzania and treated-color pink CVD-grown synthetic diamond melee.
 
Two special Spring issue features are this year’s Dr. Edward J. Gübelin Most Valuable Article Award winners and the G&G Challenge, a multiple-choice quiz based on articles from the 2009 issues. Subscribers who score 75 percent or better on the G&G Challenge receive a GIA Letter of Completion; those who score 100 percent also get recognition in an upcoming issue.
 

Copies of the Spring 2010 issue (print and PDF) can be ordered from the GIA Store. To purchase PDF versions of specific articles or sections, visit Gems & Gemology Online. To subscribe to G&G, visit the GIA Store or contact Circulation Coordinator Martha Rivera at martha.rivera@gia.edu or call toll-free (800) 421-7250, ext. 7142. From outside the U.S. and Canada, call (760) 603-4000, ext. 7142. 

Supermodel Naomi Campbell Subpoena Request over ‘Blood Diamond’

The following brief appears courtesy of IDEX online

Author: Edahn Golan

Being pretty and known proved to be not just a good source of income for supermodel Naomi Campbell, but also for trouble. Prosecutors on Thursday asked to subpoena Campbell to testify about a diamond she allegedly received as a gift from former Liberia President Charles Taylor.

UN war crimes prosecutors filled the request with the special court for Sierra Leone, which was formed to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s civil war.

Actress Mia Farrow told ABC News in the U.S. that the model got a “blood diamond” from deposed Liberian President Taylor in September 1997. Farrow claimed that Campbell told her that she was given such a diamond from Taylor.

Taylor is standing trial for his role in inflaming a civil war in Sierra Leone, a war that gave rise to the use of diamonds to pay for weapons, otherwise known as Blood Diamonds or Conflict Diamonds.

In a short interview with ABC News, Campbell denied that she receives such a diamond. When the interviewer continued to ask about the diamond, Campbell stormed off the set, punching the camera held by the producer in the process.

At the time, prosecutors said they do not plan to question Campbell about the diamond or ask her to testify against Taylor. The request to subpoena testifies that they changed their mind.

They are also asking to subpoena Farrow and Campbell’s former agent, Carole White. White has testified that she heard Taylor say he was going to give Campbell diamonds and was present when they were delivered, the Guardian reported.

According to court documents, repeated attempts to interview the model had been unsuccessful. “Thus, judicial intervention in the form of a subpoena is necessary,” the prosecution stated.

Industry Analysis: Protests Halt Thai Gem Trade

The following analysis is published courtesy of GIA’s Gems & Gemology eBrief

Intellectual property and all rights belong to Gemological Institute of America

Author: Russell Shor

Thailand’s gemstone industry has come to a near standstill in Bangkok, as battles between government forces and “Red Shirt” protestors shut down much of the city. More than 40 protestors have died in the violence that has gripped the country for nearly six weeks. The protestors, many demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, periodically blocked major arteries in a series of skirmishes with troops, until the government’s full-force response began late last week. The clashes began to subside yesterday. While the violence did not spill over to Chanthaburi, the city where most of the country’s colored stone industry is headquartered, it has badly damaged several major shopping malls and forced the closure of many sales offices in Bangkok’s business district . The GIA Laboratory Bangkok and the GIA Thailand campus also closed for most of this week. The airport remains open, but passenger count is down by two-thirds, according to press reports. Some of the country’s industry leaders have issued dire warnings about the state of Thai business if an agreement is not reached soon. Dusit Nontanakorn, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said prolonged demonstrations, particularly in Bangkok’s main shopping and business area, could bring about a collapse of the overall economy. Even if the protests end now, he said, the government still has a lot of hard work ahead, including stimulus efforts and reducing income disparity. “Everybody in the entire social structure must team up together to get out of this trouble, before the destruction of the entire country.” Thailand’s colored stone exports totaled $139 million for the first quarter of 2010. Exports of diamonds for the same period totaled $297 million, with finished jewelry at $742 million. In neighboring Myanmar, the government reported earnings of $504 million from its March sale of jade, gems and pearls. It plans another sale next month. The Myanmar Central Statistics Agency also reported official sales of 32,921 tons of jadeite, plus 18.7 million carats of colored gemstones and 201,081 momme (754 kg) of cultured pearls. AUCTIONS: Demand and prices for top diamonds (which all carried GIA reports) remained strong at the major auction houses. At Sotheby’s May 11 Geneva sale, a 7.64 ct Fancy Intense blue diamond drew a winning bid of $8 million, just under $1.1 million per carat, nearly 50% above the pre-sale estimate. At the same sale, a 52.82 ct D-Flawless type IIa square-cut diamond brought $7.93 million, more than $150,000 per carat. A ring containing two pear-shaped diamonds — a 5.02 ct Fancy Vivid blue and a 5.42 ct D-Flawless — brought $6.3 million. The following day at Christie’s Geneva, a private buyer paid $127,000 per carat for a 40.21 ct D-Flawless diamond, while a Swiss retailer paid $162,000 per carat for a 16.92 ct D-Flawless round brilliant. MACRO: The U.S. retail sector continues its slow recovery from last year’s depths. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that April sales increased 4.6% over the previous year and 0.5% over the previous month. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation reported that retail sales were up 5.6% for March and April, compared to the same period last year. In Japan, sales of diamonds and jewelry continued their three-year slide, declining 1.8% in April against the same month in 2009, according to the nation’s Department Stores Association. The group noted, however, that demand for high-ticket items began to pick up during the month as wealthy consumers ventured back into the market.

Russell Shor

Senior Industry Analyst