Rocks On: Spinel to ‘have its day’


Source: The National Jeweler

Author: Brecken Branstrator

New York — Spinel has been, up until the past few years, an underappreciated and undervalued gem with relatively little consumer recognition.

In fact, it hasn’t been uncommon for consumers to think that the stones were synthetic when they heard the name, simply because they were unfamiliar with them.

Over the last few years, though, spinel has moved into the spotlight as many of the major brands have begun to work with the gem, attracted by the rich colors of its many varieties.

The various shades of red spinel are so deep, in fact, that for a long time they were mistaken for rubies earning them the name “balas ruby.”

They even were set in crown jewels as rubies. The 170-carat center stone in the British Imperial State Crown is called the “Black Prince’s Ruby” but actually is a blood-red spinel dating back to 14th century Spain. The Crown Jewels also contain another misidentified gemstone–the 350-carat “Timur ruby,” which is actually a red spinel.

It wasn’t until 1783 that mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle identified spinel as a different mineral from rubies.

Today, spinel still costs a fraction of what rubies and sapphires do despite its comparable color and qualities, though that price gap continues to narrow.

A sliding supply
Today, spinel is sourced from Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan. More recently, new sources were discovered in Tanzania–red spinel was found near Mahenge and the Uluguru Mountains in the late 1980s, as well as near Tunduru after 1994.

These mines near Mahenge had the trade buzzing in the summer of 2007, when spinel crystals as large as 270 carats began surfacing. But even that more recent discovery is starting to run low.

One of the big challenges that faces spinel is the same thing that can be said for many gemstones–demand is continuing to increase while supply is decreasing.

Demand for spinel is far exceeding supply today and the gem is getting harder and harder to come by, especially when it comes to the highest-quality, most-in-demand colors. Larger pieces of rough spinel also are more difficult to find. According to the GIA’s gem encyclopedia, fine quality spinels frequently are cut into less-traditional shapes to preserve their size.

“Today the demand for spinel is probably the highest it has ever been in history, and I believe that this demand will only increase throughout time,” said Perry Regev, Carelle’s director of gem acquisition.

Currently, the most commercially valuable colors of spinel are the rich reds followed by the increasingly rare cobalt blue shades and then the vibrant pinks and oranges. There are also shades of purple, which tend to be less in demand and less expensive.

“I have just returned from Burma today and every red to pink-red spinel with any size is priced to the point that I cannot buy them,” gem dealer Dudley Blauwet told National Jeweler in an email update from his travels. “The supply seemed to be OK, but the economy in Burma is booming with the economic liberalization and local wealthy Burmese, and dealers are competing for the better items.”

Ruben Bindra of B&B Fine Gems said that he is seeing many of the big manufacturers in Europe, companies like Cartier and Bulgari, starting to use pastel-colored spinels in jewelry, especially featuring multiple stones in one piece. This is likely due to the fact that these colors can more easily be purchased in large quantities to allow for designs such as this, he said.

As demand increases and supply decreases prices invariably rise, a trend which seems to be the case for most gems in the market these days, Bindra noted.

“Over the last five years, almost every gem we deal in has increased in price,” he said. “Anything of value–everything has gone up in price tremendously.”

He adds that though spinel still seems to be the undervalued stone of the gem world, he has seen demand for it increase greatly over the past four to five years. “This could be because it’s what was available, or because it’s also a hard stone (an 8 on the Mohs scale) so jewelers like to work with it. Or it could be because it’s easier to work with since it comes in so many colors.”

Regev reiterated this statement, stating that he likes the fact that spinel has the “in-between” shades that really help Carelle’s designs come to life.

He also noted that, “Durability is a big thing. Whenever we set an emerald or certain semi-precious stones, I worry a lot about the stone breaking. With spinel I don’t need to worry as much and, once the piece is ready, the stone has an almost unsurpassed brilliance.”

All black everything
Just as the stone’s red and blue shades have benefited from their resemblance to sapphires and rubies, so too has spinel’s cheaper variety–the black spinel–gained from its resemblance to dark diamonds.

As the popularity of black diamonds has skyrocketed even over just the past year, brands have begun turning to black spinel to create the same look at a lower price point.

The stone also can serve as a replacement for black onyx, especially because it is a much harder stone and offers a great brilliance and luster, Regev noted. Also, black spinel normally isn’t treated whereas black onyx usually has been dyed.

“Black spinel is doing great, and I do not think the consumers are having an issue purchasing pieces that incorporate black spinel,” Regev said, “but I also believe that that has to do with the different price point that one can reach using black spinel.”

But perhaps spinel’s biggest challenge, and also possibly its biggest upside, is that it still has a ways to go when it comes to recognition, in any shade.

“I think that a lot of people still aren’t aware of what spinel is,” said gem dealer Evan Caplan. “And when consumers hear the word, they think that it might be synthetic because they don’t know enough about it.”

As the big brands begin to use the gemstone and more designers incorporate the various shades of spinel into their pieces, it’s only a matter of time before spinel will get the consumer appreciation many think it deserves, Bindra said.

“The initial challenge for spinel was the name recognition, which I think has mostly been crossed. It will soon trickle down to the consumer level now that designers and manufacturers are using it,” Bindra said. “(Spinel) is an underrated stone and it is an undervalued stone, but it’s going to have its day.”

Image: courtesy of Vladyslav Yavorskyy. Please visit his site terra Spinel

White diamonds versus coloured gemstones


We publish courtesy of The National
Author: Harvey Jones

Dev Shetty, chief operating officer at Gemfields, the world’s largest producer of coloured gemstones, says the coloured gemstones market is young and fast-growing.

“Diamonds are a rare commodity, but emeralds are 20 times rarer than diamonds,” he says.

Gemfields mines and markets Zambian emeralds and amethysts and Mozambican rubies, and will soon start mining sapphires in Sri Lanka. Mr Shetty says while the South African miner De Beers Group’s brilliant marketing push in the 1960s and ‘70s was hugely successful in building the white diamond market, retail prices have flattened in recent years.

“Diamonds are a mature market with a 200-year history, whereas coloured gemstones marketing only really started in earnest five years ago. Unlike diamonds, the pricing matrix isn’t as defined, but prices are growing rapidly. In July 2009, our high-quality rough emeralds were selling at an average of $4.40 per carat at auction. Now they fetch closer to $59 per carat.”

This means you can get started with much smaller sums of money than in the white diamond market. But you can also spend big. This month, Sotheby’s in Geneva sold an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby for $8.6 million, a record $997,727 per carat.

In 2011, the same auction house sold a 12.01-carat Colombian emerald for $1.44m, nearly $119,000 per carat. By comparison, the most expensive ever white diamond, a 118-carat piece, sold for more than $30m at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong last year, at $254,143 per carat.

“Collectors are investing significant money in coloured gemstones,” says Mr Shetty. “We are working hard to create support and demand, boost consumer awareness and develop the market.”

Gemfields plans to open a sales office in Dubai next year, selling coloured gemstones directly to jewellery manufacturers, retailers and private investors. Wherever you buy gemstones, you must get the right certification, key to protecting your investment.

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Why is Turquoise Becoming Rarer and More Valuable Than Diamonds?

With depleting mines, turquoise, the most sacred stone to the Navajo, has become increasingly rare.


We publish courtesy of: Smithsonian

Author: Saba Naseem

sky-blue colored stone with a gray and gold spiderweb matrix sits melded into an intricate silver ring with engraved feathers along the sides. This one piece of jewelry may have taken years to make and is worth thousands of dollars, but the story it tells is priceless. It’s the story of a stone, of a culture, a history and of tradition—the story of the Navajos.


The stone is turquoise, an opaque mineral, chemically a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum. Its natural color ranges from sky blue to yellow-green and its luster from waxy to subvitreous. The mineral is typically found in arid climates—major regions include Iran (Persia), northwest China, the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the American Southwest. The word itself is derived from an Old French word for “Turkish” traders who first brought the Persian turquoise to Europe. It has graced the halls and tombs of Aztec kings and Egyptian pharaohs, such as Tutankhamun, whose golden funeral mask is inlaid with turquoise.

The importance of this gem lies far beyond its name (Doo tl’ izh ii in Navajo) and characteristics in the culture as showcased in the exhibition “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family,” which opened last week at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The show features more than 300 examples of contemporary jewelry made by the Yazzie family of Gallup, New Mexico. It is the museum’s first exhibition to explore the intersection of art and commerce and the personification of culture through jewelry. Although turquoise is not the only stone incorporated in the jewelry, it may be the most important.

“Turquoise is a great example of a secular and sacred stone,” says Lois Sherr Dubin, the curator for the “Glittering World” exhibition. “There is no more important defining gem stone in Southwest jewelry and part of the exhibition’s purpose is to expose people to turquoise that is not dyed or stabilized, but is the authentic stone.”

Turquoise is a central element in Navajo religious observances. One belief is that to bring rainfall, a piece of turquoise must be cast into a river, accompanied by a prayer. Its unique hue of green, blue, black and white represents happiness, luck and health and if given as a gift to someone, it is seen as an expression of kinship.

There are some 20 mines throughout the American Southwest that supply gem-quality turquoise, the majority of them are in Nevada, but others are in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. According to turquoise expert Joe Tanner, when Spanish conquistador Coronodo took home riches to the Spanish king, the turquoise from the jewelry was traced back to the Cerrillos mine in Arizona, the oldest known in America.

“What the Yazzies work with is the finest from the mines,” says Dubin. “We’re saying it’s more rare than diamonds.”

Less than five percent of turquoise mined worldwide has the characteristics to be cut and set into jewelry. Once a thriving industry, many Southwest mines have run dry and are now closed. Government restrictions and the high costs of mining have also impeded the ability to find gem-quality turquoise. Very few mines operate commercially and most of today’s turquoise is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining.

Despite the lack of mines in North America, turquoise is readily available on the market, with more than 75 percent coming out of China.  However, much of this turquoise has either been filled with epoxy for stabilization or enhanced for color and luster.

Lee Yazzie, known as one of the world’s leading crafters of this artform, prefers his turquoise from the Lone Mountain in Nevada. “I was exposed to the stone in my early life,” he says. “My mother wore it and I remember her working with turquoise to make rings and other pieces. Later, I learned it was considered a sacred stone.”

He set out to find the sacredness of this stone. “One day, I tried to connect to that spirit. I started talking to it and said, ‘I have very little knowledge on how to work with you and need you to give me direction on what it is you want.’ I can testify to you that when I started communicating in this very special way, I discovered why the Navajos considered turquoise to be sacred—everything is sacred in this life.”

This idea of sacred and secular coincides with the idea of preserving tradition through innovation, a common theme in the Yazzie family’s production of jewelry.

“My tradition has always been in my work, no matter how contemporary my pieces look,” says Raymond Yazzie, whose jewelry is distinguished by the quality of his domed inlay work.

“The ability to take traditional forms and make it contemporary is a clear expression of how native people have transitioned from their traditional cultures into a world that is very different,” says Kevin Gover, the museum’s director, “yet they have managed to retain their cultural identity.”

Raymond incorporates turquoise into his designs, although he is better known for his use of coral, which he says is also rare when trying to find good quality.

“The Lone Mountain and Lander Blue mine are coming to be like diamonds,” says Raymond, “with how much you pay for the turquoise.”

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We publish courtesy of: Add More Color To Your Life

Exotic velvety blue with a rich overtone of purple, tanzanite is a one of a kind gem, unlike any other. Rare and valuable, tanzanite is also found only one place on the planet: the Merelani Hills of Tanzania, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Of course tanzanite is an ideal complement to all the rich blues, purples, and greens in your wardrobe. But the velvety depths of this gem are also beautiful worn with earth tones, from chocolates to rusts and golds.

Only discovered in 1967, tanzanite is already one of the world’s most popular gemstones. Some credit is due to Tiffany & Co., who introduced this beautiful blue gem onto the market with a lovely name that pays tribute to the beauty of the land of its birth. Tiffany knew that to call this glamorous gem by its mineral name, blue zoisite, would not do it justice.

Tanzanite is available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Rarely pure blue, tanzanite almost always displays its signature overtones of purple. In smaller sizes, tanzanite tends toward lighter shades of lavender and periwinkle. In sizes above 10 carats, tanzanite can show deeper, richer intense blue color.

Tanzanite is trichroic: that is, it shows different colors when viewed in different directions. One direction is blue, another purple, and another bronze, adding subtle depths to the color. When tanzanite is found in the ground, the bronze color dominates. However, with gentle heating, the cutter can watch the blue color bloom and deepen in the stone.

Legend has it that the affect of heat was first discovered when some brown zoisite crystals laying on the ground with other rocks were caught in a fire set by lightning that swept through the grass covered Merelani hills northeast of Arusha. The Masai herders who drive cattle in the area noticed the beautiful blue color and picked the crystals up, becoming the first tanzanite collectors.

Tanzanites with a color that is more blue than purple tend to be more expensive because the crystals tend to form with the blue color axis oriented along the width of the crystal instead of the length. That means that if the cutter chooses to maximize the purity of the blue color, the stone cut from the rough will be smaller and will cost more per carat. The blue color, however, is so beautiful that the sacrifice is often worth it.

Tanzanite jewelry is a little more delicate than other gemstone jewelry and should not be set in a ring that will be worn during strenuous activity. Never clean tanzanite in an ultrasonic cleaner or resize or repair a ring set with tanzanite without having the gem removed because the stone could shatter in the heat of a torch.

Tanzanite is available in a variety of shapes and sometimes in large sizes that are perfect for an important necklace. Clean with mild dish soap: use a toothbrush to scrub behind the stone where dust can collect.

Laurence Graff buys pigeon red ruby for a record 8.6 M

Source: IDEX Online

The 8.62-carat cushion-shaped ‘Graff Ruby’ ring from the Collection of Dimitri Mavrommatis soared beyond pre-sale estimates and set a world auction record for a ruby at $8,600,410, as well as a record price per carat for a ruby at $997,727.

The ring was bought by London Laurence Graff at Sotheby’s Geneva sale of Magnificent & Noble Jewels.

The gemstone, which had a pre-sale estimate of $6.8 million-$9.0 million is ‘pigeon blood’ red color from Mogok in Burma, Sotheby’s commented.

Shortly after the sale, Laurence Graff said: “It was a natural thing to do. Graff deals in the finest gemstones in the world and this is the finest ruby in the world. We are very proud to have it in our possession for the second time.”

A 29.62-carat oval Burmese ruby set the previous record when it was sold for $7,338,462 ($247,754 per carat) at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in April, while a 6.04-carat cushion-cut Burmese ruby was sold for $3,331,380 ($551,553 per carat) at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2012.

Another highlight of the evening was a natural pearl and diamond necklace that was likely once the property of Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Comprising 111 pearls, the necklace sold for $3,426,669, way beyond the pre-sale estimate of $800,000-$1,400,000.

“This result also demonstrates once again the extraordinary appeal of natural pearls which often sold for many multiples of their estimates today,” Sotheby’s said.

There were also exceptional prices for fine diamonds, colored gemstones and jewels, which brought the sale’s total to $95,272,767, with 90 percent of lots sold.

At the heart of the auction was a collection of rare gemstones and jewels from the Dimitri Mavrommatis Collection. All 16 lots were sold and generated a total of $27,861,799 compared with a pre-sale estimate of $18.5 million-$28.3 million.

In addition to the Graff Ruby, the collection included a rare 27.54-carat step-cut Kashmir sapphire with a velvety blue color that was bought for $5,984,474, a world auction record for a Kashmir sapphire. It had a pre-sale estimate of $3.0 million-$6.0 million.

The previous record set by a Kashmir sapphire weighed 28.18 carats and sold for $5,093,000 ($180,731 per carat) at Sotheby’s in New York last April.

There was also a pair of sapphire, ruby and diamond earrings from leading art jeweler JAR which sold for $578,205, in the mid-range of its pre-sale estimate of $400,000-$700,000.