Gemma News Service: where light meets gemstones

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GEMMA News Service intent is being a solid and reliable source of information for the gemstone industry. GEMMA News Service will provide the highest level of excellence and integrity.

With almost 30 years of experience, we will do our best to explore industry updates and trends, while supplying our followers the information they need to keep updated about gems, gemology and jewelry.

GEMMA News Service is powered by Raul Sapora, gemologist (DGemG, GIA)

co founder of Italian Gemologists Association

Please feel free to contact us at rsapora@gmail.com

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Industry Analysis: Holiday Sales Off to a Strong Start

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology GIA Insider

Author: Russell Shor, Senior Industry Analyst

 

This 27.19 ct D-IF dimaond sold for $3.66 million at Sotheby's Dec. 9 Magnificent Jewels auction in New York. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.

 

 

 

This GIA-graded Fancy Intense pink diamond brokle two records: the most ever paid for a gemstone at auction and the highest price per carat ($1.86 million). Photo courtesy Sotheby's

 

 

 

 

The biggest development of this final month of 2010 is the spate of good news. Top jewelry auctions continue to break price records around the world, while the U.S. holiday shopping season indicates that jewelry is high on the buying list for everyday consumers.
One retail analyst group, IBIS World Inc., estimates that jewelry demand will rise 6% over the 2009 season. Earlier in the year, analysts were forecasting increases of around 2-3%, based largely on predictions of increased spending among the wealthiest buyers. Retail jewelers report, however, that sales have risen higher than expected across the board since mid-November.
Press reports and anecdotal evidence indicate that both the volume of sales and the average ticket price will be up significantly over the same period last year, even adjusting for gold price inflation, as consumers feel more comfortable spending. The Centurion newsletter survey reported that some 60% of luxury jewelers have posted double-digit sales increases thus far, while an additional 14.8% were up between 6% and 10%. Tiffany & Co. and Blue Nile have had seasonal gains of 10% and 12%, respectively.
Independent retailers are also optimistic about the season. Traditionally, as much as one-third of their holiday sales take place during the final 10 days before Christmas.
One reason for the better-than-expected retail sales is that most economists are no longer warning about a “double dip” recession. The consensus is that while a struggling job market will remain a drag on recovery, the economy will continue a slow growth through 2011. In addition, U.S. corporate profits have been quite strong the past two quarters, which suggests that those who have jobs may no longer fear losing them or being subjected to cuts in wages and hours.
In Europe, the fiscal troubles of Ireland and possibly Spain have unsettled the European Union. But while the European recovery remains slower, there is no talk of these problems pushing the world back into recession, as was the case last summer when Greece’s problems came to light.
The ultra-wealthy continue to flock to very large colorless and top fancy-color diamonds and extremely fine-colored stones. The Nov. 16 Sotheby’s auction in Geneva was a record-breaker on a number of fronts. It was the first $100 million-plus jewelry auction ever. Nearly half of that total, $46.1 million, went to a 24.78 ct GIA-graded Fancy Intense pink diamond that broke two records: the most ever paid for a gemstone at auction and the highest price per carat ($1.86 million).
The following day, at Christie’s Geneva, two Colombian emeralds sold for extremely high prices: A 25.83 ct octagon-shaped stone went for $1.04 million, while a 9.27 ct Muzo stone drew a winning bid of $824,720.
Sotheby’s Dec. 9 Magnificent Jewels auction in New York broke a sales record for that venue: $53.2 million, with 10 lots selling for more than $1 million. The top lot was a 27.19 ct D-IF diamond that sold for $3.66 million, or nearly $135,000 per carat.
Meanwhile, preliminary reports from the Dec. 13-17 Diamond Trading Company sight put it at about $450-$475 million. Diamond manufacturers hope the encouraging U.S. holiday season, coupled with continued strong demand from India and China, will break the impasse over polished prices that has lasted for six months.
Rough prices have increased far ahead of polished, as cautious retailers and jewelry manufacturers still refuse to pay higher rates. A number of manufacturers, particularly in India, stopped polishing certain sizes, preferring to hold them until prices improve, instead selling from inventory or stones sourced from the secondary market.
Russell Shor
Senior Industry Analyst

 

 

From Gems & Gemology: Smartphone Photomicrography

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology GIA Insider

G&G managing editor Thomas W. Overton prepared the following entry for the journal’s Gem News International section.

Figure 1. This inexpensive microscope accessory clips over a smartphone camera lens. Illumination is provided by LEDs. Photo by Robert Weldon.

Figure 2. Taken with an Apple iPhone and the clip-on microscope in figure 1, this image shows a “lilypad” inclusion in peridot. Photomicrograph by T. Overton; field of view approximately 4.0 mm.

Smartphones such as the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid, and Nokia N8 have become increasingly popular in recent years. Top-end models typically feature good-quality digital cameras that rival some “point-and-shoot” cameras, in addition to having basic photo editing software.
The popularity of smartphones has also spawned the development of numerous accessories that can expand their functionality even further. One such accessory is a low-power microscope that clips onto the phone over the camera lens. This contributor was interested in seeing if this device could have gemological applications.
The microscope accessory in figure 1 was ordered on the Internet for less than US$20. Its sliding housing offers varying levels of magnification, and illumination is provided by two white LEDs. The lighting assembly can be rotated about 45° to change the angle of illumination.
Although this device is clearly not optimized for gemological use, with some practice it was possible to produce serviceable photomicrographs. The images in figure 2 was taken with an Apple iPhone 4 using the ProCamera photography application, which allows manual adjustment of focus and white balance. As with any photography, the biggest challenge was the lighting. The LEDs proved too bright in most situations, and better results were achieved by partially shielding them or turning them off and relying on ambient light. Although the microscope’s packaging promised magnification up to 60x, in practice it was impossible to obtain good focus beyond medium power (approximately 20x). The best results were produced with a combination of the phone’s digital zoom, careful adjustment of the autofocus, and a steady hand.
This device clearly will not replace a standard gemological microscope or even a loupe, but it appears to provide a useful field tool in the gemologist’s arsenal.
To subscribe to G&G, visit the GIA Store, contact circulation coordinator Martha Rivera atmartha.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. To purchase PDF versions of articles or sections, visit Gems & Gemology Online.
You can find the device here. Please note that the Gemma News Service does NOT guarantee the reliability of the dealer. We just found it on the web.

GIA Lab Sees More 5 to 10+ ct HPHT-Treated Diamonds

We publish courtesy of GIA’s G&G eBrief

Author: Wuyi Wang GIA Laboratory, New York

 

The New York lab has been examining a greater number of large HPHT-treated type IIa diamonds, such as this 18.12 ct round brilliant (top; photo by Jian Xin Liao). The hexagonal graphite inclusion it contained (bottom; image by Wuyi Wang, magnified 112x) is a good indication of this treatment.

 

Gem laboratories frequently see colorless to near-colorless HPHT-treated type IIa diamonds, most of them smaller than 5 ct. In recent weeks, however, GIA’s New York lab has examined an increasing number of relatively large HPHT-treated type IIa diamonds, many weighing more than 5 ct and some 10+ ct.
One example is the 18.12 ct diamond at right, which was color graded F. While many HPHT-treated diamonds have no observable internal features except for some graining, this stone contained a tiny hexagonal graphite inclusion surrounded by a tension fracture. The inclusion, which very likely formed due to graphitization of the host diamond, and the tension fracture are good indications that this stone was HPHT treated. Careful spectroscopic analysis provided confirmation.
HPHT annealing involves a higher risk of damaging the diamond than other treatment techniques, so it is somewhat unusual to see it applied to such large stones. It is not clear if this surge in submission of large treated diamonds is a short-term phenomenon or the beginning of a trend. One possible explanation is that more suitable starting materials have become available in the market.

Luxury Market to Grow by Double Digits

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology eBrief

Authors: Russell Shor


 

Recovery from the economic downtown has been a painfully slow process for retail jewelers in the U.S. and Europe. The top end, however, is rallying much more quickly, according to a Bain & Co. market study on luxury goods.

The consulting firm predicted that worldwide jewelry sales would rise 13% this year, with the fastest growth (20%) coming from online sales. The report noted that luxury sales in general rose 5% in the first quarter and climbed to 16% by mid-year before slowing a bit in the third quarter. The strongest growth, as expected, is forecast for Asia, but U.S. luxury consumers have returned to the stores and are likely to boost their spending about 12% this year over last.

As if to prove the Bain report, the Oct. 20 jewelry auction at Christie’s New York brought in $52.5 million — 90% by lot and 95% by value — numbers rarely reached even in prosperous times. The top lot, a Bulgari ring featuring a 10.95 ct Fancy Vivid blue diamond and a 9.87 ct G-VS1 diamond, sold for more than $15.7 million. Several pieces with large D-Flawless diamonds broke the $100,000 per carat level. While private Asian buyers took several top lots, most of the jewelry was purchased by Americans.

These auction results underscore a key advantage of the luxury market: it tends to be more international and thus far less dependent on local economic conditions.

Russell Shor
Senior Industry Analyst, GIA Carlsbad

GIA Lab Grades Largest (4+ ct) HPHT-Grown Synthetic Diamond Submitted to Date

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology eBrief

Authors: Wuyi Wang and Tom Moses


Synthetic diamonds have improved dramatically in recent years. The GIA Laboratory recently examined the largest faceted synthetic diamond ever submitted for testing and grading: a rectangular sample measuring 9.07 x 8.54 x 5.98 mm and weighing 4.09 ct. It was color graded Fancy Vivid yellow-orange and had notably even color distribution (color zoning is common in HPHT-grown synthetic diamonds). Some strings of black pinpoint inclusions were seen with the microscope; the clarity grade was VS1. DiamondView imaging showed typical HPHT synthetic growth sectors, with patterns of varying intensity and color.

The mid-IR absorption spectrum revealed a high concentration of predominantly A-form nitrogen, as well as isolated nitrogen (weak absorption at 1344 cm-1) — which was responsible for the yellow-orange color. The UV-Vis absorption spectrum showed a typical pattern for isolated nitrogen (gradual increase in absorption from approximately 570 nm to higher energies), as well as features attributed to a Ni-related defect (793.6 nm) and the H2 defect (986.2 nm).

The predominantly A-form nitrogen and the occurrence of the H2 optical center strongly suggest growth at a relatively high temperature. An advantage to high-temperature synthesis is that it limits the development of growth sectors other than octahedra. As a result, the color appears more evenly distributed.

This sample’s size, clarity, and vivid, evenly distributed yellow-orange color were exceptional and demonstrate continued improvements in the HPHT growth technique.

Wuyi Wang and Tom Moses
GIA Laboratory, New York

Recent Finds of Aquamarine and Heliodor in Indochina

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology eBrief

Author: Brendan Laurs

 

In June 2010, GIA was informed by Jack Lowell (Colorado Gem & Mineral Co., Tempe, Arizona) about some attractive gem-quality crystals of aquamarine and heliodor from Indochina. According to his supplier (Tan Pham, Vietrocks.com, Philadelphia), good-quality aquamarine was mined in 2008 in northern Vietnam, from separate areas in the neighboring provinces of Thanh Hoa (in Thuong Xuan District) and Nghe An (Que Phong District). Aquamarine from Nghe An was also produced in 2003-2004. The more recent crystals range up to 20 cm long, and are notable for their saturated color. Matrix specimens (associated with smoky quartz) have been recovered only rarely, from Thanh Hoa, due to the weathered nature of the pegmatite host rocks. Clean gemstones up to approximately 35 ct have been faceted from the Vietnamese aquamarine.

Well-formed crystals of heliodor (e.g., figure 2) were recently produced from another area in Southeast Asia, which Mr. Pham suspects is Cambodia. The crystals were first noted on the market in Vietnam with a third-party source in 2007; those seen by Mr. Pham ranged up to 7.5 cm long. This heliodor, as well as the aquamarine described above, has been especially popular with Chinese buyers.

Brendan M. Laurs