Cecile Raley Designs

Loving Lavender Spinel: Where Can You Get That Color?

Loving Lavender Spinel: Where Can You Get That Color?
Oval Vietnamese Lavender Spinel Surrounded by Afghanistan Lavender Spinel

So I announced lavender as one of the colors of 2021, thus trumping (or dumping) the official color of “butter yellow”, as much as I like butter.  Obviously, this means we now have to talk about lavender gems: sapphire, spinel, and, if you like, amethyst, Tanzanite.  And for me, the discussion should start with the underdog: spinel. 

“Lavender” is not a color recognized by gemstone labs, which will use terms like “light purplish pink or light pinkish purple” instead.  Lavender tones can range from a more blueish to a more pinkish tone, some of which I call another unofficial name: lilac.  In many ways lavender is a subjective color: how purple can a lavender gem be?  How light, how blue, how pink?  Also, how much gray can it have before it becomes gray with a purplish tint?

This last question is particularly important when grading and valuing spinel, most of which has a grayish tint and is most valuable when there is less of that.  The lavender spectrum in spinel ranges all the way from fully gray with a slightly purplish tint to a very faint purple or lavender or pink that barely has any color at all, and everything in between, including deep purples and blues. 

And what is the most valuable lavender color?  The one with the least amount of gray, of course.  Purest colors are preferred by most eyes, and this goes for lavender as well.  The eye also loves some saturation, hence the strongest and least gray lavender is what we love most, where the direction of lavender – pink or purple – seems to be more of a matter of personal taste.

Lavender Spinel Baguettes from Burma

Not all locations produce spinels in the purple range, but many do. There are no lavenders in Mahenge, Tanzania but there are some in Tunduru, Tanzania.  Lavenders come from Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Burma, Vietnam, Afghanistan.  The most grayish tones come from Sri Lanka and Burma, which is why I don’t favor those origins.  Burma offers wonderful reds of course but also straight grays and grays with all other secondary tones like blue, purple, lavender, pink, up to platinum and silvery tones and even whites.  Sri Lanka has fewer pure grays but lots of grape tones, grey blue, rosy grayish pinks, as well as some greens and orangish tones. 

My favorite sources of lavender spinels are, ranging from least to most preferred: Tunduru - Tanzania, Parawara - Afghanistan and Luc Yen - Vietnam.

Spinel Rounds from Tunduru, Tanzania

Tunduru - Tanzania: As I noted above, that origin is not known for its gray tones.  Rather, you see a nice mix of light pinks, purples, blues with a little gray, silver, some peachy pinks but no orangish tones.  Lavender is less common than the other tones.

Oval Purplish Spinel from Afghanistan

Parawara - Afghanistan: This region is not far from the Tajikistan mines known for red and pink spinels, but produces lavender spinels instead.  The find is recent, first heard about in 2017 when gem dealer Dudley Blauwet purchased a 56-gram parcel of rough at a gem market in Pakistan – the faceted material from this you see offered as an exclusive in our shop (the three largest gems from this rough were analyzed by GIA to characterize this new spinel).  Another parcel made its way to Bangkok.  It yielded a small amount of very large gems sold on the Chinese market.  GIA characterizes the sample spinel received as having shades of blue and strong purple colors.  The smaller gems are lighter and more lavender.  Neither have any significant color change.  After 2017, not much of this material resurfaced, most of it heavily included, and the region is politically unstable so it’s unclear when there will be more. 

Lavender Spinels from Vietnam
Lavender and Lilac Spinels from Vietnam

Luc Yen - Vietnam: This is on the very TOP of my list for gem treasure hunts, as soon as it’s safe, and permitted, to be back out in the world.  In my view, the purest purples come from this region, but also lighter violets and pinks. Whether your preference is toward the more blue or the more pink, you will love looking at it.  There are also some light imperial tones, leaning towards peach but always with less gray and more pink than peach or orange.  Strong silvery or very light grays do not occur much or at all.

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Spinel Spinel Spinel: Origins and Colors Explained

Spinel Spinel Spinel: Origins and Colors Explained

I’m not sure if you know, but about two years ago spinel was added to the list of birthstones. It now accompanies peridot on the August list, making for a lovely variety of colors in addition to green for those who are born in August but don’t like that color. 

Spinel exhibits a lovely color variety of almost anything under the sun (even green), but most spinel ranges from red to blue with all the intermediate colors: pink, lavender, purple, etc.  Most spinel has a grey modifier, and a large quantity of spinel is actually mainly grey with modifiers of pink, blue, purple, and lavender.  Only a few localities show fairly pure colors. 

Spinel is a fairly hard stone, easy to work with, and up till now there’s no known treatment to either enhance the color or melt away inclusions.  Generally spinel is fairly clean anyway, so that is another plus.

There’s a ton to say about spinel, but I think the easiest way to get an idea of what this gem has to offer is to go through the various localities of origin and look at the individual qualities and colors available there.  For a personal twist, I’m going to talk about this in the order in which I was introduced to spinel.

Sri Lanka. My first exposure to spinels was around the fall of 2009, when I saw what looked to me (at first) like pink to purple sapphires with a few purplish blues.  Back then they were so cheap because it was a very underappreciated gem.  Very few people knew about it.  Most spinels from Sri Lanka have a stronger greyish cast, which is why I have gotten away from selling them over time but some of the better more saturated purples and blues come from this country.  There are even a few gems with cobalt content (this is what makes spinels blue) though it’s not as strong as the cobalt blue from Vietnam.

Here are some spinels from Sri Lanka that I owned back in 2012:


Grey Spinel

Mogok, Burma. This area is mostly known for it’s bright red spinels. But you can also get all the pink tones there, and most of the now popular greys are from that area as well.  Grey spinel is very abundant, even in larger sizes, and despite it’s popularity I don’t list very much of it.  Basically, this is because grey spinel is not rare, and I don’t want to overstock and then sit on them as the popularity wanes.  I can source greys of almost any size and shape without any problem, if need arises.  The Man Sin mine in Mogok is famous for it’s Jedi spinel, a reddish pink, or pinkish red (depending on personal preference) that is especially neon color.  My personal preference are the reddish pinks, not the pinkish reds because those are the most neon of all.  But the true reds and reddish pinks are pretty much equally expensive.  Of note: the black prince’s ruby in the British crown jewels is a spinel. Click here for a fantastic article about Jedi spinels. You may recognize Hemi Englisher, a fairly well known gemstone wholesaler who exhibits in Tucson.  These days, Hemi sells other gems more, though he still moves quite a bit of spinel.  His Mogok material has long ago wandered into other hands, though.

Click here for some neon red spinel currently available in our Etsy shop.

Burma Spinel Earrings and Loose Jedi Spinel:

Mahenge, Tanzania. It was the summer of 2010, when I went to the JA Show in New York city, browsing through the AGTA section. All the way in the back there was a young man from India, proudly showing off some very neonish pink gems that looked very similar to the red spinel I had seen, yet had a unique shade of their own: more of a warm pink by comparison, and except for a little bit of overlap between the colors, fairly easy to distinguish from Burmese material after a little practice.  The young man turned out to be Jaimeen Shah from Prima Gems, whose uncle (an Indian born in Kenya, who lives in Arusha, Tanzania) had bought up most of the initial claim back in 2007.  Previously the family had mostly dealt in Tsavorite and some Tanzanite, but the find in Mahenge changed everything.  Now fairly mined out, Mahenge spinel has brought much deserved attention to this beautiful gem, and drove up the price from $50 a carat wholesale in 2010 for half carat pieces to over ten times that in 2020.

Here's some Mahenge spinel from 2014, all sold.

Click here for mahenge spinel currently available in our Etsy shop.  

Here is the latest YouTube video I made explaining the differences between Sri Lankan, Burmese, & Mahenge spinels: 

 

And another exploring Burmese and Mahenge Spinels even further:

 

Tunduru, Tanzania. Jaimeen also introduced me to spinel from the south of Tanzania, close to the border to Mozambique.  Tunduru spinel, to my eye, has much in common with Sri Lankan spinel.  Ranging from baby pinks to (a few) lavenders and purples to blue, much of it has a grey cast.  However, you can find more of the blue tones in the Tunduru region, usually lighter pastel blues, and these do have a bit less grey than Sri Lankan spinel.  If you see parcels of each side by side, you will be able to distinguish between them fairly easily.  Tunduru spinel will be lighter in color, and it will have more blue mixed in.

Tunduru Spinel:

For more on Tanzanian spinels, you can watch this video I posted to my YouTube channel:

 

Luc Yen Region, Vietnam. About five years ago, when I first met Hemi, he had shared his booth with a young Israeli residing in Bangkok named Nir.  This is where I first saw Vietnamese spinel.  The colors were the purest lavender I had ever seen, and the neon pinks had a very unique tone to them as well.  Having looked at oodles of spinel in half a decade, I immediately noticed that these were different in tone with much less grey on average (though the less valuable material also has some grey).  There are also lilac tones, just a slightly more pinkish color than lavender, which are amazing and probably my personal favorite.  The most famous Vietnamese spinel, however, is the cobalt blue color, which now fetches prices of up to $50.000 a carat wholesale for 1-2 carat pieces, and up to $30,000 wholesale for well matched suites of smaller sizes.  This Luc Yen find has since disappeared.  There was a smaller find of blues in the summer of 2019, which was bought up very quickly.  Most of that material, however, did not have quite the same intensity.  I have a purplish blue almost two carat (AGL certified for Cobalt) in my personal collection that will remain with me, probably forever.

Vietnam Spinel: 

Cobalt Spinel from the 2019 find:

For more on Vietnamese spinels, you can watch this video I posted to my YouTube channel:

 

Ilakaka, Madagascar.  Until I went to Madagascar, I didn’t actually know that spinel originated from there because this origin is not always identified.  Also, Madagascar is a relatively young mining country, not very organized.  Lately, spinel is mainly found as a byproduct of ruby and sapphire in Ilakaka, but also in many other regions (Itrafo and others) as well.  Much of this spinel looks very very similar to Sri Lankan spinel, just like Madagascar sapphire looks very similar to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) sapphire.  The two were actually confused by well known gem laboratories until enough of a database could be established.  Most of what I have seen is purple to grey, blue to grey, and the occasional pink.  This material livens up considerably when well cut (I’ve gotten some from Nomads that I have loved). 

Click here for lavender spinel currently available in our Etsy shop. 

Madagascar Spinel on the Left, the rest is Burmese

Mozambique. This is a relatively new source of spinel (see this article).  So far all of the specimens I have seen from Mozambique are pink with the occasional secondary hue of lavender, and they have very fine silky inclusions. Ordinarily this is material I would have dismissed, as I favor clean stones like most people, but this material is unusually attractive and the silkiness enhances the appearance instead of distracting from it. 

Mozambique Spinel:

Here is the finest I have seen in this listing here:

Tajikistan. Another unusual origin, and rarely seen in the market because the area isn’t that safe or easy to travel.  I have seen very little material from there with my own eyes, but what I have seen is also less grey, a nice medium saturation pink.  Orangy tones from the area are also very famous but I’ve not yet seen one in person.  Maybe some day…

This is my only spinel from Tajikistan.

 

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Tucson Gem Haul: Find Out What's Coming to the Shop, Before it Gets There!

Tucson Gem Haul: Find Out What's Coming to the Shop, Before it Gets There!

My panshir emerald melee is now sorted (see below,) I'll be offering sizes from 1mm-2mm in small batches.  Some small Russian emeralds are coming up.

Panshir Emerald Melee
Panshir Emerald Melee

I also secured more beautiful boulder and black opal from Australia.  More sizes and colors of sapphire and ruby melee being listed as we speak, as well as more Vietnamese spinel including some collectors sizes that I'm super happy with.  The lavenders and lilac colors are very hard to get, and to me, very unusual because they have almost no notes of secondary gray. 

Vietnamese Lavender Spinel
Vietnamese Lavender Spinel

What I didn't buy much of was tourmaline - prices seemed very high at the moment.  I did buy paraiba melee of course but prices on those have gone up as well.  I was surprised that there still were any.  A couple more larger paraibas will be listed in upcoming weeks.

Burmese Red Spinel
Burmese Red Spinel

For more new gems, be sure to follow us on Youtube!  Here are a few of the latest videos, showcasing our brand new gems, straight from Tucson: 

 

 

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NEW NEW NEW: Rings, Pendants, & Earrings for Alternate Stone Shapes

NEW NEW NEW: Rings, Pendants, & Earrings for Alternate Stone Shapes

With Tucson around the corner, I've been thinking long and hard about what new items I could make that would offer up some options for alternate stone shapes.  My main focus this time was the oval, or rather, the roval. In particular, designs that allow for more 3x2 and 4x3 options. There are so many 4x3 ovals on the market and they often cost less, too.  So I worked on a new Lily using those, and Elizabeth shapes for earrings.

OVAL LILY: These take a 4mm center stone, 4 4x3mm ovals and 2mm (or smaller) gems on the outside.  The width is 17mm, so it's a nice and substantial size.

Pricing is $680 for the pendant and $760 for the ring in 14kt (note these are new gold prices as gold has gone up a few hundred dollars in the past few months).

14k gold pendant with sapphires and rubies14k gold ring with tourmaline sapphire and mint garnet

ELIZABETH EARRINGS: These earrings can be made into studs or danglies, and the components could also be used in a bracelet or as part of a necklace.  They are made for 4x3 and 3x2mm gems.  Prices are $420 for the larger and $390 for the smaller earrings. 

hauyne rose gold earrings
7 x 4.5mm with hauyne

 

rose gold emerald earrings
8 x 5.5mm with emeralds

 

HEXAGON FOR OVALS: While we were at it, we also made hexagons for rovals (4x3mm and 3x2mm). The smaller hexagons are priced at $370 in 14Kt gold and the larger ones are $400.

hexagon 14k gold earrings with spinel

14k gold hexagon earrings with spinel

STAR FLOWER PENDANT WITH 8 PETALS: We made this model for 3x2mm gems only, because I wanted to feature the hauyne I have but we can also get Burma spinel and hopefully a few other sizes in Tucson.  The center stone is 4mm but I can go up to 4.5mm.  I have a ring version of this as well, but it isn't finished yet. These are priced at $480 for the pendant and $580 for the ring (coming soon!) in 14Kt gold.

rose gold flower pendant with hauyne and rhodochrosite

STACKING RINGS: We came out with six new models, five of which are in the photos here. All are priced at $220, which will be our new price for 14 Kt gold stacking rings.  They are made for 6x4 pears and ovals, as well as 3x2 ovals (east west and north south).

gold stacking rings with gemstones

gold stacking rings with gemstones

gold stacking rings with gemstones

NEW DESIGNS IN PROGRESS: Another underappreciated stone shape for us has been the trillion.  We made a scalloped design for a 6mm center and 15 x 1.5mm round sidestones, pendant and ring.  The pendant will cost $650 and the ring costs $710 in 14Kt gold. The pendant just came out, the ring will be available after Tucson.

And we also made a design for a 7mm stone which is currently with Alex for engraving of the sides. You'll have to imagine the finished product, but here's how it looks in the CAD. We made the prongs super long so that we can also set a slightly larger than 7mm gem, which we'd open the prongs up a little to accommodate.  A 7mm or a hair smaller gem will sit as shown in the image, and the prongs will be cut down to tiny claws as in all our designs.  The sidestones are 2x2.5rds, 2x 1.6rds and 2x1.5rds or 1x 2.5mm.

Finally, we have a design coming for a 6mm cushion, an adaptation of last year's prize winner Josephine.  The sidestones for this will be 4x 1.7mm round & 12x 1.3ish mm round.  This model is currently in printing, but we will have a finished item later in February to show you.  

 

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Pack your Virtual Bags: You’re Coming to Tucson with Us!

Pack your Virtual Bags: You’re Coming to Tucson with Us!

Hooker Emerald Brooch

Hooker Emerald Brooch, designed by Tiffany & Co, previously exhibited at Tucson Gem & Mineral Show & worth $5,000,000 USD!!!

I can't believe how quickly the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is coming around this year: I got back from Germany last Thursday night, where I spent a lot of quality time with my mom, and then I realized: I leave in THREE WEEKS!  I changed my Tucson travel dates this year because several shows start before my big ones (i.e. AGTA and GJX shows.) The AGTA gives booths only to their own vendors, and the GJX has a long waiting list to get a spot, so gem dealers like my opal vendors and some of my spinel vendors attend some of these other shows instead.

Here then is the big question: is there really anything new this year?  How’s this even possible?  Well it actually is possible thanks to new finds, such as a spinel find in Vietnam last summer; with lucky buys from my vendors, and with lucky buys from yours truly, those will arrive from overseas in February.

Let’s start with, well, ME.  As my friend Jochen from Jentsch Minerals was just in Madagascar, I bought some high quality grandidierite through him.  This time the gems are a bit larger, but not so big that they will break the bank.  On my WhatsApp the colors looked juicy and the gems sparkly, but my friend Gael is still learning to take adequate video (and admittedly he doesn’t have a state-of-the-art cell phone).  

In other ways, too, my “Tucson buying” has already started, as several of my vendors have given me the opportunity to make pre-show selections.  I have several boxes of Burma spinel melees on my desk already.  You will see these roll out in the next three weeks.  If these move well, I may stock up!

 

I have also negotiated to buy up an old production of Vietnamese lavender and lilac spinel pear shapes, small sizes, good for earrings, stacking rings, and I will come up with some other designs for them as well.  I will be able to price those fairly reasonably.  I was hoping for more lilacs and neon pinks in other sizes but right now that market is wiped clean.  But, some larger purples and lavenders are an option for me.  I’ve seen most of what will be presented via WhatsApp, it’s just a question of what I want to put aside...These pieces would be more expensive though, figure on several thousand for one piece since they also weigh a couple of carats, so it multiplies out in two ways (price and carat weight).

Related to this, I of course, keep getting asked about paraiba.  Having scoured this market for years, this is what I know: there are about 6 decent paraiba vendors in all of Tucson.  One or two are Brazilian with outrageous prices and they don’t allow you to memo gems.  I don’t buy there.  I wouldn’t be able to offer a return and the price would be high for that.  There’s another vendor, not Brazilian, who has top (top top top) quality pieces but those are in the 30K and up range, so I haven’t ever bought those.  But, they are amazing!  Another vendor from the US used to have stuff but he’s fairly sold down and I’ve passed on the rest.  The final two with anything but crumbly overpriced stuff are here in NY and I see their selection before it goes to Tucson.  I have three pieces that I am holding back on for now, available only upon request, and for the moment at least, I have no plans to buy in Tucson directly.  For me personally, and therefore for you, there’s no advantage in doing so.  If you have requests, please let me know and I will source if I can.  For the rest, as you know there will be a sale coming up, so you can buy the stock I still have.

Regarding the melee paraiba, there is a little bit left with my melee vendor, and I source it as needed.  I would buy it up but it would tie up all my cash flow, so that’s not an option for me, but production of these ended years ago.

In other news, I am negotiating for a small production of benitoite before it hits Tucson (it sells out on the first day)!  I was also shown some Vietnamese ruby and sapphire melees that I am interested in, but I haven’t made a decision yet...

I am going to stock up more on the high quality moonstone this time.  The main cost there is from cutting, not lack of availability.  If there are any requests, please let me know as I will be a very busy bee this year!  

The other thing I will stock up on are ruby and sapphire melees in all colors and sizes.  This is pretty much an all day thing, or a several day thing, as I have to match down suites.  The vendor has pre sorted parcels, i.e. 5 shades of lavender rounds in the 2-2.5mm size.  He will then sift out, say, 2.2mm from the shade I like best, but then I still have to match them.  Sometimes I think there are as many lavender and purple shades of sapphire as there are stars (or maybe I’m seeing stars as time passes).  Matching these is a job only for the obsessed.  So it’s fine for me…

Let me list here what I can get, and if you want to help me, in a manner of speaking, let me know what you might like, i.e. size, shape, amount.  Otherwise, I will just pick what I think is best.  

Blue sapphire: shades of blue, vibrant to light to dark, 1-3mm rounds mainly but other shapes also.
Ruby and pink sapphire: same idea, from light pink to deep pink to ruby color, all pre-sorted.
Lavender sapphire: light to medium, not super dark, but nothing in 1mm.  1.8 is the smallest I’ve seen.
I can also get teal, tealish-green sapphire, and I can get other shapes: 4x3 ovals, marquis, small pears.

Anything aside from lavender is heated or a mix between heat and no heat.  Lavender is usually from Madagascar and is not heated, just because at the moment, that’s the main supply line for this shade.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but for now this is all I can think of.

One final note.  Photos: I will of course keep you posted on Instagram and Facebook, and I will put out as many listings as I can manage.  What I will not do, however, is publicly post photos of gems that I haven’t bought yet or of selections at booths.  I don’t usually do that anyway, but as this has become a widespread practice, here’s my two cents. Vendors don’t like it, especially for finer goods.  Once a gem is “out there and been seen”, possibly with exact specs, those gems are kind of “spoiled”.  And if several people show the same gems, it gives a false sense of availability.  

There are also small sellers that pre-sell goods based on vendor photos at a low markup.  But they can’t offer a good return policy and they run the risk of selling you something that is no longer available once you pay.    

On Instagram, I’ve also even seen photos from wholesale websites (taken without permission,) sometimes shown by several different vendors, but when you ask, the gem isn’t available.  I’ve witnessed a small retail jeweler doing so on his website, and I’ve even had my own photos taken and reused both on Etsy and on Instagram.  I’ve even seen sellers photograph gems in vendors' boxes with the price on the front, thereby signaling that they were selling without a markup, when in reality, wholesale vendors provide (sometimes steep) discounts on that product.  
As much as I love the internet as a selling platform, I find that it provides a lot of confusing information, and I don’t want to add to the confusion.  Whatever I have for sale is either (a) mine, or (b) given to me on legitimate memo and just for me to sell for the duration, and (c) to the best of my ability, has not been in the hands of other vendors.  Caveat on that: sometimes I decide to show a gem that I co-own, or that I know is on a friend’s website, or that I was told has been shown around.  That’s ok, as long as I can make that decision.  But increasingly, I have decided to forego some selling opportunities because the gem has “been around the block already,” possibly at a multitude of prices.  So if vendors show me their rare goods, I usually ask them directly.  That way I can give full disclosure to my own clients so that they can make the best decision for themselves.

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