Cecile Raley Designs

The Hidden Jewels of Afghanistan

The Hidden Jewels of Afghanistan

Ravaged by decades of off and on war and religious oppression, Afghanistan is getting a lot of negative attention lately, and needs our support.  As a woman-owned company, we would like to do our part by donating the profits of all of our Afghanistan gems that we sell to the women's rights organization,  Women for Afghan Women.

Because of its unique geography, Afghanistan has a very rich and long-standing mining culture with over 1400 mining fields, going back thousands of years to Alexander the Great and even earlier.  Its most well-known gem, lapis lazuli, can even be found in Egyptian jewelry. 

However, much of the gem mining industry is still at an artisanal stage, with small and often independent groups trekking into mountain ranges such as the Panjshir mountains north of Kabul where the famous emeralds are found.  This Wikipedia entry is fairly comprehensive and more detailed than what I can offer.  

Many of the mining regions for colored gemstones can only be reached on foot, and this is another reason why gem mining has never turned into a large-scale operation.  Additionally, many of the fields have never been seen or reached by trained geologists. Consequently, our knowledge of the exact geology is second hand. 

As you probably know, emeralds and rubies from Afghanistan are quite well known and well regarded among gem connoisseurs.  Panjshir emeralds have a rich minty green color and tend to be very clean, somewhat similar to Russian emeralds but with warmer tones and more fissures (hence somewhat more oil).  The material rivals that of the Muzo mines in Colombia.  This older GIA article goes more into detail.  Another location, the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is also known for emeralds of very similar color to Panjshir.

 

Panjshir Emerald and Gold Earrings

 

Emerald Cut Panjshir Emerald

 

The Afghanistan ruby is similar in body color to the Burmese ruby, but can sometimes be more reddish because of the iron deposits.  It also has very bright and beautiful fluorescence.  We have a beautiful bi-color piece available that shows off the nicest color of Afghan ruby.  Bi-color rubies are extremely rare (and very unique to Afghanistan material).

 

Rare Bi-Color Afghanistan Ruby

 

Tourmaline (green and lighter pink) is also very common in Afghanistan.  The greens tend not to have the deep blueish tones one used to find in Brazil but are more minty or grass colored and lighter.  You can also find some very nice bi-color specimens.  The pinks tend to be on the lighter side, so I haven’t invested in these. 

 

Bi-color Minty Green Tourmaline from Afghanistan

 

The same region that produces ruby also produces Spodumene (kunzite, hiddenite).  The kunzite is a gorgeous strong pink color but we do not carry kunzite because it can lose its color in sunlight.  Hiddenite hasn’t been very available on the market in recent years.  The last batches I got, years ago, were from areas bordering Pakistan.

As I said above, lapis lazuli is probably the most widely known Afghan gem and production of lapis in Badakhshan is quite large. Turquoise from Afghanistan is also popular in the gem market.

Of course, my favorite gem – spinel - is mined in Afghanistan as well but this is not as well known yet.  Richard Hughes wrote an informative article about it here.   The more well-known spinels are from what is now Tajikistan (which borders Afghanistan to the Northwest).  Tajikistan spinel has a soft to padparadscha colored pink. 

The spinels I’ve seen from Afghanistan have a lavender tone and are produced in the Parawara mine (also in Badakhshan).  Most of that material is not clean but there is some gem grade stuff available which we locked in a few months ago.

 

Lavender Spinel from Afghanistan

 

Of course, the future of gem mining in Afghanistan is uncertain at this stage, but in the end, gems outlast all humans, and all human strife.  Only time will tell but I think in the (very) long run, Afghanistan’s mining culture will find a way to continue. 

Continue reading

How We Source Stuff: Hunting for Gemstone Treasures

How We Source Stuff: Hunting for Gemstone Treasures

Since Cecile Raley Designs started selling gems on Etsy, the number of shops offering cut stones online has pretty much exploded.  In addition, international gem cutting centers like Jaipur, India can now sell gemstones directly to you without a “middle-man” or “retail shop.” 

Because I was always more fascinated with unusual and rare gemstones, I found myself gradually moving more in the direction of “curating” - buying and showing only special and selected gems, rather than buying and selling large mixed quality parcels.  I also never wanted to sell gems like citrine or amethyst or blue topaz because they are too ubiquitous.  If you are a treasure hunter, then ubiquitous is a bad word.  And I think of myself as a treasure hunter.

So what are the considerations for a treasure hunter?  What counts as a true gemstone treasure?

 

 

Gemstone treasures have to attract the eye.  It is a basic rule.  If you don’t like the way it looks, don’t buy it.  (Why would you buy an ugly dress?).  Certain kinds of brown dravite tourmaline are fairly rare, but it’s not a color that many people enjoy, and so it has never interested many buyers.  But both the "Jedi" red and "cobalt" blue spinel as well as the bright turquoise of Paraiba tourmaline just forces the eye to look. Alternatively, compare Namibian and Russian demantoid.  Both are rare, but Russian demantoid is significantly more eye catching because it’s not brownish or olive green.  (Sidenote: The rarest of all Russian demantoids is actually the yellowish brownish andradite garnet, and it is, nevertheless, the least expensive).

 

 

Gemstone treasures have to be rare.  Both citrine and amethyst are pretty, and some amethyst can be downright gorgeous.  But unless you consider rare origins, there’s a lot of gorgeous amethyst out there.  So even though amethyst from Russia or Morocco are now rare, they do not fetch a high market price.  Alternatively, Tanzanite is fairly available on the market despite the fact that it has only one origin.  This means that even in large sizes, Tanzanite is not as expensive as unheated sapphire in the same color.  However, single origin can make something very rare if it is not found in sufficient quantities or supplies have run out.  Such is the case with Benitoite.  Benitoite is a lovely blue similar to sapphire but it’s not neon and eye catching like hauyne or even top-quality sapphire; its value is in its rare single origin.

 

 

Gemstone treasures should not be enhanced.  Let’s face it, most of us are attracted to the pure and unadulterated.  And perhaps rightfully so.  Gemstone enhancement, i.e., heating, irradiating, oiling, are “beautification devices” that make a gem seem better than it is or to appear to be something it is not. But it also moves a stone in the rare category into something less rare, as it is a way to enable a more readily available gemstone to rival the beauty of the one that is natural.  Emerald is routinely oiled on a sliding scale, and the more oil used, the lower the price.  One reason why Afghani and Russian emeralds are so sought after is because, in addition to the rare origin, they are so clean that they need little to no oiling (even if one did oil them, very little would be absorbed by the gems because they do not have enough fissures).  On average, Colombian emeralds are not as clean and require more oiling, but the extraordinarily clean Colombian gems, which also have a neon like color, will fetch a price equal to Russian emeralds, if not higher.

Gemstone treasures have rare qualities. There are many ways to think about rare qualities of gems.  Color change is one of them and is probably the main reason why alexandrite is still valued so highly, despite its mostly “muddy” daylight appearance.  (Sidenote: we can easily source alexandrite but we prefer to market the actually rarer blue garnet which also has a much better color change and clarity).  Another rare quality of a gem is dichroism or trichroism, which makes a gem appear different colors from different angles.  Unheated tanzanite has trichroism, iolite is dichroic but unfortunately it’s secondary color is brown.  Kornerupine is trichchroic showing green, blue and lavender. 

 

14K Rose Gold Ring with Lavender Spinels

 

Do gemstone treasures have to have a good cut?  Generally, cut matters – a lot – because a good cut tends to increase how much we are attracted to a gem.  But there are two caveats to that.  One is that if the material is so rare that any bit of “weight loss” in cutting matters for value and price, it is best avoided, i.e. recutting a cushion Vietnamese spinel into a round (the gemstone rough lends itself to a cushion or long pear cut).  Rare gems do get recut, but usually the seller will increase the price accordingly so that the buyer pays the same even though the gem is now smaller.  The second caveat is that in some naturally darker or more included gems, such as Burma ruby or Colombian emerald, it’s not always necessary to cut the gem down to eliminate window or remove inclusions as the inclusions will obscure both anyway.  Finally, rare gems are almost never cut into very unusual cuts, like a kite or trapezoid or tapered baguette.  For shapes that don’t respect the crystal of the gemstone rough, it’s best to use inexpensive material.  So yes, cutting matters a lot, but to a degree only: it matters insofar as it enhances the gem, not insofar as it entices the buyer to purchase an unusual cut. 

So what are our favorites at Cecile Raley Designs?  The answer to that is probably not hard to discern given our listings.  While we try to offer a broad array of gems for design purposes, the gems closest to our heart are only a small number.  Here they are -- can you guess which of the criteria above fits these gems?  All of them fit more than one.

    1. Jedi Red and Pink Spinel
    2. Purple Unheated Sapphire
    3. Vietnamese Lavender and Lilac Spinel
    4. Bright Royal Blue Sapphire (unheated preferred but heated ok)
    5. Hauyne
    6. Cobalt Spinel
    7. Kornerupine
    8. Paraiba Tourmaline
    9. Russian & Colombian Emeralds
    10. Russian Demantoid
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

2020 Kicks the Bucket. A New Year, a Fresh Start

2020 Kicks the Bucket.  A New Year, a Fresh Start

 

Well, I can say this much: 2020 has decidedly been the most bizarre year of my entire life. Granted, I haven’t been through a war; I grew up in, and live in a wealthy country, so maybe that doesn’t say much.  But BOY, do I not want to repeat these past 12 months, despite the fact that I finally had time to redo my basement.  Let’s hope for better years ahead for all of us!

While I cannot offer you a vaccine, I do hope to provide you with some distractions until the latter kicks in for everyone.  CRD starts off the new year with a new Logo, designed by The Brand Shop “The White Zebra”.  And there’s more to come: new graphics, newsletter design, banners, packaging materials, and eventually, a revamped website.  We hope for your input along the way, as we are in the midst of finalizing a questionnaire that will ask you to help us with your thoughts.  Our next newsletter will fill you in on the details.

Here are some new packaging drafts.  

After that, Tucson.  Well, kind of, as there will not be any actual Tucson shows.  Not yet anyway.  A number of the organizers are trying to put together some shows to take place later this spring but amidst uncertainties about travel, new shutdowns, and more virulent mutations of COVID, I’m not holding my breath.  But later rather than sooner, it will all be back on track. 

In the meantime, I’ve made arrangements to get some stuff shipped to me for a gem sale starting mid-January.  Having skipped the semi-annual sale so that I could go to Germany to see my mom (she was VERY happy), and so that we stand a chance of Priority Mail NOT taking 3+ weeks to arrive, we are now starting to stock up on fresh gems for your perusal.  Listings are starting to roll out this week.

Rosette Pendant — zircon, sapphire & kornerupine

Also, for the first and perhaps the only time ever, we will have a Valentine’s jewelry sale in February.  We usually don’t have that because we are too busy with Tucson.  But this past fall, we created a lot more finished jewelry than in previous years and we were surprised at how well it sold, so we will make a push for more stud earrings which had record sales in November and December, more stacking rings, more pendants and statement rings.  New designs are on the way, and we continue to grow our Stuller collection in particular, with stud earrings that include shapes for which we have no proprietary designs.

Spinel Baguettes in Stuller Prong Settings

So. What new gemmy stuff can you expect?  Well, there have to be some surprises, but let me give you a hint.  One will be a type of spinel you have not seen on the market from an old find that has been freshly cut, and the other will be a gemstone cut you have not seen, at least not in colored gemstones (hint, the cut does exist in the diamond world).  Both will be an exclusive to my shop, both are Limited Editions. 

Second, I’m calling the Cecile Raley Designs colors for the year: green and lavender.  You’ve seen a lot of those colors already but you will see more.  More emeralds, from Russia and Afghanistan and Colombia, and more lavenders and purples (spinel, sapphire, and anything else I can dig up).  I will also offer some additional jewelry designs in those colors.  From what I have heard, the color of the year in the gemstone industry is a buttery yellow.  Eww.  Sorry.  I love butter, but it’s not going to work for me as anything but butter.  And we don’t sell that.  Green and lavender it is.

Custom Design, Emerald and Sapphire
Custom Design, Tourmaline, Emerald and Sapphire

In further developments, I’m negotiating a fresh batch of Benitoite, hoping for larger pieces but with prices being rather unpleasant, I will see what I can offer.  Same with more Burmese spinels.

More Paraiba melee are on the way to me as well, and some smaller single pieces, though I can’t offer many larger gems.  Demand continues to outstrip the measly supply, and those vendors who still have fine quality pieces are charging through the nose.

While I haven’t had much luck with selling diamonds, I want to continue to dabble in offering them because there’s so much interesting stuff out there that’s not, well, round and white.  I love the different available cuts, especially rare ones, and I love naturally colored diamonds. 

Any suggestions on your part?  Please don’t hesitate to let us know!

Continue reading

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.

 

Continue reading

The Show Must Go On: Vegas in New Jersey

The Show Must Go On: Vegas in New Jersey

As advertised in our previous newsletter, we have decided that even though the Las Vegas show is cancelled, we will source some fun new product for you and have our annual Vegas sale anyway!  To be honest, we are all starting to get antsy here in the epicenter.  New York vendors are slowly going back to their offices a couple of days a week, though they do not take personal appointments.  Many of the buildings are open so that those who have rented space to operate small workshops can go in, access their safes, their machinery, and to receive/make shipments.  They have to make rent, if nothing else!  And while I very much miss physical gem shopping, I confess I am seriously “over” Vegas.  Gambling is boring to me, the food is overpriced, and its waaaay too hot! 

So, instead of Vegas shopping, I am doing it virtually, like most of you.  Overseas packages are trickling in, and my vendors are sending me emails, texts, or WhatsApp video for me to peruse.  They all know my taste, and I know their product, so I’ve arranged with a handful of them to get some brand sparkling new inventory!  Some of it will be on short term memo, some long term memo, and some of it I will purchase outright. 

As you read this blog, I have a favor to ask: if there’s anything you would like to see, tell me asap, as some of these packages are coming to me in the next few days.  As I am getting shipments for “selection” (meaning not yet memo and I pick what I want to buy), I can show you items without you needing to commit right away!  But please act fast.  Additionally, if you are getting private photos from me of gems that may get returned to the vendor, I ask for your discretion in sharing them so that if the material goes to another seller at a later point, that person does not feel undercut.  Because yes, rare goods don’t necessarily get pitched by one person so all of us sellers have to be respectful of that.  Whatever is on my website, on the other hand, is exclusive to our shop and public.

And what, you may ask, am I getting?...  Here’s an overview for you:

Paraibas: despite previous indications to the contrary, a small parcel made it from Hong Kong to NY and a subset of that parcel is arriving here shortly.  I get to make a very quick pick and then I have to turn around the parcel and ship it back so others can pick as well.  I’m getting faceted gems only as the cabochons don’t seem to be moving in my shop.  And Brazilian only, none of that overpriced Mozambique material...

Custom Ring Featuring Paraiba and Sapphires
Green and Blue Paraiba Pendant

Ceylon Sapphire: I hit a home run a few of weeks go with three nice bright blue rounds flying out of the shop at record speed!  So I’m getting a few more, as well as some matched pairs.  I’m keeping sizes a bit smaller so that these don’t become big ticket items for you in this ever-changing world.  I’ve asked for purples and lavenders as well, but there aren’t pairs coming, just single slightly larger gems. 

Pink Sapphire and Silver Spinel Ring
Ceylon Sapphire

Other sapphire: I’ve asked for some Montanas and some smaller Madagascan 4x3 pear shapes.  I will see what turns up, as that package is being prepared for me now.

Tanzanite: one of my vendors has old stock of unheated material as well as some nicer rich colored blues, I’m getting a little of that and I am getting more purple garnet.

Spinel: As always, this category has to be broken up into locations, as each is unique.

  • Mahenge: I’ve asked for some but I do not know what’s coming. It will be a surprise to you and me both.
  • Mozambique: that’s the silky looking pink stuff, there will be some singles available.
  • Burmese: there’s some melee coming my way, and I have asked for one or two bigger stones but that is still being negotiated.  I will have a few red round pairs available in the 3.5-4mm range, and some more singles in 2-3mm.
  • Vietnamese, my new favorite: yes coming, possibly more single pieces.  Lilacs, lavenders, and I think down the line (later in June) a little surprise in a reasonable price category.  (Nope, I’m not giving it away!)
  • Cobalt: possibly, there’s some material being recut and I am waiting to hear if and how it will make its way to the US from Bangkok (it’s in with a larger parcel of color change garnet I had bought in Madagascar that needed recutting).  Same on hauyne (the other cobalt spinel, lol).  I get approached about that stuff through various channels, so if someone has it I usually find out.  But that too is a “still in the works” thing and may not happen right now.
Hauyne Custom Ring with Paraiba
Hauyne and Pink Sapphire Layout

Emerald: my New York connection for Colombian material just sent me photos of some nice matched pairs, and a single round is waiting to be listed.  Since I can’t go to Colombia right now and probably won’t until next spring, I will stick with my previous source.  He’s always had excellent material and prices anyway.  Some Russian material is making it to me as well.  

Custom Ring with Russian and Afghani Emeralds

In further news, I am still hoarding some Tucson gems that you may see online or you can request private photos: there’s a little bit of Benitoite and some more Demantoid Garnet.  I have not listed either because I will not get more until next year, most likely. 

Ok that’s all for now, folks.  To be continued!  Stay well, stay safe.

 

Continue reading

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: 

 

 

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading