The story of my emeralds, and how it actually started with a strand of rubies

I thought I’d begin this blog by going back a bit – back to my first emeralds and how I went from obsessing about beads to obsessing about cut stones.

Last October, I bought a strand of rubies at the Whole Bead Show in New York. But rubies are tricky business. This strand was particularly glowing and beautiful, as well as particularly well priced, so after I recovered from my initial purchasing thrill, I got worried. I knew the strand wasn’t dyed, but there are so many other treatments on the market these days that buying precious stones can get very confusing, even for the initiated. And I thought myself to be initiated.

The worry wouldn’t go away. So a couple of weeks later, I took my rubies to the diamond district – the street, as insiders call it – and asked around for someone to give me an expert opinion. My metal wholesaler sent me to a booth in one of the exchanges. “That guy over there, he can help you.” Enter D., who has since become my main supplier of precious gems, and whose knowledge about stones seems to be inexhaustible.

Well, my rubies, D. told me after close inspection under the microscope, were glass filled. Glass filled ruby beads wholesale at $1.00 – 3.00 per carat (I don’t mind telling you this because I am never going to sell you any). This explained why my strand of beads was so cheap. Go figure…

By way of thanking D. for his help, I thought I should buy something. I figured I could use a small sapphire for a gift, so I asked D. to show me some samples. As he reached under his glass counter to look for the right tray, my eyes fell on tray with a mix of lighter and darker green stones of various shapes and sizes, all thrown together.

“What are those?” I wanted to know. “Emeralds. Untreated. My father cut them a long time ago. He loved cutting – he’d come to the exchange early in the morning, before any customers arrived, and cut the rough. I never got around to sorting them. Want to have a look?”

But I was good. I passed. I bought my tiny sapphire, went home, and… could not get those emerald back out of my head. I just had to have some. Absolutely had to. What I didn’t have, was the experience to select or price stones of that caliber. It was beginning to dawn on me that buying the right precious stone for the right amount of money without getting ripped off was perhaps a bit trickier than I had first thought. The other difficulty was learning how to fit them into the right setting and then design something of interest. What I didn’t want to do is just buy unfinished rings and such, get a parcel of calibrated stones that looked like perfect clones, and have them popped in. That’s commercial jewelry, and it’s not me.

But I had to have those emeralds.

And so, I learned. I went back to D. once, then again, then twice a month, then every week as time would permit. I’d buy a couple of gems, hang around the booth and ask questions about the stones, watch other customers come and make their purchases, gaze at the emeralds. “What do you want to play with this week?” became D’s weekly greeting.

Eventually, I worked up the nerve to ask D. if I could sort the emeralds. “Sure,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and refocusing his attention on the half-finished Sudoku puzzle. It was in the neighborhood of 1000 carats of emeralds, as it turned out. (D. weighed them eventually.) I sorted them all, one shape at a time, one grade at a time, slowly moving them from the tray into the little plastic jars they are normally stored in.

Three months. That’s how long I sorted the emeralds. Always taking home a small parcel of the best ones.

To pass them on to you.