Q2 2005 UPDATES
MARKET IN BRIEF from the Guide May-June 2005
May - More untreated material is being offered in the Thai and Sri Lankan markets. One buyer noted that there is a risk the market will swing too far from treated goods. He recently observed several yellow sapphires with washed out colors that would have benefited from heat treatment being offered at a big premium. Better natural yellows have a strong market but the pale material that is being offered at high prices is slow to move. However, prices for natural unheated material in general are strong due to higher demand. Blues, greens, yellows and purples are influencing fashion this spring. Pink sapphire is still strong and demand for yellow sapphire is up.
June - The consumer confidence index has declined drastically. Dealers are cautious, citing slow sales and pays as evidence of a less-than-robust retail climate. In the US diamond market, healthy demands plus shortages of better-made goods is keeping dealers busy trying to fill calls. As a result, prices continue to firm. Rounds remain the strongest seller followed by princess.
UPDATES & ARTICLES from the JCK April-May-June 2005
CIBJO has drafted a publication called "A Compendium of Gem Treatment Terminology" which defines treatment terminology and aims to educate diamond dealers on the subject of enhancement disclosure. This is hoped to help protect consumer confidence in the industry.
The Smithsonian is now home to a 16.21ct natural Ceylon star ruby. Named the Star of Katandru, it has classic Sri Lankan color and a perfect star.
According to a recent study by international research and marketing firms, color invested in brand identity is well spent. The study's findings apply to consumers locally ( USA ) and globally. To choose a color for a branding strategy, consider the appeal of color. For instance, blue is the favorite color not only of the USA , but also every country polled in North America , Asia , Europe , South America as well as Australia . These are the favorite colors in USA by percentage: Blue 42%, Purple 22%, Green 10%, Red 10%, Black 6%, Yellow 5%, Orange 4% and White 1%.
Considering the number of potential customers in this demographic category, retail jewelers would be wise to consider a much ignored segment of the market - plus-sized consumers. Look for longer necklaces and bracelets, stock brooches that are larger to balance body sizes and shapes, interpret trends for the plus-size market, consider expandable rings or larger-size samples in the store etc.
Calmer markets, ongoing high-end sales and celebrity exposure augur healthy times for platinum jewelry and watches. Prices rose from a low of $473 to $901 per troy ounce in March 2004. As at Jan 2005, it is $860 per troy ounce.
Michael Stadther's 116-page fairy tale makes literary rewards tangible by combining fiction with a real-life treasure hunt. The hunt began in Nov 2004 and will end in Dec 2007. The fairy tale cleverly conceals the locations of 12 18K gold tokens, each valued at $1,200, that are hidden around the continental US and redeemable for specific bejeweled creatures. These include a diamond-legged ant, a ruby-winged ladybug and a black pearl bee. There is even a spider made with a 6.36ct Kashmir blue sapphire and valued at $450,000! The book is currently ranked 15 th on Amazon.com's best seller list. Further information can be found on www.atreasurestrove.com .
The University of Alabama at Birmingham claims it now has a new method for growing synthetic diamonds "100 to 200 times" faster than conventional methods - HPHT and CVD. The new method uses microwave plasma technology and can grow diamonds weighing a carat or more in a matter of days. The process currently uses nitrogen in the growth process. This creates a yellow diamond that can be heated under high pressure to produce a light yellow or a nearly colorless one.
TanzaniteOne, the company that owns the rights to mine the world's prime tanzanite location, says tanzanite has become commoditized due to the lack of a ubiquitous grading system and this has caused a price distortion in which fine-quality goods are under-priced and lesser-quality goods are overpriced. To remedy these price distortions, they have developed a quality-grading system that justifies a wider range of prices. In addition, it will control the flow of tanzanite into the industry by holding tanzanite sights 6 times per year for 6 to 8 handpicked businesses. The first sight took place April 16. It is hoped that these efforts will increase awareness of tanzanite and stimulate the growth and development of the tanzanite industry as well as safeguard its integrity.
A Gemology Practical Certificate will now be issued to all students who pass the practical section of the Gemmological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain's Diploma exam.
EXCERPTS from Gems and Gemology Spring 2005
Lucent Diamond Inc. has developed a new treatment process for natural type Ia diamonds that produces colors ranging from pink-purple through red to orangey brown, using a multi-step process that involves HPHT annealing, irradiation, and low-pressure annealing at relatively low temperatures. Stones that achieve a pink-to-red or purple color are marketed as "Imperial Red Diamonds". These treated diamonds are readily identified by internal graphitization and surface etching seen with magnification, distinctive color zoning, and reactions to long- and short-wave UV radiation.
The Four Peaks mine in Arizona have been producing attractive color-zoned amethyst. The hues range from light to dark purple. Some material can be purplish-red. Most material is conventionally zoned, showing 50/50 amethyst and rock crystal or 50/50 dark amethyst and light amethyst. There is also the striking and unique "banded" amethyst. The mine is producing in commercial quantities.
Saturated blue aquamarine has been produced in northern Nigeria . Gemological constants are in the high end of the range for aquamarine. Pleochroism is especially strong (dark blue and light blue-green). Using a desk top spectroscope, the material showed a standard aquamarine absorption spectrum (caused by iron) that ruled out a Maxixe color origin.
There is a new emerald deposit in Xinjiang , China , located in the Taxkorgan region of Dabdar. Qualities range from low to good in faceted sizes not bigger than 5ct. Colored by chromium, bright green hues have been seen. Microscopic examination revealed fingerprints, fractures, 2 and 3-phase inclusions (some of which were jagged in appearance resembling those in Colombian emeralds), and fine growth lines parallel to the optic axis that had an almost "venetian blind" appearance. Further testing showed that the material had been subjected to filling.
Since late 2002, treated orange topaz has been sold in the mineral market of Peshawar , Pakistan . Treatment is carried out both on crystals as well as matrix specimens, possibly by an irradiation process. The color ranges from light to dark orange or pinkish orange - resembling the much valued imperial topaz. Some material appears to be stable, but dealers have found that some material faded after a few days exposure to sunlight. The color is sensitive to heat and some material may fade considerably during the cutting process.
Unusual "pink fire quartz" has been produced from Brazil 's Minas Gerais region. The pink schiller is due to covellite inclusions. The flashes are very directional, resembling the schiller sometimes seen in corundum when light reflects off oriented rutile inclusions.
EXCERPTS from Jewellery News Asia , June 2005
Sales of opaque gemstones have been stimulated by strong promotions by retailers and brands coupled with increasing exposure from celebrities wearing colored gemstones. Stones in pastel shades are very popular in both the US and European markets. Turquoise, blue quartzite, coral, pink opal, mother-of-pearl and shell have been selling well.
EXCERPTS from Gems and Jewellery, June 2005
Maria Alferova of the Moscow State University shared with Gem-A about heat-treated Russian Demantoid. The Demantoid are of poor color and semi-opaque when mined, but are improved in color and clarity by heat treatment. The exact process is jealously guarded by the mining company. It may be identifiable by a slight burning of the horsetail inclusions, but the evidence suggests that the process has now been adapted (perhaps using lower temperatures) and little if any such burning is now apparent. The new Demantoid garnets can fetch between $50 and $1400 per carat, depending on color and quality. There are few cut stones weighing above 2 carats. She also described some Russian chrome grossular garnets that are sometimes known as 'Siberian Tsavorite'. Their color and quality could only be compared with the poorest gem Tsavorite.
EXCERPTS from Antwerp Facets May 2005 V2 E19
Diamonds it seems have therapeutic value, and not only because receiving them makes one feel better. Researchers at a California-based company called Second Sight, who are perfecting an artificial retina for people whose retinas are damaged, have created a coating of tiny diamonds that is critical to the devices functioning. The diamonds, which are artificially crystallized stones of no more than 5 millionths of a millimeter across, are needed to form a coating to protect the device from the natural fluids in the human eye. And that's not all. Scientists at Brunel University in the UK have found a way to coat sheets of collagen with a diamond-like carbon substance, which they then roll into tubes. These are used to bypass clogged arteries that cause ailments like thrombosis and heart disease.
OBITUARY April 2005
Edward J. Gubelin died on March 14 in Lucerne . Dr Gubelin was a highly respected leader in the international gemological movement. He was most famous for his pioneering, innovative work in gemstone inclusions and photomicrography. He will be much missed by the international gemological community.