GemNotes

Moissanite Company Chairman Resigns

Jeff Hunter, chairman and CEO of Charles & Colvard (formerly C3 Inc.), the sole source of moissanite, resigned his position effective May 14.

Dr. Frederick A. Russ, former dean of business administration at the University of Cincinnati, has been appointed chairman. Robert S. Thomas, the current company president, will also serve as acting chief executive officer.

At Charles & Colvard?s May board meeting, it was noted that the company has not met financial expectations. Officials admitted making marketing mistakes that resulted in insufficient consumer response, despite a new distribution strategy. A few weeks earlier, the company had named Stuller Settings in Lafayette, La., and Rio Grande of Albuquerque, N.M., as wholesale distributors.

There?s good news for tanzanite lovers?there should be a steady supply of good-quality material for at least the next few years. Thanks in part to a South African and Tanzanian joint venture group called Afgem (African Gem Resources), full-scale modern mining production is coming to Tanzania?s Merelani tanzanite mines. Until now, those mines have been worked by hand. Afgem has been granted a 25-year special mining license to Block C and is scheduled to open the mines early in 2001. The mines are located in the Merelani hills just south of Mount Kilimanjaro, a two-hour drive southeast from Arusha.

Block C had been licensed by a company from the Tanzanian government, but a shortage of capital and lack of expertise in underground mining forced its closure almost four years ago. Since then, more than 750 pits have been mined illegally through underground tunnels from Block B. Many believe the Merelani mine flood and cave-in disaster in the spring of 1998 forced the Tanzanian government to improve safety through legislation and modernization. The legislation, Tanzania?s Mining Act, allowed Merelani Mining/Afgem to acquire the special license for block C.

By bringing mechanized mining production into the region and controlling the better portion of the only tanzanite mining area on the planet, Afgem may come to be seen as the De Beers of tanzanite. Afgem also will establish buying offices to purchase tanzanite from smaller mines. While tanzanite production is too fragmented for a single company to monopolize, Afgem hopes to influence price stability and ensure continuity of supplies. To create brand loyalty, it plans to laser-inscribe all tanzanite from its production.

Afgem will develop a cutting and polishing operation in Tanzania, which will bring much-needed formal employment to the region. It also plans to make significant contributions to community development through direct investment. At present, Afgem is scheduled to invest $17 million in the Merelani Mine, making it one of the world?s most modern colored stone facilities.

United Pearl Producers Auction Tahitian Pearls

A record 210,000 pearls were sold for $9.1 million at the fifth annual Tahitian Pearl Producers auction, held in February. Sales had been estimated at $6 million. Three big lots were sold to firms in Hong Kong and Japan. Yeun Hing Hong of Hong Kong picked up the first lot of 10,000 pearls for $625,000. Sizes ranged from 8 mm to 15 mm. Orient Pearl & Co. of Japan paid $294,000 for the second lot of 14,000 semi-round, oval, and semi-baroque pearls. Tasaki Shinju, also of Japan, took the third lot, which consisted of 8,000 round, semi-round, oval, drop, and semi-baroque pearls measuring 8.5 mm to 17 mm. The price was $965,000.

Jewelry Camping

The 21st annual Antique & Period Jewelry and Gemstone Conference, otherwise known as ?Jewelry Camp,? gets under way July 29 and continues through Aug. 2. This year?s event will be held at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I. The roster of speakers features 41 nationally and internationally recognized jewelry experts, including museum curators, auctioneers, appraisers, dealers, gemologists, jewelers, authors, historians, and collectors. One recognizable instructor will be Barry Weber, president of Edith Weber Antiques, New York, a teacher at Long Island University and a regular appraiser on the PBS television program Antiques Roadshow.

Joining Weber will be John Benjamin from Buckinghamshire, England, a former international director of jewelry for Phillips Auctioneers and a regular appraiser for the original Antiques Roadshow on the BBC. He?ll discuss ?Pomp, Power, and Pearls.? Audrey Friedman, president of Primavera Gallery in New York, a specialist in fine 20th-century jewelry and an authority on 20th-century decorative arts, will discuss French jewelry from 1925-1965 in a lecture entitled ?Beyond Cartier and VC&A [Van Cleef & Arpels].? Michael Goldstein, president of Michael Goldstein Ltd. in New York, a firm that specializes in old European and antique-cut diamonds, will help campers determine how to price antique cuts.

Other speakers include Lisa Hubbard, senior vice president of jewelry at Sotheby?s in Los Angeles; Sarah Hue Williams of London, a jewelry historian and examiner for the Gemmological Association of Great Britain; and Neil Lane, president of Neil Lane Jewelers of Los Angeles, an estate jewelry dealer.

Gemstone courses will include ?Gemstones Used in Antique Jewelry,? ?The Legend, Lore & Commerce of Opals,? ?Burmese Rubies,? and ?Understanding the Mysteries of Jade.? C.R. ?Cap? Beesley, president of American Gemological Laboratories, will present a lecture on gemstone enhancement and treatment entitled ?A New Millennium: A New Age in Certification.?

The World Wide Web?s effect on the estate market will be discussed in ?The Antique Jewelry Business and the Internet.? Web site designer and Internet research specialist Pennye Jones-Napier will present two workshops, ?Business on the Internet? and ?Research on the Internet.? Highlighting this portion of the conference will be a panel discussion on ?Selling Antique Jewelry on the Internet,? featuring auction house representatives, private dealers, and collectors. Journalist Ettagale Blauer will moderate.

Camp director Joyce Jonas, a noted antique jewelry authority and a regular appraiser on The Antiques Roadshow, will work with attendees on course selections and help them maximize their experience at the conference. For more information, contact Jonas by e-mail at jwlrycamp@aol.com, on the Web at www.jonas4jewelry.com, or by phone at (212) 535-2479.

Gübelin Gets New Look

The internationally recognized Gübelin Gemmological Laboratory is breaking away from the jewelry division of Gübelin AG to become a subsidiary of Gübelin Holding. The new laboratory, Gübelin Gem Lab Ltd., has changed its logo as well as its report covers, but all gemological services remain as before.