GemNotes

Spectrum Awards Honor Design With Focus on Color

The American Gem Trade Association’s 2000 Spectrum Award Competition lived up to its name, with a crop of winning entries that bring the color spectrum in jewelry to radiant life. The world-class contest, which drew more than 300 entries, honors jewelry design that features natural colored gemstones in stunning new ways.

Entries were judged in five categories, based on suggested retail value of the product. The panel of judges considered seven criteria: effective use of materials, overall beauty and wearability, innovation in design, quality of gem materials, quality of workmanship, high potential to generate positive publicity for gemstones of natural origin, and broad-based consumer appeal.

The competition also included two special divisions, manufacturing and platinum. To garner manufacturing honors, a design must display “elegance of construction” that’s attractive to mainstream manufacturers as well as “outstanding use of natural colored gemstones.” There were four winners in the category.

Platinum honors, sponsored by Platinum Guild International (PGI), require “innovative design” in a piece of jewelry containing at least 75% platinum. Sixteen designers won in this category.

Here are the first-place Spectrum Award winners for 2000:

Division I (over $10,000 suggested retail): Bayot Heer, Jewels By Design, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for an 18k yellow gold and platinum ring set with a 1.69-ct. triangle emerald and .30 ct. of round diamond melee. The piece also captured Best of Show honors (see Up Front, JCK, January 1999, p. 23).

Division II ($5,001 to $10,000 suggested retail): Susan Drake, Drake Designs Inc., Blowing Rock, N.C., for a platinum ring set with a 4.75-ct. shield-shaped grossular garnet, a 1.04-ct. shield-shaped tsavorite garnet, and .20 ct. of diamond melee.

Division III ($2,501 to $5,000 suggested retail): Noel Bendle, Silverhorn, Santa Barbara, Calif., for an 18k pink and white gold ring set with a 36.60-ct. oval tourmaline and .82 ct. of round diamonds.

Division IV ($1,001 to $2,500 suggested retail): Phil Delano, Delano Designs, Glendale, Wis., for a titanium and stainless-steel ring set with a 7.20-ct. square cushion-cut zircon.

Division V (Up to $1,000 suggested retail): Anthony James Vela, A. James Ltd., for a 14k white and yellow gold brooch set with a 2.25-ct. blue topaz, a 1.88-ct. peridot, a 1.66-ct. citrine, and a 2.32-ct. rhodolite garnet.

Winning designs will be on display at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 2-7.

Solving the Puzzle Of Gem Origins

Telling a customer that a ruby is from Burma or an emerald is from Colombia is a terrific sales pitch. But how do you prove it?

One source of evidence is the American Gem Trade Association’s Gemological Testing Center (GTC) in New York. When it opened two years ago, the lab could identify gemstones at a timely pace. Today it can’t keep up with demand. “We didn’t anticipate the amount of work,” director Kenneth Scarratt says. “The volume is flattering but overwhelming.”

The lab, which has been taking 10 days to identify the origin of a sapphire, recently hired more staff, bringing the total to eight. “We want to try to get the time down to five days,” Scarratt says.

At a recent dinner in New York, he revealed some techniques for solving the mystery of a gem’s origin. “We’re discovering the ‘DNA’ of a gemstone by looking at the condition of the growth, the geographical possibilities, and the types of deposits from which these gems have occurred,” he said.

Each gem deposit yields potential identifying characteristics that GTC gemologists store in a computerized database. The more gems they examine, the more their reference collection will help them pinpoint the locality from which a gem was extracted.

Scarratt says the lab also relies on basic geographic information. Differing mineral deposits, such as basalt deposits in Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand and marble deposits in Burma, can affect three identifying features: mineral inclusions, gem chemistry, and light absorption.

Sapphire color, for example, can derive from titanium, vanadium, iron, chromium, or gallium. Analyzing blue sapphire’s light absorption using an ultraviolet and visible light spectrophotometer (UV-Vis) reveals more than a dozen spectra types, with at least 10 different spectra in each type. The trick, says Scarratt, is knowing which of those 120 spectra correspond with particular locales. For example, the lab has determined that some Burmese stones show the same spectra as sapphires from some Sri Lankan deposits.

Another sophisticated technique, Raman laser microprobe, can identify the minerals that form inclusions deep inside a gem. Researchers can use that knowledge to trace the gem’s origin to localities where only those minerals exist.

A third technique, X-ray fluorescence, can yield a key identifying feature when a gem is exposed to X-rays.

It isn’t absolutely necessary to perform all three tests to identify gem origin, but “we wouldn’t feel comfortable without at least two tests to confirm origin,” Scarratt says,

The lab offers express service—results guaranteed in two days—for an additional fee. For more information on GTC’s services, call (212) 752-1717.

Rubellites Will Be Red Hot in Tucson

It’s often difficult to predict which gems will be the hits of Tucson, but not this year. New rubellites and spessartites from Nigeria and a recent alexandrite find from Orissa, India, will undoubtedly be the talk of the shows.

The rubellites, described by many gemologists as “killer” stones, are the product of a second find of Nigerian tourmalines in as many years. The new find was mined to depletion within months of discovery, as was the first (JCK, April 1999, p. 40). The new Nigerians show incredible color—bright, saturated, medium-dark red—and relatively few inclusions, which is atypical for rubellite. The bright burnt-orange Nigerian spessartite garnets are equally spectacular.

The Indian state of Orissa, well known as a gem-producing area, has yielded some nice alexandrites and alexandrite cat’s-eyes over the past six years. And recently, a new alexandrite deposit began yielding higher quantities of eye-clean, color-change chrysoberyls reminiscent of those from Brazil.

You probably won’t find as many Orissan alexandrites in Tucson as you will Nigerian tourmalines or garnets, but they’re well worth searching out.

C3 Changes Its Name

The company that brought you moissanite has changed its name from C3 to Charles & Colvard. It’s still all in the family, says Jeff Hunter, chairman and CEO of the North Carolina firm. “Colvard” (French pronunciation) is Hunter’s maternal grandfather, and “Charles” was the name of Hunter’s father and paternal grandfather.

The name change is part of an ambitious new marketing plan for moissanite jewelry. Hunter tested a variety of names to find the “most attractive” to the company’s target consumers—self-purchasing working women, 24 to 54 years old, earning more than $50,000 a year. The change was inevitable, Hunter says. “Once we established a reasonably consistent flow of production of moissanite, we could set aside some serious advertising dollars.” The projected budget for this year’s ad campaign is $6 million.

This is just the beginning of a “nontraditional” marketing effort. “We’re targeting movies and TV shows that working women will be watching,” says Hunter. Also planned are promotions in movie theaters. “The ads will look spectacular on the big screen,” he says.

“Born on a star,” proclaims the new moissanite radio and TV spot, referring to Dr. Moissan’s discovery of natural moissanite on an Arizona meteorite nearly a century ago. And the “Now Available on Earth” ad promises that moissanite will last “longer than forever.”

Moissanite is available at 209 retail stores in 35 states and is sold in 49 countries and territories as well. For more information on the new marketing campaign for moissanite jewelry, visit www.moissanite.com.

Hiddenite Emerald Yields Royal Treasures

As we wrote in December, a large rough emerald crystal unearthed from North Carolina’s Hiddenite emerald mine in 1998 by James Hill has been cut into two stones, the pear-shaped “Carolina Queen,” weighing 18.88 cts., and the “Carolina Prince,” a 7.85-ct. oval. The Prince has since sold for $500,000.

Rick Gregory of R. Gregory Jewelers in nearby Statesville, N.C., met with Hill and agreed to purchase the rough crystal (which actually weighed 72 cts., not 88 as previously reported). Gregory joined with 11 local businessmen to ante up the necessary cash and bought the stone for an undisclosed price.

After the 72-ct. rough was cut, Gregory put the finished gems on display in his store. Mounted simply in an 18k yellow gold ring with a few small round brilliant diamonds, the Prince wowed a local resident so much that she agreed to pay $500,000 for it. According to The Guide, fine-quality emeralds weighing 7 cts. and more range from $8,000 to $11,000 per carat—not including a premium for Hiddenite provenance, of course.

Cap Beesley, president of the American Gemological Laboratories in New York, quality graded both the Prince and the Queen. He called the Queen “the finest North American emerald the lab has ever seen.” Some experts, including Beesley, say that the Carolina Queen is more important than Tiffany’s 13-ct. “Carolina” emerald, found three decades ago in the same area Hill is now mining. Hill has produced about 3,000 carats from his one and still-only find.

A new group of 12 retail jewelers forming the Southeast Emerald Consortium has purchased a two-piece, 858-ct. (t.w.) emerald rough, named “Empress Caroline,” from Hill’s mine.