Your Turn

In this column, members of the jewelry industry can state their views, wax poetic or otherwise pen their thoughts in slightly longer form than the traditional letter to the editor. We welcome your submissions. Please send them to Letters to the Editor, JCK, One Chilton Way, Radnor, PA 19089; fax (610) 964-4481, e-mail gholmes@chilton.net.

Emerald Debate Continues

by Antoinette Matlins, P.G. South Woodstock, VT

I have read with interest the various articles and letters relating to the recent jury verdict against the Washington, D.C., firm Blue Planet Gems, et al., and the panel discussion related to it that took place at the July JA Show in New York City two weeks later.

As someone who has closely followed the “great debates” on emerald treatments and had to deal with practical issues of detection and disclosure with my own clients, and as one of the panelists at the JA Show, I would like to comment on several points that have been omitted in what I’ve read.

First, I think a word of clarification is needed with regard to the panel discussion. The panel was assembled quickly because the verdict was reached only a couple of weeks prior to the show. With more time, there would have been a larger number of participants on the panel from other facets of the industry. Nonetheless, because of the serious implications of the trial for retailers across the country, GemCore recognized the need to alert retailers to the issues surrounding it. Given the time constraints, GemCore should be commended for its responsiveness and effort to reach retailers who would be present at the New York show and for taking the initiative in providing a forum in which the issues could be openly and honestly discussed.

Contrary to the general impression that has been created, the focus of the panel discussion was not the trial but the issues responsible for the trial in the first place – the proliferation of fracture-filled emeralds and other treated gems, questions of detection, disclosure by dealers to retailers and retailers to consumers, and retailer liability. It should be noted that following opening remarks by the panelists – GemCore founder C.R. Beesley, president of American Gemological Laboratories, GemCore board chairman and gem dealer Ralph Esmerian and me – the discussion was opened to the floor and very important information was forthcoming from gemstone treaters, gem dealers, wholesalers and retailers.

With regard to the trial, only those involved know the truth about what actually happened. Nonetheless, there are several glaring contradictions in the “facts” that can’t be ignored. In a letter being circulated by Mr. Ward in his defense, he writes, “A customer bought a sound, unfractured, unfilled 3.65 carat emerald from my firm …” and then in the next sentence he continues, “The emerald showed signs of light oiling.” An emerald cannot be “oiled” unless there are surface-reaching fractures. Thus, how could the emerald have been as he first states, “unfractured?”

Later in his letter he states “the emerald was gorgeous and bright, with a color and 3-phase inclusions that suggested Muzo as its source … Our company paid Ray Zajicek’s company $14,500 for an unfractured emerald.” Anyone who has searched for a 3+-ct. “gorgeous, bright, Colombian emerald” in the past few years can only be struck by the unlikelihood of it being as described by Mr. Ward if the cost of the entire stone was only $14,500!

I have to ask myself how Mr. Ward could have acquired a stone which he describes repeatedly as a “high quality, unfractured and unfilled gemstone” for only $14,500 when the same dealer is asking me $50,000 to $75,000 for stones that do have fractures? Anyone who deals in emeralds knows Colombian emeralds over three carats, with fine color, that do not contain fractures, are extremely rare and command stellar prices. With regard to the stone in question, at under $4,000 per carat, my first question would have been “Why is the price so low for a stone that looks so good?” When the price is “too good,” there is always a reason.

Mr. Ward is a well-known author and gemologist and I cannot believe he deliberately misrepresented or withheld information from the customer. He and the appraiser inadvertently missed something, despite the numerous tests he describes doing. More than anything else, I think what has happened to him and the appraiser, especially in light of his credentials and knowledge, underscores the difficulty in detecting epoxy resin fillers (most of which do not show any fluorescence and which, depending upon the type of filler and the location and angle of the fracture, are often very difficult to see even with a microscope). I know that I have carefully examined emeralds and had questions, even after all of the pertinent tests. In such cases, I have submitted the stones to a lab and gotten reports. This protects me and my customer.

Most of all, the D.C. case underscores the risks retailers now face when buying and selling any emerald: retailers must not only disclose the fact that “emeralds are routinely treated” but also that it is sometimes difficult to determine the nature and extent of the treatment and its effect on a stone’s appearance. Thus, in cases where the customer wants to know more, retailers are going to have to rely more on laboratory reports to protect themselves until better detection techniques are available.

This case also has implications for other gemstones and other types of treatments. I hope that the industry will heed the warnings and make the issues surrounding gemstone treatments and disclosures a top priority. We need more research, more dissemination of practical and accurate information, and greater guidance in terms of handling disclosure at the sales counter.

The writer is an author, lecturer & gemologist whose revised and expanded Gem Identification Made Easy/Second Edition (Gemstone Press, Woodstock, Vt.) was published in Sept. 1997.

Insurance alternative

I just read about Lou Bader and his unfortunate experience with his insurance. In my opinion every jeweler needs to strive to be insured by the best. I think Jewelers Mutual is fantastic. They require the jeweler to have the best safes and the best security system, which every jeweler should have to protect their livelihood. This company is non-profit and they are there for the jeweler. A lot of jewelers are unaware of Jewelers Mutual or are unwilling to live up to their requirements.

It pains me to hear the stories like Mr. Bader’s, however, never have I heard a bad story from a jeweler with Jewelers Mutual coverage. I truly wish Mr. Bader good fortune in his quest for justice.

Russell Korman Independent Jeweler Austin, Tex.

Ins & outs

“Prices for rubies are soft due to plentiful supply and a lack of confidence in treated material. Emerald continued to lose market share as confusion, misinformation, and a lack of confidence in stone integrity rises…”

I suppose it is convenient to lump all qualities and sources of goods together, in fact, there is a failure to even distinguish between experienced dealers and their “fly-by-night” counterparts. However, what is most remarkable is the casual use of the phrase “lack of confidence.” As such a condition is unheard of in the history of our trade, and as an explanation for this phenomenon was not included, I take the liberty of offering one and for other buzzwords, especially for the benefit of the gallows-humor inclined:

What’s In What’s Out

Memos Courage

Certificates Knowledge

Excuses Responsibility

Trade Shows Relationships

Arrogance Humility

Treatments Conscience

Auctions Illusion

Apathy Self-respect

The Internet Romance

Michael R. Dymant

President

Eastrade Inc.

New York, N.Y.

IN MEMORY OF EUNICE MILES

I had the great honor of knowing and working with Eunice Miles. Her office door seemed always to be open and her friendly smile was an open invitation to have a chat. Her life revolved around the Gemological Institute of America and she was a mother figure for many coworkers and students.

I enjoyed her lectures about her travels, one especially to an emerald mine which involved a hair-raising ride across bumpy terrain in a Jeep. She was truly fearless.

I am honored to have known her as a friend. I am sure that she dwells with the purest angels.

Lillian Hensel Johnson Columbia, S.C.

THANK YOU, MARTIN FLYER

We recently had a customer come into our store looking for a tennis bracelet, 4-ct. to 5-ct. total weight, G to H in color with a clarity grade of SI and an “S”-style bracelet.

We showed him the Martin Flyer catalog. He liked one of the bracelets and we called Martin Flyer and requested a price for him which the customer said was perfect. But he wanted to see the bracelet.

The bracelet was sent to us on memo and upon seeing the bracelet the customer said it was perfect. But now he had to think about it.

The customer called back a few days later asking about the manufacturer, their location and to verify the style number he had written down.

A few days later we received a call from Martin Flyer saying they received four or five telephone calls from jewelers in our area, who were not customers of theirs, requesting information, by style number, on the bracelet they had sent us on memo, mounted and unmounted.

The bottom line is that they knew it was the same bracelet we had requested, we were customers of theirs and – because they are loyal to their customers – were not willing to supply the jewelers with the bracelet.

That is loyalty, and we really appreciate what Martin Flyer did for us as regular customers.

Barbara Bishop Sardzinski Shirley Brown Gordon Bishop Bedford Jewelers Bedford, Mass.