Country-of-origin lab reports is the number one issue of the “Top Five Hot Color Topics” presented by Gary Roskin, gemstone editor for JCK magazine. Other hot topics were enhancements, including lead-glass filling in ruby and coatings on diamonds; the good and bad of gemstone information offered on television and the Internet; debunking misinformation about emeralds; and pearls, one of the most profitable areas in the gemstones category.
“The value of the gem and your reputation are at stake every time you sell a color gemstone,” said Roskin, who suggested selling gems with professional lab origin reports. “Having a laboratory identification report, and a country of origin report, can reinforce your professionalism, protect you from making uninformed buying and selling decisions, and be an excellent continuing education tool.”
More labs than ever are offering country of origin reports, including the Gemological Institute of America, American Gemological Laboratories, American Gem Trade Association’s Gem Testing Center, International Gemological Institute, European Gemological Laboratory, Gübelin Gem Lab, the Gemological Institute. While all have some type of gem identification and country-of-origin reports to offer the retail jeweler, Roskin reminded retailers to check their services and fee schedules, to note how long it will take to have a stone identified, and to note the ease of understanding the report. “Obviously your client will be asking you, and not the lab, to explain what is on the report.”
Roskin agreed that it’s important to know from what country a gem comes but added that “dealers, retailers, and consumers want to know where a gemstone comes from because of the reputation of the locality—the quality of stones that have previously come from that locality.”
Roskin showed the 22.66 ct. blue sapphire from the last Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction. Labeled as Kashmir by two gem labs, the stone sold for the highest per-carat price of any sapphire sold at auction—over $100,000 per carat. “It sold for that price because of its rarity,” said Roskin. “It’s a large Kashmir sapphire and has nice color—but not the color I anticipated for Kashmir.”
Roskin asked, “Do you pay more for an emerald because it’s from Colombia? Just because the report says it’s from Colombia doesn’t mean that the gem is high quality.”
Roskin showed five red stones, two from Burma, the others from Tajikistan, Vietnam, and East Africa. The two from Burma were from Mogok and Mong Hsu. “The Mogok stone has not been heated, but the Mong Hsu stone has been heated,” Roskin explained. “They all look very similar. Will you pay the same amount for the two Burma stones? Or do you want to know the quality?”
Roskin advised jewelers to look for reports that tell not only where a gem comes from but also something about the quality of the stone. He also noted that only one laboratory, AGL, quality grades colored stones.
Roskin told his audience that there’s an abundance of ruby in the market because low-quality corundum is being filled with lead glass to make it salable. Disclosure is sketchy at best, he said. “Make certain you buy from dealers who guarantee quality and disclose enhancement.” He mentioned the AGTA show as a safe place to buy gems, since members are required to offer receipts with full disclosure.
Roskin quoted Elisabeth Strack, of the German Gemological Institute (and author of the book Pearls) on the issue of “chocolate” pearls. According to Strack, they’re all either heated or dyed or both.
Emerald enhancement is an issue again. Roskin noted that some Colombian emeralds are being enhanced prior to the final polish, that is, while still in the rough or as a preform. Although filling emerald fissures is an accepted practice, filling emeralds prior to final polishing can lead to problems if the filler fails and re-enhancement becomes necessary. Portions of such stones may be held on by the filler, and, after cleaning, may simply fall off.
With so many gems being promoted to consumers on television and the Internet, Roskin suggested that retailers offer more colored stone information to customers. “Watch TV and go online to see what it is they are saying,” he said. “But don’t use any misinformation you get from these sources,” he warned. Know exactly what you’re selling—what it is, where it comes from, what qualities are important, and what’s available. Roskin suggested that retailers shouldn’t let customers think they need to go to the Internet to find out more about a particular gem.
Roskin also dealt with some emerald myths. “They’re fragile, you should never ever use a steamer to clean an emerald, and never repair a ring with the emerald still in the mounting. Are these facts or urban legends?” he asked. “A gem material is considered brittle if it is likely to crack when subjected to stress,” said Roskin, who added that emeralds are likely to crack when there are a lot of solid and liquid inclusions. An emerald with few inclusions is not brittle or fragile. “Why is it that when you see estate emerald jewelry, the jewelry is all banged up, prongs worn down, even missing, but the emeralds are usually in great shape? This should tell you something about emerald’s durability.”
Roskin said the idea that one should never steam-clean an emerald is a myth. “This is only true because you might remove an enhancement, not because the emerald cannot stand the steam,” he said. “All of these untruths about emerald probably came about from jewelers just being cautious. It’s better to stay on the safe side, but realize that emeralds are not something you should be worried about more than any other gem.”
Roskin wound down the morning session by showing the many varieties and colors of pearls available in the market. “There’s plenty of product, a lot of variety, and the profit margins are still pretty good,” he said. On the technical side, Roskin noted that Chinese freshwater cultured pearls are “tissue activated, not tissue nucleated. There is no nucleus. The tissue becomes the pearl sac. There is nothing in the center of the pearl.”