GemNotes

New Colombian Emerald Enhancement

C.I. Gemtec Ltda. is the Colombian emerald laboratory that provides a new enhancement called Permasafe. Gemtec feels this enhancement offers more stability than the now-preferred Palma or cedarwood oil. It’s Gemtec’s way of offering the trade an Arthur Groom-like enhancement in Colombia.

Most Colombian emeralds are enhanced with either cedarwood oil or palm oil. But a new enhancement called “Permasafe” is coming out of the emerald capital of Bogota, Colombia. Jaime Rotlewicz of C.I. Gemtec Ltda. in Bogota believes it’s the best thing going right now—at least in Colombia.

“What we want to do is give the emerald a nice appearance for a longer time,” says Rotlewicz, who developed Permasafe with his partner, Rodrigo Giraldo, and local chemist Luis Bermudez. They believe Permasafe will reduce the inherent problems of the traditional enhancements.

“I, like many others here, have been using cedarwood oil for a long time,” says Rotlewicz. “But it really doesn’t work.” Cedarwood oil is considered the “traditional” enhancement but in fact has been around only since the early 1960s. Because its viscosity is low, it leaks out of the stone. Its refractive index is also low, allowing the fissures to remain somewhat visible. Nowadays, with all the options in the market, most Colombian dealers use palm oil (also known as palma, Epon 828, or synthetic epoxy resin). But it’s also unstable, says Rotlewicz.

Enter Permasafe. It’s a synthetic epoxy resin, but with a hardener to eliminate leakage. Because this resin has been used in manufacturing outside the gem industry, its properties are well-known, Rotlewicz says. “We looked for a commercially available product, one which had been in use for a long time,” he says.

Centro Gemologico para la Investigación de la Esmeralda (CGIE), the laboratory that developed Permasafe, does not have to wait for future data on the resin’s stability. It’s already been tested. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t back it up,” says Rotlewicz.

“Permasafe is much better than what we have in the market,” he says. “It’s a big step, going towards what the market is requiring. We feel there should be a way to offer to the trade an Arthur Groom-like enhancement here in Colombia.” Groom, based in New York City, makes a stable, permanent, and colorless enhancement called Gematrat.

The refractive index of Permasafe reportedly is very close to emerald’s. “This, along with Permasafe’s transparency, allows the stone to reveal its otherwise hidden color,” says Rotlewicz. “Permasafe’s stability under normal conditions gives resistance for jewelry work and ultrasonic cleaning. It does not evaporate, dehydrate, or oxidize.”

For all the promise of Permasafe, CGIE is determined to create an even better resin, one that would remain stable longer and work well for all emeralds. “Each emerald reacts a little differently with each enhancement,” explains Rotlewicz. Testing those reactions is the key to creating the best enhancement. “But nobody has the money or the time to see what all the changes are. Here in the lab, we’re trying to find all those changes, but we’re running out of funds.”

Rotlewicz and his colleagues support disclosure. “When it comes to any enhancement, you tell your customer what has been done to the stone,” he says. This is especially true now in the wake of competition from other emerald-producing countries, such as Afghanistan, which offer gems complete with government certificates claiming authenticity.

Investors Betting on Rising Demand for Moissanite

For the past year and a half, retail jewelers have been concerned about mistaking moissanite for diamond. For investors, meanwhile, the concern is quite different: How high can stock in moissanite companies go? In recent months, the stock prices of C3—the North Carolina company that markets moissanite—and Cree Research—which supplies the crystal—have climbed to lofty new heights.

Up to now there’s been limited faceted material available. And what little there is goes only to a select few retail jewelers. Even so, investors are betting that C3 and Cree Research can profit from a barrage of press coverage about the diamond lookalike.

Stock in C3, posted on NASDAQ as CTHR, traded in early June at $15 a share, off slightly from its 52-week high of $17 but up sharply from $4.75 just last fall. The fledgling company had revenues of

$4 million in 1998 vs. no revenues in 1997, when moissanite was still in development. Its net loss increased 37% to $6.7 million, owing to advertising and marketing expenses associated with the launch of moissanite.

Cree Research, Durham, N.C., creator of the near-colorless, transparent silicon carbide (SiC)—synthetic moissanite—is the world leader in developing and manufacturing semiconductor materials and electronic devices made from the material. Besides announcing the growth of a 3-in. moissanite crystal, Cree has created a high-performance blue-and-green light-emitting diode (LED) chip made from indium gallium nitride materials grown on SiC. The chips, which are three times brighter than standard LED devices, will be used for cellular handset backlighting, full-color video display signs, automotive instrumentation, and green LED traffic signals.

In early June, Cree (CREE) traded on NASDAQ at a 52-week high of $60 a share, up from a low of $10.50. For the 39 weeks ended March 28, revenues increased 37% to $42.4 million, while net income rose 95% to $8.6 million. Revenues reflect increased sales of SiC material and LED products. Cree is also producing microwave transistors for use in wireless base stations and radar.

For more information about C3, visit www.moissanite.com. For information about Cree Research, check out www.cree.com.

Jewelry Judge Teams Up with The Guide

Gemworld International, publisher of The Guide, will share and maintain new appraisal software created by Toronto jewelry appraisal firm Jewelry Judge. While The Guide currently supports all major appraisal software—Quantum Leap’s Appraiser Pro, Brilliant Software’s Carats, GemPrint’s Gem Appraisal Program—Gemworld plans to distribute the new program, called Guide Appraisal Software.

The new software package will feature professional documentation as well as the option of including pricing data as provided in The Guide. (Subscription to The Guide is separate.) Guide Appraisal Software is equipped to make all the necessary calculations to give you weights and prices of gems along with a specified markup for a reliable retail value.

The software is free. After 10 free appraisals, you purchase additional appraisals at $1 apiece. A quantity discount is available.

Contact Gemworld at (888) GEMGUIDE or www.gemguide.com, or Jewelry Judge at www.jewelryjudge.net.

New Canadian Find Yields Iolite, Other Gems

North American Beauties

This is one of a series of articles highlighting gemstones indigenous to the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Iolite is not a gem associated with North America, but that’s going to change. There’s an important new find in Canada that will add this beautiful, sapphire-like gemstone to the North American repertoire.

Anglo Swiss Resources discovered iolite in the Slocan Valley of southeastern British Columbia in December. The company is mining what it calls “North Rainbow iolite” at the Blu Starr Gemstone Property, a mountain dome cut with a glacier-carved valley. The geology of the area and the array of gemstones found there are said to be reminiscent of Sri Lanka.

“It’s amazing what we’re finding,” says Len Danard, president and CEO of Anglo Swiss. “We may have a substantial find here, hundreds of millions of carats of rough.” Even with a conservative projection of 1% gem-quality yield, he could be on to something big. Still, Danard predicts that sales of faceted stones are another two to three years out. “It’s a typical 34-month procedure of Canadian red tape,” he says.

Iolite, which comes from the Greek word ios (violet), is best known as a sapphire substitute. Its beautiful, rich, saturated violet-blue color can mimic that of some of the finer Ceylon sapphires. Yet with just a slight turn of the stone, the beautiful color disappears altogether. Iolite has been called “water sapphire” for just that reason. Viewed from another direction, though, iolite turns a honey-yellow. It’s one of the few gemstones that has such a strong pleochroic reaction. Legend has it that Viking explorer Leif Eriksson took advantage of iolite’s pleochroism, using thin slices of the gem as a polarizing filter to determine the exact position of the sun as he navigated his way to the New World.

Iolite is relatively common and therefore quite affordable. The gem is mined in India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Burma, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. It’s a fairly hard stone—7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale—but requires protection nonetheless, since it has one distinct cleavage direction. It’s more or less impervious to heat and is never enhanced.