GemNotes

ON THE ALERT FOR GREEN OPTICON

American Gemological Laboratories, New York City, has issued a “Gem Alert” warning the trade about the use of green Opticon to fill surface-reaching fissures in emeralds.

While clear Opticon and other synthetic resins have been used for years, the color variation of the product adds a new twist. “The addition of a color-enhanced product will complicate disclosure issues and the stability of the emerald market,” says AGL President C.R. Beesley. “Adding coloring agents to gemstone fillers is certainly not a new concept. But in this case, many have overlooked the obvious potential of color additives in synthetic resin clarity treatments.”

Beesley acknowledges he has not seen colored resins in emeralds sent to his lab, but says he has heard they are being used in the market. He says he and his associates are performing tests using green Opticon and will release the results as soon as they are available.

The Gemological Institute of America has not seen the green Opticon in emeralds recently submitted to its Gem Trade Laboratories either, says Shane McClure, supervisor of identification services. But he says the use of dyes in emeralds is well-known and that dyes are easily identified.

REVITALIZED AGTA SETS SIGHTS ON GEM PROMOTION

The American Gem Trade Association has reached a settlement with its insurance company related to expenses in a recent lawsuit, says AGTA President Nanette Forester.

The settlement covers expenses AGTA incurred while defending itself against a lawsuit filed by Chatham Created Gems Inc., San Francisco, Cal. President Thomas Chatham sued AGTA and certain members in an effort to become a “firm member.” AGTA had said he could be an “affiliate member” but not a “firm member” because he deals primarily in synthetic rather than natural gemstones. He has since accepted affiliate membership.

Sources say AGTA now will have well over $300,000 to use in promoting gemstones. “AGTA is at a most exciting stage,” says Simon Watt, chairman of the AGTA Promotion Committee. Forester signaled several projects as priorities:

  • A new Source Directory listing AGTA’s wholesale gemstone dealers and affiliate members would be mailed to 28,000 retailers free of charge. “We estimate this bold new approach would generate year-around sales for our members,” says Watt.

  • Gemstone Enhancement Manual. AGTA plans to insert the Gemstone Enhancement Manual in the new Source Directory. The Gemstone Enhancement Manual provides guidelines on how to disclose gemstone enhancements and treatments to customers. (AGTA notes that it abides by a stricter code of disclosure than is required by the Federal Trade Commission.)

  • Internet access. AGTA plans to launch its own World Wide Web site on the Polygon Network Inc. in time for the 1998 AGTA GemFair in Tucson, Ariz. “Our Web site will provide colored gemstone information and address the marketing needs of the trade to increase colored gemstone sales,” says Watt.

  • Gemstone postcards. A redesign of the AGTA GemCard series – including the addition of cards for spinel, iolite and phenomena – is already under way. The cards have not been updated in 10 years.

  • Gemstone Marketing Guide. Later this year, AGTA plans to release a guide to help retail jewelers increase profit margins through intelligent marketing. The guide will feature a photographic gallery of gemstones, gemstone fashion tips, educational information and marketing insights from top jewelers. The guide also will contain a resource section listing AGTA members and their products.

SHORTAGE HIKES PRICES OF TAHITIAN PEARLS

Heavy demand from foreign importers caused a shortage in some categories of Tahitian black pearls in the first quarter of 1997, resulting in an overall 8% price increase. Tahiti exported 916.6 kilograms of loose pearls during the first five months of 1997, down 9.6% from the same period of 1996. However, prices averaged about 20% higher per gram. A shortage in some categories of black pearls caused the price to increase as much as 30%, says Martin Coeroli, general manager of the G.I.E. Perles de Tahiti, an association representing the pearling industry.

In the meantime, the second annual Tahiti Pearl Producers International Auction in April sold 12% more in volume and 32% more in dollar value than last year’s auction. The auction boosted the average price to $28.86 per gram in April, the highest level of the year.

The U.S. has taken its place as the second largest importer of Tahitian black pearls. Exports to the U.S. totaled 55% more in the first quarter of 1997 than the same period of 1996.

Japan remains the largest importer, but the country’s market share dropped significantly, from 82.1% of all exports to only 48.7%.

DE BEERS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN NEW DIAMOND FIELD

De Beers has announced it would like to participate in development of the Lomonosov diamond field in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia.

The Lomonosov diamonds are of “acceptable quality” and would be sellable on the world market, says Raymond Clark, who heads De Beers’ office in Russia.

The right to build mining and milling facilities at Lomonosov at an estimated cost of $700 million may be opened to bidding. However, bids would not be accepted until information about the field’s diamond reserves has been declassified and some other preparations completed, says Igor Lazarev, senior secretary to a government agency that encourages foreign investment in mining.

Severalmaz, a Russian company, has held the license to the Lomonosov field since 1993 and is conducting tests and preparing the property for development.

DESIGNER COLLECTS NATURAL PEARLS

Not even explorer Robert La Salle or writer Mark Twain, both of whom pondered the power and magic of the Mississippi River, could guess at the secrets that lie beneath the water’s surface.

The secrets: Unio and Washboard clams that are grown in the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers and sold to Japanese pearl companies to be used as shell beads that form the nuclei for cultured saltwater pearls. As in the legendary saltwater mollusks of the past, occasionally a natural pearl forms inside the Unio and Washboard clams and, even more occasionally, reaches large sizes. The pearls are usually white but also have been found in such rare colors as pink, cream, purple, red and green.

Nadine Nelson, owner of Mississippi Pearl Jewelry Co. in Red Wing, Minn., has spent 15 years collecting the rarest of these “natural river pearls.” The pearls come in three

varieties of shapes depending on their location within the mollusk: round if they come from the lip, baroque from the heel and wing-shaped from the back of the shell.

Nelson has always found the wing-shaped pearls particularly intriguing. Two years ago, an exceptional gift came her way – the largest wing ever known to have been found in U.S. natural pearls. “A diver found it in a Unio mollusk shell in the Tennessee River in 1995,” Nelson says. “I have done a lot of research, over many years, and this one seems to hold the record.” The pearl is 62mm long and 12mm wide.

Nelson realized she couldn’t just do anything with the perfect present. “It took years to conceive the right design for this very rare pearl,” she says. After much thought, Nelson and Julius Cohen Jeweler in New York City created a pelican. Platinum surrounds the pearl body; the pelican also features 18k gold feet and head, pavé diamonds and a sapphire.

The quirky pelican is the first in what Nelson hopes will be the jewelry collection of her dreams. “I have been collecting rare pearls over the past 15 years with a jewelry collection in mind,” she says.

The largest U.S. natural wing-shaped pearl ever found makes a sleek body for this pelican by Julius Cohen Jewelers in New York City.

DDC NAMES NEW GENERAL MANAGER

Martin Hochbaum has been named managing director of the Diamond Dealers Club of New York City. He succeeds Arthur Wein, who resigned in May to accept a position in the banking industry.

“The appointment is an important step in enhancing the DDC’s ability to work on behalf of its members within the diamond industry and in cooperation

with other private groups and government bodies,” says DDC President Eli Haas. “As we move into the next century, it is our expectation that Dr. Hochbaum will play a key role in our industry locally, nationally and internationally.”

Hochbaum previously was director of national affairs for the American Jewish Congress. He earned a doctorate in political science from the City University of New York, is an author and lecturer, and serves on the boards of numerous organizations.