GemNotes

MYANMAR’S RECORD-SETTING RUBY

A 21,450-ct. rough ruby — touted as the world’s largest to date — has been discovered in Myanmar, formerly Burma. According to the state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, the ruby was discovered in March in the northern town of Mogok, historically a source of fine rubies.

The ruby was mined at Block 14 of the Mogok stone tract — a joint-venture of an unnamed company and Myanma Gems Enterprise, the gemstone business run by the government. No pictures accompanied the announcement, so there is no evidence of the color and clarity of this historic gem.

The ICA Gazette reports the gemstone will not be faceted. It will be put on display in the Myanmar Gems Museum in the capital city of Yangon. Other exhibits in the museum include a 63,000-ct. sapphire discovered in Mogok in 1972.

In related news, sales were down 20% from 1995 at the Myanma Gems, Jade and Pearl Emporium, a March gemstone auction, says the ICA Gazette. Jadeite sales fell 22%, contributing to the overall decrease. On a more optimistic note, pearl sales were up almost 17%. Total sales were reported as $5.7 million. (For additional information about Myanmar’s gemstones, see “Myanmar Opens Its Doors,” JCK, February 1996, pp. 92-100).

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Trapiche (pronounced trah-PEE-chay) is not a word that immediately rolls off the tongue. It is, however, a word guaranteed to excite even the most sedate gemologist because it describes a true rarity and collector’s gemstone.

The gem name, a Colombian term, refers to emeralds that have six dark lines radiating from the center, similar in appearance to the spokes of a bicycle wheel. The name comes from the pattern’s resemblance to the gears on cane-crushing machinery used in Colombia’s sugar cane fields.

Trapiche emeralds, most of which originate in the Chivor or Penas Blancas mines in Colombia, have long been cut en cabochon to best exhibit the tell-tale lines.

According to Gems, Their Sources, Descriptions and Identification by Robert Webster (Butterworth’s, Kent, England, 1983), those lines are composed of a carbonaceous inclusion deposited during the growth of the emerald crystal. Emerald belongs to the hexagonal (six-sided) crystal system.

Though the term trapiche has long been strictly associated with emeralds from Colombia, another gem species with a hexagonal crystal system, corundum, has produced similar gemstones. There is no consensus, however, as to whether these rubies and sapphires can properly be called trapiche.

The new trapiche stones have not been described in gemological literature until quite recently, when the first specimens were discovered at the Mong-Hsu ruby and sapphire deposit in northern Myanmar. Gemologist Yianni Melas, based in Yangon, Myanmar, recently brought one of these gems to JCK’s attention. These gems are rare and should be considered collector’s items along with the trapiche emeralds, he says. Gemological literature (Lapis Magazine, Vol. 20, #12, 1995) described the material in the spokes of the ruby as calcite and ankerite.

NEW IDMA OFFICERS ELECTED

Yigal Hausman, president of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association, was unanimously elected president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association. He was the only candidate for the position.

IDMA delegates appointed four vice presidents: Stephane Fischler of Belgium, Alan Kleinberg of the United States, Nir Livnat of South Africa and Chirakitti Tang of Thailand. Eduard Denckens of Belgium was named secretary and treasurer.

Hausman’s proposition to appoint outgoing President Jacques Roisen as honorary president was affirmed by all delegates. Commenting on the honor, Roisen said he could not promise he would watch the association’s activities from the sidelines. “I’ll certainly remain active,” he declared.

“Very well, as long as you don’t become hyperactive,’ rejoined Hausman.

ARGYLE GEM THIEF JAILED

Lindsay Gordon Roddan, the mastermind of a theft ring that stole millions of dollars worth of diamonds from Australia’s Argyle Diamond Mine, was jailed in June after being convicted of conspiracy.

Roddan received a six-year prison term, but reportedly could be free in a year. He has already served three years while awaiting trial and is eligible for parole for the balance of the sentence.

Between 1988 and 1991, up to 1,000 diamonds were taken from Argyle, including an 11-ct. pink diamond valued at $3 million. Roddan was arrested for the crimes in 1993. Two accomplices, Barry Crimmins, Argyle’s former security chief, and his wife, Lynette Crimmins, were arrested the following year.

The prosecution told the court Roddan recruited Barry Crimmins to steal diamonds from the mine after hearing of a red diamond that sold for nearly $1 million at a Christie’s auction in 1987. That price and the publicity gave Roddan the idea to go after Argyle’s pink diamonds.

Crimmins took advantage of a small crack in Argyle’s elaborate security set-up to systematically obtain some of the mine’s top gems. The window of opportunity came after the diamonds were sorted at the mine, but before they could be weighed in and entered into Argyle’s computer system. As security chief, Crimmins had access to the sorting areas and knew when security cameras were off.

Because the diamonds were never registered in the computer system, Argyle doesn’t know how many were taken. Company officials began to suspect foul play late in 1989 when several rough pink diamonds showed up in Antwerp, Belgium, and Geneva, Switzerland.

Argyle turned the case over to the West Australian police department, where, according to court documents, it quickly died.

Diamonds continued to leak out of the mine and into world markets for more than a year. Argyle once again pressed police for an investigation and got no satisfaction. During that time, prosecutors say, Roddan sold the diamonds through Swiss gem dealer Theo Horowitz.

According to the prosecution, Horowitz bought $2.5 million worth of diamonds from Roddan between 1988 and 1993. Horowitz, who was not indicted and did not testify, told JCK he had no involvement in the scheme, though he did say he has been a major dealer of Argyle pink diamonds over the years.

Prosecution witnesses testified Roddan paid others to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds out of the country. The break in the case came in 1993, when Lynette Crimmins blew the whistle on the theft ring. Roddan was arrested shortly afterward. Barry Crimmins has two years remaining on a four-year prison sentence; Lynette Crimmins received three years’ probation.

Much of the two-month trial centered on allegations of massive police corruption that thwarted two investigations into the thefts and forced Argyle to fund its own probe of the situation. According to testimony, Roddan paid police officers $40,000 to derail an investigation and gave a senior police official $200,000 to avoid legal charges. Investigations into the alleged police corruption continue.

In an epilogue to the trial, Argyle broke its silence over the matter to dispute Roddan’s claim that the 77 carats of pink diamonds he still had in his possession were “worthless because the bottom has fallen out of the market.” Argyle spokesman Andrew Murray told the Australian press the company’s pinks sell for “20 times the price of white diamonds” and that the market for them is stronger than ever.

Argyle and Roddan both claim ownership of the diamonds. The gems had been in Roddan’s possession when police seized them in the initial investigation in 1990. Civil court action is pending.

DPS-GIA TEAM UP FOR SEMINARS

The Diamond Promotion Service and the Gemological Institute of America have teamed up to launch a new diamond sales training program called “Beyond the 4Cs — From Passion to Purchase.”

The program consists of half-day seminars for sales associates this fall and features a tour of all major markets in time for the upcoming Christmas selling season.

The new program is designed to take advantage of the research capabilities of DPS and the advanced video technology of GIA, says Diane Warga-Arias, DPS education manager. The four-hour course has three sections: “The Product,” “The Customer” and “The Process.”

In the first section, she says, GIA video technology allows participants to see “inside” a diamond in such a way that technical information becomes more meaningful.

The second section presents results of De Beers’ research findings on such topics as who buys diamonds and why.

The third section ties everything together in the selling process. Sales associates are taught to use their own personalities to connect with customers so they don’t sound “robotic” or “premeditated,” says Warga-Arias.

“We’ve found that the small-talk samples in other courses don’t work much of the time,” says Warga-Arias. “Especially when selling diamonds, there’s a need for a genuine relationship between the sales associate and the customer.”

The new program also changes the way sales associates are encouraged to impart product knowledge to customers. “The academic model in which a salesperson talks and the customer listens doesn’t work all the time,” she says. “Here we apply the principles of adult education, which stress participation, interaction and choices.”

Warga-Arias says the new half-day program is designed to accomplish more than former full-day seminars by making more efficient use of time. “Many retailers said they could not afford a whole day at a seminar so we redesigned the courses with that in mind,” she says.

The seminars are the first part of an on-going education effort called the DPS Diamond Advantage series. The year-round series will focus on selling diamond jewelry by brand (engagement ring, anniversary band, etc.). “Our research has shown these all require different selling techniques,” she says.

The year-round focus was developed in an effort to avert the problem of sales associates attending one seminar a year and quickly forgetting what they learned. “Training should not be a single event with a beginning and an end,” she says. “We have developed self-study packages and in-store meeting programs to help keep the skills they’ve learned alive and on-going.

The first in the series of seminars will be offered in morning and evening sessions in most major U.S. and Canadian markets this month and in October. The cost is $35 per person or $20 per person for companies registering 50 or more. For more details, call the Diamond Promotion Service at (800) 370-6789.