GemNotes

NEW DIAMOND FLOOD CONCERNS SELLERS

A new onslaught of small diamonds from Russia has renewed concerns among Indian diamond manufacturers about whether De Beers will continue to support that end of the market.

Indian manufacturers say sales of Russian rough diamonds under 11 points increased greatly in November, with goods priced as much as 15% below comparable De Beers rough. In addition, dealers say even more Russian rough, also priced well below market, is coming from several large dealers in Antwerp.

De Beers lowered prices of such goods by as much as 11% starting with its November allocations. Now the Indian trade worries prices may fall even more if De Beers doesn’t intervene.

The situation has renewed speculation that De Beers might adopt a two-tiered market system, supporting the market for larger diamonds while letting the melee and smaller goods float with supply and demand. A delegation from the Indian Gem and Jewelry Export Promotion Council met with Gary Ralfe, managing director of De Beers’ Diamond Trading Co., to discuss the problem. Ralfe reiterated De Beers’ support for all market segments, saying diamond prices are interrelated and cannot be separated.

The glut of small diamonds, building now for several years, started when many Indian dealers were caught holding large stocks in their first-ever market slowdown in the early 1990s. Two years ago, Russia began to sell large stocks of small diamonds from its stockpile at the same time the U.S. sold more than a million carats from its strategic stockpile. De Beers eventually cut back supplies of smaller goods, but it became obvious by mid-1995 that there were still too many goods on the market to sustain prices. De Beers then made its first-ever announcement of a price decrease, fueling speculation it would no longer support the market for smaller goods.

OPAL RARITY: YOWAH ‘NUTS’

Consider the Yowah Nut.

This rarity is actually an opal, not a nut. But it does resemble a nut with its rounded crusty black exterior (ironstone host rock) surrounding a confection-like interior of gleaming opal.

These unusual gems come from a handful of mines in a remote 1-sq.-mile location called Yowah in Southwest Queensland, Australia, about 600 miles west of Brisbane. The location is so remote that food shopping is done 100 miles away and medical care is provided by a doctor and nurse who arrive by airplane.

Though very few Yowah Nuts are known to exist, the location also produces regular opals. In fact, the variety in Yowah opal is astounding, says Madeline Owen of Australian Opals International, one of the primary dealers of Yowah material. “Yowah opals are regarded as the ’boutique opals of Australia’ because of the incredible range of patterns, colors and types. Yowah opals have incredible electric blues, electric greens, purple, pink and all other colors of the rainbow. Truly spectacular!”

Prices for Yowah opals are determined purely by the finished look and the depth of color, says Owen. “They are not carat-weighed. We sell opals from $40 to whatever,” she says. If “whatever” sounds ambiguous, remember that no two Yowah opals are alike. (Owen says she does have some “matched sets” of opals that are parted at the opal seam, include ironstone matrix and are fashioned to match as closely as possible.)

Madeline Owen, P.O. Box 1343 Napier St., South Melbourne, VIC 3205, Australia; (61-3) 9696-7552, telephone and fax.

GLENN LEHRER’S TORUS RINGS: FANTASY CUTS FOR A BIGGER MARKET

Master gem carver Glenn Lehrer of Sausalito, Cal., may have hit on a unique concept for calibrating gemstones: he’s putting a hole in them.

“There must be a hole in a gemstone to let the magic out of the piece,” Lehrer says in describing new creations called Torus rings. (The name comes from scientific research text relating to a time-space concept describing 3-D spatial rings.) The gems, which will be shown to the public for the first time in Tucson this month, are easily calibrated because they come in traditional profiles, such as round, oval and marquise, in virtually any size.

“The possibilities for manufacturing are endless because I can calibrate these to 10mm rounds or smaller, if the material is good,” he says. “This will take fantasy cuts to the mainstream because now we are dealing with standard shapes and sizes.” So far, the Torus concept has been worked in quartz, beryl and garnet, but Lehrer will soon add corundum.

There are some drawbacks. Torus rings take about five times as long to cut as traditionally faceted gems and cost significantly more (prices range from $400 to $2,000 wholesale). But even these factors can be turned into advantages, he says.

Such advantages, says Lehrer, include the gains that accompany a unique art form and enhanced communication with jewelry designers. (Designer John Langenfeld of Plumb Gold Ltd. in Racine, Wisc., won first place in Division II of the American Gem Trade Association’s Spectrum Competition with a ring featuring an 18.92-ct. Torus ring ametrine.) In addition, the hole itself can be drilled in different sizes and filled with other gems, opening new design opportunities.

The technique: Here’s how it works. “The three-dimensionality of each piece is on a curve, a complete circle reflecting within itself,” says Lehrer. “The outside pavilion facet is convex, and the inside curve which follows it is concave. This complex optical union has the effect of magnifying or reducing images.”

When holding an unmounted Torus ring, you see how any movement plays with the light. But is it this play of light and the age-old concept of never-ending circles that will entrance people? “If there were no hole, we would see the material as just another gemstone,” says Lehrer. “The hole allows our minds to dive in and explore.”

SPESSARTINE GARNETS FOUND IN PAKISTAN

Ruedisili Inc. of Sylvania, Ohio, and Remmy Co. of Pakistan announce the discovery of a new spessartine garnet in Azad in the state of Kashmir, northern Pakistan.

The brilliant, mostly orange garnets have been compared with the highly touted mandarin garnets from Namibia. They also are found in variations of yellow, peach, brown and red. Ruedisili has trademarked and is marketing the garnets as KashmirineTM.

Per-carat prices for faceted stones range from $70 to $85 wholesale for average sizes (.75-2.75 cts.) to $275 per carat for larger ones (over 7 cts.). “Larger sizes, which are quite rare, will remain negotiable,” says President Lon Ruedisili. To date, the largest find was a 30-ct. crystal.

Gem-quality spessartines were first found in the summer of 1993 about 180 miles northeast of Muzaffarabad. The first of these were sold in April 1994 at the Azad Kashmir Mineral & Industrial Development Corp. government auction in Islamabad.

Ruedisili, a geologist, identifies the location as the Jandranwala Nar pegmatite and says it’s one of seven deposits being explored by the government. The garnets are the most notable of the deposits, but Ruedisili says quartz, tourmaline and other gems are mined there, too.

Ruedisili Inc., P.O. Box 8218, Sylvania, Ohio 43560; (419) 885-8141, telephone and fax.

INDIA EASES IMPORT RULES

India’s government has reduced the red tape involved in importing rough diamonds, gold and rough precious stones.

The country has long required companies to show exports at a specified percentage above the value of imports. Now, however, diamond and gemstone cutting companies and jewelry manufacturers averaging exports of $1 million in each of the past three years will be able import goods without waiting until their exports reach their quota. Companies will receive credit books allowing them to import a specified quantity of goods for six months, after which they can settle their import accounts. Remaining import credits can be carried over to a new credit book.

The plan requires that manufacturers show a minimum added value (of exports over imports) of 10% for plain gold and platinum jewelry, 15% for gold and diamond jewelry and 25% for silver jewelry.

The plan also allows manufacturers to obtain precious metals from government agencies in advance or after their export quotas have been reached.

Indian diamond and gem cutters and jewelry manufacturers say the new policy will make it easier for them to do business and compete internationally.

DE BEERS, CHINA SIGN EXPLORATION PACT

De Beers and China reportedly have reached an agreement to explore for diamonds in China.

De Beers says the agreement “marks an important step forward in the development of the diamond industry in China and comes after many years of contact and cooperation with China’s Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources.”