Intergem 2007: The Wild Bunch

The gem artists from Idar-Oberstein, Germany, and surrounding communities have not only 500 years of gem-cutting history behind them but also, in many instances, the same name. Although we’re still not sure if Alexander, Constantin, and Manfred Wild are from the same family tree, we spoke to all three to get an overview of the gemstones shown at the recent Intergem fair. U.S. retailers should be on the lookout for these and other opportunities to maximize colored stones inventory.

Alexander Wild, of Wild & Petsch, known for an extensive inventory of color, noted that most serious buyers shopped the show the first two days, Friday and Saturday. One bought an entire parcel of faceted natural yellow-green Brazilian beryl weighing 1,250 cts. The largest stone in the 18-piece lot was a 352.50 ct. antique cushion. “The stones were a great mix of both colors,” says Alexander. “Almost lime color. Very unusual.” Per-carat prices for similar goods range from $80 to $125.

Alexander also showed fine green Mozambique tourmaline (“not Paraíba,” he says), including a 52.65 ct. stone. Prices for the Mozambique green ranged from $700 to $1,200 per carat.

Another important stone noted by Alexander is bright red spinel from Tanzania. This is not “fire engine” or “flame” red spinel, but a more delicate, almost pinkish, spinel. The material goes for between $3,000 and $4,500 per carat. The largest single gem in Alexander’s parcel was a round brilliant weighing 12.50 cts.

Constantin Wild is one of a handful of Idar-Oberstein gem suppliers who also exhibit in Basel, Switzerland; Hong Kong; and Tucson, Ariz. He likes to claim for his inventory the “big ‘must-have’ gems,” which must be rare, have excellent color, come from a remote location, be in limited supply, be in a large parcel, or have a unique story. Besides all that, the gems must have superior quality and perfect craftsmanship.

Constantin offers Mexican fire opal with bright, rich color in huge sizes. These non-opalescent (without-play-of-color) stones can be faceted for setting into traditional pendants and brooches. One particularly large opal (38 mm by 29 mm) was discovered in January 2006 in the Laureles Mine in Sierra Madre, Jalisco, Mexico. (Large opals are typically measured by size rather than weight, since opal weighs much less compared with most traditional gem materials.) It’s called Chalchiuhtlicue (pronounced Chal-chi-hweet-LEE-kway), in honor of the Aztec water goddess, and is presumed to be the largest faceted fire opal in the world. It’s a magnificent translucent reddish orange emerald cut (and weighs 132.8 carats, if you must know).

One of Constantin’s specialties is hauyne (pronounced HOW-een). The super-rare electric blue (“and German!” he says) gemstone can be found at Laach Lake near Idar-Oberstein in the Eifel region. Most of the cut hauynes are smaller than a 10th of a carat, which make for terrific accent stones or pavé work. Hauynes of more than a fifth of a carat are rare. Less than 1 percent of all cut and polished hauynes weigh more than half a carat. Constantin has a trilliant-cut solitaire weighing 3.23 carats, reportedly among the largest cut specimens.

Constantin also has “canary” tourmaline. “A really lemony yellow tourmaline,” he says. “They were once as rare as unicorns.”

But in 2000 a deposit was discovered on the border between Malawi and Zambia. “Their fresh lemon tone was clear and pure and had just a fine tinge of green,” Constantin explains. “In some stones, in fact, the trace elements manganese and titanium transform that wonderful color into an electrifying neon yellow. Only some 200 kilograms of rough crystals are mined each month, and only 10 percent of those are of gemstone quality. Once cut, 95 percent of the stones will weigh less than 1 carat.” That makes his 22.00 ct. pear-shape canary tourmaline all the more extraordinary. “It shows an electrifying neon yellow and is one of the largest stones of its kind ever discovered,” he says.

Constantin also discussed pink topazes, which he says come from Ouro Prêto, Brazil. He has four matching pinks: a 33 ct. cushion and three pear shapes (a 27.00 ct. and two 20 caraters). He also showed a rare set of 13 pear-shape blue moonstone cabochons, ranging from 16 to 29.5 mm. Total weight for the parcel was 223.00 cts.

Manfred Wild, of Emil Becker, presented a mind-boggling array of beautifully detailed, carved jewels d’art. “Most customers showed a great deal of interest in our unique heads, on display in the windows, because they can be an object of art as well as jewelry you can wear,” he says.

Manfred’s clients also were keen on top-quality carved gemstone fish, which were created from green beryl from the Ukraine, the finest Mozambique aquamarine, and a sensational 125 mm long tanzanite, which he calls “a world sensation.”