Rubies: More to the Story
The April issue of JCK has a warning about ruby prices in the “Up Front” section on page 17. The quotes used are from me, as I relayed the information to an audience in Tucson during one of my seminars. Did I warn that rubies may take the next “hit,” as did emeralds, over the treatment debate? Did I warn and even predict that prices would fall for rubies? Did I state that the jeweler-gemologist is asked to perform at a higher level than the Gemological Institute of America? Yes, to all. However, the closing statement in the “Up Front” piece indicates that I urged retailers to “Be up front, honest, and disclose.” The closing statement is where there is more to the story.
Readers should not take this news article to imply that I have predicted the downfall of the ruby industry. I did inform the audience that nondisclosure of new gem treatments could hurt any gemstone, much the same as Opticon hurt the emerald business. In less than two years, emerald prices declined about 50%. Emerald is now positioned for a rebound—only if jewelers can continue to educate themselves and become comfortable with disclosure practices.
The advancement of heat techniques allows treaters to bring ruby to almost the melting point. The borax used in the process melts and becomes a glass-like substance that fills fissures. Additionally, the internal fractures “heal” during the high heat process. My warning was that jewelers need to be aware of this and disclose it to customers. Heating is a part of the normal process used to bring rubies to the market.
Without editorializing on whether this is good or bad, my message is simple. By being honest with customers, jewelers will not jeopardize the sale, as some may think. Customers will come to appreciate your honesty and respect you for your knowledge. It is always better that they hear it from you rather than find out later. If this happens, you probably cannot repair the damage.
As for the reference to being asked to perform at a higher level than GIA, yes I have often said that. GIA is asked to do laboratory reports on gemstones. The reports are for identification and authentication. When a gemstone is treated, the report states that a treatment is present. Mostly, GIA does not report what the treatment is (only that there is evidence of heat, glass, or clarity enhancement). However, jewelers and appraisers may be asked to relay additional information. Emeralds are a prime example. Jewelers may be asked if an emerald is treated with oil (and what kind of oil), Opticon, or other resins. How many can answer?
Have ruby prices started to decline? The Tucson gem shows would indicate that prices were slightly lower this year for rubies. Jewelers asked more questions of suppliers at the show, but honest answers were not always given. Perhaps dealers knew but were afraid to tell, or perhaps they themselves did not know. The ruby market is on fragile ground, but not because of anything I might say in a lecture. I only report what our research supports. This is a pivotal year for ruby. It is up to jewelers to save the ruby market.
Richard B. Drucker, Publisher, The Guide, Northbrook, Ill.
Your recent article “Going for the Gold” (JCK, May 1999, p. 89) featured JCK poll results headlined “Gold Jewelry Discounts.” Within the poll were two questions. The first was, “Do you discount your gold jewelry?” and the second was, “If yes, by how much?” Nearly 60% of respondents answered that they discounted their gold jewelry; of these, 60% offered discounts of 20% to 40%. Shouldn’t your question have been, “Do you lie to your customers about the price of your gold jewelry?”
I have nothing against a legitimate sale, say, once a year, but the implication from your poll is that retailers who discount do so on a regular basis. Whatever happened to the truth-in-pricing issue? When a retailer continuously runs a discount, the customer is deceived into thinking he is getting a piece of jewelry for X percent less than it normally sells for. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t discount our gold jewelry, yet our everyday prices are typically 10% to 20% less than our competitors’ 50%-off prices. With education, we teach our customers to buy fine jewelry based on the value of the piece, not by how much of a discount they can get. The lesson here is simple: Offer fair, competitive prices day in and day out and the service to go with them. It works for us, and it can work for you!
Gary Youngberg, President, Ames Silversmithing Inc., Ames, IA
So, now we have models with their hands in their panties, in a trade publication no less (JCK, April 1999, p. 114), hawking Gucci watches in a provocative manner. Gucci calls it “going on the edge to garner attention.” They are correct; it garnered my attention. I call it disgusting and degrading to the industry.
Kathy Caufman, G.G., Elequent Jewelry, St. Louis Park, Minn
An incorrect caption accompanied a photo of an American Pearl Co. brooch on page 150 of the April 1999 issue of Open to Buy. The piece was an American cultured marquise pearl in 18k gold with round diamond accents. The designer was Marty Simone.