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January – April 2007

April 2007 Newsletter

Shows and Conferences

The 1st Annual Dallas Fine Mineral Show – May 4–6, 2007

Dallas Fine Mineral Show announcement

Visit Pala’s Roomful of Goodies (Suite 206)

Snail Mineral Specimen photo image

The 1st Annual Dallas Fine Mineral Show is an exclusive show highlighting 21 top mineral dealers. Pala International will be exhibiting superb collections of minerals that Bill Larson has assembled over the years. Old classics and some new specimens from recent finds will be on display.

Event Website: Dallas Fine Mineral Show
When: May 4–6, 2007
Where: Embassy Suites Dallas
Suite: 206
Contact: Dave Waisman, 509.458.2331

We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events. [back to top]

Pala International News

Pala’s Featured Stone: Madagascar Sapphire

A shift in color...

Sapphire comes to us in many sizes, shapes, colors, and phenomena. Change of color is an optical phenomenon that can be observed as one takes a sapphire from the indoor incandescent light to outdoor sunlight.

Incandescent light is tipped to the longer wavelength end of the visible spectrum, which includes yellow, orange, and red; while sunlight is balanced, emitting the full spectrum. The human eye is sensitive to green light, so we observe more of the blue-green end of the spectrum in daylight, and more of the purple-red under incandescent light.

Madagascar Sapphire photo image
Madagascar sapphire, 3.75 ct., 8.34 x 8.01 x 5.76 mm., radiant cut. Violet-blue color shown in daylight. Inventory #14621. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

In sapphire, this unusual selective-absorption behavior takes place when the stone has a mixture of chromophores. Technically, as Richard W. Hughes has explained in Ruby & Sapphire, these are: (Cr3+), which creates the red/purple component, and (Fe2+ + Ti4+), which creates the blue component.

Madagascar Sapphire photo image
Same Madagascar sapphire as above, shifting to the purple side under incandescent light. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Change of color can occur as a full color change from green to red, or as a color shift from blue to purple. Color change from one end of the spectrum to the other, aka the alexandrite effect, is rarely seen in sapphires and often is caused by the presence of vanadium. Color shift from blue to purple is more commonly seen and can add a beautiful twist to sapphire. This month’s featured stone is a fine example of this color shift.

Read more on sapphires from the expert, Richard Hughes, at www.palagems.com. And check out Pala President Bill Larson’s “Gods, Graves & Sapphires,” an editorial about sapphire treatment.

Interested? Select the inventory link above for pricing, email us, or give us a call. [back to top]

Pala Acquires Portion of Grieger Collection

Cut Stones photo image
A few jewels from Grieger’s faceted collection. Top row: 12.01-ct. colorless zircon, 27.4-ct. citrine, 8-ct. amethyst. Second row: 6.24-ct. tanzanite, 0.91-ct. benitoite, 4.36-ct. peridot, 11.3-ct. sphene. Bottom: 3.85-ct. rhodolite, (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)
Warner & Grieger Store photo image
Warner & Grieger Catalog image

From 1933 into the late ’90s, Warner & Grieger Gems and Minerals (later simply Grieger’s) supplied and fascinated Southern California with their unique inventory of everything gem related. The original store in Pasadena (see photo at right) carried mineral specimens, gemstones, books, and gemology and lapidary supplies.

It seems John M. Grieger’s true passion was in the mineral department, as he wrote in the introduction to the Warner & Grieger catalog on the occasion of the company’s tenth anniversary.

Ten years ago I first experienced the thrill that comes with the ownership of one’s first mineral specimen. It is interesting to look back and reflect over ways in which this firm has grown from that seed. If everyone who reads this page could experience the fulfillment of desire that has been my good fortune, i am sure that they would pursue the fascinating hobby of mineral collecting with enthusiastic energy.

Pala International recently acquired part of John M. Grieger’s personal collection, which included minerals; rough, cabochon, and faceted gems; books; and instruments. [back to top]

Minerals photo image
Samples from the Grieger mineral collection, recently acquired by Pala International. (Photo: John McLean)

Gem and Gemology News

Tiffany Diamond (and More) at the Smithsonian

128-Carat Yellow Diamond, 40-Carat Purple Tourmaline, 16-Carat Green Garnet on View at National Museum of Natural History

Last week, the Smithsonian Institution announced the display of the world-famous Tiffany Diamond, on loan to coincide with a $1.1 million gift last summer from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. At 128.54 carats, the gemstone is more than twice the size of the Hope Diamond (which weighs 45.52 carats). (See more on the Hope Diamond under Books in this issue).

Tiffany Diamond photo image
Bird on a Rock. Per the Associated Press, Tiffany Foundation & Co. president stated that this brooch has only been worn twice, by “a Rhode Island socialite” and by Audrey Hepburn as a promotion for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The setting can be seen in a side view at The Arizona Republic.(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution)

According to the Smithsonian press release:

The Tiffany Diamond is one of the largest fancy yellow diamonds ever discovered. It weighed 287.42 carats in the rough when it was discovered in 1877 in South Africa. Tiffany & Co., the famous Fifth Avenue jewelry firm, purchased the stone and aptly named it. The diamond was cut into a cushion shape of 128.54 carats with 82 facets—24 more than what is traditionally done—to maximize brilliance. It now appears in the “Bird on a Rock” setting, designed in the early 1960s by Jean Schlumberger. The “bird” is gold and platinum with white and yellow diamonds accented by a ruby eye.

Just about the time the Smithsonian received its gift, in June 2006, London’s Gilbert Collection gallery launched Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837–1987. As “[t]he most comprehensive exhibition of Tiffany jewellery ever mounted,” according to The Gilbert, the show naturally included the Tiffany Diamond as its centerpiece.

The Tiffany gift to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History establishes a collection in its name as part of the National Gem Collection, and already has resulted in two acquisitions:

  • A 15.93-carat rare dark-green garnet; according to AP, it is heart-shaped and comes from near the Kenya–Tanzania border
  • A 40.1-carat purple tourmaline; the AP story describes it as “square” in shape and is from Mozambique

The three gemstones currently are on view. The Tiffany Diamond will remain on view until September 23. [back to top]

The Secret Lives of Minerals

Elisabeth Nadin explores a hidden world at Caltech

An exciting new look at the the gem and mineral world—from its macro-formations to the micro-circuitry—comes to us from Engineering and Science, a quarterly journal out of Caltech. In “The Secret Lives of Minerals” (Vol. 70, No. 1, 3.2MB in PDF format), Elisabeth Nadin, a freelance writer and PhD candidate, explores the crystal structures and internal characteristics of gem minerals that align to create phenomenal behavior. Following a small-scale technical map, we increase our understanding of the beauty that gems display.

Star Rose Quartz photo image
An exquisite and large example of “dynamic symmetry.” A 5,500-ct. (3.6 in.) star rose quartz from Brazil, courtesy of Mike Scott. This piece, along with many others from Scott’s spectacular gem and mineral collection, will be on display at the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, CA, June 17, 2007–June 16, 2008. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

The article is illustrated with fascinating micrographs, including those taken from a rose quartz like the one pictured above.

Nadin, who visited the Pala International headquarters last week, works with the famed George Rossman, Professor of Mineralogy, at CalTech. Rossman is known for his research and discovery of color-causing agents in gemstones and internal structures that produce phenomena. One beautiful example of both properties is shown above in the star rose quartz. Rossman also has explored unusual mineral specimens alongside prominent California collectors Mike Scott and Pala’s own Bill Larson. A tribute to Rossman’s life and accomplishments are highlighted in the opening of the article. His current research, in collaboration with colleague Chi Ma, are profiled as well.

For 35 years, Rossman has been a close friend of Bill Larson, having accompanied Larson and Dr. George Harlow (American Museum of Natural History) to Burma. Read about it in “Painite Comes to Pala.” [back to top]

Industry News

Burma Gems Emporium “Biggest Ever”

On March 20, the 44th Myanma Gems Emporium wrapped up. As reported by the official New Light of Myanmar (NLM) website, a total of 3,652 lots of jade, gems, and pearls were sold, both through bidding and tender. NLM kept a running total of lots sold throughout the sale, March 8–20.

Maw-Sit-Sit photo image
Maw-sit-sit from Burma. Read more about this rare material. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Statistics from the March 2007 sale:

  • 3,508 Jade lots, out of 5,858 on offer
    • “One jade lot was worth 1.68 million euros (2.21 million dollars), but the official did not reveal if this lot was sold,” according to Agence France-Presse (AFP)
  • 47 Gem lots, out of 380 on offer
  • 97 Pearl lots, out of 310 on offer

Merchants attending the sale numbered 3,419, including 2,068 from 13 other countries. According to AFP, “the Myanma Gems Enterprise, which runs the sale, refused to disclose how much the auction raised, and said only that it was the ‘biggest ever.’” The October 2006 sale garnered more than $125 million. See all the stats here.

Also on the 20th, the Minister of Mines, Brigadier-General Ohn Myint, met with local entrepreneurs and executives. According to NLM, “the minister called for more efforts to be able to create a firmed market, to penetrate international gems markets and to expand the gems industry to increase the revenue of the country.” This is a perennial harangue, as we reported last October. And the market is threatened further by revision of Thai industry figures (see following story). [back to top]


Pearl Sale and Pearl Production Stats

Xinhua News Agency reported on a three-day pearl sale in Yangon, Burma. The article contains some updates on pearl production statistics:

  • Production: 200,000 mommes produced in 2006 (up 30% from 2006)
  • Production Area: 25,600 square km.
  • Pearl Producers Nationwide: 6
  • Investment of Burma–Japan Partnership: $8.47 million
  • Year Production Began: 1956

[back to top]

Thai Gem and Jewelry Exports Slowdown

Agence France-Presse (AFP) has reported that “Thailand’s gem and jewellery exports could grow by only half of the original target this year amid the strong Thai baht and a potential global economic slowdown.” The forecast is down by half, from an earlier 20% growth projection.

The Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association (TGJTA) made the announcement on February 27—coincidentally the day U.S. markets took a tumble. A TGJTA official said that United States, which is approximately 30% of the Thai gem and jewelry export market, could have its own effect if the U.S. economy were to slide.

Elsewhere, AFP reported on the negative consequences for Burma, which counts on Thai purchases of Burmese rough. “The absence of a strong value-added gem industry in Myanmar means exporters here are unlikely to be able to gain much advantage out of Thailand’s appreciating currency.” [back to top]


The Geology of Gem Deposits

Short Course Organized by Lee Groat, Univ. of British Columbia
May 21–22, 2007, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Gemstones photo image
From the course flyer. (Photos: True North Gems, Inc.)
Gemstones photo image

In conjunction with the Joint Annual Meeting of the Geological Association of Canada and the Mineralogical Association of Canada, Professor Lee A. Groat has arranged a “short course” that will examine gemstones from a geological perspective. Groat is a former editor of American Mineralogist, the journal of the Mineralogical Society of America.

The course will cover a broad range of species and varieties, including diamond, corundum, beryl, tsavorite, tanzanite, topaz, pegmatite gem deposits, and jade. Instructors from Canada, France, and the United States.

The course is open to registrants of at least one day of the joint meeting. For more details, see this flyer (in PDF format). [back to top]



Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem
by Richard Kurin

Hope Diamond book cover image

Trivia Item: What Pala International Gem News article received the most hits since we began counting in January 2005?
Answer: Smithsonian Settles Hope Diamond Controversy,” issued two years ago this month.

So it’s a shame that you may not yet have heard about a book published nearly a year ago: Richard Kurin’s Hope Diamond.

The book has gotten some rave notices, and not just by gemstone lovers. When the venerable Kirkus Reviews says, of the book’s author, “Kurin has fashioned a well-written ‘biography’ of a rock more interesting than most people,” we are inclined to take note, especially when an earlier “bio” on the world’s most famous diamond was described by the same journal as “gaga” and “a real bodice-ripper.”

Author Richard Kurin is a cultural anthropologist and director of the Smithsonian’s Center of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, responsible for among other things the institution’s highly regarded Folkways Recordings. From his introduction:

A blue diamond this size and color would be valued at somewhere between $25 million and $40 million on the open market...
   What adds tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to a gem’s worth? Simply, its story. The diamond has a rich history including a legendary ancient curse attached to its origins in India. This legend was so prevalent in 1958 when the Smithsonian acquired the Hope diamond that many Americans urged the National Museum not to accept the diamond in its collections for fear that the U.S. would be cursed.
   As a cultural anthropologist, I became intrigued...

We are, too. Thanks to author John S. White for recently turning us on to the book. [back to top]

— End April Newsletter • Published 4/16/07 —

Other March News

March 28: Rocks & Minerals on Paraiba Tourmaline (and more...)

Rocks & Minerals cover image

Last week, we received an advance copy of John S. White’s column, “Let’s Get It Right,” from the March/April 2007 issue of Rocks & Minerals. After discussing the original Paraíba, Brazil discovery of copper-bearing tourmaline, White takes us on a thoughtful and amusing examination of the naming game for mineral varieties and species.

As we’ve been reporting, member labs of the Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC) have agreed that all cuprian tourmaline go by the moniker paraiba, regardless of originating locality—and that lab reports include a disclaimer that all such material is not Brazilian. (White contends that the LMHC actually decided on the capital-P name Paraíba, but this decision wisely was abandoned after White’s column’s deadline.)

White points out that the LMHC hasn’t seen the need for issuance of disclaimers for all varieties of bi-locality unless “significant gem material... has been found elsewhere. ... Clearly the trade feels that the public needs protection only only when dealing with gems of extraordinary value...”

To illustrate his point, White uses the examples of locality-specific appellations such as for the species of indialite, benitoite, and danburite—as well as the ill-conceived marketing scheme of what was to be known as red emerald. But you’ll have to read about all of that for yourself.

If you haven’t been following the subtleties of mineralogical nomenclature—and even if you have—you’ll want to catch White’s “Paraíba Tourmaline, or Not.”

March 2007 Newsletter

Shows and Conferences

Sinkankas Jade Symposium – April 21, 2007

Imperial Jade Ring photo image
Imperial jade ring. This 17.22-ct. ring is featured in Part 1 of the article that accompanies our Jadeite Buying Guide. (Photo: John McLean)

The fifth annual John Sinkankas Symposium will be on the topic of jade. The event is co-sponsored by the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society and the GIA’s Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center.

Amongst the presenters this year will be photographer and writer Fred Ward, whose Friends of Jade website we profile below. Ward’s presentation is entitled “Jade Around the World.”

Also presenting will be Richard W. Hughes, of the American Gem Trade Association Gemological Testing Center (AGTA-GTC). His talk, entitled “Jade: Stone of Heaven,” will focus on “imperial” type jade from Upper Burma. According to the AGTA-GTC website, in 1996 Hughes “was a member of the first foreign gemological party allowed into these mines in over 30 years and will regale participants with a first-hand account of the mining and trading of this fascinating gemstone.” (Hughes also will present his lecture at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA, on March 31.)

Details, including the full roster of presenters, are available in the registration form below.

Event: Fifth Annual John Sinkankas Symposium
When: Saturday, April 21, 2007, 9:00 am
Where: Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad, CA
Registration: Limited to 125; use this form (PDF requires free Reader)

[back to top]

Pala International News

Pala’s Featured Stone: Spinel

The cousin of a king...

Spinel’s popularity has not quite made it to the throne yet, but its rare vivid colors and many varietals definitely make it royalty. Often mined in close proximity to its famous relative corundum, spinel is composed of the same basic elements, aluminum (Al) and oxygen (O), with the addition of magnesium (Mg). With a similar upbringing and a genetic tie to corundum, spinel shines brightly with distinguishing properties. Featuring a higher dispersion, common natural colors, and a lower price point, spinels are being exposed to the discerning collector of regal gems.

Pair of Cushion Red Spinels photo image
Pair of cushion brilliant red spinels, 3.79  cts. total, 8.3 x 6.4 x 3.8  mm. Inventory #11049. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Spinels have found their way into some of the world’s most famous gem collections, including the British crown jewels in which a 140-ct. spinel (in the Imperial State Crown) was long thought to be a ruby, and a large assortment in the crown jewels of Russia and Iran.

Oval Pink Spinel photo image
Oval brilliant pink spinel from Burma, 7.79 cts., 15.12 x 12.94 x 9.05 mm. This stone has been sold. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Today fine spinels originate from Burma, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Madagascar. Read more in our Spinel Buying Guide.

Interested? Select the inventory link above for pricing, email us, or give us a call. [back to top]

Gem and Gemology News

A Celebration of Jade

Fred Ward’s Friends of Jade Goes Public

Nephrite Jade Pi Disc photo image
Polar nephrite jade pi disc, an ancient symbol of perfection and sign of Chinese nobility. But this one, while carved in China, is from the “Polar” deposit in British Columbia. From “B.C. Nephrite Report, 2004.” (Photo: © Fred Ward)

Fred Ward has announced that the previously fee-based website, Friends of Jade, “will be open to the world as the premier resource for jade information.”

The website, launched in 2004, was an outgrowth of the original Friends of Jade, a British organization, begun in the 1980s. Publications were in print—on both sides of “the pond”—, with stops and starts, until 1992. Ward’s website filled a much needed gap.

The website features articles, a discussion group, jade resources, photographs, and more, including some archived Friends of Jade Bulletins. In the latest article, Ward looks at “16 Years of Burma Jade Mines,” with photographs supplied by Pala’s Bill Larson.

Mine photo image
Strip mining for jade is common in Burma. Hauling of debris, once done by laborers, is now done mostly by machines. From “A Look at 16 Years of Burma Jade Mines.” (Photo from Bill Larson)

Ward plans to use advertising revenue to keep the newly-public website operating. He urges the site’s loyal readership to “please be my eyes and ears to see what you like and what others are viewing for the first time.”

Jade Boulder photo image
A four-ton white jade boulder from Khotan (aka Hotan, Hetian), near China’s border with Pakistan. The reddish skin may be artificial. From “Jade in Khotan.” (Photo: Herbert Giess)
Jade Boulder photo image

[back to top]

Jade Icebergs, Polarized Crystals

Last week, Palagems.com’s webmaster attended a presentation by arctic photographer Rosemarie Keough, who displayed a photograph of a “jade iceberg,” like the one pictured below. The translucence of these rare icebergs is created by water that is devoid of air. Exactly how they are formed is debated, but they are thought to be composed of refrozen water, such as that from a subglacial stream. Some attribute the jade color to the presence of algae.

Steve Nicol's Jade Iceberg photo image
Polar jade? This amazingly sculptured iceberg was sighted by Australian Antarctic Division biologist Dr. Stephen Nicol. Its fanciful shape reminds us of last April’s featured stone, carved chrysocolla. See more polar wonders here. (Photo: Stephen Nicol)
Peter Wasilewsk's Burble's Gradient
Enhancement? No, this is not a new gemstone treatment. NASA scientist Wasilewski employs polarized light to create artwork using ice crystals. (Image: “Burble’s Gradient” by Peter Wasilewski)

To see the texture of a jade iceberg, visit Keough’s website. Her presentation was sponsored by Colorado-based CIRES in conjunction with the International Polar Year (IPY), “a large scientific programme focused on the Arctic and Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009.” (The twice-a-century IPY happens to coincide with renewed interest in global warming, which puts the polar regions at risk.)

Crystallography fans will want to check out NASA scientist Peter Wasilewski’s ice crystal “frozen visions,” or Frizions.

And, finally, visit Virtual Antarctica for a jade iceberg screensaver. [back to top]

AGTA-GTC on Paraiba Tourmaline

AGTA-GTC logo image

Late last month, the AGTA Gemological Testing Center addressed the issues surrounding paraiba tourmaline. Here’s an excerpt:

Does every tourmaline that contains a certain amount of copper/manganese qualify as a paraíba? In a word, no. The most important feature of a paraíba tourmaline is exactly that which made the gem famous in the first place – intensity of color. Thus if a gem submitted for testing lacks the necessary degree of color saturation, it will not meet the AGTA GTC's paraíba criteria, no matter what its chemistry. In such a case, color trumps chemistry.

The article’s photographs, by Pala’s Wimon Manorotkul, will be familiar to Gem News readers. Read the full story here. [back to top]

Featured Article

The Path to Paraiba Now Winds Through Mozambique

Moussa Konate and Rebecca Boyajian photo image
Gemstone supplier Moussa Konate, in Tucson this year, with Rebecca Boyajian of The Collector Fine Jewelry, who wears a necklace featuring a stunning paraiba tourmaline from Mozambique. (Photo: Andreas Forsberg)

A serendipitous discovery leads to a new source for paraiba tourmalines... Moussa Konate, originally from Guinea in northwest Africa, has specialized in buying and selling rough gem materials in southeast Africa. From his original explorations in Madagascar, this month’s feature story traces his steps to a small area in Mozambique, where a big discovery was unearthed. Read more...

Green Paraiba Tourmaline photo image
Untreated electric green paraiba-type tourmaline from Mozambique. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

[back to top]

— End March Newsletter • Published 3/16/07 —

Other February News

February 27: We Get Mail...

Computer Monitor illustration

Here’s a sample of responses we’ve received over the past six months to Pala International and our Gem News.

Arrow image Josh: Thank Bill and all at Pala for the gem newscasts—they deserve their own Oscar. Alan Hodgkinson, author, of the Scottish Branch of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (received yesterday, following Sunday’s Academy Awards)

Arrow image Dear friends: [T]hank you for the input you did regarding the trip to Pakistan I had with Guillaume Soubiraa last summer. I just wanted to tell you that I'm very happy about the exposure you provide to our expedition and I'm very grateful for that. ... All the best to all the team and especially Bill which will stay forever the first International gem dealer I met... LOL Vincent Pardieu, AIGS lab director (about our notices of his expeditions to Pakistan, Vietnam, Madagascar, and Tajikistan)

Arrow image Excellent report, Gentlemen. One of your best. Thanks especially for the production data out of Myanmar. William Rohtert, of True North Gems (regarding our coverage of Burma sales and trade statistics)

Arrow image Dear Bill and staff at Palagems: Now that I am no longer running auction houses and have my own business, I very much appreciate your newsletter. John Block, formerly of Sotheby’s and Phillips du Pury, now of Block-Guest Group

Arrow image Thanks a million for the wonderful—informative, educational, and entertaining—newsletter and [links] to GIA’s Symposium website! Your efforts are greatly appreciated. LaVerne M. Larson, independent appraiser

Arrow image Dear Bill: I enjoyed your newsletter and the coverage of the paraiba issues. [Included was a clarification regarding “paraiba” nomenclature and localities.] Rick Krementz, of Richard Krementz Gemstones (in response to our September 2006 update to “Paraiba at Pala”)

Arrow image Bill and Josh: Thanks, by the way, for the link to my blog in your previous newsletter. Richard W. Wise, author and president of R. W. Wise Goldsmiths (regarding our August 2006 story, “Paraiba at Pala”)

Arrow image Hi Bill: Congrats on your Pala International Gem News, in my estimation it is one of the best things being offered on the internet relating to gems today. A truly important contribution. As you know, I do not offer compliments often but this edition, in particular, warrants great praise. John S. White, author, curator, and consultant, Kustos Services (concerning our August 2006 story, “Paraiba at Pala”)

Arrow image Thank you for your informative newsletter. I am a new investor and learning all the time. Of course I have made a few mistakes, but less than I would have if I hadn't been reading sites and letters like yours. Yours is the most interesting, and best designed. Thank you again. Carollyn D. (responding to our August 2006 Gem News)

[back to top]

February 27: Tucson 2007 – Beauty Is in the Eye(piece) of the Beholder

Still from Hughes and Pardieu Presentation
From Hughes’s Tucson presentation.

Gems and gemology are partners in an arranged marriage—the object of beauty and its homely consort, scientific objectivity. For years now, Richard W. Hughes has proposed that gemological curricula could benefit from a kind of Hucksterism 101—a course in salesmanship that plays upon the enthusiasms that are naturally aroused by fine gemstones. Such training would take into account that “[p]eople are drawn to precious stones because of passions, not properties,” as Hughes wrote in 1999.

In Tucson earlier this month, Hughes revisited this subject in his AGTA GemFair presentation (the visuals are archived here). From an introduction:

We are told if a paraíba tourmaline is really a “paraíba” tourmaline, we must analyze it. And yet none who have ever gazed upon one of these fine gems have ever declared: "Oh my god, wooddja look at that copper!"

In the presentation, he reminds us:

Gemology is part art, part science: Science is the mind, beauty is the heart. Romance is the soul of precious stones.

Perhaps a bit contradictorily, Hughes then quotes from the late “hip aristocrat” Lord Buckley (an all but forgotten nightclub entertainer who nonetheless was an influence on people as diverse as fellow comedian Robin Williams, The Living Theatre’s Judith Malina, and singer-songwriter James Taylor). Prefaced by a montage of religious imagery, Buckley guides us through Hughes’s travel portraits and landscapes:

I like to worship something I can see, something I can get my hands on, get my brains on!

Now, if this sounds like The Gemologist’s Credo, the point Hughes really is making is that people—of whatever religious or cultural stripe—are the guardians of the “stash of love known as God” (as His Hipness puts it). Their generosity and commonality, their labor and laughter, are the back story to every gemstone that comes through the laboratory take-in window.

The presentation’s webpage includes an essay by emerald dealer and aesthetician Ronald Ringsrud, titled “Alfred Noyes and the Role of Poetry in a ‘Shattered World’” (also available here). It’s in harmony with Hughes’s argument: Ringsrud suggests that, as we celebrate scientific achievement, “I believe poets need to be invited along more often.” [back to top]

February 23: Thanks to Tucson Attendees

Tucson 2007 photo image
Tucson 2007. Jason Stephenson (left), Gabrièl Mattice, and Josh Hall at the AGTA GemFair.

We at Pala International want to thank everyone who visited our booth this year in Tucson. It was a pleasure being face-to-face with all of our friends and clients. We wish everyone success and hope to stay in touch throughout the year. [back to top]

February 20: AGTA-GTC Makes New Sample Paraiba Reports Available

AGTA-GTC logo image

In response to our February Gem News update on paraiba tourmaline below, AGTA-GTC Labortory Director Dr. Lore Kiefert sent us new sample reports for this variety. Dr. Kiefert explained:

We have created new [reports] in order to meet the American demand, where we eliminated the word paraiba from the Variety. We also eliminated the word cuprian since in the Comments section the copper content necessary for a paraiba call is explained... Please note that when an origin is not requested, this will be noted on the report.

We asked AGTA-GTC’s Richard Hughes whether origin is routinely determined by the lab, even if not specifically requested by the client for inclusion in the report. (GGL stated such a practice, as we reported below.) Hughes responded that such origin can be easily established by analysis of the same chemical data used to determine the variety. [back to top]

February 16: Burma News

Forty-fourth Emporium Set for March

Inspection of Jade Boulder photo image

Burma’s official New Light of Myanmar announced yesterday that the 44th Myanma Gems Emporium 2007 will be held March 8–20, in Yangon. An embassy press release provides the schedule. Last year’s record-setting 43rd annual sale brought in $101 million from jade, pearls, and gemstones. See up-to-date and historical statistics here. [back to top]

February 16: Pampering Oysters Pays Off

Pearl Necklaces photo image

This week, Burma’s online weekly, The Myanmar Times, highlighted efforts at attracting local investment in the pearl industry by increasing oyster survival. Investors have been nervous about contributing to an enterprise that in 1999 saw 40% destruction of oysters bearing South Sea pearls.

That same year, in an attempt to reverse the situation, the state-run Myanmar Pearl Enterprise (MPE) contracted with Japan’s Tasaki Pearl Company to oversee its operations. The efforts—including regular monitoring of seawater and isolation of farms from boat traffic—paid off, with a destruction rate of only 10% for 2006. Read the full story here.

Buddhists have been critical of past practices that have led to so much oyster destruction. A 2004 interview with Dr. Thant Thaw Kaung, General Manager of Myanmar Atlantic Pearl Co., sheds light on more recent pampered pearl production:

When I was first approached by an Australian Director of Atlantic to see if I was interested in taking on the job of General Manager of the Myanmar Atlantic Co., the first question I raised was: “Do we have to kill the oysters to get at the pearls? You see, as a Buddhist I don’t want to participate in any undertaking that involves the taking of life.” “No! No! No!” he replied, “Rather than killing them, we have to spend practically all our time to ensure that they stay in good health and don’t die on us. When the oysters in the hatcheries have outlived their usefulness we set them free in the ocean to become wild oysters.”

Read the entire interview, and overview of pearl farming in Burma, here. [back to top]

February 2007 Newsletter

Pala International News

Gem and Gemology News

Pala International News

Pala’s Featured Stone: Mozambique Tourmaline

The talk of the town

With everyone talking about paraiba in Tucson, we naturally followed suit with our featured stone this month: a greenish-blue tourmaline, which has a natural copper component that gives it a neon glow.

This Mozambique tourmaline has the “paraiba type” color that was originally made famous by material from Brazil. In general, the Brazilian paraibas are small, included, and unavailable. Luckily the new Mozambique paraibas have a larger size range, are mostly eye clean, and are available—for the time being. Below is a stunning example of how clarity and saturation combine to create a new level for colored stones.

Mozambique Tourmaline photo image
Mozambique tourmaline. Brilliant cut pear shape, 6.73 ct., 14.1 x 10.03 x 7.28 mm. Inventory #14148. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

It’s not very often that something rare and beautiful arrives on the gemstone market. The novelty of these tourmalines was quite apparent at the recent AGTA GemFair in Tucson. Virtually everyone who walked by our booth stopped to take in the view of these emissaries of color. The Mozambique tourmaline is opening up a whole new color palette for gem lovers. This deposit not only has colors reminiscent of Paraiba blue, but also intense greens, lavenders, purples, and everything in between.

Please view the array of colors here. And stay tuned for more on the magnificent Mozambique tourmaline.

Interested? Select inventory #14148 for pricing, email us, or give us a call. [back to top]

Gem and Gemology News

Paraiba Follow-up

Paraiba Tourmaline photo image

Gübelin Lab Provides Clarification of Policies

GGL logo image

Last month we received a clarification from Gübelin Gemmological Laboratories (GGL) concerning its “analytical processes and reporting policies” regarding copper-bearing tourmaline (often referred to as “paraiba”). The clarification came in response to last year’s Gem News articles on how trade groups and gem labs were confronting issues of nomenclature and locality in reports for this variety of gemstone (“Paraiba at Pala” and “Paraiba Follow-up”).

In our article, we highlighted the fact that a sample report from GGL did not specify a locality even though it addresses the issue of multiple sources for copper-bearing tourmaline (on the report’s second page).

In his email to us, Dr. Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director of GGL, explained that if a client so requests, origin can be omitted from reports, per guidelines agreed to by the Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC). (For more on the LMHC’s guidelines, see below.) Dr. Nyfeler stressed, however, that even when origin is omitted on the report, it is GGL policy to determine the origin of every paraiba-type tourmaline it receives.

See Dr. Nyfeler’s complete four-point response here. [back to top]

LMHC Implements Paraiba Report Standardization

LMHC logo image

The Laboratory Manual Harmonisation Committee [LMHC], consisting of reps from seven major gemstone laboratories, has implemented its reporting guidelines regarding “paraíba tourmaline” as of January 15, 2007. Information Sheet #6 clearly states that this variety may be specified as “paraíba” regardless of geographical origin; it does, however, acknowledge the Brazilian derivation of the varietal name. Read more here.

Other LMHC Standardizations

Other reporting guidelines issued or updated recently:

  • Padparadscha Sapphire (Sheet #4, updated December 2006)
  • Emerald – Fissure Filling/Clarity Enhancement (Sheet #5, January 2007)
  • Corundum – Indications of Heating and No Indications of Heating (Sheet #7, January 2007)

[back to top]

GAAJ Research Lab Reports

ID of Heated/Unheated Ruby and Sapphire

Two days ago, the Gemmological Association of All Japan (GAAJ) issued a research laboratory report that outlines the lab’s techniques for identifying heated and unheated status of ruby and sapphire. Discussed in the report are:

  • Standard Tests
    • Magnification (including “control” results of heat treatment)
    • UV Fluorescence
  • Laboratory Tests
    • UV-Visible Range Spectral Analysis
    • Infrared Spectral Analysis (Fourier Transformation Infra-Red; FTIR)
    • Raman Spectroscopic Analysis
    • Laser Tomography
  • Limitations in Identification of Heated/Unheated Status
Laser Tomograph of Ruby photo image
Laser tomograph of ruby. Heated (OH group type, above) and unheated (diaspore type). Heated stone displays very distinct sector boundary. (Photo: GAAJ)

One observation by the GAAJ lab of note is the ability of laser tomography and FTIR to detect low-temperature treatment of Mong-Hsu (Burma) rubies previously characterized by another lab as showing no indication of heating.

Observation by laser tomography has potential for detection of low temperature treatment that is almost at detection limit or even under this with other techniques, and we have been carrying on ceaseless research.

Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC) is working on adjusting words and terms at laboratories in the world at the moment, and trying to prevent different identification results from occurring between laboratories by setting guidelines for detection of heated / unheated status on corundum.

Read the fully illustrated report here. [back to top]

Fracture Filling in Emerald

Gas Bubbles in Emerald photo image
Tiny bubbles... A group of small gas bubbles, indicative of oil filling. (Photo: GAAJ)

Last month, the GAAJ Research Laboratory produced a report on the detection of filling material in emerald, specifically oils and resins. The report discusses:

  • Features Observed Under Magnification
    • Flash Effect
    • Gas Bubbles and Residues
  • Laboratory Tests
    • UV Fluorescence
    • FTIR Spectra Analysis
    • Raman Spectroscopy – see this spectrograph illustrating the great divergence between resin-treated emerald and natural emerald

Read the GAAJ report here. And for a late 20th century (heh-heh) take on the issue of fissure filling in emerald, see Richard W. Hughes’s “Cloak and Dagger: the politics of Opticon.” [back to top]

— End February Newsletter • Published 2/15/07 —

January 2007 Newsletter

Shows and Conferences

Tucson Goes Neon

Tucson Goes Neon title image

Pala International, in partnership with Barker & Co., is proud to announce the second coming of copper-bearing tourmaline from a new source in Mozambique. “Paraiba-type” tourmalines, or “paraiba africanas,” are terms that have been used to describe a new assortment of neon colors that can now be viewed on Palagems.com.

All listed tourmalines will be on display at Pala’s AGTA booth in Tucson this year, along with a larger assortment of sizes, shapes, and never-seen-before colors.

[back to top]

Tucson Time – January 31–February 11, 2007

AGTA Tucson Show graphic image

Make your plans for the world’s greatest gem and mineral show in February. Pala International will be represented, as follows.

Event: AGTA GemFair
When: January 31–February 5, 2007
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Booth: 1016–1018

Event: Westward Look Mineral Show
When: February 2–6, 2007
Where: Westward Look Resort
Suite: 236
Website: Official show website

Event: 52nd Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
When: February 8–11, 2007
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Booth: Aisle 5 East

We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events. [back to top]

Pala International News

Pala’s Featured Stone: Kashmir Sapphire

Naturally Gorgeous...

As the world becomes seemingly smaller and the scope of mining and production of gemstones grows, we are reminded how truly rare some stones from the classic localities have become. Words like Burmese ruby, Colombian emerald, and Kashmir sapphire are commonly used to describe the finest quality, but to find material that is naturally occurring with saturated color and crystalline clarity is far from common.

Kashmir Sapphire photo image
Cushion Kashmir sapphire, 3.30 ct, 7.46 x 7.28 x 6.31 mm. The deep hue of this gemstone is captured against a white background. This stone is no longer available. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)
Kashmir Sapphire photo image
Brilliant! Against a black background the same stone shows its luminous side. Obviously this beauty needs to be seen in person. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

This untreated Kashmir sapphire defines the exception from amongst a seemingly endless supply of commercial quality sapphire. Sapphires are found on most continents but it takes a precise combination of geologic conditions and chemical components to coalesce in the formation of upper echelon gemstones. In other words, this sapphire is rare and naturally gorgeous.

Read more on blue sapphires from the expert, Richard Hughes, at www.palagems.com.

Inclusion photo image
Silk. Needly, cloudlike inclusions, known as silk, are visible under magnification, proof of the absence of heat treatment. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Come see it for yourself in Tucson. [back to top]

Industry News

Pakistan: 2006 – A Year in Review

A year ago, a friend of Pala International told us that, on December 29, 2005, twenty-four miners were killed in the Kohistan region of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. As we reported at the time, the mines in this region are usually abandoned during the winter months. We conjectured that, after the devastation of October 2005’s earthquake, miners might have been desperate enough to brave elements and aftershocks (the probable cause of the avalanche).

This month, we review select developments in Pakistan over the past year. First, a follow-up on the earthquake, then a look at progress on last year’s “new initiative” for gems and jewelry and a gemology school partnership, and finally a visit to the mines.


Kashmir Earthquake – One Year On

Earthquake Epicenter Map image
The epicenter was almost directly between Muzaffarabad and ruby mines of Nangimali near Kel, 50 miles to the northeast (see map), which Vincent Pardieu visited last summer (story below). (Source: BBC)

Despite a massive international aid effort, BBC reported in October 2006 that

about 400,000 people face a second winter without permanent shelter in the mountains and valleys of northern Pakistan, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
  The UN says there are about 35,000 people still living in 45 tent camps and agencies are expecting at least another 20,000 to come down from the hills in the next couple of months before winter, when temperatures can drop to -15C or -20C in the highest villages.

Pakistan Earthquake Aid Vehicle photo image
Three aid vehicles. Above, a Red Cross/Red Crescent aid truck moves along a mountain road. Below, Pakistan lorries carrying aid from the Turkish Red Crescent. (Photos: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, February 2006)
Turkish Red Crescent Aid Vehicles photo image

The Pakistan government, and perhaps even the UN, have put a relatively rosy glow on the rebuilding effort, possibly because numbers of refugees in official camps are relatively low. Others are more critical; an October 2006 story by Sri Lankan journalist Vilani Peiris quotes an Oxfam report of October 4:

[T]he progress of recovery has been patchy, and the pace of construction of housing and infrastructure has been slow. At least 1.8 million people have not begun rebuilding their homes; most of them are in makeshift shelters that offer limited protection against the coming cold.

Peiris also offers a statistic from Saima Ghazal, a surveyor with the International Organization for Migration: “90 percent of people in the Neelum Valley were still living in tents.”


Progress on the Gem and Jewelry “New Initiative”

Natural Emerald Ring photo image
A 0.76-ct. natural emerald from Pakistan is the centerpiece for this open work ring, available from The Collector Fine Jewelry. Government initiatives strive for more such jewelry to be fashioned in-country. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Last March, our correspondent in Pakistan alerted us to a new government initiative to boost Pakistan’s gem and jewelry exports. As late as October, however, according to the Daily Times, the government was still “working to finalize a... strategy under which it is targeting to double the exports of gems and jewellery in one year and to increase the volume of export to $500 million in five years from the existing $25 million.” Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Federal Minister for Industries and Production Jehangir Khan Teareen announced the following milestones and trajectories:

  • Establishment of the Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Centre. (According to Rapaport, this was developed “after a two-year working group delegation studied best practices used in other major trading centers. The group’s project leader, Ambarine Bukharey, and a delegation visited the United States in 2005 in time for the JCK Las Vegas Show and to meet with New York industry leaders in July that year.” See also this profile of Bukharey for more detail on the working group)
  • Approval of a geological survey “to quantify the existing deposits and identify potential mining locations,” to be conducted by the ministry of industries and production
  • Establishment of “gem testing and certification labs at gem trade hubs of Giligit, Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi”
  • Creation of “training facility and manufacturing centres to upgrade technology and processes... in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Northern Areas”
  • Efforts toward “establish[ing] Pakistani products as a brand in world market”


Gem and Jewelry Exports in a Free Fall

Trade Chart Thumbnail image
Trade decline. This chart illustrates how desperately the gem trade is in need of a boost.

As of 2002-03, Pakistan’s gem exports were valued at $1.9 million, with jewelry at $21.2 million (Daily Times). The latest Export Promotion Bureau presentation, however, shows that gems and jewelry exports have actually been dropping since 2001, from $28.5 million (2001–02) to $17.4 million in FY2005-06.

Pakistan obviously would like to cash in on the projected increase in demand for jewelry projected by its neighbors, India and China (see “India and China Jewelry Demand to Surge” in this issue). Its trade with China has remained flat over the last two years, but trade with India has increased from 1.53 to 5.85 percent of total exports, according to a Federal Bureau of Statistics report (this is a small slow-loading PDF).


Pakistan Gemological Institute Partners with AIGS

Lapidary Demonstration photo image
German Ambassador Dr. Christoph Brummer (in suit) receives lapidary demonstration at GGIP, July 2002.

Last June, the Gems & Gemological Institute of Pakistan (GGIP) announced a partnership with the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) “that will enable the GGIP to become a world-class gemological institute,” according to a press release from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The USAID is funding the AIGS to assist with the new partnership under the Pakistan Initiative for Strategic Development and Competitiveness (PISDAC).” PISDAC, part of a five-year, $1.5-billion USAID assistance package, is managed by J.E. Austin Associates.

Under the agreement,

GGIP will be able to offer all courses currently available at AIGS/Bangkok with certificates and diplomas provided through the newly formed AIGS/Pakistan. These certificates and diplomas will be internationally recognized and will be based on completion of coursework meeting AIGS standards.
  The relationship between GGIP and AIGS began due to the successful participation of the sector strategy working group under the Gems and Jewelry Pakistan brand in the Bangkok Gems and Jewelry fair in September 2005 where Pakistani companies received more than $4 million in orders.

A November 2005 Daily Times article about PISDAC stated that

[t]he project has also led to significant policy reforms within the industry because of an effective public-private partnership. Some of the reforms have made the gems and jewellery sector an industry rather than a retail-enterprise and resulted in elimination of sales tax and custom duty on import of machinery and equipment used for gem mining and extraction and processing of gems and jewellery.

Presumably that equipment comes from the United States. According to Vincent Pardieu of the AIGS lab, as of August 2006,

sadly it was still not clear if foreigners would be allowed to study in the future at the GGIP. Nevertheless studying both gemology and gem cutting in a traditional trading center like Peshawar is in my opinion one of the best choice for a young person willing to discover the fascinating universe of the gem trade.


Ruby Mining in Nangimali

Even in warmer months, landslides can be a problem, as Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences lab director Vincent Pardieu describes during his Summer 2006 field trip. In August, he visited the Nangimali ruby mining area in Azad Kashmir, near Kel (see map) in the Neelum River valley, and only was able to take cars from landslide to landslide—five in all. He credits the 2005 earthquake for the instability of the terrain.

Ruby in Marble Matrix photo image
Ruby in from the marble cliff known as Chitakata, where mining began mid-Summer 2006. (Photo: FieldGemology.org)

A government website (May 2005) claims that the Nangimali area has potential deposits of 24,900 million grams. The deposit, at 4,400 meters (14,400 ft.), is claimed to be the highest ruby deposit in the world. The website states that the material compares favorably with Burmese ruby.

According to an international specialist, Mr. C.R. Beesley, President of American Gemological Labs & GEMCORE, who conducted a detailed study of these gems for the United Nation Mineral Development Branch, like the sapphires of Kashmir, reveals that the majority of these new rubies have distinctive characteristics which uniquely identify them as “Kashmir.”

One mine Pardieu visited there, below the main mines (in Chitakata, near Utili Domel, alt. 2,941 m.), was said to have yielded “19 kilos of ruby... during the last 25 working days.” Ironically, Pardieu says that test tunnels “for more than 3 years produced only very few low quality stones.” But Pardieu saw “production of attractive pinkish red stones lacking... transparency to be top quality but could be possibly a suitable material for heat treatment.”

Pardieu also visited mines at higher elevations. The topmost mine (Nangimali Top, alt. 4,400 m.) was not currently in production.

Few years ago up to 50 miners were nevertheless working at Nangimali Top but the best stones were told us to have been produced at “Lower Khora.” This mine has the same name as the alluvial mine located several hundreds meters under.

A visit to Lower Khora (an open pit mine in 1994) revealed a “ruby bearing layer was extending at least 150 meters inside the cliff....” Pardieu was told by the mine director produced “3 to 5 clean top quality crystals over one carat per week.” The working season is traditionally three-and-a-half months per year.

Pardieu saw very little material from this area in the Namak Mandi gemstone market of Peshawar.


Emerald Mining in Mingora

Earlier last summer, Pardieu visited an emerald mine near Mingora, in the old princedom of Swat, in central North West Frontier Province. Mining there, while temporarily suspended, was conducted by open pit and tunnel. In the Mingora and Peshawar markets visited by Pardieu, it was said that the largest cut emerald of fine quality from the region was 5 ct., whereas most stones were under 1 ct. Emeralds have been linked to this area dating back as far as the Gallo-Roman era, according to Scientific American.

Emerald Specimen photo image
Emerald specimen from Swat, Pakistan. This excellent cluster of emeralds (17 x 14 mm) on matrix exhibits euhedral crystals, lustrous faces, and a pure bright-green hue. This specimen is part of a larger collection that includes all types of beryls from all major deposits around the world. The beryl collection, along with other complete species collections, is on display at Pala International headquarters. See a future issue of our Mineral News for developments on Pala’s mineral collections. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

[back to top]

India and China Jewelry Demand to Surge

Jewelry Modeled in New Delhi photo image
A model displays jewelry during a fashion show in New Delhi last fall. (Photo: Reuters/Kamal Kishore)

India and China together will rival the U.S. jewelry market by 2015, according to an industry report released last month. In the study, prepared by the accounting firm KPMG for India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council, the following projections were made.

  • Global jewelry sales will grow at 4.6 percent year-on-year to touch $185 billion in 2010 and $230 billion in 2015
  • India and China together will emerge as a market equivalent to U.S. market by 2015
    • Currently, the U.S. is at 31%, with India at 8.3%, China at 8.9%
  • With collective action, the industry has the potential to grow to $280 billion by 2015 at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 6.7%
  • India’s share of the diamond processing industry pie will drop from 57 percent today to around 49 percent (in value terms) by 2015
  • China will emerge as a strong player with 21.3 percent of the diamond processing share by 2015
  • Gold and diamond jewelry will continue to dominate the market together, accounting for about 82 percent
  • Luxury goods sales will outpace jewelry sales

One “key scenario... likely to impact the industry” is the development by mining countries of their own manufacturing and polishing industries, such as in Pakistan and Burma, as we’ve been reporting. [back to top]

— End January Newsletter • Published 1/16/07 —

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Note: Palagems.com selects much of its material in the interest of fostering a stimulating discourse on the topics of gems, gemology, and the gemstone industry. Therefore the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those held by the proprietors of Palagems.com. We welcome your feedback.