Archive for April, 2007

The United Nations today, removed the “blood diamond” label from Liberia, in recognition of the Kimberley Process. The Liberian president admits to using diamonds in the past for years to fund wars. Liberian rough diamonds were banned in the gem trade since 2001, along with Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guinea. “Blood diamonds”, or conflict diamonds, in 2001 constituted for more than 4% of all diamond sales worldwide, which translates to hundreds of millions of dollars per year in sales. Today, due to the U.N. Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds constitute less than 1% of sales annually. A more detailed report can be found on CNN.

Rough Diamonds from Sierra Leone.

Read Full Post »

Last week on Palmetto Gemology, I began to establish a working foundation from which to further build this series. I hope that I have made it easier to understand how appraisals can vary so much due to the room for human error or differences of opinions.

This week I would like to focus on explaining what a customer or gem owner should expect from the process. Perhaps John and Laura Ramsey (husband and wife, and both are world renowned in the field), have said it best. Their perspective is that the consumer expects that “an appraisal, is an appraisal”, due to our culture which is rich in assembly line products and leads to an assembly line mentality when it comes to valuations.

The reality of this is of course, that no two stones are the same, as nature did not roll them off an an assembly line. This leads to the next obvious problem. Any local jeweler (or anyone for that matter), can give an “appraisal”. Simply because someone is a jeweler is not merit enough to take their word as gospel, as their guidelines by which they assessed the stone are unknown (the Billy Bob Gem Lab routine). If the consumer or gem owner chooses a gemological laboratory such as GIA, EGL, or AGTA, they gain a peace of mind in knowing that there is a standard and rigorous process that is followed each and every time a stone is submitted to one of these facilities. In maintaining strict protocols both in grading and in ethical standards, a “cert” from one of these institutions is regarded as an accepted and true analysis (whereas no one cares about the Billy Bob Gem Lab). From a consumer end, this helps to alleviate anxieties over how their stone will be graded.

I hope this helps in creating an understanding from the customer/owner’s end of the process. In a couple days I will begin explaining the process from the appraiser’s end, and then later in the week we will finally be ready to start getting to the meat of… what IS an appraisal. It may seem like this is being dragged out, but in order to understand what it is, we have to first examine preconceived notions and perspectives.

Read Full Post »

Wow, what a touchy subject… the valuation process of what a gem is actually worth right? Think again… The term appraisal means different things to different people, depending on their perspective to a particular matter at hand. There are three contestants in the game of appraising gemstones: the appraiser, the owner of the gem, and of course the gem itself. The gem itself is the only one of the three that does not change, and is not subject to varying opinions. The gem’s physical properties are all objective and factual in nature. Biases, differing opinions, and even more complex issues may affect an appraisal. Gem owners tend to focus on the “value” of a gemstone (yet another term that people use that they do not understand the meaning of). We will address the misunderstood issue of “value” later in this mini-series.

Let us first address the issue from the perspective of the gem in question. For this example I’ll use a round cut diamond… D, VVS2, 1.12 cts, 6.50mm x 6.44mm x 3.98mm, no florescence, thin faceted girdle… sure, we all know the deal, and we’ve already come to a preliminary mental judgement on the stone (yes you have). Stop… by allowing preliminary judgements on the stone, you have affected your scotoma in either a positive or negative manner. To arrive at any preliminary judgement at this juncture is counterproductive to what we’re trying to establish. The color, clarity, dimensions and other attributes do not change. It is what it is. In this particular case the grader felt that the diamond was of ultimate and perfect white color (a subjective grade depending on who grades it). For instance, if 100 graders had a stone in front of them (GIA D in color), would they all grade the stone identically (we would hope so), but this shows the room for human error right off the bat. Moving onto a more complex issue… Clarity… we have assumed the stone in question is a GIA VVS2 (the number of inclusions in the stone doesn’t change) … yet how many GIA graders (*ahem* don’t fail me for the sarcasm) , would vary on the grade of a single stone if it was passed around (again out of 100 graders). …What do they call the person who finishes last in medical school? He/she is still a doctor. Likewise, with the gemology field, they’re still a gemologist. I hope this provides food for thought and creates a foundation for what I hope to accomplish in this mini-series.

Read Full Post »

From my personal perspective HPHT is a four letter word. The acronym HPHT stands for High Pressure – High Temperature, and refers to an artificial process that some diamonds are subjected to in order to “reinstate their natural beauty”. Certain companies such as General Electric, have found an efficient process of turning natural Type IIA diamonds (no nitrogen present in the crystal lattice), that happen to have undergone turbulence or irregular pressure on their journey through volcanic pipes on their way to the earth’s surface, into colorless, pink, or even blue diamonds. Type IIA diamonds are the most rare diamond type, accounting for less than 2% of all diamonds mined. Originally, prior to HPHT treatment, these stones were mostly an undesirable yellowish brown color. HPHT can also turn Type IA diamonds (the most common diamond type), into green, yellow-green, or yellow diamonds after the process is complete. In a quick synopsis, HPHT subjects gemological imperfect diamonds to an ideal high pressure and high temperature setting that they never received in nature. This is the basis for a “controversy” between businesses who perform the process, the FTC, consumers, and oh yeah… gemologists. Thankfully the FTC has declared that any diamond subjected to HPHT has to have the process disclosed to the consumer. Unfortunately, this serves as little more than another platform to confuse most consumers on, since most consumers are not gemologists. Consumers tend to buy off of aesthetic appeal and emotion based decisions. Even informed consumers may not know a diamond has been subjected to the HPHT process, because the process is difficult to detect without costly equipment and proper training. Many seasoned gemologists have been deceived by HPHT (or have been intentionally set up by the GIA for training purposes *smile*). The bottom line, both personally, and from a gemology perspective, is that any stone that has been subjected to any artificial process – regardless of whether that process mimicks nature or not – is that the process should be disclosed to the consumer. The GIA has dedicated its time, finances, and efforts to not only detecting HPHT diamonds and noting them as such, but also to increasing awareness to consumers – and gemologists worldwide. It’s still a treated stone stupid… period.

Courtesy of Argyle Diamonds

Argyle’s natural rough diamonds are sorted at its Perth office where they are prepared for international sale by Rio Tinto Diamonds as an agent for Argyle Diamonds in Antwerp Belgium.


Read Full Post »

In the 76 year history of the Gemological Institute of America, it has never before certified the origin of any gemstone. The folks at GIA now offer origin reports on emeralds submitted to the process. The primary focus of the process, is to make the distinction in the market between emeralds originating from Colombia, and those of all other locations (i.e. – Brazil, Zambia). An extra fine quality Colombian emerald is valued exponentially higher than an emerald of equal quality from say… Zambia. The difference between $25,000+ per carat and $2,000 per carat can come down to solely origin.

Many at GIA agree that this is an unfair step, because it intentionally sets emeralds apart from other gemstones by focusing on their origins, and not the origins of other stones, simply out of concern for monetary value. It can only be safe to assume that corundum (varieties – sapphire and ruby) will be next on the list to certify origin for the same monetary value reasoning (Burmese ruby vs. Kanchanaburi ruby). GIA has confirmed it will be adding certifications of origin for other varieties throughout 2007. Scanning Google on the topic, I came up with a story on http://www.colored-stone.com which can be found here.

GIA Report of Emerald Origin

Read Full Post »

In September of 2003, around the timeframe of the ratification of the Kimberly Process by the United Nations, Wired Magazine (article is found here) decided to properly cover a blossoming area of the gemological field: lab created diamonds. They are not similar to diamonds… they are diamonds, both chemically and physically. Historically, Russian scientists have had the technology to produce gem quality diamonds, but never reliably or on any sort of a large scale operation. In fact General Electric produced diamonds decades ago for industrial purposes mostly, but the stones were always small (around 1/2 – 1 carat). That has now changed. Today everyone is getting in on the action – from the United States Navy Research Lab, to start up companies Gemesis and Apollo Diamonds, and they are producing large diamonds predictably and efficiently. The biggest use for lab created diamonds at this juncture in time seems to be not in the gem realm, but rather in the semiconductor world.

It is interesting to note how the leaders of both companies received personal messages people assuredly sent by DeBeers, stating that progressing with lab diamond technology is a perfect way to get a bullet in the head. At this time the ink on the Kimberly Process ratification was barely dry, DeBeers had already been publicly shamed – yet they were continuing with their typical show of force in a war that they know they are losing ground.

A little over 3 years after this story, it appears that the demand for lab created diamonds in the jewelry realm is very minimal. I regard this as a good thing, as it is easy to reproduce many gems that occur in nature and that are valuable, with great ease and relatively low cost. To the credit of many of these lab created gems, they are beautiful – even capturing inclusions and imperfections that would occur in nature, in the lab stone; but nothing compares to the beauty of something that took millions and millions of years to form, instead of something that took 3 days to whip up in a clean room.

Faceted lab created yellow diamonds from Gemesis — Identical chemically and physically to stones of natural origin.

Read Full Post »