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May – August 2015

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And many more… Pala International celebrates its 46th birthday on June 26. We're truly grateful to each and every one of our customers. You keep us inspired!

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Mineral & Gem à Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines:
June 25–28, 2015

We've added some new information since our last newsletter…

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines image

The 52nd Sainte-Marie show will be held June 25–28, with the first two days limited to trade only. This year, Bill and Will Larson will attend the show along with spouses Jeanne and Rika Larson. Friend and fellow gem dealer Mark Kaufman also will be in the party. They will be meeting up with Patrick and Pia Dreher. (See this Ganoksin.com blog entry by Robyn Hawk regarding Patrick Dreher's recent appearance at GIA.)

The 112-year-old swimming pool building is the site of a display of rare minerals and fossils by ten renown collectors and dealers. Lectures also take place there. We're delighted to see our old friend Eloïse Gaillou, who has relocated to Paris, and who will speak on her subjects of expertise.

A symposium in English will be held in the Mine d'Argent (200 meters from the Gem Zone) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The themes:

  • Eloïse Gaillou, associate curator of the Musée Mines ParisTech (School of Mines): On the Importance of Mineralogy Museums: Display and Collections
  • Jolyon Ralph, Mindat.org: Mineral Collection Cataloguing in the 21st Century
  • Victor Tuzlukov, lapidary: What Good Gem Cutting Is and Why It's Worse Than Exclusive
  • The Amber of Kaliningrad: presented by the Musée de l'Ambre de Kaliningrad (in conjunction with the exhibition Baltic Stone of the Sun)

Lectures also will include the following (note that only the first lecture will be delivered in English as well as French).

  • Victor Tuzlukov, lapidary: Philosopher's Stone – When Wisdom Sparkles in the Precious Stone (in conjunction with his curation of Lapis Philosophorum)
  • Yellow Amber: presented by the Musée de l'Ambre de Kaliningrad (in conjunction with the exhibition Baltic Stone of the Sun)
  • Michel Boudard, gemologist: A Look at Gemology, specifically the intersection between stones of greater carat weight and the treatments that may lurk within; an aid to the prospective buyer
  • Jean-Jacques Chevallier, lecturer: Geological History of the Earth ("The study of the infinitely small explains the infinitely large)
  • Eloïse Gaillou, associate curator of the Musée Mines ParisTech (School of Mines): Treatment and the Synthesis of Diamond
  • Jean-Christian Goujou, lecturer: The Minerals of Metamorphism
  • Alain Carion, lecturer: Meteorites and Their Impacts

In addition to the above-referenced exhibitions, the following also will be presented.

  • Exhibition of the INETPhoto Contest: an international competition for photographs and graphic art about Mineralogy and Micro-mineralogy
  • Minerals and Paintings: an exhibition curated by Jörg Thomas and Andrée Roth
  • Jewelry – Silver Arsenic: Remarkably, this exhibition will take place in situ—along the vein of the Gabe Gottes silver mine, 6 km away from the Sainte-Marie show's Mineral Zone
  • The Staurolites of Russia: an exhibition of "cross-stones" curated by Jean-Claude Leydet

New in 2015: The Sainte-Marie show continues to cater to the colored gemstone lover this year with Le Pôle Aalberg, an addition to the show's Gem Zone, featuring the full range of creation, luxury and fashion.

  • Le Swanky Area: bijouterie et joaillerie and designers both traditional and contemporary
  • Le Trendy Corner: fantasy designs and fashion accessories
  • Le Gem Fashion Show: a scripted jewelry presentation offering "unusual perspectives in response to hidden desires." Ooh la la!

Finally, our good friend and mineral dealer Alain Martaud curates The Prestige Exhibition. Entitled simply, Alpes, the display will pay homage to the mineralogical bounty of the 1000-km arc of mountains that stretches from north of Corsica to Austria and Slovenia. Among the Alpine varieties coveted by collectors: epidot, garnet, fluorite, emerald, quartz and gold. Specimens to be displayed will be loaned from local and national museums, as well as collectors both prominent and obscure. Pala International has a magnificent old classic double quartz from Switzerland in the display.

Book cover image
Alain Martaud, curator of this year's L'Exposition Prestige, also is the author of the trilingual volume, The Minerals of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The book is available from the show's online store.

[back to top]

Pala at JA New York Summer Show
July 26–28, 2015

JA NY image

Pala International heads to the East Coast later this summer for the trade-only JA New York Summer Show. Stop by to see one of America's largest selections of fine colored gems.

See this list of seminars to be held at the show.

When: July 26–July 28, 2015
Where: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
   Sunday, July 26: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
   Monday, July 27: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
   Tuesday, July 28: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Pala International is in booth 2573. See the JANY website for more information. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events. [back to top]

Capture the Magic

Lapis Lazzuli title image
The pyrite veins so often found in lapis lazuli could inspire the artist's and craftsman's palette, as demonstrated above. Artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman had a special affinity for the color blue; it was the title of his final film, the text for which was adapted from his meditation on the hue in Chroma: A Book of Color (1994). "Blue and gold are eternally united," he wrote.

Summer in Florence, Italy is charming. Sure, the city is crowded with tourists, but the medieval-walled city center is a pedestrian paradise, with plazas for lounging in the heat, fountains, gelaterias and caffès to refresh the spirit, and a landmark around every corner.

Take, for instance, the Ponte Vecchio, that spans the Arno River. More than a bridge, it is home to the shops of jewelers and art dealers. Likely having a Roman origin that is lost to history, the Ponte was wiped out by floods in the 12th and 14th centuries, being rebuilt in 1345 perhaps by Taddeo Gaddi, a contemporary of Giotto. The latter artist designed the campanile, or bell tower, next to Il Duomo, the city's cathedral (the dome of which is a celebrated architectural feat). This was the Italian Renaissance after all, and Florence was its culla, or cradle.

Two centuries later, the Medici monarch, Cosimo I, second Duke of Florence, commissioned construction of an elevated passageway above the Ponte Vecchio that would connect his domicile (Palazzo Pitti) with the city's town hall (Palazzo Vecchio). Considerably more elaborate than the Pope-mobile, it served the same purpose: to protect the ruler from the public. On its way from palace to palace, the passageway, known as the Vasari Corridor after its designer, virtually passes through the Church of Saint Felicity, handily allowing the Medici family to attend services—again, without being seen.

On the Arno's north side, the Corridor enters the famous Uffizi Gallery, the building of which was initiated for Cosimo by Giorgio Vasari in 1560, four years before Vasari created the Corridor. But the Uffizi is not the only art venue in the passageway's network. Cosimo's residence, the Palazzo Pitti, now houses the largest complex of museums in the city. Among these is the Museo degli Argenti (Silver Museum), also known as the Medici Treasury.

Display Case photo image
The Palazzo Pitti's Summer Apartments, now the Silver Museum, were decorated beginning in 1635 by Medici monarch Cosimo I's descendant Ferdinando II. Frescoes include those commissioned to artist Giovanni da San Giovanni. It's the perfect setting for a royal display of lapis lazuli. (Photo: S. Tavernier)

Visitors to the Treasury this summer will have the opportunity to take in an exhibition originated by Pala International's good friend Gian Carlo Parodi, of the Muséum national d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. With "Lapislazzuli. Magia del blu" (Lapis Lazuli. Magic Blue) Parodi brings his expertise as a mineralogist to a diverse display—from archaeological finds of the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia and Egypt (7000 to 1500 BCE) all the way to the stone's 20th century simulacrum—artist Yves Klein's own International Klein Blue pigment, which he employed in both paintings and his Anthropométries, whereby naked models became living paintbrushes.

Sculpture photo image
Clothed. Sorry to disappoint, but this is not one of Yves Klein's naked paintbrushes. Victoire de Samothrace (1962 IKB pigment and resin on plaster, edition of 175) is Klein's homage to the famous Hellenistic original that stands on a landing of the Louvre's Daru staircase. (Photo: S. Tavernier)

The allure of azure was especially acute in Florence, and the Medici amassed their own collection of lapis lazuli. From the exhibition website:

In the Renaissance, the preciousness of the material was particularly popular in Florence. The Medici court assembled one of the most spectacular collections of objects in lapis lazuli of Europe; not only goblets, vases and amphorae, but also inlaid furniture, table tops and products made in the workshops founded by Francis I in the Casino di San Marco and laboratories established by Ferdinand I in the Uffizi complex, until the decline of the dynasty.

These objects are beautifully represented in this exhibition, including a chessboard of alternating solid- and mottled-blue squares. But the above description is a bit modest. The lapis collection, initiated by Cosimo I in the mid 16th century, is the only one of its kind in the world.

Display Case photo image
Not dishwasher safe. In the foreground is a two-handled amphora thought to have been crafted in the grand ducal workshops of the Medici during the third quarter of the 16th century. The ewer (1577–1578) that stands to the right is attributed to Hans Domes, from those same workshops. These are from the collection of the Silver Mseum. (Photo: S. Tavernier)

Examples of lapis's use in painting are included in a section of "Magia del blu." Pulverized lapis lazuli was used as pigment from ancient times, and was known as ultramarine—"beyond the sea"—due to its importation into Italy from its source in Afghanistan. An artist without properly crafted pigments was a singer without a song, and so, back in the day, the artist's apprentice would begin his training with the preparation of paint. In the case of ultramarine, according to Wikipedia, inferior lapis when crushed would yield only a "pale grayish blue." It was artist Cennino Cennini (a student of Agnolo Gaddi, son of Ponte Vecchio's disputed architect), who literally wrote the book on the subject, Il Libro dell'Arte. In it he describes the method of turning lackluster lapis into brilliant ultramarine, a process using wax, resins, oils and lye. Crafting homemade limoncello might have been more simple….

Portrait photo image
Blues Brother? Portrait of Monsignor Ottaviano Prati by Giovan Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (1609–1685), although we must say it looks a lot like Gian Carlo Parodi, below… Sassoferrato is perhaps best known for his The Virgin in Prayer. Prati's apparently reversible vestment, above, if it indeed was employed for liturgical purposes, makes good use of a single garment. But, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, since the time of Pope Pius V (1504–1566) blue was used only in Spain. Nonetheless, Sassoferrato's red, white and blue recall the colors of the above-referenced Virgin; both paintings are said to have been completed in about 1650. That's an awful lot of lapis lazuli. (Portrait: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, Rome; Photo: S. Tavernier)
Gian Carlo Parodi photo image
Gian Carlo Parodi, above, is credited with the ideazione (ideation) and synopsis of the exhibition as well as its co-curation. (Photo: S. Tavernier)

The exhibition opened last week on June 9 and runs through October 11, 2015. Cattura la magia! [back to top]

Pala International News

Our featured stones for this month hail from the Kladovka Mine in the Ural Mountains of Russia. These stunning demantoids were mined in 2004 but only recently cut by master Marty Key. The 2.57-carat round is the finest green of this material's production.

Demantoid Suite photo image
Russian quintette. From back left, 1.56-ct trillion, 2.57-ct round, 1.72-ct cushion, 0.76-ct pear shape, and in front a 1.63-ct round. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Mia Dixon)
Miners photo image
The thinkers. Mining demantoid is back-breaking work—at least for some. These miners are working the Kladovka Mine in the mid 2004. (Photo: Bill Larson)
Carl Larson photo image
Finders keepers? Will Larson, left, in 1997 at the Karkodino Mine. He was finding demantoid garnets alongside Russian miners. (Photo: Bill Larson)
Demantoid photo image
Peek-a-boo. A green demantoid emerges from its matrix. From the Kladovka Mine, 2004. (Photo: Bill Larson)

For more on demantoid garnet, see "Reds Turn to Green: Russia's Stunning Demantoid Discovery" on Palagems.com.

Interested? Call (phone numbers below) or email us to inquire. [back to top]

Big in Japan

Japanese television caught up with Pala International's Bill Larson at the recently concluded AGTA GemFair in Las Vegas. Bill shared with the audience how in the summer of 2002 he was on the cutting edge of demantoid mining in Russia's Ural Mountains.

Bill Larson photo image
Pala goes international. Bill Larson displays demantoid garnet for the camera of Uruwashi no Houseki Monogatari (Beautiful Story of Gemstones). (Photo: Rika Larson)

[back to top]

Gems and Gemology News

Natural Pearls

It's been a while since Pala International got wind of a fresh academic take on a nearly forgotten question: Why do nearly all mollusks make pearls naturally, and how? A first paper on the subject currently is in press at Key Engineering Materials, part of a hefty proceedings volume concluding a four-year EU research program, Biomineralix. But we have the abstract, which we're happy to share.

Natural Pearls

Ana Vasiliu, 2015, Key Engineering Materials (KEM), in press

Abstract. A literature less traveled—peaking between 1900–1920—draws on pre-classical concepts of crystal growth and a trove of field biology, to understand ectopic shell production, the natural source of pearls. By 1907, grafts from the calcifying mantle epithelium on gonads induced nacre mineralization in Pinctada margaritifera, suggesting that displaced, readily specialized cells are at least sufficient cause of natural pearls. Otherwise, the epithelial sacks wrapping natural nacreous pearls must specialize for nacre production independently from the shell producing mantle. At the time, chasing epithelial cell migration was technically unfeasible, signaling was news, stemness was fiction. Boldly, Jameson & Rubbel [1902–1912] marshaled natural pearl nuclei and shell repairs as mineral records of cells specializing de novo into the shell's secretory regimes. Much of this paper reenacts the historic debate on the origin of pearls: thence bold ideas connect smoothly with new work on bone or shell. I revisit Jameson's choice of samples and proposal to search for an "agency [other than the] shell-secreting mechanism" acting on "replacement cells," as the origin of pearls. Much has changed: both migrating specialized cells and undifferentiated ones are reported possibilities. Replicating Jameson's choice of samples, I describe structural changes in pearls associated with two instances of cell specialization: in the event of natural pearl nucleation, or switching shell materials in later pearl growth. Clusters of cells producing novel mineralization—nacre over fibrous-prismatic aragonite—were singled out next to natural pearls by Jameson. Natural pearl nucleation as a cellular event has never been explored.

With a note from the author: Please never mind the lingo—it gets worse in the paper! It is a bit of a pity that a great story of some decades worth of old school debate is still buried in rarely read academic sources—well worth a book. There was all the furor of a gold rush toward a practical procedure for pearl culture that birthed the current industry. Yet, many spectacularly more successful ideas in the life sciences were welcome on this exotic subject of natural pearls, earlier than anywhere else. The feel of tough, vastly open academic wilderness remains.

Inasmuch, more work is underway; I am calling for samples of natural pearls barely emerging like these:

Mussel With Pearls photo image
A Californian blue mussel bearing thousands of new natural pearl nuclei. (Photo courtesy of David LeBlanc, Lagoon Island Pearls)
Mussel With Pearls photo image
It is a matter of debate what are the odds that any of such flurries of minute new pearls will ever grow into a great one. My best bet for the time being: virtually none. (Photo courtesy of David LeBlanc, Lagoon Island Pearls)

A call for interesting samples remains perpetually open.
 

Interested parties can contact Pala International. [back to top]

Industry News

Hatton Garden Thieves Nabbed

Last Easter, thieves took their time in relieving a London vault of millions of pounds (sterling) of jewels, as we noted in April. On May 19, the Guardian and other media outlets reported that Scotland Yard had deployed more than 200 officers to arrest nine suspects in the case. All are British citizens. Quite a bit of the loot appears to have been recovered.

Video still image
This image was chosen by the Guardian to illustrate the video of a press conference announcing the apprehension of the Hatton Garden thieves. It shows the thickness of the vault's walls, through which the thieves bored.

[back to top]

Burma Bits

Jade Jitters

A two-year slump in jade prices continues, according to a May 26 story by Myanmar Times. A reporter talked with traders in Mandalay's Maha Aung Myay jade market. Some traders are holding back stock to prevent a loss. Two events that usually boost sales—Chinese New Year and Thingyan (Burma's New Year Water Festival)—have failed to do so. When a sale is made, it's 25 percent down from previous years.

This contrasts with prices in Hpakant, the jade-producing area of Kachin State. Prices for fine jade there are high, the article said. But at the same time, a Parliament member from Kachin is calling for an overhaul of mining in Hpakant, according to The Irrawaddy, May 20. In order to prevent environmental damage, the MP, Hkyet Hting Nan, said that a government takeover of the mines may be in order. Restrictions, he said, were avoided before, since it's only been two months since mining resumed. Soil from mining and even from road wear exacerbates swollen rivers, causing flooding.

Heavy rain caused a landslide in Mogok's rubyland on June 2, killing four people, as reported by The Irrawaddy June 4.

Kachin also has had an armed conflict to deal with. For the fourth anniversary of the present conflict this month, The Irrawaddy published a timeline that begins in 1947. Drug use also has plagued the area, and The Irrawaddy profiled a "tough love" faith-based rehab clinic at which addicts must stop their use cold turkey.

Bite-Sized Bits

Money Counting photo image
Lots of kyats. A successful auction had taken place during Pala International's Bill Larson's 2013 visit to Burma. Note the automated money counter (next to masked man). The bid was 700 million kyats in a country where the largest bills are 10 thousand. That’s at least 7,000 bills to count! ~950 kyat = $1.00. This image illustrates why some people would prefer trade in dollars. (Photo: Bill Larson)

[back to top]

Pala Presents

With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the library of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who shares with us some of the wealth of information in the realm of gems and gemology.

On the Corundum Stone from Asia

Greville portrait image
A portrait of Charles Greville by George Romney

Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809) was, amongst other pursuits, a collector of minerals and precious stones. His collection eventually was purchased for the British Museum. As a fellow of the Royal Society, it was he who sponsored his friend James Smithson for membership. He was Lord of the Treasury as well as Treasurer and Vice-Chamberlain of the Household for George III. Inhabitants of Milford Haven in South Wales will recall Greville as having developed their seaport after it was established by his maternal uncle, Sir William Hamilton. He had a penchant for plants, especially of the rare and tropical sort.

In 1798, Greville wrote "On the Corundum Stone from Asia." In this detailed, 47-page treatise, Greville recounts how the engraver William Berry had been given a box of crystals by way of a Dr. Anderson of Madras, India. The idea was that the engraver might find them useful, but the intricacy of his work required diamond, so the box was set aside. A Dr. Black recognized the crystals as adamantine spar. The material was further IDed, by Greville's friend Colonel Cathcart, as Indian corundum. Cathcart sent more samples from Anderson to Greville, who in turn distributed them to others for analysis.

In his own study, Greville consulted the existing literature, finding it "unsatisfactory," and from there his treatise goes on. And on. And on. Once again, those with attention deficiency will approach with some trepidation a 166-word sentence like the following, which actually can be read as a joke.

Having mentioned the varieties of crystallized and amorphous Corundum, and the miscellaneous facts relative to my collection of that substance from India and China, it might be sufficient to give an icon of the crystal, and close a paper already prolix; but, having with satisfaction observed, within the last years, the science of mineralogy gaining ground in Great Britain, from the knowledge acquired by several gentlemen who have examined the mines, and formed personal acquaintance with the most experienced and learned men on the Continent, and also from ingenious foreigners, who have communicated their observations on English fossils, and connected them with the most approved systems, it may perhaps be accepted as a sufficient apology for what follows, that I consider it as a desideratum to English mineralogists, to be invited to a preference of permanent characters, which the study of crystallization has collected, and which promises to be a certain method of ascertaining the laws by which elective attraction arranges and combines molecules of matter.

Yes, it might be sufficient, but humor the Right Honorable Mr. Greville, and read on.

Figures
Figures of crystal models from Charles Greville's treatise on corundum.

[back to top]

Recycle Bin

The following article appeared this month in our sibling e-publication, Pala Mineralis.

Whetting the Appetite for Color of a Subtle Sort

Rocks & Minerals cover image

The current edition of Rocks & Minerals (90:3 [May/June 2015]) includes an article of interest to both mineral and gemstone enthusiasts. "Gem Apatite Localities" is contributed by photographer Mark Mauthner and curator Terri Ottaway. Both know their way around the subject; Mauthner is a former curator at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA); Ottaway is the current curator of the GIA Museum in Carlsbad, California.

Their survey of gem apatite localities is taken from existing gemological literature. It also relies on locality data from the GIA Museum's collection, which now includes the Edward J. Gübelin collection, which we pointed to in last month's sibling publication. Reading the article, you can compare data on some of the individual faceted apatites from the Gübelin collection—those included in the article as well as others—at the GIA Gem Project.

Apatite photo image
Yum. Apatite is nicely priced for stones in bigger sizes. Above, a natural blue rhomboid cushion from Madagascar, 3.06 ct, Inv. #20428. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

At first glance, one is struck by the range of hues in this material, often of a nuanced sort. For example, a 10.51-carat oval from Zimbabwe (you'll have to access the article to get the locality!) with shades of fir and sand. There are golden cat's-eyes from Sri Lanka and India, a blue one from Burma. Burma also has produced vivid, paraiba-like blue-green stones.

Mauthner has paired several of the cut stones with rough samples, like Kenyan yellow fluorapatites, and green and neon-blue fluorapatites from Madagascar (see our example at right). In a fun demonstration of polarized light at two settings, Mauthner plays tricks with two lovely, limpid Russian fluorapatites. In the first, the 2.24-carat emerald cut stone is lightly brushed with a wistful mint while its 1.6-cm-tall crystal partner is boldly blue; in the second image they have traded tints. (The phenomenon is due to the material's strong pleochroism, revealed by the polarizing filter.) Closer to home, there's a rosy crystal nearly as tall as the Russian—from San Diego County's Himalaya Mine—paired with a 6.33-carat cut stone from that same mine that would fit nicely, though somewhat subtly, into the collection of the Dowager Empress. The authors note that burgundy-red material from the Himalaya fades to pink with exposure to sunlight.

Fluorapatite photo image
Fluorapatite on calcite with a dusting of pyrite. From Portugal, Inv. #21482. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

The material described and displayed by Mauthner and Ottaway demonstrates both its breadth and its boundaries. Depending on the individual, apatite may whet, without satisfying fully. But for those who enjoy a fusion of subtlety and complexity, there is plenty here with which to be sated. [back to top]

— End June Newsletter • Published 6/15/15 —

May 2015 Newsletter

Does He Even Have A Job?? image
Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be dealers. Don't let 'em use loupes when they're down on their luck. Make 'em be bankers and jewelers and such.

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Thirteenth Annual Sinkankas Symposium – Opal: Proceedings Available

Sinkankas Symposium cover image

Pala International is publisher of this year's Sinkankas Symposium proceedings on the topic of Opal. The volume is edited by GIA's Stuart Overlin, designed by Faizah Bhatti, and production coordinated by Juan Zanahuria, both also of GIA. Featured are 120 pages of original material accompanied by more than 150 photos.

The following authors contributed to this edition: Dr. Eloise Gaillou, Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez, with Jason Tresback and Theresa Smith, and also Bill Larson, Renee Newman, Helen Serras-Herman, Robert Weldon, Nathan Renfro, Dr. James Shigley, and Si and Ann Frazier. Principal photography was provided by Robert Weldon (including the cover image), Mia Dixon, and Jurgen Schutz.

Copies of the Opal proceedings can be ordered from Roger Merk. The price is $35.00 plus shipping. (Shipping to Canada is $19, and $24.50 to most countries in Europe.)

 

45 Nationalities Celebrate Opal Capital Centennial

Opal photo image
Opulent opal. This 11.40-carat white opal is typical of that produced in Coober Pedy. It's from the 8 Mile mine. Inv. #16028. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

It's 100 years since opal was discovered by 15-year-old gold prospector Willie Hutchinson in what is now Coober Pedy, South Australia. The outback town, founded the year after the boy's discovery, is namesake to a 5,000 square kilometer gemstone field that provides most of the world's precious opal; only 10% of the field has been mined, according to the town's website. Yet 250,000 mine shaft entrances dot the landscape, due in part to a ban on large-scale operations, per Wikipedia. While the town has a tiny population of only 3,500, the inhabitants come from an estimated 45 nations.

BBC has marked Coober Pedy's centennial with an examination of the prospect (ahem) of this Australian opal being designated Global Heritage Stone Resource (GHSR). No stone has yet been so designated, but an international group of geologists is to recognize stones that have played a significant role in human culture. Thus, other contenders, according to BBC are Portland stone, Carrara marble, Sydney sandstone and Norwegian larvikite. Should Australian opal be chosen, similar opal from other localities could not be called "Australian." Including opal in the GHSR pantheon has its detractors, who feel that the designation was meant for building-stone exclusively, not precious stone. [back to top]

Pala at Las Vegas: May 28 – June 1, 2015

AGTA GemFair Las Vegas graphic image

It's time to plan for the JCK Las Vegas show. Pala International will be there in force, with one of America's largest selections of fine colored gems.

Note: The JCK Show this year will run Friday through Monday.

What: AGTA GemFair
When:
May 28 – June 1, 2015
Where: South Pacific and Islander Ballrooms in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
   Thursday, May 28 thru Sunday, May 31: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
   Monday, June 1: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Booth: AGTA Pavilion, booth AGTA514

The JCK Show offers a variety of seminars and other events of interest to attendees.

Pala will be unveiling the Joe Kast Collection at the upcoming Las Vegas show. Come check it out: lots of great gems for the big buyers and small calibrated goods for stock pieces.

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

Mineral & Gem à Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines:
June 25–28, 2015

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines image

The 52nd Sainte-Marie show will be held June 25–28, with the first two days limited to trade only. This year, Bill and Will Larson will attend the show along with spouses Jeanne and Rika Larson. Friend and fellow gem dealer Mark Kaufman also will be in the party. They will be meeting up with Patrick and Pia Dreher. (See this Ganoksin.com blog entry by Robyn Hawk regarding Patrick Dreher's recent appearance at GIA.)

New in 2015: The Sainte-Marie show continues to cater to the colored gemstone lover this year with Le Pôle Aalberg, an addition to the show's Gem Zone, featuring the full range of creation, luxury and fashion.

  • Le Swanky Area: bijouterie et joaillerie and designers both traditional and contemporary
  • Le Trendy Corner: fantasy designs and fashion accessories
  • Le Gem Fashion Show: a scripted jewelry presentation offering "unusual perspectives in response to hidden desires." Ooh la la!

Lectures will include the following (note that only the first lecture will be delivered in English as well as French). We're delighted to see our old friend Eloïse Gaillou, who has relocated to Paris, and who will speak on her subject of expertise.

  • Victor Tuzlukov, lapidary: Philosopher's Stone – When Wisdom Sparkles in the Precious Stone (in conjunction with his curation of Lapis Philosophorum)
  • Yellow Amber: presented by the Musée de l'Ambre de Kaliningrad (in conjunction with the exhibition Baltic Stone of the Sun)
  • Michel Boudard, gemologist: A Look at Gemology, specifically the intersection between stones of greater carat weight and the treatments that may lurk within; an aid to the prospective buyer
  • Jean-Jacques Chevallier, lecturer: Geological History of the Earth ("The study of the infinitely small explains the infinitely large)
  • Eloïse Gaillou, associate curator of the Musée Mines ParisTech (School of Mines): Treatment and the Synthesis of Diamond
  • Jean-Christian Goujou, lecturer: The Minerals of Metamorphism
  • Alain Carion, lecturer: Meteorites and Their Impacts

In addition to the above-referenced exhibitions, the following also will be presented.

  • Exhibition of the INETPhoto Contest: an international competition for photographs and graphic art about Mineralogy and Micro-mineralogy
  • Minerals and Paintings: an exhibition curated by Jörg Thomas and Andrée Roth
  • Jewelry – Silver Arsenic: Remarkably, this exhibition will take place in situ—along the vein of the Gabe Gottes silver mine, 6 km away from the Sainte-Marie show's Mineral Zone
  • The Staurolites of Russia: an exhibition of "cross-stones" curated by Jean-Claude Leydet

Finally, our good friend and mineral dealer Alain Martaud curates The Prestige Exhibition. Entitled simply, Alpes, the display will pay homage to the mineralogical bounty of the 1000-km arc of mountains that stretches from north of Corsica to Austria and Slovenia. Among the Alpine varieties coveted by collectors: epidot, garnet, fluorite, emerald, quartz and gold. Specimens to be displayed will be loaned from local and national museums, as well as collectors both prominent and obscure. Pala International has a magnificent old classic double quartz from Switzerland in the display.

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Alain Martaud, curator of this year's L'Exposition Prestige, also is the author of the trilingual volume, The Minerals of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The book is available from the show's online store.

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Carnegie: Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age

Time to dust off the Esquivel LPs and prepare your bachelor pad to moodify before attending the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age. This exhibition is a perfect cocktail of science and stylin'.

Out of This World first goes retro with jewelry, objets d'art and ephemera inspired by Halley's Comet (its 1835 apparition), the publication of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, the Soviet launch of Sputnik (our personal favorite) and much more. The exhibition opens June 27 and is on view through January 4, 2016.

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Blast off! The Tampa Necklace, designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, private owner. (Photo courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh)
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Ring(s). Dynasty Ring, designed by Marc Schneider, private owner. (Photo courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh)
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Tektite. Moldavite Brooch, designed by John Hatleberg, private owner. We featured this pin in a 2014 profile of Hatleberg. Moldavite is created from meteorite impact. (Photo: Tony Pettinato, courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh)
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No Pluto, so this is cosmically correct. Necktie, designed and owned by Megan Isaacs. (Photo courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh)
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Module model. Lunar Excursion Module, made for and formerly owned by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, designed and owned by Cartier. (Photo courtesy Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh)

While you're at the Carnegie Museum, be sure to check out the Wertz Gallery of gems and jewelry—and its Time Machines exhibition (ends June 1)—as well as the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems. [back to top]

Ruby Has Cameo in Minions Trailer

Fans of the Despicable Me animation movies will receive a treat this summer with the release of Minions, a sort of prequel to the other two films. Lest the public have any questions, however, regarding the third in this very successful franchise—earning nearly eight times its budget for D1 and thirteen times for D2—the distributor, Universal Pictures, is leaving nothing to chance, by releasing three trailers and four spots for D3, and counting.

Minions features an evil character called Scarlet Overkill (fair enough) voiced by Sandra Bullock. Overkill wants world domination, but she isn't above sharing her secrets via Villain-Con International, a convention for miscreants in need of motivation. At about 0:55 in Trailer 2, Overkill's image is spied by a conventioneer in Villain-Con's promo brochure. The spread includes an eggcup-sized ruby ring, stolen and still missing. "Millions of dollars gone goodbye," reads the display copy. The ruby is unlikely to reappear, given its relative insignificance for Overkill, whose vault also holds Michelangelo's David, Myron's Discobolus (Discus Thrower), a moai statue from Easter Island, myriad portraits by the masters, and an overturned Chinese vase here, a bathtub of gold chains there (at 1:47). Guess we'll have to wait 'til its release July 10. Or the next trailer.

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Pala International News

Joe Kast Collection Comes to Pala

Our longtime friend for over 30 years, fellow AGTA and AGS member, Joe Kast, has decided to retire from the gem business.

Joe has graciously decided to allow Pala International the opportunity to liquidate his wonderful inventory. Joe's main strengths are ruby, sapphire, and emerald. His delightful inventory will nicely augment Pala's own extensive catalog.

Joe Kast Collection photo image

We are now able to furnish many more blue sapphires in several colors, sizes, and prices. The emerald collection is quite large and we can offer a wide variety of colors, shapes, locations and prices. The fancy sapphires, including pinks, yellows and greens, as well as the ruby collection, now boosts Pala's supply significantly. Along with larger single free-sizes, the collection has a lot of calibrated smaller sizes and matched pairs. We are extremely grateful to Joe Kast for allowing Pala International this unprecedented opportunity.

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Stocked. Impressive tray of Burmese and Mozambique rubies from 1 ct to 2.5 ct. Excerpt from the Kast Collection now at Pala International. (Photo Jason Stepehson)

Pala will be unveiling the Joe Kast Collection at the upcoming Las Vegas show. Come check it out: lots of great gems for the big buyers and small calibrated goods for stock pieces. [back to top]

This month we feature some highlights from the Joe Kast Collection. This collection exhibits a full spectrum of colors from the corundum family and a strong selection of emeralds as well.

Please call to hear more about this important collection—or see it in person at the Las Vegas show.

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Kasting call. (From center, then clockwise from top) Golden yellow sapphire from Sri Lanka, 6.40 ct, 12.1 x 9 .1 mm cushion; unique green sapphire from Sri Lanka, 6.18 ct, 10.2 x 9.9 mm cushion; very fine emerald from Colombia, 2.66 ct, 8.9 x 8.4 mm emerald cut; intense purple pink sapphire 1.90 ct, 7.2 mm round; pigeon's blood red ruby from Burma, 2.08 ct, 7.3 x 6 mm cushion; exquisite padparadscha from Sri Lanka, 1.25 ct, 7.2 x 5.2 mm oval, brilliant blue sapphire 4.04 ct, 8.5 mm round. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

Interested? Call (phone numbers below) or email us to inquire. [back to top]

Gems and Gemology News

That Other Collection…

While perusing the Kast Collection, above, we were reminded of another collection, now housed at GIA: The Dr. Edward J. Gübelin Collection. When the latter collection was acquired by GIA in 2006, we published the recollections surrounding it by Pala International's Bill Larson, "World's Foremost Buys World's Finest."

Now the collection is available for browsing in the comfort of your own home, via the GIA Gem Project. We're talking about 2,800 gemstones from 225 different minerals in the collection. The Gem Project goals are: to systematically document these gemstones using a range of techniques, and to make the results available on the GIA website as a valuable resource for students, gemologists, researchers, and anyone interested in gem materials. Each gemstone is identified with a photograph, species (group and variety as needed), locality, shape, carat weight, dimensions, and much more.

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Roll Out the Beryls. This beryl collection is one of 70 boxes that comprise the main gemstone collection. The top left pink morganite from Brazil weighs 100.99 ct. (Photo: Edward Boehm)

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Antique Jewelry

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An extinct species of human, Denisovans (or Denisova hominins) is being credited with having crafted the oldest piece of jewelry "of its kind made of stone" about 40,000 years ago, according to a May 7 story by The Siberian Times. Like Neanderthals, Denisovans were considered to be more primitive than modern humans, yet the technique used in creating the jewelry—a bracelet fashioned from chlorite—was not known to have been used until the Neolithic period, beginning about 10,000 BCE. Mikhail Shunkov, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, suggests that Denisovans were more advanced than either Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

The green-colored bracelet, found in two pieces, contains a drilled hole. Scientists feel that the drill's speed of rotation was relatively high, with little instability—again evidence of technology that would not be used for millennia. It's believed that the hole allowed a strap, perhaps of leather, to dangle a charm of some weight, which polished the bracelet.

It was found in the Altai region of Siberia in 2008, but its dating was confirmed only recently. The chlorite stone is not native to the locality where the bracelet was unearthed. It likely came from about 125 miles away, and thus was valued. And valued it is today, being held in the collection of the Museum of History and Culture of the Peoples of Siberia and the Far East in Novosibirsk. [back to top]

Industry News

Ruby News

Bloomberg: Prices Could Double

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A step up. You don't often see a beautiful step-cut natural ruby like this. From Mozambique, 2.11 carats, Inventory #21295. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Bloomberg, in an April 16 article, quotes Ian Harbottle of Gemfields as predicting that ruby prices could double in a couple of years. If this sounds a bit optimistic (at least for the seller), the article points out that Harbottle "and peers" increased production of emerald, with a 1,000 per cent price hike in five years. Harbottle envisions the same for ruby as Gemfields makes inroads into Mozambique's relatively vast ruby supply.

Macy's Can't Get the Lead Out

While Gemfields offered rubies at a recent sale for $689 a carat on average, there is still a market for bargains. Of course, when doing the hunting it pays to read the fine print. As reported by JCK May 4, CBS Chicago was tipped off by a buyer who bought a pair of "ruby" earrings at Macy's only to belatedly see the "lead glass filled" tag on the purchase when she got home. In a May 1 story, CBS recounted how its investigators went to two Macy's locations, but were a little more diligent in their inquiries, asking whether they were buying costume jewelry. After all, the earrings had a $117 price tag. They were reassured by the sales associate they were getting real ruby. Same story for two ruby stud earrings, at $93.60.

Taking the earrings to none other than Richard Drucker of GemWorld International, they got the bad news: the rubies couldn't be called "real." Another consultant from Chicago's Jewelers Row agreed that the purchases were of red stones, but not rubies. The resulting complaint—not the first by any means—is that it is up to the consumer to do the due diligence. Store clerks simply don't offer the information.

Sotheby's: Uplifting Sale

Back to Harbottle: he may have a point about ruby's "uplift potential." Last Tuesday, Sotheby's set a new world auction record for ruby. The "Sunrise Ruby," a 25.59-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring, sold for far more than its $12 million to $18 million pre-sale estimate. At $30.3 million, it set two other records: per-carat price for ruby and for any jewel by its creator, Cartier. And it tripled the price-per-carat record set by the "Graff Ruby" last fall, of $997,727, according to a news release.

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Going, going, going, going, going, going, gone. Would the bidding ever stop? Above, David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby's International Jewellery Division, fields bids at auction of the Sunrise Ruby in Geneva. (Photo: Sotheby's news release)

Sotheby's itself must have been pretty proud. With 94 per cent of lots sold, the auction as a whole set an industry record, the highest ever total for any jewelry auction: just under $161 million. Other corundum records set in the sale:

  • World auction record for a pair of Burmese sapphire earrings (Lot 500)
  • World auction record price for a Kashmir sapphire jewel (Lot 499)

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Diamond News

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Photo: Sotheby's news release

Perfect Diamond Fetches $22.1m

As we noted last month, on offer via Sotheby's as the headliner in its April 21 Magnificent Jewels sale in New York was a 100.20-carat "perfect diamond." Its sale at $22.1 million to an anonymous buyer set a record of sorts—highest price for a colorless diamond in New York—it fell midway in the pre-sale estimate of $19 million and $25 million. (Can we look forward to future "records" for, say, highest price for a colorless diamond sold in the spring quarter?)

Posh Patois

Diamond (and other gemstone) aficionados are familiar with the Four C's: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat Weight. GIA even offers a brochure on the subject, available in 18 languages. But what of the more obscure language of the diamond trade? In New York, for instance, the diamond district is a Babel regarding baubles, precious stones having a lexicon, per a recent New York Times story, that is essentially Yiddish, but also uttered with the flair of other European and Asian tongues. And trade terms from India and elsewhere are becoming more common on 47th Street.

In "The Secret Slang of the Diamond District," the Times challenges readers to play the name game. How many of the esoteric terms listed are you familiar with, like mame-zitser, oysshis, and jalebi, amid the more familiar?

Finding Diamond in the Natural State

Making a modest $8 admission on April 23 at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas, Evening Shade resident Susie Clark sealed the deal by saying a prayer for luck in the form of a question: Would she be blessed by a diamond that day? She was—3.69 carats' worth—and in her joy she called the white, teardrop-shaped gem Hallelujah. It's the largest diamond found in the park since the Limitless Diamond, 6.19 carats, was found about a year before, as reported by CNN.

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Will you be assisted in your quest by a uniformed representative of the Arkansas government? (Photo courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park)

A pity there's no on-site appraisal service, but a 3.85-carat diamond unearthed at the park was sold for a cool $20K. The park's Diamond Discovery Center does ID the stones gratis, however; weighing and certification are offered free of charge. [back to top]

Bonhams: "Colored gemstones reigned supreme"

Last month, in our Auctions item, we included an image of a 9.94-carat Kashmir sapphire sugarloaf cabochon offered at Sotheby's April 21 Magnificent Jewels sale. The ring went for $874,000 well within its pre-sale estimate. A day later, a sale by Bonhams featured a similar ring—just a lot more of it, at 21.27 carats. This one sold for less—$455,090—but it was more than three times its estimate.

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Sapphire and diamond ring, ca. 1925. The sugarloaf cabochon weighs 21.27 carats, within an openwork mount of stylised floral and foliate design, decorated with rose-cut diamonds, mounted in silver and gold. (Photo courtesy Bonhams)

The Bonhams sale as a whole caused the firm to report, "Colored gemstones reigned supreme at Bonhams Fine Jewelry sale."

Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are this year's must-have gems according to Bonhams and its first London sale of 2015 demonstrated the huge appetite for colored stones with fierce bidding taking place in the saleroom, on the telephone and online from buyers across the globe.

Among the highlights: a 17.97-carat Burmese sapphire; a 7.10-carat fancy-colored pear-shaped diamond; a 4.54-carat Burmese ruby; a 3.25-carat Colombian emerald; a pair of Sri Lankan sapphires, 10.50 and 9.50 carats. [back to top]

Burma Bits

Gems Emporium Slated for June–July

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Spring has sprung. Celebrate it with a natural Burma peridot, 17.38 ct, Inv. #22545. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Burma's Ministry of Mines on April 30 announced the dates for the 52nd Myanma Gems Emporium this summer: June 24 through July 6. Both local and foreign merchants are invited to the emporium, which will be held in Nay Pyi Taw. The announcement was covered in the May 1 edition of the official New Light of Myanmar.

Nay Pyi Taw's development—everything from shopping centers to pagodas—is booming, as reported on May 10 by Mizzima. A thousand hotels and inns are mushrooming to accommodate visitors to the Emporium, conventions, sports events, civic and military celebrations, and more. Last year, the city hosted the ASEAN Business Summit, the ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit.

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Artist's rendering of the retail area of KrisPLAZA, a mixed-use venture, that will be flanked at north and south by the Gem Museum and the Mani Yadana Jade Hall. It is due to be completed next summer.

Meanwhile, Kyaw Win, secretary of the Myanmar Gold Entrepreneurs Association, told The Irrawaddy last week that jade and colored gemstone production in general is decreasing in Hpakant and Mogok. And the Wall Street Journal last week noted that foreign investment in mining has stalled in anticipation of Burma revamping outdated regulations that haven't been revised since 1994. Another practice considered passé is the continued industry involvement by SOEs (state-owned enterprises) in Burma, once the centerpiece of Ne Win's "Burmese Way to Socialism." A critique, by economist Tom Brookes, of the remaining SOEs, which began to be discarded in 1988, appeared in the May 8 Myanmar Times. Brookes notes that twelve activities, including the export of gemstones, are by law operated by SOEs solely or in joint ventures.

Other ghosts from the past were being conjured by the U.S. State Department as it dropped gemstone (among other interests) mogul Win Aung from its sanctions list without much explanation, as reported by The Irrawaddy on April 24 and Myanmar Times on the 29th. Although Win Aung was considered a military-regime crony previously, he also is chair of Burma's biggest trade group, representing 10,000 companies. The Irrawaddy story speculated on other big names that could be next in line. The newspaper published an editorial the same day urging prudence in considering future moves: "Note to Washington: Use Your Blacklist Wisely."

Good as Gold?

In the interview referenced above, Kyaw Win discussed several topics of interest: how he got started in the gold business, the history of gold procurement as investment amongst the people of Burma, the price of gold, the fact that gold could be produced in all of Burma's fourteen states and regions, and more.

But gold extraction can come at a price. Myanmar Times reported on April 28 about the challenges facing the Chindwin River, which flows in northwestern Burma. Where it flows through the gold mining area at Hkamti Township, in Sagaing Region, the river is clogged with red sludge. And the punch line? A Myanmar Gems Enterprise representative says it issued no mining permits in the area, and thus knew nothing about the excavations. One unnamed government official said mining is allowed—and protected—by armed ethnic groups in the region. Another factor: small-scale mining can be masked from any visiting authorities by simply hiding the machinery.

Yangon Gem Lab Seeks International Recognition

Myanmar Gemological Laboratory opened for business on May 6, as reported by Myanmar Times. While it's certainly not the country's only gem lab, it features cutting-edge technology that could put it ahead of rivals. But its true competitors are labs with international reputations. Gemstone buyers and dealers who are tempted to have their stones certified outside Burma now have a local option. The new lab's U Wai La Win has studied and worked at GIA, allowing him to incorporate best practices that he has learned.

Mandalay Jade Carvers Want to Improve

Last Wednesday, Myanmar Times published a profile of the jade market in Mandalay. But it was not devoted to dealers in rough, but rather to the artisans carving jade into statues for sale to Chinese buyers. The market is not an easy one, since standards are high, in part due to overwhelming experience coupled with finishing machinery available to Chinese craftsmen. On the other hand, why should Burma's carvers not market Burmese designs?

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Mizzima: Burma launches an export strategy to integrate the country more broadly into the international economy—featuring an image of gemstone traders
  • The Irrawaddy: $20 million in smuggled goods seized last year, twice as much as the previous year
  • Eleven: Suu Kyi to visit jade land on Friday
  • The Irrawaddy: Ceasefire with ethnic armies, hailed as historic, has a long way to go
  • Myanmar Times: Burma citizens donate thousands to Nepal relief effort

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— End May Newsletter • Published 5/18/15 —

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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.