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TUCSON – THE LOST HEAVEN OF GEMS or dinosaurs did not care much about diamonds 
Apr 01, 2006 - You know, even in this day and age, every now and then somebody finds a hidden place on earth. A previously undiscovered land, with rare birds and trees; where strange looking animals roam; species unknown to science or species that scientists thought were practically extinct.

Naturalists and scientists from all around the world will come to admire the hidden world. Soon tourists will be clicking their cameras scaring these rare animals, and the whole world will be talking about it.

And yet, every year, for the last 25 years, in or around February a new world is re-discovered; an enchanted world, the ultimate Galapagos, and everyone takes it for granted.

Instead of walking through the jungles, picking up rare berries, and observing strange animals, the strange creatures I meet are my fellow human beings; each one of them from a different part of the world - some of them very rare species indeed.

I must warn you, that all of them carry the same type of disease that I suffer from. And friends, it is very contagious! Once you get it, it’s there for life. This grave illness is gem disease. And this gem heaven is the Tucson gem and mineral show.

Yes, I know you know that Tucson is in Arizona; and there is really nothing special there, save some odd cacti, the old Tucson Film Studios and Li’l Abner the Steak house.

What you may not realize is that every year this town is hit by a swarm of gem and mineral locusts, the likes of which the eyes have never seen before.

Every little motel, hotel, bungalow, tent or back of a car, turns into a treasure vault.

In each and every lobby, corridor, and room, tables are covered with layers of gems and minerals. Native Americans sell their beautiful gem set jewelry, Chinese come with amazing beads and carvings. Others display minerals from the tiniest micro-size to the size necessitating a truck to transport them home, from the most common to the most rare.

Others display gems found around their villages, in Africa, Madagascar and South America, while others, including myself, display OPV (gems found near other peoples' villages). Though some think that there certainly must be some diamonds mines near Ramat Gan - no real gems are mined in the Holy Land...

The amazing thing is that goods from a few cents to a few hundred thousand dollars are displayed for all to see in Tuscon. And those people selling the items that cost only a few cents are as enthused as those selling very expensive gems.

You can see the most humble small dealer having a gem discussion with the head of some of the most prominent companies in the world, all talking about gems and colors.

Some people bring dinosaur parts to sell. Under each of them, the estimated age and species is listed. As I wandered around the strange looking bones, one of their owners uttered suddenly, “you know, they never really cared about diamonds.” When he realized I didn’t know what he was talking about, he explained, “my dinosaurs were wandering around 100 million years ago, some of your diamonds were not even formed then, or were still soft!” I looked at the face of his 120 million year old big creature and knew I could not really argue about that.

And how was the Tucson show business wise? Very good. Walking through the booths handling semiprecious, it was clear that they were doing well. Also apparent was the use of plenty of ornamental material as part of gem jewelry. From amazonite to moss agate, from sugilite to chaorite, from fossilized coral and pieces of amber to wonderful shapes of baroque pearls to mother of pearl, it seems that corporating nature in jewelry was the theme of today.

The people in the booths just opposite us, who handle beads and strings, were always busy, selling thousands of all types of gems strung into colorful chains. It seemed that the whole world wants to surround their necks with beads.

Speaking to my fellow gem dealers, it was obvious that untreated gems seemed to be in high demand. Scarce natural ruby and blue sapphire, fancy sapphires, beautiful pink and fancy spinels. Aquamarine seemed to be plentiful and was selling very well especially in the higher grades. Tanzanite - my love - has shunned her face this year.

And how was Li’l Abner’s Steak house this year? My daughter had three steaks there out of the five she eats per year –so it is good.

And as for the gem disease, it can be cured quite easily, by buying gems. The trouble is that after three or four gems you get addicted for life, and nothing will cure you.


opyright IDEX Magazine 2006, all rights reserved.

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Nov 01, 2005 - I am a veteran of the trade and I’ve heard lots of stories, which were told to me by prominent or less prominent figures in the trade. But this last story I heard, which is unfolding in the jewelry industry right before our very eyes, has astounded me.

Just before breaking my arm very badly in Bangkok and realizing that cracks in bones are really much worse than cracks in gems, I had an opportunity to meet with a dear friend of mine, a connoisseur of gems and yet not one of the biggest dealers of all. What he told me amazed me.

He started by saying “you know, everyone in the trade thinks that brown and brownish colors are unattractive to our customers. When you so much as mention brown in conjunction with a certain gem or a certain color, your customer always thinks that it is inferior.” Then he hit me with his declaration, “Can you believe I have changed this concept in the jewelry trade this year?”

Well, it was only lunchtime and he was certainly not drunk. He is a serious person so I began to wonder what on earth he is talking about, to which he unfolded the following story.

“About a year and a half ago I visited Africa with my dear better half, to enjoy Safaris together and to show her what her husband does as a gem buyer. In one of the offices a dealer came to me with a bunch of cut, brown stones and asked me if I would be interested in buying them, to which I immediately uttered, “really brown, you must be joking! Who would buy such gems?” Though being silent most of the trip to Africa, my better half suddenly showed intense interest in those brown gems saying, “wow, aren’t earth colors very popular with everything today?” Well, he tells me, ‘I decided there and then to take my wife’s word for it to buy almost a kilo of this brown rough’.

“Time passed, a few months went by and I sent the parcel to be cut, only to receive many more brown stones, which I knew had no chance on the market, unless a miracle would happen.

By chance, I took the stones with me to the U.S. with all the rest of my goods, all very saleable blues, greens and reds. Sales were mediocre. Then at the last minute, I decided to show my customer, a very prominent jeweler, those very peculiar brown colors. I don’t think that he was really impressed until his wife suddenly walked into the meeting room where I was showing him those brown stones, looked at them and said, “Wow, Earth Tones”. I immediately realized that these were no longer “brown stones”, but from then on, “Earth Tones”. To cut a long story short, he bought the lot from me and since then, suddenly, one can see plenty of jewelry with Earth tones stones set into them.”

‘I don’t want to be too big headed,’ he tells me, “but I believe that I have changed the concept of people to those colors in the same way that butterflies can affect the world’s climate.

” What on earth (tone) is he talking about? That I leave for you to decide, but would you believe that only a couple of weeks ago I received a call from one of my customers asking for... Earth Tones!


The GemEwizard

Copyright IDEX Magazine 2005, all rights reserved.

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Oct 01, 2005 - For many years diamond jewelry was considered to be unique pieces of art for which each designer or jeweler had his own line of jewelry, artistically created by jewelry designers. Jewelry pieces were as diverse as the jeweler who created them. Although even then casting jewelry existed, there were never more than a few dozen or a few hundred of the same design.

Chains of jewelry shops were scarce and at most included only a few shops. Thus, the orders to fulfill such jewelry designs never included more than a few dozen stones, or a few hundred stones of the same size, which were fairly easily bought through the existing dealers. With the appearance of jewelry mega chain shops, however, consisting of hundreds or thousands of shops and the appearance of TV selling channels, the jewelry world has gone through a major change, affecting all levels of suppliers deep into the pipeline, mainly the cheaper stone pipeline, hence the Indian pipeline.

The possibility of a single piece of jewelry, consisting of 30 diamonds of 3 points each, being shown on television, and selling 1,000 pieces within one hour has imposed orders in the range of 30,000-100,000 pieces of the same size and quality. No single dealer was capable of supplying such vast quantities of uniform material. Thus, a new position was created in the jewelry pipeline, called the Mega Accumulators. Since no single factory could produce such quantities of uniform size of diamonds, these Mega Accumulators had the right connections with many diamond suppliers and cutters, and were able to fulfill such orders in a relatively short time. The small suppliers found themselves, in many cases, unable to join the party and they had to either expand considerably and cater for such orders or specialize in a special niche in the diamond world or remove themselves from the game.

Such uniform, vast quantities of orders had a strong effect on the diamond pipeline. Producers, in order to keep up their position in the supply, sometimes have intentionally cut diamonds to the size required, although they were losing on the yield. Many suppliers have supplied higher quality goods to accomplish the number they were committed to just so that they could keep their commitments. These have created abnormalities in dealers and manufacturers’ stock since only certain sizes were in demand, and the excess, odd to this order sizes or qualities, remain unsold in the stock.

The Mega accumulators only purchased the sizes that were suitable for their mega orders. At certain times, it seems as if the whole market was looking for the same size and type of stone. This abnormally uniform demand, although met with an adequate supply, has deformed the stock remaining in the hands of the manufacturers and dealers. In many cases, when an order for, say 5 points of KLM color, was thrown into the market at a certain price point, it affected the price of same size, higher quality goods which were not required.


Certainly, the jewelry design world has undertaken a tremendous change, too. Since these TV Mega sales had to cater for the taste of the very many, the designs had to be to the liking of as many as possible people. Unique pieces became obsolete. The only gauge for beauty and uniqueness was the number of pieces of jewelry sold within a certain period of time.

We call it the “Jeansing” effect where a simple design is to the liking of the many. Such designs have to be relatively simple, mediocre in beauty. Another point to bear in mind is that very few designers working for a Mega jeweler, can affect a considerable portion of the jewelry sold, creating some kind of homogeneity where the non-unique is the desired uniqueness.

Virtually the same affect was apparent in the Mega jewelry chains, where hundreds of shops carry identical pieces of jewelry and for which the orders usually came in hundreds or thousands of pieces of jewelry.

Since this jewelry was all made in vast quantities, their cost of production was relatively low - leading to a relatively low cost, very attractive to the consumers.

The direct TV sales have ignored the traditional position of the retailer and directed the jewelry to the cheap to very cheap market end. The small, local shops had to fight in order to survive. In many cases their customers have required jewelry similar to those on TV and also similar prices. Hence, many of them were forced to include within their display TV-like pieces of jewelry.

Soon a new position of jewelry suppliers was created. Such a supplier has specialized in TV-like pieces of jewelry which he supplied to the many small shops which didn’t belong to the Mega chain but needed such jewelry.

All in all, the effect on the world of jewelry has been not very different from that on the clothing and fashion industry, where the effect of a single designer could determine what would be bought in thousands of shops.

Regards The GemEwizard Copyright © IDEX

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Sep 01, 2005 -
The longer you are in the gem and diamond trade, the less you know you know.

In the early days, when I was an apprentice jeweler in London during the day and studied gemology at night, passing my gemology exams with distinction, I was sure that within a few months, or at most a couple of years when I would handle more gems, I would know practically all there is to know about the gem world.

Five years passed by and I was handling and learning about many more gemstones when I realized that there is undoubtedly much more to learn about them. And now, after 33 years, everybody else seems to think that I’m an expert in gems, but I, myself, know that there is so much more to learn about them all and everyday and every new stone may prove that I’m right and teach me something new.

Diamonds prices are accurate in the eye of the beholder or diamonds have no value - they are just a percentage off.

Everybody in the trade is familiar with the leading diamond pricelist. This is said to represent certain prices of diamonds and yet, depending on your position in the trade, these prices may be as much as 50% off the actual price. In fact, most diamond dealers do not talk about actual dollar prices but say, for example: “minus 28%”, meaning that the value of the diamond is 28% off the current pricelist. Others will argue that it is more valuable, only minus 24%.

Somehow nobody seems to mention the actual price - only a percentage off! Can you imagine in your mind walking into a shop and asking the price of a kilo of cucumbers and being answered: “12% off”?

The first gem you meet in a parcel is either the best or the lousiest of the lot!

Please don’t ask me why, but it doesn’t matter what size parcel you are examining, somehow the first gem you pick up is either the best or the lousiest. Never one that actually represents the average price of the parcel.

When I asked a fellow gem dealer if he agreed with this assumption he said yes and continued: “Don’t you know that the first person that you meet in a new city is either the priest or the prostitute?” It took me many years to understand what he meant but since then I have always tried to avoid the priests and the prostitutes of the parcel and concentrate on examining the crowds.

Gems look worse after being purchased by you and much more attractive after you have sold them!

Usually the day after you have purchased an important gem when you know that it is yours, and you examine it carefully devoid of the excitement of the purchase, the stone tends to look slightly less attractive. It is somehow, when not under the influence of the illusions of the gem, that the stone reveals its true self.

However, once you have sold it and it belongs to somebody else, again the stone will acquire all its original charms and illusions.


The GemEwizard

Copyright © IDEX

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Aug 01, 2005 - Everyone who has traveled to Thailand has come across this very famous sentence - Same, Same but Different - so common amongst the merchants in the fascinating open markets. At first, it is difficult to grasp what they mean when they show you a green shirt with flowers on it instead of the pink shirt with stripes that you had asked for and say “Same, same but different”. Maybe meaning this is the same as what you asked for BUT different in color or pattern.

You never really know what they mean because, honest to god, nothing could be further from the “same” as what you asked for. Even after a while (30 years in my case) I could not grasp exactly what they meant. Sometimes it means that the buttons are the same and sometimes that it is the same manufacturer, and sometimes it means “you asked for a shirt, these are trousers that look similar...”. But recently I finally got it. Ok, you ask yourself, what has all this got to do with gems?

A few weeks ago, I crossed the street from my office to visit a friend in the Diamond Exchange. He used to deal in gemstones and now, they say, he is very strong in fancy color diamonds. And since we are working very hard to adapt the Gemewizard Color Assessment Module to the colors of diamonds using some consultants within the trade, I decided that I should try to convince such a knowledgeable person to join our team of consultants. So there I was, gazing at many colorful diamonds, from light yellow to vivid yellow, from pink to brownish orange to slightly violet, and a one-carat pinkish reddish diamond quite heavily included, proudly reigned in the center of the display. Suddenly it hit me. I have exactly the same colors in my fancy sapphire production. I asked him to bear with me for a while and rushed to my office to show him my beautiful new production and collection of fancy sapphires. Well, we took a beautiful vivid yellow diamond from his collection and matched it with exactly the same color as my natural yellow sapphires, I asked him how much his gem cost and he answered about $16,000 per carat where my gem cost $550 per carat.

Then we looked at one of his 2+ carat pinks and compared it to the same color 2+ carat gem deep pink sapphire (mind you, my sapphire was deeper and brighter than his diamond.) How much? I asked. He replied around $70,000 per carat. My sapphire was $1,200 per carat. But the big blow to me was his reddish, heavily included diamond. I have the same color beautiful red sapphire in 4 carats and mine is gem clean. People urged me to define it as a ruby but I insist it is a sapphire. Anyway, he asked me how much I want for my 4 carat sapphire and I proudly replied $3,000 per carat. He asked if I would accept $2,500 since he wanted to give it to his wife to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary. How could I refuse such a request, especially when a husband and wife's relationship was at stake? I accepted.

I asked him how much he wanted for his heavily included ugly reddish diamond. He became thoughtful and said: “Ugly you call it? Well, from you, I want only three hundred for my included red.” I was so glad one of my sapphires was more valuable than his diamond of the same color even though mine was free of inclusions. I decided on the spot to buy it just in order to show it to my customers and prove to them that the same color sapphires may be more attractive than a diamond and more valuable. So I said: will you accept $275. He became serious and asked me how I would pay and I said: “The same way you’ll pay - cash!” He suddenly realized that I had not understood him and said: “I meant three hundred thousand per carat, yes?” and told me a one carat diamond like the sapphire he had just bought from me was sold for $900,000-plus several years ago.

I packed my beautiful sapphires and as I walked back to my office, I kept thinking: “Same, same but different!".


The GemEwizard

Copyright © IDEX

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