Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas to ME

Sometimes, you have to think of yourself.  After a very successful Etsy December, and a busy sale still running, I finally took time out to buy myself a Christmas gift.  And then I got another one for free!  I figured I’d share because I know at least some of you have asked me what I would keep for myself. 

I have three rules when it comes to buying gems for me:
1.      I have to love love love the stone: I see a lot of stones every week.  More than most gemdealers, because I get around more, and I don’t specialize in a particular region, or particular stones.  So if the stone does not absolutely blow me away, I won’t keep it.

2.      It has to have a high resale value: I’m not made of money, and I don’t really allow myself expensive gemstone treats.  What stops me is this: could I buy a new refrigerator for this stone?  Fix the roof?  Then what on earth am I doing buying that gem.  In short, what I buy has to be something I could sell for the same or more if I need cash.

3.      I have to actually be able to wear the gem.  Many collectors buy stones just to look at them (and of course some stones are too valuable or too fragile to set).  I’m not one of them.  My stones have to be wearable, durable, and look pretty on me (be strongly colored, vibrant and match my skintone).  I’m not wearing gems to show them off, I simply want to enjoy seeing them.
So, what gems do I own? 
Sapphires: that’s what I love the most.  I have some Burma studs, Burma pear shaped dangly earrings, a Ceylon that I wear every day, a smaller one for a pendant and I kept a pair of the Ceylon old miners that I had on Etsy in December.  I also have a pink sapphire, a 4mm round Burmese (nice saturated color).
Ruby: I only have one, a Burmese 4mm round.  And some earrings (3mm danglies on hoops).  It’s just not my color.  I will set the ruby as a stacker one day, in yellow gold.
Emeralds: I have a few of those, all Columbian, all from D. I have a pendant, earrings, and a couple of rings.  Brazilian emeralds are not my thing, they’re too dark.
I don’t have much else.  Some aqua, some of the cushion Burma spinels I sell, and a pair of old mine pink tourmalines.  I also love green tourmaline, but it ends up getting upstaged by emerald and tsavorite, so for some reason I never keep it in the end.  Tsavorites I love but I don’t actually own any (yet).
And what is my Christmas present?  A beautiful, 1.7 carat, cushion cut Mahenge spinel.  In November, I had a trillion piece set in yellow 14K for a customer – my metal of choice – and I was just floored by how it came out.  So yesterday, I had to see the East Africa dealer to memo out more of the stuff (if you noticed I sold all of the Mahenges in the last few days).  For fun, he showed me a few pieces that were in the 10-15 carat range, costing in the neighborhood of $100,000 and more.  But I wasn’t planning on taking out a second mortgage.  J
Then I played around with the 1-2 carat parcels, and the piece in the photo jumped out.  It will fit perfectly into a yellow gold emerald cut bezel I already have, and will make a very prominent ring.   I can’t wait! 
My Mahenge Spinel
And when I got ready to pay my – over $1000 – tab (I also bought some Chrysoberyls and smaller Mahenges), J. the dealer, had added a little gem jar to my bag.  With some gorgeous Tanzanian Rubellite garnet.  And what garnets those are!  They actually have a slight color change effect, more purple in daylight and more wine color in evening light.  This garnet actually looks almost better in evening light, which is the exact opposite of what one is used to.  Larger rubellites can also get expensive, and this piece has exquisite cutting.  I will prong set the largest one, I just don’t know what it will be exactly.  Probably a pendant.  Thanks J.
Tanzanian Garnet

Mahenge Spinel and Tanzanian Garnet

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The other Tanzanite

Last December I pooh-poohed Tanzanite as a bad investment.  I guess I always say what I think, even if it hurts my own business...  But Tanzanite really is tricky.  Relatively new on the market (since 1967 or something), it has gotten seriously pushed by the large conglomerates that own most of the mines in Tanzania.  That’s why it now is a December birthstone, by the way.  Meanwhile, the material is overpriced, soft, and scares the living daylights out of setters.  In a ring, it won’t last long on your hand if you wear it every day.  If prong set, it should be for special occasions, or at least not be worn when you are doing heavy duty work.  Pendants and earrings are safe, rings should be bezeled but not hammer set because unless it is squaky clean it will most likely shatter the stone.  Hammersetting a gem is like taking a mini sledge hammer to a fragile object, and any minor inclusion can get busted wide open.

So then what kind of Tanzanite could I possibly recommend?  If you’re willing to stick to pendants and earrings, or a non-everyday ring (which you’ll take off when you do heavy lifting, possibly also when you sleep or take a shower), or an oval or round piece that’s safely bezeled, then I think you should buy Tanzanite that’s not been heated.

Somewhere between 2% and 5% of the Tanzanite currently mined comes out of the ground a nice minty to olivy green with purple flashes around the sides or back.  Some smaller pieces also come out a light purple.  Since Tanzanite is always very clean and sparkly, so it can look gorgeous against silver or white gold.  The other 95% are better off heated, the material is light brown or yellow and not that attractive.  Every once in a blue moon, they still find fully rich purple Tanzanite in the ground as well, but most of it has at least a green tinge to it, and even that’s rare.  So for unheated Tanzanite, what you will get is green and light purple.

And these 2-5% greenies are hard to find!  In part, because many gem sellers don’t even think about not heating their material.  Just last week, I chatted with another gem dealer about Tanzanite and he said he had some nice huge pieces but they were still green and had to be sent for heating.  When I suggested he sell them the way they are he was totally surprised.  Unheated Tanzanite is for a niche market, not mass market, it takes a bit of looking to find it, and it is available only in small quantities.  What that sums up to is: the right stone for me.  And I have been buying it.  Some photos below. 

3 Matched Pairs

Unheated Tanzanite Parcel .5 - 2.2 Cts

The smallest piece in the first picture is about to go into a ring, the one on the right is on my website in the gem section. 

The smallest matched pair in the pair section (about .8 carats combined) will be set as dangly earrings.  The rest are up for grabs for now.  Each pair is about 2 carats.