Archive for the ‘Often Asked Questions’ Category

Emeralds, Hard to picture!

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Emeralds, Hard to Picture!

Over the last few years, there have been many pictures of celebrities in stunning Emerald pieces of jewelry in the press. They always look very impressive and exotic reminding one of all that is glamorous and luxurious. Now taking pictures of individual loose Emeralds is a whole different challenge. In fact, Emeralds are the hardest stones to take pictures of, a picture that truly represent what you see in real life. One reason being, that digital cameras have a hard time capturing the dynamic range of greens that exist in Emeralds, as do monitors or screens in displaying them.

LCD color GamutThis is a CIE XYZ color system xy chromaticity diagram. The areas enclosed in dotted lines represent the range of colors human beings can see with the naked eye. The ranges corresponding to the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and NTSC standards defining color gamuts appear as triangles connecting their RGB peak coordinates. The color gamut of an LCD monitor’s hardware can be indicated using similar triangles. An LCD monitor is not capable of reproduction (display) of colors outside its color gamut.

Next, most gemstone images are taken with telephoto macro lenses which compress (flatten) the image, visibly bringing any inclusions throughout the stone together into a single plane, and thereby appearing more heavily included in the image than in person.

The biggest factor that indicates the fineness of Emerald is its clarity and this is always graded and judged just with the naked eye. Taking a close up picture of an Emerald in reality is magnifying its every small inclusion by a factor of 30 or more. In other words, a close up picture will not be a fair representation of what your naked eye will see. These limitations are truly a challenge when trying to determine the quality of the stones by looking at pictures of Emeralds. Most pictures of Emeralds you see in magazines and brochures are heavily corrected, just to do the stone justice.

Keep this fact in mind when viewing Emeralds on websites and remember that they are always much nicer in person; making them some of the least photogenic of gems!


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Availability of Shapes in Colored Gems

Monday, August 26th, 2013

When asked to imagine a ring, an average consumer will think of a round stone in a setting, most probably a diamond of course. Millions of dollars of advertising has helped etch this image on the common psyche, but also not surprisingly, diamond crystals naturally lend themselves to be cut in rounds, this shape allowing for the highest yield possible from most rough.

On the contrary, unlike diamond crystals, most color stone crystals lend themselves to be cut in oval or cushion for maximum yield. As an exception the term emerald cut, suggests that Emerald crystals are more suited to be cut in emerald cuts or octagonals. Of course, you do see a range of shapes available in cut gemstones but you should also be aware that when dealing with finer and rarer materials certain shapes come at a premium, meaning a higher loss on the maximum yield was taken, in order to offer that outline:

shaped in color gems

Shape in order of best yield from this rough
-Oval   -Cushion   -Emerald Cut   
-Square Cushion   -Round   -Square or Princess Cut

This fact is ever more evident when looking for larger sizes in hard to find shapes such as square, square cushion or round. We all know that the customer is always right, but also as experts on colored gems, as jewelers, we have a great opportunity to educate our customers on availability. For example you can explain to your customer that if they are open to looking at 3 ct. oval or cushion rubies over square or round ones, they will have many more choices to pick from at much better values.

Being informed on availability of gems and offering the best there is to your customer will make you the “hero” in their eyes.

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Knowledge leads to sales

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

CONCLAVEAttending the recent AGS conclave in Phoenix as registered suppliers, we were constantly reminded by all the various presenters how important it is for jewelry stores to train and empower their sales staff. They are the face of your company and frankly determine whether you can sell or not.

This thought is also emphasized by this quote recently published in the Rapaport/Trade Wire by Janet Novack/Forbes,

“Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers squander their immediacy edge with indifferent/uninformed sales help, who look even worse when compared to this information now available on the web. But they can do well if they integrate their online and in-store services, carry enough inventory and price competitivity.”

Being at the receiving end of color stones orders from the sales floor, we have noticed that except for some very knowledgeable store owners handling these orders themselves, most other staff members could truly benefit from increased knowledge on colored stones. AGTA, the leading authority on color, offers some very in depth and informational online education regarding color stones to its members.

As longtime AGTA members, we would like to encourage you to join and take advantage of this excellent available resource to educate your staff on color. By maximizing your sales potential you will recoup its cost in a single transaction not possible before. Empower your staff with knowledge on color gems and ensure your share of this growing market. Also, feel free to use our website for real life availability of gems and pricing information.

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Yellow Sapphire Update

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Popular for many years, fancy color sapphires have claimed their rightful place in the world of gems. The yellow color is among the favorites, of which certain shades duplicate the desirable yellow diamond colors. Up to the late 1990’s, all yellow sapphires were either unheated or basically “just heated”. This has changed, at present, they are divided into unheated, beryllium treated and “just heated”.

As firm members of AGTA, we have an ethical obligation to always reveal the correct enhancement on any gem we sell. So we have to make sure we are fully informed of the type of treatment. We have seen that over the last few years “just heated” yellows have become scarce. The reason being that most of these yellow sapphires are cooked in the same ovens where batches of heating along with beryllium diffusion happens, thus contaminating consequent batches even if not intentionally. For stones to be truly “just heated” a single cutter needs to have processed the rough and heating themselves, in ovens never used for diffusion.

What has also changed in the present world market is the larger demand from other countries outside of the US and Europe for better, larger, quality gems. On top of that list is fine unheated yellow sapphires, particularly cherished by the strong Indian market. As prices for fine clean unheated yellows have gone up, availability on “just heated” yellows have also gone down. There still is some availability on beryllium treated stones in the market. Due to scarcity of supply, “BE” treated yellow sapphires have become more expected as the norm and accepted by the trade in general. To best reflect fair market prices on gems per their treatment, we certify all our unheated yellow sapphires to offer a confident market value to our customers.

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Wear-ability of Gems

Monday, August 6th, 2012


As a gemstone dealer who has chosen to inventory a large variety of gemstones, I am often asked about the durability and wear-ability of specific gemstones we carry. I try to answer this question by first asking:

“What piece of jewelry is this gem getting set in?”

Obviously a ring gemstone is a lot more exposed to getting knocked around than a pendant or earrings. If the answer is a ring, then I need to ask if the ring is a cocktail ring worn occasionally or an engagement ring that will be worn every day and will experience a lot more wear and tear.

If it is an engagement stone, I recommend that they not go lower than an 8 on the Mohs’ scale of hardness.

These gem varieties include: Ruby, Sapphire, Spinel, Alexandrite, Chrysoberyl and Topaz. Of course, gemstones with hardness of 6 1/2 and up are still very suitable for wear in rings, but not on an everyday basis. Softer stones than that, I highly recommend be worn in pendants, pins or earrings. Gems softer than a 4 should be cherished more as beautiful specimens to look at but maybe not mounted in jewelry.

Sharing this type of information with your customers will help them make informed gem purchases, suitable for their lifestyle and jewelry use.

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Demonstrating Color Change in Gemstones

Thursday, May 17th, 2012


The most famous gems that exhibit color change are Alexandrites, Garnets, Sapphires and Spinels. Each gem variety has its own degree of color change or color shift and typical range of colors it exhibits in different lights. In order to get the best color change performance from the gem you are presenting to your customer, it is very important that you know how this works.

You need to have a daylight lamp, like most Diamond viewing desktop lamps, or better yet actual mid-day daylight, if possible, and a strong source of warm or incandescent light, most easily found in a non-LED flashlight. First let customers see the gem, for example an Alexandrite, under daylight alone; they will see a teal blue green. Then, isolate the gem from all other lights and shine an incandescent bulb flashlight on it. Here, you will see a burgundy eggplant red, in the case of a fine Brazilian stone.

You can use your existing overhead counter lights only if they can replace on of these two types of lights. Mixed lighting or using the wrong types will not let your customer view the color change present in the gem. You will lose the sale with no fault of the gem, just the inability to demonstrate it.

Color shift is basically a less dramatic version of color change and a bit harder to see, more common in sapphires.

Daylight (other than sunrise/sunset), Florescent, LED - Alexandrite, Garnet, Sapphire

Incandescent Light, Sunrise/Sunset, Candlelight - Alexandrite, Garnet, Sapphire


As you know, success lies in the correct presentation of what you are selling, so make sure you go over this information and practice it with your sales staff.

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Bringing out the Stars

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Blue Star SapphireWith great world recognition, Star Sapphire are the celebrity in this cast of gems. A great feature of this phenomenal gem is that it appeals both to men and women in any piece of jewelry, such as earrings, cuff links, tie tacks, rings, bracelets or broaches. With its very large range of colors and price points, anyone can reach for a star and own it.
When presenting stars to your customers, proper use of lighting is of the utmost importance. Make sure you use a strong single source of light to best demonstrate this feature. The sun is the best source of light in this case, and if not possible a strong flashlight will do. Diffused lighting and multiple sources of light will not produce the star present in the gem. Teach and practice showing star sapphires with your staff, since that is ultimately the feature you are selling in these beauties.

Blue Grey Star Sapphire Pink Star Sapphire

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Thursday, September 30th, 2010


What Does This Mean?

These are the terms I often hear on the phone from jewelers who are ordering gems for their specific calls. I would like to point out some facts regarding using these terms when ordering colored gemstones.

First of all, these terms are not scientific in any shape or form and cannot be equaled to using clarity or color grades in diamonds. Calling a diamond dealer and saying you want a AAA or A diamond will not work. You are better off saying a VS,GH color, or an I,K color, or if budget dictates quality say about how much a carat you can spend on the stone.

I think what has started the use of this terminology is looking at gemstone catalogs and seeing that inventories have been categorized that way by the dealer. This is mostly done in commercial calibrated materials like amethyst, citrine, garnet and so forth or smaller sizes of corundum. Basically the dealer has evaluated his existing inventory and classified it into 3 qualities to make it easier to work with, servicing the price needs of customers. This grading only makes sense within his range of inventory. In other words another dealers best or worst goods will not be equal in quality even if graded by A, AA, or AAA. This type of grading works best in giving you a rough idea of quality and cost when working in smaller or less expensive calibrated commercial grade materials.

Recently I had a request for a 12 x 10mm A or AA ruby!! My first thought was that doesn’t say much except that they are not looking for gem material. There is such a huge price range in rubies, more than most other stones. A six carat stone in Amethyst can go from $4-$50/ct or Aquamarine for $50-$750/ct, but in Ruby it can go from $200-$300/ct for glass filled materials up to $25K-$35K/ct for a fine gem.

In other words using more descriptive terms to define the quality or budget range for the stone is a much more useful and practical way of expressing non commercial orders. In general dealers who carry finer quality goods, whether in single larger stones or in smaller pairs or sets, will never use this terminology to describe the grade of their stones.

At the level of higher quality colored gemstones, there are many more tangible and describable factors that define each stone, such as the exact shade of color, which includes tones and saturation as well as the presence of secondary colors, the clarity, the life and the cut of the stone. Unlike diamonds, colored stones come in a huge range and variety of cuts which affects the color, life, and weight of the gemstone. For example, one might pay more per/ct for a well cut 9×7 oval sapphire, but this stone might cost you less than a less per/ct stone with a much more lumpy and deep cut. In the end, knowing your range of budget determines which gems will work for your call.

Being and staying informed on the range of colored gems and their pricing is not an easy job. Very often, I have had phone calls where the quality description on the stone requested has not even been close to the final budget quoted for the stone. For example, to me using both words “very bright” and “red red” in describing the ruby requested means the more expensive finer material, as opposed to just mentioning “red red”.

A "very bright" and "red red" ruby on the left, and a "red red" ruby on the right

In order to turn more of your gemstone inquiries and requests into sales, you need to work with trusted suppliers who have well priced quality goods with reliable service and up to date information on availability and price. On your part you can qualify your customer and find out what factors are most important to them; such as dimension and shape as in using an existing mounting they have, preference of color and then informing them about gems available in those colors and the price range they wish to stay within for the project. Sales happen when the jeweler follows up on the request, provides complete information on availability, prices and choices to the customer and keeps their interest and commitment to the project, by taking time to educate them on color gemstones thus turning them into loyal lifetime customers.

Being on the supplier end of this equation, we get to hear the many challenges retailers are faced with and we try to support and assist each one of our clients in all these areas. Part of the service we presently provide our customers is a complete website with a gem search option which helps you find what you need along with great images of our inventory to also present to your customer. An added feature of this website is that it can be easily incorporated into your own website with your own markup options. This allows your sales team to have full access to our inventory of fine color to present to your customers with your selling prices. Check it out and let us know if we can assist you in any shape or form.

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Selling “the color”

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Effective and highly communicative, using names of existing objects in nature or standard shared experiences is a very common way of describing specific shades of color in gemstones.

Besides the obvious, light, medium or dark adjectives, using specific references such as “grass green” or “forest green” brings to mind a more descriptive picture, helping us realize more what secondary colors might be present in the referred to green. Now we have to also be aware of what species of gems offer those shades of green or if that shade falls outside the range of colors that gem exists in. For example, both those shades can be found in Tourmalines or tsavorites, but not in Peridots, since it has more yellow in it. Greens in Emerald usually have too much blue for a “grass green” color but darker shades of Emerald could be described as “forest green”.

“Pigeon blood red” is a term reserved to describe the finest Burmese rubies, meaning that it is a rich red with a tiny tinge of pink. I have also heard the term “pomegranate seed” red used among a few dealers at a more wholesale level to describe the life and brilliance present in a fine gem ruby. The catch here seems to be that both parties should be very familiar with the standard reference used; In this case, what a ripe pomegranate seed looks like!! As you can see, this by far is not a purely scientific method and could have a lot of overlap or hits and misses, based on subjective personal experience of color.

When requesting blue sapphires of Ceylon origin the term “cornflower blue” is probably one of the most used terms in the industry, but even that reference covers quite a wide range from medium light to medium to rich shades which can amount to the difference of hundreds of dollars per carat. But, at least we know that in this case the secondary color they are requesting be present in the blue sapphire is violet.

An underlying principle of marketing and advertizing, using descriptive terms such as, names of fruits, flowers and items that are linked to romance and luxury like, chocolates, champagne, cognac, canary, sea foam, lagoon… also have the added benefit of evoking a desire and longing for ownership and partaking in that experience when used effectively. For example, naming a natural fancy color brown Zircon, cognac or chocolate or if it has lighter tones, “champagne” adds to the appeal of ownership.

Being in this business, we all know how the “right” name alone can do wonders for a gem or vice versa. Some jewelers even to this day have shared with me how they still struggle to overcome the association of “synthetic” and “manmade” with gems such as Zircons and Spinels. At times like this using geographic location descriptions helps dispel those untrue assumptions, such as “Burmese” Spinels or “Madagascar” Zircons, reminding the buyer that these gems are actually natural and mined at these actual locations.

This last JCK show, a customer at our booth sounded frustrated when she asked me why there was not a better name for “Color Change Garnet”, after I had shown her some beautiful ones from Kenya that duplicated the color change of Alexandrite. My reply was that one can always take the information that is out there as common knowledge, build on it through education and expertise and then steer the customer’s interest back to what is originally exciting about a gem, as opposed to only dwelling on what it’s name is, the same way she herself was loving the gem in front of her!!

Then of course, many species of gems themselves historically are one of the most common and standard shared experiences of color known to mankind. Other industries commonly use the name of gems to evoke luxury and romance. Lapis blue, turquoise blue, jade green, emerald green, ruby reds… are often used to describe colors of objects.

Besides the existing very scientific terminology taught by GIA to describe color and the Gemset used in the industry, communication between jewelers and colored gem dealers could also benefit from the usage of some of these terms, especially when they are following up on a request from their customer finding them that specific shade of color.

Included is a chart we have developed that helps us see the availability of gems in specific shades of colors, giving us options of gem materials and price points in order to get the colors that we want.

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Often Asked Questions: Blue Sapphires

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Question: In blue sapphires, are lighter or darker colors better?

As you already can tell there is no short answer to this question, so we will start by talking about what blue sapphires are presently available in the market and the range of qualities and colors for each source.

Ceylon or Sri Lanka: This is probably the most asked for and known source for blue sapphires, often referred to by its cornflower blue color. Stones from this source range from pastel blue to fine rich blue. Ceylon blues are more of a pure blue with different amounts of the desirable secondary color of violet. The medium and lighter colors can sometimes come close to colors of tanzanite. You can get some intense pure blue in a medium to medium dark tone that can be very stunning. Some top fine quality Ceylons can come very close to some Kashmir or Burmese materials in color.

Outside Sri Lanka, no other source produces the medium light to light colors that have no unwanted gray overtones. Stones free of inclusions and zoning are hard to find, particularly since inclusions become easier to see in the lighter shades of blue. Clean material and great cutting makes a world of difference to the brilliance and life of these stones.

Thai: These stones are usually a darker shade of navy or inky blue, not the most coveted of colors. They are usually found in commercial mass produced jewelry since large quantities of calibrated goods are readily available. You might have a need for them, replacing missing stones in repairs.

Kanchanaburi or Chantanaburi Materials: When this material became available over a decade ago it became a great choice for an in between color and price point, filling the gap between Ceylon and Thai materials. In general Kancha materials are brighter and better blues than the over dark, more commercial quality of Thai goods. The finer Kanchas come close to medium dark Ceylon colors, offering medium to rich navy blues. In the better qualities, this material is generally less zoned and included than Ceylon goods. Because of this, certain shapes like emerald cuts where both these factors show up more, look particularly nice from this source. At present Kancha material is not readily available and the steadily increased prices don’t really make them much of a bargain compared to Ceylon goods in the better qualities like they used to. The lower qualities have more of a cloudy look to them and gray overtones.

Madagascar: Most of the materials from this source are so close to finer richer Ceylon colors that sometimes they are not differentiated and hard to identify just by looking. What is certain is that, there isn’t any medium and light blue colors from this source and some tastes might find the darker ranges overly dark, though rich looking. Since they are priced the same as Ceylons of comparable color, there isn’t much distinction for this source category.

Burma and Kashmir: This category is reserved more for the collector or the connoisseur, with large finer stones traded at auctions. Their price per carat could go up to 3 to 10 time’s regular fine blue Ceylons. Their pedigree and provenance has to be ascertained by the more advanced testing done by reputable gem labs determining and indicating origin on their certificates. Though usually quite beautiful in color it is their rarity that commands the prices they fetch, with Kashmir’s more than the Burmese.

Montana Sapphires: The U.S. customer is also aware of and might request Montana and Yogo sapphires. There isn’t much availability on these materials especially in larger sizes. Their colors are closest to medium to medium light Ceylons with more of a chance for secondary colors like gray. The finest colors in these are seen in the Yogo sapphires, which are not easily available. So unless someone specifically asks and insists on this source, you have a much better chance of finding and selling a Ceylon stone any day.

Our Selection

We, at Gem 2000, have always carried a wide range of blue sapphires in our inventory. Over the last 20 years the sources of our offerings have varied based on availability and new finds. Blue sapphires have consistently been our biggest seller. Presently, our largest inventory is in the Ceylon material covering a large range of color and price points. Our emphasis and strength in this material, is also largely due to us doing our own cutting at facilities on location. Offering very high standards of cut on all of our sapphires, makes a bottom heavy, off center and zoned native cut blue sapphire an extinct item at Gem 2000.

So, how would one describe the color of a fine blue sapphire? It would be the most intense pure blue with the least secondary color or overtones in medium to medium rich colors. In more scientific terms, high saturation and medium tones indicate higher valued gems. As usual beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each eye sees color differently. So, clarity and cut are the other factors to keep in mind as they help bring life and sparkle to the stone regardless of the color.

Feel free to look at images of our gems to actually experience for yourself the subtle differences of colors available in this popular saleable gem.

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