Last updateWed, 22 Nov 2017 7am

Diana Jarrett

The Story Behind the Stone: Tucson treasures

A slow show - yes, a sign of the times, to be sure. Tucson's many gem and mineral shows bore the evidence of a jittery state of affairs, not just here in the US, but worldwide. This is after all a global bazaar. Rare often unpronounceable gems were still there. Top end eye popping couture jewels still shimmered in their cases. Dinosaur eggs and T-Rex skulls still made their way to the outlying shows circumnavigating the big daddies at the Convention Center (AGTA GemFair) and the white tents (GJX) set up across the road.

Scary economy notwithstanding, it seemed to bear little weight on the creative genius of the designers who did attend. And attendees sailed relentlessly up and down the aisles on task to find something new - and they did just that if they went to the booths I visited.

American Pearl Company's Lagniappe cultured pearls were a big hit - as they should be. These hefty free form pearls are the freshwater equivalent of authentic saltwater keshi pearls, which are collected rabidly for their rich heavy nacre through and through.

Jade lovers thrilled at Heyden Stone, Inc. purple jade. The story of its discovery is as exotic as the idea of natural (no enhancements whatsoever) purple jade itself. This material hails from the deserts of Turkey. How'd they stumble on that? It's a natural beauty.

Arunashi turned heads with their daring collection of ultra modern jewels. Round brilliant cut stones are set pavilion side out on globe-like pendant earrings set in dramatic blackened rhodium over 18kt gold. Truly arresting.
Designer Sarah Graham took metalsmithing to new heights by showing her 18kt gold and blackened steel collection in the Designers Pavilion at the AGTA GemFair. Young and edgy, of course, but Graham shows off her expertise as a metalsmith in the details of her line. Serious jewelry lovers take note.

Philip Zahm's collection at the Centurion Jewelry expo showed us a thing or two about beautifully tailored jewelry designs pumped up with bolder proportions paired with intensely colored gemstones. A perfect fit for cognoscenti who take their fun seriously.

Lucoral of Taiwan brought calibrated cameos in volume this year for the manufacturer or designer who wants to jump on this hot trend and fold carved shells into their collection. Beija Flor Gems of Hawaii had some cherry specimens of transparent rhodochrocite.

There were much more wonderful finds at the shows of course. If you went, you saw the goods. If you didn't, this should get your creative wheels turning.

Graduate Gemologist and Registered Master Valuer Diana Jarrett is also a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA). She's a frequent lecturer at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett serves as Colored Stone Editor for Rapaport Diamond Report; with other works regularly appearing in trade and consumer publications. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit her website: www.dianajarrett.com.



Diamonds and Tsavorite garnets are reverse set in blackened Rhodium over 18kt gold. Image courtesy of Arunashi.

Jarrett-Ringus-AprilFrom designer Helen Ringus for Eurocraft Jewelry, a whimsical band playing on Lagniappe cultured pearl clouds. Image courtesy of American Pearl Company.

Trio of playful yet elegant "Margarita" rings featuring spinel, spessartite garnet and blue-green tourmaline set in 18kt white gold. Ruby, fancy sapphire, garnet and tanzanite complete the gallery's design while adding additional vivid color to the overall look. Image courtesy of Mark R. Davis.


The Story Behind the Stone: Bould’ Over

Countless gemstoneshave varieties or sub-sets which can subtly or dramatically differentiate each stones' appearance from one another; yet their basic chemical makeup remains the same.

Take opal for instance. This amorphous mineral species lists thirty-six varieties in the venerated "Gem Reference Guide," produced by Gemological Institute of America (GIA), used for reference in their colored gemstone program. Thirty-six, that's an impressive line-up for any gemstone.

The Story Behind the Stone: Customer -v- Collector

What's wrong with consuming? Nothing, if it brings genuine pleasure to the individual and that person buys within their means. When it comes to jewelry, collecting would be the better way to go - always.

Collecting involves several aspects, some of which are acquired skills. For the individual who wants to evolve into a bona fide collector, here are some bullet points to consider.

The Story Behind the Stone: Still going green - the Zultanite way

What if you could actually have it all - you could offer a gemstone that is rare, gorgeous, untreated, and with a naturally occurring color-change phenomenon? On top of that, you could honestly explain that it represents the vanguard of responsible mining in such a nuts-and- bolts way that your customers could actually understand what going green means? Maybe you can have it all - with Zultanite.

The Story Behind the Stone - Cameo appearance

OK. Let's make a quick word connection - think cameo. ‘Grandma' is your answer? Try again. The ancient art of cameo making, old as it is, has undergone a sensational makeover in recent years. And jewelers at every price point are serving up sumptuously carved treats to their insatiable clientele.

Analyzing the aftermath - the JADE Act

Embargo on gemstones originating from Myanmar, formerly Burma is nothing new. But the backlash, and divisive commentary in the wake of the latest officially implemented ban is bound to polarize many members within the gem trade. And oddly enough, all those voices have a point - and a valid one.

Aimed at penalizing the Burmese ruling junta through embargo, the US government had banned products coming from Burma since 2003. However the broad language of that earlier sanction permitted the importation of Burmese-origin gems that were cut or polished elsewhere. On July 30, 2008 President George Bush signed into law the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act, restricting the import of precious Burmese gems and stones.

Some observers claim the previous sanctions had a loophole. Others argue it was no loophole - that the earlier ban simply expressed a different set of parameters for gemstone importation. So, unlike the former embargo, the JADE Act ban now clearly states that Burmese-origin jadeite and ruby, including those which have undergone “substantial transformation” elsewhere, are to be banned from coming into the US. The only exception would be Burmese gems brought in for ‘personal consumption.’

While the industry contemplates these new developments, the global gemstone community already voices disparate opinions. Director of Public Affairs for Jewelers of America (JA), Peggy Jo Donohue assured that JA will make certain that its members clearly understand that no rubies or jade mined in Burma may be imported legally into the U.S. And, Donohue added, to be certain, “Jewelers should seek written assurance from their suppliers that they will not knowingly supply these banned gems.”

The comprehensive nature of the JADE Act, spelled out in lengthy legalese, may appear to be a daunting task when it comes to sorting it all out. But the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) has streamlined this concern with information clearly spelled out on their website for those interested - www.jvclegal.com.

It’s impossible to prove some stones have been in the US prior to the implementation of the JADE Act, certain dealers worry. Old stock - really old stock - may not have the paper trail that the current legislation demands in order to sell existing stock that may have come from Burma - or not. Proving the origin is a hotly debated topic where this new ban is concerned.

Some people mistakenly believe the determination of origin, not how long it has been in the US, is at least a done deal. Inclusions and fluorescence clues some feel, are fail-safe and will tell if a ruby originated in Burma. Not so fast, warns Christopher Smith, vice president and chief gemologist, of American Gemological Laboratories (AGL).

Burmese rubies are found in three major deposits; the Mogok Valley, Mong Hsu and Namya Zeik. Yes, it’s true that a number of indicators can assist in separating ruby from Burma and ruby from other sources around the world. These indicators are various inclusion and spectroscopic features, internal growth structures, and chemical composition. Still, since there are ruby deposits in other locales whose geologic environs almost mirror that of Burma, in many instances, “distinguishing these sources from Burma ruby can range from straight forward to very difficult.”

Noted ruby and sapphire authority Richard Hughes believes that the statistics involving the sale of Burmese ruby are grossly misleading. “Claims that the junta earns $300 million a year from the sales of gems are based upon gross gem auction proceeds, but in reality many of the lots sold at auction are owned by private parties, not the junta,” Hughes states.

Time will tell whether this law which intends to send a punitive message to the brutal ruling junta of Myanmar achieves its desired effect. No one, as Douglas Hucker, CEO of American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) understands it, wants to see the innocent victims of this legislation become the fall guy to this ban. “My concern,” Hucker stressed, “is that this Bill is going to hurt the wrong people like the artisanal miners, instead of the junta.”



La Pierre Precieuse, Montreal, offers fine Cambodian ruby as an alternative to the banned Burmese ruby.
Photo courtesy of La Pierre Precieuse. Burmese Ruby crystal, courtesy of Will Heierman, www.corunduminium.com.


The ripple effect of the Burmese ban spreads to Thailand, and surrounding nations which traditionally cut these stones. Gem dealer Bill Larson, president of Pala International, spends a great deal of time in Asia. “These are independent (Burmese) miners who supply the Thais; and the dealers all come to Thailand unofficially,” Larsen points out. So he feels that ruby sales do not enrich the Burmese government. “Who it will affect are the thousands of Thais in the cutting and jewelry industry.”

Montreal based gem dealer Pramendra Baid, of La Pierre Precieuse, Inc., sees a closer-ranged unintended consequence. Baid forecasts a flood of Burmese goods having entered the US ahead of the ban enforcement, resulting in an unwanted price hike for Burmese goods. The residual challenge, Baid predicts will be in serving the upper tier of the market. Nothing else quite looks like Burmese ruby, he says. Ruby from other countries lacks the color saturation and clarity as fine Mogok ruby. Baid also foresees difficulties with implementing the new documentation requirements for Canadian based importers and manufacturers who sell to the US because “origination documentation for previously purchased rubies (both Burmese and non-Burmese) will be difficult if not impossible to obtain.”

In the end, all of these well founded concerns are mitigated by the cohesive unity of trade members not wishing to support a government whose human rights abuse records are so abysmal. And the various voices all make their point. JA Director of Public Affairs Donahue affirmed, “Until genuine democratic reform becomes a reality in Burma, such sanctions are necessary to send a clear message from American jewelers to the ruling military regime.”

Graduate Gemologist and Registered Master Valuer Diana Jarrett is also a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA). She’s a frequent lecturer at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett serves as Colored Stone Editor for Rapaport Diamond Report; with other works regularly appearing in trade and consumer publications. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit her website: www.dianajarrett.com.

Getting it write

So what do you want to know? That may be the knee jerk response you give to someone coming into your business asking if you can "tell them a little bit more about _____" (fill in the blank). A decade or so back, consumers smugly approached the diamond ring case at the mall jeweler ‘armed' with a basic understanding of the 4 Cs. And, of course, it's still a pretty good idea to have that foundation if one is going to put down serious cash for an engagement ring.