Skip to content

A Slow Day

And a slow month, and a slow year.

I don't think I am wrong in saying that this is the quietest period the gemstone market has seen for a long time. Look around the JTC Tower in Silom Road and every day there seem to be more empty shops and booths. Reports from the Hong Kong and Bangkok gem shows describe them as having the lowest levels of customer traffic anyone can remember.

Natural, unheated 3.5 carat Ceylon sapphire, 18k white gold, 17 2mm white sapphires.
This is a natural, unheated 3.5 carat Ceylon sapphire, set in 18k white gold with 17 2mm white sapphires. It doesn't relate to this article, but it sure is nice to look at


But is that a bad thing? Every industry has its cycles. It is certainly bad for businesses used to, and relying on, higher sales volumes to meet overheads. And those that are leveraged, well, as someone said recently (me in the first paragraph) "every day there seem to be more empty shops and booths".

So of course it's bad, why even ask. While it is sad to see businesses closing down, and imagining the human cost of that, those that remain will be leaner, stronger and better for the experience. Business owners now have time to pay attention to their business processes. There is time to take a breath and look at all the ways social media can be leveraged. Things that work can be improved and refined and things that don't can be abandoned with confidence.

What's more, employees can be trained up, especially sales people. In a busy market, anyone who holds out a product can be a good sales person, but in a slow market like this, people with real sales aptitude and, most importantly, tenacity, will shine.

For buyers though, there is an overwhelming benefit - a slow market is a buyers market. This is a bonanza for the customer and perhaps the best time in two decades for collectors. There are real bargains for both wholesale and retail. Cashed up wholesale buyers looking to build inventory have the best of it at the moment.

Cash

If you are interested in wholesale Gold Sheen Sapphire or Ruby, please follow the link to the Wholesale section of my website. For collectors and bargain hunters, check out the ruby, aquamarine and gold sheen sapphire here http://sjwgems.com/product-category/gemstones/.

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

Which, if I recall correctly was the name of a Queen song on the 'A Night at the Opera' album. What's that Wikipedia, it was? Yes. Thank you.

From Sunday morning through to just now at 6:30 I have been updating the SJW Gems website with some new features. First, there is multi currency. It is really more a convenience for customers than a 'must have'. All the product prices are in US dollars, and anyone buying will have the conversion done automatically by their credit card company.

Nevertheless, the customer can now select their currency from a drop down menu and it will update the prices in real time. Neat.

Second is a coupon feature for social media. Anyone who 'likes' on Facebook or follows on Twitter will get a coupon code for 10% discount off their order.

Not exactly lazing, but a productive way to spend a slow day.

The Problem with Rubies

I don't know about you, but I love rubies. There is nothing like the flash from a ruby in warm light. Well cut natural rubies have, I think, the best light enhancing and return characteristics of any gemstone. I have seen several 'pigeon blood' rubies, selling for over $15,000 per carat, and they were so beautiful that if I had had the cash on hand to buy them, I would have.

But we have a problem in the ruby market. About five years ago, 'neuvo riche' Chinese were buying gemstones like their was no tomorrow. With a preference for red gemstones, with a preference for ruby. No problem with that, but demand far outstriped supply, and predictably, a lot of manufactured ruby started to enter the market.

No one who can afford it wants manufactured ruby when natural ruby is available. But it was cheap, and I believe very few vendors tried to pass it off as natural ruby. This is an example of manufactured ruby:

Ruby Earrings

It looks pretty, very clear, and not at all expensive.

However, the problem that developed was mines were opened that produced very low grade ruby, normally not even considered for gemstone use. The rough from these mines was then put in a bath of acid for a week or so, dissolving out all of the iron and other impurities. What was left was technically ruby, but looked like a pinkish chalky substance. This would then be placed in a furnace and packed with glass beads at high temperature (2,200 celsius), perhaps with some chromium to improve the colour, for 100 hours.

The intense heat fuses the glass to the chalky ruby and produces a clear, solid looking stone, somewhat similar to the rough, but with much cleaner optical properties. This is known as 'glass filled ruby'. And it is still, technically, natural ruby.

Heat treatment for corundum is nothing unusual. It has been done for many hundreds of years and is an accepted treatment to improve colour. When done properly, the treatment is permanent and will generally increase the value of the gem. But intense heat treament (over 1,600 celsius) will cause structural problems, and though the stone will look good initially, it will become degraded and lose value.

Glass filled ruby is perhaps the worst of all possible heat treatment. For a few months it looks great, really clear, and with the right additives during heating can even approach the excellent colour properties of pigeon blood ruby.

As time goes on however, stresses caused by heating cause the glass to develop microfractures. As well, glass is still only glass, will scratch and crack with everyday wear in jewelry. Typically within a year the gem is not looking good at all. And this can never be fixed. Reheating will just destroy it and the flaws are embedded throughout the stone.

Because of demand, glass filled ruby flooded the market, being sold as 'Natural Ruby' - which is was, technically. More savvy buyers might ask if it was heat treated, to which the answer would be 'yes' - there being nothing wrong with heat treating in the normal case.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that when is is new, glass filled ruby is very hard to tell from normal heat treated ruby. Inspection through a 10x loupe or even gemologist microscope generally won't reveal it, and it tests just like normal ruby with a refractometer. It requires a lengthy several hundred dollar lab analysis to identify it correctly in the early stage. (later on it becomes obvious, but by then it is usually too late).

What the buyer thinks is that they are getting a bargain. What looks like $5,000 per carat ruby being offered for only $2,000.

Here is a ruby I bought two years ago. It looked great when I bought it, and a bargain at only $200, I thought.

Glass filled ruby

It is easy to see just with the eye that there are cloudy areas in this gem. This is what happens with glass filled ruby, the glass develops fractures and destroys the appeal of the gem.

Magnified Glass Filled Ruby

At higher magnification even more problems can be seen. The white areas are shattered glass within the stone. Surface inclusions have also become apparent. None of these flaws were observable when I first bought this ruby.

And so that is the problem. The market was flooded with this utter crap glass filled ruby, and there is still a lot of it around today. Fortunately today though, it is fairly easy to spot - you can see many vendors on Silom Road offloading it for 50 Baht ($1.50) a carat or less. The signs still say 'natural ruby' but the price makes it obvious it is glass filled. Incidentally, it is not even worth 50 baht, you are better buying just coloured glass for a few cents, which at least will be more durable.

Nevertheless, ruby remains a truly beautiful gemstone, but understandable doubt has been sown in the minds of buyers due to the glass filling practice.

So if you want to buy ruby (and you should, because it is beautiful), look for 'Natural UNHEATED'. Whether glass filled or not, a loupe is usually sufficient to determine if a gem has been heated. If it is unheated, then there is simply no way it can be glass filled.

Price of Gold Sheen Sapphire - 2 Year History

Gold Sheen Sapphire I have been tracking the price of Gold Sheen Sapphire since I first started to buy it in 2014. Recently the street price has seen a dramatic increase, certainly due to its increasing popularity with designers and investors.

From the very start Tanzim Khan (the discoverer of Gold Sheen Sapphire) has been maintaining an impressive effort to provide information and education about this new variety of corundum. I have made a fact sheet available on my website and I am working on a grading system that I am developing in conjunction with Tanzim and Gemological Labs interested in participating.

This is the two year price history of Gold Sheen Sapphire:

Gold Sheen Sapphire Price History

Some explanation about the chart.

Currently we have 3 grades for GSS:

Grade 1 - No surface defects, no structural defects, or 'very rare'
Grade 2 - Eye clean surface, no structural defects, or 'rare'
Grade 3 - Minor surface defects, minor structural defects. or 'common'

Anything less than Grade 3 is not available for sale and either discarded or re-cut.

"Buy" is the wholesale price for Grade 3 stones in large quantities over 10,000 carats

"Sell" is the price offered for sale from retail or trade fare for single stones or small sales.

"Street" is the negotiated price for small quantities of stones of various grades.

Gold Sheen Sapphire can also be 'unique', which are typically collectors pieces over 50 carats in size. The price for these can vary from $100 per carat to simply 'no price' since it only depends on what the seller and buyer are willing to negotiate. Some examples of wholesale stones in calibrated sizes are on my website.

The good news is that for jewelry designers and retailers, the wholesale price of Gold Sheen Sapphire has not caught up to the street price yet.

Special Promotion for Gold Sheen Sapphire

Gold Sheen Sapphire I am launching a special promotion for Gold Sheen Sapphire. The goal Tanzim and I have is to make Gold Sheen Sapphire famous, and to do that we want jewelry designers to feature the gem in their work. There have already been some industry award winning designs, and we want to bring this unique gemstone into the mainstream where it rightly belongs.

This is the promotion I am offering on my website:

  • Hand selection of stone from rough to your specification

  • Rare and very rare features at a single price

  • Fine cutting to your design specification 0.1mm tolerance

  • Locked in buy price for 12 months

  • We will list your design jewelry for sale on our website, or link to the listing on your site, and promote it through social media at no cost to you.  You will receive 100% of the sale price.


  • The price of Gold Sheen Sapphire has risen by 100% in the last 12 month. Common grade gems were selling at $20 per carat last year and now are $40 per carat, and I have seen rarer stones that were $50 per carat last year now being bough for $200 and more.

    So first we are offering a very good price, cut to any specification the designer wants. We can offer even better pricing for stones already cut, and examples of those are in the wholesale section of my website - http://sjwgems.com/wholesale/gold-sheen-sapphire-wholesale/.

    Second, locking in the price for designers lets them have the confidence that the price they buy for today will be the same for the next 12 months.

    To give an example of the lengths we will go to to provide the exact specification required, we have just completed an order for a jewelry designer in New York for 5,000 carats. To meet their requirement we sliced over 400kg of rough to find the exact match they were looking for.


    A Stunning Gemstone

    Gold Sheen Sapphire I recently saw the most spectacular Gold Sheen Sapphire that has been discovered so far. This gem has a pure gold luster under all light conditions - quite rare for Gold Sheen, which usually varies from gold to copper to bronze as light play across it. It also has a, so far, unique yellow sapphire 'window' through the stone.


    Unique Gold Sheen Sapphire
    The gemstone weighs in a 44 carats and measures 24mm x 15mm x 13mm



    More information on Gold Sheen Sapphire is available in my website - sjwgems.com

    New Website for SJW Gems

    I ran into limitations of my existing hosted site on Godaddy.com. The shopfront was great, but only being able to host 10 custom pages was a big restraint. Lacking the on hand sysadmins and software engineers I used to have, and having forgotten most of my LINUX skills, I didn't really want to go down the path of setting up a stand alone web server site.

    Fortunately, Godaddy were able to suggest a solution using WordPress and Cpanel. I have to say, for a blog platform, WordPress has a very impressive e commerce front end, and more utility plugins than you can wave a stick at.

    Of course, there was no easy migration path, so that all had to be done manually, product item by product item. But only 80 or so product listing, so not that big a deal. And now it is done.

    There are a few small things I don't like, one of which was all the product image jpgs have to be the same size - 600x600px, otherwise the shopfront listing don't line up. Which mean editing all the image files to match the size. But apart from that, the options and flexibility of the new site is far better. The Woocommerce template seems to lack for nothing when it comes to things a storefront site needs.

    Check it out - sjwgems.com

    I am happy with it.

    Rubies, Rubies, Rubies

    We have just started cutting the first of the ruby rough from Madagascar. This is 100% natural ruby with no treatment from a very, very old deposit. Cutters at the factory are complaining about how hard it is, and this is from people used to cutting ruby and sapphire. We are using about 50% more diamond abrasive as well. I am not sure what that means on the Mohs scale, but it certainly seems harder than normal corundum.

    We are seeing to consistent colours so far - a lovely rose colour and a deep, rich plum, both with excellent saturation. The colour and saturation is consistent and make for very good matching in jewelry sets.

    Rough Ruby
    Rough Ruby straight from the mine


    All of the rough we have cut has produced cabochons. The stone sliced so far is too opaque for faceting.

    Ruby Cabs
    Natural Ruby Cabs, No Heat, No Treatment


    More information on this ruby parcel is available on my website - sjwgems.com

    Necklace to match a wedding dress?

    Someone on Quora asked recently: "I have an ivory / cream colored wedding dress, it is not a real wedding dress and it's kind of casual. Those lovely diamond necklaces that you see would clash with this dress. I'm not sure what kind of necklace would match the color and style of my dress, any suggestions?"

    My answer:

    A necklace of blue sapphires would look simply stunning, and could be complimented with sapphire earnings.

    You can never wear too many sapphires