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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 -

    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 -

    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 -

    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

    Investing in Gemstones

    If you are buying stones at retail prices from, say, a Jewelry shop, the only value to the investment will be your pleasure in the stones you buy - which may not be a bad thing. But understand that if you go to sell those gems, you are not likely to get more than 25%, or less, than what you paid for them.

    Even at wholesale prices, there is still significant risk. For example Tanzanite that was around $500 per ct a few years ago is now $150 per ct. On the other hand, Tsavorite has increased from $250 per ct to perhaps as high as $1,000 per ct for larger sizes, in the same period.

    Blue sapphires right now are at a comparatively low price. Even stones 5ct plus can be found at under $500 per ct (albeit with some treatment). Pink sapphires and rubies are at comparatively higher prices because of demand from China. While at the same time there are many very poor quality rubies, with intense heat and colour treatment, entering the market that seem quite cheap.

    I believe there is good investment opportunity for Alexandrite, if you can find it. I was recently shown a beautiful 1.1ct stone with good red/green colour change at an asking price of $10,000, where the 'tourist' retail price was $35,000.

    Why should we wear gemstones?

    Because they are beautiful. As well as being beautiful itself, a fine gemstone will draw eyes to the wearer and enhance their natural beauty. It will show the wearer as a person of discernment and good taste.

    Gemstones are natural and unique and can never be vulgar or overstated. A gemstone will be a mote of colour in soft light and a flash of brilliance in strong light. It will enhance skin tones and soften lines.

    Given as a gift, a gemstone is a great compliment, and when worn, returns the compliment to the giver.

    Gemstones - A new Business

    I have started a new business; or rather I am in the process of starting one, to buy and sell gemstones. My 'alpha' we sire currently resides here.

    I started my interest in sapphires in 2008 when my business partner, John, and I set up an office in Sri Lanka for our Internet Service Provider business. The trip to Sri Lanka often involved a transit stop over in Bangkok. John had been buying beautiful stones and jewelry for his wife for many years in Australia, and was kind enough to pass on to me a contact in Bangkok which I visited and consequently bough some of my first pieces there.

    It is almost impossible to travel to Sri Lanka without seeing absolutely gorgeous gem stones and jewelry displays in every hotel, office building and street shops.

    I have been travelling to Sri Lanka about six times a year for the since 2008, and each time I would seek out a nice stone, usually a sapphire, to bring back as a present for my wife. Sometimes I would also have them made up into jewelry, and occasionally buy matching stones to have made into ring/pendant/ear ring sets.

    Over time I have built up trusted contacts at the wholesale and mine owner level, and found some very good goldsmiths along the way.

    Comparing the prices I was paying in Sri Lanka and Bangkok to jewelry shop prices in Australia and on-line, it looked to me like I was paying one quarter or less for the stones I was buying, which were also larger, and better quality.

    Coincident with my interest in gems was the popularization of poker, which I had been playing at an amateur level for some years. The poker boom of the mid 2000's saw me playing regularly on weekends in casino cash games, at which I was moderately successful at low stakes.

    What I would do is take the bankroll I had built up playing poker and use that to buy gems when I went to Sri Lanka. It seemed a perfect combination.

    My interest in gems developed, but had to take a back seat to running my business. However I had a lot of interest and some requests from friends and family about the gems and jewelry I had been buying. On request, I sourced some very nice pieces for friends, which I was happy to do as a favour.

    It became clear that the potential was there to use the contacts and knowledge I had built up to source gem stones of quality and that simply aren't available in retail jewelers, or if they are, cost tens of thousands of dollars. Which I could source one quarter the price or less, and often twice the size.

    In May 2013 I sold my share of the Internet business. My plan it to now find out just what potential exists for a gem and jewelry business.