Market Watch: Spinel

Today’s blog will be short. I have a huge queue of projects lined up that need my attention, and never enough time to do everything I want to do (hint hint: GIA GG).

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Over the years I have gained a reputation for being someone who loves spinel. It’s true, I do. Which is evidenced by my spinel engagement ring, and maintaining a pretty decent personal collection of spinels. And not only that, but somehow people who discover gray spinel typically find me as well.

Side note: It’s funny, but when you start google image searching “gray spinel” several of the pictures I have taken over the years are top results.

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Now, it was just last month that AGTA and JA declared spinel an alternative birthstone for August, but already the price for spinel has absolutely sky rocketed. Two months ago I could buy spinel on the retail market for cheaper than the new wholesale prices for spinel. This is especially evident with pinks and reds (as they are always the ones to jump in price first!) but it has even trickled down to the gray spinels.

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Once upon a time, you could buy gray spinel for $5/ct, if that. Dealers and miners were just thrilled to sell them for something – they were once considered a step above gravel. But now, I am seeing prices that are more than triple of the prices seen just a few months ago. Retail pricing on darker spinels over 2cts is currently clocking in at around $900/ct. And that’s when you can find them!

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So, the point of this post is that if you are in the market for a spinel, of any color, you should buy sooner rather than later. These prices are going to go way up, and I doubt that we will ever see them go back down now that spinel has been introduced to the public eye.
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TGP: Year Two

A lot has happened over the last year, and certainly in the last two!

On a more personal note, I have moved from just outside of the Mojave desert where water is scarce to a 1800s farmhouse in the middle of thousands of acres of the incredible rolling hills of the Palouse, and finally to a fixer upper in Pullman with an actual dedicated space for a studio with southern exposure.

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Professionally I have created some incredible new designs, some of my favorite being the most challenging – a double haloed Paraiba Tourmaline, a haloed Burmese red spinel, a scalloped halo for an antique pear diamond, a violet spinel three stone ring, and a stunner of a 6 carat violet sapphire ring and so many more!

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I have created some really amazing engagement rings – a marquise in the Papillon setting, and a three stone spinel ring, not to mention stones found for engagement rings. I am always so excited and feel so blessed to play a small part of someone’s engagement!

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I have added to and built up the retail portion of my website, adding a boutique, and adding multiple designs to the Elle Collection. I have also made new contacts and been able to see some incredible gems!

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As far as gemstones go, I got an untreated Colombian Emerald back from AGL – I always knew this stone was special, and now I know how special and rare it really is. I received a glowy red spinel cut by Jeff White, and while I considered keeping it for a while, I ended up letting it go. Very reluctantly! I have gotten a ton of gray spinels, and continue being on the lookout for more. I am always on the hunt for gray spinels, especially now that their prices have skyrocketed.

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One thing that also happened this year is that AGTA and JA declared spinel to be a birthstone for August. If you’ve followed my blog, etsy, website or Instagram for any period of time, you know how much I love spinels. So while I think this is wonderful that spinel can finally get some recognition it deserves, it’s really terrible because that means that the prices of spinels are going to go crazy for a while, and probably will never come down again.

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So many things are in the works for the next year, especially the next couple of months. I have a bunch of goals, including entering a design or two into competition, and working towards more earrings and necklace designs. At some point I would like to have a trunk show event at a local jewelry store because I think that would be a lot of fun!

Here is to my third year! I only hope that it is as wonderful as the past two years!

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Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 3!

So. It’s the final day. I would have loved to stay in Vegas longer, but my daughter was already having a hard time with me being gone. I’d had a packed schedule for three days and wasn’t able to talk to her as much as I (or she) would have liked.

Saturday

I actually woke up at a decent time, and got ready as soon as possible and made my way over to the convention center. I was alone because my companion from Friday had some other engagements, and I had put this day aside to spend at the show. I was determined to go up to the diamond levels, but had to go spend some quality time back downstairs with my beloved colored stones.

JCK Luxury Salon

So, one thing I wanted to point out is that security is TIGHT, of course. These security cameras were on the escalators up to the Luxury Salons. Security guards are everywhere, police are everywhere, it was kind of amazing. But I will tell you, I’ve never felt so safe.

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Now, one other reason I am showing the video cameras is that I wasn’t able to take a ton of photos. Luxury and the main floor of the show is nothing like AGTA – cameras and photographs are not welcome. Designers and jewelers are determined that their ideas will not be stolen. I may or may not have gotten yelled at at least once by a guy wearing a bow tie that was peddling 20+ carat antique cut stones. How can you copy something like that?!

So, I’m going to lay this out there and be flat out honest. I am a colored stone girl. I am so tired of diamond halos. And that’s what the vast majority of what was in the Luxury Salons. I don’t know that I should be apologetic about that, because it’s obviously what people want, but for the love of Pete, you can only do a diamond halo in so many ways! Having said that, I sometimes like diamond halos, but at least get creative with them!

NOW, one company that did something besides your every day diamond halo was Cicada Jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, they had some diamond halos, but that wasn’t all they had. So I wildly sketched some ideas and noted some color combinations. I wasn’t even tempted to take pictures, because I respected their work enough to not want to copy it, but to use some of the lessons learned while standing in that aisle admiring their work. They have a minimal presence online and on social media because they are so protective over their work and designs. They actually do not even photograph and publish most of their work so that they don’t get copied. And for good reason, their items were exquisite, definitely the best I saw at the show. I got a shot of their business card though! Their booth was what the entire section of Luxury Salons should have been.

Other companies need to step up their game.

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AGTA, Random Cabochon Vendors

I would have to go back through my business card collection to tell you who the vendor was, but they had some of the coolest stuff – adding some mother of pearl to the back of some translucent cabochons of different colors. I was fascinated by the resulting light play and will have to delve further into the idea of making jewelry with it when I have more resources to do so.

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This concave cut belonged to a HUGE vendor who had so many items out on their tables that they must have had a terrible time keeping track of everything. I was a horrible convention goer and didn’t grab one of their business cards.

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AGTA, Bruce Bridges

One of my most entertaining visits from this day was when I went by the tsavorite.com booth and happened to meet Bruce Bridges. So I asked him to pull out the biggest example of tsavorite he had in the cases, and he polished it up with a clean cloth while I pulled out my OlloClip and readied my camera. They asked to see the photos I took and were enthralled with the quality of the photograph I had just taken using just my phone and a relatively inexpensive macro lens. Bruce complimented my photography skills, and I taught him all about the OlloClip. I’m pretty sure he’s now a convert and will be purchasing one, if he hasn’t already. This stone is 12.5cts and I was afraid to touch it, knowing how rare (and expensive!) tsavorites are of this size. The photo does not do it justice, as the stone has less yellow in it than appears on my laptop, or on my phone, for that matter. Silly greens, being difficult to capture correctly.

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Blurrier pic, but I was trying to capture some sparkle.

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A horrible picture of some of what was in their display case. I only asked to see the biggest, but there were some heart wrenchingly beautiful spinels and tanzanites along with all of the greens.

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I hope that Bruce picks up an OlloClip and is introduced to Instagram, as I’d love to see more of those incredible gems all over the interwebs!

AGTA, Random Gemstone Vendors

I stopped by the Paraiba booth again to grab a couple pictures of a few of the tourmalines, the 3ct one in particular, as it is that famed “Windex blue” everyone always goes on and on about. The others weren’t too shabby either, but they really just aren’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down designing around one, but I don’t know that I’d ever really want to own one.

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Chinastone is the place with the melee. I actually was planning to pick up some and then realized that I didn’t have the cash on me at the time. So much fun to imagine what to do with all of those tiny stones!

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Then a last stop back by Prima Gems to pick up this little neon red guy and a stone for my day 2 companion. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this thing, but I will do something with it at some point!

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I actually went upstairs and wandered through the tech/tools area for a bit and chatted with some friends/colleagues about tools, the trade and jewelry design, but didn’t take any pictures, so that’s a bit boring.

Pricescope Get Together

2015 marked the fifth year of the Pricescope get together, but only my second time attending. I went straight from JCK and arrived before anyone else did, so I managed to get a couple images of the suite before anyone else arrived. A giant thank to goes out to Andrey Pilipchak, his beautiful wife Linh, and Erika Winters, for putting so much effort into hosting such a great party every year. It’s your playground, we just get to play in it!

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I believe that there is an annual pool game that takes place, but I’ve always stayed away from it while it’s happening!

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Luckily, being one of the first people there has it’s perks, like I didn’t feel guilty about grabbing people’s bling as soon as they walked in the door, since no one else was there to look at it yet. For instance this amazing pear rose cut came through the door, and I didn’t want to give it back. I mean, look at it! I think that Jewels By Grace still has it, but it may have sold already. Unfortunately, not to me.

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This piece is wonderful, first of all because it belongs in a friend’s personal collection, but also because of the history. It’s a 1920s Art Deco brooch that was converted in the 1950s into a bracelet. I didn’t capture the bracelet details, but the brooch part is absolutely immaculate with perfect milgrain.

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Another Jewels by Grace item, this is a precision cut light pink garnet that was set into one of JbyG’s signature bangle bracelets, in brushed rose gold. Sometimes the simplest things are the best ones.

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Now, once I got this on my finger, I absolutely did NOT want to give it back. Another Jewels by Grace item, a to-die-for antique emerald cut diamond. Positively epic. I am such a sucker for the step cuts.

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This may have been the point where I started sending pictures of it to my husband. Who then laughed at me. 3.6cts doesn’t come cheap!

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Another wowza item that is a bit shy and not fond of the bling paparazzi is a stunning antique green chrysophase ring. This thing has presence in any room, and glows like it has a light on inside. From another personal collection.

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Also happening at the party was playing with loose stones. One thing I love about the camaraderie that belongs to Pricescope is that no one judges you for playing with little sparkly items when normal people might think you’re crazy for being so bling obsessed. For us, it’s just the best kind of party! A friend was asking advice for a potential three stone. By the end of the night she had completely changed her tune and was going towards something totally different.

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Now, towards the end of the evening, I happened to check my Instagram, and noticed that I had hit the 1000 followers mark. I had been intending to do a giveaway at 1000 followers, but considering that I was in Vegas, and would be traveling home all day the next day, I decided to postpone the giveaway until 1,500. So, if you’re an instagram follower, start looking for me to do a giveaway on there relatively soon!

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Not long afterwards, my roommates gathered me up, and insisted that we go back to our room, ending my mini-bling vacation. I had seen, experienced and learned so much that I couldn’t even begin to try to remember absolutely everything I had absorbed. I gathered a ton of business cards and made a bunch of new contacts, some very cool mentors and shared a bit of myself. I feel like I created some new opportunities and I hope that some wonderful things come out of it.

I want to send out a HUGE special thanks to Amy Phillips and David Klass of David Klass Jewelry. Without the kindness and generosity of these two phenomenal people, most of this trip would not have been possible. You guys are the best!

I hope you enjoyed a small piece of what JCK and AGTA were like through my eyes!

Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 2!

Part 2. Or day 2. This is by far the most photo intensive post in this trilogy.

Friday

Naturally, after not getting to sleep until 3am, we slept in a bit, though that was not the plan. The plan was to get to JCK ASAP and start trawling through gemstones as early as we could. Instead we woke up and started looking at gemstones again, this time in daylight, before deciding it was time to eat. Of course I went for the color shifting 6ct violet sapphire first.

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None of the other photos came out well, so I’ll skip them in an already picture heavy post.

Meeting with Amy Phillips of David Klass Jewelry

First thing we did after gathering our badges to go into the show was meet with Amy with David Klass Jewelry. She was showing us a wax for a ring David is making with the emerald from the first post. A client had been working with them on a diamond halo design, but had kind of hit a brick wall after a few CADs. I made a couple of tweaks to make the design a little bit more delicate and feminine. Since it’s not complete yet, I’ll keep it to a more boring view. I will say that I am so excited to see this project completed!

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AGTA Show: Prima Gems

From seeing the wax, we went downstairs to the AGTA show, otherwise known as colored stones! So you already know I was so excited!

Of course I studied the map and made a beeline for Prima Gems. I browsed for a while, bumping into a few people that I recognized, including Yvonne Raley.

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I just want to say that Nattalie Shah is an angel. My companion was seeking out red spinels and green garnets, but in the meantime, I had every single spinel pulled out of the case and had them spread out all over the counter. Not joking:

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Here is a 12ct Mahenge Spinel, moderately included.

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Same stone, being a show off.

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While my companion was digging through red spinels, I was amusing myself going through a massive parcel of smaller red and pink spinels, pulling out stones that talked to me and putting them on a gem sorting tray. Most of these were the largest in there, but there was one that had color that just popped out at me.

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The entirety of the parcel I was going through:

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Playing with the UV flashlight.

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Some of the red spinels that were being scrutinized.

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No, really, scrutinized!

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At one point, I got tired of red spinels, (though not tired enough to ask them to put them away!) and asked to see this really awesome blue-green tourmaline. This stone needs to be made into a necklace.

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From the red spinels, we went to green garnets. Check out these mints!

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In the meantime, I had put this little guy to the side for myself. Tiny, but you can see the neon color from across the room.

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I’d forgive the shape for this color, the perfect blue-green for a mint.

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Then Nattalie pulled out the UV light to play with a 4ct tsavorite. It was like Christmas in one stone!

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Doing a mean impression of an emerald. Inclusions didn’t hinder the performance of this stone at all, though magnification makes the inclusions look worse than they are. This is one of those stones that doesn’t show it’s true beauty in photographs.

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AGTA Show: Random vendors

At this point, we had spent so much time pouring over Prima stones after our late start, that we had run out of time, so we raced around just a bit looking at a few other booths. I took some photos of items that caught my eye.

A couple little rose cuts.

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Colored stone melee, starting at .8mm to 3mm.

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Untreated emerald rings.

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Brazilian Paraiba. I should have inquired about pricing, but didn’t have time to stop.

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Managed to have Gem 2000 pull some larger light pink sapphires to view for a client.

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Ogled Gem 2000’s emeralds. The emeralds were everywhere!

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And their spinels. Spinels were also everywhere.

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I was also on the look out for blue sapphires for another client, so we checked these out with Gem 2000 as well,

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The Other Roommate’s Arrival

After hopping on the shuttle and rushing to meet our other bling sister, we found her, and of course helped ourselves to her jewels. I know you’re surprised, but I took a bunch of photos:
Blue zircon.
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Green sphene earring drops from Prima Gems. 
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Tanzanite double halo ring. 
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Vintage ruby and diamond ring, Love Affair Diamonds. 
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Ideal cut diamond earrings with ideal cut diamond halo jackets, ID Jewelry.
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Mint garnet from Prima Gems
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Spessartite garnet from Prima Gems
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Ideal cut diamond
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Dinner time: Texas de Brazil

So, by this point, it was time to grab dinner. We were picked up in a limo, and taken to Texas de Brazil. I hadn’t had Brazilian in several years, and this Brazilian put THAT Brazilian to shame. If you have the opportunity to go to one of these restaurants, do it. And hit up the salad bar in a major way, because it’s so so so good. Just as good as the meat, which is, of course, the main attraction.

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The table in our private room was made of one giant piece of wood, and I loved the contrast with the lucite chairs. 
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My favorite dinner companion. Diamonds. 
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And to finish up the night, some random colored stone rings, including a couple of mine. 
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Yet again, we didn’t end up falling asleep until 2am, and there was no partying involved! The last day was fast approaching and I was determined to get to the show earlier than I had today.

Day 3! Blog post fast approaching! Tomorrow!

Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 1!

I don’t even know where to start because I did so much while I was in Las Vegas, so I guess I’ll just go in chronological order and give an abbreviated look into three of the most intense days of my life.

Thursday

So, I’m lucky enough to live relatively close to Las Vegas. As a result, I decided to drive across the Mojave (which is not a decision to be taken lightly!) and save a bit on airfare. Well, just as I had pulled off the freeway to stop at an ATM, and was stopped at a stoplight, I picked up my phone to check the map, and a cop pulled me over for using my phone while driving. Apparently I need to start using paper maps rather than my phone as a map. That did not start my trip off well. In addition to that rough start, my lovely bling friend who was rooming with me, her flight was not only delayed, but she was moved to another flight, that would have her arrive ten hours after she had originally been scheduled.

Not a good start to what was supposed to be a fun weekend.

So, at that point, alone and grouchy, I checked in, got some free drink vouchers (bless the woman at the check in counter!) I unpacked everything, and decided to check my messages, where my delayed roommate had mentioned a potential dinner date with Roger Dery. Seeing as how I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I figured I should probably put something in my stomach. So I text Roger and arranged to meet him at a restaurant a block from his hotel.

Dinner with Roger Dery

Let me start out by saying that Roger is wonderful. I’m not just saying that because I know he’ll read this either! I don’t want to talk too much about dinner because we talked about a lot of gemstone stuff, my plans for the future, his history with gemstones, posting on Pricescope (we both typically refrain unless we think very carefully about what we’re going to say before we say it), the increase in interest in gray spinel, mining, etc. You get the picture, I basically got as much information out of him as I possibly could over a couple of hours.

Gemstone showing with Roger

After we finished dinner, Roger invited me to view the gemstones he had with him, and of course I jumped at the opportunity! Who wouldn’t?! Here are some of the pictures I took of some of his gems.

Chrysoberyl
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Orange sapphire. Just a tiny bit more brown than a fine orange garnet. This picture does not do it justice.
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A large blue sapphire
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My favorite stone of the night, a 2.03ct blue sapphire
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Iolite cabochon. A wonderful violet color. 
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One of many kiwi garnets.
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Another kiwi garnet.
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A fine spessartite, as usual, this picture does it no justice. 
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The amazing crown on a red garnet.
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A gorgeous burnt orange garnet that has a tinge of pink to it; another favorite of the night.
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Admiring the chrysoberyl.
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I took pictures of every single gem he brought with him, but some of them came out terribly, so I won’t post those! Roger gave me some helpful hints about the business and made some great suggestions as to next steps I should take. Not long afterward I finished looking at the gems, Jason Brim, Ryan Quantz and some other gemstone afflicted came by to go through Roger’s gems, and talk about gems. We also talked at length about Sharing the Rough, which I was able to see at the Newport Beach Film Festival. But more on the film later!

Back to the Bling Room

At this point, it was midnight and my roommate had finally made it to our hotel, so I decided it was time to head back….and look at more bling.

Colombian emerald cut by Lisa Elser.
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6+ct violet sapphire from Gene Flanigan at Precision Gems.
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Electric blue zircon from Roger Dery, customized Gabriel & Co setting.
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A red flame spinel in a custom Bez Ambar setting with Blaze diamonds
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A special transitional diamond from Love Affair Diamonds. This diamond comes with a story! 
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Violet sapphire from Natural Sapphire Company, setting from Jeff Davies.
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Shoulder views of Gabriel & Co setting and Julia B Jewelry setting with a Prima Gems red Mahenge spinel. 
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I finally passed out around 3am, already feeling a bit overwhelmed. This is what a colored stone lover’s nightstand looks like when we have a bling weekend.

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Part 2 with the lowdown on Friday’s insanity coming tomorrow!

Hint: it involved a lot of time with Prima Gems, and a limo ride. Not related to each other!

Gem Blast: Amethyst

Apparently I have decided to do birthstone posts every month. Why not, right?

Anyway, February gets amethyst. Purple is traditionally a color of royalty, and generally a sought after gemstone for jewelry stores, because it is popular, and it’s relatively inexpensive since it’s pretty common to find in nice colors with good clarity. So I’m used to seeing lots of amethyst in jewelry stores, and it’s typically pretty “meh”. There are lots of windowed stones out there, I typically stay away from those. Why buy a stone that doesn’t sparkle, when you can spend a little bit more and get a super sparkly stone?

Here are some of the amethysts I have in my possession right now.

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An asscher.

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The glorious and enormous Kotlowski cut cushion.

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It might be a good size to serve two purposes: piece of jewelry and a paper weight.

A couple hand shots for size reference.

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An interesting marquise-oval shaped stone. The little pieces of fuzz on each stone is making me crazy. They are so tiny you can’t see them on the stones except under magnification.

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A pretty lighter purple emerald.

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I’ve never been a huge amethyst lover, even though I like purple quite a bit, so I’ve never really gotten into learning much about it. I know that there are pale Rose de France amethysts that are usually a pale pink-purple, and amethysts in deeper purples, that depending on locale may have red flashes or blue flashes, or even a combination.

I think that it’s simultaneously overrated and underrated as a gemstone. The general public sees it as being abundant, and inexpensive for a bright purple, so overrated. But the really nice colors aren’t widely known by the public, unless you really start digging around and educating yourself as to the differences between materials and location of origin. Amethyst is kind of underrated by the trade, precisely because the public doesn’t know the difference between really fine material and the stuff that is so widely available. So you can get high quality amethyst for comparatively lower prices than high quality in other gemstones.

There is not a more vibrant and saturated purple than an amethyst, although some stones may try! Looking at all of these amethysts makes me want to set some of it!

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Awards

A huge congratulations to all winners of the AGTA Spectrum Awards, but especially to Mr. John Dyer, of whom I currently have one of his gems in my gembox. Well done sir! And sweeping the entire “Innovative Faceting category at that!

To see the entire list of winners, please check out the full list:

AGTA Spectrum 2015 Winners pdf