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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Custom Red Burmese Spinel Halo Ring

I’ve been incredibly busy, to say the least!

I actually took my first day off in three weeks renovating/decorating/etc the other day to exclusively work on jewelry stuff. I had been sorely missing it and really had a stack of things to get back on – gemstone photography, rough jewelry ideas, blog ideas, sketches (which I’m still behind on!), as well as giving my back a rest, as I had pulled it over a week ago.  So I’m feeling as though I’m in a much better place than I was last weekend, with getting some items that were way overdue taken off my list.

I have a few fancy shaped antique diamonds in queue to design custom rings around, and I’m really excited about those. And of course I have some colored stone custom designs in the works as well!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some images of the most recent design to come out of production, something reaching quite a ways outside of my comfort zone, which I often struggle with, but always comes out better than I could imagine.

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Sketch, slightly underdeveloped.

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Jeweler’s photographs. 

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Client’s photographs.

I always love when clients come up with something that’s out of the ordinary, and this certainly fits the bill in that regard! An unconventional diamond and platinum halo surrounds a 1.69 ct Burmese Red Spinel.

I will be sending a parcel of sapphires and an emerald to AGL for certification this week. I had been intending to send them to AGL and kept putting it off for various reasons. But they are going to go now, and typically they are at about a 2.5 week wait, so hopefully I will have them back relatively soon.

I have been working on some stock items, and as per usual, the CADs came out perfectly the first time for both items. Both share elements with the Vivant and as such, I decided to use Mahenge spinels as them as well. I can’t wait to see them completed!

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Updates on Jewelry Line

Sometimes I go into Sunday and I realize that I have no idea what kind of blog to post for Monday. And there are sometimes when I’m super organized and have blog ideas or even whole blog entries that are ready to be posted a month into the future. I currently have a bunch of informational blogs that are in the works (at least ten?) but I haven’t had time sit down and write, edit and crop pictures to add to them, so I’m just going to write a bit about what I’ve been up to!

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I don’t know what is going on, but I’ve hinted around at things a bit on social media. My daughter was going down the stairs earlier this week, when she took a tumble and fell 2/3 of the way down the entire flight. Not to be outdone, my husband tried to jump down the stairs to catch her, and in the process fractured his ankle, while she just has a handful of bruises. So, I have been driving them everywhere and taking care of dogs, cats and the house as well as my usual activities and chores, and my work has been suffering as a result. My husband is finally a bit more mobile, and getting better every day, but most things are still a struggle.

I typically try to avoid working much on weekends, since it’s the only time I really get to hang out with my family, but extenuating circumstances happen from time to time, and you gotta roll with the punches. So, if you have sent me a conversation on etsy or email inquiries, and I am slow to respond, that is why. I will get to everything eventually, it will just take a while longer than normal!

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Anyway, I have a necklace design and a ring design that are just about finished and out of production. Not sure if I will put the necklace design up onto the site immediately or wait for a bit, but as soon as that ring prototype is in my hands, and photographed, I will get it up on the site, which should be later this week. It’ll be the Aurore setting if you want to be on the look out for it.  I am waiting for two halo ring prototypes to be completed, and again, as soon as those are complete, they will also go straight up onto the site. I’m super excited to share these with you – they have been in the works for so long! If you want sneak peeks of these upcoming items, the place to go would be Instagram, where I tend to post at least 3 images a day of gems I’m playing with, jewelry items, architecture, my animals or pretty flowers – which will likely soon turn into winter scenes!

I am also working on a custom setting for a gorgeous blue-violet spinel cushion, a setting for a large violet sapphire, and just got word that I will be getting some stones in the not-too-distant future for some more custom projects (sounds like earrings and rings). I also had an idea for two pairs of complementary statement earrings that will be fantastic once I can collect all of the stones for them. Oh, and I received some amazing gray spinel pairs from one of my favorite spinel vendors.

Stay tuned! Fun stuff is on it’s way!

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Gem Blast: A Variety

So, I’ve been super busy. I currently have two ring setting prototypes heading towards production, and a necklace prototype I’m looking towards production on (trying to get the ring setting collection out first!), and about a dozen and a half other designs in my head/in the sketchbook that want to be made sooner rather than later.

Plus I’m attempting to try to come up with some stock product ideas for a jeweler I work with, several other custom projects for various clients, and that’s not touching on my interstate move.

I don’t really have a ton of time for a lot of blogging right now, but I’ve still been taking a lot of gem and jewelry photos. I figured I could post some of my recent favorites as a blog entry.

A vintage blue sapphire and diamond ring.

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A couple of citrines against a blue rhinestone background.

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Some spessartite garnet earrings. I keep considering repurposing these, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

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An ideal cut diamond showing off a little bit of arrow action.

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Some rose and yellow gold rings in my personal collection. I need to flesh this collection out some more!

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Playing with light and a green garnet.

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This Star 80 cut in a lavender spinel never fails to be interesting.

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A Jeff White asscher spinel. A bevy of step cuts.

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A trio of colorful haloed rings.

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Some spinel rough. Not really facetable, but I like to keep it around because the colors are nice and I love the natural texture. It’s fun to play with.

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A couple of spinels. The top is from Mahenge Tanzania, and the bottom is from Burma. The top is more reddish pink, the bottom is more pinkish red. Both have the neon glow that is considered ideal in the industry.

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And last, but certainly not least, though uploading lost a lot of it’s beauty, the cut of this unheated aquamarine reminded me of the way water ripples.

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Many of these will be available back in my etsy shop as soon as I’m back up and running.

You can likely look forward to another photo-heavy post next week, as I will be completely entrenched in my move (probably driving somewhere in Northern California) when the next blog posts, as I do typically try to plan most blog posts in advance.

Also, I’m hoping to post on August 9th – it’ll be my blog’s first birthday! Kind of amazing to me that I’ve kept it up for almost a year already.

Evaluating a Moderately Included Red Spinel

So recently I was asked to consult on a stone for an international friend of mine. Typically what happens is that they will ask me to look at a stone that’s in the USA and then send it to them if it passes my inspection/and they like what they see in photos. To this point, it has all been with known vendors, but this newest one was a previously unknown vendor, so he wanted me to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

The stone was described as being a top red, 2ct spinel that is eyeclean and the cut was “not precision cut, but good”. So I really wanted to go through this stone thoroughly because I know my friend has been looking for a good red stone forever.

First up was looking at color. This stone is a very good red, making my red spinel’s purple modifier and less than ideal saturation look, for a lack of better term, funky.

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So, as you can see, the stone is not precision cut, and the meets between facets are all over the place. No symmetry, no problem. This was not an issue for my friend.

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So, in evaluating it, I took out my loupe and macro lens and went at it. I noticed a couple problems right away. First one was the fact that the stone is not eyeclean. Second, and these images show it best, but there is also a small window in the middle of the stone, which means that it appears as a dead spot instead of being sparkly. Two different lighting situations and angles of the stone.

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You can see the window manifesting as a black spot in the middle of the stone in the following image:

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The more I looked at the stone though, the more obvious the inclusion problem became. This is the largest and most noticeable inclusion from the pavilion view. I thought that it would probably be covered up by a prong or an enclosed setting. Unfortunately it is also surface reaching, unevenness I could feel with my fingernail.

Spinel is considered a Type II stone, which means that it is usually included. After going through the stone, I would consider this to be an I1, because the inclusions have a moderate effect on appearance or durability. This is just based on my experience and what I can see with a loupe and feel with my fingernails – I do not have a formal education…yet.

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The following image was taken trying to get a clearer image of the inclusion in the center of the stone. The resolution on this image took a dive when uploaded.

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There was a point where I just started taking pictures of the stone from different angles so I could see what caught my eye in the stone. For this one, it was the feathers around 4 o’clock in this picture. I had thought there was only one feather before.

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This image captures the off center culet. You can see it leaning to the left a bit. This isn’t as bad as it could be, or as bad as I’ve seen before.

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This image shows how shallow the table is. It actually looks taller in this image than it feels in the hand.

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In my first go around, I missed some things, for instance, what appears to be a small chip on the girdle, but could potentially be a small crack. I would need higher magnification to be able to tell for sure. Inclusions that are surface reaching are problematic because they can serve as weak spots for potential damage when worn. This is especially true for the girdle, which is one of the weakest spots in a stone.  Off to the right of the illuminated facet is an indented natural – a piece of what was originally the outside of the rough stone.

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You can see how the middle inclusion is close to the table of the stone, and impossible to avoid.

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A closer view of the pavilion of the stone shows the largest, closest to the surface and most noticeable inclusion to the left, the crack/chip slightly to the right, the greenish bit is the indented natural and then another cluster of inclusions all the way to the right. That’s not getting into the chunk of crystal inclusions closer to the middle of the stone, which does not include the inclusion I talked about being in the middle of the stone, close to the table of the stone – which is out of focus at the very bottom of this image:

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A side view of the most obvious inclusion, from the girdle perspective.

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Ultimately, my friend decided that this stone had too many problems for him to deal with and decided to return it, even though it was a nice color and a good size. There were other chips along the girdle that I haven’t included images of, so between the placement of the inclusions and the undisclosed issues, my friend was not interested in keeping such a risky stone, even if the color and size were exactly what he was looking for.

I am super excited to announce that I will be doing a feature on Erin and willajunejewelry in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that!