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.

Aurore gray

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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Gem Blast: Tanzanite

I love purple-blues, and nothing does purple-blue quite like tanzanite. I’ve seen super saturated vivid purples and blues, but nothing gets to me like the violet/lavender/periwinkle shades between. I don’t think cuts get any better than this, but unfortunately, it makes it incredibly difficult to photograph perfectly cut gemstones. I spent an afternoon struggling with photographing it accurately. Here are some of my attempts to capture it’s beauty.

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This is what it looks like when the camera is 18 inches away:

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This is what it looks like when the camera lens is 1.5 inches away, and you photograph it head on:

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Another macro pic, but at a slight angle to avoid the look from the previous picture.

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Even less of an angle, still a lot of lens reflection:

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Almost head on again, or also known as “how to turn a violet stone black”:

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Oh hey, that looks pretty! Back to about a foot away:

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Still showing some black, but at least it’s not black edge to edge!

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Notice even the slightest angle can make a huge difference with a reduction in lens reflection.

This baby was snapped up quickly off of LoupeTroop, and it’s new owner was beyond thrilled with it (don’t blame her!) I hope that it will be cherished, as it is an exceptionally cut and colored stone! As lovely as some of these pictures make it look, it exceeds all of them in real life!

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!

Red Spinel

So I’ve posted some (a lot) of pictures and several blog posts on red spinel, and even have some running as banners along the top of my blog. Spinel is one of my favorite gemstones, mostly because it produces the best gray color, but also because it has an almost metallic sheen to it sometimes. Spinel is very good at having a variety of colors, I’d go so far as to say it’s right up there with sapphire, tourmaline and garnet with the rainbow of colors it comes in.

Now, I’m not a huge red person for myself, but red spinel has slowly been working on that for me. I like red spinel so much that the color red has been slowly wormed into my collection.

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I also have a few international friends that are seeking their own red spinels, and I have received red spinel for them and evaluated them so they don’t have to take the risk and time of international shipping, which is beneficial for both them and the vendors of said stones. I really enjoy doing this and I wish they’d utilize me more often!

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Red spinel melee can vary a bit, and I swear it is on my list to get mine from my gem store set sooner rather than later. I said in this post that I would set them in 2015. We’ll see how the year progresses, but at this point I’m going to aim for more like 2016, since all of my jewelry money is being funneled into putting my jewelry line together.

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So one of the things about red spinel, is that it used to get mislabeled as ruby precisely because of it’s rich red color. The Black Prince’s Ruby is the best and most widely known example of red spinel being mistaken for a ruby, but it is certainly not the only one. One really fantastic thing (in my opinion) about red spinel is that it doesn’t have the fine inclusions that ruby does, so unlike most ruby, spinel actually sparkles, instead of the glowy velvety look of ruby.

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Now, red is one of the most highly sought after colors of gemstones, if not THE highest sought after color. Ruby has traditionally been the most expensive red gemstone, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. Red spinel, on the other hand, has been going and will likely continue going way up in price, especially as it gets to be more popular and mainstream. It is already rivaling ruby on the pricing plane, and yet, it is still incredibly difficult to find quality pieces. As with all gemstones, there is a price premium that accompanies stones of larger sizes.

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I didn’t really bring up a lot about modifiers in this post because the red hue was exactly what my friend was looking for, but in reds it is very important because they can mean a big price difference for what some might see as being a very small variation. Red usually has some kind of color modifier and the most typical are orange, blue/purple, pink and brown. The most commonly forgivable modifier is pink, since pink is a lighter toned red, but some people can excuse purple/blues and oranges because of personal taste and/or budget. Browns are typically going to be the most economically priced, while pure reds are going to be astronomical.

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Red spinels are most commonly found in three different areas: Vietnam, Burma and Mahenge, Tanzania. Mahenge spinels have in the past ten years or so been coming out with the intense hot pinks and reds that display tons of red fluorescence under UV, which enhances it’s color under UV lighting conditions and causes it to appear to have some “glow”.

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I keep hearing buzz about ultra red “Jedi spinels” but I haven’t taken a great interest in them because I know from what I’ve heard that they are going to be astronomically expensive, that is, IF you can get your hands on any of them!

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So, the fun part of this post is that I’m adding a coupon code for all of the red and hot pink spinels in my etsy shop for two weeks only! So you can use the code “REDSPINEL” (no quotes) for 15% off from March 16 through the 31st at midnight. If you’ve been eyeing any of the reds or hot pinks in my store, now is the time to go and snatch them up!

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!

Gem Blast: Garnets

In honor of my best friend growing up, whose birthday is tomorrow, I’m posting a whole bunch of gemstone pictures of her birthstone: Garnet.

Merelani Mint

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Almost Colorless Grossular Garnet

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Tsavorites:

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Imperial Garnet

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Imperial Garnet:

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Loliondo Spessartite

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Loliondo Spessartite

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Hah! I just realized that I don’t have any pink or red garnet pictures on this computer. I guess I need to take some more pictures!

But check out the variety of colors. I wish (sort of!) that the general public knew that these stones were as varied and interesting as they are. Of course, I don’t wish that the general public knew about them because then the prices would go up even more.

This is for all you January babies out there!

Social Media

Have you found me on social media yet?

I was just lamenting to a fellow gemstone lover, Jeffrey Hunt, the other day that with blogs, you don’t really get to interact with people a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’m just writing for myself and posting it out into the vast vacuum that is the internet.

So, in the event that you want to know what I’m up to on a more regular basis, you can find me on instagram:

thegemstoneproject on instagram

I typically try to post at least once a day, although sometimes its not until the middle of the night! I typically post pictures of what I’ve been working on that day or just pictures of gems I photographed and liked.

I also try to update my Facebook page at least a few times a week, which you can find here:

thegemstoneproject on Facebook

Right now I’m considering if I should start an etsy shop, or if I should go into a full blown website to sell some loose stones I have floating around, and eventually my own designs. Feel free to drop me your opinion on either of the two links above!

Untreated Blue Topaz:

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Blue sapphire:

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Blue sapphire:

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Unheated Aquamarine:

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I figured I’d go monochromatic with the gemstone pics today. Yay blue!

Also, because I’ve been putting so much effort into social media and getting designs together for a collection, I figured something needed to be cut a little short. So I know that I’ve just started doing two blogs a week again with the new year, but I just can’t maintain everything else that I’ve been working on and keep the blog posting up to twice a week. It’s either that or sacrificing sleep, and I’m already at a minimum on that! If I do find myself with extra time, or I happen to have a bunch of extra pictures so I can do a Gem Blast, I will post an extra post here and there!

Also, an important announcement is upcoming! So the next two week’s blogs should have some exciting things going on! Which reminds me, one of those blogs will be an extra post, not the regularly scheduled ones!

(Here is a hint: one refers to something I mentioned in this blog, and another has to do with a surefire way to make sure your jewelry doesn’t look like anyone elses!)