L. Allen Brown, owner of All That Glitters, recently visited the Eagle Tribune for an interview and photo shoot. Some of the questions that were asked during the interview were emailed prior to the interview and answered by Mr. Brown in a return email. The following were some of the questions posed:
What was your best gem "find"?
As far as a best find, sometimes I don't find them, they find me. After not hearing about the gemstone Diaspore for about 10 years, I was offered a parcel of rough. Only a few pieces could be faceted into gemstones, but when faceted, the finished gemstones spurred me on to learn more about the material and to attempt to find more. This has enabled me to make new contacts, travel, sell fine examples of this material, and become one of the major businesses in the world that not only sells this rare gemstone, but some of the finest that has ever been faceted.
What kind of jewelry do you wear?
I have a few rings that I wear while at trade shows, teaching and lecturing. They include a natural red spinel, diamond, Tsavorite (green garnet), natural blue star Sapphire and a Tanzanite.
The Tanzanite was purchased in the rough and faceted by one of our cutters. The design of the ring required about a year of comtemplation and rework before I completed the final sketch. It then took the custom goldsmith about a year to carve the wax, cast it, use two colors of gold, sandblast, finish and set the ring. Up until last year, I also wore a blue (teal) diamond in my left ear for 12 years.
Do you have a favorite stone?
It is almost impossible to have a favorite in the colored gemstone business because new finds are being discovered every year or every few years in many different countries. These finds may be new varieties or variations of color or size of existing ones. In the past, I found very fine examples of Andalusite to be fascinating. Tourmaline is being found in every color of the rainbow and in such intense colors that prices can put other precious stones to shame. Some varieties of Tourmaline may wholesale up to $15,000 per carat.
One of my favorites would have to be a newly discovered garnet that I named back in 1997. A few uniquely colored garnets were found in a small pocket in Madagascar. The color was described as "an unusual brownish pinkish orange" by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in a published article in their Gems & Gemology Magazine. The color was similar to some Imperial Topaz and I believed it to be part of the Malaia group of garnets. I referred to this new gemstone as "Imperial Malaia Garnet" in my correspondence, and they published that it was being marketed as "Imperial Malaia Garnet", which was the first trade reference of this garnet and by this name.
Lately, I have become involved with a gemstone that was test marketed about 12 years ago - Diaspore. It is a color changing gemstone similar in Alexandrite, as it can be greenish under one lighting condition, but when in different lights, it may be bronze, pinkish or even red. We have been faceting this material over the past few years and every one is slightly different in color change. This gemstone is a challenge for those attempting to facet it, and we have been using a cutter who has years of experience and has won competitions cutting this very material. Diaspore is rare in clean and/or larger sizes, but we managed to obtain some rough prior to the mine being leased. The company mining this material is attempting to control the market and pricing, in a similar way that DeBeers controls diamonds and Tanzanite One controls Tanzanite. Our current inventory includes some extremely large and fine examples, and we are one of the major players - until our rough and inventory is depleted.
Where have you found the best or most unusual stones?
All That Glitters deals with unique gemstones due to their size, color, clarity and rarity. Uniqueness in gemstones can occur anywhere and is dependent upon nature. Nature can create something odd at times and not what is normally expected. The chemical composition of a gem pocket can change with time, creating unique growing conditions and the crystals that grow within the pocket show unique colors, may grow exceptionally large, may show two colors in the stone or even a color not seen previously. For instance, we passed on a bicolor corundum (which we regret). Sapphire and Ruby are the same mineral, corundum. Sapphire comes in all colors, but if red, it is called Ruby. One crystal from Sri Lanka had grown where half was blue and have was red - it was therefore, what we call a bicolor, and in this case, it was half Sapphire and half Ruby, and the color of the blue and red were extremely intense.
One very unique item that we sold this year was what is called a Watermelon Tourmaline. This one originated in the world famous Newry, Maine strike in 1972. The crystal was about the size of a soda can. When the crystal was sliced and held up, the outside rim was green and the inner part of deep pink - reminiscent of watermelon. This watermelon slice weighed 500 carats and its future home is in a museum dedicated to Maine minerals and is scheduled to be completed within the next few years.
A wonderful example of what nature can do, is currently in inventory. We have a faceted pink tourmaline that has a watermelon tourmaline crystal which can be seen in the pavillion. In 25 years, I have never personally seen a similar piece.
On your upcoming trip to Thailand, what do you hope to bring back?
The gemstone market is global and many gemstones from other parts of the world will find their way to cutting facilities or to those in the gemstone business - one being Thailand. Though gemstones from Thailand and surrounding countries will be abundant, gemstones from Madagascar and Africa will also be there, as the rough enters the country for sale and to be faceted. Though one might go to Thailand to purchase sapphire or rubies, the quality I personally seek might not be available and I might find something that I was not looking for or expecting to find, but that I couldn't pass up due to beauty or rarity. I would expect to see some fine blue and pink Tourmalines that are being recently mined in Mozambique. I have been invited to China, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Brazil, Nigeria and Madagascar. What I always hope to bring back is knowledge and experiences, as well as new associates, contacts and friends.