Monday, December 24, 2007

Observations in Cambodia and Thailand - All That Glitters Month Long 2008 Expedition

The rainy season is over and the mosquito population has dwindled. Still highly recommended to spray one's clothes, apply deet and take anti malarial pills. Not only does one have to worry about Malaria from mosquitos during the early morning and evening, but a different species of mosquito is active during the day and there is a potential of Dengue Fever with this particular species.

As usual, one has to watch what ones eats and one never knows what exactly will cause issues. Sickness is probably pretty much inevitable as was evident in a two day bought associated with food in Chiang Mai - two different forms of anti-biotics were used in handling this particular issue. Besides stepping on something on a beach, having an open sore due to a broken blister, dehydration, a scratch from a kitten in a jungle village and staying clear of monkeys/bats, it was pretty uneventful besides being on anti-biotics once again for a sinus infection. Of course, there was that false tsunami alarm at 6:20am one morning and a 9-13foot or so King Cobra that was seen. The cobra was encountered just after reading in a guide of the area that cobras and vipers are nocturnal and therefore, usually out at night....

As far as rough goes, we did not see anything really of interest, but one must be on the constant look out and check everywhere as there can be some decent rough, but it just hadn't passed our way. Of course, the really fine rough is at a premium in both price and when one actually encounters it.

In faceted gemstones, we saw lots of Blue Zircon, but only purchased the higher end with good color and certainly attempted to buy that Super Blue (a unique color) that we had seen last year and we were lucky enough to purchase two pieces back then. This year, we have a few more. The color is not often seen. Even the very good blue is rare and this Super Blue that we call it, is just not available in any quantity either.
Spessartite was available at higher prices. We saw a few pieces of nicely colored Tsavorite and an incredible Tanzanite - we bought these pieces. There were some bright blues and greens in the Paraiba (Mozambique Tourmaline, most likely with Copper, but the color can be similar to those with Copper and not contain it!). The prices for fine pieces are quite high - thousands per carat. There is a new find of Tanzania Spinel that is selling at ridiculous wholesale prices. We have heard stores of $5000 to $8000 per carat and a large piece of something like 15-30cts was sold for a price in the six figures. Upon our return, we were having a conversation with a miner in Nigeria who had a dealer in Tanzania on the other line. I inquired about this Spinel. It seems that there was rough that would faceted up to 3ct pieces and the price for this rough would cost us about $3000 per carat to purchase it, and that would not include the cost of cutting from our Master Cutter either.... We will be on the lookout for this material, but we will not be paying these prices - but will see what we can find.
We purchased some wonderful Mozambique Tourmaline in Purple, Pinkish Purple, Purplish Pink, Fushia, Fushia Purple, etc. This particular material was discussed with another dealer, and it is believed that this material will be in high demand from collectors. It is typically not clean, but I have personally chosen material that is eye clean or mostly eye clean. One dealer on the West Coast sells similar 5ct stones at about $5000+/ct wholesale. Our prices will be more realistic, based on what we paid.

We have been fortunate to find some really fine Rubies, with 2 large and fine gems available. Another large one of about the same size, has wonderful color, but more inclusions - we do not feel that the inclusions are a real issue though. Clean Rubies are just about impossible to find, and it is usually beneficial to see inclusions as one can determine whether the material is of natural origin or may have been created in a laboratory. We have approximately 5 very nice Rubies for sale, many with certs indicating Heat (usually always the case also), but the certs also indicate No Fillers. Some Ruby, especially from Madagascar and Africa, are filled with glass deliberately. Many others, including the Burmese material, is typically heated to improve the color and the surrounding material is usually Borax. This Borax can seep into any small inclusion or crack that comes to the surface. Though not deliberately filled, the company we used in Thailand for the certs will indicate that filler is present if they see ANY on the surface, and this can be just a pin prick. All the Rubies we certed show evidence of heat but No Fillers, which is usually not the case as the Borax can easily flow into any surface pit, scratch, inclusion reaching the surface, etc. So it is pretty safe to say that if there is no filler seen, the Rubies had no issues at all with their surface when they were heated. All these Rubies are from Burma. Unfortunately, Tiffany's and some other companies are buying nothing, including Peridot and Spinel, if the country of origin is Burma - regardless of when they were purchased or from whom they were purchased. This is unfortunate, as a very large number of fine gemstones are smuggled over the border and do not go through the Burmese Governments Auction and therefore, the government does not receive any moneys from these smuggled goods. The smuggled gemstones avoid duties, etc. from the government, do not put money in to the pockets of this corrupt regime, but not purchasing smuggled goods may hurt those very people that embargoes or bans are meant to protect. The smuggled material usually comes from individual miners, common folk, the poor who attempt to make a living at what can be found in the gem producing areas or the overburden from past diggings.

We also picked up some fine golden, orangy and yellowing Sapphires that were mined in Thailand, just outside of Chantaburi and in one of the old mining areas. This material has been heated to improve the color, but no other treatment has been done. Heating of Sapphire and Ruby is now common place and it is rare to find these gemstones that show no evidence of heat. We did make one purchase of a wonderful fine Purple Sapphire from Ceylon. This was certed and shows NO evidence of heat.

Prices continue to rise across the board and this is due to many factors, including inflation, difficulty in finding the rough, Sapphires and Rubies continue to go up, demand for many gemstones has risen, the U.S. dollar is weak against all currencies...

The following is quick list of those recently purchased gemstones - see photos on the above link.

Mozambique Tourmaline, Purple to Purplish Pink, Pinkish Purple, Fuschia, Fuschia Purple Incredible!....

Ruby Oval, 2.04cts Certed Natural, Heat Only, No Filler (Burmese - Excellent Gemstone across the board! Investment Gem)

Ruby, Oval, 2.02ct Certed Natural, Heat Only, No Filler (Burmese - Excellent Gemstone across the board! Investment Gem)

Ruby, Cushiony Shape, 2.03ct, Great Color, Good Size A must for those seeking a good looking Ruby at a low price
Ruby, Cushion, 1.25ct, Natural, Heat Only, Burmese - Great all around!

Ruby Oval, 1.07ct, Certed Natural, Heat Only, No Filler (Burmese - Wonderful)

Sapphire, Oval, Blue 2.89cts Certed

Sapphire, Oval, Purple 1.73ct Certed Natural, No Heat

Sapphire, Golden 4.45ct Certed Heat Only

Sapphire, Golden 3.19ct Certed Heat Only

Sapphire, Matched Pair, Pinkish, Color Shifting to some extent, 3.19ct total wt

Sapphire, variations of Yellow, Golden, Orange; Thailand Origin; Misc Shapes; Heat

Sapphire, Emerald, Tri-Color, 1.99ct, Golden with Blue Stripe (Gold/Blue/Gold)

Spessartite Garnets, Variations of Orange, 3pcs, 6.40-7.11cts, Certed

Spinel, Cushion, Orangy, 3.86cts

Tsavorite, Pear, 2.02ct, Certed

Tsavorite, Oval, 3.02ct, Certed

Tanzanite, Trilliant, 5.28ct, an incredible glowing Purple-Blue Velvet, Certed

Zircon, Misc Blues, including a few that are the Super Blue that we had last year; one is a deep Aqua Blue with a Green band running across the gemstone