CIBJO releases Gemmological Special Report: considers process of separating measurable facts from opinion; See Gemological Articles below.
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 Post subject: Origin determination of gemstones
PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:26 am 
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Hello everybody,
I am a gemologist and have joined the forum a few days back. Recently I went through an article in the Jewelery News Asia giving details, importance and examples of source identification in GGL and now and now am looking for more details on this.

1. I would like to know, how reliable are labs in identifying the source of a gemstones or in other words, which are the "reliable labs".Does GIA issue country of origin certificates for a gemstone?

2. All the world was not as it is now at one point of time and so there are many sources with share similar geology or in some cases there may be two neighbouring countries with the same gemstone deposit running into each other. In this case how is it possible to separate the source of a gemstone.

3. I am not much into the market, but going through various websites, i learn that gemstones from certain countries command a much higher price than the other. What is the reason. Did it start just as a marketing scheme by traders and labs encouraged it just bcoz they get more business (Ratelists of various labs show lots of bucks for source ID) or how did this trend start.

4. Should a gemstone be valued much lesser just because it lacks history. Personally i feel that its only the beauty (and offcourse untreated nature) which should influence the price. Why bother whether it came from say Burma, or kashmir etc. After all, each one is the child of the same mother Earth.

I think this is lots for my first post and more to follow soon.Would like to know what the members of this forum feel about source identification. Should this criteria exist?

Thanks.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2006 7:26 am 
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Hi Padparad, welcome to the forum,

I haven’t had much time to read & write here in the last months, and so hello to everybody, and I hope you are all well.

As for origin, let me go along your questions:

1. There are some clear cases of where a stone comes from, but I dare say that there are as many cases where three labs will give you four opinions. I can only speak from an Asian perspective (Colombo, Bangkok, Tokyo), but I doubt that labs in the US or EU differ in this point.

2. Yes, for example Madagascar and Ceylon are thought to have been one some time ago. Thus a separation of e.g. Brazilian stones from Ceylons will much easier than Madagascan from Ceylons.

3. Partly it is the same mechanism that makes people pay more for a Swiss watch than for a Chinese watch, though (perhaps) both will show the time just fine. But then, on the other hand, there are some stones which just seemed to be best from a certain location. Sometimes one comes across specific varieties (Mogok ruby, Badakshan spinel, Ceylon padparadscha) which are simply best in from their historical origin. That does not mean all Mogok rubies are super valuable or better than others, not at all, but that specific thrill in the top-end is not found elsewhere. However, opinions differ here.

4. As in any market, buyers decide whether they care to pay extra to own a stone from a famous origin. And obviously, yes, they do. As long as this is reality a Neon Pink Namya Spinel will be more expensive that a Hot Pink Ceylon Spinel, even if both are terrific.

All in all, this is a big topic....

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http://www.WildFishGems.com & http://www.EdwardBristol.com
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 7:46 am 
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Dear Edward,
Thanks you for the informative reply. But I still feel that, given two stones of similar quality, colour, size etc., one of them should not be valued much lesser just because it comes from a source lacking history. This is like discrimination, which I feel as a gemmologist.

The example you have given of watch, cannot be compared with gemstones because a Chinese make would stop working anytime and has no gaurantee but same is not with gemstones. If a stone is from Kashmir, it doesnt mean that it is more durable than its Sri Lankan counterpart.

But maybe its all about thrill and style as your post indicates. :roll:

Another question of mine was, does GIA certify origin of gemstones.
Which are the most reliable labs.

Thank You.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 8:42 am 
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I think Edward’s watch example is pretty good. The fact that a watch comes from Switzerland does not make it a better product than one from China, nor does it mean that it has a better warranty. Which one is more desirable, and therefore more expensive, is a very complicated equation that that goes way beyond the details of the watch itself. People value funny things and, in the case of watches, timekeeping isn't even usually especially high on the list dispite the fact that, at first glance, this is the whole point.

Customers value stones from historical sources because it carries with it a romance that isn’t available with a stone from a newer locale. What’s wrong with that? Most of the value of gemstones has to do with how it makes people feel to own and wear them and the connection to Kashmir, Yogo or Mogok is part of that feeling. Stones from alternative sources may be equally or even more lovely but it’s not the same thing.

Yes, GIA does country of origin testing although it’s not available on all stones and they do not always have a positive result, meaning ‘origin undetermined’ is one of the choices. AGTA and AGL are two other US labs that do this. My personal favorite labs for this kind of work are AIGS in Thailand and AGTA in NYC.

Neil

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 7:32 am 
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Hi Neil,

Thanks for the reply. i just found an interesting statement made by Richard T. Liddicoat in the Gems and Gemology way back in 1990. This is what he said.

"It is my personal belief that the sourcing of colored stones misleads the public and imposes an artificial price differential. Whys should someone pay more for an inferior ruby because it came from Burma? Gemstone purchases are amde for the beauty of the stone -- not for some artificial differentiation imposed by the trade or a laboratory"

He further says....

"There is no question that diamond sales have been improved markedly by impartial grading. I feel that the sales of coloured stones, likewise, could be imporved materially by impartial laboratory grading of teh elements of quality of such stones."

I was well satisfied with this statement and what i liked the most was his comparison with diamonds. It is a known fact that there is no question of origin issue while purchasing diamonds (forget the blood diamonds) and today we are all witnesses of this trade.

Moreover i have read various literatures where famed gemmologists have agreed that origin determination is not possible everytime and trade is aware of a single stone being certified differeing origin certificates by different labs.

Thanks for your inforamtive post neil.

Padparad


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 9:25 am 
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It’s a little hard for me to think of 1990 as ‘way back’ but I guess this depends on how old you are.

“Gemstone purchases are made for the beauty of the stone”

I hate to disagree with such an august source as Dr. Liddicoat but I don’t think this premise is entirely correct. Many synthetics, for example, are quite beautiful, equally or more durable and are apparently far less desirable than their natural counterpart. Why? Because people assign value to attributes other than the beauty. The same can be said about treatments. I don’t think anyone here would argue the point that that diffusion sapphires are often incredibly beautiful but buyers in the marketplace are willing to pay quite a bit extra to have ‘natural’ stones. Is this foolish? Perhaps so - if it was strictly about the beauty of the stone it clearly would be. Customers and dealers can assign value to whatever attributes they want and there is not universal agreement about what makes one stone more desirable than another. For example, what about astrological properties? Some customers count them as nonsense and utterly irrelevant while others consider them to be the primary purpose of their purchase. The fact that the former outnumber the later does not make them right. Value is generated by a consensus between buyers and the sellers, it is not a gemological property.

Neil

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 Post subject: market mechanism
PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 10:27 pm 
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Neil, Paparad,

Yes, very true and simple: “value is generated by a consensus between buyer and seller”.

We experience this basic “natural” rule everyday (from washing powder to restaurants) and except it right away. But when it comes to gems this seems to be forgotten.

Also forgotten is that price remains a function of cost.

I frequently encounter people who enjoy my website, want only certificated untreated stones, pay by credit card, have the stone send directly home to Texas by Fedex and so on… but then ask for the same price they have seen on holiday in that little dusty corner shop in Colombo (rent $100, no thrills, no English, no guarantees, no returns, cash only).

That seems to me like enjoying a good restaurant and then complaining that the steak is more expensive than at the butcher (in Argentina).

When it comes to origin, it is the same market mechanism: A trader has to pay more for a stone from Mogok, than from Madagascar.

How could he possibly sell them both for the same price?

Thus, the price consensus starts much earlier when miners in Sri Lanka are self-confident that their stones demand a higher price than Nigerian ones.

Miners from a 'famous' area are simply used to a certain price level, and this is reflected in their asking prices, and at the end of the day carried towards the end-consumer. Anybody who has been buying in Burma knows this.

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 Post subject: KashmirBlues
PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2006 10:48 am 
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Location: Kashmir, India
Everything from Kashmir cost more.

Our chicken, potato, vegetables and more are three times the cost of India or Pakistan. Our stones are double and triple the cost of other stones in the world. This is a fact, and not some persons opinion as to how it should be.

Please visit Kashmir for yourself. But bring your flack vest and be prepared to sit months before seeing a single stone. The mine has produced little to nothing in 100 years and may never produce again. The 4 day mountainous treck is difficult and the weather at 14,800ft permits a tolerable climate for about 60 days.

You may see inclusion photographs which distinguish Kashmir from other stone on our website.

Sincerely,

Ed Cleveland
http://www.kashmirblue.com

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 Post subject: market forces
PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:10 am 
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Hi folks!
I've been enjoying the discussion and debate on the prices of gemstones from different locales. I'm a gem enthusiast by avocation and a Marketing Professor by vocation. From a "consumer behavior" perspective, it is perfectly reasonable for some consumers to place a premium on gems from particular origins, even if those gems are not as visually attractive as gems from less "desirable" origins. People derive value from the intangible features of products as well as from the products' physical features. The pleasure of owning a gem from a particular geographic origin is valuable to some consumers.

An important marketing concept is "market segmentation". In most markets, there will be identifyable sub-groups of consumers with different product "design" preferences. Different segments of purchasers will place different "importance weights" on different features of the product under consideration. In this instance, there may be several sub-groups of gem/jewelry purchasers:

1) those who place more importance on gem appearance than on gem origin (they will tend to prefer a beautiful synthetic to a poorer natural gem, if the prices are comparable)

2) those who place more importance on the intangible/psychological benefit of owning a natural product (they will tend to prefer a natural gem to a synthetic, even if the synthetic is more attactive, given comparable prices)

3) those who place high importance on the intangible benefit of owning a gem from a particular geographic source (they will prefer a less attractice gem from the desired source to a more attractive gem from a less desirable source, given comparable prices)

Price sensitivity is another determinant of purchasing behavior.

If possible, a marketing professional will conduct research to help identify which consumers will be the best prospects for a product, given the features of that product. Often, we can discriminate between market segments by recording/measuring consumer characteristics such as demographics (age, gender, education, income, social class, etc) and psychographics (lifestyle choices, beliefs, motivations, etc). It is quite likely that major retailers such as Tiffany's or Charles and Colvert have done this, and can pinpoint their target customers quite accurately. This type of research helps the seller use his/her advertising dollars more efficiently.

For my own purchases, I put more importance on natural origin than on beauty (so I will purchase a natural emerald, inclusions and all, before I will even consider a synthetic, even if the latter is perfect). However, I put greater value on beauty than on geographic origin, so I will purchase a beautiful Zambian emerald before I will purchase a poor Columbian emerald. On the other hand, my husband values beauty above all else, and will gladly purchase a synthetic in prefence to an included or dull natural stone.

Ultimately, its all individual. Value is in the eye and heart of the customer, and market prices reflect that value.

And, of course, gems are such a joy!


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