Colored Gemstone Country of Origin identification is a relatively
new area of expertise, as this series of articles has explained. Only a
few organizations offer this service commercially. And the service is
often restricted to rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.
Proper identification depends largely on these keys...
Knowledge of the characteristics of gems
coming from a particular area (mine, gem field, or region).
Identifying the presence of those
characteristics in the gemstone being examined.
For example, a ruby from the Mogok Valley gem fields has some
characteristics that differ from rubies mined in neighboring Thailand,
China, of India... and even different from those produced in Mong Hsu,
Burma (Myanmar). Each was created in slightly different geologic conditions.
Temperatures, pressures, and the natural elements present, all contributed
to make these rubies different.
Image credit: Sotheby's
Colored gemstone country of origin identification services are showing
signs of expanding those services. A few labs are offering (or considering offering)
identification services for tsavorite, alexandrite, and some of the other
high value color change gems.
And this brings us to another key consideration - market value.
I think of the two keys mentioned above as scientific knowledge, and
the art of applying that knowledge (testing and observing). Several
academic and commercial labs have the knowledge and ability to identify the
geographic origin of numerous gem species, but the value of many gems do not
justify the cost of determining geographic origin.
Image credit: GIA
Tsavorite garnet occurs in only two locations that I am familiar with,
so origin determination should be possible now.
Image credit: GIA
Identifying the geographic origins of other green garnets presents much
more of a challenge. Garnets are what politicians call
"inclusive". During the formation of these gems, they welcome a
variety of elements to join in, resulting in variations of garnet hybrids.
Image Credit: GemRite
This hybrid characteristic applies to most garnets, whether relatively
rare and pricey, or commonly occurring and inexpensive. Practically all
garnets are hybrids. This makes geographic origin determination difficult.
It even makes identification of a garnet's chemical composition
Opal occurs in a number of places around the world. Some of these carry
names associated with their most common occurrence, such as Peruvian blue
opal and Mexican fire opal.
Most play-of-color opal (including precious opal) comes from Australia,
and more recently Ethiopia.
The Colored gemstone country of origin determination report from the
Gemology Project - Parts One and Two, were reprinted in trhe space below
in the May and June, 2016 (last two month's) editions of this newsletter.
This month, the final portion of the report is published.
This report is written for gemologists, academics, and research
scientists. It can be complicated. Don't worry about the detail, a general
reading will give you a general idea of gemstone origin determination.
How do laboratories determine the country of origin if gemstones
are formed in similar genetic environments or geological and
mineralogical conditions, yet, their geographic regions are located
great distances apart? For example, sapphires originating from the
Sri Lankan and the Kashmir region have similar or overlapping
gemological properties, which make determining a separation between
the sources almost impossible. With the scenario of gemstones having
very similar properties which are from different locations, instead
of searching for one diagnostic feature to separate the sources, a
comprehensive view of the gemstones is considered, such as the
identification and description of inclusions, analysis of chemical
elements, and spectral properties. “Evaluation and interpretation
of the observed features, combined with additional advanced
analysis,” may allow a laboratory to reach a conclusion on the
geographic origin of the gemstones (Gübelin Gem Lab, Ltd, August
2006, The Limitations of Origin Determination, p. 62).
There are also various mines and deposits, which are scattered
over a geographical location and categorized as a single entity,
such as the Montana sapphires found in the United States, which
produce stones which differ not only in color, but also inclusions.
Sapphires from the Missouri River mines differ from those found at
Yogo Gulch as well as the sapphires found at Rock Creek.
Unfortunately, in this case, there is no distinction between the
localities of the deposits, even though each of the deposits
produces sapphires with differing and distinct characteristics
(Hughes, 1990, A Question of Origin, n.p.)..
Laboratories that provide origin reports are vulnerable when new
gemstone treatments, synthetics, or newly discovered material enter
the market. It is necessary that the laboratories are able to
research new finds by visiting the new deposits or mines, and
research new treatments and synthetics possibly before they enter
the market. One scenario laboratories may face is when a
consumer’s colored gemstone is sent to 2 different laboratories
for origin determination with differing results of the stone’s
provenance from each of the labs. The consequences may be dire for
the consumer. For example, at the May 2009 ICA Congress Speech of
Dr. Adolph Peretti, Dr. Peretti shed light that the
“misinterpretation of a gemstone’s origin may possibly provide a
gem dealer with a huge premium. If a consumer sends the gemstone,
for example, a ruby, to one laboratory for origin determination,
which declares the ruby of Burmese origin, and then the consumer
sends the ruby to a different laboratory, which concludes that the
ruby is of Vietnamese origin, the consumer may lose the amount of
money the dealer made with his initial premium. The ruby mentioned
in the hypothetical scenario was from a new deposit and had not been
examined by laboratories for origin testing before it entered the
market and was sold to a consumer (ICA Congress Speech of Dr. Adolph
Peretti, May 2009, "Research report summaries on the origin and
treatments of valuable rubies from Tanzania and tourmalines from
Brazil and Mozambique," n.p).” However, the percentage of
these conflicting origin reports is relatively small. Misidentifying
the origin a gemstone is usually an unfortunate consequence of the
lack of funding and research needed to provide accurate origin
determination, but, it is a necessity that labs are able to ensure
the integrity of their gemstone country-of-origin reports. If the
origin for a gemstone cannot be determined, laboratories will state
that “no origin” could be determined for the gem in question.
For example, when a laboratory tests a stone for its geographical
location, but findings of the gemological test results and
observations are insufficient, or uncertain, the opinion of the
gemstone’s origin should not be given.
Dr. Peretti discussed another challenge for laboratories which
provide origin reports are the problem encountered in the gemstone
market which involves the provenance of Paraiba Tourmaline. Paraiba
Tourmaline, originally discovered in the state of Brazil in 1989, is
a copper-bearing tourmaline of greenish-blue color and the most
valuable tourmaline in the world. The recently discovered
copper-bearing tourmalines from Mozambique, as well as those from
Nigeria, are being called “Paraiba Tourmaline,” by some
laboratories and gemstone dealers, regardless of their origin.
“Comparison of statistics of copper-bearing tourmaline from
Mozambique and Brazil show that different colors and sizes are found
from both origins. In general, copper-bearing tourmalines from
Mozambique have more color varieties, while tourmalines from the
state of Brazil are more color intense at equal sizes.” A
“non-educated” consumer may believe he or she is purchasing a
Paraiba Tourmaline from Brazil, when actually in reality, the
tourmaline is from Africa. Since a huge price difference exists
between the origins of copper-bearing tourmalines, with the
Brazilian Paraiba Tourmalines commanding much higher prices, this
dilemma “may lead into legally critical situations (ICA Congress
Speech of Dr. Adolph Peretti, May 2009, "Research report
summaries on the origin and treatments of valuable rubies from
Tanzania and tourmalines from Brazil and Mozambique," n.p).”
of Origin Determination
At the 2007 ICA Congress Lab Session, Mr. Christopher P. Smith
discussed with attendees that gemstone geographic origin
determination is not “an exact science” and is still in its
infancy. Also attending the session, Mr. Vincent Pardieu stressed
the necessity and importance gem laboratories must not only strive
to keep up with technology related to treatments and synthetics; but
also research new gem deposits to keep up with the growing demand
for origin determination reports. (ICA Congress Lab Session, May
2007, "Labs Tackle Question of How to Help Industry, Build
Consumer Confidence at ICA Congress," n.p.). With the 2008
United States of America government ban on the importation of rubies
from Burma into the US still in effect, county-of-origin
determination, particularly for corundum, has additional importance
to the trade as well as consumers. Origin reports may have a serious
political purpose when they are used to prevent the unregulated sale
(smuggle or launder) of “conflict gemstones” (Lesney, 2001,
Precious Provenance, n.p.). Thus far, the attempt to implement a
system, similar to the Kimberely Process for diamonds, to ensure
that a ruby is not from Burma, has been unsuccessful since the
“majority of ruby-producing areas are highly decentralized. Other
ruby deposits discovered in Africa, such as the beautiful and
usually unenhanced Winza ruby, recently discovered in Tanzania
Country, show promising alternatives for sources which may produce
gem-quality stones. In 2002, Columbia Gem House of Vancouver,
Washington, in the United States, implemented a mine-to-market
promotion to bring rubies into the U.S. from Malawi by developing a
local mining industry and partnering in community and social
developments (Smith, et al., 2008, Inside Rubies, p. 141).”
Understanding the genesis of gemstones helps in the determination
of their geographical origin, thus improving prospecting strategies
for mining gemstones, such as corundum, which could also be used as
a method for controlling the trading circuits. The need for 3rd
party certification for gemstones from gemological laboratories,
including country-of-origin reports, can also help support and grow
the industry. Consumers of gemstones not only want to know the
gemstones they purchase are being identified properly and that they
are reasonably priced, but, also, they also want to be reassured
that the gemstones are from conflict-free sources. Laboratories hope
to build and sustain consumer confidence through the issuance of
colored gemstone country-of-origin reports. Today, consumers
purchase over 50% of gemstones via television shopping networks and
the internet which has forced traditional jewelers to reexamine how
they sold gemstones. Jewelers are now more likely to provide
gemstone provenance with gemstone identification reports for their
high-end gemstones. Laboratories also work closely with those in the
trade to be able to provide origin reports and certificates for
gemstones at a reasonable price, as well as educating people in
retail to speak confidently about the gemstones they sell (ICA
Congress Speech of Dr. Adolph Peretti, May 2009, "Research
report summaries on the origin and treatments of valuable rubies
from Tanzania and tourmalines from Brazil and Mozambique," n.p).
Most gemological laboratories invest a certain amount of their
resources in scientific research activities, which is usually used
“in-house,” but, is also shared with the gemological and
geological communities through research publications. An effective
way of obtaining first-hand access to scientific results is through
the cooperation of researchers and research organizations (Gübelin
Gem Lab, Ltd., September 2006, A Holistic Method to Determining
Gem Origin, p.126). .
Origin determination requires a thorough understanding of the
geological processes. The “interpretation of small-scale
gemological observations requires constant verification with the
scientific models of large-scale geological environments (Gübelin
Gem Lab, Ltd., September 2006, A Holistic Method to Determining
Gem Origin, p.126).” It is recommended that most gemologists
at a gemological laboratory, who are involved in origin
determination, hold a degree in the earth sciences, such as
mineralogy, petrology, crystallography, geology, or a related field.
To be able to successfully tackle the challenges of origin
determination, this academic foundation should be complemented with
“solid” gemological training and several years of experience in
a gem lab. The analysis of gemological properties and interpretation
of the resulting data and observations alone exceed the level of
knowledge taught in standard gemological training (Gübelin Gem Lab,
Ltd., September 2006, A Holistic Method to Determining Gem
Colored gemstone country of origin
identification is a challenging field for gemologists. Chemical composition
trace minerals, typical microscopic inclusions, and other characteristics can
identify where a gem was born, thanks to early gem industry professionals.
Top - Mong Hsu Ruby (Burma)
Next - Alexandrite (Russial)
Next - Tsavorite Garnet (Kenya)
Next - Demantoid Garnet (Russial)
Next - Malaya Garnet (East Africa)
Next - Opal (Ethiopia)
Next - Color change Garnet (East
Next - Amethyst (East Africa)
Next: - Gem special offer - Ruby
Next - Industry News - Chopard
Next - Dealer Product Image - Amethyst
Ring in Sterling Silver
Last - Dealer Program Image - Pink
Spinel and Sterling Silver Earrings
A Google search for links or images using keywords such as
gems of russia or green garnet can return some very interesting information and websites.
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Gem Industry News
Chopard sues Fararri Express and it's international news
Chopard, a premier jewelry design and fabrication firm, is suing the courier
service Ferrari Express.
Although the events occurred entirely within the United States, the
international press has reported on the lawsuit.
British news source The Daily Mail summarizes the story this way...
Jewelry firm sues courier company after delivery driver leaves $15million of
bling in the back of his truck which was promptly stolen
Ferrari Express picked up the 53 jewels from Chopard's shop in
Chopard wanted a celebrity to wear the $15million jewels at the Grammys
Instead of storing the gems in a safe, the driver left them in his van at
Thieves stole the van which has been parked in an unsafe
If you attended any of the Las Vegas Jewelry Week shows you are busy deciding
how the loose gems you purchased should be turned into finished jewelry. If you
bought loose gems from us instead of going to Las Vegas, you're probably doing
the same... but with more money still in your pocket.
Sales opportunities slow down this time of year... but they still exist. Mine
your customer list for gift occasions... anniversaries, birthdays, and more.
Be The quality jewelry dealer at a lower price.
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