Source Regions

All, I fully understand the problem of source regions for gemstones.
Everyday I learn more about the deviousness of suppliers. Accurate
identification of the source that the gemstone was found is very
important. If it was not important the suppliers would not be lying
about it and the customers would not be requesting stones by source
region. Dermand would not exist for a certain stone from a certain
locality. Ron, I fully disagree with your point of view that it does
not matter where the stone origionated. It is even more critical now
to know the correct source. Now that we know so many people are
lying about the source regions. Gem labs are going to great extremes
to identify soucre regions and certifying a stones provenance. Why
lie? Nothing is gained and the whole market is cheapened. Gemstones
have a great attraction, mystery, and allure. Stones are truely
valueable and deserve to be treated as such. The problems of mankind
lying about them and degrading them for their personal gain is

Gerry Galarneau

Gerry, I have to stand with Ron on this issue (a rare occurrence
here). A beautiful blue sapphire is a beautiful blue sapphire whether
it is from Australia, Sri Lanka, Montana or Vietnam. It really
doesn’t matter where it comes from. The use of origin as a part of
the selling point is almost always used to raise the price of a
particular item. If I have two natural color sapphires that are the
same color, intensity, hue, etc. why should one be more valuable than
another based on where it was mined? Why should sapphires from Sri
Lanka be priced higher than goods from Vietnam if the quality of the
color and stone are the same? The gem labs are going to extremes
because they THINK that the customers want that. The GTL however is
still not identifying source because they realize that an apple is an
apple whether it is from Massachusetts or Washington. The only
difference is how it tastes–some from MA taste better than the ones
from WA and vice versa. I regularly get people in the store, who
because of some discussion in another store, say they have to have a
Ceylon sapphire. So then I pull out my sapphires and I say do you
want this nice light colored stone that is probably from Sri Lanka or
do you want this dark colored stone that is probably from Sri Lanka?
Their response is invariably " Well the other jeweler told me that all
the stones from there come in one color." It is the nonsense about
needing to know where everything is from that leads to a massive
amount of misGemstones do have a great mystery and allure
but you don’t have to tell people what mine they come from in order to
promote this aspect. Incidentally, when the “conflict diamond” issue
becomes a “conflict colored stones” issue (which it will as it is
only a matter of time before people realize that colored stones are
regularly used to fuel conflicts too) it may not be so good for your
sales to know exactly where that stone came from. Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140

This is an interesting thread. Consider first off that we are in the
perfect business. We sell something that nobody needs, everybody wants
and nobody know what its worth. How much better could it get?

If you are selling sapphires (or whatever stone) for under $1000,
then you are probably not going to have to worry much about telling
your customer about where its from or how its been treated. If you are
selling stones for under $500 like some of the TV shopping channels do
it seems you can flat out lie and nobody cares or seems to do anything
about it. But if you start selling stones in the $5k to $50k range you
had better believe that at least one pedigree will usually be asked
for and quite often a second will be demanded from another lab. The
higher the prices get the more you need and the more it matters. If
you don’t believe origin matters try buying certed Kasmire for the
same price as a Sri Lankian that looks the same there is quite a
diference in price.

On another note watch this Xmas. Try telling your customers your
diamonds are probably from Serria Leone and then see if origin makes a
diference or not.


Dear Gerry Your dissertation on stone provenance confuses the issues.
On the one hand you are damning the people who lie about origin and
on the other hand you are extolling the virtues of citing origin. I
agree that lying about origin is lamentable ( sales persons regularly
lie about many things and few people take anything that they say
seriously). Nonetheless, a fine gem is something that should stand
alone, regardless of origin. If you want to romanticize it by
associating it with some exotic place of origin that might enhance
your sales prospects, that is a perfectly innocuous ploy, but it
shouldn’t have any bearing on it’s appraisal value. True, some places
of origin are associated with higher quality, but that is also a trap
when you cite origin as an inference that a particular stone is
better than others when, in reality, the stone is inferior. This
practice has been rampant when it comes to merchandising Emeralds.
Columbian Emeralds have acquired a mystique far beyond their real
value simply because of b.s. merchandising about provenance. I get
the idea that you associate my beliefs with amoral merchandising.
Nothing could be farther from the truth ! I cling to the waning
belief that nature does a hell of a good job and does not need
assistance from man. I find synthetics just as boring as presidential
debates…they have no character or individuality. Ron at Mills Gem,
Los Osos, CA

Daniel and Ron and All, I disagree with you on two major points.
First and most important is the value of the stone. Take two stones
of identical color, clarity, and size and the stone certified by
location will demand a significantly higher price. Please let an
appraiser verify this. I would like to see an appraiser post on this
subject. Further a stone identified from one location will have
higher value than a stone identified from another location. The
reasons for this are based upon years of observations of the stones.
Burma sapphires are more valuable than Ceylon, Ceylonese are more
valuable than Madagascar, etc…All the big three in colored stones
are this way, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Following closely
on their footsteps are topaz, and beryl. Stepping out of the big
three brings my second point why source is important. Precious topaz
is a fine example where source is very important. Topaz from Mexico
are almost 100% sure to fade in exposure to direct sunlight as are
Topaz from Afghanistan. A topaz from Brazil is likely to stay
stable. The same goes for aquamarine. Stones from Santa Maria
Africa are stable, but Maxime mine aqua is notorious unstable.
Problems also arise with stone replacement. Without knowing the
precise location of the stone it is very difficult to come up with
the correct color to replace a broken or missing stone. Jewelers are
feeling the pinch more and more as the public is becoming more
interested in stones and stone value. That is why it is even more
important to continue the education of the public as to the value of
stones and what makes the stone have value. I would advise all
jewelers to talk value as in appraisals to customers when selling
stones. Stay away from stone price comparisons side by side of two
stones that look alike. Compare appraised value of the two stones
and be able to explain why they appraise differently. That is what
the public is interested in knowing.

Gerry Galarneau

Gerry, I am an appraiser. An ugly stone from any location is an ugly
stone. A beautiful stone from any location is a beautiful stone. My
point here was that dealers do try to ask more for stones from certain
regions, but in reality they aren’t worth more. There are plenty of
Burmese sapphires that are downright ugly. This should not mean they
are more valuable than a beautiful stone from Sri Lanka. A fine
Brazilian emerald can be as expensive as a fine Columbian emerald.
The other stones you mention that have durability problems are not the
same issue. Stones that degenerate for whatever reason, from any
locale, will naturally command a lower price. However sapphires and
rubies are not in this category.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Ron, I have to disagree with you here on a couple of levels. First
of all, you apparently don’t know Gerry Galarneau. Gerry is as honest
and direct a man as you will ever meet. Your implication that Gerry
would use provenance (or any other issue) in order to misrepresent the
quality of a stone is way out of line, and merits an apology.

Second, while place of origin has no direct relationship to color,
cut, carat or clarity, It does have a bearing on rarity and therefore
on value. If a customer wants a stone from a specific area, and is
willing to pay the price that a stone from that area commands, then it
is the customer who has assigned a higher value to the stone than it’s
physical qualities alone would dictate. It’s their dime, and they can
do that. Our job is to provide what the customer wants at a price
which is fair to both the buyer and the seller.

Lee Einer

Daniel, I would like to know if there is an appraisers standard (US
Standard) that outlines procedures for pricing stones with identified
source regions? ALL: I would like to hear from appraisers around the
world what their procedures are for assigning value based upon source
region. I would like to hear opinions from some other sources:
Jewelers, gem dealers, investors, collectors, and jewelry buyers…

Gerry Galarneau

Daniel and All, I disagree with you totally. In my realm of selling
stones I have many customers who request stones from specific
locations. They want the location certified by a lab and sometimes
two or more labs. That is why that labs are developing techniques to
tell the difference between an emerald from Columbia and one from
Brazil. Even tourmaline collectors want the location verified. They
pay more money for the stones once the location is verified and that
makes the stone more valuable. As for rubies and sapphires two
stones of equal color, clarity, carat weight, and cut will definitely
be priced differently as to the location they are certified to have
come from. Rarity is the issue and that drives collectability which
drives price. You cannot replace a Burmese stone with a Ceylon
stone. Many example exist of this. Pala tourmalines, Pariaba
tourmalines, mandarin garnets, etc… Location is very important
because the customer demands to know the location.

Gerry Galarneau

Must have missed a post from Ron. Thanks for the defense Lee.

Been watching this thread for some time now. Guess its time to weigh
in. I have to look at this question first as a cutter and second as a
jeweler who makes and sells stuff!

As a cutter, it matters not one ioata to me the origin of a stone.
It is nice to know, but the rough stone is evaluated on the basis of
its physical qualities and how they will impact the cutting process to
attain the best gem. Of course, there are lots of intermediate things
that will impact on those qualities and I recognize right off that
origin sometimes will play a part in the physical qualities of a
stone. But then so will some of the treatments it goes through before
it gets to the cutter. When I purchase rough, I don’t ask its origin
unless the seller wants to advertise it as beryl or sapphire from this
place or that. Normally the value of rough is based on the beauty,
size, and cuttability (neat word) of the piece. Thats how I acquire

When I go to sell it to the next guy up the line, usually someone who
wants to set it, those normally are also the first attributes they
look for as well. Origin only seems to be REALLY important when it
gets to the retail level and/or for an appraisal.

When I make a piece for a stone, it is nice to know the stone’s
origin but I can’t remember a time when that played a crucial part in
setting the price. Of course, I don’t deal in the high end stuff and
my overhead is low so maybe thats just not built into my scheme of
things. Maybe if I had an expensive store with high marketing costs
and all that, I would look for anything to improve my intake. Some of
you mentioned, "if a customer wants a stone from a specific area…"
That sometimes happens, especially if it is an 'important’
acquisition. After all, ‘bragging rights’ are important to some people
and I respect that. In such a situation I would try to obtain a
documented stone. But up the price just because its from place A
rather than place B? I don’t think so.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

Gerry, First of all let’s eliminate stones that have historical
(and sometimes location) provenance. Stones that were known to be
owned by someone famous or that can be tracked back through history to
specific mines are a different issue than what we are discussing here.
The goods that most of us handle on a regular basis are usually stones
in the $200-$20,000 per stone range that are currently being mined and
this is what I am referring to when I speak about pricing goods like
these. Secondly please remember that the GIA’s Gem Trade Labs still do
NOT issue a report on origin because it is their belief that it does
not impact what the stone actually is. While you may not all like the
GIA it is still my belief that they are the world leaders in this
field and they have provided the bulk of my gemological training.
Third, let’s look at the diamond market. According to your thinking,
diamonds that come from a mine that produces a small but extremely
high quality quantity of goods should be priced much higher than a
stone that comes from a much more productive mine. De Beers would be
tracking all these stones and issuing provenance papers with each one
because they could get a higher price for them, whatever the quality
of the individual stone might be. The reason they don’t do this is
because they know that a D Flawless is a D Flawless whether it is from
South Africa, Russia, Australia or Canada. While I do not deny that
source locations sometimes impact the pricing of goods, this is
something that is usually done by dealers in an attempt to boost their
profits. Para Eiba tourmalines are a prime example of this. There are
Para Eiba tourmalines that are absolutely worth significantly more
than other tourmalines—because their color is far superior to what
is normally seen. There are also stones from the same mine that are
incredibly similar to other goods on the market. The dealers are
often charging more for these stones than equivalent tourmalines, but
quite frankly most of the ones I have seen like this, I would never
buy at the prices asked, and quite frankly most of those same dealers
have the same goods every time I see them i.e.: They aren’t selling
them at that price. When it comes to sapphires and rubies the issues
are the same. If I have a stone that has a Kashmir like color (i.e. a
color that is indicative of what has historically been associated with
the HIGH END of the goods from there) it will be priced much higher
than a more typical blue stone. It doesn’t matter whether the stone
actually is a Kashmir sapphire. I have already said this but I will
say it again: An ugly stone from any source is an ugly stone and is
not worth one penny more than any other equivalently ugly stone. The
reality is that when you have an ugly stone most dealers won’t tell
you where it is from, especially if it is from an area that is
normally associated with a higher quality of goods. In my own stock
almost every one of my heated sapphires is more expensive than my
natural ones. By your logic, again, this should not be the case as
unheated material is far rarer than heated. However almost all of
the natural color sapphires we buy are lighter in tone than what is
considered a high quality sapphire. It is the color and quality of
each individual stone that sets the price for these, as well as the
retail demand for a particular color. It is not truly the fact that
one is heated and one isn’t. When it comes to actually appraising the
goods on the market you have to analyze what is going on in the
overall marketplace. Value is placed on the goods based on what all
the jewelers in the area are selling like goods for, not just the ones
who have certificates with their stones that state origin. If most of
the local jewelers are selling a 1 ct. Kashmir sapphire for $1000 but
one guy with a cert is selling the exact same thing for $2000, the
value of the certed stone is still truly $1000, because the customer
could replace the stone for $1000. When analyzing certed stones I
usually will add the cost of the cert to the value but that is as far
as I can go and still produce an accurate and reasonable appraisal.
Gerry I also would like to tell you that we do identify stones to our
customers by their origin when it is accurately known (i.e. our opal
dealer DOES buy all of his stones in Australia), however we never let
it influence prices charged to the customer. Doing so ultimately
cheats the customer in the same way as they are cheated when they are
sold a diamond as D Flawless and it is actually H SI1. If someone
sells them an ugly Burmese stone at a premium because it is Burmese
then they are being cheated, because they could get exactly the same
stone for less if it hasn’t been certed. The customers are demanding
to know the source location because jewelers are hyping this, not
because they ever truly cared to begin with.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hi, I would like to ask a question in this thread out of curiosity.
If you had to choose one stone for each of the following three sets of
stones, which would you choose and why? Assume the stones for each set
is one caret, flawless, and identical color. Set one: a diamond from
South Africa, a diamond from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, and a diamond
from the diamond crater in Arkansas. Set two: An emerald from
Columbia, an emerald from North Carolina, and an emerald from the Ural
Mtns… Set three: A benitoite from California and a benitoite from
anywhere else on the planet. I always thought “rarity” was one of the
factors in determining a stones value. Doesn’t locality play a role in
a stone’s rarity? Provenance may not be important to certain cutters
and jewelers, but it can be very important to collectors, students,
and certainly to museum curators. Will Estavillo

Wow, sorry but that was a very confusing post. From what I read
heated sapphires no matter the origin should all be priced the same?
Whoosh, I gotta reprice all my difusion (a heat treatment) treated
stones?? For me certs do matter. Guess I should explain a bit. I am
not a retailer, I sell to them and when they have a call for a origin
certed stone thats what they want/demand, same way with heat and no
heat certs. It is true that like with over dark aust. or thia stone
nobody much cares but once you move into finer stones it does matter
and will make a diference in price. Now if what you are talking about
is melee, its true it makes very little diference and who cares
anyway. If you want to see a truly wild origin market try buying Yogo
(Montana) sapphires in even small sizes, the premium is outta site.

The GIA is the best thing we have without a doubt. They do however
fall short with certs. They claim to offer heat and no heat certs but
I have seen only one. I have never seen a origin cert. This has left
the market open for labs like Gueblin, Beesley and AGTA, they do cert
both heat and origin. If the trade didn’t demand them they would be
out of business.


Daniel, Well done…my sentiments exactly ! I think you have done a
bang-up job of clarifying the logic behind provenance. My only
misgivings would attend to the assertion that a treated stone can be
more valuable than a natural, given the fact that the natural did not
have as a good a color. The clincher here is whether there has been
disclosure. Moreover, if the heat treatment cannot be discerned as
having been done by man, the stone is certainly going to be worth
more in the eyes of both the appraiser and the potential customer. In
my opinion, the handwriting is on the wall; as origin and treatment
become more and more difficult to discern, the market will become
progressively less preoccupied with such distinctions.And, as I have
said before, we are probably going to eventually witness the demise
of the natural gemstone mystique. I certainly don’t advocate the
foregoing, but, I’m sure as hell going to have to keep an open mind
about things over which I have no control. Meanwhile, given the fact
that I am getting close to retirement, I’ll devote myself to enjoying
the business of producing beautiful , natural gemstones that are
still keeping their distance from human intervention…Bruneau
Jasper, Laguna Agate, Orbicular Jasper, Fossil woods and bone,
Chysocolla Agate, Rhodonite and so on…Don’t toss any C.Z.s on
my grave ! Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Diffusion treatment is not the same as heat treatment. Diffusion
treatment is a surface only treatment and will be altered if the stone
is recut. My point here was that if rarity is the decisive factor in
pricing than ALL unheated stones should be more expensive than heated.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Will, I think we are mixing apples and oranges here. I also
volunteer at a Natural History museum where our gem and mineral
society is an affiliate. The type of questions you ask are the same
type expressed by the inhouse paleontologist/geologist. But then he
can’t even tell a jasper from a sandstone unless he runs ‘scientific
tests’ on them! Of course place of origin is important to collectors,
students and museum curators. But none of them would ever consider
cutting one of their finds either. They are more concerned about the
proper identification, content and where the stone came from because
those are part of the scientific that is important to
their studies.

For example, an emerald from Columbia, North Carolina or Brazil or
Africa to me is still an emerald and if they are equal in quality and
cutability, then I don’t really care a hoot. To one of your trio, on
the other hand, it is terribly important to know what elements in each
of these areas were the cause of the stones ‘greenness’ , what the
inclusions consist of, etc, etc.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry.

Will, RE your question of which stone to buy. Once the diamonds have
been cut and polished there would be no way to determine which is
which. While someone, as the miner of the original meteorite diamond
or the one from Arkansas, could conceivably ask more for his product
due to the curiosity factor, once it gets moved further down the
production chain it would not be possible to tell where it is from.
This is one of the problems I am talking about. Anyone could CLAIM
that they have a diamond from the meteorite but they would not have
proof of it and therefore it would become unethical to sell it at a
higher price than any of the other stones. I can’t say I have ever
seen a flawless emerald, but I understand your intent here. The
emerald from North Carolina might have some extra human interest and
could conceivably be valued slightly higher than the others but again,
once it moves down the chain of ownership, how can you guarantee it?
Please note that as I said in an earlier post that this does not apply
to stones with historical and location provenance—in other words the
emerald Tiffany’s owns and shows in its New York store that is the
largest emerald mined in the United States WILL carry a much higher
price tag than one of equivalent quality from Columbia. However,
quite frankly, having seen the stone, if I had the kind of money
necessary to buy it, I would get myself a much larger, prettier
Columbian stone. I don’t believe that there would be any difference
in value of benitoite from one locale to the next, any more than there
is a difference in alexandrite prices from one source to the next. The
value of these types of stones is set by their rarity in general, not
by their rarity from a particular locale. Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer
Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140

Dear Will, Given your past involvement with museums and collectors, I
can readily understand your preference for knowing where a stone
comes from. I too, as a collector, former mine operator and avid
lapidary am entranced by the uniqueness of similar stones coming from
various localities.This is all well and good, but when it comes to
gemstone commerce and appraising, these subtleties that are
appreciated by the connoiseur are lost in jewelry applications. Very
few retail customers can be considered to be collectors. When it
comes to colored stones, the basic consideration is usually whether
the stone is the appropriate birthstone or whether the stone is a
complementary color for the hair color and complexion of the wearer.
When it comes to patterned cabochon stones, color is still a primary
consideration, but the aesthetics of pattern and the shape of the cut
also enter into the equation. If the stone appeals to the aesthetic
sense of the wearer, that is normally all that it takes for the
customer to want to own it. SOMETIMES a potential customer can be
entranced by the fact that a stone is local, if that person is
sentimental about local pride. Or, if the person has a favorite aunt
who lives in Brazil, that person might want to own a piece of
Auntie’s provenance. An “egghead” might want to collect Andalusites
from every know locality. A person dedicated to squandering money
might want to amass a pile of stones from a certain locale. You can
find countless motivations for people buying stones, but, the only
really relevant reasons, as far as perpetuation of the business is
concerned, are that people like to adorn themselves, they like to
express their affection for loved ones, they like to commemorate
special occaisions, they like to intimidate their perceived social
competitors and they like to be recognized as being fashionable or
trendy. If provenance were a critical consideration it would be
perfectly reasonable for people to hang a small sign from their
baubles identifying the origin of their gems. I really don’t think
that the market is currently attuned to convincing people that they
should become walking museums.But then, those of you who cling to
believing that provenance is such an important issue might want to
give some consideration to starting a movement to petition De Beers
and Antwerp to disclose origin. Better yet, we could get the federal
government to require this !..yeah, sure! Ron at Mills Gem, Los
Osos, CA

Gerry, I have always based the price of diamonds off of the rappaport
sheet.A subscription type pricing guide put out to price diamonds at
the wholesale end.The lab that the stone has been certed from also is
another factor in determining the value along with the three c’s cut
clarity and color.To determine colored stone pricing I talk to cutters
and call dealers to see what they are selling it for and check the
internet also