Unethical business practices

  Proprietors of two different businesses informed me of a
well-known jeweler in the area who was/is allegedly engaging in all
sorts of villainy, including selling chinese turquoise as "Bisbee
Blue," stamping estate jewelry with his hallmark, and promoting blue
calcite as "blue ice," which he is cabbing and selling as a hot new
gemstone (the stuff has a hardness of 3, you could probably scratch
it with your fingernail). So the area jewelers know about the
unethical conduct, but the question is, what regulatory oversight is
there to prevent or abate the unethical conduct? 

There is a an organization called the Jewelers Vigilance Committee
(JVC), in NYC, (and online) who do provide some regulatory oversight.
You should absolutely report this type of dishonesty to them. They
will listen to any complaints and they usually will take some action.
Incidentally the organization is supported by all of us honest
jewelers and you should all pay up your dues and join so that they
have more money to work with to achieve more oversight.

Well, if you want to get back at the villain you can be
devastatingly honest and real mean at the same time. Just feature a
display of “Calcite–sometimes called blue ice–World’s softest
gemstone. Scratch your own initials in it with a safety
pin”…and sell it for 1/10 the price he is asking. Dee.

Whoa there partner! Although I would not make a ring out of Bisbee
"Blue Ice" calcite, It would make a lovely pendant stone. It has the
same hardness as malachite, rhodochrosite, and travertine ‘onyx’. If
this material is not represented as something other than calcite, then
what is the unethical nature of selling this material? (this argument
may be academic, since there is a limited quantity available and
certainly questions and tall tales about the source may be
overheard in the local pubs.) Will E., Tucson

This is a bit misleading. The hardness of calcite is 3,
rhodochrosite and malachite are 3 1/2 to 4 on the mohs scale. I am
unaware of any shortage of the “blue ice” calcite. Most is Mexican
calcite, dipped in acid to polish it and sold by the barrel in
Quartzsite and Tucson. The comparison to travertine is apt.
Travertine is used to carve very cheap souvenirs. Rhodochrosite is
rare and even malachite is much rarer than the calcite. Both wear
better. Malachite is popular because there are few harder stones with
the same green color and patterns. The blue calcite mimics much more
durable stones such as the Peruvian blue opal. I would personally
look askance at anyone selling pendants of calcite unless we are
talking about $5 or less.

I am a bit sore about this, as a friend bought me a gift of the
"Bisbee blue ice", due to the song and dance of a Bisbee rock dealer
who charged her $45 for about two pounds of this very inexpensive
stone. She knew I am a lapidary and was assured I would be thrilled
and would turn out some fantastic jewelry with the stone. It was
clearly Mexican calcite dipped in acid. The markup was outrageous.
It was worth less than seventy five cents per pound. I believe there
is an ethics issue here.

John McLaughlin
Glendale, Arizona

Hi John , You are certainly right on about the blue calcite…this
stuff has been quarried by the millions of tons for many decades in
the Colton, CA. area. It is a prime source of cement. Calcite as a
gemstone just doesn’t hack it unless it is in the form of nacre on a
pearl (actually aragonite…same stuff as calcite except for crystal
structure) Furthermore, pearl has the redeeming feature of wearing
much better in spite of its’ softness because of the organic
chitonous material contained therein. Paying twenty three dollars per
pound for blue calcite is almost as bad as paying ten dollars per
gallon for designer drinking water from France…there’s a sucker for
anything. If ever Orchid gets a dialogue going on sucker mark-ups I’m
afraid that lots of jewelry and gem items will be on the list. Just
using the terms “designer” or “custom” or “original” is tantamount to
signing blank checks. “The moving finger writes and, having written,
moves on” Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

John, I understand your upset about your friend’s purchase of Bisbee
Blue Ice. I also purchased some older material from another
"legitimate" source and paid considerably less than the price you
quoted. True Bisbee Blue Ice calcite is NOT the same as the blue-green
Mexican material. You may indeed have the Mexican material and be
justified in your feelings. I don’t know the parties involved nor have
I seen the material you have. I can say that the TRUE Bisbee blue is a
very beautiful material, Not the same as the Mexican, which is fairly
drab. I am not impressed with the material marketed by the shop in
question (they don’t know how to cut it, and what they do cut is not
really top quality). It is very difficult to get good cutting
material , less than 5% of it will cut a decent stone. The rest is
junk. In fact, you may want to contact the folks out at the Lavender
Pit to see what the latest news is concerning mining activities for
Blue Ice. As far as a pendant made from this stone… well, we are
talking CALCITE, not sapphire or opal, or alexandrite here. However, a
well cut flawless stone, deep color, in a great designed mount should
fetch more than $5. Even if it is an “art” piece. I have enough other
materials to keep me busy for several lifetimes, but now, I will cut
and mount some Bisbee Blue Ice for the challenge. If I do, I’ll post a
photo on the orchid ftp site, if Hanuman doesn’t mind. Regards, Will

Hi Ron, John,

I posted a few shots of a sample of fair quality Bisbee Blue Ice
Calcite at

It really is different than the Mexican and Crestmore calcite. Much
of it is pale and resembles smithsonite, but occasionally a really
nice piece comes out of the pit at Bisbee. There are legal issues down
there and we probably won’t be seeing much of this material in the
market for awhile. Ron, I’ve collected at Crestmore at a very early
age, and I am still amazed at the variety of minerals that came out of
there. and believe it or not, the blue marble from there is not that
easy to find outside of the cement plant. Regards, Will Estavillo

Hi Will! I too collected in the Crestmore area when I was a kid
although I was never able to get into the Crestmore operation. It
went underground many years ago. The number of minerals found there
made it a world class locality…there was even a contact zone in
the Crestmore which provided rubellite tourmaline! As for the blue
calcite you’ve got to realize that Crestmore was just one of many
limestone quarries within a few miles of Colton and all that I know
of had countless tons of the blue calcite. They were happy
days…fantastic collecting! Ron at Mills Gem, Los osos, CA.