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The World's First Recorded Opalized Pearls Discovered

The world's first recorded opalized pearls, relics of creatures in an ancient inland sea dating back 65 million years, have been unearthed by two miners in the South Australian outback.

Dr. Ben Grguric from the SA Museum, where the pearls have gone on display, said opal miners Dale Price and Tanja Burk were sorting through a spoil heap when they made the discovery.

"The miners pick out anything that glows with ultraviolet light because even a small chip of opal might be worth something if it's high quality with a high range of colors," Dr. Grguric. "It turns out these resembled pearls."

Opals formed when seas dried up and alkaline soil dissolved the silica in certain rocks, as well as bones and shells - and in this case, pearls.

"A lot of the opal fossils, including bones and shells, were formed during the cretaceous period, which was an era earlier than 65 million years ago and the age of the dinosaurs," Dr. Grguric said.

The pearls are still owned by Mr. Price and Ms. Burk, and are only on display for a short time at the SA Museum. "It's difficult to put a price on them, and from the point of view of a gem they're not particularly valuable," Dr. Grguric said.

"But from a scientific view, you'd argue they were priceless." He said there were a lot of shell fossils in the Coober Pedy region, and those with a sharp eye may come across more opalized pearls in the future.

I'm definitely keen to see some more of these pieces unearthed!

Now, the Good News

Last week, I sent out a client letter about Alrosa and the current government sanctions against Russian diamonds.  Read it here.

Today, I received notice from GIA (Gemological Institute of America) that the body will soon offer GIA Source Verify, a geographical origin notation for natural, mined diamonds that will be included on the GIA diamond reports we all use. GIA will also identify lab-grown diamonds.

Several of you have written or called about the diamond situation.  You wanted to know whether lab-grown diamonds are a good alternative to buying sanctioned material.   Indeed, lab-grown diamonds represent one way to buy knowing that the gem has not come from Russian mines or underserved mining communities.

The other thing to consider is natural, mined diamonds recycled from vintage jewelry.  The market for vintage diamonds is continuing strong for lots of good reasons.  One, vintage diamonds are recycled, so no new mining, no conflict diamonds, no sanctions… just a beautiful old stone. The older stones are cut very differently than new material, so they glow rather than sparkle, although they do have a lot of life.

Old European Cut


I love them. So, if you are in the market, please let me know.  We can do some amazing work with the old, mined stones.  Stay tuned for my latest project with one.

Regards from the studio,

Diana

When a Diamond is not Just a Diamond

The bloody, brutal war in Ukraine caused the US government and its allies to ban the import of Russian diamonds. The jewelry industry fully supports this measure, but the sanction levied by the United States is porous because most Russian diamond material is sent to India for cutting and India is very friendly with the Russians.

Once diamonds are cut and released into the market, it becomes rather impossible to know their geographical origin. One large trading platform is suggesting the following:. “Buyers wishing to avoid polished diamonds sourced from Russian rough are encouraged to request the following statement on all invoices: “The polished diamonds herein invoiced are cut from rough mined in [country].” Alternatively, for polished of unknown rough sources: “To the best of our knowledge, the polished diamonds herein invoiced do not originate from Russian rough diamonds exported after April 1, 2022.”

That puts the responsibility back onto the dealer at the time of transaction but it’s a weak solution requiring trust and transparency all the way back down the chain. It’s a real problem. I’m going to try and source Canadian diamonds until the industry gets a better handle on this.

I attended a seminar about this last week. According to a report written by Hans Merket for the International Peace Information Service, “Alrosa is the largest diamond producing company in the world by volume. In 2021 it sold 45.5 million carats of diamonds worth USD 4.2 billion. Alrosa accounts for over 90% of Russia’s diamond production. Russia is the world’s largest diamond producing country, accounting for approximately one third of global supply. Alrosa’s main mining operations are located in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Arkhangelsk region in the northwestern part of Russia. In addition, Alrosa has important activities in Africa, especially in Angola, the world’s fourth largest producer…”

Alrosa has three major shareholders, two of which are the Russian government. The third share is thought to be owned by a mix of oligarchs and close associates of Vladimir Putin. Money from diamond sales finances military equipment and operations among other things so it’s easy to see why Alrosa should be punished. There is a suspicion that Alrosa’s mining extends to uranium for nuclear warheads.

The implications for the jewelry industry are complex because we are a tight, international weave with buying and trading platforms in far-flung places, including Belgium, Israel, the UAE, India and China. Historically, Belgium is a major diamond hub and India is using the opportunity to muscle into first place by assuring Russia of continued business dealings.

There is much more to this story which I’d be happy to discuss further with any of you on this list of beloved clients. We have shared many joyous occasions together through the jewelry you buy from me. You’ve trusted me to source gemstones from responsible mining communities and I have.

Now, 23 years later into my career, the stakes for geographical origin are higher than ever. The way forward is still opaque but the industry is working towards new accountability measures.

Sending best wishes for health and peace in your own homes.

Diana

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds "Real?"

In an ever-changing gem marketplace, one of the newest additions to the diamond world is the lab-grown stones. Historically, diamond simulants like Cubic Zirconia (CZ) and moissanite offered customers a chance to wear something white and sparkly without having to buy a natural diamond.

In the last few years, a new type of lab-grown diamond has come to market. The lab manufacturers call it a “diamond” because, chemically speaking, it has the hardness of natural diamond and the same chemical makeup. Lab-grown diamonds are made from highly-pressurized carbon, which mimics—but is far from identical—to the same growth process in a natural stone. Lab-grown diamonds take months to grow. Natural diamonds take millions of years and come from deep in the Earth’s mantle. Lab diamonds are grown into rough, which is sent to India (the world’s major diamond cutting center) to be cut and polished, just as natural diamonds are. Lab-grown diamonds have inclusions in them, although natural diamonds have a wider variety of inclusions.

So are the lab-grown stones diamonds or not? The marketers insist that there should be no distinction between a mined diamond and a lab-grown in the eyes of the consumer. Yet, the jewelry and gemology world goes to great pains to identify which diamonds are natural (mined) and which are lab-grown because no one wants to inadvertently sell a lab-grown as a natural.

Natural, mined diamonds are much pricier than lab-grown because naturals have been coveted since they first became unearthed, some 2000 years ago. Many factors go into natural diamond pricing in comparison to lab-grown stones. However, natural diamonds have a stronger resale value. A fine, mined diamond is still far rarer than a lab-grown and most people find it more romantic to own a piece of nature. But many people are coming around to lab-grown because one can often get a larger, whiter diamond for the same money or less and bling matters.

Lab-grown makers cite the more benign environmental effects of growing their stones, yet the technology to grow a stone uses a lot of energy 24 hours a day, plus microwave heat to replicate the growing environment of natural stones. Environmental effects from a mining operation are huge, even when responsibly done.

One advantage for my clients is that the same money buys a much larger lab-grown diamond, so if size is important and the budget is crucial, lab-grown might be a good choice.

Feel free to call with questions or if you want to explore this further.

Hooray for spring!

Diana

Jewelry Auctions and Hot Commodities: Part 1

An industry magazine recently featured an interview with Francois Curiel, the international director of the luxury division of Christies and its Chairman for Europe. I thought I’d share some interesting bits with you since this is an area most of us never get to know well.  The most relevant parts of the article for you were his comments on the collections of famous people.

In 2011, Christies handled the sale of the estate of Elizabeth Taylor, who had a dream collection of diverse, ultrafine examples of gems in every category. Curiel tells us that “every piece was the best of its kind—the brightest gems, the richest natural pearls, many high-quality diamonds and Kashmir sapphires, Burma rubies, vintage, and contemporary signed pieces."

BlogAuctionETaylor web

Provenance plays a huge role in establishing auction prices, though, and the fact that these jewels belonged to one of the world’s most famous actresses added huge monetary value to the lot.  Elizabeth Taylor knew a lot about gems and jewelry, and she chose her pieces according to the same standards someone in the business would use if purchasing for a particular client. Curiel cites this auction as a high point in his 50-year career.

He also talks about the auction of two diamond bracelets belonging to Marie Antoinette which sold at Christies for $8.2 million with an opening estimate of $2 million to $4 million. Curiel tells us that “previous ownership by royalty, aristocrats or celebrities enhances authenticity and gives the piece a persona. It can dramatically multiply the piece’s value beyond its physical worth.”

BlogAuctionmarieAntoinette web

Marie Antoinette bought these bracelets in 1776 and had them delivered to her daughter, Madame Royale, who lived from 1778-1851.  Since then, the bracelets had been passed down through the family line until they were sold recently at the auction. Curiel told us that the stones themselves were probably worth around $100,000 but the provenance created the price.

Best regards from the studio. Spring is coming!

Diana

Undersea Colors: The Luminosity of Pearls

It’s no secret that I love pearls’ subtle colors and soft light. I love all the shapes and the mixed colors that happen randomly in many pearls. Admittedly, I wear mostly rounds and teardrop baroques but all the crazy shapes we used to cast aside are considered fun to wear and for good reason.

pearlsaudrey Pearls best conch pearl

Strands can be worn at any length, with layering necklaces, or just as single, beautiful statements about your current mood: “I’m feeling cozy today” say the browns and taupes.  “I’m glamorous and sexy,” say the blacks and grays. “I’m aglow, lighthearted, and in a classic mode,” say the whites and pinks. “I’m chic and I like unconventional beauty.”

PearlJewelry


I found this chart that gives you a one-word color identifier for when you want to add some pearls to your collection but you’re not sure what to call them.

Pearl Colors

Happy February to the Amethyst Babies!

Your purple birthstone ranges from rich plums to pale lavender. It is the most beloved of all the quartzes and mined worldwide. Amethysts appear in royal jewel collections as well as in most of our personal jewelry collections.

DWDAmethystFlowerdrop web DWDamethysttwr er grad web

The word amethyst comes from the Greek “amethystos” which means “remedy against drunkenness.” The very literal (in this case) Greeks figured that a purple, wine-colored stone should relate to Bacchus, the god of wine and profligate living. Since they did have a sense of proportionality, they assigned amethyst as a preventative against the consequences of too many bacchanalias. I’m not sure how the stone got assigned to February, but that’s another topic.

Other presumed amethyst powers: The wearer obtains personal empowerment, intelligence, and gets rid of evil thoughts.

The original source of amethyst was Russia. In the 19th century, a huge stash was found in Brazil, which is where we get most of our material from now, although Africa and other parts of South America (Uruguay, Bolivia) have gorgeous material. Amethyst resides in geodes that can be so large we can stand in them! Not to be outdone, Arizona has its own amethyst supply at Four Peaks.  There is amethyst in Arizona at Four Peaks, too.

BlogAmethystGeode

Colors: rich purple with red or blue undertones, depending on the origin source, Brazil’s southern deposits contain lavender material as well as ametrine, the combination of amethyst and citrine that is really stunning in its most beautiful form.

BlogAmethystDyberAmetrine

Amethyst, like the other quartzes (citrine, rose quartz, crystal quartz) is relatively inexpensive on the gem price continuum, occurs in large, juicy sizes for jewelry, and complements every skin tone. You don’t have to be a February baby to love and enjoy it. I know lots of great carvers who use it with stunning results.

Best regards from the studio,
Diana

Dianawithroseqtz web

Inquiring Mind: Garnets for January Babies

Garnets: Not Just Dark Red

Garnet, I serenade thee… Very few know your true glory as a gem is revealed in a breathtaking palette of hues. Citrus orange, sherry red, honeyed gold, raspberry, olive, plum, spearmint, lime, basil, blue, and pale, sea green and near-black. Fewer still realize that your sparkling radiance is higher than that of diamond...  In fact, one of the garnet species called "demantoid," means “diamond-like.” Although demantoid garnet is generally bright green, under light, it dances with abandon. One of my favorite things about garnets is that, like other gem species, they are not heat-treated to enhance or clarify them. They are simply Mother Nature’s gift to appreciating eyes.

For the Scientifically Curious

The deep red variety of garnet is most plentiful, occurring all over the world. Jewelry-grade garnets are most often found in the Earth’s crust. They can also be found in streams, in deep-source magma formations, and in weathered soil erosions. In fact, the presence of garnets is used as an indicator of diamonds during the diamond mining process.

Garnets are Diamonds’ Best Friends

Since they occur in the Earth’s mantle as well as its crust, a deep volcanic eruption sends rough garnet and diamond crystals up toward the Earth’s crust in a series of xenoliths, which are large clusters of rock that coalesce into “pipes.” These deep-source garnets are often huge and not the more refined variety found in the crust. Geologists use deep-source garnet clusters, as markers on the search for diamonds.

Industrial Use of Garnets… But I Digress

For the past 150 years or so, low-grade garnets have been used as industrial abrasive material. Garnet granules used with forced water offer an effective sandblasting media, which is used to smooth out brick, stone, and remove oxides from metal. Tiny garnet particles also act as effective filtration material.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some glorious examples of cut garnet.

Demantoid Earrings

Demantoid Ring

Garnet Cluster Necklace

Current Appraising Techniques

I love my appraisal work. Appraisals expand my exposure to pieces I would never know about and help clients know what they have, either for insurance or estate purposes. I thought I’d offer you a glimpse of a recent appraisal, with identifying information redacted.
 
This report took many hours because I researched each piece and expanded (or amended) the original jeweler’s appraisal to include background information about the manufacturers, which, in some instances, was important or just plain nice to know.
 
A professional appraisal requires knowledge and experience in consumer and materials markets, research capability, and manufacturing knowledge. Consideration is given towards rarity, historical value, provenance, and replacement possibilities. We need to maintain objectivity.
 
One thing that is important is knowing which price to assign to a value. Are you insured for full retail value? Replacement value “Used?” Which type of market is most common for the piece? Most insurance companies will allow you to insure an item for a particular (often too high) value and then, in a loss situation, will not give you the full appraised amount.
 
Perhaps the seller gave you a good deal or maybe they wanted you to feel like you got a good deal. So, you’ve been overinsuring the piece, paying the premiums, and have no chance of getting that amount of money when you need to replace it. Other insurance companies will force you to use their suppliers, who may or may not be able to be as concerned with quality as you might want them to be because they are price-restricted.
 
When clients ask me for an appraisal on a piece I just finished, I simply put the receipt into an appraisal report format. That’s because I charge a reasonable market price for my work and I am not going to guess whether the market for metal or stones is expected to go up or down. It is what it is today and that’s what you should pay for.
 

 

Appraisal Report

Date: October 6, 2021

Introduction and Purpose

This report is prepared at the Client’s request to update jewelry appraisals for insurance purposes. The price of gold has risen sharply since these were purchased, as has the value of emeralds.

The market prices in this report are not a guarantee of value because desirability, fashion, and other global influences move prices in unanticipated directions. These items show some wear as would be expected in a longstanding personal collection. They are manufactured with skill and contain generous amounts of 18KT gold.

Diana Widman, Graduate Gemologist (GIA), Appraiser: Appraisers International Society license 0051 AISCV, AVS-GJV, AiV: advanced gems and jewelry valuer, designer, metalsmith

312-346-2363    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Item Description

Ladies solid gold link bracelet designed by Sauro, an Italian manufacturing firm. Sauro manufactures both classic and high-tech pieces using unusual materials such as wood, ceramic, and carbon fibre. Client’s bracelet is beautifully engineered and the clasp is unique to Sauro.   Client’s bracelet is no longer shown in their collection. Piece is 18mm wide with an open, rectangular link weave.  

Bracelet weighs 64 grams which is the equivalent of two troy ounces.

Ladies solid gold link bracelet designed by Sauro 

 

Item Description

Ladies 18KT yellow gold open, oval link, woven bracelet stamped with “18KItaly” on the clasp. Bracelet has five stations made of white gold and shared prong-set set with 55 diamonds weighing 1.87 total carats. Diamonds are full cut, SI1-SI2 clarity with a GH color grade. Bracelet weighs 39 grams which is the equivalent of 1.5 troy ounces.

Client was told that this bracelet was manufactured by an Italian firm named Brassolini however research suggests the firm’s actual name was BRASOLIN Milan. They were a high-end manufacturer of gold and diamond jewelry.  Appraiser cannot find any company stamp on the bracelet and research suggests that the firm may no longer be in business, but this style is consistent with their product.

Ladies yellow gold open oval link woven bracelet

  

Item Description

Pair of 18KT gold, post earrings signed and stamped by Danish designer and goldsmith Nicolai Appel. Appel apprenticed at Georg Jensen and received his design training at the Institute of Precious Metals in Copenhagen, Denmark. Nicolai Appel is a well-respected artist who also now designs and manufactures silverware for upscale restaurants.

His jewelry work is collectible as fine art jewelry. 

This design is part of a series that Appel executed in silver and gold.

 Pair of 18kt gold post earrings signed and stamped by Danish designer

 

Item Description

Ladies 16”, 18KT yellow and white gold dome collar necklace with diamond accents.

Solid, half-domes of gold are invisibly hinged and interspersed with diamond-set domes on the lower third of the necklace.  The back of the piece is finished with filigreed closures on diamond- set domes. Fine manufacturing. Piece appears to be Italian-made. Gold weight is 80 grams which is the equivalent of approximately 2.57 troy ounces.  Diamond weight and quality is 1.31 carats of round brilliant, F-G color, VS clarity gems.  

 ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace 5ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace

 

Item Description

Two-tone diamond band made of 18KT yellow and platinum.  

Diamonds: total carat weight is 2.42 carats. Diamond color is GH and clarity from SI1-SI2. One diamond is chipped on the table as is consistent with wear.

The two, half-round halves of this band are welded together and drilled for stone placement and light passage. Stones are flush set.

two tone diamond band ring with diamonds two tone diamond band ring

 

Item Description

Emerald Suite: Earrings and Ring

Emerald Ring: One 18KT yellow ladies emerald ring with diamond accents. Center stone measures 6mm x 4mm. Emerald color is a vivid, deep green. According to the GIA scale, this gem color is Dark, Strong, very slightly bluish green. Under magnification, this gem appears to have been treated with oil, as is standard for most emeralds. Abraded facet junctions and two small chips on the table are a sign of wear. Stone weighs approximately .4 carats and would be valued at about $1125. The setting holds .70 total carats of round brilliant diamonds with a GH color and SI1-SI2 clarity. Ring stamp 750 / copyright NS (Nova Styling.)

Earrings:

These hinged, clip-hoop earrings are stamped “18KT Italy.” Emeralds weigh .60 carats and are a strong, slightly bluish green.  They are slightly included with small fractures that are normal for emeralds.  Diamonds are G color, VS clarity, .63 total carat weight, and bead set in yellow gold.

 Ladies emerald ring and clip-hoop earrings

 

The report is written only for the benefit of both the Client and reasonably foreseeable Third Parties, including but not limited to insurance companies, estate tax bodies, heirs, asset values in case of a divorce trial, etc. Information provided in this report is to be used only for the Intended Purpose and is not valid if used for other purposes.  In this case, this report was written to update jewelry values for the Client and their insurance carrier.

Contingent and Limiting Conditions: Valid Ownership of Property: The creation of this report is done under the assumption that the client owns the item(s) outright and has no liens, loans based on the item, or undisclosed co-owners. Diana Widman Appraisal and Design Services has no ownership interest or plans to purchase the item(s) evaluated in this report.    __________ initials

This value is my professional opinion, not an absolute guarantee of worth. It is based on market conditions found on the date of the report and is not applicable to any other date or any other use. 

A Note about Values: Item(s) described in this report are given a value for the stated Intended and Assigned Use, i.e.   Fair Market Value, Consumer Insurance Replacement-New, Pre- or Post- Sale Appraisal, Estate Tax, Sale into a Particular Market.

My opinion of monetary worth might change under different market conditions and at different times.