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Polished minerals and art pieces

This is the largest and diverse group of products that you’ll see at a mineral show. It is also the most popular and often the most profitable.

Any mineral that has been cut or polished falls into this category. It can be a simple as cutting a geode in half and polishing the cut surface or an agate or other rock sliced and polished into decorative slabs. Since this category appeals to a larger demographic that is not as particular about unadulterated specimens, you will find the greatest number of treated stones. The most common treatment is dying a stone to produce interesting colours, sometimes subtle and often obviously not natural. Another common treatment is coating natural mineral clusters, usually quartz with metal halides producing striking, iridescent colours. These typically will have trade names such as “Aqua Aura” for quartz with a gold halide coating that appears as a metallic light blue colour.

Polished minerals and art pieces

Some stones are cut and polished into geometric shapes such as pyramids and obelisks. These can be as small as a few centimetres or as large as several meters. Spheres and eggs are very popular and there is an entire group of people that collect them in as many minerals or colours as possible.



Metaphysical stones

Many cultures and individuals believe that stones carry powers that can aid in healing, guide their meditations, or enhance the energy balance in themselves and the space that surrounds them. Almost any gemstone, mineral, fossil or polished rock can fall within this category.

Metaphysical stones

When you see someone at a show that is holding a stone in their hands with their eyes closed in deep meditative thought, or swinging a pendulum over a stone, you can be sure that person is feeling the metaphysical potential of the specimen. Natural crystals, massage stones, and spheres are very popular. Some will look for particular healing stones, sometimes called Vogel ponts, which are usually clear quartz cut to very precise angles and shapes as taught by a crystal healer named Marcel Vogel. These are often quite expensive but those seeking them will pay the price. It really does not matter what your own personal belief is about metaphysical stones, you can count on one fact…they are immensely popular and profitable.



Carvings and sculpture

It can be a small carved Jadeite Buddha or a large marble sculpture; this category contains stones that have been carved into images or fine art. A small Egyptian scarab in agate or jasper might cost a dollar while a beautiful carving in fine Jadeite may run as high as several million dollars. Roman or Greek classics like David or the Venus de Milo are priceless works of art with deep historical value. Consideration must be given to the material used, the subject matter and quality of workmanship. High value items are usually sold at auction.

Burmese Jade Opal Vase



The Mineral & Gem Asia show starts in a few days. I hope this series of primers can be of assistance in understanding some of what you will see and learn at the show. Be sure to attend and don’t be afraid to ask questions of the vendors. This may open an entirely new line of exciting products to sell in your jewellery store.



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First it was 80:20 Scheme by earlier government, then the Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS) and now the latest one is Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs)- both the later ones are recently introduced by the new government of India.

We have frequently mentioned here that the Indian government has always remained watchful to control the troublesome Current Account Deficit (CAD) and to bring down its heavy import bills. As a result, imports of gold, being a non-productive asset have become the prime target of the government which has time and again tried to discourage physical demand of gold to reduce the inflow of the yellow metal into the country.


India to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds

India to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds


Although the 80:20 Scheme introduced by the earlier government has been withdrawn among the strong opposition of the industry circles, both the new schemes- GMS and SGB proposed by the new government have been widely welcomed here by India’s bullion & jewellery industry.

While the GMS aims to dig out the huge amount (about 24,000 tons) of gold lying unproductively in people’s safes (we have already discussed the pros & cons of the scheme here earlier), the SGB Scheme discourages people from possessing physical gold and instead inspires them to invest in ‘paper gold’ to be introduced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on behalf of the Indian government. The draft outline (for discussion purposes only) has been published on the 18th June and the Finance Ministry has invited the public to submit their comments on the proposals by 2nd July, 2015.

Accordingly, the government expects around Rs.13,500 crore to be invested in the bonds which is equivalent to 50 tons of gold. As per the scheme, investment and redemption would be by paying money but linked to gold price. The government would also consider providing capital gains tax the same treatment as for physical gold. While gold price rise & fall benefit would be passed on to the investors, issuing agency, (RBI), will not have to bear the price risk, nor hedge it and, the government would bear the risk of gold price movement on issuances.

Contrary to the GMS, where the primary aim is to ‘monetize’ India’s massive stock of physical gold, the SGB scheme targets to convert the investment demand for physical gold into paper demand. The SGBs which would be issued in denominations of 2, 5 and 10 grams of gold with a minimum tenor of 5 to 7 years, would be linked to the price of gold. Mr. Somasundaram P.R. MD, India, World Gold Council (WGC) says,

“Any step that increases consumer choices and makes gold a fungible asset class is good.  WGC’s research confirms the increasing interest of the Indian consumers for interest-bearing gold-based investment products.”

India’s investment demand for gold was at 181 tons in 2014 against an average annual demand of 345 tons from 2010 to 2013. If the scheme is subscribed fully in the first year, it would represent 27% of the 2014 investment demand and would result in savings of $2 billion on gold imports at current prices, mentions the scheme draft. Prominently, a 2% lower limit of interest rate has been indicated and would be paid in terms of gold grams. On maturity, the investor would get an amount equivalent to the face value of gold in Rupee terms.

Primarily, the scheme seems to be widely welcomed by the industry but the government may change some of its provisions according to the suggestions it would receive from the industry leaders and the consumers.



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US consumers are spending less overall, but things on the luxury end of the market are still growing a steady pace. I don’t if it’s the lack of a robust marketplace or that designers at the high end of the market are confident, but the designs at the Couture Show displayed lots of creativity and diversity.

The Couture Show recently held in Las Vegas at the Wynn Resort generally caters to the high end of the market with jewellers creating everything from one-of-a-kind masterpieces to fun, fashion items. There were definitely trends at this year’s fair and I will write about each one separately but just as an overview yellow gold was definitely in fashion at the event. Other things that were in abundance were coloured gems, particularly opals. A lot of people were talking about pearls being popular at the fair this year. The growth in this category seemed minor to me. However, when pearls were used, it was done creatively, particular with baroque pearls.

If there was a material in decline this year, I’d have to say it was diamonds. Now it’s impossible to hold a jewellery trade fair and not see diamonds in the mix. After all, the colourless gem is by far the most ubiquitous material in the jewellery trade. However, it seemed to have taken a back seat among designers this year, playing second fiddle to more colourful gems. Certainly there were the jewellers who deal exclusively in diamond jewellery and there was no change there. But for designers who mix their materials, diamonds were largely relegated to a background status.

Maybe it was different at the other end of the Las Vegas Strip where JCK Las Vegas was being held, but I skipped that trade fair this year.

Design is where the jewellers shined this year at Couture. The range and variety was about the best I’ve ever seen at this fair, which I’ve been attending for many years. This attests not only to the quality of the jewellery designers but also a testament to the way the show is able to attract quality designers throughout the world.

To start off the full review of the Couture Show, I chose 10 images that are representative of the diversity and quality of the show. These are not necessarily the 10 best designs but these are certainly the outstanding works by quality jewellers—several of whom you will see again in coming stories.


A sparkling collection of gold chains paved with diamonds and coloured gems A variety of diamond and white gold bracelets by Kwiat

A sparkling collection of gold chains paved
with diamonds and coloured gems by 

A variety of diamond and white gold bracelets
by Kwiat


A ruby, emerald and diamond necklace by Amrapali A cobalt ring with a sapphire centre stone surrounded by round diamonds by Etienne Perret

A ruby, emerald and diamond necklace
by Amrapali

A cobalt ring with a sapphire centre stone
surrounded by round diamonds
by Etienne Perret


A necklace featuring a large amethyst pendant by Chopard Eight-pointed star earrings by Kuwaiti jeweller, Octium

A necklace featuring a large amethyst pendant
by Chopard

Eight-pointed star earrings
by Kuwaiti jeweller, Octium


A series of colourful gemstone earrings by Ileana Makri Black diamond saddle ring by Sara Weinstock

A series of colourful gemstone earrings
by Ileana Makri

Black diamond saddle ring
by Sara Weinstock


A brightly coloured, gem-encrusted lobster ring by Parisian designer, Lydia Courteille Gold bracelet with diamonds by Ivanka Trump

A brightly coloured, gem-encrusted lobster ring
by Parisian designer, Lydia Courteille

Gold bracelet with diamonds
by Ivanka Trump



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It’s been a truism that, for gemstones to sell, they had to be highly transparent, free from inclusions, and of good to excellent color, not to mention of the best modern cuts.


Today, however, imaginative jewellery designers showcase the individuality and beauty of pale pastel and translucent varieties of gems such as aquamarine. Old-fashioned rose cuts are making a strong comeback. Designer Todd Reed has made a virtue of rough or “raw” diamonds, stones whose rugged beauty was once crushed for use in industrial diamond tools of all kinds. Diamond slices and other gems with large, obvious inclusions, such as crystals and needles, captivate designers. Trapiches*, once desired only by collectors, are also finding a home in jewellery.


Todd Reed Todd Reed
18kt YG and sterling ring set with three fancy cut diamonds, and round white brilliant diamonds. Photo courtesy Todd Reed, Inc. 18kt YG and sterling ring, set with oval aquamarine (20.72ct) and white brilliant cut diamonds (0.705ct TW). Photo courtesy Todd Reed, Inc.


TradeBoard TradeBoard
18kt YG ring set with three raw diamonds (11.1ct TW) and round white brilliant diamonds (0.92ct. TW). Photo courtesy Todd Reed, Inc.
Photo courtesy Todd Reed, Inc.
Sterling silver cuff bracelet, set with fancy cut diamonds (14ct TW) and one raw diamond cube (0.01ct).
Photo courtesy Todd Reed, Inc.


The demand for the unusual and the handmade is driven by clients hungry for something unique. jewellery designers “want to be able to offer their customers what no one else can, something aesthetic, unique, and rare—all at the same time,” says Mark Lasater, owner of The Clamshell, in Prescott, Arizona, who seeks out included specialties to offer customers. “People understand that these are rarities of nature.” As such, they are even rarer than the sapphires, rubies and emerald found in abundance at any jewellery show.


Mark Lasater Mark Lasater
Amethyst and goethite needles in quartz. Photo courtesy Mark Lasater, The Clamshell. Large quartz enhydro, with 3/8-inch bubble. Photo courtesy Mark Lasater, The Clamshell.


Mark Lasater Mark Lasater
Quartz teardrops with hollandite needles. Photo courtesy Mark Lasater, The Clamshell. 14k YG pendant, set with rutile star in quartz and rubellite. Design: Mark Lasater; fabrication Reese Patton. Photo courtesy Mark Lasater, The Clamshell. 2010.


This search for the unique is especially true of young Millennials, for whom intrinsic value is less important than personal significance, says New York jewellery artist Billie Lim, “They want to have something that has a significant message or meaning,” she says. One of the more unusual stones that fascinates Lim and her customers are enhydros, gemstones, commonly quartz, that contain fluid inclusions, often with an enclosed gas bubble. “The bubbles have been trapped in this suspended state for no one really knows how long,” says Lim.


Naturally many of these stones are set in fashion jewellery. However, diamond slices even appeal to engagement customers who are “more open to alternatives, something that feels special,” say Ava and Eva Bai, co-owners of Vale jewelry in New York, who often use these stones in their work. “It is still a gorgeous stone, but it’s not ‘off-the-shelf’.”


TradeBoard TradeBoard
18k yellow gold, Caillou Ring set with six diamond slices. Photo courtesy Vale jewelry. 18k yellow gold, drop earrings, set with diamond slices. Photo courtesy Vale jewelry.


TradeBoard TradeBoard
18k yellow gold, bangle bracelet set with diamond slices. Photo courtesy Vale jewelry. 18k yellow gold ring set with faceted diamond slice. Photo courtesy Vale jewelry.


The strongest market for these stones is in the US. “The rest of the world is still taking baby steps when it comes to breaking old traditions in style,” says Tarun Adlakha, owner of Indus Valley Commerce. Buyers are usually women (from their 20s to mid-40s) with disposable income, a willingness to take risks, and a fashion-forward attitude who are drawn to the untreated natural beauty of the stones. “Men tend to buy more traditionally,” say the Bais. “Women are more adventurous when treating themselves to a ring they never thought they’d buy.”

These stones will never be available for mass production. They are rare, they may take special skills in setting, and there is a limited number of customers to appreciate them. However, those who do tend to come back for more.



*(Trapiches, Spanish for the mills used to crush sugar cane, olives or ore, occur in gems that crystallize in the hexagonal system--emerald, sapphire, ruby, and tourmaline. Gem material grows from each face of the hexagonal crystal at the heart of the trapiche. Radiating in a six-rayed pattern, from the edges between crystal faces, are lines of–usually black--inclusions.)


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The Mineral & Gem Asia: a buyer’s primer part 2



Fossils are the remains of living organisms, impressions and moulds of their physical form, and marks or traces created in the sediment by their activities. Fossilisation refers to processes that enable the preservation of organic material. Petrification is the process by which organic material is converted into a fossil through the replacement of the original material and the filling of the original spaces with minerals. Petrified wood is a good example of living material that has been turned to stone while preserving its physical and cellular structures. Opal is often formed as part of a fossilization process when the original organism, often a shell or tree limb, dissolves and leaves a void in the sediment that eventually fills with silica.

Fossil Fish Fossil elephant
Fossil Fish Fossil Elephant


Fossils can come from both the plant and animal kingdoms. Fossils usually fall into cabinet, decorator, and architectural sizes although microscopic specimens can be valuable in scientific research. Some like shells, leaves and fish are very common while full sized dinosaurs are rare.

Virtually all fossils undergo some form of preparation and repair. Skilled craftsmen with small dental tools or mini-sandblasting pens will isolate a nice fossil from its host rock. Repairs are common and can be anything from gluing or reattaching broken bones, filling voids all the way up to recreating missing skeletal parts. Collectors look for rare species and try to find complete specimens with as little repair as possible. Palaeontologists use fossils to study extinct species or to trace the evolutionary process. Prices range from less than a dollar for common shells to several million dollars for a full-sized dinosaur skeleton.

Amber is a unique fossil material. It forms from tree sap that is aged and compressed over several million years. Amber often contains trapped bugs or plant material. The amazing thing about amber is the fossil is perfectly preserved without replacement of its own material. The actual bug or leaf is intact, complete with its DNA. The Jurassic Park movies are based on the theory that this DNA can be extracted and cloned to reproduce extinct species. Amber is a valuable specimen for scientific study and also makes beautiful jewellery.


Amber with insects inside


Some other fossil materials can also be fashioned into jewellery. Ammonites are shells that in smaller sizes are often set as pendants while Ammolite is a gemmy Ammonite material that, due to separations in the layers of the shell, resembles opal. Bits of polished petrified wood and coral are popular in silver jewellery. One of the more unusual fossils used for both scientific study and jewellery is Coprolite…fossilized dinosaur poop. It is valuable for studying the diets of dinosaurs and is quite striking when polished.

Ammolite Coprolite
Ammolite Coprolite


Fossils are some of the most interesting and exciting specimens you’ll find at the show. Be sure to check them out.


Next week…finished minerals and art pieces.



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