From rubies and emeralds to rare coloured diamonds
Specialist David Warren provides an in-depth expert guide for buyers seeking a bright addition to their collection
1) Fancy or Vivid? Get to know your terminology
A highlight in the coloured stones category — often setting world-record prices — coloured diamonds come with their own specific colour categories. A blue diamond, for example, could be classified as Faint Blue, Very Light Blue, Fancy Light Blue, Fancy Blue, Fancy Intense Blue, Fancy Dark Blue, Fancy Deep Blue or Fancy Vivid Blue. The same principle of categorisation applies to coloured diamonds of virtually all hues.
2) Word order is important
Coloured diamonds aren’t always a single colour. You may sometimes see a diamond described as ‘Vivid Orange Yellow’ — or even ‘Vivid Yellow Orange’. But what’s the difference? The key here is to look at the last word, which will be the principal colour. A pair of Vivid Orange Yellow diamond earrings were recently sold by Christie’s in Geneva, for example, where the colour was considered marginally more towards yellow than orange.
You can also have an ‘Orangey Yellow’. Here, yellow remains the dominant colour, with just a touch of orange; it’s not as orange as an ‘Orange Yellow’.
3) Are some colours more valuable than others?
The rarest of the rare is a red diamond — there aren’t many, and they’re generally not very big. It would be exceptionally unusual to find a red diamond above 2 carats.
4) How are coloured diamonds graded?
Christie’s sends diamonds to the GIA laboratory (the Gemological Institute of America), which provides the world’s most trusted colour grading service. It’s often worth doing, even if you have a stone with a weak colour — particularly if the colour is faint pink, green or blue, for example, which could still be significantly valuable.
A weak yellow diamond, however, might not be, as it is not uncommon to find stones with a yellow tinge. Other colours that may still be attractive and collectable but far less expensive include brown, yellowish brown, greenish yellowish brown, brownish yellow, yellowish brownish green. There are many colour combinations — even black.
5) Where do coloured diamonds come from?
Mining coloured diamonds is really a matter of chance. The only exception is the Argyle mine in Australia, owned by Rio Tinto, which is the only mine in the world to consistently produce pink diamonds, and is also the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds.
Diamonds in their purest form are white — as are all other gemstones, except three: opal, turquoise and peridot. What turns them a particular colour is the presence of an accidental colouring agent. A blue diamond, for example, will contain a tiny amount of boron in the composition of the stone. Green diamonds acquire their colour from radiation in the ground, while yellow diamonds are created when nitrogen enter their chemical composition. Pink diamonds result from a ‘slip’ in the stone’s lattice structure.
6 What about other coloured stones? Is there such a thing as a perfect emerald?
When it comes to emeralds, the most coveted are a darkish green. It’s important the stone isn’t too dark, however: the highest-quality emeralds combine good colour with clarity. Imagine if you were to take an empty wine bottle made from green glass and hold it up to sunlight — that’s a good indication of the perfect shade.
The proportions of an emerald (or any gemstone) are also important. If they’re poor, light will diffract and go through the stone, rather than bouncing around within it, coming out, and hitting the eye — a phenomenon known as total internal refraction. While fissures, known as ‘inclusions’, are common, too many will affect the beauty of the stone and lower its value.
Although highly rare, it is theoretically possible to get an emerald so perfect in terms of colour, clarity and brightness that it comes close to resembling the brilliance and ‘fire’ of a diamond (I have only ever seen a handful of emeralds that fall into this rare category).
7) What about rubies and sapphires?
The same concerns apply — as with emeralds, buyers of rubies and sapphires should look for stones with an appealing colour, good clarity, and attractive proportions.
A small percentage of the top rubies have a colour referred to as ‘pigeon’s blood’ — a dark red — though must not be too dark. Aim for a rich, warm burgundy that makes you joyful when you look at it.
8) Is origin relevant?
For coloured gemstones, this is a point to be considered, with the top emeralds mined in Colombia, the finest rubies coming from Burma and, for sapphires, the cream of the crop hail from Kashmir. However, it is important to remember that attractive gemstones do come from many different localities, and it is all about the beauty of the colour and the budget available.
9) How important is carat?
It’s a common misconception to think that stones with a higher carat weight are always more valuable. They often are, but you could have a 50-carat emerald that’s worth say $500 per carat — or a five-carat emerald worth $30,000 per carat. The same is true for all stones. It’s a combination of the ‘four c’s’: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.
10) Should I be wary of treated stones?
Man has a long history of tampering with coloured stones. Emeralds, for example, often have fissures that break the surface, which can be filled with oil or plastic resin. The oil or resin is designed to have the same refractive index as the stone and, once absorbed into the fissures, the inclusions become less apparent. This practice is one that goes back 4,000 years to Ancient Egypt, when natural oils were used.
The degree to which an emerald has been improved with an enhancement agent is graded from none to insignificant, minor, moderate or significant. Oil, though considered to be gentler, can have the disadvantage of leaking from the stone over time, unlike resin, which is permanent. There’s nothing wrong with buying an enhanced stone, as long as the degree of enhancement is reflected in the price — though a beautiful untreated emerald will be worth far more than a beautiful treated emerald.
11 What about coloured diamonds?
Buyers should ensure that the diamond’s colour is natural. Concerning green diamonds, it’s important to verify that the radiation that gave the stone its colour occurred in the ground, and not in a laboratory — one of the hardest tests for the GIA to determine.
Blue diamonds can also be created through artificial irradiation, but mostly look obviously wrong. Similarly, the colour of yellow stones can be enhanced, with the most famous example of an enhanced stone being the Deepdene Diamond, weighing 104.52 carats.
12 How should I care for coloured stones?
One golden rule is: never carry gemstones in a pouch. Sadly, it’s something I’ve seen too often, and results in badly damaged stones. The resistance of minerals is assessed using ‘Mohs scale of hardness’. If stored with other stones, a diamond will scratch another diamond, and any stone softer than it. Sapphires will scratch everything that is softer than them, and so on, down the scale.
It’s a mistake, however, to think that diamonds are indestructible. Although they are the hardest substance known to man, they do have a certain brittleness. A diamond can chip, for example, if it hits a hard surface like marble. Here, weight becomes critical: if a diamond is damaged, it can be re-cut to remove any chips, but in doing this there will be a loss of weight. If a stone weighing 10.05 carats drops to 9.95 carats, the impact on value can be significant, because it has dipped below 10.00 carats. A loss of half a carat in a 15.75 carat stone, on the other hand, may do little to alter value.
34 posts categorized "Colored Gemstones"
While fine jewelry is usually high in monetary value, what often makes it exceptional is that it’s steeped in significance. A piece of jewelry frequently has a particular aura that does not fade; it is with it that we mark the milestones of our lives—engagement, marriage, friendships, parenthood, birthdays, travels, traditions, and love.
Jewelry, some argue, emblematizes the sublime.
When we consider some of the materials jewelry is made with—metals derived from the earth’s crust and gemstones, which, like crystals, have significant metaphysical properties—it’s hard to deny the cosmic allure.
These materials have been honored, according to Maria Leach’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, “back beyond recorded history.” Ancient Roman texts note that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with magical diamonds. In Eastern narratives, dragons were often depicted with flaming, wish-granting pearls under their chins or in their claws. In early written accounts, people adorned themselves with feathers, bones, shells, and colored pebbles. We now, of course, refer to these arrangements of naturally occurring materials as jewelry—and now, the colored pebbles are known as gemstones.
Here, a look at the history of some favorite gemstones and their mythological meanings.
In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is ratnaraj, or “king of precious stones.” In ancient Hinduism, it was believed by some that those who offered fine rubies to the god Krishna could be reborn as emperors. Rubies were divided into four castes. The Brahmin, for example, granted the advantage of perfect safety. The stone is also mentioned at least four times in the Bible, usually as a representative of beauty and wisdom. Numerous early cultures believed, because of the stone’s likeness to the color of blood, that rubies held the power of life. Among European royalty and the upper classes, rubies were thought to guarantee good health, wealth, wisdom, and success in love. They’ve became some of the most sought-after gems.
Lapis lazuli has always been associated with royalty and deities, and it may be where the idea of royal blue came from. Egyptians believed that it came from the heavens and provided protection in the afterlife, so they used it in their statues of the gods, in totemic objects, in jewelry, and in burial masks. In the epic poem Gilgamesh, Sumerians spent years traveling from one end of Asia to the other in order to mine and obtain the stone. Lapis is included in numerous other myths but has served practical purposes as well: Ancient Egyptians used it to create blue cosmetics, and during the Renaissance, painters ground the
Also for sale at Guernsey’s: 17 emeralds from a famed Spanish shipwreck
The la Gloria, an 887 ct. “museum-quality” stone believed to be the largest rough emerald in the United States, is among the rare emeralds going up for sale by Guernsey’s at an Apr. 25 auction run in New York City.
That golf ball–size stone, along with 17 emeralds discovered from the wreck of Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, all come from the collection of noted emerald authority Marcial de Gomar.
“It’s very rare for an auction to spotlight emeralds,” says Arlan Ettinger, founder and president of Guernsey’s. “We feel this will be an extraordinary event.”
The la Gloria hails from the Muzo mine in Colombia, known for producing large emeralds. It’s sat in de Gomar’s collection for many years, and this is its first time on the market. And while the collector feels it could produce a 400 ct. polished stone, he has always believed it shouldn’t be cut.
“[There’s a] little piece of calcite on the end [that] is a tip to its provenance,” de Gomar says. “It tells you what country it comes from, what mine it comes from. All that is very significant. I wouldn’t want it to be cut. I’d like for it to be kept as is. It should be in a state museum somewhere.”
The stone is named for a now-deceased attorney that represented de Gomar in litigation over the Atocha.
The 17 gemstones from the Atocha include the Corona de Muzo (below), which features a 24.34 ct. emerald cut; the Reina del Mar, a 4.39 ct. round; and a 26.72 ct. piece of rough. All those stones are believed to have come from Muzo as well.
The Atocha sank in 1622, off the coast of Florida while bound for Spain. In the 1980s, treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered portions of the wreckage, setting off an epic legal battle with the state of Florida.
Ettinger says most of the items will be sold without reserve (though not la Gloria). “That makes it more exciting,” he says.
The auction house is still working on an estimate for the headline stone but expects it to fetch “many millions.”
While we specialize in GIA graded diamonds, we also can supply some of the most beautiful colored gemstones in the country. If you are looking for that special anniversary or birthday gift, think breathtaking color and beauty for your gift.
Like flowers, colored gemstones come in every color. Both are produced in nature and evolve into something exquisite. But, unlike flowers whose beauty fades with time, the beauty of colored gemstones is everlasting.
While ruby, sapphire and emerald are the best known colored gemstones, other gemstones like Tanzanite, spinel, garnet, tourmaline, and peridot can also provide exceptional beauty.
Here are some examples of beautiful colored gemstone rings we have provided clients and our designers can provide just about any style you want.
You can contact us at 888-477-8385
Behold the World’s Largest Blue Star Sapphire
A Sri Lankan gem trader is selling the world’s largest blue star sapphire.
“We can’t put a price on something like this,” Ashan Amarasinghe, a gemologist at the GIC told Agence France-Presse. “It is so rare, and unlike other, smaller sapphires, this is not a stone that can be replaced. This is something only collectors or museums can afford.”
The BBC reports that the seller expects the stone to sell for $175 million at auction; Agence France-Presse puts the price at $300 million.
The stone was found in Sri Lanka’s central region of Ratnapura, according to reports.
“I have lived in affluence, but now I feel even more blessed,” said the owner, who asked to remain anonymous due to the value of the stone. “This [find] has not changed my lifestyle. But, I feel thrilled to be the man owning this gem. It is good for the ego.” He purchased the stone in September 2015 for an undisclosed sum.
The BBC reports that the owner has named the stone the Star of Adam, after the Muslim belief that Adam arrived in Sri Lanka after being sent away from the Garden of Eden.
Details of the auction have not yet been announced.
The auction market got a shot of adrenaline last night, as the Sotheby’s Geneva sale set a world record for any jewelry auction—and capped that with six more world records, almost all for colored stones.
The auction fetched $160.9 million, or 149.9 CHF (Swiss francs). That tops the previous record holder, the Christie’s November auction in Geneva, which fetched 147.2 million CHF. (Sotheby’s briefly claimed the title for its $199 million November 2013 sale, but that didn’t stand after an $83.1 million pink diamond sale was canceled.)
The sale gives a nice boost to the Sotheby’s jewelry sales, which were down two percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to its 10-Q.
The 25.59 ct. Burmese Sunrise Ruby sold for $30.3 million ($1.1 million a carat), doubling the low end of its $12 million to $18 million estimate. The stone set records for a ruby, both in total price and per-carat price; for any non-diamond jewel; and any stone by Cartier. The buyer was not named.
The blood-red stone was a favorite of Sotheby’s worldwide jewelry chairman David Bennett, who said last month: “I have remained in awe of the Sunrise Ruby since the first moment I set eyes on it. In over 40 years, I cannot recall ever having seen another Burmese ruby of this exceptional size possessing such outstanding color.”
The Sunrise sale significantly tops the ruby record set just six months ago by the 8.62 ct. Graff Ruby, which sold for $8.6 million at Christie’s Geneva in November 2014.
The Historic Pink Diamond, an 8.72 ct. fancy vivid pink, achieved $15.9 million, which fell within its $14 million to $18 million estimate, and also went to an unnamed buyer. The diamond is believed by the Gemological Institute of America to have been part of the outstanding collection of Princess Mathilde of Bonaparte, Napoleon I’s niece. It only recently resurfaced, having been kept in a bank vault since the 1940s.
The other records were set for sapphires and pearls:
- A pair of very fine Burmese sapphire and diamond ear clips with a combined weight of 32.67 cts. sold for $3.2 million, setting a world record price for a pair of Burmese sapphire earrings.
- A Kashmir sapphire and diamond brooch weighing 30.23 cts. sold for $6.1 million, setting a record for a Kashmir sapphire (the previous record was set in November).
- A rare natural pearl and diamond necklace sold for $7 million, setting a record for a two-row natural pearl necklace.
Combine a colored gemstone like the cushion shaped Tsavorite garnet with a top ring designer like Bez Ambar and you get a gorgeous and unique ring that is exceptional.
Tsavorite garnet and diamond ring with 3.69-carat cushion cut Tsavorite garnet that is lime green color, very eye clean clarity, and measuring 9.90 x 8.50 x 5.22 mm prong-set in a custom 18-karat white-gold Bez Ambar designer Bouquet-style mounting with 228 pave-set round brilliant cut diamonds (0.70 total carat weight, G color, VS2 clarity) on the six-prong wrapped head and three-row split shank (stamped “Bez Ambar 750” and “A07”) that measures 6.8 mm wide at the pave wrap, 7.4 mm wide and 1.9 mm thick at the sides, and tapers to 3.6 mm wide at the bottom.
Diamond ring with a 3.06-carat cushion-cut natural red ruby with medium-tone and strong-saturation red color, eye-clean clarity, measuring 9.09 x 8.28 x 3.91 mm with 1.09 ratio, prong-set in an 18-karat white-gold four-prong mounting (stamped “BEZ AMBAR” and “750 92325”) with knife-edge pave-set diamonds on the top and bottom sides of the ruby going half way down the split-shank and on the north and south sides of the mounting going half way around the ring for a total of 158 pave diamonds with a 0.94 total carat. In between the split shank and underneath the head are 34 Blaze® cut diamonds in two rows with 1.23 total carat weight on top of the shank that is 7.0 mm wide at the head, 6.3 mm wide at the side, and tapers to 6.0 mm wide at the bottom.
Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale in Geneva November 17 was a high dollar success for colored diamonds and other colored gemstones but the highlight of the show was a green diamond ring.
Only a few natural green diamonds have been auctioned in recent decades and most of those had bluish or yellowish secondary color, which pointed to the importance of the sale of a 2.52-carat Fancy Vivid green color Cushion Modified Brilliant Cut diamond. The rare diamond was claw-set in a platinum mounting with yellow gold head.
The cushion modified brilliant cut diamond was graded Fancy Vivid Green color, VS1 clarity, depth 63.9%, table 58%, measurements 8.80 x 7.35 x 4.70 mm, ratio 1.20, Excellent polish, Very Good symmetry, Faint fluorescence, and was laser inscribed “GIA 2106213537.” While not the highest priced item at the auction, the $3.08 million sale set a world-record for price per carat for a green diamond at auction.
Other colored diamonds sales made history too. A 3.17-carat Fancy Intense blue diamond sold for $2.52 million and set a new world-record for price per carat for an Intense Blue diamond at auction. The round brilliant cut diamond was set in a simple four-prong platinum mounting. The natural Fancy Intense blue colored diamond has VVS2 clarity.
The Roxburghe Rubies, a necklace and earring set, sold for $5.77 million, five times the estimated price before the auction. The necklace contains 24 cushion shaped rubies and 24 cushion-cut diamonds and the set dates back to the late 19th century. The necklace was the property of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe and is thought to have been purchased from Garrards by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, as recorded in one of his diary entries. The necklace is accompanied by its original turquoise velvet fitted case, embellished with the monogram R under a coronet, by R&S Garrard & Co, Goldsmith and Jewellers to The Crown, as well as by the original hand-written documentation detailing the weights of the stones.