The Hong Kong September Jewelry and Gemstone Exhibition

There are 3 main gem and jewelry shows in Hong Kong every year. The largest is generally considered the September show, which draws crowds from around the world looking both to source from the Asian market, and to sell their goods in perhaps the worlds most vibrant emerging market.

Expectations this September were however extremely low. For the past several years, the Asian market for gems has been booming, bolstered by a robust Chinese economy, whose citizens seemed to have an insatiable appetite for every sort of gem. From basic tourmalines, to the rarest of diamonds, the world looked to China as their main consumer. In turn, prices went up, as demand increased. These price increases had a detrimental effect on the gemstone and jewelry business in the West. With an already weak market caused by the 2008 financial crisis, price increases worldwide priced many consumers in the west out of the market.

However, since the beginning of 2015, the Chinese gemstone market has been slowing. The biggest effects were felt through the diamond market where prices have been dropping precipitously. This culminated in terrible sales at the Hong Kong March and June gem and jewelry exhibitions. And so last week's exhibition had extremely low expectations. But guess what? IT WAS A GOOD SHOW!

With low expectations, many dealer just didn't show up. But those that did were pleasantly surprised. It was a busy show, with long registration lines, lots of customers mulling around. Booths were busy. The main issue were prices. Since many dealers have been pushing up prices they have been getting stuck with lots of goods. There was a noticeable spread between the asking price and the selling prices of most goods - meaning, dealers had to move stock and could not just stand by and keep up their inflated prices. This bodes well for the Western markets, as prices come more in line with what consumers expect.

While prices have moved up quite a bit, there seems to no shortage of goods. The show was awash in Emerald, with huge stocks of stones in every conceivable size. Much of the goods was of Zambian origin, but there were many Colombian pieces as well.

Something very useful which, I saw for the first time, were precision cut Emeralds with excellent color and luster. Typically, I use Tsavorite (green garnets), when I need a rich green accent stone. But these amazing little guys come in sizes from .6mm up to 1.5m with great saturation and shine.

And in my hand it's really easy to see how small these stones really are.

DSC_0864.JPG

In addition to all types of emeralds, there were, of course, many many sapphires. Some of the most beautiful that I had seen in terms of sheer color were from this parcel. While far from perfect stones, and all needing a re-cut and re-polish, they had great color for their 8ct average size. (click to play Video)

I also had a long look at diamonds that were available. I'm a lover of unique colored diamonds. Typically, strong individual colors are the most popular, however mixed tones and various color blends can create amazingly beautiful, and unique diamond jewelry pieces. This piece below I fell in love with. A fancy brownish pink, with a slight peach color. Simply amazing!!

In addition to the random things I thought were generally beautiful and interesting, I did have a few things I was shopping for to make some custom pieces for clients. I've been working on a diamond link necklace with rose cut marquise shapes and some rubies to fill. I found a great manufacturer who specializes in putting together these types of things.

Example of a gemstone and diamond bead necklace

Example of a gemstone and diamond bead necklace

Drilled diamond Necklace detail

Drilled diamond Necklace detail

Very white rose-cut marquise diamond

Very white rose-cut marquise diamond

Smooth surface ruby beads

Smooth surface ruby beads

Overall it was a much better show than expected for just about everyone. I personally accomplished quite a bit, as well as catching up with some old friends, and a little free time to run around the city.

DSC_0871.JPG


A Simple and Elegant Engagement Ring

After being offline for a few months while focusing on family affairs, I am starting up again sharing images and stories from my gem and jewelry world. Over the last months I have worked on a bunch of new custom pieces for customers of all different budgets. I wanted to share this piece with you because it's brilliantly simple and elegant.

A few months back a friend came to me wanting something timeless and understated, to give his girlfriend as a proposal ring. The key was that he wanted it to have that 'Wow!' factor when she opened the box, but without being overdone. Every woman wants to be overwhelmed when they get a proposal, and having supreme sparkle goes a long way.  Choosing the right cut has a big impact on the type of sparkle you get. In this case he went with a cushion cut.

The stone chosen was a GIA certified 1.87ct cushion cut. The key feature of this stone is that it's really a spready stone with the length and width similar to that of a stone roughly 2cts. giving it a big look. Also, because of the number and placement of the facets cushion cut stones have, they reflect really brightly as compared to many other cuts.

In a word, Presence! This stone had presence which made it stand out in the sea of similar stones.

The Ring

The idea was to do something simple and contemporary, in which the center stone stands out, without the ring being overdone. Also, my friend wanted to have it done in a rich 18k yellow gold.

We designed out a simple four prong setting with a rectangular band, and had it CAD modeled to fit the stone correctly.

DSCF6198sm.jpg

The final result: A simple and elegant ring with sparkle and presence, suitable for a lifetime together.

New York's Diamond District

When people think of what a "diamond district" should look like it's no surprise that visions of New York's 47th street come to mind. Not only is it the worlds largest wholesale gemstone and jewelry street, but it's ground floor wholesale/retail jewelry shops bring people from far and wide to gaze at sparkling gems, as well in hopes that they will get a deal.

The jewelry business came to  midtown Manhattan during World War 2, as Jewish diamond and jewelry merchants, fleeing Europe, settled their businesses in this area. Today, many of these businesses live on alongside  new businesses opened by  waves of more recent immigrants, mostly from formerly communist Eastern Europe.

Every facet of the jewelry and gem business is covered in this area. From small scale retail establishments to large diamond and gem dealers, to online retailers. It's a busy block with an enormous amount of revenue generation. It's estimated that the street turns over roughly $24 billion yearly.

But even with all that wealth, 47th's street is not a charming street.  47th is filled with small jewelry exchanges,  cash for gold stores, and pawn shops, most with relatively outdated displays and frontage. The enormous number of touts either trying to get pedestrians into their shops to buy, or even worse  - repeating, as if a mantra - We Buy! We Buy!  should be enough to give the average consumer pause. Yet amazingly, people trudge through the exchanges, and allow themselves to be led into offices by touts met on the street - all in the hopes of some special secret stash of gems, which are priced better than the rest.  So is it possible to get deals? Well maybe....

There are deals to be had, but it all depends on what items people are looking for.  I advise working with someone trusted in building valuable jewelry pieces such as engagement rings. These are quite expensive purchases, and hopefully pieces that are kept for a lifetime. For simple things however, the exchanges might be worth a look. Typical things, like simple gold hoop earring's, thin diamond bands, or very small studs, can sometimes be good buys in the exchanges. These are all items which many vendors keep in stock and want to turn over. Also, these are typically lower priced items, which are good for fast gifts, or just to wear as everyday pieces. For more important pieces (pieces over $1,000), diamonds over 1/2ct and really anything special, I always feel it's better to work with reputable people. Buying expensive items is daunting, and requires honest guidance to make sure you get a quality item.

If you do plan to go and shop in these exchanges there are some things you can do to be prepared:

1. Know what you want and comparable prices for those items.

2. Ask for certifications - GIA specifically - and don't allow someone to sell you something with a very high grade from a sup-par laboratory.

3. Don't get pressured into buying things. 

4. Work with trusted people first.

5. If you need something like this 6ct round G VS1. Call us first!





The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt - Amazing Eggs in Rock Center

eggs-3385.jpg

The Fabergé company is one of the worlds most famous jewelers. Dating back to 19th century imperial Russia, they most known of course for their gem encrusted golden eggs. Today their eggs are still known, and probably most thought about during Easter.

This Easter, for the first time in New York, Faberge brought us its famous Big Egg Hunt. This is a program that brings artists together renown artist, and designers for charity. There were over 280 eggs this year, each one 2 1/2 feet tall, with each one up for auction online. The proceeds go to Studio in a School, a group that brings arts programs to public schools, and to Elephant Family, a conservation group saving elephant populations.

This week all the eggs (which were scattered around NYC since April 1st) are brought together on display here in Rockefeller Center. As my office is just a block away, I had a chance to run through them, and take some photos, on this wonderfully beautiful day. I must say, some really nice work. Here are a few photos of a few I liked and found interesting.  For more info you can check out their website - and even bid on some.

http://thebigegghunt.org/


My Article in Adore Jewellery Magazine

I was asked this past Fall to write an article for Adore Gems and Timepieces magazine about my life as a gemologist. Adore is the Jewelry publication which is part of the Prestige Singapore lifestyle magazine. I was really happy to contribute to the magazine, and share a bit about myself. Here is the article (click on the photos and they will enlarge. Full text on bottom for easier reading):

It’s a gem of a life Coming of Age as a Gemologist

In 2002, sitting at my computer terminal, on a recently redeveloped formerly Soviet Airstrip, in what was East Germany, I made a decision that would change the course of my life. I would abandon the comfy life of an engineering Project Manager, and travel to Asia and study to become a gemologist.  Already, having left my native New York 3 years prior to move to Germany, I was conflicted about what lay ahead, but ultimately, there was a deep burning desire to explore the unknown world, and in a sense return to my roots.

Gemology and world exploration are not things that come to the mind of most children growing up in Queens, New York (the largest, most culturally diverse, and perhaps most suburban borough of New York City). Most people were content to dream of a local life. Although only a bridge away from Manhattan (and 15kms away from my house), people in Queens refer to trips into Manhattan as “going into the city,” suggesting some magical and mysterious far away land.  In truth, my parents never really enjoyed cities, and preferred life out in the field, camping, and of course, looking for stones. Through I don’t remember, I have photographic proof attesting to the fact that I spent my 1st birthday in a fossil quarry somewhere in southern Colorado – the happy smile visible on my face as evidence to my true calling. 

That would not be the last trip – thankfully many more came – nearly every summer vacation was spent traveling in our camper, exploring nature, and visiting sites to collect minerals around the USA. The passion my parents had for these trips was boundless, and I remember the excitement and impatience I had before these trips, and the wonderful feelings I had after a long day of working in an open pit yielded some miracle from nature.  The monetary value of these finds was essentially unimportant to us. What was of value was having these beautiful crystals minerals, and fossils – each with a story of us unearthing them and bringing them home as trophies to the days labors.

Upon making the decision to get into stones – I went full force, moving to Bangkok and taking the 6 month GIA course to become a gemologist. This move would be only the first part of my journey, and Bangkok only a launching pad to places remote, harsh, and hot, yet teaming with the excitement of fresh gem finds, and of course local gemstone gossip. Over the next few years I would travel deep into remote mining areas and crowded third world cities throughout Asia and Africa - all in search of bright pretty stones. And this continues today. Sometimes I spend time looking at endless lines of brokers showing me cut stones, and sometimes I am digging for them myself in some muddy pit. Either way, the thrill and pleasure of finding a treasure is hard to beat. It always brings me back to my childhood, finding crystals with my parents.

My first major trek after completing my GIA course was actually only a few hours outside of Bangkok, to Chantaburi, Thailand. Chantaburi is Thailand’s major gemstone cutting town. Originally, Chantaburi sat atop large deposits of rubies. The cutting center popped up there to cut and polish all the stones coming out of the local mines. Today these mines are near depleted, but the factories remained, and thus the trading center remained.

Chanthaburi is a great place for a gemologist to start the adventure of gem hunting and, helped to get me accustomed to the business side of gems. Here, desks are placed all over the  downtown, in numerous trading halls that line the city streets. Thousands of buyers from Bangkok descend on the town, as well as thousands of brokers and sellers.  My first trip there I was unsure what to do, and sat at a table with a friend. Within minutes I was surrounded by brokers opening bags of small commercial sapphires and rubies in front of me. What to do? Make offers? Politely decline?  I decided to take the best course of action – make offers on small items and move slowly. In time, this lead to greater purchases, and a greater understanding of how the business works.

Much of  the adventure in finding stones goes beyond the gems themselves. Here I am, someone from a large first world city, spending time in remote place, eating unique foods, and interacting with humble people in their austere living conditions. I spend much of 2009 in Sierra Leone, West Africa, a place known for diamonds, and of course, a bad history of exploitation. Today, Sierra Leone is free, and most mining is done by small groups of locals in their villages. I spent 6 months in eastern Sierra Leone, working on a mining project where we brought some modern machinery into the jungle to help out a few of these work groups be more productive. What struck me the most was how easily I adapted to living with them in the jungle, and how candid and open people were. Days were spent working, and nights spent telling equal part war stories and diamonds stories. It’s in these moments when I appreciate how through gems I was able to connect to people in a universal way. It’s not only humbling, but it gives a great appreciation for what gems can do to enrich the lives of local people in the third world.  Too often we hear about big corporations and gems, but in fact most of the stones I work with are found and mined by independent miners and sold by independent brokers. These stones have a direct impact on the people’s lives that find and trade them – they also have great stories attached to them.

I am a strong believer that each stone has a story. I feel that when people wear gems, knowing their stone’s story greatly helps in adding to its appreciation.  My work today involves not only buying gems but buying on order for personal clients, and building jewelry pieces to match the stones that I find. Having an appreciation not only for the rarity of the gem that the person wears, but also for where it came from, and the journey it made, makes for a truly personal connection to the piece, and a value beyond just monetary.

These days most of my journeys are back through Asia, with a special love for the gems of Myanmar (Burma). I have dedicated quite a bit of time traveling there, hunting out rare Burmese sapphires, spinels, peridots, and of course jade. Just reopened to foreign visitors since this September, after years of limited access, I will be visiting the famed mining area of Mogok, in northern Myanmar.  Gems from Mogok are renown throughout the world as being of the greatest quality, and I look forward to meeting with the locals who work tirelessly in their gem hunts. Of special interest to me are the gems known as spinel, which is gaining popularity because of its wonderful range of colors, and incomparable sparkle.

As a Gemologist, I get to see the world through stones as my profession, but everyone can share in this experience. By learning about the gems and jewelry pieces that they own, and gaining an understanding about the history, mining locals, folk lore and work involved in finding them, consumer can develop not only an appreciate for gems, but can connect with the pieces that they own and will own in the future.