This most recent trip was a big one – traveling all over Asia, and ending my trip with 3 days in Sydney, Australia. I have to say, I was really happy to go, but even happier to come home. December is a great time to get back to New York City, with the festive spirit and colorful Christmas decorations. While I love heat and warm weather, this is the best season to enjoy the cold.
My trip started with my usual visit to Bangkok, where I spent a few days meeting friends, looking at some local market stones, and getting caught up with the local gemstone gossip. It’s also a time to follow up on the stones I keep out there. The news on the street there was the same as in New York – Ruby, Sapphire, and Emeralds are in short supply and prices are going up on the better ones. I took that as a cue to prepare myself for a long trip with few finds. I did see some interesting stones, including some emeralds, sapphires, and spinels.
It's always fun checking out rough gems while sitting in Starbucks. These are rough demantoid, ruby, rhodolite garnet, and moonstone.
Additionally, I had a look locally for a pair of emerald pair shapes for a friend of mine. While I found some pretty stones, either the prices were too high, or the quality too low. Thus I had to pass.
Time flew and so did I – On to the next leg of the trip – Yangon, Myanmar and back to my favorite local hotel and Indian Dosa joint.
As usual, I met up with my broker and a few of the other brokers that I normally work with. My plan was to visit only for a few days, and if there were many things to see I would stay longer. Well…. not much in the way of stones to see. Evidently, mining was not going well, and stones have not been coming out of Mogok much this past season. Some of the problem had to do with the weather conditions, and some had to do with miners increasingly moving away from the main mining areas. This didn’t bode well for the market. I did spend some time in the market, and manage to see some interesting stones. A few good sapphires, and some nice spinels.
On my last day in the market, someone brought some gems to me which I had never seen before, beautiful cabochons, in an array of pastel colors which looked like jelly beans. But I couldn't identify them. It turns out, these are called hackmanite. Which, as it turns out are a variation of the well known sodalite.
What's most amazing about hackmanite, is that it exhibits what's called tenebrescence, which is a unique trait. When freshly mined or when left in a cabinet outside of the sun, the stones turn white. But when exposed to the sun, they develop colors from purple to lavender. It's an amazing stone, and a great geological rarity.
After only 3 days I headed up to Mandalay for my usual visit to the jade market. I also had set up some meetings with some gemstone owners and brokers who would be coming down from Mogok to meet me. My visits to the jade market are slowly giving me a greater appreciation and understanding about jade. It’s a complicated gem, with so many qualities and varieties that it takes some time to get a handle on it. Luckily, I have some good teachers who don’t mind me sitting around asking questions.
The last two days I was able to dedicate to looking at more gems. I saw some really fine large spinels, and a couple of large sapphires.
I did make a few purchase myself, including a great set of moonstone, one great spinel, some smaller spinels. Also, I picked up a sweep peridot cab. This in addition to a few other stones not shown.
In all however, I didn’t purchase much this trip, and headed back to Bangkok. It was then that I got an email which would change my trip dramatically.
I was on my way from Bangkok to Tokyo for a little visit with friends and clients when an email came through the website asking if I was interested in buying a large sapphire from an estate. The seller was a private person with a stone he inherited and wanted to know if it interested me. After seeing some smartphonephotos I was most definitely interested – because you see – the stone was an giant 100ct Ceylon blue sapphire! Only one issue – the stone was in Australia, and I was in Tokyo and on my way to Korea.
The following week I kept up with the seller – collecting more information on him and the stone, making sure that this was a real offer and not some type of scam. As so often is the case, people try and broker stone they don’t own or don’t have in their possession. They even try to get offers on stones they have no have access to at all. But within a few emails and phone calls I knew this was a serious person, and the stone was a serious piece. We negotiated the price on the phone, and basically came to an understanding.
Well, I took the plunge, and after spending a week in Korea, I booked a last minute flight to Sydney. I arrived early in the morning, dropped off my bags at the hotel and went out to meet the seller. We arranged to meet at the local gem lab, GSL (Gem Studies Laboratory), which is Sydney’s most well respected lab.
Unfortunately, the gemologist was not there that day and so the seller and I we went for lunch together. When he pulled out the stone I was just in aww. This was real!! It was great, a beautiful piece in real – 102cts of sapphire, near clean, no cracks or major flaws, relatively even color, and a bold sparkle. The seller then told me the story of the stone, he had been given it by his mom some time ago, and initially thought it was costume. Something inside him however told him it was real, and compelled him to get it tested. Testing proved it was legit, and thus he felt it was the right time to sell. After a great lunch and a great talk we signed the contract on the stone, it was mine!
The last piece of the puzzle came together the following morning when, upon going to the gem lab again and meeting with the lab gemologist, he confirmed that the stone he certified a few months ago was in fact the same stone as I had in my hand.
One day after visiting the gem lab in Sydney I flew home, happy in my findings, and ready, after over a month, to be back in my own home. This trip, like many others, has shown me again that you never know what you’re going to find and where, and that sometimes you do find the rarest things when you're least expect to.