Country of Origin by Stan Shelley

Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2018 at 3:02 pm by Shelley's

Pricing colored gems can be quite complex. For some gems, the country in which the jewel was mined can be quite important. Reports from gem labs refer to this as “country of origin.”

We recently added a nice vintage ruby ring to our estate collection. It has two matching rubies cut in a pear shape, both of which are a bit over one carat each.  We sent the ring to a lab and found out that the country of origin is Burma. In the marketplace, Burmese rubies are the most highly desired, approximately doubling their value.

That is a lot of money considering that the labs cannot be absolutely certain about the country of origin.  When they say a ruby is Burmese or a sapphire is from Thailand or any other attribution, what they are really saying is that this is PROBABLY the country of origin. There are reliable stories of a miner taking a gem from the ground and sending it to a lab and getting an incorrect report as to country of origin. So everyone knows that country of origin is correct most of the time – maybe 95% of the time. Apparently, this is good enough because the marketplace pays extra money for the best countries of origin.

This can, of course, be a benefit to a piece of estate jewelry right now but can it be of consequence for the future? Yes. The best country for emerald is Columbia. In 2016 there was a major discovery of emeralds in Ethiopia. This has been so important that it has created thousands of jobs in the African nation. The chemical makeup of the Ethiopian material is exactly the same as emeralds from Zambia and Brazil – not Columbia. Thus the Ethiopian emeralds sell for less money. But, they are beautiful. As more and more of them come on the market, it only seems natural that some buyers will find them a satisfactory alternative to Columbian emeralds, so the price growth of Columbian emeralds might be slowed over the upcoming years. So an estate ring with a Columbian emerald might not increase in value as much as it has in the past due to the new mines in Africa.

This is a good time for me to repeat something in which I strongly believe.  One does not buy estate jewelry for an investment. One buys beauty. I will say it again.  When buying estate jewelry, buy what you find to be beautiful. MORE IMAGES