What's New in the World of Gemstones !
last updated September, 2000

Brazil: The pegmatite region of Minas Gerais is relatively quiet at the moment,  prices on what little gem tourmaline being produced is unreasonable for indicolite, a bargain for the rubellite (most of the new rubellite seen in the cutting houses here is probably Nigerian production).  While excellent color aquamarine is now  being produced from  prospects in the Nova Era and Itabira regions, there is less good quality aquamarine on the market than late last year.  The best color material from these new finds is as good as the finest material produced in the last decade in Nigeria.  Petalite, the rare colorless lithium gemstone, was recently recovered as a byproduct of the industrial mineral mining in Arequi, Minas Gerais.   LARGE and BRIGHT GREEN is the best way to describe the recent sphene (titanite) found in the Capelinha region in Minas Gerais.   A very recent find of fire opal from Rondonia was just entering the market at Teofilo Otoni at the end of the millenium.  This material has the same color range as the orange jelly opal from Jalisco, Mexico.   This material will be featured in future updates and will make its formal debut at the Tucson Show.

India:   Wow !!  A new discovery of aquamarine first encountered late last year is beginning to trickle into the US. This find of aqua is typified by very large crystals with an incredible strong blue color.  Larger crystals are usually opaque near the base and progressively more gemmy toward the termination.  The color of this material may bring $250 per carat or more (wholesale). 

Madagascar: This island nation continues to produce many of the world's new finds in gemstones.  A further description, long in coming, will be posted here and in the Virtual Show live updates as soon as I meet with Tom Cushman (Alerton-Cushman Gemstones) who is the Madagascar specialist.

Namibia: Namibia is a country with excellent potential for wonderful new gem discoveries, but the harsh conditions, corruption, and the lack of infrastructure will hamper exploration and production for decades.  Beautiful "Mandarin" orange spessartine garnets continue to be produced, as well as very lively light green demantoids from another location nearby.  The mining venture at the new tourmaline deposit at Neu Schauben ( excellent blue-green coloration )  ran into trouble with authorities early this year and was apparently shut down.

United States:  John Seibel (Seibel Minerals, Tehachapi, CA) has recently recovered some bright yellow apatite from southern Utah.  This new material is very reminiscent of the apatite from Durango, Mexico.  Small amounts of this gem material will be made available at the Tucson Show.

Gem Production from Established Deposits

Burma:  Ruby production at Mogok is stable, but the wonderful bargain prices of the last five years are disappearing with the recovery of the Asian economies.  More fine peridot, in large sizes,  is seen on the market, but ruby spinel is becoming very difficult to find and the top color stones over 2cts are nonexistent.

India:   The deposits near and in Orissa State continue to produce plenty of supply of the blue flash moonstone, star moonstone, sunstone, labradorite, catseye moonstone, in a variety of colors.  During 1998-99, Alexandrite, with a weak to moderate color change, has began to be produced in the state of Andra Pradesh.   A new find of chrysoberyl with fantastic eyes was unearthed in early 1998 in Orissa, with the first quantity of gems  coming on to the market in 1999.  This cat's eye material is very reasonably priced following the scare in 1997-98 when a batch of irradiated material from Tanzania that was still "hot" was released into the market.  

The more artistic of the gem cutters in Orissa are providing many interesting  jewelry size carvings in moonstone and labradorite, and great work is beginning to be seen in aquamarine, tourmaline, and even rhodolite garnet.   Many of these carvings are busts and profiles of warriors, noble men and women, floral scenes, and contemporary shapes ("California" cuts).  Beautiful gems for designers that wish to hold costs to a minimum !!

Madagascar:  This island nation continues to produce many of the world's new finds in gems.  Within the last year, Madagascar began producing exceptional star sapphires from the existing sapphire deposits in the north, blue sapphires of excellent medium “ceylon” coloration as well as fine pink to red stones from a new alluvial deposit in the south, and greenish yellow sphene in very clean gems.  Color-change garnets (rose-purple to blue-green) are much more difficult to find in sizes over 3/4 carat now, and larger stones are generally very dark.  Many other exceptional garnets, e.g. champagne hessonite, are beginning to appear in gem parcels from the new southern gem fields.

Nigeria:   The flood of rose pink tourmalines is beginning to subside.  While this material occurs in large sizes, (one monster gem weighed in at 4 kilos!) the color is not a strong pink or red tone and is often very strongly color zoned.

Pakistan:  Peridot continues to be produced, many in larger sizes over 20 carats, but the supply of rough material is now much less than two years ago.  The loose surficial deposits are being depleted and the search for more peridot is narrowing towards the richer zones in the hard peridotite.

Tanzania:  Production of top color Tanzanite has yet to return to the level of three years ago causing the price of stones to skyrocket over the previous years' benchmarks as the demand continues to grow.   Gem cutters traveling to Arusha have recently returned empty handed due to the scarcity and high prices of the available rough material.

United States: Production at the Violet Claims, the only source in the world for the extremely rare gem quality Red Beryl, is resuming after the change in ownership. While production of gemstones is thought to be at the level of several years ago, gems are not appearing on the open market while the new owners are planning their marketing strategy. Benitoite, another extremely rare gemstone found only in one deposit, saw production remain at a constant level with previous years, though the average size of the gemstones was lower than in years past.  This mine has recently changed ownership and future production and pricing is uncertain.  The recent reopening of the Yellow Cat Mine in San Benito County has produced a small quantity of Topazolite Garnet (a variety of Andradite Garnet) as well as a few very rare honey colored cats eye garnets.

Vietnam:  Vietnam has the potential to someday become a major sapphire and ruby exporter of commercial quality stones, but production thus far has been plagued by corruption, and the appearance of synthetics in batches of rough stones.  Tourmaline, Beryl, and spinel are also found in Vietnam.

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