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Myanmar Gems News
courtesy of Pala International News
This month, the sheer immensity of devastation in southern
Burma and Sichuan, China—on the heels of the flooding in
Merelani, Tanzania—gives us pause.
Please give generously
we highlight belo
See the follow-up
report on the
consider Nobel Peace Prize recipients
Doctors Without Borders
And see this Mindat.org list for an idea of the
mineral richness of
which is known for its plenitude in so many ways, and
now finds itself so much in need.
Burma Cyclone Relief
We suggest you give generously to the
Foundation for the People of Burma.
FPB provides humanitarian aid to Burmese people of all
ethnic backgrounds and beliefs. FPB already is distributing
food to refugees
on the outskirts of Rangoon and the
Deadly “Delicate Daffodil”
Every gemologist and aficionado of fine colored gemstones
holds a special place for Burma in her or his heart. Its
production of the most highly valued rubies is legend,
having endured at least 1,500 years of human dramatics (Hughes,
pp. 304–305), and most recently being strained by two
centuries of colonial and military rule.
Chinese merchants continue to clog the Burma gemstone markets, as voices from
inside and outside the region debate the prudence of
prohibition. Meanwhile, preparations proceeded for a
contentious constitutional referendum, scheduled by Burma’s
rulers for last Saturday.
A tent city erected for those displaced by
Cyclone Nargis. (Photos:
Just a week before the referendum was to take place (and it
did take place in some parts of the country), Cyclone Nargis—meaning
“delicate daffodil” in Urdu, and the first named storm
to come out of the North Indian Ocean this year—pounded the
southern coast of Burma’s populous Ayeyawady state. The
region is home to the many mouths of the Irrawaddy River—a
“rice bowl” of the country that had fed many hungry
mouths—and to a thriving
The storm continued its devastation, skirting the coast, and
wrecking Burma’s former capital, Yangon (Rangoon).
Relief, Eventually; Relief Today
Estimates of Nargis’s death toll climb by increments of
10,000. As an Australian academic familiar with Burma said
in a story on May
6, “We’ll never know how many died,” he said. “This a
country that hasn’t had a full census since 1937.”
Statistics—accurate or otherwise (and we at Pala are keepers
of our own…)—hardly
matter to people who are putting their lives and livelihoods
back together. Unpleasantly, but not unexpectedly, Burma’s
rulers have been reluctant to exhibit impotence by accepting
foreign aid—reminiscent of George W. Bush during a
particular domestic natural disaster in 2005; the irony of a
tongue-lashing from Laura Bush on May 12 is self-evident.
The government of Burma should accept this [international
aid] team quickly, as well as other offers of international
assistance. … It’s troubling that many of the Burmese people
learned of this impending disaster only when foreign
outlets, such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America,
sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat,
Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to
citizens in the storm’s path.
And in the same way that the development of New Orleans
wetlands removed a buffer to Katrina’s sea swells, mangrove
deforestation in Burma was credited for removal of a natural
barrier, in remarks by secretary general of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan,
according to several May 6 news reports and
a notice by
ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.
At the time this warning was issued in the official
New Light of Myanmar
newspaper, the storm was clocked at about 90 mph,
according to one
cyclone tracking group.
The speeds rose steadily to a peak of about 120 mph.
Regardless of how speedily Burma government officials fully
heed the international call for acceptance of aid, the
efforts are in place to collect donations. One group of MBA
graduates has set up an
fund, according to
The Myanmar Times.
And some groups, like the Foundation for the People of
Burma, actually give
frequently updated accounts of
their successful relief efforts.
you give generously to the
Foundation for the People of Burma.
FPB provides humanitarian aid to Burmese people of all
ethnic backgrounds and beliefs.
More Burma News
Burma Assets Freeze Focuses on Gems, Pearls
Just as Cyclone Nargis was moving towards Burma on May 1,
George W. Bush froze the assets of two state-owned companies
involved in Burma’s jade, gemstone, and pearl trades.
(Assets of a third company, involved in timber, also were
frozen.) The remarks were made, according to
this Associated Press story,
during an event marking Asian Pacific American Heritage
George W. Bush announces a freeze on Burma state-owned
during a ceremony for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
(White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
State-owned firms previously were exempt from administration
action. The companies targeted are Myanmar Gems Enterprise,
Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, and Myanmar Timber Enterprise.
U.S. assets belonging to the companies are blocked and
Americans are banned from doing business with them.
Apparently preoccupied with the aftermath of Nargis, no
response by Burma officials was issued regarding the asset
Shows and Conferences
Pala International News
Gem and Gemology News
Shows and Conferences
Pala at Las Vegas – May 29–June 2, 2008
time for the JCK Las Vegas show. Pala International will be
there in force, with one of America’s largest selections of
fine colored gems. The
opens one day early—Thursday, May 29—before the main
May 29–June 2, 2007
Venetian Hotel Grand Ballroom adjacent to the Sands Expo &
Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
AGTA Gemstone Section
Thursday, May 29: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Friday, May 30 to Monday, June 2:
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
AGTA Pavilion, booth 34308
We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the
for future events.
Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines – June 26–29, 2008
This Malaya garnet rough-and-cut pair,
shot by photographer Jeff Scovil, is
one of several such photos
of Bill’s collection on the Ste.-Marie website.
Pala International’s Bill Larson attends this event every
year, held in the midst of the Alsace wine region of
northeastern France. See
his report from
the 2007 show.
June 26–29, 2008
Bill looks forward to seeing you there.
Rough & Cut: Crystal and jewel…together at last
The gap between the gem and mineral world seems to be
closing, as the agate lickers have evolved and the large
corporate gem houses return to nature. Well, maybe not that
extreme, but more awareness of gem materials has brought
many stone collectors to delve into the source material and
mineral collectors to have some appreciation for faceted
stones. Finding beautiful and rare collectable pieces of
nature is a endeavor at the heart of man.
Rough & Cut Display in Dallas.
(left to right) Back: Mexican andradite
garnet, Afghani kunzite, Mexican amethyst. Middle: Russian
demantoid garnet, Californian pink tourmaline. Front:
Brazilian imperial topaz, Pakistani peridot. (Photo: Jason
The colored stone industry is far more evolved and
commercialized as faceted gems find their way out of the
jewelry store onto countless websites, or spinning around on
late night television networks. A seemingly endless supply
of goods—but in the words of the
“the truth is out there.” If one chooses to collect gems and
go down the rabbit hole of knowledge, there is much to be
explored and inspired by.
Gem Crystals Indeed I: Tanzanian
tanzanite with rich bluish-purple hue and some gemmy
sections; Brazilian chrysoberyl with well-formed sixling;
Afghani tourmaline in a large, cigar-sized crystal with
bluish-green color. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)
The mineral industry has mainly come limping out of the old
mining localities around the U.S. A small group of
geologists, explorers, and rock hounds has amassed
collections that until recent times have been very esoteric.
More recently there has been a quickening of new collectors
onto the scene, driving prices skyward and exposing the true
rarity and beauty of these specimens. A branching network of
interested parties siphoning up the species that turn them
on and turn them into the new layer of collectors.
Gem Crystals Indeed II: Tanzanian
spinel in a strawberry-colored octahedron; an unusual
Burmese lavender spinel; short and stocky Brazilian imperial
topaz. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)
As we join these two worlds we start to understand that gems
are minerals in their purest form and actually start out in
an assortment of shapes and sizes from unusual corners of
our Earth. The ultimate in collecting is to display a well
formed crystal with a representative sample of the same
species in a faceted gem. To pair a rough-and-cut takes some
strategy; from matching the pure color, to ideally having
material from the same region within a single country.
Enjoy a few pictures from our display at the Dallas Fine
Mineral Show earlier this month.
Crystals and gems and jewelry! Oh, my!
The Dallas show is mainly minerals, but gemstones are
usually included to some degree. This year we expanded our
display to include some cut stones paired up with their
rough crystal counterparts, as well as introducing some
high-end custom jewelry into the mix. Displaying these three
stages of gem materials gained a lot of attention, as kids
and adults alike were able to see the transformation from
raw stone to a unique piece of jewelry.
showing the full spectrum from crystals to
For example, we displayed some large pink tourmaline
crystals from the Himalaya mine in San Diego, which were
actually mined by Pala over the years. Some of this material
was cut into beautiful pink gemstones that were also on
display in an array of shapes and sizes. The story of pink
tourmaline ended in a one-of-a-kind white gold ring, set
with diamonds on the side of the band.
See these links for more images and video of Pala’s display
in Dallas, courtesy The Vug:
Pala International News
Pala’s Featured Stones: Red Beryl
Can you say Wah Wah?
Well, if you can, you would be on track to start a treasure
hunt for the elusive red beryl in southwestern Utah. Find
your way to Beaver County and start climbing up the Wah Wah
Mountain range. Keep an eye out for white rhyolite volcanic
tufts that house the rare little red crystals. Once you find
this rock type it’s all about crushing and sorting through
the rubble. Be prepared to stay for a while because it’s
been estimated that, on average, out of every ton of rock
only 0.5 carats of facet grade material is found.
Emerald cut, 1.24 cts., 7.23 x 2.25 x 3.97 mm. Search for
this stone on inventory number
The average-size faceted stone is under a half carat and
usually is included. This month’s featured stone is quite
exceptional, weighing in at 1.24 cts. and eye clean. A
gooseberry red hue with a pleasant emerald cut showing nice
For more on red beryl, see:
Interested? Call (telephone numbers
New Palagems.com Feature: Private Eyes
My... how time flies!
May 16, 2008, marked my working with Pala International for
an incredible 20 years. Believe me when I say, It has been a
“Golden Ticket” ride.
During this time, I have gained immeasurable experience in
the fine points of selecting, purchasing, and selling
gemstones in the prestigious echelons of “private
With a dedicated focus on origins and rarities, Bill Larson
(president and owner of Pala International) became my mentor
and advisor. His highly developed sense of mineral quality
has guided me to continually sharpen my own eyes as to what
makes a particular stone rare.
It’s always an enjoyable challenge to distinguish the
aspects of a stone that will qualify it as the possible
addition to a private collection. Not only do I have to know
the rarity of the stone in my hand, but it also has to be
compared with what is already found in existing
collections—both privately owned and those of museums.
The ability to detect the slightest differences in nuance,
due to origin, is vital. It is also the reason why so many
connoisseurs who wish to build world-class collections turn
to Pala. These collectors have expressed a desire for the
very finest. Our aim is to introduce the future collector to
this higher level of acquisition by educating them as to the
scarcity of the gemstone or mineral specimen they are
Now, with their blessing, our readers will get a chance to
take an occasional peek into some of the caches that I have
been so privileged to help build.
With the aid of friend and Pala International photographer
Wimon Manorotkul, we will begin
a new feature on our website,
called “Private Eyes”. In this section you
will have entrée to stones that most people never get to
see. I will accompany each gemstone with an explanation as
to why it was singled out for a collection, and what
separates it from other stones of its variety.
Understandably, names and locations for each of these
treasures will remain unavailable.
I hope that this new section of our website will be as much
a learning experience for you as it is fun to behold.
Because what value is passion and knowledge if it’s not
Gabriel Mattice, G.G.
Gemstone Sales & Acquisitions
Gems and Gemology News
Xenon Lamps Available: “About as good as it gets”
Bargain Possible with Bulk Buy
Gene Goldsand, a self-described “trafficker in scientific
and medical equipment and microscopes,” as well as a
longtime student of gemology, notified us of the
availability of what are, in his estimation, “the best
artificial light available”: 300-watt ILC Cermax Xenon Arc
In my well informed opinion (about lightsources) these are
about as good as it gets, putting out some 3500 lumens of
6000 to 6500 K light with a CRI between 95 and 99. The
Cermax lamp collects much more light than the usual XBO
short arc lamp.
Goldsand is especially eager that these lamps get into the
hands of “gemology types,” and has even fabricated the
cables for these lamps, which had been discontinued. His
plan is to approach the seller for a reduced-price bulk
purchase and to offer fellow buyers the cables as an add-on.
Because the seller allows pick-up, interested folk in
Southern California especially are urged to consider
acquisition of these units.
See more information and
contact Goldsand through this GemologyOnline post.
(You must join the forum to reply to him; if there’s a
email us at
Got a light?
Pictured here is the power supply for what Gene Goldsand
calls first-class illumination. Goldsand is a fan of our
and Selling Gems: Which Light is Best?” by
William J. Sersen and Corrine Hopkins.
Once and Future Sales Set Records…
Christie’s Offers 100-Carat Diamond
largest colorless diamond to be auctioned in 18 years will
be offered next week, May 28, according to a Christie’s Hong
The stone was cut from a 460-carat rough, the modified
shield shape featuring 92 brilliant facets. Also offered at
the sale is a 10.63-carat green diamond. To view
stunning photos, see our April 28 Gem News item on Palagems.com.
Christie’s Sells “Most Important” Colored Diamond
Last week, May 14, Christie’s Geneva sold a 13.39-carat blue
diamond, which fetched $8.9 million. It was touted before
the sale as “the largest ever to be sold at auction,”
according to a
Post-sale stories, such as
qualified the stone as the “most important colored diamond”
to be sold at auction in the last ten years.
Sotheby’s Breaks Own Per-Carat Record:
Fancy Vivid Blue Diamond Tops October 2007 Sale
Here’s a genuine record-setter, from Sotheby’s Geneva. A
rare, 3.73-carat, fancy vivid blue diamond sold last
Thursday for $4,955,097, with a per-carat price of
$1,328,444—a new world record for any gemstone at auction,
according to a
reports named the buyer as Laurence Graff. The sale tops a
set just last October by the auction house’s Hong Kong
branch. (See photo
At a total of $56 million, the Magnificent Jewels sale,
which was dedicated to the collection of philanthropist Lily
Marinho (and wife of Brazilian television kingpin Roberto
Marinho), is second in total proceeds only to a 1993 record
set by Sotheby’s in 1993.
Follow-up… Updates on past new items
Search Operations Slow
Gary Roskin’s April 30
gives a detailed account of the challenges facing search
operations in the aftermath of flooding in which dozens of
tanzanite miners were trapped and killed in late March. The
deaths occurred in Block B of the Merelani Hills, which is
not mined by a single operator, but rather is divided into
individually claimed parcels.
We spoke with Hayley Henning, Tanzanite Foundation’s
director of retail relations, May 14 to get an update. (The
foundation and American Gem Trade Association set up a
relief fund shortly after the incident.) According to Henning, the
bodies of 57 miners had been recovered, with 17 or 18 miners
still unaccounted for. These are the same numbers included
in Roskin’s article.
Due to the wet and muddy conditions, after more than 45 days
of searching, identification of bodies—and, indeed,
ascertaining exactly who is missing, since many workers are
itinerant—becomes extremely difficult, Henning said. It can
require government involvement in order to verify who owns,
operates, and/or labors on a particular parcel. TanzaniteOne,
which operates nearby Block C but whose employees were not
injured in the flooding, was involved in rescue operations,
and has completed a “preventative trench” to avert future
flooding of Block B shafts.
Relief Fund Growing
The relief fund has
been growing, said Henning. “People are so giving when it
comes to tragedy. Distribution of these funds will take
place once it has been decided exactly how best to spend the
money, not only in the immediate future, but for the
long-term good of the community.”
Industry Gives Back
Last month we mentioned mining operator
Moussa Konate’s endeavors in Mozambique to improve infrastructure in the
local community. Similar efforts are afoot at Merelani. A
year ago, members of an International Colored Gemstone
Association (ICA) mining tour saw for themselves a kind of
“before-and-after” example of industry’s community
investment. In Robert Weldon’s
InColor report on the
tour, “East Africa’s gem world uncovered,” he remarks on the
“stark contrast” between TanzaniteOne’s Block C, and Block
B’s independent operation. Block C appeared “clean, safe,
and organized,” although it was closed for the day, “for
security” reasons, so the visitors had no chance to talk
with TanzaniteOne workers at the mine. Block B, operated by
independent “artisanal” miners, appeared to be a dangerous,
free-for-all set-up. (Another
article about the tour, purportedly from the
quotes tour members and ICA officials, capturing the depth
of their concern.)
Years ago, TanzaniteOne (then known as Afgem) knew it had a
public relations problem on its hands, even if its own
operation could be compared favorably against so-called
artisanal, independent mining operations nearby. That and
other factors led to the
2005 of the Tanzanite Foundation, an ostensibly independent
non-profit with many tasks: industry growth and development,
protecting consumer interests, “maintain[ing] tanzanite’s
good reputation.” Beyond the marketing angle, the
foundation—open to all industry players—dedicated itself to
“making a meaningful and long standing difference to the
lives of the communities at tanzanite’s source.”
The foundation’s accomplishments were demonstrated during
the ICA tour, with members being taken to one of the primary
schools that had apparently benefited. Tour members also
were told about the “building [of] a Merelani community
center, schools, medical clinics, and giving mining
assistance and advice to small-scale miners,” according to
Weldon. Work remains to be done, of course, but the
achievements so far have been encouraging.