The Mile High Club (of Gemstones)

The title for this blog came to me at 40,000 ft. on a flight on my way to the ASJRA Antique Jewelry Conference in Boston this June. Not what you may think, this club doesn’t refer to a somewhat heated topic involving certain activities in the air. No, I chose to apply the title to concern a somewhat different subject that of the stratospheric price levels that select gemstones have climbed to.

In this three part blog I will discuss three gemstones that I recently had the pleasure of “discovering” at the JCK Jewelry Exposition in Las Vegas. All three gemstones have reached sky high prices, over US$100,000, to join the ranks of “The Mile High Club”.

Before jumping into the blog I should attempt to answer the question. What makes a gemstone a gemstone and what attributes must it have to be of value.

To begin with, what makes a gemstone?

Can any stone be classified as a gemstone? The obvious answer is no! You might think then that to qualify, a gemstone must have beauty and can be worn for adornment for example. However beauty is “In the eye of the beholder”. Should an opaque black rough diamond crystal bead have any more right to being called a gemstone than a polished pebble off the road?gemstone in hand - imperial gem Lab

To be sure, tastes vary and culture and fashion both influence the concept of beauty in many aspects of our world, including gemstones. So what other aspects govern the concept of a gemstone. The following list qualifies some qualities that a stone must have to be classified as a precious gemstone.

  • Beauty
  • Durability
  • Rarity
  • Availability

Other factors that define a gemstone are desirability, often influenced by fashion and marketability.

Precious Gemstones and Semi-Precious Gemstones

In the last century there was the concept of Precious Gemstones and Semi-Precious Gemstones. The Precious Gemstones name only applied to four well know gemstones, the ruby, the blue sapphire, the emerald and of course the diamond. All other gemstones were considered semi-precious and generally had much lesser value.

This concept in terminology began to change during the 20th century as the use of a wide variety of gemstones evolved, resulting in the popularization of many “new” gemstone varieties, such as green and red tourmalines, topaz, pink kunzites and more. Their popularity grew as new discoveries in Brazil and later Africa began providing sufficient rough material to meet the growing demand from consumers. This increase in supply also came at a time when the developed world’s economies were growing exponentially.

royal-crown-jewellery gemstonesBritish Empire Influence

The influence of the British Empire and their royal families as well as other European royal lineages gave direction to the jewellery fashions of the day. The new super economy of the United States was well under way and influenced greatly the popularization of gemstones and jewellery. Derailed only by the two Great Wars, and the Great Depression of the 30’s, the 20th century saw great advancements and the wealth generated helped to drive the demand for beautiful gemstones and jewellery.

With this very brief summary of the concept of stones as gemstones, my next post will detail specific extraordinary examples that I wish highlight, standout gems that meet all the requirements to join the ranks of “The Mile High Club”. The first gem highlighted will be one of the Big Four, a new gem from a very old source…