Happy New Year to all and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2007.
Actually it's not 2007 here in Thailand, as you might have noticed from the graphic above of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The Thais already enjoyed the year 2007, quite a long time ago. The new year for us is 2550. That's because the Thai calendar is based on years since the Buddhist Era (B.E.), which began with Buddha's departure from this world on his 80th birthday, approximately 543 years before the start of the Christian Era.
Like so many things in Thailand, the calendar is a curious mix of east and west. Though we count years according to the Buddhist calendar, we start the calendar year on January 1st, just like the rest of the world. That gives us a good excuse to celebrate the western New Year, even though our main New Year celebration is in April, which is the real start of the Buddhist year. We also celebrate the Chinese New Year, which generally falls in the 2nd half of February. So it's more or less a continuous new year celebration here for about 4 months. The Thais are indeed a fun-loving people.
In our newsletter this month:What's in a Name?
It's a well-known fact in the jewelry industry that gemstones with difficult or confusing or obscure names are a hard sell to the average consumer. That's not a problem for our customers, who delight in the rare and unusual. But the mass market won't buy something it's never heard of or can't pronounce, no matter how good the stones look.
Probably many jewelers wonder how so many attractive stones ended up with such unattractive names. Was it really necessary to name fine gems spodumene and orthoclase? Why did a lovely blue-green stone end up being called apatite? And these are are not just isolated examples. Think of sphene and diopside. Even spinel and zircon and peridot are fairly oddball names. Charming and evocative names like moonstone and fire opal and aquamarine actually seem to be in the minority. It's like the gemstone industry forgot to hire a marketing person. How else can we explain a gemstone called chalcedony?
Gemstones are in the odd position of having one foot in the technical world of mineralogy and one foot in the commercial world of jewelry. The name that works in one world rarely works in the other. Sometimes the problem is solved by having 2 names, such as red corundum and ruby. But in many cases we have only one name, and it's the wrong name as far as the jewelry business goes.
But things could be worse, and in fact they once were. At one time, marketing names for gemstones ran rampant, and with all the fanciful names it was hard to know what you were really getting. Would you buy an Arizona Ruby? That was once a well known name for pyrope garnet. How about Brazilian aquamarine? Really just a blue green topaz. Fancy a Ural sapphire? Actually it's just blue tourmaline. Mexican diamond? Plain colorless quartz. You'd do better with Ceylon diamond. At least that was white zircon.
Because the danger of intentionally giving a misleading name is especially high in the gemstone trade, definitions for gemstones are now regulated through an international organization known as the Confédération Internationale de la Bijorterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie des diamants, Perles, et Pierres. Since that's a bit of a mouthful, they usually go by the name CIBJO which, frankly, is not that much easier to pronounce. It's hard to avoid the thought that those folks have a naming problem of their own. But they do provide a very valuable service to gemstone dealers and buyers alike. We all need to know what we're really buying and selling. Names matter.New in Gems
We are in the midst of rebuilding our stock after a very busy Christmas season. With the gem market open again after the New Years holiday, our buyers are in the market every day finding the best values for our customers. So look for lots of interesting new gems coming soon. Here are some of the good buys we made at the end of 2006. Click on the gem names to view the latest samples.
This Month's Birthstone
The traditional birthstone for January is Garnet. Known since the Bronze Age, garnet is actually a family of related minerals, with slightly different chemical composition and optical properties. In general, garnet is quite hard (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale) and gem-quality material is usually very clean, with relatively few inclusions. Those properties, combined with the affordability of many varieties, has made garnet one of the most popular gemstones in history. Most people think of garnet as red, but it actually occurs in a host of colors, including yellow, orange, purple and green. Some garnets, such as almandine, are extremely common and inexpensive; others, such as tsavorite and demantoid, can be quite rare and expensive.Gemstones Worth Knowing
Each month we focus on one of the lesser known gemstones. This month's featured stone is Fire Opal.
Fire Opal may not look much like the familiar opal, but it is a true opal nonetheless, with the same chemical composition (hydrous silicon dioxide). Unlike common opals, good quality fire opals are often clear enough to be cut in facets, though typically they are translucent, not transparent. The fire opal from Mexico is the most highly regarded.
Fire Opal ranges in color from white to yellow to red-orange, with the red-orange being the most valued. Fire opal is quite an affordable stone and can sometimes be found in large sizes; we have occasionally bought specimens over 50 carats. It's good to remember that fire opal, like common opal, is fairly soft and has a high water content. So it needs to be handled with some care. For more information see our Fire Opal Information Page.Customer Questions
Every month we answer questions of general interest from our customers. Please feel free to send your questions to email@example.com, with "Newsletter question" in the Subject line.
This month we have some interesting questions about the optical properties of gemstones.
A final note -- If you send us email, please be assured that we answer all our email very promptly, 6 days a week. But we sometimes have problems with spam filters on the receiving end, so please adjust the settings on your mail client so you can receive mail from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy gem hunting in the new year!
Your friends at GemSelect