Are Diamonds Rare?
...and all your other burning questions about gemstones answered with Pierce & Seamus of 'Is That So?'
I love any opportunity to share the history of colored gemstones, the story of the big marketing machine behind the diamond industry, and why cutting is different for diamonds and colored gemstones.
I was recently interviewed by two charming Irishmen, Seamus & Pierce, on their podcast called ‘Is That So?’ which tries to get to the bottom of questions big and small in the fields of philosophy, science, society and life.
Seamus and Pierce are Physics students, have individually been their university's debate chairperson and have a passion for understanding. A great place to unearth some truths about colored gemstones and debate the question whether ‘it is so that diamonds are rare?’.
We dive into topics such as:
- My career change from the law into gemstones;
- How come Bangkok (Thailand) became the world’s trade hub for colored gemstones;
- The powerful marketing story behind diamonds, and whether the story of ‘diamonds being rare’ is even correct…
- The 3 characteristics that define a ‘gem quality’ stone;
- How does the gemstone cutting process work; and
- Is there a difference between diamond and color stone cutting?
Or you can read the transcribed version below if you prefer that.
Transcript: 'Is That So?' Episode 12: What is Beauty? Gemstones & Jewelry with Eva Meijer
Pierce: Hello there Seamus.
Seamus: Hi, Pierce.
Pierce: Well we're back here again and it seems we have another guest on Is That So?
Seamus: Joining us all the way from the Netherlands, we've got Eva. Hi.
Eva: Hi, guys lovely to be here. How are you?
Seamus: Yeah, it's a good day, it's a good day.
Pierce: It's a good day, lovely weather.
Eva: Yeah, it is isn't it?
Seamus: So, Eva-
Eva: Finally the summer hits Europe.
Seamus: Yeah, you're and expert on gemstones. That's very interesting, very unlike a lot of our guests, I don't think I ever met a gemstone expert [crosstalk 00:00:29].
Pierce: Most people have never met a gemstone expert before.
Eva: That's cool to hear actually, thanks for that.
Seamus: So, would you like to give us a little bit of background about how you got into gemstones and how your life brought you to love stones?
Eva: Yeah, of course no problem. It's actually been quite a colorful journey as well. I used to be a lawyer, I studied law in the Netherlands and then started working for a big American multinational in Geneva, Switzerland first of all.
It was something completely unrelated, it was a commodity trader dealing in grains, and soy beans and fertilizer, super sexy! Actually, it was cool at the time and I learned a lot. Then after a while, I quit, went to study more law in your country actually, in London. Did a post graduate degree-
Seamus: Well, I live in London but we're an Ireland podcast. [Oops;)]
Eva: I know, I know but I saw you also had a ... You did the podcast somewhere in London sometimes?
Eva: And so after that went back to the same company, but then worked for them in the Netherlands. That was great but after a few years, I decided I was ready for more of an adventure in something else again.
I've always loved languages, travel and also fashion and design. There were some changes in the company that made me decide like, "Okay, perhaps now is the right moment to figure out what I really loved." And-
Seamus: How do you make that jump between lawyer and gemstones?
Pierce: Lawyer and gemstones.
Eva: It's just a tiny one right?!
Seamus: No, it's not!
Eva: Actually many people think that you wake up one day and you kind of know what your passion is, right? But I think that is actually for just a few fortunate people among us, perhaps some, I don't know, actors or opera singers or I don't know Formula One drivers. I mean, people who are really fortunate as a kid already to know what they want to become, very passionately right? And they pursue that from a young age.
In my case it was a slightly longer journey and I've never regretted doing the law. I've always loved the stories and the history behind it as well which kind of links into gemology. I've also always loved fashion and design which obviously you don't have in law that much.
My mother and grandmother were always into interior decoration, very good at that and fantastic style and fashion sense. I missed that creativity in my job, I suppose.
Eva: Then I remembered ... By the way, I've always come to France and Italy my whole life with my family so I was used to the fashion sense of the French and the Italian ladies and how they spice up their outfits with fantastic gemstones and colored jewelry while dressing quite elegantly but simply actually.
That influenced me as well, then one night I was putting on my own gemstone jewelry earrings and I realized that I had actually always loved gemstones, even more than the jewelry itself, just the history and background of gemstones.
And I also remembered suddenly that as a kid in primary school, I once gave a presentation about minerals, all this all of a sudden resurfaced and then I thought to myself, "I really love these stones. But I will have to study again". I Googled where are the best gemology degrees in the world, and then I found London and New York.
Eva: But also Bangkok, Thailand. I read a few articles and I figured out that ... or I discovered that Bangkok was, is today still, the worlds trading hub of colored gemstones.
Eva: For instance what ... Yeah very few people know that nor did I ... What for instance Antwerp in Belgium is for the diamond trade. That is one of the diamond hubs in the world as is Tel Aviv in Israel, as is Mumbai in India these days, very big. As is New York, those are the four diamond trading hubs in the world, there is only one real trading hub for colored gemstones which is Bangkok, Thailand which is super interesting.
Eva: All the rubies and blue sapphires and colored tourmalines, you might have heard of those stones, they're mined elsewhere in the world. For instance in Eastern Africa, or in Asia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka.
They all come into Bangkok, the rough, as we call it, after they're mined. In Bangkok they are being cut, polished and treated if they have a treatment and also sold to gem dealers and jewelry manufacturers from all over the world.
So I thought, I’d better go to Bangkok, because that's where the source is. These guys know what they're talking about, my teachers will know what they're talking about. More than in London and New York, at least that was my personal feeling. So that's how I ended up there.
Pierce: So interesting.
Seamus: Is there historical reasons that it's primarily located in Bangkok? Is that just where it always was? Or how did that come about?
Eva: Yeah, that's very interesting actually. Bangkok became very wealthy because of its gem trade, a few decades ago. It's not necessarily that it has been a hub for centuries as Antwerp has been in diamonds for instance.
It is more recent but how it came about is quite a fun story on why the Thai and Bangkok are so specialist in this. They used to be specialists in rubies and blue sapphires, the Thai, they also had some mining areas in Thailand. Not the best quality stones in the world, not the best rubies and blue sapphires in the world but nonetheless, there was some mining going on. They were used to some trade.
Now, the Thai, the dealers were looking for new sources, so they traveled around and they went to Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the miners had mined this weird white corundum and you should know that corundum, perhaps you know, is the family name to which belong both rubies and blue sapphires.
Eva: They are actually of the same family, when corundum happens to be red, we call it a ruby. And when corundum, the family, happens to be blue we call it a blue sapphire.
Seamus: Oh, okay interesting.
Eva: That is the distinction, and by the way if it is any other color because it can also appear in green and orange and pink then it's always a sapphire we call it. The sapphire plus the color, only when it's red we call it ruby.
Seamus: What are emeralds then? They're [crosstalk 00:07:29].
Eva: Emeralds is another family, emeralds is just another family. So emerald belongs to the family which is called beryl ... which is another gem family altogether, and rubies and sapphires belong to the family corundum.
So, these guys were in Sri Lanka and there were these white corundum stones that were being mined which are basically worthless, right? Because they have no color, so who would buy a stone like that as a client in the west?
Then the Thai, they looked at it, and they thought in the back of their head, "Hey, perhaps we could do something with this and heat the stones." Heat treatment is a treatment which has been done for millennia, the old Egyptians already did it, and it's an acceptable treatment by gem laboratories around the world and gem dealers as well.
This is a normal treatment, especially for corundum. 90 to 95% of all rubies and blue sapphires has been heated, as we call it, in order to improve the color and to improve the clarity of the stones.
Eva: But these Thai guys were thinking, "Okay, let's give it a shot, we can buy it super cheaply." Which they did.
The Sri Lankan miners were laughing they were like, "Oh, my God why are these crazy people buying these bad stones from us?" The Thai went home, they did some of their magic, as my gem teachers would say in Bangkok, and they had some [beautiful gemstones]...
Heating is quite old fashioned, they have little ovens literally. They use some products and then try to make the stones more beautiful and what happened at the end of the process, they got good quality blue sapphires out of that. Which meant they kind of made a fortune for Bangkok, they put Bangkok on the map of the gem [trade].
Pierce: Right, and nobody had discovered this before at all? That this would happen when you heat the white ones?
Eva: No, well..
Eva: Heat treatment had existed before, but the Thai professionalized it.
Pierce: Right, I see.
Seamus: So they turned it from white to blue?
Seamus: [crosstalk 00:09:36].
Eva: Exactly. You may think, or what many people of the west think, "oh, those Thai, they are scammers or frauds." Actually not at all, because when you are in Bangkok, they're very open about it and when you ask, "Has this stone been heated or not?" You always get a very open answer.
The thing is, the Thai saw a demand in the market which was that many people in the world wanted a blue sapphire and ruby, not only the kings and queens and the celebrities who can actually afford the highest and best quality there is.
But because these stones are so rare, so incredibly rare, people have no idea ... The gem dealers could never supply blue sapphires and rubies on such a large scale to people in the west basically, and now with this invention or professionalization of the heat treatment process they could offer good quality rubies and blue sapphires at a better price to more people.
Eva: It's just the way how the economy works, they found a demand, they found a solution and actually they are open about it. The problem often is when the stones end up in the west, there are many people along that chain, many of whom are not gemologists, also jewelers in the west ... It's not about to blame anyone it's just the nature of the business.
Then when a consumer in the west ends up buying the stone, they often have no clue whether the stone has been heat treated or not, whether the price is fair or not. But actually it's very unfair to give the Thai this sometimes negative reputation because they actually did a great job and gave us more rubies and blue sapphires and made them accessible to more of us.
Seamus: Wow, I'd like to ask you actually, why do you think people like shiny stones? Shiny colored stones, why?
Pierce: Is it just the rarity or is it the appearance as well?
Eva: Oh man that's a good question, now you go actually into the philosophy of beauty! Perhaps you should do another podcast with someone else on beauty because what is beauty? [laughter] I mean, why did Cleopatra want to adorn herself with beauty or stones or ... Yeah, it goes back to the beginning of mankind. It is, I guess, the mystery of beauty, sparkle, color.
Both diamonds and colored stones by the way, also in the old Indian history, perhaps you know, with the Maharajas and the Nawabs. India has always been a historic country of vast gemstone wealth, [to give you an idea] their nobility even had some sort of dresses with buttons of diamonds, that big. It is like a fairytale almost and why? It is to show case wealth, power for sure, rarity.
Seamus: Rarity comes into it.
Eva: Yeah, that's why also your own ... Perhaps it's politically sensitive [laughter], I don't know, but Prince Charles right? He proposed with a blue sapphire to Lady Di and many monarchies know that rare or colored gem stones are actually far more rare than diamonds to propose with.
Seamus: That's interesting as well, isn't it? Because we were talking earlier, just before we went on the air, about the difference between diamonds and gemstones and we were talking about beauty there and it being cultural, right?
Seamus: But diamonds really only became popular after World War II, right?
Seamus: When they were marketed as a beautiful thing, and a thing you have to engage with.
Eva: Yeah, it's amazing what the big diamond companies were able to do actually. I mean, talking about some great marketing, it is absolutely fantastic. Since the 1940s we all of a sudden, in the west, have this urge that when we get engaged, or when a man is about to propose, it should be in a diamond period.
There doesn't even pop up as an alternative like, "Hey, perhaps I should do something in pink or in yellow or in orange or in green because it suits my girlfriend better or me as the guy I also find the story much more interesting and I think the story of our couple is also more interesting than perhaps the standard story of the diamond. Do we even fit that old marketing story?"
Pierce: I never thought about it before but it's interesting when I think back, if you see even any movies from the early '50s or '60s there was a heavy use of diamonds and you have Breakfast at Tiffany's, those kind of movies.
Seamus: Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.
Eva: Yeah, it was Marilyn Monroe, absolutely. There was a big and clever marketing campaign behind that and actually in ... After the Great Depression in the '30s there was not a big demand for diamonds at all. For anything probably, but I mean-
Seamus: Should we buy bread or diamonds? I'm not sure [laughter].
Eva: That's fair [inaudible 00:14:45]. But it was like in 18 ... The end of the 19th century that diamonds were discovered in South Africa by De Beers, and so these guys dove into that whole story like, "How can we create demand here?" After the 1930s, after the Second World War, they hired this American advertising company which did an amazing job and came with the most famous ad slogan ever created, "A diamond is forever."
Pierce: Right, of course yeah.
Eva: And they created, instilled, this demand in all of us that when a man proposes, he should do so by buying a diamond that is worth two of his monthly salary payments. It went that specifically in the days. Like she is worth it, you know? She's worth two-
Pierce: Two of your monthly salary payment.
Seamus: :[crosstalk 00:15:44], how much you get paid. It's a month and a half, I'm not marrying you.
Eva: Exactly, I don't care. But that's how it is, they did an amazing job and also they tied in ... I think I read somewhere, but I'm not fully sure, even that movie with Marilyn Monroe [helped tie in to the diamond “story”] and all that is kind of ... It was all about pushing the diamond upwards and make it the one stone you have to think about. They did an amazing job and-
Pierce: It's incredibly interesting as well, because I guess normally when you think about markets and just economic and stuff, normally you have people ... Or certainly I know the mind frame I would be in is, I would think, "There is a demand for something and then somebody fulfills that." But these guys actually created the demand, they invented the demand.
Eva: Oh absolutely, but this is actually, indeed a very interesting point, because also, I think Steve Jobs once said with the iPhone, “You cannot always ask the people what they want, because they don’t always know it. "You have to show it to them." That's what he did with the iPhone or the iPod, sorry not the iPhone I think it was the iPod. That we wanted that, because if you would have asked people they [would not have known that a small device could be combined with smart software for the newest portable music tool].” Sometime you have to show it and indeed create the demand.
Pierce: And Apple is such a giant now, it's almost worth a trillion U.S. dollars.
Seamus: I read somewhere about diamonds too that they're very expensive, obviously, but there's far more of them that you think. But other, so like your saying, with the gemstones, with the blue sapphires they're incredibly rare and their price represents that. But the price for diamonds doesn't actually represent its rarity, would that be correct to say?
Eva: Yeah that is correct. What most people don't know is that diamonds - let's say up to, three, four carats and of average quality and most diamonds in the world set in jewelry that you see in stores around you are of average quality - are not rare at all. There is more than enough diamonds in stock by ... Held in stock by the big diamond producing companies to fulfill demand apparently. If all the women today who wanted a diamond, which is not every woman, not every woman wants a diamond. But if all the women ...
Seamus: [crosstalk 00:18:06].
Eva: ... Who wanted a diamond ... Right? Who wanted a diamond, there is enough.
Eva: Also when you look around, when you travel to the smallest Irish, English village or Dutch village and you see a small jewelry store. What do you see in Asia, everywhere? You always see diamonds, so how good of a job did they do to tell us that diamonds are rare, whereas physically it's proven to be the contrary.
Seamus: Just intuitively.
Eva: Yeah, and you see them ... [But] how often have you seen a green tsavorite garnet?
Eva: Or an electric blue Paraiba tourmaline? Or even you know better, a ruby or a blue sapphire? You see them far, far less physically. So-
Seamus: I'm actually curious, because I know diamonds actually have uses or say ... They're wanted for things outside of jewelry. So medical technology for instance, is it the same for other colored stones or are they mostly just jewelry?
Eva: That is a good question. It's true diamonds are used also for industrial purposes, and the same with some colored gemstones, you’re right. Now I have to think a little bit back to my gemology classes but if I remember correctly quartz, which is a colored gemstone, quartz is a family name like corundum was for rubies and sapphires. Beryl is the family name for emeralds, quartz is the family name for instance for a stone you may have heard of like amethyst? Which is the purple stone, you know that one?
Eva: Perhaps citrine, which is yellow, orange. Rose Quartz which is pink, those three stones belong to the family quartz. Now quartz also comes in transparent, white, almost like glass and I think it is used like white sapphire which also exists. So that basically looks a little bit like a diamond, I mean it's transparent, colorless, is used a lot in the watch industry.
I think it is for the ... Yeah I don't even know the english word right now, which is below where the ... I don't know the English word for that but it is used in the watch industry. It could be the glass that goes over your watch? Or it could be the pointers that point the time? I don't know the English word for that-
Pierce: The hands of [crosstalk 00:20:39].
Eva: Yes, something like that. Or the mechanism that is required and I think quartz and white sapphire can be used for that as well.
Pierce: I've heard, you see it advertised on watches as well, they're ... I think it's to do with the mechanisms because they have ... I don't know how exactly it works,
Eva: Yeah, the back works of the watch, I don't know exactly. But to answer your question, yes it is also used for industry and other purposes.
Pierce: Okay, cool alright, interesting.
Seamus: So we've talked about the uses, we've talked about the heating process of different ones. We'd like to talk about how you got into the business then, if you had the interest and you did the study. How you moved on to actually selling and creating jewelry with these gemstones.
Eva: It was in Bangkok where I got some sort of gemstone bug, I reckon. After having lived there for a small year, I bought a few gemstones at the end of the gemology program and brought them back home to just see if people would like them. And I actually sold them to friends and family, and I was like, "Whoa, this is just the loose gemstone," as we call it. The stone, which is unset, not even in piece of jewelry.
I did get some comments of friends of mine, they said, "Yeah, it's really nice these loose gemstones, I love to buy it and make it into a ring myself but could you also make some jewelry with it? Because we work 10, 12 hours a day we have no time for this, no inspiration. Why don't you make jewelry as well?"
Eva: I went back to Bangkok and tested and visited a lot of smaller factories there or workshops and I finally ended up working now with two very small [French 00:22:32] workshops [one of which is a French-owned atelier] that I make jewelry with as well which is great. I visit them quite regularly and then when I'm there, I always source the gemstones and I have the ideas of the designs of course.
Then I come to them and I visit them for weeks, go to their office every day and we talk about what is possible in jewelry, goldsmithing, so to speak.
Then they make it for me. I just finalized my second [version of my] website and now I'm trying to see if I can go to New York or London perhaps.
I would love to start by educating people about colored gemstones, first of all actually to open up the myths a little bit.
Seamus: It's interesting when you talk about sourcing them that there's obviously ... Everybody's seen vast amount of videos and even movies about how the diamond trade, Sierra Leon, gemstones around the world can be sourced really unethically, quite harshly. How do your ... Do you even get the opportunity to source it with the knowledge that is isn't going to harm anybody?
Eva: Yeah that is a very good question and also sometimes have clients ask me that. Then I'm going to say with my law background, I feel obligated to say, "Look, I am not physically there in the mine myself." In East Africa of Tanzania or Mozambique or in Burma so I cannot of course always guarantee that there are no, perhaps, 16 year old children working there. Because you should realize it's their way of income there.
Seamus: Of course.
Eva: So sometimes of course we put our western hat on and we walk in ... I mean I also know this with the work I did in the [multinational] company before, we also had to implement an anti-fraud policy everywhere, all over the world which of course is always a goal we should aim for. But sometimes we forget that business is sometimes run differently in other parts of the world and we can't come in [and change cultures straightaway].
We can try to control as best as we can but you're not there 24 hours a day. It is not me, as a small business, as a one person business owner, you know what I mean. What I do know is the gem dealers I buy from are the most amazing people and I trust them for 200%, otherwise I wouldn't even buy my stones from them.
Eva: I know where they go, physically. They themselves, these are also one person-companies or they just work with a few people, they tell me their stories when they go to Africa or to Asia and the contact they have with the local people there. I know in that respect, it is fine. But yeah, I don't know, I cannot vouch for all the other people who sell gemstones of course.
Though the line is shorter than with the diamond industry and the mining is at a far more smaller scale and less professional than the diamond mining companies. We know more quickly ... I mean, my gem dealer will know, I don't know exactly, where he gets the stones from, so he knows the guy he bought it from. You know what I mean?
Seamus: First person does, yeah.
Eva: So it is quite direct. Yeah, so in that respect there is more transparency than with diamonds. Also the nature of the product makes it difficult, diamonds are all white so it's all ... It's quite hard to distinguish where they can be from. With color stones we know, okay certain stones only come from certain areas.
Seamus: Certain mineral deposits and [crosstalk 00:26:30].
Pierce: Right, of course.
Seamus: It's very interesting as well, I'd like to move on from that and talk about, obviously the people mining the gemstones and the places where they're mined, they're often revered and given God like status. Especially powers, healing abilities, stuff like that because if all you're used to seeing is limestone everyday and then you pick up this thing just some ... This yellow shiny rock, you think yeah of course it could have special powers. That could be a way that gemstones have been revered around the world, even if we have not revered them in western culture-
Pierce: In the same way.
Seamus: Yeah, in the same way. What do you think?
Eva: Yeah, that's true. That could be a reason, I also think however, it is just plain beauty. I mean, when you look at the definition of what is a gemstone? It possesses three characteristics which is number one, beauty and then rarity and then durability. Those are three characteristics of a gemstone that make it a “gem quality” stone. You can add to that portability, and fashion because some colors or stones are more popular during centuries or during certain times than others.
But it's always been the first three, beauty, durability and rarity. We want what we cannot get [or what is rare], even the old ancient rulers knew that. Then if indeed, in addition to that, for instance a blue sapphire has always stood for nobility and truth apparently. Then it adds, yeah, a story to something that is already so rare. It definitely makes it more interesting and ...
Pierce: Building on that, I'm just curious, obviously because we can only see from our western perspective. But is there any specifically different ways that different cultures interact with these gemstones? In comparison to the west, is there different traditions around them that you know of or different [crosstalk 00:28:42]?
Eva: I'm not really specialized in that, I'm sorry. It has always been adornment.
Pierce: Of course, yeah.
Eva: I mean for instance the emerald. The most beautiful one is said to come from Colombia, that is always been the most revered mining area. Especially the Muzo mine which has been operating for centuries already if not millennia. Which is incredible when you think of it, that mine so ancient still produces emeralds today.
It has always been used for adornment and I think even in old Maya culture as well. I have a Colombian friend and they actually adore emeralds as well obviously, and they are probably even more accessible to them. But like of rituals or other more habits of small local communities? I'm not really aware of that, sorry.
Pierce: I suspect you're largely correct and I do suspect it's mostly adornment because as you're saying, if you see depictions of the old Mayan or Incan or Aztec Emperors, they're all covered in emeralds. I never thought about that but it is always specifically emeralds.
Eva: Yeah, no it is and it's definitely and they just know I guess, the rarity of it and the beauty if you've been born around that area apparently, as you say. They always dig up sand and earth and the all of a sudden something like that. It becomes almost divine, I reckon and perhaps we carry something of that feeling from the ancient all for something like that into today's diamonds and gemstones as well. Because that has never really disappeared.
Seamus: Yeah, I did [inaudible 00:30:31] too. How does raw gemstone, just rough gemstone, then [turns] into a cut gemstone? How does that process work? We often see diamonds in a specific way, just a characteristic diamond but I've often seen [crosstalk 00:30:50]
Eva: The round brilliance right?
Seamus: Yeah, exactly. But I often see gemstones cut in completely different ways and different fashions, why is that and what's the process?
Eva: That is actually interesting because first of all the cutting ... Well, the mining areas in the world today, I'm talking about colored gemstones, are Eastern Africa, so that will be especially Tanzania, Mozambique, the island Madagascar, Kenya also a little bit.
Those are interesting new mining areas, we call them, the older color stone mining areas are what we found in Asia and still are today. That is Burma, the old Burma, today's Myanmar, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, the Old Ceylon is like a sapphire paradise. Where they have found colored gemstones for centuries which is super cool.
And then they mine them in those areas, the rough as it is called, is shipped to Bangkok and that is where the stones are cut and polished and treated. Now, the cutting is very interesting also ... Also with the old diamond cutting actually. There were some famous diamond cutters centuries ago who were renowned for their expertise. Often you had to go through a whole learning school as a young [person] who wanted to become a diamond cutter, still today, these are really the last crafts I would call of today that still exist.
Eva: It takes years before you can call yourself an experienced cutter, why? Because also what you want to do as a cutter, you have a rough stone in front of you, you want to make sure you cut away as little as possible and bring out as much beauty as you can while cutting away as little as possible of the weight.
Why? Because all gemstones, diamonds and color stones are priced in the market based on their weight. So if a stone is smaller, so lighter in weight, it will be less expensive than when you have a bigger gemstone which is heavier.
Then it will be more expensive in the market so we always price stones per carat. Carat is the metric of weight, it indicates how heavy the stone is basically. You can put the stone on a little weighing scale and that will indicate the carat weight.
Eva: The cutter knows this, he's like, "Okay, I got to cut away as little as possible because the buyer, the gem dealer wants me to save as much weight as we can." And then make it as brilliant as possible, the cutting process is slightly different with diamonds and color stones. A diamond cutter, will want to bring out as much brilliance as he can out of a diamond, right?
Eva: Why? Because that is the biggest asset of a diamond, that's why every woman wants a diamond because of the sparkle (and the size of course!). She wants that rainbow like sparkle, the flashes of red, blue, violet, pink that fly off a diamond when you move your hand. That is what a diamond is renowned for not for its color.
How do you get the best brilliance and sparkle in a diamond? By cutting it as symmetrically as you can. Diamond cutters go for symmetry, and [you see] that especially [in] the round brilliant which is a relatively recent discovery. Now we have the tools [today] to make a perfectly round diamond, which is very hard because it is the hardest material on earth, right?
Pierce: Of course, yeah.
Eva: In the previous centuries, they weren't even able to cut a round brilliant cut because to make it round you need extreme precisions and symmetry in your cutting and they couldn't do that before.
Now with laser cutting they can in the factories, then they make symmetry and they have this perfect round brilliant which has the maximum sparkle. Now color stones rarely appear in rounds, that is on purpose.
The color stone cutter knows that when he has a rough stone, he cannot cut away as much as the diamond cutter would to get to this perfect symmetry, why?
Because the most important asset of a color stone is not brilliance as with a diamond, it is color. Color, color, color.
Pierce: Of course, it's in the name.
Eva: It's in the name right? Yeah it's funny how sometimes we forget, because the more red a ruby, the better the blue of a blue sapphire the higher the price of the stone will be. Even if the cutting is not perfect, even if the stone has inclusions inside the stone.
If the stone is of such magnificent blue or red it can still go to a Sotheby's or Christie's auction. It is unbelievable because that color is so rare that many people want that stone, purely for that color. Even if they know it hasn't been cut to perfection like a diamond.
The gemstone cutter knows that as well, he knows that, "Okay, I have to keep the color as intense as possible." When he cuts away too much, and when you lose too much of the weight of a color stone, it can become lighter in color. The cutter knows that.
Pierce: So further you go towards the center, the lighter it can get?
Eva: It is the volume. The more volume the stone has-
Pierce: Oh, of course, the more ... You see the same effect with glass, yeah.
Eva: Yeah, the more intense the color will be. So a gemstone cutter will cut away as little as possible, try to keep the color as intense as possible and that's why cutting is generally not so perfect in color stones as it is with diamonds.
And that is not when, again, many people in the west say, "Oh, those people in Asia," where most of the cutting happens, "have no clue about cutting." They actually know exactly what they're doing, they know it far better than the people in the west. They're actually trying to give you most value for the stone that they can get for you and that means sometimes the cutting is not perfect.
Eva: Now if you do want a color stone, which has a great color and is more symmetrical in cutting, they do exist in the market but they are rare and you pay a premium for those stones.
Seamus: I can't even imagine.
Pierce: I don't want to imagine.
Eva: Yeah you don't want to because generally color stones, the cut is average and that is okay as long as the color is great.
Pierce: Okay, right.
Seamus: Do you have any idea of the most expensive gemstone or diamond in the world? I think there's a list isn't there?
Pierce: Probably the Queen's one in England, right?
Eva: Yeah the Queen, your Queen has some nice ones, it's true.
Seamus: Not our Queen.
Eva: Okay, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry! [laughter].
Pierce: Well temporarily our Queen, Seamus.
Seamus: That's all we have time for today, nice to meet ya [joking].
Eva: Let's rewind that, let's delete that part.
Seamus: That's okay.
Eva: No, it is true, there are some big ones in the Tower of London.
Pierce: I've seen them, they're amazing.
Eva: It's stunning isn't it?
Eva: But also in ancient crown jewels of most monarchies around the world. I don't know if you had a look, for instance, at our monarchy. We had a coronation, what was it? Only five years ago, our Queen abdicated and her son and his wife, they kind of became the new King and Queen and at that coronation she wore blue sapphires that were out of this world. In her crown and in a brooch and earrings I think, I mean those stones ... You rarely see of that quality. It's amazing. You can Google afterwards.
Seamus: I absolutely love your passion towards gemstones. I honestly couldn't ... It reminds me of like a very avid sommelier, like a wine taster. That's honestly [crosstalk 00:38:59] absolute passion for, clearly, a non-arbitrary thing but very specialized.
Eva: That's nice, thanks. Well, you know, it’s true. Also sommeliers, they have that, you're right. I think it just keeps growing also because after your course, I think, like with any specialization, in my opinion you only learn afterwards. You have to keep on seeing stones and the same with wine.
Pierce: There's a depth to it as well, it's one of those things the longer you're in it the more you realize there's more to know.
Eva: Yeah, the more you realise as well how little you know [laughter].
Pierce: I'm actually curious, this is more of a, I guess, trivial question or whatever, but do you have a favorite gemstone?
Eva: Yes, I do. Actually I have several, obviously.
Pierce: I thought that might the case.
Eva: One of the most beautiful ones that you should absolutely remember is called spinel, or [spinelle 00:39:58], as the Americans pronounce it, it is S-P-I-N-E-L. One of the most historic gemstones out there. Also in the crown jewels, there is a big red spinel in the Black Prince's ruby crown, as we call it which was a big crown that ... I forgot him now, I go blank for a second. The old Prince of Wales, I think was he called the Black Prince?
Pierce: Yeah, I think he was the Black one yeah.
Eva: Right? That was the ... I think he was called the Black Prince and during one of his fights he, as a victory trophy, he won this humongous red stone and it was set in a crown which is now in the crown jewels actually. It's a red stone, it was always mistaken for a ruby, it turns out it's actually a red spinel.
Spinel is one top gemstone, like rubies and sapphires that belongs to the top gemstones and has often been mistaken for ruby. Because people couldn't distinguish gem species very well, in those days. And only later did they figure out, "Oh, this is actually an entirely different gemstone."
And that stone also comes in beautiful traffic light red, as we call it, it also comes in hot pink which is a trade term. It literally means neon, bubble gum pink which is an incredibly funky color. You're like, "Does that even exist?"
It's super modern, super cool and gray, white colors beautiful. It has no treatment, very high brilliance, very good hardness, as we say. Hardness refers to the resistance to scratches that a gemstone can take and spinel has a higher one. Meaning it doesn't get scratched very easily.
Eva: That is an absolute beauty. Another beautiful stone that I prefer way more than the green emerald, is another green gemstone which is called tsavorite garnet. Which is absolutely stunning, relatively recent discovery from the 1960s, '70s, from East Africa.
Far better quality than an emerald, generally, beautiful intense green, very transparent, very sparkly. An emerald almost never sparkles, because it has a lot of inclusions inside the stone, as we call it, which flattens it which makes it a little bit dull even and can chip very easily.
Tsavorite garnet, it's a far higher quality gemstone, absolutely amazing, less expensive than an emerald, as well not cheap though...
Seamus: That's a bargain.
Pierce: It's a bargain, yeah I'll go get one right now.
Eva: That's a bargain, that's a bargain.
Seamus: [crosstalk 00:42:48].
Eva: That is gorgeous, you should look it up, it's-
Seamus: Eva, we're almost just going to tie it up. If you like to ... It was a very, very interesting talk, I have to say. I couldn't even imagine gemstones would offer me this much knowledge. But would you like to link your social media, your websites for everybody?
Eva: Yeah, great it was also a pleasure talking to you guys, absolutely lovely. My website is evagemsandjewels.com and Eva you spell E-V-A not A-V-A as some people think. It is E-V-A gemsandjewels.com. Yeah, it would be great if you have a look, I just relaunched it, so I'm curious what you guys think.
Seamus: You have and Instagram as well?
Eva: Yeah, you can also find me at Instagram which is @evagemsandjewels which is my handle there.
Pierce: Fantastic, and I hadn't even thought about Instagram, it's probably the perfect platform for gemstones right?
Eva: Yeah, true. Also, indeed to show photos and to educate people. Now I'm trying also video, scary but true. Try to see how that works but it has been great fun.
Seamus: Well there we are, at the end of the day it's night.
Seamus: Thank very much, Eva see you again next time guys.
Eva: Thank you so much.
Become an insider
Sign up to my list to elevate your fine jewel IQ, get an exclusive look at new arrivals and be the first to hear about insider jewelry events
Become an insider
Join those in the know who enjoy shopping direct for their high-end, personalized gemstone pieces,
get unprecedented access to stones that are usually only available to the world’s high jewelry houses
and be the first to hear about insider jewelry events