Tag: green diamonds

NCDIA Member Interviews

Retail Member

NCDIA Executive Vice President Barbara Wheat interviewed Breanne Wittrock of Gunderson’s, and member of the NCDIA Board of Directors.

 

breanne wittrock gundersons

Breanne Wittrock, Gunderson’s Jewelers, Sioux City, IA

Breanne Wittrock is well known among NCDIA members as the energetic Vice President of Gunderson’s Jewelers. She is also the Vice President of NCDIA and is the Chair of the Membership Committee. She has a proven track record within the industry and has sustained many long term relationships with her wholesale partners and Gunderson’s clients.

Breanne holds the CGA (Certified Gemologist Appraiser) through the American Gem Society and is also a Graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America.

 

How did you get started working in the industry?  After graduating from GIA I contacted Gunderson’s and they offered me a position. As a child, my parents had friends who were in the industry and I was always fascinated with their gemstone and diamond jewelry, so from a very young age I knew I wanted to do something with jewelry.

Do you have a favorite color diamond? I love them all! But I am particularly fascinated with greens!

What can a retailer do to stay engaged with clients? Social media? Personal contact? Instore events? I think it depends on what client you are targeting. For clients in the market for natural color, personal contact is best. But yes, talk about color on your social media platforms, it can’t hurt. And I always recommend an instore event. They are such a great way to show amazing and unique natural colored diamond pieces! The excitement they generate is very good.

What type of training do you provide for your sales team? How do you keep them motivated? I do hands on training color by color. We utilize the materials provided to us by NCDIA as a starting point. The easiest way to keep them motivated is to stay excited! Every day I read about natural color and I am always so excited about what I read it just pours over to all of our staff!!

Any other advice you can give to retailers? Be excited about what you do! It’s contagious!

What do you see as the future for natural color diamonds? I see the prices continuing to go up. I see more consumers entering the marketplace for natural color as now they are really gaining traction with all the media coverage of the auctions and more and more celebrities wearing color on the red carpet.

 

Wholesale Member

NCDIA Marketing Committee Co-Chair Emily Duke sat down to talk with Jose Batista of Rio Diamond Corp.

 

jose batista rio diamond

Jose Batista, Rio Diamond Corp., New York, NY

Jose Batista is an active NCDIA member who works with his father and brother at Rio Diamond Corp. based in New York City. Jose has been working in natural fancy colors since the mid-90s. He has served on several NCDIA committees and is currently a member of the Membership Committee.

 

For those of us who are unfamiliar, can you tell us about your business?  We are a family based wholesale company specializing in natural fancy color diamonds. My name is Jose and I am a second generation wholesaler.  In total, we have been in business for over 46 years.

How did you get started working in the industry?  It’s a family business, and throughout my early years of exploring I would come in to work and learn. After a few years of that, one day it just clicked. I have enjoyed it ever since.

 What diamond color intrigues you most?  The diamond color that intrigues me the most is green. It is one of the most difficult colors to cut and for GIA to determine.  If not cut properly you can lose the color for one, and secondly, it is a challenge for GIA to determine if the color is natural. Natural radiation and lab radiation can be very similar, resulting in an undetermined grade.

How has this auction season affected the industry? Your business?  I believe the auctions have helped the fancy color diamond industry by exposing fancy color sales to the masses.

Auctions have helped our business by creating more inquiries and demand. However, as an industry we need to educate, guide and be more transparent to the customer. This will help both the customer (to be satisfied with the purchase) and the wholesalers/retailers (by increasing sales).

Can you tell us about a memorable stone, or stone that you handled ?  A stone with a history?  One of the most memorable stones for me was a large oval fancy deep blue VVS layout stone. The stone was really a vivid blue. There were so many people interested in the stone that it was an amazing feeling. After selling the stone, we kept hearing about it from new people and again from others that knew we had owned the stone previously. I am very proud of my father and how he was able to polish and bring out the beauty of the stone. It’s truly an amazing feeling to see others enjoy the beauty that we created.  😉That pops created!

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Industry News: Buyer Beware – Green Diamonds

Image courtesy of Reuters -  Philimon Bulowayo

Image courtesy of Reuters – Philimon Bulowayo

Wholesalers have to be extra cautious when dealing in green diamonds or risk violating U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe.
By Shaun Sim of Rapaport

Wholesalers attending a seminar at the Natural Color Diamond Association (NCDIA) in NewYork City expected to find out whether Zimbabwe green diamonds bearing Kimberley Process (KP) certification made them legal to trade. Instead, they learned that U.S. sanctions against the country made all diamonds from Zimbabwe not just the green off limits, regardless of whether or not they were KP certified. As the majority of the country’s diamond production came under Mugabe’s control, the sanctions effectively stopped diamond trading between Zimbabwe, the EU and the U.S. About ten years later, the EU, pushed by Belgium, lifted the bans on Zimbabwe’s diamond mining firms. However, the U.S. kept its sanctions in place.

In 2003, then-President George W. Bush signed an executive order for economic sanctions against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, other individuals and companies. The sanctions were a response to the human rights violations by the Mugabe government, suspected money laundering and alleged funding of terrorist activities. Around that time,the European Union (EU) had imposed similar sanctions against Zimbabwe.

As the majority of the country’s diamond production came under Mugabe’s control, the sanctions effectively stopped diamond trading between Zimbabwe, the EU and the U.S. About ten years later, the EU, pushed by Belgium, lifted the bans on Zimbabwe’s diamond mining firms. However, the U.S. kept its sanctions in place.

Many seminar attendees asked speakers Cecilia Gardner, president,chief executive officer (CEO) and general counsel of the JewelersVigilance Committee (JVC),and Tom Gelb, educational director of NCDIA, what they could do to protect themselves.“The first thing is to ask for a certificate,” said Gardner. The onus is on the buyer to make sure that

not only is the green diamond KP compliant,as the U.S. is a member of the agreement, but that the buyer should also ensure that the stone did not come from Zimbabwe.

RARE BUT INCREASINGLY POPULAR

Green diamonds are exceedingly rare. According to Gelb, Zimbabwe accounts for as much as half of global green diamond production.There has also been a dramatic increase in production because of increased activity in Zimbabwe’s Marange region. Guyana and Brazil are the other large producers of green diamonds.

Green diamonds started to take off in late 2014, when celebrities were seen sporting emeralds on the red carpet. “Diamond dealers started thinking that if emeralds were popular,why not green diamonds? We started having people asking us where to source for green diamonds and for the price range,” said Gino Di Geso, director of NCDIA.

Over time, industry players became aware of the issues involved in dealing in green diamonds: Namely, the fact that green diamonds were likely to have come from Zimbabwe and that they were illegal.“NCDIA members would ask,‘Are we allowed to deal with these goods?’and ‘Are they okay if they were KP certified?’”said Gelb, adding that the members mostly asked about the KP process. He said that knowledge of the U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe was scant.“You have to go searching for it to even know about it,” said Gelb.

HARSH PENALTIES

Many dealers did not know about the consequences of possessing Zimbabwe green diamonds.“I sort of knew about the issues concerning Zimbabwe and I knew about the sanctions, but the seminar showed me the details of the regulation,” said attendee Ishay Ben-David, owner of Ishay Ben-David Corp., a wholesaler of natural colored diamonds. The seminar explained that the U.S. government could do what is called a“claw back,”where the government could simply go into a dealer’s bank account and take money out of it for the value of the diamond or profits derived from the sale of it.The government could also indict an individual for criminal conduct or sue civilly for violating sanctions,according to Gardner.

Wholesalers were not pleased to learn how easy it was to fall afoul of the law.“It seems that there is not much you can do to protect yourself,” said Kushal Sacheti, CEO of Galaxy USA Inc. in NewYork City.“The law is so vaguely defined and nobody can prove or disprove if a diamond is from Zimbabwe,”he said.

Once a diamond is cut,it is very hard to prove its origins. Furthermore,as green diamonds receive their color from radiation, which penetrates the stone to varying depths, it is possible for a green diamond to end up appearing like a D flawless stone when cut and polished, making it difficult to pinpoint its origin, said Gelb.

This presents a problem for traders, who only have the guarantee from sellers that their diamonds did not originate in Zimbabwe. “The government, which is tracking these stones, knows they are from Zimbabwe but we don’t,” said Sacheti.“Even if we ask and are told they are not from Zimbabwe, if they end up being from Zimbabwe, there’s nothing we can do.”

Some wholesalers believe that their experience helps them identify Zimbabwean green diamonds.“They have a sort of grayish yellow tint to them,” said Ben-David. However, Gelb felt that such anecdotal practices are not foolproof. “This may be the standard practice for diamond dealers, but from the point of view of science, any diamond that came from Zimbabwe could certainly look like it could have come from some where else,”hesaid.

RISKY MARKET AHEAD

Currently, the availability of green diamonds is still so low that it remains mostly a collector’s market, though that might change in the future.“It is certainly the fastest- growing color aside from pink and blue,” said Di Geso.

While demand for that color grows, the politics hanging over Zimbabwe diamonds are not likely to change in the near future, according to Gardner. “The Zimbabwe government hasn’t really changed much,”she said.“I guess we just have to be extraordinarily careful,” concluded Sacheti. ✦.

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The Mystique and Beauty of Green Diamonds

By David Shara and Josh Cohn.

It’s the color that symbolizes growth, harmony and the environmental movement, but when the color green is mentioned, gemologically speaking, people initially tend to think of emeralds. However, a growing buzz in the diamond and jewelry industry is all about the extremely rare and valuable natural color diamonds.

Diamonds have been known as the hardest and rarest of all natural substances since at least the 4th century BCE. For 2,000 years, India was the world’s only source of diamonds, but new mines discovered in Borneo in the 16th century, and the huge Brazilian discoveries in the 1720s broke the Indian diamond monopoly.

The extraordinary rarity of green diamonds is evident from the historical records of India: millions of carats of diamonds were mined, hoarded and traded before 1725, without a record of even one large natural green, polished diamond. A few examples may have been found, but these were probably mistaken for emeralds and improper polishing probably destroyed the green color, as described below.

The spectacular 41-carat “Dresden Green” diamond, which probably orginated in India, first appeared in the historical record in 1722. A diamond dealer named Marcus Moses offered it for sale to Friedrich Augustus I (“August the Strong”), elector of Saxony and king of Poland in 1726. His son, Friedrich Augustus II bought the diamond from the Jewish merchant Delles at the Great Annual Easter Fair at Leipzig in 1741. A continuous historical record and provenance has accompanied this extraordinary Rosetta Stone of green diamonds ever since.

At the close of World War II, it was taken to Russia by Soviet troops, and then returned to Dresden in 1959 and is now on display in the Jewelry Room of Dresden’s Green Vaults. As the earliest known green diamond, it is a gemological specimen of unparalleled importance. More recently, the “Ocean Dream” was displayed as part of the Smithsonian’s “The Splendor of Diamonds” exhibit, alongside the De Beers Millennium Star, The Heart of Eternity and the Moussaieff Red.

Cut from an 11-carat rough, when the 5.5-carat stone with a color grade of Fancy Vivid Blue-Green was sold at Christies Geneva in 2014, it was accompanied by a GIA letter stating it to be the largest natural color diamond of this color. With a realized price of $8,781,637, it shows how sophisticated buyers are willing to pay large sums to own rare natural green diamonds. The existence of the thoroughly documented Dresden green diamond, two centuries before the invention of nuclear reactors (whose radiation can synthetically add green color to diamonds), proves that nature can produce magnificent green diamonds.

Diamonds are composed of crystallized carbon. Every carbon atom in a diamond is surrounded by four near neighbors, each one of which is another carbon atom. By knocking carbon nuclei out of their crystal lattice positions, radioactive decay products produce vacancies in diamond crystals. These vacancies can interact with the free electrons in diamond lattices to produce green diamonds.

However, the green color in diamonds can be destroyed.If a stone is momentarily over-heated during polishing, its vacancies can be partially “filled-in” by displaced carbon atoms, or by allowing vacancies to pair up. Much of the green color is then lost. Polishing a green diamond is not for the impatient or the faint of heart.

Fortunately, there are sophisticated tests that allow the determination of the origin of green color in a diamond. Decades of research by scientists at the GIA have documented subtle differences in the spectrographic behaviors of natural and irradiated green diamonds. This and other subtle clues allow GIA scientists to assign origins of “natural”, “undetermined” or “irradiated” to almost all green diamonds.

Not surprisingly, diamonds with a GIA certificate stating that the gem’s color is “natural” are far more rare, valuable and collectible than diamonds whose color origin is uncertain or clearly synthetic.

Polishing a natural green diamond may require weeks or months of effort by a highly skilled artisan. The polisher must smooth the surface of the diamond, and produce dozens of facets to make the diamond glow and scintillate, without removing most of the natural radiation staining. A microscopic examination of most natural green diamonds shows multiple tiny areas of green and green-black staining that the polisher has left intact. These are both proof of the natural origin of a diamond’s green color, and the source of that beautiful color.

So, what does it mean for green diamonds when emeralds and “pretty colored” stones were all the rage at award shows such as the Grammys and Emmys this year? The acsent for green diamonds is surely not far behind.

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