Las Vegas International Jewelry Show Highlights:
Innovative Design and “Rubies” That Are NOT!

I’ve just returned from the International Jewelry Show in Las Vegas, where I saw some wonderful new concepts...and some “eye-opening” ruby pieces!

On the sparkling side, there were some exciting new jewelry concepts, with designers such as Yossi Harari and Todd Reed creating innovative looks using rough gems (that is, in their natural, uncut form), and others such as Sethi, reviving antique shapes such as the “rose” cut and “briolette.” Awarding winning cutter Tom Trosso brought smiles with his “floating Bubbles” as did artists Clay Zava with his “pillow cut,” Michael Dyber with his “Luminaire,” David Brackna with his “optical inlay,” and John Dyer with his stunning combination cuts.

At the Niche Show, there were also some exciting discoveries, such as Etienne Perret’s new diamond line in a specially hardened zirconia ceramic, available in white, black, pink and gray! Another very attractive and very affordable line unveiled at the Niche show was Stuart Berger’s eco-line, using natural, untreated rubies, mounted in striking designs with or without diamonds, and set in re-cycled gold or in one of my favorite metals, palladium (a pure metal that is a member of the platinum family but not as rare, which offers the benefits of platinum at a fraction of the price).

There were also gems on view from new sources, such as natural, untreated rubellite (unlike the vast majority that are treated to alter or improve color), from a new locale in Nigeria; this material is producing incredible rich, deep red colors and was one of the most exciting gems seen in Vegas!

But for ruby buyers, caution was the word of the day. There was an unprecedented amount of material being sold as ruby which was NOT! I saw jewelry pieces containing these new imposters -- both in new and “old” jewels -- which is essentially a ruby-like material made by combining tinted lead-glass with extremely low quality ruby to create something that looks much rarer and more valuable. Some of these “rubies” are more than 50% glass, and none of them are very durable; they should sell for only a few dollars per carat, but were being sold for much more, in some cases many thousands of dollars. So buyer beware!
Unfortunately, many jewelers and dealers don’t understand how to identify them and separate them from genuine ruby, albeit “treated” and in many cases, are also over-paying for the stones they are buying. There were also bench jewelers lamenting how they’ve destroyed them when sizing, mounting or re-mounting jewelry containing them, since they lack ruby’s durability and normal bench techniques can’t be used.

So while there is a lot to get excited about, there are also more things to watch OUT for!

Fortunately, these new composition “rubies” are easy to spot when you know what to look for, but it will take time to educate the trade. Only a hand full of dealers, designers, and retailers attended the AGA hands-on workshop in Vegas to show them how, but more programs are being scheduled; I’ve already given 4 workshops on this subject myself, and the CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), Doug Hucker, has already asked me to organize a similar workshop for the AGTA show in Tucson as well as next year’s Vegas show.

For those who want to learn more about these glass-ruby compositions, I’ve included information on them in my latest book -- hot off the press -- the 3rd Edition of Colored Gemstones: The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide (