Failure of 57,000 Carat “Emerald” To Sell Is No Surprise ...
But Arrest of Owner IS!
By Gemologist Antoinette Matlins
(Author of Jewelry & Gems: The Buying Guide)
As I sat at the airport awaiting my flight to Tucson for the annual international gem show—the largest in the world—and thinking about the much publicized “rare, valuable, 57,000 carat ‘emerald’” that was to be sold at auction, with a pre-sale estimate well into the millions, I learned it had failed to sell. While this comes as no surprise to gemologists and serious collectors, what does come as a surprise is that the owner has been arrested by Canadian police, on numerous counts of fraud in Ontario. This may be a first! You can read all about it at: http://www.vancouversun.com/World+largest+emerald+fails+find+buyer+Kelowna+auction/6067839/story.html
But this is not the first time someone has tried to sell a worthless rock as something rare and valuable. Upon first hearing about this emerald, and already focusing on my workshops and lectures in Tucson, I could only think back to the giant “hunk” of sapphire that was bought a number of years ago, in Tucson. The buyer paid almost nothing for it, but it subsequently became the focus of the media as “the world’s largest sapphire” and “valued” at over a million dollars! It, too, got a lot of publicity, but that’s all it got. I don’t know what happened to it, but hopefully it was crushed and used for driveway gravel!
The 57,000 carat “emerald” – touted as the largest “cut” emerald in the world – is another such story. Even in photos, knowledgeable people could see there was a lot wrong, and claims were dubious at best. Doubt arose immediately as to whether or not the stone is even green (evidence of dye can actually be seen in images being circulated), but that’s not the only detractor: it is also semi-opaque, has little if any brilliance, and lots of surface reaching cracks throughout the stone. One word comes immediately to mind when gazing upon this emerald: ugly. In short, it’s not a “gem.”
Here again, the only thing one can say about this 57,000 carat cut emerald is that it’s heavy; hence the name with which it was dubbed by many gemologists and serious collectors: the emerald doorstop. And it would make a “gem” of a doorstop…as long as it doesn’t find itself sitting in a puddle into which the green dye might be released and stain the floor!
While I’m glad to know this emerald didn’t sell, and it’s heartening that the person trying to misrepresent the facts is facing charges of fraud, it also occurred to me how sad it is that the unknowing public – including the media – can be so easily exploited into thinking such material is actually a “gem.” When the media itself – to whom people turn for reliable information – can be so easily duped into publicizing such a stunt, it underscores how few really understand what a “gem” is. Just because a stone is identified as "emerald," "ruby," "sapphire," and so on, does NOT mean the stone is a gem! Understanding the difference between a “gem” and something that would be better used as driveway gravel or a doorstop can mean the difference between a few dollars and millions!
At it’s simplest level, First and foremost, a "gem" must be beautiful, it must be a quality that is rare (here is where such things as natural color, differences in specific hue/ transparency/clarity, etc are judged), and it must be durable enough to stand the test of time. This huge emerald—assuming it's actually green, and that it’s one piece and not multiple pieces held together by a green-tinted bonding agent--is not beautiful to behold, the quality is exceptionally low, and it has so many surface reaching cracks that it could hardly be called "durable."
Within the trade I’ve heard a lot of comments related to this, and to how “stupid” consumers are, but I take exception with this characterization. It makes me angry and it isn’t true. Consumers aren’t stupid, but where gems are concerned, they are very ignorant, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss; ignorance in this field is costly.
But what has the jewelry trade done to help consumers understand? What is being done to give them anything other the most superficial information? Where are they supposed to learn what a gem is – and why this emerald, and the sapphire a few years ago, and others yet to come to our attention, are not?
It would be refreshing if the media would actually do a follow-up on this story and use it as a way to educate their viewers/readers/listeners so that they won’t be duped the next time one of these rocks surfaces. Speaking of which, now I’m off to Tucson, and the largest gem show in the world, where opportunity -- and opportunists – abound!