P.O. Box 824
Salida, CO 81201
May Road Trip, Wow!!!
During the past four May's John has had to schedule a trip to Oregon to do the annual assessment work on our claim in the sunstone area. So as to not waste a good trip he has been scheduling stops along the way to collect minerals and gem rough. This year's trip was exceptionally successful.
Leaving Salida on May 12th, Mother's Day, he headed west for a night's stay in Green River, Utah bypassing the Yellowcat agate location as we have enough of the fine agate from there for now. We recommend that if you ever find yourself in Green River to try out Ray's for a meal. They make exceptional steaks, burgers, and Donna's favorite, chicken salad.
The next day John headed west to the Delta, Utah area, stopping first at Sunstone Knolls, south of Deseret, Utah. This is a state recreation area where one can collect facet grade labradorite. The outside temperature was in the mid-90's which did not deter collecting labradorite, the largest facetable piece weighing approximately 10 carats.
The next two nights were spent in Delta at the Days Inn. Our usual lodging location that allows pets was full so the Days Inn was our next choice. We found the accommodations to far exceed what we were expecting. In addition we felt very safe as there was a convention of police officers in Delta the same two nights and at least a dozen of them, many with their K9 companions, staying at the same hotel.
May 14th found John heading to Topaz Mountain, about 50 miles northwest of Delta. He had visited the location during the late 1970's and hadn't returned since. The location is easy to find with directions from Delta in most rockhound and gem trail books. Finding a location to search for topaz was not difficult. The washes in the area sparkle with fragments of clear, colorless topaz. To find the much treasured amber color topaz one has to break a lot of rock since the topaz fades to colorless soon after it is exposed to sunlight. John found many topaz crystals but most were too small to cut. Two pieces that may merit cutting will be weighed and evaluated before any attempt to cut them. Once again the temperatures were in the mid-90's requiring quite a few beverages to keep hydrated.
The next day John headed west to Ely, Nevada and Garnet Hill. He visited this location last year and had a great deal of success. Upon arriving at Garnet Hill this year he found the parking lot full of vehicles and various rockhounds gathered around to show their finds which consisted mostly of fist size pieces of rhyolite with a single, small, spessartite garnet. Returning to the spot where he had experienced success the previous year he found that probably fewer than a half a dozen people had been there during the course of a year and digging where he left off he found a dozen exceptional specimens including one with a total of nine garnets on it. Returning to the parking lot he was glad to find that most of the rockhounds had already left so he did not have to show off his finds.
That day John proceeded on to Wells, Nevada for two night's stay. Both nights he enjoyed exceptional meals at the Chinese Restaurant located on the west side of the town. The next day he headed north to the location known as Texas Springs, which is known for exceptional pink petrified wood limb casts. The guide book he used took him almost to Jackpot, Nevada, on the border with Idaho. He then left the road and headed towards the location the book described. A wrong turn, that was indicated in the book, took him 15 miles outside of his way before backtracking and eventually finding the location.
Guide books and the internet describe this location in various conditions. One even stated that the location is closed although John found no signs or indications that this was the case. Soon after leaving his car, John was finding reddish brown and pink agate. Some of the better material was pink "snakeskin" agate. A few limb casts were found and a large piece of petrified wood. All in all John had no trouble finding plenty of agate. One note to make, as he was leaving he did see a claim marker to the north of where he had collected. The status of the area should and will be checked prior to any visits to this location in the future.
May 17th found John heading to Oregon and the sunstone area. He has visited this area at least once a years since 2004. The trip takes one through northern Nevada, by the Virgin Valley opal area and on into Oregon. After a stop in Lakeview, Oregon for supplies and gasoline he headed out to the sunstone area and the Dust Devil Mine where they allowed him to stay in one of the trailers on the property. Don and Terry, the owners, were there along with a half dozen of workers, all of whom were more than glad to assist in the search for sunstone. This year there were a couple of areas where fine red sunstone was being found and before long John had found some. Even before he began digging he found a nice piece of red sunstone in the parking lot while talking to Donna on the cell phone.
John was joined by Bob from Seattle the next day. For a $50 fee one can purchase a belt run, where three front end loader scoops of ore is run through the processor and the one get to keep whatever is found on the belt. One does have to pay for anything that is found, however, the prices are extremely reasonable. Bob found a beautiful, 76 carat pieces of exceptional red sunstone, his cost for the piece was less than $100!
The weather changed while in Oregon and morning were cold with temperatures in the 20's. We visited our claim and did some measuring of dip and slope of the red ash layer which marks the bottom of the productive zone for red sunstone. All indications are that this zone is still at least 25 feet beneath the bottom of the exploratory hole we have been working on for four years and will probably require us to bond the property in order that we can properly determine the depth to the pay zone.
Leaving the Dust Devil John headed to the Sunstone Butte Mine to purchase a little rough. This used to be a fee area but has been discontinued as such in 2013. A few small pieces of green sunstone were acquired but it was disappointing not to be able to search for ones own.
Heading back to Colorado was uneventful with stops in Eureka, Nevada and Green River, Utah for a night's stay. John could not resist temptation and make another visit to Sunstone Knolls in Utah for another hour and a half of collecting.
Returning to Salida, John spend most of May 24th catching up on business and communications that occurred while he was a way, but true to the gemaholic in him he joined several friends for a collecting trip to the Calumet Iron Mine near Salida on May 25th. What did he find? That will have to wait until another newsletter.
July 2012 Road Trip
Seventeen days and almost 4,000 miles later our road trip to the Northwest
Salida, Colorado mid afternoon on July 31st. Originally we had hoped
to spend an
additional day in Kemmerer, Wyoming fossil hunting but a cold caught
John by surprise
and it seemed best to head for home a day early.
Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens, Washington on a rare clear day.
During those seventeen days we spent nights in nine different locations;
Idaho; Troutdale, Oregon; Issaquah, Washington; Ponderay, Idaho; St
Philipsburg, Montana; Elkhorn Hot Springs, Montana; Lava Hot Springs,
Walden, Colorado. We mention this in the event that one of our customers
wish to travel
to any of these location we can offer recommendations as to where to
stay or things to do.
Deer encounter in Idaho, Bear near Crystal Park, Montana
Several of the places we stayed were in locations we had never visited
before and in
each case were delighted by the local attractions, scenic beauty, wildlife
friendly people. Each in its own way was unique and it would be difficult
to say which
was our favorite.
Garnet Mine directions near Fernwood, Idaho
Our first gem stop was at the Emerald Creek, Idaho garnet location.
We spent the
night in St Maries, Idaho, a working logging town about 30 miles from
This was probably the undiscovered gem of our trip as the town is quite
scenic with the St Joe and St Maries Rivers running through it surrounded
by mountains and forest of
incredible beauty. Here we swan in the river, went on a boat ride that
spontaneously to us, and concluded with John joining some of the local
jumping off a railroad bridge into the St Joe River, 26 feet below!
John trying to fly off a railroad bridge in St Maries, Idaho
The next morning we headed to Emerald Creek to hunt for Idaho Star Garnets.
mine is run by the US Forest Service and is open from 9AM to 5 PM Friday
Tuesday (closed Wednesday and Thursday). Admission is $10/person which
allows one to search for garnets for an entire day with a limit of 5
pounds of garnet per person.
We spent three hours screening for garnets. Donna took video while John
for garnets. Afterwards we had our finds weighed by the Forest Service
employees at the
mine and found out that we had 8 ounces of various grades of garnets.
We were told that
the average for a person screening for a full day was 3 to 4 ounces
so we felt we had done pretty well. Further checking of our fines indicated
that we had 6 to 8 potential star
garnets and one facet grade piece of garnet.
Hanging flower basket on the streets of Philipsburg, Montana
Philipsburg, Montana was a pleasant 5 hours drive from Emerald Creek
a stop for pizza at our favorite pizza restaurant, Tower Pizza (3000
Brooks in Missoula,
Montana). A pizza and a cold beer later we were on our way to Philipsburg
nights at the R House, a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) house where
we have stayed
many times in the past. We were joined by friends there.
Gem friends Becky and Mike from Pennsylvania at Gem Mountain
The next day we headed to the Gem Mountain Mine, about 28 miles from
Philipsburg for some sapphire screening. We purchased 12 buckets of
gravel that when
washed produced over 300 carats of mostly small sapphires, none very
large but with
each screen we washed we had visions of the “large” one.
Upon leaving Gem Mountain
we saw a large cow moose close to the road and then further on were
treated to a golden eagle sitting along side the road followed immediately
by a pair of bald eagles sparring in the air.
Yes, Donna does do some digging!
An amethyst scepter crystals found by Donna near Homestake Pass, Montana
The following day we headed to a claim in the Homestake Pass area east
of Butte to
hunt for amethyst, smoky quartz, and scepter crystals. We had considerable
success with the smoky quartz and a little light colored amethyst but
failed to find the deep, neon
purple amethyst for which the claim is known.
Mike assisting the woman who found the 5.5 carat blue sapphire
5.5 carat dark blue sapphire with an orange "yoke", the one
that got away!
A day’s rest was followed by two more trips to Gem Mountain. Each
screened 12 buckets of gravel and our finds were similar with recoveries
in the 300 carat
range each day. Our largest sapphire weighed 3.12 carats with several
in the upper 2 carat range, all of which could produce gems over 1 carat
in size when cut. The second day we saw a large, darker blue sapphire
recovered that weighed almost 6 carats and later were shown a medium
blue sapphire that weighed over 7 carats. Visions of similar finds for
us did not materialize although our friends found a 5.20 carat sapphire
during our final visit.
Some of the sapphires found by our friends at Gem Mountain.
Apache digging for "chippies" at Crystal Park, John in the
We left Philipsburg for Crystal Park, Montana, another collecting area
run by the US
Forest Service with assistance from local gem and mineral societies.
Here you are
allowed to dig for free with the only fee being a $5/day charge per
vehicle. This was our
fourth visit to Crystal Park. We had lots of success finding quartz
crystals but the highly
prized amethyst crystals and scepters alluded us. It was while we were
here that John
came down with a nasty cold that resulted in us changing our plans for
the rest of the trip.
We left Elkhorn Hot Springs and headed for Lava Hot Springs in Idaho.
accommodations at Elkhorn Hot Springs were very “rustic”,
those at Lava Hot Springs
were quite luxurious. We celebrated Donna’s birthday with tubing
down the Portneau
River that runs through Lava Hot Springs followed by an excellent meal
at the Thai
From Lava Hot Springs we headed for Walden, Colorado, a place we had
through many times with the promise to stop and stay one day. Walden
is the “Moose
Viewing Capital” of Colorado and although we saw two moose in
Montana we thought it
would be nice to see some in Colorado as well.
Rainbow over Arapahoe National Wildlife Refuge near Walden, Colorado
A pair of northern harriers in the Arapahoe Wildlife Refure
A muskrat that tempted Apache to play in the Arapahoe National Wildlife
Our first night we tried to see moose with no success. We were, however,
one of the most spectacular rainbows we have ever seen and a proliferation
of water fowl
and birds, many of which we had not previous seen.
The pair of moose, south of Gould, Colorado
Moose along road at the Moose Information Center south of Gould, Colorado
Early the next morning we headed toward Gould, Colorado, about 22 miles
Walden where we were told our chance of seeing moose was much greater.
We were not disappointed as we spotted a large bull moose and a cow
moose just off the road about four miles from Gould and then on our
return saw two young moose calves along the side of the road by the
Moose Information Center south of Gould.
We concluded our trip with a side visit to Granby, Colorado and Lake
Grand Lake, a spectacular area of Colorado that we had not previously
visited. What an
impressive area although it has been highly developed with expensive
homes and little
lake front to enjoy.
The final leg of our trip took us past Green Mountain Reservoir, the
some of Colorado’s facet grade sphalerite and although it was
tempting decided against
looking for any during this trip.
All in all it was a great trip with lots of new adventures and friends.
included some images of this trip on our website for those of you who
do not receive our
monthly newsletter via the internet.
2012 First Field Trip
We went on our first field trip of the year to the barite deposits located
Junction, Colorado. This location is well known for its water clear,
fine barite crystals.
We left Salida on a wonderful, warm, sunny day and headed west. March’s
in Colorado has been exceptionally warm and dry, which is conducive
to rock hounding
but not for the recreation and agricultural businesses that heavily
depend on our winter
precipitation for their livelihood.
The weather during the day we headed to the deposit turned overcast
and windy. The
overcast skies were welcomed as even in March the temperatures at the
deposit can be
unbearable under a bright sun.
We were joined on this trip by Rick Scott, the current manufacturer
of the Raytech Shaw
Faceting Machine for his first visit to this location.
Apache, John, Sapphire, and Rick
The barite crystals are found in nodules that are located within the
gray Mancos shale
that forms the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction. Numerous nodules
worked over the years and upon examining a few located near where we
vehicles we quickly found several barite specimens.
Note the "cushion" John is lying on.
It sure beats rocks!
As the day progressed we moved from one
nodule to another with some success. Many
of the crystals we found were of the classic “chisel” terminations
and clear, facet grade
As we were preparing to leave we found a nodule that had several pieces
laying nearby with root beer barite attached. What made this find even
more notable was
that some of the root beer barite was facet grade which we had not seen
then located several barite crystals sticking out of the ground which
ended up extending
our visit by over an hour.
Root Beer Barite on matrix.
The following day we returned to Salida via US Highway 50 encountering
conditions and snow most of the way. Thankfully the snow had held off
previous day’s activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you not participate in more trade shows?
This question has come up more and more during the past four years as
from being part of as many as 17 shows in one year, to 6 in 2011, and
now what appears
to be 1 in 2012.
Several factors contributed to our decision to discontinue some shows.
Probably the most influential factor was the decline in business while
Years ago we did as many as 8 International Gem and Jewelry Shows a
Unfortunately over time the quality of these shows declined to the point
where to fill
booth space the promoters opened their show to almost anyone who would
pay the ever
increasing booth fee. At one of our last “Intergem” shows
we were able to purchase bed
sheets at one booth and chiropractic “tens” units at another.
This shift in the focus of the
shows resulted in less and less business for us as serious gem buyers
were no longer
attending the show. We saw where a typical show in the past would have
had as many as a dozen serious gem dealers that number dropped to two
or three which would no longer draw the customers necessary to produce
enough sales for a successful show. At our last two “Intergem”
shows we experienced our gross sales fall below what our expenses were
and the decision was made to discontinue contracting as dealers.
We shifted our focus to club gem and mineral shows and experienced success
them for awhile. The Colorado Springs Gem and Mineral Society Show was
successful for us for many year. Then the executive board of the club
decided to change
the nature of their show to an outdoor show which is not conducive to
gem sales and we
had to discontinue our participation in it. Last year the show was once
again held indoors but a poor selection of location and disorganization
resulted in another losing commercial venture for us.
The Dallas Gem and Mineral Society lost the dates they had for the show
weekend prior to Thanksgiving and thus moved it to a weekend that conflicts
obligations we have so that show has been lost.
The COMA Show in Salida during July also occurred at a conflicting time
and as a
result we will not be participating in it this year.
We participated in the GJX Show in Tucson for fifteen years and gradually
business decline as the show grew larger and larger, booth fees were
increased each year, and our expenses could no longer be justified by
business we conducted at the show.
We would like to increase our shows but business sense has to be a part
decision to do so.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
We are often asked questions concerning our business and its history
in emails, at
shows, and over the telephone. We will attempt to address many of these
questions here and in the future and will keep them posted on our website.
If you have a question you would like us to address bring it to our
attention and we will attempt to answer it for all to see and enjoy.
When did you first become interested in gems and minerals?
One of my first recollections in life was playing with my older sisters
in a vacant lot
behind our home in West Reading, Pennsylvania. This lot used to be a
When I was about three years old I found a piece of limestone with transparent
crystals on it. It seems that from then on I was always drawn to transparent,
minerals which also in many cases could be cut into gems.
Who taught John to facet gems?
John decided to start cutting gems after being in the business for several
faceting machine was offered to him for sale back in September of 1989
and it was just a
matter of time before he sat down and started cutting.
As to who taught him the best answer would be no one. John read the
books and started cutting on his own. The first gem he cut that is pictured
on our website (see below) is a good indication that he started from
This does not mean that he did not have help. Having been in the business
several years prior to beginning cutting he know several people in the
business who were
cutters who he could approach with questions.
Jerry Hess, Bob Spomer, Mike Gray, Buzz Gray, Mark Krivanek, Nanct Attaway,
and Art Grant have all been of assistance during the past 22 years of
During one period of time polishing quartz gems presented a problem
and as a result
John shied away from cutting gems like amethyst, citrine, and smoky
quartz. When he
mentioned this to Mike Gray in Tucson one year Mike suggested a new
even sent a sample polishing pad that corrected the problem and is still
Polishing a large topaz was causing problems just last year. John contacted
Spomer who recommended a slight change in the procedure he was using
the problem quickly.
Art Grant was particularly helpful during the early days of John’s
faceting when he
was attempting to cut softer rare gems such as calcite, cerussite, and
Similarly, Jerry Hess, who has since passed from this earth, gave advice
Mark Krivanek, who was a partner in business with D&J Rare Gems
during most of
the 1990’s and who is also an accomplished gem cutting in his
own right gave advice
during our association with him and has remained helpful through all
We have always been very appreciative of the fact that we had these
cutters to contact when questions arose and as a result have extended
Gem cutting is an activity whether it be a hobby or a profession that
offers one of the
most rewarding experiences one can have. Imagine the sense of accomplishment
must experience after seeing an unattractive piece of rough gem transformed
sparkling, beautiful gemstone as the result of one’s labor. Each
time John cuts a gem
there is the thrill of anticipation of the results once the gems has
been cleaned and its
beauty exposed for the first time.
What was the first gem you sold?
The first gem I sold occurred when I was finishing up my gemologist’s
the Gemological Institute of America. I was attending the labs each
day in order to
complete my training sooner. Back then when you had to identify gems
you were sent a
set which you identified and sent your finding back to GIA. An instructor
your results and send them back. This could take weeks. By attending
the lab it could be done in hours.
While at the lab another student was having a problem with an identification.
looked at the gem and told him it was a kornerupine. He asked how I
knew and I told
him I had one in my reference collection. He asked if I could get him
one which I could.
I sold my collection gem to him at twice what I paid for it and subsequently
sold about six other gems during the remaining days I spent at the
When was D&J Rare Gems founded?
We founded D&J Rare Gems soon after completing my gemologist’s
July of 1985. Our first advertisement was a classified ad in Lapidary
Journal. A friend
continued to assist us while we were living in Malawi, Africa from July
September 1988. Upon returning home from Africa we made the decision
to develop the
business into a full time venture.
On a side note, it was not until October of 2005 that I completed the
the Graduate Gemologist’s Certificate. Today GIA limits its students
to five years from
the time they initiate their studies until they can complete them for
a G.G. certificate.
How and when did you get started cutting gems?
I was always fascinated with cut gems and wanted to see how they were
we visited Sri Lanka during 1988 we visited a cutting factory and watched
were cut. This stuck with me and when I was offered a Raytech Shaw faceting
in September 1989 I jumped at the opportunity to purchase it. I had
a lot of gem rough
that I acquired while in Malawi and I also had some that I had collected
here in Colorado
so I had plenty of material on which to practice.
What was the first gem you ever faceted?
The first gem John faceted, October 1989, a 3.24 carat quartz from Missouri
The first gem I ever faceted was a colorless quartz that I had collected
Ridge in Chaffee County, Colorado. I cut a round brilliant gem that
turned out pretty bad
as I did not have anyone to instruct me as to what I was doing. All
I did was read the
instruction manual that accompanied the faceting machine and did my
best. My second
gem was also a round brilliant colorless quartz from Missouri Ridge
that turned out much
better. My third gem was a round brilliant smoky quartz from Mt Antero,
Colorado that I
ended up selling for $18.00. Since then I have cut thousands of gems
and look forward to
the opportunity to cut one whenever I can.
Subsequently I did receive lots of instruction and advice from many
of the gem
cutters here in Colorado and around the country. I’ve always appreciated
and gladly provide similar advice to others when they have a question
or a problem that
they can’t solve.
How much of the rough gems that you cut do you collect yourself?
Most gem cutters would love to say they’ve collected all that
they cut but that would
be extremely limiting in what they can offer.
I would say that less than 5% of the gems that I cut and offer in our
newsletter or on
our website are gems where I collected the rough. I do enjoy going in
search of gem
rough and make annual trips to collecting areas here in Colorado, Oregon,
other areas just to search for rough and rarely do I not return without
biggest problem is finding something of substantial value but then if
it was easy more
people would be doing it and the value would not be there. A lot of
the value in the gems
that I cut where I have found the rough is in the time and skill it
takes to cut one. We
open these field trips to our friends and customers and find that the
experience if often far more valuable than anything that any of us finds.
When did you live in Malawi and
what were you doing there?
We have over the years offered gems that came from Malawi and always
that we spent two years living there.
In 1986 we were hired by the Presbyterian Church USA to be teachers
at a school in
Embangweni, Malawi. John taught mathematics, algebra, geometry, and
while Donna taught biology and English as a second language. Our students
secondary level, grades 9 through 12 here in the US and ranged in ages
from 16 to 35
(yes, a few of our students were actually older than we were).
We arrived in Malawi in July of 1986 and spend the first months of our
traveling the country.
Our first experience with gems in Malawi occurred in the capital city
where were approached by street vendor with some tourmaline and aquamarine
Most of this material was heavily parcel worn and had surely been offered
for sale for
many month. We purchases a little and kept a watch for more.
Our next experience with gem rough occurred when we had settled into
in Embangweni. A man came to our door offering black tourmaline and
some red garnet.
We spent the next six months purchasing little bits of rough here and
there. It was
not until we were in the northern city of Mzuzu and we saw a sign for
a gem mining
seminar that we met someone purchasing gem rough commercially. Don Thompson,
rough dealers out of San Diego and his wife had relocated temporarily
to Malawi to
develop a gem business. He looked at the rough I had purchased already
most of it worthless. He show us how to examine rough for inclusions
which went a long
way to improving our purchases.
During the next year and a half we acquired what we could afford in
the way of gem
rough. The more we showed interest in rough gems the more miners sprang
brought us the product of their labor. This was evident one day when
we returned to our
home for lunch to fine 18 miners sitting by our door hoping to sell
what they had found.
One of the interesting findings of our time in Malawi was that we found
miners did not know what we would be doing with the rough gems we were
As a result I send a parcel of rough to Thailand and had it cut and
the finished gems
returned to us to show them. Most expressed amazement as they though
we were melting them down.
Some of our best purchases were made during our last three months in
One day we were approached by one of the miners who regularly visited
some exception aquamarine rough. He informed us that it came from a
new mine. We
expressed interest in seeing the mine but had reservations going to
it as our visas did not permit us to do so. He informed us that the
mine was remote and that he would send a boy to guide us to it the following
Saturday. Sure enough a young boy arrived at our door that Saturday
morning and proceeded to guide us deep into the bush where we came upon
a massive pegmatite deposit containing aquamarine. We were able to search
a little on our own and found some gem grade material.
We departed from Malawi in July of 1988 and have not returned since
we feel the gem potential of this African nation has still to be tapped.
We do hope to return one day and see if some of this unrealized potential
has eventually been mined.
Do You Buy Gems?
Although the answer to this questions seems obvious to most people it
one of the most frequently asked questions at shows and over the internet.
Yes, it would be nice if all the gems we offer came to us for free either
them (we would still have to purchase the rough) or by some magical
means where an
exchange of money does not take place.
We estimate that over 95% of the gems which we offer we have purchased
an outside source. We have been in business for twenty six years and
during that time we have spent many hours contacting various sources
around the world either by direct
contact at shows, email contacts, or as during our early days via snail
mail. When we
lived in Africa our only means of contact was by snail mail and with
a lack of other things
to do spent many of our evenings typing out letters of inquiry to various
During all these years we have established probably fewer than a dozen
we can depend on to offer us gems at prices which we feel we can offer
prices. These gems represent most of what is available in the world
such that if we
receive a request for something we usually know where to obtain it.
Now this presents a dilemma that people who want to sell us gems do
If someone tries to sell us some gems we have to look at it in several
First of all do we need what is being offered?
Say for example someone wants to sell us ten 8x6 mm amethysts of medium
This is what we would consider commercial goods. There are a lot of
sources out there
that will sell us such gems and generally we have an idea just how much
we would have
to pay for them should we need some. In order to purchase the amethysts
have to be priced at an incredibly low price in order to be attractive.
Second, can we expect to sell the gems being offered in a reasonable
Often when we are purchasing a collection we must evaluate how quickly
recover the money we are spending and then make a profit.
A few Summers ago we were offered a collection of some very fine gems.
for the collection was such that we felt we could recover what we paid
within six months
and then with what remained make a profit over time. There were also
a few things in the
collection that we did not mind keeping around. We purchased the collection
six months recovered the money we paid, however, even though this purchase
almost three years ago we still have some of the collection in our inventory
occasionally sell a gem from what remains.
Third, what is the quality of what we are being offered?
Many years ago we were approached at a show to assist in identifying
gems that a
person had purchased. It turned out that they had purchased 50 carats
of gems over the
internet for $16.95. Being courteous we took a look and during the course
of the next few
hours when we had time we were able to identify most of the gems in
however, these gems were at best what would be considered rejects. Many
of the gems
were what we call “parcel worn”. That is they had been handled
in parcels for so long
that their contact with each other had abraded them. Other gems in the
parcel were cut by apprentice facetors who were learning how to cut
on low quality, included rough of little value and in general were very
The person who owned these gems offered any that we were interested
in for sale,
however, there were none there that offered any value to us and we declined
Finally, are what we are being offered something we do not mind having
inventory at the price we have to pay?
What a dealer has in inventory will determine what that dealer’s
customers will be.
We hope to evolve into a dealer who deals just in high end, expensive
gems but that
takes time, however, if one even wants to achieve that status he or
she must have high
end gems in their inventory to attract high end customers. We have purchased
some high end gems for our inventory over the years with that in mind
and still have some of them in stock, but as is said “You can’t
sell what you do not have” so when such gems are offered at a
good price we will purchase them.
Do you cut all of your gems?
This question is frequently asked at shows and although we would certainly
sell just gems that John has cut it would be nearly impossible to do
so. We do believe
that because of John’s gem cutting interest that we select gems
to offer that are usually
well cut by someone else to offer on our website, in our newsletter,
and at shows.
The difficulty in offering only gems that John has cut arises in the
time involved in
On average it takes approximately 3 hours to cut a gem from start to
average newsletter lists approximately 100 gems. If the average time
to cut a gem is three hours the 100 gem represents 300 hours of work
in a month. This would
represent about one half of the time in a month which would not leave
much time for
other activities (Yes, we do have a life outside of gems).
The other factor that needs to be considered is that we often offer
gems for sale for as
little as $5. If John were to have cut that gem and it took him 3 hours
his gross wage for
the effort would be about $1.66 per hour. Back during the 1960’s
John’s first job paid
$1.60/hour but since then the economy has changed and things cost much
first job was pumping gasoline that cost 31.9 cents/gallon!). Also the
includes the cost of the rough gem and equipment and supplies so his
net wage would be even less.
We often joke with our overseas sources who run cutting factories that
are tough we will be moving closer to their cutting factory in order
that we can work for
them. Both of us usually get a good laugh out of the suggestion as their
more than $1.66/hours these days but certainly not what is necessary
to partake in gem
cutting in the United States today.
Do you conduct field trips?
We have in the past announced when we would be going on a trip to collect
gems and minerals and invited our customers along. The vast majority
of people who
have joined us are gemaholics much like us who find a weekend afternoon
gems much more desirable than watching professional sports (or in John’s
around the house). When the weather is good it is time to head for collecting
and we still invite others to join us.
Our Gem Fest in the past included a trip to our peridot claim located
about 25 miles
from our home in Salida where we crawled on our hands and knees and
picked up the
grains of loose peridot that could be found on the surface. Since 2011
was our last year
for Gem Fest we still invite people to join us when we go to our claim
and enjoy the
search for pieces of peridot that are large enough to facet.
We currently own or have an interest in three gemstone claims. The peridot
mentioned above, a newly acquired topaz claim in the Tarryall Mountains,
and a sunstone claim near Plush, Oregon. These claims are open to casual
collecting to our friends and customers who collect responsibly without
major disruption to the surface. If we know in advance of your interest
we may even join you on our claim and assist with your search.
We also announce major trips to collect well in advance.
Each May, John and friends meet at the sunstone claim for assessment
work as well
as digging for gems. Traveling to and from the sunstone mines includes
stops at Clear
Lake, Utah for labradorite and possibly Grand Junction, Colorado for
barite. We also
have tentative plans to visit the quartz mines near Hallelujah Junction,
Nevada to do some gem mining.
During July we make an annual pilgrimage to Montana for digging at Crystal
and some sapphire mining at the Gem Mountain Mine. We are looking to
additional locations to this trip in the future.
In September we hope to return to the sunstone mines and dig at both
our claim and
at the Dust Devil Mine where we have been most welcomed in the past.
There is lots to do each year and we usually run out of time long before
we run out of
interest in collecting gems.
We have received requests to keep October's new article
on appraisals available for awhile. It appears below.
Unfortunately at the recent Denver Show we were approached by more people
wanting to sell gems than wanted to purchase them. This trend has been
and more frequently during the past three years and in all likelihood
will not subside
Most commonly the price these people were asking was based on some form
appraisal and often they were hoping to sell their gems at retail prices
There are many types of appraisals and the value of the items being
vary dramatically depending on what type is represented. We will try
to explain each one
and hope that it clears things up for those considering selling their
gems or jewelry.
The first type of appraisal we refer to as an “Issuing
Seller Appraisal” or "Inhouse Appraisal".
These are the appraisals often referred to by TV gem channels to get
the purchaser to think they are getting a real bargain. The values stated
in these appraisals are often highly inflated far above what one would
pay for at normal retail jewelers. We recall one such channel a few
years ago selling 2 to 9 carat spessartite garnets of fair cutting and
quality offering the gems at $350/carat and telling the viewers that
they were appraised at $1,800 to $2,500/carat. They failed to tell the
viewer that these appraisals were conducted in house and that no independent
appraiser would either agree or give a similar value to the gems. These
“fake” appraisals are often used to convince the potential
buyer that they are a great “investment”. When you hear
such claims on a TV gem network we would recommend that you change the
channel quickly or get a good laugh from their false claims.
The next type of appraisal is a “Retail Appraisal”
or “Retail Replacement Appraisal”.
This type of appraisal is more realistic in that it will more accurately
reflect how much it would cost to replace the item described within
today’s market. This type of appraisal does not necessarily mean
that should you experience a loss or theft you will receive the retail
value in cash given in the appraisal. It does mean that an effort will
be made to replace with like kind and quality costing up to that amount.
One of our earliest
experiences in the jewelry and gem world was working at a wholesale
worked closely with insurance companies and would often replace a lost
or stolen items
for around half of the retail value. This often created hard feelings
when someone would “lose” an item and come into the store
wanting to be cashed out
for the full retail value. Fortunately we left that up to the insurance
company but had
many nasty encounters with those who thought we were cheating them.
The next type of appraisal would be a “Wholesale Appraisal”.
This type of
appraisal would assure the replacement of a lost item but would not
carry the high value
of a retail appraisal. Most home owner’s insurance policies have
riders for items that
exceed policy limits usually $500 to $1,500 in cumulative value. If
you have total
jewelry valued above this amount you would purchase a rider that would
insure an item
above these limits. Such riders would cost approximately 1% per year.
So for a $5,000
engagement ring one would pay an additional $50 per year to insure it.
A wholesale appraisal would value the same item around $2,500 and reduce
the yearly rider fee to $25. One can see that if a person owns a lot
of jewelry that the riders can become quite expensive and such an appraisal
can greatly reduce that cost. Most cities have wholesale jewelers who
work closely with insurance companies that will replace lost or stolen
jewelry at wholesale appraised amounts.
Another type of appraisal would be an “Estate Appraisal”
where the value is
established to allow for the distribution of someone’s estate
after they have passed away. The value stated in this type of appraisal
is often 1/3 or less of retail value to reflect similar reductions in
value of other items within the estate may have experienced.
Another type of appraisal would be a “Cash Value Appraisal”
or "Liquidation Appraisal". The value expressed
in this type of appraisal would reflect what could be receive for the
item if one wanted to sell it quickly or liquidate it. This value is
often 1/5 or less of retail value. If the item is in great condition
or of a particularly valuable gem it could be higher in that the item
could be resold quickly. The value indicated in this type of appraisal
reflects what most jewelers would pay for the item on the spot.
The next type of appraisal would be a “Scrap Appraisal”.
The value indicated in this
appraisal would be an indication of what the metal and gems are worth
in the current
market. Deductions may occur such as a 10% reduction below spot prices
for gold and in all likelihood a 50% reduction of the value of diamonds
below wholesale prices.
The worse type of appraisal would be a “Pawn Appraisal”.
This type of appraisal
lists the value a pawn shop would assign to your jewelry. This would
be well below scrap
value because the shop owner would offer to buy it at a price he or
she knows they can at least scrap it out at the still make money. Because
pawn shops are the easiest place to sell jewelry they can prey upon
those people coming in the door that have no other outlet to sell their
There are many other factors that will affect what you can sell your
jewelry or gems
for. We recall many years ago when we operated a jewelry store a couple
came into the
store and asked us if we would like to purchase an imperial topaz ring.
We estimated the gem to be at least 15 carats in size. At the time we
had $900 in our bank account and offered all of it for the ring. The
couple obviously offended by our offer left never to be
seen in our store again and surely feeling we tried to cheat them but
had we offered
money we did not have and they accepted we would have looked foolish.
An additional factor that may affect the selling price of a gem would
be the current
inventory holdings of the buyer. If someone was to offer to sell a fine
two carat tsavorite
garnet at a great price and the buyer did not have one in stock he or
she might be inclined to pay slightly more for it. If they have several
such gems in inventory and have not sold one in awhile they would most
likely offer quite a bit less.
More recently with the rapidly changing price of gold and silver the
daily spot price for gold or silver that may be offer to purchase such
metal may be less
than if the price had been stable for several months.
Finally current trends may affect the appraised value of an item. The
tanzanite may cause a buyer to pay more for it and thus its cash appraisal
value would be higher than say for a gem such as garnet or amethyst
which right now experience minimal demand.
Keep this article in mind or make a copy
of it so that you can refer to it should you decide to sell some of
your jewelry or gems in the future. It should at least give you an idea
of what to expect and open you to some options as to how to sell your
A poem By Donna Rhoads
We drove, we dug, we played & stayed
at many cool places this year.
We danced, we laughed, we shared
in the lives and hearts of our friends.
We hunted, we found, we praised and appraised
many gems that abound on this earth.
We studied, we cut, some failed, some sailed
into new homes and collections around.
We thank you very much and wish you a
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in 2013!
Donna and John Rhoads
D&J Rare Gems, Ltd.