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Gems vs. Metals


Bling, bling baby!!


Prof. McGuirk -

I just got an e-mail from a buddy of mine who lives in Sudan. He is on his way to Burma to buy jade and rubies.

I mentioned silver and gold and his response was that jade and rubies are prettier to look at and easier to transport. While I can't disagree with him, both are "precious" and have to be mined. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Proud to be a Minyan,


Hi Rambo,

Gemstones and other "rocks" get a fair amount of airplay down in our Sydney digs. Lisa is studying gemology and so we talk about this stuff, especially when she sees a nice stone of some description or other.

Let's quickly have a look at gems then. What makes any old rock, a Gemstone? Beauty, durability, and rarity.

Rubies and jade certainly fit the bill - against gold or silver???

You have a fortunate mate who is heading to Burma. There are some marvelous jewels over there and they are certainly valuable. I guess that he is not just going to the "jewelry district" but out to the dealers themselves. Lisa is very envious of your friend and now has another "must do" to do.

I expect that your friend is very knowledgeable about gemstones and is taking the appropriate diagnostic equipment to ensure he is getting rubies- and not maybe other stones like garnet, spinel or maybe some terrific synthetic flame-fused ruby. A 10x hand lens, a dichroscope, a polariscope, a refractometer (for starters, lol )... that's a heap of stuff to lug around and set up lab! But, at least you'd probably know what you were buying.

I understand that rubies are second hardest stones after diamonds and that the deeper red, blue-ish rubies are more highly sought than the lighter "orangier" ones. I also understand that there are "synthetic" rubies at gemstone quality. Some are heat treated to improve color. How does anyone tell the difference without performing all the diagnostics?

Stones are only as good as they are cut. A bad cut of a good stone severely affects the value. A good cut of a bad stone can add significantly to a stones appearance. Some stones just have to be cut certain ways, no matter what size they are. It's just the physical properties of the stone that dictates.

Anyways, there's all these variables when it comes to a precious stone- with gold/silver, there is none. It is either gold or silver or it isn't with simple weights and measures. In gemstones, how does one measure "beauty"?

The one thing I will always say when talking about diamonds or rubies or sapphires or tanzanite or opals or any other "rock", is to do the following little test.

Imagine a 10 carat diamond is worth $100k . Cut the diamond up into 10 pieces. Do you still have $100k worth of diamonds? A $100k block of gold, on the other hand, can be cut up into 10 pieces. Each piece is exactly the same and worth exactly the same. Re-melt the 10 pieces and you have the original gold brick. You cannot re-glue a gemstone back to its original form and value (although doublets and triplets in Opals etc. are a whole story again).

Got your 10 ounce gold bar yet?



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