MARGO FISCHER November 1 1949


MARGO FISCHER November 1 1949



SOME OF the jewels worn by Ann D’Arcy of Toronto in the picture on this page are valued at $6,000; other gems in her costume sell for as little as $6.50. Yet, on her, it all looks good.

Can you tell which are real and which are phony? I’ll give you the answer at the end of this article so you can check your judgment against the facts.

But first let’s talk about some of the new peculiar aspects of the gem business and see why real diamonds should be worth so much more than the impressive-looking test-tube variety.

Perhaps the best explanation is that valuable gems are valuable simply because they are worth a lot of money. And don’t forget the importance of human vanity.

Despite this the trade in synthetic jewelry is booming. The other night at a party in Toronto an elderly aunt singled out her niece wdio was wearing an enormous diamond ring.

“Did you come into a fortune?” she asked.

The girl laughed and replied that the ring cost under $100, that she had bought it out of her secretary’s wages, and that it wasn’t a diamond at all but a synthetic rutile.

This brand-new synthetic gem stone has a brilliancy that surpasses that of the diamond, particularly when worn under artificial light. Because of this it has been given the name “Titania” or night stone. It marks the latest development in the revolution now taking place in the gem world.

For centuries man has tried to outdo or equal nature by imitating or reproducing all the major gem stones. Now he is near victory. At a recent jewelry fair held in Chicago the booth displaying synthetic gems received as much attention and admiration as those displaying the finest natural gems.

Joe Doakes and his wife can now wear rubies, emeralds and sapphires just as beautiful and glittering as Mrs. Vanderbilt’s or the Ducheas of Windsor’s. They will not be mere imitations either, but counterparts, costing only a fraction of what the natural stones do.

Will synthetic gems replace real ones eventually? Why should the natural Continued on page 44 gems cost so much anyway? How can you tell when they’re genuine? How can you tell imitations from synthetics? Why is one gem more valuable than another? And why should people feel they must have these blue and red and white pebbles when, compared to a house or an automobile, they can’t possibly be of any use?

People first wore jewels because they believed they had magic powers. The belief continues today in our wearing of birthstones. The late Evalyn Walsh McLean, whose collection of gems sold for more than half a million dollars, used to say when she felt depressed: “I think I’ll put on all my diamonds. They make me feel like a queen.”

A beautiful woman knows that jewelry calls attention to herself. The proudest possession of any girl is her engagement ring. Men wear gems bebecause they indicate rank and prosperity.

When you buy a natural gem stone you buy a whole little world of history, romance, legend, fashion, sentiment, beauty, mystery, prestige, security, superstition, and frequently fraud and tragic associations of bloodshed. These intangibles, added to the cost of mining, sorting, cutting, polishing, selling and distributing, make natural gems unique and valuable possessions which they are. Synthetics of course have few of these qualifications.

Oysters on Assembly Line

Today all natural gems must be subjected to scientific tests to prove genuine. Among the guests at the first showing of the McLean collection in New York this spring was Dr. A. E. Alexander, of the Gem Trade Laboratory. This nonprofit organization is sponsored by pearl and gem dealers throughout the world. For $2 anyone can send or take a gem stone to the laboratory and Dr. Alexander will examine it, backing up his findings with a certificate.

About seven eighths of the McLean collection on view that day were diamond pieces—including the fabulous Hope, worth $176,920. The others were rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls; all natural products, of course.

“How much are those pearls worth now?” asked a guest.

“We won’t know until Dr. Alexander examines them,” replied the new owner. This is a typical attitude of the modem gem dealer — let science give the opinion.

Pearls have been imitated and manproduced for centuries. Once ranking in value and popularity with diamonds, they are still to be found in almost every woman’s jewel box. But in nine out of 10 cases they will be simulated or cultured.

Though structurally different from natural pearls the cultured variety is still a product of nature. Man inserts a mother-of-pearl bead into an oyster, then waits until the oyster coats it with thin layers of lustrous nacre. Only X-ray tests can distinguish the cultural from the natural.

“Pearls” sold in dime stores are made by dipping glass or plastic beads into a fish-scale essence. The more expensive ones are dipped and dried many times. These imitation pearls can usually be recognized by the eye. A simple test for detecting them is to pull them across the teeth. Simulated pearls feel

smooth. Natural or cultured pearls feel rough. Also acetone dissolves

imitation pearls. It will not harm the oyster-made variety.

The most valuable jewelry treasure in the entire world (you’d never guess) is an ornamental rug made of natural pearls. It is owned by the Gaekwar of Baroda, is 10 j ¿ by 6 feet in size, and worth millions of dollars. The Gaekwar also owns 35 necklaces of genuine pearls each worth around $100,000.

The layman sometimes confuses real and imitation pearls to great advantage. A London woman once picked up a necklace of black pearls for £1 ($4). She didn’t know black pearls existed, nor did the seller. Actually the necklace turned out to be worth $50,000.

He Switched the Stone

Sentiment also causes people to sell gems for a fraction of their value. Recently a Hollywood actress who was down on her luck gave all her jewelry to her agent to sell for her. She accepted the cheque he brought in return and asked no questions. Later she learned that she should have received something like $20,000 more.

When asked why she had not had the jewels appraised, she replied: “But you don’t do such a thing. When someone gives you a gift you don’t go out and try to find how much money he paid for it. You can’t put a money value on anything like love or friendship.”

Lots of people share this feeling. Few think it proper to know the value of jewelry gifts made them by husbands, wives or sweethearts. Sometimes this attitude plays into the hands of a heel.

One night in the summer of 1948 a yacht anchored off Long Island Sound suddenly became illuminated when searchlights began playing on the starboard side. From time to time men in diving helmets could be seen going into the water. Men and women stood watching at the rail.

Earlier one of the guests had dropped an emerald ring into the water. Attempts to rescue it continued vainly far into the night.

On the following Monday one of the men who had been on the yachting party sat in his club laughing as he related to an intimate friend the adventure of the week end.

“Imagine all that excitement over something worth less than a hundred bucks,” he said. “I gave Barbara that ring.”

His companion stared at him. “But I remember when you bought that emerald, Bill. You paid $30,000 for it.”

“Sure,” Bill admitted. “But when Barbara and I broke up I took the ring to have it cleaned. I knew she was planning to divorce me so I had the stone switched. She never knew the difference.”

More “Flawless” than Nature

The substitute emerald was an imitation made by cementing two pieces of colorless quartz together with a green substance which gave it the authentic emerald look. This ruse could have been easily detected by putting the stone into water and looking at it along the edges, but the wife didn’t know this.

Had it been one of the new synthetic emeralds detection would not have been so easy. Only experts with special instruments can detect a synthetic emerald. Unlike rubies, sapphires and spinel, which man can produce in four or five hours, emeralds are grown in crystals over a long period. A really fine synthetic emerald costs around $90 a carat. Synethetic ruby or sapphire can be sold for four or five cents a carat.

Carroll Chatham, a San Francisco chemist, who displayed his first synthetic emeralds in 1935, made a single crystal as large as 200 carats.

The finest natural emeralds come from Muzo, Colombia, and are valued for their transparency, color and scarcity. When “flawless” they command any price, $10,000 per carat being quite usual.

Actually, flawless emeralds are legendary since beryl, the mineral from which they derive, is characterized by thin, veinlike cracks or inclusions. Even imitation emeralds seek to duplicate these cracks. Synthetic emeralds do not have the kind of cracks common to the natural mineral and more closely approach the ideal of “flawless.” Many experts, however, say the true emerald green of the natural gem has not yet been duplicated.

Color is the quality most demanded in gems, since jewel beauty is almost completely dependent on it. But color is confusing and often enables frauds to be perpetrated. P'ew people realize the same mineral comes in many different colors. Beryl, for example, is green, blue, yellow and pink. When it is the right shade of green, it is an emerald; when blue, it is an aquamarine; when yellow, a golden beryl; and when rosepink, Morganite.

Sapphires and rubies are of the same mineral, corundum. When it is a certain tint of red, corundum is a ruby, and when blue, it is a sapphire. Even a less red corundum is a pink sapphire, not a pink ruby—though if you spoke of a pink ruby a gem dealer would know what was meant.

Blue is the color most generally associated with sapphires, but there art? yellow, green, purple, orange and mauve sapphires.

Diamonds, too, may lx? blue, white, pink, yellow, green and even black. Pearls come in all these colors but they are more muted and soft; in a pearl, sheen is more important.

As yet no one has attempted to make a synthetic opal. This is the beautiful gem which FMiny described as combining the red of the ruby, the purple of the amethyst, the blue of the sapphire and the green of the emerald “all shining together in incredible union.” It is a most mysterious gem with its wonderful internal bonfire, hut unfortunately it is the victim of a reg re ttahle su pe rst i t ion.

Timely Tips on Topaz

Once held to be the luckiest of gem stones, the opal was spurned almost overnight when Sir Walter Scott published his novel “Anne of Geierstein.” One of his characters, Duly Hermione, wore a dazzling fire opal in her hair. When she was gay, the opal sparkled. When she was angry, red flames shot from the gem. However, when holy water was sprinkled on the opal it lost its radiance. Furthermore, Lady Hermione fell into a swoon one afternoon and when found the following day she had disintegrated into ashes. The opal, too, was dust.

Immediately the rumor spread that opals were unlucky and the opal business fell off. Actually, the only unlucky thing about an opal is not owning it, say the opal devotees.

Amethyst has not yet been synthesized, though corundum has been colored to pass for amethyst. This gem stone, so many of which are found in the Bay of Fundy, is rich in legend. The name is derived from the Greek amethystos, meaning “not touched.” One of the unique virtues allotted to the amethyst is sobriety. When Bacchus became infatuated with a beautiful nymph she fled to Diana for

protection. This angered the Wine God who vowed he would set his tigers upon the girl. But Diana transformed her into a white stone statue. Repenting Bacchus poured purple wine over the statue, turning it from white to a purplish hue, and swore that anyone who wore an amethyst should be immune forever from drunkenness.

The color of many gem stones is frequently altered or improved by various methods of heating, dyeing or X-ray bombardment. If you see a beautiful topaz ring in a jeweler’s window, find its price to be around $1,000, you have every reason to believe the stone to be “precious” topaz, which sells around $200 per carat. But there is another stone called “topaz quartz” which when heat treated becomes the beautiful yellow so characteristic of precious topaz. Topaz quartz is worth little more than $5 per carat, so before buying any jewelry item labeled topaz it would be wise to have it properly identified. Even jewelers with no intention to defraud may sell topaz quartz in the belief that it is precious topaz.

Beryl which is not sufficiently green to rate as an emerald can be heated to a fine blue thus becoming aquamarine. Zircon, the gem stone that most closely resembles a diamond in nature, is frequently found yellow-brown in color. This is particularly true of the zircons found in Ontario and Quebec. By heating they can be changed into more desirable colorless or blue-white stones.

Rubies Top the Poll

Heat will lighten rubies and sapphires which are too dark in color. Porous gem stones like turquoise, opal, jasper, agate and chalcedony can be dyed. Only an expert can detect such practices.

Some of the biggest mistakes in the jewelry field have been due to color. In the old days people knew gems only by their colors. Almost every red transparent stone was called a ruby. The “Black Prince’s Ruby,” which graced the British King’s State Crown for nearly 500 years as a true ruby, turned out to lx? spinel when subjected to tests.

Now and then a “reconstructed” ruby turns up. They are difficult to identify since they are made by crushing natural but imperfect Burma rubies to powder form, adding coloring matter, then fusing the whole electrically at high temperatures into a mass. When cut and polished they bear such a close resemblance to the natural gem that even experts have difficulty in telling the difference.

Of all man-made gems the star sapphires and star rubies actually excel nature for the stars are made clear and well-defined whereas in the natural stones they often are faint and blurred.

Professor A. Verneuil, a French gem pioneer, first developed the process of heating and converting highly purified alumina into corundum, the mineral from which rubies and sapphires are derived. Synthetic spinel is produced in such a variety of hues that, together with corundum, all the colors of genuine stones are reproduced.

Despite this, a fine, natural ruby of good size is still the most expensive gem stone in the world. Real rubies are so scarce that their price doubles per carat as the size increases. Fine emeralds increase only about 20%. Rubies and emeralds over 10 carats in size can command any price. Diamonds in this size assume third place, with sapphires fourth.

Individual stones, of course, are always the exception to the rule. A

green diamond of 10 carats might bring just as much as a Burma ruby of 10 carats if the purchaser happened to be partial to green diamonds.

But in popularity the diamond reigns supreme. Diamond sales amount to far more than those of all other gem stones combined.

The diamond is the most negotiable gem stone in the world, being almost the equivalent of currency in peacetime and far more stable during war. The diamond, more than any other gem stone, has the qualities which make any jewelry material valuable: great beauty, the degree of hardness necessary to retain this beauty, and sufficient scarcity to keep up the demand.

A Diamond Meant Death

Few people have any idea of the effort required to bring a diamond from the earth to the jeweler’s counter. For a finished stone of only half a carat, 270 million times its weight must be removed from the mine.

In view of this, the value placed on a diamond like the famous Hope begins to appear reasonable. In 1947 the Hope was officially appraised at $176,920. At one time during owner Mrs. McLean’s lifetime she was offered a million dollars for it. In the rough the Hope weighed 112 V¿ carats. Its present weight is 44 }A, carats.

The Hope (exhibited at this year’s CNE) is remarkable for its unique color and its lurid history. At least 11 violent deaths have been attributed to the wearing of it. At first glance one might mistake it for a sapphire, it is so blue. When it was first purchased by the French Crown it was known as the “French Blue.” Once or twice it was sold for only a few shillings because people would not believe a diamond of its size and color could be anything but a glass imitation.

The only diamonds so far officially listed as man-made are a few tiny black crystals produced by J. B. Hannay, of Scotland, in 1879. These are now in the British Museum.

A Frenchman named Henri Lemoine once caused a stir by announcing that he had found the long-sought secret of how to make diamonds. He obtained $320,000 from a director of the DeBeers diamond syndicate (which controls all South African diamond production) to perfec his process. After some months and a good many gay parties in Parisian cafés he presented his eager sponsor with two sizeable stones.

They met all tests and the DeBeers official was very happy until the stones were identified as having come from one of the DeBeers mines in South Africa. By this time, LeMoine had vanished.

Mae Had Words for It

Everyone knows that a diamond is the hardest known substance and the men who are trying to reproduce them agree with “Diamond Lil” Mae West’s quip on the subject.

Said Mae, “Diamonds are the hardest substance in the world. The hardest to get and the hardest to keep.”

Take a look again at the girl with the jewelry on page 17. Those “diamonds” around her neck cost $20. Those “diamond” earrings are worth $6.50. But the diamond and emerald bracelet is real and sells for $6,000, and the emerald ring is worth $2,500 and the diamond ring $1,500.

Synthetics—like the “brilliants” and rhinestones shown in the picture—have no legend, no superstitions, no romance and no prestige. But they were probably good enough to fool you.