On this rarified, and unfortunately ever shorter, page we have our last remaining unheated padparadschas over 2 carat. Worse yet than unheated Burma rubies, unheated pads in full size can give even a serious gem trader weak knees.
As counterweight to the sad loss story in the pad between one and two carat section, I promised a winning story. Here it is.
It played out in Bangkok, the world’s center for color gems. A major occupation for any dealer is to look through and reject hundreds of offered gems every day. That may seem strange but the truth is that 99% of all gems out there fall through the cracks if you deal in fine quality. This remains true after the consideration that 95% of all gems are treated, and that I get to see only the 5% untreated gems.
Of these 5%, almost one third (33%) get a pass for a window, another almost one third (33%) go out for inclusions, a final third (33%) for other reasons like bad cutting, color zoning, too dark, too bright etc the list is long and only 1% is finally bought. Naturally, any flaw must be evaluated in relation to its asking price and the potential to improve the gem by a recut, calculating the loss of weight into the asking price. Some gems get thrown out within seconds, others may need an hours of study, deliberation, and if positive, negotiation.
If you are interested in the fun of selection and negotiation process in the gem trade I have here a, I feel interesting, section from ‘Monkey Business’ describing a buyer’s week in Tsavo National Park. It is fiction based on 100% true details.
Back to my winning padaparadscha story. I was looking through a parcel of pastel colored sapphires, mostly pink and purple but also some blue and orange from one to five carats. The seller, a Sri Lankan dealer who had flown in from Colombo, ‘guaranteed’ them all unheated and though I would have them checked out in detail later, the mild colors and bright shades did match what one would expect from a parcel of unheated sapphires. Also, I knew the seller from former times and he was a trustworthy guy interested in maintaining a long term relation with us. Thus he would not cheat.
I picked through the small mountain of gems, moving them from left two right on the table, sorting into a majority group of “no-no” and a smaller heap of “have another look”. From the corner of my eye I noticed a change in color in a 5 carat greyish pink gem that I had dropped onto the “no-no” heap for its egg-shape and the bad saturation (the amount of grey). Because of its asymmetry, the gem had rolled over and as it did, I caught a sideways flash of orange in the pink.
With a most disinterested expression, I gave the gem another push with the tweezers, as if to make it roll back to the no-no heap, and again, it’s egg-shape rolled over and again, it blinked orange on the side.
For the next quarter of an hour I ignored the gem. Rule No.3: never show interest in what you really want. This is not rip-off but part of the dealer's game. If you don't follow people in the trade take you for a fool and never show the real goods.
After the first sorting was concluded, I pulled the “look-again” bunch to the front and with a quick side flick of the tweezers, pushed the pink egg to the potentials. My Sri Lankan seller noted the move but showed no special reaction.
When the turn came to the pink egg I examined it first from the front as normal, but then turned it around and searched for the orange flash. Yes! there it was! From a different point of view, the table sideways and from the back, the color changed to orange-pink in a soft Light Medium 40 shade with no visible grey. Very sweet. Very padparadscha! Suppressing any signs of excitement, I studied the egg from its unattractive pale pinkish front. The seller had missed a different color table. Or perhaps, he simply had looked for maximum weight, which was the bad pink, ignoring the lesser yield from the more attractive orange-pink table.
This effect, by the way is not color-change, nor party-coloring, nor color-zoning, but pleochroism, one of the magical tricks some gems can play on us, showing two, or more, colors when viewed from different directions. Rarer in sapphire but possible.
My task then was to estimate how much loss a cut into the orange-pink view-table would cause. A lot, but still, from sad pink to fine padparadscha color even 60% loss would turn a sky-high profit. I would pay five carat cheap pink to get two carat fine pad.
Talking about the rain we expected in Bangkok that day, I dropped the pink egg onto the “negotiate” heap and pretended nothing had happened.
As we negotiated the parcel price for the remaining gems, not really a heap anymore but only four gems with 15 carats out of the former 500 carats, my Sri Lankan trader picked the pink egg up, turned it around as I had done, studied it for a while and then smiled at me with a wink. He too, had discovered the hidden treasure, but it was too late for him to take the pink egg out of the deal or ask a different price. This he could only do by taking the whole parcel off the table and that would have been a very smelly move, not honorable at all. He negotiated as high as possible but he could not ask for a padparadscha price without losing face.
We agreed on a price for the parcel, pending no-heat reports from AIGS, and shook hands.
The no-heat reports came through without fault a few days later, and the very next week I had cut the ugly gray-pink egg into a fine cushion 2+ carat untreated padparadscha. A beauty, clean and right 'in the color'. One of the best deals I ever made. The final margin remains, of course, a trade secret.