THE PRICE OF GEMS.*
Tars luxurious little book is by far the most useful which has yet appeared on its subject. Not so artistic or so full of scholarship as Mr. King's, it supplies exactly the information in which that otherwise perfect work was deficient—information familiar to the trade, and almost inaccessible out of it. So completely indeed has Mr. Emanuel revealed the truth that he apologizes to other jewellers for saying so much, hinting with the faintest trace of a smile under his words that they may not quite like to see the public so well informed about "doublets," "nova minas," and other aids to fraud, or to be cross-examined as to the prices of the stones they praise so highly. Upon this point indeed we suspect Mr. Emanuel's book will have an immense effect, will in fact establish a tariff from which his rivals in business will find it exceedingly difficult to depart. It is, we imagine, a high tariff, Mr. Emanuel repeating with some pertinacity that the price of the rarer jewels is rising fast, their production being limited, and the number of purchasers increasing with every development of wealth. The Americans, for instance, are almost new customers, very few among them having formerly had any appreciation of such " toys " as "coloured stones." Diamonds of course had their value, as they have always had, and probably always will have, as the most portable and concealable form of wealth, but the taste for other gems depends upon conditions. It must be remembered, moreover, that the value of precious stones considered as invest- ments requires two qualifications. The very large stones have become in course of time comparatively valueless for want of pur- chasers. The Saucy was sold the other day to a Parsee for 20,0001., but there are very few private individuals left in the world who will pay 1,000/. a year for the pleasure of being known as posses- sors of one of the historic diamonds. Even crowned heads dislike to appear so foolishly extravagant, and it may, we think, be laid down as an axiom that no stone whatsoever is worth 25,000/. sterling, 1. e., that no stone could be sold on a pinch for any such figure. Captain Negroes glorious sapphire, which he estimates at some 160,000/., will scarcely find a purchaser out of Turkey at a tenth of that amount, and even in it ministers would remonstrate if the Sultan gave much more. Then the owners even of smaller stones are exposed to one very imminent danger. The discovery of the Bahia mines sent the price of diamonds down one-half, and as the Americans extend their authority into the gold and silver- producing regions such discoveries may be repeated. Nothing, for example, would surprise us less than the discovery of a new mine in Nevada, which, worked with American energy and science, would soon flood the world with its produce. The Burmese monopoly, again, cannot endure for ever, and whenever it is broken up the price of rabies will at least for a time diminish. We may have emeralds also yet both from America and Siberia, science having done exceedingly little to forward the careful search which is certain one day to be made, and which ought, in Siberia at all events, to produce note- worthy results. The manufacture of jewels, on the other hand, is scarcely to be dreaded, chemiatry having as yet produced nothing but minute particles of crystallized carbon, said but not proved to be diamond, and man not having yet acquired so full a control of electricity as to be able to use it for purposes of fusing, while a
* Diamonds and Precious Stones. Their History, Value, and Distinguishing Charac- ter:sties, with Simple Testa for their Ideutillcuidon. By Harry Emanuel, F.E.0.8. London: John Camden Liotteu. 1865.
decline in demand is scarcely to be apprehendel. It has happened two or three times in history, but only from a decline in national wealth, not from any material alteration in the public taste, Charles the Bold, for example, having precisely the same ap- preciation for gems as was displayed in our own time by Mr. Hope.
Mr. Emanuel, as we have said, probably gives high values, but he lays down sound principles of valuation. Three conditions go to make up the value of a precious stone. First, public esteem, it being, for example, as silly to put a great price on a cat's-eye in England as to offer it for a low one in Bengal, where the wealthy believe that it possesses quasi-supernatural qualities. Only four jewels, diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald, can be said to pos- sess this qualification permanently, the estimation of all others fluctuating with fashion, supply, and local circumstances. Opals, for example, have risen and fallen several times in living memory, while pearls are dependent on the taste of a very few leaders of fashion. The second condition is purity, upon which we may lay down one simple rule,—a flawed gem is worth just nothing at all. You may sell it, but you also may not, and no trader will give you anything but a sieculative price. Colour is an element in purity, the diamond, for example, losing half its value if it is not abso- lutely without tint, unless indeed it is full-coloured; the ruby should be of the pigeon's-blood tinge, the deep red, self-containing colour which has in it no blueness or yellowness ; the emerald should be grass-green, paler varieties being valueless, and deeper colours disliked ; and the sapphire should be almost indigo, re- sembling the blue velvet formerly called bleu de roi, and should display its special richness as clearly by artificial as by natural light. That indeed is perhaps the best, as it is the easiest, test of a sapphire's quality. And the third condition is what is *echnically called by the trade "spread," i. e., the proportion of vurface to size. This is a point on which the outside public make strange mistakes. It is of no use for a gem to be too thick, for the extra thickness produces no extra beauty. Consequently weight means with a jeweller weight after the stone has been cut to the shape which best allows of its display, and this shape must be one which tapers down from the table. A stone therefore say of cylindrical shape weighing eight carats, but with the "spread" of a stone of four, is only worth as much as a stone of four.
All these conditions being granted, let us see the values given by Mr. Emanuel. He estimates them of course by the carat, the lapi- dary's standard, or the hundred and fifty-first part of an ounce Troy, consisting of four grains, but better defined to outsiders perhaps in this way. A smallish dried pea facetted and cut like a brilliant will be as nearly as possible the equivalent in size of a diamond weighing one carat, and a little less than an emerald, sapphire, or ruby of the same weight. The dearest stone is the ruby, which, always assuming that it is of true pigeon's-blood red, purity, and spread, sells thus :--
A ruby of one carat weight is worth .£14 to .£20 One and a half carats „ „ 25 „ 35 Two carats 70 ,,80
Three carats/1 11 200 ,,250 Four carats,, ,,450
Below one carat rubies are sold at from V. to 8/. per carat, and above four they become fancy articles to which price can scarcely be affixed. A really splendid ruby ring with a perfect single stone of two carats will therefore cost 85/. The next dearest is the diamond, the price, be it remembered, referring only to " bril- haute," i. e., diamonds thick enough to admit of proper cutting. Such diamonds, when perfect, cost :—
A brilliant weighing I of a can't
17 71 11
If „ 1 17 u I, 1. Is .
r) „ 1 17 1 7t Ot „ 2 7t 21 2 71
11 „ 2 l,
180 880 48 0 65 0 70 0 88 0 100 0
5 10 9 10 280
A diamond ring therefore with a single magnificent stone of two carats ought to be purchaseable for 70/., or about 83 per cent. of the value of a similar ring in ruby. The emerald, though it seems dearer, is not so, the value not increasing so rapidly, so that although the price per carat of a perfect specimen may vary from 20/. to 40/., it does not rise in proportion with its size. So of the sapphire. "The value of the sapphire does not, like that of the ruby, increase so enormously in proportion with its size. A fine,
perfect, evenly coloured, spread sapphire, weighing one carat, of a deep rich blue colour by night as well as by day, is worth 201.; whilst a sapphire equally fine, of 100 carats, would not be worth more than 2,000/. or 3,000/. A ruby of the same size and perfec- tion would be the most valuable gem in existence, surpassing even that of the finest diamond." Legacy duty has been paid upon a sapphire supposed to be worth 10,000/., but it is doubtful if the gem could ever be sold for that amount. Pearls when of large size obtain fancy prices, but Mr. Emanuel believes that he is justi- fied in saying that perfect white drop pearls, of 80 to 100 grains, may be estimated at from 71. to 11/, per grain ; those of 50 to 80 grains, at from 4/. to 71. per graiu ; and those of 30 to 50 grains, at from 3/. to 5/. per grain ; smaller sizes bring from 208. to 60s. per grain." Ordinary pearls fetch lower prices, a pearl of 1 grain weight being worth say half-a-crown, of 4 grains weight, 22 shillings, of 8 grains, 90 shillings, and thence according to the annexed table :— A pearl of 10 grains is worth from
.£8 to .£9 „ 12 12 „ 15
„ 18 30,, 40
„ 20 40 „ 50
80 „ 100
These prices are very great when it is considered that pearls are the least durable of all gems, that they have no charm of colour, and that they can be imitated to perfection. It is in fact rarity alone which gives them value, a statement not just as applied to any other gem whatever. Gas injures pearls, a fact worth recol- lecting, and so does grease, in fact it is the most perishable of all ornaments. It will be remembered that all these values apply only to the best specimens, and if dealing with an unknown seller the buyer should test the stones. He will find these general rules useful — first, nothing that a file will cut is. a precious stone ; secondly, that the file should be used on both sides, to avoid the trick, very common in Italy, of fastening a slice of the real article on to a false basis ; thirdly, a stone cannot be genuine if of very much less than its proper specific gravity. It is also worth remembering that a sapphire will not scratch diamond, and that the ancient test of the hammer is also absolutely worthless, very valuable stones breaking under it almost as readily as glass. As to colour, the very best preparation for buying is to educate your eyes by observing carefully good specimens, the specialities of colour being incommunicable in any other way. It is possible, however, to ascertain by a simple rule whether a stone has two shades—a very common fault. Hold it in clear water about an inch from the surface, and the shades will be at once apparent, and the points at which they glide into each other. This observation must be extended to uncut jewels, which differ entirely in appear- ance from the cut specimens, and sometimes look absolutely worthless. There are sapphires, for example, in Captain Negroni's collection which would to an inexperienced eye seem dirty pebbles.
Mr. Emanuel agrees with Mr. King as to the comparative worthlessness of the less rare precious stones, but he gives some noteworthy information as to the value of three very commonly used. A fine, clear, deep-coloured amethyst of the size of a florin is worth from 10/. to 151., and years ago was worth many times that amount, the value having been reduced by heavy importa- tions from Brazil. Oriental amethysts, it must be remembered, are really sapphires, and of much greater value, though the stones
sold under that name are usually so called from ignorance. Garnets cut en cabochon are called carbuncles, and when of large
size and free from spots are frequently worth 20/., but no.
other garnets have much commercial value. Topazes, again, are worth very little. "The commercial value of the topaz, as a jewel, is entirely fictitious ; a very fine stone can at present be bought for a few shillings, which, when in fashion, would have brought much more; for optical purposes, the rough stones fetch about 58. to 10s. per pound avoirdupois. The pink topazes bring con- siderably more, from 40s. to 201. per ounce, the price depending on the depth of the pink colour."
We have confined this review almost entirely to prices, the point on which the general public is most ignorant, but Mr.
Emanuel gives valuable information on most other points, shape cutting, origin, and Bibliography. Indeed his book seems to us to lack nothing except a chapter or two on the history of gems, and a little more information on the Oriental trade information which must be in the hands of his buyers, and which he has probably very good reasons for keeping to himself.