Gübelin introduces a classification system for colored gems

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Most potential buyers know that if they are to buy diamonds, they must master the “four Cs”: carat, color, clarity and size, the scoring system that determines their price.

But, when it comes to rubies, sapphires and emeralds, the only hope of inexperienced buyers is to meet a trustworthy seller.

For many years, merchants and jewelers racked their brains to produce a valuation model for these large tricolor gems that could be easily understood and widely adopted.

And, when the 2020 pandemic forced remote commerce via virtual inspection on digital screens, the need for a solution intensified – the perfect time for the Gübelin Gem Lab to present its new scoring system for retailers. colorful gemstones.

Although Gübelin started in Lucerne as a watchmaker, the company later turned to jewelry. Its Gübelin Gem Lab opened in the 1920s to appraise stones and the Swiss house has become a renowned authority on colored gemstones.

Its traditional reports, costing over 200 Swiss francs ($ 216), will identify a colored gem, its country of origin if possible, and the presence of any treatment such as heating or oiling. However, they do not provide any indication of the quality of the stone itself.

However, the new Gübelin Gemstone Rating will now assess the quality, rarity and importance of a specific gemstone by assigning it a number: Gübelin Points.

The new parameters are modeled on Robert Parker’s wine rating system who, since the late 1970s, has rated wines from all over the world on the basis of a 100-point scale.

Raphael Gübelin: “I wanted something simple, a single number that would immediately give a global idea of ​​the stone”

“I wanted something simple, a unique number that would encompass the quality of the stone and its rarity and immediately give an overall idea of ​​the stone,” explains Managing Director Raphael Gübelin.

Gübelin began to evaluate precious stones at 75 points, which earned him the label “fair” (75-79.9), up to “good” (80-84.9), “fine” (85-89 , 9), “superior” (90 -92.4), “excellent” (92.5-94.9), “exceptional” (95-97.4) and “exceptional” (97.5-100).

Design work on the rating system began in 2018 and was built on a decades-long database recording more than 28,000 gemstones of proven origin. These specimens are being analyzed by the Gübelin Gemtelligence, an ongoing project that is developing a machine learning-based algorithm to improve consistency in gem evaluation. Gübelin hopes the new rating system will boost consumer confidence. “There are end consumers who are interested in the beauty of colored gemstones, but they hesitate to buy them because they are difficult to understand, so they turn to diamonds,” he says.

He has a point. Since the early 1940s, when the founder of the Gemological Institute of America, Robert Shipley, replaced nebulous terms such as “river” or “well done” with the rational four Cs system, the diamond jewelry market has reached about $ 80 billion. based on 2020 data – roughly eight times the size of colored gemstones.

“The four Cs system has undoubtedly been a transformation for diamonds,” says Tyler Harris, graduate gemologist and associate partner at McKinsey, the business consultancy.

Gübelin begins to note gems at 75 points © GUEBELIN / HedigerS

“It allowed a consistent vernacular to speak about the important characteristics of stones. Equally important, the 4Cs system provides a framework that links a diamond’s characteristics to value, which not only drives market standardization, but also boosts consumer confidence.

Quig Bruning, head of the jewelry department at Sotheby’s in New York, agrees that buying rubies, sapphires and emeralds takes more effort when they cannot be valued in the flesh. “We are frequently asked about the nature and quality of color and the nature and presence of inclusions. Usually our customers look to us to help them get a more subjective ‘feel’ for a colored stone, ”he says.

Jewelers established in demand for their colorful gems – like Boghossian – have only purchased stones throughout the pandemic if they were shipped to them first.

What may surprise some gemstone buyers is the absence of the country of origin among Gübelin’s new valuation criteria. Roberto Boghossian, managing partner of his family business, understands the logic of focusing on the “gemological properties” of stones and praises the new rating to bring “reassurance and transparency to our business”. But he is convinced that the country of origin will always influence the purchase of large gems.

Bruning at Sotheby’s disagrees. “While there are certainly those who are actively looking for Kashmir or Burmese sapphires, for example, they still want to buy the best quality,” he says. “Kashmiri sapphires, Burmese rubies, Colombian emeralds, these precious stones are appreciated – and rightly so – for their rarity. But not all gemstones from these precious origins are top quality.

“We have seen high prices paid recently for sapphires from Madagascar and rubies from Mozambique, for example. Savvy buyers are ready to search for exceptional gemstones regardless of their origin.

To promote its new rating system, Gübelin is offering it this year in addition to its established Gem Lab report. Otherwise, it is charged 100 Swiss francs and the company warns that its notes alone “are not suitable for directly deducing purchase or sale prices”.

The Swiss house also plans to teach grading parameters in its Gübelin Academy, which offers students an introduction to sapphires, emeralds and rubies.

Consumer interest seems strong. “Colored gemstones are a growth area in fine jewelry,” says Harris. “In the United States, we have seen the growth in the market value of fine jewelry with colored gemstones three times faster than that of diamond jewelry over the past five to ten years, and it stands to reason that the trend will continue in the near future.

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