Category Archives: Omi Gems

MJSA Mystery Box Challenge: Expect the Unexpected

Every year MJSA invites a small group of designers to participate in their annual Mystery Box Challenge, where they’ll have four weeks to transform a box of materials into a piece of wearable jewelry. The big catch? They don’t know what’s coming in the box…well, kind of.

All of this year’s designers admit that they agreed to participate because they like a challenge, especially one that pushes them outside their wheelhouse. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t do what they can to prepare—and that includes looking back to see the materials featured in previous challenges. And they’ve discovered a pattern: a good chunk of metal (usually sterling silver), a few gemstones, a little bit of something precious (such as a few inches of chain or diamonds), and then one more…unusual item. After all, where would the challenge be if we only sent out precious metals and gemstones?

This year’s box was no different.

The designers all knew to expect one slightly outside-the-box ingredient in the challenge. But despite knowing to expect the unexpected, they were inevitably taken aback when they discovered this year’s unusual ingredient.

So, what did this year’s designers get to work with? They each received the following, with instructions that although they could add their own materials as desired, the finished piece had to include at least a little of something from each of the four groupings:

• Two 10 x 8 mm emerald-cut blue topaz and one 11 x 9 mm oval citrine from Omi Gems in West Covina, California

• One 3-inch by 4-inch sterling silver sheet from National Fabricated Metals in Warwick, Rhode Island, a division of National Chain Group

• Nineteen 1.3 mm and one 2.0 mm lab-grown diamond melee from Joseph Blank Inc. in New York City

• 50 grams of Art Clay Copper from Contenti Co. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

At Omi Gems we were excited to contribute to the 2020 MJSA Mystery Box Challenge. We selected stones that were contrasting in shape and color, making us very curious to see what the designers could come up with. It was a true challenge! We’re honored to present what the designers turned these expected and unexpected materials into!

Karin Jacobson, Karin Jacobson Design, Minneapolis
On Full Display

Michael & Catherine Jensen, Michael Jensen Designs, Rio Rancho, NM
Beyond The Horizon

David Giulietti, David Giulietti Designs, Berkeley, California
Giving Up Control

Discover what the designers turned these expected and unexpected materials into, read the entire article on the MJSA website.

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What is Grandidierite? A Must-See Rarity!

Grandidierite is one of the rarest minerals on earth. It was first discovered in 1902 in southern Madagascar and named in honor of French explorer Alfred Grandidier (1836–1912) who studied the natural history of Madagascar. The original discovery of the stone was located in a small pegmatite outcrop in the cliffs of Andrahomana, which is on the southern coast of Madagascar. Since its initial discovery, specimens of grandidierite have been found in select locations around the world, including Malawi, Namibia and Sri Lanka. In 2014, about 35 miles northwest of the original deposit find, in the Amboasary district of southern Madagascar’s Anosy region gem quality rough was discovered. With very few exceptions, the only location where gem quality material has been discovered is Southern Madagascar. Most faceted stones have been under 1 carat in size with obvious inclusions; in very rare finds 3 to 5 carats or slightly larger have been produced. It is strongly trichroic, meaning it appears as different shades of color from different angles, but it is often cut so that when facing up it has a blue to bluish green color.

Something we value here at Omi Gems is process. We have close relationships with miners and generations of industry partnerships in the loose colored gemstone business. These partnerships allow us to acquire gemstones that others don’t have access to.⁠ ⁠We specialize in sourcing because we see each gemstone as true artistic works of nature. Come see us at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson, Booth 401 to see grandidierite and much more in person!

Learn more about the recent find of gem-quality grandidierite in Madagascar in this Gemological Institute of America article.

1.43 carat Emerald-Cut Grandidierite

Alfred Grandidier, French Naturalist, 1836-1921

2.21 carat Oval Grandidierite


Our decades of experience in curating the best loose jewels from around the world has honed our eye for masterpieces. Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS for your loose gemstone requests.


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The Top Tucson Gems to See!

The annual Tucson Gem & Mineral show is quickly approaching and the team at Omi Gems is excited to share some of its unique offerings and insights ahead of this premier event!

Since the 1970s, Tucson has become THE globally-recognized event for its scope and annual gathering of gem & mineral dealers, connoisseurs and enthusiasts. Multiple concurrent shows will be held throughout Tucson, bringing with them an assortment of goods to suite all tastes and price points. For those in search of fine colored gemstones, there is no better place to start your hunt than at the AGTA GemFair. Omi Gems is just one of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA)’s 300+ exhibitors that will be on display this February. There is always a palpable buzz surrounding this show as a place to mingle with far-flung industry friends and to share insights from the past year. Shopping at the AGTA GemFair can provide a sense of security for purchasers, as AGTA Members agree to the disclosure of all gemstone enhancements and abide by a strict code of ethics to ensure and promote the highest standards across the industry in the United States.

Learn more about the AGTA GemFair in this video!

This show culminates with the AGTA Spectrum awards on Saturday night, where colored gem dealers and jewelry designers come together to celebrate and honor winning colored-stones and designs across multiple categories. For a colored stone designer or dealer, there are few accolades more prestigious than an AGTA Spectrum award, as designs are judged by an annually changing collection of fellow industry experts and leaders.
If you attend we would love to celebrate our five 2018 Spectrum Awards with you!

This year Omi Privé is exhibiting an assortment of some of the finest colored gemstones from across the world, including true classics such as ruby, emerald and sapphire but also collector’s stones such as alexandrite and padparadscha sapphire. Designs and loose stones are also comprised of some more rare and unique stones such as star sapphire, moonstone, grandidierite, cobalt spinel, demantoid garnets and cat’s eye alexandrite.  We encourage all attendees to wander and observe the offerings that only Tucson can provide, but be sure to stop by booth 401 at the AGTA GemFair to say hello and browse!

Blue Spinel


Purple Spinel
Purple Sapphire
Malayan Garnet
Burmese SpinelBlue Zircon

Black Opal

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Celebrating Opals- A Colorful History

Pliny the Elder, wrote in his Natural History (Naturalis historia) during the first century A.D., “There is in them a softer fire than the ruby, there is the brilliant purple of the amethyst, and the sea green of the emerald – all shining together in incredible union. Some by their splendor rival the colors of the painters, others the flame of burning sulphur or of fire quickened by oil.”

Pliny was describing the illustrious beauty of one of the world’s most special gemstones: opal. The ancient Romans were first introduced to opals mined in Eastern Europe, likely modern day Hungary. Opals symbolized love and hope in ancient times and many cultures believed the stone had supernatural properties. But the opals Pliny lauded would not likely have compared to the renowned deposits found in Lightning Ridge. This remote region in New South Wales, Australia is recognized as the premier location for the world’s finest black opals.

Map of New South Wales, Australia, location of Lightning Ridge opal deposits.

Opals are composed of mainly non-crystalline silica that forms over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. Water travels through the rock into crevices and through natural processes, the silica are tightly compressed and stacked in a spherical arrangement that harden over time to form opal. This process can also opalise fossils, a find for which Lightning Ridge is also well known.

Opals are typically classified by their background color – also called bodycolor. With a darker bodycolor the flashes of color or ‘play of color’ tends to stand out more dramatically and attractively against a darker background. Opal was first discovered in Lightning Ridge in the late 1880s, and although mining continued through the beginning of the 20th century, larger scale opal production didn’t occur until the late 1950s driven by increasing demand and the introduction of more modern mining technology. Opal mining in Lightning Ridge is usually done underground and extracted from the clay-rich layers in the earth. Layered above by sandstone, opals mined in the clay-rich layer are typically found around 30 meters below the surface.

Australia mines about 90-95% of the world’s opals, but it is the rare black opal of Lightning Ridge that command top prices comparative to other opals. Black opal is typically found in nobs or in the less common, seams.  Seam opals can be very thin; therefore it is common to find these opals backed by host rock or ‘opal-matrix’ to strengthen the gem.

Tullie Cornthwaite Wollaston, born in South Australia in 1863, is the man credited with introducing Australian opals to the rest of the world. Queen Victoria was an avid admirer of the gemstone and wore them throughout her reign. As the style-setting reigning monarch, and with her court viewed as the model for fashion around the world, the demand for the newly discovered Australian opals increased.

Queen Victoria was an avid collector of opal.

Wollaston, a long admirer and surveyor of gemstones, along with his companion and surveyor, Herbert Butterfield, set forth from Adelaide, Australia in November 1888 hearing rumors of a new opal find. After an arduous journey, they arrived in Queensland, inspected the opal strike, bought specimens and obtained land leases. There were virtually no established opal fields in Australia at the time, although some local miners were stockpiling this unique gemstone as they encountered it; to speak to Wollaston’s gamble, this region was part of some of Australia’s harshest country, noted for its lack of water and incredibly unforgiving summers. When Wollaston described his travels in his book, he described this land as ‘the never never.’

Upon his arrival, dealers in London were suspicious of these new superior opals. He continued pursuing opal sources in Queensland and New South Wales in the ensuing years. In the early 1900s, his agent, Edmund Francis Murphy, began buying opals for him from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, abandoning the now declining White Cliffs opal fields. These were some of the first specimens of ‘black opal’ brought to the world market during the later 1900s.  Believing strongly in the beauty and value of these opals, Wollaston traveled to London and America, trying to establish the market and convince jewelers and the public of the superiority of black opals. It took many years for the public to accept this previously unseen variety of opal, but opal lover’s appreciate Wollaston’s perseverance and today concur that the world’s most valuable and beautiful opals are found in Lightning Ridge.

Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS to inquire on our collection of fine Lightning Ridge black opals which display brilliant play-of-color.



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Purchasing a Sapphire: Color is Key

September! This month often evokes a lot of things; the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, fall foliage, sweater weather and SAPPHIRES! Lucky Virgos and Libras born in this month have a birthstone that needs little introduction. Sapphires have been recognized for centuries for their rarity and intrinsic beauty. In fact the root of the word can be traced back to the ancients, derived from the Latin word ‘sapphirus’ and the Greek σαπφειρος (‘sappheiros’).

Although the word sapphire immediately evokes shades of blue, this precious gemstone is a variety of the mineral corundum and can be found in a rainbow of colors – except for red corundum, which is more commonly known as ruby. When referring to a sapphire that is a color other than predominantly blue or red, the gem industry gives these stones the distinction ‘fancy’ sapphires. Fancy sapphires come in an array of colors such as pink, purple, yellow, green and the elusive shade of padparadscha sapphire – a color that translate roughly to lotus blossom, containing a delicate mix of orange and pink.

Sapphires are corundum and are found in many other shades besides blue, from the gold of a sunrise, to the fiery reddish-orange of sunset, to the delicate violet of twilight.

But throughout history it is blue sapphires that have featured prominently in royal and ecclesiastical jewelry and talismans. Kings and rulers often wore sapphires to protect themselves from envy and infidelity. Many people prized them for their celestial colors believing they were connected to the heavens and reflected the color of the sky.

Perhaps it is due to their regal association that the most valuable sapphires are described as being ‘Royal Blue’ in color. These stones will have a rich and bright medium blue to violetish blue color, without areas of serious extinction. Overwhelmingly, this is considered the most desirable color for sapphires.

Sometimes sapphires can be described as ‘velvety’ in nature. This term most commonly is associated with legendary Kashmir stones, the source for many of the world’s most magnificent blue sapphires. The ‘velvety’ appearance is due to tiny silk inclusions that scatter light without affecting transparency, giving these coveted stones a mesmerizing visual effect. Kashmir sapphires are incredibly rare; in fact, they are hardly ever seen on the market since the mine was discovered over 120 years ago and was quickly exhausted. Ceylon (Sri Lankan) and Burmese sapphires can come close in quality and are the predominant source for today’s finest stones.  Blue sapphires are also found in a number of other locations around the world, such as Madagascar, Thailand, Australia and the state of Montana in the United States.

When considering purchasing a sapphire, color is key. Assuming minimal inclusions and fine cutting, ‘Royal Blue’ stones will command the highest prices, with strong to vivid color saturation. Color should not overpower brightness. Less expensive sapphires will typically be darker or lighter, or with a possible grayish tone. Of all ‘fancy’ sapphires, padparadschas easily have the highest per-carat value. The specific color range to be considered a padparadscha is very narrow, therefore making ‘pads’ very rare and valuable.

Omi Prive is a leading supplier of fine sapphires in the United States with sources throughout the world. Current and past designs have featured sapphires of all shapes and colors, from delicate cornflower blue radiant cuts to opalescent star sapphires, and brilliant pink cushions to mystical bi-colored emerald cuts; and, of course, rich royal blues. The range of sapphires is inspiring and explains why this stone has captured gem lovers’ hearts for centuries.

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Gemstone Market Update: Spring 2018


Alexandrite has rare color change properties, appearing blue-green in daylight to purple-red in candlelight, makes it a very special gemstone. Below are some facts to keep in mind regarding alexandrite.

The Brazilian mine no longer produces large gemstones, making alexandrites over two carats extremely rare.

Alexandrite from India and Sri Lanka is not usually high quality, although a small percentage of stones can be very nice.

Alexandrite prices continue to climb exponentially because of the limited supply of this rare stone. We have one of the largest alexandrite collections and invite you to call when you’re looking for this rare stone.


One of the most under-appreciated gemstones, spinel is coveted by collectors and gemologists for its range of hues and spectacular optical properties. See below why it’s becoming more popular.

The demand for spinel has increased over the past several years due to awareness of this unique gemstone, which became the August birthstone in 2016.

Rare colors of spinel can command extreme values, well over $10,000/carat.

Cobalt blue from Vietnam can be upwards of $50,000/carat and it is rare to find over 1 carat.

Orange, red and pink spinel from Mahenge and Tanzania continue to have high demand, although mining has slowed down considerably.


Emerald comes from the mountainous jungles of Colombia and Brazil to the vast plains of Zambia and have rich, bright green color and clarity. Below are some updates.

Colombian mines have been producing much less fine quality emerald in the past few years.

Because of this, demand and price for emeralds from Zambia and Ethiopia have increased.

Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS for all of your loose gemstone needs or if you have any questions about gemstones.

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A Colorful Tradition – AGTA GemFair 2018

The buzz and excitement over discovering the finest gems from around the world is upon us! The AGTA GemFair is one of our favorite times of the year and we’re excited to share all of the new stones Niveet and Omi have been sourcing over the last year. Visit us at booth 401 for your personal tour of color!

Perfectly Matched Suites

Matched Pairs

Rare Padparadscha

Phenomenal Stones

Brilliant Colors


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The Top 5 Reasons to Visit the AGTA GemFair Tucson

As the year winds down, most of us involved with colored gemstones look ahead to our annual return to the Sonoran Desert city of Tucson, Arizona in early February. This vibrant city hosts people from across the globe on their pilgrimage to play a part in the colored gemstone trade. For those of us who attend the AGTA GemFair each year, we look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new people who have discovered their passion for color. If you haven’t visited Tucson at this time of year before, here are five reasons why you should:

#5 – It is Sunny and Warm in February!
For most people, this time of year is the apex of winter. Whether you have been enduring snow and ice on the plains or constant rain in the Northwest, you could really use a break from it all. WIth rare exception, you can count on sunny skies and warm days in the desert. Enjoy the opportunity to play a round of golf or just soak in the sun while you eat lunch outdoors. It is a great way to recharge your batteries in the middle of winter.

#4 – Ethical dealers
You might be hesitant to do business at a show you have never attended before, but you can be assured that at the AGTA show each and every exhibitor has been vetted for you. Only AGTA members can exhibit at GemFair in the friendly confines of the Tucson Convention Center. What this means to you is that these dealers are bound to a strict set of rules including full disclosure of treatments and demonstrated ethical business practices. And if by chance you do have an issue with a transaction, the AGTA will be there for you to help mediate any concerns to a satisfactory resolution. This peace of mind is a key reason for many buyers to shop only with AGTA members.

#3 – The Tents
The AGTA GemFair is located in the air conditioned, secure Tucson Convention Center, but at the same time there are up to 30 other shows going on throughout the city. Many of these shows are located in white tents on otherwise vacant lots. Inside these tents are vendors from all over the world selling a wide variety of products including rough, gemstones, minerals, crystals, fossils and so much more. It is not uncommon to see full-size dinosaur fossils and huge geodes right next to each other. It is worth one day of your time to hop on the shuttles and explore this bevy of shows around the city – it truly is part of the Tucson experience.

#2 – It is Beneficial to your Business
As margins continue to shrink in the ultra-competitive diamond world, and a younger group of consumers emerges looking for something more interesting, you owe it to the future of your business to explore the opportunities afforded to you in colored gemstones. This is one category in retail where margins are strong and unaffected by the more commoditized diamond market. The AGTA GemFair offers a range of vendors in all price points – there truly is something for everyone under this roof. Take the chance to learn about gemstones you may have never seen before and current market conditions affecting certain segments of the industry. Many opportunities will present themselves as a way to enhance or change the way you do business. The energy is contagious.

#1 – Colored Gemstones
Tucson is the center of the colored gemstone universe for this week every year. Miners and cutters come to market with their newest finds and latest production. You owe it to yourself and your client’s to be on site where all of this activity is happening. You will be able to see in real time what others are buying and selling. You may come across product that will be appreciated by your clients based on the color, quality or price. We expect that anyone coming to Tucson for the first time will be inspired by all that the colored gemstone world has to offer. We never get tired of walking these aisles and seeing what treasures the earth has yielded in the last year.

Omi Gems has been a part of the AGTA GemFair Tucson for over 30 years. It is a market established on trust and quality. We hope that you take advantage of the opportunity to come see us in Tucson in 2018 – you will find us in the front row in booth 401.

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Burmese Ruby Importation Ban Lifted – What Does it Mean?

burma-no-heatRecently, the US government decided to lift the ban on the importation of rubies and jade from Myanmar (Burma) that had been in place since the Lantos JADE act of 2008.  During this time, the prices of Burmese rubies has increased exponentially due to many market conditions and the restricted trade.  So, what will it mean to the American trade and the end consumer now that rubies can now flow freely from Burma?

In simple Economics 101, people would assume that with greater supply that prices would drop.  In most cases this would be true, but in this case, we don’t see a huge number of affordable rubies flooding into the US market.  During the period that this ban was in place, Burmese rubies continued to be sold in every other country in the world.  The supply was still not meeting that demand, thus the increase in prices globally.  There is no huge stockpile of gems in Burma waiting to be sent to the US market.  Yes, they are now available to be imported directly, but US buyers still have to compete with other international buyers for this limited supply.    This competitive market will keep ruby prices high as buyers of fine rubies will pay top price for high quality gemstones for their discerning clients.


We at Omi Gems are very supportive of the lifting of the ban.  We have maintained the belief since it was implemented that the ban was doing more harm than good to the artisanal miners in the Mogok region.  Our family has a rich history of close ties to Burma.  Five generations have passed since our family mined rubies in Mogok, but we still have strong connections with ruby sources in the country.   We are also very involved with rubies coming out of Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania, but we do have a special love for the chromium-rich Burmese gems and their siganture “glow”


Our current selection of Burmese rubies is very strong and we expect to build it up even more with the freedom of access to new productions.  We have most sizes available from melee up to larger single gemstones.  We are closely monitoring how the market is affected by new Burmese supply and economic softening in Asia, but we are not counting on lower prices based on early indications from the sources.  We will use our relationships to obtain rubies at the best prices we can and pass that value along to our clients.




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Start Your Show with Sapphires! AGTA GemFair Booth 401

It’s our favorite time of year because Tucson is here! Visit us at the AGTA GemFair booth 401 to view our fine colored gemstone collection as well as a great selection of closeouts. We look forward to seeing you!

Lot No: SA2323
Cushion Sapphire
5.72 carats
9.22 x 8.88 x 7.69 mm
GRS Certificate

Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS or email for pricing.

Lot No: SA2329
Oval Sapphire
4.29 carats
10.58 x 8.44 x 5.92 mm
GRS Certificate

Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS or email for pricing.

Lot No: SA2279
Round Sapphire
1.56 carats
7.57 mm

Call us at 877.OMI.GEMS or email for pricing.

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