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Opals in a Movie?

Written by Brian Wilson On March 2, 2020.

The Gemological Institute of American (GIA) has published an interesting article regarding an “uncut” opal that is a major focus in the movie Uncut Gems staring Adam Sandler. While I haven’t seen the movie, nor can I recommend it, you can read the entire article on there site. This is a reprint of the article:

The Real Gemology of Ethiopian Opals in ‘Uncut Gems’

NBA star Kevin Garnett, left, plays himself in ‘Uncut Gems,’ by Josh and Benny Safdie, along with Lakeith Stanfield, center, and Adam Sandler. They are looking at Ethiopian opal in matrix that Sandler’s character, Howard Ratner, is putting up for auction in the movie.

The magical quality of opals is the central metaphor of the 2019 movie “Uncut Gems,” starring Adam Sandler. A giant piece of Ethiopian opal, still in its matrix, is smuggled to New York.

“They say you can see the whole universe in opal, that’s how … old they are,” Sandler’s character, Howard Ratner, a jeweler and gem dealer on 47th Street in New York City, tells basketball star Keven Garnett when he shows the opal to him. Garnett is captivated to such an extent that he cannot play well without owning it.

Ethiopian opal ‒ the featured gemstone in the movie “Uncut Gems” ‒ was first discovered in Ethtiopia in 1994. Photo by Eric Welch/GIA

Sandler’s character is enamored with the opal’s potentially huge sale price. He estimates that the piece weighs between 4,000 to 5,000 carats and, at up to his estimated value of $3,000 per carat, he sees millions coming his way. But the auction house he consigns it to values the piece at much less — $150,000 to $225,000. Why?

With opals, as with most gemstones, the final polished stones weigh only a fraction of their rough form. The specimen shown in the movie appears to have several opal nodules (though probably not black opal) inside the matrix of host rock, but that host rock appears to account for the majority of its volume. This means that it would be very difficult – in real life – to evaluate the opal and appraise its value until the matrix was removed.

“In real life, the opal nodules must be shaped and polished into gems after removing the valueless matrix, which often results in much more weight loss,” explained Nathan Renfro, GIA Graduate Gemologist® and manager of colored stone identification services at GIA. “Any realistic valuation of rough gem material is based on the potential for yielding polished gems and the risk involved in fashioning finished gemstones.”

Adding to that risk is the fact that, unlike most gems, opals are not stones or minerals.

Opals are formed from centuries upon centuries of seasonal rains that leach microscopic silica particles from sandstone, carrying them deep into underground fissures and cavities. As the deposited materials dry, the microscopic silica spheres become compressed into a closely-packed lattice. As light travels through this microstructure, it creates a dazzling kaleidoscope of flashing rainbow colors, called play-of-color.

The opal that beguiles the main characters in “Uncut Gems” was still in its matrix, similar to this piece of rough opal in matrix. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA

The Many Colors and Types of Opal

There are five major types of opals:

  • White or light opal: Translucent to semi-translucent, with play of color against a white or light gray background color, called bodycolor. The opal specimen seen in “Uncut Gems” appears likely to be a representation of a white opal, despite its description as a black opal in the film.
  • Black opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a black or other dark background. They often sell for higher prices than white opals because the color contrast is much greater against the dark background.
  • Fire opal: Transparent to translucent, with brown, yellow, orange or red bodycolor. This material, which often doesn’t show play-of-color, is also known as “Mexican opal.”
  • Boulder opal: Translucent to opaque, with play-of-color against a light to dark background. Fragments of the surrounding rock, called matrix, become part of the finished gem.
  • Crystal or water opal: Transparent to semitransparent, with a clear background. This type shows exceptional play-of-color.

Australian opal is best-known and the country remains the most prolific source of opals – mainly white and black. Ethiopia is the newest source, with the first discovery in 1994.

The most prolific source – which was named in the movie – was in found 2008 near a town called Wegal Tena in Wollo Province. This material, mostly white opal, was formed from the silica from ancient volcanic ash. Another deposit, producing black opals about 30 miles to the northwest of the Wollo mine, was discovered in 2013 – a year after 2012, the year in which “Uncut Gems” takes place.

GIA has reported extensively on opals for many years and much research can be found in this Summer 2019 Gems & Gemology chart.


Written by Kathy Jones On February 29, 2020.

This article is a reprint from AGS, originally published here.

For the lucky people with March birthdays, two birthstones are associated with this early spring month: aquamarine and bloodstone.

Both gemstones are very different from one another in appearance, but each share a similar symbolism of preserving or enhancing the health of the wearer. Learn more about each March birthstone by browsing the links below.


The serenely colored aquamarine invokes the tranquility of its namesake, the sea. In fact, the name aquamarine is derived from the Latin word aqua, meaning water, and marina, meaning the sea.

Aquamarine is most often light in tone and ranges from greenish blue to blue-green; the color usually is more intense in larger stones, and darker blue stones are very valuable. This gemstone is mined mainly in Brazil, but also is found in Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan, and Mozambique.

Like emeralds, this gemstone is a variety of a mineral called beryl. Large gemstones have been found all over the world, including one gemstone found in Brazil that weighed over 240 pounds. Aquamarine grows in large, six-sided crystals that can be up to a foot long, making it a great gemstone to be cut and polished in larger carats for bold statement jewelry pieces.

Not only is aquamarine one of the March birthstones, it’s also used to celebrate 19th wedding anniversaries. It’s a beautiful gemstone with little or no yellow in it, so it looks great in many settings with different colored metals and gemstones.


The second birthstone for March is bloodstone, a dark-green gemstone flecked with vivid red spots of iron oxide. Generally found embedded in rocks or in riverbeds as pebbles, primary sources for this gemstone are India, Brazil, and Australia.

Bloodstone is also called heliotrope, a word from the ancient Greek that means “to turn the sun.” Many believe it was probably named such because of ancient ideas about how minerals reflect light. In fact, some believed that the sun itself would turn red if this gemstone was put into water.

Bloodstone is sometimes known by another name, Blood Jasper, although it’s actually chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline quartz. There are two forms of bloodstone: one is more transparent (heliotrope) with red spots while the other is more opaque (plasma) and has little or no red spots.

For those looking for good-quality bloodstone gems, a solid green color with visible veins of red is usually considered the best. It also comes in many shapes and cuts, including traditional cuts like emerald, oval, and cushion.

Bloodstone may not have the overt beauty of aquamarine, but many value this gemstone for its symbolism and other properties.

Why are Pink Diamonds Pink?

Written by Brian Wilson On February 28, 2020.

The Gemological Institute of American (GIA) has published an incredible look at pink diamonds, and some of our more technically-minded customers will enjoy the in-depth look. If you are one of them, you can read the entire article on there site.

If you are less technical, and just want to enjoy them, we are reprinting the beginning of the article so you can enjoy the “basics,” and you can see the beautiful pictures of these phenomenal diamonds.

These diamonds are from the 2016 Argyle Pink Tender in New York City. Left to right: 0.64 ct Fancy Deep pink oval, 0.75 ct Fancy Intense purplish pink trilliant, 0.91 ct Fancy Vivid purplish pink oval, 1.30 ct Fancy Intense pink heart, 1.35 ct Fancy Intense purplish pink cushion, 0.80 ct Fancy Vivid pink pear, and 0.45 ct Fancy Vivid purplish pink emerald cut. Courtesy of Argyle Pink Diamonds. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA

GIA Researchers Dive Deep into their Crystal Structure

Shown on the cover is the 18.96 ct Winston Pink Legacy, a Fancy Vivid pink emerald-cut diamond that recently sold at auction for more than $50 million. Winston Pink Legacy courtesy of Harry Winston, Inc. © 2018 Christie’s Images Limited

Natural pink diamonds are among the most valuable and rare of Earth’s treasures. Top, vivid-colored stones can bring more than $2 million per carat at major auctions. Such prices come from their rarity as much as their beauty – only a tiny percentage of diamonds have pink color, and only a tiny percentage of these have a rich, vivid color.

Pink diamonds created in a laboratory, however, are quite different from most of their natural counterparts. Manufacturers can’t replicate the way the vast majority of these fancy colored diamonds formed in nature, according to GIA researchers.

Employing GIA’s immense database of more than 90,000 natural pink and related colored diamonds graded between 2008 and 2016, GIA researchers Dr. Sally Eaton-Magaña, senior research scientist; Troy Ardon, research associate; Dr. Karen V. Smit, research scientist; Dr. Christopher M. Breeding, senior research scientist and Dr. James Shigley, distinguished research fellow, produced the most detailed and comprehensive gemological analysis of pink diamonds to date, published in the Winter 2018 edition of the Institute’s quarterly journal, Gems & Gemology.

How do you like your Bugs?

Written by Brian Wilson On February 24, 2020.

Below is the text from an article published by GIA originally here.

Amber with Mite Inclusion

A most unusual mite (figure 1, left) was discovered as an inclusion in an approximately 30-million-year-old [sic not according to the Bible] double-polished plate of amber from the Dominican Republic (figure 1, right). The specimen was acquired from the private collection of William W. Pinch of Pittsford, New York. The plate itself weighed 0.77 ct and measured 13.15 × 7.59 × 2.76 mm, while the mite’s body was 0.34 mm in length.

Figure 1. A mite with exceptionally long front legs (2.1 mm), as seen using shadowed transmitted and fiber-optic illumination (left), was found in this small 13.15-mm-long fragment of amber (right). Images by Nathan Renfro.

What made this mite unusual was that the longest front leg measured approximately 2.10 mm, disproportionately long in relation to the rest of its body. This type of mite, of the genus Podocinum, might be awkward-looking, but its morphology has survived millions of years virtually unchanged, an indication that it was just as efficient a predator then as its living counterpart today. Podocinum is a very slow-moving mite that lives in loose soil, feeding on springtails (Collembola). As it travels about, the mite uses its extremely long front legs to explore the soil around it and quickly snare any springtail that happens to come too close.

A literature search failed to turn up any other example of a Podocinum mite as an inclusion in amber, making this an even more interesting specimen. So while a small polished piece of amber itself might have virtually no commercial or scientific value, the addition of a well-preserved microscopic organism completely changes the value factor of the specimen.

AGS Laboratories Releases Digital Diamond Grading Reports

Written by Brian Wilson On February 21, 2020.

The following is taken from here.

Digital format serves as the official document. #AskForAGS

AGS Laboratories has announced the launch of their grading reports in a digital platform. The digital documents serve as an official grading report and will be formatted the same as AGS Laboratories’ printed documents.

“We’re excited to add digital documents to our product offering. Digital documents help us in our commitment to environmental management by reducing paper, as well as, reducing operational costs for everyone in the supply chain across a variety of processes: shipping, storing, and replacement of lost documents,” said Jason Quick, AGS Laboratories Executive Director.

The document resides on AGS Laboratories Only My Diamond® (OMD) so that consumers are getting the benefits of the platform, including an actual video of the diamond, a clear-cut explanation of the 4Cs, the diamond’s clarity plot, laser inscription, and social media sharing options. Previous versions of OMD had an online copy of the grading report, while the official document was in printed form.

“By incorporating the official digital grading report into the OMD experience, the retailer can present the diamond with a grading report that their customers will find both fun and interesting,” said Quick.

Another benefit of the digital report is that no app is needed: the document can be accessed through the Report Verification function on or from display cards in the store, which features a QR Code linking to the document. If a consumer, retailer, or the supplier wants a physical grading report, one can be ordered from AGS Laboratories.

The first digital documents are already in use by Helzberg Diamonds® for the Kalahari Dream® collection, in advance of the holiday shopping season.

To learn more about AGS Laboratories and the products and services that they offer, including the digital documents, visit or contact

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