Sat, 30 Jul 2005

USA Adventures June 2005

Vegas JCK Trade Fair

My
wife Drena left a week before me (with Vanessa) and visited some of our
joint suppliers in ArezzoItaly, 100km south of Florence. Most unfair
that she gets to go and that it seems I will not visit Europe this
year; Italy is my favorite place to be, but they did some buying for
me, so cant complain too much. I arrived in Vegas a day before on the
morning of Tuesday the 31st May and visited Jim Caudill the
head of the American Gem Society’s (AGS) new Advanced Instruments
Division (AGS.AID). We had just managed to ‘facilitate’ the manufacture
of their new hand held ASET scope in time for it to be released at the
Vegas show – the biggest jewel trade fair in the world.

Drena
and Vanessa in Italy, and the view from my Vegas hotel window – the
Sands convention is the low white building in the center foreground.
Distance is deceptive in the desert; the Sands is a huge multi storey
building.

On the first evening I had dinner with my friend Don
Greig who developed the stock management software we have used in our 2
stores since 1985. Don lives in Vegas now and has hundreds of retail
jewelers on his Focus Management system.

The
next day various other people began turning up. First was Dave Atlas,
who runs a lab in Philadelphia (more later) and is the US agent for
ideal-scope. Dave is on the far right at a suburban Japanese restaurant
with Paul and Lieve to his right. Paul and Lieve have been wonderful
hosts a couple of times in Antwerp Belgium, where they run a boutique
cutting business, specializing in ideal cut rounds and princess. On the
far left is the affable Web trader, Wink Jones from Boise Idaho.

This
group of 5 images shows the excesses of Vegas; the Venetian Hotel. The
sky is painted on the ceiling. SAN Marco square has regular
performances of frozen people statues and singers etc while the
Gondalos cruise up and down the store lined canals. The multi colored
thing is an oxygen bar where you pay to breathe pure oxygen.

Next
day the seminars began. One of the first presentations was by my good
friend Leonid Tcharnyi, founder of Pricescope. The crowd shot was taken
10 minutes before the presentation, the room filled to over flowing and
people were turned away. Leonid explained to the rather antagonistic
gathering of mainly retailers how and why they should not treat the
Internet as just another form of advertising and marketing. Leonid is
fast becoming a recognized ‘Social Computing’ Guru after having
established the worlds leading diamond and jewellery chat forums with
my diamond tutorials.

Unfortunately Leonid’s presentation
clashed with that of Peter Yantzer at the AGS about their new diamond
cut grading system. However we had been invited to a private
presentation later that day at the AGS rooms ? an hour off ‘the strip’.

 

In American Gem Society Labs

AGS
is a not for profit trade .org of jewelers and suppliers committed to
ethics and educational standards. They also run a respected independent
diamond grading lab, half owned by the not for profit and a group of
investor members –Peter Yantzer is its CEO. I first met Peter at the
Vegas fair in 1999, at the start of my global crusade to improve the
cut quality of diamonds. I took an adversarial position with Peter; I
did not like their grading system that included some so-so looking so
called ‘Ideal Cuts’. At that time my new Russian friends & I were
lonely voices. Peter was amazingly patient with me, he agreed that
their system was not ‘ideal’ (pun) and that as soon as he could develop
a better system he would. I am pleased to say that the system they
launched in Vegas does now guarantee a superior diamond. I am flattered
that the system was developed with the same process steps that I used
to develop HCA (the Holloway Cut Adviser).

AGS used my Russian
associates ray tracing and diamond modeling software DiamCalc™ to
generate Angular Spectrum Analysis Tool (ASET) images which they
produced in sets in grids to identify the optimum proportions for round
and princess cut diamonds. Then they did analysis of those proportion
sets with ray tracing software like DiamCalc that they developed, but
all the images for the charts are from DiamCalc; their in house ray
tracing software does not produce good detailed images.

ASET
comes in 2 forms, the desk top seen here with the DiamCalc charts of
ASET images on the left, and the hand held that I had a hand in, in the
central photo. The 2 stones shown here are a poorly cut and well cut
stone that I snapped with my little Canon thru the hand held scope.

 

Vegas’ life

That
night we (Drena, Vanessa and I, with Leonid) ate at the swank
Bellagio’s Japanese restaurant with Udi from Israel; he runs a B2B
diamond web portal that lists a good % of the worlds polished diamonds.
The bar area of the restaurant has 3 fish tanks with UV fluorescent
Jelly Fish flapping about – really cool.

After dinner we sat on the balcony watching the enormous water canon fountains that dance to music, with the 1/3rd scale Eiffel Tower in the distance across the strip.

Here
are a couple of shots in a bar with some notorious dudes, John and
Jonathon (‘my camera’s bigger’an yours’) and Lieve’s unbelievable vivid
yellow Rock that really is ‘unbelievable’.

The next 5 shots were
taken in the old original Vegas area before the action moved a few
miles away to ‘the strip’. The group shot from left to right: Vanessa,
Deborah (Peter’s fiancee), (Drena hiding), Lieve, Paul, Moi and Peter
Y. After dinner we went ‘outside’ into a covered Mall, about 500 yards
long. The ceiling was an LED array that very ? hour has a ‘show’. We
saw racing cars dragging up and down the ‘strip’ with crowds either
side – it was quite amazing.

 

 

Rapaport Presentation

Next
morning was the iconic Martin Rapaport breakfast show. Every year I
have heard Martin present once or twice for the past 8 years. In 1999
& 2000, he was instrumental in my becoming involved in the world of
the Internet.

The next few paragraphs will be a summary of the presentation; skip it if you like.

  • Diamond
    demand exceeds supply – India and China’s consumption growing at 15-20%
    and De Beers stockpile has dropped from $5Billion to a WIP $0.5B in the
    last 5 years.
  • Even though there are now 4 or 5 big diamond
    miners, they are all acting responsibly; price wars are not likely. The
    20% price rises over the last year will continue.
  • Branding and the Internet are competing forces squeezing out the inefficient and many small family retail biz.
  • Most
    of the money is in the rough end with +25% net margins. Polishing
    manufacturers are doing OK with about 7% margin, and some jewellery
    manufacturers survive on 6% net.
  • Retailers are suffering
    most. High gross margins are attracting the big up-stream miners and
    polishing companies downstream. But the retail segment makes less than
    5% net, and this is shrinking under pressure from e-tailers. To succeed
    costly brand building needed to stay visible, but this costs more and
    is getting less effective as consumers are bombarded with 5 times more
    marketing than 30 years ago.
  • So here is the dichotomy:
    • Diamonds
      are an emotional need – not utilitarian. The need for love and symbols
      of love is far greater than the need for physical products.
    • But diamonds are being commoditized with great efficiency via lowest cost retailers and the Internet.
  • The
    most successful retailers of diamonds and jewels are those who can add
    value to the commodity. Yes, the box counts too. But we are entering a
    transparent world where the cost of the raw ingredients is now becoming
    public knowledge, just like the price of gold.
  • Our industry is now helping poor African nations develop their diamond mining and local cutting and polishing.
  • Synthetic
    and treated diamond detection and clear declaration ensures our
    products are always clearly identified as natural mined diamonds.

Washington, DC

After
the Vegas trade show Vanessa flew home and Drena and I went on vacation
to Washington, Philadelphia and NYC. At the show I was introduced by
Paul’s to one of his new stockists who said “if you ever come to
Washington let me know” I said we will be there next week. Well Bill
organized a tour of a senate office and the Capitol building and the
Smithsonian Gem and Mineral collection.

From
the Top left, the Library of Congress, The Capitol building from the
front of the Russel Senate building and a stair case inside it. We
went on one of the underground tram / trains you see on the movies from
the senate building to the Capitol, a Senator joined us on the way
there. To be a US senator you must be more than 6 foot 3.

The
amazing thing is just how accessible all this area is to the general
public. We were able to enter and sit for as long as we liked in the
Senate – Teddy Kennedy was rambling on about all sorts of injustices,
but it seems the senators do not need to be present for each others
presentations- only for voting etc – so Teddy was talking to himself.
He would make a great auctioneer. Our guide Kate had graduated a few
months before in political science and law and was on a 4 month
sucondment. She had written a couple of papers that her boss, Senator
Gordon Smith from Oregon Washington State had presented. The statue of
an Hawaiian King is bronze and solid gold, it weighs so much they could
not put it out in the main dome hall where all the other State statues
were; it had to be near the wall over a pillar on the floor below.

In the Zoo

That
afternoon we went to the Zoo, which was about a mile from our hotel
(apparently the Wardman Towers hotel was once Senators lodgings and
part of Watergate was played out there.) It was very hot and humid that
day, and maybe we did not get the right feel for the zoo, but we found
a lot of the cells were very small and a lot of the zoo was depressing.

 

 

Smithsonian

Next
morning Bill picked us up and we drove around town for a while before
our meeting with a Curator at the Smithsonian. We happened upon a truck
in the No-Truck-Go-Zone. Nothing big enough to carry a lot of
explosives is allowed in close proximity to critical Govt buildings;
this truck is right over the top of the tunnel we went through
connecting the Russell Senate building and Capitol building. There were
quite a few angry gun toting police and security guards and cars
surrounding the truck. We parked a block away from the White House and
took this shot of Drena and Bill out front. The third photo, off to the
left of the other, is where the press have semi permanent camera and
lighting set-ups. When we see news reports with a journalist being
interviewed with the White House in the background, this is where it is
filmed.

Pictured
above is Russell C Feather, II, Collection Manager/Gemologist at the
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Almost every public gallery and
place in Washington is part of the Smithsonian, but the next photo is
probably the most famous of the entire collection. And we were amazed
at how close and how accessible this most famous (infamous) diamond
was. The only thing we would have liked in addition would have to had
the option to see it under UV light (It turns bright red). Russell took
us into the back rooms and the strong room where all the valuable off
display collection is housed. There would easily be 5 times more there
than on display at any one time.

We were lucky to get up very close to the aurora collection, shown here in flash and closer in normal light. An early 18th Century Trembler Tiara shows the brass coils that allow the diamond flowers to vibrate and move.

Below
are a few shots from the display. The huge faceted calcite showed how
dispersion colors can get a muddy appearance when a beam is split into
two dispersed rays that mix. The Pyrite cubes were amazing, and the
Asscher cut ‘Portuguese diamond’ has such strong fluorescence that it
is clearly visible in any lighting.

 

 

Monuments, the Air and Space Museum, Botanic Garden

These
3 perspective shots show the main monuments that all line up. The first
shot taken from the other side of the Potomac River shows the Lincoln
Memorial in front of the ??? and Capitol house in the background. This
was taken from Bill’s apartment where we were introduced to his Aussie
Lawyer wife and new born daughter before heading out for a bite to eat.
The other 2 were taken the next day when my cousin Louise and Fiancee
Carl joined us for Sat and Sunday. They are both stem cell researchers
in Boston. On the Saturday we went to the Air and Space Museum.

As
you can see Drena and Louise found everything from the Wright Bros.
plane to new space stations and landing craft very exciting. Carl and I
think they may have nodded off in the Planetarium. After a quick visit
to the Native American Museum however, we found the Botanic Garden
Glass House and Drena’s spirits improved.

There was even a rare & endangered species of Aussie flora – an ancient Wollemi pine in a very protective glass case.

 

 

‘Fibre’ exhibition

Carl
and Lou wanted to se the White House, and nearby I had been intrigued
by this Dresden style red brick Victorian building. It was an art
gallery with a special exhibition of ‘fibre’ based arts and crafts that
blew us away. A bowl made od sticks pinned together, a tapestry that
looks from a distance like a photo printed on paper – see inset
close-up. A ‘game fish’ made of board game bits and pieces and finally
a grandfather clock that was carved out of a solid piece of timber and
what appears to be a white canvas cover is actually bleached timber –
it looked so real that even after reading the note, it was hard to
believe. There was also a big ballroom with some a range of period US
art that reminded us of two of our favorites – Bendigo and Ballart art
galleries.

 

 

Vietnam War Memorial, Arbitorium

Above
is the Vietnam War Memorial – about 500 yards of polished black granite
wall with the names of every soldier killed or missing in action. Very
poignant. A statue of 3 fit healthy and aggressive soldiers apparently
led to pressure to show the worst side of war; two female nurses are
seen here caring for a wounded soldier.

After
Carl and Louise flew home Drena finally got her way and we went to the
Arbitorium, which was off all the maps we had. Actually it was just a
subway and a short taxi ride. But of course we pronounce the word just
like Auditorium – and they call it something quite different, but
somehow the taxi driver worked it out. This was a huge National Botanic
parkland that is like a living museum of trees. We did a guided tour on
an open tram, which was great because it was very hot and as humid as I
have ever experienced; Darwin in November.

The first pic shows a
garden with a replica of an ancient Greek temple ruin in the upper
left. The under the tree photo is actually under a 2 foot high Bonsai.

 

Amish Village, PA

Next
day we caught the train to Philadelphia. Countryside was mostly light
industrial outer suburban and not that interesting. Next day we hired a
car and drove a couple of hours to the Amish area near Lancaster. The
Amish are an extremist offshoot of the Mennonites who believe that
politics and religion should never be mixed. A lot of them emigrated
from Protestant Northern Germany / Flemish regions during the 18th
century when Penn (as in Pennsylvania) promised them freedom of
beliefs. The area has a lot of Mennonites too, who seem to be a little
more like the Jehovah Witness. The Amish do not hook up to the
electricity grid, have no mechanized conveyances like push bikes, but
scooters and roller blades (the girl in the foreground) and billy carts
are OK. The men have Abraham Lincoln beards (no moustache) and the
women wear plain long dresses with their hair tied up in little gauze
bonnets. The women with the pusher was at one of the 2 huge discount
outlet centers where they have space for horse and carts to be tied up.

There is plenty of commerce going on between the Amish and normal folk / tourists.

We
drove up to this farm house where they were selling very nice root beer
(sarsaparilla), jams and strawberries. There was a single cylinder
put-put motor driving some machinery in one of the sheds – it seems
motors are OK, as long as they are not for moving you around. In the
scene below where a horse drawn mower is cutting hay, the cutters are
driven by a put-put motor.

 

Back in Philly

Back
in Philly we found a couple of great Jazz bars. On Tuesday ‘students’
night jamming was on the schedule. The 2 ladies both did solo acts, and
as we were leaving we chatted with them. The one on the left’s surname
was Parton, and on the right Holiday. Naturally I asked if they were
relatives of the more famous namesakes. Both were pretty quick; Ms
Parton said she was Wendy Huston’s sister and Ms Holiday explained that
Billy Holiday was a stage name. The Philly Town Hall is beautiful by
day and by night.

Now
for a little history and economics lesson. See the little plaque on the
upper right under the eves of this 200 year old house. It is the sign
that the property had paid its fire insurance levy established by
famous local Benjamin Franklin. IT seems Ben established the first ever
firebrigade – but to have them save your house you had to pay the
insurance levy. No pay and they just watched your house burn down. Now
would this be an incentive to set fire to non paying customers houses
and businesses? Is this were the whole US gangster and protection
rackets sprung from? Who knows?

 

 

Visit to Dave Atlas’ lab, Imagem

Drena
and I visited Dave Atlas’ lab in Philadelphia. I first made contact
with Dave around the late 1980’s when I asked permission to use his
fancy cut grading charts in lectures at the Aussie GAA diamond course.
Dave has done a lot of work with ImaGem and the next photo shows from
the left, Dave Atlas with Prof. Lalit Aggarwal and me to the right in
the AGA back room with the ImaGem large machine behind Dave and Prof A,
with the small Clarity immersion machine behind me.

 

These
next 4 photo’s show the stone being placed table down in the clarity
machine in a small plastic dish filled with “liquid 2” which is a
proprietary liquid that reduces the RI of the diamond so that a better
photo of the inclusions can be captured. Note in a black lighting dome
has dropped down to cover the stone; the hole in the top is for the
camera view.

From this bottom view the software ‘flips’ the
stone so the inclusion plot is able to be shown table up. This
operation requires an expert operator which will somewhat slow down
what was originally designed as a semi automated process.

This
first shot shows the captured. Next the red inclusion maps appear over
the photo. The outer dark regions were reflection patterns that the
operator discounted completely by clicking and dragging the sensitivity
for both the table or the outer crown area independently. Lowering this
sensitivity missed some inclusions – but the operator mouse clicked
individual smaller inclusions which were automatically highlighted in
red. The intention of the system is to grade VS2 to SI3 stones and
automatically develop inclusion plots from the front side. Higher level
inclusions (Flawless to VVS) could be done too (I was told) but this
requires a number of photo’s to be taken to cover the stone depth of
field.

The
operator then pressed a key and the system calculated the frontal view.
But this plot would be a sale killer on an SI3 / I1 stone, so they
developed a representative system that uses accepted signs. If you
follow the progress in the images below you will see the two large
inclusions have been highlighted blue, and from a drop down menu they
have been turned into (in this case) Internal fractures which are
represented only by pairs of parallel lines. The table up plot (and the
pavilion up if required) can then be printed in any format from credit
card to full report.

Next we moved from the clarity system to the main system, the big central box and screen to the left.

The
little grey door in the upper left side, above the white Logo square,
hinges open and the stone is placed inside, table down on a glass tray.

A little lever with a tiny cup is lowered over the culet to center the diamond.

 

Imagem (continued)

The
first screen shot has the stone depth and known weight (and polish)
entered into the scanner manually. This I believe is done to increase
the scan accuracy; but Prof A is insistent that it is one of many fail
safe processes to ensure the system accuracy. The slide is out of
focus, but the two red bits of data are the manually entered depth and
the weight. The data I gave was a guess as the 2 stones we ran, they
are the good and bad CZ’s we sell on the www.Ideal-scope.com
(I ran the same 2 stones in Vegas and this caused some ‘anomalous’
results because the bad stone scored extremely well on the measure of
‘intensity’. Prof A assured me the machine had not been properly
adjusted before it left for Vegas).

The depth of the stone
shows a tiny red warning flag you will see on later clearer slides.
This is set with a tolerance from the measured difference – 0.002mm I
think. Note the bar in the upper left indicates the machine is working.
I am told the processing time is a few minutes and one machine can
process 2,500 stones a month, with 1 operator operating 4 machines. I
assume booking in staff, gemologist for polish analysis, report
printing and laminating and clarity plotting are in addition.

You
can also see in the fuzzy photo above there is a little image in the
upper left of the diamonds table shown in reflected light. Many little
images flashed on the screen while the machine made little whirring
noises; the image is out of focus because I only had a second to take
the photo. Prof A told me the system measures the position of each
corner of the table from this reflected light image (there are little
red X’s on the corner positions). This gives them the ability to
measure more accurately.

Now we can see the completed screen. Firstly note the little red warning flag beside the depth.

But the results for this poorly cut, but symmetrical nail head CZ were perhaps also like that in Vegas.

Poor – Range – Excellent

Bad CZ

Good CZ

Brilliance

<80

>150

134.71

149.21

Sparkle

<5

>70

75.38

82.89

Intensity

100-105

>160

173.44

110.22

Explanations
were offered, but I did not want to waste a lot of time. There were
little warnings that this stone may have been outside the ‘normal
range’ as it had little red flags on crown and pavilion angles. We
moved on.

Below is the scan for the good CZ stone. In fairness
I should say that both ISee2 and the BrillianceScope give similar
undifferentiated and excellent scores for these 2 stones.

The light reading is said to be done from different zones or regions. http://www.imageminc.com/products/VerigemInstrument.html

Prof
A would not describe the lighting environment, but both he a Dave
maintain it is a very reasonable environment. They claim however that
the light will not favor symmetrical stones the way ISEE2 and
BrillianceScope do with their respective rotating bar light and
circular ring light.

I was impressed that axial symmetry, which is the average of all axes, has been included as per this article.

Prof
A said the gauging or scanning system has a high level of accuracy. I
asked if they can produce .stl files as part of the grading service so
users could have more accurate 3D files for use with say the AGS
grading system. He said they had no plans and could not imagine why
they should and implied they would not help another lab. The scan is
said to be + – 5 microns gauging accuracy.

 

Dinner with Dave

That evening we went to Dave’s for dinner.

Here is Dave holding his 2 great loves, Diane on the left and in the center his MV Augusta Brutale

They
live in a lovely quiet suburban area about 40 minutes drive from
downtown. The house has a lovely outlook to a pool side Cabana with
well stocked fridge :). Dave often rides one of his ‘harem’ into work;
they are mostly BMW variants, including the blue 3 wheeler. Diane said
to me (quietly on the side) “Some men play around on the side, but the
bikes are his passion”. Dave is probably the most genuine guy you will
ever meet. No pretence, no games or politics, just plain speaking and
very polite. We enjoyed a lovely pool side BBQ and balmy evening.

 

 

New York City

Next we trained it to NYC. Below is Cydonia and Barry in their 30th floor apartment – we met on the Place on Wheels
in Feb 2005. The closest we came to the Museum of Modern Art (across
the road from the hotel) was seeing this truck load of sculpture being
unloaded. Of more interest to us was the Frick Museum, a turn of
century mansion art gallery.

The
Metropolitan Museum is one of our favorites, and they had numbered
exhibits with talking handsets. On Sunday morning we went to a Broadway
jazz club for Gospel singing. They were fab – one of the trips
highlights, that evening we went to the Rock Church for what we thought
would be more of the same. How wrong were we? It was a regular
Pentecostal type church with a Pommie Chaplan with an out of tune
guitar and a flat voice. There was a fair bit of hallelujah style
weeping and wailing too. Not quite what little Metho-Presbuttons like
Drena and Garry grew up with. We could hardly leave mid service though,
as there were only about a dozen parishner’s and they were acutely
aware of making us more than welcome by passing bibles and hymn books
to us throughout the service.

I was very good at taking my
vacation in NYC. Apart from several phone calls, one Jazz club dinner
and a bit of shopping for some tools for Stella, there was no other
work done. But had to take these few photo’s. The first 2 are Harry
Winston windows. The peep hole on the right has a 10ct oval diamond
ring in it (with a dreadful bowtie). De Beers are opening a new 5th
Ave store soon; just had to get the incongruous US flag into the pic.
The US Govt has had a warrant for the arrest of De Beers exec’s since
the 1960’s for monopolistic behaviour until very recently when De Beers
paid out and settled some long standing cases.

This
shop in fashionable Soho is Teno, a German brand of Stainless Steel
that we have had in stock for the last couple of years. Drena had a
fascination for the external fire-escapes – this building had 3. And
finally Drena and Garry sharing one of the very inexpensive and healthy
meals that one can self select from the many NY salad bars. All up less
than $20, complete with quite nice light Italian red in plastic cups.

 

Article Series
This article is part 3 of a 3 part series. Other articles in this series are shown below:

  1. The Palace on Wheels – The adventure
  2. Diamond Adventures in India
  3. USA Adventures June 2005