Whatever Happened to Romance • Digital Devil #5

1 July 1999
By Richard Hughes
Whatever Happened to Romance • Digital Devil #5

Digital Devil #5, where I transition from hard-nosed gemological gumshoe to lamenting the lack of romance and appreciation of beauty in gemology.

I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas? Jean Kerr

Digital Devil #5 • Romancing the Stone

Gemology: Business-in-drag

Gemology is funny stuff. Part art/part science, it suffers from severe case of multiple personality disorder. Yes, that is also its charm – there is something for everyone – but the reality is that gemology is business-in-drag. Unfortunately, the emphasis is always on the science, with our gemological institutes busy turning out pure lab gemologists whose survival prospects are only slightly better than a rabbit with a phobia for the color green. Today's gemologists are woefully ill-prepared for what is the most important aspect of the subject – business.

Over the past few years I have given a number of talks to (mostly) gemological groups. While these lectures are well received, an occasional request is for less history and lore and more hard information about the stones themselves. This, my friends, is a mistake. When it comes to selling precious stones, we're being blinded by science. To sell more, less technical information is needed.

I'm not suggesting we stop analyzing stones, but just proposing a better balance. Science is gemology's mind, but the body also needs heart and soul. The heart of our product is its beauty, its soul the romance surrounding it. Today's gemology is too often a heartless shell. We are selling illusion. We need to become conjurers.

It's time we started admiring our stones again, instead of just copping a quick feel of their private parts.

We've lost that loving feeling

Magic is the essence of our business. We are privileged to work with some of the most stunning and romantic objects on the planet – spectacular, singular marvels of extraordinary beauty. Yet, this basic truth is so often lost in our rush to analyze. When a stone paper is opened, the first thing we do is pick up the stone in our tweezers and loupe it, an act as romantic as taking your lady to a frog autopsy on your first date. It's time we started admiring our stones again, instead of just copping a quick feel of their private parts. Let's think "bedside manner" here, let's put the romance back in what we do. Remember, the first part of analyze is anal. When selling precious stones, say no to anal gemology.


Edward Gübelin, one of the fathers of modern gemology, was recently asked by Professional Jeweler (Jan. 1999, p. 42) about what could be done to sell more colored stones. His answer? It sure wasn't a call for more analysis. Instead, he said "We have to emphasize the importance of gemstones as true gifts of nature and essential parts of our culture." Gifts of nature. I like that. When was the last time you looked at a stone and thought of it in anything approaching those terms? Maybe it's time we started. Maybe it's time we stopped being blinded by the science, but instead let it open our eyes to the wonder of it all. "Wow, isn't that incredible?" Yes it is, yes it is.

Gifts of nature. When was the last time you looked at a stone and thought of it in anything approaching those terms?

Romancing the stone

Let me show you how to sell a gem. In walks a young couple, shopping for a ruby. So you get out your box of stone papers. Start with the cheaper stuff, build slowly, wash their eyes. While your showing off your goods, throw in some politics. It can't hurt to mention that the Shan State mines from which most rubies come have been a source of severe political instability for decades, with much of the production being smuggled out of the country. The unlucky ones caught are imprisoned or even shot. It's no exaggeration that someone may have died to bring this shiny pebble to your door.

Then the moment comes when you bring out your best piece. Like making love to a woman, ya gotta do it slow. When you open a stone paper in front of them, just inch it open, a bit at a time. Toy with the ruby, tease it, let the light caress its crimson insides. And when it comes time to pick it up, just hold that red orb out at arm's length and marvel at it "Wow, isn't that incredible?" See if they don't agree.

Toss in a little culture. Take the man aside and whisper in his ear about how, in former times in Southeast Asia, rubies were often embedded under the skin of the male sexual organ in the belief that it increased potency and sexual pleasure. And as you hold out that ruby for him to hold, move in for the kill: "With something like this, who needs Viagra?" Now put it back in your pocket and walk away. If he doesn't get down on his knees and beg you to sell that ruby to him, then you can have that 1963 red corvette in my driveway. It ain't mine, but you can still have it.

R S end dingbat


Author's Afterword

Published in GemKey Magazine (1999, Vol. 1, No. 5, July-August), this was installment #5 of my Digital Devil column. I would later expand on these ideas here.

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