For the layman, GemGenève provides a chance to discover the world of fascinating but usually highly unobtrusive professionals, like colored-stone dealer Emmanuel Piat from Paris.
Sandrine Merle. What stones are you presenting at GemGenève?
Emmanuel Piat. I specialize in very fine non-heated, non-treated centerpiece stones, which are sought by my Place Vendôme customers. I will also be presenting some unusual gray sapphires from the Umba mines in Tanzania, which, quite wrongly, have been too little-appreciated for too long. You know, there is an infinite variety of colored stones, but high-quality output is very rare. Some years ago, one of my father’s customers wanted to cover the bathroom of his yacht in lapis lazuli. It proved impossible, because the material just didn’t exist. But I can tell you, there’d have been no problem had it been diamonds.
S.M. You are decidedly reticent about your very finest stones… Will they be on show at GemGenève?
Emmanuel Piat. Of course they’ll be there at GemGenève, but not in my showcases: I only propose them to customers who might be very interested. This is because if they are not sold within a year, buyers think nobody wants them, so there must be something wrong with them. Likewise, some customers think that a stone that is seen too often loses its value. That said, visibility is crucial today, and that means striking a balance. So nowadays our stock, classified by stone, origin, weight and so on, is accessible online to professionals the world over.
S.M. In your line of business, you are having to cope with a lot of major changes…
Emmanuel Piat. Yes, everything’s moving very fast: production and customer networks, gemstone treatments, ethical standards, and so on. To stay competitive, among other things I’ve developed a lapidary workshop in Paris for refining stones, and a workshop for small calibrated jewels for timepieces, in Bangkok. I’ve also developed a financial product based on colored stones: its growth curve over the past fifteen years has been incredible, and prices for the top ten lots in major auctions have risen by over 10% each year. Investing in precious stones is still a thorny subject, because attempts have rarely been successful – not to mention all the frauds…
S.M. What about the dealers who traipse into mines?
Emanuel Piat. Going to the source to bypass the middleman is a tempting challenge for all young stone dealers. I made the mistake myself in 1998 when I visited Mogok, convinced I’d be able to get hold of the finest gems at the best prices. Not only is this very far from being the case, but you’re much more likely to go wrong. It’s so much better to work with a good middleman in the city! The trick is to take advantage of competitors’ stocks: to look at them with a fresh eye and spot the potential of stones they haven’t seen themselves. Professionals always say that there’s a bargain in every stock!
S.M. Among the mistakes to avoid, for instance, you say you should never buy a ruby in the afternoon.
Emmanuel Piat. Imagine you are in Bangkok: the redness of a ruby, magnificent in the mid-afternoon light, will appear much darker the next morning because the light makes a phenomenal difference. Some colored stones seem more beautiful in certain tropics than others: for my taste, pigeon’s blood rubies are much too dark for our latitudes, and it’s better to go for a lighter shade. Ideally, it’s best to buy in stones in your own office, comparing them with others. And above all, never to confuse shade with value!