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A love affair with gems

17 august 2020

Image credit: Selikhov Diamonds

maxim_selikhov_xx.pngMaxim Selikhov is a jeweller, creator of the Selikhov Diamonds brand launched by him in 2006 and famous for exclusive handmade jewellery, usually with unique high-quality gemstones.

Selikhov is known as a passionate collector of rare gemstones, which he also considers an excellent investment tool.

The jeweller and collector tells R&P about his extraordinary hobby, precious collection and the most unique jewellery pieces that are of particular value in it.

What did your hobby stem from and how did it start?

I worked in the construction industry and until 2008, I was a leading engineer having zero ambitions to have any collections. But in 2006, I happened to visit the Faberge exhibition in St. Petersburg, and for the first time, I was struck and captivated by beautiful and rare stones. Back then, diamonds were mainly in fashion, they were advertised everywhere, so I decided to start looking for diamonds of my favorite green colour. In 2008, I purchased my first green 0.60-carat diamond in Moscow, and a year later, I bought an intense green diamond weighing 18 carats mined in Yakutia. Before cutting, its weight was 61.18 carats. By that time, such large diamonds had not been found for the last hundred years. In 2017, it was sent to the GIA laboratory where the colour was confirmed to be natural and the stone free from any signs of treatment. Back then, it was possible to simply buy certified diamonds from a store or from wholesalers.

Is this the same diamond that adorned the ring that your jewellery house exhibited at the Jewellery Arabia in Bahrain?

Yes, last year, we made the decision to make a ring with this diamond, and in November last year, it was displayed at the Jewellery Arabia and attracted a lot of attention. After all, coloured diamonds are rare and very beautiful.

Last November, Selikhov Diamonds took part in a jewellery contest and was awarded a diploma for a unique tourmaline ring from your collection. Can you tell its story?

In 2018, I purchased a low-copper blue Paraiba tourmaline lot: the owner of several mines in Africa had been collecting the stones for this lot for about four years. The lot of 17 stones was purchased because of one very large and beautiful stone weighing 93 carats. In the spring, this stone was cut and we got a very pure, beautiful 21.42-carat tourmaline stone.

In June, we received an invitation to take part in the Contemporary Heritage of Russia contest, the theme of which was The Empress’s Favorite Flowers. Together with our designers, we developed several designs of the ring; it took us about three months to make the ring. The Empress's Secret ring is made of 18K white gold set with 354 natural diamonds, 16 natural untreated sapphires, and the central stone is tourmaline. It resembles a lake surrounded by small primroses, the favorite flowers of Catherine II. After the exhibition in St. Petersburg, this ring was also displayed at the Jewellery Arabia exhibition in November 2019 in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.

                    Image credit: Selikhov Diamonds

What is the main pride of your collection today?

Four years ago, I was on business in Dubai where I met a collector of Tajik origin at one of the meetings who deals with rare collection stones mined in Tajikistan. I saw an incredibly beautiful spinel weighing 46.31 carats there for the first time. As a lover of rare beautiful stones, I could not resist and immediately decided that I should have it in my collection. But at that time, the owner was not going to sell this stone, and he would not yield to persuasion to sell it. For three years, I had been in touch with the stone owner. He told me the story of the stone: it was mined in the 1990s in the Pamirs at the Kukhilal (also Kukhi-lal, Ruby Mountain) spinel deposit and the rough stone weighed 174 carats. The spinel stone was cut in 2015 in Dubai, and the best cutters from Russia were specially invited to do this work. It took three months to cut and polish it, and the result was a pear-shaped spinel stone, and the colour of the stone was very correctly and beautifully shown. Even just seeing this rare pink Pamir spinel is a great luck.

Just pronouncing the name ‘Kukhilal’ makes all gemologists and connoisseurs of precious stones lose their breath recalling the pale pink sparkling spinel from the Pamirs. The ancient Moguls used Kukhilal stones as charms and engraved their names on the beads. The ‘Lals’ or ‘balas rubies’ (as these gems were called earlier) from Tajikistan adorn the Great Imperial Crown of the Russian Empire made for Catherine II, as well as some crowns of other European monarchs. In our time, the production of this gem has become quite problematic as quality specimens are very rare. The value of pure stones weighing more than five carats has increased exponentially over the last decade, and collectors and investors from all over the world hunt for them.

In February this year, I finally managed to negotiate the purchase of this spinel. A certificate was obtained at the GIA laboratory where the beauty and size of the stone impressed everyone so much that I was offered to publish a book about it. In the cover letter, they underlined that the spinel features a strong purplish-red colour, which is attributed to trace amounts of chromium and iron. The fingerprints - octahedral negative crystals - proving the natural origin of the gem are present in the stone. The spinel stone described in this letter shows no signs of treatment. The combination of its size, strong purple-red colour and lack of signs of heating make this spinel a unique rarity.

Now, this stone is a fine addition to my collection and is on a par with my other purchases including the 18.01-carat green diamond that I was talking about.

Every year, the price of red spinel approaches the value of rubies and reaches fifteen thousand dollars per carat. At the same time, the rarest and most beautiful specimens can be estimated at auctions at many times larger amounts. Sometimes, clouds are found in the crystals of this mineral, but this fact is by no means considered a defect and only increases the value of the stone. For the last decade, being among the top most demanded minerals, spinel keeps on beating historical price records. The trend for gemstones is set by the most famous jewellery houses in the world, and purchasing the gems is considered as one of the most profitable investments. In our country, this stone has not yet been awarded the title ‘precious’, although it adorns the main symbol of the power of all Russian monarchs.

                    Image credit: Selikhov Diamonds

So, this is your ‘fascinating charm’. Why spinel, not a diamond, emerald, even ruby?

In many ways, spinel is equal to ruby, although the latter is slightly harder (corundum with a hardness of 9 according to the Mohs’ scale). Spinel contains fewer inclusions than ruby ​​and has more fire and brilliance. It rarely gets hot and is not treated in any way. If a red spinel stone is heated, it changes slightly to a greyish colour, but after cooling, it returns its original colour. Spinel is probably one of the least treated gemstones. And this is a beautiful stone. The prices for red spinel, for all its hues, are rising every year because of its undeniable and spectacular beauty. In Austria, buyers love grey spinel - it also has a very interesting colour, I think it can be compared to a pearl. It has a grey ‘bodytone’ and always a more or less strong violet, blue, pink ‘overtone’, etc. Of course, this is not a gemological fact, but just a personal opinion.

If someone was practical and forward-looking enough to buy a spinel stone a few years ago, the buyer could see significant benefits, even as an individual.

For example, here is a gemological and commercial fact - an estimate made today by Gemval and clearly demonstrating the monetary value of a spinel stone: its weight is 5.00 carats, colour - medium, slightly purplish red, intense; VVS clarity, purity - 1, shape - ‘cushion’. Its price is $21,322.20.

As part of the annual events this year, the National Gemological Association has chosen the symbol of a gemological stone for the third time, and the red spinel, which is not very popular in our country (yet), won the majority of votes. But we, the gemologists, are well aware of how high the red spinel is valued in the world coloured stone market.

Are you going to admire the stone or use ‘your fascinating charm’ in a jewellery piece?

At present, the Selikhov Diamonds jewellery house has consultations with many jewellers, we are analyzing the market and fashion trends, but at the stage of considering our options, we tend to make a transformer ring, necklace and brooch. This rarest spinel should be the centerpiece of our new collection, the manufacture of which is underway, and we plan to display it at the exhibition in Bahrain. Of course, if the borders are open.

                              Image credit: Selikhov Diamonds

With your passion for rare coloured stones, a lot of diamonds are used in your jewellery house. Will you continue this line in your new collection?

This year, when creating a new collection, the Selikhov Diamonds jewellery house decided to move away from the traditional use of diamonds in a jewellery piece: the number of diamonds will be less and will make up no more than 20 percent of the total amount of precious stones used in jewellery pieces.

This has already become a trend at many jewellery houses around the world. In 2019, creating a collection for the exhibition in Bahrain we started using a variety of coloured gemstones in our jewellery to be set around the centre stones.

Indeed, the investments in rare gems are growing. So, you follow the trend.

Yes, we do; among other things, this is due to the instability of the world currencies and world companies’ shares. As the Daily Telegraph recently reported, on the upper jewellery market, the collectors continue to invest in rare gemstones as they consider them the safest investment compared to the stock or the real estate markets.

Coloured diamonds are highly valued and their price can reach one million dollars per carat. This was confirmed by purchases at the Jewellery Arabia: a year ago, a 22-carat pink diamond ring was sold for US$90 mn at the jewellery show in Bahrain.

This once again confirms that in a downturn, people are looking for alternative ways of preserving their capital. And to increase the capital over the years instead of decreasing it, we choose super-rare gems as the capital safe investment.

Galina Semyonova for Rough&Polished