- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

There are four diamonds sitting in a row, glimmering from the light of the skylight above. To the inexpert eye, they look nearly identical — but not to Lynne Loube, who has spent most of the last 30 years looking closely at gemstones like these.

Pointing to the stone on the far right, the energetic Ms. Loube explains that the stone is more yellow than its counterparts. But, she says, the stone is clearer and reflects light more intensely.

“See? Every stone bends light in a different way,” Ms. Loube says.

Ms. Loube is one of a rare breed of jewelry enthusiasts. She is able to notice these small variations in gemstone quality and has the education and certification to support it. She is a jewelry wholesaler as well as a master gemologist and appraiser — one of fewer than 60 persons nationwide with such titles — and looks at more valuable gems in a week than the average person sees in a lifetime.

Sitting in her Bethesda office, surrounded by gemstones and a variety of scales, magnifiers and microscopes, Ms. Loube, 62, is wearing a red shirt with ruby earrings and a ring glistening with a large ruby to match. Here is where she and her assistant, Rhonda Shadid, meet with clients.

Some come to her with single pieces of jewelry or entire collections wanting to know their value. Clients often will be unaware of even what kind of gemstones they have. It is Ms. Loube’s job to sort out the real from the fake, the rare from the common, and the beautiful from the ugly.

When examining a piece of jewelry, Ms. Loube looks for “God’s kisses” — small imperfections and markings that prove the gem has not been created in a laboratory.

To find these imperfections, she uses a microscope and magnifying glasses, or a small magnifying lens called a loupe.

Clients will come to Ms. Loube unsure whether a gem they have is truly a diamond or ruby, or whether it is manufactured. If a gem is not genuine, Mrs. Loube says, it can either be a “synthetic” or a “simulant.”

A synthetic is a stone that is made from the same material as an authentic gem, but was created in a laboratory. A simulant uses different materials altogether, and is made only to look like a genuine stone. A cubic zirconia, for instance, is a common simulant.

In the last few years, Ms. Loube has been dealing with jewelry far more valuable than the average cubic zirconia. Through a strange sequence of events, curators at Mount Vernon asked her to authenticate the jewelry collection of Martha Washington.

That work has led to an expanded roster of duties, including guest speaking appearances and teaching classes at George Washington University.

Ms. Loube’s interest in Martha Washington and 18th century jewelry will take her to the American Society of Appraisers convention in Tampa, Fla., in July, when she will give a four-hour talk on the Mount Vernon findings called the “Problems and Pitfalls of Appraising an Historical Collection.” She also is working to publish a book about Martha Washington and her jewelry, and makes frequent appearances as an expert witness in court cases involving fraud and bankruptcies.

She has come a long way since the early 1970s, when she was unemployed with little money. She turned to gemology because of an interest in jewelry, and enrolled at the Gemological Institute of America, in Carlsbad, Calif. There, she learned about the physical makeup, history and business of gemstones.

But it was in the course of earning a certificate from the American Society of Appraisers that she gained the knowledge required to determine the value of jewelry.

Jewelry appraisal is a complicated process, usually involving multipage reports that can vary depending on the reason for the appraisal.

In addition to acting as a wholesaler and selling jewelry to3 stores, Ms. Loube has been an independent appraiser to jewelry retailers in the Washington area. But her favorite work is dealing with clients one-on-one.

“I’ll see anybody anytime,” Ms. Loube says. “I love what I do. I love helping people identify things.”

She is eager to share her knowledge of gemstones, and will share information cheerfully to any careful listener. Some of her points:

• The most prized rubies come from Mogok, a mining area in Burma.

• The most sought-after sapphires come from the Kashmir region of India.

• Rubies look best in yellow light, but sapphires look best in blue light.

• An off-color diamond can be more valuable than a white diamond, if it is better at reflecting light.

Ms. Loube soon will demonstrate her knowledge to students at George Washington University, many of whom have signed up for her class to explore gemology as a potential second career.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful career,” she says. “You do a wonderful service for people.”

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