Welcome to our Blog!


Welcome to the blog of John and Laura Ramsey, two of the world’s most respected names and industry pioneers in the field of gemstone jewelry.

Here you will find a serialization of the Ramsey’s popular book: Gem Chronicles: The Early Years. This fun book traces the lives of John and Laura Ramsey and their involvement in the world of gems and jewelry. Part biography part travelogue you will see why the Ramsey’s have enjoyed working in the world of gems.


Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)


Easy Cheese Fondue

10 ounces of Gruyere cheese spread or grated
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon white wine
1 teaspoon kirsch
16 ounces cream cheese
1 clove of garlic

Gem-blogRub inside of saucepan with garlic and discard clove. Combine all ingredients in saucepan and heat slowly over low heat. Stir continuously. When mixture is thoroughly blended, pour into fondue server and keep warm. Serve with chunks of French or Italian bread for dipping. Should fondue become too thick while serving, add another teaspoon of white wine or kirsch.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)



2 pounds salt cod
2 large onions chopped in large pieces
4 large white boiled potatoes, cut in pieces.
(May be made ahead of time.)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs (optional)

The night before preparation, wash cod and place in a large bowl of cold water, making sure the fish is covered. Change water several times. Drain when ready to cook.

Place cod in large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Continue simmering until fish is soft and can be flaked easily.

Fry onions and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned.
Add wine and pepper.

Lightly grease oven-proof baking dish or casserole.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Put cod, potatoes, and garlic and onions mixture in dish, and cook for about 25 minutes. If you like, sprinkle top with bread crumbs after dish has been in oven for about 10 minutes.

(You can use your imagination here. Add sliced cooked eggs, broccoli, pimentos etc. to fish and potatoes before baking.) Serves four.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Switzerland (Continued…)

        He graciously beckoned us to come inside and we followed him to his office where we chatted about our trip and laughed together at our difficulties with the language. Dr. Gubelin, a cultured world-traveler, spoke excellent English.

        “John and Dr. Gubelin discussed the stones John had sent. I was so proud of my new husband,” Laura said. “At that time in his life, he was cutting rare gems on the Gemological Institute of America’s ‘B’ list of stones. It includes little known stones such as cuprite, phenakite, petalite, danburite and others, all of them a serious challenge to a gem cutter. John still is one of the premier gem cutters in the entire world.”

        After our business was transacted, Dr. Gubelin invited us out onto the terrace for refreshments. We were served coffee, hot chocolate* and cookies.

        “We’ll never forget the view from the terrace on that lovely and special afternoon,” John said. “I can still visualize the lush green lawn and rolling hills with the blue sky and Swiss Alps as background. It was like a magnificent painting- vivid, dramatic and spiritually moving.”

        Our sojourn in Lucerne remains one of our favorite memories of f Europe. Experiencing the delicate beauty of that moment drew us even closer to each other.

        Dr. Gubelin was indeed kind to spend time with two young travelers. We have since met many important people in the gem industry, and Dr. Gubelin will always be one of our favorites. We were fortunate to have him in our lives at that special moment in time.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Switzerland (Continued…)

        We fell in love with the countryside as it dick-clacked by the train window. We talked about how excited we were about going to see Dr. Gubelin, a giant in our industry and one of the most respected members of the gemstone community. A living legend in his field, he is founder of the world renowned Gubelin Gemmological Laboratory in Lucerne and has made his mark as an author, industry leader, and scientist.

        At the time of our visit, Dr. Gubelin was interested in acquiring museum quality collectibles and John had shipped him some prior to our visit. Excited, highly motivated, and a bit intimidated, we arrived too early for our appointment. We both knew that Dr. Gubelin was a very busy and important man and we were definitely in awe of him.

        We stopped off at a picturesque cafe to relax with a cup of coffee. We were both nervous and well aware of how lucky we were to be there. We were young, in love, sharing a wonderful adventure – and about to meet one of the most important men in our world. We checked the menu for fondue*, which was almost as popular in America during the 70s as it was in Switzerland. It was literally the flavor of the month at parties. Owning a fondue set was de rigueur or whatever the Schweizerdeutsch equivalent is.

        Bolstered by lots of coffee and a generous helping of youthful bravado, we checked our map and climbed the hill that led to the Gubelin residence. When we reached the top, we walked all the way to his home, which was set back from the road. The first thing that caught our attention was the doorknob. It was made of a highly polished gemstone material and was the size of a small melon. As we stood there staring, the door swung open and we found ourselves facing a tall, slender man with a well-trimmed beard. We were finally in the presence of the famous Dr. Gubelin!

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Switzerland (Continued…)

        We thought this part of our adventure would be a bit easier than our trip to Kenya or the brief stop over in Lisbon, but we were wrong. We had not figured on Schweizerdeutsch!

        Finding the right train became a challenge as we played dazed tourists. We couldn’t figure out what language everyone else was speaking. It sounded like nothing we’d ever heard before. With the help of a hurriedly perused travel book, we learned that Schweizerdeutsch, or Swiss-German, was the dialect of the region.

        That information was not much help when we stopped people and asked for directions to the train. They looked at us like we were creatures from another world. Actually, we were. As time passed, we became more and more frustrated to the point of desperation. Then our angel intervened. He didn’t have wings or a harp. He was nattily dressed, wore a fedora and smoked a pipe. He was sitting nearby reading a newspaper and when he looked up, there we were, two young Americans, with a very old problem.

        Our angel spoke perfect English with a slight accent. He graciously walked us to the correct train platform, tipped his fedora and bade us farewell. We’ll never forget him. Many of us have had similar experiences in which a stranger came to our aid when we needed help. On the other side of the coin, we get the chance to play angel at different times in our lives. All that’s required is being there for someone in distress.

        The ride to Lucerne was a treat. We hadn’t done much traveling by train, but it was to become one of our favorite modes of transportation.
(We didn’t know it then, but the future would hold the ultimate train
adventure on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.)

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)


        By the time we reached Switzerland, all vestiges of sadness had been replaced by youthful exuberance and eager anticipation. We couldn’t wait to get to Lucerne, home of renowned gemologist Professor Dr. Edward Gubelin. Dr. Gubelin was, and still is, an icon to gem enthusiasts throughout the world.

        We landed at Zurich Airport and stepped off the plane into temperate spring weather that reminded us of December in California. The busy terminal had an exciting international flavor with crowds of people traveling to and from exotic places. We took a cab to our hotel and found ourselves in the smallest room you can imagine. It was overwhelmed by the twin-sized bed, which had been advertised as queen, and took up most of the floor space. We had to climb over the bed to get to the closet and tiny armoire with space for two hangers and lots of mothballs. It was instant claustrophobia for two taller-than-average people. We had never before felt so confined, but big hotel rooms carried big prices and we were on a fixed budget. The little room without a view would just have to do.

        Our first day in Zurich was spent resting from our travels and preparing for our meeting with one of the most revered men in the gem industry. We got up early the following morning and took a taxi to the train station. The English-speaking hotel staff had given us directions to our next destination, beautiful Lucerne on the banks of Lake Lucerne.

        Capital of Lucerne canton, the city is named for an eighth century Benedictine monastery. The first inhabitants may have been St. Leodegar Monastery serfs who owed their allegiance and their livelihoods to those higher up on the feudal ladder.

        Lucerne is actually two cities separated by the Reuss River. Old town on the east, which is rooted in the 14th century, has narrow alleyways, covered bridges, an ancient town hall, watchtowers and landmark churches,among other historical structures. It is also home to Bertel Thorvaldsen’s world-famous “Lion of Lucerne,” a giant stone memorial to the Swiss Guards who died defending the French royal family at the Tuileries in 1792. New town on the west includes more modern buildings, ranging from the 14th to the 20th century. Lucerne has become one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions, offering visitors a number of special events including an annual International Festival of Music.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Portugal (Continued…)

        We were dining on the top floor of a hotel with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful harbor. We ordered Bacalhao*, dried salted codfish that is re-hydrated before preparation and served in a sauce best described as a cross between a salsa and gravy. With mixed vegetables as a side dish-delicious!

        We have experienced Portuguese cuisine on both sides of the Atlantic. Years later in Brazil, we ordered Bacalhao again and learned more about its origin. The dish dates back to the 15th century and the golden age of Portuguese exploration. Cod was abundant off the coast of Newfoundland, and brave Portuguese sailors, undaunted by distance, caught large amounts of the fish, which they preserved by salting and drying. The dehydrated cod was kept hanging on board, always available to hungry mariners. Bacalhao could be considered one of the world’s earliest fast foods.

        After dinner, we moved to the area where there was music and dancing. We had Portuguese wine and were chatting about our upcoming trip to Switzerland, when suddenly, in the midst of conversation, our friends stood up and moved quickly to the dance floor. The new song being played by the orchestra must have held a special meaning for them, or so we young romantics thought.

        We watched happily from our table as they whirled around in each other’s arms and we applauded at the song’s close and upon their return to us. We talked a little more and then they got up again. That’s when we realized we were there to dance! There was to be none of this sitting around and talking all night. Our friends must have thought we were a bit odd. All young people like to dance, don’t they? Truth was, as newlyweds, we didn’t have a lot of experience dancing together and we didn’t go out much. After a while, however, our terpsichorean friends began to insist we join them. We didn’t exactly panic, but our hearts beat faster-albeit to the sound of a different drummer, and one who was not
in that orchestra.

        Resigned to our fate, we looked at each other, breathed deeply, and walked slowly onto the dance floor, holding hands. We were so self-conscious and afraid we would make fools of ourselves. But we gave it our best try and by evening’s end we were dancing and smiling and having a great time.

        1977 was a year of many firsts for us. We were sharing a renaissance for two. We had traveled abroad, met new people, experienced different cultures and different foods-and now, we could add ballroom dancing to the list.

        We left Lisbon reluctantly, saddened by thoughts of unrealized experiences and dormant adventures. We vowed to return one day soon to reclaim the past and renew a friendship.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Portugal (Continued…)

        Let’s skip a few centuries to World War II when Europe was being ravaged by war. Portugal maintained its neutrality throughout and Lisbon became a sanctuary and point of departure for displaced persons from other countries.

        The city has a number of tourist attractions, including parks, monuments and museums.A must on every visitor’s list is theAlfama, the oldest area of Lisbon, where the Moorish influence on architecture is still strong. One of the most interesting sites in theAlfama is the Castle of St. George, which dates back to the Middle Ages. The famous SantaMaria De Belem, a suburb in the western part of Lisbon, is another must-see. Here is where you’ll find the Tower of Belem, (Torre de Belem), one of Lisbon’s most noted places of interest. It was built in the 16th century at the entrance of the Tagus River to guard against invaders. Another historic building is the Jeronimos Monastery (A1oistero do fer6nimes ), honoring Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a water route to India in 1498. Da Gama’s tomb is contained in the 16th century monument. Americans, of course, also know Da Gama as the man who first sighted the Pacific Ocean. The Pajio de Belem, official residence of the president of Portugal, is also a highlight for visitors who come to Lisbon from near and far.

        “But days of sightseeing were not on our itinerary this time around,” Laura said. “We were in Lisbon strictly for business. After checking into the hotel, we raced out to keep the appointment with our friends at their home. John carefully examined the premium tourmaline gem rough, which he knew would cut into beautiful large stones. After intense scrutiny with his gem lamp, he selected the finest pieces and the deal was made. We could now put business transactions behind us and have some fun.”

        Our friends graciously drove us on a quick tour of Lisbon, a city with expansive vistas and shimmering waters dotted with ships and boats. We stayed together for an early supper and talked about their life in Mozambique and their quest for gem rough. Coal is the most abundant natural resource in this mineral-rich land on the Indian Ocean, but our interests went deeper than that. In addition to its wonderful tourmaline, which can range in color from rose to cranberry to mint green and blue green, Mozambique was known for fine garnets, as well as other lovely gemstones. The political upheaval that divided the country, severely restricted the goods coming from this region. Never again would Mozambique offer the profusion of gem material that marked the 1950s and 1960s.

Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)


        Our quest this time was gemstones from the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique. We were especially interested in the flawless large green tourmaline crystals to be found in that East African nation where our friends had lived for most of their lives. They left in 1975 when Mozambique achieved independence and the country erupted in civil war.

        We flew 4,007 miles to get from Kenya to Portugal, with a very brief layover in Rome. We could sense the excitement of that city, but there was no time to experience it first hand. Rome would have to wait. We were heading for romantic, mysterious Lisbon, city of international intrigue, llse’s neutral haven in the film Casablanca, and her destination when she tearfully left Rick at the airport. Well, here’s looking at you, Lisbon!

        We set down at Lisboa International Airport and found ourselves in one of the most glorious seaport cities in the world. Our itinerary called for a two-day stay before heading for Switzerland. Lisbon wears many hats. It is Portugal’s capital, chief port, major commercial hub and the country’s biggest tourist attraction.

        The population is, for the most part, cosmopolitan and multi-cultural, with residents from Europe, Africa and Asia. People are drawn to this charismatic city on the Tagus River, which weaves in and out of Lisbon. The climate is humid and mild, averaging 63 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. Built on terraces along the sides of a series of low hills, Lisbon overlooks a natural harbor, considered to be among the most beautiful in the world.

        Ancient records indicate that Lisbon was founded by the Phoenicians. Some sources, however, give credit to Ulysses, the world traveler of Homer’s The Odyssey. The city was occupied by the Romans in the second century and was later ruled by the Visigoths and the Moors. It reverted back to the Portuguese in the middle of the 12th century and was made the capital some 100 years later.

Chapter 3: Portugal/Switzerland

Wanderings 1977


By now, we were hopelessly-but happily – afflicted with wanderlust. Instead of going home to California after our first Kenya trip, we took a two-day detour to Lisbon, Portugal, to meet with another married couple in the gem business.

They were older and their backgrounds were much different from ours, but we had a great deal in common – including a fascination with gemstones,
an excellent working relationship and a loving marriage.