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Pala International has consistently earned its reputation as the direct source for the finest colored stones.

January 2014

January 2014 Newsletter

Be Mine, Valentine. This andradite garnet from Mexico sports a strong harlequin iridescence. Inv. #14401, 25.89 ct. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Be Mine, Valentine. This andradite garnet from Mexico sports a strong harlequin iridescence. Inv. #14401, 25.89 ct. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Garnet is January's birthstone, so we celebrate this stone in style, beginning with our featured stones: spessartite, a mouth-watering variety of garnet. This month's Pala Presents features collecting cards for the month of doorways and beginnings as we look, like Janus, ahead and behind. For the benefit of future generations, and in the spirit of charity (imprinted on one of the collecting cards), Pala International's Bill Larson has gifted fourteen gems and minerals to the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University. As noted in the museum's winter newsletter, the donation includes "a red spinel from Burma, four cut gem-quality amazonite gemstones, johachidolite gems in green, pink and gold, cut andradite garnets and a lovely pink tourmaline from California." And looking over our shoulder, we are happy to review a detailed study of ancient garnet: "Greek, Etruscan and Roman garnets in the antiquities collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum" by Lisbet Thoresen and Dr. Karl Schmetzer.

"No gems save garnets should be worn by those who in this month are born."

Table of Contents

Tucson Time: February 4–16, 2014

After the holidays, we're looking forward to the world's greatest gem and mineral show in February. One-stop general information about individual shows can be obtained from the Tucson EZ-Guide.

Pala International will be represented in Tucson as follows. We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.

AGTA GemFair

Pala joins nearly 100 exhibitors for this trade-only annual extravaganza.

Event: AGTA GemFair
When: February 4–9, 2014
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Pala International Booth: 1016

The event website now features an interactive floorplan allowing you to see who is exhibiting by area of the convention center.

Free seminars by notables in the world of gemstones and pearls are now listed. Special exhibits this year include

  • Displays of the Spectrum Awards winners for gem and jewelry design as well as the finalists of the International Pearl Competition
  • The "Magical Gifts of Nature" a new traveling exhibition of Extraordinary and Incredible Cultured and Natural Pearls
  • Highlights of the Smithsonian Institution's Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems & Minerals
  • Somewhere In The Rainbow – A Modern Gem and Jewelry Collection

13th Annual Westward Look Mineral Show

Pala International and two dozen other world-class mineral dealers shack up at a Sonoran Desert resort.

Event: 13th Annual Westward Look Mineral Show
When: February 7–10, 2014
Where: Westward Look Resort
Pala International Suite: 224, Building 20, Upper Level

See Pala International's page on the Westward Look Show site. See also this dealer map.


60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

TGMS is the largest gem and mineral show in the country. This year's theme is "60 Years of Diamonds, Gems, Silver and Gold."

Event: 60th Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
When: February 13–16, 2014
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Pala International Booth: Aisle 5 East

Pala's Bill Larson to Present at TGMS on Burma

Take your Valentine to the ends of the earth this year in Tucson.

Bill Larson will discuss "The Gem and Crystal treasures of the mythical Valley of Mogok" on Friday, February 14 in the Crystal Ballroom, 11 a.m. to 12 noon. This talk highlights his 20+ years of traveling to the amazing country of Burma. You won't want to miss it.


Tucson Transit Tips

Many shows will offer their own shuttles. View your transit and parking options here.


Dr. John Emmett to Receive 2014 Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology

Last month the Accredited Gemologists Association (AGA) announced that prominent physicist Dr. John L. Emmett is to be the recipient of the 2014 Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology. He is considered the world's foremost expert in corundum enhancements. His various reports on the subject, which appear on (or are cited on) the Palagems.com website, are a valuable asset. John is friends with various Pala International staff members and it's always a treat to see him at the gem shows. We heartily congratulate him on this honor. Below, AGA's press release regarding the award and its recipient.

AGA is pleased to announce that renowned physicist Dr. John Emmett is the recipient of the 2014 Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology.

The Bonanno Award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the gemological field.

Dr. Emmett obtained his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. From 1975–1988, Dr. Emmett was Associate Director for Lasers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA. John is considered a world authority on the physics and chemistry of corundum.

Dr. Emmett's contributions to gemological research are numerous. In the 1990s, John became involved with heat treatment of ruby and sapphire and today is the world's foremost corundum enhancement expert. But it is his work in educating traditional gemologists where he has really excelled. For nearly two decades he has cooperated with the former AGTA GTC and the GIA, along with a host of other gemological organizations and individual gemologists.

John was instrumental in unmasking the beryllium diffusion of corundum through a series of experiments that he designed and conducted. He has worked tirelessly since then to train gemologists in modern scientific methods and encourage gemology to move beyond theory to experimentation in the quest to understand the identification and treatment issues facing this industry. This work has been largely self-funded, donating his time and home lab. Because of his work, with its emphasis on experimentation as a fundamental part of the gemological process, gemologists now have a better understanding of the causes of color not just in corundum, but in gemstones across the board. This idea of experimentation as a means to understanding has revolutionized the science of gemology.

John has repeatedly stressed that knowledge is the common property of all humanity and has willingly shared his expertise with that principle in mind.

The Antonio C. Bonanno Award for Excellence in Gemology will be presented at AGA's Gala Dinner Dance at the conclusion of its Tucson Conference, Wednesday, February 5, 2014, from 6:30 – 11:00 PM, at the Marriott University Park Hotel.

For a vintage example of Dr. Emmett's work, see "Heat Treating the Sapphires of Rock Creek, Montana," co-authored by Troy R. Douhit, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 29 (1993), No. 4, pp. 250–272, available at GIA. 


Winged Wonder: The Aurora Butterfly of Peace at NHM

Visitors to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (NHM) have the chance to view a rare lepidopteran: The Aurora Butterfly of Peace. Curator Alan Bronstein spent twelve years collecting its colorful components—240 natural fancy-colored diamonds arranged in the figure of a butterfly, with a combined weight of 166.94 carats. The exhibition is available for viewing through June 3, 2014, so there’s plenty of time to flit by.

  • Info on The Aurora Butterfly of Peace on the NHM website
  • Some science behind the colored diamonds, and many more images, both collective and in twos and threes—you'll want to see how many of these jewels fluoresce, too; from the blog of Eloïse Gaillou, NHM Associate Curator of Mineral Sciences
  • And what’s a special exhibition without a special occasion (on Facebook)?
Playing hard-to-get. NHM's Eloïse Gaillou uncovers The Aurora Butterfly of Peace prior to examining some of the stones individually. (Photo © Eloïse Gaillou)

Playing hard-to-get. NHM's Eloïse Gaillou uncovers The Aurora Butterfly of Peace prior to examining some of the stones individually. (Photo © Eloïse Gaillou)


Twelfth Annual Sinkankas Symposium – Peridot and Uncommon Green-colored Gem Minerals

April 5, 2014, GIA World Headquarters and
The Robert Mouawad Campus, Carlsbad

The annual Sinkankas Symposium has been described by John Koivula as the "best gem mineral symposium in North America" and has a reputation for achieving sold-out enrollment.

This year's theme focuses on green-colored gems that have lower public recognition than their more illustrious counterparts such as emerald, jade, etc., with peridot perhaps the most well-known. For instance, Pala International’s Bill Larson will offer "Green with Envy," a photographic odyssey of fine crystals and cut gems from worldwide localities featuring peridot and a panoply of uncommon green gems of beguiling beauty ranging from A (actinolite) to Z (zircon). Lisbet Thoresen, whose study of ancient garnet we review below, will discuss the disappearing act of the "poor man's emerald" in her presentation, "Chromian Chalcedony: A Gem from History's Lost and Found."

Visit the Sinkankas Symposium website for speaker bios and abstracts of presentation topics.

  • Dr. Raquel Alonso-Perez
  • Dr. James A. Harrell – Archaeogemology of Peridot
  • William Larson – Green with Envy
  • Shane McClure
  • Nathan Renfro – Cutting Peridot and the Exploration of Its Inclusions
  • Dr. George Rossman will discuss the causes of color in green gem minerals
  • Dr. James Shigley
  • Dr. Skip Simmons – Mineralogy and Crystallography of Peridot
  • Lisbet Thoresen – Chromian Chalcedony: A Gem from History's Lost and Found
  • Robert Weldon

The Sinkankas Symposium is organized by Roger Merk, and co-sponsored by the Gemological Society of San Diego and the GIA (Gemological Institute of America). It will be held Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the GIA World Headquarters and The Robert Mouawad Campus, 5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008.

Registration

The registration form is posted on the Symposium website after past attendees are sent their invitations. Join the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society mailing list to be kept informed; after submitting your email address, be sure to select the Sinkankas Symposium checkbox.

Envious? Pakistan produces fine peridot in larger sizes, like this 10.35-carat beauty. Inv. #13165. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Envious? Pakistan produces fine peridot in larger sizes, like this 10.35-carat beauty. Inv. #13165. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)


Bill Larson to Address SDMG 80th Annual Banquet

It's a year of milestones, with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show celebrating 60 years, and the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society marking its 80th birthday. Pala International's Bill Larson will be the featured speaker for the latter bash, to be held on Saturday, March 8, 2014, 11:30 a.m., at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 8885 Balboa Ave., San Diego.

Bill will show highlights from various mines in San Diego County—exceptional specimens that include morganite, kunzite, garnet, and rare gem species. He noted, "I was the speaker at the 70th anniversary, so I guess my goal is to speak at the 100th!"

The "Candelabra" Tourmaline was mined in 1972 by Bill Larson at the Tourmaline Queen mine in San Diego County's Pala District. "What a sight," he recalled years later, "over a foot long." (It actually is about a foot and a half.) It now is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

The "Candelabra" Tourmaline was mined in 1972 by Bill Larson at the Tourmaline Queen mine in San Diego County's Pala District. "What a sight," he recalled years later, "over a foot long." (It actually is about a foot and a half.) It now is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

Ticket info and more details for the banquet available here.

Pala International News

Spessartite draws it derivation from the type locality for the mineral, Spessart, in Bavaria, Germany. Simply put, this is an orange variety of garnet, but the terminology, deposits, and actual colors are far more complex.

Spessartite is more of a mineralogical term for a specific chemical formula (Mn2+3Al2(SiO4)3) within the garnet group. The term spessartine is more often used in Europe but is synonymous with spessartite. Mandarin is a term inspired by the Namibian deposit producing more pure-orange hues.

When the Namibian deposit came online around 1991, the color palette for fine spessartite changed. The material coming out of Marienfluss, Kunene Region was an electric mandarin-orange hue, with some minor pink or red secondary that made it seem very pure and intense. The only drawback to this material was that it often had fine needles creating a silky appearance.

Spessartite Suite: (l–r from top row) 24.80-carat oval from Nigeria (Inv. #13832), 17.71-carat pear shape from Nigeria (#20423), 12.90-carat pear shape from Nigeria (#16043), 22.73-carat cushion from Tanzania (#21599), 12.71-carat round from Namibia (#1531), 10.46-carat oval from Tanzania (#21598), and 11.10-carat oval from Nigeria (#21569). Click to enlarge. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Spessartite Suite: (l–r from top row) 24.80-carat oval from Nigeria (Inv. #13832), 17.71-carat pear shape from Nigeria (#20423), 12.90-carat pear shape from Nigeria (#16043), 22.73-carat cushion from Tanzania (#21599), 12.71-carat round from Namibia (#1531), 10.46-carat oval from Tanzania (#21598), and 11.10-carat oval from Nigeria (#21569). Click to enlarge. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

The Nigerian deposit was by far the the biggest as far as carats produced. This deposit in Iseyin, Oyo State, Nigeria produced material from dark reddish-orange, to cinnamon orange, to yellowish orange, to mandarin hues. This material is very clean compared to many other spessartite deposits and still holds strong orange colors. Pala International last bought into a large parcel in 2004 and we are still selling off some of this impressive material. And Pala purchases spessartites whenever we can find fine gems.

The most recent spessartite deposit discovery was the massive find in Loliondo, Tanzania, around 2009. At first it seem only to produce fine crystal specimens, but some cleaner faceted gems worked their way into the market. Colors range from reddish orange, to yellowish orange, to mandarin hues.

Although these are the most prolific spessartite deposits lately, there are several smaller but important localities in San Diego County, USA; Burma; China; Madagascar; Pakistan; and Afghanistan.

Interested? Contact us!

Gems and Gemology News

John S. White: Reminiscences of a very old Former Curator

Last spring, John S. White delivered a presentation to the 40th Rochester Mineralogical Symposium (RMS) under the title, "Reminiscences of a very old Former Curator." Yes, it was going to be that kind of a talk—filled with the recollections that might be inapt for, shall we say, less pliant, occasions. That's not to say that this talk didn't reflect the earnest passion with which White approached his career. But with this presentation, what might never have seen the light of screen was retrieved from the digital dustbin to provide a different slant on a curriculum vitae that includes, among a host of highlights, time working at the Smithsonian with his mentor Paul E. Desautels, "the most influential American curator of the 20th century" by The Mineralogical Record, itself an influential journal that White founded in 1970.

John S. White, speaking at the 40th Rochester Mineralogical Symposium in 2013. (Photo: Elise Skalwold)

John S. White, speaking at the 40th Rochester Mineralogical Symposium in 2013. (Photo: Elise Skalwold)

In his RMS presentation, now posted with permission on YouTube, White takes us through his early life, beginning with a fortunate and providential meeting with Desautels. White would be hired by the Smithsonian years later, and in his talk he tours us on the inner workings of the Mineral Sciences Department, displaying a list of the institution's individual collections, as of the mid 1980s, including that of Nobel-winner Carl Bosch: 25,000+ minerals, 3,000 gems and 600 meteorites. On to a five-week European trip in 1967 with world-class dealer Martin Ehrmann. We're taken into the Smithsonian's (non-public) Blue Room and the main hall prior to its renovation.

Final payoff. John S. White, right, with Pala International's Bill Larson just after the discovery of the famous blue-cap tourmalines. In his talk, John tells that during this visit Bill gave him a six-inch blue-cap crystal on a time-payment plan. Years later, after John sold his collection, the crystal "disappeared," only to be sold a few years ago for nearly three hundred times the original price of $500. When Bill viewed John's talk, he recalled the crystal passing through the hands of David Eidahl and Louis Schwartz, then "in the late 1980s back to me at $5000. Then, yes, it was sold for $140,000 through Pala International—25 years later." (Image from John White's presentation, posted on the PalaInternational Channel at YouTube by permission of John White and the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium)

Final payoff. John S. White, right, with Pala International's Bill Larson just after the discovery of the famous blue-cap tourmalines. In his talk, John tells that during this visit Bill gave him a six-inch blue-cap crystal on a time-payment plan. Years later, after John sold his collection, the crystal "disappeared," only to be sold a few years ago for nearly three hundred times the original price of $500. When Bill viewed John's talk, he recalled the crystal passing through the hands of David Eidahl and Louis Schwartz, then "in the late 1980s back to me at $5000. Then, yes, it was sold for $140,000 through Pala International—25 years later." (Image from John White's presentation, posted on the PalaInternational Channel at YouTube by permission of John White and the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium)

As White takes us through his career (in retirement he remains active as a writer, field collector, and consultant) there are several surprises (defying the curse of the Hope Diamond…), as well as a lot of lovely gemstones and mineral specimens. See for yourself here.


Greek, Etruscan and Roman garnets in the antiquities collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum

A provenance study by Lisbet Thoresen and Dr. Karl Schmetzer

In the fall of 2006, your editor was introduced to Lisbet Thoresen, who told me briefly about the work she had been doing on the origin of carved gemstones in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection. Years later, she alerted me to Dr. Karl Schmetzer's (and fellow contributors') important study, Russian Alexandrites, which Alan Hart called "one of the best 'single species' volumes ever published" (Journal of Gemmology, 2010, vol. 32, No. 1–4). In her own review of the book in our pages, Thoresen called it "a painstakingly researched story replete with intrigue, tragedy and epochal sweep worthy of translation to motion pictures."

On the cover. A pair of ancient cameo carvings. The Hellenistic pyrope-almandine carving on the left (19.1×12.9 mm) is a royal portrait of a Ptolemaic Queen. On the right is a pyrope cameo of the head of Eros encircled by a plaque (11.7×9.5 mm), a popular motif in Roman glyptic of the 1st century BCE/CE. Inv. nos. 81.AN.76.59 (left) and 83.AN.437.42 (right, gift of Damon Mezzacappa and Jonathan H. Kagan), J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California. (Photo: Harold and Erica Van Pelt)

On the cover. A pair of ancient cameo carvings. The Hellenistic pyrope-almandine carving on the left (19.1×12.9 mm) is a royal portrait of a Ptolemaic Queen. On the right is a pyrope cameo of the head of Eros encircled by a plaque (11.7×9.5 mm), a popular motif in Roman glyptic of the 1st century BCE/CE. Inv. nos. 81.AN.76.59 (left) and 83.AN.437.42 (right, gift of Damon Mezzacappa and Jonathan H. Kagan), J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California. (Photo: Harold and Erica Van Pelt)

In the forthcoming edition of The Journal of Gemmology (2013, Vol. 33, No. 7–8), Thoresen and Dr. Schmetzer collaborated on a garnet provenance study entitled "Greek, Etruscan and Roman garnets in the antiquities collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum." This study, which began in 1996, compares gemological and chemical properties of 11 garnets with data published on 26 Greek and Roman garnets in five other studies. The objective was not only to characterize the chemical and gemological properties of the gem material but also to identify their possible geographic origins and relationship to ancient trading networks, and even perhaps discern "associations between finished objects now dispersed in different collections," as noted in the study's abstract. (This latter objective, which ventures beyond the bounds of traditional gemological inquiry, Thoresen tells us, is the subject of a second paper in the works.)

The authors begin with a brief overview of garnets used in ancient craft industries beginning with Egypt (4th–2nd millennium BCE) and in Western and Southwestern Asia (2nd–1st millennium BCE). Their use proliferated in the Hellenistic (323–30 BCE) and Roman eras (ca. mid-1st century BCE – ca. 5th century CE), and garnets later reappeared in Medieval cloisonné. Our lexicon is enhanced along the way with antiquarian terms like glyptic ("the art of gem carving") and comparanda ("gems and settings that are stylistically or typologically similar").

Unlike other gem materials, garnets, while common, have a chemical complexity that can sometimes point to a particular source. This chemical signature, however, has not often been investigated in garnets of the Classical world, hence the present study, which includes a survey of previous laboratory techniques before turning to its own analysis in depth.

This pyrope scarab (13.3 × 9.4 mm), gem no. 1, is the earliest dated and only Etruscan garnet in the present study (late 4th–3rd century BCE). The flat side is engraved with a helmeted head in profile. While the scarab shape is characteristic of Etruscan glyptic, the use of garnet as a carving material is rare. Inv. no. 81.AN.76.142, J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection. (Photo: Ellen Rosenbery)

This pyrope scarab (13.3 × 9.4 mm), gem no. 1, is the earliest dated and only Etruscan garnet in the present study (late 4th–3rd century BCE). The flat side is engraved with a helmeted head in profile. While the scarab shape is characteristic of Etruscan glyptic, the use of garnet as a carving material is rare. Inv. no. 81.AN.76.142, J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection. (Photo: Ellen Rosenbery)

Three graphs plot the chemical composition of garnets from data obtained using electron microprobe analysis performed by Paul Carpenter at Caltech, Pasadena, under the supervision of Dr. George Rossman, and they clearly show the 11 Getty garnets falling into four distinct groups. A fourth plot of refractive index versus density also corroborates their "groupings." Each of the 11 garnets was cast into its percentage end-member components and was shown to belong to the pyralspite solid solution series, with some stones containing a significant grossular component. Gemological properties are also presented as well as optical spectra and 13 photomicrographs of inclusions. The article leads off with a table providing an artistic/cultural description of each of the Getty Museum garnets in the study and a tabular description of the 26 garnets previously analyzed (in five studies) also is included. Plots of the chemical compositions of all 37 ancient garnets then are displayed together. The plots show the positions of two specimens from the earlier studies transposed between groups. "This underscores the importance of gemmological properties," the authors write, "and not only chemical composition for assigning [garnets to a specific] type/cluster/group."

Some of the data on ancient garnets from these six studies showed compositions that could be associated with period-specific use, with garnets of the early Middle Ages tending to segregate away from the earlier dated Classical-era garnets. The reference standards for garnets from known localities appear to provide meaningful data points regarding the shifting political geography and cultural setting for the production of gem arts over time. Perhaps also, the data on the ancient garnets compared against the reference standards from known localities ranging from Northwestern Africa and the Iberian peninsula to Central Europe and further east to South Asia (e.g., India), can shed light on the ambiguities in ancient texts on the subject of gem sources.

As the authors point out, a survey of 37 garnets cannot be definitive regarding sources. More data are needed and need to be examined in relation to ancient texts and archaeological evidence. The authors write, "A preliminary comparison of such data suggests that some deposits used in antiquity were different from deposits used later." Given the scholarship of this paper and what it suggests for future research, we look forward to what lies ahead.

Gem no. 8 is a Ptolemaic oval intaglio (16.0 x 13.0 mm) engraved with the head of Dionysos wearing an ivy wreath (late 2nd–1st century BCE). Inv. no. 85.AN.444.22 (gift of Jonathan H. Kagan), J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection. (Photo: Harold and Erica Van Pelt)

Gem no. 8 is a Ptolemaic oval intaglio (16.0 x 13.0 mm) engraved with the head of Dionysos wearing an ivy wreath (late 2nd–1st century BCE). Inv. no. 85.AN.444.22 (gift of Jonathan H. Kagan), J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection. (Photo: Harold and Erica Van Pelt)

The forthcoming edition (2013, Vol. 33, No. 7–8) of The Journal of Gemmology will be published on January 20. We're told by recently appointed Editor-in-Chief, Brendan Laurs, that a new relationship between Gem-A and Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF will result in a new look and broader content for the journal, beginning with the first edition of Vol. 34. SSEF is providing financial support of the journal to make its expansion possible (without influencing its content). More information about the journal is available here.

Industry News

Vanishing Act in Vancouver

National Treasure Grabbed in Gastown

The Canadian Press likened the loss to that of the Hope Diamond. Rocks & Gems Canada, a business in Vancouver's historic Gastown district (named after the area's first saloon owner "Gassy" Jack Deighton), had its front window smashed early December 20 and a thief stole a large ammolite specimen, Alberta's official provincial gemstone. Not only is ammolite revered, but it is protected; the Canadian government must approve its removal from the country.

On the lam. Worth about a half a million dollars, this ammolite, stolen on December 20, is considered a national treasure. It is the same material used in jewelry currently on display at GIA, as we reported last month. (Handout photo released on Dec. 23, 2013)

On the lam. Worth about a half a million dollars, this ammolite, stolen on December 20, is considered a national treasure. It is the same material used in jewelry currently on display at GIA, as we reported last month. (Handout photo released on Dec. 23, 2013)

The shoe-sized specimen measures almost 11 inches. Visible during the day, the window was masked at night, and although protected by bars, the specimen apparently squeezed through. The specimen was from southern Alberta and will be easy to spot at Tucson…

Oh, and by the way, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail, the Smithsonian Institution owns the Hope Diamond and it is not for sale, in case you had some extra Christmas cash.


Fleurs de bon: The Multifaceted World of John Hatleberg

Since 1987, John Hatleberg has created exact replicas and molds (or both) of the world's most famous diamonds, including the Hope and the Koh-i-Noor, for the jewels' owners or guardians, exclusively. Motives behind a replica might vary, but reproductions and even models can be of great significance.

Such was the case with the Koh-i-Noor, once considered the largest diamond in the world. Upon reading about the stone in Ian Balfour's Famous Diamonds (originally published in 1987; now in its fifth edition), Hatleberg was intrigued to see mention of a model of the Koh-i-Noor, made in the spring of 1851 before its recutting, the model having been commissioned by the directors of the British Museum. (Imagine a master sculptor learning by chance of, say, a replica of the Venus de Milo, tucked away in a Greek archive, complete with arms and plinth.) Hatleberg was impelled to meet with Peter Tandy, earth sciences curator of the Natural History Museum, London, in 1992 to see if the model still existed. What they found was precious—in both senses of the word: a glass-covered box inscribed "Do Not Touch." It contained a plaster cast of the Koh-i-Noor, and yes, before it was recut. Consequently, Hatleberg was authorized to make new casts of the original, fragile cast (and its two pendant diamonds) to preserve what might have perished had the box's admonition been ignored. It would be thirteen years of research and requests for permission before Hatleberg was allowed to do what he does best: to fashion a replica of the Koh-i-Noor for the museum's Diamonds exhibition in 2005, a process that took six months. (The full story and its implications are told on JohnHatleberg.com.)

Flower Painting by John Hatleberg, 20 x 15 1/2". Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, Chinese freshwater, keshi, seed pearls, moldavite, peridot, tsavorite, sphene, fuchsite, lemon quartz, tourmaline, white, yellow, brown diamonds with mica canvas in a patinated silver frame. Click to enlarge. (Photo: John Bigelow Taylor)

Flower Painting by John Hatleberg, 20 x 15 1/2". Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, Chinese freshwater, keshi, seed pearls, moldavite, peridot, tsavorite, sphene, fuchsite, lemon quartz, tourmaline, white, yellow, brown diamonds with mica canvas in a patinated silver frame. Click to enlarge. (Photo: John Bigelow Taylor)

On January 3 of this year, Public Radio International (PRI) profiled John Hatleberg, beginning with an image (ahem; the image does accompany the audio) that may be familiar to our readers: the Hope Diamond glowing like the eye of Luis Jimenez's famous Mustang at DIA. The PRI segment is a personal portrait (as personal as you can get in the space of about 6 minutes), taking you from his studio to his secret vault, and leaving you lusting for more. Well, more might come by way of the fact that Hatleberg is a fine visual artist as well as an exquisite craftsman. His work is quite varied, from a meteorite mirror to a model adorned with 30,000 gems to the whimsicality of a Hope Diamond chocolate and the crazy-quilt expressionism of his own Green Lantern ring.

Hatleberg was kind enough to grace us with three images of these other creations, one of which we'll feature in the February–March edition of our sibling e-publication, Pala Mineralis. We're sure you'll still be left lusting for more…

Pin by John Hatleberg. Moldavite and Tahitian, keshi and seed pearls with 18 kt yellow gold. This pin was the inspiration for the flower painting on mica, above. Click to enlarge—please. (Photo: Tony Pettinato)

Pin by John Hatleberg. Moldavite and Tahitian, keshi and seed pearls with 18 kt yellow gold. This pin was the inspiration for the flower painting on mica, above. Click to enlarge—please. (Photo: Tony Pettinato)


Burma Bits

Mining in Mogok, December 2013

Friend of Pala International, George Shen, has had a forty-year career in the jewelry and gem industry. He last appeared in our pages in conjunction with the ICA Congress, held in Changsha, Hunan, China.

Today he sent us images from a December 2013 trip to Mogok, Burma. We share some of the highlights with you below.

The Mogok Valley is home to half a million people. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

The Mogok Valley is home to half a million people. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

A mine in Mogok, with outbuildings perched up top. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

A mine in Mogok, with outbuildings perched up top. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Taking a trip 400 meters into a ruby mine. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Taking a trip 400 meters into a ruby mine. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Ruby rough from the mines. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Ruby rough from the mines. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Lovely 1700-carat ruby specimen from the collection of Federico. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Lovely 1700-carat ruby specimen from the collection of Federico. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Another ruby specimen from the collection of Federico. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Another ruby specimen from the collection of Federico. (Photo courtesy George Shen)

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Xinhua, December 27: Myanmar exempts goods exported to ASEAN from custom duties—including jade
  • Eleven Media Group, December 27: Mining operations, including for jade, have been undertaken without the permission of the Myanmar Investment Commission
  • The Irrawaddy, January 7: Hong Kong jade prices soar for fear of Burmese jade shortage
  • Eleven Media Group, tomorrow (heh-heh): In observation of Union Day in Burma, EMG launches a thumbnail profile of Burma's eight major ethnic groups, beginning with the Kachin, who inhabit the country's jade land

Books

Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide

By Richard W. Hughes with photos by
Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes

In the market for a monograph that is technical enough for the advanced reader but accessible enough for the novice? Such a volume is Richard W. Hughes's new Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide, which will be hitting the shelves of AGTA GemFair early next month. As brother of the author, your editor had the opportunity to read (and proof) a near-final draft of the book last fall.

As expressed by the title, this book is aimed at the connoisseur, the person building a collection. And because all collections must begin at naught, Hughes points to localities like Australia that might offer the beginner a bargain. But price can deceive and so, via this book, the buyer is armed with a forensics in gemology that balances science against aesthetics (after having received some history and lore, as well as the rules of the road). This is the most technical information, but it is presented cleanly, with lots of space (as is the book's entire layout); inviting, not daunting.

Closest to Hughes's heart is Thailand, where he makes his home, and he devotes a 26-page chapter to the country whose ruby and sapphire production has gone from boom to bust during his 30some-year career, while the country remains at the epicenter of the colored gemstone trade.

Naga bangle with rubies. Nagas are serpent deities that appear in Thai folklore and Buddhist imagery. Manus Siripatvanich/House of Goldsmiths Collection. Thailand, circa early 1900s. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Naga bangle with rubies. Nagas are serpent deities that appear in Thai folklore and Buddhist imagery. Manus Siripatvanich/House of Goldsmiths Collection. Thailand, circa early 1900s. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

As I noted to my brother while reading the book, one of its nice aspects is that it includes some of the more obscure localities of Africa. When one thinks of Rwanda initially, the Tutsi genocide may come to mind, but this tiny country's tea plantations are home to sapphire deposits that mostly are hand-worked. Mention Kenya, and tsavorite comes to mind, but Kenyan localities also produce the rare facetable ruby, along with many more cabochon-grade stones. I may be stretching things a bit, but as I was wandering the world through Ruby & Sapphire's pages, I was reminded of theatre and film director Peter Brook who wasn't content to work only in the great theaters and opera houses of London and Stratford-upon-Avon. Assembling a polynational company in 1970, and in the face of illness and personal challenges, his International Centre for Theatre Research traveled in Iran and north-central Africa, playing on carpeted dirt instead of stage boards in search of another way of approaching art and relationships. In what I have seen of my brother's oral and print presentations, he too has sought alternative approaches to science and narrative. And if Brook and crew were ambassadors of their craft, Hughes and his fellows, in their pursuits, are ambassadors in their own right.

Rwanda sapphires, 1.32 and 0.64 ct; unheated. RWH Collection. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Rwanda sapphires, 1.32 and 0.64 ct; unheated. RWH Collection. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

As the author of Ruby & Sapphire wanders the byways, the book's eye itself wanders from the gemstones, and we can't complain when treated to these documents of the varieties of human experience, together with compelling images of flora and fauna (as well as terra), all via the viewfinders of Hughes along with his wife Wimon Manorotkul (her opening photos leap from the page: a Glenn Lehrer sapphire carving, a Burmese bearing gifts) and daughter Billie (whose image of Winza miner Obama is a cultural mashup).

Got the goods. Ma Sandi Maung at Bawpadan in Myanmar's Mogok Stone Tract, 2013. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Got the goods. Ma Sandi Maung at Bawpadan in Myanmar's Mogok Stone Tract, 2013. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

A miner named Obama, below, sorts ruby outside his hut at Winza, Tanzania, 2013. (Photo: E. Billie Hughes)

A miner named Obama, below, sorts ruby outside his hut at Winza, Tanzania, 2013. (Photo: E. Billie Hughes)

And then there are the jewels. My favorites include a Cartier pendant brooch sporting a 28.7-carat diamond-shaped sapphire cabochon from Sri Lanka that, in 1912, reflected the remarkable cross-pollination of Paris, taking its inspiration from Diaghilev's then-new company, Les Ballets Russes. Also from Sri Lanka is a gorgeous ring, sold by Christie's in 2005, featuring a 20.84-carat padparadscha sapphire epitomizing the variety's ethereal lotus-meets-sunset hues. (Hughes, you may recall put this very gemstone up against a strict color-wise definition of padparadscha: it failed.)

Before closing with a visual index of the jewels we've lingered over in its pages, Ruby & Sapphire includes an extensive bibliography, an adjunct to the references that are peppered through each chapter.

Title page from the Burma Ruby Mines Ltd. response to the advent of Verneuil's synthetic ruby. Sadly, while this was a valiant attempt to protect the natural stone from fraud, it was just the first shot in a battle that continues to the present day.

Title page from the Burma Ruby Mines Ltd. response to the advent of Verneuil's synthetic ruby. Sadly, while this was a valiant attempt to protect the natural stone from fraud, it was just the first shot in a battle that continues to the present day.

Look for Ruby & Sapphire at booth No. 38, ground level, at the AGTA GemFair, February 4–9, 2014, Tucson Convention Center. Also at the GemFair, author Richard Hughes will offer a presentation on the same subject as the book: "Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide." The presentation will be held Thursday, February 6, 1–2 pm, Mohave Room. The book also is available from Hughes's new venture, Lotus Gemology.

See also this in-depth review of Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide by Elise Skalwold, in the January-February 2016 edition of Rocks & Minerals.


Your Guides within the Collector's Guide

Included in Ruby & Sapphire are two "Collector's Guide" essays, by Bill Larson ("The Connoisseurship of Crystals") and Paula Crevoshay ("The Tao of Jewelry"), which readers will enjoy.

Pala International's Bill Larson discusses the fact that, collectible as they are, few great ruby specimens actually exist, in part because so many of the finest have been cut into faceted gemstones. As a consequence of this rarity, he says, many museums do not own a fine specimen to exhibit, a fact that collectors should keep in mind when doing their legacy planning. Read the entire essay here.

The beauty of nature is revealed through this complex twinned sapphire crystal from Sri Lanka. 88.8 ct. This fine specimen was featured in the Summer 2013 edition of WSJ.Money. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

The beauty of nature is revealed through this complex twinned sapphire crystal from Sri Lanka. 88.8 ct. This fine specimen was featured in the Summer 2013 edition of WSJ.Money. (Photo: Wimon Manorotkul)

Paula Crevoshay is a designer of one-of-a-kind jewelry creations that most recently were exhibited at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Garden of Light: Works by Paula Crevoshay, which was held appropriately during this past spring and summer, featured over 60 of her pieces, taking their inspiration from nature's bounty and beauty. The jewels were juxtaposed with mineral and insect specimens from the Carnegie's collection.

Later this month, visitors to the Orlando Museum of Art will have their own chance to experience a Crevoshay conjunction, on a scaled-down scale. As part of the museum's 90th anniversary celebration, five Crevoshay nature-themed creations will be displayed in a single vitrine, their backdrop being the floral still-life paintings from the seventeenth century's Golden Age of Painting. The display is part of an exhibition that runs January 25 through May 25: Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe from the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky.

Go for Baroque. As the Orlando Museum of Art celebrates its 90th year with an exhibition of Baroque masterpieces (such as that of Balthasar van der Ast, above), a complementary display will feature latter-day nature-themed Crevoshay jewels on loan from five local collectors. A sixth, a butterfly pendant valued at $19,000, can be acquired by the lucky donor who obtains a $25 chance to win, with the proceeds benefiting the museum's educational programs. The drawing for the pendant will take place in May.

Go for Baroque. As the Orlando Museum of Art celebrates its 90th year with an exhibition of Baroque masterpieces (such as that of Balthasar van der Ast, above), a complementary display will feature latter-day nature-themed Crevoshay jewels on loan from five local collectors. A sixth, a butterfly pendant valued at $19,000, can be acquired by the lucky donor who obtains a $25 chance to win, with the proceeds benefiting the museum's educational programs. The drawing for the pendant will take place in May.

"The masters of the day," Crevoshay told us, "include, Willem van de Velde, Rembrandt van Rijn, Hendrick van Somer, Jan van den Hecke the Elder, Jacob Van Walscapelle and many more." In conjunction with the exhibition, Crevoshay will present a lecture "on the similarities found in the building blocks of the Baroque Period to what built the 'Nouveau Baroque Period' of our Modern times," she said. And she was kind enough to provide us with a thumbnail sketch of the lecture's details.

During the 1600–1725-plus years there were several major events that radically changed art. First, the religious asylum granted the Protestants from their Catholic countries, which only allowed devotional art; then international trade, which brought in all types of exotic plants, new tools for lapidary, new gemstone materials, and all sorts of commodities; and lastly the major scientific innovations forged during this great time of freedom of expression. This impetus formed a middle class, erected retail establishments, and created retail stores replacing the independent jewelers. Even the discipline of Botany was created during this time due to the many exotic plants coming in through international trade.

In our times we have had similar happenings, creating a surge in excesses in expression in art, science, fashion and consumption starting with civil rights movements that paved the way for the über-wealthy black population to express themselves in all areas previously unavailable to them; the World Wide Web connecting all cultures and topics for a rapid synthesis and growth in all of the arts, sciences and trade; and Hollywood creating a global platform for social fashion expressions, to name a few. The economy and the freedom of expression coupled with innovation has spawned a similar explosion of abundance and excess. Just like King Louis the XIV, men are wearing more jewelry than ever…

Such musing also are reflected in Crevoshay's Ruby & Sapphire essay, "The Tao of Jewelry," in which she explains the principles she looks for in fine jewelry—personal ABCs that can aid the serious collector: Art, Bold, Creativity, Detail, and Excellence.

Pala Presents


With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the collection of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who will share with us some of the wealth of information in the realm of gems and gemology. And, as with this edition, gemstone-related collectibles.


January's Child: Birthstone Collecting Cards

Garnet, the birthstone for January, is the first in our series of collecting cards that we'll supply over the next twelve months. For more information of birthstones, see Palagems.com.

Two other collecting cards for January are available here.

Two other collecting cards for January are available here.

— End January Newsletter • Published 1/16/14 —


Note: Palagems.com selects much of its material in the interest of fostering a stimulating discourse on the topics of gems, gemology, and the gemstone industry. Therefore the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those held by the proprietors of Palagems.com. We welcome your feedback.