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

August 2015

August 2015 Newsletter

Quicken the heartbeat. In 1981, when the above ad appeared, the U.S. was in the throes of a recession that might have been made less painful, depending on the nature of one's investments. Click image to enlarge

Table of Contents

Gem Dealer Dana Schorr Dies at 63

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our longtime friend and fellow gem dealer Dana Schorr.

Dana Schorr, Billie Hughes, Wimon Manorotkul and Richard Hughes stand at the base camp of Mt. Everest (Mt. Qomolangma) in the mid-summer of 2011 at 17,000 feet. (Photo courtesy Richard W. Hughes, from this article)

Dana Schorr, Billie Hughes, Wimon Manorotkul and Richard Hughes stand at the base camp of Mt. Everest (Mt. Qomolangma) in the mid-summer of 2011 at 17,000 feet. (Photo courtesy Richard W. Hughes, from this article)

Dana passed away from complications from a massive heart attack on August 5. Dana will always be remembered as a friend with a true passion for this industry. He loved gemstones and more importantly, he loved people. His infectious smile and hearty laugh were always accompanied by a twinkle in his eye. He will be sorely missed by all of us.

Rest in peace, Dana.

Your loving friends at Pala International


Dana Schorr

Dana Schorr, 1952–2015. (Photo: Elise Skalwold)

Dana Schorr, 1952–2015. (Photo: Elise Skalwold)

Dana Schorr was born in 1952 in Santa Monica, California, and his formative years were spent in New York and Santa Barbara. He was known to be an activist in the gemstone community, but his rabble-rousing began early, having involved himself in Students for a Democratic Society, according to a tribute by his good friend Richard W. Hughes. It was his political involvement as a propagandist that drew him into the printing field, and from there he branched out into gems in the 1980s after selling some stones for a friend, at a profit, according to an obituary by National Jeweler.

For more than seven years, Dana was a partner in an office in Arusha, Tanzania, trading in tanzanite, and having a cutting factory in Sri Lanka with the same partner. His work in Tanzania as well as travels to many gemstone-producing countries put him in touch with artisanal miners, who he then championed, refusing to defer to what he felt were wrong-headed attempts at industry ethics reforms. He told me that he suspected the gemstone industry might have been made a guinea pig for regulation that could be applied to other fields. (For details on Dana's mission, see January's "Ethics Heckling: Digging Deeper, Sustainably Speaking.") Dana was due a follow-up call from me on this subject, but alas, that chance is missed. Missed also will be the delight he obviously took in life even as he examined the underbelly of our nature.

In addition to Dana's interest in gemstones, he was a music enthusiast, being a member of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society, as well as an avid dancer. And his name can be found in the agenda of the Santa Barbara City Council. He is survived by his mother Emmy, sister Wendy, and brother-in-law Roger Lebow. Expressions of condolence can be sent to The Schorr Family, 197 N. Mountain Trail, Sierra Madre, CA 91024.

— David Hughes

Shows and Events

Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair: Sept. 16–22, 2015

Next month, 50,000 buyers from across the globe are descending on Hong Kong for the UMB Asia-sponsored Jewellery and Gem Fair. Last year, exhibitors numbered about 3,700, from 49 countries and regions.

Pala International's Gabrièl Mattice, Carl Larson and Bill Larson will be in attendance, shopping on behalf of clients for that certain something.

The Fair takes place at two venues, slightly overlapping.

  • Raw Materials: Gemstones (including diamonds and pearls), equipment, and packaging – AsiaWorld-Expo, at Hong Kong International Airport, September 16–20
  • Fine Finished Jewelry – Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, September 18–22

Notable seminars include:

  • Jade Nomenclature by Shane McClure, GIA Global Director, Colored Stones Services
  • Ruby/Sapphire 2015 by Dr. Dietmar Schwarz, Lab Director, Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences
  • The Mode of Inspirations – Preciosa Jewellery Trend Workshop by Petr Polák, Marketing Director, Preciosa Crystal Components, and Luboš Petržilka, Director of Sales, Preciosa Cubic Zirconia & Gems
  • GIA Research Update by Tom Moses, Executive Vice President, Chief Laboratory & Research Officer, GIA
  • The Age of Gemstones by Dr. Daniel Nyfeler, Managing Director, Gübelin Gem Lab
  • The History of Gemstones by Helen Molesworth, Managing Director, Gübelin Academy
  • China's Proud Pearl Tradition by Dr. Jack Ogden
  • Perspective on the Global Diamond Industry by Liang Weizhang
  • Antique Jewellery in Australia, 1778–1920 by Ronnie Bauer
  • Jade: Seeing is Believing by Dominic Mok
  • Fei Cui Reseach: Past, Present and Future Studies by Prof. Mimi Ouyang, Honorary Chairlady, GAHK
  • Automated Spectral Diamond Inspection: A solution for the industry to analyse and authenticate colourless melee diamonds at high speed by Dr. Michael S. Krzemnicki, Director, Swiss Gemmological Institute SSEF
  • 20 Years GRS Jubilee of Excellence in Research: Retrospective and Future of Gemmology by Dr. A. Peretti, Director, GRS Gemresearch Swisslab AG
  • Yellow Lead-Glass-Filled Sapphire versus Lead-Glass-Filled Yellow Sapphire by Boontawee Sriprasert, Academic Advisor, GIT
  • To What Extent for Heat Treatment of Ruby by Dr. Pornsawat Wathanakul, Director, GIT

Mineralientage München 52nd Munich Mineral Show: October 30 – November 1, 2015

Pala International's Bill Larson and Will Larson will attend this year’s Munich Show.

When: October 30 – November 1, 2015
Where: Munich Trade Fair Centre
Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM each day
   Friday, October 30 (Trade only)
   Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1 (Trade and public)

In Gemworld, for the fourth year, the Munich Show will highlight the work of recent graduates, in Young Designers' Corner. As well as being a showcase, this is a competition. You have until August 31 to submit your entry. More information on the show is forthcoming.

Just one of many displays from the "African Secrets" exhibition at Munich 2012. For great enlargements of these images, visit MinBlog. (Photos courtesy Eloïse Gaillou)

Just one of many displays from the "African Secrets" exhibition at Munich 2012. For great enlargements of these images, visit MinBlog. (Photos courtesy Eloïse Gaillou)

For more information visit the show website. See the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.

Statuette of St. George, 1586/97, height 50 cm, Munich. This is one of the great highlights of the Munich Residenz Treasury, which visitors to the Munich Show can take in as a side trip. (Photo: Carl Larson)

Statuette of St. George, 1586/97, height 50 cm, Munich. This is one of the great highlights of the Munich Residenz Treasury, which visitors to the Munich Show can take in as a side trip. (Photo: Carl Larson)


Victoria & Albert Museum: India & Burma

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of its Nehru Gallery, which displays objects from the Victoria & Albert Museum's important South Asia collection, the V&A is in the midst of an India Festival. Fabrics, jewels, photographs, paintings and the performing arts all are represented. We look at two of the offerings that should interest gemstone lovers.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of
India and Burma, 1852–1860

Linnaeus Tripe (1822–1902) joined the East India Company Army in the late 1930s, returning in 1850 to Britain, where he took up photography in 1852. He returned to south India in June 1854, being stationed in Bangalore. His first photographs of India were taken while he was on leave that December. Photos of previously unphotographed temples were exhibited in February 1855, in a juried show that brought him acclaim and the attention of the Madras Photographic Society. In June Tripe was sent to Burma, where he faced the challenge of the heat melting the wax on his negatives as well as prostrating his assistants. He returned to Madras, becoming its government's official photographer in December of 1857, but by mid-1859, funding ran out. Tripe's technique is summed up below, from the V&A news release for its exhibition, which runs through October 11, 2015. (See more about his technique here.)

Tripe's photographs are technically complex and he is known for his innovative precision with the camera, paying close attention to both his composition and its realisation when printing. To evoke atmospheric effects Tripe retouched most of his negatives by applying pigment in thin layers and included in the exhibition are a selection of waxed-paper negatives that reveal these working methods. Also on display will be a segment of a panoramic scroll showing the inscriptions around the base of the Great Pagoda temple in Tanjore. Composed of more than 20 prints assembled and mounted onto a long canvas scroll, it is now regarded as a considerable technical achievement, given the physical and climatic conditions of the time.

Linnaeus Tripe. Madura, India: The Great Pagoda Jewels, January–February 1858. These jewels would have been used to adorn statuary on festive occasions. Click image to enlarge. (Collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum)

Linnaeus Tripe. Rangoon: Near view of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855. (Collection of National Gallery of Art, Washington, courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum)

Linnaeus Tripe. Rangoon: Near view of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855. (Collection of National Gallery of Art, Washington, courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum)

Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection

Last fall, the Al Thani Collection visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art; this fall it has a stop at the V&A, November 21, 2015 through March 28, 2016. Even if you saw it in New York, you'll want to catch it in London, because forty more objects are added to MoMA's previous sixty. The jewels come from the private collection of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani.

The Al Thani Collection. Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies, 2011. by Bhagat, Mumbai, India. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

The Al Thani Collection. Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies, 2011. by Bhagat, Mumbai, India. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

The V&A exhibition is divided into sections titled The Treasury (late 16th to early 17th century Mughal creations featuring stones of size), The Court (commissioned pieces whose influence endures), Enamel (bringing enamel work out of the shadow of bejewelled pieces), The Age of Transition (Indian jewelry influenced by European designs), Modernity (ditto, but in reverse), andContemporary Masters (a mash-up). Bhagat, a mash-up master (see above image) is interviewed in one of three films that were commissioned for this exhibition.

The Al Thani Collection. Ceremonial sword with jeweled gold hilt, ca. 1880–1900, Hyderabad, South India. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

The Al Thani Collection. Ceremonial sword with jeweled gold hilt, ca. 1880–1900, Hyderabad, South India. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

The Al Thani Collection. Carved emerald bead, probably 18th century, Mughal Empire. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

The Al Thani Collection. Carved emerald bead, probably 18th century, Mughal Empire. (© Servette Overseas Limited, 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)


Road Show: Inspiring Beauty

Editor's Note: While the subject of this article does not deal with gemstones specifically, it does concern itself with the issue of African Americans' relationship with fashion in general and, by inference, with the larger world from which black people had been prohibited in the first half of the twentieth century—a legacy that lingers.

In 1946, nine years before he would become editor of The Nation magazine, Carey McWilliams shocked the likes of Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey by calling the city "the capitol [sic] of anti-semitism in the United States," in the pages of Common Ground, a periodical that had introduced the term ethnicity as a less-charged alternative to race. Indeed, the next year, even a member of the Mayor's Council on Human Rights—a realtor by trade—was found to have discriminated against Jews wanting to buy a home in the suburb of St. Louis Park. Ironically, that same suburb later would have a significant Jewish population, as depicted in Joel and Ethan Coen's feature film A Serious Man (2009).

The fact that Minnesota, as early as 1888, had enacted a ban on discrimination in public accommodations based on race or color did not keep restaurants—and even a summer camp for the blind—from barring African Americans in 1947. In 1951, black journalist Carl T. Rowan wrote a remarkable series of articles for the Minneapolis Tribune as he traveled the Jim Crow South, yet upon his return he would admit, "The fear of physical harm lessens" when crossing the Mason-Dixon line. "But the step across the boundary really is a barely discernible transition from flagrant displays of bigotry to the more subtle, surreptitious variety of prejudices." Despite this, and despite the fact that the non-white population of Minneapolis comprised less than two percent of its half a million inhabitants, the city had a vibrant African American community, with its own newspaper, the Minneapolis Spokesman, which gave voice to several engaging writers.

This, then, is part of the background to a traveling exhibition that just closed yesterday in St. Paul's Minnesota History Center, "Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair." (The show moves on to Detroit; Rochester, New York; Bellevue, Washington; and Washington D.C.) Begun in 1957, the fair leapt off the pages of Ebony magazine's existing fashion coverage when Jessie Dent, wife of Dillard University president Albert Dent, suggested the magazine put together a fashion benefit. As of 1976, according to Jet magazine, "the ultimate fashion show tours 154 cities in the U.S. with a dozen dazzling models laden with 200 of the most luxurious creations imaginable." Caption placards in the "Inspiring Beauty" exhibition state that the Fair traveled to more than 180 cities at its height, yet in the early years, the show's directors "faced discrimination from fashion designers, who feared clients' reactions to seeing exclusive designs on black bodies." According to Ebony publisher John H. Johnson, Fair organizers had to "beg, persuade, and threaten [for] the right to buy clothes."

Signs of the times. Fashion Fair program covers from 1967—"Fashion Rebellion"—and 1970—"The Liberated Look"—speak to events that were taking place off the runway. (Photocollage: David Hughes)

Signs of the times. Fashion Fair program covers from 1967—"Fashion Rebellion"—and 1970—"The Liberated Look"—speak to events that were taking place off the runway. (Photocollage: David Hughes)

An exhibition news release credits the Fashion Fair with "ultimately help[ing] to redefine the concepts of beauty, style and empowerment for African Americans." The show's curator, Joy Bivins, said, "Fashion was always the draw but the opportunity that the show provided black women to see fantastic fashion on women who looked like them was equally important. On the Ebony Fashion Fair runway, black women were the beauty standard."

Christian Dior (France), evening ensemble. Haute couture, fall/winter 1968–69. Wool, plastic sequins, glass and plastic beads, metallic thread. Appeared in 'Fashion Freedom '68.' (Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC)

Christian Dior (France), evening ensemble. Haute couture, fall/winter 1968–69. Wool, plastic sequins, glass and plastic beads, metallic thread. Appeared in 'Fashion Freedom '68.' (Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC)

In an accompanying video, produced by the Minnesota Historical Society, Lisa Tittle, of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, one of several Fair hosts, remarks, "There were so many models of color, of all sizes as well." Marvin Roger Anderson, a stagehand for early fairs, says, "The Ebony Fashion Fair represented a certain achievement status of the African American community; African Americans can put on this first-class show."

Todd Oldham (United States), evening dress. Special order, 1997. Silk/rayon satin blend, glass beads, plastic sequins, synthetic trim. Appeared in 'The Jazz Age of Fashions.' From the caption placard: "Dominated by the slender, fashion's runways hold little regard for real body types. After appeals from the Fashion Fair audience, [director Eunice Walker] Johnson began to include shapelier models. She custom ordered this stunning Oldham in a plus size. The shiny black beaded bodice and colorful floral embroidered skirt skillfully flatter a generous form." (Photo: David Hughes)

Todd Oldham (United States), evening dress. Special order, 1997. Silk/rayon satin blend, glass beads, plastic sequins, synthetic trim. Appeared in 'The Jazz Age of Fashions.' From the caption placard: "Dominated by the slender, fashion's runways hold little regard for real body types. After appeals from the Fashion Fair audience, [director Eunice Walker] Johnson began to include shapelier models. She custom ordered this stunning Oldham in a plus size. The shiny black beaded bodice and colorful floral embroidered skirt skillfully flatter a generous form." (Photo: David Hughes)

"Inspiring Beauty" presents nearly one hundred objects such as ensembles, accessories and archival photographs. Themes explored in the exhibition are vision, innovation and power. An accompanying catalog also is available.

L'Amour (United States), evening ensemble. Special order, 2001. Leather. Appeared in 'Changing Trends of Fashion.' (Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC)

L'Amour (United States), evening ensemble. Special order, 2001. Leather. Appeared in 'Changing Trends of Fashion.' (Photo courtesy of Johnson Publishing Company, LLC)

Pala International News

This month we feature not only one, but two world class pezzottaite pieces from Madagascar. This is a truly rare collectible gem that was only identified in 2003 by Dr. Federico Pezzotta in Madagascar at the Sakavalana Mine. A newcomer to the gem world with extremely intense and saturated colors unlike any other, it is one of nature's rare beauties. Pezzottaite is a cesium (Cs) rich member of the beryl group. Pezzottaite is in the trigonal crystal system, while beryl falls into the hexagonal system.

Pezzottaites from Madagascar: An 8.20-carat cabochon cat's eye measuring 12.8 x 12.5 mm and a 4.80-carat kite shape measuring 14.7 x 10.4 mm. Both are new to Pala's inventory. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Pezzottaites from Madagascar: An 8.20-carat cabochon cat's eye measuring 12.8 x 12.5 mm and a 4.80-carat kite shape measuring 14.7 x 10.4 mm. Both are new to Pala's inventory. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

We just recently picked up the cat's eye pictured above at this summer's Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines show and Pala International's Bill Larson pulled the kite shape out of his personal collection to offer it on the market. Pezzottaite is often included in large sizes, and in the cat's eye those inclusions lined up well enough to create a nice chatoyancy. The faceted gem is huge for the species and represents some of the best color to be found. See more on pezzottaite at Gemdat.org.

Interested? Call or email us to inquire. 

Gems and Gemology News

GIA Laboratory Bangkok: Lights, Camera, Action

The GIA laboratory Bangkok has had a website makeover, bringing it in line with GIA's main site. In the course of the facelift, the lab has added content, including many streaming videos from its various field research trips. (The lab established a field gemology department in 2008, and we have pointed to its reports over the years.) The most recent posting, "On the Track of Africa Hidden Gems," weaves together footage from expeditions in 2012 and 2014 to Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. If you were interested in BBC's look at sapphire mining in Madagascar, which we pointed to last month, you'll enjoy "Sapphires from Ilakaka, Madagascar," also based on those two expeditions.

Via GIA laboratory Bangkok's field research page you have access to reports and streaming videos for nine countries in Africa and south Asia. Above, a page with the latest reports from all countries.

Via GIA laboratory Bangkok's field research page you have access to reports and streaming videos for nine countries in Africa and south Asia. Above, a page with the latest reports from all countries.

Written reports also abound. Two posted in June discuss ruby synthesis and spinel treatment: "An Analysis of Synthetic Ruby Overgrowth on Corundum" and "Cobalt Diffusion of Natural Spinel." And if you're visiting Bangkok, you can plan around periodic GIA Gemstone Gatherings; those in 2015 have included the film The Italian Jewellers, Jade Nomenclature by Shane McClure, Australian Sapphire by Terrence Coldham, and more.


The Micro-World of Gems & Gemology: A Delicious Blend of Science and Art

By Elise A. Skalwold

The Summer 2015 issue of Gems & Gemology is hot off the press and, simply put, from cover to cover, it is stunning. Since it became large format in 1981, the covers of each and every issue over the years have featured the breathtaking work of famous gem photographers, including nearly exclusively those of Harold and Erica Van Pelt who from 1981 to 2009 graced the covers of 93 issues; a fine tradition which has continued ever since with the work of others such as the celebrated photographer Robert Weldon of GIA.

The current issue marks the third time in the journal's history that the work of photomicrographers has taken its place in this prestigious lineup. More than three decades ago, master photomicrographer John I. Koivula—a pioneer of this specialized art form and of the science of inclusion study itself—had his image of a euhedral spessartine garnet crystal seemingly floating in a quartz universe featured on the cover of the Fall 1981 issue (above left), heralding one of his early articles on photomicrography within: "Photographing Inclusions."

Twenty-two years later, Koivula's phenomenal rendering of a Deer Creek fire agate's micro-features found its way onto the cover of the Spring 2003 issue (above right) containing his now classic article "Photomicrography for Gemologists." As some readers may already know: mineralogist, chemist, and gemologist John I. Koivula is the analytical microscopist at GIA and is a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. In addition to hundreds of articles and peer-reviewed scientific papers, Koivula is author of the book The MicroWorld of Diamonds and co-author of the three-volume set Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones, which features over 5,000 of his unique photomicrographs.

Mentored by Koivula himself, Nathan Renfro makes a grand debut with the third photomicroscopy cover (right): a splendid image of modified trigons on the surface of a Kelsey Lake diamond crystal. Geologist and gemologist Renfro is the analytical manager of the gem identification department and an analytical microscopist in the inclusion research department at GIA in Carlsbad, California.

Following Koivula's earlier publications, which in turn cover advances in techniques and instrumentation over those decades, in this issue Renfro contributes a masterful updated article entitled "Digital Photomicrography for Gemologists." Together with the '81 and '03 issues, this triad will become an enduring reference for professional and budding photomicrographers everywhere. Not only that, the techniques taught within all three will advance microscopy skills at all levels.

As one well-known gemologist/appraiser wrote to this author: "Thanks, Elise, for highlighting this fabulous article by Nathan Renfro, a protégé of John Koivula who, along with Edward J. Gübelin, is a top name in photomicrography of the internal world of gemstones. A study of this article alone is all that is needed to bootstrap one's self to a high level of competence and skill in this wonderfully rewarding, artistic and scientific field of endeavor. Nathan has covered it all, and nothing of significance has been omitted." (Michael D. Cowing, Owner, A. C. Associates)

Nathan Renfro’s photomicrography is no less beautiful nor less scientifically accurate than his great friend and colleague's, but neither does it mimic those of his mentor. Renfro's work is uniquely his own style, and just as Koivula's does, transcends simple recording of gemological features and finds its itself crossing specialties—arguably taking its place in high art itself as the following images from his portfolio attest:

Aquamarine Prism Faces: Using differential interference contrast, the prism faces of an aquamarine crystal show an interesting barrel-shape etch pattern. Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro; field of view 0.25mm.

Aquamarine Prism Faces: Using differential interference contrast, the prism faces of an aquamarine crystal show an interesting barrel-shape etch pattern. Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro; field of view 0.25mm.

Crystal within Obsidian: Polarized light was used to reveal the twinned structure of this unidentified crystal in obsidian. Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro; field of view 0.25mm.

Crystal within Obsidian: Polarized light was used to reveal the twinned structure of this unidentified crystal in obsidian. Photomicrograph by Nathan Renfro; field of view 0.25mm.

Not stopping there, Nathan Renfro is Lead Editor of an all-new quarterly column along with John Koivula and this author as Contributing Editors: G&G Micro-World. The column features images, techniques and new findings contributed by various authors including those of its Editors. As G&G's Editor-in-Chief Duncan Pay writes in his editorial for this issue: "With this new regular feature, section editors Nathan Renfro, Elise Skalwold, and John Koivula aim to foster the wider appreciation of inclusions and to bolster practicing gemologists' observational skills by providing concise reports accompanied by stunning photomicrographs of specially chosen specimens. The authors invite gemologists to take a closer look at the astounding beauty and variety of inclusions in gems."

Growth features on the surface of a fluorite. Photomicrograph: John I. Koivula

Growth features on the surface of a fluorite. Photomicrograph: John I. Koivula

The outpouring of positive feedback has been gratifying, including this from a retired lawyer enrolled in GIA's distance program: "Hello Elise, I am so engaged by the Micro-World article and photos in [the] G&G summer issue that I decided to subscribe to get the hard copy issues. While the online downloads are great, I am so impressed by these super cool images that I plan to put the issues out in my living room for guests to peruse. Table top worthy!" (Kimberly Arpaia, owner Arpaia Jewelry)

I am so thrilled by this comment especially. It speaks to the continued need and desire for hardcopy journals, as well as appreciation for an idea John I. Koivula proposed to me nearly two years ago which has finally come to fruition and a warm welcome under Nathan Renfro's leadership.

Elise A. Skalwold (Accredited Senior Gemologist, Contributing Editor G&G Micro-World and Consulting Gemological Curator Cornell University)


Lydia Ainsworth's "Rock" Music

Labradorite has a relationship with "the past and future," singer-songwriter Lydia Ainsworth writes on her Instagram page.

Labradorite has a relationship with "the past and future," singer-songwriter Lydia Ainsworth writes on her Instagram page.

Joan La Barbara is a giant in the world of avant-garde music. The "extended vocal techniques" for which she is famous have been featured in her own works as well as those by John Cage, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, and even The Living Theatre and Sesame Street. One of La Barbara's students at New York University, Lydia Ainsworth, might not have incorporated voice into her own compositions for film had it not been for La Barbara's encouragement in 2011. That vocal work eventually led to an invitation of Ainsworth to perform that same year at a party; problem is, she had no songs. No stranger to composition, of course, she wrote a couple, and they formed the heart of her 2014 debut pop collection, Right From Real.

Like singer-songwriter Björk, whom Ainsworth counts among her influences, two songs from her album have mineral references. In "Moonstone," she sings in 6/8 time of walking to "the city of jade," facing danger and moving through the dark toward light. The chorus is a recitation of thirty-two names of colored gemstones and minerals. "Malachite" has a single reference to that mineral: black "with veins of green." Its anachronistic chorus—inspired by Verdi's Requiem—announces the demise of the Internet. We're grateful the Net's not dead, since it provided us introduction to Lydia Ainsworth.

Industry News

Mining Hazards

Two stories about mining in South America caught our eye recently…

Paraiba Plunder

London's Telegraph (and other sources) reported two months ago on a multi-million pound tourmaline mining operation in Paraíba, Brazil's São José da Batalha. Problem is, the mining was conducted illegally, with operators being arrested after a six-year investigation. Six out of eight suspects were nabbed, including a state deputy named João Henrique de Sousa, who was permitted to mine the Paraíba state's famous tourmaline, but who allegedly did not declare the mining output to the national department of mineral production.

Long gone. These Brazilian paraiba tourmalines were our featured stones for January 2012, but they have long since been snapped up. Blue green center oval, 2.8 carats, 9.22 x 7.8 x 5.57 mm, and the green teardrop pair, 2.51 carats, 7.5 x 6.3 x 4 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Long gone. These Brazilian paraiba tourmalines were our featured stones for January 2012, but they have long since been snapped up. Blue green center oval, 2.8 carats, 9.22 x 7.8 x 5.57 mm, and the green teardrop pair, 2.51 carats, 7.5 x 6.3 x 4 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

After being mined in Paraíba, the stones were moved one state north, to the city of Parelhas in Rio Grande do Norte. There they received licensing illegally before being moved south to the state of Minas Gerais for cutting. Using a network of offshore accounts, the operators sold the stones in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Houston and Las Vegas. Ten million pounds in assets were seized.

Colombia Collision

Meanwhile, in Colombia, the Washington Post reported on August 9 about that country's largest emerald mine, two years after it was bought out by Charles Burgess and his Houston-based Minería Texas Colombia, or MTC. Controlling interest was obtained from "emerald czar" Victor Carranza, who died in April 2013. Carranza was a peace-keeper, but without his protection MTC is seeing its shafts seized by locals.

See this profile of Victor Carranza produced by Al Jazeera in July 2012, prior to the death of the "emerald czar."

See this profile of Victor Carranza produced by Al Jazeera in July 2012, prior to the death of the "emerald czar."

After reciting the recent history of emerald mining and Carranza's place in it (see our own story from 2012), the Post turns to Burgess, who was a newcomer, and who was married to a Colombian woman by the same archbishop who brokered Carranza's peace deal in 1990. Carranza seemed to think that the outmoded emerald mining could use a modern shot in the arm. Burgess, who had no experience, provided that remedy, but with those changes came resentment. Like the gleaners of Mogok ruby mines, local Colombians had been used to picking over mining waste, but that changed with new mining processing that leaves little left over except a residual resentment. The Post tells of mobs invading the mines. Obviously, a new peacekeeper is needed.


Burma Bits

Jade Jottings

Jade dealers in Mandalay are complaining about a severe slump in sales. Myanmar Times on July 29 quoted traders as saying this was the worst market in years, that jade could not be sold at a profit. And the quality is no good as well. One dealer said he was selling at prices twenty-five percent less than in previous years.

This sentiment echoes that of traders exiting the most recent gemstone emporium, conducted earlier this summer, as reported by Nikkei Asian Review. Jade sales at the emporium were down sixty percent compared with last year. The article blamed two factors: imposition of austerity measures in China that dampen enthusiasm for luxury goods and the seemingly eternal warfare in jade-producing Kachin state.

On the other hand, the pearl emporium, held in conjunction with the gems sale, saw its most successful result in years, according to another July 29 story by Myanmar Times. Ninety-eight percent of the total offering was sold, at $3.3 million. One lot, offered at €7,000 went for four times that price—€30,000. Other lots did nearly as well.

Linnaeus Tripe. Amerapoora: Colossal statue of Gautama, close to the north end of the wooden bridge, September 1–October 21, 1855. From the exhibition of Tripe's work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, above. (Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, courtesy V&A)

Linnaeus Tripe. Amerapoora: Colossal statue of Gautama, close to the north end of the wooden bridge, September 1–October 21, 1855. From the exhibition of Tripe's work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, above. (Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, courtesy V&A)

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Myanmar Times: Mogok residents to receive ruby mining licences
  • Myanmar Times: Minister of Industry U Aung Thaung, who used his family's influence to benefit from jade, dies at age 74
  • Myanmar Times: Hilton to partner in complex that will include gems mall

 

— End August Newsletter • Published 8/17/15 —


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