May 2016 Newsletter
Table of Contents
Shows and Events
Pala International News
Gem and Gemology News
- Which pearls are natural, academically speaking
a new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu
- George Rossman to Deliver 1st Annual Gemology Lecture at Caltech May 18
- Hand-y Raman Tools
- If It Ain't Broke, Don't Cut It: Art Grant Remembered
- Time Traveling with Cartier
- Diamond News
- Burma Bits
Editor: David Hughes
Shows and Events
Pala at Las Vegas: June 2–6, 2016
It's time to plan for the JCK Las Vegas show. Pala International will be there in force, with one of America's largest selections of fine colored gems.
Note: The JCK Show this year will run Thursday through Monday.
What: AGTA GemFair
When: June 2–6, 2016
Where: South Pacific and Islander Ballrooms in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
Thursday, June 2 thru Sunday, June 5: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Monday, June 6: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Booth: AGTA Pavilion, booth AGTA514
We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.
Empire of the Senses
A. I am Alexander the Great.
B. I am Diogenes the dog.
A. The dog?
B. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite louts.
A. What can I do for you?
B. Stand out of my light.
• • •
Politicians are magnified butlers.
—Diogenes of Sinope, 412–323 B.C.E.
Empire. The word might first bring to mind Rome, and for several reasons: its endurance (just about 1500 years); its crucial role in the Jesus story; its language that of the Church; its figures as portrayed by Shakespeare; its proximity to the present; its pattern for empires to come.
There were other, earlier empires, of course, notably that of Alexander of Macedonia, aka Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.E.). As summarized by Encyclopedia Britannica, Alexander "overthrew the Persian empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Already in his lifetime the subject of fabulous stories, he later became the hero of a full-scale legend bearing only the sketchiest resemblance to his historical career." Fodder for Shakespeare? For the Bard of Avon, it sufficed to plagiarize the actual Roman chronicles penned by Greek historian Plutarch (via Thomas North's translation). Yet, Greek romance remained an important influence on Shakespeare and other Elizabethans (Gesner 2015).
Tutored by Aristotle, yet an admirer of the street philosopher Diogenes the Cynic, Alexander simply might have been too big a character for Shakespeare's stage. As noted in the news release for The Met's Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, "after the military triumphs of Alexander the Great and his successors, the influence of Greek culture was felt from the Indus River valley to the Straits of Gibraltar." A favorite representation of the reach of this empire is the statue of the Buddha shown here, a syncretic masterpiece. Created not long after the rise of Rome in 30 B.C.E., it is one of the oldest representations of the teacher of the Third Way.
For our purposes—jewels and jewelry—the Hellenistic kingdoms that were Alexander's legacy drew upon the influence of his court artisans. The Met's sumptuous exhibition focuses on the ancient city of Pergamon, in Asia Minor just across the Aegean Sea from Greece. More than 250 objects—sculptures of marble, bronze, and terra cotta (including those of Alexander's court sculptor Lysippos—well, copies at least), gold jewelry, glyptic gems, glass vessels, and more. We were provided with some examples that depict a palpable love of the human form. The centaur's portrait in silver is nearly expressionist in its wild mane and whiskers, the marble is proof of Camille Paglia's observation that Elvis Presley possessed classical features, the bust of Athena has a Judy Collins-like proboscis, and the soldier's profile is a reminder of Alexander's time away from his wives, in the company of his comrade-in-arms Hephaestion.
The exhibition closes July 17, 2016.
Can't make it to The Met? More objects are displayed here.
Visitors to The Met also may want to fast-forward a couple of millennia…
Pala International News
Pala's Featured Stone
For our featured stone this month we have a special tourmaline from Nigeria. It is a very rare copper-bearing neon-blue tourmaline that can be referred to as paraiba. This stone has been heated to show off its beautiful neon blue. The color is the result of traces of copper and manganese. This stone hosts a ghost-like platelet that is an indicative inclusion—proof of its Nigerian origin. Weighing in at 4.18 carats this stone is rather large for its clarity and color. Most Nigerian stones available are in a smaller range with more distracting inclusions throughout.
Interested? Contact us!
Gem and Gemology News
Which pearls are natural, academically speaking
A new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu
Looking forward to spending months on each pearl, years up to publication—my samples need to be natural pearls and be seen as such by random reviewers or, within reason, anyone inclined to thinking about natural pearls to the point that they'd be reading my writing. Should there be doubt, academic custom demands that reasonable doubt be stated. Truth be told, back when it all started, I had not given a second thought to this matter of natural pearl identification for my kind of scholarly use, since deciding—fairly off the cuff—to call for the most improbably anything but natural pearls for use as samples. Could pearls such as these be replicated in a controlled way...?
Read more »
George Rossman to Deliver 1st Annual Gemology Lecture at Caltech May 18
Topic: Colored Stone Treatments and Country-of-Origin Determinations
We received the following announcement recently.
Dr. George Rossman, professor of mineralogy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) will present information on basic instrumentation and advanced application of knowledge laboratories use to detect common treatments in gemstones such as ruby, sapphire, emerald and jade. He will also discuss how testing results and observed characteristics of gem materials may indicate country of origin.
Rossman was the recipient of Caltech's most prestigious teaching honor, the Feynman Prize, which is given to an outstanding faculty member each year to recognize "exceptional ability, creativity and innovation in both laboratory and classroom instruction." The award is named in honor of legendary Caltech physics professor and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman. Rossman has also received numerous other awards for his work, including the Friedrich-Becke Medal and the Dana Medal. He also served on GIA’s Board of Governors for many years. Previous gemological knowledge is suggested for attendees at this event.
Tickets to the lecture are available here.
Hand-y Raman Tools
Enhanced Spectrometry, aka EnSpectr Raman, has a line of laboratory and handheld Raman-luminescent solutions for speedy non-destructive identification of gems and minerals, requiring no sample preparation. While the Mountain View, California firm's products have been available for years, its website's marketing appears mainly aimed at users wishing to identify explosives, poison, narcotics, and such. A 2014 information sheet sheds light on its gemological and mineralogical applications.
RaPort is a handheld spectrometer that interfaces with a Windows or Android smartphone or tablet. RamMics M532 is a Raman-luminescent microscope for lab use. See the latter instrument in action below. A scope-less R532 also is available.
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Cut It: Art Grant Remembered
Elise Skalwold first came across the precision and aplomb of master faceter Art Grant in 1984 and fell in love with his work, following it through the next three decades, until Grant's death last fall at the age of 90. In the Winter 2016 edition of InColor, Elise offers readers a heartfelt tribute to Grant, illustrated with many examples of his faceting talent. For those who aren't subscribers of the magazine, its parent organization, the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA), has kindly allowed Elise to make the article available to the public: "Written in Stone: Remembering Master Faceter Art Grant." (To widen the audience, she also published an abridged version of the tribute in Rocks & Minerals, Vol. 91, No. 2 [Mar/Apr 2016].)
Art Grant is famous for having taken unlikely gem materials and delving into their depths, revealing their cloaked charms. He had a knack for faceting the unfacetable—material in the low Mohs. He also chose, if the choice were his, to steer clear of cutting collectible crystals; broken ones would do, and they did!
As Elise points out, gemstone lovers already may be unwitting admirers of Grant's artistry, since his work features in prestigious collections across the continent: Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, Houghton, Michigan; American Museum of Natural History, New York; Smith College, Massachusetts; New York State Museum, Albany; Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa.
As we've remarked before, Elise Skalwold has her own knack for taking us into the lives of the people about whom she writes; personal accounts and anecdotes abound. You'll want to read it from beginning to end.
Time Traveling with Cartier
Today, the centerpiece of Sotheby's sale, the "Unique Pink," set a world record for any Fancy Vivid pink diamond at US$2 million per carat. But the auction also featured a 7.32-carat blue diamond; an Alexandre Reza pendant with its own centerpiece, a 6.64-carat blue diamond; four more pinks and blues ranging from 14.18 to 21.11 carats; two Burmese rubies; two Kashmir sapphires; a throwback to the maharajas by Van Clef and Arpels; some notable noble jewels; and finally some period Cartier, as illustrated below.
Sotheby's also offers a Best of Birthstones slide show series, with Enchanting Emeralds featured for May.
Diamond News: "Light," "Light" and Lightweight?
Koh-i-noor: She Wants Me, She Wants Me Not
One of the individual items that we didn't mention in our recent look at the crown jewels of Iran is the diamond known as the Koh-i-noor (Persian for Mountain of Light), believed to be among the loot plundered by Nader Shah during his invasion of Delhi in 1739. Prior to this, the stone had remained in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, perhaps for millennia. After Nader Shah's untimely assassination in 1747, the stone found its way to Afghanistan via Ahmad Shah Durrani, one of Nader's generals. A descendant of Ahmad, fleeing Afghanistan with the diamond, found refuge in Lahore and the generosity of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had established the Sikh Empire in 1799. In return—you guessed it. Singh died in 1839, willing the Koh-i-noor on his deathbed to the famous temple in Puri, Odisha (aka Orissa), dedicated to the Hindu deity Jagannath, whose large eyes presumably would have kept watch over the jewel. British administrators did not execute Singh's will, however, and the diamond eventually was given to Queen Victoria. Or was it?
This is the question perennially posed by Indian legislators and others, as most recently reported by BBC. No sooner had the Indian solicitor-general told the Supreme Court on April 18 that the Koh-i-noor was "neither stolen nor forcibly taken," than the minister of culture reiterated India's claim on the stone.
The contentious issue of ownership also is being raised in a companion report by Anita Anand, under the provocative headline, "Koh-i-noor – A Gift at the Point of a Bayonet." Anand is working on a book about the diamond with historian William Dalrymple, and gives a taste of what the two have found.
Lucara: Sells The Constellation; To Sell The Lesedi La Rona
Lucara Diamond Corp. announced on May 9 the sale of The Constellation, a 812.77-carat, Type IIa diamond unearthed from the south lobe of its Karowe Mine in Botswana last November. At that time, the firm also announced the uncovering of a 374-carat colorless diamond. The Constellation was sold for US$63 million, nearly $78,000 per carat, and a record price for a rough diamond. Regarding the sale, Lucara partnered with Nemesis International and retains a ten percent interest in net profit from the sale of diamonds cut from the rough.
Lucara was on a roll that week in November. The day before reporting The Constellation—itself the sixth-largest gem-quality diamond ever unearthed—the firm told of the discovery of the then-unnamed Lesedi la Rona, a Type IIa diamond weighing 1,111 carats, the world's second largest gem-quality diamond ever unearthed. It measures 65 x 56 x 40 mm. The stone received its name, meaning Our Light, via a competition earlier this year open to all Botswana citizens, including Lucara employees. From 11,000 entries, the winner was Thembani Moitlhobogi, who received 25,000 pula (about US$2700).
The Lesedi la Rona is being offered on June 29 by Sotheby's London. A US$70 million price tag is expected, according to BBC's bionic announcer.
Shirley This Should Have Sold (or Should It?)
Sotheby's offered the Shirley Temple Blue Diamond on April 19 as the star of its Magnificent Jewels auction in New York. It had a pre-sale estimate of between $25 million and $35 million, but the bidding faltered at $22 million, according to the New York Daily News. The stone is said to have been given to Temple when she completed work on the 1940 film The Blue Bird, 20th Century Fox's failed attempt to copycat MGM's The Wizard of Oz, even stealing the black-and-white-to-color gimmick.
In a March 23 interview with KTLA, Sotheby's vice president Frank Everett was queried as to whether the diamond's famous provenance had anything to do with the pricing. He hedged a bit, initially saying, "It does," but clarifying that the story behind the stone can boost the auction result, but "it's hard to really factor that into the estimate, so this estimate is based on the stone," regardless of pedigree. The brief catalog note for the jewel states that it comes with a GIA report claiming the clarity to be VVS2 (very very slightly included), or two ranks below IF (internally flawless). The stone also is accompanied "with the original working diagram stating that the diamond may be potentially Internally Flawless." Everett told KTLA that it has the potential to receive the IF grade "with some minor recutting."
The KTLA team asked about the record-setting Blue Moon of Josephine, which Sotheby's sold last November 11 for over $48 million. It weighed 12.03 carats and did receive the IF grade, according to its own, very detailed, catalog note. In the case of the Temple blue, its star power just couldn't overshadow its size, more than two carats less than the Blue Moon, as well as its inferior clarity. Or maybe it's just that Shirley Temple was such an unlikeable little brat in The Blue Bird.
Give and Take
Sanctions to be Scrapped Friday?
New U.S. Ambassador to Burma, Scot Marciel, was approved by the Senate just this past February. Now he presides over the annual question posed to President Obama: To sanction or not to sanction? In his first public address on May 10, as reported by Myanmar Times and Eleven, Marciel remarked, "Now, in the aftermath of the transition to the new elected government, we’re again reviewing our sanctions." He also admitted that sanctions still may have unintended effects even though they are targeted to avoid this.
Sanctions of some sort have been in place against Burma since the Clinton administration. As explained by Myanmar Times on May 12, the U.S. president obtains his or her authority to give thumbs up or down from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The emergency was and is, of course, no different than that for a handful of U.S. allies (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain come to mind) as described by Myanmar Times: "large-scale repression of the democratic opposition […] and the actions and policies of the government."
Predictably, there are groups who are urging Obama to renew the sanctions this coming Friday, as summarized by a May 10 story by Mizzima. But earlier this year, five U.S. business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, wrote Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials suggesting that Friday's deadline is the opportunity to end the sanctions. The letter states that the USA Patriot Act of 2001 could pick up the slack regarding financial matters.
For its part, Burma's government has been "evasive" regarding the sanctions, a legacy of Aung San Suu Kyi's own past support, according to Myanmar Times on May 10.
Mining, Migrants and Markets
Dozens of mining companies were scheduled to suspend jade operations this past Monday due to fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army. Contributing to the stoppage is the preparation of the Uru River for monsoon season, as reported by Myanmar Times on May 13. Troops moved in after eight bombing incidents in two days, Myanmar Times wrote on May 10.
With cruel synchronicity, Myanmar Times had reported on the same day of the collapse: "Supervision of jade mining in Hpakant is to be stepped up with regular engineering and pollution checks following a visit to the controversial and deadly wasteland by U Ohn Win, Union minister for natural resources and environment." This was preceded by an instruction by Burma's minister for natural resources and the environment (the consolidated ministry we mentioned last month) to the Kachin state government to respond to demonstrations against environmental damage. Mine inspections by the minister were conducted, as reported by Myanmar Times on May 2.
Finally, some traders are giving up on jade, turning to amber instead, since the latter material can bring a profit. Its source? Kachin state, the same source as jade, according to a May 2 story by Myanmar Times.
Collecting Cards from the British Museum
Printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd.
With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the library of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who shares with us some of the wealth of information in the realm of gems and gemology.
This month, we feature the first batch of forty mineral and gemstone postcards published by the British Museum. According to a story by postcard-collector John Taylor in the Jan/Feb 2009 edition of Rocks & Minerals, these cards were printed in about the 1920s by Waterlow & Sons. The firm was an engraver of currency, postage stamps, and stock and bond certificates. James Waterlow's son Sydney (1822–1906) eventually became Sheriff of the City of London, during which time he was knighted, and later became that city's Lord Mayor.
As Taylor tells in his article, these collecting cards are arranged as follows.
D 16–35: precious stones
D 36–45: ornamental stones
D 46–54: crystals
D 55: crystals (twins)
We've culled from the larger group nine cards that depict specimens along with faceted stones. We'll feature some more in the June edition of Pala Mineralis, our sibling newsletter for mineral enthusiasts.
— End May Newsletter • Published 5/17/16 —
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