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

June 2016

June 2016 Newsletter

And many more… Pala International celebrates its 47th birthday on June 26. A perennial joy of this business is meeting our clients face-to-face at trade shows such as this month's AGTA GemFair in Las Vegas, above. From left: Alison Collins, Carl Larson, Jason Stephenson, Richard Hughes (of Lotus Gemology), Gabrièl Mattice, Bill Larson, Will Larson, Rika Larson, Josh Hall.  May 16 marked Gabrièl's 28th year with Pala International, but also the herald of her departure. We wish her well as she moves on to other pursuits. (See "Gabrièl Mattice Takes Her Golden Ticket" below for more on her career at Pala.) And since we're marking milestones, we should mention that February 24 of this year was the 16th birthday of Palagems.com, launched by Richard Hughes when he was on the Pala International staff. 

And many more… Pala International celebrates its 47th birthday on June 26. A perennial joy of this business is meeting our clients face-to-face at trade shows such as this month's AGTA GemFair in Las Vegas, above. From left: Alison Collins, Carl Larson, Jason Stephenson, Richard Hughes (of Lotus Gemology), Gabrièl Mattice, Bill Larson, Will Larson, Rika Larson, Josh Hall. 

May 16 marked Gabrièl's 28th year with Pala International, but also the herald of her departure. We wish her well as she moves on to other pursuits. (See "Gabrièl Mattice Takes Her Golden Ticket" below for more on her career at Pala.)

And since we're marking milestones, we should mention that February 24 of this year was the 16th birthday of Palagems.com, launched by Richard Hughes when he was on the Pala International staff. 

Table of Contents

Mineral & Gem à Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines:
June 23–26, 2016

The 53rd Sainte-Marie show will be held June 23–26, with the first two days limited to trade only. This year, Bill, Will and Carl Larson will attend the show along with friend and fellow gem dealer Mark Kaufman.

As was presented last year, a symposium is offered on Friday at 3:00 p.m. in English.

  • "Wine & Stone: An Australian Story" by Penny Williamson, geological curator at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong (Australia)
  • "The French Crown Jewels" by Eloïse Gaillou, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Mineralogy MINES ParisTech
  • "Earth Treasures: Story and Achievement of an Exhibition" by Cristiano Ferraris, Curator at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris
  • "Mineral Collections: The Harvard History" by Raquel Alonso-Perez, curator at the Mineralogical and Geological Museum of Harvard University

The following lectures also will be presented.

  • "Emerald: Treatment, Detection, Evaluation" in French by Pierre-Yves Chatagnier & David Goubert, dealers in precious stones, Thursday, 11 a.m.
  • "From Stone to Wine: Origin of the Diversity of the Alsatian Vineyard and Terroir" in French by Stéphanie Colicchio, geologist and environment leader at the Maison de la Géologie in Sentheim, Thursday, 1 p.m. and Saturday, 3 p.m.
  • "Wines & Gemstones: An Ancestral Link," in French by Gian Carlo Parodi, mineralogist and lecturer at the au National Museum of Natural History in Paris, Thursday, 3 p.m.
  • "The Color of Tourmalines" in French by Paul Rustmeyer, Dr. of Chemistry, Friday, 11 a.m.
  • "Jade, This Beautiful Unknown" in French by Caroline Tran Vinh, gemologist, Saturday, 11 a.m.
  • "The French Crown Jewels"—this time in French—by Eloïse Gaillou, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Mineralogy MINES ParisTech, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
  • "Meteorites and Their Impacts" in French by Alain Carion, Sunday, 11 a.m.
  • "Mineralogy at the Musée des Confluences" in French by François Vigouroux, aassistant for management and conservation of museum collections at the  Musée des Confluences (science centre and anthropology museum), Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
  • "Wine, A Story of Stones?" in French by Marie-Sophie de Maissin, gemologist, expertise and consultancy, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Finally, our good friend and mineral dealer Alain Martaud curates The Prestige Exhibition, this year entitled Origins: Stones and Wines. Humans have had relationships with precious stones and the fruit of the vine in liquid form for millennia. Both being products of the land, they are brought together in this exhibition, loosely based on Flashes of Colour: Legendary Wines and Gemstones from 2007. The origin of their color is presented along with the effect of land on grapes (part of what oenophiles call terroir). And the fact that some mineral specimens come from the land of vines also will be highlighted. See the Prestige page for a ruby specimen photo by Mia Dixon, Pala International's resident photographer.

Bill Larson provided us with photos of three of the eighteen specimens that Pala will display at the show. They highlight gem crystals from near the Temecula wineries of California's San Diego County.

Kunzite
Heliodor
Gem-quality morganite, 3.5 x 2.5 inches, from the Himalaya Mine, Mesa Grande District, San Diego County, California.

Gem-quality morganite, 3.5 x 2.5 inches, from the Himalaya Mine, Mesa Grande District, San Diego County, California.


JA New York Summer Show
July 24–26, 2016

Pala International will not have a booth at next month's trade-only JA New York Summer Show. Given that Gabrièl Mattice is leaving us, it just wouldn't be the same without her. Pala's Jason Stephenson will attend the show, however.

See this list of seminars to be held at the show.

When: July 24–July 26, 2016
Where: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center 
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
   Sunday, July 24: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
   Monday, July 25: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
   Tuesday, July 26: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

See the JANY website for more information. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.

Pala International News

Gabrièl Mattice Takes Her Golden Ticket

Gabrièl Mattice

On May 16 this year, Gabrièl "Gabe" Mattice celebrated her 28th year with Pala International. As she wrote in her commemorative column marking her 20th year with the firm, "Believe me when I say, It has been a 'Golden Ticket' ride," referring to something only those of us of a certain age, your editor included, can recall: back in the day, Disneyland issued books of tickets that were tiered by letter; an A ticket was worth admission to 10¢ rides, a B worth 20¢, and so on. Eventually, the theme park issued gold-plated facsimiles of E tickets, for the 50¢ rides. As Gabrièl infers, her work with Pala International, which comes to an end this month, has been anything but A-level. She's worked with numerous E-level collectors, but has only documented a handful of acquisitions, discretion being the better part of, well, value in this case.

I met Gabrièl Mattice when I worked for Neiman-Marcus at the Lenox Square mall, Atlanta, Ga. She was extremely knowledgeable and professional. I always like to extend and increase my knowledge base whenever possible and trust Pala International for the facts.
—Wesley Dennison, Gem Shopping Network
Garnet ring. One of the beautiful jewels displayed in The Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which opened in November of 2006. For three years, Pala International's Gabrièl Mattice helped in the acquisition of many of the gemstones for the collection. The ring was designed and created by Ernesto Moreira. (Photo: Thomas R. DuBrock)

Garnet ring. One of the beautiful jewels displayed in The Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which opened in November of 2006. For three years, Pala International's Gabrièl Mattice helped in the acquisition of many of the gemstones for the collection. The ring was designed and created by Ernesto Moreira. (Photo: Thomas R. DuBrock)

In a rare instance of pulling back the curtain, but without naming names, Gabrièl offered us "Private Eyes: What world-class collectors are collecting" in 2008. After acknowledging the mentorship of Bill Larson, Pala International's president, she remarks, "Not only do I have to know the rarity of the stone in my hand, but it also has to be compared with what is already found in existing collections—both privately owned and those of museums." Then Gabrièl gives us the back-story of two fantastic collectibles: a 56.5-carat blue cat's-eye apatite and an 8-plus-carat oil-free emerald.

Dioptase in quartz. In addition to working with collectors, Gabrièl enjoys taking photomicrographs such as this one. (Photomicrograph: Gabrièl Mattice) 

Dioptase in quartz. In addition to working with collectors, Gabrièl enjoys taking photomicrographs such as this one. (Photomicrograph: Gabrièl Mattice) 

Another rare glimpse into the world of rare gemstones is told in Gabrièl's "American Girls in Paris" which, despite its breezy title, tells of the existing relationship between Pala International and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, as well as the introduction she made between the museum and two of her favorite clients, Tony Rosenthal and Ruth Ganister. 

During a private tour of the Paris museum's holdings, Gabrièl, Jeanne Larson, and Kate Donovan were treated by the curator of minerals, François Farges, to a view of lead glass models depicting the different stages of cutting the famous French Blue (about which, more below).

During a private tour of the Paris museum's holdings, Gabrièl, Jeanne Larson, and Kate Donovan were treated by the curator of minerals, François Farges, to a view of lead glass models depicting the different stages of cutting the famous French Blue (about which, more below).

Hamlin handful. Gabrièl holds the famous Hamlin Necklace from the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University. Augustus Choate Hamlin (1829–1905) was the nephew of Hannibal Hamlin, Vice President, who served under President Lincoln during the Civil War. His father, Elijah, and a friend Ezekiel Holmes found the Mount Mica Mine of Oxford County, Maine in 1821. That mine produced the eighteen multicolored tourmalines that Augustus had set in this necklace, which was gifted to the museum in 1934. Pala's Bill Larson appraised the necklace in 2013 (see "How I Spent My Summer Vacation").

Hamlin handful. Gabrièl holds the famous Hamlin Necklace from the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University. Augustus Choate Hamlin (1829–1905) was the nephew of Hannibal Hamlin, Vice President, who served under President Lincoln during the Civil War. His father, Elijah, and a friend Ezekiel Holmes found the Mount Mica Mine of Oxford County, Maine in 1821. That mine produced the eighteen multicolored tourmalines that Augustus had set in this necklace, which was gifted to the museum in 1934. Pala's Bill Larson appraised the necklace in 2013 (see "How I Spent My Summer Vacation").

Iberian connection. Gabrièl Mattice, center, at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson with buyers from Spain and Portugal. From left, Alicia de Vildósola, Adolfo de Basilio, André Neves Bento, Pedro Joaquin Fernandez De Ulloa Molina.

Iberian connection. Gabrièl Mattice, center, at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson with buyers from Spain and Portugal. From left, Alicia de Vildósola, Adolfo de Basilio, André Neves Bento, Pedro Joaquin Fernandez De Ulloa Molina.

As well as composing the Gem Spectrum series, Gabrièl found time to review Richard Wise's historical novel The French Blue.

As well as composing the Gem Spectrum series, Gabrièl found time to review Richard Wise's historical novel The French Blue.

Twenty years ago, Gabrièl began the occasional Gem Spectrum series of hard-copy musings on a variety of gemstone-related subjects from Pakistani peridot to the "Cutter's Corner" column. The series also allowed Pala to show off its International side, with visits to the demantoid mines of the Ural Mountains and the ruby mines of Mogok.

Although she deserves some time off, Gabrièl recently applied for election to the Fellowship of The Gemmological Association of Great Britain, joining a select group of trade members in a century-old institution. It's hard to imagine a Pala International without Gabrièl's shining smile. We wish her the best as she takes her golden ticket to Tomorrowland.

Your ride awaits. Here's your ticket, Gabrièl. The sky's the limit.

Your ride awaits. Here's your ticket, Gabrièl. The sky's the limit.


This month we feature a classic indicolite tourmaline from Brazil. This most likely was mined in the 1980s when similar-color material was coming out. Pala acquired this piece, along with a bounty of other tourmalines, from an old collection and did a custom recut to bring more life out of the gem.

New life. Natural Brazilian indicolite tourmaline, 21.49 carats, 20.9 x 12.6 x 10.2 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

New life. Natural Brazilian indicolite tourmaline, 21.49 carats, 20.9 x 12.6 x 10.2 mm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

This indicolite now stands at 21.49 carats and is very rare due to its lighter, more open tone. Most of the indicolite blues are overly dark and appear near black in low lighting. This piece shines even in the dark and has a pleasant, cool, slightly greenish hue and a flawless interior. Great piece for tourmaline lovers!

Interested? Contact us! 

Gems and Gemology News

Maxima naturals and other loose ends

A new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu

There are quite a few loose ends left hanging on my blog already: things I said I will do, questions I had asked. Let me follow up with some answers to my call for an appropriately novel name for the origin of pearls and for better "muscle pearls" like this one:

A pearl still contained in the adductor muscle of a P. maxima shell. (Photo © GIA; reprinted by permission)

A pearl still contained in the adductor muscle of a P. maxima shell. (Photo © GIA; reprinted by permission)


Gübelin Gem Lab to Offer NY Services

Lucerne-based Gübelin Gem Lab announced last week that by the end of this year it will offer permanent testing services in its offices at 608 Fifth Avenue in New York. The lab currently is in the midst of acquiring testing equipment. Meanwhile, beginning on July 11, the lab will offer New York clients the ability to bring goods for shuttle to Switzerland, with a one-week turnaround. Details are posted on the lab's website.


Characterization of Oriented Inclusions in Cat's-eye, Star and Other Chrysoberyls

Over the years, our readers have been treated to several studies of chrysoberyl led by Dr. Karl Schmetzer. The last time was more than two years ago, with "Natural and synthetic vanadium-bearing chrysoberyl," which looked at a lively mint-green—and sometimes blue-green—variety, which we felt might turn the heads of discriminating collectors.

This cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Brazil weighs 1.38 ct and measures 5.9 × 5.8 mm. Incandescent light. (Photo: K. Schmetzer)

This cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Brazil weighs 1.38 ct and measures 5.9 × 5.8 mm. Incandescent light. (Photo: K. Schmetzer)

The current edition of The Journal of Gemmology (2016, 35[1], 28–54) contains what Dr. Schmetzer and his co-authors present as a summary about oriented inclusions in chrysoberyls and alexandrites, mainly in phenomenal gemstones. "Characterization of Oriented Inclusions in Cat's-eye, Star and Other Chrysoberyls" is co-authored by Heinz-Jürgen Bernhardt and H. Albert Gilg.

In a 2013 study, Dr. Schmetzer and colleagues looked at titanium-bearing synthetic alexandrite and chrysoberyl samples that exhibited asterism and chatoyancy, and they discussed rutile needles in the material that were thought to cause the phenomena. The present study takes up where this and other studies leave off. And while these phenomena have been studied much in corundum, such has not been done with alexandrite and chrysoberyl. Identifying the inclusions is not easy, since standard gemological microscopes don't offer resolutions fine enough to discern such small features. Nevertheless, the present study provides an overview of the few previous examinations of phenomenal chrysoberyl (including three involving Dr. Schmetzer).

Dr. Schmetzer had examined Lake Manyara (Tanzania) milky alexandrite before, but, like in other prior studies, did not report on the compositional attributes of the inclusions. The present study also provided an opportunity to compare and contrast this material with that from other localities. It also looks into the differences between simple chatoyancy and four- and six-ray asterism in both natural and synthetic samples.

Thin slices were made of various materials from various localities, but at a thickness of 60 μm rather than the traditional 25 μm, in order to capture enough of the oriented inclusions. The study began with Lake Manyara material already known to contain such inclusions. Similar-looking material from Kerala, India, was used. Synthetic material from Japan's Kyocera Corporation, which had been studied by Dr. Schmetzer in 2013 for chatoyancy and asterism, was also included in the study. This was compared with natural cat's-eye samples from Orissa, India, and from Brazil (pictured above). Furthermore, a somewhat milky chrysoberyl from Ilakaka, Madagascar, was examined. These were rounded out by a rare Sri Lankan four-rayed star chrysoberyl, an extremely rare phenomenal gemstone.

All slices were examined in <1000x magnification and the nature of the inclusions was examined, mainly by microscopy combined with electron microprobe analysis and micro-Raman spectroscopy (see again the 2013 study dealing with titanium-bearing synthetics, referenced above).

The results revealed: "numerous Ti-bearing needles, narrow rectangular platelets, V-shaped and triangular platelets, and L-shaped and zigzag clusters" identified as rutile. Not so for the Sri Lankan four-rayed star chrysoberyl; its needle-like inclusions were shown to be ilmenite. Two main orientations of the various types of inclusions were determined, i.e. on planes perpendicular to the a-axis and elongated parallel to the same axis.

Although these results are provided midway through the article, the study continues in much detail regarding each of the locality's samples. The photomicrographs reflect the wide diversity of the material. For instance, an alexandrite from Kerala exhibits beautiful simplicity in reflected light a needle or two here, a platelet there (view a below), a pattern of zigzags (b below), while transmitted light renders the patterns as if graffiti scratches on a rusty field (d below).

An alexandrite from Kerala, cut perpendicular to the a-axis, is shown in reflected (a, b) and transmitted light (d) compared to the Ti compositional map (c). In reflected light, the view of the surface of the sample (a) shows the scanned area (measuring ~61 × 61 μm), with rutile needles that are also represented in the Ti distribution map (c). Focusing the optical microscope slightly below the surface of the thin section with crossed polarizers shows inclusions (b) that generally are not observed in the Ti distribution map. In transmitted light (d), inclusions both at the surface and at various depths below the surface are seen. The scanned area (c) is outlined in (a), (b) and (d); the intensity of the Ti signal in (c) ranges from weak (blue) to strong (red). Field of view ~112 × 84 μm. (Photomicrographs and map: H.-J. Bernhardt)

An alexandrite from Kerala, cut perpendicular to the a-axis, is shown in reflected (a, b) and transmitted light (d) compared to the Ti compositional map (c). In reflected light, the view of the surface of the sample (a) shows the scanned area (measuring ~61 × 61 μm), with rutile needles that are also represented in the Ti distribution map (c). Focusing the optical microscope slightly below the surface of the thin section with crossed polarizers shows inclusions (b) that generally are not observed in the Ti distribution map. In transmitted light (d), inclusions both at the surface and at various depths below the surface are seen. The scanned area (c) is outlined in (a), (b) and (d); the intensity of the Ti signal in (c) ranges from weak (blue) to strong (red). Field of view ~112 × 84 μm. (Photomicrographs and map: H.-J. Bernhardt)

The Brazilian cat's-eye chrysoberyl shown at the top of this article has its own patterned simplicity, as shown below.

Cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Brazil is shown here in transmitted light in a thin section cut perpendicular to the a-axis. The photo shows cross-sections of rutile needles elongated parallel to [100], together with a few needles and V-shaped platelets elongated parallel to <011>; some needles along [001] are also observed. Field of view 150 × 112 μm. (Photomicrograph: H. A. Gilg)

Cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Brazil is shown here in transmitted light in a thin section cut perpendicular to the a-axis. The photo shows cross-sections of rutile needles elongated parallel to [100], together with a few needles and V-shaped platelets elongated parallel to <011>; some needles along [001] are also observed. Field of view 150 × 112 μm. (Photomicrograph: H. A. Gilg)

Not all types of inclusions were identified (because their dimensions were too small for the techniques applied), but rutile definitely plays a major role in phenomenal chrysoberyl and alexandrite, mainly in cat's eyes, but also in asteriated gemstones. While this provides an opportunity for some future fine-tuning in a future study, the present paper is a welcome contribution to the literature.

So, move over a bit, Corundum; Chrysoberyl needs room—for this study by Dr. Schmetzer and his colleagues!

A 20-carat cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Pala International. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

A 20-carat cat's-eye chrysoberyl from Pala International. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

Industry News

AGTA and JA to Add Spinel as Official August Birthstone

Spinel comes in a rainbow of hues. This 2.09-carat natural pink cushion-cut spinel is just the thing for a bright August day (or sultry night). Inv. #22823. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Spinel comes in a rainbow of hues. This 2.09-carat natural pink cushion-cut spinel is just the thing for a bright August day (or sultry night). Inv. #22823. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

AGTA and the trade group Jewelers of America announced June 2 that spinel will be added as an official birthstone for the month of August, taking its place with peridot and sardonyx.

According to the announcement, the modern birthstone list first was created in 1912 by the American National Retail Jewelers Association—now Jewelers of America—and updated twice since, in 1952 and 2002.


AGTA Targets Silicosis

AGTA Logo

On June 1, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) announced it has begun a project to address the rise of silicosis in the gemstone industry. The disease is a result of gemstone faceters inhaling airborne silica released during polishing. An AGTA ad hoc committee conducted a six-month-long study that consulted the U.S. government, non-governmental organizations and gem trade groups.

The AGTA has approved the committee's recommended pilot project, which begins early next year with test facilities in India. The project will involve equipment as well as educational methods like pictograph brochures and native-language videos.


Pala-Connected Eagle, Emerald Stolen

Browsers of the Palagems.com library may be familiar with a 1992 story, "Gem Cutter Romances the Stone," about Meg Berry, who was called back from maternity leave that year to facet an emerald from rough recovered from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which sank during a hurricane in 1622. (At the time, Berry was Pala International's in-house gemstone cutter.)

When Berry cut the stone—from 25.87 carats to a glittering 12.72 carats—it was valued at $250,000. It was to be a gift for Deo Fisher, wife of Mel Fisher; the Fishers had salvaged the ship's treasure eight years prior. Eventually, the emerald, known as the "Atocha Star," was incorporated into a diamond-encrusted statuette, the Golden Eagle. The stone was valued at $4.8 million in 2014.

The Golden Eagle's owner, Canadian telecommunications operator Ron Shore, offered the statuette for $5 million, with $1 million to be given to the cancer charity of the buyer's choice. (Shore lost his sister-in-law to the disease in 2005.) The remaining $4 million would be used to raise another $24 million for cancer research.

On May 30, Shore was violently robbed of the statuette, as reported by the National Post. The sculptor, Kevin Peters, feared the eagle might be melted down.


Lapis Lazuli Labeled Conflict Gem

On June 5, international corruption watchdog Global Witness released a report that paints an unsavory picture of mining in Afghanistan, particularly that of lapis lazuli and to a lesser extent tourmaline. Lapis mining was outlawed last year, but it continues to be conducted in Afghanistan's northeast province of Badakhshan. Former and current government figures are accused of benefiting from the trade which earns up to $20 million a year, with half that going to the Taliban.

The Global Witness report, which was two years in the making, complains that the illegal mining should be developed in ways that benefit the Afghan people. The report concludes with a ten-point list of recommendations to the government of Afghanistan and three more reserved for the country's international partners. 

Just after the 9/11 attack in 2001, cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall went as a correspondent to Afghanistan, having fallen in love with Central Asia years before. His twelve reports (before the trip and during) were published by The Village Voice. October 24, 2011:

While the explosions will look cool on cable TV news and the vague rumors of American death squads trekking through the mountains will sound dashing in a Rudyard Kipling-cum-Rambo kind of way, it will accomplish exactly nothing.

Rall was too familiar with Afghanistan and its people to think otherwise.

In its own recent report about lapis mining, BBC used decades-old footage—because "the mines are now far too dangerous to visit," says correspondent Justin Rowlatt, reporting from the distance of Kabul.

Global Witness can issue an outraged report and make all the recommendations it wants, but Badakhshan is not post-Vichy France. Perhaps the NGO is forgetting which country—what region—it is reporting on.


Diamond News

Christie's set two records for colored diamonds within the last month. The "Aurora Green" sold for US$16.8 million—$3.3 million per carat—on May 31 in Hong Kong. It was a world record for a green diamond sold at auction. The diamond stayed in town, at least for a while, being acquired by Chow Tai Fook Jewellery, a manufacturer and retailer based in Hong Kong.

Photo: Christie's news release

Photo: Christie's news release

A Christie's news release claims that three other records were set in its sale the day before, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary: $11.6 million for a pair of ruby ear pendants, $7.2 million for a Kashmir sapphire bracelet by Cartier, and $967,000 for a jadeite pendant necklace by Wallace Chan.

Earlier, on May 18, Christie's Geneva sold the "Oppenheimer Blue" (see "Pink and Blues" from April) for US$57.5 million, setting the modest little world record for any jewel sold at auction.


Burma Bits

Fund Mined for Cash?

On June 2, Myanmar Times reported that a Ministry of Mines fund largely had been drained in what was claimed to be an embezzlement. Members of the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association filed a complaint about the matter, stating that the fund had contained more than $103 million. U Win Htein, director general of the Department of Mines and chair of a tribunal looking into the matter, stated that the fund now contains less than $8 million.

The tribunal chair questioned ownership of the fund, however, saying that it is not the Association's, but rather, it has belonged to the Myanmar Gems Emporium Central Committee since 2006, with the funds being used by the Committee to support the emporium.

The 53rd Myanmar Gems Emporium will be held this year June 24 through July 6, shadowed by the embezzlement scandal, as reported by Myanmar Times. Above, Vice President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, center visits the opening of last July's gems emporium. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

The 53rd Myanmar Gems Emporium will be held this year June 24 through July 6, shadowed by the embezzlement scandal, as reported by Myanmar Times. Above, Vice President Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, center visits the opening of last July's gems emporium. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

The same day, June 2, former mines minister U Myint Aung claimed that the money was not used for emporium support but instead for regional development and environmental conservation projects, according to Myanmar Times. He said that when he became minister, the fund contained €5.4 million and over time he added more than €38 million, but by the time of the government turnover on March 31, a little more than €7 million remained. The Myanmar Times story outlines the former minister's accounting of funded projects.

For his part, Association Executive Committee member Kyaw Kyaw Oo said the committee did not trust the tribunal, stating that the tribunal's director generals are retired army colonels.

As reported by Democratic Voice of Burma June 3, Kyaw Kyaw Oo also said that scandals such as these are a perennial occurrence, "but in the past we didn’t have the right to complain, and even if we could, we wouldn’t get anywhere with it." The new government, he said, gave the Association the confidence to raise the issue.

The probe wrapped up on June 7, producing a sealed report for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, according to Myanmar Times. But names already had been named publicly by Kyaw Kyaw Oo: former president U Thein Sein allegedly had taken $8 million and former minister of industry U Soe Thein had taken $5.6 million.

Sanctions Saga Continues

Relax, don't do it…
   —Frankie Goes to Hollywood

"Obama to Relax U.S. Sanctions Against Myanmar," reads a cheery New York Times headline May 17. Per the article, financial restrictions were to be lifted against state-owned banks and businesses, and U.S. citizens now can live and work there without breaking the law. But President Obama renewed the official government declaration that characterizes Burma as an "extraordinary threat." The same day, Myanmar Times outlined the remaining sanctions in some detail.

At the same time, on May 17, at his Center for a New American Security appearance, Obama's deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, Benjamin J. Rhodes, had to respond to a moderator's comment: "Even today, Myanmar has probably much more sanctions than a country like North Korea." Rhodes replied, in part, "I think in America, we make the perfect the enemy of progress." Later, Rhodes admitted, "The sanctions are much more far-reaching on Myanmar than—without naming countries, some of its neighbors have potentially more questionable records in some of these spaces today. So I think we have to make sure that we're constantly updating these tools." (Oh, if only George Carlin were around to weigh in on that euphemism…) Rhodes recalled meeting a group of young, visionary, sometimes altruistic Burmese entrepreneurs, a few of whom had returned from the diaspora, but who were hobbled by the fact that U.S. sanctions were a barrier to capital investment, even by Singapore.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi holds talks with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 8. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi holds talks with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 8. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

A day later, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi defended the renewal of U.S. sanctions, according to Myanmar Times. Speaking equivocally, she said the sanctions had been imposed for a reason, reasons that eventually will be removed, yet she remarked that they were not a problem and would not hurt Burma "in any way." The article reiterated that a ban remains in effect on U.S. imports of jade and ruby from Burma.

Several days before the U.S. announcement, representatives from the U.S. and Burma's chambers of commerce called for the lifting of all sanctions, as reported by Eleven Media Group.

Mining, Migrants and Markets

A profile of Maung Aye, a migrant jade worker in Hpakant, Kachin State, went viral through some of Burma's English-language e-media recently. The piece was written for Myanmar Now, which is supported by the Thomas Reuters Foundation. As meager as the living from jade scavenging is, this worker feels it is superior to life in his home village. And he keeps bright the memory of how he and friends found a boulder worth $7000—fourteen years ago.

Others in Kachin are critical, demanding that authorities deal with the issue of the environmental impact of jade mining, also reported by Myanmar Now. Jade mining reduces mountains to dangerous rubble that also exacerbates rainy-season flooding. Thirteen landslides have taken place in Hpakant since last November.

Some residents in the area are moving matters beyond simple demands. On May 15, about eight people entered a compound for Yadanar Moe Myay mining company in Hpakant, asked people to step aside, and threw handmade bombs, damaging machineryaccording to The Irrawaddy. A similar attack took place on Lin Htet Aung mining company. Both companies suspended production.

Myanmar Now published a pictorial June 3, "Hpakant scenes: scarred landscapes, jade scavenging and drug use." (Photo courtesy Myanmar Now)

Myanmar Now published a pictorial June 3, "Hpakant scenes: scarred landscapes, jade scavenging and drug use." (Photo courtesy Myanmar Now)

But once again, a landslide in Hpakant on May 23 killed at least eleven people, with more feared missing, after a wall of earth collapsed during a rainstorm. Fifty people were scavenging for jade when the collapse took place, according to Mizzima. The Chinese People's Daily put the death toll at thirteen.

Also in May, a meeting was held in Kachin of the International Commission of Jurists, with a lawyer blasting violations of human rights in the state, as reported by Myanmar Times on June 3. The Commission itself produced a publication, "Myanmar: writ of Habeas Corpus can help protect human rights."

All this commotion is the backdrop to a grim fact of Burma's current jade trade—on the eve of the gem emporium next Friday: demand for jade is slumping, according to traders in Burma. Blamed are the Chinese economy as well as over-extraction in the mines, according to The Irrawaddy June 13.

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Myanmar Times: First Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative report tells who profits from oil, gas and mining
  • Myanmar Times: Resource extraction data to be collected; "We need a list of… companies excavating gems"
  • Myanmar Times: Firm has tips for lighting of meat, gems
  • Kachinland News: The fabled lords of Kachin, "notable for their military prowess, fabulous riches in jade, their wit or visionary leadership"

Pala Presents

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 another batch from forty mineral and gemstone postcards published by the British Museum, cards 20, 21, and 31–35. Earlier this month we added ten more cards of interest to mineral enthusiasts (46–55) and last month featured the first group of nine (18, 19, 22–28).

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.

Emerald
Spodumene

Recycle Bin

The following article appeared this month in our sibling e-publication, Pala Mineralis.

Perot Pix (and PEZ!)

Spring is the time for the Houston Fine Mineral Show, and Pala International's Larsons attended it in April. A happy side trip was a visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and its Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall.

A special exhibition currently is on display through September 5, 2016, Eye of the Collector, and it takes viewers under the skin of—well, we're sure our readers already understand what might drive Carla Eames Hartman to amass a floor-to-ceiling display of PEZ dispensers or Nancy and Randy Best to collect items from time immemorial to the present.

Will Larson shared with us two dozen images from Eye of the Collector and more, and we in turn are sharing with you the cream of that crop.

From Nancy and Randy Best. Besides being collectors, the Bests are philanthropists and patrons of the arts, including the Perot Museum. Above, old gold figurines from Eye of the Collector. (Photo: Will Larson)

From Nancy and Randy Best. Besides being collectors, the Bests are philanthropists and patrons of the arts, including the Perot Museum. Above, old gold figurines from Eye of the Collector. (Photo: Will Larson)

From the Hall. One of several beautiful displays of gem-mineral crystals and faceted gemstones in the Perot Museum's Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall. (Photo: Will Larson)

From the Hall. One of several beautiful displays of gem-mineral crystals and faceted gemstones in the Perot Museum's Lyda Hill Gem and Mineral Hall. (Photo: Will Larson)

Dozens of dispensers. PEZ turns 90 next year, and it's hard to imagine that its dispensers didn't always sport their famous and ever-changing heads. Carla Eames Hartman has collected many of the best. (And, yes, she's the daughter of design legends Charles and Ray Eames.) Click to enlarge and see how many PEZsters you can ID. This is another display from Eye of the Collector. (Photo: Will Larson)

Dozens of dispensers. PEZ turns 90 next year, and it's hard to imagine that its dispensers didn't always sport their famous and ever-changing heads. Carla Eames Hartman has collected many of the best. (And, yes, she's the daughter of design legends Charles and Ray Eames.) Click to enlarge and see how many PEZsters you can ID. This is another display from Eye of the Collector. (Photo: Will Larson)


— End June Newsletter • Published 6/17/16 —

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