July 2016 Newsletter
Table of Contents
Shows and Events
- JA New York Summer Show: July 24–26, 2016
- Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems
ArtScience Museum, Singapore, through August 14, 2016
- DEVO and "The World's Largest Ruby"
Akron & Cleveland through August 28, 2016
NYU, Spring 2017
Pala International News
Gems and Gemology News
- When the Rough Gets Going the Going Gets Rough
- Brass Buttons
- Hop To It
- Burma Bits
- Gemstone Buying Guide, Revised Third Edition
by Renée Newman
Editor: David Hughes
Shows and Events
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. Pala's Jason Stephenson will attend the show, visiting Pala's many friends there. And, of course, dealers and suppliers downtown.
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
Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems
ArtScience Museum, Singapore, through August 14, 2016
Remember how people shook their heads when hotel honcho Steve Wynn opened a no-host art gallery in Las Vegas' Bellagio in 1998? Who would pay admission in the City of Freebies? Well, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art was such a success, it had to be doubled in size eight months later. Fast-forward to 2011 when Singapore's Marina Bay Sands hotel opened the unique ArtScience Museum, the first of its kind, with lotus-like architecture by Moshe "Habitat 67" Safdie. The lotus petals actually are ten "fingers" that contain gallery spaces. Five years later, the museum hosts the impressive oeuvre of a 110-year-old Maison d'haute joaillerie.
The exhibition is Van Cleef & Arpels: The Art and Science of Gems, a first for the Maison. It is a collaboration by ArtScience Museum, Van Cleef & Arpels, which provided more than 450 items of jewelry from its own and private collections, and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, which loaned over 250 mineral specimens. Both areas of interest are represented by multiple themes.
In Collection, the Maison explores Couture, Abstractions, Influences, Precious Objects, Nature, Ballerinas and Fairies, and Icons. The Beauty of Science themes are History of the Earth, Pressure, Temperature, Transport, Water, Oxygen, Life, and Metamorphism.
For a visitor's view of the exhibition, lavishly illustrated with his photographs, see Jerome Lim's blog, The Long and Winding Road. The show ends August 14, 2016.
DEVO and "The World's Largest Ruby"
There was a time in the late 1970s when the hunt for pop music records of a certain sort wasn't all that simple. No point, click, done. You had to move from shop to shop in search of that last X-Ray Spex single with a picture sleeve, before the later pressing was relegated to a white paper donut. I have vinyl in my collection, price tags still on, from places like Licorice Pizza, Zed, Moby Disc, Poo Bah, with "CON" (as in "consignment") scribbled in blue ink on tags for bands that now are household names. This was the beginning of DIY music recording and production, and rules were being broken and rewritten. We would go on Saturdays to Poseur, L.A.'s shabby answer to Sex, the King's Road boutique of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. (Your editor bought some killer pink patent leather pants there that later gave me entrée to the Mudd Club, but not to the upper room where Andy Warhol passed me by.) Upstairs at Poseur, only on Saturdays, a British expat sold exotic LPs and 45s as if they were colored gemstones. These were imports, of course, usually with sleeves that differed from their American cousins. I got the first Clash album there: CBS wouldn't release it stateside until after their second, because it wasn't considered ready for radio. Amongst the small stacks of carefully selected offerings were early releases on Edinburgh's Fast Product label, tracks by post-punkers The Mekons, Gang of Four, Human League, and the label's Earcom samplers that included Joy Division, DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft), and even some bands from California.
Sometimes domestic rarities would appear on Saturdays. Such was the case with DEVO, an art-damaged band from Akron, Ohio that would become a Southern California transplant. DEVO actually started its own label, Booji Boy (named after a character in their alternate universe), later distributed by Stiff Records (Elvis Costello, Lene Lovich, Nick Lowe). DEVO would be known for its synth-pop stylings, but some of the earliest recordings like 1974's "The Rope Song" sound like Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. I first heard their electronic side on Rodney Bingenheimer's Rodney on the ROQ radio show. It was a four-song bootleg, supposedly, and I obtained it upstairs at Poseur, so proud to have its handmade sleeve—a rectangle of red wrapping paper rubber-stamped DEVO / MECHANICAL MAN on the front and "0958" on the back—a limited edition! Although its, mm, authenticity as a bootleg is disputed, if it was a fake, it was immaculate: the song "Clockout," is mislabeled "Blackout." I wouldn't see the band live for a couple of years. It was New Year's Eve 1979 at the Long Beach Arena and the bill was Dove (the Band of Love), X, and DEVO—except that Dove (anagram of DEVO) was the band itself impersonating a Christian evangelical combo playing—DEVO. Or rather, as one critic puts it, "tepid, bowdlerized, Jesused-up versions of DEVO songs, wearing cheap leisure suits and accountants' visors." (Oddly, I don't recall DEVO performing its "Space Junk" even though RCA had lost a satellite earlier in December, and the Columbia space shuttle had been repeatedly grounded during its testing.)
Lyrically, DEVO did straightforward social commentary ("Be Stiff": "If you obey Society's rules/ You'll be society's fools") and satire that pushed the boundaries of good taste ("Mongoloid": "He was a Mongoloid/ Happier than you and me"). Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh also was a prolific visual artist. One self-penned song could have been titled "Oh, No," but instead was called "Ono," in obvious reference to his fellow artist. He was a movie junkie who collaborated from the beginning on video settings of their songs. In "Jocko Homo," Mothersbaugh cites cult films: "Are we not men?" the lyric asks, lifted from Island of Lost Souls. (DEVO would have appreciated that film's "X" rating—even after cuts—DEVOlving to PG once the cuts were restored in 2011.) One version of the song includes, "We accept you/ We reject you/ One of us!/ One of us!" from the initiation ceremony in Todd Browning's Freaks. Mothersbaugh would go on to score Wes Anderson's films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums and do a stint on Turner Classic Movies. In 1985, I obtained a Mothersbaugh limited edition of sorts, Musik for Insomniaks, a boxed set of an eight-song gilded C45 accompanied by a deck of playing cards adorned with fifty-two self-portraits of Mothersbaugh in different "suits." CDs of the music now go for $900 new. My package was issued as the fifth in the subscription series TRA Project, out of Tokyo.
When DEVO played the Denver County Fair (!) in 2011, our Museum of Contemporary Art's director Adam Lerner, who knew of Mothersbaugh's artistic bent, chatted him up. The result was an immense—and first—retrospective, Myopia, a reference to the artist's iconic eyeglasses, but also to the fact that his artwork always appears to come from what is close at hand. So the art can't be called visionary in the sense of, say, Matthew Barney. But it is shrewd. If the eclectic show that filled MCA's five galleries had a signature, it was his Beautiful Mutants, a series of "corrected" photographs and other objects based on a simple formula: split an object—photograph, minibus—down the middle, throw away half, and replace that with a mirror of the first, creating a perfect and disturbing balance. Not unlike what a master gemstone faceter does nearly every time, but with a different effect.
One item from Myopia that struck my eye is the PG-13-rated object pictured below. (Several early DEVO songs and images deal with matters of a mature—some would say sophomoric—nature as well.) Mothersbaugh tells how a gemologist friend of his had "the world's largest ruby" lying around—a "big ugly" rough stone, which Mothersbaugh asked if he could carve. He got to thinking that only the über-rich would want the world's largest ruby, and that that wealth must have a dark side to it. So it was only appropriate for the finished work to have its own shady slant. That said, it doesn't take the viewer long to discern the double entendre.
Pala International News
Pala's Featured Stone
This one is tasty. Burma impresses us again with this beautiful cherry-red spinel. With a full body of color and loupe-clean, we debut this one just in time for it being newly appointed as one of August's birthstones.
A real treat for the gem connoisseur, this beauty would be great for a collector and stunning as a centerpiece for a special piece of jewelry. This is one of those gems that stands the test of time.
Interested? Contact us!
Pala International is cover star of the current edition of The Journal of Gemmology (Vol. 35, No. 2, 2016). Pictured are copper-bearing tourmalines, clockwise from top: ~5-carat oval tourmaline from Mozambique taken from Pala's retail sibling, The Collector Fine Jewelry; 13.92-carat Mozambique tourmaline, Pala International; 3.5-mm gems from Paraíba, Brazil, The Collector; and 4.02-carat oval, also from Paraíba, courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago, Illinois. The photo is by Orasa Weldon.
Gems and Gemology News
Pearls of many layers
A new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu
In the last post (please see the caption attached to three images on Pinctada maxima pearls—here) I wrote that finding nacreous pearls formed next to or within molluscan muscles is quite surprising, since muscles are involved in making a different kind of material to which they attach, not nacre. Of course, by 'surprising' I mean 'well worth looking into'. Now that I did look, I have found what I expected rather than anything surprising…
Hughes to Teach in China
Richard W. Hughes of Lotus Gemology has been appointed part-time Professor of Gemology at Tongji University, Shanghai. The appointment May 28 was marked by Hughes's lecture on his newest book, Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide which was attended by more that 350 people. Hughes has lectured far and wide around the world, but this was his first talk in mainland China. His friend Jason C. H. Kao provided live translation and received his own honorary professorship, having done much teaching at the university. Hughes will lead some brief gemology workshops a few times a year at the school.
Tongji University is considered one of the most prestigious universities in China, according to Wikipedia. It was founded in 1907 by the German government with German physicians as a medical school, and has expanded its scope ever since.
When the Rough Gets Going the Going Gets Rough
The 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona rough diamond failed to meet its reserve price at auction June 29, so it will be retained by Lucara Diamond Corp. The pre-sale estimate was $70 million, but bidding only reached $61 million. National Jeweler posted a post mortem the next day.
Lucara CEO and President William Lamb said that no rough diamond ever had been sold via auction. Pala International President Bill Larson for years has advocated rough diamonds be sold as specimens, and Lamb seemed in tune with this line of thinking. He told National Jeweler that the firm was interested in seeing if there might be a market for one-of-a-kind diamonds, just as there is for collectible fine art. The public simply isn't accustomed to seeing value in an unpolished diamond, he said, therefore missing the stone's "historical significance." Also partly to blame could be the successful Brexit vote, though Lamb downplayed the notion.
National Jeweler also referred to two independent reports commissioned by Sotheby's regarding the stone, some details of which were made public: experts think the rough could yield a diamond larger than the 530.20-carat "Great Star of Africa" and that polished diamonds from the rough will be D, the highest on GIA's color scale.
The other day a friend asked your editor, "Do you cover semi-precious stones and minerals?" "Yes," I answered. We got out my smart phone and he directed me to the David G. Monette Corp., purveyor of fine brass instruments.
Let this picture say it all (or much of it):
As the firm's founder Dave Monette told me, these "fun inlays [are] not included on the website, since Lightning Ridge black opal," from New South Wales, Australia, "is just not available at any price that a musician (or instrument maker!) could ever afford." He said, "The rough opal I scored years ago to make these [fingerbuttons] may have been a once in a lifetime find!" Monette creates the fingerbuttons in his home lapidary studio.
For the past thirty-three years, Dave Monette and his Portland, Oregon team of musician/craftspeople have been brassmakers to the stars, and anyone else who appreciates the finest in design and workmanship. Before he started building brass, Monette worked for a few years repairing all types of wind instruments, so he obviously came across the good, the bad, and the ugly. This experience gave him insight regarding the state of the art: when making trumpets, flugelhorns and the rest, resonance is crucial, and nothing that stands in the way of this goal finds its way into the Monette model. While this may sound utilitarian, something else insinuates itself in instruments and mouthpieces with Sanskrit names like Prana (breath, life-principal) and Raja Samadhi (kingly union). "The unusual names chosen for some of what we make are taken from the Yoga Sutras," Monette told me. "Since musicians and artists on their best days are all about communication and hopefully transcendence, we sometimes pick names that reflect and encourage this. We enjoy working with players one on one with a variety of techniques to assist them in realizing enhanced communication and higher states of inspiration." Makes perfect sense to me, who as a musician in an earlier incarnation found myself sometimes transported while performing to a rare realm of mind-body-spirit.
Monette and his team work with each client individually in the course of crafting every instrument, and in some cases this itself is taken to a higher plane. Take, for instance, the Elysian Trumpet, so rich in its story that we point to two "making of" videos, below. The trumpet was commissioned by Irvin Mayfield, founder of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, but its design elements are a larger homage to the Crescent City's devastation and resilience in the face of Hurricane Katrina. The meandering turquoise inlay on the horn's mouthpiece, which charts the course of the Mississippi River, alone took Portland goldsmith Tami Dean forty to fifty hours to accomplish.
But back to those fingerbuttons and other lapidary luxuries. While he's been making trumpets since 1983, Monette told me, "Lapidary work started for me about ten years ago. I bought basic equipment and started cutting. I was always fascinated with lapidary work and it was a dream come true to start doing inlay to celebrate the player/instrument relationship in an new way." In the video below, Monette takes viewers through the making of a second decorated horn, but feel free to skip forward to 8:05, where it is "lapidary weekend at the Monette lapidary shop." For the first time in his career, Dave Monette crafts a turquoise inlay for a valve slide ring. He even shows us the tools he used. Then (at 10:24), on to some gorgeous white opal that is used in mosaic fingerbuttons.
Hop To It
Okay, maybe the same moneyed magnate who wants "the world's largest ruby" might be in the market for a minted marsupial—the world's first coin to feature a rare red diamond. That's right: Rio Tinto, of the Argyle Diamond Mine in east Kimberley, Western Australia, has partnered with the Perth Mint to offer a AU$1 million (US$762,458), 99.99% fine gold, one-kilogram coin featuring the likeness of a kangaroo with the 0.54-carat diamond in its mitt (perhaps to big for its pouch). All kidding aside, the diamond is rare; according to Rio Tinto, the Argyle produces only one carat of red diamonds a year on average.
Too rich for the blood? Last year, a similar partnership resulted in the Kimberley Sunset: 2 ounces of 91.67% pink gold depicting a boab tree against the setting of a .035–.040-carat pink diamond sun. Alas, the AU$8800 coin has sold out.
New Species from Mogok: Kyawthuite
On Monday, Pala people read with interest a Myanmar Times story with the headline, "'World's rarest gem' named after Myanmar mineralogist." That mineralogist is U Kyaw Thu, a dear friend of Bill Larson, who has worked with Pala International for some twenty years.
Before telling the discovery of the new gemstone material, some background. Earlier this week, Dr. Kyaw Thu reminisced about his dealings with Bill Larson.
Bill Larson, known as Burma Bill, is my good friend and a trusted person for me. I first met Bill as a young geologist/gemologist in Yangon about 15 years ago. At that time we established a very good relationship. We went together on a gem field trip with gem collectors to Mogok and discussed candidly many things about gems, mining, the origin of ruby and sapphire and their potential. Also, most of the gem and mineral dealers from Mogok already knew Bill and they love him. That was an amazing time!
At about the same time I met him I started my gem business. Over the years, Bill has shared much valuable knowledge of gems and minerals, suggestions and experiences with me, that are very useful in my gem-career life. He is an expert in gem world.
In January of 2010, while visiting the alluvial gem area at Chaung-gyi (Big Stream) just north of Mogok, Dr. Kyaw Thu purchased two waterworn crystals, one yellow and one orange, from a miner called "Kha-ne-say." Kyaw Thu suspected that the stones were scheelite because of their high density and lustre. After he faceted the two stones, he confirmed that the yellow one was scheelite; however, the orange gem had a different lustre and much higher density. Being unable to match its properties to those of any known gem, he sent the stone to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Laboratory in Bangkok. Lab personnel there were also unable to identify the gem, and arranged for X-ray diffraction and chemical analytical examination of the gem by Sunan Rangseekansong and Manop Tirarattanasompt at Chulalongkorn University. Their examination indicated that the orange gem matched synthetic BiSbO4. Subsequently, Dr. Kyaw Thu provided the gem to researchers for its detailed description as a new mineral species.
Kyawthuite (/cha: 'tu: ait/) is named for Dr. Kyaw Thu (b. 1973), a Burmese mineralogist-petrologist-gemologist with a Ph.D. from Yangon University (2007). He was on the staff of the Geology Department of Yangon University from 1998 to 2005 and has been the owner/operator of the Macle Gem Trade Laboratory since 2003. His Ph.D. dissertation, "The igneous rocks of the Mogok Stone Tract: Their distributions, petrography, petrochemistry, sequence, geochronology and economic geology," is a seminal work on the subject. Kyaw Thu has provided guidance for a number of scientific expeditions to the Mogok area and elsewhere in Myanmar. He has agreed to the naming of the mineral in his honor.
The new mineral and name have been approved by the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA2015– 078). Kyawthuite is the subject of a paper in Mineralogical Magazine by Anthony R. Kampf, George R. Rossman, Chi Ma, and Peter W. Williams, abstract available here.
Congratulations to U Kyaw Thu on the prestigious naming of this new mineral!
Mining, Migrants and Markets—and Muslims
We'll start with Markets this month, and the 53rd Myanmar Jade, Gems and Pearl Emporium, held June 24 through July 6, but the numbers are somewhat jumbled. Xinhua reported two figures: $4.18 million was fetched through gem lots as reported on June 28; $709.54 million was the grand total that also included jade and pearls, per a July 6 story. On July 4, two days before the sale's end, The Irrawaddy gave a $475 million figure. Democratic Voice of Burma posted a different grand total on July 7: $592.12 million—$584 million from jade alone. AFP put the figure at $587 million on July 8.
Prior to the sale, as Myanmar Times reported on June 16, foreign traders (read: Chinese) were being encouraged to attend, since their absence last December resulted in poor sales. But those same traders had to increase their deposits—a hedge against failure to complete transactions. So it's not a surprise that Myanmar Times reported on July 4 that sales were down due to the Chinese staying home: 2000 Chinese attended this year versus 3000 in 2015. Last year's total was more than €900 million compared with €533.49 million this year. And 2015 sales were down more than a third from 2014.
Pearls were perhaps the bright spot in the sale, according to Myanmar Times on June 29. The number of pears sold dropped, but the proceeds remained fairly stable: €3.12 million this year versus €3.26 million in 2015, a decline of about $155,000.
Just before the emporium, the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association formed an eight-person internal investigative committee to look into how funds earmarked for emporium production were spent, as reported by Myanmar Times on June 17. The first step was to be an audit.
Regarding Mining, and in an effort to boost the market, the Burma government vowed not to renew expiring jade mining licenses, according to The Irrawaddy on June 28. The aim is to reduce "raw" production and give a leg up to high-end, value-added jade products that are more profitable. The number of mining fields, however, is to remain the same. Along with the reduction in production, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation plans to reduce jade sales, i.e., stem the outgoing flow of raw jade so that more can be processed in-country.
One week before, Myanmar Times reported that the government would make extension of jade mining permits contingent upon an environmental evaluation, according to the Department of Mines. Such evaluation would apply to Hpakant and Lone Kin, whereas other areas, including Mogok, would be granted extensions automatically. Clearly there is a disconnect that needs sorting out.
Environmental concerns are warranted, of course. On June 24, a jade mining pit wall thirty feet long and two hundred feet high collapsed in Hpakant, injuring ten, with two more missing, according to Xinhua. This came after Hpakant residents complained of the flooding of Uru Creek due to mine tailings, and expressed fear of landslides, as reported by Myanmar Times.
It is the Migrant miners who are at risk, not only for injury on the job, but off the job by the easy availability of heroin, as laid out in a June 20 story by Myanmar Now, which also turned to Kalay, further to the south in Sagaing Region, on July 14. A jarring subhead quoted one user: "Heroin Is Much Cheaper Here Than Beer." Even a June 24 Myanmar Times travelogue about Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State, otherwise inviting, couldn't help but mention heroin use in Hpakant.
Sadly, it appears to be migrants who committed anti-Muslim violence that erupted in Lone Khin, Hpakant Township. On July 1, a prayer hall (a repurposed home) was burned by a mob of 500, as reported by Myanmar Times July 4. U Laung Khan, chair of the village's National League for Democracy, claimed that most of the mob were not villagers but rather "migrant workers who are working with rough stones." Another resident who saw the incident said the perpetrators were Bamar and Rakhine ethnics from elsewhere. The resident said, "We don't like things like this." Out of the 500, five were arrested as of July 5, according to Myanmar Times on July 6.
Gemstone Buying Guide
by Renée Newman
A review by David Hughes
The prolific Renée Newman continues not only to issue new books, such as her series Exotic Gems (in four volumes), but she also revisits earlier titles, such as the just-published third edition of Gemstone Buying Guide. This first was released in 1998, with a second revised edition in 2003.
The book's subtitle is How to evaluate, identify, select & care for colored gems. Evaluation is handled in the first ten chapters—roughly five dozen pages. Chapter 11, Gem Descriptions, occupies seven dozen more. The last chapter on care is handled in three pages, including a handy table of care considerations for about two dozen of the most common colored stones.
The book is rounded out with appendices of lists: birth/anniversary stones; Mohs hardness, refractive index and specific gravity, all ordered by value; and a bibliography. The index helpfully has page numbers bolded for those containing illustrations.
Chapter 1 gets right to it: Price Factors in a Nutshell. Newman includes the familiar four C's: Color, Clarity, Cut (style and quality) and Carat weight. She also fine tunes these with Transparency, Shape, Brilliance, Treatment, Origin, Distinctness of phenomena, and even Copper, chromium and/or vanadium content. Take this last section, for instance. As Newman writes, "Blue to green tourmaline gems with lab reports stating that they are colored primarily by copper," such as those featured in the current edition of The Journal of Gemmology (above), "can sell for several thousand dollars per carat depending on their size and quality." Newman follows this section by deconstructing two commonly held beliefs: 1) Color is just a matter of individual preference, which, of course, is countered by the example of cuprian tourmaline, and 2) Color is the most important factor for valuing colored stones. You probably already know how these issues are handled, but the novice gemstone buyer needs such guidance.
Chapters 2 through 8 deal in depth with the issues raised in Chapter 1. One section in Chapter 2 that caught our eye was a paragraph dealing with incorporation of natural, unfaceted crystals into jewelry. And so I selected the ring pictured below to share with our readers. Newman also devotes a whole section in this same chapter to the employment of drusy (small crystal accumulations) gem materials in designs.
Chapter 8, Treatments & Processes might have benefited from more images. On the other hand, though this is a realm all buyers should be aware of—and Newman covers eleven techniques—, it is laboratories that should be consulted as the experts in this field, especially when making a major acquisition. Skipping ahead, Chapter 10, Deceptive Practices dovetails with Chapter 8, describing five areas, including what the skeptic in everyone should consider first: nondisclosure of treatment types. Synthetic Stones are discussed in Chapter 9, again scantily illustrated, but the typical buyer is simply not going to have a high-powered microscope at hand to hunt for the telltale signs of synthetics that Newman outlines.
As mentioned, the bulk of the book is devoted to Chapter 11, Gemstone Descriptions. Each gem type is listed with eight characteristics identified. The classification of gemstones also is discussed. Of course, this section is lavishly illustrated and this review is easier on the eye due to a selection of the book's images from the lens of Mia Dixon and Jason Stephenson of Pala International and other photo contributors.
In sum, and as always, Renée Newman packs a lot of information into a nicely portable package. The newcomer won't be overwhelmed; there's simply too much to entice. And the veteran will appreciate the accessibility of one-stop shopping, so to speak. It will be a fixture on my desk. As The Journal of Gemmology wrote, "Buy it, read it and keep it."
Gemstone Buying Guide is available via a link on the author's website »
With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the library of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who shares some of the wealth of information in the realm of gems and gemology.
Before turning to the last of the collecting cards from the British Museum, we look at two promotional pieces from William Griffith & Sons of Birmingham, England, and links to more items from the same firm.
This company, which also went by the name Walter G. Griffith, was a diamond and colored gemstone cutter and dealer, but also a manufacturer of jewelry, as the following items attest.
- Photo of a William Griffith & Sons art deco sapphire and diamond ring, ca. 1935.
- A beautifully produced catalog of some of the firm's designs.
- The firm's sales rep portfolio that includes hand-colored examples of its designs.
- The company's listing with a description, from the Board of Trade British Industries Fair catalog, 1929. The listing states that the firm had moved from 15 16 17 & 42 Northampton Street to 55 Vittoria Street, also in Birmingham (pictured below).
Walter G. Griffith appears to have had a relative, Henry, whose Henry Griffith & Sons jewels also hailed from Birmingham between its founding in 1850 and its move in 1919/20 to Royal Leamington Spa, about thirty miles southeast. This is told in a colorful reminiscence of the company's decline and demise by former factory worker Richard Neale. And see this bird's-eye view of the Leamington Spa factory not long after it opened.
Collecting Cards from the British Museum (Natural History)
Printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd.
This month, we feature the last group of thirteen from forty mineral and gemstone postcards published by the British Museum (Natural History), cards 16–17, 29, and 36–45.
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.
Editor's Note: Somewhat late in the process of digitizing these cards it was pointed out that the institution formerly known as the British Museum (Natural History) now is known as the Natural History Museum, London. It should not be confused with The British Museum.
The Edwardes Ruby, top left, was gifted to the British Museum (Natural History) in 1887 by polymath-philanthropist John Ruskin (1819–1900). The stone was named after Major General Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes who in mid-century had helped the East India Company maintain control in the Punjab region, bringing an end to the Sikh Empire. Ruskin's ideas influenced figures as diverse as mining mogul Cecil Rhodes and socialist Edward Carpenter. In what Wikipedia likens to a nineteenth century blog, Ruskin wrote a series of "letters to the workmen and laborers of Great Britain," one of which critiqued a James McNeil Whistler painting. The artist sued for libel, and won, but during the trial the painting was displayed upside down.
Ruskin's mineral collection is discussed in the Introduction to Deucalion and Other Studies in Rocks and Stones, collected in The Works of John Ruskin, Volume 26, by the volume's coeditor Edward Tyas Cook. The book's frontispiece is Ruskin's watercolor illustration of an Australian opal in matrix. Under the subhead Catalogues of Minerals (1883–1886), Cook writes that in 1883 Ruskin began overhauling his collection with the intent of donating some to institutions with the goal that mineralogy would become a subject of elementary education just like botany. He also began completing his cataloging of the collection.
Ruskin had about three thousand specimens, purchased largely from dealers during his travels, including the Edwardes Ruby above and the Colenso Diamond, pictured below. The ruby, presented "In Honor of the Invincible Soldiership and Loving Equity of Sir Herbert Edwardes' Rule by the Shores of Indus," was obtained for £100 (about $13,000 in 1887). The diamond was bought from a dealer named Nockold for £1000. It also was gifted in 1887 to the museum, where it had been on loan. The museum's Keeper of Mineralogy (later the museum's director) Lazarus Fletcher suggested it be named after Ruskin. "The Diamond," Ruskin replied, "is not to be called the Ruskin, nor the Catskin, nor the Yellowskin, diamond. (It is not worth a name at all, for it may be beaten any minute by a lucky Cape digger.) But I will give it to the Museum on the condition of their attaching this inscription to it:—
The Colenso Diamond
Presented in 1887 by John Ruskin
"In Honor of his Friend, the loyal
And patiently adamantine
First Bishop of Natal."
— End July Newsletter • Published 7/15/16 —
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