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

August 2016

August 2016 Newsletter

This rare Nepalese ritual crown has been donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by collector Barbara Levy Kipper. The crown features four sets of diadem plaques that depict Manjushri (Gentle Glory), the Bodhisattva of Transcendental Wisdom, in his esoteric form of Manjuvajra (Gentle Thunderbolt)—in both his benign (upper, in the image) and wrathful (lower) guise. Each of these depictions is surrounded with precious and semiprecious gemstones, turquoise, rock crystal, coral and glass. These main plaques are accompanied by smaller depictions of female forms, likely Shakti deities that often are portrayed entwined with the main figure: the union of wisdom and creative power (bliss-emptiness per Wikipedia). The Met news release states that the image of the wrathful Manujavra is rarely depicted, "standing in an aggressive posture (pratiylidha), with crossed hands on the chest (invoking union with his consort), and wielding a sword, a ritual wand (kathvanga), and other implements. He is four-armed and three-faced, with large discal earrings, and with flaming hair framed by entwined snakes." For Nepalese Bhuddists, Manjushri is creator of the Kathmandu Valley, which was once a lake that he drained. The crown, which dates from the late 13th or the 14th centuries, would only have been worn by hereditary Vajracarya Buddhist priests of a very high caste. The crown is displayed at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 252. (Click to enlarge.)

This rare Nepalese ritual crown has been donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by collector Barbara Levy Kipper. The crown features four sets of diadem plaques that depict Manjushri (Gentle Glory), the Bodhisattva of Transcendental Wisdom, in his esoteric form of Manjuvajra (Gentle Thunderbolt)—in both his benign (upper, in the image) and wrathful (lower) guise. Each of these depictions is surrounded with precious and semiprecious gemstones, turquoise, rock crystal, coral and glass. These main plaques are accompanied by smaller depictions of female forms, likely Shakti deities that often are portrayed entwined with the main figure: the union of wisdom and creative power (bliss-emptiness per Wikipedia). The Met news release states that the image of the wrathful Manujavra is rarely depicted, "standing in an aggressive posture (pratiylidha), with crossed hands on the chest (invoking union with his consort), and wielding a sword, a ritual wand (kathvanga), and other implements. He is four-armed and three-faced, with large discal earrings, and with flaming hair framed by entwined snakes."

For Nepalese Bhuddists, Manjushri is creator of the Kathmandu Valley, which was once a lake that he drained. The crown, which dates from the late 13th or the 14th centuries, would only have been worn by hereditary Vajracarya Buddhist priests of a very high caste. The crown is displayed at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 252. (Click to enlarge.)

Table of Contents

 

Shows and Events

More Is More: Sotheby's First Online Sale

Designer Tony Duquette (1914–1999) was an artist renowned for translating his big, bold, over-the-top designs for stage and screen to his big, bold, over-the-top designs for wrist and digit. In the late 1940s, he was the first American artist to be given a one-man show at the Louvre. Here's what the New York Times had to say about his work.

But his own lavishly theatrical homes were perhaps his most astonishing creations. The house on his 175-acre Malibu ranch, named Sortilegium, was an architectural collage of Oriental and Georgian motifs interlarded with bits of unexpected exotica: a window from Greta Garbo and John Gilbert's love nest, a Venitian gondola, and a set of 18th-century doors presented to him and his wife by Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers as a wedding present. It was destroyed by fire in 1993.
Another home, Dawnbridge, was a village-like compound with Balinese pavilions and grand Venetian salons, the whole spiced with 18th-century Chinese window carvings.

From August 18 to 30, Sotheby's will offer its first online jewelry sale, featuring thirty-two jewels by Tony Duquette. 

This edition of Frank's Files takes a pre-sale look at jewels from Tony Duquette, as well as background on the designer, who worked in film, theater, interiors, as well as jewels. See also this "First Look" slide show of the jewels.

This edition of Frank's Files takes a pre-sale look at jewels from Tony Duquette, as well as background on the designer, who worked in film, theater, interiors, as well as jewels. See also this "First Look" slide show of the jewels.


The Material Side of Painting

We have pointed our readers from time to time to the affairs of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University (see, e.g., "Appraising Harvard Redux"). But now the Harvard Art Museums feature an installation highlighting the "material side of painting"—as in the employment of lapis lazuli in the studio art of Renaissance Europe. The Painter on Display is a temporary installation displaying the artist's tools, as shown below, along with the results.

Pictured are a chunk of lapis lazuli, a vial of the powdered pigment, and a late 18th- or early 19th-century animal-skin bladder that was used like the modern-day paint tube, sealed with ivory tacks. (Photo courtesy Harvard Art Museums)

Pictured are a chunk of lapis lazuli, a vial of the powdered pigment, and a late 18th- or early 19th-century animal-skin bladder that was used like the modern-day paint tube, sealed with ivory tacks. (Photo courtesy Harvard Art Museums)

Hyperallergic Newsletter contributor Allison Meier visited the exhibition, which is in the rococo and neoclassicism gallery, and used it as a springboard for a larger exploration of the use of lapis in painting: "Lapis Lazuli: A Blue More Precious than Gold." She also visited the Forbes Pigment Collection—yes, even pigments have their place in such institutions.

Pala International News

Blue Sapphires from Sri Lanka

This month we feature two large and exceptional blue sapphires from Sri Lanka paired with their natural crystal counterparts. Two unique rough and cuts that highlight classic color and distinct form.

Sapphire crystal, 25 mm, and Sri Lankan oval sapphire, 15.20 carats.

Sapphire crystal, 25 mm, and Sri Lankan oval sapphire, 15.20 carats.

The first sapphire is a no-heat 15.20-carat oval with a bright violet cornflower-blue color. This sapphire is paired with a classic hexagonal bi-pyramidal crystal showing bands of light and dark sections, which are common with this material.

Blue sapphire crystal, 25 mm, and Sri Lankan oval cut sapphire, 11.67 carats.

Blue sapphire crystal, 25 mm, and Sri Lankan oval cut sapphire, 11.67 carats.

The second sapphire is also no-heat weighing in at 11.67 carats. This one has a darker, more classic royal blue color. This sapphire is paired with a hexagonal tabular crystal showing some striking trigons etched on the main face.

Interested? Contact us! 

Passing…

Fred Ward (1935–2016)

Earlier this month we noted the death of photographer and author, gemologist and dealer Fred Ward, who died last month at the age of 81. Charlotte Ward, Fred's wife and collaborator, responded, and she kindly agreed to an interview to expose our readers to more of the man behind his images and words.

— David Hughes     


Pala International: How did you and Fred meet?

Charlotte Ward: Fred and I lived only ten blocks apart and we both attended Coral Gables High School [in Florida]. He was two years ahead of me, graduating in 1953, I in 1955. I won awards, which he was asked to cover for the Miami newspapers, so he photographed me at various activities. We went on our first date my first night in college. We married while we were both in school at the University of Florida. Fred took a master's degree in Journalism and Communications while I graduated in English and stayed an extra semester for a teaching credential. The first editing I did for Fred was on his thesis, which I typed on an old manual Royal.

Portrait of Fred Ward by Charlotte Ward while the two attended the University of Florida.

Portrait of Fred Ward by Charlotte Ward while the two attended the University of Florida.

How did your background prepare you for collaborating with Fred?

I have always been interested in writing and editing. I have written three books and edited many more. 

Fred read widely and wrote well. He had innate ability to produce a full picture story and to shape text from eye-catching beginning to satisfying conclusion. It was an intellectual joy for me to contribute where I could. As he began to write stories for NGS [National Geographic Society] and books on many subjects, I collaborated with him and edited alongside him. With his early interest in computers, the process became much easier with Word, PageMaker and InDesign.

Are you a Graduate Gemologist?

I am not a GG. I did become familiar with the world of gems through many years of working with Fred. Whenever he arrived home from an assignment, the children and I would gather around the suitcases for the reveals. There were stories, gifts, samples, and curiosities. We loaded shelves with his collections. 

For some five years, we had a private design gem and jewelry business with a partner Carol Tutera called Blue Planet Gems.

You wrote me the following paragraph. Would you elaborate? And will your gemstone book series continue to be revised?

One of the remarkable journalistic feats that he accomplished is that every story out in the gem series was that he uncovered some important ethical violation or exposed undisclosed threats to the good reputation of the trade, such as the bleaching and dying of pearls and shorter and shorter growing periods for nucleated pearls by the Japanese. He noted abuses to the environment. He warned the public many times about how to safely buy and care for their choices.

Fred believed that investigative journalism held great power as the Fourth Estate. He wanted to inform people, particularly, he wanted to tell and show truth as he discovered it. He wanted to make a difference for good in the world. Besides the gem stories, each of which required about a year to produce, Fred did many other NGS stories and many other jobs on wide-ranging subject matter, particularly politics and science.

While he was on assignment in Texas, Fred read an article in the local paper about a woman with a fabulous jewel collection, particularly diamonds. He immediately proposed his first gem story to NGS, entitled "Diamond, the Incredible Crystal" (Vol. 155, No. 1, January 1979, 85–113). It afforded a breadth of travel and a depth of reporting because diamonds serve a multitude of purposes. And it provided introductions to Harry Winston and Elizabeth Taylor. A high point of the story was spending the night inside the Smithsonian Institution photographing the national collection outside their secured cases.

Picking diamonds by hand. (Photo: Fred Ward)

Picking diamonds by hand. (Photo: Fred Ward)

Fred photographed "Silver, a Mineral of Excellent Nature," written by staff writer Allen A. Boraiko (Vol. 160, No. 3, Sep. 1981, 280–313). They covered the story when the price of silver soared to such heights that people were turning in their heirlooms to be melted for profit.

Then came "The Pearl" (Vol. 168, No. 2, Aug. 1985, 193–223), a simple title that belied the complexity of the subject. When the story editor read the text, he told Fred that it was perfectly written, an example of what a Geographic story should be. The Japanese had been secretive about their production, which Fred revealed to be bleached and dyed, and how oysters were cultured by inserting a piece of mantle tissue to instigate the formation of nacre around the bead. Fred showed that some unscrupulous producers were perilously shortening the growth period in the water to the extent that there was barely any nacre coating the implanted bead. He also discussed how the diminished quality of the water impacted the number and quality of the cultured pearls. This was a story that made a big difference in the entire industry. And Elizabeth Taylor welcomed Fred to her Beverly Hills home to pose wearing her custom Cartier diamond necklace from which dangled a pearl treasure of historical significance, La Peregrina.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina. See our story "Clamoring for Cartier" for a glimpse of Taylor's original inspiration for this necklace.(Photo: Fred Ward)

Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina. See our story "Clamoring for Cartier" for a glimpse of Taylor's original inspiration for this necklace.(Photo: Fred Ward)

Then Fred fell in love with jade, actually two jades, rocks with different chemistries but the same name. Out of his investigations came a cover story "Jade, the Stone of Heaven" (Vol. 172, No. 3, Sep. 1987, 282–315). The cover headlines one of Fred's journalistic coups, "A famous 'jade' mask is unmasked. Remote sensing tool comes down to earth to reveal only the ear flares are true jade." Curators welcomed Fred into their collections, but sometimes they were disquieted by his keen observations about items that he determined had been mislabeled. 

The next time that NGS published one of Fred's gem stories, "The Timeless Mystique of Emeralds," they ran in the same issue his article "The Coral Reefs of Florida Are Imperiled" (Vol. 178, No. 1, Jul. 1990, 38–69 and 115–132). True to his journalistic roots, viewing the gorgeous emeralds in Indian private stashes and museums, Fred questioned "Old Mine" sources as myth. GIA testing revealed that they were actually Colombian.

Dismayed at the state of the reefs around the Keys, where we often dived with Jerry Greenberg, Fred proposed a story of comparisons. Based on Jerry’s photographs three decades before, Fred and Jerry revisited the same locations to illustrate the devastation caused by agriculture runoff, illegal spearfishing and other tourist abuse, and rising temperatures. Evidence of the difference three decades had wrought helped convince Congress to protect the priceless resource with a series of laws that reached from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas (see more here).

Fred’s last story for NGS was "Rubies and Sapphires" (Vol. 180, No. 4, Oct. 1991, 100–12). In Dresden's Green Vault, what were touted as rubies in important garnitures of King Augustus the Strong, Fred questioned the labeling. It turned out that many of the gems were spinels. After examining the Talisman of Charlemagne, with a loupe, he assessed that the so-called sapphire panes on each side of a sliver of the true cross were actually pale blue glass and quartz.

Afterward, inspired by our Miami friends Jerry and Idaz Greenberg, who have written for years about underwater fauna and flora, Fred and I put our heads together to design a framework to encompass gem information and photographs. Over the decades, we have produced eight gem books, updating them with new editions as sales and new information reached a tipping point. I plan to produce new editions as the need arises.

Fred began complaining of memory issues with computer programs about 2000. We moved to Malibu in 2004. As we were invited to speak to gem clubs and museums on this coast, I began to stand by him to fill in when he paused. Gradually, I started giving the illustrated talks with Fred in the audience to answer questions and intersperse comments as ideas came to him.

Finally, Charlotte, is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

As I am thinking of the kindness of friends and colleagues, I repeatedly return to Bill Larson's generosity to Fred. Knowing of Bill's vast collections, when we were compiling Phenomenal Gems, Fred called Bill to ask if he could photograph an array of eyes. Bill welcomed him to Fallbrook, opened wide his vault, and invited him to photograph to his heart's content a complete set of winking, blinking stones in every variety and color—a one-stop shop. What a gracious gesture for Bill to make. The effect on the page is charming, perfectly illustrating the phenomenon.


Please see the tribute to Fred Ward in our sibling newsletter, Pala Mineralis, which includes reminiscences by John S. White and Richard W. Hughes.


Fred Ward: An Abbreviated Résumé

Photographs and Articles – a partial list of three decades of articles published in National Geographic Magazine as writer and/or photographer: "Rubies and Sapphires," "Emeralds," "Florida Reefs," "Computer Graphics," "Everglades," "Diamonds," "Cuba," "Tibet," "Cree Indians," "Dominica," "Pearls," "Jade." Photographer for "Fiber Optics," "Silver," "Pesticides," "Hazardous Wastes," "Rhode Island," "Japan." Clients include all the major publications and publishers in the world. Regular contributor to National Geographic, Time, Life, Newsweek, Fortune, Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Paris Match, Stern, Epoca, Geo, etc. Steady involvement with editorial, annual report, corporate, television, and book projects.

 

Book projects before the Gem Book Series include Inside Cuba Today (Crown Publishers, 1978) text and photographs; The Home Birth Book (Doubleday, 1977) photographs, with text by Charlotte Ward; Portrait of a President (Harper and Row, 1975) intimate coverage of President Ford during three months in the White house; photographs, with text by Hugh Sidey; Golden Islands of the Caribbean (Crown Publishers, 1972) text and photographs.

 

Television experience includes producer/director for two National Endowment for the Humanities films, Mexico, 12,000 Years of History and La Raza, The Story of Mexican Americans. Special consultant and on-air commentator for Nova's (PBS) documentary on Pearls. Special consultant for ABC-TV special, Close-Up: Cuba, and for the National Geographic special on gemstones around the world. Various TV commercials and corporate documentaries.

Gems and Gemology News

One more layer

A new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu

Last month, I had tried and failed to find nacre in a certain muscle pearl, rather unlike better GIA samples had me hope for. Now, I do have it, with rather nice high resolution shots. In the end, the pearl has interesting news for me.

Pteria sterna 'muscle pearl' – an inner layer exposed for for higher resolution shots. Sample from the IACT research collection; source: Perlas del Mar de Cortez.

Pteria sterna 'muscle pearl' – an inner layer exposed for for higher resolution shots. Sample from the IACT research collection; source: Perlas del Mar de Cortez.

Industry News

GIA Offers Free Online Training Tools for Retailers

A four-module sales staff training package is now available for retail jewelers. It's available in English, Chinese and Japanese. The modules consist of:

  • About GIA: A brief history of GIA and its role in the industry, as well as how the Institute can help retailers educate their customers about diamonds.
  • The 4Cs: An overview of the 4Cs of diamond quality and their impact on diamond grading. GIA's 4Cs Brochure is available in 18 languages. There's even a 4Cs Facebook app.
  • GIA Laboratory Reports: An overview of GIA's laboratory reports and how they differ from one another.
  • How to Use GIA Retailer Tools: An overview of GIA's retailer tools and how to incorporate them into each phase of the selling process.

Paris Vogue: Celebrated Stones

You've seen many of these jewels before (in our pages if not elsewhere), but likely not all in the same place. Paris Vogue's "Bijoux à voir" (Jewelry See) item for June features a stellar array of famous as well as perhaps forgotten stones, like the Hope Spinel, below. At 50.13 carats, it was the largest spinel ever to be sold at auction, at a sale last September. And it shattered the existing per-carat record of $16,000 set in 2013 by fetching nearly twice that—$30,000 per carat, for a gavel price of almost $1.3 million.


Burma Bits

Mining, Migrants and Markets

Burma photographer Minzayar Oo has been honored as a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards for his series The Price of Jade, which documents mine-to-market in the jade trade of Hpakant. The most haunting images of the series are taken at night, with Migrant jade scavengers picking through rubble, penlights clenched in teeth. Daytime shots also pack a wallop: illegal jade miners escaping arrest by swimming like minnows as a guard stands with his rifle in the foreground; trash bags brimming with discarded hypodermics. The photographer was interviewed in a July 22 story by Myanmar Times.

In Mining news, we got a sense of déjà vu reading of the Burma government's announcement it will not renew mining permits of jade and gems when they expire, as reported by Myanmar Times on July 27. New permits will be issued only after the bylaws of the Myanmar Gemstones Law have been passed. The permits are to expire in 2018, The Irrawaddy reported the same day.

Once the permits have expired, more than a thousand jade mining companies will be forced by law to clean up their sites, according to Myanmar Times on August 4. Ecological peril was highlighted in two other Myanmar Times stories: "Golden promises turn sour in Indawgyi" (damage from gold mining), and "One man's fight to save lake" (a teacher and his students promote ecotourism).

In Market news, a Mandalay trader is petitioning for an immediate, temporary cessation of mining and an overhaul of export procedures, as reported by Myanmar Times a week ago. U Aung Win Oo warns that if action isn't taken, the local market will be no more in a couple of years.

The jade industry as a whole in Burma was under the spotlight in two recent stories. "Myanmar urged to follow shake-up of jade industry with more action on transparency" is a Reuters story that comments on the mining permit expiration. The Guardian posted "Aung San Suu Kyi moves to clean up Myanmar's murky jade trade" opining that even with reforms, only a new approach to licensing, which respects human and environmental needs, will bring about real change.

Bite-Sized Bits

  • Myanmar Times: Diamond exports to be legalized next year
  • Eleven: U.S. approves $21 million in aid to Burma
  • Myanmar Times: Gov't reveals 12-point economic policy (the larger context to the permit expiration piece)

Just for Fun

We couldn't resist these two stories we ran across while browsing for Burma Bits.

Crochet Buddha

Books

Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds
by Rachelle Bergstein

It's no wonder that even though diamonds are still in fashion, it's not terribly fashionable to like diamonds.
—Rachelle Bergstein

With a line like the above, taken from the preface to Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds, it's no surprise that its author Rachelle Bernstein would begin her book describing preparations for a fabulous ball in 1897 held in New York City, which would take moguls' minds off of some of the worst unemployment of the Panic that had begun four years before. Hosted by seasoned gala-giver, socialite Cornelia Bradley-Martin, it would be a chance for her to show off her diamonds. Within this tale of unprecedented excess, Bernstein weaves the story of the King of Diamonds, Charles L. Tiffany. Just as the reader might tire of the business end, it's back to the ball!

Bernstein then turns back to South Africa and the 1867 discovery of the Cape Diamond (aka Eureka Diamond), which was considered a fluke or perhaps even a gag. Until it wasn't, of course.

Moving forward, after the Panic passed, with more disposable income, Americans consumed more and more diamonds, with 25 million dollars' worth coming through New York and faceting no longer limited to Europe. And many were being set in engagement rings, the history of which Bernstein traces. And the history of women wearing diamonds at all, since it was men who had done so before the fifteenth century.

Evalyn Walsh McLean with two impressive diamonds: the Hope (as a pendant) and Star of the East (in her plumed tiara). (Photo: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Evalyn Walsh McLean with two impressive diamonds: the Hope (as a pendant) and Star of the East (in her plumed tiara). (Photo: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

Chapter 4 is the obligatory story of the Hope Diamond; Chapter 5, about how the diamond industry fared during World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. Chapter 6 takes another look at engagement rings; Chapter 7 focuses on the jewels of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Chapter 8 examines the relationship between the New York stage, Hollywood, and "a girl's best friend." Chapter 9 is devoted to one devotee: Elizabeth Taylor, and her favorite jeweler.

Now, time to take a break with the photo section. Like the jewels we point to via Paris Vogue this month, you've seen them all before, but not necessarily in one place. (Bernstein fudges a bit here, however, by including Diana "Lady Di" Spencer's sapphire and diamond engagement ring.)

Chapter 10 is back to business: De Beers, the Soviets, marketing melee. Chapter 11 deals with dealers' demons: synthetics; Chapter 13 with more marketing: the cartel; Chapter 13: Argyle; Chapter 14: bling for brutes.

Since Bernstein moves for the most part chronologically, it's not until Chapter 15 that the issues hinted at in her prefatory quip are discussed. "How a Global Crisis Changed the Meaning of 'Forever'" is the subtitle to this section, as in the Forevermark, De Beers's conflict-free guarantee.

European Jews fled to Palestine during World War II and worked in diamond-cutting factories for a thriving industry. (Photo: Library of Congress)

European Jews fled to Palestine during World War II and worked in diamond-cutting factories for a thriving industry. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The last chapter, 16, is somewhat of a hodgepodge. It begins with a profile of the red carpet industry, and we're talking product placement, not floor coverings. Then there's the demise of the question-popping male popping out the ring that would only have to be taken back by the discriminating female. (Bergstein is mute on same-sex engagements, unless I missed something). The decline of distinctive style in a publicly-traded jewelry industry is discussed along with lab-grown diamonds, and finally treatments and classification. A rather technical ending to this "biography," but there's a lot of storytelling along the way to engage.

For a more in-depth and critical look at Brilliance and Fire, see "Facets and Fantasies" in the Wall Street Journal.

Pala Presents

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.

Portfolio of Gems

This month, we feature the first eight of sixteen illustrations from a German textbook that were reproduced as part of a gemology correspondence course. Each illustration is captioned in German, with an English translation.


— End August Newsletter • Published 8/16/16 —

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