November 2016 Newsletter
Table of Contents
Shows and Events
- David Friend Hall Opens at Yale
- Tucson Time: Jan. 31 – Feb. 12, 2017
Pala International News
Gems and Gemology News
- Diamond News
- Burma Bits
Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide
by Richard W. Hughes
with Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes
- Treasures of the Deep
by James Carter Beard
David Hughes, Editor
Shows and Events
David Friend Hall Opens at Yale
Yale University celebrated the 150th anniversary of its Peabody Museum of Natural History in style, with the October 23 public debut of the David Friend Hall, which we announced in June via our sibling newsletter, Pala Mineralis. On October 13, the Peabody announced that there would be much for cut gemstone enthusiasts to peruse: more than 800 carats, some of which had never been on public display, and some which were on display only until October 31.
Two highlights of the exhibition are jewels on loan from Christie's New York and the collection of Covenant Real Return Partners LLC. The "Blue Dragon™" is a 75.41-carat blue Burma sapphire. The 77.12-carat "Yellow Rose" diamond from South Africa has a quality so rare, GIA has stated that fewer than half a dozen have passed through its laboratories. Also on loan, from the Smithsonian, is the Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace. The Cullinan rough held a record at the time for being the largest rough diamond—3,106.75 carats. (Images of all three can be seen on David Friend's Facebook page.)
Below are items from the Cora Miller Collection, just one of several collections from which exhibition pieces were loaned.
Our readers also might be interested in Mightier than the Sword: The Allure, Beauty and Enduring Power of Beads, on view within the Department of Anthropology at 51 Hillhouse Avenue.
Tucson Time: Jan. 31 – Feb. 12, 2017
After the holidays, we're looking forward to the world's greatest gem and mineral show in January and February. One-stop general information about individual shows, shuttle routes, and more can be obtained from the Tucson EZ-Guide.
Pala International will be represented in Tucson as follows. We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.
AGTA GemFair Tucson
January 31 – February 5, 2017
Tucson Convention Center
Pala International Booth: 1016
Pala joins nearly 100 exhibitors for this trade-only annual extravaganza.
The event website features an interactive floorplan allowing you to see who is exhibiting by area of the convention center.
16th Annual Westward Look Mineral Show
February 3–6, 2017
Westward Look Resort
Suite 224, Building 20, Upper Level
Website (newly redesigned)
Pala International and three dozen other world-class mineral dealers shack up at the Sonoran Desert resort.
The annual Saturday Collector Day this time will be devoted to the collection of the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. (See the December 2014 writeup on the museum in our sibling newsletter, Pala Mineralis.) The annual Sunday Evening Program is yet to be announced.
63rd Annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show
February 9–12, 2017
Tucson Convention Center
TGMS is the largest gem and mineral show in the country. This year's theme is "Mineral Treasures of the Midwest."
Pala International News
Pala's Featured Stones
Melo Pearls from Burma
This month we feature a collection of melo pearls from Burma.
From the bailer or Melo melo sea snail, this calcareous concretion pearl variety is only found naturally and is not cultured. It is one of the uber rare pearl varieties that is still found serendipitously by fisherman and ocean goers on the hunt for marine treasures. Mainly found in the South China Sea around Burma and Vietnam, this pearl remains very illusive.
Pala only handles a handful of these rare gems every year, since there really aren't many procured around the South China Sea. Pala's collection stands with 3 nice-sized round pieces and a smaller matched pair. Like most pearls, quality is based on roundness, color, and clarity on the surface. Unlike most pearls, another factor adds great value as well: flame or "dragon's breath" is an internal structure that creates chatoyance and flowing patterns throughout the surface of the pearl.
Interested? Contact us!
William F. Larson, FGA
At the annual Gem-A Conference, held by The Gemmological Society of Great Britain on the weekend of November 5, CEO Alan Hart announced that following the Saturday session there would be a special announcement at 5 pm. Alan finished the day's business and then started to describe someone without naming them. Halfway through the biography he said "Larson" and "Oops, now you know who it is." He finished his introduction by announcing that William F. Larson was being honored with an FGA degree. Larson was invited up and received an ovation and diploma. Alan and Bill have known each other for over 30 years from the Natural History Museum to his recent appointment as head of Gem-A.
Bill is looking forward to signing his correspondence: William Larson, FGA.
Chapel of Love: Carl and Ali
It may not have been an honorary degree, but there was a certificate involved as Pala International's Alison Collins and Carl Larson were joined in matrimony this past Saturday. Held at St. Mary's Chapel of The Bishop's School, in La Jolla, California, the wedding was attended by many relatives and friends. It was followed by a lovely reception and dinner at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a Craftsman-style resort. Below are some of the sights of the day. Congratulations to the newlyweds!
Gems and Gemology News
A new blog entry by Ana Vasiliu
I have mentioned an interest in windowpane oyster pearls already—here are my reasons old and new...
E. Billie Hughes: A Win-Win Situation
Bill Larson wasn't the only gemstone figure to be honored at the Gem-A Conference earlier this month. Your editor's niece, E. Billie Hughes, herself an FGA, keeps racking up awards for her photography in Gem-A's annual competition. This year she won first place in the categories of "Internal" and "Humanity," for the photos reproduced below. In 2014, she won second and third place in the single-category competition (see our "Tiny Lights" from January 2015).
Billie is the subject of a two-part interview at Asia Lounges, an online gemstone promotional vehicle founded by Simon Dussart, a French national who has worked for Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others. Part 2 of Billie's interview delves into world of photomicrography and her take on inclusions. In Part 1, she provides readers with an overview of her workplace, Lotus Gemology, its research, and side projects like publishing. Billie Hughes also is the author of "Mogok Revisited – A Brief Stay in Heaven," which appeared in InColor magazine in 2013.
De Beers Considers "A Serious Potential Disrupter"
The Wall Street Journal last week looked at how De Beers is dealing with the issue of synthetic diamonds. Leading off with typical attention-grabbing rhetoric, the Journal wrote that De Beers scientists are "scrambling" to forestall a "looming threat" that the natural-diamond firm faces. Exactly how small that threat is, at least at present, is contained in some of WSJ's statistics. Synthetic rough, at 250,000 to 350,000 carats, amounts to less than .3 percent of the 135 million rough carats that are mined annually. De Beers expresses concern today that tiny diamonds, less than .2 ct, which are not profitable to screen, could get into the supply chain, and not be disclosed as synthetic.
De Beers actually has developed two devices for detection of synthetics. The cheaper one, at $4,500, called PhosView, which displays the characteristic phosphorescence of synthetics, quickly sold out its run of fifty.
This past July, Morgan Stanley issued a report (abstracted here) stating synthetics had become "a serious potential disrupter" and that one in ten sales of rough could be man-made by 2021. Three suggestions for natural diamond firms: marketing, marketing, and marketing. Diamond Foundry Inc., which produces as much as about ten percent of synthetic diamonds, predicts that, within a few decades, all consumer purchases of diamonds will be synthetic.
Diamants du Québec
On October 19, the Canadian province of Quebec saw the official opening of the Renard Diamond Mine—its first ever. Construction having begun on July 10, 2014, the first ore processing took place this past July 15. The mine is expected to have a lifespan of fourteen years, with a production of 22.3 million carats. The first ten years are forecast to have an annual production average of 1.8 million carats, with a valuation of US$155 per carat (based in March 2016 terms). Ninety-nine percent of the diamonds produced will be be used as gemstones rather than for industrial purposes.
According to an October 26 story by the Financial Post, the mine is located on "public land," which is considered to be the territory of the Cree First Nations. The Cree are not involved in the mine except as workers, twenty-six percent of which are Mistissini Cree. When the mine closes, its airport will remain for community use, and the access road, Route 167, also will remain.
The first Renard diamonds were scheduled for sale yesterday in Antwerp.
Diamonds in the Mine: The passing of L. Cohen
As your editor was writing the articles above, a friend sent the news of Québécois singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen's death. Moved by the propinquity, if not the serendipity, of the man's passing, I'm inserting here his Isle of Wight performance of "Diamonds in the Mine," which took place six months before his exquisite Songs of Love and Hate was issued in March 1971. As a teen, I was introduced to Cohen via that album by dear friends in Boulder, Colorado. My friend F. had a promo poster of the LP on her garret-bedroom wall: "THEY LOCKED UP A MAN/ WHO WANTED TO RULE THE WORLD/ THE FOOLS/ THEY LOCKED UP THE WRONG MAN," with a photo surely taken of Cohen from the earlier live concert. Only later would I discover that the poster's words weren't autobiographical, but rather the text of his short poem "The Wrong Man."
Leonard Cohen was a poet first, musician second, singer third. Like so many musicians, I stole from him greedily. I bought all of his records, good or horrible, and the many film documentaries devoted to him, good or horrible. I became a fan of his backup singers and collaborators Jennifer Warnes and Julie Christensen, seeing them live more than I did him. I wrote to F. just about six years ago to this day, thanking her for the introduction:
I saw Cohen in live performance only once, at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. It likely was in June of 1985, not long after the venue had been picked over for its fixtures, ready for the wrecking ball, then saved. (I deejayed for a time in a restaurant that sported some of the looted lighting.) My memories are a little hazy, but I think Cohen's arrangements were gratefully spare, with an exoticism or two, maybe the inclusion of a bouzouki or such. I remember him commenting that he would have to commend his tailor; Robert Hilburn, the L.A. Times pop music critic, had written about Cohen's impeccable appearance. And impeccable he was, standing there in his black suit and black folk guitar, a reminder of the suits-and-ties that were de rigueur for so many of the respectable and not-so-respectable folksingers of the 1950s and 1960s. In my bands, I myself thought the nightclub stage a good reason for dress-up, and I almost always wore a jacket and tie.
A few years later, KCRW's Chris Douridas interviewed him and, after Cohen had described as "grueling" a typical day at the Zen monastery where he was living, Douridas commented, "You must find it satisfying, I mean you’ve been…," but Cohen interrupted. "I don’t like it very much... nobody really likes it. I don't think any monk really likes it." Cohen then quoted a Trappist monk who told him, "Every morning when I wake up I've gotta decide whether I want to stay or not." Cohen: "The life is designed to overthrow you."
If overthrown, Cohen was a beautiful loser, the title of his last, silly attempt at a novel. He died the day before everything changed—unlike 9/11, an anticipated event all the pundits and pollsters miscalculated. "Diamonds in the Mine" (Isle of Wight version) could have described these last eighteen months.
The lady in blue, she's asking for revenge
The man in white (that's you) says he has no friends
Well, I saw the man in question, it was just the other night
He was eating up a lady where the lions and Christians fight
Decades later, coincidentally or not, after the election of another Clinton, and on an album titled The Future, Leonard Cohen would contemplate, if not celebrate, the cycles of discord, in "Anthem," his personal ars poetica.
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
So be it.
Markets, Manufacturing, Migrants and Mining
As a follow-up to last month's Burma Bits, the 193-ton jade boulder that was found in early October, valued at $232 million has been downgraded just a tad. On Halloween, Myanmar Times reported it to be worth only $5.6 million, according to its appraisal. Apparently the earlier price tag had been set sight-unseen. The boulder, which has been divided into six pieces, will not appear in a gemstone emporium scheduled for November 20–29. When it is eventually displayed at the emporium, its true market price will be set (and mining taxes re-levied), reported The Irrawaddy (which also stated the boulder was not easy to move).
A 193-ton boulder or not, the upcoming gems emporium in Naypyidaw is expected to draw traders from the European Union and the United States, now that sanctions have ended. July's emporium earned about $668.3 million, according to The Irrawaddy. See our Burma Gem Sales and Statistics for historical data.
In other market news, according to Myanmar Times, gem traders in Mandalay were set to protest falling jade prices on October 29. One trader blamed China for the slump because of excess mechanized mining that uncovers huge boulders. Among other demands, the protesters are calling for a moratorium on jade exploration. A follow-up story on the protest appeared in Myanmar Times on October 31.
Two days before the protest, Mandalay gem dealers accused a broker of bilking them out of $390,000 in finished jade products by taking advantage of verbal, rather than written, agreements.
Eleven Media Group reported on October 28 that jade export value fell by over $184 million. Comparison was made for the period of April 1 to October 21. In 2015 the total was $506 million for that period; for 2016 it was only $322 million, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The gemstone laboratory in Mandalay will see its own downturn in business when nearby Sagaing gets its own lab in late January, as reported by Myanmar Times on October 25, a day after the local gem trade organization broke ground.
Hoped-for technological assistance from the U.S., post-sanctions, which we touched on last month, was discussed by Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to Burma, and Ohn Win, Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, as reported by Eleven. Just after our newsletter last month, Myanmar Times posted a story about optimism amongst jade entrepreneurs in light of the end of sanctions.
In mining news, jade mining taxes were being negotiated last month, as reported by The Irrawaddy on October 21. Mining firms were asking for a 50% decrease (and this is before Donald Trump's U.S. win).
Gemstone and jade mining enterprises in Sagaing Region complained yesterday that thousands of "scavengers," operating illegally since May, are reducing profits and thus threatening the livelihoods of legitimate workers, according to Myanmar Times. These itinerant workers have gone so far as to break down mining firms' fences, making threats, smashing closed circuit cameras and throwing stones at security guards.
In jade-rich Hpakant, itinerant workers protested their plight—one that is dangerous accompanied by the risk of arrest, as reported by Myanmar Times and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on October 21. The protesters demanded a "beggars' charter" that would protect their right to scavenge.
The danger to freelance miners was underscored last Saturday when two miners were killed, smothered by the collapse of a mine's excavated soil, according to DVB. The collapse occurred in Hkamti Township, where about 3,000 mostly migrant workers search for jade in tailings.
Workers are at risk from other dangers as well. A Hpakant miner was shot on Saturday by a government soldier, the result of a quarrel between mining firm representatives and indignant scavengers, also reported by DVB. And as if that wasn't enough, a Hpakant jade mine was struck by what looked like an aircraft engine last Thursday, per Myanmar Times. It fell near two miner sleeping tents.
And earlier, on November 2, twenty gunmen were said to have entered a Hpakant mining compound, ordering employees to lie down, before setting fire to a warehouse, causing $5 million in damage to vehicles and other property such as fuel tanks, which exploded. The Irrawaddy and DVB reported on the episode. The Burma army blamed Kachin Independence Army operatives for the incident, an allegation KIA denied, according to Myanmar Times.
Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide
by Richard W. Hughes
with Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes
Pre-orders are being accepted for international buyers of Richard W. Hughes's massive Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide, the companion volume to his Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide. The book, written with Wimon Manorotkul and E. Billie Hughes, is being billed as "the most comprehensive book ever written on a single precious stone," with a target readership of gemologists, appraisers and students. The 816-page book is a completely revised edition of Ruby & Sapphire, which was published twenty years ago. It also includes contributions by several guest experts. See the order page for a gallery of sample pages from each of its twelve chapters, as well as the table of contents. (Pre-orders are not necessary for Bangkok residents; the book will be shipped to international buyers on a first come, first served basis, beginning in December.)
Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide will be available for purchase in Tucson at the AGTA GemFair, Jan. 31 – Feb. 5, at the Author's Table, Mezzanine Level. It also will be available at the AGA Tucson Conference, Wednesday, February 1.
Full disclosure: I, David Hughes, author Richard Hughes's brother, had the great pleasure of proofreading a near-final version of this book and can attest to its thoroughness and technical acuity, as well as its readability. The design, always my brother's forte, is spatially uncluttered, the text nicely interrupted by the photographs for which he, Wimon Manorotkul and Billie Hughes are acclaimed—all of it facilitating access to an incredible amount of information on a single subject. And, of course, there are personal anecdotes along the way—often self-deprecating—drawn from Richard's extensive experience and travels. Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide will receive a full review by Pala International's Bill Larson in an upcoming edition of our newsletter.
Treasures of the Deep
by James Carter Beard
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 minerals and mineralogy.
James Carter Beard (1837–1913), born in Cincinnati, was the son of James Henry Beard, with whom he studied art. He was an attorney who served in the Civil War before concentrating on illustration and fine art. (In about 1870, he created an illustration that pays tribute to the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.) Living in New York, Beard exhibited with the Brooklyn Art Association. His illustrations accompanied articles like "Treasures of the Deep" as well as entries in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and natural history books. (See this profile of Beard on askART.)
Beard's papers are deposited with the Library of Congress, the catalog entry for which reveals that Beard was active with naturalist groups, and so perhaps it's not surprising he cofounded the Boy Scouts of America. His work ornaments the first illustrated editions of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Tom Sawyer.
As well as authoring his own books, Beard wrote for the periodicals Harper's and Century. "Treasures of the Deep," from the former, is an overview of life below the waves. It begins with a discussion of pearls, and some details with which the layperson may be unfamiliar, including the early manufacture of artificial pearls. This, as well as his discussion of coral, is why Beard's article is included in Bill Larson's collection. For any readers who, like your editor, are concerned by the state of the earth's oceans, Beard's detailed descriptions of corals is moving, to be sure, but he includes other animal treasures, even noting that a particular order of mammals, Cetacea (whales, dolphins), already had been endangered—and he's writing in 1879.
As you know, we bring gemstone news to our subscribers (and website visitors) every month via Palagems Reflective Index. But we also post a monthly Featured Video on our Home page. This month's offering is the first in a three-part NOVA documentary, "Treasures of the Earth: Gems."
Past videos have included:
- Crevoshay, a portrait of the jewelry artist
- First Voyage to Tanzania, which follows Pala International's Will Larson into that country's tanzanite mines
- Maison Boucheron's staged "performance" of the 26 Vendôme jewelry collection
- From Rock to Gorgeous Gem, a National Geographic dramatization of the transformation of the French Blue
- Where are the boundaries of American art? – a MetCollects look at the Crown of the Andes
- Ruby rush in Zahamena National Park, Madagascar by GIA
- Myanmar's Dangerous Jade Mining, a Reuters report
- Lands of Red & Blue, images from Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide by Richard W. Hughes
— End November Newsletter • Published 11/16/16 —
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