Table of Contents
Shows and Events
- Pala at Las Vegas: June 4–8, 2017
- Mineral & Gem à Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines: June 22–25, 2017
Pala International News
Gems and Gemology News
- A Pearl of a Plan
- A Pearl of a Plan [sic]
- Auction Action
- Graff Gives Back
- GIA Gives Back
- Burma Bits
Concerning Precious Stones and Jewels
Issued by Theodore A. Kohn & Son
Jewellers, New York
David Hughes, Editor
Shows and Events
Pala at Las Vegas: June 4–8, 2017
It's time to plan for the JCK Las Vegas show. Pala International will be there in force, with one of America's largest selections of fine colored gems.
Note: The JCK Show this year will run Monday through Thursday.
What: AGTA GemFair
When: June 4–8, 2017
Where: South Pacific and Islander Ballrooms in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
Sunday, June 4 thru Wednesday, June 7: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Monday, June 8: 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Booth: AGTA Pavilion, booth AGTA514
We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.
GemFair Tucson Seminars Available
The AGTA GemFair is a trade-only affair, but that doesn't mean the general public can't benefit from its seminar series. Fifty dollars buys you a commemorative thumb drive with a slew of subjects covered at this year's Tucson GemFair. The speakers and topics are too many to list here, but nearly two dozen are included in this PDF. See the order form here.
Mineral & Gem à Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines: June 22–25, 2017
The 54th Sainte-Marie show will be held June 22–25, with the first two days limited to the trade only. This year Bill and Will Larson will attend the show along with friend and fellow gem dealer Mark Kaufman. Details for 2017 haven't yet been posted, but they usually appear first on the French-language version of the website. (You can easily translate websites using the Chrome web browser or Google's translation tool.)
Visitors can expect more than a thousand exhibitors as well as special exhibitions, lectures, a gem fashion show, workshops, activities for kids, and hopefully a symposium. For now, a streaming video of the sights from last year's show.
Pala International News
Pala's Featured Stones
Prized for their incredible amount of brilliance, these fine round blue zircons are well matched in both color and cut. Starting with smaller stones at the ends of the suite, the size subtly graduates with a perfect balance towards a dazzling center stone. This set is ready to become a radiant custom necklace. The zircons range from 6.3 mm at the smallest point to an 11.4-mm center stone. They have a total weight of 71.8 carats.
Two weekends ago GIA played host to the Fourteenth Annual Sinkankas Symposium on the subject of sapphire. Pala International's Carl Larson joined what we called "a stellar cluster of scholars" in presenting on the topic. For profiles of the speakers and titles of the talks see the symposium website. As always the proceedings will be published; check the website toward the end of April for details.
And, of course, what would such a symposium be without some illustrative eye candy, both rough and cut? Pictured below is the three-tiered display provided by Pala International's Bill Larson and beautifully arranged by Terri Ottaway and McKenzie Santimer. Click each image to enlarge. (Photos: Carl Larson)
While Carl Larson delivered his symposium presentation other Larsons took in their own presentation of natural beauty—sakura or the cherry blossoms of Japan. Invited by the parents of Rika Larson to take a rare vacation, Bill, Jeanne, and Will Larson traveled with Rika and were not disappointed in their timing, as the following photographs testify.
Gems and Gemology News
I (your editor) have this photograph, taken by my brother Richard W. Hughes, hanging on the wall of my home. (I have a thing for road shots and love My Own Private Idaho.) As Richard wrote after shooting it, "Prior to the discovery of sapphire in October 1998," Ilakaka, the boomtown pictured here, "was just a wide spot in the road. Today it is the center of Madagascar's sapphire universe."
Two decades later, with a shift or two in between (see our "Giddy in Didy"), the most recent universe-shift in October couldn't have been more stark a contrast from that wide spot in a dusty road, this one taking place in a lush valley, part of a conservation zone. Whereas Ilakaka is located in a southwestern desert, the new locality Bemainty lies about fifty miles inland from the northeast coast, enjoying rain coming in from the Indian Ocean.
The mid-October 2016 rush first was described by Rosey Perkins, a Graduate Gemologist (GIA) from London, in "Sapphire Rush East of Ambatondrazaka October 2016." At the time, she happened to be winding up a five-week solo trip on the island visiting its many sapphire mines. While in the country's capital Antananarivo, Perkins learned from Swiss gem merchant Marc Novarraz of a sapphire rush just miles away near the town of Ambatondrazaka. Making calls, she was told that the new locality, about a twelve-hour walk from Ambatondrazaka, had attracted five thousand workers and that the sapphires uncovered could be mistaken for Burmese. Enough said. After finally seeing some actual stones, Perkins made plans to travel, but discreetly. It was all so new, and were a fuss made, the mining might be detected by authorities and shut down. Too late: the night before her departure for the mine, "the news reporter announced that the mining activity in the protected area was illegal, as was unlicensed trading in Ambatondrazaka."
Undeterred, Perkins boarded the Malagasy version of those Los Angeles–Las Vegas party buses—the taxi-bousse, to the soundtrack of Malagasy pop music—meeting along the way a tour guide who also was a computer tech and occasional miner. He introduced her to his friends, all of whom seemed to have the same ultimate destination. Eventually she came upon a 100-hectare cleared area. "It looked and felt like a medieval encampment before battle," she writes, and her images mirror that representation.
Coming into contact with a gendarme, fortunately Perkins had a letter of introduction and was able to remain and photograph but not buy. In great detail she describes the mining area, its inhabitants (some of whom she'd seen at other mines), its infrastructure, and its spirit of community. She heard from one miner that it had been gold prospectors who had uncovered the sapphires. Although she spent three days there, "I did not witness one sapphire taken from the sieve." Perkins saw a lot of eau vive color (literally "living water")—light swimming-pool blue—and one fingernail-sized stone that was beautifully saturated. But the 100-plus-carat rough of rumor eluded her.
On October 23 Perkins was told by the gendarmes that she'd have to leave the next day due to imminent arrival by the military. On the road back she counted 1400 people traveling the opposite direction. In Ambatondrazaka, recognizing some miners, she saw what they were selling: a 70-carat rough eau vive.
On April 3, my mother Phyllis Hughes alerted me to an AP story in her local newspaper regarding this same sapphire rush, spotting the name of my brother Richard's friend and colleague Vincent Pardieu, who is no stranger to our pages. In her own article Rosey Perkins writes that she'd seen Pardieu's talk on another Madagascar locality (a companion video was our Feb 2016 home page feature). The AP story highlights both the sapphire rush itself as well as the concomitant ecological destruction; the area is, after all, in a protected zone, called the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ).
First, some perspective. As Vincent told AP, more fine sapphire has been produced in the CAZ since October than was produced in the entire country in the past twenty years. If proof be needed:
And what about those troops that were to arrive in the CAZ last October? Didn't happen. The stone trade in Madagascar is too influential, claims the AP story, quoting Conservation International, which helps to manage the CAZ. It's worth recalling what we wrote in 2012 about the rush to nearby Didy: "Although the deposit was located in the Ankeniheny–Zahamena corridor, which made it off-limits to mining, thousands of Madagascar miners and Sri Lanka buyers overwhelmed government agents in the jungle mining area."
Vincent visited the Bemainty mining area in February 2017. He was interviewed by CNN for its April 8 story on the sapphire rush, remarking that more than 100 high quality stones over 50 carats have come out the area in only six months. Issues of conservation being of great concern, Vincent anticipated coming upon a scene of devastation at Bemainty, as he told CNN, but was pleasantly surprised. Any slash-and-burn practices in the area were performed by farmers; the miners used artisanal methods on a small scale. Vincent believes there is a prospect for mutual benefit, pointing to how the Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique is being supported by ruby mining.
A few days before these stories came our way we received a trade alert from SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute titled "'Kashmir-like' sapphires from Madagascar entering the gem trade in large sizes and quantities." In February, SSEF issued its occasional Facette magazine, which contains a brief lab report on the new material, concluding that the inclusions differ from both Burmese and Kashmir sapphires.
As indicated, the trade alert focuses on similarities with the latter type. Sapphires from the new locality passing through the lab actually have been "accompanied by gemmological reports describing them as being of Kashmir origin," according to the alert. The aforementioned discrepancies in inclusions provide the clue, and these are described in the alert.
The SSEF trade alert itself had been preceded also by a February 20 GIA News from Research report coauthored by Pardieu and Perkins along with Wim Vertriest, Vararut Weeramonkhonlert, Victoria Raynaud, and Ungkhana Atikarnsakul, titled "Sapphires from the gem rush Bemainty area, Ambatondrazaka (Madagascar)." The forty-five page report picks up where the other reports leave off, taking the reader to the mines via Pardieu's February visit (see our featured video), addressing conservation in the area, providing an overview of corundum mining in northeastern Madagascar, discussing the locality's geology, all topped off with an eighteen-page laboratory report in two parts that studies thirty-eight samples of known Bemainty origin with a focus on the material's "internal world and trace element chemistry." The conclusion: more study is needed since the material varies so widely, from milky "geuda" stones as are found in Sri Lanka and Iakaka to those with a higher iron content reminiscent of sapphires from Mogok and Tanzania.
All in all, this new locality presents the gemstone trade with several challenges as well as rewards.
On February 13 CIBJO, The World Jewellery Confederation, announced e-publication of the latest editions of its six CIBJO Blue Books. The books cover these areas: diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls, coral, precious metals, and gemological laboratories.
If one were to browse the standards catalog of the International Organization for Standardization one would find, for instance, twenty-three standards and/or projects for screw threads, forty for cosmetics, and ninety-nine for footwear. Jewelry has its own group as well, but it's limited to metal content and color, ring sizes, and "Consumer confidence in the diamond industry."
As CIBJO points out, "In almost complete absence of jewellery industry standards endorsed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), the CIBJO Blue Books are the most widely accepted set of globally accepted standards." The books are reviewed annually "for revision or reaffirmation" and CIBJO welcomes suggestions for revision.
A Pearl of a Plan
Where does most oxygen in our atmosphere come from? Rainforests? Wrong. Seventy percent is generated by marine flora according to National Geographic. So a pledge by the Republic of Fiji to engage in environmentally friendly methods as it grows its nascent pearl industry is of interest to us all, as announced by CIBJO, The World Jewellery Confederation on April 3. Fiji's engagement in this regard is in harmony with CIBJO's Jewellery Industry Greenhouse Gas Measurement Initiative.
CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri met in Hong Kong with Semi Koroilavesau, Fiji's Minister of Fisheries, who said that the ministry is committed to see its pearl industry be a standard bearer for social responsibility as well. Koroilavesau invited Dr. Cavalieri to join the Fijian delegation at the World Oceans Day session at the United Nations on June 8 at which it will present its plan publicly.
CIBJO Congress in Bangkok
And speaking of events, CIBJO 2017 annual congress will be held in Bangkok November 5–7 as announced April 4. The congress will be be preceded on the 4th by the World Ruby Forum.
The 2015 congress was the first jewelry industry event ever to be 100% carbon neutral, in line with the confederation's greenhouse gas initiative mentioned above.
A Pearl of a Plan
In case you needed a case study in sustainability: the following. And no, you're not seeing double. This pearl of a plan concerns streams rather than seas.
What if you found that a species of pearl-producing mollusks was becoming endangered—not because its individuals were dying at the regular, ripe old age of 120 years or more, but because it wasn't reaching the reproduction age of 12? This is the challenge facing the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera. So, no, we're not talking the sort of marine bivalves that end up in your moules-frites at the local bistro. These freshwater mussels inhabit(ed) Britain, Ireland, the Fennoscandian Peninsula, elsewhere in Europe, and northeastern North America. They grow to be a hefty six inches in length. Due to the fact that they were known to produce pearls, in Britain if not elsewhere, Julius Caesar was inclined to invade the isles in 55 BCE, as recorded by Suetonius:
They say that he was led to invade Britain by the hope of getting pearls, and that in comparing their size he sometimes weighed them with his own hand; that he was always a most enthusiastic collector of gems, carvings, statues, and pictures by early artists; also of slaves of exceptional figure and training at enormous prices, of which he himself was so ashamed that he forbade their entry in his accounts.
(Noricum, now Austria, likely had pearls, but was not annexed by Rome until three decades after Julius's death.)
Withstand an invasion these mollusks did, but they've not fared well of late in the face of "pearl-fishing, pollution, acidification, organic enrichment, siltation, river engineering, and declining salmonid stocks," according to a report on the species by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, which calls M. margaritifera "now a rare species."
The mussels begin their lives not burrowed in stream bottoms like their elders but rather attached to the gills of those "salmonid stocks" mentioned above, i.e., young salmon and brown trout, as explained by the Devon Wildlife Trust, which states that more than five thousand have been identified on the gills of a single fish. But: as go the fish, so go the mussels.
The best introduction to the relatively simple approach of mitigating some of the risk factors faced by M. margaritifera is contained in the above video. If you live near the mollusk's wide habitat, think twice about tossing that old Christmas tree into the trash. It could help save a species.
Cartier is famous for its panther designs originally created by Jeanne Toussaint, head of jewelry, beginning in the 1940s. Examples of these were some of the highlights in the Cartier show a couple of years back (see our "Clamoring for Cartier"). According to an information card from that exhibition,
Nicknamed "the Panther" for her grace and strength of character, Toussaint created striking feline brooches, bracelets, and earclips that effectively expressed the personality of modern, assertive women such as the Duchess of Windsor.
Later this month a lucky bidder will procure such a jeweled panthère, but at a price. The presale estimate is set at between $2.3 and $2.8 million. This beauty sports a 10.63-carat cushion-cut Burma ruby complemented by an ingenious design that completely encrusts the placid puss's puss and body with pavé-set diamonds and onyx spots. The cat's eyes (oof!) are pear-shaped emeralds and its claws clutch the ruby, which is at its tail's termination. Any fan of fine design—of whatever sort—owes it to themselves to view the catalog's enlargement on page 275 (jump to lot 332), other online images not doing it justice. It is offered as the centerpiece of Christie's New York's Magnificent Jewels sale on April 26.
Next month Christie's Geneva will host its own Magnificent Jewels auction on May 17. The catalog is not yet available, but a news release leads off with the gorgeous ruby ring pictured below. It carries an estimate of between $10 and $15 million.
By now you've probably heard that Sotheby's set a record earlier this month, with the sale in Hong Kong of the Pink Star diamond, making it the world's most expensive gemstone. Period. If bigger means better, the size of this stone at nearly 60 carats certainly didn't hurt its chances of besting the Oppenheimer Blue (record for any stone) and Graff Pink (record for pink diamond). The only record not set was price per carat, still held by the Blue Moon of Josephine at more than $4 million per carat; the Pink Star brought in $1.2 million per carat for a total of $71.2 million.
If the Pink Star's sale seems familiar, it was sold in 2013 for a jaw-dropping $83 million by Sotheby's Geneva to buyer Isaac Wolf, a diamond cutter who even renamed it the "Pink Dream," according to Forbes. But Wolf said at the time (in this video; Wolf's replies are in English), "It's not that I'm buying this with the money that I have in my piggy bank. It's basically a group of investors, financial people that are backing me in this and they're doing it as an investment and hopefully to make a big profit." Ultimately Wolf defaulted and Sotheby's was forced to buy the diamond from the seller because the auction house had guaranteed a sale at a certain price, likely $60 million as reported by CNBC.
Jeweler Chow Tai Fook had the winning bid this time around and lost no time in renaming the stone the CTF Pink Star—not after himself but rather "in memory of the late Dr. Cheng Yu-Tung, father of the current chairman and founder of Chow Tai Fook, and [the name] commemorates the esteemed brand's 88th anniversary," according to a Sotheby's news release. Chow Tai Fook's collection includes the record-holder for a green diamond, the 5.03-carat Aurora Green ($16.8 million) and the Cullinan Heritage, the 507-carat rough ($35.3 million) that was cut to produce the centerpiece of "A Heritage in Bloom," the necklace created by jewelry artist Wallace Chan.
Splitting Up Apollo and Artemis
At its Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale May 16 Sotheby's Geneva will offer a pair of colored diamonds named for the Greek gods Apollo and Artemis. "The divine diamond twins—one pink and the other blue—are perfectly matched in size, cut and tonality," reads pre-sale publicity. "The stones are currently mounted as a spectacular pair of earrings, but are being offered separately, on account of their extreme rarity, power and presence." Sotheby's jewelry head David Bennett commented that this is "by far the most important pair of earrings ever offered at auction."
But the twins Apollo and Artemis, as the story goes, couldn't have been more different, so their separation in Geneva already may be foretold. Apollo was a playboy, with a gazillion consorts and kids (not to mention a dozen boyfriends). Artemis was chaste, the object of many a man's gaze, which she universally rebuffed. Nevertheless she's associated with fertility. Martin Aston, in his new book charting the history of gay music actually begins with Alcman of Sparta (7th c. BCE), one of the nine lyric poets, whose hymn to Artemis is sung by girls dressed as doves who lust after splendid ankles and hair as gold as a Venetian mane.
Practically speaking, the twin diamonds—baby blue and pretty pink—may be simply too rich as a pair, with pre-sale estimates of $38 to $50 million and $12.5 to $18 million respectively.
Graff Gives Back
In 2008 Graff Diamonds founded a charitable entity The FACET Foundation, as in For Africa's Children Every Time. Southern Africa being a major producer of diamonds, Graff wanted to impact health and education in the region by partnering with local developers of programs. Three projects currently are active.
- Lesotho: Graff obtains diamonds from this country's Letseng mine and works with Help Lesotho on a program to aid vulnerable girls impacted by HIV/AIDS in the adult population.
- Botswana: Much of Graff's twenty thousand carats of diamonds each month are polished in Gaborone, Botswana. Graff works with Stepping Stones International to teach young people life skills.
- South Africa: Graff has a Sonoma-esque resort in the Stellenbach Valley replete with vineyards, lodges and spa, restaurants and even selections from Laurence Graff's personal art collection. Graff gives back to the Winelands by funding the Pebbles Project Trust that provides educational programs and offers a mobile library.
To aid funding of these projects since late 2015 Graff has offered Graff the book, which takes the reader through the firm's story aided by guest authors Vivienne Becker (jewelry historian), Maria Doulton (The Jewellery Editor), Joanna Hardy (jewelry consultant), Nina Hold (author and curator), Nicholas Foulkes (historian and watch expert), Joanne Harris (Chocolat), and with an introduction by Suzy Menkes (Vogue international editor).
GIA Gives Back
GIA also is giving back, to workers of a country that has produced so much color: Tanzania. In the pilot stage, GIA has developed a rough-gem guide aimed at the artisanal miner. GIA partnered on the project with Pact, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C. that has worked with such miners and their communities in Africa for more than fifteen years.
The project was the brainchild of GIA Distinguished Research Fellow Dr. James Shigley and developed by GIA staff in consultation with gem experts who have experience in buying gems in rural areas. The gem guide consists of an illustrated waterproof booklet in English and Tanzanian Swahili, describing and depicting rough and cut examples of nearly all gem species mined in East Africa. Training with the booklet for this pilot program was conducted with forty-five women miners in the Tanga region because of its diversity of gemstones and also due to the interest of women in an already established organization the Tanzanian Association of Women Miners. More information is available at the GIA website.
Markets and Movies
A gems and jade emporium was held in Nay Pyi Taw March 19 through 24, but the sale was closed to foreigners and all trading was done in the local kyat currency, as reported by Myanmar Times on March 21. The quality of the jade and gems was said to be only B- and C-class rough. Because jade mining has ceased, only old, inferior stock could be offered.
A recap of the emporium by Global New Light of Myanmar was rosy, however. In its March 25 story the official news outlet stated that 4,649 lots of gems and jade had been offered at a floor price of K10,815.68 million out of which 4,267 sold for a total of K61,915.20 million—five times the asking price. This is only an estimate, however, because buyers have sixty days to pay and were required only to make a 5% deposit. The breakdown was 130 out of 195 gem lots sold at K5,974.87 million and 4,137 lots out of 4,454 jade lots sold at K55,940.33 million. Visitors to the sale numbered 1,865.
In other jade news the export tax on finished jade products was switched from U.S. dollars to Myanmar kyats as of April according to New Light of Myanmar. In 2011 a "one stop service" was approved for C- and D-class products, but now high quality finished jade can use this service.
Burma's Internal Revenue Department announced a commercial tax rate of 1% on gold jewelry and 5% on refined gold as reported by Myanmar Times. But this left questions hanging: What about returned goods? What about heirloom gold supplied by clients? Unprocessed gold and gold plates?
The fourth Myanmar Motion Picture Academy Awards ceremony took place March 18 and Jade World From Manaw Land stars received a special award. This film is Burma's first film in the Kachin language to obtain national distribution and to receive Academy Award nominations for best director and best cinematography. (See Burma Bits from February for more on the film.) Moving pictures of a different sort were an award winner at Yangon Photo Night 2017, held on March 11. First prize in the Emerging Category went to Seng Mai for her series The Trap, which follows women who use heroin in the jade mining area of Hpakant.
Concerning Precious Stones and Jewels
Issued by Theodore A. Kohn & Son
Jewellers, New York
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.
In about 1925 New York jeweler Theodore A. Kohn & Son issued a forty-five-page promotional book advising the reader on the topic of gemstones and jewelry but without a single illustration. The thrust of its ten pages of narrative: you can't do any better than give the gift of a fine jewel, but you'll need a jeweler's guidance—with phrases like "The mounting of gems and the creation of handsome pieces of jewelry require expert knowledge" and "The layman is hardly qualified to judge genuineness." Several tables are supplied ostensibly to inform, but might have overwhelmed as in the table of stones arranged by ten colors, including the entry Green with seventeen corresponding gemstones.
Aside from this the Kohn text discusses the logic of jewelry, likening gemstones to a bouquet of flowers arranged in a complementary vase, and the role of jewelry, which theretofore had focused only on the value of the stones employed. Two classifications are offered: precious and semi-precious. The attribute of hardness is explained. And more tables such as the stones' symbolic significance, natal stones and flowers, wedding anniversary gifts by year, and historic diamonds, the latter list which might pose a challenge in correlation for today's students.
According to a list of retailer marks Theodore A. Kohn & Son was in business between 1890 and 1945. In 1933 the firm's 608 Fifth Avenue shop began a series of multiple one-man-shows each summer to promote up-and-coming artists such as botanist Mulford B. Foster ("Father of the Bromeliad"), John Sennhauser (who would pass away in Escondido in 1978), John Von Wicht (who next showed at the Whitney), I. Rice Pereira (cofounder of the WPA school Design Laboratory), and Lloyd Goff (student of George Grosz).
— End March Newsletter • Published 4/17/17 —
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