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
- CIBJO: Congress 2017 & World Ruby Forum
Pala International News
Gems and Gemology News
- Museum News
- Gemfields Tries for New Personal Best
- That Other First Daughter
- Burma Bits
- Primal Beauty
by Lawrence Stoller
Gems and Precious Stones
Issued by The Jewelers' Circular Publishing Co., 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.
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.
- The Prestige Exhibition again is curated by our friend Alain Martaud under the title Geodes and Fumaroles: The Minerals of Volcanism. The activities of volcanoes and their cousins—fumaroles or, mm…, fume-holes—have created new mineral species, perhaps the most famous being Vesuvianite. This exhibition explores these minerals that hail from multiple continents.
- Special Exhibitions:
- "The Flowering of Life" in which master lapidary Victor Tuzlukov asks, "We create the world around us. Like a mirror, it is the reflection of our actions. Do we want to create a world that resembles a bustling garden or a field full of weeds?"
- "Treasures of Crystalliers," the results of great effort by intrepid crystal hunters.
- Lectures: (all are delivered in French)
- "Submarine Volcanism: Oceanic Dorsals and Hot Points" by Eric de Carlo, PhD in geology and geochemistry, Thursday, 11 a.m.
- "The Crystals: 2,500 Years of Science History" by Bertrand Devouard, Mineralogist and President, French Society of Mineralogy and Crystallography, Thursday, 1:30 p.m.
- "The Crystal: Emergence of Symmetries" by Jean-Luc Jacquot, doctor of physics and sciences, Thursday, 3 p.m.
- "The Mésage Mine and Its Mineralogy" by Grégoire De Bodinat, crystallier, Friday, 11 a.m.
- "The Saint-Louis Mine, 30 Years of Shared Passion" by Pierre Fluck, geologist and doctor of sciences, Saturday, 11 a.m.
- "From Earth to Bijou" by Éloïse Gaillou, assistant curator of Musée Mines ParisTech, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
- "The Discrete Seduction of Black Gems" by Isabelle Reyjal, gemologist, Saturday, 3 p.m.
- "A Life of Passion for the Cailloux" by Alain Carion, expert and merchant of meteorites, Sunday, 11 a.m.
- "Demantoid Green: A Precious Stone" by Pierre-Yves Chatagnier & David Goubert, gemologists (Gem-A, DUG) and dealers in precious stones, Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
- "The Pearls of the Vologne" by Marie Cabrol, gemologist and independent journalist at Le Gemmologue, Sunday, 3 p.m.
- The Symposium takes place Friday, June 23, in English with free admission but limited to only 50 seats, so reservation is required. Topics:
- "From the Treasure of the Great Moghols to the Extravagances of the Maharajahs" by Capucine Juncker, gemologist and journalist at www.propertyofalady.fr
- "The Cabinets of Curiosities in Museums: Collections to Modern Science" by Cristiano Ferraris, curator at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris
- "The Collection of Sir Arthur Russell at the Natural History Museum of London" by Mike Rumsey, curator at the Museum of Natural History in London
- The Gem Fashion Show theme this year is "The Thousand and One Gems…"
- Several Workshops are offered including some for children
Visitors can expect more than a thousand exhibitors and can check out the Sainte-Marie webcam.
CIBJO Congress 2017 & World Ruby Forum: November 4–7
CIBJO has launched its dedicated website for Congress 2017 to be held November 5–7 in Bangkok at the Shangri-La Hotel.
The congress will be preceded on November 4 by the World Ruby Forum, which has come about via the impetus of the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand with the participation of the Department of International Trade Promotion, the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences, the Jewelry Trade Center and the Association of Gemmology for France. According to its web page "the forum is intended to raise awareness and enhance accurate understanding of the ruby, which is described as the most important gemstone produced in Thailand." Issues regarding the gemology and business of ruby will be discussed.
Pala International News
Pala's Featured Stone
Padparadscha from Malawi
This stunning pear-shaped imperial padparadscha, or fancy sapphire, hails from Malawi. This stone dates back to the 1980s in the Chimwadzulu Hill locality, although it was producing ruby and sapphire as early as 1958 (see R. W. Hughes, Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide, 2017, p. 508). The stone's measurements are 12.08 x 9.80 x 6.34 mm. It comes with an AGL certificate stating it is natural in color with no indication of heat treatment. The flower comes complimentary.
Gems and Gemology News
Several items from world-class museums caught our eye this month.
Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt
Bowers Museum – Ongoing
If you missed it seven years ago, a gorgeous exhibition has returned to Southern California. Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt comes back to the Bowers Museum, which first mounted the show in 2010. To celebrate this event we reprise our review of the exhibition's accompanying catalog by Mia Dixon, Pala International's resident photographer:
Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt begins with an historical look at gemstone carving, which for the most part is passed on through generations of families, along with a formal education and an apprenticeship. Harold Van Pelt, however, started his carvings as a hobbyist—with no formal training. The book continues with a determination of where his skill and artistry come from:
We still do not know, but there are a few factors we can state with some degree of confidence. First, artistic sense—what might be called an artist’s eye. As highly accomplished professional photographers, Harold and Erica have it in spades. That means a keenly developed sense of form, structure, design, color, and all those things you’re supposed to know in the arts.
Peter Keller, the President of Bowers Museum, then proceeds by interviewing Harold Van Pelt, discussing how Harold got started in mineral carving.
It all started in the late 1960s when the Van Pelts purchased agate nodules and quartz crystals at the Tucson show. Harold began to remove material from the center until only the rind on the outside was left. They chose agate because it was easily obtainable, and when they traveled to Brazil for a photography job at the mines they obtained more. The quartz crystals came from Arkansas and California.
Harold built his own equipment by converting a metal lathe (vintage 1925) because at the time the tools and machines he needed weren’t readily available for purchase.
At one point in the book, Peter Keller asks Harold how he got his start in gem and mineral photography. That effectively began a few years later, in 1972, with Pala International’s very own Bill Larson and Ed Swoboda, when they were operating the Queen Mine at Pala in north San Diego County. They
hit a spectacular pocket of tourmalines with the blue cap. It was a major, world-famous discovery. We photographed most of the specimens here in our studio using 8x10 and 4x5 Ektachrome film. That was our beginning.
One of Harold’s most famous pieces is a rock crystal ostrich egg that measures 5" x 3", featuring walls that are only 3 millimeters thick! The procedure in making this faceted egg is described in words and photographs. Harold has carved more that 80 pieces, and he has not sold a single one of them.
Gemstone Carvings: Masterworks by Harold Van Pelt includes many wonderful photographs of his carvings, but my favorite must be the one of an 8" high freeform quartz container with a natural (!!) inclusion that looks exactly like a hummingbird. It even shows feathering on its belly, and I am just amazed by what nature can come up with.
The book is available from the Bowers Museum.
Also at the Bowers (and Beyond)…
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is a stellar figure of 20th-century art. As an inspiration to fellow naïve painters she is perhaps without parallel. Images of Kahlo herself continue to be brought to light for public consideration. At about the turn of this century, historian Salomón Grimberg was asked by the children of onetime Kahlo paramour Nickolaus Muray to chronicle their relationship via unpublished letters and Muray's many photographs. I Will Never Forget You was the resultant large-format book, published stateside in 2006. In 2007 your editor viewed the tandem exhibition Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolaus Muray in Colorado Springs and was struck by how much Kahlo imagery I'd seen (outside of her own self-portraiture) that was in black-and-white or sepia. By contrast many of the Muray portraits are alive with color and display Kahlo's love of style and also of jewelry. Golden ropes, hefty jadeite, silver bangles and cuffs, earrings of ivory fashioned into human paws, sculptural clusters, crude stone shards, even cameos. Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolaus Muray currently is on view at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California through September 2. (No further dates are posted on the exhibition organizer's website.)
For the next month visitors to the Bowers Museum have their own chance to peruse a separate exhibition simply titled Frida Kahlo – Her Photos. Note the possessive in the title: these are culled from 6,000 Kahlo-collected photographs, which had been stashed in repurposed bathrooms in the Casa Azul that would become her museum and were opened only ten years ago. Her father having been a fine photographer, Kahlo was no stranger to the medium nor to its artists: Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Martin Munkácsi, Man Ray, Brassaï, Gisèle Freund—not to mention Muray. Among the many subjects, some of these photographs display Frida Kahlo in all her stylishness as well as unadorned simplicity.
Kahlo has been characterized as a Surrealist (as does the current Bowers member magazine), and she certainly was conversant enough with its proponents like Señor Breton, whom she felt took himself too seriously. Two years before she died she wrote to art historian Antonio Rodriguez that she didn't consider herself among the adherents, whose work she felt was "a decadent manifestation of bourgeois art." Feigning ignorance of whether her own paintings were Surrealist, she wrote, "I do know they are the frankest expression of myself." (Hayden Herrera, Frida, New York: Harper & Row, 1983, 262, 263) And I agree. The most frank expressions, her self-portraits, occasionally capture her jewels: the colonial earrings mismatched with the Aztec jades/greenstones of Time Flies, the pendant earrings of 1930, the ?corals and bones of Self Portrait on the Border Line…, more jade necklaces from 1933 and 1935, the dangling earrings and brooch of Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, the gold rope of Itzcuintli Dog (as in the photograph above), the jewels of Oval Miniature (captured in a Muray portrait) and Tree of Hope, the driftwood and shell necklace of Self-Portrait with a Monkey of 1938, the pre-Columbian jade-and-bone necklaces of Dedicated to Sigmund Firestone (note the odd, transparent brooch) and Braid, the ivory earrings of Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, the gold jewelry of Doctor Farill, and in her final self-portrait the necklaces of transparent beads that she shares with one of her pet dogs.
Frida Kahlo – Her Photos next travels to the great University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque (Aug. 25 – Dec. 2, 2017) and the Bendigo Art Gallery in Bendigo, Australia (Mar. 2 – Jun. 30, 2019). A companion book also is offered.
And more at the Bowers (and Beijing)…
Later this year the Bowers Museum will feature Empress Dowager Cixi: Selections from the Summer Palace. The Empress Dowager will be no stranger to readers of our pages (see "Empress Dowager: Passion for Pink" and "California Gem Mining").
This exhibition focuses on the regent as patron of the arts and portrays her daily life in the Summer Palace via more than a hundred objects that have not been seen before in the United States.
The exhibition is mounted in partnership with the Summer Palace Museum in Beijing.
The Palace Museum, also in Beijing, has two exhibitions of interest to jewelry lovers:
A Conventional Approach
LACMA – Through October 1, 2017
Every niche of collecting needs its support organization and so it is that The Chinese Snuff Bottle Society of America was formed in 1968, becoming the International Society in 1974. Last year, in conjunction with the society's annual convention in Los Angeles, LACMA mounted an exhibition of two hundred Chinese snuff bottles from Southern California collectors. A variety of gemstone materials are employed, including quartz, rock crystal, tourmaline, and turquoise. The display, according to a LACMA article, "references grid patterns found in Chinese furniture."
Chinese Snuff Bottles from Southern Californian Collectors runs through October 1, 2017. A companion catalog also is offered.
LACMA has dozens of these snuff bottles (biyanhu) in its own collection.
Cartier in Motion
The Design Museum – May 25 – July 28, 207
Later this month via Cartier in Motion The Design Museum in London explores Cartier's approach to watchmaking via 170+ exhibits assembled with the aid of material found in the Cartier Archives. Cartier's design work is placed in the context of the early 20th century, including an interaction with Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont whose grumbling about the inconvenience of checking his pocket watch while in flight led to the wristwatch's invention.
V&A Receives Fab Fabergé Gift
In March the Victoria and Albert Museum announced receipt of a donation of nine works by Carl Fabergé and two by goldsmith Johann Christian Neuber. Because British public collections hold little Fabergé this is the most important gift of the maker's work to such a collection. Indeed, if you search the V&A's online collection records you'll find only one image associated with Fabergé: a design for a cloisonné coffee/tea pot in the shape of an egg.
No images were available, but the descriptions intrigue: a cigarette case woven in red and green gold and platinum with a brilliant-cut diamond push; a letter opener of rock crystal and red and yellow gold set with rose-cut diamonds given by the last Tsarina to her governess; a chinchilla of chalcedony and gold with cabochon sapphire eyes; a hissing baboon of chalcedony with rose-cut diamond eyes; a sturgeon of grey-black banded agate; a hare of smoky quartz with rose-cut diamond eyes; a kangaroo of banded agate with rose-cut diamond eyes; a seal of obsidian with rose-cut diamond eyes; and a gold box decorated with white enamel stripes, the lid set with an agate cameo of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, driving a two-horse chariot. The Neuber pieces consist of a circular snuff box set with 77 numbered specimen stones from Saxony identified in a book contained in the box, the cover's center encrusted with a spray of flowers and leaves within a border of simulated half-pearls; a gold watch and chatelaine (chain)
set with hardstones, including cornelian, jasper, turquoise, lapis lazuli, quartzite, agate and pyrite. Johann Christian Neuber, Dresden. The movement is by Lépine, Paris, 1770–75. The chatelaine is two-sided, designed to be looped around a lady's girdle. Above a watch inlaid with courting doves, forget-me-nots and fruiting laurel symbolising the triumph of love, comes the declaration of the lover who is making the gift. Each word is accompanied by a symbol. He is 'TENDRE' (heart), 'FIDEL' (dog), 'ARDENT' (altar of love), 'SINCERE' (mirror), 'SECRET' (padlock), 'CONSTANT' (fortress). The lovers are united for ever, 'UNIS POUR TOUJOURS', their hearts tied in a lover's knot. The pendants depict Adam and Eve, the first lovers, a caged owl (wisdom enslaved by love), and a butterfly (symbol of the soul).
Gemfields Tries for New Personal Best
Wall Street Journal last month profiled gemstone producer Gemfields and its mining venture in Montepuez, Mozambique. Montepuez, in which Gemfields has a 75% stake, is rich in rubies, with production (including "parent-stone corundum") skyrocketing from 2.1 million carats in Jul–Dec 2015 to 5.6 million for the same period last year. If you thought ruby was expensive already, Gemfields must find buyers for all this production as well as try for a new personal best vis-à-vis its success with Zambian emeralds, which have increased in price 1400% since 2009. The outlook is good; the firm's ruby auction in December brought an average price of $27.79 a carat, a two-thirds increase from $18.43 in 2014. All of this could overwhelm the traditional faceting center of Thailand, but Gemfields is assisting that country's buyers with capital access as well as guaranteeing the flow of rough—a consideration that doesn't seem in jeopardy.
Who benefits from all of this is a nagging question since individual miners are considered criminals. Martin Potts, director of mining research at British investment bank/brokerage finnCap Ltd. put it bluntly: "The biggest problem with the ruby mine is keeping the locals out of it."
That Other First Daughter
We need look no further than south of our border to appreciate the danger posed to journalists. Eighty-five media workers have been killed in Mexico since 1999. That same year Angolan journalist Rafael Marques was jailed for daring to label the country's president a dictator. Imagine that: President José Eduardo dos Santos, had ruled the country since 1979, and was last elected in 1992 for a six-year term. In 2001 he announced he'd not run in the next election, originally set for 2006 but not held for six more years. Meanwhile a new constitution insured his retention of the presidency, which automatically is handed to the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament. All fair and square.
But this hasn't prevented journalist Marques—who was successful in beating the defamation charge via international pressure—from continuing his critique. Last fall he brought his spotlight to bear (via his watchdog Maka Angola) on the president's billionaire daughter Isabel, who was handed the reins of the country's Sonangol oil company as well as given major stakes in "the key partner companies that produce, support or market your products." Two weeks later Maka Angola reported that Isabel was required to submit a declaration of assets in her capacity as Sonangol administrator within thirty days, but hadn't after six months.
While some of this might have a familiar ring to it, three years ago Isabel dos Santos was at the center of a different scandal, with Maka Angola calling her "the main beneficiary of the diamond trade in Angola." Isabel, through her husband Sindika Dokolo and the Angolan state, had set up a partnership to buy Swiss luxury jeweler De Grisogono. The story is pretty detailed—Maka Angola's was even picked up by Forbes—but the gist is that the art of this deal involved benefiting Europeans (hubby Dokolo, nominally Congolese, also is Danish via his mother) while sounding like it would make Angola a diamond power player.
Migrants, Mining, Millions and Markets
The big news is that a 7.8- or 8.7-ton jade boulder was found by five scavengers in Hpakant on April 26, as reported by Myanmar Times, The Irrawaddy, and AFP. At night the jade mine is open to scavengers who felt it belonged to them. But the company shut down its operation the next day, receiving army protection and the local jade office seized the jade as property of the state.
The jade apparently was of excellent quality, and a K100 million was doled out, but to the few rather than the many. (Reports said that 10,000 scavengers came to the mine to make off with the boulder.) There were more negotiations, more payments. Eventually the five scavengers were charged with theft but were on the lam.
On April 28, Myanmar Times ran a profile of the Nansibon Jade Mine as a case study in the dynamics of migrants and mining firms under the headline "A Battlefield for Scavengers and Companies."
In market news, the price of jade fell due to lack of Chinese buyers during the Thingyan New Year holidays, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar on April 20. The newspaper also reported that a thousand tons of jade were exported in the first 15 days of the Apr–Mar 2017–18 fiscal year, a major contrast from the entire FY 2015–16 (303 tons) but about on par with FY 2016–17 (11,120 tons).
Primal Beauty: The Sculptural Artistry of CrystalWorks
by Lawrence Stoller
Reviewed by Mia Dixon, Pala International
Primal Beauty is a wonderful artistic book fully supplied with great photography of Lawrence Stoller's fabulous work of geometric and organically shaped crystal art, along with alluring poetry and quotations by various authors. The introduction describe how he selects each raw crystal, and how the plan after that metamorphoses into what's to emerge from the crystal.
Each chapter gives the reader a personal story of how the author acquired a certain crystal and what inspired him to carve, shape, and mount it in that particular way. Also included is an interesting story of him spelunking in a glacier cave in Mt. Hood—I personally love his sculpture "Alluvial Grotto" and how clearly you can see that he was influenced by his experience down there.
Chapter 1 – Water, Earth & Sky displays photographs of crystals that all have great structure and geometry (as do all of Lawrence's carvings). The pieces in this chapter have names like "Across the Universe," "Distant Sun" and "Moon Garden." Featured, for instance, is a side-by-side shot from outer space next to a micro image of a quartz crystal with veil inclusions showing their similarities in shapes and patterns that occur naturally in space, crystals, and in nature overall.
Chapter 2 – Wisdom starts off with several pages of artistic color photographs of different types of crystals on bronze bases. In this chapter and throughout the book inspirational and enlightening quotes accompany the photos on the page, which are a pleasant touch.
Chapter 3 – Physics & Metaphysics is to me about being determined and not to give up in what you have started no matter how long it may take you to finish it. You may be inspired by a project at first, but then something shifts in one form or another, and that "magic" is gone. It can be astray for a while, but most often with sheer determination it will appear once again.
Chapter 4 – Aesthetics. All of Lawrence's work is very left brain vs. right brain structured with stunning bronzed bases and carved organic, free-forms of sometimes even petrified wood and other materials. The photography is interesting to me too in how he plays with the light source to create intriguing shadows around and on the crystals. This demonstrates to the reader that light matters tremendously in the display of a given mineral or in order to "show its best face."
Primal Beauty is available from Lawrence Stoller's CrystalWorks website. Also offered is Stoller's "two book collection," which pairs Primal Beauty with his earlier Frozen Light in a handsome slipcase (and at a handsome price).
Gems and Precious Stones
Published by The Jewelers' Circular Publishing Co., 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.
The copy of Gems and Precious Stones in the collection of Pala International's Bill Larson is well worn, as can be seen here. Presumably this is because its reference material was useful. Its orientation is "landscape" rather than "portrait" due to the many-columned tables found within, one of which spans facing pages. The book begins with that table—Characteristics and Localities of the Principal Precious Stones—beginning with Diamond and organized loosely by hardness, with all of the identifying attributes one would expect.
Tests for Precious Stones occupies the midsection of the book, covering dichroism, density/specific gravity, hardness, and refractive power. It is accompanied by another table, arranged by color, summarizing those tests. This section is authored by one E. Hopkins who apparently (see p. 32) was a jeweler of Hatton Garden, the jewelry quarter of London that was famously and audaciously burgled a year ago.
The final section, Miscellaneous, consists of more lists: famous diamonds (pictured also), gemstone poetry, birthstones, daystones, lore, and—presumably to fill up the book's last folio—lists of flowers and wedding anniversary gifts.
The book was published by The Jewelers' Circular Publishing Company of New York, likely a forerunner of Jewelers' Circular Keystone. Hopkins's "Tests" was published in The Jewelers' Circular—Weekly on September 12, 1906.
Read Gems and Precious Stones.
— End May Newsletter • Published 5/16/17 —
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