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

June 2017

June 2017

Since antiquity, gemstones have been engraved using the same methods. Follow the process from start to finish in this short video from the Getty Museum. Love art?

Table of Contents


Shows and 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.

Cultural activity details for 2017 have been posted on the website. (You can easily translate websites using the Chrome web browser or Google's translation tool.)

  • 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 Blossoming 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?"
    • "Crystal Hunters's Treasures," 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
    • "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.

Evening Gowns and Elvis Slippers

Visitors traveling across the pond this summer not only have the chance to be informal goodwill ambassadors at a contentious time in Britain and abroad but to witness a grand exhibition that spans half a millennium. House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth provides the chance to leave London for "a palace in the country," to quote Hamish Bowles, Editor-at-Large of Vogue and House Style curator. It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and its rooms—interesting enough on their own—now are filled with centuries of fashionable and fun items acquired by the Cavendish family. 

Above is pictured one of the many insect brooches that the 11th Duke gifted Duchess Deborah for each birthday following their marriage.

There are gowns galore for weddings and balls. The "jumpers" of the 11th Duke are embroidered with sayings both witty ("Never Marry a Mitford") and rude ("Bollocks"). Jewels abound with a 1,900-diamond tiara and the recreation of the lost headdress of Duchess Louise who dressed as Zenobia, Queen of Palmera at the first ball held during Victoria's Jubilee in 1897. (The gown for that costume also is astounding.)

The avant-garde has its place: among the coronation robes is Alexander McQueen's tattered lace dress that model Stella Tennant donned for her very first shoot with signature nose ring. (She is granddaughter of the 11th Duke and Deborah Mitford.) Tennant describes her displayed wedding dress, designed by Helmut Lang, as "a vest, basically, with a bit of silk gauze wrapped around it" to which her grandmother commented, "Oh dawling: the bandaged bride."

Above left is the Devonshire Coronet, crafted from 1,900 diamonds. This is the first of a four-part series of brief but enticing glimpses at the House Style exhibition, which runs through October 22, 2017.

A centerpiece of the jewels on display are the insect brooches given Duchess Deborah by the Duke for every birthday after they were married. "She was like the walking sort of bug empire," said the Duke. These creepy crawlers morphed into two creations by Gucci's Alessandro Michele that were composed for the Duchess and her daughter-in-law (and House Style creator) Lady Burlington that had their genesis when House Style creative director Patrick Kinmouth came across the magnum opus of naturalist Maria Sibyllan Merian (1647–1717), Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (just reprinted), which chronicled Surinamese insects and the flora upon which they fed. The two dresses, one in white, one in black, "reflect the spirit of the house," says Kinmouth, "splendor and quirky charm allied." Amongst the quirky: slippers featuring the mirror-image likeness of The King (of Rock and Roll) and a bulbous (not scrawny) rubber chicken handbag complete with matching coin purse.

So have an early British breakfast (if you dare) and take a leisurely four-hour drive north for the 10:30 doors-open, browse the exhibition, take tea in the afternoon, and spend the evening catching music in nearby Sheffield or Manchester.

Pala International News

Spinel from Tanzania

Our hearts at Pala International go out to this stone. It is said that love at first sight doesn't exist, but this heart-shaped spinel from Mahenge, Tanzania begs to differ. Spinel has been on the rise since the late 1990s and the prices have dramatically increased through its new-found popularity in the last ten years. Spinel's name recognition is not as large as that of ruby, sapphire or emerald, but prominent companies have increased their use of these once collector-only stones. The vivid color of this spinel in particular is heart stopping. When viewed in person spinel will forever be added to your vocabulary.


Above and below: Heart-shaped natural spinel from Mahenge, Tanzania, 6.24 carats, 10.45 x 10.64 x 7.87 mm, Inventory #23834. (Photos: Mia Dixon)


Interested? Contact us! 

Industry News

Diamond News

From Candlelight to Spotlight

The "Tenner" diamond. (Photo: Sotheby's news release)

The "Tenner" diamond. (Photo: Sotheby's news release)

Decades ago in the 1980s an anonymous buyer acquired a 26-carat diamond ring for £10 ($13) at a London "car boot sale" (swap meet). Thinking it was a rhinestone the owner wore the ring for years and only recently thought to have it appraised by a local jeweler, who suggested the ring might feature a genuine diamond. It was a good catch.

Earlier this month the diamond was offered as part of Sotheby's Fine Jewels sale in London. Prior to the sale Jessica Wyndham, Sotheby's jewelry department head, told CNN that the diamond's pre-modern cut had masked its brilliance. Having been faceted for candlelight it simply hadn't come across as being the real thing.

The stone's pre-sale estimate was set at $323,000 to $452,000. It sold on June 7 for a hammer price of $847,667 for international trade. It is now known as the "Tenner" diamond although no explanation for the name was given.

Diamond Demurred

In the April edition of our sibling e-newsletter, Pala Mineralis, we mentioned a 706-carat rough diamond unearthed by Sierra Leone pastor Emmanuel A. Momoh during alluvial mining not unlike that which takes place at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Momoh turned over the diamond to the country's president for a future sale whereby the pastor would be remunerated.

The diamond—the second largest ever to be found in Sierra Leone—was offered at auction with sealed bids originally to be received through April 6, according to Rapaport. Only serious bidders needed apply: bidding documents were to be issued upon payment of a non-refundable $5,000 fee together with a $50,000 deposit. It was not reported whether any bidders were game. There was, in fact, a delay…

On April 9 Rapaport reported that the bidding actually would take place on May 11 with sealed bids being opened that same day. AFP contradicted this somewhat by stating on April 6 that bids would be accepted up until May 10, also reporting that the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources had tried to clean the rough diamond "but it was not enough to be able to set an accurate estimate of its value."

Nevertheless a value of some sort was set because the five bids received—from $2 million to $7.8 million—came in short of an undisclosed reserve, as reported by Newsweek. Saying that he now wants the diamond to be sold abroad in order "to enable many people to benefit," Momoh—still the official owner of the stone—also said he expects not less than $50 million for it.

Burma Bits

Migrants, Mining and Massacre

Who needs pink diamond? A natural 8.76-carat spinel from Burma with an AGL certificate of origin. Inventory  #23084 . (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Who needs pink diamond? A natural 8.76-carat spinel from Burma with an AGL certificate of origin. Inventory #23084. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

While collecting stories for this month's column your editor had an eerie feeling, reading about the killing of four itinerant miners and the injury of perhaps a dozen or more at a jade mine in Sagaing region in northwestern Burma on May 17. Such brutality was not uncommon in my neck of the woods here in Colorado (I live in Denver) during the coal wars of the early twentieth century. Three years ago, in the spring of 2014, we marked the hundredth anniversary of what is known as the Ludlow Massacre in what some would characterize as instead a rebellion when striking coal miners took up arms against the Colorado National Guard and the mining company security. On April 20, 1914 the strikers' camp was burned and as many as two dozen died, including women and children.

So a century later it's come to this, that migrant jade miners must fear not only the elements and resultant landslides but also death at the hands of security guards and/or police. But as with Ludlow, the May 17 incident cannot be viewed as a mere massacre—as if mere could ever describe it.

Details about the jade mine incident vary. Frontier Myanmar reported that the shooters were "security guards." Mizzima/AFP called them "soldiers" working as security guards. The Irrawaddy labeled them "police." Myanmar Times wrote that they were "security police." What follows is a blended version of events from these sources.

Between 500 and 700 itinerant miners had been scavenging in the tailings of a mining block operated by the Myanmar Imperial Jade Company in Nan Si Bon, Hkamti Township. On Monday May 15 the miners were told not to enter the mine site by administrators of the military-backed Union of Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd, which controls the region. They were told to vacate the area by May 30. Undaunted, the miners showed up on Wednesday the 17th and had a confrontation with the guards. According to a Nan Si Bon resident Ko Aung San Myint the miners confronted "police," burned 38 fuel tanks, and apprehended a policeman. At that point the guards opened fire. An anonymous witness who was shot said the gunfire began as s/he was working at a waste pile. "I didn't know what was happening."

The mining area has been a site of contention for some time. Complaints against the jade mine have been lodged with the Sagaing government regarding the mine's environmental impact. Complaints also were filed against "the illegal mining of jade on company premises," which presumably applies to the migrants. A report on the situation was to be issued on June 10 per Myanmar Times, but there was no follow-up reporting.

With stinging synchronicity, on the day of the shooting Global Witness was slated to screen its new film Jade and Generals in Yangon at the Parkroyal Hotel. A hotel representative read attending journalists a statement claiming that the NGO had not obtained permission to screen the film from the city's regional government, according to The Irrawaddy.

The Road Back to Burma

We've questioned Global Witness's accuracy and logic in the past (see "Jade Jolt" and "Lapis Lazuli Labeled Conflict Gem") so it's refreshing to see new engagement within the last several months by colored gemstone industry leaders. In May American Gem Trade Association CEO Douglas K. Hucker presented "The Road Back to Burma," an overview of his and other industry leaders' October 2016 trip to Burma. The presentation was made to the Dallas Chapter of the Women's Jewelry Association. The October delegation had been led by AGTA President Jeffrey Bilgore, AGTA CEO Douglas Hucker, Jewelers of America (JA) President & CEO David J. Bonaparte, and Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) Dr. Jim Shigley. Also joining the delegation were Timothy Haake of Haake/Fetzer, senior counsel to JA, and the Inle Advisory Group, a Myanmar-centric business consulting firm, according to this news release.

The gemstone industry delegation's findings are collected in a 38-page report, "Step By Step: Myanmar Gem Sector Emerges from Isolation and U.S. Sanctions." Its recommendations include:

  • Separating the gemstones and jade sectors in licenses, regulations, and practice
  • Make a 10-year plan for rehabilitating old mining areas and include this requirement in new licenses
  • Develop the gem supply chain based on a tax structure that encourages compliance rather than avoidance
  • Create an apportioned tax structure
  • Honor labor laws, especially child labor restrictions
  • Allow current mine owners the ability to renew licenses instead of redistributing them by auction
  • Undertake practical and institutional reform related to transparency in the supply chain, compliance, and adoption of global international standards
  • Allow foreign investment and engagement in mining and trading

Bite-Sized Bits

Pala Presents

The Rarer Gems

by George A. Bruce

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 the late 1950s George A. Bruce of the Atlanta firm International Import Company wrote a two-part overview of "The Rarer Gems" for Lapidary Journal. Bruce then used a reprint of the overview as a sixteen-page promotional handout for his firm, which sold precious stones, semi-precious stones, rare gems and jewelry. In his introduction Brown writes:

As with the stones themselves, there is a glaring scarcity of information concerning them and this article can by no means accomplish more than a few revolutions of a lap on a dopped stone in this regard. However, if it can serve as an impetus for others to cover more fully this highly interesting subject, it will have fulfilled its purpose.

Brown begins by discussing the terms rare and known abundance, providing an example of how Catherine the Great's amethyst jewelry was highly valued during her reign due to the material's rarity—lack of known abundance—something we would find laughable today. Brown also remarks on the rarity of a variety from a common species; thus he begins his overview with Alexandrite.

Read The Rarer Gems. Illustrated by Mia Dixon and others.

Recycle Bin

Items of interest to colored gemstone aficionados from or sibling newsletter, Pala Mineralis.

The Redland of Greenland

Ruby mining at Greenland's Aappaluttoq mine has begun again. You may have heard of the operation over the years, conducted by True North Gems. The potential was staggering, with 29 deposits identified in 110 square kilometers and the immediate vicinity. One of those deposits, Aappaluttoq (Big Red in Greenlandic), has an inviting geological profile, as explained by Greg Davison in this segment of an 8-part corporate report (all worth watching). The deposit has a folded structure which repeats the same gem-rich sequence. Pretty impressive. Nevertheless True North Gems went bankrupt last fall.

National Jeweler reported on May 26 that mining now is being conducted by Greenland Ruby A/S with the involvement of Norway's LNS Greenland, but the bankruptcy proceedings of True North Gems continues to proceed.

The Kitaa Ruby rough, 440 carats of gem and near-gem material, was discovered in 2005 on the "lakeside" during True North Gems sampling of corundum-bearing territory. It was believed to be the largest ruby found and documented in the Western Hemisphere. Having no potential for faceting, True North Gems chose to commission British Columbia sculptor Thomas McPhee to carve it. The design marries Greenland's Inuit traditions with its Norse heritage, as  reported  by Rapaport. The carved weight is 302 carats and took more than ten months to execute.

The Kitaa Ruby rough, 440 carats of gem and near-gem material, was discovered in 2005 on the "lakeside" during True North Gems sampling of corundum-bearing territory. It was believed to be the largest ruby found and documented in the Western Hemisphere. Having no potential for faceting, True North Gems chose to commission British Columbia sculptor Thomas McPhee to carve it. The design marries Greenland's Inuit traditions with its Norse heritage, as reported by Rapaport. The carved weight is 302 carats and took more than ten months to execute.

Ratnapura Ravaged

As can be seen in the photographs of Bill Larson's display of sapphire crystals at this year's Sinkankas Symposium (in April), Sri Lanka produces fine specimens. But now the island nation is in trouble.

The country's "City of Gems," Ratnapura, has been inundated by flooding rain in the last week, as reported by Associated PressThe Guardian, and the UN Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka.

Kiribathgala Hill, in the Ratnapura district, collapsed in part, burying fifteen homes and two dozen inhabitants. The rain comes in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Mora in the Bay of Bengal. All in all at least 180 people have been killed.

Ratnapura Demuwawatha Gem Market

— End June Newsletter • Published 6/16/17 —

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