Table of Contents
Shows and Events
Pala International News
Gems and Gemology News
- You Break It, You Bought It
- Thievery Operation
- Rockefeller Emerald Rocks Rockefeller Center
- Sotheby's Summer Stroll
- The Lingering Lesedi La Rona
- Burma Bits
- Eve and Her Jewel Casket
by Herbert Percy Whitlock
David Hughes, Editor
Shows and Events
JA New York Summer Show
July 23–25, 2017
Pala International will not have a booth at this month's trade-only JA New York Summer Show. Pala's Jason Stephenson will attend the show, visiting Pala's many friends there. And, of course, dealers and suppliers downtown.
See this list of seminars to be held at the show.
When: July 23–July 25, 2017
Where: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Hours: AGTA Gemstone Section
Sunday, July 23: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Monday, July 24: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday, July 25: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Art of Sweden: Home and Abroad
Mia Dixon, Pala International's resident photographer, came across two exhibitions from Stockholm's Nationalmuseum, an art and design museum of her native Sweden. The 150-year-old institution currently is undergoing its first major renovation, but that doesn't keep it from mounting exhibitions at home and abroad.
The summer exhibition at Läckö Castle in Lidköping, across the country on the south end of the great Lake Vänern (known for its landlocked salmon), is called Three Crowns – Made in Finland. It is a display of more than 150 pieces created between 1500 and 1809. Finnish silver is relatively unknown to the Swedish even though the latter ruled the former. And more cross-fertilization took place given that Sweden ruled part of Saint Petersburg during this period until its annexation by Russia, with silversmiths fleeing west to Helsinki and towns in between. Added to the exhibition, which ends in 1809 with Sweden ceding Finland to Russia, is a roomful of silver by contemporary Finnish artist and jeweler Ru Runeberg.
While not employing gemstone material these three items from the exhibition still caught our eye.
Ru Runeberg is a silversmith and jeweler whose insects have a whimsical—and practical—side. Above are Honey & Punch in the form of wasps that obtain their color from segments of handblown glass. Look closely and you'll observe the lids on their backs: these too are vessels; Honey for its namesake and Punch for spirits. Below, The fool on the hill actually is composed of containers for sugar or salt and is blown with a mixture of black and yellow glass. (Photos © Ru Runeberg)
The exhibition title "Three Crowns" is taken from the Swedish national symbol as well as the stamp used on all silver and gold pieces by about 1750. Yet the pieces also could be said to have been "Made in Finland." The show runs through August 27.
A thousand miles to the south the Nationalmuseum has partnered with the Venice City Museum to present Transformations – Six Artists from Sweden at the Museo Palazzo Mocenigo. The fifty-seven works in the exhibition happen to coincide with the 2017 Venice Biennale, the venerable champion of contemporary art (Sweden having no national pavilion at that venue). In the spirit of the Biennale, Transformations pushes the boundaries of its terrain both geographically and conceptually. The show is curated by art historian Inger Wästberg, author of Contemporary Swedish Art Jewellery.
Transformations poses the question: Is jewelry an art or a craft? Take for instance the work of Catarina Hällzon. She snubs the consumerism of jewelry in general by employing recycled material, but not the sort you'd expect. A necklace made of intestines and silver, others made of sand and rope, brooches of fish leather, necklaces of salmon and perch skin.
Tobias Alm uses skin also. The leather tool belt is accessorized with golden nameplate and jeweled clasp as shown above, transforming (!) it literally into what Alm has seen it potentially: "a masculine piece of jewellery." Just cop to the fact: "The masculine relationship to traditional jewellery is a constant fight against the risk of feminization." Yet Alm calls the construction tool belt a châtelaine—the ornamental belt hook and chains of yore from which the mistress of the house hung everything from keys and sewing implements to perfume bottles and prayer books.
Agnes Larsson's Carbo creations look vaguely recycled, the media of organic matter supplying their heft as well as their gossamer glue. The necklace pictured here is like potsherds from a burial mound (they are carbon-based and lightweight) strung together with horsehair beckoning the beholder in search of a master string that might draw its parts into a sum, thereby transforming a form-fitting adornment into a shield.
With Märta Mattsson's Wings we return to entomology. This brooch is crafted of resined cicada wings, cubic zirconia, lacquer, glitter and silver. Zirconia also are employed in Mattsson's beetle brooches that bulge with stones, reminiscent of Paige Smith's urban geodes.
The exhibition Transformations runs all summer, closing October 1.
With apologies to to Clark Haas…
The signature handbag chosen for publicity of designer Judith Leiber's current exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York is itself called a chatelaine. And if Swedish artist Tobias Alm is having fun with the notion of such a device (above) so is Leiber, who turned 96 this year, perhaps unwittingly. Leiber's fashion accessory, in addition to its chain strap, is made of metal—a flexible, fabric-like mail of interlocking elements sometimes described as metallic leather—a play on the notion of the classic waist-worn chatelaine's chains and utility. Judith Leiber: Crafting a New York Story runs at MAD through August 6.
Judith Leiber (née Peto), born in Budapest in 1921, had a charmed life charred with horror, one that took her to King's College London to study cosmetic chemistry in 1938, back to Budapest before the war where she became the first master craftswoman of handbags, surviving as the daughter of a Jew only after obtaining for the family a Swiss schutzpass, eventually being relocated to a ghetto two months before liberation by the Red Army, keeping her sanity along the way by the mental activity of designing handbags, as she told Hadassah Magazine. After the war she met and married Gerson "Gus" Lieber, then a sergeant in the U.S. Army, who was an abstract expressionist painter. The couple moved to New York in 1947. Sixteen years later she opened her own business after having designed handbags for others. She designed roughly a hundred bags a year during the thirty-five years prior to her 2004 retirement.
The MAD exhibition weaves the personal with the professional: scores of handbags are displayed with wax models, letters, photographs and more. Some highlights follow.
Three examples of Leiber's handbags from the '60s, '70s and '80s demonstrate her take on contemporary as well as period forms and motifs. The 1968 smoked Lucite egg bag mirrors the space-age aesthetic of sculptors, furniture manufacturers and even piano makers of the time. Karung (snakeskin) frame bags from 1979 and 1981 both sport Art Deco designs.
Leiber is best known, of course, for her Swarovski crystal-encrusted minaudière, or clutch. Prized by celebrities and First Ladies, the original such creation was the solution to a damaged frame. Leiber took inspiration from everywhere: exotic fabrics and birds, the greengrocer, artwork—including her husband's.
Those who miss the MAD show can take in the creations of both Judith and Gerson Leiber at The Leiber Collection, an East Hampton gallery open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Pala International News
John McLean and Jill Stordahl-Hall both retired from Pala International on Friday, June 30. Margaritas, memories and more were had at Fallbrook's Casa Estrella. By our count there were 18½ attendees including the honorees.
About the retirees…
John McLean leaves a hole at Pala International, although of late he was likely to have been seen in one because of his mining activity for the firm. He came to Pala in 1971 after two years in the Peace Corps and has been in charge of our mining and mineral division ever since. John was Pala's original mineral photographer and at one time or another he has worked virtually every important gem deposit in San Diego County, including the Stewart, the Tourmaline Queen, and the Himalaya. John also prepared many specimens from those mines, bringing out the hidden beauty of pieces now gracing the greatest mineral collections in the world, including the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Jill Stordahl-Hall will be greatly missed here at Pala International and The Collector Fine Jewelry. She was, as she puts it, "shoved" into the accounting profession when she was 19 years old because she aced the math test when applying for a job in downtown Los Angeles at Transamerica Corporation. Following that, she worked in Beverly Hills, Cal., and Durand, Mich., as an accountant and later gypsied off to Las Vegas, Nev. where she also worked as an accountant for a Wild West attraction called Old Nevada (to which she's been happy to return during the annual AGTA GemFair). Upon Jill's move to Fallbrook in 1980 she got the bookkeeper job at Pala through Acme Employment Agency at the age of 28, and it was while working here that she met her future husband, Josh Hall, V.P. of the firm. They have been happily married for 22 years. Jill is now planning on sleeping in, playing with her cats and working out in her home gym.
Jill and John will be ably succeeded by Karen Russell and Casey Jones, respectively. Everyone at Pala International wishes them all the best in their retirement!
Pala's Featured Stone
Lazulite from Brazil
This month we feature a blue lazulite from Brazil—not to be confused with lazurite, the gem form of lapis lazuli. Lazulite is extremely rare in larger size faceted gems and usually only is found in small prismatic rough crystals associated with quartz veins and quartzite. This 5-carat piercing blue gem is reminiscent of haüyne or a dark cobalt-blue spinel. It exhibits dramatic color with good translucency. Definitely a collector's stone but the color will draw any curious eye in for a closer look. A fine gem to add to your database of rare and exceptional minerals found on our geologically diverse planet.
Interested? Contact us!
Gem and Gemology News
Beauty in Blemish
Atlanta photographer Nick Prince is a mineral collector. His two passions melded one day when he tested a camera lens using a random "rather mundane" specimen as a guinea pig. "The scene I captured was quite crude but was clearly a string of beautiful crystals inside the specimen. I was hooked," he wrote on an earlier version of his website for Prince Fine Photography.
Prince is struck by the fact that the arresting imagery in his mineral photographs comes from imperfections—inclusions often contained in "humble" specimens. "However, when viewed literally and figuratively from different perspectives, these 'flaws' often epitomize beauty itself," he writes. "Perfect examples of crystals […] represent a miraculous escape after spending millions of years in a constantly churning earth. […] The vast majority are not so lucky." For Prince, "the analog of minerals to people is striking." Indeed, for every Bruce Weber or Herb Ritts who have captured the well sculpted mortal form there may be a Matt Maturin or Katy Grannan who challenge viewers to behold the body beyond the blemish.
You Break It, You Bought It
A Chinese tourist on June 27 in Ruili in Yunnan Province near the border with Burma tried on a jade bracelet in a jewelry shop but it slipped to the floor when she slipped it off, breaking what was (over)priced at $44,000, as reported by BBC and others. It's then that the haggling began…
More than $30,000 worth of gems and minerals were stolen in the early morning of June 19 from the Franklin Mineral Museum located in Franklin, New Jersey, according to a story the next day in the New Jersey Herald. The burglars (identified in the plural) jumped a barbed wire fence and used a ladder to access a second-story window, rapelling down to the first floor where one (identified in the singular) received a nasty cut, the blood from which was found throughout the museum.
An alarm was tripped at about 4:40 a.m. but a responding police officer found nothing amiss. In the end several display cases were shattered. Police said that the stolen items included emeralds, diamonds, topaz, opals and more, most of which came from the Franklin area.
Two days later a local resident posted a $1000 reward, matched the next day by Sussex County Crime Stoppers. In a twist, the Crime Stoppers ask that respondents contact the Franklin Police directly, which assures confidentiality (Det. Daniel Flora at 862-273-5170 or Det. Sgt. Nevin Mattessich at 862-268-1401).
Six years ago the nearby Sterling Hill Mining Museum was hit with a theft of gold valued then at $400,000. The $25,000 reward still stands. Images of the stolen gold can be viewed on the Mineralogical Record website.
In addition to mineral and geological exhibits the Franklin Museum displays Native American artifacts, fossils and a mine replica. The museum's famous fluorescent mineral collection was recently featured at the NY/NJ Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show.
Local and visiting mineral lovers have the perfect chance to support the museum right now through September 12 by attending its annual Summer Mineral Sale. On offer at a 10% discount are specimens from Franklin and Sterling Hill as well as from across the globe. The sale is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. More events, including September's 61st Annual Franklin-Sterling Gem & Mineral Show, are listed on the museum's calendar.
Rockefeller Emerald Rocks Rockefeller Center
On June 20, jeweler Harry Winston snapped up what the firm called "the finest emerald in the world" during Christie's New York's Magnificent Jewels auction at Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller Emerald—approx. 18.04 carats of limpid lusciousness—sold for $5.5 million, setting a per-carat record for emerald of $305,000. Winston CFO Robert Scott was in the room, having been given instructions to "bring this magnificent gem home at any price," according to a post-sale news release. Yet the hammer price failed to exceed its $4 to $6 million estimate. The history behind this exceptional stone is told in the video below.
See also the Christie's profile of Raymond C. Yard, creator of the stone's current setting. It was John D. Rockefeller Jr. who "strongly encouraged" Yard to found his own firm.
Sotheby's Summer Stroll
While you're waiting for the online catalog of the Vivien Leigh Collection at Sotheby's this coming autumn feel free to take a summer stroll through the second offering of philanthropist Marjorie S. Fisher's collection. Fisher, who died last year, was founding trustee of her family's foundation committed to Detroit and its Jewish community. That commitment was celebrated the year before her death when Marjorie's name was added next to that of her late husband Max M. Fisher on the façade of Detroit Symphony Orchestra's home venue.
The Jewels Online Part II auction of Marjorie Fisher's collection takes place on the Sotheby's website through August 3. Some items for the colored-gemstone enthusiast are worth consideration.
- For fans of Judith Leiber, a multicolored brooch in the form of a bell pepper, but this features not Swarovski rhinestones but rather pink and yellow sapphires
- A luxurious toursade-style necklace composed of graduated faceted emerald beads; if it might read as jade, the lovely transparency is a giveaway
- A pair of handsome bracelets composed of three stacked rows each of eleven generously sized emerald-cut smoky quartz stones, each vertical group separated by a floating gold band
- And if the quartz isn't smoky enough for you, consider our favorite, a ring-and-earclips set with moody blue-green cabochon tourmalines accented and framed by round diamonds, shown above
The Lingering Lesedi La Rona
A year ago the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona rough diamond failed to meet its reserve price on June 29, so the stone was retained by Lucara Diamond Corp. (See our "When the Rough Gets Going the Going Gets Rough") Today Canada's Financial Post carried a follow-up story one year on. The firm had hoped that in a year or two a collector with an eye might pony up. That was before its stock plummeted 30% from late last year.
The technology allowing recovery of larger and larger diamonds is only going to get better and the challenge of unloading a huge rough will linger. The Financial Post examines Lucara's few options.
Mining and Migrants
First the bad news. Burma received a failing grade from the Natural Resource Governance Institute's 2017 Resource Governance Index, published last week. The index compares 81 countries with oil/gas and mining resources deemed significant. Only six countries scored lower than Burma's mining grade of 27. A score of 29 or less marks the recipient Failing: "A country has almost no governance framework to ensure resource extraction benefits society. It is highly likely that benefits flow only to some companies and elites." The country's oil and gas score was only two points higher, putting it in the Poor category: "A country has established some minimal procedures and practices to govern resources, but most elements necessary to ensure society benefits are missing." Countries with both oil/gas and mining scores like Burma boost the index count to 89; Burma ranked 77th and 83rd, respectively.
Remarkably the poor marks were reported on June 29 in the New Light of Myanmar, which was considered a propaganda vehicle of the ruling government for decades.
In more bad news five jade miners in Hpakant, Kachin State were smothered "under a spoil heap after a rocky slope collapsed" on July 13, as reported by Mizzima. The slope was 300 feet high and 100 feet long.
A month before hundreds of mine workers and other villagers were trapped due to conflict between Burma's military and Kachin Independence Army soldiers, according to Myanmar Times. The people had been warned to leave the area by June 15 or they would be considered KIA supporters, but many jade and amber miners chose to stay.
Frontier Myanmar ran a relatively lengthy story June 26 on itinerant miners and their clash with security guards in May.
Elsewhere in jade land mining operations were winding down in late June in anticipation of the coming monsoon season, as reported by Myanmar Times. With the rains come flooding due to mining companies dumping waste near waterways.
New mining licenses will be considered once the gemstone law under consideration is approved by Burma's parliament, Myanmar Times reported on June 27.
Market news also was mixed. The good news is that jade exports were up $746,000 for the first quarter of the 2017–18 fiscal year, which began in April, over the same period last year, for a sum of $23 million, according to Xinhua. The 2016–17 total was $246.736 million.
Jade and gemstone traders have called again for taxes to be reduced, as reported by Myanmar Times June 28. But on July 5 the newspaper reported that because Burma's tax revenue is nearly half that of other ASEAN countries, taxes should be raised. And the government declared that "Education period is over" regarding Mandalay gold shops that refuse to pay a "stamp duty."
Eve and Her Jewel Casket
by Herbert P. Whitlock
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 following was adapted from our introduction to Whitlock's "The Collection of Minerals in the American Museum of Natural History" on our sibling website, Palaminerals.com.
In 1938, when this article was published in AMNH's periodical Natural History, its author Herbert P. Whitlock was near the end of his twenty-three years as Curator and Chairman of the museum's Department of Mineralogy. According to Wendell Wilson's profile of Whitlock, when he took the post in 1918 he turned from the study of mineralogy to the promotion of the field. Childless and having become a widower the next year, Whitlock made a habit of spending Saturday mornings in the museum's Morgan Hall of Minerals and Gems engaging with visitors, then delivering popular lectures in the afternoons. As Whitlock states in The Collection of Minerals, regarding books, only so much can be learned from them:
The knowledge which enables one to recognize a mineral at sight is similar to the knowledge which enables one to recognize a friend. It is a composite realization of a number of characteristics, no one of which is sufficiently definite and unique to be relied on without the aid of some of the others.
Thus on Saturdays Whitlock was known to give away surplus specimens from his own collection to youngsters who identified them correctly.
Whitlock's ability to hold his audience during lectures is reflected in the present article in which he takes on quite a task: theorizing what it is about gemstones that captures the human imagination. From Eve onward.
Read Eve and Her Jewel Casket.
— End July Newsletter • Published 7/17/17 —
We welcome your feedback.