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January – April 2015

January 2015 Newsletter

Hugheses photo image
Catching everyone's best side. A candid moment at "Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century." From left, Billie Hughes frowns at the excesses of a maharajah (Bhupinder Singh), Richard Hughes shakes his head at the display case (many of the maharajah's jewels, below, having been replaced by replicas), and Wimon Manorotkul winks at the camera. (Photo: David Hughes)
Hugheses photo image

Shows and Events

Pala International News

Gems and Gemology News

Industry News


Shows and Events

Tucson Time: February 3–15, 2015

After the holidays, we’re looking forward to the world’s greatest gem and mineral show in February. One-stop general information about individual shows can be obtained from the Tucson EZ-Guide.

Pala International will be represented in Tucson as follows. We look forward to seeing our many friends there. Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.

AGTA GemFair

AGTA GemFair image

Pala joins nearly 100 exhibitors for this trade-only annual extravaganza.

Event: AGTA GemFair
When: February 3–8, 2015
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Pala International Booth: 1016

The event website now features an interactive floorplan allowing you to see who is exhibiting by area of the convention center.

Free seminars by notables in the world of gemstones and pearls are listed.


14th Annual Westward Look Mineral Show

Westward Look poster image

Pala International and two dozen other world-class mineral dealers shack up at a Sonoran Desert resort.

  • Collector Day (Sat) features Raquel Alonso-Perez, Curator of the Harvard Mineralogical & Geological Museum, who will present "Over 200 Years of the Harvard Mineral Collection"
  • Fine Mineral Collecting and the Second Generation (Sun) features a panel of mineral dealers with at least one preceding generation behind them, including Pala International's Will Larson; others on the panel are Evan Jones, Christophe Kielmann, Krystle Dorris and Brian Kosnar
  • Also on Sunday evening, we're told that Pala International president Bill Larson will receive Mineralogical Record's fourth annual American Mineral Heritage Award; prior recipients are Ed Swoboda, Wayne Thompson and Bryan Lees

Event: 14th Annual Westward Look Mineral Show
When: February 6–9, 2015
Where: Westward Look Resort
Pala International Suite: 224, Building 20, Upper Level

Larsons photo image
Tag team. Pala International's Will Larson, right, is included in Westward Look's Sunday night presentation, "Fine Mineral Collecting and the Second Generation." Also that evening, Bill Larson, left, will receive Mineralogical Record's fourth annual American Mineral Heritage Award. (Photo: George Shen at the inaugural Changsha Mineral and Gem Show, 2013)

See Pala International’s page on the Westward Look Show site. See also this dealer map.



61st Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

TGMS image

TGMS is the largest gem and mineral show in the country. This year’s theme is “Minerals of Western Europe.”

Event: 61st Annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show
When: February 11–15, 2015
Where: Tucson Convention Center
Pala International Booth: 926–929

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Tucson Transit Tips

Many shows will offer their own shuttles. View your transit and parking options here. [back to top]

Glamour of the Gods

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston currently has two exhibitions of interest to gemstone enthusiasts.

Gold and the Gods

Mention Sudan and thoughts of recent and enduring conflicts come to mind. Of course, such conflicts are nothing new, as is demonstrated by warrior artifacts uncovered from the region's ancient past, when it was known as Nubia. Today's combatants may wind up in unmarked graves, but in Nubia's Classic Kerma period (1700–1550 BCE), its warriors were buried with adornments such as large, stylized fly pendants, thought to have been inspired by the aggressive Nilotic fly—decorations of valor, perhaps. Their swords and daggers were replicated in miniature with precious metals, likely ceremonial. These artifacts and scores of other jewels are available for view in Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for the next two years.

MFA's collection is the largest outside Khartoum, and is in part the result of a 20th-century archaeological expedition by the Museum with Harvard University. In addition to the gold of the exhibition title, Nubian artisans crafted with lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, blue chalcedony from Turkey, amethystine quartz and carnelian, as well as enamel and glass. The latter two materials were novel technologies at the time. Denise Doxey, Curator, Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the MFA calls Nubians the "greatest ancient civilization you’ve never heard of." Their territory ranged from Aswan in the north (now in Egypt) and Khartoum in the south.

Necklace photo image
Magical. Above, necklace with cylinder amulet case, 1700–1550 BCE. Silver, glazed crystal, carnelian, and faience (a ceramic glaze for quartz beads). Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Below, string of beads with a glazed quartz pendant, 1700–1550 BCE. Faience, glazed quartz. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. (Photos © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Necklace photo image

Above are two examples of Kerma period necklaces employing beads of blue-glazed quartz, both translucent and opaque. According to the exhibition news release the process by which the beads were created was challenging. The amulet case on the uppermost necklace could have contained magical texts inscribed on papyrus or metal.

Pendant photo image
Preggers. Hathor-headed crystal pendant, Nubian, Napatan period, reign of Piankhy (Piye), 743–712 BCE. Gold, rock crystal. Harvard University—Boston MFA expedition. (Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Jewels of Ancient Nubia cover image
The exhibition's accompanying monograph was reviewed last month by Dr. Cigdem Lule for GIA. It is available at MFA's online museum shop.

Many of the objects uncovered on the Harvard–MFA expedition were in immaculate condition, such as the above pendant. It is the only such example incorporating the image of deity Hathor, whose attributes include love and motherhood. It was found in a queen's tomb at el-Kurru, located on the Nile just as it makes its last bend before its march to the Mediterranean. This was the burial place of the Napatan period (mid-eighth to late fourth centuries BCE) early rulers. The pendant is an amulet case, in an elegantly different form from that of the translucent-beaded necklace pictured further above. Hathor also inhabited other guises such as a celestial bovine, alluded to in the horns that hold the sun orb. The pendant's crystal shape is the essence of fecundity. Above Hathor's brow sits Uraeus, the depiction of yet another deity, Wadjet, associated with royalty as a protector of monarchs and birthing women—like the queen of the el-Kurru tomb.

Maat, pictured below, is the manifestation of the concepts of truth, justice and the law. The gilded silver pendant loop actually is an ostrich feather, emblem of Maat's first two attributes. Osiris, lord of the dead, wears two such feathers in his crown. Maat also has her own association with the underworld, in which she weighs the hearts of the dead—containing their souls—against her feather; a light heart-soul proceeds to paradise, whereas a heavy heart is devoured by the tripartite demon Ammit, condemning the deceased to remain below.

Amulet of Maat photo image
Arbiter. Amulet of Maat, 743–712 BCE. Gilded silver and malachite. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition* Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

For an in-depth overview of the treasures of Nubia, see this essay by Yvonne Markowitz and the aforementioned Denise Doxey, authors of the above-referenced monograph, in Ornament Magazine.

Hollywood Glamour

The years of the American Great Depression and the subsequent World War coincided with "the most glamorous years of Hollywood film," according to the news release for another MFA exhibition, Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen. And while the stars were "dripping with diamonds and shimmering in satin" on the silver screen, in the 1930s their work lives were anything but glitzy, as recalled by film director Ken Orzatti in 1995:

Imagine working on a film with unrestricted hours, no enforced turn-around and no required meal breaks. Imagine working under a seven-year contract that you cannot break and more than likely will be forced to renew, for a producer who can tell you who you can marry, what your morals must be, even what political opinions to hold.

It wasn't until the late '30s, with the formation of the Screen Actors Guild and resistance by Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, as recalled by Orzatti, that the studios were forced to make concessions. In fact, it was the vigor of Hollywood studio strife in the '40s that caused labor to be reined in by Congress, as noted by revisionist historian Gerald Horne (Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930–1950). "The formulators of the Taft-Hartley legislation, which has been criticized as antiunion by some on the left, were influenced profoundly by the startling scenes of violence from Hollywood…," Horne writes. Working conditions may have changed, but constraints on so-called morals persist. While entertainment industry insider Samuel Bernstein credits the scandal sheet Confidential with having opened closet doors, without a lot of backlash to the outed in the 1950s, Newsweek entertainment writer Ramin Setoodeh has more recently retrograded that actors should not reveal themselves, er, thus. "The fact is," Setoodeh holds forth, "an actor's background does affect how we see his or her performance," and then, as if we needed an exclamation point: "which is why the Denzels or the Tom Hanks-es of the world guard their privacy carefully." Meow!

Okay, let's hearken back to an earlier age, when men were men and women were… men. (Oops. Wrong show: Marlene Dietrich's accessories are featured at DAM.)

Aquamarine Suite photo image
Goodness had nothing to do with it. Aquamarine Suite of Mae West. Platinum, diamond, and aquamarine. Neil Lane Collection. (Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Appropriately, we begin with Mae West, who herself has been called the greatest female impersonator of all time. We're reminded by professor Pamela Robertson Wojcik (Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna) of West's accomplishments prior to the film career that would overshadow them. Eight of her twelve plays already had been produced before she went to Hollywood in 1932, including 1927's The Drag, characterized by Robertson Wojcik as "a serious attempt to represent the plight of homosexuals in a hypocritical society…." In The Pleasure Man (1928), West rails at the opportunistic title character—who impregnates, abandons and assaults a woman—via one of the backstage drag queens: "If you're a man, thank God I'm a female impersonator." If the F-word in Robertson Wojcik's subtitle appears gratuitous, note that even in the small role West had in her first film, Night After Night, she was able to rewrite her lines. In publicity pix from the film, West is the one wearing the jewels, as she does in this scene, when a hat-check worker exclaims, "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds," to which West replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie." In her second film, She Done Him Wrong, she adapted the role of her Broadway hit, Diamond Lil, as Lady Lou. Wearing a necklace with a handsome centerpiece featuring a large round stone set in a square surround, West delivers her famous "come up and see me sometime" line. The plot itself includes elements of sex work, counterfeiting (the means for Lou's diamond habit), pickpocketing, undercover ops, jail visitation, attempted murder, accidental murder, intentional murder—and redemption. Just as the studio violence of the '40s contributed to Congress's labor crackdown, Mae West's story lines and double-entendres—and Marlene Dietrich's cross-dressing, on and off-screen—contributed to the Motion Picture Production Code. Unfazed by such sanitation, West deliberately inserted inflammatory footage in her films, knowing it would be cut, thus allowing other content, tame by comparison, intact.

Sapphire Necklace photo image
Heliotrope. Multi-use necklace of actress June Knight, late 1930s. Trabert & Hoeffer, Inc.-Mauboussin (1936-1953). Platinum, engraved sapphire, and diamond. Neil Lane Collection. (Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Like Mae West, June Knight (née Margaret Rose Valliquietto) also saw her share of time on Broadway, beginning with the Ziegfeld Follies, but she started her life as a sickly child who was not expected to live that long. But while Mae West entered film at age 40, Knight began at 17, in 1930. Having debuted Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" on B'way in '35, by '36 interest was such that her peculiar fashion sense was being covered in the Washington Post during her appearance in the nation's capital. "Clothes of June Knight Based on Numerology," the headline read (reminiscent of the consultations of another actress, Nancy Davis Reagan). "'Vibration Colors' Year in and Year Out Explained by Actress; Yellow and Heliotrope Fit Her Personality." The article explains that Knight's aunt "worked it all out for her by taking her birth date, counting the number of vowels in her name"—her assumed name, that is—"and figuring out the [color] vibrations by numerology." Admitting to be superstitious, Knight brought out for the reporter a yard-long charm bracelet: "miniature pitchers, vases, monkeys, a flat iron, a small Mahatma Gandhi (bearing a pearl in his arms), a gold carriage with the Dionnes peeping out, silver boxes and hearts, some set with precious stones, others elaborately carved." The year before, however, Knight's luck went south. Under the ruse of offering an advertising tie-in, two men entered her Central Park South apartment, bound and gagged her and her maid, and made off with $5,000 in jewels and cash, most of it in the form of a $3,500 five-carat diamond ring. And, no, it was not a publicity stunt, her attorney explained to reporters. Chastened, she made use of the apartment-hotel's vault thereafter, and so the necklace pictured above has survived.

Parure photo image
Andy's Babies. Joan Crawford suite of jewelry, about 1935. Verger Frères (French, founded in 1911). Gold, diamond, and aquamarine. Promised gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. (Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Joan Crawford is the other bookend to Mae West's formidable female form. As professor Robertson Wojcik writes, in 1971 when Playboy magazine asked West for her definition of camp, she replied, "Camp is the kinda comedy where they imitate me." This, Robertson Wojcik writes, makes West at once a producer of camp and a camp object. It would have been fun to get Joan Crawford's response. In his encyclopedia of the subject, Camp: The Lie that Tells the Truth, Philip Core uses Crawford as an exemplar of his title's thesis. Crawford's insecurities—"social, sexual and artistic"—led her to exaggerate a stringent exterior. Images of her early on—she too hoofed it on Broadway, under her birth name of Lucille Fay LeSueur—are unrecognizable from the Joan Crawford that she would become. But Crawford was Crawford. MGM screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas recalled in Mick LaSalle's Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood that Crawford was a gum-chewing, heavily made-up "strumpet… Crude as she was, everything about her seemed to say, 'Look out. I'm in a hurry. Make room!'" Core remarks that the Crawford of 1928's Our Dancing Daughters—"wholesome good looks… pure Americana"—had in forty years become "a couture dummy with a mouth like a shark." In his obligatory reference to daughter Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest, and its film adaptation, Core finds it odd that the public couldn't get enough of the cruel Crawford:

The value of camp lies in the fact that, for all the repellent quality of a mask, if it fits well we can discern through it the lineaments of the true face beneath. Thus, in rather the same way we could glimpse a good actress beneath the portrait of Joan Crawford painted on Faye Dunaway's face by make-up artists, the unhappy, the flamboyant, or the whorish, [we] can glimpse beneath Miss Crawford's enamelled features their own failings and insecurities. This quality makes a star, camp or not, and Joan Crawford was that, first and foremost.

And a star in the '30s must have jewels. The diamond and aquamarine parure pictured above was profiled by JCK magazine as its "The Way We Wore" feature in October 2011. Quoted is Stephen Burton of London jeweler Hancocks (which owned the suite at the time), who said that photos of Crawford document the fact that she wore all or part of the trio for the rest of her life, after acquiring it circa 1935. Andy Warhol, "a very astute collector" according to Burton, purchased the suite from Crawford's estate following her death in 1977. It was sold in Sotheby's sale of Warhol's jewelry and watches in 1988. Even without its provenance, Burton said, the suite's artistry places it in a class of its own.

Hollywood Glamour is on display at MFA Boston through March 8, 2015. In conjunction with the exhibition is Hollywood Glamour and the Birth of the Cool, a four-session course beginning on February 3. A companion exhibition of the celebrity photography, Karsh Goes Hollywood, featuring twenty fine examples of the work of Yousef Karsh (including Joan Crawford, sans stones), also runs through March 8. [back to top]

Clamoring for Cartier

On a crisp afternoon in late December, the Richard, Robert and David Hugheses took in Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century at the Denver Art Museum. The show was well attended, made manageable by time-specific tickets. Each visitor was given a self-directed audio guide that answered questions such as how the floating hands in a Cartier "mystery" clock stayed afloat. Below is a tiny taste of the treasures in store for museum-goers.

Panthers Bracelet and Statuette photo image
Purr-fect. Some of the exhibition components are arranged thematically. Above, an articulated bracelet "leaps" as a statuette looks on. (Photos: Richard W. Hughes, top; David Hughes)
Panthers caption image
L'Après-midi d'une émeraude. Color-wise, this is perhaps the most arresting piece in the exhibit although my image doesn't do it justice. The emeralds are very vivid Goldilocks-green: not too dark, not too light. This brooch is one of the Cartier creations inspired by the Ballets Russes. It was crafted in 1913, when Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed for the dance company. It features a 11.90-carat emerald in center; pearls, platinum and onyx. (Photo: David Hughes)
Hugheses and Sapphire photo image
Something(s) missing. Other displays in the Ballets Russes suite were not as successful, such as Marie of Romania's 478-carat blue sapphire, which is the size of a small egg. Richard Hughes, above, noticed that a piece of the sapphire's pavilion appears absent; it was cut for size, not splendor. Below, Billie Hughes's chin can be seen through the gap that a superior stone would not have had. Perhaps with this in mind, the exhibition designers positioned this piece against a busy photomural of garish Ballets Russes dancers. This display reminded the Hugheses—whose Lotus Gemology laboratory specializes in ruby and sapphire—that "Brilliant," aside from its many examples of lovely jewels, does not have a lot to offer cravers of corundum. (Photos: David Hughes)
Billie Hughes and Sapphire photo image
Cocktail Set photo image
Tippling, schooning and scribbling. Practical items also are included, such as the travel cocktail set above. Space-saving flasks for spirits surround the shaker. At back a citrus reamer with shot glasses. Upended, the reamer attaches to the shaker, making it long-necked, and acting as strainer. The tray is dedicated to William Kissam Vanderbilt II and his second wife, on the occasion of their trip around the world in 1928. (Vanderbilt was an avid yachtsman.) Vanderbilt is addressed in the inscription as "Commodore," a rank he appears to have shared with his great grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the family fortune. Below, a pen with its own source of illumination, if not inspiration. (Photos: David Hughes)
Pen photo image
Wimon Manorotkul photo image
And the stars… Of course Hollywood is well represented in "Brilliant." Above, Wimon Manorotkul takes in film clips with Cartier cameos (so to speak). Below, design for Elizabeth Taylor's La Peregrina necklace. Not long after receiving the pearl, Taylor came across a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots and took pictures of the painting to Cartier. (Photos: David Hughes)
Elizabeth Taylor Necklace photo image

Cutting 'Cue

Another Denver institution is currently attracting crowds: the National Western Stock Show. Although it's now in its 109th year, 2015 saw the show's first-ever BBQ Throwdown last Saturday. Here's how the Denver Post led off an article on the competition, by William Porter, the newspaper's food writer, to whom your editor owes at least some of his prospering paunch: "Donny Bray bent over a table bearing a slab of beef brisket, muttering to himself while pondering how to cut and arrange the meat. It was like watching a master gem cutter calculating the facet configuration of a five-carat diamond." [back to top]

Pala International News

This month we feature an exceptional blue zircon from Cambodia. Weighing in at 36.11 carats, this zircon is quite a large specimen, as most blue zircon are found under 5 carats; over 10 carats is quite rare for this type of color. Not only is the size impressive but the color hits the sweet spot for zircon. The swimming-pool blue is reminiscent of a fine paraiba and invites you to dive in. Blues of this size are often too dark or off-color. The strong doubling shows up more in the photo than in hand, but it's a good optical tool to identify zircon.

Zircon photo image
Wonderful large, clean blue cushion-cut zircon from Cambodia, 36.11 ct, 17.89 x 15.89 x 12.69 mm. Inventory #22357. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Our new supplier continues to bring in beautiful zircons, and the last lot yielded this rare beauty. We continue to hold good stock in blue zircon with a wide variety of shapes, sizes and matched pairs. Check out our previous post on the blue zircon connection.

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Nice Pair! A sample of the great new selection of blue zircons at Pala International. Rounds range from 6.4 to 8 mm, cushions are 9.8 mm. (Photo Mia Dixon)

Interested? Select inventory number above, call (phone numbers below) or email us to inquire. [back to top]

Himalaya Holler

Tourmaline photo image
A natural multicolored tourmaline from the Himalaya Mine. Emerald cut, 7.93 carats, 28.7 x 5.64 x 5.17 mm. Inventory #21855. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Pala International has commissioned Southern California independent researcher Lisbet Thoresen to collaborate on a history of San Diego County's famous Himalaya Mine. The study likely will be issued in two volumes. Volume One will include the mine's history, from its discovery in 1898 through its 100-year anniversary (and party) in 1997. Volume Two will consist of Himalaya Mine mineral specimen paintings by artist Gamini Ratnavira and superb images by noted photographers.

"I'm putting out a call for interesting stories, photos and archival material" related to the Himalaya Mine, Pala International president Bill Larson told us. Mineral enthusiasts who wish to contribute can contact Pala International directly.

Pala Pic is Cover Star for Tourmaline Profile

A photograph by Wimon Manorotkul was chosen by gemstone networking website GEMHUB for its Focus on Tourmaline, published just before Thanksgiving. Shown below, the photo neatly demonstrates the wide color variation found in the tourmaline family. And speaking of family, for more on Manorotkul and her talented family, see "Tiny Lights," below.

Tourmalines photo image
This image by Wimon Manorotkul is included in the Tourmaline Buying Guide by her husband Richard W. Hughes, found on Palagems.com and its sibling retail site CollectorFineJewelry.com.

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Gems and Gemology News

Don't Do This at Home, Kids

Last month, we featured an article by Ana Vasiliu, "Pearls Revisited," in which she provided photomicrographs of pearl nuclei. Of course, to get to a nucleus one must crack a pearl. For our interested readers, we have assembled a 67-frame slide show telling how it's done.

Below, from the slide show: (Top) a group of Bahraini Pinctada radiata pearls about the size of poppy seeds, awaiting (hopefully) creative destruction. In the center, a minute attached pearl shows how transparent a thin layer of nacre can be—the reddish mass inside is a richly mineralized organic material sometimes deposited first as pearls start forming. Diverse qualities of nacre show even among such small samples…. We do not condone the destruction of fine pearls... despite considerable temptation! (Bottom) One of several mineral spherulites found among the earliest deposits in another pearl of this lot. Landscapes of intricate mineralization in pearls are often worth shooting for pleasure, but the best is to be had at fairly high magnification (1600X here), which makes destruction inevitable—it is not possible to get comparable detail by non-destructive methods: a serious technical gap between the study of shell materials and pearl gemology, until further notice. Again, we do not condone the destruction….

Pearl photo image
Photos by Ana Vasiliu from this slide show. See above for descriptions.
Pearl photomicrograph image

Pen Pearls

We've all heard of melo pearls, non-nacreous, shimmery orange-yellow orbs the size of pigeon's eggs (see melo pearls from Vietnam and Myanmar). There is another variety of non-nacreous pearl: pen (Pinna) pearls. While pen pearls also can come in sunny shades, they often lend themselves to cracking, so use in jewelry is not really an option. Their shape and earthy color sometimes is reminiscent of the lingam, the object of devotion associated in Hinduism with the deity Shiva.

Pen Pearls photo image
These 20 completely non-nacreous pen pearls, from the group of 22 samples in the GIA study, are set against a pen shell displaying both nacreous (left) and non-nacreous areas (right). (Photo by Lhapsin Nillapat; © GIA)

Pala International's Bill Larson contributed pen pearls from his own collection to a study conducted in Bangkok by GIA's Nicholas Sturman, Artitaya Homkrajae, Areeya Manustrong, and Nanthaporn Somsa-ard. "Observations on Pearls Reportedly from the Pinnidae Family (Pen Pearls)" is available for reading on the GIA website. [back to top]

Industry News

Ethics Heckling: Digging Deeper, Sustainably Speaking

Last June we looked at a colored gemstone industry-ethics "solution in search of a problem," namely the Precious Stones Multi-Stakeholder Working Group (PS-MSWG) dealing with "responsible sourcing and supply-chain due diligence for precious stones." A report on the issue was to be issued by the group last May, but it was so problematic it was sent back for a rewrite; whether it will be issued at all is now in doubt.

Poster image

But another report was released—albeit with no fanfare, and in December 2013. For whatever reason, it has languished until a couple of months ago when it came to the attention of ethics gadfly (and PS-MSWG Communications Committee member) Dana Schorr. Titled "Responsible Sourcing of Colored Gemstones," it was issued by The Graduate Institute of Geneva, a world affairs institution, partnered with Richemont (the Swiss holding company for Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others) and Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC; a supply chain certification group). From the executive summary of the 67-page report:

Understanding the risks and weaknesses of colored gemstones supply chains is essential to evaluate initiatives, which are developed by different multi-stakeholder groups to make the colored gemstone sourcing and their supply chains more sustainable and transparent. This study analyzes the supply chain of colored gemstones and connected risks and assess the opportunities and challenges for existing as well as potential initiatives.

Last week, Schorr issued his own take on the report, asking the pesky questions he feels should have been considered in any comprehensive consideration of ethics. Our favorite is one of the most obvious—but perhaps an awkward one for an industry that is exposed to report after report by gemstone labs worldwide of new and improved ways of conning the consumer:

The authors claim a part of the purpose of this study is to “…explore, map and compare the different paths a gemstone travels from the mine to the jewelry end-consumer...” (Page 12 ¶ 3) However, they leave a gaping hole, since there is no study of the gaps and risks within the retail sector itself.

Schorr then lists the relevant issues, including everything from retail fraud to unethical treatment of suppliers to employee degradation.

As we noted last June, the PSMSWG ostensibly was to be a "non-exclusive coalition," but key stakeholders felt themselves sidelined. In a similar vein, RJC's Responsible Jewellery Practices contain several mentions of the importance of "transparency" but, as Schorr points out, the "experts" consulted in The Graduate Institute study are not named. "Since these students presumably know nothing about our trade," Schorr asks, "how did they determine who was an expert?"

Evidently The Graduate Institute report will be presented at next month's Sustainable Luxury Forum, to be held in Geneva February 4–6 and hosted at… The Graduate Institute. (As we noted in November, CIBJO president Gaetano Cavalieri has pointed out the unsustainability of mining.) Presenting on the report will be one of its coauthors, Léa Collet—now with OECD, interestingly—and Dr. Gilles Garbonnier, a professor at The Graduate Institute. The attendees will have their hands full as they engage the issues raised by the Forum's theme: "Luxury in a VUCA* World: How to Address Soaring Inequalities, Scarcities and Complexities?"

* Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous.

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Prizewinners from Birkenfeld and Bangkok

Lunar Lovelies

In October we reported that Pala International's Bill Larson had been asked to join the jury for two gemstone competitions held in Idar-Oberstein, in Rhineland-Palatinate's Birkenfeld District, Germany. This month we bring you images of the winning entries. Crank up the Pink Floyd…

Pendant photo image
The Other Side of the Moon by Llyn L. Strelau, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Pendant jewelry made of white and black engraved agate, diamonds, white gold and ruthenium blackened white gold. (Photo-collage: Lichtblick Foto-Design, Hiltrud und Jurgen Cullmann, Schwollen)

The winning entry "The Other Side of the Moon" by the Canadian Llyn L. Strelau was, according to the unanimous opinion of the jury, the best of the entries submitted in 2014 for the German Award for Jewellery and Precious Stones, Idar-Oberstein. The jury summarized its verdict thus:

Great show! Just take a look at this necklace: This softness, these classic lines which remind one of silk, of wonderful flowing, fringed Charleston dresses, the exciting contrast between the two faces, the glamour radiated by this piece, the fact that it can be worn during the day and in the evening, never mind whether you feel great or miserable. Without any doubt, this deserves the first prize.

On something of a roll, the jury chose another lunar-themed pendant for its second prize.

Pendant photo image
Moonlight by Manfred Wild, Kirschweiler, Germany. Pendant made of citrine, girasol, brilliants and yellow gold. (Photo: Lichtblick Foto-Design, Hiltrud und Jurgen Cullman, Schwollen)

Second-place "Moonlight" plays with both the crescent and face of Earth's satellite. The citrine intaglio's textures recall silk brocade. Starbursts provide a mid-century modern counterpoint to the moon's neo-Victorian façade.

Jade Pendant photo image
Color coordinated. Erika Van Pelt certainly takes first prize as best-dressed judge. Above left she wears a massive rutilated quartz star pendant, tastefully cut off-center, with rays beaming below. Below center she sports an oblong pentagon pendant featuring three multicolored tourmaline cut stones from Pala International's former Himalaya Mine. Click to enlarge.
Jade Pendant photo image

Tiny Lights

Sometimes your editor is the last to learn about the accolades heaped upon members of his own family, so reticent are they to toot their own horns. Thus it was during a Yuletide (and Cartier-tide) visit when I was informed that in November, at the annual Gem-A Conference, niece E. Billie Hughes, and brother Richard W. Hughes, received awards for their photomicrographs, as noted in the captions below.

Pyrite in Rock Crystal photomicrograph image
Black & (fool's) gold. Pyrite in rock crystal quartz. This photo was awarded 2nd place in the Gem-A's 2014 photo competition. (Photomicrograph: E. Billie Hughes, Lotus Gemology)

Billie Hughes follows in the footsteps of her mother, Wimon Manorotkul, who was Pala International's resident photographer prior to her return to Southeast Asia in 2008. Manorotkul is the subject of a FotogFocus profile, Pala International's occasional look at the artist behind the lens. Billie's photographs are featured in Terra Spinel (2010) and Ruby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide (2014).

Inclusion photomicrograph image
Yin and yang. A mobile bubble floats in petroleum in a negative crystal in Pakistani quartz. This photo was awarded 3rd place in the Gem-A's 2014 photo competition. (Photomicrograph: E. Billie Hughes, Lotus Gemology)

Richard Hughes's photographs appear throughout the Pala International website, Palagems.com, as well has his own Ruby-Sapphire.com and, of course, the above-mentioned books. For two samples of images from his popular live presentations, see Pala International's YouTube channel.

Trapiche Sapphire photomicrograph image
Trapiche sapphire. Specimen courtesy of Jeffery Bergman. This photo was awarded an honorable mention in the Gem-A's 2014 photo competition. (Photomicrograph: Richard W. Hughes, Lotus Gemology)

Results of the Gem-A competition were published in the November 2014 edition of Gems & Jewellery and also will be published in the Journal of Gemmology. [back to top]

Burma Bits

Deaths and (Market) Destruction

Spinel photo image
Snow white. A silvery spinel from Burma, 3.50 carats. Inventory #22236. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Last week, the bodies of four people were pulled from the rubble of a jade mine in Kachin State's Hpakant township. A landslide had occurred when the rubble was weakened by rains. Originally, as many as 50 people were thought to have been caught by the landslide per The Irrawaddy, but a search was called off when all were accounted for, according to AFP on January 9. Had the slide occurred in the daytime—it happened in the early evening—more people would have been affected.

In other jade news, the Myanmar Times reported that trade in Burma jade is forecast to be uncertain due to a market dominated by Chinese who are making low offers. Other factors leading to anxiety are armed clashes, leading to scarcity, which one would think would drive up the price, but the reality differs.

Protests from Mandalay to Mogok

People continued to protest a prospective move of Mandalay's gem market, this time on December 23, according to The Irrawaddy. Tens of thousands gathered in the city's center to resist the move, which would locate the market five miles to the south. One concern is the safety of dealers and couriers who would be moving gems over that distance. The market currently consists of over a thousand showrooms—1,117 per the Myanmar Times—and thus no small move.

In Mogok, residents objected to plans that would turn iconic parkland next to that rubyland's iconic lake into the headquarters of the Mogok Gem and Jewellery Entrepreneurs' Association and perhaps other structures as well, as reported by the Myanmar Times. Because other gemstone trading centers have their own gem associations—Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw—it's argued that Mogok should, too. Khin Zaw Win, writing in The Irrawaddy, mused on what Burma loses if environmental concerns in the region are not addressed. Jared Ferrie, writing for Reuters, looked at the challenges facing Burma as it opens its mining opportunities. Eleven Media Group highlighted a specific instance of an injured river, the Uru creek in which mining waste has been dumped, being further insulted by construction of a mining road, narrowing the river even more. Happy New Year!

Bite-Sized Bits

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— End September Newsletter • Published 1/15/15 —

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Note: Palagems.com selects much of its material in the interest of fostering a stimulating discourse on the topics of gems, gemology, and the gemstone industry. Therefore the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those held by the proprietors of Palagems.com. We welcome your feedback.