Thursday 19th September 2019

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Posts tagged ‘rubies’

Old Testament turf begets newly identified mineral

January 7th, 2019

by Greg Klein | January 7, 2019

Northern Israel’s Mount Carmel is known for a more miraculous event, but that’s where a company exploring Biblical lands for material riches has made a novel discovery. On January 7 London-listed Shefa Yamim announced a new mineral named carmeltazite won official recognition from the International Mineralogical Association.

Old Testament turf begets newly identified mineral

Imperfections within the unique Carmel
sapphire can hold a newly discovered mineral.

The new entity came to light within the company’s trademarked Carmel sapphire. Made up of titanium, aluminum and zirconium, carmeltazite “is part of the remarkable mineral assemblage” found as tiny inclusions or impurities in the gemstone, the company stated. While not exactly the most compact abbreviation, carmeltazite can be denoted as ZrAl2Ti4O11.

Shefa Yamim also claims distinction for the Carmel sapphire itself, described as “a newly discovered type of corundum… unlike any other sapphire found in the world.” Typically black, blue-to-green or orange-brown in colour, it has so far manifested its largest size at 33.3 carats. That stone came from an area proximal to the River Kishon, associated with Old Testament stories of the Canaanites’ defeat.

Nearby Mount Carmel gained fame when a miraculous fire helped the prophet Elijah upstage Ahab and the idolatrous worshippers of Baal. Shefa Yamim’s exploration focuses on the mountain’s volcanic sources and the river’s alluvial prospects. The company expects to begin trial mining at its Kishon Mid-Reach project this year, targeting diamonds, rubies, moissanite and hibonite, in addition to its proprietary sapphire.

While the Carmel stone has yet to prove itself among buyers of bling, other sapphires have prompted pecuniary appreciation. A late November Christie’s auction achieved its maximum pre-sale estimate of $15 million for a necklace comprised of 21 Kashmir sapphires that outshone the accompanying 23 cushion-shaped diamonds. Originating in a mine that closed in 1887, the exceptionally rare sapphires were collected over a period of more than 100 years prior to the necklace’s creation.

As for rubies, the gems “have seen a more-than-fourfold price increase per carat in the past four years, with the finest rubies fetching $1 million per carat for the first time, as much as top-tier diamonds,” Bloomberg reported in November.

Buying rubies a decade ago would be “like someone who bought Google stock in Year 3 versus buying it now,” Seth Holehouse of the Fortuna auction house told the news agency. Chinese demand has helped push prices, especially for red rubies and other gems in red.

Driven largely by previous ownership, a pearl and diamond pendant that once belonged to Marie Antoinette sold for $36.16 million at a November Sotheby’s event. The auctioneer had hoped for a mere $2 million.

Pearl’s provenance smashes auction records as Marie Antoinette’s bling goes up for bids

November 15th, 2018

by Greg Klein | November 15, 2018

Pearl’s provenance smashes records as Marie Antoinette’s jewels auctioned off

Offers for the pearl and diamond pendant soared to over 30 times Sotheby’s opening bid.

 

Revolutionaries might fume about the fuss made over royalty but it was revolutionary fervour that gave Marie Antoinette her place in history. So the tremendous prices struck by the auctioneer’s hammer resulted from the executioner’s guillotine.

Pearl’s provenance smashes records as Marie Antoinette’s jewels auctioned off

Marie Antoinette’s pearl and diamond pendant
survived the revolution to bring over $36 million.
(Photo: Sotheby’s)

Among the November 14 sales was $36.16 million for a pearl and diamond pendant that once adorned the queen. Having asked for an opening bid of 900,000 Swiss francs, about US$895,000, Sotheby’s caller barely contained his delight as the price escalated within minutes to an auction record for a natural pearl. Sotheby’s had previously hoped for a maximum $2 million.

Other items also surpassed pre-sale estimates as infamy at the Paris chopping block fueled excitement at the Geneva auction block. Ten pieces from the doomed queen brought a total of $42.7 million, compared with a pre-sale high estimate of $2.9 million. They formed part of a 100-piece collection from the Bourbon Parma family that reached $53.1 million, far above the $7-million estimate and a record for any sale of royal jewels, Sotheby’s reported. A 1987 sale of Duchess of Windsor glitter set a previous record of $50.3 million.

Other highlights included a three-strand pearl necklace from the neckless monarch, which sold for $2.28 million and a diamond brooch that brought $2.1 million. A diamond ring containing a lock of the would-be heir’s hair got $443,786, 50 times its estimate.

Participants from 43 countries joined in the event, 55% taking part online.

“Tonight we saw the Marie Antoinette factor work its magic,” gushed Sotheby’s Daniela Mascetti. “No other queen is more famous for her love of jewels, and her personal treasures, pearls and diamonds that survived intact the tumults of history captivated the interest of collectors around the world.”

Anticipating her arrest by the mob, Marie Antoinette was said to have spent a sleepless night in which she “carefully wrapped her pearls, diamonds and rubies in cotton, placed them in a wooden chest and sent them to Brussels,” the auctioneer stated. “From there, they were taken to Vienna, into the safekeeping of the Austrian emperor, her nephew. Restored to Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Madame Royale, following her release in 1795, the jewels were then passed on to the Bourbon Parma family with whom they remained for the next 200 years.”

Bourbon Parma progenitors include Habsburg emperors and Pope Paul III, as well as French royalty. The family’s reason for hawking their bling wasn’t divulged.

Pearl’s provenance smashes records as Marie Antoinette’s jewels auctioned off

Christie’s brings down the hammer as a fancy
vivid pink diamond sells for a record price per carat.

Sotheby’s next sale of celebrity-enhanced stones comes December 4 with a 20.6-carat diamond engagement ring that Frank Sinatra gave to his future wife Barbara. The event forms part of a number of auctions that month unloading some 200 items of jewelry and memorabilia called Lady Blue Eyes: Property of Barbara and Frank Sinatra.

One day before the Marie Antoinette sale, Sotheby’s competitor Christie’s made history of its own with a $50.4-million auction price that set a pink diamond record of $2.7 million per carat.

“To find a diamond of this size with this colour is pretty much unreal,” enthused Christie’s Rahul Kadakia. “You may see this colour in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.”

Record or not, the sale price would have surprised few since the pre-sale estimate ranged from $30 million to $50 million. Once belonging to the Oppenheimer family of De Beers fame, the stone now comes into the possession of jeweller Harry Winston, which renamed it the Winston Pink Legacy.

New in numismatics: Ovoid-shaped black light coin commemorates Manitoba UFO sighting

April 4th, 2018

by Greg Klein | April 4, 2018

The story was weird enough to elicit disbelief, possibly all the more because the source was a prospector. But something very odd must have caused the burns Stefan Michalak suffered in the Manitoba woods one day in 1967. His explanation was a UFO. Now the Royal Canadian Mint has commemorated the Falcon Lake Incident with a rather weird item of its own—an unevenly elliptical glow-in-the-dark $20 one-ounce silver coin.

New in numismatics Ovoid-shaped black light coin commemorates Manitoba UFO sighting

For dramatic effect, as the Mint explains, “photo-luminescent outlines of the UFO, its beam-like blast and the silhouette of an injured Michalak, glow in the dark under black light. This phenomenal keepsake, and many other new arrivals, are now available for purchase.” A small black light flashlight’s included.

But, as Michalak’s son emphasized to the CBC last year, Stefan never claimed to have seen anything from outer space. He simply described what he did see. He even speculated that it might have been a secret U.S. military vessel. UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski called it “possibly Canada’s best-documented UFO case.”

Just 4,000 copies of the coin have been minted. With a face value of $20, it costs only $129.95.

New in numismatics Ovoid-shaped black light coin commemorates Manitoba UFO sighting

(Images: Royal Canadian Mint)

Taking unusual contours to an even more unusual level, the Mint also released a set of two yin-yang-shaped pieces that fit together to form a one-ounce silver circle. Suggesting “harmony and balance among opposing forces,” yin and yang each have a $10 face value. But the set will cost you $164.95.

Among the more striking designs recently struck is “an ultra-high relief engraving” of the Kwakwaka’wakw Thunderbird image, likely to send chills down the spine of anyone not already shivering in the West Coast rainforest’s lingering winter. Another one-ounce silver coin, this one sells for $149.95.

Some imaginative February releases included a $250 gold coin embedded with 17 rubies and platinum plating to evoke the Queen’s Burmese Tiara. Limited to 175 copies, it costs $6,999.95 with three- or four-month payment plans available. February also saw the Mint’s first five-ounce curved or convex coin, the silver $50 Maple Leaves in Motion. It goes for $579.95 but 99% of the 2,000 coins have been sold.

Each of the collector’s items comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Canada’s coin-casting Crown corporation credits itself as “one of the largest and most versatile mints in the world.”

Pomp and plunder

September 23rd, 2017

Indians increasingly dominate diamonds, but their most fabled stone remains elusive

by Greg Klein

Maybe it’s fitting that Indians, said to be the first to truly appreciate the gems, have returned to such prominence in the global diamond trade. The country’s alluvial finds constituted the world’s main source until supplanted by Brazil in the early 18th century. Although Indians originally held rubies and emeralds in even higher esteem, their admiration for diamonds spread to neighbouring cultures and beyond. The story of the Koh-i-Noor shows how one stone came to be associated not only with beauty, majesty and mystery but, more recently, with controversy too.

Indians increasingly dominate diamonds, but their most fabled stone eludes them

By no means the largest diamond ever found, it’s nevertheless been credited with good luck and blamed for misfortune. Some viewers found it dazzling for its brilliance, others were disappointed by its dimness. But it passed through a number of empires, often amid horrific bloodshed, before ending up in Britain’s Crown Jewels. Authors William Dalrymple and Anita Anand recount the rock’s odyssey in their recently published Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.

While revelling in the myths, legends, propaganda and guesswork associated with the stone, the writers try to set the historical record straight with previously untranslated documents and new gemmological research that reconstructs the Koh-i-Noor as a rough stone.

Ancient accounts refer to a number of large Indian diamonds which could include the Koh-i-Noor. Some were bigger and believed to transmit supernatural power, but the Koh-i-Noor eventually prevailed as the most renowned. Even so, the first definite written reference doesn’t come until the mid-18th century, referring back to northern India’s 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

Such was his captivation for precious stones that they all but monopolized his attention at a banquet featuring a dozen dancing girls of “lascivious and suggestive dress, immodest behaviour and posturing.” In 1635 he made the Koh-i-Noor the centrepiece of his Peacock Throne. An especially lavish piece of furniture meant to evoke the Koranic Solomon’s throne, it cost twice as much to build as the Taj Mahal.

Indians increasingly dominate diamonds, but their most fabled stone eludes them

The Queen Mother’s crown features the Koh-i-Noor
within a Maltese cross between two fleurs-de-lys.

Eventually the Mughals dismantled their seat of ostentation and the Koh-i-Noor became in turn a symbol of power for Persians, the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan and the Sikh empire, as each looting victor became a looted victim. Finally an 1849 treaty ending the Second Anglo-Sikh War ordered a terrified 10-year-old Maharajah Duleep Singh to surrender the celebrated stone to Queen Victoria.

Surviving a perilous voyage, the rock went on display to widespread public anticipation at the 1851 Crystal Palace Great Exhibition. It bombed.

Prince Albert tried to enhance the stone’s effect with gas lamps and angled mirrors. That fizzled too, as the props “turned the display into a sauna, causing visitors to swoon after only a few minutes. The press began to blame the Koh-i-Noor for being difficult, as if it were some kind of contrary and disappointing child.”

Albert then summoned experts who agreed that the diamond “was flawed at its very heart. Yellow flecks ran through a plane at its centre, one of which was large and marred its ability to refract light.” The authorities disagreed, however, on whether the gem could be re-cut without wrecking it. Eventually two of the world’s top pros arrived from Amsterdam and set to work with a state-of-the-art steam-powered grinder in a specially designed shop.

Their bill, for a few months of work, amounted to over a million pounds in today’s terms. Despite assurances to the contrary, moreover, they savaged the stone’s size from 190.3 carats to 93 carats. But dazzle it did. With an unusual symmetry of 33 facets each above and below the gem’s “table,” the cutters redeemed both the stone’s beauty and its public image.

Indians increasingly dominate diamonds, but their most fabled stone eludes them

It helped Victoria dazzle too, in those years before she went into morbid mourning. Waltzing with Napoleon III before 1,200 guests at Versailles, she wore a white satin gown and a diadem adorned with almost 3,000 small diamonds. Among them, the great K “gleamed like a third eye.” Other royal figures ordered it mounted and re-mounted on various regalia until the Queen Mother had it placed in its current crown. She sported the headgear at her daughter’s coronation. But for some reason (maybe trepidation about its supposed curse, the authors suggest), Elizabeth II has never worn it.

Since then, calls for its return have come from competitors, among them India, Pakistan and even the Taliban.

“Others have suggested that it be cut up once again and a piece each given to all those countries that make a credible argument for its return—including modern-day Iran and Afghanistan. But it is most unlikely that such Solomonic wisdom would ever be entertained by the British, nor indeed would it satisfy any of the various parties involved.”

The most persistent calls come from Indians. Equally tenacious has been Britain in its refusals. On a 2010 visit to Punjab, the authors relate, then-PM David Cameron said, “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty.”

Yet the country where the great diamond first came to prominence returned to diamond prominence itself late last century. Ironically that happened not due to gems of magnificence but through smaller, lower-quality stones originating in other countries and disdained by the rest of the trade. Through such humble beginnings, the west coast city of Surat now handles more than 80%, or even 90%, of the world’s cutting and polishing work. Mumbai, 290 kilometres south, hosts the world’s biggest diamond bourse. In the world diamond-sorting capital of Antwerp, Indians conduct about three-quarters of the business.

As for rough supply, Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO walked out on the country’s best hope for a major diamond mine in February, when the company handed ownership of the Bunder deposit, once anticipated for 2019 production, to the state government of Madhya Pradesh.

Meanwhile the Dalrymple/Anand book has reportedly spawned renewed activity in the search for India’s alluvial diamonds, maybe even another Koh-i-Noor, with all its blessings and curses.

Under the hammer

April 21st, 2016

From the mantle, Myanmar and Mars, rare rocks go on the auction block

by Greg Klein

These have been the days of the $22-million no-sale, the ruby-red beauty of Burma and the scream from outer space. Over two days, two rival auction houses offered up some of the most exceptional stones known to this planet and others.

From the mantle, Myanmar and Mars, rare rocks go on the auction block

Sotheby’s rejected $2.2 million
a carat for the Shirley Temple Blue.
(Photo: Sotheby’s)

The much-anticipated main event at Sotheby’s April 19 Magnificent Jewels sale lasted less than a minute before the hammer came down on an anti-climactic $22 million. The auctioneer rejected the bid and withdrew the lot, having wanted something in the range of $25 million to $35 million. Such was the optimism inspired by the Shirley Temple Blue diamond, a 9.54-carat, potentially internally flawless, cushion-cut fancy stone once owned by the child phenom.

Still, $22 million was a tad more than the $7,210 paid by Temple’s dad in 1940. But extraordinary expectations have been provoked by some extraordinary prices.

Earlier this month Sotheby’s unloaded the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 in Hong Kong for $31.8 million, a record price for Asia. In November Christie’s auctioned the 16.08-carat Sweet Josephine for $28.5 million. The following day the same buyer—a father rather more extravagant than Temple’s—paid Sotheby’s “a new record price for any gemstone and per carat” for the $48.4-million Blue Moon of Josephine.

This time around Sotheby’s performed relatively modestly, selling five items for over $1 million each, with the top-selling lot getting $4.56 million. That was for a “magnificent platinum and fancy purplish pink diamond ring” that came in close to the $5-million maximum estimate. In all, the auction pulled in nearly $29.89 million. But the Shirley Temple disappointment held the total far back from that of a Sotheby’s event 12 months earlier, which raked in a record $65.08 million.

From the mantle, Myanmar and Mars, rare rocks go on the auction block

Christie’s called the Jubilee “the very best Burmese
ruby offered for sale” in the U.S. for over 25 years.
(Photo: Christie’s)

Christie’s came much closer to that figure just one day after the Shirley Temple got shelved. That rival Magnificent Jewels auction offered 255 items and totalled nearly $57.03 million. Starring the show was the 15.99-carat Jubilee ruby. “To find an almost circular cut, unheated gem weighing more than 15 carats, with near-perfect crystallization is the dream of every gemstone connoisseur,” oozed the auctioneer. Set in a gold and diamond ring, the Jubilee sold for $14.16 million, well inside the hoped-for $12-million to $15-million range.

Another bidder put up $8.84 million for a 10.07-carat “fancy intense purple-pink diamond” mounted in a platinum and gold ring. With a pre-sale estimate of $8 million to $12 million, that gem also sold within expectations.

As did a $7.22-million, 40.43-carat round brilliant-cut diamond that was estimated between $7 million and $10 million.

While Christie’s New York was peddling opulence, Christie’s London was marketing meteorites. Prices hovered much closer to earth, however—between $267 for “a corner cut of the Toulon meteorite” and $62,213 for the Tirhert, “a meteorite which never hit Earth.” A Moroccan kid found it wedged between tree branches.

But no matter how exotic, the more expensive extra-terrestrial stuff got consigned to inventory.

Bidders passed up souvenirs of Mars, one of which Christie’s hoped would bring up to $355,500 and another up to $639,900. Similarly spurned was the “world’s largest oriented meteorite with extra-terrestrial gemstones.” That was further described as “encompassing an enormous aggregate of extra-terrestrial olivine and peridot in a steel-blue patina dappled with mango accents.”

From the mantle, Myanmar and Mars, rare rocks go on the auction block

Even this extra-terrestrial expression of
Munch-ish anguish failed to find a buyer.
(Photo: Christie’s)

Christie’s wanted somewhere between $711,000 and $1.13 million for the 650-kilogram chunk of rock, arguably a bargain compared to those earthly objects measured in mere carats. And they’re not even dappled with mango accents.

Another non-mover was “an otherworldly evocation of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.” Naturally formed, Christie’s insists, the 179-kilogram space oddity came with an aspired but unrealized price between $213,300 and $355,500.

The auction totalled just $817,601 for 44 meteorites, leaving nearly three dozen unsold. Evidently aficionados prefer the products of domestic geology. Maybe there’s still something to be said for this planet after all.

Next month Christie’s and Sotheby’s plan to separate big spenders from their loot in Geneva. Sotheby’s set a hopeful $28-million to $38-million target for the 15.38-carat Unique Pink diamond, while Christie’s talks of up to $45 million for the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue.

Assuming there are takers, how does one explain such extravagance?

“Even though there may be a general economic malaise, a lot of people are making a lot of money and are very cash-rich,” David Bennett told Rapaport Magazine. As chairperson of Sotheby’s jewelry division, he conducted the Blue Moon auction and several other high-profile sales.

“Fine gemstones have always been something that people consider having in their portfolio of investments,” he added. “If they are going to buy something, they want to buy the rarest, the best.”