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The Famous Gem That Almost Wasn't: The Cullinan Diamond

The Famous Gem That Almost Wasn't: The Cullinan Diamond

It's shocking to think that the Cullinan diamond, a major piece of geological and British history, almost remained buried. Estimated to be worth billions of dollars in total, the original uncut stone was over 3,106 carats and weighed 1.369 pounds. That's a lot of sparkle!

Known as the Star of Africa, this amazing stone almost went undiscovered. In January of 1905, Captain Frederick Wells, the Premier Mine superintendent, was making his regular rounds when he saw what he thought was a glass shard. The piece was sticking out of the mine wall, and Wells thought one of the workers had stuck it there as a joke. Using only his pocket knife, he pried the piece out of the wall and was stunned when he realized it was actually an enormous diamond almost 4 inches long, over 2 inches wide and nearly 3 inches high - twice the size of any known diamond in its day.

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Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: Wallis Simpson's Cartier Panther

Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: Wallis Simpson's Cartier Panther

Wallis Simpson's famous panther bracelet is a gem among beaded jewelry! It was commissioned from the famous Parisian jeweler Cartier by the Duchess in 1952; she also helped co-design it. She wanted a life-like great cat which would stalk its way around her wrist. Cartier's head jeweler Jeanne Toussaint created an exquisite cat of pave diamonds and black onyx set in fully articulated platinum with blazing emerald eyes.

Wallis Simpson's Cartier Panther Bracelet

When it's not being worn, the great cat seems to rest completely at ease with one front leg outstretched. Once worn, however, the cat seems to spring to snarling life, baring its tiny platinum teeth and threatening anyone who approaches its wearer. No wonder it was one of her favorites! 

What other woman has ever had a King abdicate his throne to be with her? In celebration of their great love story, the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Windsor delighted in giving each other gifts of fabulous jewelry to celebrate each event of their nearly forty years together. This resulted in perhaps the greatest collection of contemporary jewelry amassed in the last century. When The Duchess of Windsor Collection was sold in 1987, the 214 pieces brought in a record $53.5 million. The panther bracelet was one of the stars and was purchased by Mohammed Al Fayed for over $1.4 million. He also purchased 19 other pieces of the collection.

Twenty-three years later, he put the twenty pieces up for auction again. The panther bracelet sold for just over a staggering $7 million! The collection brought in a total of $12.5 million, which Mr. Al Fayed earmarked for a children's charity in honor of his son, Dodi, killed in the car crash that also took the life of Princess Diana. It's fitting that jewels which once belonged to a woman scorned by the Royal Family went to benefit the type of charity beloved by another woman rejected by a member of the same family.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor collaborated on the design of each piece they commissioned and each piece immortalizes a chapter of their love affair. If you would like to commission a special piece for someone you love, contact us.

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Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: The Black Prince's Ruby

the black prince ruby - royalexhibitions.co.ukOf all the famous gems and beaded jewelry in history, the Black Prince's Ruby is one of the most exciting and intriguing. In fact, this "ruby" isn't even a ruby - it's actually a red spinel! The red and blue forms of spinel have been misidentified as rubies and sapphires for at least a millennia. It's very similar in color, found it similar places and is even rarer than its counterpoints. Like the Black Prince's ruby, many of the rubies and sapphires in the crown jewels of Europe are actually spinel!

This incredible stone began its journey to the British crown jewels in the middle of the 14th century when Don Pedro the Cruel of Castile acquired it, probably through the murder of its previous owner. In 1366, Don Pedro was forced to ask help from the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, to put down a revolt. In exchange for his help, the Prince demanded the spinel and Don Pedro was in no position to refuse. That's the last that is known of the jewel until it resurfaces in 1415.

At the battle of Agincourt in that year, Henry V of England was struck on his jewel-encrusted helmet with a battle-ax. The king, along with his helmet and the Black Prince's ruby, survived and went on to win the battle. The jewel had another close call in 1649 or 1650 when Oliver Cromwell had most of the crown jewels disassembled; the stones were sold and the metal melted down for coins. Fortunately, a jeweler had the foresight to buy the gem and keep it safe until he could sell it back to the restored monarchy in 1660.

When Victoria was crowned Queen in 1838, her new, specially designed Imperial State Crown featured 3,093 gems, with the famous 170 carats, egg-sized ruby front, and center. In 1937, Victoria's crown was remade into the smaller, lighter crown which is still in use today and which can be seen here.

Contact us if you would like your own "crowning jewels" - we can design something very special just for you!

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The History of the Kashmir Sapphire

The Kashmir sapphire is renowned for its opulent history and powerful symbolism throughout the world. India's notoriety as the hotspot for the most decadent gemstones prevails throughout the world of jewelry. Beryls, pearls, rubies, and rose cut diamonds lapped in 18-karat gold swirls, embellish their jewelry markets.

Brazil, Thailand, Burma, Australia, Vietnam, Montana, Africa, and Ceylon are ripe with prized sapphire mines too.

Kashmir Sapphire Properties 

Kashmir SapphireSapphire derives itself from the Greek term sappheiros, translating to 'blue stone'. This term signifies another remarkable blue gem, lapis lazuli. 

Kashmir is Sanskrit, and its etymology means "desiccated land". "Ka" references the water. Sapphires are mined from sediments due to their hardness and resistance to erosion and weathering.

On the Mohs scale, sapphires register at a pulverizing 9 for their hardness. Moissanite follows at 9.25 and the infamous diamond measures at a 10. 

Religious and Mythological Aspects

Kashmir sapphire gems were commonly associated with the Heavens because of their intense vitreous luster. Unknown to many, the stone was theorized as comprising the table of which the 10 Commandments were written on. Clergymen in the Catholic Church wore sapphire jewelry to protect themselves from harm and evil.

Linguists state that "Kashmir" relates to Saturn. In astrology, Saturn represents the father and the lessons that must be learned when a sign is positioned in its planet or house. The fiery and strong gem definitely correlates in that regard.

Royalty and Their Adoration of the Kashmir Sapphire

Sapphire has a macabre past with royal figures. In fact, kings and queens often wore the gem to ward off poison and traitors who tried to dethrone them. 

In the context of royalty, religious ties are inevitable stories of the enigmatic sapphire. Solomon's Ring has puzzled historians, theologians, and gemologists for centuries.  

The ring of Solomon faces scrutiny and controversy. It is one of the most well-known pieces of jewelry, rooted in worldwide historical texts. In ancient books, King Solomon was one of the 48 prophets, possessing supernatural powers. Solomon's Ring is also the salvation that stops the apocalypse, yet the ring has never been unearthed.

Recently, Prince William's engagement and marriage to Kate Middleton marks a prophetic intrigue amongst those who believed that the sapphire has powers. Prince William proposed to Kate with the late Lady Diana's ring.

Advances In Technology

Sapphires are used in multiple types of laboratory equipment. They are also useful when it comes to infrared technologies and solid state electronics such as hard drives. In an interesting twist, a hard drive made entirely of sapphires can last for 10 million years!

Nothing But Elegance

Despite its controversies, the captivating stone reigns in vibrant history and mysteries that delve into the beauty of nature. The stone encapsulates justice, purity, and grace in the hearts of its wearers. The properties both physically and culturally, illuminate how amazing mankind is. The stone is a symbol of invention and elegance. 

In one of my handcrafted beaded anklets named after this enchanting stone, I incorporated the magnificence of the blue stones surrounded by bold pearls.

If you have any questions, orders or testimonials, please contact us !

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Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond

The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is one of the famous gems and beaded jewelry of history. As Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian once said: "This is the most famous diamond people have never seen." It has a long and somewhat mysterious history believed to have started, like so many of the great diamonds from the 17th century, in the famous Golconda mines of India.

It has long been rumored that King Philip IV of Spain chose the very best of newly purchased stones, including a large blue-gray diamond, to include in the dowry of his teenager daughter Margaret Teresa upon her betrothal to Emperor Leopold I of Austria in 1664. It's a charming but unsubstantiated story. According to Wikipedia: "The first time the diamond was mentioned is about fifty years later when it was already in Vienna."   

wittelsbach diamondWe do know that there is a painting of Margaret Teresa's granddaughter, the Archduchess Maria Amalia, wearing what appears to be the diamond and painted at the time of her wedding to Crown Prince Charles Albert of Bavaria in 1722. Maximilian IV Joseph von Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1806; he made it the centerpiece of his new crown and that is where it remained until Bavaria become a Republic in 1918. The new Republic took control of the Royal jewels along with the rest of the family's possessions.

The funeral of Ludwig III of Bavaria in 1921 was the last time the diamond was seen until it reappeared in 1931 at Christie’s Auction in London. The family had fallen on hard times and the government gave them permission to sell 13 of the Crown Jewels. However, what happened to the large blue diamond is a bit murky. It apparently passed through several owners until it reappeared in 2008 at another Christie's auction where it sold to Laurence Graff of Graff Diamonds for a world record $24.3 million.

And this is where the controversy comes in; Graff had the diamond cut to remove scratches and chips and to improve its color and clarity. It lost 4.45 carats in the process, changed color from deep grayish-blue to deep clear blue, and was given a new name. It's now the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond. Critics complain that Graff put finances ahead of history because the diamond has been altered so much that it's now unrecognizable, which compromises its historical integrity.

Professor Hans Ottomeyer, director of the German Historical Museum in Berlin, compared it to painting over a Rembrandt. It was apparently in reply to comments like this that Francois Graff said, "If you discovered a Leonardo da Vinci with a tear in it and covered in mud, you would want to repair it. We have similarly cleaned up the diamond and repaired damage caused over the years. ”

Contact us if you would like a unique piece of lovely jewelry of your own - no controversy involved

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Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: The Sancy Diamond

Here it is!  There it is!  Who has it now? 

the sancy diamondKeeping up with the 52-carat Sancy Diamond was like playing a game of hide and seek.  Probably of all the Famous Gems and Beaded Jewelry: The Sancy Diamond has passed through more hands and disappeared more often than any other gem.

Experts even debate the diamond's origins, although its unusual shape leads them to believe it came from a mine in India.  Its whereabouts until the 16th century continue to confuse.  One story says the original owner Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, lost the gem in a 1477 battle.  At his death, it went either to a royal cousin in Portugal or to his conqueror the Duke of Lorraine of France. From there it drops out of history again.

The next question asks if one of the two men mentioned above sold it to Nicolas de Harley, Seigneur de Sancy in the mid-1500s or did he buy it while he was in Turkey?  What is certain is that the stone was named after Seigneur de Sancy, a late 16th century French Ambassador to Turkey.

The diamond had some adventures under Sancy's care.  It adorned the cap of the bald-headed French King Henry III.  It disappeared again during the reign of Henry IV and feared stolen.  Some fancy Sancy detective work found the gem in the body of his loyal servant who swallowed it to keep it safe.

Next, history says Sancy sold the diamond either to Elizabeth I or to James I of England.  Records of the Crown Jewels in 1605 reveal its purchase.  James set it with other gems in an elaborate hat pin, so the jewel sat on another royal head.

During the next several decades of the English Civil War and the French Revolution, the diamond was lost, found and lost again.  It appears to have traveled to France, Russia, India and back to France again.  Finally, in 1906, William Wallace Astor bought it.  It remained in the Astor family for 72 years until the Louvre purchased it in 1978 for $1,000,000.  Since that time, it continues to fascinate viewers with its lovely pale yellow color and shield-shaped cut. 

The Sancy Diamond might have been lost a lot, but fortunately you don't have to search for your perfect gem.  We make all of our beautiful jewelry by hand and would be happy to make something just for you. Contact us soon.

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