Grainger Hall of Gems

Photo of the Grainger Hall of Gems after its 2009 remodel. Dark display boxes against a white background highlight the evolution from raw gemstones (just out of view in a box of sand), to loose faceted gems, to beautiful jewels. Photo ©2012 Kimberly Vardeman.
Photo of the Grainger Hall of Gems after its 2009 remodel. Dark display boxes against a white background highlight the evolution from raw gemstones (just out of view in a box of sand), to loose faceted gems, to beautiful jewels. Photo ©2012 Kimberly Vardeman.


The Grainger Hall of Gems offers one of my favorite presentations of gemstones and jewels. It remains at the top of my list for gem halls to visit in the future.

In 2009, under the direction of the the Chicago Field Museum’s senior vice president and curator of the gem hall, Dr. Lance Grande, the display of the Field Museum’s permanent collection of jewels and gemstones became one of the world’s most innovative and unique interpretations of the natural history of gemstones.

Typically, a museum’s gem hall features a backdrop reminiscent of Elizabethan stage plays, with heavy dark curtains, black walls, and display cases lined in dark blue or black velvet. In these dramatic settings, the jewels and gemstones seem to gleam from out of the darkness, illuminated by stark backlighting.

While the effect of such a display can leave a lasting impression in its dramatic and haunting effect, it is not a setting truly conducive to learning and creative exploration. In keeping with his mission to “bridge the gap between scientists, gemologists and jewelers” {cited} and to “tie the natural beauty…together with human artistry” {cited}, Dr. Grande has reimagined the display of gems and gemstones.

The new hall is decorated in a rich honey color with oak wood floors and walnut-colored trim. Stretching the length of an entire wall is an inset display case set flush within the wall. Several satellite display cases stand throughout the exhibit floor.

The room is well-lit with natural lighting which appears to emanate from skylights placed within the domed arc of the ceiling. Each display case features a block wood platform painted white with a series of square or rectangular display platforms painted in white, dark grey, or black. Jewels are mounted for optimal viewing, while raw gemstones are nestled artfully in trays filled with light brown sand.

The Grainger Hall of Gems demonstrates a logical sense of order befitting a natural history museum. The emphasis of this remarkable presentation rests upon the standardized classification of gemstones and minerals. Dr. Grande and his staff have provided visitors with an in-depth examination of the partnership between man and nature.

Visitors to the Grainger Hall of Gems will enjoy displays of both ancient and contemporary jewels beside raw gemstones in original matrix and loose faceted gemstones. These displays are organized in mineral families, so visitors can closely examine the similarities and differences between all their favorite stones.

The importance of understanding the evolution of gemstones to jewelry cannot be understated for jewelry enthusiasts. While in and of themselves gemstones are among nature’s most beautiful gifts, the powerful addition of human ingenuity to nature’s raw materials has marked history for thousands and thousands of years.

The Grainger Hall of Gems offers an artful and thoughtful presentation of this powerful partnership to any who are captivated by the magic and mystery of gems and jewelry. We invite you to visit the Field Museum website for more details.


  1. Field Museum. “Grainger Hall of Gems: Gallery of Gems.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  2. Field Museum. “Grainger Hall of Gems: History of the Gem Collection.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  3. Grande, Lance and Allison Augustyn. Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
  4. Helen, “The Field Museum’s ‘The Nature of Diamonds,'” Chicago Windy City Guide, October 22, 2009.
  5. University of Chicago Books, The. “Gems and Gemstones by Lance Grande and Allison Augustyn.” Accessed April 10, 2015.
  6. Valenzuela, Michelle. “Gemstones go au naturel at Grainger Hall of Gems,” Sparkle, September 2012.
  7. Woulfe, Molly. “Rock Show,” NWI Times, October 23, 2009.

Cartier’s Trinity Motif

Marlene Dietrich in May 1933, seven years before Eric Remarque gave her the Cartier Trinity Lapis Bracelet. Her matchless personality and genderless glamour made her the perfect model for the emerging Cartier's Trinity motif.
Marlene Dietrich in May 1933, seven years before Eric Remarque gave her the Cartier Trinity Lapis Bracelet. Her matchless personality and genderless glamour made her the perfect model for the emerging Cartier’s Trinity motif.


Cartier’s Trinity motif dates back to 1924, with its triple-colored rings of white, yellow, and rose gold. White for friendship, yellow for loyalty, and rose for true love {3}.

Designed to represent the evolution of a relationship, Cartier’s Trinity motif began with a series of interlocking finger rings in the 1920s {6}. This spectacular interpretation of the symbology of love endures today and remains one of Cartier’s most popular collection. Not only the colors, but the interlocking nature of the motif send a powerful message about the cycles and stages of romantic love.

A very unique rendering of Cartier’s Trinity motif was realized in 1940 {1}. Erich Maria Remarque, a German writer known most notably for his classic novel All Quiet on the Western Front, commissioned Cartier to make an exquisite, one-of-a-kind bracelet for his friend and lover, actress Marlene Dietrich {1}.

Featuring a single lapis lazuli bead, fashioned in what Sotheby’s calls a “barrel-form,” hangs in suspension on a band of interwoven 14k gold circular links in white, yellow, and rose color {5}. These links are intertwined in a beautiful design most assuredly in reference to Cartier’s Trinity motif.

Lisa Hubbard, co-chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division, told InStyle that she believes this particular piece of lapis lazuli was one of the ancient stones purchased by Louis Cartier in the early 1920s, possibly from Egypt {3}.

It is well known, according to Cartier biographer Hans Nadelhoffer, that Louis Cartier demonstrated a passion for Egyptian art, infusing many of his Art Deco designs with the stones of the ancient. Some of his favorite Egyptian stones were cornelian, turquoise, and lapis lazuli {4}.

This bracelet, more than any other in Marlene Dietrich’s extensive jewelry collection, seems to epitomize Marlene’s strength, dignity, and genderless glamour.

In December 2014, Sotheby’s enjoyed the supreme privilege of offering Marlene Dietrich’s stunning Cartier Trinity gold and lapis bracelet for sale. In their catalog, they called it a 14 Karat Tri-Colored Gold and Lapis Bracelet, Cartier {5}. The esteemed auction house reported that Eric Remarque chose the stone because Marlene was especially fond of lapis.

Though Mr. Remarque had only known Marlene for a year at the time of the jewel’s commission, it is evident that he knew firsthand the matchless style of his lady love. Not too dainty, not too bold, this Cartier Trinity bracelet proves the perfect statement piece for a woman of Marlene’s distinction.

The gorgeous jewel was estimated to sell for between $20,000 and $30,000 this past December. Of course, as is always the case, these estimates did not reflect that thermonuclear effect called star power. The bidding for this stunning Cartier bracelet soared well above the estimated temperatures of the low $20,000s, reaching a high of $179,000.

To date, the jewel’s new owner has chosen to remain anonymous. Time will tell whether another level of star power will have been added when this piece returns once again to the limelight at some future date.

Do you have a fondness for Cartier’s Trinity collection? Which is your favorite?

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer20


  1. Becker, Vivienne. “The Jewels They Wore,” Sotheby’s, December 3, 2014.
  2. Doulton, Maria. “Trinity de Cartier: an enduring symbol of love,” The Jewellery EditorAccessed April 17, 2015.
  3. Fasel, Marion. “#RocksMyWorld: The Cartier Jewel of Screen Legend Goes on the Auction Block at Sotheby’s,” InStyle, December 4, 2014.
  4. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier. Chronicle Books, 2007.
  5. Sotheby’s. “14 Karat Tri-Color Gold and Lapis Lazuli Bracelet, Cartier.” Accessed April 17, 2015.
  6. Trinity Collection,” Harper’s Bazaar. Accessed April 17, 2015.

Legend of the Diamond Valley

This magnificent ravine evokes the feeling of the Diamond Valley in its immensity and heavy layers of fog. Photo ©2014 by MaxPower0815 on flickr.
This magnificent ravine evokes the feeling of the Diamond Valley in its immensity and heavy layers of fog. Photo ©2014 by MaxPower0815 on flickr.


In Diamond Valley a steep chasm stretches 1,000 feet deep. Filled with fog nearly to the brim, it evokes awe and reverent fear in all who peer over its edge. Villagers from the surrounding towns occasionally dare to approach the ravine, only to be met with the impenetrable mist that swirls from its depths. A rock thrown over the edge makes no sound as it falls without end.

The swooping balance of the eagle’s wings is the only sight visible within the swirling vapors. To the great birds alone belongs this ravine. They make their nests upon the cliff faces far above, in view of the visiting villagers. Their penetrating eyes remain ever watchful, piercing the fog, alert to shifts in air currents and sometimes to the movement of prey far below.

On occasion, one of these magnificent kings of the air plunges into the depths. In moments or hours, depending on their whim, they’ll resurface, clutching the remains of a rabbit or a fox.

Clinging to the ravaged flesh of these small animals, opaque colorless stones sometimes catch the eyes of onlooking villagers. Not daring to spook the grand birds, they wait in hope that the bloody remains will slip from their grasp. When this happens, the villagers run to collect the unusual pebbles.

Word reaches the king to the east that Diamond Valley holds treasure in the form of white crystals harder than any other substance on the earth. This prudent king dispatches ambassadors who arrive at the cliff’s edge, only to travail at the impossibility of their task. Though they are the king’s best climbers, their ropes will never reach the bottom, not even if they tie them end to end.

They make an attempt to scale the cliff face anyway, just to see whether there might be crystals within reach of their ropes. Their attempts only prove the rumors they’ve heard, the crystals lie only at the bottom, attainable only through the implementation of a most gruesome method.

As they coil their ropes at the top of the ravine, they ponder the bloody task that awaits them. First, they must negotiate with the villagers for a trio of sheep. Then, they must pay for the privilege of using the butcher’s tools. Then, they must find a suitable field nearby for preparing the sheep.

A nearby meadow opens itself to receive the blood of the docile animals, as the king’s men strip off their skins and prepare large pieces of meat to toss over the edge of the cliff. Will this bizarre ritual prove effective for delivering the crystal stones to the king?

The villagers promise it will work. Throwing caution to the wind, the men begin heaving hunks of gory sheep flesh over the edge of the ravine. They watch the eagles as the eagles watch them. After a few minutes, the eagle’s catch the scent of blood and swoop down into the misty depths of the ravine.

The men watch in silence, holding their breath. After nearly losing heart, their efforts are rewarded as several soaring eagles drop the gristle at the cliff’s edge. Stuck to the gory mess are crystals of varying sizes. The men swiftly clean the stones and throw the bloody remains back over the edge, raising their hands in gratitude to the eagles before turning to take their bounty to the king, from whom they will receive their second reward in gold bullion.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

*This is my own adaptation of the story of the Diamond Valley as read in Berthold Laufer’s book The Diamond: A Study in Chinese and Hellenistic Folk-Lore, Volume 15 (Field Museum of Natural History, 1915).

Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretiere Cuff

Marlene Dietrich held onto only one piece of jewelry throughout her life: her Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Marlene Dietrich held onto only one piece of jewelry throughout her life: her Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels.


Marlene Dietrich’s favorite jewel, her Jarretiere Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels, was fashioned in 1937 from “all her bits of jewelry,” says her grandson, literary agent Peter Riva {2}. He says it was writer Erich Maria Remarque, most famous for his novel All Quiet on the Western Front, who suggested that she deliver to Van Cleef & Arpels (VC&A) a ruby bracelet and necklace, a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond necklace, a number of brooches, and another 20-some baubles which she had lying about {2}.

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Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretiere Bracelet

It is reported that Louis Arpels, founder of VC&A, was a close personal friend of Marlene’s {6}, and it is he who is credited with the design and manufacture of what is presently called Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretiere Cuff Bracelet. A smashing example of Old Hollywood 1930s Glam, this gorgeous bracelet centers on a large retro-style loop decorated in cushion-cut rubies in various sizes.

This stunning mass of rubies is trimmed in a single row of calibre-cut white diamonds. Three rows of asymmetrical baguette and calibre-cut white diamonds intrude upon this ruby sea, forming one section of the hinge. The connecting point for the hinge is comprised of baguette and circular cut white diamonds arranged in a trapezoidal design.

All That Remains

Mr. Riva reported in 1992 that this ruby and diamond cuff was all that remains of his grandmother’s noteworthy jewelry collection {2}. Marlene Dietrich collected delectable jewels throughout her life, most prominently at the height of her film career, which spanned the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

Though she made two films in the 1960s and one as late as 1978, throughout the sixties she primarily performed as a singer, entertaining in her usual glamorous way until she was no longer physically able to perform.  During the 1980s, Marlene Dietrich lived a reclusive life in her Paris apartment until her death in 1992 {7}.

Throughout the waning years of her life, she had occasion to sell (or relinquish) most of her stunning jewels in exchange for cash, or to satisfy her back taxes {2}. There went her emeralds and diamonds, jewels she wore in the movie Desire, and her platinum and gold Lily bracelet made by Fulco di Verdura. In the end, she discarded all but one of her jewels: the Jarretiere Cuff by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Of What Significance Jewelry?

It makes one wonder at the significance of this piece in relation to the whole of her life. It seems possible that the gemstones which comprised it were of significant importance, even if their original settings were not. Could those bits and pieces have been heirlooms of some sort, brought over from Germany?

Her records indicate no such importance to the actual stones. What the record does indicate is that this jewel might have been closely associated with the writer previously mentioned, Erich Maria Remarque {5}. Mr. Remarque was more than a friend to Marlene Dietrich, and he was also more than a lover {4}.

Their attraction to one another was visceral, perhaps even cultural. Like the actress, the writer was born in Germany, and during the Nazi regime his books were banned and his German citizenship was revoked. Eventually, he escaped from Germany in 1938, according to the writers at History. In order to secure his former wife’s safe passage out of the country, he remarried her, thus inflaming Marlene’s jealousy {4}

Remarque and Marlene had met previously, at a luncheon in Venice, where Ms. Dietrich was dining with Josef von Sternberg, whom the New York Times described as “her director, mentor and lover” {3}. According to the article, published in 2011, the moment Mr. Remarque walked onto the scene, Mr. Sternberg made his exit stage left, recognizing a losing battle when he saw one {3}.

For the next forty years, wherever her dalliances took her, Marlene Dietrich always seemed to remain connected to Erich Remarque {3}. Over the years, Mr. Remarque gave his friend and lover many pieces of jewelry, including the lapis lazuli bracelet by Cartier. Yet, it was this one jewel that she kept. Perhaps it embodied for her the endurance of her affection for him, or his for her.

Whatever those reasons were, she kept them to herself. All that remains is the stark understanding that jewelry becomes far more than the sum of its parts.

Do you have a special jewel that you would choose to keep even through economic hardships?


  1. Becker, Vivenne. “Cuff Power,” Sotheby’s Magazine, April 2015.
  2. Brozan, Nadine. “Chronicle,” The New York Times, June 24, 1992.
  3. Gates, Anita. “4 Decades Spent Romancing Dietrich,” The New York Times, March 11, 2011.
  4. Hilton, Tims. Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic. Da Capo Press, 2004.
  5. Natalie. “Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretiere Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels,” Jewels du Jour Blog, July 17, 2013.
  6. Van Cleef & Arpels. “Marlene Dietrich’s Jarretiere Bracelet.” Accessed April 4, 2015.
  7. Vickers, Hugo. Cecil Beaton Portraits & Profiles. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014.

Designer Spotlight: Michael Barin

Designer Spotlight: Michael Barin's Elegant Diamond and Platinum Engagement Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Designer Spotlight: Michael Barin’s Elegant Diamond and Platinum Engagement Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


Michael Barin is an artist. He began studying his craft at the age of 13, at the bench of a seasoned jeweler who taught him Old World handcrafting techniques. By the age of 19, he was ready to ply his trade, and he did so for a number of years, crafting rings and other jewels for American manufacturers.

In 1994, he and his brother Arman partnered together and opened Michael Barin Jewelry in Studio City, California. With Michael Barin jewelry, the brothers endeavor to create lasting beauty in the medium of platinum, white diamonds, and colored stones.

Michael takes modern fashion into consideration, but his primary influence comes from the Royal Courts of the Renaissance and the ancient traditions of Egyptian Pharoahs.

With this Michael Barin engagement ring, we see the influence of both. His nod to modernity manifests in the round brilliant diamond which has been cast in the central role of this stunning solitaire diamond engagement ring.

The round brilliant cut is an innovation of modern diamond-cutting genius. With its 58 precisely cut facets and its maximum light return, the round brilliant cut is the modern cut, chosen more than any other by today’s modern brides.

It is the three-dimensional platinum band on this ring that draws us into Micheal’s appreciation of antiquity. First, in technique; second, in motif; and third, in essence.

In technique, the band is hand engraved along all three of its faces. Hand engraving dates back to about the 5th century BC, and today is done in fairly similar ways, albeit with more precise tools. These tools include hand-held chisels and hammers.

In motif, this band is etched entirely in a beautiful floral motif reminiscent of the open papyrus flowers so characteristic of Egyptian glyphs. Finally, in essence, the lines of this Michael Barin engagement ring evoke the elegance of royalty, though not precisely the opulence.

While this is not showstopping ice skating rink of a ring, it carries itself with a dignified sophistication, an air of aristocracy. It is both lovely and elegant, with the subtlest touch of romance.

As with all Michael Barin jewelry, this ring appeals to a woman of sophisticated taste, one who appreciates the sensuality of fine hand crafted jewels and the elegance of the royals of old.

If you are such a woman, may we invite you to take a closer look at this beautiful ring?

Lady Gaga’s Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Lady Gaga's Engagement Ring with this 1-Carat Heart-Shaped Diamond and Platinum Engagement Band. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Lady Gaga’s Engagement Ring with this 1-Carat Heart-Shaped Diamond and Platinum Engagement Band. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


Lady Gaga’s engagement ring is a stunning vision in platinum and diamonds. Designed by esteemed jewelry designer, Lorraine Schwartz, it has all the bespoke elements one would expect from the celebrity designer.

From the top, it dazzles in over 6 carats of white diamond brilliance in a perfect heart shape. The only metal visible takes shape as three dainty platinum prongs which are attached to a rim of metal hidden out of sight beneath the girdle of the impeccable diamond.

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True to form, Ms. Schwartz placed the most intimate personal touches on the backside of the ring. First, a delicate framework of diamonds and platinum effortlessly cradles the large diamond.

A view from beneath shows the four spokes of platinum encrusted with tiny white diamonds radiating out from a diamond-lined, heart-shaped center. These spokes rise like ribbons to meet a larger heart-shaped rim of diamonds which gently, but firmly cups the large central diamond.

Not only does this delicate cradle add support, but like a beautiful silk chemise or a pair of lacy panties, it imparts a touch of personal glamour worn intimately against the skin of Lady Gaga’s finger.

Also emerging from this central heart-shaped gallery are the shoulders of the platinum band. From the very top to the very bottom, this delicate band is completely iced in diamonds so that none of the metal is seen. This is a Lorraine Schwartz signature feature.

One final detail, and Lady Gaga’s favorite, by her own admission, is ‘T♥S ‘ shaped into platinum at the very base of the band. The symbols stand for ‘Taylor loves Stefani’, and as must be expected, the whole thing is sugarcoated in teensy white diamonds.

Heart-shaped diamonds are both iconic and romantic. Lady Gaga’s engagement ring is a tribute to both the icon and the romance of love!

Are you in search of a diamond and platinum wonder that holds in its very nature the essence of adoration, devotion, and affection?

If you answered yes to this question, then may we recommend the above diamond and platinum engagement ring?

It features a beautiful 1-carat, heart-cut diamond mounted on a twisting platinum band with its own sugarcoating of diamonds. Click here to read more about how to make it yours!

Nancy Cunard’s African Ivory Bracelets

Nancy Cunard wears her iconic African ivory bracelets in this photograph of her taken in 1928.
Nancy Cunard wears her iconic African ivory bracelets in this photograph of her taken in 1928.

Nancy Cunard’s dreams of Africa began when she was six years old. Some would call it destiny, others impressionability. She describes it as a fantastic ability to visualize the Sahara Desert, with its “dunes, the huge spaces, mirages, heat and parchedness” {2, p. 162}.

On many nights she dreamed of the desert and later of the African people on what she termed ‘The Dark Continent’. She writes of these vivid dreams, describing them as “full of movement…Africans dancing and drumming around me, and I one of them, though still white, knowing, mysteriously enough, how to dance in their own manner {2, p. 162}.

It was not as unlikely a fantasy for a British heiress as you might imagine, considering her mother’s penchant for the fantastical. According to photographer Cecil Beaton, who called Nancy’s mother a friend, Lady Maud “Emerald” Cunard was beyond well-read, having become as closely acquainted with her favorite characters of literature as with her real-life friends and associates {1}.

Beaton writes in The Glass of Fashion: “Lady Cunard’s genius shone in the manner in which she presided over the small, circular, green-painted dining table….If she herself performed, it was a virtuoso indulging in persiflage or heroics. She was brilliant in her sense of timing. The inflections in her husky little voice were so varied, her gestures so telling, her chuckles so effective, and her confiding manner so mock-sincere that one knew one was present at a unique occasion” {pp. 375-76}.

Unfortunately, however fantastical Emerald Cunard remained in her life, she would, in the end, fail to lay aside her deeply entrenched prejudices to follow her daughter Nancy into the modern age. The two parted ways when Nancy, who appears to have been far more grounded in reality than her mother ever was, ran off to Australia to marry Sydney Fairbairn {5}.

Their marriage didn’t last, as most do not when escape is their primary motive. After her divorce, Nancy’s attraction to the intellectual scene led her to Paris, where she immersed herself in jazz, Dadaism, Surrealism, and political activism.

While in Paris, Nancy’s childhood visions of Africa returned, though not necessarily the dreams. This revival of fascination set her on a course that would have a profound effect on what would later become the Civil Rights Movement. It began as many passionate causes begin, with a love affair.

In 1927, she fell in love with Henry Crowder, a black jazz singer who would profoundly shape both her politics and her aesthetics. The first sign of this shift came in the adoption of her new look: a black sculptured cap covered her hair, her bright blue eyes were rimmed in dark kohl (a trend which her biographer, Lois Gordon, claims Nancy invented), and of course the cascade of broad African ivory arm cuffs.

These she wore lining her arms from wrist to elbow, sometimes all the way to her shoulder. It would be this love affair, both with Mr. Crowder and with the Sahara Desert and its beautiful ebony people, that would lead Nancy Cunard to create what could be called the culmination of her life’s work: Negro: An Anthology.

Negro is a self-published, self-edited statement, in the form of a book, against the savage inhumanity of institutional racism in the west, primarily in America {4}. This book is an eclectic collection of firsthand accounts, journalistic writings, sociological essays, poetry, songs, speeches, statistics, proverbs, photographs, pamphlets, and more depicting and describing the scourge of racism against minorities in the Western world {4}.

The book’s contributors included men and women, artists and academics, activists and militants, from every racial group available to Nancy, including Europeans, Africans, African-Americans, and Latin Americans {4}. Perhaps among the most celebrated of those who contributed to Negro were W.E.B. DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston.

From the late 1920s on, even after her affair with Henry Crowder ended, Nancy Cunard maintained her African-inspired aesthetic, her ivory bangles having become as much a part of her as her identity as her supreme accomplishments.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Beaton, Cecil. The Glass of Fashion, New York: Rizzoli ex libris, 2014.
  2. Coudert, Thierry. Cafe Society: Socialites, Patrons, and Artists 1920 to 1960. Paris: Flammarion, 2010.
  3. Gordon, Lois. Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.
  4. Nechvatal, Joseph. “Nancy Cunard’s ‘Black Atlantic’,” Hyperallergic, May 5, 2014.
  5. Vickers, Hugo, ed. Cecil Beaton Portraits & Profiles, London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2014.

Formation of Diamonds

Capture the Essence! of Scintillating Diamonds with this dazzling 2-carat Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Scintillating Diamonds with this dazzling 2-carat Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


The formation of diamonds is a study in fascination. A diamond’s epic adventure begins within the melting pot of the earth, the mantle. At a depth of between 90 and 120 miles, a mixture of elements roils at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit {5}.

Diamonds Require Heat & Pressure

The weight of the atmosphere, gravity, and the earth itself, which presses down upon this elemental mixture, measures between 45 and 60 kilobars (638-870 psi) {5}. In comparison, at sea level, the amount of pressure exerted upon the human body is 14.5 pounds per square inch (psi) {4}.

Even the most highly trained scuba divers are limited to a depth of 165 feet below the sea. At this depth, with the sea and the atmosphere pressing down upon her, a diver will experience the force of 72.5 psi {4}. Seems like feathers compared to the pressure under which diamonds are formed.

It is precisely because of this heat and pressure that diamonds are one of the most unique gemstones on the earth. What makes them so unique is that they are the only single-element gemstone known to man. The rarest and most valuable diamonds (D Flawless) are 100% carbon. Miraculously, within this roiling pot of bubbling elements, the carbon elements find each other and cling with all their might.

A Powerful Bond

It takes five carbon atoms to begin the process of diamond crystallization. Under these unique pressure and heat conditions, the electrons in these carbon atoms are able to form powerful covalent bonds {2}.

It is these powerful bonds, which grow as billions of single carbon atoms continue joining to one another at points of four, that make diamonds so dense, so durable, so indomitable {2}. And it is their purity that makes them so scintillating, so delectable, so ravishing in their beauty.

A Rainbow of Diamonds

Even those which have been intruded upon by trace elements are among the most dazzling of nature’s perfect gifts.  Fancy Colored Diamonds, as the GIA categorizes them, are the tantalizing colorful wonders that have captivated the attention of the world’s most illustrious collectors. This rainbow of diamonds is the result of either deformation or intrusion in the crystal lattice.

Red diamonds are believed to be the result of a deformation which creates an absorption band within the stone which restricts certain colors of the spectrum, releasing primarily red light to the eye {8}.

Orange diamonds are intruded upon by elements. Just which elements are intruding is up for debate. It has widely been believed that nitrogen is responsible for the pumpkin-colored hues, but more recently hydrogen has become a suspect, as well.

Yellow diamonds are the result of a greater concentration of nitrogen atoms scattered throughout the crystal structure.

Green diamonds are among the rarest of the rare. It is bombardment of neutrons, gamma rays, and beta rays that creates their verdant hues {7}. Some of these diamonds have been only lightly irradiated, making their color fleeting {6, 7}. Polishing or faceting can lift this green sheen right of the stone {7}. However, when a diamond has undergone a steady battering of radiation, its color will rise from within, emerging intact through the cutting and polishing process {7}.

Blue diamonds are intruded upon by trace amounts of boron {5}.

Purple diamonds are the result of a defect similar to that found in red diamonds, though purples have two absorption bands instead of just one {1}.

With so many nuances to the perfection of a diamond, it is no wonder that these glittering stones have become an objection of wonder, delight, and absolute fascination.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Harlow, George E. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  2. King, Hobart. “How Do Diamonds Form?” Accessed March 30, 2015.
  3. Linberry, Cate. “Diamonds Unearthed,” Smithsonian Magazine, December 2006.
  4. National Ocean Service. “How does pressure change with ocean depth?” Accessed March 30, 2015.
  5. “Diamonds and Diamond Simulants.” Accessed March 30, 2015.
  6. Naturally Colored. “How do Colored Diamonds get Their Color?” Accessed March 30, 2015.
  7. Rachminov Diamonds 1891. “What Makes a Diamond Green?” Accessed March 30, 2015.
  8. Rachminov Diamonds 1891. “What Makes a Diamond Red?” Accessed March 30, 2015.

Diamonds for April

Capture the Essence! of April's Diamond Birthstone with this 5-Carat C. Krypell Diamond Pendant in 18k White Gold. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of April’s Diamond Birthstone with this 5-Carat C. Krypell Diamond Pendant in 18k White Gold. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


Diamonds belong to the month of April. Ice white, blood red, azure blue, verdant green, champagne or chocolate. These are just a few of the luscious colors you can choose from to celebrate your special day.

Is it your birthday this month?

Would you like a jewel featuring your diamonds this year?

Perhaps you prefer to receive your diamonds as a gift. If so, you are in good company, as both Paulette Goddard and Wallis Simpson received nearly all of their jewelry from their husbands.

Ms. Goddard received several stunning diamond jewels from Charlie Chaplin, whom she married in the 1930s. One such piece was a gorgeous diamond, emerald cabochon, and gold bracelet with a floral motif made by Trabert & Hoeffer, Inc.–Mauboussin.

Wallis Simpson, more popularly known as the Duchess of Windsor, received from her adoring husband David, the former King of England, numerous diamond jewels. One of the most captivating is a diamond double-leaf necklace by Cartier. This necklace wraps around her neck in an exquisite hug of ice in a portrait taken by Dorothy Wilding in 1943.

Perhaps you’re not expecting diamonds from your sweetheard this year. If not, then why not join the company of Elizabeth Taylor and Daisy Fellowes, and lavish diamonds upon yourself. In 1987, Elizabeth Taylor purchased a gorgeous diamond jewel at auction in 1987, the ‘Prince of Wales’ brooch previously owned by none other than Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.

In her own act of wealthy independence, Daisy Fellowes purchased for herself a notable pink diamond, which weighed 17.47 carats, from Cartier. This diamond, called ‘Tete de Belier’ (‘Ram’s Head’), once belonged to Prince Youssoupoff of Russia, who sold it to Cartier in 1927. Though it was stolen in 1939, this stone is said to have inspired Elsa Schiaparelli’s ‘shocking pink,’ which for a long time belonged solely to Daisy Fellowes.

Whether you prefer to receive your birthday diamonds as a gift, or whether you delight to purchase diamonds for yourself, we offer here a few gorgeous diamond pieces to celebrate your April birthday.

Send this link to your hubby. Let him know you fancy this ornate and delicate diamond pendant. This shimmering jewel most closely matches the taste of Paulette Goddard, silent and talkie film star, married to Charlie Chaplin.

Diamond & Sapphire Fan Pendant

Click here to purchase for yourself this lovely Art Deco style diamond and sapphire pendant, fashioned in the Art Deco style. This jewel most closely matches the taste of Daisy Fellowes.



Vintage Teardrop Diamond BroochClick here to purchase this stunning vintage teardrop diamond brooch featuring over 2 carats in white diamonds. This jewel most closely matches the tastes of Elizabeth Taylor.


The Hindou Necklace by VC&A

Capture the Essence! of India's Maharani's with this exquisite Vintage Emerald and Diamond Necklace. Featuring 12.5 carats of emeralds, this necklace is truly fit for a Queen. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of India’s Maharan Sita Devi and her Hindou Necklace with this exquisite Vintage Emerald and Diamond Necklace. Featuring 12.5 carats of emeralds, this necklace is truly fit for royalty. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


The Hindou Necklace, fashioned for Maharani Gayatri Devi (Sita Devi) features an astonishing 154.70 carats in Colombian emeralds. These emeralds belonged to the lavish treasury of the Crown Jewels of Baroda in India.

VC&A Designs the Hindou Necklace

In 1949, Sita Devi brought 13 pear-shaped Mughal emeralds, as well as a host of emerald beads and white diamonds, to the Maison of Van Cleef & Arpels (VC&A) in Paris.

The esteemed jewelers at Van Cleef & Arpels designed an elaborate fringe and panel necklace for the Maharani which took almost a year to complete. A series of paired lotus leaves paved in white diamonds, with emerald beads placed at their centers, comprises the main panel of the necklace.

A central lotus flower, fashioned from platinum and white diamonds, has at its center a carved cabochon emerald set in an open prong mounting with platinum claw-like prongs. Dangling from the bottom-most leaves and petals are the 13 cabochon emerald drops emerging from diamond-studded fluted caps.

Refashioning the Crown Jewels of Baroda

It was common practice during the mid-century for Indian rulers to commission prestigious European jewelry firms, such as Cartier and VC&A, to refashion their treasury jewels into more modern settings. This exciting fusion of East and West is still seen today in the most iconic pieces of the world’s most elite jewelry houses.

What was not common was for a ruler to take those jewels permanently out of India and transfer them into their Maharani’s name. Between 1943 and 1951, Maharani Gayatri Devi, known colloquially as the Indian Wallis Simpson, frequented her favorite jewelers, Van Cleef & Arpels. Within this short time period, she converted almost 300 Baroda treasury jewels into brand new settings, and transferred a number of them into her own name.

The Crown Jewels of Baroda in Monaco

Her husband, Maharajah Pratap Singh Gaekwar, relocated his second wife and their son, “Princie”, to Monaco in 1946. After purchasing a grand mansion in Monte Carlo, the Maharajah ordered the transfer of “cabin loads of the great treasures of Baroda state,” as writer K.R.N. Swamy puts it {4}. Listed as the eighth richest man in the world, and the second richest Indian prince, it’s not hard to imagine that his Maharani lived in vast splendor while in Monaco.

While the Maharajah was emperor of his lands, he was free to do with the Crown Jewels whatever he wished. However, in 1947, India was emancipated from British rule. As such, all Indian rulers including the Maharajah of Baroda, were expected to defer to the Indian Union.

The Lost Jewels of Baroda

It seems that this expectation did nothing to change the Maharajah’s perspective on ownership of the treasury. And it seemed that the Indian Union made very few demands that first year. However, after he and Sita Devi spent $10 million during a six-week tour of Europe and the United States, the emperors were subjected to a formal audit of the state’s finances.

With a famine in India, these claims were taken very seriously by Indian and British ministers of finance {1}. The legislature convicted the Maharajah of a misuse of finances and ordered a swift return of the money to the treasury {1}. In 1951, he was finally forced to sign over his rule of Baroda to the Indian Union.

He and the Maharani were expected to return all the items of the treasury, most importantly the jewelry. However, very few of them were actually returned. Those that did find their way back to Baroda had been transformed. The Hindou Necklace (also called the Lotus Necklace, or the Baroda Necklace) remained in the Maharani’s possession for nearly two decades following their exile from India.

Sita Devi Sells the Hindou Necklace

In 1956, Sita Devi divorced her husband and moved to Paris with their son. The Maharajah’s eldest son, born to his first wife in India, was given governance of the Baroda province. Maharajah Pratap Singh Gaekwar lived the remainder of his life in exile in London. He died in 1968.

Meanwhile, Maharani Sita Devi and her son continued to enjoy a life of luxury for the next several decades. Having grown accustomed to a life of luxury and fast living, she continued to wear her lavish jewels to cafe society parties and spend vast amounts of money.

By the early 1970s, Sita Devi was destitute. According to Vogue, in 1974, Sita Devi sold all of her jewels, including the Hindou Necklace, during an auction organized by the Crédit Mobilier of Monaco. The sale of her jewels brought a reported $4 million.

Since then, the Hindou Necklace has been to auction one more time, in 2002. In a description for Lot 417 in Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale on May 15, 2002, the necklace is described, with a matching pair of earrings, as “A Magnificent Emerald Drop and Diamond Necklace and Ear Pendants, by Van Cleef & Arpels” {Christie’s}. The matching pair were sold to a private collector for nearly $1.65 million.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. “Bakersfield California Details, The,” The Bakersfield California, August 12, 1948, p. 12.
  2. Christie’s. “A Magnificent Emerald Drop and Diamond Necklace and Ear Pendants, by Van Cleef & Arpels.” May 15, 2002.
  3. “Jewelry See: Legendary Jewelry Sales 1/9,” Vogue ParisAccessed March 14, 2015.
  4. Swamy, K.R.N. “The most flamboyant Maharani,” The Tribune, August 13, 2006.
  5. Swamy, K.R.N. “Yarn of the priceless pearl carpet that has vanished,” The Tribune, August 18, 2002.
  6. Van Cleef & Arpels. “The Set of the Maharani of Baroda.” Accessed March 14, 2015.