Jewelry History

Well written and referenced articles on Jewelry History.
  • The Key Features of Art Deco Engagement Rings

    Art Deco Engagement Rings Old Cut Diamond w/ Colored Accents Art Deco Engagement Rings never go out of style. This ring features an Old Euro Cut Diamond with Colored Accents. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Art Deco engagement rings continue capturing the eye of brides everywhere. From celebrities to models, from businesswomen to housewives, women from every walk of life are captivated by Art Deco style.

    This magnificent Art Deco engagement ring features an exquisite 1.68 carat old European cut central diamond. The diamond grades J in color and VVS2 in clarity. Its sparkle is breathtaking.

    Crafted of platinum, this antique ring features 14 single cut diamonds and 14 lab created blue sapphires set in amazing floral filigree. This ring epitomizes the key features of Art Deco engagement rings.


    The Art Deco Period

    Art Deco describes the design aesthetic of the period between 1920 and 1935. This design style emphasizes the marriage between art and modern industry.

    It represents a departure from natural lines and organic muses, such as flowers, fairies, and fauna. Instead, designers drew inspiration from modern inventions and archeological discoveries.

    Such inventions included the steamship, airplanes, steam engines, and automobiles. Archaeological discoveries included ancient Egyptian relics, as well as Central American and African tribal art motifs. In particular, these archaeological discoveries introduced an infatuation with geometric shapes for both gemstones and filigree designs.

    In addition, Art Deco artists found inspiration in Oriental artwork, as well as in Cubism and Fauvism. These artistic approaches further encouraged the use of geometric lines and designs.


    Art Deco Engagement Rings

    Drawing upon these same influences, jewelry designers fashioned numerous Art Deco engagement rings in keeping with these aesthetic principles. In the medium of metals and gemstones, a few key characteristics stand out for engagement rings made during this period.

    Platinum and white gold, platinum in particular, proved itself superior to yellow gold for Art Deco jewelry. For one thing, it is stronger than yellow gold. The intricacies of filigree and other delicate metalwork held up better in platinum. Platinum withstood the impact of daily wear better than yellow gold with these delicate designs.

    In addition, a new supply of platinum, discovered in South Africa in 1924, allowed jewelers to continue feeding the demand for platinum jewelry. For centuries, royals around the world preferred the contrast of white metals and diamonds to the warmer yellow gold.

    Of course, yellow gold found favor in some royal courts. However, by Edwardian times, platinum was the metal of choice. It remained so for many more years following.

    Today, platinum continues to shine as the metal of choice for many brides. This is not surprising, as not only does platinum retain its beauty and shine day after day, but it is lightweight and extremely durable.

    Perhaps you are in the market for an Art Deco engagement ring. If so, we offer a few pointers for ensuring that your engagement ring is an authentic antique from the 1920s or 1930s.


    Tips for Choosing Art Deco Engagement Rings

    1. True Art Deco engagement rings are fashioned from platinum or white gold.
    2. In its natural state, white gold from the 1920s appears grayish, as opposed to yellowish in tone.
    3. Art Deco settings include intricate filigree and other designs etched directly into the metal.
    4. Designs will be geometric with symmetry and clean lines.
    5. Central stones are primarily diamonds cut in Old Euro, cushion, Asscher, or transitional cuts.
    6. Many designs include smaller colored gemstones, primarily blue sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
    7. These smaller gemstones may be synthetic without detracting from the value. This is the only period in which synthetic accent stones are fairly equal in value to their natural counterparts.
    8. Accent stones are cut in specialized geometric shapes, particularly calibre-cut, baguette, trapeze, half moon, and triangular.
    9. Jewelers often set accent stones in channels so they would essentially sit right next to each other, creating a seamless, mosaic design aesthetic.
    10. In this fashion, gemstones created the outlines and contrast for beautiful and intricate geometric designs.
    11. Certain semi-precious stones grew in popularity during the Art Deco period, including black onyx, coral, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and jade.
    12. Art Deco motifs included Egyptian symbols, lotus blossoms, Mughal carvings, Chinese dragons, Parisian arabesques, and more.

    If you desire more help in choosing an Art Deco engagement ring, we welcome you to visit our Bellevue showroom. Just give us a call to make an appointment.

  • History + Characteristics of Palladium

    1930's Art Deco Old Euro Cut Diamond Engagement Ring Palladium 1930's Art Deco Palladium Engagement Ring. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Palladium is a noble metal in the same family as platinum. Though it was discovered in 1802, by the chemist William Hyde Wollaston, he did not take credit for the discovery until several years later.


    Palladium History

    In July 1802, Wollaston made note of his discovery in his journal. The following month, he named the metal after the asteroid Pallas which was discovered in March that year.

    Wollaston's discovery began with crude platinum unearthed in South America. Upon arriving at his lab, Wollaston dissolved the ore in aqua regia, following which he neutralized the solution with sodium hydroxide.

    He continued the process of separating the different metals within the ore. Finally, he added mercuric cyanide to form palladium cyanide. When heated, pure palladium separates completely.

    Surprisingly, Wollaston introduced this new metal in a strange way. He made arrangements with a London mineral dealer to offer a quantity of the metal for sale. To advertise the metal, Wollaston circulated anonymous handbills describing the metals unique properties.

    This unprecedented approach brought suspicion from other prominent chemists. One, Richard Chenevix, proclaimed the metal to be an alloy of platinum and mercury.

    Once again choosing to remain anonymous, Wollaston offered a reward of 20 guineas to anyone who could produce synthetic palladium. No one came forward to claim the reward.

    Finally, in 1805, Wollaston spoke about the process of isolating the noble metal, as well as illuminating its unique properties. He saved his big reveal for the end of his presentation, surprising everyone with the news that he was the anonymous discoverer of the metal.


    Palladium Sources and Uses

    Generally this noble metal forms in the same zones as nickel, copper, silver, gold, and platinum. Considered a byproduct of these metals, it's actually rarer even than its cousin platinum.

    The most abundant source throughout history has been Russia. However, it is also found in Montana (USA), Ontario (Canada), South Africa, South America, and Australia. Today, Canada and South Africa provide most of the commercial-grade palladium.

    Obviously, its used as an alloy for making fine jewelry. However, its primary commercial application is the manufacture of catalytic converters. In fact, as palladium grows scarcer, recycling will emerge as a primary source for all uses.

    As the price of gold and platinum rise, and as the availability of platinum declines, palladium has experienced a revival in Chinese jewelry in particular. A lustrous white metal, it holds up beautifully under the rigors of daily wear.

    In recent years, palladium received its status as a precious metal. In 2009, the industry agreed upon a new hallmark for it. Stamped with the number 950, the hallmark bears the head of Pallas Athena to distinguish it from platinum.

    We would love to show you our selection of palladium jewelry. Please give us a call to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.

  • Sotheby's Presents Jewels from the Royal Bourbon Parma Family

    Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl - Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family Queen Marie Antoinette's Pearl. An important offering in the Sotheby's auction of Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family. Photo courtesy Sotheby's.


    On November 12th, Sotheby’s Geneva proudly presents one of the most important royal jewelry collections ever to come to auction, the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family.


    The Bourbon Parma Family

    Descendants of King Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperors, as well as Pope Paul III, the Bourbon Parma family extends back to nearly every important ruling family in Europe.

    The illustrious lineage includes Kings and Queens of France and Spain, Emperors of Austria, and of course the Dukes of Parma (Italy). In particular, this collection hails from notables such as Queen Marie Antoinette and King Charles X of France.

    Queen Marie Antoinette’s Pendant

    Pictured above is Lot 100 from the Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family. The exquisite royal pendant features a slightly baroque natural pearl which measures an astonishing 15.90 x 18.35 x 25.85mm. To put this into perspective, the pearl is nearly the size of the tip of an adult’s thumb.

    The pearl hangs suspended from a single oval diamond by a diamond-studded bow motif. At one time, Marie Antoinette wore this pendant suspended from her three-string pearl necklace. At that time, the pearl and bow formed the pendant, while the single oval diamond served as the clasp for that same necklace.


    A Royal Provenance

    According to Sotheby’s, an account written by Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting describes a night at Tuileries Castle in March 1791. Preparing to flee the country, Marie Antoinette packed her collection of jewels, including all her pearls, in cotton and tucked them safely in a wooden chest.

    She arranged for the chest to depart for Brussels. A trusted advisor, Count Mercy Argentou, received the chest and sent it on to Vienna to Marie Antoinette’s nephew, the Austrian emperor.

    As we already know, Marie Antoinette did not make it safely out of France. She, her husband, and her children were taken prisoner instead.

    The following year, in 1793, Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI, were executed by guillotine. Their son died while imprisoned. Their daughter, Marie-Therese remained in captivity in the Temple Tower.

    The Tower, once a medieval fortress built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, held Marie-Therese captive for three years.

    During her captivity, the princess knew about her father's execution, but remained unaware of the fate of the rest of her family. She lived alone in the tower, asking over and over to see her mother. On the wall of her room, she supposedly wrote:

    “Marie-Thérèse Charlotte is the most unhappy person in the world. She can obtain no news of her mother; nor be reunited to her, though she has asked it a thousand times. Live, my good mother! whom I love well, but of whom I can hear no tidings. O my father! watch over me from Heaven above. O my God! forgive those who have made my parents suffer.”


    Marie-Therese's Liberation

    On the eve of her 17th birthday, Marie-Therese was finally liberated, exchanged for six French prisoners. She traveled t to the home of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, in Vienna. After many years of moving from country to country, and after marrying her cousin Louis-Antoine, and after becoming a widow, she finally settled in Vienna.

    At some point, she was given the chest of jewels her mother secreted out of France. Upon her death, Marie-Therese bequeathed the jewels to her daughter, Marie Louise.

    Marie Louise, second wife to Napoleon Bonaparte, kept the jewels safely in her family’s treasury throughout the tumultuous reign of her husband. Finally, after 200 years, the jewels reach the public eye once again, by way of her direct ancestors, the Bourbon Parma family of Italy.

    The auction begins on November 12, 2018. For more information, visit Sotheby's website.

  • History + Characteristics of Paraiba Tourmaline

    GIA Certified 6 Carat Paraiba Tourmaline Ring

    GIA Certified 6 Carat Paraiba Tourmaline Ring. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    This exquisite ring is set cathedral style in platinum and features a gorgeous paraiba tourmaline. A halo of diamonds surrounds the electric blue stone. The cathedral and shoulders feature accent diamonds, as well.

    The stone features a cut cornered rectangular mixed cut gemstone. The GIA certified stone is a Paraiba tourmaline weighing 6 carats.


    History of Paraiba Tourmaline

    First discovered in the 1980s, paraiba tourmaline is primarily associated with the State of Paraiba in Brazil. For many years Hector Dimas Barbosa followed a hunch. Digging hole after hole in the hills of Paraiba, he knew he would eventually find something different.

    Eight years later, friends of his unearthed a handful of exquisite tourmalines in shades never before seen. Unfortunately, Barbosa missed the discovery.

    He stayed home that day, recovering from an illness. Though he certainly lamented missing the first glimpses, he no doubt swelled with pride at the news. He never gave up, and he found what he was looking for even though no one else had ever seen it before.


    Paraiaba Tourmaline Sources

    For a time, paraiba tourmaline was found only in the State of Paraiba. That vein lasted about five years before the stampede of excavators depleted the hills of the gorgeous gemstone.

    At some time, shortly after Barbosa’s discovery, miners discovered a cache of similar tourmaline in Rio Grande do Norte, a Brazilian state adjacent to Paraiba. Eventually, these unique tourmalines showed up in a few other places, including Mozambique and Nigeria.

    Geologists propose that these discoveries in these seemingly distant places is not surprising. Much evidence exists that at one time South America and Africa belonged to the same continent.


    The Unique Properties of Paraiba Tourmaline

    That being said, certain but subtle differences exist between the tourmaline found in Brazil and the tourmaline found in Africa. Nonetheless, the industry calls all of it paraiba tourmaline.

    The classification results from the significant unique properties that separate paraiba tourmaline from other tourmaline species. The most significant difference is the color.

    Most species of tourmaline come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, violet, blue, yellowish green, green, and more. Paraiba tourmaline also comes in hues of green, blue, and violet. However, the saturation of color in paraiba is second to none. In fact, most paraiba tourmaline appears to glow from within, radiating in almost neon green, blue, and violet.

    The chemical component responsible for this almost unworldly color saturation is copper, sometimes paired with manganese. Paraiba tourmaline is the only tourmaline with copper intrusion in the crystal structure.

    Copper is responsible for the startling blues and greens, while copper with manganese causes violet and reddish tones. The higher the concentration of copper intrusion, the more vivid the colors paraiba radiates.


    A Classification Debate

    With the influx of paraiba from Africa, experts continue debating over the classification of copper tourmalines. Some feel that the name paraiba should remain exclusive to those from the eponymous state in Brazil.

    Others, however, argue that all copper tourmalines should be called paraiba. These experts base their position primarily on the fact the chemistry of the stones from all locations is essentially identical.

    Furthermore, although the tectonic plates shifted away from each other millions of years ago, the veins in Africa and Brazil are likely one and the same.

    In February of 2006, at the International Gemstone Industry Laboratory Conference, industry leaders declared paraiba tourmaline as a label for copper tourmaline varieties, regardless of origin. A couple months later, the International Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee agreed to accept this new definition of terms.

    Hence, most international gemological laboratories label all copper-bearing tourmaline as paraiba, regardless of whether it came from Brazil or Africa. While some frown upon this adoption, for the most part the industry celebrates the influx of more of this scintillating tourmaline variety.

  • History of the Fantasy Cut

    Fantasy Cut Aquamarine & Diamond Pendant by Anthony Gerard

    Fantasy Cut Aquamarine pendant with diamonds and yellow gold. By Bernd Munsteiner. Click here for details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    Magnificence is the perfect word for Fantasy Cut gemstones. This spectacular 11.30 carat aquamarine was hand cut by the father of the Fantasy Cut, Bernd Munsteiner.


    Bernd Munsteiner

    Raised in the gemcutting capital of the world, Idar-Oberstein, Bernd Munsteiner learned the intricate techniques and time-honored principles of faceting gemstones. However, at a time when tradition came under fire in every other aspect of life, Munsteiner turned the traditions of gemcutting on their head.

    Rather than polishing away the natural rough or cutting along standard lines and forms, Munsteiner looked at stones in a completely different way. Instead of maximizing carat weight and cutting along ideal patterns, he played with the light and made his cuts on the backside of his gems.

    These negative cuts, sometimes deep slices into the gemstone, opened up a whole new world of light play within the stones. His geometric wonders transcended the boundaries of fine jewelry, catapulting his new cuts into the realm of sculpture and art.


    The Fantasy Cut Receives Mixed Reviews

    At first, Munsteiner's Free Cuts met with disdain in the industry. This did not prevent some of his fellow artisans from learning the techniques he devised. Dieter Lorenz, John Dyer, Michael Dyber, and others followed in Munsteiner's footsteps.

    Of course, the establishment rejected this new approach to gemcutting, the first new technique to emerge since the Middle Ages. However, the trade publications chose to include these emerging artists and their jewelry in their pages. Circulating internationally, these trade journals launched the Fantasy Cut into popular demand.  Today, these exquisite works of art have been purchased by collectors, dealers, jewelers, and even museums.

  • The Lab-Created Ruby on The Jeweler's Bench


    Lab-Created Ruby Cocktail Ring by Tenthio This gorgeous Tenthio cocktail ring features a striking oval-cut lab-created ruby. It also features natural and synthetic diamond accent stones. Click here for more details. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


    This designer cocktail ring, featuring a gorgeous lab-created ruby, resembles a budding flower. Golden petals trimmed in natural and lab-created diamonds nestle against each other to form a tight bud. Embedded in their midst is a 1.3 carat created ruby.


    Synthetic vs. Lab-Created Ruby

    Synthetic rubies are chemically discrete from natural rubies. They are most often made out of glass, but can also be made from resin, plastic, ceramic, or other materials. Rarely will you see an imitation ruby at a fine jewelry store, unless it is incorporated as an original part of an antique. A reputable jeweler labels all imitation rubies as such, using terms like imitation, synthetic, or glass.

    A lab-created ruby, on the other hand, is chemically identical to a natural ruby mined from the earth. It has the same chemical, optical, and physical properties of a natural ruby. As long as they are properly labeled, lab-crated rubies are definitely a purchase worth considering.

    As their name implies, created rubies grow in a laboratory setting. Today, gemstone chemists continue to use the historical flame fusion process discovered in the late 1800s by Auguste-Victor-Louis Verneuil.


    History of the Lab-Created Ruby

    Scientists first attempted to create rubies in the early 1800s. Rubies proved rare, and when found they rarely exceeded 3 carats in size. Industry demanded a greater supply, particularly as microabrasives and for jeweled watch bearings.

    The French chemist, Edmond Fremy, reached success first with his huge fireclay crucibles. A mixture of alum, red lead, silica, and potassium dichromate reached temperatures referred to as "red heat" in these crucibles. When held at this high temperature for 20 days, the result yielded small, brittle, but perfectly formed rubies identical to naturally mined rubies.

    Verneuil, who began as Fremy's lab assistant, carried on with the crucible experiments, eventually forming created rubies the size of a nail head. While one jeweler successfully mounted a few of these created rubies into a brooch, and others used them in watches, their small size rendered their use limited in the jewelry industry.

    Eventually, Verneuil discovered Geneva rubies. In 1885, an influx of large jewel-grade rubies hit the market. These rubies appeared to be high-quality stones of rare large carat size. They sold for thousands of dollars per carat.

    However, under microscopic scrutiny, these rubies contained minute opaque spheres, gas bubbles which formed during some sort of melting or fusion process. The French Syndicate for Diamonds and Precious Stones declared them "artificial." They forbid jewelers from selling them as natural and forced those who had already sold them to refund their customers' money. The source of these Geneva rubies remains a mystery to this day.


    Flame Fusion

    While the Geneva rubies caused a fuss for many jewelers, Verneuil studied these manufactured gemstones, looking for a new approach to creating rubies. Using a hydrogen-oxygen or gas-oxygen mixture, Verneuil began using blowtorches to apply flame heat directly to a ruby "feed" made from aluminum oxide.

    Over the next 15 years, Verneuil continued to perfect his technique, creating several means for controlling flow of the feed and gas mixtures, as well as timing for removing the heat. Finally, in 1902, he published his perfected flame fusion method for creating rubies. This method remains the favored method for creating rubies, as I mentioned before.

    In two hours, a lab assistant created a 15-carat boule which could be cut into several faceted rubies. A flame fusion-created ruby possessed identical chemical and optical properties as a natural ruby. The only differences were physical, visible only at the microscopic level. Indeed, they were almost too perfect, lacking the usual inclusions of their natural cousins.


    Benefits of Lab-Created Rubies

    Lab-created rubies offer the jewelry connoisseur several benefits. For one, they come at a lower price point than natural rubies. Yet, they radiate with gorgeous color and beautiful shine in the same way as natural rubies.

    As such, lab-created rubies are the perfect choice for traveling. Travelers often leave their authentic jewels at home, locked away in their safe, while out of the country. But perhaps you wish to travel in style. In that case, we urge you to travel with your lab-created ruby jewelry. That way, you can shimmer and shine as usual without as much fear of loss.

    Finally, creating rubies in a lab leaves a smaller carbon footprint. Manufacturing rubies in a lab uses far less natural and manmade resources than mining rubies does.

    Here at EraGem, we have a handful of lab-created ruby (and other sapphire) jewels we would love to show you. We welcome your call and look forward to hosting you in our showroom very soon.

  • Paulette Goddard's Diamond Fringe Necklace

    Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film 'Dramatic School' (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain. Paulette Goddard (left) sits with Louise Rainer on set for the film 'Dramatic School' (1938). Ms. Goddard appears to be wearing her diamond fringe necklace in the shoot. Photo in public domain.


    Paulette Goddard owned one of the most delectable diamond fringe necklaces of all time. Most certainly, it was the most notable in her vast collection of jewelry. Ms. Goddard, once married to Charlie Chaplin, became one of the most celebrated jewelry collectors of the 1930s and 1940s.

    She is most famous for carting around her favorite pieces in a jewelry box which she carried to all of her movie sets. She showed them off to the production crew in between takes. Like many actresses in those days, she wore most of her own jewels in the movies in which she starred.

    This particular necklace was fashioned by the prestigious firm of Trabert & Hoeffer-Mauboussin. It is set in platinum with myriad white diamonds in all shapes and sizes. It has rounds, pendaloques, marquise, and emerald-cut diamonds, and separates into two pieces, allowing the wearer to don a portion of it as a bracelet.

    The bracelet piece is comprise of a central marquise-cut diamond centered between a set of five graduated round brilliants on one side and six on the other. The bracelet terminates on either side with three fluted flourishes paved in white diamonds, four of them iced in round brilliants and two of them in baguettes.

    Overall, the piece is blindingly beautiful. One source reports that it is comprised of 46 emerald-cut diamonds and 60 other diamonds amounting to 29 carats in accent stones {cited}.

    The same website reports that after her death on April 23, 1990, Paulette Goddard bequeathed nearly all of her assets, including her jewelry, to New York University. The estimated value of her estate at the time of her death was $20 million.

    Her jewelry and art collections were sold through Sotheby's in New York, and the estimate for Ms. Goddard's diamond fringe necklace was set at over $175,000. I'm sure it brought in far more than that, though I have not been able to secure the final bidding price for the piece, as yet.

    Ms. Goddard claims that she never once purchased a piece of her extensive jewelry collection for herself. Every gem was given to her by a friend or lover. Her list of paramours includes the aforementioned Charlie Chaplin, as well as Burgess Meredith and Erich Remarque (the famed writer of All Quiet on the Western Front, who also had a longstanding love affair with Marlene Dietrich).

    In addition to her endowment to New York University, Ms. Goddard made many contributions to the university while she was still living. The New York Times, reported in 1990  that after Erich Remarque passed away in 1970, she gave his personal library, all his manuscripts, and his diaries to the institution.

    For the last twelve years of her life, Ms. Goddard awarded 300 theater and film students $3 million dollars in scholarships to attend the university's Tisch School of the Arts.

    Her vast collection of fine art was counted as part of her $20 million estate, though she had already sold $2.9 million of Impressionist art in 1979. To her dying day, Paulette Goddard was dedicated to theater and film, and to the arts.

    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews

  • Cleopatra's Pearl Earrings

    Ruud Kahle Mabe Pearl and Pink Tourmaline Earrings


    Cleopatra's pearl earrings are credited as the first mention of pearl jewelry in the pages of history {1}. Many a woman has grown bored with power and has resorted to flirtatious bantering with the men in her company.

    This was oh so true for Cleopatra, one of the most powerful women in Egyptian history. She is said to have won the heart of Marc Antony, and he hers. Though their tale is tragic in its ending, it is lively in its beginnings.

    Their courtship began with a series of pranks. These pranks began with the two in cahoots together. They would roam the streets of Alexandria in disguise, he as a slave and she as a maid {2}. They would eavesdrop outside windows, and sometimes even fall into a brawl in the street, probably over the pretty maiden.

    In subsequent days, they played pranks on each other. On a fishing trip, Marc Antony rigged his lines with an abundance of fish. Having caught on to his antics, Cleopatra arranged for a counter-prank. On their next trip, Marc Antony pulled out of the waters a smoked fish hooked on his line {3}.

    Upping the ante, the two arranged a little bet. Marc Antony organized an outrageous banquet the likes of which had never been seen before. He bet her that his cost more than any banquet she could throw in return {4}.

    She countered his wager, betting that she could throw a feast which would cost her 60,000 pounds of gold. She began the feast in a humble fashion. Near the end, Marc Antony was sure he had won the bet. However, Cleopatra had one last surprise up her sleeve.

    "I will now consume on my own the equivalent of 60,000 pounds of gold," she said placidly.

    Upon making this statement she received at hand, from the tray of her slave, a golden goblet filled with vinegar. Holding it in one hand, she lifted her other hand to her ear and removed one of her pearl earrings, easily worth 30,000 pounds of gold.

    These earrings were rumored to be among the most delectable, most expensive pearls of their kind. Each earring was fashioned of one large pear-shaped pearl, and the pair was given to Cleopatra by the kings of the East {5}.

    She dropped the pearl earring into the goblet, savoring the look of astonishment on Marc Antony's face as she waited for the vinegar to dissolve the pearl.

    Then, she swallowed the contents of the cup, prepared to drop her other pearl into a second cup. It is noted that at this point, the judge of the wager declared Cleopatra the winner, thus sparing the second earring from its demise {6}.

    History dictates that the single famed pearl earring was later sliced in two in Rome and made into earrings for a statue of Venus in the Pantheon {7}.


    1. Rosenthal, Leonard. The Kingdom of the Pearl, London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1919, p. 85.
    2. Jones, Prudence J. Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh, Haus Publishing, 2006, p. 72.
    3. Ibid., p. 72.
    4. Ibid., p. 73.
    5. Rosenthal, p. 85.
    6. Jones, p. 73.
    7. Ibid.
  • The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond

    The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is one of the largest Fancy Brown Diamonds in the world. This Fancy Brown Diamond Brooch demonstrates the rich beauty of brown diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry. The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is one of the largest Fancy Brown Diamonds in the world. This Fancy Brown Diamond Brooch demonstrates the rich beauty of brown diamonds. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.


    The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond is a stunning 104.16-carat Fancy Brown diamond cut in a pear shape. In its rough form, discovered in 1963 in South Africa, it weighed an astonishing 198.28 carats. It was purchased that same year by prominent New York jewelry designer, Julius Cohen.

    Julius Cohen began working in the diamond business as a teen in 1929 {HAG}. For thirteen years he apprenticed with his uncles at Oscar Heyman Brothers {3}. After learning techniques in the manufacture and sale of diamonds and gemstones, he left Oscar Heyman to work for Harry Winston. He oversaw the "Court of Jewels," exhibition for Harry Winston, touring around the world with the illustrious stones in Mr. Winston's treasury {11}.

    In 1956, Julius Cohen launched his own in New York City. His was a singular approach to client services. Though he opened a salon and workshop on East 53rd, and later on Madison Avenue, Mr. Cohen primarily serviced his clients in the privacy of their own homes. In 1963, Mr. Cohen purchased the rough diamond, which was a rich honey color in its most natural state.

    He brought it to S. & M. Kaufman, who cut it into a pear shape with 189 facets. The cutting process revealed the rich browns now associated with the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond.

    I am on the hunt for information about S. & M. Kaufman. I have found several references to an S. M. Kaufman, who was a registered buyer in the Jeweler's Review in 1899 and in the Crockery and Glass Journal in 1922.

    There is also a company called S & M Kaufman registered in New York as jewelers; however, merchant directory listings claim the company was founded in 1980. New York also hosts Allison-Kaufman, which was established in 1920. I am waiting for return calls from the owners to help establish which, if any, of these firms fashioned the beautiful Chrysanthemum Diamond. When I hear back, I will update this article.

    After the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond was cut, it was mounted as the central pendant for a stunning diamond necklace designed by Julius Cohen. This necklace features 410 oval and marquise-shaped white diamonds {2}. This rich golden brown diamond pendant dazzles the eye with overtones of sienna and burnt orange, colors so reminiscent of the gorgeous blooms of chrysanthemum that they inspired its name {2}.

    In 1965, the Great Chrysanthemum was exhibited in the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show {1}. It was included in a lavish diamond display sponsored by Newton Pfeffer. The entirety of this display, valued at upwards of $2 million, was said to have been taken by armored car to a nearby vault every night during the show  {1}.

    On a date not specified, Julius Cohen sold the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond to a private collector {10}. The diamond was also exhibited in 1971 at the Kimberley Centenary Exhibition and in 1977 at the Diamond Pavilion in Johannesburg {2}. At some point after this show, the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond became part of the collection of the esteemed British Court jewelers Garrard's of London {Khuri}.

    In 2007, Garrard's opened their United States flagship store in Beverly Hills, California. Visitors to Rodeo Drive had the supreme privilege of viewing the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond on display that summer {9}.

    Garrard's describes themselves as the oldest jewelry house in the world, having serviced the royal family of Great Britain since 1735. According to a singular website dedicated to the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond, Garrard's no longer owns the diamond.

    I have been able to verify that Garrard's no longer owns any stores in the US, though I have not received a reply from them as to whether they currently own the diamond. Their Rodeo Drive location is now occupied by esteemed jewelry designer Stephen Webster. The writers of the diamond's website claim that the original private collector reacquired the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond and maintains ownership to date {6}.


    1. Anonymous. "Mineralogical Record, suppl. 50-Year History of the Tucson Show," Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, 2004, pp. 32-34.
    2. Balfour, Ian. Famous Diamonds. London: Christie's, 2000.
    3. Burgum, Jill and Becky Dirtling and Andrea Rubenkoenig, eds. Exquisite Jewelry & Timepices. Texas: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2006.
    4. Garrard Brochure, 2013-2014.
    5. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "A Mysterious Enigma." Accessed March 2015.
    6. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "An Amazing and Significant Piece of History." Accessed March 2015.
    7. Great Chrysanthemum, The. "Mystery of the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond." Accessed March 2015.
    8. Julius Cohen. "About Our Founder." Accessed March 2015.
    9. Khuri, Elizabeth. "Shopping; The List; Blanche DuBois Fantasy," Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2007, p. 11.
    10. Leibish. "The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond," Leibish Blog, November 13, 2011.
    11. Saxon, Wolfgang. "Julius Cohen, 81; Jewelry Designer Who Won Awards," The New York Times Obituaries, July 19, 1995.
    12. Thomspon, Ryan. "The Great Chrysanthemum," Famous Diamonds website. Accessed March 2015.

    *I offer my gratitude to Peggy Tsiamis from the GIA library for her help in confirming many of the details about the early history of the Great Chrysanthemum Diamond.

  • The Koi Diamond

    The Koi Diamond The Koi Diamond is a unique multi-colored orange and white diamond weighing 32 carats. It has been cut in a pear shape to resemble the Japanese Koi fish and carries with it the symbolism of prosperity and perseverance associated with the beautiful water creatures.


    The Koi Diamond offers a perfect impression of the illustrious oriental Koi fish. According to Phil Butler, this glorious 32-carat, pear-shaped diamond holds within its unique structure the legend of the Koi fish.

    Originally, Koi fish are believed to have descended from one Chinese black carp given to Confucius by King Shoko of Ro {4}. Legend has it that the Chinese people raised them for food and passed this knowledge on to the Japanese {4}. The Japanese began breeding them and discovered that subsequent generations exhibited a gene mutation that resulted in a wide array of glorious colors {4}.

    As these beautiful fish were also particularly friendly, the Japanese soon began breeding them as pets. Legends have since arisen surrounding the Koi, and the fish became a popular motif in Japanese art. One legend in particular seems to embody the Koi best.

    It is written that a large school of Koi fish, glittering like jewels just beneath the surface of the Yellow River, once captured the imagination of surrounding villagers. According to legend, these Koi fish fought hard against the current, making it all the way to a large waterfall.

    Most of the fish, exhausted from their travels, turned away in defeat against the relentless roar of the falls. However, a fair number (360 by several accounts) persisted in their efforts. They made a valiant attempt to scale the length of the waterfall, though they failed to make much progress.

    A group of demons is said to have taken notice of the valiant struggle of these Koi fish. Celebrating an opportunity to wreak havoc, they are said to have added height to the waterfall, ensuring failure for these determined but exhausted fish. Over time, the fish grew weary, and many of them gave up. In the end, only one fish continued to persist and finally began making steady progress.

    He is said to have stayed with his task for 100 years, and at the end of his trial he made one last gigantic leap and crested the top of the waterfall. In celebration of his triumph, the gods granted the Koi transformation. He became a golden dragon who now spends his days "chasing pearls of wisdom across the skies" {6}.

    Today Koi fish represent the strength to overcome. They are a reminder to persevere in the face of great trials, and they have become an auspicious sign of good fortune and wealth.

    Like the Koi fish of legends, the Koi Diamond defied all the odds and has become in itself a representation of the possibilities that await all of us. In the early 2000s, this diamond was discovered in the Republic of Congo {3}. Because of its many inclusions and its odd coloration, it was slated for industrial use.

    However, at the last minute an artist, a diamond cutter who has chosen to remain anonymous, saw within the diamond a "glimmer of something special," as Phil Butler so eloquently wrote in 2013 {3}. He was given an opportunity to coax his vision out of the stone.

    His vision: a Japanese Koi fish. The coloring was perfect, and he shaped it brilliantly so that now it evokes the very essence the Koi are endowed with. What that diamond cutter did for this spectacular diamond has earned it a hallowed place in the diamond vaults of Antwerp.

    In its finished state, the Koi Diamond weighs an astonishing 32 carats. It is a pear shape with colored splotches of white, orange, light yellow, dark blue, and black {3}. These variations in color render this stone as exotic and beautiful as the Koi fish for which it has been named.

    It was graded for the GIA by colored diamond specialist, Eddy Elzas, who described his opportunity to classify this unique and special diamond as one of the most momentous in his life {3}. Phil Butler, who spoke to Mr. Elzas directly, wrote that the diamond specialist "marveled at just how this famous cutter...even visualized the Koi at the time" in what once was 60 carats of highly included rough {3}.

    As of 2013, the spectacular Koi Diamond belonged to Rawstone Business Holding, a precious commodities trading company with connections in Antwerp, Luxembourg, Shanghai, and Tel Aviv. When it is not on display, it resides in a secured vault in Antwerp.
    ~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


    1. Anonymous. "Inspired By Legend, Born of Passion, The Koi Becomes A Diamond," Luxurious Magazine, May 15, 203.
    2. Butler, Phil. "Born of Fairytale, 32-Carat Koi Diamond Becomes Legend," Argophilia Travel, May 10, 2013.
    3. Butler, Phil. "Sparkling Koi Diamond, the ultimate embodiment of Japanese legend and tradition," Japan Today, May 19, 2013.
    4. Carty, Sue Lynn. "What Do Koi Fish Symbolize?" LoveToKnow.comAccessed April 2015.
    5. Koi, Kenneth. "Koi Fish Meaning and Myth," Koi History, November 18, 2013.
    6. Koiponder. "How Koi Become Dragons," Experience Project, July 29, 2009.
    7. Rawstone Business. "About." Accessed April 2015.

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