Book Reviews: Kapur on J. B. Tavernier, Hughes on Ruby/Sapphire, Yavvorskky on Garnet

Jean Baptiste Tavernier, A Life:  KAPURIMAGE

Harish Kapur’s reasonably well written short biography of Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the 17th Century gem dealer who  the Hope Diamond has quite a bit to recommend it.  He covers the important parts of Tavernier’s life, travels and writing.  I am particularly taken by his ability to extract from the minutia of Tavernier’s long life, some of the more salient points.    

Unfortunately, the narrative is marred by a number of factual errors.  The most egregious, perhaps resulting from an injudicious use of MSWord’s find/replace shortcut the word “diamond” in the last two thirds of the manuscript has been replaced by “pearl.”  For the uninformed reader, this results in a number of misstatements about Tavernier’s objectives and focus as well as a several absurd statements concerning the “mining” of pearls and the “pearl mines” of India.   A photo of a drawing from Tavernier’s Six Voyages, of a diamond that became known as The Mirror of Portugal is ludicrisly mis-labeled “The Sara Pearl.”

The author also somehow misquotes Tavernier’s assertion that he traveled 60,000 leagues which becomes 600,000 leagues.  At three miles to the league that leads to the ridiculous assertion that Tavernier traveled not 180,000 (an amazing accomplishment in the 17th Century) but 1.8 million miles, which would have required 72 circumnavigations of the earth.  

Kapur also quotes an unfortunate statement made by New York Times reporter Guy Trebay (1/6/10) suggesting that Tavernier may have been involved in the acquisition of the Wittelesbach-Graff Diamond.  Though the diamond is first mentioned in 1677, while Tavernier was STILL in India completing his sixth and final voyage, there is absolutely no documentation supporting this theory.  Tavernier did mention several gems he successfully acquired and though he does not actually mention the 116 carat Tavernier Blue, the gem that eventually became the Hope, he did include a drawing of it in his book, The Six Voyages.

On the plus side, the book includes several appendices containing documents never before available to the English speaking reader and his research raises a number of intriguing theories regarding Tavernier’s motivations, travels, life and death.  Unfortunately, his sloppy copy editing may lead frustrated readers to disregard most of the  author’s conclusions.

Last, and certainly not least, in the bibliography, which includes my partly fictionalized biography of Tavernier, The French Blue, the author confuses me with someone named Robert.

 


Ruby & Sapphire, A Collector's Guide

In this general reference which can be looked upon as an update and supplement to his classic Ruby and Sapphire, Hughes, as usual, offers a uniquely personal insight into the world of corundum.

 

HughesUpdate His ability to blendup to date information with arcane references is a delight.  This volume together with his previous opus make the best general reference on ruby & sapphire published to date though I do wish Hughes had come up with a title that was not so similar to his first book.

HughesCollectorBook

As a bibliophile, I was particularly taken by his section on books and gem libraries.  Despite the fact that I have written and read extensively in the field and own a voluminous library, Hughes always seems to come up with obscure sources which send me scrambling back to that library to search for the odd passage and just as often to online sellers of rare books.

The photography appears to be a Hughes family project with contributions from his wife Wimon Manorotkul and his daughter E. Billie Hughes.  They are a truly formidable trio.   The images are uniformly beautifully composed, at times dramatic and always provacative. 

Never dry, Hughes offers a lively, if somewhat self-conscious and definitely idiosycratic narrative that is rarely off-putting and never dull.

If you missed the first volume here is an opportunity and if you didn't this book will complete the set.  Ruby & Sapphire, The Collector's Guide, published by The Gemmological Institute of Thailand (GIT), is not readily available in the U. S. Still, given its quality and the limited print run and the money saved by direct marketing, it is well worth paying the high shipping costs to get the book sent directly from the author.   

 

 

Terra Garnet: 

TGcoverWTo round out the year's splendid offerings, Vladislav Yavvorskky has brought forth his second book in his Terra series, Terra Garnet.  Like its predecessor, Terra Spinel (now out of print), this georgeous volume is sumptuously produced with fabulous images of some of the finest garnets on earth.   

VYportraitW

Vladislav Yavorskky

The accompanying text is written by Richard W. Hughes and Jonas Hjornered.  If the reader is seeking an in depth gemological analysis or history of garnet as a gemstone it won't be found here.  Other than brief introductions to garnet and a bit on producing countries, the commentary consists of short captions.  This book is all about the pictures and what pictures they are.  

Yavorskky is a talented photographer and Terra Garnet puts this talent on display. His photographs of gem mining and producing areas capture the essence of these often remote areas and will give the reader a real taste of the hard life of those who seek out precious gems.  

In these photographs, taken over twenty years, Yavorskky often juxtaposes the cut stone against the original rough material, visually initiating the reader in the awe inspiring metamorphosis that takes place as these beaufiful products of nature are transformed by the hand of man.  In the past decade, color printing technology has taken a great leap forward and this book showcases the best of it.  

One caveat: I have been adminring Vlad Yavorskky's gemstones for many years and though they are beautiful in person, many of these shots appear overproduced and likely to establish an unrealistic paradigm in the mind of the unintiated consumer.

Like Hughes' book, Terra Garnet is not available through standard channels.  This turns out to be a good thing, The book is so beautifully and expensively produced that its price would be substantially more if it was.  The reader as advised to act quickly.  Terra Garnet is available direct from the publisher


 

 

 

Retirement Sale continues: Final Closing October 12th

Dear Friends and Collegues:

The sale has gone fabulously well, but the workshop is stuffed with custom work.  Our final closing date is 5pm, Saturday, October 12th.  Our final markdown continues, with 1/2 off all loose gemstones, contemporary handmade and antique jewelry.  We still have some fabulous deals.  If you have been pining away for one of our handmade pieces or a wonderful ruby, sapphire, tourmaline or opal that you saw in the shop or on our website, come in or logon.

If you been lurking and hoping for more than 50% off, well, what can we say, its just another of life's little disapointments.  If you would like to make a reasonable and FIRM OFFER on a piece, we'd be pleased to hear it come in or call me at 413.637.1589.

 

Best wishes,

Richard W. Wise, G.G.

Bespoke Jewels: Gems from Our Collection

The word "bespoke" normally  is used to refer to men's suits that are  precisely measured and handcrafted for a  particular individuals' unique body type.  In this case, I use the word refers to a small personal collection of gems that suit me.  Gems that I find particularly compelling and I have never previously offered for sale.

This one was just put up on the website, but this image is a better one.  The gem is fully brilliant and of a perfect jucy fruit orange hue.  Available at $26,800.

This one was just put up on the website, but this image is a better one. The gem is fully brilliant and of a perfect jucy fruit orange hue. 15.05×9.49mm Available at $26,800.

Gems are all about beauty.  Duke Ellington was once famously asked; "how do you tell good music from bad?"  He thought for a moment and replied; "If it sounds good it is good."  The large mandarin aka spessartite garnet above is potentially the 5th most brilliant gem.  Prior to its discovery in north western Nigeria about a decade ago, spessartite of this quality was found in only one location, the Little Three Mine in Ramona, California.  The Nigerian source was quickly mined out and stones of this size and quality are almost unavailable in the market.

Connoisseurship in gems (or any field) can be similarly understoood.  The ancient Greek philosopher Plato identified

1.49BurmaRubyH

1.49 Carat Burma Ruby. A particularly fine square cushion in the classic pigeon’s blood color. I Love the way the light dances inside the stone. 6.99×6.06mm Heat enhanced. $14,000.00

beauty with truth.  Beauty, Plato said,  is truth and truth is beauty.   As applied to gemstones, a beautiful stone is a good stone or as the Duke might have put it;  "If it looks good it is good!" 

A gem's appeal is visceral. That means that gemstones appeal to us at gut level.  Ever enter a jewelry store, see something you immediately fall in love with then spend time browsing only to return to that first love? 

Often a beautiful stone can be understood by analying it using the  classical standards I talk about in my book; namely color, cut, clarity and crystal, but sometimes a gem will be beautiful despite the fact that it violates one or more of the classical criteria, in fact it may appeal precisely because it has a non-traditional look. 

6.82RadGarn_NW

A fabulous salad green gem, a fully brilliant radiant with wonderful crystal. 12.72×8.71mm $12,000.00

The true connoisseur understands the traditional criteria, but preserves his sense of wonder and approaches each gem as if it were his first and something totally new. This is the mark of a supple mind, the mind of the genuine connoisseur.  Consider the lovely pastel lettice-like green of this grossular garnet above.  Once denigrated because it lacked the medium dark emerald green, collectors have come to appreciate it for its crystalline light green hue and water clear crystal.

A recent strike in Mozambique has begun to produce ruby of exceptional quality.  This is fortuitous because Burma's two mining areas, the new mine at

3.33MadaRubyN

A lovely larger gem from the new ruby workings in Mozambique. This stone is the classic pigeon’s blood color.

Mong Hsu stopped producing a few years back and the Old Mine, The Valley of the Serpents, (Mogok) in upper Burma that has produced since the Bronze Age may finally be played out.

This gem also exhibits the classic color, the stones are untreated and sell for about the same price as heat treated Burmese rubies. Given the quality, it will not be long before these Madagascar gems begin to sell on a par with rubies from the older deposits in Burma.

 

 

 

Bespoke Gems; Items from our personal collection

 

The word "bespoke" normally  is used to refer to men's suits that are  precisely measured and handcrafted for a  particular individuals' unique body type.  In this case, I use the word refers to a small personal collection of gems that suit me.  Gems that I find particularly compelling and I have never previously offered for sale.

This one was just put up on the website, but this image is a better one.  The gem is fully brilliant and of a perfect jucy fruit orange hue.  Available at $26,800.

This one was just put up on the website, but this image is a better one. The gem is fully brilliant and of a perfect jucy fruit orange hue. 15.05×9.49mm Available at $26,800.

Gems are all about beauty.  Duke Ellington was once famously asked; "how do you tell good music from bad?"  He thought for a moment and replied; "If it sounds good it is good."  The large mandarin aka spessartite garnet above is potentially the 5th most brilliant gem.  Prior to its discovery in north western Nigeria about a decade ago, spessartite of this quality was found in only one location, the Little Three Mine in Ramona, California.  The Nigerian source was quickly mined out and stones of this size and quality are almost unavailable in the market.

Connoisseurship in gems (or any field) can be similarly understoood.  The ancient Greek philosopher Plato identified

1.49BurmaRubyH

1.49 Carat Burma Ruby. A particularly fine square cushion in the classic pigeon’s blood color. I Love the way the light dances inside the stone. 6.99×6.06mm Heat enhanced. $14,000.00

beauty with truth.  Beauty, Plato said,  is truth and truth is beauty.   As applied to gemstones, a beautiful stone is a good stone or as the Duke might have put it;  "If it looks good it is good!" 

A gem's appeal is visceral. That means that gemstones appeal to us at gut level.  Ever enter a jewelry store, see something you immediately fall in love with then spend time browsing only to return to that first love? 

Often a beautiful stone can be understood by analying it using the  classical standards I talk about in my book; namely color, cut, clarity and crystal, but sometimes a gem will be beautiful despite the fact that it violates one or more of the classical criteria, in fact it may appeal precisely because it has a non-traditional look. 

6.82RadGarn_NW

A fabulous salad green gem, a fully brilliant radiant with wonderful crystal. 12.72×8.71mm $12,000.00

The true connoisseur understands the traditional criteria, but preserves his sense of wonder and approaches each gem as if it were his first and something totally new. This is the mark of a supple mind, the mind of the genuine connoisseur.  Consider the lovely pastel lettice-like green of this grossular garnet above.  Once denigrated because it lacked the medium dark emerald green, collectors have come to appreciate it for its crystalline light green hue and water clear crystal.

A recent strike in Mozambique has begun to produce ruby of exceptional quality.  This is fortuitous because Burma's two mining areas, the new mine at

3.33MadaRubyN

A lovely larger gem from the new ruby workings in Mozambique. This stone is the classic pigeon’s blood color.

Mong Hsu stopped producing a few years back and the Old Mine, The Valley of the Serpents, (Mogok) in upper Burma that has produced since the Bronze Age may finally be played out.

This matched pair also exhibits the classic color, the stones are untreated and sell for about the same price as heat treated Burmese rubies.  We have two matched pairs (2.66 and 2.07 carats) of these fine rubies.  Call for further information and pricing:  800.773.0249 or email:  richard@rwwise.com

Retirement Sale: 40% Final Markdown on Loose Gems and Antique Jewelry

Final Markdown, 40% off! 


Ok, this is it, we've slashed prices to 40% and its time to move the merchandise.  Final markdown on antique jewelry and loose gemstones.  Come in or logon

 

 

 

 

 

Enter our contest:

There's still time!  Come in and register to win a 46" flat screen TV, Kindle, IPad and many other  fantastic prizes!

Richard & Rebekah Wise

Retirement Sale: A Plethora of Pearls, August 2-4

A lovely selection of high quality natural color freshwater drop pearls from our collection.

A lovely selection of high quality natural color freshwater drop pearls from our collection.

This coming weekend, August 2nd, 3rd and 4th, R. W. Wise will conduct a Pearl Sale. 

Our pearl specialist will be on hand with a plethora of pearls straight from the pearl farms of the world.10596a

All inventory items will be 30% off our regular retail price.

Store hours are Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 11am-4pm.

The Retirement Sale Continues

The sale is going very well particularly on the internet. We are selling gems daily to clients all over the world.

Watch Out For Weekly Specials:

This week's special; 15% additional off discounted price on all loose opals and opal jewelry expires tomorrow at 5pm.  Check out the homepage on our website for weekly specials beginning each Wednesday.

Opportunities Not On The Web:

We have some interesting gems that are not on the internet including a selection of very fine "pigeon's blood" color rubies from Mozambique. The best of Mozambique compares quite favorably to the best of Burma at a much more favorable price. Mozambique natural unheated stones currently sell for a price similar to heat treated Burma gems. We also have a beautiful matched pair of flawless virtually untreated (certified minor) Colombian emeralds, a lovely cognac diamond 6.88 carats and many more stones that we simply did not have time to photograph. As always, you have a five day return option for a full 100% refund of the purchase price.

Those of you who know us, know that we deal in the top 10% of gems avalable and every gem in our collection is very fine. 

Colored Diamonds; Really The Blues Part II

by Richard W. Wise, G.G.

© 2013

Fancy diamonds are back in the news, another auction record broken  This time its blues.  At Bonhams of London, a 5.30-carat fancy deep-blue diamond set a world auction record for price per carat when it sold for approximately $7.3 million, or $1.8 million per carat bettering the previous record of 1.68 million per carat.  I recall a 5+ carat Fancy Deep blue emerald cut I viewed at the Las Vegas show some five years ago with an askiing price of 1 million per carat, quite a nice appreciation.

Some might argue that auction prices do not reflect actual market prices, but in the case of fancy colored diamonds and colored gems such as important ruby and sapphire, auction prices set the market.  This is a pattern that began to emerge in the 1990s and accelerated in the early 2000s as retail buyers became a larger factor in the auction market.  Online auctions also have helped spread the word about important gem sales and in many cases, auction prices actually lead the way.

Update on The Wittelsbach:

Another famous blue diamond is The Wittelsbach, the largest blue diamond ever sold at auction.   I wrote about this gem previously,   After being recut and regraded from Fancy Deep Grayish Blue to Fancy Deep Blue and exhibited at The Smithsonian Institution side by side with The Hope, London dealer Lawrence Graff reportedly sold the gem for $80,000,000 or something over 3.3 million per carat.

  Of course there are a number of Fancy Deep Blue diamonds over five carats but no others over thirty excepting The Hope.  Weighing in at 31.06 carats, The Wittelsbach commands a price based on the extreme rarity of a colored diamond of this size.

Buying Gems on The Internet; Picture Perfect

by Richard W. Wise, G.G.

©2012

Everyone is familiar with the old sayings; seeing is believing and a picture is worth a thousand words. In the internet age, however, I'd suggest prospective gem buyers embrace another old saying, "believe half of what you see!" Yes, thanks to Photoshop coupled with the ability to select a broad range of lighting options at varying color temperatures, a picture can tell a thousand lies.  Despite this, gem buying on the internet has increased a thousand fold aided by a crop of gem forums where hobbyists, prospective grooms and gem collectors gather to share information and critique gems on offer.

Many of the participants in these forums believe that a gemstone is just another commodity that qualities are uniform and prices follow some sort of median so that if most of the 1 carat sapphires they see online are $3,000 a carat then any stone with a price tag above that number is, by definition, expensive and overpriced.    As I have said in my book, Secrets of The Gem Trade, and other places, this is simply not true.  The prospective buyer who limits himself to images and median prices is doubly mistaken assuming that quality is his goal.  This myth is reinforced by largely untrained  online gurus who claim the mystical power to judge the quality of a gemstone by simply evaluating an image and by consumers who simply want to believe them rather than doing some of the tedius work of actually comparing stones.

As gemstone approach theoretical perfection in color/cut/clarity and crystal, smaller differences in those criteria make for larger and larger differences in price.  At the same time, those subtle difference are extremely difficult to capture in an online image.  An image can tell a lot about a gemstone with regard to clarity and color, I can often see enough to pass on a given stone, however, I cannot see enough to make a firm buying decision.  From this point on, actual comparison is absolutely essential.

Unrealistic Expectations:

Of Off center Culets and Tilt Windows: