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From January 29 to April 13, 1997, the Jewels of the Romanovs were exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. The Romanovs ruled Russia from 1613 until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Two of its more famous members were Peter the Great (ruled 1689-1725) and Catherine the Great (ruled 1762-96). The last Romanov tsar was Nicholas II. He and his family were executed in 1918 after the Bolsheviks came to power.
This collection was part of the Russian State Diamond Fund, considered to be one of the world's finest collections of precious stones and jewelry. Consisting of more than 115 jewels and uncut gems, this exhibition marked the first time such an extensive selection of the state jewels has left Russia. Some of the highlights of this show were:
--A 260 carat Ceylon Sapphire of exceptional color and clarity set in a brooch containing 56.6 carats of diamonds. This stone has an evenly distributed medium dark saturated blue color that could match any Ceylon regardless of size. Purchased in 1862 by Emperor Alexander II, it was presented to the Diamond Fund in 1882.
--A loose collection of about 10 rough and polished alexandrite stones. Few spectators realized the rarity and significance of these brownish green stones which were named after Prince Alexander upon their discovery in 1830. Perhaps the exhibitors did not either since the lighting was poor and did not show their characteristic color change.
--The Caesaris Ruby, a 52 carat egg sized pink tourmaline, once thought to be a ruby which had belonged to Caesar. A gold stem and enamel leaves were added in the 17th century, giving it a raspberry like appearance. This pendant was presented to Catherine the Great by Gustav III of Sweden in 1777.
--Diamonds, Diamonds, and more Diamonds. An extensive array of loose rough and polished material was displayed, in addition to numerous examples set in jewelry. Included was a stickpin with a 7.6 carat blue diamond, believed to be part of the "Le Tavernier" stone which also produced the Hope diamond. A bracelet containing the largest table-cut diamond in the world (27 carats) was also exhibited. Talk about a windowed stone, a portrait of Alexander I is displayed through this diamond ( 7 3/4 in. x 1 3/8 in. x 7 7/8 in.).
The Burma red enthusiast may be a little disappointed at this exhibition. Most examples of ruby were under 1 carat and moderately to heavily included and the few examples of spinel were dull pink.
A full range of emerald grades appeared in many of the items on display. Within one piece it was common to see a 4/75 along side a 7/55 (approximate AGL color grades). This exhibition seemed to emphasize the rarity of untreated high quality rubies and emeralds.
This exhibition, which commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Russian Grand Duke Alexis' visit to the United States, is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to view one of the largest and finest collections of gemstones and jewelry. This collection is normally housed in a limited-access museum beneath the Kremlin Armory. It is scheduled to be shown in Houston, San Diego, and Memphis before returning to Russia.
We believe total and open disclosure of gem treatments is the only ethical way to market gemstones. The customer has a right to know. Congratulations on this first step. ED
St.Moritz (February, '97)
A German jeweler bought a 3.19 rectangular fancy intense blue VVS2 diamond for $200,000 per carat or $669,506. A Swiss jeweler bought an 8.71 unheated Burma ruby for $69,000 per carat or $609,540.
Christi's (March, '97)
Christie's sold jewelry from the estate of Claudette Colbert, a famous actress during the 1920s and 1930s. Her diamond necklace sold for $189,500. A fancy yellow and near colorless diamond pendant sold for $277,500. It was estimated between $60,000-$80,000. A Van Cleef and Arpels diamond ring sold for $211,500. Its pre-sale estimate was between $40,000 and $60,000. The brooch she wore at the Academy Awards in 1935 at which she won Best Actress for "It Happened One Night" fetched $32,200.
Sotheby's and Christie's (April and May '97)
NY April auctions were weak with many sales going to the trade. Christie's sold $17.5 million (68% of lots) including a marquise 3.11 fancy intense blue for $640,500 or almost $206,000 per carat. Sotheby's sold $25.6 million (80% of lots) including a 13.83 carat fancy vivid yellow diamond for $3.3 million or $239,000 per carat. Geneva auctions were selective in May with Christie's selling 70% of lots (24.46 ct. D VVS2 at $37,778/ct.) and Sotheby's 72% of lots (5.07 intense blue at $439,439/ct.).
The 45.52 Hope diamond was recently regraded by the Gemological Institute of America. The lab stated the stone is a Fancy Deep Grayish Blue Color, VS1 Clarity. In 1960, the GIA documented the Hope as having a red phosphorescence after exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Blue and Pink diamonds are extremely difficult to find. They remain ultra-rare and expensive. Women are now asking for champagne brown diamonds instead of men. Prices are steady for these goods, even though Argyle and DeBeers halted their business relationship. Yellows are weak. Never forget round colored diamonds always face up one grade lighter than fancy shaped colored diamonds.
Big Diamonds Are Hot
US consumers and collectors are starting to buy large diamonds again. Recent import figures show a 2.7% gain in weight and 9.5% in value of diamonds entering the US market. The trend is towards large but middle quality diamonds. Dealers report they have sold more large diamonds this year than they usually sell in 3-4 years.
In April a bomb exploded at the home of a Lt. General Tin Oo. He is the army chief of staff of Burma's ruling party, SLORC. The explosion killed his daughter. Student democracy groups denied responsibility. Speculation is there may now be a rift at the highest levels of the Burmese government.
A Chinese company that buys marble in Burma found something unexpected. When cutting the marble, they discovered a 6.5 kilogram ruby. It measures 21 by 18.5 by 7 centimeters. According to the Hong Kong Laboratory, the stone is natural, gem quality, with slight inclusions.
The recent decertification of Colombia by the United States is causing an adverse effect on the emerald trade. Colombia has tightened currency controls. Emerald exportation is now difficult. Demand is strong, rough is in a shortage, and the Japanese are back buying emeralds.
An emerald conference will be held in July in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The purpose is to bring together the Colombian emerald trade and increase communication with the international gem trade.
The Colombian government wants to set up an emerald bourse or trading exchange. It will be a "free zone". This will provide a center for buying, selling, importation and exportation of emeralds. The Colombian government also wants to set up a promotion strategy. They want to advertise emeralds to the gem trade and to consumers. They would also like the conduct a promotion with the International Colored Gemstone Association. They would like the next event to be the "Year of the Emerald".
Skeptics believe the Colombian government is pursuing this policy to collect more taxes, exclude certain members from the industry, and eventually regulate the trade. Many small and independent emerald dealers are against the plan. They believe the Colombian government will end up as partners with the independent dealers. The large miners back the plan. In response, the Colombian government says dealers can either join the new "free zone" or continue to conduct business the old way.
The government of Vietnam announced a $25 million plan to increase the production of ruby, sapphire, and other gemstones. The goal is to increase Vietnam's exports from $50 million per year to $150 million by 2000. The money will be used to prospect, mine, polish, and trade in Vietnam gemstones. The primary focus will be on three deposits of ruby and sapphire. They also believe they will find spinel, tourmaline, garnet, and topaz.
Jewelry at the Oscars
Claire Danes wore a matching blue topaz and pave diamond necklace and earrings. Salma Hayek wore a diamond tiara from the 1920s. She also wore a 7 carat diamond ring once owned by Ginger Rogers. Jennifer Lopez wore a diamond floral bracelet. Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) wore a ruby dragonfly pinned to her waist. Juliette Binoche wore a colored diamond necklace. Billy Bob Thorton's wife wore a diamond and emerald necklace. James Woods' mother wore a sapphire and diamond necklace. Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies) wore a canary diamond necklace. Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies) wore an emerald and diamond necklace. Faye Dunaway wore rubies and diamonds. Sigourney Weaver and Bette Midler also wore rubies. Barbara Streisand wore a Faberge necklace. Sandra Bullock, Kim Delaney, and Linda Farentino wore antique pieces of jewelry.
Hot Jewelry Trend
Although diamonds dominate the engagement ring market, many people, including celebrities, are choosing colored gemstones when they get married. Industry analysts say colored gemstones are a form of self-expression and a way to express individuality. The most popular colored stones are sapphire, emerald, ruby and colored diamonds. Some customers want a single major colored gemstone, while others want to accent the colored stone with diamonds. Most buyers of colored gemstone wedding rings are women who have waited until later in life to be married or women on their second marriages. However, the hot new trend is with Generation X. They see colored gemstones as a fashion statement and a way to express they are different from everyone else. The amount of colored gemstone wedding rings is on a ten year steady rise. Some famous women with colored stones engagement rings-Princess Di, Sarah Ferguson, Ivana Trump, Kirstie Alley, Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon.
New Russian Alexandrite
To alexandrite lovers, Russian alexandrite is considered the best. The new material being mined does not look like the old Russian material. Some of the stones reach two carats, but do not have the ruby to emerald color change.
A 10.45 emerald from North Carolina was recently displayed in Key West, Florida. James Hill, Jr. found the stone on his family farm in 1995. Also on display was the 15.46 North Carolina Kite emerald . The Kite is the largest and finest emerald ever to be discovered in America.
For comments, questions or price quotes E-mail NGC, Attn: R. Genis
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