Wednesday, 12 November 2014

“I certainly don’t believe in returnism, as it were,” he said. “I don’t think that’s sensible.”

David Cameron's interesting excuse on why he doesn't think the Koh-i-noor diamond shouldn't be returned to India. 
Jewellery and gem stones are often objects of dispute and the ownership decided in court, here is a small selection.
The Koh-i-noor diamond currently on display at the Tower Of London
This ancient diamond, the Koh-i-noor, first recorded in 1306 has a considerable history , known to have come from one of the earliest regions in the world to mine diamonds; the Golconda Kingdom in India.  It was originally 793 carats when uncut. It has never been sold but possession gained in the course of rebellions, wars, invasions and uprisings. You can read more here. In 1849 the British Empire's East India Company confiscated the Koh-i-noor Diamond as compensation for the Sikh wars and presented it to Queen Victoria. Despite repeated requests for its return to India, it remains in the Tower of London as property of the British Crown and is currently set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and can be seen in the Tower of London.
Actress Linda Christian and husband Tyrone Power
Someone who did believe in "returnism" was actress Linda Christian (1923- 2011), albeit with a little financial sweetener. She is credited with being the first ever Bond Girl - “Valerie Mathis” in a TV adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1954. She was married to the movie star Tyrone Power in 1949, they had two children together before their divorce in 1956. In 1955 she was given a gift of jewellery from an admirer, socialite Robert H Schlesinger, however the cheque for $132,000 that he had given to Van Cleef and Arpels of New York as partial payment bounced. She refused to return them stating they were a christmas gift. However, lawyers managed an amicable agreement where Ms Christian returned the jewellery and was given an undisclosed sum for the "inconvenience".
A pensive Princess Diana wearing a Tiara
What about when a gift only means a loan - a newspaper article from May 6th 1996 reports how Princess Diana being increasingly frustrated by the delay in her divorce from Prince Charles, threatened to sell some of her jewellery. She believed that as they were given to her as gifts at her wedding they belong to her, however the Queen insisted that as they were Royal Heirlooms they must remain with the Royal Family. The items included a tiara estimated at the time to be worth £2 million. She was protected by British Law regarding her famous engagement ring. The UK legislation under Section 3(2) of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 (2) states that the gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift; this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied, that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason. On the 13th of July 1996, almost 15 years after their wedding Diana and Charles announced that they had finally reached an agreement on the terms for their divorce, including Diana being given the right to keep all the jewellery bestowed to her.

Some of Imelda Marcos's baubles
How about you pilfer from your countries treasury and use the funds to purchase high value properties, works of art, jewellery as well as a large shoe collection for yourself, to whom does that jewellery ultimately belong? Imelda Marcos, wife of Ferdinand Marcos (president of the Philippines)  as well as her amazing shoe collection amassed a huge collection of jewellery known as The Roumeliotes, Hawaii and MalacanĂ¢ng Collections. In February 1986 Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a "People Power" revolution. Ferdinand and Imelda along with their family and entourage scarpered to the U.S.A. It was reported that U.S. Customs agents discovered 24 suitcases with gold bars and diamond jewellery hidden in them and in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars were allegedly among the personal properties.
Philippine investigators estimated their wealth over £6.2 billion.
The next president, Corazon Aquino, set up a special commission to recover these funds for the treasury - but now, more than 25 years later, just over £2.5 billion has been accounted for. Imelda's jewellery had been languishing in a bank vault for decades after being seized. The Sandiganbayan, the Philipine court, in January this year forfeited in
favour of the Philippine government the MalacanĂ¢ng collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. In its ruling, the court said this collection is also part of the ill-gotten wealth of the late deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and his family. However, the Marcos's are now disputing the ruling, The heirs asked the court that they be given ample opportunity to prove that the jewellery may have been lawfully acquired through other means or acquired prior to the late dictator’s tenure, so the fight continues...
See some of the collection here

The disputed Bahia Emerald

Heard of the Bahia Emerald? A 3ft tall, 840lb rock embedded with 9 large emerald crystals ranging in size from 220mm, 140mm, 130mm, 110mm down to 37mm -  weighing 180,000 carats in total. It was discovered at the Bahia mine in Brazil back in 2001. Valued at nearly £250 million it has had a remarkable journey, transported to the USA, hidden in an abandoned petrol station, stolen, recovered, submerged in a vault during hurricane Katrina, used as collateral in a diamond deal and at one point even put up on Ebay with a buy now price of £45 million – bargain!.
Legal possession of the Bahia Emerald has changed hands several times, according to some reports, the Bahia Emerald was even involved in a $197 million banking transaction with the notorious Bernard Madoff before he was arrested for committing the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
At one time eight individuals laid claim to the Bahia Emerald, now just two claimants remain awaiting yet another judgement.
The National Geographic Channel have made a documentary about it and there is also a book available. Read more here 

The Aurora Pyramid of Hope - can be seen at the Natural History Museum

Aurora Pyramid of Hope
On permanent loan in “The Vault” at London's Natural History Museum is the Aurora Pyramid of Hope. A display of 295 differently coloured diamonds, 267 carats in total. Only 1 in 10,000 gem-quality diamonds is coloured. The collection was put together over a period of 25 years by two New Yorkers  - Alan Bronstein and Harry Rodman. Named after the Aurora Borealis for the colours and Aurora the Roman goddess of the dawn to symbolise a new beginning and to protect our natural heritage for the future. After the death of Mr Rodman aged 99, it became the subject of court battle between the 2 families. In 2001, at 92, married Mr. Bronstein’s 81-year-old mother, Jeanette, his longtime friend and neighbour, it was she who introduced Harry to her son Alan, and then further complicated by the fact that Mr. Rodman made seven wills in the last decade of his life. In their lawsuit, several of Mr. Rodman’s heirs — a grandniece and four grandnephews — argue that the Bronsteins took advantage of an elderly man and duped him into signing away his interest in Aurora Gems for $10,000. They tried to prove that Jeanette Bronstein had married Harry Rodman for his money. A lawyer who drew up Mr. Rodman’s wills testified on Mr. Bronstein’s behalf stating that “Harry described him as a friend and the son he never had", the judge ruled in favour of Alan Bronstein. The Rodman heirs plan to appeal the decision.

Friday, 29 August 2014

"But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below,

as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand. Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness"
Bram Stoker describing the moment Dracula, in the form of a large dog, arrived on the shores of Whitby. You can take a walk around Whitby and follow in Dracula's footsteps, click here.
Whitby Parish Church with the ruins of the Abbey in the Background
and a vampire bat flying by............

As well as the infamous Dracula, the cold waters and shallow bays of the North Sea make for good Whitby Oysters and the other product of Whitby that is of interest especially to the Jewellery Trade is Whitby JetJet is soft and easy to carve- 2.5-4 on the Mohs scale, light - specific gravity of 1.30-1.35  and can be highly polished to give it an intense black colour that never fades; making it ideal for jewellery.
Imagine a time where what was to be the British Isles, was located further south in the area that Northern Spain and Portugal are located. Much nearer the equator with a warmer, humid climate with Dinosaurs such as Megalosaurus going about their daily lives. The land was  covered in trees, the dominant species was a conifer  - the Araucaria very similar to the Monkey-puzzle tree or Chilean pine (Araucaria araucana) we see today - this was Whitby during the early Jurassic period  -  approximately 180 million years ago.
The prehistoric looking Monkey-puzzle tree
or Chilean pine (Araucaria araucana)

As the trees died and fell they would often be swept into rivers by flood waters. Travelling downstream eventually being deposited in the sea at the Yorkshire Basin. The water-logged timbers sunk into the sea floor, where the conditions - lack of oxygen led to a prolonged breakdown of the wood into a pulpy mass. This was then covered with sediments (sand, mud and organic remains) and the accumulated weight this and the sea water exerted a huge pressure. Over the millennia this pressure combined with chemical reactions resulted in the flattening, compressing and fossilisation of the wood into a tough compacted shales known as jet-rock. So basically Jet is fossilised trees and as is it is formed from an organic substance, it is not a mineral but a mineraloid (a mineral-like substance that does not demonstrate crystal or ordered formation). If you examine jet under a microscope the annual rings of the original wood can be seen.
Jet is found in two forms, hard and soft. Hard jet is the result of the carbon compression and salt water - soft jet is the result of the carbon compression and fresh water.
Jet has been used since prehistoric times to make jewellery. Whitby being the source of high quality hard Jet, however Jet it is also found throughout the world, Russia, Turkey, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and North America - although not all of it is the hard jet. 
Meanwhile back in ancient Whitby - as the centuries passed Jet bearing shale was exposed by the natural erosion of the coastline depositing pieces of jet along the beaches. This gradual weathering of the shale banks provided a good source of Jet for the Bronze age craftsmen and then the Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings. 
In ancient times jet jewellery was an indicator of status and was also used in amulet jewellery - (amulets were worn protect its wearer from danger or harm). Bronze Age burial sites throughout the UK have been found to contain all kinds of objects carved from Jet such beads, buttons, earrings and belt-sliders.
The necklace below is made from Whitby jet and cannel coal was found in a burial site at Killy Kiaran in Argyll. It was an expensive item - imported from Yorkshire sometime between 2050 and 1800 BC.
The necklace consists of six decorated jet spacer plates, a triangular fastener of cannel coal and numerous beads, mostly of jet. The estimated original number of beads is 114.

The Romans made extensive use of jet during their 367 year occupation (43AD to 410AD) with Roman jet workshops situated in York, using Whitby jet to create ornaments and jewellery that were exported throughout the Roman Empire.  Excavations of Roman sites all over Britain have unearthed such artefacts such as rings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants, dagger handles and hairpins and when excavating the foundations of an old railway station in Eburacum (the Roman name for York) a Roman jet workshop was discovered containing tools and half worked pieces as well as articles of jewellery. The raw jet came from the Whitby area and the finished pieces included a number of pendants depicting Medusa's head.
 Jet Medusa medallion found in a  Roman grave in Bensozia (Roman Colchester)
thought to protect the wearer from the "evil eye"

After the Roman deserted England, it was the turn of the Anglo Saxon invaders to settle here, followed by Vikings and then the Normans. 

7th Century Gold and Jet Pendant
The use of jet wasn't so popular in these times, but the introduction of Christianity during the Anglo Saxon period saw jet being used mainly for ecclesiastical jewellery such as crosses, rosaries and rings. 
This medieval cross of Whitby Jet was found in a North Yorkshire Garden
The earliest record of jet as an occupation are in local Whitby records where it is mentioned in the year 1598 that a John Carlill's occupation was a "jet worker".
In the early 1800s, the use of jet for jewellery and ornaments began to rapidly increase in popularity. Jet workshop were set up in Whitby and by 1851 there were fifty workshops.  At the great Exhibition in London in1851 a Whitby jet carver Isaac Greenbury displayed his work and this led to commissions from the Empress of France and made a jet chain 6 feet 4 inches long to the order of the Queen of Bavaria.
With the death of Prince Albert in1861, Queen Victoria went into mourning only wearing black. Whitby jet provided the ideal material for her mourning jeweller and for a few years was the only jewellery allowed in her Court. 
Victorian Mourning Brooch
Victorian Cameo

Also at this time the Victorian seaside holiday became popular and the new railway brought in the holiday makers eager to buy the latest fashion. The industry went into a boom period; at its height there were over two hundred jet workshops in Whitby and fourteen hundred men (from a population of four thousand) were employed in Jet related trades such as mining. Up to this time jet was retrieved from the beaches but the demand in Victorian England was such that small mines were dug into the hills. No explosives were used for the danger of damaging the jet, but the pieces were dug out using picks. The jet was cut into manageable sizes and although originally carved by hand only, in the early 1800s mechanical means of turning, cutting and polishing Jet were used. A special mud from Derbyshire was used to polish the jet. The very final polishing was carried out with rouge, a fine iron oxide powder using wheels made of wool, walrus or porpoise hide. Final finishing was carried out on a wheel made of chamois leather.
The popularity of Jet declined by the end of the 19th century and now there are only a handful of skilled local craftsman capable of producing Whitby Jet Jewellery. Whitby is proud of its Jet Heritage and there are many examples of the amazing carvings at the Whitby Museum  and at the Whitby Heritage Centre there is an actual victorian jet workshop that was discovered, sealed away in the attic of a house and only discovered when the building was sold and going to be renovated.
Jet has had a minor resurgence in popularity with the Goth subculture and Whitby hosts the annual Whitby Goth Weekend where participants fashions are influenced by the Victorian era and the favourite colour to wear is black.
Its still possible to pick Jet up from the Beach at Whitby but be careful of the high tides!
The hard part is to carve the jet into jewellery probably better to buy a piece from the few remaining jet shops. 
How to care for your jet; jet can be safely washed in a mild detergent and warm water. Remember jet is relatively soft and can easily be scratched so prevent it rubbing against other items, store wrapped in tissue.
Often other materials are used to imitate Jet - such as black glass, plastics and in the past vulcanite - although this is now itself collectable. 
To authenticate jet remember:
Jet is light
Jet is warm to the touch.
Jet leaves a brown streak when stroked across unglazed porcelain( like the back of a tile)
When burnt with a red-hot needle, jet smells like coal. 
If polished jet exhibits a static electricity charge.
Jet will look hand carved and not cast.
Jet is black.
It may contain imperfections such as cracks and small inclusions.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

“A quantity of platina was purchased by me a few years since with the design of rendering it malleable for the different purposes to which it is adapted. That object has now been attained. ” William Hyde Wollaston

On the 4th of June this year, for the first time since its inception in 1831, a woman - Professor Maureen Raymo of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, U.S.A. was awarded the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London – The Wollaston Medal. (Read about Professor Raymo here) 
         The Wollaston Medal                Professor Raymo receiving her medal .
The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston and was originally made in Palladium – a new metal that he identified in 1803.
Wollaston was a brilliant man as well as being a noted philosopher and a shrewd business man, he made many contributions to science in a wide range of fields including important discoveries in chemistry, physiology, physics, botany, crystallography, optics, astronomy and mineralogy. He not only has this medal named after him but also the mineral Wollastonite and Isla Wollaston off the south coast of Chile - But it is his contributions to the world of metallurgy that I will write about in this blog.
The uninhabited Isla Wollaston off the south coast of Chile - brrrrr

Wollastonite - the mineral named after William Hyde Wollaston
He was born in Norfolk, England on August 6 1766, the second of 14 children of Francis Wollaston and Althea Hyde. He had a good education at Charterhouse School then Cambridge University from which he graduated with a degree in medicine. After seven years he stopped being a physician and to moved to London where he became involved with the Royal Society and pursued his many research interests. It is his experiments with the "newly discovered" metal called Platinum that lead to innovations  important for the world of Jewellery.
Platinum (from the Spanish word "platina" meaning "silver") is one of the Platinum Group of Metals (PGMs), the others being Palladium, Rhodium, Iridium, Osmium ( identified by Wollaston)  and Ruthenium, the six metals naturally occur in the same ore bodies.The PGMs are the densest known metal elements, highly durable and as they are exceptionally rare, expensive! 
Platinum was used by pre-Columbian Indians and ancient Egyptians - as seen in the Casket of Thebes, dating from 700BC, a box is decorated with hieroglyphics in gold, silver and an alloy of the platinum group metals. 
Platinum was re-discovered in the 16th century in South America. Whilst serving in South America from 1735 to 1746, the Spanish explorer and astronomer Antonio de Ulloa collected samples of platinum. He later wrote a report about the metal, describing how it was mined and used and because of this, De Ulloa is often given credit for discovering platinum. At this time platinum was seen as just a nuisance mixing with the gold nuggets and being difficult to separate from them, it had no special value to them.
The earliest European written reference to platinum appears in 1557 in the writings of the Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger.  He refers to a noble metal "which no fire nor any Spanish artifice has yet been able to liquefy." 
European scientists and metallurgist were intrigued by the new metal but its properties, high melting point and great resistance to corrosion, presented a tough challenge to to them trying to understand and use the metal. Wollaston formed what appears to be a business partnership with a Cambridge friend Smithson Tennant to explore this new metal. It was during experiments in methods to refine platinum Wollaston discovered another metal which he name Palladium, followed in 1804 by Rhodium, Iridium and Osmium. Also at this time Wollaston perfected a method of producing malleable platinum. This now opened up a commercial opportunity, platinum that could be worked to provide corrosive resistant components for the gunmakers as well as durable laboratory equipment.
Among his first platinum products were crucibles and lids, marketed through William Cary, a well 
known London instrument maker. This can be seen at the London Science Museum.

By 1808 Wollaston was able to produce and market his malleable platinum in large quantities and the business prospered rapidly. His shrewd business sense lead to him keeping his method secret so that he made a considerable amount from his process. This was not a greed motivated action, it provided funding into his other experiments and research. Unfortunately his source of unrefined platinum dried up and by 1820 and he was no longer able to continue with this business. Just before his death in he disclosed the method he used, not that dissimilar to the methods used today. 

The Exceptional William Hyde Wollaston 1766-1828

A collection of notebooks and documents was discovered in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology of the University of Cambridge in 1949 turned out to be the valuable Wollaston papers. The collection, now in the Cambridge University Library, includes twenty laboratory notebooks in Wollaston’s hand, eight of them devoted entirely to the purchase, purification, production and sale of platinum. One dealing with metal palladium, and three contain miscellaneous experiments on a wide range of subjects, including early research on crude platinum.

PGM's in Jewellery

  • Platinum - The availability of workable platinum saw the 18th century European court jewellers producing jewellery items in platinum and this continued with the great jewellers of the Edwardian and Art Deco periods such as Cartier and Tiffany. Today it is a popular precious metal for jewellery settings.  Platinum is commonly alloyed with other platinum group metals - palladium, ruthenium and iridium - and copper and cobalt to improve its manageability and durability.
    Among the main advantages of platinum jewellery are its strength and resistance to tarnish. It can be repeatedly heated and cooled without hardening and oxidation effects.
Cartier Platinum Art Nouveau Ring

  • Palladium - In 2009 the UK Hallmarking Act was amended by Parliament to incorporate palladium as a metal which requires hallmarking. Having received official recognition as a precious metal in its own right, compulsory hallmarking of palladium items weighing 1g came into effect as of January 1, 2010. Palladium has increased in popularity for jewellery items and like platinum it is strong and resistant to tarnishing. It is also used to make springs in analog watches.
  • Rhodium - although too brittle to be used to make settings it is a good hardener for platinum and palladium. Rhodium also makes a lustrous, hard coating for other metals in such items as table silver and is electroplated onto white gold to give a bright white finish.
  • Iridium - in jewellery, iridium is used in platinum/iridium alloys to strengthen the platinum. On its own It is an extremely brittle metal and therefore liable to crack if knocked. It also has an extremely high melting point making it difficult to work with, nor can it be sized.
  • Ruthenium - discovered in 1844 by the Russian chemist Karl Klaus. Ruthenium and platinum alloys have a high resistance to wear and are used in the manufacture of jewellery.
  • Osmium - is not used in jewellery making although Osmium-platinum alloys are used to strengthen the tips of quality fountain pens.
Other Facts about the PGMs
Platinum is one of the rarest elements - estimated to be about 0.01 parts per million in the Earth's crust. It can take up to six months to produce one ounce of high grade platinum from seven to 12 tonnes of mined ore. Once extracted the platinum rich ore this is ground up, the particles are then mixed with reagents (a reagent is a substance used in a chemical reactions to detect, measure, examine or produce other substances) and air is pumped through. Platinum-containing particles float to the top forming a froth. The froth is skimmed-off, dried out and smelted at temperatures exceeding 1,500° C, causing the separation of the platinum metal. The process is termed "Froth Floatation" read about it in detail here.
Other Applications:
PGMs are most often used as catalysts because of their chemical stability,
Some examples of other applications include: in the petroleum industry  - the catalyst in a catalytic converter  - Platinum is the most active catalyst and is widely used,  Palladium and rhodium are also used, in pacemakers and other medical implants (iridium and platinum), as a stain for fingerprints and DNA (osmium), in the production of nitric acid (rhodium), and in chemicals, such as cleaning liquids, adhesives and paints (ruthenium).
Further Reading -
Read about the other achievements of Wollaston.
Read in detail about the Wollaston and Tennant work with Platinum (no.9)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

"Big girls need big diamonds" - Elizabeth Taylor

Diamonds have a long history of being objects of desire, its not only the largest of diamonds that command the highest prices, smaller but rarer coloured diamonds are also sold for millions of pounds. Some have interesting stories including robbery, mysteriously disappearing or even carrying a curse. Here are a  selection of famous Diamonds, in no particular order, but starting with the famous Taylor Burton Diamond.

Taylor Burton Diamond - 
this 68.09 carat, pear shaped diamond was cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier Mine, South Africa in 1966 and bought by New York jeweller Harry Winston. The stone was taken to New York and studied for six months before it was cleaved into 2 pieces; one weighing 78 carats and the larger piece, weighing 162 carats, was destined to produce the pear shaped diamond. 1967 Winston sold the diamond to Mrs. Harriet Annenberg Ames, two years later she sent the diamond to Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York to be auctioned. It was Cartier who won the bidding against Richard Burton, however he was determined to buy it for Elizabeth so negotiated and bought the diamond directly from Cartier. Following their divorce she sold the diamond in 1979 to Henry Lambert, a New York jeweller for $5,000,000. A few months later he sold the stone to its present owner, Robert Mouawad who had the stone recut to improve its status from VVS2 to IF (Internally Flawless) but reducing its size slight from 69.42 to 68.09 carat.

The Taylor Burton Diamond

The Blue Hope - 
this diamond has the reputation of bringing bad luck to those who owned it but now sits safely at the Smithsonian Museum. It has an interesting story including theft, recutting, going missing after the French Revolution and then turning up in England, you can read in full hereIt is also known as "Le Bijou du Roi" (the King's Jewel), "Le bleu de France" (the Blue of France), and the Tavernier Blue. It is 45.52-carat deep-blue diamond, 25.60 mm long x 21.78 mm wide x 12.00 mm deep, graded as "fancy deep grayish blue" VS1with whitish graining present , the cut is described as being "cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion"
The blue is caused by trace amounts of boron within its crystal structure, it also exhibits red phosphorescence after exposure to ultraviolet light.
The Blue Hope Diamond

The Pink Dream Diamond -
(formerly known as the Steinmetz Pink, then the Pink Star) is currently the world's most expensive diamond after it was sold in November 2013 for £51.7million to Isaac Wolf - a New York diamond cutter. It is a flawless, 59 Carat, Mixed Oval Brilliant cut, Natural Colour, Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, measuring 2.69cm by 2.06cm and weighing almost 12g. The Pink Dream was mined by De Beers in South Africa in 1999.
The Pink Dream Diamond

The Archduke Joseph Diamond - 
when this diamond sold for $21 Million in November 2012, Christies auction house set a record for a colorless diamond sale. It is a 78.54 Carat, Cushion cut, D-Internally Flawless diamond. Discovered in the Golconda mines in India, diamond was named for Austria's Archduke Joseph August, the great-grandson of a Roman emperor and a French king. The anonymous buyer reportedly plans to donate the diamond to a museum.
The Archduke Joseph Diamond

The Cullinan Diamond - 
is the largest gem diamond ever found at 3,106 carats. It was discovered in 1905 at the Premier mines in South Africa by Frederick Wells, a mine superintendent who received $10,000 for his find. The diamond was named Cullinan, after the mine's owner Sir Thomas Cullinan. The Cullinan I was the largest gem produced from the rough stone. It is a pear shaped stone of 530.2 carats and is the world's largest cut diamond. The Cullinan I is now in the head of the royal sceptre in the British crown jewels. The second largest cut diamond, the Cullinan II, is a cushion-shaped stone weighing 317.4 carats and is set in the British imperial state crown.
Cullinan Rough Pieces
The Cora Sun Drop Diamond - 
this extremely rare yellow diamond was found in South Africa by Cora International, it was sold at auction in Geneva in November 2011 for just over $10.9m (£6.8m) and set a world record for a yellow diamond. It is a 110.3 carat pear-shaped, Fancy vivid yellow diamond. Tests show that the diamond was formed from 1 to 3 billion years ago and the colour is the result of traces of nitrogen, trapped within carbon molecules, hardening over millions of years.
The Sundrop Diamond

Moussaieff Red Diamond - 
Imagine how happy the Brazilian farmer was who found the the rough diamond weighing 13.9 carats (2.78 g) in the Abaetezinho river in 1990. The diamond was purchased and cut by the William Goldberg Diamond Corp and known originally as the Red Shield. It was sold again in about 2001 for $11m to Shlomo Moussaieff, an Israeli-born jewellery dealer in London and is currently owned by Moussaieff Jewellers Ltd. It is 5.11 carats (1.022 g) triangular brilliant cut or trillion cut, IF (internally flawless) rated in color as Fancy Red. Although its not a very big diamond it is the largest of a very rare colour.
Moussaieff Red Diamond

Tiffany Yellow Diamond -
the most famous diamond found at the Kimberley Diamond Mine - one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered; it weighed 287.42 carats (57.484 g) in the rough, 128.53 carats (25.706g) after cutting.The stone was purchased by New York jeweller Charles Tiffany. The cutting was carried out in Paris by a 23 year old George Kunz who studied the stone for a year before cutting it. He added  additional facets to the accepted square antique brilliant cut - bringing the total to 82. The diamond is known to have been worn by only two women - Mrs Sheldon Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball held in Newport, Rhode Island, mounted for the occasion in a necklace of white diamonds. Then by Audrey Hepburn in 1961 publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond

Koh - i - Noor - 
this is an ancient diamond with much history attached to it and because of the number of competing claims, true ownership cannot be established and it remains in the Tower of London as property of the British Crown. Even its true date of discovery in unknown but it is known to have come from one of the earliest regions in the world to produce diamonds; the Golconda Kingdom in India.  It was originally 793 carats when uncut. This diamond has never been sold but possession gained in the course of rebellions, wars, invasions and uprisings. You can read more here. In 1849 the British confiscated the Koh-i-noor Diamond as compensation for the Sikh wars. The diamond was recut from 186 carats to 109 carats to improve its brilliance as the original Mogul-cut wasn't brilliant to western eyes. In 1992 the diamond was weighed and found to be 105.602 carats and not the 108.93 carat previously recorded. The Koh-i-Nor  measures 36.00 × 31.90 × 13.04 mm. It is currently set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the crown made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and can be seen in the Tower of London.
These are replicas of the Koh-i- Nor made in 1851 before it was re-cut.
They can been seen in the Vault at the Museum of Natural History

The Dresden Green - 
discovered in 1722 it is the largest of the very rare natural green diamonds, 41 carats, named after Dresden in Germany. After initially failing to find a buyer due to its hight cost the diamond was eventually acquired by Frederick Augustus II of Saxony (Augustus III of Poland) in 1741. In 1768, the diamond was incorporated into the hat ornament in which it still appears today. The stone's green colour is due to natural exposure to radioactive materials. The Dresden Green Diamond has been used to compare natural versus lab-produced green diamonds to devise a test to differentiate between the two. It can be seen at the restored Green Vault (or the Grunes Gewolbe) of Dresden Castle ( the original buildings were destroyed by the Dresden bombings in WW2) luckily the diamond and setting along with other treasures had been moved to secure premises for the duration of the war.
The Dresden Green Diamond

More to follow in a future blog...

I just want to mention the Aurora Pyramid of Hope Collection that is on permanent loan to the Natural History Museum and can be seen in the Vault. This is a collection of 296 naturally coloured diamonds that adds up to 267.45 carats of exceptionally rare stones from the 12 colour varieties of diamonds.
Aurora Pyramid of Hope
named after the colours exhibited in the Aurora Borealis 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

But square-cut or pear-shaped, These rocks don't lose their shape. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.

Click here to see Marilyn Monroe sing "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend"
In an affidavit made on the 24th of July 1886, to Pretoria's Mine Department, South Africa, prospector George Harrison stated " I come from the newly discovered goldfields of Kliprivier, especially from a farm owned by a certain Gert Oosthuizen. I have a long experience as an Australian gold-digger, and I think it is a payable goldfield". This turned out to be a huge understatement and this area became the site of a huge gold rush and lead to the formation of the town of Johannesburg. It was initially laid out on the five farms in the area, the population in 1866 was 600, by 1892 it was 40,000, 1905 -  150,000 and now 3.2 million.
The statue of George Harrison Australian gold prospector
can be seen in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Claims were furiously staked, bought and sold till large companies emerged. The mines attracted thousands of immigrant "uitlanders" workers.  I read this story about one group of these miners that is said to have lead to the formation of the "Kimberley Diamond Mine. Fleetwood Rawstone and his group of fellow diggers, known as the "Red Cap Party" had staked their claim on the Northern Cape Farm of Vooruitzicht.
Fleetwood Rawstone and the Red Cap Party working their claim.

One day they were were annoyed when their servant and cook Esau Damoense know as Damon had too much to drink and as a punishment sent him to a nearby hillside and told him not to return till he found a diamond. (Perhaps inspired by the story of 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs who in 1866 found the first diamond in South Africa on the banks of the Orange River, near Hopetown, a 21.25 carat diamond in the rough - later to be called "The Eureka") A sober Damon returned a few days later  with a few shiny stones, one of these being a 83.50 carat (16.7 g) diamond he found. The group rushed to stake their claim on the hillock ( they named Colesberg Kopje) and very quickly this area became a busy mining community. The site was named DeBeers New Rush after the brothers who owned the Vooruitzicht Farm. In 1873 the community was named Kimberley in honour of the British Colonial Secretary, Lord Kimberley.
The hillock soon disappeared, no wonder -  1,600 separate claimants all digging deep into the "blue ground" or kimberlite that surrounded the diamond bearing volcanic pipe. Conditions for the miners were dangerous and primitive. They lived in tents, corrugated iron huts, tarpaulins and no sanitary services, lack of fresh vegetables, landslides all taking their toll on the miners.

Old Diamond Mining Scene
As the digging continued, Cecil Rhodes got a foothold in the Kimberley mine enlarging his holdings till finally in 1888 he  payed over 5 million pounds to take over the area and the De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd was formed taking its name from the brothers who owned the farm.

Rhodes along with Alfred Beit, Frederick Philipson-Stow and Barney Barnato were given the position of life time governors. Sadly for Barney Barnato he drowned in mysterious circumstances in 1897 aged 44 and Cecil Rhodes died aged 48 of heart failure, Alfred Beit died aged 53 of a stroke, Frederick Philipson-Stow died aged 59.
In 1913 Earnest Oppenheimer became the mayor of Kimberley and in 1927 he managed to wrest control of the De Beers empire, building and consolidating the company's global monopoly over the world's diamond industry until his retirement. During this time, he was involved in a number of controversies, including price fixing, he died in Johannesburg in 1957.
The Kimberley Mine or Big Hole was closed in August 2014 at the outbreak of the First World War after 43 years of life and 14,504,375 carats of diamonds were mined.The most famous diamond found here is the The Tiffany Yellow Diamond - one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered; it weighed 287.42 carats (57.484 g) in the rough, 128.53 carats (25.706g) after cutting.The stone was purchased by New York jeweller Charles Tiffany. The cutting was carried out in Paris by a 23 year old George Kunz who studied the stone for a year before cutting it. He added  additional facets to the accepted square antique brilliant cut - bringing the total to 82. The diamond is known to have been worn by only two women - Mrs Sheldon Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball held in Newport, Rhode Island, mounted for the occasion in a necklace of white diamonds. Then by Audrey Hepburn in 1961 publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The necklace of diamond ribbons surrounding the Tiffany Diamond was worn
by actress Audrey Hepburn in 1961.
When not being exhibited around the world it returns to its permanent place of honour on the main floor of the Tiffany Fifth Avenue store, New York.

Today all that remains of the Kimberley Mine is a huge crater 214 metres deep with a surface area of 17 hectares and a perimeter of 1, 6 km.
Visit the Kimberely museum set up by De Beers in Johannesburg.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A more attractive product of volcanic action.....

Just back from a week enjoying the sunshine of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, part of the modern Spanish provence of Las Palmas. 
Lanzarote was called Titeroigatra meaning The Red Mountains by the indigenous people of the Canary Isles, the Guanches, but renamed after the Geonese Navigator Lancelotto Malocello to Insula de Lanzerote Marcelus in the 14th century.
The island of Lanzerote created from Larva
The Canary Isles were created by the solidifying of the larva from fiery eruptions following the break up of the African and American continental plates 15 million years ago.
Timanfaya National Park is the volcanic area on Lanzarote and the most recent volcanic landscapes; created here when in September 1730 a fissure eruption started. This lasted for 6 years and buried 11 villages and 200 sq km of agricultural land land was covered and the lava poured into the sea along 20km of coastline.
The volcanos here lie away from an active plate boundary so it is thought that an intermittent supply of lava comes from a hot spot or mantle plume.
So now what about this caught my attention? Well one of the products of all this volcanic activity is the formation of Olivine the mineral variety of the gemstone Peridot.
Olivine is formed in a magma which is rich in iron and magnesium called mafic magma. When the magma cools and as the olivine minerals have a high crystallisation temperature, they are one of the first to form. Some ultramafic rocks can be composed of almost all olivine and these are called dunites or peridotites.
Dunite is a rock type that is almost wholly composed of olivine. 
Olivine is actually a name for a series of minerals which are categorised between the two end members fayalite or forsterite. Fayalite is the iron rich member, forsterite (named after the German naturalist, John Forester) is the magnesium rich member. The two minerals form a series where the iron and magnesium levels vary. Fayalite due to its iron content has a higher index of refraction, is heavier and has a darker colour than forsterite.
Olivine is one of the most common minerals in the earth and is a major rock forming mineral. Despite this, good specimens and large crystals are rare and sought after, small and microscopic grains are found worldwide. Olivine is also found in meteorites. Olivines are susceptible to weathering and can be altered by a series of chemical reactions to form the mineral serpentine.
Olivine has several industrial uses. It is used as a flux for steel production and is also an important ore of the metal magnesium. Read here for more uses.
Olivine's gemstone variety, known as peridot, it is the birthstone of August and is a green-yellow colour. Its chemical formula is given by: (Mg,Fe)2SiO4. Mohs Hardness 6.5 to 7.
It is quite a brittle stone so not one to wear whilst gardening, save it for the special occasions. 
Peridot and diamond ring handmade by Maker Mends Ltd.

Most peridot is actually the magnesium rich forsterite and its colour is caused by the presence of iron ions. Fayalite's higher iron content make for darker, less attractive specimens that are not generally used as gemstones. Peridot is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one colour, “idiochromatic” as their colour is created by the basic chemical composition of the mineral, it can only be found in shades of green. The most valued colour is a dark olive-green.The best coloured peridot has an iron percentage less than 15% and includes nickel and chromium as trace elements that may also contribute to the best peridot colour.
It is a relatively inexpensive gemstone in small sizes, but the value goes up with stones over 5 carats, with 10-15 carat stones very rare and expensive.
The largest cut Peridot weighing 310 carats is on display in the Smithsonian 
National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. This was found on as St. John Island in the Red Sea. Peridot was mined for over 3,500 years on the volcanic island of St. Johns Island (also known as Zagbargad; Zabargad; Zebirget; Seberged; Topazios) and the deposits rediscovered in 1900. It is also found in Myanmar (Burma), Arizona, New Mexico, and Hawaii, in the US, China, Pakistan, Norway, Brazil, Australia, Kenya, Mexico, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Tanzania. The United States was one of the largest producers of peridot with an estimated value of production of $1.5 million in 1999.
In Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder tells of the first specimen of Peridot being presented to queen Berenice; Theban queen of Lower Egypt, about 300 BC.
In 2006, olivine was found in comet dust brought back from the
 Stardust space probe.
Many of the gift shops sell souvenirs made from the black basalt with olivine crystals.
Clock with a few strategically positioned Olivine crystals glued on. 
Olivine is abundant on Lanzerote and often forms easily noticeable green phenocrysts  (relatively large and usually conspicuous crystal) in black basalt. 
But of course I wanted to find my own samples of olivine, it wasn't that  easy! I found a few but not the hoard I was hoping for. (pride prevented me from purchasing samples from the local mineral shops). 
Black basalt containing olivine phenocrysts as found by me.
If you can't make it to Lanzarote anytime soon the Natural History Museum London has samples of Olivine and Peridot in its mineral and gemstone display.
Uncut Peridot sample on display at the Natural History Museum