She who from April dates her years,
Diamond shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow, this stone,
Emblem of innocence, is known.
The diamond is arguably the most popular gemstone on earth. However, it’s the stone and not the colour that is important for this month’s birthstone. Which is great luck for those born in April, as diamonds come in such a wide variety to colours and hues that there is bound to be one to fit everybody’s taste, just not necessarily their budget!
The first recorded history of the diamond dates back some 3,000 years ago to India, where it is likely that diamonds were first valued for their ability to refract light. Ancient Hindus, finding diamonds washed out of the ground after thunderstorms, believed they were created by bolts of lightning, so they used them as talismans in battle. However it was the Greeks that gave this beautiful gem its name, they fell in love with the stones strength and near invincibility. Which is why we have the word diamond in present day, as it derives from an ancient Greek word, “adamas”, meaning invincible.
Fast forward to Europe during the time of the dark and Middle Ages, where diamonds were powdered and ingested in the hope of curing sickness. In 1534 Pope Clement used this treatment on himself in a bid to aid his recovery from illness – it didn’t work. Towards the end of the Middle Ages things started to change for the diamond. Merchants started to recognise their monetary worth instead of their mystical powers, so mine owners perpetuated myths that diamonds were poisonous.
Of course these days we wouldn’t dream of ingesting diamonds powdered or otherwise. They are now known as a girl’s best friend no matter what colour they come in. Diamonds will forever be the jeweller’s best friend too, due to their extreme durability and endless popularity no matter what form they come in.
April’s other birthstone is quartz, and has been held as the other birthstone for this month for thousands of years. In its clear form ancient people believed it was a form of ice crystal that would never melt. They thought it had cooling powers and was used as a romantic stone, often given to brides on their wedding night. Quartz is once again very popular as it is an affordable yet stunning gem when used in jewellery. It is mostly found used as beads or in charms these days. However it can be sculpted into almost anything – the Egyptians proved this by creating beads, scarabs, hair jewellery, combs and all manner of delicate objects in a range of colours, thus proving its versatility to anybody who wants to use it today.
Who in this world of ours their eyes, in March first open shall be wise, in days of peril firm and brave, Unknown Author.
Aquamarines vary in colour from deep blue to blue-green of different intensities, caused by traces of iron in the beryl crystal. The shade of Aquamarine for the March birthstone is cool blue, the colour of the Aegean sea.
The name aquamarine was derived by the Romans, “aqua,” meaning water, and “mare,” meaning sea, because it looked like sea water. Aquamarines were believed to have originated from the jewel caskets of sirens, washed ashore from the depths of the sea. They were considered sacred to Neptune, Roman god of the sea. This association with the sea made it the sailors’ gem, promising prosperous and safe voyages, as well as protection against perils and monsters of the sea. Its first documented use was by the Greeks between 480-300 BC. They wore aquamarine amulets engraved with Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea) on a chariot.
During the Middle Ages, it was believed to be an effective antidote against poison. Aquamarines were thought to be the source of power for soothsayers, who called it the “magic mirror,” and used it for telling fortunes and answering questions about the future.
Aquamarine rates a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes it a superb gem for a wide range of jewellery, including rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
The second birthstone for March is the bloodstone. Bloodstone is a variety of dark green chalcedony spotted with red also known as heliotrope. The myths behind this particular gem are perhaps the most abundant of all the gems. It supposedly gained its red flecks as it was placed at the foot of the cross and collected flecks of Christ’s blood – thus causing bloodstone to also be known as the martyr’s stone. Babylonians used this stone to make seals and amulets, and it was also a favourite with Roman gladiators. In the Middle Ages, bloodstone was believed to hold healing powers, particularly for stopping nosebleeds. Powdered and mixed with honey and white of egg, it was believed to cure tumours and stop all types of haemorrhage. Ancient alchemists used it to treat blood disorders, including blood poisoning and the flow of blood from a wound. Bloodstone was also believed to draw out the venom of snakes.
Bloodstone was very popular in Victorian and Edwardian jewellery. It has seen a very recent revival perhaps due to the recent resurgence of Art Deco style jewellery, and male jewellery.
The February born shall find, sincerity and peace of mind, freedom from passion and from care, If they, the amethyst will wear. Unknown Author
February – the month of love – has the deep vibrant amethyst as its birthstone. The word “Amethyst” is derived from the Greek word “amethystos” which means “remedy against drunkenness.” The Amethyst is a semi-precious stone in varying shades of purple which belongs to the quartz family and owes its colour to oxide of manganese and iron which forms part of its composition. However for the February birthstone, deep violet is the only desirable colour variety. The best varieties of Amethysts come from Siberia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and the Far East. It is one the more affordable gemstones, adding to its popularity.
The amethyst holds a long rich history of both lore and legend. It can be traced back as far as 25,000 years ago in France, where it was used as a decorative stone by prehistoric humans. It has also been found among the remains of Neolithic man. Legend says that it got its beautiful colour from a nymph who invoked the aid of the Goddess Diana to protect her from the attentions of the god Bacchus. Diana promptly changed the nymph into a pure white, sparkling image of stone. Realizing his cruelty, Bacchus poured grape wine over her, thus giving the stone the exquisite violet hue of the amethyst. During the Middle Ages, it was used as medication, believed to dispel sleep, sharpen intellect, and protect the wearer from sorcery. It was also believed to bring victory in battle. In Arabian mythology, the amethyst was supposed to protect the wearer from bad dreams and gout.
The hardness of garnet on the Mohs’ scale is 7, which explains why this stunning gemstone is so excellent to work into jewellery, especially when it is teamed with silver – which is very on trend this year.
Bloodstone is the alternative birthstone for February.
Rose Quartz is another affordable birthstone for January. This cloudy pink gemstone was believed by ancient Greeks to have been coloured from cloudy white to pink by the spilling of Aphrodite’s blood. Rose quartz has been used in jewellery in Europe since antiquity, Romans used to give this cloudy pink gemstone as a symbol of love and friendship. However this gemstone has recently seen a huge resurgence in popularity for use in jewellery in particular affordable modern silver jewellery.
By her who in this month January was born, no gem save garnets should be worn, they will ensure her constancy, true friendship, and fidelity. Unknown Author
January is a cold and bitter month for us in the UK, which makes the stunning warm red garnet gemstone a perfect choice for the January birthstone. The name “garnet” is derived from the Latin “granatum” meaning “pomegranate” because the crystals resemble the red colour and seed-like form of this fruit. Not all garnets are red as many people believe, in fact they come in many colours including orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, blue, black, pink and colourless. However for the January birthstone, the deep fiery red garnet is the only desirable colour variety.
Garnet is a beautiful and very popular gemstone that has been used for thousands of years. They were given to ancient kings to wear as a talisman for protection and worn by warriors during the crusades by both Christian and Muslims to safeguard them on their travels. And according to the Talmud, the only light on Noah’s ark was provided by a large garnet. Much later on during the Middle Ages in Europe, garnet was made popular once again by monks as it was believed to enhance truth, faith and constancy, and to dispel melancholy in those who wore it.
The hardness of garnet on the Mohs’ scale is 7 to 7.5, which explains why this stunning gemstone is so excellent to work into jewellery. And to the bearer, not only is this gemstone very attractive and eye-catching, it is extremely resistant to everyday wear and tear.
Rose Quartz is an affordable alternative birthstone for January. This cloudy pink gemstone was believed by ancient Greeks to have been coloured from cloudy white to pink by the spilling of Aphrodite’s blood. Rose quartz has been used in jewellery in Europe since antiquity, Romans used to give this cloudy pink gemstone as a symbol of love and friendship. However this gemstone has recently seen a huge resurgence in popularity for use in jewellery in particular affordable modern silver jewellery.
I don’t have any Garnets, so if you have any you want to show, please send them through, or tweet me about them. @thegembank
I hope you have a Happy Holiday and a Wonderful 2014.
I look forward to working with you in the new year.
Richard, Gaetane, Francoise and Dan.
International Gemstones | London
Major Trading | Geneva
2013 especially November really was an incredible time for the sale of fantastic gems and jewellery. So much so, I have decided to do a round-up of the auction highlights for you.
Since the 1970’s the two main auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s held regular sales devoted to important diamonds and coloured stones. These regular auctions have heightened interest exponentially of coloured gems and has consequently become a strong indicator of their market value.
Since the 2007 crash of the world economy the price of gems, especially coloured ones, has risen year on year, with auction estimates regularly being smashed by the time the hammer falls. And yet there is still no sign that the ceiling price has been anywhere near reached.
The time for coloured gems is now, and the auction results prove it.
Pink Star diamond fetches record $83m at auction 13th Nov
The most famous sale of the month and the absolute pick of the bunch was the sale of a stunning diamond known as the “Pink Star” which sold for a staggering $83m (£52m) at auction in Geneva – a record price for a gemstone. The record breaking didn’t stop there, Sotheby’s reported that it sold almost $200m worth of jewellery in that auction, a record for a single auction.
The Pink Star diamond measuring 2.69cm x 2.06cm, was sold to Isaac Wolf, a well-known New York diamond cutter who has renamed it the “Pink Dream”. The winning bid was for 68m Swiss francs ($74m) there was a long silence between that offer and the previous telephone bid of 67m Swiss francs, but the auctioneer David Bennett said that for 67m francs he could allow a quick word! He further commented “Ladies and gentlemen, 68 million is the world record bid for a diamond ever bid and it’s right here,” as he brought down the hammer. Then to add to the occasion Sotheby’s played the theme tune from the “Pink Panther” movie after the winning bid was confirmed!
According to the auctioneer, the Pink Star was mined by De Beers in Africa in 1999, but it did not say which country. “It’s really extraordinarily rare,” said Mr Bennett. “Very, very few of these stones have ever appeared at auction.” It took two years to cut and polish the diamond, which was 132.5 carat in its rough state. In its finished condition the Pink Star is 59.60 carat, more than double the size of the next biggest diamond in its class.
Of course the auction didn’t stop there, The Richelieu Sapphires, a pair of rare and magnificent Kashmir sapphire and diamond earrings also went under the hammer and almost doubled the estimate of £2,887,796 as the lovely pair of earrings achieved £5,221,152.
The unheated stones, each weighing 26.66cts and 20.88cts are from Kashmir, where the world’s most sought after sapphires are found. The mines were discovered by chance as a result of a landslide between 1879-1882, but at 4,500m above sea level and for much of the year covered in snow, mining operations were limited to three months of the year. By 1887 the “old mine” was exhausted and the “new mine” was abandoned in 1908. Looking through a Kashmir sapphire is like looking up into the Himalayan sky, as the inclusions in the stone can sometimes resemble wispy clouds. Kashmir sapphires have a rich, velvety appearance and the colour is sometimes referred to as a “cornflower blue”. To find a matching pair of this size is very rare indeed.
A few weeks later, Christie’s in Hong Kong Sets the Asian Jewellery Auction Record
Christie’s “Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels” auction achieved a record-breaking $111 million (HK$859 million) in total sales on November 26, making it the highest total ever for a jewellery auction in Asia, according to Christie’s.
Results were described as robust with 86% sold by lot – 266 of 309 lots offered. The top lot of the auction was a circular-cut D Flawless diamond rivière comprising 52 stones that weigh a total of 105 carats. It was sold to a private Asian collector for $8.14 million (HK$62.8 million) with buyer’s premium, within its $7.26 – 9.33 million (HK$56 – 72 million) estimation.
It was followed by a Burmese ruby and diamond necklace by Hong Kong-based jeweller Etcetera, which weighs a total of 87.8cts. At $6.4 million (HK$49.4 million), including buyer’s premium. The necklace, also sold to a private Asian collector, set a new world record price for a ruby necklace on November 26.
Another record was set by lot 2063, an oval-shaped fancy intense orange pink VVS1 clarity diamond of 12.9cts. The coloured diamond is set within a brilliant-cut diamond border with a pear-shaped diamond surround, and is mounted in a platinum and 18k rose gold ring. It exchanged hands for $4.95 million (HK$38.2 million) with buyer’s premium, within its $4.28 – 6.48 million (HK$33 – 50 million) estimation. The piece sets the record price for an orangey pink diamond, as well as the per-carat price for an orangey pink diamond.
The showstopper here was Lot 2048. A stunning rare purple star sapphire, tsavorite garnet and diamond ring by Wallace Chan. Its estimate of between £54.8 – 71k was totally smashed when the hammer dropped at £85,072. The star, or asterism, is caused by the needle-like crystals of rutile that have formed parallel to the crystal faces so that when cut en cabochon will form a 4 or 6 ray star. These are wonderful stones and to find a purple one is very unusual. Set with green garnets (tsavorites) and diamonds, with the shank decorated with scroll titanium inlay makes for a very eye catching jewel, designed by one of Asia’s most talented jewellery designers. This is a present any woman would love to find in her Christmas stocking.
The final auction of the month was Christie’s London’s Important Jewels auction on November 27.
The Christie’s London sale – their last before Christmas – included such a wide variety of jewels that there was something for everyone, provided that ‘everyone’ is a millionaire. There were no less than eight diamond tiaras – a sign that demand is still high for these ultimate head ornaments. The catalogue had its own Cartier section where 33 lots were offered for sale including wristwatches, compact cases and an art deco aquamarine and diamond clip very similar to one that Queen Elizabeth II owns. In the afternoon session there was a collection of six René Lalique works of art ending with a fabulous Burmese sapphire pendant.
Among so many stunning lots there were those that stood out even more than the rest – Art Nouveau was definitely the flavour of the day.
At this auction the most beautiful lot of the day was Lot 339, a show stopping but sophisticated statement ring, an art deco moonstone, sapphire and diamond cocktail ring by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1940. The estimate for this piece was a low £8k and it finally realised, after a flurry of bids on the phone, floor and internet, £21.25k Lot 315, an art nouveau gold and enamel necklace of entwined gold ivy leaves with black and brown enamel gold berries, signed by Lucien Gaillard, circa 1900, doubled its estimate and realised £32.5k. Showing that Art Nouveau is still very popular right at the top end of the market. Gaillard is a lesser-known art nouveau jeweller and was not as prolific as Lalique but nevertheless was one of the greatest jewellery designers of his time. He was influenced by Japanese art and never used human figures or faces in his designs – unlike many of his peers. His trademark was a single m.
Of course you will also remember the other big hitters of the year.
Egg sized Diamond sells for $30.8 million
The price topped the previous record of $26.7m for a white diamond sold at an auction in Geneva in May. The stone, sold in six minutes of bidding on Monday night, was described by Sotheby’s as “the largest D colour flawless diamond D colour” or finest white diamonds are considered extremely rare and fetch premium prices. The gem was discovered in a mine in an undisclosed southern African country in 2011 and weighed 299 carats before cutting. Pre-sale estimates had valued the diamond, given the highest quality rating by the Gemological Institute of America, at $28-$35m.
Vivid orange Diamond sells for £22 million
The 14.82-carat vivid orange diamond shattered its high estimate of $21 million. It was the last of the 286 lots that were up for sale at the auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. It set a world record for a fancy vivid orange diamond. At $2,398,151 per carat, it also set a world record price per carat for any coloured diamond sold at auction.
Pear Shaped Diamond 101.73 carats sells for $26.7
Back in May, a spectacular 101.73 ct. D flawless diamond fetched an equally spectacular price at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva—$26.7 million, or $254,400 per carat. This was a new world record for a colourless diamond sold at auction, which has since been surpassed as records for diamonds do not last long. The buyer was Harry Winston, in one of its first moves under new owner Swatch. The diamond will be named the “Winston Legacy,” in keeping with “the founder’s tradition of buying only the best,” says Christie’s international head of jewellery Francios Curiel. Swatch did not reply to a request for comment on its plans for the gem.
Princie Intense Pink Diamond sells for $39.3
In April, The Princie, a 34.65 ct. fancy intense pink cushion cut, scored $39.3 million ($1.1 million a carat) at Christie’s New York – making it the most expensive jewel ever sold in the auction house’s 200-plus year history. The Type IIa stone – which was found in the famed Golconda mines of India – was originally owned by the Nizams of Hyderabad, rulers of the south central state in India. It was first auctioned in 1960 and purchased for £46,000 by the London branch of Van Cleef & Arpels. The diamond was named in honour of 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, India, who attended a party at a Paris Van Cleef store in 1960 with his mother, Maharani Sita Devi.
The result of Sotheby’s and Christie’s Magnificent and Important Jewellery auctions have become so popular with buyers and the media alike, that they have placed themselves in direct competition to long-established jewellery houses such as Cartier, Tiffany, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Perhaps because some people like to own a piece of jewellery with a bit of history and the auction houses do excel at telling the story of the product. However, the main purchasers of the giant coloured gems are mostly investors as they seek to place their money in something more solid than stocks and shares. The fever for knowledge and ownership of coloured diamonds and gemstones seems to be universal and ever growing. I imagine that this time next year, if I do another auction special, I will be reporting that all the above records will have been smashed. It is indeed rather exciting times for gem dealers, jewellers and investors alike.
If cold December gave you birth, the month of snow and ice and mirth, place on your hand a turquoise blue; success will bless whate’er you do. Unknown Author
Blue turquoise has been found on artefacts dating back 5000 years, in ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. The word Turquoise is derived from the Greek word “turkois” meaning “Turkish” because it was first brought from Turkey to medieval Europe. Perhaps the oldest stone in male history, the talisman of kings, shamans, and warriors. Warriors in both ancient and medieval times wore Turquoise as a protection from death before their time. If the warrior looked down and saw a crack in the stone they would believe that the Turquoise took the blow instead of them, thus enabling them to fight another day.
For all the stone’s history, turquoise as a luxury gemstone is a relatively recent concept. Although it was long associated with royalty in Asia and the Middle East or with Southwestern American tribes. Now however, turquoise is enjoying a huge revival in expensive designer jewellery and current high-street fashion. You can see it being used in rings bracelets, earrings, and especially in the very popular charm bracelets. And the glitterati appears to agree. Turquoise has been seen on Eva Mendes, Cameron Diaz, Penny Lancaster; and the models Heidi Klum, Bar Refaeli and Bianca Balti. Ms. Balti’s turquoise and diamond de Grisogono necklace which she wore at the Cannes, later sold for about 500,000 Swiss francs, or $550,000.
An alternative birthstone for December, but not necessarily a less costly alternative is the stunning Tanzanite. In 2002 the American Gem Trade Association officially added this beautiful gem as a December birthstone. Tanzanite is a blue-lavender stone primarily mined in Tanzania – hence the name, and was discovered in 1967. The tanzanite is said to have better fire, and therefore more sparkle, and it is hard and durable enough to use in many kinds of jewellery settings. It’s immediate popularity was immense, thanks largely to a very extensive campaign by Tiffany and Co in 2002 to promote their own Tanzanite jewellery.
As the days turn decidedly cooler those with birthdays this month can find warmth in their beautiful birthstone Topaz. This beautiful and inviting gem comes in an array of colours, however the tone to represent this month is warm honey, it is no wonder that it represents lasting friendship and trust. Topaz is the one of the hardest minerals in nature with its large crystal formations exceeding most other crystals in size, making it perfect for setting in this seasons “must have” oversized cocktail ring.
The word ‘topaz,’ birthstone for the month of November, comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “fire.” And in ancient lore, the topaz could be used to control heat. It was said to have the power to cool boiling water, as well as excessive anger. As medication, topaz has been used to cure illness, as it was placed upon the fevered brow of the sufferer. During the Middle Ages, topaz was used mostly by royalty and clergy. A 13th century belief held that a topaz engraved with a falcon helped its wearer cultivate the goodwill of kings, princes and magnates.
Pure topaz, when brilliantly cut, can be often mistaken for a diamond. Because of its rarity, topaz is an expensive gem. The most valued and rarest colour is red. Imperial topaz-sherry coloured varieties of brownish-yellow, orange-yellow and reddish brown-are the most popular topaz stones.
An alternative, and much more affordable birthstone for November is the Citrine – sometimes confused with Topaz at it shares the same warm honey tones. Citrine is said to bring the bearer light-heartedness, protection and joy, while also proving a soothing balm to dispel anxiety. This beautiful gem was became very popular in the Art Deco period, no doubt with the help of its biggest fan at the time, Greta Garbo. Its use did decline for a while, however with the return of large statement jewellery and Art Deco designs coming back onto fashion citrine has seen a huge revival. It is perfect for use in cocktail rings and long very trendy pendant necklaces – recently seen being worn by the gem’s latest celebrity fan – the Duchess of Cambridge!
October is a dazzling month, as the leaves start to turn from green, we are treated to scenery that holds a kaleidoscope of colours, a true feast for the eyes. Perhaps this is why the beautiful opal, the rainbow gem, has been used as October’s birthstone for thousands of years. The name opal is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit upala, meaning “precious stone,” and later the Greek derivative “Opallios,” meaning “to see a change of colour.”
Opals have a very long and chequered history. I am sure you will have heard at some point that opals bring bad luck or that they are a sign of evil. This mistaken belief has stemmed from many different sources over the years. The wife of Napoleon III of France, refused to wear the stones, as she referred to them as pebbles of evil. However this beautiful gem has been treasured far more than it has been feared. Queen Victoria laughed in the face of suspicion and gave each daughter an opal for a wedding gift. In Asia today as well as in ancient times, opal is viewed as a symbol of hope. The Greeks and the Romans believed that the opal was a symbol of fidelity and assurance, and in later history it became associated with religious emotional prayer, and used to decorate temples. Today the opal is popular once again, being used in many different types of jewellery. The cost of the opal will not break the bank, of course, as always, there are s few exceptions to this. However the closer to white the opal is the cheaper it tends to be as that is the most common type mined.
An alternate birthstone for October, and just as affordable, is the Pink Tourmaline. This gem has been highly valued by ancient alchemists who, perhaps because of its pyroelectric effect, believed it to be related to the philosopher’s stone. This was said to be the substance that would grant enlightenment, give power over spiritual affairs, reconcile opposites and change base metals to gold. Today the Pink Tourmaline is very much back in fashion, as its colour being pink, coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is also October, and has been put in many pieces of jewellery to promote the cause.
Have you ever noticed that the sky is always at its bluest this time of year? Perhaps this is why September’s birthstone is the stunning blue Sapphire. Since antiquity, the colour blue and September have always been connected. Even the word “Sapphire” derives its name from the Greek “sapphirus” meaning blue, a word which itself comes from the Hebrew ” sappir” which means to shine.
In western Europe, medieval clergy wore sapphires to symbolize heaven, while commoners thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings. The sapphire was said to represent the purity of the soul. Before and during the Middle Ages, it was worn by priests as protection from impure thoughts and temptations of the flesh. Medieval kings of Europe valued these stones for rings and brooches, believing that it protected them from harm and envy. Warriors presented their young wives with sapphire necklaces so they would remain faithful.
Blue sapphires are reassuringly expensive, no matter where they find themselves on the colour spectrum. However as always, some are more costly than others. The biggest price tags are placed upon medium to medium dark blue stones. Sapphire’s do come in a variety of colours. Pink, purple, green, orange, or yellow and are known by their colour, e.g. pink sapphire, green sapphire etc. However for this month’s birthstone, the sapphire has to be blue!
An alternative and more affordable birthstone for September is the lapis lazuli. It has been mined from around 4000 B.C. and is still in use today. This beautiful blue stone was a very much rare and prized gem of the ancient world. The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamen was inlaid with lapis lazuli, as were other burial ornaments of Egyptian kings and queens. This blue gem of lazurite came only from a mine in northern Afghanistan, and was given mystical and magical properties in ancient Egypt and medieval Europe. In the present day Lapis luzuli is known to represent truth, and the wearer of this gem is meant to be awarded enhanced wisdom and good judgement.