Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy Fourth of July from America's Largest Diamond

In honor of the Fourth we're taking a look at the largest American found
diamond, Uncle Sam.

Discovered by Wesley Oley Basham, Uncle Sam was unearthed in 1924 from the Prairie Creek Pipe Mine in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.  The hefty rough was named after Basham’s nickname “Uncle Sam” and weighed in at 40.23 carats. Its discovery drew attention to the failing Arkansas Diamond Corporation, rescuing the company from its debt and inevitable closure that winter.  Now the mine is known as The Crater of Diamonds State Park. It is the only mine in the world open to the public and has become a popular vacation destination for American rockhounds.

Uncle Sam was decided to be stylized as an 12.42 carat emerald cut fashioned by
Schenck & Van Haelen of New York. The stone was graded as an M in color, for it has been described to be a pale brown or slightly pink.  The VVS1 clarity was demonstrated beautifully in the stepped facets as a viewer could not see an inclusion without the assistance of a loupe.

Uncle Sam was sold to a private collector in 1971 for $150 million and is unfortunately not
on display but is still a celebrated American treasure.

From Uncle Sam, have a very happy and safe Fourth of July!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Admiring the Strength of the Elephant

One of my favorite animals is the elephant.  They're majestically massive and at the same time incredibly intuitive and nurturing.  They are complex creatures which explains why they are so prominent as a motif in several cultures.  Here I'm wearing some of my favorite LAGOS pieces while taking a look at the iconography of the elephant.

One of the most popular depictions of the elephant is through the Hindu religion.  The god Ganesha is easily identifiable with his large elephant head on a human body.  His likeness will be found across South Asia in countries like India, Nepal, and Thailand.  Ganesha is a patron of the arts and sciences and looked upon as the remover of obstacles.  A steadfast god to look to in times of trial.

In Buddhism you will find the presence of the elephant pair Kangiten, represented as male and female elephant headed humanoid figures embracing as a symbol of the unity of opposites.  Enforcing the belief of the oneness of all things though they may be seemingly different.

In Islam, the Quran has a chapter entitled "The Elephant".  A story of a Abraha's white elephant, Mahmud, that refused to cross into Mecca, foiling Abraha's plan to lead Yemen to conquer the holy city.  Mahmud could not be persuaded to cross by reason or violence, once again depicting the elephant as a creature of intelligence and resolve.

The elephant is not indigenous to Europe but was discovered through their exploration or Asia. Awed by the ferocity of the war elephant in battle, Europe adopted the beast as a symbol of militaristic strength. Napoleon even commissioned a giant cast bronze elephant fountain to be made from guns confiscated in victorious battle.  The fountain was never completed (hello Waterloo).

America adopted the elephant to represent the Republican party in 1884.  The origin is a political cartoon done by Thomas Nash.  The elephant is shown charging in dispersing other smaller animals representing other political interests at the time.  Another account of dominance and strength.

Lastly Elephants are native to Africa and usually where most people imagine them. In Africa the elephant is revered for its strength, wisdom, and memory. The elephant was depicted on several coat of arms throughout time in Africa including South Africa, The Ivory Coast, the kingdom of Laos, and the kingdom of Dahomey.

Globally you can see the elephant is respected and admired for it's strength, it is looked to for it's wisdom, and it is a symbol of conquering obstacles and embracing change.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Does The Lesotho Diamond Measure Up?

Early this year the world’s fifth largest gem-quality rough diamond was found at Lesotho
Africa’s Letseng mine. D in color and weighing in at 910 carats, the gem is the largest
diamond to have been found in that particular mine and is estimated to be worth

The size is striking, comparable to a baseball in size and weight, but how does it measure
up to other large gem-quality diamonds found?

Starting with the most famous and by far the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found,
the Cullinan.  It was discovered by Thomas Cullinan from the Premier No. 2 Mine in Cullinan,
South Africa in 1905. Weighing a whopping 3106.75 carats, the stone was ultimately cut into
9 stones total by the Asscher brothers.  The Cullinan I and II were used in the British Crown
Jewels while the other 7 stones remained with the Asscher family.  Even cut, the Cullinan is
still record holding.

The Cullinan I is the world’s largest clear cut diamond weighing in at 530.4 carats and D in
color. This Great Star of Africa, currently resides in the scepter of the British Crown Jewels
on display at the Tower of London.

The Cullinan II, the Lesser Star of Africa, is that second largest clear cut diamond weighing
in at 317.4 carats.  This stone is also part of the British Crown Jewels, set in the front of the
Imperial State Crown below the Black Prince’s Ruby (famously misnamed and is actually a red spinel).

The second largest gem-quality rough diamond is the Lesedi La Rona. It was found in the
Karowe Mine of Botswana in 2015 weighing in at 1109 carats.  The stone was purchased in
2017 by Graff Diamonds and has since been cut into smaller sellable stones.

Then we have the Excelsior Diamond which was the world’s largest gem-quality rough
diamond prior to the discovery of the Cullinan and is currently ranked third among its peers
in that category at 970 carats. The Excelsior Diamond was found in 1893 at the Jagersfontein
Mine in South Africa and has since tragically been cut into 21 insignificant stones that were
sold to several different buyers. One of the famous jewelry pieces to come from this stone is
a bracelet holding the 69.68 carat pear Excelsior I.  The stone was cut by the Asscher
Diamond Company in 1903 and eventually sold to and set by Robert Mouawadin 1996.

Finally we have the fourth largest gem-quality stone, the Star of Sierra Leone, extraordinarily
close in weight to the Excelsior Diamond at 968.9 carats. It is the largest alluvial diamond
ever discovered and was uncovered by miners in 1972 in the Diminco alluvial mines in Sierra
Leone. Harry Winston purchased the diamond and had it cut into 17 stones. Six of these
diamonds are present in Harry Winston’s “Star of Sierra Leone” brooch.

It seems that Africa is still the juggernaut when it comes to large gem-quality rough.
Impressively, only two of these diamonds are known to have been found using modern LDR
technology, the Lesedi La Rona and the Lesotho.

I can’t wait to see if how this magnificent stone ends up, whether it is cut into several smaller
pieces to be auctioned or if a mighty stone is cut and set into a work of art. Either way it is
definitely a stone to stay tuned into.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Royal Engagement

Another heirloom is added to the royal jewelry collective now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have recently become engaged.

Prince Harry worked with Queen Elizabeth II’s trusted jeweler, Cleave and Company, to craft a brilliantly meaningful ring.

The center stone is sourced from Botswana, a place significant to the couple since they enjoyed a camping trip there just weeks after first meeting.  The ring carries a literal piece of the land as a beautiful reminder of the galvanized beginnings of their romance.

The two side stones were taken from Princess Diana’s jewelry collection which was left to Prince William and Harry upon her death.

Using life as inspiration for developing the ring, Prince Harry notes, “It’s incredibly special. And you know to be able to have this [the ring] which sort of links where you come from and Botswana which is important to us. It’s perfect.”

The three stone yellow gold ring is an instant classic and will surely influence many 2018 proposals just as Princess Diana’s velvety sapphire ring has done for nearly 40 years.

Congratulations to the Royal Couple!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Van Cleef & Arpels' Noah's Ark Exhibition

Last weekend I had the pleasure of embarking on an enticing visual journey curated by Van Cleef & Arpels’ interpretation of Noah’s Ark as imagined by famed set designer Robert Wilson.  The Parisian designer is known for producing masterful pieces of high jewelry that set a scene for the wearer or admirer.  The whimsical figures are expertly produced allowing a person’s focus to shift from execution into intention.  What is the story being told through the piece’s movement and color?

To immerse the viewer into the story of Noah’s Ark, Wilson selected an art space in Chelsea New York City, which he transformed into a page out of a children’s story book.  As we walked into the space, I needed to lower my head as if I was garnering passage upon a vessel.  Once inside I was encapsulated into a serene bluish room whose walls rippled like waves due to projected lighting.  Suspended from the ceiling was a wireframe wooden model of an ark, gently suggesting we had set sea and the only place that existed anymore was what was in the room.  Within the room were shadow boxes set into the walls beckoning us to peep in on the jeweled creatures inside as if they were residing in a stall on the ship.

What was on view was breathtaking, each animal was coupled with a partner as dictated in the old bible story having them boarded “two by two”.  Some jewels were expected, such as colorful sapphires and garnets, but there were unexpected treats on view as well such as snowflake obsidian carved into the likeness of rabbits.

One of my favorite minerals is jasper and I was elated to see it carved into a majestic depiction of resting rams.

Viewers were only given about 20 minutes to view the room, while experiencing light and sound effects articulating heavy rainfall.  Needless to say 20 minutes was not enough time for me to take it all in, thankfully the staff was very kind and allowed my friend and I to cycle through again while treating us with a canvas bag containing a booklet explaining the event.

On the second viewing I noticed a little more intention in the way the room was set up.  Similar colors and figures were set parallel from each other across the room.   Such as the geometrically heavy in design giraffe was set directly across from the similarly colored and set chameleon.  

The more polar like animals were set to the back of the room, decadent in pearls.

In the center of the wall a large opal with lively play of color and creatures giving off the illusion of movement.

And the feeling of texture.

The exhibit is on display for another week, more information can be found on the site here.

In celebration of the world renowned exhibit the Van Cleef & Arpels store is also displaying the jeweled creatures, though the same in figure, much different and warmer in hue.

The whole experience was otherworldly, giving a sleepy dreamlike illustration of a familiar story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ladies Night Art Crawl

Fall is my favorite time of year for several reason;, scarves, foliage, spiced cider, but most of all craft fairs.

My pumpkin spice fiance and I decided to enjoy the newly crisp fall air by moseying through the Ladies Night Art Crawl.  The event consisted of a string of predominantly female owned studio spaces opening their doors to the public to come look, touch, and buy made in Philly art.

Scrawled below is the map distributed by the vendors, the starting point being The Common Room , a creative space to curate woman created art.

There I came across two new artists to follow.  The first being Sadie Francis of Only in the Forest.  Francis has worked in the environmental field for 15 years, in doing so she carried her hobby over to shareable wearable art.  The flowers she encases in resin are found during long daily walks through Philadelphia’s expansive park system. I’ve seen this type of jewelry before, so what really makes these pieces poignant is knowing they’re local and made by someone who deeply cares about sustaining nature.  They’re not just flowers, they’re flowers from our community.

The second artist I came across was MEO-C.28  who created an exciting take on the necklace bib. She paints exaggerated baubles onto re-purposed fabric to create the look of a bib without the heft of it.  Light weight and handcrafted, these works give new life to a tired trend.

Last but not least is always a favorite of mine, Forge and Finish.  A trio of Temple ladies working together to handcraft jeweled treasures.  My current favorite collection is Talo, jeweled with a tasty bluish green tourmaline.  Forge and Finish does an excellent job of echoing shape between collections allowing a wearer to mix and match between collections. Each piece is a work of art with a slight edge that sets it aside from it’s peers. Very wearable while still making a statement.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Pyle on the Jewels

Fresh off the heels of New York Fashion Week a hunger was stoked for new fall style and it can be satiated by the independent artists featured at The Pool Trade Show this weekend taking place at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

One jewelry artist, Amy C Pyles, has an edgier collection perfect to invigorate anyone’s wardrobe that is really looking to bolden their style.

There is a strong energy in her jewelry that is brought to life with a repeating line motif found intermittent with leather and gem elements to create a striking visual palette.

Contemporary in foundation, Pyles incorporates non-traditional items like found vintage objects as a focal points and elevates their purpose by integrating them with various types of chain, her specialty.

I always love coming across work like Pyles’ because you can invest in one piece and it will serve you all season.  With this much versatility, you can easily style a new necklace or bracelet into your current outfit favorites to freshen them for fall.

If you’re in the NYC area this weekend be sure to check it out: