Red Spotlight On...An American Rose
In the world of collecting comic books, even celebrities can be enthusiasts, buyers and participants in the market. If the chain of ownership for an issue can be traced back to a known personality, this fact may increase value. A publication proven to have been owned by a particular individual is said to have a Pedigree.
In the world of collecting gemstones, a Pedigree is called Provenance.
In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a character begs in one line, "Talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it!" Harry made a reputation for himself for tracking the Provenance of famous gems, supposedly claiming, "You're not just selling the stone…you're selling the story." The story is the hi-story of an individual jewel.
Attaching the true history made his gemstones famous. His customers wanted to KNOW why a precious gem was valuable, what made it one-of-a-kind and where it had been. The Hope Diamond became WELL-KNOWN after Harry spent almost a decade on tour with this blue legend, making its long and rich history KNOWN to the public.
Today's customer still wants to KNOW everything about their gemstone...from the moment it was recovered at the mine, if possible. An Origin Report from a gemological laboratory provides an expert opinion on the country where a gemstone was found. Tracing a stone back to the locality proves authenticity and ethical production. Fortunately, Benitoite and Red Emerald each come from only one place on Earth, a single source in America, alleviating any of these concerns.
The Original Scientific Papers of G.D. Louderback, published to honor Benitoite, declared the California State Gemstone in 1985.
The first piece of gem rough I purchased was a monster, and I needed to verify the chain of custody. I tracked the ownership of this red beryl specimen to colored gem dealer Bill Vance, who I met in person at a California gem show in November 2014. The following year, I attended the same convention with Vance Gems to help set up and tear down their display.
As a side-benefit to helping out a friend, I was able to see Bill's inventory before anyone arrived. On new consignment was a 9.12 carat Benitoite, a stone never offered on the open market before. I was floored. I knew Benitoite as the rarest gemstone on Earth before the arrival of Red Emerald, but I had never witnessed such a large example. One of Apple's founders, Michael Scott, owns the largest faceted Benitoite.
The very first day, I discovered how many Californians appreciated such a prize example from their state. Those who spotted the fascinating jewel marveled and complimented the piece. Many strained for a closer look, not necessarily motivated by an interest to purchase, but in an effort to catch a glimpse of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
That night, after the masses left, I was finally able to investigate this azure emerald cut for myself under a bright light and loupe. The stone was not noteworthy for brilliance, but had the humming blue glow of a gemstone with a power to disperse light greater than diamond.
A Gota de Aceite Emerald contains inclusions which affect body texture; inclusions in this Benitoite create an aesthetic appearance of moving water.
There were inclusions, but Red Emerald is my favorite variety of all. As Type III gemstones, Emeralds are expected to have MORE inclusions than unheated Sapphire. If I can stand some silk in an unheated ruby, how could I judge a gemstone 10,000 times more uncommon for similar features?
A Type III gemstone means ALL are expected to contain inclusions. If inclusions must be present, then some are naturally preferable to others. Inclusions which create interesting patterns like oriented rutile or black trapiche lines are visually stunning, and those which assist in light return through chatoyancy or asterism command some of the highest prices from collectors of any seen on the market.
When looking for flawlessness, one searches with nothing to see, but observing this gemstone was like witnessing one of nature's finest paintings. I hunted and found layered detail in a rich, cerulean landscape larger than virtually every other example of this variety on Earth. Benitoite is a Type II stone, which means inclusions will appear on a level EQUAL to that of an unheated Sapphire. When a species possesses such rarity that the number of examples in this size can be counted by hand, I believe placing a heavy emphasis on clarity alone is an unfair position for faceters to take.
The presence of this gemstone was absolutely breathtaking. An Emerald cut is a non-traditional choice for this variety, but this faceting style is used to showcase inclusions, and rocking the body caused a field of rainbow feathers similar to those I have seen in chrome tourmaline to appear. Dozens of arching flashes filled with every color twinkled like numerous tiny lighthouses operating independently in a great blue sea. The lapidary who made this work of art saw the ability to fashion one of the world's largest by placing these natural wonders in perfect suspension.
The Union of our national flag is defined as a blue field with white stars. When the lights of these microscopic suns hit me, one of my first thoughts went to America, and the number of my fellow citizens who would love to see this.
The fate for almost all large stones of this caliber is to be locked away in a millionaire's safe, never to be seen again. Fortunate specimens end up in a museum, or shown in a traveling collection, but life for most of these poor gems is over. Most significant stones in this variety never find their way into jewelry, where they can be treasured in an entirely different way -- purchased with the utility of a precious gem seen and adored as a being-in-the-world.
Twice as many Red Diamonds have been found than Benitoite in this size. Though a great responsibility, I would ensure this one would get to LIVE by placing it in a work of art.
Many designs were considered for this preeminent stone, but the lotus morphed into to a Rose, manufactured on platforms of mixed-metal.
My cousin David once commented (or critiqued), "Everything means something with you."
In my defense, "I only think everything means something, because everything usually does!"
I try to have a reason for putting specific facets together in a design, to have the placement of each stone carefully considered. I intended to design fine jewelry from the world's rarest gemstones, this would be my very first piece, and I wanted it to be beautiful.
I had been working with a local jeweler in Des Moines, Bruce Owen, on a statement piece for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The Red Emerald was my favorite gemstone, and I wanted to provide an opportunity for others to love on them, too. I sorted melee by color for months and finally separated a usable supply of red stones with top saturation. Bestowed with a colored-flower last name, I initially considered an elaborate Lotus project, but no design seemed correct without a focal piece to use in the center.
I knew this Benitoite would work perfectly as the California heart of an All-American showpiece. After all, my own heart was literally located in California at that moment!
Although there were only a few months before TGMS, Bruce designed a beautiful pendant strung on a triple-strand platinum chain. From a rectangular blue field with star-like inclusions in the Benitoite, thirteen red and white lines unfold from the center. Over 250 individually-set stones are used in their formation: Diamonds, along with 3.75 carats of hand-selected, color-matched, Red Emerald accents.
The thirteenth line is a hidden line travelling in a continuous eye-shaped circuit around the Benitoite, elevating the platinum center above the 18 karat rose gold petals. Line 13 is composed completely of magenta melee (with medium red saturation and strong purple secondary hue), matching the upper and lower marquise pair which bookend and echo the contour of the larger platform. The versatility of the Red Emerald color palette is on display, and two distinct crimson hues can be visually differentiated.
An American Rose was unveiled under the "Shades of Blue" theme at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in 2016. I showed the piece to the original owner who consigned the Benitoite, and he was ecstatic to see this significant example properly honored. Although I had been aware this jewel was not previously available to the public, I finally received the full Provenance:
Three 100 carat Benitoite crystals compliment the "Shades of Blue" theme
at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show on Valentine's Day 2016.
Legendary rockhound Ed Swoboda first visited the Benitoite Gem mine as a teenager in 1935. He discovered the rough crystal which shaped this gem in the late 1930s, and the specimen was faceted during the start of World War II. The resulting Emerald cut stone was kept in Swoboda's private collection until the late 1990s, when it passed to the new mine owner: Elvis "Buzz" Grey. Buzz is a legend in the industry and master faceter who has shaped countless noteworthy Benitoite gemstones.
The pride of a collection are stones which are outstanding in some way, whether a gem is particularly beautiful to a specific buyer, or an example possesses a specific quality that can be universally admired. Two of the most dedicated collectors of Benitoite were also owners of the world's only mine, and both refused to allow this massive example to escape their grasp for over seventy-five years. This fact alone should indicate significance.
This remarkable Benitoite now lives in a stunning work of art.
An ancient, priceless jewel finally available for public appreciation!
An American Rose is fabricated with important examples in two of Earth's scarcest and most irreplaceable gem varieties, both sourced exclusively by the United States, making this an impossibly rare and extraordinary National Treasure which demonstrates the glory of the American gemstone.
Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty.