J.P. Morgan was one of the most famous financiers in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But he was also a notable gemstone collector and was responsible for funding some of the world's greatest gemstone collections.
John Pierpont Morgan was born in Connecticut on 17 April, 1837. His father was a wealthy international banker, and sent his son to be educated in Switzerland and then the University of Gottingen. This expensive education was not wasted: JP Morgan began work in his father's financial house in London in 1856 and eventually went on to dominate American finance.
Among other major business dealings, Morgan was involved in the creation of the General Electric Company, the United States Steel Corporation, and the development of a railroad empire which merged railroads from all over the United States to form a single network. His huge fiscal power as the man behind JP Morgan and Company allowed him to save the nation from bankruptcy when in the 1890's gold reserves became low and the president commissioned him to oversee the international purchase of gold to ensure the financial security of the US, and at the same time increase his own considerable personal fortune.
But he is just as important as an art, book and gemstone collector who, on his death in 1913, bequeathed most of his collections to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Wadsworth Athaneum in his native Hartford, Connecticut.
His first gem collection was put together with the help of the the famous gemologist from Tiffany & Co., George F. Kunz. This collection of Gems and Precious Stones from North America (over 1,000 pieces) was exhibited at the World's Fair in Paris in 1889. The exhibit won two golden awards and drew the attention of important scholars, lapidaries and the general public.
In 1900, Morgan commissioned Kunz to locate and buy the best possible gem specimens from around the world, which then formed the second Tiffany-Morgan collection and consisted of 2,176 specimens. The following year, Morgan paid $100,000 for an amazing 12,300-specimen collection belonging to Philadelphia industrialist Clarence S. Bement, another passionate mineral collector known for acquiring only the best specimens. This collection became known as the Morgan-Bement collection. These collections were donated to the American Musueum of Natural History in New York.
In 1911, J.P. Morgan's contribution the gem world was acknowledged when Kunz was instrumental in the naming of a newly found gem: morganite. This mineral was first discovered at Pala in California early in the century, and was a rare form of pink beryl.
- First Published: June-28-2008
- Last Updated: March-04-2011
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