GemSelect Newsletter - Colossal Chrysoberyl Cat's Eyes
Cat's eye gemstones display a fascinating optical phenomenon known as chatoyancy. In simple terms, this means that the stones display a streak of light that looks like the eye of a cat in bright light. The word, "chatoyant" comes from the French word for cat's eye-like, "chatoyer". The cat's eye effect occurs as a result of parallel inclusions which cause light to be reflected as a perpendicular band. It is important that gemstone cutters correctly orient the rough material when cutting cat's eye cabochons. When nicely cut, like a ray of sunshine on fine silk, the cat's eye of a gemstone will appear in the middle of the gemstone and glide from side to side with the movement of the light source. The most valuable cat's eye gemstones have a clear and sharp cat's eye and sometimes a "milk and honey" appearance where one side is a creamy color and the other is honey-colored.
The quintessential cat's eye gemstone is chrysoberyl cat's eye, a golden yellow to green gemstone which exhibits sharp and distinct cat's eyes under most lighting conditions. Unfortunately, these stones are quite rare and often small. What is believed to be the world's largest cut chrysoberyl cat's eye gemstone is an exception, weighing 465 carats. When the rough stone was discovered in a Sri Lankan rice paddy in the late 1800s, it weighed an incredible 700 carats. It was found on the land of Iddamalogoda Kumarihamy, a beautiful aristocrat who gave the rough stone to her son-in-law. He, in turn passed it on to his son who had it cut into a cabochon in 1930. The supersized cabochon was named, the "Eye of the Lion" and set into a pendant. In 1978, the curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Mineralogy Division described it as "the largest cut stone of its kind in existence" and today, it is thought to be owned by a Bangkok-based gemstone dealer. Forget "Eye of the Tiger", the "Eye of the Lion" rocks!
Other outstanding cat's eye chrysoberyl stones, referred to as "cymophane" were catalogued in the collection of Henry Philip Hope, the British banker and gemstone collector who owned the Hope Diamond, the Hope Spinel and many other incredible and historically important gemstones. A jeweler and gemstone collector by the name of Bram Hertz catalogued the Hope collection, and his 1839 documentation detailed one of Hope's cat's eyes as "chrysolite" measuring 2 inches in length (50 mm) and "presumed to be the largest and finest known". While "chrysolite" is widely believed to refer to peridot, it was also used as an umbrella term to allude to other stones. Hertz uses the term to describe both peridot and cymophane, but uses specific names for other possible gem types, such as tourmaline, and topaz, but not chrysoberyl, which is absent from the catalogue. Furthermore, the definition of "cymophane" is opalescent chrysoberyl. The absence of "chrysoberyl" in Hertz's catalogue and what Hertz went on to say strongly suggests that the stone is chrysoberyl cat's eye: ". .. and formed part of the crown jewels taken from the King of Candy in the year 1815".
Candy (more often spelled "Kandy") was a kingdom of Sri Lanka and an important source for chrysoberyl cat's eye, as seen above. This is just one of the many incredible cat's eye stones in the Hope Collection, at least one of which is now displayed at the British Museum of Natural History in London. Another of the King of Kandy's chrysoberyl cat's eye gemstones weighing 313.50 carats was given to Queen Victoria in 1886. This is known as the Kandy Cat's Eye.
According to Hertz's assumption, the chrysoberyl in the Hope Collection was taken from a Sri Lankan king before the Eye of the Lion was discovered. Many of the jewels of the King of Kandy were sold in a London auction on June 13, 1820. According to the Ceylon Gazetteer, a 2-inch long cat's eye stone was among the stones auctioned. Perhaps Mr Henry Philip Hope was in attendance on that day and the colossal cat's eye stone caught his eye.
September's birthstone is sapphire, which is defined as corundum that occurs in every color except for red; corundum that is red is classified as ruby. The properties of sapphire which make it one of the most popular gemstones of all time are its hardness (9 on the Mohs scale and second-hardest material after diamond), brilliance, stunning color and durability. Though blue is the most popular sapphire color, there are many other colors to choose from, including yellow, purple, green and pink.
We recently acquired some rare sphene; a titanium-containing gemstone material with an extremely high luster and remarkable fire. Sphene gemstones may be yellow, brown, green or reddish; the most sought-after colors are intense green "chrome sphene" and yellowish-green sphene. There are several locations where sphene is found, including Brazil, Myanmar and Madagascar, but most of our sphene stones are sourced from Sri Lanka.
We usually specialize in colored gemstones, but we recently added to our inventory some round, diamond-cut, white to champagne diamond single stones, matched pairs and lots in sizes up to 3 mm. These white diamonds are perfect for side stones or accent stones and never go out of fashion. Indeed, diamond is prized by all for its superlative hardness, adamantine luster, incredible brilliance and exceptional fire.
UK-based colored gemstone producer, Gemfields is now owned by the South African firm, Pallinghurst Resources and has a new CEO, Sean Gilbertson. Several of Gemfields' managers, including Ian Harebottle and Janet Boyce have resigned. According to Pallinghurst, Gemfields debt had reached "record levels" following a slow in emerald production.
A majority share of global gemstone jewelry brand, Neil Lane has been acquired by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a company specializing in brand development, marketing and entertainment. The deal is expected to bring new Neil Lane products to other lifestyle markets. The Neil Lane jewelry brand has become known for wedding jewelry and engagement rings, particularly after the shows, "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette".
The gemstone jewelry industry bids a sad farewell to Fred Leighton, estate jewelry supplier dubbed "jeweler to the stars" who died on July 26 at the age of 85. His jewels have seen more red carpets than we care to count, donned by the likes of Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Lupita Nyong'o. Born Murray Mondschein in the Bronx in 1932, Leighton first served in the army, sold flowers in Los Angeles and then began trading Mexican arts at a shop whose previous owner was named "Fred Leighton" in New York. After he began to sell vintage jewelry, he changed his name to Fred Leighton to match the shop. Though he sold the business in 2006 after it was accused of tax fraud, he continued to trade vintage jewelry by himself.
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- First Published: August-21-2017
- Last Updated: September-25-2017
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