Thursday, 6 April 2017

Diamonds with a Dash of Colour

Gaining a great deal of attention over the past week is the ever popular ' Diamond ', a gem that has fought its way to the front, evolving over the years becoming a near benchmark for brilliance.

Thanks to Sotheby's, the auction house that announced the sale of the Pink Star, the world's most glorious pink gem, diamonds have mysteriously become the only thing I hear or see. 

The Pink Star
The Pink Star, cut as an oval currently weighing 59.60 carats was cut from a 132.5 carat piece of rough. After having undergone two long years of precise planning, this remarkable piece was graded with a Fancy Vivid Pink colour and a Flawless clarity grade from the GIA, the highest they have ever issued for a pink diamond of this size. This brilliant beauty the reaching the size of an eye has also been certified under the 'Type 2 a' variety, the purest form, which means there are absolutely no impurities within the composition of this gem, leaving the colour wholly up to the structural misalignment. This Pink Star sold for a record-breaking $72 million dollars at the auctions at the beginning of the week.

Breezing into April, a month dedicated to the diamond birthstone, there's no reason to give this gem a miss. Through this post, I will break down into simpler terms what a diamond truly means and give you a brief insight on a few other spectacular gems that have carved themselves a spot at the top. 

A lot of mixed Diamonds

Diamond, a gemstone that is the hardest mineral known to man, is made entirely from the element carbon. Yes, you might not believe it, but these glittery gems are formed from the same element you partially exhale every other minute. Carbon has the ability to bond itself in different ways, one being immensely strong which then transforms into a diamond when placed under great amounts of heat and pressure. This takes place deep within the earth's core, partly the reason why diamonds sell at high premiums as excavating them amounts to half the cost. 

Ever since their discovery, diamonds have always been used to symbolise wealth, fame, and fortune with empires being overturned thanks to this precious gem. Kings and Queens had diamond-embellished jewellery; crowns and even thrones that spoke of their riches. 

Diamonds and its Properties
Although buying diamonds might make you a little apprehensive, it is not as difficult as you might think. Here are a few points you should know before you set out to buy a gem. Diamonds are graded and priced on the basis of four major aspects: 

Cut - The shape and faceting a gem has.

Developing the perfect cut to release maximum light, diamonds have been engineered to incorporate light and fire giving rise to a spectacular watery gem. Diamonds have been cut into various shapes like Ovals, Round Brilliant, Hearts, Trillions etc.

The Graff Venus, a heart shaped beauty.
The Graff Venus, the largest D colour, Flawless diamond that weighs 118.78 carats. This bright diamond reflecting romantic sentiments took 18 months to be cut to perfection. 

Colour - The overall body colour of the gem

Diamonds in their purest form are actually colourless and these are ones you tend to pay highest amounts of money for like the Cullinan Diamond. Diamonds also come in a range of colours like Pink, Blues, Yellows and even Reds. When other elements get fused with the carbon during formation of the gem, the colour of the stone tends to change.

Yellow comes from the inclusion of trace element Nitrogen
Brown comes from the inclusion of trace element Nitrogen
Blue comes from the inclusion of trace element Boron
Pink comes from a structural misalignment
Green comes from radiation 

The pastel pink glow from a Pink Diamond

Clarity - the number of internal or external characteristics the gemstone has

Each gem that forms under the surface of the earth tells an individual tale, almost like a fingerprint. In terms of diamonds, there are a range of marks that can tell if a gem has been treated or modified in any way. These characteristics also help determine the band under which a diamond is graded, that in turn affects its price. 

Carat Weight - the maximum weight that can be retained from the rough

Gemstones have their own system of measurement. A carat is 1/5th of a gram and is divided into 100 units called points. As diamonds are a rare resource, cutters tend to save maximum weight from each piece of rough material as long as it can fetch them money. Sometimes heavily included gems are sent to other industries that use diamonds for other processes like cutting marble etc.

Looking for a Diamond Delight? 

Buying gemstones either as an investment option or as jewellery has always proved to be valuable when supported by a certificate. Buying a gemstone online has almost become second nature to most couples looking to buy engagement rings and wedding jewellery. With customisation, personalization, and trusted delivery channels, online jewellery stores are a popular choice in the busy schedule of working professionals. 

That brings to mind the online jewellery and coloured diamond specialist Asteria Diamonds. Headed by a team of diamantaires with over 45 years of experience, Asteria Diamonds has an integrated model that assures you the best deals. With in-house cutting and polishing, their diamonds are sourced directly from the mines and do not undergo any enhancements or treatments, so you know exactly where your diamond has been. 

The company can even show you additional pictures of the jewellery piece you are interested in purchasing so that you get a better understanding of its size and other important aspects like the overall feel of the product. All in all, Asteria aims to offer each client personalised service that can cater to the clients needs.

Sparkling yellow beauties

Specialising in coloured diamonds, Asteria has an inventory that will leave you speechless. Yellow diamonds like the colour of the sun and pinks that will make you blush, their stones both loose and in jewellery are remarkable.  

A vivid yellow from the Asteria collection 
Visit and explore their online store today and find a gem that will highlight your skin tone, because, with an inventory like theirs, you will surely find a piece you LOVE. 


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Monarchial Ivory

Living in an Indian apartment block has always been such a treat. Friends to play with and neighbors who are ever ready with food each time you pass their flats. Not only that, each family with a different set of cultures and backgrounds bring in such a diverse, multicultural environment. 

To this very day, I clearly remember, our Bengali neighbour fondly narrating a story to my mother and I, about her Ivory trinket box. A box she inherited from her husband's parents and spoke of, with pride. 

The lid of this box was carved with intricate details in a beautiful garden setting. Each tree came alive with the leaves and flowers, along the floor were carved animals and even small birds. The box as I remember had a smooth texture and a warm yellowish white tint that delicately spoke of its age. Ever since that day, Ivory has lured me towards its organic charm.  

Jaipur, on the other hand, has been a treat. Not only for the abundance of gems available all through the city, from the busy bylanes stacked with gemstone dealers to the stores that cannot show you enough within the hour, but also the treasures this city has locked away in its beautiful forts. Amer, the city that was once a flourishing state has over the years become a part of what is today called Jaipur.

A glimpse of the beautiful artwork on the walls within the fort

Each step you take within the glorious fort overlooking the magnificent Aravali hills reminds you of all the movies that are set on the Mughal empire - Rich, Royal and Stunning. With individual rooms to watch the sunrise and the sunset, entrances so large to accommodate the Kings and Queens who, were chartered around on elephants, Jaipur's royalty lived large indeed. The palace also had a Sheesh Mahal, built for her Majesty to watch the stars, as security reasons did not permit her to do so whenever she wished. Amer, also known as Amber had it all.

The famous Sheesh Mahal at the Amer Fort with mirrors dotted all over the ceiling and side walls.

Walking through the fort awestruck by all the glamour and history, I chanced upon numerous gem encrusted doors, and knowing me I had to stop and stare. 
Many of which had gemstones inlaid into the woodwork and the marble walls, much like the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world built by the one and only Shah Jahan. There were some doors that over time showed a true mark of age, these doors had on them Ivory studded with silver ornaments, in a pattern that was simply superb. The Ivory tiles were designed to create the iconic star pattern seen throughout the Mughal and Marwad architecture. 

A heavy door protected within a glass chamber decorated with Ivory tiles studded with silver details.

Ivory one of the most precious gemstones on earth today is prized for its creamy colour and ease in carving. It is an organic gemstone that is made from calcium carbonate and comes from animal tusks and bone. Today, Ivory comes from a selection of mammals like Elephants, Warthogs, Hippopotamus, Wild Bores, Marine Mammals namely Sperm Whales, Walruses and Sea Lions to name a few. 

Rajasthan as always has been noted to be a state with rich history and culture that walk hand in hand with a strong monarch. Each city led by a different King had his own fair share of wealth and fame fighting battles to become stronger and larger than the other.

Udaipur another touristic destination in Rajasthan is home to yet another City palace, located in but of course the heart of the city overlooking a glittering lake. This charming palace that is just as opulent as the one in Jaipur if not more, had its own characteristic charm. 

Walking up to the city palace.

Within the City Palace, I was amazed to see the well maintained and preserved rooms, each with its own style. I even saw a room filled with arms and armoury in a condition that seemed to be usable even to this day.
Monogrammed suit buttons
View of the beautiful lake from the palace

A beautiful courtyard within the palace.

While in the breathtaking palace I came across some more doors laden with Ivory just like in the palace in Jaipur. These doors heavy as they looked, might have even had secret passageways hidden behind them. Unlike the other ones I have seen, these doors had flowers carved on them and were even coloured to give them their originality.

Studying about gemstones was when I realised how one truly identifies a natural piece of Ivory and not just some plastic replica. Here are some points I have put together just for you to help you Catch that Fake when you see it. 
  1. Ivory is a light gemstone because of its organic composition and when comparing it to any other gemstone it should feel much lighter.
  2. It has a hidden appearance of an "engine turning", something they refer to in the gem industry.
  3. Ivory is naturally white, although over time it tends to get a yellowish tint. 
  4. With a dull and greasy lustre Ivory is smooth to touch.

An image of the engine turning

Today because of international trade regulations and protection of these loving animals, Ivory is barred from the gem trade. Elephants and the range of animals are being poached just for their tusks and bone which, in turn, has led to the repercussion of the animals becoming endangered. 

A board condemning the trade of Ivory
During one of my travels to the bustling city of Hong Kong, with its winding roads and sky high buildings, I couldn't help but notice all the antique stores. Each store was stocked with Ivory, Jade and even old pieces of art narrating various scenes from the holy scriptures. Not only that they also had in their possession Mammoth Ivory, a form I did not think I would have ever seen before that day. Preserved so well, even the Ivory from these prehistoric animals has a nice bright white colour. 

A Mammoths tusk carved to perfection with horses 

Stop this illegal trade and the dual markets from selling these precious stones that are acquired harming innocent beings. 
Support a cause and help an elephant in India or Thailand to enjoy their being in their natrual surroundings. 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A Gemmologist in Burma

Over the last few months, I visited the colourful country of Myanmar, once known to be Burma. A country filled with so much history from the plains of ancient Bagan to the beautiful hills of Kalaw and the vast expanse of  the Inle Lake, each leg of my journey brought a new understanding of the local culture, food and the countries warm people.

Landing at Yangon airport

Myanmar which is known to be a gemstone mining hub for Spinels, Sapphires and many other precious gems was another reason why I could not miss this opportunity. Along the way, I spotted many gemstones and various other interesting finds. Through this blog post, I will share some of the sights, sounds and flavours that absolutely took my breath away.

My first Burmese breakfast was a delicious combination of a chickpea and rice pancake, a sweet rice cake, vegetable samosa and a delicious cake.
My visit to the Shwedagon pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is known to be one of the world's most expensive pagodas. Built over 2600 years ago, the Shwedagon was built to enshrine the sacred hair relics of Gautama Buddha. This pagoda, located at the heart of the city, dominates Yangon's skyline and can be seen from miles away. You'll be able to spot its anywhere with its gold radiating glow. At the top of the pagoda rests a 76-carat diamond along with 4531 diamonds, 2317 rubies and sapphires and various other precious gems. 

Walking through the pagoda I saw a diverse selection of prayer points, each held up by pillars. Many of which were decorated with Jade, that stood strong through the test of time. Jade being both an auspicious gemstone in South East Asia is also a tough gem and has an interlocking internal structure making it extremely long lasting. When cut in thin slices or with holes through its centre, its structure prevents it from breaking easily. 

Jade pillers around the pagoda

We visited many markets around the country and one thing that instantly took me back to Jaipur was the streets filled with gemstone dealers selling all sorts of colourful gems. The only difference here in Myanmar was their obsession with the "Lahphet yay" or Tea (that I could not get myself to stop drinking) which fuels their day.

Dealers sitting around plastic tables, drinking tea and checking parcels filled with gems

A glass of my favourite Laphet yay tea. A mixture of fermented tea and condensed milk, creating a strong yet sweet harmonious flavour

A collection of gems being sold in the market. Spinels, Sapphires, Rubies, and Jade were only some of the gems stocked here.
I visited the ancient plains of Bagan and watched the sun rise over the pagodas that covered the ground
During the trip, I also trekked up the hills in Kalaw and stayed in a village with a very hospitable local family for a night, after which I trekked back down to the delightfully cool Inle Lake.

On my journey, I met an enterprising old lady who was weaving shawls, bags, and turbans and must have been over 80 years. She was so kind and made us some warm herbed tea, which she served with a village snack that was so basic yet delicious.

The enterprising lady preparing our herbed tea

Sprouted lentils roasted in salt
A snapshot from the trek to the village in the hills
During my trek, I saw a tree with its sap oozing out forming droplets that looked like icicles. These very same icicles caught the sunlight in the right angles giving the illusion of clear  quartz crystal. 

The village we passed made a type of cigarette locally called 'cheerut'. The whole process from start to finish used items that were grown locally. From the corn leaves used to make the filter to the glue made from sap used to stick it all together, the entire cigarette was completely organic and biodegradable. 

Star anise spiced cheerut
Lady making the cheerut

Another local tradition is the application of a sunscreen like paste, extracted from the bark of a tree called 'Thanakha'. This yellow natural remedy is said to give a natural glow and protect the skin from the harsh sun that shines so bright all over the country. 

A local shopkeeper prepping me for my day with some Thanakha

Some common gems mined in Myanmar
What took me by surprise was the village of Inle. The entire village was on stilts, even the vegetables were grown on the water, everything was done on boats that moved around the inlets of the lake, transporting people.

Moving along the river, with vegetables growing along the side

Fishing in Inle Lake

The amber that I found being sold in the markets was absolutely stunning. The blocks were as big as my arm and had insects completely enclosed within. From leaves to bees and even some smaller beetles, the amber blocks had a variety of inclusions. They were also available in beads as perfectly matched necklaces.

Amber blocks and beads
My trail for gemstones led me to the perfect trade hub, where a friend of mine introduced me to such warm gemstone dealers, who brought a selection of gems for a couple of us to see. They had everything, Aquamarines, Spinels, Sapphires, and even some Zircons. Sitting at the top on the terrace of a fancy hotel in the capital city of Yangon watching the sun set over the gold Shwedagon pagoda, selecting gemstones was just a beautiful experience. 

A collection of Spinels
Varieties of gems

The food in Myanmar was an absolute delight. A plain coconut curry cooked with chicken and potatoes would leave you craving more. Not only that every meal was a spread, even in the village,  vegetables both green and roots, rice and of course desert were all sure to be served.

Supper in the village in the mountains
A delicious local chicken curry
I'm now looking for another interesting country to visit, one with a range of natural gemstones that will give me the same satisfaction I found in Myanmar. I urge you to visit this colourful country, for the delectable food, the tea and its rich gemstone base. 


Monday, 23 May 2016

The Breathtaking Oppenheimer Blue

Working with gemstones is something I have always dreamt of doing, today as I am based in Jaipur I get the opportunity to see some spectacular gems. A 15 carat Emerald, Spinels the size of rocks with fantastic colour and clarity and large Polki Diamonds are just some of the stones I have had the privilege to hold. 

Out of all the spectacular Diamond's I have seen, the Oppenheimer Blue is truly one-of-a-kind. Although I haven't seen this gift of nature, I can well image its beauty and radiance. Known to be the largest vivid blue diamond to ever be auctioned, this gemstone will surely steal your heart.

The Oppenheimer Blue

The 14.62 carat gem has an even blue colour that engulfs it, a big contributing factor to its beauty and value. Set with colourless diamond accents this rectangular cut gem has exceptional brilliance. Noted to be the most expensive jewel ever to be sold at an auction, this gem sold for a whopping 39.5 million GBP.

The rectangular cut Oppenheimer Blue

Previously owned by Sir Philip Oppenheimer, the man who controlled the Diamond Syndicate in London, the gem has been passed down from good safe keeping. Now sold to an anonymous buyer this stunning Blue Diamond has taken its place in history.

Wondering what makes Diamonds blue in the first place?

Blue Diamonds like all other coloured diamonds are made by mother nature, deep within the earth. Under immense amounts of pressure and at high temperatures, Carbon atoms are transformed. They change their bonding structure and become pure Diamonds. During this process, if the element Boron gets intermingled with the Carbon atoms, which occurs quite rarely, the resulting Diamond gets a blue colour. Depending on the different amounts of Boron the Diamond will have different intensities of blue.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Magnificent Indian Diamonds

We all know India to be a country filled with Arts, Crafts and Colour. And so it is, with festivals to mark the change in weather, celebrations for the birth of a child or the opulent wedding ceremonies that keep families on the constant lookout for new outfits and jewellery.

But what you probably do not know is that India has been home to a number of magnificent Diamonds that were all taken away for different of reasons years ago, leaving us with only vibrant memories of these stunning gems.

The Koh-i-Noor on the British Crown Jewels
Everyone has heard of the Indian Koh-i-Noor diamond that is now part of the crown jewels in England. But this magnificent gem started off in India before it journeyed through the world. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was part of the Kakatiya dynasty which rests today in Warangal, a city in the state of Tehlengna in south India. The gem was then stolen by the Mughals and passed on from hand to hand through the Mughal emperors until Shah Jahan commissioned the Peacock throne with the Koh-i-Noor to be an eye of the peacock.

Looted by Nadir Shah, a Persian invader who could not resist taking the diamond with him. The gem was then given to Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747 after which, this gem was given Ranjit Singh a Sikh emperor to aid in military support. In the 1850's, the Koh-i-Noor was taken by the East India company to Britain and given to Queen Victoria and has never come back since.

India was not only home to the magnificent Koh-i-Noor but also the Regent Diamond which now rests at the Louvre in Paris. This gem mined in the famous Golconda mines, in the year 1698 weighed an astounding 426 carats. Cut in London, the Regent diamond is considered to be the "colour of first water" and cut in the then newly discovered brilliant cut brought out the best in a gemstone. The gem was worn by King Louis the fifteenth and sixteenth after which Napoleon Bonaparte embellished his sword with the Regent diamond.

The ever famous Regent Diamond that finds its genesis in India
I have already spoken about the Darya-i-Noor another diamond that has its roots set in India from the Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh.  This gem that translates to "Sea of Light", weighs between 175 to 195 carats and is now on display at the Tehran central bank of Iran. Flawless with a hint of pink, the Darya-i-Noor was also set as an eye on the peacock throne by Shah Jahan next to the Koh-i-Noor.

The Pinkish Darya-i-Noor Diamond

This spectacular gem is part of a 400 carat rough which was cut to give rise to two gems the Darya-i-Noor and the Nur-ul-Ain at 60 carats, two of the largest pink diamonds excavated in history.

Another sensational diamond is the Dresden Diamond. One of a kind with its green colour the diamond was also mined in the Kollur mine near the Golconda city. Weighing 40.70 carats, this pear shaped natural green, VS1 gemstone is said to have been smuggled out of India and ended up in Poland with the King,  Frederich Augustus.

The Dresden Diamond
The stone now rests in the Albertinium museum in Dresden its original home.

These are just some of the unforgettable Diamonds that originated in India and have made headlines world over. So the next time you visit India let our rich heritage with Jewels and Diamonds and History be synonymous with our mighty country.