Monday, 20 October 2014

Stockton Banknotes Set Record At Bonhams

The Coins and Banknotes auction on August 31 in Los Angeles brought in $1.6 million in total sales with 97 percent of lots sold.

The newly discovered Stockton California National Banknote collection led the auction taking in $339,300.

Featured was a Series 1873 $10 Gold Banknote with serial number 1, a Condition Census example. It is particularly special as the extended margin at the top reveals it to be the first note printed on the sheet as well as the first note issued by the First National Gold Bank of Stockton California. Bonhams believes it is a record for this type of large size gold banknote ever at auction.
The gold banknote relates to the California Gold Rush of 1848. The issuance of these banknotes, as redeemable currency for gold coins, became necessary in order to facilitate the large quantities of gold coins in daily transactions where the handling and counting of coins became too time consuming for banks to operate efficiently.

Of the coins section in the auction, the $4 Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair "Stellas" fetched strong prices. As an attempt to accommodate international trade and travel for Americans to Europe, the $4 Stellas contained metallic content stated in the metric system and possessed an approximate value to the Spanish 20 peseta, Dutch 8 florin, Austrian 8 florin, Italian 20 lire and French 20 franc piece, among other denominations.

An 1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 62 PCGS sold for $117,000 and is the most available of the four known varieties of Stellas. Another 1879 $4 Flowing Hair Stella Proof 45 PCGS realized $72,540.

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Diamonds of Lesotho

The 603-carat Lesotho Promise diamond was sold for over $12 million. The diamond was found in Lesotho in August, 2006 was the 15th largest rough diamond ever discovered.
Lesotho is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population around two million. Its capital and largest city is Maseru.

Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sotho. About 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day
The Letseng diamond mine is owned by Gem Diamonds Ltd. and the government of Lesotho. At an elevation of 3,100 m (10,000 ft) it is the world's highest diamond mine.
The Letseng mine, in the Maluti mountains, is known for its large white diamonds. It has produced four of the top 20 largest white gem quality diamonds recorded since Gem Diamonds acquired a 70 percent stake in the mine in 2006. On August 6th a 198-carat white diamond was found.

The government of Lesotho owns 30 percent.
On Monday, September 2, 2014 it was reported that Lesotho's exiled prime minister had called on neighbouring South Africa to send troops to the tiny mountain kingdom after accusing the military of seizing power in a coup. Tom Thabane fled to South Africa on Saturday in fear of his life after the military surrounded his residence and attacked police headquarters, killing one officer and confiscating weapons.

Since then there have been reports of police deserting across the border, residents stocking up on food and basic necessities and confusion over who is running the country.
Coup-prone Lesotho's constitutional government was restored in 1993 after seven years of military rule. At least 58 residents and eight South African soldiers died during a political standoff and subsequent fighting in 1998.

Thabane told the BBC he would return to the country "as soon as I know I am not going to get killed".

Monday, 13 October 2014

'Blue Moon' Diamond at L.A. Natural History Museum

The “Blue Moon” diamond will make its first public appearance at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in an exhibition from September 13 through January 6.

The 12 carat cushion-cut stone is rated “fancy vivid” with an “internally flawless” clarity from the Gemological Institute of America.
The Blue Moon was cut from a 29.62-carat rough diamond unearthed at the Cullinan mine in South Africa in January. The mine is known for producing blue diamonds, but these gems still account for less than 0.1 percent of its total diamond output.

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Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Valley of Rubies - Mogok, Myanmar

Mogok is a city in the Mandalay Region of Burma (Myanmar), located 200 km north of Mandalay.

Mogok and other villages nearby have been famous since ancient times for its gemstones, especially ruby and sapphire. 90% of the world's rubies come from Myanmar. The red stones from there are prized for their purity and hue. The "Valley of Rubies" is noted for its rare pigeon's blood rubies and blue sapphires.
References to rubies and Burma have been found dating to the sixth century, during the Shan Dynasty. The ruby mines in Mogok were taken over from the Shan by the king of Burma in 1597.

In the 1870s, during the reign of King Mindon (1853-1878) the French and the English were building colonial empires in Asia. The British learned of the French interest in Mogok and Upper Burma, and feared that the French would take over the region and control access to China. Backed by a consortium of London-based gem merchants, they planned an invasion of Burma with one of its main objectives being control of Mogok and its ruby mines.
In 1886, the British succeeded in taking over Upper Burma. By 1889, they had formed Burma Ruby Mines Ltd. They introduced water cannons, washing plants, and other mechanized mining methods. The company promoted Burmese rubies in Europe and around the world.

Operational problems and falling prices due to the introduction of synthetic ruby caused the company to abandon the mines in 1931.
Burma became an independent nation in 1948. Following a coup in 1962, a military dictatorship took over until 2011.

Burma's ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world's longest-running unresolved civil wars. The military junta was dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. Although the military retains influence through the constitution that was ratified in 2008, it has relinquished control of the government.
The geological environment includes impressive marble pinnacles (karsts) that are blackened from weathering. These formations are visible throughout the stone tract. One of the largest of these outcroppings is the one that the temple Kyauk Pyat sits upon.
The karsts result from the weathering of the marble. This weathering process also plays a part in mining at Mogok. Marble is an intricate component of ruby and spinel formation.

The host rock is weathered and transported along with the gems. The gems are then concentrated in gravels.
In March 2012, a draft foreign investment law emerged, the first in twenty five years. Foreigners will no longer require a local partner to start a business in the country, and will be able to legally lease, but not own property.

In 2012, the Asian Development Bank formally began to finance infrastructure and development projects in the country. The United States, Japan and the European Union countries have also begun to reduce economic sanctions to allow foreign direct investment.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Cheapside Hoard Revisited

The Museum of London has concluded a major exhibition investigating the secrets of the Cheapside Hoard.
The Cheapside Hoard is a hoard of late 16th and early 17th century jewellery discovered by workmen using a pickaxe to excavate in a cellar near Cheapside in London in 1912.

They found a buried wooden box containing over 400 pieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery, including rings, brooches and chains, with bright coloured gemstones and enamelled settings.
The hoard of almost 500 pieces was a 17th-century goldsmith's stock – worth a king's ransom then and priceless now.

"Nothing in the world comes close," said Museum of London curator Hazel Forsyth.

She has spent years studying the brooches and necklaces, rings and chains, pearls and rubies, scent bottles and fan holders, two carved gems which date back 1,300 years to Byzantium – and a watch set into a hollow carved out of one stupendous emerald which was originally the size of an apple.

Gold bow pendant set with rose-cut and step-cut foil-backed rubies and table-cut diamonds

Gold and enamel pendant set with two sapphires and an irregular polished spinel.