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Thursday, April 19, 2018

RAINBOW GEMSTONES

I was reading the morning paper yesterday and noticed a full-page ad about colored diamonds:


I'm not into precious gems, but I love colors.  There remains on the books my company, Rainbow Pearls, International.  Anyone interested, let me know.


But starting with colored diamonds, they fill the rainbow spectrum, including black, with yellow tending to reduce value and the rarest being red.  The Aurora Pyramid of Hope is a collection of 296 diamonds (267.45 carats) of various colors, privately owned, but now on display at the Natural History Museum of London.


Impurities and structural anomalies determine the color:
  • clear:  no impurities
  • yellow:  nitrogen
  • orange:  nitrogen
  • blue:  boron
  • black:  graphite or sulfides
  • green:  no mineral impurity, distortion of crystal lattice by natural radiation
  • red:  no special element, created by intense heat and pressure that distort the crystal lattice, resulting in green light being absorbed--the rarest of them all (to the right, the Moussaieff Red Diamond)
  • purple:  hydrogen--never saw one of these

Diamond, of course, is carbon.  Other gems:
  • ruby:  aluminum oxide with chromium impurity
    • gift for the month of July, which is when Pearl was born, making this her favorite gem
    • found in primarily Myanmar (Burma), but most of Southeast Asia, Madagascar, India/Pakistan and even the USA
    • the most valuable is the Sunrise Ruby:
      • named after a poem written by 13th century Sufi poet Rumi
      • 25.59 carats
      • sold for $30.42 million in 2015
  • emerald:  
    • mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6) 
    • trace amounts of chromium and, sometimes, vanadium
    • originally found in Egypt, and now mostly Columbia and Zambia..and U.S.
    • the Bahia Emerald (right) from Brazil is around 180,000 carats in its rock host 
    • most expensive/carat is the Rockefeller Emerald, 18.05 carats and purchased by Harry Winston for $5.5 million last year
    • A 23.46 carat emerald and diamond Bulgari pendant once belonging to Elizabeth Taylor was bought for $6.5 million in 2000.

The Centenary Diamond was unearthed in South Africa by De Beers in 1986 and announced in 1988 at their 100th-year anniversary.  Initially at 600 carats, the final cut had 273 carats and 247 facets with a $100 million insurance policy.

No one will confirm who now owns it and what it is worth, but the person who cut this diamond, Gabi Tolkowsky (right), hinted that in 2008 his masterpiece was bought by an 18-year old Israeli-British entrepreneur who now lives in the USA.  Anyone know of a very rich 28-year old mysterian who now and then wears this diamond?  Audrey Hepburn has been said to have worn this stone, but the photos below are that of the Tiffany Yellow Diamond.  She might have had breakfast there, but did not wear any of their jewelry in the film.


Two years ago, the Oppenheimer Blue, a 14.6 carat blue diamond, sold for $57.5 million.  However, some diamonds are just not for sale:
  • Koh-I-Noor, meaning "Mountain of Light", is a 105.6 carat diamond, largest known, from India.  Owned by the British crown and kept in HM Tower of London.  Unfortunately, the original weight was 793 carats, and this diamond has through time been re-cut at least twice.  Value:  priceless.


There is, of course, a lot of history to this stone:

When Nader (Shah, Iranian ruler, right) invaded Delhi in 1739, the ensuing carnage cost tens of thousands of lives and the depletion of the treasury. Nader left the city accompanied by so much gold and so many gems that the looted treasure required 700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses to pull it (and you thought all that fanfare in Aladdin was Disney-ized embellishment). Nader took the Peacock Throne as part of his treasure, but removed the Timur Ruby and the Koh-i-Noor diamond to wear on an armband.

However, this stone could well be another symbolic example of colonial looting, and quoting from Wikipedia:
Today, the diamond is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it is seen by millions of visitors each year. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan have all claimed rightful ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded its return ever since India gained independence from the UK in 1947. The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Last Treaty of Lahore and has rejected the claims.
  • The Sancy Diamond, 55.23 carat, pale yellow, belonged to the Great Moguls and kept in the Louvre.  Priceless.
  • Cullinan I, 530.2 carats, second largest diamond, found in South Africa:  $400 million.
  • The only famous diamond I have seen is the Hope Diamond, since 1958 displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.  Should this heirloom be returned?  To whom?
    • Reportedly, cursed.
    • A French merchant, Jean-Baptiste Tavervier (right), stole the 115.16 carat blue diamond from the eye of a holy Hindu statue.  Here is where the curse began.
    • Another story, which probably is the more accurate, is that Tavernier  purchased the diamond from Kollur Mine in Golconda, India.
    • Tavernier sold it to King Louis XIV of France in 1668.
    • In 1749 the stone was recut into 67 carats, and was reset, appropriately enough, for the Order of the Golden Fleece.
    • During the French Revolution, the jewel was "again" stolen.
    • It was briefly in the possession of England's King George IV.
    • In 1839, the French Blue (name at that time) became owned by British financier and gem collector Henry Philip Hope (right) and became  the Hope Diamond.
    • After a series of re-sells, in 1909 Pierre Cartier purchased it and sold it to Evalyn Walsch McLean of Washington, D.C.
    • She had it reset twice and today is a pendant necklace.
    • In 1949 Harry Winston purchased McLean's collection, put them on a world tour and, possibly to rid himself of any curse, donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.
    • In 1974 it was reweighed at 45.52 carats.
    • The Hope Diamond could well the be the most famous rock star today:

Oh, oh, the French want the Hope Diamond back.  Maybe it is cursed.  India doesn't seem to be involved at this time, for their focus is on the Koh-I-Noor.  Which of the two is the more expensive?  Perhaps the Koh-I-Noor.  Here is a short clip of other famous, and colorful, gemstones.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#9: JINDAI BOTANICAL PARK

On 22March2018 I began a ten-part series on the most monumental articles I have had in this blog site.  I hope to cover all of them by 30April2018, so today I will present #9 on Jindai Botanical Park, which was one of my stops on my recent Sakura 2018 tour.

My posting of 8April2009 first reported on the initial visit Pearl and I took, guided by Fumio Ito.  However, that particular article was rather short and only mentioned that we went there.  I will, thus, repeat (with enhancements as necessary) my 13April2013 version, for it better tells the whole story.

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This posting, which sums up my previous ash scattering ceremonies in Japan, links with my stay in Tokyo and my visit to Jindaiji in 2013:



Then, the following day came #19, 27March2011, at the Nagasaki Peace Park:




The epicenter of Fat Man exploding was above this point. On 30March2011 I went to the Peace Park in Hiroshima, from where her ancestors came.  

On 1April2011 I stopped through Maruyama Park, where there is the oldest Sakura in the Kyoto:

 

I hereby add a photo taken of us here in 2003:


I might add that while we were in Kyoto, friends took us out to dinner and a special karoake bar with Geishas:


#22 on 8April2011 outside the Park Hyatt Tokyo, her favorite hotel:



At the base of these Sakuras, I presented Pearl's ashes:




On 10 April2011, #23, at the Shinjuku Gyoen, her favorite cherry blossom park:


I tossed Pearl's ashes here:



The park was filled with people enjoying their hanami, a picnic with the Sakura.  I knew there would be this sign:



So my hanami bento was carefully shielded:



I was drinking 124 year old beer and 260 year old sparkling sake (well, at least the companies were that old):



I laid Pearl's ashes here under the white cherry blossom tree:


That same year, Spring of 2009, we stayed at the Park Hyatt and hosted close professor friends (involved with my search for Kenjiro's grandmother) at the hotel's New York Grill.  


At dinner, Fumio Ito (he is on the left, plus Toshitsugu Sakou, Kenji Hotta and Hiromi Hotta, with Pearl and me--Hiromi, in particular, was helpful, for she accompanied us to Hokkaido on one search), Tokyo Electric Power chief engineer, insisted that he had to take Pearl and I to his favorite Sakura site, Jindai Botanical Park.  The temple here was founded in 733 AD.  There are 100,000 trees of 4500 varieties, and the widest assortment of cherry blossom trees as I've ever seen anywhere.  Jindai Botanical Park is, perhaps, the most important site of all.  While this is #24 on my later trip, chronologically, the ash ceremony was #31.  Memorable can be brutal, and here is this sad story



I did not realize that he practically escaped from his  hospital and took a taxi to the Park Hyatt to pick us up.  To make a terrible story short, two weeks later he passed away and two months subsequently, Pearl went.

Thus I had to re-visit Jindai Botanical Park to drop Pearl's ashes here.  This second time, looking for an ideal site, I suddenly came upon this statue:


I was so in shock at seeing what looked like Pearl that I forgot to perform the ceremony.  

Thus, I had to return a third time  a year later, but it was a Monday, and the park was closed that day.  



I had brought a bento, and in advance substituted some sake in a water bottle, so I sat near a brook next to the park and enjoyed my vegetarian meal:


On my fourth attempt, I finally tossed her ashes (which was #31, but I'm now calling it #24) and I took a few more photos:


Thus, I learned that the artist creating the statue was Yasuo Bussi.  I then visited the  research staff of the Jindai Botanical Park (also called Garden), but after a careful search through their files, the four staff members there could not identify the person.  I left my business card and they promised to send me any information they might yet uncover, although they were not optimistic.  For those interested in someday visiting this park, from Shinjuku Station:


-  take the Keio line to Chofu
  -  go to stop #14 and board bus #34 to Jindaiji Botanical Park


  - when you enter the park, make an immediate right turn and walk to the rose garden, where there are 5,000 rose plants.

I make an annual pilgrimage to Jindai Botanical Park, and have a picnic next to Pearl's statue, as I did earlier this month:





Roses bloom both in late May and October.  I'll be back.



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