The A, B, C of the Smithsonian Collection in Washington DC

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The A, B, C of the Smithsonian Collection in Washington DC

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A is the American Golden Topaz from Minas Gerais in Brazil, which has 172 facets and weighs almost 23,000 carats — that’s 4½ kilos, ¬ which makes it one of the biggest gemstones in the world. The almost 12-kilo piece of rough belonged to Dr Edgar F. Borgatta, University of Washington Sociology Professor, and took three years for Leon Agee from Spokane to cut. He called it The Beast. No jeweller’s scale could weigh the gem, so Agee used the neighbourhood grocer’s electronic meat scales until a scientist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation weighed it on a laboratory scale. The American Federation of Mineralogical Societies raised US$40,000 to cover some of Borgatta’s costs, and together they presented the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection in May 1988.

B is Cartier’s 1935 Bismarck Sapphire Necklace, donated to the Smithsonian in 1967 by five–times-married Countess Mona von Bismarck, the most celebrated American socialite of her day and the first American to be named best dressed woman in the world by a panel of couturiers that included Chanel, Molyneux, Lelong, Vionnet and Lanvin. The only other Americans awarded that title have been the Duchess of Windsor and Elsie de Wolfe. Husband no. 3, Harrison Williams, one of the richest men in America, bought her the 98.56 carat, table-cut Burmese sapphire in Ceylon on their round-the-world honeymoon on his yacht Warrior, then the largest and most expensive in the world. The sapphire pendant surrounded by baguette diamonds and square-cut sapphires hangs from a platinum link and diamond chain.

C is the 37.82 carat Chalk Emerald from Muzo, Colombia, originally the centrepiece of an emerald and diamond necklace owned by the royal rulers of Baroda and worn by the Maharani Saheba, who passed it down to her son, the Maharajah of Cooch Behar. Recut and set by Harry Winston into a ring with 60 pear-shaped diamonds weighing about 15 carats, entrepreneur O. Roy Chalk donated it to the Smithsonian.

Of course D is for Diamonds by Design, which will find or make whatever you are looking for, or appraise what you already have. Value, integrity and sustainability — you can rely on Karen Lindley and Diamonds by Design. Karen is as happy to restore or update an heirloom or old piece for you as to create a new one.

Photo by ZakVTA via Flickr

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