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In London, March, 1866, by Robert Bu-
ON PRECIOUS STONES.
Possibly the commercial value of color was never exemplified in a stronger manner than in the matter of precious stones. Indeed, jewels often depend upon their tint only for their names and value; the same identically composed precious stone being either an amethyst or a piece of rock crystal, an oriental topaz or a ruby, by the addition or absence of a small portion of mineral pigment of different hue. Tims, a piece of rock crystal is comparatively valueless, whilst an emerald is one of the most costly of jewels; a ruby again is even more valuable than the diamond, whilst the topaz is of very inferior value. Even the faintest flush of color often gives a value to the diamond which is far beyond its worth when pure, — an instance this of the value of adulteration. Mr. Harry Emanuel, whose work on precious stones has afforded us the material for this article, illustrates this fact by stating that a diamond, the worth of which uncolored would have been (from its weight, four and three quarter grains) only £22, was lately sold for £300, in consequence of possessing a vivid green tint.
Although the diamond is not really the most valuable of jewels, yet as it is supposed to have precedence of all other gems, we shall speak of it first. Possibly, however, its commercial value is most constant of all jewels, as it is the subject of investment to a greater extent than any other. In times of commotion kings or princes and the wealthy — generally subject to suffer from sweeping changes — look upon diamonds as their best friends; their passports, in fact, to the attention of the foreigner. What pi'inmican is to meat precious stones are to value. They are the concentrated essence of wealth, — a king's ransom in the compass of a marble. Nations, civilized and only semi-civilized, believe in this currency; it is a circular note that the bearer never need fear will be dishonored in whatever quarter of the globe, he may happen to be. Diamonds and other precious stones, however, like gold, are liable to fluctuate in value according to the laws of supply and demand, like the meanest article of commerce. A revolution brings forth these "flowers of the mineral kingdom," as they have been poetically termed; at first a number of them are thrown upon the market, and they decline in value in consequence. An example of this occurred in the revolution of 1848. In all cases where civil commotions are of long continuance, however, and causes of fear are prolonged, they gradually rise again in value until they reach exorbitant prices. In the great revolution of 1789, for instance, diamonds rose to
a famine price, and up to the termination of the civil war in America they were gradually becoming more valuable in that country.
The diamond, like most other jewels, is found generally in granitic gneiss, and in torrents of rivers distributed over the whole world; but they are mainly to be found in tropical countries. It would seem that where the sun shines with the greatest splendor, where the vegetable and the animal creation put on their most gorgeous colors, there also in the depths of the earth the vivid lustre of this gem shines the brightest, and assumes the largest proportions. The mines underground bloom as gorgeously as the flowers above. The diamond, as we all know, is composed of pure carbon crystallized, and is»the hardest known substance. Indeed, this quality, upon which much of its value depends, has in many instances been the cause of its destruction, the old rude test of its genuineness being to place it upon an anvil, and to strike it forcibly with a hammer, the idea being that, if pure, it would rather break the hammer or bury itself in the anvil, than split. Of course many valuable diamonds have been destroyed by this ignorant trial in times past. The diamond is by no means always colorless. It is sometimes yellow, red, pink, brown, green, black, and opalescent; the admixture of color depending in some cases upon a metallic oxide. The Indian diamond appears to be the most prized in the market. Newton, from its great power of refracting and dispersing light, when compared with glass, came to the conclusion that it was combustible; a scientific forecast, which Lavoisier verified by burning it in oxygen, and obtaining as a result carbonic acid. Although our analysis of this gem is perfect, all efforts have failed to construct it; indeed, chemistry is wholly at fault to produce artificially any of the precious gems, with the exception of the ruby, small specimens of which have actually been produced in the laboratory. The diamond is split easily with the grain; but it is upon the tact and judgment with which it it cut and polished that much of its value depends. The English were at one time famous as gem-cutters; but the art is now wholly lost among us, and most of the fine gems are now intrusted to Dutch Jews. The gem is cut upon a wheel smeared with diamond dust, — the only material that effectually touches it, — and it is polished in the same manner, a steel disk being employed for the purpose, smeared with fine powder, and revolving at a great ppeed by means of steam power. At the present time the most. fashionable form is the double cut, which presents a great number of facets, rendering the flash of the gem very brilliant. The table cut, such as we find in old diamonds, is much less sparkling, as it has a very much less number of facets, and a great expansion of table or flat upper surface. The Indian diamond-cutters leave as much of the gem as possible when cutting; an instance of this was seen in the Great Exhibition of 1851, where the Koh-i-Noor was exhibited, in which the cutting followed apparently the original outline of the stone. Our readers will remember how much this gem disappointed their expectations, as it looked like a mere lump of glass. Its weight was then 186 carats. In the intervals between this and the last Exhibition it was, after much consultation, given into the hands of M. Coster, of Amsterdam, who recut it with such skill that, although it lost in the process 80 carats, it yet appeared quite as large, and was transferred at once into a blaze of light When diamonds are found difficult to split, without fear of great loss, they are sometimes sown with fine wires fitted into a saw-bow, and anointed with diamond powder and olive oil. Rose-cut diamonds are now coming much into fashion, as they are very brilliant in appearance at a very small expense of stone. It is really wonderful the delicacy with which these gems are cut, considering the smallness of their size; as many as fifteen hundred having been known to weigh only one carat.
Tue larger diamonds, from their great value, have all some extraordinary history. At a rule, like the stormy petrel, their appearance in the market in numbers is an indication of a storm. Their portability makes them the companion of royal fugitives, and more than one brilliant of value has witnessed bloody and tragical' scenes. The Koh-i-Noor, for instance, has changed hands in many of the convulsions that occurred in India before our advent. It was seized at the conquest of Delhi by Ala ed Din, and subsequently came into the possession of the Sultan Baber, the Great Mogul, in 1526; it continued in the possession of this line of princes until Aurungzebe intrusted it to a European to reset it. This he did, but so unskilfully that it was reduced from 793 carats to 186 carats, — the size, in fact, it appeared in our Great Exhibition of 1851. The Emperor refused to pay the workman for the destruction of his jewel, and we think it speaks well for Aurungzebe, as Indian emperors went, that he did not take off his head at once. It afterwards fell into the hands of the great conqueror Nadir Shah, was passed on in his line, and finally it came into our possession at the capture of Lahore, and was presented to her Majesty by our troops, with whose family it will remain, we suppose, until some future conqueror seizes it to set in the crown of some empire yet to arise in the new world. The Cumberland diamond, of the value of £10,000, was presented to the Duke of Cumberland by the City of London after he had rescued the burghers from the Stuart dynasty at Culloden. We fancy the City would have kept their money had they foreseen that it would ultimately pass to the treasury of the King of Hanover. The Orloff diamond, set in the sceptre of the Czar of Russia, weighs 194J carats, and possesses a most romantic history. It is said to have formed one of the eyes of an idol in a Brahmin temple, and to have been set in the peacock throne of Nadir Shah. It was stolen by. a Frenchman, and ultimately fell into the possession of the Empress Catherine II. The Regent, or Pitt diamond, was so called from having been purchased by the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, of Pitt, the Governor of Fort St. George. Scandal said that the governor
stole it It is certain, however, that it was purloined from the Garde Meuble in 17D2, but was restored in a very mysterious manner. It was afterwards set in the pommel of the sword of the Emperor Napoleon I. The Florentine diamond, now in the possession of the Emperor of Austria, ia said to have been one of three lost at the battle of Granson by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. It was found by a Swiss soldier, and sold by him for one florin. It afterwards came into the possession of Pope Julius II., who presented it to the Emperor of Austria. The Sancy diamond's history is still more curious. It was actually taken from the body of the Duke of Burgundy, and found its way in 1489 to Baron de Sancy, who sent it as a present to the King of Portugal. The servant by whom it was being conveyed was attacked by robbers, when he swallowed the stone, and after his death it was found in his body. James the Second afterwards possessed it, and he sold it to Louis XIV. It disappeared in the French Revolution, but turned up again, which the renowned blue diamond, by the by, never did, and was purchased by Napoleon I., who again sold it to Prince Demidon". The Na.=sak diamond, of 78| carats, was taken by the Marquis of Hastings at> the Conquest of the Deccan. The Hope diamond is of a sapphire blue, and since the great French diamond was lost it is considered the most unique gem of its kind in existence. In the Russian treasury there is a brilliant red diamond of 10 carats, and at Dresden there is a green diamond of 4&J carats, that once belonged to Augustus the Strong. The value of diamonds has considerably increased of late years, and as the wealth of the country goes on augmenting it is likely to increase still further. Brilliants go on increasing in value as they increase in size in an extraordinary degree. Thus, a, brilliant of one carat is worth £18; of two carats, £65; of three carats, £125; of four carat*, £220; of ten carats, £320. Beyond this weight they become fancy articles, and, of course, fancy prices are demanded for them.
The most valuable of all jewels, however, is the ruby. This precious stone depends upon its color, as we have said before, for its value. The ruby, sapphire, and oriental topaz are composed of identically the same materials; the red sapphire is a ruby, the blue ruby a sapphire, the yellow ruby a topaz. They arc all termed Corundums, an Indian name. The ruby is the next hardest thing in nature after the diamond. The finest rubies are found in the kingdom of Ava, and in Siam; they are also found in Ceylon and in many parts of Europe.
The King of Burmah takes one of his titles from it, that of " Lord of the Rubies." In Bunnnh they are a royal monopoly, and none of any value are allowed by law to leave the kingdom. The finding of a fine ruby is made a state event, and a processsion of grandees, with soldiers and elephants, are sent out to meet it. The color varies from pale rose to deep red, but the tint that is most highly valued is that of the "pigeon's blood."
Of old, many magical properties were assigned to the ruby. It was considered an amulet against poison, plague, evil thoughts, and wicked spirits, and its possession, as a consequence, kept the wearer in health. When he was in danger it was supposed to darken, and to become bright again only on the passing away of peril. One of the largest rubies in Europe is a French crown jewel, once adorning the order of the Golden Fleece. Her Majesty exhibited two stones said to be rubies in the Exhibition of
1862, but Mr. Emanuel asserts that they are nothing more than spinels, a spurious kind of ruby, of little value. The King of Burmah is said to have one in his possession of the size of a pigeon's egg. A true " pigeon's-blood " tinted ruby of one carat is worth from £ 14 to £20; of two carats, from £70 to £80; and of four carats, from £400 to £450, which latter value is more than double that of a diamond of the same weight. As we have before said, small rubies have been made by chemists artificially, but never gems of any size. Now as small rubies are plentiful in nature, it is very doubtful whether it will par to make them even upon a manufacturing scale. The sapphire, although composed of identically the same elements, with the exception of the coloring matter, is of tar less value than the ruby. The color often varies much in the same stone, some portions of the gem being very nearly black, whilst the other is of a light blue. The clever lapidary can correct this by cutting away all the black part, excepting a small spot reserved for the cutlet, or small fine flattened point underneath. When looked at through the tabic, or broad upper surface of the gem, this point of dark blue gives by refraction a beautiful azure lustre to the jewel. The ancients used to call all blue stones sapphires, just as they called all red ones either rubies or carbuncles. The sapphire is invested by earlier writers with rare virtues, of course. It was said to be such an enemy to poison, that, if put into a glass with a spider or other venomous reptile, it would kill it; and a great many other virtues were attributed to it we need scarcely mention. The value of this gem does ■ot, like that of the diamond or the ruby, increase "ith its size, although in smaller sizes it is even dearer than those brilliants, one of one carat of pure color being worth £20. These gems are liable to be imitated so closely as to deceive the best jewellers. -Mr. Emanuel tells us, for instance, that "a noble lady in this country formerly possessed one which is, perhaps, the finest known. The lady, however, told it during her lifetime, and replaced it by an imitation so skilfully made as to deceive even the jeweller who valued it for probate duty, and it was estimated at the sum of £10,000, and the legacy duty was paid on it by the legatee, who was doubtless chagrined when he discovered the deception." We have no doubt whatever that many other noble ladies have from "impecuniosity " substituted sham £* real jewels with the like impunity; such is the faith we put in station, that even glass — seen through the sublime medium which surrounds a Duchess — shines like an emerald of the purest water. Both the oriental amethyst and the oriental emerald, which arc varieties of corundum, are very rare; the green variety, or oriental emerald, indeed, ■ so curious that Mr. Emanuel, with all his vast experience, says that he has only seen it once in his metime.
The cat's eye jewel we are told is becoming fashionable, being considered in India — and, what is nore strange, even in Europe — lucky. We wonder at nothing in the shape of superstition; and can quite understand that a gem of this kind only lately *»s purchased by a nobleman for £1,000. The topu is now little sought after. The colorless ones •re termed Nova Mina, or slave diamonds; those of %ht blue are termed Brazilian sapphires; those of 1 greenish hue are termed aquamarine; and the Brazilian ruby is the artificially-obtained pink or wee-colored topaz. It is often obtained in large In one of the cases in the British Museum
there is a mass of white topaz that for many years was used as a door-weight by a marine store-dealer. In London a very fine stone can at the present time be bought for a few shillings.
The emerald and the beryl have the same chemical composition, and differ only in color. The finest colored emeralds are found in New Granada, in limestone rock. It is also found in Salzburg, and in Siberia. The Spaniards, it is asserted, came into possession of many hundred weight of emeralds when they conquered Peru; hence their value fell in the Middle Ages. Orientals, especially the Mohammedans, we should say, set great store upon the emerald, believing that it imparts courage to the owner, that it is an infallible preservative of chastity, and that the safety of women in childbirth is insured by it. Like many other gems, the ancients ascribed many medicinal properties to it when ground down. The emerald is but rarely found perfect, and when perfect, it ranks next in value to the ruby. Perfect gems are worth from £20 to £40 the carat; but they do not, like the diamond or ruby, advance in price with the size. There arc many large emeralds in Europe. There is one in the Austrian treasury weighing 2,000 carats, and the Duke of Devonshire possesses one weighing nine ounces. The value of the beryl or aquamarine is trifling. An enormous beryl was found in America, weighing five tons! They must have everything in that country bigger than everybody else. It is used in Birmingham for imitation jewelry. The garnet, again, has many varieties, and is scattered over the whole globe; when cut tablewise and "tallow-topped," as it is termed, or convex and smooth at the top, and flat at the bottom, it is termed a carbuncle.
There are a large number of what may be termed valuable, rather than precious, stones, which belong to the quartz system. Among these are amethyst, cairngorm, onyx, sardonyx, cornelian, chalcedony, agate, jasper, blood-stone, rock crystal. Rock crystal has been used in the arts from the most remote times. It is found in large crystals sometimes, and is scattered all over the world. There is a specimen in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris measuring three feet in diameter, and weighing 800 pounds. It is used by opticians for the lenses of spectacles, and in India it is hollowed into cups and goblets of amazing thinness and beauty. The Chinese, the Japanese, and the Egyptians also use it for ornamental purposes. Like most precious stones, it is very cold, and the Japanese make balls of it to cool the hands I In old goldsmith's work crystal is often introduced, and as it was considered that it would turn color if poison came near it, cups and goblets of it were often used by the great who went in fear of death in this shape. Of course it was supposed to possess magical virtues, and we have all read of Dr. Dees's famous crystal globe. Even in the present day a well-known London physician, a believer in spiritualism, pretended to discover secrets by the use of a ball of crystal. The onyx and sardonyx have long been used for cameos, and the value of the material is vastly enhanced by the art that is sometimes employed upon them. Some of the ancient cameos are very valuable. The art of engraving upon these stones has latterly vastly improved: a taste has sprung up for fine cameos, and some very creditable engravings have been made. We should not be surprised, now that fashion runs in this direction, if a long-neglected art were to be successfully revived.
Tho iridescent wondrous-tinted opal, we arc told, is nothing but quartz and water. There are several kinds of opals, the chief of which are the precious or "noble" opal used by jewellers, the fire or reddish opal, tho common opal, and the Mexican opal. When the different tints in an opal are distributed evenly over its surface, it is known in the trade as Harlequin. This is a rude way of designating the exquisite blending of hues which make this jewel so beautiful. The iridescence is owing to minute lines on the surface of the gem, which decomposes the light, just in the same manner as they do in mothero'-pearl. Steel buttons used to be engraved with very minute lines to produce the same effect. The flashes of color in this precious stone are always most marked in a warm day, the knowledge that heat enhances the brilliancy of the stone always leads the dealer to hold it in his hand for some time beforo showing it to his customer. Mr. Emanuel, referring to the fact that the Mexican opal loses its beauty when exposed to water, — from the fact, we suppose, that tho water fills up the fine lines in it, and prevents tho decomposition of tho reflected light into its primitive elements, — says that Sir Walter Scott having in "Anne of Gcierstein" ascribed this fact to supernatural agency, the stone came to be considered unlucky, and they consequently went out of fashion! We are willing enough to believe in the folly of fashion, and in tho amount of superstition afloat, especially in tho upper circles, but we think the fall in the value of opals can scarcely be ascribed to such a cause as this. They are now again in fashion, however, and are likely to continue so; for in addition to the singular beauty of the gem, they are, wo are told, the only precious stones which defy imitation. Fine opals are very valuable; as much as £ 1,000 has been given for a largo stone for a ring or brooch. The ancients prized them very highly; and Pliny relates that Nonnius, a Roman Senator, was sent into exile by Marcus Antonius, becauso he would not part with an opal of the size of a filbert, and valued at £ 170,000, which tho latter coveted. The finest known opal is in the Museum at Vienna, said to bo worth £ 30,000. There is also a very lino one among the French Crown Jewels.
The opal reminds us somewhat of tho pearl, a gem — if we may term a simple excrescence by that name — which has always been held in high estimation by mankind. The finest pearls come from the pearl-fisheries at Ceylon. They are found in tho shell of a large species of oyster; and it is believed, with much show of reason, that they are nothing moro than some foreign body which finds its way into tho shell, and which tho fish covers with a secretion similar to that with which it lines its shell. A pearl, when sawn through, shows that this secretion has been deposited in layers, one upon another, round some central body, just in the same manner in which layers of phosphates are deposited in the human kidney round some foreign body, and resulting in the calculus or Btone.
The Chinese, with their singular ingenuity, have taken advantage of this method of action on the part of the oyster, and have for ages been in the habit of inserting small objects inside its shell, in order to insure their being covered with this pearly secretion. Small idols are thus coated, but the secretion is not the true pearl secretion, but a similar substance to the mother-o'-pcarl. Besides *.he Ceylon fisheries, there are some in the Persian
llf and in Borneo. The pearl-fisheries at one
time occupied a large number of men, but now tho diving-bell is employed, and their occupation is gone. Independently of the labor of diving to the bottom of the sea, and remaining there sufficiently long to gather a hundred oysters from tho bottom, where the pressure of the water is so great that the divers often came up with blood issuing from their noses and ears, there was great danger from sharks. Indeed, in such fear were the divers from these enemies, that they would not dive unless the shark charmers were present and mumbling their incantations whilst they were at work. The pearl was anciently considered a preservative of virtue, although Cleopatra certainly did not dissolve hers with that intent. Although the pearl will dissolve in a strong acid, it is needless to say that vinegar is far too weak to produce such an effect. It is a pity to be obliged to demolish such a pretty story, but the truth must be told. The oriental pearl is just as much prized now as in ancient times. The charming harmony it has with a delicate skin has always made the necklace of this material so much valued. It used to be one of the boasts of the famous Lady Hester Stanhope, that water could run beneath her instep without wetting the sole of her foot, and that her pearl necklace could not at a little distance be detected upon her neck. Among the famous pearls existing at the present day is one belonging to the Shan of Persia, valued at £60,000. Her Majesty was presented with a fine necklace by the Last India Company, and the one possessed by the Empress of the French is famous. In Europe the pearl is not considered to be perfect unlets it is of pure white, slightly transparent, and cither perfectly round or drop-shaped. In China and India, however, they are preferred of a bright yellow color. In North America and the West Indies the pearls have a pink color; and the Panama pearls have a metallic lustre something like the hue of quicksilver. Black-lead colored pearls are much prized by some persons. We are told that pearls cannot be imitated with success; but those who remember the case of pearls in the Great Exhibition of 1862, will remember that real pearl necklaces were exhibited side by side with imitation pearls, and the best judges were deceived. Those who posfess fine pearls should remember that they are liable to be discolored by contact with acids and gas, and noxious vapors of all kinds. This is the reason that th'e chandeliers in Her Majesty's theatre were supplied with wax candles, and that in all the balls of the aristocracy gas is never to be seen, ladies* beauty, as well as their pearls, not being improved by its powerful light.
There are numbers of valuable stones and substances which are not so rare as to come under the denomination of precious. Thus, lapis lazuli is found in such masses as to be used in the adornment of furniture. This stone used to be far more valuable than at present, as the finer tints were ground to make the costly color ultramarine. But chemists have found out the means of producing this color artificially at a very small cost. Malachite, again, is used fbr vases, &c, by the Russians. The doors of this material in the Exhibition of 1851 will be remcml>crcd for their brilliant green color. Jade, again, seems to be in especial favor in Japan; some fine samples of this stone are to be seen in the Exhibition at South Kensington. Amber used to be fashionable, but it is now wholly gone out, except for mouthpieces to pipes. It is still used in oriental countries