January 2012 Newsletter: Colored Gems from the Elizabeth Taylor Collection


Colored Gems from the Elizabeth Taylor Collection

The British-American actresss Elizabeth Taylor was as famous for her jewelry collection as she was for her acting. Since she was a brilliant actress -- she won two Academy Awards  -- it shows just how important she was in the world of gems and jewelry.

Taylor died in March, 2011 at the age of 79. She was an astute businesswoman who left an estate worth an estimated $600 million to $1 billion. Over the course of her lifetime she put together a remarkable jewelry collection that was just sold at auction at Christie's in New York, in part to raise money for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. 

The auction of 80 items raised $116 million, more than double the previous record for a single jewelry collection. The highest bids were for an elaborate necklace containing the 16th century La Peregrina pearl ($11.8 million), and the 33.19 carat D color diamond ring ($8.8 million) that Taylor wore daily.

But the collection was notable also for its stunning colored gems from Bulgari, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. They include matching sets of emeralds and rubies, set with significant diamonds. Taylor loved color, and her taste extended beyond traditional precious stones. Important pieces in her collection also featured kunzite, amethyst, coral, jade and chrysoprase. Much of the jewelry is set in platinum, and the collection includes many unique brooches.

The 8.24 carat Burma ruby and diamond ring that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth on Christmas 1968 set a new world record price per carat for ruby. The ring by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $4.22 million, four times the estimate. A pair of ruby and diamond ear pendants by Cartier sold for $782,500.


Notable Gems from the AJS Collection

Garnet is the birthstone for January. Many people associate garnet with the common red garnets such as almandine and pyrope. But the garnet family also includes a number of rare and beautiful varieties. This month we feature some of the finest garnets from our collection.


2.40 ct Tsavorite Garnet from Kenya

Tsavorite garnet is a rare grossular garnet colored by chromium. Discovered only in the 1960's, almost all the tsavorite in the world comes from a small area at the intersection of Tanzania and Kenya in east Africa. The best tsavorites rival emerald in color. Found mainly in small sizes, tsavorites over 2 carats are very rare. This 2.40 ct tsavorite oval has superb color saturation with a medium tone. See all our tsavorite garnet.


3.37 ct Spessartte Garnet from Nigeria  [SOLD]

Spessartite garnet ranges in color from a vivid orange to reddish orange and orange-red. The orange color derives from manganese, while the addition of traces of iron produce a redder color. The finest specimens come from Nigeria, including some which are a very pure mandarin orange. This 3.37 ct spessartite from Nigeria is a splendid example, beautifully fashioned in a portuguese cut to maximize brilliance. See all our spessartite garnet. 



2.18 ct Color Change Garnet from Kenya [SOLD]

Color-change garnet is usually a mixture of pyrope and spessartite garnets that displays different colors under daylight and incandescent light. This phenomenon is rare and valued by collectors. There is a range of color change, but green or bluish green to red or purple tends to be the most dramatic. This 2.18 ct specimen from Kenya displays a strong color change from deep bluish green in daylight to deep purplish red under incandescent lighting. See all our color change garnet.



2.01 ct Demantoid Garnet from Russia  [SOLD]

Demantoid garnet is the rarest and most valuable of the garnets and is one of the rarest of all colored gemstones. It is remarkable for its brilliance and fire. The most valuable demantoid comes from Russia, and is distinguished by unique horsetail-pattern inclusions of byssolite. The vivid green color is the most valuable and stones over 1 carat are very rare. This 2.01 ct Russian demantoid is perfect for the serious collector, with very fine color, clarity and cut. See all our demantoid garnet.


4.14 ct Rhdolite Garnet from Madagascar  [SOLD]

Rhodolite garnet is a mixture of almandine and pyrope garnet that is valued for its purplish-red or raspberry color. Unlike the common dark red garnets, rhodolite tends to be lighter in tone and lacks the brownish secondary hue of the lesser garnets. This 4.14 ct rhodolite from Madagascar is bright and lively and is perfectly sized for an impressive ring. See all our rhodolite garnet.  


2.97 ct Mali Garnet from Mali  [SOLD]

In 1994 a mixture of andradite and grossular garnets was discovered in the west African nation of Mali and was named Mali Garnet. It usually occurs in a golden or greenish-golden color and is notable for its excellent brilliance and fire. These are usually found in alluvial deposits, so larger stones are rare. This 2.97 ct garnet is an outstanding example, with top color and clarity. See all our Mali garnet.

News from AJS and the Gems World

  • AJS is now carrying some fine natural white diamonds in smaller sizes, mainly less than 60 points. These are ideal for accent stones in colored gemstone jewelry. These are all high quality diamonds, accurately graded, and at prices that are hard to beat. See our diamond collection.

  • We have many new projects in the works for the new year. We have just acquired some rare gem silica chrysocolla rough that we'll be cutting soon. And we have a major initiative planned to provide custom jewelry settings for our colored gems. See next month's newsletter for more information.


Ask the Gem Experts

Each month we answer questions from our customers. We welcome your questions and you can submit a question from our contact page.


Rhodolite and Rubellite seem to be very similar gems. Can you explain the difference?  Thanks DM, Canada

Though the purplish red of rhodolite garnet and rubellite tourmaline can be similar, rubellite is the rarer gem and high quality rubellites tend to have a more intense and vivid color. Rhodolite is often darker in tone. Rubellite is also quite a bit more expensive, with clean faceted stones selling for $300+ per carat. Equivalent rhodolites sell for approximately $50 per carat.


What is the importance of a stone's refractive index? Is a higher number better? TP, Australia

In general, transparent gems with a higher refractive index will have better brilliance, dispersion and luster. The gems with the highest refractive indices include diamond, demantoid garnet, sphene, zircon, spessartite garnet, sapphire, ruby, chrysoberyl, tsavorite garnet and spinel. However, there are a number of popular gems which do not have a particularly high refractive index, such as tourmaline, topaz and all the beryls (emerald, aquamarine, morganite, etc.). These gems tend to be valued more for their color rather than their brilliance and fire.


All the best in gems,

Arnold, Rung & Ron