Paola de Luca’s Trend Book 2017 is a treasure trove of predictions about emerging consumer needs and tastes in jewelry. One of the predictions we find most interesting is that consumers want jewelry with historical references. We’ve seen indications of this trend as well.
In the larger jewelry world, this trend may show up as an interest in coin jewelry, crown rings, and reliefs of historical monuments and art. In the colored gemstone world, history is rich with stories of royal jewels, dramatic love stories, grand thefts, and even battles.
At Omi Privé we’re not just gem nerds, we love our history too. One story that never loses its luster is the story of the Star of India, a 563-carat star sapphire that is believed to be over a billion years old. It is the size of a golf ball, nearly flawless, and it has stars on both sides of the gemstone — all of which are highly unusual.
It was originally purchased by esteemed mineralogist and collector George Frederick Kunz (1856 – 1932) on behalf of Tiffany & Co. It was part of a collection Kunz had convinced his bosses at Tiffany to build in order to gain more respect from European gem and jewelry collectors, and which was ultimately purchased by J.P. Morgan and donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the history of the Star of India prior to its purchase in Sri Lanka in the late 1800s. Kunz himself wrote in 1913 that the Star of India “has a more or less indefinite historic record of some three centuries,” which indicates that it was mined in the 1600s; but even that may be speculation.
So the story of the Star of India begins with a mystery. Now let’s add some action. On October 29, 1964, two amateur thieves scaled a fence into the American Museum of Natural History’s courtyard, climbed a fire escape, and hung a rope from a pillar set over the 4th floor windows of the J.P. Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals. Inside that Hall, the Star of India was on display. Hanging from the rope, one of the thieves swung to a window that was cracked open, and used his feet to open the window the rest of the way.
Using a glass cutter, some duct tape, and a squeegee, they stole 24 gems – including the Star of India. Then the thieves, Allan Dale Kuhn and Jack Roland Murphy, retraced their steps, grabbed separate taxis, and rode off with their valuable loot.
In the six months that followed, the Star of India led state and federal police on a wild goose chase involving anonymous foreign collectors, an upper West Side party palace, handsome bad boys, jilted lovers, suicide, a red Cadillac, an underwater hiding place, disguising one of the thieves as a police officer to spirit him off to Miami, and the pistol-whipping of Eva Gabor.
How’s that for a bit of history? We bet you’ll never look at a star sapphire the same way again.