The Spoonseller’s Sapphire

The Dastardly Past:  The Spoonseller’s Sapphire.

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Discovered in Bengal by a seller of wooden spoons, this 135 carat, velvet blue stone was previously known as the Spoonseller’s Sapphire.  Over the centuries it passed through many hands, including those of the Ruspoli famiy of Italy, who gave it its new name.  in the nineteenth century, it was acquired by the tsar of Russia, and was set in a kind of Russian crown/headdress called a kokoshnik, by Cartier in 1909 for the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna.  It later came into the possession of Queen Marie of Romania, and afterwards her daughter, Ileana, who sold it to “a famous New York jeweler” in 1951.  Its current whereabouts are unknown.

The Ruspoli Sapphire was the subject of a research effort described in the journal Gems and Gemology 51 no. 4 (Winter 2015):  https://www.gia.edu/gems-gemology/winter-2015-sapphire-ruspoli-sapphire-historical-gemological-discoveries . In this study, the authors unravel the tangled lines of provenance of the Ruspoli sapphire and the Grand Sapphire of France, now housed in the French national museum of natural history in Paris, with which it has traditionally been confused.  The article also provides insight into the murky history of famous jewels and how they are so often at the center of mysteries large and small.

Fort Knox

The Dastardly Past:  Fort Knox

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On June 28, 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the building of a fortified vault at Fort Knox in Kentucky, which would become the United States Bullion Depository.  Construction on the granite building finished in December 1936, and by January 1937 the first shipments of gold began arriving.  During the second World War it also housed the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Since it was built, Fort Knox has occupied the popular imagination as the place of riches beyond the dreams of King Midas, or even Auric Goldfinger.  It’s also pretty cool for aficionados of Deco architecture.

The Cuerdale Hoard

The Dastardly Past:  the Cuerdale Hoard. 

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Around May 15 in 1840, some workmen repairing an embankment along the River Ribble in Lancashire discovered a large cache of silver.  It contained over 7500 coins, 350 ingots, and assorted fragments of jewelry and other objects, dating from the era of the Vikings.  The location of the find was along the main land route between the Irish Sea and York, but scholars remain undecided about the whys and wherefores of this deposit of riches.  Most of it has, over time, been acquired by the British Museum, which has published a handsome book, by James Graham-Campbell, on the Cuerdale Hoard.

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