Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It’s not winter and it’s not summer and not even fall

Ready for takeoff. 8 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Cloudy, cold, rain, and some wind. Not what you think of as Spring weather, but then, if not, what is it? It’s not winter and it’s not summer and not even fall.

Over at the New-York Historical Society, they were holding their annual Strawberry Festival Luncheon. This is mainly a ladies luncheon, for several hundred, with a featured speaker of some note and/or achievement.

This year’s honored guest was Doris Kearns Goodwin whose most recent history is “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism."

Last night in New York, there was more music in the air over at Juilliard with their “Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Julliard Music” Gala black tie Evening. William Christie and Renee Fleming made appearances.

After the Concert, there was a dinner and dancing in The Tent at Lincoln Center.
Susanna Phillips and Isabel Leonard backstage after their performances at “Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Julliard Music." They raised $1.4 million in support of the next generation of artists.
Dinner and dancing took place under The Tent at Lincoln Center.
Also up the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, they were celebrating the 115th birthday of the Duke at the Ballroom Off Fifth. While over at Riverpark, Tom Colicchio (“Top Chef”) hosted Children of Bellevue’s “Toast to the Children 2014” honoring author Jerry Pinkney and chef Jose Andres.

Down at Pier 60,
Riverkeeper was holding its annual Fisherman’s Ball and honoring Chelsea Clinton and SolarCity with Special Recognition of George Hornig, who has been involved with Riverkeeper for the past 15 years, and chaired the board from 2004 through 2009. Yesterday was a busy day for Ms. Clinton who was also honored at a luncheon given by the American Jewish Committee over at the Pierre.

And that’s just what was on my list of invites. I started the night at the Park Avenue apartment of Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels who were hosting a cocktail reception, a kind of kick-off for the National Audubon Society’s Women in Conservation Luncheon and the 2014 Rachel Carson Awards, which will take place Tuesday, May 20th at the Plaza.

Allison Rockefeller last night at Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels' reception for the Audubon Society's upcoming Women in Conservation Luncheon.
This year they are honoring Ellen Futter, who has been the President of the American Museum of Natural History for the past 21 years. Mrs. Futter was previously the President of Barnard College for 13 years, where at the time she was the youngest person to assume the Presidency of a major American college. During her administration of the AMNH, Mrs. Futter has raised more than $1.3 billion.

Allison Rockefeller told me at the reception that they are also honoring Kaiulani Lee, the playwright and performer of “A Sense of Wonder,” the award winning play about Rachel Carson’s love for the natural world and her fight to defend it. And they are honoring Nell Newman, Co-founder (with her father Paul Newman) and President of Newman’s Own Organics. They will be paying tribute to CityHarvest too.

Talking about food production with Allison, she asked in amazement: “Did you know that there are more than 700 urban gardens growing food here in New York?”

No. Where?

Rooftops, backyards, penthouse terraces. Also: “Did you know that there is a colony of 250,000 (yes!) bees being housed at the top of the Waldorf-Astoria?” No! This is something Allison’s just heard about. She also told me another amazing statistic: 15% of all the food being consumed in the world today is raised in urban gardens.
"last supper" cast bronze, 2014. Urs Fischer at the Gargosian Gallery at 75th and Park.
As I was walking up Park Avenue in the low 70s last night, I passed these extraordinary curb gardens in front of 823 and 829 Park Avenue. Lush with some subtle accompaniment ...
Also, last night over at Sotheby’s there was another kind of natural bounty on stage. There was a new world auction record price per carat of any sapphire, with the Exceptional Platinum, Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Ring which sold for $5,093,000 / $180,731 per carat (est. $4/5 million).

The square emerald-cut Kashmir sapphire weighs 28.18 carats, and is considered one of the finest sapphires ever to appear at auction, described by the American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) as “a gem of singular importance.”

I do not possess the “jewel gene” (my words), nor could I afford them even if I did. But I remain fascinated by the allure of precious gems to many who even become obsessed.
The Exceptional Platinum, Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Ring which sold for $5,093,000 / $180,731 per carat (est. $4/5 million).
The legendary sapphires of the Kashmir region were discovered in the early 1880s as a result of a landslide in the remote Kudi Valley of India. Initially the local Indians traded them for goods such as salt. But soon the mine became the property of the Maharaja, and all stones flowed to him, of course. 

By only 1887 the original mine was depleted. Other mines were developed over the following decades, but the majority of sapphires from the Kashmir region that are on the market today were drawn from the ground in the short life of this original mine.

The uniqueness of the Kashmir emeralds is a softness that can be described as “velvety,” an almost tangible texture that tempts the eye. Their rich, lustrous blue color is often compared to that of a cornflower, and it surpasses that of sapphires from any other part of the world. Also unlike other sapphires, its color excels in any light, without the purplish or grayish hues that can “stain” non-Kashmir stones.

Magnificent Fancy Intense Orangy Pink Diamond and Diamond Ring that brought $6,101,000 (est. $6/7 million).
The El Dorado Emerald, an emerald-cut Colombian emerald weighing 36.53 carats: $2,165,000 (est. $1.8/2.2 million).
These sapphires make up only a tiny percentage of the world’s total sapphire supply. Finding an unheated Kashmir sapphire of more than 28 carats – particularly of such extraordinary quality – is exceptional. The American Gemological Laboratories labels this stone a “Classic Kashmir,” denoting that it not only exhibits the classic gemological features of the Kashmir region, but also represents the top quality of stones from the region.

This Kashmir sapphire was purchased at Sotheby’s New York more than 30 years ago. Since that time, new records have been set and broken for sapphires, with the most recent, both in terms of total price and price-per-carat, set in November 2013 at Sotheby’s Geneva by The Richelieu Sapphires, a pair of Kashmirs both in excess of 20 carats which went for US$ 8,358,520 total, US$ 175,821 per carat).

My personal knowledge of precious gems is non-existent, yet they have amazed me since I was a young man first living in New York where such rarities can be seen fairly frequently. My observations of these beautiful stones has always been the personal drama of acquiring. What does one do when one gets the precious gem home and now possesses it? Wear it, of course, if it is wearable. Or stare at it for what it represents.

Their “wealth” value is also accompanied by their “survival” value, viz., the stories of people in history escaping political upheavals with their precious stones sewed into the linings of their suits and clothing. After the Russian Revolution not a few of the nobles and royals and members of the elite who escaped to Europe lived (as long as they could) off the sales – one precious stone at a time – of their treasures, now the bounty of desperate lives.

This is the writer always thinking, dramatizing, of course; but these extraordinary items plucked and polished from nature’s catastrophes, always remain mysterious, and infinitely alluring to the human condition.

Yesterday’s auction of “Magnificent Jewels” at Sotheby’s achieved $44,313,500 in total, led by a Magnificent Fancy Intense Orangy Pink Diamond and Diamond Ring that brought $6,101,000 (est. $6/7 million). The cushion-cut diamond of 15.23 carats, VS2 clarity, “displays a soft, feminine color reminiscent of pink diamonds in historic and royal collections.” Also there was the sale included The El Dorado Emerald, an emerald-cut Colombian emerald weighing 36.53 carats: $2,165,000 (est. $1.8/2.2 million).

There was also a selection of jewels from the estate of American entertainment icon song stylist Eydie Gorme, which altogether fetched $2.2 million. Almost all of the jewels were given to the recording and nightclub star by her husband (and often performing partner) Steve Lawrence – to whom she was married for more than 55 years.  They were known everywhere as ‘Steve and Eydie,’ America’s most sophisticated and award-winning pop vocal duet.
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

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