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Society / Featured Parties

Jaw-Dropping Sapphire Turns Heads at HMNS Amid Cloak of Security and Secrecy

This is No Ordinary Gemstone — and No Ordinary Acquisition

BY // 03.04.19

On the heels of Lady Gaga showcasing Tiffany & Co.’s jaw-dropping 128.4-carat yellow diamond ($30 million) and ahead of Sotheby’s upcoming auction of a monster 88.22-carat diamond ($12 million), the Houston Museum of Natural Science bests them all with the reveal of its magnificent 422.66 sapphire, considered one of the top sapphires worldwide.

But, please, don’t ask the cost. All you need to know is that museum funds were not used to purchase the magnificent stone. Thank generous Houstonians who ponied up the money not only for the rare gemstone from Sri Lanka but also for the necklace setting in white gold and platinum featuring 913 diamonds totaling 36.30 carats.

“It’s a significant number,” HMNS CEO Joel Bartsch tells PaperCity. “But we don’t discuss values. Our insurance people wouldn’t like it.”

While HMNS Curator’s Circle members (top tier donors) were invited to the reveal and seated dinner that followed, the public can view the Siren of Serendip through March 24 in the Brown Gallery amid a regal setting, created by Kirksey Gregg Productions, befitting such a grand addition to the museum’s cache of fabulous jewels. Once removed from the imperial mis en scène, the incredible specimen will be on display in the museum’s hallowed Gem Vault.

Bartsch tells an intriguing, if purposely vague, tale of how the gem was acquired. The adventure began with a phone call to the museum, continued with a trip to Sri Lanka, phone calls to the board, release of the stone to the museum and surreptitious transport to the U.S., vetting by one of the world’s top gem laboratories, negotiating and then the outreach to those who appreciate the value that such a piece adds to the museum’s collection.

The sale was completed and master jeweler Ingo Henn of London and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, was commissioned to create a setting complimenting the stone. Interestingly, because the museum did not want to risk transporting the stone to London, an exact 3-D image of the sapphire was used in its stead. That faux gem made the rounds at the cocktail reception so that guests could feel the size of the stone in the palm of their hands.

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Among those attending the dinner evening were longtime HMNS patrons Laurie and Reed Morian, who were the first to view the stone before it was coddled in the necklace setting. Laurie Morian dubbed the stone “Big Blue” and dreamed that all attending on this evening would be allowed to try the necklace on. Obviously, that did not happen as the necklace remained secure in its safer than safe display case.

Special guest on this evening was Dr. Bandula Wijay, Sri Lanka Consul General. In a nod to the stone’s origins, a dance troupe led by Asanka Lewkebandara and Ritani Solanga performed following dinner.

Among the bedazzled were Randa and Charles Williams, Cyvia Wolff, Ginni and Richard Mithoff, Elise and Russell Joseph, Sarah Dodd, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Dee Osborne, Clare Glassell, Meg Goodman, Carroll Goodman, Terri Lacy, Wally Wilson, Missy Kilroy, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson, Jim Baird, and Pamela and Kenny Duncan.

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