The exquisite festoon and other emerald riches now await your bidding in New York.
It is not every day that one comes across museum-quality emeralds kept safe by a family for generations. Guernsey’s, one of New York’s leading auction houses, will be helping you with just that when they auction off the Marcial de Gomar Collection – an assortment of rare emeralds previously kept by the family of a famous American emerald connoisseur – later this month in the Big Apple.
Arguably one of the most exciting gem auctions to take place in a long time, the event will witness the selling of La Gloria, which, at 887 carats, is one of the largest museum-quality emeralds in the world and other private emerald possessions of Manuel Marcial de Gomar, a renowned purveyor of the gemstone and the owner of Emeralds International, LLC, who collected these pieces over a 62-year long career spent both in the United States and the jungles of Colombia.
The Marcial de Gomar Collection came to be when Mr.Marcial was selected from many experts by Mel Fisher, the famed American treasure hunter, to be the independent appraiser of all emeralds recovered from the famed Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which sank in 1622 during a horrid hurricane while heavily laden with treasures gathered by the Spanish from Latin America. As payment for his expert services, Marcial received a selection of fine stones from the world-famous wreck.
The aforementioned La Gloria is the star of the collection, along with more than twenty other loose emeralds (both cut and rough) and thirteen pieces of extraordinary emerald jewellery made with gemstones collected from the Muzo mines of Colombia. Collectors and enthusiasts of sunken treasure are also in for a treat as apart from the assemblage of Atocha emeralds, a number of historic gold coins from the 1715 sunken Spanish fleet will also be auctioned off.
All of these items were privately owned and will be presented to the public for the very first time at the auction of the Marcial de Gomar Collection.
In order to find out more about the upcoming auction, UPPRE exclusively spoke to Mr. Arlan Ettinger, the president of Guernsey’s.
How did this collaboration between Guernsey’s and Mr. Marcial come about? Is there a reason he has chosen now to auction off his exceptional collection?
In the spring of 2016, Guernsey’s was researching the effect sea water might have on emeralds that had been submerged in the ocean for lengthy periods. Our path led to Manuel Marcial de Gomar, who we had discovered was not only one of the world’s leading experts on the specific effect of sea water on emeralds, but on rare emeralds in general. Indeed, our research revealed that Mr. Marcial had devoted his life to the study of rare emeralds and was widely respected for his knowledge in this unique field. It became clear from our initial conversations with Mr. Marcial that he had had a long and exciting career involved with emeralds which began at age 19 (he is currently 82) when he was introduced to the Muzo region of Colombia and the extraordinary museum-quality stones found in the Muzo mines.
While discussing with Mr. Marcial the merits of a different collection of relatively insignificant emeralds then offered to us (which was what led us to Manuel in the first place), he revealed that at his now advanced age, he was contemplating selling his own personal collection of rare emeralds assembled over the more than 60 years that he has been involved in these stunning gemstones. With monies earmarked to go to his children and grandchildren, Manuel had begun exploring the possibilities of working with one or another of the two or three largest auction houses in the world. Although he recognized the accomplishments of those firms, he felt that they lacked the “personal touch” of an auction house prepared to focus all its efforts on this extraordinary collection. Obviously, he saw something in us that led him to choose Guernsey’s for this important assignment.
What sets Colombian emeralds apart from emeralds unearthed from other parts of the world? Are there any unique characteristics to them?
Colombian emeralds are considered to be, by virtue of the specific geological conditions that produce them, the finest and purest of all emeralds. They are known especially for their extremely deep green colour that is so rarely produced in other parts of the world, as well as their vibrant fire—the appearance of internally refracted light in the stone, giving it a luminous quality that is highly prized. Many of Mr. Marcial’s emeralds come from the Boyacá region’s Muzo mines, which are widely known for producing the world’s most highly regarded emeralds, and are considered the paramount source for these stones in the same way that rubies from Burma or sapphires from Kashmir are particularly desirable. It is no surprise, then, that emeralds also play a significant role in Colombian myth. According to Muzo belief, when Fura (woman) and Tena (man)—two immortal beings created to populate the earth—were punished with mortality for their infidelity, Fura’s tears became the emeralds that now lie hidden in that part of Colombia.
Is there a binding theme to the loose emeralds and jewelleries apart from being emerald-based and coming from Mr Marcial’s collection? Maybe a common historical significance?
It is clear that Mr. Marcial has an immense sense of respect for the history of the Old and New World and the discoveries that were made in the age of exploration. From the many emeralds in the collection retrieved from the Nuestra Señora de Atocha (the famous 1622 Spanish sunken galleon) to Marcial’s original emerald jewellery designs, which feature elements of Spanish, Native American, and Islamic art, the items in the Marcial de Gomar Collection are linked by an interest in the fusion of cultures and the discoveries that emerge from contact between different peoples.
The names given to these pieces in the collection — The Tears of Fura, Lagrimá de Atocha, Empress of Spain, Corona de Muzo — speak to this interest and touch upon the deeper significance of emeralds in American and European history, as well as the fruits of cultural exchange. The Corona de Muzo, for example — an elaborate gold necklace that features the single largest cut emerald from the sunken Atocha — bears on the mounting, ‘PLUS ULTRA,’ or ‘Further Beyond,’ a motto dating to the time of Charles I of Spain that captures the spirit of the era of Spanish conquest and discovery; it further features a specially designed chain named the ‘Isabela link’ for Queen Isabela of Spain. The design reflects the exploratory origins of the spectacular emerald the forms the centerpiece of the necklace. Like all of the fine and highly beautiful emeralds that comprise Marcial’s collection, it is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is steeped in the history of the Americas and their role in periods of great discovery.
Guernsey’s auction of the Marcial de Gomar Collection will be held live on 25 April 2017 at the Americas Society on Park Avenue with online bidding at www.liveauctioneers.com. For more information about this unmatched collection of Colombian emeralds, please contact Guernsey’s at (001) 212-794-2280 or visit their site at www.guernseys.com for the full catalogue.