The Incredible Hope Spinel Sells In London
The Hope Spinel, a rare gem, was sold for a record price in London for the first time after 98 years; it is from one of the greatest collections of gems in the world. It was one of the Bonhams London Fine Jewellery top lots that were available for sale on 24th September, 2015. Although the 50.13 carat step-cut Hope Spinel gem in octagonal shape was expected to sell for $300,000 USD, it sold for a massive $1.5 Million USD.
According to the Bonhams department of jewelry director in London, Emily Barber, “It not only had the amazing provenance, but was also an exceptional gemstone in its own right. You just don’t see pieces of this provenance and quality on the open jewellery market often. It is very exciting.” She had predicted that the gem could sell for much more than the anticipated price.
The ‘Hope’ name is related to the ‘Hope Diamond’, which is the most famous diamond in the world. It is a blue diamond of 45.52 carats, which is displayed in the Natural History Museum of Smithsonian National located in Washington, DC, as one of its permanent gem displays.
Hope Spinel History
The Hope Spinel and Hope Diamond were under the custody of Henry Philip Hope, who was a banker in London, until he died in 1839. He was never married and in order to avoid the inheritance tax, he gave his nephew a collection of approximately 700 gems as a gift. However, due to family wrangles, the gem collection was divided amongst Hope’s two nephews.
In 1917, the Hope Spinel landed in the hands of a new owner after being sold at an auction for about $1,600, which is equivalent to about $120,000 today. Later on, it became part of Lady Mount Stephen’s gem collections; she was the wife of a Canadian philanthropist who was based in the United Kingdom.
In 1933 when Stephen passed away, the Hope Spinel was amassed by Elsie Reford, who was her niece. Together with her husband, Elsie owned one of Canada’s most essential art collections. Stephen’s god daughter and granddaughter to Elsie was the next owner of the gem after it was given to her as a gift.
According Barber, the Spinel was owned by Stephen’s direct descendant before the auction, and always referred to it as ‘Aunt Gian’s Hope Spinel’ (Gian here refers to Stephen).
However, according to SSEF, the Gemological Laboratory of Switzerland, the gem originated from the Kuh-i-Lal mines found in Tajikistan. Barber said that it’s the difficulty in accessing the mines that makes the Hope Spinel a rare gem. She said, “The mines are geographically difficult to get to and politically in the 20th century were’nt being used. Those make spinels like these exceptionally rare even without the provenance of the Hope Spinel.”
Barber went ahead to explain that the reason Spinels and Rubies are often confused is the fact that they are mined from similar rock formations, have a pink-red color, and resemble each other. However, unlike ruby, larger spinel specimens feature fewer inclusions and are usually more transparent.
She stated that, “Incredible transparency and the impeccable cut of the Hope Spinel, means that it is classed as an exceptional treasure.”
The Hope Spinel is decorated with old yet magnificent and finely cut claws of rose diamond around it; larger cut diamonds with the same old and brilliant look are used to frame it. A total of 6.50 carat diamond is used for decoration and framing. The gem also features gold and silver mountings and can be worn either as a pendant or brooch with fittings that are removable.
What’s more, the gem comes with a handwritten note embodied inside the case and it says, ‘Spinnel Ruby from Hope Collection’.