Monday, July 11, 2016

Christie’s Sells Cullinan Dream, Sets New Record


Back in May, the auction house Christie’s announced the sale of the fancy intense blue diamond called the Cullinan Dream. At 24.18 carats, the diamond was regarded as a rare find. Now, the diamond holds the title as the most expensive fancy intense blue diamond to be sold.

Fetching more than $25 million, the diamond was auctioned at Christie’s on Thursday in New York. Classified as a Type llb diamond, the Cullinan Dream comes from the 122.52-carat rough blue diamond found in the Cullinan Mines of South Africa. The largest of four diamonds to be found, the diamond falls into a rare category that accounts for less than one-half of the 1% of all diamonds found.

Its unique color is the result of small amounts of boron being trapped in the crystal carbon structure during the formation of the diamond. The Cullinan Dream is now set as a cut-cornered rectangular mixed-cut fancy intense blue diamond and is flanked on either side by a tapered baguette-cut diamond. Other well-known diamonds that have been mined from the Cullinan mine include the 3,106-carat rough diamond that is known as the Cullinan Diamond. This rough diamond was then cut into two magnificent gems that now sit on the Imperial State Crown and Sceptre of the British Crown Jewels.

How Much is that Puppy in the Window? $100,000


At $100,000 a head, the puppies frolicking around the fenced lawn in western Seoul don’t come cheap – but at least their owners know exactly what they are getting.

The lawn belongs to the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, a world leader in pet cloning that has run a thriving commercial business over the past decade catering to dog owners who want to live with their pets forever … literally.

With a client list including princes, celebrities and billionaires, the foundation offers owners protection against loss and grief with a cloning service that promises the perfect replacement for a beloved pet.

Since 2006, the facility has cloned nearly 800 dogs, commissioned by owners or state agencies seeking to replicate their best sniffer and rescue dogs.

“These people have very a strong bond with their pets … and cloning provides a psychological alternative to the traditional method of just letting the pet go and keeping their memory,” said Wang Jae-Woong, a researcher and spokesman for Sooam.

“With cloning, you have a chance to bring back the pets,” he said in the facility’s “care room” where each cloned puppy is kept in a glass-fronted, temperature-controlled pen and monitored by researchers around the clock.

Ever since the milestone birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996, the rights and wrongs of cloning have been a topic of heated debate and Sooam Biotech has been regarded with particular suspicion because of its founder, Hwang Woo-Suk.

In two articles published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005, Hwang claimed to have derived stem-cell lines from cloned human embryos, a world first.

Fraudulent Hero

He was lauded as a national hero in South Korea before it emerged that his research was fraudulent and riddled with ethical lapses. Hwang was given a two-year suspended prison sentence in 2009, after being convicted of embezzlement and bioethical violations.

Sooam Biotech clones many animals, including cattle and pigs for medical research and breed preservation, but is best known for its commercial dog service.

The process involves harvesting a mature cell from the dog to be copied and transferring its DNA to a donor egg cell that has had its own genetic material removed.

The cell and the egg are “fused” with an electrical jolt, and the resulting embryo is implanted in a surrogate mother dog, which will give birth about two months later.

Despite the $100,000 price tag, requests for the service have poured in from around the world, Wang said — around half from North America.

Some have sought clones of other pets like cats, snakes and even chinchillas, but Wang said the demand for such animals was too small to justify the cost.

Walls around the five-storey Sooam Biotech centre are adorned with dozens of photos of cloned dogs and their smiling owners – tagged with their national flags including the US, Mexico, Dubai, Russia, Japan, China and Germany.

“(The clients) understand that a clone is an identical twin of the original pet, but also has a lot of genetic predispositions and the potential to develop as the original pet,” Wang said.

9/11 Canine Hero

One well publicized cloning was of Trakr, a former police dog hailed as a hero after discovering the last survivor of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Sooam produced five clones after Trakr’s owner won a contest for the world’s most “clone-worthy” dog.

High profile clients have included Princess Shaikha Latifah of Dubai who cloned her pet dog in 2015 and helped launch a joint research study into cloning camel breeds known for high milk production.

For the most part, the foundation’s clients and financial supporters of Hwang Woo-Suk’s research prefer to remain anonymous.

“Few of our backers – even the most loyal ones – want to voice their support publicly,” said Sooam Biotech’s general manager Kim Hoon, who acknowledged that the scandal involving the facility’s founder had tainted its image.

“I think the only way to win the public’s trust back is making more genuine scientific breakthroughs,” he said. The center does not conduct any human stem cell research after being repeatedly denied state approval to do so.

But it is pushing a number of ambitious projects, most notably an effort to clone an extinct mammoth. Since 2012, Hwang’s team has attempted to cultivate living cells from the frozen remains of mammoths in Siberia.

Disease ‘Models’

For medical research purposes, Sooam Biotech also produces genetically-engineered animals, or “disease models” that are predisposed to Alzheimer’s, diabetes or certain cancers.

During a visit to the clinic by AFP, Hwang himself was leading a procedure to inject the embryo of a Beagle into a surrogate mother dog’s womb. “This dog, once born, has a possibility to become a disease model for human brain tumors,” Hwang said.

Sooam is also involved in a joint venture with Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife to set up what will be the world’s largest animal cloning factory in the northeastern Chinese port city of Tianjin.

But head researcher Jeong Yeon-Woo said the dog cloning remained his favorite service because of the reaction of owners when they see the puppies. “They look like they found a child that had been missing,” Jeong said. “The moment of pure joy like that … makes me realize again why I’m doing this.”

Utamaro Woodblock Print Sets Auction Record


The Japanese art of woodblock printing has a very long history, with its fair share of masters whose work is in high demand from collectors . One of these masters was Kitagawa Utamaro, an artist nonpareil at the time for his beautiful depictions of women. At a Paris auction, held by the Beaussant Lefevre auction house in association with Christie’s, Utamaro’s sensual skill was brought to the forefront again with an auction of his ‘Deeply Hidden Love’ (Fukaku Shinobu Koi) print. It fetched around 745,000 euros, and went way beyond the initial estimate of 100,000 euros – setting a record for both prints of the Ukiyo-e genre, as well as prints by the artist of course.

Auction of the Portier Collection

The auction held in Paris was focused on Asian art and objects from a collection held by the Portier family – mainly consisting of Japanese earthenware including chawan (tea bowls) and kogo incense boxes. All 90 lots put up were sold after intense bidding, which is an extraordinary result. Some of the other major lots sold included a portrait of actor Tanimura Torazo created by artist Toshusai Sharaku (101,000 euros), and a bust of comedian Iwai Hanshiro by Utagawa Kunimasa (78,680 euros).

“(The Portiers’) expertise has been a reference for the Asian art market for the past four generations,” said the auction house in a statement.

There was also a set of eight exceptional Edo stamps that mainly depicted portraits of actors done by leading artists at the time. Each stamp was acquired by Henri Portier and his son Andre, major figures in the Asian art market in France, in sales at the Drouot auction house over the past century.

Utamaro, Master of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Compared with more popular forms of art like painting, the techniques behind woodblock printing are less known. It was a complicated process that involved three people working in tandem with one another. The artist himself usually only made the initial sketch of the final product, before sending it over to a carver to carve out the block, and a printer to apply inks to the block. Especially troublesome was the fact that each block could only be used for a single color (although some used blocks repeatedly to get special effects). Multiple woodblocks had to be prepared for a single print.

When the whole process worked out, under the conception of a skilled artist, you get the masterful combinations of color and form that characterize the best works in the medium. The powerful contrasts of blues and whites, for example, that blends together, for example, in Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave Off Kamigawa’. Utamaro, on the other hand, was more focused on using those colors to create a light and idealized form of femininity – and captured subjects like courtesans and Geisha from the Yoshiwara district – or bustling scenes of human life.

The methodology of Japanese woodblock printing has fallen out of favor, especially in view of newer mediums like linocut and lithography (and not to mention digital printing today). Still, the effects and techniques achieved by the Ukiyo-e artists have inspired countless others in the East and West – including great painters such as Van Gogh, most famously. The prints are being perpetuated all over the globe and can gather up new fans over the years. Hopefully, that’ll continue.

Is Cé La Vi Meal World’s Most Expensive?


Have $2,000,000 to spare? Then we have an idea for you, courtesy of World of Diamonds. No, this isn’t just about diamonds although there is a unique diamond ring called the Jane Seymour in the mix. This is an invitation to dinner at Cé La Vi Singapore, to make a meal of said $2 million and have an experience of a lifetime. You might be stupefied by this proposition and we confess that we couldn’t believe our ears when the Russian diamond conglomerate told us about it.

Basically, the experience — for just one lucky couple— begins with an 8-hour retreat. A 45-minute helicopter ride providing an unparalleled view of the Singapore skyline kicks things off. Following that is a chauffeured ride in a Rolls-Royce and a private luxury cruise — the couple doesn’t get to keep either of these things so those of you with a head for figures will still be scratching your head.


Moving along, the journey continues atop the 57th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, with an 18-course modern Asian menu served as you sit amongst 10,000 fresh roses. The menu is the perfect description for the term “spoilt for choice”. The mouth watering options include Fresh Belon Oyster with Champagene foam, Almas Caviar, Jamón Ibérico, Gewürztraminer-Poaced foie Gras, Veal Liver, Lamb Sweetbread, Bresse Poulet Consommé, Striped Seabass, Air-flown Alaska Wild Salmon, Verjus Sorbet, Slow-cooked Pigeon, Glenvale Pork loin and Apple-wood Grilled Mishima Sirloin. All enjoyed with a pair of diamond-studded chopsticks that are engraved with the couple’s names. So, at this point, there are a couple of chopsticks that the couple gets to keep. Read on and it will all make sense, we promise.


Of course, no meal is complete without a fine selection of vintage wines and here, things are downright incredible because the vintages served are between 44 to 55 years of age. Even the grand armchairs where the couple will be seated are one-of-a-kind, custom-made by The Plush to help it blend in with your home when it is delivered after. Caping things off is the Jane Seymour Vivid Fancy Blue diamond ring, which arrives with dessert. As the vivid blue diamond ring is finally worn, diners can enjoy a glass of Louis XIII cognac as they watch an extravagant fireworks display.

Ok, so now for the final tally then. As Karan Tilani, Director World of Diamonds Group told us, just having the Jane Seymour ring in the mix makes this whole affair ridiculously attractive because the ring alone is easily worth $2 million. This being the case, the dinner is expected to be oversubscribed. Both World of Diamonds and Cé La Vi will select the lucky recipients of the dining experience.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gold Standard: RR Palm Edition 999 by Mansory

mansory rolls royce palm edition 999 picture

Can a car really be worth its weight in gold? Well, this Ferrari proved that it was possible last year so only time will tell for the Mansory Palm Edition 999, which began life as a ‘regular’ Rolls-Royce Wraith. The German customization company claims that this edition redefines the boundaries of automotive opulence.

The car, which really illustrates how to make a factory-issue Rolls-Royce Wraith look ordinary, has been dubbed the Palm Edition 999 for two reasons. The first is a reference to 999 pure gold; and the second is to the number of completely bespoke Wraiths the company intends to build based on this golden theme – just nine.

Collectors love exclusivity for sure and that might make this model more sought after, which is why Mansory is going for the gold standard in terms of customization. The exterior boasts a two-tone white and gold paint finish and each of the badges has been recreated in a 999 pure gold finish. No, that is not the end of this shiny tale.

The body is noticeably different too. News reports indicate that it has been aerodynamically overhauled with new front and rear spoilers and aprons and side skirts in Mansory’s customary carbon fiber. Potential owners can also specify any metallic exterior fitting, from the door handles to the radiator grille and even the Spirit of Ecstasy itself, plated in 999 pure gold.

mansory rolls royce palm edition 999 picture
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Now the typical Rolls-Royce is already the equivalent of putting wheels on your living room and whizzing about – if you are Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and have living rooms to spare in your palace. The Edition 999, with all that gold, skirting, spoilers and such will make what is already a heavyweight into something unmanageable but Mansory has a solution for this. The base Rolls-Royce Wraith is already the most potent Rolls-Royce currently on general sale, but Mansory has upped the car’s output of 632PS to 740PS (that’s roughly 729 horses). This means that despite dripping in gold, this car is capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds and tops out at 300km/h.

Inside the gold theme and the pure gold continue in abundance. The premium leather’s tone matches the exterior paintwork with gold colored embroidery while several cockpit elements have been recast in pure gold.

It’s not clear how positively the Rolls-Royce design department will respond to Mansory’s latest creation, but it will certainly pique the interest of the super-rich driver that has everything except a Wraith that looks significantly different from that of his or her neighbor.

After all, the German car customization business exists to provide services mainstream super sports and super luxury carmakers can’t or won’t offer. No word on the price here but Rolls-Royce sells the Wraith for about £449,128…

On that note, the Sultan of Brunei is known to own a Rolls-Royce plated with 24k gold, made just for him. Well, the Sultan is the one man who can make bespoke Mansory editions look pedestrian…

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and images from the AFP.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

World’s second largest diamond found in Africa


A 1,111 carat “high quality diamond” has been discovered at a mine in Botswana, said to be the biggest find in more than a century, according to the mine company. Larger diamonds have been found but those were not gemstone quality.

The Botswana gem, only second in size to the famous Cullinan diamond which was unearthered in South Africa in 1905, was mined by Lucara Diamond Corp.

“The magnificent stone, which originated from the south lobe of Lucara’s Karowe Mine, is the world’s second largest gem quality diamond ever recovered and largest ever to be recovered through a modern processing facility,” the Stockholm listed company said a statement.

Shares in Lucara shot up 34 percent to 14.2 kronor in morning Thursday trading in Stockholm.

Botswana is the world’s second biggest diamond producer, and Lucara said the gem was the largest ever to be recovered in the country.

“The significance of the recovery of a gem quality stone larger than 1,000 carats, the largest for more than a century….cannot be overstated,” said William Lamb, the President and chief executive of Lucara.

The stone is yet to be evaluated, but commodities and mining analyst Kieron Hodgson, said it has “the potential to be one very expensive diamond.”

“Valuation will depend on potential inclusions, how it would behave in cutting, optimal shape as well as final color,” he told AFP.

“All these things will need to be evaluated prior to bidding.”

The biggest diamond discovered is the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905.

It was cut to form the Great Star of Africa and the Lesser Star of Africa, which are set in the Crown Jewels of Britain.

Lucara indicated on its website that the Karowe Mine had also this week turned up further finds — an 813 carat stone and a 374 carat stone, prompting Lamb to laud “an amazing week” for the company.

Source: luxuo.com

Monday, March 16, 2015

Princeton University gifted $300 million book collection

The Most Expensive Blog (The home of the most expensive & luxury things in the world) presents Princeton University gifted $300 million book collection.


Princeton University has been gifted an astonishing trove of rare books valued at nearly $300 million that includes the first six printed editions of the Bible and the original printing of the Declaration of Independence.

The book-loving philanthropist William Scheide, a Princeton alumnus who died aged 100 in November, has bequeathed the university some 2,500 rare printed books and manuscripts.

The collection’s enormous value makes it the largest gift in the university’s history. ”I cannot imagine a more marvelous collection to serve as the heart of our library,” Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber said.

“We are grateful for Bill Scheide’s everlasting dedication to Princeton and his commitment to sharing his breathtaking collection with scholars and students for generations to come.”

The vast collection includes the first six printed editions of the Bible, starting with a 1455 Gutenberg Bible; the original printing of America’s Declaration of Independence; handwritten music by Beethoven; and Shakespeare’s first, second, third and fourth folios.

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