Marcial de Gomar rare emerald collection – the inside story
(The “Marcial de Gomar Star” – one of the rarest emeralds from the collection of Marcial de Gomar)
On 25th April 2017 history will be made at Guernsey’s auction house in New York as it hosts the sale of what is thought to be the world’s most valuable private collections of emeralds, the Marcial de Gomar collection. This encompasses more than 20 loose emeralds, both rough and cut, 13 pieces of emerald jewellery and a range of rare gold and silver coins. The collection belongs to Manuel Marcial de Gomar, a man with over six decades experience in the emerald business, from the famous Muzo mines of Colombia to the retail and wholesale jewellery markets in the US. His unique knowledge and insight into the world of rare emeralds has lead to a successful career as an author, lecturer and technical consultant for gem mining and exploration projects. Marcial runs Marcial de Gomar Emeralds International, a successful retail and wholesale business in Key West, Florida, with his family but it is his lifelong private collection that is being auctioned. Born in the USA to parents of Spanish heritage, Marcial began his career in the emerald mines of Colombia in 1955 but his family originally moved to the South American nation when he was just 12 years old. Following a brief period of service in the US Coast Guard, Marcial returned to Colombia during the Korean War and he worked initially as a Spanish-English translator for Russell Anderton, the Manager of the Chivor mine and author of a number of authoritative texts on the emerald mining industry.
(Marcial de Gomar Emeralds International, Key West, Florida – Marcial’s family gem & jewellery firm)
Included within de Gomar’s fine emerald collection is a stone known as “La Gloria.” At over 887 carats, this rough stone is recorded as the largest emerald in North America to have ever emerged from the Muzo mines of Colombia and for a time it was showcased by Arthur Groom & Co. Marcial was a key player in the search for emeralds in Hiddenite, North Carolina, where he acted as a consultant to James Hill of North American Emerald Mines Inc on the feasibility of mining in this area. Based upon the research he conducted, production commenced in the late 1990s and Emeralds International purchased the first parcel of rough emeralds, from which the “Heart of Carolina” and “Princess of Carolina” gems were cut. As a result of widespread recognition of Marcial’s knowledge in the coloured gem field, the State of Florida legal system now formally recognises him as an “Emerald Expert” and they have consulted him on a number of legal matters relating emeralds and the emerald market. In 1984 Marcial was appointed as Head Appraiser and Consultant for the analysis and evaluation of the emeralds found in the wreck of the Spanish Galleon Galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Despite his advancing years, Marcial continues to lecture Graduate gemmologists on emeralds at various institutions in both Hawaii and Florida.
(La Gloria – at 887 carats, this is the fourth largest rough emerald in the world of Muzo provenance)
The collection includes a rare star emerald containing a six pointed radial pattern, consisting of an impurity or ‘silk’ within the crystalline structure of the gem. The name originates from the Spanish star, meaning sugar mill, due to the fact the stat pattern resembles that of a grinding wheel and it can also be applied to ruby, sapphire, garnet, chiastolite and tourmaline. Star emeralds were first written of by Émile Bertrand in 1879 and they are almost exclusively found in the western part of the Eastern Cordillera basin, in the Muzo, Coscuez and Peñas Blancas mines of Colombia, although one-off finds have been made in Brazil and Madagascar. The radial pattern found in these stones can vary considerably but they often include a hexagonal structure at the core. Competing theories exist as to how this phenomenon occurs but according to some recent research the impurities are the remnants of the shale matrix in which the stones’ structure formed and became trapped between the radial dendrites of the growing emerald. The star pattern is not to be confused with that of an asterism, which is a similar shaped pattern formed by an entirely different process. In 1999 de Gomar purchased a 1,000 carat parcel of rough emeralds from Diallo Mahmoud, an independent emerald dealer in Africa.
(Included in the collection are “Tears of Fura” – a fine pair of matching Muzo pear cut emeralds)
Other notable gems in the collection included the “Tears of Fura,” a matching pair of large pear shaped Muzo emeralds. At 95.51 carats combined, these are extremely large and perfectly coloured examples of the stones from this region. The name, also used by de Gomar for his autobiography, pays homage to the two Colombian mountain peaks of Fura and Tena, believed by the native Muzo peoples to be the sacred guardians of humanity – Fura (woman) and Tena (man). Ancient legend from this part of the world has it that at upon their death “Fura’s tears became emeralds that took on the green of the jungles and the fire of the lightning bolt.” The most important piece in the collection is the Marcial de Gomar Star (pictured at the top of the article), the largest of only 11 star emeralds known to be in existence and possibly the only double-sided star emerald to have ever come to auction. Due to the rarity of some of the pieces being auctioned at Guernsey’s next month, it is unlikely that anything similar will occur again for a generation. Whatever the future holds, it is clear that the demand for this most desirous of gems will only continue to grow unabated.
(An example of a rare trapiche emerald from the collection of Marcial de Gomar)
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