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World’s Most Valuable Painting

World’s Most Valuable Painting

While some of Leonardo Da Vinci - Mona Lisathe most expensive paintings ever sold are included in this article, there is one painting whose value far outweighs even those mentioned here. It is the Mona Lisa, which was painted in the 16th century by Italian master Leonardo Da Vinci. While the identity of the woman depicted in this portrait is not widely known, it is thought to be the wife of a wealthy silk merchant. Historians say that Da Vinci was commissioned by this man to paint her as a way to commemorate the birth of the couple’s second child. The painting now sits in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where it was valued back in 1962 at $100 million, which today makes it worth more than $680 million. Interestingly enough, rather than paying to insure the painting at the time it was assessed, the Louvre spent the money on added security for the piece instead.

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Jackson Pollock

1) Jackson Pollock – No. 5

Jackson Pollock - No. 5

This painting was also from David Geffen’s collection. Pollock is an artist who became known for establishing his own unique style in the Post-War climate that was a radical departure from his peers. No. 5, which was painted in 1948, is was one of his earliest examples of drip painting, which consisted of using his body to move the paint over the canvas. The details of this painting sale were kept very private, but rumor has it that the buyer is Mexican financier and art collector David Martinez, and that he paid a whopping $140 million, which with inflation now totals $142.7 million. This confuses me, why, why, why,? Wonders Nicolae Buzaianu.

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Willem de Kooning

2) Willem de Kooning – Woman III

Willem de Kooning - Woman III

Completed in 1953, it was sold in 2006 to hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen by private sale. This masterpiece came from the collection of David Geffen, who is one of the founders of Dreamworks movie studios. Kooning is known for his series of artwork depicting women with exaggerated body parts. Woman III is the only one of this series that is still privately owned. Cohen purchased it for $137.5 million, which today equals $140.2 million.

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Nicolae Buzaianu brings you Vincent van Gogh – Portrait of Dr. Gachet

4) Vincent van Gogh – Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Dr. Gachet In addition to the Renoir listed in number 5 above, Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito also purchased this painting in 1990, this time through an auction at Christie’s, New York. The seller was the Siegfried Kramarsky family. This work went for $82.5 million, which today equals $129.7 million. A rumor in the art world regarding Saito’s purchase of both the Renoir and the van Gogh is that when he died, he wanted to have the paintings be cremated along with his body. However, Saito is said to have clarified this request, explaining that he did not mean this literally, but was just figuratively trying to express his deep appreciation for these two famous paintings. Nicolae Buzaianu would certainly like a Van Gogh but he looks depressed.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir

5) Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Bal au Moulin de la Galette, Montmarte

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Bal au Moulin de la Galette, Montmarte

Painted in 1876, it was sold by owner Betsey Whitney through Sotheby’s, New York, in 1990. The high bid came from a Japanese businessman named Ryoei Saito, who paid $78.1 million back then. This translates to $122.8 million today. It is important to point out that two versions of this painting exist. The first one is housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, while the second, smaller one, is the one that Saito purchased. In addition to this masterpiece, Saito also purchased a famous Van Gough work as well (see number 4 below).

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More Diamonds

There’s no denying that diamonds are a traditional symbol of romance and love. Why, a man needs a diamond ring to ask the woman of his dream to marry him, right? But was it always that way? Did you know that someone worked very, very hard to make diamond rings de rigueur in marriage proposals? Or that diamonds aren’t actually very rare at all? Or that they make lousy investments?

Here 10 Facts About Diamonds You Should Know:

1. The Earliest Use of Diamonds: Polishing Axes

If you ask a hundred people what they think of first when they hear the word « diamond, » I bet you get 99 who say a diamond engagement ring.

Truth is, the majority of diamonds mined today are used for industrial purposes – and that may also be the very first use of diamonds by humans.

Harvard physicist Peter Lu and colleagues found that ancient Chinese used diamonds to polish ceremonial burial axes in the late stone age or over 4,500 years ago.

The axes, which are made from corundum (or ruby in its red form and sapphire in other colors), were polished to a mirror finish. Corundum is the second hardest naturally occurring substance on Earth and close examination of these axes revealed that they could’ve been made only with diamond abrasives. (Source)

It’s quite fitting since today, 80% of mined diamonds (about 100 million carats) are used for the industrial purposes of cutting, drilling, grinding, and polishing.

2. Diamonds Are Not The Hardest Substance on Earth

« Diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth » is practically a mantra for jewelers trying to impress you with its physical properties if you’re not swayed by its beauty. Too bad it’s not true: while diamonds are the hardest natural mineral substance, it is not the hardest substance known to man.

In 2005, physicists Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues compressed carbon fullerene molecules and heating them at the same time to create a series of interconnected rods called Aggregated Diamond Nanorods (ADNRs or « hyperdiamond »). It’s about 11% harder than a diamond. (Photo: ESRF)

3. De Beers: The Diamond Cartel

We can’t talk about diamonds without talking about De Beers, the company that single-handedly made the diamond industry what it is today. De Beers was founded by Cecil Rhodes, who also founded the state of Rhodesia which later became Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Rhodes Scholarship is also named after him, and funded by his estate.

Rhodes started by renting water pumps to miners during a diamond rush in 1867 at Kimberley, South Africa. He expanded into mines and about twenty years later became the sole owner of all diamond mining operations in the country.

Rhodes built De Beers into a diamond cartel (well, they prefer « single-channel marketing » and since they’re one company, they’re technically a monopoly). De Beers mines diamonds, then handle their sales and distribution through various entities (in London, it’s known as the innocuously named Diamond Trading Company; in Israel, it’s simply called « the syndicate »; in Belgium, it’s called the CSO or Central Selling Organization.)

If you want to buy diamonds from De Beers, you’ve got to play by their rules: diamond are sold in events known as « sights. » There are 10 sights held each year, and to buy, you have to be a sightholder (these are usually diamond dealers whose business is to have the stones cut and polished and then resold at diamond clearing centers of Antwerp, New York, and Tel Aviv).

The diamonds are sold on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. A sightholder is given a small box of uncut diamonds priced between $1 and $25 million. De Beers set the price – there is no haggling and no re-selling of diamonds in uncut form. It is rare for sightholders to refuse a diamond package offered to them, for fear of not being invited back. And those who dare to purchase diamonds from other sources than De Beers will have their sightholder privilege revoked.

In the early days, De Beers controlled about 90% of the world’s diamond supply. Today, its monopoly on diamonds has been significantly reduced. It is estimated that the cartel now controls about 60 to 75% of the world’s diamond trade (source)

4. So Why The Name ‘De Beers’?

De Beers was actually named for the brothers Johannel Nicholas de Beer and Diederik Arnoldus de Beer, whose farm Cecil Rhodes bought when diamond mines were discovered on it.

5. Are Diamonds Rare?

Diamonds are actually quite rare in the past but not any more. While it’s true that the process of extracting diamond is quite laborious (mines move many tons of dirt per carat of diamond found) and that gem-quality diamonds are relatively few (only about 1 in 1 million diamonds are quality one carat stones, only 1 in 5 million are 2-carat; and 1 in 15 million are 3-carat), diamonds are not rare in an economic sense because supply exceeds demand. (Photo: mafic [Flickr])

To maintain the high prices of diamonds, De Beers creates an artificial scarcity: they stockpile mined diamonds and sell them in small amounts.

Perhaps De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said it best: « diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for the deep psychological need they fill. » (mental_floss, vol 7 issue 6, p. 21 « Diamond Engagement Rings » by Rebecca Zerzan)

6. Moon-Sized Diamond

So – diamonds aren’t rare on Earth, and it may not be rare in space either. In 2004, astronomer Travis Metcalfe of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and colleagues discovered a diamond star that is 10 billion trillion trillion carats!

The cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallised carbon, 4,000 km across, some 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus.

It’s the compressed heart of an old star that was once bright like our Sun but has since faded and shrunk.

Astronomers have decided to call the star « Lucy » after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. (Source)

According to scientists, if you wait long enough, our own sun will eventually turn into one such large diamond star!

7. Famous Diamonds

Just because they’re not rare, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptional diamonds. There’s the 45-carat Hope Diamond (and its famous Curse), the mystical Koh-I-Noor Diamond, and the largest diamond ever found, the 546 carat Golden Jubilee.

But this is Neatorama, so here’s a truly fascinating story about the Bokassa Diamond. In 1977, a crazy Central African dictator named Jean-Bédel Bokassa declared himself an emperor and asked Albert Jolis, the president of a diamond mining operation, for a diamond ring (he made sure Jolis knew that nothing smaller than a golf ball-sized rock would do!)

Jolis didn’t have the money to buy such a large stone but if he didn’t deliver one, his company would lose the mining concession in Central Africa. So he devised a clever ruse: Jolis found a large piece of black diamond bort (a poorly crystallized diamond usually fit only to be crushed into abrasive powder) that curiously resembled Africa in shape. He ordered the diamond polished and mounted on a large ring. A one-quarter carat white diamond was then set roughly where the country is located on the continent.

Jolis presented the « unique » diamond to Bokassa, and the clueless emperor loved it! He thought that the $500 ring was worth over $500,000! Just two years later, when Bokassa was overthrown in a coup, Jolis heard that he went into exile with his prize diamond ring, and noted wryly: « It’s a priceless diamond as long as he doesn’t try to sell it. » (Source)

8. The Most Brilliant Advertising Campaign of All Time: A Diamond Is Forever

The 1930s was a bad decade for the diamond industry: the price of diamond had declined worldwide. Europe was in the verge of another war and the idea of a diamond engagement ring didn’t take hold. Indeed, engagement rings were considered a luxury and when given, they rarely contained diamonds.

In 1938, De Beers engaged N.W. Ayer & Son, the first advertising agency in the United States, to change the image of diamonds in America. The ad agency suggested a clever ad campaign to link diamonds to romance in the public’s mind. To do this, they placed diamonds in the fingers of Hollywood stars and suggested stories to newspapers on how diamond rings symbolized romance. Even high school students were targeted:

N. W. Ayer outlined a subtle program that included arranging for lecturers to visit high schools across the country. « All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions, » the agency explained in a memorandum to De Beers.

The agency had organized, in 1946, a weekly service called « Hollywood Personalities, » which provided 125 leading newspapers with descriptions of the diamonds worn by movie stars. […] The idea was to create prestigious « role models » for the poorer middle-class wage-earners. The advertising agency explained, in its 1948 strategy paper, « We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.' » (Source)

In 1948, an N.W. Ayer copywriter named Frances Gerety, had a flash of inspiration and came up with the slogan « A Diamond is Forever. » It’s a fitting slogan, because it reminds people that it is a memorial to love, and as such, must stay forever in the family, never to be sold (see below). Ironically, Gerety never married and died a spinster. (Source)

But equating diamonds with romance wasn’t enough. Toward the end of the 1950s, N.W. Ayer found that the Americans were ready for the next logical step, making a diamond ring a necessary element in betrothal:

« Since 1939 an entirely new generation of young people has grown to marriageable age, » it said. « To this new generation a diamond ring is considered a necessity to engagements by virtually everyone. » The message had been so successfully impressed on the minds of this generation that those who could not afford to buy a diamond at the time of their marriage would « defer the purchase » rather than forgo it. (Source)

Then the clever ad agency went one step further. N.W. Ayers noted that when women were involved in the selection of the engagement ring, they tended to pick cheaper rings. So De Beers encouraged the « surprise » engagement, with men picking the diamond on their own (with the clear message that the more expensive the stone, the better he’ll look in the eyes of a woman).

They even gave clueless men a guideline: American men should spend two months wages, whereas Japanese men should spend three. Why? Because they can:

But the guidelines differed by nation. A « two months’ salary » equivalent was touted in the United States, whereas men in Great Britain got off the hook with only one month. Japan’s expectation was set the highest, at three months. I asked a De Beers representative why the Japanese were told to spend so much compared to the Americans or the English.

« We were, quite frankly, trying to bid them up, » he answered. (Source: The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire by Tom Zoellner)

In 1939, when De Beers engaged N.W. Ayer to change the way the American public view diamonds, its annual sales of the gem was $23 million. By 1979, the ad agency had helped De Beers expand its sales to more than $2.1 billion (Source).

9. Diamonds are Actually Lousy Investments

De Beers is quite famous for never lowering the price of diamonds. During the Great Depression, the cartel drastically cut supplies and stockpiled diamonds to prop up their price. But do diamonds make good investments?

Unless you’re a certified diamond seller, the answer is no: you won’t be able to sell a diamond ring for more than what you pay for it. And the reason is simple: with diamonds, you buy at retail and sell at wholesale, if you can sell it at all.

In 1982, Edward Jay Epstein wrote an intriguing article for The Atlantic, titled « Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? » In it, he wrote about an experiment to determine a diamond’s value as an investment.

The [Money Which?] magazine conducted another experiment to determine the extent to which larger diamonds appreciate in value over a one-year period. In 1970, it bought a 1.42 carat diamond for £745. In 1971, the highest offer it received for the same gem was £568. Rather than sell it at such an enormous loss, Watts decided to extend the experiment until 1974, when he again made the round of the jewelers in Hatton Garden to have it appraised. During this tour of the diamond district, Watts found that the diamond had mysteriously shrunk in weight to 1.04 carats. One of the jewelers had apparently switched diamonds during the appraisal. In that same year, Watts, undaunted, bought another diamond, this one 1.4 carats, from a reputable London dealer. He paid £2,595. A week later, he decided to sell it. The maximum offer he received was £1,000.

Why is there no active after-market for diamonds? It is estimated that the public holds about 500 million carats of gem diamonds – if a significant portion of the public begins selling, then the price of diamond would plummet. To prevent this from happening, the diamond industry spent a huge sum in making diamonds « heirloom » properties to be passed down for generations, keeping the price of diamond artificially high (so people wouldn’t be tempted to unload them for fear of losing money) and discourage jewelers from buying diamonds from the public.

10. Artificial Diamonds

The idea of making artificial diamond isn’t new. H.G. Wells proposed exactly such a thing in his story « The Diamond Maker » in 1911. Since then, scientists have come up with ways to create synthetic diamonds and diamond simulants like cubic zirconia – but experts could always tell them apart. Until now.

In the past decade, scientists have perfected a technique called Chemical Vapor Deposition, where carbon gas cloud is passed over diamond seeds in a vacuum chamber heated to more than 1,800 degrees. In a matter of days, they are now able to « grow » diamonds that are virtually indistinguishable from natural ones, even to the experts:

Seeking an unbiased assessment of the quality of these laboratory diamonds, I asked Bryant Linares to let me borrow an Apollo stone. The next day, I place the .38 carat, princess-cut stone in front of Virgil Ghita in Ghita’s narrow jewelry store in downtown Boston. With a pair of tweezers, he brings the diamond up to his right eye and studies it with a jeweler’s loupe, slowly turning the gem in the mote-filled afternoon sun. « Nice stone, excellent color. I don’t see any imperfections, » he says. « Where did you get it? »

« It was grown in a lab about 20 miles from here, » I reply.

He lowers the loupe and looks at me for a moment. Then he studies the stone again, pursing his brow. He sighs. « There’s no way to tell that it’s lab-created. » (Source)

But if you think that the price of diamond will fall precipitously, think again. Companies that make cultured diamonds like Apollo and Gemesis aren’t stupid: they’re not going to kill the goose that laid the diamond egg by flooding the market with cheap stones.

End Note

Whether you love or hate them, diamonds are endlessly fascinating. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we haven’t touched topics like blood diamonds, J. Walter Thompson’s brilliant campaign to insert diamond engagement rings into Japan’s wedding custom, and so on

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English: The Adrenaline Motorsport Murtaya (de...

Image via Wikipedia

The Murtaya is a lightweight, AWD, turbocharged flat-4 roadster based on the GC-generation (1992–2000) Subaru Impreza WRX STi. The Murtaya is the only low volume MSA approved category 2, specialist rally car currently available. The Murtaya Sports car is built, sold and is currently being further developed by Murtaya Sports Cars Ltd based near Exeter, Devon.

Originally known under the codename AMS1, the Murtaya was first announced to the world on April 11, 2006 as a kit car that would be based on the Subaru Impreza. The Murtaya was basically a complete rework of the Delfino Feroce, as Adrenaline Motorsport—having just taken over rights to the Feroce—decided that the Delfino had enough shortcomings to warrant a redesign. The Minari—of which Adrenaline Motorsport also had the rights—was also used as inspiration.

The Murtaya project was led by Neil Yates, Managing Director of Adrenaline Motorsport, and Tom Taylor, Head Eengineer of Adrenaline Motorsport. Daniel Muir was the Head Designer of the Murtaya; his past credits includes the first generation Lotus Elise and Aston Martin models. The Murtaya is literally created by these three people: the name ‘Murtaya’ is actually the conglomeration of the three directors’ surnames (MUR from Muir, TA from Taylor, YA from Yates).

The IPR to the Murtaya in its entirety was adopted by one of the early investors after the demise of Adrenaline Motorsport in 2010. Determined not to let the unique car be forgotten, the investor started Murtaya Sports Cars Limited. Based near Exeter in Devon, Murtaya Sports Cars Ltd is now producing the kits and factory built cars as well as further developing the car in order to take it to the next level. The basis of the Murtaya consists of a GRP monocoque tub with a front spaceframe that contains the engine. The front suspension attaches to the spaceframe while the rear suspension attaches directly to the monocoque tub.

The Murtaya was initially created as a kit car for financial reasons, but it is currently offered in many different types of packages: People can buy the comprehensive Murtaya kit (or several different modular versions of the kit) and assemble their Murtaya themselves; the Murtaya is a single-donor car, meaning that you do not need to match parts from various donor cars in order to complete the car (like many kit cars out there). A rolling chassis build is also available for people who want to finish the build themselves. Fully finished turn-key builds are also available.

In some markets (Middle East, etc.), the Murtaya can be bought as a brand new car (i.e., even the donor car is brand new).

The Murtaya is offered in many different variations. The two major types are the road car spec and the track car spec. The former offers a full windshield and things like AC, leather, sound insulation, power windows, central locking, etc. The latter has only a small windscreen and cuts out options to save weight.

The type of donor car used as a basis also affects the resulting Murtaya. Standard naturally aspirated Impreza models can be used (AWD with about 150 hp (110 kW) and 5-speed manual transmissions). The next step up is a WRX model (usually with horsepower in the lower 200’s and a 5-speed manual). The WRX STi donor will have an upper 200 hp (150 kW) flat-four and a 5/6-speed transmission. The highest spec donor would be an STi Type-RA or Type-R, which will have a six-speed transmission and a driver controlled central differential and limited-slip front and rear differentials. Adrenaline Motorsport sells Murtayas in even higher states of tune (up to and exceeding 400 hp).

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World’s Single Most Expensive Suit

R. Jewels Diamond Edition
This is the suit Nicolae Buzaianu should be sporting in Monte Carlo. Luxury designer Stuart Hughes is at it again, this time in collaboration with Manchester tailor Richard Jewels. Rather than the gold-plated and diamond-encrusted gadgets Hughes is known for designing, this duo has created the most expensive suit in the world.

The R. Jewels Diamond Edition suit has 480 single cut diamonds, 0.5 carats each, studding the Cashmere wool and silk blend that makes up the rest of the suit. It is the flagship creation of the R. Jewels line of luxury suits that Mr. Jewels hopes will “not only capture the eyes but the hearts of the consumers.” The suit is the product of 600 man hours and only three will be made. It’s priced at £599,000 or just under US $900,000.

Alexander Amosu’s gold-threaded suit.
Alexander Amosu, whose London-based design house is also known for gem-studded phones and accessories, performed a similar feat in 2009. The fabric of his single-breasted suit is made from vicuña wool, the most expensive wool in the world due to its scarcity and stringent regulations on wool-gathering, as well as qiviut, wool made from the coats of muskoxen. It’s also threaded with 18-karat gold and its single button features pave set diamonds.

This fantastic suit took a total of 80 hours to make and was sold to an anonymous buyer for a price of £70,000—over US $100,000.

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Baume et Mercier

A mid-1980s Baume et Mercier men's watch brand...

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Baume et Mercier (bohm ay mers-yay) is a Swiss luxury watchmaking company founded in 1830. It is owned by Richemont, and with Cartier and Piaget they make up the core of the group. This company is represented in 75 countries and produces around 200,000 watches a year. The most important markets are in Europe, especially Italy, Spain and France. Baume et Mercier is distributed by 220 exclusive retailers worldwide and has established itself as a manufacturer of sporty chronographs.

In 1834, members of the Baume family founded the Societe Baume Feres in the village of Les Bois, in the Swiss Jura. The Baumes had already been active in watchmaking for many years. At first, the priority went to enameled pocket watches. In 1844 Joseph Celestin Baume went to England to set up business relations there. Watches signed « Waterloo », « Diviko » and « Sirdar » opened distant markets in Australia and New Zealand. The family company gave convincing proof of its dedication to mechanical elegance and precision when one of its timepieces won the 1893 timing competitions at the Kew-Teddington Observatory with a score of 91.9 out of a possible 100. In 1912, William Baume met the watchmaker and jeweler Paul Mercier at the Geneva watch and jewellery shop in Haas. The meeting resulted in the signing of an agreement on 26 November 1918 for the establishment of Baume et Mercier in Geneva. This proved to be a very successful enterprise, and in 1921 they were awarded the coveted Poincon de Geneve, official recognition of flawless quality products. Watches dating from this period are now rare collectors pieces, worth thousands of dollars. In 1937 William Baume withdrew from active business. He was followed into retirement by Paul Mercier, and the jeweler Constantin de Gorski joined the company accompanied by his master jewel-setter and male companion, Robert Peron.

After World War II Baume et Mercier concentrated on conventional men’s watches, sports chronographs and ladies’ jewellery watches. In 1965 the Piaget family bought control over Baume et Mercier. One of the world’s thinnest calendar watches with a mini rotor was produced under Piaget’s aegis. In the same year the new owners switched to electronic tuning fork movements, and from 1970 increased investments in quartz movements. At the end of the 1983, Baume et Mercier temporarily ceased production of mechanical watches. In 1988, Christian and Yves Piaget sold 60% of their stake to Piaget holding S.A., also selling Baume et Mercier S.A. to Cartier Monde S.A. in Paris. In 1993 the Cartier group became sole owners of both Piaget and Baume et Mercier.

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