Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Precious Moments Harrah's Puts on a Dazzling Display Featuring Some of the World's Rarest Gems

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Precious Moments Harrah's Puts on a Dazzling Display Featuring Some of the World's Rarest Gems

Article excerpt

The country's oldest casino company is marking its 60th anniversary -- the diamond jubilee -- with a spectacular show of the year-appropriate gemstones.

"Dazzling Diamonds," an exhibit of some of the world's most unusual jewelry, is on display at Harrah's Riverport Casino Center through June 26.

"Nothing like this, to our knowledge, has been put together in the United States since the 1930s, when Cartier did an exhibit for a World's Fair," said Brent Burkhardt, chief curator of the exhibit traveling to Harrah's establishments across the country. Burkhardt focused his search on diamonds with unique stories behind them and then spent eight months contacting owners from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia to secure the 10 pieces featured in the Riverport Ballroom. The two centerpieces are the Excelsior I diamond and the Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace. The Excelsior I is a pear-shaped, 70-carat diamond certified as "G" color, or rare white. "I've actually held it," Burkhardt said, a hint of awe in his voice. "It's just a little smaller than a chicken egg and it's crystal clear. You just can't comprehend that it's really a diamond." The Cullinan necklace is unique not only for the weight of its diamonds -- and it is loaded with exquisite specimens -- but for the history behind it. "Thomas Cullinan owned a diamond mine in South Africa and apparently, for a several-week period in 1905, the miners had passed by a rather large and strange object in the wall," Burkhardt said. "No one thought much about it, certainly no one thought that it was a diamond. But at some point, the manager of the mine suggested they take a closer look at it. They brushed away, chiseled away." And discovered the largest diamond ever found. From that single 3,106-carat stone, Cullinan created an exquisite necklace for his wife incorporating 209 diamonds, including the center gem, a blue oval pendant weighing 2. …

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