The Denver Post, CO
July 6 2014

Cafesjian gem collection worth more than $1M to be sold in Denver

By Thad Moore

Before he died in September at age 88, Gerard Cafesjian amassed a huge
collection of art, jewelry and gems. Much of the fine art now is
housed in the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Armenia, and more than
900 pieces of jewelry were auctioned in Chicago in April, a collection
worth $1.8 million . But his huge collection of lapidary art, minerals
and gems -- valued at at least $1 million -- is now in Denver, being
prepared for sale in September by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

The collection of more than 700 pieces arrived last month in a pair of
box trucks from the West Publishing Co. executive's Florida home.

An agate carving of a falcon on a copper base. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Cafesjian had a staff dedicated to crating and shipping his valuable
objects, and so they arrived immaculately packed, said Alexander
Eblen, the auction house's natural history director.

Cafesjian began his career as a legal editor for West Publishing and
rose through the ranks. He retired in 1996, when the legal publishing
and research company was sold to Thompson Publishing.

Eblen spent more than a week unpacking and assessing the objects,
which include gems and minerals from places like South Africa, Brazil
and Colorado, and elements of what he described as a "pretty
stupendous" menagerie of stone carvings.

Managing and sorting such a large and diverse collection is chaotic.
Packing materials mingle with photo equipment in the Chicago-based
auction house's Cherokee Street office. Boxes are stacked along nearly
every wall, from its front entrance to the loading dock.

In one crate, there's an eagle carved from a single piece of ruby
weighing some 50 pounds. Elsewhere, there's a realistic falcon made
from agate and perched on a copper base, and a pink morganite sea
turtle mounted on a piece of clear quartz.

Detail of a small portion of a large, 500 pound purple amethyst. (Andy
Cross, The Denver Post)

There are about 200 pieces like them, Eblen said, including a large
number of works by some of the world's best lapidary artists in
Idar-Oberstein, Germany.

"What's so interesting is just the quantity of the single-owner
collection, the diversity of it, some of the crazy, fantasy pieces
that can be made from these pieces," said Annie McLagan, one of two
auctioneers handling the sale. "It's startling."

The collection includes unusual raw gem specimens, some collected from
Colorado, and a 500-pound amethyst geode cut to serve as a coffee

A fine rhodochrosite crystal from the "Corner Pocket", Sweet Home
Mine, Alma, Colorado. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post file)

The auction -- held in person and online Sept. 15 -- will be previewed
during the Denver Gem & Mineral Show Sept. 12-14. The show is one of
the world's largest, said James Hagadorn, geology curator for the
Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 come to the show at Denver Mart each year,
inspiring a pair of secondary shows and other sales, Hagadorn said.
Each year, sellers convert hotel rooms into makeshift showrooms,
making it a week-long event. The size of the show -- one of the three
largest in the world, Hagadorn said -- speaks to the size of Colorado's
collecting community.

Metro Denver alone has eight gem and mineral clubs, and it's one of
the largest such communities in the world, Hagadorn said.

"It's grown and grown and grown," Hagadorn said. "It's not as big as
the Stock Show, but in 10 more years, it might be."

Colorado ranked No. 8 in the nation for gemstone mining in 2011, worth
$440,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Foreign stones are
brought here, too, to be processed, Hagadorn said.

And, he said, mining is embedded in the state's history: It led to
Denver's founding, helped lead Colorado to statehood and drove people
to the mountains.

"They're full of minerals, they're full of rocks and they're full of
fossils," Hagadorn said. "There are phenomenal specimens that have
been coming out of these mountains for 100 years."