retire with professional honour unstained, but minus all my loose
silver. When I rejoined my confederate at the G.O.H., he insisted,
being an opportunist, that the drinks were on me.
note on some big sapphires may be of interest here. The largest
sapphire in the world may be seen at the American Museum of Natural
History, where it forms part of the Morgan-Tiffany collection. This is
the "Star of India", weighing 534 carats. A yet larger stone was found
in Burma in 1930, which in the rough turned the scales at 956 carats,
and was priced at the enormous sum of ,£35,000. But owing either to the
fact that at that size it was not a commercial proposition, or the fact
that big disfiguring flaws had to be eliminated, this stone was
eventually cut into nine separate pieces.
Judicious cutting, by the way, is often employed to remedy
blemishes in precious stones. One bad big stone may be cut into two or
more good little ones, though it takes an expert to calculate whether
the loss of size is going to be compensated for by a commensurate gain
in quality. Somewhat the same problem confronts the pearl merchant who
owns a big ugly pearl. He cannot cut his gem into several pieces, but
he can scale off successive layers, hoping that a better—if
smaller—pearl lies beneath. Both dealers in precious stones and dealers
in pearls need the courage often to take risks. And when they sometimes
make what seems like a very big profit to the layman, they have earned
it through taking risks the customer never hears of.