by Fred Cuellar
by Fred Cuellar
by Fred Cuellar
A woman on her first flight receives a gift from her late husband, fulfilling a promise love made long ago.
See all awards won here.
Please call 800-275-4047 or 713-222-2728 for more information on customizing your own Amosphere™ with your combination of metal choices and gemstones.
Diamond Cutters International honors both quantum physics creator and Rubik’s Cube inventor with Rubik’s Masterpiece to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube, the world’s best-selling puzzle, as part of a major international exhibition.
Houston, Texas — As a young physics student in 1874, Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, wanted to understand how matter moved through time and space. In a speech presented in Florence, Italy in 1944, titled Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], the German-born physicist said, “The mind is the matrix of all matter.” Little did Planck know he was doing more than explaining the beginnings of quantum theory; he was setting the stage for what would become one of the most widely enjoyed and studied toy puzzles in history. One hundred years after Planck began his pursuit of understanding quantum mechanics, a young Hungarian inventor, architect and professor of architecture, Erno Rubik invented the Rubik’s Cube, a perfect model of Planck’s simple statement. Fifteen years further removed, another craftsman, this time in diamonds, precious stones and metals, Fred Cuellar, founder and CEO of Diamond Cutters International (DCI), created what was to become known as the Rubik’s Masterpiece, or as the Guinness Book of World Records refer to as, “World’s Most Expensive Toy.”
From a simple quote, to an inventor’s goal to be able to physically place a working model of that concept in a person’s hands, to one artist’s desire to create a version as beautiful as the complexity of the universe, the Rubik’s Cube and its $2.5 million counterpart the Rubik’s Masterpiece, have entertained, enthralled and enraptured people around the world. Today, in cooperation with the Liberty Science Center (LSC) in Jersey City and Google, a major exhibit celebrating the Rubik’s Cube is being developed to open April 2014 at the LSC before traveling around the world to various art museums, science centers, and alternative exhibit spaces for up to seven years.
“Erno Rubik was able to make the complex adapted system, which Plank was describing, into a toy, essentially placing the universe in our hands,” says Cuellar of Rubik’s invention. “When I first saw his plastic toy I thought to myself, this is far too incredible a puzzle; it needs to be made of the finest most precious material. I had to honor Rubik and ultimately Planck, using my own skills and talents, so I created the Rubik’s Masterpiece.”
So impressed was Rubik when he first held his namesake masterpiece in his hands that he said of Cuellar’s version of his puzzle, “This is my Mona Lisa.”
Cuellar’s Rubik’s Masterpiece will be the centerpiece of the 40th anniversary exhibit. Valued at over $2.5 million, the fully functioning Rubik’s Cube required 8,500 man hours to be crafted in 18 karat yellow gold with 25 precious stones per panel set in invisible settings. Cuellar used 185 carats of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and white diamonds to create the classic colored panels of the Rubik’s Cube puzzle with one small difference. While the original Rubik’s Cube is colored red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and white, Cuellar—himself a lover of puzzles and codes—decided to replace orange with purple for a variety of reasons both clever and protective.
The color purple has historically represented royalty due to the fact that in ancient times it was the most difficult, and thus most precious color to create. Only kings and monarchs were allowed to wear purple and to this day it still represents this regal and noble class.
Secondarily, Cuellar wanted to honor both Planck and Rubik, and the color purple allowed him to do this through a clever use of an acronym. The ‘pu’ stand for Planck’s universe, while the ‘rp’ represent Rubik’s puzzle, and finally ‘le’ stand for light energy, which is ultimately what Planck and Rubik each had a desire to understand.
No photograph has ever been taken of the purple side of the Rubik’s Masterpiece, and until now, this design change has not been publicized, to eliminate the risk of others creating replica versions of Cuellar’s incredible work. But with its inclusion in the upcoming exhibit, Cuellar decided it was time to reveal the truth.
“We are excited to be a part of this incredible exhibit,” says Cuellar, “and to be able to share our creation with not only the guests of the Liberty Science Center but ultimately the world.”
The interactive Rubik’s Cube Exhibition will explore the interplay of design, engineering, mathematics, and creativity. In addition to DCI’s spectacular creation, the exhibition will include elaborate Cube artwork; Cube-solving robots; virtual reality simulations of Cubes that aren’t really there; a glowing 35-foot-tall Rubik’s Cube that can be manipulated by anyone with an Internet connection; and a tiny nanoscale Cube.
“Rubik’s Cube has stood the test of time,” says LSC CEO Paul Hoffman, “and yet remains on the leading edge of innovation. Not a week goes by without somebody—an architect in Turkey, a musician in China, a mathematician in Moscow, or a roboticist in Japan—using the Cube in an ingenious new way.”
About Fred Cuellar, the Diamond Guy®
Having once been unable to afford to purchase a diamond ring for his bride-to-be, Fred Cuellar set out to learn all he could about the diamond business and in so doing has become one of the world’s leading experts. He is the founder of Diamond Cutters International (DCI) where Fred’s industry pioneering work in diamond corresponding grading and diamond bonding have not only revolutionized the diamond industry but has made DCI one of the world’s top diamond cutting, design, importing and sales organizations with a client list that reads like a who’s who of world political leaders, celebrities and championship sports organizations, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura, the Saudi Royal Family, Erno Rubik, Oprah Winfrey, the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Yankees, the LA Galaxy where David Beckham received his first championship ring and more.
To assist others that suffer from the same plight that he once did, Fred launched the MyGemologist™ program and the philanthropic Adopt-A-Diamond™ program, as well as authored “How to Buy a Diamond,” now in its seventh edition and the number one selling book on diamonds in the country. Fred was also instrumental in developing a number of purchasing techniques, including “buying shy,” that have help save thousands of dollars for buyers and increased sales for the diamond industry worldwide. Fred’s tireless work has benefited not only the diamond industry but diamond buyers.
About Liberty Science Center
Liberty Science Center is a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Science Center (LSC.org) is dedicated to bringing the excitement of science to people of all ages, Liberty Science Center houses seven museum exhibition halls, a 3D theater, the nation’s largest IMAX® Dome Theater, live simulcast surgeries, tornado and hurricane-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, and teacher-development programs. 600,000 students, teachers, and parents visit the science center each year, and tens of thousands more benefit from the center’s off-site and online programs.
Contact: Dee Doan
Diamond Cutters International
4265 San Felipe, Ste. 960
Houston, TX 77027
MLS Cup Championship Ring designed and manufactured by Diamond Cutters International.
We wish you a merry Christmas!
“How a gem expert wound up with a fake, and what you can learn from her experience.”
By Susan M Neider, Barron’s Penta, May 21, 2011.
When defining sparkle in a diamond, there are only two things that matter — efficiency and amplified light return.
A typical run-of-the-mill diamond has an efficiency rating of 35.5% and an A.L.R rating of five (5). Translation: The typical diamond returns 35.5% of refracted light back to the viewer’s eyes; leaks/wastes 64.5% through the pavilion floor of the diamond and only redirects the light internally five (5) times before it leaks out or is returned to be viewed.
A pinball machine is a good analogy here. Think of every ray of light as a pinball. Once the pinball is shot (refracted) into play within the machine (diamond) you score more points (flashes of light) every time the pinball bounces around (internal light reflections) before it is returned back to you in the form of sparkle. Sparkle equals efficiency rating x internal light reflections. So we could say that the typical diamond returns 35.5% of absorbed light and amplifies it five (5) times to give you a sparkle return of 177.5%. You get 77.5% more light then you put in even though there was a lot of waste. This is why most people who see practically any diamond will,at first blush, be impressed. The truth is even bad diamonds look pretty good. But, what if we’re not just looking for pretty good? What if our goal is to have the highest efficiency rating; the highest amplified light return? What would that look like? Well, let’s see, if we are going to hold the most breathtaking diamond in the world we’re going to have to be patient, and I mean really patient! The typical diamond that is cut these days is cut from two types of rough (name for what diamonds look like out of the ground) macles and flats. See below.
These are also called irregulars or preemies (300 to 400 million years old). Preemies are rough diamonds that Mother Nature did not allow to go to full term. Full term crystals, also referred to as sawables, are the most valuable. They are typically found in octahedron, cubic, and dodecahedron shapes. See below
The key to having the best finished product begins by only choosing full term rough. It takes a minimum of 800 million years, not 400 million years, for Mother Nature to deliver a magnificent fully crystallized, full term rough. The irregulars are flat, skipping-stone looking pieces of rough that have an irregular carbon atomic structure. Don’t forget shape determines function! If we don’t have a nice shape to work with we won’t be able to cut the diamond properly.
Ninety-eight percent of the diamonds being sold today are being cut from premature rough and only two percent are being cut from full term rough. So that’s step one. “Better ingredients, better pizza!” Once we’ve got the rare full term rough, we go through a second screening process and throw out any rough that has too much nitrogen or is too heavily included. In order to reach our goal the diamond must not be any lower than a hard graded VS2 clarity or H5 color. By hard graded, I mean the vendor guarantees that no accredited gemologist will ever grade the diamond lower than the assigned grade or you get your money back. Other rating agencies — GIA, EGL, IGI, AGS, etc. all soft grade their stones, which means they don’t guarantee their grades. Once we have the desired full term rough with the correct grades, we can move on to a master cutter. It doesn’t do any good to have the world’s greatest material if we put it in the hands of a poor craftsman. The master cutter will make sure the diamond is cut to class 1 or class 2 specifications (see other article on class of cut for explanation). But, basically, the diamond will have to meet strict proportion guidelines in order to handle the light properly.
Okay. Buy hard-graded full term rough (most expensive) and have a master cutter cut it (more expensive) equals finished product.
The picture you see is a photograph taken with regular light on a black field. What you are seeing is the most efficient, highest amplified light return diamond in the world! The name given to the most breathtaking diamonds has always been vivid! This is The Vivid White Diamond®!
Let’s do the math! The Vivid White Diamond® has an efficiency rating of 91% and A.L.R of 100. So if we want to calculate the sparkle of this gem we multiply the efficiency rating x the A.L.R. — 91% x 100 =9100% light return! 100% goes in; 9100% comes out!
The reason Cartier; Graff; Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston get $35,000 to $56,000 for a single one carat diamond is actually rather simple. They are all vivid white diamonds®! When people run to online consolidators like Blue Nile, Amazon, or Ebay; mall stores like Zale’s, Tiffany’s, Kay’s, Jared’s, Robbins Brothers and big box stores like Walmart, Costco or Sam’s, you’re buying diamonds that are pretty good because you get 77% more light return in good lighting conditions but when you buy a Vivid White Diamond® you are getting 9000% more amplified light. Some old sayings are still true today, “You get what you pay for.” By the way, the #1 complaint a woman has about her diamond isn’t size, its sparkle. So, if you really want to make her happy buy The Vivid White Diamond®.
Your Personal Diamond Expert
Everyday with the aid of my gemologists and personal assistants, “Ask The Diamond Guy®” handles countless e-mails and help-line calls! The response to this support site for the best-selling book on diamonds, How to Buy a Diamond, has made it one of the top diamond information sites! Now, we’ve taken it one step further with our “My Gemologist®” Department. This service is free of charge and is my way of thanking all my readers who have made us the most acknowledged jeweler in the Guinness Book of World Records. Here is what it is and does:
My Gemologist® is first and foremost your personal assistant to help you find the right diamond with great guarantees from the best jeweler at a phenomenal price. Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive daily are: – Where is a bonded jeweler in my area? – I can’t find a particular diamond. – I can’t talk the jeweler’s language so I’m afraid I’m not getting a good deal. What do I do? – How do I negotiate when I’ve found a good jeweler, etc? My Gemologist® will be your middleman, personal shopper, consigliere, godfather, negotiator, facilitator. Call him what you will but if you’re having trouble with your purchase in any way you can lay it all in the lap of My Gemologist®. To be assigned your own personal gemologist to do your bidding, just click here to fill out the following information with your specific needs, and a Diamond Cutters International representative will be assigned to be your own gemologist and cater to your every need within 48 hours. If you require immediate assistance, you can also call our My Gemologist® 24/7 department at 800-275-4047 anytime 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Take care, The Diamond Guy®
Van Cleef & Arpels is a member of the Four Horsemen Club (nickname for the top four jewelers in the world); the others are Cartier, Graff, and Harry Winston. They are also referred to as gild stores after the Gilded Age. The company was founded in 1896 by Salomon Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef. Their brilliant business plan was a simple, yet elegant, three prong approach to selling jewelry. First: only use the finest materials in the world! This meant all their rough diamonds were full term crystals (also referred to as sawables in the industry). They bypassed all the macles and flats (cheap, poorly formed & wildly abundant inferior diamond crystals) and only selected the top two percent of what Mother Nature had created. With 49 out of every 50 diamonds being rejected as “not within our standards”, Van Cleef & Arpels quickly got the reputation as being the best money could buy! Their standards for excellence didn’t just stop with diamonds. Van Cleef & Arpels introduced the world to a palate of colored gems the world had never seen – Aquamarines; Mandarin garnets; rubellites as well as the finest Kashmir sapphires; burmese rubies and muzo chrome green Colombian emeralds. Exceptional stones; exceptional jewelry pieces. Secondly, they hire the finest master diamond cutters and colored stone cutters in the world. Without the master cutter at the wheel a priceless gem could be grounded into a worthless bauble in the blink of an eye! No cutter was ever hired by Van Cleef & Arpels that hadn’t proven himself to be world renowned. The third prong is the mounting. Van Cleef & Arpels knew that how a masterpiece stone is placed into the jewelry was as important as the masterpiece stone itself. For this they coined the term “the mystery setting” as a way to set gemstones into their mount without the use of visible claws. By removing as many obstructions to light as possible, the master stone setters at Van Cleef & Arpels allowed the gemstones the opportunity to take full advantage of the available light. Three simple rules: only the finest raw materials; only the finest diamond and colored stone cutters in the world and wherever possible create an invisible mounting, “mystery setting”, to give the appearance the diamonds and gemstones are just floating on air! If price is no object and you insist on having the most valuable vivid white diamonds and colored gemstones, then search no further.
December 20, 2009
By Jennifer Waters
Wall Street Journal
The holidays can be a romantic time and there will be plenty of guys popping the question along with the champagne corks in the next few weeks. And if you’ll need a diamond to go along with that proposal, now is the time to buy.
While prices vary widely based on the quality of the cut and the rarity of the stone, diamond costs in general remain about 10% below year-ago levels.
Those prices have started to creep up from their lows in March, though, and the relative bargains won’t last long as the effects of the recession wear off and an oversupply of polished gems diminishes, retail diamond sellers say.
“There is a fair amount of inventory still out there because of the weak demand and because of a general aversion to wearing bling during these economic times,” says Dione Kenyon, president of the Jewelers Board of Trade, an industry credit bureau.
But don’t be blinded by love when diamond shopping. The process can be intimidating because of the lofty prices involved and what to the untrained eye can appear to be minor distinctions between stones. Markups on retail sales can be anywhere from 50% to 100%, jewelers say.
“There is a fault line between rough prices and polished prices. Since January rough prices are up 60% while polished goods are down 8%. Expect a 70% major earthquake rise in prices over the next 12-15 months as the structural imbalance re-stabilized into the new reality.” –Fred Cuellar
Ninety percent of all jewelry sold in the United States is prefabricated. Let’s see what Webster has to say. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Prefabricate as follows:
Function: transition verb
1: to fabricate the parts of at a factory so that construction consists mainly of assembling and uniting standardized parts.
2: to produce artificially
Think about it! Ninety percent of all the settings that hold our diamonds and gemstones are manufactured PRIOR to knowing what diamonds or gemstones are going to go in it! That’s life in the 21st century—picking out a frame for a newly discovered DaVinci without bothering to ask the exact dimensions. That’s Crazy! But, I’ll keep going! All this Prefab jewelry is mass produced in such great quantities, (#1 goal being profit) that any decent quality control to insure against under-carating of the quality of the gold or precious metal is thrown out with the baby and the bath water! Prongs that should be hand rolled for durability and strength are plucked out of an assembly line machine losing an incredible amount of tensile strength (that’s what keeps your rocks in place)! Of course even under the most optimal conditions, using a Master Craftsman & Master Stone Setter, damage is possible but why would we want to increase the odds of an accident by over twenty times?! We might as well text and drive with an open container in the car! All right, don’t get me started! Here are the facts:
1) Prefab jewelry is a lot less expensive upfront but will cost you more on the back side with costly repairs.
2) Prefab jewelry is ordered out of a catalog so you may get it quick and fast but you aren’t buying something meant to last.
3) Prefab jewelry serves a place in our society the same way a place holder does. It’s a good band-aid until you know exactly what you want your dream piece of jewelry to look like.
4) Custom made jewelry is more expensive (but not unaffordable like some jewelers want you to believe) but will more than pay for itself when it lasts generations not
Here’s how you protect yourself:
1) Ask the jeweler if the ring was Prefabricated by him or anyone else.
2) If the ring was Prefabricated and you are willing to roll the dice with prongs that have been FORCED out of place to fit stones that were jammed into them, what guarantees does the jeweler provide when the little sparkly beauties start jumping ship?
3) If they say the ring is custom made will they put it in writing and guarantee any stone loss (Large main stones must be covered under a personal floater policy) as long as you bring it in for scheduled maintenance?
4) Did the jeweler attempt to show and sell you a setting first and then ask you to pick out the main stone? * Never put the cart before the horse!
5) And finally, how long did the process take from start to finish? If it took days and not weeks with several visits, I’m sorry my friend, you just bought a Prefabricated piece of jewelry and as the story goes “Prefab aint Fab!”
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®
by Donna R. Carter
When thinking about what you want to do, and what you are capable of doing, does your inner voice whine with all the reasons why you can’t?
“But… You don’t understand…”
We all learned how to whine at a very early age. Just think about the numerous toddler temper tantrums you’ve no doubt encountered at one time or another in the checkout lane at the grocery store!
Older kids whine about homework. Or having to do chores and take on additional responsibilities around the house. “Do I have to???” and they’re always so good at finding something else to do – some “valid” excuse – to avoid what needs to be done.
Whining extends into adulthood when we complain about all the things we don’t like about our jobs, our home situation, where we live. We bemoan our fates. Why can’t we do what we want to do, or be what we want to be, or live where we want to live?
Well? Why can’t we? I’m sure we can all come up with some classic excuses.
“But… I have health issues… It’s unrealistic. It’s too hard. Too ‘pie in the sky’.”
Nick was born with no arms and no legs – just a little flipper-like foot at the base of his torso – and yet he is a motivational speaker! He chose not to live dictated to and intimidated by his disabilities. He chose to use those very disabilities to make his life work, and to enhance the lives of others.
Cancer had emaciated Judi, in her mid-fifties. Even a slight cough was sufficient to break a rib and cause desperate pain. She was dying. And yet she didn’t let that stop her from taking her little toddler granddaughter to Disney World, or dancing for her as she played piano in their living room. She chose to get past cancer’s obstacles with love and unselfishness, leaving a legacy of incredibly positive inspirational memories behind when her body did, finally, succumb to her illness. She is not remembered for giving in, or for being sick. She is remembered for what she overcame despite the odds.
Joni was your normal, active, athletic teenage girl when she had a diving accident that made her a quadriplegic. Though she struggled desperately and suffered through some deep depression, she learned how to make do with what she had. She became an author, and an artist – holding her pen, drawing or painting implements in her mouth and directing them with her tongue.
Forbes magazine tells us that almost two-thirds of the world’s 946 billionaires made their fortunes from scratch, relying on grit and determination, and not good genes. So what makes some people thrive while others wallow seemingly helplessly in the mire? Why do some people seem to have caught the proverbial brass ring, while others have to get off the ride and go back to the end of the line again?
It’s a matter of mind set. It’s all in the attitude. Do you really want to succeed in being the best you can be?
I’m sure it would have been simpler for Nick to stay behind the scenes and never venture out. He had to face the very real possibility of ridicule and rejection, and the potential for failure at every turn. Judi could have much more easily allowed herself to be overwhelmed by the pain of her cancer and shut herself off from the world. Joni could have capitulated to the temptation of sinking into and dying of self pity.
“But… I’m too old. I’m not pretty enough. I don’t have the right background. Life isn’t fair: Why set myself up for disappointment? I’m not good enough.”
In early April, the internet was all abuzz with Susan, who was never before really given the chance to let her voice shine. People thought she was ‘too old…’ ‘too frumpy…’ She sounded ‘too backwoods’ when she talked. She lacked social skills. Surely she had nothing to offer? Susan didn’t let the judgment of others redirect her. She boldly stepped into the spotlight and let her light shine: Her beautiful voice reduced the world to tears. She just relentlessly followed her dream. Because of that choice, Susan is now not only seeing that dream fulfilled, she’s inspired millions of people, and taught millions more that one should never, ever judge a book by its cover.
“But… It’s all who you know. I’m not in the right circles… “
Who you know may know someone who knows someone else. It has been said that everyone in the world is separated by only six people. Who you know is good – and you can always get to know more people. If you just sit at home and whine about it, how are you going to meet anyone at all?
But it’s more than who you know. It’s who you are. It’s about what you do with who you are. It’s about being true to yourself. It’s about finding your passion and letting yourself burn with the fuel it gives you. If you’re on fire – if you’re passionate – you’ll gather a crowd, and in that crowd, or the next… or the one after that… there will be someone in that circle you want to be in who will catch that fire, and the connection will be made.
“But… I don’t have TIME...“
Time is never on your side. Every moment you don’t move forward in your lives, is a moment wasted. Every whine is a misused opportunity that you can never get back.
Evan was so bogged down with the responsibilities he felt he had to fulfill -just to get by- that he escaped, for emotional and stress relief, by playing computer games. At any given time during the day, he could be found at his desk, playing computer games. If it was brought to his attention, however, he justified it.
“But… THAT is my only means of having fun!…”
Wait a second. What? How much time would Evan have to actively pursue his dream [ie. Have Fun], if he didn’t procrastinate? How focused are you on doing your best? If you really want to accomplish something, why are you putting it off? It takes effort!
What do you do from the moment you get up, to the moment you go to bed. Is how you are using your time improving your life, and enhancing and uplifting the lives of those around you? Or do you find yourself dreading the mountains of things you have to do, and then wasting time, in order to avoid doing the very things that are taking up “so much of your time”?
Evan was King of his own Whinedom. He was in familiar territory, and he firmly believed in the idiom “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
Until he would choose to step outside his comfort zone and make some changes in his perspective and priorities, he would never see the rest of the world – or the potential he had in it – through anything but the distortion of his whine-colored glasses.
Have you ever noticed that the most successful people you know seem to be extraordinarily busy, and yet still manage to have time for interacting with friends and reading, and leisure activities? Have you ever wondered how on earth they could possibly have a moment to spare with their plate so full? But they do. They have learned to prioritize their time. They have put their work and leisure time into a symbiotic relationship where each feeds their ability to do the other even better.
“But … What will people think of me while I’m trying to accomplish this? People who are important to me are unsupportive, unenthusiastic or downright discouraging the process!”
A myriad of reasons cause people not to be supportive of change. It could be that they’re suffering the same doubts about their own potential that you have had about yours, but they aren’t to the point of making a break from the negativity and pushing forward in their own lives. They may fear the changes you are making in your own life will require things of them that they are not willing or able to provide. It’s time for you to surge ahead and let your focus and tenacity be the example for them. You may have previously created a pattern of starting and quitting, that has left them having to pick up the pieces one too many times. This time the pressure is on you to prove that you mean it.
Find and surround yourself with people who are supportive. This doesn’t mean you abandon those you love and those who love you. It merely means you stand on your own two feet, rather than relying on them to provide what you need. Find a way to get your own needs met, in order that you don’t drain their already-depleted resources. As you proceed forward, they will observe the shift in focus and see the improvement in your attitude and the positive changes in your life and your attitude. In the long run, showing them your determination, you will more than likely not only gain their support, but their respect as well.
“But … What if I can’t actually do it after all? What about all those things I am afraid of doing that I would have to do to get there?”
We fear getting a chance at total success and failing. It’s easier to be good at average and knowing we can be better, than trying hard and failing miserably at something we always felt we wanted and could do.
We fear not being good enough to do it… or doing it wrong, even when given all the tools – because at that point, what do we go back to? What we used to do? We weren’t happy with it before, why would we be happy with it now? We have to figure out what we’ve learned in the process of getting to where we got, and either find a new passion, or reroute the passion we’ve been following.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver traveled the U.S. in the late 50s and 60s, visiting institutions for children with intellectual disabilities. Having grown up with sports being an integral part of her life, she was disturbed to note that children with intellectual disabilities were being left out of athletics in school. They were not even being allowed to attend summer camps. She took it upon herself – in her own back yard – to open up a summer camp for children with intellectual disabilities. That first summer, in 1958, there were 75 children who attended the camp. One camp grew to five in and then by 1968 five had turned into 40 across the country. Her passion for the cause didn’t waiver and those forty camps became the nucleus of the Special Olympics. By following her passion -by not giving up- she changed the lives of more people than she probably will ever know.
Many people are afraid they’ve set their sites too high. Afraid that once they reach their potential, they will realize they weren’t capable of being as good as they wanted to be. But you can’t be so focused on the process that you lose sight of what’s going on within the process. Find people with the skills you wish to acquire. Ask questions! Admire their work! Study what they did to get where they got, and apply those skills and attributes to yourself and what you are attempting to do.
“But… The beliefs I was raised with conflict with what I feel I would have to do in order to become who I believe I am, and I feel guilty with every step I try to take! I just know I will disappoint those I love, if I follow through. They won’t like the results, because it will be in direct opposition to their beliefs.”
In the long run, are you truly willing to be false to yourself, in order to please others? When it comes right down to it, then, are they not loving a lie? Well-known author, Hugh Prather put it well when he said “Some people are going to like me and some people aren’t, so I might as well be me. Then, at least, I will know that the people who like me, like me.”
You cannot be true to yourself, if you are lying to others about who you are. If you are true to yourself and others cannot handle it, you must realize, lovingly, that their inability to accept you is their problem, and not yours. If you can help them handle it, then that’s great – but being untruthful is only feeding their fantasy about who they’d like you to be, and it doesn’t allow them to learn to grow and love and accept what may not be what they want, but is who you are.
But… Their problem is my problem if I created it.
On the other hand, you may find that, in being true to yourself, others will come to accept and love you even more. There may be those who cannot get past the disappointment, but as long as you are willing to be loving and accept where they are coming from (even if you don’t choose to change for them) their choice to let it become a rift between you will be their choice. You need not let it be yours, or drag you down. At least you know you are being truthful, and they know who you are, and you will know, if and when they choose to accept you, that they are accepting the real you.
“But… That hurts, if they reject me, because I love them.“
If you keep yourself wrapped up “safely” in a cocoon of untruths, are you really benefitting anyone, including yourself? If these people reject you for being who you are, at least you will know the truth from them as well. Far better a painful truth, than a positive lie. You are then, at least, dealing with reality. Someone once told me, “There is no growth without risk, or pain.”
Some of our excuses feel very legitimate, but does that mean we cannot figure out a way around the obstacle? Everywhere we look, if we’re willing to look, there are people in the world who have overcome every obstacle we can put forth in our excuses as to why we cannot do what we are potentially capable of. But they did it…
Do we really want to achieve these things we complain that we are unable to achieve for whatever reason? Or are we lying to ourselves? If we gave it any serious thought, and we truly wanted to achieve our goals, we could just as readily argue against our very own excuses.
So, let’s be honest. Let’s take it that step further: What is really stopping us? Only ourselves.
Now that we’re past that acknowledgment, we have two options: Accept where we are, that we’ve chosen to be there, and stop whining and wishing, or Figure Out how to make the necessary changes in ourselves to become who we are capable of being and who we want to be. If we can’t figure it out, we need to find someone who can help us figure it out, so we can move forward.
If we want ‘whiner’s rights,’ maybe we need to be putting forth our best efforts to get where we want to be. But if we’re doing that … we won’t really have time to whine. We’ll be too busy finding solutions to the excuses. We will be too busy figuring out what we have to do to destroy, or at least diminish the obstacles – the excuses – that we have put in our own paths, so that we can continue to move forward. We’ll be too busy getting there.
We have to admit how many of our excuses are our own walls (and then we must figure out why we are putting up those walls to prevent our own success!)
How strange, that we fight so hard to stay mediocre. What does mediocrity give us? We gain nothing from it. It only makes us feel depressed and without hope. We are not content with who we are, but we resist change. We whine because it’s difficult, and because we have to use self discipline, and it will take a bit of effort to improve our lives.
All change – Even good change, can be difficult and takes effort. Something you were once familiar with is being left behind for something new, and different, and unfamiliar.
Becoming who you are capable of being is a lot more important than being comfortable with being average. Because… you’re not really comfortable with being average. That you are comfortable with it, is part of the lie. Don’t accept that lie anymore. Expand your horizons, and step outside that comfort zone. Burst the toxic bubble of mediocrity and untruth.
Don’t wait until Monday, or the first of next month. Do it now! Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a brand new chance to be doing something positive! That means you have 60 opportunities this hour – 1,440 opportunities today — 10,080 opportunities this week – 43,680 opportunities this month – and 524,160 opportunities this year. WOW! What a lot of chances! Don’t waste a moment of opportunity to make the most of your time! Spend it doing your best! All that time, is time to become who you are meant to be!
Time to get off your ‘But’!
Most of us spend our whole lives being afraid of the dark. I know we won’t admit it, but from an early age, many of us used night lights and “can you please leave the door open just a little dad” comments so our rooms wouldn’t be pitch black. The funny thing is it was never the darkness that we were afraid of, because whether someone left a light on or not, we all eventually had to close our eyes to sleep and to dream. But that was our darkness – the darkness of sleep. It’s a place an average American who reaches the age of 80 will spend over 26 years of his life in. We all live in the darkness until we awake.
For some of us, the darkness is the girl you’re too scared to ask out, the job you’re scared to volunteer for, or maybe just getting out of bed. Sometimes it takes a lot of guts just to get out of bed especially when someone has turned out the lights. The people this world will remember will not be those that were afraid to venture out into an unknown darkness but those that did. Those very special few individuals that knew that seeing was best done with your eyes shut and heart open. Today is Mother’s Day. Today is for the bravest person I have ever met who has been given the darkness in the light but has never let her light go out. Here is to my mom—the light that shows me the way so that I will never be afraid of the dark. I love you, mom.
By Suzanne Kapner
(Fortune Magazine) — On the morning of Sept. 27, 2007, two Merrill Lynch bankers arrived at the Rockefeller Center office of Ralph Esmerian, a jewelry dealer and art collector, and boxed up tens of millions of dollars of rare jewelry. Armed guards loaded the jewels – including a 14-carat pink diamond ring worth roughly $15 million – into a Brink’s truck idling outside. Within hours the gems, some of which had been in Esmerian’s family for generations, had been carted away – seized as collateral for a loan gone bad.
Esmerian had borrowed the money two years earlier to finance the acquisition of Fred Leighton, known as the jeweler to the stars. Back then Fred Leighton consisted of a store on New York City’s Madison Avenue and a second boutique in Las Vegas, but Esmerian envisioned turning Leighton into an international brand with stores around the world.
It was a plan that tantalized a group of Merrill Lynch bankers. Heretofore, these bankers had made money collateralizing real estate, machinery, and other hard assets. But lately they had been making some less traditional plays: They had provided $500 million of financing to United Artists, which used the money in part to produce the Tom Cruise movie “Valkyrie.” The bankers also lent money to the Ranch, a custom-crush winery in Napa Valley.
For the Merrill bankers the deal with Esmerian was their introduction to the byzantine world of jewelry – a world they would regret entering. Jewels are funny things. Most people’s first brush with them is when they get engaged. It’s arguably the most idealistic and least objective moment in a relationship. Business deals – specifically ones consummated when credit is loose – are not all that different. And back in 2006, when Merrill Lynch and Esmerian hooked up, they were blind to each other’s faults. In Merrill, Esmerian (pronounced ess-mary-ann) thought he had found a partner who would stick by him in good times and bad. Instead, he says, he ended up with a bunch of “cowboys” who cared more about generating fees than building a business.
Similarly, Merrill felt comfortable with Esmerian because the deal was backed by millions of dollars of jewelry. In addition to Fred Leighton’s inventory, Esmerian had pledged his family’s cache of 101 jewels, known as the Special Collection, with an appraised value of $89 million. In a deal code-named Project Nile, the bankers agreed to lend Esmerian $176 million, payable over three years. What the bankers failed to detect was that they were funding a serial borrower who already had multimillion-dollar loans from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and who would soon be accused by his siblings of playing fast and loose with, that’s right, the family jewels.
As with so many overheated romances, Esmerian and his bankers now find themselves in court. Merrill Lynch is suing Esmerian in an attempt to recover its money, an amount that the bank claims has ballooned, with unpaid interest, to $192 million. “We are in a dispute with Mr. Esmerian for one simple reason,” says Bill Halldin, a Merrill spokesman. “He failed to make monthly interest payments that he agreed to when he borrowed money.”
Esmerian, 68, is suing Merrill Lynch, contesting the bank’s ownership of the collateral and claiming the loan was faulty from the outset. “Merrill Lynch didn’t understand what they were getting into,” Esmerian says. “But I didn’t understand what I was getting into either. In my business, if you’re late making a payment it’s no big deal.”
Regardless of whose side you come down on, one thing is sure: The company is the real casualty. Fred Leighton has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since April 2008 and is running out of cash. In December the court stripped Esmerian of his powers and appointed a restructuring officer, who is evaluating bids for all or part of the company. Interested parties include Robert Pressman of Barneys New York fame and Michael Steinhardt, the hedge fund honcho, who is a longtime friend and supporter of Esmerian’s. Neither would comment.
The goal is to find an investor who will satisfy the various legal claims and fund the company’s operations until it can emerge from bankruptcy. But given the state of the economy, there is also the possibility that Fred Leighton will cease to exist. The whole sad saga – which features a cameo appearance by Martha Stewart’s former stockbroker – is a cautionary tale in the perils of trying to build a luxury brand from little more than a name. For every success like Burberry there is an Asprey, the jeweler to the British Crown that flamed out a few years ago.
Unlike Asprey, Fred Leighton never had an aristocratic pedigree. Instead the jewelry shop was the creation of a New York City cabdriver’s son named Murray Mondschein, who bought a store in 1959 that sold Mexican wedding dresses and artifacts. The store, located in Greenwich Village, was named Fred Leighton after its late owner. Believing that people would be more apt to buy from someone whose name was on the door, Mondschein changed his name to Fred Leighton.
Before long the store began stocking vintage jewelry, and by the 1970s, Leighton was fast becoming a legend in the business. At the time, estate jewelry was not as fashionable as it is today, but Leighton cultivated a celebrity clientele. “People went to Fred Leighton to buy from Murray’s hands,” says François Curiel, Christie’s jewelry specialist and the chairman of the auction house’s European operations.
Meanwhile Esmerian was cutting his teeth in the family business of jewelry wholesaling. Unmarried and without children, he is the last of four generations of jewelers. His great-grandfather was a lapidary in Constantinople in the late 1800s. His father, Raphael, was a respected jeweler and gem dealer in Paris and later New York City. Raphael designed one of the first fine jewelry lines for Neiman Marcus. After Raphael’s death in 1976, Esmerian, who grew up in Paris and New York, took over the family trade.
When Ralph talks about jewels he sounds like a boy showing off his baseball cards. A favorite piece is a pair of horse heads sculpted by Herbert Haseltine for the heiress Barbara Hutton out of 24-karat gold and embedded with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. The horses held a mythical place in Ralph’s childhood. His father supplied Haseltine with the stones. Esmerian bought the horse heads from a private dealer about eight years ago.
Esmerian first met Leighton at an auction in the early 1970s, and the two became friendly. Esmerian would drop by the New York store on Saturday mornings to sip coffee with Leighton. Before long he was loaning the store pieces on consignment. By 2005, Leighton was looking to retire, and Esmerian jumped at the chance to buy his company. Through a friend Esmerian had met a Merrill Lynch broker, who put him in touch with Josh Green and Ryan Bell, two young bankers who worked for a division called Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital, which specialized in collateralizing loans against hard assets. (Green and Bell would not comment for this article.)
According to Esmerian, Green and his colleagues were “salivating” at the prospect of owning a luxury jeweler. And on Nov. 4, 2005, Merrill lent Esmerian $56 million to buy Esmerian’s sister, sister-in-law, and her children (his brother is deceased) out of a family trust that owned much of the jewelry that would be used to collateralize the debt. On March 29, 2006, the bank lent a further $100 million, which went to buy Fred Leighton, and also made available a $25 million revolving credit facility for working capital.
As part of the agreement with Merrill Lynch, Esmerian was to hire a seasoned CEO to run Fred Leighton. Overtures to Simon Critchell, a former Cartier executive, didn’t pan out. In December 2007, Esmerian threw his backers for a loop when he hired Peter Bacanovic, who had been Martha Stewart’s stockbroker at Merrill Lynch during the ImClone scandal. Bacanovic had subsequently served five months in federal prison and five months of house arrest for obstructing a government investigation into Stewart’s sale of ImClone stock. Bacanovic also had no retail experience. What he did have was connections, and Esmerian, who had met Bacanovic through his lawyer, hoped the socialite-broker would turn his wealthy friends into clients.
First, though, Bacanovic was tasked with opening a new store in Beverly Hills. According to Tom Shull, the court-appointed restructuring officer, the Beverly Hills store, which opened in December, four months behind schedule, was millions of dollars over budget. “That put a lot of financial pressure on the company,” Shull says. Nicol Bini, the architect who designed the store, says it opened on time and within budget. Bacanovic, who stepped down from Fred Leighton in January, declined to comment.
There were other problems. For years, the business had been largely dependent on Leighton and his daughter, Mara. When they walked out the door, so did a lot of sales. Esmerian had planned to keep the Leightons on as consultants for five years, at an annual salary of $175,000 each. But according to a lawsuit filed by the Leightons, Esmerian never paid them for consulting work and also failed to pay $374,000 owed to them as part of the acquisition. Esmerian says the Leightons were badmouthing him to customers, so he terminated their contract. Leighton says that Esmerian wanted to do things his own way.
The bill comes due
By late 2007, Esmerian was in serious financial difficulty. The loan was crippling for a company of Fred Leighton’s size. In its best year Fred Leighton had an annual profit of $7.6 million, yet Esmerian was required to make interest payments north of $10 million. So why would the bankers make that deal? Merrill Lynch says sales of jewelry from the Special Collection, a separate cache of stones that Esmerian controlled, were also earmarked to pay down the loan.
Nevertheless on Sept. 10, 2007, Esmerian missed debt payments totaling $2.7 million. On the 27th of that month, Merrill seized the collateralized jewels. On Oct. 3, the firm summoned Esmerian to its lawyer’s office for what one source called a “come-to-Jesus meeting.” On one side of a conference table at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft sat Esmerian and his CFO, Satyajit Bose. On the other side sat Merrill’s workout specialists. The bankers listed 21 transgressions, including the missed debt payments, delinquent financial reporting, and the delayed opening of the Beverly Hills store.
Over the next few months attempts at a compromise proved futile. Merrill proposed temporarily suspending interest payments with the understanding that the missed sums would be rolled into the principal, but Esmerian, concerned that he wouldn’t be able to meet the new terms, never signed the proposal. Instead Esmerian spent the remainder of the fall reaching out to angel investors, including Apollo Management and Soros Private Equity, but found no takers. Apollo and Soros both declined to comment.
In January 2008, Merrill lowered the boom: It sued Esmerian and moved ahead with plans to auction the jewelry it held as collateral. Christie’s was hired and spent the next four months putting together a catalogue and traveling exhibition that featured the jewels, including a diamond brooch made for Empress Eugnie, the wife of Napoleon III.
In its lawsuit Merrill alleged that Esmerian double- and triple-pledged the collateral and accused him of secretly trying to sell some of the jewels and pocket the proceeds. One eye-opening moment came when Merrill executives stumbled across a catalogue for a jewelry auction that Sotheby’s was holding in Hong Kong. In the catalogue was a diamond butterfly brooch that was part of the Special Collection that made up the collateral on Merrill’s loan.
Esmerian argued that Merrill’s plan to unload all the jewels at one time would result in a fire sale. Merrill was unmoved. So, hours before the auction was to begin on April 15, 2008, Esmerian played his trump card. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, essentially freezing Fred Leighton’s assets and halting the auction. (With the court’s approval, Esmerian has since sold Empress Eugnie’s brooch to the Louvre for $10.5 million, more than double its estimated value in the Christie’s catalogue.)
Esmerian’s financial problems leading up to bankruptcy created additional headaches for him. Over the past three decades he had run up big debts with Sotheby’s and Christie’s, which serve as de facto bankers to estate jewelers. Traditional banks tend to shy away from the industry because they find it difficult to value the inventory. In January, Christie’s sued Esmerian in an attempt to recover a $7.75 million balance on a decade-old $25 million loan. Three months later Sotheby’s seized the Edward Hicks painting “Peaceable Kingdom,” which Esmerian had pledged as collateral against an $11 million loan, and sold it for $9.6 million. The painting, along with 200 other works, had been promised as a gift to the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.
By the fall, Esmerian’s own family had joined the fray. In October 2008 they filed a suit accusing him of misappropriating money from a family trust as far back as 1992. By 2001, the suit alleges, the trust had loans of $28 million. When the stock market crashed that year Esmerian liquidated the entire trust portfolio to satisfy margin calls. The lawsuit says Esmerian never received the proper consent from his siblings for this financial engineering.
In an effort to make his siblings solvent again, Esmerian pledged 101 pieces of jewelry, called the Siegman Collection, to the trust. There was one problem: The Siegman Collection, the siblings charge, is identical to the Special Collection that Esmerian pledged as collateral to Merrill Lynch. To them it appeared that he was double dipping. Esmerian says his siblings gave him permission to borrow from the trust and that he paid them $12 million each to buy out their holdings.
The fate of Fred Leighton
There are, of course, two sides to every breakup. While Merrill’s lawsuit portrays Esmerian as a mountebank who was running a shell game, Esmerian accuses the bankers of knowingly inflating the value of the collateral to win approval from the bank’s internal credit committee. In Esmerian’s suit, which he filed in October 2008, he also raises questions about the loan’s economic viability. One internal Merrill Lynch document cited in the suit warns, “Interest is too high, resulting in insufficient cash flow.”
Esmerian further claims the bankers told him he’d never be able to repay the loan until he took the company public. A spokesman for Merrill Lynch says that charge is untrue and that the loan was later modified to require Esmerian to kick in additional equity to provide a cushion against the debt.
On Dec. 18, 2008, Esmerian suffered a heartbreaking setback. Following a scathing review of Esmerian’s leadership by a Merrill Lynch-paid consultant, the court stripped Esmerian of his management role and installed Tom Shull. A turnaround expert who helped steer Macy’s and Barneys New York out of bankruptcy, Shull immediately slashed $2.5 million in costs by paring advertising, reducing travel budgets, and otherwise tightening belts. He strengthened the inventory management systems and simplified the commission structure. He also started cutting prices. Fred Leighton, which had never before run big sales, in March marked everything in its cases down 40%. (Attention, Kmart shoppers!)
It may be too little too late. Since peaking in 2003, sales at Fred Leighton have halved to $20 million, and after bankruptcy expenses the company is barely breaking even. While Shull acknowledges the high-end jewelry market is likely to remain depressed for a while, he is hopeful that the company will find an investor to keep it alive. Of course, if Merrill Lynch has its way, Fred Leighton’s precious jewels will be liquidated to pay debts. Merrill, now part of Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), has bigger problems than the fate of a few high-priced baubles. It has disbanded the division that made the Fred Leighton loan, and most of the bankers involved in the deal have left the firm.
And what of Esmerian? At best he was careless; at worst he was cunning. Perhaps it was his privileged upbringing that led him to have so little respect for other people’s money – even his own family’s. To Esmerian the jewels he collected were as precious as living things, and it mattered to him a great deal that they reside with those who appreciate their beauty. The downside to such snobbery is that no one is more deserving than the beholder.
In Esmerian’s case, what was his was his, but what was yours was also his. People who know him, however, say his motives were pure. “Ralph is a true lover of jewelry,” says Gail Freeman, a private dealer who has worked with him for over two decades. “He cares more about the art than the business.”
That’s why he needs a good business partner, says Shull, who is recommending that any new owner retain Esmerian as a creative director. “Ralph needs someone who will push back and say, ‘If we take 20% off this item, we’ll sell it.’ In retail you need to move the goods.” That’s true even if those goods are damaged.
First I want to thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about me and the love of my life. My husband has been an absolute inspiration to me and I love sharing my story to the world to give hope that love is still in existence. I am only 25 yrs old and as a clueless 5th grader, back in grammar school, looking into his eyes for the first time I didn’t know what I had and that I was really looking into our future together. He was about 7 inches shorter than me and had just moved to my town from a near by city. His name was Justin and it all began when asked by a few other boys in the classroom, after only being the new kid for a week, which girl he wants as his first girlfriend…He pointed to me. For the next 8 years he would ask me to be his boyfriend via email, aim, notes (which I have all kept), phone calls, and just showing up on my fornt lawn. He asked me to every dance and for whatever reason I never would take our friendship to the next level.
Fast forwarding to 5 years out of high school we lost contact and he googled my name online and found my email. He emailed me and after hanging out only one day I told him the scariest thing about us spending time together is that I know now that I will marry you someday. He didn’t know what to do. To this day I don’t know what hit me, but I knew this man would forever change my life. After dating only 10 months I had invited him for his Birthday to the Boston Symphany Orchestra for the evening. He was already late and I was getting angry because I hate being late and we needed to beat traffic. The door bell rang and a man in a tuxedo answered. I looked behind him only to see a white Chrysler stretch limo in my front yard. I was all dressed up and ready to go and this strange man on my porch was telling me he was instructed by Justin to take me to Boston. So I sat in the back of the limo by myself and rode all the way to Boston (about a 1hr trip). He had left me a scroll that had simply said "don’t call me, I know you want to. I will see you soon, I love you." Once there, the limo pulled up to the coply plaza hotel which had a red carpet stretched out to the sidewalk. Justin walked out onto the carpet towards the limo in a suit with a dozen roses. He took my hand and whispered "I love you" in my ear. We walked inside and sat down to the most exclusive and elegant dinig experience I have ever had. After dinner he called the limo guy up and the car was, once again, waiting outside. We then went to the symphany which was incredibly intimate and romantic.
It was a Tuesday night about 11PM and I knew we had to be heading home soon because I had just started a new job and had only been there for 2 days. I couldn’t be late or exhausted for my third day. He said ok lets head home but first would you like to get some ice cream. Everyone that knows me knows I never pass that up. So he instructed the limo driver to a certain ice cream place which happened to be where we had our first date. He pulled the car over and we hopped out. I was so busy trying to find the ice cream place that I couldn’t hear Justin asking me to follow him over to this tree that had a river of tulips surrounding its trunk. The tree was lit up with sparkling lights and the site actually took my breath away. It was mid spring and the air was chilly so Justin handed me his coat and directed me beside the tree. Justin then took the ring from the coat pocket and bent down on one knee. He said, "do you remember this tree?" I of course said, "not really" he said, "on our first date when I saw this tree I remember thinking “Great we only have 3 more blocks to walk before we reach the car and I really want to hold her hand," and he did. He grabbed my hand and for the first time in my life I felt like the puzzle of my life had finally fit perfectly into his palm. He said, "Lisa, I have never loved anyone the way I love you and I want you to be my wife forever." He opened the ring box and there it was. My gramma’s ring. My best friend/Gramma had passed away just 2 short years prior and he had her first engagement ring remade to fit perfectly onto my finger. Tears filled my eyes and I knew I would never forget how I felt that very moment. The night ended with Justin saying that we were really heading home only to find out he had rented a hotel room in the Copley Plaza, where the night had started, and had already arranged for me to show up late for my third day on the job. He called my boss and explained everything.
We have been married now for 6 months and I love him more now than I did that night he proposed to me. He says he always knew what he wanted, he was just waiting for me to see what I was missing in him. He says, "You may think you won the battle but when I got you, I finally won the war."
Proposal Story by:
North Dighton, MA