Google+ The Daily Jewel: 11/27/11 - 12/4/11


Friday, December 2, 2011

Maharaja at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal CourtsOctober 21, 2011 – April 8, 2012

The Asian Art Museum presents U.S. Premiere of Exhibition Exploring Three Centuries of Indian Kingship

Turban ornament. 1750-1755. Gold, diamonds,
rubies,  emeralds, sapphire, pearl.
© V&A Images/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This fall, the Asian Art Museum opens its doors to the dazzling world of India's legendary maharajas (Sanskrit word for "great kings") with the U.S. premiere of Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts. The exhibition, organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, presents nearly 200 important artworks pertaining to the intriguing world of India's rulers over three centuries. Maharaja is the first exhibition to comprehensively explore the world of the maharajas and their unique culture of artistic patronage. Maharaja is accompanied by an extensive schedule of public programming, including a film series featuring a guest appearance by esteemed producer James Ivory, live music and dance performances, artist demonstrations, multimedia and docent led tours, and more. The exhibition is on view from October 21, 2011 through April 8, 2012, at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco (

From the pomp and circumstance of a royal procession to the inner sanctum of a courtly palace, Maharaja investigates the splendor and magnificence of India's kings from the 1700s to the mid-20th century, taking visitors on a tour of Indian kingdoms during eras of shifting political powers. Set against a backdrop of the tumultuous changes of the early 18th century through the 1940s, the exhibition brings to life the rich world of India's maharajas, through elaborate jewelry, ornate weaponry, royal costumes, and stunning artworks. 

"Maharaja reveals the extraordinary culture of India's kings. It showcases different aspects of royal life through rich and varied objects from India and the West," said Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum. "With lavish artistry and exquisite craftsmanship, each object in the exhibition tells a story within a broader historical context of royal life and ideals, patronage, alliances, and court culture."
Key artworks in the exhibition include the famed throne once belonging to the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh; elaborately detailed paintings of regal processions; costumes and traditional dress worn by great kings and queens; ceremonial daggers, swords and matchlock guns; and prized photographs by Man Ray, Cecil Beaton, and others. Visitors will discover the Patiala necklace—Cartier's largest single commission in history—and a horse drawn carriage decorated entirely in silver made for the Maharaja of Bhavnagar in 1915, among other stunning highlights.

The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view royal treasures gathered from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum, Qatar Museums Authority, National Gallery of Canada, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Cartier, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and numerous private lenders, in addition to works from the Asian Art Museum collections.

Procession of Maharao Ram Sing II of Kota. About 1850. Opaque watercolor on paper.
© V&A Images/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London, given by Colonel T.G. Gayer-Anderson,
C.M.G., D.S.O. and his twin brother Major R. G. Gayer-Anderson, Pasha.
Over the centuries, India has been composed of separate, competing kingdoms, representing disparate cultures and religions. This exhibition enables a greater understanding of the rich variety of cultural traditions and complex political dimensions underlying India today. The word maharaja evokes for many a vision of splendor and magnificence. The image of a turbaned and bejeweled ruler with absolute authority and immense wealth is evocative, but it fails to do justice to his role in the cultural and political history of India. This exhibition re-examines the world of the maharajas and their extraordinarily rich culture.

Maharaja brings viewers precious art objects spanning three centuries that saw the decline of India's Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century, the rise of new independent kingdoms, domination by the English East India Company, British colonization in 1858, India's independence movement and the collapse of British rule in 1947. 

Spice Box. 1800-1850. Silver, gilded silver.
© V&A Images/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Qamar Adamjee, the Asian's organizing curator for San Francisco's presentation of Maharaja, explains that the exhibition follows two principal narrative arcs: the first explores the secular and religious responsibilities of India's kings. The second traces the changing worlds of maharajas as their status transformed from independent rulers to "native princes" under British colonial rule.

Indian concepts of kingship, derived from ancient texts, evolved over time in response to political, religious, and social changes. By the 18th century, a shared expression of kingship had emerged across India, regardless of whether rulers were Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. Though rarely used formally until the 19th century, the title "Maharaja" was adopted by rulers of kingdoms large and small across the Indian continent; after India became a British colony in 1858, it came to be used as a generic term to describe all of India's kings. 

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. Vandyk. London, 1911.
Modern print from an original glass negative. National Portrait Gallery, London.
The Maharaja journey begins in the museum's Lee Gallery, which introduces viewers to the concept of royal duty (rajadharma) in Indian kingship. From military strength to administrative and diplomatic skills, maharajas were expected to adhere to a strict set of behaviors that were governed by specific protocol and etiquette, as at the durbar, or royal assembly, where state business was conducted. Ideal rulers were also pious and righteous individuals whose royal status was divinely sanctioned. In this capacity, maharajas participated in elaborate religious ceremonies to ensure the wellbeing of dynasty, state, and subjects. Royal duty also included the patronage of artists, musicians, poets, craftsmen, and support of religious foundations. 

Maharaja conducts viewers into a throne room, the focal point of royal authority, in its ceremonial splendor. Visitors encounter ceremonial regalia, turban ornaments, swords, and other symbols of Indian royalty. Rare paintings in watercolors and gold give detailed representations of royal rule and present vivid portraits of individual rulers. An early 18th-century painting of Amar Singh II of Mewar portrays the ruler as an ideal king—haloed, bejeweled, and displaying the symbols of kingship.

The Hambrecht Gallery opens to the world of Indian royal spectacle, where the maharaja reigns as a public symbol of authority. Paintings and other objects offer glimpses of grand public celebrations and religious festivities, such as the 19th-century painting of the procession of Ram Singh II of Kota, with the lavishly dressed and jeweled ruler riding atop a richly adorned elephant. A ruler's primary duty was to maintain security in the kingdom, and weapons symbolizing his role as an able leader and warrior figured prominently in public ceremonies and visual representations. The visitor experiences the military aspect of royal duty through the paintings, armor and weaponry on display. An examination of palace life, royal entertainment and leisure activities includes musical instruments and board games, as well as splendid jewelry and exquisite costumes worn by royalty.

Pratap Singh of Orccha (modern photographic print from an original
negative).  By R. Hotz. About 1903. Modern photographic print
from an original glass negative. National Portrait Gallery, London.
The Osher Gallery delves into the history and shifting power of kingships, dynasties, and empires over three centuries. With the decline of the powerful Mughal Empire at the dawn of the 18th century, a new political order took hold. The new order saw the resurgence of older Rajput kingdoms in central and western India alongside the emergence of new powers such as the Marathas and Sikhs. Intensifying the struggle for supremacy was the English East India Company, which by the mid-1700s had transformed into a major military and political force vying for a controlling stake in India. 

The British East India Company, a trading organization founded in 1600, was attracted to India for the lucrative trade in spices, textiles, and other resources. Over the years, its powers extended beyond mercantile activities into political control. By the 1840s, many Indian regional rulers fell under British control; however, the regional powers featured in this section of the exhibition maintained their independent authority and a vibrant court culture for generations. Many of the objects showcased in the Osher Gallery can be associated directly with important Indian rulers of the time. The Kingdom of Mysore in southwestern India, one of the most formidable opponents of the British in India, was defeated in battle by the East India Company in 1799 and reconstituted under British control. The once-stable Sikh kingdom in the northern Punjab region fell to the East India Company in 1849. By the mid-19th century, the majority of former Mughal territories had been annexed by the East India Company; only Hyderabad, in the Deccan region, retained any form of independence.

Over time, Indians resisted the increasingly powerful and oppressive Company through regional uprisings, and in 1857, a full-scale rebellion broke out, with various Indian royal families playing prominent parts on both sides. The conflict ended in 1858 when the British government, with the help of powerful Indian allies, gained command, bringing an end to both the Mughal dynasty and the East India Company. In 1877, Queen Victoria of England was declared Queen Empress of India. British rule in India was known as the Raj ("rule"), and as the largest, wealthiest, and most productive colony of Britain's empire, India became known as "the jewel in the crown." 

Under British rule, the maharajas retained their kingdoms, but their status changed from independent rulers to princes of the British Empire. Maharajas continued to maintain order within their states, tax their subjects, allocate revenue, and patronize cultural activities, yet were subject to colonial rule. Thus, they performed the rites and rituals of kingship in a manner that fused traditional royal duty with Western models of governance. 

Many maharajas were educated in Europe or by English tutors in India. Some adopted elements of Western dress and culture, such as cricket, fox hunting, and automobile racing. Travel to the West greatly expanded Indian princely patronage, and the new royal patrons had a profound effect on the production of luxury goods in Europe, as manufacturers responded to the tastes of their new clients. These exchanges led designers such as Cartier to introduce Indian-inspired designs to their European clientele. Outstanding among the royal jewels on display is the Patiala necklace designed by Cartier, which originally contained 2,930 diamonds and the yellow 234.69-carat DeBeers diamond.
Necklace. Cartier Paris, special order, 1928. Reconstructed with some substitute stones in 2002.
Platinum, diamonds, yellow zirconia, white zirconias, topazes, synthetic rubies, smoky quartz, citrine.
Created for Sir Bhupindra Singh, Maharaja of Patiala. Nick Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier.
With the 20th century came widespread discontent with British rule and the visionary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. As a sustained movement for self-rule gained foothold, Indian rulers were increasingly marginalized in the shifting political environment. In response to these forces, the maharajas formed the Chamber of Princes in 1921 to represent a unified front for the interests of the Indian states. When India won independence from British rule in 1947, most princes signed the Instrument of Accession, by which their territories were integrated into the new nation-states of India and Pakistan. Yet even today, many maharajas remain potent symbols of regional identity and continue to exercise their royal duty, acting as guardians of the remarkable culture of India's royal courts.

Makar kara (bracelets with heads of a mythological beast)
for a woman. 1850–1900. Gold, enamel, diamonds.
 © Katharina Faerber.
The exhibition also exposes the contribution of some legendary Indian princesses, who are shown to be cultured, educated, and sometimes fierce warriors. Among the Maharanis represented in the exhibition is Chand Bibi of Bijapur, the 16th century queen whose courage in battle made her a legendary figure in popular imagination. In the 20th century, Maharani Chimnabai, wife of the enlightened Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda, spent her life fighting for education and rights for women. Others such as Molly of Pudokkattai, Indira Devi of Cooch Behar, Sita Devi of Kapurthala and Sanyogita of Indore—a legendary beauty photographed by Man Ray—were leading fashionable figures of their day. 

For a contemporary response to the objects and themes in this exhibition, the Asian has commissioned artist Sanjay Patel to create fantastical works of art especially for this showing. Patel's further engagement with the museum collection and the Maharaja exhibition will be explored in a display on view in the Tateuchi Gallery on the second floor beginning November 11, 2011. On the third floor, significant works of Indian courtly art from private collections and the museum's own holdings give an expanded view of this complex historical period.

The Asian Art Museum is a public institution whose mission is to lead a diverse global audience in discovering the unique material, aesthetic, and intellectual achievements of Asian art and culture. Holding more than 17,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history, the museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art.
  • Information: (415) 581-3500 or
  • Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.
  • Hours: The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. From February through September, hours are extended on Thursdays until 9:00 pm. Closed Mondays, as well as New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day..
  • General Admission: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 and older), $7 for college students with ID, $7 for youths 13–17, and FREE for children under 12 and SFUSD students with ID. Admission on Thursdays after 5:00 pm is just $5 for all visitors (except those under 12, SFUSD students, and members, who are always admitted FREE). General admission includes a complimentary audio tour of the museum's collection galleries (offered in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Cantonese. and Korean) as well as many other free activities and events. In some cases, a surcharge may apply for admission into special exhibitions.
  • Access: The Asian Art Museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information regarding access: 415-581-3598; TDD: 415-861-2035.

Source:  Press Release from the Asian Art Museum

Monday, November 28, 2011


Auction Results Total:   $83,028,022

Over 300 Breathtaking Diamonds, Gems and Jadeite Jewels
Valued at HK$600-800 million / US$75-100 million
Including a Perfect Pair of 35ct D Flawless Diamonds

Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels

1:30 pm, Tuesday, 29 November, 2011

Woods Room, Grand Hall, 

Hong Kong Convention &Exhibition Centre
1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

The first half of 2011 saw strong sales and record prices achieved at Christie’s sales of jewellery around the world, with global sales up over 30% compared to 2010.  The strength of the jewellery market was clearly demonstrated in Hong Kong where, at HK$695.7 million (US$89.4 million), the Spring sale became not only the most valuable jewellery auction in Asia, but also the largest ever at Christie’s worldwide.
Set against a background of industry momentum and an ever-expanding community of jewellery collectors, the upcoming Autumn sale of extraordinary jewels has been curated to fit connoisseurs’ desires and current market trends.  We have selected exceptional diamonds, important coloured stones, rare jadeite, and signed jewels valued in excess of HK$600 million / US$75 million in one of our best sales ever in Hong Kong,’ says Vickie Sek, Director of the Jewellery and Jadeite Department, Christie’s Asia.
PICTURE-PERFECT PAIR:  of 35ct D Flawless, Type IIa Diamonds
Per-carat prices for top quality white diamonds remains strong in today’s market and collectors the world over are competing for the very best like never before.   Leading the season is an extraordinary pair of unmounted round brilliant-cut D Flawless diamonds, weighing 35.77 and 35.61 carats each
The largest pair of its type to ever be offered at auction – each is roughly the size of a cherry tomato - these diamonds have been awarded “Triple Excellent” for their polish, symmetry and cut grade.  Adding to their allure is that they have also been determined to be Type IIa, the most chemically pure form of diamond showing exceptional appeal transparency. 
The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the leading diamond manufacturing and trading groups in the world, was entrusted with the honour of cutting this pair of 35ct round diamonds, both of which were uncovered in South Africa.  To find large pieces of colourless rough within the same timeframe represents an extremely rare occurrence.  To combine that with the vision to obtain a closely matched pair raises the project to new heights.  
This extraordinary pair was exhibited by Steinmetz at the Guggenheim in New York in December 2010, and was showcased at the launch of Forevermark in India in April 2011 as the largest pair of diamonds to bear Forevermark’s inscription, a unique identification number and symbol invisible to the naked eye that signifies not only that the diamond is genuine, natural and untreated, but also that it has been sourced responsibly.   Offered separately, these tremendous diamonds are estimated at HK$56,000,000-75,000,000 / US$7,000,000-9,000,000 each. To learn more about the pair click here.
Other colourless diamonds presented this season include a pair of D Flawless, Type IIa brilliant-cut diamonds of 5.27 and 5.24 carats (estimate: HK$12,000,000-18,000,000 / US$1,500,000-2,250,000) that have each been rated “Triple Excellent”for their cut, polish and symmetry, and a diamond ring set with a pear-shaped F colour, Internally Flawless, Type IIa diamond of 12.08 carats (estimate: HK$7,000,000-9,000,000 / US$900,000-1,150,000).
This season a number of important jewels bearing the coveted name of Harry Winston will be offered.  Leading the selection from the ‘King of Diamonds’ is a magnificent emerald and diamond brooch which boasts a story steeped in the history of its famed maker (estimate: HK$15,600,000-25,000,000/US$2,000,000-3,000,000 ).  The emerald was originally purchased by a prominent Texas oil-man and close personal client to Mr. Winston who called upon the jeweler for a significant gemstone.  Mr. Winston offered the man and his wife a choice:  the present 68.90 carat emerald or a 69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond. The wife had the final decision and chose the emerald, and the diamond went on to be acquired by Elizabeth Taylor and subsequently known as Taylor-Burton Diamond.  For the emerald, Mr. Winston had his legendary designer, Ambaji Shinde, create this consummate Winston jewel, one that can be seen illustrated in the celebrated Winston tome, Harry Winston: The Ultimate Jeweler written by Laurence S. Krashes and Ronald Winston.
Also from Harry Winston is a stunning pair of marquise and pear-shaped diamond cluster earrings suspending a pear-shaped diamond of 14.38 and 12.75 carats (estimate: HK$8,000,000-12,000,000 / US$1,000,000-1,500,000);  a ruby and diamond ring set with a 8.37 carats cushion-shaped Burmese no-heat ruby(estimate: HK$5,500,000-8,000,000 / US$700,000-1,000,000 ); and an impressive ruby and diamond fringe necklace set with thirty-two untreated Burmese weighing over 80 carats (estimate: HK$10,000,000-15,000,000 / US$1,250,000-1,870,000).

Perfectly formed by nature and needing no further enhancement to its purity and beauty, the pearl is the earliest and most enduring gemstone known to man.  Standing apart in the selection of natural pearl jewels offered this season is a rare and important necklace of saltwater natural pearls boasting 16 matching button-shaped pearls of impressive size (estimate: HK$12,800,000-18,000,000 / US$1,600,000-2,250,000 ). Assembling such a finely-matched selection of natural pearls of this size and quality is rare and exceptional – an endeavour that likely took several decades.  The result of the collector’s astonishing eye for taste and quality is a jewel that is certain to be amongst the most sought-after this season.
Also of note is a pair of stunning ear pendants featuring a detachable pearl drop of astonishing size and quality and diamond tops signed Van Cleef & Arpels(estimate: HK$4,800,000-6,500,000 /US$600,000-800,000). It is not only the impressive size and similarity in weight that sets these two pearls apart, but also their even drop-shape, which combined with an attractive white colour and lustre qualifies this as a rare matching pair. 
An important pair of natural coloured pearl and diamond ear pendants(estimate: HK$5,200,000-8,000,000 / US$650,000-1,000,000) and a natural pearl, diamond and onyx pendant necklace set with a large natural white drop pearl(estimate: HK$1,600,000-2,500,000 / US$200,000-315,000) round out the season’s top pearl offerings.

The finest emeralds in the world are those that originate in Colombia which are especially prized for their intensity and depth of colour - a particularly rich grass-green with a medium-dark tone.  The Stars of Colombia (estimate: HK$15,500,000-25,000,000 / US$2,000,000-3,000,000), with their remarkably large size - 25.38 and 23.12 carats - high clarity,  refined cutting and superior colour, are a pair of unparalleled rarity.  These cushion-shaped gems, each boasting a verdant green, are untreated, making them highly unusual, and the purity their exhibit is not often encountered in the market today.  Indeed, a single Colombian emerald of this quality is rare. To have its equal in quality and colour to match so well in size and shape is virtually unheard of
Of the season’s rubies highlights, a ruby and diamond necklace by JW Currens containing 25 exemplary Burmese rubies is of particular note (illustrated right, estimate HK$16,000,000-25,000,000 / US$2,000,000-3,000,000). Each of the oval-shaped stones is untreated and showcases a high degree of transparency, and the majority display the coveted ‘Pigeon’s Blood’ vivid red typical of old Burmese rubies.  Natural Burmese rubies of these sizes, colour and high clarity are extremely scarce on the market today.
Sapphires are led by an exceptional sapphire and diamond brooch set with a cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire of 26.41 carats (estimate: HK$25,000,000-38,000,000 / US$3,200,000-4,800,000).  The market for top quality, untreated sapphires such as this is particularly buoyant, and this remarkable gem with its sumptuous colour and glassy, almost crystal quality is poised to be among the most desirable gemstones this season.

An array of important jadeite is a cornerstone of Christie’s Hong Kong jewellery sales each season.  This sale’s selection is led by ‘The Three Friends of Winter’, a superb jadeite pendant necklace featuring a carved jadeite plaque that exemplifies a harmonious balance of colour, texture and translucency found only in the rarest jadeite (estimate: HK$15,000,000-25,000,000 / US$2,000,000-3,000,000).
 Featuring references to pine, plum blossom and bamboo, species that withstand and even flourish in harsh environments, this pendant displays a vivid emerald green with a remarkable depth of pure colour and intense saturation and tone.  Together with its perfect shape, exceptional thickness and master craftsmanship, this is one of the top pieces of jadeite seen on the market in recent years.  Also of note is a jadeite bead necklace set with fifty-five jadeite beads of bright emerald green colour and excellent transparency (estimate: HK$3,000,000-5,000,000/US$380,000-650,000). 

About Christies:
Christie’s, the world's leading art business had global auction and private sales in 2010 that totaled £3.3 billion/$5.0 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's conducted the greatest auctions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and today remains a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 sales annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s has 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Z├╝rich, and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in emerging and new markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai. 

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits. 

Complete catalogue available online at or via Christie’s Mobile, iPhone and iPad apps.

Designer Jewel: Spotlight on Aaron Henry Designs

Jewelry Designer Spotlight Shines on Aaron Henry Designs

"The hallmarks to AARON HENRY jewelry are design integrity, gemstone quality, fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Fine jewelry is an art form, and the creative process extends beyond our studio into every aspect of the world, which we inhabit.
Where we travel, whom we meet and how we interact with nature and culture; our experiences and desires all influence the direction that our designs take. This is why the jewelry that we create today will remain relevant for future generations, and why our designs will continue to evolve"          Philosophy from Aaron Henry Designs

When you are born into a family which boasts three generations of Jewelers and Diamond Merchants that date to 1940, there is little doubt as to the path you will take.   Such was the lot of California born Aaron Furlong and he embraced it.  Having acquired his Bachelors of Arts Degree from UC Davis and Graduate Gemologist Certification from the Gemological Institute of America by the time he was 21 the logical next step was to learn the Trade he needed an Apprenticeship.

This was accomplished with a six year commitment to a Master Jeweler in Los Angeles, CA.  When, following the subsequent expansion of those teachings to include design, carving, and casting...Aaron Henry Designs was born.  Creating unique works inspired by nature and made entirely in America.

A testament to the quality and craftsmanship produced are the accolades awarded Aaron Henry Designs. The prestigious Spectrum Award from the American Gem Trade Association - featured status by The World Gold Council and DeBeers - and extensive coverage in Fashion and Industry name just a few.

One of the really interesting features of the Aaron Henry website is his step by step pictorial of the Design process...while it is very informational to his customers - I would imagine that it brings in Custom work while reinforcing the level of Craftsmanship in his pieces.  Starting with the rendering - moving through the waxes - making a mold - setting and assembly - through to finish.

Take a minute and check out the pictorial here.

Take-aways from this Designer's Story:

Retail Jeweler - if you are looking for designers that are Makers and don't ship the work abroad...Aaron Henry is for you.  There is an increased emphasis on "Made In America" by the local & national press - are you taking full advantage?  

Jewelry Designer:  does your website have a feature that builds confidence in your ability to provide a Custom piece of jewelry?   is there a technique that you are particularly skilled at that you could highlight?

Jewelry Design Student: I think the biggest thing for a student to learn from Aaron Henry is in his "Philosophy" statement...students always question how to continue to come up with new design ideas.  "Where we travel, whom we meet and how we interact with nature and culture; our experiences and desires all influence the direction that our designs take. "  So - lead a full life and glean from those will always produce something new!

Aaron Henry Designs website:


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