Summary of the Mediterranean Gem and Jewellery Conference in Italy 2017
The Mediterranean venue was at Syracuse, Italy on May 11-14, 2017 and was organized by IGL (Greece), CGL-GRS (Canada) in conjunction with Certiline (Italy) and supported by NAJA (USA), MAGI (Italy/Finland), JAW (UK), Eickhorst (Germany), NCJV (Australia), Martin Steinbach (Germany), and Gemetrix (Australia).
A major partner of MGJC 2017 was the diamond mining company Alrosa from Russia while sponsors from Italy are IGI lab, jeweller Antora, Tech Servizi (Italy) and coloured diamond dealer Diamond Love Bond.
Sponsorship and supporters’ contributions helped us to stay at 5-star luxury hotel Minareto, enjoy good food, coffee breaks and Gala dinner entertainment (with local Sicilian folk band). All participants were happy with choice of venue, organization, strong program with 12 speakers, new workshops and round table (see summary of discussions, testimonials, gallery with photos from conference). We increased the presence of international participants to 60 but had only 15 Italian participants (due to remote location).
Lunch break in luxury resort Minareto, Syracuse, Sicily
There were representatives from Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Dubai, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Netherland, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Serbia, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and USA.
The conference started on May 12 (Friday) with a pre-conference half-day Basic workshop “Use of Handheld Spectroscope in Testing of Gems and Colored Diamonds” with Claire Mitchell (Gem-A, UK) as instructor. We had 12 participants who learned how to better use a spectroscope. The very useful, portable piece of handheld gem testing equipment can provide diagnostic results when used correctly, from the common to the unusual gems.
30 Gemmologists, appraisers and dealers also took an afternoon half-day Intermediate Diamond Workshop on “Screening and Identification of Mounted Small and Melee Synthetic Diamonds” by Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS) and George Spyromilios (IGL). Gemmologists Elena Deljanin and Anastasiya Shramko assisted them and John Chapman (Gemetrix) was helping participants with correct use of his PL Inspector to screen for and identify synthetic diamonds. Among 45 samples available for testing, for the FIRST TIME we included rings and earrings set with natural HPHT-grown and CVD-grown diamonds. It was demonstrated that it’s possible to identify HPHT-grown diamonds based on a characteristic green-yellow SW fluorescence/phosphoresce and CVD-grown diamonds using a combination of fluorescence reaction (SW>LW) and characteristic “columnar structure” under cross polarized filters (when in prong setting).
40 participants at Advanced Diamond workshop with Instructors and Supporters of MGJC Italy 2017
The major theme of the conference was “Colored Diamonds” and 6 experts covered this topic in detail during the morning sessions: Alan Bronstein (Aurora Gems and NCDIA president), Dr. Katrien De Corte (HRD), Thomas Gelb (NCDIA), John Chapman (Gemetrix), Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS) and Kym Hughes (Symmetry Jewellery Valuation ).
With synthetic diamonds always an issue for the industry, Alexey Useinov, from TISNCM on behalf of ALROSA, unveiled the company’s new Diamond Inspector instrument (see below) for identification of polished diamonds (including natural diamonds, treated polished natural diamonds, polished diamond simulants, potential synthetic polished diamonds).
Other speakers during the afternoon session discussing natural gems, cutting and jewellery were; Dr. Ilaria Adamo (Italian Gemmological Institute), Viktor Tuzlukov / Alicia Vildosola (independents from Russia / Spain) and Larry French (Buccellati Foundation, Italy).
A ‘Round Table’ on “Coloured Diamonds – describing and marketing” and “Fluorescence –Importance for ID and Value of Fluorescent Diamonds” with experts from Aurora Gems and NCDIA president (Alan Bronstein), CGL-GRS (Branko Deljanin), HRD (Dr. Katrien De Corte), NCDIA (Thomas Gelb), NAJA (Gail Brett Levine), and Symmetry Jewellery Valuation (Kym Hughes) discussed issues guided by moderator John Chapman (Gemetrix) and answered questions from other delegates (see Round Table summary).
On May 14th a full-day Advanced Diamond Workshop was held on “Identification and Grading of Treated and Natural Coloured Diamonds” by Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS), Thomas Gelb (Natural Colored Diamond Association) and John Chapman (Gemetrix), assisted by George Spyromilios (IGL) and Elena Deljanin (CGL-GRS).
A post-conference practical workshop was attended by a record 40 participants from 15 countries on the use of standard and advanced instruments in testing and grading of natural coloured and treated coloured diamonds of all colours. They learned how GIA grades colour in fancy coloured diamonds and what other labs like GRS and CGL-GRS are offering as alternatives. To provide a wide range of coloured diamonds, samples from Hong Kong dealer Francis Errera were examined using Munsell Colour chips for grading in the new Eickhorst Grading Cabinet. Our supporters EICKHORST and MAGI brought all standard and advanced instruments (VIS, FTIR and PL spectrometers) so participants had access to a ‘Full service Lab’ all day.
Participants also used PL Inspectors (mini UV lamp) to see fluorescence reactions of different types of Coloured diamonds and screen possible treated diamonds. Microscopes were available to observe inclusions. After testing and screening with standard instruments, diamonds could be tested for further determination of colour origin with advanced instruments.
The conference ended with a day tour of the lovely ancient town of Syracuse with visits to a Greek amphitheater, churches and a colorful city market.
Round Table Discussion – Coloured Diamonds
With much of a coloured diamond’s value hinging on the its lab report, the topics of grading methods, report contents and value formed the topics for the round-table discussion. The moderator John Chapman opened the discussion asking whether more accurate grading reports would be more desirable and possible. The general response was that more accurate reports are desirable with too many examples of grading inconsistencies that created difficulties when selling and confusion when buying.
John Chapman (Gemetrix) was leading Round table discussion at Conference in Italy
Branko Deljanin said that is possible to be more accurate because existing Fancy system has too wide range and that’s why CGL-GRS and GRS developed Fancy Plus system with 10 (Fancy light to Vivid+) + 6 grades (Fancy dark to Deep+). Does not make sense that D-Z colorless scale has more than 20 colour grades and coloured diamond scale only 6 at current system.
It was asked whether too much emphasis is placed on the contents of a lab report/certificate rather than the appearance of a coloured diamonds. Expressions were made that such emphasis extends across all diamonds. Alan Bronstein remarked that beauty cannot be quantified and described by a certificate and that consumers need to be educated enough to make their own conclusions about the beauty. He also added that there was a tendency to favour pure colours over those with a modifying term, but that visually there was no basis for such distinction. Kym Hughes remembers that 20 years ago traders and consumers did not use certificates to purchase coloured diamonds and that appearance of the stone was the most important feature. Nowadays majority of diamonds are sold based on certificates coming from one lab and is almost like monopoly of the market. Other panellists agreed that is not healthy situation for diamond trade.
With concerns expressed about the dangers of assessments purely on the basis of a lab report, the moderator asked what further information would make a coloured diamond report more useful. It was suggested that a good photo of the stone would be a great asset – a view that was shared by Tom Gelb and other panel members. Branko Deljanin pointed out that his lab includes high quality photo on their reports, along with visible spectra as fingerprint of the stone, while Alan Bronstein said he doesn’t trust photos and felt that a cert should not include one.
With value considered to reflect the rarity of a colour, the moderator asked if face-up is the most appropriate orientation to colour grade given that minor changes to the facet angles can make significant changes to the face-up colour. While face-up colour was considered the most important orientation, there were views that understanding the body colour is important too so consumers could understand the extent to which the cut of the stone has enhanced the face-up appearance. Tom Gelb argued that if the colour was graded with a table-down orientation that cutters would design the facets to improve the colour under that situation.
With different labs using different terminologies, the moderator asked if consumers might find it confusing. Gail Brett Levine said that without any universal standards it is inevitable that different labs will have different terminologies and that it is confusing for consumers. The different standards and terminologies leads to the practice where some traders obtain reports from multiple labs and then attempt a sale using only the most favourable report.
Round Table Discussion – Fluorescence
After an introduction of the topic of fluorescence by the moderator, John Chapman, he asked panel members if they had seen the effect of fluorescence on diamonds. “Of course” was the general reply, though the moderator remarked that a GIA study (in 1997) found that observers were unable to notice the difference. Tom Gelb’s comment was that his understanding from the article was that fluorescence shouldn’t affect price (later corrected after being shown a summary of the article). An MGJC survey before the conference showed that 75% of respondents felt that any effect of fluorescence depends on the characteristics of a diamond. Prompting the question of which characteristics are relevant.
Alan Bronstein remarked that 1/3 of diamonds have fluorescence and that he is an advocate for fluorescence except when it impacts brilliance. He wondered how we ought to communicate with customers to overcome the prejudices on fluorescence? He revealed his recognition of fluorescence by noting that he exhibits his ‘Aurora’ and ‘Butterfly’ collection in both natural and UV light as the fluorescence provides a conversation point.
Antoinette Matlins (from audience) reminisced how when she was a child (50 years ago) people were willing to pay more for fluorescent diamonds because G-H colour would look F-colour by a window. She commented that the reverse is happening today as the moment fluorescence is mentioned, customers reject the stone. She proposed that the prejudice is due to the internet and that the only justification for avoiding them is if a customer is paying for a D-colour, which it is outdoors, but is F-colour indoors. An audience member asked Antoinette if she would like to go back to the old times when fluorescent diamonds were sold for a higher price, to which she replied that the issue was that she didn’t want to pay for a D-colour if indoors it is not a D-colour.
Katrien de Corte (HRD) commented that it is important to have standard procedures and standard conditions for grading. Whether fluorescence is bad or good it is a part of diamond and it can be a selling point. Antoinette suggested that if grading was done without UV in the lamp, then for fluorescent diamonds reports should comment that in daylight the diamond may look whiter – an effect that becomes a positive.
Gail Brett Levine (NAJA, USA), Alan Bronstein (Aurora gems and NCDIA president, USA), Katrien de Corte (HRD lab, Belgium), Tom Gelb (NCDIA, USA), Kym Hughes (Symmtery Jewellery Valuation, Australia) and Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS lab, Canada) at round table discussion.
The moderator challenged the assumption that grading labs have UV in their light sources, to which Antoinette replied that as of a few months ago they did in US, and Tom Gelb added his belief that they do. The prospect of fluoro tubes becoming unavailable and forcing grading standards to change was raised.
With audience members encouraged to participate in discussions, Elena Deljanin in the audience asked Marco Pocaterra (a previous speaker on investment diamonds) why he excluded fluorescing diamonds from his investment promotions? Marco defended his actions on the grounds that he needs to have a standard and that ‘no fluorescence’ is his standard. He supported his policy by his observation that on Rapnet, 99% of the stones that have no fluorescence have less discount than those with fluorescence.
With passions running high, Branko Deljanin asked Marco why there are specific discounts on fluorescence, only because Rapaport said so, with which the moderator turned to the panel to ask if it is justified that low or medium fluorescing diamonds have a discount? Alan Bronstein felt there should not be any discount, a view which the moderator pointed out was shared by 75% of the respondents of the MGJC survey. He added that the issue is contentious and needs reviewing to determine if there is a sound basis for any discounts.
From the experience of a laboratory, Branko noted that there are 5 categories of fluorescence intensity and that what is needed is a study to determine how the different intensities affect transparency and colour, only two papers published on fluorescent diamond topic so far. He has only seen very, very strong fluorescence have an effect making them “hazy” , yet many of his clients are not happy with ‘faint’ or ‘medium’ on reports, requesting a ‘none’ grade what does not make any sense.
Tom Gelb maintained that the discounting practice has come from diamond dealers themselves and not consumers. That if a grade is mentioned on a report then it will be used to pay less. He learnt from his early days at GIA that originally the fluorescence intensity was used by the lab only as added identification feature and not as a value judgement.
Alan Bronstein noted that Argyle pinks have fluorescence and yet it has no influence on their price.
Returning to the practice of discounts, Branko Deljanin asked who invented the system in which a 10 – 40% discount was applied to fluorescent diamonds and why is this discount not passed on to the end consumer? Without an answer from the participants Kym Hughes remarked that she thought people tend not to look at a diamond but rather the piece of paper that comes with it. She blamed the trade for bringing about this situation onto themselves. She surprised the younger participants recounting how 20 – 30 years ago diamonds didn’t have certificates and they were sold based on their beauty.
With time running out, the moderator noted that although one hears stories of 20 – 30% discounts for strong fluorescent stones, analysis of large stockists such as Blue Moon reveal only a 5 – 10% discount. Though Tom Gelb pointed out that such sites are consumer websites.
Tale of the Blue Moon Diamond
The topic is about one of the most sensational blue diamonds recovered in the last few decades that has been documented from mine, through its metamorphosis to one of the most beautiful and historical diamonds that are known to exist today. With comments from the few individuals that were instrumental in creating its provenance.
Dr. Katrien de Corte
Type IIa Diamonds: Good, Bad, and Rare
Katrien de Corte will talk on type II diamonds specifically the light brown and grey/blue natural varieties and treatments that can be applied to them. Their abundance in nature and presence on the market will be discussed as well as lab standard and advanced techniques to separate natural, treated and synthetic type II diamonds.
Fancy Color Diamonds: Color Grading and its Relationship to Value
Thomas will describe how GIA grades colour in fancy colour diamonds, the lighting and viewing geometry used and what graders are looking for with reference to master stones. The terminology used will be discussed and how the trade values the grades.
Colour and Fluorescence Grading of Coloured Diamonds by Instruments
Instruments offer the advantage of objectivity and consistency of measurement. However for accuracy with diamonds, several issues must be addressed to cater for the effects of clarity, and cut for which illumination is critical. Suitable image processing and calibration can provide meaningful colour grading with application to fluorescence grading also.
New Approach for Grading and Certification of Coloured Diamonds – Provenance Type
Major labs grade fancy-coloured diamonds into six categories, and dealers often subdivided them further based on colour intensity. GRS and CGL have developed an additional nine colour sub-categories to better cater for coloured diamonds on the market. Additionally jointly they started “Colored Diamond Provenance Report” to assign an Argyle provenance to pink and blue coloured diamonds based on specific “fingerprint” characteristics that are measurable.
Valuation of Coloured Diamonds for Trade and Consumers
As home country to many coloured diamonds, Kym Hughes often has to value fancy coloured diamonds from Australia and will provide an insight into pricing such gems and the impact of provenance. A comparison between Argyle and GIA colour grading systems will also be covered.
Demantoid Garnet: Identification, Occurrences, and Origin Determination
Due to its rarity and brilliance, demantoid represents one of the most appreciated and precious gemstones among garnets. Liquid and crystalline inclusions in the gem are characteristic of their origin which include; the Urals (Russia), northern Italy, Iran, Pakistan, Namibia and Madagascar. Trace element compositions, especially for chromium and REE are also useful for origin determinations.
Victor Tuzlukov & Alicia Vildosola
Evaluation of Cut for New Generation of Gemstones – Artistic and Precious Cut
Gemologists and appraisers today are not ready to evaluate cut quality of colored stones because the existing cut grading systems (e.g. GIA gems gem grading system) are based on reference to some standard shapes, but many new designs are excluded from this evaluation. A new approach to gem cut grading will be proposed – based on strict criteria of stone elements (perfection of facets, edges, meeting points), symmetry (according to design) and optical features (window).
Gianmaria Buccellati: Master Goldsmith of Milan
Italian jewellry designer Gianmaria Buccellati created extraordinary jewels and objects during the 1900s. He used two distinctive goldsmithing techniques in his jewels, engraving and the ‘lace” or honeycomb style. He had a great passion for rare and often overlooked gemstones and a special love for wildly shaped baroque pearls. Stories surround Gianmaria’s “extraordinary objects” collection which includes chalices, boxes and other objects of art, many of which reside in great museums all over the world.
Dr. Victor Denisov
Luminescence Characteristics of Natural Diamonds
The spectra of luminescence (fluorescence and phosphorescence) of natural diamonds excited by short wavelength (257 nm) or long wave (365 nm) ultraviolet radiation at room and liquid helium (~ 5K) temperatures are studied. The intensities of luminescence of diamonds from the same parent diamonds were investigated, and the influence of the color characteristics of diamonds examined.
Dr. Sergei Terentev
ALROSA Diamond Inspector
A new device – “ALROSA Diamond Inspector” is used to identify the origin of diamonds and their imitations. This device can be applied to diamonds larger than 0.01 ct, including diamonds set in jewelry. The device determines using several analyses in under 1 minute whether a diamond is; natural, synthetic, treated or imitation.
President of Aurora Gems, Alan is a pioneer in the business of natural fancy colour diamonds. He has worked with some of the world’s most historic stones and some of the major scientific discoveries in color diamonds. He is currently curator of the coloured diamond collections – ‘Aurora Pyramid of Hope’ and the ‘Butterfly of Peace’. He has published and co-authored 2 books on the subject.
Dr. Katrien de Corte
Katrien started her gem career as a research scientist at HRD Antwerp. She specialized in research and development of decision rules and techniques to discriminate natural from synthetic and treated diamonds. Now she is head of Education at HRD, Antwerp and teaches gemmology at the University of Ghent as a guest professor. She established HRD Antwerp schools around the world, and developed new courses.
Thomas has been immersed in fancy coloured diamonds for almost 20 years, including managing GIA’s coloured diamond department. More recently, armed with a business degree, he launched Gelb Gemological Consulting. Gelb is an award winning author of numerous articles on diamonds, ranging from treatment and synthetic criteria to comprehensive articles about specific colors of diamonds.
John Chapman has been working with diamond technology for near 30 years with much of the time at Rio Tinto Diamonds. He recently formed Gemetrix which has developed the PL Inspector (mini UV lamp with magnifier for screening and identification of synthetic diamonds), and he consults to the industry across the diamond pipeline from exploration to polishing and certification. He is editor of Mediterranean Gem and Jewellery Conferences.
Branko Deljanin is President at CGL-GRS, Vancouver (Canada). He is a research gemologist with extensive experience in advanced testing of diamonds and gemstones to determine origin of color. Branko is instructor of “Advanced Gemology” programs on diamonds and coloured stones offered in in 15 countries. He has been a regular contributor to trade and gemological magazines and presented reports at a number of research and gemological Conferences, including Mediterranean Gemmological and Jewelry Conference that he co-founded in 2015.
Kym is an Australian jewellery appraiser and president of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers. She has extensive experience as a specialist gemmology and jewellery valuation professional at “Symmetry Jewellery Valuation Specialists” with more than 20 years’ experience emphasizing sales, marketing and business development in the gemstone and jewellery industry.
Dr. Sergei Terentev
Sergei is a specialist on diamond growth that was the topic of his PhD thesis. He is currently head of a department at Technological Institute of Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials that develops methods to produce high purity and semiconductor diamonds for optical and electronic applications. These products are supplied to customers worldwide.
Victor is noted internationally for his gemstone cutting skills, winning numerous faceting competitions both in his native country Russia and in UK, Spain, Australia and US. For 15 years of faceting activity he visited deposits and gem markets in more than 30 countries.
Alicia values and appraises precious objects in patrimony, heritage, divorce, and gives legal expertise on jewellery. She is an instructor at the Spanish Appraisers Association and member of the Board of the Spanish Association of Jewelry Appraisers.
Larry French is a former vice-president of Van Cleef & Arpels and Gianmaria Buccellati, during which time he has he organized 8 major museum exhibitions on jewellery. He has made trips to India to research and study the old fort at Golconda, the source of many of the world’s great diamonds including the hope diamond. He currently serves as the chief officer of the Gianmaria Buccellati foundation in North America.
Claire Mitchell FGA DGA is a senior Gemmology and Diamond instructor for Gem-A. Entering into the UK jewellery trade in 1990, Claire joined Gem-A in 2004 as an instructor and in that time has ventured to the gemstone mines of East Africa, Brazil, Madagascar and SriLanka. Claire has taught gemmology lab classes and seminars around the world, including IJL (International Jewellery London), AGTA gem show Tucson, ASA Boca Raton and has written pieces for UK jewellery trade publications including Retail Jeweller and Jewellery Focus.
Dr. Ilaria Adamo
Ilaria Adamo is a mineralogist and gemmologist working at the Italian Gemmological Institute (IGI), Milan, Italy. She received a PhD at the University of Milan with a research focused on the use of advanced analytical techniques in gemmology. She has worked as junior researcher at the Earth Science Department of the University of Milan for ten years. She is author of many articles in gemmological and mineralogical journals.
Pre-Conference Half Day Basic Workshop
Use of Handheld Spectroscope in Testing of Gems and Colored Diamonds
May 12, 2017 – 09:00 to 12:00 OR 14:00 to 17:00
Instructor: Claire Mitchel (Gem-A)
Class Size: Max 30
Audience: For gemmologists and individuals without trade experience
The Spectroscope is a useful, portable piece of handheld gem testing equipment, which can provide diagnostic results when used correctly. From the common to the unusual, as well as diamonds, Claire will guide you through the correct techniques for successful absorption spectra observation, as well as associated problems and pitfalls. This hands-on workshop will cover a verity of handheld spectroscope models, best practises and correct illumination, using both coloured gemstones and some coloured diamonds.
Half Day Intermediate Diamond Workshop
Screening and Identification of Small and Melee Synthetic Diamonds in Jewellery
May 12, 2017 – 09:00 to 12:30 OR 13:30 to 17:00
Instructors: Branko Deljanin (CGL-GRS), George Spyromilios (IGL)
Class Size: Max 30
Audience: For gemmologists, valuers, and individuals with trade experience
This half day intermediate workshop is designed for gemologists and appraisers. You will learn to identify different types of diamonds and separate natural from synthetic loose and mounted diamonds using standard gemmological equipment.
Diamonds could be grown in laboratory (HPHT or CVD process) and synthetic diamonds could be colorless (type IIa), yellow to orange (type Ib) and blue (type IIb and type IIa).
- Theory of plastic deformation and relation to types, natural and synthetic
- Causes of color in synthetic diamonds (HPHT-grown, CVD-grown and treated)
- CPF method of type detection and instrumentation (technical instructions and set up)
- PL inspector (mini UV lamp with magnifier) – reaction of different types of loose and mounted synthetic diamonds under LW and SW UV light
- Using microscope and loupe – inclusions & zoning that identify synthetic diamonds
- Testing of melee mounted diamonds for synthetic origin, indications and limitations
Advanced Diamond Program
Grading and Identification of Coloured Diamonds (Natural and Treated)
Instructors: Branko Deljanin, B.Sc., GG, DGA, FGA, DUG (CGL-GRS), Thomas Gelb, GG, M.B.A. (NCDIA, USA)
Class Size: Max 30
Audience: For gemmologists, appraisers, and individuals with trade experience
Practical workshop with use of standard and advanced instruments in testing and grading of Natural color and Treated Coloured diamonds of all colours. Learn how GIA grades color in fancy color diamonds and what other labs are offering as alternative. What, exactly, are the graders looking at? How is the terminology organized and how does the trade value these differences? How to separate treated from natural pink diamonds using “PL Inspector “(UV lamp with magnifier) and spectroscope.
09:30 to 12:30 – Coloured Diamonds – Grading with Standard Instruments
- Causes of color in natural coloured diamonds and worldwide sources
- GIA system for grading colour of fancy diamonds, comparing to NEW CGL-GRS system
- The lighting and viewing geometry used and what graders are looking for
- Using Munsell chips (and master stones in labs) to grade coloured diamonds
- PL Inspector (mini UV lamp) – fluorescence reaction of different types of Coloured diamonds
13:30 to 17:00 – Diamond Treatments – Use of Standard and Advanced Instruments
After testing and screening with standard instruments, the diamond in question may then also be sent to an advanced lab for further testing and determination of color origin with advanced instruments.
- Color Enhancements – unstable (Coating)
- Color Enhancements – stable (irradiation, annealing, HPHT, multistep treatments)
- Testing and screening methods for treated diamonds with standard instruments
- Identification methods for treated diamonds with advanced instruments at labs
- Post treatments of HPHT-grown (irradiation) and CVD-grown diamonds (HPHT)
Practical Workshop with Natural and Treated Diamonds
- Grading Colour under Different Lighting conditions – fluorescence and LED light
- PL Inspector – how colours of fluorescence are giving indication of natural/treated origin
- Portable Polarioscope/light – screening for diamond type II diamonds
- Microscope – detection of coated coloured diamonds
- Handheld spectroscope – detection of some irradiated (pink) and heated diamonds (yellow)
- Use of advanced instruments – screening and identification with MAGI spectrometers (and MAGI instructors will demonstrate use with 50 samples of natural and treated diamonds)
- Tools to bring home – portable polarioscope/light set and PL inspector (fee applied)
Tour of Syracuse
Historical Background of Syracuse
The name Syracuse probably derives from the Greek syrakeo, a term indicating the spring of fresh water close to the city center. The foundation of the city dates back to the arrival of some Greek colonists, who after defeating the peoples of the land, began construction of the city. During the classical period, the impregnable city Syracuse fell to the Romans: the siege of the city lasted several years, during which time the famous mathematician Archimedes tried with his ingenious weapons to make a contribution to the cause of Syracuse.
The islet of Ortigia is the historical heart of the city of Syracuse. Today Ortigia lives in a brilliant reconstruction of its old charm, finding consensus in the numerous tourists who remain entranced by the rare beauty of Syracuse.
Piazza Duomo is an ancient sacred area, where from the past grandiose buildings have followed, such as the great archaic Ionic temple, the only one known from Western Greece, moreover, the Temple of Athena, in Doric style was also built. For many it was seen as the most beautiful square of Sicily. Today, the restoration gave new emphasis to the fine buildings, overlooking the Town Hall, the Palace Beneventano, The Abbey of Saint Lucia, in addition to the Bishop’s Palace and the Palazzo Borgia.
The Cathedral is the most important building of the homonymous square, built on the ruins of an ancient Greek temple that forms the backbone. The great abundance of baroque style contrasts sharply with the interior of the Cathedral. The interior of the cathedral is also decorated with many works of Gaginis marble.
The Spring of Arethusa has always fascinated visitors and remains one of the feature stages of a visit to Syracuse. Located on the waterfront under the cathedral, it is presented in a semicircular basin, in which papyri has recently been planted. Its name comes from Admiral Byzantine Maniaces, which in 1038 managed to steal Syracuse from the Arabs.
Maniace Castle was built by Frederick II of Swabia, around 1239, on the southern tip of the islet. Its name comes from Admiral Byzantine Maniaces, which in 1038 managed to steal Syracuse from the Arabs.
The Regional Gallery, placed within Palazzo Bellomo, is a structure from the Swabian period. Inside you can see sculptures and paintings of great cultural interest. In particular, on the ground floor are remarkable examples of Byzantine paintings, as well as a number of carriages. On the first floor, there is the art gallery, which exhibits paintings on canvas and wood (among them The Annunciation by Antonello da Messina and the Burial of St. Lucy by Caravaggio), cribs and ceramics.
The Archaeological Park Neopolis: built between 1952-55 includes most of the finds of the classic Greek and Roman Syracuse, unifying under one roof area of about 240,000 square meters, the remains of the ancient era. Among other distinguished architectural buildings:
- The Roman Amphitheatre from the imperial era (III – IV century AD. C.), which for its greatness was to be superior to others in Sicily.
- The Altar of Heron II was a huge altar, used in ancient times for the sacrifices offered to the gods. Its lower part is still visible, formed in the ground, while the upper part was lost during the Spanish period.
- The Greek Theatre is dated around the second century BC.
Literally dug into the rock, it was at the same time among the largest of the Greek era (diameter of 138 meters) with its lower slope (about 19 meters). After the glories of the classical period, when many of the famous tragedies were performed in Syracuse, the theater underwent significant changes during the Roman domination in an attempt to “reconvert” the structure featured in Latin motifs.
- The Ear of Dionysius is an artificial cave, resulting from an old aqueduct, more than 23 meters high.
The cave owes its name to a writing of Caravaggio, who during a hike in 1608 noticed the resemblance to a human ear. According to the legend, Dionysius used to hold prisoners of war in the cave, to overhear their talk of conspiracy: the noise amplification is indeed significant, and would have allowed them to know important information about their enemies.
The Catacombs of Vigna Cassia, of Saint Lucia and the Basilica of St. John, are three different sites where you can take guided tours of the cemetery areas. They consist of a series of tunnels dug into the rock, where men and women of the Christian faith were buried, which at that time was prohibited. Made between the third and fourth century AD, they are visible along with sarcophagi paintings, frescoes, and altars.
Cultural & Eno-gastronomic Tour
Same as Cultural Tour + Lunch and includes a visit to Historic Food Market of Ortigia
An evocative and strangely nostalgic place that you have to visit over and over again in Sicily – and get up before 7am for – is the historic food market of Ortigia, the old part of Syracuse, on the east coast. Held every morning except Sunday, it is everything one expects an Italian market to be: there is always a lot of shouting and gesticulating and wonderful (as well as less wonderful) smells. It is sells authentic produce, much of it from the region: herbs, tomatoes, ripe blood-red oranges, deep purple aubergines, bright red chilli peppers and lemons.But though it is so authentic, the place continues to reinvent itself. New types and shapes of cheeses emerge from time to time, such as a cute pig-shaped cheese, only made on special occasions, and giant colorful sandwiches.