Sunday, July 6, 2014

Behind the Scenes at Roumeloites shoot

I was given this Exclusive assignment by Commissioner Ramon Diaz in 1988 and an independent photographer to witness and document this jewelry collection for the world to see. Here are some behind the scenes at Bangco Sentral during the shoot of the jewels of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. A very tedious but amazing and historical 3 days.

The jewelry and other items all came out of trunks or suitcases. Many were in boxes and many were in zip lock bags numbered to match the Bureau of Customs list. There were women from Malacañan who were in charge of taking the pieces out, 1 photographer from PCGG and 2 VP appraisers from Christie's auction house, Russel Fogarty,  who founded the firm of Kazanjian & Fogarty, Inc. in 1991 to buy and sell important jewels, gemstones and designer creations on behalf of private clients worldwide, and Francois Curiel who is now the President of Christie's Asia.

The women would take out each numbered piece on the list in order, check them off the list, and then hand them to the appraisers. I was there with my ex-husband, Tony Pollard who took the behind the scenes shots. We were not allowed to touch the pieces at all until the appraisers were done measuring them. Only then could I photograph them.  If we didn't like the way they were set out, we had to ask one of the ladies from Malacañan to move it for us; just in case we were magicians and knew how to make things disappear!

It was really a tedious job waiting around for every piece to be matched and then appraised or listed by Christie's VP's. After three days, having shot the best of the lot, I gave up.

Some behind the scenes were photographed by Tony Pollard.

A an article abut this online at Rogue Magazine:

A large grey pearl surrounded by clear diamonds. And dangling below,
a 5 karat canary diamond framed by clear white diamonds

Tools of the trade. Jewelers loop and calipers. 16 mm pearl earring in the
That's me with the camera waiting, and waiting and waiting for them to finish with the jewels so I could finally shoot them. The appraisers, who were both VP's;  with red hair is Russel Fogarty, who founded the firm of Kazanjian & Fogarty, Inc. in 1991 to buy and sell important jewels, gemstones and designer creations on behalf of private clients worldwide, and the one far right is François Curiel, who is now president of Christie's Asia.

A beautiful exotic diamond necklace with ruby embellishments.
An emerald compact powder case. The emerald is 50 carats.

Measuring a blue sapphire and diamond earring.
Measuring barrel-shaped yellow diamond earring. The barrel diamond was 10 cts. and the heart-shaped at the clasp is 5cts.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Where are Imelda's jewels now?

THIS JUST IN: Nov. 26, 2015

PCGG declares collections intact, according to appraisers.

Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images
UPDATE: Oct. 26, 2015

This collection, the Hawaiian as well as the Malacañang collection are now being re-appraised. Here is a recent article on a new and rare find from the Hawaiian collection. Some of the pieces I photographed in 1986 are coming out in the more recent articles. Good to know they are still there.

It has been 26 years since I first took the photos of Imelda's jewels for PCGG in 1988. Still, there has been no resolution. Not only that, when they do show the jewels, I haven't seen any of the Remouliotes collection in as many years. So where are they now?

When I first took the photos in 1986, I Time and Life both wanted to publish the shots, but at that time, Imelda vehemently denied there were hers. Since then, she has sued the government to get them back. I wonder what will become of them, or what has become of them.

I recently read an article claiming that the collection was worth 8 million, including the two other collections. I don't know how this could be because this collection alone must be worth at least that much in today's market. One bracelet from Van Clef and Arpel's had a price tag of 1 million USD still attached to it.

This necklace and the yellow barrel diamonds (photo shown at bottom of page) are the only two pieces I have actually seen a photograph of Imelda wearing.

This was item 27-B on the Bureau of Customs list itemizing this collection
This is Imelda wearing the Buccelatti necklace and the yellow diamond earring which I also photographed.
This is the page of BOC list which the appraisers from Christie's auction house and myself worked from. The circled and checked pieces are my markings so that I could correlate them to the images later when I archived them so they would match up.

Piece #27B on BOC list which the appraisers and I worked from. It is described as 1 pc. yellow gold choker necklace. with one center yellow fancy cut dangling diamond approx. 15 cts, 2 small yellow diamonds approx 16 cts 2pcs. smaller yellow diamon approx 12 cts 2pcs, 4 cts 84 pcs rose cut diamonds (smaller) approx. .29 cts ea, 24 pcs rose cut diamonds ear shaped approx 18 cts, 10 pcs. round diamonds, Buccellati, Italy 18K
The jewelry was stored in trunks which contained the items in this collection.
This was a grueling photo shoot, it took place over 3 days and there were still things to be itemized. Most were not of the same value as the major pieces so I bowed out of the assignment, since I felt I had the shot the best of the lot.

Before I could handle them, I had to wait for the Malacañan staff to remove each piece from the trunk and check it against the custom's list. The item was then handed to the Christies's appraisers, of which at that time, there were two. After they looked at each piece under a jewelers loop, and measured each stone with a caliper, that is the only time I could photograph them. I could not touch the pieces at all, if I didn't like the way they were put on the table, I had to ask one of the Malacañan staff to position it for me.
Malacañan staff taking out the Buccelatti necklace and comparing it to the BOC list.

These are the yellow diamond earrings that Imelda Marcos is wearing the in the photograph above. Item 2B on the Bureau of Customs list.  The heart shaped yellow diamonds are 5 cts. each, and the barrel diamonds are 10 cts. each.

In 2000 I wrote a formal letter to PCGG requesting information on the  whereabouts of the entire collection.. They in turn sent an inquiry to the office of the Vice President, and Sec. Renato C. Corona addressed the issues and wrote back to PCGG Commissioner at the time, Jorge V Sarmiento. They sent me a stamped copy.
I have run into Imelda Marcos at various parties when in Manila, and she herself is wondering about them. She always asks if I know where they are, and my answer is always the same. I have no idea. I just took the pictures, and that was 26 years, and many lifetimes since for me. Yet, I do wish I knew what became of them.
I published a table top book of the jewels seen in this blog called "Thoroughly Imeldific", just for home and some friends. I gave her a copy, and she signed a copy for me to keep. I wonder if she still has it.
Here is an article about the 3 jewelry collections of Imelda.

In that article it says the government will ultimately auction them off. I didn't think it took 28 years to decide on something like this.

In this article it says the entire 3 collections is worth 6 million USD!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Roumeliotes Jewelry Collection

UPDATE: Nov. 26, 2015

Chronological History
On the night of February 25, 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines with his wife Imelda Marcos for the United States.  They left behind them controversy which rages to this day.  It was at this time I suppose, the government felt that documents found left behind at Malacañang were the real treasures.
That's me with the camera 26 years ago
in 1988 at Bangko Sentral de Pilipina, with
appraisers from Christie's Auction house.

Eleven days later, after the Marcos’ departure from Manila, on March 9, 1986, a certain Mr. Demetriou Roumeliotes (hence the name of the collection, much to the chagrin of that family) a Greek national, boarding a flight to Hong Kong was detained by Philippines Customs officials. They were following up an anonymous tip and said the passenger was found to be carrying 60 pieces of expensive jewelry which were addressed to Imelda Marcos. These were confiscated and taken to the Central Bank of the Philippines for safekeeping and itemization. Appraisers from Christie’s were brought in to evaluate the 60 pieces of jewelry. There are two other collections of jewelry; some were actually removed from the Marcos’ private chambers when they fled Malacañang Palace in 1986, some were removed from the plane carrying them into Honolulu.

I was asked by PCGG in 1988 to photograph and document the jewels, as an act of transparency. There was also a PCGG photographer present, and 2 VP's from Christie's Auction house, Russel Fogarty, who founded the firm of Kazanjian & Fogarty, Inc., in 1991 to buy and sell important jewels, gemstones, and designer creations on behalf of private clients worldwide and François Curiel, now President, and Chairman of Christie's Asia Pacific.

We were each given a list from BOC, containing 60 items, some of which were loose stones wrapped in paper.

"It was announced today in the news that PCGG is intending to display the entire collection of jewels seized to attract tourists, after which they will be auctioned." In the course of 26 years, I have heard this many times.

Here are some of the jewels from the Roumeliotes Collection.  You may see more of them on my original website I think you will find the pieces truly "Imeldific".

Imelda's Diamond and blue sapphire bow brooch. 7 carats of sapphires & 46.5.cts. diamonds total. Item #35 on Bureau of Customs list supplied to us to work from.

Circumstances were less than ideal. I could not handle the jewels myself. They wouldn't let me use a backdrop I brought (in case it was a magic cloth that made things disappear). I had to wait for each piece to be brought out and only after it was measured, weighed and examined by the appraiser would they then place it on the ugly table or a light blue sheet of typing paper for me to photograph. A truly tedious assignment that took three days, after which I gave up! I felt I had taken shots of the best anyway, so I bid farewell to the gems.

Item # 28B -BOC list

Several pieces in this collection were in need of repair. 
Item #28 A BOC list
Each piece was removed from a suitcase by ladies from Malacañang, the item was checked off a copy of the list from the Bureau of Customs, then handed to the appraisers. Only after they had done their work on them were they handed to me.

Diamond necklace by Buccellati- 93 carats. Diamond necklace by Italian designer Buccellati. 93 cts diamonds. Center diamond above US coin is 15 cts. Item #27b BOC inventory list.
Imelda Marcos wearing the Buccellati necklace pictured above
Item 27B- Malacañang staff comparing the Buccellati necklace to the customs list.

Christie's appraiser measuring one of the stones in a set of diamond earrings.

35 total cts. sea green emeralds, with diamonds. Item#22E PI Customs list. This piece needed a clasp.

Item#16-BOC list- The emeralds (3 cts. ea.) in these earrings from Van Cleef & Arpels were of such a rare clarity, color and quality that two appraisers from Christie’s could not set a value without further research. Diamonds droplets 3cts. each.

Emerald pendant.
Emerald compact.

South sea Pearl and diamond bracelet.

Item #5 Boc list

Emerald cabochon approx. 20 cts, with 2 cts.ruby cabochon, and diamonds in white gold. Item 22b, pg.3, customs list 

Brooch is item #25B - Necklace is #25A -Ruby necklace with diamonds, from Van Cleef & Arpels and in center: brooch of raw rubies clusters surrounded by diamonds. This piece was missing a clasp.

Item 31 BOC list. Emerald and diamond opera length necklace.

Beautiful emerald brooches.

Emerald and diamond bib type necklace. In need of repair as if worn a lot.

Ruby necklace with diamonds and gold setting.

Emerald and diamond earrings.

Emerald and diamond brooch.

Diamond brooch.
Ruby and diamond earring and ring set.

Item#14 BOC list - Yellow diamond is 10 cts.

Item #24 BOC list -Estimated at approximately just over 100 carats of yellow (canary) and pinkish diamonds of various shapes, sizes and cuts. 

Item# 36- BOC list -Ruby and Diamond bracelet with ten 5 cts. pigeon blood red rubies surrounded by smaller rubies and diamonds in yellow gold. 1.5 inches wide X 8” long Marked Van Cleef & Arpels, NY. Item# 36, page 5 PI customs list. In need of repair.
Item 30A BOC list.  Bracelet from Bulgari, 30.76 cts with a price tag still attached, 1 million USD. 
In 2010 with Imelda Marcos. Presenting Imelda with a book I made of photos of her jewelry/ She signed my copy and I signed hers. The book is called "Thoroughly Imeldific".

Item 27A- BOC list-The pieces were not housed in beautiful boxes, but taped to paper or in zip lock bags. It was rather sad to see such beautiful pieces come out of zip lock bags. 
This was me in 1988 at Bangko Sentral de Pilipinas with one of the VP's of Christies.
Photo by Tony Pollard
Photo collage. Other photos not mine are by AP and

Here are other news articles articles:

Most recent: Oct, 25, 2015
Updated: Thu, 06 Sep 2012 06:49:48 GMT | By Agence France-Presse
Philippines plans to put Imelda jewels on display
The Philippines said Thursday it planned to soon put on public display jewels seized 26 years ago from former first lady Imelda Marcos, hoping they will be a tourist draw.
Gov't plans to put Imelda jewels on display.

Marcoses not opposed to exhibit on Imelda jewelry—Bongbong Marcos

Imelda Sues to Get her diamonds back