« AnteriorContinuar »
another engraved with the head of Louis XIV. The value of the emerald has, however, like that of the topaz, been diminished by the quantity which is procured from time to time. They are sometimes found of the size of r hen's egg, and the following is their ordinary price :4 grains,
18 dollars 8
· 1000 The aquamarine, another stone which is well known, is generally of a pure, pale sky-blue, though varying from this color to a sea-green. For. merly, it appears to have been used by the Romans as ornaments for cups and cameos. The zircon, another jewel now in use, is sometimes employed in jewellery, both for ornamenting snuff-boxes, and also for watches in supporting fine balances. The hyacinth, which is red, sometimes hav. ing a tinge of yellow, or yellowish brown, is of the same genus. A carat of zircon is said to be worth from fifteen to twenty dollars. The garnet, which is of inferior value to the highest prized gems, is familiar to all as being employed extensively in the setting of more precious stones. Their value of course depends, like the other species of gems, upon their purity and size; yet they are frequently sold by weight, and are purchased at from eight to ten dollars per pound. The rock crystal, which is produced largely in this country, is of comparatively small value, but is used pretty extensively in the manufacture of the cheaper kinds of jewellery.
The amethyst, a gem which has been distinguished from the earliest ages, does not possess the highest value. Those which are pure and well cut are often sold for from three to five dollars by the carat, increasing in proportion. It is, however, employed in engraving, and the Royal Library in Paris contains several specimens of sculpture in this stone. The most valued amethysts which are employed in commerce are those which are brought from Ceylon, Siberia, and Brazil. We pass over the different species of quartz, and the jasper, and come to a consideration of the car. nelian. This gem often occurs massive or in pebbles, and is blood-red, marked with white stripes. It is found in Siberia, India, Arabia, Nubia, Surinam, Oberstein in Germany, the Tyrol, and valuable specimens are also found in the states of Massachusetts and Missouri, and especially upon the shores of Lake Superior. It is well known to be extensively used in the manufacture of jewellery, and especially in that of seals, although its value, compared with that of the most precious gems, is inconsiderable
The heliotrope, or bloodstone, has been long prized for its beauty, the value depending upon the color and quantity of red spots contained in it. During the middle ages, this gem was reverenced by the more unenlightened por. tion of the people, who supposed that the blood of Christ was diffused through the stone. The agate, a stone which is extensively used in jew. ellery, is of various sorts, and is found in considerable quantity in the United States, particularly in that primitive region along the borders of Lake Superior.' It is composed of a mixture of different species of quartz, and exhibits various and beautiful forms, presenting not only stripes but concentric circles. In the Vatican Museum at Rome is an agate in the cameo form, representing Augustus. Italy and France contain several splendid specimens of this gem. The chrysoprase, a greenish gem, used
for jewellery and other ornamental purposes, is of considerable value ; a good seal or ring-stone being worth from twenty-five to thirty doilars. The price was, for a time, diminished, until the mines containing it were covered up, for the purpose of again increasing its value.
The opal, a gem which consists of several species, among which the most valuable is the precious opal, is used to a considerable extent in jew. ellery. A large opal of this sort, playing in the red color, was formerly sold for two or three hundred ducats. In our own country, however, the precious opals are sold by the importers at from four to ten dollars per carat, and those specimens that are suitable for rings will generally produce in market from two to twenty dollars. The other species, though of less value, are worked into ornaments of various kinds. The lapis lazuli, a species of gem which is well known as an ornament of jewellery, derives its name from the Persian language, and is defined blue color, from the color of the stone. It is stated that in the palace which Catharine II. erected for : her favorite Orloff, at St. Petersburgh, some of the apartments are entirely lined with this stone. The turquoise, a gem of sky-blue color, well known in the saloon, was originally brought into market from Turkey, and of late years its price has much decreased. An oriental turquoise is much more precious than an occidental, and one of the size of a pea is said to be worth five dollars, although varying in value, of course, according to its quality. There are many imitations of this gem which are apt to deceive the careless observer. Another gem which has received the attention of naturalists, and now forming a valuable ornament, is the amber, which is described in Homer as being worn by the women in the Trojan war. It was known to the commerce of ancient times. We have ample evidence that the Pheni. cians sailed to the Baltic for the purpose of obtaining this gem, which they wrought into various species of ornaments, and sold them to the Greeks. It was formerly thought that this was a mineral, but it has since been satis. factorily proved, from certain chemical indications, that it is a gum resin, and is formed of the juice of the amber tree, which is now extinct. This substance is discovered thrown up by the sea, and is found in alluvial deposits of sand or gravel near its shores. It is stated that amber has becn found at Cape Sable, in Maryland, near Trenton, and at Camden; as well as at Martha's Vineyard, Gay-head, and Nantucket. Extensive mines of this substance exist in Prussia, which are worked like other mines. The price of this gem has recently become somewhat diminished, a pure specimen of one pound being sometimes sold for forty dollars, and large quantities are exported from East Prussia to Armenia and Turkey. The jet is a gem which was formerly much employed in jewellery, but its use appears to be now relinquished. The manufacture of ornaments from this gem was carried on to a great extent in France in 1786, and the depart. ment de l'Aube formerly employed about twelve hundred workmen; but it has been in a great measure superseded by the black enamel.
The pearl, which forms so valuable an article of commerce, may be considered as much an animal as a mineral substance, being produced in the shell of the mother-of-pearl, and also in the oyster. The mother-of-pearl fish is found in the East and West Indies, and in the rivers of north and middle Europe. The most costly are the oriental, which are taken from the Persian Gulf, and are remarkable for their whiteness. Sometimes the pearl-divers in the East Indies descend from their barks with a rope around their bodies, and a stone, of from one to twenty pounds weight, attached to
their feet, holding a net and a sponge covered with oil, from which to draw their breath. When a sufficient number of pearl shells are obtained, they are exposed in heaps to the rain and sun, until the animal decays, when from eight to twelve pearls are picked out from each of the shells. Pearls are frequently sold by weight, but the price has been recently diminished, not only from the manufacture of those which are artificial, but also from the more general use of diamonds among the opulent. We had intended to enter into a particular account of the coral, both the red or precious, and the white; but our limits warn us to close this brief notice of the several species of the most prominent gems.
The limited condition of private fortune in our own country does not ad. mit of large investments in these articles of commerce, which after all are but of little practical utility, and are valued chiefly so far as they minister to the taste and pride of men. In the older monarchies of Europe and the eastern empires, where the laws of primogeniture and succession prevail, it would indeed be extraordinary if these visible badges of regal pomp were not collected as the insignia of the sovereign power. The republican simplicity of our own government has granted no encouragement to their dis. play. There are but a few very valuable gems owned by private individu. als in the country; and, if we mistake not, the only set of brilliants which can be considered very precious, are now in the possession of a lady of Bal. timore, and were presented to her by one of the family of Napoleon. Some of the richest specimens may be found in the public institutions of the country. Yet it is not by any means clear that future geological develop. ments may not bring to light mines of gems which may rival the mineral treasures of that region
“Where the gorgeous east, with richest hand,
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold." Every year new discoveries are made of the wealth that is con. tained in our soil, and not only are new veins. of the baser metals, such as iron, lead, and coal, annullay laid open, but even yellow gold sometimes meets our eyes, like glimpses of sunshine in these dark times, coined into American eagles in the mint of the United States, from that precious metal, dug from the hills of North Carolina, and which was not supposed, a few years since, even to exist in the soil of the country. Who can say but that mines of the most precious gems may be discovered in future time, which will swell to a greater amount the resources of its present wealth?
Art. V.-BROWNE'S BANKING AND MERCANTILE TABLES.
The tables, or rather machine, bearing the above title, appear to have been arranged with great care and ingenuity, by D. J. Browne, Esq., a gentleman whose indefatigable perseverance and remarkable accuracy in reference to numerical calculations, cannot be too highly appreciated. The machine in question indicates at sight, with rigid accuracy, by a simple
rotary movement of an index, the interest on all the decimal numbers, from 10 cents up to 1000 dollars, pounds, or francs, at 6 and 7 per cent, from 1 day to 30 days inclusive, and from 1 month to 12 months inclusive, and 64 days, predicated on 365 days or 12 months to a year. It shows at one view the interest at 1 and 5 per cent, and the true discount at 6 and seven per cent, on 1000 dollars, pounds, or francs; from which, by a very short and easy operation, the interest can be calculated for any sum, at any rate per cent, as well as the discount at 6 and 7 per cent, for the same periods of time as named above. It also shows at one view the amount of 1 dol. lar, pound, or franc, at 5, 6, and 7 per cent, for days, months, and years, from which the compound interest of any sum may be readily calculated. There are tables, also, that indicate the time and several rates per cent, at which simple and compound interest double; the par of exchange at New York, exchange on London, usance, days of grace, &c. They con. tain a banking table, and a counting-house almanac, calculated for 101 years, showing at sight the days of the week, and months in each year, without alteration. And lastly, they contain useful tables for calculating exchange on England and France, with copious explanations, &c.
These tables, independently of being useful, and we must needs say, al. most indispensable to every business man, will prove invaluable to brokers, bankers, and all others interested in stocks.
While on this subject, we can but advert to our USURY LAWS as they exist, and the influence they have upon no small share of the mercantile com. munity.
It was formerly universally believed, that in the event of all legislative enactments fixing and regulating the rate of interest being repealed, its in. crease or diminution would depend entirely on the comparative scarcity or abundance of money; or, in other words, that the rate of interest would rise as money became scarce, and fall as it became plentiful. Yet, singular as it may appear, this theory is incorrect, and contradicts the most obvious principles, and has been repeatedly condemned by the ablest legislators of
It is foreign to our present purpose to enter into any detailed examination of the causes which tend to elevate or depress the rate of profit, or to go into any lengthened arguments to show the inexpediency and mischievous effects of legislative interferences. But whatever diversity of opinion may be entertained respecting them, it is abundantly evident, that the rate of in. terest afforded for the use of borrowed capital, must be in proportion to the profits which might be derived from its employment. In the United States, the market rate of interest varies from five to fifteen, or even twenty per cent; and in Holland, previous to the French revolution in 1794, it did not exceed two or three per cent. The immense extent of fertile and uncultivated land in our country, the lowness of taxation, and the absence of all restrictive regulations, naturally occasion high profits, and consequently high interest; while the sterility and limited extent of the soil of Holland the excessive load of taxes, imposed usually upon necessaries and luxuries, and the injudicious restraints put upon various branches of commerce, by rendering it impossible to derive large returns from capital, proportion. ally sink the rate of interest. Had the soil of Holland been as fertile, and taxation as light as in the United States, profits and interest, notwithstand. ing the abundant supply of capital, would have been equally high in one coun. try as in the other.
Instead, however, of leaving the rate of interest to be regulated by the unrestrained competition of the borrowers and lenders, the governments of most countries have interfered, either to prohibit the taking of interest altogether, or to fix certain rates which it was declared legal to exact; at the same time, any excess over these rates was declared to be usury, and prohibited under the severest penalties. But so far from succeeding in their object, they have had a precisely opposite effect. Should a borrower find it for his advantage to offer eight, nine, or ten per cent for a loan, what right has the legislature to interfere, and to prohibit the lender from receiving and the borrower from paying more than six or seven per cent ? Such an interference is not only uncalled for and unnecessary, but it is in the highest degree prejudicial. Restrictive laws, instead of reducing, have uniformly contributed to increase the rate of interest.
It is evident that no law can be so framed as to prevent a borrower from offering a higher rate of interest than what is fixed by statute ; and if the lender had implicit confidence in the security and solvency of the borrower, he might accommodate him with the sum wanted without requiring any ad. ditional interest or premium of insurance, on account of the danger of enter. ing into what the law declares to be an illegal transaction. The only effect produced by the laws, has been to oblige the lender to demand, and the borrower to bind himself to pay, a higher rate of interest than would have otherwise been required. A bargain for more than the legal rate of interest being declared illegal, the lender is thus exposed to an additional risk. As for example, a man in distress for money pays more interest, owing to the usury laws, than he would if no such laws existed; because now he is obliged to go to some of the usurious money-lenders to borrow, as he knows that the reputable money-lender will not break the laws of his country. The disreputable lender knows that he has the ordinary risk of his debtor to incur in lending his money, and that he has further to encounter the penalty of the law, for both of which risks the borrower must pay; for no person of sound mind would lend on the personal security of an individual of doubtful character and solvency, or where there would be any risk, at the same rate of interest. Wherever there is risk, it must be compensated to the lender by a higher premium or interest. If no usury laws existed, in common cases, and where a person is unexceptionable, he might obtain a loan from the reputable money-lender, who would then only have to calculate his ordinary risk, and the compensation for the use of his money.
There is not, however, any difficulty in evading the laws, for the mutual interest and ingenuity, both of borrowers and lenders, have always proved an overmatch for their enactment. A method often resorted to for this purpose, is to give a bonus before completing the transaction, or, which is the same thing, to frame the obligation for the debt for a larger sum than was actually advanced by the lender. None of the parties particularly interested, can be called to swear to the fact of such a bonus being given; so that the transaction is unimpeachable, unless a third party, who was privy to the settling of the affair, can be produced as a witness.
These laws have done nothing but fetter the transfer of stocks, and force the borrowers to pay a higher rate of interest for it. What might have been borrowed at six or seven per cent, had there been no risk from antiusurious statutes, is, on account of that risk, raised perhaps to eight, ten, or even fifteen per cent; and what is still worse, a contempt and disregard for the institutions of society, and a habit of carrying on business in a secret