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Now the owner of Two Skies store on the Royal Mile says he “can’t believe” his luck after scoring a haul of very rare stones at his first ever auction, including a precious Scottish national gemstone.
The dad-of-one who started out selling his wares from a wheelbarrow before opening the store was surprised he had won after other gems were snapped up with some fetching up to £5000.
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He left Bonhams with 2 kilograms of uncut gems including a Scottish sapphire from the Isle of Lewis, where he hails from, along with a 1 kilogram piece of Scapolite from Shetland - one of the rarest gems in the world.
The 44-year-old who was taught to dig for precious stones by Native American tribes while travelling the world as a folk singer, says his lot of uncut gems were found up to 40 years ago in areas that are now protected or SSSI – so they can never be mined again for commercial purposes.
He has acquired Scotland’s national gemstone, a Scottish Cairngorm from Beinn a' Bhùird, which are now a protected national park though used to be the centre of a gem boom where teams of diggers went up in the late 1800 early 1900 in search of treasure. Some even found stones that made their way into the crown jewels.
Mr McIntosh said: “I almost didn’t go to the auction. I can’t believe my luck that I left with 2kilos of uncut precious gems. The cutting of the Cairngorm will take a lot of time and skill but could make over 100 gemstones. Most people don’t even know we’ve got a national gemstone. It’s really special.”
"I didn’t think I stood a chance as there was huge interest in the other cut gems. At first I didn’t realise I had won the uncut lot as I had never been to an auction before. I had no idea what my bidder number was so it wasn’t until after the auction was over that I found I had won.
“I have always had a fascination with Scottish sapphires, after I tracked one down for my wife’s engagement ring. But I never dreamed of acquiring any more - especially not a rough crystal.
“The sapphire I have has several carats. At £4000 per carat, it will produce at least £10,000 worth of gems! It was unbelievably lucky really, because until you open up the rock you just don't know what lies inside.”
Two Skies will work with experts over the next few months to cut the new collection and set it into hand panned Scottish gold to make engagement rings.
The company started 20 years ago from an unlicensed market stall on Edinburgh' s royal mile. It now supplies over 200 outlets worldwide including the national trust and the British museums.
The name originates from a native american tribe called the Mi'kmaq, whose chief called him Two skies. Mr McIntosh said: “He said that I will always have a sky looking over me as I travelled while always having a sky in Scotland. That stayed with me.”