Dr. Christopher W. Hartnett does everything in a big way. From pioneering a multi-million dollar company offering world-class gems for investors, International Gemstone Partners LLP, to forming USA Global Link, a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company, his vision is always global.
Recently I spent a fascinating afternoon enjoying a private showing of Dr. Hartnett’s exceptional world-class treasures from the vault as he traced his professional history.
“My original - and lifelong - gem mentor was Leo Boyajian (not to be confused with Bill Boyajian of GIA fame). He taught me everything about gems and the trade. Fresh out of graduate school in 1978 I bought $25,000 of wholesale gems from Leo and shopped them around the top retailers in my native Chicago. Disappointed because I made only a small profit on the entire parcel, I confronted Leo. ‘Some of the dealers didn’t like the gems,’ I protested. ‘The clarity, the cut, the color, was all wrong.’ Leo responded, ‘So now you know about clarity and cut and color. Which retailers did you go to?’ I mentioned all the top stores. ‘So now you know all the top clients in Chicago.’ Leo then gave me $50,000 of wholesale gems on memo. My career - and gem education - had begun.
“I went on to receive a Graduate Gemologist degree from GIA (Gemological Institute of America). Leo and I attended the Tucson Gem Show together for over 15 years. I’ve traveled the world extensively collecting gems from Sri Lanka, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Malaysia and India to Brazil, Madagascar and top cutting centers like Idar Oberstein in Germany. I was part of the original group of gem dealers who helped form the AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) in Tucson in 1981.”
“In 1980 Leo and I visited a restaurant in Naples FL. I spotted former President Richard Nixon across the room, introduced myself and shook his hand. ‘You really should meet Leo Boyajian,’ I told the President. ‘One of the top international gem dealers.’ The two shook hands. For years afterwards whenever Leo and I would travel together around the world Leo would praise me. ‘Chris introduced me to the President of the United States!’
“In 1981 Leo showed me a beautiful gem, a 55 carat morganite, pink beryl or pink emerald.” Morganite, a beautiful rose pink colored beryl, is also called “pink emerald.” (In the mineral trade pink emerald is known by the mineral names pink beryllium-aluminum silicate, pink beryl, rosterite, vorobievite, worobieffite and most commonly called morganite.) It’s currently enjoying great popularity in the market. “‘This is the best morganite I’ve ever seen,’ Leo effused. He offered it to me for $250 a carat. ‘That’s pretty steep’ I replied. I was not familiar with the gem and the price seemed high. Leo wouldn’t budge. However my meeting with morganite struck a chord. Collecting the gem has become a lifelong passion. I now have one of the largest collections - if not the largest collection - of rare, top morganites in the world. I’ve led the way in the market for referring to this beautiful gem as ‘pink emerald’ to highlight its precious rarity and connection with green emeralds.” (www.pinkemerald.com)
“Throughout the next 25 years Leo would try to sell me his original morganite - always at the same price - $250 a carat. He wouldn’t budge. Neither would I. It became a running good-natured contest between student and master.”
“In 1979 I decided to form a limited partnership of private investors, provide them with one-of-a-kind world-class gems, let them appreciate in value and sell them later at a profit. My father, William F. Hartnett, Jr., a large-scale commercial real estate developer in Chicago, New York and elsewhere (his crown jewel is Lake Point Tower in Chicago) suggested we contact a leading authority on gems to certify their quality.
“We called Dr. Paul Desautels, the Head Curator of the Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian Institute. After finding out my dad and he were in the Navy at the same time, we hired Paul to come to Chicago as our partnership gemologist. At the same time, through our other gemstone wholesale company, International Gemstone Corporation, Inc., we supplied commercial gemstones to some of the nation’s top retailers including JC Penney, Sears and Montgomery Ward who were also headquartered in Chicago.”
After a parallel career as a floor trader with a seat on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, in 1992 Chris founded USA Global Link, a billion dollar telecommunications company. He was rubbing elbows with the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Dell. In 2001 he sold the company.
“In 2005 I discovered Leo was not well.” Chris continues the saga. “At age 95 he was nearing the end. We attended a wedding together with a number of other gem dealers, he at one end of the table, I at the other. ‘Are you going to buy that morganite of mine?’ Leo prodded across the table. At this point I had probably one of the largest collections of morganite in the world. ‘How much?’ ‘$250 a carat.’ I paused and replied, ‘I won’t buy it for $250 a carat. I’ll buy it for $500 a carat.’ You could hear a pin drop. Leo was stunned. ‘Why would you offer to buy it at twice the price?’ ‘For everything you’ve taught me, for the value of our relationship, this doesn’t come close to what I’ve gained.’ I sent him the check, which he cashed. Two weeks later Leo passed on. That was his last gem transaction. The gemstone industry lost one of the greatest crown jewels that day. Leo is greatly missed by all who had the joy and pleasure of knowing him.”
With his wife Linda of 34 years, Chris currently lives in scenic Blowing Rock, NC. He has three beautiful, accomplished grown daughters and three grandchildren. He makes his private reserve collection available to select clients in locations around the world including Geneva, Dubai, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Chris takes a philosophical perspective on his impressive accomplishments. “I don’t define myself by what I have, what I’ve created or what I’ve accomplished. I define myself by how happy I am at this moment and how happy I can make other people. That’s really the wealth I think everyone should aspire to.” By his own standard Chris is wealthy indeed.