The largest collection Imperial jewels in the world (pix)

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The Crown Jewels of Iran are by far the largest and most dazzling jewel collection in the world. Not even the British crown jewels can come anything close to it's size and magnificence. So valuable is the collection that it backs the Iranian national currency as a reserve.


Modern Iran has a grand legacy of empire and monarchy reaching back several millenia. The contents of its royal treasuries have waxed and waned, according to the times. Little remains of the great treasuries of the Achaemenid or of the Sasanid dynasties, which were carried off by one conquerer or another. The current collection starts with the Safavid dynasty, and was increased substantially by Nader Shah who sacked Delhi. However, the greatest contributions to the collection were made during the Qajar dynasty, particularly by Fathali Shah and Nasseridin Shah. The latest additions were made by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was overthrown in 1979 by a popular revolution, ending 2,500 years of dynastic rule.
The Imperial Jewels are on display at the Central Bank. Call for tour hours.
Bank Markazi Iran (Central Bank of Iran), Ave Ferdowsi, Tehran (tel: 311-0100/9; fax: 311-7916).
The following items are only a small sample of the entire collection.


JEWEL-STUDDED GLOBE




Perhaps the most magnificent globe in existence, it has a total height of 110 cm. (44 inches) and a diameter of 45 cm. (18 inches) and is covered with over 51 thousand gemstones. The seas and oceans are shown with emeralds. Land masses are mostly displayed in rubies and spinels. Iran, Britain, France, and parts of South Asia are shown in diamonds. The base is constructed of wood, covered with a layer of gold. Approximately 35 kilograms (75 pounds) of pure gold is used in the globe.

According to legend, Nasseridin Shah (1848-1896) ordered the construction of the globe to help keep track of the loose gemstones in the treasury.

The largest ruby used in the globe is approximately 75 ct. The largest spinel is approximately 110 cts. The largest emerald is approximately 175 cts., the largest sapphire is approximately 34 cts, and the largest diamond is approximately 15 cts.

THE SEA OF LIGHT DIAMOND


One of the largest diamonds in the world, this pink diamond and the Koh-e Noor (Mountain of Light) diamond were both brought back from India by Nader Shah in 1739. After the death of Nader Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani took the Koh-e Noor to Afghanistan, where it passed onto Shah Shuja. He, in turn, was defeated by Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab. Eventually, it fell into the hands of the East India Company, which presented it to Queen Victoria. The Kohi Noor is now incorporated in the Queen Mother's crown. The Kohi Noor is said to bear a curse since all the male owners of the Kohi Noor suffered terrible fates.

This Darya-e Noor (Sea of Light) diamond, however, has a different story.

After Nader Shah's death, the Darya-e Noor was inherited by Shahrokh Mirza, his grandson. It then came into the possession of Alam Khan Khozeimeh, and later, Lotfoli Khan Zand, a member of Iran's Zand Dynasty.

Agha Mohammad Khan, cruel founder of Qajar dynasty, defeated the Zands, and so it came into the possession of the Qajars.

Fathali Shah Qajar had his name inscribed on one facet. Later, Nasseridin Shah Qajar believed that that this diamond was one of the gems decorating the crown of Cyrus the Great, so he often wore it on an armband. When armbands fell from royal fashion, he wore it as brooch. On occasion, the gem would be left in the care of high personages of the land, as a sign of honor, though it was eventually kept hidden in the Golestan Palace treasury museum until Mozzafaridin Shah's time, when he wore it as a hat decoration while visiting Europe in 1902.

Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, wore it as a decoration on his military hat during his coronation in 1926, and it was used in Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's coronation ceremony in 1967.

There is no doubt that the diamond was taken from the Golkandeh mines of southern India. In 1965, a Canadian team which was conducting research on the Imperial jewels concluded that this Daraye Noor may have been part of a large pink diamond which was incorporated in the throne of the Moghul emporor Shah Jehan and described in the journal of the French jeweller Tavernier in 1642, who called it the "Diamanta Grande Table" in his journal. This diamond may have been cut into two pieces; the larger part is the Sea of Light, and the smaller part of is believed to be the Noor-ol Ein diamond which is presently incorporated in a tiara in Iranian imperial jewel collection.

Including the frame, it is 7.2 cm. (2.9 in.) high and 5.3 cm. (2.1 in.) wide. It is believed to weigh between 182 to 186 cts. Fathali Shah's name is inscribed on one facet.


KIANI CROWN


The Kiani Crown was used during the Qajar dynasty. Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, had his own crown designed but the Kiani crown was present during his coronation.

The crown itself is made of red velvet which has thousands of gems set onto it. Fathali Shah is often shown in paintings wearing a similar crown - it is not known whether there were a number of crowns in use at the time which looked similar, or whether the artists simply portrayed the same crown in different ways.

The Kiani crown has about 1800 pearls sown onto it, each from 7 to 9 mm. in diameter. There are approximately 300 emeralds set on the crown, the largest of which is about 80 cts. There are also about 1800 rubies and spinels on the crown, the largest of which is 120 cts. The largest diamond is 23 cts.

The total height of the crown is 32 cm. (12.5 in.) without the aigrette, and the total width is 19.5 cm. (7.5 in.)
 

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The Royal Sword


Also known as the Shahi Sword, it was a present to Nasseridin Shah from Amin-o'Sultan, his prime minister. Before his assassination, Amin-o'Sultan served in the court of a number of Kings in that capacity. However, he wasn't as well appreciated by the common folk. Through his various posts, which included the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of the Treasury and Customs, he managed to accumulate sufficient wealth to afford such presents.

Though the picture is only of the sword's handle and hilt, the scabbard is entirely encrusted with approximately 3000 jewels of similar quality. According to an inscription which appears on the sword, it was made in 1306 (lunar calendar) by Mirza Ali Nagi. However, the sword was not presented to the King until six years later, around 1894 or 1895 AD.

This sword was worn by Mohammad Reza Shah during his coronation in 1967.

The total length of the sword is 103 cm. (3.5 ft.) Among the 3000 or so gems on this sword, one finds a 110 ct. emerald and a 100 ct. emerald slightly above it, both of which are visible in the picture. There are also many large diamonds, rubies, and spinels on the sword.


THE PAHLAVI CROWN




This crown was used by Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, in his coronation on 25 April 1926. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, also used the crown in his coronation on 26 Oct. 1967.

The crown was designed and built by a group of Iranian jewellers, under the supervision of Haj Serajeddin, the famous jeweller who had been in the employ of the Amir of Bokhara and had later emigrated from the Soviet Union to Iran. The stones were selected from loose stones in the treasury.

The crown made of red velvet, gold, and silver. It has a total height of 19.8 cm. (8 inches) and has a width of 19.8 cm. (8 inches). It weighs 2,080 grams. The are 3,380 diamonds employed on the crown, totalling 1,144 cts. The largest is a brilliant-cut yellow diamond of 60 cts. which is located in the center of the front jewel sunburst. There are also 369 perfectly-matching natural pearls in three rows on the crown. Of the 5 emeralds, totalling 200 cts., the largest is approximately 100 cts. The largest sapphire is 20 cts.

The design of the crown incorporates a motif of the Sassanid dynasty, which ruled over the Persian Empire from the 3rd through the 7th centuries AD.


Nadiri Aigrette



An aigrette is a a "spray of jewels or feathers, worn on a hat or in the hair." (Websters) The Nadiri aigrette is one of the many aigrettes in the Iranian crown jewels collections. It is 13 cm. (5 in.) tall and has a 65 ct. emerald in its center, possibly of Columbian origin.

Despite its name, the Naderi aigrette was probably not worn by Nader Shah, since there are no references to it before the Qajar dynasty.


The Noor-ol-Ain Tiara



The centerpiece of this tiara is the Noor-ol-Ain diamond, which is one of the largest pink diamonds in the world. The diamond may have been brought from India, along with the Sea of Light diamond. The diamond is set in platinum, and is surrounded by pink, clear and yellow diamonds. The Noor-ol-Ain is a brilliant cut, almost tear shaped diamond of approximately 60 cts.; the other diamonds range from 14 to 19 cts. each.

The tiara was designed by Harry Winston for the occasion of the Empress Farah's wedding to the the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, in 1958.


Farah's favorite tiara



This tiara was also designed by Harry Winston, the New York jeweller, for the occasion of the marriage of Empress Farah and Reza Shah Pahlevi in 1958. It was considered to be Farah's favorite tiara, since she was often seen wearing it on formal occasions, such as her on visit to the United States and Canada in 1965.

The lower band containing diamonds which is shaped like a heart, is built of platinum. There are two rows of yellow, pink and clear diamonds on top of it. There are seven large emeralds framed by diamonds on very top of the tiara.

The gems used in this tiara are a combination of the old and new. The brilliant-cut diamonds were probably re-cut in the 19th century from loose Indian diamonds which were in the treasury. The emeralds are probably from South America, though they were cut sometime before Nader Shah's campaign in India. The diamonds surrounding the emeralds are probably from South Africa.

The largest emerald, located in the center of the top row, is 65 cts. and the smallest ones on the ends of the row are 10 cts. each. The two largest diamonds are approximately 15 cts. each.

The Emerald Belt




This belt is woven of gold and can be seen in photographs of Nasseridin Shah Qajar from the second half of the 19th century. The belt band is 119 cm. (46 in.) and was therefore probably made for Nasseridin Shah, or his father, Mohammad Shah. It could not have been built for Fathali Shah, who was known to have a narrow waist.

The oval-shaped emerald on the beltbuckle is surrounded by diamonds, and has been estimated to be 5 cm. (2 in.) tall and weigh 175 cts. It may have been previously used as part of another decoration. Not much is known of the history of the gem, but for one reference from the court of Jahangir, the Mughul Emperor of India, dated 1616. It could have been brought to Iran following Nader Shah's conquest of Delhi.

The same belt band was used on the occasion of Reza Shah Pahlavi's coronation, but a different band was used on the occasion of the coronation of his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah.


The Empress's Crown





Once Muhammad Reza Shah placed the Pahlavi crown on his own head during his coronation ceremony in 1967, he placed this crown on the head of his wife, the Empress Farah. Until that date, the wives of Persian monarchs were not crowned, and so it became necessary to design a new crown for the occasion. That honor was bestowed on the French jewellers, Van Cleef & Arpel.

In accordance with tradition, the gems used in this crown were selected from loose gems in the treasury. The crown is made of green velvet, and white gold. It has more than 38 emeralds, 105 pearls, 34 rubies, 2 spinels, and 1,469 diamonds. The total weight of the crown is 1,481 grams. The largest emerald is located in the center of the sunburst on the front of the crown, and weighs approximately 91.32 cts. The two largest spinels are approximately 83 cts., and the largest pearl is approximately 22 mm. (0.9 in.) long.

The photograph below shows Empress Farah wearing the crown immediately after her coronation ceremony


Emerald & Diamond Necklace



This necklace is made of silver, holding diamonds and emeralds mounted in a frames of gold. Not much is known about it, except that a single document states that it belong to young lady with the high title of Ghamar-o'saltaneh. She could have been a Qajar princess, the neice of Fathali Shah, who married Nasseridin Shah and was the mother of Mozzafaredin Shah Qajar.

The largest emerald is 10 cts.


Hat decoration



While this may look like a woman's tiara, it is actually a decoration which Fathali Shah often wore on a tall black woolskin hat. It can be clearly seen on a number of minature paintings of Fathali Shah, usually holding two white egret feathers.

The gem stones on this item consist of spinels, rubies, and diamonds, mounted on gold with a silver frame. Total height: 13.5 cm. (5.5 in.) The largest diamond is 10 cts., the largest spinel is 50 cts.


The Sword of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar




This sword was a favorite of Fathali Shah Qajar, who is seen posing with it in a number of minature portraits, such as the one below. The scratches on the hilt indicate that much use was made of the sword. The blade was made by one of Persia's best swordsmiths who, along with his father, was employed by the royal court in the 17th century. There is at least one other sword among the imperial jewels which was made by the same swordsmith. The blade is made of excellent quality steel, and bears an inscription in gold to the Qajar king, dated 1213 (lunar calendar.)

The scabbard is encrusted with pearls, emeralds and gold. The spinel on the hilt is approximately 40 cts. The two spinels on the scabbard are between 20 and 25 cts.


The Naderi Throne




There are three thrones located in Tehran. The Sun Throne (also known as the Peacock Throne) and the Marble Throne both consist of a large, raised platform upon which the King would kneel.

The third throne, pictured here, is known as the Naderi throne. Chair-like thrones like this were used in ancient Iran by Achaemenid dynasty in the 5th century BC, as well as the 17th century Safavid dynasty.

Historians believe that Nader Shah, upon returning from his campaigns in India in 1739, brought nine jewelled thrones in addition to the Mughol Peacock Throne to Iran. It is further reported by Malcom (History of Persia, vol. II, p.37) that Nader Shah was so fond of the famous Peacock Throne that he had an exact duplicate made, using other gems from the treasury. However, today there is no trace of any of these thrones, and historians unanimously agree that they were destroyed after the death of Nader Shah in 1747.

The Naderi throne seen above can be taken apart into 12 separate sections. It was intended to be portable, to be carried along when the King moved to his summer residences.

The throne is constructed of wood, covered with gold, and encrusted with jewels. The history of this throne is not well known. Even its name is confusing. This particular throne has verses written on it which attribute it to Fathali Shah. Diaries written by travellers who visited Fathali Shah's court at the time also mention a throne such as this one, though the throne may have been refurbished by Nasseridin Shah. So why is it called the Naderi throne if it is not related to Nader Shah? The answer is the the term "Nader" also means "rare" or "unique" in the Persian language. Thus, this isn't Nader's Throne, rather the name refers to the fact that the throne is unique or rare.

The height of the throne is approximately 225 cm. (7.5 ft.) Among the 26,733 jewels covering the throne, there are four very large spinels on the backrest, the largest of which is 65 cts.; there are also four very large emeralds on the backrest too, the largest of which is approximately 225 cts. The largest ruby on the throne is 35 cts.

The designs which can be seen on the throne include a peacock tail on the backrest, ducks, dragons, leaves and tree branches. A rather tame-looking lion rests on the front panel of the footstool.


The Peacock Throne



During the reign of Fathali Shah and by his order, a great throne was made under the supervision of Nezamoldoleh Mohammad Hossein Khan Sadr Isfahani, the governor of Isfahan, using gold and loose stones from the treasury. As a motif of the sun, encrusted with jewels, was used on the top of the throne, it became known as the Sun Throne. The throne was later called the Peacock Throne, after Fathali Shah's marriage to Tavous Khanoum Tajodoleh who was known as Lady Peacock because her first name, Tavous, is the Persian word for a peacock.

Thus, this "Peacock Throne" has often been confused with the famous Peacock Throne of the Mughol dynasty in India, which was captured by Nader Shah during his campaigns in that country.

Some years after the death of Fathali Shah, Nasseridin Shah ordered some repairs to be made to the throne, adding some panels to it bearing calligraphic verse.

This throne was kept in the Golestan Palace until September 6th, 1980. At that date, it was relocated to the vault of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where it is on display for the benefit of the public along with the rest of the Imperial jewels.

The photograph on the left shows Nasseridin Shah sitting on the steps of the Peacock Throne. The photo to the right shows the Peacock Throne when it was in the Golestan Palace.


Royal Mace




This item is not a scepter, as many would naturally assume. Rather, it is a jewel-encrusted battle mace. It was a favorite of Fathali Shah, who is often shown holding it in his miniature portraits.

The mace is encrusted with spinels and diamonds, from end to end. It is 73 cm. (2.4 ft.) long. The largest diamond weighs 17 cts., and is located on the very top of the mace. The largest spinels are the six surrounding the top of the mace, each weighing 40 cts.

Jewelled Sphere



This jewel-encrusted ball has a secret. It has a diameter of 7.5 cm (3 in.) and does not have any openings on its surface. It was made with exquisite precision. But what is it?

When shaken, it emits a distinct rattling sound. Based on this, some have concluded that it was a plaything intended for the amusement of the King. It is shown laying the floor in three portraits of Fathali Shah.

On the otherhand, the rattling sound cound simply be due to a loose gem piece inside the sphere, so others have theorized that it is a symbol of power - but there is no history of such an item being used in that capacity.

The item wieghs 257 grams (about 10 oz.) and is made entirely of gold, diamonds, emeralds, rubies and spinels


Jewelled Dagger



This dagger, which has a traditional Iranian shape, is encrusted with spinels, emeralds and diamonds. The inscription attributes it to the reign of Fathali Shah. The total length of the item is 44 cm. (18 in.) The largest spinel is approximately 60 cts

Jewelled Flacon



Flacons of this design are visible in Persian miniatures as far back as the 15th century. Flacons like this are also seen in the various miniatures of Fathali Shah, though none look like this particular one. This was not merely a decorative item - flacons like this were actually used in the royal court on an everyday basis. The long neck suggests that this was a wine flacon. While the region of Shiraz was known for its excellent wine, it is doubtful that Fathali Shah would have permitted the consumption of alcohol in the court, as Islam forbids the consumption of spirits. Thus, the flacon could have been used for sherbet drinks.

The total height of the flacon is 46 cm. (19 in.) and it is 15.4 cm. (6 in.) wide. Two of the largest emeralds on the flacon are approximately 45 cts. each, and the largest spinel is 35 cts.

Ruby Dagger



Not much is known about this golden dagger, which is encrusted in rubies. The total length of the dagger is 57 cm. (23 in.) and the largest rubies are approximately 10 cts.


Dish Cover



Since the royal kitchens were far removed from the royal dining room, dish covers were needed to keep the bowls of food warm, and to make sure no one put poison in the King's food. The particular dish cover seen in this picture is only one of the many jewel-studded dish covers in the treasury. They are all shaped the same, with a broad lip that covered the dish, and a dome-shaped center which acted as a handle. The dish cover is made of solid gold. Eight pearls surrounding a diamond decorate the very top of the dish cover. The rest of item is studded with emeralds, spinels, diamonds and rubies.

The diameter of the dish cover is 19 cm. (7.5 in.) and its height is 10 cm. (4 in.) The largest four rubies are 12 cts. each, the largest emerald is 30 cts., and the largest spinel is 25 cts.


Diamond & Platinum Necklace



On the occassion of Mohammad Reza Shah's marriage in 1935, a commission of Iranian and French jewellers was bestowed the honor of designing jewellery to mark the auspicious occasion. This platinum and diamond necklace was made for the Queen Mother.

There are a total of 469 diamonds on the necklace, including the 9 briolette-cut diamond drops. They range from 10 to 35 cts., and the center diamond is 45 cts.


Nader Shah's Sword



This, according to legend, is Nader Shah's "All Conquering Sword" though the inscription on the blade attributes it to Fathali Shah. The sword is not visible in any of the portraits of Fathali Shah. There is however, a mural in the Marble Room of the Golestan Palace which shows Mohammad Shah Qajar, the successor to Fathali Shah, wearing the sword while on horseback.

Both sides of the handle and hilt are covered in diamonds. Only one side of the scabbard is covered with diamonds. The length of the sword is 100 cm. (3.2 ft.) and the largest of the 850 large diamonds on the sword is 20 cts.

The reverse side of the sword and scabbard shows a picture of the Shah on the hilt along with a few lines of verse, and the pictures of two of his 50 sons.


Turquoise Swords and Epaulets



High quality turqouise is mined in eastern provinces of Iran, so it would naturally adorn many items in the treasury.

The short sword on the top has a black horn handle. The scabbard is made of purple velvet and is decorated with gold plates, surrounded with rubies and studded with turquoise. It also bears has spinels, diamonds and onyx stones. The total length of the dagger is 61 cm. (2 ft.) It was purchased by Nasseridin Shah from Mohammad Bagher.

The epaulets in the middle are made of wood, covered with red velvet, and gold plates. The calligraphic verse in turquoise states Al-Sultan Ali Ibn Mousa Al-Reza. These epaulets were probably left from the reign of Nasseridin Shah.

The steel blade of the long sword on the bottom was probably made in the northeastern regions of Iran around the 17th century. The gold handle is covered with ivory and was also probably made at that time. The scabbard is of gold, encrusted with turquoise, rubies, emeralds and spinels. The total length of the sword is 98 cm. (3.3 ft.)


Nader Shah's Shield



Nader Shah carried this shield into battle during this campaigns in India. It is assumed that the gems were added to it at a later date in his honor. His bow, which is still in the Golestan palace, bears no adornments other than a layer of varnish.

The shield is supposedly made of rhinoceros hide, and has a diameter of 46 cm. (18 in.). It is covered with spinels, emeralds, diamonds, and rubies. Even the edge of the shield, which is not visible in the picture, is studded with emeralds. The center spinel is one of the largest in the world, weighing 225 cts. The four emeralds surrounding the center spinel cover screw holes that attach straps to the back of the shield, allowing the Shah to securely hold it during battle.

The largest emerald on the shield weighs 140 cts. Most of the diamonds range from 6 to 8 cts.


Coffe cup holders



Drinking coffee was more popular in old Iran than it is today. According to accounts by an Englishman who travelled to Iran over 200 years ago, coffee beans were imported to Iran from Arabia, and strong coffee was served hot, sweet and black in small round-bottomed cups made of china or glass after meals. The cups were held in coffee cup holders such as the ones pictured here, which are part of a set of 12. They are made of white gold, covered with a layer of yellow gold, and studded with turquoise stones. Each one is approximately 5.5 cm. (2.2 in.)


Diamond & Ruby Aigrette



This aigrette is made of solid gold and studded with diamonds. Around the center sunburst, the words "Al-Sultan Ibn-Sultan Fath-Ali Shah Qajar" appear in rubies. The word Qajar is misspelled, suggesting that the jeweller who designed the piece did not have an adequate grasp of Farsi, the Persian language. Thus, it is believed that this is one of three aigrettes presented by Russia's Czar Alexander I to Fathali Shah in 1817. The total height of the aigrette is 20.5 cm. (8 in.) and the largest diamond is 12 cts.


Water Decanter and Basin



This water decanter and basin were used to wash the hands of the Shah and his guests prior to and after meals. According to accounts by 17th and 18th century French and English travellers, the water was usually warm and scented with rosewater. One servant would pour the water over the diner's hands by tilting the decanter, while another servant held the basin beneath his hands to catch the water. The custom was common throughout the country and among all classes, so a basin and water decanter could be found in practically every household. Of course, few would have been as ornate. This particular water decanter and basin were carried by the Shah's entourage, along with his slippers, his sword, mace and staff, his waterpipe and his tobacco humidifier.

The basin is 10.5 cm. (4.5 in.) high, 29.5 cm. (12 in.) in diameter, and weighs 1870 grams (4.5 lbs.) It is made of solid gold, decorated with enamel and emeralds. The top of the basin is made like a sieve, designed to prevent any water from splashing out. The largest emerald on the basin is 25 cts.

The decanter is 42.5 cm. (17 in.) high and weighs 4224 grams (9.5 lbs.) and is also made of solid gold. It is encrusted with emeralds, rubies, pearls, and spinels. The largest ruby (which is not visible in the picture) is 22 cts. and the largest emerald is 30 cts.
 
Nov 29, 2002
7,295
417
#6
Yeah ive seen all of them, they're in the central bankeh melli branch in iran. The globe is really something, the pictures dont convey how amazing the globe actually is.

But all I have to say, is that if one could guess how many more priceless artefacts have gone "missing" over the years.... This collection is only a small fraction of what it should be (but it still is absolutely amazing, mark my words!)
 

Bauvafa

Bench Warmer
Oct 26, 2004
1,987
0
#8
thanx for sharing the pics while magnificant and a national treasure, one can't to help but notice that while most average Iranian citizen suffered greatly in his/her daily life, kings/monarchs spent plenty of time & money glorofying themselves.

I personally wish we could trade all that for a well educated, productive, progressive masses of people; a society as a whole not only a small group of "az-ma-behtaroon".
 

Bijan

Bench Warmer
Apr 18, 2004
667
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#10
Bauvafa: thank you for your vision, which I absolutely share! The only way to success, independance and glory for Iran is to have an open-minded, well educated and aware society.
 

Bauvafa

Bench Warmer
Oct 26, 2004
1,987
0
#12
thanx Bijan jan. I really beleive in that; that's the only way to the future, to invest in people (don't mean free meal!!!), all the people.