Articles in May 2019

May 1st, 2019
Steeped in a rich history that spans more than 150 years, the 21.04-carat "Maximilian Emerald" is one of the world's most famous — and dazzling — examples of May's official birthstone.

Named for its first owner, the ill-fated Emperor of Mexico, the deep grass-green Colombian emerald was purchased by American socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1928 and later donated to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where it’s been on permanent exhibit at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals since 1964.

The stunning emerald was originally set in a ring worn by Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, an Austrian archduke, who accepted an offer by Napoleon III of France to rule Mexico in 1864. The monarch's stint as emperor was short lived, as he was overthrown and executed in 1867.

It's not clear where the ring resided for the next 61 years, but we do know it entered the collection of Post, the heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the richest women in the world, in 1928.

Twenty-one years later, Post had the emerald remounted by Cartier into its current platinum setting with six baguette-cut diamonds flanking the emerald, two baguettes adorning the shank and 18 baguettes set in the undercarriage of the ring.

Post nearly lost the emerald when she attended Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. After one of the pre-coronation parties at Buckingham Palace, Post was about to enter her car when she noticed the stone had fallen out of its setting.

“So they immediately called the palace,” Post’s granddaughter Ellen Charles told the Washington Post. “I suppose only at Buckingham Palace would they find the stone.”

And they did.

Post generously gifted the Maximilian Emerald Ring to the Smithsonian in 1964. It was one of several notable donations that included the Blue Heart Diamond, Napoleon Diamond Necklace, Marie-Louise Diadem, Post Emerald Necklace and Marie Antoinette Earrings. Post passed away in 1973 at the age of 86.

The Maximilian Emerald displays visible inclusions, which are referred to as as “jardin” (French for “garden”). These imperfections do not detract from the stone’s beauty but, instead, give each stone a unique fingerprint and distinct character.

Emerald is a member of the beryl family, and in its pure state, the mineral is clear. The beautiful green hues in the beryl family are caused when some of the aluminum atoms in the crystal are replaced by chromium and/or vanadium atoms.

Besides being the birthstone for the month of May, it’s also the official gemstone for 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Credits: Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian. Top photo digitally enhanced by SquareMoose. Maximilian I photo by Ludwig Angerer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
May 2nd, 2019
Leaves from the majestic gum tree are helping miners pinpoint high-yield gold deposits in South Australia. Marmota Energy is singing the praises of its innovative biogeochemical tree sampling program that analyzes the leaves for trace amounts of pure gold and "pathfinder" elements.

The miner explained that the roots of gum trees have the ability to draw up tiny gold particles from deep within the soil, with the gold eventually collecting in the leaves and branches. Finding precious metal in the leaves is a certain indicator of the presence of valuable gold deposits 100 feet or more below the surface.

“Marmota is very pleased to announce that assay results from the December biogeochemical sampling have identified multiple new gold drill targets based on gold [anomalies] in tree leaves," the company reported.

Marmota also noted that other metallic elements, such as antimony and bismuth, are widely considered to be significant pathfinders for gold.

The company was able to pinpoint its new drilling sites after analyzing 329 leaf samples near its Aurora Tank gold mine site in Goshawk, South Australia.

The biogeochemical tree sampling program promises to make the mining process more environmentally friendly. Marmota can save time, money and resources because the company no longer has to blindly test drill for the precious metal over vast tracts of land.

This is not the first time miners have counted on vegetation to help identify valuable resources below the ground.

In 2015, we wrote about a Florida geologist who discovered an unusual palm-like plant that flourishes in diamond-rich soil.

More specifically, the stilted, thorny Pandanus candelabrum thrives in the potassium-, phosphorous-, and magnesium-rich soil that sits above kimberlite pipes — the volcanic superhighways that deliver precious diamonds from deep within the earth to the surface.

Most of the world’s commercial diamond production is derived from kimberlite pipes and the Pandanus candelabrum plant is the world’s only botanical indicator for kimberlite. Where you find this rare plant, you’re likely to find diamonds.

Science magazine previously reported that Lychnis alpina, a small pink-flowering plant in Scandinavia, and Haumaniastrum katangense, a white-flowered shrub in central Africa, are both associated with copper. And noted that the presence of a certain type of grass native to California is a dependable sign of nickel and chromium in the soil.

Credit: Image by Mickyjim64 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
May 3rd, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, international blues troubadour Eric Bibb inspires us to keep our eyes on the mountaintop in the uplifting 2006 song, "Shine On."

The two-time Grammy nominee knows that we can do better, reach higher and strive harder. He believes that quitting is not an option and that making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process. Hard-earned wisdom is something money can't buy.

He sings, "Don't stop 'til you win your prize / Lean on all the love that is in my eyes / You're a diamond to me, yes you are / Shine on."

Penned by Bibb and Figge Bostrom, "Shine On" appeared as the third track on Bibb's studio album, Diamond Days.

In reviewing the album for, Joe Montague wrote, "There are no rough edges on Diamond Days or Eric Bibb, the blues artist behind this fabulous new CD. The man is so effortless when he plays that one has difficulty determining where the guitar stops and where Bibb begins."

Born in New York City in 1951, Bibb was immersed in music at a young age. His father was a singer in the 1960s New York folk music scene and regular guests at his home included Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, to name a few.

When young Bibb became interested in playing the guitar, it was Dylan who advised the 11-year-old to "Keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff."

Bibb went to Columbia University to pursue degrees in psychology and Russian, but left the Ivy League school after one year. Instead, he packed his bags and headed out to Paris, where he studied the best traditions of pre-war blues.

Before long, he was making a name for himself in France, the UK, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the US.

He earned two Grammy nominations for "Shakin' a Tailfeather" (1997) and "Migration Blues" (2017). In 2018, he opened for George Benson on his UK tour, and this month, Bibb and his band will be playing at venues throughout Australia.

Please check out the audio clip of Bibb performing "Shine On." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Shine On"
Written by Eric Bibb and Figge Bostrom. Performed by Eric Bibb.

Life gives you the runaround you say
You wanna know
How much dues must you pay

Well, you can pay off what you want
When there's a will
There's always a way

Keeping your eyes on
That mountain top
Stepping up time
Don't ever, ever stop

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on

I know what you've been through
I see
But it's time to leave it behind and let it be

Hard-earned wisdom is something you can't buy
It's the wings of experience
That make you fly

Don't look back
Don't look back
Don't turn around
You're on the right track

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on
Shine on
Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that's in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on
Shine on
Baby you got to shine on
That's what you're born to do
Me and you
You got to shine on
Sparkle baby

Baby you got to
Shine on

Credit: Screen capture via
May 6th, 2019
Unlike their European counterparts, the vast majority of US couples still ask for their parents' blessing prior to the marriage proposal, according to a 14-country wedding survey conducted by The Knot, WeddingWire and

The first-ever Global Wedding Report — which is based on the experiences of 20,000 couples — sought to discover the cultural differences and varying societal norms related to engagements, wedding planning and celebrations across Europe, North America, Latin America and India.

“Seeking parents’ permission ahead of [the marriage proposal] is one of the areas where we saw some of the biggest differences,” noted Lauren Goodson, Senior Director of Insights at The Knot Worldwide.

She explained that while 67% of U.S. couples will ask for parental blessings, the practice is much less common in France (14%), Spain (9%) and Italy (8%). In those European countries, it's common for the couple to make the decision to marry and then share the news with their parents.

Another interesting finding was that the tradition of popping the question, while still immensely popular in the US, Mexico and Canada, is not as prevalent elsewhere. More than 80% of couples in North America will experience a "bended knee" proposal. But, that number is only 50% in Italy, where couples are far more likely to jointly agree to take the next step in their relationships and buy the ring together.

For nearly all countries surveyed (13 out of 14), December reigned as the most popular engagement month. However, in India, couples most often report getting engaged in either February (20%) or January (13%), likely due to the preference of holding the engagement ceremony, as well as the wedding, on an auspicious or “good-luck” day.

Planning a wedding that is a true reflection of a couple’s unique love story is no easy feat, and doing so takes couples varying amounts of time around the globe, according to survey results.

Couples in Colombia, for example, report planning their wedding in just seven months — the shortest wedding planning timeline worldwide — followed by couples in India (8 months), Chile (8 months) and Peru (9 months). On the other hand, couples in the US and UK tend to have almost twice as much time for wedding planning, with engagements lasting 14 and 15 months on average, respectively.

Internationally, the most important factor determining the wedding cost is the guest count. Although the number of wedding guests varies significantly from country to country, Chile-based couples have the smallest weddings with an average of 91 guests, while couples in India, on average, welcome 524 guests (Indian weddings typically span multiple days).

Couples based in Peru, Chile and Colombia typically pay for roughly 55% of the wedding costs, while couples in other regions tend to receive more financial support from family members — especially in Spain and Italy, where they cover roughly two-thirds of the wedding expenses.

The Global Wedding Survey, which was conducted in December of 2018, provided insights from 20,000 recently married couples in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and India.

Credit: Image by
May 7th, 2019
A 75.61-carat emerald worn more than 220 years ago by Russian Empress Catherine the Great will be hitting the auction block at Christie's Geneva a week from Wednesday. The spectacular verdant gem, which was daringly smuggled to England by a James Bond-like character during the Russian Revolution, carries a pre-sale estimate of $2.3 million to $3.5 million.


Credited with revitalizing the country and making it into the world’s largest and wealthiest empire, Catherine the Great ruled Russia from 1762 until 1796. Not only was she the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, but she was arguably the most fashionable.

In his book The Jewels of the Romanovs, Stefano Papi wrote, "Catherine was one of the greatest collectors of all time, in both scale and quality. She took great pleasure in the jewels that proclaimed her power and her rank as empress. Uniquely precious and suited for imperial elegance, Catherine the Great was particularly fond of emeralds."


When Catherine wore this emerald in the late 1700s, it bore little resemblance to the gem you see today. It originally weighed 107 carats and had a rectangular shape.

After the Empress passed away in 1796, her cherished emerald was passed down to her children, and eventually to Tsar Alexander II, who gifted the stone to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin upon the marriage to his son, Grand Duke Vladimir, in 1874.

Like Catherine the Great, the Grand Duchess Vladimir was famous for a great sense of style and an impressive jewel collection, which now included the 107-carat emerald.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 would force the Duchess to quickly flee St. Petersburg to the southern Russian border town of Kislovodsk with only a few "daytime jewels and strings of pearls." All the rest of her jewels would remain behind in the palace, stowed away in a safe, concealed between her wardrobe and her dressing room.

According to Papi's book, the Duchess confided in Albert Stopford, a well-known high society Englishman in St Petersburg. Acting as an unofficial secret agent, Stopford reached the safe with the assistance of a loyal palace caretaker and, using a false identity, smuggled the jewels from Russia to Great Britain on the Duchess's behalf. The jewels were hidden in his suitcase.

After the Duchess's death, her family members were forced to sell many of the jewels to support themselves. Cartier purchased the emerald from her descendants in 1927, and 27 years later, the notable jeweler would recut the gem into the current pear shape to improve its clarity. The gem was soon purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and it remained in that famous family until 1971.

For the past 48 years, Catherine the Great's gem has been in the hands of private collectors. Next Wednesday, the fascinating emerald, which now dangles from a contemporary diamond necklace, will start a brand new chapter. And don't be surprised if Lot 269 smashes Christie's high estimate of $3.5 million.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Christie's.
May 8th, 2019
Pittsburgh-area resident Stephanie Solt captured two prizes at the finish line of last Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon — a medal for completing the grueling 26.2 mile race and a diamond engagement ring from her boyfriend, JT Mylan.

Mylan went down on one knee and popped the question just seconds after Solt turned in a time of 4 hours, 55 minutes.

With about six miles remaining in the race, Solt had seriously considered calling it quits. She was exhausted and her right knee was throbbing.

But, whatever doubts she harbored at that time were overcome by the encouragement of total strangers. Maybe, instinctively, they all knew that this race would be life changing.

“The people on the sideline kept cheering me on and calling me by the name I had on my bib," the 25-year-old told "[They were] giving me high fives and just pushing me along. It was just amazing."

Overwhelmed by their support, Solt said that she was almost in tears as she powered through the Boulevard of the Allies, the home stretch to the finish line.

As she crossed the finish line, Solt was diverted by a security guard away from the other runners and toward her boyfriend.

“And here’s JT at the finish line and I’m like ‘What are you doing here?’ He puts the medal on me and pulls out the ring and goes down on one knee, and I said 'Oh my goodness!’ I was speechless,” Solt told

Pittsburgh Public Safety posted a video of the emotional scene on its Facebook page.

Mylan, 32, said that he counted on a bunch of workout buddies to help him through the planning. One friend suggested that he pop the question at the marathon and a second friend, who was set to work security at the marathon, said he could get JT behind the finish line. A third buddy hooked him up with a photographer who would document the momentous event.

“When the universe lobs you an easy one, you might as well take it,” Mylan said.

Solt said she is ecstatic that she gets to marry her best friend. The couple is planning a spring 2022 wedding, which coincides with her graduation from physical therapy school. Mylan is a health and physical education teacher.

Credits: Screen captures via Public Safety; Pittsburgh.
May 9th, 2019
It took less than two years for the organizers of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to collect enough recycled precious metals to create 5,000 gold, silver and bronze Olympic and Paralympic medals. Among the 47,488 tons of donated material were five million cell phones.

Launched in April of 2017, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project encouraged Japanese citizens to unload their outdated mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops and games units, from which tiny amounts of precious metal could be harvested. Using the slogan, “Be better, together — for the planet and the people,” the goal was to collect 30.3 kg (66.8 lbs) of gold, 4,100 kg (9,039 lbs) of silver and 2,700 kg (5,952 lbs) of bronze. By the end of March 2019, the goal had been achieved.

The average cell phone user may not realize it, but the internal components contain valuable precious metals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that one million recycled cell phones can generate 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile carrier, placed collection boxes in each of its 2,400 stores and the results were extraordinary.

Despite being a country with virtually no precious metal mining, Japan’s “urban mine” of discarded small consumer electronics is believed to contain the equivalent of 16% of the world’s gold reserves and 22% of the world’s silver reserves.

Japan’s Olympic organizing committee is the first to create medals from 100% recycled material. At the Rio Games in 2016, by contrast, 30% of the silver and bronze medals were derived from recycled metals.

The gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018 (photo at top) ranged in weight from 586 grams (1.29 lbs) for a gold medal to 493 grams (1.09 lbs) for a bronze medal. If the gold medals were, in fact, made of pure gold — they would be worth $26,602 each.

But, the truth is that Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver. They contain just 6 grams of pure gold and 580 grams of 99.9% silver. Yes, there was a time when Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, but the last ones were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 1912.

Designs for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be released later this summer.

Credit: / Korean Culture and Information Service [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
May 10th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, music legend Charley Pride portrays a troubled and insecure husband in his amusing 1967 country hit, "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"

Pride's character tells his wife that he feels so proud when she wears her engagement ring for all the world to see, but questions why she goes out at night with the ring conspicuously missing from her left hand.

He sings, "I understand sometimes we all need time alone / But why do you always leave your ring at home?"

Pride wonders if there may be an innocent reason. Maybe the ring just doesn't fit right and the problem can be solved with a simple resizing.

He sings, "When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right / Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight? / Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?"

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" appeared as the fifth track of Pride's third studio album, The Country Way. Both the single and the album were big hits for Pride, with "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart and #3 on the Canadian country chart. The album performed even better, zooming all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Charley Frank Pride was born in 1934 in rural Sledge, Miss., one of 11 children of poor sharecroppers. When Pride was 14, he was gifted his first guitar and taught himself to play. While he enjoyed music, his first love was baseball. He dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

As an 18-year-old, that dream started to come true, as he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. A year later, he signed with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. In 1960, he pitched for the East Helena Smelterites, an unusual gig that saw him splitting time between playing baseball and working for a lead smelter.

The team's manager also recognized Pride's singing talents and offered him an opportunity to sing for 15 minutes before each game. Before long, Pride was singing in Montana clubs with a group called the Night Hawks.

His big break came when Pride's demo tape got into the hands of RCA Victor exec Chat Atkins, who offered the singer a record deal. By the mid-1970s, Pride was the best-selling RCA Records performer since Elvis Presley. Pride is credited with 40 #1 singles and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

He is still touring at the age of 85.

Please check out the video of Pride's live performance of "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"
Written by Don Robertson, John Crutchfield and Doris Ann Clement. Performed by Charley Pride.

Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Did you enjoy yourself last night dear how was the show?
You know that I don't mind it when you go
I understand sometimes we all need time alone
But why do you always leave your ring at home?

Does my ring hurt your finger when you're away from me?
I'm so proud when you wear it for all the world to see
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Credit: Photo by GREG MATHISON [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
May 13th, 2019
This past Friday marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, an epic project that spanned six years and 1,800 miles, with the Central Pacific Railroad working from west to east and the Union Pacific Railroad from east to west.

When the two railroad lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, the engineering marvel was culminated with railroad magnate Leland Stanford driving the ceremonial final spike — a glistening symbol made from 14 ounces of 17.6-karat gold.

As Stanford gently tapped the copper-alloyed spike through a pre-drilled hole in a special tie of polished California laurel, a famous telegraph announced the news in real-time: “The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”

Celebrations ensued from coast to coast.

“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian, told the Associated Press.

The Transcontinental Railroad united a nation recovering from the Civil War and laid the foundation for its growth, economic progress and improved way of life. A coast-to-coast trip that once took six months, could now be accomplished in 3 1/2 days.

The accomplishment also symbolized American ingenuity and technical achievement, which was, at the time, as spectacular as landing a man on the moon. Incidentally, the first moon landing would take place 100 years later on July 20,1969.

The idea of using a golden spike to commemorate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was the brainchild of David Hewes, a San Francisco financier and contractor.

The spike is engraved on all four sides.

One side says, "The Pacific Railroad ground broken January 8, 1863, and completed May 8, 1869." A second side says, "May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. Presented by David Hewes San Francisco." The third and fourth sides list the names of the railroad directors and officers involved in the project.

Interestingly, the date on the Stanford spike is wrong because the celebration had to be delayed two days due to bad weather. Fearing that the golden spike would be stolen if it was left in place, Stanford (who would later establish Stanford University) extracted the spike from the laurel tie and brought it back to California. Today, it resides at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

A duplicate golden spike, which was engraved later with the correct date, became the property of the Hewes family. That spike is on permanent display, along with Thomas Hill's famous painting "The Last Spike," at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Throughout this past weekend, revelers celebrated the historic meeting of the rails at Golden Spike National Historic Park northwest of Salt Lake City. Visitors came from far and near, decked out in period attire, including top hats and bonnets.

Other celebrations throughout the state included art displays, musical performances, historical exhibits, storytelling, lectures, community festivals, parades, film screenings, model train shows, historical site tours and reenactments of the golden spike ceremony.

Credits: Photo of "duplicate" golden spike by Neil916 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. "The Last Spike" painting by Thomas Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Modern reenactment photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Utah state coin by the United States Mint [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
May 14th, 2019
Actress Hilary Duff earned 1.9 million likes after revealing her stunning cushion-cut diamond engagement ring on Instagram this past Thursday. The 31-year-old star of the TV Land series Younger had just accepted a marriage proposal from singer-songwriter Matthew Koma and decided to broadcast the big news with a pair of sweet snaps for her 12 million followers.

Punctuating an Instagram caption with a red heart emoji, Duff gushed, "He asked me to be his wife." Duff's new fiancé shared the same images on his Instagram page and added the caption, "I asked my best friend to marry me... @hilaryduff."

Lacking an extreme close-up of the ring, jewelry experts interviewed by Town and Country, Pop Sugar, Bustle and Business Insider were only able to offer their best guesses about its shape, size, quality and value.

The general consensus is that the diamond is an elongated cushion cut — the popular pillow shape with rounded corners. Size estimates ranged from 3 to 4 carats. The clarity is assumed to be VS1 or higher with a G color grading. The minimalist white gold or platinum setting sports a split shank, and all these characteristics combine to put the ring's value somewhere in the range of $40,000 to $100,000.

A cavalcade of young actresses were quick to congratulate their colleague on Instagram.

Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame commented, "Awww congratulations love."

While fellow Disney alum Ashley Tisdale wrote: "OMG my fave couple."

Glee actress Lea Michele wrote, "So happy for you babe!!!

Although it's unclear when they started dating, Duff and Koma made their first red-carpet appearance together in January 2017. E! News reported that they broke up in March 2017 and reunited shortly thereafter.

Duff currently portrays Kelsey Peters on Younger, the hit series that's about to return for its sixth season. Koma, 31, is a member of the band Winnetka Bowling League.

In October 2018, Duff and Koma welcomed their first child together, Banks Violet Blair. The couple has yet to set a wedding date.

Credits: Images via Duff.
May 15th, 2019
An art deco-style emerald necklace from the collection of American socialite Helene Beaumont and a 36.57-carat near-flawless diamond shared the spotlight at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva yesterday. These top two items sold for $3.6 million and $5 million, respectively, accounting for more than 20% of the auction's total sales of $41.8 million. In all, 448 lots were offered.

As the wife of Louis Dudley Beaumont, one of the founders of the May Company department store chain, Helene was a renowned collector of fine jewelry from the most prominent design houses. The magnificent emerald necklace in yesterday's auction is believed to have been designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1935.

The front of the necklace is set with a line of 11 graduated sugarloaf cabochon emeralds, ranging in size from 3.27 carats to 18.09 carats. The necklace front may be detached and worn as a bracelet, and the two segments in the back can be combined to form a single necklace. A grading report states that the emeralds are of Colombian origin.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate for the decadent piece was $2.9 million to $3.9 million.

The second headliner from yesterday's auction was a magnificent 36.57-carat diamond ring that was put up for sale by a private collector.

The D-color round diamond displays excellent cut, polish and symmetry, according to a grading report by the Gemological Association of America. It carries a clarity rating of VVS1, but could advance to "flawless" after minor replacing, noted the report.

The impressive diamond is claw-set between tapered baguette diamond shoulders.

Sotheby's spot-on pre-sale estimate was $4.4 million to $5.4 million.

Yesterday's sale also yielded a number of surprising overachievers.

One of those pieces was a fancy intense blue diamond ring, which sold for $853,799 — more than three times the pre-sale high estimate of $250,000. Designed by Tiffany and Co., the ring features a 1.01-carat step-cut blue diamond framed by baguette diamond shoulders. The diamond earned a clarity rating of VS1.

The performance of this emerald and diamond bracelet also impressed auction watchers, as the beautiful piece designed by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $285,427, nearly six times the pre-sale high estimate of $49,640.

The bracelet is composed of clusters set with oval and circular-cut emeralds each within a frame of brilliant-cut diamonds.

Also beating the Sotheby's pre-sale high by nearly six times was a pair of turquoise and diamond earrings that sold for $136,509. Signed by Van Clef & Arpels, the earrings are set with cabochon turquoise entwined in brilliant-cut diamonds.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
May 16th, 2019
The massive 425-carat gem-quality diamond discovered in March at the Cullinan mine in South Africa has a new name and new owners. Petra Diamonds announced that it sold the D-color rough stone to Dubai-based Stargems Group and Belgium-based Choron for just under $15 million.

Before it was sold, Petra named the gem "Legacy of the Cullinan Diamond Mine" to honor its connection to one of the world's oldest and most prolific sources of majestic diamonds.

“The Cullinan Diamond Mine has produced some of the most iconic diamonds the world has ever seen and, as a key client of Petra Diamonds, we are honored to have the opportunity to polish the Legacy of the Cullian Diamond Mine,” said Shailesh Javeri, chairman of Stargems.

The 117-year-old Cullinan Diamond Mine (originally known as the Premier Mine) is credited with producing seven of the world’s largest 50 rough diamonds based on carat weight. These include the Cullinan Heritage (#27, 507 carats, 2009), Centenary (#23, 599 carats, 1986), The Golden Jubilee (#11, 755 carats, 1985) and the granddaddy of them all — the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond (#1).

Discovered in 1905, the Cullinan Diamond was segmented into nine major finished stones, each of which was given the name Cullinan and a Roman numeral. Two of the gems are part of the the British Crown Jewels — the Great Star of Africa (Cullinan I) at 530.4 carats and the Second Star of Africa (Cullinan II) at 317.4 carats.

None of the parties involved in the sale of the Legacy of the Cullinan Diamond Mine offered a prediction as to what the 425-carat diamond might yield in terms of polished gemstones. Currently, the Legacy ranks 38th on Wikipedia’s list of the Largest Rough Diamonds of All Time.

Commented Petra Chief Executive Officer Richard Duffy, "This is a significant sale for Petra Diamonds and an endorsement of the quality not only of the Legacy diamond, but also the Cullinan ore body itself, which is known for its exceptional stones."

The D-color, Type IIa diamond was mined from the Cullinan C-Cut. Type II gems are the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice.

The months of March and April were memorable for Petra as it boasted back-to-back finds that tipped the scales at 425 carats and 209 carats, respectively.

Credits: Images courtesy of Petra Diamonds.
May 17th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star Don Williams sings about how marital stress can be a good thing in his 1983 tune, "Pressure Makes Diamonds."

In the song, Williams admits that he and his wife have endured plenty of hard times over the years, but despite those pressures, their love has only gotten stronger. He compares the evolution of their relationship to the formation of diamonds deep within the Earth.

He sings, "Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone / And they only get finer as each day goes on / We've been through some bad times / But we made it somehow / 'Cause if pressure makes diamonds / Our love's a diamond by now."

(Just for the record, diamonds form under intense pressure and heat about 100 miles below the earth’s surface.)

Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers, "Pressure Makes Diamonds" appeared as the seventh track on Williams' album, Yellow Moon. The album topped out at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Over the course of a career that spanned six decades, Williams scored 17 #1 country hits. The singer’s imposing stature, paired with a soft, smooth bass-baritone voice, earned him the nickname the “Gentle Giant” of country music. In 2010, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Donald Ray Williams was born in Floydada, Texas, in 1939. After graduating from high school, Williams served two years in the U.S. Army Security Agency and then formed a folk-pop group called the Pozo-Seco Singers. The group disbanded in 1969 and Williams worked outside the music business for a short time. In 1971, he landed a songwriting job for Jack Music Inc. Soon after, he signed as a solo artist with JMI Records.

Williams stopped touring in 2016 and passed away a year later at the age of 78.

Trivia: Williams appeared as himself and played a number of songs in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

Please check out the audio track of Williams performing “Pressure Makes Diamonds.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Pressure Makes Diamonds"
Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers. Performed by Don Williams.

Well, we've had our troubles, we've had our hard times
Where some might have stumbled, we've always survived
Sometimes love weakens, when the chips are all down
But what we've got together gets stronger somehow.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Well, we know the feelin' when the world closes in
We've been there before, love, and we might go again
The road may get rocky, life may get hard
But the whole world together can't tear us apart.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now...

Credit: Screen capture via
May 21st, 2019
Debmarine announced it will be investing $468 million on the world's first-ever custom-built diamond recovery vessel. When it joins the Debmarine fleet in 2022, the new ship will have the capacity to extract 500,000 carats annually from the coastal waters off Namibia — boosting the country's annual diamond output by 35%.

Debmarine is a 50/50 joint venture between the Republic of Namibia and the De Beers Group, and each partner will contribute $234 million to the project.

The new ship, which will be the seventh in Debmarine's fleet, will comb the ocean floor at a depth of 400 feet using advanced drilling technology, supported with tracking, positioning and surveying equipment. Dredged gravel will be sifted at treatment plants onboard the ship.

Sophisticated X-ray machines and other diamond-sorting devices separate the gems from the gravel, and leftover material is returned to the sea bed. Recovered diamonds are securely sealed in containers, loaded into steel briefcases and flown by helicopter to shore.

“Some of the highest-quality diamonds in the world are found at sea, off the Namibian coast,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver. “With this investment, we will be able to optimize new technology to find and recover diamonds more efficiently and meet growing consumer demand across the globe.”

According to De Beers, 95% of the diamonds pulled from the seabed near Namibia are of gem-quality. This compares to just 20% of gem-quality diamonds coming from De Beers’s top mine in Botswana. Some experts surmise that the diamonds in the ocean have endured such a pounding for so long that only the gem-quality ones could remain intact.

Namibia has more than 3,700 square miles of marine diamond concessions along its southwest coast, which is expected to support the industry for the next 50 years. Debmarine has a license to operate off the coast of the African country until 2035 within a 2,316-square mile area.

Credit: Image courtesy of Debmarine-Namibia.
May 22nd, 2019
A Swiss gem lab used radiocarbon age-dating to affirm the 16th century origins of a 30.24-carat natural saltwater pearl once owned by a Spanish princess. It was the first time such a procedure had been conducted on a natural pearl.

The Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) used the cutting-edge science to date the historic "Ana Maria Pearl," which was worn by Ana María de Sevilla y Villanueva, XIV Marquise of Camarasa (1828-1861). The natural pearl was presumed to have been discovered during the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the 16th century. The test confirmed that the historic formation age for the natural pearl was between the 16th and mid-17th century.

"The Ana Maria Pearl is a perfect example to show how scientific analyses can add supporting evidence to a documented historical provenance of a jewel," SSEF director Michael Krzemnicki told "The SSEF offers radiocarbon age dating of pearls as a new service to our clients in collaboration with the Federal Institute of Technology. This method uses the slow decay of radiocarbon in biogenic materials (e.g. pearl) as a physical clock, by which its age can be calculated."

The carbon dating was conducted in the lead-up to the pearl's appearance at a Christie's auction in Geneva on May 15. Slightly baroque in shape, the Ana Maria Pearl is currently set as a detachable drop hanging from of an emerald brooch. The flip side of the carved brooch contains an "invisible" watch designed by Audemars Piguet in the 1960s.

Christie's Geneva estimated that the Ana Maria Pearl would sell in the range of $800,000 to $1.2 million. On auction day, the highly touted Lot 264 didn't find a buyer and was withdrawn.

Despite that disappointment, the Ana Maria has had an enormous impact on the verification process itself, Krzemnicki told

"This is especially true with natural pearls, where the origin is not clear to the naked eye, or behind the loop—or even under a microscope," he said.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
May 23rd, 2019
Eileen Korey, a former reporter, used her sleuthing skills to solve the mystery of a diamond engagement ring that unexpectedly appeared in the tray of her Subaru after a technician replaced the car's airbag.

"I literally got in the car and there was this tiny little diamond ring sitting on the tray by the cupholders," the Lake Oswego, Ore., resident told KOIN 6 News. "It looked real, beautifully set, so I took it inside thinking maybe the service technician had lost it."

The technician told Korey that it was not his ring, but described how it fell from behind the steering column while he was servicing the airbag recall.

Korey immediately called her son-in-law, who had purchased the Subaru as a used vehicle in 2015. The ring wasn't his.

Then she texted her daughter. Nope, not hers either.

The former reporter took the ring to a jeweler to determine if it was, in fact, a genuine diamond ring. Her hunch was confirmed as the jeweler placed the value at about $1,200.

Now she was determined to find the car's previous owner.

Korey dug through the glove box and learned from some sales paperwork that the car, when new, was purchased from a dealership in Beaverton. Korey called the dealer and enlisted their help to contact the Subaru's original owner.

Daniel Hannah recounted to KOIN 6 News how he got a "weird phone call from the dealership." Had someone in Hannah's family lost a diamond ring?

"They said, 'We think we know someone who found it.' So they gave me Eileen's number," Hannah explained.

Hannah picked up the ring from Korey on May 6, but decided to keep the exciting news a secret from his wife until Mother's Day, six days later. Finally, on May 12, Hannah enlisted his five-year-old son to give the long-lost ring to his mom, Ashleigh.

At first, Ashleigh was surprised that her family gave her a diamond ring for Mother's Day, but then she was overwhelmed with joy when she realized it was her original engagement ring.

Ashleigh told KOIN 6 News how devastated she was when she lost the ring in August 2014. She was riding in the passenger seat as they drove through an ATM with the windows down. She remembered flinging her arms out while telling a story and both her wedding band and engagement ring flew off her finger.

She and Daniel searched the car and the parking lot, but were able to find only the wedding band. She assumed the engagement ring would never be seen again.

Ashleigh told KOIN 6 News that the return of her ring was unbelievable. After five years and two cars "and everything [Korey] went through to find us, yeah, it's pretty incredible."

Two years ago, Ashleigh got a new bridal set — an engagement ring and wedding band that are soldered together, which makes the ring a bit bigger and harder to lose.

But, now that she has her original engagement ring back she wants to do something special with it.

"You know, maybe make a necklace out of it, like a pendant," she said.

Said Korey, "Starting with an airbag recall, an honest service technician and a little mystery that needed to be solved, that was great. Warmed my heart. It was wonderful."

Credits: Screen captures via
May 24th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Youtube sensation Vidya Vox merges Indian classical music with Western pop, hip-hop and electronica in her 2017 release, "Diamonds."

This high-energy track opens with the description of a bedazzled Indian dancer. Vox sings, "Diamonds and gold / Mehndi and bangles / So beautiful / She moves like an angel / Dance like she don't got a / Care in the world like / Eh le le le le, le le le lo."

Indian culture puts a high value on fine jewelry and gemstones, and the Chennai-born artist who immigrated with her family from India to the US at the age of eight, is impressively adorned in the opening scene of her video.

She's wearing more than a dozen gold bangles, multiple rings, a lavish necklace, diamond nose chain and a "tikka" pendant on her forehead. The term "mehndi," which is noted in the lyrics, above, refers to the art of painting elaborate patterns on the skin with henna.

Co-written by Vox and her boyfriend Shankar Tucker, "Diamonds" was published to her official YouTube channel, which currently boasts 5.8 million subscribers. The "Diamonds" video has been viewed more than 26 million times.

Born Vidya Iyer in India in 1990, Vox grew up in Virginia, but always remained connected to her Indian roots. After majoring in psychology and biomedical sciences at George Washington University, she returned to her native India for two years to study music.

Due to her popularity on YouTube, the 28-year-old vlogger, dancer and actress has earned a cross-cultural, international following. She also regularly performs as a vocalist with the Shankar Tucker Band.

Please check out the video of Vox performing "Diamonds." Featured in the video is British singer-songwriter Arjun Coomaraswamy. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

Written by Shankar Tucker and Vidya Vox. Performed by Vidya Vox.

Diamonds and gold
Mehndi and bangles
So beautiful
She moves like an angel
Dance like she don't gotta
Care in the world like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Flames reachin' high
But can't touch the fire
Catchin' her eye
Her burning desire
She know she got it
When she sing her song like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Look up at the sky
The stars never shine all alone
Tonight is the night
Take a deep breath
Let it go

Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Lost in the night
Your rhythm takes over
Flames in the eyes
Keep drawing him closer
Exotic hypnotic she knows
He's about to move up on her
She got it, she got it
God knows he can't hold back no longer
Dancing so close
The temperature's rising
She just don't know
How sexy that smile is
She knows she's got it
When she sings the song like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo.

Look up at the sky
The stars never shine all alone
Tonight is your night
Just take a deep breath
Let it go

Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo

No, no, no, no, (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Girl, you're one of a kind (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
I know you're feelin' the vibe (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Just give me tonight (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
It's the way that you smile (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Baby, I'm losin' my mind (Shining like gold)
You gotta be mine
Girl, you're one of a kind
I know you're feelin' the vibe
Just give me tonight
It's the way that you smile (Don't shine alone)
Baby, I'm losin' my mind
You gotta be mine
Girl, you're one of a kind (Shining like gold))
I know you're feelin' the vibe
Just give me tonight (Woah)
It's the way that you smile
Baby, I'm losin' my mind

Eh le le le le, le le le lo (Let it go)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo (No)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo (Let it go)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Credit: Screen capture via
May 28th, 2019
A fluffy pink fungus that thrives on gold is the latest in a series of low-impact exploration tools available to Australian miners.

Geologists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, reported that a thread-like fungus found 130 km southeast of Perth, has the ability to draw gold from the soil. What's special about the fungus, called Fusarium oxysporum, is that it uses a special chemical to dissolve the gold and another chemical to turn it back to a solid in the form of tiny nanoparticles.

A microscopic view of the fungus shows how its strands are coated in gold.

The presence of gold-rich fungi on the surface could provide valuable clues about new deposits underground. The geologists at CSIRO believe the fungi could provide a cost-effective way to find gold while reducing the impact on the environment.

Australia is the world's second largest gold producer, and while gold production reached all-time highs in 2018, forecasts show that production will decline in the near future unless new gold deposits are found.

And nature seems to be providing valuable new ways to support exploration without harming the environment.

Less than a month ago, we reported how leaves from the gum tree are helping miners pinpoint high-yield gold deposits in South Australia. Other Aussie miners are studying termites that harbor gold in their mounds. These tiny traces of gold can be linked to bigger deposits below the surface.

When comparing the fungi, CSIRO geologists noted the specimens with the most gold on their strands seemed to enjoy a biological advantage. They had the ability to grow larger and spread faster than those that didn’t interact with gold.

The geologists were surprised by the fungi's ability to synthesize gold.

"Fungi are well-known for playing an essential role in the degradation and recycling of organic material, such as leaves and bark, as well as for the cycling of other metals, including aluminium, iron, manganese and calcium," noted CSIRO lead author Dr. Tsing Bohu. "But gold is so chemically inactive that this interaction is both unusual and surprising – it had to be seen to be believed."

In the future, this gold-loving fungus might be employed not only to help pinpoint new gold deposits, but also to extract gold from sewage sludge and e-waste, such as discarded electronics.

The CSIRO gold-loving fungus findings were published in Nature Communications. The discovery was made possible thanks to collaboration among CSIRO, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and Curtin University.

Credit: Image courtesy of
May 29th, 2019
The chairman of Lucapa Diamond Company told stockholders Monday that his exploration team is closer than ever to striking the mother lode at the flagship Lulo site in Angola.

While Lulo already has a reputation for turning out large, high-quality diamonds at its alluvial deposit, chairman Miles Kennedy believes the prospect of "huge wealth" is well within reach.

“There are no silver bullets in the kimberlite exploration game...” Kennedy said. “But the patient and methodical approach adopted by our exploration team is narrowing down and confining the search areas of our quest. It may take us another couple of years, but I am more confident than ever that we can indeed find the diamond source at Lulo.”

“And while kimberlite exploration can by nature be painstakingly slow," he added, "I am equally of the view that we are closer than ever to finding the mother lode...”

The Lulo mining area, which comprises 1,100 square miles along the length of the 31-mile Cacuilo River, has already generated a series of high-quality, impressive finds. The largest to date was discovered in 2016 and named "4 de Fevereiro." The 404.20-carat rough gem was eventually sold for $16 million to luxury jeweler De Grisogono, which cut it into a flawless 163.41-carat emerald-cut diamond.

To identify and protect sizable diamonds that might otherwise be damaged in the sorting process, Lucapa installed a $3.5 million state-of-the-art XRT large-diamond recovery system in 2017. The system uses advanced X-ray transmission technology (XRT) and larger screens (55mm) so diamonds up to 1,100 carats can be cherry picked. XRT technology is also more efficient at recovering low-luminescing, ultra-pure Type IIa diamonds. Diamonds from the Lulo site typically sell for $2,000 per carat.

Lucapa has a 40% stake in the Lulo mine and holds an exploration license that runs until April 2023. The mining firm maintains two partners in the project — Empresa Nacional de Diamantes EP and Rosas & Petales.

Credits: Rough diamond images courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Company. Emerald-cut "4 de Fevereiro" image via PRNewsfoto/de GRISOGONO.

May 30th, 2019
An internally flawless bubble gum pink diamond weighing 3.44 carats was the colorful star of Christie's Hong Kong auction on Tuesday as it sold for $7.5 million, or $2.2 million per carat.

The cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond — aptly dubbed "The Bubble Gum Pink" — is set in a ring by luxury jeweler Moussaieff. The fancy vivid purplish-pink diamond is framed by small pear-shaped pink diamonds on the corners and larger marquise-cut white diamonds on the sides.

Celebrated for its superb color, The Bubble Gum Pink was classified by Christie's Chairman Francois Curiel as "probably the strongest pink I have ever seen in my 50-year life of jewelry specialty at Christie’s."

The hammer price for the auction's top lot was on the high end of Christie's pre-sale estimate of $6 million to $8 million.

Other top lots at the Magnificent Jewels event include the following:

• A pair of emerald earrings called The Grand Muzos fetched $4.5 million. The Colombian-sourced emeralds weigh 23.34 carats and 23.18 carats, respectively, and are accented by white diamonds and pearls. Each of the diamonds weighs exactly 3.01 carats and share identical F-color and VS2 clarity gradings. Christie's had estimated the pair would sell in the range of $3.8 million to $6.5 million.

• A necklace featuring 47 jadeite beads ranging in size from 9.8mm to 13.3mm and accented with a ruby and diamond clasp yielded $1.9 million, slightly below the pre-sale estimate of $2 million to $3 million. The necklace measures 22.24 inches (56.5cm) in length.

• An elaborate diamond necklace by Bulgari — highlighted by a rare 1.02-carat vivid green-blue modified brilliant-cut diamond and a modified pear brilliant-cut diamond of 11.69 carats — sold for $1.57 million. The large center diamond is internally flawless. The hammer price was just below the pre-sale estimate, which Christie's set at $1.6 million to $2.3 million.

The Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale in Hong Kong presented more than 260 lots and netted $44.4 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.