Articles in December 2020

December 1st, 2020
A Maasai folktale imagines how tanzanite came to be. Once upon a time, the story goes, lightning struck the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, scorching the land, and in the aftermath, a spectacular blue crystal was left shimmering in the ashes.

In 1967, a Maasai tribesman named Jumanne Ngoma is credited with discovering the shockingly beautiful bluish-violet gems that, at first glance, appeared to be sapphires. Gemologists would later confirm that Ngoma's find was a totally unique variation of zoisite.

Samples of the mesmerizing mineral quickly caught the attention of Tiffany & Co., which launched a campaign to market the gems as “tanzanite” to honor its country of origin and the only place on earth where tanzanite can be found. (The name "blue zoisite" was panned by the Tiffany marketing team because it sounded too much like "blue suicide.")

In 2002, tanzanite became one of the official birthstones for December, sharing that distinction with turquoise and zircon.

In 2017, tanzanite celebrated its 50th anniversary. Once a mineral oddity, tanzanite has evolved into one of the most desirable gemstone varieties — thanks to the efforts of Tiffany and the rest of the jewelry industry. Tiffany’s marketing clout helped earned tanzanite the noble title of “gem of the 20th century.”

Tanzanite is said to be 1,000 times more rare than diamonds due the fact that tanzanite is mined in only one location on earth. The area measures 2km wide by 4km long and the remaining lifespan of the mine is said to be fewer than 30 years.

Tanzanite’s color is an intoxicating mix of blue and purple, unlike any other gemstone. The mineral comes in a wide range of hues, from light blues or lilacs, to deep indigos and violets. The most valuable tanzanite gemstones display a deep sapphire blue color with highlights of intense violet. The Smithsonian’s website explains that tanzanite exhibits the optical phenomenon of pleochroism, appearing intense blue, violet or red, depending on the direction through which the crystal is viewed.

The "Petersen Tanzanite Brooch," shown above, is part of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection in Washington, D.C. The piece was designed by Harry Winston in 1991 and donated to the museum by Donald E. and Jo A. Petersen in 2002. The triangular-cut matched tanzanites weigh approximately 30 carats and are adorned by 24 carats of marquise, pear and baguette-cut diamonds in a floral motif. The tanzanite “flowers” may be detached and worn as earrings.

Credit: Photo by Penland/Smithsonian.
December 2nd, 2020
Looking for a great holiday gift for the diamond lovers in your life? Check out the newly published Diamonds Across Time, a stunning 432-page coffee-table book that celebrates every aspect of history’s most coveted precious stone.

Featuring 10 richly illustrated essays by world-renowned scholars who are united by their deep affection for diamonds, the book looks back on history and trade, investigates the nature of diamonds, reviews legendary gems, celebrates jewelry collections and spotlights great designers. The volume places diamonds in the context of the political, social and cultural stage on which their histories were etched. The contributors tell the human stories that underpin the world's adoration of diamonds.

The glossy pages pop with high-quality photographs of gems and jewels, archival documents and rare drawings.

The hardcover book was compiled and edited by the World Diamond Museum’s chief curator and world renowned jewelry expert Dr. Usha R. Balakrishnan, who contributed her own monograph titled The Nizam Diamond, Bala Koh-i-noor, the Little Koh-i-noor in the Sacred Trust of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Other topics include the following:

• Diamonds of the French Crown Jewels – between West and East, by François Farges;
• A Concise History of Diamonds from Borneo, by Derek J. Content;
• Indian Diamonds and the Portuguese during the rise of the Mughal Empire, by Hugo Miguel Crespo;
• Two Large Diamonds from India, by Jack Ogden;
• The Romanov Diamonds – History of Splendour, by Stefano Pappi;
• The Londonderry Jewels 1819-1959, by Diana Scarisbrick;
• Dress to Impress in South East Asia, by René Brus;
• Powerful Women Important Diamonds, by Ruth Peltason;
• One in Ten Thousand; the Unique World of Coloured Diamonds, by John King.

“The establishment of the World Diamond Museum marks the first step in the long journey to reignite the passion for diamonds, chronicle traditions, explore cultures and show the eternal relevance of beauty, even in present times,” wrote Alex Popov, Founder of the World Diamond Museum, in the book’s foreword. “This volume unites diverse stories that reveal the many meanings of the diamond and how human emotions and beliefs are reflected in its thousands of facets. The book is illustrated with incredible photographs of rarely seen gems and jewels from closely held collections and reconstructions of historical diamonds, done with the help of state-of-the-art computer technology.”

Diamonds Across Time may be purchased at this website.
The cost is £95 (about $127.55) and shipping to the US is approximately $35.
Credit: Image courtesy of the World Diamond Museum.
December 3rd, 2020
Diamonds and gold are strange bedfellows. They very rarely appear in the same rock, but when they do, their unlikely marriage can signal the presence of abundant riches.

The unusual rock samples collected by University of Alberta researchers from an outcropping on the Arctic coast of Canada's Far North have close similarities to those found at the Witwatersrand gold deposits of South Africa, which account for 40% of the gold ever mined on Earth.

"The diamonds we have found so far are small and not economic, but they occur in ancient sediments that are an exact analog of the world's biggest gold deposit," said U of A researcher Graham Pearson.

Pearson said the outcrop of rocks, known as conglomerates, are basically the erosion product of old mountain chains that get deposited in braided river channels.

"They're high-energy deposits that are good at carrying gold, and they're good at carrying diamonds," he said. "Our feeling was if the analogies are that close, then maybe there are diamonds in the Nunavut conglomerate also."

Pearson said that finding new diamond deposits in Canada's Far North is critical to the ongoing success of the country's $2.5-billion-per-year diamond mining industry.

After bashing off 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of Nunavut conglomerate, the scientists dated the rock fragments using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry equipment at the U of A. They concluded that the rocks had been deposited about three billion years ago.

Even more exciting was the revelation that the modest sample contained three diamonds.

"My jaw hit the floor," said Pearson of the moment he learned about the diamond content. "Normally, people would take hundreds of kilograms, if not tons of samples, to try and find that many diamonds. We managed to find diamonds in 15 kilos of rock that we sampled with a sledgehammer on a surface outcrop."

While the diamonds all measured less than 1mm in diameter, the geological implications were huge.

Pearson surmised that there must have been a kimberlite pipe that had transported the diamonds to the surface from deep within the Earth.

"It tells us there's an older source, a primary source of diamonds that must have been eroded to form this diamond-plus-gold deposit," he said.

This also means mining diamonds in the area would not necessarily require very deep mines.

Researchers will be doing more research to establish the extent of the diamonds and gold in these rocks, and the possible primary sources of these minerals.

Credit: Nunavut photo by Xander, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
December 4th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great, new songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, country star Russell Dickerson compares his love to a "band of solid gold" in 2020's "Love You Like I Used To," the lead single from his forthcoming album.

When Dickerson delivers the first verse — "Girl, I have always loved you / Oh but something’s changed / Blame it on time, the road or the ride / But it ain’t the same" — the listener is certain that this is going to be another sad break-up song.

But, as he rolls into the chorus, we realized that we've been fooled. "Love You Like I Used To" is really a romantic testament to how love gets better and stronger over time.

He sings, "What we got ain’t got no ending, like a band of solid gold / It’s sweeter with time like strawberry wine / It gets as good as it gets old."

The surprising plot twist wasn't part of Dickerson's original version of the song. He wrote it in January of 2018 and then re-worked the lyrics in September to make the song more reflective of his own relationship with his wife, Kailey.

Dickerson told Billboard magazine that his wife really didn't care for the original version of the song. He recalled her saying, "Oh, I don't think you nailed it on this one."

She loved the revised version, a collaboration with songwriters Casey Brown and Parker Welling.

Dickerson recalled, "When we came back with the song sounding like a breakup song in the first verse and then it hit that twist in the first chorus, it was like boom!"

The song was released in February of 2020 and zoomed to #5 on the Billboard US Hot Country Songs chart and #2 on the Billboard Canada Country chart. "Love You Like I Used To" will be featured on Dickerson's yet-to-be-released second studio album, Southern Symphony.

Russell Edward Dickerson was born in Union City, TN, in 1987. He earned a Bachelor's degree in music from Belmont University and signed a record deal with Creative Artists Agency in 2010. In May of 2013, he married his wife, Kailey.

“Like all of my songs, I’ve lived it," Dickerson said. "I started dating my wife 10 years ago and it is true — I don’t love her like I used to and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this song.”

Please check out the video of Dickerson performing "Love You Like I Used To." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Love You Like I Used To"
Written by Russell Dickerson, Casey Brown and Parker Welling. Performed by Russell Dickerson.

Girl, I have always loved you
Oh but something’s changed
Blame it on time, the road or the ride
But it ain’t the same

It’s a different kind of feeling
Not the one I knew
From the sweet on your lips
To how your hand in mine fits
Girl, I have always loved you

But I don’t love you like I used to
This gets better every time you kiss me like this
It’s stronger the longer I’m with you, yeah

More than every single day before
Didn’t know I could ever love you more than I did
But baby I do, I don’t love you like I used to, no

What we got ain’t got no ending, like a band of solid gold
It’s sweeter with time like strawberry wine
It gets as good as it gets old

And oh, we thought we knew what it meant way back then
Why would I keep fallin’ all-in higher than I’ve ever been?

Oh no, I don’t love you like I used to
This gets better every time you kiss me like this
It’s stronger the longer I’m with you, yeah

More than every single day before
Didn’t know I could ever love you more than I did
But baby I do, I don’t love you like I used to, no

No, no, no, no
I don’t love you like I used to
This gets better every time you kiss me like this
It’s stronger the longer I’m with you, yeah

More than every single day before
Didn’t know I could ever love you more than I did
But baby I do, I don’t love you like I used to

I don’t love you like I used to
(I, I love you like, love you like, love you like, love you like)
No, no, no, no
(I, I love you like, love you like)
Love you like I used to, no
(I, I love you like, love you like)
Oh, I don’t
Love you like I used to

Credit: Screen capture via Dickerson.
December 7th, 2020
For generations, grooms-to-be have been faced with the daunting task of picking out the perfect engagement ring. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes they got it wrong. With the engagement ring being the second-highest-priced item of all the couple's wedding expenses (the venue is #1), grooms are now acknowledging that they could use a lot of help.

According to a brand new survey commissioned by the Natural Diamond Council and carried out by One Poll, 63% of couples reported that they picked out their precious ring together, rather than having the ring chosen by the partner who would be popping the question.

These results seem to mesh with recent reports from The Knot, which revealed that 7 of 10 “proposees” were “somewhat involved” in selecting or purchasing their engagement ring, and nearly a quarter of that group (23%) said they looked at rings with their partner.

The recent One Poll survey also confirmed that white, colorless diamonds are still overwhelmingly favored by newly engaged couples. Two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents made this more traditional choice.

"Despite all the ways in which our society has evolved over the centuries, the diamond endures as the ultimate expression of love and commitment and the most beautiful way to mark life’s most precious moments," Lisa Levinson of the Natural Diamond Council told

Survey respondents also noted that clarity was the most important consideration when buying a diamond, followed by the setting type and the uniqueness of the design. Surprisingly, they reported their ideal center stone to be 2.2 carats. This number seems to be high and might reflect a very affluent group of respondents.

The survey also encouraged respondents to reveal their favorite celebrity engagement ring of all time. The Top 10 answers are below…

1. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's oval blue sapphire engagement ring
2. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's trilogy ring with a cushion-cut center diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds
3. Singer Miley Cyrus' 19th century vintage old mine cut diamond in a solitaire setting
4. Model Hailey Bieber's oval-shaped diamond engagement ring
5. Singer Beyonce's 18-carat emerald-cut diamond ring
6. Actress Elizabeth Taylor's Krupp diamond ring
7. Rapper Cardi B's pear-shaped diamond ring with two diamond halos
8. Singer Demi Lovato's multi-carat emerald-cut ring with two smaller diamonds
9. Reality star Kim Kardashian's 15-carat cushion-cut diamond ring
10. Socialite Paris Hilton's 20-carat pear-shaped diamond accented with smaller diamonds

Credit: Photo by
December 8th, 2020
Country music star Jake Owen posted a photo of “Dat durrrrty knee” to his 1.1 million Instagram followers on Friday. It was a sure sign that he had popped the question to longtime girlfriend Erica Hartlein in the most traditional and festive way, on bended knee at an outdoor Christmas tree lot.

In a post sprinkled with festive tree emojis, Owen wrote, “5 years ago we went and got our first Christmas Tree together… at this same spot. This year, I asked her if she’d like to get Christmas Trees every year for the rest of our lives.”

Owen included a number of candid photographs of the actual proposal and joyful aftermath.

In one shot, Hartlein seems to be staring at the open ring box as Owen is proposing with his high knee planted in the muddy ground.

In another shot, the couple celebrates the moment with the help of their adorable 19-month-old daughter, Paris Hartley.

“Our little Paris was there to witness the complete surprise,” Jake wrote on Instagram. “So much of a surprise, Erica didn't have her nails done… (yes, I now know that's big deal I guess).”

Although the engagement ring details have yet to be revealed, the center stone appears to be a sizable round or oval yellow diamond set on a simple yellow-gold band.

“She said yes in the sprinkle of a Nashville snow,” he continued, “and we celebrated by going to her favorite restaurant. She was successful not getting Polynesian Sauce on that bling. Life is good. I love you @ericahartlein.”

Owen also gave a shout-out to his buddy, Matthew Paskert, who took the candid photos.

Owen and Hartlein met in 2015 at a Restoration Hardware store, where she worked as an interior designer. Jake was furniture shopping and it was love at first site.

He told the “All Our Favorite People” podcast that he was intrigued by how beautiful she was and how she was holding court in the store that day.

“I was like 'Wow, she's got a lot going for her. She's confident,'” he said.

He asked her out for a beer and the rest is history.

They made their first public appearance together at the 2018 ACM Awards, and in November of that same year announced they were having their first child. Owen is also the father of 8-year-old Olive Pearl from his previous marriage to Lacey Buchanan.

Credits: Images via Instagram/jakeowenofficial.
December 9th, 2020
A 25-year-old Indian jeweler just earned a Guinness World Record for his eight-layer floral ring set with 12,638 natural diamonds. Three years in the making, Harshit Bansal's “The Marigold - The Ring of Prosperity” now holds the record for the "Most Diamonds in a Single Ring."

The new titleholder smashed the former record of 7,801 diamonds, which was held for a little more than a month by Indian jeweler Kotti Srikanth. Bansal's "Marigold" boasts 62% more diamonds than Srikanth's “Divine.”

In third place is Lakshikaa Jewels' "Lotus Temple Ring" with 7,777 diamonds.

Bansal, who works for Meerut-based Renani Jewels, told AFP that his dream was always to create a ring with more than 10,000 diamonds. He started formulating his plan while studying jewelry design in Surat.

"I trashed many designs and concepts over the years to finally zero in on this,” he told the news agency.

Bansal noted that the ring weighs 165.45 grams (5.83 ounces) and sparkles with 38.08 carats of diamonds. All the diamonds boast E-F color and VVS clarity.

“It was Renani Jewel’s and Harshit Bansal’s dream to achieve a Guinness World Records title and hope to receive international recognition for the diamond ring which they have created,” according to the Guinness World Record site.

In Indian culture, it is believed that marigolds bring prosperity and luck to everyone's life. According to the designer, each individual petal is uniquely shaped, giving the ring a perfect blend of organic symmetry, design and alignment. Despite its enormous size, Bansal claims that the ring is wearable and very comfortable.

The battle for diamond ring supremacy has seen three new title holders in the past 16 months. They're all India-based and each one used a multi-petal, floral motif to pull off the award-winning designs. In the video, below, you can see that Bansal set diamonds on both the front and back of each petal.

Credits: Screen captures of The Marigold via Jewels. Divine Ring and Lotus Temple Ring images courtesy of Guinness World Records.
December 10th, 2020
The Pantone Institute usually chooses a Color of the Year that reflects the current cultural climate. So, when faced with the somber reality of a global pandemic, but also the promise of better times ahead, the color experts at Pantone were conflicted. Should they pick the rock solid fortitude of "Ultimate Grey" or the sunny optimism of "Illuminating" yellow? In the end, they chose both.

From a gem lover's point of view, "Illuminating Yellow" apparel could be paired with yellow diamonds, yellow sapphires, citrine, yellow topaz, yellow garnet and yellow tourmaline, to name a few of the many gem varieties that are available in that Pantone color.

According to Pantone, Ultimate Gray (PANTONE 17-5104) and Illuminating (PANTONE 13-0647) are two independent colors that highlight how different elements come together to support one another. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise that everything is going to get brighter.

"This is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of The Pantone Color Institute. "We need to feel encouraged and uplifted. This is essential to the human spirit."

Pantone described "Illuminating" as a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity. It's a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.

The shockingly beautiful, 132.55-carat “Golden Empress" diamond reflects the characteristics of Pantone’s "Illuminating" yellow. During its unveiling in 2015, billionaire British jeweler Laurence Graff described the stone as having an inextricably feminine and intensely warm molten-like glow that radiates from its core.

"Ultimate Gray" represents the colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time. One online publication unflatteringly said it looked like wet cement.

This is the second time in five years that The Pantone Institute has picked two Colors of the Year. In 2015, they chose "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity." Together, the mineral pink and tranquil blue combined to communicate a sense of wellness and peacefulness, with a dash of gender equality.

For more than 20 years, Pantone’s annual color selection has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.

A year ago, Pantone’s Color of the Year was “Classic Blue,” a color described by Eiseman as “elegant in its simplicity.”

Here are the most recent Pantone Colors of the Year…

PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue (2020)
PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral (2019)
PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet (2018)
PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery (2017)
PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz (2016)
PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity (2016)
PANTONE 18-1438 Marsala (2015)
PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid (2014)

Credits: Color swatches via Gem photo courtesy of Graff.
December 11th, 2020
Welcome to a special holiday edition of Music Friday, when we bring you sensational songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals is the title or lyrics. Today, we present one of our all-time-favorite Christmas classics, “Do You Hear What I Hear.”

In this song about the birth of Jesus, a shepherd boy tells the mighty king, “Do you know what I know? / A child, a child shivers in the cold / Let us bring him silver and gold / Let us bring him silver and gold.”

The lyrics are based on the Gospel of Matthew (2:11), which recounts the story of the magi — three wise men — who traveled to Bethlehem to deliver gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Babe in the manger.

Penned by the married couple Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker in 1962, “Do You Hear What I Hear” was intended as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis — a time when the US and the USSR were in a tense standoff regarding the Soviet Union’s provocative move to construct ballistic nuclear missile bases in Cuba, just 100 miles from the US mainland.

Baker told the Los Angeles Times years later that neither she nor Regney could perform the song at the time they wrote it. “Our little song broke us up,” she said. “You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”

Baker and Regney’s “Do You Hear What I Hear” became one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. It has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists over the past 58 years.

Crooner Bing Crosby made the song a worldwide sensation in late 1963, when he featured it on his holiday Christmas album and performed it during Bob Hope’s televised Christmas special.

As a holiday treat, we’re presenting two renditions of “Do You Hear What I Hear.” The first, from 2014, is an off-the-charts, full orchestral version by Tony Award-winning Idina Menzel, who is most famous for her Broadway stage roles in Rent and Wicked, as well being the voice of Elsa in Disney's animated musical, Frozen. The second is Bing Crosby’s iconic version from 51 years earlier.

The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along. Enjoy!

“Do You Hear What I Hear”
Lyrics by Noel Regney. Music by Gloria Shayne Baker. First performance by Idina Menzel. Second performance by Bing Crosby.

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea.”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace walls, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
The child, the child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light

Idina Menzel (2014)

Bing Crosby (1963)

Credits: Screen capture via Menzel.
December 14th, 2020
An anonymous donor who taped a diamond engagement ring to a crisp dollar bill and deposited it into a Red Kettle is making the season much brighter for The Salvation Army of Jacksonville and the people it serves.

The Salvation Army’s bell ringing season starts each November and runs through Christmas Eve. While the bulk of donations come in the form of coins and paper money, the most newsworthy ones always contain a bit of bling.

The yellow gold ring, which features a 1.75-carat round solitaire diamond, is valued between $8,000 and $9,000, according to a local jeweler's appraisal. The diamond carries a clarity grade of VVS2 and a color grade of M/N. It was deposited into a Red Kettle at a Publix supermarket in Jacksonville, FL, and the story behind the ring and its anonymous owner remains a mystery, for now.

Kettle counter Kirk Lewis said he was stunned to find a diamond ring taped to a folded dollar bill.

The Salvation Army of Jacksonville plans to auction the ring, with the proceeds going to provide year-round services for thousands of children, families and seniors in the local area. This includes meals, toys and other holiday support for those in need, along with funding for food pantries, soup kitchens, social services and education programs.

“We are encouraged by every donation because it means someone gave of their hard-earned money to help others. We are hoping this diamond ring donation will inspire others to give,” noted Salvation Army Area Commander, Major Keath Biggers.

Biggers added that this year's Red Kettle Campaign has been challenging due to less foot traffic in retail locations due to COVID-19. He also noted that consumers are generally carrying less cash, fewer coins and are doing more electronic transactions.

“In spite of this jeweled donation, the funds raised through The Salvation Army’s iconic Red Kettles are at risk this year due to COVID-19, while requests for services are at an all-time high,” Biggers said.

Credits: Images courtesy of Salvation Army.
December 15th, 2020
Imke and Tobias Borawski are celebrating a "perfect Christmas story" after a team of Good Samaritans armed with metal detectors successfully located Tobias' cherished gold wedding band at Clearwater Beach just six days after it went missing.

According to an account posted to the Clearwater Police Department's Facebook page, the couple was crushed when Tobias lost his ring on a visit to the sunny Florida beach the day after Thanksgiving.

“We thought the ring would never be found,” said Imke, who lives with her family in Palm Beach. “We were so sad, we did not know what to do.”

The couple decided to contact the Clearwater Police Department, hoping for news that somebody had turned in the simple gold band that symbolized the couple's 17 years of marriage.

The ring wasn’t found that weekend, but on the following Monday, Police Service Technician Val Hornbeck referred the Borawskis to a local group of metal detector enthusiasts who work to reunite people with their lost jewelry and other possessions.

The Suncoast Research and Recovery Club boasts a roster of 100 volunteers throughout the Tampa Bay region, and the group has successfully recovered 607 valuable items — mostly rings — over the past nine years. The club is a member of the international group called The Ring Finders.

“If it’s there, we are going to find it,” said Howard Metts, president of the local club.

The club members work for free and are energized when they can connect a prized possession to its rightful owner.

“Just the expression on people’s faces when we reunite them with their lost ring, especially wedding rings and engagement rings,” Metts said. “It’s just a priceless look on their face.”

Metts and two other club members – Ed Osmar and Bill Gallant – met Imke on the stretch of Clearwater Beach where the ring had been lost. One complicating factor was that her husband wasn't sure if he lost it in the water, on the sand or in the parking lot.

The three treasure hunters methodically scoured the sand and surf. One of them even traced a path all the way back to the couple's original parking spot.

After about 45 minutes, Gallant found the ring in the sand about 80 feet from the Gulf. As expected, Imke's reaction to seeing her husband's ring was priceless.

“I was overwhelmed. I started to cry and I could not find the words for it,” Imke said. “These three people shared their time with us and they didn’t even know us. It was so amazing. It was our perfect Christmas story. I think we will smile about this for the rest of our lives.”

Credits: Photos courtesy of the Clearwater Police Department.
December 16th, 2020
Wielding seven-pound hammers, rows of young men in a Mandalay workshop rhythmically take aim at their precious targets with the goal of creating the thinnest of gold leaf.

The process starts with tiny squares of 22-karat gold separated from the next by a layer of protective bamboo paper. Hundreds of these gold-and-paper pairs are neatly stacked like pages in a book and then tightly wrapped in a bundle made from deer hide. After 20,000 hammer blows over five grueling hours, the gold is reduced to a thickness of just .0001 inches — about 30 times thinner than a human hair.

Writer and National Geographic fellow Paul Solopek shared his experiences at Myanmar's King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop on the magazine's website.

Solopek reported that the young tradesmen aim for the center of their deer-hide targets to achieve the ideal thinness, as the gold grows hot from the thousands of blows. An antique clock called a clepsydra guides the workday. It is constructed of a coconut shell floating in a bucket of water. The coconut shell has a small hole, which causes it to take on water and sink every hour, signaling a 15-minute break for the workers.

The writer noted that gold leaf manufacturing in Myanmar is many centuries old and is closely associated with Buddhist rituals.

Gold is nature’s most malleable metal. That means that it can be pounded so thin that one ounce of gold could cover about 100 square feet of a surface. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) calculated that it would take 576 ounces (or just 36 pounds) of gold to completely cover a football field. The element is also ductile, which means that gold can be made into the thinnest wire. The AMNH notes that one ounce of gold can be drawn into 50 miles of wire, five microns thick.

Edible 24-karat gold leaf has become a culinary treat for over-the-top eateries looking to add a touch of decadence to a main dish, dessert or drink. Gold is tasteless and is not harmful to the digestive system because it is inert.

Please check out this short video of the King Galon Gold Leaf Workshop…

Credits: Screen captures via Gold leaf photo by Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.
December 17th, 2020
Stellar examples of December's official birthstone are highlighted on the next stop of our virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. The Zuni tribe of western New Mexico are recognized worldwide for their superbly crafted turquoise and silver jewelry — an attribute celebrated by a special exhibit called "Colored by Copper."

The bracelet seen above was designed by the renowned Zuni silversmith Warren Ondelacy and donated to the Smithsonian in 1978 by Mr. and Mrs. M. Silverman. A piece of similar design and origin occupies the most prominent position in a wall display showcasing gems that get their distinctive blue coloration from the presence of copper in their chemical makeup.

The Zuni people have inhabited the Zuni River valley in western New Mexico for more than 3,000 years. Interestingly, they associate blue turquoise with men and green turquoise with women.

Normally, Smithsonian visitors would be able to see the impressive turquoise exhibit in person, but while most of the national museums remain temporarily closed in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, we offer this alternative — a virtual tour of the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.

Previous stops have included the “Picasso Kunzite Necklace,” “Marie Antoinette Earrings,” “Hall Sapphire Necklace,” “Victoria-Transvaal Diamond,” “Carmen Lúcia Ruby,“ “Chalk Emerald,“ “Gifts from Napoleon,“ “Stars and Cat’s Eyes,“ “Logan Sapphire,“ “Dom Pedro“ aquamarine, “Steamboat“ tourmaline and a grouping of enormous topaz.

Here’s how to navigate to the exhibit called “Colored by Copper.”

— First, click on this link

The resulting page will be a gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Precious Gems 1.”

— Next, click the double-right-arrow two times to navigate to the gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Minerals 1.”

When you arrive, you will see three freestanding glass cases.

– Click and drag the screen 180 degrees to the left so you can see the wall cases directly behind you.

The case to the left contains a selection of turquoise specimens and jewelry. Occupying the tallest platform in the center of the exhibit is a Zuni turquoise bracelet. Touch the Plus Sign to zoom in.

(You may touch the “X” to remove the map. This will give you a better view of the jewelry. You may restore the map by clicking the “Second” floor navigation on the top-right of the screen.)

This display explains how turquoise is probably one of the oldest gem materials known to man. It was mined by the Egyptians more than 6,000 years ago, prized for its sky blue color by the Aztecs and Incas, and later by the Native Americans. The golden funeral mask of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun is famously inlaid with turquoise.

According to the Smithsonian, turquoise gets its name from the Old French phrase “pierre Turquoise” or “stone of Turkey,” in reference to the considerable Persian turquoise that was sold in Turkish markets. Copper impurities give turquoise its delightful sky blue color, while iron impurities will tint it green.

Turquoise is one of three official birthstones for the month of December. The others are tanzanite and zircon.

The primary sources of turquoise are Mexico, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, China and the American Southwest.

Credits: Jewelry photo by Chip Clark / Smithsonian. Screen capture via
December 18th, 2020
Welcome to another Christmas season edition of Music Friday, when we bring you festive songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we present former Disney star Olivia Holt performing her holiday release, “Snowflakes,” an inspirational song about how we’re all unique and beautiful in our own ways.

In the first verse, she sings, “Some people spend their whole life in the clouds / Some ride the wind and never hit the ground / Some will shine like diamonds in the sun / Heaven sent down each and every one.”

Songwriters George G. Teren III and Jessi Alexander use diamond and snowflake imagery to deliver a powerful message about how we should embrace the qualities — and flaws — that make us different from the rest.

“Snowflakes” was first heard in 2013 on Disney’s Holidays Unwrapped Christmas Album, which featured performances by a number of popular Disney Channel favorites, such as Debby Ryan, Ross Lynch, Sabrina Carpenter and Zendaya. In 2014, at age 17, Holt released an acoustic version of “Snowflakes” for Disney’s Playlist Sessions. The official video of that performance has accumulated more than 1 million views on YouTube.

The Tennessee-born and Mississippi-raised Holt got her start in show business as a 10-year-old doing commercials for popular toys, such as Bratz dolls and Littlest Pet Shop.

She is best known for her starring roles in the Disney series Kickin’ It and the Disney Channel Original Series, I Didn’t Do It. In 2016, she released her first EP, Olivia, and more recently, she portrayed the titular role Tandy Bowen/Dagger in the Freeform series Cloak & Dagger.

Please check out the video of Holt’s acoustic version of “Snowflakes.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

Written by George G. Teren III and Jessi Alexander. Performed by Olivia Holt.

Some people spend their whole life in the clouds
Some ride the wind and never hit the ground
Some will shine like diamonds in the sun
Heaven sent down each and every one

We are snowflakes
Floating till we find our place
From a distance we may look the same,
but we’re beautiful in our own way
We are snowflakes

Will I sparkle, will I drift or will I dance
Will I melt when I touch another’s hand
Will I learn for my mistakes when I fall
And remember when I get to feeling small

We are snowflakes
Floating till we find our place
From a distance we may look the same,
but we’re beautiful in our own way
We are snowflakes

And all I can do is do my best
What it is that makes me different from the rest
And nothing more,
and nothing less

Then snowflakes,
Floating till we find our place
From a distance we may look the same,
but we’re beautiful in our own way
We are snowflakes
Mmm, yeah, snowflakes
Mmm, yeah…

Credit: Screen capture via
December 21st, 2020
Faced with the pandemic-spawned life disruptions of 2020, tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zers were quick to adapt to the changing retail landscape by utilizing digital resources in their quest for the perfect engagement ring.

According to The Knot's 2020 Jewelry & Engagement Study, the limited ability to shop in person for engagement jewelry led many proposers to use more online features throughout the research process, such as increasing the amount of time spent researching engagement rings online (33%), connecting with jewelers via social media (11%), or even using virtual tools for online consultations with jewelers (10%).

The study of more than 5,000 newly engaged individuals (who got engaged between April and November 2020) analyzed how couples and their proposals were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. One silver lining of the pandemic is that it offered many couples an additional chance to connect, as quarantine restrictions resulted in the majority of newly engaged couples (68%) spending more time together.

Due to social distancing guidelines and limited in-store appointments, proposers visited fewer retailers in 2020 (on average 2, down from 3 in 2019) and viewed significantly fewer rings (8, down from 15 in 2019) before selecting the one. Overall, the majority (63%) of engagement rings continue to be purchased in person at either a local jeweler (51%) or national retailer (33%). Nearly a third were purchased online.

Uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the state of the economy only slightly impacted how much couples budgeted for their rings. Respondents said they spent an average of $5,500 on an engagement ring in 2020, compared to $5,900 in 2019. Engagement ring shopping in 2020 continued to be a collaborative effort for most couples, as 72% of proposees reported being involved in the selection of their engagement ring.

Here are some other quick takeaways...

• The most popular center stone cuts were round (43%), oval (15%) and princess/square (13%).
• The most popular setting materials were white gold (48%), yellow gold (16%), rose gold (13%) and platinum (13%).
• The average ring's diamond total weight was 1.5 carats and the average center stone weighed 1.3 carats.

Regarding the actual proposals, 83% of proposers said they felt pressure to curate a highly unique proposal in 2020 (up from 75% in 2019), and nearly half of proposers had to pivot original plans as a result of the pandemic, from changing the location (67%) or date (63%) to involving their loved ones (52%).

Many proposers (48%) had to rethink their proposal plans, as the pandemic altered their original proposal location (67%), date (63%) and how the proposal took place (56%). Despite many proposers needing to alter their original proposal plans, the most popular proposal locations in 2020 remained the same as previous years: scenic viewpoints (31%), at their home (23%), at a place with significance to the couple (16%) and during outdoor activities like hiking (15%, up from 12% in 2019).

The study also revealed that newly engaged couples have an increased sense of urgency to kick-start wedding planning: 8 in 10 newly engaged couples have secured an upcoming wedding date, the majority of which will occur in 2021 (73%), and most (66%, up from 57% in 2019) started to plan their future wedding festivities within one month of getting engaged.

Credit: Image via
December 22nd, 2020
Pop star Ariana Grande delighted her 14 million Instagram fans on Sunday with the announcement of her engagement to Dalton Gomez and a close-up pic of a pearl-and-diamond engagement ring that seems to have sentimental connections to her late grandfather.

The platinum ring features an elongated oval diamond set at an angle adjacent to a round cultured pearl. Although the "Thank U, Next" singer has yet to confirm the significance of the pearl, eagle-eyed fans connected the dots via a Grande tweet from October of 2014.

Alongside a photo of a simple gold ring, Grande tweeted, “Nonna had a ring made for me w/ the pearl from grandpa’s tie pin. She says he told her in a dream it’d protect me. <3”

It's very possible the pearl from that ring was repurposed for the engagement ring.

Jewelry-industry insiders believe the center stone weighs from 5 to 6 carats and is valued in the range of $150,000 to $300,000, depending on the exact size, color, cut and clarity.

Grande captioned her Instagram engagement announcement "Forever n then some."

Her latest engagement comes two years after her high-profile split with Saturday Night Live's Pete Davidson.

In insider told Us Weekly that the 27-year-old Grande is beyond excited about her relationship with Gomez, a 25-year-old who sells high-value real estate in California.

Cultured pearls are typically not used in engagement rings because they are delicate and not suited to daily wear and tear. While a diamond rates 10 on the Mohs hardness scale (it’s the hardest of all gemstones), the pearl earns a 2.5 (one of the softest).

Those looking to mimic Grande's style sense should understand the risks of using a cultured pearl in an engagement ring setting...

• If you wear the ring every day and work with your hands, it’s very likely the pearl will get dinged over time.
• Pearls can be damaged by household products, including vinegar, ammonia and chlorine. They need to be kept away from hairspray, perfume, cosmetics, and even perspiration.
• Always remove a pearl ring when showering, swimming or doing the dishes.
• Consider keeping small ring holders in your bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and work desk so you are less likely to lose track of the ring if you need to take it off during the day.
• Be prepared to replace the pearl every so often.

Credits: Photos via Instagram/arianagrande.
December 23rd, 2020
A 157.4-carat gem-quality diamond — the largest ever recovered from the Gahcho Kué diamond mine in Canada's Northwest Territories — was revealed on Thursday by the mine's co-owner, Mountain Province Diamonds. Resembling a frosty cube of ice, the rough gem will be offered for sale during the first quarter of 2021.

While the Gahcho Kué diamond mine sold nearly a million carats in diamonds during the fourth quarter of 2020, the great majority were small in size. Mountain Province Diamonds' president and CEO Stuart Brown said that the extraordinary recovery provided his company and employees with a much-needed injection of good news following a year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The recovery of the largest-ever diamond… was certainly a boost to the morale of the company," Brown said in a statement. "It shows that the mine, although a high-volume producer of predominantly smaller diamonds, does produce diamonds of exceptional size and quality."

The Gahcho Kué Mine is a remote fly-in/fly-out location 280km (174 miles) northeast of Yellowknife. De Beers has a 51% stake in the mine. The property consists of several kimberlites that are actively being mined, developed and explored for future development. It is said to be one of the 10 biggest diamond mines in the world.

The 157.4-carat rough gem unearthed at the Gahcho Kué mine is not the largest ever recovered in Canada. That distinction goes to the "552," a diamond named for its carat weight.

The 552 was sourced by Dominion Diamonds at the nearby Diavik mine in 2018 and famously displayed to the public in February of 2019 at Phillips auction house in New York City.

According to the Canadian government, Canada is the world's third-largest diamond producer, by value, behind Botswana and Russia. Canada exported $2.9 billion in diamonds in 2018.

Credits: Gahcho Kué diamond photo courtesy of CNW Group/Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. "552" images by The Jeweler Blog. Map by Google Maps.
December 24th, 2020
The LA Lakers received their 2020 championship rings — the most elaborate in NBA history — on Tuesday night before their home opener at the Staples Center. Designed by Jason of Beverly Hills with an assist from streetwear designer Don C, each ring glistens with 180 grams of yellow gold and 804 gemstones. It also conveys the narrative of a season like no other.

The gemstones — which include white diamonds, yellow diamonds and purple amethysts — weigh a total of 16.45 carats.

The face of the ring features a prominent Laker "L" logo rimmed in gold and filled with 17 custom-cut amethysts weighing .95 carats. The number 17 represents the number of NBA titles won by the franchise (tied with the Boston Celtics for the most in league history) and the .95 carats represents the 95 days the team spent in the "bubble," the Walt Disney World facilities in Orlando where all the playoff teams competed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The yellow diamonds outlining the "L" filling the basketball of the Lakers' logo weigh exactly 0.52 carats, a nod to the team's 52 regular season wins.

One of the most unique features of the ring is a ball-bearing-enabled removable top that, when opened, reveals a graphic representation for the Staples Center rafters — every one of the franchise's retired jersey numbers superimposed over a black mamba pattern. Among the retired numbers are 8 and 24, the ones worn by Kobe Bryant, the beloved Laker who tragically passed away January 26 in a helicopter accident. Black Mamba was Bryant's nickname.

The shoulder of the ring displays the jersey numbers of every player who suited up for the Lakers during the 2019-2020 season. Each number is spaced by a tiny Larry O’Brien championship trophy.

On one side of the ring is the player's name and number written in raised gold letters. A Black Mamba snake seems to be wrapping itself around the player's number. Also incorporated into the design is the Lakers' playoff slogan, "Leave A Legacy," in LeBron James' own handwriting.

The other side of the ring shows the team's playoff series records against Portland, Houston, Denver and Miami, along with the team's regular season record (52-19), the Larry O’Brien trophy, the year and the NBA symbol tucked into the first zero of 2020.

A unifying theme is the snakeskin-textured background behind the graphics on the right and left sides of the ring.

Credits: Images by Jason of Beverly Hills.
December 28th, 2020
Welcome to an unusual edition of Music Monday, as we bend the rules in an unconventional year to present a fabulous video that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and might even make you cry.

(We normally feature music on Fridays, but since Christmas Day came out on a Friday this year — and because you need to end the year on a high note — we've implemented this temporary change.)

Regular readers also know that the music offered up in this column usually contains jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we're including music by an artist with a gemstone in his name. Yes, we're talking about Neil Diamond.

Diamond is keenly aware that 2020 has been an extremely difficult time for everybody worldwide, so the legendary 79-year-old singer staged a way to spread joy and togetherness. What you are about to see is Diamond's global "Sweet Caroline" singalong, created from real fan submissions.

At the beginning of the video, a caption laid over a background resembling the facets of a black diamond explains how and why the musical piece was assembled.

“2020 has been a tough year for everyone," Diamond wrote, "so we wanted to bring people together the best way we knew how: Through music.”

Diamond added, "To inspire people to come together, we challenged fans all around the world to sing along to 'Sweet Caroline'.”

Fans were encouraged to upload their videos to the now-expired site,, and they delivered in a big way. Thousands responded.

The edited clip shows people of all generations, nationalities and ethnicities pouring their hearts into the song, some playing instruments, others dressed like Diamond impersonators. We see toddlers singing with their parents, school kids singing with their buddies, Santa singing with his iPad, a stadium full of fans shouting “So good, so good, so good," and even an elderly couple serenading each other while dancing closely. Clearly, some of the clips were captured before COVID-19 gathering restrictions were implemented.

As the song builds to a crescendo, the individual performers on the screen shrink and multiply to reveal the thousands of participants singing in harmony. The image then dissolves into a photo of Diamond superimposed over the same black diamond graphic that opened the presentation.

Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," which was originally released in 1969, has been spotlighted in this column twice in 2020. Back in March, as the pandemic started to wreak havoc on our lives, Diamond spun up some new lyrics to the song in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

While performing in self-quarantine, Diamond replaced the popular pre-chorus, “Hands, touching hands / Reaching out, touching me, touching you,” with these health-conscious alternative lyrics, “Hands, washing hands / Reaching out, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you.”

Diamond, who stopped touring in 2018 due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis, just released his latest album, Neil Diamond with The London Symphony Orchestra, Classic Diamonds.

Please check out the video of Diamond's fans singing "Sweet Caroline." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

“Sweet Caroline”
Written by Neil Diamond. Performed by his fans.

Where it began
I can't begin to knowin'
But then I know it's growin' strong

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touchin' hands
Reachin' out, touchin' me, touchin' you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
But now I…

…look at the night
And it don't seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two

And when I hurt
Hurtin' runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holdin' you?

Warm, touchin' warm
Reachin' out, touchin' me, touchin' you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
Oh, no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believed they never could

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

Credits: Screen captures via
December 29th, 2020
Queensland's resource minister is encouraging residents to pursue a heart-stopping, Eureka moment in the Australian state's hotspots known to bear precious metals and gems. All it takes is a AU$8.65 license, a few tools and a lot of luck.

“Whether you’re hunting for gold in Charters Towers and Clermont, searching for sapphires around Emerald or looking for the vibrant and colorful gemstones of Agate Creek, and western opals at Yowah and Opalton, Queensland is a fossicker’s paradise,” said Resources Minister Scott Stewart.

Fossicking is the term Aussies use to describe amateur prospecting, especially when carried out as a recreational activity. The Queensland Government is promoting fossicking as a popular outdoor activity the whole family can enjoy. It is currently the summer season in Australia.

“It’s been a tough year for Queenslanders,” he said, “but we’re encouraging everyone to get out and support our regional communities and explore our state’s natural beauty by urging more families to put fossicking on your must-do list these holidays.”

According to the Queensland Government, there has been an upsurge in the number of people fossicking for gold and precious gems. More than 18,000 fossickers’ licenses have been issued in just the past two years.

The Queensland countryside is filled with stories of Eureka moments...

• In 2017, an amateur fossicker discovered a yellow sapphire the size of a golf ball near Anakie. Named the "Pride of Tomahawk," the gem was one of the rarest and most significant discovered in Queensland during the past decade.

• One the largest sapphires ever discovered in Queensland is "The Stonebridge Green," a 202-carat gem that is owned by a fourth-generation gem miner at Anakie. It was originally unearthed by gem miner Frederick Max Stonebridge in 1938 and continues to be the star of an annual gem festival in central Queensland.

• Also, in 2017, a prospector found a 1.17 kg (2.57 lbs) gold nugget in a paddock in the Charters Towers region. It was just 15cm (5.9 in) below ground and was discovered using a metal detector.

Stewart clarified that fossickers are permitted to use hand tools, such as picks, shovels, hammers, sieves, shakers, electronic detectors and other similar tools.

“You can collect gemstones, ornamental stones, mineral specimens, alluvial gold — including nuggets and some fossil specimens, but not meteorites or fossils of vertebrate animals,” he said.

A month-long license will cost a family just AU$12.40 or AU$8.65 for an individual.

Credit: Image courtesy of the Queensland Government.
December 30th, 2020
The Hope Diamond may be the most famous gemstone in the world, but when NBC’s Harry Smith recently visited the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, he highlighted the surprising story behind the parcel that ferried the priceless 45.52-carat gem in 1958 from Harry Winston's New York headquarters to its new home in the US capital.

In the six-minute piece that aired on NBC's TODAY show earlier this week, we learned that when the esteemed Fifth Avenue jeweler decided to donate the gem to the Smithsonian, his preferred carrier was — not an armored vehicle — but the US Postal Service. The registered First-Class postage cost him just $2.44, but he also paid $142.85 for $1 million worth of insurance. The total payment of $145.29 is equivalent to $1,289 today.

“It’s the safest way to mail gems,” Winston told The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.). “I’ve sent gems all over the world that way.”

Winston was right. The package arrived in DC safe and sound.

In Washington, the package stamped "Fragile" was delivered to the Natural History Museum by local letter carrier James G. Todd. Reporters were on hand to witness Todd plucking the valuable package from his mail satchel and presenting it to Smithsonian Secretary Leonard Carmichael and Smithsonian curator George Switzer. Also attending was Edna Winston, the jeweler's wife.

While the Hope Diamond is the most popular exhibit at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, only 1.3 miles away at the National Postal Museum, the post-stamped mailing wrapper remains one of its most cherished artifacts.

"The National History Museum can have the diamond. I want the box it came in," said Dan Piazza, Curator of the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. "I kind of think we got the better end of the deal."

Smith and Jeffrey Post, the Curator-in-Charge of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian, shared a nervous laugh when discussing the credibility of the "Hope Diamond Curse." Within a year of completing his delivery in November of 1958, Todd was plagued by a series of tragic events. He suffered a crushed leg and head wound in two separate automobile accidents, his wife died of a heart attack, his dog strangled on his leash and Todd’s home was partially destroyed by fire.

The Hope Diamond has been a permanent resident of the National Gem Gallery for 62 years. Over that time, it has left the safe confines of the museum only four times, according to the Smithsonian. In 1962, it was exhibited for a month at the Louvre in Paris, as part of an exhibit entitled "Ten Centuries of French Jewelry." In 1965, the Hope diamond traveled to South Africa where it was exhibited at the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg. In 1984, the diamond was lent to Harry Winston Inc., in New York, as part of the firm's 50th anniversary celebration. In 1996, the diamond returned to Harry Winston for a cleaning and some minor restoration work.

See the TODAY show segment at this link.

Credits: Hope Diamond mail wrapper and package delivery shots courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Hope diamond image by Chip Clark / Smithsonian.
December 31st, 2020
More than 200 million visitors to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, have marveled at the beauty and majesty of the Hope Diamond since jeweler Harry Winston donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958. In yesterday's column, we recounted how and why Winston decided to use the US Postal Service to ship the 45.52-carat gem from New York to DC.

The weathered brown paper mailing wrapper — showing $2.44 in postage, but also $142.85 for $1 million worth of insurance — is a popular exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. But, 1.3 miles away on the National Mall, the Hope Diamond is the prize of National Gem Collection.

When the Smithsonian's gem gallery was renovated in 1997, the Hope Diamond necklace was moved onto a rotating pedestal inside a case made of 3-inch-thick bulletproof glass. The display sits in the center of an expansive rotunda, adjacent to the main entry of the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. The 7,500-plus gemstones in the collection range in size from less than a half-carat to 23,000 carats.

In a normal year, 4.2 million people would pass through the Smithsonian's most popular museum, but this has not been a normal year. The Smithsonian museums remain closed in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

During the pandemic, we have hosted 13 virtual tours utilizing 360-degree viewing technology provided by the Smithsonian. Previous stops have included the “Zuni Tribe Turquoise,” “Picasso Kunzite Necklace,” “Marie Antoinette Earrings,” “Hall Sapphire Necklace,” “Victoria-Transvaal Diamond,” “Carmen Lúcia Ruby,“ “Chalk Emerald,“ “Gifts from Napoleon,“ “Stars and Cat’s Eyes,“ “Logan Sapphire,“ “Dom Pedro“ aquamarine, “Steamboat“ tourmaline and a grouping of enormous topaz.

Here’s how to navigate to the Hope Diamond.

— First, click on this link…

The resulting page will be a gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Precious Gems 1.”

— Next, click the double-left-arrow two times to navigate to the gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Hope Diamond 1.”

When you arrive, you will see a single, glass-encased exhibit at the center of a rotunda.

– Touch the Plus Sign to zoom in.

(You may touch the “X” to remove the map. This will give you a better view of the exhibit. You may restore the map by clicking the “Second” floor navigation on the top-right of the screen.)

Researchers believe the Hope Diamond’s origin can be traced back to 1642, with the discovery in India of a beautiful blue rough diamond. It was crudely finished and weighed 115 carats when it was purchased in 1666 by French merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier, at which time it became known as the Tavernier Diamond.

French King Louis XIV bought the Tavernier Diamond in February 1669 and ordered it to be recut. The result was a 69-carat heart-shaped stone that would be known as the French Blue.

In 1792, the French Blue was stolen from the royal treasury in Paris. Its whereabouts remained unknown until a large blue diamond appeared in 1839 in the collection of Henry Philip Hope, a London banker and gem collector. Gem historians believe the French Blue had been. once again, recut. The 45.52-carat gem became known as the Hope Diamond.

After going through numerous owners, it was sold by French jeweler Pierre Cartier to Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1911. In 1949, McLean's heirs sold the stone to Winston, who exhibited it throughout the US for a number of years. In 1958, he decided to donate it to the Smithsonian.

According to the Smithsonian, Winston envisioned the institution assembling a gem collection to rival the royal treasuries of Europe -- "crown jewels" that would belong to the American public.

"Other countries have their Crown Jewels," Winston reportedly said. "We don't have a Queen and King, but we should have our Crown Jewels, and what better place than here in the nation's capital at the Smithsonian Institution."

Credits: Hope Diamond photo by Studio Kanji Ishii, Inc. / Smithsonian. Screen captures via