May 22nd, 2024
A 1.56-carat fancy red diamond called the "Argyle Phoenix" stole the show last week at Phillips' "Geneva Jewels Auction: Two."

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The famous diamond, which was originally revealed to the market in 2013 as part of Rio Tinto's annual tender, brought in $4.2 million and cemented two auction records — the highest price AND the highest price-per-carat ever achieved for a fancy red diamond.

At the fall 2013 tender, the Argyle Phoenix was sold to a Singapore-based jeweler for more than $2 million. This past week, the gem re-entered the market as one of the top lots of Phillips' auction and eventually yielded nearly three times the pre-auction high estimate of $1.5 million. British luxury jeweler Graff paid $2.7 million per carat for the ultra-rare gemstone, which jewelry trade journal jckonline.com reported is the largest known round brilliant fancy red diamond.

Argyle's annual tender represented a small, but exclusive, collection of the rarest diamonds from a year’s worth of production at the Argyle mine in the remote east Kimberley region of Western Australia. Each year, only a few red diamonds would be offered for sale.

During its 37 years of production, the mine produced between 90% and 95% of the world’s pink and red diamonds. The depleted mine was officially shuttered on November 3, 2020, and the diamond industry has yet to find a reliable alternative source to fill the void.

Due to short supply and high demand, red and pink diamonds typically sell at prices 50 times greater than similar white diamonds.

It is believed that red diamonds get their rich color from a molecular structure distortion that occurs as the jewel forms in the Earth’s crust. By contrast, other colored diamonds get their color from trace elements, such as boron (yielding a blue diamond) or nitrogen (yielding yellow), in their chemical composition.

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The unexpected performance of the Argyle Phoenix overshadowed the auction's highly touted headliner, a 6.21-carat Type IIa fancy vivid pink oval diamond that sold for $11.9 million, on the lower end of the pre-sale estimate of $10.5 million to $15 million. (The Type IIa classification represents a colorless diamond with no measurable impurities. Type IIa gems account for less than 2% of all natural diamonds.)

Credits: Photos courtesy of Phillips.
May 21st, 2024
Some fans waited in line for nearly 12 hours last Tuesday in order to secure one of the most coveted pieces of Texas Rangers memorabilia — a replica of the team's 2023 World Series ring.

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As the day progressed, lines wrapped around Globe Life Field in Arlington. The first 15,000 attending the Rangers game against the Cleveland Indians received a ring that looked remarkably like the ones presented to the players on Opening Day back in March.

It was the team's first World Series title in its 52-year history.

Over the course of the current season, the Rangers will be sponsoring nine more giveaways, with each ring bearing the name of a star player. The May 14 ring honored shortstop Corey Seager.

The replica, of course, lacks the precious metal, precious stones and innovative features of the actual World Series ring.

Designed in collaboration with Jason of Beverly Hills, the genuine ring features a gem-encrusted face that is removable and reversible.

The first option features the Rangers “T” logo rendered in white diamonds and accented with rubies against a ground of blue sapphires. The alternate design has the “T” logo rendered in rubies and accented with white diamonds against a white “baseball” background.

Affixed to the back of the removable face is a piece of leather from a baseball that was used during the World Series.

While most of the fans who were lucky enough to get a replica ring will proudly display them in their trophy cases, others looked to cash out on eBay, with asking prices in the neighborhood of $200. The rings are packaged in a collector's box and include a display stand.

The Texas Rangers will be giving away Marcus Semien replica rings on June 4 (first 15,000 fans), Adolis García on July 23 (first 29,000 fans), Bruce Bochy on July 25 (first 2,000 fans with purchase of theme night ticket), Nathan Eovaldi on August 15 (first 29,000 fans), Josh Jung on August 21 (first 2,000 fans with purchase of theme night ticket), Evan Carter on September 1 (first 2,000 fans with purchase of theme night ticket), Jonah Heim on September 8 (first 2,000 fans with purchase of theme night ticket), and Josh Sborz on September 19 (first 2,000 fans with purchase of theme night ticket).

On September 22, the Rangers will be giving away a "mystery ring" to the first 29,000 fans to attend the game. Those attendees will receive one of four rings featuring either Seager, Semien, García or Eovaldi.

“It is a replica, but it looks very much like what the players received, and as replicas go, this is very nice,” a Rangers spokesman told WFAA. “It took us 52 years to get this ring, so we’re going to celebrate it for a while.”

Credit: Ring image courtesy of Texas Rangers.
May 16th, 2024
Dame Shirley Bassey, who famously sang the title song from the 1971 James Bond/007 blockbuster film Diamonds Are Forever, soon will be parting with many of her own jewels — but it's all for a good cause.

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The 87-year-old Welsh singer will be putting more than 80 pieces on the auction block at Sotheby's Paris to benefit her favorite charities. According to Sotheby's, every jewel in the sale represents a particular moment in Bassey’s life, as well as iconic performances.

Bassey has always been excited to talk about her life-long love affair with fine jewelry, especially diamonds.

“I fell in love with jewelry when I first discovered natural pearls as an up-and-coming singer, and I bought myself my first string of pearls – the first piece of jewelry I’d ever bought," Bassey told naturaldiamonds.com. "However, I quickly graduated to my lifelong passion for diamonds, which preceded the recording of 'Diamonds Are Forever.'"

She explained that she accepted the offer to sing the title track because the lyrics "rang true" to her: "Diamonds never lie to me / For when love's gone, they'll luster on / Diamonds are forever, forever, forever."

Among the diamond jewelry to be featured at the October 10 auction in Paris are three of Bassey's favorites:

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The heart-shaped yellow diamond ring, shown here, carries a pre-sale estimate of EUR 165,000 to EUR 200,000 ($180,000 to $218,000).

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This impressive diamond necklace featuring 52 graduated stones is expected to sell in the range of EUR 270,000 to EUR 320,000 ($294,000 to $348,000)

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Sotheby's believes this emerald and diamond necklace designed by Van Cleef & Arpels should attract bids from EUR 60,000 to EUR 70,000 ($65,000 to $76,000). Bassey noted that she bought the emerald jewelry (seen here) for herself to commemorate her very first Royal Variety Performance in front of the late queen, Elizabeth II. Sotheby's preview doesn't mention an estimate for the earrings.

“Collecting jewelry for me is like collecting memories, and this collection is full of them,” said Bassey. “All the pieces are meaningful and have a story to tell, whether I bought them for myself or they were gifted to me. There is this beautiful 1960s vintage Van Cleef & Arpels ring covered in white diamonds that Elton John gave me after I sang at one of his AIDS gala evenings, and which I’ve worn so many times."

King Charles recently named Bassey a "Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour," one of the top awards in Britain, for her services to music.

Highlights from Bassey's jewelry collection will be on exhibit at Sotheby’s London from May 24-29 and at Sotheby’s Paris from October 4 until the auction on October 10.

Credits: Jewelry images courtesy of Sotheby's. Shirley Bassey image by Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
May 15th, 2024
Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" was topping the British singles chart in 1970 when a 22-year-old named Marilyn Birch lost her engagement ring while feeding hay to the cows at her family's farm near Neath Port Talbot, Wales.

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"I came in the house, washed my hands, and no ring," Marilyn, now 76, told the BBC. "I was really upset. It meant a lot. It's a token, and that token had gone."

At the time, the couple tried retracing her steps to find the ring, but the whereabouts of the cherished keepsake remained a mystery. Over the years, the ring her husband, Pete, purchased in 1966 for £18 ($430 in today's dollars) remained on her mind.

"I kept looking now and again just in case we'd spot it somewhere," Marilyn told Sky News. "Eventually [we] gave up and decided we were not going to see that engagement ring ever again."

That's until metal detectorist Keith Phillips came into their world.

Phillips had received permission from the couple to explore their farm for artifacts. After a few treasure-hunting sessions, all that he turned up were some coins and a lot of junk.

"By the third visit, we had got to know him a bit better," Marilyn told the BBC. "So I said, 'Listen now, Keith, never mind all this rubbish you're finding, go and find my engagement ring'."

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About a week later, Phillips presented Marilyn with a special surprise.

"I speak a lot," Marilyn admitted to the BBC, "but I just couldn't speak. I just kept looking at it… It was amazing. Very emotional."

She reported that Phillips found the ring buried eight inches below the surface.

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After cleaning the soil off the ring with a toothbrush, she placed it back on her finger and it fit perfectly after 54 years.

Husband Pete called it a "wonderful moment."

"She was pleased — marvelous," he told the BBC. "As long as she's happy."

Credits: Images courtesy of Marilyn Birch.
May 14th, 2024
Star quarterback Tom Brady knows a little bit about championship rings. He owns seven of them — six with the New England Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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On Sunday, May 5, during the closing of the Netflix special The Roast of Tom Brady, the now-retired celebrity athlete, 46, was surprised when host Kevin Hart presented him with another championship-style keepsake.

“Tom has to leave with something impactful to match the energy of success that he’s had along the years,” Hart said. “So, Tom, what we decided to do was add another ring — a ring fitting for a GOAT like yourself.”

“Oh, I love that,” Brady said as he slipped the ring on his right pinky finger and held it up for all to see.

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Designed by celebrity jeweler Jason Arasheben of Jason of Beverly Hills, the ring boasts nearly 400 diamonds with accents of rubies and sapphires set in yellow gold. A source told TMZ Sports that the ring is valued at $40,000 and contains 6 carats of gemstones.

"Honored to have made Tom Brady’s last two championship rings," Arasheben captioned a video posted to his company's Instagram page. "One with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now again at his roast. Might not be a Super Bowl ring, but we’ll take it."

The top of the ring depicts a gold football trailed by ruby flames against a ground of white diamonds and circular border of blue sapphires. Along the upper edge of the ring is the name BRADY in raised gold lettering. Along the bottom are the initials G.R.O.A.T., representing a special take on the quarterback's reputation as the "Greatest of All Time." In this case, G.R.O.A.T. stands for the "Greatest Roast of All Time."

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On one side of the ring is Brady's name again, along with his "12" jersey number rendered in white diamonds. Below the number are the initials LFG, which stand for a not-family-friendly term that Brady often used to stoke his teammates.

The other side shows the year 2024 and a rendering of a goat.

During Netflix's live-stream special, which was viewed by two million people, Brady endured three hours of light-hearted ribbing from roasters Jeff Ross, Nikki Glaser, Tony Hinchcliffe, Sam Jay, Andrew Schulz, Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura. Also on hand to dish some dirt were Brady's former teammates Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Drew Bledsoe and Randy Moss.

Credits: Ring screen captures via Instagram / jasonofbeverlyhills. Tom Brady photo by Andrew Campbell, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
May 13th, 2024
Featuring 66 culturally priceless heirlooms influenced by hip-hop's biggest stars, "Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry" made its debut at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City this past Thursday.

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The exhibition spotlights pieces worn by Slick Rick, A$AP Rocky, Nicki Minaj, The Notorious B.I.G., Bad Bunny, Erykah Badu, and many others, and is timed to coincide with The Big Apple's celebration of hip-hop's 50th anniversary.

Inspired by Vikki Tobak’s 2022 coffee-table book of the same name, "Ice Cold" is "a love letter to hip-hop, New York, and all the ways that hip-hop and jewelry have changed everything,” the author and guest curator told westsiderag.com.

"Bringing the 'Ice Cold' exhibit to the American Museum of Natural History is a testament to the cultural significance of this art form and culture,” said Tobak. “It's time to celebrate the artists, jewelers, craftsmen and everyday people who contributed to the storied history of hip-hop jewelry. This exhibit not only pays homage to hip-hop's roots with pieces from Biz Markie and Jam Master Jay, for example, but also highlights its enduring impact on style and society with pieces from contemporary artists like Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky, and FERG."

"Ice Cold" chronicles the evolution of jewelry in hip-hop over the past five decades, starting with the oversized gold chains that were embraced by rap’s pioneers in the late-1970s and moving through the 1990s, when hip-hop’s popularity exploded and artists sported record-label pendants sparkling with diamonds and platinum.

The introductory case in "Ice Cold" features emblematic jewelry from some of hip-hop’s most legendary artists, including a glittering crown, eye-patch, and a five-foot-long chain from Slick Rick, a senior advisor for the exhibition, who pioneered the royal motif in hip-hop.

Other pieces in this case demonstrate how artists of different eras shaped hip-hop’s visual identity through jewelry styles signifying authenticity and success, including an Adidas necklace from Jam Master Jay of Run D.M.C., made in honor of the hit 1986 song “My Adidas,” which led to an historic endorsement deal between the group and the athletic company; Nas’ diamond-encrusted "QB" pendant, which pays homage to the Queensbridge Houses in Queens, NY, where he grew up; and a multi-colored, fully-articulated LEGO mini-figure pendant commissioned by A$AP Rocky, one of the younger generation of artists moving hip-hop jewelry in new directions.

“Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry” will run through January 5, 2025, at the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery, located in the museum’s new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. "Ice Cold" is included with general admission, which is “pay what you wish” for residents of the New York Tri-State area.

The museum, which features a world-renowned mineral and gem collection — including two of the largest amethyst geodes on public display, the legendary 563-carat “Star of India” sapphire, the 9-pound almandine Subway Garnet and the 632-carat Patricia Emerald — is located on Central Park West, between West 77th and West 81st streets.

Credit: Photo of Slick Rick's crown, eyepatch and chain by Alvaro Keding/© AMNH.
May 10th, 2024
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we take a closer look at The Rolling Stones' 2023 country ballad, "Dreamy Skies," which tells the story of Mick Jagger's yearning to escape the city's sirens and maddening crowds.

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Written by Jagger and Keith Richards during the COVID lockdown, "Dreamy Skies" is a place of solitude and recovery — a sanctuary. In the song's first verse, Jagger explains the challenge at hand: "Well, I got to take a break from it all / 'Cause the wind and the wilderness calls / And I just need some peace from the storms / I got to take a break from it all."

And Jagger is not simply looking to book a holiday retreat on some tropical island. He wants to head "way off the grid" where there are no people around for hundreds of miles. Once there, he sings, "I'll be dancing on diamonds, I'll be skating on glass."

"Dreamy Skies" is the sixth track from The Rolling Stones' 24th studio album, Hackney Diamonds, the group's first collection of original music in 18 years. Critics praised this newest work and fans around the world agreed. The album charted in 30 countries and rose to #3 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart.

The reference to "diamonds" in the title of the album was explained by Jagger during a press conference in September of 2023. Hackney is a borough on the north side of London and "Hackney Diamonds" is a slang term to describe pebbles of broken glass that shimmer on the road in the evening.

“Yeah, it’s like when you get your windscreen broken on Saturday night in Hackney, and all the bits go on the street," said Jagger. "That’s Hackney Diamonds.”

With estimated album sales of 240 million, The Rolling Stones rank second on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the Greatest Artist of All Time. The Beatles were #1.

The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962, and more than 60 years later, original group members Jagger and Keith Richards (both 80) are still selling out the biggest venues on the planet. Upcoming performances are scheduled for East Rutherford, NJ; Las Vegas, NV; Seattle, WA; Foxboro, MA; Orlando, FL; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Chicago, IL; Vancouver, BC; Los Angeles, CA; and Santa Clara, CA.

Please check out the lyric video of "Dreamy Skies." The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Dreamy Skies"
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Performed by The Rolling Stones.

Well, I got to take a break from it all
'Cause the wind and the wilderness calls
And I just need some peace from the storms
I got to take a break from it all

And I got to take a break for a while
Where there ain't another human for a hundred miles
I hate being enclosed by the walls
And I got to take a break from it all

I'll be dancing on diamonds, I'll be skating on glass
I'll be chopping up wood, I'll be splitting the halves
An old AM radio is all that I've got
It just plays Hank Williams and some bad honky-tonk
'Cause I got to take a break from it all

And I got to break away from it all
From the city and the suburbs and sprawl
And the small town chatter and the know-it-alls
To a place where no one can call

And I won't hear the sirens or the maddening crowds
Just the bark of a fox and the hoot of an owl
I ain't got no connections or a satellite phone
I'm avoiding the pictures and the people back home
And I just got to break free from it all

You see, it can't last forever, I'll be diving back in
It's good for my soul, yes, it's saving my skin
'Cause I love the laughter, the women, the wine
I just got to break free from it all

But I’m way off the grid, off the trail
I ain’t gonna post and I ain’t gonna mail
I just need some peace from the storm
Well, I got to break away from it all

And I got to break away from it all
And I got to break away from it all
To a place where no one can call
And I got to break away from it all



Credit: Photo by Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
May 9th, 2024
Scientists at West Virginia University have discovered unexpectedly high concentrations of lithium in "fool's gold," the glittery, metallic pyrite that has been mistaken for precious metal for thousands of years.

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During medieval times, charlatans made money by selling the relatively worthless pyrite as gold. Today, the term "fool’s gold" is used metaphorically to define anything that is mistakenly highly valued.

Well, it seems that pyrite may get the last laugh.

Lithium is often called "white gold" because it is in such high demand and carries a heavy price tag. Lithium-ion batteries are the energy source for phones, laptops, electric vehicles, e-bikes, power-backup devices and your garage-full of power tools.

According to published reports, the world currently produces roughly 110,000 tons of lithium each year, but demand is projected to be five times that much by the end of this decade.

The challenge is to find new, accessible, inexpensive sources of lithium — and the answer may be found in the mounds of discarded mining material containing "worthless" pyrite.

Shailee Bhattacharya, a sedimentary geochemist and doctoral student working with Professor Shikha Sharma in the Isotopic and Biogeochemical Characterization of Geological Materials (IsoBioGeM) lab at West Virginia University, argues that exploring previous industrial operations (e.g., mine tailings or drill cuttings) could serve as a source of additional lithium without generating new waste materials.

"We can talk about sustainable energy without using a lot of energy resources," she commented.

Her team studied 15 sedimentary rock samples from the Appalachian basin in the US and were surprised to find plenty of lithium in pyrite minerals in shale. Her team presented its findings recently at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2024.

Pyrite is high in sulfur, which is leading researchers to rethink how lithium-ion batteries might be replaced by lithium-sulfur batteries. Scientists report that sulfur-rich pyrite requires fewer resources to extract and that means a lower environmental impact compared to the current mining operations required to produce the lithium-ion variety.

Apart from the Appalachian basin of West Virginia, fool's gold is found throughout the US, including Colorado, Illinois, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Montana, Washington and Missouri.

Credit: Image by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
May 8th, 2024
Billed as only the third yellow diamond larger than 200 carats ever to appear at auction, "The Yellow Rose" could fetch $4.4 million or more as the top lot of Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva on May 15.

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The unmounted 202.18-carat gem boasts excellent polish and symmetry and a Fancy Intense Yellow color. Sourced in South Africa, the pear-shaped modified brilliant cut gem carries a clarity grade of SI1.

Here are some more auction highlights:

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Lot 32 is a platinum pendant highlighting a pear brilliant-cut diamond of 30.02 carats. The D-color, internally flawless gem is expected to yield $1.7 million to $2.8 million.

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A pair of natural pearl sautoirs are included in Lot 99. The longest of the two has 171 round to oval and button shaped natural pearls ranging in size from 12.55 to 4.45 mm. The shorter strand holds 182 round to roundish and button shaped natural pearls ranging from 10.75 to 4.10 mm. The pre-sale estimate for the pair is $1.7 million to $2.5 million.

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The Taffin Diamond Ring, Lot 66, is projected to sell in the range of $1.3 million to $2 million. Set in platinum, the 23.15-carat emerald-cut diamond is rated D-flawless.

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Beautifully matched round diamonds weighing 30.03 and 30.02 carats, respectively, are mounted as platinum earrings that should earn from $1.1 million to $1.6 million. The diamonds of Lot 72 each carry a color grade of K and a clarity grade of VS2.

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Lot 51 is a Cartier-designed ring spotlighting a 20.02-carat pear brilliant-cut diamond. Christie's believes the D-flawless diamond will draw bids in the range of $1 million to $1.7 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
May 7th, 2024
In the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in France, luxury jeweler Chaumet and the Paris 2024 Athletes' Commission were tasked with coming up with a medal design that would truly symbolize the City of Light. And their final concept seems to be right out of the playbook of the recent NFL and MLB championship rings, where a piece of Super Bowl turf or World Series game ball leather is actually embedded into the collectible.

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In this case, every one of the 5,084 medals to be awarded at the Summer Games will include at its center an 18-gram hexagonal slice of iron from the actual Eiffel Tower.

"We wanted these medals to be truly unique, to bear the Paris 2024 signature," said Tony Estanguet, President of Paris 2024. "To achieve this, we married the strongest symbol of the Games, the medal, with the ultimate symbol of Paris and France around the world, the Eiffel Tower."

Unveiled at the 1889 World's Fair, the 300-meter-tall Eiffel Tower impressed the world with its stature and innovation. During the 20th century, the structure underwent renovation work and certain metallic elements were removed and carefully preserved. The Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel contributed these veritable pieces of the history to the Olympic Games Paris 2024 so they could enjoy a second lease on life.

The original iron of the Eiffel Tower was cut into a hexagon and that's why the slice of iron on the medals mimics that shape. Stripped of its “Eiffel Tower brown” paint, the iron has been restored to its original color. The greyish iron color contrasts with the gold, silver and bronze to give the medals a two-tone look.

The hexagon iron is affixed to the medal by a “claw setting,” which was traditionally used by the House of Chaumet for its high- jewelry creations. Six metal appendages are stamped on the surface and placed at the six corners of the hexagon. For the Paris 2024 Games, claws in the shape of “Clous de Paris” (pyramid squares) are reminiscent of the famous rivets on the Eiffel Tower.

The rays that radiate from the center of the medal are struck rather than engraved to give the medal a 3D effect and to add sparkle.

The Olympic medals are all engraved with the name of the sport, discipline and event of the medallist on the edge.

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The other side of the Olympic medal tells the story of the revival of the Games in Greece. A traditional figure on the medals since 2004, the goddess of victory, Nike, is depicted in the foreground, emerging from the Panathenaic Stadium, where the Olympic Games were revived in 1896.

The 2024 medals measure 85mm in diameter and have a thickness of 9.2mm. The gold medal is the heaviest of the three types of medals at 529 grams (1.16 pounds), while the silver medal weighs in at 525 grams and the bronze medal at 455 grams.

Contrary to what many people believe, a gold medal awarded at the Olympics contains just 6 grams of gold. The core of the gold medal is actually made of 99.9% silver. Silver medals are completely silver, and the bronze medals are made of copper

There was a time when Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, but the last ones were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, way back in 1912.

The Summer Games will take place in Paris from July 26 through August 11.

Credits: Images courtesy of Paris 2024 / Ulysse Périer.