Rocks and Metal
September 27th, 2016
In a little more than two weeks, visitors to London's Natural History Museum will get their first peek at the world's largest faceted vivid blue topaz — The Ostro Stone. Weighing an astounding 9,831 carats (4.33 pounds), the oval gem will be closely guarded and housed in a 7-foot-tall toughened glass case.


Despite the fanfare connected with its newest high-profile exhibit, the Natural History Museum has yet to publish a photo of the blue gemstone.

In fact, The Ostro Stone has been largely under the radar during the 30 years since the Swiss Blue gem was discovered in the Brazilian rainforest by explorer and holocaust survivor Max Ostro.

Ostro founded Ostro Minerals in 1960, and his company grew to be a leading producer of blue topaz. Ostro is credited with refining the nomenclature used to describe the various colors of topaz. For instance, he coined the term "London Blue" and "Swiss Blue." The founder passed away in 2010.

His son, Maurice Ostro, who is also a precious gem expert and entrepreneur, generously donated his dad's amazing find to the Natural History Museum. The gem is said to be worth "millions of dollars."


While we wait until its unveiling to get a look at The Ostro Stone, we can show you the previous vivid blue topaz record-holder — "Marbella."

Weighing 8,225 carats, the grapefruit-sized specimen sourced in Minas Gerais, Brazil, was purchased by the Spanish government in 2000 and was intended to be added to its world renowned Programa Royal Collections museum.

Marbella was originally called “Topaz Azul” (Blue Topaz, in Spanish), but was renamed “Marbella” in 2010 upon the special request of the town of Marbella’s Mayoress and local dignitaries, who believed a local exhibit of the gem could help raise the international profile of the Costa del Sol destination, boost the economy and encourage cultural development.

Marbella has been billed as "the world’s largest faceted blue topaz," but The Ostro Stone clearly outweighs it by 1,606 carats. Both stones are ovals and both stones boast a vivid blue color. The only significant difference, we're guessing, is their size.

London's Natural History Museum will officially unveil The Ostro Stone during a special reception on October 13.

Credits: London's Natural History Museum by Chiugoran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; Marbella topaz (uncredited).
September 26th, 2016
Only one month into their whirlwind romance, Aussie singer Iggy Azalea is wearing seven diamond eternity bands from American rapper French Montana.


The couple started dating in August, but already the diamonds are symbolizing that Montana is looking to take the relationship to the next level. In fact, in an Instagram post aimed at her 9.3 million followers, the 26-year-old Azalea seemed to lightheartedly joke that the 31-year-old Montana is looking to "pressure her" into a permanent commitment.

"He told me pressure makes diamonds," she captioned an Instagram selfie showing seven diamond eternity rings sharing three fingers on her right hand.


The post included tags for Montana and jeweler Iceman Nick, along with heart and diamond emojis. Azalea's Instagram fans seemed to be impressed, as the post earned 112,000 Likes.

From the photo, it appears as if the eternity bands represent a fun assortment of metal colors and diamond shapes.

Her middle finger pairs a band of baguette-cut diamonds in yellow gold with a ring with slightly larger round diamonds set in white gold.

The ring finger has a stack of three bands. At the top, a unique shared-prong round diamond ring in white gold is stacked on top of two yellow gold bands, one featuring round diamonds in a four-prong setting and the other with smaller round diamonds in a similar setting.

Her pinky lights up with two bands of prong-set, princess-cut diamonds in white gold.

Azalea bounced back quickly from her failed engagement to professional basketball player Nick Young. The couple had been engaged June 1, 2015. The $500,000 engagement ring featured an 8.15-carat fancy intense yellow cushion-cut diamond embellished by a halo of white diamonds. The couple broke up this past June.

The “Fancy” singer is expected to release her second studio album, Digital Distortion, later in 2016, while Montana is set to release his second studio album MC4 on October 14.

Credits: Photos via Instagram/thenewclassic.
September 23rd, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you nostalgic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today's edition takes us to the mythical town of San Pueblo, Calif., where the musical siblings of The Partridge Family are performing "Love Must Be the Answer."


Featured in a Partridge Family episode that aired on October 13, 1972, "Love Must Be the Answer" — which includes the key phrase "I don't know but I've been told / The streets of heaven are paved with gold" — highlights the climactic wedding scene of biker Snake and his beloved Penny. This Season 3 episode focuses on Snake's failed marriage proposal, but in the end the couple weds on the Partridge Family's front lawn. (See the clip at the end of this post.)

Oldest brother Keith (played by David Cassidy) sings lead vocals, accompanied by his TV mom (and real-life stepmom) Shirley Jones. While Cassidy and Jones actually performed on The Partridge Family recordings, other cast members, including Laurie (Susan Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Tracy (Suzanne Crough) and Chris (Brian Forster, who replaced Jeremy Gelbwaks after Season 1), were simply lip-synching. The show was based loosely on The Cowsills, a real-life 1960s band composed of six siblings ages 8 to 19 and their mother, Barbara Cowsill.

"Love Must Be the Answer" was the ninth track of The Partridge Family Notebook, an album that was released less than a month after the show aired. The album met with moderate success, reaching #41 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

The Partridge Family is said to be the 1970s successor to The Monkees, a wildly popular show that ran from 1966 to 1968. Both shows treated their fans to a weekly dose of original pop music. Critics often mocked the groups for their lack of actual musical talent. Los Angeles session players, known as The Wrecking Crew, provided the magic for both The Monkees and The Partridge Family.

Nevertheless, The Partridge Family has remained a cultural icon more than 40 years after their last show aired in March of 1974. In total, the group is credited with selling more than 25 million records and building a legion of fans that spans the generations.

Please check out the clip below of David Cassidy performing "Love Must Be the Answer." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Love Must Be the Answer"
Written by Johnny Cymbal, Peggy Clinger and Wes Farrell. Performed by The Partridge Family.

La la la la la la la la la, la la la la la la,
La la la la la la la la la, la la la la la la,

I don't know but I've been told,
The streets of heaven are paved with gold
Someday I may find out for myself,
So will you. But till that day,
I've got to say (ooh)

Love must be the answer,
I've searched high and low,
I know love must be the answer,
Got it (you) get it (now)
Let me be your guide, get it (ya) got it (now),
Let some love inside

Are you searchin for the key,
Just take my hand and follow me,
Bring along a little love to share,
It'll get you there. Why be lonely,
You'll know only (ooh)

Love must be the answer,
I've searched high and low,
I know love must be the answer,
Got it (you) get it (now)
Let me be your guide, get it (ya) got it (now),
Let some love inside
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,

Love must be the answer,
I've searched high and low,
I know love must be the answer,
Got it (you) get it (now)
Let me be your guide, get it (ya) got it (now),
Let some love inside

La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer,
La la la la la la la la la, love must be the answer.

Credits: Partridge Family image by ABC Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
September 22nd, 2016
Kim Kardashian's new flawless 20-carat emerald-cut diamond ring adds megawatt symmetry to the reality star's jewelry wardrobe. The $8 million sparkler, which was gifted to her by hubby Kanye West, nicely complements the 15-carat cushion-cut diamond engagement ring he gave her back in 2013. That ring was reportedly worth $1.3 million.


Designer Lorraine Schwartz revealed on her Instagram page that the diamond boasts a D color and has an impressive clarity rating of Type IIa. Diamonds in this category are chemically pure and often show extraordinary optical transparency. Famous Type IIa diamonds include the Cullinan, Koh-i-Noor and Lesedi La Rona.


Schwartz posted a short, somewhat blurry, Snapchat video of Kardashian flaunting both rings. The video is captioned, "Guess who just got another #dflawless #perfect #type2a diamond ring??? #20carat #emeraldcut #omg #lorraineschwartz diamonds."

In the video, the new ring is on her left hand and her engagement ring is on the right. Video link is here...


Apparently, Kardashian had been wearing the new ring for more than three weeks. The rapper gave it to her just before the MTV Video Music Awards in New York last month, but the paparazzi and fashion press didn't catch on until she wore BOTH rings at a Harper's Bazaar party on September 9. The ring styles are nearly identical, except for the size of the center stone.


The power couple was famously on the magazine's September 2016 cover.

Fashion bloggers wondered if the ring was a belated push present. Kardashian gave birth to the couple's second child, Saint West, back in December of 2015.


Kardashian's newest jewelry will take its place in the pantheon of the most famous diamond rings of all time.

These include the 35-carat gem Mariah Carey received in January from Aussie billionaire James Packer, the 33.19-carat Krupp Diamond, which Richard Burton famously gave to Elizabeth Taylor in 1968, the 30-carat diamond Taylor received from Michael Todd in 1957, the 24-carat canary yellow diamond Paris Hilton accepted from Paris Latsis in 2005, the 20.5-carat solitaire Kardashian got from Kris Humphries in 2011, the 20-carat diamond Christina Aguilera received from Jordan Bratman in 2005 and the 18-carat diamond Beyoncé got from Jay-Z in 2007.

Credits: Instagram/TeamKimye, Instagram/LorraineSchwartz; Harper's Bazaar; Instagram/KimKardashian.
September 21st, 2016
TV's hottest stars stepped out in cool white platinum at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Among the A-listers preferring platinum as their accessory of choice were Emmy nominees Viola Davis, Maura Tierney and Heidi Klum. As usual, the extraordinary designs of Harry Winston, Fred Leighton and Lorraine Schwartz were front and center on the red carpet. Each designer chose platinum — the naturally white precious metal — to truly enhance the brilliance of the diamonds and colored gemstones in their head-turning creations.

Viola Davis, an Emmy nominee in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, looked stunning in a vibrant pink gown by Marchesa. Her jewelry by Harry Winston included cluster diamond chandelier earrings (16.39 carats), Secret Combination diamond bracelet (68.75 carats) and Traffic diamond ring (1.43 carats). The talented actress was nominated for her work on ABC's How to Get Away with Murder.

A nominee for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for The Affair, Maura Tierney wore a gown by Christian Siriano and embellished it with vintage platinum jewelry provided by Fred Leighton. Her ensemble included 1930s-era diamond-and-aquamarine earrings and a 19th century rose-cut diamond cluster ring.

Project Runway's Heidi Klum, who was nominated in the category of Best Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, delighted her fans in a sultry, cut-out gown by Michael Kors and platinum jewelry by Lorraine Schwartz. Dangling from Klum's ears were pear-shaped diamonds boasting a total weight of 32 carats. She also wore two diamond rings, with a total weight of 10 carats and 2 carats, respectively.

Making a big splash on the red carpet was Kristen Bell, who will star in NBC's The Good Place this fall. The actress wore a champagne bouffant gown by Zuhair Murad and accessorized it with breathtaking platinum jewelry by Harry Winston. Among her accessories were chandelier diamond earrings (9.2 carats), marquise cluster diamond bracelet (44.35 carats), round brilliant diamond ring (3.69 carats) and a diamond band (1.04 carats).

The Hollywood stars connected with their red carpet jewelry with the help of Platinum Guild International (PGI USA) and StyleLab as part of its Emmy Suite. Style expert Michael O'Connor was on hand to match celebrities with curated platinum pieces from renowned brands.

Other celebrities who chose to wear platinum jewelry for their Emmy appearances included Kirsten Dunst, Emmy Rossum, Lili Taylor, Allison Janney, Lara Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Lilly Tomlin, Joanne Froggatt, Olivia Culpo, Anika Noni Rose, Michelle Dockery, Alexandra Billings, Connie Britton, Angel Parker and Charissa Thompson.

Credits: (Outside Source) via Getty Images.
September 20th, 2016
Back in 1949, archaeologists discovered a trove of human-like bones and ancient jewelry in the Grotte du Renne cave in France. The artifacts dated back 40,000 years, during a time when modern humans coexisted with Neanderthals in that area.

The jewelry items were fashioned from animal teeth, shells and ivory. The elements were likely strung and worn as a necklace.


While the evidence seemed to connect the Neanderthals to the jewelry, the scientific community didn't believe Neanderthals had the capacity to express themselves symbolically. Our archaic cousins, they argued, simply didn't have the brain power to design and create items of adornment. Some scientists reasoned that the bones from the oldest layers of the excavation probably got mixed up with more recent ones by mistake.

The doubters were silenced recently when a team of European scientists, led by Matthew Collins, a bioarchaeologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom, reanalyzed the tiny bones found along with the jewelry. While they were unable to do conventional DNA testing because of the age and size of the bone samples, the team, instead, conducted a chemical analysis of the protein in the bones and compared them with known human and Neanderthal samples.


The results were conclusive. The samples were, indeed, Neanderthal.

This cutting-edge protein analysis pointed to the likelihood that the Neanderthals designed and fabricated the jewelry found in the cave. The evidence is also helping to change the way the scientific world has viewed Neanderthals. They were likely far more sophisticated and intelligent than scientists ever imagined.

Critics still hold out the possibility, however, that the Neanderthals may have simply taken the jewelry from humans or received the items as gifts from humans.

Scientists agree that Neanderthals and modern humans did interact socially during a time when humans were migrating across Europe and the Neanderthals, who had lived there for hundreds of thousands of years, were on the verge of dying out.

Credits: Jewelry by Dr. Marian Vanheren. Neanderthal man by Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
September 19th, 2016
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's 18-karat gold toilet at New York's Guggenheim Museum is giving the notion of "sitting on the throne" a whole new meaning.


Visitors who pay the museum's $15 admission fee are encouraged to stop by the unisex washroom on the fourth floor, where they can take a private moment with a fully functional commode fit for a king or queen. The exhibit opened on Thursday. estimated the value of the potty to be somewhere between $1.4 million and $2.5 million, and a Guggenheim spokesperson affirmed that it will be cleaned with special wipes every 15 minutes. Reviewers are cautioning, however, that the seat is very heavy to lift and, of course, one might be slightly uncomfortable with a security guard standing just outside the door.

The exhibit called "America" offers the visitor "unprecedented access to something of unquestionable value,” according to museum curator Nancy Spector. “In a gallery environment where visitors are constantly being told, 'don’t touch,' this is an extraordinary opportunity to spend time completely alone with a work of art by a leading contemporary artist."

The Guggenheim Museum noted on its website that the exhibit “offers a wink to the excesses of the art market but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all.”

Cattelan told the The New York Times that he was happy that his work was not on a pedestal. "It’s not in a gallery. It’s in a little room, just waiting for you whenever you need it,” he said, adding, “When I saw it in there the other day for the first time, I cried. Well, almost.”

"This is 1 percent art for the 99 percent,” he told the New York Post.

On its Twitter page, the Guggenheim Museum posted a lighthearted notice about the opening of the irreverent installation: "Are you sitting down? Maurizio #Cattelan: "America" opens tomorrow, 9/15, in one of the museum’s public restrooms."

Catalan's artwork has generated a buzz throughout traditional and social media. CBS News' "Sunday Morning" ran a segment about the exhibition yesterday and the The New York Times posted its review last Thursday.

Lucky Times writer Randy Kennedy got to preview the facilities on opening day and reported the following: “As a formal matter, I’ll say that the sculpture really looks its best when in use, sparkling so much it’s almost too bright to look at, especially during the flush, which may be a new postmodern sublime.”

Kennedy noted that the "America" exhibit will remain in place and in use indefinitely.

Credit: Image via Museum.
September 16th, 2016
Welcome to our Music Friday Flashback when we revisit fabulous oldies with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today's featured song is "Beach Baby," a popular 1974 singalong from the British one-hit wonder called The First Class.


Lead singer Tony Burrows — in his best American accent — channels Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys in this song about a summer romance on the beaches of Southern California. He sings, "We couldn't wait for graduation day (oh oh, no) / We took the car and drove to San Jose (oh oh oh) / That's where you told me that you'd wear my ring / I guess you don't remember anything."

What's interesting about "Beach Baby" is that is was written and performed by UK natives. John Carter and his wife, Gillian (Jill) Shakespeare, composed the song in their home in East Sheen, South West London. Despite being 5,400 miles from "old L.A., when everybody drove a Chevrolet," the writing team perfectly captured the vibe of the surf music popularized by The Beach Boys 10 years earlier.

The First Class was the studio creation of Carter and Shakespeare. Once they had their song completed, they hired session singers Burrows and Chas Mills to record the track as The First Class. While the band may suffer from the tag of "one-hit wonder," Burrows has an impressive resume. He was the voice behind a number of other hits, including Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" and Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand."

Often mistaken as a Beach Boys standard, "Beach Baby" became a summertime favorite on both sides of the pond. In 1974, it zoomed to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, settled at #13 on the U.K. charts and ascended all the way to #1 in Canada.

Before we officially say goodbye to summer, let's turn up the volume on "Beach Baby." The video, below, features a live performance by The First Class, with Burrows singing lead vocals. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Beach Baby"
Written by Gillian Shakespeare and John Carter. Performed by The First Class.

You remember back in old L.A. (oh oh oh)
When everybody drove a Chevrolet (oh oh oh)
Whatever happened to the boy next door
The sun-tanned crew-cut all-American male

Remember dancing at the high school hop (oh oh oh)
The dress I ruined with the soda pop (oh oh oh)
I didn't recognize the girl next-door
The beat up sneakers and the pony tail

Beach baby, beach baby, give me your hand
Give me something that I can remember
Just like before, we can walk by the shore in the moonlight
Beach baby, beach baby, there on the sand
From July to the end of September
Surfin' was fun, we'd be out in the sun every day

Mmm, I never thought that it would end (ooh ooh)
Mmm, and I was everybody's friend (ooh ooh)
Long hot days
Blue sea haze
Jukebox plays
But now it's fading away

We couldn't wait for graduation day (oh oh, no)
We took the car and drove to San Jose (oh oh oh)
That's where you told me that you'd wear my ring
I guess you don't remember anything

Beach baby, beach baby, give me your hand (give me your hand)
Give me somethin' that I can remember (give me something to remember)
Just like before we can walk by the shore in the moonlight
Beach baby, beach baby, there on the sand (there on the sand)
From July to the end of September (from July to September)
Surfin' was fun, we'd be out in the sun every day

Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Do do, do do do do
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Do do, do do do do
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Do do, do do do do
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Do do, do do do do
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Beach baby, beach baby
Do do, do do do do

Credit: Image screen capture via
September 15th, 2016
On the same day Betty Cantrell ended her reign as Miss America 2016 and handed over her bejeweled crown to successor Savvy Shields of Arkansas, the outgoing pageant winner announced her engagement to boyfriend Spencer (Spinny) Maxwell — and revealed her new diamond ring.


Cantrell couldn't have been more excited about the exchange of bling.

The 22-year-old beauty's Instagram page lit up on Sunday with a photo of Cantrell snuggled up to her new beau, with an engagement ring prominently displayed on her left hand, which rested against his chest.

"And now finally I can say my Fiancé!" the Georgia native announced in the caption of her snapshot. "To the man who let me be Miss America for a year, to the man who is moving to Nashville with me to help me achieve my dreams as a country music singer, to the man who so selflessly lets me shine, to the man who never gave up on me... to the love of my life. Forever and always, your dreams are my dreams. I love you Spinny." She closed her announcement with the following hashtags: #tonewdreams #truelove #fiance #engaged #finally.


Cantrell was back on Instagram a few moments later with another photo: the closeup of the ring. Captioned "Because I'm OBSESSED!!!!!" the image shows a detailed view of a sizable cushion-cut diamond in a four-prong setting on a minimalist yellow gold band. Cantrell added that @spinnymoose [Spencer] knows how to pick a ring." She used the hashtags #engaged #fiance #finally #rock #cushioncut.

Cantrell and Maxwell will be moving to Nashville so the former Miss America can pursue a career in country music. She revealed on her Instagram page that she's already completed three tracks for her first album. Cantrell met Maxwell in March of 2015, but kept their romance out of the spotlight while Cantrell served her year-long assignment as Miss America.


Cantrell also used her Instagram page to share a selfie of her and Shields. She congratulated the 21-year-old on her win and wished her the best as Miss America 2017. The 96th Miss America pageant took place at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

Credits: Images via
September 14th, 2016
Visitors to New York City next month will have a rare opportunity to see the amazing gemstone creations of Chinese master sculptor Wallace Chan. The installation at the Park Avenue Armory from October 21-26 will mark the first time Chan has exhibited his work in New York.


Regarded as the world’s leading art fair, TEFAF New York Fall will showcase Chan's 7-foot-tall "Rise of Heart."


Crafted in titanium, the gemstone-intensive sculpture depicts what Chan calls the "queen of Chinese gardens" — the peony flower — encircled by graceful butterflies. The breathtaking work is embellished with 925 rubies (357 carats), 470 citrines (3,622 carats), 500 amethysts (1,078 carats) and a vibrant burst of yellow diamonds.


Chan notes on his website that the peony is a sign of spring, as well as a symbol of affection, feminine beauty, riches and honor. The airy butterflies are a symbol of beauty, love and joy.

“Do flowers attract butterflies or is it the other way round? I wonder about that relationship,” Wallace told a writer for the design blog, Lavender's Blue. “I’m always very curious! I like to study the sky and earth, to capture the universe in my works. The universe is my teacher!”


Also on display in New York will be 40 other Chan masterpieces. Some of his work is so vivid and lifelike that it looks like it could crawl away.


The world renowned Hong Kong-based artist is famous for developing "The Wallace Cut," a special technique he uses to carve a three-dimensional portrait into the non-faceted back of a gemstone. Using a dentist’s drill with a specially adapted blade, the sculptor grinds away at the gemstone to render a subject who seems to be looking in several directions at once.

The drill, which spins at 36,000 times per minute, generates so much heat that the process has to take place under cold water or else the stone could be easily damaged.

“It means I can’t see clearly when I’m cutting,” Chan told CNN. “It becomes a very repetitive process. I make one cut, take it out of the water to check it, dry the stone, check it again, and if it’s fine I put it back in the water and make another cut.”

At TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) New York Fall, Chan will exhibit among 93 other experts representing a range of art from antiquity through the early 20th century.

Credits: Images via