Rocks and Metal

Articles in March 2014

March 3rd, 2014
Standing nearly 14 inches tall and weighing 1,363 carats, the obelisk-shaped fantasy-cut “Dom Pedro” aquamarine is one of the few objects in the world that can hold its own in a display case just 30 feet from the Hope Diamond. The Dom Pedro is the largest faceted aquamarine in the world and, arguably, the most beautiful example of March’s official birthstone.

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The Dom Pedro is the masterwork of Bernd Munsteiner, an Idar-Oberstein-based gem cutter, who has been called “The Picasso of Gems” and “The Father of the Fantasy Cut.” Munsteiner spent four months studying a 57-pound rough aquamarine crystal before embarking on a grueling six-month adventure to meticulously cut, facet and polish the stone.

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In December of 2012, the Dom Pedro was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection and is now a top attraction at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology.

The Dom Pedro was originally part of a larger crystal that was discovered by three Brazilian prospectors — garimperos — in the state of Minas Gerais in the late 1980s. While being transported, the one-meter-long, 100-pound crystal fractured in two places. Two pieces were eventually cut into smaller gemstones, but the largest piece had much greater potential. Its exquisite green-blue color and pristine clarity opened a window of opportunity for a cutter with the skill of Munsteiner.

The legendary gem cutter was commissioned in 1992 to take the Dom Pedro, a 23-inch-tall rough aquamarine, and transform it into a design he would call Ondas Maritimas, or “Waves of the Sea.”

Munsteiner is famous for his “fantasy cuts,” where he facets a pattern of “negative cuts” into the back of a gem, which reflects the light from within.

“There is so much about the Dom Pedro that is remarkable, but what excites me most is that we are able to preserve the story that goes along with it,” said Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Dom Pedro, which was mined in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and appropriately named after Brazil’s first two emperors, Dom Pedro Primeiro and his son, Dom Pedro Segundo, has a fascinating backstory.  An unidentified Brazilian purchased the three fragments of the broken original crystal and sold the largest chunk to Munsteiner and a consortium of gem connoisseurs in 1992.

When Munsteiner viewed the gem for the first time, “it was love a first sight!” according to an account at Smithsonian.com. From 1992 to 1993, he focused on what would be called the “project of his life.”

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Smithsonian.com reported that Munsteiner made hundreds of sketches before deciding on the lozenge-shaped “negative facets” that are "stepped" along the two backsides of the obelisk. In certain lighting conditions, the gem gives the illusion of being illuminated from within.

He was reportedly pleased that the original crystal had been broken into three pieces, as it gave him confidence during the cutting process that the internal stresses of the stone were no longer a concern.

While cutting the gem completely by hand, he was never concerned with the eventual carat weight. His attention was purely on the beauty and the brilliance. "When you focus on the carat weight, it’s only about the money,” he said. “I cannot create when I’m worried about the money.”

Unveiled at the annual gem fair in Basel, Switzerland, in 1993, the gem became a traveling ambassador for the German government, a tangible example of German craftsmanship and ingenuity.

But, by the late 1990s, the gem’s future was in jeopardy. The Brazilian consortium partner wanted the gem to be sold so he could recoup his investment. Gem collector Jane Mitchell and her husband Jeffery Bland stepped in to purchase the Dom Pedro in 1999, ensuring that it wouldn’t be cut up and made into many smaller aquamarines.

The stone was generously gifted to the Smithsonian in 2011 and made part of the permanent exhibition at the very end of 2012.

Credits: Dom Pedro photos (top) by Donald E. Hurlbert, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History; Other images by B. Munsteiner.
March 4th, 2014
The $10 million bounty of 1,427 gold coins recently unearthed by a Northern California couple in their own backyard may be tied directly to the unsolved mystery of Walter Dimmick, a San Francisco Mint chief clerk, who was convicted in 1901 of embezzling 1,500 gold coins. Not a single $20 gold piece was ever recovered — until, perhaps, now.

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All the coins found by the couple were dated from 1847 to 1894. Most were mint-condition, uncirculated $20 Double Eagles struck at the San Francisco Mint. The type, date range, origin, quality and quantity of coins all seem to mesh neatly with the Dimmick story.

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These new revelations may throw a monkey wrench into the unbelievable tale of the couple who literally stumbled upon what is now being called the Saddle Ridge Hoard, believed to be the biggest cache of gold coins ever unearthed in the United States. The coins had been packed into cans and hidden near a path on the couple's property. Known only as John and Mary, the couple was planning to start selling individual coins on Amazon.com’s Collectibles site in May.

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Instead of being overnight multi-millionaires, the California couple could end up high and dry. U.S. treasure trove laws could mean that all the coins could be taken away and handed over to the descendants of the person who initially buried the coins or given to the State of California.

If the couple is allowed to keep the coins, the $10 million windfall will net a little over $5 million after 47% is taken in state and federal taxes, according the San Francisco Chronicle.

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The online magazine Altered Dimensions published first-hand accounts of the Dimmick trial, his conviction and his subsequent request for a pardon. According to the publication, Dimmick worked for the Mint from 1898 through 1901. The chief clerk had been trusted with the keys to the vaults until it was discovered during an audit that six bags of $20 Double Eagle gold coins with a face value of $30,000 were missing.

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Dimmick was the prime suspect because he was the only one with the keys to the vault and was the last person to count the bags of coins each night before the vaults were closed. What’s more, he had been accused of forging the superintendent’s name, taking money from pay envelopes of Mint employees and stealing other government funds under his watch. Convicted after a one-month trial, Dimmick was sentenced to serve nine years in San Quentin prison.
March 6th, 2014
Pablo Picasso is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, and some of his work ranks among the most expensive paintings in the world with price tags exceeding $100 million. But next Tuesday, you could scoop up an original Picasso at a Boston auction house for about $20,000. Here’s how...

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Besides being one of the most prolific painters of his generation, Picasso was also a sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, playwright… and jewelry designer.

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Skinner will be featuring three of Picasso’s original jewelry creations during its Fine Jewelry Auction on Tuesday, March 18. Each of the items is estimated to sell in the range of $15,000 to $20,000.

According to Skinner’s website, Picasso created the pieces early in his career for Françoise Gilot, the mother of two his children, Claude and Paloma Picasso. Art experts believe Picasso’s jewelry reflected his softer side and were the most intimate expressions of his affection.

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The most bizarre of the three items is a dimensional “Satyr” pendant cast in silver. A satyr is a character from Roman mythology that has a man’s face and a goat’s ears, tail, legs and horns. Skinner explains that satyrs, minotaurs, bulls and bullfighting were all favorite Picasso motifs.

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The second item is a silver brooch etched with the profile of Claude as a boy. The third item is a silver disc pendant etched with Picasso’s interpretation of the sun.

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Since he wasn’t a jeweler by trade, it is believed Picasso made the silver castings with the assistance of his dentist. The three silver pieces found their way to Skinner’s auction house via Carole Mallory, an author, actress and former supermodel, who had once been engaged to Claude.

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On the day before the sale, Mallory will present a lecture at Skinner titled “Uncovering the Mystery of the Picasso Jewels.”  In 2012, she published Picasso’s Ghost (A Love Story), an account of her love affair with Claude and her life in New York City’s fast lane during the disco era.

Jewelry Photos: Skinner's
March 7th, 2014
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you nostalgic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we feature the Beatles performing their chart-topping hit, “I Feel Fine.” In the joyful tune about a young man in love, the Fab Four sing, “Her baby buys her things, you know / He buys her diamond rings, you know / She said so / She's in love with me and I feel fine.”

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Released 50 years ago, “I Feel Fine” rose to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart and was part of a magical year for the upstart Beatles who, after their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, dominated the music scene. At one point in 1964, the Beatles occupied the top five positions on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and boasted 14 songs in the top 100.

Besides the diamond jewelry reference, "I Feel Fine" is notable for being the first song to use squealing guitar feedback in a studio recording. Normally, audio feedback would be considered an error in the studio, requiring a retake or removal in the editing process.

As Paul McCartney tells it, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified… John leaned his guitar against the amp and it went, 'Nnnnnnwahhhhh!' And we went, 'What's that? Voodoo?’”

It was feedback, and the Beatles were hooked.

McCartney told record producer George Martin that it sounded great and asked if they could have it on the final recording. 'Well, I suppose we could,” said Martin. “We could edit it on the front.”

And that’s how the very unconventional first note on “I Feel Fine” was born.

Lennon, who was responsible for the feedback goof, was reportedly proud of his trailblazer status, saying, "I defy anybody to find a record... unless it is some old blues record from 1922... that uses feedback that way. So I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody. The first feedback on record."

The Beatles went on to become what many agree was the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with 177 million certified records in the U.S. and 600 million records worldwide.

We invite you to enjoy the video of the Beatles performing “I Feel Fine.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along. And don’t miss the groundbreaking feedback effect that starts the song.

"I Feel Fine"
Written by John Lennon. Performed by the Beatles.

Baby's good to me, you know
She's happy as can be, you know
She said so
I'm in love with her and I feel fine

Baby says she's mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I'm in love with her and I feel fine

I'm so glad that she's my little girl
She's so glad, she's telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She's in love with me and I feel fine, mmm

Baby says she's mine, you know
She tells me all the time, you know
She said so
I'm in love with her and I feel fine

I'm so glad that she's my little girl
She's so glad, she's telling all the world

That her baby buys her things, you know
He buys her diamond rings, you know
She said so
She's in love with me and I feel fine
She's in love with me and I feel fine, mmm, mmm

March 10th, 2014
A frazzled bride-to-be is thanking the “Lord of the Rings” for saving the day after she mistakenly flushed her $20,000 1.5-carat diamond engagement ring down the toilet.

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After a stressful day of work and making preparations for her August wedding, Calgary native Arlene Chamulak was going through her normal pre-bedtime bathroom routine… She chucked a wad of gum into the toilet and flushed it down. Then she slipped off her platinum-and-diamond engagement and placed it into a small jewelry bowl. Finally, she brushed her teeth and went to bed.

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The next morning, Chamulak realized something was very wrong. Instead of the engagement ring being in the bowl, the wad of gum was there instead.

“I don’t see my engagement ring,” Chamulak told Global News. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God… I flushed my ring, not the gum. I was just so upset.”

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Chamulak quickly called in professional plumber James Monaghan to lend a hand. Although Managhan said he had experience retrieving rings from toilets, none had been flushed. With the toilet removed and by snaking a fiber optic camera deep into the waste pipe, Monaghan was able to get the ring into view. The problem was that the irreplaceable jewelry was 40 feet into the sewer line and almost impossible to capture.

Chamulak worried that the next step would require the excavation of her front yard.

But Monaghan didn’t give up. For five days, the plumber tried various methods to get the ring out. Then, using a contraption that looks like a large spring with a hook on the end, the plumber was able to snag the ring and reverse its trip through 40 feet of pipe.

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When the ring finally emerged, it looked a bit nasty, but it cleaned up nicely. Chamulak now has her cherished back on her finger and vowed to never take it off again.

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“My mom said to me, ‘You’re not supposed to take your engagement ring off, ever,’” Chamulak said. “And I’m going to keep it on all the time."

Meanwhile, plumber Monaghan has earned the new moniker, “Lord of the Rings,” thanks to a bevy of Chamulak’s Facebook friends, who can’t say enough nice things about his stick-to-itiveness in getting the job done.

Chamulak and her fiancé, Les Archibald, will continue to plan their wedding, which will take place in Scotland in August.
March 11th, 2014
Actress Allison Williams, star of the HBO hit series Girls, told Seth Meyers and his Late Night audience that she is “obsessed” with her new engagement ring from boyfriend Ricky Van Veen.

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Williams was bubbling when — within the first minute of the interview — she showed off the approximately 3-carat round diamond set in white metal and accented with tapered baguette side stones. “I’m obsessed with it and I stare at it a lot,” she said.

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The 25-year-old daughter of NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who ironically plays the unlucky-in-love Marnie on Girls, confirmed her engagement to Van Veen on February 26. The 31-year-old Van Veen is the co-founder of CollegeHumor.com.

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The first glimpse of her ring was captured by the paparazzi during a Vanity Fair Oscars party on March 2, but a national TV audience got the best look at the ring on Meyers’ show a few nights later.

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The Yale-educated Williams, who joked that she considers herself nearly impossible to surprise, told Meyers that she was caught totally off guard by Van Veen’s proposal.

"And yet a surprise snuck through on you," said the brand new host of NBC’s Late Night.

"A total surprise and the best kind of surprise," Williams said without giving away the details. "We're really, really thrilled."

Williams and Van Veen met through mutual friends and have been together for about three years. No wedding date has been announced.
March 12th, 2014
In a style that seems to be inspired by the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, a company called Platinum Sphere Portraits (PSP) can immortalize your likeness using 13,000 platinum beads, ranging in size from 2mm to 5mm.

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Just as Lichtenstein produced his art one comic-color dot at a time, PSP’s master craftsmen render an image by meticulously hand placing platinum spheres as precious “pixels” in the portrait grid. Each sphere has a stem (similar to an earring post) that is pushed into a pre-drilled hole.

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Like a black-and-white newspaper “halftone,” where uniform rows of large and small black dots are printed on white paper to deceive the eye into seeing shades of grey, the platinum spheres of varying sizes accomplish the same effect. Interestingly, the shading is created by the platinum sphere itself and the shadow that it casts.

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Each piece of art measures approximately 32 inches by 23 inches and utilizes 1,000 grams of platinum. The precious metal value is approximately $51,000, but the finished piece is priced at $500,000. Larger versions that require 3,500 grams of platinum are priced at $1 million.

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A platinum portrait demands a superb image, so PSP actually sends a photographer to the subject’s location for a multi-hour photo shoot. Once selected, the preferred image moves to the company’s computer graphics production department, where under the creative direction and supervision of a talented CG artist and art director, every single platinum ball is mapped out with precision.

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According to the company, once the overall layout, number of platinum balls and the portrait’s dimensions are approved by the client, the order is sent to the factory where platinum ball production commences.

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The final step of the operation requires at team of artists to meticulously place each of the 13,000 platinum spheres in its precise location.

Here’s a short video that outlines how the platinum spheres are fabricated and how the portrait comes together. You can also learn more at the company’s web site, PlatinumSpherePortrait.com.


March 13th, 2014
“El Tocado,” the largest and most ornate pre-Columbian headdress ever discovered, will be the centerpiece of a golden exhibition of 100 artifacts excavated from Peru’s legendary royal tombs. The National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, will present “Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed” during a six-month run that will open April 10.

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Although it’s about 1,000 years old, “El Tocado” is in pristine condition and looks as if it was fabricated yesterday. Unearthed in 1991, the piece — whose name means headdress in Spanish — will be making its first-ever U.S. appearance.

The items in the "Peruvian Gold" collection date from 1250 BC to 1450 AD and include gold and silver ceremonial and funerary masks, ceremonial ornaments, ceramics and jewelry. The collection has an estimated value of $3.5 million to $5 million.

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Moche headdress is one of the masterpieces that will be on display in the Peruvian Gold exhibition. Photograph by Joachim Rubio, Museo Larco, Lima, Peru.

From nose rings and gold feathers to elaborate headdresses, the diverse selection of artifacts offers a sweeping view of the rich artistic culture of early Peru, whose artisans rivaled the ancient Egyptians. According to National Geographic, Peruvian gold was a symbol of status, power and eternity.

“National Geographic has been sharing the stories and the archaeology of ancient Peru for more than 100 years,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. “This exhibition is an opportunity to walk into the pages of National Geographic magazine and see unique treasures from Peru’s golden past.”

Guest curated by National Geographic’s Archaeology Fellow Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, “Peruvian Gold” features treasures on loan from three Peruvian institutions: Sican National Museum, Larco Museum and Museum of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru.

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Guided tours of the “Peruvian Gold” exhibition will take place each Monday at 11 a.m. General admission is $11 for adults; $9 for National Geographic members, military, students, seniors and groups of 25 or more; $7 for children 5-12; and free for local school, student and youth groups (18 and under; advance reservation required).

At the end of September, the exhibition will head south to close out the final three months of 2014 at the Irving Arts Center in Irving, TX.
March 14th, 2014
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Bruce Springsteen returns to our blog with a live performance of “Ain’t Got You.” In the song, The Boss details all the treasures he’s amassed, including “the fortunes of heaven in diamonds and gold,” but admits that he’ll never be satisfied because he “ain’t got you.”

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“Ain’t Got You,” was the opening track to Springsteen’s introspective, autobiographical 1987 album Tunnel of Love. Unlike his previous album Born in the USA, Tunnel of Love opened a window into Springsteen’s personal life, especially his troubled marriage to actress Julianne Phillips.

The song also sparked a battle between Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt, a founding member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, according to a 2012 article in The New Yorker. Van Zandt didn’t think it was appropriate for Springsteen to write a song about his personal wealth.

“I’m, like, ‘What… is this?’” Van Zandt told The New Yorker. “And he’s, like, ‘Well, what do you mean? It’s the truth. It’s just who I am. It’s my life.’”

Van Zandt shot back, “People don't need you talking about your life… They need you for their lives. That's your thing. Giving some logic and reason and sympathy and passion to this cold, fragmented, confusing world – that's your gift. Explaining their lives to them. Their lives, not yours.”

Despite Van Zandt’s objections, the song — which Springsteen recorded all alone in his home studio — was selected to lead off Tunnel of Love, an album that sold more than three million copies and topped the U.S. Billboard 200 list.

A 1999 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Springsteen has sold more than 65 million albums in the U.S. and 120 million worldwide. He’s won 20 Grammys, an Academy Award and lit up the crowd during the 2009 Super Bowl halftime show.

We hope you enjoy the video of Springsteen’s live performance of “Ain’t Got You.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“Ain’t Got You”
Written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.

I got the fortunes of heaven in diamonds and gold
I got all the bonds baby that the bank could hold
I got houses 'cross the country honey end to end
And everybody buddy wants to be my friend
Well I got all the riches baby any man ever knew
But the only thing I ain't got honey, I ain't got you

I got a house full of Rembrandt and priceless art
And all the little girls they wanna tear me apart
When I walk down the street people stop and stare
Well you'd think I might be thrilled but baby I don't care
'Cause I got more good luck honey than old King Farouk
But the only thing I ain't got baby, I ain't got you

I got a big diamond watch sittin' on my wrist
I try to tempt you baby but you just resist
I made a deal with de devil babe I won't deny
Until I got you in my arms I can't be satisfied

I got a pound of caviar sitting home on ice
I got a fancy foreign car that rides like paradise
I got a hundred pretty women knockin' down my door
And folks wanna kiss me I ain't even seen before
I been around the world and all across the seven seas
Been paid a king's ransom for doin' what comes naturally
But I'm still the biggest fool honey this world ever knew
'Cause the only thing I ain't got baby, I ain't got you

March 17th, 2014
A microscopic peridot-like impurity trapped under high pressure in a Brazilian “ultra-deep” diamond signals the presence of a vast water reserve about 320 miles below the Earth’s surface, according to a report published in Nature.

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Scientists at the University of Alberta reported that the microscopic crystal of ringwoodite, a green mineral with a chemical composition similar to that of the August birthstone peridot, contained 1.5% water. With ringwoodite comprising much of the Earth’s “transition zone,” the scientists theorized that the reservoir could be immense.

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“When you realize how much ringwoodite there is, the transition zone could hold as much water as all the Earth’s oceans put together,” said Graham Pearson, a mantle geochemist at the University of Alberta and the lead author of the study.

Ringwoodite had never been found on the Earth’s surface because it is only exists under immense pressure in the Earth's "transition zone," an area sandwiched between the upper mantle and lower mantle. In the case of the Brazilian diamond, the ringwoodite was trapped within its super-strong host, allowing it to maintain its original high-pressure form. At lower pressure, the material is called olivine. Peridot is gem-quality olivine.

Before this discovery, the presence ringwoodite in the Earth’s mantle was theoretical. The material had been seen in meteorites and was synthetically produced in laboratories.

According to Nature.com, most diamonds form at depths of about 100 miles and are propelled to the surface by volcanic eruptions through kimberlite pipes. The diamond containing the ringwoodite is considered an “ultra-deep” diamond because it formed in the Earth’s “transition zone,” more than 300 miles below the surface.

“These high-pressure diamonds give you a window into the deep Earth,” Pearson said.

Pearson’s diamond specimen is no beauty compared to the faceted gems in a jeweler’s showcase. It looks battered from its 300-plus mile journey to the surface. It has a silvery-brown color and is 5mm wide. The trapped ringwoodite grain, by comparison, measures a mere .04mm across.

Ringwoodite was named after the Australian earth scientist Ted Ringwood, who was a pioneer in studying olivine and other mantle materials at high pressures.

Photos: RICHARD SIEMENS/UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA
March 18th, 2014
Johnny Depp proposed to Amber Heard on Christmas Eve, but the much-ballyhooed 5-carat engagement ring — estimated to be worth $100,000 — had been kept mostly under wraps. Only recently, has the paparazzi been able to focus in on the impressive sparkler, and we can say it’s been worth the wait.


A 5-carat round diamond set in white metal (likely platinum) highlights the vintage-style ring, whose ornate gallery sparkles with round accent diamonds graduating from large to small to conform to the tapering of the mounting.


Heard proudly wore the ring to the world premiere of her new movie, 3 Days to Kill. The 27-year-old Heard, who has a starring role in the film, attended the high-profile Los Angeles event with her famous fiancé.


Heard was most certainly rocking the 5-carat dazzler this past Friday at her star-studded engagement bash at LA’s Carondelt House, a private Italian-themed villa built in the 1920s. The Daily Mail reported that Depp was spotted at the event wearing a signet-style engagement ring on his left hand.

Among the A-listers celebrating with the happy couple were Steven Tyler, Jerry Bruckheimer, Mandy Moore, Ryan Adams, Marilyn Manson, Andy Garcia and music producer Rick Rubin.

E! News reported that guests were required to show a special invitation to get into the exclusive event. Invitees all received a black envelope printed with the initials “A” and “J.” Inside the envelope was what appeared to be a golden ticket, paying homage, perhaps, to Depp’s starring role as Willy Wonka in 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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The couple met on the set of their 2011 film The Rum Diary and began dating in June of 2012. The couple is rumored to be planning a wedding on Depp's private island in the Bahamas.
March 19th, 2014
You may have watched Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day flash by with no sign of an engagement ring, but there is still hope because tomorrow is Proposal Day, a holiday specially designed to lovingly nudge your procrastinating partner into making a full-bore commitment. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 future bridegrooms will get down on bended knee and finally pop the question on March 20.

A man proposing and holding up an engagement ring

You may be surprised to learn that Proposal Day was conjured up not by a famous greeting card company, but by a gentleman named John Michael O’Loughlin, who conceived the special day in response to seeing his cousin being strung along for years by a boyfriend who wouldn’t commit.

O’Loughlin designed the holiday as a not-so-subtle reminder to those in long-term relationships that it may be time to stop hesitating and take the plunge into matrimony.

Proposal Day is not intended to be a “commit or begone” ultimatum, but more of a catalyst to start a serious conversation about where the relationship is going and the possibility of a future proposal. One recent survey revealed that 27% of women whose partners had finally popped the question had dated their future spouse for three to five years.

O’Loughlin chose March 20 for Proposal Day because it’s the vernal equinox when the day and night are equal lengths, symbolizing “the equal efforts of the two required to comprise a successful marriage.” A second Proposal Day falls six months from now on the autumnal equinox for the same reason.

Although it’s not nearly as widely recognized as Valentine’s Day, there are signs that Proposal Day is gaining traction. It’s been covered by the national news media and is creating a buzz in social media. O’Loughlin estimated that upwards of 50,000 couples would become engaged on Proposal Day.
March 20th, 2014
We know what's at the top of James Bond’s holiday wish list this year. It's the Diamond Armor by Suitart, a custom-tailored bulletproof suit trimmed with 880 black diamonds totaling 140 carats and accessorized with a 24-karat golden silk tie.

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Billed as the “most expensive custom-tailored suit in the world,” the $3.2 million Diamond Armor delivers a great look and ballistic protection.

The Zurich-based Suitart spared no expense in assembling a Diamond Armor package that crosses into the worlds of fine jewelry, collectible watches, high fashion, personal protection, nano-technology, cooling systems and fine art.

Here are some highlights of the Diamond Armor suit:

• Black diamonds add an element of sophistication and understated bling, with 600 4mm diamonds gracing the lapels and contours of the suit, and an additional 280 black diamonds framing the buttons.

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• The necktie accessory by Weisbrod is woven from strands of silk mixed with 24-karat gold. The maker claims that the gold thread is the first permanently golden fabric in the world. The gold will adhere to the tie even when bent, folded or washed.

• The bulletproof suit is made from Croshield fabric and has a “Level II” protection classification, which means it is capable of shielding the wearer from bullets fired by a .57 magnum.

• For the ultimate in comfort, the suit has a built-in cooling system. The integrated technology can be activated at the push of a button and offers temperature control through the humidification of water.

• The suit’s outer layer uses high-end nano-technology to render it waterproof and dirt resistant.

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• The suit’s silk lining is printed with a painting called “Unidad Molecular Aleatoria” by the famous Costa Rican artist, Luciano Goizueta.

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• The suit comes with a Carl F. Bucherer "Patravi Traveltec FourX Limited Edition” watch. It’s made from rose gold, ceramic, titanium and rubber, shows three time zones and has a 42-hour power reserve. Only 125 of these state-of-the-art watches exist.
March 21st, 2014
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you sensational songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we feature Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” a tune with a key “emerald” reference that was selected by one-million-plus Dr. Phil viewers as the best wedding song ever written.


McCain employs the romantic gemstone metaphor in the very first verse of the 1998 hit: “The strands in your eyes that color them wonderful / Stop me and steal my breath / And emeralds from mountains thrust towards the sky / Never revealing their depth.”

While most listeners would bet the farm that McCain intended “I’ll Be” to be a heartwarming love song, the 44-year-old songwriter revealed that it was actually written as a prayer in a moment of personal and professional desperation. He was going through a rough breakup with his girlfriend while struggling with the unwieldy demands of his record label.

"It was kind of a Hail Mary prayer for me, personally,” he told an online publication. "The idea was that maybe if I write my future, it'll come true."

McCain told SongFacts.com that, despite the misinterpretation of “I’ll Be,” he is very pleased that his song has become a favorite wedding song and he’s always proud to play it in concert. “I'm not associated with the '90s,” he said. “I'm associated with weddings. So it never ends. It's timeless."

“I’ll Be,” which was released as the first single from McCain’s second album, Misguided Roses, rose to #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and stands as McCain’s biggest hit.

See the end of this post for the official video of “I’ll Be.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“I’ll Be”
Written and performed by Edwin McCain.

The strands in your eyes that color them wonderful
Stop me and steal my breath
And emeralds from mountains thrust towards the sky
Never revealing their depth

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I'll be captivated, I'll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I'll be your cryin' shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life

And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you're my survival, you're my living proof
My love is alive, and not dead

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I'll be captivated, I'll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I'll be your cryin' shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life.

And I dropped out, I burned up, I fought my way back from the dead
I tuned in, I turned on, remembered the thing that you said

And I'll be your cryin' shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life

And I'll be your cryin' shoulder

I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life
The greatest fan of your life.

March 24th, 2014
A Midwestern scrap metal dealer made the find of a lifetime when he unknowingly scooped up a genuine Fabergé egg at a flea market for $14,000.

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His original intention was to make a quick profit by melting down the egg for its gold content, but he soon learned that he possessed one of the eight missing Fabergé imperial eggs that dated back to the late 19th century. The value of the jewel-encrusted egg once prized by Russian royalty is estimated at $33 million.

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The Fabergé egg measures slightly more than three inches tall and is distinctive because it has a ladies Vacheron Constantin watch cleverly hidden in its top half. The watch has a white enamel dial and openwork diamond-set gold hands.

When the scrap dealer Googled the words “egg” and “Vacheron Constantin,” he came up with an article about the lost Fabergé eggs and an image that seemed to match his flea market find.

Quoted as an expert in the article was Kieran McCarthy of Wartski, a British art and antiques dealer, so the scrap metal dealer decided to head to London with a photograph to attempt to verify the authenticity of his piece.

After viewing the photo and then visiting the piece in person, McCarthy was able to confirm that the egg was made in the workshop of Fabergé's chief jeweler, August Holmström, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1886 or 1887. It was given by Czar Alexander III to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, as an Easter gift in 1887.

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Wartski noted that the jeweled and ridged yellow gold egg stands on its original tripod pedestal, which has lion paw feet. The egg is encircled by golden garlands suspended from cabochon blue sapphires topped with diamond-set bows.

“The second I saw it, my spine was shivering,” McCarthy told the Associated Press, adding that the egg is a “Holy Grail” for collectors.

After the Russian Revolution, the egg somehow lost it provenance and made its way westward. It was sold at a New York auction in 1964 for a mere $2,450. The auction house’s description of the egg makes no mention of Fabergé.

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McCarthy also reported that Wartski helped negotiate the sale of the egg to an unnamed collector for an undisclosed price. That sum is presumed to be upwards of $33 million.

Fabergé created exactly 50 imperial eggs for the Russian royal family, and seven still remain missing after this most recent find. Only three of the seven are believed to have survived the Russian Revolution.

The flea market Fabergé egg will be on display at Wartski in London from April 14 to 17. It’s the first time in more than a century that the public has gotten a glimpse of this historical piece.

Photos: Courtesy Wartski
March 25th, 2014
Two rare and exquisite papal treasures — an emerald-and-diamond cross and a ruby-and-diamond ring — have hit the market with a combined price tag of $1.9 million.

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Designed by Vatican ataliers circa 1920, the jewelry was famously gifted by Pope Paul VI to the United Nations in 1965 in the hope that the proceeds from the cross and ring would contribute to the UN’s efforts to end human suffering. Since then, the jewelry has seen various owners, including American daredevil Evel Knievel.

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The pectoral cross, which is seven inches tall and four inches wide, is intricately carved in 18-karat yellow gold and inlaid with Colombian emeralds and Old Mine white diamonds for a total of 60 carats in gems. The meticulous workmanship is evident by viewing the back of the pendant, which is as beautifully finished as the front. Its selling price is $1.25 million.

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Handcrafted in platinum and featuring a 13.5-carat diamond center stone surrounded by a halo of 14 complementary diamonds, the Papal ring has a distinctive ruby-encrusted cross on each side of its shank. The ring’s diamond total weight is 75 carats and the price is $650,000.

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Both pieces may be purchased via the New Orleans-based M.S. Rau Antiques. “Not only are these two pieces historically significant, they are remarkable due to the fact that papal jewelry rarely comes on the market,” M.S. Rau Antiques owner Bill Rau told Forbes.

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The cross and ring are engraved with the Christian Chi Rho symbol, indicating that they were likely designed by Vatican jewelers using gemstones from the Vatican’s own collection. The pendant also bears the stamp of “Cassio,” a jewelry-design studio that served the Vatican.

Pope Paul VI donated the jewelry on the occasion of being the first pontiff to address the United Nations. An auction took place two years later, with both pieces purchased by Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson for $64,000. The proceeds were shared by four UN agencies.

During the past 47 years, the papal jewelry has had a number of owners, including the Snake River Canyon-jumping Evel Knievel.

The early provenance of the jewelry places the pieces in the possession of Pope Pius XII when his was a Cardinal. Pius XII, who was Pope from 1939 to 1958, gifted the jewelry to Pope Paul VI (then known as Giovanni Battista Montini) when he was Pius XII’s right-hand man. Pope Paul VI was coronated in 1963 and served until 1978.

Photos: Courtesy of M.S. Rau
March 26th, 2014
Three highly important necklaces — dubbed the “Tremendous Trio” because of their phenomenal proportions — will headline Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Spring Sale in Hong Kong on April 7.

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Among the trio is “The Red Emperor,” a fabulous Burmese ruby and diamond necklace set with 60 pigeon’s blood rubies weighing 104.51 carats. The cutting and polishing of the pear- and heart-shaped rubies, which range in size from .72 carats to 5.04 carats, was reported to have taken eight years. The rubies are complemented by a series of brilliant-cut, pear-shaped and oval diamonds weighing a total of 59.06 carats. Designed by James W. Currens for Fai Dee, this necklace is estimated to sell for $8.7 million to $11 million.

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The second of the group is a spectacular 85.33-carat diamond necklace by celebrated jewelry designer Nirav Modi. The necklace boasts 17 brilliant-cut flawless D-color diamonds graduating in size from 1.27 to 10.51 carats. The larger dangling diamonds are connected by 40 smaller D-flawless round and marquise-shaped diamonds. Sotheby’s expects this necklace to fetch from $7.3 million to $8.3 million.

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The storied Hutton-Mdivani necklace, with a provenance spanning from imperial China to the West, is the third member of the “Tremendous Trio.” Formerly in the collections of socialite Barbara Hutton and Princess Nina Mdivani, the necklace features 27 jadeite beads ranging from 15.40 mm to 19.20 mm. Sotheby’s noted that the necklace has a “majestic green color, excellent translucency, extremely fine texture and majestic proportions.” The piece, which boasts a jeweled clasp by Cartier, carries a high estimate of $12.8 million.

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The trio is part of a larger offering of 320 lots expected to yield $99 million, according to Sotheby’s. The most exceptional of these is a 102.61-carat cushion-shaped royal blue sapphire-and-diamond necklace that could sell for up to $3.8 million.

Photos: Courtesy of Sotheby’s
March 28th, 2014
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we feature “Someone to Save You,” the 2007 power ballad by OneRepublic. In this song about a destructive relationship, lead singer Ryan Tedder is making a desperate attempt to pull his friend from the depths of depression before it’s too late.


In the first verse, he sings, “Patience took you for everything
 / Looked like a diamond ring / You wore it so much longer / Than made sense.”

“Someone to Save You,” which one critic called "a big song, with big vocals and big sound, kind of a ballad on steroids," is the 11th track on OneRepublic’s platinum-selling debut album, Dreaming Out Loud. The album generated five singles, including the hit “Apologize,” which reached #1 in 16 countries and earned the band a Grammy nomination.

Despite it’s great success, OneRepublic was nearly relegated to a footnote in the annals of “Bands That Almost Made It.” The band formed in 2003 and got its first break when Columbia Records signed the group only nine months later. For the next two and a half years, the band worked on its first full-length album, but two months before the album was set to release, Columbia dropped the band from its label.

With no record label, OneRepublic turned to the Internet to build a fan base. The band quickly became MySpace’s #1 unsigned act, with more than 28 million songs played. That success attracted the attention of a bunch of interested labels, including the Mosley Music Group, which signed the band.

Please click the video at the end of this post to see OneRepublic performing “Someone to Save You” live at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory in 2008. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

"Someone To Save You"
Written by Eddie Fisher, Timothy John Myers and Ryan B. Tedder. Performed by OneRepublic.

Patience took you for everything
Looked like a diamond ring
You wore it so much longer
Than made sense

Apathy in disguise
Crept on you like a spy
Hurt you in ways
You can’t describe

Back to the start now
I won’t let you go this way now

Honesty is what you need
It sets you free like someone to save you
Let it go, but hurry now
There's undertow and I don’t want to lose you now

Alright, sit down and spill your heart
Let's start from the very start
'Cause I can see by your eyes
You’re wasted

Your energy comes and goes
You’re taking your time, you know
Nothing can change what happened

So, back to the start now
I won’t let you go this way now

Honesty is what you need
It sets you free like someone to save you
Let it go, but hurry now
There's undertow and I don’t wanna lose you now
Don’t wanna lose you now, and now

Oh, my, look at your pride starts fading so
How much can you take?

Honesty is what you need
It sets you free like someone to save you
Let it go, but hurry now
There's undertow and I don’t want to lose you

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na [x14]
I said to save you
Save you
Save you
Someone to save you
What you need is
Someone to save you

March 31st, 2014
Set with a wild mosaic of candy-colored diamonds in nearly every conceivable shape and hue, the $55 million “Hallucination” by London’s Graff Diamonds is said to be the most expensive watch in the world.


The whimsical ladies’ timepiece, which has a petite pink dial and boasts 110 carats of rare colored diamonds, was unveiled last Thursday, the opening day of the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair in Switzerland.


Graff Diamonds chairman and founder Laurence Graff called the watch a “sculptural masterpiece” and told Britain’s Evening Standard, “For many years I have thought about creating a truly remarkable watch that illustrates our all-consuming passion for diamonds. The Hallucination has made my diamond dream a reality.”


Hallucination features a fun array of candy-colored diamonds, including various shades of pink, yellow, blue, orange and green. Graff’s designers worked with a grab bag of diamond shapes, including round, oval, pear, marquise, heart, princess, shield, hexagonal and emerald cuts.

A team of designers, gemologists and master craftsmen collaborated on the Hallucination, which reportedly took thousands of hours to complete.

Graff is famous for owning a number of world-class colored diamonds, including the 31.06-carat fancy deep blue Wittelsbach-Graff, the 118.08-carat fancy vivid yellow Delaire Sunrise and the 23.88-carat Graff Pink.