June 14th, 2024
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, an unlucky-in-love Maia Sharp asks the rhetorical question, “How much gold can you find if you never go mining?” in her 2015 release “Underneath.” 

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Sharp uses the gold mining analogy to illustrate her passive approach to romance. She admits that she has no one but herself to blame for her loneliness, but she’s hopeful it will all work out in the end.

She sings, “How much gold can you find if you never go mining / They say the wine gets better if you let it breathe / Oh, the deeper the digging, the sweeter the finding / I want to know what’s underneath / Oh, I want to know what’s underneath.”

“Underneath” appears as the third track on Sharp’s sixth studio album The Dash Between The Dates, which was released in 2015. Providing the harmonies on the track is singer-songwriter Gabe Dixon.

In describing the album, Sharp noted, “I was trying to look at things with a wider-angle lens and bring more breadth to the songs without sacrificing the intimacy.”

Interestingly, the artist admitted that she worked on the album during a period of extreme writer’s block. Critics countered that it was her best work to date.

Born in California’s Central Valley in 1971 to a singer-songwriter dad and a college professor mom, Sharp wrote her first song at the age of five. By the time she was a teenager, she had already shown proficiency with a number of instruments, including keyboards, guitar, oboe and saxophone.

She studied music theory at California State University and honed her songwriting skills. As a 22-year-old, Sharp began performing her own music in Los Angeles clubs.

A few years later, she was discovered by music executive Miles Copeland, who managed The Police. Sharp has written and produced songs for some of the music industry’s top artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Kim Richey, Amanda Marshall, Paul Carrack, Edwin McCain, The Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and Kathy Mattea.

In 2023, she released her ninth solo album, titled Reckless Thoughts, a work that reflects her move from Los Angeles to Nashville.

“I never thought I would leave California,” she said. “Once I did, I had a feeling it would be easier to build a community in Nashville, but I had no idea how much easier it would be. It’s really tapped into something I didn’t know I needed so badly.”

In its review of Reckless Thoughts, American Songwriter noted, "Sharp has a way of conveying evocative emotions in ways that reflect shared sentiment that nearly everyone can relate to."

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

“Underneath”
Written by Maia Sharp. Performed by Maia Sharp with Gabe Dixon.

No one but myself to blame
If I ain’t got a love to call my own
Maybe it takes some chippin’ away
Before you get down to the cornerstone

How much gold can you find if you never go mining?
They say the wine gets better if you let it breathe
Oh, the deeper the digging, the sweeter the finding
I want to know what’s underneath
Oh, I want to know what’s underneath

When the new ran out, I ran out
I took off one time, took off the shine
I never could shake my shadow of doubt
And the only heart I ever really broke was mine

How much gold can you find if you never go mining?
They say the wine gets better if you let it breathe
Oh, the deeper the digging, the sweeter the finding
I want to know what’s underneath
Oh, I want to know what’s underneath

Underneath these
Underneath what’s shown
Past the shallow waters
To uncharted undiscovered unknown

How much gold can you find if you never go mining?
The wine gets better if you let it breathe
Oh, the deeper the digging, the sweeter the finding
And I want to know what’s underneath
Oh, I want to know what’s underneath

I want to know what’s underneath



Credits: Screen capture via YouTube.com / Maia Sharp.
June 13th, 2024
Exactly 100 years ago, pearl diving provided the lifeblood of the Farasan Islands' economy and society. Each year in early May, ship captains and skilled divers would leave their families to embark on a dangerous four-month quest to find natural pearls off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea.

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To reach the oyster beds, divers would use weights on their feet to descend more than 12 meters (39 feet). A lifeline would connect them to their surface support who helped them ascend. In return for hauling the divers back up, these assistants would receive a share (known as “dangeel”) of the collected oysters. Pearl divers were able to hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes.

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The divers' work day would start just after sunrise, with mollusk gathering continuing until noon. That was followed by a rest period. During the afternoons, divers would take on the laborious task of prying open oysters (the “fulq” process) in search of elusive natural pearls.

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According to the Saudi Press Agency, diving tasks were divided into five-day cycles. The first four days' haul belonged to the diver, while the fifth day's bounty went to the ship owner.

Seven copper sieves, each with progressively smaller holes, were used to sort the pearls by size. The most elusive prize was the “Al-Dana” pearl, characterized by its large size, bright luster and absence of flaws. This type of pearl was so coveted that it spawned its own form of folk music. The melancholic genre, born from the depths of the sea, served as an outlet for the sailors' longing for home and loved ones.

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Natural pearls are exceedingly rare because they are created by mollusks randomly, without human intervention. When a grain of sand or similar irritant gets between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue, the process begins. To protect itself, the mollusk instinctually secretes multiple layers of nacre, an iridescent material that eventually becomes a pearl.

Cultured pearls, by contrast, are created with human intervention — when a bead is embedded inside the body of the mollusk to stimulate nacre secretion.

The Farasan pearl-diving industry thrived a century ago, as evidenced by the construction of the Najdi Mosque and stunning homes financed by successful pearl traders of the 1920s. Some of these are tourist destinations today.

At the end of April and early-May each year, the Farasan Islands’ Hareed Festival pays tribute to the local fishing and pearl diving heritage. While still an important part of the Farasan story, natural pearl harvesting has since faded as an economic factor with the advent of cultured and simulated pearls.

Credits: Images courtesy of Saudi Press Agency.
June 12th, 2024
Jet-lagged and utterly exhausted after multiple days of overseas touring with two young children, Dannah McMichael, a travel blogger and wife of retired NFL tight end Randy McMichael, prepared for bed in a Thai hotel room.

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Before stepping into the shower, McMichael slid off her wedding ring and grabbed a handful of vitamins.

"Without looking, I threw everything in my mouth and washed it down with water," McMichael wrote in an Instagram post that has earned more than 115,000 Likes. "When I started choking on the pills and noticed my ring was missing, I knew something was wrong."

At first, the McMichaels tried to find the ring by tearing through their room and luggage. When that failed, it became ever more apparent that Dannah had swallowed the ring with the pills.

It took the couple two days to locate a clinic that had the proper imaging equipment, but when they did, the resulting X-ray showed the intertwined band as clear as day.

On Instagram, Dannah shared a nine-second video captioned, "YUP THATS MY WEDDING RING."

The McMichaels hoped the ring would pass naturally, which it did two days later.

Dannah posted a followup video showing the cleaned-up ring sitting at the bottom of a hotel water glass. On Instagram, she used a split-screen effect, with the original X-ray video on the top and the second video of the recovered ring at the bottom. The caption read, "Got my ring back. Wait I never lost it. It was always with me."

In a response to one of the numerous Instagram comments, she wrote, "UPDATE: I gained new followers from this reel, so I just want to let you all know: I’m not swallowing anything else. Don't expect any more x-ray content!" She punctuated the post with laughing emojis.

Dannah later explained to Newsweek how her family had traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles to the Philippines and then Thailand.

"I didn't have the opportunity to catch up on my sleep since I was traveling with an 11-year-old and a 2-year-old, and I was beyond jet-lagged," McMichael told the publication.

After a long day of sightseeing in Thailand, she finally got a chance to chill out, but that's when all the drama started.

At the clinic, the mood turned comical.

"At first, everyone was concerned about my health and how I was going to get the ring out," McMichael told Newsweek. "However, after a while, they all joined in on the laugh with me. One person said the best thing: 'Who would've thought your ring would have a crazier trip than you?'"

Credits: Screen captures via Instagram / double_d1022.
June 11th, 2024
The top prize winner at the 2010 International Pearl Design Competition and now a resident of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the "South Sea Glow Necklace" provides beautiful examples of June's birthstone.

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The piece, which features three golden South Sea cultured pearls and two white Akoya cultured pearls (ranging in size from 4.5mm to 11.5mm), was hand fabricated by designer Adam Neeley utilizing special gold alloy that transitions gradually from pure 24-karat yellow gold at the bottom into a cool white gold at the top. The gold to white precious-metal transition aligns neatly with the designer's choice of pearl hues.

The South Sea Glow Necklace won the President's Trophy (the top honor) at the Cultured Pearl Association of America's annual contest in 2010 and was subsequently donated by the designer to the Smithsonian National Gem Collection in 2012.

One of June’s three official gemstones, the pearl is unique among all of the gems because it is the only one formed entirely within a living creature.

Natural pearls occur when an irritant enters the oyster’s shell. To protect itself from the foreign body, the mollusk secretes layers of nacre, which, over time, become a lustrous pearl. To make a cultured pearl, a shell bead is surgically implanted into the mollusk to induce nacre production.

South Sea pearls and Akoya pearls are similar in that both varieties are cultivated in salt water.

Akoya pearls come mostly from Japan and range in size from 2 mm to 10.5 mm. They are usually white or cream in color and round in shape.

South Sea pearls originate in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and can range in size from 9 mm to 20 mm. They can be white, cream or golden in color.

According to the American Gem Society, Tahitian pearls are interestingly not exclusively from Tahiti – they’re grown throughout several of the islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti.

The greenish-black varieties of Tahitian pearls (known as peacock green) are the most coveted, but colors can include varying shades of gray, blue, green and purple. Tahitian pearls range in size from 8 mm to 16 mm.

The other birthstones for the month of June are moonstone and alexandrite.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Adam Neeley.
June 10th, 2024
Strategically located halfway between China and the Mediterranean along the first Silk Road, the ancient Kangju state prospered as a trading center in what is now southern Kazakhstan for nearly 1,000 years between the 5th century BCE and the 4th century CE.

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Kangju is back in the news, as a team of researchers from Ozbekali Zhanibekov University, along with local government archaeologists, recently unearthed beautifully crafted gold jewelry and valuable household items at a burial site in the rural Karaaspan district of Kazakhstan. The finds illuminate the wealth and cosmopolitan nature of the Kangju society.

The researchers discovered three tombs, two which had been looted in ancient times. But the third tomb and its treasures had remained intact.

Believed to date from the first century BCE, the matching gold earrings are fabricated from a colorful alloy known as "polychromatic" gold. The earrings are inlaid with turquoise and rubies in a crescent shape that pays homage to the moon. The lower portion of the earrings is decorated with a grape motif that reflects sunlight in multiple directions.

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Also found in the tomb was an ornate bronze mirror believed to have been made in China during the Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BCE until 220 CE. The circular mirror displays a unique eight-arch design that is distinctively Chinese in origin.

The researchers believe the precious earrings and highly prized mirror almost certainly indicate the tomb belonged to a citizen of great wealth and nobility.

According to archaeologist Aleksandr Podushkin, who led the study, the Kangju state was populated by a federation of diverse peoples, including nomadic groups of Sarmatians (from the Urals, Caucasus and the Black Sea), Xiongnu (from northern China) and Saki (originally from Iran, and then from Central Asia and Siberia).

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The researchers described Kangju as a multi-cultural melting pot that would have been an important stop on the first Silk Road, the 4,000-mile caravan track that linked the Han capital of Xi’an with Rome.

A statement from the press service of the governor of Turkestan region noted that Rome, Byzantium, Kushan and the Chinese Empire had equal diplomatic relations with the Kangyu state, which flourished as a trading hub on the Great Silk Road.

Podushkin noted that the recently recovered artifacts will now go on display in the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the city of Astana.

Credits: Images courtesy of Turkistan regional administration of Republic of Kazakhstan. Map by Google Maps.
June 7th, 2024
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you uplifting songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, singer-songwriter Marc Scibilia celebrates the upcoming season of sun, surf and wanderlust in a catchy singalong that inspires us to “sparkle just like diamonds.”

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“On the Way” got a big boost when Jeep used the song to promote its "Summer of Jeep" in August of 2017. The 30-second commercial accumulated 2,300 national airings and was viewed on YouTube nearly two million times.

Scibilia sings, "Journey where this path may lead / And live as big as giants / Summer sun and feeling free / Sparkle just like diamonds."

The 37-year-old repeats the hook, “Let your summer guide you, on the way, on the way,” while encouraging the listener to be fearless when discovering new roads.

Scibilia explained in a "Backstage With Jeep" YouTube video that the song is about embracing life's journey — no matter where it takes you.

"We have these ideas in our head about what life is going to be like. This is where I'm going to go, this is how I'm going to get there," he said. "You know, you really don't get to the destination… in a straight path. There's twists, turns, bends, whatever. That song is really about living in the moment."

The destination may not look like what you originally imagined, he explained, but the journey is going to be amazing.

Born in Buffalo, NY, to a musical family, Scibilia moved to Nashville to become a songwriter just a month after graduating from high school. According to his official bio, the young Scibilia got the idea to head south from a sarcastic guidance counselor who was frustrated with Scibilia’s reluctance to pursue a “conventional” career path.

“What are you going to do? Go to Nashville and write songs?” she taunted.

And that's exactly what he did.

Scibilia flourished in Nashville and took in all that it had to offer. He experimented with every genre of music, writing songs for other artists and touring as the opening act for James Bay and the Zac Brown Band, among others. In 2010, Scibilia landed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV.

Scibilia gained some valuable exposure when "How Bad We Need Each Other" from his 2012 self-titled EP was featured on the hit television series Bones.

The artist got an even bigger break when his cover of the Woody Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land,” appeared in Jeep’s “Beautiful Lands” Super Bowl commercial — the most Shazam-ed commercial of Super Bowl 2015.

Two years later, Scibilia’s “On the Way” was once again catapulted by the popularity of a Jeep commercial.

Scibilia has tour dates scheduled for New York City, Chicago and Nashville during October and November.

Please check out the audio track of Scibilia performing "One the Way." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

“On the Way”
Written and performed by Marc Scibilia.

Journey where this path may lead
And live as big as giants
Summer sun and feeling free
Sparkle just like diamonds

Golden hearts never afraid
Discover roads brightly shining
Wanderlust runs through our veins
Be fearless, tall as lions

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Trust your bones where they take you
Adventure awaits
Here we go it’s all brand new
You won’t hesitate

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you
On the way, on the way

Let your summer guide you



Credit: Image capture via YouTube / Marc Scibilia.
June 6th, 2024
Model and skincare entrepreneur Hailey Bieber is rockin' a new diamond engagement ring from her pop star husband, Justin. The couple has had a lot to celebrate recently, and the amped-up 18-carat ring commemorates both the renewal of their wedding vows after five years of marriage and the announcement that they are expecting their first child later this year.

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Under the caption, "little cherry blossoms on my nails little cherry blossom in my belly," Hailey Bieber, 27, shared a 10-slide carousel on Instagram, which offered a glimpse of the new ring — subtlety and barely in frame — on the final slide.

The photo shows her sipping a beverage while the new dazzler nestles against her diamond wedding band on the ring finger of her left hand.

Interestingly, her previous diamond engagement ring — said to weigh between 6 and 10 carats — has found a new home on the pinky of her right hand.

Jewelry-industry pundits placed the value of the original engagement ring at $500,000 and the upgraded version in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million. Both diamonds are ovals set in yellow gold.

Vogue.com reported that the new ring was designed by celebrity jeweler Lorraine Schwartz. The original ring was designed by Solow & Co.

Hailey and Justin Bieber, 30, commemorated their five-year anniversary by renewing their vows in Hawaii on May 9. Hailey's due date has not been formally announced, but fans believe the baby will arrive this fall.

Credit: Image via Instagram / haileybieber.
June 5th, 2024
Two incredible lab-grown diamonds — the 75.33-carat "Celebration of India" and the all-diamond 30.69-carat "Infinity Ring" — drew a four-day stream of fascinated onlookers at the recent JCK Show in Las Vegas.

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Grown by Mumbai-based Ethereal Green Diamond, the "Celebration of India" is billed as the largest faceted lab-grown diamond to date. According to a company spokesperson, the finished square emerald-cut gem was crafted from a 190-carat rough stone. It took about 270 days to grow the rough diamond and about 30 days to cut and polish it.

Show attendees and members of the press were offered the chance to handle the record-breaking stone, which is estimated to be worth $5,000 per carat, or about $375,000.

International Gemological Institute (IGI) graded the stone as Type IIa with excellent polish and symmetry. Type IIa diamonds are chemically pure and are often colorless or near-colorless.

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Sharing a display case with the "Celebration of India" diamond was the "Infinity Ring," a fascinating all-diamond eternity ring crafted from a single crystal with no metal support.

"This unique ring was carved out from a 98.88-carats rough," according to Ethereal Green director Hirav Virani. "The Infinity Ring took about 146 days to grow and 90 days to take on its 'freeform modified shape'."

"The Infinity Ring" remained in its case throughout the jewelry show due to its delicate nature. One of the company's representatives shared that the process of cutting the finger hole through the crystal can easily cause to the whole piece to fracture. The company overcame two failed attempts at its state-of-the-art facility in Surat, India, before achieving success, he said.

The all-diamond ring, which was also graded as a Type IIa stone with excellent polish and symmetry, has a value of $500,000.

"These achievements are striking examples of Ethereal Green's dedication to innovation and ingenuity in consistently breaking their own records," stated Tehmasp Printer, CEO of IGI. "We congratulate their team in developing these extraordinary creations which showcase limitless possibilities with advanced tech in the lab-grown diamond sector."

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A full-wall booth display illustrated the company's most recent milestones.

Credits: Diamond and ring images courtesy of Ethereal Green Diamond. Booth display photo by The Jeweler Blog.
May 30th, 2024
For more than nine years, Lucapa Diamond Company has successfully sourced large, high-value diamonds at its Lulo alluvial mine in Angola. In fact, the mining company just unveiled a 195-carat Type IIa diamond — the fourth +100-carat gem recovered this year and the 44th since alluvial operations commenced in 2015.

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While the alluvial mine has yielded nearly a half billion dollars worth of diamonds — including four larger than 200 carats and one surpassing 400 carats — Lucapa's new chairman, Stuart Brown, has his eye on a bigger prize.

Lulo's alluvial diamonds are unique because they have been eroded over eons from their primary sources and discovered in secondary locations downstream.

Lucapa geologists are on a mission to seek Angola's Holy Grail — the kimberlite pipe or pipes upstream of the Cacuilo River valley that would have been the primary source of the spectacular Lulo stones.

"Angola is a without doubt the biggest exploration target in the world and we are well versed in operating in Angola," Brown noted. "The country is the fourth-largest diamond producer in the world and [many] of the diamond-rich provinces [remain] unexplored for primary-source kimberlites."

Brown reported to his stockholders that Lucapa has one of the world's most active kimberlite bulk sampling programs.

"Kimberlite exploration, like many other minerals exploration, is a long game, but we are now seeing real progress thanks to the capital investment made into the dedicated Kimberlite Bulk Sampling Plant," he said.

To demonstrate how Lucapa is stepping up its game, the chairman reported that of the 35 kimberlites that have been sampled during 15 years of Angolan exploration, 25 of those were completed since the third quarter of 2022.

"There is a well-accepted view from the exploration geologists that Angola has the greatest potential to become a world diamond powerhouse with further discoveries of major new deposits," Brown added. "We know that when we find the Holy Grail it will be worth it."

The Lulo Diamond Project in Angola is jointly owned by Lucapa and its partners — Empresa Nacional de Diamantes E.P. and Rosas & Petalas.

The largest diamond ever unearthed at the Lulo mine was the 404-carat “4 de Fevereiro.” It was discovered in 2016 and eventually cut into the largest D-flawless diamond ever offered at auction. The 163-carat emerald-cut stunner set in an emerald and diamond necklace by de Grisogono fetched $33.7 million at Christie’s Geneva in 2017.

Credit: Image courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Company.
May 29th, 2024
A beautifully preserved gold ring set with a red garnet is helping to paint a picture of a prosperous Jerusalem during the early Hellenistic period about 2,300 years ago.

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Likely gifted to a child, the petite ring — along with other upscale adornments discovered at the dig site called Givati Parking Lot in the City of David — dispels the once-held assumption that the Jerusalem of that era was a small, somewhat provincial, town with very few resources.

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"These new finds tell a different story," noted Tel Aviv University Professor Yuval Gadot and excavator Efrat Bocher. "The aggregate of revealed structures now constitute an entire neighborhood… The character of the buildings – and now, of course, the gold finds and other discoveries, display the city’s healthy economy and even its elite status."

According to the team made up of researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University, the ring was manufactured by “hammering thin pre-cut gold leaves onto a metal ring base.” Gold does not tarnish or oxidize, so the ring remained in pristine condition despite being buried for 2,300 years.

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During the 3rd or 4th century BCE, gold jewelry with set stones, instead of decorated gold, became fashionable, noted the researchers. Gold and other luxury items became more popular in the Hellenistic world after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE.

"It certainly seems that the city’s residents were open to the widespread Hellenistic style and influences prevalent also in the eastern Mediterranean Basin,” Gadot said.

Excavation team member Tehiya Gangate described how she discovered the ring: “I was sifting earth through the screen and suddenly saw something glitter. I immediately yelled, ‘I found a ring, I found a ring!’ Within seconds everyone gathered around me… This is an emotionally moving find, not the kind you find every day.”

Excavations of the former Givati Parking Lot began in 2007. Among the most impressive discoveries at the site is an ancient building believed to be the palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who lived during the first century CE.

The garnet ring, along with other recent finds, will go on public display June 4 on the eve of Jerusalem Day at IAA headquarters in Jerusalem.

Credits: Photo of garnet ring and archeologist Rikki Zalut Har-Tuv by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority. Dig site photo by Maor Ganot/City of David.