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Articles in February 2015

February 2nd, 2015
One of the world’s most remarkable examples of February’s birthstone is the 56-carat purple stunner at the center of the Tiffany Amethyst Necklace — an impressive work that celebrates its 100th birthday this year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


The square cushion-cut amethyst is delicately framed by 18-karat vines, leaves and grapes in a design conceived by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1915. The deep purple amethyst, which displays flashes of red, is suspended as a pendant from a flowing double-figure-eight chain. The floral motif is an excellent example of Art Nouveau jewelry, which was popular during the turn of the last century (1890-1919).


While most high-quality amethysts are currently sourced in Brazil and Uruguay, the gem in the Tiffany Amethyst Necklace is believed to be from Siberia, Russia, and is the largest and highest quality example of an amethyst from that region in the National Gem Collection.


George Kunz, chief gemologist at Tiffany’s during the early 1900s, was likely responsible for procuring the huge amethyst, according to the Smithsonian’s Geo Gallery. Philanthropists June Rosner and Russell Bilgore donated this treasure to the Smithsonian in 2007.

Amethyst is the most coveted variety of quartz, which is clear in its pure state. Amethyst gets is purple color from a few atoms of iron displacing some of the silicon in the gem’s molecular structure. These traces of iron can give amethyst a wide range of colors, from almost white to deep purple.

Amethyst is has been coveted for thousands of years and is one of the oldest recorded gemstones. They’ve been recovered from ancient Egyptian tombs and were prized by the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Hebrews.

Amethyst gets its name from the Greek word "amethystos," which literally means “not to intoxicate.” Apparently, the Greeks believed amethyst could reverse the effects of drunkenness. Other characteristics attributed to amethyst include peace, balance, courage, stability and inner strength.

The color rating of an amethyst is determined by its hue, tone and saturation. Hue is the color; tone is relative lightness or darkness of the color; and saturation relates to the color’s intensity, from dull to vivid.

Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
February 3rd, 2015
A Dutch architectural firm draws its inspiration from an amethyst geode in an audacious design that will be rolled out for a chain of new luxury hotels, the first of which is planned for Hainan on the south coast of China.


From the outside, the geode hotel created by NL Architects seems to be split in half. Brilliant purple and magenta “crystals” jut out in jagged angles from the front of the building, while the back has a rounded rock-like shape and muted grey color.


Hotel visitors will feel as if they’ve been miniaturized and placed inside an amethyst geode. Standing in the huge interior void and looking up at the atrium, the traveler will marvel at the immense crystalline clusters that can be seen from the inside.


Rooms are located around the central void and feature large crystal-shaped windows that are tinted purple and have been designed to allow for generous exposure to sunlight.


Unlike most hotels, room access is threaded along the outer perimeter of the structure instead of using inside corridors.

NL Architects believes that luxury travelers will be drawn to the hotel not only by the innovative design, but also by amethyst’s positive properties, healing powers and spiritual significance.


The ancient Greeks believed amethyst could prevent drunkenness. Medieval soldiers wore amethyst to protect themselves in battle. Other cultures believed February’s birthstone would bring good fortune, inspire their intellect, heal their illnesses, or bolster their immune systems.


Amethyst holds an important place in the Chinese art of feng shui. A spokesperson for NL Architects said, “Amethyst has the capacity to purify any space of negative vibrations. It calms and cools excessive emotions and eases the transition to a more meditative state by clearing the unnecessary mind clutter.”

The initial Amethyst Hotel is under development on China’s Ocean Flower, a manmade island that juts into the sea north of Hainan, which itself is an island province in the southernmost part of China.

Images: Courtesy of NL Architects.
February 4th, 2015
In an effort to narrow the gender gap in the field of engineering, a Massachusetts university recently hosted a workshop for local Girl Scouts where the youngsters were encouraged to design, engineer and build wearable, electronic, programmable light-up jewelry.


“Our main goal was to attract the girls to engineering by making sure they had a lot of fun learning about it,” said Paula Rees, director of the Diversity Programs Office at UMass Amherst’s College of Engineering.


Recent statistics show that only 14% of engineers in the U.S. are woman, an improvement from the early 1980s when the number was a scant 5.8%. Right now, about one in five engineering students is female, but 20% is still abysmally low.

From an early age, girls are typically encouraged to go into the humanities, while boys are encouraged to pursue computer science, mathematics and engineering. Young women often lack female role models who can motivate and encourage them to take a closer look at traditionally male-dominated fields.


This is why the UMass Amherst College of Engineering invited the local Girl Scouts to attend a 5.5-hour “Adafruit Workshop,” featuring the super-cool miniaturized electronic components that would allow them to make necklaces or earrings that could be programmed to light up in different colors and patterns. As they created their high-tech jewelry masterpieces, the girls learned about the basics of engineering and got to meet young women working toward their bachelor’s degrees in a variety of engineering disciplines.

“The focus of the day was to learn the basics of soldering and programming while making a really cool project to take home, to keep or to give away as a gift,” said Rees.


The middle school and high school girls used two technologies: Adafruit Gemma, a miniature circuit board; and NeoPixel rings, which consists of 16 LEDs that can be programmed to make any color by mixing red, green and blue light.


“The purpose is to inspire girls about engineering at an early age,” said Rees. “We want to create a pipeline of young women into engineering.”

Images: Jewelry and technical component photos via; Girl Scout photos via Facebook/GirlScoutsUSA; Engineer photo via
February 5th, 2015
This Valentine’s Day, cupids from coast to coast are planning to spend a record $4.8 billion on jewelry — a category that accounts for the biggest slice of the February 14th retail pie, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF).


This compares to $2.1 billion they’ll be shelling out for flowers, $1.7 billion for sweets, $3.6 billion for a special meal or movie tickets, $2 billion for clothing and $1.5 billion on gift cards. Total Valentine’s Day purchases are expected to reach $18.9 billion.

More than one in five (21.1%) romantic consumers will delight their significant other by gifting precious jewelry on the most romantic day of the year, although a majority (53.2%) will buy candy, 37.8 percent will opt for flowers and 35.1 percent will plan a special night out. These percentages tally to well over 100 because some Cupids will present multiple gifts.

The average person will spend $142.31 on various gifts this year, up from $133.91 last year.

Men are expected to outspend women by a two-to-one margin, $190.53 compared to $96.58. The highest-spending age group is expected to be 25-to-34 year olds ($213.04), followed by 35-to-44 year olds ($176.21) and 18-to-24 year olds ($168.95).

Nearly every married person in the NRF survey reported that they would be celebrating Valentine’s Day with a gift. Nine out of 10 consumers (91%) expect to spend money on their spouse, with the average individual gift costing $87.94, up from $78.09 in 2014.

Nearly six in 10 said they would purchase Valentine’s Day gifts for other family members, with the average gift costing $26.26.

“It’s encouraging to see consumers showing interest in spending on gifts and Valentine’s Day-related merchandise — a good sign for consumer sentiment as we head into 2015,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

The statistics come from the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey. The poll reflects the expected purchases of 6,375 consumers and was conducted from January 6-13, 2015.

February 6th, 2015
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we have the legendary Stevie Wonder singing “Stay Gold,” a beautiful ballad he co-wrote for the 1983 cult movie classic, The Outsiders.


In the song inspired by Robert Frost's 1923 poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” Wonder sings about striving to hold onto the wondrous, pure, innocent and exciting “goldenness” of youth.

“Stay Gold,” which runs during the opening credits of The Outsiders, starts with these memorable lyrics: “Seize upon that moment long ago / One breath away and there you will be / So young and carefree / Again you will see / That place in time... so gold.”

The Outsiders was adapted from a 1967 novel by teenage author S.E. (Susan Eloise) Hinton who based the story on her own experiences in an Oklahoma high school, which was divided by rival gangs, the hardscrabble Greasers and the wealthier Socs (pronounced "soashes").


The movie has become a cult favorite, partly because Hinton's book has become required reading in many high schools and mostly due to the fact that every teenage actor in the cast went on to become a Hollywood A-list heartthrob. The cast included Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon and Tom Cruise.

The Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” plays a vital role in the film, as Ponyboy (played by Howell) reads it to an injured Johnny (Macchio) while they are in hiding, but says he really doesn’t understand it. “Stay gold” are Johnny’s last words before he dies. Later in the film, Ponyboy finds Johnny’s interpretation of the Frost poem: that beauty and innocence are transient and must be guarded like gold.

While Wonder penned the lyrics to “Stay Gold,” the music was composed by Francis Ford Coppola’s father, Carmine, who contributed original music to a number of his son’s other blockbuster films, including The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now.

Please check out Stevie Wonder’s live performance of “Stay Gold.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Stay Gold"
Lyrics by Stevie Wonder and music by Carmine Coppola. Performed by Stevie Wonder.

Seize upon that moment long ago
One breath away and there you will be
So young and carefree
Again you will see
That place in time... so gold

Steal away into that way back when
You thought that all would last forever
But like the weather
Nothing can ever... and be in time
Stay gold

But can it be
When we can see
So vividly
A memory
And yes you say
So must the day
Too, fade away
And leave a ray of sun
So gold

Life is but a twinkling of an eye
Yet filled with sorrow and compassion
though not imagined
All things that happen
Will age too old
Though gold

Images: Facebook/StevieWonder; Outsiders publicity shot.
February 9th, 2015
A Kazak herdsman has become an instant celebrity since discovering a 17-pound, $255,000 gold nugget “practically lying on bare ground” in the far western Xinjiang region of China.


The lucky herdsman, Berek Sawut, from Qinghe County in Altay Prefecture, told a Chinese news agency that he was walking around a local mining site on January 30 when suddenly he saw a brilliant yellow object lying exposed on the ground.


“When I walked closer, I was dumbfounded,” he said. “My god, it was a piece of gold. I was so excited that I was jumping up and down.”


The nugget, which resembles the shape of China and has a precious metal value of approximately $255,000, is nine inches long, seven inches wide and three inches thick. The nugget is said to be composed of 80 percent pure gold, with the rest being quartz, sandstone and other minerals.


The nugget’s quarter-million-dollar valuation is on the conservative side because it doesn’t account for the specimen’s uniqueness and rarity. The nugget is said to be the largest ever found in this region of China and could be worth several times more than its precious metal content.

Whether or not Sawut will be allowed to keep or sell the nugget has yet to be determined. Chinese law states that mineral resources found on the surface or below the surface are property of the state. So far, local authorities have not contacted Sawut about the nugget.

A Chinese lawyer familiar with mineral rights expected that the local government would claim the nugget and offer Sawut a reward for finding it. In this area of China, where the average income is $1,340 per year, the reward could be life changing for Sawut and his family.


Still, Sawut is enjoying his new-found celebrity status. He told a Chinese news agency, “My home is like a marketplace every day, with some people bringing cameras to take photographs, some posting it to their WeChat friends circle, and some taking photos with it.”

The Altay region, which is a mountainous territory lying near the borders of Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, has a long and storied history of gold mining. In fact, the word “altay” means “gold” in Mongolian. The region produced 20 tons of gold in 2014 and is the home to more than 600 gold mines.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported that a four-pound gold nugget was found in Altay in 2010.

Images: Twitter/China Xinhua News; Twitter/Nicholas Bequelin; Map: Wikicommons
February 10th, 2015
Dean Filppula is the latest amateur gem hunter to strike it rich at Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. A week ago, the vacationing offshore steward from Shreveport, La., picked a glistening 2.01-carat yellow diamond right off the surface of the just-plowed, rain-washed search field.


Filppula honored his mother by naming the stone “Merf.” (The four letters spell out his mother’s initials). The light-yellow diamond, which is the size of an English pea and has a wedge shape, is the 20th diamond to be found at the park the year. It’s also the year’s largest, so far.


Park officials are not diamond appraisers, so they could not estimate Merf’s value. History tells us, however, that diamonds found at the park can yield a pretty penny. For instance, a 3.85-carat diamond found in 2013 was recently sold for $20,000.

The 37½-acre search field in Murfreesboro, Ark., is actually the eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. Treasure hunters visit year round to try their luck at bagging a precious gem at the only diamond site in the world open to the general public. The entry fee is a modest $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 12. Kids under 6 get in for free.


The park maintains a generous finder’s keepers policy and even provides experts to help prospectors identify what they’ve found. Besides diamonds, the search field often yields amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite and quartz.


Filppula's exceptional find resulted from a combination of good luck and clever planning. He timed his visit to Crater of Diamonds Park to be just after the maintenance crew plowed the field, loosening the diamond-bearing soil. The park also had just received more than ½-inch of rain, which washed loose soil from the surface and cleaned off the diamond, making it more visible.

According to interpreter Waymon Cox, Shreveport residents have had a long and successful history of finding large diamonds at the park. In June 1981, Carroll Blankenship took home the second-largest diamond ever unearthed at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Cox named the stunning 8.82-carat white diamond the Star of Shreveport.

More than 75,000 diamonds have been pulled from the Murfreesboro site since farmer John Huddleston, who owned the land, found the first precious gems in 1906. The site became an Arkansas state park in 1972. The largest diamond ever discovered in the U.S. was unearthed here in 1924. Named the Uncle Sam, the white diamond with a pink cast weighed an astounding 40.23 carats.

Photos courtesy of the Crater of Diamonds State Park.
February 11th, 2015
It’s been three days since Beyonce’s bedazzling appearance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards and the world is still green with envy over the diva’s breathtaking emerald-and-diamond baubles totaling 230 carats and valued at $10 million.


Beyonce, who captured a “Best R&B Performance” Grammy for her song “Drunk in Love,” sported six fashion rings on five fingers for a total of 150 carats of gleaming diamonds and Colombian emeralds, reported PEOPLE Magazine.


The ring tally did not include her own 18-carat (with a “c”) engagement ring that she wore on a sixth finger, nor did it include the dangling pair of diamond-accented Colombian emerald earrings that weighed an impressive 80 carats. Designer Lorraine Schwartz provided Beyonce with her treasure trove of baubles.


On her right hand, she wore emerald rings on her ring and middle fingers, as well as an unusual ring on her index finger featuring opposite-facing pear-shaped diamonds. On her "love" hand, she wore two rings — one emerald, one diamond — on her index finger, a diamond ring on her middle finger and her engagement ring on her ring finger.


Beyonce’s emerald display at the Grammy’s came nearly two years after another high-profile, yet a bit more understated, emerald-bedecked performance of the National Anthem at Barack Obama’s Presidential Inaugural in 2013.


The singer’s fans will certainly remember the 130 carats of emeralds that adorned her ears and right hand as she entered the venue with her husband, Jay Z. The Lorraine Schwartz 80-carat petal-motif emerald earrings and 50-carat emerald ring were valued at $2.5 million.


Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
February 12th, 2015
Last week, a young woman dumpster diving for recyclables behind a car wash near Salt Lake City, Utah, found parcels containing two loose diamonds worth $8,000. But, instead of pawning the gems and netting the biggest payday of her life, she decided to do the right thing by tracking down the rightful owner.


Brooke Stewart, a single mother of one and a self-proclaimed garbage lover, told a reporter from KUTV that she regularly digs through dumpsters late at night in an effort to collect plastics and metals that she can turn into cash.


“It may sound weird, but I love trash,” Stewart told KUTV. “Mostly I look for recyclable metals like copper and stuff.”


Last week, she hit the mother lode behind a Millcreek car wash when two trashed envelopes yielded appraisal certificates and parcels containing two round white diamonds, each weighing approximately 1 carat.

Stewart could have pawned the diamonds, netting a bounty estimated to be $4,000 to $8,000. “I really am broke and would have enjoyed that much money,” Stewart told KUTV.

Instead, the young woman contacted the firm noted on the appraisal certificates.


Lynn Van Wagenen, who wrote the original appraisals seven years ago, was impressed by Stewart’s character. “I just kept looking at her, thinking, ‘What kind of a person does this,’” said Van Wagenen. "She could have thrown away the appraisals, gone to a pawn shop and gotten anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 for these diamonds, but she chose not to.”

Van Wagenen contacted the original owner and arranged for him to meet his Good Samaritan near the dumpster where she found the diamonds. Last Friday, the owner thanked Stewart for her honesty, shook her hand and gave her a cash reward.

Apparently, the diamonds had been stolen — along with other items — from the man’s home seven years ago. How they ended up in a dumpster may remain a mystery forever.

"I hope this brings me some karma," Stewart said of her experience.

Stewart is not the first dumpster diver to be featured in our blog. In November 2014, we told you the story of a California woman who was miraculously reunited with the custom-made diamond ring she accidentally threw away when cleaning out her car at a gas station.

The hero of that story was another extraordinarily honest dumpster diver who sought the assistance of the Porterville Police Department to identify the rightful owner.

Photos: KUTV screen captures
February 13th, 2015
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. A little over 30 years ago, the German group Alphaville released “Forever Young,” a timeless anthem from its debut album that compares the virtues of youth to “diamonds in the sun.”

The song also gives a nod to De Beers' iconic advertising line "A diamond is forever," which Advertising Age named the slogan of the century in 1999.


“Forever Young” was a big hit in Europe in 1984, as it charted in nine countries. In the U.S., however, the song stalled at #65 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Despite the song’s lukewarm reception, the song hasn’t faded. In fact, it’s gotten better with age.


The life of the song seems to mirror the lyrics sung by frontman Marian Gold, who is now 60 and continues to tour with the band: “It's so hard to get old without a cause / I don't want to perish like a fading horse / Youth's like diamonds in the sun / And diamonds are forever.”

Extending the longevity of “Forever Young” is the fact that numerous artists, from Tiffany and One Direction to Youth Group and Jay Z, have covered it. It’s also earned pop-culture status, as it continues to turn up in television shows, commercials and major motion pictures, including 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite.

Please check out Alphaville’s recent live performance of “Forever Young.” Gold’s powerful lead vocals and the song itself hardly show their age. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

"Forever Young"
Written by Bernhard Lloyd, Marian Gold and Frank Mertens. Performed by Alphaville.

Let's dance in style, let's dance for a while
Heaven can wait, we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Can you imagine when this race is won
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders, we're getting in tune
The music's played by the, the mad men

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever? Forever young

Some are like water, some are like the heat
Some are a melody and some are the beat
Sooner or later, they all will be gone
Why don't they stay young?

It's so hard to get old without a cause
I don't want to perish like a fading horse
Youth's like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever

So many adventures couldn't happen today
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
We let them come true

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever young?

Screen captures via

February 16th, 2015
The 5.6 million viewers — and the hosts — of ABC’s “Good Morning America” could hardly hold back the happy tears on Friday as the top-rated morning newscast staged an epic, romantic, surprise marriage proposal for 25 lucky couples.


Timed to coincide with the kickoff of the Valentine’s Day weekend, the outdoor event at New York City’s Bryant Park was part of a prize package the show awarded to men and women from across the country who — unbeknownst to their significant others — asked to be part of GMA’s biggest “pop the question” event ever.


The winners' partners were tricked into believing that they had simply earned a free Valentine trip to New York.


With the lovebirds gathered on the ice, the early morning event started off with Christina Perri’s special live performance of “A Thousand Years," the platinum hit she wrote for The Twilight Saga — Breaking Dawn, Part 1.

But, about halfway through the song Perri stopped singing and told co-anchor Lara Spencer that there was a technical problem.

“Hey, Lara, something is not right,” Perri said.

Spencer responded, “Is there audio? We've been having some problems. You know what, I think the only thing that could fix this is love.”

At that moment, Spencer revealed GMA’s ruse.

“Hey, guys, we may have been playing a little trick on you,” she said. “Partners, can you help this out. Can we solve this problem? What do you say? Let's do it. It's time. Take it away, love birds.”


Wearing skates and nearly in unison, 25 suitors awkwardly dropped to one knee on the frosty ice and proposed marriage. At this point, the focus switched from the Bryant Park ice to the ice that adorned the ring fingers of the surprised partners.


Spencer and Holmes interviewed a few of the couples and then reintroduced Perri, who was able to complete her performance, despite being a bit teary-eyed herself.


Back at GMA headquarters, host Robin Roberts said, “It really was romantic. We were here in the studio just swaying away. Nobody skated off so it looks like we went 25 for 25.”

Images: ABC News screen captures; Twitter/GMA
February 17th, 2015
The 100.20-carat “Ultimate Emerald-Cut Diamond” could fetch as much as $25 million when it headlines Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on April 21.


The “Ultimate” — a remarkable D-color, internally flawless stone — joins an elite club of only five comparable-quality 100-plus-carat diamonds to have ever hit the auction block. It’s the only one of the group to feature the classic emerald cut.


The current owner spent more than one year studying, cutting and polishing the original 200-carat rough diamond, which was mined by De Beers in South Africa. It is not unusual for a cutter to forgo 50 percent of the diamond's carat weight to yield a "perfect" stone.


“This 100.20 carat diamond is the definition of perfection,” commented Gary Schuler, Head of Sotheby’s Jewelry Department in New York. “The color is whiter than white. It is free of any internal imperfections, and so transparent that I can only compare it to a pool of icy water.”


Lisa Hubbard, Chairman of North & South America for Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division, called the 100-carat diamond the “rarest object of natural beauty on the market right now” and “the ultimate acquisition.”

“Simply put, it has everything you could ever want from a diamond,” she said. “The classic shape begs to be worn, while the quality puts it in an asset class of its own. The stone gives you so many options – admire it unmounted, wear it as a simple but stunning pendant, or mount it in a designed jewel.”

The per-carat selling price of upper-echelon stones has been on a steep ascent since Sotheby’s auctioned it first 100-carat "perfect" diamond in 1990. At that time, the price was $125,000 per carat. By 2013, the price had risen to $260,000 per carat. Sotheby’s low estimate of $19 million for “Ultimate Emerald-Cut Diamond” represents a valuation of $190,000 per carat.

April’s headliner will be promoted on a whirlwind month-long tour that will take the stone from Dubai in mid-March to New York in mid-April, with stops in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, London and Doha.

The five other 100-plus-carat “perfect” diamonds to be sold at auction are listed below:

“The Mouawad Splendour” (101.84 carats) is a modified pear-shape diamond that was sold in 1990 at Sotheby’s Geneva for $12.7 million.

“The Star of Happiness” (100.36 carats) is a rectangular modified brilliant-cut that sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for $11.9 million in 1993.

“The Star of the Season” (100.10 carats) sports a pear shape and fetched $16.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in 1995.

“The Winston Legacy” (101.73 carats) also has a pear shape and generated $26.7 million (a record $262,830 per carat) at Christie’s Geneva in 2013.

“Spectacular Oval Diamond” (118.28 carats) is an oval brilliant-cut stone that scored a world auction record for a white diamond when it sold for $30.6 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013.

(Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s.)
February 18th, 2015
Lady Gaga surprised her 5.6 million Instagram followers on Monday with the announcement of her Valentine’s Day engagement to actor Taylor Kinney and a peek at her unusual heart-shaped diamond.


The 28-year-old six-time Grammy winner posted a close-up of her new engagement ring featuring what’s estimated to be an 8-carat heart-shaped center stone. Her caption read, “He gave me his heart on Valentines’s Day, and I said YES!”


Kinney, 33, who is most famous for his role as Lieutenant Kelly Severide in the TV shows Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D., posted a sweet photo of himself and his famous fiancée, along with the caption, “She said YES on Valentine’s Day.”

Depending on the stone’s quality, the ring could be worth upwards of $500,000, according to a report by

Jewelry expert Shari Fabrikant of Robert Fabrikant Inc., who is often called on to value celebrity engagement rings, told that the heart-shaped center stone appears to be about 8 carats in size and of very fine quality.

“The setting is simple with a few round diamonds down the side,” she said. “If the stone is an E color and VS1, it would run close to $500,000. It’s a really special stone. It’s extremely difficult to get large heart shapes. It’s very unique for a ring.”


The chart-topping diva, who has never been shy about pushing the boundaries of fashion (she famously wore a dress made of flank steak to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards), had hinted to Howard Stern in a recent interview that Kinney could be the one.

The couple first met on the set of the music video for Gaga’s 2011 song “You & I,” in which Kinney played her love interest. They started dating several months later and then broke up for a brief time in May 2012. One month later, they were back together and have been a couple ever since. No wedding plans were announced.

Photos: Instagram/LadyGaga, Instagram/TaylorKinney, Getty Images.
February 19th, 2015
Five recreational divers discovered 2,000 ancient gold coins off the coast of Israel — a find that's being touted as the largest single cache of currency ever recovered in that country. The treasure weighed a total of 13.2 pounds and was in pristine condition despite being submerged for 1,000 years.


The amazing discovery took place at Caesarea, a coastal city about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv that was built by Herod the Great in the year 25 B.C.

The divers originally believed they had come across coins from a children’s game, but, upon closer inspection, realized they had stumbled upon something special. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the divers reported their find to the head of the Caesarea Diving Club, who, in turn, alerted the Israel Antiquities Authority. Using metal detectors, the Authority's divers were able to secure 2,000 coins with a precious metal value of $258,000. Due to their rarity and historical significance, their value is likely many times that amount.


The treasure included coins in two denominations, dinars and quarter dinars. The coin insignias revealed they were from the Fatimid Period, when the Fatimid Kingdom ruled North Africa and Palestine. The earliest coin was minted in Sicily in the second half of the 9th century and the latest coin was minted in 1036.

A spokesman from the Israel Antiquities Authority surmised that the coins were probably from a treasury boat that sank just after 1036.


“The ship may have been carrying tax money on its way to the central government in Egypt, or perhaps the coins were meant to pay the salaries of soldiers in the Fatimid garrison stationed in Caesarea,” Jacob Sharvit, head of the authority’s marine unit, told Haaretz.

Robert Kool, an Antiquities Authority coin expert, said that the preservation of the dinars was excellent and that they needed no cleaning in the lab. “That is because gold is a noble metal, which is not impacted by water or air,” he noted.

Kool told Haaretz that some of the coins bore bite marks, which was a common way for ancient merchants to test the quality of the metal.

Marine archaeologists, under the direction of the Israel Antiquities Authority, are planning to investigate the treasure site to find out more about the wreck.

The amateur divers were praised as “model citizens” for their honesty in turning over the ancient coins to Israeli authorities rather than trying to keep the coins for themselves.

Photos: Getty Images
February 20th, 2015
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today we honor the legendary Lesley Gore, who, as a 17-year-old in 1963, exploded onto the music scene with her #1 pop hit, “It’s My Party.”


Gore lost her battle with lung cancer on Monday. She was 68.

“It’s My Party” is the heartbreaking account of a teenage girl being humiliated at her own birthday party. The girl’s boyfriend, Johnny, leaves the party for a while with her rival, Judy, and when they return later, Judy is wearing his ring.

Gore sings, “Oh, Judy and Johnny just walked through that door / Like a queen with her king / Oh what a birthday surprise / Judy's wearin' his ring.”

The catchphrase of the song, “It’s my party. I’ll cry if I want to,” was originally credited to the Brill Building writing team of John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner. But, later, the line was rightfully attributed to part-time songwriter Seymour Gottlieb, and specifically, his daughter, Judy.

The 67-year old Judy Solash told the Daily News on Wednesday that she was teenager living in Brooklyn when a disagreement over her Sweet 16 guest list sparked an emotional exchange with her dad. Seymour thought it was proper to invite Judy’s grandparents and the birthday girl had other ideas.

Here's how the song was born, according to Solash: "I, of course, being a bratty teenager, said I didn't want them there. I burst into tears, and my father said, 'Don't cry.'"

Judy famously answered, "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to."

Gottlieb, a restaurant owner and lyricist, passed the catchy phrase to his songwriter friend Weiner, who later composed the song with Gluck and Gold. When the song became a chart-topping hit, Weiner agreed to share his portion of the song’s royalties with Gottlieb.

Gore, who was born Lesley Sue Goldstein, was only 16 when she recorded “It’s My Party” for producer Quincy Jones. She followed this chart-topper with other memorable songs, such as “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me.”

Please check out the video of Gore’s live version of “It’s My Party.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

"It's My Party"
Written by John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner. Performed by Lesley Gore.

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Nobody knows where my Johnny has gone
Judy left the same time
Why was he holding her hand
When he's supposed to be mine?

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Play all my records, keep dancing all night
But leave me alone for a while
'Til Johnny's dancing with me
I've got no reason to smile

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Oh, Judy and Johnny just walked through that door
Like a queen with her king
Oh what a birthday surprise
Judy's wearin' his ring

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Oh it's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Image: Lesley Gore publicity shot
February 23rd, 2015
Newly betrothed Lady Gaga revealed a secret design detail of her new heart-shaped diamond engagement ring — a sweet and sentimental element she calls “my favorite part" of the ring. That's saying a lot because the 8-carat center stone is magnificent.


When Gaga surprised her 5.7 million Instagram followers last Monday with the announcement of her Valentine’s Day engagement to actor Taylor Kinney, the photo accompanying the post was a view from the top, offering a detailed image of the heart-shaped diamond. The image also offered a glimpse of a thin diamond pavé band.


On Wednesday, she posted a second photo, this time showing the beautifully crafted underside of the ring and a surprising detail.

Instead of adding an inscription, fiancé Kinney and celebrity jeweler Lorraine Schwartz collaborated on a neat enhancement to the band — “T [heart] S” spelled out in pavé diamonds. “S” is for Stefani, Gaga’s birth name.

Here’s how Gaga captioned her Instagram photo: “My favorite part of my engagement ring, Taylor and Lorraine designed “T [heart] S” in white diamonds on the band. He always called me by my birth name. Since our very first date. I'm such a happy bride-to-be! I can't stop smiling!!”


We think there’s good reason to believe that many future brides and grooms will be asking jewelers to add a similar detail to their engagement rings. More than 384,000 of Gaga's followers on Instagram liked the “T [heart] S” photo.


Although she would not divulge the actual cost of the ring, Schwartz told that the center stone is actually more expensive than some of the estimates she had read. That would put the price in excess of a half million dollars.

Jewelry expert Shari Fabrikant of Robert Fabrikant Inc. had told that the heart-shaped center stone appeared to be about 8 carats in size. “The setting is simple with a few round diamonds down the side,” she noted. “If the stone is an E color and VS1, it would run close to $500,000.”

Zaven Ghanimian, CEO of Simon G. Jewelry, had told E! News that he was confident the stone weighs in at about 6 carats. "I would estimate at least SI1 clarity or better, G color or better," he said. "For a stone of this size and quality, the price could be up to $400,000."

Images: Instagram/LadyGaga
February 24th, 2015
A birthday dinner mishap could turn into a financial windfall for a police officer and his family — thanks to a rare, natural pearl that was the unexpected secret ingredient in his bowl of seafood stew.


Mike Serino, a police officer from Swampscott, Mass., was celebrating his 40th birthday at a local Portuguese restaurant when he nearly swallowed a hard object, about the size of a jellybean.


“We thought it was a rock,” Serino told Boston CBS affiliate WBZ-TV.

Serino didn’t know it at the time, but the smooth, purple object was an extremely rare and valuable natural pearl.


“We thought it was pretty, so we took it home,” he said.

For nearly six years, the purple pearl sat idly in his daughter’s jewelry box. Then, in December, Serino saw a news story about Kathleen Morelli from Virginia Beach, who found a valuable 4.5-carat natural pearl in a $15 bag of littleneck clams.


Serino sent his pearl to the Gemological Institute of America, which confirmed that the unexpected dinner ingredient was, in fact, a natural freshwater pearl from a northern quahog clam. The pearl weighed 6.22 carats and measured 11.43 mm by 8.36 mm.


“They are pretty special,” noted Dona Dirlam, director of GIA’s gemological library and information center. “All natural pearls nowadays are quite special.”

Freshwater pearl expert Gina Latendresse, president of Nashville-based American Pearl Co., told The Boston Herald that she’s met many divers who have been collecting shells their entire lives and have never found a pearl of any kind, let alone a purple one.

Latendresse estimated that there’s a 1 in 100,000 chance of finding a natural pearl the size and color of Serino’s gem.

Natural pearls are organic gems, created by a mollusk totally by chance, without human intervention. When a foreign irritant gets into the mollusk’s shell, the bivalve secretes layer upon of layer of nacre to protect itself. Over time, the layering of iridescent nacre produces a pearl.

Cultured pearls, by comparison, are grown under controlled conditions, where a bead is implanted in the body of the mollusk to stimulate the secretion of nacre.

Serino and his family are hoping that the purple pearl will generate a lot of interest when it is offered for sale at Beverly, Mass-based Kaminski Auctions. Online bidding will open February 28 and conclude on March 15.

Harry Morgan, vice president of appraisal services for Kaminski Auctions, told The Boston Herald that the bidding will start at $5,000, but he expects the pearl to yield from $10,000 to $15,000.

“It was a good seafood stew and now it’s even more tasty that I’ve got this pearl that’s worth thousands,” Serino told WBZ-TV.

The Serinos are still debating what they will do with the proceeds from the auction. Dad wants a new Corvette, while Mom and daughters Lauren, 22, Julia, 14, and Isabelle, 2, are pitching for a new kitchen.

“I think we’re going to go with the kitchen because I have to live with my three daughters and my wife, and they can be tough,” Serino joked.

The Portuguese restaurant where Serino found the pearl — or, perhaps, where the pearl found Serino — was closed a few years ago.

Images: Screen captures via WBZ-TV
February 25th, 2015
Despite the freezing temperatures at the Lincoln Park Zoo, a Chicago man successfully melted his girlfriend's heart by presenting her with an adorable, custom-drawn "Will You Marry Me" flipbook designed with a neat cutout section containing an engagement ring.


Rodney Nelson commissioned a local artist Ben Zurawski, also known as The Flippist, to create the animated book specially for his girlfriend, Alexa Wenning.


The book features cartoon images of the couple at a park playing fetch with their dog. Alexa’s character tosses a yellow ball into the distance. The happy pup chases after the ball, but returns with a gray ring box.


The artist then zooms in on the box that is animated to look like Wenning’s hands are actually opening it. The book is cleverly designed with a special element that adds dimension and a surprise. The last pages of the flipbook are cut by hand to create a void that represents the inside of the box. The compartment contains a ring.

The frame of the illustrated ring box displays the phrase “Will You…” On the final page are the words “Marry Me?”


Wenning outlined the details of the proposal on the website She described how her romantic boyfriend insisted on taking her to see the holiday lights festival at the zoo despite the frigid temps, and then melted her heart with the flipbook proposal.


“It was absolutely freezing but he insisted that we bundle up and go anyways,” she wrote. “Right in front of the big light display, he turned to me and told me he needed to give me my Christmas present. I remember thinking, ‘Seriously, right now? Are you crazy?’ but he insisted and showed me a flipbook.”


After Wenning viewed the final words of the flipbook, Nelson got down on one knee and pulled the actual ring from his pocket (the one affixed to the book was just for show). Predictably, she said, “Yes.”


"It was perfect because I had to take my gloves off to flip through it and [as] I got [to] the end, he pulled out the real ring and asked for my hand," she wrote. “Of course, I started bawling. I almost got frostbite afterwards because I refused to put my gloves back on!”


The Flippist specializes in “Will You Marry Me” flipbooks, although he does create them for other occasions. His custom books are all 100% hand drawn and range in price from $595 to $895. He also offers less expensive printed versions. See his website here… and his YouTube channel here…

Check out Rodney and Alexa’s custom flipbook here…

Images: Screen captures via YouTube/TheFlippist; Facebook
February 26th, 2015
Scientists from Oxford University used common household products — such as drain cleaner, sandpaper and antiseptic cream — to grow crystals that mimic the British Crown Jewels.


The experiment, which was directed by Dr. Dharmalingam Prabhakaran, head of the Crystal Growth Unit at Oxford University, took eight months to complete and honors Queen Elizabeth II becoming the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch later in 2015.

The impressive replica jewels will be presented at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, set to take place from March 11 to 14 in Birmingham. The show organizers are hoping the crystal experiment will inspire young students to focus on the sciences.

Among the famous gems replicated from household items are the 170-carat Black Prince Ruby, 104-carat Stuart Sapphire and 317-carat Cullinan II (the fourth-largest polished diamond in the world).


The scientists were also able to mimic the 12-carat oval sapphire from the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring.


St. Edward’s Sapphire, which is set in the Maltese Cross atop the Imperial State Crown, was recreated using common cleaning powder mixed with boiling water. The resulting bright blue copper sulfate liquid crystalizes under the right conditions. The crystal-growing experiment can be duplicated with adult supervision in a classroom or at home.

Attendees of the fair will learn that when scientists exposed basic chemicals to extremely high temperatures they were able to create crystals of synthetic spinel, corundum and cubic zirconia. The crystals were then cut to exacting specifications to match the size and shape of their authentic, more famous counterparts.


“Crystals are amazing. Not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at, but they are also very useful,” noted Dr. Prabhakaran. “A lot of important discoveries, many that went on to win Nobel prizes, were only possible because of crystals. I hope that this project will help get young people excited about science and inspired to take that excitement further with their studies and into their careers.”

Images: The Big Bang Fair/Mikael Buck
February 27th, 2015
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic hits with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Released in 1970 during the height of political and social unrest, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is, oddly, a song about domestic bliss in Southern California.

Featuring the glistening harmonies that were the hallmark of CSNY, the song recounts a simple day in the life of Graham Nash and his girlfriend, singer Joni Mitchell, as they share a home (with two cats) in Laurel Canyon, Calif.


Nash compares the rays of light streaming through the windows to brilliant gemstones... He sings, “Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the / sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you.”

In a recent interview with NPR, Nash explained how the song had come to life in just 60 minutes. He and Mitchell had just purchased a vase in an antique store and headed back home on a cool, drizzly L.A. morning.

As they entered the front door, Nash said, “You know what? I'll light a fire. Why don't you put some flowers in that vase that you just bought? Well, she was in the garden getting flowers. That meant she was not at her piano, but I was... And an hour later 'Our House' was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.”

One of three Top 40 songs from the group’s 1970 Déjà Vu album, “Our House” was originally panned by Rolling Stone magazine as a “flyweight ditty with nothing to say.”

Despite the harsh criticism, the single reached a respectable #30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and has since stood the test of time."Our House" has been covered by numerous artists and continues to be a Crosby, Stills & Nash fan favorite 45 years later. (Neil Young no longer tours with the band.)

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Déjà Vu #147 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In addition to “Our House,” the album also charted two other iconic songs of the era, “Woodstock” and “Teach Your Children.” Both contained strong political and social commentary.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was one of the greatest supergroups of all time. David Crosby had been with The Byrds. Nash was with The Hollies. Steven Stills and Neil Young were members of Buffalo Springfield. By virtue of their stellar collaborations and solo careers, the members of CSNY have each been twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

We hope you enjoy the rare live footage of CSNY’s performance of “Our House” from the early 1970s. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Our House"
Written by Graham Nash. Performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I'll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
play your love songs all night long for me, only for me.

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good.
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the
sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you.

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
now everything is easy cause of you and our la, la, la…

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
now everything is easy cause of you and our

I'll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.

Image: publicity shot