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Articles in October 2016

October 3rd, 2016
Every once in a while nature delivers something so unusual, so spectacular that even the curator of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection is impressed.


In January of 2011, the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., welcomed its newest resident, the "Yowah Nut Opal." It weighed 29.83 carats and, at first glance, looked like a nugget of rusted metal.

A cross section of the Yowah Nut revealed a gem-quality opal hidden inside. This is certainly nature's most surprising example of October's official birthstone.


"It reminds you that the earth is a pretty amazing place and we haven't seen everything yet," stated Jeffrey E. Post, Ph.D., curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection. "There's always a surprise waiting for us in the earth somewhere and this is just a great example of that kind of a surprise."

Post added that the donor who contributed the Yowah Nut Opal to the Smithsonian called the specimen his "OMG opal" because every time he would open it up, somebody would say, "Oh, my gosh."

"And we have the same reaction," Post said.

Yowah Nuts — the largest of which are 20cm (7.8 inches) across — are found exclusively in the Yowah opal field, which is located in Queensland, Australia. According to the Smithsonian, opal dealer Bryan Rossiter discovered the field in the 1880s. Opal mining was extremely challenging because of the intense heat, extreme drought and the lack of vegetation.


Opal miners learned to keep their eyes open for ironstone nodules, or concretions, that looked like nuts. When cracked or sliced in half, some "nuts" would reveal a valuable gem opal in the center.

The Yowah Nut on display at the Smithsonian was a gift of the Texas-based Richard Ashley Foundation. Rod Griffin, the miner who discovered this opal nut, told the Smithsonian it is the finest he has unearthed to date.


The gem displays flashes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. One side of the Yowah Nut has a bluish body color while the other side is more milky in tone. Post explained that the difference in color is attributed to the thickness of each slice. Post talks about the gem in great detail in this video posted at the Gemological Institute of America's website.

One of October’s official birthstones, the precious opal is universally loved because it often presents all the colors of the rainbow. Each opal is truly unique and more than 95% of fine opals are sourced in Australia.

Scientists believe that between 100 million and 97 million years ago, Australia’s vast inland sea, which was populated by marine dinosaurs, began retreating. As the sea regressed, a rare episode of acidic weather was taking place, exposing pyrite minerals and releasing sulphuric acid. As the surface of the basin dried further and cracked, silica-rich gel became trapped in the veins of the rock. Over time, the silica solidified to form opals.

Credits: Photos by Ken Larsen/Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History/National Gem Collection. Video screen capture via
October 4th, 2016
Back in February, a thumb-shaped 404-carat gem-quality rough diamond miraculously found its way through a hole in the sorting screen at Lucapa Diamond Co.'s Lulo processing plant in Angola because it was oriented vertically, not horizontally.


Had the gem — which was eventually sold for $16 million — passed through lying flat instead of standing up on edge, it would have been rejected and discarded. It would have likely joined the other rejected, oversized "rocks" Lucapa had collected and used to fill the road beds throughout the Lulo project.

The diamond recovery plant had been configured to capture diamonds up to 280 carats in size. Before that day in February, no rough diamond larger than 278 carats had ever been pulled from the mine.


Now, the Australian Business Review is reporting that Lucapa executives have good reason to believe that the roads surrounding the Lulo mine may be literally paved with diamonds. Lucapa chairman Miles Kennedy is affectionately calling them "the diamond highways."

Lucapa is betting that many more mammoth-size diamonds were rejected in the sorting process and ended up as road filler. The company is looking into the prospect of digging out the road material and reprocessing it through a new sorting machine that can recover diamonds up to 1,000 carats in size. The new machine will go online next month.

Lucapa has been stockpiling potentially diamond-rich oversized material since February's spectacular find. The Australian Business Review reported that the stockpiled material will be sorted first, and if more giant stones emerge, the roads surrounding Lulo will be dug up next.


The Lulo Diamond Project in Angola already has earned a reputation for producing very large, high-quality rough diamonds. Lucapa has found six stones weighing 100 carats or more, including two in the past few weeks. The most recent find was a 172.6-carat D-color, Type IIa stone, the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice.

Earlier this month, Lucapa unveiled a 38.6-carat fancy pink diamond from Lulo, offering the possibility that the mine could become a prime source for all varieties of fine-quality diamonds.

Credits: Diamond images courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Company;
October 5th, 2016
A Mexican bride-to-be became an internet sensation this week when the 7-second video of her fainting during a marriage proposal went viral on Facebook.


In a clip viewed by more than 4.4 million Facebook users, we see fashion model Reyna Renteria overcome with emotion when boyfriend Germán Benitez of Mexico City surprises her with box containing an engagement ring.


The scene opens at an outdoor café where a mariachi band is serenading the couple. Renteria walks toward her boyfriend as he presents her with the gift box. She accepts the box, and holds it with two hands.


In an instant, the blissful moment takes a scary turn when Renteria blacks out and stiffly falls backward onto the ground.


Benitez is shocked as his fainting girlfriend falls away from him.


Benitez tries to catch her, but all he can do is quickly come to her aid after she hits the ground. Oddly, one of the mariachi guitarists continues to strum his instrument despite the drama playing out in front of him.


Fortunately, she was not hurt, just slightly embarrassed.

Renteria posted to her Facebook page a still shot of herself lying unconscious on the ground. In the caption, which was written in Spanish, she promised to post the short video of the event if the photo earned at least 100 Likes.

It quickly got 2,000 Likes.

Barely an hour later, the video made its debut on her Facebook wall and the rest is history. The item earned 4.4 million Views, 64,000 Shares and 20,000 Likes. The story was covered by numerous news outlets, including The Daily Mail and Fox News Latino.

Renteria's new handle on the social networks is "LadyCompromiso," which translates into "LadyEngagement."


The Daily Mail is reporting that several companies have contacted the couple with offers of wedding-related items and services in return for mentioning their brands on social media.

Check out an extended version of the viral video here...

Credits: Photos via Reyna Renteria/Facebook.
October 6th, 2016
There's an ancient Egyptian legend that describes how tourmalines got their amazing colors, and it goes something like this... On their long voyage up to the surface from the center of the Earth, tourmalines passed through a rainbow — and by doing so, assumed all of its colors.


The name "tourmaline" is derived from the Singhalese words "tura mali," which mean "stone with mixed colors." In fact, when it comes to color, tourmaline is the undisputed champion of the gemstone world.

Not only does tourmaline display fiery, vibrant colors, such as blue, red, green, yellow, orange, brown, pink, purple, gray and black, but the official October gemstone also comes in bi-color and tri-color versions. (The other official birthstone for October is opal.)

One of our multicolor favorites is called "watermelon tourmaline" because it features green, white and pink bands that look very much like a slice of the delicious summer fruit. Designers love to use thin, polished cross-sections of watermelon tourmaline in their work. Gem collectors love watermelon tourmaline because it's fun and so unusual.

According to the American Gem Society, the multicolor gems with the clearest color distinctions are the most highly prized.

The trade has unusual names for the wide variety of multicolor tourmalines. According to the International Colored Gemstone Association, colorless crystals with black on both ends is called "Mohrenkopf," a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat sold in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.


Tourmaline crystals that have banded color zones that lie on top of one another are referred to by the Brazilians as "papageios" or "rainbow tourmaline." A tourmaline with red on one end is called a "Turk's head tourmaline." Apparently, the reference is a nod to the red fez cap made popular in Turkish culture.

Tourmaline is found many locations around the world, including the U.S. (mainly California and Maine), Brazil, Afghanistan and East Africa.

Tourmalines get their color from trace elements that are introduced to gem's chemical structure. Lithium-rich tourmalines yield blue, green, red, yellow and pink colors, while iron-rich tourmalines are black to bluish-black. Magnesium-infused tourmalines tend to be brown-to-yellow in color. Multicolored crystals reflect a "fluid chemistry" during crystallization.

Credits: Photo (top) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.; Photo bottom by Andrew Lucas/GIA, courtesy Cruzeiro mine.
October 11th, 2016
First-time prospectors Dan Frederick and his daughter, Lauren, scored a 2.03-carat white diamond within 60 minutes of searching the side of a plowed furrow at Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park last Tuesday.


Dan Frederick, who hails from Renton, Wash., and Lauren, who lives in Los Angeles, traveled 2,200 and 1,600 miles, respectively, to prospect for gems together at the only diamond site in the world that allows treasure hunters to keep whatever they find. The entry fee cost them $8 apiece.


The Fredericks had never visited the Crater of Diamonds State Park before and planned their trip to Arkansas after searching the internet for "places to find gems."

Dan Frederick noted that he and his daughter started their search for gems at 8 a.m., and by 9 a.m. Dan had spotted the diamond's metallic shine on top of the ground near the Star of Arkansas diamond marker on the north end of the park’s 37.5-acre diamond search area. The Fredericks named their find "The Lucky Diamond."


Lauren Frederick told that the diamond "was the cherry on top of a fun and special trip."

"Finding the diamond will be one of my favorite memories, especially since my dad and I found it together," she said.

Park Interpreter Betty Coors described the diamond as having a pearly white color and a distinct triangular shape that results when two diamond crystals share part of the same structure during formation deep within the earth. These twinned crystals are called "macle" gems.

Larger diamonds are occasionally found on the surface of the search area by park visitors. Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size, and when rain washes dirt away, they are sometimes exposed right at the top. When the sun comes out, they sparkle and are easier to spot.

“Dan Frederick has proven, once again, that it is possible to find large, beautiful diamonds while surface searching," Coors said in a statement. "This is an example of a diamond that all park visitors dream of taking home.”

The Fredericks have yet to decide whether they will have their diamond faceted and polished or leave it in its natural state.

The search field in Murfreesboro, Ark., is actually the eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. The park maintains a generous finder’s keepers policy and even provides experts to help amateur prospectors identify what they’ve found. Besides diamonds, the search field often yields amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite and quartz.


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.

The excitement of finding a precious gemstone has made Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park a popular family-fun attraction. In 2015, the park welcomed 168,000 visitors, compared to 51,000 just 10 years earlier.

Credits: Images courtesy of Crater of Diamonds State Park.
October 12th, 2016
"The Sky Blue Diamond" is the latest in a procession of majestic fancy vivid blue diamonds that have captivated the auction world over the past 12 months.


Weighing 8.01 carats, "The Sky Blue Diamond" is the headliner of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale, which is set to take place in Geneva on November 16. The square-cut gem, which is set in a ring by Cartier, boasts the highest possible color grading, an excellent polish and a purity rating of Type IIb, a rare category representing less than 0.5% of all diamonds. Sotheby's set the pre-sale estimate at $15 million to $25 million.

If the ring sells at the top of the estimated range, it would yield $3.12 million per carat and rank among the finest fancy vivid blue diamonds of all time.


Blue diamond lovers may remember that "The Blue Moon of Josephine" established a new record for the highest price paid per carat for any gemstone when the hammer went down at Sotheby's Geneva in November 2015. The internally flawless 12.03-carat cushion-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond sold for $48.5 million, or $4.03 million per carat.


In May 2016, "The Oppenheimer Blue" became the priciest gem ever auctioned when it sold for $57.5 million at Christie's Geneva. The fancy vivid blue step-cut, rectangular-shaped diamond weighed 14.62 carats and earned a clarity rating of VVS1. Its price per carat was $3.96 million.

“The Sky Blue Diamond is of a wonderfully clear celestial blue, presented in an extremely elegant square emerald cut – in my view, the most flattering of all the cuts for a colored diamond," commented David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. "This important gem will, I am sure, captivate all collectors of exceptional gemstones.”

The Sky Blue Diamond and other top lots from the Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale will tour London (October 13-17) and New York (November 4-6) before returning to Geneva for the auction.

Credits: The Sky Blue Diamond and The Blue Moon of Josephine images courtesy of Sotheby's. The Oppenheimer Blue image courtesy of Christie’s.
October 13th, 2016
On January 26, 1905, Captain Frederick Wells was conducting a standard inspection of the Premier Mine in South Africa when a glint off the wall of the mine caught his attention. At first, he thought it was a shard of glass that may have been embedded there by a miner as a practical joke. But, then he pulled out his pocket knife and pried the object from the wall.


What he extracted was the now-famous 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered. The Cullinan weighed 621 grams (1.37 pounds) and was 98mm (3.85 inches) long, 57mm wide and 67mm tall.

For the next 111 years, diamond miners have dreamed of another Cullinan, but none have gotten close to securing a gem of that size.


Even last year's amazing recovery of a 1,109-carat diamond from Lucara's Karowe mine in Botswana paled in comparison to the Cullinan. The Lesedi La Rona is barely 36% of the weight of the diamond standard-bearer.


The biggest obstacle to securing enormous diamonds — intact — is the violent method mining companies use to process the diamond-bearing rock. Typically, the material has been drilled, blasted, hauled and put through crushing machines to get to the gems that may be hiding within. During that process, extremely large diamonds, some weighing hundreds of carats, are often damaged or even pulverized.

Lucara revealed that the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona actually weighed 1,483 carats, but a large chunk was a broken off during the sorting process. Lucara CEO William Lamb told at the time that it was actually fortunate that the 374-carat chunk broke off because Lucara’s plant was not designed to process such large material. A 1,500-carat diamond would have been crushed.

Last week, we noted that Lucapa Diamond Co. is about to go online with a new sorting machine that can recover diamonds up to 1,000 carats in size at its Lulo processing plant in Angola.

Now, is reporting that Lucara and Gem Diamonds Ltd. have their eyes on an even bigger prize.

Both are stepping up their investments in Large Diamond Recovery (LDR). The companies are installing bigger, costlier filters and laser identification technology so huge diamonds can be cherry picked before the ore goes through the crushing process. The new recovery technology will be implemented at both Lucara’s Karowe mine in Botswana and Gem Diamonds Ltd.’s Letseng mine in Lesotho.

Lucara's recently completed plant modifications are designed to sift diamonds as large as 90 millimeters (3.5 inches) in diameter and would allow for the recovery of a gem comparable in size to the 3,106-carat Cullinan.

Credits: Captain Frederick Wells image (uncredited). Diamond images courtesy of Lucara Diamond.
October 14th, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome new songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, RaeLynn — who is best known as a finalist in Season 2 of The Voice — sings about how an engagement ring embodies a lifelong pledge of love and devotion in her 2016 release, "Diamonds."


In the song, RaeLynn acknowledges that diamonds are exciting, but explains that nothing can compare to receiving a diamond engagement ring from the one you love.

She sums up her feelings in the chorus of "Diamonds"... "Cause a diamond's just a diamond til you put it on the right left hand / Love is just a word til you feel it and finally understand / That some things don't mean anything til one day they mean everything / And you're flyin', smilin' and shinin' / Kinda like diamonds / Kinda like diamonds."

The 22-year-old RaeLynn, whose given name is Racheal Lynn Woodward, told The Knot how her October 2015 engagement to Josh Davis inspired her to write the song.

"The day after I got engaged, I was looking at my engagement ring and how beautiful it was," she said. "And all I could think about was how much Josh meant to me — and that this ring would just be a ring without him. What makes it so special is it sealed a promise to the man I love for the rest of my life."

The couple wed in February of 2016.

“When you meet the right one, you have to go with it,” RaeLynn told The Knot. “Love is real. Love is the greatest gift God could give us. Just like ‘Thing About Us’ was my [wedding] song with Josh, I hope maybe ‘Diamonds’ can be your wedding song [someday].”

"Diamonds" is the eighth track from RaeLynn's soon-to-be released album WildHorse. The single hit the airwaves last week and the album is set to drop on December 2.

The singer/songwriter from Baytown, Texas, auditioned for the second season of The Voice in 2012. As a member of Team Blake, she made it all the way to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. In June of this year, RaeLynn signed a new record deal with Warner Bros. Nashville.

She named her upcoming album WildHorse because the album's tracks reflect RaeLynn's carefree spirit and unconventional way of looking at life. The album is a retrospective of her past four years, a roller-coaster ride that saw her graduate from high school, move away from her parents, fall in love, have her heart broken, fall in love again, get engaged and then marry the man of her dreams.

In October of 2015, RaeLynn showed off her beautiful marquise-shaped diamond engagement ring in a series of romantic Instagram posts. She captioned one of the pics, "Can’t believe I get to marry my best friend. Ahhhhhhhh."

We hope you enjoy RaeLynn's newest release. The video and lyrics are below...

Written by Emily Weisband, Jimmy Robbins and RaeLynn. Performed by RaeLynn.

There's one sittin' in a pawn shop, glass counter, someone down in California traded it for a TV
Another one in a pretty blue box somewhere up in New York, white ribbon, Tiffany's
One's catchin' dust in a drawer in a dresser at your grandma's house that's been there since 1953
But honestly

A diamond's just a diamond til you put it on the right left hand
Love is just a word til you feel it and finally understand
That some things don't mean anything til one day they mean everything
And you're flyin', smilin' and shinin'
Kinda like diamonds
Kinda like diamonds

I ain't saying they aren't pretty and the way they feel doesn't feel just like an answer to a little girls dream
Ain't saying they ain't fun to show off to your friends and get the chills when you hear them scream
But if your hearts not in it, forget it

Cause a diamond's just a diamond til you put it on the right left hand
Love is just a word til you feel it and finally understand
That some things don't mean anything til one day they mean everything
And you're flyin', smilin' and shinin'
Kinda like diamonds
Kinda like diamonds

I don't need one just to hold on to
I don't want one unless it comes with you

Cause a diamond's just a diamond til you put it on the right left hand
Love is just a word til you feel it and finally understand
That some things don't mean anything til one day they mean everything
And you're flyin', smilin' and shinin'
Kinda like diamonds
Kinda like diamonds

Credit: Instagram/RaeLynnOfficial.
October 17th, 2016
It's not easy to render a cartoon penguin in precious metals and gemstones, but that was exactly the challenge Jostens faced when tasked with designing the 2016 Stanley Cup rings for the champion Pittsburgh Penguins.


The team's iconic logo crest features a black penguin skating with a hockey stick across a golden triangle that represent the shape of downtown Pittsburgh.

Jostens used a custom-cut black onyx to represent the shape of the penguin and a half-carat pear-shaped diamond to mimic the penguin's white torso. The blade of the hockey stick is a single tapered baguette diamond. The golden triangle is made up of 18 yellow diamonds set in yellow gold.

Thirty custom-cut princess-cut diamonds are set in a circle around the perimeter of the logo, with an additional 15 round diamonds set behind the logo crest. The words "STANLEY CUP" and "CHAMPIONS" frame the top and bottom edges of the ring in yellow gold. The use of yellow gold highlights on the white gold ring brings contrast and depth to the design.

In total, the Stanley Cup championship rings are adorned with 309 diamonds weighing 8.8 carats.


The edges of the top and sides of the ring are waterfall set with diamonds, making for smooth, cascading edges and a streamlined aesthetic. The left side panel proudly displays the team name, the player’s last name and the player’s number elegantly set with pavé diamonds.


The right side panel features the year “2016” and four Stanley Cup trophies, representing each of the franchise’s championship victories for the City of Pittsburgh.


The inside of the ring is engraved with the team motto “Just Play” and the records of the four playoff series wins on the path to the Stanley Cup.


The 2016 Stanley Cup champions, who beat the San Jose Sharks in the final round of the playoffs, received their impressive rings last week during a private ceremony at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Only a few days earlier, the team was honored at The White House by President Barack Obama.

"These unique and brilliant rings will always be an inspiring symbol of what our players and coaches accomplished by winning the Stanley Cup," said Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse. "On behalf of our owners, Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, as well as our players and coaches, I want to thank Jostens for the creativity and craftsmanship that went into this very special Stanley Cup championship ring project.”

Credits: Ring images courtesy of Jostens. President Obama screen capture via
October 18th, 2016
Samford University junior linebacker Deion Pierre recruited his teammates to assist in an unforgettable postgame marriage proposal on Saturday.


Right after the Bulldogs' convincing 55-21 win over VMI, Pierre and his squad — still in full football gear — surprised Jasmine Henderson at the 50 yard line with a choreographed presentation set to Ed Sheeran’s "Thinking Out Loud."

Henderson was clearly caught off guard when the music started to play on the loud speakers and the Bulldog players shuffled toward her at midfield with roses in hand. The players slowly danced a circle around Pierre's girlfriend.

Then Pierre entered the circle, held his girlfriend's hand and dropped to one knee.


Each of the players placed a rose on the turf and tightened their circle around the couple.

Pierre asked Henderson if she would marry him and she said, "Yes." Pierre placed a diamond ring on her finger and the couple embraced.

The 6'3" 230 lb. linebacker from Pembroke Pines, Fla., scooped up his girlfriend and lifted her in the air as his teammates raised their arms and erupted in a chant, "She said yes! She said yes!"


In a video posted by Samford University Athletics, a beaming Pierre tells the interviewer about his best day ever. Earlier in the day, he had a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown and then his girlfriend accepted his marriage proposal. "Pick six. I won twice today," he said.

When asked if she was surprised by the elaborate proposal, the shy, soft-spoken Henderson said, "Yes." When asked how she felt, she answered, "I feel great."

Pierre told that when he met Henderson it was love at first sight.


"I told my friend, '[She's] going to be my wife one day.' And then when I got to meet her and got to know her personality, she's the greatest person I know, besides my mom," Pierre said.

Pierre and Henderson are both juniors and will wait until after graduation to get married.

Check out the awesome proposal video below...

Credits: Screen captures via
October 19th, 2016
Made famous in the landmark 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's Ruby Slippers have been a popular attraction at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., for more than three decades.


But the 77-year-old slippers are showing their age. The color has faded and the slippers appear dull and washed-out. The ruby-red sequins that once gave the shoes their vibrant color are flaking and some of the threads holding the sequins in place have frayed.


Conservationists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History are looking to give Dorothy's slippers a well-deserved facelift and a new state-of-the-art display case designed to protect them from environmental harm and slow their deterioration.

The price tag to accomplish these goals is $300,000, and although U.S. taxpayers do fund the core functions of the Smithsonian, there are no funds available for the Ruby Slippers project.

So the Smithsonian is embarking on a Kickstarter campaign to generate $300,000 within 30 days. The two-day-old campaign has already generated more than $117,000 from 2,100 backers. Tony Award-winning Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long has created a series of Thank You gifts for contributions ranging from $10 to $100. These include posters, tote bags and t-shirts.


Those who contribute $10,000 will enjoy a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the conservation of the Ruby Slippers.

If the fundraising effort is successful — and at this pace it certainly will be — the revitalized slippers with be at the center of a new multimedia exhibition titled "On With the Show," which is scheduled to make its Smithsonian debut in 2018.

This is not the first time the Smithsonian has turned to Kickstarter to fund an important conservation project. In July 2015, the Smithsonian sought $500,000 to conserve and digitize the spacesuits of Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong. The “Reboot the Suit” campaign ultimately raised $719,000.

Acknowledged as one of the most iconic artifacts in film history and often called "the most famous pair of shoes in the world," the Ruby Slippers displayed in the American Stories section of the National Museum of American History were donated anonymously in 1979.

Movie historians believe that MGM’s chief costume designer Gilbert Adrian created multiple pairs of ruby slippers for the film, but only four pairs are known to still exist. The Smithsonian's pair is the one Dorothy wore when she followed the Yellow Brick Road.


A second pair was stolen from the July Garland Museum in 2005; a third pair was purchased in 2012 by Leonardo DiCaprio and other benefactors on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and a fourth pair is owned by a private collector in Los Angeles.

In the 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy's slippers were made of silver. According to film lore, screenwriter Noel Langley recommended that they be changed to ruby red so they would stand out better on the yellow brick road when shot in brilliant Technicolor.


Interestingly, Dorothy's Ruby Slippers are not made of ruby at all. In fact, the bugle beads that prop designers used to simulate ruby proved to be too heavy. The solution was to replace most of the bugle beads with sequins, 2,300 on each slipper. The butterfly-shaped bow on the front of each shoe features red bugle beads outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings.

Credits: Screen captures via Institution; Ruby Slippers courtesy of Smithsonian.
October 20th, 2016
The Ostro Stone — the world's largest faceted intense blue topaz at 9,381 carats — made its public debut at London’s Natural History Museum yesterday.


Unearthed by gemstone pioneer Max Ostro in the Amazon rainforest in 1986, the flawless gem was expertly cut and polished into a oval shape and then locked away in a vault for three decades.

After Max's death in 2010, his son Maurice decided it was time for the public to enjoy the gemstone's magnificence. Recently, he gave the gem to London’s famed Natural History Museum on permanent loan.


“Collecting beautiful colored gems was my father’s passion," said Maurice Ostro, the chairman of Ostro Minerals, "My mission is to leverage his remarkable legacy in a way that would make him proud. We are delighted that the finest of his gemstones will now be part of the collection at the Natural History Museum, [which shares] our passion for exceptional stones.”

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


The PBS NewsHour caught up with Maurice during a photo shoot leading up to The Ostro Stone's debut.


"Having tried to hold it for photography, I can tell you it is very heavy," Ostro told PBS NewsHour.

In fact, the gem is nearly six inches long, 4.5 inches wide and weighs a surprising 4.1 pounds.

Topaz comes is a wide variety of hues and saturations, but The Ostro Stone is in a class by itself.

"What is amazing about this stone is not just its size," Ostro told PBS NewsHour. "It’s its quality. The color, the intensity of the blue and the clarity of the stone are what makes it so exceptionally rare."


The museum announced that it would boost security to ensure the gemstone's protection. London's Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year and is a world-leading science research center.

Credits: Gem images courtesy of London’s Natural History Museum. NewsHour screen captures via
October 21st, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country music legend George Jones sings about finally finding that special someone in his 1987 hit "The Right Left Hand."


In the song, Jones sadly recounts how he's cried a million tears over relationships that had come undone. But now he can rejoice because the Lord has given him "a true love of a lady" who "lets him know her love is here to stay."

He sings, "So I put a golden band on the right left hand this time / And the right left hand put a golden band on mine / When our hair is snowy white / Time will prove I'm right / I put a golden band on the right left hand this time."

Songwriters A.L. "Doodle" Owens and Dennis J. Knutson use a clever play on words to describe Jones' true love in relation to the others. Jones sings about placing the ring on the "right" left hand — as opposed to the wrong one — this time.

Music critics believe the song is a tribute to Jones's fourth wife, Nancy, whom he credited with saving his life and career. He married Nancy in 1983 and successfully emerged from a dark time brought on by his alcoholism. With Nancy's nurturing, he was also able to stage a comeback and revitalize his reputation as an A-lister on the country music scene.

"The Right Left Hand," which was the third track from Jones's 1986 album Wine Colored Roses, peaked at #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The album also performed well, hitting #5 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart.

Born in a log cabin in the small town of Saratoga, Texas, Jones got his first guitar at the age of nine. By 1955, at the age of 24, Jones had already served in the Marines, was married twice and recorded his first hit song, "Why Baby Why." In 1969, he married Tammy Wynette. They were divorced six years later, although they continued to perform together after the breakup.

Jones told Billboard in 2006 that when it comes to his music, "It's never been for love of money. I thank God for it because it makes me a living. But I sing because I love it, not because of the dollar signs."


Over a career that spanned seven decades, Jones is credited with charting 168 country songs. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Jones passed away in 2013 at the age of 81 and rests at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Nashville, Tenn.

Please check out the video of Jones's live performance of "The Right Left Hand." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"The Right Left Hand"
Written by A.L. “Doodle” Owens and Dennis J. Knutson. Performed by George Jones.

I've cried a million tears,
Down through the years
Searching for that special one
And the vows I took before,
Were all forever more,
But no matter how I tried they came undone

Then the good Lord finally gave me
A true love of a lady,
Someone who believes in me
And she lets me know each day,
That her love is here to stay
Lord I finally found someone who'll never leave

So I put a golden band on the right left hand this time,
And the right left hand put a golden band on mine
When our hair is snowy white,
Time will prove I'm right
I put a golden band on the right left hand this time

I'll never have to plead
For the love that my heart needs,
She'll be close enough to touch
And when the nights are long and cold,
She'll be there to hold,
All dressed up for one more night of love

I put a golden band on the right left hand this time,
And the right left hand put a golden band on mine
When our hair is snowy white,
Time will prove I'm right
I put a golden band on the right left hand this time

I put a golden band on the right left hand this time

Credit: George Jones photo by BstarXO Chester L. Roberts (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons. Woodlawn Cemetery photo by Thomas R Machnitzki ( (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
October 24th, 2016
In September 2015, we reported on a Netherlands-based artist and innovator named Daan Roosegaarde, who was on a mission to install 23-foot-tall “Smog Free Towers” in cities with the most polluted air.


What made the concept even more intriguing was that the super-sized air purifiers conceived by Roosegaarde and his team of experts would be partly financed by the sale of jewelry made from the compressed smog particles captured by The Towers.


A little more than one year later, Roosegaarde's dream has become a reality as one of his “Smog Free Towers” made its debut in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

According to Roosegaarde, the tower sucks up polluted air, processes it on the nano level via positive ionization and then releases the clean air back into the city. The Towers create smog-free bubbles of public space, which boast air quality 75% more clean than the rest of the city.

Each Smog Free Tower is capable of processing 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour. The device runs on green wind energy and uses no more electricity than a water boiler (1170 watts).

Inspired by the fact that diamonds are composed of carbon, Roosegaarde came up with the idea of using high pressure to form the carbon pollutants into a square black “gemstone” that can be set onto a fashionable ring or cufflink. Each Smog Free Cube is encased in clear resin and measures 8.4mm. The jewelry is made of stainless steel and costs about $270.


Each cube represents the purification of 1,000 cubic meters of air. One Smog Free Tower will be capable of producing 300 Smog Free Cubes per day if it runs 10 hours per day.


"The Smog Free Project is about the Smog Free Tower providing clean air, but it's also about the Smog Free Ring creating an engagement and making the people in China part of the solution, instead of just feeling part of the problem," Roosegaarde told Reuters.

“We warmly welcome the Smog Free Project to Beijing. This project is key in our agenda to promote clean air as a 'green lifestyle' among Chinese citizens," said Liu Guozheng, Secretary-General of The China Forum of Environmental Journalists. "Our goal is to guide the public to a healthier lifestyle, low carbon development and to raise awareness amongst the public and reduce smog.”

The Smog Free Project in China has earned the support of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection.

China has earmarked $2.6 trillion for environmental protection between 2016 and 2020, according to state news agency Xinhua. That's positive news for Roosegaarde, who expects to add hundreds of Smog Free Towers throughout the world's most populous nation. China's population stands at 1.36 billion.

Last year's Kickstarter campaign for the Smog Free Project yielded €113,153 (about $123,000), an amount more than double the initial goal of €50,000.

Credits: Images via
October 25th, 2016
A lavish diamond necklace worn by Catherine the Great 250 years ago is one of the highlights of Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels & Noble Jewels auction in Geneva on November 16.


The jewelry offers a rare glimpse at the grandeur and elegance surrounding the Russian Royal Family and, specifically, Catherine II, Empress of Russia. One of the great leaders in Russian history, Catherine the Great (1729 – 1796) commissioned the diamond necklace and bowknot clasp as two separate pieces between 1760 and 1780.


Catherine the Great was a connoisseur of fine jewelry. Her magnificent collections were crafted by the most highly skilled French jewelers. Sotheby's noted that stylistically, the necklace with bow clasp is consistent with traditional designs of the late 18th century, which would have been fastened around the neck using a ribbon or stitched directly onto clothing.

The necklace boasts 27 graduated cushion-cut diamonds in open settings on an articulated band. The ribbon bow clasp also features cushion-shaped diamonds in an openwork floral pattern. The jewel carries a pre-sale estimate of $3 million to $5 million.

According to Sotheby's, the survival of an 18th century jewel of this stature is almost unheard of outside royal or museum collections. Oftentimes, these pieces from the 1700s would have been broken up or reworked to align with later fashions.


At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Russian Imperial treasure was moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and the jewels were stored in sealed cases in the Kremlin. Thirteen years later, a number of items — including the diamond bow necklace — were taken to London and offered at auction at a sale of “The Russian State Jewels.” For the next 89 years, the diamond necklace with the bow-shaped clasp would be possessed by only two private collectors.

Interestingly, the current owner obtained the necklace at a Sotheby's auction in 2005. At that time, it sold for $1.5 million, which was on the high end of the pre-sale estimate.

Also expected to fetch $3 million to $5 million at Sotheby's Geneva sale is a suite of colored diamond jewels that date to the early 1700s and are suspected to have ties to Russian royalty.


The jewelry suite — which includes a necklace, brooch and earrings — contains colored diamonds that may have been part of a gift Empress Catherine I of Russia (1684-1727), wife of Peter the Great, gave to Sultan Ahmed III to negotiate the end of the Siege of Pruth in 1711. Apparently, the Sultan accepted the sumptuous gift, leading to a peace treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

The gemstones were then used by the Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842 – 1918) for the present necklace, which he offered to the wife of Teufik of Egypt, possibly for the birth of the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan in 1874, according to Sotheby's.

“These two stunning jewels carry with them a fascinating insight into the luxury and opulence of the Russian court," said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. "It is difficult to overstate their rarity and historical importance, and I am thrilled to be able to present them side by side this autumn."

Credits: Images courtesy Sotheby’s.
October 26th, 2016
Many eons ago, the Orange River ferried precious diamonds from the center of South Africa westward all the way to the Atlantic coast — eventually scattering millions of carats across the ocean floor.


Today, five massive production vessels operated by De Beers — in partnership with the government of the Republic of Namibia — are recovering those gem-quality diamonds from a remote location more than dozen miles off the southwestern edge of the African continent.

The operation, called Debmarine Namibia, employs a 285-ton vacuum that scours the ocean floor 400 feet below sea level. A seabed crawler uses flexible hoses to bring diamond-bearing gravel to the surface. According to The Wall Street Journal, the mining operation yields a handful of diamonds for every 180 tons of material processed.


The publication described the fleet's high-security recovery rooms, where X-ray machines help separate the diamonds from worthless gravel. The concentrate is collected in jam-sized jars and taken to De Beers's land-based sorting operations via helicopter a few times each week.

When the undersea terrain is too uneven for the giant vacuum, the focus turns to the other ships, which use use drills to probe and extract material just 18 inches below the surface. There is no need to drill deeper because the diamonds are scattered just below the top layer of gravel.

A few decades ago, it would have been unfathomable for diamond companies to pursue deep-sea mining. But breakthroughs in technology are making this type of project viable and lucrative.

While sea-based diamonds account for just 4% of De Beers's annual production by carat weight, they account for 13% by value. This is because 95% of the diamonds pulled from the ocean floor are of gem-quality. This compares to just 20% of gem-quality diamonds coming from De Beers's top mine in Botswana. Some experts surmise that the diamonds in the ocean have endured such a pounding for so long that only the gem-quality ones could stay intact.


The Debmarine Namibia operation has yielded 16 million carats, so far. De Beers predicts that it will take about 50 years to "mine out" the licensed area that covers 2,300 square miles. It starts about 3 miles offshore and extends seaward 10 to 20 miles.

De Beers has aggressively invested in its sea-based operations. In August, the company added to its fleet the SS Nujoma, a $166-million exploration and sampling ship.

Credits: Images courtesy De Beers. Map by
October 27th, 2016
The Cleveland Cavaliers commemorated their first-ever NBA crown Tuesday night with super-symbolic championship rings that reflect the spirit of a team that defied all odds to become the first in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.


Designed in 10-karat white gold with 14-karat gold accents, the rings are encrusted with more than 400 diamonds weighing 6.5 carats. The massive 165-gram, two-tone rings are the league's heaviest to date.

When the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7, 93-87, they completed a thrilling run that delivered to the City of Cleveland its first major sports championship in 52 years.


The most interesting part of the design is the way manufacturer Baron Championship Rings represented the team's unprecedented comeback. Set into the bottom of the band are seven gemstones. The white diamonds represent the Warriors' victories in Games 1, 2 and 4, and the deep red garnets represent the Cavaliers' victories in Games 3, 5, 6 and 7.

The face of the ring features the Cavaliers' "C" logo carved from a dark red garnet. The "C" has a black drop-shadow that represents the lucky black-sleeved uniforms that helped turn the series around in Game 5.

The basketball atop the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the face of the ring is replaced by a one-carat round diamond, signifying the team's first championship.

The words "WORLD" and "CHAMPIONS" border the top and bottom of the ring in contrasting yellow gold. The words are rendered with 216 diamonds, a nod to Cleveland's area code. Cascading along the right and left edges of the ring are 46 diamonds, representing the number of years the Cavaliers have been in existence.


Encircling the top of the ring are the numbers of each of the players rendered in gold and spaced by a diamond. In addition, each ring has a custom yellow gold banner that features the player's number encrusted in diamonds. The banner hangs over the skyline of Cleveland rendered in white gold. The Roman numerals "LII" sit under the bridge. This represents the 52 years the city had been waiting for a championship. The drought is now "water under the bridge." Also under the bridge are Cleveland's initials "CLE" in raise gold lettering.


The opposite shoulder of the ring shows the player's last name in 14-karat yellow gold along with the championship year of 2016 in white gold. The "0" in the year is replace with the NBA logo. Under the year is the shape of Ohio encrusted with 11 diamonds to signify the number of years the team has been under the current ownership.

On the interior of the ring is one of 16 puzzle pieces and the team's chant, "Automatic Work." The puzzle represents a motivational strategy used by management to propel the team through the playoffs. Each player and head coach Tyronn Lue were assigned a puzzle piece that, when fully assembled, depicted the image of the Larry O'Brien trophy. The team knew that it would take 16 wins (or puzzle pieces) to win the championship.

The black diamond punctuating the puzzle piece is a second nod to the black-sleeved uniforms that sparked the team's turnaround.

The Cavaliers received their rings prior to their victorious home opener against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. More than 2,000 full- and part-time employees of the Cleveland Cavaliers' organization will receive replica rings.

Credits: Images courtesy of Baron Championship Rings.
October 28th, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great new songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we shine our spotlight on the newly engaged Colbie Caillat, who sings about falling in love in her brand new release, "Goldmine."


Composed by Caillat and three collaborators, "Goldmine" captures the elation of finding the perfect soulmate. Billboard magazine described "Goldmine" as "a sunny number that's liable to have you whistling along in glee."

Caillat sings, "Fly me back to the moon where you took me / The very first time that you kissed me / In the sweet starlight of your endless eyes when you lit this fire / Feels like we're sitting on top of a goldmine / Flame so bright that it won't die / In a billion years it'll still be here 'cause our love is a goldmine / Yeah, our love is a goldmine."


"Goldmine" is the second track on Caillat's new album, The Malibu Sessions. The single stands at #37 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart, and the album, which was released October 7, is climbing the Billboard 200 and is currently at #35.

Caillat told Billboard magazine that "Goldmine," which was originally penned by Taylor Berrett, was passed along to her by a mutual friend, Kara DioGuardi.

"Within three minutes of hearing [Berrett's] idea I was singing it on repeat," she told Billboard. "I ran upstairs and played it for Jason Reeves [her regular writing partner) and we instantly started writing to it. We called Kara on Skype so the three of us could write it together. She was at her cozy house in Maine and we were at our beach house in California. Within minutes we finished the song and started recording it right away. This happy, warm song is definitely one of the most unique ways I've ever written."

The song meshed perfectly with Caillet's own experience. She started dating guitarist/singer Justin Young in 2009 and the couple was engaged in May of 2015.

A native of Malibu, Calif., the 31-year-old Caillat got national attention in 2008 when she recorded "Lucky," a duet with Jason Mraz. The song earned a Grammy in the "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance" category. Caillat has sold more than 6 million albums and 10 million singles worldwide.

Some trivia: Caillat's road to stardom has not always been paved with gold. The artist auditioned for American Idol twice and was rejected both times. Caillat rose to fame through social networking website Myspace.

Please check out the uplifting video of Caillat's live performance of "Goldmine" at Paste Studios in New York City. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

Written by Taylor Berrett, Kara Elizabeth DioGuardi, Jason Bradford Reeves and Colbie Caillet. Performed by Colby Caillet.

If all I had was a dollar and your bright smile
I'd have a dollar more than I would need to get by
'Cause I'm a billionaire if you count every sunrise
Waking by your side and every good night
If all you had was the way that I love you
You'd have more honey than the honey bees in June
I'll keep you laughing, keep you smiling, keep your dreams true
Long as I have you, nothing we can't do

Fly me back to the moon where you took me
The very first time that you kissed me
In the sweet starlight of your endless eyes when you lit this fire
Feels like we're sitting on top of a goldmine
Flame so bright that it won't die
In a billion years it'll still be here 'cause our love is a goldmine
Yeah, our love is a goldmine

If everything we ever owned disappeared today
We'd build a castle in the sand somewhere far away
Don't need no money, no TV, don't need no microwave
Just the ocean waves and the love we make

Fly me back to the moon where you took me
The very first time that you kissed me
In the sweet starlight of your endless eyes when you lit this fire
Feels like we're sitting on top of a goldmine
Flame so bright that it won't die
In a billion years it'll still be here 'cause our love is a goldmine

We'll be rich in wrinkles, old and gray
When the rising tide sweeps us away

Until then fly me back to the moon where you took me
The very first time that you kissed me
In the sweet starlight of your endless eyes when you lit this fire
Feels like we're sitting on top of a goldmine
Flame so bright that it won't die
In a billion years it'll still be here 'cause our love is a goldmine

Feels like we're sitting on top of a goldmine
Flame so bright that it won't die
In a billion years it'll still be here cause our love is a goldmine
Yeah, our love is a goldmine

Credit: Screen captures via
October 31st, 2016
More than 9,000 diamonds and emeralds weighing 450 carats embellish the 2016 Bright Night Fantasy Bra by Victoria's Secret. The $3 million bra will be worn by model Jasmine Tookes at the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which will be seen December 5 on the CBS Television Network.


This year's highly anticipated Fantasy Bra was conceived by Eddie Borgo, a New York-based accessories designer, who incorporated many of the elements from his jewelry and handbag collections.


“It was important to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show collection team that the design represented some of the different iconography, shapes and techniques that we use consistently within my namesake collection,” Borgo told


The result was an edgier design that features an emerald-studded padlock, emerald tassel, and diamond-encrusted spikes and studs. The jewels were handset in 18-karat white gold by AWMouzannar, a Beirut-based fine jewelry company with locations in London, Chicago and Kuwait City. The Bright Night Fantasy Bra took seven months and more than 7,000 man-hours to create. Behind all the embellishment is the company's "Beautiful by Victoria’s Secret" bra.

Borgo was excited to work with emeralds, claiming he was drawn to the stone's vividness.

“The color of a true emerald is inimitable,” he said.

Tookes, who was in New York City last week to unveil the new Fantasy Bra, also was excited by the inclusion of emeralds in the design.

“They are one of my favorite gemstones," she told "I have a lot of rings that have emeralds on them, so this matches perfectly with my jewelry collection.”

When it came to fitting Tokes for the $3 million bra, Borgo left nothing to chance. The designer utilized a virtual scan on Tookes's body as well as a plaster mold.

Tookes was surprised to become the latest in a series of high-profile models to have the honor of wearing the Fantasy Bra. She follows in the footsteps of supermodels Gisele Bündchen, Claudia Schiffer and Tyra Banks.

“It’s such an honor for me to join a whole group of women who are icons, and who I grew up watching over the years,” Tookes said.

For the first time in its history, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will take place in Paris.

Credits:; screen captures via