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Articles in April 2020

April 1st, 2020
Standing in stark contrast to the earlier Art Nouveau and Edwardian eras, the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s represented modernism reinterpreted as fashion. Jewelry designers of this period abandoned the flowing curves and floral motifs of prior decades to embrace the new sleek lines and geometric shapes that conveyed anti-traditional elegance, wealth and functionality.


In honor of April's official birthstone, we take a close look at a diamond ring that is one of the world's most stunning examples of Art Deco jewelry. It is housed in the Gem Hall at the National Museum of Natural History and it is called "The Marquise Diamond Ring."

(Normally, the public would be able to see this magnificent ring in person, but all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Smithsonian provides a virtual tour here. Click on the Second Floor tab and visit the gallery labeled "Geology, Gems and Minerals.")

Designed by Cartier during the Art Deco period (1920-1935), The Marquise Diamond Ring is fabricated in platinum and features a 28.3-carat marquise-cut diamond sourced in South Africa.


When viewed from the side, the ring's Art Deco design elements come to life. Set symmetrically along the architecture-inspired shank and undercarriage of the mounting are four triangular-cut, eight baguette-cut and 60 round brilliant-cut diamonds.

The ring was gifted to the Smithsonian in 1964 by Adelaide Riggs, the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post. A famous socialite and philanthropist, Post was the heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the richest women in the world.

Credits: Marquise Diamond Ring by Chip Clark and digitally enhanced by SquareMoose / Smithsonian; Side view of Marquise Diamond Ring by Ken Larsen / Smithsonian.
April 2nd, 2020
Due to international travel restrictions, diamond mining giant Alrosa is temporarily changing the way it's selling "special size" rough diamonds larger than 10.8 carats. Instead of inviting top diamond buyers to view and bid on individual stones at its offices in Russia, the company is encouraging them to stay home.


The two-week "digital tender" that ends this Friday was made possible by Alrosa's commitment to an advanced technology that provides customers with a three-dimensional digital scan of each rough diamond along with detailed data about its external shape, internal inclusions, anticipated color and fluorescence. What’s more, the mapping system can evaluate the optimal size and shape of the resulting polished diamond.


Armed with this information, buyers can make informed decisions about a stone's value — from anywhere in the world.

"The health of our employees and customers is essential for us," said Evgeny Agureev, deputy CEO of Alrosa. "This is why we decided to cancel upcoming auctions and shorten those already in progress. The company is in contact with customers from different countries, considering different supporting measures. One of the opportunities is a digital tender."

The Alrosa exec clarified that the new digital method for showing and selling large diamonds is intended as a temporary solution and will not replace the traditional trading model.

When Alrosa tested Digital Tenders in October 2019, Sarine’s Galaxy inclusion mapping and DiaExpert planning was touted as a great way to take the guesswork out of the risky, high-stakes business of rough-diamond buying. It allowed the procurement experts to preview stones and share the detailed scan with their full planning team, including the cutters at their polishing factories. When buyers would later visit the Alrosa offices, they already knew what stones suited their needs.

Agureev said at the time that Digital Tenders gave his company the ability to show products to a large variety of clients within a short timeframe.

It also now permits Alrosa to carry on an international "special size" diamond auction with no buyers on site.

Credits: Image of Sarine’s DiaExpert device via Instagram/AlrosaDiamonds. 3D-Model document courtesy of Alrosa.
April 3rd, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Sting of The Police turns the tables on a controlling lover in “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” the beautiful and timeless hit from the chart-topping 1983 album, Synchronicity.


Sting uses jewelry imagery and literary references to describe a young man who finds himself in a dangerous dance with the devil, describing his perilous situation as being caught between Scylla and Charibdes.

As characters from Greek mythology, both Scylla and Charibdes were beautiful maidens who were turned into horrific monsters. Scylla guarded the Straits of Messina and destroyed any boats that passed by. Across the strait was Charibdes, who was blamed for whipping up deadly whirlpools. Sailors trying to row through the narrow channel had to face their wrath.

Throughout the song, Sting returns to the idea of being controlled, or being wrapped around one's finger. It's a theme supported by his lyrical references to a ring and a band of gold.

In the first verse, he sings, "Hypnotized by you if I should linger / Staring at the ring around your finger."

In the second verse, he continues, “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.”

Buy the end of the song, the young man has flipped the script on the devilish antagonist, as the chorus changes from “I’ll be wrapped around your finger” to “You’ll be wrapped around my finger.”

In various interviews, Sting confessed that "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is based on his own experiences.

The 68-year-old singer/songwriter/musician explained in Lyrics By Sting that, “this song is vaguely alchemical and probably about a friend of mine, a professional psychic and my tutor in tarot, with bits of Doctor Faustus and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice thrown into the pot for good measure.”

“Wrapped Around Your Finger” was the fourth U.S. single released from Synchronicity, an album that topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold more than eight million copies. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” ascended to #8 of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Synchronicity was nominated for five awards — including Album of the Year — and won three.

Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in Wallsend, Northumberland, England, in 1951, Sting was the principal songwriter, lead singer and bassist for The Police from 1977 to 1984 and launched his solo career in 1985. He is credited with being one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold more than 100 million records as a member of The Police and as a solo artist.

Please check out the video of Sting and The Police performing “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Wrapped Around Your Finger”
Written by Sting. Performed by The Police.

You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes
Hypnotized by you if I should linger
Staring at the ring around your finger.

I have only come here seeking knowledge,
Things they would not teach me of in college.
I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.

I’ll be wrapped around your finger.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger
Mephistopheles is not your name
I know what you’re up to just the same
I will listen hard to your tuition,
You will see it come to its fruition.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me,
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me.
I will turn your face to alabaster,
When you’ll find your servant is your master.

You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger

Credit: Screen capture via
April 6th, 2020
For the second time in 12 months, an Eastern Long Island man has found a super-rare purple natural pearl inside a locally harvested quahog clam.


In light of the sad news gripping Long Island due to the coronavirus, Springs resident Alex Miller was apprehensive, at first, to broadcast his good fortune on social media, but then decided to share some photos under the headline: "Reasons to be Cheerful: Good old-fashioned LUCK."

In an interview with The East Hampton Star, Miller said, "To have that happen again, at a time when we're all going through these different emotions of separation, as well as the anxiety, and food resources, and the virus — I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I had this weird second stroke of serendipitous luck."


Miller told the publication that he hadn't gone clamming since last summer, but decided to finally get out of the house after an extended period of self-isolation. He raked up 32 keepers in Three Mile Harbor and brought them home to be shucked.

"The eighth or ninth one that I opened up, there it was, sitting on the lip, this tiny pearl," he told the Star. "I can't really describe my reaction because the last couple of weeks have been sort of numbing."


He described the perfectly round pearl as the size of a frozen pea.

In May of 2019, Miller had purchased a dozen quahog clams at Stuart's Seafood Market in nearby Amagansett. The 11th shucked clam contained a round purple pearl the size of a garbanzo bean — about three times larger than the most recent discovery.

“It is amazing. It’s pretty rare for any of our shellfish to produce pearls, let alone ones that are relatively round — then add to that it’s a wampum purple,” Barley Dunne, the director of the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery, told the Star in 2019.

(Wampum is a traditional bead — usually white or purple — crafted by the Eastern Woodlands tribes of American Indians from the shell of the quahog clam.)

Dunne explained that for the pearl to be purple, it had to be coated with the portion of the clam’s nacre that was purple.

“If it was white, it would be kind of drab,” he said. “This is a beauty.”

The Gemological Institute of America graded last year's find and gave it a value of $3,000 to $5,000.

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 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.

Miller told the Star that he's not really interested in selling his set of natural purple pearls.

"The money doesn't really interest me as much as the curiosity of how rare it is," Miller told the publication. "All of my friends are urging me — and I see the glint in my wife's eye — 'Now that you have two it might make a nice setting.'"

Credits: Images via Miller. Map by Google Maps.
April 7th, 2020
Wearing a bright emerald-colored dress complemented by a turquoise-and-diamond brooch, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the citizens of the UK — and the world — with an optimistic message of hope, resilience and the promise that better days will return.


"We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a Sunday broadcast from Windsor Castle.

Royal Family watchers believe that Queen Elizabeth accessorized with the rarely seen turquoise brooch because of the rich history and powerful symbolism associated with the piece.

Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, received the turquoise brooch in 1893 on the day of her wedding to the Duke of York. It was a gift from her new in-laws, the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.


The brooch was passed down to a 26-year-old Elizabeth upon her grandmother's death in March of 1953. Elizabeth had begun her unprecedented 68-year reign in February of 1952. Interestingly, she did not wear the brooch in public until 2014.

The Queen's stylist, Angela Kelly, explained in her memoir, The Other Side of the Coin, that the Queen's outfits are planned months in advance. So we can assume that the ensemble had to be sprinkled with subtext.

Did she believe the turquoise brooch would revive the memory of her grandmother, whose resilience and optimism would help her country recover from the ravages of the First World War? Or was Elizabeth motivated by turquoise's legendary role as a talisman — a stone of healing, love and protection.

Royal style watcher Elizabeth Holmes wrote on her Instagram that Queen Elizabeth II may have worn the uplifting, bright color to symbolize spring, growth, renewal and a fresh start.

"Together we are tackling this disease," she said, "and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge."

Credits: Screen captures via Royal Family Channel.
April 8th, 2020
A Philadelphia couple recently took a much-needed break from quarantine to visit one of their favorite places — the top of the Rocky Steps at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Emily Weiss was shocked when her boyfriend, Elly Nemtsov, popped the question in the exact spot where Sylvester Stallone's beloved character raised his arms in triumph in the 1976 blockbuster, Rocky.


In the iconic scene, Rocky — a local club fighter who has been given a shot at the title — completes an intense training session by running up the 72 stone steps. With the "Gonna Fly Now" theme building to a crescendo, Rocky reaches the top and turns to take in a breathtaking bird's-eye view of his beloved city. Rocky's climb has become a metaphor for how Philadelphians always rise to the challenge and have the power to overcome any obstacle.


Stallone told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the theme of the movie wasn't about fighting or muscles.

"It's about love. It's about passion," he said. "It's about having something inside that you know must be filled."

Which brings us back to Weiss and Nemtsov.


According to, Nemtsov had been planning to propose since the beginning of March, but with the city under lockdown due to the coronavirus, regular proposal venues, such as restaurants or parks, were suddenly off the board.

Officially, Philadelphia is allowing certain outdoor activities, such as walking, running or cycling, so the couple strolled to a place they've loved to visit — the tall steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

From the top of the steps, Nemtsov called his sister and two-year-old niece. On FaceTime, the young girl showed Weiss an art project she'd been working on. On a large piece of colored paper was the phrase, "Emily, will you be my aunt?"

At first, Weiss didn't get the hint, but when she looked back at her boyfriend, he was on one knee with a diamond ring in hand. Nemtsov's sister, niece and both couple's parents all watched the proposal via FaceTime.

"I didn't think we would be going out during this, let alone a huge milestone, so I was pleasantly surprised," Weiss told "It definitely gives us something to look forward to and talk about while nothing else is going on."

"I think it was great timing," Weiss continued, "because we just get to be with each other and we have time on our side. It gives us something to be happy about during an otherwise depressing time."

The couple is looking to tie the knot in October 2021.


Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art can see a larger-than-life statue of Rocky at the bottom of the famous steps. The 8-foot, 2,000-pound bronze statue had been commissioned by Stallone in 1980 to be used in the movie, Rocky III, and has been a favorite photo op at the museum since 2006.

Credits: Proposal images by Emily Weiss. Rocky steps photo by InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA / CC BY-SA. Rocky statue photo by Bobak Ha'Eri / CC BY.
April 9th, 2020
Kids think gemstones and jewelry are cool. That's why the Gemological Institute of America has put together a great website called Gemkids®.


Overflowing with colorful graphics and exciting gem photos, the site does a great job of taking gemological and historical concepts and synthesizing them into bitesize tidbits that are easy for your little ones to understand.

While the kids are home from school, encourage them to choose a favorite gemstone in the section called "Gem Explorer."


By clicking on "Emerald," for example, the kids will learn that the gem is the green variety of the mineral beryl, which also includes aquamarine.

The blue plus signs overlaying the image, offer additional fun facts about emeralds...

• Inclusions make the inside of an emerald look like a garden. The name for this garden is called a “jardin” [zhar-dan].

• Emerald crystals usually are six-sided. These crystals are grouped together.

• The tops of emerald crystals are usually flat.

The emerald page also discusses emerald's range of colors, where emerald was first mined, some famous emerald jewelry and the origin of its name. It even includes an audio link to hear a pronunciation of the word "emerald."


At the bottom of the home page is "Good Stuff," which includes a link to professions related to jewelry and gemstones, as well as the "Word of the Day," which leads to an illustrated glossary of jewelry-related terms.


If kids choose to "Enter the Jewelry Time Machine," they'll be taken through the history of jewelry, from Prehistory and the Bronze Age through the Renaissance and Victorian Eras, and ending in the Modern Era with a look toward the future.

In the feature called "The Story of a Gem: How Stones Become Rock Stars," Gemkids® offers informative pages about minerals, gems, the Mohs scale of hardness, inclusions, phenomena, gemology, pearls, types of rocks, gem mining, stone cutting, unusual gems and gem art.

While kids will certainly come away from the experience with a whole new appreciation of gems and jewelry, our guess is that mom and dad will learn a lot, too.

Credits: Kid photo by Screen captures via
April 10th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we pay tribute to the incomparable Bill Withers, the hardscrabble singer-songwriter-musician from Slab Fork, WV, who made an everlasting mark on popular culture with a string of classics, including "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971), "Lean on Me" (1972), "Lovely Day" (1977) and "Just the Two of Us" (1980). Withers passed away last week at the age of 81.


At the height of his popularity in 1974, Withers wrote and performed "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh," a song about broken hearts and life's hard-to-explain contradictions. In the first line of the tune, Wither compares his girlfriend's love to a precious metal.

He sings, "Your love is like a chunk of gold / Hard to gain, and hard to hold / Like a rose that's soft to touch / Love has gone, and it hurts so much."

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" appeared as the second track on Withers' album titled +'Justments (pronounced "add-justments"). The single reached #50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. It was also a top-40 hit in Canada. In 1977, Diana Ross covered the song for her LP titled Baby It's Me.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1938, Wither's was the youngest of six children. He grew up in a small coal-mining town and struggled to overcome a stutter throughout his childhood and into adulthood. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and served for nine years. Withers was able to overcome his stuttering through the speech therapy he received in the Navy and through singing.

“Bill has been our friend for many years and is on our list of famous people who stutter," noted the Stuttering Foundation in a statement released just after Withers' death. "Like so many great singers and songwriters, such as B.B. King and Carly Simon, Bill Withers stuttered. And just as they did, he turned to singing to express himself through music because the spoken word was so tough for him. He will live on forever through his incredible songs.”

As a 29-year-old, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. Withers supported his dream by working at Lockheed Aircraft. Although he was earning just $3.50 per hour, he cobbled together $2,500 to produce demo tapes.

One of those tapes caught the attention of Clarence Avant, owner of Sussex Records, who signed Withers to a record deal. His first single, "Ain't No Sunshine," was a Grammy-award-winning hit. Withers was active in the music business from 1970 to 1985 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Please check out the audio track of Withers performing "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh"
Written and performed by Bill Withers.

Your love is like a chunk of gold
Hard to gain, and hard to hold

Like a rose that's soft to touch
Love has gone, and it hurts so much

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh
Make me cry?

Well now you think of love as sitting on a mountain
Think of it as being a great big rock
Won't you think before you started to roll it down
Because once you start it, you can't make it stop

I've given all I have to give
And if you don't want me
I don't want to live

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me lay in my pillow
Just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me mess in my pillow
I'm just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Credit: Image by Sussex Records / Public domain.
April 13th, 2020
With an engagement ring "burning a hole" in his pocket, PJ Bruno delivered a marriage proposal to his longtime girlfriend, Jaz Zepatos, while the New York couple was quarantined at his parents' house in Delaware. What made the proposal extra special was that Bruno secretly invited family and friends to participate in realtime via Google Hangouts.


While they were still in New York, Bruno had devised an elaborate ruse where his girlfriend — a social media specialist and actress — would be invited to a fake audition. After a series of failed scenes and frustrating takes, Bruno would swoop in with an engagement ring.

When that strategy had to be scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bruno switched to Plan B. On Instagram, Bruno explained, "Quarantine engagement. When that ring is burning a hole in your pocket."


A 3:45 video posted to Instagram shows how Bruno initially serenades his girlfriend with his cover of Chicago's 1984 hit, "You're the Inspiration." As Bruno plays the guitar and sings, Zepatos can be heard harmonizing in the background.

Then Zepatos reenters the scene and Bruno hugs her from behind. He tells her that in this time of uncertainty, there's one thing she can count on.

"I just want you to know that, no matter what happens, I'm always gonna be here for you," he says.

Then she turns to face him and he says, "And I'm always gonna be in your future."


At that point, he pulls out a ring box and goes down on one knee and asks her to marry him.

Zepatos says, "Yes," and she jumps into his arms.

What Zepatos didn't realize is that a laptop was aimed at the action and a virtual crowd was watching via Google Hangouts. Bruno had sent out a Google Calandar invitation, providing the time, date and a short description of what they were going to see. Bruno's mom added action footage with her iPad.

Zepatos looked at the laptop and was thrilled to see that her parents and others were watching remotely. The bride-to-be could hardly hold back the tears as each Hangout participant took a moment to congratulate the couple.

Through all the excitement, Bruno forgot to put the ring on Zepatos' finger.

"Put it on, put it on," yells one of the guests.

Bruno obliges and Zepatos proudly aims her newly adorned ring finger at the laptop's camera.

"Look at all these people that I love," she says.

In her Instagram post, Zepatos wrote, "In the midst of global chaos, PJ managed to find a way to gather our closest friends and family to create one of the most magical moments of my life. Thank you to everyone who took part in our special day from the safety of your homes. We love you so much. When this is all over we're going to hug and cheers and laugh together."

The newly engaged couple told that they've gotten a lot of positive feedback from people hungry for some good news during the pandemic.

"[The video] is putting a smile on people's faces and letting them take their minds off of everything else in the news right now," Zepatos said.


"I think the big takeaway isn't 'Look at Jaz and PJ,' as much as 'Let's connect with our loved ones now and always remember that it's a priority in our lives,'" added Bruno.

The couple is planning an August 2021 wedding.

Check out the couple's video on Zepatos' Instagram page...

Credits: Image and screen captures via
April 14th, 2020
As a 50/50 joint venture partner with both Botswana and Namibia in the recovery and sorting of rough diamonds, De Beers Group has regularly supported the communities that surround its mines. The Group has provided funds for improving schools, mentoring local business owners, boosting local economies and creating health programs. But, now, in the face of a global pandemic, De Beers Group is taking that effort to the next level.


The world’s leading diamond company has earmarked $2.5 million to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Botswana and Namibia.

“With our contribution of $2.5 million, De Beers is supporting the unprecedented efforts of healthcare professionals, community leaders and all those confronting COVID-19 in the countries and communities in which we live and work,” stated De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver. “We have refocused our business in our host communities to support the response to the pandemic and our priorities are clear: prepare communities for the crisis, support the emergency response and be a partner in economic recovery.”

Cleaver noted that De Beers Group’s partnerships with the people of Botswana and Namibia have spanned decades.

“The men and women of De Beers are proud to stand with them now in this moment of crisis,” he said, “and we will stand with them as their partners on the road to recovery and renewal.”

In addition to Botswana and Namibia, De Beers Group has mining operations in South Africa and Canada. Across the four diamond-producing countries, the Group is supporting governments and communities in the procurement of medical supplies, logistical support, vulnerability assessment support plans, food security for vulnerable households, water supply to communities, community COVID-19 awareness and education, and local clinical support.

De Beers Group has designed a comprehensive Community Response Plan (CRP) to provide the most effective and relevant support to host communities. The CRP has been developed through engagement with community leaders, faith leaders and government agencies to understand their needs and ensure De Beers Group is providing the right support at the right time, both during the pandemic and into the vital economic recovery phase.

Established in 1888 and best known for its iconic tagline “A Diamond Is Forever,” De Beers Group employs more than 20,000 people and is the world’s leading diamond company with expertise in the exploration, mining and marketing of diamonds.

Credit: Image courtesy of De Beers Group.
April 15th, 2020
Gainesville resident Joan Sheffield says that as soon as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp lifts the state's shelter-in-place order, she will be hosting a luncheon for a sanitation crew that helped find her three-stone diamond wedding ring at the Hall County Landfill.


Sheffield had worn the ring on her left hand for the past 34 years, but accidentally threw it away. The precious keepsake ended up in a giant pile of trash at a landfill facility that processes 339 tons of solid waste every day.

Sheffield told that she had been preparing a meatloaf when she took off the ring, wrapped it in a paper towel and placed it in her pocket. The 67-year-old remembered being “in a fog” that weekend because her mom had just passed away and Sheffield was tasked with cleaning out her mom’s apartment and packing up her belongings.

At the end of the day, she noticed that her pockets were filled with old receipts and paper scraps that had to be discarded. And, yes, among those worthless items was her precious ring neatly wrapped in a paper towel.


The ring was irreplaceable because it included her engagement diamond framed by two smaller diamonds that had been gifted to her by her father.

Sheffield didn’t realize her ring was gone until the next morning. By that time, the trash collectors had already come and gone.

“I heard the trash men come and didn’t think anything of it,” she told “As soon as I got out of the shower, I looked down at my hand and realized I didn’t have it.”

It was 8:30 a.m on a Monday when Dan Owen, the city’s superintendent of solid waste and recycling, answered an urgent call from Sheffield. The superintendent was able to intercept the truck that had serviced Sheffield’s neighborhood and ordered its crew to dump the load on a large concrete slab at the landfill facility.

Sheffield and her husband, Tommy, were already at the landfill when the truck arrived.


Owen told that he’s received many calls from panicked residents over the years. In most cases, they call too late and the valuable item has already been buried at the bottom of the landfill. Fortunately, Sheffield called just in time.

For about 30 minutes, the couple — assisted by the sanitation crew — rummaged through countless trash bags. Then something caught Sheffield's eye — a distinctive green twist tie that her husband used to close up the trash bag the night before.

“Sure enough, there were four or five smaller bags in there and the third one was the charm,” she told Atlanta’s NBC affiliate 11Alive. “I found it.”

Sheffield described the sanitation crew as “so nice” and “so thoughtful.” She’s looking forward to taking them to lunch as soon as the state’s shelter in place order is rescinded.

“It’s a crazy time with all that’s happening right now in the world,” Johnnie Vickers, Hall County’s solid waste director told “And I’m just glad we were able to help make at least one person’s day a little better. It’s not a glamorous job, but these are the kind of moments that make it all worth it.”

Credits: Ring photo and couple photo by Joan Sheffield. Landfill image by Hall County Government.
April 16th, 2020
Al Roker was thrilled to announce his daughter's engagement on Instagram this past Sunday. The venerable Today show weatherman shared three pics of his daughter, Courtney, posing with her new fiancé, Wesley Laga, and showing off what appears to be a princess-cut diamond in a square diamond halo setting. The post earned more than 62,000 Likes and generated nearly 1,800 comments.


"I was waiting to get the ok," Roker wrote to his 632,000 followers, "but now that it’s on her insta, we are so thrilled the @djweslaga asked @ouichefcourtney to marry him. #shesaidyes Could not be more thrilled for these two."


Courtney, a trained chef and recipe developer for Chefman, a kitchen appliance company, revealed on Instagram that she and Wesley were supposed to get engaged in Paris, but had to scrap those plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were self-isolating when Wesley popped the question.


"Life sometimes takes you in a different direction for a reason," she wrote. "We should have been in Paris, but with how the world is at the moment, it was placed on hold. Instead, Wes brought Paris to me with the music, lights and live cam shot of the Eiffel Tower on our TV."

"I said yes to my best friend last night and I am over the moon!" she continued. "Thank you Wes for making me your partner in crime for life. I love you." She punctuated the post with a red heart emoji.

Roker's NBC colleagues were quick to respond to his post with the following exclamations...

"WOW!!!!!!!!" wrote host Savannah Guthrie.

"Whoohooo!!!!!" noted weather correspondent Dylan Dreyer.

Carson Daly added, "Lezzz goooooo!!!!!"

Courtney, 34, is the oldest of Roker's three children. The others are Leila, 21, and Nick, 18.

Roker, 65, who has been a Today show favorite for more than 24 years, has kept out of harm's way by shooting live feeds from his home. In a post shared on Instagram, Roker described how his makeshift studio was created from two iPhones, an iPad, an LED light panel and a mic combo.

Credits: Images via,
April 17th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In his 2009 hit, “Her Diamonds,” Rob Thomas reflects on his wife’s battle with a debilitating autoimmune disease. In this deeply personal song about empathy and love, Thomas uses the phrase “her diamonds” as a metaphor for his wife’s tears.


He sings, “And she says oh / I can’t take no more / Her tears like diamonds on the floor / And her diamonds bring me down / Cause I can’t help her now.”

The former Matchbox 20 frontman revealed in a 2015 interview with The Canadian Press, that “Her Diamonds” was about his wife, Marisol, a former model who suffers from a disease similar to lupus.

“My wife has an autoimmune disease and [we’ve had to] deal with that for the last six or seven years,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really a song about being empathetic, when the person closest to you is going through something and you can’t do anything to make it better, except to be there for them.”

At the end of the song Thomas expresses his hope that his wife will overcome the disease, singing, “If she can find daylight / She’ll be alright / She’ll be alright / Just not tonight.”

According to Thomas, Marisol provided backup vocals for the track and produced the arrangement.

“Her Diamonds” was the lead single from Thomas’ second solo album, Cradlesong. It zoomed to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart, topped out at #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and peaked at #27 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart.

Thomas found stardom in 1997 when Matchbox 20’s debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, went multi-platinum and readers of Rolling Stone magazine named Matchbox 20 the best new band.

As a solo artist, Thomas hit the pinnacle of success when “Smooth,” his collaboration with Carlos Santana, topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks and earned three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

We hope you enjoy the video of Thomas’ live performance of “Her Diamonds.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along...

“Her Diamonds”
Written and performed by Rob Thomas.

Oh what the hell she said
I just can’t win for losing
And she lays back down
Man there’s so many times
I don’t know what I’m doing
Like I don’t know now

By the light of the moon
She rubs her eyes
Says it’s funny how the night
Can make you blind
I can just imagine
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
But if she feels bad then I do too
So I let her be

And she says oh
I can’t take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can’t help her now
She’s down in it
She tried her best but now she can’t win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

She sits down and stares into the distance
And it takes all night
And i know i could break her concentration
But it don’t feel right
By the light of the moon
She rubs her eyes
Sits down on the bed and starts to cry
And there’s something less about her
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
So I sit down and I cry too
And don’t let her see

And she says oh
I can’t take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can’t help her now
She’s down in it
She tried her best but now she can’t win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

She shuts out the night
Tries to close her eyes
If she can find daylight
She’ll be alright
She’ll be alright
Just not tonight

And she says oh

I can’t take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can’t help her now
She’s down in it
She tried her best but now she can’t win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

Credit: Photo by R. Cohen.
April 20th, 2020
Alrosa, the world’s leading diamond producer in terms of carats, has more than doubled its spending to counter the spread of COVID-19 in and around its mining and administrative sites in Yakutia and Moscow. Alrosa announced last week that its initial outlay of 147 million rubles ($1.99 million) has been elevated to 308 million rubles ($4.15 million).


The funds will continue to be used to buy sanitizers, ventilators, medical equipment, medicines and personal protective gear for regional healthcare institutions, corporate healthcare facilities, operating sites and subsidiary offices.

Specifically, hospitals near its mining facilities in Mirny, Lensk and Aikhal will be getting 25 million rubles ($340,000) in financial aid to purchase antibiotics, antivirals and other medicines and materials. The Ministry of Health of Yakutia will be getting 28,800 COVID-19 test kits valued at 23 million rubles ($311,000).

Alrosa Medical Center is slated to get six mobile labs that are capable of running express testing for COVID-19, and 17 thermal imaging cameras will be installed at the company’s production and administrative sites. The cameras can identify workers with fevers.

In Moscow, Alrosa made its former administrative building available to be utilized by the authorities in their counter-pandemic efforts.

Alrosa's CEO Sergey Ivanov has led by example. On April 6, Ivanov sold half his shares in the company for 18.5 million rubles ($250,000), which he then donated to the coronavirus initiatives in Yakutia, the home of Alrosa’s main operations and headquarters.

Alrosa is the world leader in diamond mining, accounting for more than 25% in the global diamond production in terms of carats. Alrosa operates more than 20 diamond deposits located in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Arkhangelsk Region of Russia.

Credit: Image courtesy of Alrosa.
April 21st, 2020
More than six million people pass through the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection in an average year. The collection dates back to 1884 and is the home to some of the world’s most famous gems. But, with all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, we will continue to bring you the next best thing: guided virtual tours of the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.


In today’s tour, we will take you to a section of the exhibit that houses a trio of magnificent tourmalines, the most famous of which is called “The Steamboat.”

Here’s how to get there…

By clicking this link, you will see the first of the many Gems and Minerals exhibits. Click multiple times on the double-arrows on the right of the control panel to toggle to “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Minerals 9." When you arrive, you will see three displays to the left of the screen. The center one houses The Steamboat (see image, above).

You may customize your view by using the directional arrows on the control panel to look left and right, up or down. The plus and minus signs offer closeup and wide views. Clicking on the camera icons in front of the tourmaline exhibits will generate a pop-up snapshot of each specimen.


Standing 11 inches tall and hailing from San Diego County, CA, The Steamboat’s two parallel crystals (which look like steamboat stacks) display a range of vibrant colors that start at vivid reddish-pink at the bottom and transition to a bright bluish-green at the top. The tourmaline crystals rise out of a base of Cleavelandite, which is perched atop a large quartz crystal.

Frank Barlow Schuyler is credited with discovering the fascinating formation at the Tourmaline King Mine in 1907. Three years earlier, Schuyler and a partner, D.G. Harrington, quite literally stumbled upon an enormous pocket of tourmaline crystals while searching for pegmatite in the Pala Chief Mountains.

Schuyler soon discovered that the tourmaline-rich pocket extended 30 feet in length and 10 feet wide, a single zone that would yield about eight tons of beautiful pink tourmaline. Schuyler would eventually sell most of the bounty to the Imperial Chinese government for $187.50 per pound — about $5,148 per pound in today’s dollars.

By 1915, Schuyler was still riding the wave of his tourmaline-based good fortune. At the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, the owner of the Tourmaline King Mine marketed his gems with the slogan, “Wear a tourmaline for luck.”


The Steamboat tourmaline was later purchased by master engineer Washington A. Roebling, who included it in his collection of 16,000 mineral specimens. Roebling was most famous for designing the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling’s son, John, donated the specimen to the Smithsonian Institution, where it is has been on permanent display at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, which is part of the National Museum of Natural History.

Credits: Photos by Penland / Smithsonian. Virtual tour screen capture via
April 22nd, 2020
Auranofin, a gold-infused drug originally developed in 1985 and approved by the FDA to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is effective at inhibiting the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to researchers at Georgia State University.


In the preliminary study, human cells infected with the virus were treated with Auranofin, and within 48 hours of treatment, the amount of virus within the cells dropped by 95 percent. Treatment also resulted in significant reduction of coronavirus-induced inflammation.

Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) cannot reproduce on its own. Instead it uses host cell proteins to manufacture copies of itself.

“Effective drugs need to interfere with this replication process, shutting down the virus’s ability to proliferate inside the host,” said Hussin Rothan, a post-doctoral researcher at Georgia State and co-author of the study.

Because the drug has already been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, it could potentially be fast-tracked to patients in need.

“Drug repurposing is the fastest way to get a treatment for SARS-CoV-2 because it’s already been established that these medicines are safe to use in humans,” said Mukesh Kumar, lead author of the study and assistant professor of biology.

Auranofin is a chemical compound containing particles of gold, an element known to have anti-inflammatory properties for nearly a century.


The Georgia State University researchers explained that Auranofin also dramatically reduced the expression of cytokines — signaling proteins that draw immune cells to the site of infection— caused by SARS-CoV-2. Normally, the immune system works by fighting off invading pathogens and repairing damage to the body’s tissues.

But many coronavirus-infected patients who die do so because of something called a “cytokine storm,” in which the body’s immune response spirals out of control, killing healthy tissue and leading to organ failure.

According to Kumar, the research seems to indicate that the drug not only could inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2, mitigating the infection, but also reduce the associated lung damage that often leads to severe respiratory distress and even death.

Precious metal has been used in medicine since ancient times, and more recently, scientists have explored gold compounds as effective treatments for HIV, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and parasitic and bacterial infections.

Kumar and his team plan to test the drug in animal models to learn more about how it affects infection and illness, and whether it is effective in treating the disease.

The researchers at Georgia State University have made their paper publicly available for the global research and healthcare community on the preprint website bioRxiv.

Credits: Hussin Rothan image courtesy of Georgia State University. Graphic by / CC BY-SA.
April 23rd, 2020
The most popular baby girl names in the U.S. are Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella and Sophia, according to the Social Security Administration’s latest statistics.


With traditional names all the rage, expectant parents may consider taking a closer look at the symbolic and beautiful baby names associated with precious stones.

It was not unusual in the early 1900s to have a schoolhouse filled with youngsters named Pearl, Opal, Coral and Beryl. Parents at the time believed that children named for precious stones would be anointed with luck and prosperity.

Now, more than 100 years later, six gem-inspired names are ranked in the Social Security Administration’s official list of the Top 1000 Baby Names (The latest stats cover the years 1900 through 2018).

Here we rate the names in descending order along with comparative stats from yesteryear…

820. Opal. A gem associated with love, Opal returned to the Top 1000 list in 2017 after being gone for 57 years. While it ranked #820 in 2018, it's important to note that Opal reached its all-time high position of #81 in 1911 and remained in the Top 200 until 1934.

647. Pearl. Said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity and loyalty of its wearer, Pearl was one of the most popular girl’s names in 1900. In that year, it attained its highest ranking of #24, and the name remained in the Top 50 through 1911. It slowly faded from favor over the next 60-plus years, bottoming out at #1000 in 1979. The name Pearl has seen a resurgence recently, ranking #647 in 2018. Perla, a variation of Pearl, also made the Top 1000 at #921.

471. Amber. A beautiful deep yellow gemstone made from fossilized tree resin. Amber was the 13th most popular girl’s name in 1986 and was a Top 20 performer from 1981 through 1993. Amber fell out of the Top 100 in 2005 and slid to #471 in 2018.

377. Esmeralda. The Spanish word for emerald, Esmeralda ranked #377 in 2018, down from its peak position of #133 in 1998. The name has been on the Top 1000 list since 1951, when it entered at #958. This gem symbolizes growth, reflection, peace and balance. (See the Emerald listing below in the section called "Off the Charts.")

111. Jade. This deep green gemstone, which is revered in the Orient for its mystical and healing properties, arrived on the U.S. top names chart in 1975 (#900) and has been in the Top 200 since 1992. In 2018, it ranked #111, up slightly from #130 in 2008. Jada and Jayda, two variations of the name, also made the list at #396 and #577, respectively.

74. Ruby. Fiery and captivating, the rich red ruby is known as the stone of nobility and is considered a symbol of passion and power. Back in 1911, Ruby ranked at the 22nd most popular girl’s name and remained a Top 50 name for the next 24 years. The name hit its low point of #401 in 1986 and has been on a rapid ascent ever since. Now ranked at #74, Ruby is the most popular gemstone-inspired name.

Off the charts…
Here are a few gemstone names that failed make the Top 1000 list…

Diamond. Famous for its strength, clarity and brilliance, diamond is the hardest substance known to man and the birthstone for the month of April. As a girl’s name, Diamond dropped off the Top 1000 chart in 2015 after ranking #887 in 2014. As a girl’s name, Diamond’s popularity peaked in 1999 at #150.

Emerald. Often referred to as one of the four main precious stones, Emerald made the Top 1000 list in 2017 after a 15-year hiatus and then fell off again. The name had been consistently ranked in the Top 1000 from 1991 through 2002.

Beryl. Representative of a mineral family that includes emerald and aquamarine, beryl was a marginally popular name in the early 1900s. It ranked as high as #374 in 1920 and fell off the Top 1000 list in 1958.

Coral. A symbol of modesty, wisdom, happiness and immortality, Coral briefly reentered Top 1000 in 1991 and fell off again in 1993. The name had its longest run in popularity from 1902 through 1911, ranking between #739 and #995.

Check out the SSA's informative and fun-to-use baby name website at this link.

Credit: Baby photo by
April 24th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you memorable songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Back in 1987, legendary jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert reinvigorated his career and climbed back to the top of the charts by collaborating with a 21-year-old Janet Jackson on a song called “Diamonds.”


Borrowing from "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” — the song famously performed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes — the Alpert/Jackson tune delivers the clear message that when a guy is serious about a girl, he needs to give her a tangible reminder of how much he cares. Specifically, Jackson wants something she can see — something on her finger that “shines so brightly.”

Jackson sings, “Don't you know / Diamonds are a girl's best / Best friend / When you go / They stay with me until the end.”

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had been one of the most successful acts of the 1960s, but faded from view by the end of the 1970s. With the 1987 release of his album Keep Your Eye on Me and the accompanying music video for “Diamonds,” the 52-year-old Alpert was back in the spotlight.

The video takes place at "Bucky's" nightclub, where the DJ is spinning “Diamonds” for an excited crowd and Alpert — trumpet in hand — gets into the act by playing live.

"Diamonds" charted in nine countries, including a #5 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and a #4 position on the Canadian Singles chart. Jackson performed the song during her 2011 tour, "Number Ones: Up Close and Personal."

Born in Los Angeles in 1935, Alpert began trumpet lessons at the age of eight. After graduating high school in 1952, he joined the U.S. Army and played the trumpet at military ceremonies. While attending the University of Southern California in the mid-1950s, he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band.

In 1957, Alpert decided to pursue a career in music. He set up a recording studio in his garage and adopted a trumpet style inspired by the mariachi bands of Tijuana, Mexico.

The artist and his band, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, are credited with 14 Top 40 singles, 14 platinum albums and more than 72 million records sold. Alpert has won nine Grammy awards and is the only artist to have a #1 instrumental and a #1 vocal single. He is also the co-founder of A&M Records.

Please check out Alpert doing what he does best in the “Diamonds” music video. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

Written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Performed by Herb Alpert, featuring Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith.

You told me you love me
You told me you care

But when I'm around you
It's like I'm not there
I need a reminder
Something I can see

Something on my finger shines so brightly

Don't you know
Diamonds are a girl's best friend

When you go
They stay with me until the end

Don't you know
Diamonds are a girl's best
Best friend

When you go
They stay with me until the end

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

They say you need some roses
But roses do die

You gave me some candy
It melted
Nice try
I'm not that demanding
I have simple taste
I just want a token that can't go to waste - Diamonds

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Don't you know
Diamonds are a girl's best friend

When you go
They stay with me until the end

Don't you know
Diamonds are a girl's best
​​​​​​​Best friend

When you go
They stay with me until the end

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Don't want your money
Don't want your key
Diamonds - love don't come for free

Credit: Image by General Artists Corporation (GAC)/A&M Records (management and record companies) / Public domain.
April 27th, 2020
Back in 2002, Ben Affleck proposed to Jennifer Lopez with a 6.1-carat radiant-cut fancy intense pink diamond. Even though the power couple — affectionally known as Bennifer — never tied the knot, the ring sparked a craze for colored diamonds.


Now, 18 years and two engagements later, Lopez's pink stunner is still making headlines.

The 50-year-old singer/actress revealed during an at-home Zoom chat hosted by Apple Music's Zane Lowe that her exciting first-ever encounter with her idol, Barbra Streisand, focused primarily on the ring.

When posed with the question of how she was spending her time in quarantine, Lopez — sporting multiple rings on both hands — said that she was watching movies with her kids, 12-year-old twins Emme and Maximilian. Specifically she's been introducing them to the musicals her mom introduced her to when she was growing up. One of those movies was Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand.

"Have you met Barbra Streisand?" asked Lowe. "Can you tell us how that was?"


“I met her at an Oscar party years ago," Lopez recalled, "and I was at the time engaged to Ben Affleck. And she’s really into diamonds, which I didn’t know. He had given me a pink diamond, which got a lot of press and was... whatever."

Cutting her off in mid-phrase, Lowe joked, "It was very much not 'whatever.'"

"I mean, I loved getting it. Don’t get me wrong," Lopez clarified. "So, she came up to me, and like, she had heard about it. I’m just dying because it's Barbra Streisand. And I'm like, ‘Oh My God.’ And she’s like, ‘Can I see your ring?’ I said, 'Yeah,' and she asked me about the ring, but then she asked me – and I thought it was so strange – about being famous, and how I handle it.”

Lopez told Streisand, "I really don't think about it."

Lopez, who is now engaged to former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and is rocking a 10-plus-carat emerald-cut diamond ring, met Affleck on the set of the romantic comedy Gigli in 2002. According to, the duo called it quits in 2004, just four days before the wedding. Lopez and Marc Anthony tied the knot in June of 2004 and divorced 10 years later.

Check out the full interview at Apple Music. Lopez recounts her encounter with Streisand at the 3:11 mark.

Credits: Screen captures via Apple Music Presents.
April 28th, 2020
Occupying one of the most highly trafficked locations in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals in Washington, DC, is an obelisk-shaped aquamarine that is widely recognized as the masterwork of Bernd Munsteiner, an Idar-Oberstein-based gem cutter, who has been called “The Picasso of Gems” and “The Father of the Fantasy Cut.”


The 10,363-carat "Dom Pedro" is the world's largest faceted aquamarine and one of the most recognizable treasures from the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection, which dates back to 1884.

With all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, still closed in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, we offer our second virtual guided tour of the gem and mineral galleries of the National Museum of Natural History.

Visitors to the actual museum will have no trouble locating the 14-inch-tall Dom Pedro. It's just 30 feet from the Hope Diamond at the entrance of the exhibit. It occupies its own case alongside a wall panel that introduces visitors to "The Treasures From National Gem Collection." The panel explains that the 7,500-plus gemstones in the collection range in size from less than a half-carat to 23,000 carats. The panel also notes that virtually all the treasures are gifts from individuals.


To find the Dom Pedro display, please click this link. The resulting page will be the first of the many Gems and Minerals exhibits. Click twice on the double-arrows on the left of the control panel to toggle to “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Precious Gems 1.” When you arrive, you will see Dom Pedro to the left of the screen.

(You may customize your view by using the directional arrows on the control panel to look left and right, up or down. The plus and minus signs offer closeup and wide views.)


Munsteiner created Dom Pedro by utilizing a unique pattern of tapering "negative cuts," which are faceted into the two reverse faces of the obelisk. These facets reflect the light, making it appear to glow from within. The vertical "lines" near the base are hollow tubes that formed naturally in the original crystal.

Sourced in Minas Gerais, Brazil, in the late 1980s, the original crystal was almost two feet in length and weighed 57 lbs.


When Munsteiner viewed the rough gem for the first time in 1992, he said, “It was love a first sight!” according to an account at Transforming the rough crystal into Dom Pedro would become the “project of his life.” Munsteiner spent four months studying the rough aquamarine crystal before embarking on a grueling six-month odyssey to meticulously cut, facet and polish the stone.

While cutting the gem completely by hand, he was never concerned with the eventual carat weight. His attention was purely on the beauty and the brilliance.

“When you focus on the carat weight, it’s only about the money,” he said. “I cannot create when I’m worried about the money.”

The finished work weighed 4.57 lbs., less than 1/10th of the weight of the original crystal.

Gem collector Jane Mitchell and her husband Jeffery S. Bland purchased Dom Pedro in 1999 and gifted it to the Smithsonian in 2011.

Credits: Dom Pedro photos by Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian. Virtual tour screen capture via
April 29th, 2020
The diamond ring that San Diego musician Scott Szikla used to propose to his neuroscientist girlfriend, Elena Blanco-Suarez, has seen two global pandemics — both COVID-19 and the Spanish flu that swept across the globe in 1918 and 1919.


Szikla had planned to purchase an engagement ring at a local jeweler, but was stymied because of the recent disruption of retail business activity in the San Diego area. Instead, the A/V technician and guitarist opted for a family heirloom.


"Since all jewelers are closed right now, I got ahold of my great-grandmother’s ring... It was actually given to her during the 1918 flu pandemic," Szikla told San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD. "Fast-forward 100 years later and this is happening. Weird timing."

After sheltering in place together for nearly six weeks, Szikla was ready to pop the question to his girlfriend of three years.

"I guess the quarantine even brought us closer together," he said.

With his great-grandmother's ring burning a hole in his pocket, Szikla was ready to deliver a no-frills proposal in their apartment.

But, when the city of San Diego lifted restrictions on some recreation areas, Szikla quickly drew up a new plan. He would pop the question at nearby Bird Park.

This past Friday, a bunch of the couple's friends visited the park ahead of the couple and set up a picnic basket with champagne, hand sanitizer, wipes and a blanket.

“We were out for a walk, and people were definitely watching us, and she was getting a little chilly and suggested returning home," Szikla told KNSD. "She saw the basket and thought the space was reserved for someone else, but then I dropped to one knee and popped the question."

"He started giving this beautiful speech," the Spanish-born Blanco-Suarez said. "And I was crying."

The friends were hiding in the bushes, snapping photos, as the Salk Institute neuroscientist said, "Yes."

"It was a surprise," Blanco-Suarez said. "I didn't know it was going to happen in the middle of a quarantine."

The 102-year-old ring symbolizes how previous generations have made it through times like these.

"As soon as I found out the significance of it, of what happened in the past, I said, 'OK, this might actually be the more perfect situation.' It worked out nicely," Szikla said.

Szikla imagined what the conversation might sound like when his future wife looks at her heirloom ring and reminisces about their engagement many, many years from now...

"Remember that time with COVID, we were locked in?" she might say.

"Yeah, I remember," he would respond. "But we got engaged."

The couple told KNSD that they may have to wait until 2021 to tie the knot.

“We're just trying to remain positive and as hopeful as we can,” Szikla said.

Credits: Screen captures via
April 30th, 2020
A Canadian woman who lost her engagement ring while swimming in Howe Sound off Bowyer Island, British Columbia, is thanking a baby octopus for leading divers to the irreplaceable heirloom that had been in her fiancé's family since the 1940s. As the world's smartest invertebrates, octopuses have great memories, can carry out complex tasks and — thankfully — have a penchant for shiny objects.


On Friday evening, 26-year-old Annika Parkinson-Dow was enjoying a swim off her neighbor's dock, where she marveled at the bioluminescence as she moved her hands back and forth across the surface of the dark water.

It wasn't until much later that Parkinson-Dow realized that her engagement ring was no longer on her finger. The diamond cluster ring, which was originally cherished by the grandmother of her fiancé Colby Crockett, had slid off in the cool water.


The next morning, a heartbroken Parkinson-Dow sought professional help by contacting diving schools in the Vancouver area. Within an hour, a team of divers was ready to get to work.

"I was pretty sure that there was absolutely no chance [they'd find] it, a needle in the haystack," she told "I wasn't even sure of the exact spot that I lost it."

After an hour in the murky water near the dock, the divers were about to give up. But then they spotted a baby octopus and decided to follow it.

Octopuses are known to decorate their dens with shiny objects, including crustacean shells, sea glass and bottle caps. That pile of bling is often called an octopus's garden, a theme made famous in a song of the same name by Ringo Starr and the Beatles in 1969.

In 2007, a South Korean fisherman caught a tiny octopus that had been clinging with its tentacles to a porcelain plate dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty. Porcelain from that period is regarded as some of the finest ever made. When archaeologists searched the area, they discovered a 12th century shipwreck filled with priceless porcelain and other ancient artifacts.

Back at Bowyer Island, the baby octopus led the divers directly to the ring. The cluster of diamonds was glinting in the water.

Parkinson-Dow said, "My guess there is that if the octopus put it out in front of its little den. When it saw the divers, it probably thought, 'Well, I don't want anything to do with those divers, I'm going to hide,' and if the divers then followed it back to its home, that's where it might have left the ring."

With the diamond engagement ring now safely back on her finger, Parkinson-Dow promised never to swim with it again.

Credits: Ring and couple photo by Annika Parkinson-Dow. Octopus image by Ansgar Gruber / CC BY-SA.