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Articles in November 2020

November 2nd, 2020
An ultra-rare “Ides of March” gold coin commemorating the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 44 BC broke an auction record Thursday when it fetched $4.2 million at London-based Roma Numismatics Limited. The selling price, which includes a buyer’s premium, was more than six times the pre-auction estimate of $650,000.


The impressive performance of the nickel-sized coin came as no surprise to Mark Salzberg, Chairman of Sarasota, FL-based Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the company whose experts in the U.S. and U.K. confirmed its authenticity.

“I’m not surprised it set a world record as the most valuable ancient coin ever sold,” said Salzberg. “It’s a masterpiece of artistry and rarity, still in mint condition after 2,000 years, and only the third known example made in gold. Many of us believed it would sell for millions, and it did.”

The name of the winning bidder was not revealed by Roma Numismatics Limited. According to the auction house, this previously unrecorded coin was closely held in a private European collection for many years.

“It was made in 42 BC, two years after the famous assassination, and is one of the most important and valuable coins of the ancient world,” explained Salzberg.

Caesarcoin1 1

The front of the coin features a portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of Caesar’s assassins, and the other side dramatically depicts two daggers and the marking “EID MAR.” The initials represent the Latin abbreviation for the Ides of March, which corresponds to March 15 on the calendar and is the date Caesar was assassinated.


Roma Numismatics explained that the coin represents a "naked and shameless celebration of the murder of Julius Caesar two years earlier, in 44 BC. This brutal and bloody assassination had been prompted by the well-founded belief among the Senate that Caesar intended to make himself king.”

While nearly 100 Ides of March silver coins are known to still exist, this is only the third example known to be struck in gold. Of the other two, one is in the British Museum on loan from a private collector and the other is in the Deutsche Bundesbank collection.

“There were rumors of a third example, and NGC authenticators were excited when this coin was submitted at our London office and sent for evaluation at our headquarters in Sarasota,” said Salzberg. “The coin is only about the size of modern United States five-cent and United Kingdom five-pence denomination coins, but it’s an historic treasure worth far more than its weight in gold.”

While the ”Ides of March” gold coin set a new auction record for an ancient coin, the world record for any coin ever sold at auction remains with the 1794 United States “Flowing Hair Dollar,” the first federally issued coin. That coin — which was also graded by NGC — fetched just over $10 million at an auction in 2013.

Credits: Images courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
November 3rd, 2020
The "Diavik Helios," a 74.48-carat fancy yellow diamond named after the mythical Greek God of the Sun, headlines Rio Tinto's forthcoming "Specials" Tender — a selection of the largest and finest rough diamonds from the company's mines in Canada and Australia.


The 2020 Specials Tender is especially significant because it is the last one that will include diamonds from Rio Tinto's once-prolific Argyle Mine in the east Kimberley region of Australia. Opened in 1983, the mine that had famously produced 95% of the world's pink diamonds will cease operations this week, according to the Daily Mail Australia.

A fine-quality rough diamond is considered a Special if it weighs 10.8 carats or more.


The Diavik Helios was sourced at Rio Tinto's Diavik diamond mine in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada. The mine primarily produces high-quality white diamonds, but every once in a while the miner is surprised by a fancy yellow.

“Since the Diavik mine began production in 2003, it has produced on average only five large yellow diamonds each year, in effect less than 0.001% of Diavik’s annual production," said Patrick Coppens, general manager, sales and marketing for Rio Tinto’s diamonds business. The Diavik Helios is an exceptional diamond in terms of its color saturation and clarity, and will be in strong demand from colored diamond specialists around the world.”

Diamond specialists from around the world will have an opportunity to preview more than 28,000 carats of rough Argyle diamonds — both colored and colorless — with physical presentations in Antwerp and Tel Aviv, as well as online viewing to accommodate for COVID-19 travel restrictions. Bids close on November 9.


One of the featured gems sourced at Australia's Argyle mine is the 26-carat colorless rough diamond seen here.

"Since it began production in 1983, the Argyle mine has produced more than 865 million carats of rough diamonds," said Andrew Wilson, general manager of the Argyle mine. "With the mine closing… the Argyle rough diamonds presented at this tender are a final rare and collectible offering from one of the world’s greatest diamond mines.”

Rio Tinto reported that its ultra-rare and highly coveted pink diamonds have accounted for less than 0.01% of Argyle's total output during the 37-year lifespan of the mine.

Credits: Images courtesy of Rio Tinto.
November 4th, 2020
Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals in the Earth’s crust, and in its pure state it is colorless. But when trace amounts of iron (about 40 parts per million) mix into quartz's chemical makeup, extraordinary things happen. The colorless silicon dioxide emerges as citrine in a gorgeous array of fall colors, from the warm hues of golden champagne to the deep orange-browns of Madeira wine.


Citrine, which gets its name from “citron,” the French word for “lemon,” is one of the two official birthstones for the month of November (the other is topaz).

One of the finest examples of gem-quality citrine is the 177.11-carat pear-shaped drop that dangles from the Jolie Citrine Necklace, a stylish piece donated by actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie to the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection in 2015.

The necklace is beautifully styled with 64 graduated citrine gems, each bezel set in 18-karat yellow gold. The large pear-shaped citrine drop is also bezel set, giving the necklace a sharp, clean look.


A collaboration between the actress and American jewelry designer Robert Procop, the Jolie Citrine Necklace is from the Style of Jolie jewelry collection. Jolie created the collection to promote education and establish schools in conflict-affected countries. Proceeds from the sales of jewelry in the Style of Jolie collection are donated to the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, which builds schools for children around the world, the first few of which were established in Afghanistan.

“We are thrilled to receive this important piece for the Smithsonian,” Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection, said in 2015. “It is the first piece of citrine jewelry in the collection. The fact that it was personally designed by Angelina Jolie and Robert Procop makes it all the more significant.”

The Jolie Citrine Necklace is on permanent display at the Janet Annenberg Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, which is located in the National Museum of Natural History. Sadly, the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, have been temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Citrine is a near-cousin to other popular quartz-family members, including amethyst, rose quartz and tiger’s eye.

Most citrine comes from Brazil, but other important sources include Spain, Bolivia, France, Russia, Madagascar and the U.S. (Colorado, North Carolina and California). Citrine wasn’t always an official birthstone for November. The National Association of Jewelers (now Jewelers of America) added it in 1952 as an alternative to topaz.

Credits: Images by Robert Procop/Smithsonian.
November 5th, 2020
At first glance, the shiny yellow stone that emerged from Steven McCool's 11th — and last — bucket of the day at Crater of Diamonds State Park seemed to be a well-worn piece of amber-colored glass. But then it quickly dawned on the Fayetteville, AR, native that the jelly-bean-size curiosity was something very special.


“As my eyes were panning to it, I was thinking it could be an amber piece of glass like an old Coke bottle,” said McCool. “Once I focused on it, though, I knew it was a diamond. I was like ‘No way! No way!’”

The self-proclaimed “newbie” at diamond hunting put his treasure in a safe place and continued wet sifting the rest of the dirt he collected in the Canary Hill area of the park. It was nearly closing time, the water was ice cold and his gloves were completely soaked through.

A few minutes later at the park's Diamond Discovery Center, the 34-year-old didn't need any help validating his find.

Said McCool, “I went up there and was like ‘Where do I register my diamond?’”

It turns out that McCool's assessment was right on the mark.


“Mr. McCool’s find is a 4.49-carat sparkling, canary yellow diamond that is about the size of a jelly bean and seems to have great clarity," said Crater of Diamonds State Park Assistant Superintendent Meghan Moore. "It is a stunning diamond.”

This was McCool's fifth trip to the only public diamond mine where novice prospectors get to keep what they find. He had been visiting the Murfreesboro area, which is about 200 miles from his home, and extended his stay by one day because there had been a lot of rainfall recently, which made the conditions ideal for finding a diamond.

Moore said that it is very unusual for a visitor to find a large diamond while wet sifting.

“It is extraordinarily rare to catch a diamond in the top screen of a screen set," said Moore. “The mesh size of the top screen is larger and typically used to catch and remove bigger pieces of gravel – not diamonds. The average diamond size found wet sifting is a quarter of a carat. Typically, larger diamonds are found by surface searching.”


McCool named his diamond the "BamMam Diamond,” which is a combination of the initials of his 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

“What’s more precious than a precious gem? My children,” said McCool. “So, I named it after my children and the name will stay with the diamond forever.”

McCool told park officials he hasn't decided whether he will keep it or sell it.

“I’m torn. I’m somewhat sentimental. It’s [the] first diamond I found. I am the first person to unearth this, the first person to touch it. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. I am blown away by the clarity, the beauty, how rare it is. I’m definitely blessed, not lucky. It was the Lord’s work,” he said.

The search area of Crater of Diamonds State Park is actually a plowed field atop the eroded surface of an extinct, diamond-bearing volcanic pipe. Visitors have found more than 33,000 diamonds since the Crater of Diamonds opened as an Arkansas State Park in 1972.

Admission is currently limited to 1,500 tickets per day due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.

Credits: Images courtesy of Arkansas State Parks.
November 6th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Carly Simon and then-husband James Taylor perform their hit, “Mockingbird,” in a rare live performance at NYC's Madison Square Garden in 1979.


In the catchy song that is actually based on the lullaby “Hush Little Baby,” the duo sings, “Everybody have you heard? / He’s gonna buy me a mockingbird / And if that mockingbird won’t sing / He’s gonna buy me a diamond ring."

“Mockingbird” reached #5 on the US Billboard Top 40 chart in 1974 and was released as the lead single from Simon’s Hotcakes album.

Five years later, “Mockingbird” would be back in the spotlight as Simon (who suffered from stage fright) and Taylor kicked off the high profile MUSE No Nuke concert at Madison Square Garden with a rousing rendition of the song.

MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) staged a series of concerts in September of 1979 to bring national attention to the dangers of nuclear power. Among the artists participating in the all-star shows were Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, John Hall, The Doobie Brothers and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Even though “Mockingbird” is widely associated with Simon and Taylor, who were married from 1972 to 1983, Inez and Charlie Foxx first released the song in 1963. That version was also a Top 10 hit.

It’s hard to believe that Simon, one of the quintessential singer/songwriters of the 1970s celebrated her 75th birthday in June. The Bronx-born, two-time Grammy winner has amassed 24 Billboard Hot 100 singles over her stellar career.

A few items of Simon trivia…
• She attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.
• She is the daughter of Richard Simon, co-founder of the publishing house Simon & Schuster.
• She submitted a demo tape to Clive Davis at Columbia Records, who turned her down. She she ended up signing with Elektra.
• She earned a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1971.
• She and James Taylor lived in the house later owned and made infamous by O.J. Simpson.

The 72-year-old James Taylor is a five-time Grammy Award winner and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Please enjoy the video at the end of this post. It’s a classic clip from Simon and Taylor’s triumphant performance of “Mockingbird” during the No Nukes concert. As a bonus, we're including the audio track of the original release by Inez and Charlie Foxx. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

Written by Inez and Charlie Foxx. Performed by Carly Simon and James Taylor.

Everybody have you heard?
He’s gonna buy me a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won’t sing
He’s gonna buy me a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring won’t shine
He’s gonna surely break this heart of mine
And that’s why I keep on tellin’ ev’rybody, sayin’
Wo, wo, wo, wo, wo

Hear me now and understand
He’s gonna find me some peace of mind
And if that peace of mind won’t stay
I’m gonna find myself a better way
And if that better way ain’t so
I, I, I’ll ride with the tide and go with the flow
And that’s why I keep on shoutin’ in your ear sayin’
Wo, wo, wo, wo, wo

Everybody have you heard?
She’s gonna buy me a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won’t sing
She’s gonna buy me a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring won’t shine
She’s gonna surely break this heart of mine
And that’s why I keep on tellin’ ev’rybody, sayin’ no, no, no, no,no

Listen now and understand
She’s gonna find me some peace of mind
And if that peace of mind won’t stay
I’m gonna find myself a better way
I might rise above , I might go below
I, I, I’ll ride with the tide and go with the flow
And that’s why I keep on shoutin’ in your ears y’all
No, no, no, no, no, no, now, now, baby

Credits: Screen capture via
November 9th, 2020
Luxury brand Louis Vuitton is taking the concept of bespoke opulence to a whole new level. By securing the rights to represent Lucara's 549-carat "Sethunya" diamond, the retailer can offer its discriminating clients a unique opportunity to design the gem of their dreams, down to the exact shape and carat weight.


"In this way, the client will be involved in the creative process of plotting, cutting, polishing and becoming part of the story that the stone will carry with it into history," noted a Lucara press release.

Back in February of 2020, Lucara Diamond Corp. announced that it had recovered a massive white diamond of “exceptional purity” from its Karowe mine in Botswana — a mine that has earned worldwide recognition for producing the 1,758-carat Sewelô, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona and the 813-carat Constellation diamond.

The 549-carat diamond was given the name Sethunya, which means "flower" in Setswana, the primary language spoken where the diamond was recovered.

In the three-way collaboration among Lucara, Louis Vuitton, and HB Antwerp, the latter will provide state-of-the-art scanning and planning technology to determine the number and size of diamonds that can be derived from the stone.

This is the second time Louis Vuitton has entered an agreement with Lucara to secure a huge rough stone. In January of 2020, the Paris-based retailer purchased the 1,758-carat Sewelô diamond, also from the Karowe mine.

Town and Country reported that the retailer will be taking both stones on a worldwide promotional tour, during which VIP clients will get a closeup look at the Sethunya and Sewelô diamonds and consult with cutting experts.

Sethunya is the fourth-largest diamond ever recovered from the prolific Karowe mine. It was cherry-picked from Lucara’s MDR (Mega Diamond Recovery) XRT circuit, a system that uses advanced technology to identify 100-carat-plus diamonds by monitoring the rocky material for X-ray luminescence, atomic density and transparency. Previously, large diamonds might have been mistaken as worthless ore and pulverized during the primary crushing process.

Credit: Photo by Philippe Lacombe, courtesy of Louis Vuitton (CNW Group/Lucara Diamond Corp.).
November 10th, 2020
Back in 1979, the diamond industry was changed forever when the first Argyle Pinks were discovered atop an anthill in the Kimberley wilderness of Western Australia. You see, while excavating underground passages, ants famously bring unwanted obstacles to the surface. In this case, their painstaking work signaled that the anthill sat above a pipe of diamond-rich ore.


And so began an improbable 37-year odyssey that would see the Argyle mine generate more than 865 million carats of rough diamonds and become the world’s largest producer of colored diamonds.

Having exhausted its reserves, Rio Tinto shuttered its Argyle mining operations last Tuesday. Argyle employees, executives and local stakeholders attending a special event to mark the mine's formal transition from operational to under closure.

The Argyle mine had been the world's only consistent source of rare pink diamonds, accounting for more than 90% of the supply. Prior to the 1980s, pink diamonds had trickled into the market sporadically from India, Brazil, Africa and Indonesia.

“Fifty years ago, there were very few people who believed there were diamonds in Australia – even fewer could have foreseen how the Argyle story would unfold,” said Arnaud Soirat, Rio Tinto’s chief executive of Copper & Diamonds. “To arrive at this final chapter has required vision, courage and determination to overcome significant challenges to enter new territory in diamond exploration, mining and marketing."


According to Rio Tinto, the Argyle ore body — a single pipe known as AK1— was discovered in October 1979. Alluvial operations began in 1983, open pit mining began in 1985 and the mine became a fully underground operation in 2013. At its peak production, the mine was producing 40% of the world's diamond output by volume.

“This is a historic day for the Argyle mine and the east Kimberley region, and a great source of pride for this unique Australian success story,” noted Andrew Wilson, general manager of the Argyle mine. “A new chapter will now begin as we start the process of respectfully closing the Argyle mine and rehabilitating the land, to be handed back to its traditional custodians.”

That process is schedule to take about five years.

Credits: Images courtesy of Rio Tinto.
November 11th, 2020
An ecstatic Anthony Anderson showed off his Hollywood Walk of Fame diamond ring during an interview with guest host Sarah Silverman on Monday's installment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.


The Black-ish actor told Silverman that George Lopez and Cedric the Entertainer surprised him with the supersized, championship-style ring after his Walk of Fame Star was unveiled in mid-August.


After explaining how the celebration had to be pared down due to COVID-19 social gathering restrictions, he aimed the ring directly at the camera operator so the home audience could get a perfect view of the jewelry. The design features a miniature Walk of Fame star set in white precious metal and embellished by diamonds.

"It was kind of weird," the actor explained to Silverman. "They held the ceremony in a backroom at Ripley's Believe It or Not because of COVID. Only 11 people were allowed to be in the room, eight were family members. My mom was one. She gave a great speech for me. George Lopez was there, he gave a speech. And he also gave me this ring right here."


In a Tinseltown twist of fate, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce placed Anderson's star on the corner of Hollywood and Hyland.

"What's crazy [is] I went to Hollywood High School. So for years I would walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard, never in a million years thinking I would be immortalized on the Walk of Fame," Anderson said. "My star is literally across the street from my old high school."


In September, Anderson shared a closeup of the ring on his Instagram page and included this caption: "A gift from my brothers @cedtheentertainer and @georgelopez welcoming me to The Hollywood Walk of Fame. I have a Star amongst the Stars with my brothers!"

The 50-year-old told Silverman how bizarre it is to shoot a television series during a pandemic.

"It's been crazy," he said. "We have everything on our stage now except stop lights. We have crossing guards. We have grids on the floor. One way in, one way out. When the actors are moving, everything shuts down and everyone splits like the Red Sea."

There are more than 2,690 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, CA. The Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was conceived in the mid-1950s, honors all the major branches of the entertainment industry: motions pictures, broadcast television, audio recording or music, radio broadcast and theater/live performance.

Check out this clip of Anderson chatting with Silverman on Monday's show. The ring conversation starts at the 3:28 mark.

Credits. Screen captures via Youtube/TheEllenShow. Closeup ring image and Hollywood Walk of Fame image via instagram/anthonyanderson.
November 12th, 2020
“The Spirit of the Rose" set an auction record when an anonymous phone bidder secured the 14.83-carat, fancy vivid purple-pink diamond with an offer of 21 million Swiss francs at Sotheby's Geneva yesterday. With the buyer's premium added, the final price totaled 24.4 million Swiss francs ($26.6 million), or about $1.8 million per carat.


The bidding opened at 16 million Swiss francs and accelerated quickly in increments of 1 million francs. Within three minutes, Sotheby's Head of Magnificent Jewels sales, Benoit Repellin, slammed down the hammer and affirmed that The Spirit of the Rose had just set a record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a fancy vivid purple-pink.


The oval modified brilliant-cut stone, however, failed to live up to its pre-auction hype — slotting into the low range of its presale estimate of $21.1 million to $34.8 million.

The three-month promotional lead-up to the sale saw the gem making appearances in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei before returning to Geneva. One expert who got to see the stone close-up predicted it would fetch nearly double Sotheby's high estimate and rival the priciest pink diamonds the world has ever seen.

That elite group includes the 59.60-carat “CTF Pink Star” ($71.2 million), the 18.96-carat “Winston Pink Legacy” ($50.3 million), the 14.93-carat “Pink Promise” ($32.4 million), the 15.38-carat “Unique Pink” ($31.5 million) and the 16.08-carat “Sweet Josephine” ($28.5 million).

The Gemological Institute of America had graded The Spirit of the Rose as internally flawless with excellent polish and very good symmetry. It has the distinction of being the largest vivid purple-pink diamond ever graded by the GIA.


The gem was sourced in 2017 at Alrosa’s Ebelyakh deposit in Yakutia, Russia. In its rough state, it weighed 27.85 carats and remains the largest pink diamond ever mined in Russia.

The rough diamond was named “Nijinsky,” after Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

The diamond was cut and polished at the Diamonds of Alrosa cutting facility in Moscow. Alrosa reported that the process took nearly a full year.

Alrosa named the faceted stone “The Spirit of the Rose” to honor the famous 1911 ballet of the same name. In French, the ballet was called “Le Spectre de la Rose,” and its primary dancers were Tamara Karsavina and Nijinsky.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's. Auction screen capture via
November 13th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we often unearth wonderful, but sadly forgotten, songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we present the immortal Nat King Cole singing “The Ruby and the Pearl,” the theme song to the 1952 film, Thunder in the East.


In this ballad written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, Cole uses gemstones and precious metals to describe his love and devotion. He sings, “Can love be as warm as the ruby? / Can love be as pure as the pearl? / Just look in the heart of my love for you. / You’ll find the ruby and the pearl.”

In a later verse, he sings, “My love will endure as the diamond / And shine with the shimmer of gold. / It glows like a bright star above for you / A thing of beauty to behold.”

Released on Capitol Records only one year after his iconic hit, “Unforgettable,” “The Ruby and the Pearl” peaked at #23 on the U.S. Billboard chart. One online movie reviewer noted that Cole’s beautiful performance of “The Ruby and the Pearl” was the best thing to come out of Thunder in the East, which he called a routine action film.

In 1954, “The Ruby and the Pearl” was included in a 10-inch LP Nat King Cole compilation album called Eight Top Pops.

Born in Montgomery, AL, in 1919 to a Baptist minister and a church organist, Nathanian Adam Coles learned to play the piano at the age of four. He first came to prominence as a jazz pianist, but is most famous for his silky smooth baritone voice. In 1956, he hosted The Nat King Cole Show on NBC, the first variety program to be hosted by an African American.

Nat King Cole's adopted middle name was inspired by the nursery rhyme "Old King Cole." He dropped the "s" from his last name when he started performing in Chicago clubs.

During his abbreviated career (he died of lung cancer in 1965 at the age of 45), Cole released 29 albums and scored 79 Top-40 singles. His famous daughter, singer Natalie Cole, saw her career cut short by congestive heart failure at the age of 55, in 2015.

In 1990, Nat King Cole was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2000, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


In 1994, his likeness adorned an official U.S. postage stamp. More than 35 million 29-cent Nat "King" Cole stamps were released on September 1, 1994.

We invite you to enjoy the audio track of Cole’s hypnotizing performance of “The Ruby and the Pearl.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“The Ruby and the Pearl”
Music by Jay Livingston. Lyrics by Ray Evans. Performed by Nat King Cole.

Can love be as warm as the ruby?
Can love be as pure as the pearl?
Just look in the heart of my love for you.
You’ll find the ruby and the pearl.

My love will endure as the diamond
And shine with the shimmer of gold.
It glows as a bright star above for you,
A thing of beauty to behold.

Come close and cling to my kiss.
Stay close and share the passion of this.

Yes, love is as warm as the ruby
And love is as pure as the pearl.
Just look in the heart of my love for you.
You’ll find the ruby and the pearl.

Come close and cling to my kiss.
Come close and share the passion of this.

Yes, love is as warm as the ruby
And love is as pure as the pearl.
Just look in the heart of my love for you.
You’ll find the ruby and the pearl.

Credits: Nat King Cole photo by Cleary, Strauss, Irwin & Goodman-publicity, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Stamp image by the United States Postal Service, Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
November 16th, 2020
Lucara's Karowe mine in Botswana has delivered another head-turning rough diamond — a 998-carat stunner that ranks as the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond ever recovered.


Other famous Botswana-sourced diamonds include the #2-ranked 1,758-carat Sewelô (2019), the #3 ranked 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona (2015) and the #9-ranked 812-carat Constellation (2015).

Despite being nearly the width of a baseball and weighing 7 ounces, Lucara's newest find is less than one-third the weight of the granddaddy of them all — the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905. Finished gems cut from the Cullinan Diamond include the Cullinan I (530.20 carats) and the Cullinan II (317.4 carats).


The yet-to-be-named, 998-carat gem might be worth $50 million or more, based on the per-carat price achieved by diamonds exhibiting similar characteristics.

For example, Lesedi La Rona was sold in September of 2017 for $53 million, and the Constellation fetched $63 million in May of 2016. Both were D-color diamonds that had been rated Type IIa, which means they were chemically pure with no traces of nitrogen or boron impurities.

Lucara reported that its newest find measured exactly 67x49x45mm and was recovered from direct milling of ore sourced from the Karowe mine's South Lobe. Recent finds at the mine included gem-quality rough diamonds weighing 273, 105, 83, 73 and 69 carats.

The 998-carat diamond was pulled from Lucara’s MDR (Mega Diamond Recovery) XRT circuit, a system that uses advanced technology to identify 100-carat-plus diamonds by monitoring the rocky material for X-ray luminescence, atomic density and transparency. Previously, large diamonds might have been mistaken as worthless ore and pulverized during the primary crushing process.

This recovery represents the second 500-plus-carat diamond recovered from this circuit in 2020. Year to date, Karowe has produced 31 diamonds greater than 100 carats, including 10 diamonds greater than 200 carats.

Just last week, we reported that luxury brand Louis Vuitton had secured the rights to represent Lucara’s 549-carat “Sethunya” rough diamond. The retailer will be offering its discriminating clients an opportunity to customize a piece of the rough diamond, down to the exact shape and carat weight.

Credits: Images courtesy of CNW Group/Lucara Diamond Corp.
November 17th, 2020
Using a wire hanger and a snake cam, Stockton, CA, resident Danny Gutierrez deftly fished his wife's engagement ring from the "plumbing cleanout" pipe in their backyard. The successful rescue mission took place three weeks after the ring — wrapped in a tissue — was accidentally flushed down the toilet.


The family was so determined to get the ring back that they sacrificed running water so the ring wouldn't be forced farther down the sewer line.

The saga began when Angela Gutierrez's diamond engagement ring ended up on the bathroom floor while she was getting ready for a Zoom call. Her 7-year-old son noticed it and, in a considerate attempt to protect the ring and keep anyone from stepping on it by mistake, wrapped it in tissue and placed it on the sink.

When Danny Gutierrez happened upon the tissue wad on the sink, he tossed it in the toilet and flushed it down.

After her Zoom call, Angela went to retrieve her ring and was told by her young son how he had found it on the floor. Then Danny filled in the rest of the story about how the ring had been flushed.

The family hired professional plumbers to find the ring, but their efforts came up empty. Still, the couple refused to give up.

In a last ditch effort to locate the ring, Angela used a snake camera to peer down her home’s “plumbing cleanout.” This is an access pipe in their backyard that would typically be used to access the sewer line in the event of blockage.

As she viewed the monitor, she was certain she saw the glint of her ring.


"It was as clear as day," Angela told the local ABC affiliate. "I'm like, 'Oh, my goodness! Danny's gonna think that I'm crazy.'"

In a home video shot by Angela and shared by ABC10, Danny carefully maneuvers a wire hanger and a snake cam into the pipe.

"I was so nervous and I had to look away," Angela said.

Within moments, Danny began celebrating his Eureka moment.

"We got it. We have it. The ring. Yes!" he exclaimed.


With the ring in hand, Danny instinctively went down on one knee and said to Angela, "Will you marry me?"

Later, Angela told ABC10 that it was hard to believe that she got her ring back after three weeks.

"We were slowly coming to accept the fact that we lost it," she said.


Please check out ABC10's report. It ends with a short scene of the children learning the happy news about their family's cherished keepsake.

Credits: Screen captures via
November 18th, 2020
If the trending continues, Holiday Season 2020 promises to be the most romantic ever.


Welcome to “engagement season,” that special time of the year when more than 40% of all marriage proposals take place. It officially starts next week on Thanksgiving Day and stretches through Valentine's Day.

WeddingWire’s 2020 Newlywed Report reveals a significant spike in the portion of proposals taking place during the month of December. A surprising 19% of all engagements are happening during that festive month, and the number represents a significant rise of three percentage points since 2017. December proposals outnumber any other month by a margin of better than 2 to 1.

According to WeddingWire, the hottest proposal days take place in December. Christmas Day is the most popular day of the year to pop the question, followed by Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, the Sunday before Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day.

Suitors likely choose December to pop the question because they love the spirit of the holiday season. And, certainly, there’s no better time to propose than when all the family is in town to celebrate with the newly engaged couple.

The 2020 Newlywed Report, which chronicled the opinions and experiences of 27,250 individuals who were married during the full year of 2019, also revealed that when it comes to finding a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, 45% of proposers began researching/looking for rings more than five months ahead of the proposal.

The average couple spent $5,900 on the engagement ring, although 20% of those surveyed spent more than $10,000.

Couples told WeddingWire that they considered style/setting to be the most important aspect of an engagement ring, and nearly 80% admitted to dropping hints about their ring preferences to their significant others. Seven out of 10 ring recipients had some involvement in selecting and/or purchasing the ring itself.

On average, proposers visited three retailers and looked at 15 rings before making a decision.

Nearly nine in 10 (89%) of suitors proposed with ring in hand and 84% popped the question on bended knee. The average age of engaged couples is 32 and the average engagement length is 15 months.

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November 19th, 2020
The golden-orange Imperial Topaz is the most highly prized variety of November's birthstone.


Originally mined exclusively in Russia’s Ural Mountains during the 19th century, the intense orange crystals were so valuable that they earned the designation Imperial Topaz to honor the Russian czar. What's more, only royals were allowed to own it.

Flash forward to today, when the finest Imperial Topaz is sourced in Brazil. One of that country's most heralded crystals — an 875-carat head-turner from Minas Gerais — is now a permanent resident of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection.

According to the Smithsonian, topaz — especially the yellow-to-orange varieties — has been misunderstood and misidentified for 2,000 years. Before 1950, most “gem experts” shared the misconception that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow. Citrine (November's alternate birthstone) and even smoky quartz were often mistaken for topaz.

While the prized Imperial Topaz comes in a range of colors from brownish-yellow to orange-yellow and even vibrant red, other varieties of topaz are available in blue, green, pink and purple.

Interestingly, topaz gets its name from Topazios, the ancient Greek name for a tiny island in the Red Sea. The island is now known as Zabargad Island, or St. John’s Island, and is controlled by Egypt. It is very likely that the “topaz” mined there in ancient times was actually a yellow-green variety of peridot.

Brazil is the largest producer of quality topaz, but the stone is also mined in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico and the U.S (specifically California, Utah and New Hampshire). Topaz rates an 8 on the Mohs scale, making it a durable and wearable gem.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
November 23rd, 2020
Imagine 640 African elephants balancing on the tip of a ballet shoe. That was the amount of pressure scientists needed to transform carbon into diamonds — at room temperature. The scientists defied nature by taking heat out of the equation of how diamonds are formed.


“Natural diamonds are usually formed over billions of years, about 150 kilometers deep (93 miles) in the Earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees Fahrenheit),” said Professor Bradby from The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Physics.

The team, led by ANU and RMIT University, successfully generated two types of diamonds: the kind found in fine jewelry and another called Lonsdaleite, which is found in nature at the site of meteorite impacts, such as Canyon Diablo in the US.

One of the lead researchers, ANU Professor Jodie Bradby, said their breakthrough shows that Superman may have had a similar trick up his sleeve when he crushed coal into diamond, without using his heat ray.

While Superman crushed carbon using the palm of his hand, the scientists used a specially designed anvil at room temperature.

Until now, lab-grown diamonds have been created by mimicking both the intense heat and extreme pressure present deep within the Earth.

“The twist in the story is how we apply the pressure," Bradby said. “As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called ‘shear’ – which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamond.”

While mined diamonds are cubic in shape, the diamonds generated by the scientists are hexagonal, which led them to theorize that their varieties will be even harder than conventional diamonds.


Co-lead researcher Professor Dougal McCulloch and his team at RMIT used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture snapshots of how the Lonsdaleite and regular diamonds formed.

“Seeing these little ‘rivers’ of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form,” he said.


The scientists believe that their new lab-grown, super-hard diamonds would likely be used for industrial purposes, such as drill bits and other cutting devices. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal, Small.

Credits: ANU PhD scholar Xingshuo Huang holds the diamond anvil that the team used to make the diamonds in the lab. Photo by Jamie Kidston, ANU; River of diamonds image by RMIT; PhD scholar Brenton Cook (left) and Prof Dougal McCulloch with one of the electron microscopes used in the research. Image by RMIT.
November 24th, 2020
While couples are spending less on elaborate weddings and honeymoons due to the pandemic, they are spending more than ever on the perfect diamond engagement ring — often upgrading in color, cut and clarity, rather than size. That was the key finding from the De Beers Group's latest Diamond Insight "Flash" Report, which has been looking carefully at the impact of COVID-19 on relationships and engagements.


Interviews with independent jewelers throughout the US also revealed that the rate of engagements has increased significantly, with bridal sales accounting for the primary source of diamond jewelry demand.

"For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership," commented Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group. "Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas."

De Beers' informal survey also revealed that consumers are often choosing more classic designs. Jewelers noted that round diamonds and round-edged fancy shapes of better qualities are dominating their bestsellers, and that designs have become simpler, with customers less interested in extra pavé and melee embellishments.

While halos are still selling well, jewelers are generally seeing engagement ring customers opt for more conservative looks. Round diamonds are the most popular shape, followed by ovals and cushions.

The "Flash" report also included findings from a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. It found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewelers' hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of COVID-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, 86% of respondents said "online" was, by far, the most effective channel for gaining ideas/inspiration, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked.

"Part of the reason people are getting engaged during COVID is because there is so much distance between them and their community," noted Dr. Terry Real, a relationship therapist and author of the forthcoming book Us: The Power of Moving Beyond Me and You. "The couple is intimate, but thirsty for outside stimulation... For a young person to have a performance of your love that's witnessed is like water in the desert in this culture. The ring is that performance. Especially now."

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November 25th, 2020
Ultra-rare fancy-colored diamonds in vivid shades of pink, blue, orange and red will headline Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on December 9.


All eyes will be focused on Lot 75, a colorful ring set with a rectangular mixed-cut 5.03-carat fancy vivid pink diamond flanked by two cut-cornered triangular fancy intense blue diamonds weighing 0.88 carats and 0.77 carats.

The piece comes from a private collection and carries a pre-sale estimate of $9 million to $12 million.


Lot 31 features a heart-shaped fancy red diamond weighing 1.71 carats. The stone centers a heart-shaped pendant pavé-set with rows upon rows of round diamonds and dangles from a 20 1/2-inch chain accented with rose gold heart stations. Interestingly, the reverse is further enhanced by round diamonds.

The romantic pendant has a pre-sale estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million. With a little more than two weeks to go before the live auction, online bidders already have pushed the offering price to $2 million.


Orange diamonds rarely hit the auction block, but Sotheby's will have one to offer on December 9. This heart-shaped fancy vivid orange diamond weighs exactly 2.00 carats and is framed and accented by round colorless diamonds. Lot 29 is expected to sell in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million. The top pre-sale bid is currently $800,000.


Another heart-shaped stunner is this 2.29-carat fancy vivid blue diamond encircled by yellow diamonds and near-colorless diamonds. The Gemological Institute of America report accompanying the stone states that the blue diamond is potentially internally flawless. The current high bid is $1.8 million, but Sotheby's believes the hammer price will be in the range of $2.25 million to $3.25 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
November 30th, 2020
During the thrilling season finale of Outback Opal Hunters, 21-year-old Sam Westra and his mentor Pete Cooke discovered a 45-carat double-faced black opal valued at AU$120,000 (about US$89,000).


The "life-changing" find marked a 180-degree turn of fortune for the team that had suffered through a woeful three-month period of losing money in Australia's remote and inhospitable interior.

Fans of the Discovery Channel's hit reality TV show have been rooting for the likable team from Lightning Ridge, NSW. The success of their entire season hinged on their final cleanup — four tons of fractured stones collected from the 100-year-old open cut mine they call "Old Nobbys."

"Plenty of material, just potch everywhere," said Westra as he and Cooke began the sorting process in the video below. "Just got to get the big one, mate. Where's the big one?"

Potch is the term for the near-worthless rocky material that has the same chemical makeup as precious opal with one critical difference. With potch, the tiny silica spheres that make up the stones are jumbled. In precious opal, they’re all laid out evenly, which gives the structure the ability to break visible white light into separate colors.


Within a few minutes, Cooke encountered a small, but valuable, stone that presented hints of green, blue, red and orange.

"There's a gem there for sure. We're on the money, mate," said Cooke. "This is fantastic."


But then the mining veteran turned absolutely giddy when he spied the "king stone," the best stone of his parcel.

"These come up two or three a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” said the gleeful Cooke as he rotated the stone for the Discovery Channel's viewers.

Although initially valued at AU$55,000 on camera, the team later met with an opal carver who confirmed that the actual value was AU$120,000. The gem, which Cooke dubbed "Fire and Ice" because of its brilliant flashes of red and deep blue, is the most valuable opal unearthed to date by any of the Outback Opal Hunters.

About 90% of the world’s finest opals are mined in the harsh outback of Australia, where a unique combination of geological conditions permitted the formation of opal near the margins of an ancient inland sea.

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.

Outback Opal Hunters has entertained audiences in more than 100 countries and territories.

Please check out this clip from the season finale of Outback Opal Hunters.

Credits: Screen captures via