Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sierra Leone Yields Second Massive Diamond of 2017; This One Weighs 476.7 Carats

It's been a banner year for tiny West African nation of Sierra Leone. The recent discovery of the 476.7-carat "Meya Prosperity" — which followed the March discovery of the even more massive 709.1-carat "Peace Diamond" — gives Sierra Leone the distinction of being the source of the world's two biggest diamond finds of 2017.

The yellow-hued Peace Diamond is believed to be the 14th largest diamond ever discovered, and the colorless Meya Prosperity is being slotted at #29.

The Peace Diamond, which was pulled from a river bed by pastor Emmanuel Momoh, is scheduled to be sold at a New York auction on December 4. Some experts believe the diamond could yield as much as $50 million.

Meya Prosperity will also be sold at international auction, but it's not clear if it will go under the hammer with the Peace Diamond in New York.

In the wild world of fabulously large diamonds, the diminutive Sierra Leone can be considered a powerhouse.

In 1972, the 968.9-carat "Star of Sierra Leone" diamond was discovered by miners in the Koidu area of eastern Sierra Leone. The gem was eventually cut into 17 separate finished diamonds, of which 13 were deemed to be flawless. The Star of Sierra Leone ranks as the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond and the largest alluvial diamond ever discovered.

In 1945, the 770-carat Woyie River Diamond was also found near Koidu. Ranked the 9th-largest diamond ever discovered, the D-flawless rough was cut into 30 gems, including 10 weighing more than 20 carats each. The rough gem earned star status when it was brought to London and viewed by Queen Mary in October 1947.

The 476.7-carat Meya Prosperity is named for Meya Mining, which discovered the stone and maintains an exclusive license to explore a concession spanning 80 square miles of the diamond-rich Kono District. The mining company also noted that two other sizable diamonds — one weighing 19.70 carats and the other weighing 27.93 carats — were discovered only a few hours after unearthing the Meya Prosperity.

"[The latest find] provides a remarkable indication of the potential of the mineral resources in the area," Sahr Wonday, director general of Sierra Leone's National Minerals Agency, told news24.com.

Credit: Photos courtesy of Trustco Resources. Map by Google Maps.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mother Nature Dazzles Us Again: Natural Freshwater Pearl Bears Uncanny Likeness to a Swimming Fish

A natural freshwater pearl bearing an uncanny likeness to a swimming fish proves, once again, that Mother Nature is the world's greatest artist, sculptor and designer.

Measuring a little less than an inch in length, the specimen's shape, color, scale-like texture and seemingly articulated head and body make for a one-of-a-kind masterwork that has the gemological and jewelry communities buzzing.

The Gemological Institute of America’s New York City lab recently completed an examination of the unique fish-shaped brownish orange pearl. Sally Chan Shih and Emiko Yazawa wrote about the interesting find in the Fall 2017 edition of Gems & Gemology.

"One end was wider and more rounded, which bore an uncanny likeness to a fish’s head, with an 'eye' and 'mouth' also discernible," they wrote. "The lustrous orient along the body narrowed to a rounded point, resembling iridescent fish scales on a tail."

The pearl measures 21.34 mm (.84 in.) wide by 6.28 mm (.24 in.) tall by 2.81 mm (.11 inches) thick.

A chemical analysis of the 2.12-carat pearl confirmed high levels of manganese, which proved the natural pearl was formed in a freshwater mollusk. That mollusk was likely harvested from a river in the Mississippi Valley.

What makes the "fish pearl" more extraordinary is the fact that it came to be completely without human intervention.

A natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, slips in between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue. To protect itself from the irritant, the mollusk secretes layer upon layer of nacre, which is the iridescent material that eventually 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.

The authors emphasized that the entire nacreous surface was composed of overlapping platelets.

"We observed no indications of work, such as polishing, that is sometimes performed to improve a pearl’s appearance," they wrote.

Credit: Photo by Sood Oil (Judy) Chia, courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Music Friday: Sonny Turner of The Platters Sings, 'With This Ring I Promise I'll Always Love You'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of "With This Ring," a feel-good sing-along that was a huge hit for The Platters and frontman Sonny Turner.

In this song, Turner is about to marry the girl of his dreams. He admits to having been a "wanderer," but now he's ready to settle down. The ring represents his promise to be faithful and to always love her.

He sings, "With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you."

Later in the song, he adds, "Baby, I never thought so much love could fit in a little band of gold."

"With This Ring" appeared as the first track from the band's Going Back to Detroit album and was released as the album's only single. The song ascended to #14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and #12 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. The song represented an uptempo, stylistic shift for the group, which was famous for its moody R&B hits, such as "Only You," "The Great Pretender," "My Prayer," "Twilight Time" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

The Platters, which was formed in Los Angeles in 1952, charted 40 singles between 1955 and 1967, including four Billboard #1s. Turner joined the band in 1959 as a fresh-faced, 19-year-old tenor. He was chosen from 100 hopefuls who were auditioning to replace The Platters' original lead singer, Tony Williams. Turner remained with The Platters until 1970, when he left to pursue a solo career.

The group has endured numerous lineup changes and name variations throughout its history. Fans have been coming out to see The Platters for the better part of 65 years, and the group continues to tour. According to songkick.com, the group has appeared in Las Vegas 1,171 times, and most frequently shared the billing with The Marvelettes (866 times).

Please check out the video of Turner and The Platters performing "With This Ring." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"With This Ring"
Written by Richard Wylie, Luther Dixon and Anthony Hester. Performed by The Platters.

With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you

They used to call me the wanderer
Who never wanted to settle down, yeah
But I'll tell you, baby
I wander no more, got to stay around 'cause

With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you

Got nothing but this old heart of mine
Baby, please, believe in me
Girl, you know, sweet heart
I'll always try to keep you satisfied, 'cause

With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you

With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you

Baby, I never thought so much love
Could fit in a little band of gold
But I'm telling you, darling
I feel it in my heart, got it in my soul

With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I'll always love you, always love you

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Meet the Smartphone Case That Doubles as a Ring Box and Delivers the Ultimate Proposal Selfie

A few days ago, The Knot revealed that 47% of all couples are enlisting a photographer or videographer to capture the exact moment of their proposal. With so much emphasis on sharing that big news on social media, it was inevitable that someone would come up with a smartphone case that doubles as a ring box and delivers the ultimate proposal selfie.

Introducing the RokShok, a smartphone case with a twist. When opened, the unique mechanism extends the engagement ring perfectly in front of the phone's camera. As the phone captures his romantic proposal and her heartfelt reaction, the ring remains perfectly centered in the lower portion of the frame.

James Ambler and Keith Glickman, the New York-based inventors of RokShok, point out that ambitious users might even use their case to live stream a proposal to viewers all over the world.

At just .60 inches thick, RokShok is far more discreet and easier to slip into a pocket than a traditional ring box, which is typically 2 inches thick. Obviously, "pocket bulging" is a no-no when it comes to delivering a surprise proposal. RokShok looks very much like a standard battery case and can conceal rings with center stones up to 2.5 carats in size.

With the proposal video and still shots efficiently captured, couples can instantly share the precious moment with friends and family. RokShok was designed based on research that millennials are more likely to share and announce their engagements online. According to the company, 57% of women put a picture of their engagement ring on Facebook; 79% of couples share their engagement news on social media; and 62% of couples posted a picture after they got engaged.

“On a more personal note, we believe that proposing is one of the happiest and most important moments in a couple’s life," said Ambler. "With that in mind, we think that having a record of that, to one-day share with their children and grandchildren, creates a unique value proposition. RokShok not only satisfies the need for instant gratification, but also offers long-term value by documenting a cherished memory for eternity.”

RokShok is currently accepting pre-orders at $39.95, with shipments starting on June 1, 2018. The expected retail price will be $59.95.

Credits: Image via rokshok.com; Video screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Largest D-Flawless Diamond Ever to Appear at Auction Fetches $33.7 Million at Christie's Geneva

The largest D-flawless diamond ever offered at auction — a 163-carat emerald-cut stunner set in an emerald and diamond necklace by de Grisogono — fetched $33.7 million at Christie's Geneva yesterday. The piece was purchased by an anonymous bidder and the hammer price exceeded the pre-sale estimate by about 10%.

The extraordinary diamond, which was cut from a 404.20-carat Angola-sourced rough named “4 de Fevereiro,” had been billed as "the most beautiful diamond in the world." The necklace attained celebrity status as it toured Hong Kong, London, Dubai and New York before returning to Geneva for the high-profile sale at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues.

The asymmetrical necklace designed by Swiss jewelry house de Grisogono features cascading pear-shaped emeralds on the left side and cool, white emerald-cut diamonds down the right. The company chose to use emeralds in the design because the green color symbolizes good luck.

The final concept, named “The Art of de Grisogono,” was one of 50 proposed by the firm’s design team and took more than 1,700 hours to complete. The 163-carat diamond may be detached from the necklace and incorporated into other jewels.

The oddly shaped rough diamond was cut in New York, where a team of 10 diamond-cutting specialists pooled their talents to map, plot, cleave, laser-cut and polish the gem into a stunning 163.41 carat emerald-cut stone.

The gem earned a D-flawless, Type IIa grade from the Gemological Institute of America. Type IIa diamonds are the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice. The 404.20-carat rough is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered in Angola.

“Over our 251-year history, Christie’s has had the privilege of handling the world’s rarest and most historic diamonds," noted Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Christie’s Jewels. "The sensational 163.41-carat perfect diamond suspended from an elegant emerald and diamond necklace propels de Grisogono into a class of their own.”

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Knot Reports a Resurgence in Time-Honored Traditions, Such as Getting Down on Bended Knee

Time-honored marriage proposal traditions are back in vogue, according to The Knot's "2017 Jewelry & Engagement Study." When it comes to getting down on bended knee, using the phrase "Will you marry me" and asking her parents for permission, everything old is new again.

For instance, exactly 87% of future grooms told The Knot that they proposed on bended knee. That number is up 10 percentage points since 2011. About 9 in 10 grooms claimed they popped the question with engagement ring in hand (up from 85% in 2011) and 91% actually asked for their future spouse's hand by using the phrase "Will you marry me?" (That's up from 86% in 2011). More than three in four (78%) asked their partner's family for permission before proposing.

Forty percent of grooms noted that their marriage proposal was "meticulously planned, down to the last detail" — a process that took, on average, 4.4 months. Meanwhile, a declining number of brides report being surprised (35%) by the proposal.

"We're seeing proposers put more time, thought and effort into creating the perfect proposal, as well as an engagement ring they know their partner will love," said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot.

The Knot also reported that 1 in 3 couples shopped for their engagement ring together and that the time spent looking for the perfect ring was 3.5 months, up from 3.3 months in 2011. Only 6% of brides wished they could have been more involved in the purchasing process.

The average engagement ring cost $6,351 in 2017, up 25% since 2011. Nine in 10 brides report being happy with the amount their fiancé spent on the ring; 6% wish they had spent more and 4% wish they had spent less.

A large proportion (45%) of proposals are now taking place in a public location, such as a scenic spot, garden, park or zoo. That number is up from 34% in 2011. Nearly half of all couples (47%) are enlisting a photographer or videographer to capture the exact moment of the proposal. Despite the deep thought and rigorous planning, 60% of proposers still reported feeling nervous before asking for their significant other's hand in marriage. That number is up six percentage points vs. 2011.

Here are more important stats from The Knot's survey.

• Average Number of Rings Looked at Before Purchase: 26
• Engagement Rings With Some Personalization: 45%
• Most Popular Stone Cut: Round (52%)
• Average Carat Size for Center Stone: 1.2 carats
• Average Carat Total Weight for Ring: 1.8 carats
• Most Popular Engagement Ring Setting Metal: White Gold (61%)

The Knot's 2017 Jewelry & Engagement Study is based on a survey of more than 14,000 engaged or recently married brides and grooms.

Credit: Image via Bigstockphoto.com.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Intricately Carved Agate Detailing a Battle Scene Is Called a Bronze-Age 'Masterpiece'

Measuring barely 1.5 inches across and carved with astonishing skill, this 3,500-year-old sealstone is considered one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered.

Emerging from the surface of the agate is a finely detailed battle scene showing a victorious warrior who, having already vanquished one unfortunate opponent sprawled at his feet, now turns his attention to another much more formidable foe. Some of the elements are so incomprehensibly small that they must be viewed with a magnifying glass or via photomicroscopy to be truly appreciated.

The agate masterpiece had been unearthed from the burial site of a Bronze Age Greek warrior near the ancient city of Pylos more than two years ago by University of Cincinnati researchers. At the time, the treasure-laden tomb of the "Griffin Warrior" was hailed as the most spectacular archaeological discovery in Greece in more than half a century.

Recovered from the grave were more than 3,000 items, including four solid gold rings, silver cups, precious stone beads, fine-toothed ivory combs and an intricately built sword, among other weapons.

The agate had been put aside for later review because it was caked with limestone and looked like an average bead. But, when researchers finally completed the task of removing 3,500 years of sediment, what was emerged was so amazing that many team members were overcome with emotion.

"Looking at the image for the first time was a very moving experience, and it still is," said Shari Stocker, a senior research associate in UC's Department of Classics. "It's brought some people to tears."

A sketch of the artwork offers a clearer picture of the characters depicted in the carving.

Researchers believe the "Pylos Combat Agate" was a sealstone that the Griffin Warrior wore as a bracelet around 1450 BC. He likely pressed the raised image into clay or wax. He was dubbed the Griffin Warrior because he was buried with an ivory plaque depicting a griffin — a mythical beast with the body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle.

"What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn't find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later," explained UC archaeologist Jack Davis. "It's a spectacular find."

Stocker and Davis noted that the skill and sophistication reflected in the Pylos Combat Agate is unparalleled by anything uncovered before from the Minoan-Mycenaean world.

"It seems that the Minoans were producing art of the sort that no one ever imagined they were capable of producing," explained Davis. "It shows that their ability and interest in representational art, particularly movement and human anatomy, is beyond what it was imagined to be."

The Pylos Combat Agate is the subject of a paper to be published later this month in the peer-reviewed journal Hesperia.

Credit: Images courtesy of University of Cincinnati.