James Middleton Jewelers Blog

Articles in November 2017

November 1st, 2017
For the first time in its 81-year history, the Namibian town of Oranjemund, which lies in a diamond-rich region called the Sperrgebiet ("prohibited area" in German), is open to the public.



The town was established in 1936, following the discovery by Hans Merensky of gem-quality alluvial diamonds on the north bank of the Orange River. For more than eight decades, the area around Oranjemund has been producing a staggering 2 million carats per year.



Due to its vast riches, the town has been locked away, behind strict access control and permit requirements, for most of its history. Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) and later, Namdeb Diamond Corporation (Pty) Ltd., a joint venture of the Government of the Republic of Namibia and the De Beers Group, have been the guardians and caretakers of the area. Settlement in Oranjemund had been restricted to mining-industry employees and their relatives.



On October 21, all that changed with a gala celebration that announced to the world that Oranjemund was open to the public. The diamond-mining town is hoping to boost eco-tourism and diversify its economy. Oranjemund is promoting itself as a unique location at the confluence of river, ocean, desert and diamonds. The town council revealed a marketing campaign called OMD 2030, which aims to transform the once-forbidden city into a multi-faceted thriving town by 2030.



Tourists will be treated to guided tours through the Sperrgebiet, while learning about the history of diamonds and mining in the town.

The new openness coincides with Namdeb's announcement that it will be winding down its land-based operations and focusing more heavily on offshore mining.



In 2016, Debmarine Namibia, also a 50/50 joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and the De Beers Group, mined more than 1.2 million carats of high-quality diamonds off the shore of the southwestern edge of the African continent. This past June, we reported on the launch of the mv SS Nujoma, a state-of-the-art ship capable of probing the ocean floor for diamond deposits. It’s the sixth and most advanced vessel in De Beers’s growing fleet.

Credits: Mining image via debeersgroup.com; Oranjemund images via www.oranjemund-tc.com and twitter.com/OMD_2030; Map by Google Maps.
November 2nd, 2017
If your birthday falls in November, you can delight in the fact that the much loved — but often misunderstood — topaz is one of your official birthstones. Revered for more than 2,000 years, topaz was referenced in the texts of Roman scholar Pliny the Elder and appeared five times in the King James Bible.



Interestingly, the yellow stones mentioned in these ancient writings may not have been topaz at all. You see, before 1950, most "gem experts" shared the misconception that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow.

Now we know that neither assumption was true.

Topaz can be seen in a wide array of warm colors, including brownish-yellow, orange-yellow and reddish brown. It’s also found in white, pale green, blue, gold and pink. Many yellow stones, we've since learned, are part of other mineral families, such as citrine (the other November birthstone), which happens to be a variety of quartz.

The highly prized “imperial topaz” displays an intense golden to reddish-orange color and is found primarily in Ouro Preto, Brazil. The imperial topaz specimens shown in the photo, above, are part of the Smithsonian's National Gem and Mineral Collection. The crystal weighing 875.4 carats stands next to a faceted gem weighing 93.6 carats.

Topaz gets its name from Topazes, 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.

According to the American Gem Society, Russia’s Ural Mountains became a leading source of topaz in the 19th century. The prized gemstone mined there was named imperial topaz to honor the Russian czar, and only royals were allowed to own it.

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.

Topaz is a talisman for the sign of Sagittarius and is the suggested gift for the 23rd or 50th wedding anniversary.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
November 3rd, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fantastic throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we deliver the inside scoop on one of the most famous — and controversial — diamond songs of all time. It's been 50 years since The Beatles released "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," a psychedelic song that stirred a media frenzy over what appeared to be a not-so-subtle reference to drugs. The evidence: the first letter of each of the title nouns spells "LSD."



Even though the LSD debate persists today, the song's co-writer John Lennon had debunked the drug ties to Lucy and her diamonds during a 1971 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. The song, it turns out, was innocently inspired by a kid's drawing.

Lennon told the host, "My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, 'It's Lucy in the sky with diamonds.' I thought, 'That's beautiful.' I immediately wrote the song about it."

Lucy, it turns out, was a classmate of three-year-old Julian Lennon at the private Heath House School in the UK. Lucy O'Donnell (later Lucy Vodden) told the BBC in 2007 that she remembered "doing pictures on a double-sided easel, throwing paint at each other, much to the horror of the classroom attendant."

Noted Julian, "I don't know why I called it [Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds] or why it stood out from all my other drawings, but I obviously had an affection for Lucy at that age. I used to show Dad everything I'd built or painted at school, and this one sparked off the idea."

Co-writer Paul McCartney said the song's fantastical imagery is a nod to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books.

McCartney told an interviewer, "We did the whole thing like an Alice In Wonderland idea, being in a boat on the river... Every so often it broke off and you saw Lucy in the sky with diamonds all over the sky. This Lucy was God, the Big Figure, the White Rabbit."

"Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" was released as the third track from wildly successful Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, which spent 15 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and eventually sold more than 32 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album #1 on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time."

The Beatles remain the best selling band in history with an estimated 800 million albums sold worldwide.

Trivia: In 2004, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics named a white dwarf star "Lucy" as a nod to The Beatles' song because they believe the super-dense star is made primarily of diamond. Previously known as BPM 37093, the star is said to be a chunk of crystallized carbon (diamond), weighing 10 billion trillion trillion carats.

Please check out the audio track of The Beatles performing "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Performed by The Beatles.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she's gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you're gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah

Picture yourself on a train in a station
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile
The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Ah
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds


Credit: Image by Parlophone Music Sweden [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
November 6th, 2017
Minutes after winning the World Series, Houston Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa shocked his girlfriend, Daniella Rodriguez, and a national TV audience when he pulled a ring box from his back pocket, dropped to one knee and proposed to the former Miss Texas USA during a post-game interview.



A Fox Sports reporter had asked Correa if winning the World Series was everything he thought it would be. His answer caught everyone by surprise...

"It's everything and more. It's one of the biggest steps of my life, one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, and right now I'm about to take another big step in my life," the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year said.



Then — with a ring box in hand — he turned to the first row of the stands, where his girlfriend was watching the interview, and said, "Daniella Rodriguez. You make me the happiest man in the world. Will you marry me?”



Without saying a word, the 21-year-old Rodriguez opened the field-level gate and joined her boyfriend on the playing field, embracing and kissing him to the delight of the fans.

“Oh my God. Oh my God,” she screamed.

A few seconds went by and Rodriguez had not given her answer.

"Yes?" Correa asked.

"Yes!" she affirmed.



Then the 23-year-old shortstop slid the ring on his new fiancée's finger. Featuring a pear-shaped center stone, halo-setting and split-shank diamond band, the gorgeous ring had been picked out with the assistance of Carlos Beltran, the Astros' 40-year-old slugger.



Correa and Rodriguez appeared on NBC's Today Show on Friday, where they offered more details on how the marriage proposal went down.

We learned that Correa had been planning the proposal for more than a month.

"I knew we had championship potential in our team, so I was waiting it out," he said.

And if the Astros lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the epic series?

"There was really no Plan B," he said.



Correa revealed that the ring box he pulled from his pocket had not been hidden there all game.

"It would have been a good story if I said I had it through the whole game," Correa said. "Way too big for the pocket. And I wouldn't have been able to slide."

The ring was safely in the possession of the clubhouse attendant.

"In the 9th inning, I went to the clubhouse and told [the attendant] that I didn't want to jinx anything, but if we got three outs, he should bring out my ring," he said.

Correa explained why the proposal caught Rodriguez totally off guard.

"The only thing I was telling her about during those days was baseball, baseball, baseball. It was Game 7," he explained. "I was laser-focused on just playing baseball that she would have never thought I was going to propose at that point."

On Instagram, Rodriguez summed up her special day with a video clip of the proposal from Fox Sports and the following caption: "We both came out of game 7 with a ring. God blessed me with such an incredible man! Can't wait to spend the rest of my life with my soulmate/best friend!!! #2Rings1Night"

Credits: Proposal screen captures via Fox Sports. Close-up ring pic screen capture via today.com. Parade photo via Instagram.com/daniellardzz.
November 7th, 2017
Glittering with white diamonds, yellow sapphires and blue topaz weighing more than 600 carats, the 2017 Victoria's Secret "Champagne Nights Fantasy Bra" is valued at $2 million and will be modeled later this month by long-time Angel, Lais Ribeiro.



Nearly 6,000 jewels were meticulously hand set into an 18-karat gold floral motif on the foundation of a Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Demi Bra — a process that took the Mouawad design team nearly 350 hours to complete.



Blue topaz buds are the focal point of a design that includes diamond- and yellow sapphire-accented leaves. The ensemble includes an elaborate necklace, gem-encrusted bra and bejeweled belt.



The 27-year-old, Brazilian-born Ribeiro will reveal the one-of-a-kind creation on the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai, China. The show will be broadcast on November 28, 10/9C on CBS.



This will be the sixth time she's participated in the high-profile Victoria's Secret fashion show and the first time she's been selected to wear the Fantasy Bra. That honor elevates Ribeiro into an elite club, whose members include supermodels Gisele Bündchen, Claudia Schiffer, Tyra Banks, Candice Swanepoel and Adriana Lima.

Ribeiro was overcome with emotion when she learned she would be wearing the $2 million fantasy bra.

“I never cried so much in my entire life — and I have a baby,” Ribeiro said. “It was so emotional. I couldn’t believe it when they told me. It was so beautiful.”

Ribeiro told People.com that the first time she tried on the blinged-out bra it fit perfectly so no alterations were required.

This year's show will take place at Shanghai's Mercedes Benz Arena, the largest of any of the previous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show venues.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/Victoria's Secret; Victoriassecret.com; vspressroom.com.
November 8th, 2017
Now, here's a novel idea. For the next 12 months, Kit Kat’s Japanese Chocolatory will release limited-edition gourmet wafers that correspond with the month's birthstone. Each bar is highlighted by two edible "jewels" and sports a color scheme/flavor profile inspired by the birthstone.



For instance, November's birthstone is topaz, so Kit Kat's confectioners came up with an amber-colored, chestnut-flavored bar. At the far end of the wafer is a dollop of chocolate embedded with two sparkly sugar candies that mimic the color of topaz.



The jewel is technically a "dragée" — a tiny, bead-like candy used for decorating baked goods.

Kit Kat will introduce a new birthstone flavor at the beginning of each month. On December 1, Kit Kat will give a nod to tanzanite with a wafer that tastes like a purple yam. On New Year's Day, Kit Kat will release a garnet-inspired wafer that will smack of raspberry.



The taste of February's purple amethyst bar will be reminiscent of honeysuckle and March's aquamarine bar will have a hint of grapefruit mint.



The most bizarre flavor will appear in July, when the ruby wafer will taste like tomato. Yikes.



Here's the 12-month lineup...
• November, Topaz, Chestnut
• December, Tanzanite, Purple Yam
• January, Garnet, Raspberry
• February, Amethyst, Honeysuckle
• March, Aquamarine, Grapefruit Mint
• April, Diamond, Rum Raisin
• May, Emerald, Pistachio
• June, Blue Moonstone, Coconut
• July, Ruby, Tomato
• August, Peridot, Lemon
• September, Sapphire, Blueberry
• October, Tourmaline, Peach

This will not be the first time Kit Kat has introduced unexpected flavors to its devoted fan base. According to foodandwine.com, parent company Nestlé Japan famously went to market with Kit Kats that tasted like cough drops and sake. If you were wondering, the sake Kit Kats contained 0.8% alcohol.

Kit Kat is positioning the Birthstone Series as a limited-edition, premium confection, and a package of three wafers costs 1,485 Yen (about $13). Currently, the treat is available exclusively in Japan.

Credits: Images via Flickr/Nestlé Japan.
November 9th, 2017
Pro tennis player Caroline Wozniacki's favorite number is "8," so when boyfriend and former pro basketball player David Lee was seeking the ideal engagement ring for his "soulmate," this D-flawless, 8.88-carat, oval-shaped diamond center stone fit the bill perfectly.



Lee popped the question last week during the couple's romantic getaway to Bora Bora. The vacation celebrated Wozniacki's surprising victory over Venus Williams at the WTA Finals in Singapore on October 29. The championship earned the 27-year-old Dane a $7 million prize.



Last Friday, Wozniacki turned to Instagram to post a selfie of the ring set against the bright blue waters of the South Pacific paradise, along with the caption, "Happiest day of my life yesterday saying yes to my soulmate."

Lee posted a romantic Bora Bora sunset shot on his Instagram page and echoed his fiancée's sentiments: "YES! So thrilled to be engaged to my soulmate."



Luxury jeweler Joey Hamra worked with the 34-year-old former San Antonio Spurs center on a custom ring design, making sure the diamond pavé band would complement, but not overshadow, the oval diamond.

“We designed the ring with David’s input [expressing] Caroline’s ideas,” Hamra told The Knot. “She liked the diamond band look, [but didn’t want] it to take away any focus from the main center diamond.”

The designer said that he used pointy claw-like prongs to give the ring "that extra fine beauty."



This will be the first marriage for both Wozniacki and Lee, although the tennis champ was previously engaged to pro golfer Rory McIlroy. The short-live engagement ended in early 2014, and that engagement ring did, in fact, feature an 8-carat center stone. Apparently, McIlroy also was aware of Wozniacki's favorite number.

Credits: Images Instagram.com/carowozniacki; Instagram.com/dlee042; Instagram.com/HamraDiamonds.
November 10th, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you fresh, new tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we feature a nostalgic ballad from Aussie singer-songwriter Vance Joy. Introduced via Joy's Twitter account on November 2, "Like Gold" tells the story of a perfect love, a painful breakup and the promise of a second chance.



As many authors and lyricists have done in the past, Joy uses "gold" to symbolize something pure and ideal.

He sings, "Closing my eyes, remember how we were like / Gold, when you see me / Hi, if you need me / Babe, that's the way it was / That's the history / Blue, how we used to roar / Like an open fire / That's the way it was / But that's history."

"I wrote 'Like Gold' after coming off the road at the start of 2016," Joy said. "It started with a simple melody I was humming and the idea of looking back at a relationship."

"Like Gold" is the second single from Joy's upcoming album, Nation of Two, which is set to be released in February of 2018. The first single was titled "Lay It On Me."

"Like Gold" has already found its way onto Apple Music's "Best of the Week" list and netted a bunch of positive reviews.

Baeblemusic.com wrote, "Vance Joy lets his mellow tunes blossom once again in his new single 'Like Gold.' Joy literally brings joy to our ears with this new track. His unique ability to turn the pain of a past relationship into something hopeful gives this song the flavor we desperately crave."

"The alternative-folk-meets-pop track hears him reminiscing on a failed relationship with painful imagery of having to let go but not being ready to," wrote thomasbleach.com. "It’s going to emotionally connect with anyone who’s had to learn to let go in the past with a few touching lyrics that offer a rare sense of calm."

Born James Keough in Melbourne, Australia, in 1987, Joy took his stage name from a character in the 1981 Peter Carey novel, Bliss. He told Australian radio station Triple J, "The main character's name is Harry Joy and his grandfather is Vance Joy. He's the storyteller and a crazy old man. Plus, I thought it was a cool name."

The strapping 6' 3" Joy was an Australian rules football player and pursued a law degree before trying his luck on the Melbourne open-mic scene at the end of the 2000s. His folk-pop single "Riptide" caught the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed him to a five-album deal in 2013.

The artist tours internationally. He will be performing in Australia through the end of November, and then heads to Florida, Oregon, California, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Ireland.

Please check out the audio track of Joy performing "Like Gold." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Like Gold"
Written and performed by Vance Joy.

Time to let it go
It won't let go of me
Hanging by a thread
Cutting the cord and then falling back into the
Black 'cause if I don't
If I wait 'til it feels right
I'll be waiting my whole life
Closing my eyes, remember how we were like

Gold, when you see me
Hi, if you need me
Babe, that's the way it was
That's the history
Blue, how we used to roar
Like an open fire
That's the way it was
But that's history

O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
That's the way it was
But that's history
O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
That's the way it was
But that's history

I have a memory
You're visiting me at night
Climbing in my bed
You were so quiet that you never woke me
I love the way you could
See the good in everything
But, do we fuel the fire?
Closing my eyes, remember how we were like

Gold, when you see me
Hi, if you need me
Babe, that's the way it was
That's the history
Blue, how we used to roar
Like an open fire
That's the way it was
But that's history

Started with a word
Now, look at where we are
Everything we've done
It's there on our faces for anyone willing to
Read between the lines
Now, look at where we are
Everything we've done
It's there on our faces for anyone willing to

O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
That's the way it was
But that's history
O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
That's the way it was
But that's history

Well, I got a feeling
Darling, it's possible
'Cause love's got no ceiling
Now, that it's just so strong
And I got a feeling
Like everything is possible
I'm trying to change
M-m-m-m-m

Gold, when you see me
Hi, if you need me
Babe, that's the way it was
That's the history
Blue, how we used to roar
Like an open fire
That's the way it was
But that's history

Started with a word
Now, look at where we are
Everything we've done
It's there on our faces for anyone willing to
Read between the lines
Now, look at where we are
Everything we've done
Started out with just one

O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o-o
O-o-o-o

Gold, when you see me
Hi, if you need me
Babe, that's the way it was
But that's history


Credit: Photo by Ralph Arvesen from Round Mountain, Texas [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
November 13th, 2017
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.
November 14th, 2017
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.
November 15th, 2017
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.
November 16th, 2017
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.
November 17th, 2017
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.
November 20th, 2017
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.
November 21st, 2017
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.
November 22nd, 2017
A golden laurel leaf trimmed from the coronation crown of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804 sold for a surprising $730,000 at an auction near Paris on Sunday. The hammer price was more than four times the pre-sale high estimate.



Weighing barely 10 grams (.35 ounces), the leaf's precious metal value is less than $500. But Jean-Pierre Osenat of the auction house that bears his family's name told Reuters that the sale price "certainly isn't based on the weight of the gold, but on the weight of history."



Osenat had estimated that the piece would sell in the range of $118,000 to $177,000.

Napoleon famously crowned himself emperor in a lavish event at Notre Dame. A vital part of his regalia was a Julius Caesar-style laurel wreath formed from 44 large gold leaves and 12 smaller ones.

During the fitting, Napoleon complained to jeweler Martin-Guillaume Biennais that the crown was too heavy. The jeweler solved the problem by snipping six large leaves from the crown. Biennais was a proud father of six daughters and gifted each one with a laurel leaf.

The leaf that headlined the Osenat auction in the ritzy Paris suburb of Fontainebleau on Sunday had remained in the Biennais family since the coronation. The whereabouts of the other five leaves are unknown. The auctioned leaf had been preserved in its original red Morocco leather case, signed "Biennais au Singe Violet rue S Honoré No 511."

In fact, the single golden leaf is all that remains of the crown, which was melted down in 1819 — four years after Napoleon fell from power after the Battle of Waterloo.

Credit: Jewelry image courtesy of Osenat Auctions. Napolean portrait by workshop of François Gérard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.