Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Special: Spooky Skeletons Dripping in Jewels Are the Subject of a New Book by Relic Hunter ‘Indiana Bones’

For the Halloween edition of our blog, we introduce you to the spooky collection of bejeweled skeletons recently revealed by art historian and relic hunter Paul Koudounaris, also known as “Indiana Bones.”


The elaborate skeletons, which were hidden for centuries in churches throughout Europe, are the subject of Koudounaris’ new book, “Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs.” According to the Daily Mail, Koudounaris hunted down and photographed dozens of eerie, but beautifully adorned, skeletons in the world’s most secretive religious establishments.


The Los Angeles-based Koudounaris believes the skeletons are about 2,000 years old and were removed from Roman catacombs during the 16th century on the orders of the Vatican. The relic hunter explained that the skeletons were certified by Vatican officials as early Christian martyrs and became sacred subjects known as “catacomb saints.”


The catacomb saints were preserved with a glue-like substance made from animal fat and then painstakingly decorated with a bounty of gold, silver, pearls and gemstones — a task that could take up to five years.

Once completed, the adorned skeletons were displayed in Catholic churches throughout Europe as a tangible reminder of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife.

By the 19th century, the blinged-out skeletons fell into disfavor, as they really weren’t saints at all, and posed an embarrassment to the church. They were removed from display and hidden away in lock-ups and containers, according to Koudounaris.

“One of the reasons they were so important was not for their spiritual merit, which was pretty dubious, but for their social importance,” Koudounaris told the Daily Mail. “They were thought to be miraculous and really solidified people's bond with a town. This reaffirmed the prestige of the town itself.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ciara’s Birthday Surprise: A 15-Carat Emerald-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring Worth More Than $500,000

R&B singer Ciara tweeted “If I’m dreaming I don’t want to wake up” after receiving a gorgeous 15-carat emerald-cut diamond engagement ring from music producer Future on her 28th birthday.


Future, whose real name is Nayvadius Wilburn, surprised the multitalented singer-songwriter-dancer-model-actress over the weekend while the couple celebrated her birthday in New York City. Ciara’s full name is Ciara Princess Harris.


Ciara’s Instagram page features a close-up view of her new ring nestled in a red rose. The large emerald-cut center diamond is flanked by two smaller emerald-cut stones in a stylish variation of the popular “Past, Present and Future” motif. Ciara’s ring adds a flourish of emerald-cut diamonds encircling the entire band. The ring is valued at more than $500,000.


The Grammy-award-winning Ciara was still on floating on air after her NYC birthday bash and surprise proposal. She took to Twitter to get her fans up to speed…


"Today Has 2 Be Like One Of The Sweetest Days Of My Life! #TheBestBirthdayEver," she wrote. "If I'm dreaming I Don't Want To Wake Up… Aaaaaahhh!!!:)"

Fans of celebrity engagements may find it an interesting coincidence that on October 21 Ciara’s friend, Kim Kardashian, also received a 15-carat engagement ring on her birthday, the reality star’s 33rd. Hers was a D-flawless cushion-cut diamond mounted on a simple platinum band.


The 29-year-old Future revealed during a radio interview in August that he knew Ciara was “the one” since he saw her for the first time at a video shoot seven years ago. "For it to come around and happen, it was just meant to be," he explained.

The two music artists have been dating for a year and, so far, no wedding date has been set.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Still Looking for a Great Halloween Costume? How About This $1.6 Million Morphsuit Featuring 20,000 Diamonds?

Still looking for the ultimate Halloween costume? How about the world’s most expensive Morphsuit featuring 20,000 diamonds? The British company that makes those crazy, colorful head-to-toe spandex Morphsuits recently added a diamond-studded edition that carries a price tag of £1 million (or $1.6 million for those of us on this side of the pond).


Called “The Million Pound Morph,” the design uses a grey spandex costume as a base, which is then painstakingly covered with precious gems to create a scintillating effect. It takes 1,000 man-hours to attach the gemstones.

“All our suits are very reasonably priced, but with this one we just wanted to have fun, do something crazy, eye-catching and really good looking,” Gregor Lawson, co-founder of Morphsuits, told the Daily Mail. “This costume is the Mercedes Benz of Morphsuits.”


Like all the Morphsuits in the line of 200 designs, the diamond version will fit like a glove. The all-in-one suit is made from breathable fabric, which is easy to see through and drink through even though the face is covered.


The company, started by three Edinburgh University graduates four years ago, has skyrocketed to success. It now has more than 1.3 million followers on Facebook and does about $7.2 million in sales annually.

Co-founder Fraser Smeaton said in an interview that "Morphsuit" was selected as the name of the company because "everyone who wore [a suit] morphed into a more fun version of themselves."


A standard suit costs about $79, and accessories now include sweatbands and colorful wigs.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, But Gold Certainly Does, According to Aussie Scientists

While money may not grow on trees, gold certainly does, according Aussie researchers. A new study reveals that the roots of eucalyptus trees have the ability to draw up tiny gold particles from deep within the soil, and the gold eventually collects in the leaves and branches.


Although it would hardly be worth the effort to harvest the trace amounts of gold from the trees, the more important finding is that the precious metal in the leaves is a certain indicator of the presence of valuable gold deposits 100 feet or more below the surface.

"If you had 500 eucalyptus trees growing over a gold deposit, they would only [yield] enough gold… to make a wedding ring,’’ said geochemist Mel Lintern, who headed up the research on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

"There might be tons of gold underneath and yet the amount of gold in the tree is very small.’’


Lintern contends that analyzing the gold content of trees in Australia — or anywhere else in the world — is a far more efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly way of testing areas for potential gold exploration. Mining companies usually drill test holes to locate gold ore deposits, and a single exploratory drill hole could cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Because the gold particles are about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair, the Australian scientists had to use a synchrotron, a vast room-sized machine that uses X-rays to map the various elements present in a sample.

The same equipment also can be used to test for other elements, such as platinum, zinc and copper.

"As far as we know, this is the first time that anyone has seen gold in any biological tissue and it just happens to be a eucalyptus leaf,’’ Lintern said.

Gold is toxic to plants, which may explain why the eucalyptus trees moved much of the gold they absorbed from the ground to their leaves, said Lintern. Via this process, the trees can easily shed the gold deposits.

The results of Lintern’s research were published last week in the journal Nature Communications.