Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gold Pendant Depicting Religious Scenes and Dating Back 500 Years Was Nearly Sold for Scrap

When a British woman unearthed a tiny gold pendant in her garden she had no idea of its origin or value. She saw the item as unremarkable and it remained in her possession for three decades. Recently, she tried to sell the piece as scrap gold — and this is when she learned that her humdrum find was truly extraordinary.

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Her local jeweler identified the masterfully engraved jewelry — depicting Christian religious images on the front and back — as a rare historical treasure dating back 500 years.

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The Buckinghamshire County Museum raised £13,000 (about $20,00) to purchase a "beautiful and fascinating little piece of Bucks heritage," according to spokesman Brett Thorn. The pendant is likely a souvenir of a pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's tomb. Becket was the archbishop of Canterbury until he was murdered in his cathedral in 1170. He was made a saint three years later.

Thorn said it was common for pilgrims to buy and wear jewelry to show they had made the pilgrimage. Whether the jewelry was basic or elaborate depended on what the pilgrim could afford.

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The museum proudly promoted its newest acquisition on its Facebook page: "1st chance to see in 500 years! For the first time since it was lost, half a millennia ago, this beautiful gold medieval pendant, showing Christian scenes, can be admired again. A marvel of miniature craftsmanship, the detail on the scenes showing the Virgin Mary, and Thomas Becket, are stunning. Come and see for yourself, in the Jewellery Gallery, then tell us what you think..."

In an exhibit called "A Little Piece of Heaven," the piece is displayed in a lucite cylinder accompanied by giant-size replicas of the front and back of the pendant so the museum visitor can see the fine details of the work.

There is some evidence that the miniature carving may have been even more colorful and elaborate when it was new because the piece shows traces of blue and white enamel. The pendant measures about one inch across, dates from 1450 to 1500 and is in amazingly pristine condition.

Thorn told the BBC, "Apart from the incredible level of skill of the craftsman who made it, it also tells us something about how important religion was to the lives of the people at that time."

Normally, precious artifacts dug up in the English countryside would have to be turned over to authorities under the 1996 Treasure Act. But since the pendant was found 30 years ago, predating the Act, it could be sold privately.

Images via Facebook/Bucks County Museum and Roald Dahl Children's Gallery

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Artist's Sketch of Mickey Mouse Carrying Enormous Diamond Fetes Disneyland's 60th Anniversary

A cool artist's sketch depicting a smiling Mickey Mouse carrying an enormous faceted diamond is one of the fun souvenirs commemorating Disneyland Resort's year-long Diamond Celebration, which launched this past weekend. This artwork includes the D60 logo that signifies the 60th anniversary of the Happiest Place on Earth.

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The Mickey Mouse/Diamond sketch is the newest offering in Disney's Artist Sketch Program, which allows youngsters and those young at heart to go home with an actual hand-rendered drawing of their favorite Disney characters.

The talented artists in the program are able to personalize the sketch by adding a special date, name or message, according to Michelle Harker, manager of merchandise marketing & communications for the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

In a recent blog posting, Harker called the artwork a "diamond in the rough" because the "rough" sketch shows the basic outline of the character and the diamond but has no fill color or background. It's the type of artwork that would be used on a storyboard.

The new sketches are available at two locations: Disneyana in Disneyland Park or Off the Page in Disney California Adventure Park. Sketches range in price from $39.95 for one character to $124.95 for six characters.

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Diamonds dominate Disney's 60th anniversary branding. All of its celebration themes are stylized with diamond-like brilliance and faceting. Even the cover of Disney fan club magazine twenty-three includes diamond artwork. If you were wondering, the fan club's "twenty-three" moniker honors the year 1923, when Walt Disney left Kansas City and headed for Hollywood to develop Disney Studios.

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Last month we reported that Disney would be giving away weekly prizes that included one- and two-carat genuine diamonds laser engraved especially for Disney. Some Disney Diamonds will commemorate dates with particular significance to the history of the park. The one-carat Disney Diamonds will be paired with a stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite.

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Disney officially kicked off the Diamond Celebration with a 24-hour party that started early Friday morning. Excited fans began lining up on Thursday so they could be among the first to enjoy the new attractions, which includes three new nighttime spectaculars. At Disney California Adventure, Neil Patrick Harris teams with Mickey Mouse to tell the story of Walt Disney's dream of Disneyland in a show called "World of Color - Celebrate!"

"Paint the Night" parade is described as a river of color flowing down Main Street, U.S.A., with spectacular floats, Disney characters and LED lights. "Disneyland Forever" is a new fireworks show that raises the bar on nighttime pyrotechnics.

Images via disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

De Beers Looking to Sell the Mine Where It All Started 144 Years Ago

Discovered in 1871 and considered the world’s richest diamond source for nearly a century, De Beers’ Kimberley Mine (the “Big Hole”) is up for sale.

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Although active mining at the Big Hole ended nine years ago, the mine in South Africa still recovers more than 700,000 carats per year by using advanced X-ray technology to sift through the tailings, or waste rock, that old-timers discarded generations ago.

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Only three weeks ago, we reported on a super-rare 30.80-carat Kimberley Purple, a rough diamond that was salvaged at the diamond tailings plant in Kimberley. The gem could be worth more than $1 million per carat.

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Originally, the Big Hole — which currently measures 700 feet deep and 1,500 feet in width — was not a hole at all. In 1871, an 83.5-carat diamond was found on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje, sparking a diamond rush in the area. Miners flocked to the site by the tens of thousands, and the hill at Colesberg Kopje quickly turned into a giant cavity, following the subterranean path of a diamond-laden kimberlite pipe.

The Big Hole is believed to be the largest hand-dug excavation on earth. At peak operation in the early 1900s it employed 50,000 laborers who used nothing more sophisticated than a pick and a spade to move more than 22 million tons of earth in their quest for diamonds.

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The De Beers Group had planned to retire its Kimberley Mine operations in 2018, but now believes the tailings-recovery business can still be viable through 2030 — for the right operator.

“It’ll still be profitable in 10 years,” De Beers spokesman Tom Tweedy told The Wall Street Journal. “But the scale better suits a smaller, lower-cost operator.”

The company did not say how much it was seeking for the mine, but did report that the mine is generating hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenue and more than $100 million in profit. De Beers hopes to conclude a deal within the next few months.

Englishman Cecil Rhodes founded De Beers in 1880. Based on the riches earned at the Kimberley, Rhodes controlled 90% of the world’s rough diamond supply by the time of his death in 1902.

Images: Kimberley Mine by Hein Waschefort [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons; Kimberley Purple via nationaljeweler.com (uncredited); Kimberley Mine in 1902 by Encyclop√¶dia Britannica via Wikimedia Commons; Prospectors on Colesberg Kopje in 1871 via Wikimedia Commons.