Friday, October 30, 2015

Couple Sues TSA for $95K in Lost Jewelry, Made Mistake of Packing Valuables in Checked Luggage

Did you hear about the Manhattan couple who is suing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after $95,000 in fine jewelry went missing from their checked luggage?


According to the lawsuit, Natalie and Michael Hekmat's February flight from New York to Los Angeles turned into a nightmare when they discovered nine rings had vanished from a brown suede jewelry roll that had been packed into their locked luggage and checked at the curb with JetBlue.

Among the items were an $80,000 2.10-carat diamond ring, a $3,050 ring with brown diamonds, a $2,800 ring with black diamonds and a $2,350 amethyst ring.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the couple inspected the luggage and found that the suede roll was in the suitcase, but its contents had been taken. The Hekmats put in a claim for their loss, but it was denied by the TSA in May. The couple's next course of action was to file lawsuits in Manhattan federal court against the TSA and JetBlue.


Of course, all of the drama could have been avoided if the couple had followed the simple advice of the TSA's official blogger, Bob Burns...

  • Under no circumstances should travelers pack their fine jewelry in checked luggage.
  • It’s perfectly OK to wear your fine jewelry through the checkpoint station. As long as the jewelry is not really bulky, travelers should keep their precious possessions on their bodies as they walk through metal detectors or high-tech imaging devices.
  • Fine jewelry items that are not worn should be placed in a carry-on bag that should never be left unattended.
  • Do not put your valuables in the plastic bowls that the TSA provides to hold smaller items, such as pocket change and money clips. Bowls can tip over on the conveyor belts, seemingly sending small jewelry into another dimension where it is never seen again, according to Burns.

The Hekmat's case is not unusual. According to USA Today, the TSA paid out $3 million to passengers over the last five years to settle claims that airport security screeners broke, lost or stole their luggage or items inside, according to a review of about 50,000 complaints from 2010 to 2014.

Of those claims, the TSA agreed to make restitution on one-third of the total, with compensation ranging from a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. The TSA noted that the complaints represent just a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pieces of baggage its agents screen every day. The math works out to about one incident per 90,000 pieces of luggage.

Back in 2006, the Duchess of Argyll made headlines when she lost $150,000 worth of jewelry in a checked-bag fiasco. The 68-year-old dowager duchess' luggage contained a Victorian diamond tiara, Cartier brooch, emerald ring and pearl earrings. She filed a complaint with the airport and police authorities, but the bag was never turned in… or at least that’s what the Duchess believed.

Apparently, the bag did resurface, but the airport auctioned the jewelry instead of making any effort to return the items to their rightful owner. The jewelry had been unloaded to a British diamond merchant for a mere $7,500 (exactly 5% of its value) and the proceeds were donated to charity. In 2012, the Duchess spotted her Cartier brooch in a Scottish auction catalog and promptly hired a lawyer to investigate. Airport authorities were embarrassed by a lost-luggage saga with high-profile implications.

After offering to reimburse the diamond merchant for his cooperation, operators of Glasgow Airport successfully reunited the Duchess with her brooch and tiara. The emerald ring and pearl earrings are still missing.

Here are a few more traveling tips from Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co...

  • Pack light and take only the jewelry you’ll wear while traveling and at your destination. The 4-carat diamond ring you save for special occasions? Probably not. The pearls that go with everything? Definitely.
  • List all the jewelry you’ll take with you. Make two copies. Take one copy with you and store it separately from your jewelry. Leave the other copy at home. Also helpful: take pictures or a video of your jewelry.
  • Never put jewelry in checked baggage. Instead, wear it or stow it in your carry-on bag. If you wear it, take extra care by slipping a pendant inside a sweater or turning your ring so only the band shows.
  • Put your jewelry in a favorite bag you’ll carry while traveling. Don’t leave your jewelry in an unattended car or suitcase. When checking into your hotel or condo, don’t hand your jewelry bag to hotel staff. Carry it personally.
  • Always store jewelry in the hotel safe when not wearing it.
  • Insure your personal jewelry against loss, damage, theft and mysterious disappearance wherever your travels take you, worldwide. So get the right insurance. Then relax, be yourself and have fun.

Credits: Getty Images.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Precious Jewels Dating Back 3,500 Years Discovered in Tomb of the 'Griffin Warrior'

The tomb of a Bronze Age warrior — left untouched for more than 3,500 years and stocked with a trove of precious jewelry, weapons and grooming supplies — was recently unearthed near the modern-day city of Pylos, Greece.


Among the jewelry items found in the tomb were four intricately carved gold rings, four dozen decorated seal stones, a 30-inch gold necklace terminated on both ends with medallions and a colorful array of 1,000 precious stone beads, including carnelian, amethyst, jasper and agate. Many of the beads were drilled, indicating they were once strung together as necklaces or bracelets.


The University of Cincinnati husband-and-wife team of Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis are credited with discovering the tomb of a wealthy Mycenaean warrior. The tomb measured 4 feet by 8 feet and was 5 feet deep.


The archaeologists, who have been researching Greek historical sites for a quarter century, called the warrior's tomb "the find of a lifetime." They affectionately dubbed their prized subject the "Griffin Warrior" due to the fact that a griffin — the mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion — was depicted on an ivory plaque that lay between the warrior's legs. All the items in the tomb are believe to correspond to the time period between 1600 B.C. and 1400 B.C.

The warrior, who was 30- to 35-years-old at the time of his death and lived more than 100 years before the rise of classical Greek culture, was believed to be extremely wealthy due to the exceptional items that accompanied him to the afterworld. Instead of standard pottery, this warrior was buried with bronze vessels rimmed with gold and silver.


The archaeologists also found a 3-foot sword adorned with an ivory handle, a gold-hilted dagger, a bronze slashing sword and a bronze spearhead.

Good grooming was apparently seen as a virtue in the afterlife, as the warrior was appropriately buried with not one, but six, fine-toothed ivory combs and a bronze mirror with an ivory handle. warrior4 All the jewelry items demonstrated a high level of technical skill. One gold signet ring, for instance, is expertly decorated with images of two acrobats vaulting over a bull (a popular activity at the time). The 30-inch-long, solid gold necklace is meticulously woven and decorated with finials in a "sacral ivy" pattern. The Minoan seal stones depict goddesses, lions and bulls. warrior3 Stocker explained to The New York Times, that when tombs have multiple occupants, it's difficult for archaeologists to assign particular items to males or females. In the case of the Griffin Warrior, all the items — no matter how masculine or feminine — are tied to him. The tomb of the Griffin Warrior was actually discovered by Stocker and Davis back in May, but Greek authorities chose to keep the news under wraps until this past Monday. Images: Greek Culture Ministry; Department of Classics/University of Cincinnati.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Clouds of Diamond Dust Could Counter the Effects of Global Warming, Say Harvard Scientists

Harvard scientists believe that spraying clouds of diamond dust into the atmosphere could be an effective way to cool the planet and counter the effects of climate change. This large-scale manipulation of the earth's climate is called "geoengineering."


The idea is based on climate data collected after Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991. The 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide that were blasted into the sky by the volcano effectively redirected some of the sun's energy and lowered the average temperatures over the next two years by a half degree.

Unfortunately, mimicking the action of a volcano by pumping sulphates into the sky is considered a potentially dangerous plan. Sulfates lead to the production of sulphuric acid, which depletes the ozone layer, negatively affects plant growth and diminishes the effectiveness of solar panels.

So scientists have been working on a viable alternative.

In a paper published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the Harvard scientists argued that carbon-based diamond dust or alumina (aluminum oxide) would be far more effective and less damaging than sulphates.


“Our paper is really geared towards removing the mindset that it has to be sulphate that’s used to do solar radiation management,” co-author Debra Weisenstein explained to Nature. "Diamond dust isn’t the only alternative — alumina dust also works — but [diamond] seems to be the best."

Certainly, alumina would be a less costly material, but the scientists believe diamonds would be 50% more effective. The nanometer-sized particles would be made from lab-grown diamonds. The scientists reported that synthetic diamond dust costs about $100 per kilogram and that hundreds of thousands of tons would be required annually to get the desired effect.

Looking into the future, co-author David Keith noted that by 2065 there will be 10 billion people on the planet and the cost might be on the order of $5 per person to pump 450,000 tons of diamond dust into the sky each year.

The peppering of the material would be done by commercial jets, according to the scientists.

The diamond-dust cooling strategy is not without its own risks. First off, it's never been tested, and second, once the diamonds are up in the sky, the results — positive or negative — would be difficult to reverse.

Images: NASA

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

'Smart Safety Jewelry' Summons Help and Sounds an 85-Decibel Alarm When Wearer Feels Threatened

A Philadelphia startup has invented a discreet jewelry device that's designed to protect women from physical assault at the touch of a button. When activated, the "smart safety jewelry" — called Athena — can text loved ones with the wearer's location while emitting a deafening 85-decibel alarm.


Yasmine Mustafa developed the concept for Athena after returning from an unsettling trip to South America two years ago.

“In each of the six countries I visited, I kept meeting women who told me stories about assault,” Mustafa told “It was this repetitive theme throughout my trip.”

So Mustafa started working with technologists, self-defense experts and public safety officers to engineer a device that would be safe, effective and easy to use. Mustafa maintains that women shouldn't have to alter their lifestyles, modify their behaviors or carry self-defense devices to protect themselves.


Named after the Greek goddess of wisdom and military victory, Athena can be worn on a necklace, blouse, on a keychain, attached to a purse, or clipped on a belt. It's the size of a half-dollar and weighs about an ounce.


It has a single activation button and basically does two functions. When a user senses danger, she simply holds down the button on the face of the jewelry for three seconds.


The front face is made of silicone to allow for non-slip contact and the raised texture of the bumps are configured to quickly guide the user's fingers to the activation button.


The jewelry is paired with the user's smartphone, which automatically sends an alert message and her location to loved ones on her contact list. The button can also activate a blaring 85-decibel alarm that's likely to ward off an attacker. The decibel level is equal to that of a jackhammer or train whistle.

The developers told that they're testing various alarm sounds, including police sirens and nails on a chalkboard. In instances when sounding an alarm is not prudent, the user may choose to keep the device in a silent mode. They're also mulling a function that automatically calls 911 emergency services.

Mustafa noted that the device is a safer substitute for other methods of self-defense, such as weapons or pepper spray that can sometimes be turned against the victim.

“We found that women don’t like self-defense tools to begin with because they’re afraid of being overpowered,” Mustafa said.

According to, Mustafa’s company, ROAR, raised $250,000 from local investors to design and manufacture Athena. The company also kicked off an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign, which generated more than $52,000 from 438 donors in six days (the goal for the month-long campaign was $40,000).

Mustafa claims that Athena is not just a product, but part of a movement called ROAR for Good. For each device sold, a portion of proceeds will be invested in educational programs that have been shown to increase empathy and decrease violence.


Athena, which is still in development and is expected to release in May of 2016, will be available in three metal colors — Antique Silver, Timeless Black and Rose Gold. Prices will start at about $99.

Learn more about Athena via the video below...

Images via

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hand-Carved Pumpkin Does the Talkin' for This Newly Engaged Couple at 'The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze'

Each year, more than 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins illuminate the grounds of a Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., manor as part of a spectacle called "The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze." Attendees from hundreds of miles around gather on dark autumn nights to marvel at the elaborate displays of jack–o'–lanterns carved for the event by local artists.


Two Saturdays ago, Jonathan Ehrlich and girlfriend, Jenna Bonvino, were at the end of a one-hour loop around the impressive exhibition when Bonvino spotted a huge floral cake made entirely out of pumpkins. Prominently displayed was a single pumpkin carved with the phrase, "Jenna Will You Marry Me?"


At first, Bonvino, 28, wasn't sure if the message was for her. But then Ehrlich, 32, dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. "I was shaking like crazy," she told "It didn't feel real."


"All I heard was people saying, 'Is that Jenna? Is that Jenna?'" Bonvino recalled. "I kept yelling, "I'm Jenna! I'm Jenna!" and "I said, 'Yes!'"

Ehrlich explained that even though he usually doesn't break down under pressure, this proposal got the better of him, rendering him almost speechless.

"I prepared all these things to say and I don't think I said a quarter of what I wanted to," he told "When the moment finally happened, I don't know what happened to me. I kind of just lost it. I kind of fell apart and lost my cool and was this fumbling idiot. I said some stuff and I'm sure it was great."


Knowing that he and his girlfriend love the fall season, and especially Halloween, Ehrlich arranged with The Blaze coordinators to have a pumpkin carved especially for their proposal. The pumpkin, designed by artist Cheryl Bernstein, features a silhouette of the couple holding hands. The image is based on shadow cast and captured by the couple when they were on a boardwalk in California.


The pumpkin now resides on a dresser in the couple's apartment in Queens, N.Y. "I love looking at it every day," she told "I look at it just as much as I look at my ring, and it keeps a constant smile on my face."

"As soon as you get engaged, people say, 'Show me the ring, and how did he do it?'" Bonvino continued. "I have such an awesome story. It's really special to us. It was truly perfect."

The proud bride-to-be posted a shot of the proposal pumpkin to her Instagram account with the following caption: "Had the most unbelievable weekend... my best friend asked me to marry him [heart] #engaged #lovehim #bestfriend #pumpkinblaze2015 #SOEXCITED #AGHHHH."

"The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze" takes place at Van Cortlandt Manor, an historic landmark that dates back to the 18th century. Some locals believe the property is haunted, which makes it an even more attractive location for a spooky Halloween extravaganza.

Artists begin their carvings in June in preparation for the big event in October. If you're wondering how the pumpkins can last five months without shriveling into an ugly mess, the answer is: "They don't." The artists work with convincing replicas.

Croton-on-Hudson is about 40 miles north of New York City. Due to popular demand, "The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze" added 16 new time slots to its fall schedule, which runs through November 15. More info is here...

Images via Facebook/The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze; Jonathan Ehrlich; Jenna Bonvino;