Friday, September 08, 2017

Music Friday: Mark Knopfler Scores a 'Beautiful Find' in His 2006 Release, 'I Dug Up a Diamond'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Mark Knopfler scores a "beautiful find" in his 2006 release, "I Dug Up a Diamond."

When taken literally, the song written by Knopfler is about a diamond miner who makes an unbelievable discovery. Metaphorically, "I Dug Up a Diamond" is about a man who's been on a seemingly hopeless search for the love of his life — and then finally finds her.

He sings, "I dug up a diamond / Rare and fine / I dug up a diamond / In a deep dark mine / If only I could cling to / My beautiful find / I dug up a diamond / In a deep dark mine / My gem is special / Beyond all worth / As strong as any metal / Or stone in the earth."

Providing the sweet harmonies for "I Dug Up a Diamond" is country legend Emmylou Harris. The pair had been friends since the late 1980s and decided to collaborate on an album, which they titled All the Roadrunning. Their work earned critical acclaim as the album peaked at #17 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.

The 68-year-old Knopfler, who is best known as the frontman for Dire Straits, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and grew up in Northumberland, England. Both are coal mining regions, so it is likely he drew his "I Dug Up a Diamond" lyrical inspiration from first-hand experiences.

A four-time Grammy Award winner, Knopfler is ranked 27th on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Knopfler and Dire Straits have sold more than 120 million records.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., the 70-year-old Harris is a 13-time Grammy winner and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. She's collaborated with some of the music industry's biggest names, including Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

Please check out the video of Knopfler and Harris performing "I Dug Up A Diamond." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"I Dug Up A Diamond"
Written by Mark Knopfler. Performed by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris.

I dug up a diamond
Rare and fine
I dug up a diamond
In a deep dark mine
If only I could cling to
My beautiful find
I dug up a diamond
In a deep dark mine

My gem is special
Beyond all worth
As strong as any metal
Or stone in the earth
Sharp as any razor
Or blade you can buy
Bright as any laser
Or any star in the sky

Maybe once in a lifetime
You'll hold one in your hand
Once in a lifetime
In this land
Where the journey ends
In a worthless claim
Time and again
In the mining game

I dug up a diamond
Rare and fine
I dug up a diamond
In a deep dark mine
Down in the darkness
In the dirt and the grime
I dug up a diamond
In a deep dark mine

Credit: Screen capture via

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Lost for 9 Years, Diamond Engagement Ring Pried From a Gap in an Italian Sidewalk

The picturesque town of San Marco dei Cavoti in southern Italy is now world famous for two things: 1) the delightful honey-and-nut confection known as torrone and 2) a diamond engagement ring that was miraculously liberated from a gap in one of its sidewalks — nine years after it was lost.

In the summer of 2008, New Jersey natives Margaret and Justin Mussel were staying with her parents in what may be the "sweetest" town in Italy when she noticed that her 1.1-carat diamond engagement ring was missing. They had visited Pompeii earlier in the day, so they assumed the ring was lost somewhere along the 80-mile span between the ancient city and her mom's home. They searched the house and its surroundings, but the ring was nowhere to be found.

Margaret remembered that the ring had been loose, but she wore it anyway.

"I felt terrible, and I knew I should have probably taken it off," she told ABC. "I just felt really bad that I could have prevented it from falling off, and I kept it on that day."

Worse yet, since the ring was lost on their trip abroad — and not in the U.S. — their insurance company would not replace it.

The heartbroken couple returned to Brick, N.J., with the understanding that the princess-cut diamond in the white gold four-prong setting was likely gone forever. Justin saved up for a few years and bought a replacement ring for Margaret. The lost ring slowly faded from their memories.

That's until the couple returned to San Marco dei Cavoti a few weeks ago, with their two young boys.

One evening, while lounging with his wife on his in-laws' front porch, Justin saw a brilliant reflection emanating from the sidewalk in front of the house. Each time a car would drive by with its headlights on, he saw a flicker.

"I kept saying to Margaret, 'Do you see that? I see this glimmer coming out of the sidewalk," he told ABC.

He thought the light might have been bouncing off a coin.

Armed with a screwdriver, Justin tracked the reflection to a gap in the stones that bordered the sidewalk. He pried the shiny object that was jammed in the crevice, and what emerged was Margaret's ring. The precious metal was slightly scratched, but the diamond was in perfect condition.

“I was like, ‘There's no way the ring is in there.' I couldn't believe it. I thought he was playing a joke,” she told ABC.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we would find it again,” she added.

“The odds of it falling into this crack, much less finding it nine years later, are astronomical,” Justin told the Asbury Park Press.

Justin believes the ring must have bounced into the gap with the stone facing down. Over time, it had been covered in dirt, but enough of the diamond was exposed to reflect the beams from the cars' headlights.

Margaret is now wearing her original engagement ring. The replacement ring will be for one of her boys when the time is right.

Photos by Justin Mussel; Screen captures via New York. San Marco dei Cavoti photo by User: Pcocca Patrizia Cocca (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

98-Carat Bismarck Sapphire Was a Honeymoon Gift From the Wealthiest Man in America

In 1926, at the age of 53, American tycoon Harrison Williams married Mona Bush, a divorcée 24 years his junior. Aboard his 250-foot yacht, the Warrior, the couple departed on a year-long, around-the-world honeymoon, and during a stopover in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), the wealthiest man in America picked up a beautiful cornflower blue bauble for his new bride.

That 98.57-carat cushion-cut gem, which is now known as the Bismarck Sapphire, is one of the world's finest examples of September's official birthstone. Visitors to the Gem Gallery at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., will see the Bismarck Sapphire Necklace prominently displayed between two other famous sapphire pieces, the Hall Sapphire and Diamond Necklace and the Logan Sapphire.

Originally set horizontally in a necklace designed by Cartier in 1927, the Bismarck Sapphire was rotated into a vertical position when Mona had the necklace updated in 1959. The necklace on display in Washington, D.C., is accented with eight square-cut blue sapphires and 312 baguette and round brilliant-cut diamonds.

Gem experts believe that the Bismarck Sapphire was originally much larger than 98.57 carats and that it was likely recut by Cartier to attain optimum clarity and brilliance after returning to the states from Sri Lanka. Traditionally, Sri Lankan cutters favored carat weight over ideal proportions.

With investments in public utilities, Williams had amassed a fortune estimated at $680 million (equivalent to about $9.6 billion today) — making him the richest man in America. But, the stock market crash of 1929 dissolved his fortune to a mere $5 million.

Still, the Williamses maintained their ritzy lifestyle and, by 1933, Mona had earned the distinction of becoming the first American voted the "Best Dressed Woman in the World."

Harrison Williams died in 1953, and two years later Mona would marry the German Count Eduard von Bismarck. At this point, the American socialite became known as Countess Mona von Bismarck. In 1967, at the age of 70, the Countess donated her beloved necklace to the Smithsonian. Mona died in 1983 at the age of 86.

Historically, the finest and most vibrant gem-quality sapphires have come from Sri Lanka, Burma and the Kashmir region of India. According to the Smithsonian, sapphires from Sri Lanka are typically light to medium blue and are commonly referred to as “Ceylon Sapphires.”

All sapphires are made of the mineral corundum (crystalline aluminum oxide). In its pure state, the corundum is colorless, but when trace elements are naturally introduced to the chemical composition, all the magic happens. Blue sapphires occur, for instance, when aluminum atoms are displaced with those of titanium and iron in the gem’s crystal lattice structure. Corundum has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, compared to a diamond, which has a hardness of 10.

Sapphires are seen in many colors, including pink, purple, green, orange and yellow. Ruby is the red variety of corundum.

Credits: Bismarck necklace photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian. Smithsonian display by IFSconnie (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.