Friday, May 24, 2019

Music Friday: YouTube Sensation Vidya Vox Is All About Diamonds and Gold

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Youtube sensation Vidya Vox merges Indian classical music with Western pop, hip-hop and electronica in her 2017 release, "Diamonds."

This high-energy track opens with the description of a bedazzled Indian dancer. Vox sings, "Diamonds and gold / Mehndi and bangles / So beautiful / She moves like an angel / Dance like she don't got a / Care in the world like / Eh le le le le, le le le lo."

Indian culture puts a high value on fine jewelry and gemstones, and the Chennai-born artist who immigrated with her family from India to the US at the age of eight, is impressively adorned in the opening scene of her video.

She's wearing more than a dozen gold bangles, multiple rings, a lavish necklace, diamond nose chain and a "tikka" pendant on her forehead. The term "mehndi," which is noted in the lyrics, above, refers to the art of painting elaborate patterns on the skin with henna.

Co-written by Vox and her boyfriend Shankar Tucker, "Diamonds" was published to her official YouTube channel, which currently boasts 5.8 million subscribers. The "Diamonds" video has been viewed more than 26 million times.

Born Vidya Iyer in India in 1990, Vox grew up in Virginia, but always remained connected to her Indian roots. After majoring in psychology and biomedical sciences at George Washington University, she returned to her native India for two years to study music.

Due to her popularity on YouTube, the 28-year-old vlogger, dancer and actress has earned a cross-cultural, international following. She also regularly performs as a vocalist with the Shankar Tucker Band.

Please check out the video of Vox performing "Diamonds." Featured in the video is British singer-songwriter Arjun Coomaraswamy. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Diamonds"
Written by Shankar Tucker and Vidya Vox. Performed by Vidya Vox.

Diamonds and gold
Mehndi and bangles
So beautiful
She moves like an angel
Dance like she don't gotta
Care in the world like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Flames reachin' high
But can't touch the fire
Catchin' her eye
Her burning desire
She know she got it
When she sing her song like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Look up at the sky
The stars never shine all alone
Tonight is the night
Take a deep breath
Let it go

Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Lost in the night
Your rhythm takes over
Flames in the eyes
Keep drawing him closer
Exotic hypnotic she knows
He's about to move up on her
She got it, she got it
God knows he can't hold back no longer
Dancing so close
The temperature's rising
She just don't know
How sexy that smile is
She knows she's got it
When she sings the song like
Eh le le le le, le le le lo.

Look up at the sky
The stars never shine all alone
Tonight is your night
Just take a deep breath
Let it go

Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo

No, no, no, no, (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Girl, you're one of a kind (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
I know you're feelin' the vibe (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Just give me tonight (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
It's the way that you smile (Eh le, eh le, eh le, lo)
Baby, I'm losin' my mind (Shining like gold)
You gotta be mine
Girl, you're one of a kind
I know you're feelin' the vibe
Just give me tonight
It's the way that you smile (Don't shine alone)
Baby, I'm losin' my mind
You gotta be mine
Girl, you're one of a kind (Shining like gold))
I know you're feelin' the vibe
Just give me tonight (Woah)
It's the way that you smile
Baby, I'm losin' my mind

Eh le le le le, le le le lo (Let it go)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo (No)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo (Let it go)
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo
Eh le le le le, le le le lo

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Swiss Lab Employs Cutting-Edge Science to Affirm Age, Provenance of Historic Pearl

A Swiss gem lab used radiocarbon age-dating to affirm the 16th century origins of a 30.24-carat natural saltwater pearl once owned by a Spanish princess. It was the first time such a procedure had been conducted on a natural pearl.

The Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) used the cutting-edge science to date the historic "Ana Maria Pearl," which was worn by Ana María de Sevilla y Villanueva, XIV Marquise of Camarasa (1828-1861). The natural pearl was presumed to have been discovered during the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the 16th century. The test confirmed that the historic formation age for the natural pearl was between the 16th and mid-17th century.

"The Ana Maria Pearl is a perfect example to show how scientific analyses can add supporting evidence to a documented historical provenance of a jewel," SSEF director Michael Krzemnicki told townandcountrymag.com. "The SSEF offers radiocarbon age dating of pearls as a new service to our clients in collaboration with the Federal Institute of Technology. This method uses the slow decay of radiocarbon in biogenic materials (e.g. pearl) as a physical clock, by which its age can be calculated."

The carbon dating was conducted in the lead-up to the pearl's appearance at a Christie's auction in Geneva on May 15. Slightly baroque in shape, the Ana Maria Pearl is currently set as a detachable drop hanging from of an emerald brooch. The flip side of the carved brooch contains an "invisible" watch designed by Audemars Piguet in the 1960s.

Christie's Geneva estimated that the Ana Maria Pearl would sell in the range of $800,000 to $1.2 million. On auction day, the highly touted Lot 264 didn't find a buyer and was withdrawn.

Despite that disappointment, the Ana Maria has had an enormous impact on the verification process itself, Krzemnicki told townandcountrymag.com.

"This is especially true with natural pearls, where the origin is not clear to the naked eye, or behind the loop—or even under a microscope," he said.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

De Beers, Namibia to Partner on New $468 Million Diamond-Recovery Vessel

Debmarine announced it will be investing $468 million on the world's first-ever custom-built diamond recovery vessel. When it joins the Debmarine fleet in 2022, the new ship will have the capacity to extract 500,000 carats annually from the coastal waters off Namibia — boosting the country's annual diamond output by 35%.

Debmarine is a 50/50 joint venture between the Republic of Namibia and the De Beers Group, and each partner will contribute $234 million to the project.

The new ship, which will be the seventh in Debmarine's fleet, will comb the ocean floor at a depth of 400 feet using advanced drilling technology, supported with tracking, positioning and surveying equipment. Dredged gravel will be sifted at treatment plants onboard the ship.

Sophisticated X-ray machines and other diamond-sorting devices separate the gems from the gravel, and leftover material is returned to the sea bed. Recovered diamonds are securely sealed in containers, loaded into steel briefcases and flown by helicopter to shore.

“Some of the highest-quality diamonds in the world are found at sea, off the Namibian coast,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver. “With this investment, we will be able to optimize new technology to find and recover diamonds more efficiently and meet growing consumer demand across the globe.”

According to De Beers, 95% of the diamonds pulled from the seabed near Namibia are of gem-quality. This compares to just 20% of gem-quality diamonds coming from De Beers’s top mine in Botswana. Some experts surmise that the diamonds in the ocean have endured such a pounding for so long that only the gem-quality ones could remain intact.

Namibia has more than 3,700 square miles of marine diamond concessions along its southwest coast, which is expected to support the industry for the next 50 years. Debmarine has a license to operate off the coast of the African country until 2035 within a 2,316-square mile area.

Credit: Image courtesy of Debmarine-Namibia.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Music Friday: 'If Pressure Makes Diamonds, Our Love Is a Diamond by Now'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star Don Williams sings about how marital stress can be a good thing in his 1983 tune, "Pressure Makes Diamonds."

In the song, Williams admits that he and his wife have endured plenty of hard times over the years, but despite those pressures, their love has only gotten stronger. He compares the evolution of their relationship to the formation of diamonds deep within the Earth.

He sings, "Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone / And they only get finer as each day goes on / We've been through some bad times / But we made it somehow / 'Cause if pressure makes diamonds / Our love's a diamond by now."

(Just for the record, diamonds form under intense pressure and heat about 100 miles below the earth’s surface.)

Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers, "Pressure Makes Diamonds" appeared as the seventh track on Williams' album, Yellow Moon. The album topped out at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Over the course of a career that spanned six decades, Williams scored 17 #1 country hits. The singer’s imposing stature, paired with a soft, smooth bass-baritone voice, earned him the nickname the “Gentle Giant” of country music. In 2010, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Donald Ray Williams was born in Floydada, Texas, in 1939. After graduating from high school, Williams served two years in the U.S. Army Security Agency and then formed a folk-pop group called the Pozo-Seco Singers. The group disbanded in 1969 and Williams worked outside the music business for a short time. In 1971, he landed a songwriting job for Jack Music Inc. Soon after, he signed as a solo artist with JMI Records.

Williams stopped touring in 2016 and passed away a year later at the age of 78.

Trivia: Williams appeared as himself and played a number of songs in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

Please check out the audio track of Williams performing “Pressure Makes Diamonds.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Pressure Makes Diamonds"
Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers. Performed by Don Williams.

Well, we've had our troubles, we've had our hard times
Where some might have stumbled, we've always survived
Sometimes love weakens, when the chips are all down
But what we've got together gets stronger somehow.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Well, we know the feelin' when the world closes in
We've been there before, love, and we might go again
The road may get rocky, life may get hard
But the whole world together can't tear us apart.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now...

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Socialite's Emerald Necklace, 36-Carat Diamond Share Spotlight at Sotheby's Geneva

An art deco-style emerald necklace from the collection of American socialite Helene Beaumont and a 36.57-carat near-flawless diamond shared the spotlight at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva yesterday. These top two items sold for $3.6 million and $5 million, respectively, accounting for more than 20% of the auction's total sales of $41.8 million. In all, 448 lots were offered.

As the wife of Louis Dudley Beaumont, one of the founders of the May Company department store chain, Helene was a renowned collector of fine jewelry from the most prominent design houses. The magnificent emerald necklace in yesterday's auction is believed to have been designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1935.

The front of the necklace is set with a line of 11 graduated sugarloaf cabochon emeralds, ranging in size from 3.27 carats to 18.09 carats. The necklace front may be detached and worn as a bracelet, and the two segments in the back can be combined to form a single necklace. A grading report states that the emeralds are of Colombian origin.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate for the decadent piece was $2.9 million to $3.9 million.

The second headliner from yesterday's auction was a magnificent 36.57-carat diamond ring that was put up for sale by a private collector.

The D-color round diamond displays excellent cut, polish and symmetry, according to a grading report by the Gemological Association of America. It carries a clarity rating of VVS1, but could advance to "flawless" after minor replacing, noted the report.

The impressive diamond is claw-set between tapered baguette diamond shoulders.

Sotheby's spot-on pre-sale estimate was $4.4 million to $5.4 million.

Yesterday's sale also yielded a number of surprising overachievers.

One of those pieces was a fancy intense blue diamond ring, which sold for $853,799 — more than three times the pre-sale high estimate of $250,000. Designed by Tiffany and Co., the ring features a 1.01-carat step-cut blue diamond framed by baguette diamond shoulders. The diamond earned a clarity rating of VS1.

The performance of this emerald and diamond bracelet also impressed auction watchers, as the beautiful piece designed by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $285,427, nearly six times the pre-sale high estimate of $49,640.

The bracelet is composed of clusters set with oval and circular-cut emeralds each within a frame of brilliant-cut diamonds.

Also beating the Sotheby's pre-sale high by nearly six times was a pair of turquoise and diamond earrings that sold for $136,509. Signed by Van Clef & Arpels, the earrings are set with cabochon turquoise entwined in brilliant-cut diamonds.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Golden Spike Symbolized Completion of Transcontinental Railroad 150 Years Ago

This past Friday marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, an epic project that spanned six years and 1,800 miles, with the Central Pacific Railroad working from west to east and the Union Pacific Railroad from east to west.

When the two railroad lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, the engineering marvel was culminated with railroad magnate Leland Stanford driving the ceremonial final spike — a glistening symbol made from 14 ounces of 17.6-karat gold.

As Stanford gently tapped the copper-alloyed spike through a pre-drilled hole in a special tie of polished California laurel, a famous telegraph announced the news in real-time: “The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”

Celebrations ensued from coast to coast.

“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian, told the Associated Press.

The Transcontinental Railroad united a nation recovering from the Civil War and laid the foundation for its growth, economic progress and improved way of life. A coast-to-coast trip that once took six months, could now be accomplished in 3 1/2 days.

The accomplishment also symbolized American ingenuity and technical achievement, which was, at the time, as spectacular as landing a man on the moon. Incidentally, the first moon landing would take place 100 years later on July 20,1969.

The idea of using a golden spike to commemorate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was the brainchild of David Hewes, a San Francisco financier and contractor.

The spike is engraved on all four sides.

One side says, "The Pacific Railroad ground broken January 8, 1863, and completed May 8, 1869." A second side says, "May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. Presented by David Hewes San Francisco." The third and fourth sides list the names of the railroad directors and officers involved in the project.

Interestingly, the date on the Stanford spike is wrong because the celebration had to be delayed two days due to bad weather. Fearing that the golden spike would be stolen if it was left in place, Stanford (who would later establish Stanford University) extracted the spike from the laurel tie and brought it back to California. Today, it resides at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

A duplicate golden spike, which was engraved later with the correct date, became the property of the Hewes family. That spike is on permanent display, along with Thomas Hill's famous painting "The Last Spike," at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Throughout this past weekend, revelers celebrated the historic meeting of the rails at Golden Spike National Historic Park northwest of Salt Lake City. Visitors came from far and near, decked out in period attire, including top hats and bonnets.

Other celebrations throughout the state included art displays, musical performances, historical exhibits, storytelling, lectures, community festivals, parades, film screenings, model train shows, historical site tours and reenactments of the golden spike ceremony.

Credits: Photo of "duplicate" golden spike by Neil916 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. "The Last Spike" painting by Thomas Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Modern reenactment photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Utah state coin by the United States Mint [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Music Friday: Insecure Charley Pride Asks His Wife, 'Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, music legend Charley Pride portrays a troubled and insecure husband in his amusing 1967 country hit, "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"

Pride's character tells his wife that he feels so proud when she wears her engagement ring for all the world to see, but questions why she goes out at night with the ring conspicuously missing from her left hand.

He sings, "I understand sometimes we all need time alone / But why do you always leave your ring at home?"

Pride wonders if there may be an innocent reason. Maybe the ring just doesn't fit right and the problem can be solved with a simple resizing.

He sings, "When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right / Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight? / Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?"

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" appeared as the fifth track of Pride's third studio album, The Country Way. Both the single and the album were big hits for Pride, with "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart and #3 on the Canadian country chart. The album performed even better, zooming all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Charley Frank Pride was born in 1934 in rural Sledge, Miss., one of 11 children of poor sharecroppers. When Pride was 14, he was gifted his first guitar and taught himself to play. While he enjoyed music, his first love was baseball. He dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

As an 18-year-old, that dream started to come true, as he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. A year later, he signed with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. In 1960, he pitched for the East Helena Smelterites, an unusual gig that saw him splitting time between playing baseball and working for a lead smelter.

The team's manager also recognized Pride's singing talents and offered him an opportunity to sing for 15 minutes before each game. Before long, Pride was singing in Montana clubs with a group called the Night Hawks.

His big break came when Pride's demo tape got into the hands of RCA Victor exec Chat Atkins, who offered the singer a record deal. By the mid-1970s, Pride was the best-selling RCA Records performer since Elvis Presley. Pride is credited with 40 #1 singles and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

He is still touring at the age of 85.

Please check out the video of Pride's live performance of "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"
Written by Don Robertson, John Crutchfield and Doris Ann Clement. Performed by Charley Pride.

Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Did you enjoy yourself last night dear how was the show?
You know that I don't mind it when you go
I understand sometimes we all need time alone
But why do you always leave your ring at home?

Does my ring hurt your finger when you're away from me?
I'm so proud when you wear it for all the world to see
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Credit: Photo by GREG MATHISON [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Runner Gets Engaged Seconds After Completing the Pittsburgh Marathon

Pittsburgh-area resident Stephanie Solt captured two prizes at the finish line of last Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon — a medal for completing the grueling 26.2 mile race and a diamond engagement ring from her boyfriend, JT Mylan.

Mylan went down on one knee and popped the question just seconds after Solt turned in a time of 4 hours, 55 minutes.

With about six miles remaining in the race, Solt had seriously considered calling it quits. She was exhausted and her right knee was throbbing.

But, whatever doubts she harbored at that time were overcome by the encouragement of total strangers. Maybe, instinctively, they all knew that this race would be life changing.

“The people on the sideline kept cheering me on and calling me by the name I had on my bib," the 25-year-old told triblive.com. "[They were] giving me high fives and just pushing me along. It was just amazing."

Overwhelmed by their support, Solt said that she was almost in tears as she powered through the Boulevard of the Allies, the home stretch to the finish line.

As she crossed the finish line, Solt was diverted by a security guard away from the other runners and toward her boyfriend.

“And here’s JT at the finish line and I’m like ‘What are you doing here?’ He puts the medal on me and pulls out the ring and goes down on one knee, and I said 'Oh my goodness!’ I was speechless,” Solt told triblive.com.

Pittsburgh Public Safety posted a video of the emotional scene on its Facebook page.

Mylan, 32, said that he counted on a bunch of workout buddies to help him through the planning. One friend suggested that he pop the question at the marathon and a second friend, who was set to work security at the marathon, said he could get JT behind the finish line. A third buddy hooked him up with a photographer who would document the momentous event.

“When the universe lobs you an easy one, you might as well take it,” Mylan said.

Solt said she is ecstatic that she gets to marry her best friend. The couple is planning a spring 2022 wedding, which coincides with her graduation from physical therapy school. Mylan is a health and physical education teacher.

Credits: Screen captures via Facebook.com/Pittsburgh Public Safety; YouTube.com/WTAE-TV Pittsburgh.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Unlike Europeans, US Couples Seek Parents' Blessing Prior to Marriage Proposal: Survey

Unlike their European counterparts, the vast majority of US couples still ask for their parents' blessing prior to the marriage proposal, according to a 14-country wedding survey conducted by The Knot, WeddingWire and Bodas.net.

The first-ever Global Wedding Report — which is based on the experiences of 20,000 couples — sought to discover the cultural differences and varying societal norms related to engagements, wedding planning and celebrations across Europe, North America, Latin America and India.

“Seeking parents’ permission ahead of [the marriage proposal] is one of the areas where we saw some of the biggest differences,” noted Lauren Goodson, Senior Director of Insights at The Knot Worldwide.

She explained that while 67% of U.S. couples will ask for parental blessings, the practice is much less common in France (14%), Spain (9%) and Italy (8%). In those European countries, it's common for the couple to make the decision to marry and then share the news with their parents.

Another interesting finding was that the tradition of popping the question, while still immensely popular in the US, Mexico and Canada, is not as prevalent elsewhere. More than 80% of couples in North America will experience a "bended knee" proposal. But, that number is only 50% in Italy, where couples are far more likely to jointly agree to take the next step in their relationships and buy the ring together.

For nearly all countries surveyed (13 out of 14), December reigned as the most popular engagement month. However, in India, couples most often report getting engaged in either February (20%) or January (13%), likely due to the preference of holding the engagement ceremony, as well as the wedding, on an auspicious or “good-luck” day.

Planning a wedding that is a true reflection of a couple’s unique love story is no easy feat, and doing so takes couples varying amounts of time around the globe, according to survey results.

Couples in Colombia, for example, report planning their wedding in just seven months — the shortest wedding planning timeline worldwide — followed by couples in India (8 months), Chile (8 months) and Peru (9 months). On the other hand, couples in the US and UK tend to have almost twice as much time for wedding planning, with engagements lasting 14 and 15 months on average, respectively.

Internationally, the most important factor determining the wedding cost is the guest count. Although the number of wedding guests varies significantly from country to country, Chile-based couples have the smallest weddings with an average of 91 guests, while couples in India, on average, welcome 524 guests (Indian weddings typically span multiple days).

Couples based in Peru, Chile and Colombia typically pay for roughly 55% of the wedding costs, while couples in other regions tend to receive more financial support from family members — especially in Spain and Italy, where they cover roughly two-thirds of the wedding expenses.

The Global Wedding Survey, which was conducted in December of 2018, provided insights from 20,000 recently married couples in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and India.

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Music Friday: 'You're a Diamond to Me,' Sings Eric Bibb in the Inspirational 'Shine On'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, international blues troubadour Eric Bibb inspires us to keep our eyes on the mountaintop in the uplifting 2006 song, "Shine On."

The two-time Grammy nominee knows that we can do better, reach higher and strive harder. He believes that quitting is not an option and that making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process. Hard-earned wisdom is something money can't buy.

He sings, "Don't stop 'til you win your prize / Lean on all the love that is in my eyes / You're a diamond to me, yes you are / Shine on."

Penned by Bibb and Figge Bostrom, "Shine On" appeared as the third track on Bibb's studio album, Diamond Days.

In reviewing the album for popmatters.com, Joe Montague wrote, "There are no rough edges on Diamond Days or Eric Bibb, the blues artist behind this fabulous new CD. The man is so effortless when he plays that one has difficulty determining where the guitar stops and where Bibb begins."

Born in New York City in 1951, Bibb was immersed in music at a young age. His father was a singer in the 1960s New York folk music scene and regular guests at his home included Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, to name a few.

When young Bibb became interested in playing the guitar, it was Dylan who advised the 11-year-old to "Keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff."

Bibb went to Columbia University to pursue degrees in psychology and Russian, but left the Ivy League school after one year. Instead, he packed his bags and headed out to Paris, where he studied the best traditions of pre-war blues.

Before long, he was making a name for himself in France, the UK, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the US.

He earned two Grammy nominations for "Shakin' a Tailfeather" (1997) and "Migration Blues" (2017). In 2018, he opened for George Benson on his UK tour, and this month, Bibb and his band will be playing at venues throughout Australia.

Please check out the audio clip of Bibb performing "Shine On." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Shine On"
Written by Eric Bibb and Figge Bostrom. Performed by Eric Bibb.

Life gives you the runaround you say
You wanna know
How much dues must you pay

Well, you can pay off what you want
When there's a will
There's always a way

Keeping your eyes on
That mountain top
Stepping up time
Don't ever, ever stop

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on

I know what you've been through
I see
But it's time to leave it behind and let it be
Yeah

Hard-earned wisdom is something you can't buy
It's the wings of experience
That make you fly

Don't look back
Don't look back
Don't turn aroundv You're on the right track

Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby keep on
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that is in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you are
Shine on
Shine on
Keep on when your mind says quit
Dream on 'til you find your living it
I'll be right by your side
Yeah baby
Don't stop 'til you win your prize
Lean on all the love that's in my eyes
You're a diamond to me, yes you arev Shine on
Shine on
Baby you got to shine on
That's what you're born to do
Me and you
You got to shine on
Sparkle baby

Baby you got to
Shine on

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com/TheDixiefrogrecords.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Birthstone Feature: 'Maximilian Emerald' Boasts a Rich History That Spans 150+ Years

Steeped in a rich history that spans more than 150 years, the 21.04-carat "Maximilian Emerald" is one of the world's most famous — and dazzling — examples of May's official birthstone.

Named for its first owner, the ill-fated Emperor of Mexico, the deep grass-green Colombian emerald was purchased by American socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1928 and later donated to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where it’s been on permanent exhibit at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals since 1964.

The stunning emerald was originally set in a ring worn by Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, an Austrian archduke, who accepted an offer by Napoleon III of France to rule Mexico in 1864. The monarch's stint as emperor was short lived, as he was overthrown and executed in 1867.

It's not clear where the ring resided for the next 61 years, but we do know it entered the collection of Post, the heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the richest women in the world, in 1928.

Twenty-one years later, Post had the emerald remounted by Cartier into its current platinum setting with six baguette-cut diamonds flanking the emerald, two baguettes adorning the shank and 18 baguettes set in the undercarriage of the ring.

Post nearly lost the emerald when she attended Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. After one of the pre-coronation parties at Buckingham Palace, Post was about to enter her car when she noticed the stone had fallen out of its setting.

“So they immediately called the palace,” Post’s granddaughter Ellen Charles told the Washington Post. “I suppose only at Buckingham Palace would they find the stone.”

And they did.

Post generously gifted the Maximilian Emerald Ring to the Smithsonian in 1964. It was one of several notable donations that included the Blue Heart Diamond, Napoleon Diamond Necklace, Marie-Louise Diadem, Post Emerald Necklace and Marie Antoinette Earrings. Post passed away in 1973 at the age of 86.

The Maximilian Emerald displays visible inclusions, which are referred to as as “jardin” (French for “garden”). These imperfections do not detract from the stone’s beauty but, instead, give each stone a unique fingerprint and distinct character.

Emerald is a member of the beryl family, and in its pure state, the mineral is clear. The beautiful green hues in the beryl family are caused when some of the aluminum atoms in the crystal are replaced by chromium and/or vanadium atoms.

Besides being the birthstone for the month of May, it’s also the official gemstone for 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Credits: Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian. Top photo digitally enhanced by SquareMoose. Maximilian I photo by Ludwig Angerer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 29, 2019

Lucara Recovers 1,758-Carat Diamond at Karowe Mine; It's the Second-Largest Ever

Lucara Diamond Corp. has unearthed a tennis-ball-size 1,758-carat diamond at its famous Karowe Mine in Botswana. The diamond rates as the second-largest ever found, easily overtaking the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona, which was also recovered at Karowe.

But, unlike the gem-quality Lesedi La Rona, which was purchased by diamantaire Laurence Graff for $53 million and recently cut into 67 high-quality diamonds, Lucara's newest find is being characterized as "near" gem quality with "domains of high-quality white gem."

Looking closely at the photo, above, one can see a sharp transition from grey-black to silver-white in the lower left portion of the rough diamond. Lucara reported that further detailed analysis is ongoing.

Weighing more than three-quarters of a pound, the recently recovered stone measures 83mm x 62mm x 46mm and managed to get through Lucara's diamond sorting process without breaking.

Lucara CEO Eira Thomas said the diamond remained unscathed during the recovery thanks to the company's state-of-the-art XRT circuit, which was commissioned in 2015.

Throughout history, diamond-bearing rock was typically drilled, blasted, hauled and put through crushing machines to get to the gems that may be hiding within. During that process, extremely large diamonds, some weighing hundreds of carats or more, were often damaged or even pulverized.

With the advent of XRT scanners, the mining process is becoming kinder and gentler. As the rocky material comes down a conveyor belt, the scanners can pick out the diamonds based on their chemical composition. Older scanners used to depend strictly on the stone’s ability to reflect light.

The diamond-rich material is then separated from the rubble and moved to a secure area for processing.

Since going online with the XRT circuit in 2015, a total of 12 diamonds larger than 300 carats have been recovered at Karowe, including two greater than 1,000 carats, from a total production of approximately 1.4 million carats. Of the 300-plus-carat diamonds recovered, 50% were categorized as gem quality with 11 sold to date generating more than $158 million.

Thomas is confident that more large, high-quality diamonds will be discovered as the company mines deeper in the orebody and gains access to geologically favorable material.

The largest diamond ever recovered is the 3,106-carat Cullinan, which was found at South Africa's Premier Mine 2 in 1905. The high-quality rough stone was cut by the Asscher Company into nine principal diamonds and 96 smaller diamonds. The Cullinan I and II – known as the Great Star of Africa and the Lesser Star of Africa — are set in the Crown Jewels of Britain. They weigh 530 carats and 317 carats, respectively. The remaining seven principal diamonds — ranging in size from 94 carats to 4.39 carats — are in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

Credits: Images courtesy of Lucara Diamond Corp.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Music Friday: 'Daddy's Little Girl' Is a Precious Gem, Sings Michael Bolton

There are few things in life more sentimental than the father/daughter dance at a wedding, and one of the top tunes for that time-honored tradition is the subject of today's Music Friday treat. Welcome to our weekly review of songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In Michael Bolton's sweet 2003 rendition of "Daddy's Little Girl," the singer describes his daughter as a precious gem.

In the very first verse he sings, "You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold / You're Daddy's little girl to have and hold / A precious gem is what you are / A ray of hope, a shining star."

Bolton, incidentally, is the proud papa to three daughters: Isa, Holly and Taryn.

Originally written by Robert Burke and Horace Gerlach exactly 70 years ago, the sing-along ditty has stood the test of time. Made famous by The Mills Brothers in 1950, "Daddy's Little Girl" was revived by Frank Fontaine in 1963 and Al Martino in 1967. Thirty-five years later, in 2002, Michael Bublé featured the song on his Dream album, and a year later the song became the eighth track on Bolton's Vintage album.

The endearing song is still played by DJs at wedding receptions from coast to coast. In fact, iHeartRadio rated it #8 on its list of the "30 Father/Daughter Wedding Dance Songs Perfect for Your Big Day."

Born Michael Bolotin in New Haven, Conn., in 1953, Bolton earned his reputation as one of the top pop-rock balladeers of his generation with mega-hits, such as "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (1989) and "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1991).

During his career, he's sold more than 75 million records and charted eight Top-10 albums. He's earned two Grammy Awards and six American Music Awards.

Please check out the audio clip of Bolton singing "Daddy's Little Girl." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Daddy's Little Girl"
Written by Robert Burke and Horace Gerlach. Performed by Michael Bolton.

You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold
You're Daddy's little girl to have and hold
A precious gem is what you are
A ray of hope, a shining star.

You're a bright as the sunshine, morning's first light
You warm my day and brighten my night
You're sugar, you're spice, you're everything nice
and you're Daddy's Little Girl.

A precious gem that's what you are
A ray of hope, a shining star.

You're a bright as the sunshine, morning's first light
You warm my day and brighten my night
You're sugar, you're spice, you're everything nice
and you're Daddy's little girl.

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

At Topaz Mountain in Utah, Amateur Prospectors Get to Keep What They Find

Gem lovers looking for a rustic adventure a little off the beaten path may consider a trip to Topaz Mountain in Utah, where amateur prospectors get to keep whatever they find.

Located about 120 miles southwest of Provo, the Topaz Dome Quarry in Utah's Thomas Range has long been a popular destination for hardcore rockhounds. But, four years ago, Richard Pyne, David Stemmons and their partners established Topaz Mountain Adventures, which allows novices to join in on the fun.

"Our philosophy was to make the premium stuff available to the public," Stemmons told ksl.com. "So we do blasting tours and take you right up to the rock. We don’t keep any of it. Whatever you find is yours to keep.”

Among the treasures at the blast site are many varieties of Utah Topaz and other collectible minerals, such as Bixbyite, a black crystal made from manganese iron oxide. Topaz colors range from a bright amber to a deep sherry.

Pyne explained that Utah Topaz is sensitive to UV light (the type emitted by the sun). Once exposed, the vibrant color can fade to clear. For that reason, the tour operator sells UV-light reflective bags and warns prospectors to keep their precious finds out of the sunlight.

The property that Topaz Mountain Adventures has leased from the state of Utah is adjacent to free public lands also used for prospecting. The difference is that the public lands are very hard to work.

The $30 tours at Topaz Mountain Adventures run for four hours and prospectors can expect to leave the site with a handful of nice specimens, according to Pyne. Tool rentals are available and the staff is happy to assist visitors in identifying what they've found.

According to Pyne, it's not uncommon for a visitor to return to Topaz Mountain Adventures for more easily accessible treasures after working a full day at a free public site and coming up empty.

Topaz Mountain Adventures also offers a premium package at $649, which allows a group of up to eight prospectors to witness an actual blast (seen above) and get first dibs on the treasure found in the freshly exposed rock.

The blast site is 47 miles from the nearest town, and Pyne advised visitors to bring plenty of water and to dress in layers. Spring and fall are the best seasons for prospecting, although temperatures can range from 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning to 80 degrees in the afternoon. High temps in July and August can get to 110 degrees.

You can learn more at topazmountainadventures.com.

Credits: Images courtesy of Topaz Mountain Adventures.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Botswana's 20.46-Carat 'Okavango Blue' Diamond Is Called a 'Once-in-a-Lifetime Find'

The largest blue diamond ever discovered in Botswana — a brilliant 20.46-carat oval gem with Fancy Deep Blue color and VVS2 clarity — was unveiled last week by the state-run Okavango Diamond Company.

"It is incredibly unusual for a stone of this color and nature to have come from Botswana. [It's] a once-in-a-lifetime find," said Okavango's managing director Marcus ter Haar.

The gem, which was cut from a 41.11-carat rough diamond sourced at the Orapa mine, was named "The Okavango Blue" to honor the world heritage site known as the Okavango Delta. The lush delta is the home to hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lions, leopards, giraffes and rhinos.

Okavango Diamond Company will be promoting The Okavango Blue in the lead-up to its sale at the end of 2019. While the company did not reveal what The Okavango Blue might be worth, a similar diamond sold at a Christie's auction in 2016 may hold the answer.

The Cullinan Dream, a 24.18-carat intense blue diamond with a VS2 clarity rating, sold for $25.4 million at Christie's New York in June of 2016. Based on that performance, one might presume The Okavango Blue has the potential to yield about $1 million per carat.

“From the first moment we saw the diamond, it was clear we had something very special,” said the managing director. “Everyone who has viewed the 20-carat polished diamond has marveled at its unique coloration, which many see as unlike any blue stone they have seen before.”

Blue diamonds are extraordinarily rare, owing their color to trace amounts of boron in the diamond crystal lattice.

Despite its tiny size, Botswana is one of the world's leading producers of top-quality diamonds. Botswana's Karowe mine, for instance, was the source of the 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona — the second-largest rough diamond ever discovered. Diamonds are Botswana's main source of income and account for about 80% of its exports. Okavango Diamond Company is responsible for marketing 15% of the country's diamond production.

"Consumers can purchase Botswana diamonds with a sense of pride knowing that these diamonds are improving the lives of the people of Botswana,” said Okavango chief financial officer Lipalesa Makepe.

Credits: Images courtesy of Okavango Diamond Company.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Music Friday Flashback: Silver Locket 'Bears the Name of the Man That Brandy Loved'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Elliot Lurie and the Looking Glass perform their 1972 chart-topper, "Brandy," a song about a barmaid in a harbor town who wears a very sentimental piece of neckwear as a constant reminder of the sailor who won her heart.

Lurie sings, "Brandy wears a braided chain / Made of finest silver from the North of Spain / A locket that bears the name / Of the man that Brandy loved."

Brandy fell in love with the sailor on a summer day when he arrived with gifts from far away. But, he also made it clear that he couldn't stay because no harbor could be his home. He tells Brandy that his life, his lover, his lady is the sea.

Since its release in the early 1970s, "Brandy" has been the subject of a spirited debate. Some music historians speculated that the hapless heroine, Brandy, is based on the legend of Mary Ellis, a New Jersey spinster who fell in love with a sea captain in the late 18th century.

She was promised marriage, and Ellis waited for her captain until her death, but he never returned. This story may have caught the ears of four students of Rutgers University, which is just two miles from Mary Ellis’s final resting place. These students ultimately became the founding members of the Looking Glass in 1969.

The story sounds compelling, but Lurie, who penned the tune, has refuted any link to Mary Ellis. The song, he said, is based on the name of his high school sweetheart, "Randy."

"Brandy" soared straight to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been used in the soundtracks of numerous films, including Charlie's Angels (2000).

Interestingly, "Brandy" was originally buried on the "B" side of the Looking Glass song, "Don't It Make You Feel Good." The group has to thank Washington, D.C., program director Harv Moore for giving the "B" side heavy airplay and creating a phenomenon that would spread nationwide.

Moore noted that when the Top 40 station WPGC AM/FM started playing "Brandy" in one-hour rotations for two days, "the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree."

Please check out the video of the Looking Glass performing "Brandy." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"
Written by Elliot Lurie. Performed by The Looking Glass.

There's a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes

And there's a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin' whiskey down
They say, Brandy, fetch another round
She serves them whiskey and wine

The sailors say: "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea"

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loved

He came on a summer's day
Bringin' gifts from far away
But he made it clear he couldn't stay
No harbor was his home

The sailors say: "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"

Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes
When he told his sailor stories
She could feel the ocean fall and rise
She saw its ragin' glory
But he had always told the truth, Lord, he was an honest man
And Brandy does her best to understand

At night when the bars close down
Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who's not around
She still can hear him say

She hears him say "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"
It is, yes it is,
He said, "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Legendary 'Jonker V' Diamond Returns to Christie's Auction Block After Just Two Years

When the legendary "Jonker V" diamond appeared at Christie's Hong Kong in May of 2017 with a pre-sale estimate of $2.2 million to $3.6 million, some gem experts expected the stunning 25.27-carat emerald-cut gem to yield much more — and they were right.

Surpassing the high estimate by nearly 50%, the Jonker V was purchased by an undisclosed buyer for $5.3 million.

On May 15, the Jonker V, one of 13 magnificent diamonds cleaved from the famous 726-carat Jonker rough more than 85 years ago, is set to make an encore appearance at Christie's Geneva. The gem boasts a D-color and VVS2 clarity grading. In its rough state, the Jonker V weighed 54.19 carats, more than twice its finished weight.

Surprisingly, the auction house's pre-sale estimate for the current offering reverts to the range promoted in 2017. Christie's believes the May 2019 hammer price will be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million to $3.5 million. A representative from Christie's told us that the estimate reflects the current market value for a gem of that size and provenance.

She noted that a bidding war among buyers in 2017 was likely responsible for inflating the Jonker V's sale price well beyond the high estimate. We'll be watching to see if another bidding war escalates the price in Geneva next month.

What makes the Jonker V so special is that it carries a rich history that connects many of the jewelry-industry's most colorful characters.

On January 17, 1934, a rough diamond the size of a hen’s egg was pulled from a bucket of gravel at the Elandsfontein claim, 4.8 kilometers south of the Premier Mine in South Africa. The massive 726-carat rough diamond with a frosty ice-white color would take on the surname of Jacob Jonker, the 62-year-old digger who owned the claim.

At the time, the Jonker was the fourth-largest gem-quality rough diamond ever unearthed. Diamond experts speculated whether the 63.5mm x 31.75mm Jonker and the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond had once been conjoined, as their respective cleaved faces seemed to match up perfectly. The Cullinan Diamond had been discovered at the nearby Premier Mine 19 years earlier.

The Jonker rough was acquired by De Beers chairman Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and subsequently caught the attention of diamond dealer Harry Winston, who purchased the rough stone in 1935 for £75,000, the equivalent of £9 million ($11.7 million) today. The Jonker diamond earned celebrity status when it was displayed during the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in May of that same year.

The next year, Winston contracted Lazare Kaplan to cut 13 finished gems from the original rough. The Jonker finished diamonds were each named with a Roman numeral, in size order. The largest was the Jonker I at 142.90 carats and the smallest was the Jonker XIII at 3.53 carats. According to a May 1954 article in The New Yorker, Kaplan earned $30,000 for the prestigious assignment (that's equivalent to about $280,000 today).

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Principal Diamond Cut From 1,109-Carat Lesedi La Rona Tips the Scales at 302.37 Carats

Back in November, luxury jeweler Laurence Graff revealed that the massive 1,109-carat rough diamond named Lesedi La Rona had yielded 67 "satellite" diamonds ranging in size from just under 1 carat to more than 100 carats and teased that "a principal diamond of unprecedented size" was still in the works.

Last week, Graff finally unveiled that principal diamond — a 302.37-carat square emerald-cut stunner that is said to be the largest D-flawless gem ever certified by the Gemological Institute of America. The jeweler named the gem the "Graff Lesedi La Rona" and proclaimed it "one of the greatest diamond achievements in history."

"My love affair with diamonds is life-long, and crafting the Graff Lesedi La Rona has been an honor," the jeweler said in a statement. "This diamond is beyond words. We had an immense duty to cut the very, very best diamond imaginable from this rough. All our expertise, skill and accomplishment went into crafting this incredible diamond masterpiece, which is extraordinary in every way."

Graff explained that since his company had never analyzed a stone of such a prodigious size, a scanner had to be custom built, with brand new imaging software capable of probing its vast expanses.

At first blush, Graff's gemologists believed that a 300-carat principal diamond wasn't possible. However, using the new technology, the gemologists mapped the maze of imperfections and plotted which cuts would yield the largest and highest-clarity diamonds possible. In the final analysis, they were able to surpass the 300-carat mark with a perfect 302.37-carat principal diamond.

Discovered at the Lucara Karowe mine in Botswana in November 2015, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona was the largest rough diamond recovered in more than 100 years and the second largest ever found. It was offered at auction in June of 2016, but failed to yield a buyer when the bidding topped out at $61 million, $9 million below the reserve price.

That same year, Graff had purchased the 373-carat rough diamond that was said to be a fractured chunk from the Lesedi La Rona. Having already studied the properties of the smaller chunk, Graff was ready to make a bid on the larger stone. In September of 2017, Graff secured the Lesedi La Rona for $53 million, $8 million less than the offer made at Sotheby's in 2016.

Graff reported that it took 18 months to complete the principal diamond. That included the initial cutting with precise lasers, followed by the shaping, faceting and polishing by Graff's skilled diamond artisans. All the diamonds derived from the original rough stone have been laser inscribed with the identifier “Graff, Lesedi La Rona."

Credits: Images courtesy of Graff.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Music Friday: Neil Young Is a Miner for a 'Heart of Gold' in the 1971 Classic

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, the incomparable Neil Young searches for a soulmate in his 1971 chart-topping classic, "Heart of Gold."

Penned by Young, this song is about a man who has been unlucky in love. The protagonist of the story wonders if he's ever going to find someone who will cherish him unconditionally.

He sings, "I want to live, I want to give / I've been a miner for a heart of gold / It's these expressions I never give / That keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old."

Ranked #297 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs, “Heart of Gold” remains Canadian Neil Young’s only #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song also reached #1 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles list.

Interestingly, this ubiquitous song was a result of a couple of serendipitous events:

Young had suffered a back injury and, unable to stand for long periods to play his electric guitar, returned to his acoustic guitar and harmonica. “Heart of Gold” was one song that came out of those sessions. Second, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor happened to be in Nashville for a television appearance while Young was recording Harvest, the album on which “Heart of Gold” appears. The album's producer arranged for the high-profile artists to sing backup on Young's track.

"Heart of Gold" has been covered by more than 30 artists, including Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Tori Amos and Willie Nelson. Canada’s CBC radio named it the third best Canadian song of all time and it was included in the Eat, Pray, Love movie soundtrack.

Born in Toronto in 1945 to a sportswriter dad and quiz show panelist mom, Young contracted polio as a five year old. The disease damaged the left side of his body and led to seizures he would experience throughout his life.

Young idolized Elvis Presley and listened to rock 'n roll, rockabilly, doo-wop, R&B and country and western music on the radio. Young taught himself to play a plastic ukulele, and he would soon step up to a banjo ukulele and baritone ukulele. Young formed his first band, the Jades, while attending middle school and eventually played with several rock bands in high school. Music dominated his world, so he decided to drop out of school to pursue a musical career.

He formed the influential band Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills in 1966 and toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, starting in 1968.

Young is one of the few artists who had been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was first honored as a solo artist in 1995 and then as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997. In 2000, Rolling Stone named Young the 34th greatest rock 'n roll artist.

Please check out the video of Young's live performance of "Heart of Gold." The clip is taken from his 1971 appearance on the British TV show BBC In Concert.

"Heart of Gold"
Written and performed by Neil Young.

I want to live, I want to give
I've been a miner for a heart of gold
It's these expressions I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old

I've been to Hollywood, I've been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold
I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line
That keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old
Keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old

Keep me searching for a heart of gold
You keep me searching and I'm growing old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
I've been a miner for a heart of gold

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Let's Celebrate April's Birthstone With a Close-Up Look at the Oppenheimer Diamond

In honor of April's official birthstone, let's take a close-up look at one of the largest uncut yellow diamonds in the world. At 253.7 carats, the Oppenheimer Diamond is a nearly perfectly formed octahedron, a shape that's essentially an eight-sided double pyramid connected at the base.

Named in honor of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, former chairman of the Board of Directors of DeBeers Consolidated Mines, the 20mm x 20mm gem was discovered at the Dutoitspan Mine near Kimberley, South Africa, in 1964, and acquired that same year by luxury jeweler Harry Winston.

Instead of cutting the rough gem into a hero stone and a series of smaller finished diamonds, Winston decided to leave it in its natural state and donate it to the Smithsonian in memory of Oppenheimer, who passed away in 1957 at the age of 77. The surface of the gem is reminiscent of an icy pond.

Vivid yellow diamonds are extraordinarily valuable. In May 2014, for example, the 100.09-carat Graff Vivid Yellow was sold for $16.3 million at Sotheby's.

The Oppenheimer Diamond is now on display near the Hope Diamond in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals in Washington, D.C.

The gem owes its vivid yellow color to nitrogen impurities that were substituted for carbon atoms as the crystal formed. Similarly, the presence of boron in the chemical composition of a diamond will yield a vivid blue color.

Unlike their yellow and blue brethren, pink and red diamonds get their rich color not from chemical impurities, but from a molecular structure distortion that occurs as the diamond crystal forms in the earth’s crust.

Credits: Images by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Researchers Find World-Class Blue Spinel on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic

On Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, University of British Columbia researchers discovered deposits of cobalt-blue spinel in qualities that rival the finest in the world.

Researchers Philippe Belley and Lee Groat attributed the surprising find to the high levels of a "magic" ingredient present in the area — cobalt.

Pure spinel is colorless, but impurities in its chemical structure give rise to a range of colors, from pink and red to purple and blue. Baffin Island spinel, the researchers found, contains up to 500 parts-per-million of cobalt, which gives it a vivid blue color — a color comparable to the highly coveted material found in Vietnam and the Himalayas.

“Baffin Island is geologically similar to the Himalayas, where some of the world’s finest gems have been found,” said Belley, a recent PhD graduate of the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric science. “Canada hasn’t been widely recognized as a source for fine, colored gemstones, but our research suggests that we have all the right ingredients.”

Belley added, "There’s considerable interest in cobalt-blue spinel for gems and jewelry. There are few stones that match its intense blue color.”

Spinel formed on Baffin Island from sedimentary deposits of dolomite-bearing limestones. These sedimentary rocks metamorphosed at temperatures of about 800º C (1,472º F) under immense pressure.

“We found that cobalt was added at some point during sediment deposition or up to early metamorphism,” said Groat, a UBC mineralogist.

The researchers noted that even small spinel crystals with good transparency and fine cobalt-blue color can sell for about 10 times the price of comparable sapphires. But supply is an issue, and even production from the most significant source, Vietnam, is limited and sporadic.

The researchers explained that, despite the prevalence of hungry polar bears on Baffin Island, finding blue spinel there might be easier than exploring for the gem in the thick jungles of Vietnam or the challenging terrain of the Himalayas.

"[In those areas] most new deposits are found by accident,” said Belley. “But there’s excellent rock exposure on Baffin Island, which facilitates exploration and the use of more advanced techniques like imaging using drones or satellites.”

Spinel, which in 2016 joined the official list of birthstones for the month of August, is famous for being the jewelry-industry's "great imposter." Before modern testing became available, deep red spinel was often mistaken for ruby.

Credit: Image courtesy of Philippe Belley, UBC. Map via Google.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Music Friday: This Old Chunk of Coal Is Gonna Be a Diamond Someday

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star John Anderson has fun with a well-worn gemstone myth in his Grammy-nominated 1981 hit, "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)."

In this song written by Billy Joe Shaver, Anderson likens himself to a common chunk of coal, but promises to work hard to rid himself of flaws until he's "blue pure perfect." We're guessing he aspires to be a blue diamond.

He sings, "Now I'm just an old chunk of coal / But I'm gonna be a diamond someday / I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue pure perfect / I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face."

"I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)" was released as the first single from the singer's self-titled album, John Anderson 2. The song zoomed to #4 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart and #2 on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. The song also earned Anderson a Grammy nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

While we've all heard about Superman having the power to squeeze a lump of coal into a diamond, and many of us are familiar with the phrase, "a diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure," the concept that coal has the capacity to be turned into a diamond is just a myth.

A piece of coal and a diamond are both primarily composed of carbon, but that's largely where the similarity ends. A diamond is made up of pure carbon that was subjected to intense heat and pressure about 100 miles below the earth's surface. Coal, on the other hand, is hardly pure. It is a mix of carbon and organic plant matter. It also contains hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, arsenic, selenium and mercury. Thereby, no matter how hard Superman squeezed the chunk of coal, there's no way a material with that many impurities would yield a diamond.

Trivia: "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)" is briefly sung by the title character in the 2001 animated film, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

Born in Apopka, Fla., in 1954, John David Anderson grew up admiring rock musicians, but then switched over to country music as a teenager. He moved to Nashville as a 17-year-old and took odd jobs during the day while playing in clubs during the evening. One of his odd jobs was as a roofer at the Grand Ole Opry House.

After six years of perseverance, he earned a record deal with Warner Bros. Anderson's career that has spanned more than 30 years, during which he's scored more than 40 singles on the Billboard country charts and five number ones. Anderson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.

Please check out the video of Anderson's performance of "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)"
Written by Billy Shaver. Performed by John Anderson.

Hey, I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday
I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue pure perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face

I'm gonna kneel and pray every day
Lest I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal, now Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday

I'm gonna learn the best way to walk
I'm gonna search and find a better way to talk
I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough edged self
Till I get rid of every single flaw

I'm gonna be the world's best friend
I'm gonna go 'round shaking everybody's hand
Hey, I'm gonna be the cotton pickin' rage of the age
I'm gonna be a diamond someday

Now I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday
I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue pure perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face

I'm gonna kneel and pray every day
Lest I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal, now Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond someday

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Dad Buys 88-Carat Diamond for Daughter and Names It 'Manami Star' in Her Honor

Outbidding two challengers, a Japanese private collector plunked down $13.7 million for a D-flawless 88.22-carat oval diamond at Sotheby's Hong Kong yesterday. He gifted it to his eldest daughter and named it "Manami Star" in her honor.

The diamond had been described by the auction house as "perfect according to every critical criterion." The collector, who remains anonymous, told Sotheby's that the gem first caught his eye while it was on exhibit in Japan during a pre-auction promotional tour.

Given the great interest in the "perfect" diamond, the hammer price easily surpassed the pre-show high estimate of $12.7 million, making the Manami Star the top lot at the Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite auction.

About the size of a small egg, the 88.22-carat faceted diamond was cut from an elongated 242-carat rough stone discovered at the Jwaneng mine in Botswana. The oval shape was chosen to maximize the carat weight.

Sotheby’s noted that the gem is one of only three oval diamonds larger than 50 carats to have appeared at auction over the past few decades. It's also the largest perfect oval seen at auction in the past five years.

The diamond is rated Type IIa, the most chemically pure classification. Diamonds of this quality display exceptional optical transparency and make up less than 2% of all gem-quality diamonds.

The Japanese buyer may have been influenced by the double-eights in the carat weight of the stone. Eight is considered a lucky number in Asian culture and “88” is believed to bring good fortune in abundance.

“We were thrilled to handle a diamond of such rarity, which now takes its place in the roster of top white diamonds to have come to the market here at Sotheby’s Asia," said Patti Wong, Sotheby’s Chairman in Asia. "At 88.22 carats, this lucky stone now carries the name of the fortunate child whose father has chosen to give it her name. A happy moment in the journey of one of the earth’s greatest, oldest treasures."

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

South Africa's 117-Year-Old Cullinan Mine Yields 425-Carat Gem-Quality Diamond

The historic Cullinan Mine, which famously produced the 3,106-carat Cullinan in 1905, added another enormous diamond to its roster of legendary finds. London-based Petra Diamonds announced late last week that it had unearthed a 425.10-carat, D-color, ultra-pure, Type II diamond at the South African mine.

Analysts placed the stone's value somewhere between a high of $35 million and a low of $8 million. A three-dimensional mapping of the rough stone still needs to be conducted to determine the size and number of polished stones it may yield. Petra expects to sell the gem before June 30.

The yet-to-be named diamond is the sixth-largest ever discovered at the mine, which has been operational since 1902.

The diamond ranks 38th on Wikipedia's list of the Largest Rough Diamonds of All Time, just behind The De Beers (428.5 carats, South Africa, discovered 1888) and just ahead of The Regent (410 carats, India, 1698).

The Premier Mine, which was renamed the Cullinan Diamond Mine in celebration of its 100th anniversary, is responsible for producing seven of the world's largest 50 diamonds based on carat weight. These include the Cullinan Heritage (#27, 507 carats, 2009), Centenary (#23, 599 carats, 1986), The Golden Jubilee (#11, 755 carats, 1985) and the granddaddy of them all — the Cullinan Diamond (#1).

The 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond was eventually segmented into nine major stones, each of which was given the name Cullinan and a Roman numeral. Two of the gems are part of the the British Crown Jewels — the Great Star of Africa (Cullinan I) at 530.4 carats and the Second Star of Africa (Cullinan II) at 317.4 carats.

Petra's newest find boasts Type II clarity, the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice. A spokesperson for Petra said the newest discovery "further demonstrates the prevalence of these types of stones in the Cullinan orebody, as well as the ability of the mine’s plant to recover the full spectrum of diamonds.”

Credits: Images courtesy of Petra Diamonds.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Boyfriend Surprises 'American Idol' Contestant With On-Stage Proposal, Tears Flow

In the lead-up to her performance on Monday night's edition of American Idol, contestant Johanna Jones said she wished her boyfriend, Matt Zavoral, could have been there. He was buried in final exams at Brigham Young University, and couldn't get from Provo, Utah, to Hollywood in time for the taping — or so she thought.

"I don't want to get ahead myself, but he's probably the one," she said in a wonderful foreshadowing of what happened next.

Jones, a 23-year-old fast food cook from Las Vegas, earned a standing ovation for her unique and soulful interpretation of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game."

While judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan applauded the young singer, Zavoral emerged from backstage and joined his girlfriend in the spotlight.

With his hands gripping a ring box hidden behind his back, Zavoral said, "I couldn't be here this week because of exams, but I couldn't wait another day."

Then he went down on one knee and said, "Johanna, you are the love of my life. Will you marry me?"

Johanna said, "Yes," and Zavoral placed a halo-style diamond ring on his girlfriend's finger.

Jones' dad, who was watching with his wife from the audience, shouted, "He did ask me first. He got the thumbs up!"

Meanwhile, Perry was crying buckets of happy tears, collapsing to the floor behind the judge's table.

"Why won't someone love me like that," she weeped.

The comment seemed odd because Perry accepted an equally romantic proposal from actor Orlando Bloom on Valentine's Day. What we didn't realize is that the taping of the show predated her proposal. Perry cleared up the details in a Twitter post.

The cameras followed Jones and Zavoral backstage where the couple continued their celebration.

Zavoral explained that he had taken six exams the day before and then traveled 11 hours starting at the crack of dawn to make it to Hollywood just in time for his girlfriend's performance.

"Matt is the most amazing man I've ever met," said Jones. "No matter what happens, I'm going to go home smiling."

Jones certainly has a few busy months ahead of her and she advances to the next round of Idol, while preparing for a June 2019 wedding.

Check out Jones' performance and the romantic aftermath in the video below. The proposal starts at the 2:15 mark.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/American Idol.