Jewelry Judge Blog
August 21st, 2019
One block from London's River Thames, the chic Bankside Hotel is famous for its art, innovation, sustainability — and touch-screen vending machines that dispense surprising items, such as champagne, Tom Ford sunglasses and "placeholder" engagement rings.

Supplied by ROKUS, a London-based jeweler, the gold-plated brass rings feature a cabochon-cut labradorite secured in a classic six-prong setting. The brass is soft and adjustable, so one size fits all.

Labradorite was discovered by Moravian missionaries on the Isle of Paul in Labrador, Canada, in 1770. The missionaries brought the stones back to England and France, where they were fashioned into bracelets, brooches, necklaces and pins.

Labradorite displays a flashy iridescence and comes in many color variations — from grey and brown to green and yellow. But, due to its relative softness (6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale), it is not really intended for engagement rings.

Certainly, it has a place as the center stone of a novelty engagement ring — a cheeky, spontaneous expression of a couple's commitment until they can pick out a more precious and permanent keepsake.

“We didn’t want to fill our vending machines with just run-of-the-mill items,” Douglas McHugh, general manager of Bankside, told Lonely Planet News. “We wanted to include the fun and playful, as our guests tend to be comfortable in their own skin and don’t take themselves too seriously. We’ve had a few guests who have bought the ring and we’ve even had a spontaneous proposal in our restaurant.”

The six-story, 161-room hotel caters to artsy clientele. Guests enjoy an on-site artist studio and each room is equipped with an easel and paint kit. Works of art are displayed throughout the property, which happens to be a stone's throw from the Tate Modern, Britain's national gallery of international modern art.

The hotel proprietors decided to abandon the concept of in-room minibars. Instead, each floor is equipped with a touch-screen vending machine that can deliver a multitude of handy, quality items.

In addition to champagne, sunglasses and engagement rings, the "Bankside Boutique" vending machines dispense Patrón tequila, S'well water bottles, Polaroid "Snap" cameras, reading glasses, face masks, luxury shaving kits and much more.

Credits: Images courtesy of Bankside Hotel.
August 20th, 2019
Five contemporary works by jewelry artist Anna Hu, including a show-stopping diamond necklace, will headline Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Autumn Sale in Hong Kong on October 7.

Sotheby's provided Hu with the 100.02-carat fancy intense yellow diamond that is the colorful focal point of the Dunhuang Pipa necklace. The impressive piece, which resembles a four-stringed Chinese lute, is expected to fetch $5 million to $6.25 million.

Titled the "Silk Road Music Collection," Hu's latest designs were inspired by the musical and cultural exchanges that took place on the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that connected China with the Mediterranean Sea. The route was active from the 2nd century BC until the 18th century AD.

“It is absolutely a pleasure to collaborate with Sotheby’s on this project and be given the opportunity to work with the 100.02-carat yellow diamond, which is a true gift from nature," Hu said. "I want this collection to speak to my Chinese roots, and I thought the beauty of jewels could be enhanced with a touch of the traditional, yet exotic, music that once flowed through the Silk Road.”

Here's a review of the five-piece collection:

The Dunhuang Pipa Necklace. Designed and mounted by Hu, the convertible necklace has a silhouette inspired by Dunhuang murals depicting women playing the pipa (a Chinese lute). The necklace can be transformed into a brooch and earring ensemble for the modern-day woman who appreciates intricate designs with a versatile twist. Estimate: $5 million to $6.25 million.

Cello: Jadeite, Diamond and Pink Sapphire Brooch. This cello brooch takes inspiration from Picasso’s "Violin Hanging on the Wall," which is housed in Switzerland’s Museum of Fine Arts Bern and is composed of jadeites ranging from 1.43 carats to 34.93 carats. The largest green stones are outlined with white and yellow diamonds. Estimate: $280,000 to $350,000.

Blue Magpie: Conch Pearl, Gem and Diamond Brooch. Inspired by the works of Giuseppe Castiglione, the Jesuit missionary and painter at the imperial court of China, Hu extracted the essence of Eastern arts and applied it in the design of the Blue Magpie Brooch. Rendered with 500 gems, two blue magpies perch on delicate tree branches, resulting in a colorful creation that combines Chinese aesthetics and Western aristocracy. Estimate: $190,000 to $225,000.

Ellington: Pair of Conch Pearl, Sapphire and Diamond Earrings. Combining the two loves of her life – music and jewelry — Hu visualizes an enchanting jazz melody through the creation of Ellington Earrings. Composed of blue sapphires, baguette-cut and modified-cut diamonds, each of the earrings is highlighted with a conch pearl that connotes a musical note. Estimate: $280,000 to $350,000.

Appassionata: Ruby and Diamond Ring. Hu uses five rare rubies to represent the black piano keys in this three-finger ring. The piece is outlined with white diamonds and represents a whimsical interpretation of a classical jazz riff. Estimate: $80,000 to $100,000.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
August 19th, 2019
It's becoming clearer that Alrosa's 14.83-carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond, which was recently named "The Spirit of the Rose," has a very good chance of setting a world record when it goes on sale some time in November.

Alrosa has yet to estimate the stone's value, but gem expert Eden Rachminov, chairman of the Fancy Color Research Foundation, thinks it could be worth a small fortune. He examined the oval-cut sparkler first-hand and estimated it will sell for more than $60 million.

"A large fancy vivid purple-pink, internally flawless, with perfect visual characteristics such as this one, enters the market literally, once in a generation," Rachminov told "The stone has the most desirable pink undertone dispersed perfectly, and looks much bigger in relation to its actual weight. As of today, it is the most important vivid purplish pink ever unearthed in Russia and it will enter the books of history as an iconic Russian gem. Its beauty overcomes the important pink diamonds sold at auction in the last decade and its retail price should exceed $60 million. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to hold this pink wonder in my hands."

If The Spirit of the Rose sells for $60 million ($4.04 million per carat), it will narrowly edge out the current price-per-carat record holder, “Blue Moon of Josephine,” which sold in November 2015 for $48.5 million, or $4.03 million per carat. With a $60 million+ price tag, the The Spirit of the Rose would also join an elite club of the most expensive gems known to man.

In 2017, Hong Kong-based jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group paid a record $71 million for the 59.6-carat Pink Star. The previous record holder was the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue, which sold in 2016 for $58 million.

The Gemological Institute of America graded The Spirit of the Rose as internally flawless with excellent polish and very good symmetry. It's the largest vivid purple-pink diamond ever graded by the GIA.

“In the world of colored diamonds, pink diamonds are some of the most treasured, especially at larger sizes,” John King, GIA chief quality officer, said in a video that appears on a special website created for The Spirit of the Rose. “It’s unusual to see pink diamonds in the market over one carat today. Weighing more than 14 carats is exceptional. The color is an amazing specimen. Being also internally flawless makes it truly a unique stone.”

Sourced in 2017 at Alrosa's Ebelyakh deposit in Yakutia, Russia, the rough stone weighed 27.85 carats and remains the largest pink diamond ever mined in Russia. The smooth-surfaced alluvial stone measured 22.47 mm x 15.69 mm x 10.9 mm (photo above). Russia's previous record holder was much smaller at 3.86 carats.

The rough diamond was named "Nijinsky," after Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

In keeping with the same these, Alrosa chose the name "The Spirit of the Rose" for the finished stone to honor the famous 1911 ballet of the same name. In French, it was called “Le Spectre de la Rose,” and its primary dancers were Tamara Karsavina and Nijinsky.

Already the world’s biggest diamond producer in terms of sheer output, Russian mining company Alrosa is looking to become a major player in a segment of the industry now dominated by Rio Tinto and Anglo American’s De Beers — gem-quality colored diamonds. Alrosa's push is coming at a time when Rio Tinto’s Argyle Mine in Western Australia — the world’s primary source for pink, red and blue diamonds — is nearly tapped out. The mine is scheduled to close in 2020.

Credits: Images courtesy of Alrosa.
August 16th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, singer-songwriter Matt Palmer tries to convince the girl of his dreams to jettison her current boyfriend because he is taking her for granted in the 2010 release, "Diamond Love." The Los Angeles-based pop/R&B artist tells her she's a diamond in the rough and that he will let her shine.

The chorus goes like this: "You're one of a kind / You take a lifetime, a lifetime to find / You're a diamond in the rough / Baby you should be mine / And I'll let you shine / You're my diamond lover."

To Palmer, the term "diamond lover" represents a girlfriend who is perfect in every way.

Later in the song, he compliments the young woman by comparing her to "the perfect sapphire" and "the most beautiful ring." He also says she's like "silver and gold."

Penned by Palmer, "Diamond Love" was released as the first track from his Let Go album.

Palmer was born in Atlanta and started writing songs at the age of 14. As a teenager, the young performer released a 14-track disc, which helped him get into New York University's highly competitive Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. In August 2008, the artist won’s Song of the Month contest.

“I grew up loving Mariah Carey, Babyface, Michael and Janet Jackson, and I’m currently really inspired by Years & Years, MNEK and Disclosure,” Palmer recently told The Huffington Post. He went on to describe his music as “very melodic and vocal-driven pop, with an R&B influence.”

Please check out Matt Palmer's audio track of "Diamond Love." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Diamond Love"
Written and performed by Matt Palmer.

How long has it been
Since he started taking you for granted
It's gotta be a sin
And nobody wins
I can't believe I let him have it
Girl you must not know, oh
How far you could go, oh
Without him riding on your coat
You should shake him off
Tell him to get lost
It's 'bout time you know

You're one of a kind
You take a lifetime, a lifetime to find
You're a diamond in the rough
Baby you should be mine
And I'll let you shine
You're my diamond lover

The best that I've seen
Straight out of my dreams
The perfect sapphire
A piece saved for me
The most beautiful ring
With me girl you can fly
Girl you must not know, oh
How far you could go, oh
Without him riding on your coat
You should shake him off
Tell him to get lost
It's 'bout time you know

You're one of a kind
You take a lifetime, a lifetime to find
You're a diamond in the rough
Baby you should be mine
And I'll let you shine
You're my diamond lover

And if you could see my love
All the things we could be my love
We could walk out across the ocean
Part the seas my love
And if you could know my love
You're like silver and gold my love
When I'm with you girl I lose all control, my love

You're one of a kind
You take a lifetime a lifetime to find
You're a diamond in the rough
Baby you should be mine
And I'll let you shine
You're my diamond lover

Credit: Screen capture via
August 15th, 2019
A stunning 332-carat blue star sapphire set atop an 18-karat gold crown has been attracting huge crowds to the showroom of luxury jeweler Tiesh in Sri Lanka's ancient capital city of Kandy.

Dubbed the "Tiesh Blue Empress," the stone displays a prominent six-rayed star due to a unique optical phenomenon called "asterism." The Tiesh company, which operates showrooms both in Kandy and Colombo, Sri Lanka, claims the gem is the "largest-ever commercial blue star sapphire."

The mother stone of the Tiesh Blue Empress weighed an astonishing 201,500 carats and was unearthed in the early 1980s in the world-famous Ratnapura mining district. The carat weight of the mother stone is equivalent to 40.03 kg or 94.86 lbs. The cabochon-cut star sapphire weighs, by comparison, a mere 2.34 ounces.

“We are both humbled and elated to present the Tiesh Blue Empress not only to Sri Lanka but also to the world," said Lasantha de Fonseka, the founder and managing director of Tiesh. "Her rightful abode is neither in a safe nor in a bank vault, but rather showcased to be admired by the world. Her presence now firmly positions Kandy on Sri Lanka’s and the world’s tourism map. Needless to say the boost and visibility she will give Sri Lanka’s gem industry is inestimable.”

The Tiesh Blue Empress sits atop a crown handcrafted in 18-karat yellow gold and white gold, set with an array of other precious Sri Lankan gemstones. The showpiece is now on permanent public display at the Tiesh showroom in Kandy, under special 24-hour security. The company intends to keep the Tiesh Blue Empress on public display until an interested party makes a bid for it.

Sri Lanka is known for her abundance of gemstones within a very small geographic area and is especially famed for her blue sapphires, star sapphires and cat’s eye gems.

Fine star sapphires display a defined "asterism," a word derived from the Latin word “astrum,” for “star.” According to the Smithsonian, the asterism is actually caused by titanium trapped in the corundum while the crystal is forming. As the crystal cools, the titanium orients itself as needle-like structures in three directions. The cabochon cut’s smooth, rounded surface allows the light to reflect off the titanium, revealing a six-legged star.

Credit: Image courtesy of Tiesh.
August 14th, 2019
The Wilensky gallery in New York City has assembled a spectacular collection of natural emerald specimens — each one of museum quality and preserved in its crystal form.

“Important emerald stones and jewelry can be found in every gem collection around the world," said Stuart Wilensky, President of Wilensky. "The same cannot be said about exceptional natural emerald specimens. We estimate that there are less than 25 in the world that would qualify. Of those 25, half of them are here on exhibit.”

One of the most fascinating specimens in the exhibit was unearthed at the famous Muzo Mine in Colombia. The piece, which is borrowed from the Rice Northwest Museum, displays a rare group, or spray, of emeralds. More than 20 emeralds fan out from the matrix. It is one of the world's most significant examples of this phenomenon.

“It is a rewarding experience to be able to see so many of the great uncut emeralds, from so many mines and found over so many years, indeed centuries and millennia, in one place," said Gene Meieran, President of the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. "Like a gathering of Rembrandts or Van Goghs, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Titled "Magnificent Emeralds: Fura’s Tears,” the exhibition will take place at Wilensky's gallery in Manhattan's Chelsea art district and will run from September 26 through December 30, 2019.

Fura's Tears is a reference to a figure in ancient Colombian mythology. Legend states that the Muzo creator God, ARE (also spelled Ar-e), formed two figures on the shore of the sacred Minero River. One was male (Tena) and the other was female (Fura). The Muzo people believed Fura and Tena were the parents of humanity and legend states that the tears of Fura became emeralds. Today, the Fura and Tena mountains, as well as a bountiful source of fine emeralds in the region, are the lasting symbols of that ancient culture.

Credits: (From top to bottom) Emerald on calcite, Coscuez Mine, Boyaca, Colombia. Rice Northwest Museum Collection; "The Yamile." Emerald on calcite from the Coscuez Mine, Boyaca, Colombia. Collection of Ms. Lyda Hill; Emerald crystal from the Muzo Mine, Colombia. Dr. Eugene Meieran Collection; Emerald on calcite from the Coscuez Mine, Boyaca, Colombia. From the Dr. Stephen Smale Collection. All images by Evan D'Arpino via
August 13th, 2019
The largest pink diamond ever mined in Russia is on display in New York City this month. The ultra-rare 14.83-carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond was mined in 2017 and cut and polished into an oval shape by Alrosa, one of the world's largest producers of diamonds. When unearthed from the Ebelyakh deposit in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the gem-quality raw stone weighed 27.85 carats, the size of a large almond, and was almost free of inclusions.

"The unique characteristics of the diamond make it an extraordinary, rare stone of high value.” said Evgeny Agureev, director of Alrosa's United Sales Organization. The mining company is conducting private viewings of the stone at its New York office through August.

Before this find, the largest pink diamond mined by Alrosa was a 3.86-carat stone found in 2012. In the last eight years, the company has only recovered three pink diamonds weighing over two carats.

“Pink diamonds... are considered to be the rarest and most precious of all, and the size and clarity of this specimen makes it one of the best to be discovered anywhere in the world in recent years,” added Yury Okoyemov, Deputy CEO of Alrosa. “I am sure that this diamond will be the most expensive in the history of Russia’s gem-cutting industry.”

Alrosa accounts for about 25 percent of global diamond production and 95 percent of all diamonds mined in Russia. It operates more than 20 diamond deposits located in Yakutia and the Arkhangelsk Region. According to the company, colored diamonds weighing more than 10 carats are recovered approximately once a year.

Rare fancy pink diamonds have consistently set records at auction. The Pink Promise, an oval-shaped, 14.93-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, was sold in 2017 by Christie’s Hong Kong for $32.5 million, or $2.2 million per carat. The Pink Legacy, an 18.96-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, sold for $50.4 million in 2018 at the Magnificent Jewels auction at Christie’s in Geneva. It was renamed The Winston Pink Legacy by its new owners at Harry Winston. The sale set a record price per carat ($2.6 million) for a pink diamond sold at auction.

Bloomberg recently reported that the closing of the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia in 2020 could drive the price of pinks even higher.

Credit: Image courtesy of Alrosa.
August 9th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, country music legend Conway Twitty is the victim of a one-sided love affair in his 1958 classic, “It’s Only Make Believe.”

In this song about unrequited love, Twitty pours out his heart in a soaring vocal performance. He's ready to make the ultimate commitment — symbolized in the song by a wedding ring — but the object of his affection is not in love with him.

He sings, “My hopes, my dreams come true / My life, I’d give for you / My heart, a wedding ring / My all, my everything / My heart, I can’t control / You rule my very soul / My plans, my hopes, my schemes / Girl, you are my every dream / But it’s only make believe.

“It’s Only Make Believe” was a huge success for Twitty as it topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958 and was a hit in 22 countries. The song was covered by numerous artists, including Connie Francis, The Hollies, Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison, Bon Jovi and Fiona Apple, among others.

Twitty re-released the song as a duet with Loretta Lynn in 1970 and added his voice in the last verse of a cover by Ronnie McDowell in 1988.

There are a number of conflicting stories about the song's origin. Some music historians believe it was written by Twitty in only seven minutes during a concert intermission. Others have said Twitty knocked it out while sitting on a fire escape outside his sweltering hotel room in Hamilton, Ontario.

It's also rumored that when the song was first released by Twitty in 1958, Elvis Presley fans were certain the lead vocals were performed by The King of Rock 'n' Roll, singing under a pseudonym.

Speaking of names, the story behind Twitty's is noteworthy.

Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in Friars Point, Miss., in 1933, the artist developed his singing style while serving in the United States Army. When he returned from the Far East, Jenkins went to Memphis to pursue a music career. The one thing he lacked was a memorable name. According to an account by Fred Bronson in the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, the singer was looking at a road map when he spotted Conway, Ark., and Twitty, Texas. He merged the two and got Conway Twitty.

The new name seemed to change his fortune. He soon had a string of Top-40 hits, and performed award-winning duets with Loretta Lynn. Twitty was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He passed away in 1993, just a few months short of his 60th birthday.

We hope you enjoy the audio track of Twitty's 1976 rendition of “It’s Only Make Believe.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along...

“It’s Only Make Believe”
Written by Conway Twitty and Jack Nance. Performed by Conway Twitty.

People see us everywhere
They think you really care
But myself I can’t deceive
I know it’s only make believe

My one and only prayer
Is that some day you’ll care
My hopes, my dreams come true
My one and only you

No one will ever know
How much I love you so
My only prayer will be
Someday you’ll care for me
But it’s only make believe

My hopes, my dreams come true
My life, I’d give for you
My heart, a wedding ring
My all, my everything

My heart, I can’t control
You rule my very soul
My plans, my hopes, my schemes
Girl, you are my every dream
But it’s only make believe

My one and only prayer
Girl, is that some day you’ll care
My hopes, my dreams come true
You’re my one and only you

And no one will ever know
Just how much I love you so
And my only prayer will be
That someday you’ll care for me
But it’s only make believe
It’s make believe

Credit: Photo by United Talent Inc. (management)/MCA Records [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
August 8th, 2019
Scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK have developed gold sheets so thin they're technically two dimensional. In fact, this newest form of gold is just 2 atoms thick, the equivalent of 0.47 nanometers or about a million times thinner than a human finger nail.

The ultra-thin gold — which the Leeds researchers are calling "nanoseaweed" because of its greenish tint and tangled appearance under the microscope — already has the medical technology and electronics industries buzzing with excitement. It's still not clear if the material will have applications in the production of fine jewelry.

CNN reported that nano seaweed could be the foundation of artificial enzymes used in rapid medical diagnostic tests and water purification systems. Researchers noted that 2D gold provides an extremely high surface-to-volume ratio, which makes it 10 times more efficient than bulkier gold nanomaterial. The findings were first reported August 6 in the journal Advanced Science.

"This work amounts to a landmark achievement," Sunjie Ye, study author and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds' Molecular and Nanoscale Physics group, told CNN. "Not only does it open up the possibility that gold can be used more efficiently in existing technologies, it is providing a route which would allow material scientists to develop other 2D metals. This method could innovate nanomaterial manufacturing."

To get a good grasp of just how thin nanoseaweed is, check out these comparisons...

• Gold leaf — which is often employed in the areas of art, architecture and luxury dining — can be pounded down to 7 millionths of an inch. That's about 175 nanometers thick.
• Nanoseaweed, by comparison, has a thickness of just 0.47 nanometers.
• That means it would take a stack 372 sheets of nanoseaweed to match the thickness of a single sheet of gold leaf.

"Gold is a highly effective catalyst," added the study's co-author, Stephen Evans, who is also the head of the University of Leeds' Molecular and Nanoscale Research group. "Because the nanosheets are so thin, just about every gold atom plays a part in the catalysis. It means the process is highly efficient. Our data suggests that industry could get the same effect from using a smaller amount of gold, and this has economic advantages when you are talking about a precious metal."

Images courtesy of University of Leeds.
August 6th, 2019
Tyler Farrar knows better than most how the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry — especially in unpredictable bodies of water.

Exactly one year ago, the Sevierville, Tenn., native brought his girlfriend, Cassandra Arn, and a bunch of close friends to Panama City Beach on the Florida panhandle to enjoy some fun in the sun. What Farrar also had planned was a surprise surf-side marriage proposal.

In preparation for the big moment, Farrah and his buddies waded out into the shallow waters to practice how the future groom would deliver his "message-in-a-bottle" proposal. His good intentions were quickly wiped out when a huge wave knocked him down and jarred loose the engagement ring that he had carefully stashed in a Ziploc-style bag within the Velcro-sealed pocket of his bathing suit.

For 45 minutes, Farrar and his buddies frantically searched unsuccessfully for the ring.

“I never thought it would be found,” he told

Meanwhile, not too far down the beach, Florence, Ala., resident Sandy Osborn was sitting on a beach chair where the surf meets the sand when she noticed an unusual plastic bag tumbling right under her legs. It seemed to contain a license, a bank card — and an engagement ring. Osborn planned to call the bank to identify the cardholder, but before she could, she noticed a bunch of Farrar's friends asking beachgoers if they had seen the ring.

When Osborne produced the bag of valuables, the thrilled friends took custody of it and ran it back to Farrar.

With the ring now safely in hand, Farrar decided to ditch his elaborate water-borne proposal scheme.

He kneeled in front of Arn and asked her to marry him. She said, "Yes."

The newly engaged couple praised Osborne's honesty.

“I’m super thankful,” Farrar told “It gave me faith in humanity. There still are some decent people out here. I appreciate her honesty.”

Arn and Osborne connected right away and kept in touch during the past year. Osborne recounted how she convinced the couple to reconsider their wedding venue.

"[Cassandra] said, 'You gotta come to our wedding.' I know they live in Tennessee, I live in Alabama, and they planned on getting married in Tennessee, and I said, 'Ya'll need to come back to Panama City Beach and do it here, where it all happened.' Osborn told TV station WJHG. "So the next thing I know, I'm getting an invitation in the mail to come back for their wedding."

On Saturday, August 3, only a few yards from where the ring was lost, and with Osborne in attendance, the Farrars took their vows.

"I'm just so happy to be here and be a part of it, because it's just a once-in-a-lifetime memory. And I'm just so glad I found the ring because it could've easily been lost forever," Osborn told WJHG.

You can check out WJHG's coverage of the story here...

Credits: Screen captures via