Jewelry Judge Blog
February 20th, 2020
Ladies planning to pop the question on Leap Day, February 29, may want to check out this tempting offer from Iceland's Hotel Rangá, a luxury countryside resort about an hour's drive from the capital city of Reykjavik.



The hotel — which delivers breathtaking views of the northern lights — is giving away a free one-night stay to women who "take the lead" on Leap Day.

"Iceland, in general, is a big champion of women, and we love that Leap Year has this tradition where it's good luck for ladies to propose marriage on this day,” Eyrún Aníta Gylfadóttir, the hotel’s marketing manager, told Travel + Leisure.

“We wanted to empower women to have the courage to take the lead not only on Leap Day, but every day, and celebrate them for it! Plus, we're located in an especially beautiful location and are a romantic choice for couples looking to pop the question, celebrate a special occasion and enjoy an adventurous getaway."



The Hotel Rangá employs a wedding planner who can ensure that the proposal is extra special. One recommendation: How about popping the question under a crystallized waterfall?

The hotel will even throw in a complimentary breakfast, chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of Champagne.

Upon entering Hotel Rangá, visitors are greeted by a towering 10-foot tall polar bear named Hrammur that resides in the reception hall. Among the hotel's many amenities are three much-beloved outdoor hot tubs heated with geothermal water and an onsite astronomical observatory equipped with two high-quality 11-inch computerized telescopes.

The Leap Day offer is subject to availability, so those looking to book one of the venue's 52 rooms and suites should send an inquiry to hotelranga@hotelranga.is.

For more than 1,500 years, February 29 — which occurs once every four years — has been reserved for single ladies who have waited far too long for their guys to pop the question. Leap Day marriage proposals have their roots in 5th century Ireland, where St. Brigid of Kildare forged a deal with St. Patrick to permit women to propose to men every four years. In Ireland, Leap Day is also called Bachelor’s Day.

In a 2015 Glamour survey of 500 men, 70% said they would be “psyched” if their female partner popped the question.

Exactly 37% agreed that the woman should get down on one knee for the proposal, and 41% said they would expect to receive a ring.

Credits: Images courtesy of Hotel Rangá.
February 19th, 2020
The 1.53-carat diamond at the center of Pepsi's Engagement Ring Giveaway was formed in a lab with carbon derived from its short-lived spinoff, Crystal Pepsi.



Soft-drink fans may remember that Pepsi tested the crystal clear version of its ubiquitous carbonated beverage in 1992, and then pulled the plug on the nationwide rollout a year later. Crystal Pepsi (basically regular Pepsi without the caramel coloring) was revived in limited releases from 2015 through 2018.

For this promotion, the folks from Pepsi claim to have boiled down Crystal Pepsi "to its most basic carbon form," resulting in a powder that was used to create a lab-grown diamond.

Set in platinum, the truly one-of-a-kind round brilliant-cut diamond will soon adorn the left hand of the contest winner's significant other, just in time for National Proposal Day, which takes place on March 20. Pepsi says the ring is valued at $3,000.

On Pepsi's official Twitter page, the company wrote: "Propose how you’d propose for a chance to do it with The Pepsi Engagement Ring - the only ring made with real Crystal Pepsi. Really."

Contestants must tweet their proposal, along with up to four photos and one 30-second video, using the Twitter handle @Pepsi, and the hashtags #PepsiProposal and #Contest.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges based on originality, quality and marketability appeal.

“How do you make your passion clear to the one you love most?” the company stated in a 34-second promotional video that was posted to Twitter. “You could propose with the thing you love most: Pepsi.”

The romantic clip, which features newly engaged couples, ends with a closeup of the Crystal Pepsi rock and the tagline, “A ring with taste.”

The contest runs through March 6 and a winner will be selected during the week of March 16.

Credit: Image courtesy of Pepsi.
February 18th, 2020
A U.S. Air Force pilot attached an engagement ring to a weather balloon and sent it 17 miles into space as part of a spectacular surprise marriage proposal that included a wild hunt to retrieve the precious payload after it plummeted back to earth.



Stuart Shippee, a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber pilot from the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, worked with a bunch of friends and now-fiancée Marie Lisman to launch the balloon to a critical altitude of 90,000 feet. With the onboard video camera capturing every moment of the journey, the viewer is treated to spectacular images of the ring traveling three times as high as the cruising altitude of a 747. (Shippee used a faux ring just in case the mission went awry.)

Lisman didn't know an engagement ring was making the journey. She was under the impression that a medallion commemorating the 13th Bomb Squadron of the United States Air Force was secured in the clip. At the very last moment before launch, and out of Lisman's view, ShIppee replaced the medallion with the ring.



In Shippee's video, we see the team's preparation of the balloon, the clever switching of the medallion for the ring, and then a thrilling ascent that starts over a grassy field and ends at the edge of space, where the atmospheric pressure causes the balloon to burst and spin back down to earth.



Using a GPS tracking device, the team was able to find the remains of the balloon, as well as the camera and ring in a cornfield. We see Lisman grabbing the camera, but not realizing right away that the medallion has been replaced with an engagement ring.

In the next moment, Shippee is on bended knee, ring box in hand. With the real diamond ring, he proposes to his startled girlfriend. In the final scene, an ecstatic Lisman shows off her ring to the onboard camera.

"When I first picked up the balloon payload I did not see the imitation ring until I looked down and Stuart was on his knee," said Lisman. "I was speechless! After the long day and difficult search for the payload I was very happy to have the ending be so special."

Shippee told the Whiteman Air Force Base website that sending a ring into space was on his mind for a while, but he wasn't sure if he could pull it off. His window of opportunity was limited because Lisman was in town only for the weekend.

"If anything went wrong, the whole thing would fail," he said.

In the end, the mission — which took place in August — was a rousing success. The video was finally posted at the end of December and has been getting viral traction just recently.

You can check out the full video below...


Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/BloonStu.
February 17th, 2020
One of the world’s most unusual examples of February’s birthstone is this 172.23-carat parallelogram-shaped amethyst that boasts a fancy "staircase cut" on the pavilion. (That's the slanted lower portion of the gem just below the girdle).



Sourced at Hallelujah Junction, Nev., just 30 miles north of Reno, this impressive stone is the first from that locality to join the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian's mineral and gem collection consists of approximately 350,000 mineral specimens and 10,000 gems, making it one of the largest of its kind in the world.

While amethysts traditionally have been sourced in Brazil, Uruguay, Zambia, Mexico, Italy and Germany, the U.S. and Canada are also credited with producing some of the finest-quality purple stones.

Amethyst is the most coveted variety of quartz, which is clear in its pure state. Amethyst gets is purple color from a few atoms of iron displacing some of the silicon in the gem’s molecular structure. These traces of iron can give amethyst a wide range of colors, from almost white to deep purple.

Coveted for thousands of years, Amethyst is one of the oldest recorded gemstones. They’ve been recovered from ancient Egyptian tombs and were prized by the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Hebrews.

Amethyst gets its name from the Greek word “amethystos,” which literally means “not to intoxicate.” Apparently, the Greeks believed amethyst could reverse the effects of drunkenness. Medieval soldiers wore amethyst to protect themselves in battle. Other cultures believed February’s birthstone would bring good fortune, inspire their intellect, heal their illnesses or bolster their immune systems.

The color rating of an amethyst is determined by its hue, tone and saturation. Hue is the color; tone is relative lightness or darkness of the color; and saturation relates to the color’s intensity, from dull to vivid.

Credit: Photo by Greg Polley / Smithsonian.
February 14th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Andreya Triana's 2015 release, "Gold," gets a big boost when Nissan features the song in its commercial for the 2020 Versa.



In this tune about learning to appreciate the simple things in life, Triana finally opens her eyes and is fascinated by the beauty of the world around her.

She sings, "It all feels like gold, gold to me / It might not be diamonds, but it shines for me / It all feels like gold, gold to me / It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me."

Although "Gold" was originally released on Triana's second studio album, Giants, in 2015, the song got a big boost more than four years later when Nissan used the track in its 60 second commercial for the 2020 Versa. The car's tagline states, "This is tech for a world that never stops."

In the commercial titled "Good Morning, Goodnight," we are introduced to a successful, modern millennial couple making the most of their conflicting work schedules. It's not a diamond-level lifestyle, but it's still gold to them.

The opening scene shows a young medical professional finishing up his shift at 5 a.m. at a local hospital. At the same time, his significant other is waking up to an alarm clock to start her busy day. She gets ready for a pre-dawn jog and adjusts her headphones. He gets into his Nissan Versa and plays his favorite tune. Both the guy and gal are listening to Triana's "Gold." As he arrives home, she is dressed for work and waiting on the driveway. They exchange a warm hug and he says, "Good morning." She says, "Bye." He hands her the keys to the Versa and off she goes.

Hailing from South East London, Triana honed her singing talent by doing open-mike nights as a 17-year-old. In 2006, she earned a coveted spot at the Red Bull Music Academy in Australia, where she developed her improvisational styling and made connections with top producers and musicians. In 2010, she released her debut album, Lost Where I Belong.

The artist will be touring the UK throughout March.

Please check out the videos of Triana performing "Gold." The first is the Nissan Versa commercial, and the second features the full track. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Gold"
Written by Dee Adam, Alex "Cores" Hayes, Andreya Triana and Hannah Vasanth. Performed by Andreya Triana.

Lord only knows this heart is free
A brand new day is at my feet
Now sing it low, low and sweet
I give it more soul, I give it all of me

It all feels like gold, gold to me
It might not be diamonds, but it shines for me
It all feels like gold, gold to me
It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me
Sing it
Yeah, yeah, gold
Yeah, yeah

Simple things that light me up
What a beautiful world, and I see the love
And everything, and everyone
When I'm digging softly
Oh the time will come

It all feels like gold, gold to me
It might not be diamonds, but it shines for me
It all feels like gold, gold to me
It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me
Sing it
Yeah, yeah, gold
Yeah, yeah

Open my eyes, I see there's so much beauty
There's so much more then I ever believed
Hard touching the sky when the angels keep falling
And it's all good to me, it's all good to me

It all feels like gold, gold to me
It might not be diamonds, but it shines for me
It all feels like gold, gold to me
It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me
Sing it
Yeah, yeah, gold
Yeah, yeah, gold

It all feels like gold, gold to me (Yeah, yeah)
It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me (Yeah, yeah, gold)
It all feels like gold, all gold to me (Yeah, yeah)
It ain't lost in silence, it's all good to me (Yeah, yeah, gold)
It's all good to me

All good to me
All good to me
So good to me

The 2020 Nissan Versa commercial here...

Full audio track here...

Credit: Image by NathanCroftonBond [CC BY-SA].
February 13th, 2020
Black diamonds have been top of mind this week because Janet Jackson announced on Monday that both her newest studio album and upcoming world tour will be called "Black Diamond."



Jackson explained the symbolism behind the gemstone reference on her Instagram page.

"Black Diamonds are the toughest of all the diamonds, the hardest to cut," Jackson wrote. "I see that as the hardest to hurt or destroy. There is a lot that I have endured. I see myself as a Black Diamond in its purest form. I’m a rock, I have ruff edges but I keep moving forward. I want to show you my strength as well as give you strength."

A quick fact-check of Jackson's gemological claims about black diamonds confirms that the 53-year-old singer-songwriter-actress-dancer is right on the mark.



Leibish Polnauer, the founder of New York-based Leibish & Co. and world-renowned authority on fancy color diamonds, told us that natural black diamonds are, in fact, harder to cut than any other diamonds.

As the Leibish.com website explains, a rough diamond is cut and shaped by placing it on a polishing wheel, where a large stone disc covered in a layer of solidified diamond powder rotates and sands down the diamond in short bursts.

He explained that diamond cutters use diamond powder on their polishing wheels, since the only material that can be used to mechanically cut a diamond — the hardest material known to man — is another diamond.

Even so, the diamond powder used on the wheels is often no match for black diamonds.

"Black diamonds are exceptionally hard," he said. "They actually eat up the polishing wheels."

Polnauer said that black diamonds are heavily included and contain hard nodes that eat away at the polishing powder, forcing the cutters to replenish the powder more often than when polishing other types of diamonds.



With black diamonds rating a perfect 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, their hardness makes them a fine jewelry accessory to be worn every day. We've seen black diamonds featured in engagement rings, wedding bands, bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks and rings.

Polnauer explained in a column titled "The 18 Most Asked Questions About Black Diamonds," that natural black diamonds are somewhat different from most other diamonds in that they are entirely opaque.

"These stones are incredibly precious, absolutely beautiful and considered quite valuable," he wrote. "Still, even with all the hype of black diamonds, these stones are more affordable than most other natural fancy colored diamonds."

He reports that natural fancy black diamonds will likely cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per carat.

Polnauer pointed out that unlike other color diamonds that owe their color to chemical impurities, such as nitrogen, hydrogen and boron, natural black diamonds get their color from the inclusion of graphite and random clustering throughout the diamond. He added that the primary sources for natural black diamonds are Brazil and Central Africa.

Jackson's Black Diamond tour will kick off in Miami at the end of June, and her album is set for a summer debut. It's been more than four years since Jackson's previous release, Unbreakable.

Credits: Janet Jackson image by Rich Esteban [CC BY-SA]. Black diamonds and Leibish Polnauer photos courtesy of Leibish & Co.
February 12th, 2020
Fancy pink diamonds soared 116% in value over the past decade, outpacing blues (81%) and yellows (21%), according to a report by the Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCRF), an Israel-based group that tracks diamond pricing data in the global trading centers of Hong Kong, New York and Tel Aviv.



While the overall index for fancy-color diamonds — across all their brilliant hues — increased by 77% from 2009 to 2019, it was the pink diamond category that stood out in the report.

Market watchers believe that the strength of the pink-diamond segment is attributed to the expected closure this year of the Argyle Diamond Mine, which has been operating in Western Australia for the past 37 years.

“Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine is the first and only ongoing source of rare pink diamonds in history,” said Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat in 2019. “With the lifecycle of this extraordinary mine approaching its end, we have seen, and continue to see, unstoppable demand for these truly limited-edition diamonds and strong value appreciation.”

Two of the world's most famous — and valuable — pink diamonds are The Pink Star (shown above) and the Pink Legacy (shown below).

Back in April of 2017, The Pink Star, a 59.6-carat, flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond, shattered the world record for the highest price ever paid for any gem at auction. The hammer price of $71.2 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale in Hong Kong easily surpassed the $57.5 million achieved in May of 2016 by the previous record-holder, the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue diamond.



In November of 2018, the 18.96-carat Pink Legacy was purchased for $50.3 million at Christie’s Geneva, establishing a record per-carat price of $2.7 million for a fancy vivid pink diamond. The previous record holder was the 14.93-carat Pink Promise, which sold at auction for $2.2 million per carat in 2017.

FCRF advisory board member Jim Pounds explained why prices for fancy-color diamonds should remain strong: “From the mining perspective, we are currently experiencing a shortage in high-quality fancy-color rough and we therefore feel quite optimistic about the future.”

Credits: Pink Star image courtesy of Sotheby’s. Pink Legacy image courtesy of Christie's.
February 11th, 2020
A number of celebrity websites have been revisiting a memorable 2011 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians — the one where a 14-year-old Kylie Jenner rescues her big sister Kim Kardashian West's $75,000 diamond earring from the ocean floor in Bora Bora.



Fans will remember how Kardashian West's earring got jostled loose after her then-husband Kris Humphries playfully launched her off a dock and into the water. As she surfaced, she immediately checked her earrings and realized one was gone. Jenner, who was swimming nearby, saw the whole incident and heroically took action.



“It was pretty deep, but there [weren’t] a lot of waves and Kim kind of, like, threw a tantrum immediately when she found out that she lost it and I was like, ‘No. This is fine!'” Jenner said in a 2017 Buzzfeed interview.

"I went under there and it was saltwater so it kind of hurt to open my eyes, but I just opened my eyes and looked around and I saw something shining," she continued. "Swam all the way down there — it was, like, 10 feet — picked it up, and it was the shining diamond! I literally found it in two minutes.”

Kardashian West's tears of sadness turned into tears of joy when her kid sister reunited her with the sparkling keepsake.



Sharing the Buzzfeed set with her buddy Jordan Woods and a pack of adorable puppies, Jenner put an exclamation point on the story: "Then [Kim] was like, ‘You know, I don’t have my backing but it’s fine. I can always get that.’ And I was like, I’m just gonna look! So I went back down and I found the backing. I found the earring backing!”

Obviously impressed by Jenner's diving skills, tenacity and the ability to see underwater with no equipment, Woods chimed in, "I think you have a future career."

"Diamond finder!" Jenner exclaimed.

"Dive team," added Woods, implying she wanted to join in the effort.

In the years that followed the 2011 earring rescue, the youngest Jenner/Kardashian sister has gone on to become the youngest billionaire in the world, thanks, in part, to the tremendous success of her Kylie Cosmetics line. In November of 2019, the 22-year-old sold a 51% stake in the company to Coty Inc. for $600 million.

Jenner has been on reality TV since she was nine years old.

You can check out the Buzzfeed interview below. The earring discussion comes up at the 4:56 mark.


Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/BuzzFeedCelebs, YouTube.com/Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
February 10th, 2020
Lucara Diamond Corp. just recovered a 549-carat unbroken white diamond of "exceptional purity" from its Karowe Mine in Botswana — a mine that has earned worldwide recognition for producing the 1,758-carat Sewelô, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona and the 813-carat Constellation diamond. Those diamonds rank #2, #3 and #8 on the list of the largest rough diamonds of all time.



While Lucara didn't announce the value of the rough diamond, we can offer a guess based on the previous sales of similar diamonds. Karowe's Lesedi La Rona, for instance, earned more than $47,000 per carat ($53 million) and the Constellation generated more than $77,000 per carat ($63.1 million). Using $50,000 per carat as a guideline, the 549-carat diamond would yield $27.4 million.

The still-unnamed 549-carat rough stone is the fourth-largest diamond ever recovered from the prolific Karowe mine. It was cherry picked from Lucara's MDR (Mega Diamond Recovery) XRT circuit, a system that uses advanced technology to identify 100-carat-plus diamonds by monitoring the rocky material for X-ray luminescence, atomic density and transparency. Previously, large diamonds might have been mistaken as worthless ore and pulverized during the primary crushing process.

The company has been using MDR technology since 2017, and so far this year, six diamonds weighing more than 100 carats have been recovered at the Karowe Mine. In 2019, Karowe yielded more than 20 diamonds larger than 100 carats. Eight of those exceeded 200 carats.

Despite its impressive dimensions, the 549-carat rough diamond rates only 28th on the all-time list of the world’s largest rough diamonds, just behind Lesotho’s "Letseng Star" (550 carats, discovered in 2011) and just ahead of South Africa's "Cullinan Heritage" (507 carats, 2009). The largest rough diamond ever discovered is the 3,106-carat Cullinan, which was sourced near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1905.

According to mining.com, Lucara is close to completing a feasibility study into how underground production might extend the lifespan of the Karowe mine, which has been in operation since 2012.

Credit: Image courtesy of Lucara Diamond Corp.
February 7th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we feature classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, folk music legend Joan Baez recounts an unexpected phone call from former lover Bob Dylan in her hauntingly beautiful 1975 ballad, "Diamonds & Rust."



Baez and Dylan had been in a relationship 10 years earlier, and Dylan's call sparks a cascade of memories — both uplifting and heartbreaking — that are symbolically reflected in the title of the song and the following lyrics...

She sings, "Ten years ago / I bought you some cufflinks / You brought me something / We both know what memories can bring / They bring diamonds and rust."

Baez goes on to tell the story of the "unwashed phenomenon" and "original vagabond" who strayed into her arms. She sweetly recalls how his eyes were bluer than robin's eggs. She also explains how he seemed "temporarily lost at sea" and how she did her best to keep him unharmed. Sadly, the relationship wasn't reciprocal and the couple parted ways.

When Dylan placed the surprise call to Baez in 1974, she sensed his life was "heading straight for a fall." Music historians believe this was a time when Dylan's marriage was on the rocks and he was looking to rekindle his relationship with Baez.

But, as we see in the last line of the song, Dylan's outreach is strongly rebuked. With nothing left to give him, she sings, "It's all come back too clearly / Yes I loved you dearly / And if you're offering me diamonds and rust / I've already paid."

Often regarded as one of her best compositions, "Diamonds and Rust" topped out at #5 on the Billboard U.S. Adult Contemporary chart and #14 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. It was also the title song of Baez's gold-selling album, which was released in 1975.

When introducing "Diamonds & Rust" at live performances, Baez describes Dylan as "by far, the most talented and crazy person I've ever worked with."

Joan Chandos Baez, who was born in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1941, is best remembered for her folk music performances of the 1960s, which included 14 songs at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. After 60 years of performing, Baez announced her retirement in 2019.

Please check out the audio track of Baez performing "Diamonds & Rust." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Diamonds & Rust"
Written and performed by Joan Baez.

Well I'll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I'd known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin's eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

Well you burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes the girl on the half-shell
Would keep you unharmed

Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling around
And snow in your hair
Now you're smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there

Now you're telling me
You're not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It's all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust
I've already paid


Credit: Image by Rowland Scherman [Public domain].