The Jewelry Judge  - Ben Gordon's Blog
January 21st, 2022
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, 20-time Grammy winner Bruce Springsteen connects gold and diamonds to the immigrant experience in his 2006 jig-style tribute, "American Land."

For many generations, immigrants from around the world have come to the US filled with hopes and dreams of a better life. The rumor that American streets were "paved with gold" gave them the added incentive to overcome fears of leaving their homelands for an opportunity to prosper in what Springsteen calls the "American Land."

Springsteen adds his own take to the "paved with gold" theme, singing, "Gold comes rushing out the rivers straight into your hands / When you make your home in the American Land."

In the next verse, he adds, "There's diamonds in the sidewalk, there's gutters lined in song / Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long / There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man / Who will make his home in the American Land."

As a socially conscious defender of the working class, Springsteen has been giving a voice to the voiceless for more than 50 years. He originally wrote "American Land" for his 2006 Seeger Sessions Tour and then recorded it as bonus track for Wrecking Ball, his blockbuster 2012 album that went to #1 in 16 countries. During the Seeger Sessions Tour, Springsteen closed many of his shows with a rousing, Irish jig-style performance of "American Land."

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born in Long Branch, NJ, in 1949. Inspired by the Beatles' performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, the 15-year-old Springsteen bought his first guitar for $18.95 at a Western Auto Appliance store. He played small venues with a number of bands throughout the late '60s and then caught the attention of a Columbia Records talent scout in 1972. Springsteen's debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., was released in October of that same year.

Springsteen has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. He's earned 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Special Tony Award for Springsteen on Broadway. In 1999, he was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Please check out the video of Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band performing "American Land" live in Dublin in 2006. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"American Land"
Written by Bruce Springsteen. Performed by Bruce Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band.

What is this land America so many travel there
I'm going now while I'm still young my darling meet me there
Wish me luck my lovely I'll send for you when I can
And we'll make our home in the American Land

Over there all the woman wear silk and satin to their knees
And children dear, the sweets, I hear, are growing on the trees
Gold comes rushing out the rivers straight into your hands
When you make your home in the American Land

There's diamonds in the sidewalk, there's gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American Land

I docked at Ellis Island in a city of light and spires
Wondered to the valley of red-hot steel and fire
We made the steel that built the cities with our sweat and two hands
And we made our home in the American Land

There's diamonds in the sidewalk, there's gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American Land

The McNicholas, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis, too
The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
Come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothing in their bellies but the fire down below

They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago they're still dying now
The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep down

There's diamonds in the sidewalk, there's gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American Land
Who will make his home in the American Land
Who will make his home in the American Land

Credit: Screen capture via / Bruce Springsteen.
January 20th, 2022
An amateur metal detectorist is bracing for a half-million-dollar windfall after digging up an ultra-rare, 765-year old "Henry III gold penny" on a farm in Devon, England.

Gregory Edmund, a numismatist with London-based auctioneer Spink & Son, told CNN that the treasure hunter didn't realize the value of his find until he posted a photo of the 1257 penny on Facebook.

Edmund spotted the post and contacted the metal detectorist with the news that he had discovered one of the most significant coins in the history of English numismatics. There are only eight known to still exist and most of those are displayed in museums.

The coin will hit the Spink auction block on Sunday, January 23. The presale estimate is £200,000 ($272,000) to £400,000 ($545,000).

The lucky gentleman, who wishes to remain anonymous, put out a statement that read, "How it has survived three-quarters of a millennium relatively unscathed is truly miraculous. Like every hobbyist who continues to dream, my wish that day came true, and I just happened to be the very fortunate one."

Described as the first "true" portrait of an English king on a coin, the obverse shows Henry III sitting on a throne with a scepter in his right hand and an orb in his left. Around the edge of the coin are the words "Henric," meaning Henry, and "Rex I.I.I," for the third king.

The reverse shows a long cross and four five-petalled roses, along with the name of King Henry III's goldsmith, William of Gloucester, around the edge.

Having assumed the throne as a nine-year-old, King Henry III ruled England from 1216 until his death in 1272.

The coin is historically significant because it marked the return of gold coinage into Europe after a near-500-year hiatus. Currency at the time was silver-based.

The reason why so few Henry III gold pennies still exist is because nearly all of them were melted down.

When 50,000 of these coins were first minted in 1257, they were generally rejected by merchants and the public. The monetary value was equal to 20 silver pennies and the melt value of the gold was worth more than the coin itself. Gold coins didn't return to the scene in England until the reign of Edward III in 1344.

The ones that still exist have become a hot commodity at auction houses around the world. At Dallas-based Heritage Auctions in January of 2021, a similar Henry III gold penny received 17 bids and eventually sold for $720,000. That coin had been in a private collection for 25 years after being purchased at a Spink-Christie's auction in 1996, according to published reports.

Credits: Images courtesy of Spink & Son.
January 19th, 2022
A 555.55-carat black diamond with interstellar origins could fetch upwards of $6.8 million at Sotheby's London next month.

The fascinating gem was revealed to journalists at Sotheby's Dubai on Monday. It was the first stop of a publicity tour that will continue to Los Angeles (Jan. 24-26) and then circle back to London for the online sale (Feb. 3-9).

Billed as the largest faceted diamond of any kind to appear at auction, "The Enigma" will be offered in its own dedicated online sale — without reserve. In auction parlance, that means the highest bid will be the winning bid, with no minimum required. Sotheby's will be accepting cryptocurrency, a strategy aimed at attracting younger, digitally savvy buyers.

The Enigma is considered a "carbonado diamond," which was likely formed in outer space and brought to earth by meteorites, according to scientists. Earth-formed diamonds often display a crystal structure, while carbonado diamonds — in their natural form — have an irregular surface that resembles charcoal.

Carbonado diamonds are found in only two places on earth — Brazil and the Central African Republic. (During the earth’s history, the eastern coast of Brazil may have been connected geographically to the western coast of Africa).

Black diamonds are also different than other colored diamonds because they do not get their color from trace amounts of nitrogen, hydrogen or boron, in the gem's chemical makeup. Instead, black diamonds owe their color to numerous dark inclusions (mostly graphite). Their opaqueness is caused by a “polycrystalline” structure that inhibits the reflection of light.

The Enigma officially entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006 as the "Largest Cut Fancy Black Diamond." Since then, it's been mostly out of the public eye.

The rare black diamond is awash in 5s, from its 555.55-carat weight to its 55 facets. The repetitive use of the number five is culturally significant in the Islamic world, where it is considered sacred and representative of the five Pillars of Islam.

Sophie Stevens, a jewelry specialist at Sotheby’s Dubai, told the Associated Press that the shape of the diamond is based on the Middle-Eastern palm-shaped Khamsa, a symbol that stands for strength and protection.

The auction house estimated that The Enigma would sell for £5 million ($6.8 million).

Credits: Images via Instagram / Sothebysjewels; Instagram / Sothebys.
January 18th, 2022
Over the past 10 years, researchers Drs. Jennifer Miller and Yiming Wang assembled the largest-ever database of ostrich eggshell beads — tiny beads that are now revealing big stories about our past.

The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Munich, Germany, claim that identically crafted beads found 3,000 km (1,864 miles) apart in southern and eastern Africa affirm the existence of a social network that connected homo sapien populations 50,000 years ago. The study was published in December in the journal Nature Communications.

Ostrich eggshell (OES) beads are ideal artifacts for understanding ancient social relationships, said the researchers. They are the world’s oldest fully manufactured ornaments, meaning that instead of relying on an item’s natural size or shape, humans completely transformed the shells to produce beads.

This extensive shaping created ample opportunities for variations in style. Because different cultures produced beads of different styles, the prehistoric accessories provide researchers a way to trace cultural connections.

“It’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs,” said Miller, lead-author of the study. “The beads are clues, scattered across time and space, just waiting to be noticed.”

To search for signs of population connectivity, Miller and Wang assembled the largest ever database of ostrich eggshell beads. It included detailed descriptions of more than 1,500 individual beads unearthed from 31 sites across southern and eastern Africa.

By comparing OES bead characteristics, such as total diameter, aperture diameter and shell thickness, Miller and Wang found that between 50,000 and 33,000 years ago, our ancient ancestors in eastern and southern Africa were adorning themselves with nearly identical OES beads. The finding suggests a long-distance social network spanning more than 3,000 km once connected people in the two regions.

“The result is surprising, but the pattern is clear,” said Wang, co-corresponding author of the study. “Throughout the 50,000 years we examined, this is the only time period that the bead characteristics are the same.”

Surprisingly, at 33,000 years ago, the bead designs produced by the populations of southern and eastern Africa were no longer the same.

The scientists believe the regional network broke down due to climate change.

It was a time when eastern Africa was experiencing a dramatic reduction in precipitation as the tropical rain belt shifted southward. Heavy rainfall in the large area connecting eastern and southern Africa likely resulted in periodic flooding of riverbanks, which may have created geographic barriers that disrupted the ability of the two populations to interact.

“These tiny beads have the power to reveal big stories about our past,” said Miller. “We encourage other researchers to build upon this database, and continue exploring evidence for cultural connection in new regions.”

Credits: Modern ostrich shell beads photo by © Hans Sell. Image of ostrich egg compared to chicken egg by Rudolph.A.furtado, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 17th, 2022
The engagement ring used by Machine Gun Kelly to propose to actress Megan Fox is a modern adaptation of a design originally conceived by a promising 26-year-old officer named Napoleon Bonaparte more than 200 years ago.

Back in 1796, Napoleon — then still eight years removed from the French throne — presented to his beloved Josephine on the occasion of their marriage a unique bypass-style ring that featured two tear-shaped gemstones, one diamond and one sapphire, set in opposite directions. The “Toi et Moi” ring symbolized two souls becoming one. (The French phrase “toi et moi” means “you and me” in English.)

Kelly, whose birth name is Colson Baker, posted photos and short clips of the proposal on his Instagram page. The 31-year-old rapper-singer-actor explained to his 9.4 million followers how he collaborated with British jewelry designer Stephen Webster on a special two-part ring that reflected true connections to both Fox and himself.

He wrote, "I know tradition is one ring, but I designed it with Stephen Webster to be two: the emerald (her birth stone) and the diamond (my birth stone) set on two magnetic bands of thorns that draw together as two halves of the same soul forming the obscure heart that is our love. 1-11-2022."

Unlike Napoleon's ring, Kelly's interpretation has the main stones oriented in the same direction.

On his own Instagram page, Webster further clarified how the normally non-magnetic 18-karat white gold rings became magnetic.

"The resulting ring actually consists of two rings, which by the use of magnets buried within the gold, are attracted to each other and sit together perfectly on the finger; a detail that is both modern and quite extraordinary," he wrote.

Webster also shared photos of the rings from multiple angles, revealing the intricate diamond detail on the gallery of each piece.

Fox told her 18 million Instagram followers how Kelly proposed under a banyan tree. It was the same tree where they first professed their love in July of 2020.

Jewelry-industry experts believe the pear-shaped emerald and diamond each weigh about 4 to 5 carats. The value of the ring is upwards of $400,000, they say, depending on the quality of the stones.

Webster noted that the diamond is a D-color antique cut and that the emerald is an "extraordinary completely untreated Colombian gem." The bands are pavé set with colorless natural diamonds.

Credits: Proposal images via Instagram / MachineGunKelly. Ring closeups by Instagram / stephenwebsterjewellery.
January 14th, 2022
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you uplifting songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith uses the term "gold in them hills" to deliver an inspirational message about cherishing all that life has to offer — both the good and the bad.

He sings, "But if we'd only open our eyes / We'd see the blessings in disguise / That all the rain clouds are fountains / Though our troubles seem like mountains / There's gold in them hills / There's gold in them hills / So don't lose heart / Give the day a chance to start."

Originally released in 2003 as the 15th track of Sexsmith's Rarities album, "Gold in Them Hills" became the defining song of the 2013 film About Time, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy.

In an interview posted to Youtube, writer-director Richard Curtis explained how the "profoundly meaningful song" represented the central philosophical theme of About Time — that no matter how bad life looks, if you investigate it, there's gold in them hills.

"You just may not be noticing," he said. "But, the normal run of your day is a wonderful and glorious thing."

The main character in the film has the ability to time travel, and initially believes that he should try to change his past in an effort to bolster his future.

But, then he realizes — with the help of his dad — that the best way to use time travel is to relive each ordinary day without the worries and tensions that keep us from appreciating how lucky we are to be with the people we love and live the life we lead.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Ronald Eldon "Ron" Sexsmith began recording his own material in 1985 at the age of 21. He was named Songwriter of the Year at the 2005 Juno awards and has released a total of 15 albums.

Please check out the audio track of Sexsmith performing "Gold in Them Hills." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Gold in Them Hills"
Written and performed by Ron Sexsmith.

I know it doesn't seem that way
But maybe it's the perfect day
Even though the bills are piling
And maybe Lady Luck ain't smiling

But if we'd only open our eyes
We'd see the blessings in disguise
That all the rain clouds are fountains
Though our troubles seem like mountains

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

Every now and then life says
“Where do you think you're going so fast”
We're apt to think it cruel but sometimes
It's a case of cruel to be kind

And if we'd get up off our knees
Why then we'd see the forest for the trees
And we'd see the new sun rising
Over the hills on the horizon

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose faith
Give the world a chance to say

A word or two, my friend
There's no telling how the day might end
And we'll never know until we see

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills

Credit: Photo by spaceamoeba, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 13th, 2022
Sasha Spielberg, the daughter of movie mogul Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw, recently announced her New Year's Eve engagement to restauranteur Harry McNally with a series of Instagram pics that included a closeup of the ring and a prescient diary entry.

Sasha, who uses the stage name Buzzy Lee, posted a shot of her newly adorned left hand partially revealing a diary entry from November 12, 2020, that stated very matter-of-factly, "I'm gonna marry Harry!" It was written right after their first date and she was already certain she had found the love of her life.

Now, 14 months later, she exclaimed in her Instagram caption, "My diary proves to be right yet again!!"

Jewelry-industry experts described the ring as a round brilliant-cut diamond adorned by baguette side stones in a simple platinum or white gold setting. The center stone was estimated to weigh 3 to 4 carats and the value of the ring was pegged at about $150,000.

Among the Instagram photos was a shot of Sasha posing near the ocean on the morning after the engagement, and a screen cap of the couple embracing next to the family's Christmas tree moments after the proposal. It was taken from a second floor vantage point by the famous film maker himself.

“Unbeknownst to Harry, my dad was secretly filming,” Sasha wrote on Instagram. “Classic.”

The multi-talented Sasha, 31, is a musician, artist and actress. McNally runs The Odeon for his dad, New York restaurateur Keith McNally. The younger McNally is also a musician and music video director.

Sasha has appeared in a number of her dad's films, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Credits: Images via
January 12th, 2022
The Chinese Year of the Tiger officially starts on February 1, and The Perth Mint is marking the occasion with a limited-edition, silver proof coin featuring the image of the Chinese zodiac animal rendered in pure Australian opal.

Irregular slices of the bluish-purple precious stone are meticulously arranged to fill out the shape of the tiger, which stands out from the center of a black circular background.

The coin’s outer ring features stylized depictions of cineraria flowers, which are considered to be lucky for those born in the Year of the Tiger. The outer ring also includes the inscription “YEAR OF THE TIGER,” the Chinese character for “Tiger,” the year 2022, the coin’s weight and purity, and The Perth Mint’s traditional “P” mintmark.

Designed by Lucas Bowers, the Aussie coin measures 36.6mm in diameter, which is slightly smaller than a US silver dollar.

The one-ounce, legal tender silver coin is the sixth release in the Australian Opal Lunar Series — a series that launched with an opal rooster design in 2017 and was followed up with opal-adorned Chinese zodiac offerings in 2018 (dog), 2019 (pig), 2020 (rat) and 2021 (ox).

Those born in the Year of the Tiger are said to be brave, competitive, unpredictable and confident. The tiger is the third animal of the ancient lunar calendar.

The obverse of the tiger coin features the Jody Clark effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the weight and fineness, the “1 DOLLAR” denomination, “AUSTRALIA,” and the Queen’s name. The tiger coin will have a limited release of 5,000 units.

The Perth Mint frequently pays tribute to themes that are truly Australian. Opal is the official gemstone of Australia, and the country is credited with supplying nearly 95% the world’s fine opal.

From 2012 through 2014, the mint promoted the Australian Opal Series of five coins depicting native animals, including the koala, wombat, kangaroo, pygmy possum and Tasmanian devil — all rendered in opal.

Credits: Images courtesy of The Perth Mint.

January 11th, 2022
The gold-clad mirrors of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope will play a key role in observing galaxies that are more than 13 billion light years away.

In fact, NASA scientists believe that gold's superior ability to maximize the mirrors' reflection of infrared light gives Webb its best chance of seeing the cosmos.

On December 24, a rocket carrying the telescope took off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Its 21-foot-wide primary mirror was so large that it had to be folded — origami style — to fit into the capsule. Then, on January 8, the 18 segments of its primary mirror successfully unfolded in deep space to reveal a spectacular golden array.

The James Webb Space Telescope is designed to look back through time to when galaxies were young, to see light from the earliest galaxies as they formed after the Big Bang. It will also allow scientists to study the atmospheres of planets that orbit distant stars and search for signs of life.

In describing the massive telescope, a NASA spokesperson said in a video posted to Youtube, "The gold mirrors are definitely its most stunning feature. And, yes, that's real gold."

The spokesperson explained that a microscopic layer of gold was applied to each of the 18 hexagonal segments, each of which measures about 4.3 feet across. The area of the assembled mirror is approximately 25 square meters (270 square feet) and the mass is 705 kilograms (1,550 pounds).

Despite the mirror's vast dimensions, the amount of gold needed to coat all of the segments was 48 grams, about the equivalent of five men's wedding bands.

That's because the thickness of the gold layer is 100 nanometers, about 1/1000th the width of a human hair. To protect the precious metal on its journey, a thin layer of glass was applied on top of the gold.

NASA chose gold over other metals because of its high reflective qualities and its durability. Metals, such as aluminum and silver, reflect 85% and 95% of infrared light, respectively. Gold reflects 99% of all the infrared light it encounters. Gold is also one of the most unreactive metals, making it extraordinarily resilient to oxidization or decay during its five- to 10-year mission.

Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Chris Gunn.
January 10th, 2022
On Sunday, February 6, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate 70 years on the British throne, and The Royal Mint will be commemorating her remarkable Platinum Jubilee with a series of precious metal coins.

The special obverse design, by esteemed artist John Bergdahl, depicts The Queen on horseback and will be struck on the "heads" side of a new 50p and traditional £5 crown.

Representing Her Majesty’s fondness of nature, the Queen-approved design is reminiscent of the equestrian designs for the 1953 Coronation and 2002 Jubilee crown pieces.

Upon the death of her father, King George VI at age 56, Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952. She was only 25 at the time. The Queen broke the record as the longest-reigning British monarch in September 2015.

There will be year-long Platinum Jubilee celebrations throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world as communities come together to celebrate The Queen’s historic reign.

The coins of The Queen's Platinum Jubilee will be available in platinum, gold, silver and brilliant uncirculated cupronickel (copper-nickel alloy). Prices vary widely, depending on the metal of choice. For example, the 50 pence coin depicting the "70" logo retails for £1,395 in platinum, £1,095 in gold, £102.50 in silver and £7 in cupronickel.

The precious-metal versions of the coins will be minted in limited quantities, while the availability of the cupronickel version will be unlimited.

The "70" logo on the "tails" side of the 50p coin, which includes the Queen's cypher, or monogram, was conceived by Osborne Ross. The heraldic designs of Bergdahl are displayed on the "tails" side of the £5 coins.

The UK has instituted a special four-day Jubilee bank holiday from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5, during which the British government has promised a "once-in-a-generation show" that will "mix the best of British ceremonial splendor and pageantry with cutting-edge artistic and technological displays."

Credits: Photo of coins courtesy of The Royal Mint. Queen Elizabeth II (1953) by Associated Press, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Queen Elizabeth II (2015) by PolizeiBerlin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.