The Jewelry Judge  - Ben Gordon's Blog
August 25th, 2016
Unaware of its multi-million-dollar value, a Filipino fisherman kept a 75-pound natural pearl under his bed as a good luck charm — for 10 years. Every time he would head out to sea, he would touch the pearl to ensure his safety and good fortune.


The fisherman had found the pearl by chance when his boat's anchor got caught up on a giant clam. When the fisherman dove down to the ocean floor to release the snag, he discovered in the clam what many experts believe is the world's largest natural pearl.

Measuring 12 inches wide and 26 inches long, the scallop-shaped pearl looks like it grew to fill the void inside of the shell. If found to be authentic, the pearl — discovered near Puerto Princesa City, about 500 miles southwest of the capital city of Manila — could be worth in excess of $100 million. The fisherman had been completely unaware of his potential windfall.


The fisherman recently entrusted the amazing pearl to Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao, a relative who works for the Puerto Princesa tourism office. He asked her to take custody of the unwieldy good luck charm because he was about to move outside the province and couldn't take it with him.


Recognizing the pearl's potential star power, she asked the fisherman if he would approve of the pearl going on display as the city's newest tourist attraction. He agreed, and now the "Pearl of Puerto" is housed in the Atrium of the New Green City Hall.

Maggay-Amurao is encouraging gemologists to visit the city to study the pearl and make a determination of its authenticity.


On Facebook, Maggay-Amurao posted a few photos of the giant pearl balanced on a large scale. Her caption read, “The Puerto Princesa City would likely earn another prestigious title and a record breaker for having the world’s biggest natural giant pearl from a giant clam (34 kilograms) after being certified for its authenticity. Need help from gemologists!"

A natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, slips in between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue. To protect itself from the irritant, the mollusk secretes layer upon layer of nacre, which is an iridescent calcium carbonate material that eventually coats the invader and produces a pearl.

Giant clams can live for over 100 years and grow to be about four feet wide and weigh more than 500 pounds.

The $100 million valuation is based on another giant pearl that was found in the same area back in 1939. Called the Pearl of Lao Tzu, the previous record-holder weighed 14.1 pounds and was valued at $93 million by a Colorado gemologist in 2003. The Pearl of Puerto weighs more than five times as much as the Pearl of Lao Tzu and, for the record, a 75-pound pearl is equivalent to 170,000 carats.

Although the fisherman has allowed the city to display his extraordinary find, he retains his ownership status. Only time will tell what kind of payday the sale of the pearl may yield.

Credits: Images via; Facebook/Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao;
August 24th, 2016
Eighty-three pieces of fine jewelry worn by fashionable First Lady Nancy Reagan are set to hit the auction block at Christie's New York in September. A live auction will take place on September 21 and 22, and an online auction will run from September 19-28.


Among the items from The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan are necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pendants and brooches with an estimated value of $280,000. Experts believe the jewelry could easily surpass the auction house's high estimates because the pre-sale prices reflect their current market value, while the provenance of the items was largely left off the table.

The most expensive piece in the First Lady's collection is a diamond-and-gold lion pendant/brooch necklace designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. It was one of Reagan's favorite pieces and she was photographed wearing it several times, most famously during her 1988 state visit to the U.K. The necklace, which can be broken down into four bracelets, was described as "iconic" and "so wearable" by Tom Burstein, senior vice president, jewelry department at Christie's, during an interview with CNN. The piece is estimated to sell for $30,000 to $50,000.


The companion diamond-and-gold ear clips should fetch $15,000 to $20,000.


A close look at this beautiful portrait of Nancy Reagan with the U.S. Capitol in the background reveals her cultured pearl-and-diamond ear clips, the same items that will be offered for sale at Christie's.


Reagan, who passed away in March at the age of 94, was photographed wearing these during a 1982 reception at the Capitol Mall marking the first-ever edition of USA Today. Christie's estimated the sale price to range from $1,000 to $1,500.


The most patriotic piece in the group is a red, white and blue ring by Bulgari. Featuring diamonds, sapphires and rubies, the octagonal-shaped ring has an American flag motif. The estimate selling price is $5,000 to $8,000. The First Lady appropriately wore this ring on July 4, 1986, at an event supporting the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

"It's a beautiful ring that is drawing the most attention so far," Burstein told CNN. "It will be the highlight."


Among the most classically stylish items in Reagan's collection is a gold-and-diamond bangle bracelet, also by Bulgari. The textured 18-karat gold bracelet is intersected by diagonal platinum and circular-cut diamond rows. The First Lady wore this often at state dinners. The estimate selling price is being set at $5,000 to $7,000.

In addition to fine jewelry, Christie's will be auctioning more than 600 items, including furniture, decorative works of art, books, memorabilia, paintings, drawings and prints from President and Mrs. Reagan’s home in Los Angeles. In total, the auction is expected to generate more than $2 million.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

Credits: Jewelry images by Christie's. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan images via The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.
August 23rd, 2016
Country singer Miranda Lambert stunned the crowd at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium on Saturday when she interrupted her set to flash a pink ring and announce her engagement — to a six-year-old superfan.


"I have to tell you something really important," she said. "I got engaged today."

Instantly, the crowd erupted in applause.

But then she added a few critical facts: "There's a little 6-year-old boy somewhere here named Sebastian. He asked me to marry him and I said, 'Yes, in 25 years.'"

Then, she held the ring up near her face and said, "Isn't this beautiful?"

"When he came to my meet and greet, he got down on one knee and he was such a gentleman," she continued. "It may be my favorite proposal ever… 'Cause, girls, we deserve that. We deserve that. So, that being said, thank you, Sebastian."


The pint-sized Romeo reportedly bought the ring with his own money back in December and waited for Saturday's concert date to deliver his proposal.

A stroke of good luck allowed Sebastian to attend a meet-and-greet before the show even though he didn't have the proper credentials to get in.

Sarah Goddard, who did possess the required meet-and-greet sticker, was approached by the adorable suitor before the concert. Sebastian asked Goddard if she would propose to Lambert on his behalf.

Goddard had a better plan.


"I told his mom he could come in with me 'as my son' so he could propose to Miranda himself," Goddard told People.

The 32-year-old Grammy winner, who split with Blake Shelton in 2015 and has been dating Anderson East since December, was absolutely floored by the character of the young man.

The next day, Lambert reported the big news to her 2.8 million followers on Instagram and included a collage of two photos accompanied by this caption: "I said YES! But he has to wait 25 years. This sweet boy Sebastian is a little gentleman. #pinkring #proposal #mademyday #jersey #spreadthelovetour"

The post already has generated 176,000 likes and 1,915 comments, such as this one from @mamassoul: "This is the sweetest EVER... You are an amazing woman @mirandalambert and I am sure little Sebastian had his heart FULL of every emotion possible!!! Way to go girl!!!

Credit: Instagram/Miranda Lambert.
August 22nd, 2016
It's barely 4mm in width and weighs a scant .005 ounces, but this gold bead from a prehistoric settlement in southern Bulgaria may be the world's oldest gold artifact.


Archaeologists made the discovery at a site just outside the modern town of Pazardzhik. They dated the gold bead to some time between 4,500 to 4,600 BC, making it about 200 years older than the gold artifacts found in Bulgaria's Black Sea city of Varna back in 1972.


The gold found at the Varna Necropolis was previously believed to be the oldest evidence of gold metallurgy. The burial site at Varna is considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory and included a total of 294 graves containing 3,000 gold artifacts.


Despite that massive discovery, the archaeologists at Pazardzhik believe their tiny bead is historic.

"I have no doubt that it is older than the Varna gold," Yavor Boyadzhiev, associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, told Reuters. "It's a really important discovery. It is a tiny piece of gold but big enough to find its place in history."

The tiny gold bead looks a lot like the tube-shaped, short-cut pasta preschoolers might use to string a Mother's Day necklace.


The bead was found in the remains of a small house. Among the other artifacts found at the site were 150 ceramic birds, an indication that they may have been worshipped by the locals.


Boyadzhiev told Reuters that he believes the bead was fabricated at the site, which was the first "urban" settlement in Europe. He said the townspeople were highly cultured and had migrated there from Anatolia (in today's Turkey) around 6,000 BC. The settlement covered 25 to 30 acres and was protected by a nine-foot-tall fortress wall.

The professor noted that there is evidence that the settlement was destroyed in 4,100 BC by a rival tribe that invaded from the north.

Once the bead is thoroughly studied, it will be handed over to the historical museum in Pazardzhik for public exhibition.

Credits: Screen captures via News Hour. Varna tomb image by Yelkrokoyade [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Map by Google Maps.
August 19th, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In today's installment, we time travel to Hollywood's Soul Train sound stage, where Freda Payne is singing her biggest hit, "Band of Gold."


The song is about a young couple that rushes into marriage only to find out on their honeymoon that they are incompatible. He takes off, and she remains in a darkened room, dreaming of what could have been.

Although the woman yearns for her estranged husband to return to her, deep in her heart she knows that all that remains of the relationship is the ring on her finger and the memories of their time together.

She sings, "Now that you're gone / All that's left is a band of gold / All that's left of the dreams I hold / Is a band of gold / And the memories of what love could be / If you were still here with me."

Released in April 1970, the song became a instant hit with worldwide sales of more than two million records. "Band of Gold" ascended to #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was #1 in the U.K. for six consecutive weeks. It was Payne's first gold record and remains her signature song 46 years later.

Interestingly, Payne originally refused to record the song when it was offered to her by co-writer Ron Dunbar. She didn't like the lyrics and didn't like the idea of a relationship falling apart during a honeymoon.

Dunbar encouraged Payne to perform the song, despite her reluctance. He said, "Don't worry. You don't have to like [the lyrics]. Just learn [them]."

Payne agreed, and the rest is history. In 2004, "Band of Gold" was voted #391 in Rolling Stone magazine's listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Payne told authors Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh that she had no idea that "Band of Gold" would be such a big hit.

Born in Detroit in 1942, Freda Charcilia Payne grew up listening to jazz singers, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. As a teenager, she attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts and her first professional jobs were singing radio commercial jingles. In 1963, she moved to New York City and worked with many different entertainers, including Quincy Jones and Pearl Bailey. She release her first album in 1964, but didn't hit it big until she returned to Detroit in 1969 and signed with the record label Invictus.

By 1970, Payne was a household name, thanks to the success of "Band of Gold."

Please check out the video of Payne's Soul Train performance of today's featured song. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Band of Gold"
Written by Ronald Dunbar and Edythe Wayne. Performed by Freda Payne.

Now that you're gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the memories of what love could be
If you were still here with me

You took me from the shelter of my mother
I had never known or loved any other
We kissed after taking vows
But that night on our honeymoon,
We stayed in separate rooms

I wait in the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me


Don't you know that I wait
In the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Credit: By CBS Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
August 18th, 2016
Fifteen hundred years ago in Datong City, China, there lived an aristocrat named Farong. The wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen, Farong owned an elaborate pair of gold earrings that demonstrated meticulous craftsmanship and amazing technical prowess.


The earrings were beautiful from every angle. From one view, one could see the likenesses of a human figure flanked by dragons.

The detailing was extraordinary. The human figure on the earrings had curly hair, deep-set eyes and a high nose. The character wore a pendant with a sequin-bead pattern on the neck and had inverted lotus flowers carved under its shoulders.


From the side, admirers would marvel at the round and teardrop-shaped adornments inlaid with multicolored gemstones. Delicate gold chains hanging from cabochon-cut amethysts dangled below, and one could imaging how they would have draped down the sides of Farong's face.

Also among her prized possessions was an elaborate necklace made from 5,000 pearls, gold pieces, crystals and colored glass beads.


A team of Chinese archaeologists with the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology unearthed Farong's tomb when they were surveying the area before a construction project. Although her skeleton was badly decomposed, her exquisite jewelry — which had been buried with her — remained in near-pristine condition. Farong's story was originally reported in the Chinese journal Wenwu and translated into English in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.


The necklace consisted of 10 large and small gold beads, nine flat gold pieces, two crystals, 42 natural pearls and more than 4,800 colorful glass beads. The archaeologists explained that the small beads were "the size of millet grains, some black and some green, and all are [flattened], each with a perforation in the middle."

Although the thread on which the 5,000 beads were strung had disintegrated long ago, the beads remained in their original positions, making the reconstruction of the piece much easier for the archaeologists.

Farong's epitaph was discovered at the tomb's entrance. Carved into a stone tablet was the phrase: "Han Farong, the wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen." Han is her surname. (In China, the surname was traditionally written first and the given name second, according to Live Science.)

Farong lived in the capital of Datong City, about 215 miles west of Beijing, during the latter part of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Her age at death was unknown, but the story of her fine jewelry may live on forever.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics.
August 17th, 2016
When the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team overpowered its competition to defend the gold medal in the team all-around competition at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio the athletes were certainly dressed for the success. Their patriotic leotards radiated with 4,000 white and red Swarovski crystals.

Teammates Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian beamed with confidence, thanks to GK Elite, the official outfitter of the U.S. national team.

Kelly McKeown, executive vice president at GK Elite, told USA Today how her company designed the leotards to deliver the maximum impact for a world stage. GK worked with U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach Martha Koroly to make sure they were creating a "wow" moment for the athletes.

"Marta has said it many times: 'It has to be like a prom dress.' She wants them to walk out and look regal, and unique and exquisite and dynamic. She’s not interested in having something very plain. She wants it to be their day out there."

Each athlete was outfitted with 12 practice leotards at $60 to $200 each, and eight competition leotards priced from $700 to $1,200, depending on the number of crystals used in the design. A U.S. female gymnast's Olympic wardrobe can cost upward of $12,000.

"They prepared their whole lives to be out there, in the biggest arena in the entire world," McKeown said. "You have to feel beautiful. It feeds into how you feel when you walk out there. It's a combination of morale boost and confidence and everything they are trying to achieve."

The stunning leotards seemed to have a light source of their own. Joked McKeown, "People keep asking me, 'So where do you hide the battery packs? Because it looks like they are glowing.' I laugh because it’s all the fastening of the crystal."

In Olympics past, the task of affixing crystals to a leotard was an expensive, manual task. The leotard worn by American Nastia Liukin in Beijing eight years ago, for example, featured 184 crystals that were mostly hand-placed.

Crystal-application technology has come a long way since then, McKeown reported. GK Elite now has specialized bejeweling equipment that can robotically place a variety of crystal colors in a infinite range of designs.

Credit: Image by Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.
August 16th, 2016
After completing her near-flawless floor routine for which she earned a 15.433, U.S. gymnastics team captain Aly Raisman burst into tears when she realized she had edged out Russia's Aliya Mustafina for the Olympic silver medal in the women's all-around competition.


As NBC's cameras zoomed in on the thrilling and emotional moment in Rio, we noticed that Raisman was wearing a very familiar pair of red, white and blue stud earrings — the lucky earrings she wore four years earlier at the London Games.


The Newton, Mass., native said at the time that the earrings were her good luck charms and that she had rarely taken them off. Raisman wore them when she qualified for her all-around final, during pre-Olympic interviews and even during her Sports Illustrated cover shoot.

Designed by her hometown jeweler, Adamas Fine Jewelry, the simple earring feature round rubies and sapphires surrounding a larger round diamond.

“I designed the white-gold earrings in a shape of a starburst with red, white and blue stones,” Adamas co-owner Anto Aboyan told JCK magazine in 2012. “Aly is representing the U.S., so it was a fitting design and color scheme.”

“I love the patriotism look,” Raisman told Boston’s Channel 7 News.

The jeweler had gifted the earrings to Raisman without knowing whether the world-class gymnast would be allowed to wear them during the Olympic competitions.

Officially, the Olympic Committee has no formal rules about the subject. Instead, the governing body of each sport sets its own rules. Gymnasts may wear earrings as long as they are simple studs (one in each ear).

With more than 31 million viewers glued to their TVs on Thursday night as the 22-year-old Raisman and 19-year-old dynamo Simone Biles scored a silver/gold exacta for the U.S. in the women's all-around competition, we're wondering how many people watching at home were secretly coveting their own pair of patriotic starburst earrings.

Credits: Aly Raisman screen captures via Earring studs photo by Adamas Fine Jewelry. Aly Raisman by Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
August 15th, 2016
If you've been mesmerized by the swimming feats of Olympic legend Michael Phelps, you may be equally impressed by his taste in bridal jewelry. The engagement ring you see here was presented by Phelps to former Miss California Nicole Johnson when he proposed to her in February of 2015.


Exactly a year later, Johnson posted a closeup of the ring and offered a peek into the symbolism of the large oval-cut diamond center stone and what seem to be shield-shaped side stones.


She wrote: "[The] center is a pool representing our pool of love and each side stone is shaped like rain drops that continue to fill our pool. Thank you @intagemsanddiamonds for helping @m_phelps00 create the most beautiful ring I've ever seen. #imnotbiased #ringselfie #rings #engaged #soontobemrs"

Her February post was well received by her 303,000 followers as it generated 15,400 likes and 1,081 comments.

Interestingly, Johnson knows a lot about fine jewelry and is more than comfortable behind a loupe. She earned an Accredited Jewelry Professional designation through the Gemological Institute of America in 2011 and worked as an assistant marketing manager and sales associate for Los Angeles-based INTA Gems & Diamonds. Among her accomplishments at the firm was assisting in the design and development of the official crown for the Miss California Teen USA pageant. (Note: GIA's AJP designation has been renamed from Accredited Jewelry Professional to Applied Jewelry Professional.)


While Phelps became the biggest story of the Rio Olympic Games, NBC's television cameras repeatedly cut away to emotional shots of the swimmer's supportive fiancée and their new baby, Boomer Robert Phelps, who was born on May 5th.

Phelps entered the Rio Games as the most decorated Olympian in history, with 22 medals, including 18 golds. As a 31-year-old, he added five golds and a silver during eight grueling days of competition — a competition that he says will be his last. He won his 23rd, and final, Olympic gold medal Saturday night by swimming his best stroke, the butterfly, in the 4x100 medley.


Phelps and Johnson met at the ESPY Awards in 2007 and have dated since 2009. They announced their engagement in February of 2015 and their wedding is scheduled for the end of this year.

Credits: Images via Instagram/nicole.m.johnson.
August 12th, 2016
Hey, it's Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, a cowboy learns a valuable life lesson in Kenny Rogers' 1991 hit, "If You Want to Find Love."


Co-written by Rogers, Skip Ewing and Max D. Barnes, the song uses multiple jewelry and precious metal references to tell the story of two strangers who meet in a bar. The man has a cheating heart, but the woman sets him straight.

She reacts to the cowboy's advances with the following advice: "If you wanna find gold / Go looking in the mountains / If you wanna find silver / Go digging in stones / If you wanna find heaven / Go reading in the Bible / If you wanna find love / Go looking at home."

Later in the song, the woman focuses on the cowboy's wedding band. Rogers sings, "She touched the gold ring on his finger / And held it to the jukebox light / And she said, 'Stranger, think what you're losing / If you leave here with me tonight."

"If You Want to Find Love" was released as the first single from Back Home Again, the county music superstar's 24th studio album. The single reached #11 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Born in Houston in 1938, Kenneth Ray "Kenny" Rogers is one of the most successful country artists of all time. He has charted more than 120 singles and topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks. In all, he has sold more than 120 million records worldwide and, amazingly, charted a record within each of the last seven decades.

The soon-to-be 78-year-old (his birthday is August 21) announced in 2015 that he would be retiring from show business after a final tour, which he is calling "The Gambler’s Last Deal.” Shows will run through April of 2017.

Please check out the video of Rogers' live performance of "If You Want To Find Love." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"If You Want To Find Love"
Written by Skip Ewing, Max D. Barnes and Kenny Rogers. Performed by Kenny Rogers.

He was sitting on a bar stool
A picture from a cheating song
She'd been standing by the jukebox
Dropping quarters all night long.

He said, tell me: are you lonely?
Is there some place we can go?
She said: cowboy, you know I'm lonely
But there's something you should know:

If you wanna find gold
Go looking in the mountains
If you wanna find silver
Go digging in stones
If you wanna find heaven
Go reading in the Bible
If you wanna find love
Go looking at home.

She touched the gold ring on his finger
And held it to the jukebox light
And she said. Stranger, think what you're losing
If you leave here with me tonight.

So he pulled her body closer
She felt feelings she'd never known
And he said: thank you, for the lesson
And if you need me I'll be at home.

If you wanna find gold
Go looking in the mountains
If you wanna find silver
Go digging in stones
If you wanna find heaven
Go reading in the Bible
If you wanna find love
Go looking at home.

If you wanna find gold
Go looking in the mountains
If you wanna find silver
Go digging in stones
If you wanna find heaven
Go reading in the Bible
If you wanna find love
Go looking at home.

If you wanna find love
Go looking at home.

Credit: Kenny Rogers by Eva Rinaldi [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.