The Jewelry Judge  - Ben Gordon's Blog

Articles in June 2019

June 5th, 2019
An engagement ring that was thought to be lost forever was returned to a Hueytown, Ala., woman by honest employees at a Kentucky distribution center of rugged men's apparel.

Jacky Crick, a receiver for Carhartt's return center in Hopkinsville, Ky., found the black and white diamond engagement ring in the pocket of a pair of jeans that had been sent to the facility by Andrea Speer.

Speer explained that she didn't feel the ring slip off as she prepared the return for her husband.

“The ring was loose," Speer told Birmingham TV station WBRC, "and I guess when I stuck my hand inside the pocket it just came off, and I didn’t notice it 'cause I still had the wedding band on.”

Speer was devastated by the loss.

“I went into panic mode and I cried myself to sleep that night and several nights after that because I was just heartbroken," she told WBRC. "You know it has sentimental value. I mean that’s the ring he put on my finger the day he proposed."

Speer was convinced, at first, that the ring came off during a shopping trip to a local Dollar store.

“Went back to the store three times, three times!" she exclaimed. "Looking in the store, looking in the parking lot, and it was nowhere to be found. And then after a couple of weeks we realized it’s probably just gone. I would never see it again.”

Little did she know, that 275 miles and two states away, an honest receiver was alerting her Carhartt's supervisor that she found the ring. That supervisor promptly shipped the ring back to Speer, along with a handwritten note on Carhartt stationery explaining how it was discovered.

Speer told the WBRC reporter how elated she and her husband were when the ring miraculously turned up in the mail...

“I cried, I was happy," she said. "I was just totally amazed and just totally relieved. [My husband] cried! He actually got back down on one knee and put it back on my finger. It was a very sweet moment, it was!”

Speer's stepdaughter, Brittany Scoggins, summarized the details of the unexpected ring return on her Facebook page.

"People need to know that [Carhartt] is a good, honest company and that real people work there and real people want to do the right thing,” Scoggins told WBRC.

Speer said she'd like nothing more than to get up to Hopkinsville to give Crick a big hug.

Credits: Screen captures via
June 6th, 2019
Exactly 100 years ago, a 19-year-old Antwerp engineer named Marcel Tolkowsky perfected a mathematical formula for the 57-facet "brilliant-cut" diamond. Tolkowsky's accomplishment prevails as the most iconic and successful cut in history due to its ability to maximize a diamond's fire, brilliance and sparkle.

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre recently held a street fair and ceremonial diamond cutting to honor Tolkowsky and the 100th anniversary.

"In 1919, my uncle Marcel unlocked the secret of light within a diamond," said Gabi Tolkowsky, one of the world's most renowned diamond cutters. "He figured out how to get the greatest amount of light to shine out of a diamond, calculating the number and arrangement of facets to maximize the light return. This was Marcel’s gift to the world, perfecting the journey of light, giving all those who came after him the knowledge of how to turn a diamond into a unique beauty."

Marcel Tolkowsky proved that if a diamond was cut too deep or too shallow, the light coming down from the top would escape out the sides or bottom, resulting in a loss of brilliance. His solution: 57 precisely placed facets cut to exacting proportions so the light coming into a diamond is refracted up through the table and crown to the viewer's eye.

During the celebration, the AWDC launched its unique “100 Years Brilliant” project, during which 57 well-know (and lesser known) Antwerp residents were invited to polish a single diamond — one person for each facet of a brilliant.

"In this way, ‘t Steentje – which is how the diamond industry is referred to in the local vernacular – will represent the multicultural character and diversity of the Antwerp diamond industry," explained AWDC CEO Ari Epstein.

Once the stone is finished, it will be exhibited in Antwerp's DIVA diamond museum.

The first facet was polished by guest of honor Gabi Tolkowsky, who famously spent three years cutting the 273.85-carat Centenary Diamond.

The second facet of the stone was polished by Constantinus ‘Stan’ Hunselmans, who shares his birth year with the brilliant.

“I celebrated my 100th birthday on January 14, and it is an honor that I was chosen," Hunselmans said. "It went really well. If I were a little bit younger, I might have considered a career switch.”

Since 1447, Antwerp has laid claim to the title of the "World's Diamond Capital." It should come as no surprise that Tolkowsky's brilliant cut was developed in this city.

Credit: Image courtesy of Petragems [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Diamond proportions graphics by Jasper Paulsen CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
June 7th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, in honor of June's official birthstone, we feature Canadian rock band The Trews singing their 2005 tune, "The Pearl (More Than Everything)."

In the song, lead singer Colin MacDonald refers to his love interest as "the pearl" and likens her beauty to a diamond ring.

He sings, "Though the pearl eludes me while I'm sinkin' still there's no finer thing / Diamonds do you justice only 'cause your beauty shines like a ring / I want you more than everything."

By the end of the song, MacDonald is even more determined to win her heart, singing, "Fighting through the winter tempest I can hear the sea sirens sing / Now I can find the gold and silver that I prayed tomorrow would bring."

Written by band members Colin MacDonald, John-Angus MacDonald and producer Gordie Johnson, "The Pearl" appeared as the eighth track of The Trews' Den of Thieves album. It was their second studio album and peaked at #6 on the Canadian Albums Chart.

The Trews were founded in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in the late 1990s. They got their big break in the summer of 2002 when they won a contest sponsored by Ontario rock station CHTZ-FM. The victory led to a recording contract with Bumstead Productions.

The band was nominated as New Group of the Year at Canada's 2004 Juno Awards, and their tune "Not Ready to Go" was nominated as the Canadian Single of the Year in 2005. In November 2010, the band performed the Canadian National anthem at the 98th Grey Cup in Edmonton, which is equivalent to the Super Bowl in the US.

The Trews are currently appearing in venues throughout Ontario. Check out the video of their 2009 live performance of "The Pearl" at Glen Gould Studio in Toronto. The lyrics are here if you'd like to sing along...

"The Pearl (More Than Everything)"
Written by Colin MacDonald, John-Angus MacDonald and Gordie Johnson. Performed by The Trews.

The search of one true heart deep within you
The ocean will part the clearness of blue
Though the pearl eludes me while I'm sinkin' still there's no finer thing
Diamonds do you justice only cause your beauty shines like a ring

I want you more than everything
I want you more than everything

The four winds on high of virtue they sing
It sharpens my eye determines these things... determination
Though the pearl eludes me while I'm sinkin' still there's no finer thing
Diamonds do you justice only 'cause your beauty shines like a ring
Fighting through the winter tempest I can hear the sea sirens sing

I want you more than everything
I want you more than everything
I want you more than everything
I want you more than everything

I feel your heart fades into view
The mist pulls apart and reveals the...
Pearl eludes me while I'm sinkin' still there's no finer thing
Diamonds do you justice only 'cause your beauty shines like a ring
Fighting through the winter tempest I can hear the sea sirens sing
Now I can find the gold and silver that I prayed tomorrow would bring

I want you more than everything

More than everything

More than everything

More than everything
Ohhh ohhhhh

Credit: Screen capture via
June 10th, 2019
Two years ago, we marveled at the size and opulence of the New England Patriots' fifth Super Bowl ring — a ring set with 283 diamonds weighing 5.1 carats. As expected, the team's sixth edition is even more over the top — with 422 diamonds weighing 8.25 carats and 20 blue sapphires totaling 1.60 carats.

Billed as the largest ring ever created in Super Bowl history, the unique football-shaped symbol of the team's winning tradition and championship legacy was presented to Patriots players, coaches, staff and executives by team chairman and CEO Robert Kraft during a private ceremony at his home this past Thursday.

The Patriots Super Bowl LIII championship ring, which was designed by Jostens, is likely the largest and most ornate ring ever created for any team in any sport. The 10-karat gold rings are also teeming with symbolism.

For example, 38 diamonds surround the iconic blue and red Patriots logo with an additional diamond set in the star. Combined, these 39 diamonds represent two NFL records achieved by the Pats with their Super Bowl LIII win. It was the franchise's 37th playoff victory — more than any other NFL team. In addition, they became the second team in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.

Sitting atop the Patriots logo are six Lombardi trophies, represented by marquise-cut diamonds outlined with 123 round diamonds. Providing a glistening background for the trophies are 108 pavé-set diamonds, which represent the number of practices held during the 2018 season. This symbol spotlights the team's focus on preparation — one diamond for every practice.

The words "WORLD" and "CHAMPIONS" flank the top of the ring in raised white gold lettering on a black ground. Exactly 76 diamonds — a patriotic nod to the 1776 birth date of the US — adorn the edges of the ring. Completing the intricate design are 20 round blue sapphires, which are emblematic of the Patriots 20 AFC East division championships.

The right side of the ring features the team's name above the Super Bowl LIII logo and includes the final score of the championship finale against the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3. The Patriots' rally cry of "STILL HERE," which the team embraced throughout the 2018-2019 playoffs, completes the design of the ring's right side.

Appearing on the left side of the ring is the name of each recipient rendered in the official Patriots font. The name sits above a rendering of Gillette Stadium's signature lighthouse and bridge. To the left of the lighthouse is the player's uniform number, encrusted in diamonds. The franchise's sixth Super Bowl title is commemorated with a "6X" and dated 2018.

Robert Kraft's iconic quote and the team's foundational motto, "WE ARE ALL PATRIOTS," is inscribed inside the ring, along with Kraft's signature and the date he spoke those famous words. The palm crest features the years of the team's previous five championship seasons.

Credits: Images courtesy of Jostens.
June 11th, 2019
Natural pearls are among the rarest of all gems. In fact, experts believe the odds of opening a random oyster in the wild and finding a natural pearl is 1 in 100,000. What's more, if someone was lucky enough to amass a small collection of natural pearls, there's hardly a chance that they'd match in terms of size, shape, color and luster.

These factors underscore why the Smithsonian's "Dunn Pearl Necklace" is so incredible.

Designed by Cartier in the 1920s and donated to the Smithsonian by Mrs. Arthur Wallace Dunn in 1977, the Dunn Pearl Necklace is adorned with 339 natural pearls, ranging in size from 3.3mm to 7.8mm.

Not only is that an astonishing number of natural pearls, but the five rows of cream-colored gems are very well matched. It's hard to fathom how many oysters had to be processed in order to yield the natural pearls that make up this necklace.

In a Smithsonian review of the piece, the author called the Dunn Pearl Necklace a "treasure from the vault" at the National Museum of Natural History.

In additional to the extraordinary array of pearls, the necklace includes an Art Deco-era platinum clasp set with 428 old-mine diamonds. The diamond total weight of the piece is approximately 16 carats.

Mrs. Arthur Wallace Dunn was the wife of a prominent Washington, DC-based journalist and author, who hobnobbed with presidents Warren G. Harding, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

June's official gemstone — the pearl — is unique among all of the gems because it is the only one formed entirely within a living creature. Natural pearls occur when an irritant enters the oyster's shell. To protect itself from the foreign body, the mollusk secretes layers of nacre, which, over time, become a lustrous pearl. To make a cultured pearl, a shell bead is surgically implanted into the mollusk to induce nacre production.

Credits: Dunn Pearl Necklace by Donald E. Hurlbert/Smithsonian. Clasp closeup by Ken Larsen/Smithsonian.
June 12th, 2019
Nearly six months after winning the 5,655-carat "Inkalamu" emerald at a Gemfields auction last November, luxury jeweler Diacolor finally revealed the Zambian-sourced crystal to the public last week at the company's flagship store in Delhi, India.

Inkalamu, which means the “Lion Emerald” in Zambia's regional Bemba language, was discovered at the Kagem mine on October 2 and offered for sale in Singapore in mid-November. There, 45 approved auction partners competed for the extraordinary find — an emerald that boasts remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden green hue. The carat weight is equivalent to 1.1 kg or 2.5 lbs.

“The minute I heard about it, I simply had to have it,” Diacolor's founder and chairman Rajkumar Tongya told The Economic Times. “Such a rare find from Mother Nature, I just couldn’t resist the temptation.”

The founder's son, Rishabh, who is Diacolor's creative director, told the India-based publication that he got goosebumps when he first laid eyes on the “kryptonite-type” emerald.

Neither Diacolor nor Gemfields have revealed the amount of the winning bid.

Despite its massive size, Inkalamu is not the largest crystal to be unearthed at the Kagem mine. In 2010, it yielded a 6,225-carat emerald named “Insofu,” the Bemba word for “elephant.”

And it's not a coincidence that the father-son team at Diacolor purchased that rough gem, as well.

Rajkumar Tongya hinted to The Economic Times that Inkalamu might yield a "pear-shaped, uniform-looking jewelry set."

A Gemfields representative said in October that Inkalamu will take its place among the world’s most exceptional gemstones of all time, and if the crystal is divided into smaller stones, the “The Pride of Inkalamu,” so to speak, will continue the legacy for generations to come.

Before Diacolor takes on the task of cutting and polishing the mammoth stone, the company will be promoting it during an international tour of retail outlets and museums.

The name Inkalamu honors the work carried out by two of Gemfields’ conservation partners, the Zambian Carnivore Programme and the Niassa Carnivore Project in Mozambique. Gemfields will divide 10% of Inkalamu’s auction proceeds equally between the two carnivore initiatives.

Credits: Images courtesy of Gemfields.
June 13th, 2019
The massive 1,758-carat diamond recovered in April at the Karowe mine in Botswana will soon have a name thanks to a competition hosted by Lucara Diamond Corp.

The mining company is promising a $3,000 cash prize and a tour of the mine to the Botswana citizen who comes up with the best name for a grey-black gem that has the distinction of being the second-largest diamond ever discovered. Only the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905, was larger.

The name must be in Setswana, the national language of Botswana, according to the official rules. Entrants must state why they chose that particular name, the meaning of the name and what the chosen name signifies. The competition runs through June 14. The winner will be honored at a gala dinner, where the grand prize will be presented.

This is not the first time Lucara has hosted a naming competition. In 2016, after the discovery of a 1,109-carat gem-quality white diamond at the same Karowe mine, Lucara execs offered a similar reward.

Thembani Moitlhobogi won 25,000 Pula (about $2,215) after five judges picked his recommended name, “Lesedi La Rona,” which means “Our Light” in Setswana, from more than 11,000 entries.

“Lesedi La Rona symbolizes the pride and history of the people of Botswana,” Lucara CEO William Lamb said at the time. “The outpouring of pride and patriotism shown by all the participants in the contest was incredible.”

Prior to the naming of Lesedi La Rona, Lucara had called on Botswana's school children to help rename it AK6 mine. "Karowe," which means "precious stone" in the local language, was picked as the winning entry and the victorious students earned computers for their school.

The star of Lucara's current naming competition is the size of a tennis ball and weighs about 12.4 ounces. The stone is being characterized as “near” gem quality with “domains of high-quality white gem.” Lucara has yet to estimate its value.

Credits: Images courtesy of Lucara Diamonds.
June 14th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you popular songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star Lee Ann Womack sings about a marriage gone wrong in her 2001 hit, "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?"

Womack plays the part of a loving wife whose husband has betrayed her, leaving his wedding band behind. She's heartbroken and yearns to get him back. She wonders if he has trouble with commitments — or maybe he's rediscovered an old flame.

The title of the song evokes a symbol of their wedding "promise" that's suddenly become too unbearable to wear.

She sings, "Did my ring burn your finger? / Did my love weigh you down? / Was the promise too much to keep around?"

Written by husband-and-wife team Buddy and Julie Miller, "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" was released as the fourth single from Womack's popular CD I Hope You Dance. The song went to #23 on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, while the album zoomed all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart.

USA Today's Ken Barnes picked "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" as his #1 song for 2001, describing it as "a searing, chill-conjuring performance of a seething Buddy and Julie Miller tune by country's reigning female vocalist."

In November of 2001, Womack performed the song live during the CMA Awards. The performance was so powerful and so memorable that a Billboard critic couldn't come up with the words to describe it.

In his 2017 review of Womack's 10 Best Songs, Billboard's Chuck Dauphin wrote, "Womack delivered what just might be her most dominant vocal performance – so far. Do us a favor. Check out her performance of this song from the 2001 CMA Awards on YouTube. We get paid to write words describing such moments, but damn. Sometimes, there are none that can aptly describe it."

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1966, Womack developed a love for country music at a young age. Her father was a DJ and often brought her to work to help him pick his playlist.

She emerged as a contemporary country artist in 1997 and was favorably compared to Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. Womack has released nine studio albums and sold more than six million albums worldwide. She has received five Academy of Country Music Awards, six Country Music Association Awards and a single Grammy Award.

Please check out her scorching live performance of "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" at the 2001 CMA Awards. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?"
Written by Julie Miller and Steven Paul (Buddy) Miller. Performed by Lee Ann Womack.

When I gave you my heart
It was not what you wanted
Now the walls say your name
And the pictures are haunted
Does my ring burn your finger
Did my love weigh you down?
Was the promise too much to keep around?

I remember your words and I can't keep from cryin'
I could never believe that your kisses were lyin'
Was there somethin' from the past
Buried in a shallow grave?
Did you think that it was too far gone to save?

Please tell me baby
Please tell me now
You say that I should just go on
Now please tell me how

Now it's just me and the night and I'm so broken hearted
I just wait in the dark here for my dearly departed
Did my ring burn your finger?
Did my love weigh you down?
Was the promise too much to keep around?

Credit: Screen capture via Ann Womack.
June 17th, 2019
Spotlighting more than 500 years of opulence on the Indian subcontinent, Christie's auction in New York this Wednesday is aptly titled "Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence." The sale will celebrate the illustrious culture of Indian jeweled art from the Mughal period and the age of the Maharajas through the present day.

"This is living history in your hand," noted Rahul Kadakia, Christie's International Head of Jewelry.

India’s rich ties to fine jewelry and gemstones, he explained, is partly the result of natural circumstances. The mines of Golconda yielded the highest grade of diamonds. Kashmir produced the rarest and most beautiful sapphires. And the greatest emeralds arrived in India from Colombia through commercial exchange via the Portuguese-controlled ports of Goa.

Jewelry in the Mughal tradition articulated authority, and the empire's rulers valued gems for their rarity, physical properties and provenance.

On the cover of the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence catalog is a Belle Époque "jigha" (turban ornament) dripping with old-cut, baguette and pear-shaped diamonds. The Indian royal treasure (photo above), which was originally designed in 1907 and remodeled circa 1935, would have been worn on formal occasions by a Maharaja, explained Kadakia. The ornament is estimated to sell in the range of $1.2 million to $2.2 million.

Christie's sale includes two spectacular diamonds sourced at India's Golconda mine.

The first is called the "Mirror of Paradise," a 52.58-carat internally flawless rectangular-cut diamond that's expected to sell in the range of $7 million to $10 million. The D-color gem is set in a platinum ring and accented with tapered baguettes.

The second is called the "Arcot II Diamond." Weighing 17.21 carats, the brilliant-cut, pear-shaped, D-color stone was one of two earring drops sent as a gift to Britain's Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) by the Nawab of Arcot. The diamond drops were later purchased at auction by the Marquess of Westminster and mounted in the "Westminster Tiara," which was worn by the Marquess at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The historic stone is expected to fetch between $2 million and $4 million.

The lot with the highest pre-sale estimated price is a belle epoque devant-de-corsage brooch highlighted by four impressive diamonds of differing shapes: a pear-shaped brilliant cut (34.08 carats), oval brilliant cut (23.55 carats), marquise brilliant cut (6.51 carats) and heart modified brilliant cut (3.54 carats). The piece was designed by Cartier in 1912 for Solomon Barnato Joel, who made his fortune in the South African diamond mines. Christie's set the pre-sale estimate of this piece at $10 million to $15 million.

One of the most unusual items in the auction is an octagonal-shaped tabular carved emerald of 84.63 carats. The gem's origin can be traced to 17th century Colombia. Christie's experts are expecting it to sell in the range of $3 million and $5 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
June 18th, 2019
A fascinating phenomenon in the world of precious gemstones is the way alexandrite changes color under various light sources. The "Whitney Alexandrite," which is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is one of the world's largest and finest examples of the color-change mineral from the chrysoberyl family. Alexandrite is also one of the three official birthstones for the month of June. The others are pearl and moonstone.

A 2009 gift from Smithsonian benefactor Coralyn Whitney, the beautiful modified cushion cut gemstone exhibits a raspberry color under incandescent light and a teal (green-blue) color when illuminated by daylight. The color-changing property of alexandrite has been attributed to the presence of chromium in the gem's chemical makeup. The chromium allows the gem to absorb light in the yellow and blue parts of the spectrum.

While this 17.08-carat gem was sourced at the Hematita Mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, alexandrite was originally discovered in 1830 in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Gem legend states that Finnish mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld (1792-1865) received a mineral sample from Count Lev Alekseevich Perovskii (1792-1856) that seemed very much like an emerald. But when the mineralogist inspected the gem under candlelight, the green gem had turned raspberry red.

The Smithsonian noted that Nordenskiöld had intended to name the new variety of chrysoberyl “diaphanite,” but the Count renamed it "alexandrite" to curry favor with the Russian royal family and Czar Alexander II. (The gem was allegedly discovered on the Czar's birthday.)

The Whitney Alexandrite is particularly rare because specimens of larger than 2 carats are considered rare and those weighing more than 5 carat are extremely rare. A cut and polished alexandrite of 17.08 carats is virtually unheard of.

In addition to Russia and Brazil, alexandrite has been sourced in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, India and Burma. Alexandrite has a hardness rating of 8.5, which makes it suitable for everyday wear.

The color-change gem wasn't listed on the original modern birthstone list, which was published in 1912 by the American National Retail Jewelers Association, now known as Jewelers of America. The official list was updated in 1952 to add alexandrite, citrine, tourmaline and zircon. In 2002, tanzanite was added as a birthstone for December and, in 2016, spinel joined peridot as a birthstone for August.

In 2013, Whitney provided the National Museum of Natural History with its largest education donation to date: a $13 million gift in support of Q?rius (pronounced “curious”), which established the Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.