The Jewelry Judge  - Ben Gordon's Blog

Articles in January 2021

January 4th, 2021
Leibish, the New York-based colored diamond specialist, upped its bids this year by 20% to secure 16 of the 62 gems offered by Rio Tinto at the penultimate 2020 Pink Argyle Diamonds Tender.



The company's biggest prize was "The Argyle Sakura Diamond," a 1.84-carat, pear-shaped fancy vivid purplish-pink stone that had been touted by the mining company as one of the six "hero" diamonds from 2020's offering.

The tender, which represents a collection of the rarest diamonds from a year’s worth of production at the Argyle mine in the remote east Kimberley region of Western Australia, was momentous because the mine ceased operating in November.

During its 37 years of production, the mine famously accounted for nearly 95% of the world’s pink and red diamonds.



Leibish is calling its 2020 tender cache the "Pink Sunset Collection" in homage to Argyle's last days of mining and its historic finale. Leibish's acquisition included 11 of the 21 stones that weighed in at greater than 1 carat. These represented the rarest and most valuable pink diamonds in the group.



Leibish noted that each diamond in the "Pink Sunset Collection" will be elegantly displayed in its own presentation case, accompanied by its provenance.

"As next year (2021) will be the last Argyle tender, we bid on all stones, since the goods will become super rare, in high demand and expensive," said Leibish executive Shmulik Polnauer in a recent Rapaport Magazine report.

Polnauer estimated that asking prices at the 2020 tender were 15% higher than the previous year, so Leibish upped its bids 20% and more to ensure that the company would secure a substantial share of the lots.

The 2020 Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender — titled “One Lifetime, One Encounter” — included 62 diamonds weighing a total of 57.23 carats. The final Argyle tender is expected to take place later this year.

Credits: Images courtesy of Leibish.
January 5th, 2021
Entombed with the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, garnets have been coveted by kings and commoners alike for thousands of years. The fabulous and versatile January birthstone comes in a wide array of natural colors, including deep red, purple, orange, yellow, violet, green, black, brown — and a vibrant raspberry pink.



This ultra-feminine pink variety of garnet is called "rhodolite."

According to the Smithsonian, pink garnets were discovered by mineralogist William Earl Hidden in the Cowee Valley of Macon County, NC, in the late 1800s and were named rhodolite because their color resembled the blossoms of the local rhododendron plant. "Rhodon" in Greek means "rose-like."



In addition to the rhodolite garnet, other varieties commonly seen in jewelry include pyrope, almandine, andradite, demantoid, grossularite, hessonite, tsavorite, spessartine and uvarovite. Garnets achieve their range of color from trace amounts of iron, manganese, calcium or aluminum in their chemical makeup.

Rhodolite is described as the variety of garnet with a coloration and chemistry that bridges pyrope (red) and almandine (red to brownish or purplish-red). Rhodolite contains more magnesium than iron in its chemical structure, thus the color leans more to pyrope. Rhodolite is available in a range of shades from violet to red, including lavender pink, raspberry rose, raspberry red, purplish-violet and purplish red.

This variety of garnet became a popular one for fine jewelry because of its brilliance, color range, transparency and durability. Garnet rates 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. By comparison, diamond rates a 10, sapphire a 9 and topaz an 8.

The most important sources of top-quality rhodolite garnet are Sri Lanka, Tanzania, India and Zimbabwe.

Credit: Image by YippeeD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Rhododendron plants by TriviaKing at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 6th, 2021
Jessica Amis, an Emmy-winning digital journalist for CBS-affiliate THV11 in Little Rock, recently found herself at the center of a story about a lost diamond, a precocious 7-year-old and the significance of "things" that remind you of stuff you never want to forget.



Amis had been enjoying a meal with two co-workers in the outdoor picnic area of Hill Station, a popular restaurant in the Hillcrest neighborhood of the capital city, when a bent prong on her vintage engagement ring allowed the center diamond to become dislodged.

The diamond disappeared into a bed of gravel — a ground cover that Amis described as the "tiniest and shiniest gravel I’ve ever seen."

Her diamond blended in so perfectly that it was impossible to see. She even returned multiple times to sift through the gravel, but all of her attempts came up empty.

Enter the hero of our story: 7-year-old J. Harley Calloway.



The precocious youngster explained how easy it was to find the diamond, about a month after Amis had lost it.

“I just dig some dirt, and then I found the diamond,” he told the interviewer, who happened to be Amis. “I just looked down when I was grabbing the dirt and I said, ‘Mommy, I found a diamond.’”

Calloway remembered that his mom said, “That’s not real!”

Well, it was very real.

Fortunately, Amis had shared her story and contact information with the restaurant's management, and Calloway's family was considerate enough to turn the stone in. The staff at Hill Station immediately made the connection and called Amis with the good news.



In the her two-minute report, Amis waxed poetic about how people perceive "things" as they grow older. Some things are just things, but others are things that remind you of stuff you never want to forget.

The diamond in her ring is a "thing" that holds memories of "getting engaged, of dancing the night away, of building a life," she said. “And now it’s a reminder of the goodness in others and the hope that comes from just that.”



Amis rewarded Calloway with a Rock and Gem Dig kit from the Smithsonian gift shop.

Please check out the report at this link…

Credits: Screen captures via Youtube.com.
January 7th, 2021
Botswana's Karowe mine, the only mine in history to have yielded two 1,000-plus-carat diamonds, will be turning out high-value rough gems until 2046 under a renewed licensing agreement between Lucara Diamond Corp. and the Government of Botswana.



The 25-year deal will pave the way for the underground expansion of the prolific Karowe mine, which has been the world’s foremost source of Type IIa diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats since it began production in 2012.



The mine's largest and highest-profile diamonds are the 1,758-carat Sewelô (2019) and the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona (2015). Other exceptional finds include a yet-to-be-named, 998-carat head turner that was revealed this past November and the 812-carat Constellation (2015). When considering the largest rough diamonds of all time, the Botswana mine accounts for the #2, #3, #4 and #9 positions. The #1 spot is held by the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905.



The concept of moving the mine operations underground is predicted to extend its productive life by 20 years. In 2019, a feasibility study concluded that a capital investment of $514 million would result in the production of 7.8 million carats by 2040. The underground expansion is expected to take five years, with the first ore being extracted in 2016.

The current open pit mine has a depth of 324 meters. The underground operation is expected to extend the depth to 750 meters below the surface.

Type IIa diamonds have exceptional optical transparency and are the most chemically pure variety of diamonds. They contain no measurable trace of other elements, such as nitrogen, which could alter the color.

"Lucara is grateful for the confidence and support demonstrated by the Government of Botswana as we work to expand our operations at Karowe underground, for the benefit of the Government and the people of Botswana together with Lucara's shareholders," noted Eira Thomas, Lucara's President and Chief Executive Officer. "We look forward to continued cooperation and a mutually rewarding partnership with the Government of Botswana."

Credits: Karowe mine, Sewelô and Lesedi La Rona images courtesy of Lucara Diamond.
January 8th, 2021
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, pop star Selena Gomez drives home a message of self-empowerment and self-worth in her Latin-infused 2020 release, "Ring."



In the song, the 28-year-old former Disney Channel actress turns up her nose at insincere suitors because she's "one in a billion." Diamond and jewelry references amplify her sentiments, and, at one point, she even compares herself to basketball legend Miichael Jordan — the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).

She sings, "I'm breakin' hearts like a heart attack / Got him right where the carats at / Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring / They just like puppets on a string, string, string."

Written by Gomez and five collaborators, "Ring" has been compared favorably to Camila Cabello's "Havana," Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" and Santana's "Smooth."

The song appeared as the fifth track on her chart-topping, third solo studio album, Rare. It was the third time in a row that a Gomez album reached #1 on the US Billboard 200 Albums chart.

Born in Grand Prairie, TX, in 1992, Gomez and her teenage mom struggled financially. The singer tells the story of walking with her mom to the local dollar store to buy spaghetti for dinner.

Gomez competed in pageants as a child, but her life would change dramatically when she was cast as a 7-year-old on the children's TV series Barney & Friends. After she aged out of that series, she earned a cameo role in the film Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. That opportunity opened the door to a starring role in 2007 on The Wizards of Waverly Place. At age 16, she signed a recording contract with Hollywood Records, the same label that signed Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato.

Today, the singer's net worth is said to be at least $75 million. She was named to the "Forbes 30 Under 30" list at the age of 23.

In 2017, Gomez underwent a kidney transplant due to lupus complications and now she speaks publicly about her treatment and recovery.

"I've gone through a lot of medical issues," Gomez told Interview magazine, "and I know that I can reach people who are going through similarly scary things — an organ transplant, or being on dialysis, or going away for treatment."

Trivia: Gomez loves everything about pickles. She revealed on a UK talk show that she's obsessed with them. "That is my thing and I drink the juice from the jar too," she said. "They sell them at gas stations and movie theaters in Texas. I go to the movies and have popcorn and pickles."

Please check out the audio track of Gomez performing "Ring." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Ring"
Written by Selena Gomez, Sean Douglas, Julie Frost, Breyan Isaac, David Ciente and Nolan Lambroza. Performed by Selena Gomez.

You all in your feelings, baby, all into me
I'm one in a billion, baby, don't you agree?

Obviously, you know, I'm aware of that
I'm breakin' hearts like a heart attack
Got him right where the carats at

Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring
They just like puppets on a string, string, string
I put it down, they call me up
They doin' way too much
So I'll just let it ring, ring, ring (Oh-oh)

Yeah, I received your message, all twenty-three (Twenty-three)
You know I'm Jordan with it, G-O-A-T (G-O-A-T)

Obviously, you know, I'm aware of that
I'm breakin' hearts like a heart attack
I got him right where the carats at (Yeah)

Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring
They just like puppets on a string, string, string
I put it down, they call me up
They doin' way too much
So I'll just let it ring, ring, ring
Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring
They wanna give me everything, thing, thing
I put it down, they call me up
Oh, no, no, no, no, no
So I'll just let it ring, ring, ring

Circlin' me, they just like satellites (Ooh)
Circlin' me all day and every night (Ooh, yeah)
Circlin' me, I'm sure you sympathize (Ooh)
A-la-la-la-la-la-la-la (Ooh)
Oh, na-na

Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring
They just like puppets on a string, string, string
I put it down, they call me up
They doin' way too much
So I'll just let it ring, ring, ring
Wrapped 'round my finger like a ring, ring, ring
They wanna give me everything, thing, thing
I put it down, they call me up
Oh, no, no, no, no, no
So I'll just let it ring, ring, ring


Credit: Image by Lunchbox LP, Culver City, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 11th, 2021
Former tennis star Maria Sharapova kicked off the new year by finally revealing her stunning, emerald-cut diamond engagement ring from venture capitalist Alexander Gilkes. The couple had announced their engagement in December, but their choice of engagement ring had remained a mystery.



The sizable, rectangular-shaped gem seems to be cradled in a bezel setting crafted in yellow gold. Unlike prong settings, bezel settings completely frame the circumference of a diamond with a rim of protective precious metal.

Made popular during the 1920's Art Deco movement, the emerald cut continues to convey an understated, regal elegance. The stepped facets allow the admirer to see clearly into the stone, revealing its perfection. Beyoncé, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey are just a few of the celebrities who favored the emerald cut.



Sharapova's choice of engagement ring is significant because the now-retired athlete remains a high-profile influencer due to her name recognition and endorsement deals with Nike, Porsche, Evian and Head, among others. She has 14 million Likes on Facebook and 4.1 million followers on Instagram.

In a heartfelt post on Instagram, the 33-year-old said goodbye to 2020 and welcomed 2021 with hope and optimism. She will be taking on new challenges outside of tennis with the support of her fiancé, who she calls her "best friend."

She wrote, "2020, I imagined you to be very different. As we all did! Admittedly, you sprinkled some brilliance in [the] midst of harsh and heartbreaking realities. Personally, you gave me the courage to let go of the one life and career I ever knew. I pinch myself daily for the timing of that decision. And you gave me the gift and commitment of a lifetime waking up next to my best friend every morning. Incredibly inspired for what's to come in 2021. Happy New Year!!

Tennis had been the center of Sharapova's world since her dad brought her to the U.S. from Russia in 1994, when the fledgling athlete was just 7 years old. According to published reports, she and her dad had only $700 in savings when they came to the US to develop the youngster's talents.

Today, Sharapova is one of the wealthiest athletes in the world. Her net worth is reportedly $195 million. She became the world's top-rated female tennis player in 2005 at the age of 18 and she has won five Grand Slam titles.

On his own Instagram page, the 41-year-old Gilkes affirmed his love for Sharapova.

He wrote, "Thank you for making me a very very happy boy and saying yes. I look forward to a lifetime of loving you, and learning from you @mariasharapova." He punctuated the post with a blue diamond emoji.

The British-born Gilkes is currently heading up Squared Circles, a venture studio dedicated to building, accelerating and investing in businesses that improve the world. Until 2018, he was the president and co-founder of Paddle8, an online auction house focusing on art and collectibles.

Sharapova and Gilkes have been a couple since 2018. They have yet to announce a wedding date.

Credits: Image and screen capture via Instagram/mariasharapova.
January 12th, 2021
For thousands of years, wedding rings have been worn on the ring finger of the left hand, but do you know the origin of this worldwide tradition?



Some give credit to the ancient Romans and Greeks, who believed that the vein in the fourth finger of the left hand (the vena amoris or vein of love) ran directly to the heart. Although the “vein of love” story is compelling and widely cited, a contemporary understanding of the human circulatory system has soundly debunked the science behind the legend.

The Chinese have a different take on the tradition. We love their theory because it comes with a sweet explanation and head-scratching, step-by-step demonstration.

The Chinese believe that each finger is a representation of the past, present and future generations of you and your family members. The thumb represents your parents, the index finger represents your siblings, the middle finger represents you, the ring finger represents your partner and the pinky represents your children.

Now give this a try…

• Place your palms together as if you were praying.



• Then, with all the fingertips still touching, bend the middle fingers toward each other until their tips are pointing downward into your palm and the second knuckle of each middle finger is touching the other. Remember, the middle fingers represent you.



• Now, attempt to separate the pinkies. You certainly can, because the pinkies represent your children, who will eventually leave your home and build families of their own.



• The thumbs that represent your parents can separate easily, as well, because your parents are not destined to live with you forever.



• Your index fingers separate with no resistance, as these represent your siblings, who will go on to live life on their own.



• Now, attempt to separate the ring fingers, which represent your partner. They don’t budge. No matter how much you try, they won’t come come apart.

The Chinese reasoning is that the union between you and your partner is unbreakable, and a wedding ring worn on the ring finger represents a marriage that is meant to last forever.

Anatomically, here’s how the phenomenon works… There is a common muscle called Extensor Digitorum that has little connectors between the tendons that go to the backs of each finger that allow them to extend all the way. The thumb is separate, but in addition to this muscle, the pinky has a second muscle called Extensor Digiti Minimi and the pointer has a second muscle called Extensor Indicis. When you bend the middle fingers, you fix the tendons of the Extensor Digitorum and without a second muscle to assist, the ring finger is stuck.

A practical explanation of why the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand focuses on the practicality of keeping the ring out of harm’s way. Since most people are right-handed, wearing the ring on the left hand would make it less susceptible to damage. Also, the ring finger doesn’t get as much work as, say, the thumb and index finger, so the little-used ring finger is a good place to display the bridal jewelry.

Credits: Bridal image by Bigstockphoto.com; Hand images by The Jeweler Blog.
January 13th, 2021
The Chinese Year of the Ox officially begins on February 12th, and The Perth Mint is celebrating with the release of a limited-edition silver coin that incorporates this year's zodiac animal rendered in pure Australian opal.



The coin’s reverse incorporates a round black panel inlaid with a mosaic of bluish-green opal. Irregular slices of the precious stone are meticulously arranged to fill out the shape of the ox. The coin’s outer ring features stylized depictions of tulips, which are considered to be lucky flowers for those born in the Year of the Ox. Designed by Lucas Bowers, the coin measures 36.6mm in diameter, which is slightly smaller than a US silver dollar.

The one-ounce 99.99% pure silver coin is the fifth release in the Australian Opal Lunar Series — a series that launched with an opal rooster design in 2017 and was followed up with opal-enhanced Chinese zodiac offerings in 2018 (dog), 2019 (pig) and 2020 (mouse).

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. Each of those animal were also rendered in opal.

The Perth Mint frequently pays tribute to themes that are truly Australian. Opal is the official gemstone of Australia, and the country credited with supplying nearly 95% the world’s fine opal. It's not surprising, then, that the mint figured out a way to utilize the colorful, iridescent gemstone in a coin.

(Australia is also famous for pink diamonds and we've previously written about limited-edition gold coins that The Perth Mint embedded with rare pink diamonds sourced from the now-closed Argyle mine.)



The obverse of the ox coin features the Jody Clark effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the weight and fineness, the “1 DOLLAR” monetary denomination, “AUSTRALIA,” and the Queen’s name.



Offered in a limited mintage of 5,000 units, the Year of the Ox coin is housed in a classic display case and is packed in a decorative box. The Perth Mint expects supplies of this special coin to be available by next week.

Credits: Images courtesy of The Perth Mint.
January 14th, 2021
London-based mining company Gemfields has formed a long-term partnership with Mozambique’s Luwire Wildlife Conservancy to preserve Luwire’s biodiversity and assist its local communities. Gemfields and Luwire share common interests in the pristine — and ruby-rich — wilderness of northern Mozambique, just this side of the border from Tanzania.



The Luwire Wildife Conservancy is headquartered within Mozambique’s Niassa Special Reserve, a huge swath of territory, about the size of Massachusetts. It is one of Africa’s largest private conservation concessions and is considered a globally important carbon sink. The Special Reserve protects the highest concentration of game in Mozambique, including the country's largest and most viable elephant population.



The rich territory is also home to Gemfields' Montepuez mine, one of the most significant ruby deposits in the world. Gemfields acquired 75% of the Montepuez mine in 2011, a move that complemented its purchase of Zambia's Kagem emerald mine in 2008. Kagem is billed as the world’s largest and most productive emerald mine.

The success of both operations has paved the way for Africa to become the world’s largest exporter of emeralds and rubies.

Gemfields is committed to furthering transparency, legitimacy and integrity in the colored gemstone business and believes that colored gemstones should create a positive impact for the countries and communities from which they originate.

"Gemfields has, for more than a decade, walked a trail promoting greater transparency in the mining and selling of Africa’s colored gemstone resources," said Gemfields CEO Sean Gilbertson. "Today, more emerald- and ruby-derived value than ever accrues to our host countries in Mozambique and Zambia. We see an undeniable connection between Africa’s minerals and biodiversity and the interconnecting relationship with local communities. We are delighted to partner with Luwire to really deliver change on the ground in Mozambique."

During its time in Africa, Gemfields has established a track record for improving the healthcare, education, agriculture and standards of living for the communities around its mines, while supporting conservation efforts to protect Africa’s wildlife and biodiversity.

"Gemfields joins an impressive list of global partners that have recognized the value of Luwire as a global natural asset and the critical role that local communities play in preserving that asset," commented Paul Buckley, Chairman of Luwire. "Gemfields’ initial focus shall be on a number of Luwire’s nature-based businesses. These businesses are critical for sustainably empowering local communities."

Credits: Images ©️ Gemfields 2021.
January 15th, 2021
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great, new songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Taylor Swift compares an elusive lover to a championship ring in "Willow," the chart-topping lead single from her 2020 album, Evermore.



Written by Swift and Aaron Dessner, "Willow" follows the magical and mysterious journey of a young woman who does everything in her power to win over the man of her dreams.

She sings, "Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind / Head on the pillow, I could feel you sneaking in / As if you were a mythical thing / Like you were a trophy or a champion ring / There was one prize I'd cheat to win."

In the song's official video, Swift's character follows a glowing, golden string that lures her into the back of a magical piano, down a rabbit hole, through time portals and eventually to her lover. The "Willow" video follows the storyline from an earlier video for "Cardigan."

In an interview with Apple Music, Swift explained why she wanted "Willow" to lead off her ninth studio album.

"I loved the feeling I got immediately upon hearing the instrumental that Aaron created for it," she said. "It felt strangely, I say, witchy. And I stand by that. It felt like somebody making a love potion, dreaming up the person they desire and trying to figure out how to get that person in their life."

Many fans and critics believe Swift's fictional narrative in "Willow" parallels her own life experience. They believe the song really tells the story about how she won the heart of British actor Joe Alwyn.

"Willow" made its debut at the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, scoring Swift her seventh #1 single, and the third that entered the chart at #1.

Born in Wyomissing, Pa., Swift was not an average schoolgirl. By the time she was 11, Swift was already performing regularly at karaoke contests, festivals and fairs near her home in Berks County. When she was 14, her parents moved the family to Nashville, where Swift would be better positioned to pursue a career in country music. At the age of 17, Swift was topping the country charts.

Now 31, Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 200 million records worldwide. She has won 10 Grammy Awards, one Emmy, 23 Billboard Music Awards and 32 American Music Awards. In December of 2019, Billboard named her Woman of the Decade (2010s).

Please check out the official video of Swift performing "Willow." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Willow"
Written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner. Performed by Taylor Swift.

I'm like the water when your ship rolled in that night
Rough on the surface but you cut through like a knife
And if it was an open/shut case
I never would've known from that look on your face
Lost in your current like a priceless wine

The more that you say, the less I know
Wherever you stray, I follow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind
Head on the pillow, I could feel you sneaking in
As if you were a mythical thing
Like you were a trophy or a champion ring
There was one prize I'd cheat to win

The more that you say, the less I know
Wherever you stray, I follow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man
You know that my train could take you home
Anywhere else is hollow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man

Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind
They count me out time and time again
Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind
But I come back stronger than a 90's trend

Wait for the signal and I'll meet you after dark
Show me the places where the others gave you scars
Now this is an open/shut case
I guess I should've known from the look on your face
Every bait and switch was a work of art

The more that you say, the less I know
Wherever you stray, I follow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man
You know that my train could take you home
Anywhere else is hollow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man

The more that you say, the less I know
Wherever you stray, I follow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man
You know that my train could take you home
Anywhere else is hollow
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man

Hey, that's my man
That's my man
Yeah, that's my man
Every bait and switch was a work of art
That's my man
Hey, that's my man
I'm begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that's my man



Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.