17th Century Royal Spinel, Once Lost and Mistaken for Glass, Sells at Sotheby’s for $353,800

A 17th century spinel pendant once worn by Mughal emperors — and then mistaken 90 years ago as a worthless bauble — sold at Sotheby’s London last week for $353,800.

The 54.5-carat, wine-colored, uncut gem — which is inscribed in Persian script with the names of three emperors dating back to 1615 AD — oddly ended up in the possession of a British woman named Mrs. David Graham Pole in the 1920s. Pole misplaced the gem on a train trip to the north of England and somehow the gem ended up on the train tracks near Leicester, according to a published report from 1927.

The stone was scooped up by railroad employee Joseph H. Wade, who, believing the gem was worthless glass, gave it to his twin children to play with. The spinel was returned to its rightful owner two weeks later after Pole placed an ad in a local paper. The newspaper account said the gem was found “with considerable difficulty” in the corner of a room “where it had been flung by the children.” The article placed the value of the gem at $25,000.

Sotheby’s believes the rare gem may have been gifted to Mrs. Pole by her daughter, Dorothy, who lived with her diplomat husband in India from 1921-1929.

The irregular-shaped spinel, which is pierced through the center, hangs from a gold chain and is adorned by a tassel of seed pearls.

The spinel is inscribed with the names of Emperors Jahangir, Prince Khurram and Alamgir Aurangzeb, illustrating a common practice among Mughal emperors of marking the stones and passing them on to their descendants. Two dates are also shown — 1615 AD and 1670 AD. Sotheby’s noted that spinels were mined in Badakhshan, the region between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Before the 19th century, spinels were often mistaken for rubies.

Sotheby’s London had set the pre-sale estimate for the piece at £60,000 ($77,600) to £80,000 ($103,400). A private collector placed the final bid at £272,750 ($353,800), or 340% of the high estimate.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

37.8-Carat ‘Chalk Emerald’ Is One of the World’s Finest Examples of May’s Official Birthstone

The Chalk Emerald’s impressive clarity, color, size and regal lineage rank it among the world’s finest examples of May’s official birthstone.

Exhibiting the most highly prized velvety deep green color, the 37.82-carat Chalk Emerald is displayed near the Hope Diamond in the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The gem was sourced in the famous emerald-mining area near Muzo, Colombia — a destination widely known as the world capital of emeralds. The Smithsonian reported that emeralds were cherished by the indigenous people of Colombia for at least 1,000 years before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s.

The riches coming from the Colombia mines were of great interest to the Mughal rulers of India, who were captivated by the green gems. This demand sparked a robust gem trade linking the New World to the Middle East and India.

Legend states that the Chalk Emerald was once the centerpiece of an emerald-and-diamond necklace belonging to a Maharani of the former state of Baroda, India. The Smithsonian noted that the faceted stone originally weighed 38.4 carats, but was later recut (losing more than 1/2 carat in weight) and set in a platinum and gold ring designed by Harry Winston. The ring features the square emerald-cut stone surrounded by 60 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 15 carats.

The extraordinary ring was purchased by O. Roy Chalk, the New York-based real estate, transportation and media mogul, for his wife, Claire. The couple generously donated the Chalk Emerald to the Smithsonian in 1972, where it has been on exhibit ever since.

Emerald is the most valuable variety of the beryl family and is known to display a wide variety of visible inclusions, which are referred to as “jardin” (French for “garden”). These imperfections do not detract from the stone’s beauty but, instead, give each stone a unique fingerprint and distinct character.

The name “emerald” comes indirectly from the ancient Greek word for green gem, “smaragdos.” Besides being the birthstone for the month of May, it’s also the preferred gemstone to honor 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Credits: Images courtesy of Smithsonian/Chip Clark.

Survey: 49% of American Brides-to-Be Want Their Engagement Rings to Be a Surprise

When it comes to getting engaged, nearly half of American brides-to-be want their engagement rings to be a surprise. That was the key finding in Ebates’ national Wedding Survey.

The concept of whether the selection of a “forever accessory” should be left strictly within the purview of the future groom has been debated for generations. While everyone can agree it’s commendable that he wants to take the initiative to pick the ring, others may argue whether he’s really best equipped to make that decision. Should she get involved by dropping a hint or two? Or, since she’ll be wearing the engagement ring for the rest of her life, might the future bride prefer to pick it for herself?

Ebates, a company that rewards members with cash back when they shop online, learned that 49% of respondents want the ring to surprise them, while 28% would prefer to go shopping with their partner and provide feedback and 15% admit that they’d like to pick out a ring for themselves.

Of the group that wants to be surprised, 85% reported they would say “yes” even if they hated the ring their partner used to propose.

The idea of settling for a “hated” ring may be tied to still another interesting finding, where 72% said it’s acceptable to upgrade to a better ring later in the marriage.

Respondents weren’t put off by the idea of wearing a previously owned “dream ring.” Exactly 42% said they would happily wear one, even if the ring tied to the previous relationship ended in divorce.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they would expect to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on an engagement ring. The Knot’s 10th annual Real Weddings Study reported back in February that the amount spent on a engagement ring in 2016 was $6,163.

The Ebates Wedding Survey also revealed that the most popular wedding gift was money (56%), following by a gift card (46%), kitchen supplies (34%), home furnishings (27%), appliances (22%) and an experience or trip (21%). Nearly one in five (19%) admitted that they were OK with re-gifting something as a wedding gift.

The national survey reflects the opinions of 1,008 adults and was conducted online by Propeller Insights.

Credit: Image via BigStockPhoto.com.

Music Friday: Gladys Knight Laments, ‘You’re Like a Diamond But She Treats You Like Glass’ in 1970’s ‘If I Were Your Woman’

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Gladys Knight & the Pips tell a story of unrequited love in their 1970 hit single, “If I Were Your Woman.”

In the song, the protagonist is a young woman whose love interest won’t give her the time of day. His attention is focused on a rival, despite the fact that she treats him so poorly. Songwriters Gloria Jones, Pamela Joan Sawyer and Clay McMurray use a diamond vs. glass comparison to describe how the two women feel toward the same man.

Knight sings, “She tears you down darlin’, says you’re nothing at all / But, I’ll pick you up darling, when she lets you fall / You’re like a diamond but she treats you like glass / Yet you beg her to love you, but, me you don’t ask.”

According to music trivia websites Songfacts.com and Allmusic.com, the song came together while Jones and Sawyer were having a lunchtime discussion about women’s issues, including the Women’s Liberation Movement, which was still in its infancy. They were looking to compose a piece about how women could be committed in their relationships while remaining strong and independent.

“If I Were Your Woman” appears as the first track from Gladys Knight & the Pips’ album of the same name. The single zoomed all the way to #1 on the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart and peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

The song has been covered by a number of top artists, including Stephanie Mills (1988) and Alicia Keys (2006). The Keys version received a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 2006 Grammy Awards.

Established in Atlanta as The Pips in 1952, the group led by founding member Gladys Knight topped the music charts for more than three decades. Gladys Knight & the Pips are multiple Grammy and American Music Award winners and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. The group disbanded in 1989, but Knight went on to a successful solo career. Also known as The Empress of Soul, Knight continues to tour at the age of 72.

Please check out the audio track of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ original version of “If I Were Your Woman.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“If I Were Your Woman”
Written by Gloria Jones, Pamela Joan Sawyer and Clay McMurray. Performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

If I were your woman and you were my man,
you’d have no other woman, you’d be weak as a lamb.
If you had the strength to walk out that door,
My love would over rule my sense, and I’d call you back for more,
If I were your woman.
If I were your woman, and you were my man. Um baby.

She tears you down darlin’, says you’re nothing at all.
But, I’ll pick you up darling, when she lets you fall.
You’re like a diamond but she treats you like glass.
Yet you beg her to love you, but, me you don’t ask.
If I were your woman, If I were your woman.
If I were your woman, here’s what I’d do,
I’d never, no, no, stop loving you.
Yeah, yeah, um

Life is so crazy, a love is unkind.
Because she came first, darling, will she hang on your mind?
You’re a part of me, and you don’t even know it.
I’m what you need, but I’m too afraid to show it.
If I were your woman, If I were your woman,
If I were your woman, here’s what I’d do.
Never, no, no, no, stop loving you, ah, yeah.
If I were your woman, here’s what I’d do.
Never, never stop loving you if

Credit: Photo by Rob Mieremet (ANEFO) (GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Vancouver Woman Is Stunned When Movie Trailer Turns Out to Be a Marriage Proposal

A super-creative and very romantic graphic animator thrilled his girlfriend recently with a sweet marriage proposal cleverly masked as a Hollywood movie trailer.

Vancouver, Wash., resident Adrianna Neil was so excited to attend an early screening of the blockbuster, live-action Beauty and the Beast as a 26th birthday present from her boyfriend, Ryan Langston. What she didn’t realize was that a two-minute movie trailer would change her life forever.

A YouTube video documenting the event shows a split screen, with the trailer on the right and Neil’s reaction shots on the left.

At first, we hear an announcer speaking about how sometimes people who started as strangers become good friends over time, and how, sometimes, a good friend becomes much more.

“You feel butterflies when you see them,” says the announcer. “You feel at a loss when they are not around.”

The images on the screen at this point are blurry silhouettes of nondescript couples.

But, then the announcer gets much more specific, noting the specific trips they’ve shared and the places they’ve dreamed of visiting together. The images transition into sweeping views of Italy, Scotland and their hometown, along with romantic shots of the couple, their friends and family.

The left side of the split screen captures the very moment Neil realizes that she’s the star of the trailer and that her boyfriend is about to propose. The trailer concludes with a title screen reading, “Adrianna, Will You Marry Me?”

Langston then gets down on one knee and pops the question. Neil says, “Yes,” and her boyfriend slides a diamond ring on her finger. The couple embraces and the movie-goers in attendance cheer their approval.

“We both love movies or anything that brings an emotional experience,” the 28-year-old Langston told The Huffington Post. “And I wanted to propose in a way that would be memorable. I knew that I wanted it to be something really special for her.”

As a graphic animator for Cinetopia theaters, Langston was well versed in the ins and outs of producing a professional-grade two-minute trailer. And it wasn’t by chance that the fake trailer/proposal took place in a Cinetopia theater. Langston told The Huffington Post that it took a month to get the trailer just right.

“The staff [of Cinetopia] was amazing at helping me pull this off,” he said. “They ran the test of the trailer several times that day during intermissions just to make sure it would run without a hitch.”

Neil and Langston have known each other for 10 years, but started dating a year ago. They’re planning a September 2018 wedding and a honeymoon in Scotland or Italy.

In the caption of his YouTube video, Langston wrote, “I proposed to the most amazing woman, Adrianna Neil. I wanted to do something special so I created a short video that appears to be an advertisement at first. I love her reaction.”

You can check out the video, below.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/Ryan Langston. Facebook.com/Ryan Langston.

Mother’s Day Jewelry Gift-Giving Expected to Set New Record at $5 Billion, Reports NRF

Shoppers will be showering their moms with $5 billion in jewelry gifts on Sunday, May 14, setting a new Mother’s Day record for that category. That tally represents an increase of 19% compared with the $4.2 billion spent in 2016.

Mother’s Day gifts across all categories will total a record $23.6 billion, outpacing 2016’s performance by $2.2 billion, or 10.2%, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The NRF noted that the overall increase will be driven largely by the jewelry and personal services categories.

Jewelry is, by far, the strongest of all gift categories, topping the list that includes the $4.2 billion earmarked for special outings, such as a dinner or brunch, $2.6 billion for flowers, $2.5 billion for gift cards, $2.1 billion for clothing, $2.1 billion for consumer electronics and $1.9 billion for personal services, such as a spa day.

The NRF’s survey predicts that more than one in three (35.5%) Mother’s Day shoppers will be buying a jewelry item this year.

“With spring in full bloom, many Americans are looking forward to splurging on their mothers this Mother’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers will be ready with a wide range of gift options and a variety of promotions for their customers.”

Eighty-five percent of consumers will be giving a Mother’s Day gift in 2017, and their average budget will be $186.39, up 8.2% compared to the $172.22 recorded in 2016. Exactly 20.7% reported that they will be spending more this Mother’s Day, while 7.9% said they’d be spending less and 56.4% expected to spend the same amount as last year.

The survey, which asked 7,406 consumers about their Mother’s Day plans, was conducted April 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Credit: Image via Bigstockphoto.com. Charts via National Retail Federation.

Piano Tuner to Share Six-Figure Reward for Finding 913 Gold Coins Hidden Under the Keys of a Donated Upright

A British piano tuner is about to share a six-figure reward for discovering a stash of 913 gold coins hidden beneath the keyboard of an upright that had been donated to a community college. The gold sovereigns, which date from 1847 to 1915, have a face value of £773, which is equivalent to £500,000 ($640,000) today.

Martin Backhouse, 61, had been hired by Bishop’s Castle Community College in Shropshire, England, to work on a Broadwood & Sons piano that had been donated to the school by the Hemmings family. The piano was made in 1906 and the Hemmings family had owned the instrument for 33 years.

“I had only taken out the first octave when I realized something was going on,” Backhouse told the Daily Mail.

The piano tuner discovered seven cloth-bound packets and a leather drawstring purse under the keyboard. He was shocked to learn that each was filled with gold sovereigns and half sovereigns, the majority dating to the reign of Queen Victoria. Experts at The British Museum believe the coins — now called the Piano Hoard — were tucked away in the late 1920s, perhaps in reaction to the Great Depression or the events leading up to World War II. Cardboard lining from one of the packages suggests the hoard was hidden between 1926 and 1946. The identity of the original owner is still a mystery.

As is required by the British Treasure Act of 1996, Backhouse and college officials reported their find to the local coroner. The sovereigns were declared to be treasure at an inquest at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court, and this meant that Backhouse and the college could be compensated for the value of the coins as determined by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The Treasure Act allows for a reward to be shared among the finder and the owner of the land on which the treasure was found. The Treasure Act is administered by staff at The British Museum.

Normally, treasure is considered to be more than 300 years old and made of gold or silver. Although the Piano Hoard was not nearly that old, the Treasure Act also states that items of any age made substantially of gold or silver, whose original owners or heirs are unknown, and which are deemed to have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery, are also “treasure.”

“The individual coins are not particularly rare being the button coinage of the British Empire,” noted a spokesperson for The British Museum. “However, it is the largest hoard of its type known and the find is of significant importance from a historical perspective. It is a fascinating story. We are not aware of any other coin hoards being secreted in pianos.”

While Backhouse and the college are likely to share hundreds of thousands of dollars, the piano’s most recent owners — the Hemmings family — are entitled to nothing under British law.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/The British Museum; Piano Hoard image © Trustees of The British Museum.

Legendary Stotesbury Emerald Headlines a Cavalcade of Magnificent Jewels at Sotheby’s Tomorrow

The 34.40-carat Stotesbury Emerald, a six-sided gem with a famed history that spans more than 100 years, headlines a cavalcade of magnificent jewels at Sotheby’s New York on Tuesday.

The Colombian-mined emerald was previously in the collections of three high-profile American jewelry collectors: Evalyn Walsh McLean (1908), Eva Stotesbury (1926) and May Bonfils Stanton (1947).

The Stotesbury Emerald was last seen in the public in 1971. At the time, it had been set into a platinum ring by Harry Winston and was being offered for sale at auction. Tomorrow, Sotheby’s will be showing the ring in that same Harry Winston setting — a unique design that buttresses the emerald with two rows of pear-shaped diamonds. The estimated selling price is $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The lot with the highest estimated selling price is a pair of platinum earrings featuring D-flawless square emerald-cut diamonds, each weighing slightly more than 20 carats. Estimated to sell for $4.5 million to $5.5 million, the earrings are topped by two smaller square emerald-cut diamonds weighing 1.01 carats each.

Another notable piece is a platinum ring set with an extraordinarily rare 1.64-carat fancy vivid green diamond flanked by two cut-cornered triangle-shaped white diamonds. While fancy-color diamonds are seen in a wide range of hues, red and green are the rarest of all. Green diamonds get their color when radiation displaces carbon atoms from their normal positions in the crystal structure. This can happen naturally when diamond deposits lie near radioactive rocks, according to the Gemological Institute of America. Sotheby’s expects the ring to sell in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million.

A sapphire-and-diamond brooch dating back to the 1930s is expected to get a lot of attention at Sotheby’s sale due to its unique pedigree. The Art Deco piece by Cartier was formerly in the collection of Mrs. John E. Rovensky, who had been previously married to railroad tycoon Morton F. Plant.

Plant famously traded his corner lot on Fifth Avenue for two strands of Cartier natural pearls in 1917. The pearls were said to be valued at $1 million. That location at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street remains the New York headquarters for the jeweler. The brooch, which is set with two emerald-cut sapphires weighing approximately 10.40 and 7.75 carats, has a floral motif interpreted in round, baguette, old European-cut, pear and marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 13.95 carats. The piece is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Music Friday: In His Signature ‘Stable Song,’ Gregory Alan Isakov ‘Turns These Diamonds Into Coal’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In his signature “Stable Song,” singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov uses gemstone and precious-metal metaphors to describe an artist who struggles to find his muse and ultimately returns to his roots.

He sings, “Ring like crazy, ring like hell / Turn me back into that wild haired gale / Ring like silver, ring like gold / Turn these diamonds straight back into coal / Turn these diamonds straight back into coal.”

In the YouTube clip below, Isakov introduces the song by telling a live audience that “The Stable Song” is a poem “about everything.”

In our interpretation, the artist seems to be unable to deal with the stress that comes with success. He’s under tremendous pressure to compose something perfect (diamond) and, instead, decides to return home where he can get back to basics (coal) and recapture the energy of his youth.

Written by Isakov, “The Stable Song” was the second track of his 2007 debut album, That Sea, The Gambler. The song also returned as the fourth track of the artist’s 2016 collaboration with the Colorado Symphony.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Philadelphia and now calling Colorado home, the 37-year-old Isakov has been traveling most of his life. His songs tell the story of his time on the road and his constant yearning for a sense of place. Music critics have described him as “strong, subtle, a lyrical genius.”

Isakov is currently on a 16-city tour with stops in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana and Wyoming.

Please check out the video of his 2012 live performance at The Bing Lounge in Portland, Ore. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“The Stable Song”
Written and performed by Gregory Alan Isakov.

Remember when our songs were just like prayer
Like gospel hymns that you called in the air
Come down, come down sweet reverence
Unto my simple house and ring… and ring

Ring like silver, ring like gold
Ring out those ghosts on the Ohio
Ring like clear day wedding bells
Were we the belly of the beast, or the sword that fell?
We’ll never tell

Come to me, clear and cold
On some sea
Watch the world spinning waves
Like that machine

Now I’ve been crazy, couldn’t you tell?
I threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell
Now I’m covered up in straw, belly up on the table
Well I drank and sang, and I passed in the stable

That tall grass grows high and brown
Well I dragged you straight in the muddy ground
And you sent me back to where I roam
Well I cursed and I cried, but now I know
Now I know

And I ran back to that hollow again
The moon was just a sliver back then
And I ached for my heart like some tin man
When it came, oh it beat and it boiled and it rang
Oh, it’s ringing

Ring like crazy, ring like hell
Turn me back into that wild haired gale
Ring like silver, ring like gold
Turn these diamonds straight back into coal
Turn these diamonds straight back into coal

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/KINK Radio.

Earth’s Close Encounter With Platinum-Rich Asteroid Has Investors Talking Up the Feasibility of Space Mining

A 2,000-foot-wide platinum-rich asteroid zipped within 1.09 million miles of the Earth yesterday, prompting renewed speculation about the feasibility of space mining.

asteroid1

Roughly the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, the asteroid, at its nearest point, was only 4.6 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. In celestial terms, this was a very close encounter.

The asteroid flyby took place barely two weeks after the investors at Goldman Sachs wrote a bullish report about the prospects of harnessing them.

asteroid3

Analyst Noah Poponak and his Goldman Sachs team argued in a 98-page report that platinum mining in space is getting cheaper and easier, and the rewards are becoming greater as time goes by. The global investment company talked up the feasibility of an “asteroid-grabbing spacecraft” that could extract upwards of $50 billion in platinum.

asteroid2

“While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower,” the Goldman Sachs report stated. “Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion.”

By comparison, the start-up cost for a traditional platinum mine can be as much as $1 billion, according to a report by MIT.

“While [they are] relatively small markets today, rapidly falling costs are lowering the barrier to participate in the space economy, making new industries like space tourism, asteroid mining and on-orbit manufacturing viable,” Poponak said.

The price of space exploration has plummeted, thanks to breakthroughs in reusable rocket technology pioneered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic is looking to promote space tourism for as little as $250,000 per traveler.

Founded in 2013, Deep Space Industries is developing new spacecraft technologies essential for intercepting near-Earth asteroids and harvesting their precious resources. The company believes that asteroid-mined materials could be commercially available by the early 2020s.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/DeepSpaceIndustries.