Vibrant Red ‘Whitney Flame Topaz’ Joins the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection

An extraordinarily rare 48.86-carat vibrant red topaz is the newest member of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection. The teardrop-shaped gem, which was acquired for the museum by philanthropist Coralyn Wright Whitney, made its debut this past Thursday at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Dubbed the “Whitney Flame Topaz,” the gem is described by Smithsonian curators as one of the finest examples of imperial topaz in the world. Imperial, or “precious,” topaz is typically golden-orange in color, but the vivid red hue of the Whitney Flame is even more unusual and highly prized.

The red color is the result of trace quantities of chromium that were incorporated into the original topaz crystal as it grew in the earth. The Whitney Flame was sourced more than 50 years ago at the topaz mines of Ouro Preto, Brazil.

“Of all the topaz found in that locality, only about a percent or two is gem quality,” Smithsonian minerals curator Jeffrey Post told Smithsonian.com. “And of those one to two percent, maybe one percent of those have a deep enough red color that they could be marketed as red topaz.”

“The color and beauty of this gemstone is astounding,” Post continued. “You have to see it to believe it. The Whitney Flame is truly one of Earth’s treasures.”

The unusual red topaz was held privately for many decades, before emerging at Arizona’s annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, a massive showcase that draws buyers and rockhounds from all around the world.

When Post and Whitney viewed the stone for the first time this past winter, the uniform red color captivated them and they instantly knew they had a winner on their hands, according to Smithsonian.com.

“When we saw it,” Post said, “we all collectively started weeping a little bit.”

Whitney purchased the stone and gifted it to the Smithsonian, along with a $5 million endowment. 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 created the Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center.

On Thursday, visitors to the National Museum of Natural History were the first to see the “Whitney Flame Topaz.” It occupies a display case all its own in the gallery occupied by other famous gems, such as The Hope Diamond. The gem is positioned vertically and backlit to emphasize its fiery color.

The Smithsonian’s gem and mineral collection, with 10,000 gems and 375,000 mineral specimens, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.

Credit: Photo by Donny Bajohr, Smithsonian. Screen captures via NBCWashington.com.

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Music Friday: Lauv Wears This Bracelet to Preserve the Memories of a Love That Got Away

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fresh songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, 24-year-old Lauv wears a special piece of jewelry to preserve the memories of a love that got away in his 2018 release, “Bracelet.”

In the intensely personal song that draws on his experiences as a music tech major at New York University, Lauv (whose birth name is Ari Leff) recounts a bad breakup that left him with a bracelet and wounded heart.

He sings, “I used to have you, now I have this bracelet / I used to have you, now I have this bracelet / I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it / Until I don’t need to / Until I don’t need you / All I know is I can’t face it.”

Later in the song, he wonders whether he should “toss” the bracelet because he doesn’t want to keep her figuratively wrapped around his wrist. But, the answer is always “No.” The bracelet preserves the memories of their love and he wakes up each morning missing her even more.

“Bracelet” appears as the 15th track of Lauv’s 2018 album, I Met You When I Was 18 (The Playlist). He subtitled the album “The Playlist” because he treated it as a work in progress, with new songs added periodically.

“This is my life, it’s a playlist,” he told Billboard magazine. “It’s an ongoing thing where I’m piecing together this chapter of my life when I was in New York, in my first serious relationship, trying to figure myself out. Like, here it is. And I’ve been building upon it just naturally.”

Lauv was born in San Francisco in 1994. His mother was of Latvian descent, so to honor her he took on the stage name “Lauv,” which mean “lion” in Latvian. Not coincidentally, Lauv’s given name, “Ari,” means “lion” in Hebrew. His zodiac sign is Leo.

Interested in music at a young age, Lauv took piano and viola lessons before favoring the guitar at the age of 11. He played in several bands in high school and eventually enrolled at NYU as a music technology major. His music writing style was heavily influenced by a Paul Simon interview, during which the legendary singer-songwriter revealed why, as an artist, it is important to get in touch with one’s innermost feelings. An emotional breakup in 2014 set Lauv’s creative juices flowing.

Upon graduation, Lauv was signed by publishing company Prescription Songs. In 2015, he released his debut EP, Lost in the Light. By 2017, he was touring with Ed Sheeran.

Please check out the official audio track of Lauv performing “Bracelet.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Bracelet”
Written and performed by Lauv.

Didn’t know what I wanted
I’ll admit that
Still don’t know what I wanted
I’ll be honest, I’m not ready to let you go

I walk down memory lane late at night
I end up losing my way every time
I wake up missing you more
Oh why did I say goodbye?

I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you
All I know is I can’t face it
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you

Anyway I could toss it
I’ll admit that
That don’t mean that I need to keep you wrapped around my wrist
Oh no

I walk down memory lane late at night
I end up losing my way every time
I wake up missing you more
Oh why did I say goodbye

I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you
All I know is I can’t face it
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you

And another day is passing by
Oh I still need you
And another day is passing by
Oh I still need you
All of these Melatonin tears I cry
Oh I still need you
Oh I still need you

I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you
All I know is I can’t face it
I used to have you, now I have this bracelet
I let you go but baby I’m gonna wear it
Until I don’t need to
Until I don’t need you
I walk down memory lane late at night
I end up losing my way every time
I wake up missing you more
Oh is it goodbye

(Bye, Bye, Bye, Bye)
Missing you more oh why?

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

5-Carat Fancy Vivid Blue ‘Ai’ (Love) Diamond Could Fetch $15 Million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong

A 5-carat fancy vivid blue diamond named “Ai” — the Chinese word for love — will be flirting with a world record when it hits the auction block at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite event in Hong Kong on October 3.

The auction house is estimating that the richly colored step-cut gem will sell in the range of $12.4 million to $15.2 million, potentially putting the per-carat price at $3 million or more. If The Ai Diamond outperforms Sotheby’s estimate, it will be ascending into the rarefied air occupied by two of the most famous blue diamonds of all time.

Back in May of 2017, the “Oppenheimer Blue” — a 14.62-carat fancy vivid blue diamond — fetched an astounding $57.5 million at Christie’s Geneva. The Oppenheimer Blue’s per-carat price of $3.93 million came up just shy of the record of $4.03 million held by the 12.03-carat Blue Moon of Josephine, another magnificent blue diamond that sold for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in November of 2015. It was the highest price per carat ever paid for a diamond or gemstone.

“Fancy Vivid” is the ultimate color classification for blue diamonds. Those displaying lower levels of color saturation may be rated “Fancy Intense,” “Fancy,” “Fancy Light” or “Light,” according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Blue diamonds owe their color to the presence of boron in the chemical makeup of the gem.

The Ai Diamond, which earned a VS2 clarity rating from the GIA, is framed by white baguette diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold.

Other top lots at the Sotheby’s auction include the following stunners…

• A Spectacular Pair of Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond and Diamond Pendant Earrings
Estimated to fetch between $4.8 million and $6.1 million, these earrings are designed as double gourds and vines, each suspending four old European brilliant-cut fancy vivid yellow diamonds weighing 51.17 carats in total. The earrings are embellished with pink and yellow diamonds mounted in 18-karat pink and yellow gold.

• An Impressive Ruby and Diamond Ring, Bulgari
Set with an oval Burmese ruby weighing approximately 31.40 carats, this impressive ring by Bulgari is embellished with custom calibré-cut rubies and brilliant-cut diamonds on the shoulders. The setting is fabricated in 20-karat yellow gold. Sotheby’s is estimating that the piece will sell in the range of $2 million to $2.5 million.

• A Unique Pair of Sapphire, Pearl and Diamond Pendant Earrings
Drop-shaped Kashmir sapphires weighing 17.70 and 17.47 carats, respectively, dangle from these platinum and 18-karat white gold earrings. The earrings also feature button-shaped pearls and diamond beads, decorated with brilliant-cut diamonds. Estimated selling price: $1.6 million to $2.1 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Emmy Winner Proposes During Live Broadcast With a Ring ‘More Valuable Than The Hope Diamond’

To director Glenn Weiss, the simple gold wedding band his dad placed on his mom’s finger 67 years ago is “more valuable than The Hope Diamond” — a fact that grew ever more significant when the Emmy winner proposed to his girlfriend Jan Svendsen on stage while accepting his award for “Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special.”

Weiss earned his Primetime Emmy for directing the Oscars ceremony on ABC, but what should have been a joyful speech started off as a melancholy acknowledgement of his mom’s passing only two weeks ago.

“Part of my heart is broken,” he said. “I don’t think it will ever be repaired. But she’s in me and she always will be.”

But, then Weiss told the audience and millions of viewers at home that his mom always believed in finding the sunshine, and that Svendsen was the sunshine of his life.

“And Mom was right. Don’t ever let go of your sunshine,” he said, spying Svendsen in the crowd. “You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife.”

Cameras zoomed in on Svendsen’s priceless reaction as the word “wife” left his lips.

Attendees of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles could sense something momentous was about to happen. And they were right.

Svendsen was ushered up to the stage, where Weiss started his marriage proposal by describing the significance of the ring.

“Jan, I want to put this ring that my mom wore on your finger in front of all these people and in front of my mom and your parents watching from above,” he said. “Will you marry me?”

Of course, she said, “Yes.”

In a backstage interview, Weiss described the ring in more detail and the sensation of having it in his pocket in the lead-up to the awards ceremony.

“It’s not a diamond ring,” Weiss clarified. “It’s my mom’s wedding ring, which, to me, is more valuable than The Hope Diamond.”

“Walking around on the red carpet like nothing’s happening with this thing sitting in my pocket was a nerve-racking experience,” he continued. “It was such a valuable thing sitting right here, but now it’s where it belongs.”

Svendsen said that she had no idea that a marriage proposal was about to go down.

She stated: “I really hoped he was going to dedicate the award to his mother, and he did, and then some.”

Weiss and Svendsen met in 2001 and have worked on awards shows together for about 10 years.

Check out the clip of Weiss’s proposal. The action starts at the 1:30 mark.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/Television Academy, YouTube.com/Variety.

33-Carat Diamond and Platinum Tiara With Ties to Spanish Royalty Comes to Auction at Bonhams

On Wednesday of next week, a very rare and cleverly crafted platinum tiara with ties to Spanish royalty will be offered for sale at Bonhams, London.

Reflecting the refined aesthetics of the Belle Époque period — the “beautiful era” of relative peace and prosperity prior to World War I — this 33.5-carat diamond tiara was designed by Spanish royal jeweler Ansorena and owned by Spanish countess Esperanza Chávarri Aldecoa, a former lady-in-waiting to Spanish Queen Victoria Eugenia, the wife of Alfonso XIII.

Dated to the turn of the last century, the platinum “Meander” tiara is designed as a double diadem that can be detached to form two separate tiaras, one of which may be flipped and worn as a choker.

The upper band of meandering Greek key motifs, forget-me-not flowers and trailing laurel leaves represent true love and the triumph of love, according to Bonhams, while the lower band is designed as a delicate lacework lattice with central handkerchief motif, set throughout with old brilliant, single and rose-cut diamonds. The lower tiara features delicate milgrain detail and architectural knifewire tracery throughout.

Bonhams is estimating that the tiara will sell in the range of $103,000 to $160,000.

“This tiara is of impeccable workmanship, and the elegant Louis XVI design of diamond wreaths and flowers has a lightness and lace-like quality made possible by the technical freedom and innovation of working in platinum,” noted Emily Barber, director of jewelry at Bonhams. “Jewelers only began to understand how truly to exploit platinum from around 1900, so it is particularly interesting that this tiara is noted in Ansorena’s archives as being conceived as early as 1890.”

Bonhams reports that the tiara remained in the countess’s family for more than 110 years.

During the Belle Époque period, which is conventionally dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, women of high society enjoyed an opulent lifestyle, which included the practice of wearing tiara’s to formal festivities.

According to Bonhams, the tiara was a fashion staple and a symbol of rank. It would be worn to private dinners, balls and the opera. What’s more, the tiara was a symbol of betrothal. A new bride often received a tiara as a wedding gift to be worn later when she took her place in society.

The “Meander” tiara is currently completing a promotional tour, which saw stops in Hong Kong, Geneva and New York. The final leg will be London, where it will be offered for sale on September 26.

Credit: Images courtesy of Bonhams.

Italian Archaeologists Discover Hundreds of Roman Gold Coins Dating Back 1,500 Years

Archaeologists working in the basement of a demolished theater in Northern Italy recently unearthed a soapstone jar literally bursting with Roman gold coins dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The pristine coins were pulled from the site of the former Cressoni theater, which is located in Como, near the Swiss border.

Hundreds of coins bearing the engravings of emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio and Libio Severo were found stacked neatly in the two-handled jar called an amphora. The newest of the coins was minted in 474 AD.

“We are talking about an exceptional discovery,” local archaeology superintendent Luca Rinaldi told the Times of London. The superintendent couldn’t guess what the coins might be worth, stating, instead, that their value was “inestimable.”

The coins were sent to a restoration laboratory in Milan, where archaeologists, restorers and numismatists will try to piece together the story behind the exciting discovery.

For now, archaeologists believe the jar of gold coins had been hidden for safekeeping.

The jar was “buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it,” Maria Grazia Facchinetti, an expert in rare coins, told CNN. “They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today.”

Due to the orderly way in which the coins were placed in the jar, Facchinetti believes the owner of the hoard was not a private person.

“Rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” she said.

The Cressoni theater had been shuttered in 1997, and the recent coin discovery took place while the property was being developed into residential apartments, according to Newsweek.

“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,” Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli said in a press release. “But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology. This discovery fills me with pride.”

Credits: Photos courtesy of MiBAC (Italy’s Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities).

Music Friday: Jason Mraz Hopes You Win ‘Prizes Shining Like Diamonds’ in ‘Have It All’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you uplifting songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz delivers a message of love, hope and infinite possibilities in his 2018 release, “Have It All.”

Inspired by a spiritual encounter with a Buddhist monk while visiting Myanmar in 2012, Mraz uses the lyrics of “Have It All” to bestow dozens of heartfelt wishes to his fans, especially the children.

The monk had told Mraz, “Tashi delek,” a Tibetan phrase that means, “May you have auspiciousness and causes of success.” Mraz adopted that exact phrase for the first line of his song, and then expounded on the theme…

He sings, “May you get a gold star on your next test / May your educated guesses always be correct / And may you win prizes shining like diamonds / May you really own it each moment to the next.”

The 41-year-old told Genius.com that “Have It All” carries the same hopeful theme that helped him heal and move forward. He called it “a song with a message of generosity – the antithesis of despondency. It’s a blessing disguised as a rap song and it’s meant to be paid forward and shared.”

“Have It All” appeared as the second track of Mraz’s sixth studio album, Know. The album charted in nine countries and peaked at #9 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and #10 on the Canadian Albums chart.

The song’s official video features more than 100 performing arts students from Mraz’s hometown of Richmond, Va.

“[The] music video was made through a collaborative experience with two nonprofits in Richmond,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “It’s honestly less about me and more about shining a light on tomorrow’s artists.”

Although he grew up in Virginia, Mraz got his big break after moving to San Diego as a 22 year old and becoming an audience favorite at the coffee house Java Joe’s. In 2002, he signed with Elektra Records.

Mraz has earned two Grammy Awards and sold more than seven million albums worldwide.

Please check out Mraz performing with a crew of talented school kids in his official video for “Have It All.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Have It All”
Written by Becky Gebhardt, Mai Bloomfield, Mona Tavakoli, Chaska Potter, Jacob Kasher, David Hodges and Jason Mraz. Performed by Jason Mraz.

May you have auspiciousness and causes of success
May you have the confidence to always do your best
May you take no effort in your being generous
Sharing what you can, nothing more nothing less
May you know the meaning of the word happiness
May you always lead from the beating in your chest
May you be treated like an esteemed guest
May you get to rest, may you catch your breath

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you

I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all
Oh! I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet
May you keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk
May you have unquestionable health and less stress
Having no possessions though immeasurable wealth
May you get a gold star on your next test
May your educated guesses always be correct
And may you win prizes shining like diamonds
May you really own it each moment to the next

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you

I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
All you can imagine
All, no matter what your path is
If you believe it then anything can happen
Go, go, go raise your glasses
Go, go, go you can have it all
I toast you

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
Here’s to you always making me laugh
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Credits: Screen capture via YouTube.com.