Two of the Season’s Most Popular Days for Popping the Question Are Still on the Board

Even though the calendar shows we’re just a week from the end of “engagement season” — the magical time of the year when nearly 40% of all marriage proposals take place — a pair of Top-10 pop-the-question days remains on the board.

For those of you keeping score, the 10th-most-popular day to deliver a marriage proposal takes place this weekend, and the second-most-popular day hits next Thursday.

Believe it or not, the Saturday before Valentine’s Day is rated #10 on WeddingWire’s list of most popular days to pop the question. The editor’s at WeddingWire believe that a Saturday proposal may reflect the couple’s desire to celebrate their engagement over a weekend and not necessarily on Valentine’s Day, which often comes up during the week (February 14 is on a Thursday) and is certainly not a day when most people have off. Popping the question on the weekend prior to Valentine’s Day also preserves the element of surprise.

Rated #2 on WeddingWire’s list is none other than Valentine’s Day itself. Cupid’s special day is all about love and expressing to that special someone just how much you care. We reported yesterday that more than half of the U.S. population will be exchanging gifts on Valentine’s Day, with jewelry purchases expected to reach $3.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. A special subset of that number will reflect the purchases of millions of romantic suitors who are planning to propose with a diamond ring.

Back in 2014, American Express’ Spending & Saving Tracker estimated that six million American couples expected to receive or deliver a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day.

Engagement season formally runs from Thanksgiving Day to Valentine’s Day. The only day to beat out Valentine’s Day in popularity is Christmas Day.

Here’s the complete Top 10 list, as revealed in WeddingWire’s 2018 Newlywed Report

#1. Christmas Day
#2. Valentine’s Day
#3. Christmas Eve
#4. New Year’s Day
#5. New Year’s Eve
#6. December 23rd (Day Before Christmas Eve)
#7. Two Saturdays Before Christmas Eve
#8. Fourth of July (Independence Day)
#9. Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend
#10. Saturday Before Valentine’s Day

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.

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Survey: Shoppers to Spend More on Jewelry Than Any Other Valentine’s Day Gift Category

For the third consecutive year, U.S. consumers are expected to spend more on jewelry than any other Valentine’s Day gift category, according to an annual report released by the National Retail Federation.

Spending for jewelry-related Valentine’s Day gifts is likely to reach $3.9 billion, outpacing “an evening out” ($3.5 billion, given by 34%), clothing ($2.1 billion, 18%), flowers ($1.9 billion, 35%), candy ($1.8 billion, 52%), gift cards ($1.3 billion, 15%) and greeting cards ($933 million, 44%).

Of those surveyed, 26% of men and 9% of women said they would be gifting a special piece of jewelry on February 14.

The NRF reports that overall spending on Valentine’s Day gifts will reach an all-time record of $20.7 billion in 2019, up from $19.6 billion in 2018. Those surveyed said they would spend an average of $161.96. That’s an increase of 13% from last year’s $143.56 and easily tops the previous record of $146.84 set in 2016.

“Those who are participating are spending more than ever and that could be the result of the strong economy,” commented NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Valentine gift givers will spend an average of $93.24 on their significant other/spouse; $29.87 on other family members, such as children or parents, $9.78 on friends, $8.63 on children’s classmates or teachers, $7.78 on co-workers, $6.94 on pets, and $5.72 on others.

On the average, men are budgeting $229.54 for Valentine’s Day gifts, an increase of 20% over last year. Women will be spending $97.77, about 1% lower than last year. Among age groups, those 35-44 are the biggest Valentine’s Day spenders at $279.14, followed by those 25-34 at $239.07. Both groups typically have more people on their gift lists, including children and children’s classmates or teachers.

Despite the record spending numbers, the portion of Americans celebrating Valentine’s Day is expected to decline to 51% in 2019, a drop of 4 percentage points compared to 2018 and more than 12 points down from 2007.

The NRF’s 2019 Valentine’s Day spending survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to Valentine’s Day. The survey was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 7,384 consumers took place from January 2-9, 2019, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Credit: Image by BigStockPhoto.com.

Birthstone Feature: 78.3-Carat Gem Is Smithsonian’s First Amethyst From Rwanda

Billed as the first amethyst from Rwanda to join the National Gem Collection, this stunning 78.3-carat Super Trillion™ Cut was faceted by award-winning cutter John Dyer and is a first-rate example of February’s birthstone.

Dyer told us yesterday that the original rough amethyst, which weighed 465.5 carats, yielded four finished stones, the largest of which was purchased by the Smithsonian in 2017. The second-largest weighed about 10 carats. The painstaking faceting process took more than three days to complete.

Smithsonian representatives were impressed by the stone’s size, unusual origin, unique cut and deep rich purple color with flashes of red.

Based in Edina, Minn., Dyer has notched 54 cutting awards and is famous for his artistic ability and passion for precision. His Super Trillion™ Cut reflects an optimized pattern that adds more facets and other variations to the traditional trillion cut.

Dyer noted that he purchased the rough amethyst through a dealer who had access to a brand new find in Rwanda. Amethysts traditionally have been sourced in Brazil, Uruguay, Zambia, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Canada and the U.S.

Amethyst is the most coveted variety of quartz, which is clear in its pure state. Amethyst gets its purple color from a few atoms of iron displacing some of the silicon in the gem’s molecular structure. These traces of iron can give amethyst a wide range of colors, from almost white to deep purple.

The ancient Greeks believed amethyst could prevent drunkenness. Medieval soldiers wore amethyst to protect themselves in battle. Other cultures believed February’s birthstone would bring good fortune, inspire their intellect, heal their illnesses, or bolster their immune systems.

Amethyst gets its name from the Greek word “amethystos,” which literally means “not to intoxicate.” Apparently, the Greeks believed amethyst could reverse the effects of drunkenness. Other characteristics attributed to amethyst include peace, balance, courage, stability and inner strength.

The color rating of an amethyst is determined by its hue, tone and saturation. Hue is the color; tone is relative lightness or darkness of the color; and saturation relates to the color’s intensity, from dull to vivid.

Credit: Photo by John Dyer & Co, courtesy of the Smithsonian.

North America’s Largest Rough Diamond Makes Final Public Appearance — And We Were There

The largest rough diamond ever mined in North America — the fancy yellow “552” — made its final public appearance at Phillips auction house in New York City on Sunday. And we were there.

Exhibiting a frosty surface and distinctive bi-color transition from intense yellow to nearly white, the 552-carat diamond seemed surreal in its glass case at the street-level exhibit hall of the famous auction house on Park Avenue and 57th. Giant vertical banners in the Phillips windows delivered a bold and simple message, “Think Big — 552 Carats.” It was the public’s final opportunity to see one of nature’s true wonders — before it gets transformed into faceted stones.

Inside, a solitary glass case illuminated by two spotlights and watched over carefully by two armed guards provided the temporary home to the “552.” The spectacular diamond had been found at the Diavik mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories back in October, and Phillips’ executives pitched Dominion Diamond Mines with the idea of putting the diamond on display in New York City before it went through the cutting process.

Dominion Diamond Mines Director of Marketing Rachel Aaron told us that there are two likely outcomes for the egg-sized “552.” In scenario one, the rough diamond would yield a primary faceted stone of 150 to 200 carats, as well as a number of residual faceted diamonds. In scenario two, cutters would opt for a pair of primary diamonds in the 70- to-100-carat range, plus the residual stones. The pair of smaller diamonds, she said, would be considered more wearable.

Aaron said that only four or five cutters in the world are capable of handling a fancy yellow diamond of this magnitude. Dominion has yet to select a cutting partner.

She also noted that once the diamond is cut, all the finished stones will return to Phillips for a special exhibition. She said the mapping and cutting process should take about nine months and the Phillips exhibition will likely be a year from now.

There are a number of characteristics that make the “552” unique. On close inspection, one can see a clear transition in color about two thirds of the way across the diamond. It goes from a clear, vibrant yellow to a cloudy white. Aaron said that gemologist believe that the transition point could reflect an internal fracture.

There are also obvious scars on the surface of the stone. These represent the beating the rough diamond took during the sorting and screening process. The Diavik processing plant is optimized to recover smaller diamonds, but Aaron believes the shape of the stone saved it. The stone turned vertically during the screening process and was just the right size to fit through. Had it stayed horizontal, it would have been crushed.

Aaron said the mine is not planning to change it’s recovery methods to secure more super-large diamonds. The mine has been specializing in smaller, fine-quality diamonds since 2003 and there’s no indication from their geological surveys that other super-large diamonds are likely to be found.

The gem’s yellow color is also an anomaly at the Diavik mine. Diamonds from the mine typically rate in the D, E and F color range (colorless to near colorless) and usually boast a clarity rating of VS or better. Dominion reports, however, that a small portion of Diavik’s production exhibits varying shades of brown, orangy-brown, light pink and light purple.

Despite its impressive dimensions, the “552” rates only 25th on the all-time list of the world’s largest rough diamonds, just ahead of the Lesotho’s Letseng Star (550 carats) and just behind the Central African Republic’s Spirit of de Grisogono (587 carats). The top seven diamonds on the list are all from the continent of Africa, including the granddaddy of them all, the 3,106-carat Cullinan, which was discovered near Pretoria, South Africa, in 1905.

Credits: Phillips exhibition images by The Jeweler Blog; Mine image courtesy of Dominion Diamond Mines.

Music Friday: February’s Birthstone Makes Curious Appearance in Wang Chung’s ‘Dance Hall Days’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In 1984, British band Wang Chung helped define a generation with its international hit “Dance Hall Days.” The song put a New Wave timestamp on a slew of popular movies and is memorable for lead singer/composer Jack Hues’ “hallucinogenic” reference to amethyst in the final verse.

The purple gem is, of course, the official birthstone for February.

Hues sings: “So take your baby by the wrist, and in her mouth an amethyst. And in her eyes two sapphires blue, and you need her and she needs you.”

During an interview with “Just My Show” podcast host Eric Greenberg, Hues explained that the song about finding love in an old-fashioned dance hall begins innocently with the line, “Take your baby by the hand.” But, by the last verse, the tone has escalated to “Take your baby by the wrist, and in her mouth an amethyst.”

“It’s all a bit more hallucinogenic in a way, how things that start off simple get complex,” he said.

“Dance Hall Days,” which charted in 12 countries and peaked in the U.S. at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was featured in a slew of popular movies, including Bachelor Party, Pretty in Pink, Gotti, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, To Live And Die In LA, Adventureland, The Informers and The Fighter.

Founded in 1980 by Nick Feldman, Jack Hues and Darren Costin, Wang Chung’s unusual name translates to “yellow bell” in Mandarin Chinese. Wang Chung is also the first note in the Chinese classical music scale.

The band scored five Top-40 hits from 1983 through 1987, including “Let’s Go!” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” The band actively toured from 1980 to 1990, and then again from 1997 to the present.

Don’t miss Wang Chung’s performance of “Dance Hall Days” at the end of this post. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“Dance Hall Days”
Written by Jack Hues. Performed by Wang Chung.

Take your baby by the hand
And make her do a high hand stand
And take your baby by the heel
And do the next thing that you feel

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close and there, there, there
And take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days
Dance hall days, love

Take your baby by the wrist
And in her mouth, an amethyst
And in her eyes, two sapphires blue
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her and she needs you
And you need her
And she needs you

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true
I said

Dance hall days, love

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love
Dance hall days

Dance hall days, love

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Limited-Edition Super Bowl LIII Caps Are Embellished With Rubies and Sapphires

When the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII this Sunday, at least a handful of fans will be wearing a limited-edition, gemstone-adorned cap that might be worth thousands more than their ticket to the game.

Carrying a price tag of $5,300, the New Era x Swarovski 9TWENTY hats feature an NFL shield logo embellished with genuine rubies and sapphires.

Rows of rubies spell out the “NFL,” while blue sapphires provide the ground against which a stylized football and eight stars rise up in white metal. The stars represent the eight NFL divisions.

The luxurious ladies’ caps — which are covered in crushed blue velvet and lined in satin — went on sale yesterday on a first-come, first-served basis at the NFL Shop in the Super Bowl Experience in Atlanta.

At $5,300, the price of one bejeweled cap is slightly less than a pair of nosebleed tickets, which are currently selling for about $2,700.

The caps were designed in coordination with Swarovski, which was credited with cutting the gemstones.

This was not the first time the NFL has worked with well known brands to create special items in honor of the Super Bowl.

To commemorate Super Bowl 50 in 2016, the NFL and members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) teamed up to create 50 lavish footballs that shared a “gold” theme. The NFL required the designers to use a “gold” theme to align with the precious metal’s traditional connection with 50th anniversaries.

But, how they used the gold was totally up to them. While some positioned gold as the central motif, others used it as a glittering accent.

Our favorites were the designers who took it up a notch by mixing precious metals and gemstones to make their footballs into treasures suitable for a jeweler’s showcase.

Credit: Cap images courtesy of New Era. Ovadia & Sons, Marchesa footballs courtesy of CFDA.

Ice Ice Baby! Frosty Gem Is the 54th 200+ Carat Diamond Discovered at Karowe Mine

Ice ice baby! No, we’re not referring to the 1990 song or the mammoth Arctic blast that’s breaking wind-chill records from the Dakotas to Long Island. What’s got our attention is this 240-carat frosty white gem-quality diamond that was just unearthed at the red-hot Karowe mine in Botswana, where the mercury topped out at 91 degrees yesterday.

Yes, Lucara’s diamond mine in the tiny landlocked country in Southern Africa is arguably the world’s most prolific. The recent recovery was the mine’s 54th diamond in excess of 200 carats.

The mine that brought you the 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona and the 813-carat Constellation, has yielded a dozen diamonds exceeding 300 carats.

Impressively, 180 diamonds from the mine have sold for $1 million or more and 10 diamonds yielded $10 million or more.

Lucara CEO Eira Thomas said 2018 was a banner year and that mining operations in 2019 will be largely focused on Karowe’s higher-value lobes, the ones from which Lesedi la Rona and the Constellation were extracted.

“As Karowe enters its seventh full year of production, the regular recovery of specials (diamonds larger than 10.8 carats) continued unabated and in line with expectations,” she said. Lucara expects to extract 300,000 to 330,000 carats in 2019.

The mine has been so successful that Lucara Diamond Corp. is looking at ways to extend its lifespan.

The mine currently boasts open pit reserves of 2.6 million carats extending out to 2026 and is in the process of completing a feasibility study that could expand mining underground to 2036 and beyond, according to Thomas.

Credits: Images courtesy of Lucara Diamond Corp.