330-Carat ‘Star of Asia’ Sapphire Is a Phenomenal Example of September’s Official Birthstone

Today we shine our spotlight on the 330-carat “Star of Asia,” one of the world’s finest star sapphires and a stunning representation of September’s official birthstone.

Originating from the historic Mogok mines of Burma (now Myanmar), the blue-violet sapphire is said to have belonged to India’s Maharajah of Jodhpur and eventually obtained by famed mineral dealer and collector Martin Leo Ehrmann. The impressive gem was acquired for the National Gem Collection in 1961 and continues to be a popular attraction at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington D.C.

Renowned for its impressive size, intense color and sharp star, the Star of Asia is considered a phenomenal stone.

According to the Smithsonian, the star forms when titanium atoms are trapped within the growing corundum crystal. As the crystal cools, the titanium forms needlelike crystals of the mineral rutile, which orient themselves in three directions. When properly cut, light reflecting off the three sets of needles produces the six-rayed star. This phenomenon is called “asterism,” which is derived from the Latin word “astrum,” for “star.”

Internetstones.com points out that the “Star of Asia” reflects the skills of a master cutter, who did an excellent job shaping the cabochon to bring out the maximum asterism and to ensure it would appear precisely in the center of the stone.

Historically, the finest and most vibrant gem-quality sapphires have come from Sri Lanka, Burma and the Kashmir region of India. The historic Mogok tract of Burma has been producing museum-quality rubies and sapphires since the 15th century.

All sapphires are made of the mineral corundum (crystalline aluminum oxide). In its pure state, the corundum is colorless, but when trace elements are naturally introduced to the chemical composition, all the magic happens. Blue sapphires occur, for instance, when aluminum atoms are displaced with those of titanium and iron in the gem’s crystal lattice structure. The blue-violet color is achieved when the element vanadium is added to the mix. Corundum has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, compared to a diamond, which has a hardness of 10.

Sapphires are seen in a wide spectrum of colors, including pink, purple, green, orange and yellow. Ruby is the red variety of corundum.

Credit: Images by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.

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Music Friday: ‘Diamonds Are Invincible’ Mega-Mix Celebrates Michael Jackson’s 60th Birthday

Michael Jackson fans from around the world celebrated what would have been the King of Pop’s 60th birthday on Wednesday by bopping to a mega-mix of his greatest hits weaved together by super-producer Mark Ronson.

In honor of Jackson’s “diamond” birthday, the five-minute audio track was titled “Michael Jackson x Mark Ronson: Diamonds Are Invincible.” The “invincible” part of the title implies that, even in death, Jackson’s musical legacy powers on. It’s also a nod to his iconic 2001 album of the same name. In 2009, readers of Billboard magazine voted it as the best album of the decade.

A work that sold 5.4 million copies worldwide, Invincible was Jackson’s final studio album. He died in June of 2009 at the age of 50.

The birthday mix includes many of Jackson’s most memorable hits, including “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Wanna Be Starting Something,” “Billie Jean,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Human Nature,” “You Rock My World” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

According to Billboard.com, Ronson’s remix was the result of a collaboration with Sony Music and the Jackson Estate. Referencing a catalog of work that spanned five decades, the Grammy-award-winning producer/artist/DJ confessed that he was overwhelmed with the task of compiling a piece worthy of Jackson’s 60th birthday celebration.

“It was such an amazing, awe-inspiring and insanely intimidating task to put this together, although you’d need hours and hours to fit all of Michael’s classic tunes into one track,” Ronson said in a statement.

The audio track of “Michael Jackson x Mark Ronson: Diamonds Are Invincible” has been trending on YouTube.com and already has been viewed more than 830,000 times since it was posted on Tuesday.

Please check it out, below…

Credit: Image of Michael Jackson performing at “Wiener Stadion,” Vienna, Austria (1988) by Zoran Veselinovic http://www.photozoran.com/ CC-BY-SA.

Smithsonian’s ‘Good as Gold’ Exhibit Explores How Senegalese Women Embrace Concept of ‘Sañse’

Spectacular gold jewelry from the West African nation of Senegal will be the focus of a brand new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, in Washington, D.C.

“Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women” will explore the history of Senegal’s gold, from past to present, as well as the beauty and complexity of the way Senegalese women use fashion and ornamentation to present themselves. A key theme of the exhibition is the Senegalese concept of sañse (the Wolof word for dressing up, looking good and feeling good).

What’s more, the exhibit will reveal the ways in which Senegalese women have historically used jewelry as a means of fashioning a cosmopolitan identity of power and prestige.

The collection includes more than 250 works of West African jewelry amassed by art historian Marian Ashby Johnson and then gifted to the Smithsonian in 2012.

A press release noted that Johnson pursued research for several decades in Senegal, engaging a broad number of jewelers, or “teugues,” in interviews and extended observation. The Johnson collection is supplemented with nearly 2,000 field and archival photographs providing a singular opportunity to understand the range and complexity of gold in the West African nation.

“While most of the objects in the exhibition were made by men, the designs, styles and names of such works are by women,” said Amanda Maples, guest curator of the exhibition and lead author of Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women.

The National Museum of African Art commissioned Oumou Sy — Senegal’s “Queen of Couture” and its most celebrated fashion designer — to supplement the jewelry collection with a new haute couture ensemble inspired by the strength of Senegalese women.

In addition, a catalog will be released to coincide with the opening of the exhibition. It will include new photography of key works in the collection and trace the history of gold in Senegal, documenting the techniques, materials and practices of goldsmiths.

“Good as Gold” will make its debut on October 24 and run through September 29, 2019, in a redesigned first-floor exhibition gallery. Admission is free.

Credit: Image by Fabrice Monteiro b. 1972, Namur, Belgium. Works in Dakar, Senegal Signare #1 2011. Exhibition print. Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery via Smithsonian.

Deserving Illinois Couple Receives Free Engagement Ring From Jilted Virginian With Big Heart

A Virginia man who had purchased a diamond engagement ring but was jilted before popping the question turned his heartbreak into hope by awarding the ring to a deserving Illinois couple.

Steven Crocker was emotionally devastated last year when his girlfriend decided to break off their two-year relationship.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he told Inside Edition. “My whole world flipped upside down.”

But, then, he wondered if the $1,700 diamond ring might brighten the future for another couple.

“It’s not about the money for me,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s about love.”

So Crocker decided to give the ring away via an eye-catching Facebook offering titled, “FREE ENGAGEMENT RING – READ AND SHARE.”

On Facebook, Crocker wrote, “It’s not the fanciest ring in the world but it can potentially make someone very happy for the rest of their life.”

He encouraged applicants to send their love stories and describe specifically why they were the most deserving.

“I don’t want to give it away to just anyone,” he wrote. “I want to give it to a guy or girl who is so in love with their significant other and wants to take the next step but cannot afford a ring. I don’t think that anyone on MY friends list falls in that category, but someone out there does, which is why sharing this post is very much appreciated. I’ll send it anywhere in the US where someone is head-over-heels.”

Crocker told NBC Nightly News that he didn’t expect more than 50 entries, but ended up getting close to 2,000.

The young man recruited his friends to help review the submissions that included both written stories and videos.

One story that caught Crocker’s attention was from Sean Sullivan of Illinois. The teacher had been saving up for an engagement ring. He was planning to pop the question to his girlfriend, Natalie Kiernicki, but had to put his proposal plans on hold when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). He wasn’t able to work and the medical bills were becoming overwhelming.

“I had to make the extremely hard decision to use the money I was saving for her ring to help cover my medical and other bills,” Sullivan told Inside Edition.

Sullivan had sent to Crocker a 17-minute video that described the couple’s commitment and love for one another.

“She’s the reason I smile every day,” Sullivan told NBC Nightly News.

Sullivan said he was overwhelmed when he learned that Crocker had picked him as the winner.

Kiernicki didn’t know that her boyfriend had vied for the ring and was totally surprised when she got the exciting news.

“For someone to do this, it just shows there are still good people left in this world,” Sullivan said. “He had no reason to do this for anybody and it’s amazing he did this.”

For Crocker, the experience left him optimistic that true love is in his future.

“I definitely know that my time is going to come,” he said.

Credits: Screen captures via nbcnews.com; Couple image via Facebook/Natalie Kiernicki; Ring selfie screen capture via Insideedition.com.

Immortalize Your Love Story and Name Your Gem at the Online Museum of Diamonds

The online Museum of Diamonds — a website dedicated to showcasing famous gems, such as the Hope, the Regent and the Kohinoor — is encouraging everyday people to share their engagement stories and name their diamonds so they can be immortalized for generations to come.

“Every diamond has a story,” noted CEO Jacques Voorhees. “At the Museum, we feature famous and named diamonds typically resting in museums and private collections. But the stories of romance from bridal diamonds are often no less interesting, and now these can be preserved and shared as well.”

Posting a love story to the Museum of Diamonds site is free and easy. The site prompts the user through nine simple questions, including the following: How did you meet? What first attracted you to your spouse? Where was your first date? How did it go? How did the proposal happen? When and where was your wedding? Where did you go on your honeymoon? What else would you like to share about your romance? Is there a special memory or amusing anecdote?

After finishing this form and clicking “submit,” the Museum of Diamonds will send users instructions for uploading one or more images and for naming the diamond, if they wish to do so.

The stories may be identified by the couple’s first names to allow friends to find their stories while protecting their identities. Once published, the story’s unique page in the Museum can easily be shared with friends and relatives on social media. Anonymity is available for those who wish to stay private.

“The story of the proposal often provides the most colorful material,” explained Voorhees. “For example, we feature one couple who were on vacation hiking through old mines near Silverton, Colo., looking for interesting rocks. The guy pretended to find one on the ground, and he picked up the ring and said to his girlfriend, ‘Honey, I think this rock belongs to you.’”

Visitors to museumofdiamonds.org will notice stories about the world’s most well known diamonds — such as the Cullinan — juxtaposed with lesser-known “personal” diamonds, such as Strawberry Harvest.

“Seeing our diamond, and our own personal story, preserved in the Museum of Diamonds made everything so special,” noted Courtney Biebl. “Not only does it make my own diamond a true symbol of our romance, but it was incredibly fun just remembering those early days—those early emotions—of when we met and so forth and sharing my thoughts and feelings at the time. Now I know those are preserved, and one day my own children and grandchildren will enjoy seeing them. How cool is that?”

To learn more about The Museum of Diamonds or to share your love story, please visit museumofdiamonds.org.

Real couples share their love stories in the Museum of Diamonds’ promotional video, below.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/Museum of Diamonds.

Double Proposal Affirms Disneyland Is the Happiest — and Most Romantic — Place on Earth

Jesse Tober and Kasey Donovan starred in their own fairytale last Monday when they popped the question simultaneously in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland in California. The video of the spontaneous double proposal made them Twittersphere sensations and affirmed, once again, that a Disney Park is not only “the happiest place on Earth,” but also the most romantic.

In a 34-second clip that has been viewed on Twitter more than 7.8 million times, we see the couple posing in front of the iconic Disney castle. The scene opens with Tober nervously fiddling with something hidden in her pocket.

But then we see it’s a ring box, which she opens and presents to her boyfriend. Donovan continues to look straight at the camera, but then turns toward his girlfriend, stares down at the ring and laughs.

“Are you serious?” he says. “Because…”

At that moment, Donovan digs into his backpack and pulls out an engagement ring box of his own.

He goes down on one knee and proposes to Tober, who seems shocked by the wild coincidence.

Videographer and best friend “Harls” can be heard saying, “No way! They double proposed! He had a ring for her!”

On Twitter, Tober posted a link to the video along with this caption, “Tell me why we just proposed to each other at the same time at our favorite place. I’m speechless.”

Tober, 20, told Business Insider that, for just a moment, she thought Donovan was going to refuse her proposal.

“When Kasey, my fiancé, started laughing when I pulled out the ring, I thought I made a huge mistake!” she told the publication. “I thought he kept asking, ‘Are you serious?’ because he definitely wasn’t ready to get married. I had no idea he was about to pull out a ring for me at the same time.”

Tober told Cosmopolitan.com that she had picked out a ring “forever ago” and had been planning the proposal for three months. Donovan, 24, had been working on his proposal for more than a month, but picked out the ring a week prior to their Disney trip.

“We’re just so in sync as a couple, I’m not surprised this happened,” Tober told Cosmopolitan.com. “I don’t know how to explain it, it almost seems normal that we both did this.”

Donovan, who hails from Salinas, Calif., met Tober when he began following her on Twitter in early 2016. She lives in upstate New York.

It turns out they share a love for all things Disney and even dressed as Disney characters for Halloween. They’re hoping to some day tie the knot at “the happiest place on Earth.”

Back in March of this year, we reported how Disney properties dominate the “Most Popular Places to Propose” list, placing three destinations in the Top 10, according to the wedding-planning website Hitched.co.uk.

Disneyland Paris was been named the world’s most popular place to pop the question. Ranking #2 on the list was Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., and placing #8 was Walt Disney’s Epcot, also in Orlando.

Credits: Screen captures via Twitter.com/virgoprincxss; Twitter.com/harleedawn.

Music Friday: Mick Jagger Sings About a High-Society Girl’s Diamonds in 1965’s ‘Play With Fire’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you super throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones shine the spotlight on diamonds in their timeless tune, “Play With Fire.”

A song that takes a critical look at the lifestyle of Jagger’s high-society girlfriend, “Play With Fire” starts off with the line, “Well, you’ve got your diamonds and you’ve got your pretty clothes / And the chauffeur drives your car / You let everybody know / But don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire.”

Jagger warns his girlfriend that even though she enjoys a privileged lifestyle, she could get burned and lose it all.

“Play With Fire” is officially credited to Nanker Phelge, the pseudonym used when the whole band collaborated on a track, but SongFacts.com reports that lead singer Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards were the only band members awake when the song was recorded very late one night at RCA Studios in January of 1965.

Music legend states that record producer Phil Spector stepped in on bass guitar, his assistant, Jack Nitzsche, played harpsichord and a night janitor helped out with backup vocals.

In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Jagger said the song still sounds “amazing.”

“I mean, it’s a very in-your-face kind of sound and very clearly done,” Jagger said. “You can hear all the vocal stuff on it. And I’m playing the tambourines, the vocal line. You know, it’s very pretty.”

Relegated to the B-side of their single, “The Last Time,” “Play With Fire” met with only marginal commercial success. It topped out at #96 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Despite that lukewarm reception, the song has stood the test of time.

The Stones seemed to have a fondness for the song, as it was performed in concerts during 1965 and 1966, and then revived more than two decades later when the band toured in 1989 and 1990.

Original band members Jagger, Richards and drummer Charlie Watts are still performing in their 56th year together. The group has released 30 studio albums, 23 live albums and numerous compilations. Overall, The Rolling Stones are credited with more than 250 million album sales. They are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were ranked fourth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”

We hope you enjoy the original audio track of The Rolling Stones performing “Play With Fire.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

“Play With Fire”
Written by Nanker Phelge (The Rolling Stones). Performed by The Rolling Stones.

Well, you’ve got your diamonds and you’ve got your pretty clothes
And the chauffeur drives your car
You let everybody know
But don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire

Your mother she’s an heiress, owns a block in Saint John’s Wood
And your father’d be there with her
If he only could
But don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire

Your old man took her diamonds and tiaras by the score
Now she gets her kicks in Stepney
Not in Knightsbridge anymore
So don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire

Now you’ve got some diamonds and you will have some others
But you’d better watch your step, girl
Or start living with your mother
So don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire
So don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire

Credit: Image by Jim Pietryga (https://www.iorr.org/tour15/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.