Britain's Royal Mint just took the concept of a "gold card" to a whole new level with the unveiling of the first-ever payment card made from 18-karat gold.
Developed in association with Mastercard and Accomplish Financial, the solid gold Raris card offers limitless spending, zero foreign exchange and no transaction fees. It also carries a $23,000 price tag.
Each Raris card is personalized with the name and signature of the accountholder engraved right into the precious metal. The card is fully customizable. Additional graphics may be added to the front and back of the card — for an additional fee.
The Royal Mint, which has produced coinage in England for more than 1,100 years, is targeting the premium product to the elite consumer who values high-quality luxury items and wants to make a statement.
Because the Raris card is part of the Mastercard World Elite package, cardholders will have access to a dedicated concierge service and other travel benefits.
In addition to being the world’s first precious metal payment card to be hallmarked by the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, Raris is also the first payment card in the world to use source-traceable metals and to be certified under the Responsible Jewellery Council’s Chain of Custody.
"The Royal Mint is constantly innovating, and as the UK’s leading precious metals solutions provider, we are hugely excited to launch the solid gold Raris card in acknowledgement of growing consumer demands for unique and luxury payments cards," noted Anne Jessopp, CEO at The Royal Mint.
CNN reported that the Royal Mint's initial run will consist of 50 Raris cards with the same design. New card designs and additional runs will follow as the product gains traction.
When CNN asked Mastercard spokesman James Thorpe why anyone might want to invest in an 18-karat gold payment card, he said, "If you want something that is unique in this world, there are very few things. But this is a remarkable and valuable product."
Credit: Image courtesy of The Royal Mint.
Back in February of 1981, Prince Charles proposed to the 20-year-old Lady Diana with a big blue sapphire-and-diamond ring that the future princess got to pick out herself. According to the editors of Vogue, some members of the British royal family fumed at Diana's choice — not because it featured an unconventional center stone, but because it was a stock item from the Garrard catalog.
Founded in London in 1735, Garrard was the official crown jeweler of the UK from 1843 until 2007. The distinguished company that had been entrusted with the upkeep of the British Crown Jewels was the logical source for Diana's bridal jewelry.
So, in the lead-up to their engagement, the 32-year-old Prince Charles presented his bride-to-be with a bunch of design options from Garrard. Her favorite was an 18-karat white gold ring set with a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded by a halo of 14 round white diamonds.
In Diana's eyes, the ring was perfect. She loved it so much that she didn't request any modifications or customizations.
In the eyes of her critics and some members of the royal family, the ring was sub-standard because it was hardly unique. Critics called the Garrard stock item a "commoner's ring" because any non-royal with $60,000 to spend could purchase the exact piece.
Nevertheless, Diana's sapphire and diamond engagement ring would become one of the most recognizable and imitated engagement rings of all time. Gerrard still features a sapphire ring with a halo of 12 diamonds in its "1735 Collection." (The ring seen, above, is a replica with 16 accent stones.)
Diana wore the ring throughout her marriage and even, on some occasions, after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996.
After Diana died tragically in 1997, her sons, then 15 and 12, were given an opportunity to select a keepsake from their mom's possessions.
Prince William picked a Cartier watch that his mom received on her 21st birthday and Harry got the sapphire engagement ring.
But, wait… Didn't Prince William famously propose to Kate Middleton in October of 2010 with his late mother's sapphire ring? Well, yes. We learned in April of this year, that the sapphire ring proposal was made possible by the selfless act of William's younger brother, Harry.
According to Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, the princess's ring was in Harry’s possession for 12 years. When William broke the news to his brother that he was about to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Kate, the younger brother said, “Wouldn’t it be fitting if she had mummy’s ring? Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England.”
William accepted his brother’s generous offer and the rest is history.
Lightning Ridge, a small outback town in New South Wales, is the only place in Australia, and one of the few places in the world, where the highly prized black opal is found. Opals with a vivid play-of-color and a black or dark body color are classified as black opals.
The beautiful 26.9-carat specimen, above, is an example of a black opal sourced at Lightning Ridge — a mining area that has been yielding top-quality opals since 1903. The ring was gifted to the Smithsonian in 1970 by Mrs. Oliver B. James and became part of the National Gem Collection in Washington, D.C. The cabochon-cut gem displays a variety of intense colors, including red, violet, blue, green, yellow and orange.
As one of October’s official birthstones, the precious opal is universally loved because it can present all the colors of the rainbow. Each opal is truly unique and more than 95% of the world's fine opals are sourced in Australia. Other varieties include white opals, boulder opals, crystal opals and fire opals.
As we reported earlier this year, a world-class facility dedicated to Australia’s national gemstone is taking shape at Lightning Ridge. The $24 million Australian Opal Centre will be a world-class tourism attraction and an internationally recognized hub for opal-related knowledge, training and certification.
Scientists believe that between 100 million and 97 million years ago, Australia’s vast inland sea, which was populated by marine dinosaurs, began retreating. As the sea regressed, a rare episode of acidic weather was taking place, exposing pyrite minerals and releasing sulphuric acid. As the surface of the basin dried further and cracked, silica-rich gel became trapped in the veins of the rock. Over time, the silica solidified to form opals.
In precious opal, the silica spheres are uniform in size and are stacked into an orderly arrangement, which gives the structure the ability to break visible white light into separate colors. Interestingly, 95% of the opals found by miners is void of color. These specimens are white, grey or black. The locals call it “potch” and it has very little value. Potch is composed of the exact same mineral as fine opal – spheres of silica dioxide. The only difference is that in potch, the tiny silica spheres are jumbled, whereas in precious opal they’re all laid out evenly.
An opal’s silica structure contains 3% to 20% water, according to the American Gem Society. The value of a fine opal is based on a number of factors, including brightness, color, pattern, body tone and consistency (how it looks from multiple angles).
While Australia remains the primary source of fine opal production, the October birthstone is also mined in Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and parts of the U.S., including Nevada and Idaho.
Credits: Photos by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
Sparkling with 282 diamonds and 51 sapphires, the St. Louis Blues' first-ever Stanley Cup rings pay tribute to the strong bond between the players and their dedicated fans. The impressive 14-karat white and yellow gold rings — which boast a total gem weight of 10.6 carats — were recently presented to the players, coaches and executives by local police and firefighters during a private ceremony.
Founded in 1967, the St. Louis Blues and their fans waited 52 years to raise the Stanley Cup.
Designed by Jostens, the ring face features the Blues' distinctive Blue Note logo rendered with 16 genuine, custom-cut blue sapphires. The number 16 represents the number of victories earned by the Blues on their path to the championship. Jostens reported that each sapphire had to be delicately shaved so each would fit exactly within the logo's yellow gold outline.
The Blue Note logo sits atop the Stanley Cup, rendered with 45 pavé-set diamonds. To the left and right of the Cup are 30 more diamonds for a total of 75 — a number representing the goals scored by the Blues during the 2019 postseason.
The words "STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS" in raised gold lettering encircle the face of the ring and sit against a ground of custom blue antiquing. Completing the top's stunning design are 115 additional diamonds intricately set in a cascading waterfall effect.
A total of 20 princess-cut sapphires — channel set in yellow gold — wrap around two sides of the ring's top edge. One of the remaining two sides features the player's name in raised yellow gold lettering, and the fourth side showcases the words "ST. LOUIS BLUES" with "ST. LOUIS" in raised gold letters and the word "BLUES" colored with blue antiquing.
The player's jersey number set in diamonds is prominently placed on the left side of the ring, along with an illustration of the players and fans celebrating their victory with the Stanley Cup held aloft. Also on the left side of the ring is the championship year of 2019.
Intricately detailed music notes for the song “When the Blues Go Marching In” are featured on the right side of the ring. The music notes flow through the iconic St. Louis Arch, formed by 16 diamonds, again representing the number of victories earned in the playoffs. According to Jostens, the scene is inspired from photos taken from an overhead blimp during the city’s championship parade celebration. A mix of 76 diamonds and 15 sapphires symbolizes the huge crowd that surrounded the stage during the city's celebration.
The results of the each playoff series and the opponents' logos are engraved on the interior of the ring, along with the Blue Note logo. Below the scores is an engraving of the player's personal signature. Also on the interior is the name "LAILA," an 11-year-old superfan who suffers from a rare, life-threatening disease. Laila Anderson was a season-long source of inspiration for the team.
The palm crest reads "PLAY GLORIA," a nod to the Laura Branigan song that was played after the team's home victories.
“The Blues journey to become Stanley Cup Champions for the first time was nothing short of extraordinary," said Chris Poitras VP and COO of Jostens Professional Sports Division, "and we wanted to honor that story through an equally incredible ring."
Credits: Images courtesy of Jostens.
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you hit songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Mario tells his new love interest why she deserves a fistful of diamonds and a handful of rings in his 2004 blockbuster hit, “Let Me Love You.”
Written by Ne-Yo, Kameron Houff and Scott Storch, “Let Me Love You” is the story of a young woman with relationship problems. She has to choose between a cheating boyfriend who comes home with makeup on his shirt and a sweet-talking suitor who promises to show her the way love’s supposed to be.
Mario sings, “You’re the type of woman (deserves good thangs) / Fistful of diamonds (handful of rings) / Baby you’re a star (I just want to show you, you are).”
The song, which appears on Mario’s second studio album, Turning Point, was an instant hit, as it zoomed to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for nine consecutive weeks. It was also an international hit, charting in 19 countries. Billboard named “Let Me Love You” the eighth most successful single of the decade. It even earned Mario a Grammy award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 2006.
Trivia: Mario’s “Let Me Love You” is one of the top-selling ringtones of all time with 1.6 million downloads.
Mario Dewar Barrett was born in Baltimore in 1986. At age four, Barrett told his family that he wanted to be a singer, and to support his dream, his mother bought him a karaoke machine. At age 11, Barrett signed a record deal after being discovered at a Coppin State College talent show by producer Troy Patterson. Three years later, the talented teen signed a new deal with Clive Davis’ J Records.
Please check out the video of Mario’s duet with Zendaya. The live performance of “Let Me Love You” is from the short-lived television show called Greatest Hits ABC, which ran in the summer of 2016. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…
“Let Me Love You”
Written by Ne-Yo, Kameron Houff and Scott Storch. Performed by Mario, with Zendaya.
Baby I just don’t get it
Do you enjoy being hurt?
I know you smelled the perfume, the make-up on his shirt
You don’t believe his stories
You know that they’re all lies
Bad as you are, you stick around and I just don’t know why
If I was ya man (baby you)
Never worry bout (what I do)
I’d be coming home (back to you)
Every night, doin’ you right
You’re the type of woman (deserves good thangs)
Fistful of diamonds (handful of rings)
Baby you’re a star (I just want to show you, you are)
You should let me love you
Let me be the one to give you everything you want and need
Baby good love and protection
Make me your selection
Show you the way love’s supposed to be
Baby you should let me love you, love you, love you”
Your true beauty’s description
Looks so good that it hurts
You’re a dime plus ninety-nine
And it’s a shame don’t even know what you’re worth
Everywhere you go they stop and stare
‘Cause you’re bad and it shows
From your head to your toes, out of control, baby you know
Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.
L.J. West Diamonds recently granted CNBC unprecedented access to its New York City cutting facility to witness the re-polishing of a 5-carat pink diamond — a risky procedure that, if successful, would more than double the stone's value from $3.2 million to $7 million.
The father-son team of Larry and Scott West were betting that the pink diamond they had purchased at auction could be elevated from a from a "fancy pink" to a "fancy intense pink."
All it would take was a master diamond cutter and six painstaking hours at the polishing wheel. The cutter would remove a few micro millimeters of material from key points around the diamond and alter the angle of a few facets. Based on the Wests' computer modeling, the result would be a diamond that would better reflect the light and magnify its natural pink hue.
The re-polishing process took 10 sessions that extended over two weeks. The cutters were careful to keep each season on the wheel to less than 30 minutes. The grinding creates a lot of heat, so the diamond is allowed to "rest" and cool down while the experts evaluate their next move.
Overall, the calculation is simple: More color equals more value.
Scott emphasized that the procedure did come with a scary downside. At any time during the process, the diamond could shatter and their investment would go completely down the drain.
The younger West explained how a huge yellow perished during a similar process.
“We had a 20-carat yellow diamond that busted on the wheel," he told CNBC. "It went from $600,000 to $100,000 — just like that. It’s the unlucky lotto."
In this case, the 5-carat diamond survived its "surgery," but it was still unclear whether it would earn a high color grade at the Gemological Institute of America.
Two weeks later, the Wests invited CNBC back again to view GIA's grading report. The Wests were thrilled to learn that the gem did, indeed, earn a jump from "fancy pink" to "fancy intense pink."
"It was a big risk, but it really paid off," said Scott, who believes the $3.2 million gem is now worth $7 million.
The gem was recently set in a platinum ring flanked by two white diamonds. The Wests will be traveling with the stone to a number of VIP events, where they hope to match it up with a buyer.
Read the CNBC's story and see the network's video coverage at this link…
Credits: Screen captures via cnbc.com.
The Diamond Producers Association (DPA) is launching an $11 million ad campaign that is an unprecedented, cinematic telling of the natural diamond story. Titled "The Diamond Journey," the video chronicles the history of a beautiful rough diamond from its fiery subterranean origins to its place as the ultimate representation of love, commitment and meaningful moments.
At the epicenter of the campaign is a three-minute hero film that could be mistaken as the trailer for a major motion picture, due to its impressive special effects, period costumes, cast of characters and engaging score by Oscar-winning musician, Atticus Ross.
As the newest part of the “Real is Rare, Real is a Diamond” platform, the campaign was developed in partnership with creative agency BBH London. The film was directed by Ian Pons Jewell, whose impressive client list includes Nike, Audi, Lexus and Michelob.
“We know from research that the majority of consumers are unaware that diamonds are the oldest thing they will ever touch or own," noted Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the DPA. "It’s a powerful message that resonates and one this campaign celebrates with the tagline ‘Three Billion Years in the Making.’"
The campaign also uses the phrase "Before there was life, there were diamonds."
Elements of the three-minute hero film have been edited into 60-, 30- and 15-second videos, which will be seen on social media platforms. The DPA is also producing striking portrait and landscape still visuals of an embracing pair of hands emerging from a natural scene. One of the hands is adorned with a diamond ring (See image, above).
The featured item in the campaign is a 2-carat cushion-cut diamond engagement ring, set in yellow gold. It was chosen because it evokes a classic, timeless quality with eternal appeal.
The advertising campaign, which has a primary target audience of 21-39 year olds, launches digitally on October 15 with Condé Nast, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, among others. The creative ads also will be posted to Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
"The Diamond Journey" commercials will be seen during NFL games on ESPN, holiday movies on the Hallmark channel, and The Today Show on NBC.
The DPA is also targeting high-impact placements in transit hubs and key cities during the busy holiday travel and gifting season. Expect to see "The Diamond Journey" messaging in New York's Grand Central Terminal, JFK and LAX airports, and select in-flight TVs.
Check out the full-length version of "The Diamond Journey" here…
Credits: Image courtesy of the Diamond Producers Association.
About five weeks ago, Alrosa surprised its Instagram followers with a video that seemed to show a tiny rough diamond rattling around in the cavity of a larger one. The caption read, "A diamond in a diamond? We couldn't help but share this very special find with you."
At the time, Alrosa wasn't quite sure what to make of the phenomenon. Nobody at the mining company had ever seen anything like it.
Despite weighing just 0.62 carats, the tiny specimen became the focus of a series of elaborate tests to determine exactly what it was.
"We are not sure if the smaller one is a diamond," Alrosa wrote in the Instagram caption. "Our scientists are looking forward to studying the crystal. It will be researched with non-destructive methods."
Alrosa is now reporting that by utilizing Raman spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy and X-ray microtomography, its researchers are able to confirm that both the smaller crystal and its host are diamonds.
The larger one measures 4.8 mm x 4.9 mm x 2.8 mm, while the smaller, tabular-shaped crystal weighs .02 carats and measures 1.9 mm × 2.1 mm × 0.6 mm.
Alrosa is calling the curious double-diamond "Matryoshka," which is a nod to the popular Russian nesting dolls. The diamond was discovered in Yakutia at the Nyurba mining and processing division of Alrosa.
Explaining the extreme rarity of this find, Oleg Kovalchuk, deputy director for innovations at Alrosa's Research and Development Geological Enterprise, said, "This is really a unique creation of nature, especially since nature does not like emptiness. Usually, some minerals are replaced by others without cavity formation."
"The most interesting thing for us was to find out how the air space between the inner and outer diamonds was formed," he said.
Alrosa's scientists believe there was an internal diamond at first, and the external one was formed during the subsequent stages of growth.
Please check out Alrosa's video here…
Credits: Images courtesy of Alrosa.
The average American man knows after seven months of dating if his partner is "the one" and nearly half received not-so-subtle hints encouraging the proposal, according to a survey conducted for the Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group.
Two of the top five methods of dropping hints included forwarding emails from jewelry websites (45%) and stopping in jewelry stores to look at rings (40%). Other key signs that a partner was looking to tie the knot included watching TV or movies that involved weddings (54%), discussing other people’s engagements and marriages (52%), and leaving wedding magazines out to be discovered (50%).
The survey also revealed that it took an average of two months to find the perfect diamond. Of those who proposed with a ring, three in five noted that they were guided by their partners about ring preferences.
After purchasing the engagement ring, nearly half of the men kept it in a home safe while 30% put it in a shoebox. A quarter of the men kept the ring with them all the time, while 27% gave it to mom and dad for safekeeping. The survey also found the most common methods to protect the investment were a jeweler’s warranty (56%), specialty jeweler’s insurance (43%) and manufacturer’s warranty (42%).
Nearly eight in 10 men (79%) said their proposal went exactly as planned and 85% revealed that their proposal actually surprised their partner. We had previously reported that when it comes to getting engaged, nearly half of American brides-to-be want their engagement rings to be a surprise.
Followers of this blog know all too well that the best laid proposal plans sometimes go awry. We've reported on major snafus that nearly thwarted their engagements — including rings getting flushed down the toilet, trapped in lost luggage, falling into city utility grates, and even being washed out to sea during the proposal.
Luckily, all had happy endings.
“Popping the question and finding that perfect ring to symbolize your love are huge decisions,” said Jessica VandenHouten, brand communications manager for Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group. “Deciding how to protect the ring should be equally important. Given the time, financial and emotional investment, you want to protect the ring for all its worth.”
The survey results are based on responses from 2,000 engaged and married American men and was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group.
Credits: Top image by BigStockPhoto.com; Infographics courtesy of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group.
Johnkoivulaite, a mineral that changes from deep violet to near colorless when viewed with polarized light, is the newest member of the beryl family, which includes emerald, aquamarine and morganite.
The mineral is named after gemologist and author John Koivula, who is best known for his contributions to inclusion research and photomicrography.
The 1.16-carat crystal, shown above, was discovered in the Mogok Valley of Myanmar by local gemologist Nay Myo and confirmed as a new mineral species by the Gemological Institute of America and the International Mineralogical Association.
GIA Senior Research Scientist Aaron Palke unveiled the newly named mineral at the Geological Society of America (GSA) conference on September 25 in Phoenix.
“We are privileged to be able to name this mineral after John Koivula who has contributed so much to science and the gem and jewelry industry as a prominent gemologist and innovator in photomicrography,” said Tom Moses, GIA's executive vice president and chief laboratory and research officer.
The GIA reported that johnkoivulaite has a hardness of 7.5 on the Mohs scale and a hexagonal crystal structure that is very similar to beryl and other members of the beryl group. But, what makes the mineral especially unique is the way it changes from a deep violet to near colorless when subjected to polarized light. This optical phenomenon is called pleochroism.
The johnkoivulaite specimen has found a new home in the GIA museum collection, located at the Institute’s world headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. Established in 1931, the GIA is recognized as the world’s foremost authority in gemology.
Koivula has more than 40 years of industry experience in research and photomicrography. In 1986, Koivula co-authored with Edward J. Gübelin the immensely popular Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones, followed by two additional volumes. Koivula also wrote The Microworld of Diamonds and co-authored Geologica with Robert Coenraads.
Credits: Photomicrographs by Nathan Renfro/GIA; John Koivula photo by Kevin Schumacher.