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During the thrilling season finale of Outback Opal Hunters, 21-year-old Sam Westra and his mentor Pete Cooke discovered a 45-carat double-faced black opal valued at AU$120,000 (about US$89,000).
The "life-changing" find marked a 180-degree turn of fortune for the team that had suffered through a woeful three-month period of losing money in Australia's remote and inhospitable interior.
Fans of the Discovery Channel's hit reality TV show have been rooting for the likable team from Lightning Ridge, NSW. The success of their entire season hinged on their final cleanup — four tons of fractured stones collected from the 100-year-old open cut mine they call "Old Nobbys."
"Plenty of material, just potch everywhere," said Westra as he and Cooke began the sorting process in the video below. "Just got to get the big one, mate. Where's the big one?"
Potch is the term for the near-worthless rocky material that has the same chemical makeup as precious opal with one critical difference. With potch, the tiny silica spheres that make up the stones are jumbled. In precious opal, they’re all laid out evenly, which gives the structure the ability to break visible white light into separate colors.
Within a few minutes, Cooke encountered a small, but valuable, stone that presented hints of green, blue, red and orange.
"There's a gem there for sure. We're on the money, mate," said Cooke. "This is fantastic."
But then the mining veteran turned absolutely giddy when he spied the "king stone," the best stone of his parcel.
"These come up two or three a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” said the gleeful Cooke as he rotated the stone for the Discovery Channel's viewers.
Although initially valued at AU$55,000 on camera, the team later met with an opal carver who confirmed that the actual value was AU$120,000. The gem, which Cooke dubbed "Fire and Ice" because of its brilliant flashes of red and deep blue, is the most valuable opal unearthed to date by any of the Outback Opal Hunters.
About 90% of the world’s finest opals are mined in the harsh outback of Australia, where a unique combination of geological conditions permitted the formation of opal near the margins of an ancient inland sea.
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.
Outback Opal Hunters has entertained audiences in more than 100 countries and territories.
Please check out this clip from the season finale of Outback Opal Hunters.
Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com.
Ultra-rare fancy-colored diamonds in vivid shades of pink, blue, orange and red will headline Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on December 9.
All eyes will be focused on Lot 75, a colorful ring set with a rectangular mixed-cut 5.03-carat fancy vivid pink diamond flanked by two cut-cornered triangular fancy intense blue diamonds weighing 0.88 carats and 0.77 carats.
The piece comes from a private collection and carries a pre-sale estimate of $9 million to $12 million.
Lot 31 features a heart-shaped fancy red diamond weighing 1.71 carats. The stone centers a heart-shaped pendant pavé-set with rows upon rows of round diamonds and dangles from a 20 1/2-inch chain accented with rose gold heart stations. Interestingly, the reverse is further enhanced by round diamonds.
The romantic pendant has a pre-sale estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million. With a little more than two weeks to go before the live auction, online bidders already have pushed the offering price to $2 million.
Orange diamonds rarely hit the auction block, but Sotheby's will have one to offer on December 9. This heart-shaped fancy vivid orange diamond weighs exactly 2.00 carats and is framed and accented by round colorless diamonds. Lot 29 is expected to sell in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million. The top pre-sale bid is currently $800,000.
Another heart-shaped stunner is this 2.29-carat fancy vivid blue diamond encircled by yellow diamonds and near-colorless diamonds. The Gemological Institute of America report accompanying the stone states that the blue diamond is potentially internally flawless. The current high bid is $1.8 million, but Sotheby's believes the hammer price will be in the range of $2.25 million to $3.25 million.
Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
While couples are spending less on elaborate weddings and honeymoons due to the pandemic, they are spending more than ever on the perfect diamond engagement ring — often upgrading in color, cut and clarity, rather than size. That was the key finding from the De Beers Group's latest Diamond Insight "Flash" Report, which has been looking carefully at the impact of COVID-19 on relationships and engagements.
Interviews with independent jewelers throughout the US also revealed that the rate of engagements has increased significantly, with bridal sales accounting for the primary source of diamond jewelry demand.
"For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership," commented Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group. "Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas."
De Beers' informal survey also revealed that consumers are often choosing more classic designs. Jewelers noted that round diamonds and round-edged fancy shapes of better qualities are dominating their bestsellers, and that designs have become simpler, with customers less interested in extra pavé and melee embellishments.
While halos are still selling well, jewelers are generally seeing engagement ring customers opt for more conservative looks. Round diamonds are the most popular shape, followed by ovals and cushions.
The "Flash" report also included findings from a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. It found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewelers' hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of COVID-19 restrictions.
When it came to researching engagement rings, 86% of respondents said "online" was, by far, the most effective channel for gaining ideas/inspiration, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked.
"Part of the reason people are getting engaged during COVID is because there is so much distance between them and their community," noted Dr. Terry Real, a relationship therapist and author of the forthcoming book Us: The Power of Moving Beyond Me and You. "The couple is intimate, but thirsty for outside stimulation… For a young person to have a performance of your love that's witnessed is like water in the desert in this culture. The ring is that performance. Especially now."
Credit: Image by BigStockPhoto.com.
Imagine 640 African elephants balancing on the tip of a ballet shoe. That was the amount of pressure scientists needed to transform carbon into diamonds — at room temperature. The scientists defied nature by taking heat out of the equation of how diamonds are formed.
“Natural diamonds are usually formed over billions of years, about 150 kilometers deep (93 miles) in the Earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees Fahrenheit),” said Professor Bradby from The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Physics.
The team, led by ANU and RMIT University, successfully generated two types of diamonds: the kind found in fine jewelry and another called Lonsdaleite, which is found in nature at the site of meteorite impacts, such as Canyon Diablo in the US.
One of the lead researchers, ANU Professor Jodie Bradby, said their breakthrough shows that Superman may have had a similar trick up his sleeve when he crushed coal into diamond, without using his heat ray.
While Superman crushed carbon using the palm of his hand, the scientists used a specially designed anvil at room temperature.
Until now, lab-grown diamonds have been created by mimicking both the intense heat and extreme pressure present deep within the Earth.
“The twist in the story is how we apply the pressure," Bradby said. “As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called ‘shear’ – which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamond.”
While mined diamonds are cubic in shape, the diamonds generated by the scientists are hexagonal, which led them to theorize that their varieties will be even harder than conventional diamonds.
Co-lead researcher Professor Dougal McCulloch and his team at RMIT used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture snapshots of how the Lonsdaleite and regular diamonds formed.
“Seeing these little ‘rivers’ of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form,” he said.
The scientists believe that their new lab-grown, super-hard diamonds would likely be used for industrial purposes, such as drill bits and other cutting devices. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal, Small.
Credits: ANU PhD scholar Xingshuo Huang holds the diamond anvil that the team used to make the diamonds in the lab. Photo by Jamie Kidston, ANU; River of diamonds image by RMIT; PhD scholar Brenton Cook (left) and Prof Dougal McCulloch with one of the electron microscopes used in the research. Image by RMIT.
The golden-orange Imperial Topaz is the most highly prized variety of November's birthstone.
Originally mined exclusively in Russia’s Ural Mountains during the 19th century, the intense orange crystals were so valuable that they earned the designation Imperial Topaz to honor the Russian czar. What's more, only royals were allowed to own it.
Flash forward to today, when the finest Imperial Topaz is sourced in Brazil. One of that country's most heralded crystals — an 875-carat head-turner from Minas Gerais — is now a permanent resident of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection
According to the Smithsonian, topaz — especially the yellow-to-orange varieties — has been misunderstood and misidentified for 2,000 years. Before 1950, most “gem experts” shared the misconception that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow. Citrine (November's alternate birthstone) and even smoky quartz were often mistaken for topaz.
While the prized Imperial Topaz comes in a range or colors from brownish-yellow to orange-yellow and even vibrant red, other varieties of topaz are available in blue, green, pink and purple.
Interestingly, topaz gets its name from Topazios, the ancient Greek name for a tiny island in the Red Sea. The island is now known as Zabargad Island, or St. John’s Island, and is controlled by Egypt. It is very likely that the “topaz” mined there in ancient times was actually a yellow-green variety of peridot.
Brazil is the largest producer of quality topaz, but the stone is also mined in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico and the U.S (specifically California, Utah and New Hampshire). Topaz rates an 8 on the Mohs scale, making it a durable and wearable gem.
Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
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If the trending continues, Holiday Season 2020 promises to be the most romantic ever.
Welcome to “engagement season,” that special time of the year when more than 40% of all marriage proposals take place. It officially starts next week on Thanksgiving Day and stretches through Valentine's Day.
WeddingWire’s 2020 Newlywed Report reveals a significant spike in the portion of proposals taking place during the month of December. A surprising 19% of all engagements are happening during that festive month, and the number represents a significant rise of three percentage points since 2017. December proposals outnumber any other month by a margin of better than 2 to 1.
According to WeddingWire, the hottest proposal days take place in December. Christmas Day is the most popular day of the year to pop the question, followed by Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, the Sunday before Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day.
Suitors likely choose December to pop the question because they love the spirit of the holiday season. And, certainly, there’s no better time to propose than when all the family is in town to celebrate with the newly engaged couple.
The 2020 Newlywed Report, which chronicled the opinions and experiences of 27,250 individuals who were married during the full year of 2019, also revealed that when it comes to finding a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, 45% of proposers began researching/looking for rings more than five months ahead of the proposal.
The average couple spent $5,900 on the engagement ring, although 20% of those surveyed spent more than $10,000.
Couples told WeddingWire that they considered style/setting to be the most important aspect of an engagement ring, and nearly 80% admitted to dropping hints about their ring preferences to their significant others. Seven out of 10 ring recipients had some involvement in selecting and/or purchasing the ring itself.
On average, proposers visited three retailers and looked at 15 rings before making a decision.
Nearly nine in 10 (89%) of suitors proposed with ring in hand and 84% popped the question on bended knee. The average age of engaged couples is 32 and the average engagement length is 15 months.
Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.
Using a wire hanger and a snake cam, Stockton, CA, resident Danny Gutierrez deftly fished his wife’s engagement ring from the “plumbing cleanout” pipe in their backyard. The successful rescue mission took place three weeks after the ring — wrapped in a tissue — was accidentally flushed down the toilet.
The family was so determined to get the ring back that they sacrificed running water so the ring wouldn’t be forced farther down the sewer line.
The saga began when Angela Gutierrez’s diamond engagement ring ended up on the bathroom floor while she was getting ready for a Zoom call. Her 7-year-old son noticed it and, in a considerate attempt to protect the ring and keep anyone from stepping on it by mistake, wrapped it in tissue and placed it on the sink.
When Danny Gutierrez happened upon the tissue wad on the sink, he tossed it in the toilet and flushed it down.
After her Zoom call, Angela went to retrieve her ring and was told by her young son how he had found it on the floor. Then Danny filled in the rest of the story about how the ring had been flushed.
The family hired professional plumbers to find the ring, but their efforts came up empty. Still, the couple refused to give up.
In a last ditch effort to locate the ring, Angela used a snake camera to peer down her home’s “plumbing cleanout.” This is an access pipe in their backyard that would typically be used to access the sewer line in the event of blockage.
As she viewed the monitor, she was certain she saw the glint of her ring.
“It was as clear as day,” Angela told the local ABC affiliate. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness! Danny’s gonna think that I’m crazy.'”
In a home video shot by Angela and shared by ABC10, Danny carefully maneuvers a wire hanger and a snake cam into the pipe.
“I was so nervous and I had to look away,” Angela said.
Within moments, Danny began celebrating his Eureka moment.
“We got it. We have it. The ring. Yes!” he exclaimed.
With the ring in hand, Danny instinctively went down on one knee and said to Angela, “Will you marry me?”
Later, Angela told ABC10 that it was hard to believe that she got her ring back after three weeks.
“We were slowly coming to accept the fact that we lost it,” she said.
Please check out ABC10’s report. It ends with a short scene of the children learning the happy news about their family’s cherished keepsake.
Credits: Screen capture via Youtube.com/ABC10.
Lucara's Karowe mine in Botswana has delivered another head-turning rough diamond — a 998-carat stunner that ranks as the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond ever recovered.
Other famous Botswana-sourced diamonds include the #2-ranked 1,758-carat Sewelô (2019), the #3 ranked 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona (2015) and the #9-ranked 812-carat Constellation (2015).
Despite being nearly the width of a baseball and weighing 7 ounces, Lucara's newest find is less than one-third the weight of the granddaddy of them all — the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905. Finished gems cut from the Cullinan Diamond include the Cullinan I (530.20 carats) and the Cullinan II (317.4 carats).
The yet-to-be-named, 998-carat gem might be worth $50 million or more, based on the per-carat price achieved by diamonds exhibiting similar characteristics.
For example, Lesedi La Rona was sold in September of 2017 for $53 million, and the Constellation fetched $63 million in May of 2016. Both were D-color diamonds that had been rated Type IIa, which means they were chemically pure with no traces of nitrogen or boron impurities.
Lucara reported that its newest find measured exactly 67x49x45mm and was recovered from direct milling of ore sourced from the Karowe mine's South Lobe. Recent finds at the mine included gem-quality rough diamonds weighing 273, 105, 83, 73 and 69 carats.
The 998-carat diamond was pulled from Lucara’s MDR (Mega Diamond Recovery) XRT circuit, a system that uses advanced technology to identify 100-carat-plus diamonds by monitoring the rocky material for X-ray luminescence, atomic density and transparency. Previously, large diamonds might have been mistaken as worthless ore and pulverized during the primary crushing process.
This recovery represents the second 500-plus-carat diamond recovered from this circuit in 2020. Year to date, Karowe has produced 31 diamonds greater than 100 carats, including 10 diamonds greater than 200 carats.
Just last week, we reported that luxury brand Louis Vuitton had secured the rights to represent Lucara’s 549-carat “Sethunya” rough diamond. The retailer will be offering its discriminating clients an opportunity to customize a piece of the rough diamond, down to the exact shape and carat weight.
Credits: Images courtesy of CNW Group/Lucara Diamond Corp.