Earth’s Close Encounter With Platinum-Rich Asteroid Has Investors Talking Up the Feasibility of Space Mining

A 2,000-foot-wide platinum-rich asteroid zipped within 1.09 million miles of the Earth yesterday, prompting renewed speculation about the feasibility of space mining.

asteroid1

Roughly the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, the asteroid, at its nearest point, was only 4.6 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. In celestial terms, this was a very close encounter.

The asteroid flyby took place barely two weeks after the investors at Goldman Sachs wrote a bullish report about the prospects of harnessing them.

asteroid3

Analyst Noah Poponak and his Goldman Sachs team argued in a 98-page report that platinum mining in space is getting cheaper and easier, and the rewards are becoming greater as time goes by. The global investment company talked up the feasibility of an “asteroid-grabbing spacecraft” that could extract upwards of $50 billion in platinum.

asteroid2

“While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower,” the Goldman Sachs report stated. “Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion.”

By comparison, the start-up cost for a traditional platinum mine can be as much as $1 billion, according to a report by MIT.

“While [they are] relatively small markets today, rapidly falling costs are lowering the barrier to participate in the space economy, making new industries like space tourism, asteroid mining and on-orbit manufacturing viable,” Poponak said.

The price of space exploration has plummeted, thanks to breakthroughs in reusable rocket technology pioneered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic is looking to promote space tourism for as little as $250,000 per traveler.

Founded in 2013, Deep Space Industries is developing new spacecraft technologies essential for intercepting near-Earth asteroids and harvesting their precious resources. The company believes that asteroid-mined materials could be commercially available by the early 2020s.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/DeepSpaceIndustries.

11 Million Views: Video Pokes Fun at Millennials in an Era of Engagement Ring Selfies and Viral Proposals

Comedian Jon Crist’s video spoofing millennials’ obsession with social media in an era of engagement ring selfies and viral proposals has earned more than 11 million views on Facebook.

In the 3-minute-long vignette, Crist co-stars as a young suitor who takes his girlfriend (played by Megan Batoon) to a scenic overlook, where he’s about to surprise her with a marriage proposal.

Stopping along a dirt path, he gets down on one knee, pulls a ring box from his pocket and asks, “Madison Marie, will you marry me?”

But before she answers, the girlfriend looks around curiously.

“Wait, you hired a photographer, right?” she asks. He points to where the photographer is hiding.

“I’m sorry,” she tells the photographer. “Do you mind actually coming a little bit closer?”

Her concern is that the proposal video shot from a distance was not “going to share that well” on social media.

What follows is a series of quick cuts that focus on his girlfriend’s desire to control the “production value” of the video with the end goal of earning tons of likes on social media.

Each scene becomes more and more extreme. First, the girlfriend makes sure she’s facing the camera and that the lighting is just right. Then, she insists the photographer shoots them so the skyline is in the background. She even obsesses about how she doesn’t like her middle name, how much she is sweating and the amount of cloud cover in the sky.

The mild-mannered boyfriend repeats his proposal from every angle, enduring 43 takes. But, in the end, it’s all worth it because the girlfriend is delighted.

“Babe, it’s so beautiful,” she says looking down at what is presumably her new engagement ring. But then the viewer notices that she’s actually viewing her phone.

“Look at all these likes!”

Please check out Crist’s proposal video, which he captioned this way: “What’s the point of getting engaged if you don’t post it on Instagram?”

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credits: Image captures via YouTube.com.

Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals Awarded at Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics Will Be Made From Recycled Cell Phones

The organizers of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are imploring environmentally conscious citizens to unload their old cell phones in an effort to amass enough precious metal to create 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals.

“Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be made out of people’s thoughts and appreciation for avoiding waste,” Japanese three-time Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Kohei Uchimura told The Japan Times. “I think there is an important message in this for future generations.”

The average cell phone user may not realize it, but the internal components of the device are rich in precious metals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates one million recycled cell phones can generated 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.

To reach its goal, the Tokyo organizers are looking to collect 8 tons of metal from outdated mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops and games units, from which gold, silver and bronze will be extracted.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile carrier, will place collection boxes in each of its 2,400 stores. The company is confident it can accumulate millions of cell phones in the years leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic games.

Despite being a country with virtually no precious metal mining, Japan’s “urban mine” of discarded small consumer electronics is believed to contain the equivalent of 16% of the world’s gold reserves and 22% of the world’s silver reserves.

Japan’s Olympic organizing committee has set its sights on creating medals from 100% recycled material. At the Rio Games in 2016, by contrast, 30% of the silver and bronze medals were derived from recycled metals.

Interestingly, Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver. Starting in 1916, the International Olympic Committee mandated that gold medals be made with a 24-karat gilding of exactly 6 grams (.211 ounces). The Rio gold medals, for example, were composed of 494 grams of 96% pure silver and 6 grams of 99.9% pure gold.

Rio’s silver medals were made of 500 grams of 96% pure silver and the bronze medals contained mostly copper with a bit of zinc and tin.

Credits: Recycling image via Bigstockphoto.com; Olympic logos via Tokyo2020.jp.

Chicago Cubs’ World Series Rings Commemorate Team’s First Championship in 108 Years

You can say that the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series rings were 108 years in the making. That’s because the last time the Cubs won baseball’s Fall Classic — in 1908 — the average wage was 22 cents per hour, 8% of homes had a telephone and the White House was occupied by President Theodore Roosevelt. Fittingly, ring manufacturer Jostens loaded the 14-karat white gold bling with a slew of symbolic elements, including 108 diamonds surrounding the bezel on all sides.

Overall, the rings boast 5.5 carats of diamonds, 3 carats of genuine Burmese rubies and 2.5 carats of genuine sapphires in a handsome red, white and blue design.

The face of the ring features the familiar Cubs’ bullseye logo masterfully rendered in 33 custom-cut rubies set in a ground of 72 round white diamonds and surrounded by a circular frame made from 46 custom-cut blue sapphires.

The words WORLD and CHAMPIONS in raised white gold letters against a black ground wrap the top and bottom edges of the ring.

The Cubs have a tradition of flying a victory flag at Wrigley Field every time the team wins. That symbol, carved from fire blue corundum and surrounded by 31 white diamonds, sits below the player’s name and above the player’s number on one side of the ring. The iconic Wrigley Field bricks and ivy complete the background.

On the ring’s opposite side is a silhouette of the Wrigley Field façade, the championship year and a marquee displaying the message “CUBS WIN!” Also shown is a silhouette of the World Series trophy with a large round white diamond set in the center signifying the 2016 World Series victory. On each side of the trophy is a princess-cut diamond representing the team’s two previous World Series titles — in 1907 and 1908.

In raised white gold letters on the bottom of the outer band is the team’s 2016 rallying cry, “WE NEVER QUIT.”

Hidden on the inside of the bottom of the band is the symbol of a goat’s head, which is a nod to the “Curse of the Billy Goat.” Cubs legend states that the curse was placed on the franchise by William Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, in 1945. Sianis had attended a World Series game at Wrigley Field with his pet goat and fans complained of the odor. When Sianis was asked to leave, he allegedly declared, “Them Cubs, the ain’t gonna win no more.” The “curse” lasted for 71 years.

The inside of the band also displays the date and time of the championship – 11/3/16 • 12:47 AM EST – and the series scores and logos of the three teams the Cubs defeated on their way to the World Series victory. The Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games after coming back from a 3-1 deficit. The final game went into extra innings, but the Cubs prevailed 8-7.

“We felt that we had a responsibility, not only to the Cubs organization, but to Cubs fans around the world, to create a once-in-a-lifetime ring,” said Chris Poitras, Jostens Division Vice President, College & Sports. “This iconic piece of jewelry uses intricate craftsmanship to tell the unforgettable story of the Cubs’ World Series victory, which now takes its prominent place in the history of all professional sports.”

Credits: Images courtesy of Jostens.

Music Friday: Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis Sings, ‘I Was Your Silver Lining, But Now I’m Gold’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis sings about having the courage to pull the plug on a failing relationship in the 2007 release, “Silver Lining.”

Penned by Lewis, the song explores the moment when our heroine breaks up with her boyfriend because she knows that — in the long run — she’ll be better off without him.

She sings, “I never felt so wicked / As when I willed our love to die / and I was your silver lining as the story goes / I was your silver lining but now I’m gold.”

The phrase “now I’m gold” refers to Lewis having the confidence to finally set out on her own. She is no longer defined as her boyfriend’s silver lining — the glimmer of hope in his bad situation.

In the song’s official video, Lewis and fellow bandmate Blake Sennett are seen exchanging vows in a church. But then, Lewis hands Sennett a gold coin and leaves him at the altar. Both child actors, Lewis and Sennett dated in real life until 2002.

“Silver Lining” is the first track on the indie rock band’s fourth and final full-length album, Under the Blacklight. In retrospect, some critics believe that the song foreshadowed the band’s breakup, which would take place four years later.

Both the single and the album achieved critical acclaim. Rolling Stone magazine tabbed Under the Blacklight as the 8th best album of 2007, and picked “Silver Lining” as the 27th best song that same year.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1998, Rilo Kiley was named for a mythical Australian rules football player that came to Sennett in a dream. According to a 2005 interview with syndicated radio show Loveline, Sennett dreamed he was being chased by a sports almanac. “When it got me, I leafed through it… and I came upon an Australian rules football player from the 19th century named Rilo Kiley. It’s kind of embarrassing,” Sennett admitted.

Please check out the official video of Rilo Kiley performing “Silver Lining.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Silver Lining”
Written by Jenny Lewis. Performed by Rilo Kiley.

And I’m not going back into rags or in the hole
And our bruises are coming
But we will never fold

and I was your silver lining
As the story goes
I was your silver lining but now I’m gold
Hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I’m gold.

And I was your silver lining
High up on my toys
Well you were running through fields of hitchhikers
As the story goes

hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I’m gold
Hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I’m gold

And the grass it was a ticking
And the sun was on the rise
I never felt so wicked
As when I willed our love to die

and I was your silver lining as the story goes
I was your silver lining but now I’m gold
Hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I’m gold
Hooray hooray I’m your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I’m gold
But now I’m gold
But now I’m gold
But now I’m gold

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

92.15-Carat ‘La Légende’ Heart-Shaped Diamond Headlines Christie’s Geneva Sale

The largest D-flawless heart-shaped diamond ever to be offered at auction will be the headliner of Christie’s Magnificent Jewels event in Geneva on May 17.

Dubbed “La Légende” (“The Legend”), the 92.15-carat gem is the centerpiece of a cultured pearl sautoir signed by Parisian jewelers Boehmer and Bassenge. The diamond is described as having perfect polish and symmetry. Christie’s is placing the pre-sale estimate for the piece at $14 million to $20 million.

Other notable items coming up for bid at Geneva’s Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues will be a Burmese 15.03-carat ruby ring, a diamond-and-platinum fringe necklace once owned by tobacco heiress Doris Duke and a 14.88-carat Kashmir sapphire ring.

Estimated to sell for $10 million to $15 million is a near-flawless oval-cut ruby mined in the famed Mogok Valley of northern Burma. The gem’s pigeon blood color is enhanced by a natural fluorescence that makes the stone “come alive,” according to Christie’s. The distinct color of a Mogok Valley-sourced ruby is attributed to the high chromium content in the ground.

Duke, who passed away in 1993, was a socialite, horticulturalist, philanthropist and jewelry connoisseur. Her dad was J.B. Duke, the founder of the American Tobacco Company. Among her prized possessions was this diamond-and-platinum necklace designed by Cartier and valued at $3 million to $5 million.

Kashmir sapphires exhibit the most magnificent and sought after velvety blue color. A beautiful example of such a stone is this 14.88-carat gem set in a diamond ring. Christie’s estimated selling price is $1 million to $1.5 million.

In all, more than 250 lots will hit the auction block on May 17. Highlighted items from the sale will be previewed in Hong Kong, London, New York and Geneva.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Christie’s.

‘Apollo’ and ‘Artemis’ Diamond Earrings Could Fetch $68 Million at Sotheby’s Geneva

Named after two of the most revered and powerful Olympian deities, Apollo and Artemis, this exquisite pair of diamond earrings — one blue, one pink — could fetch upwards of $68 million at Sotheby’s Geneva on May 16.

Although Sotheby’s is promoting the pear-shaped diamond earrings as a pair, they will be sold as individual lots. “The Apollo Blue” is a fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 14.54 carats, while “The Artemis Pink” is rated fancy intense pink and weighs 16.00 carats. The Apollo Blue carries a pre-sale estimate of $38 million to $50 million. His twin sister, Artemis, is expected to fetch between $12.5 million and $18 million.

“The Apollo and Artemis diamonds will be the stars of our May sale in Geneva — by far the most important pair of earrings ever offered at auction,” noted David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. “These exquisite colored diamonds are enormously rare and each is a wonderful stone in its own right. Together, as a pair of earrings, they are breathtaking.”

According to Sotheby’s, The Apollo Blue is the largest internally flawless fancy vivid blue diamond ever to be offered at auction. The Gemological Institute of America graded it as a Type IIb diamond, a purity rating earned by less than one-half of 1% of all diamonds. The Apollo Blue could be compared favorably to the famous “Oppenheimer Blue,” which set a record last year when it yielded $57.5 million at Christie’s Geneva. That stone weighed 14.62 carats and had a clarity grade of VVS1.

The Artemis Pink, earned a Type IIa rating from GIA, another category describing the most chemically pure type of diamonds. The pink diamond has a clarity grade of VVS2. Both diamonds boast exceptional optical transparency.

In Greek mythology, the twins Apollo and Artemis were the offspring of Zeus and Leto. Apollo was known as the god of the sun, archery and prophecy. Artemis was revered as the goddess of the moon, chastity, the hunt and the natural environment.

Apollo and Artemis are headlining a five-week promotional tour in the lead-up to the May 16 auction. The tour started in London on Friday and will continue to Dubai, New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Geneva.

Blue diamonds owe their color to traces of boron in the diamond’s chemical structure. Pink diamonds, on the other hand, owe their color to the effects of intense pressure and heat while they were still deep within the earth. These factors caused distortions in the diamond’s crystal lattice that influence the way the diamond absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

Credit: Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Returning Airman Proposes to Houston Rockets Dancer During Blindfolded Halftime Stunt

A blindfolded Houston Rockets dancer got the surprise of her life on Friday when a silly halftime stunt turned into a heartwarming on-court marriage proposal.

Casey Potter, a veteran Rockets Power Dancer, thought she was being a good sport by participating in a halftime attraction that would feature Clutch, The Rockets Bear, hitting a trampoline, propelling himself over the dancer and slam-dunking a basketball.

While the Humble, Texas, native stood blindfolded facing center court near the free-throw line, her boyfriend, Travis Ross of the U.S. Air Force, had sneaked onto the court to pop the question in front of a sold-out arena of excited basketball fans. Potter had no idea that her boyfriend had returned home from active duty.

When the Rockets’ halftime announcer untied Potter’s blindfold, the Airman First Class was already down on bended knee with a ring in hand. Potter initial reaction was priceless — and awkward — as she stumbled backward and plopped down on the thick mat that was intended for the high-flying stunt. Somewhat embarrassed and still in shock, she covered her face for a moment and tried to regain her composure.

Then, she stood up with her right hand over her mouth and her left hand held by her kneeling boyfriend. Ross continued with his proposal, which she happily accepted.

In case there was any doubt as to how she reacted when her new fiancé placed the lovely four-prong diamond ring on her finger and asked her to marry him, Potter wrote on her Twitter page, “I definitely said YES!!”

The couple also got a congratulatory message on the Rockets Power Dancers’ official Instagram page: “We may have lost the game [against the Detroit Pistons] but we’ll win your heart with this very special proposal! Casey thought she was getting dunked over by Clutch, The Rockets Bear. Instead she got a ring on it! Congratulations Travis and Casey!”

Needless to say, Clutch never got to perform the flying slam dunk.

Please check out this video of how the surprise proposal played out on Friday night in Houston…

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credits: Screen captures via Instagram/OfficialRPD; Ring shot via Twitter/CaseyPotter68.

Last Day to See Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers Is April 23; Conservation Care to Take One Year

In less than two weeks, the iconic Ruby Slippers made famous by Judy Garland in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, will be pulled from the wildly popular “American Stories” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The 78-year-old slippers — which have been slowly deteriorating — will undergo immediate conservation care, thanks to the generosity of 6,451 backers who contributed nearly $350,000 in an October 2016 Kickstarter campaign. The funds are also earmarked for a state-of-the-art display case designed to protect the slippers from environmental harm.

The current damage has been attributed to the slippers’ exposure to light, humidity, oxygen and temperature fluctuations. The Smithsonian noted that their work will include determining the physical state of the slippers through scientific research and testing. This will help curators define the best methods for preservation and treatment, as well as the optimal case and exhibition design.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers are often called “the most famous pair of shoes in the world,” but the last day to see the slippers in their current state will be April 23. In about a year, the slippers will return as part of a new exhibition focusing on American popular culture.

The slippers were donated anonymously to the Smithsonian in 1979 and have been on display for nearly three decades.

In the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s slippers were made of silver. According to film lore, screenwriter Noel Langley recommended that they be changed to ruby red so they would stand out better on the yellow brick road when shot in brilliant Technicolor.

MGM’s chief costume designer Gilbert Adrian created multiple pairs of Ruby Slippers for the film, but only four pairs are known to still exist. The Smithsonian’s pair is the one Dorothy wore when she followed the Yellow Brick Road. The felt soles are heavily worn, suggesting they were the 16-year-old Garland’s primary pair for the dance sequences.

A second pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005; a third pair was purchased in 2012 by Leonardo DiCaprio and other benefactors on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and a fourth pair is owned by a private collector in Los Angeles.

Interestingly, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers are not made of ruby at all. In fact, the bugle beads that prop designers used to simulate ruby proved to be too heavy. The solution was to replace most of the bugle beads with sequins, 2,300 on each slipper. The butterfly-shaped bow on the front of each shoe features red bugle beads outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings.

Admission to the National Museum of American History is free. It is located in Washington, D.C., on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Credits: Images via Smithsonian, Kickstarter.com.

Music Friday: ‘Golden Ring’ Reflects the Turbulent Real-Life Romance of George Jones and Tammy Wynette

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, a modest second-hand wedding band is the focus of “Golden Ring,” a chart-topping duet by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

In the song, we follow a golden band through a cycle of young love, marriage and eventual heartbreak. Jones and Wynette were a married couple for six years, but divorced in 1975. They continued to perform after the breakup and scored a #1 hit in 1976 with a song that seemed to mirror the story of their tumultuous relationship.

The beginning of the song introduces the listener to a glittering ring that symbolizes all the promise of a young love. The second verse sees the couple exchanging vows and making a home for themselves. In the last verse, however, the relationship has gone sour and the ring reverts to the display case in a second-hand store where it was originally purchased.

The chorus punctuates the prevailing theme: “By itself it’s just a cold metallic thing / Only love can make a golden wedding ring.”

Written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Vanhoy, “Golden Ring” was the title track to the Jones/Wynette duet album released in 1976 and the second of three #1 hits sung by the duo. The first was “We’re Gonna Hold On” (1973) and the last was “Near You” (1977).

Even though their marriage didn’t end well, in her autobiography, Wynette wrote, “The most fun, the most wonderful part of my career was working with George.”

Born in a log cabin in the small town of Saratoga, Texas, Jones got his first guitar at the age of nine. By 1955, at the age of 24, Jones had already served in the Marines, was married twice and recorded his first hit song, “Why Baby Why.” In 1969, he married Wynette.

Over a career that spanned seven decades, Jones is credited with charting 168 country songs. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Jones passed away in 2013 at the age of 81.

Wynette, who was born in Tremont, Miss., in 1942, is considered to be one of the most influential singers in country music history. She scored 20 #1 hits on the U.S. country singles charts (16 solo, three with Jones, and one with David Houston). She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was ranked #2 in Country Music Television’s “40 Greatest Women of Country Music.”

Plagued by medical problems, which required 15 major operations, Wynette passed away in 1998 at the age of 55.

Please check out the performance of “Golden Ring” by Jones and Wynette. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Golden Ring”
Written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy. Performed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the wedding rings
There on display

She smiles n’ nods her head
As he says, “Honey that’s for you,
It’s not much, but it’s the best
That I can do.”

Golden rings (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Waiting there (waiting there) for someone to take you home
By itself (by itself) it’s just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a little wedding chapel later on that afternoon
An old upright piano plays that old familiar tune
Tears roll down her cheeks
And happy thoughts run through her head
As he whispers low, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

Golden ring (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Shining ring (shining ring) now at last it’s found a home
By itself (by itself) it’s just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

Ooo-ooo
In a small two room apartment
As they fought their final round
He says, “You won’t admit it,
But I know you’re leavin’ town.”

She says, “One thing’s for certain,
I don’t love you any more.”
And throws down the ring
As she walks out the door

Golden ring (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Cast aside (cast aside) like the love that’s dead and gone
By itself (by itself) it’s just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the wedding rings
There on display,
Golden ring.

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Jewelry Dating Back to the Indonesian Ice Age Suggest a Flourishing Artistic Culture

Newly discovered pendants and beads fashioned from the bones of “pig-deer” and monkey-like marsupials suggest that the Ice Age inhabitants of Indonesia had a flourishing artistic culture.

A team of archaeologists from Australia and Indonesia discovered the artifacts at Leang Bulu Bettue, a cave and rock shelter on Sulawesi, the largest island in Wallacea.

One of the more fascinating items in the cache is a pendant made from the finger bone of a marsupial known as a bear cuscus. Believed to be 26,000 years old, the drilled and perforated bone was designed to hang from a string. Wear marks seem to indicate that the ornament repeatedly rubbed against skin or clothing.

Other jewelry items found in the cave included a batch of disc-shaped beads made from the teeth of a babirusas, a boar-like animal also known as a “pig-deer.” Interestingly, the land mammals of Sulawesi occur nowhere else on earth, a phenomenon called “endemism.”

Archaeologists previously believed that the Ice Age hunter-gatherers living amidst this stretch of islands between Southeast Asia and Australia were less sophisticated than their European counterparts. However, mounting evidence is forcing them to modify their thinking.

Found on the Leang Bulu Bettue site, for example, were mineral pigments, such as red- and mulberry-colored ochre, as well as a hollow bone that could have been used as a primitive airbrush. These items help paint a picture of a culture that was sensitive to art, beauty and personal adornments.

The scientists from Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE), along with an Indonesian team, detailed their findings Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We uncovered abundant evidence for a variety of symbolic behavior, suggesting a flourishing artistic culture existed on Sulawesi during the tail end of the last Ice Age,” study lead author Adam Brumm told Live Science.

Credits: Photos and illustrations by Griffith University; Map by Altaileopard (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0],

via Wikimedia Commons

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A Star Is Born: Pink Diamond Sells for $71.2M, Shattering the Auction Record for Any Gemstone

A star was born Tuesday when a 59.6-carat, flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond shattered the world record for the highest price ever paid for any gem at auction. The Pink Star’s hammer price of $71.2 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale in Hong Kong easily surpassed the $57.5 million achieved in May of 2016 by the previous record-holder, the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue diamond.

The Pink Star was hardly a stranger to Sotheby’s auction block. Back in November 2013, the extraordinary diamond made headlines around the world as it fetched an astounding $83 million in Geneva. All the fanfare turned sour a few months later when the buyer defaulted on the payment. Sotheby’s paid the guaranteed minimum of $60 million and took ownership of the gem. In 2016, the auction house revealed that two firms — Diacore and Mellen Inc. — had purchased an interest in the Pink Star, with the third partner being Sotheby’s.

The newest owner of the Pink Star is Hong Kong-based luxury jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook, which outbid two other contenders in an intense, five-minute contest. Chow Tai Fook operates more than 2,000 jewelry and watch stores throughout China. In 2016, the company purchased the Aurora Green diamond for $16.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Diacore (formerly Steinmetz Diamond Group) was responsible for taking the original 132.5-carat rough diamond and fashioning it into an oval mixed-cut masterpiece — a process that would take two years. The gem had been unearthed by De Beers in Botswana in 1999. The gem was unveiled to the public as the Steinmetz Pink in 2003. It was sold four years later to an undisclosed buyer.

Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate had been set at $60 million, a sum that still would have earned the world record. The final sale price exceeded the estimate by nearly 19%.

It is believed that pink diamonds owe their color to the effects of intense pressure and heat while they were still deep within the earth. These factors caused distortions in the diamond’s crystal lattice that influence the way the gem absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Wrestling Superstar John Cena Puts a Diamond Ring on Nikki Bella at WrestleMania 33

Wrestling superstar John Cena proposed to longtime girlfriend and tag team partner, Nikki Bella, in front of a thrilled house at WrestleMania 33 on Sunday. After defeating The Miz and Maryse in a featured bout, Cena called Bella to the center of the ring, where the 6’1″, 250 pound powerhouse went down on one knee and presented Bella with a 4-carat diamond ring.

“I have been waiting so long to ask you this,” Cena said, as he juggled the ring mic in one hand and the ring box in the other. “Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace, will you marry me?”

Cena, 39, used Bella’s non-stage name during his proposal. His birth name is John Felix Anthony Cena Jr. The couple had been dating since 2012.

Bella nodded her approval and then teared up as Cena placed the sparkler on her left ring finger. The couple embraced, basking in the cheers from adoring fans at the sold-out Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

Celebrity stylist and diamond expert Michael O’Connor told UsMagazine.com that the ring reflected a classic style with a sporty twist — making it perfect for the 33-year-old wrestler, one of the popular Bella Twins. Fabricated in either platinum or white gold, the ring features a 4-carat round diamond accented by a diamond-embellished band.

“The style is a classic solitaire resting upon a band of diamonds,” O’Connor continued. “What gives the ring the sporty twist is that the center diamond is held with six prongs — as opposed to four prongs — to keep it safer. The same is true of the channel-set band. The channel setting modernizes the look, but also keeps the diamonds safer, because they are set deeper into a channel, without prongs, which is perfect for a more active woman.”

O’Connor placed the value of the ring at approximately $85,000.

Bella, who shares a Twitter page with her real-life twin sister, Brie, told their 2.93 million followers how excited she was to be engaged to the love of her life.

“My Prince Charming made me his Queen in a place we call home,” she wrote, punctuating the sentence with heart and diamond ring emojis. “Last night was truly unforgettable. A dream come true!”

Cena, Bella and guest ring announcer Al Roker shared a red eye back to New York on Sunday night so they could all appear on NBC’s Today Show on Monday morning.

Cuddling next to her beau on a Today Show set that was made to look like a wrestling ring, Bella said, “I never actually would have thought that he would have proposed in front of all those people, but that’s home for us. WWE is our home, it’s where we met, it’s our passion, it’s our life. Honestly, I could not ask for it to be any other way.”

Added Cena, “I found the absolute right person. I found a strong person [who] I consider an inspiration, an equal, somebody who when I’m feeling down picks me up… It took a person that strong to change my view on life.”

When a Today Show host pressed Bella for a wedding date, the Total Divas star admitted she was ready to “get this party started.”

Check out the clip of Cena proposing to Bella Sunday night at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando…

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credits: Images courtesy of WWE; Twitter.com/BellaTwins; Screen capture via Today.com.

Marvel at These Massive Chocolate Geodes Filled With Gem-Like Candy Crystals

In a video that’s currently tearing up the internet, Culinary Institute of America student Alex O’Brien Yeatts redefines the term “rock candy” as he takes a hammer and cleaver to a giant chocolate geode. After five powerful hits, the boulder-like object cracks in half to reveal a gorgeous formation of sugar crystals that could easily be mistaken for amethysts.

Yeatts worked with fellow student Abby Lee Wilcox on a six-month school project to create a series of chocolate geodes, the largest of which weighed 50 pounds.

The 20-year-old Yeatts told Insider how he and his associate poured tempered chocolate into egg-shaped molds and then filled these shapes with colorful, concentrated sugar syrup. Over the next six months, the pair carefully rotated the eggs on a daily basis to ensure maximum crystal growth. As the syrup slowly evaporated, it transitioned from a liquid to a solid.

“During the process, you don’t know what’s going on inside the eggs,” Yeatts told Insider. “You know they’re growing, but you don’t really know what they’re going to look like until you crack them open.”

The moment of truth couldn’t have been more spectacular.

“You could kind of see everybody’s jaw drop,” Yeatts told Insider. “It was a pretty incredible moment.”

The purple crystals were beautifully formed and the colors were vivid. A bit of the syrup was still in liquid form. Eleven other chocolate geodes yielded equally stunning results in colors that included deep purples and rich oranges.

Yeatts, a baking and pastry student at the Hyde Park, N.Y.-based school, posted a series of candy geode photos and videos on his Instagram page.

Also, check out the video by Insider, below.

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credits: Images via Instagram/alex.yeatts. Screen captures via YouTube.com.

Music Friday: Ray Stevens Launched His 60-Year Career With a Song About a ‘Silver Bracelet’

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you golden oldies with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we climb into our Wayback Machine and transport ourselves 60 years into the past, where a 17-year-old Ray Stevens has just signed a deal with Capitol Records’ subsidiary, Prep Records.

For his first single, the teenager releases “Silver Bracelet,” which tells the story of a simple, yet significant, piece of jewelry that symbolizes his devotion to his new girlfriend. Penned by Stevens, the song is an adorable look at love from the young man’s point of view.

He sings, “A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / This simple token I do give / A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / To show my love will ever live.”

He goes on to describe how he had his girlfriend’s name engraved on the front and his on the back: “Turn it over there is mine / Forever let it shine.”

Stevens wrote about the origin of “Silver Bracelet” on his official website. His family had moved to Atlanta in 1956, and while still in high school, Stevens (then Ray Ragsdale) got his first big break when he met radio personality and Georgia Tech football broadcaster, Bill Lowery.

“He was looking for talent to write songs,” he wrote. “I went out to his house and I said, ‘My name is Ray Ragsdale and I’m going to learn to write songs for you.’ He said, ‘Okay lad, go to it.’”

Stevens continued, “I borrowed a little tape recorder from a friend. I got the key to the lunch room, which also served as the assembly hall, from the principal. The room had a very high ceiling and a piano on a little stage. I went there one Sunday by myself and made a demo of a song that I and a friend had written called, ‘Silver Bracelet.’ I took it to Bill and he liked it. He called Ken Nelson at Capitol Records, who was coming to Nashville a lot during those days to produce records. Ken liked the song and signed me to a contract with Prep Records.”

The success of “Silver Bracelet” helped launch a stellar career that has seen the artist release more than 40 studio albums and 93 singles. His two most popular tunes were “The Streak” (1974), a novelty song about streaking, and “Everything Is Beautiful,” a 1971 Grammy winner for Song of the Year.

Born in Clarksdale, Ga., in 1939, Stevens started piano lessons at the age of six. His mom insisted he practice at least an hour each day. At 15, he sang and played piano in a band, the Barons, and they performed all over the area for the American Legion, the Elks and private parties.

Please check out this rare audio track of “Silver Bracelet.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Silver Bracelet”
Written and performed by Ray Stevens.

A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

I had your name engraved on the front
In letters of my heart’s design
Turn it over there is mine
Forever let it shine

Wear my bracelet, please wear my bracelet
Wear it proudly on your arm
So everyone can see
Your heart belongs to me

Whoa, don’t ever lose my silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

Cherish this token
Though small it may be
May it always remind you of me
Let no other take my place
Let none my name erase

This tiny trinket is such a small part
Of the love I hold in my heart
Won’t you say you love me too
No one else will ever do
Whoa, don’t ever lose my bracelet
Silver bracelet

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

220-Pound ‘Big Maple Leaf’ Gold Coin Goes Missing at Berlin Museum; Did They Check the Sofa?

Brawny, brazen thieves broke into Berlin’s Bode Museum just after 3 a.m. on Monday and bolted with the “Big Maple Leaf,” a Canadian-minted coin weighing 220 pounds and worth $4.4 million.

Measuring 20.8 inches in diameter, the coin was unveiled in 2007 as the world’s largest. While the original remained in a high-security vault in Ottawa, five others were minted and sold to private interests. The Bode Museum had acquired its version of the Big Maple Leaf in 2010 and put it on display in a bulletproof glass box.

The obverse depicts the image of Queen Elizabeth II and the reverse features the image of Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf.

German police reported that the thieves used a ladder to enter the museum through a second-floor window in the back of the building, which lies along railroad tracks. Their target was on the first floor, so after smashing the case they had to manhandle the massive coin across the museum, up one flight of stairs and then out the second-floor window.

It’s not clear whether the thieves climbed down with the coin or tossed it from the window. Authorities also believe the robbers used a wheelbarrow to transport the coin to the getaway vehicle. Authorities did not reveal whether any alarms were set off or if they have security video of the crime taking place.

The museum houses one of the most important numismatic collections in the world, totaling about 500,000 items, but no other coins or artifacts were touched during the robbery.

Big Maple Leaf was minted from .99999 fine gold and has a face value of 1 million Canadian dollars ($747,000). The actual worth is much higher based on today’s gold price. The 100 kg of gold is equivalent to 220 pounds or 3,527 ounces. At $1,252 per ounce, the commodity value of the gold alone is $4.4 million.

An ex-Mountie told the Toronto Star that the massive one-inch-thick coin may already have been melted down.

Despite the seriousness of the crime, The Mississauga News couldn’t resist delivering this clever quip on its Twitter page: “Good luck finding a vending machine that will take that sucker.”

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

Swiss Lab Reveals ‘Game-Changing’ Nanotechnology That Can Trace the Origin of Emeralds

In what has been labeled as a “true game-changer” for the colored-gemstone market, a Switzerland-based laboratory is using DNA-based nanoparticles to mark emeralds with an invisible imprint that will provide proof of their origin anywhere along the supply chain.

The particles, which are smaller than 100 nanometers in size, will be applied to rough emerald crystals at mining sites. The particles are so small that they can only be seen with an electron microscope. A human hair, by comparison, is 100,000 nanometers wide.

Gübelin Gem Lab explained that the particles will remain intact throughout the cleaning, cutting, polishing and setting processes. What’s more, they will have no effect on the appearance or properties of the gemstones. For now, Gübelin will be focusing on emeralds because the particles are able to adhere to the natural fissures unique to the gemstone.

“This technology offers all stakeholders along the entire supply chain, from the miner to the final customers, proof of the exact source of emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust,” said Daniel Nyfeler, Gübelin’s managing director. “It enables a new level of transparency for the gemstone trade.”

Gübelin is calling its ground-breaking traceable technology the “Emerald Paternity Test” due to the fact that each mine will have a unique DNA tag.

Partnering with Gübelin to test the nanotechnology is Gemfields, the London-based majority owner of Kagem, the world’s largest emerald mine in Zambia.

“Embracing innovation, technology and increased transparency is at the heart of our approach,” noted Ian Harebottle, chief executive officer of Gemfields. “We were therefore thrilled to assist Gübelin in the testing of this new technology, and we are very excited about the outcome as it offers a multitude of benefits to the industry and the consumer.”

Credit: Photo by Parent Géry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL],

via Wikimedia Commons

.

NYC Sanitation Workers Help Couple Find Platinum Rings in an 800-Bag Mountain of Trash

With the assistance of New York City sanitation workers, a desperate couple waded through 800 disgusting trash bags to find two “priceless” platinum rings that had been accidentally thrown away.

“I felt really helpless,” NYC apartment dweller Shannon Lombardo told WABC-TV. “It wasn’t so much about the [value] of the rings. It was what they represented.”

How the custom, vintage-style rings ended up in the trash is not an unusual story.

Lombardo, a mother of two, had cleaned the rings and left them to dry on a paper towel. One distraction later and they were on their way to city landfill.

“I think I got distracted with the kids,” she said. “I think I just crumpled it up, and I didn’t feel the weight of [the rings] and I threw them out.”

When she realized her rings were missing — and probably in the trash — she immediately called 311, which is the city’s non-emergency hotline.

A dispatcher connected Lombardo with the New York City Sanitation Department, which agreed to hold off the pickup at her Upper West Side apartment building until she could check the dumpster for her bags. When that effort proved fruitless, her next step was to visit a trash depot in nearby Fairway, N.J. — the last stop before the New York City waste is transported to landfills.

Decked out in protective gear and assisted by two sanitation workers, Lombardo and her husband of nearly nine years, James, immersed themselves in a yucky, smelly, unimaginably nasty mountain of trash bags. The bags had been dumped by the sanitation truck associated with serving their address.

James’ strategy was to slit open random bags, looking for anything with an address on it. Within a half hour, he had found an address that matched his building.

With the search field narrowed, the couple soon found their trash bag. Nestled in a paper towel were Shannon’s engagement ring and wedding band.

“Sure enough, there it was,” Shannon told the New York Daily News. “I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that it really happened… Everyone was excited. I don’t know who was more excited.”

The recovered rings have taken on a new meaning in the lives of Shannon and James. They symbolize love overcoming seemingly unsurmountable circumstances. They also represent the generosity and kindness of strangers.

“It’s pretty incredible what these guys do, not only the jobs they do on a daily basis, but the fact that they went above and beyond,” Shannon told WABC-TV. “It’s very humbling and I’m so grateful that the city has this department.”

Added James, “We live in the greatest city in the world. It’s truly amazing.”

Sekou Callender, a sanitation worker who assisted in the search, offered the couple a little romantic advice: “I said that it’s a great time for them to renew their vows.”

Credits: Screen captures via abcnews.go.com. Photos via the New York Department of Sanitation.

Australia Post Set to Release Eye-Catching Series of Gem Stamps

On Thursday, Australia Post will release a dazzling collection of colorful stamps illustrated with native gemstones — the golden sapphire, pink diamond, rhodonite and fluorite. The stamp issue is titled “The Rare Beauties: Extraordinary Gemstones.”

What all four gems have in common is that they are housed in the mineral collection of the Australian Museum in Sydney.

“Australian gemstones are admired and valued worldwide,” noted Australia Post Philatelic Manager Michael Zsolt. “We trust these beautiful and striking stamp designs will appeal to everyone, especially collectors and gemstone enthusiasts.”

Australia Post clarified that two of the gemstones — the golden sapphire and the pink diamond — represent stones that are cut and polished to be used in precious jewelry, while the rhodonite and fluorite are valued more often as “collector stones.”

The 7-carat golden sapphire shown on the $1 stamp has been in the Australian Museum collection since 1984. The original rough stone was mined near Anakie, Queensland.

“The color is intense and the stone is quite large,” gem specialist Gayle Sutherland said in an interview with Australia Post Collectables. “It’s a stunning stone. The cut has emphasized the depth of color, while ensuring the stone is lively and brilliant. This stone comes from an area in central Queensland that is renowned for its fine golden sapphires.”

One of the two $2 stamps honors Australia’s role as the world’s most prolific supplier of pink diamonds. The material comes primarily from the Argyle Mine in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is believed that pink diamonds owe their color to the effects of intense pressure and heat while they were still deep within the earth. These factors caused distortions in the diamond’s crystal lattice that influence the way the diamond absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

The rhodonite shown on the $1 stamp became part of the Australian Museum collection in 2002. Weighing more than two carats, the material from which it was cut came from Broken Hill, New South Wales.

“The rhodonite is remarkable for its rich red color combined with transparency,” said Sutherland, who co-wrote a prestige booklet as part of the stamp issue. “Rhodonite is commonly a pink, opaque material suitable for carving. This stone is from… one of the few places in the world where rhodonite of such quality has been found. This material is now only available from old collections.”

Australia Post noted that the fluorite on the $2 stamp is a perfectly faceted stone weighing 147 carats. It was cut in 2001 from a rough gem that has been part of the Australian Museum collection since 1918. The material originated at Rumbsy’s Mine in New England, New South Wales.

“The fluorite is a gemstone for collectors,” added Sutherland. “Its beauty is fragile, and this stone needs particular care whenever handled and displayed.”

The release of the gemstone stamps is perfectly timed to coincide with the dates of the Melbourne 2017 International Stamp Exhibition, which is scheduled to run from March 30 to April 2.

The four stamps were designed by Gary Domoney of Visua, a Melbourne-based visual communication and brand strategy agency.

Credits: Images courtesy of Australia Post.

Music Friday: Cher Is Wearing Sonny’s Ring in 1965’s #1 Hit, ‘I Got You Babe’

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we zoom back to the summer of 1965 — a time of hippies, bell bottoms, flower power and a chart-topping duo named Sonny & Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”

In this love song about a young couple willing to challenge societal norms, Cher famously tells Sonny, “So let them say your hair’s too long / ‘Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong.” In the jewelry reference, Sonny sings, “I got flowers in the spring. I got you to wear my ring.”

Written by Sonny Bono, “I Got You Babe” was the duo’s biggest single and signature song. It ascended to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and charted in 18 countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.

Sonny revealed in a 1966 interview that the song was inspired by first-hand experiences.

“I know what it is like to be kicked around because you dress differently,” Sonny told Musical Express. “I know what it is like to see the girl you love hurt because a hotel refuses you admission because of your dress. I know what it is like to have that one person stand by you. There are a lot of other people who have experienced these things and I’m trying to put our feelings into words for everyone.”

Despite being named one of the greatest duets of all times by both Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines, “I Got You Babe” was nearly thrown on the scrap heap.

Apparently, Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atco Records, didn’t really care for the song, and was planning to relegate it to the “B” side of Sonny & Cher’s single, “It’s Gonna Rain.”

Even Cher admitted that she was hardly enthusiastic when she sang it for the first time. Sonny agreed to change the key in the bridge to suit Cher’s range and then she loved it.

Sonny was sure they had a hit, but Ertegun was still not convinced. Sonny pitched the song to the program director of Los Angeles radio station KHJ. He made a deal that allowed the station to have the song exclusively if they played it once an hour.

The station’s listeners couldn’t get enough of “I Got You Babe” and Ertegun finally agreed to publish it as the “A” side.

“I Got You Babe” had a key role in the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, as Bill Murray, playing an arrogant TV weatherman, finds himself reliving February 2 in a perpetual time loop. Every morning at exactly six o’clock Murray wakes to the clock-radio playing the Sonny & Cher ditty.

Check out the video of Sonny & Cher performing “I Got You Babe.” The lyrics are below, but you probably already know the words. “They say we’re young and we don’t know…”

“I Got You Babe”
Written by Sonny Bono. Performed by Sonny & Cher.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HIM:] I got flowers in the spring I got you to wear my ring
[HER:] And when I’m sad, you’re a clown
And if I get scared, you’re always around
[HER:] So let them say your hair’s too long
‘Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong
[HIM:] Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HIM:] I got you to hold my hand
[HER:] I got you to understand
[HIM:] I got you to walk with me
[HER:] I got you to talk with me
[HIM:] I got you to kiss goodnight
[HER:] I got you to hold me tight
[HIM:] I got you, I won’t let go
[HER:] I got you to love me so

[BOTH:] I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

Please note that the embedded video below is delivered via an iFrame from YouTube

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.