Mills Jewelers Notebook
May 22nd, 2019
A Swiss gem lab used radiocarbon age-dating to affirm the 16th century origins of a 30.24-carat natural saltwater pearl once owned by a Spanish princess. It was the first time such a procedure had been conducted on a natural pearl.

The Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF) used the cutting-edge science to date the historic "Ana Maria Pearl," which was worn by Ana María de Sevilla y Villanueva, XIV Marquise of Camarasa (1828-1861). The natural pearl was presumed to have been discovered during the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the 16th century. The test confirmed that the historic formation age for the natural pearl was between the 16th and mid-17th century.

"The Ana Maria Pearl is a perfect example to show how scientific analyses can add supporting evidence to a documented historical provenance of a jewel," SSEF director Michael Krzemnicki told "The SSEF offers radiocarbon age dating of pearls as a new service to our clients in collaboration with the Federal Institute of Technology. This method uses the slow decay of radiocarbon in biogenic materials (e.g. pearl) as a physical clock, by which its age can be calculated."

The carbon dating was conducted in the lead-up to the pearl's appearance at a Christie's auction in Geneva on May 15. Slightly baroque in shape, the Ana Maria Pearl is currently set as a detachable drop hanging from of an emerald brooch. The flip side of the carved brooch contains an "invisible" watch designed by Audemars Piguet in the 1960s.

Christie's Geneva estimated that the Ana Maria Pearl would sell in the range of $800,000 to $1.2 million. On auction day, the highly touted Lot 264 didn't find a buyer and was withdrawn.

Despite that disappointment, the Ana Maria has had an enormous impact on the verification process itself, Krzemnicki told

"This is especially true with natural pearls, where the origin is not clear to the naked eye, or behind the loop—or even under a microscope," he said.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
May 21st, 2019
Debmarine announced it will be investing $468 million on the world's first-ever custom-built diamond recovery vessel. When it joins the Debmarine fleet in 2022, the new ship will have the capacity to extract 500,000 carats annually from the coastal waters off Namibia — boosting the country's annual diamond output by 35%.

Debmarine is a 50/50 joint venture between the Republic of Namibia and the De Beers Group, and each partner will contribute $234 million to the project.

The new ship, which will be the seventh in Debmarine's fleet, will comb the ocean floor at a depth of 400 feet using advanced drilling technology, supported with tracking, positioning and surveying equipment. Dredged gravel will be sifted at treatment plants onboard the ship.

Sophisticated X-ray machines and other diamond-sorting devices separate the gems from the gravel, and leftover material is returned to the sea bed. Recovered diamonds are securely sealed in containers, loaded into steel briefcases and flown by helicopter to shore.

“Some of the highest-quality diamonds in the world are found at sea, off the Namibian coast,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver. “With this investment, we will be able to optimize new technology to find and recover diamonds more efficiently and meet growing consumer demand across the globe.”

According to De Beers, 95% of the diamonds pulled from the seabed near Namibia are of gem-quality. This compares to just 20% of gem-quality diamonds coming from De Beers’s top mine in Botswana. Some experts surmise that the diamonds in the ocean have endured such a pounding for so long that only the gem-quality ones could remain intact.

Namibia has more than 3,700 square miles of marine diamond concessions along its southwest coast, which is expected to support the industry for the next 50 years. Debmarine has a license to operate off the coast of the African country until 2035 within a 2,316-square mile area.

Credit: Image courtesy of Debmarine-Namibia.
May 17th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star Don Williams sings about how marital stress can be a good thing in his 1983 tune, "Pressure Makes Diamonds."

In the song, Williams admits that he and his wife have endured plenty of hard times over the years, but despite those pressures, their love has only gotten stronger. He compares the evolution of their relationship to the formation of diamonds deep within the Earth.

He sings, "Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone / And they only get finer as each day goes on / We've been through some bad times / But we made it somehow / 'Cause if pressure makes diamonds / Our love's a diamond by now."

(Just for the record, diamonds form under intense pressure and heat about 100 miles below the earth’s surface.)

Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers, "Pressure Makes Diamonds" appeared as the seventh track on Williams' album, Yellow Moon. The album topped out at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Over the course of a career that spanned six decades, Williams scored 17 #1 country hits. The singer’s imposing stature, paired with a soft, smooth bass-baritone voice, earned him the nickname the “Gentle Giant” of country music. In 2010, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Donald Ray Williams was born in Floydada, Texas, in 1939. After graduating from high school, Williams served two years in the U.S. Army Security Agency and then formed a folk-pop group called the Pozo-Seco Singers. The group disbanded in 1969 and Williams worked outside the music business for a short time. In 1971, he landed a songwriting job for Jack Music Inc. Soon after, he signed as a solo artist with JMI Records.

Williams stopped touring in 2016 and passed away a year later at the age of 78.

Trivia: Williams appeared as himself and played a number of songs in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

Please check out the audio track of Williams performing “Pressure Makes Diamonds.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Pressure Makes Diamonds"
Written by Bob McDill and John Schweers. Performed by Don Williams.

Well, we've had our troubles, we've had our hard times
Where some might have stumbled, we've always survived
Sometimes love weakens, when the chips are all down
But what we've got together gets stronger somehow.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Well, we know the feelin' when the world closes in
We've been there before, love, and we might go again
The road may get rocky, life may get hard
But the whole world together can't tear us apart.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now.

Pressure makes diamonds much harder than stone
And they only get finer as each day goes on
We've been through some bad times
But we made it somehow
'Cause if pressure makes diamonds,
Our love's a diamond by now...

Credit: Screen capture via
May 16th, 2019
The massive 425-carat gem-quality diamond discovered in March at the Cullinan mine in South Africa has a new name and new owners. Petra Diamonds announced that it sold the D-color rough stone to Dubai-based Stargems Group and Belgium-based Choron for just under $15 million.

Before it was sold, Petra named the gem "Legacy of the Cullinan Diamond Mine" to honor its connection to one of the world's oldest and most prolific sources of majestic diamonds.

“The Cullinan Diamond Mine has produced some of the most iconic diamonds the world has ever seen and, as a key client of Petra Diamonds, we are honored to have the opportunity to polish the Legacy of the Cullian Diamond Mine,” said Shailesh Javeri, chairman of Stargems.

The 117-year-old Cullinan Diamond Mine (originally known as the Premier Mine) is credited with producing seven of the world’s largest 50 rough diamonds based on carat weight. These include the Cullinan Heritage (#27, 507 carats, 2009), Centenary (#23, 599 carats, 1986), The Golden Jubilee (#11, 755 carats, 1985) and the granddaddy of them all — the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond (#1).

Discovered in 1905, the Cullinan Diamond was segmented into nine major finished stones, each of which was given the name Cullinan and a Roman numeral. Two of the gems are part of the the British Crown Jewels — the Great Star of Africa (Cullinan I) at 530.4 carats and the Second Star of Africa (Cullinan II) at 317.4 carats.

None of the parties involved in the sale of the Legacy of the Cullinan Diamond Mine offered a prediction as to what the 425-carat diamond might yield in terms of polished gemstones. Currently, the Legacy ranks 38th on Wikipedia’s list of the Largest Rough Diamonds of All Time.

Commented Petra Chief Executive Officer Richard Duffy, "This is a significant sale for Petra Diamonds and an endorsement of the quality not only of the Legacy diamond, but also the Cullinan ore body itself, which is known for its exceptional stones."

The D-color, Type IIa diamond was mined from the Cullinan C-Cut. Type II gems are the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice.

The months of March and April were memorable for Petra as it boasted back-to-back finds that tipped the scales at 425 carats and 209 carats, respectively.

Credits: Images courtesy of Petra Diamonds.
May 15th, 2019
An art deco-style emerald necklace from the collection of American socialite Helene Beaumont and a 36.57-carat near-flawless diamond shared the spotlight at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva yesterday. These top two items sold for $3.6 million and $5 million, respectively, accounting for more than 20% of the auction's total sales of $41.8 million. In all, 448 lots were offered.

As the wife of Louis Dudley Beaumont, one of the founders of the May Company department store chain, Helene was a renowned collector of fine jewelry from the most prominent design houses. The magnificent emerald necklace in yesterday's auction is believed to have been designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1935.

The front of the necklace is set with a line of 11 graduated sugarloaf cabochon emeralds, ranging in size from 3.27 carats to 18.09 carats. The necklace front may be detached and worn as a bracelet, and the two segments in the back can be combined to form a single necklace. A grading report states that the emeralds are of Colombian origin.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate for the decadent piece was $2.9 million to $3.9 million.

The second headliner from yesterday's auction was a magnificent 36.57-carat diamond ring that was put up for sale by a private collector.

The D-color round diamond displays excellent cut, polish and symmetry, according to a grading report by the Gemological Association of America. It carries a clarity rating of VVS1, but could advance to "flawless" after minor replacing, noted the report.

The impressive diamond is claw-set between tapered baguette diamond shoulders.

Sotheby's spot-on pre-sale estimate was $4.4 million to $5.4 million.

Yesterday's sale also yielded a number of surprising overachievers.

One of those pieces was a fancy intense blue diamond ring, which sold for $853,799 — more than three times the pre-sale high estimate of $250,000. Designed by Tiffany and Co., the ring features a 1.01-carat step-cut blue diamond framed by baguette diamond shoulders. The diamond earned a clarity rating of VS1.

The performance of this emerald and diamond bracelet also impressed auction watchers, as the beautiful piece designed by Van Cleef & Arpels sold for $285,427, nearly six times the pre-sale high estimate of $49,640.

The bracelet is composed of clusters set with oval and circular-cut emeralds each within a frame of brilliant-cut diamonds.

Also beating the Sotheby's pre-sale high by nearly six times was a pair of turquoise and diamond earrings that sold for $136,509. Signed by Van Clef & Arpels, the earrings are set with cabochon turquoise entwined in brilliant-cut diamonds.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
May 14th, 2019
Actress Hilary Duff earned 1.9 million likes after revealing her stunning cushion-cut diamond engagement ring on Instagram this past Thursday. The 31-year-old star of the TV Land series Younger had just accepted a marriage proposal from singer-songwriter Matthew Koma and decided to broadcast the big news with a pair of sweet snaps for her 12 million followers.

Punctuating an Instagram caption with a red heart emoji, Duff gushed, "He asked me to be his wife." Duff's new fiancé shared the same images on his Instagram page and added the caption, "I asked my best friend to marry me... @hilaryduff."

Lacking an extreme close-up of the ring, jewelry experts interviewed by Town and Country, Pop Sugar, Bustle and Business Insider were only able to offer their best guesses about its shape, size, quality and value.

The general consensus is that the diamond is an elongated cushion cut — the popular pillow shape with rounded corners. Size estimates ranged from 3 to 4 carats. The clarity is assumed to be VS1 or higher with a G color grading. The minimalist white gold or platinum setting sports a split shank, and all these characteristics combine to put the ring's value somewhere in the range of $40,000 to $100,000.

A cavalcade of young actresses were quick to congratulate their colleague on Instagram.

Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame commented, "Awww congratulations love."

While fellow Disney alum Ashley Tisdale wrote: "OMG my fave couple."

Glee actress Lea Michele wrote, "So happy for you babe!!!

Although it's unclear when they started dating, Duff and Koma made their first red-carpet appearance together in January 2017. E! News reported that they broke up in March 2017 and reunited shortly thereafter.

Duff currently portrays Kelsey Peters on Younger, the hit series that's about to return for its sixth season. Koma, 31, is a member of the band Winnetka Bowling League.

In October 2018, Duff and Koma welcomed their first child together, Banks Violet Blair. The couple has yet to set a wedding date.

Credits: Images via Duff.
May 13th, 2019
This past Friday marked the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, an epic project that spanned six years and 1,800 miles, with the Central Pacific Railroad working from west to east and the Union Pacific Railroad from east to west.

When the two railroad lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, the engineering marvel was culminated with railroad magnate Leland Stanford driving the ceremonial final spike — a glistening symbol made from 14 ounces of 17.6-karat gold.

As Stanford gently tapped the copper-alloyed spike through a pre-drilled hole in a special tie of polished California laurel, a famous telegraph announced the news in real-time: “The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”

Celebrations ensued from coast to coast.

“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian, told the Associated Press.

The Transcontinental Railroad united a nation recovering from the Civil War and laid the foundation for its growth, economic progress and improved way of life. A coast-to-coast trip that once took six months, could now be accomplished in 3 1/2 days.

The accomplishment also symbolized American ingenuity and technical achievement, which was, at the time, as spectacular as landing a man on the moon. Incidentally, the first moon landing would take place 100 years later on July 20,1969.

The idea of using a golden spike to commemorate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was the brainchild of David Hewes, a San Francisco financier and contractor.

The spike is engraved on all four sides.

One side says, "The Pacific Railroad ground broken January 8, 1863, and completed May 8, 1869." A second side says, "May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world. Presented by David Hewes San Francisco." The third and fourth sides list the names of the railroad directors and officers involved in the project.

Interestingly, the date on the Stanford spike is wrong because the celebration had to be delayed two days due to bad weather. Fearing that the golden spike would be stolen if it was left in place, Stanford (who would later establish Stanford University) extracted the spike from the laurel tie and brought it back to California. Today, it resides at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

A duplicate golden spike, which was engraved later with the correct date, became the property of the Hewes family. That spike is on permanent display, along with Thomas Hill's famous painting "The Last Spike," at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Throughout this past weekend, revelers celebrated the historic meeting of the rails at Golden Spike National Historic Park northwest of Salt Lake City. Visitors came from far and near, decked out in period attire, including top hats and bonnets.

Other celebrations throughout the state included art displays, musical performances, historical exhibits, storytelling, lectures, community festivals, parades, film screenings, model train shows, historical site tours and reenactments of the golden spike ceremony.

Credits: Photo of "duplicate" golden spike by Neil916 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. "The Last Spike" painting by Thomas Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Modern reenactment photo courtesy of the National Park Service. Utah state coin by the United States Mint [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
May 10th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, music legend Charley Pride portrays a troubled and insecure husband in his amusing 1967 country hit, "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"

Pride's character tells his wife that he feels so proud when she wears her engagement ring for all the world to see, but questions why she goes out at night with the ring conspicuously missing from her left hand.

He sings, "I understand sometimes we all need time alone / But why do you always leave your ring at home?"

Pride wonders if there may be an innocent reason. Maybe the ring just doesn't fit right and the problem can be solved with a simple resizing.

He sings, "When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right / Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight? / Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?"

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" appeared as the fifth track of Pride's third studio album, The Country Way. Both the single and the album were big hits for Pride, with "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart and #3 on the Canadian country chart. The album performed even better, zooming all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart.

Charley Frank Pride was born in 1934 in rural Sledge, Miss., one of 11 children of poor sharecroppers. When Pride was 14, he was gifted his first guitar and taught himself to play. While he enjoyed music, his first love was baseball. He dreamed of being a professional baseball player.

As an 18-year-old, that dream started to come true, as he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. A year later, he signed with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. In 1960, he pitched for the East Helena Smelterites, an unusual gig that saw him splitting time between playing baseball and working for a lead smelter.

The team's manager also recognized Pride's singing talents and offered him an opportunity to sing for 15 minutes before each game. Before long, Pride was singing in Montana clubs with a group called the Night Hawks.

His big break came when Pride's demo tape got into the hands of RCA Victor exec Chat Atkins, who offered the singer a record deal. By the mid-1970s, Pride was the best-selling RCA Records performer since Elvis Presley. Pride is credited with 40 #1 singles and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

He is still touring at the age of 85.

Please check out the video of Pride's live performance of "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?" The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger?"
Written by Don Robertson, John Crutchfield and Doris Ann Clement. Performed by Charley Pride.

Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
When I bought it for you darling it seemed to be just right
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Did you enjoy yourself last night dear how was the show?
You know that I don't mind it when you go
I understand sometimes we all need time alone
But why do you always leave your ring at home?

Does my ring hurt your finger when you're away from me?
I'm so proud when you wear it for all the world to see
Should I take it to the jeweler so it won't fit so tight?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?
Does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night?

Credit: Photo by GREG MATHISON [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
May 9th, 2019
It took less than two years for the organizers of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to collect enough recycled precious metals to create 5,000 gold, silver and bronze Olympic and Paralympic medals. Among the 47,488 tons of donated material were five million cell phones.

Launched in April of 2017, the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project encouraged Japanese citizens to unload their outdated mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops and games units, from which tiny amounts of precious metal could be harvested. Using the slogan, “Be better, together — for the planet and the people,” the goal was to collect 30.3 kg (66.8 lbs) of gold, 4,100 kg (9,039 lbs) of silver and 2,700 kg (5,952 lbs) of bronze. By the end of March 2019, the goal had been achieved.

The average cell phone user may not realize it, but the internal components contain valuable precious metals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that one million recycled cell phones can generate 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile carrier, placed collection boxes in each of its 2,400 stores and the results were extraordinary.

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 is the first to create 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.

The gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018 (photo at top) ranged in weight from 586 grams (1.29 lbs) for a gold medal to 493 grams (1.09 lbs) for a bronze medal. If the gold medals were, in fact, made of pure gold — they would be worth $26,602 each.

But, the truth is that Olympic gold medals are made mostly of silver. They contain just 6 grams of pure gold and 580 grams of 99.9% silver. Yes, there was a time when Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, but the last ones were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 1912.

Designs for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be released later this summer.

Credit: / Korean Culture and Information Service [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
May 8th, 2019
Pittsburgh-area resident Stephanie Solt captured two prizes at the finish line of last Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon — a medal for completing the grueling 26.2 mile race and a diamond engagement ring from her boyfriend, JT Mylan.

Mylan went down on one knee and popped the question just seconds after Solt turned in a time of 4 hours, 55 minutes.

With about six miles remaining in the race, Solt had seriously considered calling it quits. She was exhausted and her right knee was throbbing.

But, whatever doubts she harbored at that time were overcome by the encouragement of total strangers. Maybe, instinctively, they all knew that this race would be life changing.

“The people on the sideline kept cheering me on and calling me by the name I had on my bib," the 25-year-old told "[They were] giving me high fives and just pushing me along. It was just amazing."

Overwhelmed by their support, Solt said that she was almost in tears as she powered through the Boulevard of the Allies, the home stretch to the finish line.

As she crossed the finish line, Solt was diverted by a security guard away from the other runners and toward her boyfriend.

“And here’s JT at the finish line and I’m like ‘What are you doing here?’ He puts the medal on me and pulls out the ring and goes down on one knee, and I said 'Oh my goodness!’ I was speechless,” Solt told

Pittsburgh Public Safety posted a video of the emotional scene on its Facebook page.

Mylan, 32, said that he counted on a bunch of workout buddies to help him through the planning. One friend suggested that he pop the question at the marathon and a second friend, who was set to work security at the marathon, said he could get JT behind the finish line. A third buddy hooked him up with a photographer who would document the momentous event.

“When the universe lobs you an easy one, you might as well take it,” Mylan said.

Solt said she is ecstatic that she gets to marry her best friend. The couple is planning a spring 2022 wedding, which coincides with her graduation from physical therapy school. Mylan is a health and physical education teacher.

Credits: Screen captures via Public Safety; Pittsburgh.