Venable Jewelers Blog

Venable Jewelers Blog
December 3rd, 2020
Diamonds and gold are strange bedfellows. They very rarely appear in the same rock, but when they do, their unlikely marriage can signal the presence of abundant riches.

The unusual rock samples collected by University of Alberta researchers from an outcropping on the Arctic coast of Canada's Far North have close similarities to those found at the Witwatersrand gold deposits of South Africa, which account for 40% of the gold ever mined on Earth.

"The diamonds we have found so far are small and not economic, but they occur in ancient sediments that are an exact analog of the world's biggest gold deposit," said U of A researcher Graham Pearson.

Pearson said the outcrop of rocks, known as conglomerates, are basically the erosion product of old mountain chains that get deposited in braided river channels.

"They're high-energy deposits that are good at carrying gold, and they're good at carrying diamonds," he said. "Our feeling was if the analogies are that close, then maybe there are diamonds in the Nunavut conglomerate also."

Pearson said that finding new diamond deposits in Canada's Far North is critical to the ongoing success of the country's $2.5-billion-per-year diamond mining industry.

After bashing off 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of Nunavut conglomerate, the scientists dated the rock fragments using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry equipment at the U of A. They concluded that the rocks had been deposited about three billion years ago.

Even more exciting was the revelation that the modest sample contained three diamonds.

"My jaw hit the floor," said Pearson of the moment he learned about the diamond content. "Normally, people would take hundreds of kilograms, if not tons of samples, to try and find that many diamonds. We managed to find diamonds in 15 kilos of rock that we sampled with a sledgehammer on a surface outcrop."

While the diamonds all measured less than 1mm in diameter, the geological implications were huge.

Pearson surmised that there must have been a kimberlite pipe that had transported the diamonds to the surface from deep within the Earth.

"It tells us there's an older source, a primary source of diamonds that must have been eroded to form this diamond-plus-gold deposit," he said.

This also means mining diamonds in the area would not necessarily require very deep mines.

Researchers will be doing more research to establish the extent of the diamonds and gold in these rocks, and the possible primary sources of these minerals.

Credit: Nunavut photo by Xander, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
December 2nd, 2020
Looking for a great holiday gift for the diamond lovers in your life? Check out the newly published Diamonds Across Time, a stunning 432-page coffee-table book that celebrates every aspect of history’s most coveted precious stone.

Featuring 10 richly illustrated essays by world-renowned scholars who are united by their deep affection for diamonds, the book looks back on history and trade, investigates the nature of diamonds, reviews legendary gems, celebrates jewelry collections and spotlights great designers. The volume places diamonds in the context of the political, social and cultural stage on which their histories were etched. The contributors tell the human stories that underpin the world's adoration of diamonds.

The glossy pages pop with high-quality photographs of gems and jewels, archival documents and rare drawings.

The hardcover book was compiled and edited by the World Diamond Museum’s chief curator and world renowned jewelry expert Dr. Usha R. Balakrishnan, who contributed her own monograph titled The Nizam Diamond, Bala Koh-i-noor, the Little Koh-i-noor in the Sacred Trust of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Other topics include the following:

• Diamonds of the French Crown Jewels – between West and East, by François Farges;
• A Concise History of Diamonds from Borneo, by Derek J. Content;
• Indian Diamonds and the Portuguese during the rise of the Mughal Empire, by Hugo Miguel Crespo;
• Two Large Diamonds from India, by Jack Ogden;
• The Romanov Diamonds – History of Splendour, by Stefano Pappi;
• The Londonderry Jewels 1819-1959, by Diana Scarisbrick;
• Dress to Impress in South East Asia, by René Brus;
• Powerful Women Important Diamonds, by Ruth Peltason;
• One in Ten Thousand; the Unique World of Coloured Diamonds, by John King.

“The establishment of the World Diamond Museum marks the first step in the long journey to reignite the passion for diamonds, chronicle traditions, explore cultures and show the eternal relevance of beauty, even in present times,” wrote Alex Popov, Founder of the World Diamond Museum, in the book’s foreword. “This volume unites diverse stories that reveal the many meanings of the diamond and how human emotions and beliefs are reflected in its thousands of facets. The book is illustrated with incredible photographs of rarely seen gems and jewels from closely held collections and reconstructions of historical diamonds, done with the help of state-of-the-art computer technology.”

Diamonds Across Time may be purchased at this website.
The cost is £95 (about $127.55) and shipping to the US is approximately $35.
Credit: Image courtesy of the World Diamond Museum.
December 1st, 2020
A Maasai folktale imagines how tanzanite came to be. Once upon a time, the story goes, lightning struck the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, scorching the land, and in the aftermath, a spectacular blue crystal was left shimmering in the ashes.

In 1967, a Maasai tribesman named Jumanne Ngoma is credited with discovering the shockingly beautiful bluish-violet gems that, at first glance, appeared to be sapphires. Gemologists would later confirm that Ngoma's find was a totally unique variation of zoisite.

Samples of the mesmerizing mineral quickly caught the attention of Tiffany & Co., which launched a campaign to market the gems as “tanzanite” to honor its country of origin and the only place on earth where tanzanite can be found. (The name "blue zoisite" was panned by the Tiffany marketing team because it sounded too much like "blue suicide.")

In 2002, tanzanite became one of the official birthstones for December, sharing that distinction with turquoise and zircon.

In 2017, tanzanite celebrated its 50th anniversary. Once a mineral oddity, tanzanite has evolved into one of the most desirable gemstone varieties — thanks to the efforts of Tiffany and the rest of the jewelry industry. Tiffany’s marketing clout helped earned tanzanite the noble title of “gem of the 20th century.”

Tanzanite is said to be 1,000 times more rare than diamonds due the fact that tanzanite is mined in only one location on earth. The area measures 2km wide by 4km long and the remaining lifespan of the mine is said to be fewer than 30 years.

Tanzanite’s color is an intoxicating mix of blue and purple, unlike any other gemstone. The mineral comes in a wide range of hues, from light blues or lilacs, to deep indigos and violets. The most valuable tanzanite gemstones display a deep sapphire blue color with highlights of intense violet. The Smithsonian’s website explains that tanzanite exhibits the optical phenomenon of pleochroism, appearing intense blue, violet or red, depending on the direction through which the crystal is viewed.

The "Petersen Tanzanite Brooch," shown above, is part of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection in Washington, D.C. The piece was designed by Harry Winston in 1991 and donated to the museum by Donald E. and Jo A. Petersen in 2002. The triangular-cut matched tanzanites weigh approximately 30 carats and are adorned by 24 carats of marquise, pear and baguette-cut diamonds in a floral motif. The tanzanite “flowers” may be detached and worn as earrings.

Credit: Photo by Penland/Smithsonian.
November 30th, 2020
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
November 25th, 2020
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.
November 24th, 2020
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
November 23rd, 2020
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.
November 19th, 2020
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 of 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.
November 18th, 2020
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
November 17th, 2020
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 captures via