Venable Jewelers Blog

Venable Jewelers Blog
May 18th, 2021
Debswana Diamond Co. will be spending $6 billion on a massive project that will extend by 20 years the lifespan of Jwaneng, the world's richest diamond mine. When the Botswana mine reaches full capacity in 2034, it will be generating 9 million carats per year.



Since 1982, Jwaneng has been an open-pit mine, but the next phase of its operations will see the company channeling underground. Over the next 13 years, Debswana will be reaching high-grade diamond-bearing ore via 360 kilometers (224 miles) of interconnecting tunnels.

“We are still doing the studies toward transforming to an underground producer, which is a very different environment, with different capabilities and mindset,” Thabo Balopi, Debswana’s head of transformation and innovation, told reporters at a briefing.

Situated in south-central Botswana about 120 kilometers (75 mi) west of the city of Gaborone, the Jwaneng diamond mine is owned by Debswana, an equal partnership between the De Beers company and the government of Botswana. The open-pit mine lies above three kimberlite pipes that converge near the surface, covering 520,000 square meters at ground level.

The success and longevity of the mine is critical to De Beers because Jwaneng accounts for a huge portion of the company's total diamond production. In the first quarter of 2021, for example, Jwaneng yielded 3.2 million carats, or 41% of De Beers' total output. Debswana also accounts for one-fifth of Botswana's gross domestic product, according to seetao.com.

The Jwaneng mine has a reputation for producing high-quality diamonds. One of the most famous of these diamonds was sold at a Sotheby's auction in April 2019.



At the time, a Japanese private collector plunked down $13.7 million for a D-flawless, 88.22-carat oval diamond that had been cut from a 242-carat rough stone sourced at the Jwaneng mine. The collector gifted the gem to his eldest daughter and named it “Manami Star” in her honor.

Credits: Mining image courtesy of Debswana. Diamond image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
May 17th, 2021
Completely redesigned and reinstalled, the 11,000-square-foot Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are set to reopen on June 12.



The new Halls will feature more than 5,000 specimens sourced from 95 countries. Among the most notable specimens are the legendary 563-carat Star of India sapphire, the 632-carat Patricia Emerald and the 9-pound almandine Subway Garnet that had been discovered under Manhattan’s 35th Street in 1885.



Patricia Emerald

“When you enter the Halls, you truly feel as if you’ve walked into the world’s jewelry box,” said museum benefactor and volunteer Allison Mignone. “These Halls, and others in the museum, take science off the page of textbooks and into the real-life experience of countless families and students.”



Subway Garnet

Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, noted that the reopening of the beloved spaces signal the renewal of  New York City’s cultural life after more than a year of closings due to COVID-19.

“New Yorkers and visitors have long embraced these Halls as one of the City’s treasures,” she said. “Now, with this complete redesign made possible by Allison and Roberto Mignone, the Halls are more spectacular than ever and an even greater resource for learning about the processes that shape our changing planet and make it so endlessly fascinating.”

Top exhibits include the following:

- A pair of towering, sparkling amethyst geodes that are among the world’s largest on display;
- The DeLong Star Ruby, a 100.3-carat ruby from Myanmar; 
- The Brazilian Princess topaz, a 221-facet, 9.5-pound pale-blue topaz that was once known as the largest cut gem in the world;
- The Tarugo, a 3-foot-tall cranberry-colored elbaite tourmaline that is one of the largest intact mineral crystal clusters ever found;
- The Singing Stone, a massive block of vibrant blue azurite and green malachite from Arizona, first exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago;
- A wall-sized panel of fluorescent rock that glows in shades of orange and green, sourced from Sterling Hill in New Jersey.
- A spectacular piece of yellow fluorite discovered in the Moscona Mine in the Austurias region of northwest Spain, which grew as hot water dissolved layers of limestone, replacing them with the cubic crystals coated with glistening pyrite.

Organized by Curator George E. Harlow of the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, the Halls’ redesigned exhibits tell the fascinating story of how the vast diversity of mineral types arose on Earth, how scientists classify minerals and study them, and how humans have used them throughout the millennia for personal adornment, tools and technology. 

“When I started at the Museum, there were probably 2,000 minerals described, and now there are more than 5,500 minerals,” said Harlow. “The enhanced Halls will present up-to-date science, which has progressed significantly. I look forward to seeing visitors delight in remarkable gems and mineral specimens from across the globe and our own backyard, like those in the Minerals of New York display featuring specimens from all five boroughs.”

Admission tickets are available at amnh.org. In order to safely manage capacity while allowing visitors to experience the new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, the museum will use a virtual queueing system to allow visitors to reserve time in the gallery while maintaining physical distance from other groups of visitors.

Credits: Images by D. Finnin/© American Museum of Natural History.
May 13th, 2021
On a night when the highly touted, 100.94-carat, D-flawless "Spectacle" diamond was supposed to be the star of Christie's Geneva auction, it was a 19th century sapphire-and-diamond crown that earned the loudest applause.



The crown once worn by Queen Maria II of Portugal (1819-1853) sparked a bidding war that yielded a final price of 1.77 million francs ($1.95 million) — more than five times the pre-sale high estimate.

At 8:13 pm Geneva time, the bidding passed 1 million francs and inched up in 50,000-franc increments for the next four minutes. Throughout the tense battle, bids often snuck in seconds before the auctioneer was about to smash his hammer down to end the sale.

The winning bidder was not immediately identified.



"It’s so rare to have a royal crown come up for auction," said Christie’s jewelry specialist Lukas Biehler prior to the auction. "Usually they’ve been remounted by subsequent kings or queens, or they’re locked away in royal treasuries or owned by museums."



Maria II's sapphire crown, which features octagonal step-cut and oval-shaped sapphires accented by old-cut diamonds, was designed in the 1840s. The piece was then passed down to Maria II's daughter, Infanta Antónia of Portugal (1845-1913), who married Léopold, Prince of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen in 1861.

Léopold was the eldest son of Princess Josephine of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen, who happened to be the middle daughter of Stephanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Baden and the adoptive daughter of Napoléon Bonaparte.

A matched collection of nine sapphire pieces that were once owned by Princess Josephine and passed down through the Hohenzollern family lineage also appeared at Christie's Geneva auction. On the 200th anniversary of the French emperor's death, each of the Napoléon-linked items outperformed the auction house's pre-sale high estimate by and average of two times.



The highly anticipated final lot of the session was "The Spectacle," the largest diamond ever to have been cut in Russia. The emerald-cut diamond arrived in Geneva with a pre-sale estimate of 12 million to 18 million francs ($13.2 million to $19.8 million), but failed to gain any traction after the opening bid was set at 10 million francs. Within two minutes, the bidding stalled at 10.9 million francs. With the buyer's premium, the final price totaled 12.8 million francs ($14.1 million).

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's. Live auction screen capture from christies.com.
May 12th, 2021
Gem Diamonds, the mining company that operates the prolific Letšeng mine in Lesotho, is riding a wave of fabulous luck. On Tuesday, May 4, officials announced the discovery of a 254-carat Type II white gem, and then on Monday, May 10, topped that news with the unveiling of a 370-carat Type II stunner.



Despite its diminutive size (about the size of Maryland), the landlocked country of Lesotho at the southern tip of Africa is a powerhouse when it comes to turning out large, Type II, top-quality stones. (Type II diamonds are extremely rare, colorless and chemically pure with no traces of nitrogen impurities.)



Of the largest 50 rough diamonds ever discovered, 10 have come from Letšeng, which is recognized as the highest dollar-per-carat kimberlite mine in the world.

Some of Letšeng’s historic finds include the Lesotho Legend (910 carats), Lesotho Promise (603 carats), Lesotho Brown (601 carats), Letšeng Star (550 carats), Lesotho Legacy (493 carats) and the Light of Letšeng (478 carats). In August of 2020, Gem Diamonds revealed a 442-carat Type II stone, which has yet to be named.

The 370-carat find ranks 48th on Wikipedia's list of the largest rough diamonds, just ahead of two other Lesotho stones — one light brown and one white — each weighing 357 carats.

Letšeng has the distinction of being one of the world’s highest diamond mines. Its average elevation is 10,000 feet (nearly two miles) above sea level.

Since acquiring Letšeng in 2006, Gem Diamonds has unearthed more than 60 white, gem-quality diamonds weighing more than 100 carats each. The company reported that 16 100-carat-plus diamonds were recovered in the full year of 2020. In that same year, 34 individual stones sold for more than $1 million each.

The United Kingdom-based Gem Diamonds holds a 70% stake in the Letšeng mine with the government of Lesotho owning the remaining 30%. In October 2019, the partners renewed the mining lease for an additional 10 years.

Credits: Images courtesy of Gem Diamonds.
May 11th, 2021
A formal independent study has confirmed what jewelers have been telling their customers for generations: When it comes to wear resistance and gem-setting security, platinum outperforms white gold.



This most recent phase of research represented the third in a series of platinum wear testing studies, spanning 2016 to 2020. Conducted by Forshungsinstitut Edelmetalle & Metallchemie (FEM), in association with TechForm Advanced Casting Technology and Platinum Guild International (PGI), the study affirmed anecdotal evidence of how platinum stands the test of time when used in fine jewelry.

Platinum has long been regarded as the preferred precious metal to securely hold a fine diamond, so the study sought to measure the differences in performance between platinum prongs and gold ones.

FEM also measured the metals' absolute and relative volume losses caused by wear and tear.

Researchers compared six alloys altogether. Two were platinum (950 PtRu, 950 PtIr) and four were gold (14K AuNi, 18K AuNi, 14Kt AuPd, and 18K AuPd). The alloys were analyzed under five separate processes, including scratch testing, wear testing, corrosion testing, mechanical properties testing and metallographic examination via optical and scanning electron microscopy.

“After years of testing, these comprehensive findings confirm significantly lower volume loss on platinum jewelry alloys versus common white gold jewelry alloys,” said TechForm president Teresa Frye. “Through the use of standardized testing designed for jewelry purposes we were able to successfully replicate observations of platinum’s superior wear resistance made by bench jewelers across the world.”

Added Huw Daniel, CEO of PGI, “This research has provided conclusive evidence that platinum is, without doubt, the superior precious metal for fine jewelry. Its beauty is matched by performance characteristics that include better wear over time and the securest setting for diamonds — good reasons to provide peace of mind to jewelers and consumers around the world.”

The final phase of research will include comparisons of additional alloys used across international markets.

Credit: Platinum prongs secure this 25.22-carat, pear-shaped diamond — a highlight of Christie's New York auction in July of 2020. Photo courtesy of Christie's.
May 10th, 2021
Actress Rebel Wilson recently showed off a cool "class ring" commemorating the 10th anniversary of Bridesmaids, the hilarious movie that earned a Golden Globe nomination, two Academy Award nominations and more than $288 million at the box office worldwide.



A gift of director Paul Feig, the ring features a pinkish-purple cabochon center stone and a bunch of fun references to the film. The movie made its debut on May 13, 2011.

In an Instagram Story, Wilson shared with her 9.8 million followers a short video of her manipulating the ring so it could be seen from all angles. Her caption read: "Thank you @paulfeig you classy gentleman! Can't believe it's been 10 years since BRIDESMAIDS."



The top of the ring displays the title of film in raised white metal over a black ground. The pinkish-purple stone is likely a nod to the color of the bridesmaids' dresses worn by the cast.



The left side has Wilson's last name spelled out in raised capital letters. Under the name is a puppy, which might be a reference to Wilson's current gig as the host of Pooch Perfect, an ABC competition show spotlighting the best dog groomers in the US. Or, the puppy might be a reference to an adorable scene in the film, where the bridesmaids are given puppies as gifts after the bridal shower.



The right side of the ring displays the title of the movie's theme song, "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips. Just below the song title is a 10-year-anniversary emblem and the year 2021.

We're assuming that the complete cast of Bridesmaids received similar rings.

Fans of the movie will remember that Wilson played a small, but memorable, role as Kristin Wiig's character's obnoxious roommate, Brynn. Wilson's breakout performance led to roles in Pitch Perfect and What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Ironically, Wilson's character wasn't written into the initial script.

"My character wasn't supposed to exist in the movie," she revealed on SiriusXM's The Jess Cagle Show earlier this year. "I'd auditioned for Melissa McCarthy's character and was the second choice for that role."

She continued, "I guess they liked my audition and added me into the film, essentially, so there was never supposed to be two roommates, only one."

With all the hoopla surrounding the 10-year anniversary of Bridesmaids, cast member Maya Rudolph was asked by Entertainment Tonight if she might return for a sequel.

She said she'd be "down" to participate, adding, "I guess it wouldn't be called Bridesmaids — it would be called Old Ladies or something."

Credits: Screen captures via Instagram / rebelwilson.
May 7th, 2021
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, our spotlights shines on Savage Garden, an Australian pop duo that loved to open its live shows with an over-the-top, dancing-in-the-aisles rendition of "Tears of Pearls."



Pearls are referenced throughout the song to represent emotions that are so private and so precious that they are locked away for nobody to see. When the emotions can no longer be contained, they bubble to the surface resulting in "tears of pearls."

Vocalist and co-writer Darren Hayes sings, "Your kisses are like pearls / So different and so rare / But anger stole the jewels away / And love has left you bare / Made you cry / These tears of pearls."

First appearing in March of 1997 as the third track on the group's self-titled debut album, "Tears of Pearls" was finally released as the seventh and final single from the album in May of 1999. The album would go on to sell more than 12 million copies worldwide.

Bandmembers Hayes and Daniel Jones shared the writing credits for "Tears of Pearls," but the backstory reveals the collaboration was an unusual one, where Jones took directions from Hayes to achieve a "hipster-retroist" tribute to the New Wave acts of the 1980s. The resulting high-energy, theatrical "Tears of Pearls" became the song that would open Savage Garden's live shows and tours.

Formed in Logan City, Queensland, in 1994, Savage Garden earned international acclaim in the late 1990s with its chart-topping hits "I Want You," "To the Moon and Back," "Truly Madly Deeply," "The Animal Song" and "I Knew I Loved You." The group disbanded in 2001.

Please check out the official video Savage Garden performing "Tears of Pearls." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Tears of Pearls"
Written by Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones. Performed by Savage Garden.

And we stare each other down
Like victims in the grind
Probing all the weakness and
Hurt still left behind and we cry
The tears of pearls
We do it. Oh we do it.
Is love really the tragedy the way you
Might describe?
Or would a thousand lovers
Still leave you cold inside?
Make you cry
These tears of pearls

All these mixed emotions
We keep locked away like stolen pearls
Stolen pearl devotions we
Keep locked away from all the world

Your kisses are like pearls,
So different and so rare
But anger stole the jewels away
And love has left you bare,
Made you cry
These tears of pearls

Well I could be the tired joker
Pour my heart to get you in
Sacrifice my happiness just so I could win
Maybe cry
These tears of pearls
All these mixed emotions
We keep locked away like stolen pearls
Stolen pearl devotions we
Keep locked away from all the world

We twist and turn where angels burn
Like fallen soldiers we will learn
Once forgotten, twice removed
Love will be the death
The death of you

All these mixed emotions
We keep locked away like stolen pearls
Stolen pearl devotions we
Keep locked away from all the world



Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com / sgvideos.
May 6th, 2021
Tallulah Willis, the youngest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, turned to Instagram on Tuesday to announce her engagement to film director Dillon Buss and to show off a stunning Asscher-cut diamond on a bold, gold band. On Wednesday afternoon, she returned to her Instagram page to share a close-up of her ring and the backstory of how it came to be.



The 27-year-old mental health advocate and fashion designer explained that when it came to picking out the perfect diamond she needed to be in control. Dillon was content to be a bystander.

"[W]hen we began talking about this seriously I told him due to my lowkey (highkey lol) obsessive, perfectionist, micro lens way of viewing special things in my life I knew I had to be in the drivers seat with this one," she wrote. "And of course Dillon understood - because that’s Dillon."

She explained how she spent a few months "furiously trying to decode the world of diamonds" with a jeweler friend who specializes in gemstones. Then she was introduced to Brooklyn-based designer Karina Noel, who assisted in the diamond search.



"[T]ogether we scoured the world. No stone left unexamined," she continued. "After much deliberation we decided on this 1910s elongated Asscher cut forged in a riverbed."

Developed in 1902 by Joseph Asscher, an Asscher cut diamond has stepped facets and cropped corners, giving it an octagonal appearance. Asscher-cut diamonds are often featured in vintage-style engagement rings and typically have 58 facets.

Jewelry-industry experts believe Willis' diamond weighs in the range of 7 to 8 carats and could be worth $300,000 or more, depending on the color, cut and clarity.

Willis explained that once the stone was secured, the next task was designing the ring. She wanted the ring to feel as if it was on a delicate finger of a "resident of Rivendell," which is a reference to a magical valley in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth.

Willis thanked Noel for putting up with her "late night FaceTimes and manic sketches."

"This is the final result," she wrote. "Group effort, so much love, and a lot of patience for a loony toons girl, I am over the moon."



On Monday, Willis and Buss had shared their proposal photos on their respective Instagram pages.

"I can finally call you my fiancée. Love you forever Buuski Lu, you are my best friend," Buss wrote.

Willis wrote that she would "with absolute most certainty" accept his hand in marriage. Later on Monday, she posted a video of her ring and added this caption: "HANDS STILL SHAKIN’ — MOMS SPAGHETTI — I’m FIANCÉNCHED."

Willis and Buss made their Instagram debut as a couple in February of 2020. The wedding date has yet to be announced.

Credits: Images via Instagram / buuski; Instagram / dillonbuss.
May 5th, 2021
A team of landfill workers in New Hanover County, NC, went above and beyond the call of duty to rescue an engagement ring and wedding band that had been accidentally put out with the trash. The green-vested team worked for hours sorting through layer upon layer of garbage bags until the right one was found — just minutes before closing time.



The drama played out last week when Pam Smith was cleaning the house and realized her precious bridal jewelry was missing.

“I just was frantic that I couldn’t find my rings,” Pam told NBC affiliate WECT in Wilmington. “But, I knew in my heart I had thrown them, accidentally in the trash.”

The waste collection truck was still in the Smith's neighborhood when Pam realized her mistake. A few minutes later, Pam and her husband, Chuck, caught up with the truck, which was about 25 houses away.



“When they flagged me down, I didn’t know what was going on,” said crew member Elliott Holliday (not "Holiday" as seen in the graphic). “I just knew I saw a couple in distress.”

The Smiths told Holliday that their precious keepsake was likely in the back of his truck. The SRWS (Select Recycling Waste Services) professional could not safely dump the load right there on the street, so instead, he called ahead and alerted the New Hanover County landfill that they had a special situation.

Holliday and his partner, Kendrick Grady, were directed to a flat, open piece of land at the landfill where they unloaded the contents of their big rig.



Landfill specialist Kedar Brunson was inspired when he saw Pam Smith praying in front of his bulldozer.

"So I called my wife," said Brunson, "and we were praying with her saying ‘Lord, show this woman favor.’”

A half-dozen workers snapped into action, picking through a seemingly endless mountain of trash bags.



“It’s like we went through every bag. We went through, literally, the last bag before we found it,” said Grady. “It was truly a miracle.”



Pam Smith was so moved by the incredible efforts of the landfill workers that she penned a letter to thank them.



She wrote, in part, “The events of that day made for an eventful time in our lives and we will forever remember the compassionate and understanding way we were treated. You have very professional staff and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Pam Smith told WECT, “I just want people to remember there are a lot of good people on this Earth who are willing to help. And God is good.”

The New Hanover County Twitter account acknowledged the landfill workers in a special tweet on Friday.

It read, "If you need a #FeelGoodFriday - here it is. Thank you to our incredible #NHCgov Environmental Management team for going above and beyond in service to our community. We are so grateful for you and your limitless commitment to helping others!

The tweet was linked to the page on the WECT website, where the story was prominently displayed.

Credits: Screen captures via wect.com.
May 4th, 2021
Seventy-seven perfectly matched cabochon-cut emerald "leaves" sprout from a diamond-studded golden branch in this stunning necklace from the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection. The piece boasts 350 carats of Colombian emeralds and provides one of the world's most unique displays of May's official birthstone.



Designed in the mid-1960s by Julius Cohen, the piece was donated to the Smithsonian by Margaret M. Sokol in 2007 and is now a permanent resident of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.



Emerald has been cherished for thousands of years.

More than 3,300 years ago, the biblical Aaron dazzled his followers with a gleaming breastplate fashioned with gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The very first of the inscribed gems was an emerald.

Ancient Egyptians were mining emeralds as far back as 330 BC and Cleopatra was known to favor jewelry and adornments fashioned from the mesmerizing green gem. She also reportedly gifted emeralds to visiting dignitaries as a demonstration of her generosity, wealth and power.

The Gemological Institute of America reported that when Spanish Conquistadors discovered rich sources of large, fine-quality emeralds in Colombia during the 16th and 17th centuries, the native Incas had already been using emeralds in their jewelry and religious ceremonies for 500 years.

Emerald is the most valuable variety of the beryl family and is known to display a wide variety of visible inclusions, which are referred to as “jardin” (French for “garden”). These imperfections do not detract from the stone’s beauty but, instead, give each stone a unique fingerprint and distinct character.

The name “emerald” comes indirectly from “smaragdos," the ancient Greek word for green gem. The word later evolved into the Latin "esmaraldus" and then the Middle English "emeraude."

Besides being the birthstone for the month of May, it’s also the preferred gemstone to honor 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Emerald owes its delightful color to trace impurities of chromium or vanadium in its chemical composition.

While emerald rates a relatively hard 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale, the gem is more brittle than other members of the beryl family due to its natural inclusions and must be treated with extra care.

Credits: Photos by Ken Larsen / Smithsonian.