550-Pound Swarovski Treetopper Is the ‘Star’ of Rockefeller Center’s Annual Celebration

Two weeks ago, New York City crane operators carefully maneuvered the iconic 550-pound Swarovski Star onto the top of a 75-foot-tall Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Set with 25,000 crystals and gleaming with one million reflective facets, the 9.5-foot-wide stunner has been the “star” of the tree-lighting celebration since 2004.

Each year, the star is welcomed to the Rockefeller Center site by a celebrity guest. On November 16, British actress Naomie Harris joined NBC host Carson Daly to share impressive facts about the star with viewers of the Today Show before it was lifted skyward against the backdrop of the scaffolded Christmas tree.

Last night, the tree came to life during a gala celebration that officially kicked off the holiday season in The Big Apple. The event, which was headlined by chart-topping “Hollaback Girl” Gwen Stefani, was witnessed live by thousands of chilly tourists and aired on NBC to millions more from coast to coast.

The star, which has six outer rays and six smaller inner rays, glows at night with 720 energy-efficient LED bulbs that are programmed to give the appearance of the star radiating light from its core to its tips.

According to Swarovski, the main surfaces of the rays are made of point-mounted safety glass, which is the same shatterproof glass that adorns the facades of New York City buildings. The crystals are affixed to the inner sides of the glass in a tight, scale-like pattern to ensure maximum brilliance. The crystal panels weigh a total of 300 pounds.

Building, testing and programming the star took a team of nine Swarovski artisans 1,200 hours to complete. Among their challenges was coming up with a design that could withstand the windy, winter weather conditions high above Rockefeller Center.

This year’s tree is an 80-year-old Norway spruce from State College, Pa. In addition to the famous treetopper, the tree is decorated with 50,000 LED lights. It will be lit each evening through January 7, after which the tree will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

Rockefeller Center officially began the tree-lighting ceremony in 1933, when a Christmas tree was erected in front of the then-RCA Building and covered with 700 lights.

Last night’s tree-lighting celebration featured performances by Stefani, Brett Eldredge, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, Jennifer Nettles and The Tenors.

Credits: Swarovski Star and Today Show screen captures via YouTube.com. Rockefeller Center image by Gabriel Rodríguez from Sevilla, Spain [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


Recutting Pays Off as ‘Pink Promise’ Fetches $31.9MM, Setting Record at Christie’s Hong Kong

Described by its auctioneer as the “Picasso of the pink diamond world,” the 14.93-carat “Pink Promise” set a record yesterday when it fetched $31.9 million at Christie’s Hong Kong. The $2.13 million per-carat selling price was the highest ever paid for a pink diamond larger than 10 carats.

The oval-shaped pink diamond — which had been trimmed down from 16.10 carats to improve its visual intensity and value — boasts the ultra-rare color grade of Fancy Vivid, near-perfect VVS1 clarity and Type IIa purity, the finest of all diamond types.

After an exciting three-minute bidding process, auction watchers learned that The Pink Promise had narrowly missed the world record per-carat price for a pink diamond of any size. In 2009, Christie’s Hong Kong had sold a 5-carat Fancy Vivid pink, cushion-cut diamond for $2.15 million per carat.

The 16.10-carat pink diamond that would become “The Pink Promise” had been graded Fancy Intense pink (a grade lower than Fancy Vivid pink), and was visibly “washed out” in some areas, according to Silicon Valley-based haute jeweler Stephen Silver, who had purchased the stone in 2013.

Working with a master gem cutter for three years, Silver plotted a way to recut the gem to achieve its ultimate color potential. It was a risky move, because millions of dollars in carat weight would be trimmed away and there was no guarantee that the stone would earn a higher color grade.

The gamble paid off as the Gemological Institute of America affirmed that the new, improved Pink Promise would have the highest possible color grade of Fancy Vivid pink — boosting the value of the diamond dramatically.

“The work we did on this particular diamond was the most challenging recut in which I have been involved, due to the technical difficulty and large financial risk,” Silver said. “It is a privilege, however, to work with a world-class team and have my name associated with one of the world’s great gemstones.”

Christie’s had estimated that The Pink Promise, which is set in a platinum ring and surrounded by smaller white diamonds, would sell in the range of $28 million to $42 million.

Credit: Image courtesy of Stephen Silver.

Meghan Markle’s Engagement Ring From Prince Harry Has a Sentimental Connection to Princess Diana

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle officially announced their engagement at Kensington Palace on Monday afternoon. In a subsequent interview with the BBC, the couple explained that the three-stone diamond engagement ring designed by Harry himself has a special connection with his late mother, Princess Diana.

“The main stone is from Botswana,” said Prince Harry, “and the little diamonds on either side are from my mother’s jewelry collection — to make sure she’s with us on this crazy journey together.”

Added Markle, “It’s beautiful and he designed it. It’s incredible.”

The 33-year-old prince said that he chose to have the diamonds set in yellow gold, “because that’s [Markle’s] favorite.” The ring was fabricated by Cleave and Company, official jewelers to Queen Elizabeth II.

The two smaller diamonds were once part of a brooch worn by Princess Diana, who tragically died in 1997 at the age of 36.

The larger center stone was sourced from Botswana because the couple enjoyed their time there in August.

“I think everything about Harry’s thoughtfulness and the inclusion of [Princess Diana’s stones] and obviously not being able to meet his mom, it’s so important to me to know that she’s a part of this with us,” Markle told the BBC. “It’s incredibly special to be able to have this [ring] which sort of links where [Harry comes] from and Botswana, which is important to us. It’s perfect.”

Prince Harry joked, “Make sure it stays on that finger.”

The couple revealed that Prince Harry’s marriage proposal took Markle by surprise a few weeks ago at the prince’s family cottage. They were roasting a chicken during a cozy evening together, and then he went down on one knee. Markle said she had barely let him finish his proposal and she was already saying “Yes.”

Born in Los Angeles, the 36-year-old Markle is an actress, model and humanitarian. She best known for her portrayal of Rachel Zane on the USA Network legal drama series Suits.

The couple had met through mutual friends in the summer of 2016. The royal wedding is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2018.

Exactly seven years ago, royal sibling Prince William popped the question to Kate Middleton using the 12-carat Ceylon sapphire engagement ring that was originally worn by Princess Diana. Prince William and Middleton tied the knot in 2011.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/CNN.

Welcome to the Start of ‘Engagement Season’ — the Most Romantic Time of the Year

Thanksgiving Day marked the start of the “engagement season,” a romantic time of the year that stretches all the way to Valentine’s Day. The period accounts for 23% of the calendar, but proudly claims about 40% of all marriage proposals.

According to WeddingWire.com, Christmas Day is the most popular day to get engaged, followed by Valentine’s Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

These statistics are affirmed — in a slightly different order — by Facebook, whose 2 billion-plus active users (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) love to report their “relationship status.” Facebook rates Christmas Eve as the #1 time to pop the question, followed by Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Facebook has previously reported that about 2.5 million of its 214 million U.S. users change their status to “engaged” in an average year. WeddingWire.com reports that 18% of all marriage proposals take place during the festive month of December.

There’s a very good chance that somebody in your Facebook world will be changing his or her relationship status from “in a relationship” to “engaged” in the near future. There’s sure to be an engagement ring selfie captioned with a romantic note colorfully tagged by a string of engagement ring, diamond and heart-shaped emojis.

Experts believe that the winter engagement phenomenon is attributed to two factors: the romantic nature of the season… and convenience. Suitors likely choose December to pop the question because they love the magic 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.

Here are the Top 10 days of the year to get engaged, according to WeddingWire.com.

#1. Christmas Day. It’s the biggest day of the year for gift-giving, so it makes perfect sense that this, too, would be the biggest day to give the ultimate gift — a diamond engagement ring.
#2. Valentine’s Day.
#3. Christmas Eve.
#4. New Year’s Day.
#5. New Year’s Eve.
#6. Day Before Valentine’s Day. We wonder if this day cracked the Top 10 because getting engaged on Valentine’s Day may be too obvious, so jumping the gun by 24 hours may be a strategy to preserve the element of surprise.
#7. Saturday Before Christmas Eve.
#8. Two Saturdays Before Christmas Eve.
#9. December 23rd (Day Before Christmas Eve).
#10 Fourth of July (Independence Day). It’s fun, festive, patriotic and the only date in the Top 10 list that finds itself outside of “engagement season.”

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com

The Knot Engagement Ring Trends & Insights Report 2017 Is Here


Engagement ring spend is at an all time high.

Couples report spending an average of $6,351 on the engagement ring. Compare that to the average of $5,095 in 2011 — spend is way up. Interestingly, among survey respondents, they’re living together for longer, they’re slightly older (average age of a bride is 29, a groom is 31) and their average household income is up across the board as well. In other words, we’re seeing couples who are older, more established, making more money buying engagement rings at a slightly higher price point than in years past.

They’re spending more time researching, but looking at fewer engagement rings.

For guys, the average time spent ring shopping was 3.5 months. Compare that to 3.3 months in 2011 and we’re finding that guys are taking longer to shop for the ring than ever before. During their search, guys looked at an average of 26 rings — down from 28 rings in 2011. So even though they’re taking longer to pick the ring, they’re not considering as many options. Why? Believe it or not but it may have to do with the changing technical landscape. Couples in general are used to a fast, frictionless purchase process (think Amazon, Etsy, and even Seamless delivery). Their appetite for browsing dozens upon dozens of option has fallen just like their desire to search through products.

She’s more involved than ever before.

Yep, you read that right. The percentage of women involved in ring shopping has gone up by 5 percentage points since 2011. In fact, 70% of women surveyed claimed to have some involvement in the final decision — that includes shopping for the ring together (33%) or hinting about what they wanted in a ring (38%). With that means less buyer regret. Only 6% of women report wishing they could have been more involved in the process.

They want the proposal captured on film.

For our survey respondents, one of the most important parts of the proposal was capturing the memory on camera. In fact, 47% of of proposers had a photographer / videographer on the scene. That’s up a whopping 6 points in only 2 years.

If you’re a photographer or videographer, consider offering a paparazzi package for proposals. And be sure to include a quick turn around time for the final product. With almost 80 percent of couples sharing the news on social media within three days of their engagement, they’ll want to share with friends and family ASAP.

Stone cut, setting and quality are at the top of the list.

The stone cut and ring setting are the number one and two factors couples consider when choosing the engagement ring. Third most important factor is the stone quality. What’s not toward the top of the list? The designer.

Most popular metal: White gold

Most popular (non-diamond) gem: Sapphire

Most popular setting: Prong

Oval rings are on the rise; round is still the most popular.

Oval rings were just a blip on the radar in 2011, at 1% of all engagement rings purchased. In 2017 however, 7% of couples chose an oval cut engagement ring. The most beloved cut by far? That would be round. More than half of couples (52%), choose a round cut engagement ring. Also good to know: Princess cut diamonds are on the decline — down 16 percentage points since 2011.

But price matters more for him and size matters more for her.

The biggest difference between men and women? Price. Grooms considered the ring price to be the 4th most important factor but women put it 6th on the list. Add to that, the majority of men (83%) would rather buy a smaller, better quality diamond than a larger stone of lesser quality while only 53% of women felt the same way. And consider this: 47% of grooms surveyed said they stuck to their original budget (vs. 39% in 2011). So your average customer has a better idea of what he wants to spend than previous years, and is more likely to stick to it.

Local independent shops are on the rise.

When asked where they ultimately purchased the engagement ring. almost half of all men surveyed listed a local or independent jeweler. This number has been steadily rising year over year and has risen 5 percentage points since 2011.

The bands almost never match.

Get this: 90% of couples bought non-matching wedding bands. That said, over half (60%) bought their bands together at the same retailer. So while they’re very motivated to express their individual style through their wedding band, they’re still buying from the same jeweler they know and trust.


Golden Laurel Leaf Trimmed From Napoleon’s Coronation Crown Sells at Auction for $730,000

A golden laurel leaf trimmed from the coronation crown of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804 sold for a surprising $730,000 at an auction near Paris on Sunday. The hammer price was more than four times the pre-sale high estimate.

Weighing barely 10 grams (.35 ounces), the leaf’s precious metal value is less than $500. But Jean-Pierre Osenat of the auction house that bears his family’s name told Reuters that the sale price “certainly isn’t based on the weight of the gold, but on the weight of history.”

Osenat had estimated that the piece would sell in the range of $118,000 to $177,000.

Napoleon famously crowned himself emperor in a lavish event at Notre Dame. A vital part of his regalia was a Julius Caesar-style laurel wreath formed from 44 large gold leaves and 12 smaller ones.

During the fitting, Napoleon complained to jeweler Martin-Guillaume Biennais that the crown was too heavy. The jeweler solved the problem by snipping six large leaves from the crown. Biennais was a proud father of six daughters and gifted each one with a laurel leaf.

The leaf that headlined the Osenat auction in the ritzy Paris suburb of Fontainebleau on Sunday had remained in the Biennais family since the coronation. The whereabouts of the other five leaves are unknown. The auctioned leaf had been preserved in its original red Morocco leather case, signed “Biennais au Singe Violet rue S Honoré No 511.”

In fact, the single golden leaf is all that remains of the crown, which was melted down in 1819 — four years after Napoleon fell from power after the Battle of Waterloo.

Credit: Jewelry image courtesy of Osenat Auctions. Napolean portrait by workshop of François Gérard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Sierra Leone Yields Second Massive Diamond of 2017; This One Weighs 476.7 Carats

It’s been a banner year for tiny West African nation of Sierra Leone. The recent discovery of the 476.7-carat “Meya Prosperity” — which followed the March discovery of the even more massive 709.1-carat “Peace Diamond” — gives Sierra Leone the distinction of being the source of the world’s two biggest diamond finds of 2017.

The yellow-hued Peace Diamond is believed to be the 14th largest diamond ever discovered, and the colorless Meya Prosperity is being slotted at #29.

The Peace Diamond, which was pulled from a river bed by pastor Emmanuel Momoh, is scheduled to be sold at a New York auction on December 4. Some experts believe the diamond could yield as much as $50 million.

Meya Prosperity will also be sold at international auction, but it’s not clear if it will go under the hammer with the Peace Diamond in New York.

In the wild world of fabulously large diamonds, the diminutive Sierra Leone can be considered a powerhouse.

In 1972, the 968.9-carat “Star of Sierra Leone” diamond was discovered by miners in the Koidu area of eastern Sierra Leone. The gem was eventually cut into 17 separate finished diamonds, of which 13 were deemed to be flawless. The Star of Sierra Leone ranks as the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond and the largest alluvial diamond ever discovered.

In 1945, the 770-carat Woyie River Diamond was also found near Koidu. Ranked the 9th-largest diamond ever discovered, the D-flawless rough was cut into 30 gems, including 10 weighing more than 20 carats each. The rough gem earned star status when it was brought to London and viewed by Queen Mary in October 1947.

The 476.7-carat Meya Prosperity is named for Meya Mining, which discovered the stone and maintains an exclusive license to explore a concession spanning 80 square miles of the diamond-rich Kono District. The mining company also noted that two other sizable diamonds — one weighing 19.70 carats and the other weighing 27.93 carats — were discovered only a few hours after unearthing the Meya Prosperity.

“[The latest find] provides a remarkable indication of the potential of the mineral resources in the area,” Sahr Wonday, director general of Sierra Leone’s National Minerals Agency, told news24.com.

Credit: Photos courtesy of Trustco Resources. Map by Google Maps.

Mother Nature Dazzles Us Again: Natural Freshwater Pearl Bears Uncanny Likeness to a Swimming Fish

A natural freshwater pearl bearing an uncanny likeness to a swimming fish proves, once again, that Mother Nature is the world’s greatest artist, sculptor and designer.

Measuring a little less than an inch in length, the specimen’s shape, color, scale-like texture and seemingly articulated head and body make for a one-of-a-kind masterwork that has the gemological and jewelry communities buzzing.

The Gemological Institute of America’s New York City lab recently completed an examination of the unique fish-shaped brownish orange pearl. Sally Chan Shih and Emiko Yazawa wrote about the interesting find in the Fall 2017 edition of Gems & Gemology.

“One end was wider and more rounded, which bore an uncanny likeness to a fish’s head, with an ‘eye’ and ‘mouth’ also discernible,” they wrote. “The lustrous orient along the body narrowed to a rounded point, resembling iridescent fish scales on a tail.”

The pearl measures 21.34 mm (.84 in.) wide by 6.28 mm (.24 in.) tall by 2.81 mm (.11 inches) thick.

A chemical analysis of the 2.12-carat pearl confirmed high levels of manganese, which proved the natural pearl was formed in a freshwater mollusk. That mollusk was likely harvested from a river in the Mississippi Valley.

What makes the “fish pearl” more extraordinary is the fact that it came to be completely without human intervention.

A natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, slips in between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue. To protect itself from the irritant, the mollusk secretes layer upon layer of nacre, which is the iridescent material that eventually produces a pearl. Cultured pearls, by comparison, are grown under controlled conditions, where a bead is implanted in the body of the mollusk to stimulate the secretion of nacre.

The authors emphasized that the entire nacreous surface was composed of overlapping platelets.

“We observed no indications of work, such as polishing, that is sometimes performed to improve a pearl’s appearance,” they wrote.

Credit: Photo by Sood Oil (Judy) Chia, courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America.

Music Friday: Sonny Turner of The Platters Sings, ‘With This Ring I Promise I’ll Always Love You’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of “With This Ring,” a feel-good sing-along that was a huge hit for The Platters and frontman Sonny Turner.

In this song, Turner is about to marry the girl of his dreams. He admits to having been a “wanderer,” but now he’s ready to settle down. The ring represents his promise to be faithful and to always love her.

He sings, “With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you.”

Later in the song, he adds, “Baby, I never thought so much love could fit in a little band of gold.”

“With This Ring” appeared as the first track from the band’s Going Back to Detroit album and was released as the album’s only single. The song ascended to #14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and #12 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. The song represented an uptempo, stylistic shift for the group, which was famous for its moody R&B hits, such as “Only You,” “The Great Pretender,” “My Prayer,” “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

The Platters, which was formed in Los Angeles in 1952, charted 40 singles between 1955 and 1967, including four Billboard #1s. Turner joined the band in 1959 as a fresh-faced, 19-year-old tenor. He was chosen from 100 hopefuls who were auditioning to replace The Platters’ original lead singer, Tony Williams. Turner remained with The Platters until 1970, when he left to pursue a solo career.

The group has endured numerous lineup changes and name variations throughout its history. Fans have been coming out to see The Platters for the better part of 65 years, and the group continues to tour. According to songkick.com, the group has appeared in Las Vegas 1,171 times, and most frequently shared the billing with The Marvelettes (866 times).

Please check out the video of Turner and The Platters performing “With This Ring.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“With This Ring”
Written by Richard Wylie, Luther Dixon and Anthony Hester. Performed by The Platters.

With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you

They used to call me the wanderer
Who never wanted to settle down, yeah
But I’ll tell you, baby
I wander no more, got to stay around ’cause

With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you

Got nothing but this old heart of mine
Baby, please, believe in me
Girl, you know, sweet heart
I’ll always try to keep you satisfied, ’cause

With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you

With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you

Baby, I never thought so much love
Could fit in a little band of gold
But I’m telling you, darling
I feel it in my heart, got it in my soul

With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you
With this ring I promise I’ll always love you, always love you

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Meet the Smartphone Case That Doubles as a Ring Box and Delivers the Ultimate Proposal Selfie

A few days ago, The Knot revealed that 47% of all couples are enlisting a photographer or videographer to capture the exact moment of their proposal. With so much emphasis on sharing that big news on social media, it was inevitable that someone would come up with a smartphone case that doubles as a ring box and delivers the ultimate proposal selfie.

Introducing the RokShok, a smartphone case with a twist. When opened, the unique mechanism extends the engagement ring perfectly in front of the phone’s camera. As the phone captures his romantic proposal and her heartfelt reaction, the ring remains perfectly centered in the lower portion of the frame.

James Ambler and Keith Glickman, the New York-based inventors of RokShok, point out that ambitious users might even use their case to live stream a proposal to viewers all over the world.

At just .60 inches thick, RokShok is far more discreet and easier to slip into a pocket than a traditional ring box, which is typically 2 inches thick. Obviously, “pocket bulging” is a no-no when it comes to delivering a surprise proposal. RokShok looks very much like a standard battery case and can conceal rings with center stones up to 2.5 carats in size.

With the proposal video and still shots efficiently captured, couples can instantly share the precious moment with friends and family. RokShok was designed based on research that millennials are more likely to share and announce their engagements online. According to the company, 57% of women put a picture of their engagement ring on Facebook; 79% of couples share their engagement news on social media; and 62% of couples posted a picture after they got engaged.

“On a more personal note, we believe that proposing is one of the happiest and most important moments in a couple’s life,” said Ambler. “With that in mind, we think that having a record of that, to one-day share with their children and grandchildren, creates a unique value proposition. RokShok not only satisfies the need for instant gratification, but also offers long-term value by documenting a cherished memory for eternity.”

RokShok is currently accepting pre-orders at $39.95, with shipments starting on June 1, 2018. The expected retail price will be $59.95.

Credits: Image via rokshok.com; Video screen capture via YouTube.com.