Ok people, ’tis the season once again. No, not just that of the annual ‘turkey stay of execution,’ of avaricious munchkins clamoring for toys and the ‘imposed family visitation’ season; it’s marriage proposal time as well. For some reason, one third of the year’s proposals occur during the holidays. Perhaps this is because people are feeling so cheery and warm (despite the plummeting temperatures) in their lover’s arms, that they can easily envision and hope for a well spent life together. Maybe they just get all giddy at the sight of candy canes. We’ll never know for certain, but one thing that is for sure is that engagement rings will need to be purchased.
So what’s a potential proposer to do? Drop the requisite ‘three month’s salary’ on a costly, environmentally destructive, possibly bloody diamond? Well, that’s always one way to go – but luckily there are a bunch of other merry options.
If you’ve been following diamonds in the news at all over the past year or so, you will have seen an explosion of information on the man-made diamond front. Scientists are becoming increasingly more efficient and clever at growing diamonds in labs (instead of under the earth’s crust, like ‘real’ diamonds that are made by the gods). These stones have the same exact chemical composition as naturally derived diamonds (often with less blemishes too; they’re farmed in pristine labs, not the dirty, dirty dirt). The only noticeable difference is that they are cheaper: significantly. Score! White diamonds, the most desirable across the board, that are fabricated will run you about 15 to 20 percent less than natural diamonds. Even better if your thinking lies somewhere over the rainbow; colored High Pressure, High Temperature (HPHT) diamonds can cost an astounding 80 to 90 percent less than ‘real’ diamonds of the same hue.
Moiss Doesn’t Grow on a Rolling Gemstone
Now, on to the ‘diamond simulant’ category. These are stones that mimic diamond in many sparkling ways. The much maligned cubic zirconia is in this batch; the main complaint about this guy is that it chips, breaks and eventually loses its luster. As a result, most people turn their noses up to the high heavens at all diamond simulants. However, there is one of these diamond copiers that has some real staying power; moissanite. Naturally occurring moissanite is found in meteorites (obviously making them the most cherished gemstone of intergalactic aliens) and is incredibly similar to diamond in terms of density and glitter-ifficness. Believe it or not, moissanite can have a higher rating than diamond in the brilliance (sparkle) and fire (the way that light is refracted and dispersed through the stone) categories. Moissanite is commonly replicated in labs now, just like diamond, and is priced well below what human-made diamonds go for. Expect to pay about a cool grand (or less!) for a perfect 1 carat moissanite stone. Unless your soon be to betrothed and all of your mutual friends are expert gemologists, no one is going to be able to tell that this isn’t a diamond. We’re not saying to try to pass it off as one; just use all that saved cash for more essential things as an engaged couple, like a ravishing vacation or bathroom supplies.
We’ve been touting the benefits of alternative gemstones for quite some time. Not even getting into how much cheaper these all can be than diamonds, they can also be so much more unique and personal. Each gemstone has its own story as to where it comes from, how it was named and what its hue (or hues) symbolize. Maybe you pick your lover’s birthstone, maybe you just go with their favorite color. The possibilities here are endless (see?)
Zounds! We once (daringly) took a look at the world’s most notoriously cursed diamonds. As the creepiest month of the year is upon us yet again, it’s time to broaden our spooky horizons and investigate some more infamously bedeviled jewelry items. Behold, the conclusive list of cursed gems, jinxed gold and other ghostly rocks.
The Delhi Purple Sapphire
Everything about this dastardly stone is shrouded in mystery and conflicting lore…including it’s name. It isn’t really a sapphire, rather it’s a piece of super high grade amethyst masquerading as the violent violet/precious cerulean gem. Legend has it that the allegedly sacred stone was one of the many pieces that were pilfered from the Temple of Indra in Cawnpore, India. The ransacking of this holy place occurred during the Indian Mutiny (one of many) in 1857. Much like all of the sacrosanct artifacts that Indiana Jones was seeking, this gem turned evil after it was removed from it’s temple – and became determined to exact revenge on all of the successive heathens who would ever come in contact with it. The first person to feel the wrath of the Delhi Purple was Colonel W. Ferris, the very man who transported it to England. Soon after completing the voyage, he lost his entire fortune. Having hardly a quid to his name, he passed the vile stone down to his son. And guess what? This unfortunate heir went bankrupt shortly after as well. After a family friend, who was holding the stone for a spell, just up and flung himself off a bridge, the Ferris clan knew they had to be rid of it.
The next person to be plagued by the gem was Edward Heron-Allen, a thriving scribe at the time who bought the nefarious stone on a whim. After a series of unfortunate events, Heron-Allen made the oh-so-generous gesture of trying to give it away to several of his pals. Each one of these chums would give the stone back to him (probably cursing Heron-Allen under their breath) after their luck turned to excrement. One example: a singer who, after only possessing the stone for a short while, completely lost her voice and would never to able to utter a single note again. ‘Not-So-Fast’ Eddie then took the accursed rock and heaved it into the gloomy Regent’s Canal and watched it sink to the murky depths, finally relived to be rid of it. …Or so he thought. Nay, a few months later a jeweler, who knew the memorable stone belonged to Heron-Allen, came upon the jewel and sought out its rightful owner. He gave it to him with a smile (likely expecting a reward), only to watch Edward’s face turn ghost-white.
Heron-Allen would then get the bright idea to send it to the Natural History Museum of London. He did not want it displayed, rather kept hidden away, until three years after his death (guess he thought harm could still come to him after he was dead for two years?) The stone’s dark power seems to be subsiding somewhat, as people who have been charged with transporting it have not died or befallen horrible fates as of late, other than a couple of intense snowstorms and debilitating flus. In a somewhat ironic turn, the last person to move the stone was bequeathed with a horrible stone of his own during its stewardship: a kidney stone.
The Lydian Hoard
The nomenclature of this treasure collection just doesn’t conjure up pleasant thoughts, does it? A conglomeration of golden pieces, ranging from wearable jewelry to pots, plates, pans and other forms of regal cutlery, this heavy load of loot once belonged to King Croesus. He reigned over Lydia from 560 to 547 BC (Lydia is the western portion of modern day Turkey). His epic rule came to an abrupt end when a Persian King, Cyrus the Great, dethroned him (certainly Croesus didn’t think he was all that great). It is uncertain if the curse on this gold began right after Croesus was so unceremoniously check-mated, as its whereabouts were largely unknown for roughly the next 2,500 years. In 1965, Villagers who were poking about in the ground of Güre (a small town in the Uşak section of Turkey) stumbled upon the tomb of an anonymous Lydian Princess. After yanking it open, they were delighted to find a shimmering expanse of golden goodies. They probably weren’t too delighted once an ensuing havoc and ubiquitous madness were unleashed. There were 150 prized relics extracted from the tomb, and each and every person who took part in the purloining of the gold would fall victim to a terrible fate. Disease, famine and death spread through the village like a rapacious and conscious wildfire. Whether the malevolent forces contained in the gold were avenging the death of Croesus or the unidentified, entombed Princess is unsure, but one thing is for certain; don’t buy any discount golden dinner-wear while visiting Turkey.
Black Prince’s Ruby
Yet again, another doom spreading gem with an incorrectly assigned title; it’s a spinel, not a ruby. Weighing in at 170 carats, it’s hard to miss this precious stone (which is a good thing, because it wants to kill you). Much like its deep red hue, the gem’s past is quite bloody in tone. Its first appearance in the record books came thanks to Spanish King Pedro of Castile (known to his buddies as “Pedro the Cruel”), when he murdered the original guardian of the stone in 1367. Severely needing the help of Edward, the Prince of Whales, Mr. Cruel gave the Brit the dazzling crimson stone as payment. Edward was known as the Black Prince because he wore all-black-everything armor. The stone’s curse was unleashed at this point, as ole Pedro would die at the hands of his own brother not long after (apparently a real dysfunctional Cain/Abel relationship there). Nevertheless, Eddie the Black transported the gem to England and it became a part of the royal crown jewels. It mysteriously survived the epic shakedown that Charles I’s empire underwent at the power hungry hands of Oliver Cromwell. Charles the First would lose his crown, his whole head actually, yet the gem curiously lived on. A man – coincidentally named Colonel James Blood – would attempt to snatch the stone from the London Tower, only to meet his own bloody fate… (well, he supposedly survived, but barely.)
La Peregrina Pearl
Pearls look so pure and innocent, don’t they? One would never suspect that they could be responsible for the utter devastation of an entire royal family. Well, that seemingly is the case with the La Peregrina Pearl. Translated from Spanish to “The Pilgrim,” this massive creme colored orb has left a wake of shattered dreams and tainted memories in its past (much like many a pilgrim). When Phillip II of Spain was set to marry the Queen of England, one Mary Tudor, in 1554, everything was going as smoothly as, ahem, a pearl. In fact, the whole world seemed as if it were their oyster – that is, until Phillip gave the recently discovered pearl to his betrothed as a wedding present. Phillip suddenly changed his newlywed mind about Mary (she now repulsed him), and he set sail for what was only supposed to be a 3 hour tour… He was scarcely seen again by his once beloved, and she died a few years later. Keeping the evil bulb in his possession, Phillip would marry two more unlucky dames, who would befall similarly horrific ends. These women were both meant to be brides to Phillip’s heir, Carlos, but the poor boy was stricken with insurmountable mental and physical issues. Phillip’s clan was known as the “Spanish Hapsburgs,” and by the time the 18th century had rolled around, they were completely wiped out by voracious maladies. History attributes this to excessive inbreeding amongst said royalty (kissin’ cousins syndrome), but many believe the family’s downfall to have been spurred on by the poisonous pearl. This prized artifact would eventually be given to Elizabeth Taylor as a wedding present, and we all know how her marriages ended… Perhaps, as the pearl was formed, in the mouth of a mollusk under the inky sea, some dismal energy became trapped inside; ensconced in numerous coats of invertebrate mucus. We’ll never truly know for sure…but probably best to avoid purchasing any gigantic vintage pearls on eBay.
At the end of the day, all some people want is a beautiful gem to call their very own…just be careful what you wish for.
Most people are familiar with the Hope Diamond, the Taylor-Burton and the Tiffany Diamond. Each of these top billed stones have widely known tales that accompany their easily recognizable names. This is primarily a result of their massive sizes, distinguished cuts and stunning interior qualities (or just really good publicists). There are, however, a whole legion of just-under-the-radar diamonds with dynamic yarns to tell. Here are a few of the more memorable stones to grace the international gem stage and dazzle us with their brilliance. …Only from the slighter cheaper seats.
Deepdene Diamond – one would assume that this monstrous stone (weighing in at 104.88 carats) would have garnered a little more positive press over the years. However, its reputation is tainted with more infamy than fame. A wealthy couple by the name of the Boks were the first people to possess the diamond; they eventually sold it off to diamond jeweler juggernaut Harry Winston. As with many massive gems, it changed hands a few more times, galavanting through various regions of Europe and eventually landing in Germany. It then went up for auction at the esteemed Christie’s house and was relinquished to the highest bidder: Van Cleef & Arpels. Imagine their chagrin when, after having the diamond evaluated and tested, it was revealed that it underwent irradiation (the ‘fake tanning’ of the diamond world). Indeed, it’s lovely yellow hue was fabricated. VC&A got a refund on the canary stone and now it resides…somewhere. Yes, that’s right; it’s missing. The issue of “How do you lose a 104 carat anything?” may be the most pressing question yet regarding this mysterious gem, which makes this list primarily for its ‘fake bake’ qualities.
Eureka Diamond – much like being the first person to comment on an Instagram pic or tweet about something that Millennials find noteworthy, this gem is known simply because it was the first diamond discovered in South Africa. Achieving pioneer status in a country now synonymous with diamonds has got to be worth something, right? The stone is not that huge; it’s a 10.73 ct, ‘smoky cut.’ The diamond made its first public appearance in 1867 at the world renowned Paris Exhibition. Prior to that it had been sitting in the desk drawer of Erasmus Jacobs, the young gentleman who found this thing in the dirt and presumably decried “Eureka!”
The Grand Duke of Tuscany – aside from having the name of an Italian nobleman, this diamond is not necessarily that regal in nature and comes with quite the politically polarized past. Once quantified at a whopping 137.27 carats, it seems odd (yet again) that it would eventually disappear into thin air. The original legend associated with this stone is that it belonged to the famed Medici family; Ferdinando II de’ Medici, to be specific, who held the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany (a rather modest moniker). It would eventually make its way to Austria during the 19th century. As the Austrian empire crumbled at the tail end of World War I, the diamond was smuggled into the conveniently neutral Switzerland by the fleeing Imperial family. Sometime during 1918 the precious yellow/green stone was purloined and has yet to turn up again. Conjecture that it now resides in either South Africa or the USA is simply that. Odds are in favor that it was cut up into a bunch of more diminutive stones, to avoid detection; a fancy yellow diamond engagement ring in your possession just may be a descendant of this once lusted after gemstone (…but most likely not, don’t be insane).
The Great Chrysanthemum Diamond – brown diamonds have seen an ebb and flow in popularity since their initial discovery. This florally named stone is no exception, and with a beautiful pear cut (at the hands of noted New Yawk City cutters S&M Kaufman) and hefty 104 carat weight, it only stands to reason that it’s a genuine B-Lister because its brown hue is just not all that desirable. This lovely dirt/excrement colored stone is stashed away somewhere in a private collection, its certain whereabouts unknown.
Hortensia Diamond – deriving its nomenclature from the dashing Dutch queen who donned the stone, Hortense de Beauharnais, this diamond has been in royal hands for the better part of its natural life. In the possession of Marie Antoinette for a spell, it was removed from her around the time things were falling apart in France …when she just seemed to lose her head. A random dude named Depeyron pilfered the pretty pink gem and was about to undergo a similar fate when he blurted out where it was stashed before they freed his face from the rest of his body. Later, the lilliputian despot Napoleon would favor the diamond and wear it attached to his cute little outfits. The stone, when compared to others of note, is relatively small; 20 carats – but is still talked about because of its involvement in many historic milestones. It’s also got a huge crack in it, further securing its second-rate fame status.
The Incomparable Diamond – having a name like this, you’d think this gold toned diamond would be more widely known. It really isn’t an ironic or exaggerated tag either, as it held the title of 4th biggest uncut diamond for a significant while. In the mid-1980’s, with Reaganomics and Devo surging, the stone was cut down to a triangular/oval shape, retaining a still staggering weight of 407.48 carats. This golden goose egg then experienced a PR blunder that would forever tarnish its previously brilliant reputation. In 2002, it strangely debuted on eBay. It’s listed reserve price of 15 million quid would go unmet, permanently cementing this colossal and unfortunately undesired diamond into the B-List.
Nizam Diamond – here’s another diamond that had great potential to become one of the world’s most recognizable, but lost status because it, well, became lost. At one point this was India’s pride and joy, with uniquely cut irregular facets and a thunderous 277 carat measurement. The notoriously nifty Nizam family held the diamond for generations, but during the tumultuous wartime of the 1830’s, the gorgeous stone pulled a Keyser Soze and vanished forever.
The Ocean Dream – sometimes size does matter. This diamond should have experienced a lot more fame due to it being truly one of a kind. It is the only naturally occurring Blue-Green diamond ever discovered anywhere in the galaxy (*Mars results still pending). Radiation from the earth’s core, which cooked this guy for millions of earth-years, are the root of its world renown color. The only problem? It weighs in at 5.51 carats; hardly a weight class anyone cares about – thus turning the Ocean Dream into a publicity nightmare. While aesthetically inspiring, it seems it may also have been carelessly named, as its moisture invoking title, if you really think about it, sounds a bit naughty.
Rob Red Diamond – fancy vivid red diamonds are the rarest diamonds that exist; so why isn’t the fanciest, most vivid, reddest diamond ever discovered the most famous? One simple answer; the Rob Red was born to a similar fate as the Ocean Dream – it’s tiny. In fact, it’s about one-tenth the size of the Dream, measured at 0.59 carats. Hardly a blip on the radar of the gem appreciating public, who ravenously crave ginormous stones, this diamond is quite highly regarded in the somewhat insular world of diamond professionals. There it is viewed as a true and natural work of art (bottom line; unless you’re a gemologist or jeweler, this Red is Robbed of fame).
Spirit of de Grisogono Diamond – why in the Savior’s name is this diamond not on the A-list? It’s the largest black diamond ever produced; originally mined in South Africa with a weight of 587 carats, and finally cut down in Switzerland to 312.24 ct. This singularly splendorous gemstone needs to immediately get the recognition it so sorely deserves. Please Snapchat your congressperson.
The Lesser Star of Africa ( Cullinan II ) – well it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this diamond is a B-Lister; just its name alone condemned it to a lifetime of mediocrity. Known as the ‘sister stone’ to the Star of Africa (that has to be demeaning), this 317.40 ct stunner would have been an actual star in its own right if it didn’t have to play Jan Brady to the substantially larger Cullinan 1 (530.20 ct). Family dynamics can be rough.
Tereschenko Diamond – this comely Cold War relic was most likely relegated to B-list classification due to its communist roots. Belonging to the Russian Tereschenko clan, this 42.92 carat fancy blue stone was just rolling around loose until 1915, when Cartier delicately placed it into a necklace for the family. Too bad the Russian Revolution was just around the corner, and none of the pretty Tereschenko comrades got a chance to wear the new sparkling cerulean jewelry. It was spirited out of Russia, to prevent it from becoming stolen, and sold to an unnamed collector. It randomly resurfaced in 1984 at a Christie’s auction and sold to hotshot Saudi collector Robert Mouawad (a big name in diamond hoarding) for 4.5 million rubles, er, dollars. That’s the last anyone has heard of the Tereschenko. До свидания (goodbye) fame!
This is the first installment of a multi part series on the etymology of some of the more esoteric, unconventional and ancient phrases in the wondrous world of precious metal and gemstone-based jewelry.
À jour – much like ‘soup du jour,’ this term is extra fancy, and extra French; it means “to the day,” and is as delicious as a lobster bisque. À jour is a type of jewelry setting that became intensely popular in the 1800’s (just like the sexy steam locomotive and the scintillating stereoscope) where the back of the piece is left open. This is so the sun can hit it with luscious light and BAM: instant solar style, as the jewel shimmers with glowing glee and bright alacrity.
À la mercure – Ok, this one can be mercurial (and lethal). Like the name suggests, we’re dealing with actual mercury here. It’s a type of ‘gilding’ where you meld gold and mercury into a deadly stew and then gently apply it to a jewelry piece (like you would with White-Out to a sensitive document). Then you burn the heck out of it with a torch or, in a pinch, a lighter with a saucy burlesque dancer etched on to it. The heat from the fire sizzles the mercury away, leaving behind a smooth golden finish (just don’t breathe while doing this, kids!)
Aiguilettes – now commonly known as the name given to Christina Aguilera’s children, aiguilettes originally referred to thin little strips of material that held ribbons in place on women’s dresses in the 1400’s. These stylishly ‘sharp’ items (derived from the French word for needle, “aguille”), became more and more fashionable and were eventually constructed from gold and featured various glittering gems. They usually appeared in pairs, forming a small “v” or “bird in the distance in a painting” shapes.
Allochromatic – just like the Allosaur that gets eaten in Jurassic World, this term has epic connotations. The phrase “allochromatic” is applied to gems that exhibit a certain color…that is not what their chemical components dictate it should actually look like, but rather a hue which is purely visible due to the impurities therein. Confused? Good. Here’s a nice example of allochroma in action: the highly valuable gemstone Sapphire. Now, sapphire is blue, right? Dead wrong! (as if you’ve been huffing mercury) Sapphire is naturally a clear gem in it’s unadulterated state. However, typically when it forms, iron and titanium particles get in there, alloying the true chemical composition. These dirty little elements are what give sapphire that azure allure we know and heart.
Alluvial – this one is a little slippery: literally. The phrase is really just an adjective meaning “deposited by water,” and in the jewelry universe this refers to precious metals (gold, silver, the Lord of the Rings ring) left behind in riverbed rocks.
Amorphous – Honey Boo-Boo and Momma June jokes aside, amorphous things have no form at all. What this means in gem terms, is that they are devoid of a “crystal structure.” Popular gemstones such as amber and opal are amorphous, making them both great gifts for someone whom you want to express the message “Our love has no…form.”
Arabesque – those who frequent hookah lounges will be familiar with the ornate and intricate style that is Arabesque. Jewelry with extensive filigreed is often in the Arabesque category, which was definitely #trending during the 1500’s with the Renaissance art crowd. Arabesque designs feature a lot of flowing flowers, hearts and in some rare cases, shawarma samples.
Archaeological Revival – this term is sort of self explanatory, but cool nonetheless. When art loving Europeans of the 1700’s began digging stuff up from the Roman and Egyptian Empires, they fell in love with the style and started replicating it like mad. Wearing a Cleopatra inspired golden asp headpiece became totally en vogue with the bourgeoisie crew.
Argentan – if you receive a shiny silver gift with an intaglio on it proclaiming this word, then you have a right to be miffed. It means that the metal is masquerading as actual silver, but, sadly, is not. This information can be extremely useful when deciding whether or not to melt jewelry pieces down into bullets to combat attacking werewolves.
Armilla – is just a super fancy word for an ‘armlet’ – a bracelet for the upper arm. These have been around since the times when people fought lions with their bare hands for the entertainment of the masses (usually on the TNT network). Roman soldiers wore these to signify rank, as well as for an excuse to show off their biceps. Today, hordes of inebriated girls wear them at Coachella.
Assay – is not that thing you had to write to get into college. Assay is the procedure that jewelry items undergo to analyze the precise content of the precious metal they contain. The results are often stamped right on the little guys (ie – “24 kt gold” or, in some less than fortunate cases, “100% tin foil”).
Asterism – akin to the mighty asteroid, soaring through the cosmos, the concept of asterism is equally ephemeral and can scorch you if you attempt to grasp it. …Well, not really. It just signifies a star-like shape that forms when light hits certain, inclusion laden gems and then reflects out in said stellar fashion. Basically, it’s like looking at a jewel-born asterisk*
Aventurescence – if you are a gem and you possess this quality, it means you are ready for adventure! …Or something to that effect. When stones have aventurescence, they have an entirely unique brand of sparkle to them. Gems that exhibit this property are chocked full of various mineral inclusions that are too hard to spell or pronounce (and in some cases, sound completely inappropriate). Not a believer? Just try to say “fuchsite” in polite society and see what happens.
Diamonds were not always viewed as a symbol of love and devotion; the sentiment, like most popular sentiments these days, was nothing less than the result of advertising and marketing prowess.
In the 1940s, major South African diamond conglomerate, De Beers, decided the diamond ring would be the engagement ring for the ladies of the United States, but they had to figure out how to let everybody else in on the news. They understood that the most important part of marketing diamonds would be associating the gem with the elusive qualities of love. According to Entrepreneur magazine, after conducting some of the most extensive marketing research to date, De Beers’s hired advertising henchmen, who determined that the American public needed to be instructed on the importance of the diamond ring as a symbol of everlasting love. Continue reading How to Market a Diamond→