Topaz Goldsmiths and Gallery

Topaz Goldsmiths and Gallery
January 18th, 2022
Over the past 10 years, researchers Drs. Jennifer Miller and Yiming Wang assembled the largest-ever database of ostrich eggshell beads — tiny beads that are now revealing big stories about our past.

The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Munich, Germany, claim that identically crafted beads found 3,000 km (1,864 miles) apart in southern and eastern Africa affirm the existence of a social network that connected homo sapien populations 50,000 years ago. The study was published in December in the journal Nature Communications.

Ostrich eggshell (OES) beads are ideal artifacts for understanding ancient social relationships, said the researchers. They are the world’s oldest fully manufactured ornaments, meaning that instead of relying on an item’s natural size or shape, humans completely transformed the shells to produce beads.

This extensive shaping created ample opportunities for variations in style. Because different cultures produced beads of different styles, the prehistoric accessories provide researchers a way to trace cultural connections.

“It’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs,” said Miller, lead-author of the study. “The beads are clues, scattered across time and space, just waiting to be noticed.”

To search for signs of population connectivity, Miller and Wang assembled the largest ever database of ostrich eggshell beads. It included detailed descriptions of more than 1,500 individual beads unearthed from 31 sites across southern and eastern Africa.

By comparing OES bead characteristics, such as total diameter, aperture diameter and shell thickness, Miller and Wang found that between 50,000 and 33,000 years ago, our ancient ancestors in eastern and southern Africa were adorning themselves with nearly identical OES beads. The finding suggests a long-distance social network spanning more than 3,000 km once connected people in the two regions.

“The result is surprising, but the pattern is clear,” said Wang, co-corresponding author of the study. “Throughout the 50,000 years we examined, this is the only time period that the bead characteristics are the same.”

Surprisingly, at 33,000 years ago, the bead designs produced by the populations of southern and eastern Africa were no longer the same.

The scientists believe the regional network broke down due to climate change.

It was a time when eastern Africa was experiencing a dramatic reduction in precipitation as the tropical rain belt shifted southward. Heavy rainfall in the large area connecting eastern and southern Africa likely resulted in periodic flooding of riverbanks, which may have created geographic barriers that disrupted the ability of the two populations to interact.

“These tiny beads have the power to reveal big stories about our past,” said Miller. “We encourage other researchers to build upon this database, and continue exploring evidence for cultural connection in new regions.”

Credits: Modern ostrich shell beads photo by © Hans Sell. Image of ostrich egg compared to chicken egg by Rudolph.A.furtado, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 17th, 2022
The engagement ring used by Machine Gun Kelly to propose to actress Megan Fox is a modern adaptation of a design originally conceived by a promising 26-year-old officer named Napoleon Bonaparte more than 200 years ago.

Back in 1796, Napoleon — then still eight years removed from the French throne — presented to his beloved Josephine on the occasion of their marriage a unique bypass-style ring that featured two tear-shaped gemstones, one diamond and one sapphire, set in opposite directions. The “Toi et Moi” ring symbolized two souls becoming one. (The French phrase “toi et moi” means “you and me” in English.)

Kelly, whose birth name is Colson Baker, posted photos and short clips of the proposal on his Instagram page. The 31-year-old rapper-singer-actor explained to his 9.4 million followers how he collaborated with British jewelry designer Stephen Webster on a special two-part ring that reflected true connections to both Fox and himself.

He wrote, "I know tradition is one ring, but I designed it with Stephen Webster to be two: the emerald (her birth stone) and the diamond (my birth stone) set on two magnetic bands of thorns that draw together as two halves of the same soul forming the obscure heart that is our love. 1-11-2022."

Unlike Napoleon's ring, Kelly's interpretation has the main stones oriented in the same direction.

On his own Instagram page, Webster further clarified how the normally non-magnetic 18-karat white gold rings became magnetic.

"The resulting ring actually consists of two rings, which by the use of magnets buried within the gold, are attracted to each other and sit together perfectly on the finger; a detail that is both modern and quite extraordinary," he wrote.

Webster also shared photos of the rings from multiple angles, revealing the intricate diamond detail on the gallery of each piece.

Fox told her 18 million Instagram followers how Kelly proposed under a banyan tree. It was the same tree where they first professed their love in July of 2020.

Jewelry-industry experts believe the pear-shaped emerald and diamond each weigh about 4 to 5 carats. The value of the ring is upwards of $400,000, they say, depending on the quality of the stones.

Webster noted that the diamond is a D-color antique cut and that the emerald is an "extraordinary completely untreated Colombian gem." The bands are pavé set with colorless natural diamonds.

Credits: Proposal images via Instagram / MachineGunKelly. Ring closeups by Instagram / stephenwebsterjewellery.
January 14th, 2022
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you uplifting songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith uses the term "gold in them hills" to deliver an inspirational message about cherishing all that life has to offer — both the good and the bad.

He sings, "But if we'd only open our eyes / We'd see the blessings in disguise / That all the rain clouds are fountains / Though our troubles seem like mountains / There's gold in them hills / There's gold in them hills / So don't lose heart / Give the day a chance to start."

Originally released in 2003 as the 15th track of Sexsmith's Rarities album, "Gold in Them Hills" became the defining song of the 2013 film About Time, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy.

In an interview posted to Youtube, writer-director Richard Curtis explained how the "profoundly meaningful song" represented the central philosophical theme of About Time — that no matter how bad life looks, if you investigate it, there's gold in them hills.

"You just may not be noticing," he said. "But, the normal run of your day is a wonderful and glorious thing."

The main character in the film has the ability to time travel, and initially believes that he should try to change his past in an effort to bolster his future.

But, then he realizes — with the help of his dad — that the best way to use time travel is to relive each ordinary day without the worries and tensions that keep us from appreciating how lucky we are to be with the people we love and live the life we lead.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Ronald Eldon "Ron" Sexsmith began recording his own material in 1985 at the age of 21. He was named Songwriter of the Year at the 2005 Juno awards and has released a total of 15 albums.

Please check out the audio track of Sexsmith performing "Gold in Them Hills." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Gold in Them Hills"
Written and performed by Ron Sexsmith.

I know it doesn't seem that way
But maybe it's the perfect day
Even though the bills are piling
And maybe Lady Luck ain't smiling

But if we'd only open our eyes
We'd see the blessings in disguise
That all the rain clouds are fountains
Though our troubles seem like mountains

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

Every now and then life says
“Where do you think you're going so fast”
We're apt to think it cruel but sometimes
It's a case of cruel to be kind

And if we'd get up off our knees
Why then we'd see the forest for the trees
And we'd see the new sun rising
Over the hills on the horizon

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose faith
Give the world a chance to say

A word or two, my friend
There's no telling how the day might end
And we'll never know until we see

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills
So don't lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

There's gold in them hills
There's gold in them hills

Credit: Photo by spaceamoeba, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 13th, 2022
Sasha Spielberg, the daughter of movie mogul Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw, recently announced her New Year's Eve engagement to restauranteur Harry McNally with a series of Instagram pics that included a closeup of the ring and a prescient diary entry.

Sasha, who uses the stage name Buzzy Lee, posted a shot of her newly adorned left hand partially revealing a diary entry from November 12, 2020, that stated very matter-of-factly, "I'm gonna marry Harry!" It was written right after their first date and she was already certain she had found the love of her life.

Now, 14 months later, she exclaimed in her Instagram caption, "My diary proves to be right yet again!!"

Jewelry-industry experts described the ring as a round brilliant-cut diamond adorned by baguette side stones in a simple platinum or white gold setting. The center stone was estimated to weigh 3 to 4 carats and the value of the ring was pegged at about $150,000.

Among the Instagram photos was a shot of Sasha posing near the ocean on the morning after the engagement, and a screen cap of the couple embracing next to the family's Christmas tree moments after the proposal. It was taken from a second floor vantage point by the famous film maker himself.

“Unbeknownst to Harry, my dad was secretly filming,” Sasha wrote on Instagram. “Classic.”

The multi-talented Sasha, 31, is a musician, artist and actress. McNally runs The Odeon for his dad, New York restaurateur Keith McNally. The younger McNally is also a musician and music video director.

Sasha has appeared in a number of her dad's films, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Credits: Images via
January 12th, 2022
The Chinese Year of the Tiger officially starts on February 1, and The Perth Mint is marking the occasion with a limited-edition, silver proof coin featuring the image of the Chinese zodiac animal rendered in pure Australian opal.

Irregular slices of the bluish-purple precious stone are meticulously arranged to fill out the shape of the tiger, which stands out from the center of a black circular background.

The coin’s outer ring features stylized depictions of cineraria flowers, which are considered to be lucky for those born in the Year of the Tiger. The outer ring also includes the inscription “YEAR OF THE TIGER,” the Chinese character for “Tiger,” the year 2022, the coin’s weight and purity, and The Perth Mint’s traditional “P” mintmark.

Designed by Lucas Bowers, the Aussie coin measures 36.6mm in diameter, which is slightly smaller than a US silver dollar.

The one-ounce, legal tender silver coin is the sixth release in the Australian Opal Lunar Series — a series that launched with an opal rooster design in 2017 and was followed up with opal-adorned Chinese zodiac offerings in 2018 (dog), 2019 (pig), 2020 (rat) and 2021 (ox).

Those born in the Year of the Tiger are said to be brave, competitive, unpredictable and confident. The tiger is the third animal of the ancient lunar calendar.

The obverse of the tiger coin features the Jody Clark effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the weight and fineness, the “1 DOLLAR” denomination, “AUSTRALIA,” and the Queen’s name. The tiger coin will have a limited release of 5,000 units.

The Perth Mint frequently pays tribute to themes that are truly Australian. Opal is the official gemstone of Australia, and the country is credited with supplying nearly 95% the world’s fine opal.

From 2012 through 2014, the mint promoted the Australian Opal Series of five coins depicting native animals, including the koala, wombat, kangaroo, pygmy possum and Tasmanian devil — all rendered in opal.

Credits: Images courtesy of The Perth Mint.

January 11th, 2022
The gold-clad mirrors of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope will play a key role in observing galaxies that are more than 13 billion light years away.

In fact, NASA scientists believe that gold's superior ability to maximize the mirrors' reflection of infrared light gives Webb its best chance of seeing the cosmos.

On December 24, a rocket carrying the telescope took off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Its 21-foot-wide primary mirror was so large that it had to be folded — origami style — to fit into the capsule. Then, on January 8, the 18 segments of its primary mirror successfully unfolded in deep space to reveal a spectacular golden array.

The James Webb Space Telescope is designed to look back through time to when galaxies were young, to see light from the earliest galaxies as they formed after the Big Bang. It will also allow scientists to study the atmospheres of planets that orbit distant stars and search for signs of life.

In describing the massive telescope, a NASA spokesperson said in a video posted to Youtube, "The gold mirrors are definitely its most stunning feature. And, yes, that's real gold."

The spokesperson explained that a microscopic layer of gold was applied to each of the 18 hexagonal segments, each of which measures about 4.3 feet across. The area of the assembled mirror is approximately 25 square meters (270 square feet) and the mass is 705 kilograms (1,550 pounds).

Despite the mirror's vast dimensions, the amount of gold needed to coat all of the segments was 48 grams, about the equivalent of five men's wedding bands.

That's because the thickness of the gold layer is 100 nanometers, about 1/1000th the width of a human hair. To protect the precious metal on its journey, a thin layer of glass was applied on top of the gold.

NASA chose gold over other metals because of its high reflective qualities and its durability. Metals, such as aluminum and silver, reflect 85% and 95% of infrared light, respectively. Gold reflects 99% of all the infrared light it encounters. Gold is also one of the most unreactive metals, making it extraordinarily resilient to oxidization or decay during its five- to 10-year mission.

Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/Chris Gunn.
January 10th, 2022
On Sunday, February 6, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate 70 years on the British throne, and The Royal Mint will be commemorating her remarkable Platinum Jubilee with a series of precious metal coins.

The special obverse design, by esteemed artist John Bergdahl, depicts The Queen on horseback and will be struck on the "heads" side of a new 50p and traditional £5 crown.

Representing Her Majesty’s fondness of nature, the Queen-approved design is reminiscent of the equestrian designs for the 1953 Coronation and 2002 Jubilee crown pieces.

Upon the death of her father, King George VI at age 56, Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1952. She was only 25 at the time. The Queen broke the record as the longest-reigning British monarch in September 2015.

There will be year-long Platinum Jubilee celebrations throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world as communities come together to celebrate The Queen’s historic reign.

The coins of The Queen's Platinum Jubilee will be available in platinum, gold, silver and brilliant uncirculated cupronickel (copper-nickel alloy). Prices vary widely, depending on the metal of choice. For example, the 50 pence coin depicting the "70" logo retails for £1,395 in platinum, £1,095 in gold, £102.50 in silver and £7 in cupronickel.

The precious-metal versions of the coins will be minted in limited quantities, while the availability of the cupronickel version will be unlimited.

The "70" logo on the "tails" side of the 50p coin, which includes the Queen's cypher, or monogram, was conceived by Osborne Ross. The heraldic designs of Bergdahl are displayed on the "tails" side of the £5 coins.

The UK has instituted a special four-day Jubilee bank holiday from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5, during which the British government has promised a "once-in-a-generation show" that will "mix the best of British ceremonial splendor and pageantry with cutting-edge artistic and technological displays."

Credits: Photo of coins courtesy of The Royal Mint. Queen Elizabeth II (1953) by Associated Press, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Queen Elizabeth II (2015) by PolizeiBerlin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 7th, 2022
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we feature Justin Bieber singing about pearls in the R&B remix of his 2010 release, “Up.”

In this 2011 collaboration with Chris Brown, the Canadian heartthrob refuses to call it quits on a troubled relationship that has nowhere to go but up. He tells his girlfriend that they have the power to make the sun shine in the moonlight and make the grey clouds turn to blue skies.

He also promises to take her around the world and lavish her with pearls sourced from every ocean they encounter.

In the key jewelry line, Bieber sings, “It’s a big, big world / And I’m gonna show you all of it / I’m gonna lace you with pearls, oh / From every ocean that we’re swimmin’ in.”

Originally the 9th track on Bieber’s chart-topping 2010 debut studio album, My World 2.0, “Up” was re-released on Valentine’s Day 2011 as the 7th track of his Never Say Never – The Remixes album. That release — which featured collaborations with Brown, Jaden Smith, Usher, Rascal Flatts, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and Raekwon — also soared to #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart.

The Canadian-born Justin Drew Bieber started to make his move into the music business in 2007. That's when the adorable, fresh-faced 13-year-old placed second in a local singing competition. Bieber’s mom, Pattie, posted a video of his performance on YouTube, and then added other videos of her son singing covers of various R&B songs.

It’s been reported that music executive Scooter Braun accidentally clicked on one of Bieber’s videos — thinking he was watching a 20-year-old doing a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The impressive performer was, in fact, the teenage Bieber.

Braun tracked down the youngster in Canada, and with the permission of Bieber’s mom, introduced him to singer-songwriter Usher, who soon became his mentor. Bieber was then signed by record executive L.A. Reid and the rest is Bieber history.

Bieber has sold an estimated 150 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He’s earned two Grammy Awards, 18 American Music Awards, 21 Billboard Music Awards, six MTV Video Music Awards and a record 21 MTV Europe Music Awards.

The 27-year-old Bieber has 91 million followers on Facebook, 114 million on Twitter and 214 million on Instagram.

Please check out the audio track of the soulful Bieber/Brown collaboration of “Up.” The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

Written by Adam Messinger, Justin Bieber and Nasri Atweh. Performed by Justin Bieber, with Chris Brown.

It’s a big, big world
It’s easy to get lost in it
You’ve always been my girl, oh
And I’m not ready to call it quits

We can make the sun shine in the moonlight
We can make the grey clouds turn to blue skies
I know it’s hard
Baby, believe me

That we can go nowhere but up
From here, my dear
Baby, we can go nowhere but up
Tell me what we’ve got to fear
We’ll take it to the sky past the moon to the galaxy
As long as you’re with me, baby
Honestly (honestly) with the strength of our love
We can’t go nowhere but up

It’s a big, big world
And I’m gonna show you all of it
I’m gonna lace you with pearls, oh
From every ocean that we’re swimmin’ in

We can make the sun shine in the moonlight
We can make the grey clouds turn to blue skies
Yeah, I know it’s hard
Baby, believe me, ooh

That we can go nowhere but up
From here, my dear
Baby, we can go nowhere but up
Tell me what we’ve got to fear
We’ll take it to the sky past the moon to the galaxy
As long as you’re with me, baby
Honestly (honestly) with the strength of our love
We can’t go nowhere but up

Nowhere but up

Baby, we were underground
We’re on the surface now
We’re gonna make it girl
I promise
If you believe in love
And you believe in us
We can go nowhere but up

We can go nowhere but up
From here, my dear
Baby, we can’t go nowhere but up
Tell me what we’ve got to fear
We’ll take it to the sky past the moon to the galaxy
As long as you’re with me, baby
Honestly, honestly with the strength of our love
We can go nowhere but up

Nowhere but up
Nowhere but up
Nowhere but up

Credit: Photo by Adam Sundana, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
January 6th, 2022
We love to write about romantic marriage proposals, but today we take a deep dive into the murky subject of who gets to keep the engagement ring when a relationship fails and the wedding never takes place. 

Although there is no uniform law in the US or Canada regarding the return of engagement rings after a breakup, the Alabama Court of Appeals recently ruled that an engagement ring given on the condition of marriage must be returned to the giver if the relationship fails.

According to court records, an Alabama man proposed to his then-girlfriend on Christmas Eve of 2018 with a ring valued at $32,000. Later in 2019, the girlfriend had a change of heart and broke off the engagement. The ex-boyfriend asked for the ring, but she claimed that she tossed it into the intracoastal waterway. The ex-girlfriend later admitted that she sold the ring for the heavily discounted price of $10,000. 

The ex-boyfriend sued to get the value of the ring back, but lost his case at a county circuit court, with that judge ruling that the ring was given as a Christmas present and the ex-girlfriend had no obligation to return it. 

That verdict was flipped by the Alabama Court of Appeals, which determined that the woman was "unjustly enriched" at her ex-boyfriend’s expense, while adding that the gift was given on the condition of a marriage. Since the marriage never took place, the court ordered the woman to pay back the $32,000.

Back in 2014, a New York county judge allowed a Valley Stream woman to keep her $10,200 diamond ring even though she broke off the relationship with her fiancé, who was also the father of their child. The woman argued that her ex gave her the ring as a “a gift for being a great woman, a good mother of his child.”  The judge agreed, stating that the ring was “given as a gift and not in contemplation of marriage.”

According to an article posted by Virginia-based law firm SmolenPlevy, most states view an engagement ring as a semi-contract, or a “conditional gift.” In this view, the ring is given with the understanding that the couple will get married in the future and symbolizes a verbal contract. Ownership of the ring is not fully transferred until the wedding ceremony is completed.

A few jurisdictions, explained SmolenPlevy, take a slightly different view, calling the ring an “implied gift.” In this case, ownership of the ring is determined by whomever calls off the wedding. If the giver breaks it off, he or she is not entitled to the ring, and it becomes a gift. If the receiver breaks off the engagement, the giver can ask for the ring back.

Ownership of the ring can also be complicated by whether the ring was a family heirloom, or whether it was given as a “gift” on a holiday or birthday, for example.

The non-legal, but traditional, etiquette calls for the engagement ring to be returned to the giver if the recipient breaks the relationship, or if the breakup was mutual. If the giver is responsible for the breakup, the receiver controls the destiny of the ring. 

SmolenPlevy recommends that the best way to avoid costly, emotional and drawn-out litigation is to enter into a prenuptial or premarital agreement, which outlines clearly who will get the ring if the wedding never takes place. This agreement also can cover what happens to the ring if the couple gets married but later divorces. 

Credits: Image by
January 5th, 2022
With the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing less than a month away, let's take a close look at the gold, silver and bronze "Tong Xin" medals that will be awarded at the much-anticipated global event.

"Tong Xin" means "together as one" and the circle-in-a-circle design is reminiscent of the themes seen in ancient Chinese jade pendants. The front of the medals feature the Olympic rings engraved in the center with rimmed concentric circles radiating outward. The circles embody the traditional Chinese philosophy of harmony between heaven, earth and human beings. The rings also represent the Olympic vision of building a better world through sport.

The raised rims create a channel effect, and three of the four channels are engraved with traditional Chinese patterns and descriptive information about the Games. The outermost channel contains icons of ice and snow, while the next channel is adorned with cloud iconography. The innermost channel is engraved with the words "XXIV Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022."

"When athletes hold the medals in their hands, they will first touch the details embodying ancient Chinese culture," noted chief designer Hang Hai. "Then if they look closely, they will see the cloud and snowflake patterns on the obverse side, and celestial patterns on the reverse side."

The 2022 medals carry a slight resemblance to the jade-inlaid medals of the Olympic Summer Games that took place in Beijing in 2008. This was done intentionally to emphasize the fact that Beijing is the first city to host the Summer and Winter Games.

On the back of the medal, engraved in the centermost circle, is the emblem of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The full name of the games written in Chinese lettering is wrapped in a semi-circle underneath. Also engraved on the back is the name of the specific Olympic event for which the particular medal will be awarded.

Contrary to what many people believe, a gold medal awarded at the Olympics contains just 6 grams of gold. The core of the gold medal is actually made of 99.9% silver. Silver medals are, in fact, made of silver, and the bronze medals are made of copper.

There was a time when Olympic gold medals were made of solid gold, but the last ones were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, way back in 1912.

The Olympic Winter Games in Beijing will take place from February 4-20, 2022. The Paralympic Games begin March 4.

Credits: Images courtesy of Beijing 2022 Olympic Committee.