Topaz Goldsmiths and Gallery

Topaz Goldsmiths and Gallery
April 24th, 2019
Gem lovers looking for a rustic adventure a little off the beaten path may consider a trip to Topaz Mountain in Utah, where amateur prospectors get to keep whatever they find.

Located about 120 miles southwest of Provo, the Topaz Dome Quarry in Utah's Thomas Range has long been a popular destination for hardcore rockhounds. But, four years ago, Richard Pyne, David Stemmons and their partners established Topaz Mountain Adventures, which allows novices to join in on the fun.

"Our philosophy was to make the premium stuff available to the public," Stemmons told "So we do blasting tours and take you right up to the rock. We don’t keep any of it. Whatever you find is yours to keep.”

Among the treasures at the blast site are many varieties of Utah Topaz and other collectible minerals, such as Bixbyite, a black crystal made from manganese iron oxide. Topaz colors range from a bright amber to a deep sherry.

Pyne explained that Utah Topaz is sensitive to UV light (the type emitted by the sun). Once exposed, the vibrant color can fade to clear. For that reason, the tour operator sells UV-light reflective bags and warns prospectors to keep their precious finds out of the sunlight.

The property that Topaz Mountain Adventures has leased from the state of Utah is adjacent to free public lands also used for prospecting. The difference is that the public lands are very hard to work.

The $30 tours at Topaz Mountain Adventures run for four hours and prospectors can expect to leave the site with a handful of nice specimens, according to Pyne. Tool rentals are available and the staff is happy to assist visitors in identifying what they've found.

According to Pyne, it's not uncommon for a visitor to return to Topaz Mountain Adventures for more easily accessible treasures after working a full day at a free public site and coming up empty.

Topaz Mountain Adventures also offers a premium package at $649, which allows a group of up to eight prospectors to witness an actual blast (seen above) and get first dibs on the treasure found in the freshly exposed rock.

The blast site is 47 miles from the nearest town, and Pyne advised visitors to bring plenty of water and to dress in layers. Spring and fall are the best seasons for prospecting, although temperatures can range from 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning to 80 degrees in the afternoon. High temps in July and August can get to 110 degrees.

You can learn more at

Credits: Images courtesy of Topaz Mountain Adventures.
April 23rd, 2019
Back in October 2010, Prince William famously proposed to Kate Middleton with the distinctive sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring once worn by his late mother, Princess Diana. At the time, the prince said that popping the question with that ring was “my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement."

Only recently, however, we've learned that Prince William's sapphire ring proposal was made possible by the selfless act of his younger brother, Prince Harry.

You see, after their mom died tragically in 1997, the boys, then 15 and 12, were given an opportunity to select a keepsake from Diana's possessions.

Princess Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, revealed in an Amazon Prime documentary The Diana Story that William went first and picked the Cartier watch his mom received as a 21st birthday present from her father. Then Harry picked the sapphire ring, telling Burrell at the time, "I remember when I held mummy's hand when I was a small boy... that ring always hurt me because it was so big."

Diana's ring, which consisted of 14 diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire, would remain in Harry's possession for the next 12-plus years. (Replica, above, has 16 accent stones.)

In late 2010, William broke the news to his brother that he was about to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Kate.

According to Burrell, Harry said to his brother, "Wouldn’t it be fitting if she had mummy’s ring? Then one day that ring will be sat on the throne of England."

William accepted his brother's generous offer.

"Harry gave up his precious treasure," said Burrell. "His one thing he kept from his mother, he gave to his brother. That’s selfless, kind, and exactly who Diana was.”

Soon after, William popped the question to Kate while the couple vacationed in Kenya. In explaining the significance of the ring, William said at the the time, "It’s very special to me. As Kate’s very special to me now, it was right to put the two together.”

Seven years later, Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle with a ring that incorporated two diamonds from Princess Diana's personal collection. He said the diamonds were included "to make sure she's with us on this crazy journey together."

If not for Harry's benevolence, Duchess Meghan of Sussex could very well be wearing the sapphire ring now adorning the finger of her sister-in-law, Duchess Kate of Cambridge.

Credit: Lady Diana engagement ring replica by Ann Porteus from Tasmania, Australia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex by Mark Jones [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge by Frankie Fouganthin [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
April 22nd, 2019
The largest blue diamond ever discovered in Botswana — a brilliant 20.46-carat oval gem with Fancy Deep Blue color and VVS2 clarity — was unveiled last week by the state-run Okavango Diamond Company.

"It is incredibly unusual for a stone of this color and nature to have come from Botswana. [It's] a once-in-a-lifetime find," said Okavango's managing director Marcus ter Haar.

The gem, which was cut from a 41.11-carat rough diamond sourced at the Orapa mine, was named "The Okavango Blue" to honor the world heritage site known as the Okavango Delta. The lush delta is the home to hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lions, leopards, giraffes and rhinos.

Okavango Diamond Company will be promoting The Okavango Blue in the lead-up to its sale at the end of 2019. While the company did not reveal what The Okavango Blue might be worth, a similar diamond sold at a Christie's auction in 2016 may hold the answer.

The Cullinan Dream, a 24.18-carat intense blue diamond with a VS2 clarity rating, sold for $25.4 million at Christie's New York in June of 2016. Based on that performance, one might presume The Okavango Blue has the potential to yield about $1 million per carat.

“From the first moment we saw the diamond, it was clear we had something very special,” said the managing director. “Everyone who has viewed the 20-carat polished diamond has marveled at its unique coloration, which many see as unlike any blue stone they have seen before.”

Blue diamonds are extraordinarily rare, owing their color to trace amounts of boron in the diamond crystal lattice.

Despite its tiny size, Botswana is one of the world's leading producers of top-quality diamonds. Botswana's Karowe mine, for instance, was the source of the 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona — the second-largest rough diamond ever discovered. Diamonds are Botswana's main source of income and account for about 80% of its exports. Okavango Diamond Company is responsible for marketing 15% of the country's diamond production.

"Consumers can purchase Botswana diamonds with a sense of pride knowing that these diamonds are improving the lives of the people of Botswana,” said Okavango chief financial officer Lipalesa Makepe.

Credits: Images courtesy of Okavango Diamond Company.
April 19th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Elliot Lurie and the Looking Glass perform their 1972 chart-topper, "Brandy," a song about a barmaid in a harbor town who wears a very sentimental piece of neckwear as a constant reminder of the sailor who won her heart.

Lurie sings, "Brandy wears a braided chain / Made of finest silver from the North of Spain / A locket that bears the name / Of the man that Brandy loved."

Brandy fell in love with the sailor on a summer day when he arrived with gifts from far away. But, he also made it clear that he couldn't stay because no harbor could be his home. He tells Brandy that his life, his lover, his lady is the sea.

Since its release in the early 1970s, "Brandy" has been the subject of a spirited debate. Some music historians speculated that the hapless heroine, Brandy, is based on the legend of Mary Ellis, a New Jersey spinster who fell in love with a sea captain in the late 18th century.

She was promised marriage, and Ellis waited for her captain until her death, but he never returned. This story may have caught the ears of four students of Rutgers University, which is just two miles from Mary Ellis’s final resting place. These students ultimately became the founding members of the Looking Glass in 1969.

The story sounds compelling, but Lurie, who penned the tune, has refuted any link to Mary Ellis. The song, he said, is based on the name of his high school sweetheart, "Randy."

"Brandy" soared straight to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been used in the soundtracks of numerous films, including Charlie's Angels (2000).

Interestingly, "Brandy" was originally buried on the "B" side of the Looking Glass song, "Don't It Make You Feel Good." The group has to thank Washington, D.C., program director Harv Moore for giving the "B" side heavy airplay and creating a phenomenon that would spread nationwide.

Moore noted that when the Top 40 station WPGC AM/FM started playing "Brandy" in one-hour rotations for two days, "the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree."

Please check out the video of the Looking Glass performing "Brandy." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"
Written by Elliot Lurie. Performed by The Looking Glass.

There's a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes

And there's a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin' whiskey down
They say, Brandy, fetch another round
She serves them whiskey and wine

The sailors say: "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea"

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name
Of the man that Brandy loved

He came on a summer's day
Bringin' gifts from far away
But he made it clear he couldn't stay
No harbor was his home

The sailors say: "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"

Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes
When he told his sailor stories
She could feel the ocean fall and rise
She saw its ragin' glory
But he had always told the truth, Lord, he was an honest man
And Brandy does her best to understand

At night when the bars close down
Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who's not around
She still can hear him say

She hears him say "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"
It is, yes it is,
He said, "Brandy, you're a fine girl" (you're a fine girl)
"What a good wife you would be" (such a fine girl)
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"

Credit: Screen capture via
April 18th, 2019
Style icon, cover girl, runway model and reality star Kendall Jenner dished to on Tuesday that when it comes to picking an engagement ring, she'd rather be surprised by her boyfriend than make the selection herself. She did add, however, that she'd likely drop him a bunch of hints along the way so he gets it right.

When asked, "Are you someone who wants to pick out your engagement ring or do you want to be totally surprised?" the statuesque 23-year-old said, "I mean, I kind of love the idea of letting the man pick it and having it be that pretty thing that he kind of thought of himself."

There's something "kind of romantic" behind the idea that her boyfriend was involved in the design concept of the ring, she said. "But at the same time, I'm the type of person that would give hints and be like, 'I kind of want this.'"

When the interviewer suggested that Jenner could DM (direct message) pics of potential rings to her boyfriend, NBA pro Ben Simmons, the star of Keeping Up With the Kardashians chuckled and said, "Totally."

With a huge social media following, including 108 million on Instagram alone, Kendall is a high-profile lifestyle influencer of young women from coast to coast and around the world.

When asked if there is one piece of jewelry she can't leave the house without, Jenner explained she'll usually throw on a pair of earrings if she's feeling "a bit spare."

"I think that's the easiest thing to get away with if you don't want to wear too much," she said.

Jenner also revealed that she and her siblings have their eyes on the extensive jewelry and watch collection of their mother, Chris Jenner.

Said Kendall Jenner, "We're all kind of waiting for one day for her to feel generous and be like, 'You guys want this stuff?'”

Credit: Image by [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
April 17th, 2019
When the legendary "Jonker V" diamond appeared at Christie's Hong Kong in May of 2017 with a pre-sale estimate of $2.2 million to $3.6 million, some gem experts expected the stunning 25.27-carat emerald-cut gem to yield much more — and they were right.

Surpassing the high estimate by nearly 50%, the Jonker V was purchased by an undisclosed buyer for $5.3 million.

On May 15, the Jonker V, one of 13 magnificent diamonds cleaved from the famous 726-carat Jonker rough more than 85 years ago, is set to make an encore appearance at Christie's Geneva. The gem boasts a D-color and VVS2 clarity grading. In its rough state, the Jonker V weighed 54.19 carats, more than twice its finished weight.

Surprisingly, the auction house's pre-sale estimate for the current offering reverts to the range promoted in 2017. Christie's believes the May 2019 hammer price will be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million to $3.5 million. A representative from Christie's told us that the estimate reflects the current market value for a gem of that size and provenance.

She noted that a bidding war among buyers in 2017 was likely responsible for inflating the Jonker V's sale price well beyond the high estimate. We'll be watching to see if another bidding war escalates the price in Geneva next month.

What makes the Jonker V so special is that it carries a rich history that connects many of the jewelry-industry's most colorful characters.

On January 17, 1934, a rough diamond the size of a hen’s egg was pulled from a bucket of gravel at the Elandsfontein claim, 4.8 kilometers south of the Premier Mine in South Africa. The massive 726-carat rough diamond with a frosty ice-white color would take on the surname of Jacob Jonker, the 62-year-old digger who owned the claim.

At the time, the Jonker was the fourth-largest gem-quality rough diamond ever unearthed. Diamond experts speculated whether the 63.5mm x 31.75mm Jonker and the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond had once been conjoined, as their respective cleaved faces seemed to match up perfectly. The Cullinan Diamond had been discovered at the nearby Premier Mine 19 years earlier.

The Jonker rough was acquired by De Beers chairman Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and subsequently caught the attention of diamond dealer Harry Winston, who purchased the rough stone in 1935 for £75,000, the equivalent of £9 million ($11.7 million) today. The Jonker diamond earned celebrity status when it was displayed during the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in May of that same year.

The next year, Winston contracted Lazare Kaplan to cut 13 finished gems from the original rough. The Jonker finished diamonds were each named with a Roman numeral, in size order. The largest was the Jonker I at 142.90 carats and the smallest was the Jonker XIII at 3.53 carats. According to a May 1954 article in The New Yorker, Kaplan earned $30,000 for the prestigious assignment (that's equivalent to about $280,000 today).

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.
April 16th, 2019
Yasushi “Yassan” Takahashi, the GPS artist who famously zigzagged 4,500 miles across Japan in 2010 to spell out a marriage proposal for his girlfriend, is back in the news — thanks to Google.

When the Tokyo resident completed his six-month journey from the island of Hokkaido to the shores of Kagoshima, he uploaded his route to Google Earth. The result were the words "Marry Me" in all capital letters punctuated by a heart. The rendering looked like a global-scale version of an Etch-a-Sketch.

Leaving his girlfriend and job behind, the artist embarked on the trip via foot, bicycle, car and ferry, often fighting bad weather and spending nights in the back of his vehicle. In the end, the endeavor was well worth it, as Yassan had a new bride, a Guinness World Record for the largest GPS drawing in history and an experience of a lifetime. He said he got to see the Japan that he only knew in books.

Hassan's girlfriend, Natsuki, told the China Morning Post, "It was a big surprise. I felt the greatest love in the world."

Although it's been nearly nine years since Yassan set off on his monumental trip, the GPS artist is back in the news because Google recently featured him in the "Our Stories" section of its official website.

In a piece focusing on the growing number of people who are creating GPS art with Google Earth and Google Street View, the internet behemoth explained how runners and cyclists use it as a motivation to change up their routes. Others are enjoying the challenge of creating GPS-generated drawings of everything, from pigeons and dinosaurs to fictional characters.

The only limitation to this fascinating fusion of drawing and travel, says Google, is what people can dream up and where their feet can take them.

Please check out the short video that neatly chronicles Yassan's adventure...

Credits: Screen captures via
April 15th, 2019
Back in November, luxury jeweler Laurence Graff revealed that the massive 1,109-carat rough diamond named Lesedi La Rona had yielded 67 "satellite" diamonds ranging in size from just under 1 carat to more than 100 carats and teased that "a principal diamond of unprecedented size" was still in the works.

Last week, Graff finally unveiled that principal diamond — a 302.37-carat square emerald-cut stunner that is said to be the largest D-flawless gem ever certified by the Gemological Institute of America. The jeweler named the gem the "Graff Lesedi La Rona" and proclaimed it "one of the greatest diamond achievements in history."

"My love affair with diamonds is life-long, and crafting the Graff Lesedi La Rona has been an honor," the jeweler said in a statement. "This diamond is beyond words. We had an immense duty to cut the very, very best diamond imaginable from this rough. All our expertise, skill and accomplishment went into crafting this incredible diamond masterpiece, which is extraordinary in every way."

Graff explained that since his company had never analyzed a stone of such a prodigious size, a scanner had to be custom built, with brand new imaging software capable of probing its vast expanses.

At first blush, Graff's gemologists believed that a 300-carat principal diamond wasn't possible. However, using the new technology, the gemologists mapped the maze of imperfections and plotted which cuts would yield the largest and highest-clarity diamonds possible. In the final analysis, they were able to surpass the 300-carat mark with a perfect 302.37-carat principal diamond.

Discovered at the Lucara Karowe mine in Botswana in November 2015, the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona was the largest rough diamond recovered in more than 100 years and the second largest ever found. It was offered at auction in June of 2016, but failed to yield a buyer when the bidding topped out at $61 million, $9 million below the reserve price.

That same year, Graff had purchased the 373-carat rough diamond that was said to be a fractured chunk from the Lesedi La Rona. Having already studied the properties of the smaller chunk, Graff was ready to make a bid on the larger stone. In September of 2017, Graff secured the Lesedi La Rona for $53 million, $8 million less than the offer made at Sotheby's in 2016.

Graff reported that it took 18 months to complete the principal diamond. That included the initial cutting with precise lasers, followed by the shaping, faceting and polishing by Graff's skilled diamond artisans. All the diamonds derived from the original rough stone have been laser inscribed with the identifier “Graff, Lesedi La Rona."

Credits: Images courtesy of Graff.
April 12th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, the incomparable Neil Young searches for a soulmate in his 1971 chart-topping classic, "Heart of Gold."

Penned by Young, this song is about a man who has been unlucky in love. The protagonist of the story wonders if he's ever going to find someone who will cherish him unconditionally.

He sings, "I want to live, I want to give / I've been a miner for a heart of gold / It's these expressions I never give / That keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old."

Ranked #297 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs, “Heart of Gold” remains Canadian Neil Young’s only #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song also reached #1 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles list.

Interestingly, this ubiquitous song was a result of a couple of serendipitous events:

Young had suffered a back injury and, unable to stand for long periods to play his electric guitar, returned to his acoustic guitar and harmonica. “Heart of Gold” was one song that came out of those sessions. Second, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor happened to be in Nashville for a television appearance while Young was recording Harvest, the album on which “Heart of Gold” appears. The album's producer arranged for the high-profile artists to sing backup on Young's track.

"Heart of Gold" has been covered by more than 30 artists, including Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Tori Amos and Willie Nelson. Canada’s CBC radio named it the third best Canadian song of all time and it was included in the Eat, Pray, Love movie soundtrack.

Born in Toronto in 1945 to a sportswriter dad and quiz show panelist mom, Young contracted polio as a five year old. The disease damaged the left side of his body and led to seizures he would experience throughout his life.

Young idolized Elvis Presley and listened to rock 'n roll, rockabilly, doo-wop, R&B and country and western music on the radio. Young taught himself to play a plastic ukulele, and he would soon step up to a banjo ukulele and baritone ukulele. Young formed his first band, the Jades, while attending middle school and eventually played with several rock bands in high school. Music dominated his world, so he decided to drop out of school to pursue a musical career.

He formed the influential band Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills in 1966 and toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, starting in 1968.

Young is one of the few artists who had been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was first honored as a solo artist in 1995 and then as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997. In 2000, Rolling Stone named Young the 34th greatest rock 'n roll artist.

Please check out the video of Young's live performance of "Heart of Gold." The clip is taken from his 1971 appearance on the British TV show BBC In Concert.

"Heart of Gold"
Written and performed by Neil Young.

I want to live, I want to give
I've been a miner for a heart of gold
It's these expressions I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old

I've been to Hollywood, I've been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold
I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line
That keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old
Keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old

Keep me searching for a heart of gold
You keep me searching and I'm growing old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
I've been a miner for a heart of gold

Credit: Screen capture via
April 11th, 2019
The Boston Red Sox received their bling-tastic 2018 World Series championship rings prior to the team's home opener on Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park. Glistening with 185 gemstones weighing a total of 15 carats, the ring is a fitting tribute to what has been called a "team for the ages."

The dominant Red Sox of 2018 notched a franchise-record 108 wins during the regular season and then pummeled three postseason opponents — the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers — at an 11-3 clip to secure their fourth title since 2004.

The Jostens-designed rings commemorating the historic season are flush with gem-themed symbolism. For instance, the 185 gems represent the 162 regular season games, 14 post-season games and nine World Series titles now held by the Red Sox.

The iconic Boston "B" logo on the face of the 14-karat white gold ring is formed by 21 custom-cut genuine rubies, which represent the four World Series titles won by the Red Sox during the 17 seasons of Fenway Sports Group ownership. The logo is framed by 22 intricately set custom-cut blue sapphires, which represent the Red Sox’ 14 post-season games and eight home runs hit during the World Series against the Dodgers.

The 14 channel-set diamonds accenting the top of the ring — seven on each side — symbolize the total number of American League pennants won by the Red Sox since the franchise was established in 1901.

A cascade of 128 diamonds in two rows add to the brilliance of the ring, but also represent the 119 franchise-record wins in 2018 and the nine World Series titles.

Overall, the ring features 4.5 carats of diamonds, 6.5 carats of blue sapphires and 4.0 carats of rubies for a total gem weight of 15 carats.

The left side of the ring displays eight pennants featuring the years of previous Red Sox World Series titles. The ninth and largest pennant pays tribute to 2018's franchise-record wins and is punctuated by the famous double Sox logo. In another nod to the team's championship history, the depiction of 100 individual weathered bricks of Fenway Park form the background of each side panel to celebrate the centennial of the famed 1918 World Series Championship.

The name of each recipient appears on the ring's right side, rendered in the Red Sox jersey font. The ring belonging to Steve Pearce, the 2018 World Series MVP, showcases his jersey number 25 rendered in pavé-set diamonds. Pearce's name and jersey number frame an intricately detailed façade of Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

Highlighted on the Fenway façade are two historically important years — 1912 and 2018. The smaller of the two dates displays the year Fenway Park opened. That year, the team won 105 regular-season games — a record that stood for 105 seasons until it was broken in 2018 by a team that captured 108 regular season wins.

Inscribed on the interior of the ring is "10-28-18," the date of the World Series victory and the date the team's post-season slogan of "Do Damage" was changed to "Damage Done." In recognition of the exceptional contributions of the players and the coaching staff, the declaration of DAMAGE DONE appears on the interior alongside each of their signatures and nicknames.

The finishing touch on this championship ring is an expression on the palm crest that captures the talent of the 2018 Red Sox and their place in baseball lore: TEAM FOR THE AGES.

Credits: Images by Jostens via Twitter/Boston Red Sox.