Bride-to-Be Sells Her Engagement Ring to Make Ends Meet; Buyer Gives It Right Back

A New Zealand bride-to-be who was forced to sell her engagement ring in order to make ends meet has been overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and generosity of a stranger. The buyer — who happens to be a wedding officiant — gave it right back.

Angelique Bankhart had fallen on hard times and was devastated by the prospect of having to give up her three-stone diamond engagement ring, a ring she owned for only six months. Nevertheless, she took a photo of her precious keepsake and posted it to the Hamilton Buy'n'Sell Facebook page, along with this heart-wrenching caption: "My beautiful engagement ring is up for grabs, trying to make ends meet."

Bankhart immediately became so distraught with her decision to part with her ring that she avoided checking the responses to her post.

"I hadn't even looked - I didn't want to see if anyone wanted it," she told the New Zealand Herald.

Meanwhile, Chloe Boerema, a wedding officiant who works with couples daily and is intimately aware of the emotions that go into a piece of jewelry, took notice of the Buy'n'Sell post and knew instantly what she had to do.

"Angelique posted a photo of her beautiful ring and it really touched me because she was selling it to try to make ends meet," Boerema said. "She was in a bit of a tight situation that week, so I just messaged and said I was very happy to purchase it, but she had to keep the ring."

Bankhart was overwhelmed by Boerema's selfless act.

"It restored my faith in humanity - it really did," she said. "Words can't express how thankful I am."

The two women got to meet in person during an interview with a reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

"What does it mean to hang onto [the ring]?" the reporter asked Bankhart.

"Everything. Everything," she responded.

The fateful meeting of the two women is likely to develop into a lasting friendship. In just a few months, Bankhart and her partner will be taking their wedding vows and it looks like Boerema will be officiating.

Credits: Screen captures via nzherald.co.nz.

Nearly Identical Fancy Intense Blue Diamonds Set Auction Records One Day Apart

A 3.47-carat fancy intense blue diamond set an auction record last Wednesday at Sotheby's New York when it sold for $6.66 million. The per-carat price of $1.92 million was the highest ever paid for a diamond of that color grade, breaking a record set only one day earlier at Christie's New York. That short-lived record holder weighed 3.09 carats and sold for $5.37 million, or $1.74 million per carat.

It's an extraordinary coincidence that the top lots at the Christie's New York Magnificent Jewels sale on Tuesday and the Sotheby's New York Magnificent Jewels sale on Wednesday would boast similar shapes, weights and color grades. Each stone had been rated "fancy intense blue," which is the second-highest grade after "fancy vivid blue."

Both rectangular diamonds performed well above expectations. Christie's record-setter easily surpassed the pre-sale high estimate of $3 million. Sotheby's $6.66 million top lot more than doubled the auction house's pre-sale high estimate of $2.5 million.

The 3.47-carat record holder was originally purchased after World War II by a Pan Am pilot. He gifted it to a Pan Am stewardess, who would eventually become his wife.

Robin Wright, senior specialist with the jewelry department at Sotheby’s, told barrons.com that woman wore the ring for many decades — during a time when colored diamonds weren't as fashionable as they are now. A tiny chip in the stone is evidence of a near calamity when the ring was accidentally dropped into a garbage disposal in the 1970s.

After the woman died in 1990, the ring was passed down to her daughter. An appraisal from 2006 had pegged the value of the ring at $150,000.

Wright told barrons.com that the family was “extremely pleased” with the auction result. “It’s a real American story,” she said.

In 2016, the Oppenheimer Blue became the highest priced gemstone ever sold at auction. The 14.62-carat fancy vivid blue diamond, dubbed “the gem of gems,” fetched an astounding $57.5 million at Christie’s Geneva. The Oppenheimer Blue's record has since been eclipsed by the 59.6-carat "Pink Star," which sold for $71.2 million at Sotheby's Hong Kong in 2017.

“Fancy Vivid” is the ultimate color classification for blue diamonds. Those that display lower levels of color saturation may be rated “Fancy Intense,” “Fancy,” “Fancy Light” or “Light,” according to the Gemological Institute of America. Blue diamonds get their magnificent color from trace amounts of boron atoms in the diamond’s crystal structure.

Credits: Top image courtesy of Sotheby's. Second image courtesy of Christie's.

Diamond-Speckled Space Rocks Hold Compelling Evidence of 'Lost Planet,' Say Scientists

The diamond-speckled space rocks that exploded over northern Sudan and littered the Nubian desert in 2008 may hold evidence of a "lost planet," according to Swiss scientists.

Philippe Gillet, a planetary scientist at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, and his team believe that the diamonds present in the meteorite fragments hold compelling evidence of a solar system that looked a lot different than it does today.

Instead of hosting just eight planets, they say, our solar system likely teemed with a mix of planets and protoplanets that circled the sun and sometimes collided with each other, spewing space debris. A small piece of that debris eventually found its way to Earth and explode in our atmosphere on October 7, 2008.

More recent observations of the Almahata Sitta meteorites using an electron microscope revealed previously unnoticed scientific treasure.

Found trapped within the space-born diamonds were tiny inclusions, or imperfections, that supported the idea of the material's "lost planet" origin. The imperfections were made of chromite, phosphate and an iron-sulpher compound. Since the iron-sulpher compound can only form at pressures above 20 gigapascals (about the pressure seen 400 miles below the Earth's surface), the scientists believe that the material had to come from a large planetary body — perhaps a protoplanet that was capable of delivering similar pressure.

The scientists believe the size of the "lost planet" was similar in size to Mercury or Mars. The diamond inclusions provide "the first compelling evidence for such a large body that has since disappeared." Their findings were reported recently in the journal Nature Communications.

So, once again, diamonds are proving to be a scientist's best friend.

“What for a jeweler is an imperfection becomes for me something that is very useful because it tells me about the history of the diamond,” Gillet told the New York Times. “It has a chemistry which has no equivalent in the solar system today, in terms of planets."

The Almahata Sitta meteorites — 480 pieces in all — were classified as ureilite, a type of rare meteorite that is embedded with various minerals. Ureilite meteorites are extremely rare. In fact, less than 1% of meteorites have this classification. The Swiss scientists suggest that all ureilite asteroids may be remnants of the same long-lost protoplanet.

Credits: Planetary collision illustration by NASA; Astronomer Peter Jenniskens walks among pieces of the Almahata Sitta meteorite in 2008. Photograph by NASA.

Women From Coast to Coast Break Out Their Pearls to Honor Former First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who passed away last week at the age of 92, was rarely seen in public without her signature pearl necklace. Whether she was posing for an official White House portrait or helping her husband throw out the first pitch at a Houston Astros baseball game, pearls were always an essential part of her wardrobe.

During the presidency of her husband, George H.W. Bush, Barbara's favorite accessory became a symbol of the First Lady's class, elegance and Southern charm. They even earned the nickname "Barbara Bush Pearls." Her deputy press secretary Jean Becker said at the time that Barbara owned at least 10 different pearl necklaces.

Barbara famously wore a three-strand faux pearl necklace to her husband's inaugural ball in 1989. Women took note, and the demand for pearls — both simulated and cultured — went off the charts. Barbara donated the inaugural pearls to the Smithsonian Institution in 1990.

Over the past few days, women from coast to coast have been honoring the memory of the First Lady by wearing their own pearl necklaces and posting tributes on social media using the hashtag #PearlsforBarbara.

Known for her spitfire personality and wry sense of humor, Barbara once joked that she wore her three-strand pearl necklace so much that if she ever took it off her head would fall off.

While appearing on the Today show in 2015 with her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the self-effacing First Lady spoke about her affection for pearls.

"The pearls are to cover the wrinkles, which they no longer do," she said. "You can't wear pearls all over your face."

Some 1,500 guests — many wearing pearls — filled St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston for the former First Lady's funeral on Saturday. She was remembered as a loving wife, mother and friend with a devilish sense of humor.

Credits: First Lady Barbara Bush portrait (top) by David Valdez, White House Photo Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Portrait (bottom) by White House Photo Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Music Friday: Mark Collie's Girlfriend Wants 'Something With a Ring to It'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, country star Mark Collie's 1990 ditty, "Something With a Ring to It," tells the story of a guy who's been getting the cold shoulder from his girlfriend. She's got "diamonds in her eyes" and wants to take their relationship to the next level. He's got to make a commitment or risk losing her.

In the song, Collie explains that his "baby's playing hard to please" and he's pretty sure he knows why.

He sings, "She wants something with a ring to it / Like a church bell makes / Like a pretty white gown to wear / And some vows to take / She wants something with a ring to it / I think I understand / I'll have to put a ring on her finger / If I want to be her man."

Collie told SongFacts.com about the unusual origin of the song. He and Aaron Tippin had been struggling writers "kicking around Nashville trying to get a door open." One day, Tippin flippantly said, "We need to write something with a ring to it." Collie said, "OK." And the off-hand remark became the basis of the song.

The team originally wrote the song for country legend George Strait, but when he declined, the head of MCA Nashville, Tony Brown, advised Collie to record it himself and make it his debut single.

The song became the second track of Collie's debut album, Hardin County Line, and was covered two years later by Garth Brooks on his 1992 album, The Chase.

Born in Waynesboro, Tenn., in 1956, George Mark Collie is a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, producer and fundraiser for Type 1 diabetes research. He has released five albums, and 16 of his singles have hit the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Please check out the official video of "Something With a Ring to It." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Something With a Ring to It"
Written by Mark Collie and Aaron Tippin. Performed by Mark Collie.

My baby's playing hard to please
And I think I figured out what it is she wants from me
'Cause when I holder her close
When we go out at night
I can hardly see the moonlight
For the diamonds in her eyes

She wants something with a ring to it
Like a church bell makes
Like a pretty white gown to wear
And some vows to take

She wants something with a ring to it
I think I understand
I'll have to put a ring on her finger
If I want to be her man

My baby did but now she don't
And if I don't say I do it's a safe bet that she won't
Love me like she used to
When our love began
Why the only way to change her tune
Is with a wedding band?

She wants something with a ring to it
Like a church bell makes
Like a pretty white gown to wear
And some vows to take

She wants something with a ring to it
I think I understand
I'll have to put a ring on her finger
If I want to be her man

She wants something with a ring to it
Like a church bell makes
Like a pretty white gown to wear
And some vows to take

She wants something with a ring to it
I think I understand
I'll have to put a ring on her finger
If I want to be her man

She wants something with a ring to it
If I want to be her man

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Genuine Ruby Slippers Scored by Teen Contest Winner in 1940 Are on Sale for $6 Million

A pair of genuine Wizard of Oz ruby slippers scored by a Tennessee teenager 78 years ago for picking the 10 best movies of 1939 went on sale this week for a whopping $6 million. The iconic slippers, which were worn by Judy Garland during the filming of the beloved musical, have been called “the most famous pair of shoes in the world" and "the Holy Grail of movie memorabilia." The sale is being handled by auction house Moments in Time.

The slippers had been auctioned twice before. In 1988, the pair appeared at Christie's East and earned $150,000, plus a $15,000 commission. Then, in 2000, it fetched $600,000, plus a buyer's premium of $66,000, at the same auction house.

Amazingly, a 16-year-old named Roberta Jefferies Bauman won these fabulously valuable shoes for coming in second in a contest sponsored by the national Four Star Club. The slippers had been used by MGM for publicity purposes and then awarded to Bauman in 1940.

Bauman owned the shoes for 48 years, displaying them only for the benefit of children. She kept her pair of slippers — size 6B — in a box at her home until 1988, when she sold them at auction to a private collector. In 1989, they were put on exhibit at Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. Specifically, they were in the queue to the park's replica of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

MGM’s chief costume designer Gilbert Adrian created multiple pairs of ruby slippers for the film, but only five pairs are known to still exist.

The most-high-profile pair recently took an extended hiatus from its exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., while it undergoes extensive restoration. The conservation care was made possible by the generosity of thousands of backers who contributed nearly $370,000 in an October 2016 Kickstarter campaign. The funds were also earmarked for a state-of-the-art display case designed to protect the slippers from environmental harm.

The Smithsonian’s pair is the one Dorothy wore when she followed the Yellow Brick Road. The felt soles are heavily worn, suggesting these are the shoes primarily worn by the 16-year-old Garland during her dance sequences.

A second pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005; a third pair was purchased in 2012 by Leonardo DiCaprio and other benefactors on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' museum, which is scheduled to open next year; a fourth pair is believed to be owned by the heirs of Hollywood costumer Kent Warner; and the fifth pair has been the property of Los Angeles dealer Gary Zimet for the past 18 years. Those shoes carry a price tag of $6 million at Moments in Time. It's believed that this pair was the second or third worn by Garland in case the main pair was damaged.

Interestingly, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers are not made of ruby at all. In fact, the bugle beads that prop designers used to simulate ruby proved to be too heavy. The solution was to replace most of the bugle beads with sequins, 2,300 on each slipper. The butterfly-shaped bow on the front of each shoe is rimmed in 46 rhinestones, surrounding 42 bugle beads and three larger rectangular faux jewels, according to Footwear News.

In the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s slippers were made of silver. According to film lore, screenwriter Noel Langley recommended that they be changed to ruby red so they would stand out better on the yellow brick road when shot in brilliant Technicolor.

Credit: Smithsonian Ruby Slippers image by Chris Evans from same, United States (Ruby Red SlippersUploaded by SunOfErat) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Massive Stones Keep Coming: Botswana's Prolific Karowe Mine Yields 472-Carat Diamond

Lucara Diamond Corp. is continuing to recover massive diamonds at its Karowe Mine in Botswana. The latest find is a 472-carat "top light brown" gem that rates as the third-largest ever discovered at the prolific mine.

Karowe has assembled an impressive track record for producing the world’s largest fine diamonds. The 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona and the 813-carat Constellation were both mined there in November 2015. Four diamonds greater that 100 carats already have been recovered during the first quarter of 2018, according to the Vancouver-headquartered mining company.

The recent proliferation of massive stones at Karowe can be attributed to Lucara's investment in X-ray transmission (XRT) imaging technology. The new machines are calibrated to extract 100-carat-plus diamonds by monitoring X-ray luminescence, atomic density and transparency. Previously, large diamonds might have been mistaken as worthless rocks and pulverized by a crushing device.

“The early sampling work [at] Karowe was done with equipment that really was not optimal and they ended up breaking a lot of diamonds,” Chief Executive Officer Eira Thomas told Bloomberg.com. “When we went into commercial production we expected to do better, but we had no idea that the diamonds that were being broken were so much larger. ”

Interestingly, the largest diamond ever found at Karowe — the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona — was actually a chunk of a broken diamond. The other part weighed 373 carats.

The unnamed 472-carat rough diamond is expected to be sold alongside Lucara's other top finds of 2018 at the company's first Exceptional Stone Tender later this year.

Lucara's roster of extremely large stones have generated seven-figure paydays for the company. Lesedi La Rona was sold for $53 million; Constellation earned $63 million; and the chunk that broke off Lesedi La Rona delivered $17.5 million.

While brown-tinted diamonds tend to yield lower prices than colorless or fancy-colored diamonds, Thomas — also known as Canada's Queen of Diamonds — believes the extraordinary size of Lucara's newest find may alter the standard valuation process. She told Bloomberg.com that some manufacturers may actually choose to accentuate the color through polishing.

“They tend to command a lot of interest because there are a variety of views on what can be done with stones of that color,” said Thomas.

The 472-carat diamond currently occupies the 31st position on the Wikipedia list of the largest rough diamonds of all time. Lesedi La Rona rates #2 and the Constellation is #7.

Credit: Image courtesy of Lucara Diamond Corp.

N.H. Granny Gives Up Her Own Engagement Ring So Young Waiter Can Propose to His Girlfriend

A New Hampshire granny has earned internet stardom after generously gifting her own diamond engagement ring to a young waiter so he could propose to his girlfriend.

"It was just the right thing to do," Concord native Sharon Heinemann told local TV station WMUR. "I just did it, you know. He loved her, and he didn’t have a ring."

Last week, Heinemann and her two sisters ventured to Boston to see rock star Pink in concert. Before the show, they stopped in at Legal Sea Foods and struck up a conversation with their waiter, Mattheus Gomes.

Sister Ginny Krowe explained: "Mattheus, a very handsome gentleman, waited on us and served us, and I got to chatting with him and asked him if he had a girlfriend."

Gomes told the ladies that he was deeply in love with his girlfriend, Maria, who also worked at the restaurant.

He also revealed that he was planning a proposal, but he couldn't afford a ring.

Without hesitation Heinemann plucked the engagement ring from her finger and handed it to Gomes.

The waiter called for his girlfriend and got down on one knee.

Krowe recounted the proposal: “He says, ‘Maria, I love you. Will you marry me?' She was crying. She says, ‘Yes, yes, Mattheus.'”

Later on, Maria got to meet the woman who helped make her dreams come true. The two ladies posed with their rings — Maria proudly wearing her new diamond engagement ring and Sharon wearing her diamond wedding band.

Mattheus and Maria have already invited the three New Hampshire sisters to their wedding. When a reporter for WMUR asked who will be attending, all three enthusiastically raised their hands.

Legal Sea Foods made the day even more special by picking up the lunch tab for the sisters.

When asked how she felt about giving up her engagement ring to help the young couple, Heinemann said she felt "immensely happy. It made me feel good."

Heinemann and her sisters are now internet stars, as their story has been picked up by top news outlets, such as Yahoo!, The Sun, The Daily Mail and ABC.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/WMUR-TV.

Yale's Peabody Museum Showcases Stunning, Rarely Seen Formations of California Gold

One of the world's finest collections of California gold made its debut Saturday at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Conn. The exhibition features 23 natural formations of gold, some of which resemble leaves, coral and skeletons.

“The Mockingbird” measures 2.5 x 2.0 x 1.0 inches and features skeletal octahedral gold crystals stacked on minor quartz crystals. It was discovered at the Mockingbird Mine, Mariposa County, California.

Most were collected over the past 25 years, although two specimens of crystallized gold were mined in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush.

“The Eagle,” which measures 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.0 inches, was mined in the 1850s in Placer County, Calif. It features clusters of octahedral hopper gold crystals.

“This collection is incredible,” said Richard Kissel, the Peabody’s director of exhibitions and public programs. “The gold specimens on view are of superior quality — impressive physically and stunning aesthetically. The exhibit highlights the specimens’ beauty while offering insight into the history and science of gold mining.”

“Colorado Quartz 2” measures 2.37 x 1.6 x 1.0 inches. The stacked gold exhibits sharp octahedral crystals with minor quartz. This specimen was found at the Harvard Mine in Tuolumne County, Calif.

The Peabody Museum brings the California Gold Rush to life by presenting historical instruments and artifacts. These include a mining pan filled with gold dust, a balance for weighing specimens, an instrument for measuring the velocity of air in mines to ensure proper ventilation, a field chemical lab called a “blowpipe kit,” and a silver candlestick decorated with mining-related symbols that miners used for illumination while underground.

“The Little Flame” is a crystallized leaf gold that weighs 13.05 troy ounces. It was found at the Eagle’s Nest Mine in Placer County, Calif.

“This is one of the finest collections of gold specimens ever put on display anywhere in the world,” said Jay Ague, the Peabody’s curator-in-charge of mineralogy and meteoritics.

“Colorado Quartz 1” measures 7.0 x 5.5 x 5.0 inches and weighs 58.68 troy ounces. The piece has gold plates on and in quartz, octahedral gold crystals and dendritic gold. Its origin is the Colorado Quartz Mine in Mariposa County, Calif.

The exhibition also gives Yale University an opportunity to remind visitors of the school's interesting connection to the California Gold Rush. Seven years before gold was discovered in the American River at Sutter’s Mill, Yale professor James Dwight Dana had completed a tour of California’s Sacramento Valley. A pioneering geologist and mineralogist, Dana identified the region as a potential source of gold, remarking that the rocks there “resemble in many parts the gold bearing rocks of other regions: but the gold, if any there be, remains to be discovered.”

The gold specimens and artifacts are on loan to the Peabody from The Mineral Trust. The collection had previously appeared at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Credits: Photos by Harold Moritz, courtesy of Yale University.

N.C.-Sourced Star Rubies Could Yield a Giant Windfall for Family of Humble Rockhound

The Mountain Star Ruby Collection, a grouping of four museum-quality gemstones discovered near Asheville, N.C., by self-described rockhound Jarvis Wayne Messer, is being offered for sale by Guernsey’s in New York City. The four star rubies weigh a total of 342 carats and display six-ray asterism.

The auction house will be receiving sealed bids through June 5 and the lot could yield an eight-figure windfall for Messer's widow, family and investors.

Messer, who made his living as a fishing guide, was constantly searching for rare and unusual stones in his native Appalachia.

“I started off as a pebble pup at 6 and worked myself up to a rock hound at 13,” Messer told the Associated Press in 1994. “What began as a hobby led me to one of the finest jewels in the world.”

In 1990, while searching an ancient stream bed in a still-secret location, Messer made the unprecedented discovery of four star rubies, including the 139.43-carat Appalachian Star Ruby and the 86.54-carat Smoky Mountain Two Star Ruby, which displays distinctive stars on both the front and back of the stone.

“When I found the [Appalachian Star Ruby] I did not realize how important a stone it would become,” he said in the 1994 interview. “I knew it was a ruby and a beautiful specimen. But we did not know what we had until we started to cut the stone. I realized what we had found when I made my first cut. The star just popped right out. Right from the beginning I could see it portrayed attributes that no other stone has.”

Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger told The Jeweler Blog that the needles are so bright that they "look like neon."

In 1992, the Appalachian Star Ruby became a top attraction at London’s Natural History Museum, where it drew 150,000 visitors in just four weeks, according to Ettinger. The museum's press release described the gem as the "world's most impressive star ruby."

The Appalachian Star Ruby has been compared favorably to the Smithsonian’s Rosser Reeves Star Ruby, which is one carat lighter. Ettinger explained that Messer’s ruby may be superior to the Rosser Reeves because it has six prominent needles, whereas the Rosser Reeves displays only five prominent needles and one broken needle.

After the exhibition, the gem returned to North Carolina, where it rejoined the rest of the collection and languished for more than a decade.

After Messer passed away in 2008 at the age of 52, his widow and family considered selling the collection, but lacked the funds to get the proper gemological testing and documentation. With the help of friends and investors, the stones found their way to the Gemological Institute of America in August of 2011.

Appraisals of the collection have put the value between $91 million and $120 million.

When gem enthusiasts discuss the finest star rubies, they generally invoke the famed gemfields of Burma and Sri Lanka. That Messer sourced his star rubies in North Carolina makes their story that much more remarkable. The collection includes the Appalachian Star Ruby: 139.40 carats, Smokey Mountain Two-Star Ruby: 86.54 carats, Promise Star Ruby: 64.16 carats and Misty Star Ruby: 52.36 carats.

Ettinger told The Jeweler Blog that he's already gotten serious inquiries from "top museum people."

He has yet to set a pre-sale estimate for The Mountain Star Ruby Collection. The four-stone lot will have no minimum reserve.

"There is not a lot of precedence on this," he said. "They will sell for what they sell for. We will do our best."

The Sunrise Ruby currently holds the record for the most expensive ruby ever sold at auction. The 25.6-carat gem yielded $30.4 million. The most expensive gem ever sold at auction is the 59.6-carat Pink Star diamond, which had a hammer price of $71 million.

Credits: The Mountain Star Ruby Collection images courtesy of Guernsey’s.