Royal Fine Jewelers Blog

Royal Fine Jewelers Blog
October 20th, 2020
Located in North Carolina's Cabarrus County, the Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. It was 1799 when a young Conrad Reed scooped up an unusual yellow rock near his family's farm at Little Meadow Creek. For three years, the glittery 17-pound oddity served as a doorstop at the Reed house.



Conrad's father, John, finally decided to take the stone to a Fayetteville jeweler in 1802 and learned that his son's find was actually a giant gold nugget. In today's dollars, the stone was worth more than $517,000.

News of Reed's discovery soon led to a rush of gold production on the Reed property, in nearby counties and in other southern states. At its peak, gold mining was second only to farming as the top employer in North Carolina.

Today, the Reed Gold Mine is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is managed by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which offers guided tours of restored underground tunnels that date back to the 1830s. A reconstructed stamp mill — a machine that crushes ore to extract metal from rock — is demonstrated daily. The stamp mill technology dates back to the 1890s.

In addition, visitors get learn how to pan for gold. The last two panning days of the fall season are October 24 and October 31. Tickets may be obtained at the site's gift shop and are sold on a first come, first served basis on the day of the event.

The visitor center features exhibits on gold, the geology of gold, mining technology and equipment. An orientation film describes North Carolina’s gold mining industry, and a library features materials on gold mining and the Reed family genealogy.

According to the mine's website, John Reed had been a Hessian soldier, who left the British army near the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Reed and his family decided to settle in the lower Piedmont of North Carolina, where they raised corn and wheat. Reed's humble lifestyle would change dramatically with the discovery of gold on his property.

Reed formed a partnership with three local men, who supplied the equipment and manpower to dig for gold in the creek bed near his home. The men mined mainly during the off-season when they were not farming. Before the end of their first year of operation, a slave named Peter had unearthed a 28-pound nugget.

"Placer," or creek, gold mining soon led to underground mining. The locals learned that gold was often present in the veins of white quartz rock. A very wealthy John Reed passed away in 1845 at the age of 88. The last underground mining at Reed's property took place in 1912.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the historic site is operating at 50% occupancy. All visitors are required to wear face coverings and respect social distancing and hand-washing requirements.

Underground mining tours cost $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 5-12 and seniors. Panning enthusiasts will pay $3 per pan. The panning season runs from April 1 to October 31. Hours of operation are 9 a.m to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The Reed Gold Mine is located at 9621 Reed Mine Road, Midland, NC 28107; (704) 721-4653. See the website here.

Credit: Image via North Carolina Historic Sites website.
October 19th, 2020
Queen Elizabeth II is wearing a spectacular sapphire ensemble in an official portrait released by the Government of Canada. The 94-year-old monarch, who was separately proclaimed the Queen of Canada when she ascended to the British throne in 1953, is bedecked in a famous series of pieces called “The King George VI Victorian Suite.”



Included in the suite is a necklace, earrings, bracelet and tiara. Dangling from her ears and neckline is glittering sapphire jewelry gifted to Elizabeth by her father, King George VI, as a wedding day gift nearly 73 years ago.

The mid-19th century necklace was originally designed with 18 sapphire clusters, framed by round diamonds and spaced by an individually diamond. In 1952, the necklace was shortened by four links.

Seven years later, the Queen took the largest cluster and had it transformed into a hanging pendant, which doubles as a brooch. Each pendant earring highlights a large teardrop-shaped sapphire surrounded by smaller round diamonds. All the gemstones are set in gold.

In the early 1960s, the Queen added a matching sapphire bracelet to the ensemble.



On her head is the "Belgian Sapphire Tiara," which the Queen purchased in 1963. The headpiece, which is sometimes called the “Victorian Sapphire Tiara,” had been refashioned from a 19th century necklace once owned by Princess Louise of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (born Princess Louise of Belgium).



In the photo, the Queen's white dress is adorned with two important pieces of Canadian insignia: the Sovereign of the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit. The Order of Canada is Canada's highest civilian honor and The Order of Military Merit recognizes distinctive merit and exceptional service displayed by the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Queen is its highest-ranking member.

The new portrait of the Queen will be displayed in government buildings, schools and embassies in tribute to Canada's ties to the Queen through the Commonwealth.

The official photo was taken at Windsor Castle in the UK by photographer Chris Jackson, who proudly shared it on his Instagram account along with this caption: "It was an incredible honor to have the opportunity to photograph HM Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the Canadian Government for her official Canadian Portrait that has been released today. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Canada many times now with members of the Royal Family and have the fondest memories of the people I’ve met and the incredible, vast and beautiful country that I’ve been privileged to get to know a small part of over the years."

The Queen broke the record as the longest-reigning British monarch in September 2015. She had ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, upon her father's death at the age of 56. The Queen received the sapphire suite when she wed Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on November 20, 1947. The Prince turned 99 on June 10.

Credits: Photo of Her Majestic Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, by Chris Jackson/Getty Images, courtesy of the Government of Canada. Official Canadian Portrait 2019 © All Rights Reserved.
October 16th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Bobbie Gentry's autobiographical "Chickasaw County Child" tells the story of the four-time Grammy winner's unlikely rise to fame despite her hardscrabble upbringing in rural Mississippi.



In the song, Gentry's mom assures the young girl that she's gonna be somebody someday. There's nothing in the world can hold her back because she's got style. The pretty girl radiates confidence and proudly wears her favorite accessory, a faux ruby ring.

Gentry sings, "Sportin' her checkered feedsack dress / A ruby ring from a Cracker Jack box / Shufflin' on down that gravel road / Barefooted and chunkin' rocks."

Later in the song, we learn that her mom's assessment was right on the mark, as the young woman — supplied with a tin can of blackstrap sorghum molasses and a Farmers' Almanac — heads to California to pursue her dreams.

The song opens a window into the life of Gentry, who was actually raised — not by her mother — but by her paternal grandparents in a home without electricity or plumbing. Gentry's parents were divorced shortly after she was born, and her mom had moved to California. Legend has it that her grandmother traded one of the family's milk cows for a neighbor's piano so the youngster could study music. Later, Gentry lived with her dad in Greenwood, MS, and learned to play the guitar and banjo.

At age 13, Gentry reunited with her mom in California. For a short time, they performed as a duo. Gentry attended UCLA as a philosophy major and supported herself by performing at nightclubs and country clubs. Later, she transferred to the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, where she took classes in composition, music theory and arranging. In 1967, at the age of 25, Gentry recorded a demo of "Ode to Billie Joe," which she took to Capitol Records. The song would top the charts and become an international hit.

Released in 1967 as the third track of Gentry's debut studio album, Ode to Billie Joe, "Chickasaw County Child" became the signature song for the artist who would continue to celebrate her Mississippi heritage.

Trivia: When the album Ode to Billie Joe peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Top LP's chart, the album it displaced for the top position was the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Please check out the audio track of Gentry singing "Chickasaw County Child." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Chickasaw County Child"
Written and performed by Bobbie Gentry.

Just outside of Delta country
Where the bitter weeds growin' wild
Born seven miles outside o' Woodland
Was a Chickasaw County child

An' Poppa done brung us some peppermint candy
Momma fixed a custard pie
Bought her a store-bought doll from Jackson
She's an apple of everyone's eye

Chickasaw County child
Is gonna be okay
Chickasaw County child
You gonna be somebody someday

Sportin' her checkered feedsack dress
A ruby ring from a Cracker Jack box
Shufflin' on down that gravel road
Barefooted and chunkin' rocks

Momma said "Look-a here, Dumplin'
You'll go far 'cause you got style"
Ain't nothin' in this world gonna hold her back
Her pretty Chickasaw County child

Chickasaw County child
Is gonna be okay
Chickasaw County child
You gonna be somebody someday

Leavin' the county a week from Monday
Ain't got much to pack
A tin can of blackstrap sorghum molasses
And a Farmers' Almanac

Momma done made her a brand new dress
Made of blue polka dotted silk
Two postcards from California
An' a gallon of buttermilk

Chickasaw County child
Is gonna be okay
Chickasaw County child
You gonna be somebody someday

You gonna be somebody someday
You gonna be somebody someday
You gonna be somebody someday


Credit: Image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
October 15th, 2020
After a year of upheaval, holiday season 2020 will see a surge in demand for diamond gifts that symbolize hope, love and celebration, according to the Natural Diamond Council's 2020 “Holiday Trend Report.”



Compiled by the NDC's Style Collective, an international team of fashion experts and influencers, the report spotlights four themes that will be driving diamond-jewelry purchases.

They include “The Statement Earring,” “Precious & Personal,” “High-Octane Color” and “Organic & Earthy Engagement and Commitment Rings.”

The NDC has redefined traditional diamond moments by emphasizing how diamonds are not solely the purview of romantic interests or formal occasions. The NDC is promoting a more contemporary approach to the diamond dream, with diamond jewelry being an essential part of meaningful moments, both big and small.

The NDC influencers believe contemporary women want gifts with lasting value and significance, but they also want what’s new, fun and fashionable. The Council has been targeting its advertising to 21- to 45-year-olds with household incomes of $75,000 or more.

The Statement Earring is the season’s style signifier, claims the NDC.

“Everyone needs one statement diamond design in their wardrobe,” the report states. “It should be a feel-good jewel and a power piece, and something that makes you feel totally glamorous and beautiful. This season, that jewel is the diamond statement earring.”

The NDC notes that statement earrings should no longer be reserved for big events. Instead, the diamond earring is a fashionable jewel that can be worn every day.

“A good earring can transform any look – and never more so than in the age of Zoom when the world sees you in a tiny on-screen box,” says NDC influencer Rachel Garrahan, who is the Jewelry and Watch Director at British Vogue.

The theme Precious & Personal is perfectly represented by diamond-studded letters or words in a range of shapes and sizes. Each letter or phrase holds a sentimental quality that makes for highly personalized gifting.

“The sentimental jewels express love, friendship or emotion,” writes the NDC. “The jewelry may symbolize a moment, a memory or a bond. It’s a lasting gift that will never go out of style.”

High-Octane Color adds a youthful, whimsical element to traditional diamond jewelry. Diamonds set in vibrant enamel and ceramic designs are playful, contemporary and stylish.

“The bright colors and shiny smooth surfaces give the stones a contemporary edge and vibrant new energy,” notes the NDC. “These are diamonds like you have never seen them before.”

“The new colorful styles range from super sophisticated designs with important diamonds to fun and fashionable jewels with smaller stones for a hint of sparkle,“ adds influencer Jill Newman, a contributing editor at Town & Country.

Organic & Earthy Engagement and Commitment Rings are presented as alternatives to classic, white diamond rings. Consisting of rough stones that are understated and unique, these items reveal the natural side of precious diamonds.

“This season’s trends offer something for everyone, but are particularly appealing to young, first-time diamond buyers,” says Jill Newman, NDC’s editor-at-large. “It’s a modern, contemporary mix that we hope will inspire consumers to think outside the box when it comes to diamond jewelry.”

The complete 2020 Holiday Trend Report can be found here…

Credit: Image courtesy of the Natural Diamond Council. Diamond earrings by Boucheron.
October 14th, 2020
"The Spirit of the Rose" — a 14.83-carat fancy vivid purple-pink diamond that's so special it has its own website — is expected to fetch up to $38 million when it hits the auction block at Sotheby's Geneva on November 11.



Sourced in 2017 at Alrosa’s Ebelyakh deposit in Yakutia, Russia, the oval-shaped sparkler was cut from a rough stone that weighed 27.85 carats and remains the largest pink diamond ever mined in Russia. The smooth-surfaced alluvial stone measured 22.47 mm x 15.69 mm x 10.9 mm.



The rough diamond was named “Nijinsky” after the famed Russian ballet dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky. In keeping with the dance theme, Alrosa chose the name “The Spirit of the Rose” for the finished stone to honor the famous 1911 ballet of the same name. In French, it was called “Le Spectre de la Rose,” and its primary dancers were Tamara Karsavina and Nijinsky.

The Gemological Institute of America graded The Spirit of the Rose as internally flawless with excellent polish and very good symmetry. It’s the largest vivid purple-pink diamond ever graded by the GIA. Sotheby's has set the pre-sale estimate at $23 million to $38 million.

If it performs as expected, The Spirit of the Rose will join an elite group of high-profile pink diamonds, including the 59.60-carat “CTF Pink Star” ($71.2 million), the 18.96-carat "Winston Pink Legacy” ($50.3 million), the 14.93-carat “Pink Promise” ($32.4 million), the 15.38-carat “Unique Pink” ($31.5 million) and the 16.08-carat “Sweet Josephine” ($28.5 million).

“A large fancy vivid purple-pink, internally flawless, with perfect visual characteristics such as this one, enters the market, literally, once in a generation,” Eden Rachminov, chairman of the Fancy Color Research Foundation, told diamondworld.net in August 2019 after examining the gem. “The stone has the most desirable pink undertone dispersed perfectly, and looks much bigger in relation to its actual weight.”

“In the world of colored diamonds, pink diamonds are some of the most treasured, especially at larger sizes,” John King, GIA chief quality officer, said in a video that appears on a special website created for The Spirit of the Rose. “It’s unusual to see pink diamonds in the market over one carat today. Weighing more than 14 carats is exceptional. The color is an amazing specimen. Being also internally flawless makes it truly a unique stone.”

The Spirit of the Rose is currently on exhibit in Hong Kong, after which it will head to Singapore and Taipei before returning to Geneva ahead of the November 11 main event.

Already the world’s biggest diamond producer in terms of sheer output, Russian mining company Alrosa is looking to become a major player in the category of gem-quality colored diamonds. Alrosa’s push is coming at a time when Rio Tinto’s Argyle Mine in Western Australia — the world’s primary source for pink, red and blue diamonds — is scheduled to close.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
October 13th, 2020
Highlighted by a 396.30-carat pleochroic kunzite, the “Picasso Kunzite Necklace“ is the next stop on our virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Pleochroism is an optical phenomenon in which a gemstone presents multiple colors when observed at different angles.



The impressive cushion-cut kunzite is set in an 18-karat yellow gold and diamond ribbon motif pendant suspended from a necklace of 30 South Sea baroque pearls. The piece was designed by Paloma Picasso to commemorate Tiffany's 150th anniversary in 1986.

The Picasso Kunzite Necklace was donated to the Smithsonian in 1989 and is currently the featured item in a display that examines pleochroism at the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.

Normally, Smithsonian visitors would be able to see the multi-color gemstones in person, but while most of the national museums remain temporarily closed in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, we continue to present these virtual tours of the National Gem Collection's most famous items.

Previous stops have included the “Marie Antoinette Earrings,” “Hall Sapphire Necklace,” “Victoria-Transvaal Diamond,” “Carmen Lúcia Ruby,“ “Chalk Emerald,“ “Gifts from Napoleon,“ “Stars and Cat’s Eyes,“ “Logan Sapphire,“ “Dom Pedro“ aquamarine, “Steamboat“ tourmaline and a grouping of enormous topaz.



Here’s how to navigate to the exhibit called “How Many Colors?”

— First, click on this link…

The resulting page will be a gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Precious Gems 1.”

— Next, click the double-right-arrow eight times to navigate to the gallery called “Geology, Gems & Minerals: Minerals 7.”

When you arrive, you will be face to face with an enormous example of Arkansas Quartz.

– Click and drag the screen 180 degrees to the left so you can see the case directly behind you. On the tallest platform of the corner exhibit is the Picasso Kunzite Necklace. Touch the Plus Sign to zoom in.

(You may touch the “X” to remove the map. This will give you a better view of the jewelry. You may restore the map by clicking the “Second” floor navigation on the top-right of the screen.)

All the crystals and faceted gems on the case share a characteristic called pleochroism. The phenomenon is described with a plaque titled “How Many Colors?“

“LOOK closely,“ commands the sign. “Can you find three colors in the large spodumene crystal below? As it turns, the crystal changes from pink to greenish-brown. Look down the length to see an intense lilac-pink. When a crystal shows different colors in different directions, it is called pleochroic, meaning 'several-colored.' In each direction, the crystal's atomic structure absorbs light differently, creating distinct colors.“

Mined in Afghanistan, the 396.30-carat kunzite owes its color to trace impurities of manganese in its chemical composition. In general, kunzite crystals may appear pale pink, colorless, greenish or intensely pink when viewed from different directions.

A variety of the mineral spodumene, kunzite was first found in Pala, CA, in 1902. It was later named for George F. Kunz, a gemologist who worked for Tiffany & Co. for 53 years, according to the Smithsonian.

The 71-year-old Picasso is the daughter of the famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, who passed away in 1973. Paloma Picasso is best known for her jewelry designs for Tiffany and her signature perfumes.

Credits: Jewelry photo by Chip Clark / Smithsonian. Screen capture via naturalhistory2.si.edu.
October 12th, 2020
University of Alabama staffer Victoria Giattina defied all odds last week by locating a missing diamond in the cavernous confines of the 101,800-seat Bryant–Denny Stadium. Even more amazing is the fact that the assistant director of event management and external operations completed her impossible assignment in less than 30 minutes.



The drama unfolded after last week's contest between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas A&M. While the unnamed fan was celebrating her favorite team's 52-24 victory, her engagement diamond had come dislodged from its setting.

It wasn't until she arrived home that she realized the diamond was gone. She searched her house and her car with no success. Her next strategy was to call the University of Alabama GameDay number to report the loss.

On Monday morning, UA GameDay staffers contacted Red Leonard, the University of Alabama's assistant athletics director, event management. He, in turn, called Giattina at 7 a.m. with the assignment of checking the section where the woman had been seated.



It turns out that the fan had been in Section U4 NN, Row 29. In Bryant–Denny Stadium, that seat assignment put her one row from the very top of the seventh-largest college stadium in the US. (The largest is Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium with a capacity of 107,601.)



“It was pretty high up there,” Giattina told AL.com. “I just started from Row 1 of that section, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to do what I hope someone would do for me. I know that’s so valuable. I just started looking row by row, and I was huffing and puffing up there. Once I got to (row) 29, I didn’t see it.”

Giattina was about to give up the search when she remembered what her boss had told her — “Be sure to look behind (the seat) in case she was cheering.”



”I got to the top row, and I looked down. I couldn’t believe it. It was just lying there,” she told AL.com.

High at the top of the stadium Giattina took photos of her discovery, which she forwarded to Leonard.

“I was like, ‘You are never going to believe this. I found it,’” Giattina said.

The photo was then tweeted by Jeff Purinton, the University of Alabama's deputy director of athletics. Purinton wrote, "This was on a message board but not anywhere else so wanted to post. One of our fans lost the diamond from an engagement ring at the @AlabamaFTBL game Sat, called our event management team and @VictoriaLeighG went to the top of Bryant-Denny and found the diamond and returned it!”

It had taken Giattina less than 30 minutes to locate the ring.

Later on Monday, the university's athletic department delivered the exciting news to the diamond's owner.

“They are so excited in having it back,” Giattina told AL.com.

Credits: Diamond images via Twitter/Jeff Purinton. Bryant-Denny Stadium photo by Lahti213 / CC BY-SA. Screen capture of stadium seating chart. 
October 9th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, music legend Van Morrison serves up his 2006 interpretation of "Big Blue Diamonds," a frequently covered song that was first released 70 years ago.



Written by Earl J. "Kit" Carson, "Big Blue Diamonds" tells the story of a young woman who pursues material wealth instead of true love, but then regrets her terrible mistake.

Morrison sings, "Oh, she wanted more than I had money to buy / So she left me sad and lonely I am told / Big diamonds, big blue diamonds / Now she'll trade them / For a love behind the little band of gold."

Country singer Red Perkins introduced the song as a 78 rpm single in 1950. Since then, a cavalcade of performers across many music genres — including country, rhythm and blues, jazz and rock and roll — have put their signatures on the song.

Here's just a partial list of the artists who have covered "Big Blue Diamonds": Tex Ritter (1950); Jimmy Dean and his Texas Wildcats (1955); Jack Lionel (1961); Little Willie John (1962) Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs (1965); Tommy Tate (1966); Little Johnny Taylor (1967); Gene Summers (1971); Arthur Prysock (1971); Mel Street (1972); Ernest Tubb (1972); Jerry Lee Lewis (1974); Willy DeVille (1990); Don Walser (1996); Percy Sledge (2004) and Morrison (2006).

Sir George Ivan "Van" Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1945. His dad worked in a shipyard, but had previously lived in Detroit, where he amassed a huge, and diverse, record collection. Morrison grew up listening to blues, country and gospel. By the time he was 13, the boy was singing and playing the guitar and sax in several bands.

At 22 years old, Morrison became an international star with his timeless hit, "Brown Eyed Girl." That song was followed by a slew of chart-toppers, including 1970's "Moondance" and 1971's "Tupelo Honey."

Over the years, Morrison has been called one of the prolific recording artists and hardest working live performers of his era. The 75-year-old has been touring regularly since 1958 and, in 2017, released his 37th and 38th studio albums.

He was knighted in 2016 to honor his services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland. The six-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Please check out the audio track of Morrison performing "Big Blue Diamonds." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along…

"Big Blue Diamonds"
Written by Earl J. "Kit" Carson. Performed by Van Morrison.

Blue diamonds, big blue diamonds on her finger
Instead of a little band of gold
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds tell the story
Of the love that no one man could hold

Oh, she wanted more than I had money to buy
So she left me sad and lonely I am told
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds
Now she'll trade them
For a love behind the little band of gold

Blue diamonds, big blue diamonds how they sparkle
But what can they do to warm your heart and soul?
When you're lonely in the moonlight and you want lovin'
Big blue diamonds don't they seem so reckless and bold

I'd gladly do my part, to mend a broken heart
But a love that's warmed over soon grows cold
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds
I don't want them, no
I just want a love behind the little band of gold


Credit: Image by Jarvin / CC BY-SA.
October 8th, 2020
There's an unusual nut from Queensland, Australia, that will never find its way into a candy bar or portable protein pack. That's because the Yowah nut is actually a naturally forming concretion — an inedible ironstone nodule that looks very much like a nut. What's even more fascinating about Yowah nuts is that when they're cracked open, a select few have gem-quality opal hidden inside.



Opal is one of two official gemstones for the month of October. The other is tourmaline.

In January of 2011, the extraordinary "Yowah Nut Opal" became a permanent resident of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. A gift of the Richard Ashley Foundation, the specimen was given the nickname the "OMG Opal," because people who saw it for the first time would say, "Oh, my gosh."



“It reminds you that the Earth is a pretty amazing place and we haven’t seen everything yet,” stated Jeffrey E. Post, Ph.D., curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection, in a video posted to the Official GIA Channel on YouTube. “There’s always a surprise waiting for us in the Earth somewhere and this is just a great example of that kind of a surprise.”

The Yowah Nut Opal officially weighs 29.83 carats, but other "nuts" pulled from Australia's Southern Cross Mine have been as large as 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) wide.



The Yowah Nut Opal displays flashes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. One side of the Yowah Nut has a bluish body color while the other side is more milky in tone. Post explained that the difference in color is attributed to the thickness of each slice.

Rod Griffin, the miner who discovered this opal nut, told the Smithsonian it is the finest he had unearthed to date.

Since opal was first discovered in Australia circa 1850, the country has produced 95% of the world’s supply. Scientists believe that the abundance of opal can be traced to a vast inland sea that once covered a large portion of Australia.

As the sea regressed, a rare episode of acidic weather was taking place, exposing pyrite minerals and releasing sulphuric acid. As the surface of the basin dried further and cracked, silica-rich gel became trapped in the veins of the rock. Over time, the silica solidified to form opals.

An opal’s silica structure contains 3% to 20% water, according to the American Gem Society. The value of a fine opal is based on a number of factors, including brightness, color, pattern, body tone and consistency (how it looks from multiple angles).

While Australia remains the world leader in opal production, the October birthstone is also mined in Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic and parts of the U.S., including Nevada and Idaho.

Credits: Photos by Ken Larsen/Smithsonian.
October 7th, 2020
A previously unrecorded example of an ancient “Ides of March” gold coin commemorating the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 44 BC has been confirmed by rare coin authenticators in the United States and the United Kingdom. Only three are known to exist.



One expert described the nickel-sized rarity as “a masterpiece of ancient coinage” and estimated that it could be worth millions.

“It was made in 42 BC, two years after the famous assassination, and is one of the most important and valuable coins of the ancient world,” explained Mark Salzberg, Chairman of the Sarasota, FL-based Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, the company whose experts confirmed the coin's authenticity.



The front of the coin features a portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of Caesar’s assassins, and the other side dramatically depicts two daggers and the marking "EID • MAR." The initials represent the Latin abbreviation for the Ides of March, which corresponds to March 15 on the calendar and is the date Caesar was assassinated.

While nearly 100 Ides of March silver coins are known to still exist, this is only the third example known to be struck in gold. Of the other two, one is in the British Museum on loan from a private collector and the other is in the Deutsche Bundesbank collection.

“There were rumors of a third example, and NGC authenticators were excited when this coin was submitted at our London office and sent for evaluation at our headquarters in Sarasota,” said Salzberg.

The EID • MAR gold coin will be offered at public auction by Roma Numismatics Limited of London on October 29, 2020. According to the auction house, this previously unrecorded coin was closely held in a private European collection for many years.

"The conservative pre-auction estimate is £500,000 ($647,173), but considering the coin’s rarity, artistry and fabled place in history, I would not be surprised if it sold for several million,” predicted Salzberg.

Adding to its appeal, the coin is still in mint condition, according to NGC’s experts, despite its being more than 2,000 years old.

Between the two daggers on the back of the coin is a "pileus" — a cap of liberty traditionally given to Roman slaves when they were freed. The cap’s image was a symbolic statement that Rome was liberated after the assassination of the tyrant dictator.

“It’s a small gold coin with huge historical and collector value," added Salzberg. "It is the undisputed masterpiece of ancient coinage.”

Credits: Images courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.