Lucara's 1,109-Carat Rough Diamond May Be Too Big to Sell; Will Mining Company Carve It Up?

When the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona failed to meet its reserve price at Sotheby's London in June of 2016, the disappointing result was the first signal that the massive diamond was just too big to sell. The final bid of $61 million fell short of the $70 million reserve price.

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Now, 13 months later, diamond-industry insiders are buzzing about the likelihood that Canada-based Lucara Diamond Corp., which mined the stone in Botswana, will have to carve up the world's largest rough diamond in order to attain its maximum value.

Originally, Lucara and its chief executive William Lamb were hoping that Lesedi La Rona's buyer would forgo the opportunity to process the large rough into many smaller diamonds — and leave it in its natural state. Instead of working with members of the upper echelon of the diamond trade, Lamb decided to put the huge diamond on the international stage at Sotheby's. He was confident a deep-pocketed collector would appreciate the historical significance of the gem and essentially leave it alone.

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"It's only the second stone recovered in the history of humanity over 1,000 carats," he told Reuters. "Why would you want to polish it? The stone in the rough form contains untold potential. As soon as you polish it into one solution, everything else is gone."

Cutting a rough diamond of this size is uncharted territory for the few elite diamond firms that have the finances and skill set to make a deal with Lucara. While an 1,109-carat rough diamond could yield the world's largest polished diamond — the current record is held by the 530.20-carat Great Star of Africa — the cutting process is fraught with risks and there are no guarantees.

"When is a diamond too big? I think we have found that when you go above 1,000 carats, it is too big — certainly from the aspect of analyzing the stones with the technology available," Panmure Gordon mining analyst Kieron Hodgson told Reuters.

Breaking the Lesedi La Rona into smaller, less risky parcels might generate more buyer interest. We already know that Lucara successfully sold the 813-carat "Constellation" to a Dubai trading company for a record $63 million, and Laurence Graff purchased the 374-carat broken shard from Lesedi La Rona for $17.5 million. All three diamonds were mined within three days of each other in 2015.

Holding onto the diamond for too long may have a negative effect on Lucara's potential payday. New technology employed by the world's largest diamond mining companies has resulted in the recovery of many more 100-carat-plus stones. Previously, the sorting machines would fracture the largest crystals instead of identifying and preserving them.

It may be only a matter of time before the next 1,000-carat diamond is revealed to the world. If and when that happens, the novelty connected to Lesedi La Rona's extraordinary size may be lost, along with some of its value.

Credit: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

52 Years Ago: Gold's Amazing Properties Earns It a Trip With NASA to The Final Frontier

When astronaut Edward H. White II became the first American to step outside his spacecraft and let go, the visor of his helmet was plated with an ultra-thin layer of gold to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. If you look closely at the image below, you'll also notice that his 25-foot lifeline back to the Gemini IV spacecraft was wrapped in gold tape.

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It was 1965 and scientists at NASA depended on gold's amazing characteristics to ensure a safe and successful mission. Gold is highly reflective of heat and light, so NASA scientists coated the visors with a gold layer so thin — 0.000002 inches — that astronauts could see through it.

While gold was a largely unsung hero of America's early space program, man's infatuation with this precious metal can be traced back 6,000 years to the ancient Thracian civilization. Worked-gold objects made around 4000 BC were discovered at a burial site near Varna, Bulgaria.

Despite being enchantingly beautiful, gold demonstrates a wide range of extraordinary properties — qualities well known to the jewelry, electronics, medical and dental industries.

For instance, gold is nature's most malleable metal. That means that it can be pounded so thin that one ounce of gold could cover about 100 square feet of a surface. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) calculated that it would take 576 ounces (or just 36 pounds) of gold to completely cover a football field.

Gold leaf typically measures 0.18 microns in thickness (about 7 millionths of an inch), and according to AMNH, a stack of 7,055 sheets would be no thicker than the width of a dime.

Gold is also ductile, which means that it can be made into the thinnest wire. The AMNH notes that one ounce of gold can be drawn into 50 miles of wire, five microns thick.

Of all the gold mined this year, expect 78% of it to be made into fine jewelry. Other industries consume about 12%, and the remaining 10% is supplied to financial institutions. Jewelry designers and manufacturers love to use gold because of its high luster, its ability to be cast into shapes, drawn into wires and hammered into sheets. It possesses a beautiful golden color, but also can be alloyed into many hues, including pink, white and green. And, what's more, it will never tarnish.

Fun fact: The largest accumulation of gold lies 80 feet below street level at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The vault houses $147 billion in gold bullion — a bounty that weighs a staggering 5,000 metric tons.

Credit: Image by NASA/James McDivitt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Music Friday: Brandon Heath Seeks Help From the Almighty to Set His 'Diamond' Free

Welcome to Music Friday when we often shine the spotlight on inspirational songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, five-time Grammy nominee Brandon Heath seeks divine intervention in "Diamond," his 2012 song about a young coal miner who is hardly living up to his potential. He wants to be a better man, but needs God's help to find the "diamond" buried deep inside.

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He sings, "I got something down inside of me / That only You can see / Help me dig a little deeper now / And set that diamond free."

For Heath, the diamond symbolizes the ability to bring his life to the next level — a life of clarity, not confusion, of compassion, not cruelty, of ambition, not excuses.

In the last lines of the song, Heath invites the Almighty to seek him out in the coal mine: "Come down with your old flashlight / Underground, black as night / No telling what you’re gonna find in me."

"Diamond" is the fourth track on Heath's fourth studio album, 
Blue Mountain. The album is unique because each song takes place in the Blue Mountains and is told from the point of view of a particular character. The real and fictional players featured in the songs include his grandfather, his mentor, a farmer, a coal miner and a death-row inmate. Each song weaves a message of hope, love and redemption.

When it was released in 2012, the album earned strong reviews and a #5 spot on 
Billboard's U.S. Christian Albums chart. It also reached #97 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

“[The songs] are all kind of telling my story a little bit,” Heath revealed to 
The Clarion-Ledger. “[They talk] about my own fears, and my own desires. As a songwriter, it was more fun to give someone else my own voice. I think the best way to describe a place is to describe its people. And so, all these characters tell a story about what Blue Mountain is and who lives there.”

Born in Nashville, Tenn., Brandon Heath Knell turns 39 next Friday. The son of a police officer dad and hairdresser mom, Heath received his first guitar as a Christmas gift when he was 13. In high school, he converted to Christianity and explored his spirituality by participating in faith missions to India and Ecuador. Those trips helped inspire a career in contemporary Christian music.

Please check out the audio track of Heath performing "Diamond." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Diamond"
Written by Brandon Heath, Ross Copperman and Lee Thomas Miller. Performed by Brandon Heath.

My father’s father broke this ground
Daddy mined till we laid him down
Only God knows what they found beneath
Now here I stand in my own boots
Ax to grind and a point to prove
Tangled up in my own roots, it seems

I got treasure up in Heaven
I got dirt all over me
I have only scratched the surface
Of the man I’m meant to be
I got something down inside of me
That only You can see
Help me dig a little deeper now
And set that diamond free

Why do I do the things I do
All the things that I don’t want to
Act like I don’t fear You at all
Hard head and a heart of stone
Older now but I haven’t grown
Any riches that I have to show are small

Set it free
Set it free
Set it free
Set it free

Come down with your old flashlight
Underground, black as night
No telling what you’re gonna find in me



Credits: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Actress Vivien Leigh's Jewelry and Other Personal Items to Hit Sotheby's Auction Block in September

Gone with the Wind fans will get a fascinating glimpse at "the real, and unexpected, Vivien Leigh" when Sotheby's London brings to auction 250 of the illustrious leading lady's personal items on September 26.

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Leigh, who is most famous for her role as Scarlett O’Hara, loved clothes and jewelry, and was not afraid to mix historic jewels with contemporary couture. Highlighted lots include a large mid-19th-century diamond bow brooch/pendant that Sotheby's described as the ultimate accessory. The bow motif appeared frequently in Leigh’s wardrobe, and this piece is expected to yield $32,000 to $45,000 at auction.

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A second highlighted jewelry item is a gold ring gifted to Leigh by her second husband, British actor and director Laurence Olivier. The ring has an inscription that reads "Laurence Olivier Vivien Eternally" and is expected to sell in the very affordable range of $515 to $770.

“Behind the guise of the most glamorous and talked-about woman of her age we find a fine art collector, patron, even a bookworm, who was the intellectual equal of the literati, artists and aesthetes she counted among her coterie," commented Harry Dalmeny, chairman of Sotheby’s UK. "This is our chance to discover the real, and unexpected, Vivien Leigh."

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Also up for grabs is a silver cigarette box (high estimate of $770) from Myron Selznick, the talent agent who helped Leigh land one of the most coveted roles in cinematic history; Leigh’s copy of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, 
Gone With the Wind, complete with a handwritten poem from the author ($9,000); and a bound copy of the original film script ($4,500) from the epic 1939 motion picture.

The two-time Academy Award winner, who was only 25 when she starred with Clark Gable in 
Gone with the Wind, died in 1967 at the age of 53. Her collection had been passed down to her daughter, Suzanne Farrington, who died two years ago. Farrington's sons chose to put their grandmother's possessions up for auction.

Their joint statement read, “We hope people take as much pleasure from this collection as our grandparents, parents and families have done.”

Overall, the 250 lots are expected to yield about $650,000. More information about the September sale will be released later in the summer, according to Sotheby's.

Credits: Photos of auction items courtesy of Sotheby's. Leigh and Clark Gable photo by Deems Taylor, Published by Simon & Schuster, New York (page 319 A Pictorial History of the Movies) [Public domain],via Wikimedia Commons.

Rose Gold Is a Rising Star, But How Does the Precious Metal Get Its Blush?

It's been a symbol of "tech luxury" since the Apple Watch arrived in 2014 and the metal of choice for Pinterest's most-pinned engagement ring style of 2017. It's a material that conveys opulence, elegance, and its warm glow complements any skin tone. The summer sensation that's grabbing all the headlines is rose gold.

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If you're wondering how a precious metal like gold can become pink, we have the answer. Rose gold earns its blush when copper is mixed with pure gold. Yes, the magic is the copper content. Depending on the ratio of copper used, the hue can range from a soft pink to a deep red.

Pure 24-karat gold is a relatively soft metal, so jewelry makers learned early on that mixing gold with other metals would make the end product stronger and more resistant to wear. They also learned that adding specific metallic elements could alter the metal's color.

Typically, 18-karat yellow gold is composed of 75% fine gold, 15% copper and 10% fine silver. To make 18-karat rose gold, however, the recipe changes to 75% fine gold, 22.25% copper and 2.75% fine silver. Voilà.

In a feature story on Sothebys.com, the author explained that the use of rose gold in fine jewelry can be traced to 19th century Imperial Russia when Carl Fabergé incorporated the material into the designs of his elaborate Fabergé Eggs. The innovative gold hue earned widespread appeal and was originally dubbed "Russian Gold." As other jewelers from around the world caught on to the trend, the material was given the more generic moniker of "pink gold."

Sotheby's explained that throughout recent history, rose gold has fallen in and out of favor based on social, economic and political upheavals. For instance, rose gold had a strong run during the Roaring Twenties, but lost its sheen after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Then, when platinum was declared a "strategic material" during World War II, jewelry designers refocused their attention on yellow and rose gold.

Over the past 50 years, rose gold's popularity has ridden a rollercoaster of changing tastes. Today, it's plain to see that "rose gold" is once again at the top of its game.

Credit: Image by BigStockPhoto.com.