Romm Diamonds Blog

Articles in February 2017

February 1st, 2017
Standing majestically at nearly 11 feet tall and weighing the same as a Cadillac Escalade, The Empress of Uruguay is billed as the world's largest amethyst geode.

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The exposed interior radiates with tens of thousands of deep purple, gem-quality amethyst crystals and is the top attraction at the Crystal Caves Museum in Atherton, Australia.

Amethyst is the official birthstone for February babies, and there is no example of the gem more impressive than this 5,500-pound geode.

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The Empress of Uruguay was discovered in the Artigas region in northern Uruguay, a mining area famous for yielding some of the world's finest-quality amethysts.

Crystal Caves Museum founders René and Nelleke Boissevain purchased the geode for $75,000 in 2007 and paid an additional $25,000 to transport it to Queensland on Australia's northeastern coast.

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Moving a massive geode 9,100 miles across land and sea was no easy task. The Empress of Uruguay had to be packed into a custom crate at the mine in Uruguay and then secured in a steel container for its sea voyage from Brazil to Brisbane.

Two large cranes were used to place the geode in its current position in the Empress Room at the Crystal Caves Museum.

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Visitors are encouraged to touch, feel and take photographs of The Empress of Uruguay. Often they can hardly believe the geode is real and wonder if the seemingly perfect crystals have been enhanced or altered in any way. The answer is that they are completely natural.

The museum's Q&A page on its official website explains that the original geode traveled to Queensland completely intact. A section of the face was carefully removed to reveal the beautiful crystal structure inside. In addition, the museum staff smoothed some rough exposed edges and added a coat of black paint to the back of the geode, presumably to keep light from coming through.

The museum has reportedly received offers to buy The Empress of Uruguay for as much as 250,000 Australian dollars (about $190,000), but the geode is not for sale.

The Crystal Caves Museum is located just an hour from the Cairns International Airport on the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. The Empress of Uruguay is the largest of a spectacular mineralogical collection that includes more than 600 specimens.

Credits: Images via www.crystalcaves.com.au. Map by Googlemaps.com.
February 2nd, 2017
German archaeologists have discovered a hoard of elaborately crafted gold jewelry among other precious items in the 2,600-year-old tomb of a high-ranking Bronze Age woman known as "The Lady."

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About 30 years old at the time of her death, the Celtic woman died in 583 B.C. and was buried in a wooden chamber filled with golden brooches, gold strip earrings, bronze and amber jewelry, as well as textiles and furs. The findings are published in the February issue of the journal Antiquity.

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Archaeologists believe The Lady was likely "a kind of priestess" because other items found with the treasures included a petrified sea urchin and an ammonite. Buried not far from The Lady was a small child that was likely her daughter. The three-year-old girl wore miniature versions of The Lady's jewelry.

Despite being 2,600 years old, the gold jewelry looks to be in pristine condition and the workmanship is impressive.

Many of The Lady's jewelry possessions were imported from far-off places. Her bracelets carved of jet probably originated near England and her amber pendant likely came from the Baltic or North Sea. The decorations carved into her gold beads are in the style of the Etruscans, who lived across the Alps in what now is Italy.

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A group of scientists led by Dirk Krausse, state archaeologist of Baden-Württemberg in Germany, were surprised that the tomb at the site of the ancient hill fort of Heuneburg had not been looted. Heuneburg, which borders the Danube River in what is now southern Germany, covered 250 acres as was considered the first city north of the Alps.

“We were surprised to find the grave goods were still there, even the gold, waiting for us,” Krausse told Live Science.

Credits: Jewelry photos by Yvonne MŸhleis, State Office for Cultural Heritage, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Heuneburg rendering by Kenny Arne Lang Antonsen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
February 3rd, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you uplifting songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Grammy Award winner Trisha Yearwood tells the story of couple ready to take their relationship to the next level in her 1998 country hit, "Powerful Thing."

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Although they started out as "strangers on a two way street" and neither one was looking to fall in love, there's no denying the amazing chemistry between them. The force of the attraction is beyond their control, stronger than a driving wind and hotter than a forest fire. Yearwood believes it's time for them to jump right in and get over their fear of falling.

She sings, "It's a powerful thing / It's a powerful thing / More than three words / And a diamond ring / It can open up the heavens / Make the angels sing / Our love, baby, is a powerful thing."

Written by Al Anderson and Sharon Vaughn, "Powerful Thing" was released as the third single from Yearwood's album Where Your Road Leads. The song ascended to #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks and scored the #1 spot on Canada's RPM Country Tracks chart. Billboard critic Deborah Evans Price called the song "perky and playful," pointing to Yearwood's "incredible voice and tons of personality."

"Powerful Thing" also appears as the 14th track of the artist's 2007 album Trisha Yearwood: Greatest Hits.

Patricia Lynn "Trisha" Yearwood was born in 1964 in Monticello, Ga., to a school teacher mom and a banker dad. She got her big break as a 21-year-old when she interned for — and was then hired by — MTM Records, which was founded by the recently departed Mary Tyler Moore. While working for MTM, Yearwood sang background vocals for new artists, including Garth Brooks.

“I got work based on the fact that I showed up on time, I worked cheap, I knew the songs when I got there and I sang on pitch,” Yearwood told People magazine in 2015.

The 52-year-old Yearwood is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has won three Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards and an American Music Award. She has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.

In 2005, she married Brooks, her longtime friend and collaborator. Brooks admitted on Ellen that there had always been an undeniable chemistry between the pair. It was likely "a powerful thing."

Please check out Yearwood's live performance of "Powerful Thing." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Powerful Thing"
Written by Al Anderson and Sharon Vaughn. Performed by Trisha Yearwood.

I've never seen two people in my life
More determined to ignore the obvious
We better stop thinking
Let our hearts start doing the talking

You'd have to be stone deaf dumb and blind
Not to see what's going on with us
So let's jump in
And get over our fear of fallin'
'Cause what we got here

Is a powerful thing
It's a powerful thing
More than three words
And a diamond ring
It can open up the heavens
Make the angels sing
Our love, baby, is a powerful thing

We started out strangers on a two-way street
Neither one of us lookin' to fall in love
But we don't need us a map
To know we're headed in that direction

Well, it's out of our hands
And over our heads
It's something that's bigger than both of us
Turnin' back now's completely out of the question
'Cause what we got here

Is a powerful thing
It's a powerful thing
More than three words
And a diamond ring
It can open up the heavens
Make the angels sing
Our love, baby, is a powerful thing

Stronger than the force of a driving wind
Hotter than a forest fire
There never has been and there never will be
Nothing like the power of you and me, yeah

It's a powerful thing
It's a powerful thing
More than three words
And a diamond ring
It can open up the heavens
Make the angels sing
Our love, baby, is a powerful thing

It's a powerful thing
It's a powerful thing
More than three words
And a diamond ring
It can open up the heavens
Make the angels sing
Our love, baby, is a powerful thing


Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.
February 7th, 2017
The Fire of Australia, known as the world’s most valuable piece of rough opal, has taken up permanent residence in the South Australian Museum’s Opal Collection. Valued at $686,000 (AU$900,000), the opal was purchased for AU$500,000 through the generosity of a private donor and AU$455,000 in funding from the Australian government’s National Cultural Heritage Account. The uncut, 4,990-carat opal is now on public display in the front foyer of the Adelaide-based museum.

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Nicknamed “The Monster," the unique gem comes with an equally unique history. In 1946, prospector Walter Bartram was working his dusty terrain at the prolific Eight Mile field in Coober Pedy, South Australia, about 466 miles north of Adelaide, when he staked a claim to what became known as the Fire of Australia.

"At the end of the war all of the sons and siblings and greater families were all invited to come and join in this prolific field, which was absolutely exceptional and not very deep so they could do it with hand mining," said Alan Bartram, Walter’s son. "Everybody that was there was successful, some to a huge extent."

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The brilliant, 998-gram (2.2 pound) opal has been in Bertram’s family for more than 60 years. According to the BBC, the opal has mostly been kept in a safe deposit box since being unearthed with a pick and shovel more than 70 years ago.

“After loaning the Fire of Australia to the Museum for its Opals exhibition, we made the decision to place this family heirloom in its safe hands,” said Bartram. "It seems fitting that it should be passed onto the people of South Australia to enjoy.”

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Though still in its rough condition, two faces of the Fire of Australia have been polished, revealing the rare gem’s exceptional quality. Its kaleidoscope of colors transition from deep green to bright yellow to dark red, depending on the viewing angle.

“The Fire of Australia is the largest piece of high-quality light opal rough in existence,” Collection Manager Ben McHenry McHenry said. “Ordinarily, it would have been cut up for the jewelry trade. Keeping it in its current form gives the museum the opportunity to display to its visitors just how magnificent opal in the rough can be.”

Museum Director Brian Oldman also praised the rare and unique quality of the stone.

“Opal of this quality can only be created under certain climate conditions,” Oldman told ABC. "When our state's inland sea evaporated millions of years ago, it provided a unique silica-rich environment for the creation of precious opal. It is these exceptional conditions that created the Fire of Australia.” The opal's rarity should not be underestimated, he noted.

According to the South Australian Museum, opals are the most visited exhibition in the Museum’s history, resulting in donations of $3 million+ in precious opals, including the Fire of Australia.

Bartram remarked to ABC News that while he could have raised a much higher price for the Fire of Australia at international auction, it was important to him that it remained in South Australia. "It is such a piece, so outstanding that it would have been a sheer misery to see it go to another destination and be cut up for watch faces or something like that," he said.

The mining town of Coober Pedy still draws crowds enticed by the fantasy of striking it rich.

“South Australia supplies about 90% of the world's quality opals, so there may be more major finds," Bartram said.

The Museum will proudly display the Fire of Australia opal in its front foyer until February 28, 2017.

Credits: Images courtesy of South Australian Museum.
February 8th, 2017
On Monday, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 65th year on the British throne. Buckingham Palace commemorated the sapphire anniversary by re-releasing a portrait of the 90-year-old Queen bedecked in a suite of glittering sapphire jewelry her father, King George VI, gave her as a wedding day gift nearly 70 years ago.

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Snapped by British photographer David Bailey in 2014, the portrait shows Her Royal Highness in a beaded sky blue gown accessorized by an elaborate sapphire necklace and matching earrings. The Royal Family's official Twitter account posted the portrait with the caption "Today marks 65 years since Her Majesty The Queen acceded to the throne #SapphireJubilee."

The mid-19th century necklace has 14 stations of large emerald-cut sapphires framed by round diamonds. Separating each cluster is an individual diamond.

The necklace was originally designed with 18 sapphire clusters, but was shortened by four links in 1952, according to the blog titled "From Her Majesty's Jewel Vault." 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.

The Queen broke the record as the longest-reigning British monarch in September 2015. She had ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI at age 56. The Queen received the sapphire suite in November of 1947, when she wed Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince will be 96 in June.

Bailey's image of the Queen was originally used to illustrate England's 2014 "Great" campaign, which promoted the UK as a great place to visit, study and do business.

Credit: Image by David Bailey via Twitter/The Royal Family.
February 9th, 2017
Jewelry is expected to be the strongest Valentine's Day gift-giving category in 2017, with romantic consumers set to spend $4.3 billion on necklaces, rings, earrings, pendants and other jewels for their loved ones.



The survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics shows the jewelry category taking the top slot from 2016's frontrunner "an evening out," which is expected to underperform this year at $3.8 billion. One year ago, "an evening out" generated $4.49 billion, narrowly beating out the jewelry category at $4.45 billion.

Jewelry will be the gift of choice for 19% of shoppers, while "an evening out" will be preferred by 37%. Valentine consumers are also expected to spend $2 billion on flowers (to be gifted by 35%), $1.9 billion on clothing (19%), $1.7 billion on candy (50%), $1.4 billion on gift cards/gift certificates (16%) and $1 billion on greeting cards (47%).

The jewelry figure of $4.3 billion reflected a slight softening in consumer's overall enthusiasm for the day dedicated to Cupid. Overall spending for Valentine's Day is expected to be $18.2 billion, down from a survey high of $19.7 billion a year ago.

“Valentine’s Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care regardless of their budget.”

The average consumer is expected to spend $136.57 on Valentine's Day gifts this year, compared to the $146.84 recorded in 2016. Gift-givers will spend an average of $85.21 on their significant other/spouse, $26.59 on other family members, such as children or parents, $6.56 on children’s classmates/teachers, $6.51 on friends, $4.27 on co-workers, and $4.44 on pets.

Despite the huge numbers expected at retail, statistical evidence reveals that the appeal of Valentine’s Day has been slowly fading over the past decade. Exactly 54% of respondents said they will celebrate on February 14, down from 63.4% in 2007.

The NRF’s 2017 Valentine’s Day spending survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to Valentine’s Day. The survey was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 7,591 consumers was conducted from January 4-11, 2017, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

Image: BigStockPhoto.com
February 10th, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Oscar-winning Irish singer-songwriter-actor-musician Glen Hansard wonders if a simple wedding band has the power to save his marriage in the 2015 folk song "Wedding Ring."

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Written by Hansard, "Wedding Ring" is about a man who loves his wife but has doubts about her fidelity. He describes her as a "wildcat on the prowl" and fears he may be losing her.

In the catchy refrain, Hansard asks, "Wedding ring, wedding ring / Little band of gold / Will you be strong enough to keep her / Keep her love from going cold?"

"Wedding Ring" appears as the second track of his second studio album Didn't He Ramble. The 2015 LP scored a nomination for Best Folk Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. It also performed well on the charts, rising to #5 on the U.S. Billboard Folk Albums chart and #16 on the U.S. Billboard Top Alternative Albums chart.

Born in Dublin in 1970, Hansard dropped out of school as a 13-year-old and eked out a living as a street performer. At the age of 20, he formed a band called The Frames and later became one half of the folk rock duo The Swell Season.

He showed off is acting chops in The Commitments (1991) and starred in the musical Once (2007). In that role, he performed the lead ballad "Falling Slowly" with co-star Markéta Irglová. The tune netted him an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

According to Allmusic.com, Hansard is an artist who is not afraid to lay bare his soul for his audience to see. Hansard claims his music inspiration comes from three world-class artists.

Says Hansard, "In my house, when I was a kid, there was the holy trinity, which was Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan — with Bob sitting center."

Please check the video of Hansard's live performance of "Wedding Ring." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Wedding Ring"
Written and performed by Glen Hansard.

Where you running to now, baby
Running all the time
Where you running to now, darlin'
Running to all the time
Well, I sure hope it's to your sister
And not that mean brother of mine

I've been trying to reach you, darlin'
I try, I try in vain
I've been trying to reach you, darlin'
Though I try, I try in vain
I always end up losing you
And walking home in the rain

Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Will you be strong enough to keep her
Keep her love from going cold?

There's a wildcat in you, woman
A wildcat on the prowl
There's a wildcat in you, woman
A wildcat on the prowl
Every time I put my arms around you
I can hear that wildcat growl

I remember when I met you
There was something about the moon
I remember the night I met you
There was something about the moon
I don't know if it was waxing or waning
But I knew that you'd be leaving soon

Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Will you be strong enough to keep her
To keep her love from getting old?

Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Wedding ring, wedding ring
Little band of gold
Will you be strong enough to keep her
To keep her love from going cold?

Will you be strong enough to keep her
To keep her love from getting old
Will you be strong enough to keep her
To keep her love from going cold?


Credit: Image capture via YouTube.com.
February 13th, 2017
Moon Express, a private company charged with unlocking the immense potential of the moon's valuable resources, has gotten approval from the U.S. government to begin lunar exploration before the end of this year. The company will be looking to mine gold, platinum, moon rocks and other materials with an estimated potential value of $16 quadrillion. (One thousand trillion is a quadrillion.)

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Before long, it's conceivable that the center stone of your engagement ring could be a moon rock instead of a diamond and that the precious metal used for that ring may have originated on the lunar surface.

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Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain sees it this way: "Today, people look at diamonds as this rare thing on Earth," he said. "Imagine telling someone you love her by giving her the moon."

Jain expressed two major goals of moon exploration. On one hand, he recognizes the huge commercial upside, and on the other, he sees the settlement of the Moon as a way to ensure the continuation of the human race in the event of a cataclysmic disaster on Earth.

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"In the immediate future, we envision bringing precious resources, metals and Moon rocks back to Earth," the billionaire entrepreneur noted. "The sky is not the limit for Moon Express — it is the launchpad. This breakthrough ruling is another giant leap for humanity. Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a limitless future for our children."

Far from being made from green cheese, the moon is rich in gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and Helium-3, a gas that could be used in fusion reactors, providing nuclear power without radioactive waste.

"We shouldn't only be mining the Earth," he said. "We should be thinking of the moon as our eighth continent."

Getting the green light to explore the moon was no easy task for the Moon Express team. It required in-depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA and other federal agencies. The group also had to demonstrate to NASA experts at Kennedy Space Center in Florida how its robotic spacecraft would operate on the moon's surface. Moon Express is the only private firm to have been granted permission to leave the Earth and land on the moon.

Moon Express, which is based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., is competing for Google's Lunar XPRIZE, a $20 million award for the first team to put a robotic spacecraft on the moon and deliver data, images and video from the landing site and from 500 meters away. The Moon Express lander is named MX-1 and is about the size of a washing machine.

Within 10 years, Moon Express expects to offer a whole new category of tourism — holidays to the moon. Jain also noted that the moon could act as a fueling station, enabling easier travel for exploration to and from other planets.

"We went to the moon 50 years ago, yet today we have more computing power with our iPhones than the computers that sent men into space," Jain told CNBC.com. "That type of exponential technological growth is allowing things to happen that [were] never possible before."

Credits: Renderings courtesy of Moon Express; Screen capture via cnbc.com.
February 14th, 2017
On February 27, cadets from West Point's Class of 2018 will honor the families of U.S. Military Academy graduates dating back to 1924 as part of a symbolic and solemn ceremony called the "Ring Melt."

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During the event at Pease & Curren's headquarters in Warwick, R.I., the donated class rings of 41 West Point graduates — many of whom have passed away — will be dropped in a crucible along with a "legacy sample" of gold from the 410 previously donated rings.

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The resulting ingot will be merged with new gold to create the class rings for the current cadets, symbolically and physically reaffirming the bond between the West Point Class of 2018 and the Long Gray Line of West Point graduates. The U.S. Military Academy was founded in 1802, and the legacy sample contains precious metal from rings spanning the classes of 1896 to 1997.

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This is the 17th consecutive year that cadets have been invited to the Pease & Curren refinery to witness the Ring Melt.

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Many of the families of the donors will be on hand to present the rings for melting. Before the rings are melted, each one will be displayed along with a bio of the donor. Then, one by one, the names of all 41 donors will be read aloud and a member of the donor's family will take the ring and place it in the crucible. The rings are then melted in a furnace and the liquid metal is poured into the form, creating an ingot.

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The cleaned and cooled ingot is then passed around from cadet to cadet, further demonstrating continuity of the current class with the ones that came before it.

Pease & Curren reports that one of the rings donated this year belonged to Lt. Gen. James M. Gavin, Class of 1929. Nicknamed “Jumpin’ Jim,” Gavin was the third Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II and was the only American general officer to make four combat jumps in the war.

Another ring in the melt was donated by Thomas H. Paprocki, USMA Class of 1954. Paprocki’s granddaughter, Cadet Amy Johnston, is a member of the Class of 2018.

The Ring Melt was conceived by retired Lt. Col. Ron Turner, Class of 1958. He proposed that donations of class rings would be collected from West Point alumni and their descendants.

“We all were proud to receive our ring, the symbol of membership in the Long Gray Line," Turner wrote. "Perhaps we would have been even prouder had our new class rings included traces of the gold from rings of past graduates — some of whom served many years before we, our parents, or even our grandparents were born.”

West Point is credited with originating the concept of the class ring in 1835, as West Point became the first American university to honor its senior class with a treasured keepsake of gold.

Credits: Cadets class ring photo via Flickr by John Pellino/USMA DPTMS VI Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0; Screen captures via YouTube.com.
February 15th, 2017
Domino's in the UK just celebrated Valentine's Day by giving away a one-of-kind, 22-karat pizza-slice engagement ring topped with diamond pepperoni.

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The fast-food chain delivered nearly a half-million pizzas throughout the UK yesterday, and the company was certain that a significant portion of those dining in would be proposing to their significant others on the most romantic day of the year. Domino's own study revealed that 72% of Brits were planning to eat in on Valentine's Day, with 6% of men planning to pop the question during the meal.

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The unusual ring was introduced on Domino's Facebook page under the title "DOUGH-MANTIC ANNOUNCEMENT."

The company posted a series of pizza-ring photos along with this teaser: "Fancy popping the BIG question to your pizza lover while you #ValenDineIn this year? Comment below for your chance to win our one-off, unique pizza engagement ring. Probably the most taste-ful way to seal the deal, ever!"

Contestants were required to comment on the post between noon and 10 p.m. on February 13. The company promised to pick a winner and deliver the engagement ring on Valentine's Day.

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The yellow gold ring is designed to look like a lifelike slice of pizza topped with four round diamonds that are made to appear as if they are pepperoni slices.

Domino's did not reveal the individual diamond sizes nor their quality characteristics. Still, this item was a must-have for the 500-plus participants who left clever comments on the Domino's Facebook post. Here's a sampling of what they wrote...

Penned Kate Smith, "My fella has just proposed to me, but this would be a true symbol of our love. Our first Valentine's Day was actually spent with a Domino's pizza and watching football on TV nearly five years ago now. This would be the topping on the pizza if I had this ring."

Added Shannon Wilmot, "I just showed my husband this ring and his response was "WHY ARE WE MARRIED ALREADY!?" When I then explained [the contest is] open to everyone, he told me I had to enter. I think he'd probably end up wearing it more than me or we could share if it fit both of us."

Founded in 1960, Domino's Pizza has 11,000 stores in 75 countries. The company employs 260,000 and generates annual sales of $2.2 billion. That's a lot of pizza.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Domino's.
February 16th, 2017
Lucapa Diamond Company's $3.5 million investment in a state-of-the-art XRT large-diamond recovery system is already paying big dividends at the Lulo Diamond Project in Angola. The mine just yielded a 227-carat, Type IIa, D-color gem that's expected to sell for an amount far more than the cost of the technology upgrade.

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The extraordinarily pure diamond is the second-largest ever recovered at Lulo. Exactly one year ago, a 404-carat, thumb-shaped diamond that should have been pulverized by an ore crushing device was salvaged, thanks to a stroke of good luck.

At the time, the older diamond sorting equipment was not calibrated to capture a diamond that large. By some fluke, the odd-shaped rough diamond oriented itself vertically, instead of horizontally, while it crawled across the sorting screen and was able to fall through. Had it not found its way through the screen, it would have been crushed. Lucapa has since sold the 404-carat rough diamond — the largest ever discovered in Angola — for $16 million.

Recognizing the upside potential of being able to capture much larger diamonds, Lucapa installed advanced X-ray transmission technology (XRT) and larger screens (55mm) so diamonds up to 1,100 carats can be identified and cherry picked. The company also noted that the XRT technology is more efficient at recovering low-luminescing, ultra-pure Type IIa diamonds.

The Australia-based mining company has recovered seven diamonds of 100 carats or more from the Lulo mining area, which comprises 1,100 square miles along the length of the 31-mile Cacuilo River. Lucapa and its partners have explored only 20% of the Lulo concession, so far.

“It is fitting that within a week of the anniversary of recovering Angola’s biggest diamond, we have now recovered Angola’s second-biggest diamond on record, our 227-carat Lulo gem," commented Lucapa Managing Director Stephen Wetherall. "Both were recovered during the Angolan wet season.”

Lucapa, which holds a 40% stake in the Lulo mine, has two partners in the project — Empresa Nacional de Diamantes EP and Rosas & Petales.

Photo courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Company.
February 17th, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we celebrate classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today the late, great Jim Croce sings about a giant man with an affection for diamond jewelry in his 1973 chart topper, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

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In this song inspired by a friend he met while working as a lineman for the U.S. National Guard, Croce tells the fateful story of one of the toughest guys from the South Side of Chicago. Leroy Brown stood 6'4" and had a reputation of being "meaner than a junkyard dog." He was also a flashy dresser, loved his jewelry and was quite the ladies' man.

Croce sings, "Now Leroy, he a gambler / And he like his fancy clothes / And he like to wave his diamond rings / In front of everybody's nose."

At the end of the song, Leroy approaches Doris at a local bar and learns a tough "lesson about messin' with the wife of a jealous man."

Written by Croce, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" spent two weeks at the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in July of 1973. The song also netted Croce two Grammy Award nominations in the categories of Best Pop Male Vocalist and Record of the Year.

Born in South Philadelphia in 1943, Croce expressed a love for music at a young age. He played his first song, "Lady of Spain," on the accordion at the age of 5. While attending Villanova University, he performed with two singing groups, the Villanova Singers and the Villanova Spires. Croce graduated with a degree in psychology in 1965.

He joined the U.S. National Guard in 1966, and while stationed in Fort Jackson, S.C., he befriended the larger-than-life Chicagoan who would inspire his 1973 hit.

Croce struggled early in his music career, appearing at large coffee houses, on college campuses and at folk festivals. In 1972, he scored a three-record deal with ABC Records.

Later that year, he made his national debut on American Bandstand, which sparked appearances on The Tonight Show, The Dick Cavett Show, The Helen Reddy Show and The Midnight Special.

Sadly, at the peak of his fame, in September 1973, Croce perished in a plane crash near Natchitoches, La. He was 30 years old.

In a letter to his wife, Ingrid, that arrived after his death, Croce told her that he was homesick and couldn't bear the pain of being away from her and their infant son. He was planning to stop touring and to concentrate, instead, on writing short stories. It was never to be.

Please check out the video of Croce's live performance of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"
Written and performed by Jim Croce.

Well the South side of Chicago
Is the baddest part of town
And if you go down there
You better just beware
Of a man named Leroy Brown

Now Leroy, more than trouble
You see he stand 'bout six foot four
All the downtown ladies call him "Treetop Lover"
All the men just call him "Sir"

And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown
The baddest man in the whole damned town
Badder than old King Kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog

Now Leroy, he a gambler
And he like his fancy clothes
And he like to wave his diamond rings
In front of everybody's nose
He got a custom Continental
He got an Eldorado too
He got a 32 gun in his pocket for fun
He got a razor in his shoe

And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown
The baddest man in the whole damned town
Badder than old King Kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog

Now Friday 'bout a week ago
Leroy shootin' dice
And at the edge of the bar
Sat a girl named Doris
And oo that girl looked nice
Well he cast his eyes upon her
And the trouble soon began
'Cause Leroy Brown learned a lesson
'Bout messin' with the wife of a jealous man

And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown
The baddest man in the whole damned town
Badder than old King Kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog

Well the two men took to fighting
And when they pulled them off the floor
Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle
With a couple of pieces gone


Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.
February 20th, 2017
Upstate New York resident Erin Tobin just had her best day ever. She achieved instant fame when she banked in a half-court shot at a Siena College men's basketball game on Thursday night, not only earning a $500 Dunkin' Donuts gift card, but also a surprise marriage proposal from her boyfriend disguised as a larger-than-life coffee cup named "Cuppy."

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Actually, the half-court shot promo was staged by Tobin's boyfriend, Steve Duckett. A Siena College season ticket holder, the 31-year-old romantic schemed with the college's PR department to surprise Tobin with an on-court marriage proposal.

Duckett would pose as the Dunkin' Donut mascot while Tobin, a 2008 Siena graduate, would get an opportunity to hit a half-court shot. After the shot, Duckett would strip off the mascot costume and propose to her in front of 5,500 fans. All this would have to happen quickly, because the events were set to take place during a timeout, not during halftime.

On Thursday, Duckett and the PR staff put their plan in motion. The only thing they didn't expect was that Tobin — a former high school basketball player — would make the shot.

The Albany Times Union reported that in the days leading up to the halt-court attempt, Tobin was allowed to visit the Times Union Center to take a few practice shots. Apparently, one barely reached the end line and another was wide by a mile. Tobin's brother joked that he pay her $50 if she could even hit the rim during the game.

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In a 32-second YouTube video that has been viewed more than 250,000 times — including high-profile appearances on Good Morning America and ESPN's SportsCenter — Tobin is wearing a golden Siena Saints T-shirt as she stands at center court, takes one stride and launches a right-handed fling. The ball takes a high arc, banks off the backboard and then right through the net. The school's announcer can be heard exclaiming, "It is up. It is good, good."

Duckett told the Times Union that the visibility within the mascot outfit was very limited. When Tobin, 30, hit the shot, she the threw up her arms and danced out of his view.

"I couldn't see her!" Duckett said. "She makes the shot, and then for me, she disappears. I can't see out the sides of Cuppie. I didn't know where she went."

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The Siena College PR staff was able to guide the excited girlfriend back to center court, where Duckett — still disguised as Cuppie — was already down on one knee. A moment later, the costume was lifted to reveal Duckett with a ring box in his hand.

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He quickly popped the question (this is all taking place during a timeout of a live game) and Tobin said "Yes."

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"I was jumping up and down after hitting the shot since my brother said he'd give me $50 if I even hit the rim," Tobin told the Albany Times Union. "And then I turn around expecting a gift card from Dunkin’ Donuts and there he was on his knees and I didn't have any words."

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The announcer summed it up for the fans: "The cup of coffee was so excited, he wants to marry that girl that just knocked down a half-court shot."

It was a great night overall for the couple and their favorite team, as Siena College defeated Manhattan 94-71.

Check out the awesome video, below.


Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com
February 21st, 2017
The average bridal couple in the U.S. spent $6,163 on the engagement ring in 2016 — an increase of 5% compared to 2015, according to The Knot’s 10th annual Real Weddings Study. The engagement ring remains the second-highest-priced item on the list of wedding expenses. The reception venue easily claimed the top spot at $16,107, which was nearly 9% pricier than in 2015.



The Knot, which surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married in 2016, reported that the average total cost of a wedding (excluding the honeymoon) has reached an all-time high at $35,329. That's $2,688, or 8.2%, more than the total tallied in 2015.

Overall, The Knot concluded that couples are spending more per guest — even though the average number of guests are down — to create an unforgettable experience, which often includes a photo booth, musical performances, games and even aerialists.

“Wedding spend continues to rise, but at the same time, guest lists are shrinking as couples spend more per guest to create an unforgettable experience for those closest to them,” said Kellie Gould, editor in chief of The Knot. “Couples are also using their wedding day to make their first big statement as a couple. From invitations to the reception band, couples are spending more to put their personal stamp on every detail.”

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Other key findings from the survey include the following:
• Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, $78,464
• Least Expensive Place to Get Married: Arkansas, $19,522
• Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,564
• Average Marrying Age: Bride, 29 ; Groom, 31
• Average Number of Guests: 141
• Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
• Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
• Most Popular Month to Get Engaged: December (15%)
• Average Length of Engagement: 15 months
• Most Popular Month to Get Married: October (16%) and September (16%)
• Popular Wedding Colors: Dark blue (29%), gold (28%) and light pink (28%)
• Percentage of Destination Weddings: 20%

The average number of wedding guests in 2016 is down to 141, compared to 149 in 2009, while the cost per wedding guest is up to $245, compared to $194 in 2009, according to the survey. Forty-one percent of respondents said they ordered "custom guest entertainment," such as photo booths (78%), games (18%), musical performances (12%) and fireworks (8%). The portion of couples demanding custom guest entertainment has skyrocketed from 11% to 41% since 2009. The Knot advises: Don’t be surprised to see aerialists, acrobats, live painters or gospel choirs this year, as 2017 wedding trends reach new heights in guest entertainment.

On average, the bride’s parents contribute 44% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 42% and the groom’s parents contribute 13%. (Others account for the remaining 2%.) In 2016, 10% of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves, and 8% of couples didn’t contribute any finances to the wedding expenses. Exactly 47% (up from 42% in 2011) admitted going over budget.

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These are the average costs of key bridal services: reception band ($4,156), photographer ($2,783), florist/décor ($2,534), ceremony site ($2,197), wedding/event planner ($2,037), videographer ($1,995), wedding dress ($1,564), rehearsal dinner ($1,378), reception DJ ($1,245), transportation ($859), ceremony musicians ($755), wedding cake ($582), invitations ($462), groom’s attire and accessories ($280), officiant ($278), favors ($268), wedding day hair stylist ($119) and wedding day make-up ($100). Catering averaged $71 per person.

The 2016 Real Weddings Study captured responses from nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married between January 1 and December 31, 2016.

Credits: Image by BigStockPhoto.com. Infographics courtesy of The Knot.
February 22nd, 2017
Sourced in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, four museum-quality star rubies weighing a total of 342 carats will hit the auction block at Guernsey’s in New York City this June. The Mountain Star Ruby Collection will be sold together as one lot and could yield an eight-figure windfall for the family of Jarvis Wayne Messer, the humble fishing guide/rockhound who discovered the gems in 1990.

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The largest of the four gems, the 139.43-carat Appalachian Star Ruby, has been compared favorably to the Smithsonian's Rosser Reeves Star Ruby, which is one carat lighter. Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger told National Jeweler that Messer's find 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.

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In 1992, the Appalachian Star Ruby made its international debut at London's Natural History Museum, where it drew 150,000 visitors in just a few weeks, according to Guernsey's.

When gem enthusiasts discuss the finest star rubies, they generally invoke the famed gem fields of Burma and Sri Lanka. That Messer sourced his star rubies in North Carolina makes their story that much more remarkable.

Guernsey's described Messer as a man of modest means, who made his living as a fishing guide. He also was a self-described rock hound, 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."

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

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"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."

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Messer passed away in 2008 at the age of 52, and his collection was returned to his family where it has quietly resided ever since.

Guernsey’s Ettinger told National Jeweler that it is important to keep the four stones together.

“It was suggested to us that part of the extraordinary nature of them is where they were found and their individual brilliance, but also the fact that they are four matching stones and it would be crazy, almost criminal, to destroy the collection and the set,” he said.

The collection will be offered without a minimum reserve, and the auction house did not provide pre-sale estimates.

“These are wonderful and important stones,” Ettinger told National Jeweler. “The world will determine what they’re worth.”

Guernsey's hinted that the collection could yield eight figures, using the Smithsonian's Rosser Reeves as a point of comparison.

The Rosser Reeves was appraised at $25 million in the early 1980s and about 20 years later at $40 million, according to Guernsey's.

Guernsey's has yet to pick a date in June for the sale that will take place live at the Americas Society on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Online bidding will be held concurrently at LiveAuctioneers.com.

Credits: Mountain Star Ruby Collection images courtesy of Guernsey’s. Rosser Reeves photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
February 23rd, 2017
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes shook up the internet last week when he hinted that he's seriously considering transforming his surgically removed rib into a piece of jewelry.

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Hughes underwent surgery last July to correct a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome. During the surgery, a small rib in the upper chest was removed to alleviate pain caused by the compression of nerves and blood vessels near his collarbone and shoulder.

While chatting with reporters in Florida early last week, Hughes discussed his recovery and the fact that he decided to keep the rib as a memento.

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“I haven’t decided what the next step is,” he said. “I have a few ideas. Plating it with some sort of precious metal is one way to go. I’ll figure out something to do with it before it corrodes.”

Hughes' outrageous jewelry concept sparked a surge of coverage and commentary by high-profile media outlets, such as USA Today, MSN, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo! Sports, among others.

The 10-year veteran, who started with the New York Yankees and has been pitching for the Twins since 2014, turned to Twitter to chime in about the flurry of attention.

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He tweeted: "2 things I definitely didn't foresee myself making headlines for: Adele jokes and making a rib into bling."

The Adele reference related to the singer's "restart" of her live tribute to George Michael at the Grammy Awards. Hughes had tweeted, "I wish I could have gotten an Adele do-over on 168 pitches in my career."

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It's not unusual for a patient to keep the rib after surgery, according to Dr. Robert W. Thompson of Washington University, who does more than 200 thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) surgeries each year.

Thompson told USA Today, "It gives them a souvenir and a memory. A lot of the patients that have had this have gone through an awful lot of disability and difficulty getting a diagnosis. Then it’s treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. That little souvenir represents a long road that patients have gone through with this condition.”

It's not clear right now if Hughes will actually have his rib dipped in gold and perhaps strung on a necklace, but we will be watching this story carefully as the baseball season unfolds.

Credits: Phil Hughes screen captures via YouTube.com; Medical diagram by BruceBlaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
February 24th, 2017
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you wonderful songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Ed Sheeran carves a heart pendant for his girlfriend in the 2011 love song, "Wake Me Up."

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"Wake Me Up" is essentially a musical love letter to Sheeran's girlfriend, where the English singer/songwriter outlines all the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that make her so endearing.

Sheeran told The Sun, "I picked out every little thing about my ex-girlfriend that I thought was wicked (i.e. awesome) and put it into a song. There's a lyric about New Year's Day on Southwold Beach when I made her a necklace from two bits of chalk, which I carved into a heart."

In the song, he describes his romantic foray into jewelry-making...

"So I'll take you to the beach / And walk along the sand And I'll / Make you a heart pendant / With a pebble held in my hand / And I'll carve it like a necklace / So the heart falls where your chest is / And now a piece of me is a piece of the beach and it falls just where it needs to be / And rests peacefully / So you just need to breathe / To feel my heart against yours now / Against yours now."

In a beautifully turned phrase, Sheeran describes how he'd love to be wearing a wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand...

"See I could do without a tan / On my left hand, where my fourth finger meets my knuckle / And I should run you a hot bath / And fill it up with bubbles."

According to SongFacts.com, Sheeran penned "Wake Me Up" while poolside at the California residence of actor/singer/songwriter/comedian Jamie Foxx in 2010. Foxx had met Sheeran through a chance encounter at an open-mic night and was so impressed by his talent and potential that he invited Sheeran to perform on his radio show and to use his home recording studio.

Born in Hebden Bridge, England, in 1991, Sheeran sang in a church choir with his mother starting at the age of 4. He was inspired to pursue music as a career after having the opportunity to chat with Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice. Although Sheeran was only 11 at the time, he still remembers the profound impact the meeting had on his life.

"I had a little bit of a chat and kind of had an epiphany, like 'Wow, this is exactly what I want to do!'" Sheeran told The Telegraph. "I got home that night and wrote a whole bunch of songs. I remember one was called 'Typical Average Teen.' Yeah, I was one of those."

At the age of 17, Sheeran moved to London, where he played small venues. In 2010, he bought a ticket to Los Angeles with no contacts or solid leads. All that changed when he met Foxx. Soon after, Sheeran was signed by Asylum Records.

His breakthrough song, “The A Team,” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards. A year later, he was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Please check out the video of Sheeran’s live performance of “Wake Me Up.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

"Wake Me Up"
Written by Ed Sheeran and Jake Gosling. Performed by Ed Sheeran.

I should ink my skin
With your name
And take my passport out again
And just replace it

See I could do without a tan
On my left hand, where my fourth finger meets my knuckle
And I should run you a hot bath
And fill it up with bubbles

'Cause maybe you're lovable
And maybe you're my snowflake
And your eyes turn from green to gray and in the winter I'll
Hold you in a cold place
And you should never cut your hair
'Cause I love the way you flick it off your shoulder

And you will never know just how beautiful you are to me
But maybe I'm just in love when you wake me up
And would you ever feel guilty
If you did the same to me
Would you make me a cup of tea
To open my eyes in the right way
And I know you love Shrek
'Cause we've watched it twelve times
But maybe you're hoping for a fairy tale too
And if your DVD breaks, today
You shoulda got a VCR
'Cause I never owned a Blu-Ray
True say

And now I've always been s*** at computer games and your brother always beats me
And if I lost, I go all cross
And chuck all the controllers at the TV
And then you'd laugh at me
And be asking me
If I'm gonna be home next week
And then you'd lie with me till I fall asleep
And flutter eyelash on my cheek between the sheets

And you will never know just how beautiful you are to me
But maybe I'm just in love when you wake me up

I think you hate the smell of smoke
You always try'na get me to stop
But you drink as much as me
And I get drunk a lot

So I'll take you to the beach
And walk along the sand And I'll
Make you a heart pendant
With a pebble held in my hand

And I'll carve it like a necklace
So the heart falls where your chest is
And now a piece of me is a piece of the beach and it falls just where it needs to be
And rests peacefully
So you just need to breathe
To feel my heart against yours now
Against yours now

'Cause maybe I'm just in love when you wake me up

Or maybe I'm just in love when you wake me up
Maybe I fell in love when you woke me up


Credit: Image capture via YouTube.com.
February 27th, 2017
More than 30 million viewers tuning into the 89th annual Academy Awards last night got their first glimpse of "Runaways," the second in a series of “Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond” commercials produced by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA). It's been 10 years since the diamond category has shared the limelight of the Oscars — the second-most-watched event in the U.S. behind the Super Bowl.

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Aimed at a millennial audience and shot as a short film, the provocative commercial offers a modern take on love and diamonds.

In the full one-minute version, the viewer gets to experience the whirlwind romance of a young couple, as told from the man's point of view. For this couple, it was love at first sight. They ran away together, and even though time has passed, the passion is still strong, as symbolized by her necklace strung with three diamond rings. An abbreviated 15-second version of "Runaways" ran last night at 10:24 p.m. EST during the Oscars.

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How much DPA paid for the 15-second spot was not disclosed, although it is well known that a 30-second spot during this year's show has been selling for $2 million. The DPA reported that 67 percent of Oscar viewers are women.

"The DPA's 'Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond' marketing platform aims to connect with new generations in a way that is highly personal and emotionally relevant," observed Deborah Marquardt, DPA Chief Marketing Officer. "The campaign acknowledges millennials' desire to demonstrate their commitment in a more individualist, but equally sentimental and significant, way than previous generations."

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The DPA successfully capitalized on Hollywood's biggest night. Before the show, viewers were dazzled by a red carpet parade of starlets decked out in head-turning gowns, complemented by stunning diamond and gemstone jewelry.

Established by the world’s biggest diamond mines to raise the profile and allure of diamonds for a millennial market, the DPA will release its third “Real is Rare” commercial this April. In September, DPA will roll out the second phase of its campaign, which will be targeted to a slightly older 25- to 32-year-old demographic, which tends to be more traditional when it comes to getting married.

Credits: Image captures via YouTube.com.
February 28th, 2017
When Lincoln, Ill., native Kristian Helton was plotting the perfect way to propose to girlfriend Karsyn Long on Valentine's Day, he knew that McDonald's Chicken McNuggets had to be the focus of the plan. You see, Long absolutely loves, loves, loves the crispy batter-dipped morsels.

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"She has devoted her life to chicken nuggets," Helton told NBC affiliate WAND, "so that had to be part of the engagement. I mean, it was just a given."

Helton, 19, decided he would surprise Long with a diamond engagement ring hidden in a 10-piece box.

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"Her love for chicken nuggets I'm sure is more than she loves me," Helton joked.

Excited to get a jump on his plan, Long headed out to his local McDonald's at 7:30 a.m. He ordered the large box of nuggets, but was told that it was way too early to get food off the lunch menu.

Long pleaded his case to department manager Tina Summers, revealing that the nuggets would be central to his proposal that was set to take place later that same morning. The kind-hearted manager not only made a special batch of nuggets for Helton, but gave it to him for free.

Armed with the nugget box, which would double as a ring box, Long had only a few modifications to pull off. On the inside cover of the box he wrote in orange marker, "Will You McMarry Me??" And then he pressed a pretty solitaire engagement ring into one of the nuggets.

Long, 16, was thrilled to accept Helton's proposal.

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"I didn't hesitate to say yes because he is obviously the one I want to spend my life with,” Long told WAND.

The local McDonald's was excited to share Long's Facebook post, where she included a photo collage and a description of the events leading up to the proposal.

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McDonald's included an intro that read, "Love is in the air at your Central Illinois McDonald's! The Lincoln, IL McDonald’s was instrumental in helping pull off a very McRomantic engagement. Check out how he asked below:" The fast-food restaurant also congratulated the future Mr. and Mrs. Helton and wished them a Happy Valentine's Day.

This is how Long described her unforgettable day... "This morning at 7:30 a.m. my boyfriend went to McDonald's and they don't serve lunch until 11 or so and my boyfriend asked for a 10-piece chicken nugget and they told him they don't serve [nuggets] until lunch. Well, my boyfriend said I'm proposing to my girlfriend and she's a crazy nugget girl! And they made him chicken nuggets and gave them to him for free... It was the sweetest thing ever. Thank you so much McDonald's. I'm one happy girl now!!!"

The story of the couple's sweet, homespun, deep-fried marriage proposal has gone viral. The story was picked up by Today.com, Fox News, Brides.com, the New York Post and numerous other media outlets.

Helton and Long are planning a Valentine 2018 wedding. It's rumored that McDonald's has offered to do the catering.

Screen captures via wandtv.com, today.com; McDonald's collage by Kristian Helton via Facebook/McDonald's at 1109 Hickox Dr.