Duke's Jewelers Blog
April 10th, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we pay tribute to the incomparable Bill Withers, the hardscrabble singer-songwriter-musician from Slab Fork, WV, who made an everlasting mark on popular culture with a string of classics, including "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971), "Lean on Me" (1972), "Lovely Day" (1977) and "Just the Two of Us" (1980). Withers passed away last week at the age of 81.

At the height of his popularity in 1974, Withers wrote and performed "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh," a song about broken hearts and life's hard-to-explain contradictions. In the first line of the tune, Wither compares his girlfriend's love to a precious metal.

He sings, "Your love is like a chunk of gold / Hard to gain, and hard to hold / Like a rose that's soft to touch / Love has gone, and it hurts so much."

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" appeared as the second track on Withers' album titled +'Justments (pronounced "add-justments"). The single reached #50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. It was also a top-40 hit in Canada. In 1977, Diana Ross covered the song for her LP titled Baby It's Me.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1938, Wither's was the youngest of six children. He grew up in a small coal-mining town and struggled to overcome a stutter throughout his childhood and into adulthood. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and served for nine years. Withers was able to overcome his stuttering through the speech therapy he received in the Navy and through singing.

“Bill has been our friend for many years and is on our list of famous people who stutter," noted the Stuttering Foundation in a statement released just after Withers' death. "Like so many great singers and songwriters, such as B.B. King and Carly Simon, Bill Withers stuttered. And just as they did, he turned to singing to express himself through music because the spoken word was so tough for him. He will live on forever through his incredible songs.”

As a 29-year-old, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. Withers supported his dream by working at Lockheed Aircraft. Although he was earning just $3.50 per hour, he cobbled together $2,500 to produce demo tapes.

One of those tapes caught the attention of Clarence Avant, owner of Sussex Records, who signed Withers to a record deal. His first single, "Ain't No Sunshine," was a Grammy-award-winning hit. Withers was active in the music business from 1970 to 1985 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Please check out the audio track of Withers performing "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh"
Written and performed by Bill Withers.

Your love is like a chunk of gold
Hard to gain, and hard to hold

Like a rose that's soft to touch
Love has gone, and it hurts so much

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh
Make me cry?

Well now you think of love as sitting on a mountain
Think of it as being a great big rock
Won't you think before you started to roll it down
Because once you start it, you can't make it stop

I've given all I have to give
And if you don't want me
I don't want to live

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me lay in my pillow
Just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me mess in my pillow
I'm just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Credit: Image by Sussex Records / Public domain.
April 9th, 2020
Kids think gemstones and jewelry are cool. That's why the Gemological Institute of America has put together a great website called Gemkids®.

Overflowing with colorful graphics and exciting gem photos, the site does a great job of taking gemological and historical concepts and synthesizing them into bitesize tidbits that are easy for your little ones to understand.

While the kids are home from school, encourage them to choose a favorite gemstone in the section called "Gem Explorer."

By clicking on "Emerald," for example, the kids will learn that the gem is the green variety of the mineral beryl, which also includes aquamarine.

The blue plus signs overlaying the image, offer additional fun facts about emeralds...

• Inclusions make the inside of an emerald look like a garden. The name for this garden is called a “jardin” [zhar-dan].

• Emerald crystals usually are six-sided. These crystals are grouped together.

• The tops of emerald crystals are usually flat.

The emerald page also discusses emerald's range of colors, where emerald was first mined, some famous emerald jewelry and the origin of its name. It even includes an audio link to hear a pronunciation of the word "emerald."

At the bottom of the home page is "Good Stuff," which includes a link to professions related to jewelry and gemstones, as well as the "Word of the Day," which leads to an illustrated glossary of jewelry-related terms.

If kids choose to "Enter the Jewelry Time Machine," they'll be taken through the history of jewelry, from Prehistory and the Bronze Age through the Renaissance and Victorian Eras, and ending in the Modern Era with a look toward the future.

In the feature called "The Story of a Gem: How Stones Become Rock Stars," Gemkids® offers informative pages about minerals, gems, the Mohs scale of hardness, inclusions, phenomena, gemology, pearls, types of rocks, gem mining, stone cutting, unusual gems and gem art.

While kids will certainly come away from the experience with a whole new appreciation of gems and jewelry, our guess is that mom and dad will learn a lot, too.

Credits: Kid photo by BigStockPhoto.com. Screen captures via Gemkids.gia.edu.
April 8th, 2020
A Philadelphia couple recently took a much-needed break from quarantine to visit one of their favorite places — the top of the Rocky Steps at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Emily Weiss was shocked when her boyfriend, Elly Nemtsov, popped the question in the exact spot where Sylvester Stallone's beloved character raised his arms in triumph in the 1976 blockbuster, Rocky.

In the iconic scene, Rocky — a local club fighter who has been given a shot at the title — completes an intense training session by running up the 72 stone steps. With the "Gonna Fly Now" theme building to a crescendo, Rocky reaches the top and turns to take in a breathtaking bird's-eye view of his beloved city. Rocky's climb has become a metaphor for how Philadelphians always rise to the challenge and have the power to overcome any obstacle.

Stallone told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the theme of the movie wasn't about fighting or muscles.

"It's about love. It's about passion," he said. "It's about having something inside that you know must be filled."

Which brings us back to Weiss and Nemtsov.

According to Insider.com, Nemtsov had been planning to propose since the beginning of March, but with the city under lockdown due to the coronavirus, regular proposal venues, such as restaurants or parks, were suddenly off the board.

Officially, Philadelphia is allowing certain outdoor activities, such as walking, running or cycling, so the couple strolled to a place they've loved to visit — the tall steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

From the top of the steps, Nemtsov called his sister and two-year-old niece. On FaceTime, the young girl showed Weiss an art project she'd been working on. On a large piece of colored paper was the phrase, "Emily, will you be my aunt?"

At first, Weiss didn't get the hint, but when she looked back at her boyfriend, he was on one knee with a diamond ring in hand. Nemtsov's sister, niece and both couple's parents all watched the proposal via FaceTime.

"I didn't think we would be going out during this, let alone a huge milestone, so I was pleasantly surprised," Weiss told Insider.com. "It definitely gives us something to look forward to and talk about while nothing else is going on."

"I think it was great timing," Weiss continued, "because we just get to be with each other and we have time on our side. It gives us something to be happy about during an otherwise depressing time."

The couple is looking to tie the knot in October 2021.

Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art can see a larger-than-life statue of Rocky at the bottom of the famous steps. The 8-foot, 2,000-pound bronze statue had been commissioned by Stallone in 1980 to be used in the movie, Rocky III, and has been a favorite photo op at the museum since 2006.

Credits: Proposal images by Emily Weiss. Rocky steps photo by InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA / CC BY-SA. Rocky statue photo by Bobak Ha'Eri / CC BY.
April 7th, 2020
Wearing a bright emerald-colored dress complemented by a turquoise-and-diamond brooch, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the citizens of the UK — and the world — with an optimistic message of hope, resilience and the promise that better days will return.

"We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a Sunday broadcast from Windsor Castle.

Royal Family watchers believe that Queen Elizabeth accessorized with the rarely seen turquoise brooch because of the rich history and powerful symbolism associated with the piece.

Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, received the turquoise brooch in 1893 on the day of her wedding to the Duke of York. It was a gift from her new in-laws, the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

The brooch was passed down to a 26-year-old Elizabeth upon her grandmother's death in March of 1953. Elizabeth had begun her unprecedented 68-year reign in February of 1952. Interestingly, she did not wear the brooch in public until 2014.

The Queen's stylist, Angela Kelly, explained in her memoir, The Other Side of the Coin, that the Queen's outfits are planned months in advance. So we can assume that the ensemble had to be sprinkled with subtext.

Did she believe the turquoise brooch would revive the memory of her grandmother, whose resilience and optimism would help her country recover from the ravages of the First World War? Or was Elizabeth motivated by turquoise's legendary role as a talisman — a stone of healing, love and protection.

Royal style watcher Elizabeth Holmes wrote on her Instagram that Queen Elizabeth II may have worn the uplifting, bright color to symbolize spring, growth, renewal and a fresh start.

"Together we are tackling this disease," she said, "and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge."

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/The Royal Family Channel.
April 6th, 2020
For the second time in 12 months, an Eastern Long Island man has found a super-rare purple natural pearl inside a locally harvested quahog clam.

In light of the sad news gripping Long Island due to the coronavirus, Springs resident Alex Miller was apprehensive, at first, to broadcast his good fortune on social media, but then decided to share some photos under the headline: "Reasons to be Cheerful: Good old-fashioned LUCK."

In an interview with The East Hampton Star, Miller said, "To have that happen again, at a time when we're all going through these different emotions of separation, as well as the anxiety, and food resources, and the virus — I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I had this weird second stroke of serendipitous luck."

Miller told the publication that he hadn't gone clamming since last summer, but decided to finally get out of the house after an extended period of self-isolation. He raked up 32 keepers in Three Mile Harbor and brought them home to be shucked.

"The eighth or ninth one that I opened up, there it was, sitting on the lip, this tiny pearl," he told the Star. "I can't really describe my reaction because the last couple of weeks have been sort of numbing."

He described the perfectly round pearl as the size of a frozen pea.

In May of 2019, Miller had purchased a dozen quahog clams at Stuart's Seafood Market in nearby Amagansett. The 11th shucked clam contained a round purple pearl the size of a garbanzo bean — about three times larger than the most recent discovery.

“It is amazing. It’s pretty rare for any of our shellfish to produce pearls, let alone ones that are relatively round — then add to that it’s a wampum purple,” Barley Dunne, the director of the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery, told the Star in 2019.

(Wampum is a traditional bead — usually white or purple — crafted by the Eastern Woodlands tribes of American Indians from the shell of the quahog clam.)

Dunne explained that for the pearl to be purple, it had to be coated with the portion of the clam’s nacre that was purple.

“If it was white, it would be kind of drab,” he said. “This is a beauty.”

The Gemological Institute of America graded last year's find and gave it a value of $3,000 to $5,000.

Natural pearls are organic gems, created by a mollusk totally by chance, without human intervention. When a foreign irritant gets into the mollusk’s shell, the bivalve secretes layer upon layer of nacre to protect itself. Over time, the layering of iridescent nacre produces a pearl.

Cultured pearls, by comparison, are grown under controlled conditions, where a bead is implanted in the body of the mollusk to stimulate the secretion of nacre.

Miller told the Star that he's not really interested in selling his set of natural purple pearls.

"The money doesn't really interest me as much as the curiosity of how rare it is," Miller told the publication. "All of my friends are urging me — and I see the glint in my wife's eye — 'Now that you have two it might make a nice setting.'"

Credits: Images via Facebook.com/Alex Miller. Map by Google Maps.
April 3rd, 2020
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Sting of The Police turns the tables on a controlling lover in “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” the beautiful and timeless hit from the chart-topping 1983 album, Synchronicity.

Sting uses jewelry imagery and literary references to describe a young man who finds himself in a dangerous dance with the devil, describing his perilous situation as being caught between Scylla and Charibdes.

As characters from Greek mythology, both Scylla and Charibdes were beautiful maidens who were turned into horrific monsters. Scylla guarded the Straits of Messina and destroyed any boats that passed by. Across the strait was Charibdes, who was blamed for whipping up deadly whirlpools. Sailors trying to row through the narrow channel had to face their wrath.

Throughout the song, Sting returns to the idea of being controlled, or being wrapped around one's finger. It's a theme supported by his lyrical references to a ring and a band of gold.

In the first verse, he sings, "Hypnotized by you if I should linger / Staring at the ring around your finger."

In the second verse, he continues, “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.”

Buy the end of the song, the young man has flipped the script on the devilish antagonist, as the chorus changes from “I’ll be wrapped around your finger” to “You’ll be wrapped around my finger.”

In various interviews, Sting confessed that "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is based on his own experiences.

The 68-year-old singer/songwriter/musician explained in Lyrics By Sting that, “this song is vaguely alchemical and probably about a friend of mine, a professional psychic and my tutor in tarot, with bits of Doctor Faustus and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice thrown into the pot for good measure.”

“Wrapped Around Your Finger” was the fourth U.S. single released from Synchronicity, an album that topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and sold more than eight million copies. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” ascended to #8 of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Synchronicity was nominated for five awards — including Album of the Year — and won three.

Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in Wallsend, Northumberland, England, in 1951, Sting was the principal songwriter, lead singer and bassist for The Police from 1977 to 1984 and launched his solo career in 1985. He is credited with being one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold more than 100 million records as a member of The Police and as a solo artist.

Please check out the video of Sting and The Police performing “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Wrapped Around Your Finger”
Written by Sting. Performed by The Police.

You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes
Hypnotized by you if I should linger
Staring at the ring around your finger.

I have only come here seeking knowledge,
Things they would not teach me of in college.
I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.

I’ll be wrapped around your finger.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger
Mephistopheles is not your name
I know what you’re up to just the same
I will listen hard to your tuition,
You will see it come to its fruition.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger.
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me,
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me.
I will turn your face to alabaster,
When you’ll find your servant is your master.

You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.
April 2nd, 2020
Due to international travel restrictions, diamond mining giant Alrosa is temporarily changing the way it's selling "special size" rough diamonds larger than 10.8 carats. Instead of inviting top diamond buyers to view and bid on individual stones at its offices in Russia, the company is encouraging them to stay home.

The two-week "digital tender" that ends this Friday was made possible by Alrosa's commitment to an advanced technology that provides customers with a three-dimensional digital scan of each rough diamond along with detailed data about its external shape, internal inclusions, anticipated color and fluorescence. What’s more, the mapping system can evaluate the optimal size and shape of the resulting polished diamond.

Armed with this information, buyers can make informed decisions about a stone's value — from anywhere in the world.

"The health of our employees and customers is essential for us," said Evgeny Agureev, deputy CEO of Alrosa. "This is why we decided to cancel upcoming auctions and shorten those already in progress. The company is in contact with customers from different countries, considering different supporting measures. One of the opportunities is a digital tender."

The Alrosa exec clarified that the new digital method for showing and selling large diamonds is intended as a temporary solution and will not replace the traditional trading model.

When Alrosa tested Digital Tenders in October 2019, Sarine’s Galaxy inclusion mapping and DiaExpert planning was touted as a great way to take the guesswork out of the risky, high-stakes business of rough-diamond buying. It allowed the procurement experts to preview stones and share the detailed scan with their full planning team, including the cutters at their polishing factories. When buyers would later visit the Alrosa offices, they already knew what stones suited their needs.

Agureev said at the time that Digital Tenders gave his company the ability to show products to a large variety of clients within a short timeframe.

It also now permits Alrosa to carry on an international "special size" diamond auction with no buyers on site.

Credits: Image of Sarine’s DiaExpert device via Instagram/AlrosaDiamonds. 3D-Model document courtesy of Alrosa.
April 1st, 2020
Standing in stark contrast to the earlier Art Nouveau and Edwardian eras, the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s represented modernism reinterpreted as fashion. Jewelry designers of this period abandoned the flowing curves and floral motifs of prior decades to embrace the new sleek lines and geometric shapes that conveyed anti-traditional elegance, wealth and functionality.

In honor of April's official birthstone, we take a close look at a diamond ring that is one of the world's most stunning examples of Art Deco jewelry. It is housed in the Gem Hall at the National Museum of Natural History and it is called "The Marquise Diamond Ring."

(Normally, the public would be able to see this magnificent ring in person, but all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Smithsonian provides a virtual tour here. Click on the Second Floor tab and visit the gallery labeled "Geology, Gems and Minerals.")

Designed by Cartier during the Art Deco period (1920-1935), The Marquise Diamond Ring is fabricated in platinum and features a 28.3-carat marquise-cut diamond sourced in South Africa.

When viewed from the side, the ring's Art Deco design elements come to life. Set symmetrically along the architecture-inspired shank and undercarriage of the mounting are four triangular-cut, eight baguette-cut and 60 round brilliant-cut diamonds.

The ring was gifted to the Smithsonian in 1964 by Adelaide Riggs, the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post. A famous socialite and philanthropist, Post was the heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the richest women in the world.

Credits: Marquise Diamond Ring by Chip Clark and digitally enhanced by SquareMoose / Smithsonian; Side view of Marquise Diamond Ring by Ken Larsen / Smithsonian.
March 31st, 2020
In Sunday night's inaugural YouTube broadcast of John Krasinski's "Some Good News" — a show dedicated to heartwarming and uplifting stories during these uncertain times — the star of The Office highlighted a couple from Fredericksburg, VA, who got engaged March 21 in front of the Eiffel Tower, sort of.

You see, Luke McClung had intended to pop the question to his girlfriend Erika Diffendall in Paris during spring break, but had to abruptly cancel the trip due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. So the graphic designer did the next best thing. With the assistance of his brother, AJ, the creative siblings drew the Eiffel Tower on a brick wall in their neighborhood and laid out red and white roses on the ground at the base of the "tower."

A series of tweets told the story of how McClung surprised his girlfriend, an English teacher from North Stafford High School, with a proposal and an oval-cut diamond ring. Of course, the tweets from the lovebirds were accompanied by a series of memorable photos.

Tweeted Diffendall, "Went this morning, and the rain didn’t stand a chance against Luke’s beautiful creation. #smitten #cloudnine"

McClung explained in his tweet, "It was supposed to happen in Paris, so had to improvise a bit, but it worked out."

The Fredericksburg couple found their way onto Krasinski's "Some Good News" (SGN) after McClung answered the actor's Twitter-generated request for some good news. "Alright everybody," Krasinski tweeted on Wednesday, March 25, "how about #SomeGoodNews ! Send me the stories that have made you feel good this week or the things that just made you smile!"

By Sunday night, the response was so overwhelming that Krasinski was compelled to kick off a new show. During his intro, the actor explained that for years he's been wondering why there isn't a news show dedicated entirely to good news.

“Well, desperately seeking my fix somewhere else, I reached out to all of you this week, asking — nay, begging — for some good news," he said. "And boy, did you deliver. After reading those replies and the incredibly heartwarming stories that came with them, I thought, ‘All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?’ So, ladies and gentlemen, this is your fault, and this is ‘SGN.’ I’m John Krasinski, and if it isn’t clear yet, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”

The Fredericksburg couple appears at the 4:05 mark of the near-16-minute show, which also included an interview with Krasinski's former co-star, Steve Carell.

In his final remarks, the new YouTube star said, “I’m John Krasinski, and this is ‘SGN,’ asking you to remember, no matter how tough life can get, there’s always good in the world and we will see you next time. Good night.”

On Krasinski's Twitter feed, Diffendall thanked the actor for sharing her engagement story.

Krasinski responded, "Wow!! Totally blown away by the response to #SGN ! Thank you thank you... But hey, you guys did this!! So you keep sending me #SomeGoodNews and making me smile... and I'll keep trying to return the favor! Pass it on!

By late afternoon on Monday, "Some Good News" had already been viewed more than 4 million times and was trending as the #1 most-watched video on YouTube. You can see it here...

Credits: John Krasinski screen capture via Youtube.com. Engagement pics via Twitter/Erika Diffendall.
March 30th, 2020
Waste management workers in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, pulled the plug on their normal operations this past Wednesday to help a distraught women whose diamond engagement ring ended up in a 40-ton mountain of paper at the city's recycling center.

Using forensic techniques to noodle out where the tiny ring might be in its massive paper recycling system, John Martella, the district manager of GFL Environmental Inc. (also known as Green For Life), and his team were able to locate the ring in less than 30 minutes.

Martella told SooToday.com that he believes that the unlikely recovery of such a precious and sentimental item delivers a message of hope during these uncertain times.

He said, “We’re going through a crisis with COVID-19, so to do something like that makes you think, ‘We can beat this thing, we can beat this, we can win this.' Good things happen in bad times.”

The story of the lost engagement ring began this past Tuesday, when an unnamed woman in Sault Ste. Marie accidentally dropped her precious keepsake in her family's paper recycling container. That container was emptied into a recycling truck very early on Wednesday morning and taken to the GFL plant on Sackville Road.

When the woman realized her ring was missing, she sent a desperate message to a friend who works for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. That employee forwarded the note to Martella.

Martella recounted how the frantic woman called on the phone and later visited the GFL plant.

“She was shaken up," he said. "[The ring] was precious to her.”

After she left, Martella got his crew together and stated, "We have to fix this. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do."

Martella ordered a halt in the normal operations and implemented a plan to find the ring.

The woman was able to provide a few clues that would help in the search. She remembered that her six-year-old son had been coloring with crayons on Tuesday and that some of those drawings had ended up in the recycling container. In addition, she remembered recycling a distinctive bag that was printed with the branding of her veterinarian.

Martella was able to identify the truck that had serviced the woman's neighborhood and sectioned off the pile of paper that had been delivered to the plant by that truck.

“I went in there and saw a piece of paper colored by crayons," he told SooToday. "So I said, ‘It’s got to be in here.’”

Using a front loader, one of Martella's team members scooped up a bucketful of paper.

"No sooner did he drop the bucket, the ring fell out,” Martella said. "It was just amazing."

Martella said that his crew erupted with the chant, "We found it, we found it!"

In a photo shared on SooToday by GFL Environmental, Martella is flanked by his team as he proudly holds up a tiny plastic bag containing the diamond ring. (See the photo at the top of this page.)

The district manager said that the woman was ecstatic when she heard the big news. She had no idea that Martella had shut down his normal operations to help her.

“You have to put yourself in that position," Martella said. "The ring was very valuable. Insurance would have covered it, but insurance has nothing to do with it."

In an email to SooToday.com, the woman wrote, “I can’t thank them enough, that in the middle of a pandemic, in a time of social distancing, they were kind enough to stop and help me and not brush me off... These men are hardworking, enormously considerate, and will go above and beyond. I would also like to thank all those who work in waste collection too, who are unable to stay home because they are an essential service.”

Credits: Images provided by GFL Environmental.