November 28th, 2023
The festive holiday season got off to a roaring start on Black Friday as the strength of the jewelry and apparel segments helped propel retail sales by 2.5% year-over-year. The Black Friday sales results built upon the double-digit growth experienced in 2022, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment.


While experiential gifts have been the popular choice the past few years, Mastercard noted, consumers continue to search for something to unwrap for the holidays, with jewelry and apparel being the top gift sectors of the day.

“Consumers are navigating the holiday season well and taking advantage of holiday promotions, giving them ample choice as they hunt for gifts for everyone on their list,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “Consumers are also shopping smarter, using all of their tools – from searching across channels to cross checking on apps and websites – to maximize value while they spend time with friends and family.”

Retailers once again started their Black Friday sales early in the month, giving consumers ample time to search for promotions and score the best deals.

According to Mastercard, e-commerce sales on Black Friday increased 8.5% YOY as consumers shopped deals online. Adobe data reported that US consumers spent $9.8 billion on Friday alone, a new sales record. The firm expected another $10 billion to be spent over the Thanksgiving weekend and a record $12 billion on Cyber Monday.

Interestingly, in-store shopper traffic outperformed expectations. Black Friday in-store visits were up 4.6% compared to 2022, according to Sensormatic Solutions, which tracks shopper traffic at brick-and-mortar stores. Mastercard noted that Black Friday in-store sales increased 1.1% YOY.

“Consumers are again finding joy in brick-and-mortar shopping, seeing it as an experience to be shared with loved ones," noted Grant Gustafson, head of retail consulting and analytics at Sensormatic. "It’s a testament to the hard work retailers have done to streamline journeys and deliver satisfying experiences.”

Nearly 182 million people were set to shop online and in stores between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.

Credit: Image by
November 27th, 2023
Taco Bell Canada is about to unveil its "biggest crown jewel yet" — four 1-carat lab-grown diamonds made from taco shells. The diamonds serve as an ode to what the company calls "the perfectly imperfect nature of tacos."


"Taco Bell is all about celebrating life's messy moments and embracing what it means to be imperfect," said Devon Lawrence, marketing director for Taco Bell Canada. "The idea that even something as beautiful as diamonds have imperfections reinforces our brand mantra to 'Live Mas,' and celebrate our authentic, messy and beautiful selves! And what better way to mark the occasion than with friends – the people who celebrate you for exactly who you are."

On December 1 and 2 at a pop-up event at 1153 Queen St. W. in Toronto, besties are invited to see the diamonds up-close and enjoy a variety of activities for free. These include the following:

-- Getting matching tote bags
-- Taking cheesy photos at the photo booth with fun props and filters
-- Receiving matching temporary tattoos
-- Getting permanent friendship bracelets

What's more, Taco Bell fans in Canada are encouraged to enter a drawing to win a pair of matching Taco Bell Diamond Friendship Necklaces featuring the taco-derived diamonds. Each pair is valued at $20,000 CAD.

As the hardest substance know to man, the diamonds in the Taco Bell Canada promotion celebrate the unbreakable friendships in our lives.

According to Taco Bell Canada's marketing team, the process of growing the diamonds from taco shells took more than 12 months to complete at a "top-secret, undisclosed location." We're not sure why the process took so long because conventional lab-grown diamonds typically require only a few weeks to form.

Diamonds are composed of pure carbon. And while we've heard of diamonds grown from the carbon obtained from hair or cremation ashes, this may be the first time taco shells have been used in the process.

To enter the contest, Taco Bell lovers must follow Taco Bell Canada on Instagram or TikTok, like the "Friends Are Forever" post and tag their bestie in the comments. The contest is open to Canadian residents, except for those in Quebec, and runs from November 21 to December 8, 2023. The winners will be drawn on December 11, 2023.

Credit: Image courtesy of CNW Group/Taco Bell Canada.
November 16th, 2023
The California Sunset Diamonds, a super-rare matched pair of fancy vivid orange-yellow sparklers, are set to headline Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale in New York on December 6. The fancy-color diamonds weigh 12.20 carats and 11.96 carats, respectively.


Orange diamonds are highly coveted, yet hardly ever come to auction. Appropriately, Christies's assigned the gems with a pre-sale estimate of $7 million to $12 million, reflecting the size, color saturation, clarity and extreme rarity of the oval mixed-cut fancy color gems.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) monograph accompanying the stones emphasized the rarity of fancy vivid orange-yellow diamonds with this statistic: Only 1/3 of 1% of fancy-color diamonds submitted to GIA's grading lab over the past 10 years were graded as "fancy vivid orange-yellow."

The website describes orange diamonds as "the most infrequent occurrence of orange in nature," and colored-diamond specialists Leibish affirms that orange diamonds are the second rarest colored diamonds, with red being the rarest.

Set as dangle earrings in platinum and 18-karat rose gold, the California Sunset Diamonds are complemented by oval brilliant-cut white diamonds weighing 3.03 and 3.02 carats, as well as white marquise-cut accent stones each weighing .73 carats. The larger of the two orange-yellow diamonds boasts a clarity grade of VVS2, while the other has a VS1 rating.


Another top lot in the same auction will also feature an orange-hued diamond. The pear-shaped, mixed-cut fancy vivid yellowish-orange diamond seen here weighs 5.16 carats, is set in an 18-karat yellow gold ring and carries a pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million.

Orange diamonds are rated on a color scale from pale orange to deep orange with the following designations from light to dark: Light Orange, Fancy, Fancy Intense Orange, Fancy Vivid Orange and Fancy Deep Orange.

Scientists are still somewhat baffled about how orange diamonds get their color, because their hue on the spectrum is sandwiched between yellow and red.

Unlike yellow diamonds that owe their color to the presence of nitrogen in their chemical makeup, pink and red diamonds owe their color to the effects of intense pressure, heat and twisting while they were still deep within the Earth. So there could be multiple factors at work to generate the rich orange hue.


The New York auction's second-priciest lot is expected to be a fancy vivid blue cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond weighing 3.49 carats. The internally flawless gem is set in a brushed platinum ring and is predicted to fetch between $4.5 million and $5.5 million.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.
November 15th, 2023
When preparing his childhood home to be sold in 2011 after his 83-year-old mom fell ill, Gary Guadagno was careful to check every nook and cranny. You see, Guadagno remembered that his parents had a penchant for squirreling away valuable items in the modest two-bedroom home they purchased in the early 1950s in Reading, PA. He did end up finding the cash his parents stashed behind cinder blocks in the basement, but he couldn't find their wedding rings.


Guadagno was certain he would never see the precious family heirlooms again.

Fast-forward to September of this year, and the new Reading homeowner, Josh Martin, 36, is gently sliding the panel below the soffit of his kitchen cabinets. Armed with a flashlight, he's peeking into the void, trying to spot a gift that he hid away from his wife, Hannah Keuscher. But instead of finding the gift, he sees an old jewelry box.


Inside the box were the Guadagno wedding rings — a diamond engagement ring and a gold wedding band.


Knowing that the rings likely meant a lot to the previous owners or their family, Keuscher and Martin set out to find them.


Keuscher, 33, remembered the previous owners' last name and did some Internet sleuthing. She located Gary on Facebook and sent him a direct message about the jewelry discovery.

"I read it," the 60-year-old Guadagno told NBC10. "I swear I sat there in shock and disbelief for a few minutes with my mouth open."

His parents, Anthony and Rosemarie, had exchanged those rings in 1947. Anthony, a maintenance mechanic, passed away in 1978 when Gary was only 15 years old. Rosemarie became the breadwinner of the family after his death, but had to retire in 1998 as her Alzheimer’s progressed. She died in 2012.

Guadagno told the couple that he was happy to drive the 40 miles from his home in Phoenixville, PA, to retrieve the rings, but Keuscher and Martin insisted on making the trip to see him, instead.


As the homeowners were preparing a video for Guadagno to show him exactly how and where the rings were found, another surprise emerged. Previously unseen in the void below the soffit was a bicentennial 1776-1976 coin set. To Gary, it all made sense, because his dad was an avid coin collector.

"It's a legacy really," Guadagno told NBC10. "And to have [the items] returned to me from the kindness of two people I never met, it just was everything."

Credits: Screen captures via NBC10,
November 14th, 2023
November's popular birthstone, topaz, is widely admired for its vibrant array of colors, including yellows, oranges, blues, greens, reds, browns, pinks and purples.


The topaz in the photo, above, are part of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection and can be seen up close and personal in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Originating from Russia, Japan, Madagascar, Ukraine, Brazil and the US (Texas), the topaz in this grouping range in weight from 18 to 816 carats.

Topaz — especially the yellow-to-orange varieties — has been misunderstood and misidentified for more than 2,000 years. Topaz gets its name from Topazios, the ancient Greek name for a tiny island in the Red Sea. The island is now known as Zabargad Island, the largest of a group of islands in Foul Bay, Egypt. It is very likely that the “topaz” mined there in ancient times was actually a yellow-green variety of peridot.

Before 1950, many “gem experts” shared the misconception that all yellow gems were topaz and that all topaz was yellow. In fact, citrine (November’s alternate birthstone) and even smoky quartz are still mistaken for topaz even though quartz and topaz are unrelated minerals.

Today, we know that topaz is allochromatic, which means that its color is caused by impurities in the gem's chemical makeup or defects in its crystal structure, according to the Gemological Institute of America. For example, the presence of the element chromium results in natural pink, red and violet-to-purple colors, while imperfections at the atomic level can cause yellow, brown and blue colors. Pure topaz will be colorless.

Brazil is the largest producer of quality topaz, but the gem variety is also mined in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Australia, Nigeria, Germany, Mexico and the US (specifically California, Utah and New Hampshire). Topaz rates an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it a durable and wearable gem.

Topaz is a talisman for the sign of Sagittarius and is the suggested gift for the 23rd or 50th wedding anniversary.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian and digitally enhanced by SquareMoose.
November 13th, 2023
Next week marks the beginning of “engagement season,” the especially blissful time of the year that stretches from Thanksgiving until Valentine’s Day and accounts for nearly 40% of all marriage proposals.


About 19% of all proposals take place during the month of December, which is more than twice as popular as any other month. For many years, Christmas Day has been the most preferred day to get engaged, followed by a frosty mix of favorites that include Christmas Eve, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

Engagements tend to occur during the holiday season because couples love to celebrate in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by friends and family.

About 2.8 million couples get engaged every year in the United States, according to data compiled by jewelry chain Signet. But for the past few years, the jewelry industry has experienced an "engagement gap" due to the relationship-busting effects of COVID-19. Many singles were forced to isolate themselves and stepped out of the dating pool.

Signet noted that couples get engaged about 3.25 years after they begin dating, so the COVID disruption resulted in the number of engagements thinning out at 2.1 to 2.2 million in 2023.

With a gradual return to pre-pandemic lifestyles, the coming season should reflect the beginning of a rebound, with 2.4 to 2.5 million engagements expected in 2024. Signet predicts the upward trend will continue over the next three years, as the company has identified 14 million people right now in the "dating funnel."

States, such as Texas and Florida, which were the first to drop pandemic restrictions, are 10 points closer to pre-pandemic engagement levels than other states that opened later, according to Signet.

Credit: Image by
November 10th, 2023
Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you throwback hits with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we flip back the calendar to 1957 and find an 18-year-old Ray Stevens signing a big-time record deal.


What got the label's attention was a tune called “Silver Bracelet,” which is a fascinating look at love from the point of view of a young man growing up in the 1950s. Stevens tells the story of a simple, engraved bracelet that symbolizes his devotion to his new girlfriend.

He sings, “A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / This simple token I do give / A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / To show my love will ever live.”

He goes on to describe how he had his girlfriend’s name engraved on the front and his on the back: “Turn it over there is mine / Forever let it shine.”

Stevens detailed the origin of “Silver Bracelet” on his official website. His family had moved to Atlanta in 1956, and while still in high school, Stevens (then Ray Ragsdale) got his first big break when he met radio personality and Georgia Tech football broadcaster, Bill Lowery.

“He was looking for talent to write songs,” Stevens remembered. “I went out to his house and I said, ‘My name is Ray Ragsdale and I’m going to learn to write songs for you.’ He said, ‘Okay lad, go to it.’”

Stevens continued, “I borrowed a little tape recorder from a friend. I got the key to the lunch room, which also served as the assembly hall, from the principal. The room had a very high ceiling and a piano on a little stage. I went there one Sunday by myself and made a demo of a song that I and a friend had written called, ‘Silver Bracelet.’ I took it to Bill and he liked it. He called Ken Nelson at Capitol Records, who was coming to Nashville a lot during those days to produce records. Ken liked the song and signed me to a contract with [Capitol Records’ subsidiary] Prep Records.”

The success of “Silver Bracelet” helped launch a stellar career that has seen the artist release more than 45 studio albums and 93 singles. His two most popular tunes were “The Streak” (1974), a novelty song about streaking, and “Everything Is Beautiful,” which earned Stevens a 1970 Grammy for Male Vocalist of the Year.

Born in Clarksdale, GA, in 1939, Stevens started piano lessons at the age of six. His mom insisted he practice at least an hour each day. At 15, he sang and played piano in a band, the Barons, and the group performed all over the area for the American Legion, the Elks and private parties. His big break came after his family moved to Atlanta.

In 2018, Stevens opened a dinner theater in Nashville called the CabaRay, and the very next year he was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He is still actively performing at the age of 84.

Please check out this rare audio track of “Silver Bracelet.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Silver Bracelet”
Written and performed by Ray Stevens.

A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

I had your name engraved on the front
In letters of my heart’s design
Turn it over there is mine
Forever let it shine

Wear my bracelet, please wear my bracelet
Wear it proudly on your arm
So everyone can see
Your heart belongs to me

Whoa, don’t ever lose my silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

Cherish this token
Though small it may be
May it always remind you of me
Let no other take my place
Let none my name erase

This tiny trinket is such a small part
Of the love I hold in my heart
Won’t you say you love me too
No one else will ever do
Whoa, don’t ever lose my bracelet
Silver bracelet

Credit: Screen capture via
November 9th, 2023
Lucapa Diamond Company has recovered a 235-carat, gem-quality stone at its Lulo alluvial mine in Angola. It's the second-largest ever recorded at Lulo, the mine that produced the famous 404-carat “4 de Fevereiro” diamond in 2016.


The Lulo Diamond Project in Angola, which is owned by Lucapa and its partners — Empresa Nacional de Diamantes E.P. and Rosas & Petalas — has earned a reputation for producing some of the largest and highest-value diamonds in the world.

The rough gem called 4 de Fevereiro was eventually cut into the largest D-flawless diamond ever offered at auction. The 163-carat emerald-cut stunner set in an emerald and diamond necklace by de Grisogono fetched $33.7 million at Christie’s Geneva in 2017.


Lucapa's mining operations have been riding a wave of success. Only one week ago, the miner announced that it had unearthed a 208-carat gem-quality diamond from Mining Block 550, which is immediately south of Mining Block 19, an area which has yielded 8 +100 carat diamonds. Earlier in October, Lucapa had announced the recovery of a 123-carat gem from Mining Block 19.

The 235-carat stone was the 40th +100 carat and 4th +200 carat diamond to be recovered from the mine.

Lulo diamonds are unique because they are classified as alluvial — a diamond eroded over eons from its primary source and discovered in a secondary location downstream. Since the discovery of alluvial diamonds at Lulo in 2015, geologists have continued to seek the kimberlite pipes upstream of the Cacuilo River valley that would have been the primary source of these spectacular stones.

“Lulo continues to demonstrate it is a prolific producer of large diamonds," said Lucapa Diamonds Managing Director Nick Selby. "To unearth three +100 carat diamonds — with two being over 200 carats — in such a short space of time from different areas of the concession, makes us more determined to find the primary source, by dedicating even more resources to the exploration program.”

Later this month, Lucapa's three recent noteworthy finds will be included in a special tender organized by Sodiam E.P in Luanda, Angola's capital city.

Angola produced 8.7 million carats in 2022 (ranking 6th worldwide), and grossed $1.9 billion — a number topped only by Botswana and Russia. The high value is a testament to a finer grade of rough material generated by Angolan mines.

Credits: Images courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Company.
November 8th, 2023
The 17.6-carat "Bleu Royal" lived up to its pre-auction fanfare at Christie's Geneva on Tuesday as the largest internally flawless fancy vivid blue diamond ever put up for auction sold for $43.8 million after a tense, six-minute bidding war.


Two phone bidders battled back and forth in a dramatic exchange that included 21 individual offers. The bidding started at 19 million Swiss francs (about $21.1 million) and creeped forward in increments of 1 million, 500,000 and 250,000 Swiss francs.

Taking in the action in real time via streaming video, viewers around the world witnessed Christie's international head of jewelry and auctioneer Rahul Kadakia finally put the hammer down at 34 million CHF ($37.8 million). With commissions and fees included, the final price was 37.7 million Swiss francs, or $2.49 million per carat. The winning bidder remains anonymous, for now.

The realized price of $43.8 million was solidly in the range of the Bleu Royal's pre-sale estimate of $35 million to $50 million. Its strong showing elevated the diamond into the upper tier of blue diamonds that have been sold at auction. Among them are the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue” (Christie’s 2016, $57.5 million), the 15.10-carat “De Beers Blue” (Sotheby’s 2022, $57.47 million) and the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine” (Sotheby’s 2015, $48.5 million).

Set in a platinum and 18-karat rose gold ring, the perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped Bleu Royal is flanked by a pair of pear brilliant-cut diamonds weighing 3.12 and 3.07 carats, respectively. The piece had been tucked away in a private collection for the past 50 years.


“This is a true miracle of nature,” commented Kadakia prior to the auction. “Over our 257-year history, Christie’s has had the privilege of offering the world’s rarest gems at auction, and Bleu Royal continues this tradition. We are proud to offer collectors the opportunity to own a diamond fit for royalty.”

Blue diamonds are considered one of the rarest colors of all diamonds. A fabulous fluke of nature, a blue diamond owes its color to the random presence of boron within the diamond’s carbon structure. The Bleu Royal is categorized as a Type IIb diamond, a quality level that includes less than 0.5% of all diamonds.

Scientists believe that blue diamonds form about 400 miles below the surface, four times deeper than about 99 percent of all other diamonds.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie’s.
November 7th, 2023
Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have demonstrated how "biological fingerprints" in the soil can signal the presence of diamond-bearing kimberlite ore tens of meters below the surface.


The DNA sequencing of microbes represents a new tool for mineral exploration — a tool that's much less invasive than drilling for samples.

"Drilling is costly, it's time-consuming, and so you want to really know [what's there] before you start poking holes in the ground," Bianca Iulianella Phillips, a doctoral candidate at UBC’s department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences (EOAS) told CTV News.

Currently, prospectors employ a limited number of tools to locate buried ore, including drilling samples, scanning terrain and analyzing elements in the overlying rock.


“[The DNA] technique was born from a necessity to see through the Earth with greater sensitivity and resolution," said Iulianella Phillips, "and it has the potential to be used where other techniques aren’t working.”

According to the researchers, when ore interacts with soil, it alters the communities of microbes in the soil, layer by layer, right up to the surface. The researchers tested this in the lab, introducing kimberlite to soil microbes and monitored how they changed in number and species.

“We took those changed communities of microbes as indicators for the presence of ore materials, or biological fingerprints in the soil of buried mineral deposits,” said Iulianella Phillips.


Using these "indicator" microbes and their DNA sequences, the team tested the surface soil at an exploration site in the Northwest Territories where kimberlite had previously been confirmed through drilling. They found 59 of the 65 indicators were present in the soil, with 19 present in high numbers directly above the buried ore. They also identified new indicator microbes to add to their set.

What's more, they tested the surface soil at a second site in the Northwest Territories where they suspected kimberlite was present, and precisely outlined the location of kimberlite buried tens of meters beneath the surface.

This result verified that indicators from one site could predict the location of kimberlite at another.

In the future, exploration teams might use a database of indicator species to test an unknown site to find out if kimberlite deposits are buried beneath the soil.

The researchers also noted that similar DNA sequencing could be used to identify deposits of copper and other valuable materials.

“Microbes are better geochemists than us, and there are thousands of them,” said lead author Dr. Rachel Simister, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher in the UBC department of microbiology and immunology (M&I). “You might run out of elements to sample, but you’ll never run out of microbes.”

The research was published recently in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment.

Credits: Photo of UBC doctoral student Bianca Iulianella Phillips by Alex Walls. Photo of sub-arctic tundra at a kimberlite site in the Northwest Territories by Bianca Iulianella Phillips. Photo of UBC researchers collecting soil samples at a Northwest Territories mine by Crowe Lab.