Fascinating Gemstone Fables

Variety of gemstones on a matGemstones have been the center of attention in the world of glamour since the beginning of time. And while they have primarily only been a source of wonderment and awe for divas worldwide, some tales surrounding the glitzy sparklers are rather bizarre and worth learning about. However, that’s not to say that all strange gem stories are grim or spine chilling; many are amusing and glaringly mundane (considering they involve some of the biggest names in the elite circle), which in itself is pretty much a treat for a pop culture consumer. 

For instance, you’ll find that a mercenary gifted his wife a chunky block of a stunning crystal to make up for calling her masculine. Likewise, a widely popular super sultry seductress lost her oh-so-expensive set of one of a kind earrings while taking a dip in the sea. The world of gemstones is full to the brim with such seemingly banal anecdotes that make for a good laugh if nothing else. 

So, here is a quick run-through of some of the most entertaining gemstone moments over the years. 

The Taylor Burton Diamond

Known for his saccharine voice, the welsh actor Richard Barton has been a man to many women, which is why he has been behind some of the most whimsical gemstone tales. The first story involving the superstar is quite commonplace for a husband because he had to buy his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, a massive piece of diamond to make up for calling her hands ugly and masculine during a spat at dinner time. The missus used her husband’s (crystal clear) momentary lapse in judgment to her advantage. She demanded the biggest possible diamond on a ring as a compensatory prize that would make her manly hands look small and slender. Consequently, Richard got Elizabeth a 64.27 carat Diamond as an act of penance on his part. 

La Peregrina Pearl

The luxuriant necklace landed in possession of the American royalty Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 after passing from the hands of Spanish, French, and English royalty. Elizabeth’s doting husband, Richard Burton, got the jewel for her at an auction by outbidding a prince. However, the American actress carelessly misplaced the magnificent piece of jewelry at a hotel in Las Vegas for a while, only to find it later in her dog’s mouth. 

The Taj Mahal Diamond

Yet another diamond tale involving the welsh heartthrob, Richard burton. The Taj Mahal (not the architectural wonder that the Mughal emperor Shahjehan commissioned for his wife Mumtaz) is a blocky, heart-shaped table-cut diamond necklace that was a gift from husband Richard to his wife, Taylor. The power couple made their extravagant purchase public via a press conference. 

The Duchess of Windsor’s Panther Bracelet 

The remarkable onyx and diamond panther bracelet was the pride and joy of the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Also, a notable American socialite, Wallis got the jewel as a gift from husband King Edward VIII, who left the British throne to marry the woman of his dreams. 

The Empress Eugene Brooch

Currently, a source of attraction in the French museum, the louvre, the Empress Eugene brooch was once a flashy buckle before becoming a pinnable item. Featuring approximately 26,000 diamonds, the blinding clasp attained its current state at Empress Eugene’s request. Nobody knows why the monarch chose to modify the jewel, but one thing is an established fact that she absolutely loved her large gemstone possession and would often wear it. 

The Tiffany Diamond

Sporting a refreshing yellow color, the Tiffany diamond was mined in South Africa in 1877. The 126-carat diamond necklace is in possession of Tiffany and Cos and has adorned only one neck till now. Audrey Hepburn wore it for a shoot when promoting the campaign for breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

Prince Soraya’s Engagement Ring

Another fascinating gemstone story involving a loving husband and his leading lady. The Iranian princess became the proud owner of the 22-carat diamond ring in 1950 when the shah of Iran presented it to her. The glorious ring, along with all of the princess’s belongings, were auctioned off in Paris in 2002 after Soraya had passed away. 

Grace Kelly’s Engagement Ring

Prince Rainier III of Monaco initially gave the love of his life a two baguette diamond ring from Cartier to affiance her. But when he later realized that everyone in Hollywood had much chunkier rocks on their fingers, he ordered a 10.5-carat emerald cut diamond ring from Cartier for his then-wife Grace Kelly. 

Kim Kardashian’s $75,000 Earring

The American socialite almost lost her $75,000 earring in Bora Bora. On a family vacation to the splendid island, Kim’s then-fiancé, Kris Humphries, threw her in the water as an act of endearment but what followed his folly was anything but endearing. After giggling for a second in the Bora Bora waters, Kim reached for her earlobe only to find it bereft of her $75,000 earring. Upon the grace revelation, the American model started bawling hysterically before conceding the unlikelihood of finding a tiny piece of jewelry in the massive ocean. Amazingly though, Kris and Kendall Jenner somehow stumbled upon the lost earring the same day during a round of swimming. 

The Krupp Diamond

And the chronicles of Taylor-Burton diamonds keep surfacing! 

In 1968, Richard Burton gifted his wife Elizabeth a colorless 33-carat diamond ring, which the actress flaunted as a token of love by her beloved husband. But her prized possession became the recipient of a rather unmerited jibe by Princess Margaret at a wedding where both divas were in attendance. The British monarch called Elizabeth’s ring vulgar until she was offered to try it on herself. Indeed, envy can make anyone do irrational things!  

The Black Orlov Diamond 

Stolen by a monk in India from the eye of a Brahma idol, the sleek and sparkly black diamond now hangs from a gorgeous white chain. However, the mystifying jewel is regarded as a cursed object by many as it has been known to bring violent deaths upon its owners. It was last seen in London during a diamond exhibition at the Natural History Museum in 2005. Supposedly the Orlov diamond now belongs to a mysterious private collector who remains unknown to this date.

Summary

So gemstones are not just glitz and glory; they have pretty sensational stories to their credit that are worth a read and now that you know about these gem follies, why not run down to your local jewelry store and get one for yourself? Say what? You don’t have that kind of financial wealth! Well then, welcome to the rest of us who account for 95% of humans on this planet, but hey, they are nice to read about! 

 

8 Noteworthy Gemstone Rings

Aside from devouring movies, shows, and music, ardent pop culture enthusiasts also love to follow the lives of their favorite celebrities. From breakups and patch-ups to secret trips and weddings, diehard fans like to keep an eye on everything related to their stars and that too, in great detail.

While all aspects of stardom interest showbiz aficionados, they particularly love celebrity engagements, weddings, and everything about them. And by everything, we mean every minor and significant detail about a couple’s nuptials and the most intriguing bit for a large majority of admirers remains the chunky piece of exquisite stone that sits atop the engagement ring. 

When it comes to jewels owned by celebrities, none attracts as much attention as engagement rings. That could be so because of what an engagement ring signifies or the fact that when it comes to honoring partners, pop stars like to go BIG, which is why most circlets adorning high-profile fingers carry exotic, blinding gems that leave onlookers in awe. 

Promise rings worn by the luminaries of the entertainment industry have always been the talk of the town as people love to admire those magnificent jewels while yearning to own a similar, if not the same, band someday. 

That said, unfortunately, getting a big block of any precious gem over a metal loop might not be in the cards for everyone. But that doesn’t mean they can’t admire the enthralling splendor of the gorgeous, glistening beauties that embellish the ring finger of many star beaus. 

And hence, here’s a list of the most popular gemstone engagement rings that shine like the brightest star in the galaxy. 

Victoria Beckham 

When people hear the name of this gorgeous beauty, the first thing that comes to mind is a diva. Victoria Beckham is undeniably the embodiment of grace, elegance, and sensuous femininity, so naturally, David Beckham had to give her a ring that would match her grace.

While that could have been a confounding job, the famous footballer definitely executed it perfectly, gifting his lady not one, not two, not three, but 13 breathtaking rings over the course of seventeen years of their marriage. And out of the thirteen jewels, three feature gemstones, including ruby, sapphire and emerald. 

Penelope Cruz

The beauty is undoubtedly among the top goddesses of Hollywood, and her husband, Javier Bardem, makes sure he treats her like one. Penelope Cruz wears a vintage sapphire engagement ring that is classic and contemporary in equal measure. The three-carat glorious oval gem sits at the center of a flower-shaped diamond band, making the ring an awe-inspiring piece of jewelry. 

Jessica Simpson 

The late 90s teen idol, Jessica Simpson, is known for winning the hearts of music lovers worldwide with her songs. But her soccer husband, Eric Johnson, knew very well how to win the songstress’s heart as he gave her a beautiful red ruby engagement ring. And mind you, Jessica is July born, so her birthstone is ruby. Talk about being thoughtful! 

Elizabeth Hurley 

The fantastical love tales of Australian cricketer Shane Warne and American beauty Elizabeth Hurley did the rounds for a while back in 2011, after the actress’s split from husband Arun Nayar. Though the couple decided to call it quits only two years after getting engaged, the ring Shane gave Elizabeth stuck in people’s minds for much longer.

The Australian sportsman presented his American beau a jaw-dropping nine-carat sapphire gemstone ring, which, as everyone knows, is the go-to stone choice among the British royalty since the time of Lady Diana. 

Besides the splendid sapphire, Elizabeth’s ring also featured two 2-carat trillion-cut diamonds for an added effect. Rumor has it that the ravishing ring cost about $100,000 at the time. 

Halle Berry

The 2004 Catwoman is known for her riveting acting, but some jewelry lovers also remember her for her mesmerizing engagement ring. Halle’s husband of four years, Oliver Martinez, gifted her a hand-forged ring by a noteworthy Parisian artisan, Robert Marzio. Since the couple is no longer married, the Call actress doesn’t wear her ring anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less splendid.

The glorious green ring sported a four-carat emerald that sat on top of a yellow gold band. Rumor has it that this beautiful emerald stunner carried arcane codes that only the couple understood. Butterfly-inducing-ly romantic, right? Yeah, we thought so too. 

Olivia Wilde 

The Tron legacy actress is engaged to comedian Jason Sudeikis, who is hopelessly in love with his partner and their engagement ring is enough proof of that. Olivia’s ring contains a six-carat clear diamond stone surrounded by a halo of green emeralds, which, according to the actresses’s paramour, reflects the green in her eyes. Now, if that isn’t adorable, we don’t know what is? 

Ashlee Simpson 

Sibling to Jessica Simpson, actress and songwriter Ashlee Simpson has been lucky in the matters of the heart as her sister, and that’s evident from her Edwardian style ring. Ashlee’s husband, Evan Ross, gave her a one of a kind ruby and diamond-encrusted ring that pays a nod to the Edwardian era. Evan hired the famous jewelry designer, Neil Lane to design a unique engagement ring for his now-wife.

According to Neil, Ashlee’s blinding sparkler is nothing like anything she has seen or created before. It’s an inarguably a rare and refined piece of jewelry. 

Kate Middleton 

Though not part of the entertainment industry, Kate Middleton is famous all the same; hence, she deserves a shoutout for her ethereal ring. Prince William proposed to the Duchess of Cambridge by giving her lady Diana’s sapphire ring. The sparkling blue ring that now sits on the Duchess’ ring finger features an 18-carat sapphire stone encircled by a halo carrying 14 diamonds. Moreover, the royal ring is set in 18-carat white gold and is regarded as one of the most prized family heirlooms in history. 

All the mentioned bearers of the most elegant gemstone rings are undoubtedly blessed to wear (have worn at one time) such stunning sparklers. 

What are Fossil Fuels? A Brief Overview

Did you know that fossil fuels not only come from natural gas? Oil and coal are fossil fuels also, but what’s interesting is that they were all formed from extinct plants and animals that have decayed millions of years ago. Oh! If the dinosaurs really knew how much they meant to us!

These remains are referred to as organic matter and carbon is the element that is found in all organic matter. This is how we determine what the compound is and how old it is. 

What Do Fossil Fuels Do for Us?

Times Square at NightJust look around. This is how we get our electricity, run our cars (cars that use combustion engines, not electric cars), provide power to our planes and keep us warm in the winter. There are some caveats though. One is the impact they have on the environment. Another is that once the fuel is used, you cannot reuse it again. This is known as non-renewable resources, as compared to renewable resources like wind farms and solar energy. 

Crude oil, AKA petroleum or petro is a fossil fuel in liquid form. It is made of hydrocarbons, which is a chemical compound of hydrogen and carbon. 

How is Oil Extracted?

Oil RigWe know now that it is the remains of dinosaurs that is the oil that we use for energy and we know that this oil is found way beneath the earth, so in order to extract it, oil drills must be built over this area.

It is not easy to find where the oil resides. Much testing is conducted first and sometimes found by accident. Remember the Beverly Hillbillies

Finding oil and gas trapped deep underground and drilling a well are very complicated and expensive, but the payoff is well worth it to the oil companies and the landowners (mostly municipalities and countries) where their drilling takes place make a fortune. Just take a look at the Middle-Eastern Gulf states, but closer to home, there is Texas and California, as well as Alaska, but transporting the oil to refineries and on to international distributers were restricted until recently when the President opened up the pipelines which helped advance the US economy and make America energy independent. 

How are oil and gas transported?

The oil drilling takes place on land and in the ocean. Once extracted, it is sent to the oil refineries since this fossil fuel contains lots of other compounds that need to be extracted so that the oil is pure. Large oil tanker ships as well as pipelines carry this oil to their respective refineries. 

Interestingly, there are more than 190,000 miles of pipelines in the continental United States and Alaska. They connect to refineries and chemical plants which are then delivered to terminals where the refined product is trucked to consumers. 

What is Shale Gas?

Shale gas is natural gas that is found underground in shale rock. Fracking is the process used to extract shale gas. Profound openings are bored down into the shale rock. The gas is then siphoned into the boring gaps made by the drills which created cracks in the stone, empowering the gas to flow through the breaks into wells. From that point, it is funneled away for consumer use. 

What About the Environment?

Fossil fuels are known to be major pollutants.

Smokestack showing air pollution
Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash

There are ongoing, many times contentious debates about which is currently more important, advancing the US economy or diminishing the oil transport and production so that the oceans and air can become cleaner. 

During the course of debates that are leading up to the US elections, Donald Trump believes that strengthening the US economy and energy independence is most important now, as well as being able to meet the growing energy needs across the world,  but Joe Biden feels that it is too dangerous to not take into account what effect the fossil fuel production and fracking is doing to this current environment and the dangers it could possibly have in future years. 

 

12 Interesting Facts About Diamonds

Close-up of single yellow crystal diamond isolated on a white background Photo by borodayayimages.com

The stupefying, sparkly ever-so mesmerizing diamond is the most sought-after gemstone in the world and rightly so.

It is not just blindingly beautiful but also incredibly sturdy while being among the rarest gems buried deep under the Earth, so it’s only natural that people gravitate toward this earthy marvel.

Those that are moderately educated about these precious stones know about the 4-Cs of diamonds, but despite being so popular, not much is known about their history, myths and legends. If you randomly asked a person to give you facts on the gemstone, they’d most likely just tell you that it’s an exquisite stone worth millions. While there is much truth to that statement, there is a lot that is not being said.

Yes, diamonds are exotic and unquestionably treasurable, but it is also the lord of myths that add so much more to its uniqueness. But that’s not all; there are also several structural facets of diamonds that remain unknown to many. We believe that not knowing the many cultural and compositional facts regarding this dazzling mineral is a disservice to it, and we seek to right this wrong. So, here are the top twelve most unusual facts about diamonds.

Divine Tears

Perfectly cut diamond

Among the most ancient and widespread folklore about diamonds is the Roman belief that diamonds were the tears of gods.

Perhaps the heavenly beauty of the diamond seemed too delicate to be terrestrial for the Romans, so they deemed it divine.

Diamonds and Love

The ancient Romans believed that the cupid’s arrow was tipped with diamonds. This myth is considered as the oldest connection ever made between love and diamonds. Clearly, Romans were in love with this royally precious stone!

The Most Valuable Item

When we said, Romans were in love with diamonds (to be fair, who isn’t?), we meant head-over-heels irreversibly, deeply in love! Because they believed that the diamond was the most valuable thing on the planet. The famous Roman naturalist, Pliny said, “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones but of all things in this world.”

Everyone knows that diamonds are exceptionally sturdy, but what they don’t know is that the Herkimer Diamond is a direct representation of this very fact. The name ‘Diamond’ is believed to be derived from the Greek word Adamas (it is also what the Greeks called diamonds) which means indestructible or invincible.

Moreover, it is believed that diamonds are supposedly the hardest substance in the world.

Composition and Sturdiness of Diamonds

Diamond MineralDiamonds are generally made of only carbon molecules linked together in tetrahedral bonds. It is possibly why they are super stout and almost impossible to crack. In addition to giving a diamond its solid built, the carbon molecules keep it transparent. However, sometimes a specimen can have tints of other shades such as blue or yellow when there’s an inclusion. It doesn’t happen often, but when nitrogen or boron particles end up in the composition of a diamond stone, it turns a little yellow or blue. 

Eons Aged Old

Diamonds are not only the rarest and sturdiest; they are also one of the oldest gemstones that take millions of years to form under the Earth. In some cases, a diamond can be up to three million years old.

It is believed that diamonds were mined as early as the fourth century BC. Indians used to collect and trade this glorious gem, which serves as proof of the early existence of diamonds.

Diamonds and Divinity

Ancient Hindus used to tuck diamonds as the eyes on their devotional statues. They also believed that a diamond could keep a person safe from danger. In other words, traditional Hindus associated godly attributes with these gemstones.

The Largest Diamond

The largest diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was named the Cullinan diamond. It weighed 3106 carats and was gifted to King Edward. However, it was later cut up into smaller pieces, out of which three are showcased in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels.

The largest diamond discovered in North America was mined from Dominion Diamond in Calgary, Canada. It has a diameter of 1.5 inches and a height of over two inches.

The First-Ever Diamond Ring

Diamond is the go-to gem for engagement rings. Whether a person is rich or poor, they make sure to get a diamond ring for their partner. But have you ever wondered who the first person to use the exotic stone on a ring was? Legend has it that, in 1477, Archduke Maxmillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a gold ring with an ‘M’ on top constructed with diamonds.

Planet of Diamonds   

A round brilliant cut diamond set in a ring
A round brilliant cut diamond set in a ring  (Wikipedia)

Imagine stumbling across a world made of diamonds and no not an imaginary world, a real one, wouldn’t that be amazing? Because now you can, if you become an astronaut. In 2006, scientists discovered a planet in the solar system made of 100% carbon, and they believe that 1.3% of it is pure diamond. 

Another mind-blowing diamond-related discovery in astronomy came the form of a star, made of ten billion trillion (is that even a number?) carats. It was named Lucy after the hit Beatles song Lucy in the sky with diamonds. 

Sources of Diamond Over the Years

In the 1400s, India was the world’s original source of diamonds. Diamonds mined in India were sold to Venice and other European trade centers. However, three centuries later, in the 1700s, India’s diamond supply declined drastically and Brazil emerged as the most significant source of this precious stone. Brazil enjoyed its status as the top diamond supplier until the late 1800s, and after that, South Africa took over the title. 

However, in today’s world, many countries around the globe contribute to diamond production.

Faux Diamonds

Naturally formed diamonds take a while to acquire their shape and composition, which is one of the reasons why they are so expensive. But now experts are making diamonds under controlled conditions in laboratories. And the good news is that the quality and texture is the same as their natural counterparts, but nonetheless, they are synthetic diamonds and are not worth nearly as much as a natural diamond of the same quality and cut.

Diamonds and Healing

In medieval times, people believed that diamonds could cure ailments and nurse back the sick to health. Moreover, some kings in ancient times considered the diamond stone a talisman for soldiers that would bring victory during battles.

The Bottom Line

The extraterrestrial features associated with diamonds may or may not be true; however, its magnificence shall always remain uncontested and will remain the world standard for engagements.

 

What Do Gemstones Tell Us?

 

The ever-so elegant, breathtakingly beautiful and alluring gemstones used to accessorize outfits and adorn the human body do not just have a high monetary value, but also has to some an immutable mystical significance. It is true that people pay hefty amounts of money to possess jewels embellished with gems that were curated from the Earth’s center, but their worth is much more valuable for some. Whether the attributes associated with gemstones are accurate or not is a different debate altogether; nonetheless, the connection between the two cannot be denied.

Even if someone doesn’t believe in their symbolism and rebuffs all supposed properties assigned to material things, it wouldn’t change the fact that gemstones have been regarded as sacred objects for centuries. Keeping that in mind, we are here to discuss the meaning given to gems without questioning the rationale behind them. So, without further ado, let’s dive into gemstone symbolism.

Here is a list of legends and the resulting mythical narratives given to some of the most popular gemstones.

Ruby

This crimson beauty is one of the most enthralling natural stones and is known for its color and hardness. Due to its color, many civilizations in the past believed it to hold the power of life.

Ancient Hindus would present ruby to their God Krishna as they believed doing so would make them emperors in the next life. Christians also hold the ruby dear because it’s mentioned in the Bible four times that it represents beauty and wisdom.

Ruby, which comes from the Sanskrit word Ratnaraj, meaning king of precious stones, was considered lucky in many cultures, especially among European royalties and upper class of the medieval times. The ancient elite in Europe would collect ruby stones because it was believed that having one guarantees wealth, wisdom, success in love and good health.

In sum, the ruby is known to signify vitality, prosperity and royalty.

Lapis

Lapis Lazuli is among the gems that are associated with deities and royalties. It is because of this association that we got the distinctive color categorization ‘royal blue.’

Egyptians believed that Lapis came from the heavens and provided protection in the afterlife, which is why they kept the stone in their graves and used it to make statues of their gods, totemic objects and burial masks.

Egyptians were not the only ones to regard Lapis as a gemstone that provides safety in the afterlife; many cultures in Asia, Africa and Europe also believed so and would bury it with the dead.

During the time of Renaissance, painters used Lapis to produce ultramarine pigment for their paintings by crushing the stone to dust so as to add a touch of reality.

Lapis is a stone that is supposed to bring enlightenment and awareness. In other words, possessing a lapis lazuli stone gives wisdom and the ability to see and understand the truth.

Emerald

The Emerald is one of the many stones given to King Solomon by God or so narrated by legend. It was a gift to the king that endowed him with power over all creation. The Incas, people of the Inca Empire of Pre-Columbian America, used it to make jewelry and conduct religious ceremonies. However, the Spanish would trade it for other more valuable stones such as gold.  

The Emerald is supposed to grant psychic powers to the wearer; some ancient civilizations believed that keeping it under the tongue would reveal the truth and show the future. Now, however, the emerald is associated with peace and balance. People think that it provides inner peace and relieves stress. A factor behind this idea could be the color of the stone. Since the color green symbolizes harmony, growth and emotional well-being; hence, the emerald stone is also assigned similar properties. 

Not a bad idea if it works, noting the turmoil we are subjected to at this time.

Amber

Although amber is not an earthy stone and is actually fossilized tree resin, it is still recognized as a gem. In the mythology of the Northern German people, called the Norse folklore, Freyr, the God of fertility’s tears would turn into gold and amber stones when she cried because her husband was away.

Furthermore, amber is associated with light and electricity and is believed to result from the concealment of sunlight. If only Edison knew! Because of this connection to the sun, amber carries the reputation of being a nurturing, warm stone used to provide comfort to the ill.  

In the time of ancient Greeks, this yellowish stone was highly regarded as it was sacred to the Greek God of Apollo. Lastly, the Chinese once believed that amber is the soul of a dead tiger transformed into the rocky shape of the sunny gem.

Topaz

Early gem experts regarded topaz as a stone that was capable of protecting against diseases, untimely death, strengthening the intellect, lessening sadness and anger and eliminating cowardice. It was also believed that topaz could cool down boiling water and emit light. 

Legend has it that the mystic Roman Catholic Saint of Hildegard of Bingen claimed that she read prayers in a darkened church with the light emitted from a topaz stone.

Since topaz has long been associated with creating light and reducing negativity, it is believed to provide mental clarity, positivity and the ability to focus on the wearer.   

Garnet

Garnet is also one of the stones gifted to King Solomon by God. It was also used by Prophet Noah to light up his ark; hence it is associated with the removal of darkness and imbuement of life, passion and love.

Garnet is considered a totem that brings good luck and eliminates dangers and distress. It is given to travelers for a safe return or people trying their hand at business as it is supposed to bring good fortune. It is also known for removing emotional distress between lovers, especially if caused due to distance.

Although these are only a few of the gemstones with the meanings behind them, there are many more, but these are enough to give you an idea of the legendary and mystical significance gems carry. With that said, it’s possible that all the stories regarding gems aren’t real, but many people worldwide believe in them (possibly psychologically) benefit from their unfaltering belief. But whether these legends are true or false, why would it matter if people do feel better when they are in their possession? 

The Goldilocks Air – Just Right!

International Space Station looking over the Earth and its atmosphere
International Space Station Looking Over the Earth and its Atmosphere

Solar System Planets

Remember learning about the planets in our solar system in elementary school? Our teacher gave us this verse: “Mary’s Violet Eyes Makes John Stay Up Nights. Period”. Well, as we all know now, the “Period” which represents Pluto is no longer a planet. It was reduced to a dwarf planet and not considered to be large enough to be part of our planetary solar system anymore. So we are left with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Which Planets in Our Solar System Have an Atmosphere?

All of them except Mercury. It is just too close to the sun to sustain one. But if Mercury is the only planet not to have an atmosphere and thus, not allow life as we know it to thrive, why is there no life on the other planets aside from Earth? 

The Goldilocks Phenomenon 

Scientists call it the Goldilocks Theory. We like to call it something a bit more sophisticated – The Goldilocks Phenomenon, but any way you look at it, we are alive today because the atmosphere above us is the partridge that is just right! 

The Five Atmospheric Layers

If you drew a line from the first layer (the troposphere) to the last layer (the exosphere), it would be approximately 62 miles in length. As we work our way up through the layers, they each get thinner until they (the atmospheric gasses dissipate). 

The line is called the Kármán line and is the accepted standard where scientists say the atmosphere meets space, but it is not a strict designation, as it is hard to say exactly where the gasses dissipate completely into outer space. There are so many factors to consider, temperature being one of the main disparities since this component may differ within different parts of the earth.

With this in mind, let us define the five layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere.

Graphic of the 5 atmospheric layersThe Troposphere

Ever realize that when you go into an airplane, it gets colder as you go higher? Air is warmer near the ground and gets colder higher up. Nearly all of the water vapor and dust in the atmosphere are in this layer and that is where clouds are found here. It contains about 99% of the water vapor, called condensation within the earth’s entire atmosphere and consequently, this is where all of the weather conditions materialize. So it might not be much of a surprise that the troposphere contains about 80% of the total mass of the entire atmosphere.

The Stratosphere

This is probably the best known layer as we frequently hear about NASA’s spacecrafts  “reaching the Stratosphere”. It is also where most of our jet aircraft fly. This layer extends about 31 miles above the ground, so if the troposphere runs approximately six miles high, the stratosphere picks up at the six/seven-mile marker.  

Another common term we hear a lot is the ozone layer. Well, it’s the stratosphere that contains this sub-layer which acts as a natural atmospheric shield by absorbing harmful radiation from the sun. 

Due to man-made pollution, a gap in the ozone layer developed. It extended 6.3 million square miles at one point, but there are positive signs that this hole is naturally healing itself and is the smallest it has ever been at this time.

The Mesosphere

In one of our recent articles on deep mining, we spoke about temperatures reaching as high as 145° degrees. Now we go to an area you wouldn’t want to venture to either, but this time the temperatures go in the opposite direction; that is, way low to about −225°.  Now that’s cold and is the average temperature in this layer. Ironically though, it is also the layer where meteors burn up when entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Any water in this layer here freezes into ice clouds. They make for some beautiful colored skies. The scientific name for them is noctilucent clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds (not to be confused with the northern lights, which are different). These mostly blue like clouds are visible at sunset from each of the earth’s poles.

The Thermosphere 

This layer extends between 310 and 620 miles and temperatures can get up to 2,700 degrees. The International Space Station orbits here and this is the layer where we do see the northern lights, also called the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.

The Exosphere

We have reached the final destination. The air is extremely thin here, but unless you are excited with an abundance of hydrogen and helium, just be content to know that the end of the exosphere is where outer space begins.

Conclusion 

What’s your favorite layer? Before you answer, best bet is to take a ride up there. The next flight to the International Space Station is set for October 22, 2020. Register early. We hear that the bookings are filling up fast! 

 

Loneliness, Darkness and Miners, Oh My!

Mponeng Gold Mine
Mponeng Gold Mine, South Africa (GNU Free Documentation License)

If you think quarantining in your house for a month or two is bad, just wait till you hear how miners live each day, especially in the very deep ones such as the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg South Africa, which is the world’s deepest mine.

Is it Worth it?

The Mponeng mine only needs to extract a minimum of 0.35 ounces from a ton of rock to be profitable, but that is certainly attainable because they pull out over 6,000 tons of rock per day.

How Deep is the Mponeng Mine?

Well, in order to grasp just how deep this mine is, as well as how to manage working there, and in the cases of illegal miners – living there, let’s take an imaginary ride to the bottom of the mine; however, let us remember that this might be imaginary for us, but definitely real for them!

Jumping on the next elevator (called a cage) to descend from the surface,  we take the lengthy ride 1.6 miles down where you will reach a connection to a second elevator that will take you down further.

Don’t expect the place to look like a hotel lobby when you get there. Instead, you will be greeted with a huge array of tunnels with a diameter of about five or six feet in all directions and stretches for hundreds of miles. Yes, ‘hundreds’! 236 miles to be exact. That is more extensive than the New York City subway system. So if you don’t mind trudging through this dare, dreary area to get your gold, go for it, but you might want to still reconsider because there is an additional factor – temperatures in these caves can reach as high as 140º F. 

Why are the Temperatures So High?

You descended almost three miles down through the earth’s crust and the closer to the earth’s core you go, the higher the temperatures will be. Not to worry though because there are sophisticated cooling systems that will keep your body from going into dehydration and maybe sudden death. 

What are These Cooling Systems? 

6,000 tons of ice per day is pumped down to cool the tunnels, along with giant fans that blow the air over the ice which subsequently reduces the temperature to a nice 85º, but you will need to bring one of those tanning lamps (not recommended) because that’s the only way you will be able to get a suntan, if you have the time to do so.

Within these small rock layered tunnels, these are the temperatures that these miners are faced with; however, there are other miners who face even worse conditions. These people are hired by international criminal organizations to dig out gold from these same mines. Called ghost miners, they sneak into the mines (actually the bribed guards look the other way) and live down there for months on end.

Don’t expect them to get caught as they will blend into the miles of tunnels where it is almost impossible to locate them, but if they do get caught, they have the firepower to push the ‘mining police’ back with their AK-47s and bottle grenades.

Ghost miners might not know each other, but they have their allegiances and help out each other when they can with food and supplies, which undoubtedly helps to keep them from going insane.

Bacteria in the Mponeng Gold Mine

So you thought that all living organisms need the sun to nourish. Wrong. Deep in the Mponeng mine, scientists found Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, otherwise known to the general public as bacteria. These tiny creatures have never seen the sun. They live independently from all other organisms and can be considered a single-species ecosystem.

How Does This Bacteria Live in This Harsh Environment?

Water does find its way from above through cracks in the rocks and they acquire nourishment from the breakdown of organic matter. D. audaxviator, which is the common denominator for this family of microbes have been living down there for millions of years.

How Would One Get a Job as a Mponeng miner?

Hold on! We suggest not to quit your day job so fast, but if you insist and don’t mind the dark, dreary, hot conditions to get your hands on a few ounces of gold (if you are successful), here are the job offerings

Tanzanian Miner Finds Tanzanite Gem Worth Millions

Coat of Arms of Tanzania
(Photo: Wikimedia
Public Domain)

Looks like Saniniu Laizer, an independent miner in Tanzania has the luck of the Tanzanians, after finding, for a third time, a discovery of two violet-blue tanzanite gemstones, which are some of the world’s rarest gems.

These stones are said to be the largest ever found in the country and this discovery made 52-year-old Saniniu a self-made millionaire. He sold 33 pounds of stones to the Tanzania government for a whopping 7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.4 million U.S. dollars).

Laizer is not employed by any organization or company. Like others, he mines on his own by hand, but if this gemstone find was not enough, he went back to make another discovery, grabbing a 14-pound gemstone valued at $2 million.

Surface Mining
Surface Mining (CC)

Mining makes up more than 50% of Tanzania’s exports with gold the primary mineral. Saniniu’s mining is considered legal, although there are Illegal mining techniques as well as corruption in this country and it is a big problem for the government. 

In 2019, Tanzania set up trading centers to allow miners to sell their gems to the government. Many reportedly mine by hand, like Saniniu without any affiliation to any mining companies. This also encourages other small scale miners to work.

So What is Laizer Going to Do with His Fortune?

Farmers_in_Igunga,_Tanzania
Farmers in Igunga,_Tanzania (Wikipedia)

“There will be a big party tomorrow” he said. “I want to build a shopping mall. Laizer also mentioned that he will slaughter one of his 2,000 cows for his party, according to the BBC.

Tanzania is a poor country located in East Africa and despite its mining production of gold, it still remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and although they have a structured educational system, the attendance rate is poor.

There is a lack of trained teachers, a lack of student motivation from students to attend, most probably due to the lack of esteem due to the low poverty level; subsequently, there is a large drop out rate. Poor nutrition is also a big problem. No doubt this also adds to the overall impoverishment of the country.

Saniniu Laizern is a bright spot in these areas of low morale, so it’s not surprising to hear that he wants to build a school and healthcare facility in his community. “I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can’t afford to take their children to school.”

Additionally, he said: “I am not educated but I like things [sic] run in a professional way.” And he said that he would like his children to manage his business. This should not be a major problem for Saniniu, since it has been reported that he has four wives and over 30 children.

Taking Care of Your Gemstone Jewelry

Beads in pink, white, black, lead, and gray
Photo: pxhere.com

Jewelry is cherished for its unique beauty and is special for the value it may hold for the owner. When it comes to gemstone jewelry, the love and appreciation for the accessory doubles. After all, it’s more precious and beautiful. If you take good care of your jewelry, you can increase its value and pass it on as a treasurable heirloom for generations to come. Here’s a proper guide on how you can look after your gemstone jewelry. 

Know Your Gem First

Before you deep dive into cleaning your gemstones, it’s important to first identify them. This is important because different gemstones have different physical properties and they may react differently to chemicals. For instance, some gems are sensitive to heat, while others may weaken because of harsh chemicals. Therefore, you must know what you’re dealing with before you begin your cleaning process. 

While many online guides can help you identify your gem, the best would be to take it to a professional jeweler, a reliable gemologist or a geologist. Apart from identifying your stone, they can also notify you of any physical quirks and corresponding cleaning tools you will need.  

Clean with a Soft Toothbrush 

The best kind of brush to clean your gemstones is with a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. Avoid using a hard or firm brush as it can damage the stone. Use a clean toothbrush and be gentle while coursing it on your stone. Extra care needs to be taken when cleaning sensitive gems such as amber or pearl

Use Mild Detergent 

Most store-bought jewelry cleaners are safe because they are made from mild chemicals. The first step is to mix warm water with a mild detergent cleaning solution and soak your jewelry in it for 2 -3 minutes. Next, using a soft brush, scrub your jewelry gently. You can also use a clean toothpick or shaved matchstick to pick out accumulated dirt if any. But make sure to perform this step patiently.  

Once you’re past this stage, dip the accessory back into the prepared solution. Lastly, rinse off in warm water, ensuring the temperature is the same as the solution. Once finished, shake off the excess liquid and polish it with a gentle, lint-free cloth. To avoid any liquid stain on your gems, plunge them on a surface full of maple wood chips for a few minutes. Afterward, remove all the chips away. 

Handle with a Lot of Care 

Be gentle and careful when putting on your jewelry. Never put pressure directly on them. Don’t push or pull them harshly as doing so may weaken the fastenings and lead to breaking or losing of stones. You should rather push rings by holding its sides or fasten bracelets or necklaces using the band, making sure the area where stones are fixed face upward. 

Follow the Etiquette of Wearing Jewelry

Jewelry is often the most regular part of one’s attire. If that’s your case, you should wear your accessories responsibly to maintain their beauty for long. Always follow the golden rule of putting on your jewelry last (after your clothes, hair and makeup) but taking it off first. Do this, and you will lessen the chance of ruining your gems. Avoid wearing jewelry or take it off before engaging in any strenuous task such as cooking, exercising, gardening, etc.   

Protect Your Jewelry from Extreme Heat and Light

Like many other items, heat can damage certain gemstones. Therefore, it’s best to keep them away from direct sun. For example, avoid placing your jewelry pieces made specifically from opal near the windowsill, where excessive heat can damage the appearance of the minerals. 

A prompt change in weather conditions can also make certain stones or metals crack. Considering this, you should always tuck away your jewelry pieces in a safe box. 

Regular Inspections

Regular care and maintenance are crucial for the long-lasting shine and beauty of your gemstones. It’s often suggested to get your precious gems examined by a qualified gemologist every few months. They can inspect your stones or metals for wear and tear and upon any damage that they find, they usually can fix it right away. 

Consider Polishing 

Keeping your gemstones stored for long can turn them dull and dreary. To restore their luster, polish them with a soft chamois. Try doing this daily to protect your gemstone jewelry from aging. 

Store Carefully

The worst thing you can do to your jewelry pieces is tossing them away in your drawer or dressing table. To keep your expensive jewelry safe and sound, you should always store them in a sterilized bag or box. Make it a habit of putting your stones in a proper jewelry box once you take them off.  

Take Your Jewelry Off Before You Go to Sleep

Just like you’re not supposed to go to bed with makeup on, you should not sleep wearing your gemstone jewelry either. Your jewelry may get tangled into your hair strands or get twisted with your bedsheet strings. 

Gemstone jewelry can be a hefty (but beautiful) investment. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy them if you can afford it. It will ultimately elevate your class and style. However, to ensure you can enjoy your gemstones forever, make sure to take excellent care of them by following the guidelines mentioned above! 

https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1417127

Where Do Gems Come From? Summarizing the Million-Year Process

A rock with gemstones
Photo: Unsplash.com

If you’ve ever had an opportunity to see a gemstone in its raw form, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess how valuable they can be once refined. Gemstones don’t form just like that; it takes thousands to millions of years. It’s their rarity and the tough process of extraction that makes them such a valuable commonady!

While most people are fond of gemstone jewelry, gem collectors are more interested in knowing where they come from. If you’re among the latter, you may be interested to know how the breathtakingly-beautiful ruby gets formed or how the sparkling sapphire came into existence. If so, you’ve come to the right place. This blog post summarizes the million-year process of gem formation. Let’s hop into the topic without any further delay.

The Origin of Gemstones 

Simply put, gemstones come from rocks. Rocks are made from an assortment of different minerals. The most common minerals that are most abundant in rocks include silicates like mica, olivine, quartz, emeralds, oxides, carbonates, halides and sulfides. Many minerals come together to form beautiful and unique crystals and out of these crystals, gemstones are the most valuable. Gems look quite ordinary in their raw, uncut form, but once they are extracted, cut and polished, the luster and brilliance are just incomparable!  

How Are Gemstones Formed?

Most gemstones are formed inside the earth’s crust, which is the top-most layer. They’re usually created at a depth of 3-25 miles. However, some gemstones from deeper down in the mantle. These include peridot and diamonds. The mantle mostly consists of magma, which is molten rock.

Since most of the gemstones form in the earth’s crust, let’s look at the crust a bit in detail. The crust comprises three different kinds of rocks; igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. They differ in the way they’re formed. Some gemstone varieties may be formed from any one type of rock, while others may be associated with multiple rock types. 

Igneous Gemstones

The igneous rocks are formed by the solidification of magma that rises to the crust from the mantle through volcanic pipes. Once it reaches the surface, it’s exposed to a contrastingly lower temperature, and as a result, it solidifies. However, if the process of solidification is slow and gradual, it can crystallize to form minerals. Some of the gemstones that are formed through the igneous process include quartz (ametrine, amethyst, etc.), garnet, apatite, moonstone, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline and zircon.

Sedimentary Gemstones

After the igneous rocks reach the earth’s surface, they’re exposed to weathering and erosion, causing them to deteriorate into smaller particles. These smaller particles are moved by water and wind and with time, the layers of these smaller sediments build up underwater or on land. As the sedimentation continues, the pressure by the upper layers results in the layers below to become compressed and compact. They also undergo numerous physical and chemical changes that eventually lead to the formation of sedimentary rocks. Gem formation that occurs through sedimentation results in the formation of sedimentary gemstones that include opal, jasper and malachite.

Metamorphic Gemstones

Some processes put the minerals of igneous rocks and sedimentary rocks under immense pressure and heat that brings about a change in their structure and chemistry. These processes include contact metamorphism and regional metamorphism. As a result of excessive heat and pressure, igneous and sedimentary rocks are converted into metamorphic rock. The gemstones that are formed as a result of metamorphosis include turquoise, ruby, jade, zircon, sapphire, etc.

The rocks are constantly changing. And all of this doesn’t occur overnight. It takes millions of years. It took your favorite ruby that you so fondly wear around your neck at least several thousands of years to be what it is today.

What Makes Gemstones So Precious?

Gemstones aren’t waiting on the earth’s surface where you can pick them up like you pluck a flower or a seashell. They’re embedded in rocks, such that you can’t even tell if a particular piece of rock has gems in it. They are difficult to locate and extract. As the saying goes – best things don’t come easy and that sits fit in case of gemstones! 

Even after gemstones are extracted from the rocks, it takes a lot of effort to bring them into a shape that is lustrous and attractive. You wouldn’t want to wear a pendant with an unrefined piece of rock around your neck, would you? It’s the shine, color and the luster that make gemstones so highly attractive. 

Gem formation takes millions of years. Assuming that all the gemstones present today are extracted from the earth, we won’t have any new supply of gems for the next thousands of years. The million-year process of gemstone formation is one of the reasons why gemstones are so precious. 

All minerals are precious, some more than the others. The value of gems depends on how common or rare they are. The more widely a gemstone is available, the less expensive it’ll be. They’re divided into different categories; precious, semi-precious and organic. Precious gemstones include ruby, sapphire, diamond, and emerald. Semi-precious gemstones include opal, topaz, jade, and others. Organic ones include pearl, coral, and amber. 

Closing Word 

Now you know where gems come from – they come from rocks! The type and quality of a mineral depends on the type of rock it comes from. While all gems are precious, the varying mineral composition  gives them the characteristic color and appearance.

Gemstones are widely used in jewelry. A lot of people are involved in gem trading. And many people simply love to collect them. Knowing that a gemstone goes through multiple stresses over tens and thousands of years before taking the form we see today, there is no doubt that people consider them as highly precious assets! 

Howard Fensterman Minerals