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Faces“Faces of Eternity” is the new exhibition being displayed at the Gemological Institute of America’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California. The exhibition features a collection of 15 carved skulls by a Peruvian artist Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio. The skulls are made from various large gemstone crystals, ornamental rocks and silver and gold vermeil. It’s inspired by the contrast of human mortality and the timelessness of gemstones.

“From fossilized whale bone to rainforest jasper, and from pink opal to peanut wood agate, Aparicio chose materials from a gem lover’s dream. Each skull has a distinctive look and feel to it, making this collection fascinating on both a gemological and artistic level,” said Terri Ottaway, GIA museum curator.

One of the skulls called “Everlasting Youth” was carved from Mozambican aquamarine with rock crystal quartz and gold vermeil.  “Top Hat Gentle-skull” is made in rock crystal quartz from Madagascar with snowflake obsidian and gold vermeil. Another called “Chocolate with Peanut Butter” skull is made with petrified palm  wood agate from Australia with obsidian and gold vermeil.

“The skulls collection was one of my favorite to create. By carving natural gemstones with a combination of lapidary art and metal smith techniques, you can really see how the colors and textures in each stone brings each piece to life,” Aparicio said.Faces

His whole collection is comprised of 26 pieces all made within one year. The other 11 pieces not found in the exhibition are in private collections in the USA, the U.K, France and Russia. He works with his sister Sylvia at their family owned company called Neoart Peru established in 1975. The company specializes in ruby carvings with a focus on wildlife inspired themes using very rare and unusual gemstones.

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For the past thousand years collectors of the most rare and expensive diamonds have become popular among the rich and royalty, now most diamonds and rare stones are set in museums for all to see and admire. Diamonds have become a mining project with a huge demand.  See a list below of some of the most expensive and famous diamonds in the world.




This diamond is so precious that its price can’t ever be estimated.  It is a 105 carat measuring at approximately 36 X 32 X 10 mm , once the largest diamond in the world. Came from Andhra Pradesh in India, and the name is Persian for Mountain of Light. It was carried by the hands of many Persian, Sikh and Mughul rulers who fought over it constantly. When India fell in the hands of the English it was taken by them.  Currently the gem is preserved in HM Tower of London and is a famous tourist attraction.

The Sancy Diamond

This diamond is also so precious that it is also priceless. It weighs approximately 11 grams and is pale yellow in colour. It was in the procession of the Mughuls and originated in India. It is the first diamond of its size to be cut with symmetrical facets and is unusual because it doesn’t have any pavilion. It has pairs of crowns one above the other. This diamond is stored in Louvre at the French Crown Jewel Collection.

The Cullinan

This diamond is 3,106.75 carats and 4 inches in diameter! It is known as the biggest rough quality diamond in the world.  It was found in South Africa and when polished goes by the name Great Star of Africa. It now rests in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

The Hope Diamond

hope diamond

This diamond costs $350 million and weighs 45.52 carats. By just looking at it the stone seems blue in color because of the crystal structure and many traces of boron, but when observed with ultraviolet light it is a red phosphor. The precious beauty is now kept in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

De Beers Centenary Diamond

This diamond goes at a pretty price of 100 million dollars and is classified by GIA at a D level. The diamond is colourless and flawless inside and out and weighs 273.85 carats. Found in the De Beer’s Premier Mine and is the 3rd largest diamond found there.

The Steinmetz Pink

This diamond is rated a Vivid Pink by the GIA and weighs approximately 12 grams. It is called the largest diamond with the fancy colour pink. This gem was displayed in the exhibition of Smithsonian’s Museum at the Splendor of Diamonds show.

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footballsizegem2This football sized gem has come out of hiding and is looking for a new home but one that will make sure the unique marvel can get viewed on a regular basis. The giant sapphire gem was carved and designed by an Italian artist Alessio Boschi. It took two years to complete and was finished by the year 2000. The 28cm Millennium Sapphire was found in Madagascar in 1995. It weighed 90,000 carats while in its rough state but lost about a third of its mass because of the carving process. The carvers practiced each 134 design on pieces of lapis lazuli.

The sapphire is a tribute of human genius and each 134 design is a different subject including faces. Some of the human genius that is carved onto this stone are faces of Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, Beethoven, and Albert Einstein. It also has representations of the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, and Gutenberg’s printing press.

Currently a union of investors with Daniel McKinney as the leader owns the Millennium Sapphire. In the past 15 years the magnificent carving has only been on public display twice. In the times its not on display it is tucked away in a safe of an undisclosed U.S location. The union agreed that this amazing work needs to be enjoyed by the public. The owners didn’t want to put it up for auction because they wouldn’t be able to control the buyer and someone might have it just for their private display.

“We’ve got offers in the past from various millionaires and billionaires from China and other places to buy it for themselves,” McKinney told The National, “but they would probably put it in their mausoleum and it would be lost to the world.”

“It would be great if it could be displayed in a museum as that’s why it was created,” said Scott Chapman, an associate of McKinney. “The consortium wants to be able to display it and show it.”

For now it is on sale if the right buyer can come up with $180 million and promise to have the 61,500 carat gem to be housed where the public can view it regularly.

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Sapphire HeatSapphires come in every colour except a certain shade of red called a ruby. There are several different methods to enhance and improve the colour and clarity of a sapphire. Commonly practiced treatments are heating a natural sapphire to heighten the look of the stone. Heating a sapphire is done by placing it in a furnace at temperatures between 500 and 1800°C for several hours.  Another way is by heating it in a nitrogen-deficient atmosphere oven for seven days or more. With this process the stones become bluer and lose some of their inclusions like the silk kind. When higher temperatures are used the stone loses all silk inclusions and under magnification the stone is clear. Sapphire and other gemstones being heat treated goes back to Roman times. An untreated natural stone is somewhat rare and will be sold with a certificate from a gemology lab.

Another treatment is diffusion to add impurities to the sapphire and enhance the colour. A type of chemical element called beryllium is diffused into the sapphire with very high heat. Many colours of sapphires are being treated with beryllium. At first orange sapphires were created with this process but now the process has been advanced and many different colours can be produced.

Sapphire Heat

On the other hand a type of sapphire called “Yogo” sometimes does not need to be heat treated because of their natural cornflower blue colour. These sapphires have a deep blue uniform clarity and are generally free of any characteristics or inclusions. Intergem Limited started marketing the Yogos in the 1980’s as the world’s only untreated sapphire guaranteed. By 1982 heat treatment became a major issue at that time 95% of all the worlds sapphires were being heated to bring out their natural colour. The guarantee of Intergems marketing of Yogos set them apart of many in the gem industry. The issue ended up on front page of the Wall Street Journal in 1984 with the headline “Sapphire Marketer Upsets the Gem Industry.”

How to tell if your sapphire has been heat treated? Usually a small UV lamp can help check the gem quickly for any potential alterations. Any stones that have a chalky florescence are most likely heat treated. Taking it to a certified gem dealer with GIA industry standards is a good way to have them test it.

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DiamondsBuying a diamond for the first time is a scary thought to most. A venture into a world that you are aware of, but been happily oblivious to – until of course, you decided you want to propose. Naturally, many turn to the internet for research on the 4 C’s, until your head is exploding with all the information on clarity, color, proportions and carat weight.

Here’s the thing though – none of that matters until you set a budget. Just like a wedding, there should be a planning process that goes into buying a diamond and steps taken before you set foot into a jewelry store.

How do you set a budget? The old adage claims that it should be 2 months salary, but in reality whatever you are comfortable spending is the right amount. Then, you can focus your time to finding the nicest diamond possible for your money. If you do not set a budget before going into a jewelry store, you are likely to end up frustrated or disappointed. The sales associate may show you a beautiful ring you love, but find out that it is much more than you want to spend – then you will be disappointed. If you tell them your budget right off the bat, then they will show the ones that you can afford and be able to compare rings within that range, instead of with the unattainable.

One situation that is common: you know that your girlfriend wants a certain shape that is at least X amount of carats. You set out to find such a stone for the least amount of money possible. The truth is, many people have no real concept of diamond size. Try managing your girlfriend’s expectations by browsing a jewelry store to see diamonds in person, of different carat weights to compare. Say for instance, she has expressed that she wants a 2 carat round diamond, and your budget is around $10,000. You have a choice to buy a low quality, dull diamond that is 2 carats or a very nice quality, white sparkling diamond of around 1 carat. The choice is ultimately up to you. Be realistic with what you can buy with your budget, bigger is not necessarily better.

A trusted jeweler with solid credentials is your best ally in finding the perfect engagement ring. Try to find a jeweler who has formal gemology training, the best would be a Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) or Certified Gemologist from the GIA or AGS. They will have the knowledge base and tools to source suitable diamonds. The best ones will be able to work with your budget to find you the best stones.

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The internet has revolutionized the way that consumers can maximize their buying power. You can now compare prices from different vendors and have items delivered to you from across the globe. This has pushed retailers to lower their prices to compete with internet businesses, which is great for consumers. However, certain things cannot be bought sight unseen. While buying electronics or home tools are fine to buy over the internet, diamonds are not. Buying diamonds should be almost like buying a house – you wouldn’t buy a house without taking a tour first, and you shouldn’t buy diamonds without seeing them. Just as houses are more than their square footage and amenities, each diamond is unique, with many nuances in its characteristics that can’t be defined in a piece of paper.

1. You can’t sell a feeling on the Internet. A diamond is not all about its physical characteristics like symmetry and the grading of the 4 C’s, but also the feelings that it elicits when it is bought and gifted.

2. Additionally, diamonds are much more than their 4 C’s. A diamond is a work of nature. I could give you the dimensions of a woman and her picture, but you need to see her to truly experience her beauty. The same is true of diamonds. You can’t fully appreciate the sparkle, shine and depth until you see it in person.

3. “It’s too good to be true! – it probably is. Diamonds are all unique, so they are all priced accordingly. Diamonds of the same size can vary greatly in price; for example a one carat stone can be anywhere from $3000 to upwards of $30,000. Even diamonds of the same size, shape, color and clarity will vary in price. Why? When diamonds are evaluated the whole picture is taken into account: things like placement of inclusions, brightness of the stone, any negative effects of fluorescence, the list goes on.

4. Nothing beats an expert’s eye. It is recommended for you can do some basic research yourself beforehand to have something to go by. However, even if you are willing to invest countless hours of your free time reading up all about diamonds, you cannot see what a jeweler sees. Remember that they have spent years looking at many, many diamonds and if they are a gemologist they have gone through several years of intensive additional schooling.

5. Buying online involves shipping, and this comes with its own risks. It is possible for the courier to lose or misplace your package, and dealing with the insurance companies will be a long hassle. Also in the event that you wish to return it for any reason, you will have to pay additional costs for shipping and insuring – and the higher value the package is, the higher price for insurance. With so much money at stake, would you want to risk it?

The best thing to do is find a reputable jeweler you can trust. Someone that focuses on the quality of the items they sell and not the quantity, who will take the time to listen to your needs and educate you. More importantly, find one with formal education such a a GIA Graduate Gemologist who will have the knowledge and tools to point out all the details of the diamond with you.

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