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A space rock containing over 100 million tons of platinum at its core was seen flying within 1.5 million miles of the Earth this past weekend, sparking interest in the future of space mining.

platinum asteroid

This asteroid “2011 UW-158” flyby was captured by the Slooh online observatory, using a team of telescopes located in the Canary Islands. Two live feeds were provided; one long range that showed the asteroid moving across the viewing field visible as a small white spec, the other a close up centered on the asteroid. Commentary was provided by both Slooh astronomer Bob Berman, and host Eric Edelman.

plat asteroid

A special guest appearance was made by Planetary Resources President Chris Lewicki. Planetary Resources is an asteroid mining venture – that counts Google founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt among its backers – has its sights set on the 2011 UW-158. Due to the (relatively) close proximity of the asteroid, which is approximately six times farther than the Moon but 60 times closer than the next nearest planet, Venus, it has sparked a renewed interest in the viability of space mining.

The company has calculated the asteroid to contain about 100 million tons of pure platinum, approximately $5.4 trillion dollars’ worth. While they have also been tracking similar asteroids in our solar system, this is the one that has come the closest to the Earth.

Officials from NASA believe that futuristic space mining may be feasible as early as 2025. Asteroids would be “captured” and brought into orbit of our Moon, where space miners would be able to collect resources. NASA states that the elements present in asteroids, such as rocket fuel and water, could be gathered by future generations in the quest to explore more of our solar system.

 

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sunset proposalMarch 20th marks Proposal Day, the day on which an estimated 50,000 couples will get engaged!

Is March 20th the day to pop the big question? Possibly, but this lesser known holiday was initially started for the purpose of giving a nudge to couples who have not yet taken the ultimate step of commitment. Interestingly enough, it was a man by the name of John Michael O’Laughlin who founded Proposal Day. After seeing his cousin being strung along for years by a boyfriend who wouldn’t commit, O’Laughlin decided enough was enough and decided to dedicate one day out of the year just for the act of proposing.

Proposal Day falls on the Vernal Equinox, one out of two days of the year on which the Earth’s North and South poles are both perpendicular to the Sun’s rays. This means that the Sun appears approximately an equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth, so that day and night are equal lengths. O’Laughlin specifically chose the day of an equinox because he believed the equal day and night symbolized “the equal efforts of the two required to comprise a successful marriage.” The Autumnal Equinox falls about six months after March 20th, and is considered by some to be a second Proposal Day for that reason.vernal equinox

The holiday is an opportunity to start a conversation about the possibility of a future proposal, according to ProposalDay.com. Besides, nowadays couples wait longer before tying the knot; a recent poll found that roughly 27 per cent of women whose partners had popped the question dated their partner for three to five years. As an added benefit, talking to your partner about the proposal beforehand means that you can go engagement ring shopping together, which takes some pressure off of finding the perfect engagement ring!

Although it’s certainly not as widely recognized as Valentine’s Day, there are signs that Proposal Day is gaining traction. It has been creating a buzz in numerous social media outlets like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter and has even been featured in the national news media.

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nizamThe Duchess of Cambridge stepped out on her first official event of the year in great style, with an elegant navy Jenny Packham evening gown and her signature wavy locks. But what stole the show was what she was wearing on her neck, a priceless diamond necklace known as the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Named after the man who bestowed this extravagant gift, it has been a part of the Royal Collection of Jewels since 1947 when the Nizam of Hyderabad gave it to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift. At the time, the Nizam was one of the richest men in India, and he governed over an area that indisputably is the origin of the most valuable diamonds in the world. The Golconda region, located just west of the Hyderabad district has produced large diamonds of such purity and quality that many are located in museums and royal collections to this day. The Hope diamond (Smithsonian Natural History Museum), Daria-i-Noor (Central Bank of Iran), Koh-i-Noor (British Crown Jewels), and the Archduke Joseph (recently sold at auction for a record-breaking price) are some famous diamonds with Golcandan provenance.nizam

This is the first time where the Duchess has stepped out in jewels from the royal vault, and she chose the fundraising gala at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Despite the host of celebrities also attending and the priceless paintings themselves, all eyes were on the Duchess’ neckline. Media reports speculate that Kate will be undergoing a change in wardrobe to look more regal in the coming months.

The Nizam of Hyderabad is constructed of colorless diamonds and platinum, featuring a double drop pear-shaped pendant and thirteen emerald cut diamonds. It is seen worn by the Queen in many official portraits, and like other priceless jewelry pieces is unlikely ever to leave the British Crown’s possession.

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3: STONE:

Here we will only consider diamonds. If you are considering other stones, speak to a gemmologist to find out your options and get their recommendations. Remember: knowledge is power, know as much as you can about what you are spending your money on.

Diamonds are rocks that form naturally in the earth, so there is no ‘one size fits all’. It is like choosing between apples – size, sweetness, crispness, juiciness are categories you want to balance when picking an apple. It is similar for diamonds but with different criteria.

  • Carat: In gold this word refers to the purity, with diamonds it is the weight/size. Bear in mind that diamonds are priced per carat digitally. In other words 0.5-0.99 is one price bracket, and 1.00-1.49 is another. Therefore it is possible to buy a 0.98 for the price of a 0.5 and it will look like a 1 carat. The other factors are also critical, however, so bear in mind that a 1 carat diamond can vary in price dramatically depending on the other variables.
  • Clarity: Being an organic material, most diamonds have impurities known as inclusions. Inclusions are usually white or black and some can be seen with the naked eye. A stone without inclusions is called ‘flawless’ and carries a high price tag. Clarity is graded using letter-number combinations. For most rings the range to look for is either VS1 and VS2 which are very clear, then S1 and S2 have inclusions that can easily be seen with 10x magnification, but not so easily with the naked eye. Diamonds also possess blemishes such as tiny cracks which can make the diamond cloudy (see warnings below).
  • Colour: diamonds vary in colour from colourless to brown and even black. Unless you are after a diamond that is noticeably coloured, you want to aim for as white as possible. Colour is graded using letters. D is colourless, through to zyx (noticeably tinted). Aim for D-G range for a quality diamond.
  • Cut: this determines the overall shape of the stone (round, square, rectangle, oval, pear shaped etc) and sparkly (fire). The more facets the more the light is bounced around in the stone and is reflected back to you as sparkle. Round brilliant cut is the most popular and gives a lot of sparkle. Also more facets can hide impurities, for example, if you are in the market for a flawless diamond, this will be well seen in an emerald (rectangle) cut.

Speak to a jeweler who knows their stones. If your priority is high purity, then maybe you can go down on the carat size or colour etc.

WARNINGS:

Not enough emphasis can be made on the importance of buying from a reputable retailer. It is really important that you trust who you are buying from as not all jewelry is what it seems.

  • Castings of the ring mounts when machine made can be porous (tiny bubbles in the metal); the claws that set the stones can be loose, and these rings will not last.
  • There are imitation diamonds on the market, so be sure to get a certification so that you know you are not buying a cubic zirconia or moissanite when you want a diamond.
  • Especially when buying jewelry unseen, such as on the internet, be aware that even if the dealer is obliged to state colour, clarity and carat value, it is not obliged to state cloudiness or treatments that have been made to artificially enhance the stone. These include laser drilling where tiny pin holes are made into the inclusion to bleach it white or dissolve it. These can look like natural flaws and don’t necessarily impair the appearance or structure of the stone. Fillers, however are not considered permanent and the substance used (usually glass) has different properties to diamonds and can appear as colour flashes unusual to diamond. Also, heat and sunlight can effect this substance over time darkening or eroding it. Even though diamond is the hardest substance, cracks (especially unfilled) are weaknesses and make the stone vulnerable to cracking. There is nothing wrong with buying a treated stone (it can make a lesser quality stone appear better), but make sure that this is disclosed when you purchase so that you know you are paying the right price.

You are now armed and ready to browse those jewelry stores and know what you are looking at! This is all very technical information, as you browse you will find that some diamonds “speak” to you more than others. Don’t be held down by the numbers – find a stone you love and a setting that compliments the stone and your personality. And shop around for the jeweler you trust.

Happy shopping!

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A StoreShopping for engagement rings can be a highly emotional and daunting task. Jewelry stores can be intimidating. Don’t be put off by the seemingly endless styles and confusing prices. Let’s make it easier and break it down. Once you have an idea of what is important to you, find a reputable jeweler that you trust, preferably with gemmological qualifications, who can source stones and who works with a good goldsmith so that you can guarantee good product and service. It is well worth spending the time to find the right retailer as this ring is for life, not just for the proposal, and just as any other long wearing item, it will need upkeep – claws that hold the stone in place will need tightening, white gold will need rhodium plating, polishing, cleaning, resizing, insurance validations are all things you may need to follow up with.

So what variables do you need to consider to make your shopping experience easier? Take a note of your priority in each category and bring the list with you when browsing:

The fundamentals are Style and Material. Here we will focus on diamond engagement rings only.

1: STYLE:

  • 1 stone is called a solitaire, it is very popular – it says “you are the one and only”.
  • 3 stone rings stand for “I Love You” or “Then, Now, Always”.
  • Other designs are less conventional but always beautiful: the halo design is a single stone surrounded by a ring of smaller stones. This can look stunning if they are all diamonds as it makes the overall effect of a larger diamond, also if the centre stone is coloured, the halo frames that stone and makes it really stand out.
  • When diamonds are set in a line either part or all the way around the ring in a band, then this is called an eternity ring. This is popular when the knuckles are larger than the base of the finger and your rings tend to spin around, it is a more popular choice as the wedding band.

2: METAL:

Depending on skin tone and preference there are silver and golden coloured metals.

  • Silver is very soft and not very appropriate for setting precious stones.Ring Styles
  • White gold is a good alternative. The higher the carat value, the more gold content, and the higher the price. More gold usually means softer, except for 19K which has a different alloy and is extremely hard, and does not need rhodium plating as often. Gold will always want to revert to its original yellow, so over time a 14K gold ring will tarnish and need plating every 2 years or so to bring it back to the bright white, and of course when you do this the ring will look brand new again! Rhodium plating typically costs $60, so keep this in mind when purchasing.
  • Platinum is the hardest and whitest of the white metals. It does not scratch as easily as gold and will never need plating. However, over time, with constant wear, the ring will eventually collect scratches. As the metal is harder, normal jewelry polishing wheels at retail shops may not be able to polish off all marks.
  • Yellow and rose gold will have more colour with higher carat value, but will be softer.

 

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