Say Hello to ‘Aquaprase,’ the Newly Discovered Bluish-Green Variety of Chalcedony

The Gemological Institute of America has just identified a new variety of chalcedony, a fascinating discovery that incorporates the colors of the sky, the sea and the earth. Dubbed “Aquaprase” by gem explorer Yianni Melas, the translucent bluish-green specimens have been compared to the Aegean Sea when viewed from an airplane.

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Although the rough material is available in “clean” varieties that are either vibrant blue-green or baby blue “with clouds,” Melas prefers the material with matrix, which is part of the surrounding rock. Melas told jewelry trade magazine JCK that the matrix looks more natural and gives the finished piece more character.

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“We took one gem crystal and instead of trying to match it after we cut it, we sliced in half so both sides are a mirror image,” he told JCK. “The matrix on one side matches the matrix on the other. It’s very, very good for earring sets. The matching matrix actually adds to the beauty… People know immediately this material is natural because each piece is unique. Every piece is unusual.”

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The Greece native came up with the name “Aquaprase” by combining the word “aqua” (for the blue sea) with “phrase” (meaning green in Greek).

The GIA reported that the bluish-green chalcedony gets its unique color from traces of chromium and nickel within the chemical makeup of the quartz stone. Previously identified varieties of chalcedony occurred in yellowish-green and greenish-blue colors.

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Melas first encountered “Aquaprase” in Africa about two years ago, in a location known for opal production (he did not disclose the country). He told JCK that he spied this new gem while visiting a friend’s hut. The specimen was displayed on a shelf and was in poor condition.

“I couldn’t explain why I thought it was different,” he told JCK. “It is like a third eye. I have seen thousands of stones and you get that feeling. When I picked up the stone, I had the chills, a funny feeling. That feeling is something you have to follow.”

He dug and trench and was able to find more examples of this type of gem, but he wasn’t sure what it was, exactly.

Some associates guessed it was chrysocolla; others said is was blue-green opal. Most thought it was chrysoprase.

Seeking to get a final, conclusive word on what he held, Melas sent a sample to the GIA.

“I heard nothing for three months,” he told JCK. “Then I got a phone call that said we found something incredible. It’s not a chrysoprase. It is not a chrysocolla. It’s a chalcedony that has never been discovered.”

Melas’ reaction? “That is when I started jumping up and down,” he said.

Credit: Photos by Yianni Melas via Instagram/gemexplorer

Music Friday: ‘There’s a Lady Who’s Sure All That Glitters Is Gold’ in Led Zeppelin’s Classic ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we’re proud to present Heart’s amazing rendition of what is arguably one of the greatest rock songs of all time, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

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Co-writer and lead vocalist Robert Plant revealed that the lyrics came to him in a flash of inspiration.

“I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold / And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat,” he said.

Plant explained that the gold-related lyrics tell the story to a woman who gets everything she wants without giving anything back. She accumulates great wealth, only to find out her life has no meaning and that her money won’t get her into heaven. The rest of the song he described as “an abstraction.”

“Depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way — and I wrote the lyrics,” he said.

Released in 1971 as the fourth track of Led Zeppelin IV, “Stairway to Heaven” became the group’s signature song. Amazingly, it was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the U.S. in the 1970s even through the original version ran 8:02 and was never released as a single. DJs played promotional singles, which quickly became collector’s items. In 2000, VH1 selected “Stairway to Heaven” #3 on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs of all time.

Led Zeppelin, which is widely considered one of the most successful and influential rock groups in history, disbanded shortly after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.

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In December 2012, Led Zeppelin’s music was the focus of a star-studded tribute at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Surviving members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones watched with great pride from the balcony as Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart — supported by an orchestra and huge choir — brought down the house with an inspired performance of “Stairway to Heaven.”

Performing on drums was Jason Bonham, who looks strikingly like his dad, John, and is a fabulous talent in his own right. Plant is clearly misty eyed as the song builds to a rousing crescendo.

It’s an amazing moment in rock history, and we have a great video to share. We know you will love Heart’s brilliant rendition of “Stairway to Heaven,” which was broadcast on CBS. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Stairway to Heaven”
Written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Originally performed by Led Zeppelin. Tribute performed by Heart.

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh ooh ooh ooh and she’s buying a stairway to heaven
There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder
There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder
And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder
Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

$21M Jewelry and Gem Collection of Former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos to Hit Auction Block

On this day in 1986, in the face of mass demonstrations and charges of embezzlement, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda were forced to flee the presidential palace in Manila and seek refuge in Hawaii. Although Imelda dreaded leaving behind more than 1,200 pairs of designer shoes, she did bring along a cache of fine gemstones and jewelry that are valued today at $21 million.

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The jewelry was confiscated in Hawaii, and now, 30 years later, will be sold to the highest bidder.

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Among the dazzling pieces in Imelda’s collection were a barrel-shaped 25-carat pink diamond estimated to be worth $5 million and a Cartier tiara also valued in that same range. Imelda is currently 86 years old; Ferdinand died in 1989 at the age of 72.

Seized in three batches and totaling 300 pieces, the jewelry will be displayed in a public exhibition before it hits the auction block.

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“The exhibition of these ill-gotten jewels will be a great vehicle to raise awareness — especially for the younger generation and those who have forgotten — and to remind the Filipino people of the perils of the two-decade regime of corruption that was under the Marcoses,” noted Richard T. Amurao, chairman of the Philippine’s Presidential Commission on Good Government.

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The Hawaii batch will be the first to be sold. The other two are still being contested in the Filipino court system.

During the Marcos’ 20-year regime, the couple reportedly amassed a fortune that included paintings by Pablo Picasso, Francisco de Goya and Michelangelo — all while the country was in economic decline.

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The jewelry in Marcos’ collection was appraised recently by both Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses. The Philippine government will soon determine the dates of the public exhibition and auction.

Credits: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images; ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images.