December 13th, 2019
Welcome to a special holiday edition of Music Friday. Today, a cash-strapped Toby Keith reluctantly agrees to visit his local jeweler in the comical 1995 release, "Christmas Rock."

In the song, we learn that Keith's wife has been spending a lot of time looking at jewelry catalogs. She knows what she wants for Christmas, and practical, household items, such as pots and pans or a long nightshirt, are not going to cut it this year. She wants "something shinin' on her hand" and it had better be a diamond or an emerald.

Keith tries to plead his case: They're on a strict budget and they have to keep their spending down. Her reaction: She sheds a "big ol' tear."

The man who complains that his "billfold doesn't have a prayer" finds himself en route to his local jeweler.

He sings, "Down to the jewelry store, here I go / Hear the clerk say, "Ho, ho, ho" / She wants a Christmas rock / But Santa's pockets ain't got no roll."

Ironically, 18 years after the song was released, Keith appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine under the headline "Country Music's $500 Million Man."

"Christmas Rock" appeared as the third track from his first holiday album, Christmas To Christmas. Over the course of his 26-year music career, Keith has produced 19 studio albums, two Christmas albums and five compilation albums, with worldwide sales of 40 million units. Sixty-one singles have hit the Billboard Hot Country songs list, including 20 chart toppers.

Born in Clinton, Okla, in 1961, Toby Keith Covel became interested in music as a youngster. His grandmother owned a supper club in Fort Smith, Ark., and the young boy would visit during the summers. Keith did odd jobs around the club and got to interact with the band members. He got is first guitar at the age of eight.

After graduating high school, Keith worked as a derrick hand in the oil fields, but also performed for $35 a night at local bars as the frontman for the Easy Money Band. The band played the honky tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas, but never made it big.

Nearing 30 years of age, Keith decided to move to Nashville to see if he could land a recording contract and fulfill his dreams of a career in the music business. He distributed demo tapes to record companies in the city, but there was no interest.

Keith's luck changed when a flight attendant and fan gave one of his demo tapes to Harold Shedd, a Mercury Records executive. Shedd later saw Keith perform live and quickly signed him to a record deal.

Since 2002, the singer, songwriter, actor and record producer has made numerous trips to the Middle East to support and entertain the U.S. men and women serving near the front lines.

Please check out the audio track of Keith performing "Christmas Rock." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Christmas Rock"
Written by Lewis Anderson. Performed by Toby Keith.

My billfold doesn't have a prayer
There's Christmas catalogs everywhere
She keeps looking at the jewelry section
Cutting pictures out of her selections

I said, "We need to hold it down this year"
And in her eye she got a big ol' tear
She wants a Christmas rock
But Santa's pockets ain't got no roll

She don't want pots and pans
Just something shinin' on her hand
With an emerald or a diamond on it
I had a budget but she's gone and blown it

Down to the jewelry store, here I go
Hear the clerk say, "Ho, ho, ho"
She wants a Christmas rock
But Santa's pockets ain't got no roll

She don't want anything from Sears
No tools or garden shears
There's something special on her mind
And I can't even afford the shine

I wish she'd settled for a long nightshirt
No, I've got to give till it hurts
She wants a Christmas rock
But Santa's pockets ain't got no roll

She don't want pots and pans
Just something shinin' on her hand
With an emerald or a diamond on it
I had a budget but she's gone and blown it

Down to the jewelry store, here I go
Hear the clerk say, "Ho, ho, ho"
She wants a Christmas rock
But Santa's pockets ain't got no roll

She wants a Christmas rock
But ol' Santa's pockets ain't got no roll

Credit: Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
December 12th, 2019
For more than 12 years, the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) has helped diamond communities around the world to become strong, stable, prosperous and socially empowered. On December 5, the program announced that its familiar tagline — "Diamonds Do Good" — will now be used as the business name of the organization.

According to an official statement, the Diamond Empowerment Fund's name change seizes on the "simplicity, significance and resonance" of the "Diamonds Do Good" tagline. And, in keeping with the change, the non-profit organization also reimagined its logo.

Inspired by social rights activist Nelson Mandela and founded in 2007 by business entrepreneur Russell Simmons and leaders in the diamond and jewelry industries, the nonprofit DEF has changed lives in the communities where diamonds are mined, cut, polished and sold.

In recent years, the DEF (now Diamonds Do Good) has told the stories of its good work on social media and through Public Service Announcements (PSAs).

Those stories have resonated with consumers and the trade alike. Consumers now have a better image of the natural diamond industry and are more interested in purchasing a natural diamond after reading the "do good" stories hosted on

• In the Madhya Pradesh region of central India, for instance, 4,700 villagers now have access to clean drinking water thanks to the initiatives of diamond producer Rio Tinto.

• In the Siberian town of Mirny, 2,000 youngsters have access to a state-of-the-art Cultural and Sports Complex built and funded by the diamond mining company ALROSA.

• In South Africa, the De Beers Group is supporting small business initiatives and providing promising youth with access to higher education.

• In a remote Chinese village, retailer Chow Tai Fook is helping to provide vital medical care to new mothers and small children.

• And across North America, jewelers are helping youngsters in need through their own generosity and via the initiatives of a charitable fund called Jewelers For Children.

Credits: Images via
December 11th, 2019
When actress Emma Stone and her new fiancé, SNL writer Dave McCary, announced their engagement this past Wednesday with dual Instagram posts, Stone's adorning fan base had a hard time figuring out what she was wearing on the ring finger of her left hand. Was it a diamond? Might it be... a pearl?

The Instagram photo shows the beaming couple posing for a selfie while Stone extends her fist to the camera. While their faces are in focus, her ring is just a sparkly blur.

As the news broke, some reporters ran with the assumption that the ring's center stone must be an out-of-focus diamond in a diamond halo setting. said Stone was "flashing a diamond engagement ring with a twisted platinum band." said Stone "showed off a pretty impressive diamond ring."

But then an engagement ring expert told Us Magazine that the ring appeared to be an antique-inspired design featuring either a 3 to 3.5-carat Old European cut diamond or a 9 to 10mm pearl.

As more information became available, we learned that Stone's ring by Tokyo designer Kataoka does, indeed, feature a lustrous 8mm untreated saltwater pearl surrounded by .37 carats of diamonds in a snowflake motif. The ring's 18-karat gold band is also encrusted with diamonds.

McCary purchased the ring at a Brooklyn, N.Y., boutique called Catbird. The retailer's website features a similar ring priced at $4,780.

While style writers gushed over the pearl ring, calling it "striking," "on trend" and "the perfect winter engagement ring," jewelry-industry experts wondered if McCary's unconventional choice was misinformed.

Cultured pearls are typically not used as center stones in engagement rings because they are delicate and not suited to daily wear and tear. While a diamond rates 10 on the Mohs hardness scale (it's the hardest of all gemstones), the pearl earns a 2.5 (one of the softest). Corundum, which includes sapphires and rubies, rates a 9.

The Gemological Institute of America warns that pearls can be easily scratched or abraded, but acknowledges that with reasonable care pearl jewelry can be a lasting treasure.

Pearl lovers who insist on following Stone's lead should know the risks and responsibilities that come with owning a pearl engagement ring.

• If you wear the ring every day and work with your hands, it's very likely the pearl will get dinged over time.

• Pearls can be damaged by household products, including vinegar, ammonia and chlorine. They need to be kept away from hairspray, perfume, cosmetics, and even perspiration.

• Always remove a pearl ring when showering, swimming or doing the dishes.

• Consider keeping small ring holders in your bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and work desk so you are less likely to lose track of the ring if you need to take it off during the day.

• Be prepared to replace the pearl every so often.

Stone, 31, and McCary, 34, have reportedly been dating since the summer of 2017. McCary works as a writer and segment director on Saturday Night Live. Stone is an Academy Award winner and one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. According to reports, they met more than two years ago when Stone hosted SNL.

Credits: Couple image via; Inset ring image courtesy of Catbird.
December 10th, 2019
What could possibly be more romantic than the breathtaking "Wild Lights" holiday display at the Detroit Zoo, where more than five million twinkling LED lights brighten the evening sky and illuminate buildings, trees and 280 sculptures, most of which are in the shape of animals?

Now in its seventh year, "Wild Lights" has become a popular place for suitors young and old to pop the question — and they can even enlist the help of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) staff.

For a fee of $150, the DZS staff will arrange for red lights to swirl to form the words “Marry Me” in a private area of the Cotton Family Wetlands Boardwalk. The illumination is queued up to perfectly match the timing of the proposal.

Suitors also have the option to add extra romantic touches, such as rose petals sprinkled from above, or a violinist serenading in the background.

“We’re thrilled so many couples have chosen the Detroit Zoo as a place to celebrate this momentous occasion,” said Gerry VanAcker, DZS chief operating officer. “Wild Lights is a perfect place to pop the question because the lights and sights create such a romantic atmosphere.”

Among the new sculptures for 2019 are foxes, sea lions, a blue heron and a giraffe.

The DZS staff will be available to assist couples with their Wild Lights marriage proposals through January 5, 2020.

Couples who get engaged at the zoo may consider making it their wedding venue, as well. Couples have said "I do" at the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery, Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Rackham Fountain, Arctic Ring of Life and Cotton Family Wetlands Boardwalk.

The Detroit Zoo is located in Royal Oak, Mich., and the ticket prices to see Wild Lights range from $11 to $18, based on the hour of the day. Children under 2 are admitted for free.

Credits: Screen captures via
December 9th, 2019
Suggestive of the sky at dusk, "Classic Blue" has been named Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year. Consumers looking to match their jewelry wardrobes to Pantone’s calm, confident, enduring shade of blue will likely consider sapphire, blue topaz, lapis lazuli and kyanite.

"We are living in a time that requires trust and faith," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of The Pantone Color Institute. "It is a kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on."

Eiseman also described Classic Blue as "elegant in its simplicity."

"Imbued with deep resonance," she said, "Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expanding our thinking, challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication."

Fine Ceylon sapphires, such as the 423-carat "Logan Sapphire" seen here, reflect the characteristics of Pantone's Color of the Year. A gift to the Smithsonian by Rebecca Pollard Guggenheim in December 1960, the gem remained in her possession until April 1971. By that time, her then-husband Col. M. Robert Guggenheim had passed away and she had married John A. Logan — hence the sapphire's Logan name. The beautiful blue stone has the distinction of being the heaviest mounted gem in the National Gem Collection.

Each year since 2000, the color experts at Pantone have picked a color that reflects the current cultural climate. Typically, Pantone’s selection influences product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.

This is the first time in the history of the Pantone Color of the Year that a saturated, pure blue color has been named. In 2000, Pantone picked a pale blue-purple Cerulean Blue, followed by a pale greenish-blue Aqua Sky in 2003 and a similarly pale bluish-green Blue Turquoise in 2005. A more greenish Turquoise was selected in 2010 and the pale purplish-blue Serenity shared the spotlight with Rose Quartz in 2016.

The process of choosing the Color of the Year takes about nine months, with Pantone’s trend watchers scanning the globe’s fashion runways, movie sets and high-profile events for “proof points” until one color emerges as the clear winner.

A year ago, Pantone’s Color of the Year was “Living Coral,” a color described by Eiseman as a sociable and spirited shade of pinkish-orange.

Here are the most recent Pantone Colors of the Year…

PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral (2019)
PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet (2018)
PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery (2017)
PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz (2016)
PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity (2016)
PANTONE 18-1438 Marsala (2015)

PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid (2014)
PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald (2013)
PANTONE 17-1463 Tangerine Tango (2012)
PANTONE 18-2120 Honeysuckle (2011)
PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise (2010)
PANTONE 14-0848 Mimosa (2009)

Credit: Screen capture, color swatches via Gem photo Logan Sapphire by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.
December 6th, 2019
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we kick off the season of giving with this little ditty by Andy Williams called "Christmas Holiday."

In the song, Williams describes a picturesque Yuletide scene: A turkey cooking in the oven, fresh snow on the ground and our hero about to surprise the love of his life with a very special gift of fine jewelry.

He sings, "This year, we shall know a wonderful Christmas / And the glow of candlelight / Let's have a fling! / I'll give you my present, a wedding ring! / Hear me sing."

Written by Craig Vincent Smith, "Christmas Holiday" appeared as the sixth track of Williams' popular Merry Christmas album, which was released in 1965 and charted for six consecutive years on the Billboard Christmas Albums list. The album earned a platinum certification, with more than one million copies sold.

Long before he became a star, Williams and his three older brothers performed in a children's choir at the local Presbyterian church in Cincinnati. They formed the Williams Brothers quartet in 1938 when Andy was just 11 years old and made their mark by doing live performances on local radio stations.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1943, the brothers got their big break when Bing Crosby asked them to sing on his hit record "Swinging on a Star." Soon after, the Williams boys got to perform together in a number of musical films.

The youngest Williams brother began his solo career in 1953 and became a regular guest on the Tonight Show Starring Steve Allen.

From 1962 to 1972, Williams was considered one of the most popular vocalists in the U.S. Some of his biggest hits included "Moon River," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and the holiday song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

During the peak of his career, Williams had recorded more gold albums than any solo performer except for Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley. He also hosted his own TV show, which earned three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety Series.

Williams, whose voice was described by President Ronald Reagan as a "national treasure," passed away in Branson, Mo., in 2012 at the age of 84.

Please check out the video of Williams' performance of "Christmas Holiday." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Christmas Holiday"
Written by Craig Vincent Smith. Performed by Andy Williams.

Hear the bells ringing
Their ting-a-ling sound.
See the fresh snow,
It's white on the ground.
Hang up the stockings and
Let's have a holiday, today.

Bring out the holly, we mustn't delay!
'Cause all of our friends will be stopping today.
Warm the hot chocolate
And bring out the marshmallow tray.

This year, we shall know a wonderful Christmas
And the glow of candlelight
Let's have a fling!
I'll give you my present, a wedding ring!
Hear me sing.

Turkey's a-cookin' and candy cane sticks,
With reindeer and sleigh bells and good old Saint Nick
Two kids sneakin' kisses beneath all the mistletoe,
As if we didn't know!

This year, we shall know a wonderful Christmas
And the glow of candlelight
Let's have a fling!
I'll give you my present, a wedding ring!
Hear me sing.

Yuletide, good cheer!
Christmas is here.
This one, we'll share,
We haven't a care.

It's Christmas!
Such a very Merry Christmas!
Extraordinary Christmastime is here!

Credits: Screen capture via
December 5th, 2019
An extraordinary ruby and emerald once owned by philanthropist Jessie Ball du Pont, the wife of American industrialist Alfred Irénée du Pont, highlight two high-profile lots at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in New York on December 11.

"The Du Pont Ruby" is set in an elaborate platinum and 18-karat gold brooch that's expected to sell in the range of $3.5 million and $5.5 million. The cushion mixed-cut Burmese ruby weighing 11.20 carats is mounted in the center of a heart formed by rectangular and trapezoid-shaped emeralds, as well as French, old and marquise-cut diamonds. Dangling at the sides and bottom of the brooch are five natural saltwater pearls.

"The Du Pont Emerald" weighs 9.11 carats and is adorned with old-cut diamonds in a platinum ring designed by Tiffany & Co. circa 1920. The rectangular step-cut emerald was sourced in Colombia and the ring is expected to fetch $500,000 to $700,000.

Both pieces had been donated to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by Mrs. du Pont's estate after her death in 1970. The proceeds from the sale of these items will be used by the museum to facilitate future acquisitions.

Mrs. du Pont had been born into Virginia's respected Ball family, with family roots that extended to Mary Ball, the mother of George Washington. Jessie had met Alfred du Pont in 1898 when she was just 14 years old. Twenty-three years later, she would become his third wife.

Alfred was 20 years her senior and rose to prominence through his work in the Du Pont family's gunpowder manufacturing plant. Later, he would amass a fortune through his investments in land and banking. He passed away in 1935.

In the years that followed, Mrs. du Pont became a founding member and original trustee of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Through her influence and generosity, the museum's largest gallery would be named for her distant relative, Mary Ball.

Another top lot at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale is a 30.14-carat Belle Époque sapphire and diamond ring. Designed circa 1915, the ring features a Kashmir sapphire and a platinum band studded with old-cut diamonds. The piece is expected to sell in the range of $3.5 million to $5.5 million.

Auction bidders will also have their eyes on a 3.07-carat fancy vivid blue diamond ring. It features a round-cornered rectangular modified brilliant-cut center stone boasting a clarity of VVS1. The estimated selling price is $3 million to $4 million.

Rounding out the top lots at the auction is a diamond ring of 24.13 carats. The rectangular-cut center stone is rated D-flawless and is accented with trapezoid-shaped side stones. It is expected to fetch $2 million to $3 million.

An auction preview will be held at Christie’s Galleries at 20 Rockefeller Center in New York City from December 6 to December 10.

Credits: Images courtesy of Christie's.
December 4th, 2019
Adorned with three million Swarovski crystals, the 900-pound star atop the 77-foot-tall Norway spruce at New York's Rockefeller Center will come to life tonight during the tree-lighting ceremony that will be broadcast on NBC.

The mammoth star, which has a diameter of 9 feet 4 inches, was lifted to the top of the tree by crane operators on November 13, just three days after the tree arrived from Orange County, N.Y. Each of the 70 rays of the Swarovski Star is designed to glow from within, with the light refracted by the crystal surface, creating a sparkling effect.

The tree was a donated by Carol Schultz, who said it originally lived in a pot on her coffee table before it was big enough to be planted in her garden in 1959.

Holiday season 2019 marks the second time the current star has ascended to the top of the Rockefeller Center tree. The new star made its debut exactly one year ago, replacing a Swarovski Star that had been in service since 2004. That star weighed 550 pounds and was studded with 25,000 crystals, barely 8% of the tally of the current star.

The new star was designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, who created the master plan for the reconstruction of New York’s World Trade Center site. Libeskind said that his Swarovski Star is inspired by the beauty of starlight — something that radiates meaning and mystery into the world.

“The Star is a symbol that represents our greatest ambitions for hope, unity and peace,” he said in 2018. “I am tremendously honored to collaborate with Swarovski on the Star, and with the entire design team, to bring cutting-edge innovation and design to crystal technology.”

The tree will remain lit and on display on the plaza between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues through Friday, January 17, 2020. More than half a million people will pass by the tree every day, making Rockefeller Center the epicenter of New York City’s holiday celebrations.

Rockefeller Center officially began its tree-lighting tradition in 1933, when a Christmas tree was erected in front of the then-RCA Building and covered with 700 lights. The lighting ceremony has been broadcast live since 1951.

Tonight's two-hour show starts at 8 p.m. EST and will feature performances by Idina Menzel, Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Lea Michele. The event will be hosted by TODAY show anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin.

Credits: Photo of Daniel Libeskind and the Swarovski Star via Rockefeller Center celebration 2018 by MBurch [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
December 3rd, 2019
"The Indian Blue," a 7.55-carat fancy deep grayish-blue diamond, will be the top lot at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels sale in New York City on December 10.

Described as the "property of a distinguished lady," the cushion-cut center stone has a SI2 clarity and is flanked by two shield-shaped diamonds in a ring that carries a pre-sale estimate of $6 million to $8 million.

Trace amounts of the chemical element boron are responsible for causing the coloration of natural blue diamonds. According to the Museum of Natural History, “less than one boron atom per million carbon atoms is sufficient to produce the blue coloration.”

Another highlight of the New York auction is "The Majestic Pink," a highly flexible bracelet comprised of 204 radiant and marquise-shaped diamonds of various fancy pink and red hues bordered by similar-cut, near-colorless diamonds. The total weight of the colored diamonds, which range in size from 0.10 carats to 0.47 carats, is 43.34 carats. The bracelet bears the maker's mark, Carvin French, and is expected to sell for about $3 million.

Also scheduled to hit the auction block at Sotheby's on December 10 is a ring featuring an ultra-rare 1.38-carat fancy red diamond. Fancy reds so rare that a typical Argyle Pink Diamonds Tender releases only four, or so, per year. Rio Tinto's Argyle Mine in Western Australia — the primary source of red and pink diamonds — is scheduled to cease operations in 2020, so supplies of these beautiful stones are expected to become even more scarce.

It is believed that red diamonds get their rich color from a molecular structure distortion that occurs as the jewel forms in the earth’s crust. By contrast, other colored diamonds get their color from trace elements, such as boron (yielding a blue diamond) or nitrogen (yielding yellow).

The cushion-cut red diamond is framed by round pink-hued diamonds and square-cut colorless diamonds. The estimated selling price is $1.8 million to $2.8 million.

Highlighted by a 14.37-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond, this brooch by Verdura is expected to fetch $1.6 million to $2.4 million. Resembling a delicate iris, the brooch is centered by the round-cornered, square-cut yellow center stone and accented with petals formed by cabochon sapphires and round colorless diamonds.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.
December 2nd, 2019
It was in the late 1960s when the marketing team at Tiffany & Co. got its first peek at a stunning new gemstone. The intense blue-violet gem had been discovered in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania by a Maasai tribesman named Jumanne Ngoma. At first glance, the specimens appeared to be sapphires, but the Gemological Institute of America revealed that the crystals were a never-before-seen variety of zoisite.

Tiffany wanted to feature the gemstone in a broad-based advertising campaign, but the marketing team had to overcome a huge hurdle. The name “blue zoisite” sounded very much like “blue suicide” — and that alone could have tanked the campaign. So, the team at Tiffany decided to promote the gems as “tanzanite,” a name that would honor their country of origin.

Tiffany’s marketing campaign succeeded in making tanzanite a household name and earned it the title of “Gem of the 20th Century.”

In 2002, the American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite to the jewelry industry’s official birthstone list. Tanzanite joined turquoise and zircon as the official birthstones for December.

Tanzanite is said to be 1,000 times more rare than diamonds due the fact that tanzanite is mined in only one location on earth. The area measures 2km wide by 4km long and the remaining lifespan of the mine is less than 30 years.

Despite tanzanite’s commercial success, Ngoma had never reaped any financial gains from his discovery.

In 2018, Asha Ngoma made a desperate plea to Tanzanian President John Magufuli on behalf of her nearly 80-year-old dad, who was ill and partially paralyzed. The President responded with a reward and well deserved words of praise.

“Mr. Ngoma is a veritable Tanzanian hero,” Magufuli told The Citizen. “But what did he get after discovering tanzanite about 50 years ago? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, it is people from other countries who have benefited more from this unique gemstone.”

Magufuli announced that Ngoma would be receiving 100 million shillings (about $44,000) from the Tanzanian government. That amount is nearly twice the average annual salary for a Tanzanian.

Tanzanite’s color is an intoxicating mix of blue and purple, unlike any other gemstone. The mineral comes in a wide range of hues, from light blues or lilacs, to deep indigos and violets. The most valuable tanzanite gemstones display a deep sapphire blue color with highlights of intense violet. The Smithsonian’s website explains that tanzanite exhibits the optical phenomenon of pleochroism, appearing intense blue, violet or red, depending on the direction through which the crystal is viewed.

A Maasai folktale recounts how tanzanite came to be. Once upon a time, the story goes, lightning struck the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, scorching the land. In the aftermath, a spectacular blue crystal was left shimmering in the ashes.

Tanzanite rates a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. By comparison, diamond rates a 10 and sapphire rates a 9.

Illustrating this story is a beautiful 12.11-carat, trillion-cut tanzanite set in an award-winning platinum ring by Mark Schneider. The designer and his wife, Nancy, gifted the piece to the Smithsonian in 2001, making it the first tanzanite jewelry accessioned into the National Gem Collection.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian.