About 10 years ago, a fisherman from Puerto Princesa, on Palawan Island near the Philippines, snagged his anchor during a squall at sea. When he swam down to free the anchor, he saw it was lodged in the shell of a Tridacna gigas (aka, the giant clam). From it, he recovered a large natural pearl that he kept in his home as a good luck charm - until one day in 2016 when he showed it to his aunt Aileen Cynthia Amurao, who is also the City Tourism Officer of Puerto Princesa.
Amurao knew the pearl must be special because of its sheer mass: 1ft wide, 2.2ft long, and 75 pounds (170,000 carats). Using her government connections to raise awareness of the pearl in the scientific community, Amurao sought a professional appraisal of the pearl. Via officials in the Philippines, the pearl was recently verified as the new record-holder for “World’s Largest Pearl.” The fisherman (who wishes to remain anonymous) granted permission for the pearl to be displayed in the atrium of the New Green City Hall in Puerto Princesa as a tourist attraction for the city. Although the "Pearl of Puerto Princesa" is not gem-quality, it’s been valued at $100 million.
The previous world-record was held by the “Pearl of Lao Tzu,” which measures 9.45 inches in diameter, weighs 14.2lbs, and is valued at about $35 million. Just like the Pearl of Puerto Princesa, the Pearl of Lao Tzu also came from a giant clam in the waters surrounding Palawan Island. It is currently on exhibit at Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum in New York.
Last month an anonymous prospector unearthed an impressive 132 troy ounce gold nugget on the outskirts of Victoria in South Australia. The finder (who wishes to remain anonymous) has been prospecting on weekends for more than ten years in search of gold and other valuables. After finding a nine-ounce gold nugget, he returned the next day to the southern edge of Central Victoria’s Golden Triangle to see if the area had even more hidden treasure. That gut instinct certainly paid off when he found the 4.1kg nugget about a foot below ground.
Nicknamed "Friday's Joy," the nugget currently resides in secure storage while being readied for auction, where it’s expected to fetch $190,710 (or $250,000 in Australian dollars). There are also plans to produce a replica of the nugget for posterity and museum display. Local news has also been keen to report that Friday’s Joy is much bigger than last year’s newsworthy nugget – the 2.7kg “Fair Dinkum.”
Australia has been a hot spot for prospectors for centuries. The country is famous for its gold rush during the 1800s, as well as for producing two world record-holding nuggets – the “Welcome Stranger” (2,315.5 troy ounces) and the “Hand of Faith” (874.82 troy ounces; largest gold nugget ever discovered with a metal detector). With large finds being reported in the news more often, perhaps another gold rush is on the horizon…
Most jewelers who are trained in grading diamonds for clarity use the evaluation standards set by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Depending on the existence and visual appearance of internal characteristics (inclusions) and surface defects (blemishes), a diamond can be assigned one of the following grades:
- Flawless (FL)
- Internally Flawless (IF)
- Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS) – divided into two grades; VVS1 is a higher clarity grade than VVS2.
- Very Slightly Included (VS) – divided into two grades; VS1 is a higher clarity grade than VS2.
- Slightly Included (SI) – divided into two grades; SI1 denotes a higher clarity grade than SI2.
- Included (I) (formally "imperfect") – divided into three grades; I1 is a higher clarity grade than I2, which in turn is higher than I3.
Appraisers assign a clarity grade based on the overall appearance of the diamond. All jewelers, and even most consumers, are well-versed in the meanings of these grades. However, no two diamonds are exactly the same – inclusions and blemishes can be mapped out to create a unique “fingerprint” for a diamond, which is useful for tracking and certification purposes. So what considerations do appraisers use to assign a clarity grade when the flaws are infinitely variable? There are five factors: size, number, position, nature, and color. You can learn more about these factors and the ways they affect clarity grades in the infographic below.