R. Westphal Jewelers Blog
August 31st, 2016
Diamantaires from the four corners of the earth have converged on the picturesque Pacific port city of Vladivostok, Russia, to get a chance to bid on ALROSA's "special size" rough diamonds, the largest of which tips the scales at 401.97 carats.

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Bidders are vying for 19 diamond lots boasting a total weight of 1,098 carats. What all the rough diamonds have in common is a weight of 10 carats or more and an origin at one of ALROSA's diamond mines. The Russian diamond company currently operates 11 kimberlite pipes and 16 alluvial deposits, producing 38.3 million carats of rough diamonds annually.

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Running concurrently with the International Auction of Special Size Rough Diamonds will be ALROSA's Polished Diamond Tender. The most coveted of the 28 diamonds up for sale is a 40.25-carat round. Eighteen of the 28 gems are fancy colored and five polished diamonds weigh more than 5 carats.

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A total of 30 companies from the U.S., Hong Kong, Israel, India, Belgium and Russia were handpicked to attend ALROSA's diamond events in Vladivostok. It is the first time ALROSA has held its auctions in this city, which overlooks Golden Horn Bay, near the borders of China and North Korea.

Diamonds will be on display through September 2, with the Rough and Polished auctions taking place on September 3.

Credits: Diamond images courtesy of ALROSA. Map via GoogleMaps.com.
August 30th, 2016
Polish Olympian Piotr Malachowski, who won a silver medal in the discus throw at the 2016 Rio Games, put his cherished medal up for auction last week to help pay for the treatment of a three-year-old boy with a rare form of eye cancer.

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The boy, Olek Szymanski, has a condition called retinoblastoma, a malignant cancer that mostly affects children. Treatment of the cancer is very complex and demands the expertise of surgeons in New York City.

Malachowski hoped to raise $84,000, which is two-thirds of the $126,000 cost of the surgery. A Polish foundation called Siepomaga had pledged to pay one-third of the fee.

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On his Facebook page Malachowski wrote, "In Rio, I fought for gold. Today I appeal to everyone. Let’s fight together for something that is even more precious — the health of this fantastic boy.”

On Tuesday of last week, with the bidding at $19,000, Malachowski announced that he was closing the eBay auction.

Malachowski's selfless efforts to assist the little boy had caught the attention of Polish billionaire siblings Dominika and Sebastian Kulczyk, who agreed to buy the silver medal and cover the costs of young Olek's treatment.

"We were able to show that together we can do wonders," the 33-year-old Malachowski wrote. "My silver medal today is worth a lot more than a week ago. It is worth the life and health of a small Olek. It is our great shared success."

According to The Washington Post, Malachowski learned of the child’s illness from the boy’s mother, who wrote to him asking for his help.

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The giant man with a heart of gold is a two-time Olympic medalist. In 2008, he won a silver medal in the discus event at the Beijing Games.

Credits: Images via Facebook/Piotr Małachowski.
August 29th, 2016
An Aussie metal-detector enthusiast was sure he had discovered a piece of rubbish — possibly an old horseshoe — when his device signaled a sizable find in Central Victoria’s storied Golden Triangle last week.

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What he pulled from the ground was a 145-ounce (4.12kg) gold nugget worth nearly $200,000.

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“I really couldn’t believe my eyes," said the amateur prospector, who wishes to remain anonymous. "This wasn’t an old piece of steel in front of me. I had just unearthed a colossal gold nugget – a once-in-a-lifetime find! I was in total disbelief as I didn’t think nuggets of this size were still around.”

The lucky Aussie named the nugget "Friday's Joy" to honor the day on which it was discovered.

Only a day earlier, the same man had found a nine-ounce, near-round gold nugget using his Minelab flagship GPZ 7000 metal detector. Based on that success, he decided to return for more.

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Back in March 2015, we reported on a massive 87-ounce gold nugget that was also discovered in Central Victoria’s Golden Triangle. Metal-detector enthusiast Mick Brown named the nugget "Fair Dinkum," an Aussie term that means “for real.” It had a precious metal value of $102,000, but eventually sold at auction for $175,000.

News of these incredible finds has sparked a mini Gold Rush in Central Victoria as weekend warriors are heading out to Victoria's historic goldfields to test their luck. The Sydney Morning Herald reported a business surge for area hotels, restaurants and hardware stores, where amateur prospectors can source their own metal detectors. The area's first Gold Rush period was in the 1850s.

"Friday’s Joy" is not the biggest gold nugget ever found in the Land Down Under. That distinction goes to "The Welcome Stranger," which was discovered near Moliagul, Victoria, in 1869. That nugget weighed a staggering 2,300 ounces (143.75 pounds) and would have a precious metal value today of more than $3 million.

After finding the nugget during a prospecting outing with some friends, the anonymous owner of "Friday's Joy" really didn't know what to do with his miraculous find.

“It’s like catching a big fish and not knowing what to do with it! Where do we put it? I washed it in water, covered it in aluminum foil and kept it in my oven on the first night,” he reportedly said.

"Friday’s Joy" is now sitting safely in a bank vault while the owner is having a replica made.

Despite the huge windfall, the anonymous prospector has no plans of quitting his job or retiring, according to reports. Instead, he'll invest some of the proceeds in a new van so he can spend more time traveling across Australia, mixing sightseeing excursions and gold prospecting along the way.

Credits: Friday's Joy images courtesy of Minelab. Screen capture of Fair Dinkum via 9NEWS, Australia.
August 26th, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you new tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Parade of Lights' lead vocalist Ryan Daly urges us to get "golden" in the 2014 release of the same name.

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The Los Angeles-based electronic rock band uses the word "golden" as a metaphor for youthful spirit in a dance anthem that manages to harness the group's frenetic energy and deliver a message of hope.

In the powerful hook, Daly sings, "Everybody get golden / Everybody get golden / And put your hands up to the sky / Everybody get golden / Just for tonight / Everybody get golden / So we can go until we shine."

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"Golden" was originally released as the title track of the band's 2014 EP. It then reappeared as the fourth track on the band's 2015 LP titled Feeling Electric. The EP charted at #44 on the Billboard US Top Heatseekers Albums list, and the LP ascended to #24 on the Billboard US Dance Electronic Albums list.

Writers love to use the term "golden" to describe the exuberance of youth. We've discussed this phenomenon while reviewing a number of popular songs for this column, including Sabrina Carpenter’s “We’ll Be the Stars,” Stevie Wonder's "Stay Gold," and First Aid Kit's “Stay Gold.” Each of those songs was likely inspired by Robert Frost’s eight-line poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

In that poem, which was originally published in 1923, Frost writes about striving to hold onto the wondrous, pure, innocent and exciting “goldenness” of youth.

His poem begins with these two lines, “Nature’s first green is gold / Her hardest hue to hold,” and ends with these, “So dawn goes down to day / Nothing gold can stay.”

Formed in 2010, Parade of Lights features the talents of Ryan Daly (lead vocals/guitarist), Anthony Improgo (drummer), Randy Schulte (bassist) and Michelle Ashley (keyboardist). The group was signed by Astralwerks in 2014 and released its first LP a year later.

The Parade of Lights official website defines the group's mission: "Making music is a matter of turning their shared obsessions with distortion-drenched shoegaze, heady synth-pop and epic stadium rock into a hook-heavy, yet deeply inventive, alt-electro hybrid."

Please check out the video of the group's exciting live performance of "Golden." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Golden"
Written and performed by Parade of Lights.

We’re gonna shake the ground tonight
I lose myself under the lights, oh
I put my hands up to the sky
I feel it come alive

Everybody get golden
Everybody get golden
And put your hands up to the sky
Everybody get golden
Just for tonight
Everybody get golden
So we can go until we shine

Now it’s as good as it can get
Silver hills and silhouettes, oh
You press your hands against my chest

This isn’t over yet

Everybody get golden
Everybody get golden
And put your hands up to the sky
Everybody get golden
Just for tonight
Everybody get golden
So we can go until we shine

Just for tonight
And put your hands up to the sky
Just for tonight
So we can go until we shine

So we can go until we shine
I feel it come alive
So we can go until we shine
I feel it come alive
So we can go until we shine


Credit: Screen captures via YouTube.com.
August 25th, 2016
Unaware of its multi-million-dollar value, a Filipino fisherman kept a 75-pound natural pearl under his bed as a good luck charm — for 10 years. Every time he would head out to sea, he would touch the pearl to ensure his safety and good fortune.

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The fisherman had found the pearl by chance when his boat's anchor got caught up on a giant clam. When the fisherman dove down to the ocean floor to release the snag, he discovered in the clam what many experts believe is the world's largest natural pearl.

Measuring 12 inches wide and 26 inches long, the scallop-shaped pearl looks like it grew to fill the void inside of the shell. If found to be authentic, the pearl — discovered near Puerto Princesa City, about 500 miles southwest of the capital city of Manila — could be worth in excess of $100 million. The fisherman had been completely unaware of his potential windfall.

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The fisherman recently entrusted the amazing pearl to Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao, a relative who works for the Puerto Princesa tourism office. He asked her to take custody of the unwieldy good luck charm because he was about to move outside the province and couldn't take it with him.

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Recognizing the pearl's potential star power, she asked the fisherman if he would approve of the pearl going on display as the city's newest tourist attraction. He agreed, and now the "Pearl of Puerto" is housed in the Atrium of the New Green City Hall.

Maggay-Amurao is encouraging gemologists to visit the city to study the pearl and make a determination of its authenticity.

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On Facebook, Maggay-Amurao posted a few photos of the giant pearl balanced on a large scale. Her caption read, “The Puerto Princesa City would likely earn another prestigious title and a record breaker for having the world’s biggest natural giant pearl from a giant clam (34 kilograms) after being certified for its authenticity. Need help from gemologists!"

A natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, slips in between the mollusk’s shell and its mantle tissue. To protect itself from the irritant, the mollusk secretes layer upon layer of nacre, which is an iridescent calcium carbonate material that eventually coats the invader and produces a pearl.

Giant clams can live for over 100 years and grow to be about four feet wide and weigh more than 500 pounds.

The $100 million valuation is based on another giant pearl that was found in the same area back in 1939. Called the Pearl of Lao Tzu, the previous record-holder weighed 14.1 pounds and was valued at $93 million by a Colorado gemologist in 2003. The Pearl of Puerto weighs more than five times as much as the Pearl of Lao Tzu and, for the record, a 75-pound pearl is equivalent to 170,000 carats.

Although the fisherman has allowed the city to display his extraordinary find, he retains his ownership status. Only time will tell what kind of payday the sale of the pearl may yield.

Credits: Images via Facebook.com/City.Government.of.Puerto.Princesa; Facebook/Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao; GoogleMaps.com.
August 24th, 2016
Eighty-three pieces of fine jewelry worn by fashionable First Lady Nancy Reagan are set to hit the auction block at Christie's New York in September. A live auction will take place on September 21 and 22, and an online auction will run from September 19-28.

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Among the items from The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan are necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pendants and brooches with an estimated value of $280,000. Experts believe the jewelry could easily surpass the auction house's high estimates because the pre-sale prices reflect their current market value, while the provenance of the items was largely left off the table.

The most expensive piece in the First Lady's collection is a diamond-and-gold lion pendant/brooch necklace designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. It was one of Reagan's favorite pieces and she was photographed wearing it several times, most famously during her 1988 state visit to the U.K. The necklace, which can be broken down into four bracelets, was described as "iconic" and "so wearable" by Tom Burstein, senior vice president, jewelry department at Christie's, during an interview with CNN. The piece is estimated to sell for $30,000 to $50,000.

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The companion diamond-and-gold ear clips should fetch $15,000 to $20,000.

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A close look at this beautiful portrait of Nancy Reagan with the U.S. Capitol in the background reveals her cultured pearl-and-diamond ear clips, the same items that will be offered for sale at Christie's.

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Reagan, who passed away in March at the age of 94, was photographed wearing these during a 1982 reception at the Capitol Mall marking the first-ever edition of USA Today. Christie's estimated the sale price to range from $1,000 to $1,500.

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The most patriotic piece in the group is a red, white and blue ring by Bulgari. Featuring diamonds, sapphires and rubies, the octagonal-shaped ring has an American flag motif. The estimate selling price is $5,000 to $8,000. The First Lady appropriately wore this ring on July 4, 1986, at an event supporting the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

"It's a beautiful ring that is drawing the most attention so far," Burstein told CNN. "It will be the highlight."

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Among the most classically stylish items in Reagan's collection is a gold-and-diamond bangle bracelet, also by Bulgari. The textured 18-karat gold bracelet is intersected by diagonal platinum and circular-cut diamond rows. The First Lady wore this often at state dinners. The estimate selling price is being set at $5,000 to $7,000.

In addition to fine jewelry, Christie's will be auctioning more than 600 items, including furniture, decorative works of art, books, memorabilia, paintings, drawings and prints from President and Mrs. Reagan’s home in Los Angeles. In total, the auction is expected to generate more than $2 million.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

Credits: Jewelry images by Christie's. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan images via The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.
August 23rd, 2016
Country singer Miranda Lambert stunned the crowd at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium on Saturday when she interrupted her set to flash a pink ring and announce her engagement — to a six-year-old superfan.

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"I have to tell you something really important," she said. "I got engaged today."

Instantly, the crowd erupted in applause.

But then she added a few critical facts: "There's a little 6-year-old boy somewhere here named Sebastian. He asked me to marry him and I said, 'Yes, in 25 years.'"

Then, she held the ring up near her face and said, "Isn't this beautiful?"

"When he came to my meet and greet, he got down on one knee and he was such a gentleman," she continued. "It may be my favorite proposal ever… 'Cause, girls, we deserve that. We deserve that. So, that being said, thank you, Sebastian."

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The pint-sized Romeo reportedly bought the ring with his own money back in December and waited for Saturday's concert date to deliver his proposal.

A stroke of good luck allowed Sebastian to attend a meet-and-greet before the show even though he didn't have the proper credentials to get in.

Sarah Goddard, who did possess the required meet-and-greet sticker, was approached by the adorable suitor before the concert. Sebastian asked Goddard if she would propose to Lambert on his behalf.

Goddard had a better plan.

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"I told his mom he could come in with me 'as my son' so he could propose to Miranda himself," Goddard told People.

The 32-year-old Grammy winner, who split with Blake Shelton in 2015 and has been dating Anderson East since December, was absolutely floored by the character of the young man.

The next day, Lambert reported the big news to her 2.8 million followers on Instagram and included a collage of two photos accompanied by this caption: "I said YES! But he has to wait 25 years. This sweet boy Sebastian is a little gentleman. #pinkring #proposal #mademyday #jersey #spreadthelovetour"

The post already has generated 176,000 likes and 1,915 comments, such as this one from @mamassoul: "This is the sweetest EVER... You are an amazing woman @mirandalambert and I am sure little Sebastian had his heart FULL of every emotion possible!!! Way to go girl!!!

Credit: Instagram/Miranda Lambert.
August 22nd, 2016
It's barely 4mm in width and weighs a scant .005 ounces, but this gold bead from a prehistoric settlement in southern Bulgaria may be the world's oldest gold artifact.

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Archaeologists made the discovery at a site just outside the modern town of Pazardzhik. They dated the gold bead to some time between 4,500 to 4,600 BC, making it about 200 years older than the gold artifacts found in Bulgaria's Black Sea city of Varna back in 1972.

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The gold found at the Varna Necropolis was previously believed to be the oldest evidence of gold metallurgy. The burial site at Varna is considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory and included a total of 294 graves containing 3,000 gold artifacts.

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Despite that massive discovery, the archaeologists at Pazardzhik believe their tiny bead is historic.

"I have no doubt that it is older than the Varna gold," Yavor Boyadzhiev, associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, told Reuters. "It's a really important discovery. It is a tiny piece of gold but big enough to find its place in history."

The tiny gold bead looks a lot like the tube-shaped, short-cut pasta preschoolers might use to string a Mother's Day necklace.

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The bead was found in the remains of a small house. Among the other artifacts found at the site were 150 ceramic birds, an indication that they may have been worshipped by the locals.

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Boyadzhiev told Reuters that he believes the bead was fabricated at the site, which was the first "urban" settlement in Europe. He said the townspeople were highly cultured and had migrated there from Anatolia (in today's Turkey) around 6,000 BC. The settlement covered 25 to 30 acres and was protected by a nine-foot-tall fortress wall.

The professor noted that there is evidence that the settlement was destroyed in 4,100 BC by a rival tribe that invaded from the north.

Once the bead is thoroughly studied, it will be handed over to the historical museum in Pazardzhik for public exhibition.

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/PBS News Hour. Varna tomb image by Yelkrokoyade [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Map by Google Maps.
August 19th, 2016
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In today's installment, we time travel to Hollywood's Soul Train sound stage, where Freda Payne is singing her biggest hit, "Band of Gold."

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The song is about a young couple that rushes into marriage only to find out on their honeymoon that they are incompatible. He takes off, and she remains in a darkened room, dreaming of what could have been.

Although the woman yearns for her estranged husband to return to her, deep in her heart she knows that all that remains of the relationship is the ring on her finger and the memories of their time together.

She sings, "Now that you're gone / All that's left is a band of gold / All that's left of the dreams I hold / Is a band of gold / And the memories of what love could be / If you were still here with me."

Released in April 1970, the song became a instant hit with worldwide sales of more than two million records. "Band of Gold" ascended to #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was #1 in the U.K. for six consecutive weeks. It was Payne's first gold record and remains her signature song 46 years later.

Interestingly, Payne originally refused to record the song when it was offered to her by co-writer Ron Dunbar. She didn't like the lyrics and didn't like the idea of a relationship falling apart during a honeymoon.

Dunbar encouraged Payne to perform the song, despite her reluctance. He said, "Don't worry. You don't have to like [the lyrics]. Just learn [them]."

Payne agreed, and the rest is history. In 2004, "Band of Gold" was voted #391 in Rolling Stone magazine's listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Payne told authors Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh that she had no idea that "Band of Gold" would be such a big hit.

Born in Detroit in 1942, Freda Charcilia Payne grew up listening to jazz singers, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. As a teenager, she attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts and her first professional jobs were singing radio commercial jingles. In 1963, she moved to New York City and worked with many different entertainers, including Quincy Jones and Pearl Bailey. She release her first album in 1964, but didn't hit it big until she returned to Detroit in 1969 and signed with the record label Invictus.

By 1970, Payne was a household name, thanks to the success of "Band of Gold."

Please check out the video of Payne's Soul Train performance of today's featured song. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Band of Gold"
Written by Ronald Dunbar and Edythe Wayne. Performed by Freda Payne.

Now that you're gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the memories of what love could be
If you were still here with me

You took me from the shelter of my mother
I had never known or loved any other
We kissed after taking vows
But that night on our honeymoon,
We stayed in separate rooms

I wait in the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Ohhh

Don't you know that I wait
In the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me


Credit: By CBS Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
August 18th, 2016
Fifteen hundred years ago in Datong City, China, there lived an aristocrat named Farong. The wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen, Farong owned an elaborate pair of gold earrings that demonstrated meticulous craftsmanship and amazing technical prowess.

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The earrings were beautiful from every angle. From one view, one could see the likenesses of a human figure flanked by dragons.

The detailing was extraordinary. The human figure on the earrings had curly hair, deep-set eyes and a high nose. The character wore a pendant with a sequin-bead pattern on the neck and had inverted lotus flowers carved under its shoulders.

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From the side, admirers would marvel at the round and teardrop-shaped adornments inlaid with multicolored gemstones. Delicate gold chains hanging from cabochon-cut amethysts dangled below, and one could imaging how they would have draped down the sides of Farong's face.

Also among her prized possessions was an elaborate necklace made from 5,000 pearls, gold pieces, crystals and colored glass beads.

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A team of Chinese archaeologists with the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology unearthed Farong's tomb when they were surveying the area before a construction project. Although her skeleton was badly decomposed, her exquisite jewelry — which had been buried with her — remained in near-pristine condition. Farong's story was originally reported in the Chinese journal Wenwu and translated into English in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

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The necklace consisted of 10 large and small gold beads, nine flat gold pieces, two crystals, 42 natural pearls and more than 4,800 colorful glass beads. The archaeologists explained that the small beads were "the size of millet grains, some black and some green, and all are [flattened], each with a perforation in the middle."

Although the thread on which the 5,000 beads were strung had disintegrated long ago, the beads remained in their original positions, making the reconstruction of the piece much easier for the archaeologists.

Farong's epitaph was discovered at the tomb's entrance. Carved into a stone tablet was the phrase: "Han Farong, the wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen." Han is her surname. (In China, the surname was traditionally written first and the given name second, according to Live Science.)

Farong lived in the capital of Datong City, about 215 miles west of Beijing, during the latter part of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Her age at death was unknown, but the story of her fine jewelry may live on forever.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics.