Here's How a 1950s Brazilian Beauty Queen Is Forever Linked With March's Birthstone

In 1954, Maria Martha Hacker Rocha, a statuesque beauty from Brazil, was the odds-on favorite to win the Miss Universe pageant. Admirers from all over the world were captivated by her beauty, class and amazing blue eyes.


Although she eventually earned runner-up status to American Miriam Stevenson, the 18-year-old from the Brazilian state of Bahia would be forever linked to the world of fine jewelry and March's brilliant blue birthstone — the aquamarine.

About the same time as Rocha was competing on the world stage, an incredible aquamarine crystal was found on a farm near Teofilo Otoni, Brazil. It weighed approximately 74.5 pounds and the color was so rich, so intense that the Brazilian gem dealers needed to distinguish it from the rest.

Gemstone merchants already had names for other varieties of aquamarine, the blue member of the beryl family. The rare, intense blue aquamarines from the Santa Maria de Itabira mine in Brazil were called “Santa Maria.” Similar-color aquamarines from Mozambique and other countries in Africa were named “Santa Maria Africana.” Lighter hues were named after the Brazilian state where they were mined, specifically “Espirito Santo.”

But the 74.5 pound specimen was in a class by itself. They decided to name it “Martha Rocha” as a tribute to the Brazilian beauty queen with the captivating clear blue eyes. Even today, gem experts use “Martha Rocha” as a classification of tone and intensity when rating the finest-color aquamarines.

At 81 years old, Rocha is still a symbol of beauty in Brazil, and she has streets named after her in Bahia, Santa Catarina and São Paulo.

Aquamarines are mined in many countries, including Nigeria, Madagascar, Zambia, Pakistan, Mozambique and the U.S., but many of the finest-quality gemstones still come from Brazil.

Credits: Martha Rocha on the cover of Brazilian illustrated weekly magazine O Cruzeiro (August 1954); Gem photos courtesy of Smithsonian/Chip Clark.

Lesotho Legend — Fifth-Largest Gem-Quality Diamond Ever Mined — Sells for $40 Million

The colossal 910-carat diamond recovered from the Letšeng mine in January was sold on Monday for $40 million. Dubbed the "Lesotho Legend" to honor its country of origin, the Type IIa, D-color rough specimen is the fifth-largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered.


The Lesotho Legend also has the distinction of being the largest gem-quality diamond ever unearthed at Letšeng, a mine that has earned the reputation for being the highest dollar-per-carat kimberlite mine in the world.

Despite having a land mass slightly smaller than Maryland, Lesotho is an international powerhouse when it comes to turning out huge, top-quality stones. Some of Letšeng's most impressive finds include the Lesotho Promise (603 carats), Letšeng Star (550 carats) and Lesotho Legacy (493 carats).

legend2 reported that the Lesotho Legend was purchased at tender by Antwerp-based diamond supplier Samir Gems and other partners. The company will now face the challenge of mapping and cleaving the oddly-shaped rough diamond to yield the optimal number of polished diamonds while losing the least amount of carat weight. A rough diamond of 910-carats could result in 10 to 30 gem-quality polished stones of various shapes and sizes, according to experts.

When Gem Diamonds Ltd. announced its discovery in January, we guessed that the rough diamond would sell for about $50 million. That estimate was based on the recent sales of huge diamonds exhibiting nearly identical characteristics.

The 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona (#2 on the all-time list) had fetched $53 million in September of 2017, while the 812-carat Constellation (#7 on the all-time list) was sold for $63 million in May of 2016. Both were D-color, Type IIa diamonds, which means they were colorless and chemically pure with no traces of nitrogen or boron impurities.

In a statement, Gem Diamonds' CEO Clifford Elphick said, "We are delighted with the outcome of the sale of this iconic diamond, which demonstrates the exceptional quality of the Lesotho Legend itself, as well as reaffirming the unique quality of the Letšeng diamond production."

United Kingdom-based Gem Diamonds Ltd. holds a 70% stake in the Letšeng mine with the government of Lesotho owning the remaining 30%.

Credits: Images courtesy of Gem Diamonds Ltd.

Silver Screen's Most Famous Baubles Share the Spotlight in Tonight's Episode of 'Strange Inheritance'

Here's a quiz: What do Vivien Leigh’s necklace from Gone with the Wind, Elizabeth Taylor’s serpent bracelet in Cleopatra and the earrings worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes all have in common? They were all created by Eugene Joseff's design studio under the brand name Joseff of Hollywood.


These and other memorable pieces from Joseff's workshop are the subject of tonight's episode of Strange Inheritance, a primetime reality series on the FOX Business Network (FBN).


For many decades, Joseff's firm fabricated — but only rented — costume jewelry to the movie studios, and as each production wrapped up, the jewelry would be returned to the jeweler and secured in a vault. Over many decades, that collection grew to more than 200,000 items.

Joseff died in 1948, and his widow, Joan, passed away in 2010 at the age of 98. All the “screen gems” were inherited by Joan's daughter-in-law, Tina Joseff, and Joan's grandchildren.


Five hundred high-profile items from Joseff's collection were put on the block at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills this past November — netting the heirs just under $2 million. Among the biggest-ticket items were the Monroe earrings ($90,000), Leigh necklace ($45,000) and Clark Gable cigar box from Gone With the Wind ($31,000).


A former ad man from Chicago, Eugene Joseff moved to southern California in 1928. Although he "dabbled in jewelry," according to Tina, Joseff's entry into the jewelry field stemmed from an off-the-cuff remark he made to a friend in the movie business.

“He noted that in a period film the star was wearing a gorgeous gown — period correct – but also a modern necklace. He just thought that was the worst thing ever – and that he could do better,” Tina explains to show host Jamie Colby in Monday's episode.

He soon got a chance to display his talents when a Hollywood studio needed baubles for a bunch of dancers. It was Friday and the order had to be filled by the following Monday. Nobody wanted the job — except for Joseff.

Joseff fulfilled the request with flying colors and eventually became Tinseltown's crown jeweler.

FBN noted that film buffs will likely recognize a number of the Joseff of Hollywood creations, including the Bette Davis tiara from The Virgin Queen, the Shelley Winters teardrop pendant necklace from South Sea Sinner and the Katharine Hepburn necklace of faux diamonds, rubies and pearls from Mary of Scotland. Viewers will also get a peek at the crown Shirley Temple wore in The Little Princess and a necklace that Greta Garbo wore in Camille.

Strange Inheritance chronicles the bizarre artifacts and outrageous stories related to inheritances from people and places from coast to coast. The "Screen Gems" episode airs Monday, March 12, at 9PM/ET. In the photo, top, host Colby interviews Tina Joseff.

Credits: Jamie Colby/Tina Joseff image courtesy of FOX Business Network. Screen captures via

Average Bridal Couple Spent $5,764 on Engagement Ring in 2017, Reports The Knot

Bridal couples are opting for less-formal wedding receptions, inviting fewer people, but spending more per guest, according to The Knot’s 11th annual "Real Weddings Study."  They're also seeking out non-traditional wedding venues and pushing back on time-honored traditions, such as tossing the bouquet.


We also learned that the engagement ring — at $5,764 — remains the second-highest-priced item on the list of wedding expenses, with the reception venue claiming the top spot at $15,163. Interestingly, The Knot also defined a sub-group of "high spenders," whose wedding expenses exceeded $60,000 in 2017. Of that group, the average price of the engagement ring was $13,933.

The Knot, which surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married in 2017, reported that the average total cost of a wedding (excluding the honeymoon) is $33,391, which is down about $2,000 compared to the all-time high tallied in 2016.

“Weddings in 2017 showed us that couples are focused on guests, as we see them pulling out all the stops to create a truly memorable experience for their wedding attendees,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “Couples are also shifting away from formal affairs to create an experience that’s truly reflective of their personalities, and infusing more unique and unconventional ideas—from their venue and invitations to food, entertainment and more.”


Other key findings from the survey include the following:
• Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, $76,944
• Least Expensive Place to Get Married: New Mexico, $17,584
• Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,509
• Average Marrying Age: Bride, 29.2; Groom, 30.9
• Average Number of Guests: 136
• Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
• Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
• Most Popular Month to Get Engaged: December (16%)
• Average Length of Engagement: 14 months
• Most Popular Months to Get Married: September (16%), June (15%) and October (14%)
• Popular Wedding Colors: Ivory/Champagne (37%), Dark Blue (32%) and Gold (30%)
• Percentage of Destination Weddings: 25% (compared to 20% in 2016 and 15% in 2015)

The average number of wedding guests in 2017 is down to 136, compared to 149 in 2009, while the cost per wedding guest reached an all-time high at $268 (up from $194 in 2009), according to the survey. Couples are looking to create the ultimate guest experience with photo booths, sparklers, selfie stations, games, musical performances, wine and liquor tastings, magicians and more.

Since 2009, formal/black-tie weddings have decreased from 20% to 16%, and ceremonies hosted in a religious institution have dropped significantly, from 41% in 2009 to 22% in 2017. Meanwhile, outdoor ceremonies accounted for 52% of all weddings in 2017, an increase from 39% in 2009.

As couples look for more unique, unconventional places to host their weddings, farm, barn and ranch reception venues increased from 2% in 2009 to 15% in 2017, and the number of weddings taking place in historic homes rose from 12% in 2009 to 14% in 2017. Banquet halls dropped (from 27% in 2009 to 17% in 2017), as did hotels and resorts (from 18% in 2009 to 12% in 2017) and country clubs (from 13% in 2009 to 10% in 2017). Other nontraditional reception sites on the rise include beach houses, wineries, rooftops, museums and parks.

The Knot also noted that some time-honored wedding reception traditions are seeing a decline, with fewer than half (49%) of brides opting to toss a bouquet (down from 53% in 2016) and only 37% of grooms choosing to toss a garter (down from 41% in 2016). Even the ubiquitous cake-cutting is seeing a bit of a push-back with 85% of couples in 2017 saying that it was part of their ceremony (down from 88% in 2016).

On the other hand, bridal couples said it was still important to infuse their heritage, culture and/or religion into their special day. Twenty-one percent of couples incorporated a traditional cultural element, including a Chinese tea ceremony, Irish bagpipers, Moroccan belly dancers and traditional Hindu ceremonies.

On average, the bride’s parents contributed 45% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contributed 41% and the groom’s parents contributed 13%. ("Others" accounted for the remaining 1%.) In 2017, 10% of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves, and 9% of couples didn’t contribute any finances to the wedding expenses. Exactly 45% said that they went over their budgets.


These were the average costs of key bridal services in 2017: reception band ($4,019), photographer ($2,630), florist/décor ($2,379), ceremony site ($2,311), wedding/event planner ($1,988), videographer ($1,912), wedding dress ($1,509), rehearsal dinner ($1,285), reception DJ ($1,231), transportation ($830), ceremony musicians ($761), wedding cake ($540), invitations ($408), groom’s attire and accessories ($286), officiant ($284), favors ($252) and wedding day hair stylist ($119). Catering averaged $70 per person.

The 2017 Real Weddings Study is based on the responses from nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married between January 1 and December 31, 2017.

Credits: Image by Infographics courtesy of The Knot.

Music Friday: Teen Star Billie Eilish Can't Stop Thinking of His Diamond Mind and Those 'Ocean Eyes'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fresh, new songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, prepare to be blown away by 16-year-old Billie Eilish and her debut single "Ocean Eyes."


In the song, Apple Music's UPNEXT Artist of the Month is suffering through a devastating breakup. She still loves her ex-boyfriend and is longing for his brilliant "diamond mind" and his dreamy "ocean eyes."

She sings, "I've been walking through / A world gone blind / Can't stop thinking of your diamond mind / Careful creature made friends with time / He left her lonely with a diamond mind / And those ocean eyes."

Co-written by her brother, Finneas Baird O'Connell, "Ocean Eyes" was originally recorded for a dance class in 2015, when Eilish was only 14 years old. The original intention was to have her dance teacher choreograph a routine to the music.

"We put it on SoundCloud with a free download link next to it so my dance teacher could access it," Eilish told Teen Vogue. "We had no intentions for it, really. But basically overnight a ton of people started hearing it and sharing it."

The song soon went viral with 35 million streams on Spotify alone.

"Ocean Eyes" was featured as the lead single from Eilish's debut EP, Don't Smile at Me, which was released in August of 2017. One month later, she made her national TV debut on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and Apple Music named Eilish the UPNEXT artist of the month in October 2017.

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell was born in Los Angeles in 2001 to a family of actors and musicians. She began writing songs at age 11, following the footsteps of her older brother, who was already performing original songs with his band.

Please check out Eilish's official music video of "Ocean Eyes." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Ocean Eyes"
Written by Arron Carl Davey and Finneas Baird O'Connell. Performed by Billie Eilish.

I've been watching you
For some time
Can't stop staring at those oceans eyes
Burning cities and napalm skies
Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes
Your ocean eyes

No fair
You really know how to make me cry
When you gimme those ocean eyes
I'm scared
I've never fallen from quite this high
Falling into your ocean eyes
Those ocean eyes

I've been walking through
A world gone blind
Can't stop thinking of your diamond mind
Careful creature made friends with time
He left her lonely with a diamond mind
And those ocean eyes

No fair
You really know how to make me cry
When you gimme those ocean eyes
I'm scared
I've never fallen from quite this high
Falling into your ocean eyes
Those ocean eyes

No fair
You really know how to make me cry
When you gimme those ocean eyes
I'm scared
I've never fallen from quite this high
Falling into your ocean eyes
Those ocean eyes

Credit: Screen capture via