November 30th, 2022
The video of Scott Clyne's comical headlong dive into Sarasota Bay to retrieve a fumbled engagement ring box earned the Florida resident an appearance on the Today show, 1.6 million Likes on TikTok and viral online coverage by numerous outlets, including the Daily Mail, People and Brides.

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On his Facebook page, Clyne used this caption to summarize the video of his marriage-proposal-gone-awry: "This is 100% real. 100% my luck. 100% will never forget…"

On Saturday, November 12, everything was in place for Clyne to deliver an epic proposal to his girlfriend of eight years, Suzie Tucker. The sunset was stunning, the bay was picturesque and rose petals littered the bow of the boat, where Clyne and his girlfriend posed with their arms spread wide as if they were reenacting the iconic scene from Titanic.

But, seconds later, the perfect moment turned into an implausible disaster when Clyne reached into his back pocket and fumbled the box containing Tucker's engagement ring. The box bounced off the deck and into the bay.

Instantly, Clyne followed the box into the water with a dive that was so comical that he later captured a frame of the exact moment his head and torso disappeared into the water, leaving his legs sticking straight up. That pic is his new Facebook profile picture.

Fortunately, the ring box had some buoyancy, so Clyne was able to grab it before it sunk. You can see the full video here…

Clyne's friend helped him get back into the boat, where the soaking wet suitor continued with his bended knee proposal and, despite the mishap, Tucker said, "Yes."

Clyne told the Daily Mail that the corner of the ring box got caught up on top of his pocket, causing it to slip out of his hands.

"Everything was a blur after that," he told the outlet. "I panicked and reacted by lunging for the ring box before it could sink, not caring if I fell into the water. Luckily, I was able to recover the ring!"

Even though it's always risky to pop the question on a body of water, Clyne was determined to go ahead with the boating proposal.

"We absolutely love boating and I couldn't imagine proposing any other way," he said.

Clyne told the Today show that he originally intended to propose to Tucker in September while the couple was on vacation in the Florida Keys. Hurricane Ian put the kibosh on that plan, so Clyne moved the proposal to November.

After the successful Sarasota proposal, Clyne decided to stick with his plans to take Tucker out for a celebratory dinner.

"I didn’t bring an extra pair of clothes," he told the Today show audience, "so I attended dinner soaking wet.”

Credit: Illustrative image by Bigstockphoto.com.
November 29th, 2022
British actress Lily James, the Natural Diamond Council's newly appointed Global Ambassador, recently visited Botswana to experience the positive impacts the natural diamond industry is having on the country, and to see these precious gems at their point of origin.

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Famous for her starring roles in Cinderella (2015) and Downton Abbey (2012-2015), the 33-year-old James recently received her first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her performance as Pamela Anderson in Pam & Tommy (2022). She is also the star of the NDC's global advertising campaign titled "To Treasure, Now and Forever."

James's trip to Botswana began with four days on Safari at The Selinda Reserve, a picturesque wildlife sanctuary that is home to thousands of elephants and the famous Selinda lion pride. From there, she visited the Orapa Game Park — part of the De Beers Diamond Route — which illustrated firsthand the positive results of the natural diamond industry's conservation efforts.

James also met with students and teachers at the Livingstone House Primary School, one of four schools in the community that are run by Debswana — a diamond mining company owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana.

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This was followed by a visit to Lucara Diamond Corp's Karowe Diamond Mine, as well as the De Beers Global Sightholder Sales facility in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Her last stop was the KGK Diamonds cutting and polishing facility in Gaborone, where she met with some of their employees. A majority of them are native citizens whose livelihoods are supported by the natural diamond industry.

"I've been awestruck by the natural beauty and the vibrant communities I've seen in Botswana," said James. "To know so much of this land — over 1,000 square miles globally — is protected by the natural diamond industry makes me incredibly proud to be the NDC's Global Ambassador."

Natural diamonds support the livelihood of more than 10 million people worldwide and nowhere is the positive impact felt more than in Botswana, where they accounted for 33% of Botswana's GDP in 2021. Botswana also has the highest percentage of women-owned businesses in the world.

"The natural diamond industry is an example to others as to how collaborations between governments and business can transform the lives of so many people and the communities in which they live," said David Kellie, CEO of NDC.

The diamond industry's partnership with the government of Botswana sustains a school system educating approximately 522,000 children a year. In 1966, there were just three secondary schools. Today there are 300 and every Botswanan child receives free primary and secondary education.

Additional benefits of the natural diamond industry include providing healthcare for more than four million people globally and funding critical infrastructure development, including schools, hospitals, and roads.

NDC's advertising campaign starring James showcases a range of diamond jewelry styles, from staples, such as tennis bracelets and necklaces, studs and hoops, to original creations including statement earrings or spiral bracelets.

Credits: Images courtesy of Natural Diamond Council.
November 28th, 2022
An obscure third-century Roman emperor, once written out of the history books as a fictional character, was likely the real deal, according to researchers at University College London.

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By using microscopes, ultraviolet imaging and infrared spectroscopy, researchers led by Professor Paul Pearson determined that the fine scratch marks on the surface of coins bearing Emperor Sponsian's likeness proved that they were in circulation 2,000 years ago and couldn't be modern forgeries. The findings were recently published in the journal PLOS 1.

The only historical reference to Emperor Sponsian is a portrait of him that appeared on a small cache of gold coins discovered in Transylvania 309 years ago. At first, the coins were believed to be genuine, but by the mid-1800s that opinion had flipped 180 degrees.

Henry Cohen, a scholar at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, declared in 1863 that the Sponsian coins were "very poor quality modern forgeries." Cohen described the obverse of the coin as "barbaric and strange" and pointed out that the coins were cast instead of struck. (Casting was a method used by forgers.) The Sponsian coins were also unusually heavy compared to similar Roman coins of that period.

At the time, historians surmised that if the coins were fake, Sponsian was likely a fake character, as well.

The Sponsian coins discovered in 1713 eventually found their way to the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University, where they remained locked away in a cupboard.

That's until Professor Pearson decided to revisit the mystery of Emperor Sponsian and the crudely designed coins.

Pearson and his team discovered that the Sponsian coins all bore similar patterns of microscopic wear apparent on authentic coins of the third century. A chemical analysis of the dirt caked on the coins confirmed they had been buried for a prolonged period of time.

The wear marks confirmed that the coins were handled in countless transactions over an extended time period and that they were used as a part of a monetary economy, Pearson reported.

"What we have found is an emperor," Pearson told the BBC. "He was a figure thought to have been a fake and written off by the experts. But we think he was real and that he had a role in history."

So, if Sponsian really existed, why don't we know more about him?

Researchers believe that Sponsian was a Roman army officer who was in charge of a remote province called Dacia, in what is now Romania. It was the year 260 AD, and Dacia was physically cut off from Rome during a period of chaos, civil war and a pandemic.

It is believed that Sponsian was "on an island" and had no way of communicating with the supreme command, so he did what he had to do in order to protect the civilian and military populations. One of those things was to declare himself emperor and another was to mint coins so the province could have a functioning economy.

This would theoretically explain why the Sponsian coins were so unlike other coins minted by the Romans at that time.

Credit: Image © 2022 Pearson et al. Sponsianus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
November 23rd, 2022
Thanksgiving Day marks the start of “engagement season,” the romantic time of the year that stretches from tomorrow until Valentine’s Day. The period accounts for just 23% of the calendar, but claims nearly 40% of all marriage proposals.

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Facebook has famously reported that about 2.5 million of its 240 million US users change their status to “engaged” in an average year. And that number aligns neatly with The Knot's estimate that 2.6 million weddings would take place in 2022.

The average length of an engagement is about 14 months, so the couples getting engaged in the current season (2022-2023) will likely exchange their vows in 2024.

For many years, Christmas Day has been the most popular day to get engaged, followed by a wintry mix of favorites that included Christmas Eve, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

Due to COVID-related travel restrictions in the winter of 2020, Christmas Day lost its long-standing top spot to Valentine's Day, according to WeddingWire’s 2021 Newlywed Report, which covered engagement-related activities throughout the full year of 2020.

In that report, Cupid’s Day was followed by New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and the Fourth of July (Independence Day). Interestingly, a bunch of warmer weather weekend dates, such as June 20th, September 12th, October 10th and May 16th cracked the Top 10 list in 2020, presumably because of the prevalence of COVID-inspired fresh air proposals.

But now with most restriction lifted, it's safe to assume that the long-standing favorites should climb back to the top of the list.

About 19% of all proposals take place during the month of December, which is more than twice as popular as any other month. The reason for December's dominance is the fact that couples love to get engaged on the days leading up to Christmas all the way through New Year's Eve, which is still officially December 31 until the ball drops.

Here's a rundown of the traditional Top 10 days to pop the question…

Christmas Day. Christmas is a time when families and friends come together from far and wide to celebrate the spirit of the season. It's the perfect time to pop the question because loved ones are present to participate in the festivities.
Christmas Eve. A joyful time to share a festive meal, sit in front of a fireplace and open a package or two ahead of Christmas Day.
Valentine’s Day. The one day each year set aside for lovers is also an ideal time to pop the question.
New Year’s Day. Is there a better way to start off the New Year?
New Year’s Eve. Say goodbye to 2022 and hello to 2023 with the one you love - and a ring.
Day Before Valentine’s Day. When getting engaged on Valentine’s Day may be too obvious, jumping the gun by 24 hours is a strategy to preserve the element of surprise.
Saturday Before Christmas Eve.
Two Saturdays Before Christmas Eve.
December 23rd (Day Before Christmas Eve).
Fourth of July (Independence Day). It’s fun, festive, patriotic and the only date in the Top 10 list that finds itself outside of “engagement season.”

An “Engagement Expectations” study conducted by The Knot and De Beers Group exactly one year ago revealed that 96% of pre-engaged women wanted to have some involvement in the selection of the engagement ring and would not want the proposal to be a total surprise.

Three-fourths of pre-engaged women have thought a lot or some about their engagement ring and most noted they would prefer personalized and unique engagement rings.

A Wedding Wire study confirmed that 72% of respondents worked as a couple to choose an engagement ring and a third of respondents shopped for the ring together.

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com
November 22nd, 2022
Armed with a powerful XP Deus metal detector, 69-year-old David Board took another stab at a long-forgotten hobby. It had been nearly 50 years since Board scoured the beaches of Dorset on England's southwest coast in the hopes of recovering valuable treasure. He hadn't found much back then, but a family friend encouraged him to try his luck again since he was newly retired.

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Board got permission to search the pasture of a local farm near Thorncombe. The farmer was an employer and friend for many years. Board had driven a milk tanker for his operation.

On his third pass through the field, Board got a strong signal near a footpath. At a depth of 5 inches, he exposed what at first glance seemed to be a candy wrapper. But then looking more closely he realized it was a muddy piece of metal and stashed it in his top pocket.

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"It was once I got home and washed it off that we realized it was a lot better than we thought," he told CNN.

The Finds Liaison Officer Lucy Shipley took the ring to the British Museum and confirmed that it was Medieval in date. The stunning piece is now known as "The Lady Brook Medieval Diamond Ring," a very rare example of what high-end bridal jewelry looked like in the late 1300s.

Board told BBC News that this was a "once in a lifetime" discovery.

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“This ring is in almost perfect condition and has an inverted diamond set into the raised bezel so that it comes to a point," explained Nigel Mills, Consultant (Coins and Antiquities) at Noonans, where the ring will be auctioned later this month. "The hoop is composed of two neatly entwined bands symbolizing the union of the couple."

Inside the band is an inscription in French "ieo vos tien foi tenes le moy," translating as "I hold your faith, hold mine."

The property on which the ring was discovered had been acquired by Henry de Broc (or de la Brook) from Reginald de Mohun (1206–1258), Feudal baron of Dunster in Somerset. The baron had inherited this land from his first wife, Hawise Fleming, daughter and heiress of William Fleming. It then passed by descent through the Brook family, coming into the possession of the wealthy landowner Sir Thomas Brook (c.1355-1418).

The auction house noted that, due to the exceptionally fine quality of this ring, it was quite possibly the wedding ring given by Sir Thomas Brook to his wife Lady Joan Brook for their marriage in 1388.

Noonans noted that the ring reflects the medieval notions of chivalry and courtly love that were at their zenith at that time.

The ring is expected to fetch up to £40,000 ($47,000) when it's offered for sale by the London-based auction house Noonans Mayfair on November 29, 2022. The proceeds will be split between Board and the landowner, according to BBC News.

Board said he will use his share of the money to help his partner's daughter secure a mortgage.

Credits: Images courtesy of Noonans Mayfair.
November 21st, 2022
On December 18, after four weeks of heart-thumping soccer matches, members of a single national team will emerge as champions and experience one of the ultimate thrills in professional sports — raising aloft the 18-karat gold FIFA World Cup Trophy. Four years ago in Russia, that honor went to the squad from France. This year in Qatar, 31 teams will be vying to unseat the defending champs.

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The coveted trophy, which is 14.5 inches tall and depicts two human figures holding up the earth, is made of 11 pounds of 18-karat gold and features two rows of green malachite at the base. The trophy is estimated to be worth $20 million, although the actual precious metal value is closer to $231,000.

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For years, FIFA, the governing body of soccer, had said the trophy was made of solid gold, but that claim hasn’t held up to scrutiny and it’s very likely that it has a hollow center.

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Martyn Poliakoff of the United Kingdom’s Nottingham University did the math and determined that, based on its dimensions, a FIFA trophy made of solid gold would weigh an unwieldy 154 pounds. Gold is nearly 20 times as dense as water, and to get some perspective on just how heavy that is, consider this… A standard gold bar measures just 7 x 3 5/8 x 1 3/4 inches, but weighs more than 27 pounds.

The winning team will be taking home a gold-plated replica of the actual trophy. The real one will remain in the possession of FIFA. The bottom of the base bears the engraved year and name of each FIFA World Cup winner since 1974. The names are not visible when the cup is standing upright.

The tournament takes place every four years, usually during May, June or July in the northern hemisphere. The average high temperature in Qatar during the summer is 107 degrees, so the tournament was moved to the November - December timeframe when the average high temperature is a more comfortable 75 degrees.

It is estimated that five billion people will be tuning in for the World Cup this winter. That's up from 3.5 billion in 2018.

For the past 92 years, there have been only two designs for the FIFA trophy. The current one was conceived by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga and presented for the first time in 1974.

In describing his design, Gazzaniga said, “The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.”

In 1970, the Brazilians got to keep the previous version of the trophy — the Jules Rimet Cup — when the team captured its third world title.

Rimet, the founding father of the FIFA World Cup, had stipulated 40 years earlier that any team that won three titles could have the cup permanently. FIFA made good on that promise in 1970, but in 1983 the cup was stolen in Rio de Janeiro and never seen again.

The Jules Rimet Cup, which was originally called “Coupe du Monde,” was designed by French sculptor Abel Lafleur and depicted the goddess of victory holding an octagonal vessel above her. It was 13.7 inches tall and weighed 8.4 pounds. It was made of gold-plated sterling silver, with a base of lapis lazuli.

In 1966, an earlier version of the Jules Rimet Cup was stolen from a public display in London just before the Brits were about to host the World Cup. It was discovered seven days later at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge by a clever canine named Pickles.

During World War II, the Jules Rimet Cup spent some time in a shoebox under the bed of FIFA vice president Dr. Ottorino Barassi, who feared it might fall into the hands of the Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Brazil currently holds the record for the most FIFA World Cup victories (5), followed by Italy and Germany with four wins each. Favored teams in the current tournament include Brazil, Argentina, France and England.

The North American triumvirate of the US, Canada and Mexico will co-host the next FIFA World Cup games in 2026.

Credits: Photo of 2018 FIFA World Cup champions photo by Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of French footballer Djibril Sidibé holding the FIFA World Cup Trophy in 2018 by Антон Зайцев, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of FIFA World Cup Trophy by Revol Web, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
November 18th, 2022
Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Patsy Cline plays the role of a jilted lover who reminisces about a special class ring and other cherished mementos of a relationship gone bad in her 1962 chart-topper, "She's Got You."

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She sings, “I’ve got your class ring that proved you cared / And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear / The only thing different, the only thing new / I’ve got these little things, she’s got you.”

Songwriter Hank Cochran told Cline biographer Ellis Nassour that in 1961 he called the country star and told her he’d just written her next #1 hit. Cline invited Cochran to come over to her house and play the song on guitar.

She immediately fell in love with the song and learned it that same night. Excitedly, she called her producer, Owen Bradley, and sang it to him on the phone. At that point, Cline and Bradley were certain they had a winner — and they did.

Originally a #1 country hit for Cline in 1962, “She’s Got You” has been covered by an all-star group of music artists, including Rosanne Cash, LeAnn Rimes, Timi Yuro, Jimmy Buffet, Lee Ann Womack and Loretta Lynn.

And the song still has legs.

A 17-year-old Emily Ann Roberts sang "She's Got You" on The Voice in September of 2015. The Season 9 finalist's rousing rendition earned accolades from coach Blake Shelton and helped launch her career. “She’s Got You” was so well received by the viewers of The Voice that the song made it into the iTunes Top 10 and ascended to #21 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, Cline is often cited as one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century and the first country music artist to cross over to pop. Just one year after "She's Got You" was released, Cline tragically died in an airplane crash near Camden, TN. She was 30 years old.

We know you will enjoy the audio track of Cline's performance of “She’s Got You.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“She’s Got You”
Written by Hank Cochran. Performed by Patsy Cline.

I’ve got your picture that you gave to me
And it’s signed with love, just like it used to be
The only thing different, the only thing new
I’ve got your picture, she’s got you

I’ve got the records that we used to share
And they still sound the same as when you were here
The only thing different, the only thing new
I’ve got the records, she’s got you

I’ve got your memory, or has it got me
I really don’t know, but I know it won’t let me be

I’ve got your class ring that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I’ve got these little things, she’s got you

I’ve got your memory, or has it got me
I really don’t know, but I know it won’t let me be

I’ve got your class ring that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I’ve got these little things, she’s got you



Credit: Image by Shanecollinswiki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
November 17th, 2022
This past August, Lucapa Diamond Co. introduced the 170.2-carat Lulo Rose as the largest pink diamond discovered in the past 300 years. Pundits favorably compared the chemically pure, Type IIa, specimen from the Lulo alluvial diamond mine in Angola to some of the most heralded pink diamonds of all time, including the oval-shaped CTF Pink Star, a 59.6-carat gem that sold for a record $71 million in 2017.

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It was speculated that the 170-plus-carat rough gem might be cut into a finished stone weighing upwards of 70 carats and challenge the CTF Pink Star's record for the highest price ever paid for a pink diamond, or any gemstone for that matter.

On Tuesday, Sodiam E.P., the Angolan State Diamond Marketing Company, successfully sold the Lulo Rose at an international tender, but failed to disclose the price or the new owner.

Instead, Sodiam reported that the Lulo Rose was one of seven "specials" from the Lulo mine that collectively realized a total of $20.4 million. We also learned that the total weight of all seven rough stones was 767 carats, which put the average price per carat at $26,536.

It's safe to say that if all the gems were of similar size and quality, the 170.2-carat Lulo Rose would have accounted for at least $4.5 million of the tender revenue. But due to its historic size and fancy color, the Lulo Rose likely warranted a premium. The other diamonds in the tender were described as white Type IIa diamonds, three of which topped 100 carats.

When pressed about the Lulo Rose's selling price, a spokesperson for Lucapa told IDEX Online that it didn't provide details for individual stones.

According to Lucapa and its partners, Endiama E.P. and Rosas & Petalas, the historical pink diamond is the fifth largest diamond discovered at Lulo. At the time of its discovery, it was the 27th 100-plus-carat diamond recovered at the site. In September, Lucapa announced that its tally of 100-plus-carat diamonds had grown to 30.

The Lulo Rose is unique because it is an alluvial diamond — a diamond eroded over eons from its primary source and discovered in a secondary location. Since the discovery of alluvial diamonds at Lulo in 2015, geologists have continued to seek the kimberlite pipes that would have been the primary source of these spectacular stones.

Earlier this year, Lucapa reported that it had discovered 24 new kimberlites at Lulo, bringing the total number to 133. Kimberlite exploration is conducted by the Lulo partners through the separate Projecto Lulo joint venture. This exploration is designed to locate the hard-rock primary sources of the exceptional Lulo alluvial diamonds.

Credit: Image courtesy of Lucapa Diamond Co.
November 16th, 2022
In the aftermath of a terrifying tornado that flattened their home near Hopewell, TX, Dakota Hudson and his girlfriend, Lauren Patterson, were thankful to be alive. They survived the ordeal by taking shelter in their bathroom, holding each other and praying as the twister shook their new home from its foundation.

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Once the storm had passed, Hudson told his girlfriend of seven years that he had been planning to propose and that the tornado had consumed the engagement ring that he had hidden in the back closet their now-obliterated house.

"I told her, I was like, 'I lost your engagement ring and your wedding band,' and she told me it was alright," he recounted to local TV station KXII. "All she needed was me."

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On Tuesday of last week, the Paris Junior College softball team volunteered to do some salvage and cleanup work for the devastated community and was randomly paired with the young couple.

Hudson hinted to the girls that if they could find the engagement ring, he would proposal on the spot.

"I guess when you tell 20 girls that you’re looking for an engagement ring they’re going to make sure you’re engaged by the end of the day," Hudson told a Fox4 reporter. "They did not let up. They all came out there and they were all workhorses. The amount of work they were able to put in to help us out was phenomenal."

After hours of digging through debris, clues started to emerge. Some of the girls found pieces of the ring box scattered in different areas. Then about an hour later, outfielder Kate Rainey made the discovery of a lifetime.

“I was just kind of digging through the mud in this certain particular spot, and I kept digging there,” Rainey told KXII. “I don’t know why. I felt [that I was] led to dig right there. I found a little piece of a metal circle, and it was not [just] metal. It was gold. I didn’t believe it. When I found it, I was like, ‘there’s no way I just found it.’”

The engagement ring had been torn from its box and traveled seven yards from its original hiding place in the closet. The tornado had buried the ring two inches under ground.

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Rainey ran the ring over to Hudson who washed it off with bottled water and then, true to his word, got down on one knee and proposed to Patterson amidst the tangled remains of what used to be their home. Patterson immediately said "Yes" and the couple embraced to the cheers of the Paris Junior College softball team.

“All the glory goes to God,” Hudson told KXII. “I wasn’t going to wait anymore.”

Head coach Shelby Shelton commented on her Facebook page that the proposal was "truly one of the most remarkable things we have witnessed."

"Congrats to the newly engaged couple!," she wrote. "Our girls can’t wait to attend the wedding."

Credits: Team and proposal photos via Shelby Shelton / Facebook. Photo of couple via Lauren Patterson / Facebook.
November 15th, 2022
Japanese scientists are on a mission to save the species of oyster responsible for producing the world's most beautiful cultured pearls. The Japanese pearl oyster — Pinctada fucata — is fighting for its survival as viruses and red tides have taken a savage toll on oyster populations and, as a result, pearl production in Japan has shrunk by 70% over the past 20 years.

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In an effort to preserve the future of the Japanese pearl industry, scientists have constructed a high-quality, chromosome-scale genome of the Pinctada fucata species, which they hope can be used to breed hardier, more resilient mollusks. The research was published recently in DNA Research.

“It’s very important to establish the genome,” said Dr. Takeshi Takeuchi, staff scientist in the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Marine Genomics Unit. “Genomes are the full set of an organism’s genes — many of which are essential for survival. With the complete gene sequence, we can do many experiments and answer questions around immunity and how the pearls form.”

Scientists at the OIST, in collaboration with K. Mikimoto & Co.'s Pearl Research Institute and the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, reconstructed 14 pairs of chromosomes (28 in total) and found key differences between the two chromosomes of one pair—chromosome pair 9. Notably, many of these genes were related to immunity.

“Different genes on a pair of chromosomes is a significant find because the proteins can recognize different types of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Takeuchi.

The scientists believe that the current state of the pearl farming industry is due partly to the lack of genetic diversity in the oyster population. Pearl farmers often breed oysters that have a higher rate or survival or ones that produce more beautiful pearls. But, researchers observed that after three consecutive inbreeding cycles, the genetic diversity was significantly reduced. Genetic deterioration due to the inbreeding of oysters with superior traits makes it difficult for the species to respond to various environmental changes and the emergence of pathogens.

“It is important to maintain the genome diversity in aquaculture populations,” concluded Dr. Takeuchi.

Akoya pearl production is currently 20,000kg (44,092 lbs) per year, down from 70,000kg (154,323 lbs) per year two decades ago. The scientists are hoping to restore an aquaculture industry that was generating 88 billion yen ($630 million) in annual revenue in the early 1990s. Despite diminished numbers, cultured pearls still rank as Japan's second-most-exported marine product, after scallops.

Credit: Image courtesy of K. MIKIMOTO & CO., LTD, Pearl Research Institute.