(top, l to r) 1914 ,Queen Mary wearing Cullinans I and II as a brooch on her chest, III as a pendant on the Coronation Necklace, and IV in the base of her crown, below the Koh-i-Noor; Queen Elizabeth II wearing the same Cullinan diamonds brooch more than 100 years later.  (row 2 left) The raw diamond (row 2 right top) The nine rough cut diamonds (row 2 right bottom) The nine Cullinans in all their glory. (row 3) The Cullinan Mine in South Africa; Inside the mine. (bottom left) The Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa, 530.2 carats of beauty and fun for some lucky enough to touch it. (bottom right)  Joseph Asscher ready to take the first whack at splitting the Cullinan diamond. No pressure there.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure, along with my neighbors, of shoveling and snow blowing after our first major storm of the year hit us hard.  As a native northeast Ohioan, I was ok with lacing up my boots, throwing on the hat and gloves, and tackling the task. The little kid in me still enjoys firing up the snow blower and slowly blasting it up in the air and out across the lawn.  Of course, with the wind, and driving snow, I had to revisit the driveway and do it all over again on Sunday.  During my time in the cold, the sun came out, and the snow turned to an amazing layer of sparkles and light, shimmering in front of me as I worked along, like a field of diamonds.  Once I finished, I came inside, warmed back up, and started poking around on the computer, looking for cool and fun facts for this week’s blog.  I discovered the Cullinan, and a great article on Wikipedia about the world’s largest diamond ever found.  Turns out, it celebrates its 114th year birthday this weekend.  And, sorry Jackie, I inquired, but looks like the Queen’s not gonna give ‘em up soon.  Enjoy!

The Cullinan Diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, weighing 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g), discovered at the Premier No. 2 mine in Cullinan, South Africa, on 26 January 1905.

It was found 18 feet below the surface at Premier Mine in Cullinan, Transvaal Colony, by Frederick Wells, surface manager at the mine. It was approximately 10.1 centimetres (4.0 in) long, 6.35 centimetres (2.50 in) wide, 5.9 centimetres (2.3 in) deep.

Four of its eight surfaces were smooth, indicating that it once had been part of a much larger stone broken up by natural forces. (wonder just how big that was) It had a blue-white hue and contained a small pocket of air, which at certain angles produced a rainbow, or Newton’s rings, a phenomenon in which an interference pattern is created by the reflection of light between two surfaces—a spherical surface and an adjacent touching flat surface.

Newspapers called it the “Cullinan Diamond”, a reference to Sir Thomas Cullinan, who opened the mine in 1902.  It was three times the size of the previous largest Excelsior Diamond, found in 1893 at Jagersfontein Mine, weighing 972 carats. Shortly after its discovery, Cullinan went on public display at the Standard Bank in Johannesburg, where it was seen by an estimated 8,000–9,000 visitors.

In April 1905, the rough gem was deposited with Premier Mining Co.’s London sales agent, S. Neumann & Co.  Due to its immense value, detectives were assigned to a steamboat that was rumored to be carrying the stone. A parcel was ceremoniously locked in the captain’s safe and guarded on the entire journey. It was a diversionary tactic – the stone on that ship was fake, meant to attract those who would be interested in stealing it. Cullinan was sent to the United Kingdom in a plain box via registered post.

On arriving in London, it was conveyed to Buckingham Palace for inspection by King Edward VII. It drew considerable interest from potential buyers, but Cullinan went unsold for two years. In 1907 the Transvaal Colony government bought the Cullinan to formally present to the king.

Initially, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, then British Prime Minister, advised the king to decline the offer, but he later decided to let Edward VII choose whether or not to accept the gift. Eventually, he was persuaded by Winston Churchill, then Colonial Under-Secretary. (For his trouble, Churchill was sent a replica of the diamond, which he enjoyed showing off to guests on a silver plate).  The Transvaal Colony government bought the diamond on for £150,000 or about US$750,000 at the time, which adjusted for pound-sterling inflation is equivalent to about £20 million today. Unnoticed, due to a 60% tax imposed on mining profits at the time, the Treasury received most of its money back from the Premier Diamond Mining Company.

The diamond was presented to the king at Sandringham House on November 9, 1907 – his sixty-sixth birthday – in the presence of a large party of guests, including the Queen of Norway, the Queen of Spain, the Duke of Westminster and Lord Revelstoke. The king asked his colonial secretary, Lord Elgin, to announce that he accepted the gift “for myself and my successors” and that he would ensure “this great and unique diamond be kept and preserved among the historic jewels which form the heirlooms of the Crown”.

The king chose Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam to cleave and polish the rough stone into brilliant gems of various cuts and sizes. (talk about your PIA (Pain in the @%$) Jobs!  Abraham Asscher collected it from the Colonial Office in London in January 1908.  He returned to the Netherlands by train and ferry with the diamond in his coat pocket. Meanwhile, to much fanfare, a Royal Navy ship carried an empty box across the North Sea, again throwing off potential thieves. Even the captain had no idea that his “precious” cargo was a decoy.

On 10 February 1908, the rough stone was split in half by Joseph Asscher at his diamond-cutting factory in Amsterdam.  At the time, technology had not yet evolved to guarantee the quality of modern standards, and cutting the diamond was difficult and risky. After weeks of planning, an incision 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) deep was made to enable Asscher to cleave the diamond in one blow. Making the incision alone took four days, and a steel knife broke on the first attempt, but a second knife was fitted into the groove and split it clean in two along one of four possible cleavage planes.  In all, splitting and cutting the diamond took eight months, with three people working 14 hours per day to complete the task.

“The tale is told of Joseph Asscher, the greatest cleaver of the day,” wrote Matthew Hart in his book Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of anObsession (2002), “that when he prepared to cleave the largest diamond ever known … he had a doctor and nurse standing by and when he finally struck the diamond … he fainted dead away”.  Lord Ian Balfour, in his book Famous Diamonds (2009), dispels the fainting story, suggesting it was more likely Joseph would have celebrated, opening a bottle of champagne.

Cullinan produced 9 major stones of 1,055.89 carats (211.178 g) in total, and 96 minor brilliants weighing 7.55 carats (1.510 g) (on average, 0.079 carats each) – a yield from the rough stone of 34.25 per cent.  There are also 9.5 carats (1.90 g) of unpolished fragments.

  • Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa, is a pendeloque-cut brilliant weighing 530.2 carats (106.04 g) and has 74 facets.  It is set at the top of the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross which had to be redesigned in 1910 to accommodate it.
  • Cullinan II, or the Second Star of Africa, is a cushion-cut brilliant with 66 facets weighing 317.4 carats (63.48 g) set in the front of the Imperial State Crown, below the Black Prince’s Ruby (a large spinel).
  • Cullinan III, or the Lesser Star of Africa, is pear-cut and weighs 94.4 carats (18.88 g). In 1911, Queen Mary, wife and queen consort of George V, had it set in the top cross pattée of a crown that she personally bought for her coronation.
  • Cullinan IV, also referred to as a Lesser Star of Africa, is square-cut and weighs 63.6 carats (12.72 g). On 25 March 1958, while she and Prince Philip were on a state visit to the Netherlands, the Queen Elizabeth II revealed that Cullinan III and IV are known in her family as “Granny’s Chips”. They visited the Asscher Diamond Company, where Cullinan had been cut 50 years earlier. During her visit, she unpinned the brooch and offered it for examination to Louis Asscher, nephew of Joseph Asscher, who split the rough diamond. Aged 84, he was deeply moved by the fact the Queen had brought the diamonds with her, knowing how much it would mean to him seeing them again after so many years.
  • Cullinan V is an 18.8-carat (3.76 g) heart-shaped diamond set in the center of a platinum brooch that formed a part of the stomacher made for Queen Mary to wear at the Delhi Durbar in 1911. The brooch was designed to show off Cullinan V and is pavé-set with a border of smaller diamonds. It can be suspended from the VIII brooch and can be used to suspend the VII pendant.
  • Cullinan VI is marquise-cut and weighs 11.5 carats (2.30 g).  It hangs from the brooch containing Cullinan VIII and forming part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar parure. Cullinan VI along with VIII can also be fitted together to make yet another brooch, surrounded by some 96 smaller diamonds. The design was created around the same time that the Cullinan V heart-shaped brooch was designed, both having a similar shape.
  • Cullinan VII is also marquise-cut and weighs 8.8 carats (1.76 g).  It was originally given by Edward VII to his wife and consort Queen Alexandra. After his death she gave the jewel to Queen Mary, who had it set as a pendant hanging from the diamond-and-emerald Delhi Durbar necklace, part of the parure.
  • Cullinan VIII is an oblong-cut diamond weighing 6.8 carats (1.36 g).  It is set in the center of a brooch forming part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar parure. Together with Cullinan VI it forms a brooch.
  • Cullinan IX is smallest of the principal diamonds to be obtained from the rough Cullinan. It is a pendeloque or stepped pear-cut stone, weighs 4.39 carats (0.878 g), and is set in a platinum ring known as the Cullinan IX Ring.



Let’s Keep Trying

(left column top to bottom) Remember hay fever season? If you can’t get relief from a box of Zyrtec you could at least have a lot of tissue on hand … or on head;  Do you live alone? This pillow buddy is for you;  New shoes? This cool device will save them;  This is how to clean small messes without bending over; The eco minded can collect rain water on the way to work;  Eye drop glasses. Brilliant!;  An extender for your umbrella will keep your nice clothes nice and dry;  Solve this Rubics cube in one turn;  Never be late for work with this anti-snooze feature for your alarm; (right column top to bottom)  Now be stylish and prepared for rain;  Ahh, the solar flashlight;  Hey, kids are cute and now they can help keep the floors dusted;  Pets can help with the dusting, too;  This device will keep your lipstick off your face;  This device will keep your hair out of your noodles;  And this device will cool your noodles;  The shoe brush;  The commuter’s nap hat;  And the head prop for office naps. All wonderfully stupid devices.


Running a 24-7 business, focused on solving our client’s PIA (pain in the @%$) Jobs!™ is a blast.  All of my teams understand the importance of thinking, problem solving, testing and retesting, and just trying different approaches until we get it just right.  I encourage everyone to “free their mind” and challenge the status quo. Although, Jackie often tells me that I should focus more! Sometimes we “nail it” early on, or end up with extra solutions that don’t quite have an application. Sometimes, the solutions are so close we think we’re there, only to get a curve ball when not expected.  I was wondering what we could do with those “extras” and found a group out of Japan, that not only encourages inventive thinking, but actually developed a whole movement for those inventions that make sense on paper, but most likely will never see the light of day.  It’s called Chindōgu ( – (translated means “unusual tool”) and the definition fits it perfectly … ideas that lie in that gray area – “not exactly useful, but somehow not altogether useless”.  So remember for that someone who has everything!  Just some of my favorites…

  • A combined household duster and cocktail-shaker, for the housewife who wants to reward herself as she is working along.
  • The all-day tissue dispenser (basically a toilet roll fixed on top of a hat) for hay fever sufferers.
  • Duster slippers for dogs and cats, so they can help out with the housework too.
  • The all-over plastic bathing costume, to enable people who suffer from aquaphobia to swim without coming into contact with water.
  • The baby mop outfit worn by babies, so that as they crawl around, the floor is cleaned.
  • And my “laugh out loud favorite” – a solar powered flashlight (stop and think about this for a second).

Chindōgu it turns out, is a prank originating from Japan, which is done by a person seemingly inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem but are in fact nothing more than a useless gag.  And there are thousands of them.  So, for this week, I pulled together a little history, and some meaningless examples – ENJOY, and thank and Wikipedia for the info.

  • The movement was started by Kenji Kawakami, Japanese gadget guru extraordinaire and anarchic progenitor of chindogu, inventions that are almost completely useless, or to borrow Kawakami’s word, “unuseless.”
  • He has created more than 600 examples of chindogu — a made-up word literally meaning strange tools’ in Japanese — and has built an international cult following of thousands through his books about them and appearances on TV, the Internet, in magazine columns and museum exhibits.
  • But what exactly is a chindogu? They’re more easily defined by what they’re not: neither useful, political, patented, or for sale. But they are seemingly serviceable, certainly silly and always analog. Like Zen koans of invention, chindogu are designed to be both profound contradictions and simple tools to awaken the heart and mind.
  • Kawakami began dreaming up doodads in the 1980s while editing popular home shopping magazine Tsuhan Seikatsu and has since produced such unuseless wonders as the Solar-Powered Flashlight, the Rotating Spaghetti Fork and the Velcro Jogger. Yet he doesn’t own any patents and has never made a single yen by selling his creations.
  • Said Kawakami, “In the modern, digital world, everything is so quick,” he says, picking up paper and electronic dictionaries to illustrate. “With the electronic one, it only takes two seconds to find a word, but it gives us no mental or spiritual satisfaction. Yet if you use your own hands to find it, you can enjoy the process. It’s a spiritual act.”
  • There are roughly 8,000 chindogu practitioners in Japan and 1,000 overseas, their ages ranging from 10 to 70, according to Kawakami.
  • Good chindogu happens when – You don’t need to have it explained to you. It’s just in you. It shakes you in a funny way that you can’t help but get in touch with the basic human quality of being alive. “Cause when you’re laughing and smiling, you’re alive,” he says.
  • People outside Japan have had mixed reactions to chindogu. In North America, they’re viewed as amusing Japanese party gags, in Europe as a new art form, and in Hong Kong and Taiwan as potential moneymakers. But because of their universal appeal, Kawakami doesn’t see chindogu as ‘Japanese’ at all. “Being free is the most important thing in life. Chindogu is the symbol of freedom, a free soul is needed to think of chindogu, to think of stupid, crazy things. You can never do it with common sense alone.”



Cozy Warm

Knitted or printed, store bought or hand-made, there’s nothing like a cozy warm scarf on a winter day.

After enjoying an amazing string of beautiful weather days this past holiday season, and another week of sunshine (got up to almost 60 here on the north coast), I found myself this morning reaching into the closet and grabbing a scarf since it was 20F when I got up!  What a simple, amazing invention.  Then, of course, when I got to the office, I decided to poke around on the internet and get the skinny on where these came from, and just how far back the historians can track them.  I’m guessing Mr. Caveman saved a piece of fur for his lovely wife, so she’d be warm on the trek to the hinterlands. This had to be much better than the bark one he first gave her!

  1. A scarf, plural scarves, is a common piece of neckwear, typically a single piece of fabric worn around the neck for warmth, sun protection, cleanliness, fashion, or religious reasons. Scarves are made in a variety of different materials such as wool, linen or cotton.
  2. Scarves have been worn since ancient times. The Statue of Ashurnasirpal II from the 9th century BC features the emperor wearing a shawl. In Ancient Rome, the garment was used to keep clean rather than warm. It was called a focale or sudarium (sudarium from the Latin for “sweat cloth”) and was used to wipe the sweat from the neck and face in hot weather and were originally worn by men around their neck or tied to their belt.  Think of the American Cowboy!
  3. Historians believe that during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Cheng, scarves made of cloth were used to identify officers and the rank of Chinese warriors.
  4. In later times, scarves were also worn by soldiers of all ranks in Croatia around the 17th century. The only difference in the soldiers’ scarves that designated a difference in rank was that the officers had silk scarves whilst the other ranks were issued with cotton scarves. Some of the Croatian soldiers served as mercenaries with the French forces.
  5. Men’s scarves were sometimes referred to as “cravats” (from the French cravate, meaning “Croat”), and were the precursor of the necktie.  We’ve heard the term used even today, often associated with formalwear. Scarves that are used to cover the lower part of face are sometimes called a cowl and can be colloquially called a neck-wrap.
  6. The main manufacturer of fashion scarves used today is China; India, Hong Kong and Indonesia close behind. The most common materials used to make fashion scarves are silk, fleece, cotton, modal and pashmina or other cashmere wool in three basic scarf shapes: square, triangular and rectangular.
  7. The longest knitted scarf measures 14,978 ft 6.16 in. long and was achieved by Helge Johansen (Norway), in Oslo, Norway, on 12 November 2013. It’s taken nimble-fingered Norwegian 30 years to knit his neck-warmer to an incredible 4,565.46 m –sufficient to stretch the entire length of Central Park in Manhattan, New York. In order to measure his knitwear for Guinness World Records Day 2013, Helge unraveled his scarf – which he usually keeps in a ball – in a sports center in Oslo, Norway, snaking the scarf in dozens of tight loops. Cambodia’s longest hand-woven scarf, or krama in Khmer language, was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest scarf in the world in 2018.  The 88-cm-wide and 1,149.8-meter-long krama was taken nearly five months to be made by weavers from 20 krama weaving communities, and thousands of visitors had also added a few centimeters to the large krama when they visited its weaving site in front of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
  8. The scarf became a real fashion accessory by the early 19th century for both men and women. By the middle of the 20th century, scarves became a most essential and versatile clothing accessories.
  9. In cold climates, a thick knitted scarf, often made of wool, is tied around the neck to keep warm. This is usually accompanied by a heavy jacket or coat.
  10. In drier, dustier warm climates, or in environments where there are many airborne contaminants, a thin headscarf, kerchief, or bandanna is often worn over the eyes and nose and mouth to keep the hair clean. Over time, this custom has evolved into a fashionable item in many cultures, particularly among women.
  11. In India, woolen scarfs with Bandhani work are becoming very popular. Bandhani or Bandhej is the name of the tie and dye technique used commonly in Bhuj and Mandvi of the Kutch District of Gujarat State.
  12. Scarfs can be tied around the neck in many ways including the pussy-cat bow, the square knot, the cowboy bib, the ascot knot, the loop, the necktie, and the gypsy kerchief. Scarfs can also be tied in various ways on the head.  Several Christian denominations include a scarf known as a Stole as part of their liturgical vestments.
  13. In uniforms, silk scarves were used by pilots of early aircraft in order to keep oily smoke from the exhaust out of their mouths while flying. These were worn by pilots of closed cockpit aircraft to prevent neck chafing, especially by fighter pilots, who were constantly turning their heads from side to side watching for enemy aircraft. Today, military flight crews wear scarves imprinted with unit insignia and emblems not for functional reasons but instead for esprit-de-corps and heritage.
  14. At graduation, students traditionally wear academic scarves with distinctive combinations of striped colors identifying their individual university or college.
  15. Members of the Scouting movement wear a scarf-like item called a neckerchief as part of their uniform, which is sometimes referred to as a scarf. In some Socialist countries Young pioneers wore a neckerchief called a red scarf.
  16. Since at least the early 1900s, when the phenomenon began in Britain, colored scarves have been traditional supporter wear for fans of association football teams across the world, even those in warmer climates. These scarves come in a wide variety of sizes and are made in a club’s particular colors and may contain the club crest, pictures of renowned players, and various slogans relating to the history of the club and its rivalry with others. Now you know why all four houses at Hogwarts had different color scarfs!
  17. At some clubs supporters will sometimes perform a ‘scarf wall’ in which all supporters in a section of the stadium will stretch out their scarves above their heads with both hands, creating an impressive ‘wall’ of color.  This is usually accompanied by the singing of a club anthem such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Liverpool F.C., “Grazie Roma” at A.S. Roma or “Africa” by Toto at Columbus Crew matches.  This was initially solely a British phenomenon, but has since spread to the rest of Europe, North and South America. Some clubs supporters will perform a scarf ‘twirl’ or ‘twirly’ in which a group of supporters hold the scarves above their heads with one hand, and twirl the scarf, creating a ‘blizzard’ of color. This is usually accompanied by a club anthem such as “Hey Jude” at Heart of Midlothian F.C.
  18. Scarf wearing is also a noted feature of support for Australian rules football clubs in the Australian Football League. The scarves are in the form of alternating bars of color, usually with the team name or mascot written on each second bar.
  19. The craft of knitting garments such as scarves is an important trade in some countries. Hand-knitted scarves are still common as gifts as well.
  20. Printed scarves are additionally offered internationally through high fashion design houses. Among the latter are Burberry, Missoni, Alexander McQueen, Cole Haan, Chanel, Etro, Lanvin, Hermès, Nicole Miller, Ferragamo, Emilio Pucci, Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada.



Let’s Go

(left column top to bottom) Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad; Authentic family recipe Greek baked goods in Cincinnati; The World’s First Beer Hotel — With In-room Taps and Shower Mini-bars in Columbus (Really!); In any season Medina is so darn charming; The spectacular Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal; Our beautiful state flag! (right column top to bottom) The wedge salad at Ninety One Wood Fired Oven in Jackson Township (the steaks are awesome, too); The famous “Y” bridge in Zanesville; Visit Milan and the birthplace museum of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century; When you’re in Cinci, get your coffee fix at Felix; Amish Country is great for scenic drives, wonderful food and interesting shopping opportunities;   Exploring the parks in Ohio can take up a lot of your free time.


As we all turn the page to 2019, I took some time this week and reflected on those things that I really enjoyed this past year, those things that gave me pause, and those things I wanted to continue to do.  Morning runs, foodie experiments with my kids, sampling craft beers and tasty coffee, a plate of hot tater tots at my favorite stop, breakfasts with my golf buddies, and most of all my day trips with Jackie.  Of course, we didn’t do enough of them, but when we did, we always enjoyed exploring and experiencing things we knew were nearby, but never took the time to go visit. I came across a neat website called Ohio Explored, filled with “tons” of cool ideas – food, wine, breweries, crafts, hotels, parks, trails, and a bunch of small businesses throughout the state.  As a small business owner, I salute these brave souls – both the start-ups and the established entrepreneurs.  Seemed like the more I explored on the site, the more cool ideas I came across – handmade jam, vintage clothing, retreat spaces, live music, wine spots and of course food – lots of food – best tacos, best pizza, best coffee and some of the best things made in Ohio – ceramics, art, crafts, cookies, jewelry – and the list goes on.  So, for my New Year’s resolution, after I solve your pesky PIA (pain in the @%$) Jobs!, I’ll be jumping in the heat mobile and hitting the road, reporting back on the great things I find.  And I hope you do the same – as you explore, be sure to shoot me a note on the visits, with any photos I can share with our readers.  All the best in 2019.