In Bitcoin We Trust?

By now you have probably heard of Bitcoin, but can you define it?

Most often it is described as a non-government digital currency. Bitcoin is also sometimes called a cybercurrency or, in a nod to its encrypted origins, a cryptocurrency. Those descriptions are accurate enough, but they miss the point. It’s like describing the U.S. dollar as a green piece of paper with pictures on it.

I have my own ways of describing Bitcoin. I think of it as store credit without the store. A prepaid phone without the phone. Precious metal without the metal. Legal tender for no debts, public or private, unless the party to whom it is tendered wishes to accept it. An instrument backed by the full faith and credit only of its anonymous creators, in whom I therefore place no faith, and to whom I give no credit except for ingenuity.

I wouldn’t touch a bitcoin with a 10-foot USB cable. But a fair number of people already have, and quite a few more soon may.

This is partly because entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, best known for their role in the origins of Facebook, are now seeking to use their technological savvy, and money, to bring Bitcoin into the mainstream.

The Winklevosses hope to start an exchange-traded fund for bitcoins. An ETF would make Bitcoin more widely available to investors who lack the technological know-how to purchase the digital currency directly. As of April, the Winklevosses are said to have held around 1 percent of all existent bitcoins.

Created in 2009 by an anonymous cryptographer, Bitcoin operates on the premise that anything, even intangible bits of code, can have value so long as enough people decide to treat it as valuable. Bitcoins exist only as digital representations and are not pegged to any traditional currency.

According to the Bitcoin website, “Bitcoin is designed around the idea of a new form of money that uses cryptography to control its creation and transactions, rather than relying on central authorities.” (1) New bitcoins are “mined” by users who solve computer algorithms to discover virtual coins. Bitcoins’ purported creators have said that the ultimate supply of bitcoins will be capped at 21 million.

While Bitcoin promotes itself as “a very secure and inexpensive way to handle payments,” (2) in reality few businesses have made the move to accept bitcoins. Of those that have, a sizable number operate in the black market.

Bitcoins are traded anonymously over the Internet, without any participation on the part of established financial institutions. As of 2012, sales of drugs and other black-market goods accounted for an estimated 20 percent of exchanges from bitcoins to U.S. dollars on the main Bitcoin exchange, called Mt. Gox. The Drug Enforcement Agency recently conducted its first-ever Bitcoin seizure, after reportedly tying a transaction on the anonymous Bitcoin-only marketplace Silk Road to the sale of prescription and illegal drugs.

Some Bitcoin users have also suggested that the currency can serve as a means to avoid taxes. That may be true, but only in the sense that bitcoins aid illegal tax evasion, not in the sense that they actually serve any role in genuine tax planning. Under federal tax law, no cash needs to change hands in order for a taxable transaction to occur. Barter and other non-cash exchanges are still fully taxable. There is no reason that transactions involving bitcoins would be treated differently.

Outside of the criminal element, Bitcoin’s main devotees are speculators, who have no intention of using bitcoins to buy anything. These investors are convinced that the limited supply of bitcoins will force their value to follow a continual upward trajectory.

Bitcoin has indeed seen some significant spikes in value. But it has also experienced major losses, including an 80 percent decline over 24 hours in April. At the start of this month, bitcoins were down to around $90, from a high of $266 before the April crash. They were trading near $97 earlier this week, according to mtgox.com.

The Winklevosses would make Bitcoin investing easier by allowing smaller-scale investors to profit, or lose, as the case may be, without the hassle of actually buying and storing the electronic coins. Despite claims of security, Bitcoin storage has proved problematic. In 2011, an attack on the Mt. Gox exchange forced it to temporarily shut down and caused the price of bitcoins to briefly fall to nearly zero. Since Bitcoin transactions are all anonymous, there is little chance of tracking down the culprits if you suddenly find your electronic wallet empty. If the Winklevosses get regulatory approval, their ETF would help shield investors from the threat of individual theft. The ETF, however, would do nothing to address the problem of volatility caused by large-scale thefts elsewhere in the Bitcoin market.

While Bitcoin comes wrapped in a high-tech veneer, this newest of currencies has a surprising amount in common with one of the oldest currencies: gold. Bitcoin’s own vocabulary, particularly the term “mining,” highlights this connection, and intentionally so. The mining process is designed to be difficult as a control on supply, mimicking the extraction of more conventional resources from the ground. Far from providing a sense of security, however, this rhetoric ought to serve as a word of caution.

Gold is an investment of last resort. It has little intrinsic value. It does not generate interest. But because its supply is finite, it is seen as being more stable than forms of money that can be printed at will.

The problem with gold is that it doesn’t do anything. Since gold coins have fallen out of use, most of the world’s gold now sits in the vaults of central banks and other financial institutions. As a result, gold has little connection to the real economy. That can seem like a good thing when the real economy feels like a scary place to be. But as soon as other attractive investment options appear, gold loses its shine. That is what we have seen with the recent declines in gold prices.

In their push to bring Bitcoin to the mainstream, its promoters have accepted, and, in some cases sought out, increased regulation. Last month Mt. Gox registered itself as a money services business with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. It has also increased customer verification measures. The changes came in response to a March directive from Financial Crimes Enforcement Network clarifying the application of its rules to virtual currencies. The Winklevosses’ proposed ETF would bring a new level of accountability.

In the end, however, I expect that Bitcoin will fade back into the shadows of the black market. Those who want a regulated, secure currency that they can use for legitimate business transactions will pick from one of the many currencies already sponsored by a national government equipped with ample resources, a real-world economy and far more transparency and security than the Bitcoin world can offer.

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Bitcoin Basics

For someone not familiar with Bitcoin, the first question that comes to mind is, “What is Bitcoin?” And another common question that is often asked relates to the Bitcoin price. It started out a under 10 cents per Bitcoin upon its introduction in early 2009. It has risen steadily since and has hovered around $4000 per Bitcoin recently. So regarding Bitcoin value or the Bitcoin rate this is a most remarkable appreciation of value and has created many, many millionaires over the last eight years.

The Bitcoin market is worldwide and the citizens of China and Japan have been particularly active in its purchase along with other Asian countries. However, recently in Bitcoin news the Chinese government has tried to suppress its activity in that country. That action drove the value of Bitcoin down for a short time but it soon surged back and is now close to its previous value.

The Bitcoin history chart is very interesting. Its creator was an anonymous group of brilliant mathematicians (using the pseudonym Satoski Nakamoto) who designed it in 2008 to be “virtual gold” and released the first Bitcoin software in early 2009 during the height of the USA economic crisis. They knew that to have lasting value, it like gold had to have a finite supply. So in creating it they capped the supply at 21 million Bitcoin.

Bitcoin mining refers to the process by which new Bitcoin is created. With conventional currency, government decides when and where to print and distribute it. With Bitcoin, “miners” use special software to solve complex mathematical problems and are issued a certain number of Bitcoin in return.

A question that then arises is, is Bitcoin mining worth it. The answer is NO for the average person. It takes very sophisticated knowledge and a powerful computer system and this combination of factors makes it unattainable for the masses. This applies even more to bitcoin mining 2017 than in past years.

Many wonder, who accepts Bitcoin? This question gets asked in various ways, what are stores that accept bitcoin, what are websites that accept bitcoins, what are some retailers that accept bitcoin, what are some places that accept bitcoin and where can I spend bitcoin.

More and more companies are beginning to see the value of accepting cryptocurrencies as a valid payment option. Some major companies that do are DISH network, Microsoft, Expedia, Shopify stores, Newegg, Payza, 2Pay4You, and others.Two major holdouts at this time are Walmart and Amazon.

Ethereum is the strongest rival to Bitcoin in the cryptocurrency market and many wonder at the question of Bitcoin vs Ethereum. Ethereum was created in mid-2015 and has gained some popularity but still ranks far behind Bitcoin in usage, acceptance and value.

A question that often comes up often relates to Bitcoin scam. This author has a friend who made a purchase from a company that promised 1-2% growth per day. The company website listed no contact information and after a couple months the website simply vanished one day and my friend lost all the money he had invested which was several thousand dollars.

One has to know how to buy Bitcoins, how to purchase Bitcoin or how to buy Bitcoin with credit card in order to get started. Coinbase is a very popular site to do this. Their fee is 3.75% and the buying limit is $10,000 per day. This would probably be the easiest way to buy bitcoins.

Others would like to buy Bitcoin with debit card. Coinbase also provides this service and has clear step by step instructions on how to proceed with either your debit or credit card.

There are those who would like to buy Bitcoin instantly. This can be done at Paxful, Inc. and can be done through W. Union or any credit/debit card.

Other common questions that come up are what is the best way to buy Bitcoins, the best way to get bitcoins or where to buy bitcoins online. The easiest way is probably to purchase it through a digital asset exchange like the previously mentioned Coinbase. Opening an account with them is painless and once you link your bank account with them you can buy and sell Bitcoin quite easily. This is quite likely also the best place to buy Bitcoins.

One must know what a Bitcoin wallet is and how to use it. It is simply the Bitcoin equivalent of a bank account. It allows you to receive Bitcoins, store them and send them to others. What it does is store a collection of Bitcoin privacy keys. Typically it is encrypted with a password or otherwise protected from unauthorized access.

There are several types of digital wallets to choose from. A web wallet allows you to send, receive and store Bitcoin though your web browser. Another type is a desktop wallet and here the wallet software is stored directly on your computer. There are also mobile wallets which are designed for use by a mobile device.

A question that occasionally comes up is that of Bitcoin stock or how to buy Bitcoin stock. By far the most common way to proceed in this area is to buy Bitcoin directly and not its stock.

There is one entity called Bitcoin Investment trust which is an investment fund that is designed to track the market flow of Bitcoin. Some analysts however are calling this a risky way to become involved in this marketplace.

The Bitcoin exchange rate USD is a closely watched benchmark both on a daily basis and long term over the last 8 years since its introduction to the world’s financial marketplace. A popular company to receive the most current rate in Bitcoin valuation is XE. They show Bitcoin to USD valuation and also the complete Bitcoin price chart, the Bitcoin value chart and the Bitcoin to USD chart. If you ask, “How much is one Bitcoin?” you will always know from their continuously updated charts.

Similar questions that come up in this area relate to the bitcoin rate history, the bitcoin price chart live, the bitcoin to dollar exchange rate, the bitcoin dollar chart and the bitcoin 5 year chart. The previously mentioned website, xe, is also a good source for answers to these questions.

Regarding Bitcoin cash, ie. to get USD from selling Bitcoin, Bitwol is one company that enables you to do this. WikiHow is another company that will take you through this process.

Bitcoin projected value is a subject often discussed. In January of 2015 the price of one bitcoin was $215. Currently it is around $5000. This is a phenomenal increase and one far beyond what most experts would have projected at that time. Currently in reviewing forecasts from experts around the world a common answer seems to be that the top value will settle in at around $10,000 and one expert even projected a value reaching $100,000.

Jewelry Care and Cleaning Guide: How To Care and Protect Your Jewelry

Celebrating a Special Occasion with Jewelry!

Jewelry Care means being careful, how you store and and clean it!

How to care and protect Jewelry?

If your jewelry has value to you, it is valuable enough for you to want to take care of it. Jewelry Care means being careful you do no lose it as well as being careful how you store and clean it.

When you buy jewelry, any jewelry, from the most expensive fine jewelry to inexpensive costume jewelry, you buy it because it is beautiful. The gleam of the metal and the shine or luster and fire of the gems appeal to your aesthetic sense of beauty, based on what you can afford. The better the jewelry, the longer you want to wear it, perhaps even for rest of your life, and the longer you want it to have that like new glow, although some metals and finishes attain a warm patina with wear. What you don’t want, however, is scratched or gouged settings and dull gems. Accidents can happen, but all too often the jewelry is damaged by carelessness or not taking the few moments necessary to tend to the jewelry.

In most cases, being careful is the only care jewelry needs. Some types of jewelry, nevertheless, need special care because the gems may be soft, absorbent, or fragile.

Keep in mind that the harder the gem and the higher it is on the Mohs scale of hardness, the more durable it generally is. At time, a hard gem with high or distinct cleavage is apt to be fragile and may break or cleave if it is struck at the right angle. Hardness therefore is not synonymous with toughness. A tough gem may be soft enough to be more easily scratched but it is less apt to break or shatter. These characteristics have pertinence in wearing, cleaning, and storing jewelry, and in remodeling.

Metals have similar characteristic. The purer the silver and gold, the more easily it can be damaged. Also, you must consider the combination of metal in settings with gem or gems. What may be perfectly good to clean a metal, such as sterling silver, may not be the best for the gems. You have to consider the jewelry as a whole, not as simply metal or gems.

These point are tied in with the third point: the care you take with your jewelry to protect it from loss, both when you are wearing it and when you put it away for safekeeping. All the care in cleaning and storing will not matter if you lose the jewelry. The care you should take in this sense involves the precautions you would take to make sure you do not lose something you like and enjoy. That common sense, and it is common sense whether or not the jewelry is insured, and whether or not it is valuable. The precautions you should take with any jewelry that you like and that means anything to you, in fact, are simple common sense.

– Protection of jewelry

First of all, think about what you do when wearing jewelry. Rings are good example of how common sense can prevent loss.

More Rings are probably lost through carelessness than any other type of jewelry, because they are more apt to be taken off when being worn than pins or necklaces, bracelets or even earrings. So, Precaution Number One, if you wear rings, is to wear them at all times, or be careful with them as you are with your money and credit cards.

Men and women, incidentally, tend to regard rings differently.

– Storing and cleaning jewelry

When you take jewelry off, all jewelry and not only rings, what do you do with it? First, you should have a good and safe place for it. Second, that place should keep the jewelry safe not only from loss but also from damage.

The worst place you can put it is in a jewelry box already filled with other jewelry all jumbled together, where it can become scratched or more seriously hurt. The best place you can put jewelry is in individual leather or cloth cases or bags that will protect each piece from being damaged by other pieces of jewelry. If you do not have separate boxes from the jeweler for each piece of jewelry, at least put each piece in an individual case of some kind and do not drop it casually into a jewelry box.

In most cases, a plastic bag is a good substitute for leather or cloth. Plastic, however, should never be used with pearls, opals, and ivory, which need air to retain their beauty. Plastic, nevertheless, does have an advantage for other jewelry in that you can easily see the piece of jewelry that is in the bag. This method, incidentally, is also good for costume jewelry, which can be scratched as easily, if not more so, than precious jewelry.

Cleaning is also important in retaining and restoring the beauty and luster of jewelry with and without gems. Even gold can discolor from soaps and perspiration. Silver can be especially prone to tarnish, although almost all American sterling silver jewelry is coated with rhodium, an element of platinum, to prevent tarnishing. Any other silver that is worn all the time rarely needs polishing either, since wear retards tarnish. It still may need cleaning, though.

In fact, any metal may need cleaning now and then to remove dirt, soil, or soap film, as may gems. There are, in general, four methods of cleaning jewelry. Although all are safe for cleaning precious metal and diamonds, all are not interchangeable and safe for all kinds of jewelry. These are the methods most commonly suggested and used, but be sure to read further for the exceptions and for the precautions you should take with specific metals and gems.

-Detergents Bath. Mix a mild detergent and warm water in a small bowl or cup. Immerse the jewelry, brushing the pieces with an eyebrow brush. Rinse the jewelry under warm running water, being sure to put the jewelry into a tea strainer or cheesecloth for safety’s sake. Pat dry with lintels cloth. Do not use for soft gems or foe any jewelry that is strung, such as ivory or pearls.

– Cold water soak. In a cup or bowl, combine half cold water and half household ammonia. Put the jewelry in and soak for 30 minutes. Do not leave it overnight or for a long period of time. After 30 minutes, remove the jewelry and gently clean the front and back of the setting, if necessary, with an eyebrow brush before swishing the jewelry in the solution again and draining it dry on tissue. Do not use soft gems or any jewelry that is strung, such as ivory or pearls.

– Quick dip. Commercial jewelry cleaners generally employ the quick dip method. Since cleaners vary, you should read instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Do not use cleaners on nay jewelry not specifically mentioned unless you check with a jeweler first.

– Ultrasonic cleaners. You will find several of these small machines on the market. In general, the principle is that of using high frequency turbulence to clean jewelry soaking in a metal cup of water and detergent. Again, be sure to read and follow the directions with the utmost care and do not use the machine on any jewelry not specifically mentioned. Not all jeweler, feel these machine are safe even for diamonds. Before buying one, therefore, be sure to check with your jeweler and get his advice.

These then are the common methods in general. Specific metals, and gems, require specific care. The methods described below are safe for the specific metals and won’t harm most gems. Keep in mind, though, that some gems need special care. Whenever you have any doubt about cleaning jewelry, be sure to consult your jeweler.

1) Copper

Copper will tarnish like silver in presence of moisture and sulfur. In most cases, however, a lacquer is baked on to prevent the jewelry from tarnishing. To clean copper, use any commercial cleaner that specifies it safe for copper. Do not use ammonia, which can erode copper.

2) Gold

The lower the number of karats, the more gold will discolor due to the higher percentage of base metals in the alloy. Mild soap, water and ammonia will remove the discoloration with ease.
One theory goes that you can prevent gold from leaving black mark on the skin by spraying the gold with hair spray. All you actually doing is adding a substance that can add to the tarnish. Keeping gold clean is the best way to avoid skin discoloration. In any case do not use hair spray on any gold with gems.

Gold-filled. Remember, the character of gold filled jewelry is the same as the karat gold that makes up 1/20 of the total weight, except that the jewelry will not last as long as the same jewelry in solid karat gold. Gold-filled jewelry can be cleaned the same way as karat gold, with mild soap, and a drop of ammonia.

Rolled gold plate. Rolled gold plate may contain less gold than rolled gold, but it should be cleaned the same way as gold-filled and karat gold jewelry.

Gold electroplate. Although the layer of gold deposited by electroplating may be 7 to 100 millionths of an inch thick, good gold electroplate can wear as well as rolled gold. It should be wiped clean regularly with a damp, soft cloth, and a mild soap and water solution may be used to remove any makeup. Do not use a treated cloth to clean gold electroplate.
Gold-washed or gold-flashed. Jewelry finished in this manner contains very little gold. The surface layer, in fact, is so thin that it may be negligible and wear off after a few times of being worn. Any cleaning, and particularly any rubbing, any remove the finish entirely.

3) Silver

Any commercial silver cleaner or silver cloth will touch up and clean silver jewelry. Soap, water, and a drop of ammonia will also clean silver that is very lightly tarnished or may just need cleaning to remove makeup and perspiration.

Silver-filled. Clean silver-filled jewelry in the same way as sterling. The older the jewelry, however, the more permanent the patina will be. Such a patina cannot be removed.

Silver plate (or silver electroplate). Silver plate, unlike gold, can last for years and can be cleaned in the same way as sterling silver. It can be re-plated, if necessary, although re-plating is more common in silver tableware than in jewelry.

4) Combination metals

Metals, including precious metals, are sometimes combined with other metals and with enamel. Be very careful in cleaning the metal that you don’t clean off the inlay or enamel. The same caution holds true for vermeil, which is sterling silver with karat gold electroplate. If you must rub, rub very gently with soft cloth.

5) Gems

Some gems need special care. That care includes both cleaning and storing gems. Be particularly careful with:

Amber. Amber is the softest of all gems and will be scratched by all other gems. Be careful in wearing it and always store it by itself. It darkens gradually with age and exposures to light and should be kept in a cloth or leather bag case.

Never use a rough clothe or clothe that may have dirt, dust, or grit on it to clean amber because of its softness. Never use acid to clean amber or wear amber when working with acids since acid will decompose amber. Alcohol and other solvents do not normally affect amber, however, unless it is exposed to them for a long period of time. For this reason, be careful not to leave amber in any cleaning solution, except very briefly. Hair spray and perfume can also affect amber.

Coral. Coral is relatively tough. Be careful with twig coral in both storing and wearing, since the thinner the twigs the more easily the coral can break. Remember, coral is not a mineral and its luster may be spoiled by preparations used to clean other jewelry.

Diamonds. Diamonds should be kept apart from other gems to avoid scratching the other gems. This rule holds true for both storage and cleaning. One expert suggests boiling diamonds for 10 minutes in soap, water, and ammonia to clean them.

Ivory. Wash ivory carefully in soapy water, drying it with a damp cloth. Never soak ivory in soap and water, however, since soaking can cause it to crack or break. If you are cleaning ivory beads, do not get the string wet because the string will stay wet and can affect the beads. Do not use commercial jewelry cleaner or acid.

Ivory darken with age. It can be bleached by sunlight or peroxide. If peroxide is used, do not soak the ivory in it, and avoid wetting any string with which ivory beads are strung with the peroxide.
Keep in mind that ivory is permeable and relatively soft, factors tending to make it contract or shrink in cold and expand in heat. The combination of temperatures, along with soaking and drying out, can lead to the cracking of the ivory. Wiping it carefully with a soft, damp cloth, therefore, is probably the best method of cleaning ivory.

Jet. Jet, although tough, is soft and should never be kept with other jewelry that can scratch it. Scratching diminishes its polish and lessens its value to collectors.

Lapis Lazulli. Despite its softness, Lapis Lazulli wears well and is popular for men’s jewelry and especially men’s rings. Even though it may scratch, the scratches are not difficult for a good jeweler to polish out.

Malachite. Malachite is soft and is not tough like jet. It breaks easily and should be worn with care. It also scratches easily, losing its polish. Be careful wearing it next to your skin, which can turn malachite dark or black.

Moonstone. Moonstone’s softness means that it needs care. Moonstones should be kept by themselves and cleaned carefully with only a very soft cloth and soap and water.

Opals. All kinds of opals are fragile and require care, the most care of any other gem. The polished stones are usually thin and may crack or craze. One cause may be extremely cold weather, indirect sunlight, in hot dishwater, or when handling frozen foods. Cold weather may also cause opals to shrink, which means they can fall out of the setting. Because of their softness, they are easily scratched and may absorb dirt or grit, another reason for avoiding dishwater and being careful in cleaning them.
Opals contain water, sometimes as much as 10%. Thus, they may dry out. For this reason, some experts suggest leaving them in water, in a mixture of water and glycerin, or in mineral oil to keep them from drying out and losing their fire, whenever they are not being worn. Use only a mild soap solution and a soft cloth to clean them. Never put opals in plastic bags, commercial jewelry cleaner, or acid.

Pearls. Both Oriental and cultured pearls are genuine pearls and need a certain amount of special care. Cosmetics (including hair spray), dust, dirt, and particularly perspiration can affects pearls. They should be wiped carefully only with a soft clothe after wearing and kept in satin-lined box, never in a plastic bag. Because their softness, cars should be taken not to scratch them. Pearls need to be worn and allowed to breathe. Do not use commercial jewelry cleaner or acid to clean them.

Peridot. Peridot scratches easily and tends to lose its polish. It should be stored and worn carefully but no special cleaning is necessary.

Topaz. Topaz should be kept in dark, literally. The gems tend to fade or pale in light, and some yellow-brown topazes on display in museums have turned clear after several years. Remember, too, it cleaves easily. It does not require special cleaning methods.

Turquoise. Since turquoise is very porous, it will absorb all sorts of impurities, especially if it is exposed to dirt and grease, such as in working in the yard or in washing dishes.

Turquoise tends to change color with age. It may lighten, darken, or streak. According to an old wives’ tale, burying turquoise in dirt restore the color, but the advice does not say for how long or what amount of dirt might be absorbed. You are probably better off learning to appreciate the change in color.

Never expose turquoise to ammonia, which will spoil the surface by pitting or spotting. Jewelry cleaner and acid will also injure or destroy turquoise.

To sum up, one of best methods of cleaning jewelry is simply to use mild soap, water and a drop of ammonia, even though ammonia should not be used with certain gems. Commercial jewelry cleaners are also available at fine jewelers, and these are safe, too, for most, but not all, jewelry. Be surer to read the directions on any commercial cleaner carefully and to follow them.

When in doubt about cleaning any jewelry, ask your jeweler what he would suggest. Remember, a watchmaker is not a jeweler. For expert advice and help, you need a jeweler who knows metal and gems, because in some cases you may be better off bringing the jewelry into the jeweler’s for cleaning.