Wednesday, April 01, 2020

April Birthstone Feature: 'Marquise Diamond Ring' Conveys Art Deco Elegance

Standing in stark contrast to the earlier Art Nouveau and Edwardian eras, the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s represented modernism reinterpreted as fashion. Jewelry designers of this period abandoned the flowing curves and floral motifs of prior decades to embrace the new sleek lines and geometric shapes that conveyed anti-traditional elegance, wealth and functionality.

In honor of April's official birthstone, we take a close look at a diamond ring that is one of the world's most stunning examples of Art Deco jewelry. It is housed in the Gem Hall at the National Museum of Natural History and it is called "The Marquise Diamond Ring."

(Normally, the public would be able to see this magnificent ring in person, but all the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Smithsonian provides a virtual tour here. Click on the Second Floor tab and visit the gallery labeled "Geology, Gems and Minerals.")

Designed by Cartier during the Art Deco period (1920-1935), The Marquise Diamond Ring is fabricated in platinum and features a 28.3-carat marquise-cut diamond sourced in South Africa.

When viewed from the side, the ring's Art Deco design elements come to life. Set symmetrically along the architecture-inspired shank and undercarriage of the mounting are four triangular-cut, eight baguette-cut and 60 round brilliant-cut diamonds.

The ring was gifted to the Smithsonian in 1964 by Adelaide Riggs, the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post. A famous socialite and philanthropist, Post was the heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the richest women in the world.

Credits: Marquise Diamond Ring by Chip Clark and digitally enhanced by SquareMoose / Smithsonian; Side view of Marquise Diamond Ring by Ken Larsen / Smithsonian.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Paris in Springtime Was Not in the Cards, So He Brought Paris to Fredericksburg, VA

In Sunday night's inaugural YouTube broadcast of John Krasinski's "Some Good News" — a show dedicated to heartwarming and uplifting stories during these uncertain times — the star of The Office highlighted a couple from Fredericksburg, VA, who got engaged March 21 in front of the Eiffel Tower, sort of.

You see, Luke McClung had intended to pop the question to his girlfriend Erika Diffendall in Paris during spring break, but had to abruptly cancel the trip due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. So the graphic designer did the next best thing. With the assistance of his brother, AJ, the creative siblings drew the Eiffel Tower on a brick wall in their neighborhood and laid out red and white roses on the ground at the base of the "tower."

A series of tweets told the story of how McClung surprised his girlfriend, an English teacher from North Stafford High School, with a proposal and an oval-cut diamond ring. Of course, the tweets from the lovebirds were accompanied by a series of memorable photos.

Tweeted Diffendall, "Went this morning, and the rain didn’t stand a chance against Luke’s beautiful creation. #smitten #cloudnine"

McClung explained in his tweet, "It was supposed to happen in Paris, so had to improvise a bit, but it worked out."

The Fredericksburg couple found their way onto Krasinski's "Some Good News" (SGN) after McClung answered the actor's Twitter-generated request for some good news. "Alright everybody," Krasinski tweeted on Wednesday, March 25, "how about #SomeGoodNews ! Send me the stories that have made you feel good this week or the things that just made you smile!"

By Sunday night, the response was so overwhelming that Krasinski was compelled to kick off a new show. During his intro, the actor explained that for years he's been wondering why there isn't a news show dedicated entirely to good news.

“Well, desperately seeking my fix somewhere else, I reached out to all of you this week, asking — nay, begging — for some good news," he said. "And boy, did you deliver. After reading those replies and the incredibly heartwarming stories that came with them, I thought, ‘All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?’ So, ladies and gentlemen, this is your fault, and this is ‘SGN.’ I’m John Krasinski, and if it isn’t clear yet, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”

The Fredericksburg couple appears at the 4:05 mark of the near-16-minute show, which also included an interview with Krasinski's former co-star, Steve Carell.

In his final remarks, the new YouTube star said, “I’m John Krasinski, and this is ‘SGN,’ asking you to remember, no matter how tough life can get, there’s always good in the world and we will see you next time. Good night.”

On Krasinski's Twitter feed, Diffendall thanked the actor for sharing her engagement story.

Krasinski responded, "Wow!! Totally blown away by the response to #SGN ! Thank you thank you... But hey, you guys did this!! So you keep sending me #SomeGoodNews and making me smile... and I'll keep trying to return the favor! Pass it on!

By late afternoon on Monday, "Some Good News" had already been viewed more than 4 million times and was trending as the #1 most-watched video on YouTube. You can see it here...

Credits: John Krasinski screen capture via Youtube.com. Engagement pics via Twitter/Erika Diffendall.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Diamond Ring Rescued From Recycling Plant Symbolizes Message of Hope: 'We Can Beat This'

Waste management workers in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, pulled the plug on their normal operations this past Wednesday to help a distraught women whose diamond engagement ring ended up in a 40-ton mountain of paper at the city's recycling center.

Using forensic techniques to noodle out where the tiny ring might be in its massive paper recycling system, John Martella, the district manager of GFL Environmental Inc. (also known as Green For Life), and his team were able to locate the ring in less than 30 minutes.

Martella told SooToday.com that he believes that the unlikely recovery of such a precious and sentimental item delivers a message of hope during these uncertain times.

He said, “We’re going through a crisis with COVID-19, so to do something like that makes you think, ‘We can beat this thing, we can beat this, we can win this.' Good things happen in bad times.”

The story of the lost engagement ring began this past Tuesday, when an unnamed woman in Sault Ste. Marie accidentally dropped her precious keepsake in her family's paper recycling container. That container was emptied into a recycling truck very early on Wednesday morning and taken to the GFL plant on Sackville Road.

When the woman realized her ring was missing, she sent a desperate message to a friend who works for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. That employee forwarded the note to Martella.

Martella recounted how the frantic woman called on the phone and later visited the GFL plant.

“She was shaken up," he said. “[The ring] was precious to her.”

After she left, Martella got his crew together and stated, “We have to fix this. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

Martella ordered a halt in the normal operations and implemented a plan to find the ring.

The woman was able to provide a few clues that would help in the search. She remembered that her six-year-old son had been coloring with crayons on Tuesday and that some of those drawings had ended up in the recycling container. In addition, she remembered recycling a distinctive bag that was printed with the branding of her veterinarian.

Martella was able to identify the truck that had serviced the woman's neighborhood and sectioned off the pile of paper that had been delivered to the plant by that truck.

“I went in there and saw a piece of paper colored by crayons,” he told SooToday. “So I said, ‘It’s got to be in here.’”

Using a front loader, one of Martella's team members scooped up a bucketful of paper.

“No sooner did he drop the bucket, the ring fell out,” Martella said. “It was just amazing.”

Martella said that his crew erupted with the chant, “We found it, we found it!”

In a photo shared on SooToday by GFL Environmental, Martella is flanked by his team as he proudly holds up a tiny plastic bag containing the diamond ring. (See the photo at the top of this page.)

The district manager said that the woman was ecstatic when she heard the big news. She had no idea that Martella had shut down his normal operations to help her.

“You have to put yourself in that position,” Martella said. “The ring was very valuable. Insurance would have covered it, but insurance has nothing to do with it.”

In an email to SooToday.com, the woman wrote, “I can’t thank them enough, that in the middle of a pandemic, in a time of social distancing, they were kind enough to stop and help me and not brush me off... These men are hardworking, enormously considerate, and will go above and beyond. I would also like to thank all those who work in waste collection too, who are unable to stay home because they are an essential service.”

Credits: Images provided by GFL Environmental.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Music Friday: Neil Diamond's Hand-Washing Parody of 'Sweet Caroline' Is 'So Good'

Welcome to Music Friday when we would normally bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we bend the rules a bit to include an artist with a gemstone in his name. Performing from his home this past weekend while in self-quarantine, Neil Diamond spun up a few new lines to his universally loved 1969 hit, "Sweet Caroline," to support the international effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Diamond replaced the popular pre-chorus, "Hands, touching hands / Reaching out, touching me, touching you," with these health-conscious alternative lyrics, "Hands, washing hands / Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you."

The 79-year-old Diamond, who was forced to cancel his worldwide golden anniversary tour in 2018 due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis, explained in the intro of his song why he decided to create this parody.

Sitting in his den with a raging fire in the background and his photogenic pup nearby, Diamond said, “Hi everybody. This is Neil Diamond. And I know we're going through a rough time right now. But I love ya, and I think maybe if we sing together, well, we'll just feel a little bit better. Give it a try! OK?”

Diamond's effort was wonderfully received on social media, with more than 2.5 million views on YouTube and 140,000 Likes on Twitter. His humanitarian musical outreach was praised by the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, among other high profile outlets.

“Sweet Caroline” is a song that has been woven into the fabric of American culture. Played at sporting events from coast to coast, when Diamond sings the line, “Good times never seemed so good,” the crowd chants back, “So good, so good, so good.”

Originally believed to be an ode to Caroline Kennedy, the then-11-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy, “Sweet Caroline” was actually written for Diamond’s second wife, Marcia.

Diamond revealed the truth during a 2014 appearance on the Today show.

“I was writing a song in Memphis, Tenn., for a session. I needed a three-syllable name,” Diamond said. “The song was about my wife at the time — her name was Marcia — and I couldn’t get a ‘Marcia’ rhyme.”

The song was released in the summer of 1969 and zoomed to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over the course of his 58-year career as a singer-songwriter-musician, Diamond has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide and placed 38 singles in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. None has been more enduring than “Sweet Caroline.” The song has been covered by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Julio Iglesias and many more.

Even though Diamond has officially retired from touring because of his illness, the musical legend performed at the 24th annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala benefit, which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in early March.

"I’m feeling great," Diamond told People at the time. "This is an important thing they’re doing and I feel honored to be part of it and take part in it."

Please check out the video of Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" parody. His intro, along with the altered lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

“Sweet Caroline” (parody lyrics)
Written and performed by Neil Diamond.

(Intro: Hi Everybody, This is Neil Diamond.
And I know we're going through a rough time right now.
But I love ya, and I think maybe if we sing together
Well, we'll just feel a little bit better. Give it a try! OK?)

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing
But then I know it’s growing strong
Was in the spring
Then spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, washing hands
Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’d be inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I’m holding you

Hands, washing hands
Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’d been inclined
To believe they never would

Sweet Caroline

(Outro: Good night everybody. Good night. We love you.)

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com/Neil Diamond.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’ Star Whitney Thore Gets the Sapphire Ring of Her Dreams

My Big Fat Fabulous Life star Whitney Thore got the ring of her dreams last night during the season six finale on TLC. Boyfriend Chase Severino surprised Thore with a yellow sapphire surrounded by a halo of white diamonds on a split white gold band.

TLC cameras were on hand to document the proposal, which took place at one of the most romantic venues in the world — the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

“I was half-sweaty and half-wet after climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower in the rain,” Thore told The Knot. “I was posing for a photo. Chase was behind me, and I thought he was taking a picture of me looking out over Paris, but when I turned around, he was on his knee holding out a ring.”

She continued, “I gasped and I think he just said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I don’t remember what I said, but I was totally in shock and it was obvious that my answer was yes.”

Thore commended her fiancé for choosing an engagement ring style that was exactly what she wanted.

"DAMN HE DID SO WELL!," she wrote on Instagram. "It’s yellow sapphire, diamonds, and white gold and I’m in LOVE!"

Followers of Thore's Instagram page know that the proposal was actually taped in October. The current season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life kicked off on January 7 and teasers have shown snippets of Severino getting down on one knee in a Parisian proposal.

In December, Thore wrote on Instagram, "Chase and I got engaged on October 9th in Paris and I’m quite possibly the happiest woman alive. It has been REAL hard to keep this a secret! Can’t wait to share this with y’all!"

According to The Knot, Thore and Severino met on New Year's Eve 2018 and have been dating since April of 2019. The couple met through a mutual friend, Ryan Andreas, who is Thore's business partner at NoBS Active, a subscription-based online workout program.

Credits: Images via Instagram.com/whitneywaythore.