Friday, September 07, 2012

Music Friday: Kimbra Performs 'Plain Gold Ring'

Welcome to Music Friday, when we bring you terrific tunes with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we present 22-year-old Kimbra Lee Johnson (better known as Kimbra) performing "Plain Gold Ring," a Nina Simone classic.

The New Zealand-born singer/songwriter/guitarist has a soulful style that belies her age. Pop-music fans will recognize Kimbra's powerful voice as she was featured on the 2011 multi-platinum smash single "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye.

"Plain Gold Ring" appeared on Kimbra's 2011 debut album, "Vows," which reached the top 5 in New Zealand and Australia. This past May, the album was released in North America, debuting at #14 on the Billboard charts.

"Plain Gold Ring" was originally released in 1958 by jazz singer Nina Simone, who was also in her 20s at the time of the recording. The song was part of her critically acclaimed "Little Girl Blue" album. Curiously, she sold the rights for the songs on the album to her record label, Bethlehem Records, for only $3,000. That business decision would ultimately cost Simone more than $1 million in royalty payments.

Here's Kimbra's cool interpretation of the Nina Simone classic, "Plain Gold Ring." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along.

"Plain Gold Ring"

Written by George Stone. Performed by Kimbra.

Plain gold ring on his finger he wore
It was where everyone could see
He belonged to someone, but not me
On his hand was a plain gold ring

Plain gold ring had a story to tell
It was one that I knew too well
And in my heart it will never be spring
Long as he wears that plain gold ring

When nighttime comes calling on me
I know why I'll never be free
I can't stop these teardrops of mine
I'm gonna love him till the end of time

Plain gold ring has but one thing to say
I'll remember till my dying days
In my heart it will never be spring
Long as he wears that plain gold ring

Plain gold ring on his finger he wore
Plain gold ring on his finger he wore
Plain gold ring on his finger he wore
Plain gold ring on his finger he wore

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fashionable First Lady Wows DNC in Dazzling Pink Dress, Dangly Moonstone Earrings

First Lady Michelle Obama earned rave reviews on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. While political pundits of all persuasions swooned over the First Lady's speech, fashion experts gave her two thumbs up for her "knock-out" pink ensemble punctuated with moonstone-and-diamond earrings.

According to Nielsen, 26.2 million viewers watched Mrs. Obama's speech and thousands more shared their own opinions on Twitter. According to CBS, Twitter was generating 28,003 tweets per minute by the end of the First Lady's speech – a speech that earned her a standing ovation.

While the news media offered kudos for the way she framed her arguments calling for President Barack Obama's reelection, celebrity and fashion publications were enamored with the First Lady's pink floral sheath dress designed by Tracy Reese and coordinated with J. Crew suede pumps and concrete-colored nails.

These media outlets also took notice of Mrs. Obama's moonstone-and-diamond earrings by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald. The dangly earrings were clearly visible to a national TV audience, as well as an arena full of conventioneers, who got to see them on the massive video screens behind the stage.

According to JCK Magazine, McDonald is known for her use of natural, untreated gemstones, such as agates, geodes and baroque pearls, that are offset by diamonds in organic designs.

“Mrs. Obama’s support of American designers is something to applaud,” McDonald told JCK. “People are drawn to her from both the political and fashion worlds because she embodies a genuineness, which is rare."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Despite Thin Odds, 'Lord of the Ring' Rescues Trashed Diamond Anniversary Band From NYC Landfill

The Daily News aptly dubbed Gary Gaddist "The Lord of the Ring" after the New York City Parks Department worker searched through tons of garbage at the city landfill to rescue an artist's anniversary band that she accidentally deposited in a trash bin in Lower Manhattan.

The story began in Battery Park, where Danielle Hatherley Carroll was teaching an art class in an historic and picturesque part of the city near the Statue of Liberty. “I’m a painter who takes people on outdoor painting adventures around New York City,” Carroll told the The Daily News.

Carroll traveled with rags, slippery hand cleaner and a clear garbage bag to capture all the refuse accumulated by her and her students. When the long day of classes was over, Carroll dropped the clear bag in a nearby trashcan.

But the glorious Sunday afternoon turned into a frantic evening, when the Aussie native realized her anniversary band was missing. It was 3:30 a.m. and Carroll started to panic. She knew exactly how and where she lost the diamond band – a cherished ring that marked her 10th wedding anniversary.

“I didn’t want my husband to get upset with me, so I was going to sneak out and find a police officer to help me look,” she told The Daily News. “But he awoke and said, ‘You’re out of your mind. I’m coming along to help you.’ ”

They couple returned to Battery Park before dawn and found the container where she had dumped her clear trash bag. Unfortunately, the trash has already been picked up and was already at the city landfill on Randall's Island. Carroll and her husband were about to give up the search when they saw a parked Parks Department garbage truck.

They decided to leave a note on the window of the truck. The note began, "Hello, I believe my wedding ring is in this truck."

When Gaddist returned to work the next day, he saw the note and was inspired to try to help. He called the couple and vowed to do his best to retrieve the ring. By 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Gaddist was already at Randall's Island ready to do a little diamond mining.

His co-workers at the landfill told him it was going to be like "finding a needle in a haystack," but Gaddist forged ahead and, despite the thin odds, found the ring within one hour. Asked why he would volunteer for such an unpleasant task, he told the press, "It's a love thing."

“She sounded like a nice person, and I could tell she and her husband love each other,” he said. “I’m glad I could help.”

Carroll and Gaddist reconnected a few days later when the artist invited "The Lord of the Ring" to attend one of her outdoor painting classes, this time in Time's Square.

“I’m going to try to do something impressive,” he said as he began to paint a cityscape with brilliant shades of purple and pink. “I see trash every day,” he said. “Some of it can be art, I guess. But this is very different from what I know.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

World's Largest Star Sapphire Was Deemed Worthless and Used as a Doorstop for 9 Years

September's birthstone is sapphire, so today we present a little history about a famous sapphire that nearly lost its chance to shine.

When the world's largest gem-quality star sapphire gem was found in 1938 by 12-year-old Roy Spencer in Queensland, Australia, the boy's dad dismissed the stone as an enormous black crystal and threw it aside. Although the palm-sized stone weighed an incredible 1,156 carats, it spent the next nine years languishing as a doorstop in the Spencer family home.

The dad, Harry, was a pioneering miner of the central Queensland gem fields, but apparently didn't realize that sapphires could present themselves in this unique black color. Eventually, Harry, learned that sapphires did, in fact, come in nearly every color of the rainbow (except for red, which is called "ruby"). The struggling miner realized that the family's doorstop could be worth a small fortune if the right buyer could be found.

In 1947, gemstone aficionados soon learned that the massive gem-quality black sapphire was for sale. This got the attention of Armenian-born jeweler Harry Kazanjian, who traveled from Los Angeles to Queensland to make a deal. Kazanjian agreed to pay $18,000 (about $185,000 in today's dollars).

Kazanjian studied his new purchase for two months before deciding how it would be cut. Convinced there was an asterism hidden within the rough stone, Kazanjian cut the stone as an oval cabochon, sacrificing 423 carats of material, in order to reveal a six-pointed star. Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions that cause the appearance of a star-shaped pattern when viewed with a single overhead light source.

Kazanjian's investment and cutting expertise paid off. The estimated value of the expertly cut 733-carat black star sapphire was $1 million in the year 1949.

Named "The Black Star of Queensland," the humble gemstone that spent nine years as a doorstop is now set majestically as a pendant framed by 35 diamonds. It's valued at about $80 million and is considered one of the most famous sapphires in the world.