Friday, November 30, 2012

Music Friday: Steely Dan Performs the 1972 Hit, 'Reelin' in the Years'

Welcome to Music Friday when we highlight great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we step into Mr. Peabody's WABAC Machine and emerge in 1972 as lead singer Donald Fagen of the jazz rock band Steely Dan laments a love gone wrong in the classic tune, "Reelin' in the Years."

In the first verse, Fagen complains, "You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand. The things you think are precious I can't understand."

"Reelin' in the Years" was released as the group's second single from its album, Can't Buy a Thrill. The song, which features Fagen on vocals and Walter Becker on lead guitar, was a commercial and critical success. It reached number 11 on the Billboard charts and included a Becker guitar solo that ranked as the 40th best of all time by the readers of Guitar World magazine.

Steely Dan has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.

In a rare clip (below) from The Midnight Special television show, Steely Dan performs our featured song live in 1973. Keep your eyes peeled for some interesting fashion choices by the band members. Here's a hint: purple crushed velvet. And, yes, the guy introducing the band is none other than Bill Cosby.

"Reelin' in the Years"

Written by Walter Becker, Donald Fagen. Performed by Steely Dan.

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
You wouldn't know a diamond
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can't understand

Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine

You been tellin' me you're a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I've known you
I still don't know what you mean
The weekend at the college
Didn't turn out like you planned
The things that pass for knowledge
I can't understand


I spend a lot of money
And I spent a lot of time
The trip we made in Hollywood
Is etched upon my mind
After all the things we've done and seen
You find another man
The things you think are useless
I can't understand


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Swarovski Star Atop the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree Sparkles With 25,000 Crystals and Weighs a Quarter Ton

Some see it as a giant Christmas ornament. We see it as a spectacular achievement in jewelry craftsmanship – on a very grand scale. The 2012 Swarovski Star that sits atop the glorious Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City is comprised of 25,000 crystals, featuring one million reflective facets. The 80th Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony was broadcast to a national audience last night on NBC.

The Star, which sparkles elegantly at the apex of an 80-foot-high, 50-foot-wide, 10-ton Norway spruce, weighs an astonishing 550 pounds, including 300 pounds of crystal panels. It has six outer rays and six smaller inner rays, spanning 9.5 feet in diameter.

According to Swarovski, the main surfaces of the rays are made of point-mounted safety glass which is the same shatterproof glass that adorns the facades of New York City buildings. The crystals are affixed to the inner sides of the glass in a tight, scale-like pattern to ensure maximum brilliance.

A team of nine artisans spent 1,200 hours installing, programming and testing the Star to ensure the effects would withstand the challenging winter weather conditions high above Rockefeller Plaza. The tree is decorated with more than 30,000 multi-colored, energy-efficient LED lights.

A replica of the Swarovski Star will also be on display in Rockefeller Center to allow visitors the opportunity to get a closer view of the detailing and craftsmanship. This is the ninth year a Swarovski Star shines on the world famous tree.

Rockefeller Center officially began the Tree Lighting Ceremony in 1933, when a Christmas tree was erected in front of the then-RCA Building and covered with 700 lights. Christmas trees in Rockefeller Center have ranged from 50-foot pines to 100-foot Norway spruces and are viewed by millions of spectators during the holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'Pigeon's Blood' Ruby Necklace and Earrings Highlight Christie's Auction

A suite of "Pigeon's Blood" ruby jewelry crafted by world-renowned designer James W. Currens highlighted Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale in Hong Kong yesterday. Currens' elegant "Red Scarlet" ruby-and-diamond necklace sold for $5.1 million, and the designer's "Red Butterfly" ruby-and-diamond earrings fetched a cool $3.1 million.

The "Red Scarlet" necklace that Currens designed for Faidee features 26 graduated oval Burmese “Pigeon’s Blood” rubies ranging from 1.27 to 5.38 carats, each surrounded by a cluster of marquise and pear-shaped diamonds. The gems are mounted in platinum and 18-karat gold. The pre-sale estimate for the piece was $3.6 million to $5.7 million.

Named "Red Butterflies" due to their unique butterfly shape, Currens' platinum and 18-karat gold earrings are each made up of six gemstones – two oval-shape rubies weighing between 2.03 and 5.05 carats, and four marquise-cut diamonds weighing between 1.01 and 2.59 carats. The pre-sale estimate for these earrings was $2.3 million to $3.6 million.

The Currens pieces were the last of 304 lots auctioned at Christie's autumn 2012 sale, which yielded $74 million. The Christie's auction completed an eight-day marathon of high-profile sales held by seven Hong Kong auction houses. Yesterday, we reported on a record-breaking Sri Lankan sapphire sold at Bonhams Hong Kong on Day 4 of the marathon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

43-Carat Sri Lankan Sapphire Crushes World Record at Bonhams' Hong Kong Auction

Forty-three years ago, Jacques Arpels of Van Cleef & Arpels fame traveled to what is now Sri Lanka to acquire a flawless 43.16-carat rectangular-cut cornflower-blue sapphire that was subsequently mounted in a ring and flanked with two pear-shaped diamonds. Last week, the same ring came up for auction at Bonhams in Hong Kong and sold for $1.56 million, crushing the previous world record for the highest amount ever paid per-carat for a Sri Lankan sapphire.

According to reports, bidders competed fiercely for the privilege of owning the impressive sapphire ring that carried a pre-sale estimate of $550,000 to $650,000. It ended up selling for $36,000 per carat, far above the previous record for a Sri Lankan sapphire of $26,000 per carat.

The Van Cleef & Arpels ring was one of eight head turners featured at the November 23 sale titled, "Eight Exceptional Jewels From a Private Collection." A single unnamed jewelry aficionado owned every item in the collection. The sales total for all eight items was $4.37 million.

A second standout from the private collection was another Van Cleef & Arpels piece. Cleverly designed in four sections, the emerald-and-diamond necklace could be altered by the wearer so it could be worn as a choker/bracelet combo or as two bracelets.

Designed between 1959 and 1961, the necklace features 22 precisely matched emeralds, with a combined weight of 47 carats. It also boasts 412 diamonds with a total weight of 70 carats. Pre-auction estimates set the price of this treasure at $1 million to $1.5 million. At the auction, the gavel went down at $1.24 million.

A third top lot was a ruby-and-diamond strap bracelet set with 107 carats of fine-quality rubies. Made in 1936 and once owned by the glamorous French philanthropist Madame Hélène Beaumont, the supple and ribbon-like bracelet reflects the refined skills of a master craftsman. It sold for $467,000.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Super-Rare 1652 New England Sixpence Sells at Auction for $431,250

A super-rare Colonial Massachusetts silver coin originally struck in Boston barely three decades after the first Thanksgiving was sold at auction last week for an astounding $431,250 – more than four times the pre-sale estimate. The 1652 New England sixpence is one of only eight such coins known to exist.

The coin, which is roughly the size of a nickel, was originally discovered on Eastern Long Island in a frozen East Hampton, N.Y., potato field in 1989 by treasure hunter Lillian King. The discovery made national news and even found a place in Ripley's Believe It or Not! newspaper strip, according to a report.

"We knew it was a very rare coin and we knew it would reach six figures," said Lawrence R. Stack, a senior numismatic consultant for Stack's Bowers Galleries, a Manhattan rare coin dealer and auction house. "And it brought in $431,250, so I guess we did well."

Stack's Bowers Galleries had purchased the coin at a Sotheby's auction in New York in 1992 for the seemingly paltry price of $35,200. Stack's then sold it to John "Jack" Royse, 86, who decided a few months ago to put the coin up for sale. The most recent buyer is a collector who requested to remain anonymous.

With more than 200 bidders in the room, the auction took place in Baltimore last week at the Colonial Coin Collectors Club annual convention.

According to, the New England sixpence was one of the first coins minted in the colonies. Originally commissioned by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the coin has a simple design with just the letters NE (for New England) on the obverse and the Roman number VI (six, for sixpence) on the reverse. The design was soon altered because it was too easy to counterfeit.