Friday, February 27, 2015

Music Friday Flashback: CSNY’s ‘Our House’ Has ‘Fiery Gems for You, Only for You’

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic hits with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Released in 1970 during the height of political and social unrest, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is, oddly, a song about domestic bliss in Southern California.

Featuring the glistening harmonies that were the hallmark of CSNY, the song recounts a simple day in the life of Graham Nash and his girlfriend, singer Joni Mitchell, as they share a home (with two cats) in Laurel Canyon, Calif.


Nash compares the rays of light streaming through the windows to brilliant gemstones... He sings, “Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the / sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you.”

In a recent interview with NPR, Nash explained how the song had come to life in just 60 minutes. He and Mitchell had just purchased a vase in an antique store and headed back home on a cool, drizzly L.A. morning.

As they entered the front door, Nash said, “You know what? I'll light a fire. Why don't you put some flowers in that vase that you just bought? Well, she was in the garden getting flowers. That meant she was not at her piano, but I was... And an hour later 'Our House' was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.”

One of three Top 40 songs from the group’s 1970 Déjà Vu album, “Our House” was originally panned by Rolling Stone magazine as a “flyweight ditty with nothing to say.”

Despite the harsh criticism, the single reached a respectable #30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and has since stood the test of time."Our House" has been covered by numerous artists and continues to be a Crosby, Stills & Nash fan favorite 45 years later. (Neil Young no longer tours with the band.)

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Déjà Vu #147 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In addition to “Our House,” the album also charted two other iconic songs of the era, “Woodstock” and “Teach Your Children.” Both contained strong political and social commentary.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was one of the greatest supergroups of all time. David Crosby had been with The Byrds. Nash was with The Hollies. Steven Stills and Neil Young were members of Buffalo Springfield. By virtue of their stellar collaborations and solo careers, the members of CSNY have each been twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

We hope you enjoy the rare live footage of CSNY’s performance of “Our House” from the early 1970s. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

"Our House"
Written by Graham Nash. Performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I'll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
play your love songs all night long for me, only for me.

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good.
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the
sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you.

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
now everything is easy cause of you and our la, la, la…

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
now everything is easy cause of you and our

I'll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.

Image: publicity shot

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oxford Scientists Use Household Products to Grow British Crown Jewel Replicas

Scientists from Oxford University used common household products — such as drain cleaner, sandpaper and antiseptic cream — to grow crystals that mimic the British Crown Jewels.


The experiment, which was directed by Dr. Dharmalingam Prabhakaran, head of the Crystal Growth Unit at Oxford University, took eight months to complete and honors Queen Elizabeth II becoming the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch later in 2015.

The impressive replica jewels will be presented at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, set to take place from March 11 to 14 in Birmingham. The show organizers are hoping the crystal experiment will inspire young students to focus on the sciences.

Among the famous gems replicated from household items are the 170-carat Black Prince Ruby, 104-carat Stuart Sapphire and 317-carat Cullinan II (the fourth-largest polished diamond in the world).


The scientists were also able to mimic the 12-carat oval sapphire from the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring.


St. Edward’s Sapphire, which is set in the Maltese Cross atop the Imperial State Crown, was recreated using common cleaning powder mixed with boiling water. The resulting bright blue copper sulfate liquid crystalizes under the right conditions. The crystal-growing experiment can be duplicated with adult supervision in a classroom or at home.

Attendees of the fair will learn that when scientists exposed basic chemicals to extremely high temperatures they were able to create crystals of synthetic spinel, corundum and cubic zirconia. The crystals were then cut to exacting specifications to match the size and shape of their authentic, more famous counterparts.


“Crystals are amazing. Not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at, but they are also very useful,” noted Dr. Prabhakaran. “A lot of important discoveries, many that went on to win Nobel prizes, were only possible because of crystals. I hope that this project will help get young people excited about science and inspired to take that excitement further with their studies and into their careers.”

Images: The Big Bang Fair/Mikael Buck

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Adorable Flipbook Marriage Proposal Melts This Woman’s Heart Despite Freezing Temps

Despite the freezing temperatures at the Lincoln Park Zoo, a Chicago man successfully melted his girlfriend's heart by presenting her with an adorable, custom-drawn "Will You Marry Me" flipbook designed with a neat cutout section containing an engagement ring.


Rodney Nelson commissioned a local artist Ben Zurawski, also known as The Flippist, to create the animated book specially for his girlfriend, Alexa Wenning.


The book features cartoon images of the couple at a park playing fetch with their dog. Alexa’s character tosses a yellow ball into the distance. The happy pup chases after the ball, but returns with a gray ring box.


The artist then zooms in on the box that is animated to look like Wenning’s hands are actually opening it. The book is cleverly designed with a special element that adds dimension and a surprise. The last pages of the flipbook are cut by hand to create a void that represents the inside of the box. The compartment contains a ring.

The frame of the illustrated ring box displays the phrase “Will You…” On the final page are the words “Marry Me?”


Wenning outlined the details of the proposal on the website She described how her romantic boyfriend insisted on taking her to see the holiday lights festival at the zoo despite the frigid temps, and then melted her heart with the flipbook proposal.


“It was absolutely freezing but he insisted that we bundle up and go anyways,” she wrote. “Right in front of the big light display, he turned to me and told me he needed to give me my Christmas present. I remember thinking, ‘Seriously, right now? Are you crazy?’ but he insisted and showed me a flipbook.”


After Wenning viewed the final words of the flipbook, Nelson got down on one knee and pulled the actual ring from his pocket (the one affixed to the book was just for show). Predictably, she said, “Yes.”


"It was perfect because I had to take my gloves off to flip through it and [as] I got [to] the end, he pulled out the real ring and asked for my hand," she wrote. “Of course, I started bawling. I almost got frostbite afterwards because I refused to put my gloves back on!”


The Flippist specializes in “Will You Marry Me” flipbooks, although he does create them for other occasions. His custom books are all 100% hand drawn and range in price from $595 to $895. He also offers less expensive printed versions. See his website here… and his YouTube channel here…

Check out Rodney and Alexa’s custom flipbook here…

Images: Screen captures via YouTube/TheFlippist; Facebook

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mass. Police Officer Finds Natural Pearl in His Seafood Stew; Rare Gem Should Fetch $10K-$15K at Auction

A birthday dinner mishap could turn into a financial windfall for a police officer and his family — thanks to a rare, natural pearl that was the unexpected secret ingredient in his bowl of seafood stew.


Mike Serino, a police officer from Swampscott, Mass., was celebrating his 40th birthday at a local Portuguese restaurant when he nearly swallowed a hard object, about the size of a jellybean.


“We thought it was a rock,” Serino told Boston CBS affiliate WBZ-TV.

Serino didn’t know it at the time, but the smooth, purple object was an extremely rare and valuable natural pearl.


“We thought it was pretty, so we took it home,” he said.

For nearly six years, the purple pearl sat idly in his daughter’s jewelry box. Then, in December, Serino saw a news story about Kathleen Morelli from Virginia Beach, who found a valuable 4.5-carat natural pearl in a $15 bag of littleneck clams.


Serino sent his pearl to the Gemological Institute of America, which confirmed that the unexpected dinner ingredient was, in fact, a natural freshwater pearl from a northern quahog clam. The pearl weighed 6.22 carats and measured 11.43 mm by 8.36 mm.


“They are pretty special,” noted Dona Dirlam, director of GIA’s gemological library and information center. “All natural pearls nowadays are quite special.”

Freshwater pearl expert Gina Latendresse, president of Nashville-based American Pearl Co., told The Boston Herald that she’s met many divers who have been collecting shells their entire lives and have never found a pearl of any kind, let alone a purple one.

Latendresse estimated that there’s a 1 in 100,000 chance of finding a natural pearl the size and color of Serino’s gem.

Natural pearls are organic gems, created by a mollusk totally by chance, without human intervention. When a foreign irritant gets into the mollusk’s shell, the bivalve secretes layer upon of layer of nacre to protect itself. Over time, the layering of iridescent nacre produces a pearl.

Cultured pearls, by comparison, are grown under controlled conditions, where a bead is implanted in the body of the mollusk to stimulate the secretion of nacre.

Serino and his family are hoping that the purple pearl will generate a lot of interest when it is offered for sale at Beverly, Mass-based Kaminski Auctions. Online bidding will open February 28 and conclude on March 15.

Harry Morgan, vice president of appraisal services for Kaminski Auctions, told The Boston Herald that the bidding will start at $5,000, but he expects the pearl to yield from $10,000 to $15,000.

“It was a good seafood stew and now it’s even more tasty that I’ve got this pearl that’s worth thousands,” Serino told WBZ-TV.

The Serinos are still debating what they will do with the proceeds from the auction. Dad wants a new Corvette, while Mom and daughters Lauren, 22, Julia, 14, and Isabelle, 2, are pitching for a new kitchen.

“I think we’re going to go with the kitchen because I have to live with my three daughters and my wife, and they can be tough,” Serino joked.

The Portuguese restaurant where Serino found the pearl — or, perhaps, where the pearl found Serino — was closed a few years ago.

Images: Screen captures via WBZ-TV

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lada Gaga Reveals Secret Detail of Her Heart-Shaped Diamond Engagement Ring

Newly betrothed Lady Gaga revealed a secret design detail of her new heart-shaped diamond engagement ring — a sweet and sentimental element she calls “my favorite part" of the ring. That's saying a lot because the 8-carat center stone is magnificent.


When Gaga surprised her 5.7 million Instagram followers last Monday with the announcement of her Valentine’s Day engagement to actor Taylor Kinney, the photo accompanying the post was a view from the top, offering a detailed image of the heart-shaped diamond. The image also offered a glimpse of a thin diamond pavé band.


On Wednesday, she posted a second photo, this time showing the beautifully crafted underside of the ring and a surprising detail.

Instead of adding an inscription, fiancé Kinney and celebrity jeweler Lorraine Schwartz collaborated on a neat enhancement to the band — “T [heart] S” spelled out in pavé diamonds. “S” is for Stefani, Gaga’s birth name.

Here’s how Gaga captioned her Instagram photo: “My favorite part of my engagement ring, Taylor and Lorraine designed “T [heart] S” in white diamonds on the band. He always called me by my birth name. Since our very first date. I'm such a happy bride-to-be! I can't stop smiling!!”


We think there’s good reason to believe that many future brides and grooms will be asking jewelers to add a similar detail to their engagement rings. More than 384,000 of Gaga's followers on Instagram liked the “T [heart] S” photo.


Although she would not divulge the actual cost of the ring, Schwartz told that the center stone is actually more expensive than some of the estimates she had read. That would put the price in excess of a half million dollars.

Jewelry expert Shari Fabrikant of Robert Fabrikant Inc. had told that the heart-shaped center stone appeared to be about 8 carats in size. “The setting is simple with a few round diamonds down the side,” she noted. “If the stone is an E color and VS1, it would run close to $500,000.”

Zaven Ghanimian, CEO of Simon G. Jewelry, had told E! News that he was confident the stone weighs in at about 6 carats. "I would estimate at least SI1 clarity or better, G color or better," he said. "For a stone of this size and quality, the price could be up to $400,000."

Images: Instagram/LadyGaga