Friday, September 04, 2015

Music Friday: Carly Simon Fights With Her Sisters Over Mom's Pearls in the Deeply Personal 'Like a River'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you wonderful songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we feature a little-known treasure from Carly Simon's extensive catalog called "Like a River." It's a heartfelt, deeply personal and hauntingly beautiful love letter to her mother, Andrea Simon, written just after her passing in 1994.


In the song, Simon describes how she and her older siblings, Joanna and Lucy, competed for her deceased mom's precious possessions, including a very special piece of jewelry. She sings, "We divided your railway watches / Between the four of us / I fought over the pearls / With the other girls / But it was all a metaphor / For what was wrong with us."


The tone of the song transitions from mourning to celebration, as Simon injects a bit of levity to emphasize her mother's spirit. She asks her mom if she can now clear up the mystery of the Sphinx and if she's dancing with Benjamin Franklin on the face of the moon.

She also holds the promise that she and her mom will be united in the afterlife. She writes, "I'll wait no more for you like a daughter / That part of our life together is over / But I will wait for you, forever / Like a river..."

Today's featured song is the fourth track from Simon's biographical album, Letters Never Sent. Simon said the songs on the album were inspired by the discovery of an old box of letters she'd written, but had never mailed. In its review, Entertainment Weekly called the album "funky, fascinating and sumptuous."

It's hard to believe that Simon, one of the quintessential singer/songwriters of the 1970s and former wife of James Taylor, celebrated her 70th birthday in June. The Bronx-born, two-time Grammy winner has amassed 24 Billboard Hot 100 singles over her stellar career.

A few items of Simon trivia...
• She attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.
• She is the daughter of Richard Simon, co-founder of the publishing house Simon & Schuster.
• She submitted a demo tape to Clive Davis at Columbia Records, who turned her down. She she ended up signing with Elektra.
• She earned a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1971.
• She lived with James Taylor in the house later owned and made infamous by O.J. Simpson. Simon and Taylor were married from 1972 to 1983.

Please enjoy the official video of Carly Simon singing "Like a River." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Like a River"
Written and performed by Carly Simon.

Dear mother the struggle is over now
And your house is up for sale
We divided your railway watches
Between the four of us
I fought over the pearls
With the other girls
But it was all a metaphor
For what was wrong with us
As the room is emptying out
Your face so young comes into view
And on the back porch is a well-worn step
And a pool of light you can walk into

I'll wait no more for you like a daughter,
That part of our life together is over
But I will wait for you, forever
Like a river...

Can you clear up the mystery of the Sphinx?v Do you know any more about God?
Are you dancing with Benjamin Franklin
On the face of the moon?
Have you reconciled with Dad?
Does the rain still make you sad?
Last night I swear I could feel you
Moving through my room
And I thought you touched my feet
I so wanted it to be true
In my theater there is a stage
And a footlight you can step into...

I'll wait no more for you like a daughter,
That part of our life together is over
But I will wait for you, forever
Like a river...

In the river I know I will find the key
And your voice will rise like the spray
In the moment of knowing
The tide will wash away my doubt
'Cause you're already home
Making it nice for when I come home
Like the way I find my bed turned down
Coming in from a late night out.
Please keep reminding me
Of what in my soul I know is true

Come in my boat, there's a seat beside me
And two or three stars we can gaze into...

I'll wait no more for you like a daughter,
That part of our life together is over
But I will wait for you forever
Like a river...

I'll never leave, always just a dream away
A star that's always watching
Never turn away
We'll never leave, always just a thought away
A candle always burning
Never turn away
The moon will hide, the tree will bend
I'm right beside you
I'll never turn away

Images: Screen captures via YouTube.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Soaking Wet and Smelling Like a Fish, This Romeo Gets Second Chance to Pop the Question

Matthew Pica had waited six years for that special moment when he would pop the question to the love of his life, Kayla Harrity. He had the perfect girl, the perfect ring and the perfect vacation spot in picturesque Southport, N.C.


Not as perfect was Pica's decision to propose on a restaurant deck above the Atlantic Ocean. You can guess what happened next...

Pica and Harrity were enjoying a beautiful Saturday at Old American Fish, a waterfront restaurant, when the 25-year-old asked his girlfriend to join him for a walk on the deck. Once there, he got down on one knee and opened the ring box. Before he could utter the first words of his proposal, the ring was gone.


"I turned around and he was getting down on one knee," Kayla, 24, told WECT. "As he opened the ring box, the ring fell out. I heard it hit the deck, and then I heard a plop and it went into the ocean. I didn't even get to see it before it dropped."


Pica described what went wrong in a Skype interview with WJZY: "When I opened the box the ring wasn't seated correctly and fell out."

The ring had shaken loose from the slot in the ring box. When Pica opened the box, the ring shot out, took one bounce on the deck and then slipped its way between the decking boards.

Harrity and Pica were stunned. "I covered my face and began to cry because I knew my boyfriend was devastated," Harrity said.

All hope was not lost, however, because the water level under the deck was only thigh-deep at the time.


Pica, Harrity and a team of sympathetic Old American Fish patrons waded into the water — many full clothed — to find the ring.

"They must have felt bad for us and did not want to see our engagement end like this," Harrity said. "They jumped in the water and helped look for the ring."

The treasure hunters learned quickly that finding a ring in the murky water was not going to be easy.

According to WECT, Harrity frantically ran through the local neighborhood trying to collect goggles and underwater flashlights. Within a short time, she had amassed 10 flashlights and five pairs of goggles.

Exactly two hours after the ring had plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean, it was rescued by a volunteer named Kyle Blusher.

Undaunted and still soaked from the search, the couple got to hit the reset button on the original proposal. This time — with the restaurant patrons watching from the deck above — it went off without a hitch.


"Everyone at the bar was cheering," Harrity told the Daily Mail. "All of a sudden, everyone was chanting 'Propose again! Do it again!'"

"It was the best feeling in the world," she continued. "My fiancé, soaking wet, smelling like salty, fishing water, proceeded to get down on one knee and put the beautiful ring on my finger!"

It was important for the couple to acknowledge the bar patrons for their kindness. They bought a round of shots for the men who assisted.

"They were amazing, and we are so grateful to have their help that night," said Harrity.


They mingled at the bar for about an hour and then took a romantic carriage ride around Southport. When they returned to the bar, they were greeted like celebrities.

"When we got back, people were still coming up asking to see the ring," Harrity said. "They said everyone in Southport was talking about it. It was definitely a night to remember!"

The couple's story became a sensation on the internet, as well, with media outlets from around the world picking up the story.

The couple plans to wed in Southport sometime next year.

Photos courtesy of Kayla Harrity. Screen captures via WJZY.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

World's Largest Gem-Quality Star Sapphire Served as a Dusty Doorstop for Nine Years

As a tribute to all of our readers lucky enough to be born in September and have sapphire as their official birthstone, we'd like to share the amazing rags-to-riches story behind the world's largest gem-quality star sapphire — the 733-carat Black Star of Queensland.


It was 1938 when a 12-year-old Aussie boy named Roy Spencer plucked an unusual grey stone from a nearby hillside and bolted home to show his dad. Harry Spencer, a struggling miner who lived in a dusty shack with his family in Queensland, identified his son's half-pound stone as a large black crystal and relegated it to the back door, where it served as a doorstop for nine years.

But this would turn out to be no ordinary crystal.

Nine years later, the famed Los Angeles-based Kazanjian brothers were traveling around the world sourcing gemstones for their thriving jewelry business when they visited the Spencer family. Harry Kazanjian spied a pile of black stones that he suspected might be star sapphires. When Harry Spencer saw the Kazanjians' interest in the black stones, he told his son, now 21, to fetch the doorstop.


Kazanjian noticed that the 1,156-carat, fist-sized stone glimmered with a hint of copper color, a sign of the impurity that creates the appearance of a star in a star sapphire. In the gemological world, the optical effect is known as asterism. Kazanjian reportedly purchased the stone for $18,000 (about $196,000 in today's dollars).

Kazanjian took the stone back to his studio in Los Angeles and studied it for months before embarking on the risky cutting and polishing process. One false calculation could ruin the star effect and much of the stone's value.

"I could have ruined it a hundred times during the cutting," Kazanjian had told a Los Angeles Times reporter at the time.


The jeweler meticulously carved a dome in the oval stone to reveal a distinct six-pronged star. More than 400 carats were sacrificed in the cutting process. When completed, the Black Star of Queensland weighed 733 carats and was about the size of a hen's egg. The Kazanjians emphatically announced that the stone — despite a valuation of $1 million ($9.7 million today) — was not for sale.

Even though it had earned the undisputed title of the "world's largest gem-quality star sapphire," the Black Star of Queensland spent most of the 1950s in relative obscurity. That all changed in the 1960s, when it joined the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian.


In 1971, Cher wore the sapphire during a sketch for the popular Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. In the skit, she's dripping with precious gems while being protected by security guards. The running joke is that the guards won't let Sonny near Cher while he sings The Carpenters' 1970 hit, "Close to You."

For the taping, the sapphire had been affixed to a diamond necklace with a flimsy wire. Michael Kazanjian, the nephew of Harry, started to panic as Cher went through many takes of her dance number. Fearing the stone would fall off and shatter, he jumped up on the stage rescued the stone. Apparently, CBS got the take that they wanted because a still from the show clearly shows Cher wearing the Black Star of Queensland.


The Black Star of Queensland's most recent public appearance was in 2007, when it enjoyed a six-month run at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The gem, which is currently set with a halo of 35 white diamonds, is owned by an anonymous private party. The extraordinary example of September's birthstone is reportedly worth upwards of $80 million.

Photos: Getty Images; Greyloch, via Wikimedia Commons; CBS.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Famous Cowdray Pearls Return to Sotheby's After 78 Years; Rare Natural Variety Could Fetch $7M or More

Billed as the most important single strand of grey natural pearls ever to appear at auction, the famed Cowdray Pearls could fetch $7 million or more when they're offered for sale at Sotheby's Hong Kong on October 7.


Comprising 42 natural pearls — ranging from brown to grey with varying rosĂ©, purple and green overtones — the necklace was formerly in the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson (1860‑1932). The extraordinary piece was strung and mounted by Cartier London, and the seller has included a matching pair of grey natural pearl earrings, also designed by Cartier.


This is the second time the pearls have headlined a Sotheby's auction. In 1937, when the Cowdray Pearls appeared at Sotheby’s London, the catalog noted, “There is probably no finer collection of such pearls in existence.”

Sotheby's believes that claim is still true today. The auction house conservatively estimated the selling price of the Cowdray Pearls in the range of $4.5 million to $7 million, but noted it could be well higher.


That assumption is partly based on the fact that, in 2012, Sotheby's New York set a world record when it sold a single natural grey pearl for $1.9 million. "What could 42 of these marvels achieve?" Sotheby's wondered in its online preview of the auction.

“Natural saltwater gray pearls are rarely seen at auction and the present necklace, strung with 42 superb gray pearls and of aristocratic provenance, is arguably the greatest of its kind in existence," noted Chin Yeow Quek, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia and chairman of international jewelry, Asia. "This is an extraordinary collecting opportunity for pearl and jewelry connoisseurs around the world.”

Natural pearls are some of the most coveted of all gemstones because of their rarity. Natural pearls are organic, created by a mollusk totally by chance and without human intervention. Finding a single natural saltwater pearl of the size, color and quality of the Cowdray Pearls would be an extraordinary occurrence today. Finding 42 would be virtually impossible.

Before appearing at Sotheby's Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Autumn Sale, the Cowdray Pearls will be taking a promotional tour through London, Geneva, the Middle East, Singapore and Taipei.


The Cowdray Pearls are not the only notable natural pearls to come to auction in 2015. This past April, we reported on the sale of an exceptionally rare four-strand necklace featuring 289 natural pearls. Christie's New York had estimated the selling price to range from $3.8 million to $4.5 million. The hammer price was $5.093 million.

.Photos: Courtesy of Sotheby's; Courtesy of Christie's.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dancing With the Stars' Julianne Hough Reveals Impressive Engagement Ring and Details of Her Proposal 'Blackout'

Overcome with emotions, Dancing With the Stars judge Julianne Hough "completely blacked out" when beau Brooks Laich got down on one knee and proposed marriage with a gorgeous 6-carat oval-shaped diamond engagement ring — a ring that now takes her breath away every time she looks down.


The 27-year-old star recounted on her blog how the "magical and sweet" proposal by her hockey player boyfriend caught her completely by surprise.

"We were at home, romantic and relaxed. We stood on the deck, watching the sun set over the lake and listening to our favorite songs. Not even for a second did I expect that beautiful, serene scene was about to become one of the most meaningful moments of our lives," she wrote. "In fact, I was so taken aback when Brooks got down on one knee I completely blacked out! It was like a rush of heat and a wave of uncontrollable emotion swept right through my body. I didn’t have any words at first (me! no words!). All I could do was explode into his arms and experience pure joy from head to toe."


To say that Hough loves her new platinum ring would be an understatement. She gushed about how wonderful the ring makes her feel and how she's not planning to take it off any time soon.

"The ring itself makes me feel very feminine and takes my breath away every time I look down, which I can’t stop doing, by the way," she continued. "When it comes to taking it off, forget it. I’ll even wake up in the middle of the night to make sure it’s still there! I never thought I’d be the girl sticking her hand out to her friends and screaming in unison but here I am, shrieking all over Los Angeles."


An insider told Us Weekly that ring designed by celebrity jeweler Lorraine Schwartz features the couple's initials with a heart in diamonds on the back. The insider also revealed that the hockey star worked with the designer for eight months and that "it was really important to find the perfect stone that reflected Julianne's classically beautiful style.” The ring is reportedly worth $350,000.

Hough met the 32-year-old Washington Capitals center in the winter of 2013, just after breaking up with long-time boyfriend Ryan Seacrest. She apparently knew Laich was "the one" from the moment she met him.

Images via; Instagram/juleshough.