Friday, October 09, 2015

Music Friday: Kimbra Channels Jazz Great Nina Simone in Her High-Tech Rendition of '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, the 25-year-old Kimbra Lee Johnson (better known as Kimbra) channels the great Nina Simone as she performs a spellbinding jazz-inspired electropop rendition of "Plain Gold Ring" — a song Simone made famous in 1958.


In this classic song about unrequited love, Kimbra tells the story of a gal devastated by the fact that the man of her dreams belongs to someone else. She sings, "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."

The New Zealand-born singer/songwriter/guitarist is an early adopter of an electronic device called the VoiceLive Touch 2 by TC-Helicon that allows her to loop her own voice and add special effects, such as three-part harmonies and pitch correction.

The video at the bottom of this post demonstrates Kimbra's masterful use of this new technology. She actually creates the effects on the fly while performing live. You will notice her use of two microphones, one for the conventional audio and a second that connects to the device.


Pop-music fans might recognize Kimbra's powerful voice from the 2011 multi-platinum smash single "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye. In early 2013, the song earned Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

"Plain Gold Ring" appeared on Kimbra's 2011 debut album, Vows, which reached the top 5 in New Zealand and Australia. The album was released in North America in May 2012, debuting at #14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.

The original version of "Plain Gold Ring" was 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 to 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.

See the video below of Kimbra's brilliant interpretation of "Plain Gold Ring." The lyrics are here 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

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

75.56-Carat Vivid Yellow Diamond Ring Is the Star of Christie's Important Jewels Auction in NY

With an estimated sale price of $3 million to $4 million, this 75.56-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond ring will headline the upcoming Important Jewels auction at Christie's New York on October 20.


Set in 18-karat yellow gold, this cushion-shape, modified brilliant-cut diamond demonstrates the highest quality in color saturation and was graded by the Gemological Institute of America as having a VS2 clarity.


Another highlight of the auction is this magnificent brooch featuring a cluster of 13 pear- and marquise-shape brilliant-cut diamonds with a total weight of 42.35 carats. Christie's believes this Cartier-signed brooch will fetch between $1.4 million to $1.8 million.

Mounted in platinum, the diamonds range in size from 2.07 carats to 5.03 carats. Eleven of the 13 stones were rated D-flawless by the GIA Gem Trade Laboratory.


Also certain to attract a lot of interest on October 20 is this D-color marquise-cut diamond ring of 18.80 carats. The center diamond, which boasts a near-perfect VVS1 clarity, is flanked by tapered baguettes and set in platinum. The GIA affirmed that the marquise-cut stone is rated Type IIa, the most chemically pure of all diamond types. Christie's established a pre-sale estimated price range of $1.4 million to $1.6 million.


Far from the most expensive item in Christie's lineup, this bejeweled spider brooch by American designer David Webb is one of our favorites. The body of the platinum spider is set with a large cushion-cut kunzite and each of the diamond-adorned legs is flexible. Christie's estimated that this item would sell in the range of $30,000 to $50,000.


Also featured will be this cushion-cut fancy yellow diamond ring of 34.12 carats, mounted in platinum and 18-karat gold (above), as well as a pear-shape fancy intense yellowish-green diamond ring of 7.11 carats, set within a circular-cut pink diamond surround (below).


The yellow diamond carries an estimated price of $600,000 to $800,000, and the yellowish-green diamond is expected to sell in the range of $250,000 to $350,000. In the photo above, the white pear-shape diamond weighs 6.33 carats and has a circular-cut white diamond surround. It's expected to sell in the $160,000 to $220,000 price range. The white diamond has a rose gold setting, and the yellowish-green diamond is set in rose gold and platinum.

In total, Christie’s Important Jewels auction will highlight more than 300 individual jewels, with items ranging from $3,000 up to $3 million. The New York auction's total sales are expected to reach $20 million.

Credits: Christie's

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Welcome to the World's First 'Room Scale' Virtual Reality Marriage Proposal

Testing out a pre-release version of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset at game developer Valve's headquarters in Bellevue, WA, Kelly Tortorice explored wondrous environments. She swam through the ruins of a sunken ship, climbed the snowy Alps, repaired robots and painted with fire. But, then, to her surprise, a virtual engagement ring started floating toward her. 


Across the room, Valve employee Chandler Murch slowly approached his girlfriend while holding a trackable HTC Vive wand controller, which she saw through her headset as a mighty large blue-tinted diamond ring floating in mid-air.


“Chandler told me to grab [the virtual ring]," Tortorice explained on her Facebook page. "Then, he told me to take off my headset, and there he really was, on one knee, with a real ring.”


Tortorice was so blown away by the experience that a simple "yes" to his marriage proposal would not suffice.

“It wasn't imaginary anymore. I didn’t say, 'Yes.' I said, ‘OF COURSE I WILL MARRY YOU!’ Thank you for such a hilarious and fun surprise,” she wrote.


She added: "I love you, and I can't wait for the life ahead of us."

Murch's "room scale" virtual reality marriage proposal is likely the first of its kind in history. Room scale virtual reality allows for the users to move about within the environment, as opposed to the player being confined to a seat.


Murch had arranged for his now-fiancée to visit his workplace to demo a pre-release of the HTC Vive headset. Developers, such as Valve Software Corporation, had access to the product even though it's not expected to reach store shelves until late 2015 or early 2016.

A writer for Time magazine wondered if a virtual wedding couldn't be far off.

Credits: Facebook/kelly.tortorice.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

'Doppel' Can Speed You Up or Slow You Down With a Gentle 'Lub-Dub' Pulse on Your Inner Wrist

The newest wearable technology to hit the scene is NOT designed to rate your fitness, tickle you about an important call or beckon assistance when you're in danger. The sole purpose of the Doppel bracelet is to support your well being by making you feel more alert or more relaxed, using tactile pulses on your inner wrist.


Invented by a team of British graduate students with expertise in quantum physics, mechanical engineering, material science and industrial design, the Doppel wristband works on the premise that humans naturally react to rhythms — a process called "entrainment."

Upbeat music, for instance, can increase one's heart rate while soothing music will have a calming effect. The body has the ability to auto-adjust to match an external stimulus — in this case, a pulse that mimics the "lub-dub" rhythm of a heartbeat.


Independent tests by psychologists at Royal Holloway University of London confirmed that upping the pulse of the Doppel device improved focus, alertness and reaction times, while lowering the pulse allowed the subjects to stay calm under pressure or wind down for a restful sleep.

Team Turquoise, the company behind Doppel, found that the alertness pulse was most useful to people who needed a boost during a long afternoon meeting or while exercising. Nell Bennett, the co-founder responsible for design, told Wired magazine that she likes to use Doppel when she's running.

"It feels like you're on a running machine even when you're outdoors, because you automatically keep to the rhythm and run at a constant rate which is really useful," she told Wired.

The device uses a companion app that initially measures the user's resting heart rate and then assigns two settings, one to stimulate the user and one to calm her down. Once configured, all the rest of the controls are located on the Doppel itself.


It looks like a watch, but it has no dial. Users can up the pulse by tapping the device and lower the pulse by stroking it. A rotation of the dial adds or subtracts to the intensity of what is felt on the inner wrist.

"We didn't want it to be a piece of complex technology with screens and numbers," Bennett told Wired. "We tried to use natural interactions that help you bond with it."

Team Turquiose just completed a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that generated more than $168,000. With that money and other grants provided by Deutsche Bank on UK-supported Innovate UK, the company is set to bring the Doppel to market in the spring of 2016.

They are available in a wide variety of fashionable styles for men and women, and will sell for about $110. The company's website is here.

Credits: Images via

Monday, October 05, 2015

Former 'Girls Next Door' Star and 'Queen of Halloween' Bridget Marquardt Accepts Spider Engagement Ring

Former Girls Next Door star Bridget Marquardt — the self-proclaimed "Queen of Halloween" — announced her engagement to horror film director Nicholas Carpenter on Thursday and showed off a very unusual engagement ring.


Marquardt broke the news on Instagram, while also posting closeup shots of her diamond-encrusted, spider-shaped sparkler.

“Happy Oct. 1st!!!" she wrote on Instagram. "Oh…and… Did I mention @nicholascarpenter and I are engaged?”


Marquardt added in a second caption that her fiancé wanted to give her a traditional ring, but she wanted "something different and unique." She clarified, however, that the split-shank, white-metal ring is centered by a diamond pavé spider, not a black widow.

She seems to absolutely love the avant-garde piece her fiancé purchased from New York City designer Lynn Ban. "It's absolutely perfect for me!!" she wrote. "He knows me well!"


In one shot, Marquardt is shown wearing the arachno-ring while Carpenter caresses her hand. In the background is a Halloween decoration — a small banner that reads, "Till Death Do Us Part.”

Since leaving the Girls Next Door reality show in 2009, Hugh Hefner's former girlfriend has become obsessed with Halloween. She has a Halloween costume line and an Etsy store featuring her homemade Halloween accessories. She hosts Hollywood ghost tours, where she hits the streets of LA in the Dearly Departed "tomb buggy" and shares ghost stories while visiting some of Hollywood's famous haunted locations.


Marquardt and Carpenter met at the Playboy Mansion in 2008 and have been a couple since early 2009. The film director is the son of Scott Carpenter, one of the original Mercury astronauts.

Credit: Images via Instagram/bridgetmarquardt.