Friday, November 13, 2015

Music Friday: Billy Joel Bids Farewell to an Opulent Life of Pearls and Caviar in 'I've Loved These Days'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you fabulous songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In 1976, music legend Billy Joel said goodbye to Hollywood and returned to a New York state of mind. His wistful farewell to an L.A. lifestyle of fine jewelry, silk robes and caviar, is chronicled in the beautiful, but unheralded, "I've Loved These Days."


Joel sings, "Now as we indulge in things refined / We hide our hearts from harder times / A string of pearls, a foreign car / Oh we can only go so far / On caviar and cabernet."

"The song is essentially one man’s farewell to a lifestyle that is as alluring as it is unsustainable," wrote Jim Beviglia in his 2012 review in American Songwriter.

"I've Loved These Days" made its debut on side two of Turnstiles, Joel's fourth studio album. It appeared again 24 years later as the eighth track on disc one of 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert. Although it never was released as a single, Joel continues to perform "I've Loved These Days" to sold-out concert audiences.

Turnstiles marked a critical turning point in Joel's career — a time when he started to take control of his creative process.

“I produced it myself, which, in hindsight, was probably not a good idea," Joel told WNYC, "but I didn’t want people telling me what band to work with, how to do the songs. I wanted to do it my way.”


Take a look at the cover photo for Turnstiles and you will see Joel and an array of characters posing at the Astor Place subway station in New York City. Each character is linked with one of the songs from the album. The wealthy couple represents "I've Loved These Days" and specifically the life he left behind in Los Angeles.

The 66-year-old Joel, who was born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, is one of the most prolific and successful recording artists of all time, with more than 150 million records sold worldwide. Boasting 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations, Joel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Please check out Joel's live performance of "I've Loved These Days" from 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert, a two-disc set that was recorded on New Year's Eve 1999 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The music was provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"I've Loved These Days"
Written and performed by Billy Joel.

Now we take our time, so nonchalant
And spend our nights so bon vivant
We dress our days in silken robes
The money comes
The money goes
We know it's all a passing phase

We light our lamps for atmosphere
And hang our hopes on chandeliers
We're going wrong, we're gaining weight
We're sleeping long and far too late
And so it's time to change our ways
But I've loved these days

Now as we indulge in things refined
We hide our hearts from harder times
A string of pearls, a foreign car
Oh we can only go so far
On caviar and cabernet

We drown our doubts in dry champagne
And soothe our souls with fine cocaine
I don't know why I even care
We'll get so high and get nowhere
We'll have to change our jaded ways
But I've loved these days

So before we end and then begin
We'll drink a toast to how it's been
A few more hours to be complete
A few more nights on satin sheets
A few more times that I can say
I've loved these days

Credit: Columbia

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blue Moon Diamond Sells for $48.5M, Smashing All-Time Price Record at Sotheby's Geneva

The much-ballyhooed Blue Moon diamond set an all-time record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a gemstone when an anonymous Hong Kong bidder captured the coveted 12.03-carat gem for a jaw-dropping $48.5 million at Sotheby's Geneva.

The buyer renamed the stone "The Blue Moon of Josephine," which was curious, because only one day earlier at Christie's Geneva, an unnamed Hong Kong bidder paid $28.5 million for a pink diamond and named it "Sweet Josephine." The Associated Press later reported that the unnamed buyer of both gems was, in fact, Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, who has a young daughter named Josephine.


The internally flawless, fancy vivid blue diamond — originally named "Blue Moon" for the fact that a specimen of this size, color and clarity comes around only once in a blue moon — beat out the 24.68-carat, $46.15 million Graff Pink, which had held the "highest price" title since 2010.


When the hammer went down on the final lot at Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale yesterday, the cushion-shaped Blue Moon had also smashed the auction record for the highest price ever paid per carat for any gemstone. The previous mark, established by the vivid blue 9.75-carat Zoe Diamond in November 2014 at $3.3 million per carat, was obliterated by the Blue Moon, which achieved $4.02 million per carat.

The Blue Moon's selling price was in the upper-middle range of Sotheby's pre-sale estimate of $35 million to $55 million.


Only a day earlier at rival Christie's Geneva, a rare cushion-shaped 16.08-carat pink diamond sold for $28.5 million ($1.7 million per carat), setting an auction record for any vivid pink diamond. The gem's selling price slightly exceeded the auction house's estimate of $23 million to $28 million. The winning bid was placed by a private Hong collector, who has since been identified as billionaire Lau.

But the biggest news coming out of Geneva was the record-breaking sale of the Blue Moon. Among the largest known fancy vivid blue diamonds, the Blue Moon demonstrates the highest possible color grading for blue diamonds. A GIA Monograph grading report described the hue of the diamond as “likely to have never before been seen within such a large diamond, or any gemstone.”

"For me the Blue Moon was always the blue diamond of my career," said David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. "I've never seen a more beautiful stone – its shape, color and purity. It's a magical stone."


Unearthed in January by Petra Diamonds Ltd. at its legendary Cullinan mine in South Africa, the 29.6-carat rough was heralded at the time as “one of the most important blue diamonds ever recovered” by Petra chief executive Johan Dippenaar. In February, luxury jeweler Cora International purchased the rough gem for $25.6 million. Six months later, the company unveiled its 12.03-carat internally flawless cushion-cut blue masterpiece.

Blue diamonds get their color from trace amounts of boron in their chemical makeup. Colorless diamonds, by comparison, are pure carbon with no trace elements.

Credits: Sotheby's; Christie's; Video screen captures via and

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Indian Group Sues Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for Return of the 105-Carat ‘Koh-i-Noor’ Diamond

The famous 105-carat "Koh-i-Noor" diamond, which has been part of the British Crown Jewels for 165 years, soon may be plucked from the Crown of Queen Elizabeth and returned to India — if a group of Bollywood stars succeed in their lawsuit against the UK.


An Indian group calling itself "Mountain of Light" (the literal translation of "koh-i-noor") is demanding the return of the near-perfect gemstone with deep historical roots in the Indian sub-continent.

The gem was unearthed at India's Kollur Mine in the 13th century. In its rough form, the stone weighed 793 carats — about the size of a hen's egg.

Over the centuries, the diamond passed through the hands of numerous invaders, including Persian ruler Nadir Shah, who gave the precious stone its current name in the 1700s. In 1850, it was presented to Queen Victoria by the last ruler of the Sikh Empire, the 13-year-old Tulip Singh.


The claimants are arguing that the generous "gift" was delivered under dubious circumstances. Today, the Koh-i-Noor is estimated to be worth in excess of $150 million.

“The Koh-i-Noor is not just a 105-carat stone, but part of our history and culture and should undoubtedly be returned,” said Bollywood star Bhumicka Singh.


The Mountain of Light group timed its lawsuit to coincide with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first official visit to the UK, during which he will meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. reported that the litigants are basing their legal argument on Britain's Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act of 2009, which gives national institutions the authority to return to their rightful owners objects that were unlawfully acquired.

Parties on both sides of the dispute have chimed in with passionate statements.

“Colonization did not only rob our people of wealth," said Indian businessman David De Souza, "it destroyed the country’s psyche itself. It brutalized society, traces of which linger on today in the form of mass poverty, lack of education and a host of other factors.”


Countered British historian Andrew Roberts in a comment to the Daily Mail, "Those involved in this ludicrous case should recognize that the British Crown Jewels is precisely the right place for the Koh-i-Noor diamond to reside, in grateful recognition for over three centuries of British involvement in India, which led to the modernization, development, protection, agrarian advance, linguistic unification and ultimately the democratization of the sub-continent.”

This is not the first time India has made a claim on the Koh-i-Noor. Back in 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the notion of the diamond returning to India, saying that he did not believe in "returnism."

This past August, we reported on the efforts of British lawmaker Keith Vaz, who said it was time for the Queen Mother to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India because it was a sore symbol of Britain’s colonial past.

“What a wonderful moment it would be, if and when Prime Minister Modi finishes his visit, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return,” said Vaz.

Credits: Getty Images.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Derek Jeter Knocks It Out of the Park With Classic Engagement Ring for Model Girlfriend Hannah Davis

It's certainly fitting that Derek Jeter, one of the classiest athletes of his generation, would bestow a "classic" engagement ring on his model girlfriend Hannah Davis. With a center diamond believed to be between 4 and 6 carats in weight, the dazzling ring is estimated to be worth as much as $300,000.


The platinum ring features a round center diamond set in a simple band adorned with smaller pavé diamonds. Jewelry-industry insiders have called the ring "timeless," "elegant," "traditional" and, of course, "gorgeous."

“Jeter knocked it out of the park on this ring," Mark Keeney, VP of Marketing at Ritani, told


The notoriously private, 41-year-old former shortstop of the New York Yankees rarely talks about his personal life, but early last week, news of his engagement to the statuesque, 5' 10" Sports Illustrated supermodel could be kept under wraps no longer.

Last Monday, Davis and her ring were spotted by the paparazzi while she was strolling down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with her mother. The eagle-eyed photographer reportedly earned $25,000 for scoring the first shot of the Jeter/Davis engagement ring. commented that "passersby were likely blinded by the bling."


Then, on Tuesday, the 25-year-old beauty was photographed more formally on the red carpet at the Country Music Awards in Arlington, Texas. This time, the ring was in plain view and the photogs snapped a number of clear closeup shots.

Also on Tuesday, Jeter mentioned his "fiancée" in an essay he wrote for In a story about his 100-pound mastiff, Kane, he noted, "I had no idea what I was in for as a new dog owner. [The dog] was a Christmas gift last year from my fiancée, whose family had Mastiffs growing up. I’ve never owned a pet in my life.”

A couple since 2012, Jeter and Davis have been engaged since last month, according to Entertainment Tonight. reported that the traditional Jeter had asked Davis' parents for their blessing and proposed on the day that marked exactly three years since they first started dating.

Jeter, who played with the Yankees for 20 seasons, is a five-time World Series champion and 14-time All-Star. He retired after the 2014 season. Davis, who made her mark as a swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated, recently appeared in a series of commercials for DirecTV.

Credits: Getty Images.

Monday, November 09, 2015

How Did Wisdom Tooth Jewelry Become a Thing?

For all the years we've been blogging, we've never encountered a story about a wisdom tooth being used for jewelry. Then, within the course of a week, there were two.


First, we learned about the California man whose romantic Halloween marriage proposal featured an engagement ring set — not with a traditional diamond — but with his own wisdom tooth. Then, on Saturday, Victoria's Secret model Behati Prinsloo posted to Instagram a photo of her latest piece of jewelry — a recently extracted wisdom tooth mounted as a pendant.


While some might see the wisdom tooth as a novel jewelry idea, others might think this unusual precious-stone substitute borders on the grotesque.

In California, Lucas Ungar delighted his girlfriend Carlee Leifkes when he presented her with a wisdom tooth engagement ring on Halloween. The 23-year-old Ungar had the tooth extracted when he was 17. Last Monday, their story was picked up by and grew viral overnight. The Huffington Post did a followup on Wednesday, and that same evening the couple became the subject of a spot on CNN by national news correspondent Jeanne Moos.


Moos reported that Leifkes loved the idea that something on her finger grew inside her fiancé's body. “Yeah, and I’m happy I get to wear that every day,” Leifkes told CNN.

“Nobody will have this ring because it’s a piece of him," she told The Huffington Post. "No two people are the same — same goes for our ring!”

Leifkes clarified that the tooth had been professionally cleaned and coated before it was set in the ring. It also seems as if the root stem has been sliced off, leaving only the crown of the tooth, which is set with four prongs.

From a jeweler's perspective, however, the concept of a wisdom tooth center stone is fraught with potential problems. Certainly tooth enamel is a durable substance, but it has a Mohs hardness rating of only 5 — on par with turquoise or opal, two of the softer precious gemstones.

In fact, enamel is much softer than the more traditional bridal gems, such as diamond (10 on the Mohs scale), sapphire (9) or ruby (9). Also, the enamel accounts for only the surface of the tooth. The interior is made from dentin, which has a hardness of only 3-4. The bottom line is that, although it's an avant-garde idea, a tooth center stone is relatively soft, brittle and — when worn everyday as an engagement ring — will probably not last very long.

Prinsloo's wisdom tooth jewelry should have a more successful outcome, because it will be worn as a pendant and will be free from the daily wear and tear normally encountered by a ring.


Instagram followers of Prinsloo may remember a series of Instagram posts from August when the model and wife of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was recovering from a painful tooth extraction. She also shared a comical video of her singing The Weeknd's hit, "I Can't Feel My Face." In both the photo and video, she seems to be under the influence of pain killers and has an ice pack wrapped around her face.


On Saturday, the 26-year-old Prinsloo was back on Instagram, proudly showing off her newest bling to 2.6 million followers. "I dipped my wisdom in gold [smiley face emoji] #boom," Prinsloo wrote alongside a photo of her gold-plated tooth necklace. The crown of the tooth remains natural, but the root is plated in gold.

The Instagram post generated more than 1,200 comments within 24 hours. Most of them seemed to be in support of Prinsloo' vision, while others voiced their disgust. Instagram user daniellatello decided to sit on the fence: "So gross yet so cool," she wrote.

Prinsloo will be a featured model at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which will air on December 8 on CBS.

Credits: Carlee Leifkes; Instagram/BahatiPrinsloo. Instagram/AdamLevine.