Friday, January 29, 2016

Music Friday: Taylor Swift Gets Her Prince (and a Ring) in 'Love Story'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Taylor Swift gets her prince (and a ring) in her mega-hit, "Love Story."


Back in 2008, an 18-year-old Swift released a semi-autobiographical song about Juliet, a teenager whose love interest is despised by her family and friends. Even though her dad forbids his daughter to date the young Romeo, Swift's character steals away with him. The story, which is based on real events in Swift's life, is spun with key elements from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.


But, instead of having a tragic ending, Swift's version ends with a proposal and an engagement ring (the only part of the song that's not based on fact). Swift sings, "He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said... / Marry me, Juliet, you'll never have to be alone / I love you, and that's all I really know / I talked to your dad. Go pick out a white dress / It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."

Swift told the Los Angeles Times why she decided to put a happy ending on Shakespeare's tragedy.

"I was really inspired by that story, except for the ending," she said. "I feel like they had such promise and they were so crazy for each other. And if that had just gone a little bit differently, it could have been the best love story ever told. And it is one of the best love stories ever told, but it's a tragedy. I thought, why can't you... make it a happy ending and put a key change in the song and turn it into a marriage proposal?" reports that Swift was so excited when the pre-chorus lyrics came into her head, that she grabbed her guitar, sat on her bedroom floor and wrote the song in 20 minutes. Some of Swift fans believe the song relates to her relationship with Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.

"Love Story," which was the lead single from Swift's second studio album Fearless, went on to become the singer's biggest selling song, with more than eiight million copies sold worldwide. It also ranks in the top tier of the most successful singles of all time. Music critics at the time wrote that "Love Story" established Swift as a "true princess of pop."

Born in Wyomissing, Pa., Swift was not an average schoolgirl. By the time she was 11, Swift was already performing regularly at karaoke contests, festivals and fairs near her home in Berks County. When she was 14, her parents moved the family to Nashville, where Swift would be better positioned to pursue a career in country music. At the age of 17, Swift was topping the country charts.

Please check out the official video of "Love Story." This lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Love Story"
Written and performed by Taylor Swift.

We were both young when I first saw you.
I close my eyes and the flashback starts:
I'm standing there on a balcony in summer air.

See the lights, see the party, the ball gowns.
See you make your way through the crowd
And say, "Hello, "
Little did I know...

That you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles,
And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet"
And I was crying on the staircase
Begging you, "Please don't go"
And I said...

Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone.
I'll be waiting; all that's left to do is run.
You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess,
It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."

So I sneak out to the garden to see you.
We keep quiet 'cause we're dead if they knew
So close your eyes... escape this town for a little while.
Oh, oh.

'Cause you were Romeo - I was a scarlet letter,
And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet"
But you were everything to me,
I was begging you, "Please don't go"
And I said...

Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone.
I'll be waiting; all that's left to do is run.
You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess.
It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."

Romeo, save me, they're trying to tell me how to feel.
This love is difficult but it's real.
Don't be afraid, we'll make it out of this mess.
It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."

Oh, oh, oh.

I got tired of waiting
Wondering if you were ever coming around.
My faith in you was fading
When I met you on the outskirts of town.
And I said...

Romeo, save me, I've been feeling so alone.
I keep waiting for you but you never come.
Is this in my head? I don't know what to think.
He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said...

Marry me, Juliet, you'll never have to be alone.
I love you, and that's all I really know.
I talked to your dad - go pick out a white dress
It's a love story, baby, just say, "Yes."

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

'Cause we were both young when I first saw you

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Long Before the Official Birthstone List Was Born, the Biblical Aaron Wore a Breastplate Adorned With 12 Gems

More than 3,000 years before the trade group Jewelers of America defined the modern list of birthstones in 1912, the biblical Aaron (older brother of Moses) wore a bedazzled breastplate adorned with gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The gems were arranged in four rows and set in gold.


Artist's conception of Jewish high priest wearing a breastplate in ancient Judah. By THE HISTORY OF COSTUME By Braun & Schneider [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First-century Jewish historian Josephus described Aaron's breastplate in his book entitled, Antiquities of the Jews. In the following passage the gems are listed right to left.


Flavius Josephus by William Whiston (originally uploaded by The Man in Question on [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Twelve stones were there also upon the breastplate, extraordinary in largeness and beauty,” Josephus wrote. “The first three stones were a sardonyx, a topaz, and an emerald. The second row contained a carbuncle, a jasper, and a sapphire. The first of the third row was a ligure (possibly orange zircon), then an amethyst, and the third an agate…the fourth row was a crysolite, the next was an onyx, and then a beryl.”


Ceramic replica of High Priest's breastplate. Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

According to The Book of Exodus, Aaron, the first high priest of the Hebrews, bore the responsibility of memorializing the names of the 12 tribes before the Lord, upon his two shoulders. His ceremonial costume consisted of a linen tunic spun with gold threads and a floor-length tasseled robe. On the breastplate were precious stones inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes.

The breastplate was attached to the ephod (a sleeveless garment) by gold chains/cords tied to the gold rings on the ephod's shoulder straps, and by blue ribbons tied to the gold rings at the lower parts of the ephod.

"And Aaron shall bear the names of the Children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the Holy Place." -- EXODUS xxviii.12,29.

Over many centuries, translations from the original Hebrew text have yielded other gemstone combinations. Some believe this to be the correct arrangement...

"The first row was a row of ruby, topaz, and emerald; and the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper."

Aaron's priestly dress also contained a small pocket for "urim and thummim," mysterious and still undefined substances or articles that would help the priest determine God's will. Some biblical scholars believe that "urim and thummim" might have been two sticks or stones, one white and the other black, that would give a yes or no answer to a specific question.

Credits: Images via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Botswana Citizen Who Dreams Up Best Name for 1,111-Carat Diamond Will Win Cash Prize

The people of Botswana have been honored with the task of officially naming the mammoth 1,111-carat diamond that was discovered in their country at the Karowe Mine back in November. The citizen who dreams up the best name will win a cash prize of 25,000 pula (about $2,150).


Slightly smaller than a tennis ball and weighing nearly a half-pound, the Type IIa chemically pure gem is the world's second-largest diamond. Only the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905, was larger.


Mining company Lucara Diamond Corp. will hand out the cash prize to the Botswana citizen who comes up with the best name for the epic stone. The 11-day competition, which was open only to Botswana citizens, ends on January 28. Entrants are required to propose a name and the reasons why the name should be considered.

Lucara CEO William Lamb credited Kitso Mokaila, Botswana's minister of minerals, energy and water resources, for coming up with the idea to honor his people with the naming rights.

"The minister thought it would be a great idea to give [the Botswana people] an opportunity to name the stone as it belonged to them,” Lamb told Botswana's MmegiOnline.

Lamb revealed that this is not the first time the Botswana people have been called on to assist with a naming task. When Lucara wanted a better name for its AK6 mine, it established a competition among the country's school children. Karowe was picked as the winning entry and the children's school earned computers for the kids' creative input.

How much the 1,111-carat diamond could be worth is the subject of wild speculation. Recently, the Karowe Mine yielded a 342-carat diamond that sold for $20.55 million, or $60,089 per carat. If the soon-to-be named diamond sells for the same amount per carat, its price would be close to $66 million. The intangible factor is the gem's status of being the second-largest diamond in history — a factor which should boost its value even more.

Credits: Images courtesy of Lucara Diamonds.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Ring Finders Will Help You Recover Lost Jewelry at Little or No Charge

Over the years, we've written many stories about precious keepsakes that have been lost, and then found. Often, these seemingly miraculous finds were made possible by the members of The Ring Finders Directory, a group of metal-detector enthusiasts that collectively boasts 2,245 recoveries worth more than $4.3 million since 2009.


Dedicated to recovering fine jewelry at little or no charge, The Ring Finders Directory has members in 22 countries, with the bulk of participants in the U.S. and Canada. The Ring Finders website lists 269 members covering 399 cities in the U.S. and 34 finders covering 49 cities in Canada. Members work on a reward basis and ask only for a guarantee of gas money.

The group got a big boost when The New Yorker magazine profiled a Ring Finders member for its January 21 online edition. Writer Tyler J. Kelley traveled with metal-detector enthusiast Keith Willie on his mission to recover a platinum wedding ring that was lost by a Connecticut homeowner.

The man, Jim Flynn, had been in his backyard stuffing hay into a black trash bag when he could sense something didn't feel right. His wedding band was gone and his four-year wedding anniversary was only days away.

"That was a sickening feeling,” he told The New Yorker. “My father had the same ring his whole life. I’d hate to be the person who got a second one.”

Flynn, his wife and their toddler searched the area on their hands and knees to find the ring. When that strategy failed, Flynn decided to call a local member of The Ring Finders.

Armed with a heavy-duty spade, an XP Deus metal detector and a White's Bullseye II pin-pointer, the 28-year-old Willie searched the yard, walking back and forth in straight lines while swinging the detector in overlapping arcs.

Even though the newly sodded area had been wild with trees only months before, Willie started to get some hits on the detector. First, he found a scrap of metal, then a pull-tab from a soda can, a bottle cap, a smashed bullet, an antique shotgun shell, a 1957 penny and a 1946 dime.

After three hours of trying, Willie could find no ring. “If I don’t find it, it’s because it’s not there,” Wille told the reporter.


While Willie came up empty, Ring Finders founder Chris Turner reported a network-wide success rate of about 80%. He said the bulk of requests are for assistance in recovering rings, keys and cell phones. Objects have been pulled from parks, lakes, beaches, yards and snowdrifts.

Turner noted he's been helping people find their valuables for the past 21 years. He created Ring Finders to share his passion and widen the coverage internationally.

"Since I can't be everywhere with my metal detector, I'm hoping to have other metal detector specialists that enjoy metal detecting and helping others as much as I do, help people in their town or city," he wrote.


In the video below, Turner helps a young woman from Burnaby, British Columbia, who has lost a diamond wedding band in her backyard. She tried to get her dog back into its pen by tossing a ball. As she threw the ball, her ring went flying, as well. Turner gives the viewer a first-hand account of how he hunts for lost jewelry...

Credits: Screen captures via

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mariah Carey's Colossal 35-Carat Diamond Engagement Ring From James Packer Is the Biggest Ever

Mariah Carey's colossal 35-carat diamond engagement ring from Aussie billionaire James Packer sets a new standard for Hollywood bling.


Worth an estimated $7.5 million, the ring's emerald-cut diamond center stone is more than twice the weight of the 17-carat emerald-cut pink diamond she received from former husband Nick Cannon in 2008. Packer popped the question to Carey in New York City this past Thursday.


The diamond, which is surrounded by tapered baguettes in a platinum setting, outweighs the most famous celebrity engagement rings of all time. These include the 30-carat diamond Elizabeth Taylor received from Michael Todd in 1957, the 24-carat canary yellow diamond Paris Hilton accepted from Paris Latsis in 2005, the 20.5-carat solitaire Kim Kardashian got from Kris Humphries in 2011, the 20-carat diamond Christina Aguilera received from Jordan Bratman in 2005, the 18-carat diamond Beyoncé got from Jay-Z in 2007 and the 15-carat gem Kardashian accepted from Kanye West in 2013.


And since we're talking about some of the largest celebrity rings of all time, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the late Richard Burton, who purchased the 33.19-carat Krupp Diamond for his then-wife Taylor in 1968. The Krupp wasn't an engagement ring; Burton said he bought it because "it was Tuesday." Burton paid $305,000 for the Harry Winston ring and Taylor referred to it as her "baby." In retrospect, the diamond was a relative bargain, because the price paid in 1968 is equivalent to $2.1 million in today's dollars.


Celebrity jeweler Wilfredo Rosado, a friend of Carey's for more than 25 years, claims he worked 12-hour days for two weeks to create Carey's sparkler — a ring that would represent "new beginnings."

In an interview with Vogue, Rosado said, "I took the standards super high, and I wanted to create a ring that could not be measured up to. It was about mixing simplicity with volume, which is very difficult to do... It’s an epic ring for an epic time in her life.”

The designer reportedly took into account what he knew to be the singer's personal tastes as well as Packer's specific requests. He chose to use tapered baguettes to accent the large emerald-cut center stone to give the ring a "balanced look." Among Rosado's high-profile clients are Julia Roberts, Rihanna and Olivia Wilde.

The 48-year-old Packer, who is said to be the fourth-wealthiest man in Australia, is a businessman, investor and philanthropist. He and the 45-year-old Carey met about a year ago and have been inseparable ever since, according to published reports.

Credits: Jewelry shot courtesy of Wilfred Rosado; Instagram/MariahCarey; Elizabeth Taylor uncredited.