Friday, February 26, 2016

Music Friday: 'There's a Lady Who's Sure All That Glitters Is Gold' in Led Zeppelin's Classic 'Stairway to Heaven'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, we're proud to present Heart's amazing rendition of what is arguably one of the greatest rock songs of all time, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."


Co-writer and lead vocalist Robert Plant revealed that the lyrics came to him in a flash of inspiration.

"I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold / And she's buying a stairway to heaven.' I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat," he said.

Plant explained that the gold-related lyrics tell the story of a woman who gets everything she wants without giving anything back. She accumulates great wealth, only to find out her life has no meaning and that her money won't get her into heaven. The rest of the song he described as "an abstraction."

"Depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way — and I wrote the lyrics," he said.

Released in 1971 as the fourth track of Led Zeppelin IV, "Stairway to Heaven" became the group's signature song. Amazingly, it was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the U.S. in the 1970s even through the original version ran 8:02 and was never released as a single. DJs played promotional singles, which quickly became collector's items. In 2000, VH1 selected "Stairway to Heaven" #3 on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs of all time.

Led Zeppelin, which is widely considered one of the most successful and influential rock groups in history, disbanded shortly after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.


In December 2012, Led Zeppelin's finest work was the focus of a star-studded tribute at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Surviving members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones watched with great pride from the balcony as Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart — supported by an orchestra and huge choir — brought down the house with an inspired performance of "Stairway to Heaven."

Performing on drums was Jason Bonham, who looks strikingly like his dad, John, and is a fabulous talent in his own right. Plant is clearly misty eyed as the song builds to a rousing crescendo.

It's an amazing moment in rock history, and we have a great video to share. We know you will love Heart's brilliant rendition of "Stairway to Heaven," which was broadcast on CBS. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Stairway to Heaven"
Written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Originally performed by Led Zeppelin. Tribute performed by Heart.

There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh ooh ooh ooh and she's buying a stairway to heaven
There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder
There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder
And it's whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
And it makes me wonder
Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she's buying the stairway to heaven

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

$21M Jewelry and Gem Collection of Former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos to Hit Auction Block

On this day in 1986, in the face of mass demonstrations and charges of embezzlement, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda were forced to flee the presidential palace in Manila and seek refuge in Hawaii. Although Imelda dreaded leaving behind more than 1,200 pairs of designer shoes, she did bring along a cache of fine gemstones and jewelry that are valued today at $21 million.


The jewelry was confiscated in Hawaii, and now, 30 years later, will be sold to the highest bidder.


Among the dazzling pieces in Imelda's collection were a barrel-shaped 25-carat pink diamond estimated to be worth $5 million and a Cartier tiara also valued in that same range. Imelda is currently 86 years old; Ferdinand died in 1989 at the age of 72.

Seized in three batches and totaling 300 pieces, the jewelry will be displayed in a public exhibition before it hits the auction block.


"The exhibition of these ill-gotten jewels will be a great vehicle to raise awareness — especially for the younger generation and those who have forgotten — and to remind the Filipino people of the perils of the two-decade regime of corruption that was under the Marcoses," noted Richard T. Amurao, chairman of the Philippine's Presidential Commission on Good Government.


The Hawaii batch will be the first to be sold. The other two are still being contested in the Filipino court system.

During the Marcos' 20-year regime, the couple reportedly amassed a fortune that included paintings by Pablo Picasso, Francisco de Goya and Michelangelo — all while the country was in economic decline.


The jewelry in Marcos' collection was appraised recently by both Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses. The Philippine government will soon determine the dates of the public exhibition and auction.

Credits: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images; ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Extra Gum Scores Another Viral Hit With Romantic, Tear-Inducing 'Second Chance' Commercial

Break out the tissues, because when it comes to romantic, heart-warming commercials, no company has precipitated more happy tears than Extra Gum.


It all started in 2013 when Extra released "Origami," a one-minute tear-jerker about the sweet bond between a dad and his little daughter, as she matures into a young woman. That video earned 3.3 million views on YouTube, but Extra's next installment would be prove to be even more viral.


Released in 2015, "The Story of Sarah & Juan" follows the characters' romance from high school to adulthood. That two-minute video was seen by more than 18 million YouTubers.


Last week, Extra took it up another notch with a four-minute video called "A Second Chance" — a touching true story about a young widowed mom and a single dad who find true love.


What's common in all three videos is the use of Extra gum wrappers to help tell the story. In "Origami," the dad cleverly folds the wrappers into tiny swans that his daughter collects over time. In the other videos, the story line is told via illustrations drawn on the back of the wrappers. In "The Story of Sarah & Juan" and "A Second Chance" the illustration triggering the teary waterworks is that of a man on bended knee proposing to the love of his life.

"A Second Chance," which has been viewed more than 800,000 times in the past seven days, is the real story of California natives and childhood friends Jessica Langevin and Marcus Decredico. The couple had met back in kindergarten and stayed in touch over the years. When Langevin was 25 years old and eight months pregnant with her daughter, Zoe, her husband was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

"I didn't think love could be possible for me again," she says in the video.

Langevin eventually opened an in-home daycare and got a call from her old friend Decredico, who was divorced and looking to secure childcare placements for his two young daughters, Alyvia and Malory.

"I was so excited to hear from him and our connection sparked again," she told Huffington Post. "We just keep finding our way back to each other."


Langevin and Decredico reconnected and fell in love. They've now been together for five years.

The Huffington Post reported that a friend of Decredico had heard that Extra was looking for "real life love stories" to feature in its next video. Extra loved the couple's story and conspired with Decredico to map out the perfect surprise proposal.


Langevin was tricked into believing that she and the three girls were on a scavenger hunt at the picturesque Grizzly Peak in Berkeley, Calif. Their mission was to find dozens of pictures drawn on gum wrappers by Decredico and the couple's young daughters. The hand-drawn illustrations lead Langevin to Decredico, who is waiting with a marriage proposal and a diamond engagement ring.

"You're my best friend," Decredico says in the video. "I want nothing more than for you to marry me."

Langevin responds, "Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!"

“I had no clue he was going to propose," Langevin told Huffington Post. "I honestly thought we were doing a travel documentary and that the scavenger hunt was for the kids. It felt like a fairy tale. For me, it’s all about the small moments in our daily lives, like the little love notes he leaves me around the house. It was amazing to see all of these moments together!”

If you love to cry happy tears, today's your lucky day. Below, we are featuring all three Extra commercials, starting with "Origami" and ending with "A Second Chance." The last two videos are masterful mixed with the music of Haley Reinhart.


"The Story of Sarah & Juan"

"A Second Chance"

Screen captures via YouTube.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jerusalem Settlers of 5,000 BC Favored Carnelian Adornments and Used Sophisticated Tools

Red-orange carnelian beads dating back 7,000 years were unearthed recently at the site of Jerusalem's oldest-known settlement. The discovery of the beads points to an artistic culture that valued self-adornment, as well as one that possessed the technical skills to drill and shape the gems for use in jewelry.


The gemstone beads, pottery shards, flint tools and a bowl carved from basalt rock were dated by the Israel Antiquities Authority to the early Chalcolithic era, around 5,000 BC. This was a transitional time when humans began to use copper ("chalcos" in Greek) to augment their stone tools ("lithos" in Greek).


The artifacts were excavated from two well preserved stone dwellings in the north Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. The archaeologists also unearthed an impressive collection of tools, including sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels, axes, borers and awls.


“It is quite evident that there was a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times. Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem’s architecture,” said Ronit Lupo, director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Carnelian has been cherished throughout history, earning a prominent place in ancient Hebrew, Greek, Roman and Babylonian cultures. Carnelian gems were often mounted into amulets, insignia rings and seals. In Biblical times, carnelian was also known as "sard," which was the first stone set into the breastplate of Aaron, brother of Moses. The breastplate was adorned with gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

Carnelian belongs to the cryptocrystalline branch of the quartz family, which also includes agate, onyx and jasper. Carnelian is defined by its red-orange to brownish-red color, which it obtains through iron impurities that form within a colorless quartz crystal.

Laborers building a road in the town of Shuafat stumbled upon the historical site during their excavation work and immediately alerted Israeli authorities. The site, which had been out of site for thousands of years, was barely one meter below the surface. Archaeologists had presumed that the earliest Jerusalem settlements were 5,000 years old. This newest findings predate that estimate by 2,000 years.

Even though the carnelian beads found near Jerusalem are approximately 7,000 years old, they are not the oldest jewelry specimens to be featured in this blog.

Back in October of 2013, we wrote about French researchers, who unearthed a remarkably well preserved 7,500-year-old natural pearl at an ancient gravesite in the United Arab Emirates. Measuring about 2mm in diameter, the discovery has been dubbed the Umm al Quwain pearl in honor of the town in which it was found.


In September of 2014, we covered the story of Alaskan archaeologists, who discovered two matching sets of tail-shaped bone earrings that were estimated to be 12,000 years old. The items, which were unearthed at the Mead site between Fairbanks and Delta Junction, demonstrated an impressive level of technical skill and artistic detail.

Credits: Jerusalem excavation photos by Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority; Bone earrings photo by Barbara Crass, Shaw Creek Archaeological Research.

Monday, February 22, 2016

West Point's 'Ring Melt' Reaffirms the Bond Between Cadets and Their Distinguished Predecessors

This morning at a Rhode Island refinery, the donated class rings of 54 West Point graduates dating back to 1914 will be dropped in a crucible and melted into a solid gold bar. That ingot will be merged with new gold to create the class rings for the current cadets, symbolically and physically reaffirming the bond between the West Point Class of 2017 and its distinguished predecessors.


Relatives of 23 donors will present the rings for melting in a heartwarming and solemn event that will take place at Pease & Curren's Warwick, R.I., headquarters. The Class of 2017 will receive their class rings in August of 2016 during a ceremony at West Point.


Now in its 16th year, the "Ring Melt" was conceived by retired Lt. Col. Ron Turner, Class of 1958. He proposed that donations of class rings would be collected from West Point alumni and their descendants.

Wrote Turner, "We all were proud to receive our ring, the symbol of membership in the Long Gray Line. Perhaps we would have been even prouder had our new class rings included traces of the gold from rings of past graduates — some of whom served many years before we, our parents, or even our grandparents were born."

Each year, a sample would be extracted from the ingot of melted rings and added to the melt of the following year. The "legacy sample" would ensure that gold from all ring melts going back to the inaugural ceremony in 2001 is included in the production of rings for the upcoming senior cadets.

West Point is credited with originating the concept of the class ring in 1835, as West Point became the first American university to honor its senior class with a treasured keepsake of gold. Prior to this year's melt, 356 rings have been donated and melted, spanning the classes of 1896 to 1997. The oldest ring melted this year belonged to Major General Jens A. Doe, Class of 1914. He was the commanding officer of the 14th Machine Gun Battalion in World War I.


The names of all 54 West Point ring donors will be read aloud at the "Ring Melt" ceremony, which will be attended by a select group from the Class of 2017. The cadets will get to view the refining process and actually handle the solid gold bar in a symbolic demonstration of continuity with their brave predecessors, as seen in this photo from Pease & Curren's website.

Images via; Screen captures via