Friday, August 19, 2016

Music Friday: Couple Breaks Up During Honeymoon; Now All That’s Left Is a ‘Band of Gold,’ Sings Freda Payne

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In today's installment, we time travel to Hollywood's Soul Train sound stage, where Freda Payne is singing her biggest hit, "Band of Gold."


The song is about a young couple that rushes into marriage only to find out on their honeymoon that they are incompatible. He takes off, and she remains in a darkened room, dreaming of what could have been.

Although the woman yearns for her estranged husband to return to her, deep in her heart she knows that all that remains of the relationship is the ring on her finger and the memories of their time together.

She sings, "Now that you're gone / All that's left is a band of gold / All that's left of the dreams I hold / Is a band of gold / And the memories of what love could be / If you were still here with me."

Released in April 1970, the song became a instant hit with worldwide sales of more than two million records. "Band of Gold" ascended to #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was #1 in the U.K. for six consecutive weeks. It was Payne's first gold record and remains her signature song 46 years later.

Interestingly, Payne originally refused to record the song when it was offered to her by co-writer Ron Dunbar. She didn't like the lyrics and didn't like the idea of a relationship falling apart during a honeymoon.

Dunbar encouraged Payne to perform the song, despite her reluctance. He said, "Don't worry. You don't have to like [the lyrics]. Just learn [them]."

Payne agreed, and the rest is history. In 2004, "Band of Gold" was voted #391 in Rolling Stone magazine's listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Payne told authors Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh that she had no idea that "Band of Gold" would be such a big hit.

Born in Detroit in 1942, Freda Charcilia Payne grew up listening to jazz singers, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. As a teenager, she attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts and her first professional jobs were singing radio commercial jingles. In 1963, she moved to New York City and worked with many different entertainers, including Quincy Jones and Pearl Bailey. She release her first album in 1964, but didn't hit it big until she returned to Detroit in 1969 and signed with the record label Invictus.

By 1970, Payne was a household name, thanks to the success of "Band of Gold."

Please check out the video of Payne's Soul Train performance of today's featured song. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Band of Gold"
Written by Ronald Dunbar and Edythe Wayne. Performed by Freda Payne.

Now that you're gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the memories of what love could be
If you were still here with me

You took me from the shelter of my mother
I had never known or loved any other
We kissed after taking vows
But that night on our honeymoon,
We stayed in separate rooms

I wait in the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me


Don't you know that I wait
In the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon
That you'll walk back through that door
And love me like you tried before

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Since you've been gone,
All that's left is a band of gold
All that's left of the dreams I hold
Is a band of gold
And the dream of what love could be
If you were still here with me

Credit: By CBS Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chinese Aristocrat Farong Wore These Fabulous Earrings 1,500 Years Ago

Fifteen hundred years ago in Datong City, China, there lived an aristocrat named Farong. The wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen, Farong owned an elaborate pair of gold earrings that demonstrated meticulous craftsmanship and amazing technical prowess.


The earrings were beautiful from every angle. From one view, one could see the likenesses of a human figure flanked by dragons.

The detailing was extraordinary. The human figure on the earrings had curly hair, deep-set eyes and a high nose. The character wore a pendant with a sequin-bead pattern on the neck and had inverted lotus flowers carved under its shoulders.


From the side, admirers would marvel at the round and teardrop-shaped adornments inlaid with multicolored gemstones. Delicate gold chains hanging from cabochon-cut amethysts dangled below, and one could imaging how they would have draped down the sides of Farong's face.

Also among her prized possessions was an elaborate necklace made from 5,000 pearls, gold pieces, crystals and colored glass beads.


A team of Chinese archaeologists with the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology unearthed Farong's tomb when they were surveying the area before a construction project. Although her skeleton was badly decomposed, her exquisite jewelry — which had been buried with her — remained in near-pristine condition. Farong's story was originally reported in the Chinese journal Wenwu and translated into English in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.


The necklace consisted of 10 large and small gold beads, nine flat gold pieces, two crystals, 42 natural pearls and more than 4,800 colorful glass beads. The archaeologists explained that the small beads were "the size of millet grains, some black and some green, and all are [flattened], each with a perforation in the middle."

Although the thread on which the 5,000 beads were strung had disintegrated long ago, the beads remained in their original positions, making the reconstruction of the piece much easier for the archaeologists.

Farong's epitaph was discovered at the tomb's entrance. Carved into a stone tablet was the phrase: "Han Farong, the wife of Magistrate Cui Zhen." Han is her surname. (In China, the surname was traditionally written first and the given name second, according to Live Science.)

Farong lived in the capital of Datong City, about 215 miles west of Beijing, during the latter part of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Her age at death was unknown, but the story of her fine jewelry may live on forever.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

U.S. Gymnastics Team Leotards Radiate With 4,000 Swarovski Crystals

When the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team overpowered its competition to defend the gold medal in the team all-around competition at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio the athletes were certainly dressed for the success. Their patriotic leotards radiated with 4,000 white and red Swarovski crystals.

Teammates Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian beamed with confidence, thanks to GK Elite, the official outfitter of the U.S. national team.

Kelly McKeown, executive vice president at GK Elite, told USA Today how her company designed the leotards to deliver the maximum impact for a world stage. GK worked with U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach Martha Koroly to make sure they were creating a "wow" moment for the athletes.

"Marta has said it many times: 'It has to be like a prom dress.' She wants them to walk out and look regal, and unique and exquisite and dynamic. She’s not interested in having something very plain. She wants it to be their day out there."

Each athlete was outfitted with 12 practice leotards at $60 to $200 each, and eight competition leotards priced from $700 to $1,200, depending on the number of crystals used in the design. A U.S. female gymnast's Olympic wardrobe can cost upward of $12,000.

"They prepared their whole lives to be out there, in the biggest arena in the entire world," McKeown said. "You have to feel beautiful. It feeds into how you feel when you walk out there. It's a combination of morale boost and confidence and everything they are trying to achieve."

The stunning leotards seemed to have a light source of their own. Joked McKeown, "People keep asking me, 'So where do you hide the battery packs? Because it looks like they are glowing.' I laugh because it’s all the fastening of the crystal."

In Olympics past, the task of affixing crystals to a leotard was an expensive, manual task. The leotard worn by American Nastia Liukin in Beijing eight years ago, for example, featured 184 crystals that were mostly hand-placed.

Crystal-application technology has come a long way since then, McKeown reported. GK Elite now has specialized bejeweling equipment that can robotically place a variety of crystal colors in a infinite range of designs.

Credit: Image by Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Red, White and Blue Earrings Return to Olympic Competition With U.S. Gymnastics Team Captain Aly Raisman

After completing her near-flawless floor routine for which she earned a 15.433, U.S. gymnastics team captain Aly Raisman burst into tears when she realized she had edged out Russia's Aliya Mustafina for the Olympic silver medal in the women's all-around competition.


As NBC's cameras zoomed in on the thrilling and emotional moment in Rio, we noticed that Raisman was wearing a very familiar pair of red, white and blue stud earrings — the lucky earrings she wore four years earlier at the London Games.


The Newton, Mass., native said at the time that the earrings were her good luck charms and that she had rarely taken them off. Raisman wore them when she qualified for her all-around final, during pre-Olympic interviews and even during her Sports Illustrated cover shoot.

Designed by her hometown jeweler, Adamas Fine Jewelry, the simple earring feature round rubies and sapphires surrounding a larger round diamond.

“I designed the white-gold earrings in a shape of a starburst with red, white and blue stones,” Adamas co-owner Anto Aboyan told JCK magazine in 2012. “Aly is representing the U.S., so it was a fitting design and color scheme.”

“I love the patriotism look,” Raisman told Boston’s Channel 7 News.

The jeweler had gifted the earrings to Raisman without knowing whether the world-class gymnast would be allowed to wear them during the Olympic competitions.

Officially, the Olympic Committee has no formal rules about the subject. Instead, the governing body of each sport sets its own rules. Gymnasts may wear earrings as long as they are simple studs (one in each ear).

With more than 31 million viewers glued to their TVs on Thursday night as the 22-year-old Raisman and 19-year-old dynamo Simone Biles scored a silver/gold exacta for the U.S. in the women's all-around competition, we're wondering how many people watching at home were secretly coveting their own pair of patriotic starburst earrings.

Credits: Aly Raisman screen captures via Earring studs photo by Adamas Fine Jewelry. Aly Raisman by Agência Brasil Fotografias [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Engagement Diamond Given by Olympian Michael Phelps to Nicole Johnson Symbolizes a 'Pool of Love'

If you've been mesmerized by the swimming feats of Olympic legend Michael Phelps, you may be equally impressed by his taste in bridal jewelry. The engagement ring you see here was presented by Phelps to former Miss California Nicole Johnson when he proposed to her in February of 2015.


Exactly a year later, Johnson posted a closeup of the ring and offered a peek into the symbolism of the large oval-cut diamond center stone and what seem to be shield-shaped side stones.


She wrote: "[The] center is a pool representing our pool of love and each side stone is shaped like rain drops that continue to fill our pool. Thank you @intagemsanddiamonds for helping @m_phelps00 create the most beautiful ring I've ever seen. #imnotbiased #ringselfie #rings #engaged #soontobemrs"

Her February post was well received by her 303,000 followers as it generated 15,400 likes and 1,081 comments.

Interestingly, Johnson knows a lot about fine jewelry and is more than comfortable behind a loupe. She earned an Accredited Jewelry Professional designation through the Gemological Institute of America in 2011 and worked as an assistant marketing manager and sales associate for Los Angeles-based INTA Gems & Diamonds. Among her accomplishments at the firm was assisting in the design and development of the official crown for the Miss California Teen USA pageant. (Note: GIA's AJP designation has been renamed from Accredited Jewelry Professional to Applied Jewelry Professional.)


While Phelps became the biggest story of the Rio Olympic Games, NBC's television cameras repeatedly cut away to emotional shots of the swimmer's supportive fiancée and their new baby, Boomer Robert Phelps, who was born on May 5th.

Phelps entered the Rio Games as the most decorated Olympian in history, with 22 medals, including 18 golds. As a 31-year-old, he added five golds and a silver during eight grueling days of competition — a competition that he says will be his last. He won his 23rd, and final, Olympic gold medal Saturday night by swimming his best stroke, the butterfly, in the 4x100 medley.


Phelps and Johnson met at the ESPY Awards in 2007 and have dated since 2009. They announced their engagement in February of 2015 and their wedding is scheduled for the end of this year.

Credits: Images via Instagram/nicole.m.johnson.