Friday, December 23, 2016

Music Friday: Straight No Chaser’s Viral ‘12 Days of Christmas’ Captures the Spirit of the Season

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you the coolest songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. With Christmas only two days away, we bring you one of YouTube’s most popular Christmas song videos of all time — Straight No Chaser’s witty and masterfully arranged rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” To date, the original version of SNC’s “12 Days” has been viewed more than 20 million times.


As everyone knows, the jewelry reference in this holiday favorite comes on the fifth day of Christmas when “my true love gave to me, five golden rings.”

The a cappella group's “12 Days” is famous for its clever infusions of other songs, such as “I Have a Little Dreidel” and Toto’s “Africa.” SNC's version of the popular Christmas song was inspired by a 1968 comic arrangement of the song by Richard C. Gregory, a faculty member of The Williston Northampton School in western Massachusetts.

Originated on the campus of Indiana University in 1996, Straight No Chaser is truly a grassroots, internet-inspired phenomenon. The 10-man group owes its worldwide fame to a video of its 1998 performance that was first posted to YouTube eight years later. That video went viral and caught the attention of Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman, who signed the group to a five-album deal in 2008.

Straight No Chaser is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and supporting its I'll Have Another... Christmas Album with live shows in Indianapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Honolulu and Maui. The album, which was released in October, sits at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Holiday Albums chart, having peaked at #4.

Check out the video of Straight No Chaser's live performance of "The 12 Days of Christmas." It is guaranteed to brighten your holidays and bring a smile to your face. Enjoy!

Credit: Promotional photo via

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Precious Metal Value of the 23 Gold Medals Michael Phelps Wears on the Cover of SI Will Surprise You

For the first time ever, swimming icon Michael Phelps graces the cover of Sport Illustrated wearing every one of his 23 Olympic gold medals. That's nearly 14.5 pounds of precious metal, but what is it really worth?


The size of gold medals have varied over Phelps' four Olympic appearances. In 2004, the medals of the Athens Games weighed 135 grams. Four years later, the Beijing medals grew to 200 grams. In 2012, the London Games awarded 412-gram gold medals, and in 2016, the Rio de Janeiro medals weighed a whopping 500 grams (1.1 pounds).

If each of Phelps' medals were made of pure gold — as they were back in 1912 — the entire gold cache would tally $239,235.

But, alas, starting in 1916, gold medals were made mostly of silver. The International Olympic Committee mandated that gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of 24-karat gold over 96% pure silver.

As we do the math, we find that the gold content in each Phelps medal is worth about $219. The total gold value of the 23 medals is an unspectacular $5,034. The silver value of the complete group is $3,274.

The combined value of all the gold and silver in the gold medals is $8,308, less than the price of Phelps' round-trip, first-class airfare from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro.

While the most decorated Olympic athlete won't get rich by melting down his Olympic hardware, he has already amassed a fortune in multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals with high profile companies, such as Speedo, Visa, Omega watches, Subway, Kellogg, Under Armour, Head and Shoulders, Louis Vuitton, Procter & Gamble, Hilton hotels, HP and Powerbar. Coupled with the prize money earned at competitions, Phelps' net worth is estimated at $55 million.


In the Sports Illustrated article, the 31-year-old Phelps didn't offer much hope to fans wishing to see him competing in the Olympic pool at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“If I do get the desire to come back, great,” Phelps told SI. “Right now, I just don’t see it.”

Phelps' wife, Nicole, believes that the person who may be able to convince the vaunted swimmer to compete again is his son, Boomer. It's going to take a little while before Boomer can communicate that message to his dad. He's only seven months old.

Overall, Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals — 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.

The December 22nd issue marks the 12th time Phelps has appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover. The record is held by basketball star Michael Jordan, who has enjoyed the honor 50 times.

Credit: Michael Phelps cover by Sports Illustrated.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Offcuts' Removed During the Faceting of Super-Large Diamonds Reveal Their Deep-Earth Origin, Says GIA Study

The world's largest diamonds, such as the Cullinan or Constellation, have a much different composition and structure than their smaller counterparts, states a breakthrough study by the Gemological Institute of America. Unlike smaller diamonds that materialized at a relatively shallow depth of 90 to 125 miles amid oxygen-rich rocks, the biggest diamonds formed 200 to 500 miles below the surface within patches of oxygen-deprived liquid metal.


The stunning revelations were based on research led by GIA Postdoctoral Research Fellow Evan Smith, who studied the "offcuts," or remnants, of large rough diamonds that had been faceted into precious gemstones. The offcuts offered a window into the workings of the Earth's deep mantle because their inclusions are teeming with other elements. Typically, these flaws are removed during the cutting and polishing process to enhance the perfection of the end product. For the researchers at GIA, the neatly preserved inclusions held all the value even though some were no wider than a human hair.

"You really couldn't ask for a better vessel to store something in," Smith told NPR. "Diamond is the ultimate Tupperware."

The GIA obtained eight fingernail-sized remnants for this study. After grinding them down and analyzing them with microscopes, lasers, electron beams and magnets, the team concluded that the diamonds contained a solidified mixture of iron, nickel, carbon and sulfur.

Unexpectedly, they also found traces of fluid methane and hydrogen, which led them to conclude that pure carbon crystallized to form diamonds in an oxygen-deprived mix of molten metallic liquid in Earth's deep mantle.


"Some of the world's largest and most valuable diamonds... exhibit a distinct set of physical characteristics that have led many to regard them as separate from other, more common, diamonds. However, exactly how these diamonds form and what they tell us about the Earth has remained a mystery until now," explained Dr. Wuyi Wang, GIA's director of research and development, and an author of the study.

The breakthrough research, which was featured in the most recent issue of Science magazine, is significant because it offers a glimpse beneath Earth's tectonic plates — an area largely inaccessible for scientific observation.

Despite their origins far below the Earth's surface, diamonds can blast to the surface during volcanic eruptions. The vertical superhighways that take the diamonds on their 100-plus mile journey are called kimberlite pipes.

Credit: Diamond "offcuts" by Evan Smith; © GIA. Constellation photo courtesy of Lucara Diamond.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Carrie Ann Inaba's Engagement Ring From Robb Derringer Took Her Breath Away

Dancing With the Stars’ judge Carrie Ann Inaba couldn't be more elated with the 3.68-carat oval-cut diamond engagement ring that actor Robb Derringer placed on her finger during a bonfire-lit proposal at the site of their magical first date.


The ring features a number of secret, symbolic, unseen elements, including an oval-cut ruby that is flush-set on the inside of the band. Also hidden from view are inscriptions of their first names and two flush-set birthstones, a ruby for him and a garnet for her.


The oval center stone — Inaba's preferred diamond shape — is accented by an 18-karat rose gold band embellished with 120 round brilliant-cut diamonds.

"When Robb put it on my finger, it took my breath away," she wrote in an Instagram post. "It is beautiful and elegant."

Derringer collaborated with French-born celebrity jeweler Jean Dousset to create an amazing ring for his bride-to-be.

In an Instagram post directed at the jeweler, Derringer commented about the design process: "You made the experience of conceptualizing and creating Carrie's ring, the symbol of my love and commitment to her, one of the most enjoyable and anticipated components of this most beautiful event in our lives."

“Exhilarating is the best way to describe Robb’s dedication and thoughtfulness in creating the most perfect ring for Carrie Ann,” the great-great grandson of iconic jeweler Louis Cartier told People Style. “True love is alive and well!”

Celebrity stylist Michael O'Connor estimated the value of the ring at $100,000.


“We shared our desire to commit to one another for life by beginning that journey in a very intimate and private way, just the two of us, alone on the beach with a bonfire, a bottle of Aubert Chardonnay and the majestic Pacific Ocean that has always been an integral force in both our lives,” Inaba told People Style. “Getting engaged where we had that perfect first date, was really such poetic destiny.”

Noted Derringer on his Instagram page, "So overjoyed to share the best thing that has ever happened to me when @carrieanninaba made me the luckiest guy in the world in saying... yes."

The 48-year-old Inaba, who is a dancer, choreographer, actress, game show host and singer, is best known for her work since 2005 on ABC-TV's Dancing with the Stars.

Derringer, 49, played Kyle Sloane on ABC-TV's General Hospital during 2014 and 2015 and will soon take the role of Scooter Nelson on NBC-TV's Days of Our Lives.

Images by Carrie Ann Inaba;

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mass. State Troopers Recover Elderly Couple's Wedding Rings Alongside Interstate Highway

Two Massachusetts state troopers recently went above and beyond the call of duty to recover the wedding rings of a senior couple who had lost them alongside Route I-495 in Wareham — about 20 miles from the historic Plymouth Rock.


On December 8, troopers Kurt Bourdon and Jonathan O’Loughlin responded to midday calls from concerned drivers regarding two elderly individuals with metal detectors who were walking along the breakdown lane of the busy interstate highway.

The Cape Cod couple told the troopers that a day earlier they had been on a road trip when they decided to pull over to swap driving responsibilities. During the first part of the drive, the wife was the passenger and had taken off her rings, resting them on her lap. When they pulled over to the shoulder of the highway to switch positions, she forgot about the rings and they slipped off her lap and into the grass.

Many miles later, the distraught wife realized that the rings were missing.


The couple attempted to retrace their route, but neither could remember the exact location of the stop. They did remember that it took place on I-495 in the town of Wareham. Unfortunately, the town has four exits that span eight miles.

The rings were lost on December 7. The next day, they returned with metal detectors and a determination to find the keepsake jewelry, which included two diamond wedding bands and a diamond engagement ring.

“This couple was in their 70s and had been married for 46 years," Bourdon told Wareham Week. "One of the rings had belonged to her mother. [Trooper O’Loughlin] and I related to them like they were our parents.”

Instead of shutting down their potentially dangerous search, the troopers offered to help.

“We were looking at a legitimate 8-mile stretch of road to search,” said Bourdon. “But the engagement ring had belonged to her mother and was very important to her.”


After scouring the roadside for 90 minutes, the troopers spotted something sparkly in the grass at the highway's 3-mile marker. Despite the needle-in-a-haystack odds against them, the troopers had found the rings.

The troopers handed the rings to the husband, who had been searching the same stretch of highway about 75 yards behind.

The husband was ecstatic and relieved, but instead of howling the awesome news to his wife, the sly septuagenarian decided to tell her a little white lie.

“He went up to her and said, ‘Hon, why don’t we call it a day,’” Bourdon told Wareham Week. “She started crying, thinking they were going to give up, and then he showed her the rings and instantly she went from crying tears of sadness to tears of joy.”

A few days later, the couple expressed their appreciation by delivering a large gift basket to the Bourne State Police Barracks, where Bourdon and O’Loughlin are stationed.

Bourdon told Wareham Week that he and O’Loughlin were happy to help. “They are great people,” he said.

"I was pleased and really happy that the troopers took the extra time and effort to find the ring and make everything right," Massachusetts State Police Lt. James Plath, Bourne Barracks commander, told

Credits: Jewelry photo courtesy of Kurt Bourdon; Map by; Logo via Massachusetts State Police.