Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Newlyweds Reunited With Wedding Rings 8 Days After Tornado Obliterates Their Home

Described as a "miracle that came out of tragedy," Texas newlyweds Ariel and Justin Duke were reunited with Ariel's engagement ring and wedding band eight days after a deadly tornado flattened their home and scattered debris for miles.

Having learned of the couple's plight on Facebook, amateur metal-detector enthusiast and Good Samaritan Nathan Wright meticulously scanned the Dukes' devastated property for five hours before finally scoring both rings.

Ariel told Spectrum News that she removed her rings to do some yard work just before the twister obliterated their small, yellow farmhouse in Canton on April 29.

“Literally our house was just leveled. It wasn’t destroyed, it just wasn’t there,” Justin told ABC News.

In the aftermath of the storm, the couple — who had been married only three months — attempted to recover Ariel's precious keepsakes with the help of some friends, but they came up empty.

Their next strategy was to post photos of the rings to Facebook, hoping that someone would find and return them.

“By the time I had come across [the Facebook post] they had kind of given up,” Wright told ABC News. “It was about eight days since [the tornado] happened and they had a bunch of people out there using rakes and doing everything they could to find [the rings].”

Wright explained that it's very difficult to use a metal detector in an area where debris is strewn everywhere, but the small chance of finding the rings was "worth a shot."

After three hours, Wright's search had yielded just a bunch of bullets and pull tabs.

But then, in a grassy field about 100 yards from where the house used to be, he finally started finding coins and kitchen utensils.

"Then I found an earring!" Wright wrote on Facebook. "I was excited, thinking maybe I was getting in the right area. I was praying this whole time that I'd be to find this ring and give some happiness back to this girl after such a rough week. Finally, I bent down to pick up what I thought would be another pull tab and, BAM, I see the gold ring laying under the grass! I hollered out and thanked the Lord!"

Wright had discovered Ariel's engagement ring. Shortly after, about 30 feet away, he detected Ariel's wedding band, as well.

"I bent down and knew the gold looked exactly like the engagement ring," Wright said. "To be able to find both of those in the debris-strewn field like that was unreal. I’ll remember that forever.”

Wright explained on Facebook how he teased Ariel, by revealing the wedding band, at first, but not the engagement ring.

"I showed her the small wedding band first and said, 'I found your ring!' She was very excited but you could tell she was hoping for the other one," he wrote. "Then I pulled the other one out of my pocket. She screamed and bulldozed me with a big hug! She couldn't believe I found both of them. I'm so happy to be able to get these back to her!

“There is a miracle that can come out of tragedy,” Justin told ABC News. “It seemed like we were on downward spiral, but with him finding the rings, we’re on an upswing and getting on with life. We’re going to see what the good Lord has in store for us.”

On Facebook, Ariel posted photos related to ring recovery, as well as a message directed to Wright: "Thanks again for all of your hard work and determination! It's nice to have some miracles from a tragedy. God sent Nathan out for a reason and we couldn't be more blessed! God is good!"

Credits: Images via Facebook.com/alexis.wright.509.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Aussie Woman Wears Her Engagement Ring for 18 Months Without Realizing It

An Australian woman named Anna wore her engagement ring around her neck for 18 months without realizing it.

Anna's boyfriend, Terry, had given her a hand-carved necklace made out of Huon pine — a variety native to Tasmania — for their one-year anniversary in 2015. Little did she know that hidden in the center of the unique keepsake was a secret compartment containing a diamond engagement ring.

"I had always loved the idea of giving someone a gift where they didn’t know its true value," Terry told metro.co.uk.

Anna cherished the thoughtful gift and wore it continuously for the next year and a half.

Terry planned to propose to Anna last fall on a trip to Smoo Cave in northern Scotland. It was a place the couple dreamed of visiting since they first met, and "smoo," appropriately, is an old Norse word meaning "hiding place."

Before they got to their Scottish destination, Terry feared that his surprise might be foiled. For instance, he worried that the X-ray machine at airport security might expose the precious metal-and-diamond treasure tucked in the wooden necklace. It didn't.

Months earlier, Terry learned that a local blacksmith had admired Anna's carved necklace and that his girlfriend had contemplated trading it for some of the blacksmith's work. She didn't.

Finally at Smoo Cave, Terry convinced Anna to take off the necklace so he could photograph it against a rocky backdrop. After taking the shot, he used a knife to crack open the seal that kept the two halves of the necklace together.

With his camera focused on the couple and set on automatic, he went down on bended knee and slid the opposing halves of the necklace apart to expose the engagement ring inside.

“She stood there with this completely confused and dumbfounded look on her face," Terry told the Huffington Post. "And when she finally worked out what had just happened, she yelled, ‘Yes!’ and pounced on me.”

After she was able to collect her thoughts, Anna expressed some lighthearted objections to her fiancé's clever — but risky — ruse.

"Wait, it’s been in there the entire time?" she yelled. "I could have lost it, you... idiot!"

The couple is now saving to purchase a home, which promises to be the venue of their wedding.

Credits: Images courtesy of the couple.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Music Friday: Ed Sheeran's Grandpa Makes a Wedding Ring From Dental Gold in 2017's 'Nancy Mulligan'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you awesome songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, the sensational Ed Sheeran sings about how his struggling grandfather made a wedding ring from dental gold in his 2017 hit, "Nancy Mulligan."

The song details the wartime love story of his grandparents and how their relationship flourished despite religious differences and the objections of their families.

With the scene set during the Second World War, Sheeran recounts in his grandpa William Sheeran's voice how he fell in love with Nancy Mulligan at London's Guy's hospital. He was a struggling dentist and she was a nurse.

Sheeran sings, "On the summer day when I proposed, I made that wedding ring from dentist gold / And I asked her father but her daddy said no / You can’t marry my daughter."

"One was a Protestant from Belfast and [the other] was a Catholic from southern Ireland," Sheeran explained on the Beats 1 radio show. "They got engaged and no one turned up to the wedding."

Sheeran, 26, noted that his grandparents were so poor that they had to borrow clothes for their wedding and that the gold for his grandmother's wedding ring came from a collection of gold teeth his grandfather had collected during dental surgeries.

(Note: While gold used in jewelry is generally 14-karat or 18-karat and alloyed with copper, silver and zinc, dental gold is usually a 16-karat alloy containing palladium, silver, copper and/or tin.)

"[They] had this sort of Romeo and Juliet romance, which is like the most romantic thing. I thought I'd write a song about it and make it a jig," said Sheeran.

The couple was married for more than 60 years and had a profound impact on their grandson's life. William passed away in 2013, but Nancy remains a big fan of her internationally famous grandson.

"Nancy Mulligan" is part of the Deluxe Edition of Ed Sheeran's third studio album ÷ (pronounced Divide), and despite the fact that it wasn't officially released as a single, the song still managed to chart in 17 countries. Divide made its debut at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. On the day of its release, the tracks from Divide achieved 56.73 million streams on Spotify.

Please check out the official audio track of Sheeran’s “Nancy Mulligan,” which has been viewed 32.3 million times. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

"Nancy Mulligan"
Written by Ed Sheeran, Benjamin Levin, Johnny Mcdaid, Foy Vance, Amy Wadge and Murray Cummings. Performed by Ed Sheeran.

I was 24 years old when I met the woman I would call my own
Twenty two grand kids now growing old, in the house that your brother brought ya
On the summer day when I proposed, I made that wedding ring from dentist gold
And I asked her father but her daddy said no
You can’t marry my daughter

She and I went on the run
Don’t care about religion
I’m gonna marry the woman I love
Down by the Wexford border
She was Nancy Mulligan, and I was William Sheeran
She took my name and then we were one
Down by the Wexford border

Well I met at her Guys in the second world war
She was working on a soldier’s ward
Never had I seen such beauty before
The moment that I saw her
Nancy was my yellow rose
And we got married wearing borrowed clothes
We got eight children now growing old
Five sons and three daughters

She and I went on the run
Don’t care about religion
I’m gonna marry the woman I love
Down by the Wexford border
She was Nancy Mulligan, and I was William Sheeran
She took my name and then we were one
Down by the Wexford border

From her snow white streak in her jet black hair
Over 60 years I’ve been loving her
Now we’re sat by the fire, in our old armchairs
You know Nancy I adore ya

From a farm boy born near Belfast town
I never worried about the king and crown
Cause I found my heart upon the southern ground
There’s no difference, I assure ya

She and I went on the run
Don’t care about religion
I’m gonna marry the woman I love
Down by the Wexford border
She was Nancy Mulligan, and I was William Sheeran
She took my name and then we were one
Down by the Wexford border

Credit: Ed Sheeran image by Lunchbox LP [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Super-Dense 'Diamond' Planet Orbits a Pulsar 4,000 Light Years Away

Four thousand light years away in the constellation of Serpens, a priceless planet five times the size of our Earth races around a tiny neutron star in an orbit that takes barely 130 minutes. Comprised mainly of carbon and oxygen, the planet is so incredibly dense that astronomers believe that the carbon has taken on a crystalline structure — and that means the entire planet could consist largely of diamond.

The unnamed planet, which scientists describe as the dead core of a once-massive star, orbits a pulsar named PSR J1719-1438. Pulsars are fascinating because these tiny neutron stars spin hundreds of times per second, emitting beams of radiation that can be detected here on Earth. PSR J1719-1438 is just 12.4 miles in diameter, but has a mass that is 1.4 times as much as our Sun.

Matthew Bailes and his team at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, first reported on the likelihood of a diamond planet in 2011.

"The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon -- i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun," said Bailes.

Although the diamond planet is not visible, astronomers can detect it when monitoring the pulsar. Beams from the pulsar are emitted in regular intervals, but are altered due to the gravitational pull of the planet, which is 3,000 times larger than the pulsar.

PSR J1719-1438 and its companion diamond planet are located about one-eighth of the way toward the middle of the Milky Way, which spreads 100,000 light years in diameter.

Although Bailes' diamond planet was the first to make headlines, Yale astrophysicists in 2012 theorized that super-Earth 55 Cancri e was also a diamond planet. Located 40 light years away, the carbon-based super-planet is about two times the size of Earth, eight times more dense and has a surface temperature of 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit.

Credits: Images courtesy of Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Half-Ton Stone Embedded With 170,000 Carats of Emeralds Steals the Show in Abu Dhabi

Standing nearly four feet tall and weighing more than a half ton, the world's largest emerald-embedded stone attracted impressive crowds last week at the Abu Dhabi International Jewellery & Watch Show.

The priceless stone, which is 45 inches tall and 29 inches wide, is embedded with 130 emerald crystals weighing about 170,000 carats.

During the opening of the international exhibition, Show Director Nehmat Fadel told the Khaleej Times that the surprise of the show was the emerald-embedded stone.

"It was discovered 10 years ago in Brazil, and it's being displayed in the region for the first time," he said.

In fact, this was the first time the mammoth stone had been seen outside of Brazil.

The hexagonal emerald crystals exhibit a wide range of colors — from translucent and opaque variegated green to dark green. The largest of the crystals range from one-half inch to 9 inches in size.

The emerald crystals are embedded in a metamorphic rock called mica schist. The host rock is made up of quartz and mica.

"You got an entire mine full of emerald crystals embedded in just one piece and it's beautiful. It stands upright, is presentable and unique," noted John Martin, who represents the emerald attraction.

Martin was hard-pressed to estimate how much the emeralds could be worth, stating that the only way to properly value the precious gems would be to extract the crystals from the host and study them individually.

The spokesman said the crystal-embedded stone is symbolic of the show's host city, specifically alluding to Greek philosopher Aristotle's observation that often “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

"Abu Dhabi is a special place to unveil the stone, as it is symbolic of the emirates," Martin said. "In 1971, when all the emirates came together, it impressed the world with its unity. Similarly, each crystal will have a value, but together it's much more powerful and beautiful. So, this is a stone that makes a statement for the emirates."

Credits: Images courtesy of JWS Abu Dhabi.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Music Friday: Kelly Clarkson Describes Herself as 'A Diamond From Black Dust' in 2012's 'Dark Side'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you hit songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Kelly Clarkson reveals her vulnerable side and wonders out loud if her boyfriend can love her — despite her flaws — in her 2012 hit, "Dark Side."

In this soaring synth-pop ballad, songwriters Alexander Geringas and Michael Busbee employ a gemstone's genesis to illustrate Clarkson's true potential.

Specifically, they reference how carbon has the ability, over time, to transform into a precious diamond. Clarkson argues that even though she's not "picture perfect" and has an ominous "dark side," she is still a gem at her core.

The 2002 American Idol winner sings, "Like a diamond / From black dust / It's hard to know / It can become / If you give up / So don't give up on me."

Clarkson told New York radio station Z100 that she liked "Dark Side" because "it’s still got a beat to it. It’s a sweet-sounding song, but with a dark lyric, and I like that."

In reviewing the song, Kat George of VH1 said, "This is what we love best about Kelly — that she’s just a regular girl. Acknowledging the pitfalls of her personality, Kelly invites us all to be imperfect without letting us (or herself) be any less perfectly lovable."

"Dark Side" was released as the third single from Clarkson's Grammy-award winning album, Stronger. The song topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart and peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. Overall, it charted in 13 countries.

A year after the release of "Dark Side," Clarkson made jewelry-industry news when she was stymied in her bid to claim the 200-year-old turquoise ring once owned by famed British novelist Jane Austen. Clarkson had won the ring in 2012 at a Sotheby’s auction in London.

Clarkson’s winning bid of $235,000 was more than five times the auction house’s high estimate. But instead of allowing Clarkson to take the ring back to the U.S., British authorities unexpectedly declared the ring a “national treasure” and blocked its export. If a British patron could match Clarkson’s winning bid, the singer would have to forfeit the ring so it could stay in the U.K.

Jane Austen’s House Museum launched an aggressive fundraising appeal through its website and Facebook page. Donations from around the world flooded into the “Bring the Ring Home” campaign, generating an infusion of $253,000 — more than enough to match Clarkson’s bid.

Born in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1982, Kelly Brianne Clarkson rose to fame in 2002 after winning the inaugural season of American Idol. Since then, Clarkson has sold more than 61 million singles worldwide, making her the best-selling American Idol contestant to date.

Please check out the video of Clarkson's live performance of "Dark Side" at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Dark Side"
Written by Alexander Geringas and Michael Busbee. Performed by Kelly Clarkson.

There's a place that I know
It's not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away

Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out
Will you return?
And remind me who I really am
Please remind me who I really am

Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

Like a diamond
From black dust
It's hard to know
It can become
If you give up
So don't give up on me
Please remind me who I really am

Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

Don't run away
Don't run away
Just tell me that you will stay
Promise me you will stay
Don't run away
Don't run away
Just promise me you will stay
Promise me you will stay

Will you love me? Ohh
Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

17th Century Royal Spinel, Once Lost and Mistaken for Glass, Sells at Sotheby's for $353,800

A 17th century spinel pendant once worn by Mughal emperors — and then mistaken 90 years ago as a worthless bauble — sold at Sotheby's London last week for $353,800.

The 54.5-carat, wine-colored, uncut gem — which is inscribed in Persian script with the names of three emperors dating back to 1615 AD — oddly ended up in the possession of a British woman named Mrs. David Graham Pole in the 1920s. Pole misplaced the gem on a train trip to the north of England and somehow the gem ended up on the train tracks near Leicester, according to a published report from 1927.

The stone was scooped up by railroad employee Joseph H. Wade, who, believing the gem was worthless glass, gave it to his twin children to play with. The spinel was returned to its rightful owner two weeks later after Pole placed an ad in a local paper. The newspaper account said the gem was found "with considerable difficulty" in the corner of a room "where it had been flung by the children." The article placed the value of the gem at $25,000.

Sotheby's believes the rare gem may have been gifted to Mrs. Pole by her daughter, Dorothy, who lived with her diplomat husband in India from 1921-1929.

The irregular-shaped spinel, which is pierced through the center, hangs from a gold chain and is adorned by a tassel of seed pearls.

The spinel is inscribed with the names of Emperors Jahangir, Prince Khurram and Alamgir Aurangzeb, illustrating a common practice among Mughal emperors of marking the stones and passing them on to their descendants. Two dates are also shown — 1615 AD and 1670 AD. Sotheby's noted that spinels were mined in Badakhshan, the region between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Before the 19th century, spinels were often mistaken for rubies.

Sotheby's London had set the pre-sale estimate for the piece at £60,000 ($77,600) to £80,000 ($103,400). A private collector placed the final bid at £272,750 ($353,800), or 340% of the high estimate.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Survey: 49% of American Brides-to-Be Want Their Engagement Rings to Be a Surprise

When it comes to getting engaged, nearly half of American brides-to-be want their engagement rings to be a surprise. That was the key finding in Ebates' national Wedding Survey.

The concept of whether the selection of a "forever accessory" should be left strictly within the purview of the future groom has been debated for generations. While everyone can agree it's commendable that he wants to take the initiative to pick the ring, others may argue whether he's really best equipped to make that decision. Should she get involved by dropping a hint or two? Or, since she'll be wearing the engagement ring for the rest of her life, might the future bride prefer to pick it for herself?

Ebates, a company that rewards members with cash back when they shop online, learned that 49% of respondents want the ring to surprise them, while 28% would prefer to go shopping with their partner and provide feedback and 15% admit that they'd like to pick out a ring for themselves.

Of the group that wants to be surprised, 85% reported they would say "yes" even if they hated the ring their partner used to propose.

The idea of settling for a "hated" ring may be tied to still another interesting finding, where 72% said it’s acceptable to upgrade to a better ring later in the marriage.

Respondents weren't put off by the idea of wearing a previously owned "dream ring." Exactly 42% said they would happily wear one, even if the ring tied to the previous relationship ended in divorce.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they would expect to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on an engagement ring. The Knot’s 10th annual Real Weddings Study reported back in February that the amount spent on a engagement ring in 2016 was $6,163.

The Ebates Wedding Survey also revealed that the most popular wedding gift was money (56%), following by a gift card (46%), kitchen supplies (34%), home furnishings (27%), appliances (22%) and an experience or trip (21%). Nearly one in five (19%) admitted that they were OK with re-gifting something as a wedding gift.

The national survey reflects the opinions of 1,008 adults and was conducted online by Propeller Insights.

Credit: Image via BigStockPhoto.com.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Music Friday: Gladys Knight Laments, 'You're Like a Diamond But She Treats You Like Glass' in 1970's 'If I Were Your Woman'

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you great throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, Gladys Knight & the Pips tell a story of unrequited love in their 1970 hit single, "If I Were Your Woman."

In the song, the protagonist is a young woman whose love interest won't give her the time of day. His attention is focused on a rival, despite the fact that she treats him so poorly. Songwriters Gloria Jones, Pamela Joan Sawyer and Clay McMurray use a diamond vs. glass comparison to describe how the two women feel toward the same man.

Knight sings, "She tears you down darlin', says you're nothing at all / But, I'll pick you up darling, when she lets you fall / You're like a diamond but she treats you like glass / Yet you beg her to love you, but, me you don't ask."

According to music trivia websites Songfacts.com and Allmusic.com, the song came together while Jones and Sawyer were having a lunchtime discussion about women's issues, including the Women's Liberation Movement, which was still in its infancy. They were looking to compose a piece about how women could be committed in their relationships while remaining strong and independent.

"If I Were Your Woman" appears as the first track from Gladys Knight & the Pips' album of the same name. The single zoomed all the way to #1 on the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles chart and peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

The song has been covered by a number of top artists, including Stephanie Mills (1988) and Alicia Keys (2006). The Keys version received a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 2006 Grammy Awards.

Established in Atlanta as The Pips in 1952, the group led by founding member Gladys Knight topped the music charts for more than three decades. Gladys Knight & the Pips are multiple Grammy and American Music Award winners and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. The group disbanded in 1989, but Knight went on to a successful solo career. Also known as The Empress of Soul, Knight continues to tour at the age of 72.

Please check out the audio track of Gladys Knight & the Pips' original version of "If I Were Your Woman." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"If I Were Your Woman"
Written by Gloria Jones, Pamela Joan Sawyer and Clay McMurray. Performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

If I were your woman and you were my man,
you'd have no other woman, you'd be weak as a lamb.
If you had the strength to walk out that door,
My love would over rule my sense, and I'd call you back for more,
If I were your woman.
If I were your woman, and you were my man. Um baby.

She tears you down darlin', says you're nothing at all.
But, I'll pick you up darling, when she lets you fall.
You're like a diamond but she treats you like glass.
Yet you beg her to love you, but, me you don't ask.
If I were your woman, If I were your woman.
If I were your woman, here's what I'd do,
I'd never, no, no, stop loving you.
Yeah, yeah, um

Life is so crazy, a love is unkind.
Because she came first, darling, will she hang on your mind?
You're a part of me, and you don't even know it.
I'm what you need, but I'm too afraid to show it.
If I were your woman, If I were your woman,
If I were your woman, here's what I'd do.
Never, no, no, no, stop loving you, ah, yeah.
If I were your woman, here's what I'd do.
Never, never stop loving you if

Credit: Photo by Rob Mieremet (ANEFO) (GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mother's Day Jewelry Gift-Giving Expected to Set New Record at $5 Billion, Reports NRF

Shoppers will be showering their moms with $5 billion in jewelry gifts on Sunday, May 14, setting a new Mother's Day record for that category. That tally represents an increase of 19% compared with the $4.2 billion spent in 2016.

Mother's Day gifts across all categories will total a record $23.6 billion, outpacing 2016’s performance by $2.2 billion, or 10.2%, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The NRF noted that the overall increase will be driven largely by the jewelry and personal services categories.

Jewelry is, by far, the strongest of all gift categories, topping the list that includes the $4.2 billion earmarked for special outings, such as a dinner or brunch, $2.6 billion for flowers, $2.5 billion for gift cards, $2.1 billion for clothing, $2.1 billion for consumer electronics and $1.9 billion for personal services, such as a spa day.

The NRF's survey predicts that more than one in three (35.5%) Mother's Day shoppers will be buying a jewelry item this year.

“With spring in full bloom, many Americans are looking forward to splurging on their mothers this Mother’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers will be ready with a wide range of gift options and a variety of promotions for their customers."

Eighty-five percent of consumers will be giving a Mother's Day gift in 2017, and their average budget will be $186.39, up 8.2% compared to the $172.22 recorded in 2016. Exactly 20.7% reported that they will be spending more this Mother's Day, while 7.9% said they'd be spending less and 56.4% expected to spend the same amount as last year.

The survey, which asked 7,406 consumers about their Mother’s Day plans, was conducted April 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Credit: Image via Bigstockphoto.com. Charts via National Retail Federation.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Legendary Stotesbury Emerald Headlines a Cavalcade of Magnificent Jewels at Sotheby's Tomorrow

The 34.40-carat Stotesbury Emerald, a six-sided gem with a famed history that spans more than 100 years, headlines a cavalcade of magnificent jewels at Sotheby's New York on Tuesday.

The Colombian-mined emerald was previously in the collections of three high-profile American jewelry collectors: Evalyn Walsh McLean (1908), Eva Stotesbury (1926) and May Bonfils Stanton (1947).

The Stotesbury Emerald was last seen in the public in 1971. At the time, it had been set into a platinum ring by Harry Winston and was being offered for sale at auction. Tomorrow, Sotheby's will be showing the ring in that same Harry Winston setting — a unique design that buttresses the emerald with two rows of pear-shaped diamonds. The estimated selling price is $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The lot with the highest estimated selling price is a pair of platinum earrings featuring D-flawless square emerald-cut diamonds, each weighing slightly more than 20 carats. Estimated to sell for $4.5 million to $5.5 million, the earrings are topped by two smaller square emerald-cut diamonds weighing 1.01 carats each.

Another notable piece is a platinum ring set with an extraordinarily rare 1.64-carat fancy vivid green diamond flanked by two cut-cornered triangle-shaped white diamonds. While fancy-color diamonds are seen in a wide range of hues, red and green are the rarest of all. Green diamonds get their color when radiation displaces carbon atoms from their normal positions in the crystal structure. This can happen naturally when diamond deposits lie near radioactive rocks, according to the Gemological Institute of America. Sotheby's expects the ring to sell in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million.

A sapphire-and-diamond brooch dating back to the 1930s is expected to get a lot of attention at Sotheby's sale due to its unique pedigree. The Art Deco piece by Cartier was formerly in the collection of Mrs. John E. Rovensky, who had been previously married to railroad tycoon Morton F. Plant.

Plant famously traded his corner lot on Fifth Avenue for two strands of Cartier natural pearls in 1917. The pearls were said to be valued at $1 million. That location at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street remains the New York headquarters for the jeweler. The brooch, which is set with two emerald-cut sapphires weighing approximately 10.40 and 7.75 carats, has a floral motif interpreted in round, baguette, old European-cut, pear and marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 13.95 carats. The piece is expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Music Friday: In His Signature 'Stable Song,' Gregory Alan Isakov 'Turns These Diamonds Into Coal'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. In his signature "Stable Song," singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov uses gemstone and precious-metal metaphors to describe an artist who struggles to find his muse and ultimately returns to his roots.

He sings, "Ring like crazy, ring like hell / Turn me back into that wild haired gale / Ring like silver, ring like gold / Turn these diamonds straight back into coal / Turn these diamonds straight back into coal."

In the YouTube clip below, Isakov introduces the song by telling a live audience that "The Stable Song" is a poem "about everything."

In our interpretation, the artist seems to be unable to deal with the stress that comes with success. He's under tremendous pressure to compose something perfect (diamond) and, instead, decides to return home where he can get back to basics (coal) and recapture the energy of his youth.

Written by Isakov, "The Stable Song" was the second track of his 2007 debut album, That Sea, The Gambler. The song also returned as the fourth track of the artist's 2016 collaboration with the Colorado Symphony.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Philadelphia and now calling Colorado home, the 37-year-old Isakov has been traveling most of his life. His songs tell the story of his time on the road and his constant yearning for a sense of place. Music critics have described him as “strong, subtle, a lyrical genius.”

Isakov is currently on a 16-city tour with stops in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana and Wyoming.

Please check out the video of his 2012 live performance at The Bing Lounge in Portland, Ore. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"The Stable Song"
Written and performed by Gregory Alan Isakov.

Remember when our songs were just like prayer
Like gospel hymns that you called in the air
Come down, come down sweet reverence
Unto my simple house and ring... and ring

Ring like silver, ring like gold
Ring out those ghosts on the Ohio
Ring like clear day wedding bells
Were we the belly of the beast, or the sword that fell?
We'll never tell

Come to me, clear and cold
On some sea
Watch the world spinning waves
Like that machine

Now I've been crazy, couldn't you tell?
I threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell
Now I'm covered up in straw, belly up on the table
Well I drank and sang, and I passed in the stable

That tall grass grows high and brown
Well I dragged you straight in the muddy ground
And you sent me back to where I roam
Well I cursed and I cried, but now I know
Now I know

And I ran back to that hollow again
The moon was just a sliver back then
And I ached for my heart like some tin man
When it came, oh it beat and it boiled and it rang
Oh, it's ringing

Ring like crazy, ring like hell
Turn me back into that wild haired gale
Ring like silver, ring like gold
Turn these diamonds straight back into coal
Turn these diamonds straight back into coal

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/KINK Radio.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

11 Million Views: Video Pokes Fun at Millennials in an Era of Engagement Ring Selfies and Viral Proposals

Comedian Jon Crist's video spoofing millennials' obsession with social media in an era of engagement ring selfies and viral proposals has earned more than 11 million views on Facebook.

In the 3-minute-long vignette, Crist co-stars as a young suitor who takes his girlfriend (played by Megan Batoon) to a scenic overlook, where he's about to surprise her with a marriage proposal.

Stopping along a dirt path, he gets down on one knee, pulls a ring box from his pocket and asks, "Madison Marie, will you marry me?"

But before she answers, the girlfriend looks around curiously.

“Wait, you hired a photographer, right?” she asks. He points to where the photographer is hiding.

"I'm sorry," she tells the photographer. "Do you mind actually coming a little bit closer?"

Her concern is that the proposal video shot from a distance was not "going to share that well" on social media.

What follows is a series of quick cuts that focus on his girlfriend's desire to control the "production value" of the video with the end goal of earning tons of likes on social media.

Each scene becomes more and more extreme. First, the girlfriend makes sure she's facing the camera and that the lighting is just right. Then, she insists the photographer shoots them so the skyline is in the background. She even obsesses about how she doesn't like her middle name, how much she is sweating and the amount of cloud cover in the sky.

The mild-mannered boyfriend repeats his proposal from every angle, enduring 43 takes. But, in the end, it's all worth it because the girlfriend is delighted.

"Babe, it's so beautiful," she says looking down at what is presumably her new engagement ring. But then the viewer notices that she's actually viewing her phone.

"Look at all these likes!"

Please check out Crist's proposal video, which he captioned this way: “What’s the point of getting engaged if you don’t post it on Instagram?”

Credits: Image captures via YouTube.com.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chicago Cubs' World Series Rings Commemorate Team's First Championship in 108 Years

You can say that the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series rings were 108 years in the making. That's because the last time the Cubs won baseball's Fall Classic — in 1908 — the average wage was 22 cents per hour, 8% of homes had a telephone and the White House was occupied by President Theodore Roosevelt. Fittingly, ring manufacturer Jostens loaded the 14-karat white gold bling with a slew of symbolic elements, including 108 diamonds surrounding the bezel on all sides.

Overall, the rings boast 5.5 carats of diamonds, 3 carats of genuine Burmese rubies and 2.5 carats of genuine sapphires in a handsome red, white and blue design.

The face of the ring features the familiar Cubs' bullseye logo masterfully rendered in 33 custom-cut rubies set in a ground of 72 round white diamonds and surrounded by a circular frame made from 46 custom-cut blue sapphires.

The words WORLD and CHAMPIONS in raised white gold letters against a black ground wrap the top and bottom edges of the ring.

The Cubs have a tradition of flying a victory flag at Wrigley Field every time the team wins. That symbol, carved from fire blue corundum and surrounded by 31 white diamonds, sits below the player's name and above the player's number on one side of the ring. The iconic Wrigley Field bricks and ivy complete the background.

On the ring's opposite side is a silhouette of the Wrigley Field façade, the championship year and a marquee displaying the message "CUBS WIN!" Also shown is a silhouette of the World Series trophy with a large round white diamond set in the center signifying the 2016 World Series victory. On each side of the trophy is a princess-cut diamond representing the team's two previous World Series titles — in 1907 and 1908.

In raised white gold letters on the bottom of the outer band is the team's 2016 rallying cry, "WE NEVER QUIT.”

Hidden on the inside of the bottom of the band is the symbol of a goat's head, which is a nod to the "Curse of the Billy Goat." Cubs legend states that the curse was placed on the franchise by William Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, in 1945. Sianis had attended a World Series game at Wrigley Field with his pet goat and fans complained of the odor. When Sianis was asked to leave, he allegedly declared, "Them Cubs, the ain't gonna win no more." The "curse" lasted for 71 years.

The inside of the band also displays the date and time of the championship – 11/3/16 • 12:47 AM EST – and the series scores and logos of the three teams the Cubs defeated on their way to the World Series victory. The Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games after coming back from a 3-1 deficit. The final game went into extra innings, but the Cubs prevailed 8-7.

"We felt that we had a responsibility, not only to the Cubs organization, but to Cubs fans around the world, to create a once-in-a-lifetime ring," said Chris Poitras, Jostens Division Vice President, College & Sports. "This iconic piece of jewelry uses intricate craftsmanship to tell the unforgettable story of the Cubs' World Series victory, which now takes its prominent place in the history of all professional sports."

Credits: Images courtesy of Jostens.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Music Friday: Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis Sings, 'I Was Your Silver Lining, But Now I'm Gold'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis sings about having the courage to pull the plug on a failing relationship in the 2007 release, "Silver Lining."

Penned by Lewis, the song explores the moment when our heroine breaks up with her boyfriend because she knows that — in the long run — she'll be better off without him.

She sings, "I never felt so wicked / As when I willed our love to die / and I was your silver lining as the story goes / I was your silver lining but now I'm gold."

The phrase "now I'm gold" refers to Lewis having the confidence to finally set out on her own. She is no longer defined as her boyfriend's silver lining — the glimmer of hope in his bad situation.

In the song's official video, Lewis and fellow bandmate Blake Sennett are seen exchanging vows in a church. But then, Lewis hands Sennett a gold coin and leaves him at the altar. Both child actors, Lewis and Sennett dated in real life until 2002.

"Silver Lining" is the first track on the indie rock band's fourth and final full-length album, Under the Blacklight. In retrospect, some critics believe that the song foreshadowed the band's breakup, which would take place four years later.

Both the single and the album achieved critical acclaim. Rolling Stone magazine tabbed Under the Blacklight as the 8th best album of 2007, and picked "Silver Lining" as the 27th best song that same year.

Founded in Los Angeles in 1998, Rilo Kiley was named for a mythical Australian rules football player that came to Sennett in a dream. According to a 2005 interview with syndicated radio show Loveline, Sennett dreamed he was being chased by a sports almanac. "When it got me, I leafed through it... and I came upon an Australian rules football player from the 19th century named Rilo Kiley. It's kind of embarrassing," Sennett admitted.

Please check out the official video of Rilo Kiley performing "Silver Lining." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Silver Lining"
Written by Jenny Lewis. Performed by Rilo Kiley.

And I'm not going back into rags or in the hole
And our bruises are coming
But we will never fold

and I was your silver lining
As the story goes
I was your silver lining but now I'm gold
Hooray hooray I'm your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I'm gold.

And I was your silver lining
High up on my toys
Well you were running through fields of hitchhikers
As the story goes

hooray hooray I'm your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I'm gold
Hooray hooray I'm your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I'm gold

And the grass it was a ticking
And the sun was on the rise
I never felt so wicked
As when I willed our love to die

and I was your silver lining as the story goes
I was your silver lining but now I'm gold
Hooray hooray I'm your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I'm gold
Hooray hooray I'm your silver lining
Hooray hooray but now I'm gold
But now I'm gold
But now I'm gold
But now I'm gold

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

'Apollo' and 'Artemis' Diamond Earrings Could Fetch $68 Million at Sotheby's Geneva

Named after two of the most revered and powerful Olympian deities, Apollo and Artemis, this exquisite pair of diamond earrings — one blue, one pink — could fetch upwards of $68 million at Sotheby's Geneva on May 16.

Although Sotheby's is promoting the pear-shaped diamond earrings as a pair, they will be sold as individual lots. "The Apollo Blue" is a fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 14.54 carats, while "The Artemis Pink" is rated fancy intense pink and weighs 16.00 carats. The Apollo Blue carries a pre-sale estimate of $38 million to $50 million. His twin sister, Artemis, is expected to fetch between $12.5 million and $18 million.

“The Apollo and Artemis diamonds will be the stars of our May sale in Geneva — by far the most important pair of earrings ever offered at auction,” noted David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. “These exquisite colored diamonds are enormously rare and each is a wonderful stone in its own right. Together, as a pair of earrings, they are breathtaking.”

According to Sotheby's, The Apollo Blue is the largest internally flawless fancy vivid blue diamond ever to be offered at auction. The Gemological Institute of America graded it as a Type IIb diamond, a purity rating earned by less than one-half of 1% of all diamonds. The Apollo Blue could be compared favorably to the famous "Oppenheimer Blue," which set a record last year when it yielded $57.5 million at Christie's Geneva. That stone weighed 14.62 carats and had a clarity grade of VVS1.

The Artemis Pink, earned a Type IIa rating from GIA, another category describing the most chemically pure type of diamonds. The pink diamond has a clarity grade of VVS2. Both diamonds boast exceptional optical transparency.

In Greek mythology, the twins Apollo and Artemis were the offspring of Zeus and Leto. Apollo was known as the god of the sun, archery and prophecy. Artemis was revered as the goddess of the moon, chastity, the hunt and the natural environment.

Apollo and Artemis are headlining a five-week promotional tour in the lead-up to the May 16 auction. The tour started in London on Friday and will continue to Dubai, New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Geneva.

Blue diamonds owe their color to traces of boron in the diamond’s chemical structure. Pink diamonds, on the other hand, owe their color to the effects of intense pressure and heat while they were still deep within the earth. These factors caused distortions in the diamond’s crystal lattice that influence the way the diamond absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

Credit: Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Last Day to See Dorothy's Ruby Slippers Is April 23; Conservation Care to Take One Year

In less than two weeks, the iconic Ruby Slippers made famous by Judy Garland in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, will be pulled from the wildly popular “American Stories” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The 78-year-old slippers — which have been slowly deteriorating — will undergo immediate conservation care, thanks to the generosity of 6,451 backers who contributed nearly $350,000 in an October 2016 Kickstarter campaign. The funds are also earmarked for a state-of-the-art display case designed to protect the slippers from environmental harm.

The current damage has been attributed to the slippers' exposure to light, humidity, oxygen and temperature fluctuations. The Smithsonian noted that their work will include determining the physical state of the slippers through scientific research and testing. This will help curators define the best methods for preservation and treatment, as well as the optimal case and exhibition design.

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers are often called “the most famous pair of shoes in the world," but the last day to see the slippers in their current state will be April 23. In about a year, the slippers will return as part of a new exhibition focusing on American popular culture.

The slippers were donated anonymously to the Smithsonian in 1979 and have been on display for nearly three decades.

In the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s slippers were made of silver. According to film lore, screenwriter Noel Langley recommended that they be changed to ruby red so they would stand out better on the yellow brick road when shot in brilliant Technicolor.

MGM’s chief costume designer Gilbert Adrian created multiple pairs of Ruby Slippers for the film, but only four pairs are known to still exist. The Smithsonian’s pair is the one Dorothy wore when she followed the Yellow Brick Road. The felt soles are heavily worn, suggesting they were the 16-year-old Garland's primary pair for the dance sequences.

A second pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005; a third pair was purchased in 2012 by Leonardo DiCaprio and other benefactors on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and a fourth pair is owned by a private collector in Los Angeles.

Interestingly, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers are not made of ruby at all. In fact, the bugle beads that prop designers used to simulate ruby proved to be too heavy. The solution was to replace most of the bugle beads with sequins, 2,300 on each slipper. The butterfly-shaped bow on the front of each shoe features red bugle beads outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings.

Admission to the National Museum of American History is free. It is located in Washington, D.C., on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Credits: Images via Smithsonian, Kickstarter.com.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Music Friday: 'Golden Ring' Reflects the Turbulent Real-Life Romance of George Jones and Tammy Wynette

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you great songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, a modest second-hand wedding band is the focus of "Golden Ring," a chart-topping duet by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

In the song, we follow a golden band through a cycle of young love, marriage and eventual heartbreak. Jones and Wynette were a married couple for six years, but divorced in 1975. They continued to perform after the breakup and scored a #1 hit in 1976 with a song that seemed to mirror the story of their tumultuous relationship.

The beginning of the song introduces the listener to a glittering ring that symbolizes all the promise of a young love. The second verse sees the couple exchanging vows and making a home for themselves. In the last verse, however, the relationship has gone sour and the ring reverts to the display case in a second-hand store where it was originally purchased.

The chorus punctuates the prevailing theme: "By itself it's just a cold metallic thing / Only love can make a golden wedding ring."

Written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Vanhoy, "Golden Ring" was the title track to the Jones/Wynette duet album released in 1976 and the second of three #1 hits sung by the duo. The first was "We're Gonna Hold On" (1973) and the last was "Near You" (1977).

Even though their marriage didn't end well, in her autobiography, Wynette wrote, "The most fun, the most wonderful part of my career was working with George."

Born in a log cabin in the small town of Saratoga, Texas, Jones got his first guitar at the age of nine. By 1955, at the age of 24, Jones had already served in the Marines, was married twice and recorded his first hit song, “Why Baby Why.” In 1969, he married Wynette.

Over a career that spanned seven decades, Jones is credited with charting 168 country songs. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Jones passed away in 2013 at the age of 81.

Wynette, who was born in Tremont, Miss., in 1942, is considered to be one of the most influential singers in country music history. She scored 20 #1 hits on the U.S. country singles charts (16 solo, three with Jones, and one with David Houston). She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was ranked #2 in Country Music Television's "40 Greatest Women of Country Music."

Plagued by medical problems, which required 15 major operations, Wynette passed away in 1998 at the age of 55.

Please check out the performance of "Golden Ring" by Jones and Wynette. The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Golden Ring"
Written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy. Performed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the wedding rings
There on display

She smiles n' nods her head
As he says, "Honey that's for you,
It's not much, but it's the best
That I can do."

Golden rings (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Waiting there (waiting there) for someone to take you home
By itself (by itself) it's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a little wedding chapel later on that afternoon
An old upright piano plays that old familiar tune
Tears roll down her cheeks
And happy thoughts run through her head
As he whispers low, "With this ring, I thee wed."

Golden ring (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Shining ring (shining ring) now at last it's found a home
By itself (by itself) it's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

Ooo-ooo
In a small two room apartment
As they fought their final round
He says, "You won't admit it,
But I know you're leavin' town."

She says, "One thing's for certain,
I don't love you any more."
And throws down the ring
As she walks out the door

Golden ring (golden ring) with one tiny little stone
Cast aside (cast aside) like the love that's dead and gone
By itself (by itself) it's just a cold metallic thing
Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a pawn shop in Chicago
On a sunny summer day
A couple gazes at the wedding rings
There on display,
Golden ring.

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

A Star Is Born: Pink Diamond Sells for $71.2M, Shattering the Auction Record for Any Gemstone

A star was born Tuesday when a 59.6-carat, flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond shattered the world record for the highest price ever paid for any gem at auction. The Pink Star's hammer price of $71.2 million at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale in Hong Kong easily surpassed the $57.5 million achieved in May of 2016 by the previous record-holder, the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue diamond.

The Pink Star was hardly a stranger to Sotheby's auction block. Back in November 2013, the extraordinary diamond made headlines around the world as it fetched an astounding $83 million in Geneva. All the fanfare turned sour a few months later when the buyer defaulted on the payment. Sotheby's paid the guaranteed minimum of $60 million and took ownership of the gem. In 2016, the auction house revealed that two firms — Diacore and Mellen Inc. — had purchased an interest in the Pink Star, with the third partner being Sotheby’s.

The newest owner of the Pink Star is Hong Kong-based luxury jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook, which outbid two other contenders in an intense, five-minute contest. Chow Tai Fook operates more than 2,000 jewelry and watch stores throughout China. In 2016, the company purchased the Aurora Green diamond for $16.8 million at Christie's Hong Kong.

Diacore (formerly Steinmetz Diamond Group) was responsible for taking the original 132.5-carat rough diamond and fashioning it into an oval mixed-cut masterpiece — a process that would take two years. The gem had been unearthed by De Beers in Botswana in 1999. The gem was unveiled to the public as the Steinmetz Pink in 2003. It was sold four years later to an undisclosed buyer.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate had been set at $60 million, a sum that still would have earned the world record. The final sale price exceeded the estimate by nearly 19%.

It is believed that pink diamonds owe their color to the effects of intense pressure and heat while they were still deep within the earth. These factors caused distortions in the diamond’s crystal lattice that influence the way the gem absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.