Music Friday: Ray Stevens Launched His 60-Year Career With a Song About a ‘Silver Bracelet’

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you golden oldies with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we climb into our Wayback Machine and transport ourselves 60 years into the past, where a 17-year-old Ray Stevens has just signed a deal with Capitol Records’ subsidiary, Prep Records.

For his first single, the teenager releases “Silver Bracelet,” which tells the story of a simple, yet significant, piece of jewelry that symbolizes his devotion to his new girlfriend. Penned by Stevens, the song is an adorable look at love from the young man’s point of view.

He sings, “A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / This simple token I do give / A silver bracelet / My silver bracelet / To show my love will ever live.”

He goes on to describe how he had his girlfriend’s name engraved on the front and his on the back: “Turn it over there is mine / Forever let it shine.”

Stevens wrote about the origin of “Silver Bracelet” on his official website. His family had moved to Atlanta in 1956, and while still in high school, Stevens (then Ray Ragsdale) got his first big break when he met radio personality and Georgia Tech football broadcaster, Bill Lowery.

“He was looking for talent to write songs,” he wrote. “I went out to his house and I said, ‘My name is Ray Ragsdale and I’m going to learn to write songs for you.’ He said, ‘Okay lad, go to it.’”

Stevens continued, “I borrowed a little tape recorder from a friend. I got the key to the lunch room, which also served as the assembly hall, from the principal. The room had a very high ceiling and a piano on a little stage. I went there one Sunday by myself and made a demo of a song that I and a friend had written called, ‘Silver Bracelet.’ I took it to Bill and he liked it. He called Ken Nelson at Capitol Records, who was coming to Nashville a lot during those days to produce records. Ken liked the song and signed me to a contract with Prep Records.”

The success of “Silver Bracelet” helped launch a stellar career that has seen the artist release more than 40 studio albums and 93 singles. His two most popular tunes were “The Streak” (1974), a novelty song about streaking, and “Everything Is Beautiful,” a 1971 Grammy winner for Song of the Year.

Born in Clarksdale, Ga., in 1939, Stevens started piano lessons at the age of six. His mom insisted he practice at least an hour each day. At 15, he sang and played piano in a band, the Barons, and they performed all over the area for the American Legion, the Elks and private parties.

Please check out this rare audio track of “Silver Bracelet.” The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along…

“Silver Bracelet”
Written and performed by Ray Stevens.

A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

I had your name engraved on the front
In letters of my heart’s design
Turn it over there is mine
Forever let it shine

Wear my bracelet, please wear my bracelet
Wear it proudly on your arm
So everyone can see
Your heart belongs to me

Whoa, don’t ever lose my silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
This simple token I do give
A silver bracelet
My silver bracelet
To show my love will ever live

Cherish this token
Though small it may be
May it always remind you of me
Let no other take my place
Let none my name erase

This tiny trinket is such a small part
Of the love I hold in my heart
Won’t you say you love me too
No one else will ever do
Whoa, don’t ever lose my bracelet
Silver bracelet

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

220-Pound ‘Big Maple Leaf’ Gold Coin Goes Missing at Berlin Museum; Did They Check the Sofa?

Brawny, brazen thieves broke into Berlin’s Bode Museum just after 3 a.m. on Monday and bolted with the “Big Maple Leaf,” a Canadian-minted coin weighing 220 pounds and worth $4.4 million.

Measuring 20.8 inches in diameter, the coin was unveiled in 2007 as the world’s largest. While the original remained in a high-security vault in Ottawa, five others were minted and sold to private interests. The Bode Museum had acquired its version of the Big Maple Leaf in 2010 and put it on display in a bulletproof glass box.

The obverse depicts the image of Queen Elizabeth II and the reverse features the image of Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf.

German police reported that the thieves used a ladder to enter the museum through a second-floor window in the back of the building, which lies along railroad tracks. Their target was on the first floor, so after smashing the case they had to manhandle the massive coin across the museum, up one flight of stairs and then out the second-floor window.

It’s not clear whether the thieves climbed down with the coin or tossed it from the window. Authorities also believe the robbers used a wheelbarrow to transport the coin to the getaway vehicle. Authorities did not reveal whether any alarms were set off or if they have security video of the crime taking place.

The museum houses one of the most important numismatic collections in the world, totaling about 500,000 items, but no other coins or artifacts were touched during the robbery.

Big Maple Leaf was minted from .99999 fine gold and has a face value of 1 million Canadian dollars ($747,000). The actual worth is much higher based on today’s gold price. The 100 kg of gold is equivalent to 220 pounds or 3,527 ounces. At $1,252 per ounce, the commodity value of the gold alone is $4.4 million.

An ex-Mountie told the Toronto Star that the massive one-inch-thick coin may already have been melted down.

Despite the seriousness of the crime, The Mississauga News couldn’t resist delivering this clever quip on its Twitter page: “Good luck finding a vending machine that will take that sucker.”

Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.

Swiss Lab Reveals ‘Game-Changing’ Nanotechnology That Can Trace the Origin of Emeralds

In what has been labeled as a “true game-changer” for the colored-gemstone market, a Switzerland-based laboratory is using DNA-based nanoparticles to mark emeralds with an invisible imprint that will provide proof of their origin anywhere along the supply chain.

The particles, which are smaller than 100 nanometers in size, will be applied to rough emerald crystals at mining sites. The particles are so small that they can only be seen with an electron microscope. A human hair, by comparison, is 100,000 nanometers wide.

Gübelin Gem Lab explained that the particles will remain intact throughout the cleaning, cutting, polishing and setting processes. What’s more, they will have no effect on the appearance or properties of the gemstones. For now, Gübelin will be focusing on emeralds because the particles are able to adhere to the natural fissures unique to the gemstone.

“This technology offers all stakeholders along the entire supply chain, from the miner to the final customers, proof of the exact source of emeralds, instilling confidence and creating trust,” said Daniel Nyfeler, Gübelin’s managing director. “It enables a new level of transparency for the gemstone trade.”

Gübelin is calling its ground-breaking traceable technology the “Emerald Paternity Test” due to the fact that each mine will have a unique DNA tag.

Partnering with Gübelin to test the nanotechnology is Gemfields, the London-based majority owner of Kagem, the world’s largest emerald mine in Zambia.

“Embracing innovation, technology and increased transparency is at the heart of our approach,” noted Ian Harebottle, chief executive officer of Gemfields. “We were therefore thrilled to assist Gübelin in the testing of this new technology, and we are very excited about the outcome as it offers a multitude of benefits to the industry and the consumer.”

Credit: Photo by Parent Géry (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

NYC Sanitation Workers Help Couple Find Platinum Rings in an 800-Bag Mountain of Trash

With the assistance of New York City sanitation workers, a desperate couple waded through 800 disgusting trash bags to find two “priceless” platinum rings that had been accidentally thrown away.

“I felt really helpless,” NYC apartment dweller Shannon Lombardo told WABC-TV. “It wasn’t so much about the [value] of the rings. It was what they represented.”

How the custom, vintage-style rings ended up in the trash is not an unusual story.

Lombardo, a mother of two, had cleaned the rings and left them to dry on a paper towel. One distraction later and they were on their way to city landfill.

“I think I got distracted with the kids,” she said. “I think I just crumpled it up, and I didn’t feel the weight of [the rings] and I threw them out.”

When she realized her rings were missing — and probably in the trash — she immediately called 311, which is the city’s non-emergency hotline.

A dispatcher connected Lombardo with the New York City Sanitation Department, which agreed to hold off the pickup at her Upper West Side apartment building until she could check the dumpster for her bags. When that effort proved fruitless, her next step was to visit a trash depot in nearby Fairway, N.J. — the last stop before the New York City waste is transported to landfills.

Decked out in protective gear and assisted by two sanitation workers, Lombardo and her husband of nearly nine years, James, immersed themselves in a yucky, smelly, unimaginably nasty mountain of trash bags. The bags had been dumped by the sanitation truck associated with serving their address.

James’ strategy was to slit open random bags, looking for anything with an address on it. Within a half hour, he had found an address that matched his building.

With the search field narrowed, the couple soon found their trash bag. Nestled in a paper towel were Shannon’s engagement ring and wedding band.

“Sure enough, there it was,” Shannon told the New York Daily News. “I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that it really happened… Everyone was excited. I don’t know who was more excited.”

The recovered rings have taken on a new meaning in the lives of Shannon and James. They symbolize love overcoming seemingly unsurmountable circumstances. They also represent the generosity and kindness of strangers.

“It’s pretty incredible what these guys do, not only the jobs they do on a daily basis, but the fact that they went above and beyond,” Shannon told WABC-TV. “It’s very humbling and I’m so grateful that the city has this department.”

Added James, “We live in the greatest city in the world. It’s truly amazing.”

Sekou Callender, a sanitation worker who assisted in the search, offered the couple a little romantic advice: “I said that it’s a great time for them to renew their vows.”

Credits: Screen captures via abcnews.go.com. Photos via the New York Department of Sanitation.

Australia Post Set to Release Eye-Catching Series of Gem Stamps

On Thursday, Australia Post will release a dazzling collection of colorful stamps illustrated with native gemstones — the golden sapphire, pink diamond, rhodonite and fluorite. The stamp issue is titled “The Rare Beauties: Extraordinary Gemstones.”

What all four gems have in common is that they are housed in the mineral collection of the Australian Museum in Sydney.

“Australian gemstones are admired and valued worldwide,” noted Australia Post Philatelic Manager Michael Zsolt. “We trust these beautiful and striking stamp designs will appeal to everyone, especially collectors and gemstone enthusiasts.”

Australia Post clarified that two of the gemstones — the golden sapphire and the pink diamond — represent stones that are cut and polished to be used in precious jewelry, while the rhodonite and fluorite are valued more often as “collector stones.”

The 7-carat golden sapphire shown on the $1 stamp has been in the Australian Museum collection since 1984. The original rough stone was mined near Anakie, Queensland.

“The color is intense and the stone is quite large,” gem specialist Gayle Sutherland said in an interview with Australia Post Collectables. “It’s a stunning stone. The cut has emphasized the depth of color, while ensuring the stone is lively and brilliant. This stone comes from an area in central Queensland that is renowned for its fine golden sapphires.”

One of the two $2 stamps honors Australia’s role as the world’s most prolific supplier of pink diamonds. The material comes primarily from the Argyle Mine in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. 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 diamond absorbs green light, thus reflecting a pink hue.

The rhodonite shown on the $1 stamp became part of the Australian Museum collection in 2002. Weighing more than two carats, the material from which it was cut came from Broken Hill, New South Wales.

“The rhodonite is remarkable for its rich red color combined with transparency,” said Sutherland, who co-wrote a prestige booklet as part of the stamp issue. “Rhodonite is commonly a pink, opaque material suitable for carving. This stone is from… one of the few places in the world where rhodonite of such quality has been found. This material is now only available from old collections.”

Australia Post noted that the fluorite on the $2 stamp is a perfectly faceted stone weighing 147 carats. It was cut in 2001 from a rough gem that has been part of the Australian Museum collection since 1918. The material originated at Rumbsy’s Mine in New England, New South Wales.

“The fluorite is a gemstone for collectors,” added Sutherland. “Its beauty is fragile, and this stone needs particular care whenever handled and displayed.”

The release of the gemstone stamps is perfectly timed to coincide with the dates of the Melbourne 2017 International Stamp Exhibition, which is scheduled to run from March 30 to April 2.

The four stamps were designed by Gary Domoney of Visua, a Melbourne-based visual communication and brand strategy agency.

Credits: Images courtesy of Australia Post.

Music Friday: Cher Is Wearing Sonny’s Ring in 1965’s #1 Hit, ‘I Got You Babe’

Welcome to Music Friday when we often bring you throwback songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we zoom back to the summer of 1965 — a time of hippies, bell bottoms, flower power and a chart-topping duo named Sonny & Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”

In this love song about a young couple willing to challenge societal norms, Cher famously tells Sonny, “So let them say your hair’s too long / ‘Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong.” In the jewelry reference, Sonny sings, “I got flowers in the spring. I got you to wear my ring.”

Written by Sonny Bono, “I Got You Babe” was the duo’s biggest single and signature song. It ascended to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and charted in 18 countries, including Singapore, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.

Sonny revealed in a 1966 interview that the song was inspired by first-hand experiences.

“I know what it is like to be kicked around because you dress differently,” Sonny told Musical Express. “I know what it is like to see the girl you love hurt because a hotel refuses you admission because of your dress. I know what it is like to have that one person stand by you. There are a lot of other people who have experienced these things and I’m trying to put our feelings into words for everyone.”

Despite being named one of the greatest duets of all times by both Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines, “I Got You Babe” was nearly thrown on the scrap heap.

Apparently, Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atco Records, didn’t really care for the song, and was planning to relegate it to the “B” side of Sonny & Cher’s single, “It’s Gonna Rain.”

Even Cher admitted that she was hardly enthusiastic when she sang it for the first time. Sonny agreed to change the key in the bridge to suit Cher’s range and then she loved it.

Sonny was sure they had a hit, but Ertegun was still not convinced. Sonny pitched the song to the program director of Los Angeles radio station KHJ. He made a deal that allowed the station to have the song exclusively if they played it once an hour.

The station’s listeners couldn’t get enough of “I Got You Babe” and Ertegun finally agreed to publish it as the “A” side.

“I Got You Babe” had a key role in the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, as Bill Murray, playing an arrogant TV weatherman, finds himself reliving February 2 in a perpetual time loop. Every morning at exactly six o’clock Murray wakes to the clock-radio playing the Sonny & Cher ditty.

Check out the video of Sonny & Cher performing “I Got You Babe.” The lyrics are below, but you probably already know the words. “They say we’re young and we don’t know…”

“I Got You Babe”
Written by Sonny Bono. Performed by Sonny & Cher.

[HER:] They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
[HIM:] Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent
[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HIM:] I got flowers in the spring I got you to wear my ring
[HER:] And when I’m sad, you’re a clown
And if I get scared, you’re always around
[HER:] So let them say your hair’s too long
‘Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong
[HIM:] Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb

[HIM:] Babe
[BOTH:] I got you babe I got you babe

[HIM:] I got you to hold my hand
[HER:] I got you to understand
[HIM:] I got you to walk with me
[HER:] I got you to talk with me
[HIM:] I got you to kiss goodnight
[HER:] I got you to hold me tight
[HIM:] I got you, I won’t let go
[HER:] I got you to love me so

[BOTH:] I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Lucky Pastor Pulls 706-Carat Diamond From a River Bed in Sierra Leone

Using only his bare hands and a sieve, pastor and part-time miner Emmanuel Momoh pulled a 706-carat diamond from the sediment of a river bed in Sierra Leone. About the size of a hockey puck, the diamond is the second-largest ever found in this western African nation and ranks as one of the top-10 largest rough diamonds ever recorded.

Momoh possessed a permit to mine for diamonds along the rivers of Kono in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, according to CNN. Kono is the largest diamond-producing region in the country.

While diamonds are usually found within kimberlite pipes, over time, the pipes can be eroded by rivers and the diamonds will be washed down stream. It is extraordinarily rare to find an alluvial diamond that weighs hundreds of carats.

As is required by Sierra Leone law, Momoh handed his lucky find over to the government. He will be entitled to a portion of the final sale, which could tally into the millions of dollars. The Sierra Leone government is currently having the stone appraised and evaluated.

The Star of Sierra Leone, a 969.9-carat diamond discovered in 1972, was purchased by Harry Winston for $2.5 million. The rough diamond resulted in 17 individual finished gems, 13 of which were rated flawless. The largest finished stone of the group was a pear-shaped gem weighing 53.96 carats.

Winston’s seemingly modest purchase price shows just how far diamond valuations have come since 1972.

Just last year, “The Constellation,” an 813-carat gem-quality rough diamond, was sold for a record-setting $63 million. Also in 2016, bidding for the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona reached $61 million, but failed to meet the reserve price at Sotheby’s London.

Sierra Leone’s president Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma praised pastor Momoh for his honesty. Miners with less integrity might have been tempted to smuggle the diamond out of the country. Instead, the government will supervise the sale of the stone and distribute the proceeds accordingly.

Said Koroma during a press conference, “I believe a diamond like this should be publicly sold in the country so we know the value of it.”

The president wants to be transparent about who will buy the stone, what it will sell for and the amount that is due to the government. Apparently, some of the proceeds are already earmarked to fund development projects nationwide.

Screen captures via YouTube.com. Map by Google Maps.

Australian Mining Company Unearths Five Ultra-Rare Green Diamonds

The Merlin Diamond Mine in Australia’s Northern Territory has yielded not one — but five — ultra-rare green diamonds, the largest of which weighs 1.42 carats. The discoveries are noteworthy because barely a handful of green diamonds are introduced to the market each year and the finest-quality ones can fetch upwards of $3 million per carat.

Mining company Merlin Diamonds Ltd. announced that the five diamonds — some described as intense green — were all discovered at the Kaye Pit, about 80km south of Borroloola near the Gulf of Carpentaria. Additional green gems were also pulled from the mine and were being validated as diamonds by independent gemological experts, according to the company.

The green diamond revelations are the latest in a string of good news for the mining operation. Merlin, which was already known for its high-quality, large, super-white gems, discovered a rare blue diamond in December and a 35.26-carat brown diamond in January. Australia’s largest diamond, a 104.73-carat stone, also originated at the Merlin Diamond Mine, which was purchased from Rio Tinto in 2004.

When it comes to fancy-colored diamonds, the two rarest colors are red and green. Green diamonds owe their color to the natural radiation present during their formation inside the earth. Green diamonds can range from light mint green to vivid grass green. The value increases with the intensity of the color.

An excellent example of a fancy vivid green diamond is the 5.03-carat “Aurora Green,” which sold for $16.82 million at Christie’s Hong Kong in May of 2016. It is the most expensive green diamond ever sold at auction and the largest natural fancy, vivid green diamond known to exist.

Credits: Rough diamond image courtesy of Merlin Diamonds Ltd.; Map by Googlemaps; Aurora Green image courtesy of Christie’s.

Back on the Block: 59.60-Carat ‘Pink Star’ Looks to Regain the Title of Priciest Diamond Ever

All eyes will be on the stunning 59.60-carat “Pink Star” diamond when it returns to the big stage at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on April 4. If all goes as planned, the largest internally flawless, fancy vivid pink diamond ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) will regain its title as the world’s most valuable gem. The hammer price is expected to exceed $60 million.

Back in November of 2013, the same gem stunned the jewelry world when it fetched $83 million at Sotheby’s Geneva. The winning bid had surpassed the pre-show estimate by $23 million. But, in February of 2014, Sotheby’s announced that the sale was canceled. The auction house paid the guaranteed minimum of $60 million and took ownership of the gem. In 2016, the auction house reported that two firms — Diacore and Mellen Inc. — had purchased an interest in the remarkable Pink Star, with the third partner being Sotheby’s.

Diacore (formerly Steinmetz Diamond Group), incidentally, has an intimate connection to the Pink Star. It’s the company responsible for taking the original 132.5-carat rough diamond and fashioning it into the flawless 59.60-carat masterpiece — a process that would take two years.

“I am delighted to be bringing this magnificent stone back to the market,” noted David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry division. “The extraordinary size of this 59.60-carat diamond, paired with its richness of color, surpasses any known pink diamond recorded in history.”

A monograph of the Pink Star authored by GIA waxed poetic, characterizing it as a “true masterpiece of nature, beyond characterization with human vocabulary.”

Only one diamond in the world currently stands in the way of the Pink Star becoming the priciest gemstone ever sold at auction, and that is the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue, an emerald-cut, VVS1, fancy vivid blue diamond, which sold at Christie’s Geneva in May of 2016 for $57.5 million.

The Pink Star is more than twice the weight of the “Graff Pink,” which currently holds the auction record for a pink diamond. The 24.78-carat, emerald-cut Graff Pink fetched $46.2 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2010.

The per-carat auction record of $4.1 million is still held by the 12.03-carat Blue Moon of Josephine. That gem sold for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in November of 2015.

Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

‘Bachelor’ Nick Viall Proposes to Vanessa Grimaldi With 3.75-Carat Diamond Ring Worth $100K

Season 21’s Bachelor Nick Viall popped the question Monday night to finalist Vanessa Grimaldi with a diamond-and-platinum engagement ring valued at $100,000. Featuring a round, brilliant-cut center diamond accented with baguette diamonds and 164 smaller round diamonds, the ring boasts a diamond total weight of 3.75 carats.

Viall chose a ring with a classic round center diamond after considering princess-cut and cushion-cut options.

“It’s a traditional ring with an old-fashioned feel,” a jewelry-industry source told E! News. “It’s got an old soul. It’s classic and elegant. [Viall] chose it because that’s what he thinks of her.”

The 36-year-old Viall, a runner-up on Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons of The Bachelorette, as well as a fan-favorite on Bachelor in Paradise, took one more chance at finding true love during this season of The Bachelor. Viewers followed the entrepreneur’s international journey, which culminated with him on bended knee, choosing Grimaldi over fan favorite, Raven Gates.

“So much about me being here has to do with the past,” he told Grimaldi in the prelude to his proposal, “but when I look at you, all I see is my future.”

“It’s always exciting to work with these guys to select a ring for the love of their lives, but it was maybe even a little more gratifying this time given Nick’s journey,” noted designer Neil Lane in statement. “He was very thoughtful in selecting the perfect ring and that’s obviously a reflection of the love he has for Vanessa.”

Viall and special-education teacher Grimaldi, 29, were excited to share a series of post-engagement selfies on Instagram. He has 1.2 million followers and she has 752,000.

Despite its impressive specifications, Grimaldi’s new engagement bling is slightly smaller than that of last season’s Bachelorette, JoJo Fletcher. Fans may remember that former NFL player Aaron Rodgers proposed with a platinum ring highlighted by a 3.5-carat oval-cut center stone. The band was encrusted with diamond pavé for a total weight of 4.5 carats. That ring was valued at $85,000.

The two-hour season finale of The Bachelor was Monday’s #1 most social program with 1.2 million interactions on Twitter and Facebook, according to Nielsen figures provided by ABC. The Bachelor has been drawing more than 7 million viewers each week and ratings were up 11% from last season among adults 18-49 and up 15% in adults 18-34.

Each engagement ring on The Bachelor contractually belongs to the show, according to Radar Online. If the engagement doesn’t work out, the ring may be claimed by the show’s producers.

Credits: Proposal and rose ceremony screen captures via ABC; Ring photo courtesy of Neil Lane; Selfie via Instagram/Nick Viall.