Friday, March 27, 2020

Music Friday: Neil Diamond's Hand-Washing Parody of 'Sweet Caroline' Is 'So Good'

Welcome to Music Friday when we would normally bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we bend the rules a bit to include an artist with a gemstone in his name. Performing from his home this past weekend while in self-quarantine, Neil Diamond spun up a few new lines to his universally loved 1969 hit, "Sweet Caroline," to support the international effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Diamond replaced the popular pre-chorus, "Hands, touching hands / Reaching out, touching me, touching you," with these health-conscious alternative lyrics, "Hands, washing hands / Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you."

The 79-year-old Diamond, who was forced to cancel his worldwide golden anniversary tour in 2018 due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis, explained in the intro of his song why he decided to create this parody.

Sitting in his den with a raging fire in the background and his photogenic pup nearby, Diamond said, “Hi everybody. This is Neil Diamond. And I know we're going through a rough time right now. But I love ya, and I think maybe if we sing together, well, we'll just feel a little bit better. Give it a try! OK?”

Diamond's effort was wonderfully received on social media, with more than 2.5 million views on YouTube and 140,000 Likes on Twitter. His humanitarian musical outreach was praised by the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, among other high profile outlets.

“Sweet Caroline” is a song that has been woven into the fabric of American culture. Played at sporting events from coast to coast, when Diamond sings the line, “Good times never seemed so good,” the crowd chants back, “So good, so good, so good.”

Originally believed to be an ode to Caroline Kennedy, the then-11-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy, “Sweet Caroline” was actually written for Diamond’s second wife, Marcia.

Diamond revealed the truth during a 2014 appearance on the Today show.

“I was writing a song in Memphis, Tenn., for a session. I needed a three-syllable name,” Diamond said. “The song was about my wife at the time — her name was Marcia — and I couldn’t get a ‘Marcia’ rhyme.”

The song was released in the summer of 1969 and zoomed to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over the course of his 58-year career as a singer-songwriter-musician, Diamond has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide and placed 38 singles in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. None has been more enduring than “Sweet Caroline.” The song has been covered by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Julio Iglesias and many more.

Even though Diamond has officially retired from touring because of his illness, the musical legend performed at the 24th annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala benefit, which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in early March.

"I’m feeling great," Diamond told People at the time. "This is an important thing they’re doing and I feel honored to be part of it and take part in it."

Please check out the video of Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" parody. His intro, along with the altered lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

“Sweet Caroline” (parody lyrics)
Written and performed by Neil Diamond.

(Intro: Hi Everybody, This is Neil Diamond.
And I know we're going through a rough time right now.
But I love ya, and I think maybe if we sing together
Well, we'll just feel a little bit better. Give it a try! OK?)

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing
But then I know it’s growing strong
Was in the spring
Then spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, washing hands
Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’d be inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I’m holding you

Hands, washing hands
Reaching out, don't touch me, I won't touch you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’d been inclined
To believe they never would

Sweet Caroline

(Outro: Good night everybody. Good night. We love you.)

Credit: Screen capture via Diamond.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

You're Scrubbing Your Hands Throughout the Day, But What About Your Jewelry?

You've got the routine down pat by now. You scrub your hands multiple times throughout the day — for at least 20 seconds (The time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday") — making sure to clean between each finger and not just the palms. You thoroughly rinse your hands and dry off with a clean towel. And when you don't have access to a sink and running water, you use the next best thing, a squirt from your travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer.

Despite your best intentions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe by taking hand washing seriously, all that soap and hand sanitizer is probably wreaking havoc on your precious jewelry. Soapy residue may be adhering to nooks and crannies behind your rings, and the precious stones may be looking dull and lifeless. Perhaps it's time to show your cherished keepsakes the love they deserve.

Jewelry-industry experts offer these DIY tips on how to keep your jewelry hygienic and sparkling for generations to come. The biggest takeaway, you'll learn, is to "be gentle" to the gemstones and precious metals.

• Whenever possible, take off your jewelry before washing your hands. It's obvious that if your jewelry does not come in contact with soap or cleansers, it will stay pristine longer. (Be careful, though, to put your jewelry in a safe container and shut the drain so there is no chance of the jewelry being lost.)

• The Gemological Association of America says the safest jewelry cleaning methods are also the easiest. Most colored gems can be cleaned with warm water, mild dish soap (no detergents) and a soft-bristled tooth brush. (Be sure to get behind the stones where dirt can accumulate.)

A pulsed-water dental cleaning appliance and a soft, lint-free cloth can also be used. Notes the GIA, "Be sure to rinse your jewelry in a glass of water to remove cleaning solutions since you risk losing loose stones — or even an entire piece of jewelry — if you rinse directly in the sink."

Taking on the jewelry-cleaning topic, a Vogue columnist recently wrote that she puts her "beloved children" in a cup of warm water infused with a blast of Windex, explaining that she takes special pleasure in "watching little dirty specks float to the surface."

• It's especially important to keep organic gems, such as pearls, opals, turquoise and coral, away from harsh cleaners and alcohol-based sanitizers. These chemicals can dry out the gems and lead to cracking.

• Mikimoto notes that pearls, in particular, must be treated with the utmost care. "Pearls are organic gemstones that are vulnerable to acid, alkaline and extremes of humidity," says Mikimoto's official website. "To preserve your pearls' radiance, avoid letting them come into contact with cosmetics, hair spray, or perfume."

For this reason, the famous producer of cultured pearls advises women to put their pearl jewelry on as a final touch, after applying make-up and styling hair. Also, ultrasonic cleaners should never be used with pearl jewelry as it can damage the pearls.

Writing for the American Gem Society, Kristie Nicolosi of The Kingswood Company, a maker of jewelry cleaning products, offered tips on what NOT to do when cleaning precious jewelry.

• Don't use a toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean softer gemstones and other types of jewelry. The abrasives in toothpaste will scratch the surfaces and the toothbrush's long handle will place too much pressure on the piece.

• Don't use ammonia, Windex® or Mr. Clean® on softer gemstones. While these cleaning products may be useful in milder concentrations on harder gemstones, the risk is not worth it.

• Don't use hydrogen peroxide to clean jewelry. It's an effective disinfectant, but can react with sterling silver and harm the finish.

• Don't use bleach. It damages the metal alloys in gold and will cause irreparable damage.

• Vinegar and lemon juice should not be used to clean jewelry. Nicolosi says they are too acidic and too abrasive on metals and gemstones.

• Acids in Coca-Cola® can damage metals and softer stones. Another no-no.

• Baking soda is too alkaline for cleaning jewelry safely.

• Do not place your jewelry in boiling water on the stove. The jewelry could come into contact with the hot, metal surface of the pot, which can weaken or misshape the metal.

Credit: Photo via

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’ Star Whitney Thore Gets the Sapphire Ring of Her Dreams

My Big Fat Fabulous Life star Whitney Thore got the ring of her dreams last night during the season six finale on TLC. Boyfriend Chase Severino surprised Thore with a yellow sapphire surrounded by a halo of white diamonds on a split white gold band.

TLC cameras were on hand to document the proposal, which took place at one of the most romantic venues in the world — the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

“I was half-sweaty and half-wet after climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower in the rain,” Thore told The Knot. “I was posing for a photo. Chase was behind me, and I thought he was taking a picture of me looking out over Paris, but when I turned around, he was on his knee holding out a ring.”

She continued, “I gasped and I think he just said, ‘Will you marry me?’ I don’t remember what I said, but I was totally in shock and it was obvious that my answer was yes.”

Thore commended her fiancé for choosing an engagement ring style that was exactly what she wanted.

"DAMN HE DID SO WELL!," she wrote on Instagram. "It’s yellow sapphire, diamonds, and white gold and I’m in LOVE!"

Followers of Thore's Instagram page know that the proposal was actually taped in October. The current season of My Big Fat Fabulous Life kicked off on January 7 and teasers have shown snippets of Severino getting down on one knee in a Parisian proposal.

In December, Thore wrote on Instagram, "Chase and I got engaged on October 9th in Paris and I’m quite possibly the happiest woman alive. It has been REAL hard to keep this a secret! Can’t wait to share this with y’all!"

According to The Knot, Thore and Severino met on New Year's Eve 2018 and have been dating since April of 2019. The couple met through a mutual friend, Ryan Andreas, who is Thore's business partner at NoBS Active, a subscription-based online workout program.

Credits: Images via

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Diamond Exploration on Canada's Baffin Island Yields Secrets of a Lost Continent

Diamond exploration samples extracted from the glacier-covered Baffin Island in Canada's North have yielded secrets of a lost continent.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia identified a new remnant of the North Atlantic craton — an ancient part of Earth's continental crust that stretches from northern Scotland, through the southern part of Greenland and southwest to Labrador. The unexpected discovery suggests that the craton extended to Baffin Island and was 10% larger than was previously thought.

By working with the diamond exploration company, De Beers, the researchers gained access to material sampled from a kimberlite pipe in the southern part of Baffin Island, Canada's largest island and the fifth-largest island in the world. Kimberlite pipes are considered the earth's vertical superhighways because they bring molten material — and diamonds — to the surface from the depths of 150 to 400 kilometers (93 to 248 miles).

“For researchers, kimberlites are subterranean rockets that pick up passengers on their way to the surface,” explained University of British Columbia geologist Maya Kopylova. “The passengers are solid chunks of wall rocks that carry a wealth of details on conditions far beneath the surface of our planet over time.”

Kopylova said the samples from Baffin Island's Chidliak Kimberlite Province bore a mineral signature that matched other portions of the North Atlantic craton.

“Finding these 'lost' pieces is like finding a missing piece of a puzzle,” said Kopylova, who outlined the findings in the Journal of Petrology. “The scientific puzzle of the ancient Earth can’t be complete without all of the pieces.”

The geologist explained how the university/private sector relationship provides a valuable win-win for both parties. The university benefits because its researchers and grad students get access to core samples that are very valuable and very expensive to retrieve.

The university, in turn, provides the diamond exploration company with information about the deep diamondiferous (diamond-bearing) mantle — details that will contribute to a successful mining operation.

Credits: Baffin Island by BrettA343 / CC BY-SA. Map by Connormah / CC BY-SA.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Chicago-Area Nurse Takes Break from Heroic Work to Accept Marriage Proposal

As the clinical leader of Edward Hospital's Pulmonary Medicine Unit in Naperville, IL, Juliette Blondis has been working long, stressful hours treating patients with the COVID-19 virus. On Thursday — the first day of spring — her boyfriend, Bryan Goshorn, surprised the nurse with a marriage proposal on the front lawn outside of her workplace.

The couple had scheduled a romantic getaway, and Blondis had a hunch that Goshorn would pop the question, but those plans had to be scrapped because of the global pandemic.

Undaunted, Goshorn devised a way to surprise his now-fianceé while brightening the spirits of the hospital crew and its patients. He selected the first day of spring because it symbolizes rebirth, new beginnings and new adventures. He chose the front lawn because the hospital is allowing no visitors.

Goshorn drove Blondis to work on Thursday morning, but rang her cell phone a few minutes after she got into the building, claiming she had left something in the car. When she emerged from the building, Goshorn greeted her with a bouquet of flowers.

“He walked me out to the lawn and got down on one knee and proposed,” Blondis told the Naperville Sun.

She said, "Yes," shared a hug with her new fiancé and then went back to tending her patients.

“l love my job at Edward and am a very positive person,” she added. “These past two weeks have been incredibly stressful and my whole team has had a lot going on. This was definitely a bright light in everyone’s day.”

Blondis, 49, and Goshorn, 42, weren't the only ones uplifted by the beautiful moment. One of Blondis' patients watched from her window and later told Blondis that it was the highlight of her day. Doctors, nurses and other patients were excited to hear the big news and asked to see her new ring.

Goshorn noted that it's important to acknowledge the dedication of health providers on the front lines.

“They are doing heroic work and we need to all remember that,” he told the Naperville Sun.

Credits: Images courtesy of Edward-Elmhurst Health / Twitter @edwardhospital.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Music Friday: His 'Photograph' Fits Inside the Necklace She Got When She Was 16

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you blockbuster hits with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the lyrics or title. Today, Boyce Avenue lead singer Alejandro Manzano teams up with former X Factor contestant Bea Miller for a mesmerizing cover of Ed Sheeran's "Photograph" — a song that examines long-distance relationships and how love can live in a photo locket necklace.

The video of their performance has earned more than 206 million views on YouTube.

Co-penned by Sheeran and Snow Patrol guitarist Johnny McDaid, the song examines how a simple photograph can ease the pain of being separated from the ones we love.

In the rousing final chorus, the duet sings, “You can fit me / Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen / Next to your heartbeat where I should be / Keep it deep within your soul.”

Sheeran told that he and McDaid wrote “Photograph” in 2012 while hanging out in a Kansas City's Intercontinental Hotel after a performance. Sheeran recalled how he was sitting on the floor making a Lego X-Wing Fighter to give to his sister for a charity auction while a piano loop kept playing on McDaid’s laptop in the background.

“I start singing a line and the song kind of unraveled from there,” Sheeran said. “We sat for about four hours, me making [the] Lego [plane], and him on the laptop, just building stuff and then I picked up a guitar and we properly structured it.”

Sheeran also revealed that song is based on his own experience of trying maintain a relationship with Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt while on tour for five straight months.

"Photograph" was the third top-10 song from Sheeran's album, Multiply (stylized as “x”). The album hit #1 in 12 countries and reached the Top 5 in 11 others. "Photograph" charted in 30 countries, including a #10 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and #4 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart.

The Boyce Avenue cover of "Photograph" appeared as the final track on the group's 2015 album called Boyce Avenue's Cover Collaborations, Vol. 3. Interestingly, Miller was only 16 years old during her performance. Three years earlier, she got her big break when she placed ninth during Season Two of The X Factor.

Boyce Avenue was formed in 2004 by brothers Alejandro, Daniel and Fabian Manzano in Sarasota, FL. The band developed a following by posting videos of original music and covers of popular songs on YouTube. Boyce Avenue frequently tours in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Please check out the video of Boyce Avenue’s 2015 acoustic version of “Photograph,” featuring Miller. The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along.

Written by Ed Sheeran and Johnny McDaid. Performed by Boyce Avenue, featuring Bea Miller.

Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home

Loving can heal, loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know, know
I swear it will get easier,
Remember that with every piece of you
Hm, and it’s the only thing we take with us when we die

Hm, we keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts were never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That’s okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go
Wait for me to come home
Wait for me to come home
Wait for me to come home
Wait for me to come home

You can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen
Next to your heartbeat where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that’s okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

When I’m away, I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost back on Sixth street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
“Wait for me to come home.”

Credit: Screen captures via

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Oops! Canadian Mint's New Release Isn't the World's First Diamond-Shaped Coin

A little over a week ago, we introduced you to the Royal Canadian Mint's three-dimensional, diamond-shaped collectible coin — a .999 fine silver coin adorned with an actual 0.20-carat square-cut diamond. At the time, we reported that the unique offering was the world's first diamond-shaped coin.

But now we have to correct the record. The kudos for innovation really should be directed at Switzerland's Helvetic Mint, which unveiled its own limited-edition, diamond-studded, diamond-shaped coin nearly four years earlier.

Coin World's Jeff Starck pointed out in a Monday article that many media outlets had misinterpreted the Royal Canadian Mint's product description, which wasn't 100% clear on whether the innovative shape was a first-ever accomplishment for the Royal Canadian Mint or any mint.

On its official website, the Royal Canadian Mint stated, "...This first-ever diamond-shaped coin is an exciting addition to our premium lineup in 2020." The mint clarified later in the writeup, "This is the first time we've (emphasis added) struck such a uniquely shaped and dimensional... coin. An engineering feat that was over a year in the making!"

Even if it wasn't the first of its kind, RCM's 2020 diamond-shaped coin was an instant hit and quickly sold out of its mintage of 700 coins. Each coin carried a price tag of $1,500 CAD (about $1,117 US).

The RCM's coin is embedded with a square-cut Forevermark© Black Label diamond sourced from Northern Ontario’s Victor Mine. The four main crown facets of the coin include the square-cut diamond, the year “2020,” the word “Canada” and the face value “50 Dollars.” The table facet features the likeness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.

Here's how the diamond-shaped coins from the two mints compare...

Face Value. Helvetic Mint (HM): 2 Dollars; Royal Canadian Mint (RCM): 50 Dollars
Issuing Year. HM: 2016; RCM: 2020
Country. HM: Niue (island country in South Pacific); RCM: Canada
Metal. HM: .999 Pure Silver; RCM: .999 Pure Silver
Weight. HM: 1.55 ounces; RCM: 3 ounces
Diameter. HM: 26mm; RCM: 30.8mm
Height. HM: 17mm; RCM: 21.2mm
Mintage. HM: 222 coins (sold out); RCM: 700 coins (sold out)
Diamond Weight. HM: 0.1 carat; RCM: 0.2 carats
Table Effigy. HM: HRH Queen Elizabeth II; RCM: HRH Queen Elizabeth II
Price. HM: $660 US (current value); RCM: $1,500 CAD (about $1,117 US)

Images courtesy of the Helvetic Mint and the CNW Group/Royal Canadian Mint.