Birthstone Feature: 540 Carats of Persian Turquoise Shine in the Empress Marie-Louise Diadem

In honor of turquoise — one of the three official birthstones for December — we shine our spotlight on the Empress Marie-Louise Diadem, a gift from French Emperor Napoleon I to his second wife on the occasion of their marriage in 1810.

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The spectacular piece, which now resides in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., features 70 cabochons of Persian turquoise weighing a total of 540 carats, as well as 1,006 old mine-cut diamonds boasting a total weight of 700 carats.

The diadem was one piece in a matching set that included a necklace, earrings and a comb. Interestingly, the emperor's wedding gifts were originally set with emeralds.

According to the Smithsonian, Marie-Louise (1791-1847) bequeathed the diadem and accompanying jewelry to her Hapsburg aunt, Archduchess Elise. In 1953, Van Cleef & Arpels acquired the jewelry from one of Elise's descendants, the Archduke Karl Stefan Hapsburg of Sweden.

During the next two years, the jeweler removed the emeralds from the diadem and sold them individually in other pieces of jewelry. Its advertising campaign at the time promised “An emerald for you from the historic Napoleonic Tiara…”

Some time between 1956 and 1962, Van Cleef & Arpels reset the diadem with beautiful sky blue turquoise. The new-look diadem was exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris along with the necklace, earrings and comb, as part of a special exhibition in 1962 focusing on the life of Empress Marie-Louise.

American socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) purchased the diadem and donated it to the Smithsonian in 1971. (The Smithsonian clarified that a diadem is the type of crown that is not a complete circle. It usually goes three-quarters around and is open in the back.)

Turquoise enjoys a storied history that dates back more than 5,000 years. The ancient Egyptians coveted the gem for its beauty and the belief that it protected the wearer from harm. They set turquoise into elaborate jewelry and carved it into decorative amulets. King Tut’s iconic burial mask was inlayed with turquoise. The Egyptian word for turquoise was "mefkat," which meant “joy” and “delight.”

The best-quality turquoise is a pure, radiant sky blue. While the earliest known turquoise mines were in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, today turquoise is found in the USA, Mexico, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan and China.

Turquoise is one of three official birthstones for the month of December. The others are tanzanite and zircon.

Credit: Photo by Chip Clark/Smithsonian, digitally enhanced by SquareMoose.

Music Friday: Gwen Stefani Forgets to Mention One Little Thing, a Ring, in 'Santa Baby'

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you festive songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today, we celebrate the start of the holiday season with Gwen Stefani's contemporary take on Eartha Kitt's 1953 classic, "Santa Baby."

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A song that echoes the sentiments of 1949's “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend," “Santa Baby” features a girl appealing directly to Santa Claus for some of the finer things in life — a sable coat, a blue convertible, a yacht and, finally, “a ring.” She's claims to have been an "angel all year," so she doesn't think she's asking for a lot.

Stefani sings, "Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring / I don't mean on the phone / Santa cutie, hurry down the chimney tonight."

"Santa Baby" was released as the first promotional single from Stefani's 2017 holiday album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas. The album rose to #1 on Billboard's Top Holiday Albums chart and the single peaked at #7 on the Billboard Holiday Digital Songs chart.

A blockbuster hit for Kitt in 1953, "Santa Baby" has been covered by dozens of artists over the past 65 years. They include Madonna, Taylor Swift, Natalie Merchant, Kylie Minogue, The Pussycat Dolls, LeAnn Rimes, Faith Evans, Kellie Pickler, Miss Piggy and even Michael Bublé, who chose to address his benefactor as "Santa Buddy."

Written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer, "Santa Baby" is reportedly one of the few Christmas hits penned by a woman.

Born in Fullerton, Calif., in 1969, Stefani was famously the lead singer of No Doubt, but decided to pursue a solo career in 2004. She has won three Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, a Brit Award, a World Music Award and two Billboard Music Awards. As a member of No Doubt and as a solo artist, she is credited with having sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.

Please check out the audio track of Stefani performing "Santa Baby." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"Santa Baby"
Written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer. Performed by Gwen Stefani.

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me
Been an awful good girl
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a 54 convertible too, light blue
I'll wait up for you, dear
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be as good
If you'll check off my Christmas list

Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that's not a lot
Been an angel all year
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa honey, one little thing I really need, the deed
To a platinum mine
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring
I don't mean on the phone
Santa cutie, hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight



Credit: Screen capture via YouTube.com.

Welcome to 'Engagement Season' When Nearly 40% of All Marriage Proposals Take Place

Welcome to "engagement season," the magical time between Thanksgiving Day and Valentine's Day when nearly 40% of all marriage proposals take place.

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According to WeddingWire's 2018 Newlywed Report, Christmas Day is the most popular day of the year to pop the question, followed by Valentine’s Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Day and New Year's Eve.

Interestingly, the WeddingWire survey of 18,000 U.S. newlyweds married in 2017 reveals a dramatic spike in proposals during the month of December. Throughout the rest of the year, the distribution of proposals during each month ranges from 7% to 9%. But, in December, that number rises to 16%.

Experts believe that the winter engagement phenomenon is attributed to two factors: the romantic nature of the season… and convenience. Suitors likely choose December to pop the question because they love the spirit of the holiday season. And, certainly, there’s no better time to propose than when all the family is in town to celebrate with the newly engaged couple.

Here's a review of the Top 10 days of the year to get engaged, according to WeddingWire's 2018 Newlywed Report...

#1. Christmas Day. It’s the biggest day of the year for gift-giving, so it makes perfect sense that this, too, would be the biggest day to give the ultimate gift — a diamond engagement ring.

#2. Valentine’s Day. Cupid's special day is all about love and expressing to that special someone just how much you care. Instead of delivering a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolate, millions of romantic suitors opt for a proposal and a ring.

#3. Christmas Eve. For the families who prefer to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, this is the perfect time to add to the joyful holiday spirit by popping the question.

#4 & #5. New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. We can't imagine a better way to celebrate the New Year than with a surprise marriage proposal as the clock ticks down and 2018 makes way for 2019. Technically, if she says "Yes" before midnight, the engagement took place on New Year's Eve, but if she says "Yes" after midnight, the engagement is credited to New Year's Day.

#6. December 23rd (Day Before Christmas Eve). In the same survey last year, 12/23 rated #9. We're guessing that the ascent to #6 reflects more newly engaged couples choosing to get a jump on the holiday and avoiding Christmas Eve distractions that might take the focus off the bride and groom-to-be.

#7. Two Saturdays Before Christmas Eve. It's one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Might it be possible that the couples are out together, looking at engagement rings, making a selection and proposing on the spot?

#8. Fourth of July (Independence Day). One of only two dates in the Top 10 that is outside the traditional "engagement season," the Fourth of July — with festive fireworks and some time off from work — makes for a memorable day to pop the question.

#9. Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. This day marks the official start of summer and a perfect day to propose. A Saturday engagement allows the couple to extend the celebration with family and friends over the long weekend.

#10. Saturday Before Valentine’s Day. New to the WeddingWire Top 10, the Saturday before Valentine's Day may reflect the couple's desire to celebrate their engagement over a weekend and not necessarily on Valentine's Day, which often comes up during the week (in 2018, February 14 was on a Wednesday) and is certainly not a day when most people have off. Popping the question on the weekend prior to Valentine's Day also preserves the element of surprise.

Credit: Image by Bigstockphoto.com.

Supermodel Josephine Skriver Shares Pics of Northern Lights Proposal and Gorgeous Ring

Barely two weeks removed from her high-profile appearance at the Victoria's Secret fashion show in New York, supermodel Josephine Skriver got engaged to her singer-songwriter boyfriend Alexander DeLeon on a frozen lake under the northern lights of Finland. Skriver and her new fiancé, who goes by the stage name Bohnes, turned to Instagram to share stunning pics of the diamond engagement ring and epic proposal.

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The ring features a sizable emerald-cut center stone set in a diamond-encrusted split-shank band.

The 25-year-old Danish model revealed in her Instagram feed all the romantic details of DeLeon's surprise proposal and how she was able to check off three items on her bucket list within seven days... Swimming with orcas, seeing the aurora borealis (i.e. the northern lights) and getting engaged to the love of her life.

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"It was a cold November night. Alex had us driven all the way to Finland to see the northern lights," wrote Skriver. "It was my second bucket list number I was checking off in the same week after swimming with orcas, my favorite animals, in their natural habitat! He had a bonfire built for me on a frozen lake deep in Scandinavia complete with the full moon shining on our backs and hot cocoa to keep us warm."

Skriver marveled at the coincidences and events that made the day absolutely perfect. It was November 23, the day DeLeon released “Aurora Borealis,” a song inspired by Skriver. And 23 just happens to be the supermodel's lucky number.

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"Sometimes the universe just chooses to leave you speechless!!!" she continued. "That was when @bohnes looked over at me. When he got down on one knee and asked me to be his forever... I have never been more sure about anything in my life. You are my biggest adventure. My fairytale come true. My soulmate. My best friend. The love of my life. So, of course, it was 1millionxYES!!!"

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In the post that earned 773,000 Likes on Instagram, Skriver went on to describe how they bring out the best in each other...

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"Sometimes in life you will meet that one person that makes everything make sense. A person that pushes you to be an even greater version of yourself. A person that makes you not just dream it... but believe it! Believe in your own abilities to make anything happen! @bohnes with you I just knew! You are all that and more. You walked into my life and I have never looked back. I love you. You are MY northern lights and MY aurora borealis. <3 - Your Jo

On his Instagram page, the 29-year-old DeLeon posted a closeup photo of Skriver showing off her new ring. His simple caption: forever. <3

Credits: Images via Instagram.com/bohnes; Instagram.com/josephineskriver.

PA 'Picker' Pays Pennies for Antique Ring Box and Finds Diamond Treasure Hidden Inside

Lauren Smith, a self-described "picker," was following a hunch when she scooped up an antique ring box for pennies at a Goodwill outlet in Reading, Pa.

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At first glance, the box that was stamped with the name of a jeweler/optometrist in nearby Allentown seemed to be empty. But, when she got home, Smith carefully pried up the velvet ring pad, revealing a diamond treasure underneath.

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“It came up really easily and there was this engagement ring under there and I was just like, 'Ah,'" Smith told a reporter from Fox29 in Philadelphia.

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In the spirit of the holiday season, Smith will forgo a potential big payday and, instead, try to reunite the antique ring with the family of its rightful owner. The yellow gold ring is engraved with a specific date in 1921 and the avid treasure hunter will use that information to help verify any claimants that come forward.

“I just want to give this family back something they thought they may have lost forever," she said. "I think if you have the opportunity to do something like that you should at least give it a shot."

Smith explained that the ring box was priced by weight, so her outlay was just pennies.

Based on her own experience, Smith believes that the ring box — and its hidden treasure — was donated by a family who hastily cleared the home of an elderly relative.

“I helped my parents clean out my grandparent’s house and after a while you just get so overwhelmed," she told Fox29. "You just want to get rid of things and sometimes you don’t look as closely as maybe you would under other circumstances."

Interestingly, a representative from Goodwill told the Fox reporter that the company regularly screens for items that were donated in error. The ring hidden under the ring pad wasn't detected by the Goodwill staff, but spokesperson Cheryl Kulp said she was thrilled that the ring ended up with the kindhearted Smith.

“That’s just the generosity of the community in which we reside," Kulp said.

Credits: Screen captures via fox29.com.