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Surprise, surprise, surprise!

What’s the big Valentine’s Day surprise, you ask? It’s that yours truly is engaged. Yes, N.t.B. has entered the ranks of those who are not only obsessed with weddings, but also articulate their expressing by spending thousands of dollars on stuff with no practical purpose! But pretty is purpose enough sometimes, right? Are you with me here?

I know ya’ll love reading about the who, what, when, and where of two people deciding to spend their lives together, so here’s a dramatic re-enactment of the proposal:

Aw, isn\'t that sweet?

Just kidding. The Beard was totally mushy about it, all with the getting down on one knee and the wearing of the ceremonial tie. And while they have not yet arrived, I am getting not one, but two engagement rings! A classic ring set with labradorite and a more modern ring set with Swiss blue topaz.

What’s this mean for the blog? Well, it probably means that you’re occasionally going to have to listen to me while I ramble on about my own wedding planning experiences. And I may just have to bombard you with reviews of the schwag I actually bought, the schwag I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and the schwag I wish I had enough money to buy.

First up? Books, of course. I wouldn’t have sprung for wedding planning books…being that I don’t have much need for them…but, heck, this blog is a job, which means that all my books on nuptial know-how are tax deductible! Whoo! I naturally went for some of the more eccentric titles:

Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box

I Do but I Don?t: Walking Down the Aisle without Losing Your Mind

Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides

As an aside, I’m sorry to have to disappoint all the romantics out there, but it wasn’t a Valentine’s Day proposal. I just thought I’d save it up so I’d have something sweet to post for V-Day. So happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Just in case you’re jonesin’ for some cuteness, here is a picture of some pigs in love, courtesy of Go Veg:

OMG CUTE!

Gemstones, the easy way

I’m not particularly concerned with reality. At least not where gemstones are concerned. Sure, it’s neat to possess something that’s relatively rare, but these days it’s pretty hard to tell what’s rare and what’s not in the world of gemstones. And we’re no longer savages dazzled by the blood of the sun, either. You could say I fall right into the “pro” camp where created gems are concerned.

Curious as to how diamonds are grown? Here’s a how-to from Gemesis:

The technology used to produce gem quality diamonds suitable for jewelry markets was conceived in the 1970’s by Russian scientists in Siberia, perfected in the late 1990’s at University of Florida laboratories, and production engineered at the turn of the century in Gemesis manufacturing facilities. The container in which a diamond grows is centered in the production machine and consists of a carbon source, metal catalysts and a tiny diamond seed.

Gemesis Cultured Diamonds photoApproximate pressures of 850,000 pounds per square inch and temperatures reaching over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit are applied to this container. Under these conditions, the carbon source dissolves in the molten metal mixture and grows, atom by atom, on the diamond seed. In just over three days, the pressure and temperature are returned to normal; the container is broken and the hardened metal core is removed and immersed in acid.

And here is a rainbow of ready-to-wear (and clickable) baubles set with created gems:

10kt. White Gold, Created Ruby & Diamond Pendant

Mmmm, orange

YELLOW!

14K Yellow Gold Pear Created Emerald and Diamond Filligree Earrings

0.50Ct.T.W. Sparkling Round Cut Diamonds, Oval Shape Chatham Created Blue Sapphire, 14Kt. White Gold Bracelet

14K Yellow Gold Round Created Black Opal and Diamond Ring

VIOLET!

More and more Mokume

Ya’ll know by now that I adore the Mokume Gane. What *I* didn’t know is that there are patterns other than the standard woodgrain! I was reviewing sites by jewelry designers that work with the metal and found out that there is more than one way to mokume. Just look at these gorgeous patterns from Andura Designs:

Oooh

Aaaah

The wave is pretty neat but I can’t get over the raindrop pattern. How cool is that? I do wish there was more info on the techniques used to make patterns like that, but it may be an industry secret kind of thing. Here’s a closer look:

Drool.

From the Black Hills

I’ve recently fallen in love with Black Hills gold jewelry. What is Black Hills gold, you ask? Let me dazzle you with the backstory: In the 1870s, sometime after a prospector named Horatio Nelson Ross found a bit of gold in the waters of French Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a French goldsmith named Henri LeBeauold (or LeBeau, depending on who’s telling the tale) traveled to the Dakotas to cash in on what is often called the last great gold rush in U.S. history.

Beautiful! Yellow-gold Authentic Black Hills Gold/Sterling-silver Women\'s High Fashion Ring

LeBeauold’s skills as a prospector were not up to snuff, however, and he found himself parched and starving in the Black Hills. Fearing his death was imminent, he went to sleep. And, as he dozed, he dreamt of beautiful rushing stream with lush grape vines growing on its banks. When he woke, he climbed over a rise similar to the one he’d dreamt about and came face to face with the very stream and vines he’d seen in his dream.

Just a touch of color

In his gratitude, LeBeauold chose to dedicate his life to crafting jewelry in yellow, green, and rose gold that featured grape leaves, vines, and clusters…no doubt after he’d slaked his thirst and calmed the rumbling in his belly with hefty handfuls of ripe grapes. So, Black Hills gold refers to the design as well as its origin. Here is an abridged description of the Black Hills gold jewelry-making process from Black Hills Gold Outlet:

The process of making Black Hills Gold jewelry begins with pure 24 Karat gold. It is alloyed with exact percentages of other metals to achieve a more durable karat quality of 10K, 12K or 14K. The traditional pink and green color gold used for leaves and other details is made when copper or silver is combined with the pure gold. The resulting gold bars are then readied for rolling.

The alloyed gold bars are rolled by presses to different thicknesses for different types of jewelery. Component parts are carefully stamped, one at a time, out of the rolled gold sheets using patterns and dies. The solid gold leaves and other patterns are now ready to be added to a cast jewelry base.

Great for engagement rings or wedding bands. Provided the male component of the partnership is willing to do pink.

Links for a lazy Sunday

Is he standing on a box or something?

Um, either Katie is bending her knees a bit or Tom is wearing elevator shoes because she usually towers over him in flats. That said, congrats to the new Mr. and Mrs. Cruise. In case you were unaware, they were married in a 15th-Century castle in Bracciano, Italy. Armani designed the wedding duds. And the couple’s vows were likely Scientologist through and through. There is a breakdown of the ceremony elements at the Daily News of Halifax. Here’s a peek:

…they may be told that newlywed “girls” expect “frills” and maybe a cat, and young men are prone to “forget” their promises.

Um, okay. Moving on.

Can’t see buying your diamonds the regular way? Want to pretend you’re buying your baubles on the stock exchange? Then look no further than IDEX Online. In their own words:

Derived in real-time from actual asking prices of the global diamond industry, IDEX Online Diamond Prices objectively reflects price trends as they happen. The Diamond Index and Diamond Drivers were formulated following comprehensive research and analysis of the IDEX inventory database, aggregated since February 2001.

And, finally, if you’re of the rainbow persuasion (getting hitched somewhere like New Jersey, perhaps), the Rainbow Wedding Network Magazine may be right up your alley. From rings to etiquette to gifts, this online mag highlights the best in gay-friendly wedding gear. Requires subscription.

Happy fingers indeed

I like rings. I like ‘em so much that when the phone says, “RING RING!” I answer by saying, “Yes, please.” Of course, not just any ring will do. Right now I’m digging on Krikawa Jewelry Designs. Run by husband and wife team, John and Lisa Krikaw, KJD will knock your socks off. They carry a sweet selection of plain and diamond wedding bands, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously. Have a look:

Mokume and blue? Who knew?

According to the site, this “mokume band arches above the ring shank to form an architectural window through the ring.” While the ‘window’ doesn’t really do it for me, I love the way the stone looks with the platinum Mokume Gane and the delicate detailing around the stone itself. All of their Mokume Gane stuff is excellent, by the way.

Love can\'t be solved.

This modern puzzle ring is crafted with three diamonds in palladium and 18k yellow gold. Intended as a unique and unforgettable wedding band, there are both men’s and women’s sizes, with some differences in style. The ring shown is for all the ladies in the house.

A cognac diamond? You had me at cognac.

Did I mention that the good folks at KJD will also create custom rings based on client specs? They will work with a stone you already have to create a beautiful design or work with you to draw up a design that suits you and your sweetie perfectly. This ring features a cognac diamond set in 18k yellow gold with six diamond accents. The most intriguing aspect of this ring (for me) is that the band was photo-etched with a pattern from medieval armor. Cool, no?

It’s that sort of attention to detail that really makes me salivate.

Hair, minghun, secret messages, and the Super Bowl

Soft and loose is always a good choice

If you’re in the market for hairstyle inspiration, you’re in luck. The ever wonderful SterlingSpider sent me a link to a web page full of images of up-do’s, loose styles, and everything in between. When I say ‘full of images,’ I mean that it is wicked image heavy, so keep in mind that the page may take a while to load. Also, it appears to be in Polish.

This is an old story but too interesting not to highlight: To ensure a bachelor son’s contentment in the afterlife, Chinese parents will search for a dead woman to be his bride and, once a corpse is obtained, bury the pair together as a married couple. Apparently, the practice of pairing off dead offspring through posthumous nuptials (called minghun) is common in China, where grieving parents will burn paper representations of luxury goods to ensure that their kids are bling-bling’un it up in the afterlife.

In case you hadn’t already heard (and then, lucky you) Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise fill finally tie the knot on November 18 in Italy. Holmes will walk down the aisle wearing a gown designed by the fabulous Giorgio Armani. Will Holmes’ parents attend? Will Xenu come down from the heavens to condemn the union? I guess we’ll find out!

I hope they do live happily ever after!

If you haven’t already had a gander at the Tak÷hl treasure ring (kudos to the reader who sent the link!), go check out the Tak÷hl web site. Each white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, green gold, or platinum ring is crafted of two individual pieces – a hinged band opens to display a hidden custom message. I love them!

Finally, remember my post featuring a selection of money grubbing…er…marketting web sites created by brides and grooms looking for financial assistance? The Hopeful Honeymooners have made $4360 (out of $10,000). The Wedding On A Penny people have collected 158,214 pennies (out of two million). And the Grooms Gift grew to $72.90. The newest gimmick I’ve seen comes from a man who hopes to raise enough money through donations (no ads here) to buy a Super Bowl ad time slot and then propose to his girlfriend on a Super Bowl commercial. He claims he has raised a whopping $61,931…which sounds like a lot but only represents about 3% of the cost of one of those ad spots.

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