To spool up a little excitement for this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Maserati has called on Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna to put its designer touch on the Quattroporte. Curiously referred to as a “limited-edition concept” by Maserati, the automaker says the show car is “intended for development into a production version in 2014, and will maintain the same personality and quality of the current Quattroporte range.” To clarify: it’s a thinly veiled, future (limited) production model masquerading as a concept, and the modifications are limited to color scheme, materials, and finish.

To create the Quattroporte Zegna edition’s special Platinum Metal finish, the paint is tinted with ultra-fine aluminum pigments and applied over a gloss-black primer, which Maserati says amplifies the brilliance of the pigments and creates a sensation of depth. We’ll reserve our final judgment until we get a closer inspection, but at first glance, the effect seems to subtly emphasize sharp creases in the bodywork.

Zegna’s approach to the interior is based on taking classical warm hues, assigning them appropriately esoteric names like Moka and Greige, and bringing them in line with the fashion house’s latest men’s fashion collections. The seats, door panels, and roof lining are finished in leather, and complemented by matte-finished wood trim pieces and herringbone paneling.

Details mean a lot in this segment, and bringing in a designer to have his or her way with your automobile is certainly nothing new. But given the long-standing histories of the two Italian firms here and the comparatively restrained execution, it works.

(Via: CarandDriver)

The world’s biggest round “fancy vivid” blue diamond is estimated to sell for more than $19 million at an auction in Hong Kong in October.

The brilliant-cut internally flawless stone, weighing 7.59 carats, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s (BID) on Oct. 7 as part of the company’s 40th anniversary sales in Asia, according to an e-mailed release from the New York-based auction house.

Colored stones, which account for about 0.01 percent of mined diamonds, dominate the top end of the jewelry market. Their scarcity and aesthetic appeal have triggered record auction prices in recent years, led by the 45.4 million Swiss francs ($45.6 million) paid by the London-based jeweler Graff for a 24.78-carat “Fancy Intense Pink” at Sotheby’s, Geneva, in November 2010.

“The market for colored stones is strong because of their rarity,” Guy Burton, a director at the London-based jeweler Hancocks, said in an interview. “People buy them for investment purposes, and they can be seen as a hedge against what happens in other markets.”

“The Premier Blue,” as it has been named, is the largest round fancy vivid stone of that color to have been graded by the Gemological Institute of America, said Sotheby’s, who have not revealed the identity of the seller.

It was sourced from the Premier (formerly known as Cullinan) mine near Pretoria, South Africa, the world’s main provider of blue diamonds, said Sotheby’s.

“Round stones are the most popular,” said Burton, “and colored diamonds have an obvious appeal to buyers in Hong Kong and mainland China. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that this should make some kind of record. A lot depends on how aesthetically pleasing it is.”

The pigmentation of blue diamonds is caused by the presence of boron atoms. The higher the concentration of that element, the deeper the color.

“Fancy Vivid” is the third most intense gradation. A 5.30-carat cushion-cut blue diamond graded “fancy deep” — the highest intensity of color — sold for 6.2 million pounds ($9.6 million) at Bonhams in London on April 24.

The price of $1.8 million per carat was an auction record for a blue diamond, said Bonhams, which had 25 telephone bidders registered for the lot. The buyer at Bonhams was once again Graff. The jeweler paid 16.4 million pounds for the historic blue 35.56-carat “Wittelsbach Diamond” at Christie’s International in December 2008.

Sotheby’s 40th anniversary auction of jewels and jadeite in Hong Kong in October will comprise about 330 lots and is estimated to raise more than $HK600 million ($77.4 million).

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on arts and Laurie Muchnick on books.

A Steinway concert grand costs only about a tenth of the price of a fine Stradivarius but John Paulson, a hedge fund manager, is about to pay over a hundred times the price of that violin to own that piano company. I’m delighted, not only because it suggests someone values a unique company of the highest quality and most distinguished history, but it also suggests that a canny businessman sees classical music as a worthwhile financial investment.

The greatest violins are one-offs, hence the price tags in the millions …. irreplaceable boxes hundreds of years old; whereas pianos are mechanical instruments, the best ones not exactly mass produced but nevertheless existing in massive numbers and in the process of new creation every day. The Steinway is built of natural materials – wood (many varieties), leather, felt, iron – but there is not a mystery about its magic as there is about the ghostly miracle of a great Italian stringed instrument. It is science to the violin’s art. You can visit New York or Hamburg and watch a Steinway being made.

But the Steinway is still is a benchmark for excellence, and one of the reasons for its success since the company’s foundation in 1853 is its constant search for improvement. It has been at the forefront of invention throughout its history, patents more numerous than its 88 keys. The general direction of these refinements has been towards an increase of power, of sustain, of stability, of speed. Lovers of older instruments find that progression a mixed blessing, but there is no doubt that a great machine of extraordinary design has been the result.

The microphones seen at the BBC Proms pointing into a piano’s sleek black lid are carrying the sound to listeners at home not to the audience in the balcony of the Royal Albert Hall. Even in the largest auditoriums the sounds you hear are acoustically produced not amplified electronically. Classical music is organic; its instruments are the knotty granola amidst a vast table of synthetics. A piano’s roar over the orchestra is the result of key, hammer and string being propelled by muscle and reflex to excite tremendous vibrations in the air … and not just shrieking decibel levels, but rich, heroic sounds of depth and variety. And this cannot be done without hundreds of tiny details of design and post-production maintenance. But I think what makes a Steinway so special is the carrying power of its softest sounds. An actor can bellow but when her whisper is heard on the back row we see the technique of projection displayed.

Unlike a singer, an instrumentalist’s instrument is his voice – an extension not so much of the body but of the interpretative energy behind the music and its recreation. When a pianist sits in front of a piano a relationship is struck along with the keys. For that evening the partnership is inseparable. You might have technique for the most luminously voiced trills but if the action sticks they will remain in your imagination. Steinway’s consistent performance as a reliable, exciting partner under pressure has contributed to its prominence in the concert halls of the world. Well over 90% of the piano concerts and recordings you will have heard over the past fifty years or so will have been played on a Steinway.

Every piano is different in some way (and I have one eye very keenly fixed on the future of Yamaha – I recently recorded two CDs on their CFX model) but when a pianist sees Steinway & Sons in gold lettering on the black fall board he or she feels in safe hands, free to begin the music’s journey of danger without fear.

(via: The Telegraph)

When you hear the term “Black Label,” what comes to mind? ScotchChic women’s clothing?

How about a Lincoln sedan with a black on red interior and “Venetian leather” seats?

Ford Motor Co. Lincoln brand is using this week’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance classic car show and auction to show off – a year in advance – its plan to add “Black Label” Lincolns to the long list of luxury goods associated with the color black. Lincoln has trademarked the automotive use of “Black Label” to serve as the banner for a collection of upgraded (and extra cost) interior designs it will offer to buyers of certain models starting late next year.

Black has special significance for Ford. It was the only color company founder Henry Ford offered to buyers of his mass produced Model T’s for many years. For Mr. Ford, it was a utilitarian decision to keep down costs. Today, however, consumers associate with black with “sophistication and glamour,” according to various researchers who study the psychology of color.

Lincoln wants its “Black Label” line to signal a greater level of elegance – and higher prices – for sedans and SUVs it will start launching in late 2014. Brand executives didn’t disclose prices for the interior upgrades, which will include the special leather, exotic-looking wood decoration and color schemes with names such as “Indulgence,” “Center Stage” and “Modern Heritage.”

It’s unlikely that any of the wealthy car aficionados attending the Pebble Beach events will confuse Lincoln’s “Black Label” series with the super high-performance “Black Series” models long offered by German luxury car brand Mercedes Benz. Mercedes is using the Pebble Beach venue to show off one of its newest Black Series models, the $276,800 SLS AMG Black Series. Mercedes will show for the first time its new, all-wheel drive, 577 horsepower S63 4matic AMG model and preview the design for a forthcoming small sport utility called the GLA. (Lincoln has its own small SUV concept, the MKC, based on the popular Ford Escape.)

The contrast between Lincoln’s “Black Label” and Mercedes’ “Black Series” illustrates the challenges facing the venerable Ford brand, the only survivor of the Dearborn, Mich. auto maker’s forced retreat from the luxury market during the dark years of the Great Recession. As part of its fight for survival, Ford sold a collection of European luxury brands it had acquired in fatter times, including Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Aston Martin.

Lincoln was once the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S., and routinely duked it out with General Motors Co.’s Cadillac brand for that honor. Now, both Detroit brands are playing catchup while Mercedes and its German arch-rival, BMW, battle it out for supremacy in the U.S. Volkswagen  AG’s  Audi brand is in the thick of the race to be the top automotive brand globally, thanks in part to its popularity in China.  Cadillac and Lincoln are still trying to establish toeholds in the Chinese market, which industry executives expect will soon be the world’s largest market for premium brand vehicles.

At Lincoln, product marketing director Andy Georgescu says the brand’s strategy is to appeal to people who want a more discreet type of luxury, reflecting a judgment that “we weren’t going to out-BMW BMW.”

Cadillac’s strategy is the opposite: It is driving directly at BMW. With the launch of the redesigned CTS sedan and the new, smaller ATS sedan, Cadillac has cars positioned directly opposite the BMW 5 and 3 series, respectively, in both size and price. Cadillac promotes its new cars as performance machines, capable of hanging with the German brands on the Nurburgring, a famous German race track.

At Pebble Beach, Cadillac plans to display a concept for a future “grand coupe,” a large car that could be considered in the same league as a Bentley Continental GT. Cadillac will also have cars it sells today on hand that visitors can test drive.

Cadillac’s sales are up 30% through July 31 this year. But as of July 31, Cadillac had 145 days’ worth of ATS sedans in inventory – more than double the level considered ideal – after selling 2,905 of the cars in July.  Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell says the inventory reflects in part an effort to guarantee plenty of cars to sell this fall while the Cadillac factory in Lansing, Mich. retools to build a redesigned CTS.

Lincoln had 109 days’ worth of its MKZ sedan in stock at the end of July after selling 2,809 of its newest model, according to Autodata Corp. figures. BMW sold 8,359 of its 3 series sedans in the U.S. last month, and had just 43 days’ worth of all its vehicles in inventory.

Cadillac and Lincoln have ground to make up in other ways. says 43% of Lincoln MKZ buyers are over 65 years old, while 48% of CTS buyers are Medicare eligible. The ATS fares better, with just 28% of its buyers over 65 years old. Mr. Caldwell says Cadillac is focused on a different number: the share of ATS buyers who are new to the brand, which is currently about 75%.

(via: Wall Street Journal)

We’re used to hearing about a fashion designer dressing an actor in a film, but dressing a set?

Apparently, Giorgio Armani’s Armani/Casa line is featured prominently in the upcoming thriller “Paranoia” opening Aug. 16, and starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard and Harrison Ford.

Armani worked with production designer David Brisbin to incorporate Armani/Casa sofas, lamps, tables and chairs into key moments of the film. When the young, up-and-coming businessman Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth) moves into a new, luxrurious apartment, the Armani/Casa pieces are apparently a sign that he’s made it.

Armani, who has a long history of creating wardrobe for such films as “American Gigolo,” “Shaft” and “The Untouchables,” also collaborated with costume designer Luca Mosca on wardrobe for the character played by Harrison Ford.

What I’m really looking forward to is seeing the vintage 1990’s suits Armani is providing for Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming film “Wolf of Wall Street,” directed by Martin Scorsese.

(via: LA Times)

Australia will hike tobacco taxes by 12.5 percent per year over the next four years to boost its coffers and build on its plain packaging campaign against smoking, the government said Thursday.

The excise increase will reap some Aus$5.3 billion ($4.75 billion) over the next four years as Canberra tries to plug an Aus$18 billion deficit forecast for this financial year and return the budget to surplus in 2016-17.

Treasurer Chris Bowen, who is also seeking to burnish ruling Labor’s economic credentials ahead of national elections due in coming months, said the hike would serve “several purposes”.

(via: Saudi Gazette)

Most of us drink our alcohol the old-fashioned way. We shoot it back in shots, sip it cold with a couple of olives in a martini or on ice with a lime, or even gulp it upside down through a keg funnel.  But we usually don’t inhale it. The Vaportini, a new device on the market, lets you do just that.

Here’s how it works: Liquor is poured into a glass globe. It’s then heated, and vapors collect in the glass. A straw is inserted and the vapors are meant to be inhaled, held for five seconds, then exhaled.

Creator Julie Palmer Palmer says users feel the effects right away, but that they wear off faster than drinking. She’s ordered some testing of spirit inhalation and claims that smoking the vapors has very few calories and almost no impurities.

Palmer, a former restaurant and lounge owner in Chicago, came up with the idea after a trip to Helsinki where she experienced people pouring vodka over hot coals then inhaling the vapors in a sauna.

“I definitely felt the effects of the alcohol,” Palmer said. “I thought it was cool to experience it in a new way.”

When Palmer returned to Chicago, she worked with engineers, including her father, to develop a way to distill the alcohol in a similar way, without the sauna. She started using the Vaportinis at home for dinner parties, then at her Chicago venues. The Vaportini came to market earlier this year.

“You’re still consuming alcohol, so there are still some risks, but a Vaportini is essentially another distillation, so what you’re getting is purer than what you put in,” Palmer said. “And it also doesn’t irritate your stomach or esophagus the way traditional consumption would.”

It takes about five minutes to heat up the alcohol and 20 minutes or so to consume it. We tried it out with some Absinthe and found that the hits are smooth, without the bite. Watch the video above to see how it works.

The device is meant to be used with alcohol that is 80 to 100 proof and infused liquors are more flavorful. Palmer is working with a distiller on a line of infused spirits to be used with the Vaportini.

The basic Vaportini kit comes with the glass globe, a metal ring holder, funnel, glass straw and a candle and sells for $30 online. You can opt to purchase a Vaportini pint glass for $12 or use any pint glass you have at home.

(via: LA Times)

“There are two things worth living for, one is a good cigar, the other is a better one.” - Unknown

(via: iheartcigars)


What’s in your humidor?
At the moment, I only have The Mogul in the humidor I’m afraid.  Guilty!  I happen to be in “perfectionist-mode”and I end up testing The Mogul in different vitolas to get a sense of change in flavor profile.

My favorite in my brand would be The Mogul because it happens to be our only line thus far.  I must say, however, that I would still consider it one my favorites in my brand because it took over a year to perfect and I chose something I truly want to smoke every day, all day long.

If I don’t have The Mogul on me and I come across a shop, I will buy a stick of something I haven’t tried before.  I happen to be a BIG fan of cigars and enjoy smoking them.  So lately, I’ve had a few of the Series G and those are very good cigars.

What kind of humidor (and size) do you use for your personal storage?I have the Old World Humidor that holds about 75 sticks. The worldly motif appealed to me and sits well on  my desk.

How many cigars are in your humidor right now?
Last I checked I had 75 but I have a  feeling it’s time to stock up very soon.

Are you currently testing any new blends for your company? Any details?
I am testing The Mogul in different vitolas at the moment, it’s important for me to know The Mogul inside and out.  I happen to enjoy Lanceros very much so that is something I find myself “testing,” a significant amount. Aside from that, I am testing Churchills and Torpedos.

And of course I am always open to finding the next amazing blend for a future release.  I have smoked one that really stood out but since the brand will only be  releasing a few  full product lines, I am in no hurry to pick a blend quite yet.  That is all I’m revealing at the moment.

How many cigars do you smoke in a typical day, when your not blend testing?
I had a hard time trying to answer this one because I smoke a sporadic amount.  For instance, I was on the set of The Maldonado Dynasty commercial yesterday and smoked 4 cigars within 6 hours.  And then there are days when I smoke only one.  So I would say it averages out to about 2-3 a day.

What are some of your all time favorite cigars?
No offense to any great brands out there but I was spoiled very early on as a kid with Opus X.  A friend of my father’s was HUGE into cigar smoking and he noticed I enjoyed a couple cigars a day.  I was smoking another brand at the moment so he handed me a Toro of Opus X and told me This is what I SHOULD be smoking.  I graciously accepted and wrote him off of course (in my defense I was a kid)…  So I saved it for an after dinner smoke that evening, which I enjoyed with my usual cappuccino and it was Excellent cigar.  Needless to say, I didn’t stray from the line too much after that.

There are so many great cigars out there but this one has a personal touch with me because of the combination of meal, setting; under the moonlightright on a Caribbean beach with Excellent company.

(via: Toasted Foot)

Did you just sell your social network toYahoo for $1.1 billion? Or maybe you are the anonymous 26 year old single mom who is rumored to have recently won $228 million in the single largest Powerball jackpot of all time. Either way, if you happen looking for an upgraded home that better fits your newly-found obscene wealth, we may have the perfect property for you. Last Friday, an estate in the ultra-exclusive Greenwich, Connecticut, hit the market. Big deal right? That must happen all the time, what’s so special about this house? This particular 15,000 square foot mansion sits on 50 acres of pristine waterfront property and can be yours for the low low price of $190 million. That’s enough to make it the most expensive house in America.

(via: Celebrity Net Worth)