Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Built by Scottish architect James Graham in 1851, the spectacular Ayton Castle is among Borders of Scotland's many historic castles.

Fashioned with red sandstone, the castle is a stunning part of the lush, Scottish skyline.

Scotland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Fiona Kerr.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Today we are en route to Lake Constance, Germany's largest natural lake. The waters of Rhine River, the longest river in Germany, pass down the majestic Alps into the picturesque 40-mile lake. As we leave our vehicles, we are struck by the area's unusual warmth, and the large numbers of bird species living near the marshes. Germany is also home to featured jewelry design team Gunter Henrich, and Roland Denzel.

Twenty-five years ago, these skilled craftsmen established their company Henrich & Denzel, which quickly became widely known for its excellence in design quality, particularly for their solitaire and wedding rings.

Clean, minimalist creations are the designers' signature, and they take a minimalist approach to materials they use. In most cases, the artisans work exclusively with diamonds, 18-karat yellow and rose gold, and the inherently challenging platinum.

They are one of few jewelers to work with pure platinum. One of the rarest alloys, the designers loves the strength, durability, and the silver-white color of platinum prominently featuring the metal in their collections.

The company creates strong architectural pieces that are classic and timeless. In a playful turn, their Magnuovo Collection features semi-precious stones like gold citrine, aquamarine, and pink tourmaline to offset silky, yellow gold.

Inspired by the beauty of falling, sparkling water the designers created the diamond settings in their Cascade Collection to reflect the flow of this clear liquid; and the simple, smooth curves of a circle inspired their Circolom Collection.

The jewelry firm works exclusively with a few international jewelry retailers including Hamilton Hill Jewelry, Quadrum Gallery, and EC One. ________
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Ring with Gold Citrine and 36 Brilliant Diamonds from the Magnuovo Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Platinum Circle Links and Diamond Circolom Necklace from the Circolom Collection

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Today we stroll along the pathways of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. We will take in the beautiful scenery of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden built in 1914, and designed by landscape architect, Takeo Shiota.

The garden's blend of hills, rocks, stone lanterns, and waterfall evoke serenity and calm.  New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Alexis Bittar.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Today we will take a trip through time to the incredible Pachacamac Ruins in Lima, Peru. The powerful mysticism of the ruins can still be felt while walking through the halls of Acllahuasi, the Pilgrims' Plaza, and the Temple of the Sun. Lima, Peru is also home to featured jewelry designer Claudia Lira.

Every cloud has a silver lining, but if Lira has anything to do with it she would fashion that silver line into something fabulous.

A graduate of Holland's TSU - Vakschool Schoonhoven, Lira loves to craft clean forms using silver. Once she completed her studies, Lira returned to Peru in 1997 to begin her workshop.

Motivated by the unending beauty within nature, art, and life experiences, Lira aspired to create high quality silver jewelry for her clientele.

The elegant, clean lines of pieces like her Various Elements Pendant are Lira's signature. Lira's use of gemstones is minimal opting instead to highlight geometric forms in silver alloy with a high gloss, matte, or textured finish. "My work results from fusion of influences from two continents - the Americas and Europe," she says.

Collaborating with her sister, Marliz, Lira believes that enthusiasm, and a positive attitude stimulates creativity while also creating a fun, productive work environment.

Positioned at the forefront of Peru's silver industry, Lira's handmade jewelry designs possess a cool sophistication that brings actor Grace Kelly to mind. They are understated yet dramatic; fashionable and modern; regal and exotic.

Lira's wares are also sold at Novica.com, and exhibitions of her work have been held in Italy, The Netherlands, Peru, and Switzerland.
Photo 1 (top right): High Gloss Sterling Silver Avocado Ring with Amethyst
Photo 2 (bottom left): High Gloss and Textured Sterling Silver Peak Links Tribute Necklace

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Wherever you turn in St. Petersburg, Russia, you are bound to see historical monuments, buildings, and sculptures. Due to the city's maze of lakes, gulfs, rivers, creeks, and canals, the city was built in a similar fashion to Venice, Italy whereby numerous bridges connect the many islands comprising the city. Russia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Natalia Khon.

"I am an artist by nature," says Khon, "I like creating beautiful wearable objects." Khon, who has designed and created jewelry for over 16 years, eagerly seeks out new techniques to express her creativity.

She produces remarkable pieces using seed beads, shells, clay, and wire; but after moving to Canada several years ago, she was introduced to sterling silver.

"My favorite material is silver as it gives wide opportunities to a metal artist. It does not limit the size of a piece, it can be tarnished or colored, and it can sustain a shape or be flexible and dynamic," she says.

One such piece from her collection Priceless Gallery is called Queen of the Golden Forest. This highly ornate, majestic necklace of cascading silver and gold-plated chain-links was cultivated through a combination of soldering, beading, and casting.

In honor of her surrogate hometown, the Maple Leaf inspires many of Khon's creations. Khon loves the Maple Leaf's inherent "grace, beauty, tastefulness, elegance, and the feelings it evokes. It is a highly ornamental shape with refined texture, and exquisite delicacy."

Simple designs accented with bold colored gemstones are part of Khon's Big Gem Stone Silver Jewelry from one of her Maple Leaf collections. Her Wildlife Silver Jewelry Collection features beautiful detailing of owls, deer, squirrels, heron, and hummingbirds in sterling silver and gold. Both collections are gorgeously understated and reserved.

Her broad artistic scope also includes working with thin, durable silver wire to create beautifully intricate crochet designs. "I have always been strongly attracted to developing special techniques and finding new ways to express my ideas," she says.

Khon possesses remarkable artistic vision and talent, "When people see my work, I would like them to feel that the beauty of nature around us affects our souls and add to their beauty too."

On June 28, July 26, and August 30, Portobello Fashion and Art Market in Vancouver will feature items from Khon's collections; and from September - November, 2009 Khon will hold an exhibition at the Port Moody Art Centre.
Photo 1 (top right): Necklace with Red Beads and Shells
Photo 2 (bottom left): Fine Silver Wire Crochet Pendant with Red Seed Bead Flower and Garnet Strands

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


With the backdrop of looming coconut trees and billowy white clouds, Boqueron Beach of Puerto Rico is a dream setting.

We stand on the toasty, white sands looking out across the ocean's clear, turquoise waters contemplating our options: kite surfing, cycling, or scuba diving. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Erika Peña.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


When given the opportunity it wouldn't be right to pass on exploring one of Australia's beaches; so let's visit Geographe Bay in Dunsborough, Australia. Beautiful weather coupled with uncluttered views of the Indian Ocean's blue-green waters is only the beginning of what the beach offers.

We can go fishing, snorkeling, and swimming, or take a diving tour deep into the jewel-tone surf to view the sunken HMAS SWAN formerly of the Royal Australian Navy. Australia is also home to featured jewelry designer Steve Turner.

More than four decades ago, master artisan Turner established Nina's Jewellery and in 1984, after purchasing Argyle Diamonds from Australia's Kimberley region, the company became one of the country's leading retailers of these magnificent diamonds.

Known mainly for its exquisite diamond engagement, wedding, friendship, and eternity rings, Nina's Jewellery also creates beautiful 18-karat white and yellow gold pieces featuring spectacular blue, gold, rose, and white South Sea Pearls.

Aside from the items created from the main craftsmen's inspirational palettes, Nina's Jewellery creates custom jewelry using 3-D animation. Clients' images and specifications are taken via Nina's Jewellery website and a three-dimensional, multi-angle image is created for the client to preview before a piece is finalized.

The company's timeless, classic designs are also award winning. Marita Bilsby, an apprentice with the company, as well as a student at Central TAFE, won the runner-up award in the Belle of the Ball category for her "cocoon" necklace, "a gold wire frame that twists like a hollow rope to form "cocoons" around the neck." AGR Matthey, Australia's premier gold jewelry manufacturer, provided the award.

Nina's Jewellery craftsman Mark Blyth received the Jewellery Association of Australia's top award for his "18-and 22-karat gold bangle," with white and pink diamonds called Mountain Twilight.

Finally, in 2008, Nina's Jewellery artisan Liana Coetsee won the Computer Aided Design Award for her Global Translation piece that was inspired by Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat White Gold Diamond Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): White Broome Pearl and White Diamond Pendant Necklace in 18-Karat White and Yellow Gold

Monday, June 22, 2009


Today we're walking along the beaches of the Spanish Banks in Vancouver, Canada.

This strip of beaches, named for explorers José Maria Narvaez and Juan Carrasco, houses sandy volleyball courts while grassy fields separate the sands for picnics.

Steely lifeguards keep somber watch as skimboarders ride the low tides. Canada is also home to featured jewelry designer Benée Rubin.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Santa Monica, California is a picturesque ocean-side city that boasts an average of 340 days of sunshine out of a year, along with the well-manicured sands of its world-renown beach.

California is also home to jewelry designer Melinda Spigel.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today we explore the many branches of one of China's famous trade routes known as the Silk Road. A 19th century German scholar, von Richtofen, coined the name of this land-based network of roads due to the early Romans' fascination with silk. We have lots of ground to cover that includes oasis settlements Turfan, and Kuqa, and the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts. China is also home to featured jewelry designer Kai-Yin Lo.

Lo is highly accomplished having studied European history at Cambridge and London Universities, and business at Harvard Business School.

Lo began a hobby of collecting semi-precious stones like Chinese jade, bone, amber, freshwater pearls, and aquamarine upon her return to Hong Kong after completing her studies.

Collecting semi-precious gemstones quickly developed into another interest; fashioning stones into jewelry, "My first designs stemmed from assembling diverse antique pieces into pendants, and hangings first for the home then I hung them on myself and friends, then marketed these designs," she says.

Lo's primary interest in creating jewelry with semi-precious stones was to give women, particularly career women, the option of owning beautiful pieces without the encumbrance of keeping the jewelry safe. "Traditionally people think of jewelry as valuable in terms of investment," she says."To me the real value is what applies to your life."

None other than Cartier's, New York branch bought her first collection, a lovely hybrid of Eastern and Western aesthetics. By 1990, groundbreaking events occurred when U.S. stores Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, none of whom had sold semi-precious jewelry, retailed Lo's jewelry.

By 2000, to a certain extent Lo scaled back on her jewelry design career to focus on a whirlwind schedule of lecturing, curating, consulting, and writing.

Lo has organized many exhibitions including Hong Kong's Living Heritage - Vernacular Environment - in China in 2000; Hong Kong's Creative Hong Kong - Design and Lifestyle held at the Shanghai Grand Theater in 2004; and 2005's The New China Chic, showcasing Chinese jewelry and fashion designers for New Jersey's Style Asia, Business for Design Week.

A firm believer in "cross-cultural interaction," Lo's lecturing schedule includes an annual speaking engagement, Asian Arts and Culture - A New Vision, at the Asia Society where she talks about the importance of art, design, and culture in "societal development".

"I am a champion of promoting the creative industries as propellers of economic and social development in society." Her jewelry collections are exclusively sold at the Asia Society's AsiaStore in New York.
Photo 1 (top right): Aquamarine Necklace and Earrings with Freshwater Pearls set in 18-Karat White Gold
Photo 2 (bottom left): Necklace and Earrings made with Hetian White Jade, Coral, and Turquoise set in 18-Karat White Gold

Thursday, June 18, 2009


There is no shortage of beaches in Spain, and each has its own personality. From the Playa de Las Catredrales, in Galicia, with its incredible, oceanic rock formations to the serene beaches of Costa Brava, to the rustic, rugged milieu of Playa de la Victoria in Asturias. Spain is also home to featured jewelry designer Miguel Ases.

An accomplished dancer with the National Ballet of Spain, Ases decided to channel his exuberant creativity into jewelry design once he retired. Inspired by ornate Spanish architecture and the structure of dance, he attended Madrid's School of Arts to explore form and design.

Ases specializes in handmade jewelry using oxidized sterling silver, 14-karat gold-fill, coral, turquoise, freshwater pearls, cat's eye, Swarovski crystals, and leather pieces that are reminiscent of designer Alicia Piller's extraordinary suede-work.

Ases creates both minimalistic pieces, such as his bracelets made with turquoise and coral beads, and pieces highlighting intricate detailing. Ultimately, his designs are refined, elegant, and feminine with a rich vintage style.

His powerful eye for structure and design not only impacts the wearers of his pieces, such as Nicole Kidman, Kelly Ripa, and Oprah Winfrey, but couture designers like Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, and Ralph Lauren among others. They find his designs so captivating they have featured Ases' creations with their own during fashion shows.

Ases' designer jewelry collection is sold around the world at department stores, and high-end specialty stores in Japan, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, England, and South Korea, as well as online jewelry store Twistonline.com.

Magazines featuring his creations are Women's Wear Daily, W, Vogue, Elle, InStyle, and Glamour.
Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Gold-Fill Necklace with Cat's Eye and Freshwater Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom left): 14-Karat Gold-Fill Lapis Necklace with Brown Leather

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The unrelenting, awe-inspiring beauty of Baha'i Shrine and Gardens in Haifa, Israel gives pause to those who see it.

The Baha'i Faith's ideology of unity across cultures and religions, along with the grounds' trimmed cypress trees and ravishing architecture, provide an aura of calm. Israel is also the home of jewelry designer Aya Azrielant.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Today we are standing in Denmark's Thy National Park. The one-year-old scenic area, bordered by the Limfjord and the North Sea, is a panoramic stretch of land housing forests, heath, grasslands, sand dunes, and lakes. Denmark is also home of featured jewelry designer Kim Buck (NOTE: After webpage pops up, scroll down to bottom of page and move your mouse over the letters on the far left-side to see navigation options).

Buck is a bona-fide dichotomy who works with conventional jewelry design concepts, while at the same time defying the same conventions. Trained as both a goldsmith and silversmith, he opened his first workshop and gallery in 1990 creating designs for different companies including Danish jewelry house Georg Jensen. Buck designed the jewelry house's beautiful ring collections Eclipse, Centennary, and Nordic Summer.

From 1999 to 2001, he served as an associate professor for the School of Design and Crafts at Sweden's Göteborg University; and three years later, he accepted a position of visiting professor at Stockholm's Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design for the Department of Metal Design.

Buck's contemporary jewelry includes his playful, inflatable brooches and bracelet made from gold foil; his literal take on the heart pendant; and his 24-karat gold ring that, due to its inherent softness, eventually reverts to its original form, a shapeless piece of pure gold. Buck's motivation is fueled by his belief that jewelry's true value is in its conceptualization, design, and artisanship not the raw materials used to create it.

His uncompromising approach won him a lifelong grant from the Danish Arts Foundation, and the Ole Haslund Artists Grant. Last year, Buck received the Red Dot Design Award for the product design of his Visby Porcelain Set. The porcelain set represents Buck's unusual concepts of form and functionality.
Instead of handles for his cups, Buck replaced them with a formation resembling a spout that fits more firmly in the hand. He designed the plates with bulges, instead of a flat surface, to support other elements of the set.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Rings with Citrine, Smoky Quartz, and Rutilated Quartz from Nordic Summer Collection for Georg Jensen
Photo 2 (bottom left): Stages of Disintegrating 24-Karat Gold Ring

Monday, June 15, 2009


It's that time again. It's time for me to break from my normal posts and take some time to talk about . . . well . . . jewelry. I hope a lot of you are ready to channel your inner designer because I have more links on family jewelry-making projects.

In my first Splendor Sidebar, I suggested creating simple bead jewelry as an inexpensive way to get those creative juices flowing. Today you and your family can try your hand at making jewelry boxes. 

Check out JewelryMakingBasics.com and Ehow.com's articles to find out the materials you'll need to get started.

On JewelryMakingBasic.com, there are a number of jewelry-related articles you may find interesting including one about beginning a home-based jewelry business.

I have read that watches are pretty easy to make. All you need is a watch face and some pretty beads to make the band. AuntiesBeads.com has beautiful Geneva watch faces for reasonable prices, and if you look on the far right side of the page, you can click on any of the three photos of completed watches. 

When you do, you will be taken to another page showing you the materials needed to build the watch, and there's even a link giving you instructions on how to make it.

If you still need a bit more coaxing, you can check out ExpertVillage.com's video of Debra Windsong making a watch using a watch face and colorful beads.

For those of you possessing sophisticated jewelry-making skills, and in need of some design ideas check out NinaDesigns.com, which specializes in offering design ideas to help bring that spark of creativity to a full-fledged flame.


Today we are at the North Coast of Scotland on the largest island, called the Mainland, of a cluster of 70 islands that is a component of the Orkney Islands.

The unique landscape of the islands, some housing Neolithic structures, is hauntingly breathtaking. One such structure is a circle of 27 stones--with a diameter of 341 feet--called the Ring of Brodgar. Scotland is also home to featured jewelry designer Ola Gorie.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Many have said that Patara Beach in Lycia Patara, Turkey is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. Bordering the beach's lengthy, crystal-white sands are rolling mountains and undulating dunes.

The beach's quiet, tranquil surroundings cultivate relaxation, and of course, the view of the Mediterranean Sea's gem-tone, turquoise waters completes the picture perfect excursion into a terrestrial Heaven.

Turkey is also home to jewelry design team Nersel zur Muehlen and Irene Sokullu.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Spitalfields, England is a haven of diverse attractions and places to explore; the possibilities seem endless. We can experience a "unique" theater atmosphere with "still-life drama" at the Dennis Severs' House.

We can then stop at The Spitz, which is an eclectic combo of restaurant, café, gallery, and a venue of live music. London is also home to featured jewelry designer Ben Day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


At the center of the Baltic Sea, Gotland Island is a well-kept secret positioned on the East Coast of Stockholm, Sweden, and Sudersand Beach is its crown jewel. The beach's lengthy stretches of white sand encompassed by sparkling, sapphire blue water and clear skies are a dream. Sweden is also the home of featured design team Yvone Clamf and Christina Söderström.

Sharing a mutual interest in Venetian silver working, Clamf and Söderström met at a Venetian filigree class.

As the two women learned the intricate, 16th century technique, they also learned about each other's fascination with culture, fashion, art, and architecture. Their mutual interests set in motion the establishment of their company Yvone Christa in 1999.

Inspired by the nostalgia of 16th century Italy, and the complex formations in nature, using the filigree technique, Clamf and Söderström soldered thin threads of sterling silver into spectacular replicas of orchids, tulips, lilies, and roses.

Among their many pieces is an oxidized silver cuff bracelet that exudes the elegance of past eras, and the elaborate detailing of a filigree butterfly pendant necklace dipped in 22-karat gold.

Green jade, rose quartz and amazonite are among the semi-precious gemstones that are fully handset to provide an extra touch of style and grace to the finished pieces.

Yvone Christa jewelry is sold around the world in Dubai, France, Sweden, England, Spain, and the United States.

Their beautiful filigree pieces are popular in entertainment circles and are worn by Christie Brinkley, Taylor Swift, Kate Bosworth, and Cindy Crawford.

You can view more of Yvone Christa's lovely pieces at Manjoh.com.

For more displays of the company's fantastic designer jewelry pieces, watch their promotional video from YouTube.

Photo 1 (top right): Oxidized Sterling Silver Filigree Flower Cuff Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): 22-Karat Gold Vermeil Filigree Chandelier Leaf Earrings

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Today we stand inside a climate-controlled glasshouse of The Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. We venture inside the Butterfly Greenhouse where, in addition to cocoa trees, we also see, what else, butterflies. Amsterdam is also the home of featured jewelry designer Joke Schole.

The beauty of childhood is its innocence, unbridled joy, and ease to love. To me, Schole's beautifully crafted, fanciful, porcelain-made jewelry evokes this wonderful, fun-loving period of life.

A graduate of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie of Art, Schole pursued a career as an interior designer working for, among others, Macy's New York, Judscott, and Ploegstoffen. For six years, she also taught interior and fashion design at Amsterdam's Vogue Academy.

Constantly experimenting with various textiles and colors, Schole also creates handbags, and paintings in addition to her one-of-a-kind contemporary jewelry.

Her jewelry creations can definitely induce a smile, but Schole's bigger motivation is to encourage conversation. "I wish to challenge the viewer/person that is wearing it to start a conversation," she says. "For example on the necklace `Your task, Mrs. Lambfawn, is to tell them about the Art of Peace' is an instrument from which peace can be discussed."

Her humorous, thought provoking jewelry also addresses phenomenon such as global warming and dogs carried around in their owner's shoulder bags.

Aside from porcelain, Schole uses glass beads, gold plating, galvanized copper, semi-precious gemstones, and hand painting to bring her storied creations to life. The combination of bold color and capricious design along with cleverly insinuated messages is delightfully quirky and adorable. These make fantastic novelty pieces.
Photo 1 (top right): Porcelain Brooch with Pearls and Coral
Photo 2 (bottom left): Your task, Mrs. Lambfawn is to tell them about the Art of Peace Porcelain Necklace with Pearls and Coral

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Today we stop to view the outstanding landscape and historic architecture of the Loire Valley in France. The many towns that comprise Loire Valley include Angers, Chinon, Nantes, and Blois, among others. Loire Valley also boasts famous chateaus built by French kings and possesses some of the most awe-inspiring architecture in existence. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Catherine Popesco.

Popesco is an aficionado of the arts, so it is no surprise that she is an accomplished painter and has exhibited her work in Los Angeles, California. She is also passionate about theater and was involved in the 2001 Broadway production of Jane Eyre.

You can also say that Popesco can restore life . . . in a manner of speaking. While on an excursion through some of Paris' old workshops and factories, she discovered 200-year-old stamping instruments and molds from France's Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods (1900's through 1930's). After seeing a display of vintage-stamped jewelry in Paris' Marais district, Popesco decided to revive the elegant beauty of the long-gone French eras by starting her company La Vie Parisienne.

Utilizing the timeless mold designs created by such artists as Lalique, Galle, and Picasso, while also implementing her lucid imagination, Popesco stylishly updates a vintage era. Within her workshop, built in the Loire Valley, her team of skilled artisans incorporates the past era's jewelry-making techniques as they hand set Crystallized Swarovski Elements, overlay copper with silver, or 14-karat gold, and use painstaking enameling to create the lovely fashion jewelry.

Popesco's revival jewelry is not massed produced; however, her pieces are sold at boutique jewelry stores in the U.S. and France, and online at Regencies.com.

Her pieces come with a Certificate of Authentication, and gift bag. Popesco's nouveau-vintage pieces such as her Crown Earrings and Eiffel Tower Necklace are quaint, elegant, and fun.

Reminiscent of Susana Speidel (USA), I like the idea of interlacing the past and present to create a type of hybrid that ultimately has a life of its own.
Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Gold Plated Black Enamel and Olive Crystal Multi-Charm Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Antique Silver and Indian Sapphire Drop Crystal Earrings

Monday, June 8, 2009


We're in Sonoma Valley, California today and we're standing in what's been called "a living museum of Asian flora,"

Quarryhill Botanical Garden. Quarryhill's 20 acres, tucked away in Sonoma wine country, contains the rarest species of flora from Japan and China.

California is also home to jewelry designer Susana Speidel.


Along with the distinction of being June's birthstone, pearls are unique in that living organisms produce them. Although technically they are an abnormal concretion that forms on a mollusk's shell, pearls are incredibly beautiful and highly desired. These sleek, glistening gems symbolize harmony, purity, and humility. They are also believed to balance the body's hormone levels and biorhythms.

Because naturally occurring pearls are extremely rare they are of considerable value. One out of every 10,000 mollusks contains one. Accordingly, in the past if a naturally occurring pearl was discovered royalty or the very wealthy paid thousands of dollars to own these incredible formations.

In the early 20th century, Koichi Mikimoto is credited with developing techniques for producing pearls under artificial conditions or culturing, which has made pearls more readily available.

The quality of pearls is largely determined by its nacre quality, a thick coating that provides luster and durability.

However, during the culturing process various factors can affect the nacre quality and therefore increase the number of blemishes such as welts, discoloration, or cracks that are visible to the naked eye.

Despite a nacre coating and hard exterior, pearls are prone to damage and require careful, gentle handling. For example, hairspray or cologne should be allowed to thoroughly dry before wearing pearls.

Lastly, it is a no-no to wear pearls while swimming in chlorinated or salt water. To prevent cracking, it is best to clean pearls with a a soft, dry cloth after each wearing.

The Japanese Akoya is probably the most well known type of pearl as these pearls are commonly used to create the classic, string-of-pearls design. The most expensive Akoyas are round, white-pink, silver-pink and even blue.

South Sea Pearls are generally the largest, with the most expensive being round and silver-white, white-rose or peacock black. The most affordable pearls are Chinese freshwater pearls.

One of the most famous pearls is the La Peregrina (The Incomparable), which is said to have been egg-shaped with a silvery translucent color, and a weight of 111.5 grains. King Philip IV gave the remarkable gem to his daughter, Maria Theresa, as a wedding gift. In 1969, actor Richard Burton purchased it as a present for Elizabeth Taylor.

The Pearl of Allah is touted as the world's largest naturally occurring pearl. Discovered in 1934 off the coast of Palawan, it measures a remarkable 10 inches in diameter and weighs 14 pounds! To see the Pearl of Allah, and for more information on this natural phenomenon, click here.
Photo (top left): Elizabeth Taylor wearing the La Peregrina pearl necklace

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Today we stop in Ireland at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, three miles away from Dublin.

There is plenty to see with over 20,000 different trees, shrubs, and perennials that include yews, orchids, roses, and spectacular Indian pink-blushed lilies called Crinum moorei.

Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer John Christopher Condron.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Khao Lak Beach in Thailand is another prime example of lustrous natural beauty. Here again, the brilliant cerulean color of the Andaman Sea is hypnotizing enough on its own; then combine a string of casuarina pine trees emerging from the honey-colored sand with the warmth of the sun's rays and you have found your own, private sanctuary. Thailand is also the home of design team Helen and Rolf Von Bueren.

Ever since meeting his wife Helen, a native of Thailand, in 1966 German artist and businessman Rolf Von Bueren has lived in Bangkok. In 1985, the couple established a luxury item company, Lotus Arts de Vivre, which features furniture, home decor, artwork, and jewelry.

"For years Bangkok was seen as a city for design imitation and cheap mass products," Rolf says, "On the other hand there is high creativity here and a tradition of talented tradesman craft lasting several centuries."

The Von Buerens' design center, located in the couple's group of traditional Thai houses, is an environment conducive to creativity. According to Rolf, "Psychologically for a Westerner to live in a Thai house is a fantastic initiation to the Orient. When you sit on the floor, it's a different perspective on life; everything looks different."

Skilled artisans in Burma, Nepal, Indonesia, and India create highly dinstinctive, one-of-a-kind jewelry for the company. Traditional jewelry-making materials such as emeralds, gold, diamonds, rubies, silver, and pearls are incorporated in the designs; however, more unconventional materials like shells, bamboo, wood, and coconut are also used.

The jewelry is rich with ancient, Asian symbolism like the Naga, a mythical serpent believed to live in an underworld of "terrestrial moisture" called Muang Badan.

The spectacular, statement-making "objects d' art" are sold in Singapore, Cambodia, India, Japan, and exclusively in New York at the AsiaStore in the Asia Society and Museum.

The company's clientele covers a broad spectrum from the Royal Family of Thailand to the Queen of Spain to Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, and Sharon Stone. In 2008, the company celebrated it's 25th anniversary with a retrospective held at Bangkok's Sukhothai Hotel.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Rimmed Flex Ring with Diamonds and Rubies
Photo 2 (bottom left): Hand-carved Ebony Ring with Oxidized Silver and Diamond-Encrusted Snake trimmed in 18-karat Gold

Thursday, June 4, 2009


We are surrounded by so much natural beauty today; I don't know where to begin. We visitGrande Sertão Veredas National Park in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The park's name was derived from Brazilian author Guimaraes Rosa's book of the same name [sans the national park]. As we walk along the park's trails, we may catch a glimpse of a giant armadillo, or a stealthy puma. Brazil is also home to featured jewelry designer Melissa Maia.

A long-time global supplier of precious gemstones, Brazil is fast becoming a force in cultivating skilled jewelry artisans as well. Jewelry design curriculum has been implemented in schools from Rio de Janeiro to Minas Gerais.

Along with veteran Brazilian designer Clementina Duarte, Maia is definitely riding the wave of Brazil's creative revolution. Maia loves fine art and actively releases her creative energy through painting. She received a degree in Interior Decoration from the Metallo Nobile School in Florence, Italy.

Keeping in sync with Brazil's explosion into the jewelry industry, Maia has refined her skills to produce elegant, modern jewelry designs. Her signature style appears to be offsetting beautiful 18-karat gold, or sterling silver leaf motifs with intricate weave patterns and vivid gemstones. Exhibitions across the globe from New York to Italy to Switzerland have featured Maia's stylish designer jewelry.

In 2002, her provocative 18-karat gold leaf adorned leather belt, called Indigenous Sensuality, won first place in the AngloGold Designer Forum's "Brazilian Essence" category. The following year, the Feninjer Trade Show featured Maia's work in its exhibition "Jewels: The Color of Brazil;" and in 2007, Maia represented Brazilian jewelry styles at the Brazilian Institute for Gems and Metals' Milano More Exhibition.
Photo 1 (top center): 18-Karat Open Gold Cuff Bracelet with Leaf Motif
Photo 2 (bottom center): 18-Karat Gold Dangle Earrings

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Today we're in Vancouver, Canada taking in the natural splendor of Queen Elizabeth Park. I am partial to all things floral, so I'd take a peek inside Bloedel Floral Conservatory with all of its birds, and exotic plants, including bromeliads.

I'd particularly like to have a meet-and-greet with the conservatory's lively Cockatoo named Charlie. Canada is also home to featured jewelry designer Constantina James.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


There is a lot of spectacular scenery to see today as we drive along the Mambilla Plateau in Nigeria, Africa.

There are cattle ranches, incredible fauna, and flora including luscious hills of rich-colored grass, and some of the highest mountains in Nigeria.

We venture down the shoreline to the astonishingly clear, blue waters of the Azumini River where the river flows into rapids. Africa is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Chris Aire.

Monday, June 1, 2009


For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.


Today we're back in the USA taking in all the sights and sounds of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California. It's hard to decide on just what to do as there are quite a number of places to explore. There's the Maritime National Historical Park, Forbes Island, and Ghirardelli Square. San Francisco is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Shahasp Valentine.

The free from and unrelenting beauty of nature, as well as the iconic historic designs of period architecture always captivated Valentine. She possessed an artistic predilection early in life.

At the age of 13, she took a lapidary class where she learned to cut, engrave on, and polish gemstones. In high school, she followed her lapidary training with stone setting, mold making, metal casting, and wax techniques.

In the late 80's, after graduating college, Valentine became the youngest fine jewelry manger in Macy's history (at the time). By 1991, she officially began her career as a jewelry artist, and within 7 years, she exclusively worked with Precious Metal Clay (or PMC).

PMC is exactly what it sounds like: it is a type of clay composed of small particles of gold or silver that is suspended in an organic binder. Jewelry making using PMC was developed during the early 90's in Japan, and was introduced to the United States in 1996.

When making PMC jewelry, the temperature setting of a kiln oven must be very precise: 900°C for silver, and 1,000°C for gold. Timing is also important. If PMC is not "fired" long enough, the metal doesn't fuse properly, and if PMC is "fired" too long, the metal will melt. Ideally, the right combination of time and heat settings will burn off the organic binder allowing the precious metal particles to surface.

Valentine fashions designs that are both rustic and regal. The pieces in her Organic Series Collection are so natural and organic they look nurtured and coaxed by the hand of Mother Nature. “I purposely try not to imitate traditionally made jewelry and do all finishing by hand," she says.

"This new and revolutionary medium has given me the freedom to create the feeling and movement I've always wanted in my work but could not achieve using traditional jewelry techniques."

Her Modern Artifacts Collection is equally stunning, and the influence of her far away travels to London, Rome, Athens, Cairo, and Paris is marvelously evident. She has masterfully captured the look of antiquities and Old World designs while making her creations uniquely modern.

Valentine uses fine silver, 22-karat and 24-karat gold PMC in her incredibly evocative designer jewelry. The Lily Necklace, from her Organic Series Collection features a single pearl, nestled on curved, shell-like PMC. It is delicate. It is elegant. I get an image of Neptune's daughter rising from the surf, drenched in these necklaces.

AJM Magazine, Studio PMC, Lapidary Journal Magazine, and Colored Stone Magazine are only a handful of the publications featuring Valentine's work. Many galleries, including Stewart Center Gallery, and Metalworks Gallery, have featured her pieces in exhibitions.
Photo 1 (top right): Fine Silver PMC Lily Necklace with White Pearl from Organic Series Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Fine Silver PMC French Shell Necklace with Pink Tourmaline, White Zircons, and Pearls from Modern Artifacts Collection
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...