Monday, August 31, 2009

SIKARA & CO.

Today we explore one of the most incredible specimens of "living" architecture, the Kailas Temple in India. In the 8th century, various architects--using three different types of chisels--carved out this magnificent rock structure from a volcanic hillside. Built to honor the god Shiva, the temple took hundreds of years to complete and measures a staggering 109 feet in width, and 164 feet in length. India is also the ancestral home of Mousumi Shaw, the founder and CEO of jewelry brand, Sikara & Co.

Shaw was never one to keep herself isolated. Her love of travel and exploration resulted in visits to over 30 countries including Italy, Mexico, Poland, and Egypt.

"The best way to learn about the world, I feel, is to just go to the country and meet the people. I really love those experiences," she enthuses. Already an art lover, Shaw's extensive travels familiarized her with distinctive architecture and jewelry designs.

As a teenager, Shaw gained broad knowledge of the jewelry industry while assisting her mother with her Texas-based jewelry company. "That's where I learned about choosing certain items, customer service, and merchandising."

Working with her mother stirred Shaw's interest in launching her own business, but not in the jewelry industry . . . not yet anyway. After studying business at the University of Pennsylvania, Shaw launched a company geared toward space technology. She ran the company for three years deciding to shut the business down "when the dot com bust happened."

Far from giving up, Shaw earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. While attending Harvard, the compilation of her traveling experiences, and business interests began to form into a new business venture. "I thought, `I love traveling, I love the arts, I love business, and I know the jewelry industry.' I wanted to see if there was an opportunity there, and I was able to gain access to some great resources," she recalls, "I learned that there are very few jewelry brands and the brands out there are high-end. I wanted to create an affordable, luxury brand."

Shaw thoroughly researched her demographic, and saw that it was rapidly changing. "You have women marrying late in life, who are buying jewelry for themselves to celebrate their professional achievements. Women don't normally receive jewelry as gifts, which creates an emotional connection to that piece. My challenge was to create jewelry that emotionally resonates beyond a gift giving experience."

The beautiful jewelry Shaw discovered during her travels served as the element needed to bring about emotional meaning. At this point, she also sought out a suitable name for her company. She wanted a name that spoke to diversity, heritage, and culture. Finally, Shaw came across the Indian word `shikara', which means houseboat. "The name `Sikara' is a variation on the word `shikara'. It fits our concept of taking the customer on a journey."

With her designing team, using 18-karat gold vermeil and sterling silver, they create elegant, classic interpretations of international jewelry. Over a five-year period, Sikara & Co. found an avid following.

"It was a risky concept, but I felt confident about it, and our revenue in the first year exceeded our expectations." Sikara & Co. is composed of 15 collections that pay homage to, among others, Polish, Egyptian, and Indian aesthetics.

To make the purchase special, included with each piece is a card explaining the jewelry's cultural and historical significance in the country from which the design was inspired.

In 2005, Sikara & Co. received the Harvard Business Plan Competition Award, and Shaw continues to work tirelessly doing trunk shows. She eventually hopes to create a program allowing customers to support charitable causes in the countries the jewelry pieces were inspired by.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-karat Gold Vermeil Milano Mesh Link Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Wire Mesh Bracelet

Sunday, August 30, 2009

COMMEMORATIVE QUOTABLE GEMS - DAVID CARRADINE

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

RON HENRY

One of the largest galleries of cottonwood trees is part of an indoor conservatory featured in Albuquerque, New Mexico's Rio Grande Botanic Garden. The garden covers a whopping 10,000 square feet and we are eager to explore the grounds, which is encased inside a stunning glass house. New Mexico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer, Ron Henry.

The distinctive silver jewelry from the southwestern region of the United States, particularly New Mexico and Arizona, is widely known for its time-honored, beautiful craftsmanship.

According to historians, Spaniards taught Mexicans silversmithing, and they in turn taught the Native Americans, including Navajo Indians, these extraordinary skills.

The Navajo, as well as other Indian tribes, carried on the trade through subsequent generations. Henry is one such artist carrying on this magnificent tradition.

Growing up on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Henry was surrounded by artistic greatness. His mother excelled as a silversmith, and rug weaver, while his older brother taught him how to work with silver.

Henry possessed a natural dexterity for the craft handling the techniques with precision. His skills were put to the test after he and his family relocated to Rochester, Minnesota in 1975 to set up their jewelry store, Chi-Nah-Bah. At the tender age of 12, while still attending high school, Henry provided the bulk of the designs sold at the store helping to bring his family's company worldwide recognition.

A highly gifted young man, with varied talents, once Henry graduated from high school he accepted a position with IBM; a position that took him to Tucson, Arizona.

Since Arizona housed a portion of the sprawling Navajo Reservation, the energy of its rich culture and tradition seemed to call out to him and not long after he left IBM to begin a career as a jewelry maker. He named his company Tribe Azure Jewelry.

Henry's designs are simply stunning. He creates custom-made designs without the use of molds implementing inlaid gemstones, like lapis, opal, or coral, in most all of his pieces. What is so incredible is inlaying gemstones is an art within itself.

The craft of inlay requires precision, and great attention to detail as a stone must exactly fit the channel it will set in. He creates pictorial etchings featuring animal motifs like snakes, birds, and dragons in some of his pieces. In other pieces, he fashions the likeness of bears, thunderbirds, and lightning from silver.

He blends traditional Navajo aesthetics with contemporary flourishes, but ultimately the spirit of the jewelry is Navajo. You feel the intangible bond between nature and spirit, as traditional animal motifs add the power of inspiration like the Butterfly Pendant, which reminds the wearer that transformation can come when you think a situation will never change.

Henry enjoys working with his customers by creating designs that blend both of their creative visions.

He also works with integrity, refusing to compromise his craft by copying the work of another, often at the request of a customer. I am mesmerized by the artistry of his work, the color combinations, and the high gloss of the silver.

His impeccable skills manifest so beautifully in his creations, yet he continues to expand his skills. He recently began to add diamonds to his pieces having avoided them for years due to his mother's distaste for them. Through extensive research, he taught himself to set diamonds, including pavé settings.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Coral Wonder Pendant with Inlaid Lapis, Opal, and 14-Karat Gold
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and 14-Karat Gold Dragonfly Bracelet with Inlaid Semi-Precious Gemstones

Friday, August 28, 2009

RUDKLOW PATANAANUNWONG

We stand along the Chao Phraya River's west bank in Thailand, taking in the beauty and learning the history of the Wangderm Palace. Though clearly Thai in its architecture, the structure is actually considered the first Thai building influenced by American aesthetics.

As we move along the grounds, we learn there are shrines to whalebones, Thai coins, and antique ceramics located here. Thailand is also the home of featured jewelry designer, Rudklow Patanaanunwong.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

MARCIN ZAREMSKI

Today we stand within The Great Hall of Warsaw, Poland's Royal Castle awestruck by its majestic opulence. Refurbished 21 years ago after being destroyed during World War II, our eyes are wide with amazement as we manage to move on to observe the Grand Staircase, the Canaletto Room, and the King's Bedroom. Poland is also the home of featured jewelry designer Marcin Zaremeski.

The limitations brought about by communist rule did not dim the fire of creativity in Zaremski or his parents, Jerzy and Jadwiga, who owned an art studio.

"In the 1940s my father scavenged for metal in scrap metal dumps and for silverware in local bazaars. It was difficult to get precious metals; gold was not available at all," Zaremski says.

Only recently has Poland's government warmed up to artists and their material needs. "Before now I'd usually wait for three months and would eventually only get 2 or 3 kilograms of silver for the whole year," he recalls.

A graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, Zaremski knew it was only a matter of time before he followed in the footsteps of his parents.  He often watched them work mesmerized by their ability to remain inspired as well as their capacity to create despite limited materials.

"It was inevitable that I would end up a jeweler. My parents loved what they did and that was contagious. My father taught himself the trade, but he always viewed his talent as something practical."

Zaremski's parents were considered pioneers of modern, Polish jewelry and Zaremski still finds inspiration from their designs. "I have about 1,500 pieces of my parents' jewelry. I could never sell them. They have great sentimental value to me," he says.

"People kept telling my parents how modern their jewelry was right at the moment I'd walk in carrying a bucket of coal for the furnace," he jokes. "Their design instinct was incredible considering they were artistically isolated. They had no contact with other artists."

Zaremski carries on his parents' modern, minimalistic approach using sterling silver, copper, and gold in his creations with little embellishment. I particularly like his fluid necklaces and bracelet creations whereby he incorporates vertical, silver discs that he arranges in a lei-type fashion.

Zaremski is most noted for his work with raw amber, a material with a bad reputation in Poland. "Amber is not highly thought of here, and some German and American tourists told me how awful the amber jewelry sold here is. So I came up with some designs I feel are good. I won't sell what I don't believe in."

In all frankness, for many years I--and most people I know--was partial to gold jewelry; but as I have matured, my tastes have broadened. I like the way Zaremski presents amber as well as its raw appearance. The orange-rust tinted, unpolished resin bears a resemblance to dried apricots.

In some pieces, he takes multiple, chunky amber stones setting them side-by-side; some of the chunks have a bit of translucency, while others are darker shades of brown or brick red providing a nice contrast of tones.

He sometimes sets the amber in sterling silver or includes sterling silver accents between the amber. Zaremski also enjoys using materials that are considered unpopular, or a non-essential component such as wood.

"I think using wood is a fantastic idea. I'm constantly inspired--a tree I saw in Thailand, the rooftops of houses in Italy, architecture, geometry. I get inspiration from everywhere."


The Montpellier Gallery in England commissions Zaremski's sleek, modern jewelry pieces. The jewelry artist also sells items from his shop in Warsaw, which he established in 1974.
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Photo 1 (top right): Raw Amber Slices with Sterlinh Silver Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Amber Collar Necklace with Sterling Silver Accents

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CORNELIA GOLDSMITH FINE JEWELRY

Today we explore the lush surroundings of the world's second largest botanical garden, Berlin Botanical Garden in Germany.

Dwelling within the various climate-controlled greenhouses are timber bamboo, orchids, bromeliads, fern, and tropical lilies. Germany is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer, Cornelia Goldsmith.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DANIEL SWAROVSKI | SWAROVSKI

Scenic hiking routes surround the stately Altenhof Castle in Austria. The routes are just a sampling of the breathtaking beauty that helps define the ambience of this centuries-old landmark.

Owned by the Salburg-Falkenstein counts, the refurbished castle and its grounds house terraced gardens, garden halls, tennis courts, a golf course, and a sauna. Austria is also the home base for the Swarovski brand.

Monday, August 24, 2009

DIMA RASHID | DIMA JEWELLERY

Today we soak up the atmosphere of the Stella Di Mira Beach along Egypt's Gulf of Suez. We pause shortly to observe the palm trees' gravity-defying, upright leaves, and then move along to the mainland to try our hand at waterskiing and windsurfing. Egypt is also the present home of featured jewelry designer Dima Rashid.

A native of Palestine, in 2000 Rashid fled with her family to Cairo, Egypt after a bloody uprising.

As she settled into her new environment, she took stock of Egypt's rich artisan history that included jewelry making. "Egypt's culture, the people have become an ideal platform for my creativity," she explains.

Patient and intelligent, Rashid taught herself jewelry design and jewelry making through information on the internet, as well as assistance from her jeweler. She started by creating anklets using strips of leather and beads.

Within several months she felt ready to learn more, and watched as her jeweler arranged materials to her specifications. These initial designs were "limited to my closest friends and me," but Rashid continued to develop her skills while riding the wave of inspiration her adopted country provided. "Egypt is truly a beautiful, magnificent place," she enthuses.

Her growing skills resulted in more sophisticated designs which, unbeknownst to Rashid, caught the attention of Harper's Bazaar Chief Editor Natasha Fraser. While dining with her family at a Parisian restaurant, Fraser approached Rashid and without introducing herself proceeded to inquire about the earrings Rashid wore. Once she learned Rashid was a jewelry designer Fraser asked if she could view other items she might have, Rashid agreed.

Early the following morning, the hotel's concierge awakened Rashid as he informed her that Fraser had arrived. Fraser looked over the baubles for two hours, purchased a couple of items, and left a drowsy Rashid a business card.

"When I saw who she was, I called her to apologize for being out of it, but she brushed it off and told me she set up a meeting for me with Erickson Beamon in London."

Rashid later contacted British Vogue's jewelry editor to set up an appointment. The meeting exceeded Rashid's expectations as supermodel Gisele Bundchen graced the cover of the magazine wearing a pair of Rashid's earrings. By 2004, she launched her company Dima Jewellery.

Having a love for gemstones, Rashid builds designs around them.  She spends days creating sketches for  individual stones.  There are plenty of luminous, soft-colored stones featured in her delicate creations from white, pavé diamonds to pink topaz and blue opal set in 18-karat "battered" gold.

The jewelry is as exotic and beautiful as its designer.  With styles ranging from simple gemstone pendants to draping bibs of gold and gemstones to sparkling, protective charm jewelry.

"I source my stones from a family in Jaipur, India with a high reverence for them," she acknowledges, "They believe nature reveals its innate beauty to man through gems, and that a stone should not be tampered with beyond shaping and cutting."

Rashid chose her gem supplier for ethical reasons as well. "I can guarantee both the quality and the sourcing of the stone as I feel it is our duty as designers to ensure that jewelry is as environmentally friendly as possible."

Rashid's feminine, elegant jewelry sells around the world in London, Dallas, and Dubai at Barneys New York, and Neiman Marcus. Such famous faces as Vanessa Williams, Eva Mendes, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, and Victoria Beckham covet the lovely fine jewelry.

Ultimately, Rashid's design approach is to create jewels that are timeless not trend driven. "Jewelry is for loving and wearing; for passing on from mother to daughter."


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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Turquoise Earring with Drop Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom right): 18-Karat Gold Amethyst Cluster Ring

Sunday, August 23, 2009

COMMEMORATIVE QUOTABLE GEMS - ED McMAHON

My childhood dream was to be a broadcaster. In those days, before television, it was to be a radio announcer. All my heroes were people that announced on radio.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

JAMES MEYER JEWELRY

The Scott Arboretum, located at Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College, offers year round information on landscaping and horticulture. The assortment of flowering cherries, tree peonies, and roses not only provide lovely scenery for the campus grounds, but the flora also offers "living examples" to visiting homeowners searching for garden and landscaping ideas. Pennsylvania is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer James Meyer.

Standing before a large easel, Meyer felt a wave of pride as he looked over a portrait he created with images of trees, a mountain, animals, and blue heavens.

He was five years old at the time; his earliest memory of nature's hold on him, as well as his first form of artistic expression. "The teacher was, as I recall, also quite taken with it, and I suppose that's where it all began," he recalls. It would be another 25 years, however, before he embraced a calling to design and create jewelry.

Choosing to forego his parents' recommendation to pursue a law career, Meyer attended the Rhode Island School of Design where he studied drawing and sculpture. Receiving the Fulbright Scholarship allowed him to study art at Athens Polytechneion in Italy.

He immediately fell in love with the culture. "It has become a habit, you might say, for me and my wife Anne. We became very fond of the Mediterranean lifestyle," he acknowledges, "Italian cultural artifacts, from the dawn of history to the present, is a virtually inexhaustible source of delight and discovery for me."

Four years later, after returning to Pennsylvania, Meyer taught art at Lycoming College. Restless for a creative outlet he left Lycoming to embark on a career as an artist and sculptor. Jewelry making remained an unrealized outlet, that is until he "forged some jewelry out of a bronze welding rod for my wife and friends as Christmas presents," he recalls. "One of my friends suggested I could make jewelry for a living," and James Meyer Jewelry was born.

Meyer loves the aspect of partaking in a centuries-old, universal medium. "The remarkable aspect about the art of jewelry is the simplicity of it all, but by "simple" I don't mean easy," he stresses.

"One works with one's whole body, the hands, and eyes, to bring about a finished piece. The noble metals--gold and silver--are incorruptible and can be soldered, engraved, cut, and hammered in a continuous process resulting in beautiful items that can provide a source of vitality and power for the wearer in an impermanent and ever-changing world."

Meyer's reverence and love for Italian art and architecture brings an inner radiance to his one-of-a-kind designer jewelry. The vine and floral motifs of many of his dress style rings add an enchanted, mystical quality, while the gemstones captivate with their rich, hypnotic colors.
His beautifully distinctive creations are frequently custom made. "I take the client's concept and make sketches implementing my interpretation of the design. Ultimately, the final piece is a marriage of my client's and my own visions." The jewelry has a timeless beauty with its unusual yet intriguing blend of vintage and contemporary aesthetics.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Vine/Leaf Ring with Cabochon Amethyst
Photo 2 (bottom right): South Sea White-Pink Pearl Necklace with 18-Karat Gold Chain

Friday, August 21, 2009

BVLGARI

We are staying another day in Greece traveling to the province of Epirus. We take in the sights of Parga Beach with the astonishing, pristine waters of the Ionian Sea and partake in the local waterside amenities. We then drive a short distance to view the Nekromanteio Ruins in Acheron. Greece is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sotirios Boulgaris.

I had expected a trip to Italy for today's feature; however, upon researching the iconic Italy-based brand, I learned that its founder is actually Greek! The progeny of silversmiths, in 1879 Boulgaris put his silversmithing skills to the test by moving to Rome, Italy and selling his handmade, silver objects on the steps of the Villa Medici.

The Villa Medici housed the French Academy, an institution populated with French artists who were recipients of a prestigious, Roman scholarship. The academy's adherence to certain artistic disciplines would influence Boulgaris' early designs.

A Greek merchant living in Rome was impressed with Boulgaris' earnestness and allowed him to showcase his distinctive, silver carvings in the window of his shop. Within 15 years, Boulgaris' unique ornaments became very popular earning him enough money to open his own store.

Always looking ahead, he continued to improve his skills and within 11 years, he would move his store to the location where it remains to this day: Via dei Condotti 10.

In an interesting bit of trivia, he initially named the store for a Charles Dickens novel, "Old Curiosity Shop" in the hope to attract tourists from Britain and North America.

With a decrease in clientele during the summer months and an increased, more versatile inventory at his disposal, for a time Boulgaris focused energy on wrangling potential customers staying in summer resorts outside of Rome. He focused on one area: St. Moritz in Switzerland. His decision proved lucrative as it allowed him to establish subsidiary stores managed by relatives.

Though enjoying his success in St. Moritz, Boulgaris recognized the importance of remaining attentive to his main store in Rome and he returned. Having involved his sons Giorgio and Constantino in the business--trained silversmiths as well--the company saw the addition of brilliant gemstones to its jewelry like diamonds, sapphires, and topaz.

After their father's death in 1934, Giorgio and Constantino renovated the Rome store and after almost three decades, renamed the store for the senior Boulgaris (the Roman spelling being Bvlgari).

Some twenty years after World War II, Bvlgari's design approach shifted from the French Academy's strict standard to its distinctive blend of Italian and Grecian aesthetics for which the company is world-renowned.

The brand's fine jewelry ranges from elegant gold bracelets, gold disc necklaces, and dog tag necklaces to lavish bib necklaces with hundreds of carats worth of precious gemstones, as well as beautiful bridal jewelry. In addition, the company implements stainless steel, sterling silver, and 18-karat yellow, white, and pink gold in its designs.

By the 1970s, the brand gained worldwide recognition with stores in Monte Carlo, Geneva, Paris, and New York; while also adding a watch collection to its list of luxury items that are manufactured in Switzerland.

Among its innovative luxury watch designs is the Diagono Professional Scuba Chrono. Implementing ideas from professional divers, the watch features anti-reflective glass, clear dial indicators, and luminescent markers.

In the last 25 years, the progressive, innovative company has seen a number of milestones. Near the mid-80s, Sotirios' grandsons, Paolo and Nicola, assumed administrative positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman, while their nephew, Francesco Trapani, was elected Chief Executive Officer.

In the 90s--and therafter--the brand diversified its products with the inclusion of cologne, eye wear, leather goods, and silk products. The jewelry house addressed the issue of conflict diamonds by purchasing "polished" diamonds from suppliers who abide by the Kimberley Process, and provide a Kimberley Process Certificate.


Without question, this astounding brand is a bona fide member of the century-plus powerhouse club alongside Van Cleef & Arpels (France), Cartier (France), Tiffany & Co. (USA), and Carrera y Carrera (Spain). For more on Bvlgari's gorgeous designer jewelry, click here.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Alegra Pendant with Colored Gemstones
Photo 2 (bottom right): Mulit-Gemstone Bib Necklace set in 18-Karat Yellow Gold

Thursday, August 20, 2009

KONSTANTINO

The Balkan Botanic Garden is perched along the hillside of the Kroussia Mountains in Greece. Within its gates are aromatic plants oregano, mint, and sage, two artificial lakes, as well as an artificial alpine environment. The garden is multi-functional serving as a conservatory, and a horticultural and environmental research center. Greece is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Konstantino Sioulas.

There is a palpable aura of strength to Sioulas' medieval-like jewelry. The lore of Excalibur with Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table immediately came to my mind.

In particular, I envision Guinevere wearing Silouas' beautiful, filligree Phaedra Cuff Bracelet from his Phoebe Collection. Made with arabesque patterns set in sterling silver, the piece not only complements Guinevere's beauty but Phaedra shares a similar forbidden romantic fixation.

Surrounded by Greece's spectacular ancient architecture, and knowledgeable of Greek legends, Sioulas is keenly aware of his ripe inspirational palette. "My father taught me constantly about Greek philosophy, art, and history," he offers, "My village, Melitea, belonged to the warrior Achilles of Troy. Knowing this famous warrior had actually lived in my birthplace had a lifelong impact."

Through his company, Konstantino, Sioulas' sterling silver and 18-karat gold jewelry expresses his love for Greek mythology, landscapes, artisanship, and breathtaking Mediterranean scenery.  Ancient cross and floral motifs, intricate lattice and knot patterns sprinkled with citrine, topaz, pearls, or black onyx are his signatures.

In honor of sunsets seen from the island of Hydra, he created the Nefeli Collection made with oxidized silver and accented with a mosaic blend of sapphires, rubies, and green garnets. "Every piece I design possesses my passion for Greece," he says.

His blend of ancient and modern aesthetics results in gorgeous designer jewelry for the woman with strong physical presence, in tune with her inner goddess. For those who cannot quite summon their inner Aphrodite, Sioulas has the perfect accessory, a pearl ring inscribed with "Dare to have the courage to love."

Sioulas also designs wristbands, coin pendant necklaces, dog tag necklaces, and cuff links for men. He approaches his men's jewelry collection as he does the women's: to inspire with symbols of strength like Adonis or Pegasus embossed in bronze and set against an antique silver background.

Sioulas' high-end, opulent designer jewelry has been featured in layouts for Town and Country, Orange Coast, Scottsdale, and InStyle, and are sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. Among Konstantino's clientele are Melina Kanakaredes, Oprah Winfrey, Melissa Etheridge, and Sean Combs.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and 18-Karat Gold Rings with Mosaic Gemstones from the Nefeli Collection
Photo 2 (bottom right): Oxidized Sterling Silver Floral Cuff Bracelet and Pendant with 18-Karat Gold Accents and Vibrant Gemstones from the Flora Collection

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TRACE PALMER | KarmaKulture

Today we observe the assortment of beautiful flora located in the Palm House Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Ireland. At 181 years old, the botanic garden is a true monument with scatterings of fuchsia, begonia, and geranium inside the "cool wing" of the cast-iron glasshouse, the Palm House. Ireland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer, Trace Palmer.

When I look at Palmer's ethereal, blown glass jewelry, it is amazing to know that she has a postgraduate degree in Computers in Music, and a certificate in Audio Engineering.

Drawn to creative energy, during her early 20s she worked for a small, London-based record label handling press promotion and the tour schedule for a Goth band.

Several years later, she relocated to Los Angeles, California after accepting a position with another small record label. In time, the grind of long hours and indifferent industry movers and shakers took a toll on the label, and Palmer.

"I was burnt out and needed a break from the city and the hectic music business," she admits. The label eventually folded, but Palmer still wanted "a profession that could inspire me creatively and give me independence."

Palmer's artist brother, Gary, lived an enviable lifestyle: he was his own boss, he chose his hours, and he made time to travel. To her his life merited emulation. She moved from Los Angeles to a stress-free, wooded area in Oregon. The natural environment stimulated her creativity and she sold homemade soaps and candles to the local farmers market.

During one of her excursions to the famers market, she was introduced to glass blowers. "I found the medium captivating and I loved to watch them create. I tried my hand at glass blowing and it felt so natural."

Looking to her brother for inspiration and emotional support, Palmer traveled with him for several months through Africa. Feeling rested and clearheaded she decided to move back to Los Angeles and established her company, KarmaKulture where she creates exquisite, hand sculpted blown glass jewelry.

She uses highly durable glass called PYREX® in rod form and melts clear, individual rods with a torch creating shape through gravity's pull. Colors like shimmery whites, liquid blues, and rich reds are added by melting toxin-free minerals such as silver, gold, cobalt, and copper on the back area of the glass.

The process brings forth a lovely, floating apparition-type design, and a background color is layered on the glass as a final, spectacular touch. The pieces are allowed to cool for 24 hours, a step that further enhances the strength of the glass. Palmer also implements silver and leather chords to suspend earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Palmer shapes the glass through instinct, allowing the organic quality of the process to take over. She particularly loves to create custom jewelry designs by listening to her clients and taking notes of their nuances and idiosyncrasies. "I love that connection with a person. I love to make a piece especially for someone to fit their character," she enthuses.

Although she relishes building her company, she is ready to enlist the aid of others in both creative and business aspects.  "I have done the hard groundwork; I have made the appropriate sacrifices--very little social life and no romantic partner until recently. I would like to train someone to assist me with jewelry making and someone to help with marketing and accounting."

Palmer's business and marketing skills have definitely served her. Her mystical jewelry has been featured in such publications as Marie Claire, Lucky, Teen Magazine, and Elle.

Her gorgeous, hand formed trinkets have been worn by actor Sharon Stone in the feature film Cold Creek Manor; singer Jill Scott in her Whatever music video; and the t.v. show Friends featured the beautiful glass sculptures as worn by Lisa Kudrow's character, Phoebe.

Both retailers and art galleries commission her jewelry, among them Fred Segal, Platino, and Jennifer Kaufman; and the Functional Art Gallery, and Pearce Gallery.

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Photo 1 (top right): Triptych Necklace Suspended from Sterling Silver Circles
Photo 2 (bottom right): Goddess Necklace

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ELKE KRAMER

Today we stroll along the southern coast of Sydney, Australia's Bondi Beach. We see cyclists, rollerbladers, and of course surfers. Australia is also home to featured jewelry designer, Elke Kramer.

Even at age 10 Kramer had a flair for the dramatic. "I turned up to my conservative school wearing tie-dyed stockings and dress with multi-colored, sequined Converse® sneakers," she explains.

"My schoolmates were mortified. I was magnetized to lavishness and excess from a very early age." Maintaining her edgy style sense, she designed the tattoos she sports as well as occasionally revamping her corkscrew curls, a la Tarina Tarantino (USA), with colors like soft pink.

Her independent, fearless style lends itself to many creative outlets that soothe her restless need for self-expression. "I can't confine my ideas to just one medium like jewelry," she acknowledges, "I'm constantly exploring new materials to manifest ideas."

Kramer's impressive assortment of outlets include art direction, graphic, textile, and web design; illustrating and publishing.  This Jack--or Jane rather--of all trades, however, makes certain to strike a balance. "I try my best not to do more than I can handle at a given time."

A graduate of the University of New South Wales' College of Fine Arts (COFA), Kramer did not consider jewelry design as a career although she chose it as an elective. Her passion for couture landed her positions at publications like Oyster Magazine and Sass & Bide.

However, once fashion designer Michelle Robinson enlisted her to design baubles for a runway show, Kramer witnessed a strong public response to her bold, avant-garde aesthetic. Reconsidering its function, she incorporated jewelry design into her repertoire of creative channels discovering she could blend her love of fashion into this one channel.

Using plywood, inlaid resin, brass beads, and copper, among other materials, some of her bangle bracelet creations resemble the inner structure of clocks painted with clean, geometric patterns, while others resemble origami. There are origami-like fan earrings, rings possessing the semblance of an Incan headdress, and neckpieces with subtle Aztec influences.

Her flamboyant design approach is purposeful. "I am true to my own aesthetic. I keep it personal reflecting my relationship with my work, not media response, or opinion," she says.

Remaining true to her varying needs of self-expression, Kramer has broadened her range of accessories to belts, purses, handbags, and silk scarves.

Inspired by everything from foreign travels to friends and family, she is looking to expand her creativity even further.  "I have an object background and would prefer to broaden into home wares, ceramics, lighting and wallpaper," she says.

Her most ambitious dream is to build and decorate her own home. "It would be a blend of the craft lifestyle of Martha Stewart, but on acid," she jokes.

Kramer is presently sharing creative space in a large studio setting with other creative minds including musicians, film directors, and photographers.

Check out a MySpace Fashion's video that features Kramer, and fellow designers. Her website is currently being updated, but you can view some of her jewelry items at Liberty.co.uk.
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Photo 1 (top right): Multiple Bulky Bangle Bracelets s from collaboration with Jessie Hill
Photo 2 (bottom right): Necklace

Monday, August 17, 2009

KEIKO MITA | K. MITA DESIGN

Now is an optimum time to visit Rebun Island, a picturesque area off the northern tip of Hokkaido, Japan. The beautiful landscape is blanketed with some of the rarest alpine flowers. The best way to explore the island is through a number of hiking trails, one of which is located on Gorota Beach off the island's western coast. Japan is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Keiko Mita.

Mita's elegant, contemporary jewelry designs highlight diverse influences from Canadian, Japanese, and American aesthetics to the great Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Mita's award-winning career began when she became intrigued with the craft of shaping metal as she pursued her fine arts degree while attending Hokkaido University.

This unyielding fascination led her to attend The Emily Carr School of Design in Vancouver, Canada; here she studied mixed-media sculpture, which involves the use of assorted materials to create a piece. She didn't stop there, Mita traveled to New York to study jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

Upon building a solid educational base, Mita began to build a portfolio that included sculpture, artwork, and jewelry. She subsequently worked for a number of jewelry manufacturers in both Japan and the United States paying careful attention to respective techniques and styles.

In 1995, Mita made her first designs using 18-karat gold, platinum, and diamonds while working for a jewelry company based in Japan. Drawing from her work and educational experiences, Mita eventually established her own company, K. Mita Design, in 2002.

Presently, Mita's metals of choice are 18-karat yellow gold, and oxidized sterling silver with splashes of tiny diamonds, and brilliant colored gemstones. She has a wonderful capacity to add dimension to an understated design. She does this by adding a touch of gorgeous texture to gold, or pulls out flat surfaces to create three-dimensional pendant necklaces.

For example, a circle pendant necklace is opened up by carving several shreds into the gold revealing oxidized silver on the inside. Mita sprays several, tiny diamonds along the shreds of this part oxidized silver, part gold pendant resulting in an appearance resembling stars racing pass a planet.

In a mixed metal ring, she interlocks raised, carved shreds of oxidized silver and yellow gold. Finally, the artistry of the simulated waves of sand in her Sand Dune Collection is stunning.

Gallery exhibitions in New York and New Jersey have commissioned Mita's unique, breathtaking creations including the Aaron Faber Gallery, the Artrider Show, and Greene and Greene Gallery.

Since 1992, Mita has won numerous awards including first prize of the Van Cleef & Arpels, Inc. Award, The Creative Jewelry Award, the JJA Jewelry Award, and the De Beers Right Hand Ring Award.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Brooch Pin with Tiny Diamonds from Sand Dune Collection
Photo 2 (bottom right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Large "Shredded" Round Pendant on Wire Cable with Oxidized Silver Accents and Small Diamonds from the Moire Collection

Saturday, August 15, 2009

EUGENE JOSEFF | JOSEFF OF HOLLYWOOD

The sound of falling water greets us as we take in the sight of Chicago Botanic Garden's Waterfall Garden. This is a beautiful spot with weeping conifers and hanging plants. We observe the sparkling water cascade along a hillside into smaller pools. Chicago is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Eugene Joseff.

The movies made during Hollywood's Golden Age were loaded with broad slapstick, high drama, intrigue, romance, and above all glamour. We're talking flawless hair, makeup, couture, and jewelry.

Ove the years, I have watched a number of classic films wondering who designed the incredible, distinctive jewelry. At the time, I was not inclined to find out that is until I started this blog. Amazingly, after months of searches I found the answer so it is thrilling to share Joseff's story.

As a young adult, Joseff apprenticed for several years in a foundry doing metalwork, but his curiosity and intelligence led him to explore various interests and he later pursued a career in advertising.

In the late 1920s, just at the start of the Depression, he left Chicago for Hollywood, California to try his hand at his newfound profession. Fate stepped in, however, as he deftly maneuvered his way through Hollywood entertainment circles eventually meeting costume designer, Walter Plunkett.

After seeing a period film set in the 1500s, Joseff noticed the jewelry was historically inaccurate--20th century pieces were used--and he informed Plunkett of the discrepancy. Plunkett in turn challenged Joseff to offer a solution, which he did.

Drawing from his fertile imagination, metalworking experience, and illustrations from rare jewelry books he owned, Joseff created majestic, ornate pieces specific to each film. He developed what is known as Russian Gold-Plating for his pieces, which has a matte, coppery finish.

The plating was a huge innovation that prevented glare from bright, studio lights while possessing the appearance of actual gold on film. Joseff's eclectic range of pieces was used in Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Wizard of Oz, Cleopatra and Gone with the Wind, among countless others. His creations became so popular among the luminous starlets who wore them, they asked him to create pieces for their personal jewelry collections.

Flexing his business acumen, Joseff rented his jewelry to studios as opposed to selling them, which allowed him to retain ownership. In 1938, he enlisted the managerial assistance of Joan Castle, from Sawyer Business School, who helped run his company, Joseff of Hollywood.

The two began a relationship that resulted in marriage four years later. Recognizing the impact of his jewelry on women watching the likes of Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis, the progressive designer sold the jewelry to the public through Neiman Marcus, and Marshall Field's.

Tragically, Joseff would not see the continued success of the company. A licensed pilot, he died in a plane crash in 1948. His wife, Joan, continued running the company extending the use of his one-of-a-kind jewelry to iconic television series including Dynasty and Knots Landing, as well as feature films like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Joseff's daughter-in-law, Tina Joseff, works as a manager at the company and warns that online antique jewelry sellers who declare they have original items are more than likely fake pieces.

According to Ms. Joseff there is only one active distributor of Joseff of Hollywood, Carol Levy with whom she works closely. Levy--who as far as I can tell does not have a website--can be contacted for info on the jewelry at fishlev@msn.com.

Joseff's pieces are extremely rare, as he did not create duplicates. Once an item was used in a film, it was returned to him and accordingly these items are very expensive. An astounding three million original pieces, ranging from brooch pins to tiaras, are located in labeled boxes stored in an undisclosed warehouse.

Authentic pieces are marked with either one of two identifying stamps: the name Joseff written in script on a round frame, or Joseff Hollywood in block, uppercase letters on a rectangular frame.

In any event, fake or not the photos included in this post are from an online antique jewelry seller. Whether the seller received the items from someone who bought an original piece and then sold it to this seller remains to be seen; however photos were included on the website showing the jewelry's identifying stamps.

From what I have read, replicated stamps can be soldered on to a fake piece so that it appears to be an orignal. I wanted to include these photos to give you an idea of the type of grand artistry for which Joseff was renowned.
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Photo 1 (top right): Princess Face Necklace and Earring Set with Blue Cabochons
Photo 2 (bottom right): Green and Red Lily Brooch Pin with Rose and Green Cabochons

Friday, August 14, 2009

AYALA BAR DESIGN

We walk along the Coral Beach Natural Reserve in Eiliat, Israel careful not to step on sea urchins. With the beautiful Mediterranean as our backdrop, we opt to go on a scuba expedition. Later on, we take some time to journey to another of Eiliat's beaches, Dolphin Reef Beach. Israel is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Ayala Bar.

Since its inception 19 years ago, Ayala Bar Design boasts over 250 jewelry items in every collection. Bar's amazing level of creativity stems from her capacity to take notice of minute details: dark, billowy gray clouds floating ominously behind the lush leaves of tall trees. The warm, chocolate hues of fresh mulch, and plump drops of rain on a windshield.

Bar creates designer jewelry with patterns and colors resembling intricate tapestry. Using glass beads, crystal rhinestones, mineral stones, antique gold and silver, and pieces of fabric the trinkets explode with vivid color.

There are succulent, candy-like reds, yellows, greens, pinks, and shimmery gold. The color combinations are limitless from brilliant oranges to subdued pastels, grays and taupe making the jewelry's ornate, mosaic style her signature.

After graduating from art school in the 1980s, Bar actively explored her inventive, creative tendencies working as an interior designer, and in the theatre. Before choosing jewelry design as her creative outlet, and establishing her company, she worked as a jewelry exporter.

Her handmade jewelry designs boast an eclectic following that includes not only retailers but also art galleries and museums.

Her creations are sold at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama, the Jewish Museum in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her designs are also sold at online jewelry stores ArtfulSoul.com, and JacobsLadderJudaica.com.

This is stunning jewelry. It is like looking at a field of bright-colored flowers, or stained glass ornaments. It is lavishly regal yet ethereal and delicate.
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Photo 1 (top right): Tiger Eye Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom right): Timeless Necklace in Twilight Blues

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PHILIPPE FERRANDIS

We are visiting the pebble-laden beaches located in Nice, France. We have made sure to purchase beach shoes to secure our footing; however, the thought of strolling along the beach of such a glamorous city holds our attention. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Philippe Ferrandis.

Established 23 years ago, Ferrandis' company produces handmade jewelry designs implementing bronze, rhodium-plated copper, precious and semi-precious stones, and Swarovski Crystals.

His designer jewelry reflects the type of opulence reminiscent of vintage jewerlry pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels (France) at the height of the Art Nouveau period. Inspired by nature's radiance, Ferrandis works closely with his team of artisans to create trinkets full of romance and vibrancy.

A single, beautiful cameo is the centerpiece of a cuff-bracelet fashioned from sterling silver and clear crystals. Other necklaces are structured from bold, chunky gemstones giving the piece a bold style similar to some South American jewelry.

Some bracelets are free form in structure adorned with a cluster of multiple gemstones in various shapes, colors, and sizes. Floral motifs and delicate charms abound; there are small, branched flowers draped over dark, smooth stones.

There are large flowers, made from colored crystals, literally branching out linking together to form a necklace. In some of his pendant necklaces, Ferrandis' creates stemmed flowers from pastel-colored stones, combining and arranging them into a small, bouquet of flowers suspended from a chain. Overall the jewelry's essence is springtime in France and luxury.  It is an effortless embodiment of the feminine spirit.

Ferrandis' outstanding talent is highly respected within France's fashion circles. Couture designers like Escada, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, and Balmain regulary request his jewelry to complement their designs.

Publications such as Marie Claire and Vogue routinely feature Ferrandis' jewelry in their layouts. He designs two collections a year, and is currently creating a line for fashion house Nina Ricci.
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Photo 1 (top right): Bronze Set Earrings with Green Stones
Photo 2 (bottom right): Rhodium-Plated Copper, and Brass Floral Necklace with Enamel, Swarovski crystals, and Mother-of-Pearl

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ADRIANA CARADOR

The São Paulo Zoological Gardens Foundation in São Paulo, Brazil is a remarkable place. It is filled with information on animals as diverse as Spix' macaw to white rhinoceros. It is the first Brazilian institution to participate in programs designed to protect the country's endangered wildlife. Brazil is also home to jewelry designer Adriana Carador.

As with all the jewelry creations featured here, Carador's designer jewelry captures your attention and refuses to let go. Prominent within Brazilian's high-powered social circles, Carador admired the fanciful baubles and stylish clothing she saw.

She traveled to Rome, Italy to study both accessories and fashion design. Young and driven she returned to her hometown opening two women's apparel boutiques. Her shops provided her with financial rewards as well as allowed her to display the wares of high-end European designers like Prada and Roberto Cavalli.

On a trip to Milan, while viewing the latest fashion collections, Carador envisioned cuff bracelets and gemstone earrings to complement the stylish outfits. Unable to get the images out of her mind, she began to sketch her ideas. The powerful imagery created an internal stir leading her to study the history of gemstones and jewelry. Enlisting the assistance of Brazilian goldsmiths, Carador established her company. In time, she sold her boutiques to focus on jewelry making permanently.



There was one other aspect Carador envisioned for her jewelry, a U.S. market. For this, she called on Victoria Flores, a business school graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science, and a MBA in International Management. It did not hurt that Flores, a Texas native of Mexican descent, loved jewelry.

"I was sent home from class because I would wear my grandmother's expensive necklaces to Catholic school," Flores says. The two women then formed a business plan that involved giving private trunk shows in upper crust areas like Beverly Hills, Dallas, New York City, Aspen, and the Hamptons.

Carador's creations definitely do not require a hard sell. She gathers up semi-precious and precious stones such as sapphires, tourmaline, and diamonds creating astonishing, opulent jewelry cast in 18-karat yellow and rose gold. The pieces are elegant with an extravagant, bold style like the cocktail rings that feature large, faceted gemstones (they are not for the timid).

There are many gorgeous gemstone combinations, such as a beautiful, hybrid blend of coral and tiger's eye fashioned into earrings. There are two carved, flower rings inspired by the Vatican; one carved from white calcedonia, the other from black onyx. They possess life-like, voluminous detailing of blooming flora.
An exquisite elephant pendant necklace made with brilliant pink tourmaline and offset with gold accents hangs delicately from a gold chain. This is statement jewelry.

"What makes our jewelry so special is that each design is an original," Carador explains, "Women love that they are wearing something no one else has."
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Photo 1 (top right) 18-Karat Yellow Gold Snake Ring with Diamonds and Pink Tourmaline
Photo 2 (center): Yellow Gold Medieval Bracelet with Diamonds
Photo 3 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Tiger's Eye Pendant Necklace with Diamonds and Coral

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CARRERA Y CARRERA

The mere sight of Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain sends waves of gooseflesh over us. Completed in 1755 by architect Alberto Churriguera, the exquisite, baroque detailing stuns us, as we feel transported through time. We stand in the town hall, which once buzzed with the cheers of excited crowds watching bullfights. We move through the ominous arches that lead into a square holding restaurants, shops, and cafés. Spain is also the home base for jewelry house Carrera y Carrera.

Carrera y Carrera stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside designer jewelry houses Cartier (France) and Tiffany & Co. (USA).   At over 100 years old, the company is the embodiment of metalworker and sculptor Satorio Carrera's aspirations.

In 1885, upon moving to Paris, Carrera set up a workshop where he handcrafted incredible talisman-like pieces featuring the powerful musculature of leopards and panthers. Elaborate, ornate detailing became the brand's signature style as Spain's aristocrats eagerly took notice. As the company expanded pieces were created by special order of the Spanish royal family.

The extraordinary designs created by the goldsmiths presently working for the company follow the example of the company's founder. They design with great care believing that the ultimate placement of gemstones, the structure of metals is creating art.

Satoria Carrera observed nature closely understanding the purposefulness in its design. He implemented everything from textured engravings of both flowers and peacock feathers in 18-karat yellow and white gold.

The immortalization of the Taj Mahal's minute, architectural detail, the Trellis Flower, is set in white gold and embellished with diamonds.

The royal elegance of the brand's princess-themed Bridal Jewelry Collection gives homage to the princess in every woman, and the brand's luxury watches are imbued with vibrant color.

The Carrera y Carrera brand also draws inspiration from another natural phenomenon, actor Ava Gardner. World renowned for her acting talent and luminous beauty, the jewelry house devoted three collections to the starlet: Ava, Sol y Sombra, and Te Quiero.

The collections are magnificent interpretations of Gardner's personality and unique beauty, as well as the passion of Madrid--where Gardner lived for several years during the 1950s. The splendid items fashioned from white and yellow gold--sometimes in a single piece--and pavé diamonds are stunning.

The incredible, distinctive jewelry is sold in over 60 countries including Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the United States.


Throughout its century-plus reign, Carrera y Carrera has acquired enviable clientele including singers Victoria Beckham and Shakira, actors Meryl Streep and the late Audrey Hepburn, and fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.


Among its most distinguished clients is Spanish noblewoman Fabiola de Mora y Aragon, who wore the brand's bridal tiara when she married Belgium's King Baudouin I in 1960.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow and White Gold Bull's Horn Ring with Diamonds from the Ava Collection
Photo 2 (bottom right): 18-Karat Yellow and White Gold Panther Ring with Round and Baguette Diamonds

Monday, August 10, 2009

AYESHA STUDIO | FINE JEWELRY

The casuarina trees' feather-like leaves shield us from the sun as we walk to the picturesque Digha Beach in Calcutta, India. Today we opt to relax, positioning our lounge chairs in a good spot as we listen to the gentle lapping of the Bay of Bengal's waves. At the close of our day, we are treated with a spectacular sunset. India is also the birthplace of Ayesha Mayadas.

A cornerstone of India's jewelry industry dating back to the Mughal Dynasty is trinkets made with gold. From ornate neckpieces with accents of pearls and diamonds to simple gold chains suspending a single locket, the beautiful quality of India's gold jewelry is unquestionable.

Mayadas' elegant, regal gold jewelry is no exception. The buttery color and voluptuous texture of her nature-inspired, 18-karat yellow gold jewelry reflect superlative metalworking skills.

Several years after moving from Calcutta, India to Rochester, New York, Mayadas enjoyed a successful, thirteen-year stint as a textile engineer. Her fascination with precious metals, however, led her to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where she received a Masters in Metals. Within a few years she established her company Ayesha Studio | Fine Jewelry.

She implements a hammering technique that renders jewelry possessing an appearance that brings to mind ancient queens. Her remarkable, sculpturesque floral shapes, solar trajectories, and simulated raindrops display her reverence for nature.

The soft curves of her pieces--poised to drape an arm, neck, or ear--replicate nature's fluidity. Accents of diamonds, rubies, tanzanite, freshwater pearls, as well as silver, platinum, and oxidized copper, add lyricism to the gold's gentle twists and coils.

The designer jewelry is simply radiant due largely to Mayadas' incredible talent to structure pieces that seem weightless and buoyant.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold and Patinated Copper Autumn Leaves Brooch
Photo 2 (bottom right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Linked Swirl Necklace

JEWELRY BUYING TIPS

So far, my Splendor Sidebar posts have focused on information about simple jewelry-making projects, and links to online stores selling jewelry supplies, or gorgeous, affordable jewelry. For this post, I gathered up some information providing tips on buying certain types of jewelry like vintage or gold jewelry (i.e. gold-plated, gold-filled, etc.). I hope the information will be of some help.

There are several factors to keep in mind when purchasing vintage jewelry: quality, condition, manufacturers, and for whom you are buying the jewelry. An article by Pamela Wiggins from
About.com gives some helpful information on getting the most for your money.

Buying gold jewelry is a bit more straightforward. 24-karat gold is the purest and most expensive as there are no additional metals mixed in. There are varying opinions, however, on the durability of gold this pure.

Eighteen-karat gold is considered the most durable because it contains 18 parts gold, and 6 parts of one or more additional metals, or 75% gold; while 14-karat gold contains 14 parts gold, and 10 parts one or more additional metals, or 58% gold, which is believed to be not as durable.

Trying to determine which type of gold-coated jewelry is more durable, however, can pose a particularly frustrating conundrum. Check out Carly Wickell's article from
About.com on buying all types of gold jewelry, which includes the durability, and pros and cons of gold-filled, gold vermeil, and gold-plated jewelry.

Of course developing a better understanding on how to care for gold-coated jewelry can extend the life of the jewelry. In purchasing gold and gold-coated jewelry, it is also a good idea to know if you have allergic reactions to the metals mixed with gold, as well as the metals coated with gold.

Like gold, the purest silver is soft and is mixed with other metals to provide durability; unlike gold, however, silver is more affordable. For an item to be considered sterling or solid silver, the US Federal Trade Commission requires that it must be composed of 92.5% silver (or .925).


Copper is frequently combined with silver to provide durability, but the downside is copper causes silver to tarnish easily. Due to this, some jewelers are now mixing platinum with silver that makes for shinier, tarnish-free jewelry. For more information on silver, read Carly Wickell's article at About.com.

If you love diamonds and pearls,
Jewelerati.com offers helpful tips on buying both kinds of jewelry. Lastly, for those of you considering buying jewelry online, check out Shopwiki.com's tips on how and why to purchase jewelry from internet shops.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

K ROBINS DESIGNS

Today we are standing on a terrace within the Renaissance Court of Virginia's Norfolk Botanical Garden. Patterned after ornate, 16th century Italian architecture, the court is a beautiful microcosm of Italian landscaping. Virginia is also the home of featured jewelry designer K Robins.

World news broadcasts often focus on humanity's brutality and indifference to the point that it becomes disheartening. It is sometimes difficult to keep in mind the common threads linking us together.

During a challenging period, Robins discovered those common threads in symbols as she sought healing and insight.

"Many of the jewelry designs come from my fascination with the language of symbols and how the art of different cultures and times echoes around the world," she acknowledges, "I began the practice of designing symbolic art as a necessity as much as one goes to prayer, goes to meditation, or goes to the mat."

Similar to Israeli designer David Weitzman, over 20 years ago Robins embarked on a journey of spiritual enlightenment by immersing herself in literature written by Judy Chicago, Angeles Arrien and Marija Gimbuta, among others.

She learned that symbolic representations of family, love, friendship, and sacred feminine were themes present in cultures as diverse as Greece, Ireland, and China.

Robins' process to interpret these universal themes required a mixture of "contemplation and inspiration," and precision tools. Robins, a former furniture and house-ware maker, learned to create wax casts while working with flute maker, Patrick Olwell.

From the casts, she created fluid, sculptural pieces in sterling silver and 14-karat gold, and her company K Robins Designs emerged.

The pieces possess a soft, voluptuous quality that adds a unique beauty. They are at once simplistic and intricate, delicate and powerful; ultimately reflecting a oneness with God, nature, and mankind.

Each piece is personal to Robins, particularly the Friendship Knot Pendant Necklace, which she created for her daughter's, Leila, bridesmaids; the Raven Pendant Necklace was created in honor of the unflinching valiance of friend, Raven Ruffner, who died from breast cancer six years ago; and the Journey-Adventure Day One Pendant Necklace was created as a symbol of a friend's courageous battle with AML Leukemia.

"Family, deep friendships, and an array of teachers have profoundly affected my work," she says. In turn, Robins' jewelry profoundly affects others.

In 2005, the HeartBright Foundation--a resource center for cardiovascular disease--chose The Healer Pendant Necklace to promote the foundation's mission, and raise awareness.

The foundation's President, Claire Blocker, said this, "We were drawn to The Healer because of the artist's concept and personal description of the design, `The Healer and the Healed become one.'"

Robins offers this, "I am pleased they have selected The Healer from my collection. This design embodies the strength and hope that comes from learning to take care of ourselves and others."
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Infinite Love Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Healer Pendant Necklace

Friday, August 7, 2009

ALICIA de la PAZ

We are taking a scenic drive today through the lovely town of Taxco, Mexico, which is nestled between Acapulco and Mexico City. Amidst the cobblestone streets, and red tile rooftops, there is a thriving, 80-year-old silver jewelry industry.

The town therefore has the distinction of being Mexico's silver capital. Mexico is also the home of featured jewelry designer Alicia de la Paz.
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