Monday, November 30, 2009


We are taking two trips today. Our first is to Canada's breathtaking Butchart Gardens, and at 105-years-old, it remains one of the country's most beautiful natural areas. We then travel to the Masada fortress in Israel exploring the preserved ruins of a Byzantine church, and an enormous bathhouse that once belonged to King Herod.

Today's feature is husband and wife team Talya Baharal and Gene Gnida. Canada is the birthplace of Gnida, while Baharal's is Israel.

The married couple has a bounty of artistic gifts between them including jewelry design, metalwork, sculpting, and woodwork.

Once completing courses at New York's Parsons School of Design, Baharal embarked on a career in jewelry design 23 years ago starting her own company; however even with her educational background, she is largely self-taught, experimenting with metal's sculpting possibilities.

About 10 years prior to Baharal starting her jewelry company, Gnida was a skilled and well-known woodworker who designed and created furniture and cabinets. Like Baharal, he particularly enjoyed testing the sculpting possibilities of metal as well as stone and wood.

The two met in 1984, while both were living in New York; four years later, they joined forces to establish Baharal and Gnida Designs. Their unusual, yet striking jewelry is without embellishment and is fashioned from various combinations of copper, sterling silver and bronze.

The elegant designs of elongated ovals, spirals, and half-moon shapes are primal in appearance resembling ancient cave pictographs.

The subdued hues and brushed finish of the bronze and copper adds a gritty, earthy sense while also reinforcing the organic, tribal designs. The structures are basic but very palpable evoking ancient Roman warriors, and protective amulets.

Of particular interest to me is that the choice and arrangement of the metals, though simplistic, evokes something formidable, unflinching, and authoritative.

I am surprised that subtle textures of crisscross, spoke-like structures placed within a metal cutout, or a thin piece of one metal, like copper, wrapped around an elongated orb of silver provide such amazing dimension.

The couple has received numerous accolades and awards both collectively and individually. As a team, their jewelry creations earned them the Best of Show award from the American Craft Council in 2004, 2006, and 2008.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Small Square Choker
Photo 2 (bottom left): Bronze Small Button Earrings with Silver Line

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The expansive Blithewold Mansions, Gardens & Arboretum, located in Bristol, Rhode Island, are a virtual feast for the senses with its varied collection of lawns, flora, and gardens. Rhode Island is also the home of featured jewelry designer, Ananda Khalsa.

When I began putting together the write-up for this post, I started to wonder what creativity truly is. Is it a divine gift that only a select few possess or is it a part of us all? Can it be cultivated or is it a state of being?

What I do comprehend, since starting this blog, is creativity seems to have a life of its own; a percolation of visions and ideas that either float softly and quietly within the mind or strikes without warning like an electric charge.

Here again, creativity is embodied through Khalsa's unique jewelry, which effortlessly blends her love for portrait painting and metalsmithing.

She creates an original, miniature acrylic painting on paper that features symbolic nature motifs including violets, bamboo, and the koi fish. She then finalizes the piece by placing the portrait beneath tempered glass, and setting it within a frame of 22-karat gold or sterling silver, with accents of luminous gemstones.

With the exception of a few metalsmithing classes she took in 2002, the former chef is self-taught, and she feels this aspect frees up her ability to create truly distinctive items. In 2004, she established Ananda Khalsa Jewelry.

"I adore stones, but I was always interested in creating items where a gemstone was not the focal point," she explains. "My pieces are inspired by Japanese art and symbolism. I've always been attracted to symbolic imagery."

The blending of two art forms is a wonderful concept with soft, delicate images on paper-- reminiscent of designs made on porcelain tableware--encased within oval, circle, or teardrop frames of gold. It is a beautiful symbiosis, a literal representation of wearable art.

"I love the process of making my little paintings and how they come to life. I love the personal meaning people have assigned to the jewelry when they choose a piece. One man chose my Autumn Maple Necklace for his wife because they married under a maple tree."

Khalsa's items are featured on Martha Stewart's website. In addition to her own website, Khalsa's items are sold from, and
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Hinged Bluebird Bracelet with 22-Karat Gold Accents
Photo 2 (bottom left): Plum Blossom Charm Necklace with Painted Blossom Charm, Rose Cut Ruby, and Disc Charm of 22-Karat Gold

Friday, November 27, 2009


Visiting the centuries-old ruins of Baalbek, located northeast of Beirut, Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley, is an experience so powerful our knees buckle. Observing the enormous slabs of crumbling stone, and what is left of the towering rose granite columns causes us to ponder how the structures were made. Lebanon is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer, Leila Tai.

Tai's jewelry collections reflect varied design approaches, aesthetics, and jewelry-making techniques.

The pieces range from smooth, cool curvatures of sterling silver to the delicate, breathtaking creations made from 18- and 22-karat gold with spectacular enamel accents.

With a Masters of Art in metalwork, received from the American University of Beirut, Tai implements ancient enameling techniques cloisonné and plique á jour to create exquisite, nature-inspired items featuring lilies, praying mantises, and butterflies.

The remarkable detailing of the designs is heightened by the knowledge that the creations are rendered through crafts that require painstaking attention to detail, and precision.

Unlike the cloisonné technique, plique á jour provides a stained glass appearance to the enamel design adding a life-like dimension to the wings of Tai's butterfly creations.

"Enameling has become my favorite medium of self-expression. I enjoy the long and focused creation process the techniques provide," she says. "Much of the imagery found in my jewelry comes from my memories growing up on the Mediterranean, the setting sun, the scents of jasmine and pine."

Tai's spiritual connection to nature is readily evident in her other, non-enamel jewelry items, such as the richly organic forms from her Sea, and Coral collections. The antique look of the gold coupled with natural, uncut stones or beautifully carved coral displays the bond between the designer and her surroundings.

Having studied under skilled jewelry artists like the late Donald Clafflin, and having spent several years as a designer with fine jewelry giant Van Cleef & Arpels, Tai's expansive range of creative inspiration is full blown.

In July of this year, after three decades in the field, Tai was awarded the Grand Prize of the American Jewelry Design Council's New Talent Contest.

In addition to her jewelry career, Tai also teaches at Parsons School of Design, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Sea Rose Ring with Carved Pink Coral
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Foliage Bracelet with Opalescent and Transparent Enamels

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We walk along the Krakowskie Przedmieoecie boulevard in Poland observing and exploring the many landmarks like the bronze statute of King Zygmunt, the Holy Cross Church, and the Old Town Market Place. An aura of times gone by encompasses everything. Poland is also the home of featured jewelry designer Ela Bauer.

Bauer's varied contemporary jewelry forms are unlike anything I have seen. With the exception of some of her necklaces, the items are so organic they are indistinguishable; I did not view a piece knowing it was a ring or brooch. I was intrigued by that and wanted to see if I would be able to ascertain what she is conveying.

Upon observing the forms, composed primarily of multi-colored silicone rubber, wool, thread, copper mesh, and a few gemstones here and there including coral and quartz, I noted that despite their abstract form, many items resemble tangible forms.

One of her silicone necklaces, for instance, the sewn clusters of silicone discs are such a deep, cherry-red hue it looks like a bloody, misshapen heart. Another item resembles a plethora of entangled nerve cells, while another item resembles arteries, and still others looked like non-descript versions of pale green and red bell peppers.

Unable to make an exact pinpoint, I determined that these particular pieces suggested some aspect of humanity, health, or nature. However, the way the pieces are structured, the randomness of the design, speaks to something I could not readily identify.

Once I read Bauer's statements concerning her creative process, the light bulb came on. "To a large extent, my work is colored with the notion that "things" are not clearly defined," she says. "Events and things do not begin or end at a certain moment, but rather are a result of ongoing processes.

This notion, of course, is nothing new, but the aspect that an insignificant line can become substantial and meaningful in the total pattern is fascinating. The process of development and change is a continuous one, involving growth and disintegration. A creation of realities that are unplanned and improvised."

There is an inherent intellectualism in the creation of this type of jewelry that I like. I enjoyed the challenge of piecing together Bauer's possible themes.

The more I think about it, there is an intellectualism involved with any design aesthetic, although creative processes are often times more instinctual. This particular creative experience counteracts a misconception that the jewelry industry is just about making pretty things that are without soul or depth.

Bauer's first step into the world of jewelry design began 20 years ago while studying in the jewelry departments of universities in Israel and Holland. Bauer approaches her creations not unlike an expressionistic artist; producing abstract embodiments of concrete ideas.

"I was occupied with redefining the term "jewelry." I tried to get to the roots of what makes something a "jewel" as such. Through this process, my jewels became more of an object. In fact, they were statements about terms such as decoration, preciousness, and wearability."

For the last 16 years, Bauer's pieces are regularly exhibited in galleries across the globe including Holland, Japan, France, Portugal, Switzerland, and Austria.
Photo 1 (top right): Red Silicone-Rubber, Copper Mesh, Thread and Wool Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Green Silicone-Rubber, Copper Mesh, Thread, and Wool Necklace

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Respectfully attired, we enter the beautiful Grand Palace located in Bangkok, Thailand astonished by the architecture and murals. The palace houses the tranquil Emerald Buddha. Thailand is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sasina Leerasawatdiampon (a/k/a Sasina).

With regard to jewelry, initially the impact of color registered with me on a subliminal level. I merely saw color as part of the overall aesthetic without fully realizing the layer of depth and dimension it added. Viewing Sasina's beautiful array of handmade jewelry certainly reinforces this newfound realization.

She works primarily with a variety of multi-colored pearls including gold, rosy pinks, purples, green, and of course creamy white. Each color is evocative in its own right; lighter tones add an ethereal effect while darker colors evoke fire and passion.

Sasina also explores the dimension of combining other gemstones like garnets, carnelian, citrine, and lapis, alongside the pearls. She arranges the stones in clusters, chandelier, and fishnet designs that are vivid interpretations of sunrises, flowers, grapes, and waterfalls.

Her inspired creativity and artistic gifts were evident in her youth "My parents use to have a big garden filled with fruits and flowers," she says. "This is the kind of environment I grew up in, one where I could walk and admire the beautiful flowers.

One day I was getting an outfit together for a party, so I decided to use some of the flowers as accessories. I made some jewelry with them, and everyone at the party admired my creations so much."

As the years progressed, Sasina continued experimenting with varied design options in her spare time. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in accounting, she took a position with a finance company to earn enough money to start her own business. Though she remained with the company for several years, the experience caused her to long for creating baubles.

"I missed being able to design. I was the youngest member of my team and was required to do everyone else's tasks. I was under a lot of stress," she says.

Along with the careful selection of gemstones, that include reconstituted turquoise, Sasina aligns each stone along gossamer strands creating designs that are vibrant, feminine and a feast for the eye.

"I love jewelry. I have been fashion-conscious and loved beauty for a long time," she says. "Earrings are my favorite because it subtly decorates the wearer. I believe in the power of stones and include at least one type of lucky stone to attract good things."

Sasina distributes her gorgeous jewelry items through, and she donates a portion of the proceeds to an orphanage.
Photo 1 (top right): Iridescent Pearls and Lapis Lazuli Celebration Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Pearl and Blue Topaz Rushing River Cluster Necklace

Monday, November 23, 2009


 Filigree Radika Necklace
with Faceted Rubies and Silver Accents
We are visiting the grandiose ruins of Leptis Magna in Libya. Leptis Magna was once the center of busy commerce; one look at the sprawling amphitheatre and the ominous arches and columns of Severan Basilica, we are overwhelmed by the sense of history.

Libya is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Fadwa Al Qasem.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Aqua Aura Stone Wrapped in
Multi-Layered 18Kt Gold and Sterling Silver Chain
Did you know twenty years after its construction in 1931, the iconic Empire State Building towered above 5th Avenue and 34 Street without occupants?

This is an interesting bit of trivia and the 102-story building is the tallest structure in New York State. New York is also the home base for jewelry brand DANNIJO.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Copper, Paint and Synthetic Fiber Necklace
Enough Tears to Cry for Two Collection
Skåne, Sweden could easily be called the castle capital of the world, as it is the location to over three hundred.

Some fortresses, such as the Drottningholm Palace and Kina Slott, are World Heritage sites, while many consider Trolleholm Castle akin to the citadels of fairy tales. Sweden is also home to featured jewelry designer Hanna Hedman.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sterling Silver Lazer-Tran Sending My Love Charm Bracelet
Today we visit the St. Andrew Botanic Gardens in Scotland that houses over 8,000 species of plants on its 18 acres.

One of the gardens' many highlights, a large ceramic panel called Homage to Paxton, is located in the Mollie Pirie Glasshouse. Scotland is also the home of featured jewelry designer Julie Allison.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


9-Karat Gold and Chinese Freshwater Pearl Necklace
Denmark's Botanical Garden and Museum is home to not only a diverse array of plant life but also the country's largest collection of botanical literature. Denmark is also the home of featured jewelry designer Lilian Busch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Today we explore the great outdoors of Mexico's Cumbers de Majalca National Park. We have our pick of activities to choose from including hiking, mountain biking, or rock climbing. Mexico is also the home of featured jewelry designer Olga Hinojosa.

The art of silversmithing has been a longtime staple of Mexican culture. Although some jewelers express concern that the craft is slowly becoming a skill of the past, silversmithing and the jewelry items cultivated from it will always be timeless.

Hinojosa began her jewelry design career nearly four decades ago upon completion of her studies at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social's Talleres de Artes Plásticas y Artesanias.

Within two years of graduation, Hinojosa's impressive silversmithing skills garnered international recognition with numerous exhibits in North and South America, Canada, Germany and Mexico.

In the hands of Hinojosa, the cool tone of glossy silver is blended with lustrous gemstones like green chrysoprase or white quartz culminating in elegant and sophisticated designs.

Her Elongated Pearl Earrings are reminiscent of vintage jewelry, while her Ode to Nature items highlights uncanny replications of leaves in burnished silver.

Since 1984, Hinojosa has taught silversmithing to others eager to keep the craft an integral part of jewelry and object making; and she currently sells her wares at
Photo 1 (top right): Burnished Sterling Silver Leaves and Berries Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Spirit Love Cocktail Ring

Monday, November 16, 2009


Once used as a regal backdrop for director John Ford's 1951 film The Quiet Man, Ireland's Ashford Castle is a 13th century fortress with a long, rich history. Ireland is also the home of featured jewelry designer Shimara Carlow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Carved Jasper Pendant
with Bronze Chain
There is nothing like the energy of New York City and today we are in the thick of Midtown Manhattan visiting Rockefeller Center.

Developed in the 1930s, the complex consists of some of the most iconic buildings and sculptures around including Radio City Music Hall and the bronze Prometheus statue. New York is also the home of featured jewelry designer Stephen Dweck.

Friday, November 13, 2009


24K Gold Plated and Enamel Double Medallion
with Swarovski Crystals and Glass Beads
The varied grounds of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel feature six, distinctive areas patterned after the plants' region of origin.

Israel is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Michal Golan.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


In Mexico City sitting atop Chapultepec Hill is the regal Castillo de Chapultepec (Castle of Chapultepec); a structure built during the Colonial Period. It currently serves as the location of the Mexican National Museum of History. Mexico is also the home of featured jewelry designer, Mauricio Serrano.

Exposed at young age to the artistry of silversmithing and woodwork, you could say that Serrano's career as a jewelry designer was a given. His family has been a fixture in the jewelry industry for four decades, and Serrano's passion for creating stunning trinkets of silver began at age 16.

Serrano's creative influences are extensive ranging from the fashion designs of Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford to the literature of Pablo Neruda, and the artistic prowess of painter Frida Kahlo. Nature, with its seemingly limitless array of textures and colors, also serve as inspiration for Serrano's elegant and exotic designs.

The focal point in all of his collections, even the edgier ox skull pieces, is clean lines and clean arrangement of materials. He incorporates the arabesque-like detailing of the sterling silver pieces form his Vida Collection within a clean, sculptural outline.

Even when combining several materials, like tropical wood, leather, silver, or quartz, he keeps the overall design layered where each material is represented. His collections also prominently feature items composed of a beautiful, deep brown wood that is either unadorned or offset by a single gemstone; the inclusion provides a nicely understated tribal feel.

Exercising his industrial degree, received from Mexico City's Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus, Serrano's jewelry is sold in Germany, Spain, England, and the United States. His wares have been featured in such publications as Modern Jeweler, JCK Luxury, and Trends.

Serrano has designed exclusive pieces to raise funds for the Red Cross, and the Ellen West Foundation, an organization established to assist in the fight against eating disorders.
Photo 1 (top right): Tropical Wood Arrow Pendant with White Gold and Tahitian Black Pearl Accents
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Link Necklace with Hoops, Tusk, and Turquoise

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


18-Karat Gold Hearts in Motion Pendant
with Pink Tourmaline
We feel so privileged to visit the Louvre Museum in France with its astounding collection of paintings, sculptures, and other antiquities.

Located inside the Louvre Palace, which was built in the 12th century, the sense of history makes the air feel electric. France is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Yael Sonia.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


18-Karat Gold To Bend Earrings
 with Small Diamonds
Built during the 14th century we are eager to explore the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, Korea.

The literal translation of the palace's name is "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven," and its massive compound, consisting of 330 buildings, definitely attests to this.

Korea is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Hongsock Lee.

Monday, November 9, 2009


White Gold Jeweline Ring with
Red Coral Stone and Black Sapphires
With its famed Glass Pavilions and grounds spanning 19 acres, the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in England has gained the unsurprising reputation of being a natural sanctuary away from the world.

Built over a century ago, the fixture houses Sarccocca, Diervilla, and Weigela plant collections. England is also the home of featured jewelry designer Stephen Webster.


For the woman looking to purchase a special jewelry piece for the man in her life, or the man interested in making a personal purchase, the experience does not have to be an exasperating one.

It is pretty straightforward actually, considering that men's jewelry generally serves a functional rather than aesthetic purpose.

Though options for men's jewelry are a bit more clear-cut, it is still important to keep in mind personal style.

Is that special guy laid back and casual, ladies? Or is his style classic or flamboyant?

Men, do you tend to follow the latest male fashion trends, or do you like developing your own style? For whichever category be assured that there is a complementary jewelry style.

Watches, tie clips, cuff links, and money clips are considered some of the most foolproof items you can purchase. If you are looking to buy a great watch, a standard is Timex, which has styles from classic to chronograph.

Many men love the exceptional quality of watches by Hugo Boss though they are a bit pricier. Cuff links and tie clips range from unembellished gold, silver, platinum, stainless steel, and titanium to diamond encrusted versions.

The aforementioned are probably the best choices for the man with more classic tastes, but fear not ladies and gents for there are more options.

The beauty of men's jewelry, in my opinion, is in its masculine proportions: simple, black cords suspending a small, Celtic medallion or dog tag. A necklace made from ebony beads or a single, simple gold chain peeking from behind a crisp, white shirt or just above the collar of a t-shirt can add effortless sex appeal.

Men's bracelets are also a great style idea that range from woven leather to unadorned metals like Tungsten, titanium, and stainless steel to diamond studded. Simple rings and the single, diamond earring stud also add a touch of elegance or edginess depending on a man's personal style.

A man can go from casual to classic to edgy with just a simple change of materials. Regardless of personal style, however, it is a good idea to purchase separate pieces that can be worn in alternately formal and casual settings. Like women, men enjoy having options when it comes to their jewelry, as well as letting their jewelry say something about who they are.

For more tips on buying men's jewelry, go to or read's Men's Jewelry Guide. To see jewelry items for men check out or Thanks for checking out this month's Splendor Sidebar post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


14-Karat Gold and Antique Mother of Pearl Square
Chinese Medallion Necklace with Blue Topaz Briolette
Even after more than 100 years, the powerful image of New York's Statue of Liberty looming above New York Harbor is still a magnetic vision.

Fashioned from copper and standing a little over 300 feet tall, its official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. New York is also the home of featured jewelry designer Donna Chambers.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Dentege Vintage Cuff
The incredible architecture of France's Azay-le-Rideau Chateau is mesmerizing.

Built during the 16th century under a shroud of controversy, the castle boasts spectacular amenities such as a grand staircase leading inside, long rows of windows, and high roofs.

France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Aurélie Bidermann.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


24-Karat Gold and Sterling Silver Two-Finger
with Quartz and Diamond
The view of Burghausen Castle perched atop a ridge in Bavaria, Germany is straight out of a modern-day fairy-tale.

Initial construction began on the fortress during the 6th century and since then the castle has undergone several expansions that include six, distinctive courtyards.

Germany is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Regine Schwarzer.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Sterling Silver and Oxidized Copper Clouds Necklace
There is not one but two botanical gardens situated at Japan's University of Tokyo.

They are two of the country's oldest gardens containing varied collections of plant species for research purposes. Japan is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Kristina Kada.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It is an ambitious endeavor for sure but our drive and adrenaline push us to take on a trek across the Sahara Desert to Timbuktu (yes, it really exists). Our point of departure is Mali, Africa and the upcoming days will undoubtedly involve blinding sandstorms, an occasional desert lake, and a scorpion or two. Africa is also the home of featured jewelry designer Oumar Cissé.

Whether imported from Europe or locally produced; whether glass or clay; beads and beaded jewelry are an integral part of African culture.

For centuries, beads have been used as a form of currency in trade and have been a popular source of personal embellishment. Among the first recorded African bead-making industries was located in Nigeria during the 1800s.

The beautiful detailing of Cisse's jewelry reflects the painstaking aspects of this time-honored craft. The careful selection of a myriad of complementary beads is paramount. There can be as many as 10 to 20 strands of beads in a single necklace. Bead forms range from colored glass to ostrich eggshells to cowrie shells and each is steeped in rich history.

Cissé learned this craft as a young boy and much like Kenyan designer Nasimiyu Wekesa, he strongly believes in the beads' ability to tell their storied pasts to a prospective wearer. "A long time ago the beads were used as money," he explains. "All the jewelry we make with the beads mean something, they tell a story."

Working with unbraided and braided leather cords, Cissé creates gorgeous, varied jewelry pieces using multiple beads following a single color scheme or linking together different yet complementary beads possessing slightly different colors and sturctures. In 2000, he established his company Farafina Tigne, located in Sevaré, which means `African Reality'.

The store holds a wide array of inventory from pendants to bracelets to earrings and necklaces in all its traditional splendor.

Featured alongside the store is a museum packed with West African jewelry artifacts that include beaded regalia. Cissé also sells his wonderful beaded pieces through The Hunger Site.
Photo 1 (top right): Blue Moon Trade Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): Antique Nara Bead Necklace

Monday, November 2, 2009


In many ways, the topaz gemstone is similar to diamonds. For one, topaz forms inside volcanic rock and its durability and hardness rivals that of diamonds. At one time clear topaz gemstones were commonly mistaken for diamonds.


18-Karat Gold Atmosphere Ring
with Blue Topaz and Brown Quartz
Positioned in a strategic area, militaristically speaking, the ominous presence of Sarzanella Castle in Liguria, Italy is stunning.

There are many areas within the castle to view the equally spectacular surrounding countryside. Italy is also the home of featured jewelry designer Franco Pianegonda.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me - spiritually and financially.


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