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 Mansion, 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.

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.

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.

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).

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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