Thursday, December 31, 2009

ALEX WOO JEWELRY

Situated along the outskirts of China's Songshan Mountains is the five centuries plus Shaolin Temple. The temple not only played a pivotal role in Chinese Buddhism but it is believed the origin of martial arts began with the early monks who worshiped here. China is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Alex Woo.

A desire for well-being and good fortune is common throughout many cultures from Egypt to Ireland.

Good luck charms and talismans are part of a jewelry trend dating back thousands of years with items from simple pieces of paper covered with written prayers to scarab beetles that promised resurrection after death.

Since the launch of her company in 2001, Woo actively integrates luck symbols such as horseshoes, wishbones, four-leaf clovers, and interpretations of bamboo into her jewelry line.

The designer's interest in cultural superstitions, powerful symbolism, and nature's magnetism led Woo to incorporate seasonal motifs, as well as initial and number pendant necklaces reflected in her respective collections Little Letters, and Little Numbers.

Like French designer Aurelie Bidermann, Woo's level of creativity is not limited to charm jewelry. At the age of five, she watched closely as her father, a bench jeweler, hand fabricated trinkets while working in New York's Chinatown jewelry district.

The sights and sounds of watching her father create jewelry prompted Woo to abandon playing with dolls opting instead to mimic her father's actions by drawing for hours on end.

With a seed firmly planted, Woo studied fine arts and jewelry design at Cornell University, and Parsons New School of Design. In 1998, Woo's clean design aesthetic garnered a design award from the Women's Jewelry Association, and within three years, she launched her company Alex Woo Jewelry.

Woo also underscores her varied travels throughout the world with collections that highlight spectacular international imagery through a grand display of the designer's gift for fluid form.

The items from the ocean-inspired Narissa Collection are beautifully buoyant in their billowy, web-like detailing. Paying homage to African landscapes and wildlife, her Sweni Collection is fluid, sculptural and delicate, while the scale-like arrangement of items from her Peru-inspired Inka Collection are quietly primal yet sophisticated.

Proceeds from a number Woo's collections, such as Vida, and Sweni, provide funds to charitable organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, the African Wildlife Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
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Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Yellow Gold Large Zahrah Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Rose Gold Vermeil Narissa Cuff Bracelet
Photo 3 (bottom left): 14-Karat Gold Siri Bell Earrings with Carnelian

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

MARTIN ADAMS

Overlooking carefully groomed lawns and beautiful gardens stands the remains of England's Belsay Castle. Built during the late 14th century, as a residence for the Middleton family, it is presently open to the public serving as a location for garden parties. England is also the home of jewelry prop maker, Martin Adams.

The experience of seeing a feature film is often one that is indelible. Exotic locales, breathtaking scenery, well-conceived storylines, convincing special effects, and solid acting performances each contribute to a film's visceral impact.

In many cases, the smaller details of a film, such as props, are used as an integral part of a story or add to a characterization.

For instance, the butterfly hair clip worn by actor Kate Winslet in the film Titanic was not only integrated into the film's storyline but was a stunning prop created by none other than Adams.

You could say that Adams is the British equivalent to American jeweler Eugene Joseff.

The impressive filmography for which Adams' work is featured include Dangerous Liaisons, The Last Emperor, The Queen, Gladiator, and Braveheart.

During his days studying painting, set building, and scenery at Croydon College of Art and Design, however, Adams had not given much thought to Hollywood.

"I did prop work as a hobby at the Aldridge Youth Theater and one night a man--who is still with the theater--Neville Ellis asked me why I wasn't doing prop work for a living," he explains. "He said I was very good at what I did and that I could make something out of it."

Once Adams completed his studies at Croydon, he moved on to work with small, local theaters and in time, his talent became widely known among London's theatrical companies. Eventually, he went on to design stage show props for Hamlet, and Chicago.

By 1976, Adams began a gradual transition towards doing film prop work, as well as specializing in jewelry props. "I had been making so many different kinds of props it made sense to specialize. I realized that I really liked making jewelry related props so that is where I concentrated my efforts."

Adams' process of creation involves making rubber molds from which a final item, cast in pewter, is cultivated. The pewter piece is sprayed with a special coating to give the piece a desired silver or gold appearance. Faceted, colored glass is then added simulating precious gemstones, with an overall effect that is spectacularly authentic.

Adams relishes his 33-year stint as a jewelry prop maker. "Gladiator was a brilliant experience as I was principal jeweler for the film, which meant I was working on location in London, and Seville," he enthuses.

"I loved working on 101 [Dalmatians] and 102 Dalmatians as the pieces were really interesting--diamond handcuffs, snake brooches, dog biscuit buttons, and wild broken glass earrings."

Next year, movie audiences will get to ogle more of Adams' exceptional handiwork in a re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend starring Russell Crowe.

To view more of Adam's incredible work, click on the links below:

Gladiator

Lucila's Tiara

101 Dalmatians
Glenn Close

Kingdom of Heaven
Eva Green

For more on movie props check out The Prop Store of London featuring over 43,000 props, costumes, and memorabilia from such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Shining.
Availability and prices vary considerably with prices going from as little as $12.00 to as much as $9,995.
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Photo 1 (top right): J. Peterman Co.'s LICENSED Reproduction of Butterfly Comb from the film Titanic

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CEREN KEYMAN

It is said that the view of Turkey's Anatolia Fortress at sunset is like peeking into a parallel universe filled with romance and adventure. Turkey is also the home of featured jewelry designer Ceren Keyman.

Just like many countries, Turkey has a grand tradition of jewelry making that highlights superlative goldsmithing techniques, and dramatic aesthetics.

Gurhan Orhan, for instance, incorporates time-honored skills like sand polishing to hand fabricate exquisite pieces from 24-karat gold.

Though influenced by her Turkish roots, Keyman chooses a resolutely different design approach. Foregoing precious metals, and gemstones, her materials of choice are multi-colored Plexiglas and leather. Keyman's focal points are the materials and for the most part clean, simple structures.

"My first inspiration is always the material. I like to think of jewelry items as wearable sculptures," she says. A trained violinist, with a Master of Music received from Bilkent University, Keyman's creative passions come in many forms.

"I also design clothes, and furniture. I designed my first jewelry collection in 2007 under the label Keyman Design. The collection was included in an exhibition in Istanbul called "Design Cities" for new designers."

Keyman does not consider jewelry design as work, and that sense of abandon is evident in pieces that are playful and lighthearted. Some structures are free form, others geometric, with a sprinkling of familiar items like a sewing machine, penguin, and a pair of scissors.

Keyman's approach, like other artists who design in the same vein, is interesting. Though unusual and a stark contrast to Turkey's jewelry tradition, her work still displays a love for artisanship but with the use of unconventional materials and humor.
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Photo 1 (top right): Leather Cuff Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): Plexiglas Necklace

Monday, December 28, 2009

URSULA WOERNER

Even within the ruins of Germany's Heidelberg Castle, you can still get a sense of the structure's majesty and power. Built a little over six centuries ago, the fortress has been used as a regal residence and a quarry. Germany is also the birthplace of jewelry designer, Ursula Woerner.

With metalwork and jewelry studies completed at Pforzheim University in Germany, and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands, Woerner developed an unusual design aesthetic.

There is a great whimsy and capriciousness in her design approach; qualities she shares with Netherlands designer Joke Schole. However, Woerner's incorporation of everyday items like rubber bands, bottle caps, and buttons in her creations is similar to Dutch designer Sasja Saptenno.

"Buttons are something so ordinary and part of everyday life that we pay little attention to them. I inherited my grandma's button collection, which she kept in an old cigar box. I use traditional goldsmith techniques and place the button on the settings where a precious stone would set."

Though she implements unorthodox materials, Woerner's jewelry maintains a traditional appearance that possesses a quirky kind of beauty. Her bottle cap pendants offset with pearl accents, for instance, are quite beautiful resembling a vintage charm.

Woerner also uses coins to fashion pieces, "Money and jewelry have been connected for centuries. I created a bracelet that turns the idea around by making jewelry out of money."

As I have referenced in a few other posts, I enjoy this type of exploration; when a designer's concept is the focal point and his or her choice of materials is crucial to bring that concept to life.

"By adding other materials, drilling holes, blackening the silver and setting stones, the objects grow out of the natural world into abstract rings, brooches, necklaces, and earrings."

Woerner, as well as other designers who follow the same approach, demonstrate the heights creativity can reach.

I think her jewelry provides a gentle challenge for an observer to see the world in a different way, to see creative potential or value in materials that may not seem to have value.
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Photo 1 (top right): Bottle Cap Medallion with Pearl, Brass and Silver
Photo 2 (bottom left): Brooch made with Silver, Iron, Veneer, and Pearls from the Zweite Heimat Collection

Saturday, December 26, 2009

LIZ LAW JEWELRY

We move through the Visitors Center of Virginia's Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden towards the grounds' stunning conservatory. Underneath the structure's stunning dome is a surplus of flora from around the world. Virginia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Liz Law.

Jewelry's ability to captivate and evoke palpable emotions from an observer is an intriguing phenomenon. Jewelry can speak to varied sensibilities, moods, and personalities merely through a myriad of colors, forms, and textures.

The visual impact of Law's jewelry was instantaneous. The arrangement of vibrant colored Lucite, Art Nouveau pendants, and lucky charms evoke a modernized 1920s flapper, romance, and bold sophistication.

Law's range of styles vary from simple, drop earrings to statement-making, oversized pendants to dramatic, antique lace necklaces.

Surprisingly though, Law did not have an innate sense she would design and create jewelry. "Although I have always loved being artistic and crafty, I never had a sense that I would channel that creativity into jewelry, and making a business out of it," she says.

"I am a self-taught jewelry designer with a degree in European History. To some extent, my affinity for history ties into my affinity for all of the vintage components I love to mix into my jewelry. There is something so powerful about these beautiful little tokens of bygone days."

Law initially began making her impressive collections five years ago after relocating to California. "Unemployed and with very few friends, jewelry design was not only a creative outlet but also a huge source of purpose for me," she recalls. "I started selling my pieces at trunk shows and various events and loved connecting with the people who bought my jewelry."

Law's intuitive gift to reinvent unusual pendants and classic charms renders jewelry items that are fresh, modern, and distinctive. "Inspiration usually comes from the components themselves," says Law. "I have a huge collection of interesting little beads, pendants, and charms. My process a lot of times is to start with the main component and build the piece around its vibe and style."

Law recently added a small, new collection to her growing brand called Empower. The line reflects the designer's interest in motivating others. "The Empower Collection includes a necklace with a delicate, understated lantern charm, and a unisex bracelet of red, yellow, and black that mimics the Ugandan flag," Law explains.

"I designed the pieces for a non-profit organization called Educate! The organization empowers Ugandan youth to become socially responsible leaders who will drive their society's political, social, and economic development."

Fifty percent of proceeds garnered from the Empower Collection go directly to the Educate! program.

Law is happy to lend her skills to support this important cause. "I'm thrilled that my love for jewelry can help students in Uganda receive an education that equips them to create social change and improve their communities."
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Photo 1 (top right): Cherry Red Lucite Candy Girl Earrings with Brass Charms and Swarovski Crystals
Photo 2 (bottom left): Desert Lace Necklace with Beige Lace Appliqué and Vintage Pendant

Thursday, December 24, 2009

LAURENT RIVAUD

The picturesque Château de Chenonceau in France sits along the shoreline of the River Cher, and its serene facade betrays a complex past. The century-plus structure's turbulent history includes sedition, unpaid debts, and expulsion. France is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Laurent Rivaud.

Without question France has been a leader of innovative jewelry-making techniques, and timeless jewelry designs. There seems to be no dispute that France's indelible contribution to the jewelry industry is the unique items that late 19th century jewelers, like Lalique and Gautrait, created that helped to launch the Art Nouveau period.

Spectacular enamel accents like plique-a-jour and nature motifs were characteristic to the jewelry of the Art Nouveau period. The designs of many present-day French jewelers reflect, in varying degrees, this grand tradition.

Contrary to what I believed, the Art Nouveau era began in England with French designers firmly at the helm. In a similar vein, Rivaud's jewelry career began designing baubles for radical, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Westwood is best known for introducing edgy, punk clothing to mainstream fashion, and that edge, though somewhat subtle, comes through in some of Rivaud's designs.

The Berçot Studio graduate also draws from influence gained from creating jewelry for fashion icons Chloé and Yves Saint-Laurent. By 2003, Rivaud decided to carve out his own niche in the world of jewelry by establishing his London-based company R Jewellery.

The official website for R Jewellery, unfortunately, only takes you to your email account when the home page is clicked. I was able to get just a sampling of his range by viewing a couple of websites that feature his collections.

Many of his pieces are streamlined wherein he combines minimalist, gold and silver structures with intriguing accents of texture, or "spear" faceted gemstones (gemstones fashioned into slender, spear tips).

His lobster claw items, however, seem to be influenced by the opulent, nature-oriented pieces of the Art Nouveau era. One such item, a claw fashioned from gold vermeil, is partially covered by the sprawling tentacles of a diamond-drenched octopus.

Overall, Rivaud's creations reflect honor for longstanding French design aesthetics, and jewelry-making techniques, while also incorporating subtle, symbolic imagery and edgy accents.



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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Gold Vermeil Hypnotic Brooch with Pavé Diamonds
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Marcasite Centaur Pendant

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

MELISSA McARTHUR JEWELLERY

It is summertime right now in Australia; a welcome transition from the frigid air, and snowy weather that looms over a large portion of the United States. We visit the country's third largest island, Kangaroo Island, mystified by its natural, untouched beauty. Australian is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Melissa McArthur.

Australia's jewelry origins date back to 1851, when gold was found in New South Wales. In the mid 19th century, jewelers such as Frederick Aronson of Aronson and Co., Thomas Willis of Willis and Sons, and John Flavelle of Flavelle Bros. Ltd. eagerly made their mark in the country's fledgling jewelry industry.

During the mid 19th and early 20th centuries, Australia was largely known for its gold jewelry; although in recent years jewelry featuring the renowned Australian opal has increased in popularity.

The implementation of unique gemstones became the signature of early Australian jewelry and McArthur's pieces hold to that tradition. Like Irish designer Trace Palmer, McArthur once worked in the hectic music industry, and she shares Palmer's keen interest in jewelry accessories.

Eleven years ago, the alumna of Central St. Martins College of Art and Design received a Bachelor of Arts degree, and established her company, Melissa McArthur Jewellery, in 2007. The similarities between Palmer and McArthur, however, end here as the Australia native shares a design aesthetic similar to jewelers of Central Europe.

McArthur's focus is on clean, understated structures offset with stunning gemstones she sources from India. She incorporates everything from diamonds, pearls, turquoise, and amethyst to several variations of quartz including green, pink, smoky, and lemon.

The overall designs, here again, are delicate with the focal point being smooth, or faceted, gemstones suspended by thin, almost imperceptible, gold chains and earring hooks.

I love the implementation of pastel, muted and dark colors, the iridescence of mother of pearl, and the luscious, single droplets or cluster of gemstones. Her jewelry is another sublime example of the completeness of simplicity and subtlety. The jewelry is elegant, and feminine with lots of fluid and striking color.

"A passion for design, a strong sense of style, and an appreciation for clean, modern jewelry: this is the type of woman I have in mind when I create," says the designer who is currently based in London.
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Photo 1 (top right): Turquoise, Iolite, and Rose Quartz Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Grey, White, and Gold Pearl Necklace with Rose Quartz

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MOMOKO KUMAI

Every aspect of Japan's Rinnoji Temple from the flowers to the swimming koi fish emits an aura of tranquility. Japan is also the home of featured jewelry designer Momoko Kumai.

Many of Japan's art forms, such as Haiku poetry and calligraphy, focus on understated yet precise detail and execution.

Like calligraphy, jewelry pieces I have seen by Japanese designers never seem to be overdone. The structures appear to be simplistic but upon closer observation, they are not and possess uncanny delicacy.

From the crochet metal designs of Sugawara Haruko to Yoko Izawa's ethereal pieces of knitted nylon and polypropylene Japanese jewelry is a marvel of quiet innovation.

Kumai's jewelry, of course, is another example of an aesthetic that is intricate, delicate, and groundbreaking. The Royal College of Art alumna explores various materials to express themes of permanence, semi-permanence, and impermanence.

"In the permanent series I made rings with silver and gold. I took inspiration for my design from the repetitive arrangement of bundles of slightly scattered copy paper," she explains.

"I combine silver, a permanent material, with impermanent materials silicon and yarn for the semi-permanent series; and I use paper in the impermanent series. My jewelry reflects the ephemeral breath of nature with its fragility."

Like Haruko, Kumai does not have a website; the few gold pieces I viewed, in 18-karat gold, are from her permanent series, which reflect--as she stated--a successive pattern akin to a simplified version of the geometric patterns of the Hasbro toy Spirograph™.

Her lei-like paper jewelry neckpieces seem more like elaborate dickeys; one of her necklaces is floor length and billowy flowing like a scarf. "I use tactile material to create jewelry that evokes the inner landscapes of my mind. I fold, twist, and roll tissue and Japanese Washi paper using my hands, at times unconsciously," she says.

Kumai's exceptional work has been exhibited at the Goldsmith's Hall in London, and the CODA Museum of the Netherlands. To view more of Kumai's thought-provoking and unique items, check out dazzle-exhibitions.co.uk.
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Photo 1 (top right): Tissue and Washi Paper Necklace from Impermanent Series
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Rose Gold Ring from Permanent Series

Monday, December 21, 2009

GELLNER

Eight greenhouses populate the Botanic Garden of the Georg-August-University in Göttingen, Germany. We will also find an arboretum with an array of flora that brings the collective number of plant species to 10,000. Germany is also the home base for jewelry brand GELLNER.

Pearls exemplify the perfection of simplicity. It is amazing to think that an abnormal, hardened secretion from within a mollusk's shell could become something that epitomizes elegance and sophistication.

Even the self-described "mathematically-oriented" Jörg Gellner, who took over his parents' company, GELLNER, 13 years ago, quickly succumbed to their allure after an encounter with one he affectionately calls "Sissy."

"That was the biggest pearl I have ever seen. It was absolutely beautiful, flawless and with a perfect luster. A friend--a jeweler--Reinhard Köck bought it so its in good hands," he says.

The GELLNER company specializes in manufacturing exceptional jewelry fashioned from cultured pearls. Established by his parents Tove and Heinz Gellner 42 years ago, the brand began modestly with only a small collection of cultured pearls.

Though most German jewelry designers are best known for clean, minimalist stainless steel or platinum jewelry, GELLNER proves once again that Germany encompasses many artistic visions.

Jörg says that running the company was never something either of his parents pressured him to do; however, "it always remained an option." Though studious and business-oriented, Jörg was not a stranger to pearls as his parents often invited him to thread them as a boy.

Once he assumed leadership responsibilities of the firm in 1996, Jörg's appreciation for the glossy orbs deepened while making purchases from pearl farms in Hong Kong and Japan. "Their creation is still a mystery, a wonder of nature," he says. "They are not called the `tears of God' for nothing."

The focus of each design is accentuating the glistening spheres of cream, black, pink, and grey. The necklace designs are simply orchestrated, either a full strand or a single pearl drop suspended from a gold chain. No matter what the design, it is such effortless, simple beauty.

The brand's ring designs particularly reflect the type of innovation and artistry for which Germany is world-renowned. There are simple bands of gold, platinum, and jelly-like bands of blue, yellow, orange, green, and red. The showstoppers are the sinuous, distinctive bands highlighting thin, seemingly intertwining lines accented with tiny diamonds.

High quality pearls are essential to the brand, "We work with only five pearl farmers worldwide. We have had a look at everything and know for certain that they culture the pearls long enough to ensure their quality, and that they are working in harmony with nature. We look out for that," Jörg explains.

The end result is a creation of undeniable beauty. Alongside their magnificent pearl creations, and equally captivating, are the GELLNER clasps, which work with a push and twist.


Under Jörg's guidance, the company has collaborated with Moroccan-born designer Michael Zobel who creates unique pieces in 24-karat gold and diamonds.

To view more of the company's grand designs, click here.

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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Rose Gold Ring with White South Sea Pearl and Diamonds
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Rose Y-Necklace with South Sea Pearl and Diamonds

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CHRISTY KLUG

The Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden is one of the many highlights of Texas' Zilker Botanical Garden. The tranquil garden features ponds fashioned into ideograms, which spell out the city name of Austin. Texas is also the home of featured jewelry designer Christy Klug.

Klug's journey to becoming a jewelry artist is one of drive, determination, and a constant evolution of skills. Her advent into the field took shape once she moved to Austin, Texas 12 years ago.

She accepted a position managing a local art gallery while also juggling employment at the gift shop for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and attending the museum's school.

The daily contact with great art furthered Klug's fascination with it; however, the work of post World War II, German stained glass artists served as the catalyst that would ultimately lead her to jewelry design and creation.

"Exposure to art everyday at the museum and studying at the museum school fed my passion for art," she says, "but jewelry making came years later. I was working mostly in the glass department of the museum school, and also painting and drawing.

My jewelry is inspired by my interest in stained glass design. Many of Germany's old cathedrals and churches were destroyed by bombing during World War II, and after the war there was an amazing convergence of visionary architects who rebelled against painted glass techniques by using the lead that divided each piece of glass to create powerful, abstract lines."

At the point Klug decided to pursue her jewelry-making aspirations, she only had a basic working knowledge of the art form. During the course of several years, although a definite challenge, Klug would learn--largely on her own--not only metalsmithing but also enameling.

She candidly recalls some of her experiences. "I took a class in basic jewelry fabrication because it was a way to blend my love for dramatic self-expression with my passion for art.

I jumped head long into this field. I was truly driven to learn all that I needed to in order to bring my ideas to life. Early on, I had applied to and was accepted into Baltimore's American Craft Show.

I had three months to create a line, but I didn't know how to solder at that point so I crazy glued all the backs of my earrings. My techniques, of course, have evolved since then and I eventually taught myself enamel work, all of which I am very proud of."

Her design approach is very clear-cut and basic with a focus on contours and lines so fluid and smooth the pieces resemble miniature sculptures. The contrasts of 18- and 22-karat gold, sterling, and/or oxidized silver, as well as the creamy and powder white vitreous enamel details, lend to a primeval yet elegant appearance.

She creates pieces that evoke femininity but not within a delicate construct. The evocation instead is more womanly than girlish, an understated embodiment of feminine strength and authority.

On the one hand, the quietly distinctive items seem weighty and substantial with subtle details that add visual impact, like the scatter of small cutouts on her Stitch Ring; in other instances, pieces are buoyant like the overall design of her snowflake-like Arp pieces, which also resemble composites of Japanese kanji symbols.

"My work has always been about line, mostly pierced line in the metal. These explorations of line are expressed through hand cutting the lines into metal," she explains. "In metal, I have found a medium that I can sculpt and mold into beautifully organic and dramatic forms that are both sensual and theatrical."

Just last month, Klug was chosen among 1,400 applicants to exhibit her jewelry at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in Pennsylvania. For more on Klug's work, you can view her PDF Catalog.
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Photo 1 (top right): 22-Karat Gold and Oxidized Sterling Silver Okano Cuff
Photo 2 (bottom left): Vrubel Set made with 22-Karat Gold, Fine and Oxidized Silver, Vitreous Enamel and Tahitian Pearls

Friday, December 11, 2009

GUILLERMO ARREGUI

Genius is in the details of a castle's architectural design. Aside from their foreboding beauty, the nearly 3,000 castles of Spain were strategically built to withstand military assaults from Moors and early Christian marauders. However, it is believed that the Segovia Alcázar Castle is the model from which the Disneyland Magic Kingdom castle is patterned. Spain is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Guillermo Arregui.

Enthusiastic and adventurous, Arregui learned metalwork after meeting a silversmith in Mexico.

"After I married, my wife and I moved to Mexico and by chance, in 1985, we went to Taxco and I met a silversmith who opened the doors of his workshop to me. I learned everything," he says.

The devoted father of four, and avid traveler brings varied design aesthetics to his creations. First, there are the fluid, unembellished pieces, like his Sea Turtle Pendant, as well as turquoise and silver combinations both of which are renowned in Mexico. There are also gorgeous items that appear to pay homage to Aztec symbols such as his Hypnotize Bracelet.

Some of his minimalist, modern structures are reminiscent of jewelry from Central Europe. Similar to designs by Yossi Harrari, Marianne Anderson, and Sarah Graham, Arregui subtly, but effectively, implements glossy, blackened metal with 22-karat gold plating contrasts which evoke dark chocolate with caramel.

There is something to suit every taste from leaf-inspired items created with three-tone metals to seemingly primal concentric circles. Arregui sums up his expansive design approach as a myriad of influences.

"I left home at 16 and traveled all over Europe. I saw great places, slept under the stars, met an Italian girl, and got married," he enthuses. "I get inspiration from everything that surrounds me and obviously from all my traveling."

Arregui's implementation of unusual sculptural forms with accents of reconstituted turquoise, pearls, purple charoite, and peridot, as well as oxidized metal, is quietly distinctive and innovative. The designer's eclectic creations are sold through Novica.com.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling and Oxidized Silver New Life Necklace with 22-Karat Gold Plating
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Pearl Gossamer Dreams Necklace

Thursday, December 10, 2009

CLAIRE VESSOT

Situated along the border between Ontario, Canada and the state of New York in the U.S., Niagra Falls is a virtual natural wonder to behold. Composed of Canada's Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls, the wall of water has a massive expanse of six million cubic feet that falls every minute. Canada is also the home of featured jewelry designer, Claire Vessot.

With a résumé that includes numerous awards, studies at Toronto's Ryerson University, an apprenticeship with one of Toronto's leading independent jewelers, and an enviable position with Montreal's Birks and Sons, Vessot has a simple design philosophy, "stay close to beauty."

Vessot poured her love for fashion design, illustrating, and painting into jewelry design, and ultimately developed a signature "dramatic style."

Fourteen years ago, in 1995, Vessot established her own company Vessot Designs, wherein she collaborates with numerous, Canada-based jewelry brands providing them with an array of creations.

Energetic and prolific, in recent years Vessot created an exclusive line of sterling silver jewelry for the iconic fashion publication ELLE called ELLE Jewelry.

"I find a global perspective on what is important," she says of the collections, "I have always wanted to design with sterling silver. The ultimate quality of these pieces is rewarding for me as an artist. All dimensions are considered in the very early stages of conceptualization, yet the overall creative process is intangible. Inspiration comes with impetus and evolves."

The clean, sophisticated items of ELLE Jewelry include the arabesque-like detailing of the Butterfly Wings Collection, along with the sleek, sculptural lines of the Unusual Twist Collection.

Vessot implements subtle accents of smoky quartz, red jade, rose quartz, ebony wood, leather, and black agate as contrasts to the high gloss, white metal. She also incorporates time-honored amulets, like hearts, keys, the fleur de lis, and the peace symbol.

"Holding these pieces in my hand after they have been molded, cast, and polished has a unique, pleasing feeling that is hard to forget," she says.

Vessot's list of awards includes the Diamonds Today National Award, Canadian Jeweler's Buyer Choice Award, the Diamonds International Award, and the AGTA Spectrum Competition Award.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Red Jade Hearts Pendant
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Butterfly Wings Cuff

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RIDDHIKA JESRANI JEWELRY

A carved idol of Ganesha, flanked by stone images of goddesses Siddhi and Riddhi are focal points of the Siddhivinayak Temple in India. India is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer, Riddhika Jesrani.

The jewelry trade in India dates back thousands of years with origins in Indus Valley. The country is perhaps best known for its intricate, Mughal-influenced, kundan and meenakari designs.

Long before the Mughal era--and even during that era--intricate beadwork provided the bulk of India's jewelry industry.

During the Mughal era, beads for the most part were cultivated from rough stones, which were heated, chiseled into orbs, and perforated.

In the present day, however, a variety of colorful beads from clay to glass to ceramic is readily available to a designer. Jesrani's jewelry takes a cue from the beadwork produced by her ancestors accented and accents it with a modern edge.

A graphic designer by day, the Parson New School of Design alumna blends vintage charms, collected from flea markets, with beads of crystal and Czech Glass and semi-precious gemstones like hematite, turquoise, coral, fire agate, jade, amber, and jasper. The arrangement and color combinations of the beads and gemstones amplify otherwise understated designs.

"My jewelry is influenced by the places I have lived and traveled to, the people I have met, food, animals, and the personalities of my friends," Jesrani offers.

There is an easy, casual energy to Jesrani's aesthetic although her use of rich color provides a type of outline or aura that draws you in.

Not only does she follow a single color palette but she also implements at least four different contrasting (yet complementary) colors in one piece. She also supplies hints of texture with a carved rose, brass lion head, or silver arabesque beads.

Established in 2005, Jesrani's company, Riddhika Jesrani Jewelry, garnered the attention of WeTv's show Platinum Weddings. In one episode, Jesrani supplied bridesmaids with luminous jewelry creations.
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Photo 1 (top right): Purple Quartz Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Five-Strand Bead Necklace

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MAYA OFFER JEWELRY DESIGN

The chill of winter is beginning to settle over Tel Aviv, Israel, but we still want to stroll along beautiful Gordon Beach as we overlook the rough surf. Israel is also the home of featured jewelry designer Maya Offer.

The liquid color of sculpted glass beads, and smooth gemstones highlight the designs of Offer's elegant jewelry.

Unlike some Israeli jewelry designs I have viewed that highlight beautiful mosaic patterns, Offer's modern, streamlined designs focus on a single, luminous color offset by sterling silver, or 14- and 18-karat gold.

Offer stepped into the world of precious metal design 27 years ago while studying at Israel's Bezalel Academy of Arts. Not long after graduating, Offer met future husband, and business partner, Ehud, an alumnus of Boston Museum School of Fine Arts.

Offer felt Ehud's talent for sculpture and painting was the perfect blend to her artistic gifts. The pair then established their company, Maya Offer Jewelry Design, which subtly combine their predilections.

The glass bead items are produced with the use of Italian Murano glass rods, which are melted and carefully molded into beads. The beads are arranged simply but the iridescent hues of blue, green, and red add interest and vitality.

Offer incorporates modest yet palpable detailing in her jewelry items, such as a single tendril or coiling leaf vine placed along a ring's circumference, while a smooth, contrast of metal rests on either side of the textured area. In other instances, the metal is imperfect with slightly bent edges providing a wonderful, organic quality.

In 1997, the Israel-based company was commissioned by the Office of Israel's Prime Minister to supply it with special jewelry for presenting to such dignitaries as the then First Lady Hillary Clinton, and Queen Nur of Jordan.

The beautifully understated jewelry is available through numerous channels including galleries, museums, and stores in the USA, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States. For more on Offer's jewelry, you can visit shebajewels.com.
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Photo 1 (top right): Earrings from the Gold Line Collection
Photo 2 (center): Murano Multi-colored Glass Bead Necklace and Bracelet Set

Monday, December 7, 2009

GEMSTONE OF THE MONTH - TURQUOISE


From the days of the Aztecs to the present day, the turquoise gemstone has been around for millennia adorning everyone from Egyptians to Native Americans.

Mined around the world, including China, Israel, and Mexico, the copper aluminum phosphate is found in copper-rich soil and is best known for its pure blue color.

Of course, like many gemstones depending on its composition its color can range from mint green to neon yellow to white. The variation in color is caused by the amount of copper, iron, or aluminum present in the soil.

Widely known as a "sensitive" stone, turquoise nuggets are often treated with clear wax in order to preserve its color as well as increase hardness and durability.

It is also important to handle turquoise items with great care to promote longevity as body oils, heat, and extreme light pose a detrimental effect on the stones.

Believed to be a stone of good fortune, turquoise was worn by ancient Persians to protect against the evil eye, a sudden violent death, and dark forces.

Turquoise is used in gemstone therapy to alleviate depression, and increase confidence. The most valuable turquoise is a pure blue tone without veins or a matrix--as veins are also called--most turquoise of this quality are mined in Nevada.

One of the world's largest known turquoise nuggets was found in Sante Fe, New Mexico and is prominently featured in one of the local stores.
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Photo (top left): Blue Turquoise Nugget

PALMIERO JEWELLERY DESIGN

At over four centuries old, Italy's Botanical Gardens of the University of Bologna remains a fantastic location of the country's indigenous plant life that includes aromatic and ornamental plants. Italy is also the home of featured jewelry designer Carlo Palmiero.

Detail orientedness is without a doubt at the core of jewelry design and jewelry making. Studios and work areas are undoubtedly filled with various tools, multiple sketches, and loose gemstones.

The selection of materials to create a piece is done with forethought and the ultimate assembling of materials is done with care and enthusiasm. Anything that requires this kind of patience is truly a labor of love.

Here again, Palmiero's almost mystical zeal for design and jewelry creation has lived within him since his youth. "From the time I was a boy, in my imagination I transformed the ideas provided by the world around me," he says. "A flower, a stone, a geometric form, the detail of a painting was enough for me to see them in my mind's eye already turned into rings, necklaces, and earrings."

A little over twenty years ago, the young boy with fanciful ideas brought his concepts to fruition establishing Palmiero Jewellery Design. His exquisite interpretations of forms in nature are fluid, organic, and elegant, capturing the essence of his subjects rather than replicating them.

He fashions these avatar-like creations from white gold, gold and a myriad of spectacular pavé stones that include white, green, and yellow diamonds and sapphires.

The smooth, curvature of his Swan Ring, for instance, captures the semblance of a neckline, beak, and feathers. The delicate, gemstone encrusted wrapped metal of his Drapes Collection simulates the soft crinkling of fabric. The minute detailing is amazing.

Even with the use of pavé stones, Palmiero keeps his pieces relatively understated, particularly his classic designs. You notice the glistening gemstones for sure, but you also notice the sinuous forms of the overall piece.

The pavé settings are particularly impressive for not only their visual effect, but also the patience, time, and precision it takes to crate a stone setting of this type.

In many of his pieces, Palmiero works with stones of various hues creating patterns of shading so that the color intensifies or recedes along the length of the item. He also implements pavé sets in arabesque type designs that are equally intricate.

"There is a lot of work that goes into each model," Palmiero says speaking on working with his team of craftsmen. "There are times we are in such harmony that we do not need to tell each other explicitly what we want to arrive at creating," he explains.

"We try to get ideas together, perhaps starting from objects, and then arrive at a meeting with each others' tastes. Months can pass throughout this process. We do not create for gain, but for the love of doing it, and because we hold that it is a work of art."

Palmiero's incredible jewelry has a worldwide following including Japan, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold, and White Diamond Swan Ring with Orange Stone
Photo 2 (center): Arabesque White Diamond Pendant
Photo 3 (bottom left): 18-Karat White Gold and Diamond Twister Ring

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NINA BRANDIN JONES

We visit Massachusetts' Smith College Botanic Garden, which has a long, layered history that played out over the course of 115 years. The study of horticulture was already a fixture at Smith College many years prior to the addition of a botanic garden. Massachusetts is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designers Nina Brandin Jones.

As I touched on in my post for Taiwanese designer Sadie Wang, the impact of subtle, understated jewelry items can get lost, and not seem as exciting as their more eye-catching counterparts.

However, where metalsmithing is concerned  the techniques and skill required to produce an elaborate piece are the same techniques and skill needed to create a less elaborate one.

Like Wang, Jones' range includes classic, elegant forms fashioned from sterling silver to more intricate, one-of-a-kind items in gold, silver, moonstone and carved coral.

In one degree or another, the North Bennet Street School (NBSS) alumna implemented tools like hammers, files, soldering irons, and buffing wheels in creating both types of designs.

Presently living in Colorado, Jones began creating precious metal jewelry during her early teen years, and while attending NBSS she learned everything from "cabochon and faceted stone settings" to "metal forming techniques." Once she developed her repertoire of jewelry making skills, Jones established her company Nina's Jewelry.

Aside from creating designs inspired by her surroundings, Jones also creates custom ordered pieces including wedding and engagement rings.

She also gives a lot of her time and energy to developing the talent of others by generously providing aspiring jewelry artists with customized, jewelry-making lessons that address different skill levels from beginner to advanced.

For more on Jones' classic designs, check out her page at Etsy.com.
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Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Gold and Sterling Silver Triangular Fossilized Coral Pendant
Photo 2 (center): Sterling Silver Swirl Earrings

Friday, December 4, 2009

SADIE WANG

Botanical gardens are man-made oases often built in the middle of or on the outskirts of a bustling concrete jungle. Today we visit the Botanical Garden of the National Museum of National Science located in Taichung, Taiwan. The grounds' focal point is a Rain Forest Greenhouse replete with simulated rain, and a waterfall. Taiwan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Sadie Wang.

Here again, the inherent subtlety of simplistic designs is deceptive, so deceptive in fact that I struggled to find, as well as feel, the impact of Wang's jewelry.

Metalsmithing skills notwithstanding, her extremely minimalist, clean structures offer very little to no embellishment and most all of her pieces, particularly the mostly sterling silver items from her Hammered Lines, and Textured collections, are so basic in form they are, quite honestly, rather plain.

I don't mean to sound as though I am judging Wang's strength as an artist--she has a Bachelor of Arts in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Metalsmithing. I was intrigued by her choice of such a linear level of simplicity.

Although the items from her Resin Collection include pops of colored resin (some muted) with silver, the overall designs remain clean and understated.

Wang's objective, I found, is this, "My jewelry is designed to bring attention to the wearer while being worn comfortably. My aesthetic vision is simple, and can appear to be quite subtle yet it emphasizes line quality."


I will admit that I am drawn to jewelry that is more expressive; not necessarily elaborate detail but rich color combinations and distinctive structures. When viewing her collections, I wondered perhaps if Wang's reserved design style suggested a reluctance or timidity to explore different options. My assumption, I discovered, was mistaken.

"I am interested in many different materials and I like to explore other areas of expertise. I expanded work with 18-karat gold, resin, and hand blown glass," she says. "I am challenged to continue on the path in the decorative arts field and to create meaningful objects."

A few of Wang's resin pieces, and items implementing hand blown glass, are not featured on her website, and I have included some photos here. Her range of jewelry includes a simple form of gold, silver, and glass, which she expands into a larger, more complex pattern.

"Jewelry has been used as a decoration for the body for as long as there has been human civilization," Wang says, "It is a vehicle of communication without words. I am interested in this particular function of jewelry."

I have learned a lesson in viewing Wang's collections. Before now, I have not been given to any contemplation about uncluttered, simple forms in jewelry, and I think I understand their appeal to a jewelry wearer.

Simple forms are clear-cut and straightforward. The forms that Wang gravitate towards are squares, circles, and rectangles. Regardless of a person's level of artistic skill, these particular structures can never be under or over executed; in that sense, these forms are among the few things in life that are perfect and timeless.

Maybe that is the allure; that something so simple is completely adequate, which in turn gives way, however imperceptible, to a sense of security.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Resin Purple and Lilac Leaf Brooch
Photo 2 (center): 18-Karat Gold and Silver Brooch with Hand Blown Glass

Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Resin Two Color Circle Pendant

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ZAYD MAKARIM

We visit Indonesia today gearing up for a journey to view several of the many, centuries-old temples. Our first stop will be the lake of Bratan where the Ulun Danu temple sets. Next is the sea temple Tanah Lot, and finally we visit the 1,000-year-old Besakih Temple, which is often referred to as the "Mother Temple of Bali". Indonesia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Zayd Makarim.

Like Mexico, Thailand, Mali, and the United States' Arizona, Indonesia has a rich history of ornamental jewelry crafted by highly skilled silversmiths. Balinese jewelry, in particular, is renowned for its moving symbolic interpretations of love, gods, mystical creatures, and nature motifs.

The artistry of the traditional textured, coiling spirals and tendrils evoke strength and regalia. The beautiful rendering of hard metal into intricate, arabesque details is stunning.

A native of West Java, Makarim moved to Bali to work for a well-known jeweler. As a youth, he explored such creative outlets as sculpture and painting. "While I was in school, I discovered I liked art and it quickly became one of my passions," he says.

Makarim incorporates the time-honored Balinese ringlets into his modernized items, like his sleek Prayer Earrings. The implementation of translucent gemstones like garnets and blue agate are gorgeous contrasts, but the focus is the metal's lovely curves of interlaced patterns.

Makarim's decision to start his own jewelry business began innocently enough, and he was caught off guard by the power of his handiwork. "I made a pair of earrings for my wife's birthday, and when they were finished I could not believe how beautiful they were," he recalls. "Her friends started asking if I could make jewelry for them so I started thinking more seriously about creating my own jewelry line."

To view more of Makarim's jewelry go to his page at Novica.com.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Blue Agate Blue Honeysuckle Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Coins of the Kingdom Necklace

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MARICARMEN MORALES-MACEDO

One of the most astounding natural wonders is Peru's Amazon River. It is a literal wall of water pouring 20% of the total volume of freshwater into the world's oceans. Peru is also the home of featured jewelry designer Maricarmen Morales-Macedo.

From what I have observed, the signature of Peruvian jewelry is a singular display of either great gemstones, or organic forms of sterling silver. Designs can range from intricate interpretations of an ancient Andean calculator called quipus to an understated owl head made from jade.

Many Peruvian jewelers draw inspiration from their country's storied history and its spectacular natural surroundings. Macedo's pieces encompass traditional Peruvian aesthetics that highlight rustic, textured silver in nature-inspired or geometric forms with accents of vibrant, smooth stones like carnelian and rose quartz.

Her enthusiasm for jewelry making is boundless. "My enjoyment for creating things with my hands led me to take a course in jewelry design. It is the best thing I ever did," she beams.

Macedo's exemplary silversmithing skills highlight the metal's brushed, hammered, or glossy finishes and unusual structure like her Connection Earrings, while her deft gemstone selections add striking contrasts, such as her Frozen Flames Earrings.

"The art of jewelry design to me is about simple lines featuring color and textures that make the wearer feel closer to nature. Each stone proposes its own design, and I search for contrasts I can obtain from different materials," she explains. "That search propels me to strive to translate my ideas into wonderful jewelry items."

Macedo sells her elegant pieces through Novica.com.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Sea Drift Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Mystical Sun Earrings with Carnelian

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DAGMAR JEWELLERY

The architecture of India is some of the most spectacular in the world particularly the Buddhist and Jaina temples. In many cases, the designs of these temples blend Indian and Greek aesthetics. India is also home to featured jewelry designer Pavan Anand.

"One of the finest art forms is Indian jewelry," says Anand, "A large amount, however, is restricted to women of a higher age bracket. I wanted to create pieces that women of all age groups could wear anywhere from a wedding to a nightclub."

Although there is no doubt in my mind that many women would find Anand's collections breathtaking, I also feel that the intensity of the gemstones' color, the regal detailing and grand arrangement of the designs may not be a comfortable fit--figuratively speaking--for some.

It calls for a woman with a high level of self-awareness and fearlessness; a woman, who understands that her own powerful presence would be enhanced, not overshadowed, by the immense beauty of the jewelry.

A former architect, Anand established his jewelry company, Dagmar Jewellery, in 2004 where he serves as lead designer. The word Dagmar is a fitting one, a German word that means "glorious day."

Anand definitely has a built-in sense for structure, texture, and blending materials. Intricate accents and superlative artisanship is a staple of Indian jewelry, and his design approach builds on the elaborate style of kundan and meenakari jewelry. At the same time, he blends vintage European aesthetics.

"We have a Victorian Collection that is an eclectic mix of Victorian and Art Deco motifs with stones ranging from emerald and rubies to cubic zirconia," he says.

Anand also creates his dazzling pieces with 22-karat gold plating, rhodium, sterling silver, black onyx, green jade, blue topaz, freshwater pearls, garnet, and citrine. The pieces are microcosms of India's great legacy of decorative art works.

Another great aspect of Dagmar Jewellery is its affordability. "The pieces we create are hand crafted with precious metals, and precious and semi-precious gemstones," Anand says. "You can get a great range of pieces at incredible prices with a lifetime warranty."

Anand's beautiful collection of Mughal-inspired cuff bracelets, and chandelier earrings is sold worldwide including Australia, Spain, South America, England, Turkey, Indonesia, and the United States.
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Photo 1 (top right): 22-Karat Gold Plated Bridal Bracelet Cuff with Rose Cut White Quartz and Red and Green Onyx Cabochons
Photo 2 (bottom left): Antique Gold with Cubic Zirconia, Cabochons Turquoise and Pearl Victorian Necklace

QUOTABLE GEMS - KATHARINE HEPBURN

Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don't do that by sitting around.

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