Thursday, December 31, 2009


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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


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.

Monday, December 28, 2009


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 ancestral home of jewelry designer Ursula Woerner.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


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.

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


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. Australia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Melissa McArthur.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


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
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


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.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


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.
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


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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


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.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Red Jade Hearts Pendant
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Butterfly Wings Cuff

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


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.
Photo 1 (top right): Purple Quartz Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Five-Strand Bead Necklace

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


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
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


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.
Photo (top left): Blue Turquoise Nugget


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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


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
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


Today we visit the Botanical Garden of the National Museum of National Science located in Taichung, Taiwan. The grounds' focal point is the Rain Forest Greenhouse replete with simulated rain, and a waterfall.

Taiwan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Sadie Wang.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


One of the most astounding natural wonders is Peru's Amazon River. It is a literal wall of water pouring twenty percent of the total volume of freshwater into the world's oceans.

Peru is also the home of featured jewelry designer Maricarmen Morales-Macedo.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


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.


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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