Saturday, January 30, 2010


 At nearly a century old, Oregon's International Rose Test Garden continues to be the premier "testing ground for new rose varieties." Though currently closed for the winter, the lush grounds are populated with additional gardens each providing a distinct function. Oregon is also the home of featured jewelry designer Kevia Jeffrey-West.

Friday, January 29, 2010


The Montjuic Castle sits atop a hill in Barcelona, Spain providing the city with even more picturesque beauty. The 17th century structure houses both a military and comics museum. Spain is also the home of featured jewelry designer Gemma Draper.

Draper's prolific conceptual work comprises seven very distinctive collections. They are an eclectic mix made from traditional and non-traditional materials that include steel wire, enamel, steel, silver, and wood, glass beads, polymer clay, quartz, stone and horn.

The items are more like objects than jewelry, and are not conventionally beautiful in their abstract, non-descript forms; however, these characteristics are what captures your attention. Although Draper's website provides some insight into her creative process, overall I feel the pieces are open to the observer's interpretation.

Like other conceptual artists, Draper derives items from her exploration of varied themes such as words and linguistics, dimensional layers, and the lifespan of a flower.

The renderings are unusual, puzzling, and provocative taking an observer on a wild journey through form and concept that challenge perceptions of beauty and value as they relate to jewelry.

There seems to be a certain amount of rebelliousness in this very intellectual design approach that I really like. Technically speaking, it is jewelry but from a visual standpoint, it is an object. In the end however whether jewelry or object it is an incredible form of artistic expression.
Photo 1 (top right): Canefora, Oxidized Silver, Brass, Stone and Pearl Brooch from Bliss a Bliss Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Copper, Enamel, Brass, Acrylic and Sterling Silver from Parties Under the Bridge Collection

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Completed nearly half a century ago, Canada's Skylon Tower looms over the falls that compose the powerful Niagara Falls. With a height of 520 feet, its observation deck provides a breathtaking view of the borders of Canada and the United States. Canada is also the home of featured jewelry designer Laura Goldstein.

Taking the time to go for a walk through a park or along a quiet beach is a welcome transition from the hectic morning commute.

Nature's calming effect does wonders for an overloaded mind and heavy spirit. It quietly serves as our daily backdrop of clear, blue skies and lush trees, or fluffy mounds of white snow.

Forms in nature, from the petals of flowers to rolling sand dunes, have provided an endless source of inspiration to jewelry designers, Goldstein's area of interest: the sea.

"When I was 5, my parents bought me a goldfish. I would stare at the bottom of the fish bowl at the stones and shells," she says. "When I was a kid, I strung together the shells of escargot my parents brought back from a restaurant even though the shells smelled like garlic."

Though Goldstein always loved the sensuality of jewelry, she pursued a career as a performing arts publicist. After two decades in the field, she was ready for a change of pace; a new career in jewelry design was the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Five years ago I took some jewelry courses, including a course in mold casting, and from there it took off." Goldstein's company name, Mashu Mashu, came as a result of visiting her Israeli husband's family.

"I’d always hear them saying “mashu mashu” when they really liked something. It is a Hebrew word that means “wow, that’s something!” I thought it would be a really fun and a catchy name to my jewelry company."

Goldstein implements stones like vividly hued agate, rose quartz, citrine, freshwater pearls, and turquoise quartz into designs that are colorful and fun. I like the color selections, and the arrangement of the materials, which feature chains of antique brass with turtle, seahorse, and starfish charms.

"I just love brass," she says "It has so many color variables. It could pass for gold but I think brass is more intriguing. I love the sea. At least half of my collection is shells and mother of pearl. Gillette saw my pieces in Elle magazine and got in touch with me to use them in double-page ads for their Venus razor."

The designer takes pride in her work, which fuses her love of jewelry with elements of haute couture fashion. She particularly loves the smaller details she implements in her designs.

"I incorporate many detailed elements in my charm bracelets. For instance, flower designs are inlaid with multi-colored pearls to create petals.

I use double-sided, 19th century illustrations as pendants in my Bathing Beauty collection, and there is a pearl on the mouth of a fish charm," she explains. "Jewelry should not be massive and overpowering but should reflect a woman's sensuality."
Photo 1 (top right): Bathing Beauty Double Charm Bracelet with Orange Coral
Photo 2 (bottom left): Turquoise Quartz Gone Fishing Lariat Necklace

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Open to visitors, India's beautiful Golden Temple (a/k/a Harmandir Sahib) is one of the country's many sacred sites. Initial construction of the temple began over four centuries ago; however, many centuries would pass as the structure underwent numerous restorations. India is also the home of featured jewelry designer Hanut Singh.

The beautifully elaborate meenakari jewelry is considered India's traditional style of jewelry.

I did not know that meenakari is a painstaking enameling art form introduced to India by the Mughal people and Indian royalty became the proprietors of these splendid pieces.

A descendant of Maharajas, Singh had regular exposure to exquisite meenakari jewelry, as well as the baubles and trinkets of Michelle Ong, Cartier, and Fred Leighton. He knew jewelry would forever hold his imagination.

"Jewelry is a passion for my entire family. They are all connoisseurs, so I was always obsessed with jewelry," he says. Singh blends the styles of his country's traditional jewelry, and vintage European pieces rendering items that are streamlined and modern bursting with vibrant color.

"My jewelry is like a well-made cocktail," he says. "A mix of ideas and looks ranging from Mughal influences tossed with linear architectural inspirations and stirred with art nouveau and art deco helpings."

Though more streamlined than the arrangement of meenakari jewelry, the vivid colors, 18-karat gold, intricate enameling details, and lustrous gemstones are a dramatic homage to India's centuries of incredible jewelry making.

His designing skill is purely intuitive, "I create on instinct, passion, and learning on the job. I feel fortunate that I did not have formal training in jewelry. I cut my own stones and therefore my designs are completely original," says Singh. "Every collection has a distinctive look."

His beautiful jewelry items are prized possessions of such stars as Naomi Campbell, Penelope Cruz, and Beyonce Knowles, but Singh embraces a diverse clientele.

"It is not just about catering to celebrities but to everyone who buys my jewelry. I hope my jewelry makes an enticing and intoxicatingly potent feast for the senses."
Photo 1 (top right): Antique Nathdwara Pendant with Ruby Bullet Detailing and Crystal
Photo 2 (bottom left): Ruby and Diamond Sword Earrings

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The Hanbury Botanic Gardens in Italy sits amidst the backdrop of a protective shield of mountains. Built 143 years ago, it is home to an international array of plants all of which flourish in the lush surroundings. Italy is also the home of featured jewelry designer, Mario Buzzanca.

Italy has a long distinguished history of lavish, expertly crafted jewelry. The Etruscan people are credited with bringing superlative jewelry-making techniques, like granulation, to gold jewelry.

Dramatic signet rings and hairpins accented with gold coins were commonplace items worn by women and men of social stature.

Today's Italian designers, such as Ippolita Rostagno and Carlo Palmiero, carry on their country's indelible tradition of superlative artisanship and innovative designs. Buzzanca adds his exquisite, whimsical, and beautiful pearl jewelry to Italy's rich history of jewelry making.

The son of a celebrated Italian actor, Gerlando, Buzzanca's exposure to the glitz and glamour of celebrities was inevitable; it also whet his appetite for exceptional gemstones.

In 1977, his acute interest in gemstones led him to Japan where he began a six-year inspection of them. South Sea pearls would become Buzzanca's primary fixation, and he would later establish his company, PERLAMODA.

"Each pearl is a unique piece by itself," he says. "I like my pieces to be versatile. Pearls hanging off your jeans, handbag, or phone are casual, extravagant, and elegant and maybe one would say "cool.""

Beauty, as it relates to jewelry, comes in many forms: clean lines, intricate and elaborate, opulent and minimalist. The creations of Italian designers featured on this blog fit into each of these aesthetics.

Buzzanca highlights pearls in every design from a single drop perched inside a golden cup-like ring band to animal replications the bodies of which are ingeniously made from pearls. Strategically placed accents of pavé gemstones and gold reveal a costume or facial contours.

The jewelry is fun, creative, and distinctive. I think it also reflects that wonderful Italian vitality and zest for life.

"Each piece can never be reproduced exactly," says Buzzanca, "Where's the fun in doing the same thing twice, it's always got to be a little different."
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold and Pearl Ring with Pave Diamonds
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold and Pearl Rooster

Monday, January 25, 2010


When we enter South Africa's Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden, we are met with the spectacular Witpoortjie Falls. It is a lovely area with over 600 species of flora, and different habitats. South Africa is also the home of featured jewelry designer Beverley Price.

According to historians, intricate jewelry items fashioned from a variety of materials have been a fixture within African culture for thousands of years, predating jewelry on other continents.

Items made from eggshells, stone, glass, bronze and gold reflect the superlative skills of artisans of the Yoruba, Tuareg and Dogon groups.

Price's jewelry celebrates the complex artistry of African jewelry through items consisting of both traditional and unconventional materials including gold, safety pins, and aluminum foil.

In doing this, Price's jewelry also acts as a gentle provocation that addresses the question of what makes jewelry precious, the materials, or the designer's creative use of them.

"Some years ago I set a goal for my work: I wanted to make a form of jewelry that conveys value without using precious minerals like diamonds," she says. "My particular interest is to stimulate the development of a hybrid of jewelry fusing indigenous South African adornment with conventional Western jewelry."

Highly accomplished, Price trained and practiced as a speech therapist in her homeland, the United Kingdom, and Israel. Price's interest in creating jewelry began after she attended a lecture at Israel's Bezalel Art School.

From there her eagerness to learn more led to studies at the Jerusalem Technical Institute, London's Guildhall University, and Johannesburg's University of Witwatersrand. She earned an Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts, a Master-Class in Silversmithing, and a Master-Class in Enameling.

With such a diverse artistic background, Price's jewelry pieces range from a chainmail-like collar necklace, a bulky, gold tubular necklace and a bracelet cuff made of brightly colored feathers and aluminum.

Paying homage to post-apartheid South Africa and Mexican culture, Price links frames of 1950s Pop Art and Frida Kahlo's self-portrait in aluminum creating bracelets and necklaces.

"I began developing the idea of using foil to frame images due to my interest in creating jewelry that conveys value without precious materials. My intention was to make a story around the neck like a silent movie."

In addition to awards and exhibitions, Price is helping to empower other South African women by training and working alongside them in her workshop. Her unique work has been featured in such publications as Craft South Africa, and Contemporary Jewelry Design in South Africa.
Photo 1 (top right): Mixed Media Bracelet Including Feathers and Aluminum
Photo 2 (bottom left): Mixed Media Collar Necklace

Saturday, January 23, 2010


14K Gold Filled Edwardian Era Pendant
with Cream Freshwater Pearl Drop
We are in downtown Dallas, Texas today and we would not be on point to pass up a visit to the Hyatt Regency's Reunion Tower.

Built over 30 years ago it stands 560 feet consisting of three floors that include a revolving restaurant. Texas is also the home of featured jewelry designer Elizabeth Showers.

Friday, January 22, 2010


During the 17th century, notable Dutch writers and scholars, such as PC Hooft and Joost van den Vondel, used the Netherlands' Muiden Castle as a temporary place to kick back and discuss ideas. The Netherlands is also the home of featured jewelry designer Marijke de Goey.

De Goey's prolific creativity extends to poetry, land sculptures, as well as jewelry. She also manages to fit worldwide lectures, seminars, and workshops into her schedule.

A graduate of Holland's Rietveld Academy, where she studied monumental textiles, de Goey developed a propensity for clean sculptural forms.

Her numerous, award-winning land sculptures beautify Austria, New Zealand, and Amsterdam, and she affectionately sees them as "jewelry for the landscape," while referring to her jewelry pieces as "sculptures for the body."

De Goey does not feature many photos of her jewelry on her website, but the designs are contemporary, and sleek without gemstones. Her design approach sticks to the basics; simple geometric structures are the foundation from which she builds a slightly more intricate form.

The angle within a straight line becomes an irregular shape or cube while the twists of curved lines meet in large interconnected loops. "Curved lines twist like a super feminine gesture in and around the human body," she says. "Lines turn into a square; a square turns into a cube. Linking cubes is the next step to creating a piece of jewelry."

De Goey's slender, futuristic stainless steel jewelry pieces were featured in the Body Language Exhibition at New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and Charon Kransen's traveling jewelry exhibition in Canada, and the United States.
Photo 1 (top right): Stainless Steel Linear Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Stainless Steel Looping Bracelet

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Encompassed within a forest is France's Chateau de Lanquais; a historic castle built during the 1300s with a distinctive blend of architectural styles. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Arabelle Morgan.

Even though the Art Nouveau period lasted only 20 years, the design style and techniques that emerged from that time period live on in the works of jewelry designers in the U.S.A., Lebanon, and of course, France.

A number of French designers continue this decorative style of jewelry making including the flamboyant creations of Philippe Ferrandis, and Catherine Popesco who found 200-year-old stamping instruments and molds from this history-making period implementing them in her updated, stylish jewelry.

While employed with the iconic Italy-based company, Bvlgari, it is understandable why Morgan's fascination with jewelry and gemstones inevitably heightened.

She decided she wanted to make her own mark in the industry studying at the Gemological Association of Great Britain, Paris' fashion design school Esmod, as well as a Parisian business school, Essec.

By 2007, she established her company Arabelle Jewellery in Paris. Each item is hand crafted by a superlative team of artisans who effortlessly modernize designs of bygone vintage eras.

Morgan brings a more streamlined interpretation of the lively Art Nouveau aesthetic to her elegant, luxury jewelry. Victorian regalia are among the influences of Morgan's designs. Drawing inspiration from the lavish gifts of Queen Mary, as well as the opulence of Marie Antoinette, the sinuous, curvaceous forms of Morgan's jewelry are primarily diamond-centered.

The sumptuous items featured in the 1947 collection highlight buoyant, 18-karat gold structures that resemble miniature crowns. The tiny diamonds seem almost to levitate within the metal's delicate structures.

On the opposite end, her Honey Seeker collection highlight floral motifs that accentuate multi-colored, faceted semi-precious stones including citrine, amethyst, rose quartz, and blue topaz. Tahitian and freshwater pearls are the centerpieces of the elegantly beautiful Sunrise and Eclipse collection.

Morgan's jewelry has been featured in such publications as Harper's Bazaar, The Daily Telegraph, and Country and Town House.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Milady Yellow Beryl Ring with Diamonds and Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Honey Seeker Tourmaline Necklace with Diamonds

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The distinctive architecture of Japanese castles lightly peppers the country's landscape. Once boasting at least 5,000, Japan is currently home to about 50 castles one of which is the 14th century Himeji Castle. The majestic structure served as an exotic backdrop in the Tom Cruise film, The Last Samurai. Japan is also home to featured jewelry designer style Yoriko Mitsuhashi.

In general, Japanese jewelry reflects diverse aesthetics from brightly colored textile creations to gold to polypropylene plastic.
There are designs featuring crocheted silver and gold threads, and an implementation of a centuries-old lacquer technique known as maki-e.

For the most part, Japanese fine jewelry is characterized by elegant, clean forms and "white" gemstones; specifically white diamonds and white pearls.

A graduate of Scotland's Edinburgh College of Art, Mitsuhashi enjoys experimenting with found objects and mixed media; however, she adheres to the Japanese trend of low-key elegance.

"I interpret modesty through jewelry," she says "I attempt to capture a delicate, elegant and discrete quality in my jewelry using a simple form made from pearls and gold."

Her work has garnered numerous awards including the Royal Society of Art's Student Design Award, and the Butler and Geblett Travel Award for fashion jewelry.

Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Modesty Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Coil Ring in Gold-Plated Silver Pearl Wire

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


After a series of renovations, England's Buckingham Palace presently sets on fifty acres of land and is known for its extensive library, and art collection. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Kelvin J. Birk.

The philosophy of many artists, whether jewelry or otherwise, is to push the limits of convention branching out into unchartered territory. They will implement unusual techniques, or materials, to cultivate creations of great beauty and intrigue.

Recognizing life's cyclical pattern of decomposition and renewal, Birk incorporates used jewelry items, including rings from broken engagements and heirlooms, refashioning the gemstones and metals into distinctive, new works.

The finished work challenges perceptions of value, and sentimental attachments commonly associated with jewelry. "Throughout life we lose, and we gain. There is always destruction and loss but out of that come new things and a new order," he says.

An accomplished metalsmith, Birk primarily renders "recycled" pieces from 18- and 22-karat gold, sterling silver, peridot, and rubies into ring designs with very innovative and unusual stone settings. Some settings are large, crown-like receptacles filled with a combination of crushed stones that resemble snow cone treats.

Other designs are misshapen, and irregular like sculptures with suspended granules of gemstones that literally overlap the setting without crumbling.

It is a daring and fearless aesthetic but undoubtedly eye catching with its unique beauty. Birk allows his intuitive abilities to take over asserting a bold, fresh approach.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Two Claw Cluster Ring with Crushed Citrine and Peridot
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Freeform Ring with Sapphire

Monday, January 18, 2010


Erected during the 10th century as a small fortress, in subsequent years, under the direction of dukes and counts, Stuttgart Old Castle in Germany developed into an aggregate of buildings with the castle at the compound's center. Germany is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Petra Class.

After 9 months of viewing different styles of jewelry (the most I have ever done at any given time), something I have come away with is jewelry is so much more than decoration.

It is history, it is culture all carried within gemstones and metals; it can interpret as well as evoke emotion. It is nature as well as reflects nature and it can even reflect a state of mind.

I do not perceive jewelry in the same way, and like all of the designers featured here, Class plays a big part in changing my perceptions.

A former Art History and Philosophy major, Class's interest in rendering objects from a variety of materials led her to two creative outlets. She first trained as a smith of silver and gold at Neugablonz' University of Applied Sciences in Jewelry, while also learning to create tableware items in the workshop of Axel Gobbesso.

After several years of making tableware, she moved to the United States choosing to explore jewelry making. With a canvas of glowing 22-karat gold, Class selects from a palette of semi-precious and precious gemstones creating items that are beautifully organic.

Like fellow designer Todd Reed (USA), Class implements raw diamonds into her pieces as well as other stones still in their crystal form. Her overall designs highlight rudimentary, unrefined structures--many of which remind me of simple pictographs--and gorgeous color.

"I am endlessly fascinated with gemstones, precious or not," she says, "I am fascinated by the wealth of different reds found in nature, by the sea of blues: the opaqueness of lapis, the transparency, and subtlety of a lightly lilac-colored sapphire. One can almost paint with these stones."

The organic shapes of the jewelry items are like small sculptures, primeval and tribal; perfectly imperfect like a magnificent landscape looking as though they took thousands of years to evolve.

"I am trying to develop my own language; hoping to communicate my own sensibilities blending with a contemporary aesthetic through the rhythmical arrangements of several elements," she explains.

"By repeating a similar pattern of forms or colors, and the unexpected contrasts of differently textured materials."

Class' unique jewelry has been exhibited in Germany, and the United States. Her work has garnered awards including the Award of Excellence in Baltimore and California's American Craft Council shows, and the Best First Time Exhibitor Award from the American Craft Expo.
Photo 1 (top right): 22-Karat Gold Brooch from Blues Collections featuring, among others, Aquamarine
Photo 2 (bottom left): 22-Karat Gold and Diamond Rings from Diamonds Collections

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Once the cold spell finally lifts, the Florida Botanical Gardens is a great place to visit.

I hope the icy weather hasn't damaged its varied gardens and natural habitats too much.

Florida is also the home base of vintage couture jewelry brand House of Lavande.

Friday, January 15, 2010


David sought refuge from Saul in its caves, while King Solomon compared its beauty to his beloved.

Today the beauty of the Ein Gedi region, located near the Qumran Caves in Israel, captivates with its diverse variety of plant and wildlife.

Israel is also the home of featured jewelry designer Tamir Zuman.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


At just over 10 years old, the Siit Arboretum Botanical Garden, located in the scenic Philippines, houses a conservatory of a diverse variety of trees, which provides in-depth details about each trees importance to man's survival. The Philippines is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Maritess Damian-Vivier.

Symbols of strength, love, and good fortune are timeless; they have existed for millennia in cultures as diverse as Africa to Italy.

Due to this, symbols usually have a deep-rooted history. Four-leaf clovers and horseshoes are among the most recognizable symbols, and are used frequently in jewelry designs.

Symbolic charm jewelry is a longstanding trend in the industry. To be quite frank, despite the longevity and historical roots of symbols, a lot of the time I feel this kind of jewelry has such high saturation that the items come off as more gimmicky and cutesy diminishing the broader meanings. However, Damian-Vivier's approach to symbols resonated with me.

A statuesque natural beauty, Damian-Vivier became well known in the fashion world modeling elegant couture as she glided along runways. During a fashion show in Singapore, designer Karl Lagerfeld offered her a modeling gig in Paris, which furthered her career.

In the following years, she would model the designs of such luminaries as Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney. In 2001, during the height of her success, Damian-Vivier would receive life-altering news; she was diagnosed with cancer.

Although she had to relinquish her kinetic modeling career, she remained undaunted. Utilizing her spiritual base, she chose to focus on hope and possibility. Choosing to remain active, Damian-Vivier prayed often seeking guidance on which career path to follow.

"I told myself that if ever I'm going to start working again, I didn't want to be stressed," she says. "I wanted work that allowed me to create something that will last, something that is real.

After three days of writing prayers, I started drawing. There was always the cross, the key and the heart that came up. I realized I wanted to propagate the values and the good things that God gave me."

With this realization, she established her company Tess and Tasha (named for herself and her daughter). In line with honoring her faith, Damian-Vivier incorporates a beautiful interpretation of the four-leaf clover as a symbol of seasonal changes.

Uniform sprinkles of black diamonds, white diamonds, rubies, and emeralds cover the leaves and each gemstone signifies a different season. She also regularly combines the cross and heart symbols, which ultimately represent victory over life's challenges and unconditional love.

"I hope to convey the feeling of going back to basics through my jewelry; simplicity without searching for perfection. The same simplicity of our past when the imperfections and naivety of hand-made jewelleries, made them unique."

The jewelry is understated and beautiful, some items etched with words of support while others are drenched in pavé gemstones. Her white and yellow gold heart interpretations, however, are the cornerstone of the collections. The heart shapes are flat in structure as opposed to the full-bodied, voluptuous versions I have seen.

This streamlined interpretation provides an extra element of delicacy perhaps suggesting the fragile nature of our emotional connections or faith while the dual aspect of strength is evoked in the substantiality of the metals.

Although she is not cancer free, Damian-Vivier maintains a positive, fearless outlook. "My doctors tell me it's the last stage but until God tells me it's your time, I will never close my eyes. So long as I can still talk and share, I will do it."
Photo 1 (top right): Yellow Gold King and Queen of Hearts Crown Ring with Eternity Band
Photo 2 (bottom left): Yellow Gold Four-Leaf Clover Summer Ring with Pavé Rubies

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A considerable number of centuries-old, well-preserved Buddhist temples populate the country of Korea beautifying the country's already spectacular landscapes.

The over 400-year-old Beomeosa Temple is composed of several smaller buildings, which the country declared national treasures.

Korea is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer the late Aud Charlotte Ho Sook Sinding.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The world is full of fantastic landscapes, and the country of Iran has some grant ones to explore.

The crystal clear waters of Avan Lake is located in the Province of Qazin; while the third largest salt lake in the world, Orumieh Lake, is believed to possess healing properties.

Iran is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Mona Assemi.

Monday, January 11, 2010


With a grandiose history of political intrigue, Ireland's Cahir Castle is a well-preserved national monument.

The 12th century structure is one of the country's largest castles where guided tours and audiovisual shows are regularly conducted.

Ireland is also the home to featured jewelry designer Rachel McKnight.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


With over 200,000 species of plant, it is amazing to learn that four decades ago the South Coast Botanic Garden, in California, was once a sanitary landfill. California is also the home of featured jewelry designer Nathan "Nate" Waxman.

A little over 50 years ago, fresh out of high school and in need of "a change of scenery," the New York native journeyed to sunny Los Angeles, California with dreams of becoming a film director. What transpired would ultimately change his life trajectory.

"As an early teenager, I became very interested in movies and wanted to be a movie director," Waxman recalls. "When I moved to L.A., I was hoping to meet movie stars and get involved in the industry. But soon after I arrived, I met a guy who worked for Swoboda, Inc., got myself a job there, and found a talent I never dreamed I had."

That "talent" was an innate sense for design; a seemingly dormant faculty methodically awakened. "I held various duties in the company as I learned all aspects of jewelry making and soon mastered metal plating, casting, mold making, and assembly. Working at Swoboda was a great environment for me because there was a lot of room to grow and learn."

Edward Swoboda established Swoboda, Inc. in 1956 and he hired Waxman one year later as a trainee. Six years into working for Swoboda, Waxman proved gifted in other ways.
His gregarious personality was a strength that drew a loyal customer following and landed Waxman the title of partner.

The jewelry retailed at stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, which included Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrod's of London, Marshall Fields, Dillards, and Nieman Marcus. Waxman, however, did not pass on his jewelry making duties to a trainee.

His beautiful work with natural precious and semi-precious gemstones, set in 22-karat gold plated metal, attracted some major Hollywood names like Jane Russell and Beverly Garland, who wanted the "look" of genuine gemstone jewelry without the hefty price.

"Many of the Old Hollywood legends are personal friends of mine today and aside from nature, they serve as inspiration for my designs. I am inspired by the timeless glamour, class, and elegance these women exude."

Viewing Waxman's jewelry is the equivalent of being in a candy stone. There is so much vibrant color I could not decide which photo I wanted to enlarge first! Everything looks so great!

In fact, there is a bib necklace composed of aventurine, jasper, sodalite, rose quartz, and lapis that resemble gumballs (see above photo).

"I am heavily influenced by nature and use natural stones from around the world. I believe wearing these natural stones can bring one closer to nature and I want my jewelry to evoke and cultivate in the wearer that harmony which only nature can produce."

Included in his collections are elegant, regal pieces; delicate and feminine designs and spherical, medallion-like pendants with plenty of gemstones or intricate designs filling the face.

His animal and insect-inspired designs are brazen and whimsical drenched with explosive color. I love the detail of carved, green jade wings on a Dragonfly Brooch.

After 21 years with Swoboda, Inc., Waxman has since established his own company, Nate Waxman Jewelry. His mentor, Swoboda, retired in 1978 one year after Waxman left the company. The boldness of Waxman's jewelry may not suit everyone's tastes, but it is a continuation of a grand history of jewelry making.

"I focus on designing jewelry that is also timeless, glamorous, classy, and elegant--pieces that will last a lifetime, escape the trends, but always be classically fashionable and increase in value as they age," he says. "I began designing and I found my passion. I have never looked back."
Photo 1 (top right): Garnet, Opal Pearl Crown Brooch
Photo 2 (center): Bib Necklace with Aventurine, Jasper, Sodalite, Rose Quartz, Unkite and Lapis
Photo 3 (bottom left): Blue Opal and Ruby Bracelet

Friday, January 8, 2010


Spring and summer are distant memories so let's make the most of Brazil's summer season by visiting Copacabana Beach.

Clear views of the ocean's vivid blue waters will be a little challenging since we will have plenty of company.

Brazil is also the home of featured jewelry designer Francisca Bostas.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It is winter in England right now, but a great place to visit during the warmer seasons is Capel Manor Gardens, a 30-acre stretch of gardens amidst a Georgian Manor House and Victorian Stables. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Monica Boxley.

As is the case with all jewelry artists, the diverse range of Boxley's pieces is a testament to her training, innate skills, and personality.

At age six, the precocious Boxley loved dressing up in her mother's stylish hats, scarves, and shoes of course, accessorizing with her mother's handbags and jewelry.

Her mother's strong sense of style would influence Boxley's design aesthetic, particularly her handbag collection. However, Boxley's love for unpolished textures, vibrant and muted colors, and simplistic structures is central to her jewelry designs.

"How wonderful it is to be able to conjure up jewels hand-crafted from silver, semi-precious stones, glass beads, fabric, Perspex, or even rubber," she says. "The combining of eclectic and unexpected materials is what excites me."

Some of her collections blend several of the varied materials, while other collections, like her semi-precious collection, centers primarily on gorgeous gemstones.

The items of her semi-precious collection are linked beads and gemstones of different sizes and shapes, like agate, amethyst, or carnelian, in understated designs alternating between subdued and eye popping color.

Her beautiful work with sterling silver highlights unusual textures like perforation, hammering, etching, and dots offset by clean forms, multi-chains and intricate wirework. The jewelry has a wonderful rustic, bohemian somewhat edgy style.

In my opinion, a few of the designers I have featured from Britain, like Theo Fennell and Stephen Webster, share this double-sided aesthetic; elegant and classic on the one hand, with alternately edgier accents or pieces on the other.

Overall, Boxley's approach is more streamlined but her clear love for variety--different cultures, unique materials-uncovers an underlying sense of non-conformity, and I don't think she would want it any other way.

Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Hole Etched Ring
Photo 2 (center): Antique African Bead Necklace
Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet with Handmade Charms

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


A trip to Taiwan would not be complete without visiting a few of the country's historic temples that include Buddhist, Confucius, and Taoist temples. Taiwan is the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Chao-Hsien Kuo.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Shrouded by a history of political intrigue, Ireland's grandiose Connagh Castle sits ominously atop a bluff in the Brade Valley. Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer Angela O'Kelly.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Surrounded by the healing waters of a therapeutic spring, the Indonesian temple Pura Tirta Empul is undoubtedly a place for regeneration and renewal.

Indonesia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Nyoman Rena.


Like many gemstones, the garnet has a fossil-like existence. Cultivated by heat and pressure the minerals quietly take form within the earth.

To my surprise, garnets are composites of two or more variations of minerals that include almandine, grossularite, spessartite, andradite, pyrope, and tsavorite.

Consequently, the variations provide garnet with a range of hues from the popular red pyrope to colorless grossularite to tsavorite green and even a blue-green variation found in Africa.

Due to the garnet's large variety of colors, the gemstone has often been mistaken for other gemstones. Mined around the world, the varieties of garnet are found in Brazil, India, Kenya, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, and the United States.

Garnet is a highly durable gemstone with nearly flawless clarity and was widely popular among the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.

During ancient eras, the stones were fashioned into protective amulets, as they were believed to ward against evil. According to legend, the biblical patriarch Noah used a lantern made of garnet as a safeguard to steer the Ark at night.

Aside from its use as a protective talisman, many believe the garnet to hold healing powers that sooth depression, arthritic and pancreatic problems, as well as stabilize heart rates.

One of the world's most famous garnets is a cabochon flower brooch once owned by Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. One of the largest grossularite garnet minerals is located at Vermont's Eden Mill Nature Center measuring three-eighth inches across.
Photo 1 (top right): Red Rhodolite Garnet

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Untouched, natural beauty is on supreme display within the western, California portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Looming trees and flowing rivers are just a sampling of the area's landscape. California's Sierra Nevada Mountains is also the residence of featured jewelry designer Karen Olsen Ramsey.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.


A trip to New Zealand's Onetangi Beach is the perfect remedy to the wintry mix hovering over the Midwest. An expanse of blue skies and a wide stretch of golden sands are an inviting combination for shaking off winter's frosty grasp. New Zealand is also the home of featured jewelry designer Louise Douglas.
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