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.

As I was preparing this write-up, it occurred to me that authentic vintage jewelry, like the splendid pieces unearthed during archeological digs, are antiquities.

They are reflections of a historical period and these bygone days are identified through the pieces' design, style, and colors.

Unlike the remnants found during excavations, which are usually put on display in museums, rare vintage pieces are more readily accessible (albeit they can be a bit of a challenge to locate).

Tracy Smith loves perusing flea markets for vintage, couture jewelry while traveling abroad; however, building a viable business from the spoils she collects was not a motivating factor.

"It never started out as a "business" idea; I always enjoyed combing flea markets for great finds. On one particular trip, I had an epiphany and I thought,"Why not start a new kind of vintage shop where people can find treasures that don't require digging?"

In the tradition of Fred Leighton Jewelry, two-and-a-half years ago Smith established her company House of Lavande. The store boasts a customer-friendly environment without glass-case displays, with over 6,000 signed and unsigned pieces from the Art Deco and Retro eras, among others, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, and Kenneth Jay Lane.

Smith follows a simple guideline when selecting the jewelry, which echoes with an ulterior motive. "I buy what I would wear myself. I don't just consider what will be popular or what will sell," she says. "In the event an item doesn't sell, I can always make it a part of my private collection."

These beautiful pieces, with their lovely faux gemstone and gold plating, do sell and are red carpet ready worn by Zoe Saldana, Hayden Panetierre, Katherine Heigel, and Vanessa Hudgens.

I like the idea of Young Hollywood going for Old Hollywood glamour while also exposing this style of jewelry to a younger generation, possibly peaking their interest in the jewelry's historical significance.

Items from Smith's collection are regularly featured in such publications as Essence, Allure, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Elle.
Photo 1 (top right): Gold-Plated Barclay Necklace with Heart-Shaped Leaves and Mulit-colored Rhinestones
Photo 2 (left): Sandor Ornate Filigree Cuff with Clear Glass Crystals

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 caves of Qumran in Israel, captivates with its diverse variety of plant and wildlife. Israel is also the home of featured jewelry designer Tamir Zuman.

Beautiful mosaic patterns, protective evil eye, and Hamsas talismans are an integral part of Israeli jewelry.

The country's rich spiritual history and distinctive landscapes provide great inspiration for Israeli designers.

With over 20 years in the industry and a worldwide following, Zuman opts for understated, organic forms fashioned from sterling silver offset by intricate etchings, or a bold colored gemstone.

Although one of his collections adheres to traditional Israeli symbolism, Zuman's design approach is basic given to small details that draw the observer in.

Zuman began his career in jewelry art during the mid 80s where he subsequently established a small jewelry studio. With attention to quality artisanship, like many Israeli jewelers, Zuman incorporates inventive jewelry making techniques to create his pieces.

Presently working from a "full-size manufacturing facility," Zuman remains hands-on in each stage of production from conceptual drawings to castings. Though very streamlined and elegant, his designs possess a hearty, unrefined appearance evoking the history of the Old World.

It is incredible that he accomplishes this hand-formed, sculpted appearance without the use of molds. Although I have commented on the subtle beauty of simplistic designs and detailing before, I want to include that these subtleties add soul to Zuman's pieces, making them unique.

I can almost see his mind working where he takes a basic form and builds on its smaller details such as using silver as opposed to gold, a textured finish instead of high gloss, a single opal stone as opposed to a pavé setting.

I do not say this to suggest that there is anything wrong with more ornate jewelry, there isn't. Both styles require the same skill and forethought and the final products are equally breathtaking, just in different ways.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Ring with Opal Stones
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Gold Bracelet

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.

Not confined by convention, Sinding has left a legacy of unusual, striking jewelry pieces. Implementing materials like silicone, linoleum, and silver, she constructed daring brooches and rings of considerable scale.

For this reason, the figurine-like contemporary jewelry items are whimsical, attention getters reminiscent of Dutch designer Joke Schole's work. Like Schole's jewelry, on the surface Sinding's pieces seem giddily irreverent, but behind the playful exterior is a deeper somewhat darker message.

The animal-inspired brooches, for example, feature expertly crafted, linoleum-made heads of cats, dogs, and rabbits mounted on a large, wood-like backing.

The image evokes a hunter's mount of larger, more ferocious game. To me, the pieces suggest our love for pets mingled with an underlying sense of misguided dominion over them.

"Pets evoke many emotions that in some ways are contradictory," says Sinding, "On my brooches, the pet heads become like trophies, glazed and lifeless. With these pieces, I have played with the feelings of disgust and fascination when something is put into a new context."

The jewelry artist studied silversmithing, jewelry art, and design at Sweden's University of Göteberg graduating in 2001. Sleepless nights were among Sinding's most vivid memories while attending the university.

"Before a deadline for different projects, I spent long days and nights in the workshop. I would fall asleep in the early morning hours, and the janitorial staff used to wake me up."

Always feeling secure with her unconventional aesthetic, Sinding offered encouragement to up-and-comers. "The time learning at school is like a gigantic mattress so block your fears of doing something wrong. Even if you jump from high heights your landing is relatively soft."

From 2001 to 2004, Sinding's unique jewelry has been exhibited in Sweden, Korea, Japan, Holland, Istanbul, and the United States.

In 2007, she taught jewelry design part-time at the University of Göteberg, and just last year the jewelry artist unexpectedly passed away.
Photo 1 (top right): Silicon and Linoleum Rabbit Head Brooch
Photo 2 (left): Silicon, Linoleum and Silver Bird and Flower Ring

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.

In the peculiar space between sleep and wakefulness, the brain is active firing off vivid imagery.

For the mind of a jewelry designer, that space of time can prove productive. Assemi keeps a sketchbook on her nightstand to capture those burst of creative visions emerging from that dream-filled space.

While working as a personal shopper for the elite boutiques of Washington, D.C., Assemi systematically developed her hobby of sketching baubles and turning them into tangible, unique pieces.

Initially, the creations she fashioned were personal ones with the public getting views only when she wore them. After numerous compliments and product requests, Assemi decided to grow her hobby into a thriving business.

Her Persian-inspired trinkets are cultivated from solid 14-karat gold, 14-karat gold plating, sterling silver, and loads of natural gemstones. Iranian gold coins, galas, the infinity symbol, and glittery stardust serve as the designer's sources of inspiration.

Unfortunately, due to a 403-error message, I was not able to access Assemi's website in IE or Firefox, but during my research, I was able to find a few photos of Assemi's pieces.

Among them, a necklace composed of a single sphere of red chalcedony covered with a small gold tassel, and clear crystal earrings sprinkled with a gold tassel.

Of the items I have seen, they are very haute sophistication; large, linked spheres of metal or gemstones, and long gold chains with a few charms. What I have seen speaks to bold elegance with a somewhat primal quality.

Assemi has since relocated her company base to New York City and is thrilled that Brooke Shields and Carly Steel, among others, appreciate her aesthetic.

Her socially conscious efforts with The Foundation for the Children of Iran, to which she has donated a few of jewelry pieces for auction, caught the attention of Style & Image Network's Fashion Fights Poverty.

Fashion Fights Poverty is "one the largest non-profit ethical and eco fashion organizations in the United States. Honoring national and international designers who employ ethical practices in their design and manufacturing processes to create and sustain economic opportunity."
Photo 1 (top right): Model Talia Wearing Necklace and Bracelet
Photo 2 (left): Red Chalcedony Necklace with 14-Karat Gold Tassel

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.

The use of plastic in jewelry making from polypropylene to acrylic resin has been a fixture for many years. The material renders pieces as beautiful and colorful as traditional materials.

Bakelite, the most well known variation, peaked in popularity during the Great Depression, an affordable, beautiful, and durable option for women challenged by the times.

Many jewelry designers of today, including Sue Gregor (England), Alexis Bittar (U.S.A.), and Yoko Izawa (Japan) continue this tradition in grand fashion. Thirty-year old McKnight adds her collections of stunning hand-dyed acrylic, polypropylene, and Perspex items into this movement of innovative jewelry.

McKnight developed an interest in exploring plastic's designing options while studying at Belfast's University of Ulster. Upon graduating, seven years ago, she started plans for a workshop, and in 2004 established one in her parents' garage.

Working entirely with hand held instruments, McKnight cuts the plastics into simple yet expressive forms with a focus on layering and sculpting.

A recent participant in Craft Northern Ireland's Making It program, which assists new designers in their business development, McKnight is now utilizing laser cutting for more intricate designs.

The look of the pieces--the lovely pastel colors--evoke springtime, frosted glass, the mixture of sweet, colored fluid in shaved ice, and sumptuous Jolly Rancher hard candy.

Some forms are sculptural with rolling waves flowing like fabric. There are forms reminiscent of pinwheels, lace, and flowers. They all seem as though they would be soft to the touch, warming in the palm of your hand.

The beautiful jewelry pieces, consisting of simple pendant necklaces, bangle bracelets and striking necklaces, are ethereal and delicate, translucent and opaque, as if they would disintegrate into a puff of soft colored powder.

Exhibitions of McKnight's work have been held in Ireland, London, and the U.S.A. In 2005, she received the first place award for non-precious jewelry in Ireland's National Craft Competition.

For more on McKnight's inventive pieces, check out Creative Choices' video interview with the designer at

Photo 1 (top right): Blue Translucent Rubber Double Leaf Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (left): Large Pink Polypropylene and Silver Neckpiece

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.

It is the ultimate trifecta; a designer of Italian and French ancestry establishes her jewelry company in Brazil, a country spilling over with spectacular gemstones.

The coming together of diverse cultural aesthetics, each providing history-making contributions to the jewelry industry, lends itself to pieces that are stunningly beautiful and romantic.

With studies completed in architecture and jewelry design, Bastos' work with vibrant and fluid gemstones, both precious and semi-precious, like emerald, garnet, lavender quartz, and citrine, is unmistakably Brazilian.

Using accents of 18-karat gold, her blend of semi-precious and precious gemstones and beads result in pieces inspired by Southeast Asia, Rio de Janeiro, Copacabana, and Marie Antoinette.

Color is used as an interpretive tool to mirror Brazil's majestic landscape and breathtaking fauna and flora, while iridescent pearls and sparkling white diamonds interpret the romance and opulence of 18th century France.

"I have worked with stones in every shape and color for almost 25 years," says Bastos, "The stones originate in different mines in Brazil. As I receive them, they are transformed into handmade jewelry that reflects elegance and transcends time and trends."

The Italian element, I feel, of Bostas' designs is evident in the Old World texture and cinching of her 18-karat gold cuff ring from her Copacabana Collection.

The color of the gemstones, whether soft or dramatic, is so sumptuous like ripe fruit. There is a bracelet made with milky aquamarine and it is such an ethereal piece evoking an image of the stones namesake, water.

Bastos' jewelry pieces have been exhibited in Canada, Peru, England, France, and the United States.

In 2008, UN Goodwill Ambassador Marjorie Andrade selected Bastos to create an 18-karat gold medallion, called the Unity Medal, for presentation to Prince Albert II of Monaco during the 2008 Princess Grace Awards Gala.
Photo 1 (top right): Rutilated Quartz and Pearl Cuff with 18-Karat Gold Accents
Photo 2 (bottom left): The Aquamarine Bracelet with 18-Karat Gold Clasps

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.

For five decades, the Finland-based company Lapponia Jewelry Oy (Lapponia) is world-renowned for its ultra sleek and modern silver and gold jewelry.

The success of the company is largely due to one of the co-founders', Bjorn Weckström, striking design aesthetic, as well as the company's selection of contributing designers who each bring a distinctive style to the brand; Kuo is one of those designers.

Kuo's collegiate journey is an international one; completing commercial design studies in Taiwan, fine arts and metal in New York, and goldsmithing and industrial design in Finland.

Falling in love with the changing seasons and plant life, Kuo made a permanent home in Finland. Forms in nature are central to Kuo's design approach. Her pieces for Lapponia are clean, streamlined featuring soft, flowing curves.

Since 2006, Kuo has contributed jewelry to Lapponia, but the designer also nurtures her own baby, a four-year old company, Chao and Eero a collaborative effort with Finnish designer Eero Hintsanen.

Kuo's pieces for Chao and Eero reflect her love for flowers. "I like to observe how a bloom is "set" on the stem, how the petals unwrap to reveal the surprise enclosed," she reveals. "I want to capture the gesture of a flower, and to depict the energy and liveliness of a plant."

Gemstones are not a primary feature of her work; instead, the malleable, fluid properties of the metal are the focus. The floral-inspired pieces, fashioned from her signature white silver, are a marvel of metalsmithing. The forms are sinuous, voluptuous curvatures expertly cultivated into the plump lines of petals and leaves.

Her other collections, such as Signs, and Bubbles, reflect the designer's humorous, playful side in simplistic, elegant forms.

Her Signs Collection is inspired by internet emoticons while the ethereal, floating quality of bubbles is captured with small, Japanese pearls set arbitrarily on a thin, golden ring bands, earring and brooch arrangements.

Kuo's exceptional deft and skill with metal garnered her design awards including fourth place in the Japan Cultured Pearl Retailers Association's 2001 International Pearl Design Contest, and in 2002, the Excellence Award in Taiwan's Dream of the Crafts Design Competition.

For more on Kuo's creative process, watch Lapponia's video interview with the designer.
Photo 1 (top right): The Scent Summer Earrings with White Silver and Gold Foil [Chao and Eero]
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Summer Romance Necklace [Lapponia]

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.

O'Kelly is truly in line with the new wave of jewelry designs coming from Ireland.

Though the Green Isle is renowned for its intricate Celtic jewelry, some designers like O'Kelly have opted to go against tradition by following different styles.

An alumna of the Edinburgh College of Art, and the University College Dublin, O'Kelly's love of painter Mark Rothko's "fabulous combinations of color" largely influence her design approach, which combines dyed paper, yarn, wire, silver, nylon and Perspex.

Like Korean designer Kiwon Wang, O'Kelly creates innovative jewelry that is unusual, colorful, and playful. "I began experimenting with paper making and paper manipulation while studying for a jewelry degree at Edinburgh College of Art. I can achieve a light, spontaneous colorful effect working with paper," she explains.

"Inspiration for my pieces is derived from observing landscapes, rock formations, bog lands, and sea life. I combine the paper with fabric, felt, metal, and cord using a variety of textile and jewelry techniques. Texture and color are my main consideration; texture is achieved by layering hard and soft fibers and knotting and sewing paper cord."

Using old newspapers and "specialist papers" from Japan, Thailand, and India, O'Kelly's pieces are clean and spherical, with items resembling feather boas, small, turbine-like fans, amoebas, and tubing.

What I take notice of is the simplicity of form while at the same time marveling at its execution. What seems simple always belies a complexity and intricacy.

Again, O'Kelly's unique approach speaks to a daring spirit. Although I don't know what her feelings are about traditional Celtic jewelry, I do recognize she understands and embraces her right to be by choosing her own path of self-expression.
Photo 1 (top right): Lime and Navy Paper Arm Piece
Photo 2 (bottom left): Pink and Peridot Mixed Media Brooch

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.
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