Friday, April 30, 2010


Built in the 11th century, England's Arundel Castle has undergone many renovations that reflect the stealthy goings-on during the residency of 18 different earls. England is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sophie Harley.

The use of symbols in jewelry is something I have touched on in other posts.

There is no denying its popularity even though in my opinion, due to a high saturation level, I sometimes find their use rather cutesy.

As I have learned more about the history of symbols in jewelry how they span every culture from China (Qeelin) to the U.S.A. (Alex and Ani) it is an intriguing implementation. Designers use the timelessness of symbols to convey goodwill, and as tokens of comfort.

Harley conveys messages of strength, freedom, love, and continuity through subtle images of nature. Butterflies, snails, seahorses, and hearts with wings (the designer's signature emblem) are a sampling of the iconography featured in her vast collections.

Her design style is simple, and feminine with a touch of whimsical exuberance reminiscent of Irish designer Alan Ardiff. In many instances, such as the items from her Papillion Rose Collection, she does not incorporate a single emblem but cross-fertilizes them.

For instance, an 18-karat gold plated butterfly is paired with a sterling silver heart, or a heart combined with dragonflies, doves or a skull and cross bones; these are nice variations from the norm.

To maintain visual interest, she includes details like dangling a layered, multi-chain drop at the base of a single, butterfly pendant.

Each chain suspends a small gemstone like green peridot, indigo iolite, pink sapphire, ruby, or amethyst. This inclusion provides a simple yet stunning effect; like tiny raindrops of luminous color.

The alumna of London's Royal College of Art is a 20-year veteran whose designs have been used in magazine editorials as worn by actor Kate Beckinsale, and prominently featured in the London fashion show New Generation as worn by models Naomi Campbell and Saffron Aldridge.

Harley's gift for romantic forms landed her a design request for one of the most iconic feature film franchises, the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.

Actor Eva Green, as foreign liaison agent Vesper Lynd, wore Harley's lovely 22-karat gold plated and sterling silver Algerian Love Knot.

Jewelry is incorporated readily in film in order to punctuate a characterization, or underscore a key plot point.

Harley's lovely creation served as a continual yet subtle reminder to the audience of Vesper's ultimately treacherous romantic entanglement with Yusef Kabira, a duplicitous fellow agent.
Photo 1 (top right): 22-Karat Gold Plating and Sterling Silver Algerian Love Knot Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left) 22-Karat Gold Plating and Sterling Silver Fine Hoop Earrings with Rhodolite Briolettes and Dragonflies from Winter Jewels Collection

Thursday, April 29, 2010


A relatively young architectural structure, the Netherlands' Millennium Tower is the first building constructed using the Bubble Deck flooring system, and is currently the second tallest building in the country. The Netherlands is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Thea Tolsma.

Finding other uses for objects or products is a common occurrence.

Some people use medium to large aluminum containers to pot small plants, and for many women lipstick does double-duty as eye shadow or blush.

As a kid, I use to make small trashcans by linking a few empty egg cartons using a paper plate as the base.

Bicycle inner tubes are another item from which people have found interesting, functional uses like resurrecting an inoperable key on a keyboard by inserting a small piece underneath, and wrapping a thin strip around a cigarette lighter for a firmer grip.

In the hands of a jewelry designer, however, this neutral, seeminly uninteresting material becomes something buoyant and decorative.

Dutch designer Sasja Saptenno is the first designer I learned about that worked with bicycle inner tubes. She creates what many call eco-conscious jewelry of remarkable versatility.

Tolsma also works with the material exploring its malleable properties in designs that are sleek, edgy, inventive, and sexy. From 1977 to 1986, Tolsma studied textiles at Holland's College of Art D'Witte Leli, and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.

Intrigued by its design possibilities, Tolsma carefully compared different types of inner tube rubber to determine which kind was best suited to her ideas.

"Over the past few years, I have developed a certain craftsmanship and know exactly what type of rubber lends itself well to cutting, and which will retain its shape," she explains.

Tolsma's cutout designs are intricate patterns inspired by filigree work. Each piece highlights the smooth, black beauty of the rubber as well as the designer's incredible artistry.

Many of her necklace designs are long, draping strips featuring a single, large floral outline as its striking focal point; others are Gothic, daring and theatrical in its configuration structured more like dickeys than neckpieces.

I think it is spectacular jewelry for the obvious visual aspect, and that Tolsma has taken an unorthodox material and placed it in a context that never hints at its first life.
Photo 1 (top right): Rubber Pratensis Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Rubber Underwing Neckpiece (rear view)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The regal beauty of the Château de Chambord is a striking fixture situated within a wooded park in France's Loire Valley. The beautiful 16th century fortress houses 84 staircases, 365 fireplaces, and 440 rooms; however, despite its ominous proportions the structure served more as decoration than a safe haven from military attacks. France is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Carolyn Roumeguere.

Warriors of Kenya's Maasai tribe traditionally greet tourists by jumping and singing, and the Maasai women quickly follow partially encircling guests before engaging in dance welcoming guests to join in.

Known for centuries for their spiritual connection to the land, the Maasai are semi-nomadic moving their cattle herds and setting up temporary villages in areas with good rainfall.

With her anthropologist mother and Maasai stepfather, forty-two years ago Roumeguere spent her childhood living in Kenya interacting with the Maasai while threading colorful bead jewelry with the women for hours.

"Under the shade of an acacia tree, I was taught all I know about color, shape, and design by the Maasai women and young girls. They instilled in me a sense of color and balance," she says.

"They instilled a passion for beads and adornment. The Maasai, the raw beauty of African landscapes, and its lovely sunsets inspire me. I transfer this to my jewelry."

By age 15, the future jewelry designer would leave Kenya to attend school in Paris, and she would later embark on a brief modeling career. Her heart and mind, however, remained with the Maasai and at age 20 she returned to her childhood home.

During her time abroad in the early 80s, she collected rocks, seeds and objects keeping them in small boxes. She would later incorporate the eclectic range of materials into the jewelry she would ultimately make with the Maasai, whose way of life was now threatened due to socio-economic and political changes. Roumegeuere worked with the Maasai women to create jewelry pieces to help provide them with a source of income.

Working with gold beads, pearl, bone, stone, natural pink sapphires, East African colonial coins, and 18-karat gold Roumeguere and the Maasai women create items of incredible elegance and beauty many of which are patterned after ceremonial pieces.

The designs remain true to the Maasai culture in their beautifully organic and rustic appearance. The carved wooden beads, crystal-like gemstones, claws, and hammered metal discs provide a sense of the expansive scope of the Maasai's long history, their reverence for the Earth, and strength of community. You also sense the honor Roumeguere has for their culture.

"Everyone has a specific role in African society, and I have found that my husband, Simon, and I can be a bridge between the Maasai community in Kenya and the rest of the world."

Roumeguere's lovely fine jewelry is also available at
Photo 1 (top right): Pink Sapphire Maasai Choker Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Chandelier Earrings with Enamel Drops and Rough Cut Diamonds

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Situated at the summit of Black Mountain in Canberra, Australia is the aptly named Black Mountain Tower, a telecommunication tower that not only provides facilities for communication platforms and dishes but also holds a revolving restaurant, café, and observation deck. Australia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Jeramie Carter.

Everything about Carter's jewelry creations seems based in classicism from the adherence to clean lines and smooth curves to his specific selection of materials.

Working primarily with cultured pearls, Hematite beads, abalone shells, and sterling silver, the part-time sculptor's pieces incorporate timeless forms.

Circles, triangles, and indigenous Australian fauna and flora are key elements, but his accents of inky oxidation and deeply carved etchings of dragonflies, fish or Jacaranda leaves bring a very primal, organic look to his work.

"My ideas and designs come from things like moonlight on water, the graceful curves of a woman's body, the vivid colors of a coral reef or the invincible lines of Sydney's skyline," he says.

"I believe that we all, subconsciously or not, take into ourselves everything around us. It is the mix of information that gives us opinions; it is why any kind of artist from writers to singers creates."

Whether or not this aspect is a conscious decision, Carter's collections of sleek, streamlined proportions display a unifying continuity in that the designer does not deviate from key materials he implements to create them.

Although each of his collections highlights a particular theme, the uniformity of materials allows, in my opinion, for either men or women to wear the items.

"This jewelry shows a little of the diversity which I enjoy. I love to play and find it difficult to stay within one theme. Silver is my favorite metal. I love its boldness, clean lines, and unpretentious feel."

The simple beauty of the jewelry with textures of smooth, polished silver, the minutiae of gum leaves and fissures give the items a clear sensuality. They seem as wonderful to explore through touch, as they would be to wear squarely against the skin.

"Designing to me is not something as simple as putting pencil to paper. I compare it more to virtual reality where, in my mind, I visualize the finished piece with incredible clarity. You cannot create a thing of beauty using only logic and skill. It has to be something of emotion and passion as well."
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Dragonfly Pendant on Black Cotton Cord with Cultured Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Walkabout Ring

Monday, April 26, 2010


Japan's Nijō Castle is actually a composite of two palaces, the Ninomaru, and Hanmaru, as well as parts of Fushimi Castle. One memorable architectural detail of the Ninomaru Palace is its squeaking "nightingale floors," strategically designed to alert the Shogun of sneak attacks and assassins through bird-like squeaking. Japan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Yuri Kawanabe.

Since beginning this blog, I have learned that whether or not a jewelry design is elaborate or simple every designer appreciates classic form.

Both styles of jewelry, after all, are built on the foundation of a simple line, curve, or angle.

Many complex jewelry pieces are born from precise conceptualizations. Many designers sketch these concepts, others allow instinct to take over, and the design builds itself in a sense.

A graduate of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Kawanabe's dramatic, three-dimensional configurations are more like miniature sculptures than jewelry.

With the use of patinated and anodized brass, copper, gold, and aluminum, her aesthetic focus is capturing movement. The renderings are spectacular pieces highlighting beautiful, flowing curvatures and spiky angles.

"I have a fascination with form that expresses movement. I work with paper models before building a piece from flat metal sheets," she says.

"The process of cutting and folding the paper rekindles memories of my childhood when I would help my father make Japanese New Year's decorations, or other ceremonial decorations.

There were also local men and women who made ceremonial decorations with simple materials like bamboo, paper, and straw. Their crafts turned an ordinary village place into a wondrous space, but these special, decorated environments exist only for a short time. This is the basis of what I call ephemeral aesthetics.

On the other hand, jewelry is a stable long-lasting form of body adornment fashioned from metal. My work combines these two approaches; ephemeral forms in metal using minimum soldering, twisting, and folding. Metal is such a supple material, and it responds best to the most simple approach."

Through her collections Sosho, Oru, Wreath, and Coil Works, Kawanabe takes viewers on a vivid exploration of the soft, voluptuous curves of Japanese calligraphy, nature motifs, and the anatomy of a wire coil.

"When a wire winds to a shape of coil, it develops a variety of expressive forms," she explains. "Almost inevitably though it is the wire itself which seems to make its own decision as to which way it will transform shifting its balance spontaneously. The process seems like a growth of actual living form."

A veteran in the field for nearly 30 years, her powerful compositions garnered the Japan Jewellery Exhibition's Japan Jewellery Prize, and the Japan Jewellery Art Competition's Award of Excellence.
Photo 1 (top right): Anodized Aluminum and Silver Soyogi Breeze Neckpiece from the Sosho Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Patinated Brass Orange Cascade Neckpiece from the Oru Collection

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Officially opened 23 years ago, Virginia's Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is one of the most beautiful public gardens with three ponds, an azalea collection, an island bridge, and two gazebos. Virginia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Carlee Santarelli.

Rings exist in every culture and are constructed from a variety of materials from iron and silver to gold, copper, and acrylic with accents of stunning gemstones.

According to my research the popularity of rings began during the Middle Ages with the romantic lore of Ireland's Claddaggh ring being among the most well known.

Rings are perhaps the most expressive of jewelry items as throughout history they have been used to celebrate relational bonds, signify social status, and distinguish a high-ranking military officer.

Through classic or bold designs, individuals who do not normally wear jewelry can wear something minimal while also drawing attention to possibly the least noticed part of the human body.

Such designers as Kelvin J. Birk (England), Sarah Davida Beinstein (USA), and Angela Hübel (Germany) create ring designs that range from molten gold bands supporting crushed gemstones to sleek, etched cuffs to sculptural and fluid outlines. With such small proportions to work with, it is amazing just how inventive ring designs can be.

Inspired in part by the costume design of the 80s mini-series The Thorn Birds, Santarelli creates distinctive rings that blend the foundation of clothing ensembles with gold vermeil and antique brass.

What exactly does she do? She takes beautiful pieces of vintage fabric, from shimmery black/gold to animal prints to lace, placing them in the stone setting underneath a clear, round faceted cabochon. The fabric settings look like incredibly unique gemstones.

Santarelli's passion for fashion started as a very young child when she stubbornly insisted on wearing mismatched socks, which eventually led to an unshakable attraction to the attire of a much older cousin.

Santarelli's insatiable interest in clothing ultimately led to a spirited trek to the city of Los Angeles where she attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, while also doing retail work with BeBe and Liza Stewart, Inc.

After working with top jewelry designer Sonya Ooten, however, Santarelli's trajectory shifted and jewelry became her focus of self-expression. "I knew the fashion industry is where I wanted to be, but I never imagined that it would be designing accessories," she says.

I think this is a great idea, a classic combination of timeless elements. It is an innovative, statement-making piece and famous names like Ashlee Simpson and Madonna are taking notice.

"I admire and have a lot of respect for the talented designers that set the trends and make the fashion weeks," she says.

"At the same time, I feel like as a designer I want to have fun with my ideas. If it makes me happy, that is all that counts. Criticism, harsh judgment, fear of the unknown build barriers to success and you just can't let those kinds of attitudes stop you from doing what it is you want."

You can check out more of Santarelli's rings at her Etsy page.
Photo 1 (top right): Antique Brass and Clear Cabochon Vintage Fabric Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Gold Filigree Vintage Lace Ring

Friday, April 16, 2010


During a turbulent period in the 3rd century, Greece saw the destruction of the magnificent Temple of Olympian Zeus by pillaging barbarians. Having seemingly never undergone any restorations, only fifteen, standing columns remain. Greece is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Irene Metaxatos.

The alumna of London Metropolitan University, who received a Master of Fine Arts in silversmithing, adheres to a design aesthetic that starkly contrasts the grandeur of pieces from Greece's ancient times.

Her ultra simplistic fine silver and 18-karat gold structures, with their straightforward, clean lines are reminiscent of items created by Japanese designer Ema Takahashi.

Intrigued by simple construction dimensions, Metaxatos creates pieces with minimal use of gemstones choosing instead to increase visual depth by folding or overlapping the metal, which in turn creates unusual surface textures. Even with the addition of contrasting white, oxidized, and glowing yellow metals her pieces remain immaculately plain.

However, as I viewed the slightly irregular coils and circles of her Swirl items, I took note that like Sadie Wang (Korea) and Melissa Joy Manning (USA), following an understated design approach is not reflective of playing it safe. The focus is actually a keen interest in purity of line and form.

In some instances, an elaborate piece of jewelry can seem overdone because there is too much of one element whether that element is gemstones or the overall arrangement of a piece. In other instances, elaborate pieces are a marvel of execution as the designer chooses just the right balance of materials.

In the end, whether elaborate or simple, the beauty of a piece boils down to balance and this aspect is probably more readily seen in simplistic pieces.

I like that Metaxatos is confident in this streamlined subtlety as beauty in jewelry is not something that only bold and striking arrangements possess.
Photo 1 (top right): Fine Silver Fold Bands and Bangle
Photo 2 (bottom left): Fine Silver Swirl1 Loop Necklace

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The castles of Switzerland are known for their beautiful, storybook-like architecture making them some of the most picturesque in Europe. Trachselwald Castle, named after the barons that owned it, boasts a stair tower, keep, and other structures built over a period of several centuries. Switzerland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Claudia Stebler.

A region best known for its superlative watches, for over a century Swiss jewelry designers have actively created other forms of jewelry that were expressions of the time period; from the artistic explosion of the Art Nouveau era to the uncompromising avant-garde aesthetic of the 1960s.

Such names as Marie Bedot-Diodati and Bernhard Schobinger were instrumental in bringing to the world the eclectic range and splendor of Swiss designer jewelry.

With an education base spanning an apprenticeship with Eugene Lang, jewelry and printmaking studies at Canada's Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and lessons on everyday objects and jewelry at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, Stebler brings a sense of "play" and innovation to jewelry reminiscent of Ursula Woerner (Germany), and Joke Schole (Netherlands).

Her aesthetic is simple but distinctive blending materials like porcelain, garnet, sterling silver, pearls, plastic, and 18-karat gold in pieces that are alternately whimsical, and buoyant.

The configurations are rather irregular, organic, and unusual such as the Neckish necklace fashioned with linked porcelain bones, and the wickedly sly humor of her We Got Balls pendant. The design features a delicately detailed, 18-karat gold simulation of a particular aspect of the male anatomy suspended from an oxidized silver chain!

On the other side, there is the button-like appearance of her multi-colored Princess Necklace fashioned from sterling silver, and plastic. Though not classically beautiful, I do not mean to suggest the pieces are unattractive; they are not. Unconventional in certain ways, yes.

The jewelry pieces do capture your attention. It is evocative and provocative an indication that perhaps the designer leaves her items open to the interpretation of the observer.

Stebler's delicate yet distinctive design approach won her Signity's Facet Award in 2001, and she has participated in exhibitions in the United States of America, Germany, and Switzerland.

Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Bubble Gum Rings with Rubies
Photo 2 (bottom left): Plastic and Sterling Silver Princess Necklace

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It is springtime in Sweden and there would be nothing more refreshing than breathing in ocean air while standing on the sands of Sudersand Beach. Sweden is also the home of featured jewelry designer Karin Johansson.

Over the centuries, Swedish jewelry design has been known for clean, geometric lines without fanfare; however many early designers like Wiwen Nilsson and Sigurd Persson revved up the time-honored style by implementing bold colored, large, faceted gemstones like Brazilian aquamarines and quartz.

So far, my research has uncovered Swedish jewelry designers who follow eclectic design approaches from the fashion-forward pieces of Yvone Christa to the foreboding, ominous designs of Hanna Hedman. Johansson, however, embraces the traditional Scandinavian aesthetic of streamlined proportions with few gemstones.

The essence of her jewelry--at least from what I have viewed on her website--is marked by very little deviation from muted colors and clear-cut forms.

It is not conventionally pretty in the sense of sparkly and high gloss. The heavily oxidized sterling silver pieces from her Box, and Island Collections, respectively, are inky black providing a rather stoic aesthetic.

Her off-white enamel pieces from her Time Collection provide a classic color contrast with items such as a brooch and necklace that are simple circle structures; the brooch's curves are accented with a beautiful outline of 18-karat yellow gold, and lovely, brown wood accents a linked circle necklace.

Her Butterfly Collection pays homage to the insect with brooches in varying sizes and textures fashioned from sterling silver, 18-karat gold, and enamel.

"I wanted to do an exhibition where the viewer has to face a large collection of objects that at first glance may seem very similar; however, you discover all the brooches are individual," says the designer.

The Gothenburg University alumna keeps her geometric forms interesting with surface accents like perforation, ridges, and granules or accents of silk and even black diamonds. These inclusions blend with the larger design; a layering of complementary elements that seem to seep into each other.

Since 1995, Johansson's minimalist designs, with their studious, futuristic flair, have been exhibited in galleries across the glove including the United States of America, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and London.
Photo 1 (top right): Oxidized Silver and Enamel Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver, 18-Karat Gold and Enamel Necklace

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Summer is well underway in the town of Máncora located in Peru. With its beautiful beaches, and aqua-toned ocean waters this is the perfect place for lounging and surfing. Peru is also home to featured jewelry-designing team Lily and Sandra Indacochea.

This mother-daughter designing duo is no doubt a set of kindred spirits destined to prepare opals, garnets, and sodalite in alluring jewelry arrangements.

The seeds of destiny were sown during mother Lily's childhood when she found an obsidian arrow while playing with friends on her parents' Nazca Valley ranch. Lily cherished the volcanic glass structure and still has it.

Sandra loved hearing her mother's childhood story and Lily's experience would become a definitive one that would trigger a deep-set fascination with gemstones in both women.

After several years, the women would follow through on their intense attraction to gemstones learning their properties and seeking out high quality specimens in gemstone-laden areas of Peru.

The duo would spend hours learning the art of silversmithing through trial-and-error until obtaining the perfect combinations of sterling silver and magnificent gemstones in jewelry. In time they would establish their company Indacochea's.

It comes as no surprise that the focal point of the Indacocheas' jewelry is the gemstones with their smooth facets and vivid colors. The aesthetic is clean, simple drawing inspiration from the clouds and sky, orbital trajectories, and the heart symbol.

Their work with sterling silver features voluptuous, full-bodied outlines such as the Happy Hoops Link Bracelet, and the Lucky in Justice Earrings.

I have noticed, for the most part, that Latin jewelry tends to be a smorgasbord of color within bold design arrangements, the Indacocheas' minimalist aesthetic maintains that sense of passion through the use of color bursts and sculpted silver in curvy proportions like curls, coils and loops.

The team believes in the uplifting energies living within the gemstones they choose and want to pass this along to the wearers of their jewelry pieces. "Wearing one of our items will fill you with good, positive energy."

Their beautiful jewelry is also available at
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver and Amethyst Orbit Cocktail Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver and Sodalite Colors of the Sky Pendant with Cotton Cords

Monday, April 12, 2010


Scotland's beautiful Auchen Castle Hotel serves a myriad of functions including a romantic setting for weddings, and an expansive location for business conferences. Scotland is also home to featured jewelry designer Shona Carnegie.

Scotland is perhaps best known for its colorful, tartan cloth kilts used to represent a particular clan, and the Great Highland Bagpipe.

During the 1500s, jewelry workshops became prevalent in the region, and like Ireland's Claddaggh ring, the Luckenbooth Brooch became the country's distinguishing jewelry item.

Often fashioned from sterling silver, this understated, unembellished design consisted of a simple heart and crown shapes that symbolize love and protection.

So far, this clean, minimalist aesthetic is maintained in the jewelry of most all of the jewelry artists featured from Scotland.

Admittedly, I find the lavish and luxurious particularly seductive but the clean forms of such Scottish designers as Ola Gorie, and Shona Macaulay Fidgett prove once again that simple elegance is just as stunning.

An accomplished metalsmith, Carnegie displays the artistry of subtlety, like her contemporaries Gorie and Fidgett, in creations that are so streamlined they are almost transitory in their delicate arrangement seeming like an ethereal specter of sterling silver in a haze of powder-blue enamel.

In a similar fashion to China-based designer Dora Tam, Carnegie implements small accents of unusual etchings, oxidation, and enamel to add character to her designs.

These minutiae do not overwhelm the larger design; the slightly oxidized sterling silver of her contrasting 18-karat gold and sterling silver rings from her Diary Collection give these items a sense of history and longevity.

Her minimal use of gemstones draws the focus to the sculpted metal, and her rendering of simple forms like delicate daisy cups, open circles, and squares is classic perfection. I think there is definitely an art to simplicity and subtlety in jewelry creation as it is in many other expressive craftworks.

Shaving off excess and streamlining can be challenging in other ways, and I would imagine this is the case in jewelry creation. On the other hand, streamlining a design may come naturally to many designers.

However, sometimes cleaner pieces take a while to capture my attention. Sometimes it is a little harder to find a focal point, but as I continue doing this blog I realize that styles of jewelry are very much like the people who wear it.

There is room in the world for the vivacious cheerleader and the reserved bookworm. It is not that one is more interesting than the other is they are just different.
Photo 1 (top right): Silver, Enamel and Etched Oval Loop Necklace with 18-Karat Gold and Gold Plate
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold and Sterling Silver Stack Ring with Text Enamel and Diamond

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Today we visit New York's Saratoga National Historical Park that preserves military sites significant to the Battles of Saratoga fought during the American Revolutionary War. New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Tom Herman.

Inspired by the organic compositions of landscapes, and the sweeping creativity of Art Nouveau jewelry artists like Rene Lalique, Herman hand fabricates majestic and exquisite pieces through longstanding techniques.

With over twenty years of experience his items, fashioned from opals, diamonds, agates, freshwater pearls and 18-karat yellow gold, are reminiscent of California-based designer Karen Olsen Ramsey whose lavish jewelry is also influenced by the grandeur of the Art Nouveau period.

Amazingly, Herman creates his magnificent jewelry using only seven fingers, three of which he lost in a farming accident as a young boy. "I have never considered it a handicap. It is not any different than working with ten fingers," he says. "When I needed a name for my company, I chose to call it Seven Fingers Jewelers because it is so distinctive."

Herman achieves his jewelry's striking visual depth through carving and engraving. Each piece just grabs you with the boldness and strength of its design proportions and the intensity of the lush gold and gemstones.

"In many ways my work is romantic and classical; combining organic and geometric forms," he says. "I do almost all chasing by starting with metal thick enough to carve into it, and then use punches to define it.

There is always an element of focus in any classical work, like the work of Fabergé and Lalique. I will create a design that draws the eye to it by containing the design within an architectural form. It is this kind of quality I am after because it is timeless."

The emotional response that often occurs when an observer sees a piece of jewelry is of high importance to the designer. "Galleries are a good way to sell your work but it is imperative that a designer is there to witness people look at and interpret the work," Herman explains.

"Without seeing their reactions you won't get a true sense of whether or not your work touches them. I find this indispensable."

In my very first post, I spoke of the visceral impact that viewing a piece of jewelry has on me. Sometimes I feel that stating jewelry is pretty is the worst compliment I can give. At the same time, there is no question that aesthetic appeal is important.

However, when someone marvels at a designer's work, when they wonder about the techniques involved to achieve a certain effect, or when emotion is evoked that says the piece has captured more than their sense of vision. It has captured the observer's imagination.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Lily Opal Brooch with Freshwater Pear Drop
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold A Tangle of Brambles Cuff with Shakudo Detailing and Diamond

Friday, April 9, 2010


The 18th century, baroque-style Fredonsborg Palace is the spring and autumn home of Denmark's Royal Family and one of its highlights is the expansive gardens. Denmark is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Hanne Bernstein.

Jewelry rendered through wire wrapping techniques dates back thousands of years used in ancient Sumeria and Rome.

Depending on the malleability of the wire, wrapping gemstones or creating intricate loop patterns prove difficult to undo. With tools like flush cutters, and nose pliers designs can range from complex to simple and everywhere in-between.

Bernstein, who now resides in Massachusetts, builds her delicate wire wrap designs around turquoise, amber, freshwater pearls, and beautiful colored sea glass, the designer's signature.

The soft, opaque color of the sea glass, in particular, offset by the non-tarnish, silver-coated wire evoke an effortless sense of tranquility, ebbing tides, and the gentle roar of small waves.

The aesthetic is both understated and striking at the same time. I love the idea that a cast away, synthetic material is then groomed in a sense by nature and undergoes a type of metamorphosis to return to man once again.

"I have always loved to create beautiful things and have worked with textile, yarn, beads, and wire," says the designer. "I take great pleasure in the endless possibilities of forming metal wire and letting it interact with the stone or sea glass."

In some of her sea glass designs, she implements accents of a single, white freshwater pearl set just above the wrapped glass and suspended from a beautiful sterling silver chain.

Here again, the aesthetic embodies a delicate, natural beauty that fits many situations from dinner at a posh restaurant to lounging on the beach to attending a backyard barbecue.

The organic, unhurried look of not only the sea glass shapes but also the overall designs adds to the jewelry's minimalist beauty.

In addition to her own website, Danish Jewelry Design, Bernstein shares a website, called Local Color Jewelry, with fellow designer Jennifer Yogel.
Photo 1 (top right): Crocheted Silver Wire Cuff with White Freshwater Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom left): Turquoise-Colored Sea Glass Wrapped in Non-Tarnish, Silver-Coated Wire

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The construction of Mexico's Chapultepec Castle began over two centuries ago by the order of Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez. However, due to changes in Spanish captains overseeing the project, the fortress was not completed until after it was purchased in 1806 by the municipal government of Mexico City. Mexico is also the home of featured jewelry designer Hugo Larios.

Larios, a father of three and former accountant, draws much of the inspiration for his work from the manual arts of central Mexico's Huichol, or Wixáritari, people.

Although his Novica page contains only two items, they display Larios' amazing deft at capturing intricate patterns found in Huichol embroidery and beadwork. He handcrafts these items by threading multi-colored, tiny chaquira glass beads.

"My passion for jewelry is something I inherited from my parents," he says.
"I have always felt an affinity toward designing and making jewelry although I studied accounting. I strive to honor the talent and creativity of Mexican jewelers, and the rich artistry of the Huichol people."

I would love to see more of his work. The pieces at Novica certainly display the painstaking aspect of building the complex, tapestry-like patterns found in Huichol artwork; although he creates a separate collection in silver and gold (these items are not featured on Novica or elsewhere that I know of), his beadwork is a great reflection of his love of culture and artisanship.

"I took courses in gemology and silversmithing. My first piece was silver and turquoise ring and I participated in an art-jewelry project cultivating celebrated works of art from sterling silver. To me making jewelry is relaxing--it is like occupational therapy."
Photo 1 (top right): Huichol Exuberance Beaded Bracelet with Gray Chaquira Glass Beads
Photo 2 (bottom left): Huichol Protection Bracelet with Diamond Pattern Multi-Colored Chaquira Glass Beads

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Austria's Grafenegg Castle, an ominous structure built over seven centuries ago, is currently the center of annual, cultural events that include the Grafenegg Music Festival. Austria is also home to featured jewelry designer Tomasz Donocik.

With his dark, shoulder-length hair, slight build, and penetrating gaze Donocik's cherubic good looks resemble a somewhat hard-edged version of Orlando Bloom or Tobey Maguire.

The designer, who is presently living in London, creates the most striking and flamboyant men's jewelry that I have seen.

His no-holds-barred design approach explores unconventional materials, as well as traditional ones, in creations that revolve around male-oriented themes such as hunting on horseback, the accents of military uniforms, and stately leather sofas.

The alum of London's Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and Royal College of Art, where he specialized in goldsmithing and jewelry design respectively, set out to change the face of men's jewelry.

"I would like to see men's jewelry flourish becoming more prominent and establishing itself in the luxury sector," he says. "My work is about breaking boundaries between jewelry and fashion and introducing new styles for men to wear jewelry. This allows me to push creativity to the fullest."

Inspired by Mikhail Lementov's novel A Hero for Our Time, Donocik's Russian Aristocrat Collection highlights a bold arm piece called the Chesterfield Bangle that is an opulent semblance of the puckered leather of Chesterfield sofas made with real leather and gold-plated sterling silver.

This piece is not subtle providing a striking contrast to the more understated, and functional offerings commonly associated with men's jewelry. This piece, as with the whole of Donocik's collections, reflects the conquering, masculine spirit.

Reinforcing this ambitious spirit is Donocik's use of horse head motifs, made from gold-plated sterling silver and rhodium, many of which are suspended from authentic, Siberian horsehair.

"Because the collection is based on a Russian aristocrat hunter using real animal fur is something I like implementing. The Siberian horsehair makes the hunter aspect more relevant and a talking point."

Other pieces from this collection, such as the cascading neckpiece Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and the suspender-like Stable Boys Braces is wonderfully theatrical but not over-the-top (in my opinion, anyway).

Animal fur is also prevalent in his Central St. Martins' Collection that, among others, features a Cat O' Nine Tails neckpiece evoking an ardent and forceful movie hero with its thin, leather strips suspending golden citrine spheres.

"The jewelry in this collection plays with the fascination we have with decoration," Donocik explains. "I mainly work in leather using it to symbolize a second skin. A representation that we use jewelry almost as armor which both protects and restricts."

On the other side of the spectrum is his Rising Star Collection, which highlights a bit more subtle aesthetic featuring a star motif. "The military uniforms of the Soviet era, and the platonic architecture of post-Soviet Russia provide inspiration for this collection. My use of the iconography of the star is a point that creates a more angular silhouette."

This is great jewelry. Up until now, I had not seen any men's jewelry this avant-garde. It is stylish and sophisticated in an almost regal way.

Admittedly, not every man will appreciate the grandeur of some of the pieces, but Donocik's intelligent and innovative conceptualization really makes these pieces endlessly fascinating.

For more on the designer, check out a brief, impromptu interview with Donocik at Lasting Fair
Photo 1 (top right): Beef in Bean Sauce Neckpiece
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold-Plated Sterling Silver and Leather Chesterfield Cuff

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The crumbling remains of 13th century Dunluce Castle in Ireland is precariously flanked by steep cliffs. Like many castles, the fortress' history is filled with long years of transitioning ownership with Scottish clans vying for rights to the property. Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer Alan Ardiff.

If my memory serves me, with the possible exception of John Christopher Condron, the Irish jewelry designers featured here do not follow the traditional Celtic aesthetic.

I had not deliberately looked for jewelry designers that followed this approach; it just worked out that way.

It turns out that for the last 16 years at least, Irish jewelry designers have continually veered away from the world-renowned intricate cable and knot work patterns in order to provide international markets, particularly the United States of America, with modernized designs reflecting a variety of techniques, materials, and themes.

Ardiff's items of 18-karat gold, enamel, sterling silver, and gemstones highlight kinetic movement in designs reminiscent of the collections from Scottish designers Julie Allison and Zoe Bassi.

In the manner of his Scottish contemporaries, he configures his designs much like a child's drawing with clear shapes and vivid colors; this aspect provides easy humor, purity, and innocence.

His inclusion of moving parts, such as the leaping fish in his Jumpin' Fish Necklace, and the pecking bird of his Early Bird Necklace adds a nice touch of humor and whimsy.

With such items as his Key to My Heart Necklace, the theme of many of Ardiff's pieces is romance and love. In these items, the kinetic element maintains the subtext of humor, while also creating a palpable sweetness without being cutesy (at least not to me). I like the buoyancy and joy of Ardiff's work as each piece is individual and seems to tell a story.

Interestingly, when the painter and sculptor launched his line in 1994 it coincided with the Crafts Council of Ireland's move to encourage contemporary designs.

The Crafts Council created a four-year training program that emphasizes pushing creative boundaries through varied jewelry-making techniques and exposure to global aesthetics.

Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold, Sterling Silver and Enamel Jumpin' Fish Pendant
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold, Sterling Silver and Gemstone Door to My Heart Pendant

Monday, April 5, 2010


A remarkably well kept structure known as Qiang Castle is located on the side of mountain in Southwest China. This incredible 2,000-year-old fortress is still occupied by the Qiang people who eagerly welcome visitors to view the castle's residential houses and underground water network that supplies drinking water and air conditioning. China is also home to featured jewelry designer Dora Tam.

Contrary to current news reports, not every aspect of China's jewelry industry is marred with controversy.

Due to the economic downturn, in 2009 the price for platinum in the global market dropped creating a drop in prices for platinum jewelry that in turn created a rise in the sale of platinum jewelry in China.

Auction houses, such as Sotheby's, are energized with activity of Chinese buyers with lucrative means who seek out and purchase fine diamond jewelry as prized investments. Tam's elegant, differentiated white gold and platinum pieces would undoubtedly factor into a prospective buyer's desire for an heirloom or valuable hedge.

A one-time student of metallurgy and jewelry at Canada's Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, Tam utilized her gift for simplistic yet idiosyncratic design while working for several Hong Kong jewelry houses over the course of eight years.

During that time, she was the recipient of the World Gold Council's Jewelry Design Award for earrings and a brooch/pendant. At a friend's prompting, however, Tam decided to branch out on her own.

In 2001, she established Dora Tam Design, with an aesthetic approach geared towards artistic integrity. "I believe the value of a jewelry item does not lie in the intrinsic value of gemstones or the metal but its artistic value."

The key element of Tam's beautiful jewelry is small but striking details. The Pod Ma Dmar Po pendant and ring from her Lotus collection highlight black, Tahitian pearls reminiscent of Germany-based brand Gellner. The metal is accented with a beautiful floral motif that appears to be etched in or either delicate enamel work.

The contrasting shadings on the Mayaguana ring and pendant from The Bahamas collection also appear to be either enamel work or oxidation.

The delicate pop of tiny pink stones on her Crus ring and earrings from The Starry Night collection provide a perky kind of energy. The thick ring band in particular holds what appear to be coiled etchings that resemble delicate, thin puffs of smoke.

The fluid and minimalistic but eye-catching details of the jewelry really displays Tam's gift for subtle artistry.

It is clear why, after nine years, her brand has continually attracted connoisseurs of superlative fine jewelry, as well as corporate and government clientele who purchase her wares as "gift requests" for special events and occasions.
Photo 1 (top right): Blue Bell Pendant from Intermezzo Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Pad Ma Dmar Po Ring from Lotus Collection

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today we visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which could easily be considered a modern-day Eden. Encompassing 40 acres, it is positioned in a valley and over 1,000 plant species gloriously emerge from rich, volcanic soil. Hawaii is also home to featured jewelry designer Dawn Wallace.

Wallace gained knowledge of fabricating jewelry by hand under the guidance and tutelage of her parents Samuel and Denise Wallace.

Her mother's jewelry, a vivid and beautiful interpretation of the ancient Aleutian lifestyle, is renowned for its artistic integrity.

Denise Wallace's work shared an ancient story of the culture of a people through use of traditional Aleutian materials, like fossilized walrus tusk, into items of stunning technical complexity and beauty.

Dawn had become such an accomplished metalworker that by age 14 she began exhibiting her wares at a local market in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Using her years of hands-on, at-home training as a base, Dawn traveled to New York City attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) and receiving an A.A.S. in jewelry design in 2003.

Although Dawn's design aesthetic is similar to her mother's with implementations of inlaid stones, like lapis lazuli, animal motifs such as Orca, sea otters, and halibut, figurine-type pieces, and even a 22-piece, sterling silver belt depicting Alaskan landscapes (an item reminiscent of her mother's "storytelling belts"); her overall approach is more contemporary and streamlined in theme and proportion.

This design approach is a deliberate one. "I grew up making jewelry and surrounded by art," she says. "It is common for parents to teach and pass on skills to the next generation in many native cultures. I am so grateful for what I have learned from my parents.

Like my mother, my work is inspired by Alaska but the Alaska I know today, as well as the architectural shapes of New York City, and my time in Hawaii."

The jewelry is beautifully distinctive with gorgeous inlaid turquoise, green chrysoprase, purple sugulite, and feldspare.

The fossilized ivory is actually a remnant of the past "buried in the tundra for hundreds to thousands of years," says the designer. "The ivory's color is dependent on how long it was buried and the minerals in the soil," says Dawn.

Her architectural Parka Pattern jewelry feature a simple yet unique repetitive, geometric design; however the inlay work, and outlines of 14-karat gold or sterling silver brings effortless sophistication to each piece.

Dawn's jewelry ultimately bring to life culture and artisanship in a way where she stays true to herself; never replicating her mother's aesthetic or compromising her artistic vision for the sake of keeping in line with the latest trend. It is wearable art in the truest sense.


Photo 1 (top right): Flower Scrim Pendant in Sterling Silver Inlaid Stones
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelets with 14-Karat Gold Accents and Inlaid Stones

Friday, April 2, 2010


With a plethora of plant species, tropical greenhouses, and a playground for the kids, Denmark's Aarhus Botanical Garden is a place for relaxation, education, and fun. Denmark is also home to featured jewelry designer Lene Vibe Dahlgren.

The best way I know to describe Dahlgren's jewelry is to use a bit of an oxymoron, simplistic opulence. The simplicity of the pieces lies in their arrangement: an 18-karat yellow gold chain suspending a single, grey South Sea pearl.

The opulence comes courtesy of the materials that consist of ample drops of white, green, and gold pearls, a sprinkling of diamonds, incandescent yellow gold, and a bevy of semi-precious gemstones.

The 39-year-old goldsmith apprenticed at the Georg Jensen workshop in 1995 opening her own store eight years ago in a Copenhagen square. The molten, organic forms of her rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces possess a beauty that is stately, and regal with hints of the Old World and enchantment.

To me, pearls exemplify natural beauty with their glossy, iridescent surfaces. In my opinion, they are more beautiful than diamonds in that they seem to require little to no accents to offset them.

Some of the pearls Dahlgren incorporates are lumpy and misshapen but these minor oddities do not detract from the overall beauty of a piece but rather adds character and distinction.

I like Dahlgren's placement of plump and substantial contours within otherwise streamlined proportions. The items are elegant and feminine highlighting an interesting, hypnotic subtlety akin to seeing a fully bloomed flower.

Photo 1 (top right): Grey South Sea Pearl Drop Pendant with 18-Karat Yellow Gold Chain
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Ring with Stone

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Eventually you love people - friends or lovers - because of their flaws.


Built nearly 500 years ago, Puerto Rico's Fort San Felipe Del Morro, declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1983, still maintains an imposing aura of strength as it once served to guard the city of San Juan against seafaring enemies. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Luciá Nieves Cortés.

Cortés' artistic vision is broad incorporating an assortment of materials such as wool, sterling silver, Plexiglas, leather, Lucite, and 18-karat gold.

Though her overall design aesthetic is clean, her jewelry concepts are somewhat atypical given to unusual textures and gorgeous bursts of color that provide loads of visual impact.

"I have been drawing, painting, and playing with clay since I can remember," she says. "Initially I made jewelry as a teenager working with beads.

I wanted to learn how to work with metals, and I taught myself for a few years but I felt that I needed a real education in goldsmithing so I went to Germany, where I now live, to attend Staatliche Zeichenakademie Hanau. I learned jewelry design and fabrication, and I have been working on my collection, SNoU since 2008."

Her jewelry line, the name of which is the English translation of her name Nieves that means and is pronounced snow, is varied with styles ranging from complex work with silver wire, sculpted thermo heated plastic and entwined configurations of vibrantly colored wool necklaces that are reminiscent of intricate, African beadwork.

The interconnected strands of wool highlight colors such as peacock blue, red, orange, fuchsia, and green. The long neckpieces can be layered with others, and they fall in a somewhat random, organic manner slightly curled and coiled.

One such example of a layering of long necklaces called Sirena, a vivid display of complementary shades of blue and aqua, is suggestive of a mesh of seaweed. The designer also creates single, wool neckpieces in doily, web-like patterns.

Her metal pieces are equally beautiful conceptual works as she perforates the metal of her sterling silver Luna Ring, and creates irregular facets in lovely 18-karat yellow gold for her Krystall Ring.

Of course, the luscious, opaque color of her Lucite and Plexiglas rings and earrings conveys a sense of fun, playfulness, and well-being.

"Implementing color and unconventional materials in unexpected ways is central to my work. I love the play of the materials like leather, textiles, and thermoformed plastics working them into different forms," she says.

Photo 1 (top right): Entwined Wool Sirena Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Luna Ring
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