Monday, June 8, 2009

SUSANA SPEIDEL

We're in Sonoma Valley, California today and we're standing in what's been called "a living museum of Asian flora,"

Quarryhill Botanical Garden. Quarryhill's 20 acres, tucked away in Sonoma wine country, contains the rarest species of flora from Japan and China.

California is also home to jewelry designer Susana Speidel.

At 65, Speidel proves that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. The charismatic film sirens of Old Hollywood have always enamored Speidel and serve as inspiration. "I was just fascinated with Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford and all the fabulous jewelry they wore," she says.

After leaving a career in banking, Speidel and her husband, Thomas, started a business selling vintage jewelry she collected from her travels through Europe. After 20 years, she and her husband sold their business and settled into a "comfortable retirement."

They continued to travel around the world, but old habits die-hard as Speidel found herself still collecting vintage jewelry. The only problem was Speidel didn't quite know what to make of her collecting habit until the pin of a brooch she owned broke. "I thought `This would look great as a necklace.' So I started breaking down the pieces I had and putting them with my costume and fine jewelry and making jewelry out of them."

Speidel's instinctive designing ability flourished as she sought out early 20th century costume jewelry--such as a brooch--designed by Trifari, Hobe, and Miriam Haskell. She would then add precious or semi-precious stones ultimately revamping the brooch into a pendant for a necklace. Speidel has also reinvented men's gold cuff links into earrings, and tie pins into rings, "I never get bored because I only make one-of-a-kind items," she says.

Her ability to fashion vintage jewelry into original, distinctive pieces has culminated into a lucrative business. Speidel sells her standout designer jewelry at stores in San Francisco, Sonoma Valley, Florida, and Alabama.
Her powerfully unique jewelry has been featured in both Glamour and Harper's Bazaar. Speidel loves the challenge that this kind of jewelry making provides.

She also loves the explorative aspect of seeking out unique pieces, and the life-lessons that often come with it, "The thing about traveling is that it opens you up to other customs, to other women, to how they see themselves. We are very different yet very similar."
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Photo (top right): 14-karat Gold Snake Brooch with Sapphire Eyes
Photo (bottom left): 1950's 14-karat Gold Blue and Green Enamel Pansies Earrings with Diamond
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