Today we are overwhelmed by the unmistakable majesty of Raton Castle in the Loire Valley of France. The landscape surrounding it is equally breathtaking with the ground's blooming array of perennial flowers and gardens; but once we step inside the castle our knees buckle somewhat.
The finely furnished citadel houses paintings and antiques, sitting rooms, more than one kitchen, and resplendent bedrooms. France is also home to featured jewelry designer Brigitte Salomon.
Salomon's energetic personality reminds me of Wendy Culpepper (USA), and Salomon shares an equally focused, definitive approach to designing. What is of utmost importance to Salomon? "Refinement and elegance," she says, "but certainly never, ever anything flashy."
A graduate of France's National Institute of Gemology (NIG), Salomon loved the recreational aspect of her studies and did not initially consider jewelry design as a career.
However, her creative energies became acute by the time she graduated, and her appreciation for gemstones had grown deeper particularly for diamonds, "They represent eternity. They are so symbolic. They really do provide the most magnificent backgrounds with which to show off a beautiful ruby or sapphire," she says.
Salomon spent several years working for some of France's most prestigious jewelry companies, but she later chose to pave her own road. In 2004, Salomon opened her workshop in the ninth arrondissement (administrative division) of Paris, which is home to the 10-story department store Galeries Lafayette.
She was also 8 months pregnant at the time with son, Max. "my 5-year-old son is undoubtedly my most magnificent creation. He was born into the world of stones and jewelry."
When she is away from her workshop Salomon says that design ideas constantly fill her mind; however, she happily admits that she never completely turns off.
"I am my work. I can't cut off. I will always be looking at what people are wearing so everything, everything is connected in some way to my work."
In the last five years, Salomon's drive has paid off as Middle Eastern and Asian markets eagerly snatch up her designer jewelry, and her staff is four times the size it was when she started. One of Salomon's creations, called Necklace Rivière (River), won the 1998 Diamond International Award.
It is a beautiful, diamond embellished piece set in platinum, and worn as a brooch, belt, and necklace. Unfortunately, I have yet to locate Salomon's website. I was, however, able to find a photo of her Necklace Rivière shown above.
Photo: Necklace Rivière with 58.51 carats of diamonds