We are awed by the lush, green surroundings of the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden in Bogotá, Colombia.
Named for the famed Spanish scientist and botanist, the garden houses over 18,000 acres of indigenous flora such as the country's largest aquatic Amazonian flower.
Colombia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Mercedes Salazar.
Not unlike other jewelry artists, Salazar is unafraid to create jewelry on her terms, bringing innate knowledge and every form of inspiration to her lovely designer jewelry creations.
She fearlessly explores unusual combinations like mixing alloy with fabric; integrating cut, colored glass with metal instead of semi-precious or precious gemstones; or fashioning a sea urchin shell into a 24-karat gold-covered pendant.
A graduate of Mexico City's Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes' Craftwork School, Salazar's keen attention to contrasts--light with dark, high polish with texture, and combining different shapes and colors--is a focal point of her designs. Her fashion jewelry pieces are elegant yet bold and colorful, and she makes a conventional design her own.
Her array of materials include, among others, African beads, resin, 24-karat gold plating, satin thread, brass, and sterling silver. With some of her pendants featuring semi-precious gemstones, such as her Ainan Jade Pendant, Salazar adds a signature touch by accentuating the chain suspending the gemstone with three, smaller stones: ruby, garnet, and amethyst.
Firmly holding to the belief of a positive higher realm, she uses her creative gifts to inspire and uplift. Widely seen as a symbol of death or evil, the skull motif also symbolizes life and consciousness.
Salazar's take on this symbol is beautifully distinctive. She fashions the skull from golden brass shaping it into a mask-like pendant, overlaying it with a printed pattern and adding dangling, white pearls within the eye areas. She also creates engraved, posie-type rings and bracelets with uplifting, carved out messages.
Her bold colored, hand-woven Caña Flecha Bracelets, made with satin thread and sterling silver clasps, pay homage to her Colombian roots and artisanship.
In Colombia, the leaves of the Caña Flecha palm tree are used to create such items as handbags, hats, and baskets. Before the leaves are color-dyed and fashioned into these items, artisans dry them in the sun and the fibers are divided into different sized strips.
Salazar's vibrant yet refined pieces are sold around the world including Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Mexico, and the United States.
Photo 1 (top right): 24-Karat Gold Plated Bay Leaf Necklace with Ladybug Clasp
Photo 2 (bottom left): The Love Bracelet with African Beads, Pearls, Quartz, Acrylic, Resin, and 24-karat Gold Plated Brass Heart