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.

Four-leaf clovers and horseshoes are among the most recognized 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 substantive 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
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