With over 200,000 species of plant, it is amazing to learn that four decades ago the South Coast Botanic Garden, in California, was once a sanitary landfill. California is also the home of featured jewelry designer Nathan "Nate" Waxman.
A little over 50 years ago, fresh out of high school and in need of "a change of scenery," the New York native journeyed to sunny Los Angeles, California with dreams of becoming a film director. What transpired would ultimately change his life trajectory.
"As an early teenager, I became very interested in movies and wanted to be a movie director," Waxman recalls.
"When I moved to L.A., I was hoping to meet movie stars and get involved in the industry. But soon after I arrived, I met a guy who worked for Swoboda, Inc., got myself a job there, and found a talent I never dreamed I had."
That "talent" was an innate sense for design; a seemingly dormant faculty methodically awakened. "I held various duties in the company as I learned all aspects of jewelry making and soon mastered metal plating, casting, mold making, and assembly. Working at Swoboda was a great environment for me because there was a lot of room to grow and learn."
Edward Swoboda established Swoboda, Inc. in 1956 and he hired Waxman one year later as a trainee. Six years into working for Swoboda, Waxman proved gifted in other ways.
His gregarious personality was a strength that drew a loyal customer following and landed Waxman the title of partner.
The jewelry retailed at stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas, which included Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods of London, Marshall Fields, Dillard's, and Neiman Marcus. Waxman, however, did not pass on his jewelry making duties to a trainee.
His beautiful work with natural precious and semi-precious gemstones, set in 22-karat gold plated metal, attracted some major Hollywood names like Jane Russell and Beverly Garland, who wanted the "look" of genuine gemstone jewelry without the hefty price.
"Many of the Old Hollywood legends are personal friends of mine today and aside from nature, they serve as inspiration for my designs. I am inspired by the timeless glamour, class, and elegance these women exude."
Viewing Waxman's jewelry is the equivalent of being in a candy stone. In fact, there is a bib necklace composed of aventurine, jasper, sodalite, rose quartz, and lapis that resemble gumballs (see above photo).
"I am heavily influenced by nature and use natural stones from around the world. I believe wearing these natural stones can bring one closer to nature and I want my jewelry to evoke and cultivate in the wearer that harmony which only nature can produce."
Included in his collections are elegant, regal pieces; delicate and feminine designs and spherical, medallion-like pendants with plenty of gemstones or intricate designs filling the face.
His animal and insect-inspired designs are brazen and whimsical drenched with explosive color. I love the detail of carved, green jade wings on a Dragonfly Brooch.
After 21 years with Swoboda, Inc., Waxman has since established his own company, Nate Waxman Jewelry. His mentor, Swoboda, retired in 1978 one year after Waxman left the company. The boldness of Waxman's jewelry may not suit everyone's tastes, but it is a continuation of a grand history of jewelry making.
"I focus on designing jewelry that is also timeless, glamorous, classy, and elegant--pieces that will last a lifetime, escape the trends, but always be classically fashionable and increase in value as they age," he says.
"I began designing and I found my passion. I have never looked back."
Photo 1 (top right): Garnet, Opal Pearl Crown Brooch
Photo 2 (center): Bib Necklace with Aventurine, Jasper, Sodalite, Rose Quartz, Unkite and Lapis
Photo 3 (bottom left): Blue Opal and Ruby Bracelet