Saturday, July 31, 2010


Spanning an impressive 6.1 million acres across the northeastern region of New York State is Adirondack Park.

It is the largest publicly protected park in the United States boasting scenic mountain ranges, over 3,000 lakes, and the largest stretch of hiking trails in the country. New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Eddie Borgo.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Today we visit the beautiful Taroko National Park, located in Taiwan. The area encompasses breathtaking scenery of mountains, waterfalls, valleys, and gorges. Taiwan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Julie Liu.

Being the daughter of a world-traveling shipmaster certainly has it benefits.
The captain of cargo ships, Liu's father brought home gifts of rare gemstones to her mother that appeared to be "ordinary rocks" to a young Liu.

Nevertheless, even at the age of five, Liu's ability of perception helped her to recognize that her mother's reaction to these gifts clearly indicated these "rocks" were very special.
After relocating to the United States of America from Taiwan, Liu excelled artistically and analytically; lauded by classmates and instructors for her visual aid presentations, drawing and water paintings, as well as her astute grasp of mathematics and science.

Upon her acceptance to Berkeley's University of California, Liu put her creative yearnings on temporary hold focusing on economics, and later obtaining a MBA from the University of Chicago. Once she landed the position of hedge-fund manager with a Chicago-based firm, however, her childhood memories of raw gemstones proved difficult to ignore.

"My first piece was a pinky ring with three hearts. I wanted a ring that I could look at while I typed at my computer," she says.

What began as a creative release quickly developed into something more. "I'd wear pieces I made to social events. It came as a shock when people started asking me about my jewelry, and buying pieces I was wearing!" The reawakening of her creative inclinations brought about a shift for Liu; a change of career was underway.

In 2008, the designer officially launched, Mia Pezzi, a collection of one-of-a-kind, and limited edition couture jewelry. "Jewelry is not just gold, diamonds and other gemstones, but an art form," says Liu.

Her gloriously feminine items are a spectacular convergence of 18-, 22-, and 24-karat white, rose, and black gold with blue topaz, diamonds, and prehnite. The collection's exquisite signature blend of Asian and Italian aesthetics requires plenty of forethought.

Liu's delicate, gem encrusted, two-flower Incantato Rings, from her Limited Edition Collection, took six months to bring to fruition.

"Initially the metalsmith I work with said my concept design was impossible to render. In my design the petals of one flower overlaps onto the petals of the second flower. She didn't think I could get the diamonds inside so I told her to solder together two separate blooms."

Liu takes pride that her high-end, elegant bijouterie is not mass-produced allowing each design precision of creation with prices ranging from $3,000 to $100,000; however, Liu also wanted to create an affordable collection geared toward mainstream women with the same quality of execution.

Liu's pocketbook-friendly Tzen Jewelry is both inspired by, and named for the sunrise and sunset. The assortment of predominantly gemstone jewelry items, accented with luminous gold chains, is composed of such semi-precious minerals as green jade, crystal quartz, peridot, red citrine, and aquamarine.

The faceted stones are arranged in such a way to emulate the play of the sun's rays across landscapes, water, or through a window.
It is an ethereal yet powerful interpretation with prices starting at $110 upwards to $1,500. Such famous clientele as Rachael Ray, Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, and even the diminutive style icon Suri Cruise wear pieces from Liu's expanding collections.

"Women want the pretty, beautiful pieces; something that is so stunning it can set by itself on a table and look fabulous. In this regard, jewelry needs to function like a work of art," says Liu.
Photo 1 (top right): Moon and Stars Pendant from One-of-a-Kind Collection
Photo 2 (center): Incantato Rings from the Limited Edition Collection
Photo 3 (bottom left): Rosso Soia Necklace from the One-of-a-Kind Collection

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Built during the early 16th century, the San Jose Church, located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is touted as the country's first "significant work of" Spanish Gothic architecture. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Felicita Woods.

I love the razzle-dazzle, high glamour quality of gold jewelry and the way its warm glow looks against different skin tones.
Handmade, gemstone jewelry, however, resonates with me in a different way.

I love that the arrangements can be easy and casual or daring and statement making. The design can be a single stone, a string of like stones, or a combination of several different ones.

No matter what the design, there is no question how beautiful these minerals are on their own, without a setting of gold or silver.

Woods' rustic, earthy gemstone jewelry highlights the rich hues of such semi-precious stones as magnesite, red jasper, blue agate, and freshwater green-bronze pearls in arrangements that are understated and tribal.

The pieces from her What's New Collection seem highly influenced by bijouterie of the American Southwest (Woods has a separate collection called Native American devoted to New Mexico's Santo Domingo Pueblo).

The What's New Collection features what I initially thought to be a variation of turquoise, but it is actually a stone called cuprite.

The gem's beautiful blue-green and red shading really stands out, and brings to mind something the female protagonist in an old John Wayne western would wear.

"I am constantly discovering unique minerals and shells to make new designs. Cuprite is a natural stone mined in a variety of locations around the world," says Woods. "Its ruby copper color with green and blue makes each piece totally unlike another."

The one-time actor and model has always loved fashion by creating new ensembles for her Barbie doll as a child.

Eventually she formally studied fashion design after moving to Baltimore, but after relocating to the beautifully scenic Colorado Springs, she returned to her creative roots of jewelry making.

"I began designing and making jewelry at the age of 14 in my native Puerto Rico. I have always been intrigued with colors, patterns, and textures of the raw minerals and stones I design with.

I have a lot of design ideas that I jot down every morning. Hand selecting and personally examining each of the glass beads, crystals, semi-precious stones, and pearls is one of my favorite steps in my creative process."

To create her jewelry, Wood occasionally enlists the assistance of a silversmith, as well as help with bead stringing provided by The Bead Corner. The lovely, vividly colored renderings certainly highlights each stones' captivating qualities.

"With rare exceptions, I personally handcraft all of my jewelry, adhering to a superior quality of craftsmanship to guarantee a truly one-of-a-kind creation.

My hope is that the wearer feels an inner confidence and pride while wearing them and that my pieces make a statement of their individuality."
Photo 1 (top right): Blue Agate Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Three Oval Stone Sterling Silver Bracelet with Cuprite

Photo 3 (bottom left): Spiny Oyster, Pearl and Carnelian Necklace

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Initially built as a summer residence for the Bishops of Plock, the stunning Jablonna Palace, located in Jablonna, Poland, presently serves as a hotel, convention center, and romantic setting for weddings. Poland is also home to featured jewelry designer Beata Dziegielewski.

I speculate that diamonds are probably viewed as the quintessential gemstone in the eyes of the public as well as the jewelry industry.

Diamonds are classic, durable and unmistakably beautiful, a timeless representation of loyalty and love.

However, many jewelry designers, as well as jewelry patrons, favor the qualities of other gemstones.

The striking creations of Devon Leigh Sedlacek (USA) highlights a variety of gorgeous, sliced, semi-precious stones while the soft, pastel hues of tourmaline is a favorite of Lorenz Bäumer (France), and the stunning pearl designs of Donna Chambers (USA) are some of the most unique I have seen.

A native of Poland, growing up along the Baltic Sea coastline, Dziegielewski fell in love with the distinctive and luminous resin, amber. "When I was a little girl, I use to wander along the beach and I started collecting small pieces of amber that was thrown away by the sea," she recalls.

"I kept them all and later used them for jewelry making. That is how my story began. I have an innate talent for making jewelry so I started studying jewelry making on my own. I have always been successful in making exquisite pieces.

Having no formal training in jewelry making did not stop me from further exploring my interest in Baltic Sea jewelry. That I had no formal training also didn't matter to galleries or trade show organizers when they purchased and exhibited my jewelry."

The collections of Dziegielewski's company, AmberBeata, include four variations of amber: cognac (the best known), butterscotch, cherry, and green.

The bulk of her catalog items contain sleek, modern creations that feature amber resin carved into smooth butterfly, heart, dragonfly, and leaf pendants offset by sterling silver or 14-karat gold.

Each color variation is also carved into organic structures, and in some designs the variations are combined. The sterling silver is a beautiful contrast to each amber variation, but the reddish-brown glow of the hypnotic cognac variation, paired with 14-karat gold, is comparable to a dollop of encapsulated honey.

Dziegielewski's one-of-a-kind collections--Edi-Beti, Mabe Pearls, Earth's Art, Simple Elegance, and Brazilian Crystal and Amber--are a stunning display of the designer's bold, provocative style. These pieces, like her Sun Flower Cuff, are some of the most dynamic amber jewelry I have seen thus far.

"If I had to categorize my work, I would say that I don't shy away from any shape or form. I like experimenting with amber colors and various types of silver from liquid to oxidized. Most of my jewelry is hand made; in some, the finish on the silver is hand-hammered or hollow filigree.

My style is focused around the stone, not the design that pre-exists meaning I find the stone first and then get ideas on how to expose its beauty even more. I love the depth of amber and how light and warm it is."

She pairs the resin with Brazilian crystals, turquoise, amethyst, moss agate, and Crystallized Swarovski Elements expanding and building powerful, statement-making pieces. It is truly a feast for the eyes.

"Working with amber is easy and allows a lot of imagination to be put to work. Amber is easy to cut and carve and due to this they make great cameos and brooches. There are no two identical pieces of amber, which means every person who wears amber owns a one-of-a-kind piece.

I combine years of experience with artistic vision that results in a beautiful line of jewelry for women all over the world who love unique amber creations."

For more on Baltic Amber and AmberBeata's creation process, be sure to view the company's promotional video.

Photo 1 (top right): Green Amber and Sterling Silver Leaf Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Gold Plated and Oxidized Hammered Silver Sun Flower Cuff Bracelet with Butterscotch Amber

Photo 3 (bottom left): Cognac Amber Ring in 14-Karat Gold

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Home to seventeen lakes and geothermal areas, the city of Rotorua, located in New Zealand, has been a popular tourist attention since the 19th century.

Due to the city's position along a volcanic crater, the mud pools and hot springs receive large amounts of visits from those wishing to partake in the area's therapeutic gifts. New Zealand is also home to featured jewelry designer Brian Adam.

Monday, July 26, 2010


In the southeastern region of Peru is the ancient city of Cuzco. Also known as the `Navel of the World,' the once bustling center of the Inca Empire is a popular tourist attraction where one can explore the Ruins of Qenko. Peru is also home to featured jewelry designer Carmen Rosa Gamio Alvarez (a/k/a Zilhi).

Though generally minimalist in its overall proportions, Alvarez' jewelry encapsulates a plethora of jewelry making techniques including knitting, filigree, crochet, and wire wrapping.

Her collections are a stunning marriage of simple and complex outlines offset by the fluid colors of agate, citrine, chrysocolla, aquamarine, and garnet.

Drawing inspiration from sunflowers, smiles, the Inca accounting system quipu, the cloaks of Ayacucho, and motherhood, Alvarez cultivates delicately beautiful works from .950 and .999 strands of silver.

Her Andean Lace Cuff is an exquisite example of how the seemingly transient, shining filaments build upon another forming a curved, metallic lattice. The gemstone accents of her pieces resemble succulent candy drops of orange, blue, and purple.

Silver wires are coiled, rolled, and knitted into a dazzling assortment of statement-making items such as her filigree Tender Smile Necklace, or her Summer Chandelier Earrings.

"My artist name is Zilhi in honor of my daughter, Najma Zilhi. It was through jewelry that I met my husband, Adrian Miranda Riojas. He had returned from the U.S. where had had worked as a jeweler. He has taught me so much, and still helps me to perfect my work," she says.

"I liked drawing when I was a child so I have a lot of fun designing and creating jewelry," says the 36-year-old.

"I find a great deal of satisfaction in my work as I strive to transmit freshness in my designs. For me, my art is a fusion of fantasy and reality."

I love seeing this kind of artistry, the clear sense of exploration and demarcation. I like that, while keeping in step with trendy styles, she maintains artistic integrity by incorporating cultural influences. It is a sheer tour de force.
Photo 1 (top right): .950 Silver and Agate Shining Sun Strand Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): .999 Silver Andean Lace Bracelet

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Positioned in the Intramuros district of Manila, Philippines is the ominous Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica. During the course of more than three centuries, the structure underwent numerous reconstructions due to natural catastrophes. The Philippines is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Crystalyn Yason.

Ladies, sometimes we feel the stirrings of our inner goddess, and on those occasions we feel the need to make an unforgettable entrance to a party or even our workplace.

We often respond to those stirrings by getting a new haircut or trying out a new hair color. We try a different clothing style, or look for a great accessory like a bold jewelry piece.

Yason's statement making, one-of-a-kind bead jewelry collections are a perfect contrast for adding just the right amount of oomph to a solid-colored turtleneck, or tank dress.

The self-taught designer's first foray into the jewelry industry came in 2001 after establishing a small jewelry business with her mother. "My mother taught me some basic techniques on bead stringing and wire working. The business lasted for almost a year," she recalls.

"Several years later my husband and I moved to the United States due to his occupation. My visa does not allow me to work in the United States, so I had a lot of free time and since working with my mom I felt that I should be doing something in terms of jewelry making and design.

One day, while in a bookstore, I found some books about bead weaving and bead embroidery techniques, and I wanted to learn them. I read books like the Bead Romantique by Lisa Kan, and The Art and Elegance of Beadweaving by Carol Cox Wells, as well as finding information on the internet.

It took me around three years of study, and a lot of trial and error before setting up my online store, Cryst Jewelries, to share my passion with others."

Two of Yason's brilliantly colored collections, Hollywood Glamour, and Fit for a Queen, highlight bold, chunky pieces reminiscent of designers Ayala Bar (Israel), and Elizabeth Wahyu (Indonesia), while her collection Simple yet Elegant displays her panache for streamlined proportions.

She builds her incredible designs from vintage glass, seed beads, semi-precious stones, and Crystallized Swarovski Elements making certain Mother Earth informs many of her creations. The polychromatic assortment of beads and crystals brings to mind shaved ice drenched with multi-colored syrup.

"The details of the things I find in nature--the color combinations and variety of shapes influence how I create a piece. For instance, my Abstract on the Beach Necklace is inspired by the shape and color of ocean waves," she explains.

"A nature photograph I saw from the book The Nature of Wisdom inspires the colors of my A Walk in Nature Necklace. The image is of a lake surrounded by trees that are different shades of green, and I emulated the color combinations."

Nature is not Yason's only source of influence and inspiration, her homeland plays a large role as well.

"My designs are also influenced by my birthplace, a municipality named Lucban. It is known for its annual Pahiyas Festival. Houses are adorned with colorful decorations made of fruit, vegetables, and miscellaneous handicrafts," she says.

"The creativity of the people here – how they create magnificent and colorful decorations by using native products and sharing them with people from around the world--is such an inspiration.

Whenever I lay out a bunch of beads on my work table, design ideas start to pop in my head until a complete design emerges from mixing and matching the beads."

To create her designs, Yason implements four stitching techniques: Peyote, Square, Brick, and Ndebele, as well as Right-Angle Weave and Fringe.

"I express my individuality through my jewelry and my mission is to provide women with truly distinctive pieces they won't find on anyone else."

Yason's skillful arrangement of materials is visually stunning, and also very affordable.

Yason's jewelry prices are listed on her website in Php (Philippine Peso) beneath photos of her jewelry items, so be sure to enlist a conversion table to obtain prices for your region. For example, 1000 Philippine Pesos is the equivalent of $21.62 in USD.
Photo 1 (top right): Abstract on the Beach from Fit for a Queen Collection
Photo 2 (center): Awesome Beauty Necklace from Fit for a Queen Collection
Photo 3 (bottom left): Red Flower Necklace from Fit for a Queen Collection

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today we visit the beautiful city of Bogotá, Colombia. The city, founded during the early 16th century by Gonzalo Jiménez, is renowned for its glassware, leather articles, perfumes, and tobacco products. Colombia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Catalina de la Torre.

Harboring a not-so-secret passion for designer handbags, and Chocolate Boston Cream Pie, de la Torre readily embraces haute couture, European fashion.

In 2002, having studied metalsmithing in Barcelona, Spain the designer moved to Boston, Massachusetts where she loved experiencing the change of seasons.

Upon spending many autumn days "people-watching," de la Torre felt something was lacking in the stylish yet traditionalist ensembles of the local women.

"I loved going out to people watch. Boston women are fashionable yet moderate, in other words `urban chic,'" says de la Torre.

"I loved their sense of style but the kinds of accessories that I have seen in Europe or New York were missing. It was at that time I started thinking about building jewelry collections that were trendy yet classic.

At first, I designed pieces with semi-precious stones and wire--small pieces. I went out to a couple of stores and the owners were supportive and encouraging. The experience helped me to decide to start a full-time jewelry business."

In the winter of 2004, de la Torre did just that by cultivating minimalist yet statement making jewelry with natural, raw-cut, neon-colored druzy, chunky amethyst, and carved green jade offset by 18-karat yellow, pink and green gold vermeil.

Her use of vivid color, evident in her Bright and Bold Collection, as well as modern and organic design styles, such as her floral, cutout Modern Cut Flower Cuff, makes the pieces great for both everyday wear and when you want that double-take response.

"I like to mix metal and colors: the combinations are endless. There is a growing focus on gemstones in their natural state, gems that have not been overly manipulated. My collections are inspired by Mother Earth and its power to create," she says.

For quite some time, I have had the idea that only elaborately arranged jewelry can be statement making.

Of course, now with designers like Devon Leigh Sedlacek (USA), and de la Torre I realize now that it's not what you got, but how you use it.

"My inspiration for designing accessories comes from nature, urban women, and fashion trends; I just let my imagination lead me. I want to create fresh, modern interpretations to accentuate the confidence and elegance of chic women."
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold Vermeil and Green Agate Pendant
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Vermeil Modern Cut Flower Cuff

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Cathedral of Saint Colman is a 19th century structure located in Cobh, Ireland. Known for its striking gothic architecture, the ecclesiastical building took 47 years to construct. Due to its costly production, it was deemed one of the country's most expensive cathedrals. Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer Elena Brennan.

The National Museum of Ireland houses ancient pieces of Celtic jewelry that includes torques, bangles, and brooches reflecting the renowned style's stunning artistry.

The beautiful, entwined strands of silver or gold develop into complex designs of spirals, animal motifs, or crosses.

In the same manner as Native American jewelry, the lyrical spirituality of Celtic jewelry profoundly resonates with me. Within its ethereal, delicate proportions lie messages of love and friendship, beauty, and grace.

Brennan, a graduate of Belfast's University of Ulster, draws inspiration "from my Celtic forbearers who have left me in awe of their amazing skills and designs."

A nearly twenty-year veteran, Brennan's poetic, and romantic renderings, such as the angel wings and swan pendants from The Children of Lir Collection, are beautifully unique cultivated from sterling silver, and yellow and white gold. I feel that she puts her own take on the longstanding Celtic style.
Her pieces, while delicate and buoyant are more organic in style. The cutout metalwork of her asymmetrical Gossamer Ring is exquisitely crafted. It brings to mind a broken crown left within the midst of a forgotten kingdom.

The trained sculptor also devotes a collection--the Seascapes Collection--to the beauty and expanse of shifting sands.

Her lace-like and free form creations, sprinkled with topaz, garnet, or amethyst, are great minimalist pieces offset by great design quality.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Gossamer Ring
Photo 2 (center): Sterling Silver Folded Angel Wings Pendant
Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Children of Lir Ring

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Today we venture to Washington State taking in the scenic and historical location known as Chinook Point. A one-time camping place during the 19th century to members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Chinook Point presently comprises the Fort Columbia State Park. Washington State is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Corey W. Moraes.

Though not the progeny of esteemed artists, Moraes felt a connection to the representational, and abstract crafts of his Tsimshian heritage.

His extensive research into the art forms of his ancestors awakened within him a latent creative energy.

"As far as I know, there weren't any artists in my family. In 1995, when I was twenty-five years old, I got interested in looking into my background. I am of Tsimshian descent, and I went to museums and galleries and I also read books about my ancestors," says Moraes.

"As I looked at the crafts, I had an epiphany. I felt a connection between me and the designs I saw; these ancient pieces spoke to me."

The self-taught designer, presently based in Vancouver, Canada, learned complex Tsimshian woodcarving, creating such items as drums and cedar chests.

Over the course of 15 years, Moraes also became adept at metalsmithing wherein he implements beautiful, intricate engravings on the surface of gold and silver jewelry items.

What I find most striking about Native American jewelry--from the work of Denise and Dawn Wallace to Ron Henry--is the deep-set mysticism of its metaphysical and nature-based symbolism. This sense of spirituality and abstract yet vivid storytelling through symbols makes the jewelry inherently powerful.

Due to this--the combination of exceptional artisanship and an ancient visual language--I have a profound response to Native American pieces. Moraes, no doubt, strives to produce high quality objects, jewelry or otherwise, that give honor to his heritage.

"It's my hope that every time I create a piece, it will live on long after I'm gone from this earth."

His website is currently under construction; however, you can view his range of work via his FaceBook and Flickr pages.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Brentwood Box Bracelet
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Abstract Design Pendant

Friday, July 16, 2010


Erected over 600 years ago, the Jongmyo Shrine located in Korea is one of the oldest Confucian royal shrines in the country. The shrine still serves as a location for commemorative services of deceased royalty. Korea is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Genevieve Yang.

Yang's elegant jewelry of 24-karat gold and sterling, and fine silver are hand-fabricated implementing the designer's redefinition of a centuries-old gilding technique known as Keum-boo.

Yang incorporates higher heat levels and thicker layers of gold "to create pieces that withstand more wear."

The alumna of California's Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts values her education base, "The Revere Academy was the perfect place for me. The professional level of instruction was efficient and inspiring," she says.

"In this age of machines, I pause and create with my hands. In an era of disposability I try to make pieces that are both timeless and modern."

Her understated, minimalist aesthetic is largely inspired by lunar cycles with tiny splatters of conflict-free, white diamonds acting as stars and the white gleam of silver replicating the glow of the moon.

Along with the appliqué pieces of 24-karat gold fused to glimmering silver, pieces like her Northern Lights and Large Moon necklaces highlight the ethereal, buoyant quality of the silver alloy.

In 2009, her Lunar Cuff design garnered the jewelry artist a first place win of the Bracelets for the Jewelry Arts Award.
Beginning August 13 - 15, 2010, the designer's lovely and refined creations will be exhibited for retail at the American Craft Council Show in San Francisco, California.
Photo 1 (top right): Keum-Boo Lunar Cycle Cuff
Photo 2 (bottom left): Keum-Boo Large Moon Necklace

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Today we bask in the tropical climate of the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Founded over 500 years ago, the city contains numerous historical sites including the Fortaleza Ozama building, and the historical center Alácar de Colón. The Dominican Republic is also the ancestral home to featured jewelry desginer Claudia Gill.

When you endeavor to learn something like jewelry making on your own, passion and natural talent is central.

In my opinion, perhaps a greater level of dedication is required as numerous distractions can easily undermine the pursuit as opposed to keeping to a formal, set schedule.

In 2007, twenty-nine-year-old Gill set out to teach herself this detail-oriented craft while majoring in fashion at Miami International University of Art and Design.

"I decided to enter a jewelry design contest while I was attending fashion school. Besides the fact that I love to wear jewelry, I had no previous jewelry-making experience," says Gill.

"I created a concept drawing with Photoshop, and I showed it to my Figure Drawing professor to critique. The completed design was a rather intricate, five-strand necklace composed of leather, Swarovski Crystals, and gold-filled findings.

When my professor saw my concept drawing, he told me to consider jewelry design. At first, I did not think it was an option for me. After creating the piece with my bare hands, I realized it came natural to me. With a few tests and a few mistakes, the finished piece turned out beautiful. I still have it."

Gill's next project was creating jewelry for the bridesmaids of a friend's wedding. From there when time permitted the wife and mother continued to research and study her craft eventually establishing her company Claudia Gill Designs.

Gills' jewelry embodies Caribbean panache with Paua, abalone, and Brown Lip shells in unique, feminine designs.
Such designs as her geometric 1-2-3 Necklace are simple and classic at one turn, while pieces like her Sun Kissed Pendant are exotic and statement making. Crystallized Swarovski Elements and luscious gold-filled and sterling silver chains accent the pieces.

"My jewelry is very eclectic because my inspiration varies and when I am creating a collection I just let my imagination take over. I love feminine pieces that are strong, whether dainty or opulent," she explains.

"Growing up in the Dominican Republic molded my creativity. The lifestyle there is very laid back. I was an avid writer during my teenage years," she recalls.

"In an effort to understand certain things and to find answers to my questions, I turned to writing poetry and short stories. Writing was a big part of my life and it also allowed me to channel my creativity.

In New York, where I currently live, it is much faster paced, and sometimes I have to remind myself to stop, and let my creativity flow."

The neoteric designer enjoys creating pieces that not only reflect her internal life but also that of the women who wear her jewelry. "Those who know me tell me that my jewelry is like me. I am a dreamer and hopeless romantic. I am simple yet a little complicated, as are my designs.

I design with the everyday woman in mind. Before we were career women, wives and mothers, we were individuals first, and I believe our hectic lives should never take us away from who and what we are.

Jewelry has the power to evoke a sense of security and beauty in those who wear it. Jewelry has the power of self-expression."
Photo 1 (top right): Sun Kissed Pendant with Brown Lip Shell
Photo 2 (center): Gold-filled Hammered Chain Cleopatra Goes to Broadway Earrings

Photo 3 (bottom left): Reflections Pendant with Paua Shells

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The Fitzgerald family once owned the 12th century fortress Kilkea Castle, located in Ireland. It presently serves as a hotel; however, the structure is closely associated with one of the family's Earls, Gerald, whose fascination with alchemy earned him the reputation of being a wizard. Ireland is also the birthplace to featured jewelry designer Tom Binns.

Jewelry is most often purchased in celebration of something, an engagement, or an anniversary. Jewelry is often seen as an expression of joy.

However, designers like Stephen Webster (England), Hanna Hedman (Sweden), Delfina Delettrez Fendi (Italy), and Justin Giunta (USA) take daring approaches to their aesthetics creating highly provocative, unconventional pieces.

A graduate of London's Middlesex Polytechnic, Binns implements irregular combinations of materials and forms. Though the designer has jokingly stated he wanted to make jewelry "to meet girls," the 20th century anarchic style of the Dada Movement motivates his aggressive aesthetic.

His bold, haute couture collections, composed of 18-karat gold and rhodium plated sterling silver, and Crystallized Swarovski Elements, are vividly complex speaking to the designer's strong sense of individuality and fearlessness.

"In terms of usage within a design, I can treat diamonds with complete negligence, while making a piece of beach glass central to the design," he says.

"You are not dealing with reason, you are dealing with attitude. Even if jewelry is not made with gold and diamonds, it is a treasure. It should always have that sentiment."

Since the company's official launch in 2004, Binns' edgy yet stylish designs have adorned such women as Julia Ormond, Jessica Alba, and First Lady Michelle Obama. But the designer also has a sensitive side, as they say.

Such pieces as his 24-karat gold plated Faith in Fate Pendant, and his Raj Drop Necklace display his deft capacity for minimalism. At the same time, nonetheless, the safety pin that pierces the heart of his Faith in Fate Pendant instills an undercurrent of angst.

I like his inclusion of the safety pin, the uneasiness of it. For me, it is a metaphor of the makeshift ways incorporated to keep emotions under control while clinging to faith for a particular outcome. The insertion of the pin, a thoughtful detail, brings a different, weighty meaning to the heart symbol.

In addition to creating his personal collections, Disney approached the Irishman for a collaboration project: to create bijouterie inspired by Tim Burton's film Alice in Wonderland. Binns' unorthodox aesthetic was a perfect match to Burton's distinctive filmmaking style.

"Disney showed me some images and I let my imagination fly," says Binns. "My main focus was on the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Tea Party, and the White and Red Queens. So I tried to create jewelry pieces that had the personality and nature of these five major points.

One of my favorite pieces is the Smashing Time Necklace, based on the tea party scene from the film. To make this piece I got teacups, and tiny knives and forks from dollhouses, and put them on a necklace.

The Red Queen is one of my favorite characters and the items I did for her were not sweet but dark. One necklace features hundreds and hundreds of little hearts that are just packed on. The idea for the arrangement is it figuratively suffocates the wearer."

The 2006 winner of CFDA's (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Accessory Designer of the Year award, Binns' audacious cyclical collections can be found at such high-end stores as Maxfield, Nieman Marcus, and Colette, and is sold at
Photo 1 (top right): Sparkling Jeweled Floral Cuff
Photo 2 (center): Alice in Wonderland-inspired 14-Karat Gold Keyhole Ring with Photo Inlay

Photo 3 (bottom left): Pearl and Swarovski Crystal Earrings

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Three islands in Indonesia, Komodo, Padar, and Rincah--along with nearly thirty smaller ones--compose the Komodo National Park. Founded thirty years ago, the arid location serves as a conservatory for the Komodo dragons, as well as manta rays, ocean sunfish, and coral. Indonesia is also home to featured jewelry designer Putu Gede Darmawan.

Balinese designer Darmawan draws influence from the natural and spiritual worlds cultivating sleek, contemporary pieces of sterling silver with subtle hints of traditional aesthetics blended in.

Hindu and Balinese versions of the omkara (ohm), multiple variations of skulls, strawberries, geometry, and the origins of life inform his streamlined yet artistically complex jewelry.

"I come from a young generation of artists, and I have had a passion for designing since I was a child," says the silversmith.

"I love creating something based on traditional styles and combining them with a modern look. That is how I came to decide on designing sterling silver jewelry for men, as well as for women."

A good portion of the items featured on Darmawan's Novica page is for men. Though subtly is common to men's bijouterie, Darmawan brings the distinctive Balinese visual language to this collections.

The artistry of his implementation of surface textures that resemble glass shards, snakeskin, labyrinths, and rope ends is a testament to his mastery of silversmithing.

The attention to details like the flickering, silver flames of his dog tag-like Tongues of Fire Pendant, the closely set, open and filled circle shapes of his Illusion Ring that create a bubble-like effect, as well as the carved detail of his skull-faced rings, here again reflect his unquestionable skill. The skull rings alone are a marvel; that he can put so much minute detail on such a small surface area is awe-inspiring.

Darmawan values his well-honed dexterity for not only the joy and income it provides but also the livelihood such skills can provide for others.

"Many people in my neighborhood were unable to finish their studies due to financial difficulties, and some have had to resort to begging on the street," Darmawan says.

"I know the importance of having a skill so that you can have more opportunities in life, so I've made a point of offering free training in silversmith techniques.

My hope is that people in need will eventually be able to earn a living and support their families."
Photo 1 (top right): Men's Sterling Silver Illusion Necklace
Photo 2 (center): Men's Sterling Silver Monarch Skull Ring

Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Beginning of Life Pendant

Monday, July 12, 2010


For this month's Splendor Sidebar, our topic is jewelry for sensitive skin.
Like many people, I have to be careful about what I put on my skin.

Certain types of fabric or cologne can cause sudden and irritating reactions (even some of the pricier items) forcing me to be more selective.

The components of some jewelry, particularly mixtures of alloys that include nickel, can cause earlobes, or other areas to swell or itch.

In some cases, nickel is a component of the base metal of gold-plated jewelry and as the plating wears off--this will happen faster when the piece is worn everyday--the skin will powerfully react to the nickel base.

Gold is a non-toxic, stable metal and because nickel is commonly mixed with pure gold to create lower karats, many people mistakenly believe they are allergic to gold. Of course, this is no fun when you are someone who loves to wear jewelry.

Fortunately, there are jewelry manufacturers who respond to a demand for those individuals with a skin allergy to nickel. These manufacturers provide beautiful gold-plated stainless steel, platinum or titanium jewelry, or plain stainless steel, accented with stunning gemstones like rubies and garnets.

From what I have read online, hypoallergenic jewelry can be a little on the expensive side due to manufacturers' use of unmixed metals and authentic gemstones.

It is probably a good idea to compare prices, as well as to do some investigating to make sure the manufacturer or jewelry designer uses legitimate hypoallergenic materials.

With this in mind, check out the lovely selections of hypoallergenic jewelry of Massachusetts-based Simply Whispers, creating either stainless steel jewelry, or jewelry with 24-karat gold plating over a stainless steel base.


Wiltshire, England is the location today as we visit the mysterious circular stone enclosure known as Stonehenge. The enigmatic monuments once served as a burial location, and a gathering place for neo-druids. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Diana Porter.

Since 1993, Porter has specialized in bespoke or custom-made jewelry; however, within the clean, subtle proportions of her personal jewelry collections is the designer's captivation with the feminine mystique.

"I studied jewelry and silversmithing at the University of Central England in 1990, and I loved the History of Art part of the course and became passionate about investigating the history of women's involvement in the arts and crafts," Porter recalls.

"I was inspired by ancient images of powerful women, so my work is about women and assertiveness, wisdom, change, togetherness, and the spirit in all of us."

Eighteen - and 24-karat gold, sterling silver, platinum, and palladium provide Porter's canvas, while small diamonds, cubic zirconia, aquamarines, and Thai rubies are among the palette of colors that offset the metals.

However, it is Porter's signature acid etching of words like calm, clarity, fulfilled, joyful, play, secure, and unafraid that bring the theme of womanhood to life. "Ultimately my jewelry is about the design suiting the form, and tiny precious moments.

Although the meanings of the etched words on my pieces are clear, I am also interested in the ambiguity of words. When you wear one of my rings etched with 'on and on. . .' is it about 'eternity' or 'interminability?"

Porter's passionate design approach contrasts the designs' ultra streamlined renderings. Nonetheless, the jewelry is not cookie-cutter perfect; there is a naturalistic, organic flow to her creations.

Her "plain" ring bands are plump and voluptuous like a bagel or donut while also highlighting sandblasted, frosted, and polished finishes.

One of Porter's creations, a multi-chain brooch, makes me think of the pins used with a Scottish kilt. A limited edition charm necklace is, in my opinion, a great display of the stunning ethereal quality of sterling silver.

The designer's deft ability at etching, central to most all of her collections, is without a doubt eye-catching. She etches words on the widest band to the thinnest bangle.
Her "partnership bands" consist of two or more rings or bangles that, when worn together, form a complete word.

The designer, who once dreamed of becoming an actor, savors her journey into the jewelry industry.
"My collections are in about 60 galleries and shops all over England, and in the United States of America," she beams.

"I have the shop of dreams. I meet lovely people who come from miles around to consult about commissions, and in 1999, I was awarded UK Jewelry Designer of the Year. I cannot believe how lucky I have been."
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Partnership Band Etched with I Who Is YouPhoto 2 (center): Limited Edition 24-Karat and Sterling Silver Charm Necklace from Elements Collection
Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Cuff from Bits of Wisdom Collection

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Once the location for a world's fair, San Diego, California's Balboa Park houses many interesting attractions and places of relaxation including the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Art, and the Casa del Rey Moro Garden. California is also home to featured jewelry designer Lori Bonn Gallagher.

Sometimes in life, making a bold break from the day-to-day can shine light on a new pathway.

Gallagher did just that when she resigned from her computer sales position and used a portion of her savings to travel the world.

Captivated by the Victorian and Tudor eras, as well as the Duchess of Windsor, Gallagher wanted to bring the majesty and regality of those aesthetics to contemporary jewelry. Subsequently in 1991, Lori Bonn Design was officially launched.

Gallagher's collections, which span love symbols, birthstone charms, and Old World designs such as the fleur de lis, are composed of fifty percent recycled silver and ethically sourced gemstones.

However, her Chrysalis Collection is the designer's first, full collection born from the company's involvement with the Clear Conscience Jewelry project.

"Our Clear Conscience Jewelry project is being developed in partnership with the Madison Dialogue, an industry group comprised of mining, manufacturing, design and retail companies that is working to set the standard for fair trade and ethical jewelry," says Gallagher.

From vintage-inspired heart-shaped and Mandala pendants to photo lockets, the stunning artisanship of every item is Gallagher's signature.

The intricate surface designs of rope-like cables, swirls, arabesque, and granulation contrast slightly oxidized sterling silver and boldly faceted gemstones providing the regal flair and sophistication Gallagher treasures.

"The manufacturing of all our collections is done by master silversmiths across Asia in countries where detailed metalwork is an integral part of the crafts tradition."

The aesthetic is visually commanding with an aura of grandeur and adventure; however, the streamlined proportions add a degree of softness without diminishing its powerful visual presence.

"As a mother of two, balancing family and career, I understand the joys and challenges of being a modern woman. I serve as Creative Director for Lori Bonn Design, and my husband, Bill, manages the company.

It's hard to believe it's been almost twenty years since I launched my company. Amazing things can happen when you follow your dreams."

To view the exquisite work of Gallagher's most recent collections be sure to check out Cleopatra's Jewels.
Photo 1 (top right): Galaxy Rings from Chrysalis Collection
Photo 2 (center): Large Cushion Square Malachite Cocktail Ring from the Last Chance Collection

Photo 3 (bottom left): Polka Dot Chalcedony Necklace from Chrysalis Collection

Friday, July 9, 2010


Are you interested in learning about the origins of Canada? Well today, we visit Pier 21, located in Nova Scotia, a former ocean liner terminal housing the country's National Museum of Immigration. Canada is also the home base for jewelry brand Pyrrha Design.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The 15th century fortress Sforza Castle, in Milan, Italy houses the work of the country's most renowned artists including Michelangelo, Andre Mantegna, and Leonardo da Vinci. Italy is also the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Ariane Arazi.

The granddaughter of the late Italian jeweler Isaac Hasbani, who founded Hasbani Gioielli a little over six decades ago, Arazi's initial fascination with the art of jewelry making began upon numerous visits to her grandfather's Milan workshop.

"At a very young age, I would spend my summers visiting my grandparents.

My grandfather would take me to his office often and show me all the beautiful pieces he was making," she recalls.

"I remember being mesmerized by the beauty, sparkle, and shine of it all. It was so glamorous and I guess I always assumed that one day I would follow in his footsteps."

Though the seeds were planted, the Canada-based Arazi veered off the path for a time studying sociology at Concordia University, and later dabbling in fashion design. "I worked in the fashion industry for a couple of years, but I was not fully content.

I felt there was only so much I could express with clothing. I wanted to be more creative. Jewelry allows that. It is a piece of art that you can wear that never goes out of style," says Arazi.

With the seeds now taking root, Arazi obtained a gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America, and accompanied her uncles, who now helm Hasbani Gioielli, to trade shows to learn more about the business.

"My grandfather was obsessed with quality only using the finest materials. He also had very good relationships with his clients and suppliers/manufacturers," she reveals.

"My uncles followed his example, and that is how I run my business. The most important thing for me is to develop a long and prosperous relationship with my clients. A happy client is a loyal client."

In 2008, Arazi launched her eclectic collections of minimalist yet striking pieces fashioned from white and yellow gold-plated bronze, sterling silver, river shell leaves, cherry and rose quartz, Crystallized Swarovski Elements and cotton wax cords.

In some cases, minimalist designs can lack visual impact, but Arazi's jewelry highlights varied arrangements of simple details. Her keen eye for minutiae is evident from her streamlined, multi-strand necklaces to the bolder, primal arrangement of her Shell Leaves neckpieces to the futuristic panache of her sleek Two-Line Rings.

"I tend to visit my favorite designers' stores and/or websites to see what they are showing that season; what colors and materials they are using. I also tend to observe all details of any object, which sparks my creativity.

The idea for my Dangling Crystal Rings, for instance, came from seeing many actresses, like Angelina Jolie, wearing expensive, colored gemstones.

Instead of using expensive stones, I decided to use crystals and semi-precious gemstones in order to make pieces with affordable price points."

The designer loves to keep evolving her designs giving prospective wearers plenty of options. "I think it's good that I am constantly changing materials and directions. It makes my jewelry line fresh and current. I think it is important to be different.

Making jewelry allows me to express my multi-faceted personality. I can be loud and outspoken at certain times, other times I can be shy and reserved.

I think my jewelry reflects that. I know my grandfather would be very proud if he were here."
Photo 1 (top right): Cherry Quartz Necklace with 14-Karat Gold-Plated Bronze Chain
Photo 2 (center): 14-Karat Gold Plated Sterling SilverDangling Crystal Ring with Green Swarovski Crystals

Photo 3 (bottom left): Gold Satin String Bracelet

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Today we stroll along George Square in Glasgow, Scotland. The area is a civic region populated by the Glasgow City Chambers, the Queen Street Station, and the Millennium Hotel. Scotland is also home to featured jewelry designer Sarah Keay.

It is always great to learn about jewelry artists who boldly enlist a unique design approach, incorporating an unusual assortment of materials to render captivating jewelry.

A graduate of both the Glasgow School of Art and the Edinburgh College of Art, earning a masters and bachelor degrees in silversmithing and jewelry, the designer's fascination with landscapes and sea creatures informs her vivid aesthetic.

"My creative practice is heavily influenced by botanical elements, and I mirror natural structures like tree branches, sea anemones, and lacewing eggs with the repetitive techniques I use to produce the pieces," says Keay.

Implementing such components as Crystallized Swarovski Elements, precious beads, enamel, wool, florists wire, gold, and platinum, Keay creates cuffs and neckpieces that possess theatricality reminiscent of British designer Anoush Waddington's work with polypropylene.

Many neckpieces resemble undulating feather boas, while others have a modern, urban vibe with large, multi-colored chain links.

Ultimately, however, I feel that Keay's collection is ultra feminine in its ethereal and buoyant proportions of thin wires and luminous colored crystals. There is an Old World sophistication about the jewelry that seems to fit perfectly on the lithe models of a Paris fashion show.

"The main technique I use with the florists wire is French knitting. It is a really basic yet old technique that I started doing when I was about five years old. Once all of the elements are combined to cultivate a piece it is lightweight, and sculptural," explains the designer.

"Once the piece is worn against the body it comes to life with movement, evoking creatures like sea slugs to entire coral reefs, suspended from the wearer.

Experimentation with new techniques and materials allows me to continually develop and diversify my jewelry."
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Pink Bangle with Monofilament and Enamel
Photo 2 (center): Sterling Silver and Enamel Wire Link Necklace

Photo 3 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Bangle with Swarovski Crystals and Enamel

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Today we visit the extraordinary Ajanta Caves of Maharashtra, India. Complex yet beautifully detailed portraits depicting the life of the Buddha cover the caves' walls, pillars, and ceilings. India is also the home of featured jewelry designer Awadhesh.

Here again India's renowned jewelry history includes the painstaking intricacy of gold and enamel meenakari bijouterie, and the exquisite Kundan style characterized by luminous glass or crystal set in gold.

Since gold items and jewelry are considered highly valuable in many cultures, I was surprised to learn that in many regions of India, such as the Kashmir region, silver is a prominent component of decorative items including headdresses, and filigree jewelry.

According to the country's historical records, both silversmiths and goldsmiths were highly regarded. Based on the items I have viewed at, Awadhesh works entirely with sterling silver, and in some ways, his aesthetic brings to mind the superlative work of Balinese silversmiths.

His accents of small, silver granules to frame a design, like his Paradise Bracelet, are one such similarity. Overall, I think his design approach combines the lavish style of meenakari with a modern flair.

Awadhesh's lyrical style is largely informed by instinct. "My family has a long lineage in business, but I was different. I was energetic, creative and I always wanted to do something different in life," he recalls.

"I used to meet people who were involved in some form of art, be it painting, designing, writing, or theater. I fell in love with theater work and I joined the National School of Drama.

At the same time, I met someone who designed jewelry, and he encouraged me to take up designing. Although my father did not approve, I visited different kinds of craftsmen, instead of taking professional courses and I learned from them."

His beautifully crafted pieces feature low relief casts, and unique surface textures, accentuated by citrine, red onyx, and lapis.

Oxidation and granulation hint at India's ancient maharajas and regal décor. The complexity of the design quality clearly displays Awadhesh's deft ability at silversmithing.

"I am doing what I love. Presently, several artisans work with me. I also help young design students by promoting their designs. I am very grateful that Novica provides an international platform to show my designs."
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Chandelier Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Desert Tapestry Cuff
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