Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today we are in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies instantly dwarfed by the beauty and majesty of Castle Mountain.

The mountain peaks provide a powerful granite silhouette against the backdrop of a crystal clear, cerulean sky. Canada is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Niki Kavakonis.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Today, we are in one of the largest cities in Brazil, Recife. As we stand underneath the awning of an impeccably blue sky with the warm sand beneath our bare feet, we have a wonderful view of the city's incredible metropolitan area. Brazil is also the home of featured jewelry designer Clementina Duarte.

What little girl hasn't fantasized about castles and princesses? Clementina Duarte was no exception.

Blessed with artistic ability, as a girl Duarte loved drawing images of royalty with princesses dressed in lavish lace and emeralds. Her early fascination with jewels and royal splendor would become a precursor for things to come.

Duarte boasts an impressive resumé spanning four decades. She has studied at the School of Architecture in Recife; enrolled in a Master's program at the University of Brasilia where, upon graduation, she taught History of Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture; she had an internship at the Institut d' Art et Métiers in Paris; and she has won numerous awards and displayed her innovative designs at many exhibitions.

Inspired by architecture and the magnificent flora of tropical forests, Duarte has designed alternately chunky and delicate designer jewelry. In 1982, after an exhibition in Abu-Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates, Duarte displayed her jewelry of pearls, diamonds, and emeralds in the palace of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Queen Fátima Al Nahyan.

The designer's wares made an indelible impression as the royal family then commissioned Duarte to design and create jewelry for the wedding of one of their daughters. Duarte's beautiful designs have also adorned Queen Elizabeth II, Rosalyn Carter, and Hillary Clinton.

In 2006, Duarte released a book entitled Clementina Duarte - The Art and Design of Modern Brazilian Jewelry, which documents some of her work and includes 350 pictures of her creations. Duarte says of the book, "The book is a celebration of more than 40 years of creation and design."
Photo 1 (top right): Gold Earrings from the Ritmus Collection
Photo 2: (bottom left): Gold and Diamond Necklace and Earrings from the Amazônia Collection

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Today we have arrived in India, which is home to the resplendent Taj Mahal, which is considered among the Wonders of the World. India was once home to jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Guten Tag! (Good afternoon. I hope I got that right.)

For today's featured designer, Tamara Comolli, we are in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, standing inside the majestic Neuschwanstein Castle.

Tamara Comolli's jewelry is happy jewelry and I say that because the colors she incorporates in her designs are bright and vivid. This aspect of her aesthetic reminds me somewhat of Ippolita Rostagno.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We have returned to the USA after six days of globetrotting, California to be exact; the home of featured jewelry designer Liz Goldwyn.

If her surname sounds familiar that's because her grandfather was legendary studio head, Samuel Goldwyn; and she is also the sister of Scandal's Tony Goldwyn.


I want to take a moment away from my normal posts, and introduce what I call my Splendor Sidebar features. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to spend quality time with your family, or you're looking for a way to explore your creativity perhaps creating simple beaded jewelry is for you.

It's a great way for you and your family to have fun and explore your inventiveness! You can get craft beads and the necessary equipment at an arts and crafts store like Michaels or Artmart.

If you're still not sure you want to go this route maybe you'd like to read an article from on simply jewelry making, or check out's numerous how-to videos about jewelry making. Maybe you will feel inclined to try it some time.

For those of you more familiar with jewelry making, check out Rings &; a very comprehensive website that includes information on beads, gemstones, tools and supplies. The site even has its own blog.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Famous for its arid climate and spectacular free roaming wildlife Africa is also home to Kenyan jewelry designer, Nasimiyu Wekesa. I am particularly touched by what inspires Wekesa's creative process. When she speaks of it, her expressive words echoe with passion.

Wekesa moved to the U.S. in 1994 and her lovely string bead creations stem from powerful cultural influences. In Kenya, grandmothers collect beads and then pass them on to the younger women as they enter different phases of their lives like adulthood and marriage.

Many women cherish the beads and keep them throughout their lifetime, often asking for their beads to be buried with them at death. Wekesa has said that beads are ". . . a language rich in beauty and tradition, a language that tells the story of trade with foreigners, vast migrations, and vanished empires."

The beads Wekesa collects are made from recycled bottles, stone, shells, brass, bronze, glass, bone, and ceramic. To link the beads, she uses string made from recycled car tires because of its strength and the experience is a devout one.

"The way I do my beads is like mediating, it's a spiritual thing. You know I set up every bead and they talk to me, they tell me where they want to be. So some beads don't go here, it's not a right place. I enjoy doing what I am doing. When I sit down and do this, I look at the time and it is 12 a.m. and I forgot to eat, it's like spirit."

Wekesa donates 10% of the proceeds of sales of her bead creations to Born to Aid, a foundation she established to help African children suffering with AIDS.
Photo 1 (top left): Wekesa's bead designs on display at 2009's New York's Couture Fashion Week
Photo 2 (bottom right): Model wearing Wekesa's designs during runway show at 2009's New York Couture Fashion Week

Friday, April 24, 2009


Konnichiwa (hello). In the fairytale Rumpelstiltskin, a magical gnome spun straw into gold.

To obtain her beautifully delicate creations, Japanese jewelry designer Haruko Sugawara uses sterling silver and gold wire in a way I didn't think possible. The results are exquisite!

In 1971, Sugawara graduated from the Junior College of Art and Design of Musashino Art University and since then she has won countless awards for her jewelry-making technique.

In addition to sterling silver and gold wires Sugawara implements an ancient enameling technique known as cloisonné to build her incredibly unique creations.

Thin wires of silver, and gold are weaved into nets and dusted with color via the cloisonné technique. The resulting sinuous pieces are like crocheted fabric.

Photo 1 (top left): Unidentified Item of Crocheted Gold and Silver Wires
Photo 2 (bottom right):Unidentified Item of Crocheted Gold and Silver Wires

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


A small island in Spain known as Formentera possesses the milieu of pristine beaches and a spectacular view of the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Spain is also home to featured jewelry designer Enric Majoral.

In 1973, at age 23, with no formal training in jewelry design Majoral--seemingly imbued with the effortless beauty around him--intuitively creates organic designs that appear to be an outgrowth of the island of Formentera itself.

The breathtaking landscapes of Spain infuses all of his pieces with an earthy and bold aesthetic. Majoral uses sterling silver, gold, coral, and oxidized bronze in his designer jewelry creations.

While viewing Majoral’s online gallery, it is clear he does not adhere to any conventional trend. A prolific creator, he has produced over 20 variegated collections.

Included among his collections are, Blocs, characterized by progressively chunky, gold rings; Cosits highlights a pin stripe running along the metal; and Calder, inspired by American sculptor, Alexander Calder.

Majoral designs all of his pieces with his two sons, Abril and Roc Ribera. An assortment of his collections was recently on display at Patina Gallery in Santé Fe, New Mexico. You can view the gallery display here.
Photo 1 (top right): Matte Gold and Coral ring from the Napols Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Gold Disc Necklace from the Pluja Collection

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Next stop . . . Italy!

Is there anything that can match the awe-inspiring images of Pisa's Leaning Tower, or Rome's Collosseum? I'm thinking yes.

Italy native Ippolita Rostagno has rapidly become a favorite among the fashion-savvy beauties of Hollywood.

Her fluid, ethereal designs have adorned Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Carrie Underwood, Kate Hudson, and Minnie Driver.

Rostagno studied at the Instituto D' Arte in Florence, Italy receiving a B.A. in sculpture.

Subsequently, the budding jewelry artist relocated to New York setting up a small studio in her apartment’s living room. By 1999, she established her company, Seno Jewelry, the lead brand of which was named after its designer, Ippolita.

Rostagno implements 18-karat gold, sterling silver, and colorful semi-precious stones including topaz, opal, and quartz to manufacture understated yet exquisite pieces for the company's brand.

In addition to the fluid shape of her designs, she was particularly interested in recapturing the greenish hue of gold, Italian antiquities. Her variations in gold color also include rose and yellow.

By 2001, she enlisted the assistance of Lauren Sharfman, a Yale graduate and former set designer, who had strong marketing experience. With Sharfman's keen business sense, within a few years sales for the Ippolita brand skyrocketed.

Currently boasting a quickly growing staff, Rostagno moved Seno Jewelry’s headquarters out of her living room into a larger office building.

By 2007, investment firm Castanea Partners partnered with Seno Jewelry to help further the company's expansion. Rostagno is currently traveling across the U.S. appearing at trunk shows.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Knot Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Large Lollipop Bangle Bracelet with Green Amethyst

Monday, April 20, 2009


Now that I've discussed some of the legends in the field, I'm going to switch gears. Let's go on a journey as I span the globe and introduce some names you may or may not know.

We'll travel to Spain, England, Australia, India and of course the U.S.A. We'll look at unique aesthetics and inspiration ranging from the teachings of Buddhism to a cosmic connection to nature. It's all wonderful and eclectic and that's what makes jewelry design so great, individuality.

Our first stop is Holland where we will meet Sasja Saptenno. She has one of the most unusual and unexpected aesthetics I've seen at this point.

Saptenno is an eco-friendly designer who "Like a monk I spend many hours with an material. I construct and de-construct and am fascinated by the endless possibility of it."

One such material that Saptenno has deconstructed and reconstructed is the rubber inner tubes of bicycles collected from neighbors, bicycle shops, and even used her own.

She creates complex rubber necklaces and rubber bracelets from them, and she even makes shawls in various colors, called a bulb shawl, from PET bottles!

Saptenno actively incorporates her background in textile, fashion and graphic design. She has displayed her distinguishing works in exhibitions since 1995 and her pieces can be found in stores around the world. Saptenno has also been featured in magazines Haute Nature and House of Design. She is definitely a true original.
Photo 1 (upper left): Inner Tube Rubber Necklace
Photo 2 (lower right): Bulb Shawl

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Chopard's Mille Miglia XL Chronograph
Like Cartier, the Chopard brand is known around the world for its timepieces. The artisanship and distinctive calibration details of its timepieces are one-of-a-kind.

In 1860, Louis-Ulysse Chopard was 24 years old when he established a workshop for manufacturing watches in Sonviller, Switzerland.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Like the Arpels family, the lasting presence of the Cartier brand is due largely to fathers passing on their knowledge and expertise to their sons. The Cartier history is quite amazing.

The development of the company began with Louis Francois Cartier, Louis Cartier's great grandfather, who worked as a goldsmith. When he died, his son, also named Louis Francois Cartier, became a goldsmith as well and he worked as an apprentice to a jewelry maker, Adolphe Picard.

Picard's handcrafted jewelry became very popular and after his death in 1847, the junior Louis Francois Cartier took over Picard's fast rising company. The Cartier brand was then born.

By 1853, the junior Louis Francois Cartier had expanded the business by venturing into the aristocratic circles of Paris. His designer jewelry became the favorite of Napoleon III's cousin, Princess Mathilde, and this coup opened more doors for the Cartier brand.

Twenty years later, the junior Louis Francois Cartier's son, Alfred, took over the company and his son, the Louis Cartier, was instrumental in bringing the Cartier brand to the world.

In later years, Louis Cartier was so well admired by Parisian aristocracy he married the Countess Almasey of Hungary. A captivated Prince of Wales, Edward VII even described Louis Cartier as "the jeweler of Kings, the King among jewelers."

Along with his brothers, Pierre and Jacques, Louis Cartier blazed a diamond trail by establishing Cartier shops in London, Moscow, the Persian Gulf, and the United States. Jacques headed the London boutique while Louis established a boutique in Paris. Pierre headed the boutique established in New York and along with his assistant Jules Glaenzer, helped to solidify the Cartier name in the United State.

In 1904, Louis Cartier designed the company's signature piece, a man's wristwatch. It was designed according to the specifications of an aviator friend, Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont, who wanted a timepiece that could handle his daredevil exploits. However, Louis Cartier did not introduce this particular wristwatch, named the Santos, to stores until 7 years later.

In 1917, inspired by the tank war vehicles used by Americans in World War I, Louis Cartier designed and introduced the most famous of the Catier watches, the Tank. First Lady Michelle Obama wore the Cartier Tank Watch in her first official White House photo.

Since 1847, the Cartier name has become synonymous with unique and lustrous pieces of jewelry that has been worn by kings, queens and Hollywood starlets. The company uses the finest diamonds in their engagement ring settings blending modern trends and French sensibilities into their elegant designs.

The company is currently expanding its presence in India through its Indie Mysterieuse Collection. Other Cartier collections include Trinity de Cartier, Hearts of Cartier, and Charms de Cartier.

Recently Cartier celebrated its 100th year in the U.S., click here to see the New York Times' slideshow featuring some of Cartier's amazing designs.
Photo 1: Cartier Tank watch
Photo 2: Cartier Santos watch

Friday, April 17, 2009


While reading up on French jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, I felt a distinct sense of romance and enchantment. It is not that the other designers I have discussed don't possess those qualities, there's just something about the allure of France. The origin of the longstanding company brought to mind a type of fairytale.

In 1896, the daughter of a precious stones merchant, Estelle Arpels, married the son of a sheet merchant, Alfred Van Cleef.  The Van Cleef family lived in Paris' 19th arrondissement (administrative district).
By the time Alfred and Esther married Estelle's father, Salomon Arpels, had already built their jewelry company. They later registered the Van Cleef & Arpels trademark in 1906 and opened a boutique.

In 1926, budding designer Renee Puissant (daughter of Alfred and Estelle), collaborated with designer Rene Sim Lacaze and began a 20 year wave of innovative, unusual designs.

After the deaths of Alfred and Estelle, Estelle's brothers carried on the company and emigrated from France to the United States. By 1939, the Arpels brothers had opened a boutique in New York's Rockefeller Center making Van Cleef & Arpels among the first European luxury firms in the United States.

The brand’s signature, fanciful design style is influenced largely by the mystical beauty of nature and in 1940 the company launched The Snowflake Collection. After the mid-seventies, the luxury brand would launch one of its most iconic collections The Alhambra Collection featuring their signature four-leaf clover design. Other incredible collections include, Dragonflies & Butterflies, Hawaii and Midsummer Night's Dream.

Like the House of Harry Winston, the Van Cleef & Arpels brand is famous for an innovative gemstone setting, the Mystery Setting. The Mystery Setting is a stone setting procedure that produces virtually invisible claws; an invention that highlights the unique beauty of such gemstones as aquamarine and mother-of-pearl. Over the years, the procedure has been further develop and refined.

Queen Nazli and King Farouk of Egypt, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jacqueline Kennedy and a slew of Hollywood celebrities, have worn Van Cleef & Arpels' designs. The collections are just stunning. The detail is stunning. The artistry is stunning.

For more on the Van Cleef & Arpels brand, check out's interview with the company's President and CEO, Emmanuel Perrin.

For more affordable interpretations on classic designer jewelry, check out
Photo: Nereide clip from Kingdom of Neptune Collection

Thursday, April 16, 2009


When I read up on legendary jewelry designer Harry Winston, I was convinced that the brilliance and fire of the diamonds he uses were a direct result of transference. Winston was so passionate about how he displayed diamonds that he refused to incorporate precious metals in his creations that were visible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Neil Lane once said, and I'm paraphrasing, that a beautiful gown makes a woman feel happy, but diamonds will illuminate her. That is a great statement.

Lane is one of the most sought after jewelry designers in Hollywood and among his stunning high-end designer jewelry collections are beautiful vintage and bridal jewelry.

He is also renowned for his stunning yet classic engagement rings many of which he has designed for such celebrities as Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, and Brooke Shields.

Lane recently designed a handcrafted, marquise-cut diamond and platinum engagement ring for Jason Mesnick to propose with on The Bachelor.

Lane was also the go-to-guy at the time of this year's Oscars™ wherein he, at the request of his famous patrons, adorned nominees and presenters with radiant, classic designs.

Lane's origin in jewelry design began in the 1970s with a two-year stint attending Paris’ L' Ecole des Beaux Arts and his studies heavily influenced his elegant designs.

During days off from classes, he collected vintage jewelry from Parisian flea markets eventually developing a collection of pieces worn by Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, and Mae West.

Several years ago, Lane collaborated with the controversial De Beers Group who mines 40% of the world's supply of diamonds from South Africa.

In collaborating with Lane, the De Beers Group hoped to breathe life into its lackluster chain of jewelry retailers. In December 2005, the De Beers Group unveiled The Neil Lane Hollywood Collection at a Rodeo Drive boutique.

The surprisingly low-key environment of Lane’s Beverly Hills store is a calculated choice as the designer prefers a no-frills environment to better connect with his clients.

Lane’s infectious enthusiasm paired with his knowledgeable, patient, and amusing staff makes for a great experience for those procuring one or more of his timeless diamond jewelry.
Photo: Neil Lane's Diamond Ruffle-Cut Bracelet

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


What better lead-in than diamonds to talk about today's featured jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. (Tiffany's)Like the majority of people, I know Tiffany's for, of course, their spectacular diamond ring settings and timeless charm jewelry. What came as a surprise is that the company, when founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in 1837, initially sold stationery and silverware.

It was not until after Charles Tiffany took full ownership of the company, sixteen years later, that the company expanded into designing and making jewelry.   This decision quickly led to everyone from Hollywood actresses to royalty requesting and wearing Tiffany’s diamond jewelry.

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond, discovered in 1878, is among one of the largest yellow diamonds in the world. The diamond was a hefty 247 carats when initially found in South Africa's Kimberley Mine.  The diamond has since been cut into a cushion shape at 128 carats.

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond has only been worn by two women, one of whom was the late Audrey Hepburn who starred in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which featured the brand’s iconic New York flagship store.

Other interesting details is during the Civil War, Tiffany's supplied the Union Army with surgical implements, flags and swords. In 1919 the fine jewelry brand also revised a rare Medal of Honor design at the request of the United States Department of Navy.

Among Tiffany's featured designers are Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, and former model Elsa Peretti, who has designed the company's trademark simple, elegant pieces since 1974.

Be sure to mark your calendars in May 2013 you will get a chance to ogle official jewelry Tiffany's created for Baz Luhrmann's remake of The Great Gatsby.  Fabulous platinum, diamond and pearl jewelry will be featured on the entire cast including the male and female leads of the film Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Isla Fisher.

For more on the brand’s designs be sure to check out's video interview with Vesna Tabah of Tiffany's concerning the Return to Tiffany Collection.

Photo 1 (top center): Jean Schlumberger's Bird on a Rock Brooch
Photo 2 (bottom center): Actor Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby  wearing jewelry by Tiffany & Co.


Many times, I forget that gemstones and precious metals are just minerals dug up from the earth. I just don't think about that whenever I see all of that natural beauty.

When I think of diamonds, I think of diamonds are a girl's best friend. Diamonds and pearls. Diamonds are forever. To live and let die-mond. Okay, I made the last one up but diamonds are very real.

Aside from being the birthstone for the month of April, diamonds are the most unyielding of the precious stones and come in various colors. Diamonds form deep within the Earth, at least 120 miles below the Earth's surface and are millions of years old.

Volcanic eruptions expel these precious gemstones to the Earth's surface to later be discovered by overjoyed diamond diggers. The most prevalent clear, white diamonds are predominantly used in engagement ring settings. However, their colors can range from pink, yellow, brown, green, and even blue.

One of the most well known and rarest blue diamonds is also one of the largest (45 carats), the beautiful Hope Diamond (see above photo). Over the years, diamonds have come to symbolize purity and loyalty. According to folklore when combined with other gems, diamonds have the ability to supplement other stones' healing properties.

Click here to see a short video of the Hope Diamond currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Photo (top left): Hope Diamond

Monday, April 13, 2009


I want to kick things off by featuring some of the legends in the field. Fred Leighton Jewelry is the topic of my first feature.

I have heard Fred Leighton Jewelry mentioned over the years, but I never knew until recently that the company specializes in collecting high-end, vintage jewelry from all over the world!

The designs from the Fred Leighton collections are spectacular pieces of jewelry. These incredible jewelry collections span the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. They even include vintage jewelry pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany & Co.
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