Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Built by Scottish architect James Graham in 1851, the spectacular Ayton Castle is among Borders of Scotland's many historic castles.

Fashioned with red sandstone, the castle is a stunning part of the lush, Scottish skyline.

Scotland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Fiona Kerr.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Today we are en route to Lake Constance, Germany's largest natural lake. The waters of Rhine River, the longest river in Germany, pass down the majestic Alps into the picturesque 40-mile lake.

As we leave our vehicles, we are struck by the area's unusual warmth, and the large numbers of bird species living near the marshes. Germany is also home to featured jewelry design team Gunter Henrich and Roland Denzel.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Today we stroll along the pathways of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn, New York. We will take in the beautiful scenery of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden built in 1914, and designed by landscape architect, Takeo Shiota.

The garden's blend of hills, rocks, stone lanterns, and waterfall evoke serenity and calm.  New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Alexis Bittar.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Today we will take a trip through time to the incredible Pachacamac Ruins in Lima, Peru. The powerful mysticism of the ruins can still be felt while walking through the halls of Acllahuasi, the Pilgrims' Plaza, and the Temple of the Sun. Lima, Peru is also home to featured jewelry designer Claudia Lira.

Every cloud has a silver lining, but if Lira has anything to do with it she would fashion that silver line into something fabulous.

A graduate of Holland's TSU - Vakschool Schoonhoven, Lira loves to craft clean forms using silver. Once she completed her studies, Lira returned to Peru in 1997 to begin her workshop.

Motivated by the unending beauty within nature, art, and life experiences, Lira aspired to create high quality silver jewelry for her clientele.

The elegant, clean lines of pieces like her Various Elements Pendant are Lira's signature. Lira's use of gemstones is minimal opting instead to highlight geometric forms in silver alloy with a high gloss, matte, or textured finish. "My work results from fusion of influences from two continents - the Americas and Europe," she says.

Collaborating with her sister, Marliz, Lira believes that enthusiasm, and a positive attitude stimulates creativity while also creating a fun, productive work environment.

Positioned at the forefront of Peru's silver industry, Lira's handmade jewelry designs possess a cool sophistication that brings actor Grace Kelly to mind. They are understated yet dramatic; fashionable and modern; regal and exotic.

Lira's wares are also sold at Novica.com, and exhibitions of her work have been held in Italy, The Netherlands, Peru, and Switzerland.
Photo 1 (top right): High Gloss Sterling Silver Avocado Ring with Amethyst
Photo 2 (bottom left): High Gloss and Textured Sterling Silver Peak Links Tribute Necklace

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Wherever you turn in St. Petersburg, Russia, you are bound to see historical monuments, buildings, and sculptures.

 Due to the city's maze of lakes, gulfs, rivers, creeks, and canals, the city was built in a similar fashion to Venice, Italy whereby numerous bridges connect the many islands comprising the city.

Russia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Natalia Khon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


With the backdrop of looming coconut trees and billowy white clouds, Boqueron Beach of Puerto Rico is a dream setting.

We stand on the toasty, white sands looking out across the ocean's clear, turquoise waters contemplating our options: kite surfing, cycling, or scuba diving. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Erika Peña.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


When given the opportunity it wouldn't be right to pass on exploring one of Australia's beaches; so let's visit Geographe Bay in Dunsborough, Australia.

Beautiful weather coupled with uncluttered views of the Indian Ocean's blue-green waters is only the beginning of what the beach offers.

We can go fishing, snorkeling, and swimming, or take a diving tour deep into the jewel-tone surf to view the sunken HMAS SWAN formerly of the Royal Australian Navy. Australia is also home to featured jewelry designer Steve Turner.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Today we're walking along the beaches of the Spanish Banks in Vancouver, Canada.

This strip of beaches, named for explorers José Maria Narvaez and Juan Carrasco, houses sandy volleyball courts while grassy fields separate the sands for picnics.

Steely lifeguards keep somber watch as skimboarders ride the low tides. Canada is also home to featured jewelry designer Benée Rubin.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Santa Monica, California is a picturesque ocean-side city that boasts an average of 340 days of sunshine out of a year, along with the well-manicured sands of its world-renown beach.

California is also home to jewelry designer Melinda Spigel.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today we explore the many branches of one of China's famous trade routes known as the Silk Road.

A 19th century German scholar, von Richtofen, coined the name of this land-based network of roads due to the early Romans' fascination with silk.

We have lots of ground to cover that includes oasis settlements Turfan, and Kuqa, and the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts. China is also home to featured jewelry designer Kai-Yin Lo.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


There is no shortage of beaches in Spain, and each has its own personality.

From the Playa de Las Catredrales, in Galicia, with its incredible, oceanic rock formations to the serene beaches of Costa Brava, to the rustic, rugged milieu of Playa de la Victoria in Asturias. Spain is also home to featured jewelry designer Miguel Ases.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The unrelenting, awe-inspiring beauty of Baha'i Shrine and Gardens in Haifa, Israel gives pause to those who see it.

The Baha'i Faith's ideology of unity across cultures and religions, along with the grounds' trimmed cypress trees and ravishing architecture, provide an aura of calm.

Israel is also the home of jewelry designer Aya Azrielant.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Today we are standing in Denmark's Thy National Park.

The one-year-old scenic area, bordered by the Limfjord and the North Sea, is a panoramic stretch of land housing forests, heath, grasslands, sand dunes, and lakes.

Denmark is also home of featured jewelry designer Kim Buck .

Monday, June 15, 2009


It's that time again. It's time for me to break from my normal posts and take some time to talk about . . . well . . . jewelry. I hope a lot of you are ready to channel your inner designer because I have more links on family jewelry-making projects.

In my first Splendor Sidebar, I suggested creating simple bead jewelry as an inexpensive way to get those creative juices flowing. Today you and your family can try your hand at making jewelry boxes. 

Check out JewelryMakingBasics.com and Ehow.com's articles to find out the materials you'll need to get started.

On JewelryMakingBasic.com, there are a number of jewelry-related articles you may find interesting including one about beginning a home-based jewelry business.

I have read that watches are pretty easy to make. All you need is a watch face and some pretty beads to make the band. AuntiesBeads.com has beautiful Geneva watch faces for reasonable prices, and if you look on the far right side of the page, you can click on any of the three photos of completed watches. 

When you do, you will be taken to another page showing you the materials needed to build the watch, and there's even a link giving you instructions on how to make it.

If you still need a bit more coaxing, you can check out ExpertVillage.com's video of Debra Windsong making a watch using a watch face and colorful beads.

For those of you possessing sophisticated jewelry-making skills, and in need of some design ideas check out NinaDesigns.com, which specializes in offering design ideas to help bring that spark of creativity to a full-fledged flame.


Today we are at the North Coast of Scotland on the largest island, called the Mainland, of a cluster of 70 islands that is a component of the Orkney Islands.

The unique landscape of the islands, some housing Neolithic structures, is hauntingly breathtaking. One such structure is a circle of 27 stones--with a diameter of 341 feet--called the Ring of Brodgar. Scotland is also home to featured jewelry designer Ola Gorie.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Many have said that Patara Beach in Lycia Patara, Turkey is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. Bordering the beach's lengthy, crystal-white sands are rolling mountains and undulating dunes.

The beach's quiet, tranquil surroundings cultivate relaxation, and of course, the view of the Mediterranean Sea's gem-tone, turquoise waters completes the picture perfect excursion into a terrestrial Heaven.

Turkey is also home to jewelry design team Nersel zur Muehlen and Irene Sokullu.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Spitalfields, England is a haven of diverse attractions and places to explore; the possibilities seem endless. We can experience a "unique" theater atmosphere with "still-life drama" at the Dennis Severs' House.

We can then stop at The Spitz, which is an eclectic combo of restaurant, café, gallery, and a venue of live music. London is also home to featured jewelry designer Ben Day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


At the center of the Baltic Sea, Gotland Island is a well-kept secret positioned on the East Coast of Stockholm, Sweden, and Sudersand Beach is its crown jewel.

The beach's lengthy stretches of white sand encompassed by sparkling, sapphire blue water and clear skies are a dream. Sweden is also the home of featured design team Yvone Clamf and Christina Söderström.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Today we stand inside a climate-controlled glasshouse of The Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We venture inside the Butterfly Greenhouse where, in addition to cocoa trees, we also see, what else, butterflies. Amsterdam is also the home of featured jewelry designer Joke Schole.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Today we stop to view the outstanding landscape and historic architecture of the Loire Valley in France. The many towns that comprise Loire Valley include Angers, Chinon, Nantes, and Blois, among others.

Loire Valley also boasts famous chateaus built by French kings and possesses some of the most awe-inspiring architecture in existence. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Catherine Popesco.

Monday, June 8, 2009


We're in Sonoma Valley, California today and we're standing in what's been called "a living museum of Asian flora,"

Quarryhill Botanical Garden. Quarryhill's 20 acres, tucked away in Sonoma wine country, contains the rarest species of flora from Japan and China.

California is also home to jewelry designer Susana Speidel.


Along with the distinction of being June's birthstone, pearls are unique in that living organisms produce them. Although technically they are an abnormal concretion that forms on a mollusk's shell, pearls are incredibly beautiful and highly desired. These sleek, glistening gems symbolize harmony, purity, and humility. They are also believed to balance the body's hormone levels and biorhythms.

Because naturally occurring pearls are extremely rare they are of considerable value. One out of every 10,000 mollusks contains one. Accordingly, in the past if a naturally occurring pearl was discovered royalty or the very wealthy paid thousands of dollars to own these incredible formations.

In the early 20th century, Koichi Mikimoto is credited with developing techniques for producing pearls under artificial conditions or culturing, which has made pearls more readily available.

The quality of pearls is largely determined by its nacre quality, a thick coating that provides luster and durability.

However, during the culturing process various factors can affect the nacre quality and therefore increase the number of blemishes such as welts, discoloration, or cracks that are visible to the naked eye.

Despite a nacre coating and hard exterior, pearls are prone to damage and require careful, gentle handling. For example, hairspray or cologne should be allowed to thoroughly dry before wearing pearls.

Lastly, it is a no-no to wear pearls while swimming in chlorinated or salt water. To prevent cracking, it is best to clean pearls with a a soft, dry cloth after each wearing.

The Japanese Akoya is probably the most well known type of pearl as these pearls are commonly used to create the classic, string-of-pearls design. The most expensive Akoyas are round, white-pink, silver-pink and even blue.

South Sea Pearls are generally the largest, with the most expensive being round and silver-white, white-rose or peacock black. The most affordable pearls are Chinese freshwater pearls.

One of the most famous pearls is the La Peregrina (The Incomparable), which is said to have been egg-shaped with a silvery translucent color, and a weight of 111.5 grains. King Philip IV gave the remarkable gem to his daughter, Maria Theresa, as a wedding gift. In 1969, actor Richard Burton purchased it as a present for Elizabeth Taylor.

The Pearl of Allah is touted as the world's largest naturally occurring pearl. Discovered in 1934 off the coast of Palawan, it measures a remarkable 10 inches in diameter and weighs 14 pounds! To see the Pearl of Allah, and for more information on this natural phenomenon, click here.
Photo (top left): Elizabeth Taylor wearing the La Peregrina pearl necklace

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Today we stop in Ireland at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, three miles away from Dublin.

There is plenty to see with over 20,000 different trees, shrubs, and perennials that include yews, orchids, roses, and spectacular Indian pink-blushed lilies called Crinum moorei.

Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer John Christopher Condron.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Khao Lak Beach in Thailand is another prime example of lustrous natural beauty.

Here again, the brilliant cerulean color of the Andaman Sea is hypnotizing enough on its own; then combine a string of casuarina pine trees emerging from the honey-colored sand with the warmth of the sun's rays and you have found your own, private sanctuary.

Thailand is also the home of design team Helen and Rolf Von Bueren.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


We are surrounded by so much natural beauty today; I don't know where to begin. We visitGrande Sertão Veredas National Park in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The park's name was derived from Brazilian author Guimaraes Rosa's book of the same name [sans the national park]. As we walk along the park's trails, we may catch a glimpse of a giant armadillo, or a stealthy puma. Brazil is also home to featured jewelry designer Melissa Maia.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Today we're in Vancouver, Canada taking in the natural splendor of Queen Elizabeth Park. I am partial to all things floral, so I'd take a peek inside Bloedel Floral Conservatory with all of its birds, and exotic plants, including bromeliads.

I'd particularly like to have a meet-and-greet with the conservatory's lively Cockatoo named Charlie. Canada is also home to featured jewelry designer Constantina James.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


There is a lot of spectacular scenery to see today as we drive along the Mambilla Plateau in Nigeria, Africa.

There are cattle ranches, incredible fauna, and flora including luscious hills of rich-colored grass, and some of the highest mountains in Nigeria.

We venture down the shoreline to the astonishingly clear, blue waters of the Azumini River where the river flows into rapids. Africa is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Chris Aire.

Monday, June 1, 2009


For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.


Today we're back in the USA taking in all the sights and sounds of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California.

It's hard to decide on just what to do as there are quite a number of places to explore. There's the Maritime National Historical Park, Forbes Island, and Ghirardelli Square. San Francisco is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Shahasp Valentine.
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