Saturday, October 31, 2009


Wanna eat dinner 500 feet about the ground? You are in for a real treat as we visit Seattle's Space Needle. Built over 40 years ago, it stands 605 feet tall, and a rotating restaurant overlooking the city is just 20 feet shy of the Observation Deck. Washington State is also the home of featured jewelry designer Gina Pankowski.

Friday, October 30, 2009


18-Karat Gold and Stainless Steel Saddle Ring
The idyllic backdrop surrounding Holland's Castle Wittem is welcoming and relaxing. The fortress, nestled within Geul Valley, is encompassed by a river, and serves as a hotel.

Geniet van uw verblijf (enjoy your stay). Holland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Abrasha.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Metallic Gold Filigree Empress Ring
The hot, summer season will soon be underway in the Northern Territory of Australia so we make a point to stay in our rental car and suck up the AC. We are here to view one of the world's most sublime natural rock formations, Uluru (a/k/a Ayers Rock).

Known as a land-based type of iceberg the magnificent sandstone formation stands over 1,000 feet and looks like a red, burning ember. Australia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Samantha Wills.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Nylon Covered Polypropylene Petals Bracelet
Though not open to the public the modest Imperial Palace of Tokyo, Japan is a lovely representation of centuries-old architecture with its coffered ceilings, parqueted floors, and gabled rooftops.

The palace's storied history includes two fires, the first in 1873 and the other 72 years later in 1945. Japan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Yoko Izawa.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


18-Karat Gold and Stainless Steel Propeller Rings
Schwerin Castle in Germany is a remarkable landmark that dates back to the 12th century.

Once a defensive stronghold, over the course of five centuries the structure has undergone several refurbishings and is presently a museum. Germany is also the home of featured jewelry designer Dorothea Brill.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Oxidized Sterling Silver &
18K Gold Brooch-Pendant Set
With a beautiful, starry backdrop, it is impossible to miss the breathtaking silhouette of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, Canada.

Perched atop a bluff above the St. Lawrence River, the grand hotel, designed by architect Bruce Price, once served as a meeting place between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1943. Canada is also the home of featured jewelry designer Janis Kerman.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Blue Pearl Silver PMC Necklace
with Pearl Clasp
There are 5,000 acres to explore within Annadel State Park in California.

We do not plan to cover it all, but we opt to view at least some of the expanse of meadows and a lake by horseback. California is also the home of featured jewelry designer Hetty Herman-Minsk.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Double Stone Gold Ring
with Diamond Accents
Smack dab in the middle of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a centuries-old building known as the Paco Imperial Palace.

Built in the 18th century, the magnificent baroque structure served as a homestead for colonial governors. Brazil is also the home of featured jewelry designer Manoel Bernardes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Loosely Woven Sterling Silver Bracelet
with Black Lacquer, Gold and Amber
The Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna in Austria houses an enormous collection of plants for research and conservation purposes.

Research ranges from testing for bioactive substances to observation of Old World species. Austria is also the home of featured jewelry designer Anna Heindl.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Oxidized Silver Fragment of Ornament Brooch
with Trillion Garnet
Today we visit one of Scotland's most prominent architectural structures, Stirling Castle. Situated upon a volcanic crag, and surrounded by steep cliffs, the castle maintains a foreboding, spectacular presence.

The castle's fully functional amenities include artillery fortifications, The Great Hall, and a modern café. Scotland is also the home of featured jewelry designer Marianne Anderson.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Sterling Silver and Rose Hip Beads Pendant
with Rubber Chord
Larnach Castle, and its surrounding grounds, is a breathtaking landmark of Dunedin, New Zealand.

Built during the 18th century no expense was spared for its construction. The magnificent structure's amenities were composed of Italian marble, English tiles, and Venetian glass. New Zealand is also the home of featured jewelry designer Lynn Kelly.

Monday, October 19, 2009


 Pink Floral Opera Ring with Pink
and Fuchsia Swarovski Crystals
The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel is a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Often overlooked, it is nestled away between a gas station and supermarket.

The gardens house over 6,000 species of plants, a lake, two ponds, and a waterfall. Israel is also the home of featured jewelry designer Michal Negrin.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


22-Karat Gold Bracelet with Rough Rubies
The rustic beauty of the Denver Botanic Garden in Colorado is striking.

The grounds are populated with plants from varied habitats like the Alpine, aquatic, arid and the Rocky Mountain regions. Colorado is also the home of featured jewelry designer Todd Reed.

Friday, October 16, 2009


22-Karat Gold and Damascus Steel Ring
with one Diamond
We are awestruck by the incredible, ancient architecture of Seoul, Korea.

There is the spectacular grounds of Kyongbokgung Palace consisting of over 500 buildings, which includes the Chongmyo Shrine.

Korea is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer NaMu Cho.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


 Rhodium Plated Peridot Bracelet
The otherworldly beauty of Giant's Causeway, off the coast of Northern Ireland, is shrouded in folklore.

According to history the path of hexagonal columns, running from the cliffs of the Antrium Plateau, were created after a volcanic eruption.

However, legend says an Irish giant named Finn McCool built the structure as a passageway to Scotland.  Ireland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer John Medeiros.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Diamonds and Gold Earrings
from the 
La Feuilles Dan Le Vent de Pékin Collection
Over 2,000 types of trees and 500 species of flower make up part of the extraordinary collection of plants within the Beijing Botanical Garden in China.

There are plenty of exhibition areas to view including a rose garden, a herb garden, and a tree and peony garden. China is also the home of featured jewelry designer Bao Bao Wan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Gold Mesh Earrings
Today we walk along Eram Street within the Botanical Garden of Shiraz University in Iran.

Rich with a storied history, beautiful flora, and architecture, our stay is fascinating indeed.

Iran is the ancestral home of featured jewelry designer Shabnam Bahmanian.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Coral Necklace of Rectangles and Ovals
There is some fantastic architecture to see in Barcelona, Spain; one such building is the Casa Batlló.

Designed by architecture Antoni Gaudi, and built over a century ago, it is known for its distinctive skull-like balconies and bone-like pillars. Spain is also the home of featured jewelry designer Jorge Revilla.


Keeping your jewelry clean is very important to its longevity whether it is fine or costume. For this month's Splendor Sidebar outlined below are inexpensive, at-home treatments for cleaning both fine and costume jewelry.

In cases of deeply set, stubborn grime or tarnish, fine jewelry in particular should be taken to a professional jewelry cleaner.

Though jewelry can be cleaned at home with store bought jewelry cleaners, it is important to read the product's ingredients. Harsh, abrasive components like ammonia, vinegar, acids, and alcohol can severely damage jewelry items.

In using homemade cleaning solutions, the first thing to keep in mind before cleaning fine jewelry is whether any fragile or porous stones are a part of the design. Turquoise, opals, and pearls are very delicate requiring individual attention.

It is best to know how to clean the stones and use the specific cleaning technique on the metal as well. For example, a warm solution of mild, soapy water is recommended for cleaning pearls and this same solution can be used to clean gold accents of which the pearls are a part.

It is best to either immerse a jewelry cloth or soft, toothbrush into a gentle, soapy solution and clean individual stones by carefully wiping or brushing the stone.

The stone should then be rinsed and buffed dry with a dry jewelry cloth. Warm, soapy solutions are recommended for use on diamonds and most other gemstones.

For solid gold jewelry, dust should first be carefully removed with a clean, soft jewelry cloth, cotton or flannel cloth. Afterwards, soak the piece for 1-3 minutes in a solution of warm water and baby shampoo.

While still wet, remaining grime can be removed using a soft, toothbrush, rinse thoroughly in warm water and soak up excess moisture with the jewelry cloth. If the items are not completely free of moisture, the finish will look dull.

To remove tarnish from unembellished sterling silver jewelry requires a little bit more elbow grease. First, make sure you follow the next steps in a well-ventilated area. You will need a large bowl, aluminum foil, baking soda, and hot water.

Line the sides of the bowl with foil. Place the jewelry pieces inside the bowl and cover the items with a layer of baking soda until almost covered. Pour hot water over the baking soda and jewelry making sure not to breathe in fumes then wait for the baking soda to stop bubbling. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a jewelry cloth.

If your silver is heavily tarnished, you will have to repeat these steps 5-6 times, or use a silver cleaning paste. For more info on cleaning silver jewelry with paste, check out the how-to video at

It is trickier to determine the best form of cleaning for costume jewelry. Unlike fine jewelry, many jewelers believe costume jewelry should not be cleaned with soapy water solutions; but according to my research, there is some debate on whether to use store bought jewelry cleaners.

As stated earlier, it is imperative to check the label for harsh ingredients as well as usage recommendations. Jewelry cleaners suited for specific metals like chrome, stainless steel, or aluminum should be used on that item.

As a rule of thumb, if your costume jewelry contains a combination of stones and metals, and you know which of the stones or metals is most fragile, use a jewelry cleaner that is safe for this specific part. The cleaner can then be used to clean the entire piece.

However, some jewelers believe it best to clean gold-plated and gold-filled items with a dry jewelry cloth only. Some jewelers say that items plated with 24-karat gold are more durable and requires only dusting with a soft cloth. In the end, when in doubt it is best to consult the company that manufactured a costume piece or its designer for cleaning instructions.

The next question is, how often should jewelry be cleaned? This will depend on how often you wear a piece. If you wear the same piece of jewelry daily, it should be cleaned weekly. Jewelry worn only on occasion, for special events, should be cleaned after each use.

It is also important to store jewelry properly after cleaning. It is best to keep pieces separate in separate boxes or pouches to keep from scratching.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Today we visit the homey and cozy North Duchess Botanical Garden in New York. Within the 70-acre grounds are 8 greenhouses and an array of plants and perennials to learn about, and even take home. New York is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Sarah Davida Beinstein.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Just one look at the towering glass and steel greenhouse, which houses a simulated rain forest, we instantly know that Taiwan's Taichung Botanical Garden will be a great adventure.

Once inside we are met with a miniature replica of Orchid Island, over 80 plant species, and an amazing aquarium brimming with exotic fish from the Amazon. Taiwan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer I-nan Chen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today we explore the Castle of Florac, a former salt loft during the French Revolution, in south-central France. Surrounded by the lovely Cévennes National Park, the castle serves as the park's information center. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Christophe Burger.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


We are in Delhi, India today taking an interesting journey through the Jantar Mantar observatory. Built by Raja Jai Singh II nearly three centuries ago, the unique observation post houses astronomical devices structured from lime, and marble.

The largest device being a giant sundial called the Samrat Yantra (Supreme Instrument). India is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Manju Jasty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Today we find ourselves captivated by the beauty of South African vineyards located north of Cape Town.

We stop in Stellenbosch, one of the country's oldest villages, to visit the Village Museum as well as sample some wine and great food. South Africa is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Michael Berger.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Today we are  stand on the Eastern coast of Mexico taking in the beautiful sights of the Isle of Cozumel, and there are plenty of cool ways to explore the island's beautiful coral reefs. There is snorkeling, diving, and even kayaking.

We learn that Cozumel is also the location of the San Gervasio Ruins, one of the largest remaining Mayan ruins on the island. Mexico is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Francisco Sanchez.


The unique beauty of the opal gemstone is unlike any other; it holds within it the vibrant colors of all gemstones. Brilliant flashes of red, yellow, blue, and green sparkle and twinkle within a fluid blue-green background. For this reason, the early Romans called it "the queen of gems."

Opals form when water transports silica along the fissures of boulders. When the water evaporates the silica hardens and over time creates what we know as an opal stone.

The distinctive color of opal is caused by "internal diffraction"; very small grids holding spheres break apart light into color. The size of the spheres determines the color. Large spheres create a multitude of hues, while smaller ones create a single, uniform color.

For many centuries, the stone came to symbolize purity, love, fidelity, and hope; but the opal's reputation took a sinister turn in the early 19th century.

The protagonist of Sir Walter Scott's popular novel, Anne of Geuerstein, wore a magic opal stone in her hair. The stone's colors would change reflecting the protagonist's moods. After a few sprinkles of holy water touched the stone, it lost its color and the protagonist took ill and died.

For nearly half a century after the book's release, the sale of opals dropped dramatically. England's Queen Victoria, however, was unfazed by the widely accepted superstition buying the stones for her daughters as wedding gifts.

Now of course, the stone is highly sought after and are primarily mined in Australia. The opal is a fragile gem that chips easily and requires careful maintenance. It is best to keep it away from heat, acid, and from other pieces of jewelry that can scratch it.

The opal is believed to cure eye problems, soothe the nerves, and enhance metabolism. The stone is also believed to improve communication, and awaken psychic abilities.

Among the world's most famous opals is the magnificent Opal Peacock Brooch, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

It is a spectacular piece, donated by the brilliant Harry Winston, fashioned from a sapphire stone forming the head moving along to a diamond encrusted neck, and a 22-carat opal forms the body while the tail feathers are a composite of emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.

One of the world's largest opals, worth $2 million dollars, is the Olympic Australis Opal, found in Australia in 1956.
Photo 1 (top left): Opal Peacock Brooch
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