Wednesday, March 31, 2010


With the majestic backdrop of Snow Mountain, Taiwan's beautiful Fushan Botanical Garden is a virtual wonder of natural beauty. The picturesque grounds house more than 6, 000 plants and is known as the largest botanical garden in Asia. Taiwan is also home to featured jewelry designer Cindy Chao.

The creation process is an aspect of jewelry design and making that is as fascinating as a designer's creative process.

Personally, I see the two as separate, one involving the conceptual groundwork, and the other the actual construction.

For me, learning about techniques like filigree, wire wrapping, enameling, repoussé and chasing, and granulation re-emphasizes the technical skill and precision required to cultivate jewelry pieces of remarkable complexity and beauty.

Chao's stunning jewelry collections reflect intricate, detailed artisanship rendered through painstaking and time-consuming work.

The graduate of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), and certified gemologist, Chao creates magnificent pieces of staggering opulence that are reminiscent of Bao Bao Wan (China).

"There was a point in 2007 when I went through a rough patch in my jewelry-making career," she says. "Initially, my work was conservative, traditional pieces, but I knew I would not be able to thrive much longer in the market if I continued doing that type of jewelry."

Inspired by Asian art and architecture, Chao's bold yet elegant design contours are fashioned from 18-karat yellow, white and oxidized gold, golden, and white pearls, diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.

Her Mysteries of the East collection highlight beautiful, bold colored gemstones within streamlined proportions, while the Paradise collection features a stunning ring holding a spectacular blue stone in a talon-like setting that is offset by a twined shank of 18-karat white and yellow gold.

It is understandable that the exquisite items from her Four Seasons collection helped to solidify Chao's standing as a highly skilled jewelry artist, as the collection features masterfully detailed nature-inspired jewelry pieces.

As the name suggests, the Four Seasons collection is built around spring, summer, fall, and winter. In one instance, the arrangement of the diamonds in a ring representing winter is like a cascading droop of heavy icicles. In another item, the semblance of outreached branches is studded with an icy patch of diamonds.

The Majestic Beauty Fan, an exclusive design for DeBeers' Forevermark Precious Collection, is an incredible piece featuring a removable, 18-karat yellow, white, and rose gold butterfly brooch.

Creating the mold alone for this piece took a month while 2,339 diamonds were carefully placed in pavé settings throughout the piece's entwined branches.

It took Chao and her artisan team four months to complete the final piece. This magnificent item, along with the whole of Chao's collections, is a masterpiece of the utmost precision required in hand fabricated jewelry.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow and White Gold Brooch with Jadelite and Ruby
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Majestic Beauty Fan with Diamonds and Removable Butterfly Brooch

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The 14th century structure Bodiam Castle located in East Sussex, England was built by the order of a knight of Edward II and was once a garrison for soldiers. However, the fortress was not built to sustain a heavy attack. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Anoush Waddington.

According to my research, the first known synthetic plastic, called Parkesine, was invented in 1855 by Englishman Alexander Parkes as a substitute for ivory.

Fifty-four years later while looking for a coating to cover electrical metal wires, Leo Hendrik Baekeland blended phenol and formaldehyde creating what became known as Bakelite.

Throughout the years a variety of plastics from polystyrene and polyester to polyurethanes have been used to create all manner of everyday items such as food containers, vending cups, shower curtains, and compact discs.

In the years to follow Baekeland's invention, Bakelite, would become a popular material for use in jewelry making; so popular in fact, that today authentic Bakelite jewelry is a lucrative commodity.

Jewelry designers from around the globe, including Sue Gregor (England), Yoko Izawa (Japan), Rachel McKnight (Ireland), Tarina Tarantino (USA) and Ceren Keyman (Turkey) use plastics like acrylic, Lucite, and polypropylene to create jewelry of incredible detail and beauty.

Waddington's exposure to great music and theatre, courtesy of parents steeped in the respective industries, served to cultivate a very open-minded approach to jewelry design and personal style.

Her daring style aesthetic and innovative use of non-traditional materials like polypropylene, however, pushed the limits of tolerance at her alma mater of Bucks New Uni (formerly Buckinghamshire Chilterns).

The ominous clash of wills did not deter the ambitious designer as she graduated with honors in Design, Metalwork, and Jewelry in 2000.

Her work in the fashion and film industries, working respectively as a runway model and animator, sharpened her sense for color combinations and blending eclectic forms.

Through her company Metalix, Waddington created the first polypropylene jewelry designs. The plastic was known for its difficulty to manipulate but she persevered continually working with the material until she successfully mastered its malleable properties.

The creations are highly imaginative and theatrical in their configurations. She appears to cut very thin strips of dyed plastic without cutting the strips away from the larger piece allowing the strips to hang down building a design within the cascading strips.

The ranges of pieces include brightly colored, feather-like items to semblances of billowy jellyfish tentacles and glowing sea anemones to items akin to armor and dominatrix garb. It is fascinating that someone can take an item like plastic and use it to create other items so removed from contexts we commonly associate with it.

Waddington's work certainly helps to open up the observer's imagination to see new functions for a material not regularly used for decorative purposes. If anything, her work certainly opens up an observer to the designer's incredible artistry and attention to detail.

Waddington has garnered numerous awards for her extraordinary work including the 2006 Gane Trust Award, and the 2001 Crafts Council Setting Award.

"My work sums up a personal journey comprising traditional values applied to contemporary materials. I value a freedom to combine materials where form, line, color, and movement should merge with fluidity."

Photo 1 (top right): Orange Polypropylene Neckpiece
Photo 2 (bottom left): Purple Polypropylene Neckpiece

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Touted as a conservatory of American history, we eagerly visit Washington D.C.'s National Museum of American History, which boasts intriguing political, scientific, and cultural exhibits including a display featuring the renowned ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Washington D.C. is also the home of featured jewelry designer Ruth Barzel.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Situated along the shoreline of France's Rhone River is the foreboding Tarascon Castle that was constructed during the 15th century by the order of Louis II of Anjou.

After years of disrepair the structure underwent a restoration 78 years ago remaining a historical fixture within the Rhone Valley. France is also the home of featured jewelry designer Lorenz Bäumer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


One of the most significant and impressive structures in Iran is the Falak-ol-Aflak Castle.

At over 1,000 years old, the fortress sits atop a hill alongside the Khoramabad River and is equipped with a natural dehumidifier system. Iran is also the home of featured jewelry designer Iradj Moini.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Having the namesake of American architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, Burnham Park in Baguio, Philippines is a lovely area with Mount Kabuyao serving as a looming picturesque backdrop. The Philippines is also the home of featured jewelry designer Michelline Syjuco.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Though wintry weather still has a grip on Turkey, once the cold snap breaks we will pay a visit to Çukurova University Botanical Garden. With grounds covering more than 100-acres, it houses indigenous and international species of flora. Turkey is also home to featured jewelry designer Sevan Biçakçi.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Today we visit Namsan Park in Seoul, Korea, an expansive natural area that consists of hiking trails, an aquarium, fountain, library, and a cable car. Korea is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer So Young Park.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


We are in Texas today, and with this day being the official start of spring let's not waste a moment to visit the Fort Worth Botanical Garden.

Boasting 109-acres, the grounds house over 2,500 species of flora along with an incredibly beautiful variety of gardens. Texas is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Dian Malouf.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Among New Zealand's many beautiful regions is the stunning Mount Aspiring National Park. It is a spectacular area with landscapes ranging from grassy river flats, and flowering herbs to glaciers, valleys and mountains. New Zealand is also home to featured jewelry designer Hepi Maxwell.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We are in England today visiting the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses.

It is a stunning area where redwoods, and cedars, herb, and Japanese gardens fill the length of its 15 acres. England is also the home of featured jewelry designer Coll Smith.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


At nearly 500 years old, Austria's Porcia Castle is one of the country's most important historical structures with its blend of Italian and baroque architectural styles. Austria is also the home of featured jewelry designer Peter Skubic.

I will admit that upon viewing Skubic's angular, and boxy stainless steel jewelry pieces they seemed indiscriminate from each other.

The abstract structures resemble partially folded pieces of mirror-like metal accented with randomly placed, protruding metal wires and occasional splashes of color. However, careful thought goes into these seemingly arbitrary forms.

"The process always starts with drawings but after I finish the piece it becomes a continuum," he says. "My mirror pieces have a form but you cannot see the form. I think about the dimensions of my pieces, the positions of the angles, and cutting the stainless steel plates.

Depending on the time of day, these pieces reflect the light and the piece becomes one hundred different pieces. Sometimes you see colors behind the shiny stainless steel plates or just the shiny plate. The effect is you think you see glass, not a mirror."

A goldsmith for more than 30 years, Skubic's design approach, and choice of materials also reflect a pointed intent to challenge ideas of quality in jewelry, and perceptions of jewelry as art.

"I want to find a personal sign of quality in jewelry, not only brilliance and commercial aspects. For example, I like to use color in my pieces, but without the use of big gemstones," he explains.

"I put color on the back of the shiny plates and, of course, the stainless steel plates are not diamonds but for me the plates are more attractive than diamonds.

To me jewelry can be art, but it is always a question of quality, and quality to me is not something definable, it is something you feel."
Photo 1 (top right): Stainless Steel Mirror Brooch
Photo 2 (bottom left): Stainless Steel Ring with Blue Acrylic

Monday, March 15, 2010


Today we take a trip to New Zealand and stroll along the picturesque grounds of the Wellington Botanic Garden.

It is a beautiful area with winding hills, an expansive rose garden, and a large Victorian-style glass house. New Zealand is also home to featured jewelry designer Ruth Baird.


Many jewelry enthusiasts eagerly follow the trends in designer jewelry, particularly longstanding jewelry brands like Cartier, and Tiffany & Co., Ippolita Rostagno's ten-year old label, as well as up-and-coming brands like Jennifer Meyer Jewelry.

However, despite the aesthetic and sentimental appeal of designer jewelry in some cases such trendy items as wishbone and key pendant necklaces or stackable, gold bangles prove to be fiscally challenging.

For this month's Splendor Sidebar I compiled a list of a few designers at whose offerings reflect fantastic alternatives to the aforementioned trends that are staples for the coming spring and summer months. Not only are their designs easy on the eyes but also on the purse strings without trading down on quality.


Jennifer Ecklund of
JenEcklundDesigns is based in California, and she has a lovely sterling silver wishbone pendant necklace attached to a silver gunmetal chain for $21 (the wishbone pendant is also available in gold). She also has some great cameos and wonderful delicate pieces with semi-precious stones.

leyLu based in Iowa has a beautiful sterling silver wishbone pendant necklace with accents of two, small freshwater pearls. The cost is $20. She designed several variations with different stone accents according to birthstone. She also creates affordable leaf pendants implementing a variety of real leaves dipped in 24-karat gold.
DougPetersonJewelers', based in Utah, has a beautiful, sleek 14-karat gold European
wishbone ring for $155. Has been designing and creating jewelry for 30 years, and has a second, separate collection of organic, sculptural items called TreeForm.

Lailee, based in Ohio, offers a pair of gold tone wishbone earrings for $14. She also has a beautiful collection of floral-inspired jewelry.


, based in New York, has a lovely 14-karat gold-filled leaf pendant necklace for $33 accented with a small, green amethyst drop.

Darrah of briguysgirls (or Otis B Jewelry) offers a beautiful, gossamer-like piece called
Moonlit Trees Necklace featuring a real, 24-karat gold plated Cottonwood leaf accented with a single, freshwater pearl and suspended from a gold-filled chain. The cost is $40. Also does fantastic delicate designs using semi-precious stones.

Sammi of
Sammi84, is based in Canada, and has a diminutive 24-karat gold vermeil leaf pendant necklace, and one in sterling silver. Each pendant costs $25.50. Also has beautiful cutout designs, and lovely work with pastel colored semi-precious gemstones.


Cascreatives based in New York has a Tiffany-inspired, sterling silver
key pendant necklace for $15.25.

With a penchant for sterling silver jewelry, Fashionjunkie4life, based in Nevada, has a pretty sterling silver
key pendant necklace for $18. She also has a great sterling silver wishbone pendant for $18 as well as hand stamped jewelry.

Skye Elijah of DecibelProductions, based in California, also has a sleek, Tiffany-inspired Victorian Crown sterling silver
skeleton key pendant necklace. The rest of Elijah's jewelry is inspired by rock n' roll with edgy, bold colored gemstones and statement-making designs.

Charms4You, based in Florida, offers a lovely alternative to the popular turtle charm pendant necklace worn by Courtney Cox on the television show Cougar Town for $8. The turtle is gold-plated over sterling silver on a beautiful gold-plated link chain. Store has an intriguing variety of charms from Chinese symbols to charms inspired by the Twilight movies.

PinkingEdgeDesigns, based in North Carolina, has a very nice gold plated
turtle charm pendant necklace called Happy for $24. Charm is suspended on a gold-plated chain that is linked with eight, green Aventurine beads. She utilizes copper, and brass in innovative designs as well as beautifully carved gemstones.
*BONUS "COUGAR TOWN" FASHION* - Love the delicate look of Courtney Cox's long, gold disc necklace? The design by Jennifer Meyer Jewelry costs a whopping $3,500! Here are three designers with affordable alternatives:

Theresa Mink of Classic Designs, based in Texas, offers Golden Reign a 44-inch, 14-karat gold-filled chain with small, shiny gold discs for $74. This piece is also available in sterling silver for $74.

Arlyne of One Life Jewelry, based in New York, has a 36-inch version fashioned from 14-karat gold fill called Illumination and costs $65.
TheJewelryBar, based in New York, provides a 40-inch, 14-karat gold filled chain with gold-plated discs for $62 (piece is also available in sterling silver).

The designer for Loud Lion, is East Indian, she moved to Canada but now lives in California. Designer has some great 14-karat gold filled, Everyday Bangles for $22 each, and 14-karat gold-filled stackable, skinny gold rings for $14 each. You can get six bangles for $120, and five skinny gold rings for $55.

FavorJewelry by Monika Reed is based in Oregon and Reed has a set of three, 14-karat gold, stackable bangles for $90. The rest of her collection is nice too, minimalist and streamlined.

Jessica Russell of TumbleWeedBeadCo. is based in Oregon and she has some great, hammered 14-karat gold-filled
bangle. She sells three, gold bangle bracelets for $66 and seven bangles for $132. She also sells three, thin sterling silver bangles for $45.


Based in New York, Bita Pourtavoosi of Bita Pourtavoosi Designs is influenced by a Middle Eastern aesthetic. For $20 each, she offers beautiful handmade,
stackable gold bangles with a single, luminous semi-precious gemstone of the customer's choice.

Also based in New York is Diament Designs, which offers lovely textured, 14-karat gold-filled
bangles with small blue stones. A set of six bangles cost $20. She also creates pieces with sterling silver and solid 14-karat gold.


StephieMc's based in Wichita has a pretty, gold fill over sterling silver Ecliptic Initial Pendant Necklace for $48. The piece is composed of slightly cupped discs, one on top of the other, with a matte, satin finish and suspended from a fine rope chain. She specializes in unique and beautiful hand stamped jewelry.

FreshyFig, based in Oregon, offers a different take on the
initial disc pendant, using vintage typewriter keys over a hammered, gold-plated brass disc and costing $24.

Natasha Kahn of the Florida-based NatashaKahnDesigns, creates a Dark Ages Initial Pendant with an Old World aesthetic. An 18-karat gold initial is set against a hammered, slightly oxidized sterling silver background. Nice. A single pendant costs $75.

Rhonda at ProlifiqueJewelry is based in Florida. The initials of her Teenie Tinies Round Initial Pendant Necklaces are set in a sterling silver disc, and framed with a 14-karat gold-filled ring. It costs $28. She specializes in hand stamped jewelry.

NOTE: Prices listed are subject to change or items are no longer available/listed on designer's actual Etsy page.__________
Photos (from top right to bottom left): Sterling Silver Wishbone Pendant With Two Freshwater Pearls by Missashleylu; Sterling Silver-Dipped Laurel Leaf Pearl Lariat Necklace by Otis B Jewelry; Sterling Silver Skeleton Key Pendant by Fashionjunkie4life; Gold-Plated Turtle Charm on Gold-Plated Chain by Charms4You; 40-inch 14-Karat Gold-Filled Long Disc Necklace by thejewelrybar; 14-Karat Gold-Filled Everyday Bangles by LoudLion; 14-Karat Gold-Filled Hammered Bangles with Blue Stone by DiamentDesigns; and Matte, Satin Gold-Filled Over Sterling Silver Ecliptic Initial Pendant by StephieMc

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Founded 140 years ago, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (a/k/a The Met) holds an impressive array of over two million pieces of artwork from Africa, Europe, and Asia. New York is also the current home of featured jewelry designer Justin Giunta.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The centuries old city of Chichén Itzá (chee--CHEN, eet ZAH) in Mexico contains architecture that still generates awe-inspired gasps by all who see these structures.

Three hundred sixty-five steps compose the four stairways that lead up to the incredible Pyramid of Kukulcan. The number of steps strategically corresponds to the number of days in a calendar year. Mexico is also home to featured jewelry designer Franco Varela Mendez.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The serene beauty of Ramat Hanadiv in Israel is a welcome change from the daily hustle and bustle.

The Visitors Pavilion leads us into a world of botanical wonder that spreads out over 1,000 acres. Israel is also the home of featured jewelry designer Yael Krakowski.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Housed inside an 18th century monastery is Brazil's Sacred Museum of Art where we view the artwork of Renoir and Van Gogh.

We also take time to visit the museum's beautiful botanical area the Jardin de la Luz (Garden of Light). Brazil is also the home of featured jewelry designer Jack Vartanian.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Like many ancient castles, Ireland's Cabra Castle is one rooted in dramatic events involving warfare, and numerous owners.

Presently owned by the Corscadden Family, its ruins have been renovated into an 80-bedroom hotel. Ireland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Slim Barrett.

Monday, March 8, 2010


At nearly two centuries old, the Bogor Botanic Garden in Indonesia has a complex history. German botanist Cooper Georg Carl Reinwardt founded the grounds in 1817, and the director position changed many hands over the centuries.

Among others, the gardens presently house many species of fruit including orange, langsat, rambutan, guava, mangosteen, avocado, mango, and durian. Indonesia is also home to featured jewelry designer Elizabeth Wahyu.


Legend dictates that the origin of the bloodstone began at the time of Christ's crucifixion.

It is believed that as He hung on the cross green jasper stones, piled at the cross' base, absorbed the drops of the Christ's blood causing fixed red dots to appear.

For this reason, the gemstone is also known as the Martyr's Stone. Due to this association to the Christ, early Christians carved scenes of the crucifixion into the glistening green and red stones.

The ancient Greeks compared the gem's color to the illusion of the sun setting in the ocean. The Greeks subsequently named the gem heliotrope, which means Stone of the Sun, and this name is still used today.

The bloodstone, a highly durable cryptocrystalline quartz, ranges in color that includes light to deep to very dark shades of green. Iron oxides are the components that produce the stone's distinctive red spots. The highest quality bloodstones are those with a great luster.

For countless centuries, into the present day, the bloodstone is revered for its myriad of healing properties, and protective energy. Used as a protective talisman to deflect the effects of the envious gazes, the stone is also used to soothe colds, the flu, allergies, and for cleansing the blood.

It is also believed to promote such attributes as clarity of thought, solid judgment, honesty, courage, and balance emotions. Although primarily mined in India, the gemstone is also found in the United States, Australia, China, and Brazil.
Photo: Bloodstone

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Today we visit the expansive Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois.  The grounds encompass 385 acres spread out over nine islands. Illinois is also home to featured jewelry designer Kristen Amato.

Friday, March 5, 2010


China's Kunming Botanical Gardens houses 10 distinct gardens that highlight 4,000 species of precious flowers, medicinal herbs, and trees. China is also the home base of featured jewelry brand Qeelin.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Established in 1820, Australia's Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden strives to conserve threatened species of flora, and holds an annual Tulip Festival. Australia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Marcos Davidson.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Once the residence of Queen Wilhelmina, the 17th century Het Loo Palace in the Netherlands is known for its sober Dutch Baroque architecture, and is presently a state museum. The Netherlands is also home to featured jewelry designer Nel Linssen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


An astounding structure built during the mid 1400s, the Rumelli Fortress in Turkey is a marvel of Byzantine architectural influences.

Over the centuries, it has undergone several renovations and presently houses a museum. Turkey is also the home base for jewelry brand Jewel House of Minyon or Atelier Minyon.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.


The 12th century Almourol Castle, located in Portugal, was once a structure of distinction and grandeur belonging to the Templar Knights who provided military defense to the city of Coimbra.

Portugal is also the home of featured jewelry designer Ana Cavalheiro.
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