Friday, April 30, 2010


Built in the 11th century, England's Arundel Castle has undergone many renovations that reflect the stealthy goings-on during the residency of 18 different earls. England is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sophie Harley.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


A relatively young architectural structure, the Netherlands' Millennium Tower is the first building constructed using the Bubble Deck flooring system, and is currently the second tallest building in the country. The Netherlands is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Thea Tolsma.

Finding other uses for objects or products is a common occurrence.

Some people use medium to large aluminum containers to pot small plants, and for many women lipstick does double-duty as eye shadow or blush.

As a kid, I use to make small trashcans by linking a few empty egg cartons using a paper plate as the base.

Bicycle inner tubes are another item from which people have found interesting, functional uses like resurrecting an inoperable key on a keyboard by inserting a small piece underneath, and wrapping a thin strip around a cigarette lighter for a firmer grip.

In the hands of a jewelry designer, however, this neutral, seeminly uninteresting material becomes something buoyant and decorative.

Dutch designer Sasja Saptenno is the first designer I learned about that worked with bicycle inner tubes. She creates what many call eco-conscious jewelry of remarkable versatility.

Tolsma also works with the material exploring its malleable properties in designs that are sleek, edgy, inventive, and sexy. From 1977 to 1986, Tolsma studied textiles at Holland's College of Art D'Witte Leli, and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.

Intrigued by its design possibilities, Tolsma carefully compared different types of inner tube rubber to determine which kind was best suited to her ideas.

"Over the past few years, I have developed a certain craftsmanship and know exactly what type of rubber lends itself well to cutting, and which will retain its shape," she explains.

Tolsma's cutout designs are intricate patterns inspired by filigree work. Each piece highlights the smooth, black beauty of the rubber as well as the designer's incredible artistry.

Many of her necklace designs are long, draping strips featuring a single, large floral outline as its striking focal point; others are Gothic, daring and theatrical in its configuration structured more like dickeys than neckpieces.

I think it is spectacular jewelry for the obvious visual aspect, and that Tolsma has taken an unorthodox material and placed it in a context that never hints at its first life.
Photo 1 (top right): Rubber Pratensis Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Rubber Underwing Neckpiece (rear view)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The regal beauty of the Château de Chambord is a striking fixture situated within a wooded park in France's Loire Valley.

The beautiful 16th century fortress houses 84 staircases, 365 fireplaces, and 440 rooms.  However, despite its ominous proportions the structure served more as decoration than a safe haven from military attacks. France is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Carolyn Roumeguere.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Situated at the summit of Black Mountain in Canberra, Australia is the aptly named Black Mountain Tower, a telecommunication tower that not only provides facilities for communication platforms and dishes but also holds a revolving restaurant, café, and observation deck.

Australia is also the home of featured jewelry designer Jeramie Carter.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Japan's Nijō Castle is actually a composite of two palaces, the Ninomaru, and Hanmaru, as well as parts of Fushimi Castle. One memorable architectural detail of the Ninomaru Palace is its squeaking "nightingale floors," strategically designed to alert the Shogun of sneak attacks and assassins through bird-like squeaking. Japan is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Yuri Kawanabe.

Since beginning this blog, I have learned that whether or not a jewelry design is elaborate or simple every designer appreciates classic form.

Both styles of jewelry, after all, are built on the foundation of a simple line, curve, or angle.

Many complex jewelry pieces are born from precise conceptualizations. Many designers sketch these concepts, others allow instinct to take over, and the design builds itself in a sense.

A graduate of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Kawanabe's dramatic, three-dimensional configurations are more like miniature sculptures than jewelry.

With the use of patinated and anodized brass, copper, gold, and aluminum, her aesthetic focus is capturing movement. The renderings are spectacular pieces highlighting beautiful, flowing curvatures and spiky angles.

"I have a fascination with form that expresses movement. I work with paper models before building a piece from flat metal sheets," she says.

"The process of cutting and folding the paper rekindles memories of my childhood when I would help my father make Japanese New Year's decorations, or other ceremonial decorations.

There were also local men and women who made ceremonial decorations with simple materials like bamboo, paper, and straw. Their crafts turned an ordinary village place into a wondrous space, but these special, decorated environments exist only for a short time. This is the basis of what I call ephemeral aesthetics.

On the other hand, jewelry is a stable long-lasting form of body adornment fashioned from metal. My work combines these two approaches; ephemeral forms in metal using minimum soldering, twisting, and folding. Metal is such a supple material, and it responds best to the most simple approach."

Through her collections Sosho, Oru, Wreath, and Coil Works, Kawanabe takes viewers on a vivid exploration of the soft, voluptuous curves of Japanese calligraphy, nature motifs, and the anatomy of a wire coil.

"When a wire winds to a shape of coil, it develops a variety of expressive forms," she explains. "Almost inevitably though it is the wire itself which seems to make its own decision as to which way it will transform shifting its balance spontaneously. The process seems like a growth of actual living form."

A veteran in the field for nearly 30 years, her powerful compositions garnered the Japan Jewellery Exhibition's Japan Jewellery Prize, and the Japan Jewellery Art Competition's Award of Excellence.
Photo 1 (top right): Anodized Aluminum and Silver Soyogi Breeze Neckpiece from the Sosho Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Patinated Brass Orange Cascade Neckpiece from the Oru Collection

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Officially opened 23 years ago, Virginia's Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is one of the most beautiful public gardens with three ponds, an azalea collection, an island bridge, and two gazebos. Virginia is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Carlee Santarelli.

Friday, April 16, 2010


During a turbulent period in the 3rd century, Greece saw the destruction of the magnificent Temple of Olympian Zeus by pillaging barbarians.

Having seemingly never undergone any restorations, only fifteen, standing columns remain. Greece is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Irene Metaxatos.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The castles of Switzerland are known for their beautiful, storybook-like architecture making them some of the most picturesque in Europe.

Trachselwald Castle, named after the barons that owned it, boasts a stair tower, keep, and other structures built over a period of several centuries. Switzerland is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Claudia Stebler.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It is springtime in Sweden and there would be nothing more refreshing than breathing in ocean air while standing on the sands of Sudersand Beach. Sweden is also the home of featured jewelry designer Karin Johansson.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Summer is well underway in the town of Máncora located in Peru. With its beautiful beaches, and aqua-toned ocean waters this is the perfect place for lounging and surfing.

Peru is also home to featured jewelry-designing team Lily and Sandra Indacochea.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Scotland's beautiful Auchen Castle Hotel serves a myriad of functions including a romantic setting for weddings, and an expansive location for business conferences. Scotland is also home to featured jewelry designer Shona Carnegie.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Today we visit New York's Saratoga National Historical Park that preserves military sites significant to the Battles of Saratoga fought during the American Revolutionary War. New York is also home to featured jewelry designer Tom Herman.

Friday, April 9, 2010


The 18th century, baroque-style Fredonsborg Palace is the spring and autumn home of Denmark's Royal Family and one of its highlights is the expansive gardens. Denmark is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Hanne Bernstein.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The construction of Mexico's Chapultepec Castle began over two centuries ago by the order of Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez. However, due to changes in Spanish captains overseeing the project, the fortress was not completed until after it was purchased in 1806 by the municipal government of Mexico City. Mexico is also the home of featured jewelry designer Hugo Larios.

Larios, a father of three and former accountant, draws much of the inspiration for his work from the manual arts of central Mexico's Huichol, or Wixáritari, people.

Although his Novica page contains only two items, they display Larios' amazing deft at capturing intricate patterns found in Huichol embroidery and beadwork. He handcrafts these items by threading multi-colored, tiny chaquira glass beads.

"My passion for jewelry is something I inherited from my parents," he says.
"I have always felt an affinity toward designing and making jewelry although I studied accounting. I strive to honor the talent and creativity of Mexican jewelers, and the rich artistry of the Huichol people."

I would love to see more of his work. The pieces at Novica certainly display the painstaking aspect of building the complex, tapestry-like patterns found in Huichol artwork; although he creates a separate collection in silver and gold (these items are not featured on Novica or elsewhere that I know of), his beadwork is a great reflection of his love of culture and artisanship.

"I took courses in gemology and silversmithing. My first piece was silver and turquoise ring and I participated in an art-jewelry project cultivating celebrated works of art from sterling silver. To me making jewelry is relaxing--it is like occupational therapy."
Photo 1 (top right): Huichol Exuberance Beaded Bracelet with Gray Chaquira Glass Beads
Photo 2 (bottom left): Huichol Protection Bracelet with Diamond Pattern Multi-Colored Chaquira Glass Beads

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Austria's Grafenegg Castle, an ominous structure built over seven centuries ago, is currently the center of annual, cultural events that include the Grafenegg Music Festival. Austria is also home to featured jewelry designer Tomasz Donocik.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The crumbling remains of 13th century Dunluce Castle in Ireland is precariously flanked by steep cliffs.

Like many castles, the fortress' history is filled with long years of transitioning ownership with Scottish clans vying for rights to the property. Ireland is also home to featured jewelry designer Alan Ardiff.

Monday, April 5, 2010


A remarkably well kept structure known as Qiang Castle is located on the side of mountain in Southwest China. This incredible 2,000-year-old fortress is still occupied by the Qiang people who eagerly welcome visitors to view the castle's residential houses and underground water network that supplies drinking water and air conditioning. China is also home to featured jewelry designer Dora Tam.

Contrary to current news reports, not every aspect of China's jewelry industry is marred with controversy.

Due to the economic downturn, in 2009 the price for platinum in the global market dropped creating a drop in prices for platinum jewelry that in turn created a rise in the sale of platinum jewelry in China.

Auction houses, such as Sotheby's, are energized with activity of Chinese buyers with lucrative means who seek out and purchase fine diamond jewelry as prized investments. Tam's elegant, differentiated white gold and platinum pieces would undoubtedly factor into a prospective buyer's desire for an heirloom or valuable hedge.

A one-time student of metallurgy and jewelry at Canada's Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, Tam utilized her gift for simplistic yet idiosyncratic design while working for several Hong Kong jewelry houses over the course of eight years.

During that time, she was the recipient of the World Gold Council's Jewelry Design Award for earrings and a brooch/pendant. At a friend's prompting, however, Tam decided to branch out on her own.

In 2001, she established Dora Tam Design, with an aesthetic approach geared towards artistic integrity. "I believe the value of a jewelry item does not lie in the intrinsic value of gemstones or the metal but its artistic value."

The key element of Tam's beautiful jewelry is small but striking details. The Pod Ma Dmar Po pendant and ring from her Lotus collection highlight black, Tahitian pearls reminiscent of Germany-based brand Gellner. The metal is accented with a beautiful floral motif that appears to be etched in or either delicate enamel work.

The contrasting shadings on the Mayaguana ring and pendant from The Bahamas collection also appear to be either enamel work or oxidation.

The delicate pop of tiny pink stones on her Crus ring and earrings from The Starry Night collection provide a perky kind of energy. The thick ring band in particular holds what appear to be coiled etchings that resemble delicate, thin puffs of smoke.

The fluid and minimalistic but eye-catching details of the jewelry really displays Tam's gift for subtle artistry.

It is clear why, after nine years, her brand has continually attracted connoisseurs of superlative fine jewelry, as well as corporate and government clientele who purchase her wares as "gift requests" for special events and occasions.
Photo 1 (top right): Blue Bell Pendant from Intermezzo Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Pad Ma Dmar Po Ring from Lotus Collection

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today we visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which could easily be considered a modern-day Eden. 

Encompassing 40 acres, it is positioned in a valley and over 1,000 plant species gloriously emerge from rich, volcanic soil. Hawaii is also home to featured jewelry designer Dawn Wallace.

Friday, April 2, 2010


With a plethora of plant species, tropical greenhouses, and a playground for the kids, Denmark's Aarhus Botanical Garden is a place for relaxation, education, and fun. Denmark is also home to featured jewelry designer Lene Vibe Dahlgren.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Eventually you love people - friends or lovers - because of their flaws.


Built nearly 500 years ago, Puerto Rico's Fort San Felipe Del Morro, declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1983, still maintains an imposing aura of strength as it once served to guard the city of San Juan against seafaring enemies. Puerto Rico is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Luciá Nieves Cortés.
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