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.

Rings exist in every culture and are constructed from a variety of materials from iron and silver to gold, copper, and acrylic with accents of stunning gemstones.

According to my research the popularity of rings began during the Middle Ages with the romantic lore of Ireland's Claddagh ring being among the most well known.

Rings are perhaps the most expressive of jewelry items as throughout history they have been used to celebrate relational bonds, signify social status, and distinguish a high-ranking military officer.

Through classic or bold designs, individuals who do not normally wear jewelry can wear something minimal while also drawing attention to possibly the least noticed part of the human body.

Such designers as Kelvin J. Birk (England), Sarah Davida Beinstein (USA), and Angela Hübel (Germany) create ring designs that range from molten gold bands supporting crushed gemstones to sleek, etched cuffs to sculptural and fluid outlines. With such small proportions to work with, it is amazing just how inventive ring designs can be.

Inspired in part by the costume design of the 80s mini-series The Thorn Birds, Santarelli creates distinctive rings that blend the foundation of clothing ensembles with gold vermeil and antique brass.

What exactly does she do? She takes beautiful pieces of vintage fabric, from shimmery black/gold to animal prints to lace, placing them in the stone setting underneath a clear, round faceted cabochon. The fabric settings look like incredibly unique gemstones.

Santarelli's passion for fashion started as a very young child when she stubbornly insisted on wearing mismatched socks, which eventually led to an unshakable attraction to the attire of a much older cousin.

Santarelli's insatiable interest in clothing ultimately led to a spirited trek to the city of Los Angeles where she attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, while also doing retail work with BeBe and Liza Stewart, Inc.

After working with top jewelry designer Sonya Ooten, however, Santarelli's trajectory shifted and jewelry became her focus of self-expression. "I knew the fashion industry is where I wanted to be, but I never imagined that it would be designing accessories," she says.

I think this is a great idea, a classic combination of timeless elements. It is an innovative, statement-making piece and famous names like Ashlee Simpson and Madonna are taking notice.

"I admire and have a lot of respect for the talented designers that set the trends and make the fashion weeks," she says.

"At the same time, I feel like as a designer I want to have fun with my ideas. If it makes me happy, that is all that counts. Criticism, harsh judgment, fear of the unknown build barriers to success and you just can't let those kinds of attitudes stop you from doing what it is you want."
Photo 1 (top right): Antique Brass and Clear Cabochon Vintage Fabric Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Gold Filigree Vintage Lace Ring
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